It’s something of a sport to surf the various fabric discounters and look for identical fabrics priced very non-identically, for example this stretch cotton velveteen, available in a magenta colorway and an aqua one:

 which is currently available at Denver Fabrics for $11.00/yard, and a mere $5.99/yard at Fabric Mart. Add in Fabric Mart’s much faster and often free shipping, and this one’s a no brainer. (Especially not for me since I’m not planning on buying either.)

But obviously the Selfish Seamstress is a savvy shopper, no? No. As it turns out, the big online fabric discounters have duped your innocent, well-meaning Selfish Seamstress. On a routine hunt, I discovered a wonderful navy and cream geometric silk twill on Fabric Mart- the kind of pattern and fabric I have been seeking for many moons to make the wonderful modern shirtdress that exists only in my mind’s selfish little eye. Here’s the listing:

I hastily ordered 3.5 yards and patted myself on the back for having decided against a different geometric brown and white cotton print at a London fabric store the week prior, about whose weight and drape I felt a little bit iffy for my hypothetical shirtdress. The salesperson was just about to make the first cut into the roll when I was like, “NO! I DON’T WANT IT!” They love me there, I bet. Anyway, I felt smug that I had held out for perfection, and been rewarded with silk twill in just the right print for a very, very reasonable $9.99/yard.

So imagine my joy when I discovered a perfectly matching lining fabric a few days later on Denver Fabrics! 100% acetate, not my favorite, but certainly something I could work with for that lovely pattern on a lining. I imagined myself walking down the street in my modern silk shirt dress topped with a coordinating cream 3/4-length trench lined in matching print, navy slingbacks, with a tiny dog on a leash, who in turn was wearing a matching scarf cut from the remnants. (In my mind’s eye, my outfits are often accessorized with tiny, expensive dogs, even though I have no real desire to have one.) Anyway, here’s the listing from Denver’s page (now sold out, btw):

The following week, this lining went on sale for $1.99/yard but I already felt like I’d gotten a good price, so I wasn’t too bummed. I think you know what I’m going to tell you next, and before you tell me that I should have known, let me make the disclaimer that manufacturers often use the same prints on different fabrics within a collection, to make coordinating sheers and solids, to use the same print on a blouse and a coat, etc. So really, in my mind this made perfect sense- I reasoned that Fabric Mart had bought some surplus of the dress fabric from Ann Taylor or whatever, and the Denver Fabrics had bought up the surplus of the coordinating lining.

Okay, so now to the punchline, which you should all be able to guess by now. I received the fabrics today. They actually came in the same box because I had them shipped to my mom in the US and she repacked them together to ship to me. And I opened the box to discover that…  (say it with me now)…. they’re the SAME FABRIC. Yes. (This explains why my mom called to ask why I ordered two of the same fabric and why one was so much more expensive.  I was like, “Oh, silly sewing-ignorant mother, don’t you know the difference between acetate lining and SILK TWILL? How undiscerning you are in your fabric-ly ways!” As it turns out yet again, my mother is right. She is ALWAYS right.) Here’s pics:

These fabrics are really and truly THE SAME. They have the same drape, they are the same width.  The only way I can tell them apart is that the one from Fabric Mart has a sticker on one corner that proclaims “SILK TWILL GRID $9.99.” My intuition is that this is not silk, not just because I’m a cynical beeyatch who tends to assume that the world is out to screw her over, but because the fabric doesn’t feel luscious like silk to me. Those fibers coming off the cut edge have the resilient bounce of a synthetic, not the yielding limpness of silk. Then again, I rarely sew with pure silk, so I’m not really an expert on it. The fabric has no scent at all. If I crush it in my hand, it does not retain wrinkles. If I picked this up at a store, I would guess it was a polyester or nylon lining.

Anyway, feeling pretty grumbly and still harboring the hope that one was a silk and the other a synthetic and they just happened to look and feel exactly the same (why that would be a good thing, I don’t know), I decided it was time for a burn test.

I pulled a few threads from each, and did a burn test that revealed that I have no idea how to read a burn test. Seriously. I will say that the two samples did the same thing.  They sort of balled up where the flame hit them, leaving behind a little black knob that crumbled in a “crunchy” way when I smooshed it. I couldn’t tell whether any melting was happening. The smell is supposed to be very revealing, as silk is supposed to smell like burning hair, whereas acetate is supposed to smell like burning wood chips. Honestly, it all smelled like burning match.  Maybe ever so slightly like peanut shells. I subsequently cut little squares of each, as well as of some silk dupioni and rayon lining and proceeded to nearly set my house on fire repeatedly. The rayon lining definitely didn’t ball up so I think I can count that out, but the others did, and they all just smelled like smoke. Also, my lungs feel kind of fried now.

So, anyone have any advice about how to figure this one out? Or has anyone more knowledgeable purchased this fabric from Fabric Mart and feel pretty convinced that it is what it claims to be? Either I got an amazing deal from Denver Fabrics, or Fabric Mart has incorrectly identified this as silk and I’m going to have to write them some email. In any case, I now have a LOT of this stuff.

Hrrmph.

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