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Conversational Threads

October November issue 139

scrubble4 | Posted in Feedback on Threads on

I love the October/November issue.  I have a few favorite issues of Threads over the years, and there hasn’t been one for a few years.  This one is now it!  First is the great article on Ralph Rucci and Chado written by the incomparable Claire Shaeffer.  It this article was food it would be a frozen cheese cake with butterscotch and chocolate.  (I like all of these) Then the article on buttons (I obsess more than a bit with buttons) on gussets (what a neat fitting trick which I hadn’t thought of – moving gussets around the garment) and finally the review of the sleeve placket (shown in contrasting fabrics for construction pictures and in a beautiful finished garment). 

Well Done Amber and staff!  I join with other readers who say thanks for giving me back my Threads magazine. 

Okay one request for the future.  I have trouble finding or recognizing really good white cotton for the ultimate white shirt.  The weight of the cotton, the tone on tone pattern or straight weave, the length of the fiber etc. all seem to elude me.  Maybe an article about what to look for, questions to ask with online sources, online or sources that will deliver, how to care for them etc. would help me find something that once the sizing is washed out is not a limp rag compared to my dream shirt.   I know this cotton exists as the $120. price tag shows me on some really fabulus shirts in the stores.

Thanks again for a terrific issue.  Oh yes the online views of Ralph’s outfits were also fabulous.  What a wonderful resource!


  1. User avater
    ThreadKoe | | #1

    I can help you out right now. What type of white shirt do you want? There are some tricks that you can use right away when looking at a fabric in the store. On-line shopping has it's drawbacks, but once you find something you like from a manufacturer, it is easier to find online.Thread Count-like sheeting, fabrics come in different thread counts, using a pair of magnifying glasses or a magnifying glass, look at how closely woven the fabric is, and compare the choices, usually the higher number of threads in both directions is your better choice.Twist Test-to test for the amount of sizing and the rebound or wrinkle factor in a fabric, grab some fabric in the middle of the end of the bolt and give it a good twist or wring, see if there is any flaking, and how long it takes to relax and how badly it wrinkles. Remember that some wrinkling will stay in all natural fibres. It is just a matter of how much. At the same time, take the fabric in your hands and maniputate fairly vigorously, but not hard, it like you are hand washing it. See how it feels, the warmth of your hands and the action will mimic what washing will do to it.Fabric Type-certain types of fabric are better choices for shirting than others, Oxford cloth is a shirting material, and is a good choice for shirts, a quality broadcloth is another. Compare your choice to a known good choice. If you have a good shirt you like, compare your fabric choice to it. Weight and drape are what you are looking for. Bold End-read the info on the bolt end. It will tell you the manufacturer(usually), content, fabric finishes(permanent press) width, and care information. If it is missing it will have been re rolled, but a similar bolt may have the info you need. Ask your sales clerk for the info if you cannot find it, they are a wealth of information as well, or should be. They may have the info elsewhere. A note on fibre length. Quality goods use the longer fibres in the construction (staple length). Cheaper fabrics tend to use a higher percentage of short staple fibre, leading the fabric to have a fuzzier texture after a few washings. This is part of the difference you see between the cheap cotton broadcloths and those wonderful quilting broadcloths. I hope you find this helpful. If you need more help, just ask. Cathy

    1. katina | | #2

      Hi Cathy

      Thanks so much for this wonderful mini-tutorial!


      1. User avater
        ThreadKoe | | #3

        I am glad you enjoyed it. I had shirtings in mind when I was writing it so Mini sums it up, I could have gone on longer! But in a nutshell, those are the things to look at first when looking most fabric choices. The new fabric "starches" do not always "flake" like the old ones do, but they do break down or soften with manipulation, so you have an idea how how soft the fabric really is.
        Not all fabrics are woven with equal threads in both directions, but thread count does tell you how firmly woven or dense a fabric is. Cathy

        1. katina | | #4

          All tutorials you would like to gift us with are most welcome - many thanks.


    2. scrubble4 | | #5

      ThreadKoe:  A big thanks.  One question:  Is there anyway to tell if the fibres are long or short?  I hadn't thought of the magnifying glass but I use it constantly for so many other things .... it surely makes sense.  I have always done the wrinkle test but the other manipulations are new to me. 

      In short thank you so much for sharing your expertise. 


