Monday, April 29, 2019

Pop Pouch - FAQs about Materials


As I work through the final details of the Pop Pouch pattern, I thought I'd do a couple of pre-launch posts with some preparatory information. Today's is all about the materials I used and recommend for my Pop Pouches. Let's do this FAQ-style, shall we? I like imagining the exact questions you guys might have, plus it's a zillion times more exciting to disseminate and digest information - especially loads of it - when it sounds like people interrogating other people, complete with bewilderment and skepticism.

For your convenience, here's a shot of the page showing the list of recommended materials.



Let's begin by clarifying that on the outside, the materials used in the Pop Pouch look like those of many other handmade stationery holders: canvas (or duck cloth), home-dec fabric, even quilting cotton. Nothing fancy; my bet is that you will have at least some of these in your stash already, especially if you've made household items like accent pillows, or the occasional tote bag.



Q: What is duck cloth? Is that the same as canvas?

A: Short answer = yes, they are the same. 
Longer answer: duck cloth, contrary to what I'd initially thought, is not a brand of canvas. Nor has it anything to do with waterfowl. I've since learned from Wikipedia that it is derived from the Dutch word "doek" for linen canvas. Duck cloth is also called "cotton duck" (to distinguish it from that original linen canvas) or simply "canvas". Fun factoid: In addition to it being a brand name, Duck tape has a similar etymology. The original duct tape was made from canvas fabric on which an adhesive was applied to make it sticky.


Q: Can I use upholstery fabric for the outside of the Pop Pouch? Is that the same as home-dec fabric?

A: Home-dec fabrics are medium-weight fabrics commonly used in projects like accent pillows, cushions and curtains. They are heavier than quilting cotton but lighter and more drapey than duckcloth (or canvas) and their designs tend to be printed rather than textured into the weave itself, although there are exceptions. Home-beautifying items aside, many people also use them to make bags, pencil cases and even garments. You can find them in two common widths: 45" folded on bolts and 56" or wider on rolls. 

Upholstery fabric is typically used in the coverings of furniture (sofas, armchairs, boat cushions) and is thicker, heavier, stronger and more hardy than home-dec fabric. Upholstery fabrics are usually sold in wide widths (60"-ish) and in a variety of materials including naturals (e.g. cotton, leather) and synthetics (e.g. vinyl).

I think of canvas/duck cloth/cotton duck as somewhere between home-dec and upholstery in weight.

Bottomline: canvas and home-dec fabric are great choices for the Pop Pouch. Upholstery fabric should be chosen with discernment - the thinner and less bulky varieties will be much easier to work with. 


Let's go inside the Pop Pouch now:

The innards of the Pop Pouch are a little less run-of-the-mill in that unless you're already in the habit of making pencil cases and bags and such, you may not keep some of the classic bag lining materials on hand in your stash. This means a shopping trip might be in order, either in person to a store or online. I'll try to help you as best I can to demystify some of these materials so you can purchase them with confidence. 

Let's begin with interfacing. All bags and pouches have some kind of stabilizing layer so they don't collapse when they're empty. Remember that the Pop Pouch, while vertically acrobatic, is actually quite small and doesn't have to be rigid and fortress-like in the same way a large backpack or tote might. If you use the midweight to heavyweight outer fabrics as recommended (duck cloth, home-dec, etc.), you'll need just enough stiffness in your interfacing to keep those fabrics crisp and supported, but not so rigid that they cannot be manipulated.


Q: What sort of interfacing should I use? What do you mean by "heavyweight"?

A: Let's get specific. To help visually, here are some photos featuring interfacing from the shelves of my local JoAnn Fabrics store. You will need two kinds of interfacing in the Pop Pouch. 

(1) a craft-weight fusible interfacing. 
Fusible interfacing gets ironed to the wrong side (WS) of the fabric you want to stabilize. I typically use Pellon 808 (Craft Fuse) in my bags, cases and pouches. Here's the direct link to the product at JoAnn.


