Monday, July 14, 2014

How about a Travel Skirt?

This summer, we've been talking about our travel wardrobes and finding the ideal garments for every travel situation.  We hadn't really thought too much about making a shorter length skirt until Laurel's daughter-in-law approached her on one of the family's swim nights by the pool, wearing a cute knit skirt that she had purchased at a department store. Holly and her family are taking their motor home to the Grand Canyon in a few days for an extended drive trip, so naturally, she is looking for the perfect wardrobe items that will suit her travel plans.

The knit skirt is cool and comfortable, perfect for the long drives through the Southwest. But since she had to pay retail ($$), she was pretty sure that her mother-in-law could replicate the skirt, and for less cost. After some whining and promises for a bottle of nice wine, Laurel agreed to make her a couple of skirts like her ready-to-wear garment.

Laurel found a very travel-worthy nylon and spandex knit in the store and chose our New Look 6155 skirt and pants pattern.  The skirt pattern had similar lines to Holly's garment, and with a couple of very minor adjustments, Laurel knew it would work.

This skirt only takes one yard of 60" fabric. She chose the size closest to the skirt measurements, and:
  • Instead of a zipper, the already stretchy waistband would have elastic inserted at the top
  • Instead of having a seam down the back, both front and back panels are placed on the fold
  • Instead of the back darts, added a little width at the hem

The waist band is eased onto the skirt, using a stretch or a zig-zag stitch, whichever suits the stretch of your knit. Be sure to test your stitches on a fabric scrap and use a ball-point needle.
 The elastic is attached to the "lining" (underneath side) of the waistband, stretching it as you zig-zag the edge.

Top stitching details should never be forgotten - they are what makes even a simple garment look professional. Laurel is fond of two rows of top stitching, a feature which she uses frequently on my knit garments.
A quick machine stitched hem (2 rows of stitching, please!) and Holly's skirt is ready for her trip.

Holly in her Travel Skirt!!!

"Laurel, (whine, whine..) I want one too!"

This simple knit skirt is the reason why we want you to dust off your sewing machines and start sewing!  Sewing for yourself saves money and you can find almost any look and style in a similar pattern.  Stonemountain has a wealth of pattern choices and fabrics for your travel wardrobe.

Drop by the store, or visit our website to order online!

I am still feeling so full and happy from my buying trip to New York City a few weeks back…now all the fabric is just about in and the shelves are full of amazing designer imported fabrics! I hope you will come by and visit and see what's new and inspiring!

Let's do this!

Creatively Yours,

Just two of the boxes that came in last week!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

These Pants are made for Travel...

Travel is a billion dollar industry - so much attention paid to finding the best hotels for the price, where to dine for the best meals, what airlines offer the best fares, etc. - there are so many websites screaming for your travel dollar, it makes our head spin. We love to obsess about how to pack and what to wear while at the same time we being smart about our itineraries and finances.

Inspiration from Anna Sui, NYC

Whether you're a beginning sewist or a seasoned veteran, you need not cry out "What am I going to pack!" We've got a few ideas on fabric choices and some simple garments for the right styles and fabrics for your travel adventures.  Let's start by focusing on pants, the "no-brainer" travel wardrobe garment.  This must have item can be easy to make and there are tons of great fabric choices - don't over think it!

LINEN (for casual pants, short and long!)

I could plan a whole summer wardrobe in linen - it's a natural fabric like cotton, so it's cool to wear on the warmer days. And here's the bonus - linen is great for travel because it comes in so many colors and it's lightweight. You can get a lot of linen garments in a suitcase and not worry about that irritating 50 pound limit! Even though our mothers obsessed about wrinkles, but we think that soft linen wrinkles are part of it's charm.

Last summer, we made several pair of linen crop pants using the Sewing Workshop's Ikina Jacket & Pant Pattern elastic waist pant. Naturally, I am still loving them.

Now, let's talk about a subject near and dear to my heart: SHOES!
While I was in New York I was inspired by the trends being seen on the street. One style that I noticed in particular were flat shoes. Ballet slippers, sandals and even flat ankle boots looked so chic with the dresses and skirts of all lengths being worn in New York City. This is a style I'm excited to wear for seasons to come for comfort and sophistication.

