WIP Frocktails skirt with Marimekko fabric

My Frocktails skirt is slowly coming together. I haven’t worked on it very much over the past few weeks and now I’ve got to finish it by Saturday – when the Bay Area Sewists Frocktails in February event is happening.

This was my #SewFrosting project that I started in January. I sewed the pleats in the back about a month ago. Here’s what the back initially looked like when I basted the pleats. You can see bits of white thread that I used.

WIP Frocktails Skirt - Marimekko fabric - back inverted box pleats - CSews.com

But I decided not to sew all the way down the red fabric. Instead I sewed about 2/3 of the way down and the back now looks like this.

Frocktails skirt - inverted box pleats on the back- CSews.com

I pinned the ribbons in place to see how it would look and then realized that the Petersham ribbon is a bit stiff and quite wide (2 inches, ~7.5 cm), it would be hard to bring the two sides close together. I chose Petersham ribbon because when I tied it, it would stay tied. The problem with a satin ribbon is that it’s rather slippery.

Ribbon tie for Frocktails skirt - Marimekko fabric - CSews.com

So I decided to fold the ribbon in thirds and then sew it to the top piece. Before I sewed the pleats with the ribbon ends inside, I fused some interfacing on the wrong side of the fabric to give it some extra support.

Frocktails skirt - ribbon at waist - CSews.com

It took me a long time to figure out how I wanted to place the pleats in the front. I needed to have some extra fabric for an adjustable waist – but not too much fabric or the waist would be too loose. (See my Chardon Skirt with adjustable waist.) So I played around with how deep those last two center pleats would be and how far apart to place them. I finally put them about 8.5 inches (~21.5 cm) apart.

Frocktails skirt - ribbon at waist sewn into inverted box pleats - CSews.com

I don’t have a dress form so I spent some time looking at different placements in front of my bathroom mirror. I mostly make garments from existing sewing patterns so I really didn’t need a dress form. Plus I don’t have space in my apartment to store a dress form.

However, this is a skirt that I’ve drafted and it would have been helpful to play arond with the pleats on a dress form.

I decided at the last minute to have a facing because I want the top of the skirt to have some body and it will also look more tidy on the inside. So I drafted a facing over the weekend and I’ll attach some lining to it. The box pleats are rather deep and I’d like to cover them up.

Here’s what’s left to do:

  • buy lining fabric (red? purple?)
  • attach lining fabric to facing
  • sew facing/lining to skirt
  • decide on whether to add an invisible zipper to the side
  • hem the lining
  • hem the skirt

If I can do a little bit every day I should be able to finish this by Saturday. How long does it usually take you to finish a project? I feel like this WIP Frocktails skirt is taking forever.

I also promised my husband I would help fix a sweater of his. I’m hand sewing suede elbow patches to a favorite sweater. I finished one patch yesterday – one more to go!

Building a Sewing Community and Meetup Togetherfest

Hi, as some of you may know, I’m the organizer of the Bay Area Sewists Meetup group. Since 2014, I’ve planned and organized monthly meetups for people who enjoy sewing. Along the way, I’ve met many wonderful people who are part of a vibrant sewing community in the Bay Area.

I’ve also developed relationships with local businesses that offer our members discounts on sewing studio memberships (Hello Stitch in Berkeley and Sips N Sews in San Francisco), discounts at their fabric stores (Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics on our Berkeley meetups days and Britex Fabrics when we meet there) or discounts on classes and merchandise (The Sewing Room in Alameda). They have also donated raffle prizes to our annual Frocktails in February event.

Bay Area Sewists - a sewing community - at Hello Stitch and Sips N Sews

Bay Area Sewists members range in expertise from beginning sewists to expert costumers and sewing instructors, such as Beth Galvin who blogs at SunnyGal Studios and teaches at Hello Stitch and Jennifer Serr who teaches apparel sewing to kids and adults at The Sewing Room. We’ve had meetups for fabric and pattern swaps, sewing workshops, fitting meetups, frocktails and indigo dyeing.

At our events, I’ve held raffles with various prizes, including Japanese sewing books from Tuttle Publishing and sewing patterns solicited from various indie designers, such as 100 Acts of Sewing, By Hand London, Blueprints for Sewing, Bonjour Teaspoon, Cashmerette, Christine Haynes, Green Bee Patterns, Kate & Rose, Sew Liberated, Sewaholic, and Thread Theory.

Bay Area Sewists members have also offered sewing books, sewing magazines, new sewing patterns, and thread catchers to give away. They have also been a great resource for ideas for future meetups. People in the sewing community are generous and genuinely helpful.

Bay Area Sewists - a sewing community - Meetups in 2018

Bay Area Sewists started in 2012 by Meg of Made by Meg. She stepped down at the end of 2013 and I volunteered to be the next organizer. You can read my 2014 blog post about the first Bay Area Sewists meetup I organized – a pattern swap. (You can see our past meetups here.)

Bay Area Sewists - a sewing community - Meetup at Sips N Sews

I love meeting people who sew. And we do have a couple of male members. In the above photo, see if you can spot Michael, who blogs at Line of Selvage (in the back row under the “NS” of Notions).

If you are ever in the Bay Area and would like to attend one of our sewing meetups, please let me know. Most of our meetups are free to attend. I like to think of the sewing community as a global community.

Since February 2014, I’ve organized more than 40 meetups. Apparently, Meetup noticed that we consistently meet and people show up. In March 2018 I got an email from Meetup inviting me to attend the first annual Meetup Togetherfest in New York! Here’s part of that email:

Meetup Togetherfest

I was so very surprised and deeply honored to get the invitation. The email also said: “There are over 230,000 Meetup Organizers around the world, but this year we only have space for 150.” 

Wow. Who knew there were so many organizers?!

I have family on the East Coast in New Jersey, so I immediately replied YES, and planned to spend a week on the East Coast, two of those days in NYC with Meetup organizers.

Meetup paid for a two-night stay in New York – Thursday and Friday, April 19 and 20 – we just had to make our way to the Big Apple. Here’s Meetup’s brief Medium blog post about Togetherfest. It was wonderful to meet organizers from around the world. I met people from Berlin, Brisbane, Delhi, Dublin, London, Melbourne, Sydney, Toronto and from all over the United States – Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, etc.

When I explained to people that I was the organizer for the Bay Area Sewists, I realized that people weren’t familiar with the word “sewist.” So I usually added, “people who like to sew.” Then people seemed to think that we got together with our sewing machines at every meetup. I explained that we didn’t sew at every meetup but the events usually focused on some aspect of sewing apparel (fabric, patterns, sewing techniques).

Meetup Togetherfest

On our first day, we got a tour of Meetup Headquarters, with Meetup folks telling us about what they did in their various departments. They had photographers documenting the event so we didn’t have to.

Tour of Meetup headquarters

They also asked us to take post-its and write one positive thing about our Meetup experience as organizers and one pain point. Here I am writing about my problem with members not being able to rejoin the group after their membership expires.

Chuleenan at post-it wall

We also spent part of the afternoon in small groups, with each group trying to solve a riddle – fun but really cold. My group was outdoors most of the time, going to various locations, where we were to find an actor playing a role and ask him or her questions. It was in the 40s, chilly and windy. Here we are downtown in the financial district. I’m wearing my teal Sapporo Coat but I was still cold. I didn’t bring enough layers.

Meetup Togetherfest - small group photo

When we got back to Meetup HQ, we had dozens of New York pizzas waiting for us. I gorged on the pizza. Here are just a few of the pizza pies they served us. Yum!

New York Pizza

What was the point of this two-day event? Well, according to the booklet in our swag bag, Scott Heiferman, the co-founder and CEO of Meetup, he had the idea of holding a “global gathering of great Meetup organizers for a long time.” He wanted to give us the opportunity to share our stories and to “be inspired by others’ Meetup stories.”

I was certainly inspired by other Meetup organizers. I met organizers of groups focused on hiking, writing, photography walks, programming, dads in the city, real estate, you name it. I didn’t meet any other sewing Meetup organizers so I guess I was it. 😉

Some Meetup organizers meet weekly or even more than once a week! I was pretty amazed that some groups met so often but those were often large groups (thousands of members) with multiple organizers so they took turns organizing various events. I met the organizer for Fierce Friends of Phoenix, an LGBTQ group, that has become a nonprofit organization.

