Monday, April 30, 2012

"This is a rather odd category, listing 269 names of kinds of fabric and cloth"

That is the first line of a webpage I found tonight. I think it has its uses as a quick reference for all the different fabrics available. The website is called The Phrontistery. Its author states:
 Welcome to the Phrontistery! I'm your host, Forthright. Since 1996, I have compiled word lists in order to spread the joy of the English language. Here, you will find the International House of Logorrhea (an online dictionary of obscure and rare words), the Compendium of Lost Words (a compilation of ultra-rare forgotten words), and many other glossaries, word lists, essays, and other language and etymology resources. 

I, of course, found the list of fabrics. 

Here are the fabrics that begin with "a":
aba garment of camel or goat hair; camel or goat-hair fabric
aerophane thin crinkled semi-transparent fabric
alepine mixed wool and silk or mohair and cotton fabric
alpaca fine wool made from alpaca hair
angora silk-like fabric made from wool of angora goats
ardass fine silk
armure twilled woollen or silk fabric
arrasene embroidery fabric of wool and silk
atlas rich satin fabric

Do check this list out.... Enjoy!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

My Cat had a Cold and I gave him Robitusin

This is Angry Cat before he became sick. Usually, he enjoys getting in the way!

My cat was sick as a dog. The whole weekend. On Friday, he threw up his food. Initially I thought he just overate. But then he threw up again. And again. I watched him and he seemed to be gagging with each swallow. He had a sore throat. I know enough about cats to know they have to be eating and drinking each day. (Liver failure can set in if a cat goes longer than 24 hours without food.) No danger there: my cat loves to eat. And he continued eating and drinking after he threw up.

By morning, I knew it was not going to go away on its own. Every few minutes he was gagging. So I bundled Angry Cat in the car and drove to the vet. I knew just how much he wasn't feeling well when he ignored all the dogs in the office. (Usually he would be alarmed by them).

The vet said it was viral and to give him Robitusin - plain. The dosage is .25 -1 ml /pound of weight.  And vitamin C tabs (actually a 1/4 tab twice a day). Ribitusin DM contains dextromethorphan and this is okay to use in cats. You can not get any type of Robitussin except DM because they all contain other ingredients that can be toxic to cats.

I think I got one millitre into him, when I calculated he should get about 10 ml. But he seemed calmer. I put him in the upstairs bathroom, it is the warmest room in the house. This has become his sick room. He has access to food and a litter box, and is resting comfortably. 

He began to gag again after about 4 hours (time for the next dose).

Then I boiled rice and used that water plus some tap water and crushed the 1/4 tablet of Vitamin C into it. (When I got him as a kitten and thought he wasn't eating enough, the vet told me to use the water from rice to feed him. So I went back to that.)

Again, Angry Cat fought me (I think the return of his bad temper is a good sign!) but he got some. Cats can have Vitamin C for up to four days after getting a cold. Don't give it as a precaution.  Here is a website with more information on treating cat colds and coughs.

He gagged about once every six hours on Saturday which was a huge improvement from the night before. On Sunday morning he was noticeably better. He drank some water and his eyes looked better. (They were large as saucers when he was ill. Now that he was recovering, they looked about normal.) I gave him a couple ml of Robitusin and also a millitre of rice water and vitamin C concoction I made Saturday night. He has some pink stain on him from the cough syrup and he hasn't groomed himself. So he isn't back to normal yet.

Colds in cats last up to 10 days. He seems a lot better already. 

Note: Do not give your cat any medicine with Acetaminophen in it. Acetaminophen is a substance that is toxic to cats.

Cold symptoms in my cat

running nose,
hurts swallowing,
wants to be left alone

Saturday, April 28, 2012

All About Fabrics Series: Rayon

Rayon was once marketed as the affordable silk. Today's rayon comes in a variety of weights, both in 100-percent rayon and in a variety of knit and woven blends. Lightweight rayon is particularly suitable for flowing dresses, skirts and blouses, while medium-weight rayon works well for non-structured pants and jackets.

  • It is the first man-made fiber, created in France in the 1880s.
  • The first commercial production of rayon fiber in the United States was in 1910 by the American Viscose Company.
  • By using two different chemicals and manufacturing techniques, two basic types of rayon were developed. They were viscose rayon and cupramonium rayon.
  • Today, only viscose rayon is being produced in the U.S.
  • It was originally meant to be a cheap alternative to silk.
  • It is heavily processed and is therefore considered a manufactured material
  • It drapes well and takes dye well in the manufacturing process. (because of the chemicals used, it is unpredictable with at-home dyes)
  • It tends to age poorly.(it pills with wear and can become dis-coloured with use)
  • It comes in both woven and knit forms
  • Wrinkles easily
  • It does not acquire static build-up
  • Resistant to moths
  • It is flammable.
  • Is not affected by household bleach
  • Stretches when wet and shrinks when washed.
  • If you pre-wash rayon fabric prior to construction of the garment, you have a washable garment.
  • Almost all rayon will shrink, typically from 3 to 10 percent.

