Thursday, January 31, 2013

Pahsmina vs. Shawl

Pashminas and shawls  --  they aren't the same!!!

Yes, I have both, and I'll show you some, directly.  But, for now:  a rant.  {Where did I put that soapbox??}

Twice in the past week I have come across shawls incorrectly labelled and marketed as "Pashminas". This kind of thing drives me nuts.

One of them, which I purchased (what? It was 75%off!!, and a lovely Blush/Beige color), was labeled, "Pashmina  100%wool  Made in China"   Wrong.  Close - but, no cigar.   The other (which I did NOT purchase) was labeled, "Pashmina   60% Viscose/40% Acrylic   Made in Guatemala"  So wrong, I scarce know where to begin.  Perhaps, some defining parameters are in order.

Wikipedia has this to say on the subject of pashminas:

Pashmina refers to a type of fine cashmere wool and the textiles made from it. The name comes from Pashmineh (پشمینه), made from Persian pashm ("wool"). The wool comes from changthangi or pashmina goat, which is a special breed of goat indigenous to high altitudes of the Himalayas in Nepal, Pakistan and northern India. Pashmina shawls are hand spun, woven and embroidered in Kashmir, and made from fine cashmere fibre.

[Sorry, Guatemala  --  you didn't make the cut.]

More wiki-elucidation:

"Pure pashmina is a rather gauzy, open weave, as the fibre cannot tolerate high tension. The most popular pashmina fabric is a 70% pashmina/30% silk blend, but 50/50 is also common. The 70/30 is tightly woven, has an elegant sheen and drapes nicely, but is still quite soft and light-weight."

I confess, 70/30 is my pashmina blend of choice, but I do have one that is 50/50, and it is lustrous, soft, and - not surprisingly - silky. 

The US Federal Trade Commission has this to say on the subject:
"Some manufacturers use the term pashmina to describe an ultra fine cashmere fiber; others use the term to describe a blend of cashmere and silk. The FTC encourages manufacturers and sellers of products described as pashmina to explain to consumers, on a hangtag, for example, what they mean by the term. As with all other wool products, the fiber content of a shawl, scarf or other item marketed as pashmina must be accurately disclosed. For example, a blend of cashmere and silk might be labeled 50% Cashmere, 50% Silk or 70% Cashmere, 30% Silk, depending upon the actual cashmere and silk content. If the item contains only cashmere, it should be labeled 100% Cashmere or All Cashmere. The label cannot say 100% Pashmina, as pashmina is not a fiber recognized by the Wool Act or regulations.[8]"

A quality pashmina is not cheap. They are made of fibers not in large production, require much personal handling, and,unless you live in the Himalayans, cannot be locally sourced. They are an investment, and you don't want to waste your money on a cheap fake. How do you know if it's worth the price? 

 Can you tell  by looking if it's a real pashmina?  Very possibly not.  Some of the fakes are very good.  When they are new.  Cashmere and silk are both very durable fibers.  Properly cared for (hand-wash, no wringing, air-dry; OR dry-clean.), you should expect to pass them on to your descendants.  Cheap acrylics, or wool of very poor quality will shrink, pill, distort, and not be color-fast over time.

Can you tell by feel?  Once you have worn, and loved, a true pashmina - oh, yes - you can feel the difference.

Several of my pashminas were purchased overseas, and thus, at tremendous discounts compared to US department stores.  This explains why I own several pashminas.  At $200.+ , I might only own 1 or 2.  Having purchased them in a country where labeling laws aren't so strict as in America, and, where I don't speak the local language, how did I know that I was buying real pashminas?  The feel and drape told me that I was likely dealing with good-quality cashmere, and  --  not to brag  -- but, even at a blend as low as 20%, I know silk when I smell it.  It's distinctive.  Still, I am unwilling to part with even a modicum of hard-earned money without reason, so, while my husband distracted the shopkeeper(s) in the Textile Souks in Dubai, I surreptitiously burn-tested fibers. I never bargin-shop for fabrics without my fiber ID-kit in my purse.  {Still can't believe I got that through Security at the airport unchallenged.}  If you are unfamiliar with burn-testing, or you want a  chart to keep handy, this one from the Sewing and Craft Alliance is wonderful!

Remember:  if the price sounds too good to be true  --  it probably is!!!  Also:  if the shawl is sealed up tightly in plastic: run!  Natural fibers are organic and need to breathe!  This, especially, includes your wedding gown, quilts, anything handed down from your grandmother.  Go!  Now! Right now, and get them OUT of their plastic bags, and wrap them in acid-free tissue, and place in an acid-free box.  NOW!!!
[Sorry.  The usually-latent archivist in me just reared her curly-topped head.]

Here are the promised pictures of some of my pashminas and shawls.  I love them all!!

These are 70/30 pashminas purchased in Dubai.  After several trips to dry cleaners, and one hand washing with Eucalan (the purple heather one - a favorite), they have retained their softness, warmth, lustre, and silky smell. 


These are not, strictly speaking pashminas, owing to the introduction of metallic threads.  The teal one, is however, a cashmere/silk blend.  The orange one is 100% wool. Both are beautiful, and cuddly soft!  They were purchased in Shanghai.

These are shawls.   The coral one is 100% silk, and the blue one is 100% wool.  Both were labeled, "pashmina".  The coral one was purchased at Ann Taylor, and the blue one at Nordstrom. 
S * I * G * H 

So, yes  -- buyer beware  --  but, not to the extent that you don't purchase, enjoy, and love a fine quality pashmina when you find it!!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Skirts sans Pattern

Look:   no pictures!
I know  --  it's a little unusual to present a tutorial, and it not be accompanied by scads of photos.
They aren't needed, here  --  trust me.

