What is Japanese denim? Have you heard of it? It is often called selvedge denim. It is manufactured in Japan on an old style shuttle loom that creates 32 inch width, very tightly woven denim. It is woven to the edges to maximize the output. The binding on the edge to prevent fraying is characteristic of this fabric, thus the name.
Shuttle Loom, photo courtesy of RawrDenim
This fabrication is very popular in menswear and often worn with the selvedge showing on a rolled cuff. Of course, women’s curves don’t allow for the full side seam to be selvedge, but the durability this fabric offers is desirable for many regardless of gender.
Photo courtesy of RawrDenim.
Creative sewists can make the most of the bound edge by using it as trim on straight pockets such as jeans back or jacket patch pocket or on faced cuffs. Appliqued strips could add fun and fancy to jackets, vests or bags.
To wash or not? The conventional wisdom for care of selvedge denim is to wash as few times as possible. Why? The more you wash, the less the defined fade. Our experience with the fabric we have in stock: Even though there is a heavy layer of dye on the surface, washing did not fade the fabric nor did it shrink. It softened very slightly. So we are still experimenting and will report back any changes that we find. Feel free to comment on your experiences. Ed. Jennifer Stern has done a great blog on her washing experience. Read it here
Want to try your hand at working with this designer fabric? Jennifer Stern is making jeans and sharing her experiences in our Savvy Sewer Salon.
Recently I saw a post on a popular sewing board asking the difference between ponte knit and double knit. I am ever mindful of my role as business owner and do not post on sewing boards to avoid the pitfall of “advertising”. But I thought the question was valid and deserving of a response. As you all know I do not put myself out there as an expert on fabrications. I am simply a business owner and sewer with a lot of years of experience and a good bit of research to back that up. So here is how we respond to that question.
Double knit is a generic term that refers to the structure of the knit fabric. Double knits are weft knits produced using two needles on two needle beds. The result is a jersey that is flat on both sides and can often be reversible. There are a wide variety of double knits on the market. Ponte di Roma is one type of double knit.
How do you tell if its a ponte? The method of creating ponte knit results in a fine rib on both sides of the fabric. If you look closely you can see a crosswise rib created by the process of using four yarns, two that are picked up at once and one that is front only, the other back only.
Ponte knit comes in a variety of weights
Lead Ponte from our Transitions Collection
Fine lightweight suitable for dresses such as our Lead Ponte
Midweight is versatile for separates or structured dresses.
Coming Later this Month
Heavy weight works for jackets and separates bottoms according to style lines. We have a beautiful fall magenta color coming up in a few weeks.
We see the following fiber combinations in ponte knit. Each one has its fans and its detractors. We rely on the hand and the fineness of the weave to determine our buys. Whenever choosing a fabric, its important to have fiber knowledge to help you predict the behavior of the fabric that you purchase. We’ve listed them in the order of our preference, but that said we have seen some poly/spandex that are wonderful in hand even to the fabric snobs at SBDF!
Transitions: “passage from one state or stage to another”
You know that awkward fashion season when you never seem to have quite the right outfit for the changeable weather? We all know it and, if you’re like me, it can make for longer-than-normal mornings figuring out just the right outfit to create for that day. I’ve put together some tips garnered from my experience and that of others. With these tips and our recent Transitions collection, we hope you can enjoy this most wonderful time of year.
More in the morning and evening, fewer layers at mid-day. Start with a base comfort level for the day…
For instance, choose a pair of pants that will cover the warmest part of the day but still be appropriate in the cool morn or eve. In our part of the country, this generally means cotton for structured trousers. Rayon or rayon/linen blends work well for pants with an unstructured silhouette. Above far right, Whitetail in taupe. Next a tank or tee that will give a bit of warmth and comfort, but is probably not enough for the cooler weather of late August in our area. We chose Neufchatel jersey. Over the jersey tee, a neutral printed linen works for a long vest or tunic or a shirt or open top. We love the rich neutral combination in Tumbleweed. Finally add a jacket layer. This will work out well as just enough comfort for out of doors, or an added layer indoors as the sun goes down. The texture in Tauperie adds interest and weight to complete the outfit.
