Your next garment could be on us.

We have seen so many awesome apparel sewn out of our fabrics, and we decided to celebrate them with an exciting new monthly Instagram contest called #cottonandsteelcloset!

To enter, post Instagram photos of garments you've made out of Cotton+Steel fabric using the hashtags #cottonandsteelcloset and #cottonandsteel. It can be something you made for yourself, your kid, your partner, friend, frenemy... Each month we'll pick our favorite to win a 3 yard cut of C+S fabric, winner's choice!  

Here are the details: The main fabric used in the garment must be Cotton+Steel to be eligible. First winner will be announced Oct 1. Unlimited entries, open to international entrants!

We can't wait to see all the garments you make!

Tutorial: Reversible Pennie Pillow

One of Sarah Watts' fabrics from her Spring 2016 collection From Porto With Love was a super cute canvas cat panel print called Pennie. Sarah purposely designed the cats for people to be able to cut them out and sew together to make pillows and plushies. The cats are mirror images of each other so that you can use them for the fronts and backs of the pillows, making them reversible!

All you need is some Pennie fabric and a needle and thread! If you have a sewing machine, of course you can use that instead, but this tutorial doesn't require one.


*yardage varies depending on how the print is falling in relation to the cut edge. If you're buying the fabric in person, you can just buy enough to get one repeat of the larger cats, plus a few inches. If you are buying online, buying 1 yard is enough to ensure that you'll get at least one repeat of large cats.


Cut around two large cats about 1/2" outside the dark outlines. Make sure that you cut out mirrored cats (they should be facing different directions).

Place the two Pennies right sides (printed sides) together.

The goal now is to line up the outlines on both pieces. It can be helpful to tape one Pennie to a window...

...then put the other one on top. You'll be able to see through the fabric to align both outlines.

Pin layers together.

Cut a generous arm length of thread and tie a knot at the end. Starting on the bottom edge close to one side, start stitching the two Pennies together right down the middle of the outline.

To make things go a little faster, you can stitch a couple stitches before pulling the needle all the way through. (Of course you can also use a sewing machine for this step.)

Sew all the way around. When you get the bottom, stop about 3-4 inches from where you started and tie off the thread. (An easy way to do this is to stitch an extra stitch, but before pulling it all the way through, pass the needle twice through the thread loop. Then pull tight.)

Now we need to trim some of the seam allowances so that the edges look ok when you turn it right side out. Wherever there is an outer curve (the curve is poking out), cut notches in the outer edge of the fabric. Wherever there is an inner curve (poking in towards the center), snip the seam allowance. For both notching and snipping you want to get close to the stitching, but not super close.

Snip down into the inner corner of each ear.

Trim off the corners around the ears and bottom corners.

Now turn the whole thing right side out through the hole in the bottom.

Fill with stuffing until desired level of plumpness is reached.

Fold the raw edges of the opening to the inside (they should be folding in on their own) and bring the edges together. Using a needle and thread, stitch across the opening close to the folded edges. Sew the whole opening shut and tie off thread.

Admire your finished pillow! This tutorial will work with the smaller cats in the print as well.

(To see the rest of the fabrics in the From Porto With Love collection, click here.)

Substrate Series: Cotton Lawn

Cotton+Steel is partnering with Colette Patterns for a fun and informative Substrate Series! Learn all about a specific fabric substrate here on the Cotton+Steel blog, then pop over to the Colette Patterns blog to see how it sews up into garments and get tons of relevant sewing tips. Yay knowledge!

So, what's a substrate, anyway? It means the type of fabric that a design is applied to. This can involve the fiber (cotton? linen? rayon?) but also involves the weight and weave structure of the fabric.

Today's substrate is cotton lawn.

 Vintage Floral from Playful by Melody Miller

Vintage Floral from Playful by Melody Miller

If the word “lawn” makes you think of perfectly manicured grass and a jolly good game of croquet, you can extend that same train of thought to fabric - what kind of fabric would you want to wear in that summertime situation? How about a cool, crisp, breathable cotton? That sounds pretty good to us, and cotton lawn fits the bill perfectly.

Lawn explained

Cotton lawn is a lightweight woven fabric with a soft and silky touch. It is created using smaller yarns and a higher thread count, which gives it a very smooth and untextured feel. Lawn was originally made primarily out of linen (a historical center of production was Laon, France, hence the term lawn), but today cotton has become the fiber of choice. Imagine a crisp cotton button-down dress shirt, and you’re probably imagining cotton lawn.

