P1003 & P1004: Hi-tech Fabric

I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but in the last decade of so fabric technology appears to have developed in leaps and bounds. These days there are all kinds of sports-related garments with hi-tech fabrics spruiking various benefits, from the moisture-wicking quick-dry standard gym fare we probably all have, to compression undergarments designed to decrease muscle fatigue and aid in recovery. Or just suck in your gut, like spanx.

Mr poppykettle competing in the Shepparton Half Iron Man, 2012

Mr poppykettle competing in the Shepparton Half Iron Man, 2012

Open any of the cupboards at chez poppykettle and you will find all these things and more – and not just because I enjoy a bit of gut-sucking-in action, but because Mr poppykettle’s hobby is competeing in triathalons and IronMan competitions (he even has a wet-suit that purports to increase buoyancy by up to 40%, thus allowing you to ‘save’ your legs for the ride and run segments). The pictures above and below are him during his first and second 70.3‘s. A little gloating if you don’t mind – he completed last years competition (a 1.9km/1.2mile swim, 90km/56mile bike ride and then a half marathon – 21km/13.1mile run) in 4 hours and 22 minutes – just missing out on a podium finish by coming 4th in his age group, and 41st overall out of nearly 1400 competitors. Proud much? Just a bit! Unfortunately due to a stress fracture injury he’s had to pull out of his events this year, but still.

2011 Half IronMan

2011 Shepparton 70.3/Half IronMan

For me though, fabric technology began back in 1935 with the creation of Nylon. Like most fabric developments since its time, it was originally a military innovation. The thermoplastic polymers that make up nylon give it a ‘silky’ and smooth texture, and Nylon was designed as a replacement for silk which was scarce following the end of WWII. Likewise, viscose rayon, polyester and other synthetic fibres were also designed to mimic their natural counterparts.

Image via allposters.com

Image via allposters.com

Side tracking yet again – Nylon was first used for fishing line and toothbrush bristles – but ask anyone what you associate with Nylon and undoubtably the answer will be stockings! The original stockings made from Nylon were so strong and durable that they could be used to tow a trailer behind a car. In my world, that is just pure awesome. They were obviously a big hit with women as no longer did our fore-sisters have to worry about runs and holes appearing. Of course, this also meant that manufacturer’s weren’t selling as many units, because Nylon stockings lasted so much longer than their predecessors made from silk, wool and cotton. Big Industry sent their engineers back to the drawing board to decrease the life of nylon stockings – and so this product became the second documented instance of the manufacturing phenomenon called ‘planned obsolescence‘ – where products are engineered to fail. (The first was the humble incandescent globe – check out this info on the Pheobus Cartel if you’re up for a bit of conspiracy theory).

So the next time your $14 pair of Levante‘s ladder, tear or rip – you’ll know who to curse. Your friendly neighbourhood engineer.


But marketing of fibres has of course moved on from stockings to sports fabrics that combine the technologies developed in the 20th century, and now it’s the turn of the high end stuff to get the high-tech treatment. ZZegna (the younger, more fashion-forward brother to Ermenegildo Zegna) has been including some pretty cool fibre innovations in his collections, like Microsphere – with which you can wipe off those pesky wine and mustard stains at the swipe of a damp cloth. Giotto New-Gen (an Aussie brand) have applied the slip slop slap mentality to their fabrics, launching Cold Black – a “special finishing technology for textiles which reduces heat build up and provides reliable protection from UV rays”. Presumably this will make wearing your favourite tux on a warm summers evening feel like you’re really just wearing a seersucker suit.

