This post is absolutely not intended to be a slam at them; I'm a regular customer there and have generally been happy with my purchases. I have learned, though, not to always be tempted by a really cute print; with their listings, you absolutely need to pay attention to the details so that you're not surprised when your order arrives on your doorstep.
Unlike the FabricMart and Fabric.com listings that I dissected in Shopping for knits online, part 1: ITY Jersey Knits, I have actually purchased the fabrics that we'll be looking at in the rest of this post, so I'll be able to tell you how these listings translate to "real life".
A note about pilling, fade, and pre-washing
I've seen numerous online reports about fabrics from Girl Charlee and other sources pilling, fading, or having dye run after numerous washes. Jenny from Cashmerette even ran into an issue where dye was rubbing off onto her hands and lining fabric as she worked with it. Unfortunately, I don't know how to protect yourself against these issues when shopping for fabric anywhere--whether it be online or in a brick and mortar store. I've run into these issues (except for the dye rub off) with fabrics from a number of sources, myself. I do have one Girl Charlee print that I suspect will probably fade after a number of washes, but most of my purchases from there have held up pretty well. I do know that knits printed onto cotton knits and cotton knit blends will be more susceptible to fade, in general than say, an ITY knit. I think that many of us have read stories of pricey fabrics from Spoonflower fading after a few washes, so it's a problem that runs across all price points. I know that increased poly content in rayon blends can contribute to pilling in rayon knits, so that's something else to consider.
I've also found many of Girl Charlee's prints to feel a bit "stiff" upon first touch. I have found, however, that most of them soften up very nicely after a wash or two. If you're disappointed by the hand/feel of a fabric that you've just ordered, try pre-washing it and drying it before making your final judgment.
Making sense of knit weights
Some web sites (including Girl Charlee) list a weight by oz for each fabric. Unfortunately, these numbers are meaningless if you're new to ordering knits online. Through trial-and-error and many online purchases, I've developed my own categorization of knits by weight. Your mileage may vary, but this is what I go by when I see weights listed in oz on a fabric listing:
- Less than 7 oz: Anything under 7 oz is a lightweight knit. I would avoid anything in this range unless you wanted to layer or line the garment that you planned to make.
- 7-8 oz: light to medium weight, good for a top that needs a lot of drape or a flowy skirt (either lined or unlined, if the fabric is opaque). For example, a cowl top made from this weight of fabric will drape nicely. I would not personally use this weight for a wrap dress or for a simple knit top--a weight this light will be prone to showing lumps and bumps. Girl Charlee knits of this weight on a white background will be a bit sheer, as well.
- 8-10 oz: A true medium weight. I find this weight range to be the most "multi-use". This weight works well for a variety of knit tops and dresses. I made both of my Monetas from knits in this weight range.
- 10 oz and up: Anything over 10 oz is a "beefy" knit to me. I like this weight for plain t-shirts and other tops without gathering or ruching. This weight will not cling to lumps and bumps (unless your top/dress/skirt is tight). Beefy knits also work well for the bodices of knit dresses, but if you made an entire dress out of a knit this beefy, the dress might feel a bit "heavy".
- Cotton Jersey Blend
- Cotton Spandex Knit
- Cotton Spandex Blend (usually printed fabrics)
Cotton Jersey Blend Fabric
Most of the fabrics in Girl Charlee's Exclusive line are listed as "cotton jersey blends". But what does that mean? This bird print is a good example of this type of fabric:
|Cotton Jersey Blend fabric|
Take a look at the scale. 2" by 2" is not a small bird. It's easy to overlook the rulers on fabric listings, but you need to pay attention to them if scale-of-print is a concern. Many of the cute animal prints (and by that, I mean birds, foxes, and deer) on Girl Charlee are of a similar large-ish scale. This scale doesn't make the fabric unusable by any means, but it will make you think twice about what pattern to use with it.
If I was looking for a pattern for this fabric, I'd look at something like a loose-fitting batwing top. You won't need much stretch for that type of pattern, and it won't have a lot of seamlines to break up the print. Personally, I actually really like this line for kids' clothes for Eva. A cute dress with animals on it for under $7? You can't beat that.
One final thing to point out for this listing is that they have over 250 yards available. This print isn't selling out any time soon. If in doubt, order a swatch, then wash the swatch and see what you think before you order.
Solid Cotton Spandex Knit
Girl Charlee's "solid cotton spandex knit" fabric is dyed, rather than printed, so it has a different feel from their printed cotton spandex knits.
|Solid Cotton Spandex jersey knit|
The biggest two differences between this fabric and the one above it is that this fabric is beefier and contains spandex and no poly.
I like this fabric a lot for inexpensive t-shirts and knit dresses. I used this exact fabric for one of my Monetas, and while I've seen some slight fading in the wash (I wash my handmade clothes on cold/delicate), it hasn't been too bad. 10oz is a nice weight for a lot of different types of garments.
With 60% stretch horizontally (around your body) and 30% stretch vertically, if you use this fabric in a dress, note that the bodice will likely stretch and be pulled down by the weight of your skirt. This isn't a bad thing, but it's something to be aware of when figuring out where your waist seam will hit you and how long your skirt hem will be.
Cotton Spandex Blend Knit Fabric
If the first two fabrics weren't named crypically enough, this one is even a bit more of a head-scratcher. Girl Charlee will often have a small amount of rayon blended in with the cotton-spandex jerseys that they use for their print fabrics. This fabric is a good example of that:
As is often the case with knits with rayon, this fabric is a bit on the lighter weight side--7.5 oz. The weight for GC's cotton spandex prints can vary a bit, so definitely take a look at that number before getting your heart set on a certain pattern for a given fabric.
Being a cotton rayon spandex blend, you can expect this fabric to be very soft. (I can confirm that it is, indeed, very soft.) Think "secret pajamas" when you think of the softness/comfort level for this fabric.
Since this fabric has 50% stretch horizontally and 15% stretch vertically, you could use this fabric for a pattern with negative ease. Like the other cotton spandex fabric, if you used this for a dress, it will stretch in the vertical direction, as well.
I bought a yard of this fabric in a different colorway to make a dress for my daughter, and while it'll be fine for a girls' dress, if I were using it for a woman's dress, I'd look at patterns like Colette's Myrtle, or a flowy maxi-dress.
This post doesn't cover every single variation on the cotton jerseys at Girl Charlee, but it should give you an idea of what to look for and give you a better idea of what you'll be getting if you order fabric from this site.