Dirndl Dress Completed…Photos to Come…Closing thoughts on Quilting Cotton

The Dirndl Dress is completed. I’m going to wait before posting photos even though I want to share right now. However, without the right accessories to add that touch of Retro Glam the overall effect is lacking.

I’m going to have a belt made in the same fabric as the dress. Belts covered in the same fabric as the dress were popular in the 1950s. I’m also on the look out for some costume jewelry that will add a little more interest to the outfit. It will be a few weeks before the belt is finished since I’m ordering it from California. I already have ideas for my next project and want to devote time to sketching and researching blouse weight fabrics. Right now I just don’t feel ready to go through the process of making the belt myself.

The Dirndl Dress made from quilting cotton has turned out better than I expected. The positive aspects of my experience with using quilting cotton to make a dress include:

*It has a lot of body. The cotton will hold a boxy shaped bodice very well.
*The cotton becomes softer after pre-shrinking it.
*Stitches can be removed easily.
*It presses beautifully and responds well to steam for shaping.
*Quilting Cotton works best on the simplest of styles. I think they work well for fitted bodices and maybe a fitted skirt.

Some of the drawbacks I learned while using quilting cotton during this project:

*Although the fabric responds very well to hand stitching there is something about it that reminded me, over and over, that this fabric wants to puff, fluff and be stuffed. It is, after all, made to be a quilt.
*It is best not to use quilting cotton for gathered skirts. The fabric gathers well but the weight and fullness of the gathered piece can result in the skirt looking unflattering on a larger size.
*There is much body but little drape in the finished garment. By drape I mean the ability of the fabric to move as the body moves. This doesn’t change how much I like the overall look of the completed Dirndl Dress but it lacks the movement and appeal the dress would have in a suitable dress weight cotton.

Does this mean I would tell other sewists not to try quilting cotton? My advice about choice of fabrics is simple:

*Research what other sewists have to say about using it.
*Consider all the positive and negative things you read about it.
*Assess your own project and whether or not you are willing to experiment.
*Pick a style that will work best with the nature of the quilting cotton.
*Give it a try perhaps using the simplest style possible, one that will not require too much work or too much fabric
*Assess the results you get and use that as a guide for the future.

While other sewists might be able to tell if you used quilting cotton or not, other people you meet most likely won’t. They will consider how well the garment fits and whether or not the color, pattern and entire look is flattering to you.

When I was 16 I bought several Simplicity patterns designed by Betsey Johnson for Alley Cat. I was so in love with chintz, polished cotton and prints consisting of large, red roses that I bought chintz curtain fabric to make one of these Betsey Johnson maxi dresses. My Grandma Josie had a sense of humor about my selection but did not discourage me from making the dress. Instead she told me it would be important to make sure I matched up the roses at the center back seam and along the princess seams. I proceeded to make the dress and the roses matched up ok. Not perfect but not so far apart that it was too noticeable.

When I wore the dress to school I got many compliments. No one knew it was curtain fabric and nobody said I looked like I was wearing old curtains either. So my advice is that if you want to try a quilting cotton–and many of the patterns are irresistible so I understand the allure–I’d say give it a try and then make your own conclusions about whether or not you want to use it in the future.


4 thoughts on “Dirndl Dress Completed…Photos to Come…Closing thoughts on Quilting Cotton

  1. I still use curtain fabric for dressmaking – fits in with my reusing ethos. The fabric’s usually quite soft fro use by the time I get it. I like the sound of the chintz roses.
    I’m looking forward to seeing the completed dress.


    • Thank you, Norma! The lady who makes the belts is out in California and doesn’t have a website. She seems to work out of retro mode! Everything is by catalog and snail mail. I’ll write all about it when I get the catalog and order the belt. I’ll document the progress, too.

      Some curtain fabric is very pretty. I once saw a pair of café curtains for a kitchen window that had tiny strawberries and little yellow flowers. If that fabric had been available by the yard it would have made a very cute sundress for a little girl. Or even a retro styled kitchen apron.


    • Yeah, it did. But my Home Economics teacher pointed out that all the work on the princess seams was lost. She said I was too taken by the print to understand that the princess lines would look better if the fabric was a solid color.

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