Or this rain jacket from ZZegna‘s Autumn 2013 Menswear collection which sports rubber bonded onto wool garbadine to keep your beau warm and dry:

via style.com

via style.com

Then you’ve got the flip side of fibre technology mixing with recycling – Sax Altman makes chino’s (Repreve) from cotton interwoven with recycled plastic bottle polymer strands; although this would help offset the rising cost of cotton I doubt you’d end up saving much. You’ve also got fashion houses like Martin Margiela perhaps taking the fabric/recycling cross over to the extreme – with this jacket made from recycled polyethylene garbage bags:

Many thanks to the article bty David Waters in the Qantas magazine for bringing these designs and fabulous fibres to my attention. But really, there hasn’t been to the best of my knowledge any new commercially significant developments in fabric since nylon, lycra and maybe kevlar. Actually, one day I’d really like to sew something out of kevlar. A wicked-ass biker jacket would be totally appropos made from kevlar! What we’re seeing here in sports gear and rubber rain jackets isn’t actually new, it’s just taking already existing technologies and combining them together to get the next evolution. Kinda like mixing chocolate, caramel and salt (all equally delicious in their own right) to get the mouthwatering creation of salted chocolate caramel. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts?

via mushitza

via mushitza

…. Sorry, I got distracted thinking about salted chocolate caramel for a minute there.

But I’m here today to talk about sports fabrics. Because these innovations have trickled their way down into our fabric stores and even though I don’t spend upwards of 25 hours a week training like my beau, I’m not a complete couch potato either (well… maybe sometimes) – I’m in the market to make some gym clothes – I’m sure I can’t be the only one suffering with ill-fitting sports gear?

I’ve got my eyes on New Zealand’s Papercut Patterns: the Ooh La Leggings and the Undercover Hood.


I’ve been looking high and low (not really, just googling from the comfort of my couch) for some high tech fabric I can get my hands on to make the leggings with, ending up with some 80% Nylon 20% Lycra black and turquoise fabric that looks and feels identical to the fabric my current Nike gym pants are made from, and some pink, grey and black striped unknown fabric with good recovery from a mystery bolt at Trimmings and Remnants.


And some gorgeous textured blue merino wool/lycra blend from New Zealand Merino and Fabrics for the hoodie:

wool lycra blend fabric

Because hey, you can fiddle with fibre as much as you like but as far as I’m concerned, wool will always be the ultimate in high performance – and you don’t need a lab to create it. It’s renewable too! Keeps you cool in summer, warm in winter, sheds water to a degree (even if you do end up smelling like a wet dog) and most importantly to me – is breathable.

Turn of Cloth and a WIP


Its been a little quiet on the sewing front here recently… but that’s soon to change. I’ve been working away at turning the disaster that was McCalls 4993 into something I’d actually like to wear, and in the process had the chance to try a few new sewing things!

I’ve read about the impact of turn of cloth many times, but I’ve only come across a pattern that actually accounts for it once (Vogue 8333, which has a separate upper and lower collar piece). When I sewed up my first Marfy pattern – F2465 – I was sort of expecting to see the facing pattern pieces be slightly smaller than the outside pattern pieces, having read much about their superior drafting.

F2465 Marfy Top 22
Seam line on the fold of Marfy 2645

This was not the case, and whilst I suppose it could be considered a personal preference on whether or not the seam lines sit along the fold, or are sneakily hidden underneath, I’d prefer them to be hidden from view.

So with my current Work-In-Progress, I’ve ‘drafted’ (sheesh, that makes it sound like something really difficult!) a facing pattern piece for the dress strap, which is slightly smaller than the actual strap pattern piece – by 4mm. That 4mm then got added back onto the strap piece that will be on show, so it will still end up being roughly the same size. I say roughly because my fabric is thin and drapey – the thicker your fabric, the more allowance for turn of cloth is required.

The ‘under strap’ pattern piece sitting on top of the ‘over strap’

It makes it a wee bit more challenging to iron before turning out (yep, I’m still a pressinatrix), but by such a marginal amount I can’t even believe I’ve just written a whole sentence about it.

If you’d like more info on determining how much to allow for different types of fabric, then there’s a really good Threads article on this topic here. Otherwise, I’ll leave you to go about your business :)

Epic Stash Enrichment Outing

fabric haul

I hadn’t bought fabric since the start of October last year, people. And like all diets of the strictest kind, you’re likely to break your rules at some point and binge on the very thing you sought to restrict.

