Let’s talk Fab Fabric

POP QUIZ!!

Science Cat

Q) What’s one simple thing that can affect the look and quality of your entire costume?

A) Finishing? (Well, yes, but-)

A1) Makeup? (Technically, though-)

A2) Photoshop! (That’s a crutch!)

A3) LENSE FLARE (NOT EVEN. Use lenseflare and you are dead to me. DEAD!)

*ahem* Sorry about that.

While all the above answers (Aside from A3, you dirty heathens) are correct, today I’mma talk to you about Fabrics and how it’s not just the colour but also fabric type that can make or break your costume.

I’ll break it up into Weight, Finish, Stretch, Frayability and Material to try and help other beginners understand what’s best for their costume, and what’s best for their skill level.

The Basics

Fabric tends to come in two widths: 115cm (45”) and 150 (60”). on the back of most patterns, you can find estimates for how much fabric you’ll need based on how wide the fabric is. There are some fabrics that don’t follow these specifications, but in general the width is listed on the bolt.

Patterns also list the types of fabric that the design will work best for, but I think we’ll talk patterns another day. (AND HOW AWESOME THEY ARE.)

Weight

*flexes* Aw yeah, feel the burn.

This one’s a little self-explanatory. How heavy is the fabric? How thick, is it warm? is it thin? If you’re doing an item like Connor’s Coat (#^%$#%) then you’re going to want to go for a heavier material. It is, after all, supposed to be rough-and ready, and choosing a summery thin cotton just wouldn’t look right.

Connor, ACIII

On the other hand, if you choose a material that is TOO thick, like I did for this project, you’ll run into issues when you start hitting compound seams, My machine and needle simply couldn’t sew through more than 3 layers of this stuff. That meant that all around the hood detailing, I had to sew by hand.

Fabric Weights

You can see the fabrics on the left are light and floaty, there’s no stiffness that holds a shape. On the right is a medium weight fabric that looks and feels thicker. (hurrhurrhurr)

Weight should also be considered for when you plan to wear your costume. Connor was going to be a winter cosplay, for me. So added layers was a plus, living in Canada like I do. However, if I was planning to wear it in summer to Dragon*Con, I would definitely want to pick lighter fabrics so I don’t collapse from heat exhaustion or dehydration. Or, you know, get that Con-Funk smell. Yuck. 

Specularity

Speculum? What!?

Okay this is a term that you may or may not be familiar with. Basically, it means how much light is reflected. So, shine, etc.

specularity

Take a look at how these two fabrics react to the ambient light of the fabric store. They’re made of the same fabric, just with different specularities.

Why is this an issue? Well for one thing, if you want photos taken, super shiny satin is going to mess with the light balance, either burning out sections of the picture by being too bright, or by just looking… cheap.

Here’s the dirty secret about shiny materials like Satan satin: It shows EVERYTHING. Every pucker and wrinkle, and it slides like a mofo, so it’s even more prone to not aligning right.

Pucker up!

If you insist on Sewing with it, here’s some tips.

Working with satin isn’t impossible, but it is hard because it’s so unforgiving. Not to mention, that unless you’re built like Nigri and Yaya, it’s gonna show that pizza you scarfed down in the Con’s food court. In general, if you insist on using satan satin, go for one of the less shiny ones.

While other shiny materials like metallic spandex doesn’t have the same pucker issue… it will show every mistake, and every squishy part. If you are okay with that, rock it. If not, look for something with a sheen, but not a shine.

Stretch

Do you like super heroes? I love super heroes. Super heroes wear super stretchy clothes which are seriously skin tight.

Bobsled wardrobe malfunction

This is both a blessing and a curse for us non-superheroes.
And let’s be honest, Olympians are as close to superheroes as we can get.

Even if you’re not going to cosplay a catsuit/superhero, chances are you’ll be making something sometime with a fabric that stretches. It’s generally more comfortable to wear and lets you pull off slinky dresses and comfy pants without risking wardrobe malfunctions.

Continue reading Let’s talk Fab Fabric