Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday Confession


Well, I'm still mining Sandra Betzina's book, More Fabric Savvy, for information and she has a page that describes how to use a burn test to identify a number of different fabric fibers. My confession - I've never set a piece of fabric on fire - at least, not on purpose... ;)

How about you? Have you ever tried doing a burn test (or some other test) to identify the fiber content of a piece of mystery fabric? If so, did it work? Did you set off any smoke alarms? Do you think it's a useful skill to have in any sewist's repertoire?

14 comments:

julia said...

The only time I ever tried anything like this was in chemistry class! I really judge fabric mostly on how it feels to the touch and looks to the eye. I try to wash most fabrics before I use them to see how well they wash and dry. When sewing for kids, that stuff is important.

Christine said...

I tried once on some fabric I got from the thrift store, but I really had NO idea what I was doing. And then I decided it didn't really matter since I was making a purse anyway.

Sarah C said...

I have done this several times. One of my design courses in college was textiles. We had several labs where we were given fibers and had to identify them. It works to identify them. Basically, if it burns it's a natural fiber. If it melts it's a man-made. There are several other tests to determine exact fiber as well.

Annie said...

Honestly? I rarely do this, but I clearly recall my mother testing fabric before she made anything, but I always attributed it to the fact that she smoked, rather than as a safety issue. She would be 99 if she was still with us, so it may be that it was part of her generation to do this.

gwensews said...

Yes, I have done the burn test. Boy, you know when you get a polyester because it smells awful! You can tell a lot by the feel of fabric also. It's easy to distinguish cotton, rayon, wool or poly by feel. Blends are more difficult, and I don't know how a burn test works with a blend. I must go look in the book and see if there's an answer to that.

Summerset said...

Yes, I have! Sometimes you just can't tell by feeling the fabric. There are actually some decent poly blends these days which mimic the real thing and you do need to know how to care for whatever fabric you've got. That said, there are a lot of bad blends and polys, too, but those are pretty obvious by feel.

Alison said...

Yes, I've done the burning thing. I do it outside...no smoke detectors, no alarms LOL. The last time I did it was for a fabric that I thought was cotton but then thought it was rayon. I still don't know because they burn the same!

meredithp said...

I've done it, but mostly I wrecked (well, craftified) a nice set of tweezers with "carbon". I would certainly do it again, but using said crummy tweezers rather than nice equipment. Outside, rather than kitchen sink probably another good idea. ;-)

KARIMA said...

Yes I've burn fabric. I just brought some fabric.com which they label as cotton. The fabric looked like wool houndstooth. hmmmmm! Burn test- Smelled like burnt hair to me. It did not melt so it wasn't polyster.

marysews said...

I've never done a burn test, but if I ever decide to, I will do it outside on the cement driveway, away from the house!

Julie said...

Nope. I keep all my receipts for fabrics and write the fiber content next to them. I'm a danger to myself with knives, scissors, matches, etc. Besides, I've fondled enough fabrics in stores that I've gotten pretty good with knowing what's what.

CarlaF-in Atlanta said...

Nope. When I buy mystery fabric from WalMart, I'm using it to make a muslin so the content really doesn't matter to me. I label my fashion fabric with the fabric content and care instructions when I get home. I mean I walk straight to the sewing room and label.

Cindy said...

It freaks my students out when I bring out the lighter in class :) Then there's that ah ha moment.

The kids run screaming LOL and I tell them don't do this at home alone without a parent to help. (mostly I use it for the kids to singe the edges of the ribbon to keep from fraying.)

sewducky said...

Yes, and I do it in an RV too if I happen to be there.

I smoke, so I have an ashtray handy. It works, I've never burned anything (made my ashtray hard to clean) but it can be useful. No amount of labeling for all of us is going to work. I put mine on a tag I pin to the slevedge, and they disappear, so sometimes I still have to do this.