Monday, February 1, 2016

Pamela's Magic Pencil Skirt!

We've seen a lot of simple skirt patterns over the years, but I think Pamela's Magic Pencil Skirt has to be one of the easiest skirts to fit and assemble. It features a figure hugging shape with either a high waist version or a natural waist version.





There is one (yes I said one) pattern piece to cut out - the back and front of the skirt are exactly the same. There are darts in both the front and the back - the magic starts with the fitting.


The waist has Pamela's Fantastic Elastic, which is cut one inch smaller in length than your waist measurement. Since we are making our skirt version that fits at the natural waist, Pamela recommends cutting the elastic down to a 1" width. Most elastic can only be cut lengthwise, but Pamela's Fantastic Elastic can actually be cut width-wise too!


We chose a lightweight 60" wide ponte knit for our pencil skirt. A black slim skirt such as Pamela's is a great addition to any wardrobe because it is so versatile - boots, tights, fancy blouses or sweaters - whatever you pair it with, the results always yield a sleek and trim silhouette, regardless of your size.

In preparation for the fitting, sew the front and back darts (all four of them!) and the two side seams. Also sew the ends of the pre-measured waist elastic together to form a ring.

To fit the skirt, try it on right side out, with the elastic on top of the skirt at the natural waist.









1.) ADJUST THE DARTS:

If the skirt pulls at the abdomen, you may need to release the front darts. If you have a flat derriere, you may need to release the back darts.

2.) ADJUST THE DRAPE OF THE SKIRT:

Since no one really has a straight back, you may need to raise the back of the skirt to accomodate a waist tilt and eliminate a baggy look at our seat. Trim the excess fabric from the back and mark it. (Remember that the front and back look exactly alike and you'll want to remember which one is the back!)

3.) STITCH IN THE FANTASTIC ELASTIC AND HEM THE SKIRT.

Voila!! A magic pencil skirt!

Pamela claims that once you made your initial skirt, it should only take you an hour to make the pencil skirt. Sounds like a challenge, huh? And why not up the ante a little by doing a "recycle" project?  We had started a long pencil skirt (different pattern) in a heavy weight reversible poly ponte print, and after trying it on we scrapped it.  Let's just say the pattern would look great on someone like our Natalie here at the store - you know, that pencil thin body that everything looks great on - but it was not kind to my hips.  Both Laurel, Lauren, and I said in unison..."NO, take it off. That's a definite NO."

But Laurel says "be thou NOT a waster of good fabric." She ripped it apart as it appeared to be big enough to remake into the Pamela Pencil skirt.

This previous long skirt just did not work for me at all.  Let's see what Laurel cooks up!


What is so beautiful about this heavy knit is that the "wrong side" is just as beautiful as the plaid side. In truth, I can get a lot more wear out of a solid gray knit skirt, so we decided to go for it.


Laurel did run into a snag (literally!) sewing on this fabric. It's very heavy and firm, so her first machine kept skipping stitches.  Even after changing needles and thread tension, it didn't seem to work very well. Laurel is blessed with two machines, so she just switched and was able to correct the stitching.  But we know not everyone has that luxury, so do you have any ideas on how she could have adjusted her first machine? Let us hear them!



We had to put a seam up the back (we're recycling, remember) and leave the small slit up the back. Even with the thread issues and changes, start to finish: ONE HOUR!!!  Amazing!




This is really a great skirt for everyday or special occasion. We love this skirt so much we are even offering a class on making it! Come get inspired with our instructor, Terry McClintock and make one of your own! Here are the dates: 
(607A) Feb 29, Mon 10:30 - 2:30 pm
(607B) Mar 31, Thurs 10:30 - 2:30 pm
(607C) May 7, Sat 1:30 - 5:30 pm

We are off to such an exciting start at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics. Our independent pattern lines are doing great and we are having so much fun watching our customers try them with great success. Indie patterns and our fabric - a match made in fabric heaven.

Hope that you can take the time to visit us in Berkeley this year! Also take a look at the many fabrics, notions and all our patterns up in our webstore for your convenience.

Thanks again for being a part of this caring and creative community,
Suzan
FabricLady

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Let's Get Started 2016 - The Year of the Indie Pattern!

