Friday, August 10, 2012

Fabrics That Give You Advice?

The Bishop Method of Clothing Construction, by Edna Bryte Bishop

While I was at the fantastic Value Village in Seattle, I came across this vintage sewing book from 1966. At the fabulous low price of $2, I of course snatched it up, along with the Singer Sewing Book. Both are chock full of useful sewing tips and techniques, as well as more advanced topics such as tailoring suits and reupholstering sofas. As I was reading through the Bishop book earlier this week (yes, I have now switched over to reading sewing texts instead of SF/F), I came across this interesting section, entitled "Fabrics suggest their own techniques."

Right click and select "Open link in new tab" to see a bigger version.

Gosh, I wish I had seen this before I started my Promaballoona dress! Perhaps then my fabric would have suggested that I not sew it into a formal dress. Hah! As if I would have listened to it. But just for kicks, I thought I would go through the little list of questions and see what my fabric would have said.

You can see how ripply and sheer the curtain panel was.
And is that just a huge, exceedingly plush, discolored starburst, or is it Walnut??
  1. I think a glass of wine might have been the special help I needed for cutting that cursed fabric. As it was, Walnut helped out as a pattern weight.
  2. I didn't mark the sheer piece at all, which might have explained why my pieces didn't match up. I used my washable marker for the lining, which seems like a bad idea in retrospect, seeing as how I don't know how to even wash this dress. Also, it was marked (temporarily) by Gummy's drool.
  3. The underlining was definitely necessary, so at least in that respect I let the fabric speak and I listened. I'm actually really pleased with how the lime green lining adds a certain depth and brilliance to the otherwise dull green net.
  4. My mom's machine actually had a very difficult time sewing through the plush sections of the curtain. I have a sneaking suspicion that the presser foot presses a lot more than my machine at home, as my fabric gets more bunchy and it seems to get stuck when the layers of fabric are thick. If I had had a walking foot or some way to adjust the pressure, I think it might have done better with the plush. 
  5. At least I figured out that fewer pieces, and therefore seams, was the best idea for this combination of fabrics. Just two bodice pieces and three skirt pieces, but even then if I hadn't been so dead-set on pockets, I think a giant one-piece skirt would have worked better. 
  6. THE SEAM FINISH WAS NEEDED. BOY WAS IT NEEDED. And ignored, on that center back seam. Sigh, I suppose I should finish it before I move back to LA, since the green thread belongs to my mom. Not that that really matters, though, considering that my seam bindings are every color but green. Yikes, I can feel my blood pressure rising just thinking about the insides of that dress.
  7. The darts weren't exactly bulky, just bubbly. So I was actually right in lowering the back neckline so as to avoid the back neck darts! Hmmm, maybe the fabric was talking to me, I just didn't realize it!
  8. The nice thing about underlining is that I didn't have to worry so much about my catch-stitching being uneven/not quite invisible. Unfortunately, the net is sheer, so it's still somewhat visible, if you look closely at it. But really, who's going to be looking at my hem, right? Please tell me that no one will look at the hem! *pleading look*
  9. I shudder to think of making buttonholes on this fabric combination. Thank goodness I didn't decide the fabric told me not to put buttons anywhere.  
  10. The lining fabric was so slippery and fraytastic that I decided not to use it for facings. Instead, I used a sturdy cotton (Pochacco) bedsheet. Excellent choice. *pats self on back* Oh, oops, I meant *pats fabric for speaking truth to me*
Wow, so I guess the fabric really did tell me what to do! According to Bishop, that makes me on par with a professional seamstress. YES!!! *fist pump* Of course, some people might just say that this type of analysis should just be common sense, and that it's my own fault for choosing such a difficult fabric to work with.

Do you usually let the fabric tell you what to do? Do you listen to what it says, or do you just charge ahead with your own ideas, only to regret it later, like I did?


  1. lol - I've told you that you think like a professional, and you still doubt it?? And trust me, everyone ends up sewing something with some fabric that is all wrong or awful for a project at some point. It's always worse when it is forced upon you by a designer...or a client.

    Once, a client brought me a last minute project with horrible horrible fabric for a formal dress for a political ball. It had plastic glue blobs that looked like a seed-bead pattern all over it. There was no way to sew through it and if you tried, you had major gaps in the seams because it didn't bend over the glue blobs. I ended up staying up all night to pull the blobs off with pliers to make about a 1/8" groove in which to sew my seams (I didn't remove more because they were REALLY hard to pull off). I absolutely HATED that dress (but at least the client loved it)!

    I only look at hems if they are uneven or have ripply stitches. =)

    1. Oh wow. Glue blobs and pliers...I can't even imagine! It makes me look at those plush sections with a more kindly eye.

      So, umm, that's got ripply stitches :)

    2. Then the sheer layer must hide them well - I don't remember the hem being all that visible in your photos. =)

  2. Seamstress = fabric whisperer. ;) Sorry, I couldn't resist.

  3. Reading that post reminded me how much of a beginner I am :/
    What's a walking foot?
    I'll really need to learn these things so I can progress and sew with silk and chiffon and stuff. Only bee sewing with cotton sateen and polyester!
    Your prom dress looked awesome anyway, I think when you make it yourself are are more critical and fussy :)
    Such awesome fabric!

    1. A walking foot supposedly "walks" over the fabric layers, instead of just pressing them all together. With a walking foot, layers don't get bunched up or shift, which is why they get used for quilts or knits. Theoretically. I don't have one, so this is what I gather from reading other people's blogs!

      I think you are doing just fine with the materials you've been using! I don't think making things with crazy fabric necessarily makes one more or less advanced of a seamstress.

  4. Those are some great questions---I may just pin that picture to refer to whenever I'm using mystery fabric (which is at least half the time.) And man have I made some dumb fabric choices recently... I think you probably did as well as anyone could have with your tricky fabric.

    She didn't keep up with it, but this was a hilarious blog on improving your sewing by following the Bishop Method:

    /sigh. I still miss that blog. Her PR pattern reviews are awesome, too.

    1. Yeah, I was so excited to find that page because it's a more systematic way of approaching my thrifted fabrics. Even though I apparently do some approximation of that type of analysis, it seems like a good thing to do more regularly.

      I'm going to have to check out that blog!

  5. Boy I will never get tired of seeing photos of your gorgeous Walnut! This is a really interesting article, thanks for the tips! XxxX

  6. LMAO!! I totally feel ya - there are plenty of things I know I shouldn't do, but do anyway... seriously, it's like the only way I can learn ^__^ But as you discovered, you probably instinctively know a lot more than you give yourself credit for, and I have a hunch that's cause you've experimented and forged ahead in doing stuff you know you shouldn't - that's my philosophy anyway ^__^ LOL

    I'm LOVING Walnut as an oversized starburst shaped pattern weight... just wanna give him a big smushy hug! ^__^


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