How do you get to know your fabrics?

This is a curious section to cover, because there is no better way of getting to know fabrics than handling them, so how do you describe this in words or images?

Sometimes the only difference between the cheap high street shops and the more expensive ones are the quality of the fabrics (although the mass manufacture of clothing by some shops plays a huge role in the price). Over the years the amount of fabric shops has diminished so where do I find fabric that I want to make into something to wear? I was pleased to see new and old names for online shopping for fabric. I like to think I know my fabrics but I like nothing more than to handle them, to feel the texture and see the drape. Maybe the online suppliers send out sample swatches!

I love clothes that are made at home but I don’t like it if they look home-made and the fabric used can be key in this.

Make your job of getting to know fabrics easier – this is simple. The more expensive the garment is the more likely it is to be made in a natural fabric like wool, silk, linen. The cheaper clothes will be man-made like polyester, When looking round the shops, look at the drape, and handle the garments to see what the fabric feels like – and remember the fabric composition is always available to you – on the wash label! This is invaluable, the labels give you all the fabric composition information you would ever need to know.

There are several points I want to cover here:

  • I don’t want to spend lots of money on calico although it is what every first toile should be made in!
  • Sometimes I’m so desperate to wear the new garment that I wear the working toile. For me this is achieved by using a cheap fabric with the correct drape.
    I don’t want to spend £100 on a fabulous piece of wool when I can spend half the amount on a wool/polyester mix. Because although a calico toile can give me an excellent idea of the shape it never has the drape. For me it’s simpler to cut straight into a cheap fabric, make it up correctly and then wear it. If the pattern is successful I may then choose another fabric to make it in again.
  • Beware of fabric hazards.
    I bought a lovely cream top for a lunch out.
    Nice flattering shape – looked casual enough with jeans!
    After sitting for, at the most 15 minutes in the bus, disaster – it was crushed, right across the tummy area, exactly where we don’t want any extra attention!
    I spent the rest of the outing pulling it straight, feeling self conscious, and not very happy! In fact it was a particularly wet summers day and I think I hid most of the time under my jacket!
    I returned it stating what was wrong with it and I got a full refund.
    If in doubt about a fabric, give it a crush in your hand. If the creases don’t look like they’ll  fall out, then they won’t. If the creases fade it should be fine! This top was in man-made fabric and it should have been ok.
  • Find other equivalent fabrics to play with.
    Silk and satin can be interpreted by polyesters (including cheap lining fabrics)
    Silk jersey as viscose knit jersey or cotton jersey
    Linen as cotton/linen mix
  • BUT still the problem is “Where do we find these fabrics”
    The wools, silks, linens are easy to find as fabric lengths online or in fabric shops, but I love print and where are they? there are some available online or in fabric shops but the variety is limited.
    Note. Getting prints of your own design printed digitally
    I remember a student bringing in the most fabulous prints that she’d bought during her exotic summer holiday in a far of land, but they were expensive and had to be treated with respect, and not exactly convenient to buy.
  • So where do I find my quick fix fabrics. This has become a habit of mine that I’ve developed over the years without actually realising it or without thinking it may be of interest to others. I start with the idea, probably for a top (I’m always making or altering tops) and I don’t want to buy calico. So I search the charity shops for printed dresses – lovely print, lovely top. However as everyone knows who visits charity shops, a run of success is often followed by nothing of interest week after week. How often do we browse round shops thinking “love that fabric” love that print” but I wouldn’t suit that style or that styles too young or old for me? Therefore find another source, search the cheaper high street stores, particularly their sale rails and particularly the biggest sizes – same print, same garment, same price but more fabric.

T-shirt fabric (single jersey).

Sometimes it’s difficult to see the right side of the fabric, usually in certain types of light! Another way to identity the correct side is that the fabric curls from the wrong side of the fabric round onto the right side. (It should look like the plain side of hand knitting, the purl side is the right side of the fabric).

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