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7 ways to find a fabric . . . when you’re not sure what it’s called (& 5 reasons why it doesn’t matter)
Have you even seen a fabric and wanted to find out what it was, but didn’t want to or couldn’t ask?
(Image: Bow Peep Dress by Ainslee Fox Boutique Patterns sewn in Kayo Horaguchi Sanrio Little Twin Stars Border Print with Michael Miller Mini Gingham for the contrast.)
Here’s 7 different methods I’ve used to solve this dilemma.
1: Basic Search
Think about how you’d describe the fabric eg: colour, pattern etc. Start off with a basic internet search. You might get lucky! Some of my favourite places to search with a basic description are:
- Google / google images.
- If you have no luck with google don’t forget to try other search engines such as bing or yahoo. Different search engines can return different results to the same search terms.
- Pinterest – not just for craft porn, think of Pinterest as a visual search engine!
- flickr (I don’t use flickr but Mr Fox has suggested I give it a go when I’ve been searching fabrics before!)
- Online fabric stores. If I’m searching outside Australia I usually start with Hawthorne Threads. For Australian stores I usually start with Fabric Pixie, FabricDirect.com.au , Muddy Ruffles, but seriously there’s so many AWESOME fabric store who I’ve shopped with and if I’m drawing a blank with these, there’s lots more stores to try!
2: Advanced Search
Get specific. Describe the fabric in more detail. eg. are the flowers on the fabric small or big, are there other colours on the fabric you can add to your search. If you need ideas of different words to use in your search try:
- thesaurus (real life or online version)
- dictionary (real life or online version)
- ask a family member how they’d describe the fabric
Then search again on the places from #1 using your improved search terms.
3: Technical Search
Is there a proper technical name for the type of fabric/design you’re searching for. If you don’t know your Quatrefoil from your Ikat or your Batik from your Burlap, check out these resources to see if there’s a technical term you can add to your search:
- Burda Terms
- sewing books
- or do a google search for “different types of fabric pattern” or “different types of fabric” etc
Then search again on the places from #1. You can now also start searching for fabric stores who specialise in this type of fabric and then look at those stores too.
4: Have a Guess
Add some guessed information to your search. eg. is the fabric likely to be a woven or a knit fabric? do you think it’s vintage or modern, what items would the fabric be made into? Add these guessed terms to your search.
Then search again on the places from #1. Add in stores who specialise in these types of fabric.
For knit fabric I usually search Zebra Fabrics or The Art of Fabric. I don’t often buy knit fabrics so I don’t really have any specialty knit stores to recommend outside Australia, but I’m sure there’s plenty!
5: Study Fabric
This one should probably be step 1, but because its a long term not short term solution it got bumped down the list! Subscribe to the newsletters of various online fabric stores. Start “studying” fabrics. Take note of the types of fabrics different designers and manufacturers produce – you’ll start noticing similarities in style, which will give you plenty of clues as to where you should start looking. You’ll also start noticing what sorts of fabrics different stores specialise in. When you spot a fabric that you’d like to know more about, you can narrow down your sources by making some informed guesses based on what you’ve learned. Use what you’ve learned to search:
- fabric designers websites
- fabric manufacturers websites
- fabric stores websites
- country of origin
6:Upload an image for a web search
This is a website where you can upload a photo of the fabric you’re trying to find and it will try to match it to images in its database. I haven’t had much success with this, but it’s always worth a shot!
Click on the little camera on the right side of the search bar. You can then upload an image and get google to search for similar images. If its initial search doesn’t return what you’re looking for you can add a description which usually gets a better result.
7: Physical Fabric Stores
Ask at your local fabric store. So this probably shouldn’t count as finding the fabric without asking … maybe I should have called this blog post “7 Ways to find a fabric without asking online!”
It’s definitely time consuming and there’s no guarantee of success, so here’s 5 reasons why it doesn’t really matter if you find that fabric you originally set out to purchase, to soothe your soul if you draw a blank.
1. Along the way you’re sure to find other similar fabrics that you might even like better!
2. You’ll expand your fabric knowledge which will make it easier next time you want to find a fabric.
3. You’ll discover new stores, designers and fabric terms.
4. You’ll figure out more about what fabrics appeal to you. Do florals float your boat … but only small liberty florals or are geometrics more your style. The more you learn about what you like, the easier it is to choose fabrics that really suit your own style when fabric shopping. If you really dig the fabrics you’re sewing with you’re more likely to love the end result!
