Thursday, July 17, 2014

In the Studio with Laura from Sew Chic Patterns

It's been a few weeks since I wrote a post for the "In the Studio" series, but you're going to laugh when you find out why.... I have been searching high and low in my sewing room for the fabric I bought specifically to go along with my pattern of choice and I can't find it ANYWHERE!! I may have to resort in pulling out every single piece of fabric in my wardrobe just to find this 1 yard piece of a nude nylon knit. I plan on making Laura's slip pattern, Valentine Slip. I am determined to find this fabric tonight, so as soon as I get the slip done I will post my review of the pattern!

As with all of the other posts in the "In the Studio" series, I start with an interview with the pattern designer. This week I have featured Laura Nash from Sew Chic Patterns. I had the opportunity to meet with her last September and we had a great chat! I am a fan of vintage-inspired garments, but I'm not always sure I can pull it off. (see this post for my thoughts on this topic.) I'm really excited to try one of her garment patterns! (But I'm going to start on a slip to gain my vintage sewing confidence! LOL) 

I asked Laura to answer some questions to help us see the life of a vintage-inspired pattern maker. Enjoy learning more about Laura Nash owner and creator of Sew Chic Patterns!


Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in the western United States where my family moved a lot. My dad was a mechanic and he spent his early life building funny cars and inventing products for the race car circuit. It is not a very family friendly profession, so my mom was occasionally a stay-at-home mom. She liked to cook, and also did some sewing. I remember her at the sewing machine from about age 3, making matching dresses for me and my sister. At about age 10, I began to exert my own sense of fashion, and asked my mother to teach me how to sew. By age 13, I was inventing a few things like bras, blankets and clothes for Barbie. At age 17, I designed a wedding gown with petticoat, for my mother’s second marriage.

Through the event of my own marriage and arrival of 4 children, I continued to sew for my family, and eventually began sewing professionally to supplement the family income. I was still dabbling in many other creative endeavors, including, knitting, crochet, embroidery, cross-stitch, stenciling, calligraphy, woodworking, furniture making and finishing/refinishing, home decorating, upholstery, house plans, landscaping…. but each thing requires its own set of tools and needs practice. I came to a point where I knew I could not be “expert” in everything, so I cleaned out my closet and decided to put all of my energy into sewing. I still do photography, web design and graphic design, to fulfill the needs of my company, so my life isn't completely one dimensional, but to my family, it sure feels that way!

What is a typical work day like?
I begin the day by answering email and Craftsy student questions, and checking social media for any new developments that may need my immediate attention.  Then I move to the current task with the highest priority (ie: closest deadline!) be it at my sewing table, updating my website, or writing directions for a class or a new pattern (all of these need doing right at the moment!). Things with lower priority like blog entries, or tasks that keep me at the computer for long periods of time are saved for evenings and weekends, “watching” shows with my husband but really getting more work done.  It’s a really nice thing that my days are not all just alike, but the down side is that it’s easy to get distracted and side tracked from my real priority- designing new patterns.  It’s a good day when I can make at least some progress on a new pattern!  

What made you want to be a pattern designer?
There has been nothing I like doing more than creating and sewing. I always wanted to become a designer, but as a young girl I guess I didn't have very high aspirations because I somehow thought college was way out of my reach. Being a mother was also important, so I put that goal in front first, and have always been glad that I was able to stay home with my children.  
Did you go to school for fashion? If so, where? If not, how did you get into what you’re doing?
When I my youngest child started pre-school, I began working toward a college degree.  I started at the community college level taking night and TV courses, transferring to Oregon State University. My degree is a Bachelor of Science, so there were technical requirements like lots of math!  Pattern making does require more math than people might at first assume.

What inspires the patterns you make?
While in college, it seemed like I was always at the library in the fashion magazine archives working on assignments.  At first, I didn't pay that much attention- I was there to complete the task- but then one day it hit me that what I was looking at was very much works of art and had a level of detail not seen in clothing for years. From that point on, I began an earnest study into the works of the early designers, and it has since influenced my design and personal style ever since. We all still need to be present in the modern world, but what I try to do is extract the same tasteful eloquence and use it to our best advantage.

Tia Dress - LN1312

Who is your favorite fashion designer?
It’s very difficult to pick just one!  Charles James and Cristobal Balenciaga (the persons, not the brand) are definitely among my favorites!  The big designers that did their own design work, such as Madeleine Vionnet, definitely get my respect.  

What is the best thing about what you do? The hardest thing?
The best thing is design! I absolutely love the process of creating a new style, and combining it with fabric is akin to giving it life and personality.  The hardest thing is explaining to another through a few words and pictures how to repeat the process. At times I must change the style, simplify, or standardize the procedure to keep it from being too big a challenge.