I admit I was felt a little insecure comparing the size of Bay Area Sewists (less than 150 members) to groups boasting 8,000+ members. I wondered if the size of a group affected the algorithm. (Yes, Meetup uses an algorithm that picks which meetups to feature in your local area.) Luckily, I was able to buttonhole Meetup’s Chief Operating Officer and ask her if that was a factor. She said, no, what’s more important is that you meet regularly and that people show up. And, in fact, some of the smaller groups are more successful than the very large groups.

I met people who organize multiple groups, like DeRM from the Bronx (pictured below), who runs a Taco Night Meetup in NY and co-organizes three other meetups – MMA in NYC, Foolinary Culinary and the New York City Organizers group.

Derm, organizer of 4 Meetup groups

Throughout the event, in between sessions about Meetup features and hearing from the Meetup and WeWork CEOs (WeWork acquired Meetup last fall), we got to hear from individual organizers about their Meetups. Some had moving stories to tell about how their group had an impact on people’s lives, how they gave back to their local communities or their group grew from one chapter to many chapters throughout the country.

The second day we spent at Industria, an event space in the West Village. It had a large open space and smaller rooms for breakout sessions about everything from using the apps and Meetup Pro to hosting at WeWork and making the website work. We had to pick two sessions we wanted to attend. I learned that Meetup Pro starts at $30/month and seems aimed more at people whose Meetup group is a business for them. At the website session, I also got a chance to tell the Chief Operating Officer about the problems people rejoining the Bay Area Sewists group after Meetup’s redesign. Apparently, the redesign was focused on the member user experience, not the organizer’s user experience. They are working on making it a better experience for organizers.

One of the last sessions involved all the organizers in the room and Priya Parker (seated in the center chair below), who led a thoughtful discussion about the process of gathering, what happens at the beginning middle and end of a meetup.

Priya Parker talking about the process of gathering

Here’s Priya signing copies of her book, The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters (Amazon affiliate link). Meetup got copies for all the attendees. Thank you, Meetup!

Priya Parker

I’m still processing the experience and figuring out what I’d like to incorporate into the Bay Area Sewists Meetups. Our group is small because I charge annual dues, which means that after the three-month trial period, you either have to pay the dues ($15/year) or Meetup automatically removes you from the group. This means that only people who are genuinely interested in attending a meetup remain in the group. I like our small size – small but mighty.

Thank you Meetup for a great experience and thank you Bay Area Sewists members for coming to the meetups, building a sewing community, sharing ideas and inspiring me to keep organizing!

Sewing pattern organization

Sewing Patterns - Bay Area Sewists meetup

Bay Area Sewists had a pattern swap meetup in February. Members brought many patterns – vintage, indie, Big 4, and more. This photo is just a few of the many dress patterns people brought. After the swap part was over, we had a brief discussion of sewing pattern organization.

I’m the organizer for the group so when people RSVP’d for the meetup, I asked them how they organized their sewing patterns. Then I compiled and consolidated their answers and put them into a handout that I passed out to everyone. Here’s the list of answers, in no particular order:

  • Digitally using Evernote
  • Once a pattern is cut it goes in a manila envelope since its impossible to get back in the pattern envelope after changes are made to the pattern!
  • In comic book bags, in pattern boxes, some self-made.
  • Use gallon ziplock log bags
  • In an art bin I got from the container store.
  • Binder with clear sleeves for the envelopes so can “look through the book” for ideas. The “guts” then go into plain envelopes marked with the pattern number in a drawer, filed by type of pattern (tops, knit; tops woven; dresses;
    coordinates; etc.).
  • In drawers and baskets. I display the patterns want to sew next so I can see them in my sewing area.
  • File folders with the cut-open pattern envelope taped to the outside
    PDF files, use pattern hooks to keep mine hanging on the clothes rack. Alternatively, I also fold them and place them in manila envelopes.
  • No real organization for printed patterns, but digital ones are in folders on google docs.
  • Plastic bins for the physical patterns, one for dresses, one for tops, one for skirts and pants, one for other. Pattern Review “My Stash” for reference.
  • I keep them in cardboard boxes I bought from IKEA 10 years ago.
  • In a large box.
  • Binders and filing cabinet digital ones are in folders on google docs.
  • By pattern maker in Dritz boxes, and one small crate with patterns I plan to make “soon.” All indie, craft, and children’s patterns in separate spots.
  • By type of pattern and sometimes by size physically organized by pattern company.

Bay Area Sewists member Ali explained how she used Evernote and then wrote a brief description on the meetup page for the pattern swap. (Note: There’s a free and paid version of Evernote.) Here are Ali’s Evernote tips:

  1. I use three apps on my (Android) phone to do this, the Evernote app, my phone’s photo app, and a photo resizer app called “Photo & Picture Resizer”
  2. Take two pictures, the front of the pattern and the back of the pattern BUT the trick is to take a full frame photo of the front and back up the camera a bit for the pattern back. This is important bc you’ll want to crop the pattern back photo so its smaller in dimension vs the front. THIS will ensure the thumbnail in Evernote will be the pattern front!
  3. Use photo resizer app to reduce the file size for each photo, and in addition, crop the pattern back photos.
  4. Upload the photos to Evernote. Each note is a pattern. Use tags on each note ex: “Burda”, “knit”, “dress” for easy searching later!

If you want a more detailed description of using Evernote, check out this post Create a Sewing Pattern Catalog – Evernote for Crafters by Beth of Sew DIY.

How do you organize your sewing patterns? I put patterns I’ve traced from books in large manila envelopes labeled with the title of the book, followed by the name of the pattern. For other patterns I’ve traced, such as the Anna Dress below, I put the traced pieces in the plastic bag behind the paper pattern.

Sewing pattern organization - evnelopes and clear plastic bags

For Big Four or other paper patterns, I obsessively refold the patterns along the factory folds and put them back in the envelope – unless it’s a vintage pattern that was mistreated by the previous owner, such as the Vogue pattern above. In that case, I try to neatly fold the pattern pieces and then I put them in a clear plastic bags along with the envelope and instructions.

I get the plastic bags from Daiso, a Japanese variety store that sells a pack for $1.50. I forget how many are in a pack (25?). There’s a Daiso in downtown San Francisco on Market Street and one in Berkeley on Telegraph Ave.

How do you organize your sewing patterns? A few members mentioned Pattern Review‘s Pattern Stash feature. I’m thinking of using Evernote but I know it will take a while to take photos of every pattern.

Happy sewing!

Sewing patterns swap – Bay Area Sewists

Bay Area Sewists - pattern swap on 27 February 2016

The Bay Area Sewists meetup group had a big sewing patterns swap at the end of February. (You can read the meetup description here.) Everyone brought patterns they wanted to give away and they also had the chance to take home sewing patterns that were new to them. We had a big turnout and a huge array of patterns available – everything from menswear and dresses to coats and crafts. We also had many vintage sewing patterns courtesy of a member whose neighbor gave her a pile of them! I think we had nearly every decade from the 1950s to the 2000s represented!

Pattern swap - Bay Area Sewists meetup group

These photos are just a sampling of some of the sewing patterns at the swap. I took these photos after many patterns had already been selected. We had a ton of dress patterns. For some reason that always seems to be the category with the most patterns. They fill up two tables.

I’m the organizer for the group and created the format for the pattern swap: We have four rounds of choosing. If you brought at least three sewing patterns to the swap, you can participate in each round, and choose one pattern per round. Each round lasts the length of a song on my phone. 😉 The fourth (and last) round is a free-for-all – everyone can take as many patterns as they want. So even if you didn’t bring any sewing patterns, you still have an opportunity come home with a stack of patterns.

For each pattern you bring, you get one entry to the giveaway drawings. At this meetup, we had three giveaways: Sonya Philips’s 100 Acts of Sewing pants pattern (thanks for donating the pattern, Sonya!) and the book Subversive Seamster and a thread catcher, both donated by members. I donate the leftover patterns to the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse in Oakland.

100 Acts of Sewing and Subversive Seamster giveaway

I brought about 10 sewing patterns and came home with these three – a skirt pattern by Disparate Disciplines – now called Seamster Patterns – and these two vintage patterns – one Simplicity (love the neckline on the dress!) and this vintage Butterick, which is actually a maternity pattern. Whoops – didn’t notice that until I came home!

