January 17, 2017

Made: Another Flannel Shirt for Mr. AFS

It was that time again. Mr. AFS needed a new flannel shirt. Having converted him to these over the last couple of years, I'm happy to say that the sewing pattern I use for these - Simplicity 1544 - is getting better and better with each shirt.  If you recall (which you very well may not because hello, that was over a year ago....) I made changes to the pattern to create a convertible collar style. This really helps cut down on the bulk when using a nice plush and hefty flannel. I opted to go with this style again because I went all hog wild and decided to splurge on this lovely Kaufman Mammoth Flannel. It was Mr. AFS's birthday after all and he definitely deserved a handmade something from me because I've put him through his paces in the last year or so.
And that is what I wanted to really touch on today, the difference in fabric quality here. The past two times that I've made this shirt for my man, I used one of the "plaiditude" flannels from Joann. For anyone that has ever used one of these, you'll know that these seem to be the suprima flannel for Joann as they are a nice thick, beefy all cotton flannel. They are nice and they work just fine and make a good shirt. Having compared the Joann flannel with the Kaufman flannel now, I do find that there are some differences that are worth noting. The Kaufman flannel is quite frankly a finer cloth. The cloth itself doesn't warp with wash - something I noticed was present in the Joann flannel. Didn't mean I couldn't sew with it, just meant it was a little harder and more fiddly to work with. When the flannel doesn't warp - meaning the cloth itself becomes twisted and off grain - this makes for a much more accurate cutting experience. I cut out my plaids with this method from Sewaholic. I used to cut them out one piece at a time, but I've since been converted as I feel the Sewaholic method lends to more accuracy.
The Joann flannel tends to pill a lot more, especially after the first wash. I daresay that all cotton flannels will pill some after the first wash, but the Kaufman flannel held up pretty well. There was still some pilling, but I would say half as less as the Joann's flannel. With a good iron job, the pilling on both fabrics is minimized, but worth noting. Additionally, overall even after the first wash, I'm noticing that the Kaufman flannel is just softer. It is a subtle difference as both the Joann and the Kaufman flannels are soft.
When I owned a fabric shop, I remember when customers came in and would talk about the difference they felt in using a finer fabric - meaning the quality is finer. They would say that the experience was easier. I'll admit that I feel the same in general and thought I would just give a fair and honest assessment of my direct experience with this sort of thing. Granted, sometimes I don't think it matters. Sewing this latest shirt was easier, mostly because the cutting experience was more accurate and that was a reflection on the fabric as I didn't have to deal with the warp being off, if even a little. This doesn't mean that you can't make a quality shirt with the Joann flannel - obviously you can and I have and the experience was good and the shirt ended up well loved and well made. The subtlety in the cloth just made for a little bit different of an experience. Just so you are aware, I was not paid anything for this. Bought all these fabrics with my own money (bought this Kaufman flannel from Hawthorne Threads).
What's your experience? Do you notice a difference when using a finer cloth? Or is this all rubbish? I do believe that you can get quality garments from cheap fabrics, granted you have to be choosy. I do feel that with the time investment in apparel sewing, if possible, it is nice to splurge on fabrics that are high quality and will last a long time. What do you think?
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10 comments

  1. I've actually worked with both of those flannels and find the Mammoth flannel to be quite a cut above the Joann's line. I love the Mammoth plaid--the crepe-like texture, the fine finish, the ease of the grain, etc. I found the Joann's line a lot lower quality and fiddly to work with, quite off-grain with no way to fix it, thin, etc. (my finished product was embarrassing, whereas my two Mammoth flannel dresses are favorites of mine).

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  2. Very nice shirt!

    Definitely a difference in cotton flannels. I have some Mammoth that I've been saving up for a tunic, and have put it through the pre-washing. It is so much softer and thicker. I've otherwise used Kaufman's "cozy" flannel. It is quite different, and I think that the difference is due to its intended purpose. Mammoth seems to be made for active apparel - thicker, sturdier, and it looks like a woven cloth in the ombre sections. Cozy is, I believe, really intended for PJs. It washes up kind of fuzzy, is less expensive, is printed rather than woven, and does pill. I've also used some other generic flannel in solids, and I do think that a lot of it, especially in the under $10/yd is probably intended for PJs. Just my opinion.
    ~JenL

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  3. Fabulous shirt! Your observation is not rubbish at all! I believe that if you are going to spend time and effort making a garment, it might as well be in the best quality fabric you can afford. I tend to use the cheaper versions of the fabric as muslins.

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  4. In fabric as in many other things, you get what you pay for. I find that dye quality/perseverance, grain straightness and fabric sturdiness/resistance to pilling are what you get with more expensive fabrics. Worth it for a garment you plan to keep.

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  5. Better quality in fabric definitely shows through. My favourite cottons for sewing are Liberty of London or Art Gallery Fabrics, both do a beautiful fine cotton lawn fabric. For flannels I prefer a woven plaid to a printed one and quality most definitely shows in flannel, possibly even more so than in the lawn types. I generally tend to spend a little more to get something that will be nicer to work with and that will last longer.

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  6. Lovely shirt. I totally believe better quality fabric makes all the difference, both in sewing, wearing and longevity. Especially with knits - I'd never bother with a cheap knit eve again. False economy!

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  7. Nice shirt
    I'm a long way away from knowing enough about fabric to make good choices all of the time, I'm afraid. I made some poor purchases. I'm now trying to concentrate on using decent fabrics. I put a lot of effort into items so I will use good materials. Getting there! I've bought some plaid. It seems nice, so hope it lives up to expectations.

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  8. Handsome quality guy deserves a handsome quality shirt!

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  9. Hi Sunni:

    Great job on the flannel shirt. I hope he enjoys wearing the shirt and appreciates the time and the skills required to sew him a custom shirt. Personally, I never sew for my spouse for a variety of reasons including: in his opinion it would be cheaper to buy sometime RTW compared to the cost of buying fabric to sew a garment not to mention how much time it takes to sew something from scratch - but the real reason is the struggle to have him try something on in order to get the fit just right is like mating elephants with crocodiles (its just not worth trying). To make matters worst - the first time he would wear something I made him he would end up staining the fabric (with some mystery substance I would be unable to remove) or he would end up with a big hole, dead center in the fabric.

    I totalllly agree - if I am going to make a garment or whatever that I want to last I generally try to find good quality fabric, however, trying to find good quality is no longer easy.

    That's all for now, Nancy

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  10. Reading with great interest. Trying to make my hubby a quilted shirt, since he's always cold. Making myself a tick sheet from your observations. Thank you for sharing!

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