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Jun 7, 2011

Books about Fabric -- Your Recommendations Please!


Readers, when I say I have a lot of sewing books, I mean I have a lot of sewing books -- many dozens.  I bought some of them new, purchased even more used online, stumbled upon others at the flea market...I even found a couple in the trash!

I'm always looking for that sewing book that's going to both inspire me and bump my sewing skills up a rung or two, but it rarely happens.  Usually I leaf through a new (to me) book enthusiastically when I first get it, and then maybe -- maybe -- I'll remember to dig it out of the pile when I need to research a new technique for a sewing project. 

What happens more often is that I'll find myself perusing, say, The Readers Digest Complete Guide to Sewing at 3 a.m., and, bleary-eyed, stumble upon some very clear section about, I don't know, welt pockets, and wonder why it didn't occur to me to refer to the book when it could have helped me.  When you have so many sewing books, they start to cancel each other out, or you don't remember which book describes what.

One of my frustrations, as someone relatively new to sewing, is that my knowledge of fabric is not very good.  As you know, I shop for fabric in stores barely one step above the dumpster, and the people who work in them know less about fabric than I do and nothing about sewing.  There's no guarantee you won't ask for cotton voile and be directed to acetate linings.  YOU have to know the difference.


I was re-reading Bridal Couture yesterday at the cardiologist's -- my mother is having hip surgery tomorrow and this was a recommended precautionary visit; everything's normal, it turns out --  and while Susan Khalje is pretty good about describing the most popular bridal fabrics, some of them are hard to grasp and a photo just isn't enough (for me).  I'm honestly not sure I get the difference between dupioni and shantung, for example.  (This was something I liked about the McQueen show last week: the fabric was identified for each dress; I was like, So THAT'S silk taffeta...embellished with human hair and vulture skulls.)

Sometimes I'll go to Etsy and look at vintage dresses to see what a particular fabric looks like sewn up.  There's some great photography on that site, though that's not a perfect solution.

I just ordered a used copy of Claire Schaeffer's Fabric Sewing Guide, and I'm hoping it will be the fabric book of fabric books.  Do you know it?  I didn't get the latest edition, as I'm a sucker for old editions that cost less than shipping and handling. 

There's also a series by Julie Parker --  All About Cotton, All About Silk, and All About Wool.  These reference guides include actual fabric swatches that you insert in the book itself.  I've read good things about this series, though it's not cheap at roughly $50-60 per book.  And they don't cover synthetics.

My other option is to make a date with some fabric guru here in New York and, perhaps in exchange for lunch, make them tour me through some high end fabric store and show me what's what.  Does this sound like your idea of fun?  Let me know!

Readers, did you learn about fabric from a book, or did you learn by taking on projects that use a wide range of different fabrics?  I have certainly picked up a lot these last two years just by sewing, and only rarely mistake denim for taffeta.  But I'd like to know more and I'm hoping the Schaeffer book will prove indispensable.

So how about you?  Do you own any fabric reference guides and if you do, which is your favorite?  What are their strengths and drawbacks?

Any books -- or strategies -- you recommend?

Thanks!

57 comments:

  1. Some NYC fabric stores are VERY good at labeling their fabrics. Even if you don't purchase from them, you can still go in & meader around and check out what the fabrics feel like.

    Parons: they do a great job with labels. Every roll will have a swatch at the end, and fabric content & origin marked
    Mood: fabrics are grouped by type with big signs overhead. For instance if you want to learn Silk Taffeta vs Silk Organza, go to each section and check out the bolts
    BJs: also nicely labeled and very knowledgable staff who are happy to talk to you about options.

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  2. I second Wendy's approach. Here in Alexandria, VA I have access to a pretty good fabric store and a crummy one. I learned a lot from just spending time touching fabrics and looking at their labels.

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  3. Like Wendy and Jeff, I vote for good fabric store, not necessary the bigest ones, and seller who know what they are talking about.
    Arrange a trip to Paris and I will introduce you to the perfect place, in my opinion! But this solution is a bit extrem and you will have to deals with translation (some fabric name seemes to be somethimes confusing, I don't have a example right now in mind, but... ;-)
    But having a look at some sewingblog NewYork have a lot of good fabric store to. It seemes to me...
    I hope the book you order will help you to. I can't say anything about it: I never have it on hands.

