There has been a bit of a debate on the sewing-focused internet world lately regarding what those who sew and create should call themselves. Are we sewers (but it sounds like a waste disposal network!)? Are we seamstresses (so confining, old fashioned, and gendered)? Are we sewists (but it’s a made up word – gasp, shock, horror!)?
I’m actually OK with all of them. I tend to use seamstress because, well, I’m an old-fashioned girl.
Really though, they are all slight misnomers, because the things that make the biggest difference in the final result of your project often aren’t the seams themselves: they are fabric choice, cutting, and pressing.
Pressing is so, so important – I’ll talk more about it later (the most accomplished draper/dressmaker/seamstress/costumier/pattern cutter, whatever you want to call her that I have ever worked with used to say “Never trust a seamstress who doesn’t use her iron more than her sewing machine”), but today I want to talk about fabric choice.
Fabric choice can make or break a project. A really, really, really good seamstress can make a bad fabric work, but it isn’t easy. It’s much more effective to just pick the right fabric for your project from the start.
So how do you know which fabric to pick? Patterns generally give guidelines, and a good independent fabric store will have staff that will know their fabrics, and can help you pick a suitable fabric.
Ideally though, you want to learn the fabrics for yourself.
Learn the different fibres that fabrics are made from: natural fibres like wool, linen, silk, and cotton, the processed naturals like rayon (or is that viscose?), and the synthetics like polyester, acrylic, and nylon.
Learn the weaves, the basics of tabby, twill, satin, and the rarer weaves like leno. Learn the knit weaves that allow for stretch.
Learn how to tell weaves by sight, and what a fabric is by feel, and (if that fails) how to do burn tests.
And most of all, learn what fabrics are good for what kind of sewing!
All of this takes a lot of reading, a lot of looking at fabric, a lot of sewing, and a lot of asking questions. But it’s worth it – because no matter how much you know about fabrics, there is always more to know, and the better you know your fabric, the better your sewing will look.
I feel so strongly about this, and I love fabric so much, that the class that I’m most excited about at Made Marion is Fabric Identification.
It’s not a sewing class, but it’s going to be tons of fun, and everyone who takes it will be a better sewer/seamstress/sewist after. We’re going to look at lots of fabric and feel lots of fabric and talk about fabric and play fabric identification games and learn so much. Students are going to get to play with some of my stash (I’ve shown some examples in the photos), and their own stash. I can’t wait! I hope some of you are joining me!