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Magazine Giveaway: How does fabric influence your designs?

You could win Threads issue #166!

In our current  Threads edition (#166, May 2013) there are lots of awesome articles sure to provide inspiration for any sewing enthusiast. Our cover story “Saving Lace” features dresses by Mimi Prober that were made with gorgeous pieces of reclaimed lace. Additionally, you’ll find instructions to build a better collar, examples of vintage presser feet that add easy embellishments, and a Spring Fashion Forecast, and much, much more! We also asked our contributing authors (Mimi Prober, Charlene Phillips, Katrina Walker, and Melanie Carrico) how fabric influences their designs. These talented individuals had some great reasoning behind their selections.

Each of our featured contributors responded in a very different way. One considers fabric selection the backbone of her design process; one said that touching the fabric gives her inspiration; one indicated that she is entranced by the beauty of natural fibers; and another considers fabrics to be both a muse and a medium for her designs. The variety of responses demonstrates the different meanings that fabric can bring to a sewer’s design.

Tell us how fabric influences your designs. By leaving a comment below before the deadline (Friday, April 19), you could win a copy of our current issue! A winner will be selected randomly and announced during the week of April 22. The winner will also receive an announcement email. Good luck!


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  1. lauriesannie | | #1

    Mostly it is the other way around. But last summer I saw a bright lime green and turquoise flower print at JoAnn's of all places. Instantly thought about a long oop Vogue blouse w/ a vee neck. Shopped the net, got the pattern and finished it w/ buttons from a trip to Paris. Wearing it this summer w/ a rte turquoise skirt.

  2. sndt91 | | #2

    Fabric is the first thing I need to be inspired, then I can imagine what to do with it, the colors, the texture,threads, the prints, When I am at the fabric store is like being a kid in a candy store. I would love to win, thanks for the opportunity!

  3. Leesy | | #3

    Sometimes I see a fabric and just know what its destiny is...you start to see things in design, in cut pieces, in shaping. The drape, the patterning, the coloration, it can all influence the vision.

  4. wolfkit | | #4

    When I'm not looking for a particular fabric for a particular project I just let my imagination roam when I see fabrics I like. An example is my 'Matrix' style coat made out of black organza rather than leather or similar. It was the first thing I thought of when I saw the fabric in the store.

  5. user-306303 | | #5

    I am influenced more by the fabric itself than by the pattern. I see and touch a piece of fabric and envision what it tells me it wants to be (so to say!). I saw a bolt of embroidered purple/white gingham in Hancock's recently and saw a sundress for my preschool daughter with a full gathered skirt and sleeveless bodice. I tend to then find a pattern that suits what I have in my mind for the fabric rather than the other way around. And if I can't find what I have in mind, I alter and/or combine patterns to get what I want. I am definitely a "fabri-holic", commonly known as a fabric hoarder! I'll never live long enough to use it all, but all of it speaks to me even if I never get around to ALL of the projects I have had in mind for it!

  6. User avater
    SansSouci572 | | #6

    Its always the fabric--I don't see the point in sewing unless the fabric is any good. I find myself getting plainer and plainer fabrics, but better quality.

  7. User avater
    LoriLovesPink | | #7

    For me, I see fabric, and then decide what to make with it. Most of the time. Whether I'm at the fabric store, see something in a magazine, anywhere & everywhere. I also scour flea markets and thrift stores too, if you look through the men's shirts, some of those XXL sizes have a lot of yardage, and some of the "vintage" fabrics are just awesome. I can make a tote bag out of a man's shirt, or a pillow cover, a handbag, a cute skirt, whatever the fabric "looks like" to me!!

  8. qwnb33 | | #8

    Fabrics influence my designs when they have that certain feeling; they "speak" to me. I can look at a lace and know instantly that it should be either paired with leather or satin/charmuese. It will also tell me where it should be used in the most flattering of silhouettes. I can also imagine the perfect accessories to go with a certain fabric, according to the hand, drape, color (intensity), and fiber content.

  9. user-1120336 | | #9

    It depends, sometimes I'm obssesed with certain pattern and then search for a fabric that matches perfectly with it, but not always, other days I see a fabric and can't help to grab it and think, what it inspires me?

  10. ambrerose | | #10

    Now see I'm kinda the opposite of everyone in I buy lots of patterns that I know will look good and fit my body well. Then I go out and find the fabric that will make the whole package amazing. Sometimes I do get the fabric that is calling to me and find the pattern second, but it doesn't happen often.

  11. User avater
    Luxiraj | | #11

    Fabric speaks to me, no really, I open up my fabric stash And keep looking at one after the other, the one which spoke to me the most gets chosen and then I think about which kind of design / pattern can I use on the fabric. When I say the fabric speaks to me, doesn't mean literally but unconventionally does strike a chord with me depending on my state of mind!

