Confused by Cottons? Dumbfounded by Denim?
We run our dressmaking seminars on a cycle with our beginner modules and introductions to sewing. One of these seminars is the Fabrics 101 seminar.
Did you attend the seminar? Great! We have some further reading for you with the best prices that we have been able to find!
Didn’t attend the seminar? Don’t worry, there will be another one and in the meantime we will touch on some of the basics that will help you to make more informed decisions on your makes.
If you want to know more and have a fuller understanding of fabrics pop along to the next event.
What is Fabric?
Fabric = Fibre Content + Construction.
Fibres are sectioned initially into “Natural” and “Man Made”.
Natural fibres occur naturally in the world around us, whereas man made fabrics are manufactured.
Natural fibres include: cotton, wool, linen and silk.
Man Made fabrics include: Polyester, Rayon, PVC, acrylic, Modal and Tencel.
Fibres indicate how the fabric will perform, for instance the drape, warmth, does it wick moisture away from the body?
Fibres are made into yarns/threads which are then used to construct fabric.
Construction of fabric can be performed in many ways. The 3 main construction methods are: Felting, Weaving and Knitting.
Felted Fabrics include: felt, wool felt.
Woven Fabrics include: organza, taffeta, canvas, denim, flannel, gabardine, chino.
Knitted Fabrics include: jersey, sweatshirting, interlock jersey, ponte roma, rib.
Stretch fabrics are either knitted fabric with elastane or woven fabrics with elastane.
Knitted fabrics with elastane have a far greater stretch due to the inbuilt stretch of the construction of knitted fabrics and the fact that elastane is stretchy.
Woven fabrics with elastane are stretchy but to a far lesser degree. A small percentage of elastane with a primary yarn such as cotton results in something called a ‘comfort stretch’/ This fabric is not primarily manufactured for stretch but gives additional ease.
Several things help decide the weight if fabric such as:
Yarn Count- thickness of yarns
Thread Count- Number of warps and wefts. The higher the thread count the finer the quality of fabric.
Additional finishing treatments such as dyeing, brushing, washing, waxing etc. can also change the weight of a fabric.
As a general rule of thumb fabric comes mostly in 2 widths, 45’/110cm or 60’/150cm wide.
But my pattern says….
All sewing patterns will have a recommendation as to what fabric to use for a specific pattern. This doesn’t mean that you absolutely have to use that fabric but if you don’t the final garment may differ in size and style.
Most notably if a pattern is sized for knit fabrics, use knit fabrics. If you are a confident sewer and depending on the pattern you could attempt a knit pattern with a woven fabric but will most definitely have to alter the garment to make it work.
Also if a pattern is sized for knit fabrics, the pattern will often have a guide on how to pick the right fabric for the pattern. This often is a measuring guide for stretch percentage.
We’ve all seen these fabric names on the back of pattern envelopes that we’ve never heard of or seen in the wild. Below we’re going to try and demystify a few.
Batiste, Voile and Lawn:
Very fine, woven cottons with a high thread count. They have a very soft hand and smooth surface.
Has an allover design with slightly raised sections.
Made from 2 different yarns. The velvet yarn is burned out with a chemical in selected areas, leaving behind a pattern of velvet on silk chiffon.
Silk charmeuse is a luxurious, supple fabric. It has a shiny satin face and a dull back. You can also get polyester charmeuse. Almost impossible to get pucker free seams as charmeuse must be cut on grain.
Fuzzy and soft to the touch. Best if interfaced as it has a tendency to stretch.
Lame and Lurex:
Metallic effect fabric.
Microfibre, very soft made from 100% polyester, like fleece but softer and thicker.
A medium weight cotton with raised weave which almost looks like a small check.
A regenerated fabric produced from wood pulp. Cool to wear, good drape.
Lightweight, wind resistant nylon. Not breathable.
Fine cotton, woven from long staple yarns.
Made by treating wood pulp with recyclable non toxic dissolving agent. Soft, drapey and breathable. Wrinkles unless blended with other fibres.
Rugged looking 100% cotton.
Lustrous, durable, warp faced fabric with a corded appearance.
Fine denim appearance. Coloured warp and white weft.
