Saturday, March 29, 2014

Buy it or Sew it?

All you have to do is spend a few hours at the mall to spot a very popular trend in spring fashion - black and white stripes are EVERYWHERE and in every type of garment, from blouses to dresses to skirts.  We love this bold fashion statement - but some of us just hate shopping (not ME)! 

On a rainy day, it's nice to go to the mall and leisurely browse through the racks to see if something catches your eye. Shopping without purpose or expectation can be a great way to spend the day.  But IF you are looking for something specific, it can be a challenge - So many stores! Who has exactly what I want? I have to go through ALL of them?! (Who knew? My amazing seamstress Laurel would rather be shopping for storage containers!)

The mall has an advantage - at a glance how amazing and wonderful a custom wardrobe can be! It also allows you to test out different cuts (princess seams, cowl necks, 3/4 length sleeves, capri pants, wrap dresses and much more), prints, fabrics and colors! Let me just use that black and white fashion trend to illustrate a case in point of how shopping can be more of a challenge than a pleasure: Say we are looking for a maxi skirt...much like the one Laurel (of Laurel's Quill) envisions for her Paris trip this fall - a black and white knit (probably in a ponte knit as it is more stable and travels well) with a chevron pattern down the center front. She heads for the mall thinking that with the plethora of black and white stripe garments, she can probably just buy one off the rack and save herself some sewing time.

There are stripes everywhere, but either the fabric content is wrong, or the style isn't right or the stripes are not what she wanted (wrong width, too close together, and oh, no, it hurts my eyes).

On and on, through the racks....right skirt , wrong stripe. Right stripe, wrong style, etc. etc.

Every store has some version of black and white striped garments...

You can even find accessories in stripes! Feeling overwhelmed yet?
I'm ready for more, but Laurel needs a break.

This shopping circus is why I own a fabric store. I can keep up with all the latest trends and our customers can create these same styles they see in the magazines and stores AND the finished garment is exactly what they wanted! (we won't go into that not fun stuff about the whole micro-cubbie that they call a fitting room where you wrestle your way through a pile of garments that don't fit, don't look right and cost way too much!)

And that's why we sew! Laurel can find some great black and white stripes here at Stonemountain,

like this yummy rayon/poly knit in Burda 3152...

So, do you shop or do you sew? For Laurel, it's a lot less stressful to peruse the racks of sumptuous fabric bolts and wait for inspiration to hit than a trip to the mall. I had more fun and productive shopping online looking for patterns on the Stonemountain site and came up with all these fun projects!

 Vogue 8843, Marcy Tilton Bag

Check out this Aurelia Cardigan -
It's a Sew Liberated Pattern and we have a sample garment up in the store. It could be cute for spring!

You have to love this Marcy Tilton dress - Vogue 8975

I love these pants: Sewing Workshop Urban Pants (great in linen and cotton)


Why not try a bag for Spring - the fabric possibilities are endless! 
Vogue 8783, Marcy Tilton Bag

For a spring dress, try a vintage look - the Decades of Style 1920's Tierific Ensemble
This dress would be fabulous in our cotton lawn or ethnic fabrics.

This light shawl would be perfect for the warming evenings

Of course you can't go wrong with a great T-shirt pattern. 
it would go with the bottoms and light summer jackets and purses...

Or this pretty cute jacket out of Knits - Pamela's Patterns 110 Cool Cardigan

Speaking of shoes: Not all shopping is fact, I scored some great shoes on my last trip to the mall.  I was thinking of spring and summer with every pair I tried.  I'm trying to be purposeful about my spring wardrobe planning, and I can't wait to match these up with some great spring and summer fabrics.

Stay tuned as we take some of these projects above and make them a reality in the next few weeks!

Creatively Yours

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Easiest Skirt Ever - Even on the Bias!

The A-Line skirt has been around forever.  It's simple design has not changed over the years, other than the length of the hemline.  I remember making this skirt when I first learned to sew - didn't everyone? It's basically 4 pieces - a front section cut on the fold, two back pieces with a seam and a waistband (or not). It may be cut on the bias or the straight of the fabric and it may or may not have darts at the waist.

