Making it Work: Fabric

May 23, 2012

I was taught to sew by my mother and grandmother, who, to varying degrees, belong to a generation for whom sewing your own clothes was cheaper than buying them.  That has certainly never been the case for me, though the two are becoming more comparable thanks to the advent of internet shopping.  Still, their thrifty habits taught me a couple of things:

  1. You never need as much fabric as the pattern says
  2. If you don’t have quite as much fabric as you need, or it’s not quite right, you can always make it work.

Working in a fabric shop, I always find it hilarious when people say “The patterns says I need 1.5m.  I’ll get 2.5m just in case”.  I guess it’s good if you’re not confident – I’m so paranoid cutting things out I rarely get it wrong.

This attitude has certainly saved me money, but it’s also got me into some tricky situations. Usually I’d get 0.1 or 0.2m less than the pattern says.  But on one occasion a couple of years ago, I went a bit overboard with a Regency day dress. The pattern said something like 4.5m, I decided 4 was OK (having used the pattern before), then they unrolled the fabric I chose… and there was only 3m left.  So I said “we can make it work!”.  And, eventually, we did, after a lot of fiddling.  Of course, I’d also managed to chose a fabric with stripes.

But the fabric was so pretty…

When I decided to try out Colette’s Ceylon pattern, I couldn’t find any fabric I was happy with in the shop and I couldn’t quite believe I needed 3.5m.  Although, not having used Colette before, I didn’t know how much leeway I had.  In the end, I dug out a piece of cotton poplin I’d got from work which had come out OK after a turn in the washing machine.  So it turned out I had 2.6m of 115cm wide fabric and it had some holes along one side where it had been stapled to a table, just to make things more interesting.

In the end, it worked.  I avoided the holes and the only pieces I had to put across- rather than length-wise were the front facings.  The moral of the story is: you can make a Ceylon from 2.6m of fabric, but only if you want to muck around for hours and cut it out piece by piece.  I think I’ll be getting at least 3m for my next Ceylon!