I'm new to garment sewing, and have perused internet fabric stores like
emmaonesock.com, fabric.com, etc., and the fabrics all LOOK beautiful,
but I don't have any idea what they would feel like/drape like or what
kinds of garments they would be appropriate for because I don't know
fabrics by name. Wool doubleknit? Onionskin? Buttermilk? When I
look in the labels of ready-to-wear, all they tell you is fiber content
so that's no help either. I have NO IDEA what this stuff is! I have
Sandra Betzina's Fabric Savvy books and they are a great help to me
once I've purchased fabric from a "bricks and mortar" fabric store as
far as getting suggestions for sewing with that fabric, but my dream
reference book would be something like Betzina's book that included a
little swatch of each fabric type in there as well -- does anyone have
a book like that? Does it even exist? That would help me identify my
favorite fabrics from my closet so that I could find fabric to make
more of what I like. Thanks in advance for any suggestions!
If you live near New York City, the college book store at the Fashion
Institute of Technology has a Textiles 101 course book that has swatches
of various weaves of fabrics. IIRC the book is a quite large loose leaf
binder sort of thing and covered most all the basis from home furnishing
to apparel textiles. Book also told what weaves and textiles were
commonly used for such as Damask, Wool Crepe, etc. Would think any
college book store where the school offers textile, interior decorating,
and or fashion courses would have the same sort of book.
Some online and book helps:
Julie Parker's All About (cotton, silk, wool) series of books -- with
swatch sets if you can manage
A pair of "pro" books by Debbie Gioello:
-- Understanding Fabrics, from Fiber to Finished Cloth (Fairchild) 1982
covers fibers, yarns, fabric structure, color and dye, performance, hand,
texture, luster, opacity, drapability and care
Profiling Fabrics: Properties, Performance and Construction
Techniques. (Fairchild, 1981)
For each fabric, there's a photo of a swatch draped over a dressmaker's
form, one hanging straight of grain (like a gathered skirt) and the other
on the bias. Tells you about suitable construction techniques and
needle types, etc. for each type.
These two are perhaps not for everyone's library, but order them on
interlibrary loan if you have to, and study them. The second title
is sort of the "pro sewing" version of Betzina's and Shaeffer's fabric
books, and more useful to me.
collecting fabric swatches, too... label and tuck them away someplace safe. Unravel them and see if you can work out why it's a jersey, or a basketweave, or a denim.
Warning: a fair amount of fabrics are mislabeled.... I've seen chambray
labeled as denim (plain vs twill weave), jersey called interlock, etc.,
so it also helps to shop with reputable dealers who know their fabrics.
And you can always ask here or in mailing lists or discussion websites.
I don't know what happened to my post, so I'll repeat. Joseph
Pizzuto's book, Fabric Science, along with a swatchbook of fabrics, are
available at Amazon.com. There are also three books entitled All About
Silk, All About Wool, and All About Cotton, that come with swatches of
all the types of fabric and weaves for these three natural fibers. If
I were going to invest, however, I think I'd go for the Fabric Science
book, as it covers all types of fabrics from natural to specialty
synthetics. These books are not cheap, but well worth their price if
you need to see and feel the fabrics.
> I'm new to garment sewing, and have perused internet fabric stores like
> emmaonesock.com, fabric.com, etc., and the fabrics all LOOK beautiful,
> but I don't have any idea what they would feel like/drape like or what
> kinds of garments they would be appropriate for because I don't know
> fabrics by name. Wool doubleknit? Onionskin? Buttermilk? When I
> look in the labels of ready-to-wear, all they tell you is fiber content
> so that's no help either. I have NO IDEA what this stuff is! I have
> Sandra Betzina's Fabric Savvy books and they are a great help to me
> once I've purchased fabric from a "bricks and mortar" fabric store as
> far as getting suggestions for sewing with that fabric, but my dream
> reference book would be something like Betzina's book that included a
> little swatch of each fabric type in there as well -- does anyone have
> a book like that? Does it even exist? That would help me identify my
> favorite fabrics from my closet so that I could find fabric to make
> more of what I like. Thanks in advance for any suggestions!
I was buying fabric recently (NOT for myself, I'm on a stash reduction
mission- it's bursting out of the door) and when the very young man serving
me finished cutting the 100% cotton I'd bought, he asked if I needed
anything else - like the 100% poly "silk" or " 'linen' blend" that had no
linen content that the last customer had oohed and aahed over. He had tried
to explain to her that it wasn't really a fabulously priced silk but she
wasn't interested in the roll label at all. He spent several minutes telling
me how he's making it his mission to explain the fibre content to customers
so they understand what they are buying. He was quite disparaging of his
employers labelling system and disappointed that most customers lack basic
knowledge of what they're buying and how to launder it. This was at
Spotlight, which is our equivalent to Joannes.
