Sunday, December 28, 2014

Year-end Wrap Up

As 2014 comes to a close, I like to think about all of the things that have happened over the course of a year in both my personal and professional life. 

In my professional life, I am excited to see another year in the record books. I did a lot of traveling this year seeing some of our wonderful wholesale customers. I went to NYC, Austin, Portland, OR, Seattle, San Francisco, Miami and a few smaller areas. It give me a rewarding feeling know that they were successful trips and it helped shape and grow. I'm also thankful to have enough going on that I needed to hire an assistant. 

In my personal life, I worked on making things simpler in my life. While I haven't made a ton of progress, I've come to understand what is important and what can be put aside for another day. It's baby steps...

As for the blog, I took over as the main moderator of this blog in the beginning of 2014. Already being busy, I knew I needed some help! So after some sew-alongs and challenges, we decided to look beyond our doors. So now with the help of a few sewing bloggers, we are able to share with you weekly sewing projects, tutorials and just great information! I've got to tell you, I admire many of you that can crank out the sewing projects weekly, but I've also come to realize that's not realistic for me either! So I take my time in each sewing project because it's not a realistic thought in my life.

Here's a look back at some highlights from 2014...

At the start of the year, I made the Minoru Jacket from Sewaholic Patterns. When the weather permits, I live in this jacket! It is so comfortable and I love all the different details including the hood. And the pretty awesome lining :O)



I love my sewing room. Enough said.




This was fun because I didn't have to make any of the decisions! Reader's voted on which pattern and fabric I used to make my garment. We had 11 participants sew-along with me. They all had a chance to win a $50 gift certificate to Fabric Mart. 



Shannon, the 2013 Fashion Challenge winner, sewed up Papercut Pattern's Rigel Bomber Jacket from a cotton sateen. Super cute and another fabulous lining!



Pattern Designer Interviews
During the summer, I interviewed designers from independent pattern companies. I also picked one pattern from their line to make and review. I love getting to know about other people and how they got started in business. I interviewed Pamela from Pamela's Patterns, Dana from Dana Marie Designs, Laura from Sew Chic Patterns, Morgan from Thread Theory Designs, and Tasia from Sewaholic Patterns.




I think this is my favorite thing to do every year! While I hate having to rate people, I love to see what people do when they are given a challenge. The winner of the 2014 challenge was Dina from My Superfluities



As I mentioned earlier, I'm so thankful for the bloggers that agreed to join our blog! It is really helpful when you don't have a lot of time to devote to sewing. My sewing opportunities vary throughout the year and seem to be less and less in the second half of the year! I can't pick my favorite post between all of them, but if you look in the November and December categories to the right, you can browse them yourself. 

And looking ahead at 2015, there are many things to look forward to in all aspects of my life. In regards to the blog, I have a new Fashion Challenge idea, sew-along and lots more reader participation opportunities in the planning stages. You probably won't hear from me until the new year, so Happy New Year! 

~ Julie

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Made by a Fabricista: Sewing Silks with Ann



Silk charmeuse.  Aahhhh.  Just the thought of it brings me bliss.  Is there anything as light as a feather, shimmery as a star, and fluid as a mountain stream?  All wrapped up in one glorious fabric. Sometimes I look at the prices of clothes in the stores, and wonder "Why am I sewing?” But one touch of silk charmeuse and I remember. This is the stuff that you can't buy a top made from silk for less than $200, but you can make it for $50 or less.


When I saw this stylized animal print silk charmeuse at Fabric Mart, I grabbed up 3 yards of it right away. One of silk charmeuse's best qualities is its drapability, and I'd been looking for a fabric with fabulous drape to make a crossover draped front blouse pattern from Style Arc- the Dotty Blouse.


Dotty is really designed for a fabric that looks the same on both sides, as the pattern piece for the front is just one piece that flips at the hem.  Since my fabric is different on the reverse, I decided to split the pattern piece into two at the hem level, add a seam allowance, and sew them together.  Now, when it folds back on itself, you'll see the right side of the fabric. 



