Friday, 28 September 2012

A Visit to Laboratoire Needles

I buy a lot of my fabrics from stalls, remnant bins, etc, and often have to guess at what they're made up of. It's never been a problem - no cleaning disasters so far! - but the fabrics I've used in a few recent projects have made me curious about finding out more.

Then I remembered the burn tests we did on fabrics in my 'A' Level (equivalent to High School) Fashion and Textiles classes. Basically, a burn test consisted of setting a small swatch of fabric alight, then observing how it burnt and analysing the residue or ash left behind to determine the composition of the fabric. Yup - we were allowed to set stuff on fire in the name of education!

After consulting a few websites, such as Fabric University and Fiber Images, I felt confident enough to open up Laboratoire Needles and burn stuff!

These are the basic tools you need:

Tin foil, tweezers, a jar for catching residue/extinguishing flame, and fabric swatches
I pulled a few strands from the first swatch, and holding them with the tweezers, I held them over the stove bunsen burner, then watched them smoulder, drip, spark, and go up in flame:

This is what we wear at Laboratoire Needles...

...freshly set hair, red lipstick, lots of jewellery, and no safety gear whatsoever!
And these were my findings:

The scratchy red fabric

The swatch at the top, and the results of the burn test below - hard black beads
I knew this fabric was most likely man-made, but I wasn't sure what. When it was burnt, it melted, smelled pretty strong and plastic-y, and the melted bits hardened to little black beads. According to the Fiber Images website, this is most likely Polyester.

The cheap polka dot

This one was a bit puzzling; I thought it was probably rayon or viscose, but it melted a bit like the polyester, and was a bit ashy when it cooled. Maybe a cotton polyester mix?

The jersey fabric

This one hardly burned at all, just smouldered with no ash, and it left a sort of greasy smear on the foil. According to the Fabric University, this is probably rayon.

The printed fabric

This was the only one that turned out as predicted. I assumed it was cotton; it burned like paper, and left a grey ash. So, pretty sure that's cotton!

It was getting a bit too crazy and experimental in the Lab at this point, so I closed it for the evening and went back to watching telly and drinking tea - I mean, researching future tests. But I hope that my cutting edge scientific research was of some help. The next time you buy a fabric of unknown origin and you want to know what it is, SET IT ON FIRE!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Style 4782 - It Reminds Me of Something...

Style 4782, from 1974

I made version 3 of the pattern above several weeks ago, but I've been enjoying wearing it so much I didn't find time to blog about it. Here it is:

I love this little dress! I wanted something I could just throw on at any time, so I didn't use any lining, just a facing on the bodice out of a light poly-cotton. I used run-and-fell and French seams, so that they didn't have to be finished inside, and I tried to keep the hand sewing to a minimum, only using it on the hem and to put in the zip.

Here are some details:

-There are 2 little pockets on the front, which are machine stitched directly on:

They're not much use, except for maybe holding a phone or small camera, but I thought the dress was a bit plain without them.

-The neckline is a wide squared off shape, and the seam under the bust dips into a point:

After several times wearing this outfit, it suddenly dawned on me that it resembled something:


Yep, except for the white buttons, this dress is pretty similar to the one Hello Kitty wears! Have I inadvertenly become one of those child-women who spends her time dressing like cartoon characters? I hope not...

I'll leave you with a more grown-up version of the dress, under some beautiful vines in Lisbon.

 Take care!


Monday, 3 September 2012

Exploding Thighs

Exploding thighs - that's what happened to my trusty black skinny jeans. A few weeks ago I was pottering around the house, probably occupied in a sewing-based task, and I heard a rip as I sat down. There goes another pair of jeans......

I'm not really rock 'n roll enough to walk around with my inner thigh hanging out, but there was still a lot of life in these jeans. I hate throwing away clothes! And I didn't have the heart to give them to charity with a big hole in them. So I folded them up, put them in the wardrobe, and forgot about them.

Until I was getting dressed one day, and realised I needed a black skirt for slobbing about in. Didn't I have some old jeans somewhere??

Turning old jeans into a skirt

First, I unpicked the inside leg seams. This was the longest step in the whole process - unpicking overlocking is so tedious! And messy! I tried tearing through the layers with my stitch ripper, but couldn't get very far because the stitching was so tight. I slowly unpicked, and snipped, and so on until it looked like this:

Then I unpicked the center front seam to the base of the zip, and the centre back seam until somewhere past the curve, where the seam straightens out. I also left long ends to pull through to the wrong side. I laid the jeans flat, and then overlapped the front and back sections so that the skirt was flat. It looked like this:

Front, with centre front overlapped

Back, with seat area overlapping.
Luckily, it worked out so the big hole was covered up!

Next, I estimated how long I wanted the skirt to be (roughly knee length), and chopped off the legs, leaving a bit more for a hem:

I used these leg pieces to fill in the gaps front and back, pinned them in place, and stitched it all:

Turned up a hem of about 1"/2.5 cm, and voila:

Front view

back view
And there you go - an easy way to add to your wardrobe without spending any money!