To be a bit cliché, this shoemaker is a professional Web Developer and her child is this blog, but it was past time to launch what I have of a new design. All the content is still here, everything else is a work in progress (kind of like most of my sewing projects)!
I spent some time working on two different projects this weekend: a quilt and a vest.
On Friday, I received my order of a 18 fat quarter pack of Miniatures by Julie Hendrickson for Windham Fabrics (ordered from Fat Quarter Shop). I wasn’t planning on starting on the quilt from it for a while—I already have some of the pieces for another cut out, but once I received the fabric, I just couldn’t help but listen to the creative voices in my head yelling about what to do with it, going all oooh, ahh, how romantically-colored.
The plan is just a pretty basic strip-pieced nine-patch with a twist or two thrown in. Stay tuned for more on that. For now, I spent time cutting out the 2 ½” strips needed for the strip piecing. Some day I’ll have a dining room and a dining room table—or better yet a dedicated sewing room—that makes cutting out strips easier on my back. Ouch.
Why a simple nine patch?
I want something deliriously simple after the bargello.
The fabrics make me think “old-fashioned and traditional,” and you don’t get much more traditional than a nine-patch/postage-stamp-esque quilt.
I want really quick blocks so that this can get finished in between my applique class project, the vest, and another quilt I’m already working on.
Outside the realm of quilting, a friend wanted a copy of a wool vest he owns that has seen many better days. So, I’m working on that. To do so, I had to make a copy of the existing vest without taking it apart.
Here’s how I did it: I draped my coffee table with a towel (for cushioning/pinning loft), then craft paper taped over that. Then I just pushed pins through the seam lines and important parts of the vest which gives me a line to trace. I didn’t take photos all the way through the process, but here is one of the front sides partially done:
Then, I used the resulting pattern to make a muslin pattern. That’s where it stands. I’ll start constructing the real vest this week.
Is your fabric organza or organdy? What is the difference? The similarity in names for these two fabrics causes a lot of confusion. Both are sheer, crisp, plain-weave fabrics. The difference comes down to the type of yarn used to create the fabric.
Organdy, or organdie, is typically made of cotton fibers. The yarn is spun, meaning it is created by spinning together short fibers (called staple fibers) to create a long, continuous thread.
Organza is made of filament yarn, which is made from very long fibers, such as silk. Filament yarn is most often made of synthetic fibers in modern times, so most modern organza is synthetic, such as polyester, however silk organza can still be purchased.
That’s it. The difference is simply the type of fibers used: filament or staple.
Wondering what the difference between any other fabrics are? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll try to answer. Make sure to subscribe to my RSS feed so that you get your answer as soon as I publish it.
Chiffon. Gauze. Georgette. Organza. All four of these fabrics are sheer fabrics that are traditionally made of silk and often confused for one another. Small differences in the yarn used in weaving and the weight of the fabric can help you tell them apart.
Gauze and Organza are both open-weave fabrics that differ in both weight and tightness of weave.
Silk Gauze is a very loosely-woven, lightweight fabric. It is typically 3–5mm. Because of its loose weave, gauze is floppy.
Organza is not as loosely-woven as gauze, and is slightly heavier; it is generally 4–6mm. The tight twisted yarns (though not as tight as crêpe yarns) make it extremely crisp. It’s often used in couture sewing as interfacing.
Unlike the above, chiffon and georgette are crêpe fabrics, meaning they’re woven of very tightly-twisted yarns, which gives them a dull, slightly rough texture. The main difference between chiffon and georgette is weight.
Chiffon is the lighter of the two, generally 6–8mm. It is woven using a single-ply crêpe yarn. It is a soft, somewhat limp fabric that drapes beautifully. Chiffon can be doubled, meaning two warp and two weft yarns are used at once, making it heavier (12–16mm), but retaining the same soft hand.
Georgette is heavier, usually 8–12mm. It is woven with two- or three-ply yarns, which give it weight and a slightly rougher feel than chiffon. It is also much crisper than chiffon.
All four of these fabrics are traditionally made from silk, although it is more common to find them made from synthetics at your typical chain fabric store.
Now you know the differences between chiffon, gauze, georgette and organza. Do you have a favorite? I’m rather partial to georgette, when it comes to flowing garments, but they all have their uses.
Back before I started this whole quilting endeavor, the quilting section of fabric stores was quite a mystery to me. Sure, I’d wander about because patterned cottons can come in handy for other types of sewing, but one section of fabric really confused me: the fat quarters. I had no idea what that meant. But now, the mystery is solved.
