Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Personality of Fabrics

I have been off on buying trips these past weeks for Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics, searching for fabrics that speak to me and that I think will inspire you to sew a wardrobe for yourself. As I wander through the multitudes of knits and wovens available, I am always mindful of how easy (or difficult!) a fashion fabric may be to sew. My choices represent a collection of fabric "personalities" that loosely remind me of the vast variety of personalities of our customer base.

Like our own personalities, each fabric has it's own set of unique characteristics, both good and not so good, easy going or difficult to manage. A lot of how a fabric responds to the dressmaker depends on her skill level, the tools she works with and her level of experience.  Budding seamstresses choose more forgiving fashion fabrics, such as cottons and other woven fabrics. Seasoned dressmakers will go for the silk charmeuse, linen and wool every time.

Most of us are middle of the road sewers - "Sew 'n Gos" (I just made that up!)...we've worked with some knits, a silk here and there and even tackled an occasional wool.  My dressmaker and fellow fabric enthusiast Laurel (of Laurel's Quill) contends that even a beginning home sewer can choose some of these "intimidating" fabrics, if she just learns a few tricks.

I love the many personalities of knits. You can find a wide variety of colors, textures, fabric contents and lively prints in knits. Though a lot of knits are lightweight, some are heavier in texture, such as the ponte knit skirt in my fall wardrobe (collection). Again, once you've chosen a knit, just remember a few sewing hints so that your knit garment will reflect your design style the way you imagined.

For instance, almost all of my quilting friends pre-wash their cottons, but not everyone thinks about pre-washing a knit. Other than polyester and certain other synthetic knits, it's a good idea to pre-wash AND dry your fabric before cutting it out.

Not all knits are printed exactly on the straight of the material, and you'll find that out rather quickly after a wash cycle...better to find that out first than to make the garment and wonder why the back is riding up or the sleeves are all twisted around your armpit!  Pre-treatment gives you time to correct the shortcomings of your dream fabric and fix it in the cutting process.

Laurel purchased this great rayon knit from our collection (she picked it for the rich cobalt color) and after the wash/dry cycle, she had to trim the outer selvage edges before layout and cutting - it was rolling up as knits often do - its part of their charm!

When sewing knits, you should always test out a few stitch patterns from your machine before starting on the actual garment. Sometimes,  the "knit" stitch doesn't work as well as a plain old zig-zag stitch. And some knits don't have as much give in the fabric's stretch and a straight stitch works just fine.

Fabric draping is a big part of how garments hang or flow on our bodies. If you want a fluid, drapey look, fabric cut on the bias of the weave is one way to achieve it. But let's get real, working with fabric cut on the bias scares a lot of our Sew n' Gos.  There's just something about that extreme "ease" that wovens on the bias have that freaks us out, generally because we've perhaps chosen a more expensive fabric, such as a silk or lace. Working with bias cuts is like knits -choose the right stitch to maintain the stretch and drape in the garment. And PIN, PIN, PIN! You may even want to baste your seams first (you remember basting, don't you?)

My Sandra Betzina blouse our of silk charmeuse, cut on the bias
Having the right tools makes sewing on the bias (or any sewing for that matter) a lot easier as well.  Do you have one of these?? If you had a home economics teacher who taught you haw to sew, how many times did she tell you to PRESS before you went to the next step?

A pressing ham (available at Stonemountain) is a must have, especially when you're working with delicate fabrics
One of my favorite fabric personalities is linen.  There's something about wearing it that feels very "natural", very homey. We've discussed the pre-washing method for linen in a previous post.  Sewing linen fabric is very easy. I have several linen crop pants in my summer wardrobe, but linen can also be used in a Fall wardrobe. Our Nevada linen (available in many colors) is a heavier fabric with lots of depth - I love the way Laurel made up in this sumptuous red jacket for her Fall wardrobe (Dang - it's not mine??)

We have this pattern...The Sewing Workshop Riviera Shirt

Oh, the details you can get when you sew on this luscious fabric!  Laurel said she had to You Tube how to make a bound buttonhole as she hadn't made one in years.  What a great resource we have on the Internet - don't forget to use it when you get stuck! . Or just drop buy the store - we have a host of experience in our fabric loving staff - they can help! Or better yet, sign up for a class here at Stonemountain & Daughter.