When do you cave in to the turtleneck? I’ve been famous for keeping my neck covered from November to May here in New England! Most of my co-workers wait much longer and open up much sooner in the spring. Whatever your personal temperature gauge tells you, here are some tips to keep your self warm during the coldest parts of the day in the transitional period.
Jazzerie Cotton Voile
Add a scarf–adds not only a layer of warmth, but an opportunity for color at your face. Keep the fabrication lightweight and use a long length that wraps around for additional warmth.
Wear a high collar Crisp shirts or blazer style jackets offer a great backstop for cold necks.
Staple Cotton Jersey in black
Shirt Collars: If you’re not ready to take the plunge into the turtle world, then try wearing some soft knit shirts that have collars. Just that little bit of fabric at the neckline helps. Remember how hot those feel in warm weather? Use it to your advantage when its chilly.
Last Resort? The ever-popular Turtleneck!
Choose mid-weight fabrics for this time of year. Time to let go of the lightweights unless you are layering. If you are looking for single layer dressing, then kick up the weight of the fabric you choose.
Here in New England that usually means cotton twill or cotton satin…great weight for three season wear.
Not ready for full length jeans? How about a denim skirt?
Denim One—cotton with a bit of stretch
Use Colorto signify the changing season
Choosing neutrals is a good sign that Fall is on the way. Still perfectly fine for summer days, but a hint of what’s to come.
Wheat Herring-fine cotton texture for jacket, vest, skirt or pants.
Tired of pastels and brights? Time to introduce some richer fall tones in mid-weight fabrications and non-floral prints.
Tune in to the fall season’s color palette and Watch Just Arrived for lots more transitional fabrics over the next month. With a little bit of forward thinking, you’ll be ready for the chilly nights and warm days of late summer/early fall.
Borrowing a word from the painting world, we came up with tips for bringing your sewing out of doors this summer. Enjoy your garden and your sewing passion at the same time. Rather than letting your works in progress languish over the garden months, bring some of the tasks outside and see how much progress you’ll make! Of course, the obvious activities which are TV activities in the colder months are hemming, snaps, buttons, tacks, etc. But here are some you may not have tried.
1. Using a new pattern? Bring the guidesheet to your chaise or garden swing. Read thoroughly, make notes on changes you will make or measurements you need to check. In the winter months I do this at bedtime…letting the information soak in overnight. You can create the same kind of reflective ambiance in your favorite outdoors setting.
2. Pin darts, seams, tucks, etc. on all pieces. Best bet is to bring a flat rectangular basket or box at least three inches deep. You can work in your lap or on a side table, then lay the pinned pieces in the container ready to sew. I used to bring these projects with me when we tent camped. Having a covered, waterproof box is best in those conditions.
3. Who said hand-basting is drudgery? Enjoy the rhythm of the needle as you carefully baste pieces together that can use a little extra TLC. Set a sleeve, place gathers, or mount an underlining.
4. Thread mark your tailored garments. Use your flat basket to hold the pieces once completed so the markings don’t fall out in transit.
5. Catch up on your inspirational reading…Threads, Vogue Patterns, and more.
6. Brush up on technique by bringing along your TNT how-to book, or the newest one you’ve just purchased at a consumer show this spring.
7. Dare I say it? As ye sew, so shall ye rip! Its less discouraging when you balance the activity with the joy of your garden.
Finally, take advantage of a rainy day to purge your closet…Sort to give away, store away, retain, repair.
What do you need to freshen your wardrobe?
Choose Patterns from your stash or order new ones.
A few of us were chatting last week about the poor quality of fabric and workmanship in so much of ready-to-wear lately. We realized that there are many people who have never experienced the joy of touching and wearing a fine fabric. People who don’t sew are not exposed to quality fabric in the retail stores unless they frequent designer level shops. Those of us who sew are fortunate to have exposure to fine fabrics, especially customers of SBDF
Dominique Fine Cotton
As we all know too well, the discounters and even mid-range apparel manufacturers are using very inferior goods to keep the pricing down (a constant demand from consumers). Sometimes a garment has great hanger appeal, but when reality strikes after the first wearing or wash, customers are surprised. This is particularly noticeable with synthetics where quick construction techniques allow for a stylish “look”, but seams fray and finishes wash off, leaving the customer in rags rather than riches.