This summer, I chose a new pattern for a longer length linen pant: New Look's 6273. We'll use buttons as a decorative detail at the bottom of the side seams, three on each side. We continue to use the same pre-treatment ritual any time we're working with linen to make it soft and yummy - Read about Sandra Betzina's pre-washing technique to minimize wrinkles on our July 2013 post.

One of the things that I love about my seamstress Laurel is that she's not afraid to tell us her lessons learned while sewing my garments, even though she has been sewing for years.  She shares our "wins" and "losses" so that you will learn to make better garments yourselves. Laurel laughed that she's been putting together pants forever, but just figured out why some patterns instruct you to sew the inseams together first, then the crotch, then the side seams.

 "Yes, Laurel, if you do it in that order, all the seams are able to be pressed flat!"

These relaxed pants are designed to ride about an inch below your waist and feature both elastic  AND a drawstring.   The dropped waistband has two buttonholes for the drawstring to come out in the front of the pants.  With linen or any lightweight fabric, it's a good idea to put some interfacing on the back side of the buttonhole to stabilize the fabric. Isn't it wonderful how the new machines and their attachments make such pretty buttonholes?

When making a drawstring, especially a narrow one, ironing the fabric folds before you sew can simplify the process.

Once we added the elastic and threaded the drawstring in the waistband, we're thinking it might be a little overkill since it's a little bulky. We'll decide if we need both at another fitting. That's the beauty of sewing your own garments - you can make adjustments as you gain more experience in what works and what doesn't.

Love my new silk knit top, Burda 7645 from my Work That Stash and Cool Sumer Tank post, to go with these great linen pants!

KNITS (for leggings and soft capris)

Fabrics in the knit family travel especially well. The New Look drawstring pants above would be awesome made up in a soft rayon knit...perfect for a long airplane or car ride.

But what about a pair of leggings to wear under a tunic or short dress - Remember Ladies: Leggings are NOT pants! It can be a scary thing to see leggings stretched over an ample backside worn with a crop top - you better have a dynamite figure or be 4 years old!

We recently got this cool Christine Jonson pattern in at Stonemountain. It's part of her BaseWearOne Collection No.622 and includes a tank top and a yoga bodysuit as well. These simple designs are created especially for Lycra blend fabrics. We're using a cotton and Spandex fabric for the leggings and we chose black...of course!

Cotton and Spandex blend fabric is tightly knit, and like any knit, it has the "knit" side and the "purl" side of the fabric. Traditionally, the knit side of the fabric is the "right side," but when a knit is this fine, it's hard to see the threads. If you can't tell which is which, a closer look through some sort of magnification is in order.

When we say easy we mean it...ONE PATTERN PIECE!
Christine's pattern directions are very clear and easy to follow.

All of the seams are serged, if you have one, otherwise just use a stretch stitch. But be sure to test it out on the fabric first. Christine warns, "Don't stretch the fabric as you sew."

Laurel used a zigzag stitch to sew on the elastic as well as hem the legs. She did adjust the presser foot tension on her Viking to ease the movement of the fabric over the feed dogs while sewing.

In a little over 60 minutes flat...DONE!!!

Check out our new class on making Leggings with Terry McClintock for further support!

Try your hand at either of these two simple pant styles in linen or knit - both will be a great addition to your travel wardrobe. Consider solid colors and pair them with a tank or tunic in a splashy print or plaid!

Creatively Yours, 

So much to look at and to BUY! Just wait till you all see the shipments coming in over the next few weeks!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Cool Summer Tank

Perhaps the most versatile and well-loved pieces of our summer wardrobe is the tank top. We see them everywhere! They are made in every conceivable color and in a wide variety of styles. Historically, the sleeveless shirt had been worn by both men and women, and really started out as an undershirt or an athletic top.

Showing arms for women is verboten in some parts of the world. Those who travel know that you can't even step into a church in Europe with your shoulders bared. But yay for us, we live in California, and all manner of sleeveless tops and tanks are considered acceptable attire for our warmer climate.

