Monday, July 22, 2013

On Online Fabric Shopping and May Dresses

So, about the stashbusting pledge: I didn't do so well in May and June. The only real stashbusting I did was a little tanktop, which I haven't even photographed yet, because it's pretty unremarkable. However, apart from the suit jacket and dress combo for my orals, I did sew two more dresses.

At the beginning of the year, I pledged to make three in four garments from stash fabric. Which does mean that I'm occasionally allowed to buy new fabric. This, paired with the fact that I've had this amazing vision of a nautical striped Lola dress in my head since February, made me shop at Girlcharlee.
Now, I have to admit that I'm not a big fan of online fabric shopping. I like to touch fabrics before I buy them. I want to see their drape and quality, which just isn't possible when shopping online. But I'd been looking for some knit (preferably sweatshirt) fabric with broad navy and white stripes for weeks, so when I saw some in Girlcharlee's newsletter, I had to take the plunge.

The striped fabric was actually titled as a cotton jersey, but I figured I might get away with it. Also, there were two fabrics in the sweatshirt fabric category that I really wanted: the denim and navy print and the yellow polkadot fabric!

This is the point where I tell you that I probably won't shop at Girlcharlee again. While they really do have incredibly cute prints, the quality of their fabric is very varied and the rather tame prices kinda skyrocket when I figure in shipping and customs. In the end, I payed about 13€ for each yard of fabric. While that is about the same price that I'd pay for a nice quality knit at the department store (although it's about double what I'd pay at the market), I was just seriously bummed that the fabrics just weren't what was advertised - or maybe they just weren't what I was expecting from the description of sweatshirt fabrics, which was fabric suitable for making Lolas.
Does this look like sweatshirt fabric to you? Do I just have a wrong expectation? I expected fabric like the one that's used for hoodies. Sweatshirts. You know? Kinda thick and maybe a bit fluffy on the inside? Also, that certainly isn't the sunny yellow I was expecting. More of a bronzy gold?

Anyway. In the end, I did sew something.

First: Nautical Lola
Pattern: Victory Patterns' Lola
Fabric: 2 yards of wide striped, rather thin cotton knit fabric from Girlcharlee, with a good-sized piece left over.
Notions: none.
Time to complete: stripe matching took a while, but it was cut out in an afternoon and went together in about two more.
Alterations: I shortened the sleeves and widened and lowered the neckline. For this, I cut out the original neckline and after sewing the dress together, I put it on and marked where I wanted the neckline to fall, then cut and finished it.
Techniques used: Stripe matching (while cutting out and sewing). Folded band finish for neckline, sleeves and hem.
Thoughts: Apart from the fact that this fabric isn't very sturdy and as such, it's already pilling like crazy I love the dress. :D The pattern is just awesome with the big pockets and comfy fit, and this version, with the lighter fabric, short sleeves and boatneck is perfect for summer. I'm incredibly proud about my stripe matching (across princess seams and curves!), which works everywhere but at the back waist seam. I must have some kind of anti-swayback.
The fabric also bugs me because the stripes have different weights (the white is a bit heavier and has more recovery than the navy), which makes for warped bands at the hem, sleeves and neckline. I've been thinking about cutting them off and replacing the bands with new ones in a solid white or navy, but I'm not sure if I could find a fabric that's a good match, and actually it doesn't bother me that much... A funny thing is that I was expecting the thin fabric to show bumps even more than my coral Lola (which shows the belly seams of my tights!), but I think the stripes and possibly the drape of the fabric distract from it.