And I can't go without saying that no fabric has more personalities than cotton!  As any quilter will tell you, cotton is the best fabric for a quilt.  But because of the huge variety of patterns, prints, stripes and batiks available, your fabric can reflect your personality and style all by itself.  Remember my Decades of Style vintage dress? Cotton! See how Victoria and I reflected our own style, just by choosing fabric that spoke to our personal design aesthetic.

So whether you are a budding seamstress, a Sew n' Go, or an experienced dressmaker, let fabrics speak to you.  Choose them "thoughtfully", as Tim Gunn would say, but don't forget to try something new and fresh for the Fall season...maybe a boiled wool, or a silk - something you haven't sewn on before. 

So many fabrics, all speaking to Victoria and I, at the International Textiles Expo in Las Vegas ~
Stop by and see all the daily shipments!
Creatively Yours,
Creative Director, Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics
2518 Shattuck Ave. @ Dwight Way
Berkeley CA 94704
Lots of parking and great service!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Wardrobe Basics ~ The MixIt Top

Since I joined my Dad at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics back in 1981, I have had the luxury of having various dressmakers sew garments both for the store and for me, personally. My closets are filled with all manner of pants, blouses, skirts, jackets and sweaters that I've accumulated over the years, some that I have even sewn myself.  I have found that I have a particular style, or a "design aesthetic" as they say on Project Runway, and I see it over and over in my wardrobe choices.

Take a peek into my closet this morning!
I have my tops, skirts, pants and dresses in their own section
ready to be put together each day.

I LOVE separates! I love the way you can mix and match pants and tops with a favorite jacket or throw a dressy blouse on with a pair of jeans and boots. This year, I am working on more purposeful garment choices, choosing colors and textures, patterns and styles all designed to make a complete wardrobe.

Our Daughter's Collection Fall 2013 is an extension of the first garments that we started back in June of this year, when Laurel signed on to be one of my dressmakers. Together, our vision was to create a more cohesive look that any of our Stonemountain "loyalists" could make for herself...or at the very least, be inspired to design her own "Basic Wardrobe" using our vast selection of fabrics and patterns.

For instance, an easy top style is the MixIt Top from The Sewing Workshop. This top can be made up in almost any fabric, depending on what you want to pair it with - perhaps a silksoft cotton or rayon to wear with jeans

I chose a stretch silk in a herringbone print to pair up with a pair of deep green Colette slacks and a pale green wool-crepe mock wrap skirt (yet to be made!).

Easy to sew silk - don't be intimidated

Finding just the "right" button is easy at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics!

Stop by and see some of the garments on display
in the Fashion Room at Stonemountain!

Guess where I am going next week? To a fabric trade show in Las Vegas!!! Yes ~ Victoria and I are off on another BUYING adventure...what fabric, notions, buttons, trims and more will we find?! How much more can we fit in our shelves?

I will be sure to take lots of photos to share with you. We all love buying fabric, don't we?!!!

Happy Sewing!
a.k.a. FabricLady
Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics
2518 Shattuck Ave @ Dwight Way
Downtown Berkeley
510-845-6106 for any questions!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Wardrobe "Basics": My Marci Tilton Jacket

The Daughter's Collection for Fall 2013 is all about basic wardrobe necessities: pants, tops, blouses and jackets. With these four elements, you can create an entire wardrobe for the season.

Stonemountain & Daughter Farbics got this wonderful boiled wool in for the Fall/Winter season in 12 colors. Boiled wool is a special type of fabric primarily used in berets, scarves, vests, cardigans, coats and jackets. It is created by a mechanical process using water and agitation, shrinking knitted or woven wool or wool-blend fabrics, compressing and interlocking the fibers into a tighter felt-like mass.

I knew I wanted to have something made out of the rich brown for the Daughter's Collection Fall 2013 so chose a Marci Tilton Jacket pattern 8430 by Vogue. The beauty of working with this unique fabric and this pattern is that there is no real finishing to the jacket - it is basically an unlined, unhemmed simple jacket.  The pattern only had three pieces: the front (cut 2), the back, and the sleeves (cut 2).  That's it. You can use the boiled wool in the 100% quality or the wool blended with rayon quality. The one I chose is the 100% Wool. We *happen* have a great class here at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics featuring making your own boiled wool and jacket!

Laurel did some research on the jacket to see how other dressmakers handled the construction and fitting.  It is a very boxy, roomy jacket, so a few women did some back shaping. And since I too have a relatively small frame, we decided to step down a size as opposed to the one which my measurements might dictate.

