Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fabric term of the week: Basic weaves

There are various ways to organize fabrics, such as fiber, and their weave or knit. Today, from the VFG Fabric Resource, I am pulling out the three basic weaves: Plain, satin and twill. There are variations (see leno weave and basket weave) but they are based on these three plans.

First this definition:
The interlacing of yarns to create a fabric. Weaving can be done by hand or by machine.

Here are the three basics. Of course, knits are separate and have their own basic patterns. (Click on any highlighted word to see its definition.)

Plain weave 
The most basic, common and important weave, in plain weave each weft yarn passes alternately over and under each warp thread. Tabby weave is synonymous. 

Sharkskin, filament type

Satin weave 
Satin is one of the basic weaves, along with plain and twill. The warp yarns in a satin weave cover the weft yarns as much as possible (less common is the opposite where weft covers warp). This creates a lustrous surface. The pattern is most often 4/1 but can also be 7/1 or 11/1. In these patterns, warp yarns float over weft yarns in numbers of 4 to 1, 7 to 1 and 11 to 1, and the interlacings do not occur in rows, giving the most uninterrupted gloss possible. 
Satin originated in China, and takes its name from Zaytoun, now Guangzhou, in southern China. Fabric called satin was originally and still is made of silk, or may be made of manufactured filament fiber. Satin weave fabric may also be made of cotton. 
See also:

Silk satin

Twill is one of the basic weaves, along with plain and satin. It is characterized by a diagonal rib, and there are a number of variations possible, including right-hand twill, left-hand twill and broken twill
The diagonal wales are formed by the weaving pattern, which varies somewhat but always involves weft yarns crossing two or more warp yarns. In successive rows the weft float will move in position by one warp yarn to the right or the left. The weave is inherently sturdy: Twills have more yarns per square inch than plain weaves. 
A 2/1 twill is called an uneven twill and a warp-face twill, uneven because of the two to one ratio, and warp-face because there will be more warp than weft yarns on the surface. Gabardine is an example. Even more sturdy is a 3/1 twill, because the warp is stronger than the weft. Examples are drill and denim
A 2/2 twill is an even twill, and such a twill shows its diagonal wale equally on its face and its reverse. Wool fabrics such as serge and authentic tartans and district checks are even twills. 
Wool and silk twills have traditionally been woven with their diagonal wales angling up to the right (right-hand twill), while cottons have traditionally angled to the left (left-hand twill)—although there are exceptions. 
Another distinction in the twill weave group is the angle of the twill. The steeper the angle (from a horizontal line), the more warp yarns are employed, and the sturdier the fabric. A 63˚ angle is considered steep, 45˚ is regular, and 23˚ is reclining. This last is relatively rare. 
A broken twill has variations in the regular twill line. A broken twill line that reverses directions at regular intervals is called herringbone.

Worsted wool gabardine
©Vintage Fashion Guild - Text and diagrams by Margaret Wilds/denisebrain,  photos by Hoyt Carter

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Granny Takes a Trip coat

Recently I was fortunate to find a gorgeous coat a long way from its original home. The coat has a label that features, along with a mushroom, Granny Takes a Trip - The World’s End - Chelsea

Granny Takes a Trip was founded in 1965 when a vintage clothing dealer (and at that time, vintage was most likely to be Victorian and Edwardian garb), her artist/designer boyfriend, and a mod tailor, set up shop. 

Sheila Cohen was the clothing collector, Nigel Waymouth the artist, and John Pearse the tailor. Granny Takes a Trip became the hippest boutique on the planet, with vintage clothing and newly fashioned clothes that departed from the mod look. The Granny look was showy, vintage-inspired and rich, using satins and velvets, tapestries and color, color, color. Granny may have started the Peacock Revolution. The shop certainly dressed it. 

I first became aware of the story behind the label from my fascination with the Beatles.

The Beatles wearing Granny Takes a Trip, 1966—The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were early customers
Now I see practically everyone found their way to the King’s Road boutique. 
Jimi Hendrix in Granny

Pink Floyd in Granny

Ossie Clark in Granny
Keith Richards in Granny

The list goes on. This excerpt from a BBC show features some period images of the shop, including Nigel Waymouth playing with a toy car, and the present-day John Pearse:

From a recent postage stamp series commemorating British fashion design icons
George Harrison in the original
The shop’s founding trio went its separate ways in 1969, but the store’s manager brought in the new team of Gene Krell and Marty Breslau who continued to design for high-profile rock clients and other stylish types. It is from this second incarnation that the coat I found dates. 