Second: Polkadot Mad Men Wiggle Dress
Pattern: My usual self-drafted jersey top/dress pattern, this time with a straight skirt and self-drafted cuffs and collar.
Fabric: 1 yard of golden&cream polkadot "sweater fabric" from Girlcharlee, about 20cm of cream jersey.
Notions: two pearl and gold buttons from my stash, fusible knit stay tape from Sunni's shop.
Time to complete: About three afternoons. Drafting the collar took the longest, actually. ;)
Alterations: Drafted a collar and cuffs and added a straight skirt instead of my usual half circle.
Techniques used: Fusible knit stay tape on all horizontal seams. Folded band finish for the hem.
The brooch is actually a single clip-on earring that I found at a second hand shop
Thoughts: This fabric is strangely see-through for a sweater fabric, and also readily shows all bumps. It already had a spot of pilling somewhere in the middle of the fabric, which I had to work around, but this pattern doesn't need a lot of fabric. Recovery is also not stellar. Then again, the dress in this fabric is really more of a fun, going-out-for-drinks, or maybe a costume party dress. Because of the transparency, I wear it with a slip. I also really should invest in a bit of hand-stitching, to hold up the cuffs and slip-stitch the seam allowances at the neckline... I think all things considered, it's a fun dress and I've already worn it twice for going out for drinks. I won't wear it tons of times, but seeing as I was totally stumped what to do with the fabric, it was a good rescue.
Have you had online shopping fabric failures? Do you know a good source for cute printed knit fabric?


  1. Ugh, sorry you were disappointed with the fabric you got! iIve felt the same both times I've ordered from Girl Charlee. The second time I was really careful only to order the medium to heavy weight cottons, since my first order last year was all cheap and thin... but no, these new ones are cheap and thin too. It's too bad, because as you say, the prints looks great online... but less so in person. I like both the dresses you made though - glad you were able to make it work!

  2. I love both of those dresses - you look so swish! I haven't ordered from Girl Charlee yet because - just as you said - I hesitate to order cloth on-line due to not having an exact feel for the weight, etc. I have ordered knits from Raystitch and was very happy, but they are definitely not cheap. I wanted something more environmentally friendly though and was willing to pay for it.

  3. Alessa, you could give online German shops a try. I ordered from and You can order up to 5 samples per month for free and the prices are good. Certainly they don't have US quilting cottons, but I remember once got a nice sweatshirt sample. Alternatively you could try (they are Danish but have a German branch) They have gorgeous prints (at least I like them a lot) this one ...They are certainly not cheap but still affordable. If you order from them know that I will be very jealous ;o) they don't ship to Italy.
    Ah...what a coincidence you made those cuffs...I made the same on a dress I made recently. But your collar and inset are much nicer. It's a really cute pattern and maybe you could try it again with a different fabric. I had a similar fabric disappointment on my polka dot cotton fabric...more with the color than with texture...Ah....another website you can try is this I like that they describe fabric better than anywhere else. They also send samples and Alice is very kind

  4. I am grateful for the heads up on the fabrics, I have bought jersey fabric online before and been disappointed...I need to feel it to pick the right weight I think. However, both dresses look fab. I am very tempted to make a lola though I think I will struggle to find sweatshirt fabric. xx

  5. Oh my gosh!!! Love your Polkadot Mad Men Wiggle Dress!!! It´s so cute! I have only bought one time in a online fabric shop, and it was more or less well... I think that the best way to buy fabric is the local store, touching and looking directly to the fabric. But for example in my local store, they don´t have fabric from Japan or I have to buy them online!

  6. Sorry about Girl Charlee hun! I was toying with the idea of ordering from there but I doubt I will now. I have got great jersey from they trade on ebay as TiaKnight. Also which is weirdly german not british. They are very helpful and good about samples. Finally has some great jerseys. Not bought from her before but i'm sure she would ship to Germany.
    I love that you made it work though and that Lola is fabulous. I have some ponte in the stash ready to make one up in winter. xx

  7. I really like both dresses you made :) Sorry about Girl Charlee. I've had the same experience with knits there, too. Mine are very nice, but thin and quite sheer. Definitely not suitable for dresses!

  8. I'm with everyone else - your polka dot wiggle dress is seriously gorgeous!! And yeah, my understanding of sweatshirt fabric is like a really stable knit with some warm-fuzzy fluff on the underside, like what you want a hoodie to be made from!
    I happily buy fabric online if it's woven... but knits can be so troublesome that I generally only buy those in the real :)

  9. The red dress: simply gorgeous.