Hi, I made these collages on my phone last month and I’ve even sewn a couple of things already, which has to be a record for me. It can take me a while to just get started. But this year, I decided I would start with patterns and sewing books in my collection as well as the fabric I already have. So here is my Make Nine 2018 list:
Top with Epaulettes from She Wears the Pants, a Japanese sewing book by Yuko Takada. I made my own striped version in 2015, which you can read about in this post. I still wear it. I have an odd synthetic knit in a pretty purple that I’m going to use. I’ve already cut the pattern pieces.
A midi-skirt from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, which I reviewed here. I’ve made a skirt and tunic from this book. I had this maroon red knit fabric that was originally going to be yoga pants. I decided to make a skirt, which I hand sewed last month. I still need to photograph it.
I finished the Pilvi Coat a little over two weeks ago and blogged about it here.
Decades of Style Chore Skirt, which I started last year but still haven’t finished. This beautiful rose print will be the contrasting part of this pleated skirt.
Twist-and-Drape top from Shape Shape, a Japanese sewing book by Natsuno Hiraiwa, released in 2012, it is the first Japanese sewing book I ever bought. I want to make this interesting top in this interesting cotton lawn print. I’ve been making a muslin using a polka-dotted cotton-silk blend I have in my stash. It’s slow going because the fabric is a bit delicate and the raw edges are finished with bias tape. As I was making it, I discovered that there was an Instagram #sewjapaneseinjanuary sewing challenge going on – the idea was to make something from a Japanese sewing pattern in January. I got started but I haven’t finished it but it gave me the inspiration to get going. Thanks to @bloglessanna and @craftyjane_makes for hosting!
Megan Longline Cardigan has been in my stash for more than a year. I’ve had this striped knit fabric in my collection for more than three years. I got it for $1 or $2/yard at the FIDM scholarship store in Los Angeles.
I want to copy this top I saw in the window at Max Mara in the fall of 2016. I even bought fabric to make a black-and-white silk (as opposed to leather and wool) version of it. I got a black plaid print, a solid black and then a print at Britex Fabrics back then. I just need to pick a tunic pattern to make a color-blocked version. if you have any suggestions for a square-necked pattern, please let me know!
Last but not least is this Spiral Scarf from Shape Shape. I have this bright magenta wool silk organza that I got at the Britex yard sale, which would be perfect for it. I just need to decide if I want to get a contrasting color or just make it all one color.
My Make Nine 2018 goal this year is to make some inroads on my fabric stash and to make more garments that I would wear everyday. I’m holding off on making pants because I’m working on losing a few of the extra pounds I’ve gained over the past two years. Skirts are a little more forgiving.
Oh, and I almost forgot! I’ll be attempting to start and finish a bias cut skirt and vintage top in time for the Bay Area Sewists Frocktails in February event this Saturday! I only have a few days to sew up version D of the Vogue vintage reissue and this midi skirt.
Instead of sewing a dress I decided to make separates so I will get more use out of the ensemble. I tend to wear separates, not dresses. I’m hoping that I’ll have enough leftover fabric to make version D of the Vogue pattern. We’ll see. Wish me luck!
I attempted to go on a fabric diet this year because my sewing has not kept up with my fabric buying for quite some time. I even experimented with selling a few pieces from my stash via Instagram and Facebook, which you can read about here. Now that 2017 is nearly over (can you believe it?), I’ve been thinking of all the reasons why I buy fabric. Here are my top three:
It was on sale. Yep, if I’m really honest with myself, this is top reason for a fabric purchase. When I started sewing again around 2009, I was a sucker for a sale – whether it was in-store or online. I would buy fabric that appealed to me and I liked it even more because it was on sale. I didn’t yet know what I would make from it.Now I tell myself, don’t buy it unless you know what you’re going to make with it. I’ve even avoided sales because it’s so hard to resist buying more fabric. I love touching fabric and looking at all the lovely designs. That said, I broke my fabric diet in San Francisco when there were sales at Britex Fabrics and Fabric Outlet. Britex was having a “Yard Sale” discounting many bolts of fabric – all in preparation for the store’s big move to 117 Post St. in December. They are now in their new location – a beautiful space that really shows off their wool and silk fabric.Over a two-month period, I got several pieces of fabric from Britex, including a red crinkle cotton and these four fabrics – clockwise from top left: ponte with a huge print (maybe a full-length Pilvi Coat), cotton lawn from Italy (marked down to $10/yard because of a flaw in the print, possible blouse or skirt), a black and silver stretch lace (skirt) and a black lace knit fabric (sleeves for a knit top).
