Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Five Years, Baby!

“And suddenly you know: It's time to start something new 
and trust the magic of beginnings.”  

An ancient philosopher wrote these words in the 1200's, but how appropriate are they still today? When I took over the fabric store that my father built with hard work, vision, and devotion, I knew that I wanted to make my mark on the business and industry that he had lovingly nurtured over the years and leave a legacy of my own. Somewhere in the back of my mind a vision began taking form, though its shape and path had not fully developed.



As we all can see, there are fewer and fewer fabric stores around the country that sell fashion fabric. Over the last 20 years, many of the fashion fabric stores have closed while fewer people were making their own garments. One day I was sitting in the store and I looked down at myself and then out to my sales associates and customers and saw the writing on the wall. No one was wearing what they made. This deeply impacted me and I began to dream into a new story of what could be! I saw that if I began wearing clothes that I made or were made for me, perhaps that would inspire others around me. With the exponential reach of my store, Facebook, Instagram, and my blog, I envisioned that a garment sewing revolution could be ignited. The excitement of making garments that I felt in the 80's could come back in a whole new way.

Five years ago this month, I threw out a small morsel in the Stonemountain Newsletter, asking for interest in sewing garments for me and the store. I wasn't just looking for a seamstress, but a collaborator of sorts - someone who believed in the magic of fabric and of sewing clothes as much as I did. I had a lot of responses from sewists who wanted to sew and who already made a living doing so. I thought it would work - that person could advertise her talents and probably increase her business.

But one email caught my eye - a retired corporate woman who had sewn since she ten. She had been in my store several months beforehand and loved it.  She even sent me photos of garments that she had made with my fabric. When we finally spoke in person, she said she wasn't interested in sewing for anyone else and in fact, that "sounded like a job".  She wanted to work with me to teach other women that sewing is not a lost art - that's it's a gift that anyone can learn - and she wanted to be a part of my vision, however it took shape.

I'm not sure that I knew at the time that such small beginning would lead to a five year collaboration and deep friendship.  That day, I sent Laurel home with beautiful silk fabric and a bias cut tank pattern - okay, that was mean, but you can tell a good seamstress with that assignment. She still laughs about it to this day.


In our five year collaboration, we have worked on this blog together. Our initial goal was always 1) to Teach and 2) to Inspire - to develop Fabriclady into a little more than news, store happenings and fantastic fabrics. We wanted to show sewists how to pair great fabric and patterns together with courage and to let their creativity blossom. Basically, we wanted sewing to come to life.

Our first post together was in June, 2013, It's Time to Sew


 


It was just the beginning of a great collaboration.  The vision began to take shape - what about posts about both sewing successes and failures, beauties and "not-so-much's"?
  
beautiful fabric, but???

One of my secondary goals was to make sure that I put a piece of myself into each post, so many blogs touched on the importance of keeping a healthy lifestyle. Shamanic Astrology is a vital part of my life, so I like to bring a little spirituality in my conversations with you as well. Clothes might make the woman, but it's what inside that counts and deeply connects us all.

 





















Sewing tips and tricks have always been a part of Fabriclady blogs. We show you our tried and true methods and well as help get you over the tricky stuff. And of course, we like to keep the photography telling the story too.


  
As we moved through this creative journey, I found that my vision for a sewing "community" began to really take hold with greater clarity.  I started to feel like we were truly part of a movement. We began really emphasizing our love of independent pattern designers and in 2015, we dropped the Big 4 pattern companies.  Instead, we wanted to celebrate the creativity of women designers brave enough to fight the odds and made a name for themselves within the sewing community.  We wrote about our Indie designers then, and we have never looked back.




We love to highlight Indie patterns that are "Tried and True" Patterns - you can make them over and over again and each creation is different with just the change in fabric. Laurel and I often make the same pattern but our choices in fabric are usually different.



I once overheard in the store: "I love the details that the Big 4 patterns offer," so we write about advanced sewing techniques frequently.  We love "hacking" our favorite patterns to make them our own. Laurel is an expert seamstress and has made everything from tailored suits to couture jackets to wedding gowns, so don't tell her about lack of complexity and versatility in Indie patterns. A case in point, we've highlighted bra making, swimsuits and even jeans.


Make a muslin first!!!



It's all about the top stitching
Towards the end of 2016, I began sensing that I was standing at a fork in the rode. To make an impact in the world, we have to tune into what our heart is yearning for. I discovered that it still was about sharing fabric with our growing community. I enrolled in an online course on empowering women to discover their gifts and to help them break through their own glass ceiling to make their largest impact. It's so amazing that the same things that made me 100% commit to Stonemountain & Daughter in 1984 were still what excited me the most in my life of service, inspiration, and contribution. There are plenty of astrologers out there (one of my other dreams), but no one in my unique position and experience to spread the love of fabric around the planet. What is your unique gift?

