Italy or Spain late 16th Century Silk Lincraft Australia 2001/2, 142cm wide 55% cotton 45% Polyester, a choice of cream, gold or sage ( pictured above) Probably imported  Elenora de Toledo by Bronzino.  Painted postuminiously from an earlier portrait dated to 1555.  This painting probably 1563

What do I look for in fabric?

One of the first things to catch my eye is the colour of a fabric.   Next is the design on the fabric.  The feel and texture and then fiber content.  The bottom line is however always the cost.  It could be the most drop dead gorgeous perfect once in a life time piece of fabric.  But if the price isn't with in my range it stays on the shelf.

The Colour is the easy part.  I have looked into colours and can normally find a colour that is suitable for my purposes.

The design or pattern on the fabric.  The pictures at the top of this page show an extant textile on the left from either Italy or Spain from the 16th century in voided velvet.  WOW it's so beautiful isn't it.  On the right there is the ever beautiful Elenora de Toledo in that stunning gown showing a very similar textile used in her gown.  Center there is the fabric I bought from lincraft a few years back.  I hope that you are sitting down for this part.  It's 142cm wide, I bought 30 metres of it for only $3 Aust per metre.  I was so happy that day.  Originally it was $20 aust per metre, at that price I couldn't afford it, but at $3 I couldn't afford to pass it by.  I also have 10 metres of the cream and 20 metres of the gold.  All at the same price.

The texture of this particular fabric is perfect for my purposes, although it was intended for soft furnishings it has the right feel and weight for historical dress.  This is pretty much as good as it gets, also the fiber content is not bad for what I do.  But I can do better.

100% silk duchess satin in 150 cm wide and 9 metres in length for only $9 aust per metre.  Later I also acquired 112cm width in black and peach pink for $9 aust per metre.  While not the best price I have ever paid, it is the best fiber content.   Some years earlier I found 12 metres of silk satin 112cm wide for  $5 aust per metre.  This was lighter but a good weight for a dress.  It is in a lovely blue shot with purple.

For summer I prefer to wear linens.  Cotton linen blends are a good compromise for the warmer months and can occasionally be bought at excellent prices.  A medium weight for outer wear at a minimum.

For chemise I normally choose 100% cotton voile or, pongee silk for cooler nights.  I have some hankie weight 100% linen and 100% Irish linen for undergarments also.

For over garments such as cloaks or loose gowns, wools and heavy brocades are ideal.  Being over garments they are intended for warmth so fur can be used in these outer garments too.

Also I need to be able to wash the finished garment.  I don't want to spend more than I pay for the fabric again at a drycleaners.  This is an important point for me.

As I have demonstrated there are modern textiles available that will substitute for renaissance textiles with out compromising greatly on colour, design, fiber content OR cost.  Natural fibers are always desirable over synthetics, however this is not always practical.

If in doubt as the the fiber content of a piece of fabric you should try the burn test.  To see what the results of the burn test mean click here.

To see what another sewer has found by way of historical substitutes click here.


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All intellectual content, composition, layout, designs and photographs copyright 2007 to Deborah Lane , 2003 to Deborah Murray or Mistress Oonagh O'Neill . All Original renaissance art works and artifacts are not copyright to Deborah Lane, and are shown for educational use only.  If you see something you'd really like to use, please contact me!