Dotted Swiss

AnnTheGran has placed these threads on sale!!  Check it out at Madeira.

Dotted swiss was very popular in the 1950's for women and children's garments.  I remember the wonderful billowy curtains that blossomed in the summer breezes.  No matter how old or tattered, the fabric always seems fresh and timeless. 

Dotted Swiss 

I remember the wonderful mother and daughter dresses my mother made for us.  The dresses were yellow and white dotted swiss.  The fabric originated in Switzerland in 1750.  I only remember that fabric, but I understand that the dots may have been woven, flocked, printed, or embroidered.

Dotted swiss is not just limited to fabrics, it is also used when referring to other things including pottery and cake decorating.

When I see the term Shabby Chic, I noticed that they use the light weight fabrics, but real Shabby Chic (IMHO) needs to have dotted swiss for a true old fashioned warmth. 

When I looked around southern California, I could not find much in the way of dotted swiss.  I did find a very sad beige color and an unsuitable (IMHO) black.  They did not possess any of the quality I remember.  I finally found it on the Net at a reasonable price and delivery charge.  You can check out my source at

In my ‘discovery sew' (aka test sewout), I found that I need more stabilizer and a greater contrast of thread.  The bow would be nice if I made those changes, but when I did the butterfly, the plan came into focus immediately.   I used the Madeira threads available here at AnnTheGran.

 sewout 1

sewout 2

 I love the fact that the dots were peeking out from under the stitching.  While difficult to see, I have circled two of them from my discovery sew.

sewout 3

When I received my fabric, it felt so soft, just as I had remembered it.  Because I was going to make a round table topper, I folded the fabric into quarters.  Then I folded it in a first and second triangle.

folding fabric1 

I carefully marked the fabric in an arc to match a circle, and cut. 

marking and cutting fabric

I measured my table and determined that I would have a ‘nice' drop if I would have the butterfly lower edge about 1.2" (30 mm) from the hem.  After considering whether to use 4 or 6 butterflies, I marked 4 of those positions.  The butterfly is rather large, nearly 27,000 stitches. 

After completing my 4 butterflies, I had several options that I wanted to do for the hem.  I finally selected a rolled hem stitch.  This is done by using a special foot that you may already have. 

The rolled hem, often seen on fine linens, is a challenge to perform by a home seamstress (at least for me. . . )  However, the soft light dotted swiss fabric was perfect for this project. 

You can see that the foot has a turned edge and I have attempted to illustrate how to do it in these photos.

sewing 1

I start by folding over a little less than ¼" of fabric.  I am working on the back of the fabric turning over the front for the stitching.  I create a couple of stitches as a start, and leave the needle in the down position to hold the fabric.  At that time, I am holding up a small amount of fabric. 

 sewing 2

I am working at the medium speed of my machine, and it feels slow.  Going faster would be a bad idea for me!!

I continued all around.  Did I miss a few places because of the curve?  Yes, but I went back and removed a few stitches and restarted.  I was pleased with the outcome.  I could not get a decent photo of it.

Remember the dots that peeked from the embroidery?  Well, they peeked from the hem edge too.  It is really doing its own thing!

Then, a quick wash to get rid of the markings, a light pressing and, well, the outcome speaks for itself -

table cloth 1 

table cloth 2

Comments (17) - 7/11/2009 3:13:29 PM

I love dotted swiss also.  I'm going to wear a long dotted swiss dress that belonged to my mother, to a garden wedding in September.  I'm so glad that I saved this dress.  Laurene

Whoa, Pat! I'm having flash backs of dotted swiss! (bedroom curtains & Easter dresses!) I must say, you DO come up with some interesting ideas . . .  & the lengths you go to to find just the right fabric. Unbelieveable! That's what I call a "Passion!"

It's good to hear that you were successful with the rounded hem foot. I found that the lighter the fabric, the better. I always have to practice a while before doing it on my final project. Yes, I do practice sews on all sorts of things!

Great blog! Rosie

Laurene - What a lovely way to get married.  I think a garden wedding is the very best!  I feel like spending money on a lavish wedding is not prudent.  Yes, it is a special day, but it is because of the people, not the surroundings.

Best wishes to you and yours, Pat

Rosie - I remember those too!  I want my family to have some of those memories.

I don't think they will remember texting their friends saying 'hey!'  They can have better memories.


ladyjanjohnson 7/11/2009 10:09:04 PM

How very nice I don't  Think I have seen any thing that nice in a very long time.

Boy do you bring back memories.  My mother could sew anything and all summer my sister and I were in pinafores that were made with dotted swiss.

Am going to the site and buy some if nothing more than for old time sake.


notagrannieyet 7/12/2009 9:25:07 AM

I found some Swiss Dot  ( sky blue and mint green) at our local WalMart in Bridgewater, NS, Canada and bought all they had (about 4 metres each) to make dresses for my neices.  My Mum saw it in my stash and was ecstatic.  She wanted nighties made for her out of each colour.  I embroidered on the yoke and ruffle around the bottom and they were precious.  I found the more open the design the better and loved the way the dots showed through.  I wish I could find more so will try the website you suggest.  Thanks for all your inspirations.  Cheryl 7/12/2009 11:17:02 AM

A beautiful project.  I also love dotted swiss fabric and there is quite a bit in Heirloom sewing shops here in NC.  Elegant Stitches has on line availbility.  I do rolled hems on the serger and get a nice result.  I save strips of light water soluble stabilizer from embroidery projects and place under the fabric edge as I feed it through.  This prevents "missing" that occurs especially on bias edges.  mm

What lovely memories!  I am delighted to hear these stories.

I have to try that wss under the hem edge, it makes great sense.


Memories indeed !  I can see us as small children feeling so special in dotted dresses.  I will certainly use the idea for a table topper. Thank you  LCK

Thanks Pat for sharing your enthusiasm for recycling lovely things and I heartily enjoyed your workmanship.

I hope you find many more good things to share with us.

Icklohs and graceanne - I so love to get notes like this.  I enjoy writing, embroidery, computes and sharing.  

I have the best of the Net, friends to share, and ideas I hope will inspire you.  I am no embroidery genius, I just love to do it.  

I am always doing things I can't do, that's how I get to do them. Pablo Picasso(1881-1973, Spanish Artist)

That is a quote from  I get these everyday, and keep me focused and thinking.

Thanks to all readers, and especially to the commenters.


Very nice!

You know the old saying "Better late than never".  I'm finally getting to read you blog from last week.  

Yes, I remember the old dotted swiss AND I remember the newer dotted swiss that was not nearly so nice, because it was stiff and made of polyester and not soft at all.  Right now, in my stash there is a piece of New white dotted swiss of the kind you describe that is waiting for me to make a pretty white blouse to wear in the spring.  Wish me luck.

Stitches . .



Another flash back, in the 50's we  had dotted swiss dresses with full skirts with a wide hem, it would look really nice.

poncho - I had forgotten about those wide hems!  How funny, they would look strange now.

I have always believed that hems were in alignment with how the fabric needed to fall.  So, a heavy hem would mean that the fabric needed some weight so it would lay correctly.

Anyone have another idea about hems?


Please login to comment