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  4. Peter,
    I have a wonderful store- they sew, know everything about fabric and give very good bulk discounts. (Remnant Warehouse-Sydney)

    I keep a swatch of all my fabrics with a sticker with all the details- fabric/ wash requirement/width/price and the like- this makes shopping easier.

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  5. I know nothing about fabric either and have always wanted to learn more. Would love to join you on an expedition to one or more of the above mentioned stores.

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  6. Peter, I'm in pretty much the same boat with fabrics as you are. And I've been sewing for just around 30 years. I know my cottons and poly cottons because that's most of what I sew with. But, for example, I can't tell the difference between organza (usual price $9/yard) and organdy (usual price $30/yard). The names are similar, they're both lightweight, sheer fabrics... And organdy I can only find online. Even some cottons give me pause. I mean, swiss batiste and pima batiste. Essentially, they're the same thing, only swiss is imported and more sheer and much, much more expensive. The pima is cheaper at $27/yard, but the only difference seems to be the degree of sheerness.

    There's just so many different kinds of fabric out there that it's sometimes confusing--especially if you live in the middle of nowhere and the closest you come to these things is a picture on your computer screen.

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  7. Definitely spend an afternoon just getting to know fabrics, both by fiber content and fabric type. It is a much better investment than a book describing them. Take a bolt of silk taffeta, for instance, and compare it to synthetics of the same weight. There really isn't a better way to absorb that kind of knowledge, than just immersing yourself in the actual goods. I do recommend 'Fabric Savvy' by Sandra Betzina, if you don't have it already. It is a huge timesaver; she lists a fabric, then tells you what type and size of needle to use, and any and all quirks about sewing with that fabric. I refer to it often.

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  8. Hi Peter,
    Claire Shaeffer's book on Fabric is brilliant - It tells you all the really essential information that you need. I really value mine as I find I keep referring to it. As for the fabric guru, the best thing you can do is take a walk around some of your high end fabric shops, take a notebook and pen, ask for swatches from as many different fabrics
    then label each one. That way you can always look over your notebook and remember what each fabric feels like.

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  9. One of the joys of working with fabrics of all types is the tactileness of the experience...soft, crisp, smooth, rough and so on; so there's nothing better than a visit to a good fabric shop to get an education. That said, Claire Schaeffer's book is very, very good. My well worn, 20+ year old copy has helped out on more occasions than I can count/remember. It also gives machine setting, needle and thread recommendations and some basic techniques. Good choice.

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  10. I don't think I've learned anything about fabrics from simply seeing fabric in fabric stores or reading about them in books. Instead, I think it's my lifetime of touching, trying on, and buying clothes in both up- and downscale shops — with my mother and grandmothers as a girl and on my own later. Plus just being around these women who all sewed, soaking up their knowledge by osmosis more than by any real lessons. And, as far back as I can remember, my sister and I always had a huge "dress up" trunk that was kept stocked with wonderful cast-offs as they went out of style. All of these things were sewing learning experiences as I look back on them now. At the time, it was just what we did.

    A label on a bolt in a fabric store still won't show you the finished garment and its characteristics. I think one really needs to study clothing more than read a reference book about the fabric used to create it. In other words, go shopping. Not buying, just browsing.

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  11. That book is what we used in my Textiles class in school, it's definitely a great resource!

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  12. I have this (Clair Shaeffer's) book and whenever I browse through it -or any other fabric book--I get frustrated that I can't touch/see the fabric in person. That is what I need to learn; a hands-on tutorial. Can I join you if you ever make that fabric guru date? I'll chip in for the lunch.

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  13. I own Betzina's 'More fabric savvy', which is updated and revised version of 'Fabric savvy' that Vintagegal mentioned. Resourceful (around 100 fabrics covered), pithy and very useful, especially when you don't know how to work with different types of fabric. The only thing that I miss are fabric samples, but I don't think you get that with any book at all. :)

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  14. I think I'm with Debbie on this. The bolt will not tell you anything about the dresses that could be made from it.
    So why do you wish to learn about fabric that out of neccessity or choice you seem to have no wish of buying?
    And then the textile engineers are always inventing new stuff. Only yesterday I bought a 90% cotton 10% polyamide mix. I'm sure it has no name. The hand is like nothing I have seen or possessed. So for me it is going ahead and sewing it.
    And before that browsing the better fabric stores like nobody's business.

