Fabric Focus – Liberty Tana Lawn

Fabric Focus Liberty Tana Lawn

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Tana Lawn is named after the Lake Tana in Sudan.
  • It’s constructed from the long, stable fibres of Egyptian cotton.
  • There are over 43,000 Liberty prints in existence and…
  • 120 new designs are released each year.

Liberty lawn fabric

There’s no denying how much the sewing community loves Liberty Tana Lawn. With good reason; it comes from a rich heritage. The shop on Regents Street opened in 1875 and began importing fabrics from Japan, China and India.  A dyer and printer in Staffordshire was employed to choose colour ranges, celebrated designers (including Walthamstow’s local lad, William Morris) were commissioned to design prints, Lancashire mills were used in the production … and in the 1920s a Liberty buyer, William Haynes Dorell, hit on the idea of marketing their cotton lawn as Tana Lawn. So a whole generation of sewing bloggers owe it all to a man named Will!

Liberty lawn fabrics

Okay, okay, you’re saying. What’s really so great about Tana Lawn? Well, from my sewing experience, here are the highlights:

It’s lightweight but fine in thread count, which makes it perfect for cool summer makes. It barely feels as though this silken (yet 100% cotton) fabric is touching your skin.

There’s no fear of a harsh ray of sunlight revealing your undies.

The quality of the fabric means that it behaves fantastically during construction. Cotton is always well-behaved, but Tana Lawn is particularly obedient.

Despite how light it is, it retains shape extremely well.

The high quality also means that creases quickly fall out. I have taken my Liberty Lilou dress to a music festival, rolling it up in a rucksack and then shaking it out to wear for a day of lolling around. You’d barely have known it hadn’t seen an iron.

Which brings me to my next point. This fabric is extremely durable. How many vintage Liberty fabrics or makes have you spied?

Those prints. They’re just to die for – or dye for. Liberty pride themselves on their colour palette, quality control and designer commissions. You’re not just wearing a dress; you’re wearing a piece of art.

And if you care about such things, you’re wearing a brand that’s almost a hundred years old and iconic around the world.

ongping-sewing

Are there any disadvantages to working with Liberty Tana Lawn?

It’s on a narrow roll width of 136cm / 54 inches wide – so you need to keep an eye on that when estimating how much fabric you’ll need for a make.

It’s expensive. All that quality comes at a price – £22.50 a metre. Unless you’re able to find alternative sources. It’s likely that these alternative sources are selling seconds, but I’ve never had reason to be unhappy with my purchases. My recommended places to shop for Tana Lawn are:

  • Liberty store, Regents Street – check out for their pre cut lengths in sales. If, like me, you adore all things Liberty it’s definitely worth following their Instagram feed. Just lock up your purse first. I also recommend getting a Liberty loyalty card. Every now and then they’ll send you £5 vouchers to spend. It all adds up, peeps!
  • Birmingham rag market, near the Bull Ring. Don’t ask me which stall seller, I only get up there once a year if I’m lucky.
  • Ebay – I recently bought some gorgeous Tana Lawn from this seller. I did notice a small fault in the print, but no one else ever would.
  • Shaukat. Not known for their customer friendliness or innovative web design, but a good source of relatively affordable Liberty fabrics.

Don’t allow the lightweight nature of the fabric to fool you into making any type of garment that relies on drape. Liberty Tana Lawn is crisp and won’t drape in soft folds.

Not a disadvantage, but you might want to remember to change your sewing machine needle to one of the finer ones.

If you mess up a make with Liberty Tana Lawn, you’re probably going to cry. Probably.

Other than that, I really can’t think of any disadvantages to working with this beautiful fabric. It took me years of sewing to pluck up the courage to spend this amount of money on cotton. Then I sewed with Tana Lawn, and finally understood what all the fuss was about. This is the real deal.

Any tips to add, readers?

Dip in! There are five other Fabric Focus posts to enjoy.

Liberty Book of Home Sewing

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68 Responses to Fabric Focus – Liberty Tana Lawn

  1. Rachel says:

    Really interesting post Karen, I have a piece of the Isle of Wight print in Aqua stashed, I was going to just make an infinity scarf (my budget only ran to a metre) but a simple summer top would do this beautiful fabric justice. Rachel

  2. Ann Warner says:

    Brilliant post ,thank you, you’ve made me make my mind up, Liberty Tana Lawn it is, just need to choose the design now !