We are so fortunate here at SB to be surrounded by quality fabrications…would that I could sew up my wardrobe like I used to!!! Ah, the time! But we know a good fabric when we see it, touch it or work with it. How can we help our customers have the same experience?
We do our best to bring you the fabric in images that speak to the “hand”. Colleen does a fabulous job with close shots.
With our Roll Out videos on YouTube we try to simulate the experience of seeing the fabric laid out in front of you. We’ve developed the “fluff” maneuver to show a light fabric and how it floats.
Cora-Digitally printed silk chiffon
Watch Cora here.
Of course, when we write our copy, we put on our customer hat. How would I describe this to a person who is not standing next to me. Look for adjectives and adverbs that address hand, stability, and drape. Read the recommended garment types for further clarification.
SBO13-056 Beach House Whether you have one or wish you did, this print will get you in the mood for the beach house vacation. The toned down printed stripe features a wide array of beach town colors including watermelon, teal, peach, lemon, floral pink, accented with rows of black and white. The stripes are printedacross the yardage in varying widths that narrow unexpectedly. The overall effect is of a rippled colored sand. The creamy hand of this substantial jersey knit makes it all the more enticing. Originally milled for Melissa Masse. Great for full-length dress, tunic top or tee tops in all styles. 60 in (C) $14.00/yd.
I’ve always thought of our swatching service as a teaching tool as well as a marketing tool. When our mail order subscribers receive their swatches, we know that not every fabric we send will suit every customer. Of course, there are those who call and order straight down the line from a particular collection, but typically our customers find the fabrics that are best for their wardrobe and pocketbook, leaving the others for another day. But they can still learn from the swatches they pass over for purchase. Touching the fabric, reading the description, and memorizing the characteristics is like building a library of fabric knowledge. Now we don’t suggest that you get the swatches just as a learning tool, that would be costly for you and for us, but we do suggest, once you own the swatches, that you make them work for you.
Go through each mailer with resources at the ready. As you read our copy and handle the swatch, you can research more about that particular fiber and weave. Eventually you will have information stockpiled in your head when you view a fabric online. Learning the basic characteristics will help you make a choice without a swatch.
Some of our favorite sources
Claire Shaeffer’s Fabric Sewing Guide
Julie Parker’s All About Series
Remember, the swatches aren’t sacred, they are meant to be tested in every way. You can stitch a seam, make a buttonhole, interface and line, wash and dry…all with our 2 in. x 2.75 in. swatch. What a bonus!
If you have questions about the performance of a particular fiber, feel free to email us and we’ll do our best to answer you. We are not textile scientists and make no claims on the accuracy of the information we dispense, but we are fabric aficionados and between us have over 100 years of experience. We are happy to share!
“A thread that’s been used by man for thousands of years, must have a lot going for it” ¹
My love affair with linen began years ago. Literally I remember a linen dress my mother wore that felt so good when I cuddled up to her. So I have a very positive association with the hand of linen right from childhood. As I began to sew, I found that I enjoyed the ease of putting together a linen dress. The fabric doesn’t fight you when you match seams, sew darts, etc. It takes a hand press very well and is easy to form structured elements. Perhaps the fact that my pattern choices nearly always included a tailored detail, I was constantly rewarded by this fabrication. As silhouettes softened I learned to soften the linen by pre-washing the fabric four or five times before cutting. The hand of a washed linen, whether done in the mill finishing process or done at home, is definitely a comfort food for the fabric lover. Have you ever had the experience of handling an old linen table cloth or napkin? Well-used and well-loved, these “linens” remain stable while taking on the softness of time. Years ago I switched to all linen in my cross-stitch stash. Besides the gentle rhythm of that needlecraft, working in hand or with a hand-held frame allows me to feed my linen lust.
