Sewing voile tips

Fabric image by cacheman from

Voile, a lightweight fabric also called lawn, derives its name from the French word for veil, an indicator of the airiness of this fabric. Voile is made most often from cotton, although linen or polyester blends are also available.

Voile is used most frequent for light curtains or summer clothing, particularly for women and children. Its thin hand makes linings necessary for clothing items, but a mosquito netting effect is achieved by using voile for curtains.

Fabric selection

Your choice of voile can determine the success of the final sewn item. When deciding on fabric, keep in mind that voile is very lightweight and does not hold its shape very well. Because of this, highly tailored garments and designs are not recommended. To determine if the weave of the voile will wear well, scratch across the grain of the fabric with your fingernail. If the woven threads begin to separate, the fabric is not tightly woven and will not wear well over time.

Fabric preparation

Voile, particularly if it is constructed solely of cotton fibres, must be properly prepared before sewing begins. Cotton fabrics and blends tend to shrink, sometimes up to 13 cm per metre (5 inches per yard) of fabric, when washed and dried at high temperatures. If you plan to launder your finished item, you will need to wash and dry the uncut fabric before sewing. This will allow any shrinkage to occur before cutting out the pattern pieces.

Sewing voile

Voile, a woven fabric, does not possess any stretch other than on the bias, and should be sewn with a standard point needle. A lightweight needle, size 60/8 to 70/10, is the best size, and your sewing machine should be set to sew anywhere from 5 to 7 stiches per cm (12 to 18 stiches per inch). 100 per cent cotton thread is ideal for sewing 100 per cent cotton voile and will result in flat seams. Cotton/polyester threads also work nicely for voile. Voile will unravel on any raw edges, so a finished edge is recommended. Overlock or serger machines provide a flat, protective edge finish for voile, although zigzag stitches on a regular sewing machine can also help prevent ravelled edges.

Additional considerations

Cotton has a tendency to wrinkle, and while a polyester blend voile will retain fewer wrinkles, 100 per cent cotton and cotton/linen blends will require ironing. If you plan to make summer clothing from voile, keep in mind that polyester will limit the breathability of the fabric and is more prone to pilling.