Tuesday, October 18, 2016

More Than a Number

As we roll into the fall season, we can't help but feel the year coming to a close and reflect on all of our big changes and how we have evolved as individuals and as a store. This year brought two large shifts for us with the ending of our sewing classes and the decision to no longer carry the Big 4 pattern companies. Long-term these decisions will support our mission to remain a provider of top quality fabrics and sewing supplies, but short-term these decisions took months of consideration to come to a close. But as with all changes, when one door closes, another opens and we saw this as an opportunity to expand our selection of independent patterns, along with our expansion of fabrics!

These big changes, along with big shifts in the store have highlighted our metamorphosis that has been in the making over the last couple of years and we couldn't be happier to be where we are now. Thinking back on our earlier years, we remember the beginning of our garment sewing revolution when independent pattern options were scant and we had a little revelation about patterns in general.

For years we have all made garments using the big pattern companies and we still have favorites that we make over and over again. For example, Vogue 8804 is our favorite Chanel-style jacket, Simplicity 7810 is a cute little dress, McCalls 6408 is an easy sweater jacket, etc.  But if you ask us a month later, rarely would we remember the number. This happened all the time, even with go-to patterns we made over and over again!

What we love most about our independent designers is that they name their designs. If you ask our staff what they are wearing, it's the Betty Dress, or the Coco Top, or the Three's a Charm Jacket. The names give the garment a personality of its own, and it becomes like an old friend as you sew its seams. So no surprise, as I plan my own cool weather wardrobe, I am focused totally on the pattern names our indie designers have given them. If you have a few moments, you can refer back to my 2015 roundup blog that covers many other favorite garments to make.

Folkwear is a pattern line we have carried for years - one of the original indie pattern lines!  I haven't chosen a garment from them in recent years, so I thought it was time to add the Old Mexico Dress.  It the perfect little top to wear with jeans, and giving a nod to my ethereal/hippie side, I chose a soft Liberty Tana Lawn print filled with suns, moons, and near east images.  The top is super easy to make and I know my astrology friends are going to want one as well.

If you are an Instagram follower (I'm @fabriclady3!) and follow other sewists, you will find the Linden Sweatshirt from Grainline Studio everywhere.  It is a very versatile pattern because you can mix fabrics, textures, and colors. In fact, I'm doing a little pattern hack on my Linden, by adding a peplum to the pattern. I chose two soft lightweight rayon knits, even though this pattern would do equally well in heavier fabric such as a sweater or ponte knit or even a fleece. Though I will only use the grey knit for the neckline and sleeve bands, imagine the possibilities of entire sleeves in a coordinating fabric.

Laurel, my seamstress, collaborator and dear friend, made another Grainline Studio pattern, the Alder Shirtdress. I love her version and requested one for myself to add to my fall/winter wardrobe. One of the things that I love about the Alder is that it is sleeveless. This may sound strange for a cool-weather garment, but I love the opportunity to layer it with one of the awesome jackets or sweaters that Laurel has made me while I am working in the store.

And since you can never have too much ikat fabric, I chose a soft lightweight ikat for my Alder. I've been on a mission this year to expand my color horizons, I still keep the little swatch book that was made for me years ago when I had "my colors done" with John Kitchener at Personal Style Counselors. This lovely rose-toned ikat is perfect to bring out my skin tone and eye color.

 We have made a number of Colette Patterns in the last few years, and they all have lovely feminine names - Aster, Laurel, Myrtle, Dahlia, and Moneta.  Each one is unique with its own personality. Now we'll be adding the Wren dress to the mix. It's a great knit dress with a fitted, wrap-style bodice with a gathered or a-line style skirt. It's a style that is sure to flatter every figure.

We chose a bold patterned poly ITY knit. The pattern calls for a 3/8" seam allowances and is designed to be serged together.  But if you don't own a serger, a small zig-zag or knit stitch will work. I am excited to wear this with boots and a jacket this winter and sandals next spring!

