You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear

Sample room Fabric choices

This week we met with a lovely lady, Jessica who is a fabric agent for a range or amazing men’s suiting fabrics. These fabrics are some of the finest in the world famed for dressing the likes of Prince Charles. As a long time fabric collector just touching these supper fine wool and silk/linen fabrics made my go all gooey inside. At $300 a meter it is not something I am likely to work with on a regular basis.

Jessica had contacted Sample Room ( to have some items made for her to wear to show customers how these fabrics can not only be used in $4000 suits, but also in women’s wear. We are using patterns from the Pattern Room ( These patterns have been perfected over a number of fitting session with professional house models and re-sampled till they are perfect, so they are ready for immediate use. Perfect for the styles Jessica needs.

Jessica is new to the rag trade and whilst she can obviously see the quality and value in such fabrics and is passionate about selling them, choosing styles to create for herself was a little harder than she originally thought. We had discussed the style she was looking for and the conversation quickly turned to what fabrics were appropriate for what styles.

I have been sewing since I was 10yrs old and have been pattern making for 20yrs so I often forget the knowledge built up of many years of experimenting with fabrics as well as fit. Many mistakes have been made in the pursuit to understand what I now know.

We have been working in the background on a range of men’s patterns for Pattern Room. It has become very obvious (and we have a little sarcastic chuckle at times) that men’s wear is designed for comfort and women’s wear is designed for looks. When we fit a women’s pattern we require a smooth fabric surface everywhere (armholes, crotch, back) when they are standing straight with their arms relaxed at their side. For men it is the opposite. Men’s pattern making and fitting requires that they can sit with their legs spread and their arms out at an almost 90 angle and there is no restriction in movement. To fit a men’s garment like a women’s garment will result in a very feminine look.

The fabrics that Jessica had bought to us whilst beautiful are designed for this relaxed styling. She had garments made previously where this had not been taken into consideration so inner leg seams had split as well as upper arms. The styling of the garments was quite fitted, as women’s wear often is, which did not suit the fabric. Women’s wear has benefitted greatly from the introduction of Lycra so we are able to slim down sleeves and created fitted pants whilst not compromising the look and durability of the garment. Looser styling must be considered to use these fine wools so that the garments utilise the drape and fabric weight. A little bit hard to comprehend if you are used to a youthful fitted pant and slim fitted jacket.

Which leads me the subject of this blog- not all fabrics can be used for all garments. This might be a fairly obvious comment but I am amazed how many people come to see us with a drawing on slip of paper without any idea what fabric will be used. Apart from the fact that fabrics are not easy to find, the fabric choice is integral to the styling of the pattern and the finish of the garment. I tell everyone, we can pattern make whatever you have designed but fabric is a limited commodity. Let the fabric you have found inspire your range and it won’t hold up the development process. Equally it is impossible for any maker, no matter how experienced they are, to make cheap fabric look like a quality finished product. We understand if you are a designer that does not have this knowledge, the smartest thing you can do for you and your range is to choose your fabrics first, show them to your pattern maker and ask for their advice, will this give you the look/finish you are looking for, will there be any make/finishing issue if you use this fabric, will different fabrics I you have chosen work together? A good patternmaker that also sews is a fantastic resource to benefit from. The knowledge they have built up is part of the cost you are paying for (using student pattern makers to save costs is another blog altogether). Seek this skill in your pattern maker and your range will benefit greatly for it. Come along and pick our brains any time. We would love to help you out.

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