Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Let's do Luxe!

Among all the fabrics that I see and touch everyday in the store, I have to admit that silk is the most luxurious.  Nothing flows off your fingertips or falls in a soft pile on the cutting table like silk. My buyers, Lauren and Liz, and I shop all the time for beautiful fabrics that we can pass along to you. When we get in a stunning silk print, we can't help but gasp in excitement!

We've said it a hundred times to our customers:  you don't have to be an expert to sew with silk, you just need to take your time. Patience, care, and the right notions yield proven results. And we try to help the process along by giving you hints and tricks on the Fabric Lady and Stonemountain blogs.

If it's your first time sewing with silk, by all means pick a SIMPLE pattern—trust me, you'll never buy silk again if you're trying to make a complex button-up, long-sleeve blouse on your first try. So remember to keep it simple. We chose Megan Nielsen's Sudley Dress & Blouse pattern. We love it because of the variety of looks that you can achieve with just this one pattern. An added bonus it that the back is the same as the front, so the keyhole opening can be worn both ways!

We chose this luxurious silk piece to work with. We love the hand-dyed look of it and the neutral colors can be paired with so many pieces in my wardrobe. Silk has a beautiful texture that can be integrated into your everyday wardrobe. It's not just for date night! It elevates the pieces its paired with and can be great for casual wear.

Options for Tracing the Pattern

Laying and cutting out a pattern in silk takes time, especially when the print repeat is large like our fabric. And of course it's slippery! Laurel uses her big kitchen table to line up the fabric edges with the table edges and anchors the fabric with weights to keep it stable while she decides pattern placement.

Trace your pattern in the correct size, or cut it directly from the tissue. Because both the tissue and silk are prone to shifting, it's a good idea to actually cut out the pattern in the size you will be making - that way you are only cutting along the perimeter of the pattern piece and not through the paper as you cut the fabric.

We carry many helpful tools to aid you in this part of the process, including a variety of tracing materials. These items are available by the yard or roll and help you preserve you patterns and can also aid in the fitting process.

From left to right: Pellon Tru-Grid, Pellon Red Dot Tracing Material, Medical Tracing Paper, Swedish Tracing Paper.
Create-A-Pattern from Bosal is a lightweight, translucent non-woven material, used for duplicating patterns. It's made up of 60% rayon and 40% polyester and will last forever.

- Pellon Tru-Grid has an accurate 1" graph for duplicating, altering and scaling up patterns. It is 100% polyester and 45" wide.

- Pellon Red Dot Tracing Material is a nonwoven dot graph material. It features an accurate 1″ graph, used for scaling up, duplicating, or altering patterns. It is stable in all directions, but light enough in weight to allow for excellent drape. It is 100% polyester and 45" wide.

- Medical Tracing Paper is a high quality white paper with a smooth finish. Each roll is 21" wide by 225' long. Great for pattern making or applique!

- Swedish Tracing Paper is a sewable pattern paper. Trace your pattern, sew the very same material, and try it on before cutting your expensive fabric. Use it to make a durable master pattern. Strong, see through & drapably soft. Rolls are 29" wide and 30 ft. long.

Finding the Right Cutting Tool

And speaking of cutting, silk can be a little testy when your scissors are not sharp. You don't always need expensive scissors, they just need to be sharp. Laurel's go-to Ginghers were in need of a sharpening, so she actually found another pair that would work better for this project.

We LOVE scissors here at Stonemountain, and everyone has their favorites. We polled the staff to see what their picks were!

From left to right: KAI 11" Ergonomix Scissors, Fiskars Softouch Spring Action No. 8, Tula Pink Hardware - 8" Shear, Olfa 45mm Ergonomic Rotary Cutter.

1. KAI 11" Ergonomix Scissors have ergonomically soft handles which allow fatigue-free cutting on all types of fabric. Cuts multiple layers of denim with ease while trimming cottons without any fabric slippage. Heavy duty blades for a powerful cut with an extra long blade length, made of a hardened stainless steel.

2. Fiskars Softouch Spring Action No. 8 have flat-bottom styling for making long, straight cuts. Ideal for cutting multiple layers of fabric, string, paper, construction paper and many other materials. Left or right handed.

3. Tula Pink Hardware - 8" Shear are limited edition, handcrafted 8" fabric shears that are a necessity for any sewing basket. The razor edge sharp blades make them the perfect choice for cutting through all of your fabrics with ease.

4. Olfa 45mm Ergonomic Rotary Cutter features an ergonomic design that provides a comfortable and positive grip. Simply squeeze the handle to engage the blade. Dual-action safety lock allows the user to lock the blade open for comfort and closed for safety. Designed for both right- and left-handed use. Great for cutting fabrics into shapes, strips and pieces for sewing, quilting or craft projects.

You can shop all of our cutting tools on our website!

Print Matching

Many of our indie pattern designers print their patterns on heavy paper, which is great for multiple uses. The Sudley pattern is in soft tissue, so it's actually little easier to layout on this silk print. For instance, in order to match the front and back skirt piece, Laurel traced around one element of the print on the pattern paper and then used that marking to place the pattern for the second skirt piece on another section of the fabric. The result should be a good enough matching of the skirt front and back pieces.

If your pattern paper is heavy and opaque, you could cut notches in various sections of the pattern edges and use those to match up the print. Big prints like this one with irregular shaped lines, just need to be matched enough so that the bulk of the fabric's design elements somewhat line up. Sometimes it's impossible for a perfect match, so don't over think it...e.g. we're thinking big white stripy shaped areas matching with neighboring white areas, etc.