 City Toile from Les Fleurs by Anna Bond for Rifle Paper Co.

City Toile from Les Fleurs by Anna Bond for Rifle Paper Co.

Cotton+Steel releases new lawns every spring and fall, sprinkled throughout each individual designer’s collections. We also have a collection of solid cotton lawns in fun, vibrant colors that are specifically designed to work with our prints.  

In case you didn't catch it in previous posts, here is a video about how our fabric is made in our Japanese facility:

Working with lawn

Cotton lawn is pretty similar to quilting cotton to work with and has the firm stability of a plain weave cotton. If it feels a little thin or wiggly while cutting and sewing, you can use spray starch to help crisp it up and make it easier to work with. The lighter colors of lawn are on the sheerer side, so take that in consideration when choosing whether or not to line something and what color thread to use. As with all natural fibers, we recommend prewashing the fabric in the same manner you plan on caring for the finished garment. Since our lawns are 100% cotton, you can both wash and tumble dry.

  Vintage Floral from Playful by Melody Miller

Vintage Floral from Playful by Melody Miller

Cotton lawn is a great choice for lots of different garment applications. It makes beautiful shirts, blouses, dresses, pajamas, and lingerie. It’s also a really fun way to line garments, and it can be a way to incorporate a crazy print or color you otherwise wouldn’t use for a garment. It’s like your clothes have secrets! This Colette Patterns Selene skirt is lined with a fun and vibrant lawn from Melody Miller-designed collection Playful.

Business on the outside, party on the inside!

Cotton lawn can also be a wonderful option for quilts if you’re the quilty type. It’s not always the first type of fabric you think of for a quilt, but its lightweight, silky qualities make the prettiest, softest quilts. Check out our #lawnquilt hashtag on Instagram to see what kinds of quilts people are making from lawns.

 photo by Colette Patterns

photo by Colette Patterns

Be sure to hop on over to the Colette Patterns blog today for tons of tips about working with cotton lawn. You can also see more pictures of the beautiful Colette Patterns Violet Blouse (pictured above in our Solid Cotton Lawn), Dahlia Dress, Peony Dress and more, all made from Cotton+Steel lawns!

Substrate Series: Rayon

Cotton+Steel is partnering with Colette Patterns for a fun and informative Substrate Series! Learn all about a specific fabric substrate here on the Cotton+Steel blog, then pop over to the Colette Patterns blog to see how it sews up into garments. Yay knowledge!

So what's a substrate, anyway? In the fabric world, the word "substrate" refers to the material that a design is applied to. I can mean fiber content (cotton? linen? rayon?) but also refers to weave structure and weight.

Today’s featured substrate is rayon.

When you’re wearing a rayon dress, we’re not gonna lie, you feel pretty great. Rayon has a cool hand and a smooth touch. It shimmers and ripples in the breeze, and the ink colors are deep and richly saturated. It’s ok if you imagine that you’re walking in slow motion everywhere you go. You might even pretend there’s a Beyonce fan in front of you. It’s ok. We get it. It’s the rayon.

rayon explained

Rayon is a plant based fabric, and a fairly new one in the grand history of textile production. It began in the mid-1800’s as an attempt to create ‘artificial silk,’ though at the time the methods used proved too expensive and unpredictable to apply to a larger scale. Over the next 50 years the process was added to and refined by a number of different chemists, and by the early 20th century rayon was being manufactured for a variety of purposes.

Rayon starts out as plant cellulose. It undergoes a series of chemical processes that essentially break the cellulose down into a solution. The solution is then extruded (pushed through tiny holes) into another solution that causes it to turn into fibers. The fibers are collected, trimmed and spun into thread.

Rayon fibers are extremely absorbent because of their plant cell makeup. That’s why rayon fabric feels stiff when it’s wet - it absorbs so much water that the fibers become less flexible. Because of this quality, they respond very well to ink and dye. A deeper level of saturation is possible than on cotton, so it’s always extra fun to see our designs printed on rayon.

For Cotton+Steel, rayon is (at the moment) our only exclusively-garment fabric that we create, which is something that definitely affects the design process. We carefully consider colors to make sure that they are garment-friendly, and we “test” all the rayons by illustrating garment mockups and filling them with the prints to ensure that the scale and general look make sense for clothing.

