Monday, February 12, 2018

Creating Clothes that Matter! From "Meh" to "Yeah!"

Being able to improvise with your sewing is a practiced skill. We have all tried patterns that don't work on our bodies or fabrics that turned out to be the wrong choice. As we continue to work on making clothes that matter, improvising when things go astray is a valuable tool.  There was a reason why we chose a pattern or a fabric in the beginning, so not abandoning ship at the first glitch not only strengthens our sewing skills, but also gives us confidence as we build our wardrobe.

Even the most experienced sewist can make mistakes, have wonky seams, and have to re-start garments. And sometimes the fabric works against creating that perfect garment. Initially, we chose this beautiful cotton from Anna Maria Horner's Loominous collection to make the Here & There Dress/Top, part of her new Simple Start pattern collection.

Choosing the fabric and pattern is the first step!

The top has two versions for the back - a "wrap" look or a diagonal insert, as shown above.  We opted for the Version B diagonal insert, but we planned to adjust the length for a top.

The Here and There top is indeed a "Simple Start" to your wardrobe. It has basically three pattern pieces: front, back, and back insert.  We cut our insert on the diagonal of this plaid. You can complete this cute top in five relatively simple steps:

1) Sew the shoulder seams
2) Attach the back center insert
3) Complete the bias bound neckline
4) Sew up the side seams
5) Finish off the sleeve and hem edges 

When pressing the garment, Laurel noticed a couple of things which might have resulted in a new addition to the donation pile.

1) The fabric had a slight fading down the center front.  This can happen to fabrics as they sit on the shelf or are exposed to light.  We try to catch those pieces before we sell them, but often the line is so faint that you can miss it in the layout.  This one we could not avoid.

Right down the center!!!!!
The second thing she noticed was that the back insert was a little wonky and upon a closer look, she realized that she had basically eliminated the tiny pleat on one side of the enter back, causing the whole back to hang funny.

We probably could have lived with the back thing, but since the whole garment lost some of its spark from these two issues, it was time to start ripping. It took as long to undo this mistake and fix it as it took to make the whole shirt! "Momma said there'd be days like this, there'd be days like this, my Momma said"....

The fix for the front fading line was simple enough.  Since the back had a nice diagonal insert, why not cut a bias strip and cover the faded fabric?  You have be meticulous in your cutting, pressing and pinning of the strip, but it's better than tossing out a perfectly wearable garment, albeit slightly flawed.

A good pressing and Voila! From Meh to Yeah!

We definitely need some cute buttons, right?

Love this back!!!

Making mistakes, poor fabric or pattern choices, and fitting issues are the three most common reasons people stop sewing for themselves. We agree that it's certainly discouraging to work hard on a garment and not be happy with the result. But learning from our mistakes and getting back on the horse is the surest way to eventually be happy with our garments. "I wonder how can I use this experience to help support me to make a leap ahead?"

As we just saw, when things don't go as planned, we discover more about the pattern, about the fabric, and even about our own life that can be shared with others. It truly is the time for us to give permission to ourselves to be really imperfect! It may be time to learn more skills you may need to cultivate through local classes, blogs, youtube, and other tutorials all around us.

You can even search through my previous blogs for inspiration. Check out what I did previously from some of the cottons from the Loominous collection!

Dress No. 1 from a previous blog

Top No. 1 is a hit! Read about it on this blog

We love how our InstaSisters from all over the world share their sewing trials and tribulations right there for us all to see (and learn from). Creating a Destiny Wardrobe (more details on what this is all about in my next blog!) starts with one successful garment that you love, so make it an easy one to get started.  Choose a fabric that speaks to you and ignites your vision. As you hone your skills and develop new capacities, you will find that wearing me-made garments or "Clothes that Matter" will boost your confidence, help you express your creativity, and inspire others. This is how we are catalyzing a worldwide movement. We are now creating a world that is more collaborative and interconnected. Your me-made clothes and my clothes make a huge difference and matter!

Let's turn towards the challenges and hold them without judgment about us and others.

Join me in contributing our gifts, whatever that looks like!
Suzan Steinberg
email me at
follow me on instagram - fabriclady3

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Finding Style and Purpose in our Sewing with Merchant and Mills Patterns - The Ensemble

One of our newer pattern lines features a duo of patterns that we believe belong together to form the classic "ensemble": a lightweight coat and a shift-style dress. It's our first crack at Merchant & Mills, a pattern company out of England "with the intention of bringing style and purpose to the overlooked world of sewing". That's a mission that resonates with us at FabricLady and Stonemountain!

The Strand Coat is relaxed and lightweight, featuring unique side seam styling and side pockets.