Sewing Tips:
  1. To make clean, even lines when cutting, ensure your scissors are sharp. Because rayon can be slippery, dull scissors will make rayon hard to work with. (Or you may want to cut with pinking shears because this fabric can really ravel).
  2. Use weights to help with the slippery fabric when cutting.
  3. To avoid creating snags in your rayon fabric, don’t use pins that are dull.
  4. You can use a universal sewing machine needle when sewing with rayon, but an extra sharp needle may be preferable
  5. A good-quality polyester thread works with rayon and all rayon blends. It  is similar to rayon and so it works better with it than cotton thread does.
  6. This fabric ravels so much you may need to finish the edges before sewing a seam
  7. Use marking pens, chalk, soap slivers or tracing paper.
  8. Use fusible or sew-in. Test the effect you want on fabric scraps. Or, if on your test piece you do not like the difference in drape between the interfaced part and the non-interfaced part, use a second piece of rayon fabric instead. Baste the two pieces of the garment together and treat it as one.(This works particularly well with buttonhole plackets.)

Pattern Suggestions:
Tees, tanks, polo shirts, cardigan, unstructured jacket, dresses, loose-fitting pants, capes, ponchos, tunics, and skirts.

Types of Rayon

  1. "Regular rayon" - is viscose rayon. This fabric has all the characteristics listed above: it takes dye well, it is smooth and drapes well but it is fragile when wet and shrinks with laundering.
  2. High Wet Modulus rayon has been modified to be stronger when wet. The chemical process has changed the fabric for better performance. This rayon fabric can be machine washed and tumble dried and perform much like cotton in similar end uses. It is sometimes mercerized, like cotton, for increased strength and luster.
  3. High Tenacity Rayon is a still stronger rayon used for automotive parts.
  4. Cupramonium Rayon is another type with properties similar to those of viscose rayon. Production is not as environmentally friendly. This fabric tends to be lightweight and can be used for summer dresses and blouses.

A Note on Rayon Thread:
 Another factor to take into consideration is that rayon thread will age and become brittle. To combat this you can either only buy thread for a current project (rather than stock up), and if you are storing rayon thread, do so in the freezer. Just make sure you completely defrost it before sewing with it.It is very popular as a machine embroidery thread and hand embroidery thread. It remains an affordable alternative to silk thread. 

A Note on Rayon Fabric:
I've sewn with rayon and I own some store-bought clothes in rayon, but generally I avoid it. I'm not the best at ironing and I hate that it wrinkles so much. If I want a plant fiber, I'll choose cotton or linen before rayon. If I want sheen and good drape, I'll buy silk. But your priorities and choices may not match mine. I find that when I do buy it, it tends to be one of the components of a blend. 

Environmental Considerations:
Viscose rayon can require dry cleaning, and tends to be unstable if wet. 
Cupramonium rayons (e.g. Bemberg) have a high environmental cost. 
Tencel/lyocell, because if its closed loop manufacturing process, is less of an issue. 
Rayons tend to be dense (increasing the weight of the clothes compared to, say, cotton), tends not to be abrasion resistant nor resilient.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hemming Pants, Doing Alterations and Finishing a Skirt Started Long Ago...

 I spent the evening relaxing in front of my sewing machine. The dog was walked and fed and I had tons of little projects to finish up:

I spent the evening getting rid of my to-do pile. Mostly, I was hemming, altering and taking seams in.

Believe it or not, it took me eons to figure out that hemming pants was mostly cutting and ironing the hem in place. Actually sewing the hem is minimal to the process.
I'm altering a pair of boot cut jeans to straight leg.
I've pinned them on each other leg, being sure to taper at the same angle.
Measured twice, just to be sure. Didn't cut these pants at all. I'm not sure how I will end up with the extra fabric...
And then the quick sew! 

