Burn after reading
In my Sewing Summit recap, I mentioned scoring some mystery fabric at one of the two vintage shops I was able to get to during my short stay in Salt Lake City. I wasn’t quite certain of the fiber content, but I knew it was coming home with me. At first feel, this woven is a bit like silk, slippery on one side, yet with regular slubs on the other, reminiscent of a shantung. But the hand was a little too slick to convince me this was silk. It reminded me of the ultra-smooth surface of a book bag’s webbing or a dog leash, both typically nylon. So, I decided to conduct a burn test. I’ve done these in the past, and while I’m definitely not an expert, I thought I’d share my results with you. The most memorable of such tests was when I discovered that silk smells just like burning hair. It makes perfect sense that this is the case, and who knew my bored tween habit of pulling a strand and lighting it would have relevance later in life.
The first burn test was conducted in a spare room in my office. Do not try this at work. The a/c was blowing, thus I couldn’t discern whether the fabric burned quickly or slowly under normal, still conditions. Air conditioning going full blast (in October! so unnecessary; if only we could open the windows for natural air circulation, but that’s another story) meant a quickly burning blaze. And despite the fact that I really, really wanted to be home sewing, I also didn’t want to be the person to set off the alarm for the entire building. That would put a whole new spin on getting fired, huh?
- Burn – quick
- Smell – hair or plastic; this was made more difficult due to the fact that the fabric had been washed by either the store or previous owner in a fragrant detergent, something I’m not accustomed to.
- Bead vs. ash – large bead (it fell off before photo), a few smaller reddish beads, melty & hard, with a little crumbly ash
- Flame – didn’t notice due to sudden realization that this was a bad idea
- Smoke – see above
- Extinguish – I blew it out
Outside during lunch, I tried again. It was a little windy, but I found a protected spot. Of course, my last match went out, and I had to ask a woman smoking for a light. Yeah, she gave me a funny look as I proceeded to set a piece of fabric on fire. Silly non-sewer. This time I was able to get a decent burn, without worrying about the repercussions.
- Burn – slow
- Smell – hair or sweet plastic
- Bead vs. ash – still seemed a little melty, but no distinct bead, and I was able to break off some ash
- Flame – orange
- Smoke – none that I noticed
- Extinguish – stopped burning on own accord when I removed the fire source
When I got home, I decided to give it one more go, for good measure. Not because I needed to, but because I remembered how much fun it is to burn things. And three is auspicious, no?
- Burn – fast, very fast, with a slight sputter at one point
- Smell – hair or sweet plastic
- Bead vs. ash – a bit melty, without a solid bead forming on the fabric, but one did drop to the floor. It crushed when I picked it up, but was more hard than the straight up ash you’d encounter around a camp fire.
- Flame – orange with blue base – in a controlled, indoor environment, I was really able to see the color
- Smoke – some, grey
- Extinguish – I blew it out – definitely needed to!
Conclusion: I am calling this a mutt. I do think the final, gratuitous test gave the best results because of the controlled environment (no sun, wind, a/c, office smells, potential fire alarms). However, that test alone shows contradictory indicators when compared to the charts below. The fabric definitely does not smell like celery when burned (nylon) – more like sweet plastic (polyester) or hair (silk, wool). Signs point to synthetic, most likely a polyester/nylon blend. It’s been a while since I’ve done a burn test, and like wine-tasting, my palate may need a bit of practice after some time off.
The real question is whether this mutt has the hybrid vigor to become a Bombshell. It may look crazy, but then again, it may be a fabulous combination… if I have enough yardage. I should check the requirements first. These approximately 2 yds were marked $10, but I worked my magic and got ’em for 6 clams. I could always use the wrong side if the front is looking too clownish.