Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Turning Down the Volume!

There are times in our fabric shopping moments when our exuberance takes control of our sensibilities and we purchase something that is not in our normal wheelhouse. Perhaps the texture or weave of the fabric is different from what we traditionally pick, but we want to step out a little...take a risk.  Or perhaps the color is not in our tried and true shades, but we love the idea of a new color (we can always wear a different shade or lipstick or dye our hair, after all!) Or perhaps we are so drawn to a wild print in the store we can't put it back - we have to have 5 yards - we'll think of something we can make!

These colorful knits that I picked up on my last buying trip were irresistible.  I knew that we have Stonemountain customers who would just go ga-ga over their beautiful coloring.

I don't usually wear fabrics this colorful, but rather than "just say no", I decided to pair it with another fabric in some sort of color blocked pattern. My seamstress Laurel felt the same way - she wanted that bright pink version, but when we held it up in a mirror, we could tell that we were going to need to tone it down by adding another "less busy" print.

We're making up the turquoise print in the Sandra Betzina Vogue 1336. We love the way you can mix fabrics in so many combinations.

Laurel's red and pink version of this knit will be made up in one of our new patterns from Tilly and the Buttons, the "Coco" t-shirt/dress. We love the patch pocket details!

One of the most fun parts of collaborating with my talented staff and Laurel is that we can use each others' ideas and often interject perhaps a new direction for a garment.  In this case, we all loved the idea of pairing this bright print with a black and white polka dot knit to turn down the volume of the pinks and reds a little. After all, it helps to keep things funky during these dark winter months!

Let's put those polka dots around the neckline...

And of course, polka-dot patch pockets! The soft jersey knit creates a slouchy, casual look.

And DUH! Polka dot sleeves too!

In the end, it's still a little bright for some tastes, but the important thing for Laurel was to break up the bright pink and red colors by toning it down with black. A solid black knit would have worked just as well, but we like to mix it up and Laurel is a "Take No Prisoners" kinda seamstress!

Laurel's Mini-Me Colette likes it!
 Take a look in your stash and see if you have a piece of fabric that has been languishing too long. Bring it to the store and let's try to pair it with another fabric. We have a great staff of gifted sales associates who are great at helping choose every detail of a project, whether it's fabric, a pattern, buttons or even thread. We're here to help!

 Creatively Yours,
Owner, Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics
2518 Shattuck Ave. @ Dwight Way
Berkeley, CA 94704
Open M-F: 10 - 6:30; Sat: 10 - 6; Sun: 11 - 5:30
Stop by and say Hi!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Oh My! Little Black Dress!!

In our recent Stonemountain and Daughter Blog, we talked about the classic stylings of a Little Black Dress. Most of us tend to think that the LBD is an evening wear look, but we love the dresses that can go both ways - day or evening. And that's exactly what we were thinking when we started this NewLook 6013. With such a classically simple pattern, it's all about fit and fabric!

Laurel made a muslin for this dress to ensure that the fit would be perfect - see our post Do your Homework - The Muslin. And last week we did a final fitting and made a few more adjustments.  This may seem like a lot of work, but the whole point of having a Little Black Dress is that you look and feel spectacular in it!

A final fitting also allows you to make some major adjustments. When I tried on the muslin initally, I thought that the length of the dress should be about four inches longer, so Laurel made that adjustment in the dress length in the pattern cutting phase.  But when we had our final fitting of my dress, I had to rethink the length and we ended up cutting it back off.

After adjusting the the front darts, it was time to finish off the dress - lacey zipper, hem, neck facing, etc.

What a great design choice to add the lace on the sleeves... 

Finishing a dress out of a woven fabric such as the Japanese print I chose is a lot different that the finishing of a knit dress. Most notably, there is a lot more hand sewing, if you want your garment to reflect the beauty and quality of the fabric. If you hate the notion of hand sewing, just remember that coutuiers rely heavily on a needle and thread to finish off their most prized gowns.

Whereas a knit dress might have a narrow machine sewn hem, a dress such as our LBD should have at least a 2" hem.  We serged the edge of the hemline first, but you could also use satin or lace hem tape. Laurel used an ordinary whip stitch to sew the hem, taking care not to create too large of a stitch that might show on the outside of the dress. Some dressmakers use a thimble for hand sewing, but Laurel does not - if it "pricks" her index finger ever so slightly, she can better gauge the size of each stitch. (As an aside, she did mention to me once in passing that she never made a wedding gown that she didn't bleed be careful with those sharp needles!)

Most woven dresses also have a finished facing at the neckline. It is important to tack down a facing wherever it might meet with a seam. Because this dress is not to be a sporty look, we did not use any top stitching details, which tend to make garment look more casual/informal.