5. Some fabrics really really work for certain design elements and once you know which work, a whole world of potential fabrics open up. I always used to think of thick floral stripes as being more a quilting fabric sort of design, but discovering that stripes like Elizabeth Rose by Jennifer Paganelli work really well as skirts on party dresses, lead me to Lecien Flower Sugar Stripes and resulted in me always keeping half an eye out, ready for my next floral stripe crush. So if you initially spotted the fabric you’ve been searching for on a garment someone else had made, you don’t actually need to replicate that garment, or find that same fabric, to bring that same pizazz to something you’re making. Take note of the type of fabric, figure out what in that fabric really worked well for that design element and have a play to come up with your own fabric combinations which will work just as well.
If you’ve got any fabric finding tips to share be sure to comment below. I’d love to hear whether you follow these or have other suggestions.
Changing the placket style on a shirt sleeve, can give your shirt a whole different look.
For this blog post Toni-Maree from Bobbins & Co is showing us how to change the placket on the Archie Shirt sleeve from a “continuous bound placket” to a “chimney placket”.
Pieces you will need:
- 2 Sleeves
- 2 Placket pieces – 2 1/4″ x 7 1/2″ or 5.7cm x 19cm
NOTE: If you are using this method, you will also need to extend your cuff pattern piece by 3/4″ to allow for the extra placket width. The alternative is to make a pleat in the sleeve to take out the added width when adding the cuff.
How to sew your Chimney Placket:
1. Using the original marking for the sleeve placket, mark the slit line with chalk. Extend the marking by an extra 3/8 or 1cm in length.
2. Mark two stitching lines on either side, 3/8″ away from the centre and 3″ long. Square off the top. The top should measure 3/4″ or 2cm.
3. Cut open along the centre line, stopping where the centre marking ends. Cut diagonally into each corner as pictured. Don’t cut all the way, but get pretty close.
4. Align the right side of the placket piece with the right side of the sleeve slit. With the sleeve on top as pictured, start sewing with a 1cm seam allowance.
5. Stop with your needle down when you get to the corner you marked.
6. Raise your presser foot, and carefully fold/pleat the sleeve so that you can continue sewing straight along the marked line. Sew to the next corner.
7. Stop with your needle down in the corner, and again, carefully fold the sleeve to realign the sleeve opening straight along the placket edge. Sew the rest of the seam.
8. Iron the seam allowances toward the placket. If you are using quilting cotton or thick fabric, it is important at this step to trim the seam allowances, mostly the centre triangle and a few centimetres either side.
9. Fold the unfinished long edge of the placket in by 1cm and iron. Fold the placket in half so this ironed edge just covers the stitching line. Use glue to hold in place if you like.
10. From the right side of the sleeve, top stitch the placket closed making sure to catch both sides in the seam. Trim the end of the placket to be even with the sleeve.
11. Now lay the sleeve on the ironing board flat. With the small side laying flat, fold the other side of the sleeve placket as pictured. Depending on the thickness of the fabric, the angle you need to make a nice peak can change.
12. Fold the other side of the sleeve and placket over itself to form the peak. Experiment a bit to get a nice even shape.
13. Get out a hammer, and whack the bulk of the triangle peak. Hammering is like ironing on steroids. It will flatten the bulk as well as loosening the fibres to make sewing much easier.
14. Topstitch the peak at the top, and finish the ends by taking the threads to the back and tying them off there.
Toni-Maree from Bobbins & Co is back today to show you how to make a split cut bias. She uses the Archie Shirt (by Ainslee Fox Boutique Patterns from Issue 6 of One Thimble Digital Sewing Magazine) in her example but you could use this method on any yoke. This super example above was made by Shelley from and me designs.
- Add a 1cm or 3/8″ seam allowance to the fold line of the yoke pattern piece.
2. Decide on the angle you would like the stripe or pattern to run at. Cut one side of the yoke out.
3. Flip the cut yoke piece over to the wrong side. Align the stripes as accurately as you can, especially near the centre back seam.
4. Optional: You can now place your pattern over top to stabilise as you cut but its not necessary.
5. Cut your opposing yoke piece.
6. Right sides together, match the centre back stripes. This should be easy if your cutting was accurate. Sew the centre back seam and press seam allowances open.
This method can also be used to sew cuffs on other shirts.
Sewing cuffs is one of those techniques that once you find the method that works for you you’ll be all set! Sometimes it takes trying out a few different tutes/patterns to find the one that’s right for you. So in the hopes that this method is the one that gives you your “eureka” moment lets jump right in!
- Iron your cuff piece in half and then on one side, pre-iron the 1cm seam allowance to the wrong side.
2. Sew the un-ironed side of the cuff, right sides together, to the bottom of the sleeve.
3. Fold the cuff in half, the wrong way, so that the right sides of the cuff are facing.
4. Sew the ends of the cuff shut. Make sure your seam aligns with the edge of the placket.
5. Turn the cuff right side out, press. Secure the unsewn part in place with glue or pins.
6. Top stitch the cuff from the right side.