Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Zen of Sewing

There are a lot of us who haven't sewn a single stitch for a long, long time, much less make an entire garment.  Even if you sew a lot, there are bound to be times when you put the machine away for a period, moving on to other creative ventures. Or perhaps you have an extended break from your sewing routine when life got in the way. Or maybe you've had a more pleasant interruption, like a nice long vacation.

If the break in your sewing routine has been long, just starting a new garment may cause a tiny elevation in your stress level. You see the pile of projects waiting for you to start (they've been there for two months!) and if you're like me, you immediately start the oven or sorting socks. It's not that we've forgotten how to cut out a pattern or sew a seam - it's just that whole "starting" thing.

My favorite seamstress had a couple of thoughts on "starting", since she's been traveling and away from her machine...with MY pile of fabric waiting in her sewing room. She contends that the secret to starting is actually STARTING! But sometimes, putting in some time to set the mood for sewing helps the starting - it's all about finding the zen of sewing.

1) Get your space ready to it clean? Is it organized? Clearing the sewing table of magazines and junk mail, dusting your machine and getting your tools ready is considered "starting".

2) If watching cooking shows relaxes you and you can do two things at once, then by all means turn on some noise...for Laurel, a little soft jazz to sew by creates a nice (and calming) "starting" atmosphere.

3) If you have a lot of projects to start, don't go for the silk dress or the wool coat right away - choose something simple: an easy fabric with a pattern you know you're going to enjoy; nothing too complex. We loved Natalie's top and had picked out some great cottons to make this Very Easy Vogue 8815. This would be a great place to Start.

Natalie is an amazing muse inspiring me with her Vogue 8815 top!

4) Go ahead...START. Just do it. (Once the "Starting's" over, you'll remember why you love to sew).

We chose an easy fabric to sew and fit - our beautiful cotton voile in two different prints to add a unique and funky flair for Fall!

 After a few darts and some seams, your sewing zen is back - something like a decorative zipper doesn't seem so intimidating. For my top, Laurel "Googled" How to sew an exposed zipper and found a Threads article to get a few pointers - remember, the Internet is your friend:)

This blouse pattern is just as the name implies...very easy.  The neckline has no facing, just a single fold bias tape edge.  The hemline on the peplum is curved, so that same bias tape makes hemming a cinch.

And just like that , you've got your sewing groove back on track...ready to tackle that silk! 
Welcome back, Laurel!! Looks like you brought back lots of inspiration from your trip to France! Please pop over to Laurel's blog to see where she went "In search of Style" 

I can't wait to try this on! 
Natalie and I will have so much fun wearing our funky tops on the same days.

Look at that wonderful zipper detail on the back outside of my top!!! We are going to be showing more ways to use our new designer zippers on my new fall wardrobe - stay tuned!

What fabulous fabrics would you combine for this versatile top
It can be cotton, silk, rayon and even a lightweight wool!
Creatively Yours,

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Do Your homework - The muslin!

Marie Antoinette in her Muslin
Before cutting pieces from the final fabric, a dressmaker may test the fit of a garment, using an inexpensive muslin fabric, thereby avoiding potential costly mistakes. This garment is often called a "muslin," and the process is called making a muslin. In this context, the term, "muslin" has become the generic term for a test or fitting garment, regardless of what it's made from.

In previous posts, we have mentioned the importance of making a muslin, especially when you're using a pattern that you've not tried before.  No matter how much you sew or how many garments you have made, pattern designers all have their own concepts of how a particular garment should fit. Making a muslin is the only way to insure that your garment will fit you the way you want it to. Isn't that why we sew for ourselves, anyway?

Remember the pants we were going to make out of a lovely wool? The muslin proved that this pattern was not going to look good on my body, no matter how great it fit.

Our New Look 6013 dress is another perfect example of why it's important not to assume that your customary pattern size will have a good fit.  This pattern is a basic sheath dress with a raglan sleeve - it's meant to hug the body, so proper fitting is important.

