Posts Tagged ‘fabric’

Long time no post! I’ve missed a few costumes that I’ll have to get up here soon…but for now, this is what I’m working on at the moment. It’s a handmaiden gown from Game of Thrones! I plan to wear it to this year’s Granite State Comic Con (2014), which happens to have a little GoT theme going on….They have several guests from the show attending, and will be holding quite the hand-full of GoT panels, as well as an official 21+ GoT after-party.


The handmaiden dress is a lot more simple than everyone assumes it is. The most difficult part of the dress so far was finding the right kind of fabric, in the right color, and with enough yards available to make three dresses (one for myself, and two for friends). We had to order online to find enough yardage, which means there was no feeling the fabric before selecting it. The color is lovely, but ideally we would have selected a fabric that was a little more light-weight. This is a linen-rayon blend, and has a stiff hand, though a nice drape. It’s a dream to work with but isn’t quite as airy as the dresses look on-set.


These pictures are of my initial drape: no hems or anything, just 4 yards of fabric draped on my dress form with an unfinished leather belt. It is an awful lot of fabric. The dress will weigh more than 2 pounds when its done, which may not sound like a lot, but believe me it’s more than your everyday clothes weigh. My friends and I decided to be handmaidens because we assume that there will already be a whole mess of main characters from GoT attending this con. Maybe by being generic background characters, we may actually stand-out. We will also be incredibly comfortable.IMG_1162.JPG

Read Full Post »

As part of a course I am enrolled in this semester called ‘Art in Science,’ we had to compose a paper on any topic dealing with the physics and behavior of light. Because of my zealous interest in cosplay and garment construction, I decided to write my first paper on the interactions of light waves and different kinds of fabric weaves. In my paper, I focused on cotton specifically, and went in depth about how the weave effects the look and feel of a raw material.

The paper can be found below.



Weaves of fabric are often mistaken as types of fabric—raw materials from which textiles are woven. Many people think that Satin is its own material when in fact, satin is simply a type of weave. Satin can be woven from silk, polyester, acetate and blends, but the term satin does not denote the fabric content. The weave, more than the material that it is sewn out of, will determine how the textile appears and feels. Light interacts with all things, including all fabrics—raw, spun, or woven; but how the fabric is woven dictates the way that light interacts with it, changing its appearance from textured to smooth, shiny to matte, and opaque to shear.

Man has been weaving fabrics since 5000 BCE out of natural plant fibers.1 Basic weaves are made up of two parts: the warp and the weft. The warp is the vertical strands of yarn or thread that are placed on the loom before the weaving takes place. 2 The weft is the horizontally laid yarn that is woven through the warp. 3 There exists dozens of different types of looms and hundreds of different weaves used for belts, rugs, clothing, straps, jewelry, blankets, etc. Today’s fabrics are most often woven into what is called the “common-weave,” or a tightly woven warp and weft that is smooth and flat. Examples of common-weaves are organdy and linen. Another popular type of weaves, the “Even-weaves,” are simple, flat textiles where the thread count is the same for both warp and weft: examples being fine-single weaves and hardanger. 4

Light’s interaction with an object can be simplified into two involved rays: an incoming ray, also called an incident ray, and an outgoing ray. The outgoing, or reflected ray is what the viewer sees.  Reflected rays will leave an object at the same angle that the incident rays hit the surface at, but on the opposite side of what’s called the “normal line.” The normal line is an imaginary line that sits perpendicular to the surface of an object, anywhere on the surface. A ray of light hitting the object at a thirty degree angle will leave at a thirty degree angle as measured from the normal line. On a smooth, flat surface of fabric, all of the normal lines for each point on the fabric sit vertical—or perpendicular to the horizontal surface. When light hits this flat, smooth surface, it will all be bounced off in the same direction, and the eye sees a uniform distribution of light on the object. But when a fabric weave is bumpy, the normal line will change with each spot, depending on the orientation of that particular point on the surface. The result is that when light hits a bumpy piece of fabric, the light is reflected in several different directions.5 Not all of the light reaches the eye with the same uniformity as before, and the viewer will see that the fabric has a pattern of dark and light areas. In other words, the fabric has texture.

