Skip to content

City and Guilds Fashion Level 1 – Week 2

September 21, 2010

Before I talk about what we did this week, I’ll write about what I’ve been doing in between the lessons.  I’ve mainly been working on my Style File.  I bought an issue of Marie Claire and In Style and I got the Sunday Times fashion supplement, and I rifled through these to collect images of upcoming trends for next season.  Camel is the big colour for Autumn/Winter 2010, and monochrome is also important (also referred to as ‘classic’).  Military style is big (buckles and brass buttons), as is a preppy, sixties-inspired look (beehives!).  Trench coats are a must, capes are going to be popular, and if you can throw in a bit of fur (man-made of course), sheepskin or leopard print, all the better!  Wool will be a key fabric and we will see lots of knitwear and tweeds.  Below are some photos of some of my trend boards for A/W 10.  They are a2 sized.  As you can see they aren’t finished yet; my work on these will be ongoing.




I also used some fabric scraps from my stash to get more swatches for my fabric file (and I cut out swatches for the other people on the course too).  Two of the other people had done similar, which is great as it means we’re building up our fabrics folder quickly and easily!

The second lesson was all about colour.  We were asked to bring along paints, and we spent most of the time painting colour wheels.  It was interesting to see how differently each person worked: I worked on a2 again and drew my wheels freehand; the girl next to me did much smaller and more precise wheels using a compass and a ruler.  Hers looked neater, but I was too eager to get to the painting and blending, and I wanted it to be big and bold, and kind of reckless:

Colour wheels

I had trouble with the secondary colours.  It is a well-known fact that to make purple you mix together red and blue in equal amounts, but as you can see when I did this I ended up with more of a rusty brown colour.  I want to say that it’s all a big lie, but it probably isn’t; I think it was mainly due to the shades of red and blue I used.

The painting took up most of the lesson, but we also learned some more about different natural fibres:


Cotton is a natural fibre from the seed hair of the cotton plant.  It is absorbent, and it ‘breathes’, allowing perspiration to evaporate (nice!).  It conducts heat and it is comfortable to wear.  Cotton is a strong fibre which apparently is even stronger when wet!  We were given descriptions of the different types of cotton, such as calico, chambray, cheesecloth, chino, chintz, corduroy, denim, drill, gabardine, gingham, lawn, madras (not curry!), moleskin, muslin, piqué, poplin, sateen, seersucker, terry, ticking, velvet, winceyette.  I found this information really useful, valuable and interesting, as I didn’t realise that all of these were types of cotton (and shamefully, I thought moleskin was actually the skin of moles.  Ahem).


Linen is spun from the vegetable fibre flax, and can be woven or knitted.  It is extremely strong and absorbent.  It is available in different weights from almost sheer to heavy-weight suiting.  We learnt about three types of linen:

  • Art or embroidery – Plain weave, medium weight for embroidery, bleached or unbleached
  • Handkerchief – Fine plain weave, sheer, used for handkerchiefs, dresses and blouses
  • Moygashel – Trade name for linen originally produced in an old Gaelic castle in Ireland.  Often has rough, textured surface.

(Incidentally, if you want to know more about linen check out The Sewing Directory’s L is for Linen).


Jute is mostly used in its natural colour as bleaching destroys the fibres.  It is spun into a coarse yarn called hessian and is mainly used in upholstery, lino and carpets.  It is also used to make Unicorn bags!


Often used as a substitute for flax in coarser yarns because they are difficult to distinguish when processed.  Used for rope and eco-friendly clothes!


A strong fibre whose strength increases when wet.  Similar to linen but pure white with a silk-like lustre.  Good resistance to rotting and mildew.  Tends to break if folded repeatedly in the same place.  Blended with nylon, cotton, viscose and mohair for upholstery fabrics and with cotton for knitted clothing.


Fibre from the husks of the coconut while still green.  It is too coarse for spinning into textile yarn and is used for matting and upholstery stuffing.

Man-made fibres

After going through the descriptions of these natural fibres, we moved on to man-made fibres.  As I mentioned last week, man-made fibres can be divided into two sub-categories: cellulose fibres and synthetic fibres.  Cellulose fibres are produced by treating natural sources like wood pulp, petroleum, natural gas and air with chemicals to a fibrous state.  Synthetic fibres are chemically produced by combining molecules of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen from gas, petroleum, alcohol, water and air.  I have never given much thought to how man-made fibres are made, so I found all this fascinating, and have decided to reproduce below (with Debbie’s permission) all of the information we were given.  (Last week I was finding it odd to think one of my silk dresses had been made by worms, this week I’m finding it odd to think one of my polyester ones was made from acids and alcohol!)

