Tuesday, August 26, 2014

One Hour Dress? Not!

When our customers come in to look at our pattern books, they find all manner of styles and designers for all levels of sewing experience. Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics has one of the largest inventories of independent pattern designers and we often choose these innovative designs for my wardrobe (many are listed in our on-line store).

But I also love to try designs from our larger brand patters such as Burda, Vogue, and NewLook. Although most of the Vogue designs (Stonemountain discounts all Vogue patterns 50% everyday!) tend to be a little more intricate with the seaming and design details, I do love the simple designs featured in the other pattern company books as well.

For example, take this NewLook 6347 maxi-dress.  Right there on the front of the pattern it says "Easy 1 hour". So what does a 1 hour dress pattern look like?

This maxi has three pattern pieces: a front that is placed on the fold, a back, and an armhole facing.  The neck edge is supposed to be finished with single fold bias tape and the hem is finished with hem tape, both of which are purchased separately. Evidently, it slips over your head, as there's no zipper.

 I thought it might be fun to put Laurel to the test! Perhaps we can learn some aspects of garment sewing that might make a difference in the construction of the dress. For starters, when you see the pattern envelop up close, there is a tiny little asterisk beside the "1 hour" label. Scanning to the bottom of the pattern - oh snap!- that doesn't include any of the time that it takes to trim all the pattern pieces in the envelope, or the time it takes to lay it on the fabric and cut it out. One hour equals sewing time only.

Second, the pattern calls for woven fabrics such as cotton, linen, crepe up to and including silk fabrics. However, we picked out a cotton knit for my dress just because I prefer the wearability of a knit. Before trying out a new pattern, sometimes it's fun to check out the Internet, just to see what others say about your pattern.  When we looked up this one, we noted that one person who had made the dress said that the neckline didn't look anything like the photo. After cutting out the dress in our knit, we sort of agreed - that neck did look a little wide.  In fact, the whole dress looked a little "wide", even though we stepped down a size.

We can say from experience that knits generally take more time to layout than a woven fabric. And if you factor in a bold pattern, you can add some more time to your layout process to make sure you've matched your prints in the best way. Laurel reports that it took her 25 minutes to cut the pattern pieces on the knit. To begin the sewing process, there's some prep time that we're wondering if the designer factored into the 1 hour, i.e. bobbin winding, stitch selection, marking darts - all that pesky preparation work that also takes time - add 7 to 10 minutes.

Several aspects of this 1-hour dress ended up adding time to Laurel's construction, primarily because of the knit fabric. Sewing bias strips around the curved armholes and neckline without puckers requires a little patience and care - not the sort of the thing we think about when we're doing "slash and dash" sewing - there's a lot of trimming, pressing, pinning involved. More time needed!

Knits often add there own set of nuances and surprises.  Remember that the pattern called for a woven fabric? Not sure how this happened but check out the side seam at the hemline. No, it wasn't stretched or pulled...but whatever happened, we'll have to fix it, so Laurel is wrapping this dress up until I try it on - we'll trim the hem at fitting.

She is pretty sure that the neckline is going to fall off my shoulders, but our "time test" did not call for ripping out seams and altering. All total without even hemming this 1 hour dress, we've got almost 90 minutes into it.  We do love the fabric and agree that it's totally salvageable, just because it's so soft and flowing, but probably not without some minor adjustments.

So did this dress measure up to it's claims? We can't really say for sure, since we didn't use the simpler to sew woven fabric it suggested.  But we can say that even the simplest of patterns require more time than you might think. Laurel has been sewing since she was ten and she says that she used to start making a garment in the morning to be able to wear it that night. But even then, she can't remember ever making anything that only took an hour.  (Those darn facings will kill you every time!)

So, we say take your time and factor in the surprises and challenges that you may encounter.  Every garment has at least one or two, even for the expert sewists! Anything worth wearing is worth taking your time and enjoying the process.

Creatively Yours,
Owner, Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics
2518 Shattuck Ave @ Dwight Way in Berkeley
email: fabriclady3@gmail.com

Monday, August 4, 2014

Do-Over for a pretty knit!

Some fabrics are just too pretty to not use again.  I find that when I'm picking out fabrics to buy for the store or have made up, I can usually envision several different garments that would work up beautifully.

I love this stretch silk knit Satsuki dress that we made last year. I kept a length of the fabric on a shelf in my office because I knew that I wanted to use it to make another garment.

Victory - Satsuki Dress

With the warm summer days we've been having, I have loved wearing a more casual look, especially separates, and t-shirts in particular. Since we already had made a tank from another silk knit (below), we decided to reuse this great Burda Easy pattern 7645 with the t-shirt/tunic option and make it up in my red and grey silk knit.

The top is so easy to work up and the fit is DIVINE! The neckline has a bias strip that is attached, turned under and then top stitched. The sleeve are just serged, turned under and also top-stitched.

What else can we make out of this sumptuous fabric, Laurel?

Burda 7645 - with Cap Sleeves - Love it!!!

Speaking of top-stitching, finding the right color of thread to use on a multi-colored fabric is a case of trial and error. The only safe way to get a good match is test out several colors on your fabric and choose the one that blends the best.


For our silk knit, Laurel chose the medium gray. However, if we were making a garment that actually incorporated top-stitching as one of the design elements, then color choice, fiber content and thread weight become more important. For this reason Laurel and many of our sewists keep a lot of threads on hand just for times when matching fabrics is critical. The consideration is whether you want to highlight it or hide it!


Just for grins, why not make this same top in a soft rayon knit...in black of course. And on this shirt, our top stitching rows are doubled for added interest around the neckline and the hem.  Top stitching just requires good thread, patience and a slow speed on your machine. And practice, practice practice! (Yes, I'm going to wear this top with everything!!!)

Love this rayon and lycra knit!  Love this Burda top!

Burda Top 7645 and Burda Skirt 3152
My new favorite Top and Skirt!

At Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics we have a great selection of threads in all manner of fiber content and color. We have everything from the workhorse Polyesters to fine Rayon and Silk threads. And naturally, we carry a variety of threads for our quilters and crafters as well - those of you that are free-motion quilters know exactly what I'm talking about!

Are you a thread collector?  You have to admit, that having thread stash to compliment your fabrics is like having a box of sumptuous chocolate truffles...you just can't wait to try one!

I want to also wish Laurel, my partner is sewing, inspiration and this very blog - a big Happy Birthday Leo Sister! Please check out her wonderful blog for even more fun and ideas!

Creatively yours,