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Nov 8, 2011


Friends, I hate to share fabric-related unpleasantness so early in the week, but not everything in life can be silk and cashmere.  Or 100% wool.  I can't remember what the sales clerk at Nahir, at 242 West 39th St., told me about this fabric.  I think I knew it wasn't 100% wool.  I'm just not sure I knew it was 0% wool.

(Maybe this is why their feedback is, well, you decide.)

I was so desperate to make a choice of fabric for my vintage Hollywood jumper pattern, part of my 1944 Outfit Project, that I probably wasn't asking the right questions or listening to the answers.  The colors worked and it was within my (low) budget.

I noticed strange things about this fabric when I started to prep it.  It never wrinkled.  I also noticed, when I was ready to steam press/pre-shrink it, that it didn't have that distinctive wet wool smell.  In fact, it had no smell at all.  Did I mention that my beloved Black & Decker iron is starting to act up?  Its little computer brain seems to be clinging to life -- but more about that later, if at all.

I decided to do a burn test.  Lo and behold, the thing combusted like I'd soaked it in lighter fluid, and after I blew out the flames, formed a hard little bead.  This can only mean one thing: polyester or some other petroleum-based synthetic, like acrylic.

I still like my fabric and it's very soft, but it ain't a natural fiber.  Which is all well and good, I suppose, when you consider that the blouse it will be worn with is poly charmeuse.  I've given up on historical accuracy here.  But I must keep Cathy away from cigarettes, stove tops, and Bananas Foster -- no joke.

If you look at the selvage, you can see that this is a very loosely woven fabric, which means that it's shifty and ravely, not my favorite qualities, especially for a plaid.  Fortunately, it's a balanced plaid (same design side-to-side, symmetrical when folded) and hence a bit easier to work with and match.  Still, I've had challenges.  The skirt has a center pleat, formed by folding back the center of two front panels six inches.

I didn't do a very good job of measuring, I guess, and this is what I got:

Fortunately, when you look at the fabric from more than a foot's distance, all you really see are the horizontal stripes, which have a bit of red or rust in them.  Those match well.

Here's the front of the jumper:

The edges are finished with a narrow black cotton bias facing I cut myself.  I'll whipstitch the inside edges.

Front pockets are also lined with black cotton.

Rather than use my serger, I overcast raw edges, which feels gentler and works just as well.  

I've been using my trusty walking foot attachment on my Featherweight.  I don't know if it really helps all that much, but it definitely doesn't hurt.  Sewing plaid is stressful!

The skirt and jumper top are attached via a waistband, the inside of which is exposed (on the wrong side).  I'll probably interface or underline it.  The pattern calls for a snap closure on the left side of the skirt (I'll probably use a zipper) and hook-and-eyes on the waistband.  

I like the jumper so far and it feels very period, but it hasn't been fun to sew.  You can never relax with plaid, especially a loose, ravely, synthetic one like this.

Friends, that's all for today.  Oh -- my iron.  Last week I noticed it would turn itself on spontaneously when it was on auto off.  Now I'm noticing the electronic display messes up every so often.  It's frustrating, because mechanically the thing works fine, and it has performed flawlessly -- and constantly -- for the last two and a half years.  I have a heavy vintage iron I bought and haven't used yet, but that would require a lot more vigilance, and a spray bottle.

Is there anything worse than a failing iron?  You don't have to answer.

Now I must get back to my synthetic life...

Have a great day, everybody!


  1. Sounds like the store's name ought to be Nadir, not Nahir, lol.

  2. I feel your pain; i hate polyester to no end. Despite the disappointments the jumper looks lovely!

  3. Be careful with that iron....Mine does the same thing....I think the next step is the trash can!

  4. That shouldn't be too hard a challenge, keeping your beloved cousin away from a stove top....

    She never struck me like one that cooked, more like the one demanding to be served.

    But I might be wrong, after all I never met her in person. Having a bit of attitude myself as well, we might even get along great!

  5. Peter,

    Irons are every sewers private consternation.

    I have a non-sewing friend who swears by the cheap irons, and tosses them after about two years of service. He said the Rowenta didn't prove cost effective for the life it had in it.

    I loved my Rowenta, but it died and I've been ironless for several years (though I do have a steam generator, and it does the trick, though it takes more time to set up and drain).

    Are irons now like cell phones? Easily replaced necessities? Is there a list of MPB endorsed makes and models?

    Wrinkled beyond my years,


  6. About the jumper, it looks fantastic. The tailored lady-like neckline, the muted fabric, and those pockets. Perfection!

    With such a stellar execution, any and all fabric shortcomings serve only as badges of honor and testament to your sewing abilities.

