Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Modern Take on a Retro Dress - E.S.P. by Decades of Style!

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!"

As quickly as you thought of it, Decades came up with the E.S.P. Dress. (Don't you just love the name?! ) A simple dress with raglan sleeves, flattering neckline, and a gathered skirt, the possibilities are endless for fabric choices.

Pattern layouts for striped fabrics can be a challenge.  The most important part of the layout is to place all the fabric pieces so that the tops of the bodice and skirt pieces are flowing in the same direction along the lengthwise of the fabric. This is especially important if the stripe pattern has a repeating flow of colors.

Love the exposed zipper!!!

This classic dress has a gathered skirt attached to a fitted bodice. What we have found is that almost all body shapes look good in this design, which is probably why it had survived countless fashion trends over the years.  Gathering fabric is relatively simple:  sew two rows of basting stitches along the waist of the skirt and after pulling the threads to gather the fabric, be sure to sew it with the gathered side on top to avoid puckers in the skirt.

The finished E.S.P dress is just perfect!  The stripes on the sleeves were not exactly matched, but I think the result added just enough edge to the bodice to make the dress more interesting and not so matchy-matchy.  And I know I'm going to love those pockets!!

More of these wonderful cotton import stripes!

Laurel made a little tie belt for my dress so that the waist is more defined, but a purchased belt would look lovely too.

Perfect for a button detail!

I can see this design in all kinds of fabrics.  I probably wouldn't ever wear chintz, but can you imagine how cute it would be? What about a gorgeous silk for a evening cocktail dress look? Imagine the variety of looks you could get with some of our beautiful cottons.  The staff here at Stonemountain & Daughter did just that!

Here's Brenna and Suzan--don't you just love those unicorns?!
Brenna did it again!  She used a beautiful vintage fabric this time.
Isabel and Claire look great in their ESPs!  This pattern is just perfect for novelty cottons.

Want to make your own, but aren't sure where to start?  Take a Sew & Fit Lab class at Stonemountain & Daughter for help on your own individual projects.  Or check out Barbara Beccio's class on Perfect Seams for Any Garment to take your sewing to the next level.

We know there are many of you who have made this classic E.S.P. dress too, and we'd love to see!  Send us pictures in the comments or email us at fabriclady3@gmail.com.  Until next time!

Creatively Yours

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Uptown Girl: A Quick And Easy Top!

The Uptown Top by A Verb for Keeping Warm
 (available on our website and in our store)
It's been super warm in the Bay Area and my thoughts are turning to spring! 2015 is feeling like an amazing year to make clothing! Please stop by and join me to get inspired at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics if you are anywhere near the Bay. You can also shop in our webstore for patternsfabric, notions and more!!!

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.

We chose a soft rayon, poly with spandex knit with a funky striped pattern (The Mellow Knit). The hardest part of constructing this top is deciding how to place the stripes! Laurel tried several versions of the layout by just folding the fabric in different ways, fashioning it into a fake top to just get an an idea of the look we want for the finished top. Its like fabric origami!

In the end, we varied the direction of the stripes to find the most flattering design combination for my body type. Voila! Sewn in 90 minutes flat!

Love this knit as much as us? Find it in our store!
You could make this top out of a silk or rayon for a dressier version - any flowy fabric with a soft hand would be perfect. If you do use a woven fabric, it will take a little longer as you will have to finish the seams (serged, zig-zagged or take our Perfect Seams Class #312 to learn the many ways if finishing your seams!). You can also "color block" the fabrics, using different colors for the body, sleeves and band.  So many possibilities!

This top is so much fun to wear, Laurel tried it on as well and fell in love (of course)!


Get ready to work on knits right now! We have classes to further support you in making wonderful and unique knit garments that fit and are easy to wear!

Come take one of our many classes! You can take a class specifically for working on knits or take one of our 101 or 102 series courses to have more sessions to sew and work on any project, knit or otherwise. You can also take one of our 250 Sew Labs for three hours "do it now" help!

Creatively Yours,

Monday, March 2, 2015

Rainy Day? Make a new Spring Bag!!!

Give me a cloudy or rainy day, and I want to settle into a cozy chair with a book. There's something about the sound of the rain outside my window that lulls me into a happy place, free from the distractions of everyday life. As a fabric shop owner, I don't get to do this very often, and even when I do, thoughts of fabrics, patterns, accounts, staff and wholesalers creep into the plot of my novel.

For many of our readers and customers, rainy days are their favorite time to sew, perhaps start a project that they can finish in one sitting. Making a purse or bag is a great rainy day project and we have a simple bag that even a beginning sewist can try.