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  15. I have the same edition of the Fabric Sewing Guide pictured above. While I love this book and refer to it often, I wouldn't say it is indispensable. As you have proven it is possible to sew very well without it. I have learned about fabric through trial and error, there are many fabrics I still can't identify, but then again I don't sew with them. I do wish I lived in NY or any major city that has a store like Wendy mentioned with the bolts of fabric clearly labeled. Maybe one day.........

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  16. http://www.thefedoralounge.com/showthread.php?49752-Fabric-Glossary-and-Patterns

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  17. I have that book and the Betzina book (used of course). They don't get much use at my house unfortunately. I like to do a burn test on fabrics that come into the house, in spite of what the bolt or website says, because many times it's different. The first time I burnt a piece of wool over the stove, DH thought I had caught my hair on fire and came flying into the kitchen. It really does smell like burning hair, I guess because it is. And acrylic (I think) really does burn with an invisible flame and it drips invisible flaming stuff on your stove. I don't buy much of that fabric even though it feels nice and sews up nicely. Just too scarey.

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  18. I stuggled with this problem for ages, reading about lots of fabric names but not having a clue what they felt like. I don't particularly want to get arrested for spending five hours in a fabric shop fondling pieces until they've lodged themselves firmly in my tactile memory. Finally a book was released which sounded perfect, the Fabric for Fashion Swatch Book, which is a ring binder containing descriptions of a wide range of fabrics along with swatches. And the swatches aren't in distracting colours or prints, but are plain, so your senses prioritise how it feels to the touch. Hurrah! The book was sold out for months, but it's finally back in stock and mine arrived the other day. I'll write a review about it soon for my blog to show everyone what it's like inside...

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  19. i have that claire schaeffer book - it is a great resource, but kind of ugh without any good pictures or swatches. it does come in handy when you have a fabric on hand that you don't know what to do with - how to press, how to pre-wash, what needle to use, etc. i love that part!! but as far as figuring out what fabrics are what... oh man, i'm so in the dark about that. most of what i know (which isn't much, but it is expanding every day) is what i learned by prowling around the local fabric stores, pulling yardage off the bolt & reading the stickers on the end. talking to the sales associates helps, too, you just have to know who has the knowledge & who doesn't. i've also been known to pull a total wildcard & buy some rando "suggested fabric" off the back of a pattern envelope just to figure out what it was. this is how i discovered silk organza :)

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  20. I have a bunch of the fabric books like the one pictured above and fabric savvy. I like fabric savvy for explaining what needles to use, what seams and what presser feet to use, but you can't really see or touch the fabric. Touch is the most important to me. So what I recommend is getting a fabric swatch text book. I have learned so much in my textiles class and can now walk into a fabric store, ask for a surah or a challis or a faille and absolutely know what I'm looking for and if they point me in the wrong direction. I recommend the Swatch Reference Guide for Fashion Fabrics by Deborah Young. It really is an excellent and concise resource, but it is pricy. I have a link to it on my blog.

    http://uglycutedesigns.blogspot.com/2011/04/fidm-quarter-3-begins.html

    Good luck finding what you are looking for.

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  21. I have More Fabric Savvy. What I like about it is that it suggests needle type and size, lining materials, thread type, garments that it would be ideal for and how to generally handle a fabric for best results. What frustrates me is that it is somewhat limited - I'm surprised at how often it doesn't include a fabric that I'm interested in learning more about. And there is no way to cross reference fabrics to figure out what is similar or different from what, or what you could likely substitute for what. Also, there are some really great sewing tips sprinkled throughout the book in little highlighted blocks, but they seem to be totally random and I can never find them again once I turn the page.

    Anyway, I'm eager to hear how your new book works out.