Sometimes Craft Fuse is not in stock. This throws me off slightly because all I'm left with then are the flyaway garment stabilizers with generic names like Featherweight, Lightweight and OtherAmbiguousTissuePaperEsqueWeight. Or  else the foamy, fleecy, furry things that remind me of asbestos or wall insulation and which I thus avoid with unjustified prejudice. 

If you can't find Craft Fuse, the next best alternative is the 809 Decor Bond. It is slightly stiffer than Craft Fuse but if used with mid-weight home-dec fabrics should work just fine. 

(2) a sew-in interfacing that's mid- to heavy-weight. 
Which is sort of an unhelpful spectrum, so I'll narrow it down to this:  if you can get it, Pellon 50 is ideal. Note that it's labeled "heavyweight" on the bolt but that is more a generic than distinguishing term. By this I mean you'd find at least a half-dozen other stabilizers which are far stiffer and just as heavy or heavier, but which have fancier names than "heavyweight". And which would be far too thick and stiff for the Pop Pouch. 

Here's an alternative: the "midweight" Pellon 40 is a little light for the Pop Pouch, but better this than one of those extra-heavyweights that could well be used to make a bulletproof vest. The Pellon 40 used with duckcloth/canvas (which are heavyweight fabrics themselves) should work just fine.

Bottomline: I'd say that for the Pop Pouch, use a sew-in interfacing no heavier than Pellon 50.


Now let's move on to the lining material. Short version: if you can get it, use ripstop nylon.

Q: What is the big deal about ripstop nylon?

A: I always have ripstop nylon in my stash because it is an excellent lining fabric for bags, pencil cases, utility pouches and similar projects. 


Now, unless they're making rain jackets, sport jackets, parkas and such, garment seamstresses will probably never need ripstop nylon. However, I would gently recommend that every serious bagmaker try working with it at some point in their lives because it has so many good qualities, not the least of which is its thinness which contributes very little bulk even in multi-layer seams. For example, it's indispensable in wallets, in which many lining layers are stacked atop each other to create cascading pockets. 

You can find ripstop nylon in the Utility Fabrics section of many fabric stores, including those online. Fabric.com has it here. Amazon has many vendors selling it here. You can find Etsy sellers here. I get mine from brick-and-mortar stores because I am fortunate enough to have them nearby. JoAnn Fabrics, for instance, has this shelf of utility fabrics - half of those bolts are ripstop nylon. Like most utility fabrics, these bolts are 58"/60" wide.

I say "half" because some of those bolts look like they're the same fabric but aren't. I pulled two out to compare: same cost, both blue, both feel synthetic and papery, both are thin and slippery.

However, only one is ripstop nylon. The other is something called "sport" nylon (my guess is it's some kind of nylon taffeta or nylon oxford cloth).

What's the difference, and is it worth the hype?

Here, I'll zoom in on those cut edges.

See: this ripstop nylon does not fray. It also has ribs woven in a square grid pattern. That pattern is made by extra threads which reinforce the strength of the fabric to prevent tearing. All ripstop nylon has these ribs, but not always in a square pattern, incidentally. We'll meet other kinds later.

Here's another pair to compare - both fabrics are again from JoAnn Fabrics - orange sport nylon and grey ripstop.

Let me clarify here that ripstop is not a 100% fray-proof fabric like, say, felt. However plasticky it feels, it is still a woven fabric which may have some "give" along the bias (diagonal) direction and whose cut edges may unravel slightly. However, some kinds of ripstop nylons undergo treatments that stabilize them and cause them to fray less. We'll talk about that later.

Whether you buy ripstop in a physical store or online, here are some things to consider. 

One (of several) ways to distinguish between different kinds is by weight (in oz per square yard). Two of the more accessible retail ripstop nylons are 1.9 oz and 1.1 oz. Because these numbers are not typically on the labels of the fabric bolts, I did some weighing at home and my best guess is the JoAnn ripstops are the 1.9 oz kind. You can easily feel the weight difference in the thickness of different ripstop nylon fabrics.

