Anticipaaaaaaaation, part II

The other day I wrote about going to yarn shops in Portland. But to be honest, I think in many ways I’m more excited about going to the fabric stores there. I’m still such a newbie to sewing, I have tons to learn, particularly about fabric.

With yarn, I have a pretty decent sense now of the different weights, and the qualities of the different fibers. I know merino is soft, that cashmere is softer, that nylon is good for strength in small quantities but not pleasant in large ones. I know that plant fibers are cool but inelastic and likely to stretch, that cotton in particular can get really heavy, and that alpaca (no, not a plant fiber) has a lovely drape but can get very heavy and hot. I know that there are a wide range of other, crispier, woolier wools that can be light, crispy, bouncy, springy, tightly spun or loosely spun. I’m not going to claim I know how to pick the best yarn for the every project, or that I know how every yarn out there knits up on every needle, the way that I knit. But I know enough to pick something fairly reasonable from a website, or to know where to look in a yarn store. At the very least, I’ve used enough different yarns that I know which ones I could repurchase happily.

In fabrics, I’m way more lost. The fiber basics of cotton, wool, linen, etc. I know from knitting. But there seems to be way more variation in how different fabrics are made, and if I’m online shopping I’m terrible at figuring out what I’m going to get.

Some wovens I feel okay about. Take quilting cottons. I pretty much basically know what I’m going to get with those (even though some are nicer quality than others). And I know that they tend to be a stiffer, firmer kind of fabric, which doesn’t work very well for drapey/flowy garments. I have some kind of a clue about, say, rayon challis or twill, or things like denim or velveteen or canvas. I don’t know how best to match weight and project, but I have a slight clue of where to start.

My real confusion comes with knits – there are so. many. different. kinds and weights. Each time I’ve ordered a knit online, I’ve ended up with something completely different from what I expected (once in a happy way, once in an unhappy way). I don’t know how to read their descriptions at all.

This is particularly depressing because I really really want to sew with knits. In part this is because I’m lazy about fitting, and a big knit t-shirt is way more forgiving than, say, a structured buttoned blouse. Heck, a big knit t-shirt is just much easier to sew than a structured buttoned blouse, and could be made with just two pieces. But I also just like wearing knits – they’re comfortable and forgiving and versatile. Forgiving might not be such a big thing if I could make a structured blouse that actually fit my measurements, but I also like wearing soft drapey fabrics better than crisp ones.

Also, I have a ponte knit dress from Target which I’m wearing to death – it’s starting to pill horribly – and I really really really want to reproduce it – if I could figure out which ponte fabric would be a suitable replacement.

So, I’m really hoping that when I go to Portland, I can hit up some fabric stores as well as yarn stores – and that I can get the chance to fondle all kinds of different knits, to get to know them better.

And I might have to take some of them home with me, as well.

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