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Silks — and how to use them

End of February brings the end of winter and beginning of Spring sewing season.  Time to make that party dress or, for some of us, sew a wedding dress.  That means hunting for the right kind of silk.  With so many types, which one should you choose?

PFI’s new store, PFI Supply, offers fabric just for clothes — including plenty of silks in a broad range of colors.  Here are some of the most requested kinds and how to use them.

How silk is made

Silk is one of the oldest known natural fibers. Most silk originates in China, India and Southeast Asia. Domestic mulberry silkworm pupae spin it. Commercial growers kill the pupae before they emerge as adult moths. That way, the cocoon can be unraveled as one long continuous unbroken thread.

Peace silk allows the moth to eat a hole in the cocoon to emerge. The hole makes it impossible to unreel the cocoon. So the fiber must be spun. The result is a more matte finish with a rougher look. Peace silk is also called wild silk.


Chiffon
.  If you can sew sheer, you can sew most everything. Soft, light and fragile, chiffon is a balanced plain weave with hight-twist crepe yarns used in both warp and weft. Sew on the straight grain before you try sewing bias. Save the selvages to help stabilize your seams.

Georgette.  What’s the difference from chiffon? Both fabrics are sheer. Georgette has a more substance with a cloudier look. Its fibers are twisted and alternate every one or two yarns from an “S” to a “Z”, giving a pebbly, crêpe feel. It is stretchier and harder to control than chiffon. Use it for lingerie, nightwear, blouses, dresses, evening and bridal wear.  It’s said to be named for a French milliner, Mme. Georgette de la Plante. who used this fabric a great deal.


Charmeuse
 is the queen of silk, the lightest of silk satins and most difficult to sew.  Of all woven fabric, it is the smoothest and most lustrous, thus most desirable.  The warp yarns float over weft yarns.  The more the floats, the more the luster. So don’t press charmeuse or you’ll flatten the floats and leave “burnished” dull spots. Use a seam stick, seam buffers (such as strips of paper under the seam allowances) and the tip of a mini-iron if you must press seams. Charmeuse snags easily and holes are permanent so don’t overwork it.  Sew it once and sew it right.

For more details on how to work with silk, visit PFI’s couture, dresses and shirt classes.

PFI expands: New building, new store now open

Monday, February 11, 2019

Portland Fashion Institute is expanding.  Today, PFI announced it has purchased the building next to its main building in Portland’s Hollywood District.  The building adds another 3,000 square feet to house a growing number of classes and students.
   “We’re moving forward to make our corner of NE 43rd and Tillamook into Portland’s Apparel Center,” says PFI owner and director Sharon Blair.
   Blair is working with an advisory board from Adidas, Columbia Sportswear, Nike and Shibui Knits to bring 3D and innovative design labs plus a retail space for boutiques and a design museum into the new space.
   The first floor of the building has been remade into a fabric store with everything from scissors and thread to silks and knits for apparel makers.  PFI hosts twice-yearly textile shows and will move them into the new space — called PFI Supply.
   “We have many makers and manufacturers in this town.  With the closure of Fabric Depot and Rose City Textiles, it’s getting harder to find good-quality apparel fabrics.  We aim to serve that need,” Blair says.
   “If all goes well, we will reinstall a drive-through window left by a former credit union as a convenient way to sell thread, zippers and fabric.”
   Students have begun to use the store and building.  PFI plans a grand opening in April as part of Design Week Portland.
PFI Supply, portlandsewingsupply@gmail.com, ‭(971) 801-6446‬, 4225 NE Tillamook PDX 97213
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PFI, Portland group helps Mali girls stay in school

Monday, January 21, 2019
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr Day of Service, PFI teamed up with Portland’s Happy Girls Tribe to support “Mali Rising.”
     “In remote villages in Africa young girls must miss school each month when they get their periods due to the lack of supplies,” says tribe leader Melissa Allen.  “Girls fall behind in classes, and sometimes that leads to dropping out altogether.
     “We decided to take on a sewing project.  Our tribe would make cloth menstrual kits that will be taken to Mali and give girls back weeks of missed school each year.”
    Eight of Allen’s tribe members accepted the challenge.  First they made drawstring bags to hold supplies.  Next they’ll make the cloth pads.  PFI donated the machines, tools and instruction.  The tribe donated materials.  The tribe members donated their talent.
     Allen plans to deliver the kits by Spring.  “Each kit can give a girl back 45 days of school each year.”
     The Happy Girls Tribe is made up of 11-year-old girls “with a goal of building confidence and friendships through experiences together,” Allen says.  Tribe members attend Cottonwood School in southwest Portland where Allen teaches art.
     The Mali Rising Foundation aims to empower the children of Mali, West Africa by expanding and improving educational opportunities for them within their own villages.
     Another volunteer group, Days for Girls, designed the kit patterns.
     If you’d like to make your own kit to help the young women of Mali and boost their education, click the pattern and instructions below.  To learn more about Mali Rising, click here.