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  22. I have recently learned a lot about fabric just by spending hours in Paron Fabrics on W 40, right across from Parsons. The labels on the bolts are terrifically specific, even including the percentages of blended fabrics. A very important part of browsing is actually removing the bolt from the shelf, unrolling some yardage, and then fondling for several minutes. This is so educational, but please do take the extra step of buying something and trying it out. A certain linen I bought recently seemed so light and airy. But when I started sewing it, it held its shape better than I had anticipated.

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  23. Hi Peter---
    When I studied fashion design (back in the dark ages), we had to develop a fabric swatch book which described the nature of the fiber or fiber blend, identified it (e.g.weave or knit & type), and testing methods. (e.g. burn test on wool, cotton, silk) I learned to understand the "structure" of fabric & how to identify textiles, but it doesn't necessarily help determine fabric behavior. Experience tells you which fabric "hand" pleases you or works for the garment. Now that textiles are often blends (cotton/lycra, rayon/poly/lycra, etc) it's even more challenging to determine how the textile will behave. Perhaps, if you felt ambitious, you could create a fabric swatch portfolio, concentrating on one fiber, like cotton? Include examples of 100% and blends, so you can compare how they feel & how they do or don't stretch.(100% cotton twill, 98%/2% cottonLycra twill, 97%/3% cottonLycra twiil) I don't think you'd have to be exhaustive--just getting started on a comparison, in a fabric you're interested in working with, would be valuable. (you've already done this with denim, anyway, haven't you?) Also, I LOVE your blog---your fearlessness is inspiring. ---BethS

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  24. If you're ever in LA, we can go to the fabric district (next to the fashion district) at 11th and Maple and I can tell you what little I know. I've been sewing for years, and I will actually do a burn test if I want to know what's in a fabric. I also wash swatches of the fabric to see what happens if I launder it before using it in anything I care about. I used to make costumes (amateur theater and Ren Faire.)

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  25. wow! totally read my mind on this one.. i too would love to know more about fabrics and being able to determine what type, how to care for/use it. wish i lived somewhere that had a fabric district, i resort to fondling the fabrics at joann's and hancock's, looking suspect.

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  26. I have Claire Sharffer's fabric sewing guide, and I love it. the pictures can be a little wonky, but between the descriptions and the burn tests, anything can be identified. While it doesn't describe fiber content, or really anything about IDing fabric, I also think Manipulating Fabric by Colette Wolff is worth it. It is clear, consistent and informative, as well as just plain nifty.

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  27. I flip back and forth between Claire Shaeffer and Sandra Betzina. I also learn from good online fabric sites, esp. Marcy Tilton's.

    But nothing beats experience....

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  28. To me, it seems like an odd idea to try and learn about fabrics from a book... You have to touch a fabric to get to know it. If you can get hold of someone knowledgable you can show you around, I think that would be best. Books are good for background information, but you litterally have to develop a sense for what is what.
    I learned both by personal experience (and I shop for most of my fabric at the local market, which means bargain basement prices but lots of scary synthetics) and by listening to and looking over the shoulder of a much more experienced friend. By now, I can tell cotton from poly-cotton and wool blend from full synthetic immitation by touch and I know what names go with what. And I know which terms describe the fibre and which the weave (lately, I keep lecturing people about the fact that 'jersey', 'satin' and 'taffeta' are describing weaves/ways any yarn has been treated and 'cotton', 'silk' and 'bamboo' are fibres) I still feel like there's much more to learn, though, especially about high-end fabrics which I don't usually get to play around with.

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  29. Wonderful links to the glossary and that swatch book (!) I love the Sandra Betzina books for how to handle and stitch, but, for me, if I can't touch it, forget it. It's not just the weave of the fabric, it's also the fiber. Broadcloth from cheap cotton vs Egyptian cotton vs fine/heavy silk are all very different. If you look at vintage clothes, you'll also see things that have mostly disappeared like Ottoman, fine re-embroidered laces and heavy drill cloth.

    If you do go to a high end store, be discrete about touching the fabric. Sometimes, they have a strip of fabric tucked into the bolt for people to feel as they don't like to get the good stuff dirty from people touching it. Meanwhile, will someone tell me what exactly dimity is as I still can't tell it from printed voile?
    Heather

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  30. Peter, once you get the book, unbind it and put it in a binder. Add a page next to it with your own swatches and, when you finally use some, your thoughts and experiences with that fabric. A picture of the finished item with notes and highlights.
    Who knows, you could publish your own book one day. LOL

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  31. I learned about fabric from sewing. Then I learned from a seamstress who taught the burn test. Then I got curious about my favorite ready to wear clothes. That is when a book was helpful. I had to have a tangible reference before the book was much help.. Claire Schaeffer's book is more about how to sew the fabric in question.

