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VFG Fabric Resource


Fabric term of the week: Block printing

Did you ever carve the smooth-cut face of a raw potato, ink it up and stamp prints with it? Same idea as block printing, only in my experience, the potato is a sorry mess before you can say French Fry. Block printing, using durable stamp surfaces, still must take incredible patience and skill. 
Block printing 
Hand-printing method, using carved wooden or linoleum blocks.
From Fabric Sewing Guide by Claire Schaeffer. Krause Publications, Cincinnati, 2008. Used by permission.

Hand block printing in process, courtesy of Rubina Magazine

Block printed cotton gauze from India ©Vintage Fashion Guild, photo by Margaret Wilds/denisebrain

Right now in my Etsy shop you can see the fabric from which I shot the close up, in its finished form. 

1970s dress by Anokhi - Jaipur India

This Treacy Lowe - London dress was also made in India in the 1970s, this time in block-printed silk.



Fabric of the week: Jacquard knit

If you have a patterned knit (not printed, but patterned by the design of the yarns used), you have a jacquard knit. Think 1970s and 80s rainbow heart sweaters...among many other items from the 1960s, 70s and 80s. A jacquard knit may also be a patterned hand knit. 

Jacquard knit
Either a single or double knit made with a pattern on its face, achieved with jacquard controls on a knitting machine. Any yarn may be used.
The single knit jacquard will have floats across its back, while the back of a double knit jacquard will have a birdseye pattern.
See also:
Double knit  
Jacquard, woven 

Nylon double knit jacquard, face
Nylon double knit jacquard, reverse ©Vintage Fashion Guild - Text by Margaret Wilds/denisebrain,  photo by Hoyt Carter
Right now I have this 1960s polyester and lamé double knit jacquard dress in my Etsy shop:



Fabric of the week: Percale

If you’ve ever thought a fabric felt like a sheet, you might have had your hands on percale. The exact definition will help you be sure:

A cotton or a cotton/poly blend fabric, percale is a balanced plain weave with a smooth hand and no luster. It can be limp to relatively crisp depending on the finish. It is finer and has a higher thread count than muslin.
          Uses: Sheets, shirts, dresses, children’s clothing, pajamas

          See also: Muslin

©Vintage Fashion Guild - Text by Margaret Wilds/denisebrain,  photo by Hoyt Carter
Right now I have a lightweight poly/cotton blend percale tent dress from the late 1960s or early 70s—so summery!



Fabric of the week: Gingham

I would be surprised if anyone hasn’t heard of gingham. I first new of it at a very young age from the Eugene Field poem “The Duel” (better known as “The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat”).

Gingham has had an almost constant popularity in the warm months because of its cotton fiber, lighter weight and crisp checks. Of all fabrics, it might say summer most loud and clear.

A light to medium weight balanced plain weave fabric usually of cotton or a cotton blend, gingham is most characteristically one color with white in even checks, called gingham checks. Tissue (very lightweight) gingham can have corded edges between the colors (see crossbar dimity). 
The name gingham is thought to come from the Malay ging-gang, meaning “striped.”
Uses: Dresses, blouses, house dresses, aprons, pajamas

See also:
Crossbar dimity, 
Shepherd’s check
©Vintage Fashion Guild - Text by Margaret Wilds/denisebrain,  photo by Hoyt Carter
This 1950s dress and wrap is of gingham check cotton:

There’s always plenty to find in vintage gingham, no need to go with anything new! (If I do say so myself!) Gingham in my Etsy shop



Fabric term of the week: Cotton

It’s been awhile since I had a Fabric of the Week post, but it’s back for a return engagement as I add definitions to the VFG Fabric Resource.

Cotton has been a part of the Resource for awhile but somehow I just didn’t get around to posting it in my blog. Maybe it seemed too humble? With temperatures in my area at 100º+ this week, it will be my best friend!

Cotton is a fiber obtained from the cotton plant, a bushy plant of the genus Gossypium. The cotton fiber grows from the seeds of the plant in the seed pods, called bolls. The fiber, which is 90% cellulose, is naturally fine, soft, fluffy and absorbent. The length of a cotton fiber can vary from under 1/2" to over 2" with the longest fibers being the most desirable for fabric production. Cotton fiber is usually cream-colored, but also may be grown in green or brown. The cotton plant grows best in tropical and sub-tropical environments.
The history of cotton literally parallels the history of civilization. Evidence of isolated civilizations growing cotton and creating fabric from its fiber dates its domestication to at least 4500 B.C.E. in both the Americas and South Asia.

 There’s never a shortage of vintage cotton wear in my shops, including these cooling frocks:



Fabric of the week: Gabardine

It is my 50th fabric of the week entry, and I can’t believe I’m just getting around to this one! Gabardine is a revered fabric—I’ve had many an older woman confess to me it is her favorite. I just wish younger people had a chance to know it better.


