I love the saying 'clothes maketh the man' and I especially love it when Colin Firth says it in Kingsman. But enough of my Mr Darcy fixation!
I think the same is true of fabric. You can make a beautifully finished garment; perfect seams, superb fit, all the details handstitched - but if the fabric isn't right for the project, then it's never going to be the top / dress / trousers you were hoping for. And it probably won't get worn.
It's a great idea to make a toile (or practice garment, sometimes called a muslin) in a cheaper (similar) fabric just to check fit and make any alterations - and this will give you an idea of how the pattern goes together. But I have learned from experience that spending time (and money) on making something in a fabric that you don't love or that isn't right for the project is a bad move.
When people book onto one of my lessons - I will send out fabric guidelines for the project. I don't tend to run dressmaking classes where I supply the fabric because that is all part of the fun of making something yourself - choosing a fabric that you love and making something unique. But I am very happy to have lots of conversations about what fabrics you are considering buying - you only need to ask. I spend A LOT of time looking at fabrics (I recently spent over 3 hours in a fabric shop stroking the merchandise and deliberating which fabrics would be good for which projects I have planned) but I make mistakes on buying fabric too. I made a great fitting pair of jeans last summer, but the denim I used was a bit thinner than I was used to wearing and doesn't have great stretch recovery, so I end up needing to wash them after a single wear which means I don't wear them so often. I made this mistake because I bought the fabric online and didn't ask for a sample first. Simple mistake but have learned my lesson (till the next time!)
So how to avoid fabric buying mistakes? I don't pretend to have all the answers but am happy to share my approach to buying fabric.
1. Check out the fabric recommendations provided on the pattern packet. Most patterns will state 'recommended / suggested fabrics' and then list the fabrics they think are suitable for the pattern. The pattern designer will have made many samples in their design process - so they know what they are talking about.
2. If you're not sure what a fabric type is, then go to a good fabric shop and ask. A good fabric shop will be happy to share their knowledge and very keen to show you different types of fabric and how they might work for your project. Take along your pattern packet or a picture of what you are hoping to make. In my experience, many people who work in fabric shops are keen dressmakers themselves and probably love talking about fabric!
3. Give yourself time. This is especially important if you are buying fabric online. Give yourself enough time to order a sample of the fabric you like, to check if it feels they way you want it to, before spending your hard earned money on the full amount of fabric you need for your project. I am always happy to look at a sample for you and discuss whether it's the right fabric for your item.
4. Think about how you will care for your garment once it's made. If you want to be able to pop it into the wash with all of your other clothes - then make sure the fabric is washable (and not dry clean only). If you are going to wash the item then ALWAYS wash your fabric before cutting out. Most fabric shrinks a little upon first washing and you don't want to make a made to measure garment only to have it shrink the first time you wash it. If you want to be able to tumble dry - then tumble the fabric after it's first wash before cutting out.
5. Lastly, but to my mind most importantly, the 'feel good stuff'. Unroll a length of the fabric in the shop...does it have a nice feel? Does it drape nicely? Does it feel nice next to your skin? Does the colour suit you? Do you love it? If a fabric feels too stiff / slippery / rough* (insert your own adjective here!) then it won't feel any better when it's made up into your favourite top pattern, no matter how well made.
I have another trip to the fabric heaven that is Goldhawk Road planned for Friday 8th February 2019 if you would like to join me for some fabric shopping. We will be meeting at Chelmsford Station at 9.10am. There is no charge for this day and I am happy to provide fabric advice as we go. Please read my blog about Goldhawk Road for more info.