Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dreams Do Come True! Twelve Months of Fabulousness!

Looking back over the year, I have to say it has been incredible! Of course, there were many challenges, but overall the last twelve months were based on creativity, connection and joy! Owning a fabric store can be the best job ever. After 33 years in my family business, I feel blessed for the work that I do and more in tune with our mission to support the creative community around us. My own personal path has underlined the importance of kindness and the strength of feminine values in all aspects of my life, especially here at our store. I strive to make your experience at Stonemountain & Daughter an inspiration! I love working hard on creating classes for the garment sewist, quilter and crafter of all levels. My buying team is excited about buying for our customers and offering the best fabrics, notions, patterns and other accessories at the best value.

As much as the fabric is part of our family, so are the people I am blessed to work with. Natalie, our buyer and Mary Jane our operations manager, make coming to work a loving act! Our staff of 21 sales associates and 14 instructors make this one of the best stores around!

The other reason why 2014 was the best year ever, was my collaboration with Laurel of Laurels Quill. We started out with a shared commitment to inspire others to sew and create and it evolved into a deep friendship and love. Picking out fabrics, patterns, notions and putting it all together and then blogging about it…this is a dream come true! Thank you so much Laurel for sharing your talent not just with me and my closet, but with the world of sewing. What more is possible in 2015?

Fashion is one of those things that you have to think of in advance. Buyers and designers are always a season ahead of the retail customer, and buying fabric and designing and sewing a wardrobe is no different. In the bleak months of winter, we pondered the serene beauty of wintry weather and at the same time started thinking about Spring garments - admiring the soft woolens on the colder days, but  yearning for the warm sunshine when we could wear a light blouse...

As Sewists, we don't always get it right. I believe that is the single most challenging aspect of making your own wardrobe - we may think a particular style will work, and we love the fabric we've chosen, but sometimes you have to throw in the towel.

Knowing When to Quit 

My seamstress and collaborator Laurel became "France focused" long before she left in September. For her, it was all about making some garments that would hold up for a three week drive trip. I was inspired by her search for easy garments, using fabrics that had a little stretch and remained fashion forward.  Together we learned that sometimes you can sew something and get exactly what you're looking for rather than purchase it in the department stores and settle for something less than perfect.

Buy It or Sew It
Easy Bias Skirt 

There's nothing like Spring to inspire change.  Stonemountain celebrated 33 years at our Shattuck location in 2014, and like all truly successful ventures, change and renewal is a normal part of doing business. Collaboration inspires each of us to be more than we were, to think bigger than the box we're in and to let our dreams rattle our minds to new levels. April was a time to let the Muses take over and inspire us to undergo a web design, a fresh new look at fabric and a more focused outlook on garment sewing. In short we inspired each other.  Magic!

New Social Media Looks
Working With Stripes
Great Bag!
Kiki Ramone

With Summer around the corner, isn't it funny that people start thinking "in color"? Years ago I had my colors "done" by a professional, and like many women I have kept that color palette of swatches ever since. Some people know instinctively what colors in fabrics will look and feel good, but some of us need a little help. I for one am semi stuck in the blacks and greys, but as Summer approached, my peeps urged me to step out of my comfort zone and try a few of those swatch colors I've been carrying around forever. Isn't that what friends are for?

Your Colors
Fabric Stash 

The Bay Area is a hodge-podge of coolish, foggy, mild, sunny, wet, etc. weather conditions all throughout the year, regardless of the season.  Generally the weather is the same - mild - but once in a while we'll even get a heat wave. Berkeley summers may require a jacket or sweater in the evening, but sleeveless tops are always a great option here...especially while working at the store.  I love a great tank and when you find a great pattern, the fabric choices are endless. 

Summer Tank

Summer is one of the best times for traveling. We thought that we'd focus on some easy travel garments.  Knits are a perfect "pack and go" fabric, not to mention the comfort of wearing them. Ponte knits are especially nice, as they have a little more weight and don't wrinkle as much. We had fun with this fabric, just knowing that there was a time when you wouldn't be caught dead in a "double knit".  But this timeless fabric was trending for the upcoming Fall season.