Another way to distinguish between different kinds is whether or not they are calendered. This is a process that presses a fabric (not just ripstop) through rollers at high temperature and pressure to seal, thin and coat it. You can read about it here. The process leaves one side slightly shinier and the other more matte and the fabric somewhat papery-feeling rather than clothlike as a whole. In ripstop nylons, the calendering process also makes the fabric more stable so that it stretches less in the bias direction and frays less easily. Uncalendered ripstop is good for projects in which softness and drape are important e.g. hammocks, the linings of sleeping bags, etc. For bags and pouches, calendered ripstop is more sturdy and preferred. 

Let's visit a couple more stores to learn more.

This is the Utilities Fabrics section of the SR Harris store in Burnsville, MN. 

I found several rolls of ripstop nylon here. All the fabric at SR Harris is 50% off all the time, so these ripstops cost about $4.50 a yard (60" wide).

These are calendered ripstops, and a little heavier than the ones I buy at JoAnn Fabrics. Again, there were no numbers on the labels, so I did some more weighing at home and my best estimation is these are closer to 2.5 oz. The extra sturdiness is nice, but we don't need it for the Pop Pouch - 1.9 oz is plenty. The grey and two yellow pieces have that familiar square-grid weave pattern but the green and red have a diamond-weave pattern.

Let's zoom in to see that diamond weave. 

You can see the weave more clearly on this green ripstop. Pay attention to the corner of the fabric resting on my palm.

As earlier mentioned, depending on how it's cut, ripstop can (and did) fray. 

Here are some uncalendered ripstop nylons I purchased online from a company called Ripstop by the Roll (RBTR)

These come in gorgeous colors but are very much softer and cloth-like in drape, almost like a robust chiffon. They also fray a little more easily (but not anything like the sport nylon) and are more fluid in the bias direction than I would like for bag construction. I compared them with the calendered one of comparable weight (1.9 oz) from JoAnn Fabrics). The dark blue ripstop on the left is from RBTR and the grey ripstop on the right is from JoAnn.


You can see that the grey calendered ripstop is stiffer and more papery. The dark blue drapes better and is more clothlike.

They totally work for the Pop Pouch but you'd need to treat your cut pieces the way you would a cotton fabric (i.e. has some stretch in certain directions, and frays).

Other online stores that carry ripstop nylon and ship widely are Seattle Fabrics and Fabric Wholesale Direct. Feel free to Google for more.

While I will always pick ripstop over the fray-fest that sport nylon is, it doesn't come in all the colors I might need. For that reason, I've used both ripstop and sport nylon in my Pop Pouches in the past (and you can, too!) 


Fraying edges are not an issue in the completed Pouch because all the seam allowances are finished or enclosed anyway. Just be careful when working with the component pieces of fabric during construction so as not to lose valuable millimeters off the edges of sport nylon- it could be tricky to follow the suggested seam allowance widths otherwise.

Bottomline: If you can get it, buy 1.9 oz calendered ripstop nylon. 


Q: What if I can't get either ripstop or sport nylon? I live in a little town in which the closest (and not-well-stocked, at that) fabric store is 15 miles away. 

A: In the pattern, I suggest a thin, strong cotton fabric as a natural-material alternative. Some quilting cottons are thin and have a high thread count, which makes them smooth to the touch and somewhat slippery when layers slide over each other. These cottons will work very well in place of ripstop. 

Among my pattern testers, only one had access to ripstop nylon, and used it. The others improvised creatively with thin shower linings, reusable grocery bags and slippery garment fabric. In other words, it is possible to get by without ripstop. The Pouch will still operate successfully without, so feel free to experiment with what you can get your hands on. 

