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What’s All the Fuss About Fabric?

Elvis Elvis

The fuss is over the fact that there are hundreds of kinds of fabric to choose from. Lycra, spandex, fleece, sheers, flannel, suede, etc… I remember my flegling trip to the sewing goods store. Since my initiation into the sewing world…oh my, how things have changed! That was in 1966, I was 12 (no adding!) and my mom took me to the sewing shop. She thought that by choosing the material for the dress I was going to make that I would remain excited through the course of my lessons as she taught me to sew. She was right! (as mothers usually are) It was a small store, by today’s standards, stuck in between a dress shop and a bank; hardly noticeable really. It was barely perceived as even being a shop (except to other sewers), but it didn’t have to be. Sewing was not a big deal (in fact, if you wore homemade clothes then you were thought of as borderline poverty) so there wasn’t another sewing goods store in town. Back then everything was made from natural fibers (the greatest in demand being cotton). Of course, we had linen (which had been made crease-resistant…yippee! )and woolens which, as amazing as it seemed then, were often pre-shrunk and sometimes washable. (I remember washing and drying something made of wool that wasn’t supposed to be washed and dried, but that’s another story…) The most “far-out” fabrics of the day were called knits. These were made from woven yarn and there were 3 basic kinds available: 1) jersey 2) double-knit and 3) tricot. These knits had no grain; what they had is called a rib. It is this rib that gives the material its lengthwise direction.

Whats All the Fuss About Fabric?

Also, there were two other materials which had no grain. They were lace and net. These were very intricate materials and were made on special machines. Because of this, they were also relatively expensive.

And lastly, there were two non-woven products available. Those were called felt and interfacing. Felt was made from woolen fibers which were matted together by steam. Interfacing was a synthetic material which was bonded together by chemicals…that is why it was never used where it could be seen; it was only used to stiffen collars or petticoats.

And there you had it! The fabric world was home to maybe 10 types of materials. So really the only choices a homesewer had was in considering the color and print. NOW… look in the fabric store today! There are fabrics made from as many materials as there are leaves on a tree. Oh sure, there are still woolens and knits, cottons and lace, but ,oh….so many more…I went to Joann’s with my daughter, Chastity, the other night. She wanted to make something for a friend and I went along to help her choose the pattern and material. As we were standing there waiting our approach to the cutting table (which is why I prefer to shop online) I was reading on the back of the pattern envelope that she needed interfacing. I might add that it had already taken us an hour and a half to choose a fabric (not to mention I had probably walked two miles combing the aisles for “just the right one”). “Oops, you need interfacing. It’s over there” I told her, pointing to the other side of the cutting table. “It’s also known as Pellon–see it right there.” In a moment I heard her voice as she called back to me, “Mom, what kind?” I looked up to see her standing next to at least 15 bolts of interfacing. I just had to laugh! (boy, did I feel old!) They have different types for all sorts of applications. You want to choose the one which is closest in weight as the material you are lining it with.

So take a trip of your own. Visit the various shops, see the multitude of materials, machines, accessories and other sewing goods. Then remember, “YOU’VE COME A LONG WAY,BABY!”

TIP:Let’s say you have in mind what you’d like the fabric to look like…but you’ve spent all day searching through the sewing shop in town and also the one at the mall and you can’t find it. “What am I going to do?” you ask yourself severely disappointed that your travels of searching for the perfect print have turned up zilch. Consider going online. Visit some retailers of fabric on the web…I do it all the time and love it! It’s convenient, it’s easy and (the best part of all) you can find anything you want without leaving your home. That’s gotta save on the life of my shoes. And as an added benefit I can spend the gas money I save on a notion or two. You gonna love it too!