Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Finding Style and Purpose in our Sewing with Merchant and Mills Patterns - The Ensemble

One of our newer pattern lines features a duo of patterns that we believe belong together to form the classic "ensemble": a lightweight coat and a shift-style dress. It's our first crack at Merchant & Mills, a pattern company out of England "with the intention of bringing style and purpose to the overlooked world of sewing". That's a mission that resonates with us at FabricLady and Stonemountain!

The Strand Coat is relaxed and lightweight, featuring unique side seam styling and side pockets.

The Strand Coat Pattern 
"A simple unlined coat for cutting a dash in the city"

"a gentle A-line silhouette"

To complete our total look, "The Camber Set" dress is about as simple of styling that you can ask for...short set-in sleeves with a loose fit that just slips over the head.

Our fabric choice for these two garments is LINEN! Linen has become our favorite year-round choice because it is an excellent fabric for layering. I am really excited about how our linen and cotton ikats will all play together! 

We chose a more "solid" linen for the coat as I thought it would go with more things as an outer layer. The coordinating large striped linen was perfect for the dress. I was a little concerned about the wide stripes, but all my fashionista staffers chimed "Oh heck yeah, you can wear those horizontally!" and I knew it was a good choice. Unfortunately, the blue stripe colorway has been discontinued but we have the equally lovely Burgundy and Forest Stripe.

The Camber Set dress would be an easy make in a solid colored fabric, but the large stripes add to the cutting and sewing time (if indeed you hope to match the stripes in your garment). Frankly, nothing says "bargain" in RTW clothes like a plaid or striped garment that does not at least attempt to match the pattern. And since we want our wardrobe to scream professional, we did our level best to match these formidable stripes.

The Camber Set dress has deep french darts, so right away we have to make a choice where to try to match the stripes on the long side seams.  Wherever you have a bust dart, it is better to work at matching the stripes at the sides from the hemline upward toward the armhole. That is the largest expanse of fabric where unmatched stripes would show the most. We matched our side notches (below the darts) on the front and back pattern pieces.

HINT: To sew the sides together, use your pins lavishly, pinning at every stripe intersection. If your machine isn't kind to pins, then by all means baste the sides together before your final seam is stitched.

If side seams don't quite match at the armholes or the hem, we say it's better to match the stripes on the lower half of the dress and trim away the 1/4" discrepancy.  Remember, nothing is perfect.

The bottom half of my dress to the hemline - Oh snap!!!!

HINT: Wait until you have matched, pinned and sewn your side seams before finishing the seam edges, lest they stretch, making it that much more difficult to match the stripes. Press your seam open, then finish off the edges with a serger or zig-zag stitch.

HINT: According to Laurel, when you're working with a large stripe such as this woven fabric, set in sleeves are a little more of a challenge. Her advice when cutting out the pattern is to match up the bottom of the armhole with the bottom curve of the sleeve as best you can.  The top of the sleeve will rarely match when the two are sewn together, unless of course there is a full moon and the stars are perfectly aligned!

Not perfect, but not bad either...

We love machine hems that don't show!!

Cute little bias neckline in the front and a yoke in the back...

Onward to the coat! The Strand Coat is relatively straightforward in its instructions, just like the Camber Set dress. And since we don't have any stripes or pattern to worry about, it goes together rather quickly. At first glance, the two-pieced back looked very large, but we then remembered that The Strand features side seams that are brought toward the front.

Loving how the back of the Strand coat hangs and fits!

HINT: Interfacing at the pockets is vital if you don't want your coat to sag and lose its shape, since it is unlined. Our fabric is loosely woven, just like the dress fabric.

Two in-seam pockets in this coat!!!

We were sailing along smoothly until it was time to attach the front and neck facings to the coat front.  This process is relatively simple...unless of course it includes some inseam hooks and eyes for the front closure. The purpose of putting the closures hidden within the seams is just that...the bulk of the hook and the eye is hidden in the folds of the fabric, between the facing and the front fabric. You don't see any of the hand sewing. The front is designed to just meet together and the metal hooks don't show.

Sometimes, the brain just overloads...we know what it's SUPPOSED to look like when we're done...BUT.

Just follow the instructions (or just imitate the the drawing in the pattern) ...and trust that it will work. However, here's the thing about sewing on hooks and eyes: it takes time. We used some oversized coat hook and eye pairs.

Looks like they are going to line up...

HINT: The next step is even more time consuming...when you sew on the front facings, you must leave leave little gaps where each hook and eye is placed and then finish off by hand. The whole process took Laurel almost two hours (very "fiddly", she says) Truthfully, it's not really a coat for beginner sewists, despite its simple lines. Of course you probably could do an easy pattern "hack", and just leave off those hidden closures.