Sew Green. Sewing Eco-Fabrics.

Hemp Jacket, Peace Silk Top, Organic Cotton Jeans STUDIOSKB

Sew GreenSewing Eco-Fabrics

Bamboo isn’t something you grow in your garden.  Today, it is something you sew.

With good reason.  Bamboo and “green” or ecofabrics bring new, interesting textures, drape and performance with a twist of being earth-friendly.

Here are six of the most popular green fabrics on the market today – plus two more coming your way.  I’ll show you what makes them green, the pros and cons of each and how to sew them.

At the end you’ll find a list of places where you find eco-fabrics online.

SBA:  Ecofabrics: Not a fashion fad

Creating clothes from eco-fabrics has captured the apparel industry’s imagination.  According to the Organic Trade Association, sales of organic fibers grew to $85 million in 2013, an increase of about 23 percent from 2012. They expect sales in the U.S. to grow by nearly 16 percent a year.

SBA:  What makes a fiber green?  At least one of these:

  • Chemical-free. No synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, genetic engineering or toxic chemicals to process and dye the fibers.
  • Closed-loop processing. Solvents needed to break woody fibers into weavable filaments are reused and kept out of the environment, saving energy and water.
  • Eco-fabrics break down since they are natural fibers and contain little or no petroleum by-products.
  • Regenerated or renewable content. Some fabrics use recycled plastic bottles.  Others use recycled cotton or polyester.
  • Animal friendly. For wool, this means sheep cannot be overgrazed, dipped in insecticides, exposed to pesticides and hormones or scalped on the hindquarters to prevent blowflies.
  • To this list, many would add fair labor practices. They’d also want manufacturing placed close to consumers to save transportation costs and fossil fuel pollution.

BAMBOO is a fast-growing grass.  It doesn’t need fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides and regrows quickly after harvest. Most is pulped into fibers with chemicals in a patented process held by one factory in China.  A newer, greener process creates a more linen-like bamboo. The plant is wild harvested or farmed on plantations.

Bamboo wicks.  It draws moisture away from the body. Bamboo insulates.  It keeps the body warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Bamboo is anti-microbial.  It kills odor-causing bacteria.  Bamboo is soft and silky.  It does not irritate the skin.

  • Fabrics: Jersey and double knits, French terry, shirting (in a dobby weave), denim, corduroy and velvet.  Jersey and blended knits with 3 or 5 percent spandex – called bambino – are easiest to find.
  • Best use: Drapey tops and dresses.  The jersey is thin.  Plan to wear a slip or line with another layer of bamboo or tricot.  It is not durable so it is not suitable for children’s wear or activewear.  For a more opaque and durable knit buy bambino or a double knit.
  • Sewing tips:  Treat jersey like any other jersey, other bamboo knits as an interlock.

Treat bamboo shirting as you would a fine cotton.  Sew with size 10 universal needles and a stitch length of 2.5.  On denim, corduroy or velvet, use size 12 universal needles and a stitch length of 3.0.

  • Care: Wash on gentle cycle in cold water.  Lay knits flat to dry.  Hang wovens to dry.

HEMP has been used to weave ropes and make apparel since the Stone Age.  It is cultivated nearly everywhere in the world except, until recently, the U.S.  Most hemp fabric comes to U.S. through Canada.

It resists disease and pests, doesn’t need fertilizers and grows in almost any quality of soil and needs very little water to grow.  It is soaked in water then pulped into fiber.

Hemp insulates.  It wicks moisture.  It blocks ultraviolet rays.  It resists bacteria and mold.  It is the strongest natural fiber known.

  • Fabrics: Wovens and knits.  Hemp can be blended with cotton, linen or silk.

Hemp-cotton feels like a jersey knit.  It has a matte surface.  Hemp-silk is 2-sided.  One side is slubby, the other smooth and lustrous.  Heavy wovens in herringbone or tweed are easiest to find.

