Friday, June 10, 2016

Mad Crush on T-Shirts!

We have a mad crush on t-shirts here at Stonemountain, so whenever one of our independent pattern companies comes out with a new tee, we have to try it out! And since summer is just around the corner, the casual styling of a t-shirt is the perfect match for many of our new summer knits. We might also point out that most of the t-shirt patterns available don't take very long to make, even for our beginning sewists!

One of our newer t-shirt patterns is the Lark Tee from Grainline Studio. There are sixteen different ways to make up this simple tee-shirt with its modern, slim styling.

Four sleeve lengths and four necklines!

I chose the v-neck and the three-quarter length sleeves for my shirt.  Because I try to avoid deep necklines, Laurel, my seamstress, cut the v-neck a little higher.  This is a simple adjustment that you can make, especially when you're using a knit fabric.  Otherwise, we used the pattern as directed.

With something as simple as a t-shirt, it's all about fabric choice. The simple lines of the Lark Tee allow you to be the designer, making the t-shirt uniquely you. The fabric I chose was a bold, graphic rayon knit with a huge border and repeat of the design. Understandably, it took Laurel a bit of time deciding on the best utilization of the print's graphic patterns.

We initially thought that the "plain" sections of the fabric would make the best sleeves, but when we tried placing the tee-shirt front on the bold graphics, it looked a little skeletal, which was not the biker chick look I was going for.  We ended up using the plain part of the design for the front and back of the tee and the bold pattern on the sleeves.

The sleeves, using the bold graphic sections of the fabric.

One way to work with a fabric like this is to layout and cut your pattern pieces one layer at a time.  In that way, you can kind of design as you go.  Here's the final design we settled on, being careful to match the graphic designs as best we could.

The v-neck line is finished with a neck band, so Laurel used the graphic lines in the fabric to add great detail to the neckline.

The finished Lark Tee looked great on Zanikan, and it fit me like a glove!  I love that it's longer than most tees for a very flattering silhouette. And isn't that the most important part of wearing a t-shirt, besides being oh so comfortable?

Keeping to our emphasis on Indie patterns, we wanted to give Sewaholic's Renfrew Tee a spin around the sewing machine. This t-shirt is a fitted top that features banded hems on the sleeves and hemline.  Like the Lark, the Refrew has several variations of sleeves and necklines.

I chose a rayon knit, using the short sleeves and the v-neck styling.  Again, Laurel adjusted the deep v-neckline to suit my preference for a higher look. (It's not that I can't appreciate a pretty d├ęcolletage, but I'm constantly hovering over desks, cutting tables, and low shelves at work and the world doesn't need to see mine!)

The bands on the sleeves and hemline add a nice styling element ordinarily.  But I have to say that because of the print on this knit, they don't show off this detailing as much as a solid colored knit might. You could easily color-block this design as well, making the bands a totally different color or print.

If you look at the finished inside of the Refrew, you can see the bands on the sleeves and hemline.  Laurel finished the edges with her serger, making for a clean seam finish. She used a stretch stitch for sewing the seams and a "Jersey" machine needle (#80).

When you add a mitered bias neck facing, be sure to stay-stitch the "V" at the center front first!

Slouchy or form-fitting, graphic or plain, the t-shirt continues to be one of the most enduring pieces of clothing in our wardrobe. T-shirt trends go in and out of style as quickly as hemlines, but the simple, classic t-shirt is as essential to our everyday dress as hangers are to our closet.

I hope that this has inspired you to leap forward and sew up your own custom Tee! I know they can be inexpensive to buy ready made, but the feel of wearing one you have made out of great quality fabric cannot be beat!

Sending each of you my gratitude,


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

What's next for Stonemountain?

Dream buying team!
Dear Students and Community of SM&D!
These last four months have been a roller coaster of change both personally and collectively. June is here, and we are dedicated in our mission for Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics to be a community center for the Garment Sewer, Quilter, and Crafter; a Berkeley institution since 1981.

My buying team and I have been bringing in the finest fabric collections for our diverse community to our Berkeley store and our new updated website. In July, the upstairs will be full of designer fabrics from New York, Italy, and more!

Our social media outreach is a main focus for us, and it is so exciting! Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, our Newsletter (sign up and get a coupon for in-store and online purchases), and our Stonemountain blog for the latest photos, info, and happenings.