Then I decided to sew a waistband on a chevron skirt I started ages (at least two years) ago:

The cutting layout for this pattern was amazing.
I even went to one of those sewing shops that are springing up all over Toronto (but were just new to the area two years ago) to use their serger. Look at how pretty these seam finishes turned out!
So, I've lost the pattern and I have minimal excess fabric and I need a waistband for this skirt...I decided to use some ribbon. I'm not thrilled with the results - I will wear a top over the waist band to hide it but it is finished and it is a nice skirt.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

All about Fabrics Series: Fleece

Fleece is part of the knit family and requires a ballpoint needle and zigzag stitches in order to hold up its elasticity.

Fleece is a wonderful polyester fabric.  When it was first introduced in the ’80′s by an American manufacturer, it has gained popularity because it was comfortable and practical. It was a cheap and effective alternative to expensive wool and it was machine washable!

It has the amazing ability to insulate the wearer while wicking moisture away from the body. This makes it the perfect choice for sports clothing, especially for outdoor, cold weather sports.  This special and valuable capability makes fleece a good choice for insulating or lining jackets. With a fleece inner layer either sewn, zipped into, or even just layered with, an outer wind-proof shell can protect the wearer and be kept both warm and dry.

 Facts about Fleece

  1. provides warmth without weight
  2. soft to the touch
  3. does not shrink, ravel or fray
  4. water resistant
  5. moisture wicking properties
  6. washable (machine dry on low; but hang to dry - it air dries very quickly!)

Additional Properties:

Other qualities that are introduced in some brands include antimicrobial finish that doesn't pill; fleece that is treated and made waterproof; fleece with thin and thick pile; and a wide variety of surface textures. There is also two-sided fleece, so the nap is on both sides.

Fleece Comes in Many Weights
Fleece fabric is milled in several weights, from very heavy (16-18 oz.) to quite light (8 oz.). Heavy fleece usually has little stretch and is the warmest of all fleeces.

Laundry Notes:
No need to pre-wash your fleece
No dryer sheets (reduces fabric's ability to repel water)
No bleach
No iron
Fleece picks up lint easily and a fleece garment washed with wool socks or terry towels will never look the same again.

Sewing Tips:
The only difficulty with fleece is its bulk. This can bunch in the presser foot of your machine and also, bulk is a consideration in the drape of the garment.

Fleece is made from polyester and is part of the stretch-knit family. Look for patterns that are simple or are made specifically for knits.

Always use the with-nap yardage for cutting the pattern out.

Use a ballpoint or jersey knit needle.

Short pins easily get lost in fleece fabric, so use long ones - the type with bead heads are the easiest to see.

When sewing with fleece fabric, use a top quality, 100% polyester thread.

Select a simple pattern with few design features. Loose-fitting styles work best. Eliminate as many seams as possible as bulk is your greatest challenge. Consider a custom closure such as a separating zipper, buttons/toggles and loops, or heavy-duty grippers instead of buttons and  buttonholes.

Use a "with nap" layout view. Whenever possible, eliminate the underside of collars and cuffs, etc.; or use a coordinating cotton or cotton/polyester fabric instead of double thickness of fleece.

Polyester lining fabric is great for the back/underside of pockets. Eliminate facing seams or the facing itself. Or change the facing to straight cotton or polyester fabric to eliminate bulk.

A medium to long stitch or a zigzag stitch (length 2.5 - 4mm) and a loose balance tension work best when sewing with fleece fabric. Because stitches are hard to remove, stitch slowly and carefully.

If your hems or seams are wavy, your stitch length may be too short. Lessening the presser foot pressure or holding your fleece fabric tight (without over stretching) in both front and back will prevent fabric being moved unevenly while you are sewing.

Pattern weights are a good solution to thick fabric when laying out pattern for cutting.

If both sides of the fabric look the same, mark the right side along a seam allowance edge, with a small piece of tape. Use standard 5/8-inch seam allowances.

Fleece does not ravel; therefore, there is no need for a seam finish or edge finish.Use pinking shears (my new favourite!) to finish edges - or leave them undone. Other good options are double stitched together and trimmed, zigzagged together and trimmed, and top stitched seams.

If darts are used, cut and press open or trim them if necessary. Finger press flat.

Exposed zippers are used frequently in vests, jackets, and coats. Choose a coordinating or contrasting color. (Put some interfacing in between the zipper and the fabric to prevent warping.)

If a drawstring casing is needed for a hood or waistline, use machine-sewn eyelets. They seem to work better than metal grommets which can pull out easily in soft fleece.

Similar to Fleece
Berber is a pile product, in that it has a flat knitted back and a curly right surface, similar to shearling fabrics. My Polyester Shearling Jacket is made of this. Berber is a little harder to sew than fleece, but it is also a little warmer, because it traps air in the nubby surface, thereby insulating the wearer. This fabric doesn't attract pet hair as much as regular fleece or plush (below).

