The House of Tatterdemalion


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Guess who bought Denver Fabrics?

December 16th, 2007 by tatterdemalion

The FAQ at Denver Fabrics has been updated to reflect it’s new owners. Does it look familiar? No? Maybe you’ve never checked the FAQ for this company.

My first clue was that the new promotionals that Denver Fabrics was sending out had a decidedly familiar ring to them. And then I noticed that the layout for the merchandise descriptions seemed really familiar, too. It took very little poking around to make it very obvious. A friend of mine even went so far as to realize that “Denver Fabrics” and “Fashion Fabrics Club” are carrying the exact same stock. It’s nothing more but a different door to the same store.

This is disappointing on several levels. If Denver Fabrics had to sell out, it would have been nice if they could have sold out to someone new to the business. Then at least there would have been a variety of choices. As it is now, it’s just as though they’ve gone out of business—one less choice.

Then there is the sadness of it having to be FFC that bought it. Denver Fabrics had the most wonderful, warm, encouraging, there’s-no-such-thing-as-a-stupid-question customer service. Although I’ve never experienced being treated poorly by the FFC customer service, it has always struck me as cold and uncaring. I have always been loathe to contact them, and always felt like it would just be a bother because I wouldn’t get any help from them anyway.

There is also the sadness that Denver Fabrics used to highly recommend swatches, and tried very hard to get people to use them. FFC refuses any kind of sampling except buying 1/8th of yard and charges so much for shipping that 1/8th of yard—$4.95, to be exact—that one is strongly discouraged from buying swatches. This leads to many dissappointing purchases.

There is also the problem that FFC is very inconsistent in it’s quality. I could feel confident in buying anything from Denver Fabrics, knowing that they only sold quality stuff I’d be glad to have. Even just seeing the swatch sets that FFC sends out to it’s club members (they choose the fabric that gets swatched, not you) has taught me there is a lot of ugly polyester in the world. I recently bought two pieces of wool from FFC. The both had similar decriptions—they were wool flannel, though one piece was “brushed” and the other was “denim weave” on the back.

The first piece was so “brushed” it’s nap was so pronounced as to almost appear as a “fake fur” (but it felt a lot better!) It was supple and soft. It prewashed up beautifully (I used tepid water and dishsoap).

The other piece was coarse, and stiffer than polyester felt. It leaked dye all over the place as soon as water touched it. And after sending about 6 bathtubs full of emerald green water down the drain, it continued to leak dye. It is now pretty much worthless to me, because I don’t care how many times they “recommend” dry cleaning wool, I’m not going to sew up anything I can’t clean myself.

That made smoke pour out of my ears, I can tell you. If they had sold me plain white wool, I could have dyed it much more color fast myself, and gotten the same (or better) color to boot. I have done enough dying of wool to consider it “not dyed” when as soon as you plunge it into water it releases all of it’s dye. They have utterly no excuse. It was a cruddy, cheap piece of work.

Now how will I be able to tell the difference? Some wool that FFC sells is good. Some is not. Both pieces I bought were the exact same price. It turns into a blind guessing game. Unless you’re willling to pay $5 for the privilidge of finding out it’s a worthless fabric.

I’d really rather just shop some place that sold quality fabric, and had a consistent stock. Let me know if you know of such a place.

Posted in Contemplations, Dyeing, Merchants, Websites | No Comments »

Dyeing to know?

November 17th, 2007 by tatterdemalion

So you may possibly remember me mentioning my efforts to dye yarn green, and having less than stellar results. The most civilized answer to what color the yarn is has been “kahki green” or “something you would wear with combat boots”. I don’t have any combat boots. . .

Things got odder and odder when I tried dyeing test swatches with (alternately) slipskin grapes and pokeweed berries. Though the dye bath was deep purple and a brilliant fuschia, the yarn kept coming out brown, of all absurd things. So I inter-library loaned 14 hundred million books in an attempt to figure out what on earth was going on. I found lots of dots, but didn’t managed to connect them all until the 14 hundred million and one book. Dots:

  • Don’t use well water for washing your wool; the minerals in the water will form soap scum!!! (Big deal.)
  • Iron added to a dye bath will “sadden” or “dull” the colors.

For some absurd reason, it took me until I found the The art and Craft of Natural Dyeing by J.N. Liles before I finally realized what my problem was:

. . .for practically all natural dyes except madder, logwood, weld, and brazilwood, soft water is best. In former times, rainwater was considered ideal, riverwater next best, and well water the last choice since it often contained the largest amounts of dissolved salts. Not only do salts alter tehcolor of some dyes, but they can sometimes cause spotting, particularly on piece goods. Iron contamination can really create havoc with bright colors.. . .If iron contamination is suspected, dissolve a few crystals of potassium ferrocyanide in about one-half ounce of water. Add a little vinegar or weak acid. If the solution remains clear, it is iron free, but if the solution turns blue, iron contamination is present. The blue color results from the formation of Prussian blue, which is iron dependent.

Alas, I don’t happen to have a few crystals of potassium ferrocyanide hanging around, but I suspect (very, very strongly) that this is the problem. Certainly I was using well water, but my first reaction was “we don’t have that many minerals in the water!!”. After all, a few houses down the street has huge problems with iron staining, and if you go up the street the other way, there is so much sulfur in the water I can smell it across the room as soon as the tap is turned on. Our water, on the other hand, is wonderful. It has no off tastes of either iron or sulphur (is it sulfur or sulphur? they both look wrong at the moment). The fact of the matter is, it’s probably closest to spring water, as the well is very, very shallow. (We sometimes joke it’s just a buried 5 gallon bucket.) The water table in general runs very close to the surface, and it is not at all unusual to have a bunch of springs spontaneously pop up in the lawn every Spring, sometimes force the water several inches into the air.

However, I should have known better. Because it is also a plain fact of the matter that there’s a lot of iron in the ground around here, and you don’t have to go far to find it. When I dig up potatoes, I only have to go about 8 inches down before I find pale gray clay streaked with the rust of iron. So even if our well water is practically little other than run-off from the hill, it stands to reason it can pick up a fair amount of iron on the way.

The bad news is that I won’t be able to use my most ready supply of water for dying.

The good news is that I probably won’t ever have an iron deficiency, and that my water probably provides more essential vitamins and minerals than your average breakfast cereal.

All of that fascinating discussion aside, I do highly recommend The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing. He takes his dying seriously, and goes into detail. Of all my inter-library loaning, it is the only book I actually want to buy. Most other books give such scant information, or absurd repetition (pick plant; crush plant; soak plant; dye with plant. Pick some other plant; crush plant. . .etc) that they’re simply not worth it. This book is very fascinating, packed with information, and not something that someone only interested in quick-and-easy novelty dying would be interested in. If you really want answers, get this book.

Posted in Books, Color, Dyeing, Technical | 2 Comments »