Cutting out the muslin should be just as precise as the layout and cutting of the actual finished fabric - otherwise, proper fit could still be an issue.

Certain pattern pieces can be skipped in the muslin stage, as an option.  For instance, we did not make a muslin of the facing pieces.

Here is why we make muslins: this pattern is my normal size, but look how much extra fabric there is in the body of the dress...we are so glad that we took the time to do a muslin test - this could have been another fitting disaster!

Pinning and marking the muslin shows us where we will adjust the final pattern of the fabric. Me thinks Laurel looks a little stressed, but she assured me that this process is well worth spending time to ensure a good fit.

After the muslin fitting, we know exactly where we will be adjusting the pattern pieces. The final garment will fit like a glove, all because of the care we took in the initial stages.

I am super excited about this dress! Stay tuned to see how we funk it up a bit...

Creatively Yours,
Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Getting it right! Falling for a Soft Knit Dress

Fall is on the horizon, and I've been thinking about dresses! Finding a great dress pattern is easy, but if you're not used to wearing them, then it becomes a little more problematic! When I saw our customer Ruth's Lynn Mizono Vogue 1312 dress made in one of our imported Japanese cotton double gauze, I fell in love with the pattern and the fabric.

I loved the ease and fullness of the skirt and thought of making it in a soft knit while I waited for this fabric to come back in. I chose a Bamboo/Rayon and Lycra  knit because of the way it draped over my hand. The pattern calls for 4.5 yards, and you will use every inch of it.

 Laurel's oriental rug is a 9X12, so you can get some idea of how much 
fabric is in the skirt of this dress (hope I won't get lost in it!).

Because of the sheer volume of the lower skirt and the fine gauge of the knit, she marked the four sections of the skirt with masking tape before trying to assemble the lower skirt. Not only did the panels all look alike, it was hard to distinguish the right side of the fabric.

Remember that there is no "one-size fits all" stitch for knits.  You need to consider the weight of the knit and it's stretch.  This rayon and Lycra knit is exceptionally drapey and heavy.  Given the volume of the skirt (remember that 4.5 yards?), Laurel tested several stitch settings and decided on a small  zig-zag.  The length of her stitch was set at 1.5 and the width was set at 2.0.

Sewing a "straight length" of fabric around a "corner" can be scary.  The trick is to take it one step at a time. For a sharp corner, Laurel sewed on the lower skirt side (the straight length), then flipped it over to make sure that there were no puckers in the corner. If you're happy with it, trim off the outer corner.

Most fine dresses use an invisible zipper, and this one is no different. Usually an invisible zipper is put in BEFORE any of the seams are sewn together - this makes it easy to match everything up.  However, this side zipper is put into an "opening" in the side seam, making it a little more tricky to do a stellar application.

Kudos to Laurel for sticking with it, but she reports she had a rough time.  That should tell you that even the experts can't do everything perfectly, so don't be too hard on yourself if your garments aren't perfect. We are not all about perfection here at Stonemountain...we are about having fun and enjoying the process.  (I would have told her to give it up and put in a regular zipper!) This puppy is going to be under my arm anyway. I'm good!

Such a soft drapey (and voluminous) knit dress calls for a steamer to get the wrinkles out, rather than an iron. If you want to tackle the iron, be careful with your temperature on some of these finer knits - if your iron is too hot, you can create a shine on the fabric...a definite downer! I'm so happy one of my friends gave me a professional steamer that I use on all my clothes at home.

What a beauty! Can't wait to try it on! 

Fast forward a week to fitting day at the store: Okay, I think we have some issues.  The very qualities that make this fabric so dreamy are the same ones that impact the way it fits. The sheer weight of the skirt caused it to hang off my shoulders, stretching the armholes...and it's just too big in the bodice.

We decided to take it up in the shoulder seams and in the bodice.

