Wool Crepe Dress: Pre-shrinking

Hmm! What a week I have had. Researching how to deal with wool crepe, trying to fit my muslin, gathering confidence ( the hardest part), and trying to update my blog (did you notice?)

This week was focused on my dear fabric. In the last post, a couple of you pointed me to some interesting posts on pre-shrinking wool crepe. Thanks for that.  From one of the blog posts I read, in the comment section, someone mentioned that wool, is essentially hair. Well duh! That is so true. Wool is animal hair ( specific types of course, definitely not elephant). So, she reasoned, since wool is hair, we should treat it as we would our own hair. Well I can tell you that as an African, my hair is very delicate. It breaks easily, so I need to treat it with tender loving care ( something I am too lazy to do). My hair needs to be washed with a very gentle shampoo, or just a conditioner, and it needs to be moisturised all the time. So wool too, depending on the type, can be very delicate, and would shrink badly if exposed to heat, or felt if treated harshly. Oh dear. Talk about having issues. Get your act together wool, there’s no need to be such a drama queen.

So after toing and froing on the blogoshpere and some books, I gathered that you should pre-treat your wool crepe the same way that you will care for it as a finished garment and that there are various ways to pre-shrink wool crepe ( and most woolens). You can choose whichever method that suits your lifestyle.


For those with the cash to splash, you could always go to your dry cleaner, and ask for wool crepe to be steamed. I will not be taking this route, so I did not bother to find out more about what you need to discuss with your dry cleaner. Apparently the cost is high. As someone who has never taken anything to be dry cleaned, I am not interested in this method. I should probably say here that I am also not tempted by the notion of going to the dry cleaners after every wear. If I ruin this fabric now because I used another pre-shrinking method, then good riddance. I have decided to look at it from the point of view that spoiling the fabric now will mean saving Noah’s inheritance. No dress to wear, no dry cleaning bills to pay, and therefore more money for Master Noah when he turns 50 and collects his inheritance…all 50 pence of it.


There is the London shrink method, which I also saw in Couture: Fine Art of  Sewing by Roberta Carr. Here you wet your fabric, and roll it between 2 large sheets for a couple of hours or overnight, and let it dry naturally. You need alot of space for this one, and alot of patience too. Again, this is not for me, as I do not have the luxury of space in my tiny house, and though I could probably make the time, I can’t be asked to. I want to believe since this is mentioned in a book on couture sewing, it might be the accepted way in the couture houses. I have come to the conclusion that couture sewing might be a concerted effort by the experts to discourage mass interest in sewing. By making the dressmaking process look as time consuming as possible they can charge exorbitant prices for their garments. Less people with the knowledge or patience to make garments, more money for us aye?


There are two ways to use steam on wool crepe. There is the method highly favoured by Carolyn of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic, which involves steaming your fabric with a very hot steam iron and a wet press cloth. This reminds me alot of the way my millinery teacher taught me how to hand block wool felt. Which involved pressing the wool with a very hot dry iron, and a wet press cloth. It makes the wool pliable, and your can stretch it over your hat block, or stretch it so that you can do other things with the felt.  Carolyn says she does not move her fabric for 2 minutes after pressing. I suppose that is to prevent it stretching out of shape. She also says it is time consuming though not as much as London shrinking though.

 Now, for those that are not after a facial, and who do not have the time to spare, there is the other method where you chuck the fabric into your dryer with two wet towels, and tumble dry for 40 minutes. You can read more about from Pam of Off The Cuff Sewing Style. I am highly tempted by this one for the simple reason that I do not want to go on a play date with wool crepe and a hot iron with Noah in tow.


Yep! That’s me. I will gladly eat ice cream while sinking in snow. This method, detailed here  by Shannon of Hungry Zombie, involves immersing your wool crepe in a washer filled with a mixture of COLD water and a soft soap such as Eucalan. You only soak the wool in the water for 20 minutes, and then hang to dry or place in your dryer on a gently cycle. I am also tempted by this method because I can see my self washing my dress like this after it has been sewn. I am no stranger to hand washing clothes as I used a washing machine for the first time in 2005 when I came here to the UK. Yes. I was 25 years old before I even saw a washing machine with mine eyes. We used to hand wash all our clothes in Cameroon. Very special items were taken to the dry cleaners, and that was only by those in big towns who had access to such services. When I last went home in 2009, there was a dry cleaner on every street. Times have definitely changed.

