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Quick – what fabric comes in many different weights, is easy to sew, luxurious to hold, resistant to wrinkles and sensibly machine washable?

Why, cotton sateen, of course.

Cotton sateen feels and looks like satin but stands up to everyday washing machine abuse like cotton. Cotton sateen is easy to handle in the sewing room – it feeds evenly and stays put when you want it to – but unlike many cotton fabrics, it also has a yummy drape to it. Printed or solid, cotton sateen is made in many different weights, making it a good choice for nighties AND upholstery. Now, how many other fabrics can do that?

Cotton sateen rose to popularity in the early 1900s as a cheaper, more durable alternative to silk and satin (also a silk product). The cotton fibers used to make cotton sateen are mercerized – soaked in lye and then treated in an acid bath – to add sheen and to make the fibers more accepting of dye. That’s all well and good, but what really defines cotton sateen is its sateen weave. The four over, one under pattern of a sateen weave places most threads (also called “floats”) on the surface of the fabric, minimizing the number of interlacings in the fabric. The result? A glossy, lustrous right side and a dull (but still soft) wrong side. Nighties and couches, here we come!

Unlike some vintage fabrics, cotton sateen is still very popular today. Kaufman fabrics makes a wonderful printed variety of cotton sateen and Spoonflower.com even offers cotton sateen as one of the bases for its custom fabric printing service. Another life-altering newsflash: cotton sateen is also available in a stretch variety nowadays, allowing cheaters (like me) to omit side zippers from their vintage-inspired summer dresses FOREVER!

30 Comments

  • Mzl_ljixuoxi_320x480-75_large

    Dec 29, 2010, 02.26 PMby FabricUiPhoneApp

    Yep, cotton sateen is one of more 100 entries in my fabric related iPhone app. I think the sheen deters a lot of sewers…like it will draw people’s attention…but isn’t that what’s desired?

    1 Reply
    • 35323_1550195117626_1317563306_1450393_3860676_n_large

      Dec 31, 2010, 06.08 PMby eringilday

      Totally! But then, I like to draw attention to myself with clothing. =)

  • Missing

    Dec 23, 2010, 06.18 PMby felicegirl

    After a month of looking for this pattern, I just randomly came acrossed it and snatched it up! It’s McCall’s 5630 for anyone else interested in it. :)

    1 Reply
    • 35323_1550195117626_1317563306_1450393_3860676_n_large

      Dec 31, 2010, 06.08 PMby eringilday

      I’m jumping up and down as I write this! Nice work, Felice!!

  • Missing

    Dec 22, 2010, 03.35 PMby felicegirl

    What McCall’s pattern is shown in the picture? It’s just what I’ve been wanting to make. :)

    1 Reply
    • 35323_1550195117626_1317563306_1450393_3860676_n_large

      Dec 22, 2010, 07.08 PMby eringilday

      Hmmmmm…suprisingly, I’m not finding that in my notes! I think it was the Burdastyle editors who chose that one out. Anyone else know which number pattern that one is? Sorry, Felicegirl!!

  • Silver_strand_feb_2005_large

    Dec 16, 2010, 04.44 PMby neama

    Sounds great! Must check it out. Thanks a million for posting the blog:)

    1 Reply
    • 35323_1550195117626_1317563306_1450393_3860676_n_large

      Dec 22, 2010, 07.05 PMby eringilday

      No problem, Neama! Glad you enjoyed it!

  • 990745-073_large

    Dec 1, 2010, 08.50 PMby nehmah

    One nice thing about cotton sateen, the colors held so very well, (and long!) Washing was done in hot water then, we had a wringer washer until the mid-sixties, and hung out all linens and clothes on a line. (Except undies; my mother had a hissy when she came home and saw I’d hung out her white cotton bras and panties. “Gee, Ma, It’s not like they were Fredrick’s of Hollywood.” Whack!)

    1 Reply
    • 35323_1550195117626_1317563306_1450393_3860676_n_large

      Dec 2, 2010, 10.00 PMby eringilday

      O wow, that is definitely a trial for any fabric. Interesting to hear how cotton sateen held up under those conditions! And the momundies…lol!

  • 2_dsc_1140_large

    Nov 28, 2010, 03.36 PMby magdamagda

    mmm everything abt it sounds so yummy… I believe I’ve been using a strechy variety in one of my projects and I agree, friendly to use, great feel and great appearance:)

    1 Reply
    • 35323_1550195117626_1317563306_1450393_3860676_n_large

      Dec 2, 2010, 10.01 PMby eringilday

      thanks for the field notes, Magdamagda! sounds like a winner all the way around.

