Thursday, January 30, 2014

Dreamy Cotton Voile Blouse - "Sew Perfect, Sew Sweet!"

Some things never go out of style.  They may disappear for a season or two, but you know what they say - if you keep something around long enough, it will come back in style. The classic button up blouse is one of those garments. The styling details may vary from year to year, but a blouse always has a place in your wardrobe.

What is great about a blouse is that there are so many fabric possibilities. Cottons, linens, silks and even synthetic fabrics can be used - it just depends on what you plan to wear with it. I wanted an easy blouse to go with skirts, slacks and jeans. But more than that, I wanted to use this dreamy little voile crepe print.  It is soft and somewhat sheer - the perfect blend for a Spring blouse. (Did I say Spring? Can you believe I'm already dreaming of that?!)

Come to think about it, Ruth our ace sales associate and owner/designer at Kiki Ramone, loved this fabric as well - she also made a blouse using République Du Chiffon's Margot Chemise pattern ...
The website and pattern are in French. Oh, la la!
I chose a classic pattern from NewLook - #6407 - it features three-quarter length sleeves and a fitted bodice. The hemline is curved upwards at the sides similar to a man's shirt.

Everyone has an optimal length in tops, one that flatters their figure. I like my tops to be at least 15" from the armhole, so I asked Laurel, my dressmaking muse and fellow blogger over at Laurel's Quill, to cut it a little longer.

Blouse patterns, especially those with collars, cuffs and front facings have a lot of pieces. It is tempting to lay the pieces out haphazardly on the fabric to conserve yardage. However, paying close attention to the direction of woven fabrics is important. As this photo from Draping: The Complete Course by Karolyn Kiisel shows, fabric hangs differently in a garment, depending on how it is laid out on the fabric grain.

So when a small piece, such as my blouse collar, asks for using the lengthwise of the fabric, there must be a good reason for it. I'm thinking that too many times collars don't always lay down properly and this careful grain placement might have something to do with it.

There's always something new to learn with each garment. Keep in mind that the pattern instructions may tell you to do one thing and after you do it, you're not sure it's quite right.  For instance, this blouse pattern required a tailored finish, i.e. topstitching around the collar and cuffs and up the center front.  But as we started working with this fine voile print, the top stitching was too "harsh" for my delicate fabric.

Topstitching...NOT!!! We ripped this topstitching out because it was not right for the delicate fabric.
Laurel always brings garments back for a fitting before the final sewing stages. It's important to try things on as you go, as ripping out is not fun (epecially if you've already serged the seams!) I also love that she isn't afraid to show me her mistakes - after sewing the cuff on the sleeve, she realized that she applied it incorrectly...and that's why we fit garments first.

"Never too proud to rip!!!"

During the fitting, we spent some time at the button wall, looking for just the right buttons for my blouse - I love how everyone jumps in with their choices whenever anyone even gets near the famous button wall at Stonemountain & Daughter! I wanted the buttons to add to the delicateness of the blouse, but not overwhelm it. We all settled on a pale irridescent pinkish-lavender button which pulled out the subtle color in the print.

"Sew Perfect, Sew Sweet!" It's a great addition to my Spring wardrobe.

I hope you have a chance to stop by and see many of the garments I have been blogging about. Visiting Stonemountain & Daughter in Berkeley is a gift to yourself. There is nothing like walking the aisles and feeling the fabric...sitting at the pattern table and seeing what inspires you…or taking a sewing class with us...

Creatively yours,

Friday, January 10, 2014

It's All in the Pattern Layout!

Almost all patterns come with a suggested pattern layout for the fabric. We've seen these, right? They look like drawing of fortifications with the moat and drawbridge over here in option for 45" wide fabric and over there in the option for 60" wide fabric.

Some fabrics have a "nap" to them (such as velvet), which may complicate your layout plan, especially if you have a limited amount of yardage. Besides helping you ensure proper grain for your pattern pieces, these layouts allow you to see what the pattern pieces will look like in your fabric before you cut it out.  This really matters if you have a pattern or print on your fabric, like words in only one direction, stripes or chevrons, any pattern can be a challenge depending on its size and direction. Just think about plaid!

Pattern layout is one of the most crucial parts of garment sewing. So much so that time spent on the layout, pinning and cutting is essential to the ultimate fit and finish of your garment, especially when you have spent your hard-earned dollars on a length of fine fabric such as silk, linen or wool. It's easy enough if you have a solid colored woven fabric; get it on the straight of the grain and go.  Things start getting a little dicey when you're working with knits, bold prints, stripes, plaids and border prints, etc. Spending time preserving the integrity of the fabric design pays dividends at the finish.

Take this striped fabric for instance. I chose this beautiful woven rayon-blend brocade fabric for the mock-wrap skirt we already had made in a wool crepe (remember the celedon colored wool skirt in the Not your ordinary Fabric Store post?).

I knew I wanted the stripes to lay horizontally on the skirt, and matching the wrapped front sections was easy enough. The waistband required more attention - our first attempt produced an odd, elliptical shape right below the waist. Laurel, my dressmaker, summed it all up: her observation -  "looks like a nasty potbelly effect to me!" She ripped it out and re-cut the waistband on the diagonal, thereby eliminating the bulls eye on the abdomen.