Sewing patterns from Bay Area Sewists pattern swap

We hold our pattern swap and fabric swap at the Berkeley Public Library. The library has a great community meeting room that’s free for Berkeley residents to use once a month. It has all these tables on wheels that are so easy to set up. I love the library!

We also had a brief discussion about pattern organization after the swap was over. I’ll put that information in another post – otherwise this post will be really long.

So I’ll close with our group photo. We all had a great time – as you can see from the smiling faces. Happy Sewing everyone!

Bay Area Sewists group photo - pattern swap


Quick Tips on Sewing Knits

Hi, Bay Area Sewists had a fun meetup in September at Sips N Sews to talk about sewing knit fabrics. Members brought (or wore) things they made from knits and shared their tips on sewing knits. Sorry the photos aren’t very good! I was listening to what people said, nearly forgot about taking photos – and took these on my phone at the last minute. Here’s a recap of that discussion, which I moderated:

Selecting knit fabrics
If you’re making a knit skirt or pants you’ll want to select a knit fabric with a little lycra in it so it’ll have nice recovery and won’t get easily stretched out. How do you know if there’s lycra in it? Check the fabric content or stretch it out a little and see how it bounces back. If it goes quickly back to its original shape, it’s got some lycra in it. A 100% cotton knit can get stretched out. Rayon knits can sometimes pill or get worn out easily. So take care when you wash them. Avoid the dryer to get more longevity from your garment.

Ali really liked this Art Gallery knit she got from Hawthorne Threads to make a knit top, which she brought to show members. She’s also wearing a top she made. (You can see more of the things she sews on her Instagram account @sewsmboncha.)

Art Gallery knit - Bay Area Sewists

Ali says this knit fabric was very easy to sew. It’s 95% cotton, 5% spandex and was designed by Maureen Cracknell from her Wild and Free Knit collection. You can order it here. This is a photo I took of the fabric.

Art Gallery knit fabric - Bay Area Sewists - csews.com

Preparing knit fabrics 
Before you cut your fabric, you should prewash it to avoid shrinking your completed garment after you wash it. One member said that when she didn’t prewash her knit fabric the bust darts moved up a few inches so they were above her bust. Cotton knits will shrink so definitely prewash them.

Erin - Bay Area Sewists
Erin of Dress a Day
Cutting knit fabrics
If you’re having trouble cutting a fabric because it’s slippery or lightweight, Erin of Dress a Day recommends Sullivans 120 Fabric Stabilizer spray, which you can get on Amazon. “It makes fabric cut like paper,” says Erin, who wore a dress she made. But she recommends spraying it outside, not indoors, because of the fumes. Also, she notes that it can’t be shipped via Amazon Prime because it must be shipped by ground, not air. Erin says it washes out and she hasn’t had any problems with it.

Use pattern weights to hold down your pattern pieces to the fabric – or you can use pins. If you use pins, before you cut your fabric, flip over each pattern piece to make sure the bottom piece of fabric is laying flat and you don’t have any extra fabric caught under the pin.

I usually cut knits with scissors because I’m not so confident with my rotary cutting skills. If you do use a rotary cutter, members recommended using the smaller size blade (28 mm) as well as a straight edge and a french curve to help you cut. And don’t forget to use a self-healing cutting mat under your fabric!

If you have any other tips for cutting knits, please let me know!

Sewing knits
On a sewing machines, use a zig zag stitch or the lightening bolt stitch. (Note: it isn’t easy to unpick the lightening bolt stitch.) You can also experiment with trying a longer regular straight stitch and slightly stretching your fabric as  you sew. Then your stitches will stretch with the fabric and won’t pop. Always test the tension on knit fabric scraps before you start sewing your garment.

If you have a serger, you can just serge your seams.

You can also hand sew knits – just look at the some of the hand sewn knit garments designed by Natalie Chanin of Alabama Chanin or check out her books. Romy is wearing a navy dress she made with some Alabama Chanin hand sewn embellishments on the bodice.

Romy - Alabama Chanin blue dress - Bay Area Sewists
Romy wearing her Alabama Chanin dress

She also brought the Alabama Chanin dress she’s working on. This is one panel of the dress.

Romy's Alabama Chanin dress

One member asked: How do you prevent a lightweight knit from getting eaten by your sewing machine? Jill suggested putting a piece of painter’s tape on the throat place where the needle goes. Then only the needle will go through this small area and nothing else.

Making adjustments to a knit pattern
Beth, who blogs at SunnyGal Studio and for Craftsy, wore a knit top she made from a Jalie pattern. I think  she’s wearing the Jalie Women’s T-Shirt pattern. Jalie has many patterns for knit tops, which you can see here.

Beth wearing Jalie top

Beth discussed fitting and adjusting patterns for knits. For example, if you wanted to change the neckline, what do you do about the neck binding? Beth mentioned that Threads has a really good video by Sarah Veblen about a neckline binding for knits. You can see the video here. Beth mentioned that there are certain points where you want to stretch the binding a little more to get it to fit right. I watched the video and it’s really helpful, showing you exactly how to sew a binding on a curved neckline. I’m sure I’ll be watching it again and again.

To check pattern fit, Beth recommends measuring the circumference of the pattern. For example, measure the front and back pattern pieces of a top around the bust area. Compare that measurement to your measurement to give yourself an idea of how much ease there is. Also, if you know that it will be too tight around the armhole, Beth suggests adding a little more ease to the back pattern piece around the armhole. And don’t forget to add that same amount to the sleeve.

At this meetup, we held a pattern giveaway for two indie patterns – the Blueprints for Sewing A-Frame skirt and the Rose Hip Tights by Seamster Patterns. Thanks to Taylor and Mari for donating their patterns for our giveaway! (I bought the A-Frame pattern in June and finished it just in time to enter it in the Everyday Casual Sewalong Contest – and won! You can read about it here.)

Bay Area Sewists at Sips N Sews

The meetup was a lot of fun, plus we learned a lot! If you have any knit tips to share, please let me know! And if you live in the Bay Area, please visit our meetup page and consider joining the group.

Happy sewing!


Adjusting patterns – fitting the back

Hi, I hope you’re enjoying your summer – or whatever season is happening in your part of the world! We’ve had some warm weather this month in California, too warm in some parts of the state but great weather for sleeveless dresses and strappy sandals.

Earlier this month, I had a lot of fun at a Bay Area Sewists meetup on adjusting patterns. We met in the spacious, well-lit classroom space of Lacis in Berkeley. We were fortunate to have in attendance a member, Kathleen (a technical designer for Old Navy), who enjoys fitting and adjusting patterns for herself and her friends. She explained to us how we should always look at how each change affects the overall balance of a garment.

Adjust patterns - Lacis - Bay Area Sewists - csews.com

The pattern changes I usually make are a small bust adjustment, wide shoulder adjustment, and grading up in the hips. What pattern adjustments do you usually make?

I admit that I don’t usually pay much attention to the back. But I did make a pattern adjustment to the back of the sleeveless dress I made for Spring for Cotton. It was gaping a little in the back neckline so I had to bring it in slightly. I just happened to notice the gaping in the mirror when I tried on my muslin.

Kathleen made me realize how important it is to make incremental pattern adjustments. I saw first-hand how adjustments to the back can affect the front.

I brought the muslin I made several months ago for this vintage Vogue pattern. I searched my blog to figure out when I started this muslin. I think I made the muslin last December and I traced the pattern in October. Wow – how time flies!

Vintage Vogue 8343 dress patter - csews.com

This is a dress for knit fabrics and I have some lovely wool jersey from Britex Fabrics to make it. I used this brown synthetic jersey fabric I had in my stash. I think I got it at Discount Fabrics in Berkeley about four or five years ago with the intention of making an Alabama Chanin garment.

This pattern has princess seams so my automatic response was, oh, I can make the bust fit better by bringing in the princess seams – an easy adjustment. There are four pattern pieces for the front – two front center and two side front. The back has two side back and two center back pieces. I’m going to color block this dress using a rose and a black wool jersey.

Here’s a photo I took at the end of Dec. It’s a bit loose in the bust area. The only adjustment I made to the pattern was to lower the armholes, which seemed a bit high.

