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Reasons to quit Facebook and a little lady called Enid

In 2014 I managed a grand total of 1 blog post and 2013 wasn’t much better, I went Internet Silent for a while.

It’s not uncommon for people to deactivate Facebook accounts and do internet detoxes when the oversharing, trolling, memes, boring updates, mommyjacking etc all gets a bit much and I’ve done it a few times for those reasons however I did it for a very unexpected reason towards the end of 2013 and into early 2014.  I was pregnant.

For some that would have been a reason to share news, joys and jubilations with all of their friends but it stopped me in my tracks.  You see, I had been under the impression that I couldn’t have children.  I had wanted to be a mother since I was a child myself, had it all planned out and when I got married in 2009 I fully expected to be somebody’s Mum by 2010, 11 at the latest.  I wasn’t though and what followed was five years of disappointment, heartache and devastation.  I won’t go into it in detail but I was so lost.  My vision for the future was broken and at times I didn’t really understand how a happy and full life could ever be an option for me without a family.  I didn’t have a back up plan and I was so obsessed and fixated with my goal that I couldn’t see anything else.

Things came to breaking point at the beginning of 2013 when we realised that a big change was needed and we moved out of the city which had started to become so oppressive and back to my beloved and native West Highland home.  We took on a big new project which meant the heart-rending decision that Seamus and Emmylou our beloved kitties had to go live with Mr Kapow’s Dad in Herefordshire (they are so happy there!). As we drove to our new life it felt like a fresh start and I literally felt the weight lift off my shoulders.  For the first 8 weeks we lived on the job and worked tirelessly from morning till night.  We grew fitter, stronger and happier and it took me far longer than it should have to realise something was different with my body.  I put off doing a test for fear that the result would plunge me back into my former life and when I could stand it no longer and looked at the result time literally stood still…

…shit.  What now?!?!?!  I didn’t want to tell anyone, as if saying it out loud would cancel it.  We told only immediately family and very close friends until well after the 12 week point and even after people knew I still was terrified that too many people knowing was a negative thing.  I felt like I had made the whole thing up; did test after test even after I’d had my first scan just to make sure the result was still the same.  I was just waiting for the next medical professional I saw to tell me to stop wasting their time.  A friend of mine had a dog called Connie and she had a phantom pregnancy, it seemed so obvious.

So I shut down all my internets, no facebook and definitely no blog. Facebook in particular had been a source of great pain for me in the past.  The constant sharing of baby pictures, first days at school, “like this if you’re someone’s Mummy” memes were sometimes agony and I didn’t want to hurt anyone else who couldn’t have children by making a pregnancy announcement.  Mr Kapow bless him was desperate to but I just didn’t want anyone asking questions, all of a sudden I was shy and secretive.  I couldn’t “go public” or plan my nursery or write blog posts about making wee clothes because the baby wasn’t coming, something bad was going to happen…

…well our beautiful daughter Enid (mostly known as Critter or Toodles) is going to be a year old in March.  She was real!10428440_10154817686830596_4934338475870103751_n

I’m not sure why I feel compelled to write this now, part of it’s because I want to return to blogging and feel the need to bridge a gap before all of a sudden starting to talk about babies a little (or as much as I’m comfortable with) but it’s also in case anyone who identifies is looking for reassurance that it’s not just them…

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Invisible Zipper Tutorials :: Show me a garment please or why patterns are wrong!

Invisible Zips aren’t hard to do.

But they’re hard to remember HOW to do!

I’ve been sewing a few years now and during that time have put in more than a few invisible zips but for the life of me I’ve never been able to memorise the process, especially since I’m self / internet taught to a large extent.  Perhaps if I was doing it every day but for the meantime I almost always resort to an online tutorial to jog my memory, especially for the part where I’m doing the second side and trying to work out which way it should be twisted round, y’know?

Tutorials I love and find very clear are:

Installing an Invisible Zipper (with video) by The Coletterie

This one by By Hand London I find particularly good because they’re using the same rubbish little plastic foot I have.  I have the little ikea ironing board too which is so useful for sewing!

So these are great but you will notice that they both (and most other ones you’ll find online and in books) depict garments (or sample fabric) which are left open at the seam where you are installing the zip.  It has taken me until now to realise that this is intentional and not just annoying.

Patterns always tell you to sew the zipper seam up to a certain point THEN install the zipper which I have SELDOM managed to achieve without a wee snag / bumfle where it meets the existing hem line.  It works a LOT better the way shown in these tutorials however I have been frowned at for doing this by my very experienced and puritan Sewing Club Captain!

