Sunday 15 January 2012

The Fashion Designer's Textile Directory - Gail Baugh

So my current project is learning about fabrics; something that has been made dramatically easier by Fabric for Fashion: The Swatch Book. However this book only gives non patterned and non dyed examples of the different weaves and knits of the different fibres. While this is amazing and I now have a much better understanding of the properties of each fibre and weave I still struggle when trying to identify fabrics in a store or at work as I find myself misled by the prints, patterns and sometimes the way the fabric has been used in the garment in question.

...enter my Mum with The Fashion Designer's Textile Directory which she was very proud of herself for finding in Barnes and Noble in New York. (This was a Christmas present along with some vouchers for Sew Over It which I hadn't even told her about! Legend) This tome goes through each and every type of fabric ordering them in chapters based on their properties (Structure, Fluidity, Ornamentation, Expansion and Compression) rather than the weave or fibre. This makes it easier to work from when trying to identify something you have no clue about but can see the properties of, with Fabric for Fashion you have to take a bit of a stab in the dark at the right section to look in or leaf through all the swatches to find the closest match. However there are no swatches only pictures in the Textile Directory so it can prove difficult matching a written description and photo to the physical cloth in hand. The brilliant thing about my job is that as I see and use costumes from all different periods every day I am exposed to a wide range of fabrics which you may not find in contemporary everyday clothing, such as heavy brocades and power mesh. However, identifying all these different fabrics can prove rather a challenge but I've been making real progress since the new year using a combination of these two books. The Textile Directory basically provides me with everything I am missing from Fabric for Fashion and vice versa, making them the perfect companions for each other I think.

Each fabric has a full colour page or double page including a summary of important qualities to consider and other key things to look out for when working with this particular fabric. Each page begins with a close up shot of an example of the fabric in question and then also three more differing photographic examples. In this way the book gives you a more complete overview of the variety within the already huge variety of fabric weaves and knits, which I think is the most difficult thing to get to grips with. A photo is also included of the fabric in use on the catwalk which is surprisingly useful when trying to identify fabric in an existing garment. The final aspect of each page is a clear and concise 'Facts and Figures' box, breaking down in bullet point form the distinctive features and strengths and weaknesses of that particular choice; a hugely useful resource when selecting fabric for a project. 

Decorative techniques such as trims, piping, contrast bias bindings and ribbons are also discussed at length making the book not only a useful learning resource but a source of creative inspiration. Looking at the suggested uses and bullet pointed distinctive features of each material has certainly made me want to branch out from simple and safe printed cotton fabric choices and I think this book will definitely spur me on to experiment with fabric and ornamentation.

The most amazing thing about the book (excluding the fold out flap listing all the icons explaining weaves and finishes so you can keep out to refer to as you look through, genius idea) are the charts at the back of the book. They are a quick and easy reference showing just what you need to know about each fabric and just what you need to identify them. This includes advantages and disadvantages of each fabric, what it is commonly used for and the usual fibres it is constructed from. All through the book I think it's really apparent that the author (Gail Baugh) has a brilliant grasp of what fashion designers/costume designers/buyers and students really need and want to know about fabrics and so doesn't bog you down with heaps of unnecessary info on how each fibre is processed (although there is an excellent chapter at the start of the book on the future of fabric production which is well worth a read as a base for your fabric knowledge).

All in all this is a fantastic book for anyone who works with fabrics, anyone who knows about fabrics and wants to know a bit more and anyone who doesn't!

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