Plush is a sheared berber so that it has a flat knitted back, but a velour finish on the right side. This is the most expensive of the fleece products. It feels much softer than fleece, almost like velvet, and shows up patterns beautifully. Don't bother with this fleece if you have pets, it attracts hair like nothing else!
Resources for Working with Fleece:
Adventures with Polarfleece A Sewing Expedition, Nancy Cornwell 
More Adventures with Polarfleece, Nancy Cornwell

Polarfleece Pizzazz, Ruthann Spiegelhoff
More Polarfleece Pizzazz, Ruthann Spiegelhoff
Knit Trends Booklet and Video, Nancy Zieman, President of Nancy=s Notions

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I Tea-dyed the Bedroom Curtains.

 I bought these curtains years ago from Fabricland for $5 a panel. I like them but the red of the toile and the white of the fabric are a bit much. I wanted to soften the white into a beige with tea-dye.

I boiled the tea bags and added salt. I let the curtains sit in the steeping tea.

I only wanted a beige colour - a bit of antiquing - so I put them through the wash after 30 minutes.

The stark white was definitely muted but it wasn't exactly beige... Like a fool, I decided to add laundry detergent to the washer cycle and it washed out the a lot of the tea "stain"

So I decided to try again, letting the curtain sit in very hot water with ten or so tea bags, overnight. (I boiled the tea and let it steep for 15 minutes first. Then I added it to the curtains in the hot water).

Now, the contrast between the red flowers and the white background has been softened. 

Again, the results are not as dramatic as with commercial dyes but there are no harsh chemicals in the tea bags. I could control how dark I wanted the curtains by how long they soaked and how many tea bags I added. There was little run-off and I hand-washed the curtains this time.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Topstitiching: Tips, and Tricks

Top-stitching is a single or multiple set of lines of stitching showcased on the garment right side, either for decorative or functional purposes. It's found on many types of garments, from sporty to formal, tailored to casual. Good top-stitching (even, straight top-stitching) can improve a garment whereas even a slight meandering in top-stitching can make it look homemade.
The collar and lapel on this purchased jacket is top-stitched in a matching thread.
  1. Always start with a new needle, or set of needles, when top stitching. (You could try a top-stitching needle but I use a universal). 
  2. Go slow. 
  3. Top-stitch with the right side of the garment facing up. 
  4. Since top-stitching is highly visible, it's important that the stitching lines are perfectly straight. Most machines have a presser foot where the distance from the needle to the foot edge is 1/4", which can be used as a guide. Align the presser foot edge with the garment edge, and stitch slowly to maintain an even distance. 
  5. Most top-stitching is sewn with a straight stitch, using a slightly longer length than is used for garment construction. 
  6. Edge-stitching is top-stitching that's sewn closer than 1/8" to a finished edge. Traditional top-stitching is a row of straight stitching, sewn 1/8" to 3/8" to one or both sides of a seam, or the same distance from an edge of the garment. 
  7. Use a gauge to decide how far the set of stitches should be from one another.It is important to use some sort of gauge -event the stitch guide on your machine instead of eyeballing this. You should even use a fabric marker (be sure it disappears). 
  8. Choose the proper foot. If you have a double-needle setup, that's perfect. If not, you'll have to stitch once, then stitch again, beside the original stitching. 
  9. For a classic look, it's best choose a color of thread that is slightly darker than the color of the garment. 
  10. Or use a contrasting colour if you want top-stitching to stand out (example -jeans). 
  11. Use any thread you like: the same thread you used to make the garment; special top-stitching thread (although this is expensive and comes in smaller amounts than regular threads; or embroidery threads. Remember that you can use a regular thread in the bobbin because the top-stitching thread is for the top of the garment. 
  12.  A thread lubricant often will help the thread slide through the needle eye and reduce fraying and breaking. 
  13.  Don't back-stitch or knot and cut threads, instead thread onto a needle, insert and bury the threads then cut off. 

Tricks for Top-stitching:

 All seams should be pressed open, even before they are pressed to one direction whether for a seam or envelope in the edge of a collar, cuff, etc.

 If the area you are top stitching has a lot of curves it's best to use a smaller stitch. Smaller stitches won't look as crooked as a longer stitch, if you make minor errors.

 Determine the exact pivot points at corners before you get to them and be careful not to overshoot of fall sort of it. Try making a thread "tail" of silk thread (won't mar the fabric) to provide a "handle" to tug on once you turn the corner. This prevents the corner from getting help up.

Make sure to press seams, and fabric edges before top-stitching.