Cutting silk charmeuse can be tricky.  Here is my go to method:


1.  Lay a layer of tissue paper underneath the fabric, and pin the fabric to the edges.  (Save all that tissue from your gift bags!)

2.  Use fabric weights that have pins at the bottom of them to hold the pattern in place.   These are by Olfa. I don't think they make them anymore, but if you ever see them at a garage sale or eBay, snap them up, as they work remarkably well!

3.  Change the rotary cutter blade to a brand new super sharp one. Silk fibers are very strong, and if your blade is not 100% sharp, you'll end up with uncut fibers.   

4.  Cut firmly through all layers. And voila! You have a beautiful cut edge.


Hemming slippery silks can be a bit of a challenge.  I hemmed the back bottom edge using a technique called the Baby Hem.  It's my favorite way to hem delicate and slippery fabrics.  





Since Dotty is so loose fitting, I needed something form-fitting on the bottom.  I found this soft black and tan stretch denim at Fabric Mart to go with Burda 6879- a skinny pant with pockets and a back yoke.   



The faux fur vest is made from Burda Style pattern magazine issue 11/2012, #103.  The vest is lined, and really quite warm. I bought the dusty pink faux fur from Fabric Mart a couple of years ago. It's super soft and fun to wear. I love combining it with the silk draped blouse for a contrast in textures. 

If you’ve been tempted by the silk sales at Fabric Mart, give some of these techniques a try, and you’ll find that sewing with silk is very rewarding. 

Happy Holidays Everyone!!!  Stay warm, have fun, and have a wonderful New Year!

-Ann





Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Made by a Fabricista: Franken-pattern Skater Dress by Diane



Although the mention of Frankenstein conjures up scary images of Igor and bad posture, Franken-patterns are quite different. Sewists have coined the term to describe combining more than one sewing pattern until a new look materializes. Ahhh, the joy of creating something new and unique. “It’s Alive!”



It’s time for a winter dress and I’ve been drooling over this fabric for quite some time, both because I love the print and because a double crepe can be difficult to find.  It has a pebble like texture, beautiful drape and “mechanical” stretch, meaning that although it is a woven fabric without lycra, it still has a slight crosswise give.  The stretch makes this fabric easy to sew and even more comfortable to wear.


The print is sophisticated but still really fun and lends itself to a simple style. The skater dress silhouette is quite popular right now and I thought a modified version would be perfect.  There are plenty of skater dress patterns out there but I couldn’t find one suitable for a woven fabric, therefore, I decided a Franken-pattern was in order.  


For the bodice, I used New Look 6144 View B. I’ve used this pattern before and love the fit. I cut the pattern 1" above the waistline so the skirt would sit just above the waist and made pleats at the neckline instead of the darts the pattern called for.  



For the skirt, I wanted to dirndl style skirt, not too full, not many seams, so I could make the best use of the print.  I used Simplicity 1354 for the skirt, omitted the pockets and left everything else the same.


What’s a cute dress without a bag to go with it?  Simplicity 1387 was the basis for the shape of the bag, but I changed the handles, closure, hardware and lining to get the bag that I wanted.



The top of the bag is a light beige twill and a black wool suiting makes up the bottom and handle.  To round out the menswear feel of the twill and wool, I lined it in a classic striped shirting and trimmed it with “pleather”. The pattern doesn’t have any pockets in the lining, so I added a zip pocket on one side and sectioned pockets with bias trim on the other.




I’m so happy with my Franken-pattern dress and my coordinating bag makes me feel like I really have it together.  Thanks Dr. Frankenstein.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Made by a Fabricista: Suiting on the Bias


I kept seeing all these amazing suiting fabrics pop up over at the Fabric Mart site and I definitely knew that one of my makes for the Fabric Mart blog HAD to include these fabric, so I let them know that I would love to create Vogue 8910 (a gorgeous blazer made entirely with bias cut fabric) from a very pretty oyster colored striped stretch wool suiting.  I had visions of making the shorter version, view A, to look a lot like the version that Vogue made up in the longer length.  I loved the minimalist styling of the jacket and the cool chevron effect the stripes made with the bias cut pieces. I just knew that I had to make it up shorter so it could as easily work with skirts and dresses as it could work with jeans and trousers.  (I don't care for the look of longer jackets with skirts and dresses.)