She also added an inch or two at the "collar" just so it would have a little more drape. The beauty of working with this fabric is that we can just cut that collar shape any way we if I don't like the way it hangs when we're done, I can "snip-snip" it at any time. The same goes with the finished length of the jacket.  She added 3/4" to the bottom just in case I wanted a little more length.

Laurel confessed to me when we picked out the boiled wool that she had sewn on this type of fabric only once before...and it was years ago! She was quietly skeptical about sewing with such a thick fabric. When she shopped for her back-up machine a few weeks ago, she took scraps of some of my fabrics - knits, silks and the boiled wool (What a great idea, if you're contemplating a new machine!). She handed the sales woman the zip lock bag and said "I need a machine that will sew on all these!!"

Testing stitches on a variety of fabrics is a great way to get familiar with a sewing machine

There is very little to fear about sewing boiled wool. It is exceptionally forgiving - no puckers, no skipped stitches...just pin it together and sew. It took Laurel 30 minutes to sew my Marci Tilton jacket together. Amazing! Of course we still had to adjust the fit (it really is boxy!) and decide if we wanted to embellish it, if at all, i.e. with contrasting thread, binding, etc.

When we did the first fitting, sure enough, it was a little full in the back - time to take it in a smidge, Laurel!

I love the way the back is a little longer than the front.  

We all tried on this jacket during the fitting - despite it's "boxy" style, it looks great on all figure types

Ruth strikes a pose in the jacket that now everyone loves!

Laurel: "I gotta have one of these jackets!"

Even Laurel's Mini-Me Colette back in Sacramento looked stunning in the finished jacket.

The boiled wool fabric and construction of this "BASIC" jacket lends itself to a little top stitching detail. Again, it's an easy task - time consuming, but oh so worth it!!

The current collection of Boiled Wool and
Boiled Wool with Rayon at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabric this week!

Can you imagine how cool this jacket is going to look with jeans? Or that pencil skirt? Unlimited potential - that's why I call it a wardrobe "basic" and  I love it!!!

Creatively Yours,

Come make your own felted wool in
our upcoming class!
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Friday, September 6, 2013

This IS My Dream Job: Buying Fabric In Downtown Los Angeles

I usually try to go to either New York or Los Angeles a couple times a year on a buying trip and it's been a while since I visited my friends in the Garment District of LA. With my shopping list in hand, I spent 3 days scouring through warehouses and picking out great fabrics so I could bring home the goods! 

There is also a biannual fabric trade show in Las Vegas which Victoria, our buyer, and I enjoy exploring to find the latest beautiful fabrics for our customers. On top of that, fabric companies send us a lot of swatches and many sales reps come by to help keep our shelves full. But, there is nothing like being in a warehouse chock-a-block full of fabric and getting the deals!

It all makes Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley one of the most dynamic fabric stores - we bring the best goods to YOU! 

This last week while I was in Los Angeles the weather was beautiful! Look at these photos and see the clear air.  I also loved the heat. I hope you enjoy them and the photos of my buying escapade!

Great view from my hotel room in Marina Del Rey!

Ready to swatch!
Some of the warehouses I get to go around and cut a "swatch" of what we want to order - yes love walking around with scissors and a bag to fill!

It's getting crowded in here!
So much fabric to go through!

Stripes anyone?
So much wonderful fabric! 

The aisles are closing in on me! 
Or is the fabric wall getting higher?

Looking for a healthy lunch can be difficult on the road -
Here at this burger stand I ordered a great Chicken burger -
no buns, but lots of avocado, lettuce, pickles and smiles! Yay!

This is how our fabric is rolled from tubes and folded onto boards!

Tubes ready to roll!
Boards awaiting!

Part of our order!

Born to buy!

My friend's beautiful new warehouse!

Ol' timer still cutting - Irwin says hi Dad!

Yes another healthy lunch downtown - Yes!

Time to take the stairs :)

Great to be back home with my husband juicing for me!

So, now I am sitting at my desk waiting for the trucks to pull up with lots of beautiful fabrics!

You may be interested in what goodies I found...well - let's just say that if you like Wool, Rayon, Knits, Silk, Cotton and Fur - you won't be disappointed! Now is always a good time to just stop by to see what's new!

I also, of course, found some great fabric that I am choosing for more of the Daughter's Fall Collection!

Here's a look at my new Mixit Sewing Workshop top I got to wear for the first time today - I love it!

Wishing you a day of ease and creativity,
a.k.a. FabricLady!
2518 Shattuck Ave @ Dwight Way
Berkeley, CA 94704
with any comments, requests or cries of outrage!