Gabardine is characterized by either steep or sometimes regular twill, tightly woven, with fine, distinct diagonal ribs on the surface and a smooth back. Wools are right-hand twill, cotton may be left-hand. The warp generally has twice as many threads per inch as the weft. Made of worsted, cotton, manufactured fibers, blends, and (rarely) silk. 
Because gabardine is tightly woven (particularly in a steep twill weave) the fabric is hard-wearing and rain resistant. Its name derives from the Medieval Spanish word gabardina which means protection from the elements. 

The name was originally used for a cloak worn in the Middle Ages.
Uses: Suits, coats, rainwear, slacks, skirts, uniforms, dresses, sportswear, shirts, hats
See also:
Covert cloth

Worsted wool gabardine

Rayon gabardine
©Vintage Fashion Guild - Text by Margaret Wilds/denisebrain,  photos by Hoyt Carter



Fabric term of the week: 2/1, 3/1, 2/2 etc.            

Before you think this week’s fabric term is a math problem: These fraction-like numbers are a way of quickly describing how many yarns cross each other in a fabric’s construction.

2/1, 3/1, 2/2 etc. 
Woven fabric consists of warp and weft yarns crossing each other one at a time or in groups. Plain weave always consists of one warp yarn crossing one weft yarn, a 1/1 weave. When two warp yarns cross a weft yarn, this can be indicated as 2/1 weave. 2/2 weave has two warp yarns crossing two weft yarns. 
These fractions are read, for example, “three up, one down” for 3/1, indicating that three weaving harnesses are raised, then one is lowered for three warp yarns on the face, then one weft yarn. 
See also

A satin weave is most commonly 4/1 with warp yarns floating over weft yarns in numbers of 4 to 1, but can be 7/1 and even 11/1, and the interlacings do not occur in rows, giving the most uninterrupted gloss possible.

One of the more jaw-dropping satin dresses I’ve had a chance to see up close is this Ceil Chapman ball gown currently in my web store. The fabric really defines “pour of satin.”



Fabric term of the week: Nylon

The very first synthetic fiber? It was a revolutionary creation at its invention.

The invention of nylon is credited to the chemist Wallace Carothers, working at DuPont in the 1930s. It was the first successful synthetic fiber, rayon and acetate being plant-based manufactured fibers. This first nylon was polyamide 6,6—made from hexamethylenediamine and adipic acid (the 6,6 designates the two stretches of six carbon atoms that are repeated in the polymer chain). The fiber proved strong, elastic, quick to dry, and insect- and rot-resistant. The first application was in toothbrushes in 1938, but in the next year women’s hosiery became nylon’s first big success. One might even have called it a raging success, the clamor for nylons (as they came to be called) was so great. 
During WWII the new fiber was used in the war effort, taking the place of Japanese silk for parachutes. After the war, the clamor for nylons took up where it left off, and soon nylon was used for other garments—and in many household products—as it is to this day.
Publicity photo for nylon, New York World’s Fair, 1939
1960s nylon tricot knit flapper-look nightgown in my Etsy shop

If you haven’t seen already, I made a handy-dandy (if I do say so) timeline of manufactured fabrics in the VFG Fabric Resource, and here on my blog.



Fabric of the week: Wool flannel

I can sympathize with people who say they can’t wear wool. I feel I am sensitive to it, but realized early on that there is a wide range of wool grades and fabric constructions, to which my skin has a wide range of reactions. Worsted flannel is a wool that I feel immune to, soft and smooth as it is. It is a sheep in sheep’s clothing!
Flannel, wool 
A warm fabric with a soft, close nap, flannel may be in a plain or twill weave. It is brushed to create the nap, and this may be on one or both sides. If woolen, it can be in a plain or twill weave, while worsted flannels are right-hand twills, finer and appreciably more substantial.

Flannel was originally always wool (the name is derived from the Welsh word for flannel, gwlânen, which is derived from gwlân, “wool”). It is now found in wool blends, often with cotton.

Uses: Jackets, suits (men’s particularly of worsted flannel), dresses, shirts, skirts

See also:
Flannel, cotton
Wool flannel
Worsted flannel
©Vintage Fashion Guild - Text by Margaret Wilds/denisebrain,  photos by Hoyt Carter
1950s worsted flannel skirt by Evan-Picone in my Etsy shop



Fabric of the week: Duvetyn, blanket cloth

Thinking about a winter coat yet? I know just the fabric for a soft and warm coat; and it’s much more likely to be a vintage coat because such finely-finished wools are not so common now. 

Duvetyn, blanket cloth

The name duvetyn comes from the French word duvet, meaning down. Wool or wool-blend commonly, the finish is napped, sheared and fulled. This creates a downy nap which covers its weave which is usually right-hand twill. It is softer and more lustrous, though its nap isn’t quite as long as that of fleece. 
Cotton duvetyn is usually called suede cloth. 
Uses: Coats, uniforms, suits; the heavier blanket cloth for blankets and Hudson’s Bay “point” blanket coats 
See also:
Wool duvetyn
©Vintage Fashion Guild - Text by Margaret Wilds/denisebrain,  photo by Hoyt Carter

This cashmere duvetyn coat is new to my Etsy shop. I wish you could feel the softness of this elegant fabric!