I for one would really appreciate an Invisible Zipper Tutorial which showed a zip being installed into an actual garment like a dress.

The other thing I would like to see or for someone to explain properly to me is how to “treat” or “deal with” the top of the zip. I’ve seen it folded down etc but can’t seem to find anywhere a definitive “lesson” on this when it comes to facings or bindings.

Do you know what I’m talking about or is the reason I’m not finding any help down to my inability to explain myself to you and / or Google?!

I’m off, Strictly’s on.

Photo: www.glossybox.co.uk

Glossybox Vs Birchbox and are either of them actually worth it?

I don’t normally post reviews on here but after receiving my second Glossybox yesterday I felt compelled to share my thoughts.

For those of you who don’t know Glossybox and Birchbox are beauty “monthlies” where basically you fill in a questionnaire about your skin tone and type and then for about a tenner a month (+p&p) they post you products and samples in lovely boxes and it’s a wonderful girly pampering treat!

I heard about Glossybox first through some friends and loved the concept. I live a long way away from any department stores and the idea of receiving a box of surprise treats in the mail. The website really sold it to me:

A MONTHLY PACKED FULL OF HIGH-END BEAUTY SAMPLES FROM TOP COSMETICS BRANDS MAILED STRAIGHT TO YOUR DOOR.

Beauty addicts rejoice! The hottest new service to hit the beauty world is GLOSSYBOX, a monthly beauty box full of carefully curated high-end beauty products. For only 10£ (plus p+p), GLOSSYBOX mails you five deluxe-sized beauty samples from your favorite luxury brands – and brands that you may not yet know, but will soon fall in love with. 

For me the buzz words were “high-end”; “deluxe-sized” and “luxury brands”.  I live in the middle of nowhere in a town with a miniscule Boots, a small Superdrug and a Tesco as my only real cosmetic emporiums and only ever buy a “women’s lifestyle” magazine in a (usually public transport related) emergency or if it’s got a particularly good free gift so the opportunity for discovering new brands was a further temptation.

I was hesitant though about subscribing, ten pounds is actually quite a lot of money to be spending a month on stuff I might never use.  I found it hard to justify such flagrant and decadent spending on little old me considering my low-budget income but I was bolstered by the fact that I could cancel at any time and Mr Kapow’s assurances that I deserved treats and should go for it.  Furthermore, if this was truly going to be full of high-end, luxury brands in deluxe sizes than I would be able to have products I would never be able to afford otherwise.

I was excited, the website is all glamorous and the boxes themselves – even sans contents – looked lovely, I love a box me!

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I eagerly awaited my first box which would be November 2013 and due to arrive around the time of my 30th birthday.  It was called the Christmas Wishlist Edition so I was expecting glitz and glamour!

Glossybox November 2013

Photo from Glossybox.co.uk

Photo from Glossybox.co.uk

The Box

It came via Hermes which is not a service much used in the sticks as yet but it arrived safe and sound and was very well packaged. The pink Glossybox box inside was a thrilling and decadent looking discovery and then the products inside were lovingly wrapped in a coordinating tissue and ribbon indulgence.  I felt so spoiled!

The Products

Vichy Idealia Life Serum (2x3mls) & Smoothing and Illuminating Cream (3mls)

In a little pink organza bag which made them look prettier than three tiny little boxes I suppose.  I’m assuming their tininess has a lot to do with how expensive the full products actually are but Vichy was a brand I had been wanting to try and might have considered purchasing so I was quite pleased with these.

 

 

 

Yves Rocher Hand Cream Cacao & Pistache (75ml Full Size) 

I got the Cocoa and Pistachio fragranced one in the middle.  This is a lovely hand cream which smells divine and very Christmasy and while I knew I’d use it I know the brand Yves Rocher pretty well having been given a lot of products by them in my childhood by my Mum and various Aunts in the form of free samples.  I was initially surprised to find a full-sized product in the box but quickly realised that it costs less than £2.  Result I guess as I genuinely like it and can afford to buy it but not exactly a high-end product like I expected.

Elegant Touch Rapid Dry Spray (Full Size)

I got the spray for drying nail varnish.

This to me is a bog standard product available from common as anything shops like New Look, Boots & Superdrug.

I can buy this at the same time as I’m picking up my Gran’s prescription and to be honest I’d be more likely to leave it on the shelf!