Eucalan is available in the UK, and you can buy it from Sew Direct, or here, where I got mine. There are other places that sell it, and you can find a list of the UK stockists here.

So, I will try my little experiment to see which method to use. It was advised to experiment with 5″ squares of fabric, which I shall do.

In other news, I went and bought an extra metre of lining as I have decided to line the whole dress, and just not the bodice as the pattern directs.

I have also received my Deer and Doe patterns. More on that later.

My sewing coming of age

I think I just graduated from the remnant bin to the bolt. I speak figuratively of course but I think that pretty much explains everything.

You all know how cheap I am when it comes to fabric shopping, and how I do not feel fulfilled unless my arms hurt from carrying so much fabric on my way home from various cheap fabric expeditions. Well today, I went to Goldhawk road, and came back with 2 metres of pink wool crepe, 1.5metres of silk lining, and 2 spools of gutterman thread. Yes! I am moving up people. I’m joining the big guns. I have arrived. Even though I winced as I handed over my money to the fabric guy. I am still in shock. How much did I spend for all of that? Well, £43. I know. It sounds like nothing, but this is the first time I am investing that much on a sewing project. It is relative of course, because it is only 2metres of fabric and lining. I ordered some fabric from the states a couple of months ago to make a trench coat, which I still have to make, but with postage, it all came to about £40 I think. That was for 5metres of stretch gabardine and some china silk lining. So metre for metre, it is cheaper than what I spent today.

I know some of you will wonder why I am going on and on about £43. It is not so much the total money spent. It is the fact that I paid £15 for 1 metre of fabric. I NEVER, EVER do that. I am as cheap as fluff when it comes to buying fabric. The first thing I look for when I enter a fabric shop is the remnant bin, or table. That should give you an idea of where I am coming from. This is the first time I am spending that much on 1 metre of fabric. So I need you to clap for me as I move on to another level in my sewing journey. My coming of age if you will.

I am sure you must be wondering why I decided to spare £43(and a few tears) for a sewing project. Well, my friend is getting married on the 6th of October (hi Vicks), and naturally, I thought I should make my own dress. I decided on Vogue 8280. I know I have made it before, but that was pre-baby, and a not too insignificant number of extra folds have magically appeared on my body, so I will need to address some fitting issues. I made the first one without a muslin, but I will definitely be making a muslin for this one. Making the last one was quite stressful, but I want to think this one might be a better experience since I have more experience under my belt, and a couple more books to help me out….and you of course. Which brings me to my first question.

Does anyone know how to pre-wash/preshrink wool crepe? The peeps at A1 fabrics said I should dry clean it, or hand wash it with cold water. What sayest thou? I have looked inside Claire Shaeffer’s Fabric Sewing Guide book, but there is no mention of how to preshrink wool crepe. Maybe there is, and I have not seen it. So is hand washing it the way forward? Or do I have to fork out more money to dry clean it?

I don’t want to have to do more crying should this project not come out the way I want it to, so I am doing alot of research for this one. I am pulling out all my cards. I have dusted off my books ( and made a few spiders homeless), and I am going to spend this week preparing myself ( muslin and psyching) for the actual sewing (next week). I have given myself 2 weeks to sew this project and I hope it comes out right. It better does. I am also going to spend an awful lot of time watching Susan Khalje’s class on Craftsy, just to copy some of her tricks. If you don’t hear anything from me after the 6th of October, know that I am in the hospital. I don’t think my fragile heart will be able to handle it if this project goes pear shaped. Oh dear! Come to think of it, that is how my body type is described by the fitting experts. An ominous sign? It better not be.

My project homework:

In other news, I saw this at the Body shop today. Bees wax sourced ethically from Cameroon? You don’t say.It made me so happy, I splurged on three mango body butters. Well that’s not exactly true. The body butters were on 50% discount so  I got three, and then got a further 10% discount with my loyalty card. Yeah, I’m cheap like that.
Now on to my second question. What is the most you have spent on fabric?

I was not read to as a child

Yes! I confess. I was not read to as a child.