I am going to instruct you in the ways of drafting, and constructing your own gored or panel skirt without purchasing a pattern, purchasing a kit, or looking at pictures.  All it takes are a few measurements, and a little Math.

Wait!  Wait!!  Don't leave!!!  It's very simple Math.  A little Arithmetic, and very Basic Geometry. I'm not going to ask you to name the Geometric principles involved, we're just going to use them.  Very simple.

What spurred this endeavor?  The other day I received an E-Mail from Nancy's Notions offering a kit to make a gored skirt.  My immediate response was, "Why would you buy a pattern for that, much less a kit?"  The answer, of course, is that if you didn't know my very simple Math Method, you would need some help.

At this point, I must digress and assure you that I mean no criticism of Nancy Zieman.  I am a great admirer of her, and her work.  I have learned much from the many books and DVD's she has authored that I own; and I am indebted to her. Also, if you ever are fortunate enough to attend Sewing & Stitchery Expo,  or any gathering wherein she is giving a class  --  sign up for it!  She's a hoot. For the perennially math-phobic who want a kit to make their first gored skirt, hers is an excellent one.

Now:  let's gather our equipment, and get busy.

You will need:
1) a sturdy (read: not yet stretched out of shape) tape measure
2) scratch paper (pull something out of the trash that was only printed on one side - recycle!)
3) writing implement (for the papers)

4) fabric  (you'll figure out how much, directly)
5) straight edge  (a yard stick works - so does a really big book)
6) drafting/pattern paper

Take your hip measurement.  Write that number down.  Move the tape measure up a little, and write that number down.  Move the tape measure down an inch or so, and write that number down.  Erase the two smallest numbers.  [I know  --  many sewing mavens instruct you to take your hip measurement 9 inches below your waist.  Others say to take it 7inches below your waist.  I have found that bodies come in many, many proportions.  Take several measurements, and use the largest one.]
Take your waist measurement.  Write that number down. [Aren't sure where your natural waist is? When naked - really - loosely tie a string or piece of yarn around your middle.  Twist, turn, bend, do this to music so that it's more fun.  The string will roll to your natural waist.]
To the hip measurement add 2 - 5 inches for ease  --  your choice - it's your skirt!
Take this number and divide by the number of gores/panels that you want.
To each of these numbers, add 1.25 inches (seam allowance).  This is the core measurement for each panel.
Did I lose you somewhere?  Let me illustrate with actual numbers:
We'll take my hip measurement:  38.  {What???  I had a 38in hips once!!  It was long time ago, but I remember it fondly.}

[38(hips)  + 4(ease)] / 6 (number of panels)  =  7 + 1.25 (seam allowance) = 8.25

At this point, decide how long you want your finished skirt to be.  Measure the distance from that point to your waist.  Add 5/8 inch for seam allowance at the waist, and an amount of your choosing for hem.
On your drafting paper, draw a rectangle the width of your core panel, and the length you just decided.  This is your jumping-off point. This is also where you figure out how much fabric you need.  Seam allowances have already been added, as has the hem, so measure the length on your panel.  When you select your fabric, its width will determine how many panels you can fit across the width of fabric.  2 panels, side-by-side?  You will need 3X the length of each panel.  3 panels, side-by-side?  You will need 2X the length of each panel.  See?  Easy Math.
Now for adjustments:
It needs to narrowed at the waist.  You have some options, here.  You could insert elastic at the waist and be done with it. If you choose a lot of ease, and plan to put considerable flare at the bottom (we're getting to that.), this is a very cute, feminine option.   If, however, you are looking for a more polished look, I suggest narrowing each seam allowance. Here's how it's done:
Calculate the measurement for each panel in same method as above, starting with your waist measurement.  Thus, my long-ago waist of 26 would net:

[26(waist) + 2(yes, I want less ease at waist than hip)] / 6 (number of panels) = 4.6 + 1.25 = 5.85

Subtract measurement at waist from measurement at hips for each panel: 8.25 - 5.85 =2.4
2 and a half inches needs be reduced at the waist of each panel.  Divide that by 2 (seam allowances on each panel), and you are reducing each seam allowance by 1 1/4 inches.

With your pen/pencil, make a mark 1 1/4 inch from the edge of each rectangle at the top (You choose which end is waist and which is hem by this step. Label accordingly.) Make another mark where you judge your hip to be. (Refer back to first step.).  Using straight edge, draw a line between waist and hip marks.  Cut away excess paper. {NOT with your fabric scissors!!!!}

Now for the really fun part.  You get to play with design options!
Do you want a simple, dignified straight skirt?  If so, you are done with paper, you may start laying it out and cutting.  Don't forget to save fabric for a waistband.
Do you want a full, fun, kicky, swirly skirt??  These panels are about to become gores.  A gore is simply a panel that is somewhat bell-shaped.  Accomplishing this is all about proportion. I know, more Math.  But, it's Math you get to wear!!  Copernicus never promised you that , did he?
A bottom width that is twice the original width will net a gentle flare in a soft fabric with a lot of drape, or a decided 'pouf!' in a fabric with a stiffer hand.  A 50% increase will take your straight skirt to a faux A-line.  I recommend experimenting with paper.  A  sheet of print paper will net you 2 or 3 gores of various dimensions that will give you a good idea of the finished product.
Want a really, really, really full, flared bottom to your skirt??  Godets to the rescue!!  In an upcoming post.

If you would like to see a finished example of this method, I can refer you to my earlier post, The Skyline Skirt.

If the  majority of you feel that I goofed, and pictures are, in fact, warranted to help you understand  --  then please leave me comments saying so, and I shall happily write a new post on the subject - with pictures.

We're all in this together  --  let's have some fun, helping each other create!!!