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

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Little Dress that Could! Pattern Review for 100 Acts of Sewing - Part 1!

Sometimes a pattern looks so simple you pass it by, opting instead for something with dramatic styling or clever detailing.  Nobody wants to look like a Plain Jane in a garment that perhaps only took a couple hours to make. But we say don't be so quick to dismiss a simple straightforward design—the beauty of simplicity is that with just a few minor changes, pattern hacks, incredible print, or added embellishments you can make it your own style!

We are having a ball seeing the diversity that can be achieved with one classically simple pattern: Dress No.1 from Sonya Philip's indie pattern line, 100 Acts of Sewing. The drawing is deceptively simple, but just like her Pants No.1 pattern that gets our rave reviews. This dress pattern is as versatile as it is simple.

Dress No. 1 is described as a "sleeveless dress with a flattering A-line silhouette and patch pockets."  If you follow the instructions to the letter, the neckline and armholes are simply finished off with bias tape facings.  You can purchase ready-made tape at the store, or you can make your own bias strips out of a contrasting fabric using one of our fat quarters or 1/2 yard of fabric. We love bias tape makers, which are the fastest and easiest way to create your own. Your bias facing can match your fabric to blend in, or choose a contrasting print or color for a fun hidden detail!

If you don't like the look of the bias tape bindings, you can always revert to that tried and true one piece facing for sleeveless dresses, tracing around the pattern's neckline, shoulders and armholes.  We'll do a full tutorial later on this pattern hack later! Our point is, there are a lot of ways to make this little dress unique to you, fitting your sewing ability and style.

Laurel used one of our ikats to make her first Dress No.1.  She also purchased a cotton batik print to make the self facing discussed above, but she could have easily cut her own bias strips according to the pattern instructions. She also prefers a deeper scoop, so she lowered the neckline. It's amazing how simple adjustments can personalize a project!

Patch pockets are just begging to be embellished.

You can't just have one Dress No. 1! The pattern is so versatile that with a few snips of the scissors, you can change the neckline into a V shape or a square. Make it longer or shorter, leave off the pockets, try a knit or one of our beautiful linens...so many choices!

Poly knit...Laurel's beading
Nevada Linen...border added.

Claire in her many versions of Dress No. 1
Natalie shows off her layered Dress No. 1 variations.

I had the chance to try on one of Natalie's and I am officially inspired to add Dress No. 1 to my wardrobe. We've picked a linen and a double gauze for my first ones.
Can't wait to show you!

If you haven't been in to Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics lately, do stop by and check us out!

We have tons of new Designer Fabrics in from the hot showrooms in Italy, Los Angeles and New York - Upstairs is on Fire!!!

We also had the time to move around some shelves in the front of our store by the cutting tables and it looks so open and airy!

Hope to see you soon,