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Dec 19, 2012

When You Buy the Wrong Fabric, or "ARGH"



In life there are big problems and small problems.  What I'm about to relate is admittedly a small problem, but it's still substantial enough to be blog-worthy.  Or at least MPB-worthy.

Today I bought the wrong fabric.

After sewing all those shirts over the last three weeks, I'd been wanting to make myself a nice pair of cotton corduroy pants I could wear with them, over the holidays and beyond.  So with an hour and a half to spare in the Garment District this morning, I looked for corduroy; to judge by what I found, we are in no danger of running out of this fabric anytime soon.  Yet I had a hard time finding the color I wanted: a very classic color, at least in men's corduroy pants and blazers.  Sometimes it's called wheat, sometimes harvest gold.   It's this color, or pretty close.

I did see a few things that were approximately the right color, but they either had Lycra in them, or the wale was too wide, or both.

Finally, at Fabrics For Less on 39th St., I found this:





It's not corduroy, but rather velveteen, but the color was perfect.  It did seem a little thick, but I'd already looked three other places, the price was right ($7/yd. for a 60" bolt), and I was eager to have something to show for my efforts.  Plus it was pretty.  Worn out and bleary-eyed, I bought two yards.

When I got it home, I realized this really is upholstery-weight fabric.  It would be perfect for sofa bolsters, an ottoman, or even a theater curtain.  But for men's pants, not so much.

Argh.

I love the way the color and thick nap look with my Pendleton plaid shirt and I think it would coordinate well with my red polka dot shirt too.



What to do?

Friends, have you ever gotten stuck with the wrong fabric, been unable to return it, and soldiered on with your project anyway?  In the end were you glad you did, or do you wish you'd listened to your gut and found something more appropriate?

Should I launder this fabric and see if it doesn't soften up?  Save it for another project?

On a related note, do you ever sew clothes with upholstery fabric?  Do they end up cute and practical, like Maria Von Trapp's curtains re-imagined as playclothes, or stiff and unwearable?

Argh.



Have a great day, everybody!

(Today's Xmas video: watchable or unwatchable?)

47 comments:

  1. I do sew clothing, pants and jackets out of upholstery fabric! Think about the mod and psychedelic clothing from the 60's ala "Granny Takes a Trip"....seems to me they must have used upholstery fabric for some of the items from that era.

    I bet that fabric you bought will work up just fine with the KwikSew Jeans pattern. If it's pretty stiff as it is, ya, I'd wash it first to get some sizing out of it. Good luck!

    ps-Any ball gowns in the near future for your cousin??!

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  2. Thank gawd we're not running out of corduroy anytime soon! In fact, I'm sewing corduroy jeans now, almost done! and using corduroy that doesn't have wales, so it looks like velveteen.

    Wash it and see what happens. If it still feels too thick, go back into the stores and find the right fabric. If you're going to spend all that time and effort, it's worth it to use the right fabric.

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  3. As long as it does not have that plastic-y backing, upholstery fabric is great! Here are two (well, three, but two are the same) garments that I made with upholstery velvet:
    http://couturearts.wordpress.com/2010/01/12/clothes-to-wear-right-now/
    http://couturearts.wordpress.com/2009/11/04/reversible-coats/

    Pre-wash it first. If it comes out OK, use it.

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  4. I have made two 1880s ladies' outfits from upholstry fabric and they turned out beautifully. However, this does not address the issue of having the fabric "between your legs" (sorry) as pants would require. I would try washing a sample to see what happens. It may soften up enough to be comfortable.

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  5. do it. That color is deeelish.

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  6. Wash it, for sure, and if it is still too think you can:

    a: make cushion covers out of the fabric for your sofa and you can then lounge luxuriously in your Pendleton shirt, safe in the knowledge that you will be perfectly co-ordinated with your furniture, or:

    b: make some other piece of clothing/items - how about a jacket, vest, re-usable grocery bags or numerous coats for your pups!

    Options, it is always good to have options!!!

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  7. I haven't tried it yet, but I wouldn't be opposed to sewing clothes out of upholstery fabric. I see other sewing bloggers do it all the time. I think Lladybird just sewed a floral sheath and LauraMae a Hollyburn skirt, both out of upholstery fabric.

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  8. I too have sewn clothing with fabric found in the upholstery department. No complaints. I would say go for it.

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  9. I've used upholstery fabric for lots of stuff besides upholstery. Pre wash/dry at least two times as it will continue to shrink after the first wash. Otherwise go for it!

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  10. Oh I've done this a few times. Day after thanksgiving at Mood's LA location I found the perfect fabric for my coat and grabbed some china silk for the lining. Well I didn't check the price IDK why not. It was in the usual section for China Silk and I've never paid more than $12-15. Well it was $25/yard and the girl didn't confirm the price with me they way they usually do. I was FORCED to buy it so ended up paying $60 for a lining and ended up having 1/2 left over due to my stingy laying out skills.

