Several people asked me about, or commented on, the knit fabrics I used for the travel wardrobe, I hope I am answering these questions with this post.
Wicking polyester knit fabric
:My main source for this fabric is Stretchtex, although I have also bought some from Seattle Fabrics, it is available at The Rainshed, and I have also come across it occasionally at Spotlight.
1.Price The wicking polyester fabric I own was approximately 1/4 of the per metre cost of the wool jersey or silk jersey I can purchase (note, I bought a large amount of wicking polyester in 2006 and 2007 and am still using it up, the large purchase was one of the factors in how I purchased it so inexpensively) I am happy to use this fabric for childrens' technical clothing, which they may only wear a few times before outgrowing the garment. I am much more stingy with my use of the merino jersey.
2. Absorbtion: Wicking polyester does not absorb moisture readily. This makes it good for water sports (kayaking shirts, beach sun protection tops)
and for vigorous exercise in the heat. Merino knit tops absorb so much moisture that they sag and stretch when worn for these activities to the point of impracticality. Think wool swimming costumes!
Wash and wear: Wicking polyester can be washed in the machine with regular detergent and requires no blocking after washing. I line dry, but others dry these garments in a machine without problems, other than occasional shrinkage ( source, cycling group, not my stretchtex fabric)
1.Construction: Wicking polyester can be difficult to sew. Two of the fabric colours I have used (dark blue and dark pink) are needle resistant. I have to use a new microtex needle for each garment (including overlocker and coverstitch) and still get skipped stitches.
2. Smell. Wicking polyester holds odour readily, develops its own peculiar odour as the fabric ages and breaks down, and becomes musty if not bone dry. At home I soak all wicking polyester garments, (including purchased cycling jerseys, so it is not just the stretchtex fabric) in an anti bacterial/anti fungal pre wash product called Canestan, or, at a pinch, Napisan, to combat this problem. This works but is an extra chore I do not need for non-exercise clothing. Wearing a garment for a few hours of sweaty exercisewhere it keeps you cool, then washing it immediately is fine, wearing a garment for 12 hours of walking about and then putting it in a dirty clothes bag in your suitcase because you have a plane to catch is another thing entirely.
3. Longevity. Wicking polyester stains easily, pills, breaks down under UV drying conditions and generally looks like a rag after a year or two. Hand washed merino jersey garments look good for much longer.
4. Texture This is personal taste, but I find the texture of wicking polyester slightly unpleasant and on occasion clammy. This holds for purchased garments as well as the stretchtex and seattle fabrics. In warm weather I also find it hotter to wear than thin merino jersey, and definitely hotter than silk jersey. I also find the same fabric less warm in cold weather than either of the natural fabrics.
I am a big fan of merino wool jersey for normal life garments and for travel clothes. It is as easy to sew as any cotton or rayon or poly jersy of a similar weight, I find that it is warm in winter, not too hot in mildly warm weather compared to poly knit fabrics of a similar weight. I hand wash it and dry small light garments on the line, heavier garments lying flat on a towel. A light merino knit t shirt hand washed and rolled in a towel then hung up in a hotel bathroom dries just as quickly as a poly knit t shirt of a similar weight and size, and does not smell musty if packed slightly damp.
1. Absorbtion:I do not like merino jersey for exercise clothes, due to perspiration in my hot climate. It sags and stretches. However, this makes it useful for baby soakers. An acquaintance of mine makes these for sale from merino jersey.
2. Moths and cockroaches :Wool jersey is subject to insect attach and requires careful storage where I live - all wool clothes are packed away when not in circulation, in an airtight container, which also contains a fabric square dampened with eucalyptus and lavender oils.
3.Texture :My son and husband find some of the wool jerseys itchy when worn next to the skin. I have not found any of them itchy so far.
4.Merino jersey is not cheap. Personally, I find it worth the price.
I have purchased wool jersey from an ebay seller in Sydney
, gaining a light weight t shirt type jersey,
from Gorgeous Fabrics, gaining a much thicker terry style knit
and from Michaels Fabrics, gaining a heavy smooth knit, of wonderful texture but a terrible progressive vertical shrinking habit.
Wool jersey internet descriptions do not appear to be consistent regarding weight, stretch nor texture.
More recently I have confined my wool jersey purchases to those where I can see and touch the fabric at Global Fabrics (New Zealand)/The Fabric Store (Australia). Although I have only been once each to the Sydney, Wellington and Dunedin branches, on each occasion this fabric shop chain appeared to stock most the weights and types of merino wool knit fabrics available in RTW, in lots of colours. There is a new Brisbane branch, which I have not yet visited,and the shops offer a mail service to rural customers, which I have not used, but as far as I know there are no internet sales.
Here is my merino haul from Dunedin, last week
The fabrics to the left are light t shirt weight jerseys, the blue one is slightly heavier, with a diagonal waffle pattern, and the far right is like a merino terry, backed with a knit nylon, which I plan to make into a lightweight hooded cardigan. These were all 30% off, except the nylon backed one which was $8NZ per metre instead of about $30NZ per metre as when I saw it in March, so I am pleased I had a very light bag of clothes with room for such purchases.
To make my fabric confession complete, here are the two rayon knits and the cotton print I also purchased at Global Fabrics,which is cleverly located close to several outdoors shops, three cycling shops and a sweets shop for the entertainment of husband and children. (46 minutes in Global Fabrics - my son was counting). I am very grateful that this shop is open on a Sunday.
Here is a boy's shirt portion of cotton Kiwiana (selected by the boy) and a heavy embroidered cotton remnant from this very nice fabric shop in Oamaru,
nearly opposite the museum with a SteamPunk display -11 minutes. Sigh, I prefer shopping without my children.
It was fortunate for my fabric shopping interests that I wore my boots out on the last official day of walking, otherwise I might have been tramping the Otago peninsula before our flight instead of bringing home goodies.
(Gail, I have posted about this dress previously here)
I throughly enjoyed my trip to New Zealand. Here is my last souvineer photograph.