      1. User avater
        ThreadKoe | | #6

        There is no surefire test, but a few clues.Price-better fabrics cost more for a reason. Usually better quality goes into fabrication, better thread count, better staple length.Thumbnail test-Pull a thread from the weft/filling thread/crosswise and pull it in both directions gently through your fingernails. See how fuzzy it gets and quickly it shreds. A long staple, tighter twist will last longer with repeated washing and wearing.When shopping read the labels in the clothing! You will find a lot of information on the fabric on the label. A lot of good shirts are a poly/cotton blend. Polyester cotton blends are durable and wrinkle resistant. Even a very small amount. They take finishes like wash and wear or stain resist really well. That little bit of poly will make the fabric hand (feel) a bit more supple as well. Because polyester is a long staple fibre, it ties the cotton fibers together better as well.
        I am not saying it is a better fabric choice. I am saying that what at first look in a ready made shirt is a cotton shirt may well be a blend. Cathy

        1. scrubble4 | | #7

          ThreadKoe:  Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge.  Scrubble4

          1. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #8

            It is frustrating when you know what you want, but cannot find it! I checked out my two most favorite white shirts last night when I went to put one on to wear them. Both need replacing. Uggh =( They were both purchased shirts, deals of a lifetime that have lasted forever. One actuallay resembled a percale sheeting fabric, the other a broadcloth. Both were poly cotton blends. My 3rd favorite that I always have to iron is the all cotton one. Perhaps sheeting would be the way to go. Cathy

          2. ShannonG4d | | #9

            Sheeting is  not a good option for many reasons, one of which is the tightness of the weave.  I've made many a costume from sheets, and they are fine for that use, but for everyday shirt wear...not so good.  The fabric puckers when you stitch, it is difficult to press, and it does not wear as well as you would think.  If you choose to use the looser weaves (the 200 count, for instance), they are prone to pilling.  Best to use sheeting for sheets:)

            Shirting fabric can range from quite reasonably priced to extravagant.  There are many excellent fabric purveyors on the internet, and almost all will send swatches upon request.  Another option is to contact a tailor and find out where they purchase their yard goods. 


          3. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #10

            Yes I agree most sheeting would not be suitable. I was thinking of the finer stuff, the egyptian cotton. Should have been more specific. But you are right on that as well, the weave may be too tight. Cathy

          4. scrubble4 | | #13

            ThreadKoe:  Hmm there are some sheetings that do have a nice hand.  So many of them seem to pile easily, which I now know is the short fibre.  I am actually ready to spend a bundle on the fabric if I can find the good stuff.  Scrubble4

          5. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #14

            There are a lot of really nice egyptian and pima cotton sheetings out there. You seldom see other cottons listed as such. I figured they were worth taking a second look at. Cathy

          6. scrubble4 | | #15

            ThreadKoe:  I agree they are worth another look now I am armed with all this new understanding of what to look for in cotton.  Thanks for your contribution to my learning.  Scrubble4

          7. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #16

            You are most welcome. You have probably figured out by now that I am a bit of a Fabric Freak. Your profile says you are in SW BC. Do me a favour and smell the air for me. I am originally from BC and miss the smell of the pines. Thanks. Cathy

          8. scrubble4 | | #17

            Cathy:  I will have a long sniff for you today.  For the weekend I am staying with my sister who has a place near Chilliwack.  I ride along the Vedder Canal each day that I am out here.  It is a dedicated path that winds through the groves and along the bank of the Vedder.  It is just lovely.  Right now the canal is populated like a white picket fence with anglers hoping for a salmon as they begin their swim upstream.  There has been on and off rain for the last few days, but the air still has that wonderful acrid sweet smell of fall leaves.  My morning bike rides, wherever I am, are my first gift to myself each day.  On my busy weekdays this bike ride carries me through the many challenges of the day.  

            So I will send you a sniff of BC today.  Scrubble4

          9. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #18

            Ummm, Wonderful. Thank you. Cathy

      2. jjgg | | #11

        >>>One question: Is there anyway to tell if the fibres are long or short? I hadn't thought of the magnifying glass but I use it constantly for so many other things .... it surely makes sense. I have always done the wrinkle test but the other manipulations are new to me.<<<Egyptian cotton, and Sea Island cotton are long staple cotton (long threads) American cotton tends to be shorter staple.I would have to go pull all my notes from my textile class to better answer this, but Egyptian cotton has the longest staple. Now, this is not a sure fire way of knowing, you could get the cheap stuff that is still Egyptian.We are talking about fibers that vary from about 3/4 inch (American) to 2 inches in length (Egyptian) - thats the length of the cotton fiber as it comes off the flower head.Then, the quality of the fabric is also determined by the number of threads in each yarn.there was a really too much in depth article I read, I think it was on "Ask Andy" http://www.askandyaboutclothes.com/Index.htm
        but I cna't find it now.

        1. scrubble4 | | #12

          jjgg:  Thanks for you reminder of the Egyptian, Pima and Sea Island cotton.  I am visiting my sister.  I had given her the Shirtmaking book by David Coffin.  So I looked it up in this book.  David also reinforces the beauty of these three cottons.  He goes on to suggest a technique for determining length of the staple of the yarn.   "holding the folded edge of a few of them (different fabrics) up to the light and look closely at the fold.  The less fuzz you see the smoother and longer-stapled the yarn."  David also talks about the "subtle and beautiful gloss, or sheen, which rivals silk..."

          I must admit I don't often see cotton with a sheen anymore. 

          jjgg can you tell me how important the weight of the fabric is for a beautiful cotton.  I don't want anything heavy, but I want something that will last a lot of washing and ironing events. 

          Thanks for your help.  Scrubble4

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