Monday, January 18, 2010

The Wonderful World of Fabrics


I sew because of my appreciation of textiles. I find it hard to resist the colors, textures, patterns and feel of most fabric. To me there is nothing quite as inspiring as walking through a fabric store perusing the bolts. The "onslaught" of all that color and texture gets my creative juices flowing and causes me to want to run home and get sewing one of my handmade original designs.

In honor of all things fabric I thought I would list some of my favorites and define them. We often hear the names of different types but don't always know what a particular fabric actually is. I hope this quick tutorial will be of benefit to you. This information comes from a reference book I got way way way back in 1969.

Batiste- A soft, sheer fabric of plain weave available in cotton, cotton poly blend, silk and synthetics. (Often used for christening gowns.)

Boucle'- A medium weight fabric woven or knitted of irregularly twisted yarns. Distinguished by small spaced loops on fabric surface, boucle' is available in natural and synthetic fabrics. (Boucle' is a wonderful fabric for jackets. The weave has 'body' and texture which makes it look rich.)


Brocade- A Jacquard weave, often of floral design and multi-colored, recognized by its raised design. It is made of natural and synthetic fibers. (Brocade is usually satiny. The design is woven in. Fancy!)

Challis- A soft, lightweight fabric made with a plain or twill weave of natural or synthetic fiber. (I find this most often in rayon. It is drapey and soft. Great for flowing skirts!)


Chiffon- A very sheer, transparent, gauzy plain weave fabric made of highly twisted yarns in wool, silk and synthetic fibers. (Chiffon is elegant and beautiful, especially when done in silk.)


Damask- A Jacquard weave of one color with a characteristic flat design in a satin finish with a dull background. It is reversible. Made of natural and synthetic fibers. (Another fabric with the design woven in. Tablecloths are often made this way.)


Lawn- A sheer, fine cotton or linen fabric made in a plain weave. It is crisper than voile, less crisp that organdy. (Ideal for summery garments.)

Linen- This plain weave fabric of naturally slubbed yarns, spun from flax fibers, is available in weights from lightweight sheers to heavy coatings. Linen-like cloth is available in silk and synthetics. (One of my 3 most favorite fabrics! Anything made from linen get softer and drapier with wearing and washing.)


Melton- This smooth, heavy fabric has a felted, napped surface. Made in wool and wool blends. Is is usually used for outerwear. (The perfect wool for a jacket or coat. Another of my 3 favorite fabrics.)


Organdy- This sheer, stiff, transparent cloth, made in a plain weave, is available in cotton and silk. (Another fabric used for christening gowns. A classic fabric for summery tops.)


Tussah- A fabric made of rough, irregular silk produced by uncultivated silkworms. Often referred to as raw silk, the yarns are thick and tough. (This is another of my 3 most favorite fabrics, although I am a fan of ALL silks. Tussah has a substantial texture and is really beautiful.)


Velvet- A pile fabric woven of silk or synthetic fibers. The pile may be cut, uncut or both cut and uncut. If a design has been cut into the pile it is called cut velvet. If the pile has been pressed (or 'crushed') it is called panne' velvet. (Velvet creates a rich and dramatic look!)


Voile- A crisp, sheer lightweight fabric made with a plain weave, may be plain or printed. Although similar to lawn and organdy, it is less crisp. It is available in cotton and synthetics. (Another great summery fabric.)


This is a very limited list of the fabrics that are available but it does cover the ones I love to work with most. I am especially drawn towards the natural fibers but there are some beautiful manmade ones out there as well that are hard to resist. Have you seen the movie "Field of Dreams"? If so you will recall the line 'If you build it, he will come.' I have reworded that line in regard to my fabric addiction: 'If they weave it, I will buy'. And buy and buy and buy. And that is why I sew and sew and sew.


Please drop by my website and check out my creations. This week I am working with some winter heavyweights. One is a beautiful piece of brown and black wool done in a chunky weave. The texture is striking, the colors are earthy, the result..... well, that has yet to be determined but I am thinking of a cape or jacket. Either way it will be gorgeous as the fabric is wonderful.

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