Here is the coat’s label:, I didn't try licking it! (see video above)

Currently available in the denisebrain web store (image by Margaret Wilds/denisebrain)

(image by Margaret Wilds/denisebrain)

(image by Margaret Wilds/denisebrain)

Apparently this style of paneled velvet coat was something Granny was doing in 1971. Here is a look at the men’s suit version on two gents:

It’s a coat of impressive quality and timelessly cool style. Through Twitter I asked Pamela Des Barres if the coat rang any bells for her, to which she replied:
 ~ Wish I still had mine!

I'm not sure if she had this very style, but it seemed to ring some bells!

One more piece of eye candy:
Granny Takes a Trip leather and metal jacket, Met Museum collection

“One should either be a work of art or wear a work of art” —written over the door to Granny Takes a Trip

For more about this shop and clothing label, I recommend the great VFG Label Resource entry by premierludwig: Granny Takes a Trip; also recommended: Boutique: A ‘60s Cultural Phenomenon by Marnie Fogg.

Many thanks to my colleagues at the Vintage Fashion Guild for the interesting leads and information about the history of this coat, to Liz Eggleston of Vintage-a-Peel for the date when it was made and other useful tidbits, and to Jenny Stabile of Carousel for this and other great vintage items.

Other than my own images and the one from the Met Museum, all the shots above are widely seen online. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fabrics of the week: Tartan and plaid

Dress Gordon tartan kilt, Gordon tartan bagpipe bag
I grew up with a father who was the pipe major of several bagpipe bands (oh yes, I learned the pipes) and I very often heard that no plaid-patterned fabric that wasn’t a genuine tartan should ever be called a tartan. For those of you who didn’t have this drilled into your consciousness at an early age, I offer today’s fabrics of the day, from the VFG Fabric Resource:


Tartan is traditional Scottish right-hand twill weave wool in distinct criss-cross patterns. The pattern is called a sett. Each tartan is tied to a clan, regiment or district of Scotland, and there have gradually been added further officially-recognized tartans, such as those of Canadian provinces and U.S. states. All tartans are registered in Edinburgh, by the Scottish Register of Tartans, maintained by the National Records of Scotland. All tartans are plaids, but no plaids without official recognition should use the name tartan. 
For each clan there may be a number of official tartans, such as dress, hunting and ancient (which use more muted colors—from the days of natural dyes). Originally worn as the belted plaid (long straight shawl belted at the waist), then the pleated, wrapped kilt, tartan has also historically been worn in the form of trousers, or truis. 
The best known tartans are generally thought to be Royal Stewart and Black Watch. 
Now tartans may be made of any fibers, but still are most characteristically wool. 
The origin of the word tartan is thought to come from a combination of the French tiretain (probably derived from tirer, “to pull,” referring to a woven cloth) and the Gaelic breacan, “many colors.” 
Uses: Kilts, plaids and trousers are traditional, also now used for everything from coats to evening wear 
See also:
Plaid (below)
Wool tartan (Buchanan)

Plaid is a pattern of bars and/or lines that criss-cross at right angles. 
The name plaid comes from the traditional Scottish tartan woolen shawl, fastened with a brooch at the shoulder. Confusion arises in regards to its nomenclature since in the U.S. it is the name of a fabric pattern. A plaid without official registration as a tartan should not be called a tartan. 
See also:
District checks
Glen plaid 
Tartan (above)
Plaid taffeta

©Vintage Fashion Guild - Text by Margaret Wilds/denisebrain,  photos by Hoyt Carter

One additional note: I find the House of Tartan Reverse Tartan Search extremely helpful for finding the names of true tartans, such as this one, which I found to be Dress MacDonald.

Detail from a previously sold Pendleton wool jacket
Pendleton 49er jackets can be found in tartans, but this one, currently available in my Etsy shop, is a plaid

Monday, November 19, 2012

Buy local

Note to self: If you really like a store, shop there. If you are happy it is in your neighborhood, make a point of letting the proprietor know you feel that way. Even if you are almost completely broke (as I sometimes am) stop in and make a small purchase when possible.

