Archive for the ‘fabric’ Category


October 9, 2007

Researchers at Virginia Tech are weaving textiles with inbuilt electronic components that they are calling e-textiles.

Some of the applications they are working on include integrating bluetooth technology into textiles (which will add an extra dimension to that popular early millenium parlor game “Cell phone or crazy person?”) and what they call a “glove keyboard”. The glove keyboard lets you use to type on a tabletop and associates your finger movements with the keys on a keypad.

They are also working on textiles which can be made into garments to analyze the way that people move through space.

I think this stuff is a ways away from any kind of market release applications for ordinary consumers — and frankly, I’m not sure what the applications of the gait analysis garment would be, anyhow. The only think I can think of is computing applications to make fancier games or animation.

The coolest mass market application of electronics in textiles that I have seen is the solar powered backpack, which allows you to do things like charge up your cell phone. I’m trying to think of cool electronic clothing options I would like if I lived In The Future. Maybe a fabric where the weave loosens as it gets hot and then tightens up again as it cools down?

I can’t even think of any sci-fi concepts of this nature excepting the Ford Prefect’s danger-detecting sunglasses.


Tim Gunn’s Guide To Style

September 6, 2007

So I watched the first episode of the new Tim Gunn show, he of Project Runway fame.

Oh sweet baby jesus. Sweet, sweet baby jesus with balled up fists of fury.

How did the usually fabulous Tim Gunn become roped into such a cauldron of sickly sweet pseudo-empowering sentimentality? I know the man is smart (you can tell because apparently he uses big words). And there are one or two moments when he lets that shine through — especially when he talks about hemlines and seamlines and proportions.

But the rest of the show? I feel a little ill.

The premise is that a young woman (“Rebecca”) is judged by her friends to be “unstylish” and given a makeover. Now, I knew that was the premise going in — all these shows have the same premise, and yeah, it’s icky, but I can get over that. I could deal with Tim and his cohort Veronica taking the poor woman shopping for underwear. I could deal with the hair styling and the makeup and the “let’s go shopping” and “ooh, shoes”.

I could not deal with the “life stylist” who made Rebecca wear a garbage bag and repeat a mantra. “I cannot control how I am perceived. I can only control how I am presented.” He was very earnest, too. And yanno, I kinda thought Rebecca looked alright in the “before” pictures anyway.

But really it was the last ten minutes that took the cake. This was the point when I thought to myself, “Tim Gunn, you have lost it. You really have crossed the Rubicon of bad taste. I didn’t expect it from you, but you did it.”

The show ends with Rebecca performing a “fashion show” of the new outfits she’s bought in front of her family and her adoring husband. Before the “fashion show” begins, Tim Gunn takes the adoring husband aside and tells him he has a gift to give him. There’s a blurb about how they got married young and didn’t have much money and blah blah blah, and then Tim Gunn busts out this diamond ring and is all like “so, I know you couldn’t get Rebecca the diamond she deserves when you got engaged, so here, have one now”.

Because, doesn’t everyone need a tv celebrity to tell them how the wedding jewelry that they bought for their spouse is crappy? And they could do better and by the way, hey, I’m your fairy godmother? I would have decked you, Tim Gunn.

So then, they have the fashion show, and just before the reveal of the big finale number, adoring husband gets up and makes a speech about how his wife is a beautiful woman and he always wants to provide for her and he couldn’t prove that when they were all young but this is for her and everybody cries because she is all feminine now and he’s all masculine and providing for her (except for the fact that really I guess she is now married to Bravo since they paid for it. I wonder what three months’ of their salary is?)

And then she puts on the fabulous dress. And then they bring in her mother-just-recovering-from-surgery. (Seriously. I am not making this up.) Who didn’t get to see the whole “fashion show” bit? I don’t get that.

Then they go to Mexico and she swans around in her new clothes and Tim and Veronica talk about how she was an “A student” and she totally “mastered it”. And Rebecca does a little wrap-up spiel about how her friends now call her “Newbecca”. And everyone drinks champagne and feels a little bit sick.

Fabric geekout: Silk Dupioni

September 6, 2007

I have about two yards of what I think is silk dupioni that I picked up on vacation about two years ago. It’s a beautiful iridescent fabric that is mostly a rust tone but has a green thread in the warp which makes it change color with the light.

It’s also quite possible that the fabric is shantung. There doesn’t seem to be a firm consensus about the difference between these two fabrics. Both are woven with irregular weft threads and often with different color threads in the warp and the weft. Both have a slightly uneven surface texture because their weft threads are not of even width, and it’s this texture which gives the fabric its iridescent quality.