Out of all the sewing patterns you created, which is your favorite?
I love them all for different reasons, but my favorite is Fifth Avenue. This one was a design competition winner many years ago, earning a $1000 to start my business. I would put out this kind of work all the time if only we all had more reason to get dressed up!
Do you have a favorite pattern designer, (other than yourself!)?
Someone I really admire that has no design credentials, but has studied the craft and has a ton of talent is Ana Stepalica of Stepalica Patterns. Another indie designer whose designs are near perfection is Yuki of Waffle Patterns. Her presentation is spotless and all of her fabrics are perfectly matched. That tells you something about her quality of workmanship.

What is your favorite fabric type?
I love luxurious fabrics of all types, but taffeta is my favorite. It will keep its shape and is great for both straight and full skirts or dresses and can work well with pants and shirts too. I made my phantom capri pants from taffeta. I can wear them all day and they never look wrinkled. In plain colors, the fabric still has an upscale feel, but allows the design work of a style like Fifth Avenue or Tia to take front stage. I even love the sound that it makes!

Phantom Capri Pant - LN1106

What is your favorite sewing tool?
The number one rule for all my tools is they must be easy to use and guide me to fast and flawless accuracy, and one favorite tool that does this is my Dritz E-Z Hem Gauge.  I use this tool for everything that needs to be turned and pressed with a fold line before I sew, such as binding, trims, patch pockets, hems, facings, center fronts, belts, and on and on. Just lay it down and fold your fabric up over the edge and press (it has markings to line up your raw edge).  

Where do you go when you need to get away from it all?
The internet! Sometimes the beach. It’s being with my young grandchildren that really is the most fun.

What is your favorite food?
I have an awful strong sweet tooth that must always be kept in check. Isn’t chocolate one of the main food groups?

What is the most common fabric/sewing-related question people ask you?
One question people ask is do I draw designs before I make them. The answer is not usually. I do have a few sketches of eveningwear from my Gowns by Laura days that I’m determined to get made one day, but usually an idea lives in my head nagging me constantly until I get to it. After it’s made, I do have to draw the flat, but it’s quicker to draw one style that is, than all the ones that might have been.

Another question people often ask is do I make everything I wear. That one is also a no. I don’t alter either. If I can’t live with it as it comes off the rack, then I don’t buy it. I want to put my sewing time into things I will really enjoy, love, and feel great in, not sewing t-shirts and altering clothes with mediocre appeal.
What is one fashion trend you love? Hate?
I love the vintage trend! There are quite a few trends I don’t care for. Graphics on everything, bleached and torn jeans, garish colors. I don’t understand why people would want to wear leggings as pants, or actually anything that is too tight, too low, or too skimpy.

Are you working on any new patterns? Can you give us any behind-the-scenes info?
I just finished a redesign of the Pendleton pattern. It was one of my earliest patterns and it’s been out on the market for quite a while now. Rather than retire it, I decided to give it a refresh so to speak. I’ve finished the first sample and will be starting on view B soon. It has a whole new personality now, and can’t wait to show everyone! The only thing left to decide is whether I should also give it a new name. What do you think?

The Original Pendelton Dress - LN8002
Thank you Laura, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer a few questions! You can check out her website here, Sew Chic Patterns. Do you have questions for Laura? Post them below and I will try to get you an answer! 

If you would like to purchase your own Sew Chic Patterns along with a fabric order, check out our selection of Sew Chic Patterns now

Stay tuned. I will be reviewing the Valentine Slip pattern very soon! (As soon as I find the fabric I bought for it, but it is lost in my closet!!)

Happy Sewing
~ Julie

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Made by a Fabricista: Mimi Blouse from Tilly and the Buttons

One of my most favorite types of fabric to work with is cotton. It’s natural, versatile and super easy to care for. Slap a fun print on that cotton and I’m sold!

I purchased this cotton lawn from Fabric Mart a few months ago when I seen its beauty popping up in my Instagram feed. C'mon hearts AND cherries!? Yay! I believe they also sold the same print in a mint color but unfortunately I do not see either of the two still available on their site. Only makes me wish I would have bought more.  Lawns are light and flowy which make them ideal during the summer months.  When I purchased this fabric I knew exactly what pattern I was going to use, the Mimi Blouse by Tilly and the Buttons.

My pictures may seem....a little goofy. I was just giddy with excitement because during my photoshoot I was also in the process of packing for a beach vacation! 
The Mimi Blouse pattern is available in Tilly Walne’s new book, Love at First Stitch.  As soon as Tilly released on her blog all the patterns to be in the book I quickly bought a copy.  I just think they are all unbelievably adorable.  Tilly’s red version of the Mimi Blouse only helped to seal the deal.

One of the things I love about the book is with each pattern Tilly gives you ideas on how to make it your own.  For the Mimi Blouse in particular such things like exchanging the collar for a peter pan collar, piping the yoke or adding fabric-covered buttons. 
Another nice touch I found in Tilly’s book is on each pattern piece.  The book is written with beginners in mind so those may find it helpful that the patterns have extra labeling.  For example, on the yoke pattern piece the shoulder seam is clearly labeled.  Also labeled are where the front and back bodice joins so you don’t get confused as to what attaches where (as I sometimes do). 