It's so fun to start a new year here at Stonemountain - all the great new fabrics just waiting to be worked up by our loyal and creative sewists and waiting for the new independent patterns to come out!  This month we are celebrating our independent pattern designers with Indie Pattern Month.

The world of sewing has changed over the years. In the past, all the design choices were from the big pattern companies. Now many wonderful designers are sharing their exciting talent and vision with us through their patterns - big thanks to all the "femprenuers!" Let's get to know them and try out more of their patterns in 2016.

Each day in January we are featuring one of our independent pattern designers and asking you to show us your creations on Instagram! Every Thursday, we will have a pattern giveaway from one of our Indie Pattern designers.

My seamstress and dear friend Laurel is having her own little challenge - a real stash buster of sorts.  Many of the UFO's (Unfinished Objects) in her stash pile include garments from our Indie pattern designers. As we work on these garments throughout 2016, we will try to spend time giving you a better perspective on pattern design and fabric choice. We'll be sharing our successes and our failures... yes, we do have them, just like you!



UFO pile: My stuff and Laurel's stuff
In keeping with our Indie Pattern Month, our first UFO of 2016 is Grainline Studio's Tiny Pocket tank.  We've had this pattern since last Fall, so it will be done just in time for our January challenge,  #indiepatternmonth. (Be sure to check us out on Instagram and join in the fun!)


We originally chose a lightweight ponte knit in a beautiful red to go with our Fall wardrobe capsule. Right away, we learned the error of our fabric choice as Laurel began to work it up in a similar knit fabric just to see how it would go - a muslin of sorts.


Do you see the word "knit" anywhere in the suggested fabrics? Me neither. Lesson Number One for 2016: Read the back of the pattern. The suggestions are there for a reason.

Ponte is a lovely fabric, but it can be bulky around the seams. Not too far into the garment construction, we figured that whole bulky aspect out when attempting to make the tiny pocket.  And it IS tiny! And it is unlined, adding to the difficultly of sewing it on to the tank front without creating some major puckers. For the heavier fabric in this case, Laurel employed that old tried and true technique of basting.




















Next, we had a little stress over the facings. Any time you are working with narrow shoulder seams, your fabric needs to be lightweight, and our knit, even though it is lightweight for a ponte, proved to be a challenge. These bias facings are tricky and called for more basting. But since this tank was to be a test garment of sorts, we just noted the bulkiness and vowed to do better on the next go-around.  That's what sewing is: an exercise in learning and improving with each garment.

In the end, Grainline's Tiny Pocket Tank is pretty adorable. The pattern is easy and would have been a lot easier for Laurel if we had chosen the proper fabric. Laurel adjusted the shoulders somewhat so the armholes would not be too large. Next time, we would probably line the pocket, as it is so small and hard to get a crisp turn on the edges.

Though this version reminds me a little of workout gear, I can't wait to try it in a soft voile or cotton lawn...just like the pattern suggests.

If you want to do this great tank in a class here at Stonemountain - check out our time for this on our website!



We are excited about what 2016 brings! We'll be concentrating on our independent patterns and showing how you can make a pattern your own through your fabric choices and combinations.  Let's let creativity rule this year!

Please keep us in the loop with your progress this year - we love seeing your finished projects.  After all, you inspire us!

2016 will be a year for us to truly follow our heart's desire. Let's discover the pleasure of creating custom garments that use the fabric we love in styles that flatter.

Creatively Yours,
SuZan




Our beautiful store in Berkeley! Stop by and visit our 6000 square foot store - 3 rooms and 2 floors to explore!


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Why Independent Patterns - Fabric Lady's 2015 Top Indie Patterns!

As a family owned business, operating in Berkeley for the past 34 years, we love to support other independent businesses, especially when the patterns give us high-quality, unique choices for our wardrobe.

In the past, we have been held hostage to the big companies such as Simplicity and McCall's. Early on in the 1980's they began discounting heavily to the big chains making it very difficult for us to compete with these huge box stores in our own neighborhood - do you remember when they started having 70% off sales? This was part of the reason so many family run fabric stores have gone out of business over the last 3 decades across the United States.

Fast forward to the last few years; many designers have heard our plea for quality patterns that consider our different body types and lifestyles. Now, we have a full selection patterns made by creative and caring people. We love meeting these pattern makers, following them on social media and feeling connected to them when we use their patterns. It brings our sewing community closer together.