The Strand Coat Pattern 
"A simple unlined coat for cutting a dash in the city"

"a gentle A-line silhouette"

To complete our total look, "The Camber Set" dress is about as simple of styling that you can ask for...short set-in sleeves with a loose fit that just slips over the head.

Our fabric choice for these two garments is LINEN! Linen has become our favorite year-round choice because it is an excellent fabric for layering. I am really excited about how our linen and cotton ikats will all play together! 

We chose a more "solid" linen for the coat as I thought it would go with more things as an outer layer. The coordinating large striped linen was perfect for the dress. I was a little concerned about the wide stripes, but all my fashionista staffers chimed "Oh heck yeah, you can wear those horizontally!" and I knew it was a good choice. Unfortunately, the blue stripe colorway has been discontinued but we have the equally lovely Burgundy and Forest Stripe.

The Camber Set dress would be an easy make in a solid colored fabric, but the large stripes add to the cutting and sewing time (if indeed you hope to match the stripes in your garment). Frankly, nothing says "bargain" in RTW clothes like a plaid or striped garment that does not at least attempt to match the pattern. And since we want our wardrobe to scream professional, we did our level best to match these formidable stripes.

The Camber Set dress has deep french darts, so right away we have to make a choice where to try to match the stripes on the long side seams.  Wherever you have a bust dart, it is better to work at matching the stripes at the sides from the hemline upward toward the armhole. That is the largest expanse of fabric where unmatched stripes would show the most. We matched our side notches (below the darts) on the front and back pattern pieces.

HINT: To sew the sides together, use your pins lavishly, pinning at every stripe intersection. If your machine isn't kind to pins, then by all means baste the sides together before your final seam is stitched.

If side seams don't quite match at the armholes or the hem, we say it's better to match the stripes on the lower half of the dress and trim away the 1/4" discrepancy.  Remember, nothing is perfect.

The bottom half of my dress to the hemline - Oh snap!!!!

HINT: Wait until you have matched, pinned and sewn your side seams before finishing the seam edges, lest they stretch, making it that much more difficult to match the stripes. Press your seam open, then finish off the edges with a serger or zig-zag stitch.

HINT: According to Laurel, when you're working with a large stripe such as this woven fabric, set in sleeves are a little more of a challenge. Her advice when cutting out the pattern is to match up the bottom of the armhole with the bottom curve of the sleeve as best you can.  The top of the sleeve will rarely match when the two are sewn together, unless of course there is a full moon and the stars are perfectly aligned!

Not perfect, but not bad either...

We love machine hems that don't show!!

Cute little bias neckline in the front and a yoke in the back...

Onward to the coat! The Strand Coat is relatively straightforward in its instructions, just like the Camber Set dress. And since we don't have any stripes or pattern to worry about, it goes together rather quickly. At first glance, the two-pieced back looked very large, but we then remembered that The Strand features side seams that are brought toward the front.

Loving how the back of the Strand coat hangs and fits!

HINT: Interfacing at the pockets is vital if you don't want your coat to sag and lose its shape, since it is unlined. Our fabric is loosely woven, just like the dress fabric.

Two in-seam pockets in this coat!!!

We were sailing along smoothly until it was time to attach the front and neck facings to the coat front.  This process is relatively simple...unless of course it includes some inseam hooks and eyes for the front closure. The purpose of putting the closures hidden within the seams is just that...the bulk of the hook and the eye is hidden in the folds of the fabric, between the facing and the front fabric. You don't see any of the hand sewing. The front is designed to just meet together and the metal hooks don't show.

Sometimes, the brain just overloads...we know what it's SUPPOSED to look like when we're done...BUT.

Just follow the instructions (or just imitate the the drawing in the pattern) ...and trust that it will work. However, here's the thing about sewing on hooks and eyes: it takes time. We used some oversized coat hook and eye pairs.

Looks like they are going to line up...

HINT: The next step is even more time consuming...when you sew on the front facings, you must leave leave little gaps where each hook and eye is placed and then finish off by hand. The whole process took Laurel almost two hours (very "fiddly", she says) Truthfully, it's not really a coat for beginner sewists, despite its simple lines. Of course you probably could do an easy pattern "hack", and just leave off those hidden closures.

In the end, the Strand Coat is a very loose fitting coat.  We made a size 12 which matched up with my measurements, but it does look large through the shoulders. The picture on the pattern envelope also looks like it drapes off the shoulders, so maybe we're okay. 

I might want to roll up the sleeves...

