Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Tips and Tricks Tuesday: Fabric Selection and Identification

Welcome back to Tips and Tricks Tuesday, where  you can expect to find a wide range of tips and curios that might not otherwise have a forum in my regular crafting or kitsuke posts. Last week, I spent a little time talking about the common-sense habit of carrying three handkerchiefs while out in kimono. This week, we're going to hone in on something that is very relevant if you were thinking of following along with the Wednesday Crafting series and creating your own hadajuban-- fabric selection and fiber identification.

Until I started to sew for myself, I didn't give the material content of my fabrics much consideration. As I learned more, I discovered that my selection of material had a direct correlation to my comfort level when I wore certain garments. Having cotton or another light-weight, breathable fabric next to my skin made a world of difference in the summer when I wear yukata, while in the winter months, one of my mixed-fiber juban was preferable because I stayed a little warmer in my kimono.

 If you are purchasing your material from a fabric store, chances are very good that the material is clearly labeled. You'll be able to tell at a glance if it is 100% cotton, polyester, rayon, etc, and chose accordingly. The other benefit of shopping at a fabric store is that you will be able to have cut for you the yardage your project requires.

Fabric stores, however, are not the only place we can find material for projects. I am a habitue of several local thrift stores, all of which have a 'materials' section stocked with fabrics that have been donated. Because these are thrift store donations, the quantity is seldom regular and the quality can be difficult to discern, but there is a good chance that something usable can be had for significantly less than one might pay at a regular store.

A selection of materials found at a local thrift store. There was over 7 yards of the blue, and about 4 of the peach and of the white.

For making in-the-moment selections like this, the most I can do is touch the fabric.  If I don't like the feel of it, chances are good that I won't like working with it and will like wearing it even less, so it doesn't really matter how much there is. If I do like the feel of the fabric, I'll do a quick measurement for yardage. I happen to know that from the tips of my fingers to my opposite shoulder is approximately a yard, and you can hold a tape measure yourself to see where your 'yard' might fall. If there is a significant amount of fabric and I like how it feels, chances are good that it will come home with me.

Once the fabric is home is when the fun begins. If you want to have an idea of what sort of fabric you're dealing with, a simple burn test will do the trick. Be sure to do this in a well-ventilated area, away from other flammables, and USE CAUTION! The Fabric Mart has a very good breakdown of what to expect HERE as well as instructions that you should be sure to follow if you conduct your own burn tests on fabrics.

Triangular swatches of each of the thrift-store fabrics from previous photo.
Triangular swatches after trial by fire.
All three swatches caught fire quickly, formed no beading (as they might if non-natural fibers were present), and produced a grey smoke. The blue and white fabrics did not have a particularly distinct odor, while the peach colored fabric had a slightly sweeter aroma to the smoke. I suspected from the start that I was dealing with cotton fibers for the blue and white and linen or a linen blend for the peach and this test reinforces that opinion.  Burn tests are hardly conclusive for identifying as blended fibers as well as anything that might be used to treat the fabric will skew results, but they can give you a baseline from which you can begin to make an informed opinion.

Thank you for joining me today. For next week's Tips and Tricks, I'll be talking about thrifting for kimono and accessories. I also hope that  you'll check back in tomorrow for the third installment of the Crafting: Hadajuban series!


  1. I had never heard of the burn test - interesting. I work with mainly cotton fabrics so I may not need to employ that.

    1. I hadn't heard of it till my room mate mentioned it. If you spend a lot of time handling fabrics, you get a really good idea of what cotton and other fibers should feel like, so picking stuff up from the thrift store shouldn't be too much of a surprise... but one never knows!