Press the top-stitch with steam when finished to set and remove any puckering.

When you top-stitch the second line, do it in the opposite direction of the first line of stitching. This helps eliminate the wavy look sometimes seen on lower-end garments.

It takes a bit of experimentation to find the best combination of thread, needle, and foot for each top-stitching project. But it's definitely worth it when you see your fantastic results!
I used white thread for the top-stitching on this jean skirt.
How to Top-stitch:

 Here's the steps:
1. After the seam has been sewn and pressed to one side, put the garment under the presser foot with the smaller edge of the foot lined up with the edge of the pressed seam on your garment.
2. Using a slightly longer stitch than what you used to construct the garment, stitch a line right next to the edge of the seam.
3. You can add a second line of stitching next to the first and use the wider section of your presser foot as a guide to keep the line of stitching straight and even.

(I'll say it again) Using a longer stitch length in the top-stitching makes it look more professional and makes the stitching stand out more.

Is Top-stitching right for your fabric?
Heavily textured fabrics and dense, heavy twill can skew stitches and don't look attractive, practise on a scrap before determining if top-stitching is right for your garment.
Garments of any fabric can be top-stitched.

Why Top-stitch?
Top-stitching adds body and crispness with shorter stitches adding more body than longer stitches.

Top-stitching is used as a decorative stitch on the outside of the garment and also strengthens the seam. If you look at a pair of jeans,embellishment seams have this embellishment on the outside (like the outside seam of the leg).

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

All About Fabrics Series: Wool

Wool is one of the oldest fabrics in the world. It comes from sheep, rabbits (angora), goats (cashmere) and other animals. (Which means that the dog fur knitting woman on youtube is making a logical leap to using another animal fur.)

Wool keeps you dry and warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It is resistant to mold and mildew and is very durable for a long life of wearing. Wool has been improved on over time, to offset the scratchy feel it can be known for, and it is blended with other fibers to give different looks and feel. Some wools can be scratchy but don't judge all wools by your childhood experiences. Wool can also be incredibly soft and comfortable.

Wool ignites at a higher temperature than cotton and other fibres, making it a good choice in carpet and draperies.

It is generally dirt resistant.

It can absorb up to 30% of its weight without feeling damp.

 Sources of Wool

Alpaca fleece is very rich and silky with considerable luster. It comes from the Alpaca.

Mohair is from the Angora goat and is highly resilient and strong. Mohair’s luster, not softness, determines its value. Mohair is used in home decorating fabrics as well as garment fabrics.

Angora wool is from the Angora rabbit. This soft fiber is used in sweaters, mittens and baby clothes.

Camel hair is from the extremely soft and fine fur from the undercoat of the camel. Camel’s hair can be used alone but is most often combined with fine wool for overcoating, topcoating, sportswear and sports hosiery. Because of the beauty of the color, fabrics containing camel’s hair are usually left in the natural camel color or dyed a darker brown.

Cashmere is from the Kashmir goat down. Separation of the soft fibers from the long, coarse hair is tedious and difficult, contributing to the expense of the fabric. The soft hair is woven or knitted into fine garments and can also be blended with cotton, silk , or wool.

Vicuna Wool It is the softest coat cloth in the world. The amount of coarse hair to be separated from the soft fibers is negligible and yields the finest animal fiber in the world. Vicuna is a member of the Llama family and is small and wild. Since it is generally killed to obtain the fleece, it is protected by rigorous conservation measures. This fiber is rare and very expensive, costing several hundred dollars per yard.

Types of Wool Fabrics Available

Boiled Wool is a fabric that is pre-shrunk. It is used in accessories and coats. The fabric is a dense, heavy fabric.

Broadcloth is an all woolen or worsted fabric with a velvety feel. (Woolen fabric are cozier whereas worsted are stronger and coarser fabrics).

Challis, a light weight soft wool fabric in plain weave, has a printed or woven design or flowers.

Chinchilla cloth is a heavy, spongy woolen overcoat fabric with a long nap that has been rubbed into a curly, nubby finish
Donegal was originally a thick and warm homespun or tweed woven by Irish peasants in Donegal, Ireland. Donegal now describes the wool tweed that has colorful thick slubs woven into the fabric. It's great for coats, capes, suits and jackets.

Flannel wool is a soft, lightweight fabric with a nap on one or both sides. In couture sewing, designers often line silk with flannel.

Gabardine is a tightly woven wool twill with a high sheen. This fabric is excellent for tailoring and wears well. It is great for suiting, coats, jackets and more.

