Sewing with Liberty

I’ve had several requests to do a post about sewing with Liberty of London fabric, so today I’m giving you a rundown of tools and techniques that will make the process easy peasy, and you won’t need to feel nervous about cutting into your precious lawn!

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What is lawn anyway?

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Liberty tana lawn is a lightweight, tightly woven cotton fabric that often features very detailed and colorful floral motifs. The threads are very fine, and the material is quite supple and flowy. Liberty tana lawn is best friends with Free Spirit solid voile, which makes for a great lining for garments or pairing for a quilt.

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You may also combine Liberty with something like double gauze, like I did here with this quilt I made for Layla. While the materials are quite different, they are both lightweight and together they made a beautiful pair! I simply prewashed the double gauze which has a very loose weave in order to avoid any uneven shrinkage between the two.

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Liberty also goes well with chambray and even standard quilting weight cotton. Lawn doesn’t have noticeable shrinkage, so if you are using something heavier or with a looser weave, I definitely recommend prewashing. I never prewash the Liberty lawn because it does not shrink and is easier to work with before it is washed.

I use a fine needle when sewing with Liberty so as not to break any of the threads. I’ll often use a 70/10 universal needle, but I’ll move to something larger if I’m pairing my lawn with a heavier fabric. Thread wise, I’m quite particular. In my ordinary sewing, I just use a Coats and Clark mega roll of white all-purpose thread, which I believe is cotton. I do not use this with Lawn, because the thread is thicker than the threads that the lawn is made of and it often causes puckering. I’ve found that 40wt Aurifil is the perfect thread for Liberty. Its similar in weight, and causes zero puckering.

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If I am machine quilting, 28wt Aurifil is the way to go. Though 40wt works well for quilting, I like my stitches to stand out a bit more, and the 28wt is heavier, but still will not cause puckering. (above picture is 28wt, and picture below is 40wt).

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Anyway, I’m not an “Aurisnob”, or anything like that, I just use Aurifil with Liberty because I think superior fabric calls for superior thread, and together they make for an exceptional combination.

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Liberty is the perfect woven fabric for garment sewing. Its my go to brand because of its quality, and the diversity of prints offered means I could have an all Liberty wardrobe and no one would be the wiser.

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As I mentioned before (and a bajillion other times if you’re a regular reader here), Liberty’s perfect match is Free Spirit solid voile. I line every single garment I make with Liberty with Free Spirit solid voile, because they are nearly identical fabrics. When combined, they act as one fabric and there is no weird shifting due to differences in the cloth. Additionally, you still have a lightweight garment when pairing these two.

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I also used Liberty with solid voile to make this quilt.

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When piecing tana lawn, I still use 40wt Aurifil. Just because no one sees those stitches doesn’t mean they won’t see puckers, so stick with the good thread throughout your sewing. I press seams to one side, and rotate between rows so that my seams “lock” together. I don’t always do that, but with such a lightweight fabric, you don’t notice extra thickness at the seams when doing this.

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Liberty is also very hand quilting friendly! I’ve hand quilted many a quilt with my go to Perle cotton (size 8) with great success.

I should also mention, if I’m sewing a garment or if I’ve made a quilt, I’ll overlock seams that will be exposed, even if they’re only exposed for a while. So if I’m attaching a bodice and skirt that will eventually be covered because I’m hand sewing the lining down, I’ll overlock that seam to avoid any amount of fraying. Liberty doesn’t have a terrible amount of fraying, but why let it unravel at all? Likewise, when I’ve finished a quilt and attached binding to the front but I’m still waiting to hand sew it down in the back, I’ll overlock all the way around the quilt to avoid useless fraying. Many people would say that is overkill, but I just look at it like this: I’m using a really high end, expensive fabric to make this and I very much want it to outlast me, therefore, I’m going to take any precaution I can to ensure the long life of this item.

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I’ll also throw in here that I don’t ever use scissors to cut fabric. Anything that needs to be cut can be done with a rotary cutter- even curved pieces. If you feel that you can cut with scissors with zero shifting and total accuracy, go for it. I know I’m not that talented, so I avoid uneven pieces by cutting swiftly with my rotary cutter.

Liberty tana lawn is not at all difficult to sew with. I honestly believe that with the right tools, and patience you can do anything you want to do with it. I think much of the fear and anxiety about sewing with Liberty is due to the cost of it (approx $36yd/mtr), and we just don’t want to mess it up. If you think through your project and come into it prepared, you’ll have great success and a beautiful item to boot! Liberty is so exquisite and refined, but don’t let that scare you away from owning it and adding bits of it to your wardrobe and home!

