The first step with any great sewing project is choosing the perfect fabric. Thankfully our Kalle Shirt & Shirtdress works with a wide variety of woven fabrics. I’ve experimented with everything from 100% cotton shirting to super drapey, lightweight fabrics like rayon challis and tencel twill; both types work very well depending on the effect you’re after.
For a crisp, architectural shirt or shirtdress, stick with classic shirting fabrics: think poplin, chambray, oxford, lawn, broadcloth. If you’re after something softer and drapier, I recommend rayon challis, tencel, silk, double gauze and voile. I spent a few hours hunting down appropriate fabrics; here are my favourites.
I really, really love classic shirting fabrics. They remind me of all the thrifted men’s shirts I have in my closet. The quality and style varies quite widely; some fabrics will be very dense and finely woven (like Egyptian pima cotton), while others will have a looser, more visible weave, like chambray or oxford. Shirtings with a bit of stretch are also appropriate for this pattern; in my experience white RTW shirts made from a cotton/spandex blend tend to be less transparent. If you find a good source for a beefy white shirting let me know; I find many of them a little too see through.
STRIPES AND CHECKS
Stripes and checks provide another classic option for your Kalle shirt or shirtdress. I like a very traditional striped cotton, but softer, handpainted stripes can feel a little softer and organic. Buffalo plaids are bold, while checks can be subtle or eye-catching depending on the contrast and scale.
LINEN, TENCEL & RAYON
I love all the options we have for natural fibers these days. Linen is a great standby (especially for the summer heat) but tencel and rayon (also known as viscose) are great alternatives. While manufactured, the later two are made from organic material like cellulose (basically wood pulp) and bamboo which accounts for their breathability. Tencel, rayon and linen are probably the fabrics I sew the most with lately, and I especially love the drapiness of tencel and rayon for Kalle; our green sample is made from tencel twill.
As we discussed earlier this week in our Styling and Inspiration post, you can make a striking Kalle with a bold print. I’m especially fond of that Matisse/Scandinavian inspired print an the digital rose print in the top row.
You’ll need a few additional supplies before you get started. Have a lightweight fusible interfacing on hand (to stabilize the collar area), as well as some polyester thread. You’ll also need 1/2″ buttons for the placket. The cropped shirt requires 5, the tunic 8, the dress 9, and the popover placket 4. Otherwise you’ll need a fresh universal needle and an iron. A tailors ham will help you press some of the curvy areas, and a wood clapper is always a nice pressing tool for getting crisp seams.
Back on Friday with a post on sizing and pattern modifications!