Hand sewing can be the most relaxing part of your dressmaking experience.  Laurel says that she saves all her hand sewing - hem, sleeve hems  and facing tacks - and does them all at once. She said the hand sewing portion of this dress took about 35 minutes and a cup of coffee to complete.

I love the zipper on the back - so funky!

Thanks so much for reading! I hope you all take some time for yourself this month.

Remember to do the simple things that bring you pleasure, like sewing!

always creatively yours,
2518 Shattuck Ave. @ Dwight Way
Berkeley, CA 94704
M-F: 10 - 6:30 pm
Sat: 10 - 6 pm
Sun: 11 - 5:30 pm

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

No Ordinary Dress…Frances Dress from Green Bee Patterns

"Where's my dust rag, Ethyl?"
Every woman has her own version of "You're never going to see me wearing that again!" clothing. As styles come and go, what we wore years ago that we thought was so chic may now seem hopelessly frumpy. Some of us are just not the vintage type, and others like our very own MJ, totally embrace both vintage and historical clothing design.

Since we've been moving toward adding dresses this Funky Fall to our garment planning, we found this Frances Dress from Green Bee Patterns. Some of us (Laurel!) were uncomfortably reminded of a vintage "house dress".

Note: a house dress was a type of simple dress worn informally in the mornings at home for household chores or for quick errands. The term first originated in the late nineteenth century to describe at-home garments designed for maximum practicality and usually made from washable fabrics. 

Perhaps the photo of the Green Bee's Frances Dress (the name even conjures up a "busy bee") reminded some of us of something our mother or grandmother may have worn, with it's classic chambray trimmed with red print example.  But I love our independent pattern designers and I was undaunted - I saw something about this little dress that was going to work for me, especially for work days here at the store.


We chose a soft brown cross-dyed cotton for the main body of the dress and a tribal inspired cotton print for the trim.

I love choosing cottons for a dress - they are lightweight, easy to care for and wearable even in the fall, paired with a light sweater if necessary.  But the best part of cotton fabric is that it's SO EASY to sew. As we started putting the dress together, it became clearer to my own little skeptic seamstress (Laurel, frowning: "Looks like a house dress, Zan...") that it was going to be adorable.

As a sewist you are always going to be confronted with buttonholes - not every dress or shirt is going to have a zipper. The only way to conquer buttonholes like the 8 (count 'em!) on this Frances dress is to PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE using your machine's buttonhole setting. Use the fabric that your actual garment is made from in order to get a true picture of your finished buttonhole. Make sure that your practice buttonholes are long enough for your buttons to go through first. TEST IT!

Most button-up pattern designs come with a paper buttonhole guide.  You can use the guide provided or mark your long as you space them evenly, it doesn't matter. With this dress, Laurel started her first buttonhole at the bottom of the dress front placket - the goal was to make sure that the buttons at the fullest part of the bust didn't cause an unflattering/revealing gap.

She made the first buttonhole and then marked and sewed each successive buttonhole as she moved upward on the dress, spacing them evenly. Sewing on the buttons is done in the same manner, from bottom to top.

This is definitely NOT a house dress!!

Let's make another one, Laurel!

Creatively Yours,

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Getting Ready for our Big Event with Sandra Betzina!

I am so excited to have teacher, designer and friend Sandra Betzina back at Stonemountain. Sandra has made many visits over the 33 years we have been here and each and every time she does a class for us, we all leave inspired and full of great new sewing ideas.

Some time for shopping with 20% off!
Cost: $45 per person

 This class is almost full, so call us right away at 
510-845-6106 to register!


Sandra Betzina is one of our "Go-To" designers when we are looking for something with innovative design and clever detailing. Last year, we made that wonderful silk and knit combination top, and I still love it!
Vogue 1355
Vogue 1355

Vogue 1355

And her soft yoga pants, also included in Vogue 1355 are still among my favorites!

Vogue 1355

When we made this Vogue 1291 pattern in a soft cotton voile, we had many customers who wanted to duplicate this top, using the same fabric!

Vogue 1291
Vogue 1291

Vogue 1291 made with Silk Charmeuse and Silk Chiffon!

So what's a girl supposed to do when you know Sandra is coming to town? Make one of her designs up to wear to the class, of course! Laurel picked Sandra's Vogue 1336, a color blocked dress that's so on-trend this season! Her only adjustment to the design was to shorten the dress to make it more of a tunic, so she could pair it with some leggings.

Vogue 1336

The best aspect of this pattern is that you have unlimited combinations of printed and solid fabrics. The true seamstress and design guru that she is, Laurel decided to use fabrics that she already had on hand, almost all of them being left over pieces from other garments that we have made.