Don't be too concerned with finding fabric that is super-slippery - many common fabrics will slide quite easily over themselves. You'd want to stay away from obvious wrong picks: fabrics with a pile/furriness (like velvet, felt, fleece, flannel, brocade, suede), fabrics with a tacky surface (vinyl, oilcloth), embellished and embroidered fabrics, and those with a very loose weave (like burlap and monkscloth) but smooth cottons and some synthetic linings would be quite feasible. Save those thick, fancy, richly-textured fabrics for the pretty outer layers instead. The main thing is to use a thin fabric i.e. one that contributes as little bulk as possible to seams, because there are many layers in this pouch that will end up stitched together at the seams. 

Bottomline: Think thin, low-bulk fabrics for the lining layers. Slipperiness is a bonus, not a requirement!


Q: Talk to me about zippers. Is an all-purpose polyester zipper like what I'd use for a skirt really ok? It seems somewhat feeble. Other pattern designers use metal zippers and chunky purse zippers in their designs. And what about sports zippers?

A: Yes, I really did use all-purpose polyester zippers like this for my Pop Pouches. They may seem a little dainty for a utility case but remember that the opening of this Pouch is 6", so a chunky zipper is going to be overkill. You'll eventually cut off the end of the zipper so don't use metal zippers (like the sort you'd install in jeans). If you'd prefer a zipper that doesn't scream "fashion!" the way a dress zipper does, sports zippers would work, too - but remember that they come in different sizes, and can have enormous coils or teeth (think duffle bag or winter parka). See this post for more zipper talk. Choose sports zippers with smaller coils. A good rule of thumb is if they look about the same size as a garment zipper, they're perfect.


Q: Can I use an invisible zipper?

A: I wouldn't. The installation method is utterly different.


Q: What is template plastic? Can I improvise?

A: Template plastic is what quilters use to make templates for quilting blocks. They come in fixed-size sheets (usually 12" x 18" or similar). Some are plain and clear, some are frosted and some have graduations marked on it for easier cutting. You can find them in fabric stores. I am aware of two kinds: regular (default) template plastic, which is quite pliable and feels like one of those plastic folders your child is forced to buy in particular colors at the start of every school year, and heavy-duty template plastic, which is stiff and feels like a typical base insert for a grocery tote bag. We use the heavy-duty kind for the Pop Pouch (since it's going to be supporting a pouchful of stationery), but you can also use thinner plastic, cut in multiples and glued together in a stack.

Some creative substitutes include 
  • the aforementioned plastic folders
  • plastic milk jugs
  • the plastic lids of ice cream tubs (the peel-off kind, not the screw-on kind)
  • pump lotion bottles
  • flexi-cutting boards and bendable plastic placemats
  • scrap pieces of flooring like linoleum

Be prepared to cut two or three layers and glue them together to get the right thickness). Rule of thumb: you'll want to pick something that can bend a little without cracking as you'll be turning this part of the Pouch inside out at one point in its construction.

I hope this has been helpful. Feel free to ask questions in the comments!



5 comments:

  1. After making many of your Better Marker Pouches, I'm all stocked up with pencil cases to probably won't attempt the Pop Pouch, but I loved reading this. You don't just share a pattern or a tutorial - you educate your readers. It's one of the things I have most enjoyed about reading your blog over the years.

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  2. I'm looking forward to making Pop Pouches for all the littles in my family. Thanks for the materials FAQ.

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  3. I had never heard of ripstop nylon - so useful to know about! I've only used the crazy fraying nylon. I also love the idea of using a thin shower curtain - such great problem solving.

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  4. I think that thin plastic placemats (such as the ones I bought some time ago from IKEA) could be a good replacement for template plastic, but since I never saw template plastic I can't be sure...

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  5. I have now managed to source ripstop nylon in black and royal blue from my local fabric shop. Looks like they managed to get some from their suppliers after I asked for it. I bought 1 metre of each colour so should be good for future pop pouches.
    The shower curtaining frays a lot but does work.
    I also used waterproof fabric on one but it was really hard to sew. The resulting pouch was my favourite though!

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