A great feature of linen is that it often comes in beautiful seasonal colors and acts as a canvas for many buttons. Linen will support a best match color, a contrasting color (black or white for instance), a shell, a natural organic like coconut or horn or a lightweight metal.
This year we have a number of linens in stock that should satisfy many the linen lover. We devised our own system of identifying weights for garment construction.
There are four categories that we use in our descriptions.
Handkerchief: Tissue weight for blouses and lingerie
Most of our current stock falls into lightweight and mid-weight categories. Heavy weight is not around the marketplace as much this year, but you can check our Linen Department frequently if you are searching for this weight. We still have a few more months of adding to that category.
Designers often experiment with adding another fiber to linen to change some of its characteristics.
Adding silk gives a finer interpretation to linen and kicks it up on the luxe scale.
Combining viscose with linen softens the hand and the drape.
Cotton and linen are a favorite summer combination for cool comfort.
Blending a series of fibers like cotton, linen and rayon, allows for added texture and novelty weaves.
“What could be more natural, or more healthy in a time of increased technology and alienation than to surround oneself with [this] natural fiber, created by the harmonious interactions of sun, rain and earth”²
Study the above photo carefully…do you believe this is printed on silk fabric? I originally found this exquisite silk print on a roll in the midst of hundreds of other tubes, but even in the crowd it stood out! Of course, the print design is bold and lifelike, but more than that the quality of the printing is very different than what we have grown accustomed to. So the bad news is we are nearly out of stock.You can check for cuts at Jurassic. The good news is we have more digital prints in-house on a variety of fabrications.
In a more abstract print, you can see the advantages of the digital process also. It allows for a full range of hues and saturation of color, much finer in the delineation between tones. The result is a print with depth and energy elevating the design to a new level of visual appeal.
If you have not seen a digital textile printer, this video gives a good idea of the process.
This is not a blog about the technical process of digital printing, although that is a fascinating read should you be interested. There are many places on the web to learn about it. I found the information on Oecotextiles particularly interesting.
One reason for the comparatively slow growth of digital printing on textiles may be related to the extreme demands of the textile applications. Although ink-jet printing onto fabric works in fundamentally the same way as any office type ink-jet prints onto paper, fabric has always been inherently more difficult to print due to its flexible nature. The level of flexibility varies from warp to weft and with each degree around the bias, so guiding the fabric under digital printer heads has proven to be very challenging.
There are many types of synthetic and natural fibers, each with its own ink compatibility characteristics;
in addition to dealing with a fabric that is stretchable and flexible, it is often a highly porous and textured surface;
use requirements include light fastness, water fastness (sweat, too) through finishing operations and often outdoor use, heavy wear, abrasion, and cleaning;
the fabric not only has to look good but to feel good too;
fabric has much greater absorbency, requiring many times the ink volume compared with printing on papers.
This is just one example of the information available. Feel free to share your sources and knowledge of digital printing for our readers to learn more.
For me, its the end product that counts. We have seen some wonderful examples of quality digital printing. Recently several of our viscose knits from France feature this process. You can see the difference at a glance. Tokyo is a great example of the depth and variation of color that can be achieved.
To look at two ends of the spectrum, one could look to artisanal methods of printing such as wax resist batiks or block printing alongside the streamlined digital printing of the future.
The top photo is Sedona, a hand-dyed rayon batik. The colors are rich and saturated…a sunny day when it was dyed. This is a long process that employs many members of a community from dying, stamping, bathing and drying to folding and packaging the finished goods. We typically wait a minimum of two months for most of the batiks we carry. Consistency is not part of the process when using artisanal fabrications. There will always be variations from yard to yard and often distinct dye lot differences from bolt to bolt. Lovers of batiks consider these qualities desirable, making each garment truly unique.