Knit muslin - princess seams - csews.com

Kathleen’s first adjustments to my muslin were to the back. This pattern has a center back zip – try to ignore the sloppy construction – I installed the zip but didn’t bother stabilizing it (lazy!). I confess I didn’t really look at the back when I sewed this up. As you can see, Kathleen pinned two areas on the back. The top adjustment was quite small 1/8 inch at the zip and taping off into the shoulder area. The mid-back adjustment goes across two pattern pieces – center back and side back.

Adjusting back - knit dress - Bay Area Sewists - csews.com

And voila! The front left (my right) fits perfectly as a result of the back adjustment. This was like magic.  Then I’ll add to the front what was subtracted from the back.

Front view - knit muslin - Bay Area Sewists - csews.com

Kathleen transferred the adjustments to the pattern. She likes to fold the pattern – as opposed to cutting it – to make these adjustments. I like this idea because you can easily undo the adjustment. Just remove the tape. In the photo below, she folded the pattern for the top adjustment near the neck.

Transfer pattern adjustments - Bay Area Sewists - csews.com

Here’s Kathleen pinning adjustments to someone else’s garment…

Adjusting patterns - fitting the back - Bay Area Sewists - csews.com

… and transferring them to the pattern pieces.

If you don’t have anyone handy to pin your garment or someone who really wouldn’t know what to do with a pin other than poke you, Kathleen suggests asking them to take photos of you wearing your muslin. Take photos of the front, back, and sides. Then you can at least look at the photos and see where you can make adjustments. If you don’t have a friend or partner handy, you can always use the timer on your camera  😉 As you make your adjustments, take photos of all sides to see how they affect the garment overall.

While we were at Lacis, Jules Kliot, the owner of Lacis, stopped by and invited us to have a sneak preview of Lacis’s beautiful September exhibit on netting and filet lace. It’s quite stunning. The netting on view are works of art created by netting and embroidery on the netting, which is created by knots similar to the technique used to create fish nets (read more about filet lace here).

You can see a slide show of the exhibit here. The show opens on Sept. 26 and will be on view until Sept. 3, 2016 – nearly a year so if you live in the Bay Area you’ll have plenty of time to check it out.

Lacis exhibit -Netting - csews.com

Happy sewing!



Tips on Sewing Tricky Fabrics


Have you sewed any lightweight silk or slippery fabrics? The Bay Area Sewists meetup group met at Britex Fabrics this weekend to discuss sewing tricky fabrics. This is the second time we’ve held this meetup. There was a wait list for the first one we held last fall (see Fiddly Fabrics & More…). So I thought it would be a good idea to repeat this meetup.

Once again we were fortunate to have Douglas, the store’s very experienced sales associate, discuss his tips and his experience sewing fabrics, such as silk chiffon and charmeuse. And of course, it’s always fabulous to meet at Britex, which has a wide range of gorgeous fabrics.

Britex Fabrics - Bay Area Sewists  metup - csews.com

What follows are my notes, Bay Area Sewist members’ questions and comments, and my observations.

Sewing tricky fabrics - silk chiffon, charmeuse - Bay Area Sewists meetup - csews.com

Douglas picked out silk chiffon for us to look at. His tips for sewing delicate fabrics  – as well as some suggested by Bay Area Sewists members attending this meetup – are as follows:

Use entomology pins, which are extremely fine pins used to pin insects (yep, if you want to pin a butterfly, you use these pins). A friend of his recently returned from London and brought back some of those pines and Douglas noticed that the box said they could also be used for “fine fabrics.” I did a quick search and found this naturalist store, The Compleat Naturalist, selling a box of 100 insect pins for $7.95. The pins are coated in black enamel, which prevents them from rusting. Douglas said to get the finest size. Merchant & Mills also sells them here for £6.00. Douglas warned that you need to be careful using the fine pine because they are so sharp, they will just go through your skin.

If you’re sewing charmeuse, pin everything, says Douglas.

To hem a silk scarf, Douglas says you could use a very thin line of stitch witchery to hold the hem in place and then sew it with silk thread. He says do not use silk thread for garment sewing because the thread is so strong, the fabric will tear before the thread does. There is no “give” to silk thread.

To cut silk and slippery fabrics, Douglas recommends putting a layer tissue paper on your cutting table, place your fabric on top, then your pattern paper, pin and cut. The cheap tissue paper you can get at the drug store, the stuff some department stores put around your purchases before they put them in a bag. I mentioned this in my post on the earlier meetup – so this may seem familiar if you’ve already read that post. Do not remove the tissue paper before you sew. Keep it in place and sew through your fabric and the tissue paper. This will help stabilize your fabric.

Silk chiffon - Bay Area Sewists - csews.comDouglas pads his cutting table so he can pin the fabric through his pad. What’s in his pad? He uses several layers of cotton on top of foam. One Bay Area Sewists member mentioned that you could get a piece of foam core and pin through that. And I just saw a tip the other day on Sew Busy Lizzy‘s Instagram feed (@sewbusylizzy) – put a blanket on your cutting table before cutting slippery and heavy fabric – don’t cut through the blanket though! It stops the fabric from sliding around.

Scissors or rotary cutter? Douglas uses a rotary cutter around curves, scissors for straight lines.

To install a zipper in chiffon – Douglas says to put a strip of organza where the zipper goes. I asked him if he would recommend using a lightweight fusible as well and he said no, the organza was enough.

What about sewing together two slippery pieces of silk along a curve, for example, a armhole? Douglas say to cut a strip of organza (on grain, not on the bias or it will give you trouble) and sew it together. And don’t forget to clip the curve.

At the end of Douglas’s talk, we convened upstairs to discuss some of our experiences sewing these fabrics. Bay Area Sewists member Emily used silk charmeuse to make her wedding dress from the By Hand London Flora Dress pattern. She laid out her fabric on the floor, sandwiching the charmeuse between two layers of tissue paper (a layer of tissue paper, silk charmeuse, tissue paper, then pattern pieces). Emily blogs at Dressing the Role, where you can read more about her dress here.

Emily talking about cutting silk charmeuse - Bay Area Sewists - csews.com

Sewing Knits

Douglas showed us some lightweight plum wool jersey. You could see through it. He says you could line with Bemberg cut on the bias.

To sew it, your could use a longer straight stitch gently stretching the fabric as you sew, a stretch stitch, or a shallow zig zag stitch. For tips on sewing knits on a regular sewing machine, see this Tilly & the Buttons post. Also, see Sewaholic’s list of tips for sewing knits.

Lightweight wool jersey - Bay Area Sewists meetup - csews.com

Fabric that Unravels

How do you cut fabric that unravels very easily? Douglas says take some scotch tape (regular invisible tape), put it on your fabric and then cut through the tape. He showed us two samples of fabric made with raffia. You can’t wash this fabric though – you can only spot clean it. You could make a really interesting coat from this fabric.

Raffia fabric - Bay Area Sewists meetup - csews.comRaffia fabric - Bay Area Sewists meetup - csews.com

Fabric Care

Prewash silk with shampoo. Silk is a protein so wash with shampoo in warm water. Cold water can make the fabric stiffer. Douglas says he uses Pert and dries it in the dryer – “no heat” setting. Air drying is also fine.

You may want to test a small piece of your fabric and see how it reacts. If it changes too much, then you may just want to dry clean it. I did an experiment a couple of years ago on prewashing some silk chiffon, which I have yet to sew. Here are my test results using cold water, luke warm water, and water plus vinegar.

Someone asked about Woolite and Douglas does not recommend it. He says if you look at the ingredients – bleach is one of them. So you are making your clothes lighter by using Woolite. Yikes.

Other Tips

When we went upstairs to continue the discussion among the members, here’s what else came up:

Use a Teflon foot for sewing sticky fabrics, leather, performance fabrics, fabrics that stick to your finger when you press on them.

If you wash something and the color bleeds where it shouldn’t, wash it again with a “color catcher.” You can find it in the grocery aisle in the dryer section, according to Emily, who says it will pick up the extra dye.

If you have any tips for sewing tricky fabrics, please share them in the comments section!

