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Singer Dressmaking Course: Is The Fabric Right for the Design?

When buying pattern and fabric, consider one in relation to the other: is the fabric right for the design, or the design right for the fabric?  Also, are both design and fabric right for one’s figure type?  There is a wide assortment of patterns and fabrics for every type.  Keep in mind that vertical lines tend to make on appear taller; large plaids, bold prints, horizontal lines and fabrics with a definite sheen tend to make one appear larger….Refer to the back of the pattern envelope for suggestions as to suitable fabrics…Singer Dressmaking Course in 8 Easy Steps, 1961.

Dear Friends,

When I was first learning how to sew, my grandmother directed me toward regular, run of the mill cottons or polyesters.  But I didn’t want to sew with those!  Even though I wasn’t exposed to them in my everyday life, I wanted to sew the brocades and taffetas and velvets and satins and silks!  You know…the pretty fabrics that still lure me into the downtown fabric shops and beg me to fondle them.  And when I started paying for my own fabrics, those fancy fabrics were the ones I bought and used to make garments.

But, I didn’t “get it” and I was often disappointed with the resulting garment (never mind that my technical skills weren’t quite ready for those fussier fabrics).  You see, I wasn’t making the mental connection that I couldn’t just choose a pattern and choose the fabric in a vacuum.   Fabric has its own personality and, just like humans with jobs or romance, it doesn’t want to be stuck with a pattern that isn’t right for it.  A slinky silk charmeuse just wants to lay around.  It refuses to do the work that a structured suit requires.  Conversely, wool flannel is not going to drape and flow and move with you, despite being made into palazzo pants.

So often, I see new sewers struggle with a garment because they get ahead of themselves when it comes to choosing fabric.  In our introductory to fashion design classes at school, our students are required to use basic, run of the mill, quilting cotton.  The goal is to make sure they learn the sewing basics with an easier to handle fabric to make a skirt with some sort of hem detail.  It isn’t until they take the pattern making through draping class that they really start learning how to listen to the fabric and let its personality shine through in a perfect design.  Since most home sewers aren’t designing their own patterns through draping, we need to trust the fabric guide on the back of the pattern to lead us to the best fabric choices.  Can we deviate from the recommendations?  Sure!  But we may not get the results we expect.

Have you ever had a fashion disaster due to mismatched fabric and pattern choice?

Happy sewing!

Dr. Julie-Ann


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One Comment

  1. I remember the “old days” of shopping for patterns and fabric with my mother. We would sit down to the pattern books, then ask the clerk to retrieve our selected pattern from the drawer. Then we would look around the shop for the right fabric, using the suggestions on the back of the envelope as our guide. Fabric “spoke” to my mother, so if I asked for a fabric not listed, Mother would feel it and pronounce her verdict: “It will (or won’t) do it.” We didn’t experiment much. We couldn’t afford mistakes.

    I am more apt to make a style mistake than a fabric mistake.

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