Fabric Files: Wool Melton
I’ve found that coating fabrics are perhaps the most mysterious of all substrates. This installment of fabric files will focus on wool melton as a great option for tailored, handmade outerwear.
Wool melton might be the most recognizable of all winter coat fabrics, though many refer to it simply as "wool". Wool melton is a luxurious outerwear fabric that has a few ideal characteristics making it ideal for cold weather wear.
Wool Melton Characteristics
Wool melton is a thick, dense fabric with a soft brushed surface. This felted and brushed fabric is smooth and flat to the touch. Wool melton is tightly woven and the weave is not highly visible to the naked eye because of the felting process.
Below is a photo of the grey wool melton available in our fabric shop. This particular substrate is one of the softer wool melton fabrics I’ve found. It's pliable with a slight amount of drape.
Wool melton is a great fabric for keeping your body warmth in and the cold temperatures out. The tightly woven and felted fibers also keep snow and light rain from penetrating the fabric.
Wool melton fabric is rarely made of 100% wool fibers. This substrate is often blended with rayon, polyester or acrylic.
How to Prep Wool Melton
Any fabric with wool fiber will be prone to shrinkage when exposed to steam and extreme heat. Before sewing with wool melton steam your fabric well to prevent further shrinkage. I dry-cleaned my wool melton prior to sewing and requested that they applied extra steam during the process.
If you don’t want to shell out the extra bucks for dry-cleaning, you can use the wool setting on your iron and steam the fabric well.
I also recommend applying a high quality interfacing to your wool melton pattern pieces around the armscyes and neckline. Wool has the tendency to stretch out when our bodies heat up, so these locations are especially important to reinforce. A full post on coat interfacing is coming in the next few weeks. Stay tuned!
How to Sew with Wool Melton
Wool melton is a surprisingly easy fabric to sew with. Because of its dense, felted texture this fabric frays minimally or not at all. And because the wool melton is so thick, stitches sink into the fabric and become somewhat invisible. Thus, a little wonky topstitching will likely go unnoticed.
I sew wool melton with a universal needle and polyester all-purpose thread. Use a normal or slightly longer straight stitch for this hefty fabric.
It's important to grade (i.e. trim) your seam allowances when sewing with wool melton to reduce bulky seams. I recommend grading down to 1/8", especially around curves.
How to Care for Wool Melton
Despite its hefty hand, wool melton is a delicate fabric that requires a few extra precautions. Never machine wash your wool melton garments. Instead, dry clean them or carefully hand wash them in cold water with a gentle soap. But since wool melton is most often sewn up into outerwear, the fabric needs be cleaned rarely.
Always use your wool (or a medium/cool) setting on your iron when pressing wool. Wool fabric responds well to steam and is easy to shape around darts or princess seams.
How to Buy Wool Melton
Since we launched Coat Month a few of you mentioned that it's a struggle to source nice wool melton fabric. And I agree, it’s somewhat rare. Many small, independent fabric shops don’t carry much inventory for one reason: its expensive.
Because of its thick wool makeup, wool melton is one of the pricier fabrics you’ll find. You can expect to pay between $15 and $40 per yard for this fine fabric. Keep in mind that you’re paying for a high quality, mostly natural fabric that will last for decades (yes, decades).
Think of your handmade outerwear as an investment. Skimping on the inputs will only result in a garment that will wear out faster. Plus, a nicer wool melton has a noticeably better appearance and hand.
Wool melton is often sold in solid colors, although it can be found in plaids and prints. The most diverse selection of wool melton fabric can be found in a handful of online retailers. Some offer swatches so that you can touch the fabric before making the investment. We just started offering swatches for our grey wool melton for $1.
Some other sources for wool melton are:
- Mood Fabrics: They don’t specifically call any fabric a wool melton. But under the “Wool > Coating” category you’ll find many high quality wool meltons. Order swatches to be sure. The two top swatches above are from Mood.
- Dorr Mills: I’ve never ordered from this store, but they’re selection of wool melton is impressive.
- Fabric.com: The budget-friendly option for wool melton and a great selection. I recommend ordering swatches before committing as the quality from fabric.com is variable.
Garments Best Suited for Wool Melton
Coat and vests are the natural choice for this substrate. A lightweight wool melton would work for a fall or spring jacket as well. The Yuzu Jacket shown below is sewn up in our grey wool melton.
Reminder: All outerwear sewing patterns are 20% off with coupon code COATMONTH until 10 p.m. MST on January 10th!
And this Cascade Duffle Coat is sewn in a dark charcoal grey wool melton blend.
Don't fear wool melton because of the steep price tag. It's an easy substrate to sew with and will reward you with years of protection against the coldest of temperatures. Check out this article from Grainline Studio and this one from A Fashionable Stitch for more information on wool melton fabric.
There's more coat-related content coming your way all month long, including tutorials and style posts. Stay tuned!
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