Weaving and making

On a one-off project there is never enough time to answer all my questions before I need to start weaving the fabric, and then, in this instance, to make my shift dress. Hopefully, I have answered all the key questions, made the right decisions and made a good estimate for anything unresolved.

10 plastic bags made into yarn from 1cm to 4cm wide

I am making the dress with a white plastic raffia warp and a weft that progressively gets thicker towards the bottom of the dress.  The top bodice of the dress starts with the plastic raffia warp, then becomes plastic bag yarn changing from 1cm to 4cm wide down the dress.  There are three double cloth sections for tubes of microgreens from the hip downwards.

I take a while to plan this all out on the shift dress pattern pieces, hoping that the front and back dress pieces will match up as planned when sewn together. The one thing I worry about estimating is how much the woven fabric will shrink after heat pressing, it is hard to gauge without making full-size samples …

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Weaving the final plastic bag fabric on the loom – the shift dress back.
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The final fabric just after I took it off the loom. In the end I used approx. 11 plastic bags in the weft. I love the texture but stick with my plan to heatpress so the dress highlights the microgreens.

Inevitably there are problems I did not anticipate:

  • I used high street plastic bags for the weft yarn as supermarket bags are too soft, shrinking on heat pressing rather than melting together as I wanted. However, each bag seems to be a slightly different plastic and acts differently in the heat press; some bags are still too soft and shrink leaving holes. Ideally I should have tested each bag…
  • The heat pressed material seems very fragile, brittle, I decide scrunching-up the fabric is to be avoided. I plan my stitching and manage to only have to turn the dress inside-out once, very carefully, and give a huge sigh of relief when it’s done!
  • The sewing maching needle splays the fabric rather than piercing it when I start stitching. A new, finer needle doesn’t help until I try a Microtex needle (a needle with a sharper, more acute point for fine and more densely woven fabrics).
  • The cloth also frays a lot especially where it is purely raffia! A trip to the haberdashery for bias tape to finish off all the seams is a necessity.
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Heat pressing the final fabric – I need to use greaseproof paper to protect the double cloth tubes from melting together
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I used a rotary cutter to cut out the pattern pieces, with mustard and magazines for weights.
I cut bias strips in the pure plastic raffia material to edge the neck and armholes BUT the raffia fabric frays so badly I need to use lots of bias tape on the inside…

Do come along to one of the shiftWorks exhibitions to see the micro-greens growing!

Penny Wheeler