21 February 2009

Make your own gear: travel clothes

Sewing is something of a lost art these days, but for those who like me do still sew, it can be frustrating to not be able to easily buy those special fabrics that you want.

When we took our last trip overseas, because we wanted to travel light, we took clothes with us that were specifically designed to dry quickly. (If you take less, you have to wash more often... or just stink.) Now pretty much any nylon or polyester of a light weight will dry quickly, but many will also be like living in a sauna in hot climates, because they often just don't breathe.

There are lots of high-tech new fabrics out there that have been carefully engineered to wick moisture away from the skin - making you feel drier and more comfortable - AND also dry quickly, and with a minimum of wrinkling. These are the holy grail of fabrics for travel clothes.

Of course, you can just go out and buy a purpose-made travel wardrobe, but these items of clothing tend to be expensive. And for kids, the clothing can be almost impossible to find! Sure, you can often get fleece clothing and maybe raingear for kids, but other clothing is a bit harder to come by.

So I solved this by making clothes out of these high-tech fabrics for my kids last time. Sounds simple, but finding the fabrics can be really difficult, especially in a country like Australia. While the manufacturers can easily enough obtain these fabrics, because they buy in bulk, buying these fabrics retail by the yard or metre can be quite hard!

Where to get wicking, quick dry, wrinkle-free fabrics:
  • Try looking on eBay. This can mean hours of trawling, and its quite difficult if you're not sure what you're looking for. Then once you find something that looks promising, it can be difficult to know exactly what you are getting. You just have to hope for the best sometimes, if you decide to go this route.

    I recently purchased some fabric on eBay that was said to be Pertex, which is a breathable DWR (durable water repellant) fabric that I intend to make into windshells. Now apparently Pertex cannot be purchased retail. So I'm not sure where this fabric came from, or even if it really IS Pertex. However, now that I've received it, I've tested it out - I can breathe through it easily enough, and water flicked onto it just balls up and runs off. So whether it is Pertex or not, it does what I want it to, so I'm happy. And it was a good price. :-) I'll get several windshells out of the 10 metres that I bought for less than $100, instead of paying hundreds for a shop-bought top.

  • For our last trip I bought a load of fabric from Rose City Textiles in Portland, Oregon, USA. They specialise in selling closeout fabrics from large domestically produced sportswear companies. They first sent me a small range of samples which I had chosen from their very large range. Then I evaluated them for what I wanted, and sent in my order. Rose City Textiles were a pleasure to deal with, and my order arrived quickly and in good condition.
There are many other fabric retailers catering mostly to the outdoor/adventure/backpacking type community, that you can also purchase from, though I haven't found any anywhere other than America and Canada. Maybe that's the subject for another post. Australia sorely needs a retailer like this.

If you have had some success purchasing high-tech fabrics for your travel clothing needs, please let me know who you dealt with, and what you liked about them. It would be great to put together a list of these sorts of companies as a resource for all of us.

Happy sewing!

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