All You Need To Sew...
Things at Fabworks HQ have been particularly busy since we posted our last blog and as usual the British weather has been as changeable as ever. As soon as we start planning our spring and summer wardrobes and getting all giddy about fresh pastel colour palettes and hot summer florals, the weather suddenly turns all wintery again! If you have been perusing Fabworks Online recently you may have noticed some new additions.
Yes, we know it’s a strange time of year to be getting all enthusiastic about boiled wool fabrics, but as George has rightly written as an add-on to the product descriptions online, these fabrics are hard to come by in our industry at the right price. So, what’s all the fuss about boiled wool fabric and what exactly is boiled wool?
Boiled wool fabrics are knitted, unusual for wool, or what we think of as wool. With it being knitted it means that the fabric has that 'give' to it, and doesn't go as tort when you tighten/pull at it, compared to if it was a wool worsted (which is woven, not knitted). Once knitted, the boiled wool fabrics are treated on a high temperature wash which agitates them, causing the fabric to shrink and its fibres to fuse together, thus producing a denser and more textured, felted like fabric. The closely knitted fibres give us a fabric that is cosy and warm, still has some stretch, with a good weight and reassuring drape quality, plus the fact that (and this is the big plus point) the fabric doesn’t fray at all!
You will have seen garments in small niche boutique stores (on selected high streets) touting garments made up in boiled wool fabrics with a price tag to match their premium postcode. Garments such as waterfall front cardigans, belted coatigans and neat blazers are all garments you have probably admired in such places, but do you know how easy they are to make?
Wendy Ward's Kinder Cardigan from the book A Beginners Guide To Sewing With Knitted Fabrics is a superb pattern, aimed at beginners (or for quick makes). Make this up in the quality virgin boiled wool and you will have a stylish coatigan that looks like you bought it from some expensive designer boutique.
Because you don’t have to worry about the raw edges fraying, the boiled wool allows you to produce professional looking garments with bespoke touches. Here's a closeup of the raw edge of the Marvelous Grey Marl colourway.
Something as simple as a kimono style jacket will take on the look of a super expensive investment piece. If you have never worked with boiled wool before, a good place to start is a simple tunic style top or dress such as the Tilly and the Buttons – Coco. The funnel neck version is an excellent pattern which you can quickly make for versatile styling with leggings or jeans (or tights if you make the dress) You can create superb textural details by putting your seams on the outside , simply trim the seams down or top-stitch on the outside, believe me this works really well, and because the boiled wool is the same on each side you don’t have to worry about construction order/ making pairs etc.
If you want to get ahead of the game and start planning your A/W garments now is the time! Get your hands on this precious virgin boiled wool before it sells out, also with the typical changeable weather we’ve been having here in the UK who doesn’t need a throw on lightweight coat or cardigan?
The Dawson coatigan by The Thrifty Stitcher (above) is a superb pattern with stunning exposed dart details at the sleeve and back neck, which will look beautiful made in any of our fabulous boiled wools. If you love the exposed darts detailing on the Dawson coatigan, The Talviki top by Named Clothing has a similar style and is ideal for beginner sewers or just simply a quick make. Its definitely on my list! Here it is, below:
Darkest Deep Teal is one of the most popular colours that we know our customers always want to see more of. This jewel toned fabric teams with purple, lilac, sapphire blues and black perfectly.
Bitter Chocolate Bliss is the ideal alternative to black for those who find blacks a little harsh for their skin tone. Rich, bitter chocolate undertones make this colourway perfect for teaming with other natural colours such as, earthy greens, russet, mustard, and deep indigo blues. Dark chocolate tones look fabulous with rich blues and your favourite pair of jeans.
Milky Mocha Beige is a chic neutral. With warm mocha undertones it is the ideal fabric for stylish and versatile garments that go with everything and can be dressed up or down. Team up a belted coatigan or waterfall front cardigan, with your Jeans and a white shirt, some tan boots and matching handbag and you have a classic effortless style.