We also thought we'd try a dress from one of our newer pattern lines, Liesl & Co.  We've seen some inspiring versions of the Cinema dress and I know it will feel great with its simple lines and ease of wearing. Although Liesl & Co is not a new pattern company, they are new to our collection and we are excited to try them out. Already, we can see that the instructions are wonderfully easy to follow. And just like ikat, we can't get enough of double gauze. I'm thinking this beautifully soft fabric will be transformed into one of my new favorite dresses for work. (Are you starting to notice a color pattern in this round of garments?)

In another diversion from the big patterns companies, our indie patterns don't always come in an envelope! Lotta Jansdotter's new book Everyday Style features five garment patterns and four totes/bags. Every cold weather wardrobe needs a lightweight jacket or coat. Perfect for layering over sweaters and scarves, the Pilvi is a simple coat that has four benefits for the beginning sewist:  raglan sleeves, no lining, no collar, and no buttonholes!

We are making our out a soft lightweight boiled wool/viscose blend...and in keeping with my new colorful self - ORCHID!

Stay tuned for a blog featuring this sweet coat!

As the weather turns, we look forward to completing several other named garments that patiently wait their turn in Laurel's studio - a pair of Ginger jeans by Closet Case Files (using our very own Stonemountain Jean Kit for the Ginger Jeans!), the Lottie by Christine Haynes, and a pair of Marigold trousers by Tilly and the Buttons.

We love what this garment sewing revolution has become, with so many high quality pattern options from independent designers. And with names like these, we're likely not to forget them any time soon. So long numbered patterns!

Stop by our website to shop all of our independent options or if you're local, come see us and say hi!

I always love to see what you are sewing up, so remember to tag @stonemountainfabric on social media or email us photos of your creations to info@stonemountainfabric.com.

Ever so grateful,
or respond right here on my blog

Celebrate Creativity, Celebrate Yourself!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Let's do Luxe!

Among all the fabrics that I see and touch everyday in the store, I have to admit that silk is the most luxurious.  Nothing flows off your fingertips or falls in a soft pile on the cutting table like silk. My buyers, Lauren and Liz, and I shop all the time for beautiful fabrics that we can pass along to you. When we get in a stunning silk print, we can't help but gasp in excitement!

We've said it a hundred times to our customers:  you don't have to be an expert to sew with silk, you just need to take your time. Patience, care, and the right notions yield proven results. And we try to help the process along by giving you hints and tricks on the Fabric Lady and Stonemountain blogs.

If it's your first time sewing with silk, by all means pick a SIMPLE pattern—trust me, you'll never buy silk again if you're trying to make a complex button-up, long-sleeve blouse on your first try. So remember to keep it simple. We chose Megan Nielsen's Sudley Dress & Blouse pattern. We love it because of the variety of looks that you can achieve with just this one pattern. An added bonus it that the back is the same as the front, so the keyhole opening can be worn both ways!

We chose this luxurious silk piece to work with. We love the hand-dyed look of it and the neutral colors can be paired with so many pieces in my wardrobe. Silk has a beautiful texture that can be integrated into your everyday wardrobe. It's not just for date night! It elevates the pieces its paired with and can be great for casual wear.

Options for Tracing the Pattern

Laying and cutting out a pattern in silk takes time, especially when the print repeat is large like our fabric. And of course it's slippery! Laurel uses her big kitchen table to line up the fabric edges with the table edges and anchors the fabric with weights to keep it stable while she decides pattern placement.

Trace your pattern in the correct size, or cut it directly from the tissue. Because both the tissue and silk are prone to shifting, it's a good idea to actually cut out the pattern in the size you will be making - that way you are only cutting along the perimeter of the pattern piece and not through the paper as you cut the fabric.

We carry many helpful tools to aid you in this part of the process, including a variety of tracing materials. These items are available by the yard or roll and help you preserve you patterns and can also aid in the fitting process.

From left to right: Pellon Tru-Grid, Pellon Red Dot Tracing Material, Medical Tracing Paper, Swedish Tracing Paper.
Create-A-Pattern from Bosal is a lightweight, translucent non-woven material, used for duplicating patterns. It's made up of 60% rayon and 40% polyester and will last forever.

