The other day I talked with a friend who had just finished a dress. While she didn’t classify it as a wadder, she wasn’t satisfied with the way it turned out, and I understood her issue. She’s a really good sewist, and her work is generally impeccable. She was frustrated and concerned that she had constructed it wrong. But the problem, I gently pointed out to her, was not with her sewing, but with the fabric she chose to use for it. She used a fabric recommended on the pattern’s envelope, but it was a heavier, stiffer weave than was optimal, and it ended up looking less flattering than she would like.
But how was she to know that? The pattern envelope tells the fabric type to use, but it doesn’t specify ‘use a denim that is less than 5 oz.’ or ‘use a stretch woven with no more than 2% Lycra’. The Big Four pattern companies are never going to do that, I’ll put money on it. And the smaller indy companies are not likely to get that specific. While some sewing enthusiasts would find it helpful, many, especially newbies, might find that to be too much information and very confusing. StyleArc comes the closest. When you buy one of their patterns, they send you a small swatch of a fabric to use as a guide in your fabric purchasing for that pattern.
Believe me, I’ve had my share of fabric fails. Many of them were because I just didn’t know any better. When I was a teenager, I wanted to make a Vogue dress, designed by Jerry Silverman if I recall correctly. The pattern called for velvet or similar drapey fabrics. But me? I fell in love with an ice blue satin and made it up in that. What should have been a soft dress that gently skimmed my body was instead a stiff, costumey aberration that sat unloved and unworn in my closet until I finally consigned it to Goodwill. Then in college, when I was broke, my then-boyfriend (whom I found out was two-timing me) came into town to take me out to dinner. I decided to make a super sexy f*ck-you-and-the-horse-you-rode-in-on breakup dress to wear that night. Of course it had to be silk! Of course, I was a broke college student, so the only silk I could afford was habotai. But it was silk! In 20-20 hindsight, I probably looked like I was wearing a negligée. It did the trick, though, when I left him standing slack jawed at the bottom of the 700 Comm. Ave. escalator at the end of the evening, with a “thank you very much have a nice life” handshake and ran up the stairs. Nowadays I think back on both those dresses and cringe at my naiveté.
And those aren’t the only two! No, more recently I made a jacket that ended up looking like this:
It was a great pattern, one that got tons of glowing reviews. The problem? My fabric. The pattern called for wovens and stretch wovens. This was a stretch woven. But it was a stretch woven with about 6% Lycra in it. It was really stretchy. It just would not behave. I was most of the way through when I realized the fabric was not going to work. It seemed like a good idea when I was planning the garment, but as I sewed it, the fabric showed its true, unpleasant nature. I cut my losses and threw it out.
So, how do you know when a fabric will work with a pattern? Well that’s the $64,000 question. Here’s the answer that most people are not going to want to hear. Experience. The fact is that, even after a millenium of sewing, I still sometimes make the wrong fabric choices. Not often, but occasionally. When I do, I file in my mind what didn’t work in the choice, and I move on to the next project. These days, I tend to buy fabrics without a set purpose or pattern in mind. I’ll buy enough to make a type of garment, and then I’ll match the pattern to the fabric. If you work better in the other direction, i.e. buying a pattern and then searching for the fabric, I advise letting your fingers do the talking. Get a swatch or feel the fabric in person before committing it to the project. And even then, don’t get upset if the fabric doesn’t work out. Chalk it up to experience and learn from it. I can tell you that I won’t use super stretchy fabrics for a jacket again, and I’ll bet my friend will learn from her experience, too. Wadders and fabric fails, while they sting, are great learning experiences.
To Dye or Not To Dye…
Debbie mentioned in my last post that she still thinks of me as a redhead. That’s so funny – I’ve been thinking a lot lately about whether I want to go back to dying my hair. After it grew back in, I’ve left it natural(read, “white”). I still have most of my redhead clothing, and thanks to the color of my eyes (green hazel) they still look good. I admit, I like the lower cost and maintenance of leaving it as is, but every once in a while I hear the siren call of Redken or Clairol. I also do kind of like the fact that I have a wider variety of colors that I can wear, and my makeup palate has shifted slightly. The downside of au naturel? I have to keep makeup on or I look washed out. In a way I wish I hadn’t donated all my wigs (except the pink, of course) back to the Breast Care Center. Ah well. Maybe I’ll see when Wigs.com is having their next big sale and indulge. Or maybe not. We’ll see.
Speaking of Pink Wigs…
It’s more than halfway through Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and if you are a woman over age 40, please, please PLEASE make sure you get a mammogram every year! And if you are a woman of any age, do a breast self-exam every month. They save lives. Do it for yourself; do it for your loved ones. Just do it.
And remember, Gorgeous Fabrics will donate 10% of all cut fabric sales during October (except muslin) to the Winchester Hospital Breast Care Center. So feel good while you look Gorgeous! Let’s make this a wildly successful effort, and know that your fabric purchases will help women who need it. Thank you so much and…