Cheap But Not Cheerful

Readers,

This floral stretch cotton, at ease.

This floral stretch cotton, at ease.

It was a cheap and cheerful fabric of unlisted fiber content that I picked up at S.R. Harris Fabric Outlet a few years ago that was sitting in my stash waiting for a summer project.

It was a perky blouse pattern from 1950 that looked easy enough to fit and a match for the mood of this floral print.

Advance pattern 5455, from 1950.

Advance pattern 5455, from 1950.

Yesterday I finished the revision of the wearable test of the Advance 5455 blouse pattern from 1950. I asked Jack to take some pictures of me modeling it.  As Jack asked me to pose, I found it hard to look happy or proud. I was dissatisfied–but by what, exactly?

Was it the fit?

This last version did fit better than the previous one. At a Treadle Yard Goods salon last week Michele pinned out extra fabric from above the bust and side seams and moved up the bust dart–all good changes.

Was it the fabric?

Not exactly thrilled.

Not exactly thrilled.

My best guess was this was a cotton with spandex. It stretches a lot, and when I burned a sample it smelled like burning paper.

Whatever the fiber content, this fabric was difficult to press.  It emerged from machine washing and drying a little wrinkled, and the wrinkles didn’t go away entirely. Annoying.

There's a lot of stretch in this woven.

There’s a lot of stretch in this woven.

Also, this fabric has a peculiar hand, a stiffness from the synthetic component. The fabric released above and below the waist tucks stands stiffly away from the body rather than draping.

Aha. I’m onto something here. I think I picked the wrong pattern for the characteristics of this fabric. If I want shaping using this stretch woven, princess seams might be the way to go. Certainly not released tucks.

Princess seams might be more compatible with the characteristics of this fabric, which doesn't drape.

Princess seams might be more compatible with the characteristics of this fabric, which doesn’t drape.

Or, another way of looking at it, I picked the wrong fabric for this pattern. It doesn’t show off the pattern to best effect. Maybe a handkerchief linen or Liberty cotton would be better, for the drape and the feel.

And now I’m thinking I picked the wrong fabric for me. When I bought it I was attracted to the liveliness of the colors and the flowers. But this is a small-scale print and can be read as cute. Not a look I’m aiming for.

I thought I could dial it back the cuteness aspect. But it remains insistently cute. Shoulda known.

So the remainder of my cheap and cheerful floral-print stretch cotton looks to be my first donation to the Textile Center’s Fabric Garage Sale in April, 2014. I’ll pin a note to it telling the prospective buyer about my experience with it and wishing her or him good luck.

Time to put this yardage back into the great sewing flow and move on.

Time to put this yardage back into the great sewing flow and move on.

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4 thoughts on “Cheap But Not Cheerful

  1. I would have picked the fabric for the very same reasons you did…………and I would donate the remainder to the Textile Center’s garage sale for the same reasons.

    I have learned that I simply am not comfortable in anything that has Lycra, Spandex or any other “stretchy” blended material. And I think you are right-on regarding the hand and drape of the fabric because of the fabric content.

    It makes me think what various fabrics (content) were available when those great vintage patterns were current? When was polyester and it’s derivatives introduced into consumer fabrics?

    I still love those buttons!!

    • Steve, I like the ready-to-wear stretch jeans I own but apparently I’m not ready to sew stretch wovens. The pattern envelope (from 1950) had no fabric recommendations at all. Maybe because sewers then didn’t need them? Good question about when various synthetics came onto the scene. Rayon is relatively old, isn’t it?

  2. Rayon dates back to the mid 1890’s, becoming known as Rayon in the 20’s. Polyester became readily available in the 1950’s. Lycra, spandex and other rubber stretchy elastic like fabrics became popular and readily available in the 80’s I think. So when your pattern was made, even a polyester blend would be more stable than the stretchy type stuff in the fabric you found here. I think Edith may concur, adjusting/reducing the ease would accommodate for the added give of this fabric. It is a great fabric, very cheerful and I could still see it working with the pattern you made, just with additional adjustments.

    • Interesting, Shelly. This prompts a question: at what point would I be adjusting a pattern so much to accommodate the characteristics of a fabric that the “vintageness” of the pattern would be lost?

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