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Learning about Lace at Britex Fabrics

Hi, I hope you had a great weekend – even if it did snow on the first day of spring on the East Coast! I had a great time with the Bay Area Sewists on Saturday. We got together to Learn about Lace at Britex Fabrics! Waring: This is a really long post with tons of photos and at the very end, a link to a fantastic list of tutorials compiled by Natalie Wiener, the notions floor manager at Britex Fabrics. Natalie was our lace guide and gathered many examples of lace to present a brief overview of lace, including working with lace.

Lace at Britex Fabrics Bay Area Sewists - csews.com

Natalie makes historical costumes and over the years has become quite an expert on lace. And of course, she wore a beautiful lace dress that day as you can see in the photo below.

hair extensions

We met on the fourth floor of Britex (yes, there are four floors to Britex), where you’ll find oil cloth, fake fur, felt, leather, vinyl, remnants, and more. We were initially supposed to meet on the first floor but it was getting too crowded so we went up to the fourth floor, which has a bit more open space. Natalie had gathered bolts of lace and yards of lace notions to show us the different types of lace available at Britex – everything from imported French lace to stretch lace.

Here are some of my notes and photos from our meetup. (Any errors are mine so if you have any corrections, please let me know!)

Natalie began with Chantilly lace, a delicate, soft spiderweb lace whose name comes from the city of Chantilly, France. She’s holding a pretty orange Chantilly lace…

Chantilly lace - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

.. and here a black Chantilly lace. It’s quite delicate looking, isn’t it?

Black Chantilly lace - Brritex Fabrics - csews.com

She said that France still makes the best lace. Chantilly lace is made using 19th century looms and they come in narrow fixed widths that are determined by the size of the loom, with 36 inches being the widest. One of the characteristics of these handmade laces is the eyelash fringe on the edges of the lace. There is also machine-made lace that imitates Chantilly – even down to the eyelash fringe. Some are quite good and of course, more affordable.

Here’s an example of Alençon lace. This is a type of lace you’ll see with bridal or evening wear. Here are a few Alençon laces that Britex sells online (more available in the store). Natalie’s hand is on the eyelash fringe on the right. She referred to the wider laces like this as “all-over lace.”

Alencon lace - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

She explained that the loom creates a ladder at the edges and when you cut it off, it creates the eyelash. (Sorry this is an inadequate explanation but that’s what I scribbled in my notes.)

This is a lace with eyelash fringe – but I think this lace is machine-made rather than hand loomed. But they put the fringe on the edges to make it seem more high-end. It really does look like an eyelash on the scalloped edge, doesn’t it?

Eyelash fringe on lace - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

Handmade Alencon lace can be insanely expensive, which you can read about in this Alencon Lace post on a Visit Normandy blog (7 hours to produce 1 cm! Wow.).

Here’s a red and black re-embroidered lace. It’s a lace with red cord embroidered on a fine black background.

Red Re-embroidered lace - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

This lace has a green net background and doesn’t have any edging.

Eyelash fringe on lace - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

This dark grey lace is an example of a Guipure lace, which doesn’t have a mesh background.

Guipure lace - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

Here’s a lace with a Chantilly pattern with roses and sequins.

Chantilly lace with roses and sequins - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

A beautiful Guipure lace with beading – you can sort of see that there are tiny beads on the “wheat” stem design. This is a handmade lace – those beads are put on by hand(!) and thus it’s $450/yard (yes, that’s four hundred and fifty dollars, not $4.50 – yikes).

Ochre guipure lace - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

There are also “chemical laces” in which the lace designs are attached to a backing that is later chemically dissolved leaving only the design.

This is a lace with embroidery. Some laces are created by embroidering on mesh or on sheer fabrics. The cut-outs on this lace really emphasize the cool design. Who knew there was so much variety to lace? This is not your grandmother’s doily!

Lace with embroidery - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

And look at this pretty one!

Lace with embroidery - britex fabrics - csews.com

Bobbin laces are made with thread, typically 90 percent cotton and 10 percent nylon. Bobbin lace is often used for heirloom sewing – Christening gowns, baby blankets, etc. Natalie said she could talk for 5 hours about heirloom sewing but for our purposes, she just showed us a few samples, such as this one…

Bobbin lace - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

… and this one, which could be used as an insertion lace – sewn between two fabrics (see tutorial list at the end for a machine technique on sewing lace insertion). Bobbin laces comes in traditional colors…

Bobbin lace - narrow - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

… and in fashion colors such as this Chartreuse bobbin lace you see in the center here.

Bobbin lace - green - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

And here’s some more lace!

Lace at Britex Fabrics - csews.com

Natalie was asked – what do you do with lace that’s 10 inches (~25 cm) wide? She said it could be put around the waist as an accent, used for a sleeve or perhaps along the hem of a jacket sleeve.

Lace - 10-inch width - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

Natalie’s tips on lace selection:

  • Choose a lace of similar weight and drape as your fabric.
  • If you’re using a stretch fabric, then you need to choose a lace that stretches, too. If your lace doesn’t have any give, then your lace may get damaged when the fabric stretches.
  • Some laces have a lot of give to them so give it a gentle tug in both directions. You may find it has more give in one direction than the other.

Natalie’s tips on working with lace:

  • Prewash lace in a cold, gentle cycle and let it air dry flat. Beaded lace should be dry cleaned, not washed, because the beads may come off. Nylon lace could be draped over something to dry, provided it doesn’t have any embellishment that weighs it down and could stretch it out.
  • To iron – use a press cloth and low heat. Silk Organza makes an excellent press cloth.
  • Hand sew beaded lace trim. If you use a machine, it could damage the beads (not to mention break a needle!).
  • It’s fine to use a sewing machine with all-over lace, such as her lace dress.
  • Lace is forgiving to work with because it doesn’t ravel so no need to worry about finishing edges, with the exception of bobbin lace trim. If you’re putting bobbin lace at bottom of a skirt, for example, she suggests making a narrow french seam to join the edges. Then the raw edges, which can fray, will be enclosed.
  • If you are using all-over lace with a scalloped border for a garment with a curved hem, such as a skirt or a dress, you won’t be able to position the pattern piece so the scallop is on the curved hem. So cut the scallop off and set it aside. Cut your pattern pieces out and after it’s constructed, you add the scallop to your hem.
  • You could sew all-over lace with a base fabric underneath it.
  • You can cut out part of lace and apply them to other places – by sewing or by using fabric glue. Natalie recommends sewing if the lace is delicate. Glue can show through unless the lace is thick. But she warns that glues will eventually fail so you may want to sew a few of the edges down as well as use glue.
  • If you’re making a garment with applique lace, use a lapped seam (see “Seams and Finishes” in Lace Tutorials and Info for a link to step-by-step instructions for lapped/applique seam). Natalie said instead of cutting a straight line through the flowers, you could cut around them, then lap the pattern pieces so you have a seamless pattern.
  • There’s no grain on lace, which makes it possible to cut and sew around the motifs, such as the lace below.
  • Though laces don’t have a grainline, the exception is stretch lace where the direction matters. It stretches on the grain. Sew stretch lace with a ball point needle or you could damage the lace.

Applique lace - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

Natalie highly recommends Chaire Shaeffer’s book Couture Sewing Techniques for its comprehensive  about lace. She also mentioned Sandra Betzina’s book More Fabric Savvy for its lace section.

After Natalie’s talk, we held a drawing for two Sew Chic Patterns – the Valentine slip and the Beatrice Pocket Dress, both of which can be made with lace if you so desire. This indie pattern company features patterns with a vintage flair. The designer/pattern maker Laura Nash sent us two patterns to give away. Thank you so much, Laura!

Melissa was shocked and thrilled to win the dress pattern…

Melissa - Bay Area Sewists - Beatrice Pocket Dress - csews.com

and Becca was the happy winner of the Valentine slip!

Fotohintergrund,    Hintergrund  europa

And of course we had a group photo with Natalie…

Group photo - Bay Area Sewists - lace meetup - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

… who graciously gave us a great handout with info (and links!) on lace  – from seams and finishes to embellishment with lace, heirloom sewing, and patterns and projects! She sent me a PDF and I put all the info on this page Lace Tutorials and Info post: Sewing with lace – a resource list.  Thank you so much, Natalie, Kelsey (Britex’s marketing director), and Britex Fabrics, which gave us a 20 percent discount on fabrics that day! After seeing all these wondering and stunning laces, I definitely like lace a lot more than I ever did before!

