In Fall For Cotton

Fall For Cotton – shopping modern fabrics

When shopping for your Fall For Cotton fabric, it doesn’t matter what the fabric looks like, what type it is, or where it’s from, as long as it’s 100% cotton. There are countless places you can buy your fabric from (Denver Fabrics, and are having sales right now!) but you want to watch out for a few things as far as fiber content.


I am not ashamed to admit that I shop at Jo-Ann Fabrics ALL the time. It’s the only fabric shop in my area and I usually find everything I need there (not to mention there’s always a sale!). When shopping for fabric in a store, be sure to check the fabric bolts for the fabric content. Here’s a prime example of things to keep an eye on:


This cotton blend fabric was literally just three bolts down from the 100% cotton shirting that I bought for my project. Just because these fabrics are all listed as “cotton shirting” doesn’t mean that they all contain the same amount of cotton, even though they were all on the same shelf. Different fiber content means different ways to wash and care for your fabric, so it’s important to take note of that too.

Many discount fabric shops (like Walmart) get fabric remnants from unknown sources, so there won’t be any straight answer as to what the fiber is. The bolt might even say something like “undetermined fiber content”.


I’m all for buying discounted fabric, but the whole “undetermined” content is a little fishy to me. It could be fabric spun from the hair of orphan mermaid children for all we know. Okay, okay, I realize that’s really creepy and highly unlikely, but you get the idea. Check your fiber content! If it’s not obvious that it’s 100% cotton, then it’s probably not the best choice for this sewalong.


There are many benefits to sewing vintage looks with modern fabric. The main one for me is wash-ability and general durability. I’m lazy. I don’t have time to wash vintage dresses by hand. I like to be able to throw my dresses in the washing machine and not have to worry about them. That’s why I love using modern and reproduction cottons for most of my garments, including my favorite Marian Martin dress.

My favorite vintage inspired cotton fabric is Denyse Schmidt’s line from Jo-Ann Fabrics. These “quilting weight” cottons have a higher thread count, so the price reflects that, but it’s worth the purchase. (I’ll save the quilting weight debate for another post!)


There are tons of fabrics out there that aren’t marketed as reproduction fabrics, or even vintage inspired, but they are! So how do you know if a fabric is vintage inspired? Well, it involves some research and training your eye. One of my favorite things to do is log on to and study the fabrics in their archive of Sears and Roebuck catalogs. Take a look at the 1940’s fabric The Sew Weekly posted about from those same Sears catalogs. That’s the kind of stuff you have to study. Your vintage inspired fabric search will get so much easier when you know what you’re looking for!

If you want a modern made reproduction fabric, but you want someone to do the era guesswork for you, then check out They have one of the largest selections I’ve seen online. I haven’t purchased anything from their site yet, but I definitely will in the future. Awesome stuff!

Be sure to check out Tasha’s post on shopping vintage fabrics! What kind of fabric are you using for your project?




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  • Thank you, thank you for this most useful post. As a newbie to vintage style sewing and lover of cotton (and linen) I was excited to see this information. You know, from reading the current online sewing divas of historical, costume, and vintage sewing (yaw’ll know who they are) I was kinda embarrassed to be shopping at Jo-Ann’s and was feeling pressure to purchase quite frankly from paces I can barely afford as a stay-at-home-wife. Thank you for owning up to being a Jo-Ann’s shopper.

    I have shared it on my FB page:

    • I too feel these same pressures to sew “big names” but you know what? We have nothing to be ashamed of. Most fabric now-a-days comes from the same countries and the same factories so why should we feel guilty about paying a lower price for it? Sure, you often get what you pay for in terms of quality, but for the fabrics I sew with the most, I am very happy with what I can find at Jo-Anns! πŸ™‚

  • charlene

    Just found your blog and I plan to participate. This should be fun. I found a fabric listed as “Multicolor French Cotton Jersey Provence Print” for the content it is listed a simply “cotton”. Do you know if French cotton Jersey tends to be 100% cotton? I have no clue and neither do the phone reps.