Glen checks are usually seen in menswear and originated in Scotland. It is characterized by a variety of small, even check designs.

Harris tweed is a hand woven fabric from Scotland with a soft feel. It is used in suiting and for coats.

Heather Mixture describes tweeds and homespun’s that have colors of heather and sand of the Scottish heather fields.

Herringbone wool is woven in a twill that is reversed at regular spacing, creating a sawtooth line.

Homespun is a loose, strong, durable woolen woven either by hand or machine with a coarse feel.

Houndstooth check has a four pointed star check in a broken twill weave.

Jersey is a knit fabric that is usually knit in fine wool or sometimes, silk, and man-made fibers.

Lambsdown is a heavy knit fabric that has a spongy fleeced nap on one side.

Linsey-woolsey is a coarse fabric first made in Lindsey, England, of wool combined with flax or cotton.

Loden fabric is a thick, soft, waterproof, windproof, wool used in outerwear that has a characteristic green color.

Mackinaw fabric is a heavy double fabric in striking colored patterns.

Melton, a heavy, tick, short napped fabric without a finish press or gloss.

Merino wool is soft and luxurious, resembling cashmere. Made from worsted yarn, it is much more affordable than cashmere. It yields thin fabric that is suitable for clothing including, skirts. dresses and menswear.

Petersham, a very thick, waterproof woolen coating, usually dark blue, is used for men’s trousers or heavy coats.

Pilot Cloth is a coarse, heavy, stout twilled woolen that is heavily napped and navy blue. Used by seamen.

Rabbit Hair is used in woven wool’s as a substitute for vicuna to give a soft effect in the fabric.

Sharkskin is woven with warp and filling yarns of alternating white with black, brown or blue.

Tartan is a twilled plaid design, originally Scottish.

Tweed is a rough textured wool, originally homespun and slightly felted. This fabric is sturdy with a mottled color.

 Sewing Tips for Wool
  • Wool must be pre-shrunk: either through a dry-cleaners or using an at-home method (there is a really good post on how to pre-treat wool on Off the Cuff found here)
  • It is an easy fabric to work with; though it can be quite expensive
  • This fabric resists wrinkling!
  • Wools dye easily and resist fading (except in direct, prolonged sunlight)
  • Can be damaged by too hot an iron and by moths
  • Wool doesn't tend to fray or ravel excessively so seam finishes can be as simple as trimming with pinking shears; however, the luxury of the fabric can call for more accomplished finishes.
  • Any interfacing can be used with wool fabric; use the fabric weight and drape as a guide when selecting interfacing. Always test fusible interfacing before using it to make sure it doesn’t cause the surface of lightweight wools to pucker; if so, replace with sew-in interfacing.
  • Use all-purpose cotton (or cotton-wrapped polyester) thread , a standard presser foot and stitch length appropriate for the fabric weight.
  • Use a universal needle appropriate for the weight of the fabric
  • Use hem tape and try to avoid gathered waists and set-in waist bands unless you are a really accomplished seamstress
  •  When sewing, press seams open to reduce bulk, grading them for heavy or bulky fabrics. To grade a seam allowance, trim each seam allowance a little narrower than the one above it, keeping the layer longest closest to the garment outside.
  •  Lining will help the garment keep its shape and eliminates the need for seam finishing.

Monday, April 16, 2012

I used Kool-Aid to Dye My T-shirt

I recently read a post by Mongs on My Thifty Closet where she refashioned a pair of pants to mint shorts. I love mint; it is my favourite colour.  Well, I have thought of little else but how many things I could dye that fantastic colour. Once I had a few things picked out, I couldn't find the dye-colour I wanted. All the colours available at Walmart were dark, winter colours like burgandy, navy and dark brown. I wanted to dye an old t-shirt a fun fabulous colour. But I couldn't find a fun colour at Walmart in the dye section.

 And then I started thinking about how food stains clothes, so why not use that information to change the colour of my clothes. If a stain will permanently colour a spot on my clothes, why wouldn't a diluted amount colour the whole top? So I wandered up and down the food aisle at my Walmart Super Center. And I came across Kool-Aid. Here is what I did:

I took an old, faded and stained in spots t-shirt
Angry Cat had to see what all the fuss was about...

Chose a colour of Kool-Aid and a box of salt

1) Put two packs of Kool-aid (Lime-Citrus) into 1.5 litres of water with 1 cup of salt in a pan on the stove. Let it boil.

2) Stir occasionally.

3) When the colour is the strength you like, drain the pan and run cool water on the shirt until the dye runs clear. I found there wasn't a lot of excess dye from the shirt. I then put in a wash cycle with dark colours.