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  11. I made a Levi jacket and pants from expensive upholstery corduroy...and discovered the pile wasn't locked in. Within two wearings, the fabric started losing nap.

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  12. Absolutely!! I've made many great garments from upholstery fabric. Ditto on the washing, and make certain it will be comfortable as pants...... if you know what I mean! Some of those upholstery fabrics have a nylon reinforcement thread hidden in the weave that can be pretty prickly!

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  13. How many yards do you have?

    It could make a nice jacket...
    (provided there's enough)

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  14. I heard a story about a woman who made a suit from upholstery fabric, she wore it for the first time to a meeting at a large hotel. When she walked in the lobby, she was horrified to see the lobby was done up in the same fabric as her suit. The walls, draperies, and upholstery fabric were all the same as the fabric she was wearing. She turned and fled.

    Can you imagine?

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    Replies
    1. I made a jacket out of an upholstery remnant back in the 80's... Silvery background w/ pastel geometric design, gray (silver) satin collar. (Wish I could find the pic - big hair! grin) Kept wondering when someone would walk up to me, "My aunt has a chair covered in that fabric!"

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  15. I think I may have to be the first to say it....that video was painful. Cher rocks, but I had forgotton how awful her friends and family could be!

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  16. My first skirt was made of something very velvety on one side, and very shiny on the other... I think that was a sign of things to come. I can't stay away from home decor fabric!
    The first dress I made (here) was from a glorious pair of curtains from the charity shop and it was put together amidst plenty of references to both Scarlett O'Hara and Sister Maria (both childhood heroes). There is also a song by Rufus Wainwright (whom I like an awful lot) where he talks to his Mom he mentions she had "homemade clothes and homemade curtains of the same material", and I do sing that to myself a lot when sewing with curtains.
    Another of my favourite makes from this year, known as The Dress Of Awesome (here) was made from a pair of curtains a friend gave to me, and it always turns heads!

    Finally, a few weeks ago I went to the fabric shop because I wanted a red dress, bought 3 metres of red fabric and even the lady in the shop commented I was going to struggle with taking something so heavy home on my bike!
    I didn't think much of it until I examined the weave after washing it and realised it was most likely upholstery fabric and not suiting. Still, I ploughed through with my make (here)which turned out a little too heavy but a lovely dress nonetheless. A couple of weeks ago a dropped my coffee whilst wearing that dress and there were hardly any stains, which was final proof that it must be upholstery fabric!

    I think there is some good to be had from your purchase, but perhaps not trousers. I am sure it is a great fabric!

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  17. Make a jacket. Velveteen is better for jackets, and upholstery fabric needs hardly any tailoring at all.

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  18. I've used upholstery fabric because I loved the print too much to leave it, and just kept the drape in mind when thinking about the kind of dress I'd make. The result sort of looks like a paper dress from a distance, but I love it and constantly get stopped by people who want to buy it off of me: http://annettetirette.blogspot.be/2012/08/all-over-world.html

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  19. I agree : make a jacket ! With a red polka dot lining and, if both side are pretty with a different look (like velvety/satin-y), use one of them for the body+sleeves, and the other for the lapels.

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  20. Back in the 70s (this is my excuse) I made a hooded full length caftan in burgundy red wide wale furnishing cord. It had the supreme advantage of being so warm that it required nothing at all underneath even in winter and it was so heavy that even a tornado would not lift it so there was no need for any underwear. Walking round the windy campus at Monash University, I was cosily wrapped up though knickerless while others shivered in their jeans and long john underwear. The weight and warmth were also disadvantages of course- in lecture theatres, while my friends were grateful for the shelter, I sweated. If I'd had any sense, I'd have made a jacket. The big disadvantage in hindsight was that because then (as now) I was small and stout, I must have looked like a little burgundy mushroom. Or a miniature mad monk. Or since it was after all the 1970s, like a monk maddened by mushrooms of the magic variety...

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  21. I think you know the answer, I think you know the fabric is too heavy for clothing. Ok put it this way, if it was another, less attractive colour, would you even consider it? No, because its too thick and too heavy. But you're trying to talk yourself into it. Don't waste your time. Find a better fabric, and make some lovely cushions out of this one.

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  22. I would give it a wash (twice to check the shrinkage) and see if the fabric loosens up. How about making a jacket out of it if you have enough?

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  23. If only for research, check out the corduroy options at Rosen & Chadick, and at NY Elegant, which are my go-to stores for cords. Nowhere near $7 yd, but just as a quality appreciation journey, it is worth taking a look. As for sewing garments with upholstery weight fabric, for me, my vote is "no", in general, because it doesn't breathe. That is the fundamental problem, and for pants, for me, that's a dealbreaker, even on the coldest of days.

