We have learned about the fibers from which cloth is made, how it is woven, how it is colored and how it is finished. What we have learned about these things should help us to judge quality in any cotton material. For example, if you are buying gingham for a new dress which you are planning to make you would wish to buy as good a piece of material as possible. It would not be worth while to make a dress that will wear out or fade in a short time.
What We Have Learned That Helps Us to Judge Quality in Cotton Dress Materials. - 1. Is the weave even and firm? Are the threads close enough so that the material is not sleazy? Is the material coarse or is it fine and smooth? You learned three tests for judging quality of weave when you selected material for your kimono. (See page 38.)
2. Is the finish smooth and fine, or is it stiff and pasty? Will the sizing wash out, leaving the material thin and flimsy? Some materials are mercerized, and some may be highly calendered so as to imitate mercerized materials. This calendered finish disappears after laundering. One can sometimes tell by washing a sample whether the material was made with a good finish.
3. One of the things that may ruin a cotton dress is the fading of the color. Sometimes the color fades the first time a dress is washed, or it may even fade in the sunlight before the dress is washed.
Long ago it was always the custom to "set the color" in the material for a new dress so that it would not fade. Many people still continue to attempt to set the color in new materials. As a matter of fact, it is only by chance that they are successful in this attempt, because there are so many different kinds of dyes used by the manufacturer that one can never tell what should be done in order to set the color. For example, dyes may be acid dyes, basic dyes, direct dyes, sulphur dyes, or vat dyes, and it is impossible to tell what has been used in the material you buy.
A more practical thing than to try to "set the color" in new material is to test a sample of the material before you buy it. One test which you know is washing to see if the material will stand laundering. (See page 39.) Another test that should be made is to find out whether the color will fade from exposure to light. Expose one-half of the sample to sunlight for a week or more and then compare it with the original color.
For Your Notebook. - 1. Write a brief statement telling what you will do when you select material for a gingham dress. 2. Write a brief statement explaining how you will judge the material of a ready-made dress. How to Judge Quality in Dress Linen. - 1. What we have learned about judging the quality of weave, finish and fastness of color in cotton materials also applies to dress linen. 2. Since cotton is a cheaper fiber to produce and manufacture than linen, it is often used to imitate linen. It is sized, calendered and beetled so that it has the appearance of a linen material. This effect, however, is de-stroyed by laundering. Sometimes the cotton yarn is spun with an irregular knotted effect so as to more closely resemble the linen yarn. Linene and linon are two cotton materials made to imitate linen. These names and the appearance of these fabrics often deceive people into thinking they are buying real linen. Mercerized cotton is often used to imitate linen, especially in tablecloths and napkins. Sometimes when people think they are getting a bargain in a linen tablecloth, they are really buying a tablecloth that is partly mercerized cotton or perhaps all mercerized cotton. Since linen is so expensive at the present time, mercerized cotton sometimes makes a satisfactory substitute. However, we should not pay for high-priced linen when we are really buying mercerized cotton.
Because it is possible to imitate linen so thoroughly by using cotton, it is difficult to determine whether a fabric is linen or cotton. There is only one sure way to distinguish between linen and cotton, and that is by use of the microscope. What have you learned that would tell you whether a fabric was linen or cotton if you were using a microscope?
Few people have microscopes to use, so it is helpful to know a few other tests that help to distinguish linen from cotton. One way to tell is by the breaking test. Linen is much stronger than cotton and is more difficult to break. Another way used to test linen and cotton is by the spotting test. First, wash the sample to remove the dressing, then after the sample is dry, drop ink or water on the sample. Linen absorbs water very rapidly and if the sample is all linen, the moisture will spread quickly into a round spot. If the sample is cotton, the moisture spreads slowly and unevenly.
In Your Notebook. - Make a list of things you could do if you were trying to determine whether a material is linen or cotton.
Buying Material for a Wool Dress or Coat. - Because cotton is cheaper than wool, cotton mixed with wool is sometimes sold as all wool. Sometimes the cotton is mixed with the wool before the threads are spun, so the threads of the cloth may be partly cotton and partly wool. Or the cotton may be mixed with the wool in the weaving. Very often the warp threads are cotton and the filling threads are wool. Unless we are sure we can rely on the merchant we should test a sample of the material before buying. There are a few simple tests which you might try on your samples to see if you can determine whether they are wool or cotton.
1. You have already learned the characteristic feel and appearance of each fiber. This helps to some extent in distinguishing between wool and cotton. When wool and cotton are mixed in the same material this test is not reliable.
2. Ravel some warp and filling threads from the sample.
Try breaking these. Pure wool threads break easily and cotton is more difficult to break.
3. Burn a small piece of the sample. Cotton burns very quickly with a flame like paper. Wool burns slowly, charring as it burns. It smells like burning hair or feathers. However, a small amount of wool gives this odor, and it is impossible to tell whether it is all wool or part wool.