Lightweight, woven. Blended traditionally from silk and wool but can be made from cotton, silk, wool or rayon. Like lawn but with a more fluid drape.
Want to know more? Book onto one of our seminars or check out the list below for further reading, click the links below to be taken directly to buy.
Want to get your hands on these books fast? Click here to try Amazon prime for free for 30 days.
We love seeing what our customers make from items that they have purchased here at Habbydays. You’re all so creative and have amazing unique senses of style!
This has inspired us to create an on going monthly contest to celebrate YOU!
Each month we will be asking you to share your makes in one of our 5 categories: (Adults clothing, Children’s Clothing, Yarn wear, Craft & Home, Quilting) to be in with a chance of winning.
We’re also on the look out for sewing obsessed bloggers to join our affiliates program. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Blogger Affiliates to be popped onto our list.
We pretty much all own a garment which is stretchy, yet so many people are nervous to sew with stretch fabrics.
Here are our top 5 basic tips to sewing stretch fabric.
- Use the correct needle!
Ballpoint (also referred to as jersey) or stretch needles are best when working with knits.
Ballpoint/jersey needles work great for knits without a low spandex content. For example: rayon lycra, sweater knits and jersey.
Stretch needles will work better when using fabrics with a higher spandex/lycra content.
Choose the appropriate size needle for the weight of your fabric, for example: 80/12 is your middle size and suitable for most weights however if you’re sewing a stretch denim you might need something heavier like a 90/14. Equally if you’re sewing a light weight stretch fabric you need a thinner needle like a 70/10.
- Always use a stretch stitch.
All modern machines will have the most basic of stretch stitches: the faithful zig zag stitch. If you sew a straight stitch, and the seam becomes under stress (stretches) it will pop! We advise that you look at your machine to investigate which other stretch stitches it may have.
- Check your grainline.
Some stretch fabrics stretch one way (called 2 way stretch) some stretch both on the warp and the weft of the fabric (4 way stretch). Always make sure the direction of greatest stretch is going around you body, not up and down!
- Make sure you are using the right pattern
Not all patterns are sized for stretch. This means that they are meant to be made from either a fabric that is woven or knit with or without elastane/lycra/spandex. Commercial patterns and Indie patterns will tell you that you need stretch fabric or non stretch fabrics for the garment you are making. Most patterns will also have a gauge to help you determine if the fabric you wish to use has enough stretch in it to make the garment of your choosing. This is called stretch percentage.
- Do not pull your fabric while sewing.
It can be really tempting to give your machine a helping hand getting your fabric through but if you do this while sewing knits you run the risk of stretching the fabric out. We advise having a practice with your machine, adjusting tension if necessary. We also like to use quilters clips and a walking foot to help us through.
If you want to learn more about sewing with stretch, book onto one of our Advanced stretch classes where we teach you about different types of stretch, stretch percentage, retention, how to cut a pattern from your measurements, cut stretch and sew the cut fabric into a wearable garment.
Where to begin…. I actually find ironing relaxing. Yes, I know that that may sound odd but I can quite happily crack through a pile of laundry while listening to Audible or a podcast. Similarly, it has been engrained into me to set my seams after each stitch line. Today, I’m going to tell you about my somewhat complex ironing set up.
I use two different ironing boards in my workshop. The ironing boards that I use are the Brabantia Ironing Board with Solid Steam Unit Holder, Size C, Wide – Ice Water and a mini ironing board from IKEA. I also have a few other tools that I use to help with pressing which I’ll talk about later. For storage at home I use the Minky Chrome Iron Storage System. It slots onto the back of my airing cupboard door and keeps my basic iron and ironing board safe from being knocked around.
I have 4 irons… I feel like that’s a fairly hefty confession!
I use a standard steam iron with a decent pressure steam shot which handily fits in my Minky organiser. My other large iron is a steam generator, a Polti Steam Generator. It sits in my sewing cupboard until I need it, the IKEA mini board hooks onto the cart my generator is on and although I do not use them specifically together it is handy for me storage wise.
