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Travel Fabrics

ccouch | Posted in General Sewing Info on

Please advise on sources for wrinkle resistant fabrics – particularly fabrics for travel wear.  I am aware of fabrics with special finishes  resulting in very useful ready made travel garments.  But have not been successful in finding a source for comparable yard goods to custom sew my own travel wardrobe.

thank you



  1. sherryv | | #1

    Dear C,

    You can't beat slinky knits for travel, and there are many great sources - see below for some links. 

    For a different look, you may also want to think about wrinkling some garments on purpose, e.g., I have a tiered broomstick skirt in cotton lawn that I just love - deep red, embroidered, with a few scattered sequins.  It stores/packs in a pantyhose-tube and comes out with beautiful, slimming vertical "pleats;" another excellent travel garment.  It seems I get compliments on it everywhere I go. 

    I'd also like to recommend a book, Susan Foster's "Smart Packing For Today's Traveller."  The title of this book is deceiving; yes, it is an excellent reference on how to get things to your destination with fewer wrinkles and still "fit it all in," but it is also filled with lots of fascinating and helpful info on many aspects of travel - building a travel wardrobe for all climates, how to be a tourist and not look like one, tips on being properly dressed in different countries, items to wear/carry when visiting holy sites to ensure admittance, laundry/spot cleaning on the road, sewing tips. This is really a suprisingly valuable little book to read!  Best wishes, and I hope you'll keep us posted on how your travel wardrobe is coming along.  :)






    1. ccouch | | #2

      Thank you very much!  This is a big help!


      1. sherryv | | #3

        Most welcome.  Travel wardrobe is a great subject!  And even if you're not a world traveller, who doesn't love easy-care garments that always look good?  Everyone needs a few of those.  ;)

  2. woodruff | | #4

    A lot depends on how long your trip is going to be, how many bags you're bringing, whether you're going to be in one place or on the road most of the time, whether it's hot or cold, and whether you're going to be sending stuff to the cleaners or washing your things in a sink and hanging them out.

    I often spend several months in France during their hot summers, moving on every few days, which means traveling light and packing things that are wrinkle-proof and quick-drying.

    A fair amount of experience has showed me that soft and drapy microfiber trousers are tremendously comfortable, even in fierce heat, in spite of what I had read to the contrary, and that they're wrinkle-free, washable in the sink, and hang dry by morning.

    I take light woven silk tees, and shirts of silk or polyester georgette (again, very cool), and they behave in much the obedient way that the pants do.

    The only problem--but a nice one--is deciding on the colors.

    1. sherryv | | #5

      So you ARE a world traveller :)  Have you attended any Tour stages? 

      Your experience with microfiber pants (would that be something like peachskin?) and poly georgette is surprising and good to know.

      1. woodruff | | #8

        Are you a cyclist, Sherry?Yeth, I travel, but boy do I specialize in France. Yum, as we say.In fact, I have seen two stages of the Tour. The first time was in '99, the very day that Armstrong broke the Tour open after the Col de Tamié, above the town of Mercury (near Albertville) where we were staying. No one goes to Mercury; it's just a pretty little burg high on the moutainside, but we happened to be there, not even thinking about seeing any cycling. Our hostess said to us, "You know, the Tour will be going through this morning just 3km away," so we walked over and stood on a hairpin turn, along with about a dozen other people, and waited to see what would happen. Presently, we heard the whopping of propellers, and over the col came three black helicopters recording the action (I got all three in a single frame!), and we knew the riders were coming. I was standing right on the edge of the pavement of this eensy little narrow road, and as the first guys in the peloton shot past, throwing gravel, their muscles and speed radiated so much power that I thought to myself, "I'd better step back a bit," and they roared by, almost knocking me over with the wind they generated. I was so transfixed that I forgot to depress the shutter of my camera! But my husband got a shot of Lance in the front third of the pack.Across the valley, the same day, on the uphill of Courchevel, Lance took the lead, against all odds, and history was made.The second time was last year for the team time trial in Amboise, with our son, who is a mad mountain biker. Since it was flat, it was less exciting than the first time, but still fun, because this time we were there for the sponsors' cars, who precede the racers and throw tidbits out to the crowd. I got a yellow Tour shoulderbag, a goofy hat, and some candy. Sorry, I got carried away there.Um, microfiber isn't really like peachskin; it's more like 4-ply silk crepe in the way it drapes and behaves--very drapy and soft. Joann's, of all places, tends to have some in stock a lot of the time, near the suitings. It will say something like "poly microfiber" on the bolt end, and runs about $10-$12/yard, 60" wide. It passes the "scrunch test" with flying colors.

        Edited 10/20/2006 1:19 am by woodruff

        1. sherryv | | #9

          Please feel FREE to get carried away - I found your firsthand account absolutely thrilling!  I am not much of a cyclist, merely a pleasure rider, but am a huge fan of racing.  Their dedication and control astounds me.  We watch every minute of the Tour (I get the most ironing done in July during those broadcasts.)  Do make repeat visits to favorite locations throughout France, or are you adventuring new places with each trip?  It sounds as though you have spent considerable time travelling - would love to hear more of your stories :) 

          Thanks also for the description of the microfiber you prefer for pants.  I think I have a lovely piece of this, purchased it for a pair of slacks, but have put it off for thoughts of difficulty with synthetics (hot/sweaty, difficult to handle and press,) so I really appreciate hearing about your experience with it.  A fabric that drapes, behaves, and wears like 4-ply silk but passes the scrunch test and at a fraction of the cost is a gem indeed.  That poly georgette is another I would typically avoid, to put it politely, but your experience is encouraging me to think again about these synthetics!


