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 fabriclady3@gmail.com
Check out my store at
Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics
2518 Shattuck Ave. @ Dwight Way
Berkeley CA 94704
Store phone: 510-845-6106

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

One Hour Dress? Not!

When our customers come in to look at our pattern books, they find all manner of styles and designers for all levels of sewing experience. Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics has one of the largest inventories of independent pattern designers and we often choose these innovative designs for my wardrobe (many are listed in our on-line store).

But I also love to try designs from our larger brand patters such as Burda, Vogue, and NewLook. Although most of the Vogue designs (Stonemountain discounts all Vogue patterns 50% everyday!) tend to be a little more intricate with the seaming and design details, I do love the simple designs featured in the other pattern company books as well.

For example, take this NewLook 6347 maxi-dress.  Right there on the front of the pattern it says "Easy 1 hour". So what does a 1 hour dress pattern look like?

This maxi has three pattern pieces: a front that is placed on the fold, a back, and an armhole facing.  The neck edge is supposed to be finished with single fold bias tape and the hem is finished with hem tape, both of which are purchased separately. Evidently, it slips over your head, as there's no zipper.

 I thought it might be fun to put Laurel to the test! Perhaps we can learn some aspects of garment sewing that might make a difference in the construction of the dress. For starters, when you see the pattern envelop up close, there is a tiny little asterisk beside the "1 hour" label. Scanning to the bottom of the pattern - oh snap!- that doesn't include any of the time that it takes to trim all the pattern pieces in the envelope, or the time it takes to lay it on the fabric and cut it out. One hour equals sewing time only.

Second, the pattern calls for woven fabrics such as cotton, linen, crepe up to and including silk fabrics. However, we picked out a cotton knit for my dress just because I prefer the wearability of a knit. Before trying out a new pattern, sometimes it's fun to check out the Internet, just to see what others say about your pattern.  When we looked up this one, we noted that one person who had made the dress said that the neckline didn't look anything like the photo. After cutting out the dress in our knit, we sort of agreed - that neck did look a little wide.  In fact, the whole dress looked a little "wide", even though we stepped down a size.

We can say from experience that knits generally take more time to layout than a woven fabric. And if you factor in a bold pattern, you can add some more time to your layout process to make sure you've matched your prints in the best way. Laurel reports that it took her 25 minutes to cut the pattern pieces on the knit. To begin the sewing process, there's some prep time that we're wondering if the designer factored into the 1 hour, i.e. bobbin winding, stitch selection, marking darts - all that pesky preparation work that also takes time - add 7 to 10 minutes.

Several aspects of this 1-hour dress ended up adding time to Laurel's construction, primarily because of the knit fabric. Sewing bias strips around the curved armholes and neckline without puckers requires a little patience and care - not the sort of the thing we think about when we're doing "slash and dash" sewing - there's a lot of trimming, pressing, pinning involved. More time needed!

Knits often add there own set of nuances and surprises.  Remember that the pattern called for a woven fabric? Not sure how this happened but check out the side seam at the hemline. No, it wasn't stretched or pulled...but whatever happened, we'll have to fix it, so Laurel is wrapping this dress up until I try it on - we'll trim the hem at fitting.

She is pretty sure that the neckline is going to fall off my shoulders, but our "time test" did not call for ripping out seams and altering. All total without even hemming this 1 hour dress, we've got almost 90 minutes into it.  We do love the fabric and agree that it's totally salvageable, just because it's so soft and flowing, but probably not without some minor adjustments.

So did this dress measure up to it's claims? We can't really say for sure, since we didn't use the simpler to sew woven fabric it suggested.  But we can say that even the simplest of patterns require more time than you might think. Laurel has been sewing since she was ten and she says that she used to start making a garment in the morning to be able to wear it that night. But even then, she can't remember ever making anything that only took an hour.  (Those darn facings will kill you every time!)

So, we say take your time and factor in the surprises and challenges that you may encounter.  Every garment has at least one or two, even for the expert sewists! Anything worth wearing is worth taking your time and enjoying the process.

Creatively Yours,
Owner, Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics
2518 Shattuck Ave @ Dwight Way in Berkeley
email: fabriclady3@gmail.com

Monday, August 4, 2014

Do-Over for a pretty knit!

Some fabrics are just too pretty to not use again.  I find that when I'm picking out fabrics to buy for the store or have made up, I can usually envision several different garments that would work up beautifully.

I love this stretch silk knit Satsuki dress that we made last year. I kept a length of the fabric on a shelf in my office because I knew that I wanted to use it to make another garment.

Victory - Satsuki Dress

With the warm summer days we've been having, I have loved wearing a more casual look, especially separates, and t-shirts in particular. Since we already had made a tank from another silk knit (below), we decided to reuse this great Burda Easy pattern 7645 with the t-shirt/tunic option and make it up in my red and grey silk knit.

The top is so easy to work up and the fit is DIVINE! The neckline has a bias strip that is attached, turned under and then top stitched. The sleeve are just serged, turned under and also top-stitched.

What else can we make out of this sumptuous fabric, Laurel?

Burda 7645 - with Cap Sleeves - Love it!!!

Speaking of top-stitching, finding the right color of thread to use on a multi-colored fabric is a case of trial and error. The only safe way to get a good match is test out several colors on your fabric and choose the one that blends the best.


For our silk knit, Laurel chose the medium gray. However, if we were making a garment that actually incorporated top-stitching as one of the design elements, then color choice, fiber content and thread weight become more important. For this reason Laurel and many of our sewists keep a lot of threads on hand just for times when matching fabrics is critical. The consideration is whether you want to highlight it or hide it!


Just for grins, why not make this same top in a soft rayon knit...in black of course. And on this shirt, our top stitching rows are doubled for added interest around the neckline and the hem.  Top stitching just requires good thread, patience and a slow speed on your machine. And practice, practice practice! (Yes, I'm going to wear this top with everything!!!)

