Polyester.  I know, I know anyone of my generation who hears this word immediately conjures images of leisure suits and those “fab” pant suits our moms wore in the 70’s.

But do not fret.  Polyester has changed tremendously since then.  Because it is a manmade fiber, it can be made do to all sorts of interesting things and can be made to look like something else – like, for instance, silk or wool without the same care requirements.  The other interesting thing, is that – particularly in Europe where people can be very environmentally conscious – polyester yarns are often made from recycled materials.  My Riciclo line, for instance is made from PET plastic.

Over the last two decades, European and Japanese designers in particular have been doing incredible things with polyester.  Think Issey Miyake’s Pleats Please line of clothing.

Once the intrinsic properties of polyester are understood, the creative opportunities are endless – from 3D shibori to devore’ to whatever your mind can come up with.

Polyester yarn is made via extrusion – i.e. the yarn is made by stretching the raw material.  Therefore, if enough heat is applied to it, it will tend to contract back.  Permanently.  For anyone that has done shibori (particularly harashi shibori) with silk, you know that the pleats are not permanent and care must be taken in storing and cleaning the fabric in order to retain the texture.  Well, the same is not true of polyester.  Once a certain texture is created with the fabric, it stays no matter how it is washed or stored.

3D shibori is probably the most wide spread application.  All sorts of shibori and shibori-like techniques can be implemented with polyester with stunning results.  Here are a couple of examples of things I have done with commercial polyester fabric.  The cuff is a series of random ties while the brooch pleating was achieved by using a pleating machine.  The two pieces of fabric where steamed at 700 degrees while still tied.  Once the ties were removed – tatah…… permanent 3D shibori.  The brooch, by the way, as a pulley mechanism in the back that allows you to shorten or extend it at will.  The rubber cords are what you use to slide the fabric up or down.

The beauty of having access to yarns, is that you can actually weave or knit your own fabric.  If weaving your fabric, you can use woven shibori or any structure such as cording or crepe that naturally causes the fabric to fold or pleat.  You can then steam the fabric for permanent results.  That is why I decided to import some interesting and sometimes unusual polyester yarns from Italy.  My plan is to experiment with them on the loom.  Another item on my to do list…….