Sunday, September 20, 2009

Swatch Time! The Wool Edition

It's not quite Snuggie weather yet, but I know fall must almost be upon us. My clue? I've starting coveting (and hoarding, it must be admitted) yards and yards of wool. Did you know wool comes in most of the weaves that silk does? I was surprised to find wool georgettes and satins and the like on some recent fabric-shopping trips. Here are a few of my favorites so far.

Aren't these fun? The one on the left is a polka dotted challis, which is a very thin wool. I bought a couple yards of this for a dress. On the right is a herringbone that is the perfect soft cherry red, which has been calling my name at B&J, perhaps for a little 40's-inspired suit.

I'm coveting a bright blue sheath dress for fall (possibly from McCall's 5971?) so here are a couple options on the left. The left-most one is a wool sateen, and the middle swatch is a crepe.

On the right is a wool crepe georgette in a lovely lavender hue.

Here's some unusual suiting from Carolina Herrera (one of my favorite designers). Aren't the blue dotted lines cool? I have a yard of this to make a pencil skirt with, which my mother bought me when we went to Mood. (Thanks, Mom!) It will obviously requite an electric blue charmeuse blouse, right?

Oh, and the houndstooths! (Houndsteeth?) I bought a few yards of the plum and black one here on the left, and the pink and brown on the right recently caught my eye at B&J. I haven't taken the plunge on that one since I don't usually wear brown (too monochromatic with my hair), but I might make an exception for this!

I ordered some of this lovely soft black boucle below from Gorgeous Fabrics, and it has a nice drape and subtle basketweave texture to it. Perfect for a long-sleeved LBD!

And finally, look at this black wool satin. It's very smooth, with an understated sheen.

It gave me a little idea. How about a wool satin for the wiggle dress/overskirt combo pattern? Here it is with a swatch of the embroidered tulle I bought for the overskirt:

Ding ding ding! I think we have a winner!


  1. what lovely fabrics! they make me wish I could sew! I can't wait to see what you make from them.
    -Amanda :)

  2. Gertie, those fabrics look gorgeous. I have started our winter wardrobe too and love working with wool (crepe, flanel, etc) and alike again. The only thing holding me back from buying a whole lot of stash is the price of good quality wool (or fabrics in general). On the other hand, I don't want to compromise on quality. It's always something I'm balancing with.

    I can't wait to see what you will be creating.

  3. i know I am a hoarder of material as well :)
    love those swatches especially that polka dot one!

  4. I just love wool! It's so easy to work with, it has a nice fall and it's comfortable. The cherry red for a 40s suit especially caught my eye!
    I just organized my fabrics, and found some stuff I didn't even know I had! Wonderful surprises can be found at the bottom of fabric shelfs =)

  5. I like the idea of wool for the office suit/princess dress combo, in my mind it makes it yet more versatile (and really, that's what I find attractive in this project: the Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde side of it).
    I'd be eager to see the red herringbone suit if you make it, as I have plans for a suit in dark red herringbone too (but I'm still working hard to find wich pattern I can cut entirely in my three meters coupon).
    And wool satin is a great discovery! I thought we had everything I could fancy in Paris fabric stores, but I had never heard of it. Go for the electric blue one! This color is perfect for fall and winter: maybe the only 'warm' shade of blue.

  6. Wow - wool satin and wool georgette? I have a book called "The Way We Wore" with movie clothing from the 30s and 40s -- wool fabrics the author describes are truly mind-boggling. I did not think that so many different types were still out there. Now I will have to become a 'fabric detective'.

  7. Wow. Looks gorgeous. Wish I had more confidence with non-skirt sewing to justify some of these types of wool! Quick question ~ awhile ago you mentioned that you would post a SBA tutorial for the Macaroon dress from Colette Patterns. Looks like you're really busy with new projects, don't know if you're still planning on doing that?

  8. i am having a geek out moment about the Carolina Hererra pencil skirt/ electric blue charmuese blouse combo. And it would look fab on you.

    Didn't know about all, some, but not all the wool weaves. I will have to go hunting at my local fabric store and explore that. I am starting to get the fall wool-tweed-plaid bug too even though i am still wearing sleeveless and shorts. I will hopefully be posting about my own stuff soon!

  9. Wow, wool satin! I've never seen some of these fabrics but they sound delightful. I think wool is a very underused fabric in general because most people think of it as a heavy winter fabric. I have some lightweight wools that are just as breathable in summer as cotton.

    Can't wait to see the clothing you make from all of these!

  10. Hooray the wools are here! Oh these are some to-die-for fabrics! There are too many I am crazy about to single them out (OK the herringbone, houndstooth, Carolina Herrera & boucle... and yes, wool satin with the tulle? Dreamy!), and I can't wait to see the ideas take shape. Maybe it's living in Minnesota where the bulk of my wardrobe has to be cold-weather ready, but wool is the most magical fiber/fabric to me. You can get it in a million weights & weaves. I love that even in a really thin fabric you can get this just sensational weight and drape, but I am even more obsessed with heavier full-bodied tweeds and such. I have a couple of dress projects in my head that I hope I can pull off eventually, but I have been actively hording the fabric and patterns for some simple but killer tweedy skirts that I'm just itching to get started on. Problem is, I'm at a roadblock with how to prepare the fabric.