I also got a couple yards of some fun home decor fabric for free because I did a guest post about the fabric for the Britex blog. I also wrote about it here.At Fabric Outlet, which had a 40% off sale, I used a $25 gift certificate one of my sisters gave me for my birthday. So I felt that gave me license to just browse and buy whatever struck my fancy. I got a couple yards of black french terry (Toaster sweater perhaps?) and a berry red stretch cotton, which should make a nice shirt.
It was irresistible. Sometimes you see a piece of fabric and you just have to have it, no matter what the price is. You love the design, the color, the way it feels, the drape, etc. When I saw this fabric at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics, I just had to get it. I eventually I made this Pilvi Coat from it, which I love.
It was a planned purchase. Sometimes I buy fabric with a specific pattern in mind. I’ll bring the pattern envelope with me or I’ll take a photo of the front and back of the pattern and consult it when I’m in the store to make sure I have the correct yardage. Or if it’s a PDF pattern, I’ll just look up the info on the company’s website to make sure I have the right info.
Now the fabric is piling up. It’s in bags in the closet and in a couple of plastic bins in the bedroom. For 2018, I’m going to do my best to shop my stash and to start making some of the things I planned to make with the fabric when I bought it. My plans have changed for some of the fabric I bought a few years ago (no surprise) so for some of it, I’ll be rethinking my sewing plans.
I have not taken any inventory so I don’t know how many yards are in my stash. I’m not sure I want to know. I don’t have space to maintain a large stash so I am going to try to sew more in 2018 and attempt a RTW fast. Goodbye Valentino is hosting a RTW fast, encouraging people to sew, not buy clothes (see her invitation here sign up by tomorrow, Dec. 31!).
What are your reasons for buying fabric? Please share your thoughts in the comments section. I’d love to hear what you have to say on the topic.
Hi, I don’t have a huge fabric stash but I don’t have much storage space in my apartment. I don’t have a dedicated sewing room or fabric on shelves. My fabric is in a couple of bins and some bags. So I decided to experiment and try destashing fabric online specifically via Facebook and Instagram.
I went through my fabric and found several yards of six different cotton fabrics that were impulse buys or were intended for projects that I never started. I told myself that I would not get any new fabric until I sold some of my existing fabrics. Then I went outside to shoot in natural light, taking many photos, including shots with a tape measure so people could see the size of the design. I also had to measure each length of fabric and document the info, if any, on the selvage.
Destashing fabric on Instagram
I decided my sale would start on Friday, July 21 on Instagram and started a few days before that date, I created a new account – @csews_destash – and posted photos there. I decided against posting photos on my @csews Instagram because I didn’t want my followers there to feel like they were being spammed by fabric sale photos. One of my @csews followers @liblib, suggested that I have a separate destash IG account, commenting “Spam destashes drive me crazy!!” I decided that was good advice. Thanks, Libby!
It took me a while to take all the photos and I didn’t want to start my @csews_destash until all the photos were done. I took multiple photos of each fabric, including a close-up shot of the design, a shot with a tape measure and one of the selvage, if there was printed information there. I also searched the hashtags #destash, #destashfabric and #fabricdestash to see what other people said in their destash posts.
It seemed best to just describe the fabric and include information about the amount of fabric, such as 44 wide, 4 yards. I also mentioned that it was stored in a nonsmoking, no pets home. I told people to comment SOLD to claim the fabric and DM me to pay. I gave people the option to pay via PayPal or Venmo. I limited sales to the US because international shipping costs are so expensive, especially when you factor in customs. Here’s what I said about this fabric:
I didn’t make any sales over the weekend.In retrospect, I could have posted just one photo in the account long before the sale and said that more photos were coming. Then I could have had some followers before the sale began. After all, it’s hard to sell anything if you only have a few followers, right?
But I did sell this cute fabric about five days after my initial post.
The buyer is someone I know because she’s a member of the Bay Area Sewists meetup group, which I organize. She commented that she wanted it and then sent me a DM on IG and told me she could send me payment via Venmo and wanted to pick it up locally, which saved her the shipping fee. I sent her my info and received the money. We’ve arranged for me to give her the fabric at the next Bay Area Sewists meetup on August 6, which is, appropriately enough, a fabric swap.