Smaller iron wise I use a Prym Mini Iron for seam setting on my mini ironing board or sleeves with either my Tailor’s sleeve roll or sleeve board. It’s also really handy for working with and making bias tape. It is a perfect size for my hand and sewing set up. For specialist pressing, for example pressing quilt detail, EPP projects or my doll making projects I use the Clover Mini Iron. It has a small plate but you can buy a larger plate attachment for bigger areas, a ball attachment for 3D effects or a slimline attachment for really small, fiddly jobs like doll’s clothes.
For on the go ironing, I like to use my Prym mini iron and a pressing cloth like this one or this one. Or a good pressing matt which doubles up as a handy space saver for classes. you can find a small one here and a larger matt here.
I use a variety of tools to help in my pressing depending on the job that I am doing.
Something I use constantly is my pressing cloth. A pressing cloth keeps your iron from contacting with your fabric and in turn avoids scorching, shiny spots and little stains. It also protects your iron when you use any type iron-on or fusible interfacing.
Another handy tool for ironing anything that is fusible is an applique mat. This is a reusable sheet which is the perfect tool for ironing on appliques using bondaweb, when you’re using 606 spray or heat transfer vinyls is non stick.
A really nice to have tool is a Hot Hemmer or a Hot Hemmer: Long, they’ve really added a level of efficiency to my hemming and have become my go to for when I hem garments, mitre quilt corners and make handles.
Another handy tool is this set of Loop Pressing bars, they are heat resistant and designed for making 3D applique but I often use them for garment straps to get a really strong and consistent press.
My favourite all round ironing tool is the Iron Finger, I take it to classes to help me maintain a professional finish and I have one in my drawer at home. It’s designed to replace your finger when ironing. You can use the spatula end for finger pressing, point turning and gripping fabric to hold in place. You can also use handle as seam roll to press seams open and press with or without an iron.
Yay for saving fingers!
Sleeve Roll: So called because it slips easily into sleeves and narrow garment sections for perfect pressing of long or difficult to reach seams. Excellent for pressing gathers and preventing seam edge imprint on cloth face.
Sleeve Board: Similarly to a sleeve roll, the board lends itself to pressing sleeves and smaller garments but it can be locked into place.
Finally, my pressing mitt. My good old trusty pressing mitt has helped me time and time again on shows, let alone when nothing else can quite get into a specific space that I need to press. This tool means that you can press using your hand (inside the mitt of course) and perfect for last minute touch ups.
The only other thing that I can think of that is useful and sometimes smells amazing is ironing water. Click here to learn what I use and take notes in my free tutorial of how to make your own ironing sprays and spray starch.
Thanks for reading, what is your ironing set up? Do you love it or hate it?
Your tools are just as important as the craft that you are working on and as our students often find out very quickly, your iron is going to be one that you use a lot!
Here are our top tips to keep your iron in it’s best condition.
- Always switch off your iron after use. Empty any water from it and store it safely away where it cannot get broken. The residual heat from the iron will help dry the iron out but be careful as the iron is still hot. Keep it somewhere safe until it is cool enough to store. We like the Minky Chrome Iron Storage System.
- Use distilled water or ironing water in your iron (if your iron is a steam iron). Click here to learn how to make your own, other wise try Comfort Vaporese which is readily available on Amazon and most supermarkets.
- Clean your iron regularly. When the iron is unplugged and cool, rinse out the water reservoir with hot water. Wipe the entire iron down including the cord with a damp clean cloth. Use a second clean cloth to dry the iron and store it in a cool dry place. Additionally you can use an iron cleaner to get rid of stubborn stains or burnt on materials.
- Clean out the water reservoir to help avoid hard water build up. Pour white vinegar into the water chamber, turn it on high, and let it sit for 3-5 minutes. Turn it off, unplug it and pour the white vinegar out. Let it air dry and cool off then refill it with clean water and rinse. You could also use an iron descaler and follow the instructions included.
If you would like to know more about the ironing tools that we use, check out our other blog post: My Ironing Set Up
As part of the creative community we host and run several free to attend, drop in social gatherings:
St Neots Sewing Club: Bi-weekly, Monday 19:00-21:00
A social group, joining together likeminded creatives. Bring along your machine, your latest project and join us.
DIY DEMO: 1st Tuesday of the month, 18:00-18:30
A free demo of a small sewing task such as button holes, bias making, clipping corners etc. or new product. If you have any requests please get in touch.