Indie Pattern Month and Year 2016 Celebrations
Join us in celebrating the Year of the Independent Pattern in 2016!
We are kicking off the year with a month long celebration in January. Join us each day on our Instagram and Facebook to learn about our independent pattern lines and see what others have created from them.  Stop by our pattern table to view all of the amazing indie pattern lines we stock. You can find them in our store or online - they are all up and available!

To inspire us, I have collected my favorite indie patterns we used this year. Take a look at our round-up and learn more about the patterns in our blogs about them.

I also want to thank my dear friend and collaborator, Laurel of Laurels Quill for all her designing, sewing, blogging and our famous lunches together. The journey would not be nearly as sweet and inspiring without you! What a couple years this has been and I so look forward to the magic of 2016 ahead!


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FABRIC: Textured polyester 'Mello' knit 
WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT:
Want a top that you can whip out in a few hours?  We found the Uptown Top, a pattern from our newly added indie pattern company, A Verb for Keeping Warm.  It's a simple top to make, especially if you use a soft knit that you don't need to serge or zig zag the seams. The pattern includes three sizes, but even the smallest size is very generous.
This top is so easy, the neck can be finished with its facing or you could use a simple bias strip. We made our Uptown Top with the band at the bottom, making it long enough to wear with leggings.  You can leave off the band and wear it with pants or jeans as the pattern makers suggest.


READ MORE ABOUT IT HERE: 
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Endless Summer Tunic by A Verb For Keeping Warm


FABRIC: Indian block print batik cotton gauze 
WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT:
We are all over the ethnic look for this summer.  Some of our imported gauze fabrics from India are just perfect to get that free-flowing look so prevalent in the 60's and 70's.  And the best part is that they never seem to go out of style and are perfect for any age!
 And since we're gaga over gauze, we thought A Verb for Keeping Warm's "Endless summer Tunic" would be fun to make up in a cotton gauze.

READ MORE ABOUT IT HERE: 
Loving the ethnic fabric and free flowing ease! 

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 Cabin Top by Blueprints For Sewing


FABRIC: Rayon Challis 
WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT: 
Blueprints for Sewing patterns are simple, flattering, comfortable, and classic with an artistic edge. They emphasize functionality and simplicity and feature thoughtful embellishments and adaptable cuts. Each pattern takes its inspiration from an architectural style.
The Cabin Top takes its inspiration from the simplicity of a cabin - a humble structure, built to provide shelter from the elements.  Spending time in a cabin "allows the mind to wander," says pattern maker, Taylor.  Thus, the Cabin top is a simple and functional top that will allow you to make it uniquely your own through fabric choice.

READ MORE ABOUT IT HERE:
The Cabin Top 
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 Myrtle by Colette


FABRIC: Rayon Knit 
WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT:
I've said it before, I love wearing dresses to work!
Separates are still fun to expand your wardrobe, but it's so much easier to pick out a dress from your closet in the early morning hours. I don't have to think about what goes with what. My biggest decisions are what shoes to wear, tights or not, and do I need a sweater?
Dresses are a great uniform! Find a style that you love and make it up in a variety of fabrics. We love that about sewing - you can really make the clothing you wear your own. 

Our independent pattern designers always have something new to chose from when I'm looking for a fresh frock. I love the variety of styles available these days from indie designers. Each designer and pattern has its own personality and flare to inspire you. The Myrtle dress from Colette looked like such an easy, comfortable and elegant style, and I had the perfect knit in mind for it. 

READ MORE ABOUT IT HERE:
My Sweet Myrtle Dress 
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FABRIC: Woven Cotton 'Peppered Plaid'
WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT:
Colette has added to her easy yet visually interesting designs with the Dahlia dress. We love the detailing at the waist. We chose a soft, but large scale plaid for the Dahlia, perfect for my fall season mood.  Be sure to check out the other colors this "Peppered Plaid" comes in!
Our independent designers shine in the dress design arena, so I enjoy featuring their unique dress designs in my work wardrobe.