Before I started, I did my usual hunting on the internet for information on the pattern so I could learn more about how to create it for myself, and I hit a goldmine because Ann Rowley, the winner of the Great British Sewing Bee (season one) had sewn up this jacket in a Linton tweed a while ago. She had so much information and photos in her flickr set that I knew I would be in good shape since I loved how hers had turned out. Her advice on this pattern and how to treat the fabric and lining made so much sense. The directions in the Vogue pattern are definitely lacking, especially graphically, and having her set was so helpful so I could visualize exactly what I needed to do to get the results she received.

Overall I did follow her plan, but I did deviate a bit since my fabric choices were different from hers and required a bit different handling. But I definitely and highly recommend using her advice if you take on this pattern.

(I also want to point out that I read in many places, including from Ann herself, that this pattern, though rated *easy*, is anything but, especially since the pattern is entirely cut on the bias and requires a single layer layout and careful planning when sewing as to avoid stretching out the bias fabric once cut.  I was gratified to know that I did make the blazer properly and carefully and now can actually wear it out and not have a huge mess on my hands!)


Above you will see how I laid out the pattern on the striped suiting.  I knew that I had to be careful so I could properly achieve the chevron effect I wanted from the Vogue pattern cover art, but because the stripes are fairly thin and monochromatic, I also knew that I didn't have to be as careful as I would have on a thicker, differently colored stripe.  

I always forget to flop the pieces when doing a single cutting layout.  I cannot tell you how many times I have cut pajama bottoms for my kids and forgotten to flip the piece to the opposite side when cutting the second leg out. Sigh. Unlike the pj bottoms, which you can kind of fudge, these blazer pieces ABSOLUTELY have to be the opposite side.  DO NOT WASTE YOUR FABRIC. (I accidentally cut the second sleeve the same way I cut the first one.  D'oh.  Thank goodness Fabric Mart sent me an extra yard!)

Ann Rowley decided to interface the fabric with plain muslin material to keep her beautiful tweed from stretching, and I loved that idea so I definitely borrowed it.  In the end, the suiting fabric I received from Fabric Mart had enough "bounce back" from the spandex content that I didn't have to use all the interfacing pieces I had cut out, but I still ended up using at least the back piece so there could be an extra bit of structure back there.  Even though my intent was to have a more drapey blazer, I still knew that a good sturdy collar and back piece is a good thing in the long run.  You can see on my pattern piece the red sharpie markings, those are the markings I used to create my interfacing pieces.  (And I am glad to have them for the next one of these jackets I create.)
I had high hopes of starting this project in Mississippi over my Thanksgiving break, but in the end I decided to wait until I got home to my sewing machine. Though my mother-in-law's machine is fine, I really wanted to have the option of two things to make this jacket's construction easier--a straight stitch plate and a walking foot. These two items make working with thin fabrics and fabrics that must be precisely handled so much better.

The straight stitch plate is especially nice for thin fabrics like the lining fabric I used, which was a lightweight poly in a nearly perfect matching shade to the fashion fabric.  If I had tried to use my 9 mm stitch plate, I know for sure that the fabric would have definitely ended up in the 9 mm hole, so having that helped keep my seams perfectly flat and even.  It also really does form a beautiful straight stitch.  I only have one place I topstitched (the inside where the facing and the lining meet), but that stitching is perfect, which I know for a fact I can't do as well on a wider stitch plate hole.  (I will say that I have forgotten to switch the plate out before zigzag stitching, and oops, broken needle.  I try not to make a habit of that.)

The walking foot is just amazing and really does help keep the fabric perfectly aligned when stitching up seams.  In this case, I was able to precisely pin how I wanted the seams to look and most of the seams (where I could), I ended up with a cool chevron effect, just like the cover art of the pattern. 


