The end of the year is a perfect time to set aside an hour some evening, grab a pot of hot tea, and go through your fabric stash to identify the fiber content of any unknown pieces. Here to assist is the Fabric Burn Test. Grab a holiday candle or a lighter (matches smell of sulfur), a fireproof plate (such as glass or china) and swatches from your fabric stash, and get ready to play domestic scientist! You will need to carefully observe the following; how fast is the fabric burning, what does it smell like, is there a bead or after-flame, and what sort of ash is left behind? Keep the following in mind: burn actual fabric, as the selvedge edge may not be the same fiber as the main piece of cloth and could give a false content reading. Always hold your swatch with metal tweezers, not your delicate fingers. Hold the swatch over water before setting it on fire. Do not sniff burnt fiber until the smoke dissipates. Do not touch the fabric until bead cools. All synthetic fibers should be considered to be a serious drip danger and fume hazard. If you suffer a burn, submerge you skin in ice water immediately. A burn test may not distinguish between cotton and other cellulose fibers, some fabric may have finishes that affect burn results, and weighted silk (with added chemicals) may react more like synthetic fiber.
Acetate: burns quickly, sparking and sputtering. Melts into very hot bead with burning drip danger. The odor is very much like vinegar or burning pepper. No ash. There is black smoke. Fume hazard!
Cotton: Burns very quickly with a large yellow flame. The fire will creep along the threads. The odor is like burning paper. The ash is brown grey, feathery and floats away. There is grey or white smoke.
Linen: Burns slower than cotton. The odor is similar to paper or burning wood. The ash will be dark grey and can be heavier than cotton due to thicker yarn.
Nylon: Will melt , shrink or fuse to itself. Nylon smells like beans, celery or burning string. There are hard glassy beads that cannot be crushed, and hot drip danger. Fume hazard!
Polyester: Quick burning, shrinks away from flame and may flare. Forms a round hard bead. No ash. A slightly sweet chemical odor, and black smoke. Fume hazard!
Rayon: This fiber will burn very quickly with no flame and no melting. The smell of burning rayon is similar to paper or rags. There will be little ash; it will be powdery and blacker than cotton.
Silk: Will burn slowly, the burning stops if withdrawn from the flame. The odor is like burned hair or charred meat. The residue will form round hard beads which are easily crushed. There is little smoke.
Wool/cashmere/mohair/alpaca: Has a smaller slower flame and will not flare. Wool will sizzle and curl. The odor is like burnt hair or feathers. Ash will be crisp and dark. It will crumble if crushed. There is dark smoke and moderate fume.
Noelle from LuckyKitty designed these modern holiday transfer embroidery designs. Drawn with graceful lines, the sweet bird, holly leaves, stars, and ornaments are simple enough to be a quick project. They would be lovely hand-sewn onto a ready-made stockings, baby bibs, napkins, or even potholders!
It is glove weather, and I have spent more time than not with my hands shoved into my pockets in a vain effort to keep them warm and coddled. A pair of soft leather gloves in espresso brown with contrasting crimson stitching may be just the thing to wear this winter to keep your fingers toasty. The generous folks at VintageSewing have posted the pages from 1950—How to Make Gloves by Eunice Close. Directions include everything you’ll need to fashion gloves including how to measure your hand, linings, design, inserting a handy zip and more.
Anything that uses 12 long yards of pom-poms has my vote as a mandatory and jocular home decorating accessory! Susan from Living with Punks created a wiggly pom-pom pillow, and then graciously made a tutorial so we could all make one. Pom-poms lend soft texture, brilliant color and swaying motion to this pillow. And of course Britex has pom-pom trim in scads of colors, including growl-tastic animal print pom-poms.
These miniature, felt, hand-sewn Matryoshkas or Russian nesting dolls would make delightful holiday ornaments, gift package additions, or ever-so-cute zipper pull decorations! April from SewToSpeak crafted a free tutorial and PDF pattern on how to make them. They would make an ideal group craft project!
Don’t let sartorial dejection impede success! Sock garters are for everyone, not just kilt-wearers! Haley of wildwoodflwrv posted this easy-peasy tutorial on how to make sock suspenders. Make them in several colors and coordinate with your suit trousers! Sock garters add a hidden suave finishing touch to any attire.
Jim, the senior researcher at The Sewing Academy has posted numerous tutorials on tailoring reproduction historical garments. This set of photographed instructions documents the steps he took to sew a stunning silk brocade formal vest, from painstakingly making welted pockets, working with hair canvas and batting to give the garment body, attaching the collar, and bagging the lining. The Sewing Academy is E. S. Clark’s on-going living history project (1840 to 1865), and contains an online trove of information for seamstresses who are interested in historical clothing construction. Many of these construction techniques are also applicable to sewing modern garments, and we are proponents of the beauty and sturdiness hand-finishing.
Tiffany from Simply Modern Mom designed this free tutorial for a child’s side buttoned pleated skirt for SewMamaSew. This skirt is so simple that it doesn’t even require a pattern….just the ability to make basic pleats. This would be classically adorable in one of our vibrant tartan plaids, or in retro pet-able in ribbed corduroy. Perhaps you could even sew complimentary mother-daughter holiday skirts!
We love Queen Anne’s lace or bird’s nest for its delicate shape. This plant gets its name from the laciness of the white flower, with the red flower in the center representing a drop of Queen Anne’s blood from a tatting slip when making the lace. It is unclear whether it was Anne (1574 – 1619), the first Stuart Queen Anne, who was brought over from Denmark at fourteen years of age to be a Queen to King James of Scotland, or Anne (1665 – 1714), the daughter of William and Mary, and the last monarch in the Stuart line. Alicia of RosyLittleThings gives us a charming free transfer of graceful sprigs of Queen Anne’s lace, and suggests embroidering them upon the edge of a pillowcase. This would add a touch of summer meadow to any winter bed linen set.
Fionnuala at Basil Exposition present a tutorial for a customizable, easy–to-sew roll-up knitting needle case in a valiant effort to keep pairs of needles together, to avoid last minute scrambling for an errant needle. This project uses less than one yard of fabric, and would make a delightful gift for your favorite Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle or Madame Defarge.