Spring Like A Lamb

Warmer weather and wool do not sound instant companions, but cast from your mind the cuddly winter woollens, the cosy and the snuggly, and think worsted!

Hmm, you are not convinced? Then perhaps you are thinking of men’s suits, structured and interlined, in shades of charcoal, dark navy, uptight and formal. Worsteds are so much more, and I have become a firm fan, having bought several already from Fabworks, with an eye to dresses. A fine worsted takes pleats and tucks with ease, though so far I cannot see them suiting gathers.

‘But wool is more expensive than cotton and harder to care for’, you may say, ‘and cottons are cool’. Well, wool is just the most wonderful fabric for breathability, and leaving you cool, as long as you are not still wearing that mohair and alpaca coat in June. Nor are the worsteds I have bought that much more per metre than a dress-suitable cotton, and since 3m generally makes most dresses, you are looking at a garment that will cost you as little as nine pounds more than a cotton poplin.

The worsteds I have bought are silky to the touch, lustrous in sheen, with a drape no cotton can match, and so fine it would be easy to mistake them for a cotton from the weight. If a sheep had worsted instead of a fleece it would not get hot and bothered and need shearing in summer! As for the caring - well, I have washed my Blue Moon by the tried and tested hand wash in cool (not lukewarm but not hot to the hand) water, with a little delicate fabric wash, and it dried easily, did not shrink, and ironed to look as if never touched. So far I have the Blue Moon, Soft Overcheck Navy and Faded Green, Checkmate and Midnight Windowpanes (admittedly that one has a little more of a woolly feel), and every time I have opened the parcel of fabric I have been thrilled. I have already written about Checkmate, but here are the others.

Blue Moon  +  Midnight Windowpanes  +  Soft Overcheck Navy and Faded Green displaying a silky soft drape

I am not thinking of pencil slim dresses, though they could be used for those with ease, but fuller A-line, fit and flare styles, some with a bit of a swing. The restrictions are more to do with the designs than the feel of the fabric - plains and simple windowpanes will work for full skirts, but the more complicated checks are better for the more streamlined versions.

I could of course keep this knowledge to myself, but it does not seem fair. Those bolts of fabric are waiting to be made into clothes, waiting to be appreciated, and even if you are just making yourself a summer skirt, think worsted and match it with lightweight tops or shirts in bright whites or soft ice cream pastels (this year’s fashion), according to your colouring. Keep your eye on the Suitings and Fine Worsteds collection, and look for ‘fine worsted’ and ‘soft’ as the big clue. At present there is very little left of the Blue Moon or the Midnight Windowpanes, but the Checkmate and the Soft Overcheck are still about, and I have just grabbed two metres of the Smoking Room Check as it is disappearing and I know that it will make a super skirt.

If you would like to try a lovely soft wool worsted for more appropriate summer attire than waistcoats and suits, there is a great range for your perusal. However if you're looking for quality, something different and affordable, take a look at Ciao Bello!, Cheque Please!, Crimson Maple Fine Worsted, Italian Job Check, Tiny Birds Eye.
I am having a wonderful time revamping my wardrobe, and I hope MYO (Make Your Own) is giving you pleasure too.
Elizabeth Binns


Elizabeth Binns

Emily, falling in love with Fabworks worsteds is SO easy to do , and there are some superb new ones just added which would make great ‘at work’ dresses if a chic sort of cut, slightly sculpted. I have myself just got some of the Super 130s – Kingfisher, though if you do not want to stand out as much, the morello cherry is ‘delicious’. When it comes to linings I prefer cottons to be lined with cottons, (and voile can sometimes be a bit inclined to cling), so I would generally look for a nice poplin or lawn, but for worsteds I think a slinkier lining is better in most cases. If your worsted is very ‘business’, and quite plain, you could play games nicely, and line it with something contrasting and brighter ( as I did with my light pomegranate lining to a wool/silk mix black dress like I did with the Midnight Black Palms Jacquard, or something with a small neat pattern, like the Honey Bee Bliss that has just, alas, sold out. Viscose is breathable, so I prefer it to polyester, especially in a working environment.

If your worsteds are blue, snap up some Old Blue Eyes Polka Dot lining, if you want to enhance the blue, though if you are working in more of a charcoal/grey/ black, you could either stick to the black theme and use the Classic Monochrome Polka Dot, which has that little lift of the white dots to prevent anything too funereal, or the Claret and White Dot. If you are happy with acetate for linings, I think a pewter silvery colour would go so well with black and charcoal, very chic.

These are just my views, and I am not dictating in any way. The big thing is to find a lining that does not look and feel incongruous with the ‘leading lady’ of the main fabric, but makes he, and thus you, look good!

Show NYC what MYO ( Make Your Own) can do, Emily!

Elizabeth Binns

I don’t know if you monitor this, but reading your blog comes at just the right time for me, as I’m trying to sort out some professional clothing for summer. I’m in love with a couple of fine worsteds from Fabworks for dresses for a conference this summer in NYC, but I’m struggling with what to line them with. As you are also a fan of linings, I was wondering if you had any thoughts? I was thinking of a lightweight cotton, such as the black voile, but that seems a bit wrong somehow…

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