It’s all in the cut
Fat quarters are are 18″ × 22″ rectangles of fabric. They get their name from the fact that they are quarter yards of fabric, but cut differently than “normal” quarter yards. Rather than cutting a quarter yard off of a bolt, which results in a 9″ × 44″ piece of fabric, a half yard (18″ × 44″) is cut in half parallel to the selvage, resulting in two fat quarters.
So, you see the measurements come from the size of “normal” quarter and half yard cuts. The size of those cuts are determined by the width of fabric, which is almost always 44″ for quilter’s cotton (plus or minus an inch). A yard is 36″.
Fat quarter uses
Fat quarters have some advantages over traditional quarter yard cuts.
Longer strips can be cut parallel to the selvage, or lengthwise grain, which is less stretchy than the crosswise grain.
You may be able to cut more of certain shapes. For instance, you can cut 12 5″ squares from a fat quarter (3 rows of 4 squares) rather than 8 from a normal quarter yard (1 row of 8 squares).
For larger patterns, the 18″ side may allow for more flexibility in larger blocks (as in you can get more of the pattern).
Beyond their usefulness of cutting, more fabric sellers and manufacturers ship pre-cut fat quarters as part of a fabric collection, meaning you can easily pick up the prepackaged cuts (sometimes in packs with multiple patterns).
You can also find fat eighths, which follow the same idea. Rather than a very thin strip (4.5″ × 44″), a quarter yard is cut in half resulting in a 9″ × 22″ piece of fabric.
I mentioned in my last post of project updates that I am working on a dress for a wedding (now little more than a week away. Eek!). My original plan was to use the ivory/gray linen I have sitting in my stash, but kept being bothered by how bland it is for such a happy affair. The only other usable (for the style/pattern) length of fabric I have is some very bright white ramie linen. A conundrum.
Enter my idea to dye the ramie to a wedding-appropriate, summery color. I’ve never attempted to dye anything before (tie-dye t-shirts in my youth excepted). I didn’t want to sacrifice any of my kitchen pots for the endeavor, and didn’t want to run the risk of staining the bathtub in our rented apartment, so I researched washing-machine dyes. The type I heard best things about is Jacquard iDye. So, I picked up a packet of their lilac color and set out to dye 1.5lbs of white ramie linen.
Jacquard iDye has a pretty decent delivery idea: a small, water-soluble packet that you toss into the washer, add salt or vinegar depending on the fabric, and let the washing machine agitate and rinse the fabric. No complicated measuring or mixing, and you can dye 2-3 lbs of fabric. (In fact, I probably dyed a bit too little for the full pack. That’s a downside: no way to reduce the amount of dye being used for a smaller batch.)
They have 30 different colors for natural fibers, and 8 for polyester/nylon dyeing (iDye Poly). Presumably, you could do plenty of mixing for larger batches to create your own colors. When dyeing poly mixes, you choose a natural color and the closest match from the poly set and use both—presumably mixing won’t work as well there since you’re targeting the different fibers.
For dark or very vibrant colors or natural fiber/polyester mixes, Jacquard recommends using the stove and a big pot rather than the washing machine. Since I didn’t want anything too vibrant or dark, the washing machine seemed like the way to go. The higher heat you can get with the stovetop method also makes the dye more color fast, in theory.
I, like usual, had a 40%-off coupon to employ at Joann Fabrics, and they stock it. So that’s where mine came from. You can also get it from Amazon, Dharma Trading Co., and likely many other craft shops.
If you’re concerned about color-fastness, they also sell an iDye Fixative that is supposed to help. I didn’t see it at Joann, but it’s on Amazon and Dharma. There’s also a color remover packet available.
What can I dye?
Any natural fiber can be dyed with iDye. They have iDye Poly for polyester/nylon fabrics, and suggest that you use a packet of each when working with blended fabrics. Since you can use the washing machine or the stove top, you should be able to dye pretty much anything (for instance, wool would likely felt if you put it in the machine, but the stove should work fine).
Do I add salt or white vinegar?
For plant fibers you use salt. Plant fiber-based fabrics include cotton, linen and rayon. This category also includes the ramie I used and bamboo.
For animal fibers you use vinegar. Animal fiber-based fabrics include wool and silk.
For poly mixes use the one appropriate for the natural fibers in the mix.
For plant/animal mixes (cotton/silk, lindsey-woolsey, linen/silk), Jacquard comes off as rather indifferent and unhelpful. Their suggestion:
It’s not critical—either the salt or the vinegar will work so just pick one.
