Dakota Sewalong - Summer Fabric Inspiration (+ discount code!!!)

For our Dakota Sewalong friends in the southern hemisphere, and our optimistic ones on the northern side, we've got a treat for you today! Vicki from Minerva Crafts, who kindly supplied mine and Rachel's Dakota fabrics, is sharing some inspiration and tips on sewing up this pattern in Summer fabrics! In support of the sewalong, Minerva Crafts are also giving our readers a 10% discount on all dress fabrics until the end of the year...another reason to join us! Just quote code 'MDAKOTA10' at the checkout on our website, or bring the code in to the Minerva Craft Centre store to claim your discount!

When I was contacted by Rachel and Marie to guest blog about suitable fabrics for the Dakota pattern my first thoughts were its endless possibilities - it really can take you through from Spring/Summer to Autumn/Winter and it will be fascinating to see everybody's projects.
Choosing fabric is probably the most fun part of any sewing project, isn't it? What you choose can dramatically alter the effect of the finished garment, so it's important to know what fabric you need for your desired look. Hopefully I can help you with this!
In terms of fabric recommendations for Dakota, the Named website says that “You can choose almost any material from stiff elastic jersey to chiffon, as this dress is not fitted at the waist”, which leaves it very open for you to decide. To help narrow down your options, I think you need to decide first whether it's going to be a Summer or a Winter garment. Do you want a lightweight, floaty dress that's perfect for holidays and will keep you cool for days by the beach? Or, do you want a Winter dress that will look great with your winter boots and keep you cosy and warm?
Two other key considerations are weight and drape. A drapey fabric will give you a soft, flowy dress, that will pull in softly at the waist with a belt. A crisp fabric will give you more of a structured dress and will pull in at the waist in dramatic folds. The lovely details such as the pockets and detailing at the cuffs mean that you don't want to go for a fabric which is too heavy, as it will be clumsy to sew with and will be harder to create a professional looking finish with.
So, I'm going to talk through some fabrics suitable for a Spring/Summer Dakota and the two main factors to consider when choosing - lightness and fluidity versus breathability and coolness.
Let's start with natural fibres:

Cotton Lawn would make up beautifully in this pattern and is one of my favourite fabrics. It's 100% cotton that is very finely woven and lightweight. It breaths well and will keep you cool in the heat. Due to its finely woven properties it's silky smooth (unlike many cottons) and feels as good as it looks. Even though it's lightweight and fine it's still easy to sew with, so if you're relatively new to sewing, or just want to keep it simple, then cotton lawn may be the fabric for you!

Linen and blends are another favourite of mine. Like other natural fabrics it's prone to creasing quite a bit, so if you don't like this either choose a linen mixed with a synthetic fibre or avoid linen! Personally, I think the creases add to its character! Linen comes in lots of different weights, from finer linens like our crisp linen, up to heavier linens, like our washed linen. A lighter weight linen will usually be crisp and make for a more structured garment (although it will get softer with washing and wear), whereas a washed linen is heavier, drapes beautifully and will give your dress a softer look. Whichever linen you go for, it will breath well, keep you cool and be easy to sew with.

Rayon or 'viscose' is considered a semi-natural/semi-synthetic fabric, and like linen, creases pretty much as soon as you put the garment on! But it makes up for it in other ways. Viscose hangs and drapes so beautifully and so softly that even the most tom-boyish girls amongst us will feel pretty and girly whilst wearing it! It can be a little tricky to sew because it is so soft and slippery, but your efforts with be worth it.
Next, let's look at synthetic fibres. For Summer I would stick to something lightweight like chiffon and georgette that give a beautiful soft floaty effect due to their delicate properties, but you would be best to leave off the Dakota pockets if you go for either of these.
Chiffon is sheer and very lightweight. It will float and drape beautifully in a summer breeze. If you go for a chiffon remember to always use a very fine needle and good quality thread to avoid puckering. And don't try to sew this in a rush or you will end up getting frustrated if you are anything like me! Take your time and you will end up with a stunning Dakota. Chiffon garments allow you to be playful when styling as the look of it will change depending on what you layer it over. Slipping a chiffon Dakota on over a bikini at the beach will give you one look. Slipping it on over a slip will give you another. Of course you could also choose to line it, but I would always recommend using an anti-static lining so your dress doesn't start riding up your back when you walk! That wouldn't be a good look :)

Georgette is semi-sheer and similar to chiffon. It will give you the lovely drape and handle that chiffon does, but is slightly heavier-weight and a little easier to control and sew with. Georgette comes in a huge range of prints and plains and gives you lots of options.

If you have never sewn with good quality crepe before then you are in for a treat! Our Prada crepe (as chosen by Marie) has the most wonderful handle, is beautifully soft and is a medium weight, no lining required. With one side matt and one side shiny, you can play around by using both contrasting textures. For example you could make the pocket flaps and cuff details with the shiny side and the main body in the matt side to an extra bit of interest. Or, why not use the satin side for the main body and wear your dress on a glam night out?!?
Some final things to consider

What colours will compliment you and make you want to wear your Dakota often? What will you wear it with? Do you already have suitable shoes or would you end up having to buy new, possibly influencing whether you end up wearing the dress or not! Do you have time to tackle a difficult patterned fabric like stripes or checks, or should you use a plain or abstract patterned fabric that doesn't require matching up?
I hope this post has been informative and given you some inspiration in deciding what type of fabric to go for. If you're looking for a Winter weight fabric for your Dakota, please look out for my guest blog over at Rachel's blog tomorrow.
Happy Sewing Everyone!

All photos above taken at the Minerva Craft Centre, Lancashire, BB3 3BY.

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