- Pellon Tru-Grid has an accurate 1" graph for duplicating, altering and scaling up patterns. It is 100% polyester and 45" wide.

- Pellon Red Dot Tracing Material is a nonwoven dot graph material. It features an accurate 1″ graph, used for scaling up, duplicating, or altering patterns. It is stable in all directions, but light enough in weight to allow for excellent drape. It is 100% polyester and 45" wide.

- Medical Tracing Paper is a high quality white paper with a smooth finish. Each roll is 21" wide by 225' long. Great for pattern making or applique!

- Swedish Tracing Paper is a sewable pattern paper. Trace your pattern, sew the very same material, and try it on before cutting your expensive fabric. Use it to make a durable master pattern. Strong, see through & drapably soft. Rolls are 29" wide and 30 ft. long.

Finding the Right Cutting Tool

And speaking of cutting, silk can be a little testy when your scissors are not sharp. You don't always need expensive scissors, they just need to be sharp. Laurel's go-to Ginghers were in need of a sharpening, so she actually found another pair that would work better for this project.

We LOVE scissors here at Stonemountain, and everyone has their favorites. We polled the staff to see what their picks were!

From left to right: KAI 11" Ergonomix Scissors, Fiskars Softouch Spring Action No. 8, Tula Pink Hardware - 8" Shear, Olfa 45mm Ergonomic Rotary Cutter.

1. KAI 11" Ergonomix Scissors have ergonomically soft handles which allow fatigue-free cutting on all types of fabric. Cuts multiple layers of denim with ease while trimming cottons without any fabric slippage. Heavy duty blades for a powerful cut with an extra long blade length, made of a hardened stainless steel.

2. Fiskars Softouch Spring Action No. 8 have flat-bottom styling for making long, straight cuts. Ideal for cutting multiple layers of fabric, string, paper, construction paper and many other materials. Left or right handed.

3. Tula Pink Hardware - 8" Shear are limited edition, handcrafted 8" fabric shears that are a necessity for any sewing basket. The razor edge sharp blades make them the perfect choice for cutting through all of your fabrics with ease.

4. Olfa 45mm Ergonomic Rotary Cutter features an ergonomic design that provides a comfortable and positive grip. Simply squeeze the handle to engage the blade. Dual-action safety lock allows the user to lock the blade open for comfort and closed for safety. Designed for both right- and left-handed use. Great for cutting fabrics into shapes, strips and pieces for sewing, quilting or craft projects.

You can shop all of our cutting tools on our website!

Print Matching

Many of our indie pattern designers print their patterns on heavy paper, which is great for multiple uses. The Sudley pattern is in soft tissue, so it's actually little easier to layout on this silk print. For instance, in order to match the front and back skirt piece, Laurel traced around one element of the print on the pattern paper and then used that marking to place the pattern for the second skirt piece on another section of the fabric. The result should be a good enough matching of the skirt front and back pieces.

If your pattern paper is heavy and opaque, you could cut notches in various sections of the pattern edges and use those to match up the print. Big prints like this one with irregular shaped lines, just need to be matched enough so that the bulk of the fabric's design elements somewhat line up. Sometimes it's impossible for a perfect match, so don't over think it...e.g. we're thinking big white stripy shaped areas matching with neighboring white areas, etc.

Finishing Techniques

The Sudley view that we chose was dictated by the amount of fabric that we had - we had to make a shorter version in order to match the major elements of the print.  And Laurel knows me well enough after three years of collaboration, so she knew that I would like a shortened "tunic" style with the mid length sleeve. We will use several sewing and finishing techniques we know—some serging, some French seams, some self-facing and some bias facing. When you invest in a beautiful fabric, you don't want to take shortcuts, so take your time and enjoy the ride.

For the skirt sections, we finished the two side seams with French seams.  We used this same technique on the shoulder seams and bodice side seams.

Step 1:  Sew the two pieces together, wrong sides together, using a scant 3/8" seam allowance.
Step 2:  Trim the seam allowance down to approximately 1/8".
Step 3:  Fold right sides together and sew with a 1/4" seam allowance.
Step 4:  Press and Voila!  The inside seam looks beautiful!

