(I was gifted this fabric for an honest review. I don’t do sponsorships, but I am more than happy to give honest reviews. Any and all products I mention, here or in other blog posts, are warmly recommended based on my personal and professional experience. This is another in-depth post, so please enjoy a cuppa whilst you read, or pin this post for later 😊)
Sometimes you find fabrics that are very special, almost magical, and this ramie tweed falls into that category. I have two options with fabrics like these: use them for key items that I’ll love and wear to death, or use them for items I’ll wear to special occasions. Somehow this ramie tweed can be both; it can be dressed up or down depending on your styling. This is why it’s important to use a pattern that’s a key piece in your wardrobe. If it’s something reliable that always makes you feel and look good, you can’t go wrong with this ramie tweed. Ramie is a cellulose fibre made from plants in the nettle family; I won’t duplicate information written by more knowledgeable folk, so please click through to read more about this special textile. I’ve never sewn with ramie before, so I was very keen to try it out.
Offset Warehouse’s ramie tweed is on the medium to heavy side, and I’d favour it for straight/wide-ish legged trousers, jackets, summer coats, and skirts. It has the cool handle and breathable quality of linen, but the thickness is a bit more like a denim. To get the full benefit of ramie’s breathability, use it for something unlined; it’s beautiful next to the skin. Dress shields are your friend if you’re worried about underarm perspiration. You can buy them or make your own from scraps of cotton, tack them to the seam allowances, and remove and wash them as necessary. (You’re welcome!)
The weight of ramie means it presses beautifully and is very stable. I used a pressing cloth because that’s what I do anyway, but you may need to be firm and/or apply some steam due to the thickness. That said, it only needs to be told once. I also noted that it presses a bit like wool, in that it’s responsive to a clapper or suchlike to retain the shape and sandwich the heat. This was fascinating; I’ve never used a cellulosic fabric that behaved like this! Ramie really is unique.
For cutting, you won’t really need pins: unless your pins are at least 4cm long, like mine, you’ll have a hard time pinning this tweed. This advice applies to many thick fabrics; pins can create distortion and hinder far more than they help. You’ll get better results – and life will be easier – if you stick to pattern weights. Another reason why I advise against pins speaks to the quality of the fabric; the straight grain found itself when I put it on my table to cut on the fold. I was especially grateful for this because I’d just finished working with a viscose twill! This ramie was a great palate cleanser. I tried to record the crunch of the scissors but it didn’t work out. It really was delicious – if your ears are also attuned to the sound of cut fabric, you’ll enjoy this too. Quality definitely has a sound!
My final comment before diving into the skirt project is to handle this ramie tweed with care and respect. Due to the weave, it will fray slightly. You don’t need Fray Check or anything like that – but don’t start what you can’t finish. If you tend to underestimate the amount of time it’ll take you to do something, don’t have a dedicated sewing space, or have to pack and unpack every time you use your sewing machine, you’ll be better off cutting out pieces as you need them. The seam allowance won’t disappear before your eyes, but fabrics like this shouldn’t be moved or handled unless absolutely necessary once cut into pieces. Bouclé, satin and other weaves with floats or uneven yarns benefit from the same treatment.
The Chardon skirt was an ideal choice because it comes together easily; you can see the extent of the fraying in the photos throughout. Noticeable, but not alarming at all. It is a lovely quick project: key skills include forming box pleats, topstitching said pleats, and inserting a centred zip. Inseam pockets are included, but I omitted them, totalling only four pattern pieces. The hem is finished with bias tape, which supports the volume of the pleats and creates a beautifully neat finish.
I also decided to carry the bias tape finishes through to the waist facing and centre back seams. It would have been lovely to finish the side seams like this, but I ran out of tape. This bias tape is a brushed cotton from MacCulloch and Wallis; it doesn’t come in very many shades (darker ones here; paler ones here), but it’s my go-to for neckline finishes and any delicate area of the body. You need 2m for the hem, and I used about 2m for the CB seam and facing trims. I would estimate a total of 6m if you want to have open seams with bias tape throughout the skirt. Due to the lack of tape I chose to finish the side seams with French seams. This was doable in the ramie tweed, but take care if your machine is not reliable with thicker fabrics. A less bulky clean finished option is flat felled seams; these will need to fall towards the skirt back. You can also overlock/serge and press the seams open as directed by the instructions.
You could use a corduroy for this pattern, but stay in the medium range. I wouldn’t use anything less than about 14 wales per inch, and take good care to grade your seam allowances at the waist and understitch. If you go for a corduroy, you’ll need to press it well; to do this I suggest using a needle board or needle mat. This is required for pressing velvet, but it’s the same difference: both corduroy and velvet are deeply piled fabrics with a strong nap, and both can look dreadful when squashed. Sometimes the fabric never quite recovers. Prices for needle boards/mats can vary widely, but they’re worth it if you’re a fan of piled fabrics, and there are probably DIY options if you’re the handy type.
I’d happily recommend Chardon for beginners looking to level up or be stretched, or experienced sewists looking for an easy project. All the cutting out and machine sewing was done in a couple of afternoons, and the hand felled hem took me about an hour and a half. I can be precise here because it lasted the duration of the Nadal-Zverev semi final at the French Open 😉😊
My final note on both pattern and fabric is that hand finishing is the best option for hems and other finishing details. Hand stitches are invisible thanks to the weave structure and reduced thread tension of manual work, so if you want to practice or try out hand finishes, look for a fabric like this. Any unevenness will be hidden completely, and more so than perhaps the drapiest of fabrics, the garment you make will hang better for being hand hemmed. You could also try a blind hem foot or felling attachment if your sewing machine has one.
It remains for me to thank Charlie, Naomi and the Offset Warehouse team for inviting me to review this fabric – it’s been an absolute pleasure, and I hope that my notes have been helpful to anyone reading. Again, you’re very welcome to bookmark or pin this post for later – I appreciate that it’s likely to be a useful reference – and a contribution to my Ko-Fi tip jar is always gratefully received. And if you’re thinking about trying out ramie, I hope you enjoy sewing with it as much as I have. You can view Offset Warehouse’s range of ramie fabrics here. https://www.offsetwarehouse.com/collections/ramie-and-nettle