Left: Poplin Cotton, Right: Lawn Cotton
If you’re anything like me, you’ll often struggle to discern between poplin and lawn cotton. I believe people often buy poplin, believing it’s lawn cotton. But there are some distinct differences that can make all the difference to your dressmaking.
Poplin is a durable, lightweight cotton. It’s not dissimilar to quilting cotton, though of a lighter heft and less prone to creasing. It has a tight weave, which in my experience can make it surprisingly tricky to sew with: it often seems to resist a needle. I use a fine, microtex needle – and even then my stitching can be uneven in tension with lots of ‘bounce’ on the rear.
FUN FACT Poplin’s name is inspired by a 15th-century pope, based in Avignon where the fabric was once made.
Lawn cotton also uses a tight weave but a finer thread, giving it a buttery smooth surface texture. (You can see a full run down on Liberty Tana Lawn here.) It’s finer than poplin, with a crisp hand. Don’t buy lawn cotton if you’re looking for drape. It needs careful finishing because of the lightness of fabric. When I made my M6885 in lawn cotton, I avoided the overlocker and chose French seams.
My acid test is to hold both fabrics up to a strong light. Lawn will show more translucency. Very difficult to photograph, but discernible to the eye.
If you’re buying online, remember to check the fabric description. If you’re buying in person, don’t be embarrassed to check with a member of staff. Is this lawn or poplin? Either way, a decent shop should accurately label.
You can’t go that far wrong. Both are really nice, high quality fabrics. But a lightweight lawn feels like a breeze against your skin. You may need to wear layers beneath, but it’s worth it. Poplin is beautiful in its own way, and possibly a tad more practical. It all depends on the project.
Which do you prefer? Any tips for choosing cottons?
“When the evening for the small party came, she found that the poplin wouldn’t do at all, for the other girls were putting on thin dresses and making themselves very fine indeed.” Little Women, Louisa May Alcott