  • 5196510037_0646d0f80e_o_large

    Nov 25, 2010, 03.23 PMby kelepso

    I used a sateen fabric for my garment made for the Bernina Party Through The Decades Challenge. I was definitely attracted to the shiny and luxurious look and feel of the fabric. Although very affordable, the results look very expensive. I will definitely work with this fabric again.

    3 Replies
    • 35323_1550195117626_1317563306_1450393_3860676_n_large

      Nov 27, 2010, 05.00 PMby eringilday

      O Nice!! Glad to hear you enjoyed sewing with it, Kelepso.

    • 5196510037_0646d0f80e_o_large

      Nov 27, 2010, 07.57 PMby kelepso

      Thanks for posting the blog. It was enlightening!

    • 35323_1550195117626_1317563306_1450393_3860676_n_large

      Dec 2, 2010, 09.59 PMby eringilday

      No prob, Kelepso! =)

  • Missing

    Nov 23, 2010, 10.08 PMby sybilkornplops

    Love it, also being a child of the 50’s my mother who had 7 daughters sewed all of our beautiful dresses and her own, they were stunning, wish we still had them. Cotton sateen is the best. Does anyone have a pattern for a shoulder bag one can use across the body? have being looking everywhere to no avail, would appreciate any help thanks.

    2 Replies
    • 35323_1550195117626_1317563306_1450393_3860676_n_large

      Nov 27, 2010, 04.59 PMby eringilday

      I think this fabric would be a great match for chidren’s clothes, sybilkornplops!

      I don’t know of a bag pattern like the one you are talking about – maybe someone else who does would be willing to make a suggestion?

    • Img_1470_large

      Jan 9, 2011, 11.03 AMby lynzlyles

      I have been looking for the same! I have found a See & sew Pattern B5312 With the length of strap i think i want but not to sure about the bag… I want a Hobo type bag with a over the body strap. I have Found bag patterns and adjusted the strap to make it longer and that seam to work! i have figured the best is to make it really long and adjustable!

  • Glamspoon_historyindustry_collar_large

    Nov 23, 2010, 09.00 PMby tspoon-1

    I’m sold! Why do I forget about cotton sateen? It’s amazing.

  • Missing

    Nov 23, 2010, 08.45 PMby catmosphere

    Being a child of the 50’s, my favorite dresses were made from cotton sateen.

    1 Reply
    • 35323_1550195117626_1317563306_1450393_3860676_n_large

      Nov 24, 2010, 05.57 PMby eringilday

      Oh, how cool! It is an ideal choice for kid’s wear – that’s definitely something to keep in mind.

  • Img_0844_large

    Nov 19, 2010, 09.21 PMby ladysophie

    sounds like awesome fabric, I should look out for some! thanks for telling us about it!

    1 Reply
    • 35323_1550195117626_1317563306_1450393_3860676_n_large

      Nov 20, 2010, 05.46 PMby eringilday

      No prob, glad to help!

  • Silhouette_profile_large

    Nov 19, 2010, 05.46 PMby thefabledneedle

    i never knew, how very interesting. and my ears perked up when you mentioned stretchy sateen and the ability to omit side zippers – finishing the opening on a vintage dress is my least favorite part! :)

    1 Reply
    • 35323_1550195117626_1317563306_1450393_3860676_n_large

      Nov 20, 2010, 05.45 PMby eringilday

      Mine too! I also like a little give for late night french fries and beer. =)

  • 35323_1550195117626_1317563306_1450393_3860676_n_large

    Nov 18, 2010, 05.22 PMby eringilday

    Agreed, Corwin! Although…just to play devil’s advocate…I’ve had major fabric crush on silk charmeuse lately. I don’t think anything drapes quite like that! But the “sews like a dream” part? Ummm…no, more like “sews like a nightmare.” I’ll probably fall back into the strong, sensible arms of cotton sateen sooner rather than later.

    2 Replies
    • 486043_10200326557759449_664517254_n_large

      Nov 18, 2010, 08.18 PMby heidilea

      Charmeuse is a nightmare.

    • 35323_1550195117626_1317563306_1450393_3860676_n_large

      Nov 19, 2010, 04.46 PMby eringilday

      seriously!

  • Hair_large

    Nov 18, 2010, 03.40 AMby corwin1

    I’ve made many things of cotton sateen and will pick it over silk and satin any day when I can. It drapes well, and sews so so easily… a dream really.

    • This is a question
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