It is now a mint green where it used to be white. It is a more colourful than the picture shows.

Result: the colour is a lovely green. It looks fabulous. The colour is not as strong as it would be had I used a commercial product. I found this method was a lot cheaper (Kool-Aid $.50) and I liked that there weren't a lot of harsh chemicals in it.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Removing Pet Hair From Your Clothes

 If you have a dog or cat, you know that pet hair can be a problem. Black pants are not an option if you own a white dog or cat because their hair sticks to your new pants and won't let go.

Generally pet hair is best kept off through prevention. Hang clothes up immediately after laundering. Put a towel on the seat of the car where the dog sits and don;t let Fido on the furniture. Here are a few more tips:

Getting Rid of Hair from the source:

Treat the source. Give the little shedder a table spoon or so of CORN oil every day. Much less if he's a little dog. A lab can have a table spoon, a toy dog maybe a teaspoon. It keeps their coat healthy and keeps them from shedding as much. If corn oil bothers you little guy, then try safflower oil. (from ask a vet, found here)

Remember :Your dog should only really shed excessively when their coat is changed...summer and winter....It is a sign of poor nutrition if they shed more than that, so you might want to have excessive shedding checked by a vet.

Also, brush the dog, its not yours, but no one complains because someone is brushing their dog. Brush it every day. It causes blood to reach the skin, nourishing the hair and keeping it healthy so it doesn't fall out as often.

Get one of those rubber brooms, the one that you see "AS SEEN ON TV" at Walmart. (I got one from the Dollar Store and it works fine.) They are EXCELLENT for pulling (you pull not push across the carpet) all the hair out of the carpet.

Massaging your pet all over with damp rubber gloves will get rid of loads of dog hair.

A damp cloth rubbed over clothes and carpets will remove most of the hairs..but its a slow process. A Lint Brush works the same way.

For a cheaper solution, you can use duct tape or any type of thick, sticky tape to remove pet hair from your clothing. Using either a rubber dish washing glove, leather glove, damp sponge, or damp microfiber cloth, just swipe the clothing, then on stubborn spots rub gently in a circular motion and this will get all the hairs as well as superficial dirt/dust

Use Bounce dryer sheets that help repel lint and hair. They seem to work fairly well.

It is also an excellent idea to hang your clothing or fold it and put it away. Pets often enjoy snuggling with clothing, especially when it is warm and freshly washed.

I've found that using a water mister on my hands or the surface to be de-haired, helps the fur cling to my hands as I roll the hair off into balls. They sell rubber "pet" brushes, but I found that a rubber squeegee and mister can remove lots of hair fast from a large area.

A vacuum is your best option. Yes, a vacuum. I have a vacuum targeted for pet hair removal, but, any vacuum will still work. Before I got the pet vacuum, I used the "arm" attachment and weighted down the clothing with books while I vacuumed off the hair. This worked for stubborn pet hair or a quick way to remove it if you don't have time to peel of hundreds of lint roller sheets. You could even use one of those mini-vacuums or a hand-held vacuum. This worked great on my furniture and bedsheets, too!


 Pet hair is more of a problem in cars with cloth seats. Draping the seat with a towel or sheet is the easiest way to prevent hair from working its way into the seat. If practical, keep your pet in a carrier when traveling in the car.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Cutting Fabric on Grain

When I took sewing courses in high school, I swear the old lady who taught us almost beat it into us to get the grain straight.  I never really understood why and I ignored her. I soon realized that she was right.

What is the Fabric Grain?

The term fabric grain refers to the way threads are woven in a piece of fabric.The threads run two ways: lengthwise and crosswise. (Knit fabrics run on-grain too: the loops are constructed in crosswise and lengthwise fashion). You must cut on the grain so that the garment drapes the way the designer intended. Fabric grain is a topic covered first in clothing construction because it's important to the drape of the clothing. The fabric grain has give but no stretch. It runs perpendicular to the selvedge. 

The grain-line is marked with the long black arrow

What happens if I ignore cutting on the grain?

I am an expert at this. I didn't cut on the grain all through high school, unless I was being graded on a project. Take it from me, you will soon see that there are problems. 

For example, lets say you are cutting two pieces for a simple skirt. One is cut on grain and the other is not. The two pieces would then have different amounts of stretch. When you wear the finished garment, there will be a noticeable difference in the way the two pieces hang. One front piece will have stretch one way and the other piece will have stretch a different way.

