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Master Class: More Great Fabric Manipulations

An online extra for repurposing, redesigning, or reinventing fabric

In “Master Class: Something old, something new,” Threads #140 (Dec. 2008/Jan. 2009), I encourage readers to reinvent fabric and then insert the results as a coordinating accent into a garment. Here are two bonus creations to try.

Use raveling fabrics as embellishment

When frayed edges started to catch on in fashion, suddenly everybody was raveling edges and they became, in a way, ordinary. I long to stretch away from ordinary. It’s part of the challenge. So, I set about finding ways to use the frayed fabric edges in a way that doesn’t look like just another fringe project. It takes experimentation and discovery.

When a fabric ravels too easily, it’s nearly impossible to use. But by using it as an appliqué piece and combining it with couching or lots of stitching, it takes on a whole new attitude.

First, choose the right fabrics, cotton, linen, and wool are usually good choices to fray. When you “audition” the fabric, check to see how much and how easily it ravels. Pull the strands apart gently and pin them to the base fabric. Arrange them in layers if they are thin, or separate them in a pattern if desired.

Then topstitch the pieces to the base fabric. The loose raveled threads look almost like brushstrokes, as these raw edged pieces turn into a rich complex tapestry.

These examples show upholstery weight, silk and metal, and heavy cotton fabrics used to enhance an otherwise plain surface. The buttons are vintage brass ball buttons.

Upholstery weight fabric

Silk and metal fabric

Heavy cotton fabric


Make a cloth of tubes

Fabric tubes are easy to make and versatile to use. You can weave with them, bind unfinished edges with them, or sew them together to create a new self-lined fabric.

To turn wide tubes, some folded and some wrinkled, into a jacket front, sew or baste each tube to the preceding row. As a bonus, this technique also makes the garment reversible.

To turn wide tubes, some folded and some wrinkled, into a jacket front, sew or baste each tube to the preceding row. As a bonus, this technique also makes the garment reversible.

Add texture to the fabric by scrunching it and then securing the wrinkles with fusible interfacing (1). If you’re only wrinkling a small piece of fabric, twist the fabric and pin it to the ironing board. Spray with starch or sizing. Press and leave until dry.
Add texture to the fabric
Next, sew the textured fabric into tubes (2).
Sew the fabric into tubes

Then sew the tubes side by side for the effect shown below. Silk charmeuse, hand-dyed, texturized, sewn into strips and then assembled in a row is reminiscent of an ancient Asian wall. The buttons are pewter.

Cloth of tubes

Lois Ericson (DesignAndSew.com) taught creative sewing techniques for decades and wrote many books on the subject. Photos by Sloan Howard.


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  1. User avater
    Liza115 | | #1

    I'm not sure what this article is trying to teach. The first shows pictures that are just messy. What is Silk and metal fabric? In the second article, there is not enough information to either understand this technique or how to use it.

  2. carolfresia | | #2

    Lois Ericson was a well-known fabric artist who liked to find unique ways of using textiles. In this post, she is simply sharing some ideas for exploring the qualities of different fabrics. The first technique was her take on the trend of fringed fabrics; her examples are more organic than most of the ones you'd find in ready-to-wear. Lois's approach was always to offer inspiration rather than a set of instructions. She encouraged her students and readers to express their own artistic vision.
    Carol J. Fresia
    Threads Senior Technical Editor

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