Fabric 101: Lawn, Challis, Voile & Batiste

Fabric 101: Lawn, Challis, Voile & Batiste

Created by: Nikki Johnson of fabric.com

As the days get longer and hotter, sewing lots of great new summer apparel is a must! Summer dresses, skirts, camis and blouses all seem to feature lightweight fabrics in cotton or rayon like lawn, or challis... But how do you choose the right textile for your garment? Today we have some helpful information on the differences, characteristics, and our favorite fabrics for your next summer project!


Cotton lawn is a fine shirting fabric made of combed threads for a super smooth finish with a crisp hand. It is not as smooth as voile, and is lighter and less structured than poplin. Usually opaque, this lighter weight shirting can be used for button-downs, blouses, and all kinds of lined dresses and skirts.

Fabric 101 Summer

Sewing Tips: Use a fine sewing machine needle. If your fabric puckers, try lowering your tension. The ideal seam finishing technique to use is a French seam. You can also use sharp pinking shears. To hem, use a rolled hem either by hand or machine.

Our Fabric Picks for Lawn:

1) Liberty of London Tana Lawn Donna Leigh
2) Cotton + Steel Rifle Paper Co. Les Fleurs Flamingoes
3) Heather Ross Sleeping Porch Lawn Wildflowers
4) Kaufman London Calling Lawn Border Navy

Fabric 101 Summer Fabrics

Our Pattern Picks for Lawn:

Cashmerette Harrison Shirt ; Grainline Studio Archer Button Up; Colette Aster; Deer and Doe Cardamome Dress


Challis is our favorite fabric for summer. It is usually made out of Rayon, and boasts a super smooth hand that is cool to the touch, with amazing fluid drape. It’s perfect for all the trendy flowing dresses that are popping up. Since it is a cellulosic fiber, it is breathable and perfect for those hot summer days. Depending on the color and the fabric, you might need a lining. It’s usually recommended, even if the fabric is opaque, due to the slippery and lightweight nature of it.

Sewing Tips for Challis: As a lightweight fabric, challis also benefits from a sharp and fine sewing machine needle and a French seam, though it can still stand up to serged edges. Rayon is a little tricky to launder, and is prone to shrinkage – even if you pre-wash. You should always pre-wash or treat the fabric as you would after it is made into a garment, but for rayon – skip the dryer. It’s better to lay it flat to dry or skip the washing machine all together and dry clean. You might be shocked at an unexpected miniskirt or dress if your rayon makes it into the dryer!

Our Fabric Picks for Challis:

1) Viscose Rayon Challis Coral
2) Rayon Challis Dreamer
3) Rayon Challis Pineapple
4) Cotton + Steel Rifle Paper Co. Les Fleurs Rayon Challis

Fabric 101 Summer Fabrics

Our Pattern Picks for Challis:

McCalls 7534; Seamwork Catarina; Sew Over It Anderson Blouse; Vogue 9243


Pronounced (voy-al), this super smooth fabric is a treat to work with. It is very similar to batiste, with a super silky and smooth hand. It’s usually semi-sheer, so a lining is recommended. It’s also got a bit of a crisp hand, so it doesn’t drape quite as well as batiste tends to. Voile is usually made of cotton, but it can also be found in rayon, silk, and silk/cotton blends. Voile is also a lovely breathable fabric that is perfect for spring and summer dresses and blouses.

Sewing Tips for Voile: Use a fine and sharp needle. Finish seams with sharp pinking shears, rayon seam binding, French seams, or serging. Narrow hems or rolled hems are best. You can finish necklines and armholes with a bias facing for a low-profile finishing technique.

Our Fabric Picks for Voile:

1) Art Gallery Observer Voile
2) Telio Rayon Voile Flamingos
3) Art Gallery Skopelos Voile

Fabric 101 Summer Fabrics

Our Pattern Picks for Voile:

Deer and Doe Aubepine Dress; Colette Sorbetto; Megan Nielsen Cascade Skirt


Batiste is traditionally found in solid colors, and is used in heirloom sewing. In white or cream, it’s perfect for a christening gown, or a smocked baby dress in any color. Our favorites are the prints that are suitable for apparel for children and adults. Batiste is similar to voile in that it has a super smooth and silky finish, but it is much finer. It is airy, very lightweight, and usually quite sheer. It is most commonly found in cotton, but also can be found in silk.

Fabric 101 Summer

Sewing tips: Use a fine, sharp needle to avoid puckering. Due to the lightness of the fabric in weight, it’s best to use a French seam to avoid puckering, and a rolled hem for finishing. A French hem is low-profile and can be done by hand or machine for a super professional look. As batiste is usually sheer, it’s a good idea to fully line any dress or top for opacity and a little bit of structure.

Our Fabric Picks for Batiste:

1) Italian Designer Cotton Silk Batiste Floral
2) Cloud 9 Organic Frolic Batiste Filoli
3) Cloud 9 Organic Floret Batiste Evening Asters
4) Organic Batiste White

Fabric 101 Summer Fabrics

Our Pattern Picks for Batiste:

Deer and Doe Melilot Shirt; True Bias Ogden Cami; Vogue 9242

Happy summer sewing, everyone!

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