Exciting new events!

We have always been dedicated to our educational program at SM&D and are beginning our next phase this week. We have been busy moving shelves of fabric and opening up space in the front of the store to make room for community events. Free live demos, craft fairs, and trunk shows are just the beginning! Make sure you sign up for our email newsletters to be informed of these live events.

Come check out Tilden on Friday at 11 am till 2 pm for Live Sewing!

This Friday, June 3rd, we will welcome our first designer to sew in our front window! Tilden Yamamoto lives and works in Oakland, California.  He is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, San Francisco.  For eighteen years he has practiced and studied traditional sewing techniques and construction, and it shows. His work is impeccable! We can't wait to see him work his magic in our window. Stay tuned for more Live Sewing and Demos to be scheduled each month!


The end of an era and on to new beginnings

Back in February we stepped forward with courage and made the decision to listen to all the “signals” suggesting it was time to let go of our class program at the end of June, even at the height of our "success." It has been an amazing 20 years of building our school from nothing to one of the most successful teaching programs in the country in any fabric store ever! With 1-3 classes daily—mostly full with waiting lists—we gave over 400 classes and served 2,500 students each year!

As I have shared before (here and here), when we started this school, most of the sewing educational programs in our community were closing or slowing down. Daily, our customers were asking where they could learn to sew. Sadly there was very little. “Find a need and fill it!” has always been my key to business success. I proceeded to model our classes after programs like G Street, Vogue Fabrics, and The Sewing Workshop, who were offering classes at that time. We moved the fabric out of the upstairs and brought in tables, sewing machines, and all the other goodies needed for a wonderful, ever-evolving studio for our students. It worked! It grew based on a high level of caring and dedication.

Over the years, we have supported the home garment sewing movement. In the last 3 decades, more sewists moved away from garment sewing to quilting and knitting, while many people stopped sewing all together. But recently, we have seen a comeback with the popularity of indie patterns and sewing communities coming together in the blogosphere and on social media. Stores like ours, who love to buy and sell fashion fabrics, are diminishing, but our passion for these fabrics and fashion sewing is wholehearted. We are excited to grow our community even more and reach out to sewists who share our enthusiasm for sewing.

Teaching in our Berkeley fabric store for 20 years has ignited thousands of sewists to gain confidence in cutting, fitting, and sewing on fine fabric. Some have gone on to be wonderful designers, teachers, or manufacturers! All will remember their classes in our upstairs. It is and has been a special honor to host these classes and events. I have so much gratitude for all the fabulous instructors, students, and the whole Stonemountain Team who have helped me grow this part of our business and give back to a community which has given us so much!

Your guide to the next sewing adventure! 

Check out our Guide to Bay Area Sewing Classes! I have personally met and talked with each of the teachers and schools listed here. With this great group of educators in our area, we are excited to partner with them and provide students with fabric, notions, and patterns, no matter where they're learning. Each teacher or school has access to a special SM&D 20% off student coupon for you to buy your supplies from us, as our way of saying thank you! Please reach out to them and support them as you can. This is a growing community, and it's vital for us all to step forward together in this beginning phase. Please take a look at this link to see all the classes being offered all around us! You can also pick up a flier print out in the store.

I love being here after 35+ years, dreaming into what Stonemountain can still become! After the countless personal hours devoted to the development, scheduling, and administration of these classes, I'm looking forward to refocusing that energy into my other dreams and organizations. It feels courageous to let go and "float in" to the challenge of surrender and not knowing.

In letting go of our current structure of classes, we are opening ourselves up for something new and exciting for our community. We step forward with an open heart and ask, "What more is possible?" Where can we create more joy and creativity in our lives?

Thanks for sharing this ride with me!

Blessings and Love,

Suzan Steinberg
Owner, Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics, 1981 - Present and Onward!
Founder, Stonemountain Sewing Classes, 1996 - 2016
Director, Brightest Little Star Blanket Volunteer Project for Alta Bates/Summit NICU
Director, FineFabricStores Collective of Independently Owned Fashion Fabric Retail Stores in North America

Certified Shamanic Astrologer and Board Member of the Shamanic Astrology Mystery School

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Crazy-Making Patterns - What was I thinking?