But have you noticed that as we women get older, we tend to get a little sensitive about our upper arms, especially if we're not very dedicated at those pesky biceps curls! We loved Bette Midler's mermaid character tweaking her extended underarm in the air with a "how old of a woman do you think I am?" Wry wit.

But as some of you get to "enjoy" that 100+ California heat, 
we say let those arms show and make yourself a tank top! 

For our tank, we chose Burda Easy's Top #7645.

The fabric that I chose was a popular silk knit, evidently, as all that was left of the entire bolt was a 7/8 yard remnant.  But what better way to utilize a small piece of fabric than to make a tank? Plus, it's good to know that at Stonemountain, we love remnants.  Nothing goes to waste around here, so you can find the nicest fabrics in our remnant bins!

Laurel also wanted to make a tank for herself.  She choose a heavier Lycra and poly double knit, just because she loved the black and white graphic print. This knit has a two-way stretch and could even be used for making a great swimsuit as well! ( After sewing on this fabric,  Laurel reports that the fabric is totally a swimsuit fabric, and if she'd figured that out earlier, she'd have a nice little "tankini" top for pool-side lounging!)

Making my tank out of this lightweight knit was a lot easier than the heavier knit Laurel chose.  Our Burda top called for a folded fabric strip to be sewn to the neck and armhole edges, and then turned to the inside and stitched down.  However, we finished off the edges with a decorative edging of sorts, letting the fabric strip frame the neck and armholes.

Laurel's double knit was much too heavy to use an extra layer of fabric, so she created a facing which followed the contours of the neck and armhole edges, then attached it. Trimming these curved seams is very important for the top to lay correctly...not to mention removing bulk from the garment.

Turning the facings and stitching them down keeps the facings in place.  Laurel allowed a tiny edge of the facing to show, for added interest. She had to stitch the facing in place with two rows of stitching.

The second row of stitching is in the "ditch" of the facing edge.
No serging needed on this fabric - just trim the edges.

Both of our summer tanks turned out great 
and will be a welcome addition to our summer wardrobes.  
Bring on the heat!!

This tank top will be perfect to take with me on my buying trip to New York city this Friday!
It's been a while since I was able to go to visit my friends in the garment district...
What should I buy for you? What are you looking for?

Creatively Yours,


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Plaids are back!

Have you ever just walked by a big, bold plaid fabric and were totally intimidated? You love the colors and the way the stripes are woven together, but you know that unless you want your garment to look a sale rack reject, you are going to have to MATCH that plaid. And I agree, it can be daunting, but like the striped knit garments we made, it just takes a little extra care in the layout and you can match anything.

Before I say more, let me just give you a disclaimer: cutting out a garment in a big bold plaid requires three big things: Time, Patience, Planning. In the end, if you just match certain strategic areas in a garment, you will be miles ahead of the majority of mis-matched ready-to-wear garments in the stores (mass-produced garments are meant to make a profit, and matching plaids takes time and more fabric; that's why they call it a bargain).

But you? You sew! You can do this. When we say "take your time and think before you cut", it's not meant to scare you into avoiding plaids. When you take your time to think about where the bolder stripes of your fabric are placed, where these lines will fall on your frame. Cutting out our Amy Butler blouse in a print or solid color fabric might have been done in a jiffy, but in this plaid Laurel reports that she spent at least an hour laying out the pieces on this bold fabric.

My fabric for the Amy Butler tunic is a dreamy soft double faced cotton voile (we have since sold out of this color, but check out our other double faced plaids). Note that the pattern has both bold horizontal AND vertical stripes, so they both need to be taken into consideration during the planning and cut out process.

First things first. We noted that the center fold of the fabric off the bolt was not on the center of our large vertical stripes. Before doing anything, Laurel pressed out the factory fold.

Make a new center fold - because this voile is so soft, Laurel pinned the center fold before laying out the entire length of fabric on her cutting table.

The next step is critical in the matching process before you layout your pattern pieces: work with the fabric until the underneath side of the fabric mirrors the top side.  This process was time consuming for Laurel because the fabric was so soft and lightweight, it shifted easily. But, again, taking the time for this step ensures at least a running start on a well-matched garment.

