A wrinkle in my plans

I’m about to make a heretical confession, so listen up:

I don’t like sewing with cotton

*Pause for effect*

I know, I know… cotton is the most user friendly fiber that exists.  I love the prints (which are easier to find than my preferred rayons) and it is pretty easy to sew.  I always recommend starting with cotton for new sewers.  So what’s the problem?

Well, for me it’s an issue of upkeep.  Truth be told, no matter how good my intentions, I hate to iron.  And I know that anything I make from cotton will require ironing before every wear (and may still give the appearance of an unkempt hobo by midday).   I don’t know if I’m just prone to wrinkles, but nothing stays ironed on me for more than five minutes.

Then there is the issue of weight and drape.  I most often make dresses, and I order most fabric online due to the lack of local sources in my city.  And many sites are remarkably vague about their offerings, leaving off critical information such as “Fabric is sheer.  Must be lined or risk social suicide.” (Ann at Gorgeous fabrics always lists if something is sheer, and I love her for that!)  Not all voiles are equal – some are sheer, others just drape well.  Some sateens are lovely and soft, others stand away from your body like a suit of polka-dotted armor.

Which brings me to my current project.  Yes, I found my pattern, and now I’ve cut the fabric.  I’m in the midst of construction, but I’m having an issue.  This fabric (which is one the stiff side, thus why I chose it for this fitted pattern) wrinkles if I so much as think about it from another room.  It will wrinkle on its way from the ironing board to the machine.  Seriously, it is terrible.  I wasn’t planning on lining the dress, but I will if it would help with the wrinkling.   So what do you say?  Will lining help with my issues, or will I end up with an outfit that can only be worn while standing up?


Please note that it has been carefully hanging over a railing, not crumpled up in a ball under the bed.  I’m also not thrilled with how those princess seams look – no matter how I clip, trim, and which way I press them, they always look wrinkly.  Of course, it will look different with a body inside, but I’m wondering… is it worth it?  I’m considering throwing in the towel on this one, but I need some advice.  I have a really hard time giving up on projects, and I have too many that I never wear!

12 thoughts on “A wrinkle in my plans

  1. I am just finishing up a strapless dress made out of quilting cotton for a show I’m in. It’s a bad choice for the type of dress, but I imagine you know how costuming goes… if it looks okay on stage from 25 feet away, then it works. It is wrinkly as hell, but I do get a LOT of satisfaction from ironing it (anal-retentive much?). I am lining the skirt so the cotton doesn’t catch on my tights, and I’m imagining that it will wrinkle less, although I haven’t tested it out.

    From your picture, your princess seams look good. Did you try pressing the seam flat from the inside (with the seam closed)? My costume mistress once gave me that tip saying, “it presses the thread into the fabric and makes for a better press when you open up the seam”.

    I say finish it. If you still don’t like it, put it away until you forget everything you didn’t like about it. I just did that with a shirt I made a year ago and almost gave away—it was a nice surprise.

    1. I started pressing seam flat first, on both sides, then opening the seam and pressing again. It has definitely helped my dresses look better.

      It makes the thread sort of blend into the fabric, impossible to unpick so it’s like nicely sealed in there 🙂

      PFF (press flat first) changed my life

  2. I have been in the same fix, and I also prefer blends. The problem with the lining is that it sometimes makes the problem worse because you are working with more seams to press and cause wrinkles. I know that you probably would not want to play with the princess seams again, but my suggestion would be an underlining.

  3. I have made a lot of lined dresses using cotton sateen (97% cotton and 3% elastane I think?) and my fabric is usually stiff. I think lining it has made a difference….

    My latest dress (the floral one) is doing well. The fabric came out of the wash really crumpled up but after I ironed it the first time to prep for cutting, I haven’t had to iron it before wear. I wore it over the weekend, sitting down and standing up, and it still wasn’t wrinkled 🙂

    The ones I have issues with wrinkles is 100% cotton, the thin one so I try to stay away from those.

    I really like ur polka dots and color, I think u should finish it. I’d love to see it on u.

    Also my sewing teacher said “starching” will help with wrinkling. I tried it once with my linen dress but I didn’t like the stiffness, it took away the drape of my skirt.

  4. Bummer! I feel your pain with the ironing. I want to have a closet full of crisp cottons, but I know I won’t iron them. Most of my cottons are for casual things that I put in the dryer and let do what they will.

  5. Every fabric creases (except really crappy polyester). I can’t see anything wrong with your cotton in the photo. Also, once you add the skirt it will pull the bodice down a bit which helps reduce the wrinkles.

    I find that lining can make a huge difference in the amount of creasing that happens – it can never remove it completely, but I find that a lined dress tends to look gently wrinkled at the end of the day rather than completely crumpled.

    If you don’t already have one, then a tailors’ ham can make a huge difference to your ironing, especially during the construction phase.

    Keep going – that fabric is just gorgeous and deserves to be worn.

  6. Are you prepared to take the bodice apart? Because if you’re willing to go that far back, I would suggest underlining the pieces with a rayon lining not a cotton one. I know it seems as cotton would be a better choice but believe it or not the rayon will work better, as well as assist with the wrinkling. It wont totally get rid of it but it will help.

  7. My goodness! I don’t have any answers but I do enjoy sewing and wearing cotton despite the challenge of creases. I generally use an ironing spray with cottons, but I think bodyheat from wearing the garment smooths out some of the smaller creases. Maybe that’s just wishful thinking… My main advice would be just don’t worry if it looks imperfect. Photos always show up the creases more than real life, and most people happily walk around unaware of their creases 🙂

  8. I like the polka dots. In your prior entry, the fabric was labeled a stretch sateen? The fact that it is a dark color should help cover up small wrinkling and the stretch aspect (I gather it is rather fitted) should help “smooth” out the rest. I’m with Neeno in that it may need initial pressing after washing. Still, though it looks kinda awful right now, I’d give it a shot.

  9. I hear your pain over fabric that is quite frankly – a pain! Treat this dress like a wearable muslin, don’t fret over it too much then find a material that is worth your efforts.

  10. I feel the same way about ironing. Hate it. I recently bought a red linen dress at a thrift store – its look is early 60’s shift dress with no sleeves. I like linen but have never bought anything in linen because of the wrinkles. But I love this dress and decided on an attitude change – I’ve decided the wrinkles are “charming” instead of irritating. Or sometimes I think of them as being “adorable” So far this is working for me as I have worn it all day and haven’t felt the need to change into something thats not wrinkled. (^_^)

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