Not a high-end product. Huff.

 

Scholl Dry Skin Exfoliator (60ml Full Size)

Yep so another full-sized product but really?

I have nothing against this product as it’s probably quite good but again, high-end?

Practical, hideously packaged and in a way I’m kind of insulted.

Yet another product I could have stuck in my trolley at the supermarket.

Where’s my glitz and glamour?!

Emite Make Up Micronized Eyeshadow (Full Size 1.48g)

I got the light pinky / kidd shade.  This somewhat helped redeem the box as it’s a full-sized product from a company I hadn’t heard of and which I probably couldn’t afford in a nice inoffensive shade I probably will wear.

It was make-up too which was nice as so far I hadn’t found within this box any opportunity to doll myself up without feeling like a teenager too impatient to let her nails dry or an old lady with horrid scabby feet.

This was the only product in the box I felt tied in remotely with the Christmas Wishlist theme but even so the packaging was pretty dull so the overall excitement factor was not really improved.

Verdict

I use the hand cream and will probably finish it.  The smell is lovely and it’s quite light and absorbs well.  I also tried the eye shadow which was nice enough however not as nice and long-lasting as my favourite MAC one in a similar shade which is also cheaper to buy!  I tried the serum but there’s not really enough of it or the illuminating cream I feel to get a good idea of whether the products are any good, they smell lovely though!  The other two products went straight into a box where I keep mundane stuff like extra cotton wool and last year’s sun cream.

My overall impression is of disappointment and guilt that I paid £10 (+p&p) for something I wanted to make me feel special and pampered and instead has made me feel like someone who wastes money on beauty box subscriptions.  This box was nowhere near my idea of a Christmas Wishlist and especially since I indicated in my questionnaire that I was particularly interested in make-up I wasn’t feeling very listened to.

I went online to cancel my subscription but got distracted by reading blogged reviews where some people seemed pretty happy with their boxes and others like me felt they’d been robbed.  These people mostly seemed to be saying that Birchbox offered a far better service with more high-end brands.  Before I knew it I’d signed up to them (SUCKER!) and decided to cancel Glossybox. As my finger hovered over the button though I was overcome by the temptation of a Christmas themed box….. I resolved (naughtily) to give the another shot and cancel in December if I wasn’t more impressed.

The process for signing up to Birchbox was much the same, similar questionnaire, similar layout but more grown up and less celebrity  endorsed looking website.  There were a few additional questions which asked me whether I had an interest in natural and organic products.  I really am so took this to be a very good sign!

Birchbox December 2013

The Box

Another lovely wee box.  Not as girly and swanky looking as the Glossybox but certainly inviting.  Instead of tissue and a ribbon the products are encased in a drawstring bag.  This is a nice idea but surprisingly I’d prefer the tissue because this bag is so shallow and pointlessly shaped that I can’t imagine what I might re-use it for.  I don’t feel that bad about binning a bit of tissue and could even reuse it with its ribbon to wrap a gift but I would feel bad about binning this…

The Products

Nail Rock Nail Glitter – Red (Full Size)

This was the first thing which caught my eye and initially I was excited by its glitteryness and the fact that it’s red (how did you know Birchers?).

I have opted not to wear nail polish brands that are at least “3 free” which as far as I can tell this one is.  Hooray!

Having read the blurb though and discovered it’s going to take me 2 coats followed by 15-20 mins drying time (where’s that drying spray?!) and the faff of dipping my nails in glitter and probably getting it everywhere I’m pretty sure it’ll stay in its box.

I *might* try it and am suitably charmed by its originality and Christmasy sparkle so this is actually something I’m happy with.

ModelCo. Party Proof Lipstick – Get Naked (Full Size)

Photo: Konnie Kapow

Photo: Konnie Kapow

Exciting to get a lipstick but I’m terrified of the colour!  Will it not just erase my lips?!

This product was also covered in an orangey coloured sticky substance as if it had been lurking down the back of someone’s sofa for a while.

There is no way I would wear it.  Nope nope nope.  Although it would be tempting to draw round it with a dark lip-liner and then pluck out my brows and draw them back in to finish the look.

Twistband

It took me a while to work out that this was actually a product and not just a bit of card with a ribbon tied round it.

I liked the card showing me things I could do with it but probably won’t as I’m rubbish at “hairdos”.

To begin with I didn’t trust it but it seems to work quite well and apparently there will be no snags or dents in my hair when I take it back out.  Who knew?