Happy Sewing, everyone!

My Theme for 2015

Random stuff discovered - csews.com

Hi, now that we’re nearly two months into 2015, have you given any thought to what you want  to accomplish this year, not necessarily resolutions, but maybe goals or themes? I’m not really into resolutions but I like the idea of a word or theme for 2015. This has been in the back of my mind for a while, particularly since I got a mailing at the end of December from Flight Design Co., a branding and strategy company. I follow their art director Katrina McHugh on Instagram (@katrinamchugh), which I think is why they sent me the card. (I got an email in Dec., asking for my mailing address, telling me they would be sending me something fun. It was addressed to “CSews,” which is my IG handle.)

The mailer was a New Year’s greeting and thank you – a long rectangular piece of cardstock folded in three. When I unfolded it, it said “2015 is all about” and  then there was a blank area to fill in, followed by an exclamation point. To the right of the exclamation point were the following instructions:

  1. Think about what you want
  2. Find a common theme
  3. Choose a word or phrase
  4. Write it down
  5. Hang it on your wall
  6. Take a picture
  7. Share it
  8. Build community
  9. Make it happen
  10. Celebrate!

I didn’t want to make any New Year’s resolutions but I kept this card and let ideas percolate. And when I read a January post by the effervescent Leila of Three Dresses Project, about her word of the year (freedom), I thought, I need a word! But what word?

Well, it all came together this past weekend when I realized I forgot to bring the power cord for my sewing machine to a Sew Together meetup, an event I organized for the Bay Area Sewists meetup group. (The idea was to have a meetup at Lacis in Berkeley (great upstairs classroom space!) and people could bring their sewing machines, patterns, etc. and sew, trace, cut, in the same space.) Luckily I live around the corner from Lacis. I needed to get some measurement forms for the group anyway, so I thought I could quickly pop home and get the two things and be back in a few minutes.

Well, I couldn’t find the power cord. I had brought my secondary machine – my lighter, plastic Kenmore to the meetup. I don’t use it much these days,which is partly why I couldn’t find the darn power cord. But the real reason, which I finally had to face, was that my sewing area, essentially our dining table, was waaaay overdue for a cleanup – as my husband had been complaining about to me for weeks. (My main machine is now a used Bernina I got last year, which I haven’t blogged about. It’s a mechanical one, no fancy electronics.)

I knew the machine’s power cord was somewhere around the table but I couldn’t figure out where it was. We’ve got boxes stored under it, my various sewing carts are on one side of the table, and my husband’s book cases line the walls around the room. So things are rather crowded. You can see my carts in this post on sewing organization. (Yeah, my drawers are organized but that didn’t help me when my work space was a mess!)

After about 10 minutes of searching, I realized it was taking too long and I wanted to get going on that muslin! Lucky for me, I also knew one member, Hillary, brought a machine she was willing to let others use – as were other generous members. So I returned to the meetup – sans power cord – and took Hillary up on her offer. Thanks to Hillary, I was able to put together most of the pieces of my muslin  – a 16-section (8 panels each for the front and back) A-line skirt from Basic Black, which I’m working on for the Japan Sew Along, organized by Tanoshii (hashtag #2015JSA).

Here are a few photos of the meetup.

Sistemas Capilares con lace frontal

When I got home, I started going through the disorganized mess on and around the dining table (in case you’re wondering, we usually eat on a table in the living room – such is cozy apartment living). I’m too embarrassed to show a photo of the mess so I just took a photo of a few of the random things I discovered during my cleanup – that’s the photo above, clockwise from the left:

  • a receipt from Stonemountain and Daughter Fabrics from December 2014,
  • a receipt from Britex Fabrics from July(!) 2014,
  • testing stitches on the stretch twill fabric I used in my first Chardon Skirt,
  • the formerly missing lid to a box of pins,
  • the pocket pattern piece for my Chardon (gee, how did I not put that away with all the other pattern pieces?),
  • an “O” I embroidered for a drawstring bag I’m making for one of my nieces,
  • leftover bias tape from my Trench, a summer stashbust project,
  • a pink erasable highlighter (I was wondering where that went, rolled under the table),
  • clothes pin, and
  • small polka dot drawstring bag I made.

Whew! And I found the power cord!! It was in a bag sitting on a tall chair near the kitchen island, which is right next to our dining table. Sheesh. I decided to put my Kenmore machine AND power cord away in our small storage area. More table space!

So I decided I needed two words for 2015 – because one without the other wasn’t going to work.

Creativity and discipline- Flight Design - csews.com

Yes, creativity and discipline! Because if you don’t have discipline you may not finish anything, not matter how creative you are or how many ideas are in the hopper. My husband Kofi is always saying how important discipline is and he’s right. I know if I’m not more disciplined about carving out time to sew/trace/cut, even if it’s only 30 minutes, a day, it will take me a really long time to complete anything. And if I’m not disciplined about putting things away, I’ll waste time hunting for things – not to mention drive my husband crazy – when I could be sewing or doing something else. I can only sew after I get home from work or on weekends, which means I don’t have a lot of free time.

Meanwhile, I’m going to stick this on the wall. Now all that’s left of the instructions are: build community, make it happen, and CELEBRATE!

What’s your sewing space like? Do you have a dedicated area or is it shared space – as in someone else uses the space, so you need to clean up all the time? Do you put things away or can you just leave everything out? If you have any tips, please share! Do you have a theme or word for 2015?

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Fabric Swap – Meetup!

Fabric Swap - Bay Area Sewists meetup group
photo by Michael Portuesi

Last Saturday I organized the Bay Area Sewists Fabric Swap Meetup. It was our biggest fabric swap – about 50 or so people came. This was the third fabric swap I’d organized for the group, and the first one where we also had tables for fabric scraps. At one point we had 70 RSVPs(!) and I confess that made me a bit nervous. But I knew that there would be last-minute cancellations and by the meetup day we had 60 RSVPs, which seemed slightly more manageable.

We hold our large meetups in the Community Meeting Room at the Berkeley Public Library. As a citizen of Berkeley, I can reserve this great space for free. It has cool tables with wheels and plenty of chairs. By the time security unlocked the room, it was about 10:15 am and a few members were already starting to arrive. Yikes.

Thank you Ali and Michael (I’m using many of his photos in this post) for your help with getting the tables in place! Other members pitched in as well  but I can’t remember because I was in a flurry of preparation. Thank you all for your help!  And thanks to Lindsay for setting out the name tags. (Ali is on Instagram @sewmsboncha; Michael blogs at Line of Selvage;  and Lindsay blogs at Baking, Making, and Crafting. You can read Michael’s post about our meetup here.)

I have a general process for our fabric swaps. We have four rounds of choosing fabric (one piece of fabric per round) and then one more round that lets anyone can pick anything they want (no limits). You can only participate in the first four rounds if you brought four pieces of fabric (or at least 1/2 yard of scraps). Plus, you get one entry in the pattern drawing per piece of fabric you bring.

Each round lasts the length of a song. I play a song on my phone and when a song is over, the next round of choosing begins. We use the same process for our pattern swaps and I began noticing that it was getting harder and harder for people to hear me say “Round 2! Round 2 is starting!” because this is a very chatty group. I don’t like to shout so last week I got this bicycle horn.

bike horn

It’s kind of obnoxious – think circus clowns. HONK! HONK! Heheh. But it does get everyone’s attention. I honked once to begin round 1, twice times for round 2, etc. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures until the end. I was running around collecting dues, explaining where to put fabric, etc. Luckily, Michael took many photos during the first half of the meetup. As you can see, members brought a LOT of fabric. I asked members to label their fabric with yardage and type of fabric info – most nearly everyone did so in advance and some when they arrived.

Looking at the selections - Bay Area Sewists - fabric swap
photo by Michael Portuesi

We had so much fabric to choose from! Everything from silk and wool…

silk fabric - Bay Area Sewists - fabric swap
photo by Michael Portuesi

to knits and cotton wovens…

knit fabric - Bay Area Sewists - fabric swap
photo by Michael Portuesi

… to mystery fabric! I created this category because after the first fabric swap I realized that there will always be fabric that has unknown origins. Thus “Mystery Fabric” became a label. 😉

Mystery fabric - Bay Area Sewists - fabric swap
photo by Michael Portuesi

We didn’t really have much leftover to donate to the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse. Thank you Jill and the other members who volunteered to drop off the leftovers!