That breaking point for me was on Saturday just gone past – with 11 of my favourite sewing enthusiasts, Social Sewing went on the road! We had visitors from multiple states – Suzy (SuzyBeeSews) from South Australia, Amanda (Bimble and Pimble) from the ACT and Kirsty (RocketSews) from Tasmania. There’s already evidence floating around that the Sydney Sewing Girls had their own massive fabric binge on the very same day – good minds eh! Our day started early, and we covered 8 shops and trekked all over Melbourne stopping for lunch somewhere in the middle and then topping it off with dinner at Rockwell & Sons (the restaurant co-owned by Belle’s (Bella’s Collectanea) husband. I skipped out on that though as I had a hot-date with my beau.

Thankfully I had plenty of advance notice this fabric shopping expedition of most epic proportions, so by extension I had ample chance to strengthen my fabric-grabbing reflexes. I think I did myself proud. The other ladies did too – Lara (Thornberry) walked out of one fabric shop with a whopping FOUR BAGS of fabric! And check out the boot of 1 of the three cars it took to get us all around town here.

Shall we look what came home with me?

Some floral/lace printed knit (not pictured) and minty green marle knit from the remnant bin at Rathdowne Remnants, destined to be a Papercut Undercover Hood for winter this year:

Mint Marle knit from Rathdown Remnants

Some super-sturdy and strong silk twill in a pinky red (I thought it was some really soft cotton twill when I picked it up!) from The Fabric Store (50% off, whooo!) which will hopefully become some Patrones shorts before the end of summer (thanks to the Curious Kiwi for posting about this issue so I could ‘discover’ this pattern!):

Silk Twill from The Fabric Store

Also from The Fabric Store, some oyster coloured silk satin for lining, plus some delicious baby blue silk/cotton voile bought specifically to underline the eyelet fabric on the right (bought previously) to become a Mad Men/potential SewcieTea dress:

Oyster Silk Satin and Duck Egg silk cotton voile from The Fabric Store

LIBERTY! We all love liberty. This is a bit unusual in that it’s a little warm, fuzzy and certainly not lightweight – it’s almost flannelette like. I lurve the colours and I scored some bright red silk habutai to line it with – no pattern ideas as yet, but definitely a autumnal dress (both from The Cloth Shop):

Liberty Love and Red Habutai from The Cloth Shop

And finally fabric-wise – my ultimate score for the day – some painted and embroidered silk dupion, also from The Cloth Shop. A long time friend is getting married at the end of the year, so I’m thinking of whipping this up for that. The print is giant, so it will need to be a fairly simple dress pattern to let the fabric shine. A big circle skirt and a crinoline are floating around in my imagination…

Embroidered Silk Dupion The Cloth Shop

I also had a rather exciting moment, because I finally found a shop that sells petersham ribbon – The Button Shop. And it’s within walking distance from my house – gah! I’ve been looking everywhere online and found nothing (Ribbons Galore used to sell them but have stopped stocking it) – of course, it was right under my nose to begin with. So I bought quite a bit of that, plus some simple and small mother of pearl buttons to be put on a button up shirt (there’s also some lace trim from the Alannah Hill Outlet in Brunswick in there):

petersham ribbon The Button Shop

Everyone’s been asking me… so how many meters does that add to your stash, Mel? Well, unfortunately for me the number don’t lie. Looks like I’m back on that fabric diet (until New York and Baltimore in September) if I’m EVER going to get down to 50m:

Stash total prior to Saturday = 79.8m 
New additions to stash = 18.7m
Current stash total = 98.5m

Le sigh. Anyway, here’s a sneak peak of what’s currently being sewn up!

sneak peak

2013: The year of practical sewing to be

I hereby pledge that 2013 will be the year of practical sewing. 

Should I sense a desire to deviate from the straight and narrow I shall turn to Pinterest to scratch my itch until I am once again sated of the need to sew pretty things with limited useful wearing opportunities. 