Don’t add either, but use substantial heat in the dyebath (stovetop method).
Do 2 separate dyebaths—one with salt and one with vinegar. This will probably be best for darkest colors.
Excuse me, not critical? Then why are we adding it in the first place? Clearly there is a reason. A caring company would explain that and give a thoughtful answer. Hmph.
Melodramatics aside, the salt and/or vinegar combined with the heat help set the dye (semi-)permanently and improve the wash-ability of the dye job. So, likely results if you follow their suggestions:
You’re splitting the color-fastness. If you use salt, the plant fibers will be more color-fast, while the animal fibers will be less; with vinegar, vice versa. Over time, certain threads will fade faster than others. It could give an interesting new dimension to your dye job or just look like crap. It’s a gamble.
Sure, you can leave it out, but that will decrease life of the dye job (more heat should help, but not to the same degree as heat and salt/vinegar).
We have a winner, and not just for darkest colors. This solution adds the color-fastness to both types of fibers. However, the tradeoff is that it is more expensive and takes longer. With dark or vivid colors, fading is more obvious than it is with lighter colors, so this is definitely the right approach there, but there’s nothing lost if you take this approach with the lighter colors as well. Keep in mind that two dye baths will give a more intense color, so you’d need to reduce the time spent in each bath unless you want a very bright or dark color.
I had some concerns about whether the temperature of our water is hot enough for this application. It’s really not that hot most of the time (old house). But, I put the washer on its longest agitating setting and the ramie I used took the dye like a dream. I’ll have to wait and see how color-fast it is in the long run though. Heat is an important part of that.
The fabric is all the same color, no splotches.
I was a little concerned when I pulled it out of the washer; it looked extremely blue. After drying, the shade mellowed out to a lilac-ish purple. It is a little closer to the blueberry side of purple than I expected based on the package graphics. Perhaps they need to have their print shop color correct the graphics. In hindsight, I think I would have preferred using the violet dye and leaving in the dyebath for a little less time. I prefer a reddish purple to a very blue one. It looks better with my skin tone.
My “set it at the longest cycle setting and let it go” timing method worked out well and I’m happy with the intensity of the color, but you may want to be a little more scientific with knowing how long your agitation cycle is based on the washer you have and the color you want.
The washing machine damage
Just kidding with the header here. Although I wasn’t about to sacrifice a load of whites to see exactly how little dye was left in the washing machine, I ran a load of towels and darks through and a bit of white cotton, and I’m happy to say that there’s no lilac tinge.
I’ll come back and edit this once I get a little more experience with how the dye job holds up as I use the fabric, but a couple of quick observations:
The water ran clear when I rinsed the fabric after the dye cycle. No lilac water running that I could see.
There was an awful lot of bluish-lilac-colored lint in the lint trap after I dried the fabric. That’s is somewhat disconcerting since ramie is not a linty fabric… it looks like some of the dye bled onto whatever lint was sitting in the machine after the last cycle. Although, I suppose it’s possible that the lint was that color because of whatever had been dried in the dryer previously. We do share it with the tenants in the other apt.
For simple, quick applications, this seems like a great solution. Especially for a dyeing novice like me. I don’t have the time to jump into the dye arts right now, and until I decide to take the plunge and go more indepth with dyes, I think that this is reasonable for occasions when I can’t find the color I want.
Plus, I still have about 6 yards of that white ramie left. I don’t know what I’m going to make out of it yet, but it’s possible that I’ll try this again. It does make those $50 15-yard bolts of ramie linen at Fashion Fabrics Club seem even more interesting now. I was hesitant to buy more considering the limited colors available (there’s only so many uses I have for red/black/off-white/white linen in 15-yard chunks), but based on my opinions of the fabric and the cheap price, if I can dye it this many colors, it’s an awesome source. I talked about it at length in my review of the ramie bolt, but I still think that this really is a much higher quality fabric than the other cheap linens available, and with most of the same qualities and draping as flax-based linen.
My various projects in the world of sewing, web, and life are legion, but I’ve now got it in my head to start quilting. We’ll see how that goes considering I’m 48 hours into this plan, and I’m already being surprised. Not by the process of quilting but by something I found as I quested into the rarely-explored (by me) section of quilting fabrics at the local JoAnn Fabrics: non-commercial, home use-only fabrics.What?
No, my eyes aren’t deceiving me, right?: that bit of fabric selvage clearly statesSold for non-
commercial home use only.