So be comforted that on this side of the world there's another voice,
chris (in Oz)
Nothing new -- "butcher linen" was rayon when I was growing up.
Down through the ages, fabric vendors have been mis-labeling their
wares -- to the despair of historians and re-enactors, who haven't the
foggiest idea what various fabric terms meant to the people who used
them. The trend is for a name to mean a coarser or thinner or
otherwise cheaper fabric as time goes by.
I once came across an old set of instructions that said to use "a
sturdy fabric such as gingham or ticking". Gingham was about as thick
as chambray when I read that -- far from as sturdy as ticking -- and
the fabric we now call "gingham" was "tissue gingham".
Muslin on the other hand, got coarse -- one of the Samantha books ("by
Josiah Allen's Wife") referred to sillies dressing up in robes of
"book muslin" -- took me ages to find out she meant what we call
organdy. This was about a century after a girls best gown was apt to
be white muslin.
In another old book (perhaps "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm"), the
heroine resorted to making her graduation gown from "butter muslin"
found among left-over merchandise from a friend's father's former
general store. Much plowing among dictionaries suggested that this
was a fine grade of bleached cheesecloth. Unlike current
special-occasion gowns, the gown made future appearances in the book
as her best party dress; in one scene she and said friend are about to
hug one another in transports of joy and the friend reminds her:
"remember our butter-muslin fragility".
In Britain, "muslin" came to mean "butter muslin"; in America, it
descended from dress goods to sheeting, and by the 21st Century meant
only the unbleached variety. (In the fifties, one could buy white
"muslin" sheeting. It also came in "unbleached" at a cheaper price;
if you wanted finer sheets, there was "percale", which came in
bleached white and, in the narrow widths, solid colors.
"Percale" defied the trend to cheaper fabric by moving to
ridiculous-count cotton sheets. 200-count sheeting was packed so
tight you could run it through a computer printer *without* ironing it
to freezer paper -- I won't even look at the polyhecto-count sheeting
they are pushing these days. If my scenery-muslin sheets (which I
made when Dharma was the only source of wide fabrics) ever wear out,
I'll go back to using quilt lining. Doesn't wear any time at all, but
it doesn't crackle when you roll over.
Heavy better muslin was what one used for inexpensive but serviceable
linens before polyester and cotton/polyester blends came upon the scene.
One found them every where from hospitals, to the nursery/children's
rooms, sick rooms, and as the main linens for homes that couldn't afford
percale. Though only 140 threads per square inch, good muslin will out
last many of today's high thread count bed linens.
Only problem with the better grade/heavy muslin is it requires ironing
while damp with a hot iron. On the bright side it can withstand repeated
harsh (read hot to very hot/boil washes, and dryers) and still last.
Have several vintage Pequot sheets and pillow slips and one just cannot
kill them. Feel quite nice after laundering, and damp ironing. Also have
a 100 (give or take) yard bolt of vintage Pequot sheeting fabric, (old
store stock), packed away in my stash, along with several Pequot sheets
and pillowslips in their original boxes, also old store stock.
Haven't decided what to do with them all, suppose one is hoarding for
the duration. *LOL*
Muslin was the "polyester" of it's day in that it was cheaper than
linen, and one of the more inexpensive weaves of cotton goods that held
up to any kind of wear, especially the harsh laundering of days gone by.
I'm still using muslin sheets from my trousseau (assembled in England)
all those years ago. The bottom sheets wore out, but most of the flat
ones are still good. The "quality" percale ones just are not as nice -
I find the heavy muslin ones are cooler in summer and warmer in winter.
Mind you, I don't iron them completely, just pull them out of the
dryer the minute it stops, iron a 12" strip across the top of the sheet,
then smooth them and fold them, put them at the bottom of the stack in
the linen cupboard and by the time they come to the top they are just fine.
When I needed a king-size top sheet (for dd coming to stay and wanted to
push twin beds together) I bought three yards of 108" muslin quilt
backing from the quilt shop. Worked quite well.
Sooooo ..... if you were wondering what to do with your stash, I can
promise it a good home..... Were you going to write your will anytime
soon? :-) :-)
Olwyn Mary in New Orleans.
Hmm, was going to sit down for quiet cup of coffee and watch Monty
Python, but now don't think I'll bother! *LOL* May have to go and mark
my muslin stash in case Pequot Bandits strike during the night. *LOL*
Really have no idea what am going to do with all that Pequot fabric, it
is still in the shipping box and hasn't been touched since it arrived.
Same for the Pequot sheets and pillow slips in their boxes. Have so much
linens in my linen press, and their all either vintage Pequot,Wamsutta
"Supercale" or linen, and the stuff just does not wear out.