Resistance against non-every-day fabrics like luscious floating silks and delicate laces will not be futile.

Should my resolve begin to waiver, I will look to the mantlepiece to gaze upon likenesses of the doyennes of practical sewing – Suzy from SuzyBeeSews, Shams from Communing with Fabric and Dixie from DixieDIY, shrouded as they may be through the gentle waft of incense. Reminded I will be of my practical sewing pledge.

Got the picture? This is what will be on my 2013 radar:

The jacket from my Vogue suit is to date my most worn self-made item. The skirt is popular for work-wear too, and so another is in the wings waiting for its time to shine. The siren song of this pleated waist Marfy blazer/dress combo sitting patiently in my pattern stash is getting harder and harder to resist:

2013 also will be the year of the work shirt. Buttons, plackets, collars and cuffs. Oh yes! This ties in nicely to my personal pledge to complete at least one of the five Craftsy courses I own – I’ve yet to do a single blasted one, and I’m still tempted to buy more!

I’m mostly inspired by my favourite shirt maker – Cubec. A hole-in-the-wall outfitter selling all things suit and shirt related – hella glamorous. Mr poppykettle and I both have some of their stuff – it’s not cheap, but it’s made in Melbourne and the fabrics are out-of-this-world awesome (The shirt I’m wearing in these pictures with my Vogue Suit is from them). Goodnuff reason for me.

Cubec Shirt, via the Cubec Facebook Page

Haveth StephC‘s pants block, will perfecteth pants. My attempts to date have been woefully short of the mark – this garment type will be licked whether it likes it or not.

I love shorts. Short ones. I have two planned for this summer, one of which is already well under way. Yay!

If it’s made of something that stretches and can be worn with jeans on the weekend, then all the better. 

Yes – I will be turning my sights to Mr poppykettle. Where once lay suspicion and a dubious attitude on his behalf now sits acceptance and dare I say it – even enthusiasm. We’ll see how long that lasts, shall we?

Either there will be plenty of tailoring action come winter time, or maybe some men’s jeans action instead. Some inspiration via my For Him Pinterest board:

I would never have thought dresses would make it to this list… But this summer I’ve been converted. The last 6 months of sewing have shown me just how fabulous, easy and low-fuss dresses can be, and I’m finding myself reaching for the dresses in my wardrobe before my jeans. That’s totally like blasphemy to the old me.

Ok, here’s the fine print….
And I’m giving myself space to make one non-everyday dress. Only because a lamington crayfish painted on silk organza will soon be arriving in my postbox… and there’s an occasion to wear just such a dress up and coming!

via Sewing Cake‘s Etsy Shop

The most important to me – I want to use each garment I sew to hone my skills and improve upon the last thing I made – whether that be fit or technique. I’ll be doing two of Susan Khalje’s couture sewing school courses in September/October this year and I’m desperately looking forward to making a Chanel-style Jacket. I’ve yet to decide on the second couture project…

Oh yes. We’ve done the tally – I have 82.6m of fabric. For the metrically challenged – that’s exactly 90 yards. Nine times out of ten I buy fabric with a particular project in mind – so there are a lot of unborn ideas sitting in my cupboard waiting to materialise. I’m going to do everything in my power to use what I have and get that down to 50m by 2013 end.

How about some more fine print? The disclaimer on that is I’m not including fabric I buy whilst overseas. You know, once in a lifetime opportunity and what not.

What’s on your radar?

Class of 2012

Ack. End of the year already? I’ve been doing a stash and pattern stocktake to try and document what I have so I actually know what I have. And whilst I was at it, I thought I’d share who (or more appropriately – ‘what’) rose to the top of the class, and who just didn’t make the grade.

Patterns Owned vs Items Made
Dresses 37 vs 5
Tops 13 vs 8
Blazers/Jackets 5 vs 2
Coats 5 vs 1
Skirts 8 vs 5
Pants 4 vs 2
Shorts 3 vs 1
Other Patterns 17 vs 0

A total of 24 garments vs 92 patterns – numbers befitting a prolific pattern purchaser rather than the prolific sewist I thought I was! 

