Fabric Friday: Rayon Wovens

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It’s been awhile since I did a Fabric Friday. I’ve decided to rotate my Friday posts out and I have some fun ideas for Fridays around here. But I do love talking about fabric, so I’ll be featuring a Fabric Friday every month. Today I thought we could take a closer look a woven rayon fabrics. I love the drapey look of them, which reminds me of silk, yet they are fairly easy to sew with. I mean, it’s not quilting cotton by any stretch but as compares with other harder to handle fabrics, they are pretty nice.

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Rayon. This is such a misunderstood fiber. When I still owned my store, the minute I would mention “rayon” the customer was turned off. I don’t know why, but I do believe that rayon and polyester have flipped roles in a lot of people’s minds these days. Polyester has a place, but I’m telling you, it’s plastic. It is plastic. Polyester doesn’t breath well and it is purely synthetic, unless mixed with other natural fibers. Rayon is not the same thing. Rayon is a cellulosic fiber and it’s roots are based in nature – tree pulp. Rayon, lyocell, acetate, triacetate, viscose*, modal and bamboo are all made from regenerated cellulose. These are considered semi-synthetics. Rayon is the oldest manufactured fiber. It was known as “artificial silk” when it first appear on the market in 1889 and it gained popularity as it was economical, comfortable to wear, breathable and versatile.
*Viscose is technically a process that rayon goes through to become a fiber/fabric, however the fabric is usually referred to as rayon in the U.S. and viscose in the United Kingdom.

Rayon is the fiber type here and then there are weaves that rayon fibers can be woven into to create different fabric types. Rayon Challis is one such fabric. It’s your basic plain weave. Rayon Challis is very drapey. It’s a thin fabric. Rayon usually has a cold touch to it, which warms up immediately with your body heat and it’s soft to wear – feels wonderful, honestly. Rayon Challis makes great dresses and tops, or even flowy skirts. Also think pajamas. This fabric would make lovely pajamas.

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I had a couple of other types of rayon wovens that I thought I would show you too. They are very similar to rayon challis except the weave is just a bit different, however the characteristics stay the same – cold to the touch (warms up immediately though) comfortable, light and flowy, drapey, etc. The dotted fabric is rayon sateen. It has a satin weave as opposed to a plain weave and so one side has a sheen to it and the other side is dull.  also have a couple of pieces of rayon twill (pictured below), which has a twill weave instead of a plain weave. Kind of like denim and gabardine but not stiff or thick – it’s got the same hand as the rayon challis and sateen. There are other types of rayon wovens out there too. Rayon poplin, rayon batiste and rayon voile + more – just don’t let the rayon bit turn you off! Rayon is a pretty wonderful fabric. I use Bemberg Rayon lining for most lining projects. It’s 100% rayon fabric that feels wonderful to the skin and has longevity even though it’s marvelously light and thin.

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Do you have rayon wovens in your stash? Anyone have any of that cold rayon from the 40s? Gosh how I would love some of that!

Hot Spots to find rayon wovens:
Rayons are fairly easy to locate – I see them at Joann and Hancock these days, but here are a couple online sources too.
Blackbird Fabrics
Hart’s Fabrics
Fabric Mart
Bemberg Lining – Vogue Fabrics

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Fabric Friday: Alençon Lace

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Today’s Fabric Friday is another lace pick. Alençon Lace. It’s almost like cheating really to be talking about Alençon Lace today. Why? Because it’s basically Chantilly Lace that is corded (and we talked about Chantilly last week, in case you missed). How do you pronounce Alençon? alan-sohn. Now you can sound smart when you’re asking for it at your local high end fabric shop!

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Again, Chantilly Lace is when the design/motifs – like the florals – are woven into the lace itself instead of being embroidered on. With Alençon, you’ve got some nice cording that is applied to the motifs. Its usually a relatively heavy cording, because sometimes Chantilly’s can have very very light cording. So you’re looking for something much more textural when you’re looking at Alençon. Chantilly’s are flat laces. Alençon’s are corded to add texture, richness and density. Cording is technically called Cordonnet, just in case you were wondering.

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I thought for today I would give you some more lace geekery. These terms can be applied to all laces. I’ve been talking a bit about when laces have a decorative edge – like scallops – running along each selvedge edge. When you have one decorative selvedge edge the lace is called flounce and when both are decorative it’s called galloon.

That’s good for today’s lace geekery, I think. Do have any Alençon Lace? I find it looks quite rich – definitely needs to be paired with the right thing, in my opinion.

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Fabric Friday: Chantilly Lace

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In keeping with last week’s Fabric Friday, I thought I would keep going with the lace family. When you start delving into lace, it becomes more mysterious and fascinating all at the same time – or at least I think so. I find it amazing that what looks like such a delicate fabric can really be so strong. Really cool.

