Sewing with Organic Fabric

Eco Fabrics

As we become more aware of our responsibility to the environment, organic fabric has become easier to find in the fabric stores and online. Finding ways to use nature in our clothing production can be learned from our past. For thousands of years naturally produced fibers were the only way to make clothing. 

More and more companies are manufacturing environmentally friendly sewing fabrics and big name designers are incorporating natural organic fabric into their designs. 

Organic sewing fabrics can be more expensive as they are not mass-produced the same way as other sewing fabrics.

You could say it is similar to organically grown food, better for you but more expensive.

Most organic fabrics come in woven fibres and  knits and do come in a variety of colors. They are a little harder to find but, again, they are becoming more available as their popularity grows. 

Hemp Fabric

organic fabric

Most hemp fabric is similar to linen, hemp fabric is a sturdy a fabric that does wrinkle but not as much as linen. Hemp does not require great quantities of pesticides like cotton does. It is a very hardy plant and needs very little or none of the same herbicides and irrigation that other fabrics from natural fibres require. Hemp cloth biodegrades much easier than cotton and is more durable.

Although hemp cloth looks like linen, hemp can be woven to achieve different textures and feel; it is blended with other natural fibres to achieve coarse or fine textures.

The photos below with show just how different hemp cloth can be and therefore, giving any seamstress many options to create beautifully eco friendly garments.

Organic Linen Fabric

hemp  fabric

Linen fabrics are some of favourite to sew. The crisp clean qaulities make great warm weather fashions. The pattern below would be a good choice for sewing with linen. 

You could use polyester, cotton, or silk thread and univeral sewing needle and 80/12 or 90/14 size, with a 2.5 mm stitch length. 

Organic Silk Fabric

oraganic fabric

Silk fabric is so luxurious, the finer silks can be a challenge to sew. Taking your time and not rushing is the key to a successful sewing project. 

Use polyester, cotton or silk thread a "S" for sharp sewing needle 90/65 size with a 2.5 mm stitch length. 

Organic Hemp Fabric

A 90/14 machine needle can be used, with a 2.5mm stitch length. Most hemp fabric can be sewn with this universal needle and stitch length. However, use your own discretion and consider the weight of the hemp fabric you have chosen, or ask a sales clerk for help, when you purchase any organic fabric.

Thread should be good quality polyester and or cotton.

A straight stitch presser foot is fine.

Pre shrink separately as Hemp sewing fabric tends to loose its dye. It can be dry cleaned but pre shrink first.

Press fabric on high and use a lot of steam when you are constructing your garment. It is recommended to have your finished garment professionally pressed, but spray starch is helpful if you choose to press yourself.

Again, remember to use your own discretion or ask a sales person at the fabric store if there are any special sewing instructions that will be needed for the hemp fabric you choose. Generally, you will use the universal needle, thread, and stitch length. However, if your hemp fabric, or any organic fabric is blended with other natural fibres it is best to ask.

Soy Fabric

Organic Soy fabric is made form the hull of the soybean. Soy fabric is very soft and luxurious. Soy sewing fabric is used for exercise wear and stretch knit garments, such as t-shirts, dresses, and wrap tops.

It is not recommended to use heat in washing or drying. If you iron this organic fabric, keep your setting on low and do not use steam. Usually you can dry in a dryer with no heat and then lay flat to finish drying. Knit soy fabrics are known for how soft they are.

Vogue Pattern

Flowing styles like the top in the photo, is so comfortable. I find it a little like wear pajamas. The soy fabric I used, feels a lot softer than the jersey fabrics I have bought and sewn. I am guessing this comes from the fact that this is an organic fabric.

Note: This pattern is available on the web from independent sellers. However it has been long out of print from Vogue Pattern Company. 

sewing pattern
sewing pattern

Exercise wear is also a popular use for soy fabric, like the one below.

patterns for sewing

Mark with fabric markers or fabric chalk. A straight stitch presser foot with a tiny zig zag or stretch stitch is best, unless you have a serger and cover stitch machine.
Thread should be good quality polyester.

Use a 75/11 stretch machine needle.

Pre shrink in warm water and dry on Permanent press cycle. Pull from the dryer promptly to avoid wrinkles.

Use "Without nap" layout

Mark your fabric with fabric marker or fabric chalks.

Use good quality sharp sewing scissors. Cotton thread is best for woven tencel and for knits use a good quality polyester.

Press with a steam iron on medium heat.
A straight stitch presser foot , with a 75/11 needle for woven fabrics and 75/11 stretch machine needle for knits is used or use a serger if you have one.


Lyocell is made from wood pulp. It was created in 1987 in the U.K. The trade mark name for lyocell is Tencel. Lyocell is the generic name for this fabric.

The U.S. company called Lenzing Fibres manufactured lyocell. It is considered eco friendly because it is produced with recyclable and non-toxic dissolving agents in manufacturing this fabric.

Lyocell has some of the same properties as cotton and rayon. Like cotton, lyocell is a breathable, easy care fabric with the flow or drape of rayon.

Woven lyocell is available in different fabric weights. The pattern below would be a good choice for a woven lyocell fabric.

Lyocell is suitable for shirts, pants, dresses and flowing skirts as well as pyjamas. You can wash or dry clean this fabric, and it comes in woven or knit fabrics.

Here are some styles to consider when choosing sewing patterns. Sewing patterns. 
Lyocell knits have a nice drape. This pattern would be a good choice for lyocell knit fabric.

Pattern for Lyocell Stretch Knit Fabric

Pattern for Lyocell Woven Fabric

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