The whole notion of making a coordinating coat and a dress harkens back to an earlier fashion time to me. And though we rarely wear such an "ensemble" (especially at Stonemountain), both of these patterns will look great as separates–paired with leggings, boots or jeans–befitting my laid back style. That being said, this coat would be really beautiful in silk shantung, boiled wool, velvet or even a shiny brocade for a fancy night in the city. That's the beauty of making your own get to pick what you wear, when and where you wear it! Many of you are also working in the corporate world and these patterns might be perfect for you!

All together it gets a thumbs up! 

2018 is off to an amazing start! Never before have we had so much opportunity to make clothes that matter. So much has been opening up for me personally with respect to my fabric store and the potential for greater impact and leadership. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog series that I am excited to share.

Thank you for joining me, Laurel, and all of us at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics, in this co-creative worldwide movement of sewing clothes that not only feel good to wear, but make an impact as well.

Join us in sharing your #memade garments! We love seeing everyone's creations on Instagram through @fabriclady3 and @stonemountainfabric. This is where we can truly inspire and catalyze each other to show up and step toward our life's potential!

We are not alone! Together we are making a huge difference.

FabricLady and Laurel, collaboration, joy, and so much creation!
I am wearing the Strand and the Tea House Top and Laurel is wearing the Pilvi Coat!

GREAT TIP from Sandra Betzina! If you want your linen to wrinkle a lot less, do the following: Before you prewash your linen, iron the linen with the hottest, dry iron possible. This will set a wrinkle-less finish, which is already on the fabric. Next, wash and dry your linen 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. Repeating this process will lessen the amount of wrinkles over time. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Fabric Composting, Preparing the Ground For Your Creativity

What is it about a new year rolling around on January 1 that awakens the desire to "evolve and grow" in us? We seek to get clear on our intentions, deepen our spiritual journey, and take steps to bring our lives into alignment with who we feel we are on the inside.  One step can be to purge, organize, and eliminate the excess and superfluous overcrowding in our daily lives.

Re-evaluating your fabric stash is a great example of how stuff can accumulate with very little effort on your part. We're not advocating tossing the baby out with the bath water, but if you've been sewing over a long period of time, you should perhaps evaluate just what you are clinging to and how much you really need it.

Laurel and I have been collaborating for over four years.  We make garments, test patterns, and then blog about it - it's our thing, all in the hopes of inspiring you to make your own clothes.  As you might imagine, a lot of fabric has passed between our hands and not being a wasteful person, she has saved EVERY scrap of material from EVERY garment we have made. (I should mention that as we enter 2018, we can count almost 200 garments completed over that 4 years).  That's a boat load of scraps, huh?

Laurel's home is not big at all, so careful planning and storage went into maintaining this juggernaut of fabric bits and pieces.  As each garment was completed, the scraps were put into zip lock bags and stored (some might say jammed) in plastic footstool bins...wherever.

I've been after Laurel to bring those scraps back to Stonemountain, saving her from this storage nightmare.  Well, January 2018 must have been her time to purge and reorganize.

Way to go, Lo!  Down to one bin!!

She emptied out each zip lock bag to determine if there was enough of any of the fabrics to make another garment.  Large scraps of knits (sometimes we just overestimate our yardage) can be used for tanks, tee's, shorts, or pj's.  Cotton scraps can be used for bias bindings, facings, pocket linings, etc.  Laurel will hang onto those cottons to use in our future garments this year.

Looks like we've accumulated a significant investment in Zip Lock bags...LOL!

We had a number of large pieces of some of my favorite fabrics over the last four years.  We'll have to ponder what they might become...

Laurel also went through her own fabric scraps and added those to our pile...
SO, coming soon to the Free Community Bin at Stonemountain...

WAIT FOR IT...........

Four big, beautiful bags of Fabriclady's "Compost".

Dang, these are heavy!

(See, Laurel... that wasn't that painful, was it??? Don't you feel better?)

Now let's get busy on 2018, right?  We have so many plans to help you develop a "Destiny Wardrobe"...clothes that will be perfect for the lifestyle that you enjoy...garments that have meaning and reflect who you are as a woman...garments that you enjoy sewing out of fabrics that make you feel good.

With great enthusiasm,
Fortunate leader and fabric visionary
Downtown Berkeley, Since 1981
We ship worldwide!

We celebrated our creative community
and the new patterns from a local designer, Chelsea Gurnoe. Check out her pattern line,
Friday Pattern Company!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Indie Patterns + Amazing Fabrics Fuel the Garment Sewing Revolution of 2017!

2017 marks four years of a dynamic collaboration between my friend and seamstress Laurel and I.  We started out with the idea that there is a whole world of people out there who "used to sew" garments for themselves and for one reason or another, they gave up. We thought we'd just start making clothes and blog about our sewing adventures, perhaps enticing those people to come back to sewing.  Laurel herself gave up sewing during her "corporate days," mostly because she didn't have time to sew. But how serendipitous that when she retired, she visited Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics, we met, hit it off, and the rest is history.

