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#057 : Ever struggled to find the perfect fabric?

with Diana and Justin of Raspberry Creek Fabrics

Episode Summary

Have you ever found what you thought was the perfect fabric only to find it is a woven when you need a knit? Or you fall in love with the pattern on a fabric but you'd really like it in a different colourway or shade?

Even though there are thousands of fabrics out there I still find myself wishing for something slightly different for some of my projects.

About Raspberry Creek Fabrics

And it seems like I am not alone because when I started chatting to Diana and Justin, I found out that their business, Raspberry Creek Fabrics, was born out of Diana's frustration in not finding quite the fabrics that she wanted.

She and Justin decided to take matters into their own hands to come up with a solution. With developments in technology it is now possible and feasible to create your own designs and have fabric made and printed to order.

Choosing the right fabric

One of the fun yet sometimes challenging parts of creating your wonderful new garment is picking the fabric. It often feels like we are spoilt for choice as there are so many fabrics out there, but getting that combination of fabric type (weight and structure), colour, pattern (size and distribution) can sometimes feel like finding a needle in a haystack.

Why is fabric choice important? Back in Episode 2 of the Sew Mindful podcast the wonderful Imogen Lamport of Inside Out Style outlined how we can use the pattern size, scale and density as well as the colour to harmonise with our natural colouring and proportions.

Imogen: "So I think if we talk Disney princesses here, Snow White, she's the high value contrast. She's black and white. She looks great in the black and white print, like the zebra print or that, that real black and white print of which there's many of them around, millions of black and white prints around that's the snow white print.

If you are more like Cinderella, you know, blonde hair or light hair, pale skin, lighter colored eyes, you look better, in a print that hasn't got that really high contrast. You look better in a light with a medium color or a medium with a dark color rather than a straight light, dark.

If you want to wear that light, dark print, you need to put the medium color in between. So you need to have something that I think is a more blended print where you don't really know starts light goes, medium, goes dark. It's got all the elements in it from the whole kind of value scale as we call it in it, rather than just straight light, dark.

And then if you are Ariel, so our mermaid she's a high color contrast. She's orange and green. She looks great in those multicoloured prints but without that high value contrast, not the light, dark, and just different coloured prints."

But finding that elusive fabric combination can be tough.

That's why Diana and Justin decided to not only design their own fabrics but also create a way for everyone else to do the same thing too.

Diana: "We started meeting with mills in Los Angeles to get fabric milled to our specification (weight, stretch, fibre content) and we screen printed for a while. Then we brought on digital printing machines."

So what's the best fabric printing?

It's a question that Justin gets asked a lot. "The 'best' depends on what your priorities are" he explains. There are many ways to print these days. Patterned quilting cottons are often produced with an acid reactive printing process that's done in bulk.

Fabric styles are often released as collections, produced in a 50,000 yard batch and then not repeated as it is difficult to get a perfect colour match in a later reprint. This is because there are lots of chemical processes involved that mean it is not easily repeatable.

Raspberry Creek Fabrics use pigment printing onto cotton because it doesn't require water, chemical mixing or steaming and washing. It can also be done digitally so it can be applied to a run of an inch or to 1000 yards.

The benefits of pigment fabric printing

In addition to the environmental benefits to pigment printing it is also extremely light-fast and has great abrasion resistance. This means it will hold it's colour through lots of wear and washing, making it hard-wearing.

And hard-wearing fabrics mean clothes that last for longer so we don't need to make as many or dispose of them as often.

Challenges of pigment fabric printing

The current biggest challenge with pigment printing though is achieving the colour saturation, particularly with darker colours. Fabrics that have a very dark navy background for example tend to require acid reactive printing techniques.

Impact of acid reactive printing

What I don't think I fully realised before talking to Diana and Justin, was the impact of the choices we are making about the colour of the fabrics we are buying.

