chambray and DIY dotted chambray

I love chambray. I wear it, I dress my kid and my husband in it, and I never seem to get tired of it.

Did you know that chambray, like denim, was originally used only for workwear and wasn’t generally accepted for other apparel until Claire McCardell started using it in her designs? Now it’s a quintessentially American fabric. And this season I’m seeing it everywhere. Have you noticed it, too? I just collected a bunch of cute Oliver + S clothing that you’ve sewn in chambray onto a Pinterest board, and it all looks so good! You can see more if you search “chambray” on the Flickr group, too.




It can be a little difficult to find nice qualities of chambray. All too often, it’s loosely woven and limp or the color is too light. When I can’t find a quality I really like, I usually buy lightweight dark denim and use the wrong side of the fabric. Which is what S and I did the other day when we decided we wanted to make polka-dotted chambray.



 goodness, her hands look so grown up!


It’s not hard to do, and we had a such good time with the project that I thought I would share what we did so you can do it too.

I’ve seen other people use pencil erasers to print the polka dots on their fabric, but pencil erasers weren’t holding our textile paint very well, so instead we used a regular paper punch and a piece of cardboard from a cereal box to make a simple circular stencil. I used a ruler and a Clover Chaco Liner (we should get these for the shop; I love them!) to draw a 2″ grid on the back of our denim.

Then S and I got busy, stenciling dots on alternate intersections with fabric paint. It was fun and went quickly, and one of the things I love best about these projects is that it gives us a chance to chat while we’re working. It’s always amazing to me how much talking we do when she’s distracted by another activity. We used to have our best conversations while we were riding down the sidewalk together on my large scooter. But now S has her own scooter and it’s a little harder to chat because she’s concentrating on her driving. For some reason, she’s a lot more willing to talk about school or things that interest her when her hands and eyes are busy doing something else. (I guess I’m like that, too, really.)

Anyway, we made our polka-dotted fabric into a Lazy Days Skirt. Easy-peasy. Today it was worn to school with lots of stripes and with mis-matched socks. As I explained on Instagram yesterday, S claims that wearing her socks this way “prevents the feeling of ennui.”




Second graders. When did they get so sophisticated and philosophical?



  1. How darling is that? I love chambray and denim and could wear it all the time! They are both such versatile fabrics and can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. Cozy is something I love, and these are cozy fabrics! Love the dots too! So clever!


  2. sarvi

    “Prevents the feeling of ennui” — can’t express how much I love that! Amazed she’s only in second grade.

    1. Believe me, it was all I could do to keep from bursting out laughing when she said that, but she was entirely serious. I still chuckle when I think about it.

  3. so cute! and it’s so true that they talk about things they wouldn’t when they’re busy working on something. Sounds like a smart girl you’ve got there!

  4. Kate

    My Miss S, who is in first grade does the mismatched socks all the time. I think it’s a fashion statement. She also admits she would rather wear clothes I make her.

  5. LOVE!!!! super cute, I’m in the midst of making my daughter a chambray romper – but I’ll admit that the color is lighter than I would like it to be ;op Maybe some cute polka dots would make me like it more ;o)

  6. Ha! I’m off to swap one sock right away. Knew something was amiss with my life…
    Love the activity, skirt and kid. Well done.

  7. Jenny

    How rather interesting as yesterday was mismatched sock day for Down’s Syndrome.

    1. Seriously? We had no idea!

  8. I love chambray, especially in the unexpected shades… found some at a fine men’s haberdashery but only got a little as it’s twice what I usually pay for fabric!
    BTW my third grader regularly expresses his deeper thoughts when we are crafting… otherwise how would I know how he feels about mortality and Greek philosophy? I would have to interpret his sock pairings.

  9. Stacie

    Adorable! I’m going to try this with metallic paint – Thanks for the instructions!

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