Sunday, June 15, 2014

Cool Summer Tank

Perhaps the most versatile and well-loved pieces of our summer wardrobe is the tank top. We see them everywhere! They are made in every conceivable color and in a wide variety of styles. Historically, the sleeveless shirt had been worn by both men and women, and really started out as an undershirt or an athletic top.

Showing arms for women is verboten in some parts of the world. Those who travel know that you can't even step into a church in Europe with your shoulders bared. But yay for us, we live in California, and all manner of sleeveless tops and tanks are considered acceptable attire for our warmer climate.

But have you noticed that as we women get older, we tend to get a little sensitive about our upper arms, especially if we're not very dedicated at those pesky biceps curls! We loved Bette Midler's mermaid character tweaking her extended underarm in the air with a "how old of a woman do you think I am?" Wry wit.

But as some of you get to "enjoy" that 100+ California heat, 
we say let those arms show and make yourself a tank top! 

For our tank, we chose Burda Easy's Top #7645.

The fabric that I chose was a popular silk knit, evidently, as all that was left of the entire bolt was a 7/8 yard remnant.  But what better way to utilize a small piece of fabric than to make a tank? Plus, it's good to know that at Stonemountain, we love remnants.  Nothing goes to waste around here, so you can find the nicest fabrics in our remnant bins!

Laurel also wanted to make a tank for herself.  She choose a heavier Lycra and poly double knit, just because she loved the black and white graphic print. This knit has a two-way stretch and could even be used for making a great swimsuit as well! ( After sewing on this fabric,  Laurel reports that the fabric is totally a swimsuit fabric, and if she'd figured that out earlier, she'd have a nice little "tankini" top for pool-side lounging!)

Making my tank out of this lightweight knit was a lot easier than the heavier knit Laurel chose.  Our Burda top called for a folded fabric strip to be sewn to the neck and armhole edges, and then turned to the inside and stitched down.  However, we finished off the edges with a decorative edging of sorts, letting the fabric strip frame the neck and armholes.

Laurel's double knit was much too heavy to use an extra layer of fabric, so she created a facing which followed the contours of the neck and armhole edges, then attached it. Trimming these curved seams is very important for the top to lay correctly...not to mention removing bulk from the garment.

Turning the facings and stitching them down keeps the facings in place.  Laurel allowed a tiny edge of the facing to show, for added interest. She had to stitch the facing in place with two rows of stitching.

The second row of stitching is in the "ditch" of the facing edge.
No serging needed on this fabric - just trim the edges.

Both of our summer tanks turned out great 
and will be a welcome addition to our summer wardrobes.  
Bring on the heat!!

This tank top will be perfect to take with me on my buying trip to New York city this Friday!
It's been a while since I was able to go to visit my friends in the garment district...
What should I buy for you? What are you looking for?

Creatively Yours,


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Plaids are back!

Have you ever just walked by a big, bold plaid fabric and were totally intimidated? You love the colors and the way the stripes are woven together, but you know that unless you want your garment to look a sale rack reject, you are going to have to MATCH that plaid. And I agree, it can be daunting, but like the striped knit garments we made, it just takes a little extra care in the layout and you can match anything.

Before I say more, let me just give you a disclaimer: cutting out a garment in a big bold plaid requires three big things: Time, Patience, Planning. In the end, if you just match certain strategic areas in a garment, you will be miles ahead of the majority of mis-matched ready-to-wear garments in the stores (mass-produced garments are meant to make a profit, and matching plaids takes time and more fabric; that's why they call it a bargain).

But you? You sew! You can do this. When we say "take your time and think before you cut", it's not meant to scare you into avoiding plaids. When you take your time to think about where the bolder stripes of your fabric are placed, where these lines will fall on your frame. Cutting out our Amy Butler blouse in a print or solid color fabric might have been done in a jiffy, but in this plaid Laurel reports that she spent at least an hour laying out the pieces on this bold fabric.

My fabric for The Liverpool Shirt by Amy Butler is a dreamy soft double faced cotton voile (we have since sold out of this color, but check out our other double faced plaids). Note that the pattern has both bold horizontal AND vertical stripes, so they both need to be taken into consideration during the planning and cut out process.

First things first. We noted that the center fold of the fabric off the bolt was not on the center of our large vertical stripes. Before doing anything, Laurel pressed out the factory fold.

Make a new center fold - because this voile is so soft, Laurel pinned the center fold before laying out the entire length of fabric on her cutting table.

The next step is critical in the matching process before you layout your pattern pieces: work with the fabric until the underneath side of the fabric mirrors the top side.  This process was time consuming for Laurel because the fabric was so soft and lightweight, it shifted easily. But, again, taking the time for this step ensures at least a running start on a well-matched garment.

Some plaids are perfectly symmetrical, like a gingham plaid, but many (I should say most) are not.  My voile's stripes are not symmetrical, so when Laurel laid the pattern pieces out, they all needed to be laid out in the same direction (i.e. top of the pattern pieces all facing the same). And remember, this may mean buying a little extra fabric to ensure a good match.

It's more than likely that you're not going to match every aspect of your garment.  Relax and know that if you get the side seams matched and the center front opening at a minimum, give yourself a pat on the back. Concentrate on the big showy parts of your garment and forget the less noticeable areas. Laurel's attempt at matching on the sleeves won't be perfect, she says, "but close enough for government work". (Where did they get that saying, Lo?). We're making garments to LIVE in, not to stop the sewing world in its tracks.

Have you had a pattern matching success or failure? Tell us about! What are the tricks YOU use? Email me at, or share an image on our Facebook page!

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Together we celebrate creativity and finding our unique voice in this great symphony of life,