Today I thought I would focus on Chantilly Lace. Did you know that in french, the word Chantilly means something along the lines of whipped cream? It’s also the name of a city in France where Chantilly Lace originated from (hence the name for Chantilly Lace, even though knowing about the whipped cream part is pretty fun too). A fine chantilly lace is truly lovely. Personally, I rarely see one that has a design that I truly love, so when I do, I snatch it up!

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Chantilly lace is different from re-embroidered lace in a few key ways. Instead of the motifs being embroidered onto English Net and then possibly beaded, Chantilly has the motif woven into the lace itself. Re-embroidered lace has a surface design that is applied after and the Chantilly has more of a flat, less textural design that is woven directly into the lace as it’s being made.

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Chantilly started out as a bobbin lace. What’s bobbin lace? It’s also known as pillow lace because it was worked by hand on a pillow. Individual strands/fibers were designed (braided and twisted) around a set of pins that were placed in the pillow at various intervals. From there the individual strands were worked into a lace and while they were worked they were wound around various bobbins to keep them separate.

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Fine Chantilly has a picot edge – or eyelash edge as I’ve heard it called too. These looped edges run along the scallops which would be considered the selvedge on regular fabrics. Again, as I stated last week, lace doesn’t have a grainline, so you can utilize the scallops to your advantage. Along a pretty neckline or at the edge of a sleeve or hemline of a skirt or dress.

Have you ever used Chantilly? Have one in your stash? Do tell!

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Fabric Friday: Re-embroidered Lace

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For today’s Fabric Friday, I thought I would delve into the world of lace. Since finishing up my besotted blouse last week, I thought it would be great to highlight laces. Today’s lace: Re-embroidered lace! I thought I would do this one first as it’s the same type that I used in my besotted blouse.

Lace get’s a pretty bad rap, I think, as being hard to work with. It’s really not. Like really, really. I daresay that lace is fairly easy to work with. It just requires a special skill set – not unlike how you have special skills/techniques for knits. Laces are like that. You need to pick sewing patterns that cater to the lace. Case in point: my besotted lace and silk blouse. I created the pattern especially for the lace I was using. The lace is beaded and as I was looking at the lace, I realized that I didn’t want to mess with a dart anywhere in the front of the bodice. Additionally, I didn’t want to mess with a curved hem in the front either. So those two things got tossed in favor of something simpler to sew with this fabric.

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To begin, we need to know what netting is and how it’s utilized in these laces. The netting I’m showing you is English Net. The kind I carry in my shop is the flowy and soft kind – not the stiff kind. The soft and flowy kind is the kind that is quite a bit harder to get your hands on, or so I have found. English Net is really, just a simple netting that is usually made from silk – but the silk version is outrageously expensive (like $150 per yard). The version I sell is a rayon/nylon blend. The rayon gives it some nice drape and the nylon gives it softness.

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With re-embroidered lace, you have English Net that has been embroidered with motif – usually florals. The embroidery is then corded.

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Re-embroidered laces can also be beaded. These can be quite lux with glass beads, sequins and rhinestones.

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Fine laces – or at least the ones I normally see and purchase for my shop – have a finished scallop running along both selvedge edges. Sometimes the scallop is not the same on both sides, like in the case of a border motif style lace. When you’re working with lace, the cross grain usually becomes the new straight of grain so that you can better utilize these scallop edges – but don’t let that fool you. Lace doesn’t have a grain, so you could do some wild things with it if you wanted. That said, there is usually more give in the cross grain than in the straight of grain. Additionally, lace doesn’t fray or unravel so you can cut the motifs in the lace apart and slap those on different garments in different places if you wanted. Use all that to your advantage.

Have you worked with lace before? What gives you pause when it comes to lace fabric?

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Fabric Friday: Wool Tweed

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I don’t know about you, but I love tweed. Goodness gracious. I thought it would be a great week to highlight this fun fabric!

Whenever I think of tweed, I think of the British Isles. Harris Tweed, Linton Tweed. Gorgeous, gorgeous stuff. So many of them are so unique too. Yum! There’s lots of tweed to choose from when you really start looking.

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Tweed is a textured fabric. Additionally it’s usually woven with at least two different color yarns which can give it a speckled look. This is great for hiding stitching irregularities which makes it a favorite for those beginning their journey into tailoring (as in making a jacket). From far away it looks like a softer version of the dominant color. This (above) is the kind of fabric that I usually associate with tweed, but don’t be fooled. It comes in a combination of textures, colors and weaves. Here’s another tweed that I have, direct from Linton Tweeds. Not your typical tweed, eh?