Marvellous Grey Marl. Who doesn’t love grey? You can wear most other colours with this go-to classic. Marled grey has a cosy and relaxed look and style that means you can create garments that will look equally good worn with your jeans and a T-shirt, from cardigans and sweaters to super smart unlined blazers (we love the Morris Blazer by Grainline studios). Stand alone pieces such as tunic dresses and pinafore dresses are equally ideal. Also, let's not forget the gents - this excellent fabric will make super cosy sweatshirts and fabulous grandad style shawl collar cardigans too!
If this cold snap in the weather is getting you down, then get your hands on our fabulous boiled wools and make up some super chic, quick make, versatile garments that you will love wrapping yourself up in.
April 2019 Fabworks' Fabric of The Month: Leopard Shadows - a beautiful & drapey cotton viscose blend
The price of Leopard Shadows is usually £7 per metre
Throughout April the FoTM price is £4.50 per metre. Let's explain why...
When we decided that Leopard Shadows viscose and cotton jacquard was going to be our Fabric of The Month my immediate thoughts were; which colour shall I choose?
There are three beautiful colourways in this collection: Cream, Dark Magenta, and French Navy. It can be difficult to choose which one to go for when you’re a bit of a fabric addict, so if you take a shine to all of them the only thing to do is take them all!
Fabric Product Spec:
Leopard Shadows is a first rate, high thread count, jacquard woven viscose & cotton mix. This excellent fabric has an amazing subtle leopard spot designs, intricately woven throughout which captures the light then retreats back into the shadows when the fabric is draped and gathered. The background of this first rate fabric is woven in a superfine twill weave displaying the tiny leopard spots perfectly and contrasting against the more pronounced twill weave. The fabric is stable width and lengthwise with a slight ease to the width. Featuring a beautifully soft and malleable feel which is reassuringly drapey too. This is one of those fabrics suited to a host of projects and will wash and wear well.
Ideal for shirts, blouse, shirtdresses, tea dress styles, tulips style skirts, gathered skirts, cowl, drape detail tops and dresses, tunics, palazzo pants, harem style pants, any loose drapey and fitted styles too, as well as fit & flare style dresses (bodices may require lining). Equally suited to craft purposes too - cushions and light soft furnishings.
Anyway, back to the task in hand, which colour do I choose!
Leopard Shadows is truly versatile. If you do decide that you want more than one colourway, the good news is that there is something to cover all seasons; the two darker tones are ideal for autumn/winter and will easily layer up well with your winter woollens. The cream tone has an ethereal elegance and will make superb bridal wear as well as a host of stunning spring/summer ensembles.
As I regularly use multiple fabrics when making my garments, the multicolour factor is very characteristic of my design choices and overall style. Similarly with the fabulous sewing blogger Saturday Night Stitch, who also has a colour-inspired style, used all three colourways of Leopard Shadows for this Moon Pocket Maxi Dress (Sew Different pattern).
This fab dress has a very bohemian style and shows off the Leopard Shadows' wonderful drape quality to perfection! Take a look at @saturdaynightstitch Instagram story 'Frocktails' where she modelled the dress and you can see how beautifully the fabric moves with its drapey quality and fine gathers.
My official job title at Fabworks is 'Product Specialist' so it's my job to describe all the Fabworks Online products before they go onto the website, but I do prefer to make clothes than write about the fabrics before they actually become clothes, who doesn't? My job does allow me to ponder ideas and get a good understanding of the fabric itself, which in turn means that I know what will and won't work effectively when it comes to garment construction. I digress. Now it was my turn, here's how and what I've managed to conjure up. After deciding that I’d like to include all three colourways in my creation, I went for the Rosa shirt dress pattern from Tilly and The Buttons. A recent purchase of mine, but one I’ve been wanting to make for a while. I knew that this would be perfect to showcase the fabric’s multiple colourways; a princess line, panelled ‘western style’ shirt with lots of scope to play with when colour blocking.