Delarom Acquaconfort Mask (15ml)

Now this is a reasonable size for a sample, I can use this product a couple of times to try and actually see if it’s any good!

It smells great and is an eco-friendly brand I hadn’t heard of or used before.

Pleased with this!

Beauty Protector Protect and Detangle

Photo Konnie Kapow

Photo Konnie Kapow

I haven’t tried this yet but it claims to detangle, glossify and heat protect my hair.

It’s a good size and also an exclusive product.

That’s more like it!

 

 

 

 

Laura Mercier Body Souffle ambre vanille

Laura Mercier Body Souffle

Photo: Konnie Kapow

I had to laugh when I saw this because I was recently given another sample of this in the Almond / Coconut “flavour.”

I had heard of this brand and was interested in sampling it but when I used the first one was truly appalled by the smell.  Coconut and marzipan are fragrances and flavours I really dislike anyway but the overriding aroma of this was just like I’d smothered myself in rice pudding!

I didn’t like the texture either which was so light and strangely greasy that I didn’t feel the least bit moisturised and the smell lingered to the extent that Mr K tried to throw me out of bed!

Still I haven’t removed the foil to smell this one and I’m satisfied that the sample is a good size and a high-end product.

Verdict

Much, much, much better than Glossybox!  Had the lipstick been a colour I could see a human being wearing other than in a sci-fi movie or a particularly horrendous driving instructor I once had I’d be really pleased.

The only other criticism was that whoever filled my box seemed to have pretty grubby fingers.  I’m not sure how long I’ll actually subscribe for as the guilt regarding my indulgence will probably get to me but I am definitely interested to see what’s in the next one!

Glossybox December 2013

The Box

Lovely Christmas themed box which definitely aroused hopes that last month’s box was a one-off flop and this one was going to be awesome!  Candy cane tissue with pretty white ribbon!

The Products

Wilkinson Sword Intuition Naturals Razor

What the hell?  A bog standard Wilkinson Sword razor?  You’re having a laugh right?

The overwhelming opinion that I’ve gathered from reading other blogs and a comment thread into the 70s on Facebook is that everyone was pretty surprised to see this.  It is very much the dominant item in the box taking up at least half of the space and it makes everything else in there look cheap.

I CAN GET THIS IN TESCO!

Last month my Glossybox implied that I might need to exfoliate the dead skin from my trotters and this month it’s reminding me that I need to shave my legs?!  I’m seven months pregnant so will be lucky if I can even find my legs but that’s not the point here!

As soon as I saw this I knew we were over G’Box.  It’s not even gold! You dug your own grave.

RITUALS Miracle Balm White Lotus and Ginko Biloba

More hand cream?  Ok.

This is pretty good too actually and I like the packaging which is officially the most glamorous of any product I’ve had in my Glossyboxes.

It’s a bit sticky if you use too much but I’m always in the market for a good hand cream.

Maybelline BROW drama Sculpting Brow Mascara (7.6ml)

Photo: Konnie Kapow

Photo: Konnie Kapow

This is interesting, I am always looking for new ways to tame my brows and will definitely give this a try.

I was also pleased to see more make-up in this box since it is the party month after all.

Maybelline though, yet another brand I can get literally anywhere.

I wanted new and exotic brands I couldn’t pick up in my tiny home town and would make me feel pampered and posh.

Glossybox seem quite determined not to give me that and to remind me that I’m never going to amount to anything more exclusive than brands I bought in high school.

Seche Nail Lacquer Chocolat (Full size 14ml)

Photo: Konnie Kapow

Photo: Konnie Kapow

Perhaps it’s the horrible brown colour which is offputting because having googled this brand I can see that the range is quite good and since it’s only available at Liberty in the UK I’m unlikely to come across it in my day to day life.

It is also as far as I can tell “3 free.”

This is a good product to find in the box, I just hate the colour, that’s not Glossybox’s fault.

Beautiful Movement Beautiful Lips Gloss (4ml)

Photo: Konnie Kapow

Photo: Konnie Kapow

Again I’m a bit frightened of the shade here but the last two products have saved me from marching down to Glossybox HQ to ask for my money back!

I haven’t heard of this brand and was pleased to discover that Beautiful Movements Cosmetics products do not contain parabens, synthetic colours, fragrances, animal products, fillers, petrochemicals or bismuth oxychloride.

