DY(S)B: Guest Post- Choosing Fabric

Please welcome Katie from Kadiddlehopper! Katie is a very talented seamstress who sews more than I can even fathom having the time to sew! She's quite amazing. Please stop by her blog and say hello! Thanks for being a guest here Katie!

Dress your school boy header

We so often bemoan the lack of boy appropriate fabric. Everything out there is frilly, girly and pink. There are a few boy oriented prints available, but they so often are shoot 'em up cartoons, expensive blue trains and copyrighted by Disney or Pixar. And that is when they aren't intended for the under 2 year old set. How to sew for your school age boy??

But let us not despair. Prints are fun, but for the school age boy particularly, they won't make up the bulk of his wardrobe. What we need for our big boys is hard wearing, rough and tough fabrics that will stand up to whatever they can dish out, but won't make them stand out (in a bad way) on the playground. Here are a few of my favorites.


I am lumping these together because they really are basically the same thing. Twill refers to the way that the fabric is woven. Look down at the jeans you are wearing and you'll see a diagonal texture in the weave.  Denim is a twill woven fabric, generally made of cotton, sometimes blended with polyester or lycra, but there are other twill fabrics out there that are great for boy clothes. Denim is great for jeans, of course but you don't have to stop there! It also makes fun elastic waist shorts and jackets.

5295590616_ff11c13b92_zDenim Jeans 

Lighter weight denims can be made into study shirts. Overall, denim and twills are a bottom weight fabric, making them perfect for pants, shorts, jackets and backpacks. They are easy to find even at your local big box fabric store, and generally inexpensive, making them a real wardrobe workhorse.

3940948606_e6c2c35211_zPrinted Twill Backpack

Linen (and its cousins) 

Linen is a wonderful, breathable fabric that is a pleasure to sew. The down side of 100% linen is that it can be expensive and is a little bit on the delicate side. Fortunately, there are plenty of linen blends as well as "linen look" fabrics that are more hardy. These actually are even easier to find than their fancy cousins. Most big box fabric stores carry their own line of "linen look" fabrics.

6019506775_7da21632d7_zLinen-cotton blend shirt

Lots of them are floral prints, but there are plenty of nice basic solid and stripes perfect for our boys. For my boy, I generally save the real linen for dress pants, but linen looks and blends are great for everyday. They are comfortable to wear and really can be used for almost anything in the wardrobe – shirts, pants, shorts and even lightweight jackets.

4340399315_0c811880ea_zPolyester/Linen Look Pants


I know some of you are a little nervous about sewing with these, but for our tough guys, we don't want the hard to sew knits anyway. We're talking easy to sew cotton interlock and jersey. There are a lot of sources for excellent quality knits, but this is one place where the local JoAnn may not supply your need (although they do have a few reasonable quality basics and a nice selection of ribbing). 

4175790175_9b53d47e1e_zcotton jersey tees

There are several online vendors who consistently deliver quality products, but some experimenting to find out what you like best may be required. My favorites are Chez Ami and the Fabric Fairy.

Thrift store tee shirts are also a fun source of jersey. I like finding a creative way to integrate screen printing into a new garment.

IMG_3925cotton jersey shorts refashioned from garage sale tee


Boys and corduroy just seem to go together. Perfect for fall pants, vests and jackets, it just seems like the quintessential "Boy" fabric. Generally the finer wales are easier to locate as yardage in local stores. I love the look of larger wale cord, especially for boys pants and can sometimes find the wider wales online. For reference the larger the number, the smaller the wale. Generally the corduroy at your local stores is 21 wale. I've seen as large as 8 wale online. Wouldn't that be great for some cool wide leg skater style pants?? My favorite source for nice quality corduroys is actually my hubby's closet. Repurposing old corduroy pants and jackets is a great way to find some fun and interesting fabrics.

IMG_8211corduroy pants refashioned from Dad's


Although great for jammies, flannel is also wonderful for warm layering long sleeve shirts and for lining pants in cold weather. It also makes cozy jacket lining and coat inner lining.

5935863484_bce111e734_zcotton flannel PJs


This easy to sew knit fabric is perfect for comfortable unlined jackets and coats. 

It also makes fun hats, gloves and even comfortable pants. It's easy to find, although quality is extremely variable. The polyester fleece that you find at Walmart and the big fabric stores is much more likely to pill and is not as insulating as higher quality fleeces. Look for the Polartec brand, or check that the bolt specifies a "No Pill" fleece and you'll be much happier with your product.

Prints and Patterns

I bemoaned earlier the sad lack of prints for boys, but I actually find that for the school age chap, simpler is better.

6033000887_c94365d8ab_zcotton shirtings, gingham and a bit of seersucker

Stripes, solids, checks and an occasional houndstooth will clothe your boy well. I would also mention that I have had much better luck getting my son to actually wear what I make when I let him in on the decision making process. Yep, take the boy shopping with you. Let him flip through your pattern magazines. Surf your favorite online fabric stores with him. You might be surprised at how much fun you'll both have!

Thanks Katie! Great information!

Don't forget to add your photos to the Flickr group for Dress Your (School) Boy & Girl!

Check out the previous Dress Your (School) Boy tutorials!

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  1. Kristin says

    Thank you for that wonderful information! I thought those tips were so useful and have encouraged me to build up my stash of durable fabrics for my boy.
    I believe your link for the fabric fairy might be wrong; it took me to a site that doesn’t actually sell fabric, it just passes you along to other links.
    Thanks again!

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