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Tweeds that carry a name, like Harris tweed originate a from a specific district from whence they are made. For example, Harris Tweed comes from Scotland. A few common tweed names are Harris, Linton, Donegal, Shetland and Bannockburn. If the tweed isn’t labelled with a district name it’s just a regular tweed and could have been manufactured/made anywhere (doesn’t mean it’s bad though!).

Most tweeds are usually firmly woven and easy to sew with. Wool tweed takes heat and moisture wonderfully and shapes into just about anything – great for making jackets! Some tweeds are woven with a combination of fibers like wool and silk or wool and cotton. They can even get really exciting and be woven with a metallic thread or cellophane (for a little sparkle!).

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These fabrics are great for jackets or coats, as I’ve already said above. They also make great pencil skirts and trousers because the hand has a nice structure to it.

Now, bragging rights time! Do you have any tweed? What about Harris Tweed or possibly Linton?

For more about Wools, visit the Working with Wool Section!

Fabric Friday: Wool Melton

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Whoosh! And my life is off to a running start this week. I just need to take a moment, stop down and say, Thanks. The Sewing Room is officially open and we are running our workshops now – February workshops are now available, working on March too. As January has progressed, the Sewing Room has been steadily getting more and more busy. This is so wonderful to watch. SO WONDERFUL! I love seeing others taking part in sewing and having it happen here in my studio is marvelous. Thanks to all of you who have signed up for a workshop! I look forward to seeing more of you this year! Yay!

Now, for Fabric Friday! Today’s fabric is Wool Melton. I see this fabric a lot and I find that it’s fairly common. What is Wool Melton? Well…..

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It’s a coating fabric, meaning very specifically that you would usually use this fabric to make a coat with. That means it’s a nice, substantial, beefy and thick fabric. The better to keep you warm! It’s very dense and very tightly woven. This makes a great candidate for coats because nothing gets through melton cloth. That cold winter wind is kept at bay! Additionally melton goes through a fulling process and then it’s brushed. To be honest, it’s akin to wool flannel (though flannel is a looser weave), but quite a bit beefier.

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When I see wool melton, it’s usually mixed with another fiber. I daresay I’ve never seen one that is 100% wool, which definitely doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, I just haven’t ever seen one. Wool melton is usually a mix of wool, polyester, acrylic, nylon or a combination of all of these. The higher the wool content though, the better your shaping/sculpting/pressing experience will be when you make a garment out of it.

Wool melton is wonderfully thick so, it goes without saying that you would probably make a coat with it. You could also do winterized accessories like hats too. It might be possible to do a heavyweight woven cardigan as well. A wintry blanket with a bias binding would be uber warm. This cloth will fray a bit, but not as much as others. It’s fairly easy to work with, until the layers start building up – keep those seam allowances trimmed and graded and pick designs that don’t have a lot of intersecting seams.

Got some wool melton in your stash? Have you made anything out of one?

For more about Wools, visit the Working with Wool Section!

Fabric Friday: Wool Challis

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I was asked recently if I have been seeing a resurgence in the apparel fabric industry – meaning, are some of those really really hard to find fabrics becoming more and more available. I do believe they are, however slowly it might be happening. Case in point: Wool Challis.

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Do you know what challis is? I see challis most commonly among the rayon family and then a couple of years ago, I purchased a gorgeous wool challis from a local fabric shop. The lady who was manning the shop at the time told me she hadn’t seen the fabric in many years. I had never seen it at all. And then, I started seeing it more and more and over the past couple of years I’ve seen this fabric become much more easy to get. Take that for what it’s worth.

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So challis. What’s challis? First of all, let’s get the pronunciation correct – pronounced sha-lee. Apparently the term challis means soft and this, I think, is a good description of challis. It’s a thin drapey sort of cloth. It’s a plainweave weave and it’s most commonly known for its pattern or design. I see great, great designs/patterns in challis and they can be woven into the cloth or printed on. Challis is usually matte, meaning it doesn’t have a shiny look to it. If it does, then it’s a french challis or a norwich crepe (and remember crepe can be differentiated because it’s woven with a twisted yarn). I find wool challis to have a somewhat rough texture to the fingers though it has very flat look to the eye.

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Rayon challis is becoming much more common as those quilting cotton manufacturers are producing some great prints. Wool challis is a bit harder to get (hopefully becoming easier though) and sometimes I see wool challis mixed with another fiber – namely cotton or silk.

Definitely worth the having. When it’s got some wool in it, I notice that the drape factor is not as drapey as rayon. This can be nice for dresses, button-up shirts, blouses, skirts – something where the lightweight factor and drape can be shown off a bit.

Do you have wool challis in your stash? This is such an interesting fabric.

For more about Wools, visit the Working with Wool Section!