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  32. Peter you've come so far so fast that it is hard to remember that you didn't grow up surrounded by fabric and sewists like some of us.
    Feel, feel, feel.
    Go to fabric stores that have a large design-student clientelle. They will be happy to give you swatches and won't mind you writing down what they are. They will usually be happy to talk about fabric endlessly as well!

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  33. If a fabric seems new to the market I look at the tags in stores to see what name it is going by. . Then if I choose to sew with it I often check out the Claire Schaeffer book you cited especially for info on hemming or other detailing.

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  34. Hi Peter,
    Go to B & J; they have everything and it's all clearly labelled. I went there for my first time on Easter weekend (I live in Canada). It's a bit overwhelming at first, but I will definitely go back, especially for the wool jersey (every colour and weight)! You're so lucky to live in New York!
    Gaileen

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  35. I have, and LOVE, the "All About" trio. Pricey, but thankfully I had a generous gift-giver who is responsible for my set :). Not only can you feel the samples, but the books contain lots of history and structure info & other valuable 'how to sew & what to use it for' info.

    Another sort of unexpectedly helpful resource has been FabricMart's Julie's Pics. 40 or so new swatches every month, often in fabrics I rarely sew with, but it's been quite informative - even surprising! - as to how different fabrics can feel.

    I'm all about the feel of the fabric next to the skin, so I have to be able to touch it first.

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  36. I definitely feel your pain -- I shop in LA's Fabric District, which has some of the same challenges regarding fabric. I buy mostly sportswear, so I basically divide everything into these groups: cotton or cotton blend knits and wovens, stretch wovens, some wool content, and synthetics. I should learn to do the burn test, but I'm afraid of fire.

    I do have Sandra Betzina's book Fabric Savvy, which can be helpful when I need to check needle recommendations, etc. However, I don't find the categories all that useful because I can barely tell something like wool gabardine from synthetic gabardine. I buy fabric based on whether I like the color, I have a pattern for it, and/or it feels nice to the hand.

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  37. For me, I love Claire Schaeffer's fabric guide, but it still only does you good if you know what kind of fabric you are using (if I am thinking of the right book.) It tells you how to wash, iron settings and needle sizes and appropriate garments to make from every kind of fabric.
    I was fortunate enough to have a teacher show me some examples of different fabrics, but it was not very technical and I STILL can't tell the difference between voile, lawn and batiste or georgette and organdy! Technical definitions are NO help. Unless you can get swatches from someone in the know, good luck! I just guess most of the time.

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  38. This is something I have recently been thinking about a lot as well. I am surrounded by the polyester empire (aka JoAnns), with a few independent fabric stores geared mostly to the quilting crowd, and one super expensive "high end" store. For a bit of a drive I can go to a decent (average prices) fabric store with labels, or for an all day adventure I can get to a garment district where labels are nonexistent. When I was only making skating costumes I cared about 2 things: Does it sparkle? Does it stretch? Now that I play about with real people clothes, the rest of the fabric store is a bit of a mystery. Also, I think learning about fabric is good so you can consider if prices are reasonable. For example, one fabric store has polyester charmeuse for $20/yard, but online I found silk charmeuse for $10/yard (same width). A year ago I wouldn't have considered buying fabric online, but now I have a reasonable expectation of what the fabric should act like, so I went for the bargain.

    I recently got the Claire Schaeffer book from a used book store - I really like it! Granted, I don't think it will teach you how to go into a store, feel something, and think, ah, this is silk taffeta! But what it does do well is teach you how to categorize your thinking about fabric. It is organized by fiber type (silk, cotton, wool, etc.) and then by fabric structure (woven vs knit, etc.), and then by fabric type (charmeuse, organza, etc.). It talks about synthetic and natural fibers, and I LOVE the section on lace. It has great tips on how to work with each type of fabric, and what sort of designs that fabric would be good for.