After the fabric swap was over, it was time for the pattern drawing. (Yes, I’m wearing my first Chardon Skirt, and no, I’m not looking at the names in the bag as I picked the winner.)

photo by Michael Portuesi
photo by Michael Portuesi

The happy winner of the Christine Haynes Marianne Dress was Jeanne! Thank you Christine for donating your latest pattern!

human hair full lace wigs

We also had a lovely surprise when member of the Walnut Creek Chapter of the American Sewing Guild brought a few books and a thread catcher to give away. So I drew names again for a book on shirtmaking, a book on batik and other dyeing techniques, a book on color and the thread catcher – a handy thing that you can put near your sewing machine and toss your thread  bits.

After the drawings were over, we broke up into small groups and discussed our various plans for our fabric.

small group discussions - Bay Area Sewists - fabric swap meetup

Here are a few of the folks in my group. Daphne (in the brown boots) is wearing a top she made from Burda 6990. She said it was really easy to make – only four pieces…

small group discussions - Bay Area Sewists fabric swap

…and she actually had the pattern with her so I took a photo of it so I could buy it at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics. (Bay Area Sewists members get a 20 percent discount there on meetup days! Thank you Stonemountain!)

Virgin hair wigs

Here’s what I got at the fabric swap: 2.5 yards of this cool home dec zebra cotton print and some orange knit fabric. The print could be a skirt (another Chardon?) or maybe I’ll use it to experiment with a pattern for my ideal tote bag, which I want to make from the cool oil cloth I got at Britex Fabrics last fall. You can see a photo of the oilcloth in My Sewcation post. The knit fabric will be muslin number 2 for the wool jersey dress I want to make (also mentioned in My Sewcation). I brought three pieces of fabric and several scraps to share. Two of fabric pieces were somewhere between 1/2 yard and 3/4 yard and another piece was 1.5 yards or so. So I actually came home with more fabric that I left with. Hmmmm. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad.

Thank you to all the members who brought fabric to the swap!

fabric from Bay Area Sewists fabric swap

Afterwards some members went to get lunch and others headed to Stonemountain & Daughter Fabric to shop. I went to the store and bought the Burda pattern 6990, some sew-in woven interfacing, and a couple packages of hem tape. After making my first Chardon skirt, I really like the technique of using hem tape to finish a skirt hem. I’ll use this for my third Chardon skirt, using a Dutch wax print I got at Britex Fabrics.

hem facing tape, interfacing - Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics

Have you participated in any fabric swaps? Did you make anything with what you got at the swap? So far I’ve made one thing using fabric from a swap. The sleeves and front piece of my tunic top from a French sewing book are from fabric I got at a swap earlier this year.

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Alameda Point Antiques Faire – Meetup

photography canvas backdrops

The Alameda Point Antiques Faire (a.k.a the Alameda flea market) is vast – several hundred vendors gather the first Sunday of every month in this huge parking lot. If you look closely at the left side of the photo where the person with red sneakers is walking, you can see the canopies way in the background. There are booths as far as the eye can see. It’s pretty overwhelming. Note: “Antique” is used rather broadly here – apparently anything 20 years or older qualifies to sell here.

There is an entrance fee and the fee varies according to the time you arrive. The earlier you arrive, the higher the fee – presumably because you’ll have the best selection if you’re a super early bird. From 6 am to 7:30 am you pay $15, 7:30 am to 9 am, $10 and 9 am to 3 pm, $5. (Parking is free.)

I met up with a few Bay Area Sewists at 10 am for our Dec. meetup here. We had beautiful weather, quite a surprise after having rare days of rain. We met by the kettle corn booth – yes, many people are selling food here. You’ll find a pink truck selling cupcakes, vendors selling eggs Benedict, crepes, chicken teriyaki wraps, espresso, you name it. You could spend all day there. I only lasted a couple of hours. This was my second time here. I didn’t have the time to wander around the whole thing, plus I didn’t want to spend too much money. On my first visit, I followed some advice a junk shop owner gave me – start in the back where you’ll find vendors who don’t sell there regularly. He told me you can find better prices there and oftentimes they’ll be selling the same stuff as the folks up front, which get the most foot traffic.

Loran, a Bay Area Sewists member, expert seamstress/costumer who blogs at Loran’s World, comes here all the time and usually gets there really early. She scouted out vendors for us and told us where the two Bakelite vendors were located and where to find some cool vintage Christmas ornaments. Here are a few of the things that caught my eye.

A rather pricey vintage Singer sewing cabinet (nice but out of my price range).

Vintage Singer sewing cabinet - csews.com

A beautiful vintage dress with rows and rows of pin tucks.

vintage yellow pintuck dress - csews.comI

I took more photos but I neglected to shoot the back – it had a zipper in the center back – in case you’re wondering…

vintage yellow dress bodice - pin tucks - csews.com

And check out those pin tucks!

Vintage dress - pin tucks - csews.com

If you’re into bakelite, you would be swooning. The Bakelite Lady sells here regularly. Her prices are quite steep – so steep that she lets you pay in installments – as in four $250 payments.

bakelite bracelets

She was also selling some lower-priced items – cute barettes and hair clips (5 for $20) that were from France. I got a couple barettes for my nieces. One used to have a pet duck so I thought she’d like the purple one and my other niece just likes animals. Actually she likes animals so much she became a vegetarian last year – at eight years old (!) and she’s still committed to it.

Barrettes from France - csews.com

I got these clips for myself. The white ones are hand carved.

hair clips - csews.com

A Bay Area Sewists member was selling fabric and sewing things, such as this pants sloper.

pants sloper - Alameda flea market - csews.com

There was a vendor selling vintage buttons – one full card (24 buttons) for $8. I got these small black ones and then this pack of 8 buttons for $6 and this cute floral pin for $3.

vintage buttons - Alameda flea market - csews.com

Another vendor was selling a wide range of things, tons of vintage jewelry, odds and ends and a few vintage sewing patterns. I saw this one and got it for $4. I like the pockets and the fact that you can make one for the winter if you wear it with a turtleneck – and a hat, of course!

vintage McCalls dress pattern 9748 - csews.com

Lovely place settings here by this vendor.

place settings - Alameda flea market - csews.com

I had a great time and I’m sure I’ll be back next year to browse the many wares. Do you like shopping at flea markets or antique fairs? Do you have any shopping strategies?

Oh, I nearly forgot to mention – my spam blocker failed me for some reason – right around Thanksgiving week. Unfortunately, I was not paying attention and didn’t realize that many posts were being flooded with spam comments. It was awful – lots of insurance companies and certain pharmaceuticals for male impotence. So sorry if you got all those comments too. I spent a couple of hours deleting them all. But it’s stopped now. Whew.

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Fiddly Fabrics & More – Meetup at Britex Fabrics

We had a great Bay Area Sewists meetup at Britex Fabrics last Saturday morning – the topic was Sewing Fiddly and Slippery Fabrics. Douglas, a dapper and knowledgeable staff member at Britex pulled out various bolts of fabric – silk charmeuse and silk jersey as well as this white silk chiffon and silver mesh (see photo below) for us to look at and touch.

Prom Dresses UK

We met on the first floor of Britex, where you’ll find all kinds of silk and wool fabrics, including many imported luxurious fabrics – from cashmere and English tweeds to French silks and Italian wool crepe. It’s hard to walk by without touching them! (oooooh so lovely …)

I stopped by the store a couple weeks before the meetup to see about getting some swatches for this meetup and Dina, the store manager, very helpfully pointed out that swatches wouldn’t be large enough to give people a sense of how the fabric draped. So she cut nearly 1/4-yard pieces for a couple of them. Thank you!

She cut the first three fabrics, from left to right: iridescent silk chiffon, silk jersey (silver), and the light blue silk charmeuse, and then I went upstairs to the fourth floor where a staff person cut this fun cobwebby stretch mesh.

4 fabrics from Britex Fabrics

At the meetup I brought these fabrics and we passed them around as we listened to Douglas offer his tips and observations about sewing fiddly and slippery fabrics.