  3. scruffybadger says:

    That first lawn, in red? I’ve been working with the needle cord and I have never experienced such fine almost silk like cord. And the colours are to dye for, as you say!

  4. Kate says:

    Lovely fabric. The ebay seller is a mill shop in lancaster. They are printers and dyers and I often pop in just to look ( and usually buy!) there is also an ebay seller that offers 10m for £33.00 of plain white. It’s quite fine but is wonderful for summer tops and dyes really well too. It is one of my fave fabrics.

    • That is a top tip about the white fabric!

    • Bentley says:

      Hi Kate:

      I have spent hours on-line trying to track down the seller of the plain white Liberty of London fabric you mentioned that sells 10M for 33.00 pounds – with no luck.

      Is there anyway you can provide an email address or additional information on how I could contact the seller you mentioned?

  5. I haven’t sewn anything with this yet but have a couple of small pieces. The designs are very beautiful and the colours are so saturated. Well worth the money. Xx

  6. Fiona M says:

    Should you ever find yourself in the vicinity of Lancaster, the factory shop at Standfast & Baracks

    • Fiona M says:

      Sorry, pressed enter before finished …
      Standfast & Barracks is well worth a visit for their Tana lawn and Lantana seconds, which are sold off very cheaply. (And is probably where all those northern eBay sellers buy it 😉)

      • Mags says:

        They try to limit how much you can buy so you can’t sell it on, but I guess they send lots of different people. It was £6 a metre six months ago, but I’ve heard it’s gone up to £8. I’ve never spotted the flaw!

  7. fabrickated says:

    Lovely post Karen. Simply Fabrics in Brixton have some for around £12m and there is a Goldhawk Rd shop that sells 3m pieces for £21 I think, plus some nice Liberty silks on the roll. Maybe seconds, but I bought some red Hera print and found it authentic.

  8. Ah, Really interesting, Karen. Now I have a motivation to sew myself through to the summer, hahaha! Cotton and not wrinkle? and those wonderful prints? My treasure…

  9. Debra says:

    Lots of interesting information, thanks. I used a small amount of Tana lawn in a dress (midriff band) and it was lovely to work with. I bought it from Desai Fabrics in north west London. I think I paid about £16 pm. They often have remnants that work out at about £12/13 pm. They are worth a visit if you are in the vicinity; almost all natural fibres, including some other nice Italian lawn, lots of very expensive occasion fabrics. Recently started stocking knits and stretch denim. Great service.

  10. I love sewing with Tana Lawn and generally buy mine from Fabrics Galore in Battersea – it’s perfect stock and not seconds.

  11. This was so interesting to read, i can not sew but if i could liberty print would be at the top for me i love their designs. I must look to see if they do a coin purse kit that i can hand sew as a treat to me 🙂

  12. jay says:

    I wondered where the Tana in Tana lawn came from, now I know. I’ve always found Shaukat staff ok (maybe I’m just exceptionally thick skinned?), but paying can take some time. I think they do their double book-keeping exercise in front of you.

    • Iva (Detroit) says:

      FYI – Shaukat would not fill out the VAT paperwork on my purchases – I was told that it would cost them too much to file it. Something to keep in mind.

  13. Jen (NY) says:

    Beautiful, but a bit out of my budget range these days! Beware, though – seems to be some counterfeits out there too: http://malepatternboldness.blogspot.com/2014/05/peters-paisley-shirt-reveal.html

  14. Aneira says:

    I have a small collection of Liberty Tana Lawn fabrics that I cannot bear to cut into as I’m worried I will ruin them so I totally get your above point about crying if you make a mistake!

  15. Tana lawn is my all time favourite fabric. I’ve made lots of items in it and have even more in my stash. Desai fabrics in North London sell past season prints from £12 p.m though the shop is a bit out of the way.

  16. There is a lovely market seller on Preston Market who sells Liberty – mostly Tana Lawn but also occasional Lantana and the silk/cotton mix. He usually has about 15 – 20 patterns available. He’s usually there on Wednesdays and Saturdays but not Friday. He packs up fairly early so get there before mid afternoon. He is Washable Fabrics on Ebay where he has a much wider range. I think he charges £8 metre for Tana Lawn. He has other fabrics too.