Along the way of our collaboration, we evolved, and our "mission" became even more focused.  With the valuable input and talent of staff members, we shed the Big Four pattern companies and opted instead to support independent pattern companies, many of which are women-owned enterprises, just like mine.  With the garment "revolution" taking hold, our buyers focused on fabrics that every women wants to wear...we listened to our customers and helped them find their way back to sewing.  It's been quite a ride, and I don't see it slowing down any time soon.

We love our independent designers, our "Indie" women. As new Indie designs were released in 2017, our store team joined in as well, making and wearing their own versions of some memorable pattern designs. And our customers paid attention to the growing Stonemountain sewing craze and joined in with their own me-made ideas and purchases.

Some patterns were just natural winners in 2017... The ever popular Pilvi Coat.

The Sapporo Coat by Papercut Patterns was a hit with everyone.  It's one of those easy to make designs that can be made out of almost any fabric...lined or unlined.


We made the The Cocoon Cardigan by Jalie several times.  We love how cozy it is!

Another recent favorite is the Kochi Kimono Jacket by Papercut Patterns.  This is an unlined jacket that also can be made into a blouse, tied at the waist.  I know this pattern will still be a favorite in 2018.

We have fun at the store - it's one of our missions.  I love to see our staff wearing their own versions of our Indie patterns. And naturally, some days we just gotta take pictures. (Girls just wanna have fun!)


For a fresh and feminine look, we loved the Cinema Dress by Liesl & Co. It buttons up the back and has tab pockets in the front seams.  We made it twice!

By far our most popular dresses for 2017 were 100 Acts of Sewing's Dress No.1 and Dress No.2. One has sleeves and one is sleeveless, but they both can be made with almost any fabric, so the sky's the limit.  It's an opportunity to take a simple pattern and make it uniquely YOU.


Laurel with the designer, Sonya, wearing Dress No.2 (as a top) and Pant's No.1
another 100 Acts favorite.

Pants No.1 with the Lark Tee, another classic by Grainline Studios
The 100 Acts of Sewing pattern line also includes a Shirt No.1. This simple top is paired with Flint Pants by Megan Nielsen.

Two favorites from Grainline Studios also made our "make it again" list - the Alder Shirtdress and the Linden Sweatshirt.

Sometimes we just can't resist a pattern hack: we added a peplum to our Linden Sweatshirt.

Also from Grainline Studios, the new Hadley top. We made both necklines.

Knits are a favorite fabric for a lot of women.  They are easy to work with and quite forgiving of tiny mistakes. We had a couple of favorite knit tops from our Indie designers in 2017. Megan Nielsen's Briar top is a wonderfully simple tee-shirt with a high/low hemline.  Several of our staff made the cropped version but I stuck with the traditional length.

Closet Case's Ebony can be made as either a top or a dress.  Because its raglan sleeves are so comfortable, the Ebony is an easy to make winner.

Laurel is still making this pattern...this time as a tunic/dress.

If you haven't guessed by now, we love Ikat fabrics.  Stonemountain boasts a huge selection of prints and weights,  The lighter weight fabrics make the best tops and dresses. We loved the Sointu Top, by Named Clothing and it worked up perfectly in this navy and white ikat design - a very flattering pattern for any figure.

These Ikats and Linens are among our favorite fabrics.

We love a simple tee shirt, and this dolman sleeved tee by Jalie is a quick sew. It works up beautifully in a cotton or a rayon knit and is so comfortable for warm weather.

Sometimes, only an oversized, relaxed soft shirt will do.  
Paired with jeans or leggings, the Gallery tunic by Liesl + Co. is a great choice. We made it up in a feather light cotton lawn.

And what wardrobe wouldn't be complete without a great pair of jeans? The iconic Safran Jeans by Deer and Doe are a favorite of many women who are brave enough to make their own jeans.

We couldn't list all of our makes for 2017, but we will continue in this awesome Indie tradition in 2018 with more of the same. Do drop into Stonemountain and visit our huge selection of Indie pattern books - there's something for every level of sewist.  We will continue to post our favorite makes on Fabriclady and share what's new on our website and our Stonemountain blog.

 If you have been sitting on the sidelines just watching and reading Fabriclady while your machine is gathering dust, we can help you get started.  Come in, pick a pattern and get going! Won't you join us in our Sewing Revolution in 2018?

Your support of my blog and my store means the world to me. I look forward to revealing more in 2018 as we all grow ourselves and create garments that matter! 

Wishing you greater prosperity, love, and peace in 2018
Since 1981