First off, Happy Easter Sunday! I hope all of you who celebrate this day have gotten lots of chocolate and hot cross buns and good things to eat ;) and if not, hopefully you're having a lovely day anyway. Today I want to talk about my top 5 tips for choosing fabrics to sew with. It can be a bit daunting sometimes, especially if you're not working from a pattern and therefore have no recommendations to work from. So, here we go...
It's important to get to know a bit about different fabrics, and how they differ from each other. Most people begin with simple cotton fabric, which is great to work with since it's light, breathable, yet holds enough structure to work well for a lot of garments. However, it's unlikely that you would want to make an autumn jacket out of it, where a heavier linen or denim might be more appropriate. Take some time to research the weights, breath-ability, textures and variations of whatever fabrics you're considering, and save yourself a lot of trouble later on.
Believe me, sewing lightweight cotton is not the same as sewing lurex, or denim, or leather. Whether you're making small adjustments by hand or sewing a full garment by machine, do not assume that one needle and thread fit all. Invest in a range of thicker needles and sturdier threads for the fabrics that really need them, and a couple of thin, lightweight ones for fabrics such as silk and satin. And don't neglect the tension settings on your machine, as I am so prone to doing - they really do make a shocking difference on the quality and success of your sewing.
From experience, attempting to sew a complex silk nightie or dress as your first ever time sewing with silk is a terrible, terrible idea. Even if you've been sewing for years, always take a little time to get to know your new fabric and what tension and techniques work best with it. You or your machine might need a little tweaking in order to avoid any disasters, and it's far better that happens with some excess scrap than your actual garment.
Personally, i'm not a big fan of commercial fabric stores. I think they're generally over-priced and don't have enough choice. Look online at independent retails on eBay and etsy for unique fabrics (especially awesome printed cotton cuts), local markets, small craft stores and or in thrift / charity stores for unusual and vintage cuts. I've made shorts from an old table cloth before, and pyjamas from a bed sheet - put your Maria Von Trapp head on and think creatively, and you might be pretty surprised at what you can find second-hand or even new, often for great prices. There's some amazing stuff to work with, and it needn't all cost a fortune if you know where to look.
I'm guilty of it too, but try not to buy fabrics without having a garment in mind, or at least be prepared to work around that once you've bought them. I find it easier to have an idea in mind then look at a range of fabrics and decide what will work best to make it. If you have an idea at least of the general shape of something and how you want it to look when worn, you'll find it much easier to consider colours, textures and weights by picturing the final product.
I hope this post was useful and interesting to somebody out there! Do you put a lot of thought into choosing your fabrics to work with? Where do you prefer to source them from? Let me know below!
- Natalie XOX