READ MORE ABOUT IT HERE:

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FABRIC: Cotton Ikats 
WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT:
We already made several dresses, a couple of pairs of pants, and even a woven t-shirt. This month we're adding to the "dress revolution" by using Colette Patterns' Laurel dress.   It's a beginner pattern, and several of our staff have already made up this "chic and simple" dress with a semi-fitted shape.
We wanted to make use of coordinating ikat patterns, just to add some cool color blocking to this simple dress.
The dress has a back zipper which allows you to adjust the fit if needed and gives you the opportunity to add a cool contrasting zipper for fun.  It didn't take Laurel long to whip out this dress for a fitting.  I had worn a pair of my favorite leggings that day - I love the combination of dresses and leggings, even in the summer.

READ MORE ABOUT IT HERE: 
Can't Get Enough Ikat?! Neither Can We! 

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FABRIC: Cotton Print 
WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT:
One of our favorite sewing pattern lines for retro and vintage fashion is Decades of Style. Though some of the mid-century dress lines have a lot of seaming detail, such as our Object d'Art Dress from last year, these clever folks have come out with an easy sewing line called Decades Everyday.  It's like they read our minds - "Give me a retro look pattern that I can sew in a day and wear every day!"

READ MORE ABOUT IT HERE: 
Modern Take on a Retro Dress - E.S.P. by Decades of Style!

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FABRIC: Cotton + Steel Rayon  
WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT:
I chose a soft rayon in a black and white geometric print.  So many of our sewists used two different fabrics - one print or solid for the yoke and a different fabric for the main body of the dress.  I wanted to try making it all in one fabric, but perhaps with a small pop of color. Piping, maybe?
Piping? Yes! We loved this bright chartreuse in 100% cotton. We cut bias strips along the polka dot portion of the fabric then folded and pressed it carefully.

READ MORE ABOUT IT HERE:  
Give This Dress A Chance!

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Datura Blouse by Deer & Doe


FABRIC: Silk Crepe 
WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT:
We love this Deer and Doe Datura sleeveless blouse pattern from France. It's not especially difficult to work up even though the pattern envelope's "Advanced" description must have applied to using fabric with a soft hand, such as silk. (A soft woven cotton or rayon would be a great fabric to try first, if you're apprehensive). We will admit that the pattern instructions are very French - brief and to the point - and they perhaps assume that we are indeed advanced sewists. Even Laurel had to interpret the not-so-detailed instructions, applying construction techniques that she has been using for years.

READ MORE ABOUT IT HERE: 
Developing a "Hand" for Silk - 5 Rules to Follow!

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FABRIC: Cotton Cross Dye 
WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT:
This month, Grainline Studio's Scout Tee caught our eye. It's not very often that you find a tee pattern that is designed specifically for woven fabrics, so we thought we'd give it a try.
We chose a soft lightweight cotton lawn.  The pattern has a lower back hemline than the front, short cap sleeves and works up in a jiffy. It's the perfect little tee for the beginning sewist.  In fact, we're even teaching a class specifically on this pattern in August and October!

READ MORE ABOUT IT HERE: 
Summer Tees

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FABRIC: Textured Scuba Knit 
WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT:
We're still working on our blog about this pattern, but we've already finished two versions of it! It's already a staff favorite and we have a new class featuring this pattern. Check it out!


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FABRIC: Red Ponte Knit
WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT:
The dress features princess seams, a keyhole front and cap sleeves - and no zipper! It's not a difficult dress to make at all, but it takes time to do all the top stitching of the seams.  You could eliminate that step, but we think that's what makes the Davie dress special. This is a dress that you could make in one day (start in the morning and be party-ready by 5:00). It took Laurel about 4-5 hours to complete.

READ MORE ABOUT IT HERE: 

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 Hudson Pant by The Sewing Workshop


FABRIC: Cotton Ikat 
WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT:
The Sewing Workshop's Hudson Pant is very loose fitting, ankle length pant with an elastic waist which are all factors to make this pant super comfortable. Not having to wear tight-fitting pants for work is certainly appealing.
Best part of these pants other than the ninety minutes it takes to make them? The long darts that go from the calf down to the ankle.  This great detailing keeps the comfortable pants from looking too slouchy.
 
READ MORE ABOUT IT HERE: 
Can't Get Enough Ikat?! Neither Can We!

