My Second Assignment: Fabrics that Require Special Handling

Sorry I didn’t post last week. With having that series about How to Make a Dress, I got into the habit of not thinking ahead about my posts, and when Monday came I couldn’t think of much to blog about.

During the week I remembered that I had taken photos as I did my second assignment (well, most of it – I haven’t finished yet). So I thought I would post them.

My assignment is to collect samples of fabrics that require special handling and to make seams and hems for some of them. There are four categories: Pile Fabrics; Lace; Plastics and Skins; and Silk and Silkies.

This is the Pile Fabrics Sample Sheet. The first is corduroy, then fake sheepskin, stretch crushed velvet, and faux fur. I had to make a seam sample of the faux fur so I ordered half a metre of it to make sure I had enough. It’s very easy to sew, a least when  you are only making a 4″ seam. And it gets very warm when you wear it!

When you have sewn the seam, you have to pick out the hairs from the seam and then comb the seamline with your fingers (or a comb if you prefer) until the seam is pretty much invisible. If you press it, you need a press cloth or some tissue paper. Pressing makes the faux fur shinier and flatter.

The faux fur is on a knit backing, so it would need lining because it’s very rough on the inside. The selvedge is even rougher and it is stiffer. In the picture, the piece with the white in it is the selvedge and the other piece is from the main fabric.

This is the laces sheet. There are only three on it because the online retailer was out of the one I ordered and sent me a blue guipure lace sample, even though I already had a pinkish guipure lace sample in the order.

The samples are: Spiderweb lace (guess how it got its name); Queen Anne Lace (which is £60+ per metre!), and guipure lace. I didn’t have to make a lace seam sample. Maybe because laces vary so much so the techniques for sewing them vary too much for my course to specify just one.

 These are the Plastics and Skins samples. Don’t worry – I didn’t use real animal skin. I don’t fancy handling it before it’s treated, do you?

They are: Mirror Vinyl, Stretch PVC (think catsuits and secret agents), Faux suede (which is not very soft at all), and Leatherette (faux leather, fake leather, pleather, whatever you want to call it).

I had to make a seam sample of the leatherette. Well, actually I had to make two. I forgot when I was sewing that I was supposed to make a lapped seam sample, and instead I made a regular open seam. Upon checking my instructions (lucky I did) I noticed my mistake.

Note: unless you have a special foot, you must put tissue paper under the presser foot when you sew fabrics like these otherwise the fabric will stick to the foot. It’s sometimes okay on the wrong side, because that is sometimes a knitted fabric.

Note 2: Don’t use any fancy stitches like satin stitch or cross-stitch on plastics. The needle going in and out of the fabric so much perforates the fabric so that it comes apart. By the way, you don’t need a Leather needle to sew faux leather. Actually, I think the wedge-shaped tip would damage the fabric. I used a universal needle and it’s absolutely fine.

These are the silks and silkies fabrics. The first is Embroidered Beaded silk. The beads have a tendency to fall off. When they do, it’s a good idea to save them to use later.

The next fabric is Satin-backed Dupion. Did you know that Dupoin is made from the silk of a cocoon with two silkworms in it? It has an uneven surface with bumps in the weave.

The next (the red one) is Duchesse Satin – made of polyester. This is nice and opaque and rather too stiff for a blouse. It’s more suitable for evening dresses, jackets and things that you won’t sit down in very much.

The last is Habutai silk. This is very lightweight. It’s translucent. Because it’s so thin, it’s often used for Hong Kong finishing seams and hems.

For my sheers seam and hem samples I used Double Georgette. It was on sale and I soon found of why: it’s off-grain. (There’s a lesson for me.) It’s a lovely fabric, when you’ve got it on grain, but I don’t think I will use it very often. I think it’s better suited to making ruffles.

Here is a picture of “squares” of the fabric. The one of the left is totally off-grain even though I cut it as a square. The one of the right is better. If you cut the fabric off-grain it immediately goes into a funny shape when you move it. (The square in the middle is the paper pattern I made.)

When you sew this fabric you must put tissue paper underneath it, otherwise the machine will eat it.

Here is a buttonhole on Double Georgette (I carefully tore away the tissue paper after stitching). Isn’t it nice? I know I keep going on about the buttonholes on my sewing machine, but they are so much easier than on my last sewing machine!

When I get my other samples I can send off my assignment. But I have a long way to walk because our post office is not there any more. Really. One day my brother went and found it had been demolished! (It’s like saying “I won’t be here when you get back!”) Now we have to go up a steep hill. And my later assignments are full garments and A3 size envelopes. “Why don’t you take the car?” I hear you say. “I don’t drive” is my answer. I would rather use the bus and save myself thousands of pounds per year, so I suppose I oughtn’t to complain when I think of it that way. : )

Until next time, Happy Sewing!
Sabrina Wharton-Brown
The Sewing Corner Haberdashery, 41 Market Place, Hornsea, East Yorkshire, HU18 1AP, UK

P.S. I still want to get a TOL sewing machine. What do you recommend? I’m looking at the Brother 4000D. I want to get a used machine from a good dealer. They’re at least nearly as good as new and about £1000 cheaper. I think sewing machines are like cars: the minute you buy it you loose a lot of the value. Why pay the extra in the first place?

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