The one thing I did notice, though, and this is not a bad thing, but it was something I had to work with, the suiting fabric definitely shows every ripple and wrinkle and though it presses easily, it also rumples easily.  Because of this, I *knew* I had to very carefully set in the sleeves so as to avoid the possibility of even more wrinkling that has nothing to do with the fabric and more my sewing.  I know that the more pins you use (and pin in the stitching line--not above it--see this post for more on that), the better your sleeve will set in without any accidental folds or wrinkles.  

I tried it first with the lining fabric and it worked exactly as I wanted it.  I will say I definitely ignored Vogue's directions here.  They wanted me to finish the bodice and lining BEFORE doing up the sleeves, but I knew I wanted to construct two separate jackets and then join them, so I set in four sleeves total (Vogue only sets in the fashion fabric, the lining sleeve is stitched by hand after).  

Practicing with setting in the lining sleeves helped me prepare to set in the suiting fabric sleeves and I have to say, though not amazingly perfect, they look really good compared to many of my prior efforts and I can happily say I set in sleeves without any folds or wrinkles.  (And on a bias jacket!)

Also in regards to the shoulders and sleeves, I am still undecided about the use of shoulder pads.  I have narrow shoulders, but they are squared, so while I am tempted to use them (it would probably help lift the upper bodice bit and prevent some residual fabric "frowns" that are there from my very flat chest), I am not sure I can make them work.  I may just have to buy a pair and try it out.  If it does help, I definitely can get those in after the fact.


I may not have sewn up the lining sleeves the way Vogue intended me to, but that doesn't mean I am scared by hand-stitching.  In fact after communing with my sewing machine as much as I did over the past few days, it was really nice to sit on the couch and watch some reality TV and handstitch my hem in my jacket and the sleeves.  I don't know if this is a *particular* kind of stitch, but it did hide a good amount of the stitching in the lining and the folded over bit of the fashion fabric hem, and it is pretty sturdy on top of it!  I also like that the hand-stitching allowed me to properly ease the top of the hem to the bodice, I often find that bit wider than the part I am attaching it to, and there is always excessive material.  I was able to pull in the thread a bit when needed and gave me an enormous amount of control over the end result.  I have to say I might be a convert.  :-)  (I will still sew up my kids pj bottoms with the machine, though, I am not that much of a convert!)

Once I finished the hems, I was able to place the jacket on my dress form and it was immensely satisfying to try the button on it, fiddle with it a bit, and see the nearly completed product.  

Upon returning home today I was able to press the jacket properly and wear it for the first time for real.  The outfit I am wearing it with is not my favorite, but I like this idea of a straight pair of pants, a sparkly top, and some boots.  But I really can't wait until wear it with a dress, since I know this shorter silhouette will look really nice with a pretty knee-length dress or skirt.  

Overall I had a great time trying this project out.  It really pushed me to try some cool things I never thought I would want to try.  I am not normally a fan of bias cut garments (especially skirts--way too much of the 90s included me wearing that kind of skirt--shudder), but I do really love the way the bias cut allowed the stripes to become chevrons, and I must say the blazer is very comfortable and very drapey.  I definitely loved practicing setting in sleeves, even if it took me FOREVER with all the pins and careful stitching.  I also loved that hand-stitching the hems was relaxing and ended with hems that make me proud.

I see that there are still many gorgeous striped wool suiting fabrics available at Fabric Mart.  I would love to have others join me and make a version of this jacket from those gorgeous fabrics.  I love the effect of the stripes becoming chevrons and definitely could see so many of those fabrics making some really cool patterns when shifted to the bias!







Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Made by a Fabricista: Denim Frenzy by Jenese

Hello Sew Family!

For my first official post with Fabric Mart, I wanted to share with you my Denim Frenzy outfit. There is nothing more timeless than denim. With multiple styles, colors and weight, denim provides endless possibilities to your wardrobe!



The denim used for this outfit is sold out now, but HERE are some other denims available.  I used about 3.5 yards and am in love with the weight of this denim as well as the color. It sews like a dream and can be worn in both warm and cold weather.