Check the grain first:

All fabrics made from yarns are on grain when manufactured. Looms and knitting machines are built to construct fabrics in a grain perfect manner. However, a fabric can become off-grain during the processes of finishing (dyeing, printing, permanent finishing, and/or packaging, winding onto a bolt).
An easy way to test the fabric grain is to fold a piece of fabric in half lengthwise and pin the selvage edges together. If the fabric lies perfectly flat, the grain is perfect. When you purchase fabric, it is important to lay it out and be sure that it is perfectly flat. If it is not, unpin the fabric and tug it on opposite corners to right the grain. Try again. 

Fabrics are on-grain when the lengthwise and crosswise threads are perpendicular to one another.

Be Careful with Stripes and Plaids - they may be printed on the fabric rather than weaved into the fabric. It is easy to assume the grain runs with the stripe but this is not always the case.

So measure your grain-line (the large arrow running in the middle of the pattern piece) at each end. Be sure each end of the grainline is the exact distance from the selvedge and pin that first.

Karen , from Did You Make That?, has a great pictorial tutorial on it here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

All About Fabrics Series: Linen

Linen is the world's oldest fabric. It is strong, yet lightweight and cool to wear. It has always been popular in the hotter climates of Asia and Europe, but its tendency to wrinkle has limited its popularity in North America.  

 The term "linen" can prove confusing: it can refer to the fabric or the weave or it can refer to all table fabrics (table linens) and traditionally it was the word used for all undergarments!


Linen gets softer with laundering and age.

It is the twice as strong as cotton.

It tends to be  a smooth fibre, yielding lint-free fabrics.

Creamy white to light tan, this fiber can be easily dyed and the color does not fade when washed.

Highly absorbent and a good conductor of heat, this fabric is cool in garments. 

Linen wrinkles easily and irons easily as well.

Fabric manufacturers apply a baked-on resin to linen to quell the wrinkling issue.

Some manufacturers age the linen , noting that older linens do not wrinkle as easily.


Sewing Tips:
  • Pre-wash your linen fabric as linen shrinks. Some treated linens claim to be pre-shrunk but why trust that?
  • Linen requires few special notions for sewing (universal needle gauged by the weight of the fabric) and polyester or cotton thread 
  • It is easy to cut with scissors or a rotary wheel
  • Linen fabrics show their weave and so finding the grain is easy.  
  • It can be tricky to keep track of the right side of the fabric, so use safety pins to mark the right side.
  • Do not use erasable pens to mark linen; it can be easily damaged by these and by colored chalk and wax. White chalk, pins, and clipping the fabric are good ways to mark linen.
  • Linen shows off every seam, curve, and detail, so it's perfect for patterns with interesting seams, shaping, and surface details, such as pintucks, stand-up collars, welt pockets, gussets, contour waistbands, stitched hems, and the like. 
  • When adding pleats or pintucks, make sure you are folding on the length-wise or cross-wise grain. 
  • Wear can show up in collars, hems, and any area that is iron creased during the laundering. Linen has poor elasticity and does not spring back readily.
  • Top-stitching is common on linen garments, so you may have to tweak your sewing machine tension 
  • Finish seams by pinking the edges or binding them. Pinking is easiest for beginners. It is less time consuming than most methods and it is a classic finish.
  • Embroidery works well on linen fabric.

Ironing Your Linen Fabric:

  • Linen can develop a shine if ironed at too high a temperature, so use a press cloth as a buffer or iron on the wrong side of the fabric.
  • A hot iron can shrink linen fabric - so please, pre-wash that fabric.
  • Use a steam iron if possible. Linen presses easily with heat and moisture.
  • You can starch linens if you want to hold a shape on a small area, like a collar.


Linen weave is actually a plain weave, but it is usually considered to have some slubs, a common characteristic of linen yarn. There are also linen finishes (sizings, etc.) that can be applied to cotton to make it seem more linen-like.

Lawn  can be made from cotton or linen. It is a lightweight fabric that is suitable for dresses, dress shirts and other clothing

Butcher’s Linen Fabric was originally a heavy, sturdy linen fabric used for French butchers’ aprons. This type of heavy fabric was also used for interfacing.

Damask is a jacquard weave fabric. It has a reversable design woven into the fabric on jacquard looms. It can be made from many different fibers including linen.

Irish Linen  is a brand name. It must be made in Ireland in order to bear that name. Irish lawn (a fine plain weave linen) must also be made in Ireland to have "Irish" in front of the lawn.

Venise is a very fine damask table linen fabric consisting of large floral patterns. Venise linen is specially used for pillow covers, bed covers and table linens. It is very ornate, and very fine linen that dates back to the Italian aristocracy.


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