The pattern suggests medium and lightweight woven fabrics, such as cotton chambray, lighter weight denims, fine needlecord, double gauze, linen (& blends), viscose and shirting cotton etc. The wonderful Leopard Shadows viscose and cotton jacquard fits the bill perfectly; it's a medium/light weight, soft, breathable and drapey, yet stable and closely woven too. If you read our concise product description here you'll find plenty of info about the fabrics’ style, feel and properties.
I decided to take 1 metre of each of the three colourways so that I could play around with the placement of pattern pieces and gauge how the colour blocking would look on the final thing.
Before starting on any cutting out, the fabric should always be washed and ironed first, so I took a couple of samples of each colourway in order to conduct a little washing experiment to see if there was any colour run or shrinkage. A colour catcher is really helpful here! I washed the fabrics at 30 degrees and the colour catcher revealed a slight shed of colour from the Dark Magenta and French Navy, but nothing noteworthy. I'm happy that this was the right wash type for these fabrics and I'm confident that any further colour run will be minimal although I may use a colour catcher sheet in each wash to be on the safe side.
Here are our washed samples alongside the originals (unwashed):
The nature of the jacquard weave did make the fabrics take on a puckered and more textured appearance once out of the washing machine and dried, so my advice is to gently smooth the puckers and creases out by pulling across the warp and weft, then hanging the fabric out to dry naturally. The line dried pieces dried with much less puckering and creases, (it was a very breezy day and I do think this helped). Once dried the fabric will need ironing and as you'll see from the photos, the ironing process reveals and returns the silky sateen quality of the jacquard to its former state. Ironing relaxes the fibres and brings the silky drape quality back. As already mentioned the texture was slightly puckered but once the washed sample pieces were ironed and placed alongside the unwashed samples, it’s clear that the fabric definitely doesn't shrink when washed. Here they are, washed and in the ironing basket ready, in the glorious West Yorkshire sunshine!
Next step is of course cutting out! I don’t usually plan my designs out so rigorously, but after having found images online showing the back of the pattern envelope, I printed off the images to work out which colours would work best for a flattering look and style. For example, navy panels placed at the sides of the shirt dress create a slimming effect, and using the cream for the yoke and sleeves this will project light up in to my face. I also wanted to create a ‘western style’ feature of the yoke by attaching an applique or embroidered motif. Here are the applique motifs placed onto the fabric where they'll appear on the garment.
Using contrasting top stitching on the panels creates extra interest and defines the feminine silhouette. The princess seams on the pattern instructions are mock felled, but I decided just to overlock and top-stitch mine for quicker results.
On to the construction. One of the reasons I enjoy making my clothes is the flexibility to create my own colour combinations and stamp out my own individual style. However one of the most practical reasons is the fact that (like most of us) I am not a standard size. I am short (5ft 2”), I have a relatively smallish waist and hips (size 12) but my bust line is several sizes larger. This can be problematic when buying dresses, so it’s much simpler to just make my own!
Having used Tilly and the Buttons' patterns several times before, I do recommend them because they're a pleasure to use. They are printed on quality paper, have clear pattern markings and a really useful instruction booklet with photos. There are also useful tips on their blog too. Due to larger requirements in the bust line, I decided to cut my pattern pieces out at this larger size then grade the waist and hip measurements inwards when I seamed them together, removing any excess on the overlocker.
Having decided to add an embroidered appliqué detail to the yoke of my Rosa shirt, I made this the first task. Using a tiny satin stitch on my machine and following the contours of my self-made applique pieces (chosen from a superb embroidered silk chiffon that I already had in my stash). It was completed carefully but speedily, so I was itching to start putting my design together. The light/medium silky handle of Leopard Shadows meant that the use of interfacing was required, to go underneath the embroidered fabric. The yokes did still pucker a little, but gentle ironing relaxed the viscose and cotton fibres and my beautiful yoke pieces ironed nice and flat. (SEE PHOTO) Tips like stay stitching the necklines and other areas is important as this helps to strengthen and stabilise intricate parts of the garment.