The skirt of Sudley is gathered at the waist of the bodice. Gathering silk is a little challenging because it frays so easily.  Solution:  serge the edge first, then do two rows of basting stitches.  (We will also serge the bottom of the bodice before we attach the gathered skirt to minimize fraying.)

Our pattern instructions call for finishing the keyhole opening with bias tape. Because the opening has a severe curve, we opted to make a self facing, by tracing around the opening on another piece of our silk. When your fabric print has so many changed in color, try to match the keyhole facing to the bodice keyhole print.  Silk is sheer, so you wouldn't want a blue section directly under a white section. In addition, we had to totally switch out the thread to match the white area around the keyhole.  Yes, it takes more time, but we're making something special, remember?

 BEAUTIFUL!!! (Use sharp little scissors to clip curves on silk!)

I hope that you will be inspired to try this Sudley Dress and Blouse or a silk in your next project.

Please feel free to email me with photos of what you are making @ fabriclady3@gmail.com.  You can also follow me on Instagram @fabriclady3 and/or @stonemountainfabric.

We are super excited for the new garments made out of our favorite independent patterns - all available at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley and online!

Cheers and Happy Sewing,
Suzan @ Stonemountain & Daughter

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Let's Make the Ginger Jeans! Making the Muslin First!

We have not made a ton of pants for me, especially pants that are designed to fit perfectly.  There's a real science to making pants, drafting pants patterns, and getting the fit just right.  So imagine and appreciate our courage in tackling the ultimate sewing/fitting challenge - jeans.

I'm sure there are sewists out there who have made jeans without much trouble - in fact we have several of our staff who have conquered their stretch denim fears and come up with great fitting jeans. Hey if they can do it, I guess I owe it a try.  Right?

We keep jean patterns in stock, all by our indie pattern designers.  The Morgan Jeans by Closet Case Files is a favorite because of the ease and comfort of the styling. Lauren has shown off her jeans construction acumen by making several pairs.

 We chose another of Closet Case Files patterns to make our jeans - the Ginger Jeans.

Ginger Jeans have a modern and flattering cut with subtly shaped back pockets, slimming side seams, and a higher back rise to "prevent peekabooty."  They are designed for stretch denim, so we chose a beautiful soft indigo denim with Lycra. You can browse our bottom weight fabrics—stretch and non stretch—here. And just to be uber creative, we will be topstitching our jeans in neon blue thread! Check out our selection of neon topstitching thread here! It's details like this that make the garments we create that much more special.

To ensure a great fit we chose a brown stretch denim with a leopard print pattern to make a wearable muslin. We decided to use the wrong side of the fabric for our muslin, as I'm just not the leopard pants type. :)

Before we jump right into sewing, there were a few preliminary steps to address:

1. Make sure you are using the right needle for your machine. Schmetz Jean Needles, also called denim needles, are great because they are specifically made for this purpose. The modified medium ball point and reinforced blade make this needle perfect for penetrating extra thick woven fabrics (like denim) or multiple layers in quilts. The reinforced blade causes less deflection of the needle and reduces the risk of needle breakage and skipped stitches.

2. Test your stitch settings your machine using the actual fabric of your jeans.

3. Test that all-important top-stitching detail on scraps of fabric until you get the tension correct.  Taking the time to work through these details will pay dividends in the end.  The Ginger Jeans pattern includes a lot more tips and tricks that are invaluable!

Sewing on this "muslin"is so satisfying, it's hard to stop doing the finishing details in the middle of the project. But since it is a muslin, we're not going to want to proceed any farther than just sewing up the sides and inseam, using a simple basting stitch. The goal is to try it on for a fitting, mark the adjustments, and then return to the sewing.  We're not even putting the zipper yet!