Read on...From my seamstress Laurel:

My "no-pattern" Spring Bag

A few years ago, a friend gave me a fabric bag that she had made for me to celebrate the birth of her daughter. My friend's daughter got the big diaper bag version, and I got a cute little red and black toile purse with my initial in red.  I loved it so much that I used it to make a series of bags and purses, leaving behind the pricey leather purses that I purchased then ended up abandoning to my closet.

The beauty of the this bag is its simple design - no zippers or irritating compartments...just the right mix of size and space. Its best feature are the longer straps to throw over your shoulder and the inside pocket. And you don't even need a pattern to make it!

Choose a weightier fabric for the body and straps and a lighter cotton fabric for the lining and inside pocket -  a half yard of each should do the trick. For my Spring bag I chose a heavier cotton denim-like print and a lightweight quilting cotton from Australia (Stonemountain has a big group of amazing Aboriginal artwork on high quality cotton) for the lining at Stonemoutain.

The second thing I love about this bag is that you can make it any size you want.  
Here are the dimensions I used:

If you want to add more weight and body to your bag, you can inner-line it with a light weight cotton batting (used for quilts) or felt - it's a matter of preference and planned use for the bag. Whichever you choose, cut it a little smaller (one inch) in the width of your fabric. The inside pocket works best if you use a fusible interfacing to give it more stability, cut in the same dimensions as your pocket fabric.

The construction is simple. Sew three boxed shapes - one outer fabric, one inner lining and one lining.  They all fit together in layers.  To construct each box, first sew the two side seams by folding your fabric in half with right sides together, then construct the box shape by squaring off the corners.  To do this, fold the corner down flat so it looks like a triangle with the side seam down the middle. Draw a line perpendicular to the side seam and stitch along this line.  Trim off the excess seam allowance.  This make your bag more three-dimensional than flat.

Turn the bag right side out and stitch along the edge of the purse bottom to help it hold its shape.

 Repeat the construction process with the optional inner-lining. 
I sewed the seams flat on the felt just to keep the layers from getting too bulky.

Here's the outer fabric and felt inner-lining.:

Before you construct the box shape in the lining fabric, the inside pocket is constructed and sewn onto the lining.  Fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of the pocket fabric and proceed sewing the pocket by sewing all sides, leaving a small opening to turn the fabric. Press the pocket, then top stitch along the folded edge, which will become the top opening of your pocket.

Attach the the pocket to the lining fabric at the top edge, about 3" down and evenly spaced between the sides, sewing only the sides and bottom of the pocket.  Don't forget to back stitch at the tops of your pocket for added strength.

Create "compartments" in your pocket to hold items that you need to find in a hurry - 
your phone, lipstick, pen, whatever!

Once the pocket is finished, sew up the sides of the lining, (fold in half, sew side seams) and construct the box bottom as you did with the outer fabric and inner lining. Place all three layers one inside the other and run a basting stitch along the top edge to hold them in place.

Rather than try to make a "casing" that you have to turn right side out, construct the straps by pressing each side 1/4" then folding the strap together and stitching along the edges. Attach the finished straps to the bag.

Attach the facing to bag, sewing all layers together. Top stitch the facing down at the edge, sewing all layers turned toward the facing - this will help the facing lay flat. Turn the facing toward the inside of the bag, press and then stitch the facing in place, either by machine top stitching or by hand.

I added a "bottom" to the inside of my bag using a cardboard rectangle cut to size, then covering it with my facing fabric.  Creating this bottom keeps the bag in its shape, but it's optional, if you want a more slouchy look.

So here's my "What not to do" moment...I should have added some embellishment to the outside of the bag BEFORE I sewed it together...but I didn't, and the bag ended up being very plain.  So I added my embellishment on the finished bag - a little harder to sew, but it worked.

You can adjust the dimensions of the bag to fit your style and needs. A bigger bag makes a great book bag or a knitting bag...a smaller one makes a cute purse. The fabrics that you chose have more to do with how it turns out rather than the sewing itself.  I think this bag is cute, but I think I made it a little big for an everyday purse. Of course I'll use it anyway - I'm tired of my old one. And it's so simple, I can whip out another tomorrow! If it's raining, that is!

Thanks Laurel for sharing.  We have so many cool fabrics in the store that would be perfect for making bags and purses. We love the simplicity of this design and she's right - it's the fabric that makes the bag! Come check out our inventory of cottons, corduroys, denims, and other bottom weight fabrics that would be perfect for your bag.