In the end, the Strand Coat is a very loose fitting coat.  We made a size 12 which matched up with my measurements, but it does look large through the shoulders. The picture on the pattern envelope also looks like it drapes off the shoulders, so maybe we're okay. 

I might want to roll up the sleeves...

The whole notion of making a coordinating coat and a dress harkens back to an earlier fashion time to me. And though we rarely wear such an "ensemble" (especially at Stonemountain), both of these patterns will look great as separates–paired with leggings, boots or jeans–befitting my laid back style. That being said, this coat would be really beautiful in silk shantung, boiled wool, velvet or even a shiny brocade for a fancy night in the city. That's the beauty of making your own wardrobe...you get to pick what you wear, when and where you wear it! Many of you are also working in the corporate world and these patterns might be perfect for you!

All together it gets a thumbs up! 

2018 is off to an amazing start! Never before have we had so much opportunity to make clothes that matter. So much has been opening up for me personally with respect to my fabric store and the potential for greater impact and leadership. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog series that I am excited to share.

Thank you for joining me, Laurel, and all of us at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics, in this co-creative worldwide movement of sewing clothes that not only feel good to wear, but make an impact as well.

Join us in sharing your #memade garments! We love seeing everyone's creations on Instagram through @fabriclady3 and @stonemountainfabric. This is where we can truly inspire and catalyze each other to show up and step toward our life's potential!

We are not alone! Together we are making a huge difference.

FabricLady and Laurel, collaboration, joy, and so much creation!
I am wearing the Strand and the Tea House Top and Laurel is wearing the Pilvi Coat!

GREAT TIP from Sandra Betzina! If you want your linen to wrinkle a lot less, do the following: Before you prewash your linen, iron the linen with the hottest, dry iron possible. This will set a wrinkle-less finish, which is already on the fabric. Next, wash and dry your linen in the hottest water and hottest dryer you have. Take out of the dryer when close to bone dry. You will notice that smaller softer wrinkles have replaced the hard crease usually associated with the fabric. Repeating this process will lessen the amount of wrinkles over time. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Fabric Composting, Preparing the Ground For Your Creativity

What is it about a new year rolling around on January 1 that awakens the desire to "evolve and grow" in us? We seek to get clear on our intentions, deepen our spiritual journey, and take steps to bring our lives into alignment with who we feel we are on the inside.  One step can be to purge, organize, and eliminate the excess and superfluous overcrowding in our daily lives.

Re-evaluating your fabric stash is a great example of how stuff can accumulate with very little effort on your part. We're not advocating tossing the baby out with the bath water, but if you've been sewing over a long period of time, you should perhaps evaluate just what you are clinging to and how much you really need it.

Laurel and I have been collaborating for over four years.  We make garments, test patterns, and then blog about it - it's our thing, all in the hopes of inspiring you to make your own clothes.  As you might imagine, a lot of fabric has passed between our hands and not being a wasteful person, she has saved EVERY scrap of material from EVERY garment we have made. (I should mention that as we enter 2018, we can count almost 200 garments completed over that 4 years).  That's a boat load of scraps, huh?

Laurel's home is not big at all, so careful planning and storage went into maintaining this juggernaut of fabric bits and pieces.  As each garment was completed, the scraps were put into zip lock bags and stored (some might say jammed) in plastic bins...in closets...in footstool bins...wherever.

I've been after Laurel to bring those scraps back to Stonemountain, saving her from this storage nightmare.  Well, January 2018 must have been her time to purge and reorganize.

Way to go, Lo!  Down to one bin!!

She emptied out each zip lock bag to determine if there was enough of any of the fabrics to make another garment.  Large scraps of knits (sometimes we just overestimate our yardage) can be used for tanks, tee's, shorts, or pj's.  Cotton scraps can be used for bias bindings, facings, pocket linings, etc.  Laurel will hang onto those cottons to use in our future garments this year.

Looks like we've accumulated a significant investment in Zip Lock bags...LOL!

We had a number of large pieces of some of my favorite fabrics over the last four years.  We'll have to ponder what they might become...

Laurel also went through her own fabric scraps and added those to our pile...
SO, coming soon to the Free Community Bin at Stonemountain...

WAIT FOR IT...........

Four big, beautiful bags of Fabriclady's "Compost".

Dang, these are heavy!

(See, Laurel... that wasn't that painful, was it??? Don't you feel better?)

Now let's get busy on 2018, right?  We have so many plans to help you develop a "Destiny Wardrobe"...clothes that will be perfect for the lifestyle that you enjoy...garments that have meaning and reflect who you are as a woman...garments that you enjoy sewing out of fabrics that make you feel good.

With great enthusiasm,
Fortunate leader and fabric visionary
Downtown Berkeley, Since 1981
We ship worldwide!

We celebrated our creative community
and the new patterns from a local designer, Chelsea Gurnoe. Check out her pattern line,
Friday Pattern Company!