Fabric of the Month: Linen

One of the original natural fabrics. Linen comes from flax – from the Linum genus native to the middle East. To turn flax into linen, the stalks must be threshed, retted, broken, scotched, hackled, carded and spun.

HOW TO USE:

Linen is best on loose-fitting, simple, boxy garments.  As a natural fiber, it should be preshrunk before cutting.  Wash gentle, hang dry to limit wrinkling.  Zigzag (SL 3.0; SW 3.0) the cut edges before washing.

It can fray.  So either cut it with pinking shears or zigzag the edges (SL 3.0; SW 3.0) right after cutting.

Wrinkles are part of the linen’s beauty.  To limit them, spray garments with sizing or Grandma’s Wrinkle Remover (available at PFI supply).  Hang garments where they won’t get smashed.  Hanging them in a steamy bathroom before and after wearing also releases wrinkles.


BACKGROUND

Linen may be the oldest natural fiber.  Fabrics dating to about 8000 BC have been found in Swiss lake dwellings. Dyed flax fibers found in a prehistoric cave in Georgia suggest the use of woven linen fabrics from wild flax may date back even earlier to 36,000 BC.

Linen was sometimes used as a form of currency in ancient Egypt. Egyptian mummies were wrapped in linen as a symbol of light and purity and as a display of wealth. Some of these fabrics, woven from hand-spun yarns, were very fine for their day, but are coarse compared to modern linen.

Linen comes in a variety of weights and can be used for such items as handkerchiefs to heavy suitings.

It is cool and comfortable to wear in warm climates. It absorbs moisture easily but dries quickly. It is lint free, averse to static electricity, resists clothes moths and harsh chemicals in laundry detergent. It can be damaged by silverfish and mildew.

Linen is notorious for wrinkling, even when treated with a wrinkle-resistant finish. As a natural fiber, linen shrinks so it should be washed before cutting. It also frays badly so edges should be stitched, preferably with a zigzag stitch (SL 3.0; SW 3.0) before washing.

When laundered, linen loses some of its crispness and surface luster. Some linen is so loosely woven that it loses it shape when washed so test a 3″x3″ square before laundering yardage. That’s why some linen garments are dry clean only.

Iron from the wrong side. It can get shiny when pressed on the right side without a press cloth. A good trick is to hang the garment in a steamy bathroom. Ultimately, embrace the wrinkles as part of linen’s natural look and use it only for looser garments.

Can you dye linen? Yes. But it does not dye as easily as cotton. Darker colors “crock” easily (the color rubs off) and fades at fold lines and edges. So hang garments flat and don’t crowd.

Linen garments keep their shape well but have poor elasticity. They shed surface dirt, resist stains and sun damage but they yellow with age. They are strong when dry and stronger when wet. That’s why 3rd Dynasty Egyptians under the reign of Pharaoh Snefru could use them as clothes one minute and a fishing net in the next.

 

Can fashion be sustainable?

Why is sustainable fashion on everyone’s minds now? That’s because fashion has a massive environmental cost.
– It is one of the largest polluters and consumers of fresh water. One pound of cotton consumes 1,320 gallons. That means 650 gallons for one new cotton t-shirt.
– It can take 200 years for a polyester garment to decompose.
– Fashion is responsible for about 5% to 10% of all human-caused carbon in the world.
– The amount of clothing in landfills is more than four times what it was in 1980.

Blame it on fast fashion. That is, getting trendy clothes out to customers as fast as possible and priced low enough to encourage overconsumption. The average person:
– In 1990, bought 40 garments per year. Today, 66 garments per year.

– Throws out 70 lbs of clothes/year to make room for new fast fashion.
– Most consumers admit to a closet full of clothes that they don’t really like or want to wear.

But the cost is also cultural.

We’ve raised a generation of consumers who struggle to recognize quality clothing; who lack basic mending and repairing skills and have lost touch with their clothes, where they come from, how they’re made and why it matters.