We decided to make up Burda's 8281 in two different fabrics - corduroy and denim. Both fabrics will be great for the transition into Spring. I'm not much into bold plaids, but as you can see, it would be easy to duplicate the look on the pattern cover with some of our great woolens!

For my corduroy skirt, we decided to cut the skirt on the straight grain of the fabric.  This soft corduroy has a distinctive nap. A fabric with nap is one what usually has a pile and will look different shades from different angles. Velvet and velour fabric are prime examples of fabric with nap along with our pin wale corduroy.

To determine the direction of the nap, lay the fabric up against your body and run you hand downward on the fabric. The nap of the corduroy should be smooth as your hand moves downward on the fabric.

This is the direction that you will lay out your pattern pieces, both skirt front and skirt back, meaning that the waist of the front should be the same as the waist of the back (think of it in terms of a top of the fabric and a bottom). When cutting out fabric, the "with nap" and the "without nap" directions are usually different to allow all of the with nap pattern pieces to lie in the same direction.

Corduroy can ravel and fuzz up, so Laurel serged the seam edges.  You could also use a "Hong Kong" binding finish or flat-felt seams if you felt especially ambitious (curious about to finish your seams with something besides a serger? Take a look at our Perfect Seams class).

For the denim skirt, we chose a lighter weight 6.5 oz denim and decided to cut the pieces on the BIAS for added interest. A bias cut just means that the fabric pieces of a garment are shifted to a 45 degree against the lengthwise grain.  Making this shift usually means that you will need more fabric than the pattern calls for, but how much?

Karen (one of our customers) writes:

 "If I want to make a dress or skirt and I want the fabric to be cut on the bias instead of with the grain then how much extra fabric do I need? Is there a certain percentage more that is standard? like add 30% more to the yardage the pattern calls for if I'm cutting on the bias?"

This is a great question with a not so easy answer. I asked two of my sewist friends if they had a tried and true rule, and both came back with similar answers.  To put it simply, how much more fabric you need for a bias cut depends on the width of the fabric and style of the pattern.

For instance a short A-line skirt such as the denim skirt Laurel made requires less additional fabric to cut on the bias because the pattern is short ( only 20"). On the other hand, a longer skirt such as the ponte knit maxi skit we made last summer would probably need 50% more fabric to cut it on the bias.

Laurel is planning to make a knit maxi skirt with a Chevron striped pattern similar to this Calvin Klein knit skirt, so matching the striped pattern will probably necessitate twice as much fabric as the pattern dictates. The simplest solution is to make a muslin (there we go with that "make a muslin" suggestion again!) of the pattern.

Remember the silk charmeuse blouse? Laurel made a muslin pattern to lay on bias of the silk to determine the best use of the fabric's lovely print. If you're making a skirt with a center fold, like this blouse, then cut out the entire front panel in muslin (on the fold), open the piece up and use it to lay on your chosen fashion fabric. Most bias pieces are cut in a single layer, due to the width of most fabric is not wide enough to have a fold on the bias AND fit a skirt or blouse front pattern piece.

For most bias cut garments, it is okay to alternate the bias, putting the grain-line on the cross or the lengthwise. With our denim skirt, the weave is a twill, so because there is a perceptible nap to it, it's still best to cut it out with the waist part of the garment at one end (the "top" of the fabric) to keep the nap similar.

Very little finishing is needed for this bias fabric, so Laurel was able to complete this A-Line skirt in a little over an hour. A simple zipper, narrow waistband and a machine finished hem completed my casual denim skirt.  Both looks are going to be great with boots and/or tights! Do you want to make a perfect basic skirt for your wardrobe? We have a class for that! Our Perfect Pencil Skirt class shows you how to cut and fit the right skirt for you.

Laurel will be coming by this week with the finished skirts and we'll do another photo shoot to show off our success! Be sure to share YOUR successes (and even your failures) with us! We are all inspired and learn from one another. I love seeing what you are working on for Spring. Email me at with your sewing blogs, photos or words of wisdom!

Creatively yours,
a.k.a. Daughter!

p.s. we are getting ready to celebrate 33 years in Berkeley!!! 
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