  • Acetate – Cellulosic fibre originally produced from cotton waste but now usually from wood pulp. Absorbent with a permanent lustre.  Drapes well.  Does not shrink or stretch.  Dyes well.  Blended with other fibres e.g. viscose, cotton, silk and wool producing silk-like fabric.
  • Acrylic – A synthetic fibre from coal carbonisation and natural gas.  Has an uneven surface and a wool-like feel.  Soft, bulky, light-weight and warm.  Retains its shape and is crease-resistant.  Can be permanently pleated. Quick drying it is often blended with other fibres.  Resistant to moths, sunlight, oil and chemicals.  Builds up static electricity and pills.
  • Cupro – Made from cotton cellulose.  Fine, smooth with appearance like silk.  Weak when wet.
  • Elastane – Lycra/Spandex are brand names of elastane.  It is a synthetic fibre with over 500% stretch.  Does not break and recovers immediately.  Always combined with other fibres.
  • Metallics  – Usually produced from aluminium which adds glitter to fabrics.  A weak thread which tarnishes unless coated with plastic film.  Heat sensitive and discolours when steamed.  Can scratch.
    • Lamé – woven or knitted from metallic threads.  Knitted drapes better.  Does not tarnish or darken with age.
    • Lurex – trade name.  Smooth, light-weight, does not tarnish.  Shiny with decorative surface.
    • Liquid gold – for evening wear.  Beautiful drape.
  • Microfibre – (Short for microdenier fibre).  0.01 denier or less (silk is 1.23 denier).  Most made from polyester or polyester blends.  Often combined with other fibres for soft handling and excellent drape.  Good crease-resistance.  Some are water-repellent.  Difficult to penetrate with pins and needles although specialist items are now available.
  • Modacrylics –  Similar to acrylics but flame-resistant.  Shrink at high temperatures.  Soft and crease-resistant.  Often used in deep pile fabrics e.g. fake fur, fleece linings, wigs, hair pieces and flame-resistant soft furnishings.
  • Nylon/Polyamide – First synthetic fibre, initially used for hosiery.  Immensely strong, light-weight, sheer, durable, dyes well.  Crease resistant, quick drying, does not shrink.  Low absorbency makes it feel clammy in warm weather.  Tends to pill and build up static electricity.  Its thermoplastic qualities allow it to be moulded with the heat and permanently embossed or pleated.  Nylon is mixed with other fibres to increase their strength, lightness, and crease-resistance.  Polyurethane coating makes it water-repellent.
    • Ripstrop nylon – has a grid style weave.  Wind-resistant.  Used in outwear.
    • Nylon taffeta – has surface sheen.
    • Taslan nylon – matt finished.
    • Mountain cloth – also called 60/40 after its nylon to cotton ratio.
    • Triblend – combined with polyester and cotton.
  • Polyester – Produced from acids and alcohol.  It is strong, durable, easy to care for with many uses from sewing thread, knitting yarns, household textiles and various weight dress fabrics.  Thermoplastic, it permanently pleats.  Resists flame, creasing, stretching, shrinking, abrasion and mildew.  Blended with natural fibres to improve their qualities and reduce cost.
  • PVC – Tough, non-porous woven or knitted fabric coated with polyvinyl chloride.
  • Rayon (Viscose) – First produced in 1891 from liquefied wood pulp.  Referred to as artificial silk due to its similar qualities but is considerably cheaper.  Dyes well, resists pilling,  static and moths.  Creases, frays and shrinks.  Blended with wool, silk, linen, acrylics and polyester to mimic natural fabrics.
  • Tencel- Trade name for fibre made from regenerated wood pulp.  Strong, soft, drapes well but tends to crease.
  • Triacetate – Made from regenerated wood pulp.  Similar properties to acetate but less absorbent drying quickly.  Dyes well.  Does not attract dirt so stays clean longer.  Heat-resistant and thermoplastic, can be embossed and pleated, and blended with other fabrics to add these properties.  Needs little ironing.
  • Vinyl – Heavy, leather grained, non-woven, waterproof synthetic for outwear and upholstery.  Not as supple as leather and does not breathe.

Thoughts on the course so far, and my changing attitude to fashion:

I really enjoyed today’s lesson.  I love painting and have always been drawn to abstract paintings and colour blending, so doing my colour wheels was right up my street.  I’m also finding it really interesting to learn so much about all the different fabrics, and the knowledge will definitely help me to decide what fabrics to choose for future sewing projects.

I don’t usually buy magazines because they seem so expensive and are mainly full of advertisements, but it has been good to buy some and look through them with a purpose (and the adverts have been useful for my style file).  I went through a stage in my mid to late twenties where, on the whole, ‘fashion’ seemed ridiculous to me.  I spent a lot of money of clothes, but mainly on dresses; little else interested me.  Maybe it’s because I’m getting older now, but I’m becoming interested in following fashion again.  Never before have I wanted to own something leopard print: in my mind it was forever associated with Bette Lynch/Gilroy.  Now I’m quite fancying the idea of leopard print ankle boots.  And imagine my joy the other day when I bagged a trench coat in a charity shop for £1.49!

Next week: mood boards!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: