[Module 2] Capsule Design | 9. Finalising Designs and Fabric Choice

So at this point you may have lots of designs to choose from for the items that you would like to make and you are starting to visualise your collection coming together.

I tend to keep my main sketch book free of colour, I think it helps me focus on shapes and style lines and keep the sketches simple and quick. I prefer to use a separate notebook to resketch and draw out my final designs that I would like to make and start to add some of the colour that I have decided on.

There is a Capsule Wardrobe Template Sheet in the Design Templates that you can make use of if you would like to, if you have more garments for your capsule, print off more sheets and just use the templates that you need to draw out your tops, dresses, jackets, skirts, trousers etc.

As you can imagine at this point anyone could have draw up designs for any kind of clothing and with the best will in the world I will never be able to cover every single option for construction. I will be adding sample designs for Flexible Patterns continuously which should cover some classic styles so check to see what instructions are currently available. This way you can focus on which garments you will be able to construct/sew. Check out the Threadelicious Gallary for inspiration!

Some Tips about using colour;

  • Neutrals – these colours will allow you to start mixing up the garments in your capsule, you could also just use only neutrals.

  • Coloured bottoms allow for more outfit options.

  • If you are going to use pattern in a fabric it is a good idea to plan these items first and get your fabric samples as colours in the other garments will follow suit. I think that it is easier to choose and wear a pattern in a skirt rather than trousers, but is all personal choice. You may be the kind of person who wants to wear everything with a patterned fabric!

  • Consider if you are going to use blocks of colours to create an illusion, for example darker blocks down the side of the body can elongate it.

Don’t forget to test your designs against the clothing you already have in the wardrobe for the capsule. Also what is available in the Flexible Patterns instruction list (link above) to ensure you can complete the garment.

Do they really all work together, can you mix and match them, do they give optimal outfits, can you tweak anything, will you really want to wear them. Photocopy your designs and cut them out play with them sitting next to each other, make outfits, are they fit for purpose or could you tweak a colour to get a better fit. Now is the time to have made any mistakes, don’t change your mind when you are in mid cut with the scissors on the fabric!

It is a good idea now to prioritise what you are going to make because after a wardrobe clear out you may be in need of some urgent clothing and you may decide to purchase some things. If you are going to use the flexible pattern idea then this is great because after you have drafted your pattern and tested it you are going to be able to sew these up faster as you will be really familiar with the pattern and will have documented your construction instructions and it will be fresh in your mind.

The following is an example of what might be in in a capsule wardrobe a blank version of this Sewing List Table is available as a downloadable reference. We will look at types of fabric later. The priority items are the order in which you would like to sew them for now fill in your list as much as you can.

For the clothes you are going to make or get a seamstress to make check the details of your design (it’s harder to do this with a purchased garment). Now is the chance to add your style to each piece, adding flair or an edge to make it uniquely yours. You can then give your design a name.

Finally the bit I look forward to, shopping. Now we can shop mindfully. Take your collection drawings and any colour swatches with you. For any completed garment take a look in your local charity shops, but remember to look for quality items and they need to meet your needs, be strong and do not buy on a whim. Or if all else fails save up and try the high street and get the best quality item you can afford from your preferred supplier. If you are making your items have a look at your local fabric stores, they are more than happy to look at your list and help you pull together your fabric choices and having them in front of you helps because you can touch them stretch them and see them in the right light, something you can’t do if you shop online. At this stage if you are making your garments all you are doing is collecting your fabric swatches, unless you already sew or have drafted your patterns and know how much you need. By shopping locally you are putting your money back into your local area. But above all stick to the decisions you have made, it’s like being on a diet be strong and have will power.

If you really want to go to town with this process take a photo of each item that you already have and take them with you so that when shopping you will always know that you are not duplicating or that what you buy fits in with what you already have got.

If you are going through this process with a client, even if it is a family member or a friend, get them to sign off on the Sewing List Table and the designs and style sheets and Master Client Sheet or any other work that you have done as part of working out what the scope of the work is. This ensures that what you actually make meets the requirements and then there is no doubt about what the expectation is from both sides. Here my project management skills flow at full force (the force is with me!) as I cannot stress enough how important this is.

Fabric Sampling

Choosing a fabric for a garment can be a bit of a minefield, it’s not just about what colour or pattern you like. Here are a few pointers without going into too much technical detail;

  • The fabric must be suitable for the type of garment you are making and the design you have in mind for the climate you live in, for example I am more likely to buy cotton and linen in Queensland as they are breathable fabrics. But as all fabrics have their own qualities then it is very much up to your choice as the designer.

  • Think first and foremost about what it will feel like against your skin, wool can be scratchy and so can linen so touch it or get a sample, if in doubt use something else.

  • Some fabrics are breathable and let heat out and some hold heat in.

  • Some fibres are stronger than others, some wear faster.

  • Pull out the fabric and hold it up and look at how it drapes, and consider if this is the effect that you are trying to achieve with your design.

  • If you think you have found the right colours, just as a double check walk over to the window with it to make sure that the shop lighting is not affecting it in any way.

Have a look at the following table of fibre types as a quick guide and this list is certainly not exhaustive and but these are not rules and you should use your own knowledge and discretion when making your final decision. Organic fibre fabric is becoming more popular as people become more educated regarding the manufacturing cycle.

Just be aware of man made fibres, remember some of these do not break down easily once discarded.

Of course fabric can be a mixture or blend of any fibre to any percentage and the mixture will create a fabric of different qualities.

Some fabrics are woven which means that they are made on a loom with warp threads (usually the strongest thread) going lengthways down the fabric, with a weft that has been threaded over and under the warp threads horizontally. Fabrics that are woven include, satin, corduroy, crepe, denim, drill, flannel, georgette, lawn, muslin, poplin, taffeta, velvet and so many others. Woven fabrics tend to have little stretch unless there is made out of a stretchy fibre blend. But this means that they are good for tailored clothing as they will keep their shape better for your design whilst wearing. If you have a fabric with a loose weave then it may be see through so you will have to consider how you deal with this, perhaps a lining can help, or maybe your design calls for that if it is going to be used for a layering effect. For example chiffon is woven but can be very see through so it is a lovely fabric to use as a top layer on a dress for example to create lots of drape and flowing and feminine feeling to the garment.

Fabric may be a knit fabric which is a more stretchy fabric, the fabric consists of loops linked together and close up looks like a piece of knitting. Knit fabrics tend to be stretchy which is dependent on the construction and the fibres use. Patterns that use knit fabric typically are created with a different pattern than woven garments and they will include something called negative ease i.e. the garment will be stretched over the body to fit so you won’t necessarily be using so many darts for this. So stretch the fabric, does it go back easily into shape when you let it go. Consider how much it stretches, does it stretch enough for your design. Does your design require a lining or interfacing if so you will need to consider a fabric that has a similar amount of stretch so they stretch by the same amount or use the same fabric as a facing so cost may come into the equation.

Other fabric types include, laces, leather, metallic, beaded, sequined, rubberised etc.Essentially we are looking for good quality fabrics, so when you are at a point of purchasing the fabric check the pattern for any imperfections are there any issues with it, check for tears or miss woven areas.

One last word, prior to cutting our fabric we will be preparing it and on the whole that means laundering it. Care for the clothes you make as you would if you were buying them, check the fabric care label. As a general guide, ensure you test your fabrics by washing them prior to cutting out the pattern. If in doubt hand wash. If the garment has complicated design features then dry clean only otherwise you risk damaging the shapes for the design you have so lovingly made.

If you are worried about any fabric then ask for an extra large swatch or buy a little and then test launder it, and wash it just as you would if it were a garment. We always launder fabric before creating the garment because if it is likely to shrink then most of the shrinkage is going to happen prior to you putting all of the effort into creating and fitting the garment. If you measure a 4” square and stitch this lines for the square prior to washing you can even see by how much it shrinks and in which direction. If the shrink is very obvious then maybe a couple of washes are in order just to make sure. A good idea when buying fabric is always to buy 10% more than what you think you are going to need just to ensure that you cover any shrinkage possibilities.

Deciding on how much fabric to buy is a difficult thing to assess, buy too much and you will have waste that you will be recycling, buy too little and you will have to get more if you are lucky and there is any left, so a wasted trip.

To cut out the pattern you will place your pattern on the fabric a little like a jigsaw puzzle to try to get the most from your fabric but without degrading the quality of the piece you are cutting and we will cover this process later in the workflow. Fabrics come in different widths and your patterns are going to be different shapes and compile of multiple pieces.

On top of this you may wish to match a pattern in a certain way across your garment for aesthetic reasons which means you will need to take into consideration how long the pattern repeat is. Or cut out your fabric on the bias to get a better drape which on a woven fabric means cutting out across the grain at a 45degree angle (don’t worry about that science for now). Over time you will get to know how much you need for the patterns you have made for example you will need more for a circle skirt than you would for a pencil skirt design. It also depends on what size you are. If your pattern has a facing or lining you will need more fabric. It also depends on gathers, pleats, flares and the number of seams - the more seams the more fabric needed. Also extras like collars, pockets, trim, ruffles, sleeves etc. will take up yet more fabric.

A rough guide is if you can fit all of the pattern pieces for one side on an opened out width of fabric then double the width and add 10% don’t forget your extra pattern pieces. But don’t quote me on that! That would be assuming that you are working with half body Pattern Piece (e.g. half Front/Back).

Not taking into consideration all the bells and whistles as listed above and just concentrating on the main pattern pieces this guide may help for sizes approx. 12 to 14. Measurement are in yards and inches.

My rather honest view is that you are going to have to find your own way with this, it comes with experience. You could ask for advice from the fabric store but unless they know how many pattern pieces you have and what size they are it will be guesswork. The other way would be to map out your pattern on a fabric layout of the correct size but this can be time consuming. By creating your Flexible Pattern you can note your fabric used for each cut/design you make and therefore less chance to create waste – it is going to be your best guide. I love Flexible Patterns more and more they just keep on giving! © 2017 Threadelicious. All Rights Reserved.

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