Friday, May 15, 2015

Zipper Mania!

Nothing reminds me of how interconnected we are than fabric, sewing and fashion trends. Isn't it amazing that just as we were starting to put together a blog post about zippers, Threads Magazine came out with a great article on the subject in their June/July issue. I love how accessible sewing is and that sewists now have so many resources for their craft. It really makes me feel that anything is possible with sewing and that anyone can do it. And when it comes to zippers, we can all use a little help.

Stonemountain is crazy about zippers!  Not only do we have the traditional nylon coil and metal zippers to match any garment and fabric, we have a wide array of specialty zippers to make your dress or top unique to your creative touch and personal style.

In the E.S.P dress, we brought out the maroon/purple in this Kaffe Fassett yarn-dyed stripe cotton by using a decorative zipper on the outside of the garment.

We loved that treatment so much, we did it again with a stunning copper zipper on this cotton Ikat dress.

Remember this adorable Very Easy Vogue 8815 top with the flirty peplum?

Adding a specialty zipper can make a garment express your individuality and style!

Working with these decorative zippers is easier than you imagine.  In our latest knit dress by Donna Karan New York ( Vogue 1313), the zipper is placed on the inside front seam, but allows the zipper teeth to show.

The decorative zipper that we chose for this lightweight knit was rather stiff.  Laurel wanted to do a test using the actual fabric, the right sewing machine needle and stitch length, just to make sure that it was going to work.  The zipper was too long for the front opening (she will shorten it later), so she did her test on the portion of the zipper that she will cut off.

After completing the test section, she basted the zipper into the front seam on both sides, then stitched it.  Basting zippers first will save you a whole lot of grief - they tend to "travel" on the fabric. And needless to say, always using your machine's special zipper foot.

When you decide to shorten a zipper after you have sewn it in place, it goes without saying, keep the top stop well away from the end of the zipper - once it accidentally slides off the teeth, you're toast! Place a couple of safety pins at the seam allowance to prevent disaster.

Removing the excess teeth was not difficult for this zipper.  You will need a pair of cutting pliers, first cutting one edge of the teeth. They can be gently pulled off the tape once part of the tooth is removed.


The DKNY dress is a shorter style and we love the way the zipper adds style to the design.  It calls for a quilting technique to be applied to the upper side panels, so Laurel applied a cotton batting to the back of the small front panels and "quilted" them by just following the printed design on the fabric.

And finally, we're adjusting the bodice length somewhat by making the shoulder seams larger, which in turn will raise the armholes to better fit my torso.  I can't wait to have this finished!

Creatively Yours,

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Creative Lull

No matter how passionate you are about your craft, there are always periods where life seems to get in the way, and your creative processes go into a self-imposed lull of sorts. It happens to all of us. Our lives are not just one-dimensional, and there are a lot of conflicting desires—things that we'd "rather do" than create.  Designing and sewing our wardrobes can be put on the back burner for a brief time, especially when we don't particularly "need" that perfect dress or top to wear to an event.

But for the really Passionate Creatives, it's always there in the background: that desire to hear the hum of the sewing machine, the touch of a new fabric,  the dilemma of a "what will I wear?" to that event that is only a month away. The Passionate Creative's brain really never turns off, it just goes into a lull, but all the while, preparing for the "break" to end.

Perhaps they might re-arrange their nest...

Or spend some time gazing at their patterns, looking for inspiration...

Ripping out magazine photos of outfits they would love to "copy" someday...there's a pattern out there that could be used or modified to make the top or pants you like.

Passionate Creatives stare at their fabric stash constantly. "What should I make? 
What should I toss? Why did I ever buy that piece?!" 
They have dreams (nightmares?) about things they want to make...

They never believe that they will ever go into a lull. They are passionate about their craft, so they prepare well, spending a whole day in a cutting frenzy...

So when it's time to sew, they can JUST sew! Their piles waits patiently by the sewing machine.

Other "would-be, could-have-been" outfits languish on the dress form, waiting for solutions that will fix whatever went wrong.  Passionate Creatives don't always get it right, but there's always a way to revive a pretty piece of fabric.

They realize that sometimes the first idea about a lovely fabric may not do it justice after all, especially when they've stared it for a week or two. Going back to the drawing board and getting a new pattern is always the thing to do if it just doesn't feel right.

The moral of the story is that if you are one of those people who is passionate about your sewing, crafting, or quilting, don't beat yourself up if you find yourself going through a lull or a dry period.  Creative juices don't flow every day just because you think they should. It doesn't mean that you're not a true artist. Look for inspiration in your everyday life, meanwhile...the smallest things can bring you joy and inspire creativity.

