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!
What is lawn anyway?
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.
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.
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. NOTE: after years of using the aforementioned thread brand and LOVING it, I have discovered that with time and little to NO wear, this particular thread breaks and busts in every possible setting, from quilting to piecing, and especially in garments. I cannot in good conscience recommend it to anyone. By chance, I stumbled across a brand called Floriani. It was given to me at a sewing demo I attended about two years ago, and having fallen out of love with the brand I was using, I thought, What the heck? So I have been using it exclusively since then because the 6-8 spools I have lasted me that long, and I sew every single day. The threads are either poly or rayon, and dang do they hold up well. I have put them through the ringer after my last experience, and I’m very happy with them. I never hear any body on social media talk about them, so I thought I would mention that here. Its a great thread to pair with Liberty, and it is what I now recommend. I have no affiliation with them whatsoever.
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). Please see paragraph above.
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.
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.
I also used Liberty with solid voile to make this quilt.
When piecing tana lawn, I use Floriani. 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.
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.
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!
A note on price: if you are wondering why anyone would want to pay that much for fabric, I urge you to read My Guide to Buying Quality Fabrics. I am a big saver, so having a the mindset that I have makes these purchases a good thing for me, and best of all, not a burden to my family. That said, its simply my own perspective, and an explanation since I have so many people ask how purchasing these fabrics is a doable thing when I am on a budget.
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 and DuckaDilly. Among them you will find a massive assortment of yardage, bundles, and clubs! Plus, you are supporting a small business rather than a big box company which helps everyone! Definitely shop small when you can!