Whether or not a fabric appears smooth or bumpy, again, does not have to do with the material, but rather the way it was woven. Cotton for example, can take on several different appearances and uses depending on the weave. Terrycloth incorporates a looped weave that makes the cotton appear fuzzy (used in towels), and organdy is a very light, transparent apparel cloth.6 Cotton can be weaved into Diaper cloth, Dimity, Drill, Duck, Flannel, Flannelette, Gauze, Gingham, Lawn, Muslin, Organdy, Outing Flannel, Oxford, Percale, Pima Cotton, Polished Cotton, Poplin, Sailcloth, Sateen, Seersucker, Swiss, Terry Cloth, Velveteen, and Whipcord. Today, cotton is treated to “permanently straighten the cotton fibers which then becomes a smooth, rod-like fiber that is uniform in appearance with a high luster” 7. This treatment, along with tight weaves like satin, makes fabrics like the shiny Polished Cotton, possible. Cotton can even be made into felt by soaking finely cut bits in a sieve in water. When the sieve is removed from the water, the cotton fibers settle together and can be pressed into felt sheets. These sheets are also known as Kleenexes!8

A fabric’s opacity is also determined by the way it was woven. A fabric is considered transparent—the opposite of opaque—if it allows a lot of light to pass through it, allowing a person to see through the fabric. Transparent fabrics have their advantages and disadvantages: They are a soft, beautiful, and cool to wear, but when used for apparel or privacy they need to be paired with another opaque fabric. To make an opaque fabric, the same raw material and weave should be used throughout the textile because this allows the fibers to lay as close as possible to one another. Also, there should be a high yarn density, that is, a high count of yarn per centimeter. Also there needs to be minimal “float”, which is how much the warp and weft slip and move when the fabric is moved or stretched. 9 When there is too much space between each fiber, significant light can pass through, making the fabric transparent. Sometimes cheap apparel fabrics that are meant to be opaque do not work out so well because of a low thread-count and too much float. An example of this would be a light colored women’s bounce that appears opaque where slack, as around her arms and the small of her back, but transparent where taught, such as across the chest. This embarrassing change in opacity happens because the warp and weft fibers are moving too far apart from one another when held taught.

Taking advantage of the variety of weaves available in the early 20th century is Dorothy Liebes. Liebes is a textile artist known for her excellent sense of color and incorporation of ribbons, yarn and unusual beading into the weave of common fabrics.10 She was “credited for putting metallic yarns tastefully into every type of textiles,”11 and made both one-of-a-kind textiles for those who could afford it, and beautifully designed, massed produced fabrics for the everyday consumer of the 1930’s and 40’s.12 Liebes used a variety of fabrics in her work, such as cotton, rayon, nylon, and linen, but it is the variety of the weave and color that gives her work its volume, contrast, pattern, line, and its purpose. With the help of synthetic materials, and power looms, man can make a textile to suit any purpose. Cloth has always been one of man’s most basic needs, but with such abundance and variety available today, it has become one of our most expressive materials.


1 Verla Birrell, The Textile Arts. (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959.) 14.

2 Verla Birrell, The Textile Arts, 47.

3 Verla Birrell, The Textile Arts, 490.

4 Elsie Hagley. Embroidery Techniques. (Needlecraft Superior. 29 Dec. 2008.) <http://needlecraftsuperior.com&gt;.

5 Thomas D. Rossing, and Christopher J. Chiaverina. Light Science: Physics and the Visual Arts. (New York: Springer, 1999) 67.

6 Fabrics.net Cotton. 11 Feb. 2010. <http://fabrics.net&gt;.

7 Fabrics.net Cotton.

8 Verla Birrell, The Textile Arts, 2.

9 Rui Miguel, Jose Lucas, Maria Carvalho, and Albert Manich. Fabric design considering the optimization of seam slippage. R&D unit of textile and paper materials, Textiles department, University of Beira Interior. Covilha, Portugal: Emerald Group, 2005. Vol 17. .

10 Dorothy Liebes. Dorothy Liebes: Retrospective. (New York: Museum of Contemporary Crafts, 1970.) 3.

11 Dorothy Liebes. Dorothy Liebes: Retrospective, 3.

12 Dorothy Liebes. Dorothy Liebes: Retrospective, 11-34.

Works Cited

Birrell, Verla. The Textile Arts. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959.

Fabrics.net Cotton. 11 Feb. 2010. <http://fabrics.net&gt;.

Hagley, Elsie. Embroidery Techniques. Needlecraft Superior. 29 Dec. 2008. 11 Feb. 2010. <http://needlecraftsuperior.com&gt;.

Liebes, Dorothy. Dorothy Liebes: Retrospective. New York: Museum of Contemporary Crafts, 1970.

Miguel, Rui, Jose Lucas, Maria Carvalho, and Albert Manich. Fabric design considering the optimization of seam slippage. R&D unit of textile and paper materials, Textiles department, University of Beira Interior. Covilha, Portugal: Emerald Group, 2005. Vol 17. <http://emeraldinsight.com&gt;.

Rossing, Thomas D, and Christopher J. Chiaverina. Light Science: Physics and the Visual Arts. New York: Springer, 1999.

Read Full Post »