There has never been a time for women as there is right now. Wherever we are we can make a difference and change the world. I am holding a vision of how sewing garments could forge a bond between women. This is the time we have been waiting for both personally and as a garment sewist.





In March of this year, we introduced the concept of a Destiny Wardrobe. Whatever our place on this earth, we each have a destiny to not only make our own lives better, but to share our wisdom, spirituality, and love with the people around us.  "Sewing Clothing that Matter" is the culmination of 5 years of growth, friendship, community and impact. We are the catalysts and as each one of us touches the life of another through sewing, each of them will touch in another, and so on. 

 We ARE the village.


  

  

Won't you join us on this sewing adventure?  Who knows what the future brings, but know that each of us has a part to play in this world.  And what better way to enjoy the ride and put greater meaning into you life than to join us in our sewing community.  After all, the makers of cotton fabric call it "The Fabric of Our Lives™" for a reason. I guess we are just taking the notion one step further - fabric is the fabric of our lives - let's create our Destiny Wardrobes together and rise up together!

Here's to another 5 years!

Suzan Steinberg
Fabric Lover
#stonemountainfabric







Tuesday, June 5, 2018

My Lightweight Jackets for a California Climate

California lives up to the hype of its Mediterranean climate, along with its temperate forests in the North, arid deserts in the interior, and snowy alpine regions in the mountains. We boast beautiful beaches, spectacular cityscapes, and millions of acres of the richest farm land in the world. We call ourselves the Golden State, famous for our golden sunsets, beautiful poppies, and of course, our dry wild grasses that take over the landscape in the summer.

We rarely see a savage winter and for the most part, we don't need heavy wool or down clothing for everyday wear. Unless we are enjoying the ski season in the mountains, our outerwear tends to be lighter in weight. For those of us who call the Bay Area home, we are even more blessed with mild weather for much of the year. We can wear sweaters and jackets all year round instead of the heavy coats so necessary in the Northeast.

I love picking out fabrics that will work in all seasons and with layering. Linen is one of our favorite fabrics for clothing, and with the variety of weights and textures that have become available at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics, there are many choices for jackets. Linen is one of the oldest fabrics and is great layered over other fabrics such as ikat, silk, rayon, and more.



Be sure to use the tried and true linen prep recommended by Sandra Betzina before cutting out your pattern.

Tip for Pre-treating Linen
If you want your linen to wrinkle a lot less, do the following: 


  • Before you preshrink, iron the linen with the hottest dry iron possible to set a wrinkle-less finish.
  • 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 sometimes associated with linen.




Before ironing and washing...



After...fabric has soft "wrinkles" so attractive in 
natural fibers and ready for ironing.


Three's a Charm Jacket

Some patterns are timeless. We come back to them time and time again in our wardrobes.  Decades of Style's Three's a Charm Jacket has a cropped silhouette, perfect for our California weather.  We've  previously made it up in our denim & eyelet. This Spring we used beautiful Indian Kantha cloth - it expresses the side of me that loves organic, natural fibers with a handcrafted feel.






So gorgeous in a denim novelty - this pattern can be dressed up or down and is perfect for layering!

The Sapporo Coat

The Sapporo Coat by Papercut Patterns is among our favorite lightweight jackets when made unlined.  We love its simple lines...and of course the pockets!

 





Kochi Kimono Jacket

Another Papercut Pattern favorite is the Kochi Kimono Jacket. It's a very fast make, even for beginners.  We have chosen Cotton Ikats (shown here), linen (shown below), soft rayons,  wool, and even cotton flannel to make this versatile must-make jacket.



































Linen is perfect for the Merchant and Mills Strand Coat...


Pilvi Coat

And if you need just a little more warmth for the colder days, why not try a Pilvi coat by Lotta Jansdotter? We've made this coat several times in 100% boiled wool (really warm if it's lined) as well as unlined versions in boiled wool blends.




The Cocoon Jacket

Transition pieces in the Spring and Fall can be as simple as a sweater knit cardigan.  The Cocoon Jacket by Jalie Patterns is easy to make and super cuddly, for work or play — it just keeps the chill off.




In the end, it's all abut finding patterns that work for you and the weather outside. Many of the indie patterns that we feature in our blogs are versatile and can be made with fabrics that are lightweight, as well as heavier for added warmth. And if you are a more intermediate sewist, many of them can be lined as well.  


Laurel's Kochi Kimono


Laurel and I love our handmade wardrobes and each other!

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There have been a lot of changes this year. Through the ups and downs and challenges of life, I am so grateful for the people in my life that support me and my store. Lauren and I just got back from a fabulous buying trip to Quilt Market up in Portland where we got to buy all the pretty fabrics and deepen our relationships with all the fun folks in our industry. It's such a profound joy to share this with her and the other members on our team. Through this next generation of fabric lovers, I am finding great hope for the art of sewing garments and for Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics.


At Quilt Market in Portland with
Lauren and Mr. Domestic!

