Sunday, 19 January 2014

Fabric For Fashion !

I have been asked more than once this week if I am ''keeping my feet up''. Previously a bit of an alien concept, now, with baby bump growing bigger every day (or so it feels !), I have been taking the time to enact the sage advice of those with my interests at heart! And so, the arrival of another anticipated review copy from the fabulous Laurence King Publishing, could not have been better timed. The book is ''Fabric for Fashion: The Complete Guide' by Clive Hallett, (a veteran of the fashion industry since 1972) and Amanda Johnston, teacher at the London College of Fashion and a design consultant since 1982.

As always with LKP, it is a beautifully produced book, packed full of illustrative photography and information boxes and in this case, separating the book into three main sections : Animal Fibres, Plant Fibres and Man-Made Fibres.

Anyone working with fabric in a home dressmaking or professional capacity in the fashion industry will understand how important, if not crucial, an understanding of different fabrics, their qualities, structure and behaviours can be when making a choice for different garments and styles. Not only do various fabrics feel and look different, they move and work differently, in their own way. This book expounds the different qualities and virtues of each, illustrating the ways in which different fabric designers have managed to exploit and maximise their qualities within the fashion industry.

Equally, personal preferences for fabric come into play. I have always had a self professed 'velvet fixation' and will use it wherever possible (see previous posts!) However, the unique properties of a cotton, or dare I say a wonderfully watery silk velvet that slips through the fingers, have set me up for a challenge when insisting that a cotton, or stretch jersey dress just won't be complete and wearable without an added velvet panel. This is where you can find yourself with two very different fabrics seemingly trying to move 'against each' other in different directions under the sewing machine's needle. Not impossible to conquer with a bit of patience however !
Stretch cotton jersey and silk velvet.

My dressmaking group's tutor is very much in favour of natural fibre fabrics and quite fairly points out the qualities of a synthetic fibre that might keep you cooler in the winter- when you need to be warm, and ensures you burn a steady heat (or sweat!) in the heat, when you need a fabric to keep you cool, such as cotton or a linen.

''Fabric For Fashion'' discusses the qualities of a multitude of different fabrics, including a fascinating section on bamboo, that engrossed me. Bamboo seems to have become hailed as the new 'eco-fabric' , (it can be grown close together, ''exceeding the yield for cotton on the same size of plantation', as well as with reduced greenhouse emissions). For the wearer, it wins great accolades for its 'cooling properties', wicking away and evaporating perspiration, making it ideal for sportswear - and socks, sheets and summers tee shirts ! In fact it professes to keep the wearer one or two degrees cooler in a Summer climate than other natural fibres.
Bamboo in the garden - (and Betty the cat)
At first glance, this evergreen member of the grass family does not convey its many, multi purpose virtues, but in China is referred to as 'the plant of a thousand uses'. It has antibacterial properties, (owing to the presence of Bamboo ''kun'' in its make up, protecting it from pests), it is soft with a natural sheen, (also referred to as ''cashmere from plants'' in the US) and its' natural fibres block out 90% of both UVA and UVB rays - what's not to love !!

This title is a wealth of information on every possible fabric from Yak hair to hemp and polyamide to elastine and synthetic rubber. You name it, this book will tell you the history, properties and manufacturing processes of each, using images from the catwalk and the factory to illustrate.

This is the ultimate reference to all things 'fabric' and a must have for anyone working with and exploring different fibres and fabrics, in whatever capacity. It is also a fascinating resource for an informative knowledge of how the fabric industry is developing, adapting and changing all the while with new, innovative discoveries. There is a useful intro too on knitting, weaving, felting, fabric dyeing and printing and helpful guides to terminology. 

Currently I am enjoying the 'Luxury Animal Fibres' section and getting up to speed on the camel hair market ! Who doesn't love a warm, cosy natural fibre for those winter months ?! 
Speaking of which, there is another rather splendid Laurence King title about to hit the shop shelves in the Spring, this time on the versatile and varied virtues of wool in the fashion industry. Check it out!
'Fashion Knitwear', Author - Jenny Udale. Picture Editor - yours truly !

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