Review & Giveaway: Fabric for Fashion, The Swatch Book

fabric_for_fashion_coverMay as well dispense with formality and open with my conclusion, I’m designating Fabric for Fashion: The Swatch Book as a must buy for fashion oriented entrepreneurs who aren’t textile experts (most of them).

Maybe I should start by explaining what this book isn’t. It isn’t a comprehensive A to Z recitation of dry textile science, stuff we had to learn in school. I think that is the biggest problem for entrepreneurs; they want to know more but most books fall in one of two camps: enthusiast and engineering. Enthusiast books are typically well researched but there’s a gap between intended application and the jargon typically used in the trade. Textile textbooks on the other hand, are written by probable near geniuses who assume readers will pore over every word, memorize it and amuse genteel companions at cocktail parties with witty quotations from it. Okay, maybe not but you know what I mean. Point is, most entrepreneurs are too busy to read enough of a textile textbook to get much (if anything) out of it. Most pages seem to consist of a dense wall of text with black and white grainy photos taken in the 1970’s. Business owners want a cheat sheet -the closest thing to a bullet point list they can get. If that describes you, you’re going to love this one.

What the book is: A ring bound hardcover book drilled down to 87 pages with the most essential information. And it has swatches! Yay! But hold on Hoss, if you (like me) had to buy one of these in school, you’re groaning and wondering if you have a not dried up glue stick because most of us had to separate and mount swatches ourselves which was kind of a mess because they’d stick to each other and if you didn’t set them exactly right, you’d be off one, messing up the consecutive order of the other swatches and have to start over. But no, this book comes with all 125 fabric swatches mounted. More yay.

Normally I don’t worry too much about aesthetics when it comes to technical books but this one has a difference that I appreciate. If you had to buy a textile science swatch book in school, you’ll appreciate this too -the swatches aren’t a bewildering array of jarring, odd colors and textures that the publisher obviously bought at remainder or picked out of somebody’s dumpster. I swear, I think I found coffee grounds on swatches. It is possible those were eggs of something, truly it was too icky to contemplate. But I digress, the 125 nice quality, large swatches are mostly neutrals but if colored or patterned, are tastefully done (and clean/egg free!). The traditional kits we’ve been exposed to are (by comparison), a visual assault.

The particular strength of this book is that it’s geared toward fashion apparel lines. For example, the silk section contains 3 pages of swatches including weights, weave types and such. The book is also modern with a focus on sustainability minded readers. Again, while not a fully comprehensive text with space to expound pros and cons, fibers like peace silk, banana and corn are included. I hadn’t seen banana fiber so I was impressed.

Now, if you’re looking for a text that demonstrates various weights of suit weight wools, you’ll be disappointed. However, if you want to see and feel the difference between wools such as serge, crepe, herringbone and melton, you’re covered. Chances are excellent though, you may not know the name of the kind of fabric you think you want which is why this book’s relatively small size is useful because you can scan it rather quickly to find what you want without getting dragged down into a lot of minutia.

The book isn’t perfect of course. I haven’t exhaustively analyzed its oversights but most objections readers may have are related to difference between UK and US English as its authors are English. However, the authors went to great pains to be inclusive with respect to imperial measures in ounces for those who will be ordering this way. These days, most fabrics purchased offshore come in grams.

Another issue related to verbiage is probably splitting hairs; for example, the discussion of cupro and viscose. Most US residents will know these fibers better as rayon. That’s what they are -rayon (and the FTC may come after you if you get it wrong). I just mention that as I’ve seen recent discussions of cupro akin to a miracle fiber, capable of single handedly solving all environmental ills. Another difference is the designation of lyocell which while technically correct, is better known in the US as Tencel (a brand name). I just thought it was a bit odd that Tencel was omitted when Modal (another brand name) was included and they’re made by the same firm (Lenzing).

Another short fall is lack of an index. On the plus side, there is a solid glossary and a listing of the major fabric tradeshows. As should be clear by now, this book is light on theory and solid on application and utility. You’ll find it very helpful when conversing with fabric salesmen by phone or email as you’ll easily be able to describe fabric wants in terms of weight, weave and fiber.

I really like this book and will be ordering a copy for myself. I think it is much better suited for fashion oriented entrepreneurs (than standard textbooks) who need an expedited drilled down version to select and order appropriate textiles -and to speak with vendors and service providers intelligently. I think this book would even be good as a cheat sheet for students. If you can master (you can, easily) the content in this book, you will likely pass Textile Science 101.

I almost forgot to mention, the first edition of this book is highly rated -and evidently in demand judging from the prices for used copies (starting at $245.) . If you want to see some screen shots of the pages, here is a list on photos I took (much larger than you can find elsewhere) for you to sample:

A wool page
Cotton page
Man made vs synthetics chart
Sustainable fibers
Weave types

Okay, onto the good stuff, the giveaway! The winner will be selected by random drawing. To enter, write a haiku that includes weave words.

[edit: 11/3/14] No more entries please, a winner has been selected.

Purchasing information:

Laurence King, the publisher, is extending a 35% discount to all Fashion-Incubator readers (but sure, you can pass the code around) on this title. The code is fashionincubator35 and it expires Jan 5, 2015. The list price is $95; with the discount, the price is $61.75. You can also pre-order the book on Amazon (it comes out in 4 days) for $63.62.

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  1. Angela says:

    How fun to do something different like write a poem!

    Designer dreaming,
    Threads smoothly weaving themselves,
    Shiny satin glows

  2. Deepa says:

    Be it plain , satin or twill
    Buy them is always I will..
    I love to Learn all about the weave
    As sewing i something I will never leave.

  3. Marianne Heinen Kits says:

    I peer at wool cloth
    Perfect for coat…hmmm is it?
    Even weave: warp, weft,

    Curling threads hover
    Over flat base. Future pills?
    What is this fabric?

  4. This is not my entry (it’s already here), but a friend just posted this on FB, written by her daughter. It’s so appropriate for this contest that I had to share it here where it will be appreciated:

    Daddy I love you,
    But, I’m not good at haikus,
    I wrote this for you

  5. Lauren Judson says:

    Straighten the grain line,
    warp and weft not draping right.
    Pull and tug and snip.

    I think it’s done right.
    I’m still too new a sewist.
    I need to win this!

  6. deepa says:

    play along warp and weft
    A beautiful fabric is what you get
    weaving is wonderful I bet

    Please consider my new comment. Which is a Haiku.Old one was not.

  7. Charles says:

    This book looks amazing! The current price on Amazon is literally a steal :D

    One thing though – it looks like the acetate satin swatch is mounted sideways in this copy of the book? It makes me wonder if there could be other mistakes that would go unnoticed if the reader didn’t know what to look for? (They could have used a “poka-yoke” method [yes, I learned that from you :-) ], like cutting the swatches as rectangles so it would be impossible for that to happen.)

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