By Mavis Cox, author of
'Sewing 101 A Step by Step Guide
to Sewing Basics'
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
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:
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.
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
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
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.
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.