July 7, 2013

Fabric and flaws

I've been struggling with some of my stitching lately! I should have known better, but I used some synthetic fabric in a wall-hanging I am making. Even worse, it is in a section that has a lot of embroidery on it! 

When I first started out on my patchwork and quilting journey, I used to read pattern instructions: "It is recommended all fabrics be 100 per cent cotton ...". My reaction was, well, I don't know whether I want to spend a lot of money on 100 per cent cotton, and I don't see any reason why I can't use some of the lovely polyester fabric that I have. It didn't take long to realise the wisdom of the pattern advice. Synthetic fabric makes lovely tops, skirts and dresses, but it is just not ideal for patchwork and stitcheries. 

After using 100 percent cotton fabric for a long time now, I had forgotten just what synthetics are like to sew! On the particular piece I am using, every stitch is a pain. The needle just does not slide into and through the fabric. I have to give the needle a shove to even get it started on its journey. Sewing on the machine is no better. The synthetic slips and slides and just doesn't work in piecing. You would think I would have just pulled out the offending section and used a different fabric, but I had done a heap of applique on it and I just didn't have the heart to start again! 

All this started me thinking about some of the problems I have had with different fabrics. I loved the fabric below with little 'picture frames' surrounding dragonflies, bees etc. It was ideal for cutting out individual frames and appliqueing them on this cup bag:

Have you tried using frames and printed panels? - you will know the problem then! Some of those frames are just not printed SQUARE on the fabric. This happens with even the most expensive fabric. The only solution I have is to cut around the frame so that it is complete, give it a bit of a pull to try to get it into shape and use it in a way that the 'out of square' is not going to matter too much.

Then there are checks. I have a love/hate relationship with them. They are so great for giving a 'cottage' feel to a project, but they are NEVER squarely printed on the fabric. I'm a perfectionist and I hate not having those checks lined up:

Recently I made an apron. The floral fabric was one of the first fabrics I purchased when I began quilting. It was on sale and it was cheap ... and I liked it. 

When I cut out the fabric for the apron, I noticed a slight flaw but didn't think it was really noticeable. The apron was finished and I was giving it a last-minute press before I packaged it to be sent off to a magazine. It was then that I saw it in a new light. I don't know whether you can see it in the photo below but there is a great long white vertical line down the middle and then close to the bottom a horizontal one adjoining it:

It looks as though the fabric had a crease when it was printed and so there it is - a big flaw right in the middle of my apron. There was nothing to be done but to pull it all undone and start again with new fabric!

And what about Velvet? I love the feel of the fabric - it just calls out to be stroked. However, it's not for the faint-hearted; it frays unbelievably and you can't see through it to trace a design: 

Then there's silk - luxurious, soft, beautiful. Silk too, is not very easy to work with. It frays, slips, some types resist the needle, but it always looks gorgeous!

So there are some of my reflections on fabric and flaws. My number one choice is definitely cotton for patchwork, and a fine linen as a beautiful base on which to work stitcheries.

Talking of threads gliding through the fabrics with ease, these gorgeous Kacoonda silk threads are an absolute dream to work with. Silk threads on linen - the ultimate pleasure: 

This parcel of hand-dyed threads, along with silk ribbons and wool felt arrived recently and I am counting down the projects till I can start using them on a special design I have in mind. Last week there were five commissions on the go, all at different stages of development, so I won't let myself start anything else new! I completed one project last night, so the count-down has started.

I hope you have many hours of 'thread gliding through fabric' this week.


Regina vicentini said...

Amiga querida!
Quanta informação a respeito dos tecidos favoráveis aos bons trabalhos! Mesmo assim, a beleza dos teus cuidados sobrepujaram aos mínimos defeitos que eles ofereceram!

Wendyb said...

Oh Val, I can relate.....and I thought it was only me???? Looking forward to seeing your new designs too
sugary hugs xo
Wendy :O)

Gina E. said...

Val, I was grinning all the way through this post, especially at the photo with your Pantry! I made that for my niece's daughters, and I had a bit of a time with the gingham I must admit! I used to buy up all kinds of fabric at our opshop for my patchwork stash, but like you, found it was almost impossible to use, so I ended up taking it all back to the opshop, and now I just grab any cotton fabrics that are donated.

Rosa said...

Such a wonderful projects!

Christine M said...

Great post Val. I know what you mean about panels. I haven't used many but the odd one I have used got me so frustrated trying to trim it up.

Ondrea said...

Some interesting info there Val! I must admit I try to avoid stripes and checks because I can never get them straight. As for poly fabric I have never used it because I do a lot of hand piecing and hand quilting which takes a lot more time and I don't want to find that the project is ruined after putting so much time and energy into it. It wouldn't be that pleasant after machine sewing either. I haven't tried the silk threads yet. Thanks for another lovely post.

Raewyn said...

Interesting! I'm a bit like that with stripes and checks! And what a difference the fabric type makes, even the difference between high quality and low quality 100% cottton. I have never used silk embroidery thread but it sounds like something to try!

Susan said...

A great round up - I absolutely avoid checks and am very hesitant about using stripes - if they are not straight they look awful - though at least with stripes you can often use them so it doesn't show as much - not a lot of checks in my stash!!