Finishing Techniques

The Sudley view that we chose was dictated by the amount of fabric that we had - we had to make a shorter version in order to match the major elements of the print.  And Laurel knows me well enough after three years of collaboration, so she knew that I would like a shortened "tunic" style with the mid length sleeve. We will use several sewing and finishing techniques we know—some serging, some French seams, some self-facing and some bias facing. When you invest in a beautiful fabric, you don't want to take shortcuts, so take your time and enjoy the ride.

For the skirt sections, we finished the two side seams with French seams.  We used this same technique on the shoulder seams and bodice side seams.

Step 1:  Sew the two pieces together, wrong sides together, using a scant 3/8" seam allowance.
Step 2:  Trim the seam allowance down to approximately 1/8".
Step 3:  Fold right sides together and sew with a 1/4" seam allowance.
Step 4:  Press and Voila!  The inside seam looks beautiful!

The skirt of Sudley is gathered at the waist of the bodice. Gathering silk is a little challenging because it frays so easily.  Solution:  serge the edge first, then do two rows of basting stitches.  (We will also serge the bottom of the bodice before we attach the gathered skirt to minimize fraying.)

Our pattern instructions call for finishing the keyhole opening with bias tape. Because the opening has a severe curve, we opted to make a self facing, by tracing around the opening on another piece of our silk. When your fabric print has so many changed in color, try to match the keyhole facing to the bodice keyhole print.  Silk is sheer, so you wouldn't want a blue section directly under a white section. In addition, we had to totally switch out the thread to match the white area around the keyhole.  Yes, it takes more time, but we're making something special, remember?

 BEAUTIFUL!!! (Use sharp little scissors to clip curves on silk!)

I hope that you will be inspired to try this Sudley Dress and Blouse or a silk in your next project.

Please feel free to email me with photos of what you are making @ fabriclady3@gmail.com.  You can also follow me on Instagram @fabriclady3 and/or @stonemountainfabric.

We are super excited for the new garments made out of our favorite independent patterns - all available at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley and online!

Cheers and Happy Sewing,
Suzan @ Stonemountain & Daughter

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Let's Make the Ginger Jeans! Making the Muslin First!

We have not made a ton of pants for me, especially pants that are designed to fit perfectly.  There's a real science to making pants, drafting pants patterns, and getting the fit just right.  So imagine and appreciate our courage in tackling the ultimate sewing/fitting challenge - jeans.

I'm sure there are sewists out there who have made jeans without much trouble - in fact we have several of our staff who have conquered their stretch denim fears and come up with great fitting jeans. Hey if they can do it, I guess I owe it a try.  Right?

We keep jean patterns in stock, all by our indie pattern designers.  The Morgan Jeans by Closet Case Files is a favorite because of the ease and comfort of the styling. Lauren has shown off her jeans construction acumen by making several pairs.

 We chose another of Closet Case Files patterns to make our jeans - the Ginger Jeans.

Ginger Jeans have a modern and flattering cut with subtly shaped back pockets, slimming side seams, and a higher back rise to "prevent peekabooty."  They are designed for stretch denim, so we chose a beautiful soft indigo denim with Lycra. You can browse our bottom weight fabrics—stretch and non stretch—here. And just to be uber creative, we will be topstitching our jeans in neon blue thread! Check out our selection of neon topstitching thread here! It's details like this that make the garments we create that much more special.

To ensure a great fit we chose a brown stretch denim with a leopard print pattern to make a wearable muslin. We decided to use the wrong side of the fabric for our muslin, as I'm just not the leopard pants type. :)

Before we jump right into sewing, there were a few preliminary steps to address:

1. Make sure you are using the right needle for your machine. Schmetz Jean Needles, also called denim needles, are great because they are specifically made for this purpose. The modified medium ball point and reinforced blade make this needle perfect for penetrating extra thick woven fabrics (like denim) or multiple layers in quilts. The reinforced blade causes less deflection of the needle and reduces the risk of needle breakage and skipped stitches.

2. Test your stitch settings your machine using the actual fabric of your jeans.

3. Test that all-important top-stitching detail on scraps of fabric until you get the tension correct.  Taking the time to work through these details will pay dividends in the end.  The Ginger Jeans pattern includes a lot more tips and tricks that are invaluable!

Sewing on this "muslin"is so satisfying, it's hard to stop doing the finishing details in the middle of the project. But since it is a muslin, we're not going to want to proceed any farther than just sewing up the sides and inseam, using a simple basting stitch. The goal is to try it on for a fitting, mark the adjustments, and then return to the sewing.  We're not even putting the zipper yet!

It's also worth noting that the Ginger Jeans come in two different styles - a medium rise jean and higher waist jean. However, each version also has a different style leg - a "stovepipe" leg is on the medium rise jeans and the high waist jeans have a "skinny" leg.  I think it will be interesting in that I may prefer the higher waist but not like the fit of a skinny leg. My muslin is made using the medium rise version, but we will still be able to test the fit in the crotch and legs, and decide which combination to make my final indigo denim jeans.

Interested in taking the plunge yourself? Check out our various options for jean making kits here. We have full jean kits, with fabric included:

Or, if you have your fabric already, you can buy all of the notions required in this kit:

When Laurel and I had our first fitting on these jeans, I was so impressed. In fact, this "muslin" will be very wearable!!! Here is a photo of the backside of the muslin fitting. We decided that the pocket can be higher, but overall the fit is pretty good. It's going to be a while before we can get back to finishing these jeans, so stay tuned for the next installment of our adventure into making the Ginger Jeans!

In the meantime, check out Miss Crayola Creepy's finished Ginger jeans.  We sent her a kit with everything she'd need to make her first pair of jeans, and they turned out great!  She used the same stretch denim that my Gingers will be made in, but hers is the black colorway.

Thanks again for your amazing support here on my blog and in my store, 

It's a dynamic time for Makers and I can't wait to see what more is possible!

Creatively yours,
2518 Shattuck Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94704