          1. woodruff | | #10

            Isn't the Tour a wonderful event? I'm only a recreational cyclist myself, but I find it tremendously exciting to watch. If we're not in France, we're glued to the tube in July, too. As a matter of fact, we try to watch the coverage every day when we're over there, as well. Each trip, we go back to several places we have become very fond of, like the Dordogne (where the painted caves are, but lovely, lovely, lovely country!), and Champagne, and Normandy, too. But we also go to places we haven't seen before, as well. This is pretty easy, because France is surprisingly large.If you make pants of your microfiber, I'd recommend serging the edges as soon as you cut the pieces out. The stuff ravels like crazy. If my trousers (and I recommend loose pants for this fabric) are going to have creases, I set those after serging the raw edges. The creases, once set with a steam iron, will stay in for the rest of the life of the pants.In contrast to what I've read, I've found microfiber to be easy to sew. I use Schmetz microtex "sharp" needles, size 10 or 12, doing some samples to see what the fabric prefers. Sometimes, the side seams need to be sewn with a slight zigzag; the fabric can be so drapy that the side seams will appear to draw up, compared to the body of the pants, unless you build some give into the long seams.

            In using the poly georgette for blouses, bearing in mind that this will be summer wear, I choose patterns, like the Loes HInse "Italian" or "Bristol" blouses, that are not very fitted, with short, wide-ish sleeves. Poly georgette can be somewhat sheer. I choose printed fabrics, and find that with a loose shirt does not cling, I don't need a camisole underneath, just a flesh-colored bra.

  3. Teaf5 | | #6

    Great advice from other posters!  Last year, I saw a book about sewing a travel wardrobe--not sure if it's the same as the one already mentioned, but it was very inspiring. 

    Here's one tip I have for fabric shopping for ALL my garments:  grab a handful of the fabric on the bolt, squeeze, and let go.  (The clerks probably hate me for doing this!)  Take a look at the fabric afterward for a sense of what it will look like after you have worn it for awhile.  Sometimes pre-washing removes the sizing and may change the wrinkl-ability, but if a fabric rebounds well from this test, it's a good sign.

    I also lick my finger and pinch the fabric near the selvege to get an idea whether it will show sweat rings or water spills.  If a fabric fails either of these two tests, I won't buy it for a garment, no matter how beautiful it is, as I don't want to tiptoe around protecting it all the time.  Bon voyage!

    1. Ralphetta | | #7

      I always scrunch to see what will happen.  I read a long time ago (maybe in Threads) that if you scrunch silk you can tell how it will wash.  If it makes hard creases dry clean it, but if it makes soft wrinkles you can probably hand wash it.  I've found it to be a big help with RTW.

  4. Leafy100 | | #11

    I was an international tour guide for twenty years and found that sewing was the best way to build a travel wardrobe.  Elastic waists in pants means you don't have to pack belts, and it seems cooler and more comfortable than a stiffened waist band.  I found that loose garments with lots of ease were comfortable in hot humid climates (ex.SE Asia) even when made of synthetics.  Synthetics dry much better than cottons.  Crinkly fabrics travel well and small patterns - strips, dots, plaids - don't show wrinkles.  When I can't shower, can't change clothes ( overnight trains in China and India) using panti-liners in my underwear kept me from feeling completely grubby.  Take advantage of hotel laundry services;  I would carry my dirties in an separate plastic bag, in my pack, so that when I checked into a hotel, I could hand in my laundry before going to my room.  Often it would come back in less than 24 hours.  Baby shampoo has no additives, lots of suds, good for hair, good for hand washing.  In some Islamic countries, men do the laundry in hotels.  They will not touch women's undergarments.  A lightweight fleece is better than any sweater.  Put your money in really comfortable shoes and wear them - to break them in - before your trip.  I gave away a lot of bandaids over the years to folks with new shoe blisters.  Think twice about black, it shows dust!  Shout wipes (spot remover) are hard to find, but are very effective.  I carried them on my person, with my antibacterial handwipes.  One big scarf will get you into mosques and cathedrals.  If it's just a bit bigger, you can toss it over your shoulders when you're in those over-airconditioned places.

    You will be happiest if you can get everything in a 22" rollaboard suitcase.  You should be able to manage your own luggage.  If one 22" absolutely isn't enough, go piggy back, or go with two 22" cases.  If you just go bigger, the single bag will be heavier.  Better to have 2 small ones on wheels.  Think about carrying your bag up a flight of stairs, you'll be balanced with 2 small bags of moderate weight.

    Hard to do, but well worth the effort:  when you get back from your trip, before you toss everything into the wash.  Do an inventory of your clothes.  You will find that you wore some garments a lot, and just carried the others...write that down and use it as your packing guide for the next trip.

    Most important to remember:  no body really notices (unless you are dressed totally inappropriately for local custom) what you're wearing, they're really more interested in their own sights and experiences!


    1. ccouch | | #12

      Great advice!

      Thank you!


      C Couch

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