The brand belongs to Pussycat Doll Kimberly Wyatt and I’m normally not keen on celebrity products but this may well be a brand I’ll keep an eye on.

So…

Glossybox Vs Birchbox? – Birchbox

Are either of them worth it? – Not really

I’m definitely cancelling Glossybox and will see what’s in the January Birchbox but to be honest I’ll probably cancel that too.

My overall feeling is that I’m throwing money away each month on products that I like but won’t use because the colour isn’t right or can pick up in any supermarket.

The surveys on both sites cover skin type and colouring but they don’t ask anything about your style or preferences which would actually be very hard to do.  I have also noticed that many customers on Glossybox’s facebook page are claiming that products they’ve been sent are not even suited to their skin type.

It’s nice to have the genuine high end products to try but I should probably just do some actual research into what I want and need rather than chucking away over £10 a month (+p&p) on a pretty box.

 

Try to line up seams and darts
Image property of Konnie Kapow

Vogue V8184 – Adventures in Fitting Part I

I’ve been sewing about 18 months now and had some great successes with fit mostly by chance.  I’ve made several items for myself but suspect I’m a pretty standard shape/size because they usually pretty much fit me (when I made the right size in the first place! see Vogue 2903!).

I’ve heard lots of people talking about pattern grading but haven’t as yet had cause to try it because I have avoided making for others on account of fear of the unknown. I was intrigued as to how that fear may be conquered however and the time finally came this week for me to make a dress for my sister who has a few weddings to attend this Summer…

Here were the problems:

My sister: Lovely lovely sister is NOT a standard size.  I worked out that she’s a 10-8-12 according to the pattern sizing charts.

Her fabric: It’s a gorgeous vintage cotton sateen print which she bought on Ebay.  However, it’s 45″ wide, there’s under 2m, it has quite a large pattern repeat and it also has a couple of big flaws I’ll need to work around.

The pattern:  Trying to explain to a non sewer why they can’t use certain patterns can be challenging.  She initially wanted a fuller skirt but I had to suggest she needed a straight one or a pencil due to fabric constraints.  I had Vogue 8184 in my stash and pretty much insisted it would be great.

Vogue Options V8184

Vogue Options V8184
Image from http://www.voguepatterns.mccall.com

She liked the idea of version F with a halter and I was delighted to see that it would only require 1.5m of fabric.

So…

Step One – Take measurements of bust, waist and hips.

I almost immediately lost these measurements so decided that the best thing to do would be make a toile in a size 12 then fit it to her.  Yeah I just bandied the term “fit it to her” around in my head, no clue how to go about doing that but I’d find out!

Step Two – Cut fabric pieces out of an old duvet cover.

To my horror/delight I discovered that the bodice of this dress is self lined so in theory I could line with another fabric and thus conserve even more fabric for errors and such.  This is also when I realised that the dress is boned.  Oh crikey.

Emmylou looked on concerned

Emmylou looked on concerned
Image property of Konnie Kapow

Step Three – Construct dress in size 12 being a good girl and paying special attention to using the seam allowances on the actual pattern!

This was remarkably straight forward, the instructions were fab and took unnervingly little time.

Step Four – Be smug with self for several minutes then ponder for several more.

Great!  Size 12 dress!  Clearly going to be too big for her though and no way of fitting her because she’s not available for several says and also I don’t know how to do that.

Vogue Options V8184 Toile

Vogue Options V8184 Toile – halter and front flaps are just pinned on for effect.
Image property of Konnie Kapow

Step Five – Be impulsive.

We’re moving house in a few weeks so I really wanted to crack on as I’ll need to pack my sewing machine at some point.  I’m also super impatient so I decided to guess how much smaller to make the dress.

Step Six – Find reference point.

I had a skirt on hand that I had taken in for that same sister and hadn’t given her back yet but I knew fitted her waist and hips so using that as a template I drew new marks on the bottom half of the toile.

Step Seven – Maths!

Gawd.  Maths has never been my forte but I measured the waist of the skirt which I knew fitted and then the dress which I knew would be too big.  The difference was 7cm.  I adjusted my markings of the bottom half to make sure it was even and then turned to the bodice.

There are 7 pieces in this bodice meaning 6 seams including the two princess seams at the bust.  I divided 7 by 6 and got 1.17cm.  I considered leaving the princess seams as they were as she is quite busty and then reducung the rest evenly but ultmatetely decided to reduce them all.  I didn’t have any fancy tools for doing this, I just used my tape measure and drew dots every couple of centimetres down the existing seams.

