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Up until fifty years ago, the overwhelming majority of women could sew. All the women that I knew as a child sewed and knitted and made some of the clothes for me and my four brothers. When I was eight or nine, I and every other child in my class was taught the fundamentals of knitting and before I went off to college, my mother taught me how to take up my jeans, sew on patches and repair my clothes.

Sadly, sewing, knitting and repairing clothes has largely died out in the United Kingdom. I now live in Thailand and I do not see much proof of sewing or knitting here, so I imagine that these arts are dying out all over the world among the masses, although I am sure that there are individuals everywhere who still knit and sew.

It is a real shame. If you are going to make your own clothes or furnishings like cushions, pillows or soft toys, it is pretty essential that you choose the right fabric for the job. Using the wrong cloth will make your job harder and may even render your work pointless. So here are a few tips on choosing the right fabric for the task in hand.

The first and most obvious thing to do is look at the suggestions on the pattern you are using and if you are a novice take that advice until you know what you are doing. Regrettably, a lot of people do not read the instructions anymore. I can not remember the number of times I have seen someone struggling to assemble something and found the directions in the bin with the packaging.

Get to know textiles by examining the fabrics in the shop. Ask questions about textiles and look at the cloth on the bolt or roll. If the cloth does not look correct on the bolt it probably will not look correct anywhere else either. When you unroll a few feet of the bolt, does it lie flat or does it roll up or crumple? Grab a handful and squeeze it. Does it crumple easily? Does it feel right?

Is the cloth fraying on the bolt? If so it will fray whilst you use it as well. Look on the bolt for special cleaning or handling instructions. Do they suit your requirements?

It is quite a problem to work with satin because it slips easily. T-shirt knit is also a problem because it rolls up on itself. It is probably best to avoid these fabrics until you acquire some experience

Cotton is the best fabric for novices because it is easy to work with and everyone is very familiar with cotton products. We know how they must feel and we can tell decent, thick heavy cotton from cheap, thin cotton. We also all know that cotton shrinks. Therefore before you cut you cloth. wash it and cut the shrunken cotton fabric. In effect, you have pre-shrunk it.

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