Love this rayon and lycra knit!  Love this Burda top!

Burda Top 7645 and Burda Skirt 3152
My new favorite Top and Skirt!

At Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics we have a great selection of threads in all manner of fiber content and color. We have everything from the workhorse Polyesters to fine Rayon and Silk threads. And naturally, we carry a variety of threads for our quilters and crafters as well - those of you that are free-motion quilters know exactly what I'm talking about!

Are you a thread collector?  You have to admit, that having thread stash to compliment your fabrics is like having a box of sumptuous chocolate truffles...you just can't wait to try one!

I want to also wish Laurel, my partner is sewing, inspiration and this very blog - a big Happy Birthday Leo Sister! Please check out her wonderful blog for even more fun and ideas!

Creatively yours,

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Don't Overlook Ponte

MICHAEL Michael Kors Straight Leg Ponte Knit Pants (Regular & Petite)
Michael Kors, 2014
Some of us are old enough to remember the infamous "Leisure Suit" for the well dressed 70's man. We rocked out with John Travolta and the Bee Gees, all decked out in their white double knit suits. And for some us, those images have influenced our fabric buying habits today and not necessarily in a good way.  Today, our manufacturers have revamped these old double knits into some very striking Ponte knit fabrics, using a variety of man-made and natural fibers.

Ponte knit fabric is amazingly versatile. The beauty of this cloth for the sewist is that it's the same on both sides - there is no right or wrong side when you are working in solid colors. And bonus! You don't have to finish the seams!! A lot of ready-to-wear designers such as Michael Kors and Vince Camuto (both are Nordstrom designers) will add a pair of ponte knit pants to their collections, knowing the comfort and ease of care of this fabric appeals to women of all ages.

When Laurel visited the store for one of our regular "Fit and Fun" days, she picked up some Ponte knits from our huge knit collection. She had the idea that a crop pant in this particular knit would be a great traveler on her drive trip through France.  She chose a couple of our beautiful colors...

Okay, I was officially jealous and wanted a pair of "ponte pants" for myself.  I chose a lucious Rayon and Poly blend fabric in...hello...BLACK!  And since we were going for comfort, we will use (yet again) our Ikina pant from Sewing workshop. The elastic waist make this an easy pant to sew.

Laurel suggested that we perhaps taper the legs somewhat and add a little length to the muslin that we have used over and over again. We were going for a more Audrey Hepburn capris look:) Just make a long "dart" starting at the hemline of the pattern leg by folding it over itself allowing the dart to "disappear/end" somewhere up the pant leg...the longer the tapering, the smoother the pant leg on your body.

Ponte knits can be a little heavier than a single knit and for that reason, we trimmed the seams at the waistline to remove some of the bulk.  This also makes it easier to fish the elastic through the narrow casing.

To complete our look, we added a little notch at the hemline.

If you've been following our sewing adventures here on Fabriclady, you know that we've made these Ikina pants in linen and silk several times.  I love them all, but it drives me to distraction just figuring out which way to slip them on - which side is the front?? The only way to differentiate is by looking at the crotch seams - the seam in back of a pair of pants is always longer than the front. So why not put a label in the back and save yourself some grief? You can have labels custom made, but so many of the machines today have an alphabet stitch, try making your own.

Such a clever little girl that Laurel, with a "unique" sense of humor...
but I guess I'll be able to figure out which side is the back now.

I am officially in love with these knit pants!

Ponte knits come in several weights. I have chosen another length of fabric in a much lighter weight to make another pair - this time I think we will flair the legs a little more just for fun.

Creatively Yours,

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Show us your Selvage Edges!

We love Threads Magazine here at Stonemoutain. We love that we can flip through the pages and find articles with great sewing tips and awesome ideas on garment construction and design.

The most recent  issue  (September 2014) features an article about making use of the selvage edges of fabrics to incorporate into your designs. We were intrigued with this notion, since most of us remember our mothers making us cut off those "ugly" edges before we even started our projects.

We found inspiration in a lacy Polyester with Lycra fabric.  The lace is soft, feather light and stretchy, and perfect for a tunic top.  But best of all, the selvage edges of the fabric has two different looks.

One edge is relatively smooth and flat, but gives the appearance of woven ribbon.

The opposite selvage edge appears as thought it has been run over by a too hot iron, but the effect is delightfully ruffled and feathery.

Both edges could be used in a layered look, something like this cute photo we found in a catalog...all we need is a pattern.  We settled on Kwik Sew's 3870 (available at Stonemountain via mail order), an easy tunic style. Adding a ruffle to the bottom of this pattern would not be too difficult.

If you want to use your selvage edge at the bottom of a pattern hemline, you just fold the fabric along the cross grain of the fabric, rather than the standard layout along the lengthwise of the grain. All of our tunic pieces were laid out along this selvage edge.

We will use the "wrinkled" selvage edge as our ruffle.

This stretchy lace is delicate but very forgiving to sew. Use a zig-zag stitch or a straight stitch - either works! We used two layers of the wrinkled selvage-edged side of the fabric to form our hemline ruffle.

 We're thinking Laurel's 'mini-me,' Colette loves this easy tunic with the "show-off" selvage edges. Remember that not every sheer fabric needs to be lined - we like just using a ready-to wear cami under the sheer lace.

What a great time it is at Stonemountain & Daughter! Much of the fabric that I found in New York is in...plus to make room for all these cartons of yumminess, I had to half price tons of bolts and put them upstairs on SALE!!! Hope you can make it in to see all the inspiring fabrics...what are you wanting to make next?

Creatively Yours,
Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics
2518 Shattuck Ave. @ Dwight Way
Berkeley CA