Fast forward to Laurel back in the studio...Among the least favorite tasks of any sewist is ripping out your work.  As I mentioned before, this Bamboo/Lycra fabric has such a tight knit that "deconstructing" it was not fun.

Even though seam rippers are designed to do this sort of thing, often a sharp pair of embroidery scissors is more effective. And after all the pain of that invisible zipper, we decided the fabric and style of the dress didn't really require a zipper anyway. So we took it out!

A word of advice: When you have to undo all your hard work on a garment, don't expect it to go back together as easily as your initial construction - it rarely comes back together as well.  It takes patience and an understanding of just how far you need to rip to make it work.

In the end, we're happy with the adjustments we made and when I get to actually wear it, it's going to be glorious!  I LOVE this dress!!

 The Re-engineered Lynn Mizono Vogue 1312 Dress, ready for prime-time!

I am going to make this dress again in the double gauze from Japan featured in our customer's dress above - stay tuned!!!

Creatively Yours,

Visit the FabricLady Collection of Garments on display at
Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics and Sewing Center
2518 Shattuck Ave. @ Dwight Way
Berkeley, CA 94704
M-F: 10 am - 6:30; SAT: 10 am - 6 pm; SUN: 11 am - 5:30  pm

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Let's Get Funky for Fall!

I can't believe that summer is virtually gone - August flew by so quickly we've barely had time to think about our fall wardrobe. As I look back at the things we've been making, as much as I love each and every garment, I'm starting to wonder if I'm too much a creature of habit, too color conservative, too predictable.

For me fall, like spring, is a time for renewal. It's that whole "back to school" mentality that we never seem to grow out of as September rolls around: time to gather sharp pencils and new notebooks, buy new dresses and boots, maybe try a fresh hairstyle. For those of us who sew, it's a time to peruse the new pattern books, check out the new fabrics and plan our fall/winter wardrobes.

This season I'm feeling the need to branch out a little with my fabric choices… and I have been inspired by our own staff here at Stonemountain.  Most of them are sewists in their own right and their creativity and use of our fabrics inspires me to shake off the everyday Suzan and morph into: Funky Zan.

I'm surrounded with creativity every day at the store. Wow, these women can sew!!

When I see their creativity, I am excited to step out of my comfort zone and add some real flair and color to my wardrobe.  I am equally inspired by the "Fall Cool-lections" (my new term!) in the pattern books. 

Plaids are everywhere…BurdaStyle magazine has patterns for "back to school". We love it when fashion design students visit Stonemountain to choose their fabrics! Talk about inspiring!

I love to see what retail fashion has too offer too. I saw this idea that in a fall catalog: check out the added lace to this top - love it!!

I want to try this idea on this Japanese Print cotton, to be made up in the New Look 6013 dress. But call me old-fashion, I hate it when my bra straps show, so I think we will just layer the lace over the sleeve fabric. I had my first fitting with the muslin mock-up on this dress and I love it!

Laurel inspires me with her creativity as well...she took one of our cotton stretch knits to create a "slouchy sweater" for her European car trip.  She used Marci Tilton's boxy jacket pattern (Vogue 8430) that we've both used several times, and lined it with some left over rayon knit.  It's reversible and kinda funky!

Have you noticed that big capes are making a comeback this fall? We love this pricey Burberry cape, but for we sewists, there are other options.  Why not pair some of our great fall woolens with this Vogue pattern.  The possibilities are endless!

We have picked out some great fabrics and styles this month,  all to help me get down and get a little funky for fall. Stay tuned to see how these plans come together! I would love to hear your ideas on what you are doing to "funk" up your styling for the fall...

Thanks so much for reading my blog…I value this community more than words can tell...

Creatively Yours,
a.k.a. fabriclady
email me at
Check out my store at
Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics
2518 Shattuck Ave. @ Dwight Way
Berkeley CA 94704
Store phone: 510-845-6106