Take time for yourself. Take a walk. Breathe.

Dig in the dirt...plant something.

Or if fabric is your true joy, then come visit us—We love to watch you dream.

Our beautiful ikats!

Or sign up for one of our great classes, and let your classmates and instructors wake you from your creative slumber! Now that's inspiring!

Creatively Yours,

p.s. always love hearing from you - feel free to leave me messages!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Sewing For Yourself: Me Made May 2015 & Personal Style

As May begins, we here at Stonemountain and the Fabric Lady blog would like to invite all of you to participate in Me Made May 2015.  If you aren't familiar, Me Made May is a month long celebration of everything handmade. Participants are encouraged to wear a handmade item for as many days of the month as they can, document it and share their images through social media. This tradition, now in its 5th year, aims to encourage makers of all skill levels to share their wears with a larger community of sewists.

Burda Skirt 8282, New Look Top 6267

We love the idea of this tradition and feel like the message is so in-tune with the Stonemountain philosophy of making.  Supporting local businesses and curating your own handmade wardrobe is increasingly important these days.  The garment industry and "fast fashion" are far from perfect, and making your own clothes gives makers a more sustainable, eco-friendly, and humane way to dress themselves.  So join us while we participate in Me Made May 2015!

The New Hippy Pants 

They say that if you wait long enough, styles will come back in season. Having been in Berkeley for most of my adult life, I'd like to say that we lived first hand the bohemian lifestyle and the soft, easy clothing that is the Boho-chic we still see today.

This free spirited way of dressing comes naturally to me. My father had the first Hippie counter culture fabric store in Los Angels in the 60's.  The clothing that came out of this era is enjoying a resurgence in popular retail outlets today.

We were going for the hippie look when we picked out these great palazzo pants from New Look (pattern 6271) and found the perfect block print cotton gauze from India!

Working with this fabric is easy, but you have to watch for the inconsistencies in the dying process. The selvage edges of this piece did not absorb the dyes evenly and they were heavily crinkled, so it was a good thing that we allowed for some waste in cutting our pattern.  Basically two pant lengths will be enough for this pattern, avoiding the selvage edges.

The pattern has both elastic and a drawstring at the slightly lowered waist.  You could leave the elastic out and just hold them up with the drawstring.  We added both. The thing to remember about slip-on pants is to make sure that the elastic waist is large enough to slip up over your thighs and hips.

Laurel uses a long thin paintbrush to turn my drawstring right side out. It's tricky to start the turning process in such a narrow drawstring, but once you get it going, it falls into place.  You can also try using a bodkin or a loop turner - it makes the process very easy!

I love the way these pants flow.  The fabric you choose needs to be soft if you're going for the Boho look, especially because the elastic waist could be bulky of the fabric is too stiff or heavy.

An Effortless Top, Two Ways

Another staple of the Boho look is the classic peasant blouse.  We've made New Look's 6267 before and loved the ease and comfort of the styling.  We made our first blouse in a gorgeous combination of silks in a great neutral palette, but we thought we'd try it again. It's amazing to see how a pattern can change depending on the fabric you choose!

This time we chose a soft crinkled cotton voile.  What do you know, another drawstring! Drawstrings are a popular characteristic in the Boho style - they add a relaxed look and feel to clothing that is effortless and chic.  

This time around I paired them with my awesome linen pants that Laurel made in Summer of 2013. These pants are made with linen that Laurel treated with Sandra Betzina's great instructions...

"If you want for your linen to wrinkle a lot less, do the following: Before you preshrink, open the windows and iron the linen with the hottest dry iron possible, to set a wrinkle-less finish,which is already on the fabric. Next, throw in a little detergent and wash and dry 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."

We love how this top turned out, just as wearable and gorgeous as the first time, but a different feel. It's amazing how one sewing pattern can be integrated into different wardrobes. Laurel loved how the palazzo pants turned out so much that she's making a pair for herself from some of our rayon challis!

We all have our own personal style and ways of wearing our clothes, which is just another reason why sewing for yourself is so fun and important. It gives each and every one of us an opportunity to express ourselves in our own unique way, whether your a Boho gal, a modern prepster, a vintage maven or something in between. Join us in celebrating Me Made May and make something for yourself that you'll wear and love.

with gratitude,

p.s. I love these pants so much here's a preview of my next pair of palazzo pants!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Celebrating Community and Honoring Sandra Betzina!

Suzan & Sandra then and now, 1994 and 2015.

