finding the perfect fabric for your next project

an excerpt from my {classic wrap skirt} book

Chances are,
if you’ve ever sewn something and hated the finished product,
the problem was the fabric.

Fabric selection is such an important part of the process of creating,
but too often, we tend to rush through this step
to get to what seems more important:
the actual sewing.

Fabric-sourcing is a very important part of the design process
and you shouldn’t feel like you’re wasting time
as you decide on the perfect fabric to use.

This part of the process is so integral to the design process, in fact,
that more than once I have designed a piece
specifically for a particular fabric.

When it comes to the {classic wrap skirt}
you need to look for particular qualities in the fabric you choose.

First of all, you’ll need to keep in mind the size of your fabric.
This skirt is cut all in one piece,
so if you want to make a long skirt,
you’ll need pretty wide fabric.
And of course you’ll need enough yardage.

There is a worksheet in the {classic wrap skirt} book
which will help you to determine how much fabric you’ll need,
and how wide it will have to be.

Once you know how much fabric you’ll need,
you can decide what type of fabric to use.

Look for a fabric with body,
but that isn’t too stiff.

Hold the fabric from the corner and let it fall into folds.
The fabric shouldn’t melt away,
but it should fold into a nicely draped shape.

Take a look at the photos here.

The first picture shows a fabric that is too soft and has too much drape.
A classic wrap skirt made from this fabric will stretch out of shape
and the fabric will be difficult to manage as you cut and sew it.

The second picture shows a fabric
that is perfect for this wrap skirt design.
It has enough body to support itself and not stretch out of shape,
and you can tell this by the way the folds don’t completely collapse.
At the same time, it has enough drape to fall beautifully,
unlike the fabric in the third picture.

The third picture shows a fabric that is too stiff for this skirt.
If you were to use this fabric,
your skirt would stand out like a tent
both looking and feeling bulky.

Speaking of feel,
think about how the fabric will feel wrapped around you.
Will it be thick and cozy?
I made a wool skirt (case study #4 in the {classic wrap skirt} book)
from medium-weight wool.
It feels nice and snug, perfect for fall and winter.
The fabric breathes,
so it isn’t as if I couldn’t wear it into the spring,
but it wouldn’t feel quite right.
The cozy feel of the fabric lends itself to certain seasons.

The feel of the fabric may affect when you want to wear it,
and it may also affect where you might want to wear your finished skirt.

If the fabric feels too fancy,
will you only want to wear it to special parties
and not to picnics?

I suggest you choose something versatile and classic;
something that will feel neither too dressy for everyday wear,
nor too informal for nicer events.

I am comfortable wearing any of the skirts in the case studies in the {classic wrap skirt} book
to a tea party, a walk in the park, or running errands.

The difference would be in the styling.
I’d wear the skirt with a blouse and jewelry for a tea party,
a sunhat and silk scarf for a walk in the park,
or a T-shirt and flip flops for running errands.

I love natural fibers - cotton, wool, linen, and silk in particular,
and I would also include cellulose fibers like rayon in this category.

One reason I love natural fibers is the way they feel.
I don’t just mean the way they feel when I run my hand over them.
I mean the way they feel when I’m wearing them in hot or cool weather,
when I’m active, or when I’m simply sitting.
I like the way I feel when I am in them.

Fabrics made with natural fiber have a particular energy around them.
They breathe, and they help you breathe as you wear them.

My absolute favorite fabric to use for this skirt is a linen or linen blend.
A close second is wool.

I have wool skirts for cool weather
and linen skirts for warm weather,
although wool isn’t as hot as you might think,
and linen isn’t terribly chilly either.
Because these natural fibers both breathe and insulate,
they help to keep your body at a stable temperature
no matter the temperature of your environment.

Filling your closet with clothing made with natural fabrics
will help your wardrobe become something you both wear and love
because this type of clothing is classic and versatile and makes you feel good!

Good quality fabric of any sort isn’t going to be cheap -
but why would you want to spend your time making something cheap anyway?
If you want cheap, buy a skirt from some cheap ready-to-wear place.

If you want quality,
be willing to make an investment.

You’re already investing your valuable time into making this skirt.
You owe it to yourself to choose a quality fabric,
even if it costs a little more than the stuff on the clearance rack at your local craft store.

That said, you can find good quality fabric
that is quite affordable,
especially if you shop online.
I didn’t spend more than $6 per yard
for any of the fabrics I used to make the skirts
in the case studies in the {classic wrap skirt} book.

Choose a fabric you truly love.
You’ll be spending a lot of time with it,
both as you create your skirt, and later when you wear it.

catch-stitch

Catch-stitching isn’t the most straightforward stitch in the book
but it’s worth the extra effort!
Keep an eye on the photos and take it a step at a time
and you’ll do just fine.

Begin with:

— a threaded needle and knotted thread
{click here to learn how to get that far}

— a 6” by 12” piece of light, crisp fabric
{the same one you used to learn the running stitch and whip stitch}

— a feeling of confident anticipation
{because by the end of today, you’ll know how to work catch-stitching!}

Fold over the short edges of the fabric 1/2” toward the “wrong side” of the fabric (the inside of your bag)
and press with a hot iron. (This will be easy because your running stitches make for a nice guide.)

Take a tiny stitch from right to left, beginning at the left-hand edge -
the opposite of where you began for the running and whip stitches.

About 1/2” to the right of your first stitch,
take a small right-to-left stitch through only the top layer of folded fabric.

Be sure to keep your thread out of the way as you pull your stitch taut!
In this case, keep the thread below your needle.

