By: Kristi Borchardt

You will read or have many people tell you to stick with cotton or cotton polyester blends for your beginning projects. I do agree that these are some of the easiest fabrics to work with. However, my girls thankfully removed my fear of working with other materials. When I first started sewing I tried to understand all of the differences between the fabrics: the fibers (natural vs. manmade), the fabrications (woven, knit, non woven)...

After being overwhelmed, I stuck with cotton and polyester/cotton blends. Then my kids got involved in choosing their own fabrics and I threw all cares out the window. Anything shiny, see through, or furry were the most exciting to them. We also combined different fabrics, using anything and everything together in the same projects! (That last statement would make most professional seamstresses croak.) Through this we learned : what we did like working with, what was difficult and why, why some fabrics didn't work well together, which fabrics needed special seams, some that we would prefer using a serger with...the list goes on.

All the things that we could have read about, but we completely understood why through our hands on experiences. Again, barriers were broken down, and problem solving skills were sharpened. We noticed that certain needles worked better than others and we needed special seams for certain fabrics to deal with fraying... Although we still couldn't name all of the different types of fabrics we recognized them by feel and look. We are just now starting to identify all of them by name.

Just the other day my youngest daughter and I were looking for fabric for her Christmas presents. We picked up a beautiful linen fabric and she immediately was able to identify that it would not be good for her project because she needs to sew these pillows with the edges exposed. We had done a previous project with linen that had fallen apart over time from the stress on the seams. There are some excellent books that discuss all the types of fabrics, as well as the special treatment they need. My favorite is Singer's Complete Photo Guide to Sewing. It is an excellent beginners book.

If you want to stay with the easier fabrics, look for:

1. Does it unravel easily: Look at the bottom edges of a bolt where the fabric has been cut. Is it coming apart real easy or staying together?

2. For matching seams: solids and small prints are best. Fabrics are either Directional or Non directional. Directional fabrics or fabrics "with nap" - means that it either has a design that can only go in one direction, or the fabric looks lighter or darker depending on how you hold it. This type of fabric must be cut in a certain way so that both sides look the same (i.e., the design isn't upside down). When working with directional fabrics you might have to buy extra to accommodate the design. *Don't let this stop you from buying these fabrics. However, if you or your child is perfectionists I would steer away from plaids, starting off. Non directional or "without nap" - means that the design can be turned any way and it looks the same, or there is no design at all.

3. Fabric that does not stretch a lot: Some examples of "easy to work with" fabrics include: cotton, polyester cotton blends, denims, firm knits (not as much stretch), wools, broadcloths, poplin, flannel, sweatshirt knits, seersucker, calico...the list goes on. (When I first started, I would look at a list like this and say, "I don't know what all these are - help". Remember, with you and your child's first projects being small, you are not having to buy large quantities of fabric, so don't feel limited. Look, feel, and experiment! )

FOUR SUGGESTIONS FOR FINDING FABRICS

1. Buy on sale only. There are great deals out there. *If you go into a fabric store, ask if they have a discount table. Internet sights will have a link to their discount fabrics.

2. Use old clothes. My husband works on our family ranch and goes through clothes like crazy. We use his old shirts, jeans, and socks. My youngest daughter at 3 even used a pair of her old underwear, stitched the legs up, and made a hat for herself (she was only allowed to wear it in the house with family).


3. Use other people's old clothes: My grandmother was getting rid of a huge bag of clothing, so my girls asked if they could have them. We made the cutest quilts, headbands, and purses with her silky shirts.

4. Very Important: Let your kids choose their fabrics - even if they don't match and are ugly!! One more thing to consider: will what your making need to be washed often? Fabric is either washable or dry clean only. For the projects that we will wash a lot (our clothes, doll clothes, and some of our tote bags) we buy washable fabrics, due to the expense of dry cleaning. You will be amazed at all of the beautiful faux fabrics available now, that are actually machined washable.

PREPARING FABRIC FOR SEWING

When buying fabric, look at the information on the care of the fabric (i.e., washing, dry cleaning, if it has been pre-shrunk, or if it will shrink). At stores this is found on the end of the bolt. When buying over the internet they post this info. for you. If the fabric has colors that might bleed, or if it states that it will shrink some when washed - wash it. A great habit to get into is, right when you get your fabric (if it is machine washable) wash it. We put ours in the wash to preshrink and we add a little vinegar to help set the colors. We then dry and press. This way your fabric is ready when you are ready to sew. I learned this the hard way.

I made some precious 4th of July US flag quilted placemats. Although, I didn't have to preshrink the fabric, we couldn't use them to eat on because I didn't set the colors. If I were to wash them now our white stripes would turn pink; we still use them to decorate with. Another example: Your child makes their first shirt, it fits perfect, you wash it, it shrinks, and they can't wear it again! If it states that the fabric will shrink, take the time to wash it!

DRY CLEAN OR MACHINE WASHABLE?

The important thing is to take into consideration what you are making. Will it need to be washed often? If yes, buy machine washable. We use a lot of dry cleanable upholstery fabrics for our pillows and purses. We also use this fabric for special dresses.

If the bolt states that these fabrics (dry clean only) will shrink, the safest thing to do is send it to the cleaners.

Kristi learned to sew right along with her daughters. The girls were age 3 and 6, at the time! Because it was such an enjoyable experience she wants to encourage others to pursue this endeavor.

Kristi experienced the woes of feeling very ignorant just trying to read a pattern and was discouraged from trying to teach her girls on her own. After receiving a new sewing machine from her husband for her birthday, she became bound and determined to fulfill her desire to learn to sew.

Kristi's plan was to learn everything before she tried to teach her kids. But as she was learning, her girls caught her enthusiasm and in amazement she watched them flourish in learning to sew right along with her. Kristi says that, "quite honestly, because we knew nothing I experienced a real freedom in my own education".
Now, at age 8 yrs. old, her daughter can sew her own dresses, and the 11 yr. old has a passion for sewing, and is a better seamstress than Kristi.

What Kristi wants to do, is share her journey in sewing; to help others know (with hind sight being 20/20) that the best way to learn is by doing. She has spent the last 3 years sharing with friends and family their way of learning to sew, as well as, the projects and patterns that built their skills. She has seen it not only work for others, but truly bring a delight into the sewing experience.

To learn MORE from the "9 Secrets to Successfully Teach Your Child to Sew", go to: http://www.sewingwithkids.com

About Author:

What Kristi wants to do, is share her journey in sewing; to help others know that the best way to learn is by doing. To learn MORE from the "9 Secrets to Successfully Teach Your Child to Sew", go to http://www.sewingwithkids.com


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