When you want to do color blocking it's a good idea to lay your fabrics out on a table to see what colors and patterns might look good together.  Laurel had some of our silk knit that she wanted to be the focal point, a couple of large scraps of black knit, a couple of right-sized scraps of that wonderful silk knit, and a length of sheer nylon and Lycra netting she found upstairs in our sale section. You will remember some of these fabrics from previous posts.


Color block patterns like this Sandra B. dress have multiple pattern pieces, and with most of them, you would be cutting out one single piece at a time, such as a front left side or right front section.   Because Laurel was working with small pieces of fabric, she cut out each section of the dress front and then sewed them together BEFORE she even started cutting the back sections.  Get the front of the tunic the way you like it, then move on to the back.


With the front and back finished, she sewed the shoulder seams and then finished off the neckline.  Laurel chose some of the sheer nylon that would make the sleeves and the hemline band to also make the neckline trim.


When you're combining a sheer fabric for sleeves or a hemline band such as this nylon, you have to decide if you want the seams to show at the joined edge.  Laurel turned the finished armhole with the sheer sleeve turned back on to the knit fabric so that the sleeve was sheer all the way to the edge, then top stitched it down.


The sheer nylon on the hemline band really finished 
off this design beautifully.


All I can say is that I'm green with envy - this Sandra B. design is perfect for those of you who want to mix it up a little and be creative - isn't that what sewing is all about - taking a pattern such as this Sandra Betzina dress and making yours? Laurel's tunic totally fits into our "Funky Fall" season at Stonemountain. I can't wait to see her rockin' it at our November event !


I cannot wait to try on my "twinsie" dress - Laurel's bringing it for me to try on this Thursday! 

Yes we will take lots of photos to share with you all 
that won't be able to join us!

Creatively yours,

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Zen of Sewing

There are a lot of us who haven't sewn a single stitch for a long, long time, much less make an entire garment.  Even if you sew a lot, there are bound to be times when you put the machine away for a period, moving on to other creative ventures. Or perhaps you have an extended break from your sewing routine when life got in the way. Or maybe you've had a more pleasant interruption, like a nice long vacation.

If the break in your sewing routine has been long, just starting a new garment may cause a tiny elevation in your stress level. You see the pile of projects waiting for you to start (they've been there for two months!) and if you're like me, you immediately start the oven or sorting socks. It's not that we've forgotten how to cut out a pattern or sew a seam - it's just that whole "starting" thing.

My favorite seamstress had a couple of thoughts on "starting", since she's been traveling and away from her machine...with MY pile of fabric waiting in her sewing room. She contends that the secret to starting is actually STARTING! But sometimes, putting in some time to set the mood for sewing helps the starting - it's all about finding the zen of sewing.

1) Get your space ready to it clean? Is it organized? Clearing the sewing table of magazines and junk mail, dusting your machine and getting your tools ready is considered "starting".

2) If watching cooking shows relaxes you and you can do two things at once, then by all means turn on some noise...for Laurel, a little soft jazz to sew by creates a nice (and calming) "starting" atmosphere.

3) If you have a lot of projects to start, don't go for the silk dress or the wool coat right away - choose something simple: an easy fabric with a pattern you know you're going to enjoy; nothing too complex. We loved Natalie's top and had picked out some great cottons to make this Very Easy Vogue 8815. This would be a great place to Start.

Natalie is an amazing muse inspiring me with her Vogue 8815 top!

4) Go ahead...START. Just do it. (Once the "Starting's" over, you'll remember why you love to sew).

We chose an easy fabric to sew and fit - our beautiful cotton voile in two different prints to add a unique and funky flair for Fall!

 After a few darts and some seams, your sewing zen is back - something like a decorative zipper doesn't seem so intimidating. For my top, Laurel "Googled" How to sew an exposed zipper and found a Threads article to get a few pointers - remember, the Internet is your friend:)

This blouse pattern is just as the name implies...very easy.  The neckline has no facing, just a single fold bias tape edge.  The hemline on the peplum is curved, so that same bias tape makes hemming a cinch.

And just like that , you've got your sewing groove back on track...ready to tackle that silk! 
Welcome back, Laurel!! Looks like you brought back lots of inspiration from your trip to France! Please pop over to Laurel's blog to see where she went "In search of Style" 

I can't wait to try this on! 
Natalie and I will have so much fun wearing our funky tops on the same days.

Look at that wonderful zipper detail on the back outside of my top!!! We are going to be showing more ways to use our new designer zippers on my new fall wardrobe - stay tuned!

What fabulous fabrics would you combine for this versatile top

It can be cotton, silk, rayon and even a lightweight wool!
Creatively Yours,