After setting the yoke pieces aside I couldn’t resist mocking up the placement of the front bands, pockets and buttons just to get more of a feel for how things would eventually look. Choices on which top stitching colour and which buttons, are usually best decided upon at this stage. I have to admit I do love top-stitching and find the process extremely therapeutic, so after stitching my centre fronts and side front panels together and the same for the centre back and side panels, I was ready to check the fit. I know my own body contours from years of making my own clothes, so grading the seams in at the waist (and slightly over the hips) had always worked well. After removing the excess on the overlocker, and careful pressing. One tip I always give to new dressmakers is that your iron and ironing board are invaluable, you will only achieve professional results by pressing seams carefully and find sewing processes much easier.
Now I was ready to start top-stitching. Leopard Shadows viscose and cotton jacquard is lovely and drapey but otherwise stable and doesn’t stretch, but you will need to take care when sewing curved seams as these cross the bias which naturally has more ease. Matching notches and pinning will help with this. The close weave of this excellent fabric produces a reassuringly strong yet drapey fabric because of the viscose content. Top-stitching the panelled seams not only creates detail but adds strength and stability to a style of garment that will be washed and worn frequently. Tilly recommends pressing the princess seams towards the centre of the bodices. I chose to top-stitch in a gorgeous golden mustard colour to pick up the mustard embroidery in the yoke panels ( I think this unifies everything well), although using a contrasting top-stitch does mean it shows up any wobbly stitching (note to self – must use twin needles next time!). The heavier nature of top-stitching thread also helps to give definition to pocket flaps and button tabs on the sleeves.
This fabulous creation does come together quite quickly if you invest time prepping and pressing. As Leopard Shadows viscose & cotton jacquard is a light/ medium weight, interfacing the front bands with a suitably stable product is essential especially if you choose to use jean style poppers / press studs down the front.
The silky jacquard weave of Leopard Shadows gives the fabric a really luxurious texture that has the benefit of also being breathable and gentle on the skin. I am extremely happy with my unique creation and know this will become one of my favourite dresses that I already love wearing.
Using multiple fabric combinations gives you the freedom for self expression and why not, that’s why I make my own clothes!
You can see from the photos of Hila’s and my dress how two totally different styles were achievable in the same fabrics, this demonstrates the versatility of this first rate Leopard Shadows fabrics collection.
If you feel inspired, try this fabric for yourself. It's available here for £4.50 per metre. Also available at Fabworks Mill Shop.
Normal price: £7 per metre
FoTM price: £4.50 per metre
If you'd like to try this fabric for yourself click here for the full product breakdown where you can choose any (or all) of the colours available. There is no discount code to enter as the price now stated online is the current price. Please note that this FoTM offer will expire at the end of April 2019.
Fabric of The Month Background Info:
At the beginning of every month Fabworks brings you a new Fabric of The Month. This feature runs for one month (first day to last day) of every month, offering one or multiple fabrics from a collection at a reduced price. We always try to keep the FoTM offer relevant, on-trend and affordable.
If you place an order for any cut length fabrics at Fabworks Online, we will usually send an informative handout + FREE samples of the current FoTM with plenty of info, fabric specification and scope for new sewing projects. This means that you can see and feel the fabric before buying or waiting for a sample order to arrive. It is a complimentary service that we provide to all Fabworks Online customers. Please note that this is not guaranteed as we may have run out of samples of the current FoTM.
This offer also extends to Fabworks Mill Shop. If you are a Fabworks Mill Shop customer you can play with the fabric in person when you visit the shop.
What did you feel about this episode after Episode 4's theme was announced the previous week? Did you feel the same way after having watched it?