    I also found (for $2!) Fabric Reference: Third Edition by Mary Humphries. This is really more about textile production, but it is sort of fascinating. It talks about the production cycle of fabric, trademark names, protein structure of wools, and weave patterns used to produce fabric types. Again, I don't think that this would help you pick out one fabric from another, but it is great for learning about fabric.

    I really want to get the Fabric Savvy book as well, hoping I can maybe find that one in a used book store too.

    So, how to actually learn about fabric? I spent (a lot) of time in the JoAnn's feeling things, because they are labeled. Now, granted, they don't have the variety that I am sure you could find in the New York garment district. But, I am proud to say, I can now feel the difference between synthetic and natural fibers. I can't exactly tell you what sort of fabric it is, but it is a first step. I was recently able to walk through the JoAnn's red tag hodge podge and feel out some 100% silk, which was on sale for $5/yard. Which, of course, I had to rescue and bring home.

    So yeah, I think I have gotten pretty decent at feeling out the difference between fiber content, but I am still learning about the technical differences between fabric types. Alas, for if I were anywhere close to NY I would totally want to get in on the MPB fabric feel-along field trip.

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  39. Since you are lucky enough to live in NYC, could you audit a class in textiles and benefit from classroom samples? I have a collection of fabric and history of fabric books, but I also keep an eye on the college bookstore textbooks. Used copies of books on textiles, costumes, and interior decorating often have excellent photos & definitions. You are asking about a complex skill, Peter--fiber, weave, weight, and sometimes processing (as in corduroy). Then add historical changes, language borrowings, synthetic imitations of older natural fibers, and regional variations. Designer samples are helpful tactile treasures, esp. for high end goods, and at least one trip around the world (English/Scottish wools, Italian silks, Indian cottons, Chinese/Japanese silks...). Let's all go! Kristina

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  40. I have Fabric Savvy, SB's original fabric book. I looked at Claire Schaeffer's book but I liked how SB has a color picture of almost every fabric made up into a garment. Short of going for a look and feel at good fabric stores, it gives you a very good idea of how and where to use a fabric. I didn't get that from Schaefer's book. Kenneth King says that she doesn't sew which is very interesting, and Betzina does sew. Every garment district store will give you samples so it's very easy for you to collect a nice assortment of fabrics. Of course you need to label them or have small bags already labeled and look for those fabrics to sample. Pulling out a bolt of fabric and draping it is more informative than just feeling the fabric. When a pattern calls for crepe you need to know it's properties if you want to substitute.
    On silk dupionni and shantung, go to Mood and pull out a bolt of each and compare them. You are in the perfect place to find and see any fabric your heart desires. The other thing is to go to a high end store and see what fabrics they use for what type of garment. This is just as informative as knowing what the fabric is.

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  41. Great advice, folks. Thank you!

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  42. I learned a lot about fabrics just by shopping - the rest I learned by having the good fortune to work in a fabric store for 8 yrs. Of course, as you might imagine, I left much of my paychecks at that same store. You could say I was their best customer! I think the best way for you to learn would be to go into some of the stores who label their products well and just browse! I envy you...to be so close to all of those wonderful fabric shops!! The closest JoAnn Fabrics to me is 51 miles away - as for a REAL fabric shop, NYC is probably the closet!

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  43. I have to chime in for Claire Shaeffer's Fabric Sewing Guide. It's got everything you need to work with all the different fabrics. What needles, threads, and fabric care to use. But the best is the instructions for the seam and edge finishes are all in the back, as well as a glossary of terms! All in one book. My fave.

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  44. I can highly recommend the Julie Parker series. I have all 3 - the included swatches really make these worth the $$. I also have Sandra Betzina's More Fabric Savvy and I use her burn test descriptions regularly. Betzina's book includes needle and stitch recommendations, and covers synthetics.

    You could make your own swatch reference book, but you'd have to know what you were starting with. Use a 3-ring binder so you can easily re-arrange or insert a newly used fabric alphabetically (OK I'm a nerd) into the book.

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  45. That Fabric Sewing Guide is awesome. Practically life changing. Read it through once. Then go to it when you need to work with a specific fabric.