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  24. Upholstery fabric is an excellent material for hats.

    But once you wash it, if in your heart you know it will not work, release the fabric to the universe so that someone else can make hats.

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  25. Upholstery fabric (without the backing) is great for jackets and jeans. Have you seen Kenneth King's "dead people" jeans? It's definitely upholstery fabric and it looks great. I made (not completed) a jacket out of upholstery fabric and wouldn't hesitate to do it again.

    If the fabric doesn't soften up after washing, use it for muslin and move on. That's what I do with bad fabric purchases that are not returnable.

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  26. I made a skirt out of upholstery fabric once, because the print! It was a full skirt, too. It hangs really weird but I wear it anyway.
    Not enough experience with pants and upholstery fabric to offer any advice, but good luck!

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  27. Definitely wash and dry at least 3 times if only to get most of the shrinkage out. It should be much softer then. I made a "jean jacket" out of gold polyester curtain fabric. I wanted silk dupioni, but the color was too bright and it was way to expensive for something that wasn't just perfect. So I strolled around the store and saw the drapery fabric. I had to check it twice to see that it wasn't silk dupioni! I still wear the jacket and get compliments on it every time.

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  28. As a costumer, I make all sorts of things out of upholstery fabric. Around here at least, upholstery fabric has a much wider, more interesting selection. Apparel fabric can be really limiting.

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    Replies
    1. I agree. I find far more inspiration in the upholstery department then I do anywhere else.

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  29. No, no pants out of this; it's too thick even if you wash it several times it's still going to be thick.

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  30. I like trying to use unusual fabrics for garments, even if it doesn't work out well - for example, upholstery weight fabric for an elastic-waist floor length skirt? Oops! I'm thinking you make them and add a nice flannel lining so you don't have the gross backside touching you. The warmth and wind-proof-idity of snowpants without the ugliness!

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  31. Wash it several times, then see. There are companies that make their living selling clothes made out of upholstery fabric, and I have made some clothes that I love made out of upholstery fabric. Don't let that stop you, just evaluate whether or not it's what you want. All that categorizing is just arbitrary to me. Good luck!

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  32. Is it time for Peter's first man-skirt?
    (Paging Bill Cunningham! Paging Bill Cunningham!)

    Or what about a wrap for Cathy? Subdued and chic, propose it as a "tip of the hat to Laura Mae" (I dare ya!).

    Whatever you decide, do wash it with towels several times. They should help soften your purchase, and make your decision making much easier.

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  33. Oh dear, I'm not sure what advice I should offer. I have never sewn with fabric of that heaviness before. Just washing machine the hell out of it ( am I allowed to use "washing machine" as a verb?) and see how much it softens up. I have encountered jeans that were made from insanely heavy fabric and somehow managed to pass themselves off as wearable. It might make a nice pair of pants or a jacket, but I can not with any certainty, comment on a fabric that I have not felt. It doesn't look too bad in the pictures though.

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  34. I have actually used upholstery fabric to make vests for my daughter and other items of clothing.

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  35. yes, I made a lovely skirt for my granddaughter out of upholstery fabric and did not realize it at the time. Some upholstery fabric these days is the same weight as apparel fabric in decades past and apparel fabric such as corduroy has gotten thin enough to spit through, as my mother would have said. Ps. I would kill to get my hands on the silk taffeta my mother once wore.

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  36. Maybe you can make a coat.

    ~Sewjourner

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  37. "Upholstery Fabric" is nothing but a label. Not a law.

    Yes I have been using such fabric for clothes. Starting in the 1980s when this was fashionable until today, whenever I think the fabric fits the bill. (Usually it is only the matter to find the right pattern for the fabric.)

    And btw... at the moment a lot of fashionable shops in Paris feature clothes from upholstery fabric again...

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  38. How about ... chaps!

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  39. Seconding what nowak says: "Upholstery Fabric" is nothing but a label. Not a law.

    I've used it for garments, notably a Siberian Parka (Folkwear) and the Koos short swing coat (Vogue), but I also admit to buying upholstery fabric for unsuitable uses, optimistically believing that "it will work out". Sometimes it just doesn't, but isn't that what stash is for? You may find a use for it later. Perhaps a cape?

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  40. Not all upholstery fabrics are equal. Do wash it and see how the hand is at that point. Historical costumers use upholstery cotton velvet all the time. If you find it too scratchy and stiff for pants, you can re-purpose it to a jacket or cushions or something, or do a trade/swap/sell with a costumer who could think of a zillion things to do with it. Regency Spencer or Pelisse, anyone?

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  41. I've had upholstery fabric made into a jacket before. It was fabric by Pierre Frey. The jacket looks great, a bit thick just at the chest to form fit - but it still works. I find there's sometimes more creativity with some of the upholstery fabrics than with conventional fashion fabrics.

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