I haven’t yet been able to persuade Mr. Campbell to try my vacuum cleaner. Maybe he thinks it’s just a ploy to get him to vacuum the house (and it partly is), but I really want him to appreciate the machine itself. I bought it for $1000 five years ago as a reward for going 10 weeks without red meat or refined carbs and because I have 3 cats. This machine is so powerful that it will suck up socks.

It needed servicing last year, so Mr. Campbell came with me to the repair shop. The man went on and on about what a great machine I have and all its features. I was loving it. Mr. Campbell, incredibly, was bored. Afterward he said, “I guess everyone is passionate about something.”

He said the same thing over dinner Friday night when I told him about Howard, the fabric rep I met that afternoon. Readers, I may have reached the end of my search for fabric that will make us happy when we wear my shirts. And I have found it through someone who is truly passionate about textiles. Stop reading now if you’re like Mr. Campbell and my vacuum cleaner, but go ahead if you want to know some of the technical details I learned from Howard.
Here’s what I learned:

  • The best cotton is from Egypt, and the best Egyptian cotton is Ghiza. It has a long staple. The longer the staple, the less the breakage and the smoother the fabric.
  • The company that produces the finest cotton shirting uses the finest grade of Egyptian Ghiza, has it spun in Switzerland and then woven and finished in Italy.
  • One of the spinning steps involves combing the cotton. The cheapest cottons are only carded, not combed.
  • Finishing is very important. Last December, a mill was in such a hurry to send an order of silk to one of Howard’s designers that it neglected to finish it. The fabric felt like cardboard. Once they finished it, it was soft and, well, silky.
  • European mills begin lowering inventory in May and June in preparation for their August vacation.
  • The best shirt maker in the world asks the mills to use their older, slower looms in creating the fabric. The newest looms work so efficiently at sending the shuttle through the shortest possible distance that the weft is tighter, causing there to be less of a hand in the finished fabric.

Howard made the science and technology behind textiles come alive. FIT is offering a 2-day seminar on textiles in March that I want to attend. I hope the instructors are as passionate as Howard.