Fact: Not all patterns are created equal from a design perspective.
Fact No 2: Not all patterns instructions are correct.
And Fact No. 3: Tastes and preferences change over time

Some background:  We made a decision a few months ago to focus on Independent Designers. We  had some pricing issues with a couple of the Big 4 pattern makers and it just seemed the right time to let them ease out of our pattern drawers. We continue to support our favorite mainstream designers from the Vogue pattern line, specifically Sandra Betzina and the Tilton designers.

So even though we have been focused on promoting our Indies since January, we had some hanger-oners in the project pile that for whatever reason, Laurel just hadn't got to yet. One garment was this Vogue 9124 Dress, which we picked out last Fall. We chose to make it in a beautiful rayon border print.  So before Laurel had a chance to start the sewing of this garment, the weather turned and it seemed fitting to save it for this Spring. And since she had already cut the pattern out last Fall, there was no going back now.

Skip forward to this week when she actually started sewing on the dress. Vogue patterns are not always suitable for beginners, but if you look at the drawing on the pattern, it looks rather straight forward, especially for an advanced seamstress like Laurel. The pattern features a button fly front, which for someone who has done a lot of plackets should not be that difficult.

Here's where the "Crazy-Making" started. According to Laurel, who always tries to work up our patterns as they are designed, her sewing day went rapidly downhill. "Worst placket directions ever!"

After a sleepless night trying to wrap her brain around their instructions AND scouring the Internet for some pointers, she scrapped the instructions and, as she says, "I did it MY way". She wasn't alone, as others had the very same trouble with these overly complex instructions and bad drawings.  (Not to mention, one whole section is totally out of order!)

So we're thinking that if you do choose this pattern, just go back to the fly-front technique that you already know. On a blouse fly front, the center front on the right side is normally cut about 6" wider and just "folded" to form the placket.  Since she had already cut out the bodice months ago, Laurel cut a section of fabric and just added it to the right front of the bodice, to form the hidden placket.

The placket is then created by folding the fabric in an accordion-like fashion. The inside (hidden) portion of the placket is interfaced - this is the portion that has the buttonholes down the front.

The outside portion of the placket hides the buttonholes down the front of the bodice and is not interfaced. The left side of the bodice is interfaced to add some stability - this is the side for the buttons.

Narrow bias bands like this neckline band can tend to stretch as you are trying attach it to the gathered bodice.  Cool trick: Laurel marked a piece of bias tape with the various pattern markings on the narrow band around the neckline, just to make the gathered bodice a little easier to assemble. The bias tape also made the gathered neckline more stable.

A word of warning - these tiny bands are not easy to master - they're not for the beginner or the faint-hearted. And even though gathering a skirt is something you might learn in your first years of sewing, they can be a pain on lovely silk or rayon like this fabric - they're slippery and they ravel, so serge the edge first before gathering.

I have a spring wedding to attend, so this little spring number might be just the trick. Either that or I might have to find someplace to have afternoon tea...maybe add a big flouncy hat??? Just kidding...if you know me at all :) 

Don't you love the pretty belt Laurel made for me!
We love border prints and all the design options they give us!

My buying team and my pretty new dress!!! 
Given the "issues" inherent with this Vogue pattern, 
I'm thinking I made a great decision to GO INDIE!!

Cheers to Sewing!


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Betty and Lizzy House - A Contest!!!

Lizzy House—a fabric designer for Andover—is sponsoring a dress making contest, and we wanted to play along! We just love the whimsy of Lizzy House fabrics, so we were excited to get our Stonemountain community involved. The main objective of the Lizzy House Dress Contest is to "inject a little joy into your wardrobe and maybe learn a new skill or just show off your wicked style, and create a bit of community doing it."

To enter, use any Lizzy House fabric to make a dress for yourself, a dress for a little one, or any kind of garment for the men in your life.  There's also a category for kids who make a dress themselves!  Then post a picture on Instagram using the hashtag #lizzyhousedresscontest, and if you got the fabric from us, tag us too with #stonemountainfabric!

For our Lizzy House garment, we chose to bring a little "Betty" into our wardrobe. Sew Over It, one of our new indie pattern lines, seemed to be channeling a little style from the ladies in the hit series Mad Men. We loved Betty Draper's on screen spirit and the chic 50's vintage look she inspires.