About 1/2” to the right of your last stitch,
take a small right-to-left stitch through only the main fabric.

This time, in order to keep your thread out of the way,
keep it above your needle.

Continue in this way,
alternating between the main fabric and the folded layer.

When you look at the “right side” (or outside of your bag)
you should see a single line of small stitches.

You can stop stitching, tie a knot, and begin again when you reach the halfway point,
or you can keep right on stitching - do what works for you!

In any case, when you come back to where you started,
tie a knot the way you always do when you get to the end of your work.

Many people who know how to sew have never learned this stitch.
You can be proud of yourself, now that you know it!

This tutorial is an excerpt from a free eBook with start-to-finish instructions for creating a little bag. Enter your email below and I'll send it to you too!

whip stitch

Begin with:

— a threaded needle and knotted thread
{click here to learn how to get that far}

— a 6” by 12” piece of light, crisp fabric
{preferably the one you used for this exercise}

— a feeling of confident anticipation
{because by the end of today, you’ll know the whip stitch!}

Take your swatch and - one at a time - fold each long edge over about 1/2”.
Press with a hot iron (set to a temperature that suits your fabric).

Note
“Pressing” and “ironing” are two different things!
Ironing means sliding the iron over the fabric.
Pressing is setting the iron down and holding it for a moment,
then lifting it straight up, moving it to a new area of fabric, and setting it down again.
“Ironing” may stretch and warp the fabric,
so generally, pressing is my preferred method.

Once your swatch is well-pressed
fold it in half like a hamburger (not a hotdog).

The “right side” - the side you want to be on the outside of the bag -
should be on the inside when your fabric is folded.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention - we are making bag out of this swatch!
Now, on with the instructions.

Insert your needle through both folds very close to the edge,
beginning where your running stitches are.

Pull the needle through, then, to make your next stitch,
insert your needle through both folds again, slightly to the left of your first stitch.

Now, this is the important detail not to miss:
always insert the needle in the same direction.

You’ll know if you’ve done it right when you pull the needle through and tighten the thread.
The thread should loop around the folded edges as shown in the photos.

Continue stitching until you get to the corner,
then tie a knot like you did when you learned the running stitch.

Here are the instructions again, with different photos,
so that you get a different perspective on the same knot:

Take one more little stitch,
but don't pull the thread all the way through.

Twist the loop of thread you've made
into a figure-8.

Insert your needle through each of the two loops
formed by the figure-8 of thread.

Gently pull the long tail of thread
to tighten the figure-8 around the needle.

Finally, pull the needle all the way through.
There! You've made your knot!

It's now safe to snip the thread -
just not too close to the knot, or the end will slip back through.

Excellent job!
Take a deep breath and smile at what you've accomplished.

Now, do it all again on the other side.
Once that’s done, turn your little bag right-side-out and admire your work!

This tutorial is an excerpt from a free eBook with start-to-finish instructions for creating a little bag. Enter your email below and I'll send it to you too!

running stitch

The running stitch
is the beginning of a journey.
Once learned
it will open up a world of possibilities…

Begin with:

— a threaded needle and knotted thread
{click here to learn how to get that far}

— a 6” by 12” piece of light, crisp fabric
{cotton or linen will do nicely}

— a feeling of confident anticipation
{because by the end of today, you’ll know how to stitch!}

Holding the fabric so that it's tall (not wide),
insert the needle from back to front 1/2” away from the upper-right corner.

Pull the thread all the way though, until the knot catches,
so that the thread is anchored in the fabric with the knot hidden on the backside of the work.

Insert the needle front to back just to the left of where you’ve anchored your thread.
This time, don’t pull the needle all the way through, but push the tip back up through the fabric.

Once the tip of the needle has poked through, push it back down through the fabric.
Repeat this rocking motion until you have a few stitches on the needle…

...then pull the needle
all the way through.

Now you know the running stitch - simple!
Not exactly easy yet, but it will be soon - with practice!

Speaking of practice...
I told you to use a piece of fabric of a certain size on purpose.

If you continue to follow along in this simple-sewing-series,
at the end you will have a finished project!

A finished project is always nicer
than a simple practice swatch, don't you think?

So, continue stitching
across the short edge of the fabric.

Once you're at the end you'll want to tie another knot.
A different sort of knot than before.

To do so, take one more little stitch,
but don't pull the thread all the way through.

Take the loop of thread you've made
and twist it into a figure-8.

Insert your needle through each of the two loops
formed by the figure-8 of thread.

Gently pull the long tail of thread
to tighten the figure-8 around the needle.

Finally, pull the needle all the way through.
There! You've made your knot!

It's now safe to snip the thread -
just not too close to the knot, or the end with slip back through.

Excellent job!
Take a deep breath and admire your work!

This tutorial is an excerpt from a free eBook with start-to-finish instructions for creating a little bag. Enter your email below and I'll send it to you too!

Case Study: Moonlight Dress

“Captured by Moonlight” was the theme.
1922 was the year.
This is the dress.

The client presented three images to be combined into one design, but what the client needed was not a handful of beautiful details. The client needed a precise design that reflected the story of the wearer.

So I all but ignored these suggestions and began asking questions.

Who is the wearer of this dress?
Where will she wear it, and when?
What is the story that we want to tell?

The final product is completely different from the mental image the client began with, yet it is exactly what the client needed.

White silk, ethereal and reflective.
Flowing dress, clingy slip underneath.
Discreet seams, delicate selvage for the hem.

As a result, the heroine of the story shines, not just the dress she's wearing.