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FABRIC: Cotton Ikat and Cross Dye 
WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT:
I loved this new Victory Pattern, the Chloe No. 1005 Dress.  It is an intermediate level project suitable for woven fabrics like Ikat - other cottons or knits would work too.
We wanted to make our Chloe a little edgy by combining Ikat with a complimentary solid woven fabric. I love the combination of purple and green, especially if the hues are a little "off" color. You might think that this combination doesn't occur in nature, but it does. So why not combine these gorgeous olive Ikat prints with a solid purple woven?  Even though the purple does not occur in the Ikat, it doesn't matter.  The purple gives the olive Ikat that pop of color that will make my Chloe dress unique!

READ MORE ABOUT IT HERE:  

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 Satsuki by Victory Patterns


FABRIC: Silk Knit 
WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT:
Here's another of my favorite patterns - Victory's Satsuki dress. We've made it as both a dress and a top.  I love the comfort and style of this design. (Are you starting to see a pattern here - "comfort" and "ease?") But I also love the femininity of this design.  Whatever your body type, it will be flattering.
So why mess with success? I found this wonderful silk knit during one of my buying trips and I loved the way the print almost had an ombre look.  I immediately thought of the Satsuki dress.

READ MORE ABOUT IT HERE: 

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Check out our classes featuring some of these awesome patterns!

Thanks for being a fabric lover and following my blog. 
I would love to hear from you about patterns and your projects!

love and creativity,
Suzan



Wednesday, December 16, 2015

My Sweet Myrtle Dress

I've said it before, I love wearing dresses to work!
Separates are still fun to expand your wardrobe, but it's so much easier to pick out a dress from your closet in the early morning hours. I don't have to think about what goes with what. My biggest decisions are what shoes to wear, tights or not, and do I need a sweater?

Dresses are a great uniform! Find a style that you love and make it up in a variety of fabrics. We love that about sewing - you can really make the clothing you wear your own.
Even in the fall and winter months, I prefer sleeveless and short sleeved dresses for work around the store.  I can always throw a sweater or light jacket (like the Morris Blazer from Grainline Studio) over it if I get chilly or layer them with long sleeved t-shirts. Fabric choices are simple too: cottons, rayons, and knits are among my go-to choices for dresses. Since our weather here in Berkeley is so temperate, I usually opt for wearing layers, but warmer fabrics like wools can be made up into beautiful dresses as well. 

Our independent pattern designers always have something new to chose from when I'm looking for a fresh frock. I love the variety of styles available these days from indie designers. Each designer and pattern has its own personality and flare to inspire you. The Myrtle dress from Colette looked like such an easy, comfortable and elegant style, and I had the perfect knit in mind for it. 

I chose a beautiful, lightweight rayon/lycra knit in black with a white ditsy floral print. Knits are so versatile and I love that this could be worn at work during the day and then dressed up in the evening for any occasion. Easy to wear and care for, and available in more colors and prints than you can imagine, we love knits at Stonemountain! Visit our website to see a selection of our knits.


The front of Myrtle is self-lined, making the draped front neckline fall into place beautifully.  The bodice back is faced with bias tape at the neck and armholes. Laurel chose a red binding to contrast. We love adding design elements like this wherever we can to makes the garment unique. Isn't that the point of sewing for yourself - to make something that you won't see everyone else wearing?

The beginner pattern instructions were a little difficult to follow when it came time to add the elastic around the waist. Since there didn't seem to be enough length in the bodice to cover the 1" wide elastic called for in the pattern, Laurel added extra wide bias tape to the bodice to create a casing for the elastic - in red of course! If you are a more experienced sewist, sometimes you have to go back to what you know when it comes time to following pattern directions.



 Love the drape of this neckline! So very feminine.



The whole dress drapes perfectly...
maybe tights? Boots?


This Myrtle Dress is perfect for rayon or silk knits because of the draped bodice.  You may also want to consider a soft rayon or cotton challis or even a lightweight lawn if your prefer sewing on woven fabrics.  Colette even has a free download that shows you how to execute this pattern in a woven! Whatever you chose, it needs to drape softly, so avoid crisp or heavy fabrics.

Another great pattern from Colette. I can't wait to wear this dress through winter and into the warmer months!

Cheers to Sewing!!!
Suzan