  • Best use: Use woven hemp in jackets and skirts or wherever you might use a heavy linen or canvas. Use hemp-cotton for tops and dresses.  Use hemp-silk in blouses, dresses.  Hemp-cotton and hemp-silk are easy to dye.
  • Sewing tips: Woven hemp and many hemp blends ravel.  Be sure to overlock or zigzag the raw edges after cutting.  For wovens, use a size 12 universal needle.

To eliminate bulk: Press seams open flat.  Cut darts open, finish the edges and press open flat. Face waistbands and hems with a lighter-weight fabric.

Hemp can irritate the skin. Line jackets and skirts.

Treat hemp knits as you would jersey knits.

  • Care: Machine wash. Hang to dry.  Hemp-silk wrinkles, but is easy to press or steam.

SOY fabric is a by-product of pressing beans to make soybean oil.  The bean cake is spun into a fiber with a polyvinyl alcohol solvent in a closed-loop process. The result is a fabric that is so soft, it is called soysilk or vegetable cashmere.

A company in China patented the process in 1999 – even though Henry Ford once used soy wool to upholster the seats of his cars.  He also wore a soy wool suit.

Studies show that soy absorbs moisture, resists bacteria and UV rays.  The bad news:  Soy is one of the most genetically modified plants.  Clearing land for this crop is one cause for the loss of Amazon rainforest.

  • Fabrics: Mostly knits. Sometimes blended with cotton and spandex.
  • Best use: More durable than bamboo.  Use for tops and casual jackets for both adults and children.
  • Sewing tips: Treat soy knits as you would interlock knits.
  • Care: Pre-shrink. Machine wash and line dry.

TENCEL® is a brand name for Lyocell — a synthetic fiber made from wood pulp.  A solvent breaks down the pulp into a solution called “dope.”  The dope flows through the fine tips of spinnerets and dries into fibers.  Washing retrieves the chemicals so they can be reused. Tencel is made in the U.S.

  • Fabrics: Wovens and, more recently, jersey knits.  All have a supple hand that’s silky and suede-like.  Tencel drapes well and dyes easily.
  • Best use: Use the wovens as you would cotton, linen or rayon for casual pants, jackets and skirts.
  • Sewing tips: Use a nap layout with wovens.  Serge the cut edges with a two-thread overlock or zigzag stitch.  Sew seams with a straight stitch and press flat with the iron on medium heat.  Use knit interfacing and understitch.  Sew with a stitch length of 3.0.

Treat tencel knit as you would jersey knits.

  • Care: Machine wash; hang to dry.  Tencel woven can wrinkle but is easy to press or steam.

PEACE SILK. Silk is one of the oldest known natural fibers.  Most silk originates in China, India and Southeast Asia.  It is considered by many to be an organic fiber.  Domestic mulberry silkworm pupae spin it.

Commercial growers pierce, boil or suffocate the pupae to kill them before they emerge as adult moths. That way, the cocoon can be unraveled as one long continuous unbroken thread.

Peace silk allows the moth to eat a hole in the cocoon to emerge.  The hole makes it impossible to unreel the cocoon.  So the fiber must be spun.  The result is a more matte finish with a rougher look.  Peace silk is also called wild silk.

  • Fabrics: Wovens, knits.  Peace silk typically is a woven.
  • Best use for peace silk: Blouses, skirts, scarves.  Underline to make lightweight jackets.
  • Sewing tips: Treat peace silk as you would a charmeuse.  Check the fabric for nap and color variations.  Avoid making too many pin or needle holes.  Use weights to hold the pattern to the fabric.  Pin in seam allowances with fine needles.  Cut with sharp scissors rather than rotary cutters.

Hand baste slippery or difficult seams to avoid any seam ripping later.  Use size 8 universal machine needles and a stitch length of 2.5. If you want to press the seams open, pink the raw edges to finish them.  Otherwise, sew narrow French seams.  Hold the seam taut while sewing to prevent puckers.  Use a warm, dry iron and press seams lightly over a seam roll to prevent the seam allowance from indenting the fabric.

  • Care: Gentle wash in cold water; hang to dry. Peace silk is not as strong as regular silk and can pill after several uses.

ORGANIC COTTON is grown worldwide, particularly in southwest U.S.  Organic cotton does not use chemical pesticides, fertilizer or other toxins.  Some is “colorgrown.”  The bolls come in natural colors such as mocha, sage or honey, rather than white. Other organic cottons use fiber-reactive, low-impact or plant dyes.  But growing any cotton, conventional or organic, uses a great deal of water.

Wal-Mart buys more organic cotton than anyone else in the world.