Step Eight – Sew again!

I then sewed the new seams parallel to the old ones tweaking it a little bit to make sure the front seams still lined up with the darts and side seams.

Princess seam adjustment Image Propety of Konnie Kapow

Princess seam adjustment
Image Propety of Konnie Kapow

Try to line up seams and darts Image property of Konnie Kapow

Try to line up seams and darts
Image property of Konnie Kapow

Step Nine – Wait.

All I could do now was wait impatiently for an opportunity to get her to try this on…… drums fingers…….watches butterflies….makes another cup of tea…..

My gorgeous and super talented designer friend and colleague Jemima of K’outure fame offered moral support and even said she would help with the fitting if I got stuck.  What a sweetie.

Step Ten – The moment of truth

She came round last night and to my amazement the dress actually fits!  I even stuck a very wonky zip in it with her hovering over my shoulder (have you tried that? It’s so hard with someone watching – well done Sewing Bee-ers!) so I could see the proper lines etc and it just bloody well fits!

V8184 Toile  Image property of Konnie Kapow

V8184 Toile
Image property of Konnie Kapow

V8184 Toile from the back Image property of Konnie Kapow

V8184 Toile from the back
Image property of Konnie Kapow

So now what?  I guess the next challenge will be matching the print in the real fabric and doing boning and stuff….

JEMIMA?!?!?!?!?!?!??!

Woven fabric
Photo credit: Konnie Kapow

A Guide to Fabric Shopping II :: Types of fabric and fibre

Following on from yesterday’s post about being prepared before visiting the fabric shop, I thought I’d write a little bit about what to expect when you arrive.  This post, like the first, is aimed at sewing novices or first time visitors.  Perhaps someone taking a dressmaking class or hoping to pick up some skills on their own. 

I know that some people find their first visit daunting or a bit overwhelming and that sometimes they can feel excluded from the “crafting clique” which is a very real phenomenon.  Before I started working in a fabric shop I too felt this way but since I do work in a fabric shop I have a perspective from the other side of the counter and can hopefully help put you at ease.

 Again, this post is all my own views and opinion and has nothing whatsoever to do with the shop I work for.

So, most shops will be divided into at least two sections; fabric and haberdashery.

Here are the basics about fabric…

There are two main types of fabric:

Woven

In school you possibly made woven mats or baskets out of paper or raffia?  You start with vertical lines or a frame and then wrap another strand in and out to form a flat surface or structure.  This is weaving in a basic form.

Detail of a diagram of the structure of a bala...

Detail of a diagram of the structure of a balanced “basketweave” textile. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Woven fabrics are usually made on a loom.  The vertical or frame threads are called the warp and they are the ones held fast on the loom.  The horizontal threads which are then woven in and out are known as the weft.

You can tell a woven fabric from looking closely and identifying a pattern like this

Woven fabricPhoto credit: Konnie Kapow

Woven fabric
Photo by Konnie Kapow

  • Woven fabric is structured and therefore will crush or crease to some extent.
  • It will not stretch vertically or horizontally because the threads are perpendicular (or 45° angle) to one another but there will be a varying degree of stretch on the diagonal also known as the bias.
  • Woven material will usually fray at the edges when you cut it.
  • Common woven fabrics are cotton, linen, denim, satin, chiffon, tweed, taffeta, netting such as tulle and canvas.

Knitted

Knitters are at a distinct advantage when it comes to identifying a knitted fabric, also commonly referred to as “stretch knit.”  If you are a knitter then you will no doubt realise very quickly that this is indeed a knitted fabric and that it’s done in stocking stitch.

Stocking Stitch Photo by Konnie Kapow

Stocking Stitch
Photo by Konnie Kapow

Knits are made from one continuous thread or yarn which is literally knitted

There are warp knit fabrics and weft knit fabrics, a hand knitted jumper is a weft knit:

Schematic of stockinette stitch, the most basi...

Schematic of stockinette stitch, the most basic weft-knit fabric (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

whereas a warp knit has to be done on a machine:

Warp knit thru a microscope

Warp knit thru a microscope (Photo credit: wild.sproket)

  • A weft knit will unravel if you cut it whereas a warp knit will not.
  • Knits will generally spring back to their original shape rather than crease or crush.
  • They have visible ribs running through them and the stretch will generally be greater with the rib rather than across it.
  • Knits don’t have a bias.
  • Knits tend to curl at the raw edges if not hemmed or sewn.
  • Common knit fabrics are jersey, fleece, felt and towelling.