Some plaids are perfectly symmetrical, like a gingham plaid, but many (I should say most) are not.  My voile's stripes are not symmetrical, so when Laurel laid the pattern pieces out, they all needed to be laid out in the same direction (i.e. top of the pattern pieces all facing the same). And remember, this may mean buying a little extra fabric to ensure a good match.

It's more than likely that you're not going to match every aspect of your garment.  Relax and know that if you get the side seams matched and the center front opening at a minimum, give yourself a pat on the back. Concentrate on the big showy parts of your garment and forget the less noticeable areas. Laurel's attempt at matching on the sleeves won't be perfect, she says, "but close enough for government work". (Where did they get that saying, Lo?). We're making garments to LIVE in, not to stop the sewing world in its tracks.

Have you had a pattern matching success or failure? Tell us about! What are the tricks YOU use? Email me at, or share an image on our Facebook page!

Thank you so much for reading my blog - it's an amazing way to connect with like minded creative visionaries in our community! Please follow us on Instagram where I will be taking more photos throughout my day to share with you…

Together we celebrate creativity and finding our unique voice in this great symphony of life,


Saturday, May 31, 2014

Your Color Comfort Zone - Embracing our Full Spectrum!

Do you remember having your "colors done"? A consultant basically put you into a seasonal "box" of fashion colors and that color palette became YOUR colors. John Kitchen did mine back in the 80's. You could not venture into a store without your trusty little packet of fabric swatches that guided your fashion selections. If you were a "Fall", then you only choose garments that were avocado, rust, brown, gold, etc. Your season usually corresponded with your natural coloring - blond, brunette, red-head, etc.  The problem with this whole seasonal approach to color is that when we often put ourselves into that color box we think we only look good in reds or blues, etc. and we don't branch out to try new palettes.  Sadly, we rarely deviate from "our" palette.

I've been thinking a lot about color these days with the approach of the summer season.  As I look at the wardrobe that we've been creating, I see a lot of darker colors, probably because I tend to like them and think that I look good in them. Trust me, you can never go wrong with black, gray or navy, and my wardrobe shows it. I wear what makes me feel good...and that can change on a daily basis!

Remember the famous pink dress on red-headed
Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink?
But summer calls for a lighter touch, not only in fabric content, but also in color. Not everyone can wear pastels, but doesn't everyone look pretty in pink? But there is also an abundance of vibrant jewel tones and mid-range brights in a variety of fabric choices - cottons, silks, knits and linens. These are the fabrics of summer and they are among my very favorites.

When you shop for fabric, just like anything else, it's always good to have an honest set of eyes on your choices. Put the fabric up to your face and check yourself out in the mirror. Turn and show your girlfriend and if her eyes cross, perhaps that brilliant grass green may be a little much for you. Keep trying colors outside of your comfort zone - you may be surprised to find that even though that yummy coral that isn't in your little tiny little 1/4" X 1" book of swatches, you look radiant in it. Go for it.

Even though I added yet another black piece to my wardrobe with dreamy black linen pants, Laurel is working on a tunic top out of this great new double sided cotton voile.  It's not a color that I would naturally pick for myself, but when we held it up to my face, it worked. We just got in a beautiful selection in all tones for you to choose from at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics.

We will use the striped side for the inside of the cuffs and collar for a fun contrast.

We keep bringing this Marcy Tilton dress - Vogue 8975 - out of the pattern drawer, looking for just the right fabric.

I think that Laurel and I finally settled on this awesome rayon/lycra knit in a luscious teal. It's hard to capture the true color in photography, so I added a Hex color butterfly insert for you. Love this color for summer!

I also added a little red to my summer wardrobe.  This Marcy Tilton Vogue pattern 8636 is one of my favorite knit shirts. I love the way it turned out...and it goes with all that black stuff in my closet...LOL!

What colors are you going to brave this summer?  Do step outside your comfort zone and pick a tomato red, a sunflower yellow or even the Pantone color of the year, Radiant Orchid. Stop by the store and cruise our aisles for the color that inspires your next creation - we have them all!

Okay, even I can't step that far on most days, but is it yours?

Creatively Yours,