Intellectual property (IP) and copyright isn’t something I’ve ever considered to have ramifications on the sewing world. Considering that most of my sewing experience deals with basic, mostly non-patterned fabrics, there’s been little call for me to consider the implications of copyright on my creations. I learned not too long ago that clothing can’t be copyrighted, even though patterns can be, so that was the end of my thoughts on the matter.
Serendipitously enough, Katherine, the author of a blog I follow (and college friend) is the daughter of a patent/IP lawyer, and she—with answers from her mom—just authored a post about how IP has (or doesn’t have) an effect on Etsy products. Her article is where I’m sourcing most of this from, with a little help from my years of awareness with Instructional Technology work (although digital media is its own beast when it comes to copyright).
Define IP and copyright
People have spent entire law careers focused solely on IP: a good indication that there’s no clear-cut, always-followed definition. A good working one however is that Intellectual Property is a copyrightable, trademark-able or patentable product of someone’s creativity or intellectual activity.
For a definition of copyright, we’ll look to Wikipedia:
Copyright is the set of exclusive rights granted to the author or creator of an original work, including the right to copy, distribute and adapt the work. These rights can be licensed, transferred and/or assigned. … Copyright applies to a wide range of works that are substantive and fixed in a medium.
So, how is fabric IP?
Let’s get semantic here: if we consider that copyright applies only to works that are fixed in a medium, fabric can’t be copyrighted. While it is itself a medium, it becomes other media, such as quilts, clothes, decorations. It can be affixed to artworks, etc. It is not fixed to any specific medium. Not to mention, if the method used to weave plain-weave cotton fabric could be patented, it’s fallen into public domain by now, surely.
But in this case, the fabric isn’t just defined by its method of construction, but by the design printed on it. That design is fixed to a medium: the fabric it’s printed on. Additionally, the visual design was created by someone—in this case Susan Winget—and is therefore a copyrightable piece of “art”.
Does it really mean “I can’t sell a product made with this fabric?”
Because IP and copyright are both so debatable and have a variety of gray-areas, it’s hard to just say “yes” or “no” here. So, let’s discussed a couple different types of selling:
I’m a clothier who intends to make objects of clothing out of this with the sole intention to profit.No. From start to finish, the intent here is commercial.
I’m a hobbyist that sews clothing, quilts and craft things for my [children/grandchildren/friends] and those items are occasionally resold once they’ve been outgrown.Probably ok. This is a gray area. The item created from the fabric was not made with the intention of commercial profit. If you were to post an item for sale it may be within the artist’s rights to request that you remove listings of the item, but you should contact a lawyer only if that happens. Chances are, the artist won’t care in this situation. Your intent was not to profit, you’re merely (re)selling a used item.
When I talked to Katherine about this, she had another good point: “Commercial use” also applies to things used in for-profit plays, television shows, advertisements, etc. So, if you’re making an article of clothing or craft item for display in say, your pattern company’s catalogue, as a project made from your pattern, you’re violating copyright if you use this fabric. Or, if you’ve sewn a quilt using this material for non-profit purposes but use an image of that quilt in the advertisement for your quilt-making company, you’re probably violating copyright with that advertisement.
So, this all really makes me think twice about ever buying fabric from that designer again. The project I purchased this for is most likely going to be presented to a friend’s baby, but as she gets further along and finds out the gender, I may start a new, more-gender-specific quilt. If that were to happen, my thoughts were to possibly sell the currently in-progress project. That makes me wonder if I should even bother using the fabric in it at all. I’m sure I’m not the only one out there with that choice to make. That’s not to say that I don’t think fabric designers deserve to profit and have rights to their designs, but as a craftswoman trying to navigate the big bad world of commercial endeavors, this is one more thing I have to be aware of—and worried about—when plying my hobby/trade. In my world, it’s simpler to just deal with fabrics that don’t have copyright strings attached.
For the novice sewer, the cutting layouts supplied by most pattern manufacturers are a boon. Not only do they help approximate the most economical way to cut pieces out, they ensure that your pieces are being cut in the right direction—either on the grain or properly on the bias, on the right or wrong side of the fabric—to ensure correct draping and fit. But there are trade-offs involved: those layouts generally take into account the different gradings of the multi-sized patterns, so smaller sizes will have many more scraps of odd sizes than will the larger. As you gain experience, it might be time to start developing your own cutting layouts.
When to modify the cutting layout?
