Friday 16 December 2011

Which Fabric?!

So I have noticed (and you may have noticed too) that my dressmaking progress has been a little slow off the mark! I have been a little preoccupied with the preparations for Christmas but I really can’t pass it all off on that. I’ve got plenty of things lined up that I want to make, I’ve even prepared some of the patterns ready to be pinned to the fabric but this is where production grinds to a halt. Fabric.

I’ve got a big old box of fabric at home from leftover theatre projects but none of it is ever quite right for anything I want to make myself and it’s generally all scraps that won’t quite go far enough to make a top or skirt. So this means I need to go out a buy fabric. I always check for the advice on the back of my pattern envelopes suggesting which fabrics might be suitable but to be honest at this stage in my working with fabric development a fabric name alone isn’t much guidance! When I get in a fabric shop I just don’t know where to start looking, I have no focus, no clue of what’s what and completely loose track of what I’m looking for.

I’m by no means a fabric expert and a very indecisive person in general (seriously choosing what to eat for dinner can be a nightmare) so when it comes to buying fabric for a project I meet a bit of a creative block. I can happily rummage and feel the weight of a fabric, look at how it drapes, and judge whether I like the pattern and colours but the problem comes when trying to picture the fabric as the made up garment I am intending it for. I do know if a lightweight cotton or a silk or a thick wool will be suitable but then I start to second guess myself and imagine all these problems that this fabric might create when making up that particular pattern; will it be too bulky at the waist, too lightweight to create a nice crisp tailored edge or too slippy for my clumsy fingers to create a nice neat hem. I then start to question whether the drape really will be right for the project I have in mind and end up going round in circles between options, overwhelmed by the range and the prices and end up leaving empty handed because I simply can’t make a decision.

I’d started to think the only way to improve my knowledge of what will work and what won’t is just to go for it and give it a try, but it does seem like a bit of an expensive and wasteful way to go about it if it all goes wrong! So I took a step back and thought maybe I should just brush up on my fabric knowledge a bit over the Christmas period so I can go do a big fabric shop for all these awaiting projects in the New Year and make some more informed choices. I’ve always thought learning about fabric was something really difficult to do off your own back as you can read endless books on the different properties of different yarns and weaves but identifying them when your in the midst of hundreds of unlabelled rolls is the difficulty. The only way to learn about fabrics is hands on and it can be a bit daunting/embarrassing to be asking the sales assistants exactly what a particular piece is. But fear not, this problem has been vanquished by the wonderful and recently published Fabric for Fashion: The Swatch Book as recommended by Tilly over at Tilly and the Buttons. Not only does the book break down the abundance of information into manageable and logically laid out chunks but there are ACTUAL REAL LIFE SAMPLES of the fabrics in there too. It's AMAZING and I cannot emphasize that word enough. It is so useful to be reading and then see, feel and play with what they are talking about, I cannot understand why someone hasn't published something like this until now. Everything is in it’s un-dyed form so admittedly as soon as I’m in a fabric shop/market full of colours and patterns all of this info may go out the window but I’m hoping some will stick.

So anyway my plans for any free time I may get over Christmas is to study, study, study every last detail of this book, think about that in relation to the fabric choice advice given on the back of my patterns and thirdly study, study, study everyone else’s blogs for fabric advice and particularly look at evaluations for finished projects similar to my own intentions to see what fabrics worked well and which didn’t. I think I might have just resolved my own confusion about how to progress while writing this post!

Does anyone have any hints and tips for choosing fabric?

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