Yipes!!! Even the floor looks like it has a potbelly!
Much better!
Still need to hem it and put in the zipper, but WOW! I love it!

Cutting on the bias allows for more stretch and ease in a garment. We are working on the second garment using a wonderful stretch silk with Lycra charmeuse. Even though the Lycra does allow the silk some extra give, we decided to cut the bodice of Sandra Betzina's Vogue 1291 on the bias. An added design complication is that our fabric is a border print and we also decided to make the flowing sleeves out of a coordinating silk chiffon. Every now and then Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics receives the same print on different types of silk weaves from various designers!

The decision of where to place the bodice front and back is simplified by making a muslin pattern and placing it directly on the fabric and moving it around to find the best direction of the print. In order to find the best direction of the print, we simply laid the fitted pattern directly on top of the fabric, and moving it around until we liked it.

When you're working with a large pattern that had a long repeat, layout becomes very important. I love this rayon knit from France.  The large circles are in horizontal rows, but the repeat is a very long 25". Because the design is so bold, the placement of where the row of circles should cut across my figure took a little planning.

I chose the Shapes "Four Good Measure Top" and decided that we should just take the horizontal striped effect of this print out of the equation by cutting it on the bias.

Tip: You don't have to have a special tool to find the bias of any fabric - just take a piece of paper and fold it with a 45 degree angle.  Place the square edge of the paper on the selvage edge of the fabric and line up your pattern piece's grain line or edge to the 45 degree angle of the paper. Voila! On the bias!!

In my previous "Make your Wardrobe POP - Ooh la la" post, I featured a digital rayon knit from France. With such an amazing image, maintaining proper layout was especially crucial. Again, the Shapes top has one long pattern piece for the front and back, so cutting a shoulder seam (not in the pattern) allowed us to control the print images on BOTH sides of our garment. (Please note that we have sold out of this color way, but just got a new color way with greens!)

Working with these bold prints requires forethought.  This lovely polyester knit had some bold circular areas that if placed in certain areas of my chest would...well, use your imagination! LOL! (Pattern in this top is New Look 6098)

Because Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics has so many prints and pattern choices, my design choices have really expanded the overall personality of my wardrobe. I love these new fabrics and their complexities, so pattern layout and planning becomes the cornerstone of our designs.  Laurel says most of her efforts in making my garments is spent on layout decision and execution.  But when I see the results, I  would agree, it's time well spent. 

Try not to be discouraged about the time it takes you to cut out your garment - think of it as a wearable masterpiece - one in which you are the artist! What are you inspired to try sewing next?

Creatively yours,
2518 Shattuck Ave. @ Dwight Way
Berkeley CA 94704

Please feel free to leave your comments here on my blog or email me directly! 
I love hearing from you!

Greetings from our Winter Holiday in Park City Utah!
Let it Snow!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Winter white...truly a California "Dream"

All the leaves are brown
And the sky is grey
I've been for a walk
On a winter's day
I'd be safe and warm
If I was in L.A.
California dreamin
On such a winter's day

   Mamas and Papas, 1965

The Winter Solstice came and went without so much as a snowflake resting on the trees around me. The weatherman delivered his ominous threats of a California drought as we watch the images of dry lake beds and brown mountaintops flash across the television screen.

I close my eyes and imagine a ski slope waiting for me, all decked out in her Winter finery and I am restored. What is it about the softness of snow that helps us transcend ordinary life and be part of the whiteness of it's beauty? It's why we city dwellers love the beauty of snow amidst our struggling lawns, leafless trees and grey cement edifices blocking the warm sun.

For years, even the fashion designers shared our passion for white...not the bright
bridal white of vestal virgins (LOL!) but the soft creamy white of a snow drift bathed in the afternoon sun. Winter White - it's timeless, never going out of style, worn year after year by all.

Back in December 1987, I did a fashion show with Stonemountain & Daughter along with Berkeley Adult School. I'm not into gloves, stockings and heels gig too much anymore, but I have to admit that yummy Winter White coat and sheath dress would easily fit today's style. And, let's hear it for that pixie cut! Back in style, FYI!

Many designers and fabric manufacturers produce fabric in the Winter White shade. As a buyer, I am aware of the soft pink or cream cast to them, depending on fabric content or dye. These subtle color variations allow our customers to select shades that flatter their skin coloring. Laurel (Laurel's Quill) and I had a blast pulling all the winter white fabrics off the shelves in the Garment Fabric Room at Stonemountain - so many great projects to do!

We tend to only think of wool as a Winter White fabric. What a stereotype!  However, there is a variety of shades and hues of white in an array of fabric contents and textures: wovens, knits, crepes and synthetics. Why not try a warm white in Tencel or silk boil for a pair of slacks this season? Or a sumptuous swing coat in a brushed wool? Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics has a Winter White Boiled wool that would make our awesome Marci Tilton jacket..again!

And for our naysayers who think that white makes you look "bigger", I say nonsense!  Love your body the way it is - your special femininity all your own, so deck it out in a snowy dream fabric, don your jewelry, and celebrate the Winter season...even if we don't have snow (yet)! 

I hope that you will find the time to stop by our store. We are having so much fun and joy playing in the world of fabric and what more is possible! 


p.s. I am off to a ski trip to Park City with my husband to celebrate our 19th anniversary (13 years married!) Here are a few shots from our winter wonderland last year.