After tallying my patterns, I did a fabric stocktake. I now have a spreadsheet with every single piece of fabric I own, it’s dimensions and fibre details – which totals 82.6m of fabric, not including scraps and calico. It will be my goal in 2013 to get this as close to 50m as possible! As I was counting and measuring – I noticed something very interesting. The fabric I sew with is the fabric I buy in a physical shop, where I’ve had the tactile experience before purchasing. Nearly all the fabric I’ve got left over is from online shopping. Whilst the majority of the fabric I buy is bought with a pattern in mind, it would seem my online purchases are taking longer to materialise into finished garments. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on this realisation!

But firstly lets look at the sewing Class of 2013:

THE DUX: V8739
Also known as – The Vogue Suit. Specifically – the jacket. Sure, the matching skirt gets a fair bit of wear too, but I find myself reaching for that jacket without even really thinking whether it be for the office or weekends in jeans. The wool is soft and malleable, the colour suits almost everything I own, and I just find the design generally very flattering on me. I’m tempted to make it again this coming winter just because of that… but I’m not sure on that yet.

V8739 and V8543 9

The Appropriately Floral Peony. I’ve worn this so much recently that I should probably introduce some kind of regulation around wearing vs washing. Meh. This dress rocks. 


My Baby It’s Cold Outside Coat would easily come third in this most-worn-during-2012 contest. The reasons are obvious enough that I won’t state them here. Those curved welt pockets nearly did get the better of me though – if only I had seen Sham’s tutorial on them before I started out!


Happy to go about its everyday business without much in the way of accolades, we have the loversandhaters tee. Worn excessively all throughout my South America travels, and pulled out regularly since. It’s been around and it knows exactly what went down.

NL6735 4

THE SURVIVOR: Pattern Runway’s Sweet Shorts
Named thus mainly because I spent the entire 6 days in the Galapagos puking my guts up as well as wearing these shorts. Like Amy Blunt said – “I’m just one stomach flu away from my ideal weight”. Surely it’s perverse that I’m looking at that photo and admiring how flat my stomach is. Maybe one day I’ll be free of the pressure to confirm to societies ideal, but I’m not there yet. Baby steps people, baby steps. 


So what didn’t work, and why? Two things pop into mind – the first being my Caramel Slice Marfy. Don’t get me wrong, I love this top. But I chose the wrong fabric for it – IRL the crumple-factor and general stiffness of the stretch cotton I used doesn’t suit it. Gah. To rub salt in the wounds, it even photographs beautifully. Shame, because I really love the fagotting and pleats at the front!

F2465 Marfy Top 26

The second miss is my Crewel drop Vintage Top. I’m entirely to blame here – a lesson learning in making sure you stay-stitch curved edges so they don’t stretch out. You can kinda see it just above the stitching – but the angle in this photo distorts it a little (for the better). Probably doesn’t look like much, but it’s permanently in my peripheral vision and it annoys the living daylights out of me.

M6125 1

It’s gotta be my Anniversaire Amour Dress. I love this dress.

Unfortunately, so did the chocolate cake Mr poppykettle ate at his Christmas party, because he dropped it on me. This precious number is currently at the dry cleaners and I’m too terrified to pick it up to find out whether or not it’s made it to the other side, or if Mr poppykettle owes me another pleated skirt.

On that note, what the hell is it with me and food and the clothing I make? You must think I’m some kind of grovelling grot. Not so – we just love our food!


In other exciting news, I’ll be moving house in the first week of 2013!! It’s super crazy exciting because it means I WILL HAVE A SEWING ROOM. We’re going to rent out our unit and become tenants again, and I’m so over the moon I’ve already bought a proper sewing machine table thing and am currently hunting down a dress form. It’s like all my Christmases have come at once :)

And on that note, I’ll leave you all be until the New Year. Take Care :)