There is a lot of hype in the craft blog world when new fabric collections are released and I love to look at all the patterns and colors just as much as the rest of us, but in the end I can't get all that excited because I don't sew much with quilting cotton.
I don't think quilting cotton is a great material for softies because, well, it isn't very soft. Imagine being at the toy store choosing a stuffed animal for a new baby or for a child's birthday. On one side is a shelf of super soft Gund stuffed animals and on the other is shelf of animals made from quiting cotton. Which one would you choose? The soft stuffed animals win every time. They are just more snuggly.
For years I was afraid to sew with fabrics other than quilting cotton. Fleece, minky, and faux fur just seemed really hard to control. They were stretchy and messy and always gave me a headache. I had a piece of purple novelty fur that I bought on a whim and it would just shed all over my other fabrics and taunt me from its shelf. Periodically I'd try to make something with it, but it would always slip and slide when I put two layers under my machine needle and I'd give up.
And then I conquered my fear of sewing with soft fabrics. Here are a few tips that made all the difference:
1. Figure out the direction of the nap on faux fur fabrics. Turn the fabric over and use chalk to mark the nap direction with a big arrow. Use this arrow as a guide when placing your pattern pieces. Generally the nap should run down your toy from top to bottom.
2. Place your pattern pieces parallel with the straight grain on fleece fabrics. There really is no stretch in this direction.
4. Free faux fur from the seams using an awl. I used to use a needle for this, but an awl is so much stronger.
You can do it! Soft fabrics are actually really forgiving, especially fur with a long pile. Little imperfections get buried and can't be seen.
A few weeks ago Shannon Fabrics, a company based in in L.A., sent me some beautiful pieces of faux fur to play with. Shannon Fabrics is an importer and distributor of really high quality plush fabrics perfect for softies. They have all kinds of furs and cuddle fabrics (these are minky but with one way stretch so they are easier to control). Super soft stuff that make incredible stuffed animals and blankets for babies or for anyone. Frankly, we could all use some softness in our lives! They sell their fabrics to small chains and independent fabric stores all over the world. In my area, you can buy their fabrics at Fabric Place Basement in Framingham. (You can find Shannon Fabrics online on Facebook and Twitter if you'd like to get updates on their latest fabric lines.)
The fur you get at big box fabric stores can often be less than desirable. Cheap furs often only have the printed pattern on the top layer of the pile, not deep inside. The color choices and pile lengths are usually in limited supply (I was at Jo-Ann's on Monday looking for yellow fur and there was none to be had. Boo.)
And my main problem with the minky fabrics at big box stores is the unsophisticated pattern choices. What about all those beautiful new fabric lines that quilters get?
I was so pleased to see that Shannon Fabrics has lines of cuddle with Robert Kaufman in beautiful, sophisticated prints. Finally, soft, patterned fabric that I can get excited about.
Shannon allowed me to choose some yardage from their catalogue and of all of the furs I received, this one was the most amazing:
Check it out! It's called Mongolian Faux Fur in Grey Frost. Deep gray inside and then white tipped at the end of the super long pile. I was both intimidated and drawn to it. And I think I succeeded in taming it!
I have started a Facebook page for Abby Glassenberg Design. I'll be posting there about new pattern releases, book news, and other interesting softie-related topics so if you'd like to keep up with that, click "like". And I've posted a picture of what this amazing piece of fur became. Come take a look!
And while you're there (or here) share with me how you feel about sewing with fur and fleece. Love it? Hate it? Hoping to give it a try? Any good tips we should know about?