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  46. Someone else mentioned the fabric reference book by Mary Humphries. I think it is the fabric glossary that comes with fabric swatches that you mount in the book. Very interesting and very helpful. Also not cheap but I know it can be bought second hand; I bought mine on a used textbook site.

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  47. Hi Peter...
    You've received a lot of good feedback and all the posters' suggestions are valid. My knowledge of fabrics was fine tuned from years of working in a fabric store. I feel pretty lucky because it is essential knowledge if you order fabric online.

    If I were to leave you with any tidbit, I would suggest you structure your education by studying the fabrics associated with the garments you plan to sew. Don't forget to pay attention to the fabric's weave and make note of its weight as part of your examination. (A binder grouped by garment is a good suggestion...)

    I truly admire the way you continue to challenge yourself and improve your skills. Love your blog...

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  48. I learnt from going shopping with an expert (my Mum). Its the best way to pick up tips about how to shop.

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  49. I like Sandra Betzina's "More Fabric Savvy" much better than anything else. Totally accurate, all the info you need to sew something at your fingertips. I've totally stopped looking anywhere else. The only thing I havent' found in there was a very new technical fabric, once.

    That said, I like Wendy's recommendation of finding a reliable store and exploring it. The reason? It's good to look at McQueen's, but to learn fabric you have to handle it. What distinguishes fabric most is drape or lack thereof, and that you just can't tell from a photo.

    No amount of time or energy you spend educating yourself on fabric is ever wasted.

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  50. @ Shelleyj : It's an excellent link Shelley the fedora lounge, awesome.
    @ Peter you have given all the readers a great chance to share their recommendations on different books or online resources. I appreciate your work. Thanks buddy.

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  51. Hi, Peter!
    Have been reading your blog for forever, it seems, but never wrote. However, I feel I have to share this "secret", for I had the same problem as you! T. Sedai has already suggested "Fabric Reference" by Mary Humphries - it IS a lot more info than you need for general sewing, but if you don't die of boredom reading through the technical aspects (I try to read it a little at a time and then I don't fall asleep), it'll give you some interesting facts that can be applied in practice. However, what is even better is that there's a "Fabric Glossary" that you buy separately (I bought each one of the books for 2-3 dollars on Ebay, but here are the Amazon links - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fabric-Reference-Mary-Humphries/dp/0130985481/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1307737857&sr=8-1 and http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fabric-Glossary-Mary-Humphries/dp/0135005973/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1307737857&sr=8-4) - this book has the actual information about most (if not all) the fabrics in the reference, AND there's information on where to get a rather large fabric swatch kit to go with the Glossary (you tape - or in my case "put into little ziploc baggies and tape them" - into the book itself, which makes it rather not pretty looking, but it's not about the look of the book! ;-)). The fabric swatch kit is not 2-3 dollars, unfortunately (it's about 30-40, if I remember correctly), but to my knowledge, it's the biggest one. I don't think either of the books provides information on care and sewing for each individual fabric (rather as "groups" of fabrics), but in combination with the "Fabric Sewing Guide" that you bought - which I also thought was an amazing book - they would give you an extremely helpful "hands-on" experience.

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  52. Light weight fabrics are beautifully explained here:

    http://thedreamstress.com/2010/07/voile-lawn-muslin-whats-the-difference-the-long-answer/

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  53. I truly understand, I just purchased what I thought was the exact same version of the book, but ended up purchasing the 1989 edition though it is a good book all of the pictures of the fabric are in b&w. Don't get me wrong though it has a wealth of info needed. How to pre-shrink, handle, wash, pressing, etc. GOOD but I would love some color. By the way I love your blog.

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  54. Hey Peter
    Just to let you know I've *finally* posted a review and some photos of the Fabric for Fashion Swatch Book I was talking about. It's here if you are interested:
    http://www.tillyandthebuttons.com/2011/07/fabric-book-ive-been-dreaming-about.html
    Tilly

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  55. Hello! I found 2 with 5 starts and they are awesome! Check these out! This one is more focus for people that sews: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1584799560/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?ie=UTF8&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER

    And this one seems to be more oriented for fashion designers, I think both are awesome: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0764146289/ref=ox_sc_sfl_title_1?ie=UTF8&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER

    good luck! :)))

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