    If you want to see a pattern he has on Ebay but not on the stall he’ll bring it to the market next time he’s on.

  17. tinygoldenpins says:

    ooooooh, Karen! I always think my seller (Kat’s Fabrics) is my secret. I buy from her/them all the time and she’s been kind enough to take special orders for me, i.e., looking for a longer piece of red Carline. I’m in the U.S. and the price even with the lousy dollar and the shipping is still less money than I can buy Liberty here. I’m visiting in March and I can’t wait to go home with a boatland!!!!

  18. Ooops! Just realised I underestimated cost of Washable fabrics Tana Lawn. He charges £14 a metre on Ebay and about £12 a metre on the market. I don’t know if he lets me have it a bit cheaper because I’m a regular. But still considerably cheaper than from Liberty – although range is less extensive than going to the mothership!

  19. I really need to treat myself to some of this 🙂 Great post, really interesting.

  20. helen says:

    I had such a great Saturday job, I worked on the fabric floor of Liberty when they had a shop in Chester. I really loved it and we received fabric as part of the staff uniform. Back then (late 80’s) Tana lawn was only 36″ / 90cm wide and I think £9.50 per metre.

  21. emsewcrazy says:

    Thanks for this post. I won a meter in a contest last year and one of my goals is to sew it up into something wonderful. This post has helped me make some decisions how to best use it.

  22. Ally says:

    There’s a clearance sale on end of line Tana Lawn on the Clothkits website at the moment too – £16 a metre I think.

  23. And it’s perfect for mixing in to make patchwork quilts too!

  24. Great post. I have nominated you for the Premio Dardos Award 🙂

  25. Katie M says:

    Another thumbs up for Desai Fabrics in Cricklewood Lane, London. I’ve bought past season fabrics for as little as £12 p.m. Now that I live in Singapore and can’t duck in whenever I’m driving past. 🙁

  26. Well worth the price, this Liberty cotton! Excellent synopsis of its virtues, Karen. Vintage Liberty lawn is sometimes available, and it is actually only 35 inches wide…

  27. Phoebe says:

    I have to disagree with your comments about wrinkling – I have a couple of blouses made from Liberty and I feel like they crease like a mofo and look really badly rumpled after a while. It’s the only thing stopping me making a dress from Liberty! Interesting what different experiences we’ve had…

  28. spikeabell says:

    My mother used to work with lots of Liberty fabrics. In the 80’s she made children’s clothes (rather high end with smocking and embroidery) Liberty’s used to send her lots of little sample booklets of all their fabrics and ALL the prints and colour ways. As a 7 year old I used to love flipping through those sample booklets! Thanks for the in depth info Karen!

  29. Leslie says:

    I finally managed to get to Shaukat when on a short trip to London last fall. I wouldn’t say the staff were warm and fuzzy, but on the other hand, they certainly weren’t rude or unhelpful. A much bigger problem, for me, was trying to decide what to buy. SO MUCH BEAUTIFUL FABRIC!

  30. smashandme says:

    Being half a world away (in NZ) it is hard to get Liberty fabrics at all. There is one lady in NZ who sells it on her website its a unfriendly website and at about $50 per metre its enough to make me want to cry. Kicking myself for not being into sewing when I lived in London, I didn’t even know what Liberty’s was back then, sigh……was so young and silly!

    • Anne Donald says:

      I’m in Australia and have found that The Fabric Store have the best selection. They also have several shops in NZ and sell online. I think they charge about $38NZD a metre.

  31. Sewniptuck says:

    I had to laugh. I travelled from Aus to the UK, visited Shaukat and wondered why they hated me so much! Customer service us not their specialty!

  32. I found a few rolls of Tana Lawn and the Liberty jersey at Fabric Design in Matlock Bath, Derbyshire. They mostly sell off cuts of designer curtain fabrics and always have fantastic stock and good prices. The owner told me he’d come across this Liberty at a good price and will get more if he can in the future – I think it was £14/m but I got the last 1m of jersey (which is beautiful) for £10.

