For dressmakers and designers, visiting a fabric store can be a quasi-religious experience. The sight of shelf-upon-shelf of multi-coloured, multi-textured fabrics awaiting transformation into gorgeous garments and soft furnishings is one of the most exciting aspects of their professional lives. But the availability of so vast an array of materials can be also overwhelming. How on earth do you choose from so many exquisite offerings?
Britain has undergone a textiles renaissance and boasts some of the planet’s most talented and innovative designers – https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/nov/20/britains-new-fabric-designers-vicki-murdoch-emma-neuberg-claire-de-quenetain. As tempting as it is, against this inspirational backdrop, to give a free reign to your imagination and start thinking of the potential of all sorts of sewing projects, keep your current work in mind. If you are planning to make a shift dress for the summer, don’t go off on a tangent about luxury winter drapes. This will help to narrow down your choices from practically everything in the shop to, say, cotton fabric.
Keep your pattern in mind
The dressmaking pattern you have chosen will usually recommend the fabrics which are best suited for the finished article of clothing. Do bear these guidelines in mind because they have been established by experts. Use your senses too. Does a fabric feel right for that fitted sheath dress? Is the appearance of the textile appropriate and does it have idiosyncrasies that risk presenting additional sewing challenges? What are the fabric care instructions? Is dry clean only, for example, practical for your purposes? How expensive a dress are you considering and can you realistically afford several metres of that delightful watered silk?
Do your research
You can do a great deal of research from the comfort of your own living room since so many fabric suppliers have their own web pages. If you are looking at cotton fabric, you might, for instance, check out http://www.higgsandhiggs.com/fabrics/cotton-poplin-fabric-112cm.html. An evening spent reviewing the textiles these outlets have on offer is hugely pleasurable for both professional garment makers and those of us who just love fabric shopping.
This exercise can also save you from making an expensive mistake because you can compare prices and designs at your leisure without feeling pressured by (usually well-meaning) salespeople. Remember, once you have had a piece of cloth cut from a bolt, the chances are high that you won’t be able to return it!