A Medley of Japanese Fabrics

You should have had chance now to have a look at, and possibly purchase, our summer collection of Japanese prints (we would like to think so, anyway!) This time around we chose a myriad of fabric types and weights, from floaty cotton lawn to buttery soft double-gauze through to linen-cotton canvas.

The combination of quirky and abstract prints, interesting colour palettes and tactility of the fabrics that the brands we stock such as Kokka, Nani Iro, Hokkoh and Jubi-Lee offer, allows us to create clothing and homewares out of the ordinary. That's the beauty of personally handmade goods after all - that we can be playful.

Let us explain and (hopefully) offer insight into what our current collection of Japanese fabrics does for your making, in terms of their hand feel, composition, history, colour, print...

Dobby - this is a cloth woven on the dobby loom. The warp threads are controlled using the 'dobby' device (a distortion in name from 'draw boy', an apprentice who physically assisted weavers with holding the threads) so that they can raised or lowered individually allowing the weaver to create geometric patterns and texture. Satin threads can help highlight the fabric's woven pattern. Our Hemp Stars and Matchsticks fabrics are slightly translucent with a hint of sheen. As they are woven with cotton, they are breathable for daytime wear, with the prints acting as something a bit special for evenings. Or imagine having cushions that are this silky and luxurious!

This is a versatile fabric because of it's light weight and we have picked out dressmaking patterns that attend to that: the Alder Shirtdress (daytime fun), the Rigel Bomber (quilted featherweight bliss) and the Kielo Wrap Dress (nighttime elegance).

Ray Stitch Hokkoh Japanese Dobby Cotton Fabric

Double-Gauze - a very popular fabric today, due to it's soft hand feel and breathability. It is perfect for hot climates, yet just as comfy on the skin layered up in colder months. The craft of karamiori is thought to have been introduced in Japan in 710-794, a method of textile production that includes all loom techniques that use the intertwining of threads to create cloth. Leno weaves fall into this category, a method that produces a firm open mesh. Double-gauze is created from two layers of cloth tacked together at regular intervals with undetectable little stitches - the underside acts as a lining so that the gauze layers aren't as sheer, with the construction allowing for air to pass easily through the open weave, so making a slightly more practical cloth. There are various types of double-gauze: you may have seen shirts on the high-street made from flannel gauze, with checked cloth on both sides. The double-gauze fabric we have selected are a mix of both open, more loose cloth and closer-woven, more structured cloth. Whichever you go for, we have no doubt that your clothing will be comfy!

The Water Window collection is wonderful for smock styles, and because of it's abstract full-width print a simple silhouette will sing out - how about making it in the Saiph Tunic? Pocho, Mountain Views and Birdseye are a tighter weave so work well in structured shapes. Our favourites are the Camber and Laurel for their ease of wear, but perhaps you men would like something comfortable - the Negroni is a relaxed style of shirt just waiting to be made in gauze! Take a look at our full collection of double-gauze cloth in abstract and geometric prints, as well as the reversible polka dot and organic double-layered cotton both also woven in the leno way.

Ray Stitch Japanese Double Gauze Cotton Prints

Canvas - a plain-weave, relatively smooth cloth that comes in various weights. Originally called duck cloth, a utility fabric used in sailors' clothing, canvas is characterised by it's hardy texture and surface making it perfect for items that get a bit more wear. We stock a range of plain-coloured canvases, but also really enjoy the variety of projects that can be carried out with our printed canvases. Our Japanese selection are of a linen-cotton composition - you get a slight slub from the linen, whilst the cotton helps in reducing creasing. They also vary in weave so that there are some slightly more open like the soft and drapey Lazy Cat, some tighter like Nani Iro's Clear Heart and some in between like Hokkoh's Flamingo print. Whichever weave, they are a substantial weight for homewares, as well as clothing (and we have seen wonderful garments created from them) that will wash softer over time.

Our Japanese canvases are really great for silhouettes where a small amount of structure from the cloth is helpful. You may have seen our Sigma Dress last year that keeps it's gathered skirt shape nicely, and our Water Window Grey used for the Top 64. You could also go for a statement piece with the Strand Coat, which in linen-cotton is lovely for both hotter days and cooler evenings.

Ray Stitch Japanese Canvas Prints

Barkcloth - a traditional Pacific cloth made from bark, recreated for the fashion market around the 1950s. The contemporary cloth retains the similar uneven texture of natural barkcloth, yet woven with cotton so that the fabric is soft to the touch and has a little bit of drape. It's a fairly heavyweight cloth, more like our printed canvas weight, as it is made using densely woven cotton threads. This creates a thicker structure and consequently the substantial hand feel.

Our Lava printed barkcloth is so striking that you could go for a straightforward silhouette like a kimono top, Delphi Maxi Dress and Alexandria Peg Trousers or take the fabric's original purpose and go for a vintage shape such as Colette's Dahlia and Peony. Perhaps it speaks to you more as a bold statement in your home using the barkcloth as a blind or cushions...