On Sunday, I had the beautiful occasion to join Sandra Betzina, of Power Sewing, and her lovely, creative friends at her annual brunch. While indulging in delicious food, we shared about our lives openly in an environment of support, care and laughter. I am fortunate to call Sandra a friend and to have known her for many years. On this occasion of celebrating Earth Day, I want to acknowledge this amazing woman in our Sewing Community. We all have so much gratitude for Sandra's support of the independent fabric store, her amazing Today's Fit Pattern Line through Vogue Patterns, the sewing workshops covering all aspects of creating and fitting, and her amazing style and spirit which make this world a sweeter place to live. 

Something you may not know about Sandra is that she was our first instructor we ever had here at Stonemountain, way before we started our school 19 years ago! She has always drawn people together through sewing and inspired all of us to be ourselves and express that through our wearable creations. Here at Stonemountain, we have consciously worked in the spirit of Sandra to create a supportive, caring community center for everyone who enters our doors, whether you are a quilter, crafter, garment maker, or even none of the above quite yet. We are so lucky to be apart of such a great community—a community that is continuously giving back to each other so that we may all stay inspired in all aspects of our lives. Fabric is such a magical entity that brings us together and sewing is what connects us.  Just as each stitch binds our fabric together, we are connected in our community. 
Sandra's 1994 lecture.
Sandra giving a lecture, 1996. Check out that 15th Anniversary sign!
The things we create are infused with our memories, our love, our history, and our friendships; every piece has a story. When my seamstress, Laurel, and I work together, we are constantly inspiring each other. When one of us finds a great fabric and has it made up, the other may want the same thing! For example, she will find a great knit on our shelves and I want the same thing or vice versa - it's all part of the fun of working together.

There are so many great knits to choose from but we both loved this awesome black and white geometric knit. There are lots of design options when you have this much pattern.

I  decided to try Sandra Betzina's Vogue 1376.  I love the ease of this top!

Loved the way it turned out!

Laurel stowed her fabric away, not sure what she wanted to make.  But this past week we fell in love with the Uptown Top, by A Verb for Keeping Warm.

We both liked the way it fit, even though our body types are different. 

 She decided to use our geometric knit to make her own Uptown top
Same print, but she varied the pattern, making her top individual!! 
(It's a good thing we live 100 miles apart - otherwise we'd see each other coming and going!)

Laurel's Mini-Me Colette sporting the Uptown Top
And speaking of dress forms (were we?), I picked up a a Mini-Me of my own and sent it home with Laurel to keep Colette company.  It's almost my exact measurements, so it will be very helpful to both of us during our sewing adventures. Dress forms can be a useful tool to drape fabrics such as this knit, just to see what pattern combination might be the most flattering.

Colette and Zanikin
We can't wait to have Sandra back at Stonemountain this June for two workshops! There are still spots open, so give us a call or come by the store to sign up!

501: Fitting the Patterm Made Easier - Event with Sandra Betzina
Thursday, June 4, 2015 6:30-9:30pm
Pattern designer Sandra Betzina has been teaching fitting classes for over 30 years. “Every year I seem to find 2 or 3 new ways of altering which result in better fit”. Come hear Sandra’s lecture on how she starts with an analysis of the pattern before choosing the method of alteration.

Fitting at the shoulders is the most important, so pattern measurement and shoulder alteration are next. Then the alteration will be for rounded back, broad back and narrow upper front chest. Sandra follows with the bust - alterations with and without bust darts, princess seams, and adding a dart when needed.
Next, there is a discussion on two important measurements - the rib cage - halfway between the bottom of the bra and the waist and tummy measurement. These measurements come into play when deciding what size to use for the waist.
Lastly, we proceed to the full hip where it will be decided whether to go up a size or two or to use the slash and spread method. Sandra will also cover pants, where she will demonstrate her latest pant fitting techniques.

Join us for a special evening with time for shopping at Stonemountain (discounts of course!)

$45 Lecture Fee

502: Pattern Alteration Workshop with Sandra Betzina
Sunday, June 7, 2015 11am-5:30pm
Here’s a special opportunity to have pattern designer, Sandra Betzina, help you with pattern alterations. Bring 1 - 3 patterns you would like to alter as well as any muslin mock ups you would like Sandra to fit. Go home with your pattern newly altered and ready to be cut out in fashion fabric. You may also try on Sandra’s fitting muslin mock-ups for her narrow pant - Vogue 1411 and her new jacket pattern - Vogue 1418.

$130 Workshop Fee

Please stop by the store to see both tops on display in our Fashion Room - 
there is even some of both fabrics available for now!

Creatively Yours,

Sandra Betzina and Suzan!
(This is Sandra's newest pattern, which is not out yet.)