Sewing Circle: Linings for summer

Just in time for summer!  This week's Sewing Circle brings a question from Amanda...

Q: I'm planning to sew a bunch of simple cotton skirts for summer. I live in Southwest Missouri, where summers are hot and horrendously sticky (i.e. you open the front door and immediately start sweating). As such, I refuse to buy summer skirts that I'll have to wear a slip under. So, for these skirts I'm going to make, what would you recommend for lining them? The fabric store had lots of choices... Too many choices, actually. I was overwhelmed, and decided that asking someone who sews a lot of dresses/skirts was my best bet. I'm looking for something relatively opaque so I won't have to wear a slip, but still breathable. What do you normally use?


Hopefully, with your help, I won't have to aimlessly roam the aisles of the fabric store and creep out the employees anymore. Those sidelong glances in my direction were starting to make me paranoid ;)


A: Hi, Amanda,
I totally understand not wanting to wear a slip. For hot weather, you absolutely want a 100% cotton lining. A fine, lightweight voile, semi-sheer, would be best. A quilting cotton would be too heavy. You want a lightweight cotton, for sure! There may be a batiste or shirting that would work, but think light. JoAnn may not have it; you may have to buy it online. You can use white or tan, or it looks really good to use a color that sort of matches your fashion fabric.

If you really can’t find a lightweight cotton, the best linings at the fabric stores are rayon. They’re more expensive, but far nicer and more breathable.

If you're still learning and don't want to spend the big bucks, you could probably try using an old lightweight, 100% cotton bedsheet--just make sure you cut it on the right grain and treat it as if it were regular width fabric.

I know people don't often think about linings, so here are some cute (cotton) skirts that I can guarantee you are lined (with cotton)!  Makes them much nicer and easier to wear!


Source: flickr.com via Suzannah on Pinterest


(I know this one's a dress, but you get the idea...)


This one's probably lined with something like a cheap polyester double-knit, but you could line it with a nice white quilting cotton and you'd be much more comfortable!



For a slinkier skirt like this polyester one, I'd recommend a rayon lining for maximum breathability and a smooth look.  Just don't wear it on the hottest days!


Hey, readers, what do you use when you line your summer skirts and dresses?  Amanda would love to hear!

21 comments

  1. I live in the Philippines so I know all about hot, humid weather! I totally avoid anything with lining if I can help it. If I must, I have a rayon jersey slip. I have fabrics in my stash which I haven't sewn precisely because they are slightly transparent, and after this post, I will try some very light weight cotton batiste. If I could afford it, I would line everything with silk, but can't quite get past tech fact that my linings would probably end up costing more than the outer fabric! Anyway, I can't find silk here! anything sticking to my stockings. Linings actually might help absorb perspiration too.

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    1. Wow, you have lots of experience! It is simpler to go unlined if the fabric is substantial enough. I think you'll like cotton linings if they're super lightweight!

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  2. Cotton linings are perfect for summer, but keep in mind if you're making a more "transitional" skirt, a cotton lining will stick to tights or leggings, so for something which might make the hop to spring or fall, you'll want a more "silky" lining (the rayon would work in this case.) But yes - lightweight, semi-sheer cotton makes a lovely lining :-)

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    1. True!! Maybe for the summeriest, cotton is okay, but you're right about tights and friction!

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  3. Definitely lightweight cotton. It has a great hand feel and is super breathable! And I agree with Gillian, if it is a transitional piece, the cotton will stick to tights. So keep in mind how long you will be wearing this skirt (i.e. past summertime?)

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  4. I made a super lightweight cotton "skirt" that has some fullness and I wear it as a slip all the time. I put a little lace trim on it so it looks cute if it shows.

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  5. I have the same problem! Iowa is so hot and sticky and all of the skirts I see are see-through or so short that I need leggings under it. So I've started making my own. My favorite lining to use so far is lightweight, grey colored cotton knit. It is comfortable, breathable, doesn't blow up in a breeze (yikes!) and isn't see-through.

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  6. A friend of mine has taught me to line all my skirts summer or winter with Bemburg Rayon - it feels and wears heavenly! I wash the fabric and dry in the dryer before sewing my project. I have found it at my local Joann's Fabrics and use coupons to offset the price. I live in the deep humid south and found the fabric very breathable. I rarely use anything else, now.

    Beth in AL

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  7. Bemberg rayon is my favorite. I get it at Joanne's when I have a coupon.

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  8. got to go with silk cause I be where the cash be.

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  9. I line all my skirts and dresses. I cannot be bothering with slips. For summer only wear I use lightweight cotton. My most recent dress was lined with an old cotton sheet that was donated to the cause by my mother-in-law. Just make sure the lining isn't heavier than the fashion fabric. However, if it's a transitional piece I would definitely go with rayon or silk as mentioned about. Cotton sticks like burrs to tights!

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  10. Dutch Girl6/20/2012

    Hi, here a post from overseas. I really like that yellow skirt. Do you know if there is a pattern which looks like this one? I would like to make such a skirt too. Yesterday, I bought some blue fabric with white hearts and I think that it is very suitable to make something like that from it for summertime.

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    1. Sure, well, I don't know where that skirt's from but it looks like a very basic gathered skirt with a waistband. You could make it from a basic tutorial like this one http://www.adventuresindressmaking.com/2011/01/simple-gathered-to-waistband-skirt.html but add a lining if your fabric is sheer!

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  11. Anonymous6/20/2012

    Love your blog, just started sewing again after 35 years (in middle school). I am mostly restructuring/repurposing and mending clothes right now, had to reteach myself how to use my Pfaff (sp?) lol!
    I have a question, how/what is the right grain? It's been too many years for me to remember. Do you have a tutorial on laying out fabric.
    Also fabric.com has a very simple and cute FREE pattern for a summery little pull on skirt I am dying to make.
    Blessings,Linda

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    1. Thanks, glad you found me! Refashioning clothes is a GREAT way to get started (again). I've never done a tutorial for laying out fabric (good idea!) but here's one on warp and weft. http://www.rufflesandstuff.com/2009/08/fabric-grains-and-cutting.html

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  12. I live in the Caribbean and mostly sew cotton, linen and rayon/viscose (except for knits). I line my clothes with either cotton batiste or rayon lining. In some rare cases, such as this pleated scalloped border eyelet skirt I have in my queue, I self line (border print/embroidered fabrics usually have the fancy stuff on the length) because my normal skirt length means I can cut out both skirt and lining in the 2 yards of 60in fabric that I have. The other option, not very popular but a great idea nonetheless, is to have a bias cotton batiste or silk slip. Sounds old-fashioned but people, IT WORKS. The one I posted on my blog, I wear all the time, even under this sheer knit dress I made recently.

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    1. Sounds like you've got lining and slips down!! Those sound nice!

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  13. Amanda6/20/2012

    Wow, thanks for all the tips! I think I should probably write this all down... And thanks also to Suzannah. I read your blog every day!

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    1. Thanks so much for reading! Just bookmark this post and it's all written down for you! ;)

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