Saturday, November 28, 2009

Cape Fabric: Now I Need YOUR Help!

Below is a pretty high resolution scan of a swatch from either a made-for-production cape or a screen used one. Or, it could just be a leftover scrap. I don't know. But I need your help. I don't really know the first thing about fabric. Don't know how to describe it, label it, discuss it. I don't know what type of weave this is, or realy anything about it.

And that is where I need the help of my readers. I'm looking for ANY information you can give me about this fabric that might help me find a good match for it.

Based on an interview I read (which is linked to somewhere in this blog) the cape fabric was a custom weave, and is wool. That's all I know. But I want more information. Is this a particular type of weave? It looks to be more deeply textured than say, my bed sheets, for instance. But how do I refer to it? If I wanted to call up a fabric store and say "do you have a fabric that is a thicker weave than my bedsheet?", would they know what the heck I was talking about?? I doubt it.

So please help me out, and let me know if you have any insight into this fabric, and any clues that might help me locate a suitable match for it.



A few folks from online have profided some information that I want to record in this posting. First up, a knowledgeable fellow member "Gilmore of OK" at 300DC tells me:

"Well Matt, it looks like you have a tight cross weave wool there. I mean, I really wouldnt be suprised with the scale magnitude of what the budget and anticipation put to Superman Returns was...its was probably loomed by hand....specifically for Roth.

here is a shot from Abbyshots fabric they used to make their Neo Coats (Matrix) a few years ago.

its a 4 knit wool cross weave...., pretty similar, yours looks to be single cross... hope this gives you a little insight to what your dealing with."

On a forum dedicated to superhero costuming, The League of Heroes, I got help from a couple talented users.

User "Redbird" was the first to identify it as a gabardine, which was then confirmed by longstanding member and talented costumer "GreenArrowFL". Which interestingly enough, is what was used in the Christopher Reeve superman capes. Booya. "callmemilo" said:

"as far as i remember, the interior lining of the SR cape was made of wool with a slight ombre to it"

I'm not sure what an ombre is, and wikipedia was no help. However, they did have a really great article on Gabardine, including a picture that (although low resolution) actually looks a lot like my sample, and is even made of wool.

With me being a newbie to this fabric stuff, I am not sure if the insight from the different forums is contradictory or complementary. Can a wool gabardine be a tight cross weave wool?? Is that the very definition of a gabardine, or or those different things??

I also fear that the skewed photo was what contributed to the idea that this was a gabardine? I do not know if the weave itself is skewed in my sample, or if it's just the way the sample was cut. My plan is to post this link to the various contributing forums and see what they have to say about it.

Big thanks to anyone who contributed ideas.


MAN OH MAN, the hits just keep coming. I did a little google-fu on CallMeMilo's "Slight Ombre", and was REALLY excited to find out that this is the way the dye smoothly transitions from one color (or shade) to another. YES, the cape did indeed have that effect, and it was quite pronounced. Prior to asking for help, I did not know what the terminology for this effect was, but now I do! This will prove to be VERY helpful, as I was previously having a really hard time tracking down how to achieve this effect, as I did not know what it was called. The first website I found is full of examples of what this "ombre" looks like. Check it out here.

I found a little video that shows how the ombre dying process is done. Looks like a lot of work, and a lot of supplies/expertise are needed. I'm pretty sure I will try to outsource this process, as I don't want to get involved with that mess!!!!!


I'm getting a little philisophical this weekend, and had a couple more thoughts about the fabric. In the interview I mentioned earlier, the costume makers say that the fabric is a custom weave, due to it's width. The bolt is obviously a non standard size, but what JUST occurred to me is that maybe it's a standard weave, just in an unstandard size. Maybe that's wishful thinking, but if this turns out to be a VERY straightforward gabardine, though just at an unusual bolt width, that gives me hope that I may either be able to find a suitable alternative OR might be able to get a custom weave of my own.

And yes, price is not a detractor :) I know it will be pricey, but I'm ok with that. This is, after all, pretty much the ONLY project I'm focused on right now. No home improvements, not saving for a new car, not saving for car repairs, or a new kitchen remodel. This is IT. And I'm gonna do it right. Hell or high water and all that good stuff.


Some folks over at the Replica Props Forum have chimed in with some information and confirmations.

User clayslinger tells me:

"Hi Matt,

I applaud your dedication to getting it right!!

Robins vest happens to be made with wool gabardine so I have samples.

Looks like a straight forward wool gabardine to me. The grain can vary quite a bit as you can see in the photo.
I would get some swatches from B. Black and Sons. The gabardine they have has that stronger grain line to it.

All the best in your quest!!
Chuck... "

Good stuff Chuck! And thanks for the kind words. I have since sent an email to B Black and sons, and asked them for information on their gabardine. Their website can be found here.

User Darth Mule tells me:
"Yep. You've got a gabardine there. Gabardine is characterized by its twill weave, the cross grain weave which you see in the pic. Looks like it may be a medium weight. 12oz or so, but that's just a guesstimation from a picture.

Similar to gabardine is a worsted wool, but I lean more towards gab, because you can see fuzziness and slubs in the weave. Both fabrics are essentially woven the same but are prepared differently. Worsteds are heavily combed and twisted to make them very smooth in texture.

So looks like you're on it. I think you may be on to something in your blog about the custom weave referring to width in which they had it woven. "

which is good information all around, and also nice to hear a confirmation of my theory that it is not the weave that is custom, but more the size of the bolt. Granted, Mule's "seconding" of my theory doesn't make it fact, but it's cool to hear from someone who seems to know what they're talking about that I'm on the right track.

I must confess, the whole internet thing is really panning out for me today! Lot's of REALLY great assitance from a few very disparate places on the net.


User mdb from the Replica Props Forum had this to say:

"Looks like the fabric is a woollen twill. It is also cut on the bias so the edges don't unravel but it's making it hard to determine the weave. I think it's a simple 2:1 Z wale (Warp goes over two wefts and under one and steps by 1, the diagonal patterns sloping in the same direction as the middle of a Z- the opposite is S wale) but most places just do not know what that means Looks like about 48 warp threads to the inch too. It looks even so the weft will be the same

Gabardines tend to be worsted if they are wool and have a very smooth surface and have twice as many warp threads as weft so the diagonal line of the twill face is quite distinctively steeper. "

While I understood about three words in the post, there's a lot of good technical information in here that will be helpful in tracking down a sample. I guess the punchline is that mdb thinks it is NOT gabardine, but a twill. Interesting. I think it's time to get some samples in front of me so I can do some hands on comparisons.

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