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Creature of Habit

2011 June 24
by elizabeth_admin

Apparently, I am a creature of habit.  The topic I had in mind for today is not a new one on this blog.  I have written on this topic a number of times, but most notably two times in June the last two years running (here and here).  Either my wadder life is on an annual cycle or the month of June just makes me think of wadders.  😉

One of the aspects of learning to sew that I have the most difficulty with is fabric knowledge.  There are so many different kinds of fabric out there, not to mention blends and percentages of lycra.  And let’s not forget about types of weave and knits.  Whoo boy.  There is just so much to learn about fabric and how it will behave before, during and after being sewn.  Actually, Myrna recently mentioned how even sewing muslins didn’t automatically guarantee a good result with your finished garment.  She says:

“ANYWAY… what I was hoping to illustrate with these (not so fabulous) images was how the same pattern looks in different fabrics, even fabrics that are all a rayon blend. The results show why when you are working out a particular fitting problem, you need to use the same fabric over and over and why when you test with muslin and then sew the final garment with “real” fabric, results vary. Each garment needs its own fine tuning.”

I have often found this the case, but often I forget this bit of wisdom.  *long sigh* 

Sometimes it saddens me that I came to sewing so late in life.  I love it so much.  One could even say I am obsessed about it.  The more I work with fabric, the more I know that I don’t know much about it.  Patience is not one of my strong suits.  I want to become an expert right here and right now.   

Why do I bring this up now?  Well, I have a wadder on my hands.  I didn’t know it was a wadder when I originally showed it to you, but I know so now.  Enter KS 3408 (my review here):


Looks great there, right?  Well, not so much any more.  Here is a case of a marriage between fabric and pattern failing.  A divorce is ensuing as we speak.  I used one of my beloved rayon knits from FabricMart for this dress.  These knits feel wonderful.  They are soft and very stretchy.  And while they worked amazingly with McCalls 6069 dress (see below), they don’t work at all with this wrap dress pattern. 


This dress, M6069, and the other 2 versions I made,  are in constant rotation in my work wardrobe.  I love them.  I think the rayon fabric works here because the entire weight of the dress doesn’t hang from the shoulders like it does in the Kwik Sew dress.  In the M6069 dress, half the weight hangs from the elasticized waist.  So there is no major stretch or weight on the fabric dragging it down. 

The Kwik Sew dress is much longer now than on the day I took the picture above.  The waist is almost to my hips, the neckline is way stretched out and the hem of the dress now reaches my mid-calves.  I think the ties could wrap themselves around the globe.  There is no saving this dress.  I have laundered it and it remains stretched out.  This fabric has little to no recovery.  You stretch it, it stays stretched.  It’s beautiful to look at and so soft to touch, but don’t make a heavy garment out of it or you’ll be sorry.  I would say that this fabric is great for the M6069 dress or tops only because it just does not have any recovery at all.

But how would I have known this?  I had used this fabric twice already before I attempted the Kwik Sew pattern.  Both of those experiences were positive.  I thought I “knew” the fabric.  Obviously, I did not.  Was there any way for me to know this without having to make a wadder first?  I don’t know.  I think some things are only learnable (is that a word?) or knowable through the good, old-fashioned method of trial-and-error.

So I consider this a humbling experience — not the embarrassing kind.  Just humbling to realize, yet again, that I have much to learn about fabric.  That I will keep learning as I go. 

I have learned a lot in the last two years of my sewing education.  I used to think of wadders as failures.  Yes, they are disappointing, but, really, all they are is a badge of honor.  A medal of sorts, evidence of knowledge gained or lessons learned.  I won’t wear them, but I won’t bemoan their existence either. 

What about you?  How is your fabric knowledge journey going?  Are you good at matchmaking fabric to pattern?  Do you have any divorces of your own hanging in the closet?

11 Responses leave one →
  1. Silvia permalink
    June 24, 2011

    You can make a top out of the unsaveable dress. That would make it less sad. It looks like you can get a tee out of the skirt, or just make the dress a skirt. You’ve hit slot of fabric to play with. Good luck refashioning!

  2. Marie-Christine permalink
    June 24, 2011

    Uh hmm. My first cowl t-shirt was a smash hit. That is, not enough fabric so the sleeves are 5/16 rather than 3/4 and reep up annoyingly into my elbows. But the cowl (‘medium height’ in the book) is totally perfect. Lightweight cotton knit. Well, wouldn’t you know I made it in really great polka dots, rayon and lycra, and this one.. Well, as opposed to many unaltered Burdas it doesn’t show the bottom of my bra. But it’s really not suitable for work. Or for much else.
    I second Silvia’s suggestion: make a top, and hope that much less weight works better.