It's also worth noting that the Ginger Jeans come in two different styles - a medium rise jean and higher waist jean. However, each version also has a different style leg - a "stovepipe" leg is on the medium rise jeans and the high waist jeans have a "skinny" leg.  I think it will be interesting in that I may prefer the higher waist but not like the fit of a skinny leg. My muslin is made using the medium rise version, but we will still be able to test the fit in the crotch and legs, and decide which combination to make my final indigo denim jeans.

Interested in taking the plunge yourself? Check out our various options for jean making kits here. We have full jean kits, with fabric included:

Or, if you have your fabric already, you can buy all of the notions required in this kit:

When Laurel and I had our first fitting on these jeans, I was so impressed. In fact, this "muslin" will be very wearable!!! Here is a photo of the backside of the muslin fitting. We decided that the pocket can be higher, but overall the fit is pretty good. It's going to be a while before we can get back to finishing these jeans, so stay tuned for the next installment of our adventure into making the Ginger Jeans!

In the meantime, check out Miss Crayola Creepy's finished Ginger jeans.  We sent her a kit with everything she'd need to make her first pair of jeans, and they turned out great!  She used the same stretch denim that my Gingers will be made in, but hers is the black colorway.

Thanks again for your amazing support here on my blog and in my store, 

It's a dynamic time for Makers and I can't wait to see what more is possible!

Creatively yours,
2518 Shattuck Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94704

Monday, August 15, 2016

You Can't Have Just One Dress No.1 - Pattern Review for 100 Acts of Sewing - Part 2!

We are still flying high on Dress No. 1 from Sonya Philip's pattern line, 100 Acts of Sewing. Inspired by my colleagues here at Stonemountain, I chose three prints for my collection of Dress No. 1 pieces - two Japanese double gauzes and one yarn-dyed gingham linen. If you haven't seen our blog post on this inspiring pattern, check it out now: The Little Dress That Could.

I love how these fabric choices all coordinate with their colors, so fun!

Oh my stars! I am a huge fan of fabrics with a celestial theme and this 100% cotton double gauze is the perfect choice for a Dress No. 1. If you are unfamiliar, double gauze is a fabric made from two layers of gauze that are tacked together to create one cloth. Its light, luscious nature has made it one of our favorite fabrics, not to mention it's an absolute dream to sew!
 Shop our selection online or stop by the store for even more options.

Of the three fabrics I chose for this pattern, I wanted this gauze to be in the original length of the pattern, as it is printed. The two subsequent versions will be 1) a shortened tunic length, hitting at mid-thigh and 2) a blouse length, hitting at the top of the hip. While the pattern includes optional pockets, we decided to leave them off this time.

Laurel used a self made cotton bias binding on the neck and armscye, or armhole. We highly recommend getting your hands on a bias tape maker, as it will make this process 100 times easier for you. We recommend the 1/2" width bias tape maker for this pattern. For instructions on making your own bias, read our post here: Navigating Notions: Making Your Own Bias Tape. Once you've learned to make your own bias, you'll be hooked! It's a fun and simple way to personalize and finish your garments.

This time around Laurel applied the bindings in a non-traditional way, similar to attaching binding on a quilt. The bias strips are folded in half and then applied around the neckline and arm holes, making sure there is enough ease.  We have used a similar technique on some of my knit tops, but the difference here using the woven fabric is that the bias strips are then understitched so that when they are turn to the wrong side, they lie flat before they are top stitched in place. Understitching keeps facings and bias binding from peaking out at the edges. The excess seam allowance is trimmed down to a scant 1/8" before stitching in place.

While we like to understitch our bias, it's important to remember that this can be done in different ways. Whatever method you use for applying bias tape, be sure to keep those fabric scraps so that you can create bias bindings that add flair to your garments - even if they can't be seen, you know your artwork is there!

One down, two to go!!

We're using scraps of our hot sauce printed cotton (that we originally used for an E.S.P. Dress from Decades of Style) for the bindings on this yarn-dyed blue, red, and cream gingham linen. Again, sew the folded bias strip onto the right side of the opening.

Step 1: Line up the left edge of the presser foot with the folded edge of the bias binding.
Step 2: Understitch the bias binding back toward the opening, as close to the edge of the binding as possible.
Step 3: Trim the excess seam allowance and binding.
Step 4: Turn the bias binding and stitch down along the edge of the binding.