The smart aleck in me wants to say “always,” (because I have yet to see a layout that can’t be tweaked a little) but that would be doing you a disservice. If you’re not comfortable with understanding why a piece needs to follow the grain or be cut on the bias, you’re best off following the given guides. But eventually, you’ll find that you understand everything well enough to mix things up a bit.
I really can’t reiterate enough. Don’t rotate pieces or alter their placement away from the grain or bias lines until you understand how that affects how the piece gives and lays.
When I talk about modifying the layout, I generally mean moving the different pieces around to other spots, but in the same orientation as originally noted. Pieces are cut on the bias or grain line for reasons dealing with fit, as well as strength and wear. A piece that should be cut on the grain but is cut on the bias will end up stretching in strange ways that it isn’t meant to. Likewise, a piece that should be cut on the bias will not fall correctly or stretch when needed if it is cut on the grain. Even lengthwise-grain (down the yardage) vs cross-grain (selvage-to-selvage) are important: many fabrics stretch in different ways across the two weaving directions, which will also cause issues (and mess up patterns and such).
That said, I live by the idea that once you know the rules, sometimes you can bend or even break them, so if you’re willing to possibly screw up (and need more fabric), the sky’s the limit.
When you can modify the layout for size
When it comes to multi-size patterns, it’s generally in the printer’s best interest to have all sizes graded to a single piece, rather than having to print four different versions of a pattern piece—one in each size (taking up more space on paper). Likewise, when it comes time to plan a cutting layout, it’s most economical for the drafter to create a layout that will accommodate all sizes provided in the pattern. If you need a smaller size, try adjusting the layout by moving the cutting lines as close to each other as possible. You may find that you can rearrange the pattern pieces to be more economical when you’re not having to worry about the extra inches for larger sizes.
When you can use folds to make less work
Most pattern cutting layouts try to keep the layout as simple as possible; in other words, they will usually only require a single fold, maybe two. But if you play around with the layout, you may find that you’re able to use more folds to save yourself cutting work, and fabric. Make sure to pay special attention to resulting pieces being on the correct side of the fabric, especially if they are asymmetrical.
When you are using stripes, plaids, or obvious patterns
When working with stripes, plaids and obvious patterns, you generally need to match up the patterns along seam lines or risk looking totally amateur. In fact, most patterns will advise you that you’ll need more fabric to match stripes, plaids, etc. This is almost always true. My general rule of thumb is to either purchase the 54″/60″ yardage amount if I’m using 45″ fabric, or add 20% to the yardage amount.
But a caveat, of course: it’s really a pretty loose rule. I almost always study the given pattern and cutting layout before buying my material. If we’re talking expensive patterned (striped/plaid/etc) fabric, I’ll find out the pattern repeat (where the pattern repeats itself on both the horizontal and vertical axes), measure the pattern pieces, and play around in a graphics program (and do more math than I would like) to really get a good idea of an alternative layout, and then make my purchase. You could do the same with graph paper and a pencil and ruler as well.
Another reason to alter the cutting layout is to capture a particular motif in a section of a pattern piece. For instance, you may want to cut your back pieces so that a particularly interesting part of the fabric design is centered on the back. This is sometimes called fussy-cutting in the quilting world.
When you’ve extensively modified an existing pattern or draped your own
When you’ve made many changes to a pattern, the recommended cutting pattern probably needs to go right out the window. You may be able to base a new layout off of the original, but sometimes you might need to start from scratch. The latter is also true, of course, when you drape your own pattern. I usually spend a lot of time moving all of my muslin/draping pieces around on the empty floor before I even consider pulling out the fashion fabric.
When you’re planning multiple projects from the same fabric
If you can plan in advance and cut out multiple projects at the same time, you may find that you can squeeze pieces into the excess of the first layout, or even completely rearrange everything and end up needing less fabric than you would have used when cutting the patterns separately.
A case study: two Elizabethan shirts, or cutting multiple projects at once
When working on the smock and shirt for Faire-going this summer, I had the goal of being as economical as possible with my material to better emulate what an Elizabethan seamstress would have done. I may have taken it to the extreme, spending far too much time in my graphics program playing around with potential layouts. The result, however, was an extremely economical layout that used less yardage together than they would have separately.
The rule: when planning multiple projects from the same material, rearrange the curring layout so that you cut all projects at the same time. You will likely find that you can use less yardage by creating a more compact cutting layout.
My cutting layouts went from this:
I was able to save over a half yard of fabric by cutting at once, leaving very few—but very useful for straps and ruffles—scraps.
Do you have any fabric-saving tips to share? Do these methods help you in your projects?