  12. Sew Magic | | #12

    Fabric excites me, especially when I see bright, bold and flashy colors. Different fabric patterns also attracts me such as paisley's and florals. The more wild and louder they are the more I can't resist the urge to buy it. Fabric can be so abstract but yet so versatile all at once and I think that's the fun of it. It's kind of like love at first sight, you see it and it makes your heart race and you buy all of it or as much as you can. I can never have enough. Oh the love of fabric....get's us all!

  13. Sew_With_Me | | #13

    Fabric speaks to me! The colour, whether plain or a graphic, fibre content and the hand itself! If it is a floral cotton for example, I immediately think 'romantic', 'fresh', 'spring'; blouses and skirts. A bright, colourful, geometric has me thinking, 'fun', 'summer' and 'knockout'! While a beautiful red wool will immediately have me rushing to find the perfect suit or dress pattern! Seeing and handling beautiful fabrics gets my pulse racing in other words and the design process stems from this as I plan the trims, finishes and unusual features I want to incorporate; right through to the finished garment!

  14. jennieMB | | #14

    I'm always inspired by vintage fabrics, sometimes you hold onto them for awhile before you think of the right project.

  15. User avater
    Sewista | | #15

    Fabrics totally inspire me. I peruse a wall full of fabrics and they say things like "retro", "summertime", "fall wedding" or any other number of things. I then take those words and images with me to the pattern books and start putting fabrics and patterns together. It's really a simple process but it works for me.

  16. User avater
    Countessa | | #16

    I see fabric, and start to imagine the beautiful clothes I could make with it. Stopping at the fabric shop can be very dangerous! :-)

  17. RondainBend | | #17

    Fabrics comfort me and when I use bamboo, modal, or viscose their natural softness inspire me to design and sew not only for myself but something special for someone who needs a lift. I am so excited about the new issue to get up to date on just how to combine lace with my comfy soft fabrics to add some excitement and textural interest!

  18. User avater
    shreya_l | | #18

    Every fabric has a inherent quality...like Silk is flowing, has natural sheen and works well for formal clothing. Cotton with its crispness and versatility has become an evergreen fabric. Lace on the other hand is created manually (Tatting, Bobbin lace, Crochet, etc.) and mechanically. Handwoven lace has always been delicate and enchanting. A beautiful lace can inspire a person to create a beautiful dress complementing the finesse with which it was originally crafted.

  19. Clodi | | #19

    When I can't take my eyes off a fabric, most of the times, it hits a memory of something I liked in the past (print, color, texture) and then I try to imagine what pattern will be appropriate and what embellishments are needed.

  20. iReenyBags | | #20

    WOW.....how does it not inspire me? i live to shop for fabric. I shop at fabric stores not department stores. Whenever I go into a fabric store I am worse than a child in a candy store. The designs don't just "psst... over here...look at me.." the fabric YELLS "here....look..."! The texture, colors, design and even the smell about of fabric beckons me to create.I mostly make handbags. It is soooo fun to take a piece of fabric and create a purse. The ultimate moment is seeing the finish product and handing it to a very happy woman! I breath, sleep, daydream and anything else in between; of fabric.Sewing and fabric is my lifeline. Fabric cheers me up when I am down, makes me happier when I am happy. There aren't words really for how fabric inspires me. It is a God given gift and I cherish it. I would love to win the current issue of Threads Magazine. I am an on-line member. Thank you sew-much.

  21. machinemaven | | #21

    I have approached new projects both from starting with a pattern and also starting with a fabric. But it seems that my best successes have been the ones where I began with inspiration from the fabric. There's something about the senses that are triggered by fabric that spur the vision of what it could be for me. Maybe it has something to do with the way each of us learn, perceive and process information, etc. For whatever reason, I'm always glad when that kind of inspiration hits.

  22. smallchangepurses | | #22

    You just " KNOW"! I am in the midst of making a purse with fabric I purchased years ago. The lining will be a remnant from a silk/ wool paisley I fashioned into a wrap skirt for my daughter .... In the early 80's.
    Sometimes it the color, or pattern, or the fabric content, itself.
    Much like art, I know what speaks to me on a given day...or where I am in my life.
    I love the experience of discovering textiles in unexpected venues, resale shops, garage sales, as well as fabric stores.
    I have wonderful memories of my grandmother making clothes for me and my cousins from flour sacks.
    Sewing affords one quite the canvas for expression, and fabric,indeed, helps to celebrate this creativity!!

  23. HEN2 | | #23

    Always it is the colour that attracts me to a fabric first. As I am very tactile person I then have to play with it a while and often I can do a few rounds of the store and keep coming back to particular fabrics for another feel. Once I know that I'm 'in love' with a piece I take it home and put it up on the dummy until inspiration for its perfect style comes.

  24. crafty4231 | | #24

    Fabric talks to me. I walk through the store and I see a color or texture that says make me into a suit , or a dress, etc. Usually by the time I get home I know exactly what I am going to make out of this piece of fabric.

    Then there are other pieces that just say take me home, you will need me. They go into my stash. And one day I need something special and I say to myself 'I already have the fabric let's get sewing.

  25. Ikebana152 | | #25

    For me it's always about the fabric. It might be the texture, the color, the feel of finely woven wool in my hand, or the drape of that peach colored mix of cooton and shantung that sets my mind in motion. I can see the drape at the neck, the fit of the skirt, etc and how i will have to balance a dart. I am working on a coat for the fall that started with a piece of faux fur for a collar, which lead to a piece of wool and cashmere and then a pattern. Happy...

  26. LucyJane | | #26

    I am an odd duck. I like to upcycle garments or things because something appeals to me about the fabric or style.
    I like to add subtract or recreate an item. Most people hate to "mend" but give me something that needs to be fixed and I will make it wonderful again or something new. And I love the little bins of remnants for the chase.

  27. User avater
    monkemama | | #27

    For me it is ALWAYS the fabric! the color, the hand, the drape, the weight, the feel.... I buy fabric then decide what I will do with it. It may take a few years to decide, but when I do, it will be right.

  28. seamsfun | | #28

    There is always at least one piece of fabric that keeps drawing you back. Many times it is color in combination with the texture. As soon as you see the fabric, you visualize the finished project.

    Other times fabrics bring back memories-reminding you of a fabric that you selected as a child. It brings back special memories of going to the fabric store with your mother and picking out that beautiful fabric.

  29. User avater
    sewold | | #29

    Fabric does speak to me. The design sometimes suggests the garment. However I have also had buttons speak to me. I've decided to make something just based on a set of buttons I wanted to use.

  30. hachidori | | #30

    INSPIRATION I Encouraged by the cover of your latest issue, I in the process of forwarding a picture of the dress I made last summer using vintage lace. I had collected the lace because pure 100- year- old cotton embroided by hand or even by 19th century machines brings me a sense of connection. It makes me feel part of all that is positive through time like the ability of humans to create beautiful and useful objects.
    Working with these pieces of garments, examining them in detail enhances that connection to so many others who have used and reused the lace and fabric pieces, have conserved them and lastly traded them with vintage lovers.
    Even though I had filed away your 10-year-old issue # 106, it was part of the inspiration. “In Detail” on back cover depicts an early 20th century dress sewn together with cotton eyelet bands, lace and strips. Like so many other ideas from Threads they get stored for years in that little place in the brain that opens up when the time is right for the right project.
    This and so many other projects would not have been possible without the guidance of my teacher Karen Evanetz, http://www.karenevanetzdesigns.com.

    INSPIRATION II My first love, the love of my life, is silk. I cut it, lay it, breathe it, wash it, iron it, hang it, dip it, paint on it, print on it, wrinkle it to finally wrap myself (and others) in it. The need to work with silk is a visceral one for me. Perhaps because it existed long before paper, perhaps because many of the most beautiful garments in history were made with silk, or perhaps because the amino acids that compose silk are very similar to the ones that are found in the human skin.
    To summarize, I had some white habotai half-circle dancing veils. I wondered how I could use them for a dancing/gala dress. I moved around with the veils and the idea came clearly. I dyed all the fabric in natural indigo dye at different intensities of color. My teacher, Karen Evantz and I developed the stretch charmeuse empire cut bodice and draped the veils in multiple layers of skirts. (This part was mostly my job, and although it took me longer than expected, I had yet another opportunity to connect with all the other dancers in the world who use similar veils, the Chinese workers that developed this fine fabric, and their work with nature, the mulberry worms.)
    The result, which the attached picture only allows you to imagine, is a flowing dress, with different layers of water density skirts and the unclear indication of sky and water meeting. I silk printed the skirts with colored sails, water and sun.
    In every endeavor, for me, the connection is the connection.

  31. moviedoll | | #31

    Fabric normally "talks" to me. When I feel the weight, hand, texture it normally has it's own 'voice'. I let it tell me what it wants to be. Heavier stronger fabrics almost always become structured pieces like corsets. Lighter weights become dresses, usually. At the end of the process my garments usually have a name and we usually always argue during dressmaking (when i make mistakes and have to repair.)

  32. SoCalSewing | | #32

    The fabric almost completely defines what will be created with it. The color can help decide in what occasion the final piece will be intended for. The texture and weight can dictate what time of the year it should be worn.

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