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If you have any questions, feel free to leave me a comment. I’ll answer it to the best of my abilities. I’d love to hear about your Liberty projects as well! I hope this has been helpful, and more than anything, I hope its given you the gumption to dig into your Liberty stash and make something beautiful.

If you don’t own any Liberty, I highly recommend checking out Jones and Vandermeer, DuckaDilly, and Westwood Acres. Among them you will find a massive assortment of yardage, bundles, and clubs!

-Meredith

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  • seriously awesome! everything i ever wanted to know about sewing with liberty and then some. must try the aurifil thread…do you use ordinary needles or the microtex?ReplyCancel

    • Just a universal 70/10… and I’m sure you know WAY more about all things Liberty than I do!!ReplyCancel

  • Lara

    Thanks so much Meredith! Conveniently I ordered a set of Aurifil threads from Massdrop – they’re on route so I’ll hold off sewing until then! Such a great post xReplyCancel

  • Michaela

    I do have a stash of Liberty I’m nervous to cut into…I’m now thinking a rotary cutter might make the difference. I always love to see your photos of liberty fabrics, it makes it much easier for me to choose what to buy. Thanks for all the great tips!ReplyCancel

  • I bought my first bundle of Liberty of London tana lawn fabric. I haven’t even received it yet, and I’m worried about sewing it. Do you prewash and then starch your fabric before cutting? I’m using the fabric for quilts. The first one I want to make is Elizabeth Hartman’s Fancy Fox quilt.ReplyCancel

    • Camille! Its taken me forever to reply to comments, and I’m terribly sorry! So with Liberty I never prewash or starch when making clothing or quilts. Give it a good pressing, and you’ll be ready to sew. :) It won’t shrink.ReplyCancel

  • Scarlet

    Excellent entry. I am currently hand piecing small Liberty hexagons, and am having trouble finding the right hand sewing needle to piece Liberty without leaving gaping holes at the seams. Do you recommend a hand sewing needle/size for piecing (not hand quilting) with this fabulous fabric? Many thanks.ReplyCancel

    • For binding and really fine fabrics I use a long, extremely sharp needle that’s very fine and has a small eye called a straw needle. I’m not sure who manufactures them, but I get them from my local quilt shop. I’m assuming if you google “straw needle” you would find something that’s at least similar. I’m sorry to be so vague, but I don’t have any of the packaging on hand, as all of those needles are currently living in a pincushion.ReplyCancel

  • […] but aren’t sure how to use them. In addition, if you are new to sewing with Liberty, I have a great post written up on everything you need to know about sewing with this high quality, beautiful […]ReplyCancel

  • Mary Lynne

    I’m not familiar with aurifil thread; can you recommend a comparable product?
    What do you use to interface a collar on a dress?
    Thanks.ReplyCancel

  • Carol McE

    I’m glad to read that you don’t prewash the Tana Lawn before sewing as I hadn’t planned on doing that. Do you pre-wash the Free-Spirit solid voile?ReplyCancel

    • Nope! I only prewash things like quilt weight cottons if they are destined to become clothing. Voile and lawn don’t shrink and they are easy to work with unwashed. ReplyCancel

      • Carol McElhinney

        Thanks! Very helpful. I just received my Free Spirit voile and it’s even silkier than the Tana Lawn! I keep touching it and finding it hard to believe it’s really cotton!ReplyCancel

  • Julie

    When sewing garments, do you use a regular stitch length or reduce the length because of the thinness of the material? I am getting a little puckering, so I will try using a smaller needle and perhaps changing the thread, but I was also wondering if changing the stitch length would help as well.ReplyCancel

    • I don’t reduce the stitch length. I use about a 2-2.5. Getting a smaller needle and thread should take away any puckering. ReplyCancel

  • Andrea

    Regarding basting Liberty lawns for a quilt, do you use a spray basting material or pins? The basting pins I have seem way to huge to not leave marks in the Liberty. Thank you!!ReplyCancel

    • I detest basting spray. I know I’m in the minority as so many boast about how fast it is. I just use regular curved safety pins. They aren’t big- just normal size and I don’t have any issue with them leaving holes or marks. ReplyCancel

      • Andrea

        Thank you!! I’ve never spray basted and am reluctant to. Thanks again! ReplyCancel

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