    Knitted Jersey Photo by Konnie Kapow

    Knitted Jersey
    Photo by Konnie Kapow

Once you have established the difference between a woven and a knit, fabrics are further categorised by the fibre they are constructed from which will either be natural or man-made.

Natural Fibres:

Cotton

  • Grows around the seeds of cotton plants native to tropical and subtropical regions around the world, including the Americas, Africa, and India.

    Cotton

    Cotton (Photo credit: David Stanley)

  • Incredibly versatile, can be woven into cloth and also used in knits.
  • Easily sewn and washed, fabric of choice for quilters as well as very popular for dressmaking.
  • Cotton is known for being a breathable fabric and therefore comfortable to wear in hot weather.
  • There are many types and weights of woven cotton ranging from very light and delicate with a more open weave such as voile and lawn to canvas and drill which are thick and heavy with a dense weave.

Linen

  • A product of the flax plant native to the region extending from the eastern Mediterranean to India.

    Flax

    Flax (Photo credit: kate e. did)

  • The name mostly refers to the specific weave so it can be made from other fibres such as cotton.
  • Known for its breathable qualities.
  • Linen is a crisp fabric so can create a sharp line, it is also very easy to crush or crease.
  • Open weave lends linen to needlework and embroidery.
  • Often used for table er…linen!

Silk

  • Is a natural protein fibre produced by worms to make cocoons. (Resists urge to write that it comes out of their bums)

    English: Silk worm

    English: Silk worm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • The process for producing and harvesting silk is complex and time-consuming which is why it can be very expensive.
  • Many customers I see appear to confuse silk the fibre with satin the fabric.  Satin is just any woven fabric with a shiny side and a dull or flat side.
  • Raw silk (also known as Dupion) often has a rough line or slub through it

Wool

  • You know that this comes from sheep right?!

    Photo by Konnie Kapow

    Photo by Konnie Kapow

Man-Made Fibres

Acrylic

  • Often used instead of or mixed with wool in knitwear.
  • Warm, washable and hard-wearing.

Leather / Suede

  • Perhaps this should be in the natural fibre section, it’s probbaly debatable but leather is made by tanning the hides of animals such as cows but there is a wide range of suede and leatherettes around which are made from plastics and other manufactured fibres.  

Nylon

  • Often used in stretch knits such as lingerie and hosiery. 

Polyester

  • Very popular in fabrics.  A woman walked into the shop and asked me one day “where is your polyester?” and the answer is everywhere!  
  • Used in a wide range of fabrics for a wide range of uses.
  • On the plus side – cheap, mass-produced and washes very well.
  • On the down side – generates static and is not breathable so not the best for hot weather.

Rayon

  • Rayon is known by the names viscose rayon and art silk in the textile industry. It usually has a high lustre quality giving it a bright sheen. (thanks Wikipedia!)

Spandex

  • Or Lycra, super strong and stretchy.  Mostly used in sportswear.
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A guide to fabric shopping I :: Be prepared

Fabric shops can be daunting places, especially if you’re visiting one for the first time.  My friend Jenny over at Sew Confident wrote a blog recently about some negative experiences she has had in fabric shops and since I have a little bit of experience in this department I thought I might offer some general advice from the other side of the counter … (to you not Jenny!)

First of all, this post has nothing to do with the shop that I work in.  I am not speaking on their behalf.  I want to be absolutely clear that this is just my own personal advice on how to shop in any fabric store.

I always do my best to be as helpful as possible to customers, they’re always right after all ;) and no buts!

((BUT)) sometimes customers are confused or overwhelmed  upon entering the fabric shop environment and feel intimidated, possibly by their inexperience and possibly by the “procedure” for getting served not being immediately obvious.  It’s not an exclusive club by any means and if you’re made to feel stupid or unwelcome by a member of staff then you should make note of their name and contact management about it.  Sometimes though, customers just don’t feel they’re leaving with what they went in for.  Both customers and sales assistants are human beings and sometimes don’t fulfill their potential.  Here’s my advice to get the most out of your visit.

Before you go to the shop:

Be prepared

I'm A Brownie

I’m A Brownie (Photo credit: Joybot)

No, I’m not reverting back to my joyful youth as a Brownie, I am hitting straight out with what is probably the most important piece of advice I could give.  You’re probably going to the fabric shop because you need some fabric right?  It’s a good idea to have at least a starting off point.

