In spite of its name, doe suede is not actually an animal product. Sometimes called microsuede, doe suede is a synthetic fabric that is often used for crafting, doll making, upholstery and clothing. Doe suede's machine washability and resistance to liquid and stains make it a popular alternative to real suede for furniture and other items that are subject to high traffic or heavy use. The fabric is also popular among doll makers because it comes in many different flesh tones.
Fiber Content and Care
Doe suede is a synthetic fabric made of millions of tiny polyester fibers. These tiny fibers give doe suede the look and feel of regular suede, but also give it enhanced durability.
Many varieties are 100 polyester, while some may have up to 5 percent Lycra. Varieties containing Lycra will have more stretch than purely polyester varieties. Always check the fiber content information end of the bolt when buying doe suede (or any fabric). You will need to allow for any extra stretch if you choose a variety that contains Lycra for your project.
Because it is composed primarily of polyester, doe suede is remarkably resistant to liquid and staining. It is also easy to care for. Doe suede upholstery can be cleaned with a damp cloth or sponge and mild soap. A yearly steam cleaning will also help keep doe suede upholstery looking good. Dolls or decorative items such as pillows made of doe suede can be spot cleaned when necessary. Clothing made of doe suede can be washed in the washing machine on a regular or gentle cycle and tumble dried. Fabric softener is recommended. Like many synthetic fabrics, however, doe suede is sensitive to heat, so dry it on a low setting and remove it from the dryer promptly.
Why Choose Doe Suede?
Unlike regular suede, doe suede is durable, highly resistant to staining and damage from liquids and easily cleaned. Because it is a synthetic, doe suede is also a popular choice for those who like the look and feel of suede but want to avoid using animal-derived fabrics in their clothing or upholstery. Doe suede is also an inexpensive alternative to real suede. While real suede can cost up to $500 per yard, doe suede is often available for $8.00 per yard, and even high-end varieties cost only around $30.00 per yard.
Doe suede is a popular choice for clothing and costuming because of its durability, washability and resistance to pilling. This fabric is also very drapable without being flimsy or transparent, making it a practical and beautiful choice for garments that are flowing or layered. Because it is breathable, clothing made of doe suede tends to be lighter and cooler than garments made of many traditional synthetic materials or real suede. Doe suede also resists shrinkage and wrinkling when properly washed and dried.
The wide variety of colors in which doe suede is available may account for its popularity in applications as varied as upholstery, clothing and crafting. The fabric takes dye well and is resistant to fading, even with machine washing. Dollmakers, in particular, use doe suede because it is available in a number of "flesh" tones, enabling them to craft dolls of different ethnicities or races.
Sewing with Doe Suede
Sewing with doe suede, as with many synthetic fabrics, takes some adjustment. Some general tips for sewing with doe suede include:
Use a new, sharp sewing machine needle. Needles made especially for sewing microfiber fabrics are available at most sewing and fabric stores.
Use high-quality, 100 percent polyester thread. Cotton or cotton-blend threads may not be as durable when used on a doe suede project.
Loosen the sewing machine's tension and use a longer stitch.
If a walking foot is available, use this rather than the regular sewing machine presser foot. This will help prevent the fabric from bunching or rippling as it goes under the foot.
If a project requires topstitching, use a straight stitch foot rather than a zig-zag foot.
If a project requires fusible webbing, choose a low-heat variety. Like many synthetic fabrics, doe suede does not respond well to high heat.
When using doe suede containing Lycra, allow for stretch. Adjustments during fitting can help achieve the desired look.
Use cool temperatures and a light hand when ironing any seams or hems to avoid burning or melting.
Buying Doe Suede
Doe suede is widely available both online and in brick-and-mortar fabric and sewing stores. It may, however, be sold under a number of different names. The original doe suede was manufactured by Guilford Mills, which ceased production in 2010. Other types of doe or microsuedes from other manufacturers include Alova suede, deer suede and buck suede. Each of these has slight differences from doe suede but can be successfully used for the same types of projects. Some doll crafters have chosen craft velour as a substitute, but this is not appropriate for upholstery or most clothing.
When buying doe suede under any name, check the end of the fabric bolt for fiber content. The nature of your project will determine whether a blend with Lycra is the best choice. Bolt ends will also contain care instructions. If you are buying deer or buck suede instead of actual doe suede, take the time to handle the fabric, as these varieties can be heavier than traditional doe suede. Fabric weight should always be taken into consideration, especially if the project is for clothing or costuming.
Dollmakers may choose to simply buy kits containing the needed amounts and colors of doe suede. While this may end up being more expensive than buying the fabric through a cloth or sewing store, it also ensures that you have the right yardage and color.
As its popularity has grown, doe suede (and other microsuedes) have also been used for any number of household items such as comforters, throw pillows, slipcovers and even table linens, as well as ready-to-wear clothing. If you want the look and feel of doe suede in your home and wardrobe but do not have the desire or time to craft items yourself, a stroll through a local home decor store or big-box retailer will reveal a rainbow of choices. Home decor items made of doe suede may be substantially more expensive than buying the fabric and sewing them yourself--doe suede comforter sets can cost upwards of $300--but the durability and washability of the fabric, and the time and effort saved in buying ready-made, are a sound trade-off for many.
Easy to care for and work with, affordable and attractive, doe suede is a versatile option for upholstery, clothing, costuming and crafting. With proper care, doe suede items can beautify the home and wardrobe for years to come.
Susan Harper has been writing since 2000, specializing in spirituality and gender/sexuality topics. Her work has appeared in "Sagewoman," "Journal of Bisexuality" and "Journal of International Women's Studies." Harper holds a Doctor of Philosophy in cultural anthropology from Southern Methodist University.