Wellbeing Wednesdays: Weekly, Wednesday 11:00-14:00
Focusing on mental health and how craft can help maintain a healthy mind. We aim to combat loneliness, give people a chance to share their crafts and meet new friends. Bring along your non messy table top craft or take advantage of our colouring in pages and pencils.
Knit & Natter: Weekly, Friday 11:00-14:00
Love to knit, crochet, tat or rag rug? Come along to Friday’s Knit & Natter for free. Feel free to pop in for the whole session or for however long you have. Lots of nattering gets done and giggles had!
All clubs are welcome to use our tea bar. We supply biscuits, as well as the following drinks free of charge:
English Breakfast Tea, Decaf Tea, Peppermint Tea, Green Tea, Various Fruit Teas, Camomile Tea, Coffee*, Latte*, Cappucino* & Hot Chocolate*. Bottled Water, Apple & Blackcurrant Cordial.
Please feel free to bring your own lunch/refreshments. We do not have the facilities to heat up meals from club attendees.
Please note below our Easter break opening times.
Friday 30th March (Good Friday): 10am -5.30pm
Saturday 31st March: 12pm-4.30pm
Sunday 1st April: CLOSED
Monday 2nd April: CLOSED
Tuesday 3rd April: 10am-5.30pm
Wednesday 4th April: 10am-5.30pm
Thursday 5th April-Monday 9th April: CLOSED (exception for Classes)
Tuesday 10th April: Expansion Opening 10am-7.30pm
Normal Opening Hours follow expansion opening:
Please note that we are always closed on Sundays and Mondays with the exception being class students attending classes.
We are supporting Neural Knitworks, an International Collaboration between Sydney and Cambridge Universities by acting as a donation station, making neurons and potentially linking up experienced knitters/crocheters to volunteer as tutors for Cambridge’s Science Festival.
Find out more about Neural Knitworks below:
“Neural Knitworks is a collaborative project about mind and brain health.
Whether you’re a whiz with yarn, or just discovering the joy of craft, now you can crochet wrap, knit or knot—and find out about neuroscience.
During 2014 an enormous number of handmade neurons were donated (1665 in total!) and used to build a giant walk-in brain, as seen here at Hazelhurst Gallery. Since then Neural Knitworks have been held in dozens of communities across Australia and internationally, with installations created in Queensland, Canberra and Singapore.
Following a 2017 debut event at the Cambridge Science Festival in the UK and at Brainfest with Cambridge Neuroscience, in 2018 the Neural Knitworks team have been invited back to Cambridge to work with Cambridge Science Festival, Cambridge Neuroscience and local science communicator Sophie Weeks to produce an international Neural Knitworks project. Together we will hold Knitwork events in and around Cambridgeshire, and create a giant brain installation at the Science Festival.”
Our event is running on Sunday 4th March, 12 noon-4.30pm. We’ll be making Neurons to add to Cambridge’s installation. We are also acting as a donation station for yarn and neurons so please bring along and scraps or yarn you would like to donate and as many neurons as you can manage. Over 2000 neurons will make up the installation and your work can be part of this wonderful project that will be built within Central Cambridge.
If you can’t make our event but fancy getting involved, please download the pattern PDF here. You can post neurons and donated yarn to:
Cambridge Science Festival
The Old Schools
University of Cambridge
If you would like to teach during Cambridge Science Festival please email the volunteer team at Cambridge University here.
For more info about the Cambridge Science Festival and it’s hands on events please click here
I’ve been part of the creative community my entire life. My creative childhood wasn’t a hallmark moment or a pinterest pic, it was for most of my family a way of life. This way of life meant that we could live. My wonderful Mum made our clothes on the kitchen table, Nan an incredibly talented knitter made all of our soft toys, including a beautiful collection of hand knitted Beatrix Potter characters. My Aunt machine knitted her 250+ fostered and adopted childrens’ jumpers. My other Aunts and Great Aunts were bakers, dressmakers and all round handy women.
Not forgetting the fellas who were boot makers, tailors, farmers, carpenters, engineers and fencers. The men who would darn socks and make rag rugs from scraps. The family getting together to sew and repair horse rugs, taking up/in a hand me down dress or cutting it up to make something new.