These points are all mostly about bringing stuff… (in your little Brownie knapsack)

  • If you want to make a repair to something bring it with you if you can or some pictures if it’s too massive, be aware though that a colour is not accurately shown in a photo.
  • If you want to match a colour bring something else that colour or the one you want to coordinate with.  So many customers try to describe a colour and it just doesn’t work.  One man’s Aubergine is another man’s Damson.  You say Turquoise, I say potato.
  • If you’ve been in before and took a sample and now want to buy more of the same then bring your sample.
  • If you’re making something from scratch then have an idea of what you want to make, bring pictures or a drawing.  A bit like when you go to the hairdressers!
  • If you’re working from a pattern, bring your pattern!
  • If you are using a dressmaker or perhaps taking a class and the dressmaker / tutor have told you what type of fabric to buy and how much, write it down and BRING YOUR LIST!
  • If you want to make something specific like curtains, a cushion cover or recover a sofa bring accurate measurements of your window, your cushion, your sofa.  I have lost count of the number of people who’ve told me that their window is “normal sized” or that they’re making a “basic dress for a seven year old.”  The thing is we live in a complaint culture these days and it’s not out of the question (in fact it’s fairly standard) that someone might expect a sales assistant to work out the amount of fabric they require based on estimated measurements and then come back and complain when they get home to find it’s wrong. Since fabric is cut to a specific length at the time of purchase, it remains that length when you try to return it and may not be any use to anyone else in that amount.  For this reason along with the fact that no one likes to be complained about, I for one am reluctant to guess or work with vague measurements.  It’s my job/reputation on the line after all.

Allow enough time...

Parking meter, 1951

Parking meter, 1951 (Photo credit: Seattle Municipal Archives)

  • I know it’s a busy busy I’m late I’m late world but you can’t fabric shop in 5 minutes.  You need to choose your fabric and even if you know which one you want it has to be cut.
  • Ikea is one thing but in most fabric shops you don’t cut your own fabric.  It probably has to be cut for you by a trained member of staff and if you want it done right it’s not in your interest to try and rush them.  You try cutting a straight line with someone standing over you shouting “HURRY UP!”
  • If you’ve parked on a double yellow or the meter’s running out or have to be at nursery in half an hour then you will still have to queue and have your fabric cut and this takes as long as it takes I’m afraid.

Maybe don’t bring the kids

I’m not saying kids are not allowed or anything because they totally are, just think about whether you should be bringing them.  Obviously it’s not always practical to leave them at home but if you are going to bring them then you should know this:

From my experience fabric shops drive children WILD!  Maybe it’s all the bright colours, the textures, the shapes…it looks like a playground, like kiddie heaven!

The reality though is that it’s not a very child friendly environment.  There are sharp scissors on every table, pins on the floor, heavy bales of fabric… but it looks really fun so they run around and want to play hide and seek.  They also want to touch everything (as do you and I because it’s such a tactile environment).  I’m sure that as someone children tend to accompany you are probably aware of the perils of shopping with them and don’t need me telling you that they might misbehave or die of excitement etc.

It’s just that:

  • it takes longer than you think to pick fabric and have it cut and they will get bored
  • you have to do maths before you decide what you’re buying, maths is hard without distractions!
  • you have to chase a tiny, drunk on colours and buttons maniac around so that they’re not crushed to death or wielding scissors
  • There’s a likelihood that the jammy handprint they’ve just made on a roll of white satin has just set you back £50 per metre
  • And once your fabric is cut that’s it.  There’s no going back, you can’t play the “sorry I wasn’t concentrating because my child tried to swallow a packet of pins” and now I realise that I don’t need all this card.  If you asked for it and it’s been cut then there’s not a lot we can do.

Of course, a lot of customers do bring their children and it’s fine, some of them are pretty adorable and no trouble.  I only mention this last point as a warning to people who are new to fabric shopping, I reckon the scenes I often witness are akin to what might happen if you took your child to Toys R Us with the intention of buying something for yourself and not them. So if you can make the trip on your own or bring a kiddy wrangling side-kick, you would probably be wise.

I hope that this has been useful and not come across as condescending or unfriendly.  Next time I’ll be writing about identifying stuff and its’ uses.

Also!  Don’t forget to enter my Sewing Pattern Giveaway which ends on 1st March!

Win all 5 patterns!

Win all 5 patterns!