My shirt was constructed using Simplicity Pattern 2255. This garment was very easy to construct and from start to finish took my just under 2 hours.  I often have issues finding a denim shirt that fits me correctly.  This was my first attempt at creating my own and I will do so moving forward! I cut this pattern according to my bust size and used 5/8" buttons. No adjustments were made, but I think I will slim the sleeves on my next shirt.





Now for the pants!  I wanted to expand on my options for pants (I often draft my own).  I have owned Vogue 1416 since it was released and purchased it specifically for the pants.  I love the seamless waist and the welt pockets.  While welt pockets tend to be difficult for most, practice has proven beneficial for me.  I did not agree with the method creating the welts as per the instructions as there are many resources on youtube which makes the process of adding these pockets fairly easy.  None the less, I created a tutorial for the pants as per the pattern instructions to ensure they came out just right!  If you have never work with welt pockets, do your research and practice on scraps!

Check out the Tutorial Video: 







I wore this outfit to my sewing group's meet up and everyone loved it.  I find joy in getting compliments on my garments of which I follow up with "Thank you, I made it" woot woot!

I hope you love this outfit as much as I do, I will definitely be using both patterns again.  Until Next time..... MUAH!

~ Jenese from Needles and Fashion

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Made by a Fabricista: A Dress for the Holidays


Every December I want to sew up at least one dress I can wear to holiday escapades and even wear in those official annual family photos with the official fancy photographer.  I assumed it was going to be red this year but this decadent green cashmere/viscose knit (sold out now) grabbed my eyeballs immediately while shopping Fabric Mart's site. It's a drapey, super soft knit that moves like a dream.  The inspiration for my dress was drawn from two gorgeous dresses, one from Pucci and another from Issa (the blue version of this dress was made wildy famous by the Duchess of Cambridge as her engagement dress.)


Viscose is simply another term for rayon, and I've sewn up innumerable rayon knits before, but this one made me very nervous since it was labeled "dry clean" AND it's a cashmere knit-- this is the unicorn of fabrics and it's not easy to purchase yardage otherwise.  But still I decided to pre-treat my fabric at home after doing a swatch test!  I cut out two identical 6x6" swatches, gently soaked one in cool water with a couple drops of mild detergent for 20 minutes, then laid it flat to dry.  To no surprise it shrunk some, but the quality of the material was unaltered!  I also tested out the swatches to confirm this fabric presses best at a very low dry wool setting with a press cloth.  As for the actual sewing, this stuff went right through my machine and serger no problems at all.  None.  I used a walking foot on my sewing machine and ball point needles on both.



I used Vogue 8921, View B for my pattern. I cut my standard size of 16 but did not need to grade the skirt up by two sizes like I'd normally do to fit my figure-- the skirt is quite full with all of the pleating detail.  I also didn't need to lengthen the bodice, skirt or sleeves like I normally would being 5'8" (two inches taller then what Vogue drafts for.)  I made a swayback adjustment on the back waist seam on my paper pattern before cutting.  I stabilized my shoulder seams with Pellon Easy Knit Tape.  



This fabric is a little more sheer than I wanted for a dress so I had to underline it.  I cut a second set of all the pattern pieces (excluding the sleeves) basted them together and then treated the joined materials as a one piece of fabric.  I had *just* enough to underline the skirt but went to my stash and found a grey rayon for the bodice that has a similar hand and weight as my main fabric.  You can see all the innards of it in the pic above, I just threw it on inside out on my dress form.  I used my serger, but I basted the front center bodice seam with my regular sewing machine instead to prevent the bulk of a serged seam.  I also excluded the unnecessary zipper in back.


The material has this very, very slight sheen to it reflecting its intense shade of green in such a lovely way-- I hoped my amateur photography skills had captured that and would show up on a screen. I can't lie, this dress is as comfortable as pajamas, it's true.  I would run and skip if I weren't wearing heels, but I'm much too lady-like for that.


~Kathy from KathySews

What are you sewing for the holidays?