THE DESIGN STUDIO: Choosing Fabrics
When you are looking at making your beautiful creation, you eventually will need to consider what type of fabric you want to use. The choice of fabric determines how the garment will lay and move when someone wears it and can change the entire design of a piece depending on its characteristics. For this reason, it is important to choose a fabric that is going to be consistent with the vision of the piece that you have.
When making garments, I tend to make them in muslin first to get the fit right and ensure that I have all of the seams in the right place. I then obtain fabric swatches (small little square samples) that are similar to what I was looking for. I then compare the swatches to my design and the muslin prototype that I have made to choose the correct fabric for the piece. It sounds really simple right?
The difficulty is that a lot of fabric will be 100 % cotton hardy stripe but every sample will look and wear differently. This is the advantage of the swatch. It is a small and sometimes free sample of the fabric so you can feel how firm or soft it is. This helps you to determine how it is going to lay on the body.
You can also wash the swatch for an idea of what the care instructions will be like. Perhaps you wanted to make an every day shirt and had thought it would be nice if you could wash it on warm and tumble dry low but you try it with one of the swatches and it shrinks and discolors... that is bad. You most likely are going to want to purchase a different fabric for the piece.
Another advantage to having swatches is that it can give you a feel for a fabric that you cannot see in a store. If you need to source a material that is not local, you are relying on the description and images which can be very different from what the fabric looks like in reality. A good example of this is these black fabric swatches. I wanted a wool and cotton blend for pants that I am making but this is far too thick. From the description, it sounds perfect but when I was able to touch and feel it, it is not going to work for what I want. It is perfect for a jacket or coat though!
I also ordered the organza swatch because I want to make an organza skirt for a different project. This is one particular instance where the description and the material matched perfectly (it also helps that I am fairly familiar with fabric types and weights, but that is another post for a different time). Ultimately, this is exactly what I was looking for and I am perfectly happy with it.
I am also working on making a few shirt styles and ordered a few different fabrics for the shirts. They are all a variation on the same basic style of shirt so I found it easiest to compare the swatch with the drawings that I made. The black crepe material is perfect for the sleeves or short sleeve version of the shirt because it is light and breathable, most likely to be worn in warm weather. The crepe fabric also makes it more dressy and appropriate for work or going out.
For the long sleeve version of the shirt, a crepe fabric will not be as comfortable and it is likely to get warm. For that reason, I wanted a cotton version that is more casual and can be worn every day, all year round. I also wanted to order this lighter fabric to make versions of the shorter sleeve shirts for more casual summer wear.
As you can tell, the fabric that you choose really does make all the difference in the outcome for the garment.
In a few weeks, we are going to do a post on prototyping so you will be able to see the swatches (and my terrible artwork) come to life!