Back then the art of making was starting to die out with generations not wanting to learn these skills, or older generations not wanting to teach them. Off the peg clothes have become so inexpensive, making clothes isn’t so much of a cost cutting exercise and so the skill has become lost.
Not in my family, I come from a long line of seamstresses and tailoresses. Cottage industries where women would work to create garments or household items not only for themselves but others. This wasn’t their hobby. It wasn’t trendy. It was their job. Their creativity and skills were their living, it paid the bills and kept food in tummies, a roof over your head.
Today, these skills are sought after which is fabulous but as they were not passed down and are not longer taught as regular curriculum the teachers of the past are few and far between. The Aunt that taught me to sew, she died in a home not really knowing who she was. I’m lucky that she taught me. The professionals from the West End and Saville Row that looked me up and down not expecting me to last, they taught me. The manager who gave me a chance in my first retail job, she taught me. She also taught me that you will never know everything and you will never be finished with education. Boy, was she right.
Above all, I’ve spent over 30 years in the creative community, 20 of those from a professional standpoint and for the most part, we’ve all been in it together. As a creative, I am incredibly passionate about what I do. I love to share that with people. Whether it be with someone just starting out or a fellow seasoned pro, the genuine love of creating just spills over into conversations on a daily basis. Through this community I have seen amazing things happen, women given better chances at life after sexual violence, children being made to feel more comfortable in hospital, Manchester being covered in hand made hearts after a horrific terrorist attack… I could go on and on. It’s something I have always said that the creative community do, time and time again: support. It’s via this amazing community that I have been afforded the benefit of gaining family and friends. I know that through these relationships, I can recommend someone for perhaps a craft that I’m not proficient in or share the love and pass potential customers along to other creatives. The whole “I can’t do that but I know someone that can” mantra is something we hold to here at Habbydays which is why we hand out so many cards for other small businesses and make recommendations. If that means we lose a sale, so be it. We’re more concerned with a patron getting what they need/want than forcing a sale on someone who doesn’t need or want it. We pride ourselves on our 50+ combined years of knowledge and insight into the creative world.
Within the creative community there has always been competition, with the skills in which we deal with dying out, competition has become more about big businesses making more products and garments ‘efficiently’, driving down costs and pricing individual professionals out of the jobs they worked so hard to get. Now we see more people having a go because of resources such as Pinterest or TV shows like The Great British Sewing Bee and it is awesome! Even more awesome if you learn something and can earn money doing something you love to do! Which is where it starts to sometimes become a grey area. We help support small businesses locally with our trade accounts but often receive backlash for not including licensed fabrics and goods within those terms. This is for very good reason and those products are protected by licensing, trademark and copyright. I’m a huge supporter and member of ACID, I’ve worked with Trading standards and it is quite distressing to see how many people who are in it for the money just rip off other people’s ideas and designs. Not just small businesses but large corporations: Ellie Ellie vs. Boohoo.com Elf for Christmas vs. B&M to name a couple. Of course there is going to be overlap in ideas but to see something that someone else is making to sell and think to yourself “I could do that” is pretty cool and awesome that you’ve been inspired. Too see that idea and think “I could do that” and start reproducing those exact ideas is in my humble opinion wrong and shortsighted. Then there are the people who see these ideas, copy them and claim to offer the same product or service at a cut price at a lower standard…
The keys to being a successful creative is for a start, to be creative. The second is to experiment and learn, find yourself and your style and thirdly stick to that. Don’t half arse other people’s ideas, even if a customer asks for it. Your integrity is in question not only as a creative but as a human being. In my opinion, you can’t just have a bash/watch a youtube video/read a book chapter once and decide that you can make to sell, teach or offer that service. It takes experience, even if it’s you practising a swiss roll bake 20 times a day or making more cushions than one house needs.
If you do make to sell and are confident in your product, service or lessons make sure they are bomb proof! There’s follow up care, basic instructions, trouble shooting and the odd student that just doesn’t get it so you have to think outside of the box to help them. With making to sell, is it a toy, if so is it CE tested? Mug painting, can you wash it? Teaching a class, do you have enough time and experience to complete the class and if not what follow up do you have? If you take in alterations are you prepared for how badly finished some off the peg garments are? What if there isn’t enough original fabric to complete the job?