Ponte Knits
Selvage Edges
Easy Travel Skirt
Travel Pants 

A lot of our readers and customers are NOT expert Sewists.  They visit the store to find a great fabric and a simple pattern. Laurel (who is an accomplished seamstress) mentioned that she used to make a garment during the day just to wear that evening.  So naturally, we thought we'd test it with a pattern that boasted "Easy 1 hour" dress. (Note: "Note so much!") But there is something to be said for taking your time and adding detail to a simple pattern - don't we just love a simple t-shirt pattern?

One Hour Dress
Do-Over for a Pretty Knit

By September of 2014, we were in full fledged creativity and metamorphosis! Our planning/fitting days with Laurel took on a whole new vibe, with the help of staff members who wanted to jump in with their ideas.  We were on a roll with our Funky Fall looks - garments that our customers could see were hand created! We combined colors and textures, prints and solids and added some great details to each garment. Creativity abounded and we haven't stopped since.  More Magic!!

Lynn Mizono Dress
Funky Fall 

We had such fun planning garments for our "Funky Fall" wardrobe. We wanted to try pairing different fabrics together - Natalie made the cutest little peplum blouse, so naturally I loved it and wanted one for myself. Laurel was just coming home from her French vacation full of design ideas, but after being away from her sewing machine for so long, it took a while to get her back in the "Berkeley Groove". We worked with fitting issues this month and the ins and outs of making a muslin.
Sewing "Zen"
The Muslin 

I've been obsessed with dresses this Fall, for some reason.  There are so many dress Patterns out there and many of them look alike, so you have to add your own touches to make them "yours".  We thought since Sandra Betzina was coming to Stonemountain for an evening class that we would make up some of her patterns for the event. Many of our staff joined in by making up their favorite Sandra B. design.  The evening class was awesome! Love Sandra!

 "Frances" Dress from Green Bee 
Sandra Betzina 

We wrapped up the year in our "Little Black Dress". Because we worked so hard on the fitting  (using the muslin) it turned out to be a sweet little number that I will wear for a long time.

Little Black Dress
Bright Prints 

Coming Soon!!!

We are already knee deep into planning for 2015. Keep FabricLady on your list of must-read blogs so you don't miss all the exciting designs coming up!

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog on this day. Life is so much sweeter when it is shared.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Turning Down the Volume!

There are times in our fabric shopping moments when our exuberance takes control of our sensibilities and we purchase something that is not in our normal wheelhouse. Perhaps the texture or weave of the fabric is different from what we traditionally pick, but we want to step out a little...take a risk.  Or perhaps the color is not in our tried and true shades, but we love the idea of a new color (we can always wear a different shade or lipstick or dye our hair, after all!) Or perhaps we are so drawn to a wild print in the store we can't put it back - we have to have 5 yards - we'll think of something we can make!

These colorful knits that I picked up on my last buying trip were irresistible.  I knew that we have Stonemountain customers who would just go ga-ga over their beautiful coloring.

I don't usually wear fabrics this colorful, but rather than "just say no", I decided to pair it with another fabric in some sort of color blocked pattern. My seamstress Laurel felt the same way - she wanted that bright pink version, but when we held it up in a mirror, we could tell that we were going to need to tone it down by adding another "less busy" print.

We're making up the turquoise print in the Sandra Betzina Vogue 1336. We love the way you can mix fabrics in so many combinations.

Laurel's red and pink version of this knit will be made up in one of our new patterns from Tilly and the Buttons, the "Coco" t-shirt/dress. We love the patch pocket details!

One of the most fun parts of collaborating with my talented staff and Laurel is that we can use each others' ideas and often interject perhaps a new direction for a garment.  In this case, we all loved the idea of pairing this bright print with a black and white polka dot knit to turn down the volume of the pinks and reds a little. After all, it helps to keep things funky during these dark winter months!