Voila - neat as a pin!

Two down, one to go!

For this version of Dress No. 1 we shortened the pattern a few inches so that it hits at mid-thigh for a tunic length. This is a great length to layer over jeans or leggings. We love these dresses because they are great to wear alone in the summer heat, or with a sweater in the colder months. So versatile!

We chose this yarn-dyed gingham linen for this version. A great medium-weight with a lovely drape. We are huge linen fans here at Stonemountain, me especially. You can read more about our linen obsession in these two blog posts: I'm a Linen Lover! and For the Love of Linen!

Linen ages beautifully and gets softer and more drapey with every wash. If you are new to working with linen, we always like to pass on these words from the amazing Sandra Betzina:

GREAT TIP! If you want your linen to wrinkle a lot less, do the following: Before you prewash your linen, open the windows and iron the linen with the hottest, dry iron possible. This will set a wrinkle-less finish, which is already on the fabric. Next, wash and dry your linen in the hottest water and hottest dryer you have. Take out of the dryer when close to bone dry. You will notice that smaller softer wrinkles have replaced the hard crease usually associated with the fabric. Repeating this process will lessen the amount of wrinkles over time. 

You can browse our linen online here, but as always, call (510) 845-6106, email info@stonemountainfabric.com, or stop by if there is a color or print you are looking for that is not featured in our online store.

Third time's the charm!

Here is my third Dress No. 1 cut to a top length. For this we used another of our amazing Japanese double gauzes, this one a cotton/tencel blend. I love it layered over the tunic length and paired with Pants No. 1!

Looks great with my handkerchief linen pants too!

I hope that you are excited to try Dress No. 1 from 100 Acts of Sewing for yourself. If you do, please email me some photos of your finished garments!
Thanks and cheers to each of you!

In gratitude,
email: fabriclady3@gmail.com

Please leave a note or message if you are enjoying my blog. 

I also have so much appreciation for my team that helps me to maintain the quality 
of projects, writing, and editing!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Meet the Champion of Slow Fashion - Tilden!

Once in a lifetime you meet someone who inspires a movement.

Tilden Yamamoto is a visionary for the local and global movement of Slow Fashion. Tilden animates the ordinary textile into fashion that can take us from a summer festival to the streets of New York City. You can feel his influence and see some examples of his craftsmanship over at his website. Also go follow Tilden on Instagram - @tildenshop. His daily posts get me so fired up!

Some of Tilden's pieces made with Stonemountain fabrics!

Tilden - Celebrate Slow Fashion!

Recently Sarah Miller wrote an amazing article for The Bold Italic on How to Dress Local at Outside Lands, featuring Tilden and other local artists. This wonderful local festival is happening this weekend, August 5 - 7. Be sure to check it out if you can!

In this article, Tilden shared his love for Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics:

Sarah: How do you support what’s local?

Tilden: I couldn’t do what I do without Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley. Their level of quality and impressive selection of prints and fabrics allow me to get really creative. They inspire me. 

Well truth be told, it is actually Tilden that inspires me! Look at this amazing dress that he made for me out of our cotton chambray! Check out his signature details. Can you believe he does everything by hand on a single needle straight stitch vintage Singer machine?

Meet Benny! Our new store baby!

Tilden loves to use cotton novelty prints for fun accents.

We love how Tilden turns a simple 1/4" ribbon into fabulous little details.

He also recently did an event at our store featuring his slow fashion sewing techniques where he made a garment in our newly opened up front window!

Live Sewing with Tilden at Stonemountain!
We are working on setting up a time for his next Live Sewing Event!

Sometimes when we're buying fabric for the store, we pick prints especially for Tilden!  From classic checks to crazy cats, Tilden has great taste.

You will often see Tilden walking slowly through the shelves
looking for just the right fabric! 

Join me and Tilden as we explore the joy of local sewing and slow fashion. 

It's so wonderful to know that Tilden and his philosophy are catching on!

with gratitude,
FabricLady of Berkeley