He advocates cutting silk chiffon and charmeuse as well as the silver mesh fabric (top photo) together with tissue paper. (The kind of tissue paper stores wrap your clothing purchases in or that you can get at the drug store in the wrapping paper section.) So you cut through the fabric and the tissue paper together. And you sew each of these fabrics together with the tissue paper, using a small needle size and a short stitch length. When you’re done sewing, you just gently pull away the tissue paper.

For the silk jersey, he recommended using a small ball point needle.

A Bay Area Sewists member asked how do you finish your seams if you’re sewing silk chiffon because you can see the seams? Douglas says he would trim the seam allowance close to the seam and then use Fray Check to prevent it from unraveling. Fray Check is made by Dritz and you can get it any fabric store or online.

My experience with Fray Check is that you need to use it sparingly because it can dry rather hard and you don’t want a hard edge to your fabric. Always test your fabric before using it to see how quickly one drop spreads. You don’t want to have any discoloration appear on the right side of your fabric because you used too much. you probably want to use a brush so you’ll have more control, rather than the tip on the bottle. I’ve just used the tip if I’m using it on the edges of a ribbon.

You may want to check out June Tailor’s Fray Block, which is also available at most fabric stores or online, including website here.  The thing about using Fray Block is that you’re supposed to run it under hot water for a few minutes before you use it, which is a little annoying. But it is thinner than Fray Check and seems to be more flexible.

Douglas also showed us a few of the other fabrics on the floor, such as this lovely tweed and he mentioned that he only cleans his wool clothes about twice a year. He says when he wears something wool, he just brushes it off at the end of the day and hangs it up. One Bay Area Sewists member mentioned that wool is anti-bacterial so it doesn’t get very dirty.

tweed at Britex Fabrics - csews.com

Douglas also said that fabrics have a finish on them that irritate his skin so he wears gloves when handling fabric in the store. If he buys fabric, he soaks it in cool water to remove those chemicals. Someone asked him whether dry cleaning fabric before sewing would work and Douglas said that that would just add more chemicals. Good point.

Gee, I just got a few yards of wool jersey at Britex a couple weeks ago. I was thinking about dry cleaning it. (sigh) So I asked Douglas if he would soak wool jersey in water and he said yes, but then you’d have to block it afterwards. Shoot. So I asked him if I could just lay it flat to dry and he said yes. I think I’ll cut a small square, stick it in some cool water, let it dry and see what happens.

Then we went upstairs to to fourth floor where chairs were set out for us to sit and hold the rest of our meetup. We were in a space near the windows and in front of these tempting rolls of on-sale fabrics.

rolls of fabric at Britex Fabrics - csews.com

I was busy facilitating the meeting so I didn’t take very many photos – sorry!

A few people brought some things they made to show and discuss with the group. I bought a rayon jersey long-sleeved top I made during my anti-interfacing phase a couple years ago. Unfortunately, the yoke sags because I didn’t use interfacing. Edina suggested taking it apart at the yoke and serging clear elastic to it – a nice suggestion.

I also passed around some fusible stay tape that I like to use on knits to stabilize the shoulder seams and along the side seams when matching stripes – Design Plus super fine bias fusible stay tape, which you can find at a well-stocked fabric store or online.

Other members recommend using a walking foot or Steam-a Seam Lite.

Loran of Loran’s World, not only wore a lovely dress she made from a vintage pattern, she brought two garments she made – one was a shirt she made for a Sew Weekly project. But she used cheap fabric from Jo-ann’s and cheap fusible interfacing. She didn’t finish the seams because she didn’t expect to like the shirt as much as she did. She wore it a lot and after a few washings, the interfacing started falling apart and the fabric along the seam allowance near the front collar had frayed all the way to the seam leaving a gaping hole and no way to fix it.

Loran says she now uses woven sew-in interfacing. She doesn’t use fusible interfacing any more. Fro her years as a costumer, she observed that eventually the fusible interfacing would bubble so she won’t use it any more.

I also bought some quilting spray-on temporary adhesive that you use to stick pattern  pieces to fabric, asking people if anyone had ever had experience with it. It says that it doesn’t gum up needles, etc. I was thinking of using it to stick pattern paper to a slippery fabric. One member said not to use it because it does gum up on your needle and to use freezer paper instead – an excellent suggestion!

I’ve used freezer paper when I’ve done a little fabric painting. You just iron the freezer paper to the fabric (use a low setting). The paper sticks to the fabric and the paint won’t bleed through. Then you peel off the paper when you’re done.

Another member brought a sleeveless top she made from silk chiffon. She did a nice job sewing it but she wasn’t too thrilled with how it looked on her because she felt it would be more flattering on someone with slim hips.

We also briefly discussed scissor sharpening – where do you get your scissors sharpened? One member mentioned that the San Mateo farmer’s market has a knife sharpener. I also did a little search and found that this San Mateo-based company Perfect Edge travels to a variety of farmer’s markets in the Bay Area – maybe this is the company someone was referring to? You can find their schedule here. I have not used them so I can’t vouch for the quality of their sharpening but their prices for scissors ($12) and pinking scissors ($14) are on this page so they do offer that service – though their main business is knife sharpening. They also have many drop-off locations, which you can find on their website.

I was at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics earlier this week and asked a sales person where to sharpen scissors and was told to check out Golden State Sharpening – another mobile sharpening business. You drop your knives/scissors off at various designated locations the day before and pick them up the day after ($10 for fabric scissors).  The schedule’s on their website. Gee, I don’t know about dropping off my scissors… If anyone has found a scissors sharpener they like in the Bay Area, please let me know!

I remember years ago when was visiting my parents on the East Coast, that Jo-Ann’s had some scissors sharpening day. My mom had written down on her calendar, which is why I remember that. I don’t recall seeing that at the Jo-Ann’s in the Bay Area.

Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention – Britex gave each member a coupon for 20% off remnants and 10% off regularly priced fabrics (good for that day only). So we had fun browsing for fabric.

Bay Area Sewists browse at Britex Fabrics

Of course I had to browse the remnants on the fourth floor and found this red cotton lycra (2 1/8 yards, 50 ” wide) and this hounds tooth print (2 yards, 42″ wide). I love cotton lycra because it doesn’t wrinkle easily and I love this shade of red (more blue in it).

red cotton lycra fabric, houndstooth cotton fabric - csews.com

And when I got to the second floor as my inner voice was telling me “leave before you buy anything else!” I nearly made it downstairs to the register before I saw some wax prints – oh, my how interesting they were! I was told that the one I liked was a Dutch wax print, which was printed in Africa – a reminder that the Dutch empire had established a colony in Cape Town back in the 17th century.

I vaguely knew about African wax prints from the outfits I’d seen on Ginger of Ginger Makes who used a Vlisco wax print to make this Alder Dress and Oonaballoona who made a stunning skirt from a Dutch wax print. Both of these gals make me laugh because of the expressions on their faces in the photos on their blogs.

So I couldn’t resist buying this print – just $10/yard – clearly not a Vlisco, which is a pricey luxury brand. Admittedly, the color is not flattering to my skin (too close to my skin tone) but I think it could make a really cool skirt – maybe the Deer & Doe Chardon Skirt with inverted pleats. The fabric will far enough away from my face so it could work.

wedding dresses UK

If you want to find out more about wax prints, check out this interesting New York Times article “Africa’s Fabric Is Dutch,” on Vlisco, the Dutch company that produces wax prints in Holland. Vlisco fabric is very popular in Africa and has a certain cachet because it is so expensive. (Ginger says “I’d have to sell an organ to pay for this fabric!”) And read this post for more about wax prints, Vlisco and prints produced in Ghana,  “borrowed ideas: wax-print,” on African Lookbook.

I noticed that the selvedge of my fabric says “GUARANTEED REAL WAX ORIBA JLM HITARGET.” Well, according to the African Lookbook article, Hitarget is a Chinese company (!) that modifies Dutch designs, reprints them in new colors and sells them at low cost. And the post also stated that an “overwhelming majority (maybe as much as fifty percent) of the African prints sold in Ghana are Hitarget prints.” Sheesh. Well, I like the design – regardless of its origins!

Have you used any African/Dutch/Chinese wax print fabric in anything you’ve made?

Tips on sewing fiddly fabrics - silk cihiffon, silver mesh, stretch lace and more - a Bay Area Sewists meetup at Britex Fabrics