  • Fabrics: Wovens, fleece, knits.  Most durable of the sustainable knits.
  • Best use: Jackets, tops and dresses.
  • Sewing tips: Treat as you would any other cotton. Use size 12 universal needles for wovens and size 12 stretch for knits.  Overlock knits with wooly nylon in the upper looper.
  • Care:   Machine wash; hang to dry.

Organic Cotton Knit Dress WANDERING MUSE

Two that are newer to the sustainable scene:

PLA– or polylactic acid – is an organic polyester made from plant sugars.  The sugars come from corn, cane, beets or wheat.  The fabric composts to dirt within 90 days with 140ºF and 98 percent humidity

It attracts and wicks moisture then dries quickly, making it good for activewear.  It also protects from UV.

Most PLA comes from chemical manufacturer Cargill Dow under the trademarked name Ingeo.  Ingeo uses, in part, genetically modified corn.  Right now it is only available commercially and is used by apparel companies such as Nike and Nau.

PET– or polyethylene terephthalate – is a polyester fleece made from recycled plastic bottles.  It was first developed in the 1990s as EcoSpun.  Patagonia used it to make jackets and vests.

A new process EcoPET creates a filament that can be woven into knits as well as fleece.  Most EcoPET is made in Japan.  Most is sold to manufacturers of T-shirts, thermal underwear, outerwear and sports garments.

Consumers can buy PET on-line as EcoFelt.

Online sources for eco-fabrics:

Aurorasilk.com – Naturally dyed peace silk, hemp, organic cotton knits and wovens

bamboofabricstore.com – Bamboo and bamboo blends

bamboofabricstore.com.au – Bamboo, soy and hemp blend wovens with cotton and nettle, bamboo jersey

fabricandart.com – Hemp and hemp blend wovens, hemp blend jerseys, bamboo, cotton and soy blend jerseys and spandex blend knits, organic cotton wovens including colorgrown

hartsfabric.com – Bamboo dobby, organic cotton wovens, EcoFelt, seacell (made from seaweed) and organic cotton blend voile

hempfabricshop.com – Hemp canvas and twill

hemptraders.com – Hemp and hemp blends

jascofabrics.com – Organic cotton crepe knit, organic wool jersey, interlock and twill

nearseanaturals.com – Organic cotton jersey, French terry, fleece and blends, organic cotton wovens including colorgrown, hemp and hemp blend wovens, peace silk

wazoodle.com – Bamboo jersey and fleece, organic cotton jersey

 

How to get a job, part 2

How to get a job at one of Portland’s many smaller apparel companies.

Not everyone wants to work at a large company.  Many of our students want to keep their hands on the work and the opportunity to take a product from idea to final garment.  Many feel it gives them more control and creativity.

Last week we asked Adam Andreas, a senior product developer at Columbia Sportswear, how to get a job at a major company.  This week we asked Erich Treeby, tailor for Wildwood and Company.  Treeby graduated from the Fashion Forward program at PFI and produced his own clothing line, Favorite Son.  Prior to being hired at Wildwood, he worked for 4 years as the head of alterations at Duchess Clothier.

Here’s what he had to say:

Q. In your field of work, what education, skills, and training do you seek in the ideal candidate?

A.  Coursework and/or job experience with garment construction, hand sewing and pattern drafting at minimum. Specific coursework and experience with menswear tailoring (both traditional and contemporary) and familiarity with industry-standard pattern drafting systems would be ideal. Candidate should be familiar with conventional industrial seam allowances and have experience using industrial sewing machines.

Q. Does your field of work genuinely hire full time?

A. Yes.

Q. Are there specific schools or training you recommend?

A. In Portland, I believe PFI may be the only school offering a comprehensive training program for those interested in entering the apparel industry (now that AI has closed). In general, a focus on textiles, construction, pattern drafting, and technical design/product development is more useful than conceptual fashion design and illustration.

Q. Does this job have any special requirements? (Ability to travel, shift work, special licenses, etc.)

A. Ability to work under pressure and tight timelines.

Q. Do you know other employers that hire for this or similar occupation?

A. Yes. A few area businesses that would hire individuals with sewing/tailoring experience: Duchess Clothier, Silhouette, The House of Rose.

Q. What is your entry-level salary range

A. An entry level seamster will probably earn between $11-13/hr if employed by a smaller independent company.

Q. Are there advancement and educational opportunities?

A. Absolutely. A person who demonstrates aptitude and is motivated can definitely set themselves apart from others and become eligible for higher paying positions. In my experience, most continuing education will be the responsibility of the individual (other than the skills you learn as part of the current position).