Creatively Yours, 
 SuZan, lucky owner of
Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics
2518 Shattuck Ave @ Dwight Way (stop by!)
or visit our webstore at

Celebrating 34 years of being open in Berkeley!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Developing a "Hand" for Silk - 5 Rules to Follow!

Have I mentioned lately how much I love silk? I love the way it looks, drapes, feels and wears. I have been showing you how silk can be used in a more casual and every day style in my previous blog posts. Our lifestyles need it to be more wearable, fun and expressive. Silk is one of the dynamic categories of fabric we have at Stonemountain & Daughter - most of it coming directly from amazing garment manufacturers around the world. Our stock is continually changing and different from what you will find anywhere else. I hope you will have a chance to stop by and check our our collection of Silk in solids and prints - crepe, chiffon, charmeuse satins, organza, raw silk noil, silk knits, woven silk with lycra, and many more expressions of Silk come alive in our aisles and your vision!

Back in 1981, at the age of 22 when I first joined my father, Bob Steinberg, in our store, I was overwhelmed by all the different weaves and names for silk. My curiosity has turned into a life long love affair which I enjoy sharing with all our customers.

We often talk about a fabric's "hand" being soft or beautiful, firm or stiff and heavy or light.  The hand of a fabric refers to the way the fabric feels when you touch it. It doesn't really matter how pretty a print is or how extraordinary a woven design is; if it doesn't feel right to your touch for the project you have planned, then you're probably not going to buy it.

Some fabrics that boast a soft hand would not be right for an upholstery project, for instance. You would be looking for a firmly woven fabric that had some substance to it. You probably wouldn't want anything that felt rough or sticky, either, especially if you wanted to cover a soft chaise for your bedroom. 

A fabric's hand is just as important when you are making garments. Choosing the right fabric for a pencil skirt would probably differ from that of the hand of a fabric for a soft blouse. We love the feel of silk next to our skin, making it one of our go-to fabric choices for a Spring blouse.

As much as we love silk (or even fine synthetics), sewing with such a smooth and soft "hand" can present some challenges.  We don't want you to shy away from buying a beautiful silk for your next blouse - we just want you to go into it armed with the tools and techniques special to this fabric.

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.

Rule No. 1 when working with silk: Don't start your project after you've just come in from pruning your rose bushes.  All kidding aside, silk is not very forgiving and does not like fingernail snags, body oils, or rough chapped skin. Silk feels dreamy in your hands, but it's also slippery and lighter than air.  You may find that your hands feel large and clumsy handling this delicate fabric at first, but forge on...it will be well worth it.

Rule No. 2: Invest in some fine pins.  Many of you, like Laurel, use the thin long quilting pins for pattern layouts.  We love them too, but they are definitely a no-no when working with silk and silk-like fabrics. Pins can leave pinholes, so pick the finest pin you can find to use on your silks, organzas, and fine polys.

Rule No.3: What goes for pins also applies to sewing machine needles.  We can't stress too often how important it is to make some trial stitches on your fabric. Test out several needles (and threads!) to see which size works best. Laurel started with the Microtex 70/10, but at one point she switched to a fine Universal needle - if you hear your machine groaning or clunking while sewing several layers, you may have a damaged needle.

Rule No.4: Don't always assume that the pattern maker knows best! If you've been sewing for a while, you know some tricks and techniques that have worked in the past with special fabrics, so use them, even if your pattern instructions omit them.  For instance, Deer and Doe's blouse called for just trimming the armhole and neckline seams, but we know that sewing curves requires a little clipping to make seams lie flat. They probably assumed we knew that!

Rule No.5: Beware the iron! Make sure your iron's setting is right for delicate fabrics such as silk.  It doesn't take to much to create a nasty "shine" on fabrics where one is not supposed to exist.  Pressing silk is a slippery business, so take your time and don't be impatient.

Thanks again for sharing the love of fabric and sewing with me. I always love hearing from you, so feel free to post here or email me directly at fabriclady3@gmail.com to share your own experiences or questions. Please stop by the store and take a look at the many garments that Laurel has been sewing up for me - they are gorgeous and will inspire you to get sewing!

It's been a good year so far at Stonemountain. I am blessed to work with amazing people all focused on a vision of providing great quality fabrics, notions and patterns at fair prices. In my twenties I was inspired to "Find a need and fill it!" Well we sure have here at Stonemountain and are super excited about what more is possible in 2015!

Creatively yours,
Suzan Steinberg

Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics
2518 Shattuck Ave. @ Dwight Way
Berkeley CA 94704