Diana: "The reason why we cannot do acid reactive printing in the US is because it is very chemically intense and it requires nearly 20 gallons of water to produce one yard of natural fiber textile.

And that is all wastewater. In the United States, we have environmental regulations that won't allow that, which is is why companies have come up with this form of pigment printing. It's much more environmentally friendly, no waste water, no harsh chemicals. Our inks and pigments are even biodegradable."

So when we are looking for patterned fabrics, if we are willing to make small sacrifices on the density of the colour of our fabric we could be making a big difference to the environment.

Diana & Justin: "We've been to the mills, seen the chemical labs in the processes as we were starting to do this and more and more even overseas, they're trying to get away from it. A lot of the printers in Pakistan and Turkey these days are moving away from acid reactive and going toward pigment, and so I think we're gonna see a big change in the market toward a pigment product rather than an acid reactive."

Isn't print on demand more expensive?

It's definitely true that metre for metre printed on demand fabric does cost more in terms of what you pay at the check out.

Textile waste
Textile waste

But I think it is important to remember the 'hidden' costs associated with the high volume pre-printed fabrics too. It's common practice for the larger retailers to work on a principle of thirds - a third of the fabric gets sold at full price, a third is discounted and a third goes to waste (usually landfill).

One of the benefits to print on demand is that you only print what you need when you need it. Raspberry Creek also stock only white fabrics so this dramatically reduces any waste.

I guess my final observation in terms of the cost of fabrics is that if the price is really low and seems too good to be true, then it's likely someone got screwed in the supply chain, and usually it isn't the person selling it to you.

Lack of transparency in the fashion and textile industry is still a problem, even for the large clothing manufacturers. There is a large number of processes involved and a lack of easy traceability.

I'm not talking here about deadstock fabrics or end of roll type quantities, as the value of those has usually been recouped prior to the sale of this 'overspill'. But there are definitely fabrics on the market that are not being sold at a price that represents fair compensation for everyone involved in it's production and sale.

I like the idea of designing but I am not very artistic

If you are now thinking, actually I'd quite like to give it a go to design my own fabric, but I am no good at drawing, then fear not!

On the Raspberry Creek website they have all the tools to help you pick from their 22,000 strong library of designs to get you started. You can then use that design as is, or rescale the pattern to suit your requirements, select your base fabric and off you go.

They have worked really hard on streamlining the process from design to print meaning that they can produce the fabrics in a quick turnaround.

And if you are creative and want to use your own designs then you can do that too. They have helpful resources to help you upload your creations. You can either upload your design for your own use, or you can share it for others to use and join Raspberry Creek's affiliate program.

Join the community

If you would like inspiration or help getting started then there are great resources including a comprehensive blog on the Raspberry Creek website. They have a guide to the types of fabric you can print onto and the option to purchase swatches. You can also join the Raspberry Creek private Facebook group for more support.

For more discussion about Raspberry Creek Fabrics and fabric printing listen to the Sew Mindful podcast episode: 057 - Ever struggled to find the perfect fabric?

In this episode you'll hear:

  • [00:01:12] Why is the right fabric important?

  • [00:02:57] About Raspberry Creek

  • [00:07:17] What's the best printing?

  • [00:10:17] What's the impact of dying methods on the environment?

  • [00:13:11] What about the cost of custom printing?

  • [00:15:25] I'd like to design my own prints but I'm not artistic

  • [00:17:55] I have some designs I would like to use or share, how do I do that?

  • [00:23:37] How does being a sewist help you choose the fabrics?

  • [00:26:04] Raspberry Creek Community and resources

To visit the Raspberry Creek website click here:

Connect with Diana and Justin

Other episodes on related topics that you might like:

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Get in touch

I always love to hear about you trying out what you pick up from these episodes so do let me know:

Thank you so much for listening and for all your support. x

* this post contains affiliate links. This means if you use these links to buy something I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products I would/do use myself and all opinions expressed are my own. Read full privacy policy for more information.

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