    The waking foot attachment for the Featherweight - has it made a discernible difference in previous efforts?


  7. OH, I feel your pain with the iron. My trusty long-time iron kicked the bucket a few months ago and I've been auditioning replacements without much luck.

    Even if it's not wool, I'm sure Cathy will rock that ensemble. Just keep her out of the kitchen!

  8. I want an iron that lasts more than 2 or three years. Bought one of those expense irons, and it started leaking in 2 years and I was fed up by 3. I am on the look out for a old timey iron that would last ten years.

  9. I'm sorry your 'wool' turned out to be poly; at least the garment is looking nice!

    The loss of a trusted iron can be very disappointing. My favorite iron ever bit the dust 6 or so years ago and I've never found a replacement I liked as much. (and they don't make that model anymore)

  10. That Wikipedia link has the most unappetizing photograph of bananas foster I've ever seen!

  11. Uugh irons! I have a B&D with a mind of its own (kind of scary) and a pretty good Rowenta. My favorite tool is a Jiffy steamer that my best friend in the world gave me for my birthday, can you believe it? Using it for pressing/steaming on the dress form is amazing. Makes my sewing look almost intermediate instead of rank amateur. I highly reccommend it.

  12. Wow, I am really impressed with how amazing you have made your cheap poly-mystery fabric look. I hate to work with wilful fabric but you seem to have triumphed over yours and made it look, quite frankly, very expensive!

  13. That is part of the evil of synthetics -- they're often highly photogenic!

  14. I love the jumper. It reminds me of one I made for myself as a teenager, back in the 50's. I think the snap closure on the side would be nicer than a zipper, and they are so fun to look at when they're done. (but that's just me)
    I only buy inexpensive hardware store irons now. I've been disappointed one too many times by a failed Rowenta. My Black and Decker has been with me and working fine for about 5 years of frequent use.

  15. I'm in the cheap iron corner. I've had a lot of different ones, including one Rowenta that was stratospherically expensive. All of them have failed far sooner than I'd like, because they all have suicide-prone electronics in them nowadays, to give them that "auto-off" safety feature. My current iron is a $16 Sunbeam from Mall Wart, and the darn thing has given me two years of faithful service for both regular ironing and sewing. I like it so well I have purchased another which sits chastely in its box, awaiting the demise of its sibling.

    I also have a vintage GE that was their first model with the "Shot of Steam" feature. Heavy, lovely piece of equipment, but I seldom use it, because when it's gone, there's little chance I can get it fixed or replaced. It's used primarily for ironing my real linen placemats and napkins, a job that also takes one of those sprinkler tops that fits on a pop bottle (believe it or not, Hutzler still makes them). A nice blast from the past.

  16. That is too bad about the iron. I still have my old one, even though it hardly works at all! And yes, I have a new, functioning one.
    This jumper is looking good. I'd love to make one but I always wonder if I'll look like a little kid in one.

  17. It's looking great, despite the polyester-ness?

  18. my morphy richards iron had been to service for over 3 weeks now with no sign of getting it back, oh how i loved my old philips iron and yes in envy all you lucky ones out there with Rowenta!

    Adithis Amma Sews

  19. I think it looks great. I bought some 60's fabric on ebay. It was kind of tricky to sew. I didn't attempt anything too complicated though.

    I hate my iron. It just never gets hot enough. I have tried all kinds of irons over the years and I haven't found a really good one yet.

    Good job!


  20. @Sandy: the sibbling won't give up. I bought a spare once for a power supply that I thought would die soon. It's been laying around here for years now. The 'supposed to die' is still working like a charm.

    The supposedly inanimate somehow sense the threat of being replaced, I guess.... ;-)

    We might be on to a solution here. Doubles the cost, however.

  21. Ack there is nothing worse than a non-working iron, they just become doorstops. One thing I discovered that does prolong their use is to never leave water in them.But eventually I got so sick of replacing them that I switched to a gravity feed.

  22. Love it...Photogenic Polyester...but you matched your plaid extremely well for being under stress...I feel your pain. I take Excedrin when I sew plaid.

  23. I've been misled in those stores around 39th St. Ugh. "Yeah, yeah, that's silk." Then you get home and take it out of the bag, and there's not a wrinkle or a crease anywhere. You have to go with your gut in those places. Mood is overpriced, but at least you know what you're getting. Anyway, I'm impressed that you tamed that poly so well!

  24. I love the burn test for fabric, but have never had such a combustible fabric to test like your fabric. Sounds like you needed to have a fire extinguisher nearby. I am very impressed at how well you matched the plaids. I remember trying to match Madras as a youthful sewer in the 60's. OMG. I think it was years before I sewed with Madras again.


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