This science project started because of yet another epic fail. While packing fabric for a Valentine’s Day dress to make in my Rosewood Art Centre studio I grabbed what I thought was dark scuba knit but it turned out to be grey wool. At work, I found that I had a pile of donated vintage fabric that I could use instead. The problem was I didn’t know what the fabrics were made of.  When inheriting vintage fabrics most times we guess at the fiber content and care methods. Before even considering making something out of the donated fabric I needed to be sure it was not wool. Wool doesn’t wash well.

This test can be done accurately by using the burn test method. The burn test is where you put a small swatch of fabric in a pan and catch it on fire. Depending on the smoke and how it burns will determine the content. Of course there is a chart or cheat sheet to follow. During my Hancock years I was told that high end fabric stores used to do a burn test by request. I was not going to do this test, at least… not today.

I heard of another science experiment I wanted to try. Since wool is an acidic fiber I was told it would turn to gummy goo if placed in bleach. Who doesn’t like a good easy science experiment? I decided to put some of my unknown and known fibers to the test.


I decided to go ahead and use the pink weave fabric, since I now knew it was not wool, for my dress. I thought it would be best to wash a 3″x 3″ square to see if there is shrinkage or changes in the fibers. Even if it was not wool I needed to know if this textile will be washable before making a dress.

I wanted a fitted 1950s wiggle dress for Valentine’s Day. I went through all of my patterns but I liked aspects from three different dresses. I liked the boat neckline that makes my bust appear larger, the sleeves that would be fitting for February in Ohio and last it had to have a curvy silhouette.

I went with one pattern and hacked everything in it. The pattern was a size 16 and I am size 12 so that was a lot of learning just to grade the pattern down. Even with a few minor fit issues I was happy to have figured it out.

Behind the scenes~

I’m working with a 40 year veteran dance instructor named Sammie Sue to put on a fashion show at Rosewood Art Centre February 23rd at 2pm. The show is free and open to the public.

Here is a video from another fashion I was in.

Thank you for reading,

Tracy McElfresh

Dream It! Sew It!