Sewing Basics Fabrics Part I

Angelie Martin-Spencer and Arlene Martin

Saturday, November 10, 2012

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As the end of the year approaches, there are usually many festivities and events to attend, and for women, a wish list for new outfits to attend such events. Unfortunately, it is not a good time to want new clothes, as food prices have soared post-Sandy, added to prior economic strains. But do not despair, you can still look fabulous if you Rock the Cloth.

In a three-part feature, we want to teach you some basic know-how so you can do just that. This week we begin with... fabric.

Fabrics begin with Fibre

Fibres are generally natural (animal or vegetable) or synthetic. Natural fabrics include cotton, flax, wool and silk, while popular synthetics include rayon and polyester. Fibres are made into yarns by weaving or knitting, and the characteristics as well as the techniques result in the variety of fabrics we see. Weaving and knitting are the most common methods, but fabrics may also be crocheted, braided, fused, among other less popular methods (typically more hand-made / cottage industry).

Knowing the basic fibre from which the fabric is made is most helpful and relevant to the care of the garment, such as washing and ironing and can also give you an idea as to how any colour treatments might behave. So when shopping for fabrics, since you do not have the benefit of care labels, be sure to ask store attendants not just the name of the fabric, but also the fibre type. In doing so, you may ask the type, using words such as polyester, rayon, cotton, silk, noting that most fabrics now are blends.

Fabric types

So what do we mean when we say fabric types? Common fabric types are chiffon, satin, georgette, velvet, etc. Some of these have names based on the fabric process type, so be careful not to be given a "silk" fabric which is actually rayon. It is these terms that are most useful when selecting the best fabric for the style you want.

Here are some tips:

* Before shopping, know exactly what style you will be making or be willing to restrict styles to those for which that fabric is appropriate. You will not get the desired effect if the fabric is not suitable for the style. So chiffon being lightweight will always fall, while a heavier fabric such as a bridal satin never will.

* If you are also purchasing lining, be sure the weight is lighter, or at most the same as the fashion fabric.

* Hold the fabric against your body or try to mimic the style as best you can to try to "see" that it will produce your desired style effect. If it means rolling off four (4) yards from the bolt, it is better to do this and politely ask the attendant to replace it.

* If you would like a structured garment that will create form and provide support, get a woven fabric of medium to heavy weight and line the garment as well.

* If you would like a knitted fabric for a form-fitting style, but are concerned about concealing weight, for example, lining is still suggested, but be sure any body shapers will work with your choice. A single layer of the fabric will not do.

* Bring the sample or image to the store with you and look around, but be sure to ask for assistance. Attendants can also guide you on how much fabric will be required for the design.

Chiffon and georgette: lightweight for flowing and soft finishes; will require a light lining, and are not suited for structured styles.

Satin: weights vary from light (such as stretch satin which falls beautifully against curves when cut on the bias) to heavy (such as bridal satin which is great for structured designs). The sheen also varies and should definitely be considered with the style, noting the effect of sheen on size, appearance and how well it photographs.

Velvet: Not only good for black-tie occasions but may make a cute mini-skirt or cocktail dress or used to accentuate another fabric. Also great for blazers.

Other tips:

* Once you've decided on style and fabric, you must remember to choose a flattering colour for your complexion. If a colour of the season does not work for you, pass.

* Prints: remember some of the rules for prints:

(a) Scale of print to your size;

(b) Curly lines are great concealers;

(c) Straight lines follow the body's form and will highlight curves.

BUT these rules apply to flatter you, and exceptions can be made based on style and construction techniques.





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