I made a size 2 and didn’t make any fitting alterations.  I usually test a muslin but I didn't with this pattern.  I instead measured my pattern pieces and compared those measurements to my own and to similiar RTW clothing I already had that I liked the fit of.  I'm noticing in pictures now that I probably could of used a swayback adjustment.  I will account for that in my next version.

My favorite parts of this blouse are the Chelsea collar, gathered yoke and pleated sleeves. Ok, ok I like it all!  Pleated sleeves and sleeve facings were a first for me.  I always enjoy learning something new.  I did my sleeve facings a little different than instructed. Instead of folding the facing and having it completely hidden under the sleeve I folded it in half and slip stitched it in place to form a tiny sleeve band. 

I just so happened to have the perfect buttons in my stash…tiny pearl hearts to match the print!  They are hard to see in the pictures so can we instead get another look at that adorable collar!?  I just love it!

This print is a little busy for all the details this shirt has to offer. Because of that I would like to make my next version in a solid with contrasting piping around the yoke.
This pattern is a winner for me.  Just the right amount of girly.  The other patterns in the book are pretty great too and will be giving them a go someday....someday soon when I work through that monstrous to-sew pile!!
Have any of you purchased Tilly's book?  What's your favorite pattern? 
Now please allow me to clog the rest of this post with some pictures of my happy dance because sandy beaches await me! :)



~ Shannon from Shanni Loves

Friday, June 27, 2014

Made by a Fabricista: Pamela's Patterns Favorite Bias Skirt

With summer finally here, I wanted to update my skirt wardrobe. I have been wanting to make Pamela's Patterns Favorite Bias Skirt for a long time and I finally did it! I was inspired to make this by Pamela herself because she was wearing this skirt made from linen during a visit. I have to admit I'm not keen on linen because of it's wrinkle factor, but thought this was my opportunity to give it a try! 



I chose a printed linen that was in Julie's Picks a few months back. Anyone else have this fabric?! I love the design. And when you put it on the bias it looks even crazier! 



If you have the same fear of linen that I do, you may want to consider a linen blend fabric. Linen can be blended with many different contents, but one I see more often than not is linen/cotton or linen/rayon blends. Bunch up the fabric in your hand. Does it create a lot of wrinkles that do not seem to come out very quickly? Or do the wrinkle go away somewhat gracefully? If the wrinkles do not go away, you most likely have 100% linen. If they come out in some way, then it is a blend. 

The pattern also calls for lightweight wools, silks, rayon challis, lightweight denim and more. The skirt can also be lined. There are directions included with the pattern to show you how to create a lined skirt with the elastic method Pamela uses. 

The pattern can be made in two lengths -- long and short. It also can be made in a full or slim silhouette. I chose the slim silhouette. There was not much to this pattern. It is super easy and is a great pattern for instant gratification! There is only one piece to this pattern and you use it for both the front and back. You need to tape together the two pieces to create the bias skirt. 



I've worked with bias cuts before, but Pamela had a good idea when pinning two pieces together. With right sides of the skirt together, pin the top and bottom of the skirt along the side seams. Then pin into the center. This way will allow you to stretch the fabric evenly so you don't have excess at the bottom of your skirt. 

Here you can see how the ends do not match up, before pinning. 

Here is the pinned side seams, all lined up!

I really liked how the elastic was attached. This seems to be a RTW technique, quick and easy. Once you have the side seams stitched, you will need to try the skirt on. Here I am in this lovely picture (cough cough!) I had my skirt sit just above the hips. Seems to fit good enough for me. (But now that it is finished, I wish I would have made it just a little bit smaller.) Make sure your length is even too. Mine was and I didn't have to do any alterations. Refer to the pattern for more information on fitting the skirt. 

**Pamela uses her Fantastic Elastic. I did not have any, but assumed I needed a soft elastic, not a really stiff one. I had a soft knit elastic in my stash and cut the width to size. I made it 1-inch, it was originally 1 1/4". If you're not using Fantastic Elastic, test your elastic to see if the width can be trimmed. It will fray if it cannot be trimmed. You can purchase Fantastic Elastic on her website



Once you have the fit correct, stitch the elastic together at the ends. Then find four points on your skirt and the elastic. A front, back and two sides. Line up all these points to the same points on the skirt. 



I used a serger to attach the elastic to the skirt. You can use a regular sewing machine to do this as well. Start stitching at one of your pins, stretching the elastic as you go. Stitch the entire way around the skirt. 



Turn the elastic to the wrong side and stitch the waistline. The fabric will stretch because of the bias, so I recommend pinning it before stitching. Press with an iron to flatten out the waistline. 


That's it! As I mentioned before, this skirt is really easy and you will have it done in no more than an afternoon. 


This skirt can be casual or fancy depending on the fabric you select. Mine is casual. Great to wear with a tank or solid top. I can see myself wearing this to an arts festival in my future...!


I would definitely recommend this pattern from Pamela's Patterns. I'm ready to try another one of her patterns! Click here to see all of the Pamela's Patterns we carry. 

Which is your favorite Pamela's Pattern?

Happy sewing! ~ Julie