I’m a big fan of natural fibers, mainly because they feel better against the skin. I especially like linen, which is cool in the summer, has a nice weight and hand, and is also historically accurate for costuming purposes. Unfortunately, linen is uncommon in fabric stores and relatively expensive here in the US (especially when your only local fabric shops are JoAnn Fabrics and small quilting-only places). And when you’re really trying to be a frugal sewer and the average prices online ($8-15/yd for average quality) are still too much (like, say, always), one often has to make sacrifices. My recent sacrifice was trying a fiber I’d never heard of, ramie, and I must say, it doesn’t seem like much of a sacrifice at all.
What is ramie?
Despite the shroud of mystery surrounding it, especially in the US market, ramie is evidently one of the oldest fibers cultivated for textiles. Commonly called China Grass, it is grown and used mainly in southern and eastern Asia (with some production in Brazil). Only a small percentage of the overall production seems to be exported for use in Euro/America. Ramie fibers are naturally white, which reduces the need for bleaching, but in order to be used in textiles, they require extensive processing, including de-gumming. The fibers are also very strong and—like linen—improve in strength when wet with very little shrinkage.
Textiles made from ramie behave similarly to linen textiles. They are prone to wrinkling and will breakdown if sharply creased, so it is best to fold them loosely and store flat. One advantage ramie has over linen is that it is naturally bacteria- and mold-resistant. It holds dye well, although saturated colors can be prone to crocking, which is discoloration of skin or other fabrics that contact the dyed ramie at stress points or wet areas.
Ramie is sometimes blended with other fibers to create cloth that benefits from the properties of two or more fibers. Common combinations include cotton, polyester and wool.
When buying pre-made clothing made from any type of textile, you are best off following the directions provided with the garment. Those instructions have less to do with what the fabric can handle, and more to do with how the fabric was treated prior to construction of the garment. Especially with dry-clean only clothing, even if the fibers can handle washing machines without destruction, shrinkage from the process can affect seams and fitting, leaving you with a ill-constructed garment.
Ramie can handle the same heat and agitation as linen. For the yardage I purchased, I ran it through the same process I do linen to get maximum shrinkage before construction: a hot water wash on the regular cycle, a cold water wash on the gentle cycle with soap to remove any processing chemicals, and then tumble dry low until it is slightly damp. I then iron it at a medium-high setting to complete the drying. This will give maximum versatility when it comes to care of any constructed garments.
Like with linen, repeated washing will soften and dull the fabric, fade dye and cause it to be more prone to wrinkles, so if you’re going for maximum stiffness, smoothness and shine, dry cleaning is your best option.
Unfortunately, like linen, ramie is pretty scarce in the northeastern US—another online-only sort of fiber for me, at least. I’ve only found it on a few fabric discount sites. My purchase was swayed when I found it by the bolt—15 yards in this case—for about $3.33/yd (plus shipping, which still didn’t top $4/yd). Sure, it’s quite a bit of fabric, but I have a few different projects that I’d love to use linen for and hadn’t planned on it because of affordability, so it’s the perfect price for those. Aside from the large amount of yardage, the color selection was also somewhat limited, but at the time I was in the market for plain white anyway, so it again wasn’t an issue.
Ramie vs. Linen
The ramie I purchased was about 4.9 oz., which falls toward the medium-weight of linen. It has a 60×60 thread count per inch, which is a tighter weave than many of the cheaper (and even some more expensive) linens out there, which results in a higher-quality feeling fabric. When I first received it, the fabric had a bit of a waxy feeling to it. My best guess is that it had something to do with processing/weaving/shipping, because after a trip through the washing machine it felt natural and very much like linen (hooray!). It also has the crisp, stiffness of linen that is lacking in linen/poly, linen/rayon and poly/rayon linen-look blends. All of the other linen-advantages: wicking, breathability, etc. are also apparent. Verdict: ramie as a linen substitute works for me, especially if it continues to be cheaper. I will stick to linen when I need colored fabric, since I don’t yet trust my dye skills.
Should you use Ramie?
If you fit one or more of these descriptors, ramie might be a good substitute for you as well:
You need a fairly large amount of linen or linen-like fabric (maybe you go through it like crazy for costuming or making linens for weddings or gifts, etc)
You don’t need odd colors or are willing to do dyework yourself
You’re not absolutely anal about needing 100% historically accurate fabrics for European/American costuming, but want some of the qualities of linen
Do you have any experience using ramie? What do you use as a linen substitute?