The second photo is Daphne, a rayon challis that was digitally printed in a mill in France. The subtle colorations can be replicated over and over since the dye is discharged by computer. Whether running 10 yards or 10,000 the cost is similar because there is one set up. The ink is expensive and the production time is slower than screen printing, but the results are dramatic and more in tune with today’s aesthetics. I personally don’t think one look should trump the other. There is room in our collections for both fabrications and all the other methods in between. High quality screen printing still delivers a very beautiful print. The more opportunities designers have to marshal their creativity, the better for all of us.
I once had a salesman say to his colleague, dont’ say the “A word” in front of Barb! (He meant acrylic!) Sawyer Brook’s legacy has always been a respect for natural fibers. The company began in the 70′s when polyester was king and offered fine natural fibers such as Linton Tweeds, Liberty cottons and Viyella blends. Over time we’ve loosened our borders a bit to include some of the newer fibers on the market. Our strong emphasis continues to be on the basic natural fibers–wool, linen, cotton and silk along with rayons of high quality. But, we have opened our collections to include high-end synthetics from European mills and offer the occasional ITY jersey knit in our Bistro collection for color and fun. So, I guess you can I say I’ve evolved!
This is the time of year when we most have to remain open-minded. Why? Because our fabrics are sourced through designer workrooms and mill overruns. And the reality is that glitz and glamour come with compromise on fiber. In order to get the wonderful texture and delightful sparkle that makes holiday fashion fun, yarns of synthetic fiber are needed. Unless of course, you can use spun gold or exquisite silk brocades. For most of us, a once-a-year outfit is out of reach in the natural fiber category. Mills working with designers have created some pretty wonderful fabrications in recent years. We are enamored of the texture that they have created and see the grandeur of the metallic yarns interwoven with chenille, boucle or embroidery.
Many mills this year used a laminated finish on the knits to add the sparkle after the design was printed.
Regency in Bronze
Chemical and/or heat processes are used to create interesting textures on woven fabrics such as this puckered jacquard.
There is much to experiment with when using special occasion fabrics. Why not try some new techniques this season and share your experiences with your fellow Sawyer Brook sewists.
Purple Passion A unique single border print on cotton/silk blend
I am currently reading a book about the sustainable fashion revolution…more on that in another post. A statement jumped off the page at me today. Caryn Franklin, All Walks Beyond the Catwalk, gave this response when asked what are the greatest challenges to independent and ethical brands.
“The consumer doesn’t really make any distinction between a small independent, who knows all of their suppliers and their workers individually and who cares about the end product, and a massive corporate [entity].–The consumer has prioritized cost and glossy veneer.”
Now while this was a discussion of the ready-to-wear market and the excesses of the consumers in that market, I couldn’t help but come to the defense of our customers. Call me crazy, but I believe sew-ers are different! I believe they do value the quality of the product above the cost. A trained sewist understands quality fabric AND quality construction. Whether s/he is buying fabric and a pattern or shopping ready-to-wear, those skills are at the forefront of her decision. Here at SBDF, we do our best to offer you the best of both worlds…a quality product at an affordable price.
Brown leather shown with Shutters silk charmeuse
I was recently asked by someone in the industry why we don’t offer a mid or promotional line of fabrics? My answer was instant…because we won’t do it! We won’t represent products that don’t meet our standard of excellence regardless of the possible gain or expansion of our business. This is not who we are.
We are staffed with professional fabric specialists who know and understand the products we offer. We do business with vendors with whom we have built up a trusting relationship. We don’t buy everything we see…we are very discriminating and bring to you only those fabrics that we think give you the greatest value for the price we charge. We don’t skimp…every order no matter how small or large, gets our full attention. We value our brand and know that you do too.
Moroccan Sunset – Water Rayon blend multi-texture jacquard shown with rainforest buttons in gray/green.
We’re working hard to make your online shopping experience better than ever and we are always open to suggestions. We hear all the time from customers who share our values. We respect your opinions rather than demean our customer to suggest that they don’t know the difference or don’t make a distinction between mass market and the product an independent source can bring to market. So call me crazy, but we think our customers know best!
Thank you all for your continuing support and don’t ever hesitate to let your voice be heard by commenting on this blog or sending us an email. We even take phone calls personally!