Technically, silk dupioni is woven from threads produced when two silkworms spin thread side by side and their threads twist around each other. (Is that cool or what?) But I’m not sure that modern manufacturers stand on the difference. It also appears that shantung is generally described as “lighter” “softer” or with more drape.

The fabric that I have is extremely crisp.

Here’s are some of the highlights of the shantung & dupioni entry in Claire Shaeffer‘s fabulous book Sew Any Fabric:

  • Be careful with pins; they can mark this fabric.
  • Don’t cut on the crossgrain as the seams will slip.
  • Avoid seams on the straight grain.
  • Use a new sharp needle (I know that everyone always says that for everything; in this case, I would). Sharp or universal, 60/8 – 80/12.

You can prewash this fabric if you want to, but you don’t have to. If you wash it, it will become softer and drapier; if you don’t it will retain the very crisp hand — but you should have your garment drycleaned. In my experience of washing silk, you can also lose some of the shininess with a wash.

As for seam finishes, Schaeffer suggests “serged, pinked or zigzagged”. I personally don’t like any of these options; I don’t have a serger, my fabric is awfully ravelling for pinking, and honestly, to my mind, zigzag finishing just doesn’t look good on a woven.

I think for this type of fabric, I’d go for some sort of modified Hong Kong finish, where the raw seam is wrapped in bias tape.

New York, New York

August 23, 2007

So I managed to sneak up to New York city last weekend, and of course, the first thing I did when I got there was to hit the garment district.

The NYC garment district is one of my favorite places to shop for fabric. The Garment District neighborhood is in midtown Manhattan, conveniently right on top of Penn Station. I’ve found the best fabric shopping to be between 36th & 39th Sts between 6th & 8th Aves.

Recommending particular stores is tricky. I generally tend to wander and weave my way through, stopping at whatever catches my eye, and rarely remembering the names of stores. And at one point, I did manage to get myself turned around and wandered into the store I’d just been in five minutes ago.

The famous store here is of course Mood Fabrics, as seen on Project Runway. It’s right in the heart of the garment district, at 225 W37th St (go on up to the 3rd floor), and it has some gorgeous things. It’s also very sensibly laid out, with fabric organized by fiber content, and unlike many of the other tiny retail stores, with price labels on the fabric. It is also, however, nowhere close to being as cheap as the storefronts at street level. Worth a visit, though, if only to eavesdrop on the catty comments by the FIT students who prowl the aisles (“Did you hear what she said to me? She was all “oh, did you make that shirt yourself?” She’s soooo bitchy!”).

So. I didn’t buy anything at Mood, but I did come back with quite a haul. First, some basics:

A couple yards of basic cotton, in a dark green and a salmon:

A black cotton knit and some light frothy gauze:

These two are going to go together, I think, into a dress with a knit bodice, and the gauze as the skirt.

A couple of my best finds came from a store with a “Going Out Of Business” sign on front. This is a black stretch velvet embossed with a floral pattern (close up at right):

I also picked up this gorgeous floral print velvet, an absolute steal at $4/yard:

And finally, the piece de la resistance, and my favorite, this divine striped brocade:

It looks very pink in the photograph, but actually, the dominant tones are from the greens and golds.

Fabric Geek-out: Sandwashed Silk

July 17, 2007

I recently picked up four yards of midnight blue sandwashed silk from my local fabric store’s remnants bin. It’s a gorgeous piece, and warrants some research on how to handle it.


Silk is a filament fiber, which means that unlike short spun fibers, the fibers don’t need to be twisted together to form lengths of thread. It’s extremely strong, and because the fiber filaments are triangular in shape, it reflects light, giving it a shiny appearance.

Sandwashing is when the silk is washed with abrasive chemicals which “polish” the finish of the silk. The piece that I bought was extremely, well, silky, in appearance, with a smooth glossy finish and a very soft drape. It also has the diagonal texture characteristic of a twill weave, although this is only apparent upon very close inspection.

Emma One Sock recommends washing with a tiny drop of baby shampoo. I did this, and it took off the very glossy finish. It also significantly reduced the static of the piece. Depending on your plans for the garment, you could go either way on this. If you are looking for a very dressy piece, you might want to skip washing. However, if you do wash it, you’ll get a washable garment, and my guess is that the washed product will be significantly easier to sew because it seems much less slippery.

Sewing requires a sharp, new needle. I haven’t done a pin test yet to check if the fabric self-heals from pin holes. Also, because it’s still slippery, I’ll probably cover my table with a cotton sheet when I cut.

ETA: I did the pin test. It’s fine.


March 20, 2007


Tie fabric