  3. June 24, 2011

    I am still on a fabric learning journey… And try hard to follow the pattern fabric suggestions. However, my creative thoughts compel me to go against the grain at times and have had luck inspite of it. However, there are 2 wadders that I’ve kept in hopes of recycling. I remember the black and white dress, one of my favorites…humbug that it became a wadder and hoping you can find a way to recycle it.

  4. June 24, 2011

    I really need to not buy a rayon knit ever again. I have had wonderful RTW garments made of rayon knit, but all the yard goods I’ve bought have been of the infinitely expandable variety. Truly, it would almost be worth wearing an increasingly baggy dress to find out if a rayon knit really *will* expand to cover the entire earth.

  5. June 24, 2011

    Good question. Every single item is its own adventure. I’ve made the same thing 3 times out of 3 fabrics and had rather different results. I mean, the results were all more similar than different, but there were variances. For obvious reasons, knits are much less knowable than wovens in this respect. So those of us who enjoy the ineffable benefits of negative ease, also deal with the flip side on a semi-regular basis. I think, as we gain more experience of fabric (probably through “failed” experiments), we learn the art. But what do I know?

  6. June 24, 2011

    Thank you for repeating this topic today. I need all the help I can get. I thought I was good at choosing fabrics, but my first blog project was a wadder. I learned to blog while making it, but otherwise, I wasted a beautiful piece of fabric on the wrong pattern. I too will be making a top and a skirt from the dress, but you cheered me with the laugh I got from you and the Slapdash Sewist thinking of the fabric covering the globe. On the other hand, I think a fabric covered world would be heavenly.

  7. June 25, 2011

    That’s such a shame, because that’s such a beautiful fabric and dress. I have barely worked with knits as I don’t own a serger. I’d say my fabric knowledge is more fabric instinct based on wearing clothes my entire life (!) but there’s loads still to learn. I’m not sure you could ever have ‘known’ this was going to happen, could you? Onwards!

  8. June 25, 2011

    I’ve been sewing fashions since I was twelve (a long time ago) and even still I don’t get that mix right every time and sew wadders. It’s just part of the “fun”. Yesterday, I received an email from Palmer/Pletsch about their new jeans DVD. On the same page was a DVD called Will This Fabric Work For You. The blurb says…

    Pati Palmer and Katrina Walker guide you through the steps to making a perfect pairing between fabrics and patterns. Make your fabrics work with your designs using special techniques. Pati and Katrina explain fabric sewability and discuss the easiest fabrics to sew.

    … I ordered it. Pati’s given great advice in her books (Fit For Real People, Pants For Real People) so I’m hoping for some great tips and was curious for the exact same reasons you’ve mentioned.

    ALSO… don’t worry about starting sewing later than some. You have lots of company and it’s really more about how much you sew and how you learn to do by doing. Many people have sewn for years and years but haven’t sewn any quantity or have mostly sewn at a craft or beginner level. Their learning is vastly different from someone who is stretching boundaries and growing with each project.

    PLUS… although I’ve been sewing a long time, I’m constantly learning more about myself. Yesterday, I showed a skirt on my blog, bought years ago, and darn near worn to death. In fact, I’ve lost thirty pounds since I bought it which contributes to it not looking so great on me anymore even with the elastic waist. I have five of these. They used to be my style. Now, I’m a different person and they feel frumpy-ish even though they’re great for summer heat and work. Part of the adventure of sewing is matching the garment style with the women we are and are becoming.

  9. janis permalink
    June 25, 2011

    I have a lot of learning to do regarding knits also. I am looking at a knit at the bottom of the waistbasket. I might grab it out and recycle it. I

  10. June 26, 2011

    I’ve been sewing for more than 30 years and I’m still very excited when my fabric and style work like I hope they will. This is because they very often don’t. Not always bad enough for wadder-ville, but just a bit off.
    Matching the fabric to the style is the hardest thing, and, you are right, making a muslin don’t help much at all for this. Repeating the same patterns with the same types of fabrics would be one way to keep it right once you got it right, but that would be very boring!

  11. June 26, 2011

    I’m sorry to hear about your dress, but the other commenters may be right: you might be able to salvage some of it as a top.
    On the issue of fabric knowledge: Do you remember if the knit you used contained lycra? As I understand it, a percentage of lycra (usually no more than 5 to 10% in nice looking and feeling fabrics) ensures good recovery from stretching. I sure this is no absolute rule, but it might help to keep it in mind.

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