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City and Guilds Fashion Level 1 – Week One

September 14, 2010

Having recently moved to a new city, I decided a good way to meet people would be to enrol on some kind of evening course.  I noticed this City and Guilds course listed at a nearby adult learning centre, and was drawn to the idea of doing something I enjoy whilst also gaining a qualification.

As I have made several garments both with and without commercial patterns, I was worried that this course might be too basic for me, so I went along to have a chat with the course leader, Debbie.  She was pleased to have a prospective student who can already sew, and she explained to me a bit more about what the course entails.  There is an emphasis on the design part of fashion: experimenting with different colours, fabrics and embellishments, learning how to draw fashion figures, altering patterns, and costing the different options.  The course also requires some research into a ‘style icon’ of your choosing, and collating a ‘style file’: a collection of fashion images for next season.

The course also gives you the opportunity to get more from your sewing machine and overlocker, and throughout the course (20 weeks) you build a folder of garment construction technique samples.  The end result is that each student designs and makes a skirt with embellishment, making notes on design, costing, finishing experiments, alteration notes and garment construction notes.

Week One.

Last night was the first session (the sessions are every Monday night from 7-9pm).  There are ten of us on the course; nine women and one man, age range between 20 and 60.  Debbie’s main focus was to talk us through the course outline in greater detail, and provide us with quite a bit of paperwork to give us an idea for setting up all the different folders we will need, which are:

  • Art and design folder
  • Fashion designs folder
  • Sewing samples folder
  • Style file
  • Garment file
  • Fabrics folder

We made a start on our fabrics folder.  We looked at the different types of fibres:

  • Natural fibres: Animal fibres (wool, cashmere, mohair, camel hair, angora, alpaca, silk) and plant fibres (cotton, ramie, hemp, jute, coir, sisal, kapok, linen).
  • Man-made fibres: Regenerated fibres/cellulose fibres (acetate, rayon, viscose, tencel, cupro, triacetate) and synthetic fibres (nylon, polyester, acrylic).

Debbie told us a good way to identify whether a fabric is man-made or natural is to set it alight!  Natural fibres will be harder to set alight and will turn to ash, whereas man-made fibres melt and turn into what looks like plastic blobs!

We then looked at some information on the properties of different fabrics (cotton, linen, wool, silk, viscose, acrylic, polyester, nylon, tencel and elastane):

  • Aesthetic properties: lustre, sheen, handle, feel, drape.
  • Functional qualities: fabric strength, crease resistance, elasticity, resistance to burning, chemicals and sunlight, ease of aftercare, price.
  • Comfort in-wear qualities: absorbency, insulation, ability to keep the body warm/cool, resistance to wind/water, electrostatic charge, and how it feels next to the skin.

This will help us to choose our fabrics when we design our skirt.  Usually I pay more attention to the print than the fabric so it will make a nice change to actually put some thought into it!

From fibre to yarn

We then looked at how fibre is turned into yarn.  Fibre falls into two groups: staple (short fibres like cotton and wool) and continuous filaments (long fibres like silk which do not require spinning).  Simple yarns are made by twisting short staple fibres together (spinning).  Ply yarn is made by twisting more than one simple yarn together.  We looked at mixtures of fibres in the weaving process, where one fibre is used for the warp and a different one for the weft, for example a cotton warp with a wool weft will produce a cheaper woollen fabric where the cotton adds strength and the wool adds texture and warmth.  We also looked at blends, when two different fibres are spun together to make a yarn, so that the properties of one of the fibres will improve the properties of the other, for example when polyester and cotton are blended, the less absorbent polyester produces a cloth which dries more quickly with reduced creasing.

From yarn to fabric

We looked at different weaves:

  • Plain – one weft thread is woven evenly over and under one warp.
  • Hopsack/basket weave – two weft threads go over two and then under two warp threads.
  • Twill weave – a strong, close weave with a diagonal pattern, producing strong fabrics such as denim and gabardine.
  • Sateen weave – because there are more threads lying on the surface, the fabric looks lustrous and glossy on the right side but it snags easily.
  • Other weaves – terry towelling and velvet are plain or twill weaves with a pile.


Silk is the only natural continuous filament fibre, hundreds of metres long, produced by the silk worm as it spins its cocoon.  We were given helpful descriptions of different types of silk.  I had no idea that these were all types of silk, and hadn’t even heard of some of them:

Brocade, Charmeuse, Chiffon, China or Jap silk, Crepe-de-chine, Damask, Faille, Foulard, Georgette, Habotai, Noil (also called raw silk), Organza, Pongeé, Repp, Sandwashed, Satin (antique, crepe-backed, double-faced, duchesse, satin peau, slipper), Shantung, Shot silk, Spun, Taffeta, Thai, Tussah (tussor), Washed/softened, Wild


We learnt that the finest wools come from shorter fibres, and that longer fabrics produce coarse yarns.  Like with the information on silk, we were given descriptions of different types of wool, and again, a lot of this was new to me!  Different types of wool are:

Astrakhan, Barathea, Blanket cloth, Botany, Bouclé, Cavalry twill, Challis, Coating, Crepe, Double faced/double coating/double cloth, Flannel, Gabardine, Hair canvass, Jersey, Loden, Melton, Serge, Tartan, Tweed.


So, as you can see I learnt a lot from the first session.  This is the kind of knowledge I would not gain from just choosing any fabric to make a garment using a commercial pattern.  Of course, to be able to do that is the main reason I love to sew, but it’s really great to be taking the time to learn more about my hobby.  I will be back next week to tell you what else I’ve learnt!

  1. September 14, 2010 4:12 pm

    Wow, I wish I could do a course like this!! Thanks for sharing all the information, looks like you learnt loads in the first session already. I look forward to next week’s installment 🙂

    • tabathatweedie permalink*
      September 14, 2010 4:36 pm

      You’re welcome Leah, and thank you for your comment! I’m sure there are courses like this all over the country, so maybe have a look if there is an adult education centre near to you. I was really pleased to find this course, and what’s even better is that it only costs £150 (which you can pay in three installments if you wish). I’m looking forward to writing about each session, hopefully it will give people an idea of what’s involved in the course!

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