Let's put those polka dots around the neckline...

And of course, polka-dot patch pockets! The soft jersey knit creates a slouchy, casual look.

And DUH! Polka dot sleeves too!

In the end, it's still a little bright for some tastes, but the important thing for Laurel was to break up the bright pink and red colors by toning it down with black. A solid black knit would have worked just as well, but we like to mix it up and Laurel is a "Take No Prisoners" kinda seamstress!

Laurel's Mini-Me Colette likes it!
 Take a look in your stash and see if you have a piece of fabric that has been languishing too long. Bring it to the store and let's try to pair it with another fabric. We have a great staff of gifted sales associates who are great at helping choose every detail of a project, whether it's fabric, a pattern, buttons or even thread. We're here to help!

 Creatively Yours,
Owner, Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics
2518 Shattuck Ave. @ Dwight Way
Berkeley, CA 94704
Open M-F: 10 - 6:30; Sat: 10 - 6; Sun: 11 - 5:30
Stop by and say Hi!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Oh My! Little Black Dress!!

In our recent Stonemountain and Daughter Blog, we talked about the classic stylings of a Little Black Dress. Most of us tend to think that the LBD is an evening wear look, but we love the dresses that can go both ways - day or evening. And that's exactly what we were thinking when we started this NewLook 6013. With such a classically simple pattern, it's all about fit and fabric!

Laurel made a muslin for this dress to ensure that the fit would be perfect - see our post Do your Homework - The Muslin. And last week we did a final fitting and made a few more adjustments.  This may seem like a lot of work, but the whole point of having a Little Black Dress is that you look and feel spectacular in it!

A final fitting also allows you to make some major adjustments. When I tried on the muslin initally, I thought that the length of the dress should be about four inches longer, so Laurel made that adjustment in the dress length in the pattern cutting phase.  But when we had our final fitting of my dress, I had to rethink the length and we ended up cutting it back off.

After adjusting the the front darts, it was time to finish off the dress - lacey zipper, hem, neck facing, etc.

What a great design choice to add the lace on the sleeves... 

Finishing a dress out of a woven fabric such as the Japanese print I chose is a lot different that the finishing of a knit dress. Most notably, there is a lot more hand sewing, if you want your garment to reflect the beauty and quality of the fabric. If you hate the notion of hand sewing, just remember that coutuiers rely heavily on a needle and thread to finish off their most prized gowns.

Whereas a knit dress might have a narrow machine sewn hem, a dress such as our LBD should have at least a 2" hem.  We serged the edge of the hemline first, but you could also use satin or lace hem tape. Laurel used an ordinary whip stitch to sew the hem, taking care not to create too large of a stitch that might show on the outside of the dress. Some dressmakers use a thimble for hand sewing, but Laurel does not - if it "pricks" her index finger ever so slightly, she can better gauge the size of each stitch. (As an aside, she did mention to me once in passing that she never made a wedding gown that she didn't bleed be careful with those sharp needles!)

Most woven dresses also have a finished facing at the neckline. It is important to tack down a facing wherever it might meet with a seam. Because this dress is not to be a sporty look, we did not use any top stitching details, which tend to make garment look more casual/informal.

Hand sewing can be the most relaxing part of your dressmaking experience.  Laurel says that she saves all her hand sewing - hem, sleeve hems  and facing tacks - and does them all at once. She said the hand sewing portion of this dress took about 35 minutes and a cup of coffee to complete.

I love the zipper on the back - so funky!

Thanks so much for reading! I hope you all take some time for yourself this month.

Remember to do the simple things that bring you pleasure, like sewing!

always creatively yours,
2518 Shattuck Ave. @ Dwight Way
Berkeley, CA 94704
M-F: 10 - 6:30 pm
Sat: 10 - 6 pm
Sun: 11 - 5:30 pm

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