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Orsola Dress & Skirt Sewalong - Choosing fabrics and getting inspired

Helloooo and welcome to the first post in the official Orsola Dress & Skirt Sewalong! We've been soooo super excited for this one for ages now, and now that she's finally out in the wild we can't wait to get the sewalong started to hopefully help some of you with the trickier aspects of sewing Orsola, such as working with drapey fabrics and alterations.

*Click here to be taken to all the posts in the Orsola Dress & Skirt Sewalong*

We'll be talking everything from pattern alteration to hacking potential; breaking down each step in the making of the Orsola with clear photographs and in depth instructions. You can chime in at any point in the comments below each post if you get stuck, or even if you'd like to share some of your own tips & tricks so that we can all benefit. Needless to say, this sewalong will remain right here on this blog for all time, so you can refer back to it again and again for future makes.

Kicking things off today we're going to be going through all the things you'll need in order to make an Orsola dress or skirt - mostly just swooning over all the delicious fabrics out there that we want to make Orsolas from, but hopefully also giving you a solid idea as to what fabric types will bring out the best in yours, and inspiring you along the way...

To make the Orsola dress & skirt, you will need to buy:

General sewing supplies that you will also need:

  • Pins
  • Tape measure
  • A hand sewing needle
  • Matching thread
  • Dress makers shears/rotary cutter
  • Tailor's chalk
  • Your sewing machine
  • Your serger/overlocker (optional)
  • A couple of little snaps/poppers (optional)


Drapey woven fabrics will bring out the best in Orsola. Opt for woven viscoses, tencel/cupro or linen for a grown up sundress that is as at home at work as it is at a garden party, or go all out with opulent silks such as sandwashed, crepe or velvet for the cocktail dress to end them all.

Working with drapey fabrics

Cutting and sewing with silky and/or drapey fabrics for the first time - or even the tenth time for that matter! - is certainly a daunting experience. I still have to take a deep breath before I start hacking away at a new silky project! The only real keys to sewing drapey fabrics successfully are patience and precision. Every step of the way. Sloppy cutting will inevitably result in sloppy sewing. Take your time, be patient, and read our bumper compilation of tips and trick for working with slippery silks and drapey fabrics! If this is your first time ever upgrading from quilting cotton, you're in the right place - the Orsola dress is the perfect place to start your love affair with drape. You'll be learning a whole host of skills and techniques, and we'll be here to hold your virtual hand every step of the way.

Let's get right to the good stuff

Essentially, this post is just an excuse for us to compile a visual list of all the fabrics that we're currently lusting after for future Orsolas... and hopefully point some of you in the right direction along the way! This is a great time to be sewing drapey styles as there has never been so much choice of affordable woven viscoses, silks, and other newer innovations in fabric production such as cupro and tencel out there for home sewers to buy. We're going to break it down into the three main categories that we think will bring out the best in your Orsola dress or skirt.

Woven viscose

Five years ago, when the high street had already exploded with cute, flippy sundresses made from beautifully printed woven viscose, it was still nigh on impossible to find the same types of fluid non-silk, non-poly fabrics for the home sewing market. Things have finally changed, and with it we've also seen an evolution in the types of sewing patterns being produced by independent designers - when we started out, one of the biggest challenges we faced was coming up with a design that would always look great made up in quilting cotton (as well as the other more specialised fabrics we recommended), because that was pretty much all that was readily available at affordable prices and in cute prints, so that was what most people seemed to be sewing with. Now that we have a whole new world of floaty fabrics available to us, we're seeing designs that are catering specifically to a more drapey, fluid aesthetic, designs that are unashamed to state that quilting cotton simply will not do. 

Before we tease you with all the fabrics we're drooling over right now, here's a quick glossary of fabric types. Think of them almost like you would a wine label; the first part tells you the fibre, in this case 'viscose' (also generically referred to as 'rayon', although viscose is actually a type of rayon... If you want to nerd out more on this, and I highly recommend that you do, check out this interesting little Q&A all about viscose, rayon and how they came to be), which is fabric made from regenerated cellulose, and the second part tells you about the weave and handle.

Viscose challis - lightweight and floaty; paler colours may be a little translucent.

Viscose crepe - heavier than challis; a nice and substantial fabric whose fibres are first twisted then woven, giving it a slightly crinkly, textured feel.

Viscose twill - in between challis and crepe weight-wise; floaty and silky with a subtle diagonal weave.

Viscose challis' from Cotton Reel Studio - and the ones we'll be using for the sewalong!


Viscose challis' all from Stoff & Stil


Viscose challis & stretch viscose from Fabric Godmother


Viscose crepes from Mood



Actually a relatively new fabric avenue for me - I've often neglected linen in the past, dismissing it as way too grown up (not in a good way) and even kind of boring. However, thanks to sewists like Heather-Lou and Sophie aka Ada Spragg, I've come around to the fact that linen is actually the epitome of casual chic. Effortlessly sophisticated, I'm also kind of digging the fact that there's very little out there in the way of printed linen, other than the more traditional stripes/checks/subtle block prints. The fact that you're almost forced to go for a solid colour - neutrals & nauticals more often than not - pretty much guarantees a certain level of elegance right from the word go. 

Linen crepe from Fabric Godmother



I don't think this one needs an introduction. When you're ready to go all out, silk is the only way to go. The only thing I'll say here is to avoid stiff silks (such as brocade and taffeta) and the very fine, transparent silks (chiffon, georgette) and opt instead for the solid, drapier kinds - sandwashed, crepes, habotai and even silk velvet (yummmmmmmm).

The absolute creme de la creme - silk crepes from Joel & Son Fabrics


Silk jacquard and silk crepe de Chine from The Fabric Store


Well, we're certainly salivating here, and we hope we've given you ample food for thought! This is just a small snapshot of fabrics currently on our radar, and unfortunately we don't have the time or space to scour the entire web/world for all every outlet that might sell fabrics suitable for sewing Orsola - please feel free to chime in in the comments below with links if you're a fabric retailer, or if you know of a retailer with a particularly juicy collection that we haven't mentioned here.

Next up: Hacking and embellishment inspiration! Quite possibly our favourite aspect of sewing, we'll be whetting your appetite with some ideas as to how you can make your Orsola unique...

Comments on this post (1)

  • Jul 05, 2017

    Will you be including a full bust adjustment?

    — Heather Walters

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