My Blanken World

My world of boys, textiles and moving.

Give me some fiber… June 23, 2012

Filed under: Sewing,Sewing lessons — blankenmom @ 10:20 pm
Tags: , , ,





….we’re talking fabric here!









I won’t even pretend to know everything there is to know about fabric.  I won’t even try to say I know half of what there is to know about fabric actually. 





I see… I like… I buy.


Well – except there are certain fabrics that you can and cannot do things with.  There are weights, among other things, you have to take into consideration. 



In general:




Quilting fabric – Quilts, tops, small dresses, crafts (tends to not breath so well, so you may want to avoid using it for bottoms)







Sheer/light-weight – Curtains, top fabric over another fabric, see-through tops and gowns (to be worn over another piece)








Top/light-weight – Tops, soft/light dresses/skirts, lined shorts (or else you’ll show everything)








Suiting/medium-weight – Suites, pants, jackets, tailored dresses/skirts, shorts








Bottom-weight – Tailored jeans, pants, jackets, shorts and skirts








Coating/heavy-weight – Coats, jackets








Upholstery – Upholstery, outdoor furniture, pillows, table clothes, curtains, (also great for costumes)









Heavy-duty – Awnings, outdoor furniture, sails, upholstery, curtains








Two great books to assist you with a lot of this knowledge are these Sandra Betzina books.  I own the second one and it’s been very helpful.


However, when you’re standing in the middle of the fabric store with pattern in hand, the book doesn’t do you a whole-lot of good!  So I’m going to give you a crash course in buying fabric.  It won’t be perfect, but it will get you out of the store without crying.


I showed you last time the back of a pattern.  One section shows you suggested fabrics.  For starters stick with the suggestions.


You’ve gone through the whole store and finally found the correct fabric suggested (it’s ok to ask for help), in the color and/or print you like.  If the store doesn’t allow you to go through and touch the fabric (short of *very* expensive fabric) you don’t want to shop there!  Pull the bolt out, feel the fabric, check the top for price, content and width.  It’s the one – Now what?


In every fabric store there will be a cutting table.  In most cases, look for a long line of really bored looking people, also holding several bolts of fabric, and place yourself at the back of it… I suggest a shopping cart if one is available. You may be there a while!  (Make sure to take a number if available – or you’ll get the look of death from your fellow line-mates). 





Make sure to have your stabilizer (if needed), any ribbon, lace or trim that is by-the-yard with you also so they can cut this at the same time.  The side of the spool or the shelf will tell you if it is or not.

When you finally make it to the front of the line, you’ll put your bolt out on the table and the person will ask you how much you want.  You can either show them the back of the pattern and they’ll be happy to help you figure it out or you can let them know how much you need if you already know.  They’ll unroll the fabric from the bolt and start cutting.

*Make sure to watch as they’re unrolling it.  Sometimes fabrics have catches, cuts, marks snags, stains or other blemishes that you can’t work around and you’ll want that piece removed.


*Money saving tip*  Sometimes you’ll get to the end of the bolt and there will be slightly more fabric left over than you need.  Some stores will offer this extra bit for a discount – take it!  You can always use the extra for *something*!


After it’s cut, they’ll hand you the cut fabric back, take the bolt to a storage bin and hand you a slip of paper that says how much fabric you just had cut.  You’ll bring that to the front of the store to buy once you’re all done getting your things.


(If you do happen to forget something and have to go back through the line to have something recut – that’s fine, you’ll just have two tickets when you go to pay.)




Now walk over to the thread area and find a matching thread color from whatever company you’ve decided you like or want to test out.  If you can’t find the exact shade, go for the darker shade; it hides better in the fabric…. unless of course you want the thread to show up and then pick whatever color floats-your-boat!





*Side note*  Now, I stated before that fabrics don’t actually measure up to the stated sizes.  Usually bolts are marked 35–36”, 39”, 41”, 44–45”, 50”, 52–54″, 58–60” and 66”, 72″, 96″, and 108″ (Wiki).  They usually come in at about an inch or two less than what the bolt says.  Knit fabrics tend to come in tubes however.  I have been researching my bum off and the best I can come up with are these two pages




cloth-yard 93.98 cm 37 inches = 1 yard A cloth-yard was used to measure cloth. It is an inch longer than an ordinary yard. A natural way to measure cloth is to hold one end in one hand, and measure along the edge to the nose, then repeat, and these would be cloth-yards. I measure thread for making lace in the same way. A cloth-yard shaft was an arrow a cloth-yard long.
ell 114.3 cm 45 inches = 1 ell
5 spans = 1 ell
32 ells = 1 bolt
An ell is derived from ‘elbow’. It started off similar to the cubit (see above), but the English ell was 45 inches or a yard and a quarter. It could have been measured from elbow to elbow. Other countries had different lengths for their ell. There was an old saying “Give him an inch and he’ll take an ell”. As the ell fell out of common use, the saying got changed to “Give him an inch and he’ll take a mile” (which makes less sense).
bolt 36.58 m 32 ells = 1 bolt
40 yards = 1 bolt
Another measure of cloth. Cloth is stored in rolls, which are still called bolts.



 – and here. 


From what I’ve been able to gather – it’s due to manufacturing variances from country to country and on each bolt.  So it depends on where you measure it on the bolt and where exactly it came from.  What a boring reason.

But the above article does explain why some of us still measure “yards” from our nose to our fingers!  (Have you ever seen the part in Cinderella?)





Ok, I know, that’s all boring history stuff.  Back to the nuts and…. bolts.  (Couldn’t help it)






Now you’ve gotten all your fabric and notions purchased and you’ve made it home.  Don’t even THINK about cutting that fabric yet!  The manufactures treat fabrics with chemicals, sometimes as strong as Formaldehyde, to keep the fabrics from degrading, being eaten or rotting during shipment.  Do you really want that on anyone you know? 

The other reason is that most, if not all, fabrics will shrink or warp some while washing and you want to allow it to and find out how much, before you sew it – not after.  That would be bad!  And some fabrics that say “dry clean only” can actually be machine washed on gentle or hand wash cycles if you wash them before you make the item.  But if in true doubt and the fabric was expensive and fancy – dry clean it or do research (or do a swatch test where you run the swatch through the wash to check it).  I don’t want you coming back to me crying because the satin wedding dress you made just shrunk down to the flower girls size and left a huge water mark on her bum! 



Once you wash and dry your fabric, make sure to iron it out if needed.  Yes, I know we all hate ironing (except that one person… but we don’t like them anyway), but you can’t sew on wrinkled fabric and it’s really simple without any corners, nooks or crannies!  This is a good time to cut off the strings that come off the edges and check for any problems that may have shown up during the wash.








Lay out your fabric selvage edges together.  These are the uncut edges that are usually stiff and often white and have die marks or the designers name.  These won’t be used in your pattern.  It doesn’t matter if you put the wrong side or the right side touching at this point, as long as you stay consistent through-out the pattern.  On a woven fabric, the wrong side is usually not as bright or has no pattern at all.  If it’s a knitted fabric, the wrong side will be “purl” stitches, the right side will have “knit” stitches (will look like little V’s).  Some fabrics it can be hard to tell and others, you may actually like the “wrong” side more.




I’ll get into cutting patterns next.  You can sit and enjoy your fiber!





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