So what can you do? Here are some tips to help you pursue your fashion dreams, sustainably:

  • Educate yourself. Learn the elements of good design.
  • Look for brands that produce garments using less water, fewer toxic dyes, fewer chemicals and fewer nonrenewables like virgin polyester.
  • Cherish garments you love and make them to fit you.
  • Go slow. Make choices carefully. Build a functioning wardrobe of clothes that you love.
  • Buy secondhand clothes and make them suit you. Make locally; buy locally.
  • Learn to sew & repair. Wear clothes 9 months longer & reduce your carbon footprint for that garment by 30%.
  • Read “Overdressed: the shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” by Elizabeth Cline
  • Support local upcyclers like Looptworks

Trend Watch: 6 Sizzling Colors for Summer

Yes, we live in the Northwest where black, grey and neutrals reign supreme. Just for fun, let’s brighten our day with a pop of color — especially when it feels warm enough to wear them.
You’ve seen these colors on the runway. You’ll see them in our fabric store, PFI Supply. We bet, with some searching, you might find them in your closet. With a little “Fix & Fit”, wear them again and get ready to go viral.

Electric Yellow
Ever since Nike introduced the color Volt in 2016, we’ve been on the edge of a neon wave. So bring on the sunshine. Rita Dress, pattern #5181

Lime Green
Brighter than florals but more subdued than neon. Let’s try this one for picnics and garden parties. Gilda Dress, pattern #5183

Cayenne Red
Nothing says Summer more than red. Cayenne was spotted all over the runways. Wear it as a dress or as a blouse for a pop. Menjou Dress, pattern #5184

Bright Blue
Bright blues are making major waves. Use it for a dress, a jacket or pair it with denim and go all-blue. Donna Dress, pattern #5141

Hot Pink
Anything that reminds you of bubblegum is what you should choose. Try a comfortable and flattering slip dress during the day with kicky boots or in the evening with a strappy sandal. Georgia Taylor, OverallyAwesome

Painterly Prints
Take the opposite route of a solid color and go for a print that includes elements of the trendy brights. Yes, it can rain in Summer here. Warhol Trench, pattern #3510

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More than 100 persons attend PFI’s 9th Anniversary Open House

The Portland Fashion Institute just bought a new building in the Hollywood District, where designers and aspiring designers can buy supplies for their creations. Cassidy Quinn got a lesson in Batik dyeing from textile artist Tricia Langman.  See Cassidy’s visit here.

Great piece in the Portland Tribune: “Faced with a fast-growing enrollment and lack of room at Portland Fashion Institute, Sharon K. Blair is growing and expanding her business in NE Portland with the purchase of a building next door. Her school offers three certificate programs — apparel design, apparel technical development and apparel entrepreneurship and it only uses teachers who work in the fashion industry.”

Sources for Eco-Fabrics

Q. Do you have any tips on how to source existing fabric? I’d like to order more but no longer have the info about the fabric. Do you have organic cotton sources? — Heather

A.  Most all of our sources are wholesale.  If you can buy wholesale amounts (12+ yards), you’ll get a better price on these expensive fabrics.  Most will ask you to register and make a minimum purchase initially, yearly and each time both in dollars and yardage.

You know our favorite source for organic knits:  Pickering.  Birch Fabrics also carries organic cotton.  You might also try the following.  I’ve had good luck with all.

— Bamboo Fabric Store
— Jasco fabrics
— NearSea Naturals (Organic Cotton Plus)
— Spiritex Organic Fabric
— Wazoodle Fabrics

 

 

Fabric purchasing advice

Hi Sharon,

I’m in the final prototyping stage of my tank tops in a slubby lightweight organic french terry. I have one more roll of this material, with 50 yards on it. I am in search of a slightly softer fabric and am ordering sample yardage from Pickering. That said, if the fabric I order is more luxurious feeling (also more expensive), should I go ahead and sew up the 100 tanks I can get out of my current supply and sell them at a discounted price to my loyal fans, or should I hold off and wait until I get the new fabric – which could take longer (and I’m stuck with 50 yards of french terry). My fabric has a very natural organic feel to it, and when paired with the modern minimalist cut of the tank has a cool style.

I really appreciate your perspective and advice on this. – Heather T

Hi Heather — You likely have already made a decision but I always go with the original sample. That’s what people used for their buying decision. That would mean staying with your original fabric. The Pickering fabric is just speculation. You may not like it after all. It may be more expensive for your profit margin. If you do like it and order it then great, you have next season’s garments.

Hope that helps — S//PFI

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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