(Side note: did you catch the video in our canvas post about how our fabric is made in Japan? If not, watch it here!)

working with rayon

As for care, we recommend dry cleaning rayon. When rayon is wet, it is extra fragile from all the water it has absorbed, so exposing it to the heat and agitation of a washer and dryer will cause it to break down faster. Iron on medium heat and on the wrong side of the fabric, or use a handheld steamer for wrinkles. For light wrinkles, try hanging the garment in the bathroom while you take a shower - sometimes that’s all it takes to relax the fabric!

Rayon is more slippery and fluid than quilting cotton, so take your time when cutting and make sure you have ample space. Cotton+Steel rayon specifically has a firmer hand and thickness than other rayons, making it easier to work with and less clingy when wearing. If you’ve been intimidated by working with rayon in the past, Cotton+Steel rayon is a great one to start with!

The Colette team stitched up their Myrtle pattern in a rayon from the just-released Rifle Paper Co. Les Fleurs collection. Les Fleurs, designed by Rifle Paper Co.’s Anna Bond, is Cotton+Steel’s first-ever guest designed collection. Check out their post for more pictures and tons of amazing tips for sewing with rayon!

Substrate Series: Cotton/Linen Canvas

Cotton+Steel is partnering with Colette Patterns for a fun and informative Substrate Series! Learn all about a specific fabric substrate here on the Cotton+Steel blog, then pop over to the Colette Patterns blog to see how it sews up into garments. Yay knowledge!

So what's a substrate? A substrate refers to the type of fabric a design is printed on. This can refer to fiber content (cotton? rayon? silk?) but also involves weight and weave structure.

Today’s featured substrate is canvas.

Canvas is the fabric that carried the ships of explorers across the oceans, brought the anonymous gaze of the Girl With A Pearl Earring through the centuries. It can also make a pretty cute pencil skirt. The word “canvas” actually comes from an old Latin word for cannabis, as early renditions of the textile were woven from hemp fibers. Today, that word can encompass a fairly wide range of fabrics. So, what exactly is canvas?


Canvas is a durable, plain-weave fabric. Its plain weave structure is what differentiates it from other heavy duty fabrics like denim, which are usually twill weave. In a plain weave, the warp and weft threads are set up in a simple criss cross pattern, each alternatively going over and under the other. (To contrast, in a twill weave, threads go over/under two threads, then one; this is staggered from row to row to create the visual diagonal lines we associate with twill.)

 super magnified view!

super magnified view!

Cotton+Steel canvas is much lighter weight than what you would imagine a rugged utilitarian duffle - it’s more of a light home decor weight - and it’s made from a combination of 80% cotton and 20% linen fibers. This blend lends the best qualities of each fiber to the fabric - the cotton makes it firmer and more stable, while the linen offers more texture, drape and a slightly deeper off-white color.

 umbrella made of a canvas from Rashida Coleman-Hale's new collection, Raindrop

umbrella made of a canvas from Rashida Coleman-Hale's new collection, Raindrop

Designing a print for our canvas substrate is a little different than designing a print for plain white cotton. The nubby texture of linen means that the fabric has a slightly uneven surface, which makes it harder for very small, intricate designs to be screen printed - their tiny details can get lost in the texture of the fabric. Cotton+Steel canvas is also unbleached, meaning the warm, natural color of the linen and cotton is preserved. This warmth shows through the ink in the final design, changing the color slightly. Our designers consider all these factors (as they do with every substrate) when deciding which of their designs will be printed on canvas.

If want to see an awesome behind-the-scenes look into how our fabric is manufactured and printed in our Japanese facility, check out this video:

working with our canvas

Cotton+Steel canvas is awesome for projects that call for a bottom weight fabric: skirts, structured dresses, pants, shorts, lightweight jackets. It is also great for totes, backpacks, purses, zipper cases, and any other bag project. You can use it to make throw pillows and even for upholstery!

This Colette Zinnia skirt is stitched up with a canvas from Cotton+Steel’s Black and White 2016 collection. Black and White is a collaborative group of fabrics contributed to by all the designers. This particular print was created by Melody Miller. She painted the design with a wide paint brush and india ink, and then scanned it into the computer and inverted the colors.

Because it’s cotton and linen, Cotton+Steel canvas is perfectly fine to machine wash and tumble dry. It will shrink a little the first time you wash it, so we definitely recommend prewashing. It can really handle some heat when pressing, and it responds beautifully to steam to create crisp, clean hems and seams.

To learn more about sewing and working with our canvas (and to see more photos of that awesome Zinnia skirt) head over to the Colette Patterns blog to see their sister post!