Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tips Tuesday!

I don't know if this is going to start a trend here, but it's Tuesday so I thought I'd share a helpful tip with you! I have a bit of an obsession with life hacking and get a really sinister kind of glee when I find a new way to hack my life and make myself more productive.

I was recently involved in a discussion on Facebook about burn tests. A burn test is a test one does to find out the fiber content in a piece of fabric; you burn a scrap of fabric and check the results to determine what kind of fibers are included in the fabric. It involves smelling the burning fabric, observing the ash characteristics, and observing the way it extinguishes. Most fabric shops have labels on their fabrics denoting the fiber content, but industry standards allow fabric manufacturers to be a bit misleading. The big fabric mecca warehouse outlets often do not have fiber content listed on bolts - or if they do, it's something generic like "wool blend" or just plain old "twill".

I'm lucky - my local fabric mecca will burn fabrics for me. Most people have to get swatches and burn their own fabrics, sometimes out in the parking lot (which does look a little suspect to the non-fiberfiles). Making sure you always have your burn test materials on hand when you go shopping is important, but if you're like me, that's a dicey proposition.

The best way to make sure you have all your burn test supplies on hand? Make a traveling burn test kit. Before I explain, let's remember that anything involving fire should be done in a controlled environment, with water on hand, and taking every precaution necessary to prevent burns. Fabric burns fast; fabric of an unknown fiber source can behave in unexpected ways (like melting or burning very quickly). I take no responsibility for those who perform burn tests without using common sense; try this at home, but you do it at your own risk. Alright? Alright.

First, get this flow chart from The Lovely Doll Company and print it out.

I think it has the best information and makes it quick and easy to decipher just what you're looking for. You can laminate it and roll it up so that it stays fresh forever, or fold it up as-is if you don't mind occasionally reprinting.

Next, get a small tin like an Altoids container. Bonus points if you recycle, but if you need to buy new, Specialty Bottle sells small tins as well. A metal container won't get wet, but you could use anything you find helpful - a plastic container, a small bottle, and so on.

Finally, add a child-proof lighter or matches, whichever is your weapon of choice for causing a conflagration, and a tool for holding onto the fabric, as it's a really bad idea to light any fabric while you're holding it in your fingers. The best choice is a pair of forceps from a medical supply company or, if you're lucky, your local pharmacy. You can also use tweezers, but be careful with smaller tools.

Voila! Put it in your car or in your purse and you have a burn test kit for the fiberfile on-the-go. All your supplies will be together for your next trip to the fabric store.

What other tips do you have for fabric shopping? Share in the comments!

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