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Luxurious fabrics are worth the cost

Published Sep. 14, 2005

For those addicted to fashion, much of the excitement about fall clothes is about fall fabrics.

Cashmere and alpaca are not only a joy to wear but also a joy to sew. Since these fabrics are fairly costly, I suggest pre-testing the pattern in a scrap fabric or muslin. Ripped stitches weaken the delicate surface of these fabrics.

Before cutting, preshrink by holding a steam iron half-inch above the fabric surface. This will relax the fabric from the stretching it did on the fabric bolt.

These fabrics have a nap, so lay out pattern pieces in the same direction with the hairs of the fabric pointing down. Tailor's tacks and tailor's chalk are the only markings that are visible on these fabrics. Neither of these fabrics is compatible with fusible interfacing, since they become stiffer and lose their luxurious, fluid feel.

Underlining with cotton batiste or voile enables you to fuse interfacing to the underlining and gives you a base for hiding all hand stitches.

Good quality polyester or cotton thread is suitable, but the ideal choice is silk thread, making sewn seams almost invisible. A brand new Schmetz needle 80/12 H and a 2.5mm length straight stitch will give the best results.

Although these fabrics are expensive, they are very easy to sew. If the garment will be lined, which is strongly recommended, no seam finish is required; merely press open the seams. Use a steam iron on the wool setting, using a press and lift technique to avoid stretching the fabric. When pressing on the right side, always use a self fabric presscloth. If you are machine sewing buttonholes, cord them to eliminate stretching.

Hand picking with Sulky rayon thread three-eighths of an inch from the edge with stitches three-eighths of an inch apart is more compatible with cashmere and alpaca than topstitching.

Cashmere and alpaca make great coats and jackets but are too heavy for skirts and pants.

Sandra Betzina is host of Sew Perfect on Home & Garden Television. Send e-mail to