  33. Suzie says:

    I treated myself to 3m of gorgeous Tana Lawn last year on a trip to London, but have yet found the courage to use it! I do get it out and stroke it occasionally though (we all do that with our fabric right?!).
    Another place to get Liberty fabric online is http://www.alicecaroline.co.uk which seems to specialise in Liberty and have a huge selection. Similar pricing to buying directly from Liberty though.

  34. I’ve had a small gift piece squirreled away waiting for the perfect project (since it’s not enough for a full garment, even a sleeveless top), but I’ve really wanted to try it as the patterns just suck me in (like everyone else, of course). Now I think I’ll go off in a fresh new hunting expedition!

  35. zoeclark83 says:

    Liberty lawn is one of those products that is excruciatingly expensive but absolutely worth it. You can’t miss quality like that.

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  38. Karen M says:

    I also love the patterns on the Tana Lawn fabrics. I have never worked with it, but, given it’s high quality do you think with a good lining it is appropriate for blinds and curtains?? Any advice gratefully received.

  39. I think I’d make everything with Liberty prints, if I could afford it… whenever I make something as a gift I can never resist splashing out on tana lawn… it looks amazing and sews beautifully, so chances of the gift actually turning out as intended are pretty good 😉

  40. Lots of lovely ideas here! Liberty Tana is also a wonderful fabric if you are looking at experimenting with quilting. We have lots of great ideas and a post on Liberty Tana if you want to check it out https://quiltingfocus.com/2015/09/lawn-quilting-fabric/. Happy Quilting

  41. Victoria says:

    I adore Liberty lawn and am lucky enough to have quite a stash – when working in london I treat myself so some. I also bought 3m of silk chiffon from a Abakhan sale for a excellent price – although I am too nervous to cut it !
    There is a store on the Brompton rd that is a treasure trove for liberty and at very good prices – they have a better range than Liberty themselves. Alice Caroline is also very good.

  42. B delello says:

    How do you know which side is up I pre washed my liberty and now not sure what is front or back

  43. Poppy says:

    Hi I have been wondering about buying some of the seconds from the eBay shop you linked. I’m not too fussed about slight errors in the print (it’s for clothes for my toddler) but is the actually quality of the cotton the same as non seconds? thanks

  44. I got some from the Birmingham market (£8/m) but it is not Liberty. It’s ‘liberty style’. The labels were ripped off the bolts but Fancy Silk next door were selling the same with the labels intact but can’t for the life of me remember the name. This said, it’s amazing quality. I made 2 shirts in 2 different prints and have washed them loads and loads. They do crease though. For the real stuff I’d go to Guthrie and Ghani.

  45. Bella says:

    I haven’t sewn in many years but discovered some of this in a trunk of my mothers fabrics, after she passed. I’m now using the fabric and since I don’t have mum to guide me is there any advice anyone can give on needles and tension? I am using a Schmetz microtex needle with my Pfaff sewing machine with top feed foot and I’m still having tension issues. the fabric is beutiful to work with but I can’t seem to get a tight, clean, even stitch at all. Do I need to use interfacing on all seams?

  46. Angela says:

    Have you ever had your hands on the cotton silk blend? Or the georgette? And the silk chiffon? Oh, my, are they beautiful!

  47. Susan Sole says:

    I live in Australia and am desperate to obtain Tana Lawn fabric for tunic tops for coming summer. All I can find are sellers for pre cut fabric for quilting, which I don’t do. Are you aware of any outlet in Australia that will sell by the metre. Sorry, know it is a stretch. Thank you.

    • No, I’m afraid not. Have you tried asking some of the Australian sewing bloggers?

    • Angela says:

      Susan, I sell Liberty fabrics by the yard (or the meter). I am in the United States, but ship fabric internationally. In particular, I have shipped to Australia quite often.
      Karen gave me permission to post the links to my shop. If you (or anybody else) have any questions or are interested in something, please, do not hesitate to contact me.
      Thank you,
      Angela
      http://www.bazarlaantigua.com (my website)
      laantigua.etsy.com (my Etsy shop)

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  50. Helena says:

    Hi I was at Ray Stitch at the beginning of June for a course and snapped up 2 meters of Liberty Lawn in the Rain on the Panes design for £28 they had selected prints on sale. I have just checked their website and they have 7 designs on sale. I just love how it feels, hope to make a Camber dress with it😊

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