[Editor’s note:  To follow Erich’s path, look for such classes as Apparel Construction, Couture and Patternmaking at PFI.  To start your own apparel business, take Strategic Marketing and Branding.  These can lead you to a business grant to help you launch.  Now let’s enjoy a bit of hand sewing here.]

How to get a job

How to get a job at Columbia Sportswear — or any of Portland’s major apparel companies.

We asked Adam Andreas, senior product developer at CS and instructor at PFI.  Here’s what he had to say.

Q. In your field of work, what education, skills, and training do you seek in the ideal candidate?

A. I seek someone with concrete skills in design and computer applications like Adobe Creative Suite who can demonstrate and show those skills. Ideally someone with a college degree and certificate, or certificate in apparel and demonstrating high level of skills and understanding of apparel construction and design. [Editor’s Note:  PFI offers these certificates.]

Q. Does your field of work genuinely hire full time?

A. Yes generally 90% of roles in design/development are full-time. Usually if temp there is opportunity to be hired on which happens quite often.

Q. Are there specific schools or training you recommend?

A. I recommend a training in apparel design or tech design. It is important that the person who has training has it specifically in apparel and not another design concentration such as industrial or interior design as the ideal candidate has knowledge in apparel construction.

Q. Does this job have any special requirements? (Ability to travel, shift work, special licenses, etc.)

A. Ability to travel is a must. Typically 1-2 international trips to vendors, some domestic travel at times. No other special requirements.

Q. Do you know other employers that hire for this or similar occupation?

A. Yes.  There are quite a few apparel companies [in the Portland area].

Q. What is your entry-level salary range?

A. $40-50K per year is typical entry level salary.

Q. Are there advancement and educational opportunities?

A. Yes. There is an online and onsite Learning and Development department with classes available to increase skills in every way possible. For advancement opportunities there are many. There are opportunities to move up in departments and there is also opportunity to move laterally between many different apparel focused departments such as design, development, materials, quality, merchandising, sourcing.  All areas are valid to move into with an apparel design background.

[Editor’s note:  Adam teaches Flats & Techs plus Concept & Development for PFI.  Look for all of these classes at PFI.  After all, “we are apparel people teaching apparel people.”  Flats by Erich Treeby, PFI graduate and tailor at Wildwood & Company.]

Lake Oswego teens win $2,000 Fashion Design Scholarships

Charlie Ryan and Dieter Vlasich just landed a future in fashion design.

Each won a scholarship contest and $2,000 worth of fashion design classes at Portland Fashion Institute, an apparel design and sewing school in northeast Portland.

As a result, each will build their skills and create a portfolio that could land entry into a prestige fashion design university.

“Normally, we choose only one winner each year,” said PFI director Sharon Blair.  “But both of these applicants were so strong, we had to choose both.”

Ryan chose a sportswear theme he calls “Spacesuit for the Streets”.  A varsity lacrosse player, he took advantage of a knee injury to design what he saw was missing from menswear:  An updated angle on the traditional t-shirt, hoodie, sweatpants that every teen wears. Bright orange and white with lots of zippered circular pockets, his outfit is not only functional, it is stylish.

“I aim to create high fashion for everyday use,” Ryan says.

Vlasich won based on his designs for an oversized angular suit he calls a “reaction to the toxicity of modern society.

“I wanted something fierce, aggressive and empowered.” His colors and silhouette reflect current trends and reminded PFI’s judges of high fashion designers Yves St Laurent and Comme des Garcons.

“I’m looking forward now to learning professional techniques at PFI,” Vlasich says.

Both taught themselves to pattern, fit and sew. Both are 17.

Vlasich plans to attend Central St. Martins in London. Ryan is interested in possibly attending Parsons or Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.  All three schools are internationally recognized colleges for fashion design. Their alumni include designers Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs, Zac Posen and Stella McCartney.  Such schools require portfolios as part of a very competitive admissions process.

This is the eighth year for the annual contest. It is open to full-time students in Portland and Vancouver area high schools who have a GPA of 2.5 or more. Each contestant creates an original apparel design idea with sketches, interviews of influential people and an essay on fashion design.

Judges included directors and managers for Kroger, Columbia Sportswear and Nike.

More than 6,000 persons have studied at PFI since it opened in 2010.  While most students come to PFI for a class or two, those interested in a career have gone on to start their own clothing lines, to work for one of the area’s many apparel companies or to gain entry into one of the top schools in New York, London or Paris.