Monday, November 03, 2014

Using Panel Prints

How many times have you run across a print like this — fabric printed in panels — and decided to skip it because you weren't sure what to do with it? Especially when you're sewing garments, this kind of fabric feels tricky to approach. One false move  . . .

I had a chance to see a garment in a panel print taking shape in August during my annual trip to San Francisco for a week of sewing with Sandra Betzina. Here's Paul Gallo showing Sandra how to "read" an engineered panel print.

If you look, you can see a "collar," "cuffs," center front, etc.

This silk charmeuse fabric was of exceptional quality. It had an exceptional price as well, coming from Britex Fabrics in downtown San Francisco. This garment was to go on display in the store, so shoppers and designers can see the fabric's possibilities. Oh, lots of people like to whinge about how pricey Britex is. It's easy to overlook the fact Britex simply has the very highest quality apparel fabric available for retail sale, anywhere.

I'm thinking of printing bumper stickers:  STOP BRAGGING ABOUT USING CHEAP FABRIC. But I digress.

Sandra's shift dress, with cut-in-one short sleeves, began to take shape while I was still at the retreat. Even though it had a nice hand and drape, it needed backing. Sandra had Paul underline the fabric with a lightweight silk/cotton sateen. Paul chalked in the cutting lines for the front and back pieces, basted the layers together, and then cut the pieces out for her. He had a blast with this fabric. She took over the machine stitching from there.

I chose another engineered panel print from the same shelf at Britex. It cost far less than Sandra's fabric, but it's not the same quality as Sandra's fabric, either (it's a lot filmier). So I needed to underline my fabric as well. I used the same silk/cotton sateen as she did (in fact I bought a bunch of it from her). But first, I had to look at it a while.

At Britex the salespeople and I examined the fabric and noticed that a single panel measures 1-1/4 yards long and 54" wide. We decided to have them cut, not tear, the fabric in the event the print is off grain (which it probably is, a little bit, anyway). It was not hard to tell which part of the fabric should be the front of the garment. No need to wear a necklace with this top — the necklace print is enough.

The tougher question was, where to place this horizontal "stripe," which runs the width of the goods? I knew I didn't want it over my stomach or hips. That's not where I want a horizontal line — at the widest part of me (which is why I have never warmed up to low-waisted pants and skirts). So I knew I wanted this line right near my bust or shoulders.

There was something else, too — this little cluster of flowers. It only appears once in the panel, no repeats, and they contrast with the all over rose print. So it went on the left front of the garment.

When I looked more closely, I saw something else, too. This print is done digitally. It looks like a photograph on fabric, almost. This is Italian-made.

More on how I used this unusual fabric in the next post.

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