Then there is pricing. As a creative, selling your skill is hard. Most creatives do not even make minimum wage, ask a quilter how many hours they put into that beautiful quilt you saw and await an astonishingly high number or a dressmaker how much her dress would be including her time? It’s the same with services or teaching, you must pay yourself what you are worth. Now whether you undercut other people because you’re new and not sure what to charge or because you just want to undercut someone, you’re doing your fellow creatives a disservice. I recently had a chat with someone making blankets, they wanted to charge some tiny amount for this blanket that had taken them hours. This wasn’t their living, more pocket money for them, something on the side. We discussed as to why that would be a bad idea. Imagine being a creative who honed their craft after years of training, who can’t sell their beautiful hand knitted, bamboo baby blankets at a craft fair because the person next to you is selling a similar blanket that maybe isn’t as uniform and in a cheaper yarn for next to nothing. It’s gutting. Check out our previous blog post about knowing your worth as a maker here.
It’s the same with classes or services. Sure someone might have a class to make a teddy bear for £20 but the teacher has just skipped over a book or seen it on Pinterest and fancied undercutting the other teacher in the area who is a Teddy Bear creator, trained by Steiff themselves and charges £35 for a class to make teddy bears. Or the local alterations worker who already isn’t paid enough for their work (alterations work is too inconsistent to have a standing charge) losing out because someone else is doing zips for £5, despite not doing them very well. And even if they are doing it well, £15/zip is pretty standard, you shouldn’t have to drop your prices if your quality is the same as your competitor.
It’s why we have 3 price points for most of our products. It’s why we have demos to see something being made and get a feel for that technique, clubs to share knowledge with other like minded folks and actual sewing classes where you learn a skill or technique from front to back which you can use time and time again and is transferable to other creative endeavors.
In conclusion what it comes down to is as a creative, don’t undercut your fellow creatives. Stick to doing something you do really well and people will come to you, for your designs, knowledge, classes and/or services.
As a consumer, you often get what you pay for. Don’t be fooled by false economy.
Above all, celebrate creatives and your fellow humans. Build them up, if you’re having to lie about someone or behave in a questionable way to get one over on someone… it’s likely that people will start to question you and your integrity.
Tuesday 12th December: 10:00-17:30
Wednesday 13th December: 10:00-17:30
Thursday 14th December: 10:00-17:30
Friday 15th December: 10:00-17:30 Last Knit and Natter of 2017 11:00-14:00
Saturday 16th December: 12:00-16:30
Monday 18th December: Shop not open, last Sewing Club of 2017 19:00-21:00
Tuesday 19th December: 10:00-17:30 Kid’s Crafty Christmas Drop In, Create a Last Minute Christmas Stocking Workshop
Wednesday 20th December: 10:00-17:30 Kid’s Crafty Christmas Drop In
Thursday 21st December: 10:00-17:30 Kid’s Crafty Christmas Drop In
Friday 22nd December: 10:00-17:30 Kid’s Crafty Christmas Drop In NO KNIT AND NATTER
Saturday 23rd December: CLOSED
Tuesday 26th December: CLOSED
Wednesday 27th December: CLOSED
Thursday 28th December: CLOSED
Friday 29th December: CLOSED
Saturday 30th December: CLOSED
Tuesday 2nd January: CLOSED
Wednesday 3rd January: Warehouse open for orders, Shop CLOSED
Thursday 4th January: Warehouse open for orders, Shop CLOSED
Friday 5th January: Warehouse open for orders, Shop CLOSED
Saturday 6th January: CLOSED
Tuesday 9th January: 10:00-17:30
Wednesday 10th January: 10:00-17:30
Thursday 11th January: 10:00-17:30
Friday 12th January: 10:00-17:30 Knit and Natter 11:00-14:00
Saturday 13th January: 12:00-16:30
We cannot guarantee orders made after the 13th of December so please get your orders for Christmas presents in as soon as possible. We will of course continue to process orders up until December 22nd but cannot guarantee that you will have your order within our usual processing times.
We wish all of our customers and students a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year