Newsletter #7

Working With Fabric

By Mavis Cox, author of the book
'Sewing 101 A Step by Step Guide
to Sewing Basics'

Mudgee, Australia


As a sequel to our discussion last week on patterns, I'd like to continue this week by talking about fabrics and fabric selection.

As we've progressed in our weekly newsletters, I've talked about the tools of the trade like the stitches and selection of a sewing machine, however, it all comes alive and thoroughly worthwhile when you can begin to express yourself by making your own garments, selecting patterns and choosing a stylish fabric. Once you have managed to create your first few items, then you will really be on your way to keep on going!

As usual, I would also like to give you some more trivia about where I live. You may be thinking sometimes, what has this got to do with sewing? For me, I believe that an active and inquisitive mind is needed the older you get. You are never too old to learn, and I didn't stop learning when I left school. So I suggest that, along with your sewing, that you keep looking for things that will help keep your mind active.

When talking about fabric, did you know that we here in Australia are the largest wool producing country in the world? In fact, sheep were first brought to Australia with the first white settlement that arrived here in 1788. Our merino sheep are now very much synonymous with the wool industry too.

If you would like to know a few more facts and figures about the Australian wool industry, can I suggest the following links below that you may find of interest:

Facts About The Australian Wool Industry

Rochedale State School's Wool Report

Wool Facts

Wool Explained

Let's Talk Fabric

Turning our attention back to fabric, I'd like to point out that some fabrics are more difficult to work with than others, especially if you are a beginner. Therefore, when starting out you really want an easy-to-use fabric on relatively uncomplicated projects.

I recommend that you look at cotton and cotton-polyester, also due to the fact they don't stretch too much. Remember in your fabric selection to ask whether there is any shrinkage to allow for. With cotton Iíll soak it in cold water and then hang it out to drip-dry, without trying to wring it out and introducing more wrinkles. When dry, iron it before you start sewing. You may have to allow up to 10% on some fabrics for potential shrinkage.

By knowing in advance what types of fabrics will cause less frustration, then it will help you when later looking at patterns. Ask an experienced sewer or your teacher to show you examples of the kinds of fabric and simple projects that you could consider doing.

Be sure to ask about or check for whether the fabric is washable or needs to be dry cleaned. You should also be aware of the fibers used in the fabric and how to maintain and wash it, and what temperature you should iron it at.

Non-slip fabrics are preferable with little surface finish are more suitable for your early projects. Also, pay attention for an on-grain weave in the fabric, meaning that it should go up-and down and crossways, so that it hangs evenly. Test how easily it wrinkles by crushing the corner. The more it wrinkles, the more delicate and care will be required with that fabric.

Finally, avoid fabrics where the color can be rubbed into the skin, or it has a strong odour, or there are obvious faults or signs of fading in parts.

By being aware of these things and asking the right people for guidance, you should be able to find a suitable fabric that suits your experience and budget, according to the recommendation on the pattern.

In 'Sewing 101', I discuss in detail the various type of natural and man-made fabrics available on the market, as well as giving more tips about how to select the right fabrics.

Best wishes and God Bless,

Mavis Cox

Mavis Cox
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