I have been feeling the shift back to garment sewing for many years, but thanks to these amazing women who work tirelessly to grow our online presence, we now are feeling how much our quality fabric and store is appreciated around the United States and the world. This last month of celebrating our community of indie pattern lovers over on Instagram and Me Made May was so much fun. If you are not on Instagram yet, I urge you to come on over and join the fun. We are all sharing and supporting each other like never before.

Our amazing management team at STM&D from left to right:
Catherine, Lauren, Liz, Me (Suzan), and Olivia
All working on social media, website, and all
the orders coming through daily!
A big shout out to my father and founder of Stonemountain & Daughter as we get closer to Father's Day. I love you Dad and it's been an amazing journey with you. Looking forward to many more years of love and fabric.




Celebrating with you!
Suzan Steinberg
In Berkeley California
I would love to hear from you!


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

If it matters, it's worth doing right!

Over the years we have talked about making muslins.  Not every garment needs a "trial run" to test the fit, but when you're not sure, it's better to make a muslin before cutting into your final fabric.  A good fit matters if we are to show our best selves.  The right style for our body type also matters, if we want to reflect who we really are.  And of course, our time matters, if we don't want to waste it making clothes that we will never wear.


Wearable Muslin


We like "wearable" muslins.  Why not make your trial pattern out of a less expensive fabric, but not so cheap and thin that it doesn't reflect a comparable outcome.  If you are eventually making a knit dress, by all means use a similar knit to make your muslin.  If it ends up fitting or just needing some minor adjustments, then you could end up with two garments.

You can ask any sewist what is the hardest garment to fit and it will be usually be pants. There are sewists/teachers who have devoted hours of instruction on making pants that fit...pants that flatter your figure...and pants that you will wear. The only way to ensure a modicum of success is to make a muslin first: if it's worth your time and energy, then it's worth doing right. Right?!

Lander Pants


Sometimes we are just not sure how a pant will look on our body shape.  There are so many variations of leg widths and lengths.  Big wide legs are trending this season, and True Bias's Lander pants are really popular – they have a little retro vibe that fits right into my Destiny Wardrobe. We've had some missteps with pants on my shape in the past (we even scrapped a finished pair once, they looked so awful), so now we always make a muslin.


We used an inexpensive bottom weight cotton to make our muslin.  The pattern's instructions are easy to follow and pretty simple to make.


Love the button fly front.


During the fitting process, we determined that the waist was probably a little big...


Nice fit in the seat, though!



I think these are a keeper!


Morgan Jeans


Making a muslin for jeans pattern is a no-brainer – jeans are fun, but they do have some tricky areas that you may want to test your skills during a trial run.  Closet Case's Morgan jeans are made with fabrics that have NO stretch, so getting a good fit may require some adjustments – you won't have the stretch to hide the fitting issues.



Laurel chose this woven midweight cotton/linen canvas fabric to make her muslin.  I should mention that she's had the pattern for almost a year and has been intimidated to start a pair - all because of getting the right fit. (Me-made jeans strike fear in even the expert sewists!). "Fitting Fear" keeps a lot of us from making our Destiny Wardrobes – we just have to slow down, breathe and go for it.

After sewing the Morgan Jeans together, give them a spin by modeling them in front of another person.  Laurel thought they looked pretty good from the front, but her non-sewing husband pointed out that there were some strange wrinkles in the back.


After some online research, she determined that a "flat bottom" adjustment was needed – basically, scooping out the back crotch to lower the natural curve. This is why we make muslins - she was able to correct the booty wrinkles. When you are ready for another pair, check out the Morgan Jeans Kit from Stonemountain complete with hardware!


Inari Tee Dress

Another reason to make a muslin is to ensure that a particular style ends up looking like what you expected. Everyone has a different body type, and just because the photo of a garment pattern looks great, it may not really work in reality. We love Named's "Inari" Tee dress and Crop Tee.  But not everyone can pull off a crop top.

Cutest look ever, but am I too old for this?!?

Only one way to find out.  We used some rayon scraps to make a muslin, and knowing that we might be a tad "mature" for that belly-showing thing, we cut the pattern a little longer. We also added a little width at the bottom.  The result is cute, but we're still not too sure if this fits our Destiny Wardrobe mindset.


Experiment and Be Brave

Not every muslin try will be successful, but that's the whole point.  We want our wardrobe and our garments to say something about who we are.  If they don't fit correctly or they just aren't rockin' on our bodies, then why bother. Sewing clothes that matter means that you take the time to chose carefully, both in fabrics and patterns. Do experiment with different styles – you might be surprised what looks good – that little dress that you thought would make you look frumpy might just be the right-sized pattern for you! We don't always know what we like until we see it for ourselves. So be brave, and make a muslin! Nothing ventured, nothing gained.


As always, I am standing with you 
celebrating your creative potential.


Suzan Steinberg

Owner, Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley CA

Stay in touch and email me at fabriclady3@gmail.com