    I am confused about pre-shrinking wool, and getting wildly different advice from longtime sewists, and wonder if anyone here has advice? My mom maintains that my grandmother, who made the most divine woolen suits and dresses, never shrunk her wool fabric, which I have trouble believing! But other veteran sewists of that generation are telling me similar things, that they don't do the whole shrinking regime I read about because wool fabrics on the market have been preshrunk for decades and there is no need. Which again doesn't square with some things I read online. Even one home-ec teacher is telling me if I do the wet-sheets & steaming treatment that I risk felting the particularly luscious heavy tweeds that I'm especially obsessed with (and have spent more than I care to remember on given my current uncertaintly). Does anyone have a good comprehensive reference for what kinds of woolen fabrics you need to do the full shrinking treatment or need to have professionally shrunk versus what you can just pretreat the way you would launder once you've sewn (ie. for simple skirts I would probably just Dryel them)?

  11. First Gertie - these are some amazing pieces of fabric! I love wool...I love the way it sews, the way it wears...and how it takes dye and patterns! Love it!

    Second Hilary - you don't have to pretreat wool BUT you run the risk of it shrinking if you take it to the drycleaners. And that's the difference between your grandmother's generation and ours. Your grandmother was more careful with how she wore her garments making sure that no scent or deodorant was near them and she probably never took them to the drycleaners. She probably brushed and aired her garments outside then carefully stored them away.

    Our generation might take a garment to the drycleaners numerous times over the life of the outfit. The chemicals can weaken the fibers and if you use several different types of fabric in the garment (lining, interfacing, underlining) they may shrink at different rates. So the prevailing advice of home sewists now is to preshrink.

    Personally I preshrink using a spray bottle and alot of steam from my steam generator iron. That usually suffices but then again I don't dryclean my garments more than one a season if that! Also, I have on more than one occasion washed a wool on gentle with some Eucalan, letting it air dry or putting it briefly in the dryer. It is the agitation that causes the wool to shrink.

    Again, this is a case by case basis and will take a little fearlessness on your part and a sense of adventure to work with the wool. Remember it is rare to make a just may end up with something different than you originally intended. And if you want to retain as much of the original hand as possible...just steam the heck out of the fabric!


  12. I just love all of your new fabrics! I am sure we will all enjoy looking each day to see what you create!
    Grab that pink and brown houndstooth -- make a skirt with it and wear a pink shirt! It is VERY cute!! You could even do it on the bias to give it a funkier look!

  13. I love the herringbone fabric!It'll make a great suit. I was wondering about the color. It's showing as a coral red on my monitor, is that the true color? I was thinking of trying to order a swatch for myself to make a jacket. I enjoy all your posts.

  14. Gertie those are beautfiful fabrics. I especially love the Carolina Herrera.

    Hillary, I used the tutorial on Hungry Zombie Couture for pretreating wool and it worked like a charm.

  15. Wool satin--who knew? Great post--I just learned about wool voile which is a light,lovely fabric too. Would that be the same as wool challis? The polka dots would be a wonderful shirtdress!

  16. Ooops. I wasn't signed in. The above comment from me!

  17. I have used both the Euclan in the wash and the steam method and been fine with either. The Euclan is very easy.
    Wool satin is a bit easier to sew than that duchesse satin, but it is not easy to iron. It marks easily so test first.
    They are really gorgeous fabrics and since when do you have pink hair? That speaks much louder than the brown in that piece of fabric.

  18. The herringbone tweed reminds me of a beautiful dress I just saw on another blog and I think you would like both dress and blog (she writes very intelligently about craft, history and feminism). The link is here

  19. Wow, lots of great pre-shrinking advice. Thank you! I have been wondering about this myself a lot lately. I usually only preshrink wool crepe only. (Actually, using the tutorial on your blog, Carolyn!) Thsi is because I had a major shrinking crisis with crepe once. If hot water hits it, it immediately shrinks up! I hardly ever dry clean things, though, so I don't worry too much about other fabrics.

    Toby, I'm going to check out that book. Thanks for the tip!

    lucy, I don't know that I'd call it a coral red. Though it does have a pinkish quality to it. It's very hard to describe--I'd definitely recommend getting a swatch if you're interested. It's from B&J.

    Nancy K: LOL! I'v always wanted pink hair, actually.

    I loved hearing from all you other wool fanatics out there!

  20. Oh, and jessica: on the Macaron sba, I have been horribly remiss! Let me dig out the pattern and see if I can get something up soon. Other promised posts that I have lagged on: garment district sights, belt-making, portrait blouse tutorial and many others I'm sure! Arggh! I suppose I shouldn't make promises I can't keep, huh?

  21. Thank you so much, Carolyn, I really appreciate the wealth of information, and am definitely going to take your advice. Thanks again!

  22. I don't know what type of stretch that red herringbone has, but it would look really great made up as #127 from the new September Burda!!! The camel herringbone looks nice in the magazine, but I immediately thought of your red herringbone and wished I had a way of getting some! Red herringbone in that long skirt would be extraordinary!

  23. Oh, I love, love the polka dot wool!! Is that from B&J? I wish we had fabric shops with that kind of fabric nearby my place, but I guess Internet sort of solve that problem... Please post websites, if you know of any good! The houndtooth fabrics are also super nice. Have you made anything from these fabrics yet? I guess the cherry red fabric is the coat?


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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