  • Ann Sinclair

    Hi Rochelle, I’ve been following your blog for a while and this challenge is just what I needed to inspire me to finish a shirt dress using a 50’s pattern in cotton poplin which has been in my stash for ages. To complete the dress I will make a self coloured belt with vintage buckle from my Grandmother’sbutton box. So looking forward to seeing everyone’s creations. Ann

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  • I’ve found a quilting cotton that I’ll love to use for this project but it’s slightly see-through and I don’t like the idea of lining cotton with cotton because it doesn’t seem ‘slippery’ enough. :S Using my usual polyester/rayon lining fabrics breaks the rules of the challenge though… Any advice for this novice? πŸ™

    • Cotton Lawn or Voile makes a nice lining and usually has a slightly slippery sheen to it. If you really cant find anything to line your dress with, no one will be angry at you for using a non-cotton lining πŸ˜‰ We just encourage people to try using a cotton lining first if they can. That’s what the challenge is all about! πŸ™‚

      • Thanks for the advice, Rochelle! Will try to hunt down some cotton lawn or voile. πŸ™‚

      • Such a kind response to Sharon. And, you know, sewing should also be about the fun or joy of simply DOING it. Thank you for your kindness. I look forward to participating in one of these with you soon. Hopefully you will consider doing them again.

  • This is such a great sewalong idea. Unfortunately I don’t think I’ll have time to take part. I’m enjoying reading along with your posts though. Can’t wait to see what you make.

  • I was fortunate enough to score two feedsacks of the same print at the Longest Yard sale so I’m definitely using them. I may have time to play with a couple of other things as well. And in that photo from JoAnn’s I’ve got three of those prints sitting at home as we speak : )
    One thing to keep in mind, that you very briefly touched on, is the quality of the grey goods. That’s the fabric before it’s printed and finished. The more expensive fabrics, like the quilting cottons by Denyse Schmidt, use a good quality fabric to start. It isn’t so much about thread count but the QUALITY of thread they weave it with. Quilting fabrics, really nice ones, are much more expensive than the stuff on the back wall of JoAnn’s because they’re meant to hold up to the wear and tear of daily use, and to hand down to the next generation. The cheaper fabrics use thread that isn’t as long and strong. The inks aren’t as good so they don’t last as long BUT the average JoAnn customer isn’t shopping for longevity. I’m not sure what the numbers are these days but 15 years ago fabrics and notions were a $4 billion/year industry and 50% of all items purchased were never used. I used to sit in meetings where upper management would say “Don’t worry if what the customer purchases isn’t right for the project, we’ve got at least a 50/50 chance they’re never going to make it.” I was HORRIFIED but was true. Their sales are good as long as they’ve restocked : )
    “Undetermined fabric content” is usually a poly or rayon blend. Wal-Mart is a little lazy when it comes to sourcing and stocking their fabrics. You can do a burn test if you’re curious but the better test is to throw it in the washing machine and see how it comes out! If it disintegrates then count yourself lucky you didn’t spend time making something totally cute.

  • I agree, there’s something more than a tad eyebrow raising about such a term. It’s like the mystery meat of the sewing world!

    β™₯ Jessica

  • Undetermined Fiber Content, wow, I have never seen anything like this.
    I use to work in a fabric store and because we re-used the bolts, we stored the Content-Information in our office, linked to the fabric with a label attached to it. If the label got lost (or if there had never been one, eg when my boss bought them very cheap in a lot and it was only written somewhere on the delivery slip) we always had to do a burn test. But I was always shocked how little people cared for what was in the fabric they purchase. If they asked for linen most meant the look if it, they didn’t care if it was a blended fabric. The only ones asking regularly were fashion students, because they had to label the fabrics they used.

  • If all goes well and I have time to get er done, then I am using this bad boy: swoon!

  • I’ve been eyeing that plaid for ages! So cute. And such a good point to read the bolts, some things you’d typically think are cotton might not be in that incarnation!

    I have nooo idea on fabric yet. We may end up twinsies as I really am leaning towards pants, but think a blouse would be good too. lol I want to try and use something from my stash so in terms of pants, it would mean corduroy!

  • Oh and Thank you for material links, they are great, many pictures to help with choosing a more vintage looking material.

  • Thank you so much for this post. Very Insightful. I only just went to JoAnns and spent several hours pulling back material to read the fibre content and learn all about the different weight cottons and other types of material. I learnt a lot. I shop mostly at JoAnns too, I also shop at Walmart for their material, such great low prices but I do only get their 100% cotton unless I am making a muslin and want to buy really cheap.

    I am using 100% cotton (obviously) cherry blossoms on a baby blue background. I LOVE all of DS choices of material, I literally stand there looking imagining all the items I could make with it. It is so exciting to look at a bolt and turn it into something wearable……

  • I see the fabric I bought for my project in your last photo!

  • I’m using a red cotton jersey that I have in my stash. I’m not a huge fan of sewing with 100% cotton wovens (too wrinkly!), but I love, LOVE cotton jersey. It’s totally my favorite fabric.