I am making this note to myself because a pretty little store called Eye Candy Antiques is calling it quits in my neighborhood. I don’t know the proprietress well, but each of the three or four times I was in the shop, Anita was unfailingly helpful, kind and friendly. Her shop was a little jewel box, with her love of pink, girly, sparkly things on full display in beautiful presentations. I don’t know the story behind Eye Candy closing, just that the owner said the economy had been really hard on her business. She said it was her dream to own a store, and her dream is coming to an end.

Some store shots from Eye Candy’s Facebook page:

Now it may seem that as an online vintage clothing dealer I might not care to try to make a case for buying locally, but I consider what I do to be a different worthy thing. I have a small business— is not—and I work hard to make it as a sole proprietor. Small businesses online also are great places to shop, but for now I’m thinking about the small stores in my city, Spokane.

For many shop owners I’ve met here, the store is their Dream Come True—their heart and soul is thoroughly in it. Further, they are tasked with making their rent, paying bills and other brick-and-mortar store realities. They need customers.

But there’s a selfish side to this too: I need to go into a shop and browse. Especially with Christmas coming, I remember very fondly the days when I, as a young girl, would go into shops with my mother, the idea being to find a present for someone in particular. I would let my imagination roam as I looked at things and carefully picked them up and turned them around. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but this was just as good if not better, this non-keyword search. I found a music box that played a tune my father always sang, I found gloves that perfectly matched my mother’s blue eyes. I found books and toys and napkins and jewelry that I had no idea I was looking for until I found them.

I’m pretty certain that Anita is going to make it. She’s got style and talent and passion, and her dream is most likely going to find a new way to take shape. I just wish her lovely little store wasn’t closing. (If you are in Spokane, she is offering 50% off most items right now. The store is located at 3017 North Monroe.)

Now, I just need to make sure I go to the other shops I am glad are open. Here are just a few, with images from the stores’ Facebook pages and websites.

Wonders of the World

Painting by Ric Gendron from Tinman Gallery

Atticus Coffee and Gifts
Boo Radley’s
Auntie’s Bookstore
Tossed and Found
The Chocolate Apothecary

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Fabric term of the week: Manufactured fiber

Many people want to know when fabrics were first available, especially those that were newly created in the 20th century.

I used quite a few sources to come up with these dates, and found there is some discrepancy, but I believe it should help with dating items.

For more specific information about the history of each of the manufactured fibers, including the date of invention, go to each of the fabrics by name.

Manufactured fiber 

Formerly known as man-made fiber, manufactured fiber is defined as “any fiber derived by a process of manufacture from any substance which, at any point in the manufacturing process, is not a fiber.” (Textile Fiber Products Identification Act, 1960) 
Manufactured fibers include those regenerated from natural materials, synthetic fibers and inorganic fibers. 
Regenerated fibers include those based on cellulose (rayon, acetate, triacetate) and protein-based fibers (azlon). 
Synthetics include acrylic, modacrylic, nylon, olefin, polyester, spandex and vinyon
Inorganic fibers include ceramic, glass and metallic fibers.  

Timeline of first commercial use of manufactured fibers 
1905 rayon in the U.K.
1910 rayon in the U.S.
1918 acetate in the U.K. (called celanese)
1924 acetate in the U.S. (trademarked Celanese)
1939 nylon
1939 vinyon
1950 acrylic
1953 polyester
1953 acetate and rayon given separate groupings by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission
1954 triacetate
Late 50s Modal
1959 Spandex
1961 Olefin
1993 Lyocell

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Fabric of the week: Bouclé

It’s getting cold here, time for a cozy fabric like bouclé, with its small loops that insulate, as well as decorate. This comes from VFG Fabric Resource.


Characterized by loops on one or both sides, bouclé comes from the French word for “buckled,” “ringed” or “curled.” Some versions of the fabric combine looped sections with plain; others are looped all over. Most commonly wool—with mohair a fine choice for this treatment—bouclé may also be acrylic or other fibers. It may be woven or knitted. 
Uses: Coats, suits, sweaters 
See also:
Bouclette Poodle clothRatinéTerry cloth

Woven mohair bouclé
Wool knit bouclé
Bouclé and plain yarns
©Vintage Fashion Guild - Text by Margaret Wilds/denisebrain,  photos by Hoyt Carter
Right now I have a number of items made with bouclé yarns, including this red coat:
Classic woven bouclé, the loops seen all over the surface

The bouclé yarn in stripes
Wool bouclé knit

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Star gazing

Ready to shine at holiday parties? Visit my November theme and latest Pinterest board for inspiration.

{Click to view, sound up}