On the way back from the knicker making workshop in Bath last week, I travelled with Shivani, Jane, Mela and Mr. Mela and what an interesting train ride it was. The topic somehow fell on books after I said I was sorry for Noah because I had no interest in reading to him. I’m sure some people will consider that a grave crime, punishable by death. I don’t. I was not read to as a child, and I struggle to see how different my life would have been if I was. Sure, nightly dates with my step-mom might have resulted in me knowing the difference between Gryffindor and Slytherine before I was 3 years old, but apart from that, nada. Was there anyone else who was not read to as a child apart from Shivani and myself?

So the theory is that it could go 2 ways. Either you grow up having no interest in books, or you become a bookworm, forever trying to make up for all the lost time. Is that what is happening to me? I have this addiction ( I refuse to call it anything else) to buying books. It is even worse than my fabric buying addiction. I know, I know, I should seek medical help. Who knows, it might be clinically proven that addiction comes as a result of years of childhood deprivation. It might also explain this.

I recently ordered 15 books within 24 hours. I kid you not. 10 are here, 5 more are on their way. Do I need to go to the hospital? Does anyone else have this urge. The only other person I know who buys too many books, is Claire ( Sorry Claire, I am not going down alone). Mind you, all the Singer books were acquired for less than £3 each including posting. So no, I am not rich. Just an addict.

I bought one singer sewing book, and when I saw how good it was, I went on a mission. I am trying to collect all the relevant ones. I really love that they have actual pictures in them, and are very informative. I should do a proper review on them at some point.

I saw a review of Bare Essentials Bras on theperfectnose’s blog, and 2 minutes later I had ordered them from amazon. The prize is a bit steep, £42 for both books, but considering how expensive lingerie is, I don’t mind. I having been looking for a good bra making book for some time, and wanted The Bra Maker’s Manual, but at £70 I shall gladly pass. Maybe next year.
I love this next book. Vintage Couture Tailoring, by Thomas Von Nordheim
I saw it on Marina’s blog, and immediately went to amazon. I know. I am pathetic. It is such a beautiful book. The pictures could have been brighter, but no problem. The information contained in them is just perfect. This is a book written by a master of his craft. I shall say no more. I will do a proper review later. The whole book is dedicated to making 1 single jacket using traditional tailoring methods. I need to read this book when Mr.Dibs is around, so he can hold his son while I enjoy this book with a chilled glass of wine. Here are some pictures:

 What is a jetted pocket?

Who knew you could pad a breast ( that sounds wrong right?)

  or your back?

Okay, back to my blog redesign. New skills to learn. Have a good weekend everyone.

A little blog update

Hi folks, as you may have noticed, my blog is undergoing some changes. I am doing it myself, so I am currently immersing myself in html codes and CSS declarations. I don’t know how the blog will look like, as I  am constantly changing things. This is what I have done so far. Expect some disruptions in the coming days. Hopefully everything should be done and dusted by saturday.

Enjoy your weekend.

New Independent Pattern company alert!

Hi everyone, this is just a quick post to show you what I discovered today. I was snooping around on Lin3arossa’s blog and she mentioned a pattern she loved from a new pattern company. The company,  Deer and Doe, is French , and is run by Eleonore. She is quite the lady on the French sewing scene I think because she is also the founder of Thread and Needles, a site similar to the Sew Weekly. She certainly has a thing for the English language I tell you.

So I clicked on the link, and behold. I fell on these goodies:

The Pavot Coat

The Bleuet dress
The Belladone dress
The Sureau dress
The Airelle blouse

What do you think? My faves are the Pavot coat and the Bleuet dress. I asked her if she ships to the UK, and she replied almost immediately. She ships worldwide. Now isn’t that cool?

The downside is that the instructions are in french. I totally forgot to ask her if the instructions came in other languages too. I understand French, so reading the instructions won’t be a problem for me. Then again, the construction principles will be the same as other things you have sewn I suppose.

The patterns can be bought on her website.

The patterns are all printed in France, using recycled paper, in an environmentally friendly printing company, and caters to sizes 34 – 46( Europe). So that translates to sizes 6 -20 UK and 4-18 USA I think. Correct me if I am wrong.