Seersucker, I don’t even know her!

I recently added this lovely seersucker fabric from Merchant and Mills to the shop, and there is simply no other way to say it, I'm enchanted!  And it's not just me, people coming into the studio are immediately drawn to it!  This Japanese fabric is 100% organic cotton with a small acorn print, lovely on its own but the dimpled texture and crisp hand is what really sets it apart.  I wanted to know more...

What is seersucker?

Seersucker is a lightweight cotton fabric with a textured surface made by changing the tension of weft yarns during weaving (know as slack-tension weave).  This fabric has long been a favorite for warmer weather wear, its textured surface holds the fabric off the skin allowing for air circulation around the body.  Typically made as cotton it is easy to care for, it dries quickly and wrinkles just blend into the texture of the fabric. 

History in the US:

Train Engineer in a seersucker hat
Photo from the Library of Congress

This fabric has a fascinating history in the US.  Originating in India, the name comes from "milk and sugar" due to the textured and smooth stripes it made.  In the 19th and early parts of the 20th century seersucker was a working persons fabric, worn by oil workers, laborers and railroad engineers.  The iconic striped hats worn by train engineers were none other than seersucker.  The fabric was inexpensive, easy to care for and cool in hot working conditions.  It was also commonly used to make pillows and mattress covers.

 In 1909 the Haspel Company of New Orleans (still in business today) first developed the seersucker suit which gained popularity in the American South but was still very much considered a working class suit.  This was turned on its head in the 1930's when ivy league students began a movement to upend classism by embracing fabrics and trends of the working class as their own.  This popularity spread to the North East and became popular in places of wealth and leisure like Nantucket and Martha's Vineyards and spread from there.


Sewing with seersucker:

Pre-wash your fabric in cold water and hang to dry (do not skip this step).  Since the fabric pucker is part of the weave it should not flatten when pressed, but always practice on a test piece of fabric to be sure you are happy with the results.  IF the fabric does flatten it should come back when washed. 

Fusible interfacing will work but again do test a scrap first, alternatively use a sew in interfacing of lightweight cotton.

Sewing with seersucker is fairly fuss free, I used my walking foot (I always do) to ensure no slippage in the fabric and pinned often.  Use a universal 80/12 needle and 2.5 stitch length. As always do not skip stay-stitching!

Be sure to check out our post on pattern suggestions for seersucker and let us know what you will be making!


References: Racked article Seersucker's Curious Class Strugle


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