Ray Stitch Japanese Cotton Barkcloth

Enshuku - this lightweight, crisp cotton has a natural wrinkle to it. After printing, this Shiochijimi cotton undergoes the traditional Japanese Enshuku ('salt-shrinking') process in order to achieve its slightly seersucker look and feel. It is lightweight with a small amount of drape, so would be most suitable and comfortable as a square top, shirt or gathered skirt - something that can use a little bit of structure, though still likes to let you move. You could also use our Sanazami Pocho prints for tailored blazers and trousers as you'll get the chic crisp finish that high-end brands do so well. The dotty print is so adorable, don't forget about all the childrenswear you could make!

We think that the Kaisla Blazer and Alpi Chinos would make a superb outfit. Colette's Zinnia has a waistband with gathered skirt so that the balance of floaty and structure is achieved, and our favourite basic top from Simplicity would be practical for work and casual wear. Just imagine the top and the skirt together, with the blazer thrown over the top...! For the childrenswear, how cute would a full Lunchbox Tee and Culottes outfit be? We have the sweetest boys' shirt from Burda to match Dad's Burda 7045 shirt as well.

Ray Stitch Japanese Enshuku Cotton Prints

Lawn - we created a whole window of outfits recently in our Temple Outline lawn because it is just so perfect for summer, and works for many styles of garment. This cotton lawn is slightly more open weave than Liberty, with a translucency that can rule out certain clothing like trousers. However, as a summer dress, gathered skirt or fitted top, you'll get the luxury that comes with lawn as well as the breathability and freedom of movement.

We made up the Hazel panelled bodice dress, the Sencha 1940s style top, Named Clothing's Leotie knee-length gathered skirt with waistband, By Hand's elegant and swishy Sophia Dress and a dress using their Holly buttoned bodice.

Ray Stitch Japanese Cotton Lawn

Poplin - a buttery soft, smooth and tightly-woven cotton cloth. As a mediumweight cotton, somewhere in between lawn and quilting-weight, poplin has the ability to work wonderfully for pillow cases and cushions. In terms of clothing, anything but outerwear is suitable, though you can always have a pop print as a lining. The few Japanese poplins we have come from Jubi-Lee and Kokka, and have a slight satin hand feel making them oh-so-luxurious to the touch.

Angelfish is crisp, whilst Koushi is slightly peachy and has a soft drape. The Keana Blouse and Iris Shorts would be a playful end-of-summer outfit or take a look through Merchant and Mills' Sewing Book for envelope cushion and tie pillowcase inspiration.

Ray Stitch Japanese Cotton Poplin Prints

Yarn Dyed - this does what it says: the yarn is dyed before weaving and in doing so, the cloth inherits colour nuances not seen in solid colour piece-dyeing. Our embroidered spotted cloth uses yarn dyeing to give subtleties to the background shade, whilst the embroidered threads are speckled with a medley of colours that show up a linear pattern on the back of the cloth, as you would see in Fair Isle knitting. These embroidered threads add a substantial weight and thickness to the fabric, allowing it to work really well for fitted skirts, casual jackets and of course, homewares.

The embroidered threads at the back could make sewing buttonholes quite tricky, so we think that simple shapes without fussy fastening would work best. Make up classic skirts using New Look's 6107 basic pencil skirt, By Hand's high-waisted Charlotte Skirt with peplum ruffle, or Colette's A-line Ginger with panelling to play around with. Merchant and Mills' Trapeze Dress is a simple shape with inset sleeves where you can play around with a block colour, or shorten it for a top to wear with the skirt!

Ray Stitch Japanese Yarn Dyed Cotton Cloth

Textured - our Pebbled Waves collection are also yarn dyed, woven in wavy stripes at various thicknesses. It has a slight regular slubby texture to it, almost like the feel of linen, and along with the shading gives these fabrics the air of sandy beaches and pebbles. With the bobbles interspersed along the waves, this is a really unusual cloth. We made up Merchant and Mills' Dress Shirt in the indigo colourway (that we consequently sold out of!) as the dark colour, linear pattern and lightweight drape really suited the oversized tunic shape.

The lighter colourways would look very chic, we think, in the drawstring paperbag-waisted 101 Trousers. Colette have a new pattern, Aster, that is a relatively simple blouse with just a box pleat in the back to give slight fullness - again, the straightforward shape allows the pattern to sing out.

Ray Stitch Japanese Yarn Dyed Pebbled Cloth

We have somewhat bombarded you with ideas for dressmaking patterns suitable for our collection of fabrics, but really there are so many options, we hope to perhaps tantalise you enough to allow you to see possibilities that you might otherwise not consider. We're on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter so do please tag us in your makes so we can delight in them as well!