The Betty Dress reflects that simple 50's style and is the perfect pattern for our Lizzy House dress. 

Link to pattern here!

We chose a soft "Meadow blue" cotton lawn for our Betty Dress. 

Link to fabric here!

The contest ends on May 20th.  We have a great selection of Lizzy House fabrics in the store for you to choose from, so drop by soon and join in the "make it yourself" fun! After all, it IS Me Made May!!!  Just make sure to tag your completed look with #lizziehousedresscontest and #stonemountainfabric.

We'll post pics on Instagram and Facebook when ours is finished.  Stay tuned!!

Creatively Yours,

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A Pretty Tendril for Me Made May!

A tendril is a tiny stem that wraps itself around a host or another structure to add support for a climbing plant. We see them in nature frequently, twining themselves around larger stems and sometimes setting the path for new growth.

I'm not sure if it was intended or not, but A Verb for Keeping Warm's "Tendril" dress seems to mimic the action of nature.  The Tendril is a bias cut dress which shares the common characteristic of wrapping itself around the body, clinging to our curves in the most flattering of ways.  It's no accident that the most luscious of silk nightgowns we love are cut on the bias in this same manner.

The Tendril is an easy pattern, with only two pieces, but as the designer suggests, you will learn a little about French seams and sewing on the bias of the fabric. Won't you join me for #memademay16 and make one of these wonderful bias dresses - it would even make great lingerie!

One of my goals this year is to give an honest evaluation of our indie pattern designs, since we are beginning to focus solely on them here at FabricLady. We want to point out areas that might cause you "pause", as we say, while you are working with Indies. Not everyone will like a particular pattern or designer - we all have individual preferences and aesthetics. So without denigrating the Tendril's beautiful design which we love, the pattern itself may present a couple of challenges for the beginning sewist:

1) The actual sewing directions for the dress is a scant one page without a lot of details about sewing a bias cut dress, and

2) In order to save paper (we're assuming), the front and the back of the dress are printed on top of each other, necessitating the need for tracing the pattern onto another sheet of paper before cutting out. This may not seem like a big deal to some of you, but some sewists (Laurel?) find it unnerving/irritating. (Can I have some cheese with that whine...)

And since we see this more often, we might suggest that you make a trip to Stonemountain and pick up a roll of pattern paper. It can become handy in the workroom as it is sturdier than the flimsy tissue that a good number of patterns are printed on and less bulky that the heavy paper that many of our Indies use.

But let's wrap ourselves around the Tendril. We chose a soft double gauze polka dot fabric, which we think will lend itself very nicely to the flattering bias cut styling. The fabric is a generous 54" wide so the bias layout was a snap.  The polka dots on the bias of the fabric also make it a breeze to cut the bias strip "facings" for the neck and armholes.

The French seam finishing is used in the shoulders. Easy as Pie! The instructions in AVFKW's sewing notes are easy to follow.

Step One:  Sew using 1/4" stitch with the fabric WRONG sides together..

 Step two:  Trim the seam allowance, align RIGHT sides together, sew with a 1/4" seam.

Voila!! A French Seam.

Reading the pattern notes seems to indicate that French seams are also used on the two side seams. But since we want the side seams to have the same soft draping that the bias cut allows, we decided to finish the side seams with a little more give, i.e. stretch, by using a knit stitch.

We tried out several on a scrap of our fabric to find the best machine setting.

After the bias strip facings were completed, we sewed the side seams using our stretch knit stitch and then rather than serge the edges (serging can be tight), we just simply finished off the edges using a big zig zag stitch to keep the seams from raveling.

We added lace hem tape to keep the bias hem edges in check and then sewed the hem in place by hand.  The beauty of double gauze is that if you don't want hand stitches to show on the outside of the garment, your tiny stitches should just catch the under layer.

This dress is so flattering on Zanikan...can't wait to wrap it around my body:)


I'm so excited to have this dress in time for Me Made May!  For those of you who don't know, Me Made May is a month long celebration of our handmade wardrobes.  Many people challenge themselves to wear a certain number of me-made garments a week, or even every day!  You can read more about it here.  And follow us on Instagram to see our daily me-made outfits!

Creatively yours,