Setting a price for destash fabric
I really didn’t know what to charge for these fabrics because for most of them I didn’t remember how much I paid. I did some searching for the fabric to see if anyone still sold it but I’ve had some of them for more than five years so I didn’t find them.
Nearly all of the fabrics were quilt-weight cotton wovens. Two had Timeless Treasures printed on the selvage. I did a quick search online and saw that sale prices for that fabric were around $7.50/yard, full price was $10.60. So I decided that about $4 to $7 per yard + shipping, was fair.
I started with Fabric Marketplace group because it was the first one that accepted my request. I decided to start a photo album and upload photos of the different fabrics for sale. Facebook seemed to take a long time to upload the album so I decided it might be better to just upload photos for each fabric as individual posts. I listed my PayPal email in the album description and then one of the group admins told me that I needed to get the PayPal email of the person buying the fabric and invoice that person. Oops.
I did not read the group guidelines in the post pinned to the top. Sorry! The way most of these FB groups seem to work is that you agree that by posting to the group, you agree to use PayPal and invoice the buyer. Once you receive payment, you agree to send the fabric in 48 hours to the buyer.
Once you’ve posted something to sell in a FB group, FB makes it really easy to sell to repost your info to another group. All you have to do is click on the blue button that says “Post to More Places.” Then a new window opens listing all the buy/sell FB groups you are a member of. Just check the groups you want and voila! It’s automatically posted there. I used that button to post to Sew Its for Sale (sic) group.
Sew Its for Sale has very detailed group rules and asks people to comment “agree.” The posting rules ask members to provide detailed information about destashing fabric and to post your own original photos, no photos from other sites, and reminding people that it’s a site for fabric not completed items. I posted my photos there on Saturday, July 22 and two days later I got a message from a woman in Colorado asking if this fabric was still available. I said, yes. I priced it at $15 for 4 yards, 44 wide.
Then she sent me another message saying she was interested in this fabric, too. I was selling about 3 yards of this for $15. it was 56 wide.
I told her they were both available and that shipping would be via a US mail, medium flat-rate box $13.60. She sent me her PayPal email so I could create an invoice and then she could send me payment. I marked them sold in the Sew Its for Sale group and then its status as a sold item was automatically updated on the Fabric Marketplace Destash group.
Once you post something for sale on a group page, it can be tricky to find your posts, depending on how the group uses FB. For example, it was very easy to find my items on Sew Its for Sale because on the left side of the group page, it says “Your Items” directly beneath the “Items for Sale” link. I clicked on that link and all my posts appeared.
Fabric Marketplace Destash group doesn’t have a link for “Your Items,” which means you have to search the posts to find your item. I haven’t sold anything there yet.
Stashbusters isn’t really active. With less than 300 members, there’s not much going on there so I decided not to post anything there. I just posted my fabrics to the Fabric Addicts Destash group so I don’t have anything to report there.
The destash fabric
Here’s a closer look at my fabric that still for sale on IG and FB.
Update: This pink and green fabric is now sold.
SOLD Quilt weight cotton – the selvage says: Windham Fabrics presents Le Poulet by Whistler Studios, Pattern No. 30797. 44 wide, 2 7/8 yards, 2.6 meters, uncut – $9 + shipping. This fabric has been prewashed.
The fabrics below are still available.
This border print is called Natural Effects and was designed by Michele D’Amore. The stripes and leaves (brown background) repeats on the other side of the flower design. It’s a quilt-weight cotton. The selvage says: Windham Fabrics presents Le Poulet by Whistler Studios, Pattern No. 30797. This fabric has been prewashed and is uncut.
I got this unusual dyed fabric from Britex Fabrics. It was a remnant so it still had the tag on it. It’s very hard to photograph purple. I tweaked it in Photoshop to get it closer to the actual color. The lightweight cotton is finely woven.
2 2/3 yards, 44 wide, uncut, $20
My conclusion is that it’s easier to sell destash fabric on Facebook rather than Instagram. I think Instagram would work if you had a big following for your destash account. I don’t plan on selling a ton of fabric there so I don’t see how I’d get a ton of new followers. Destashing fabric on Facebook and IG takes a bit more time and thought than you think but it’s likely easier than doing it on Etsy and eBay, especially if you don’t plan on making it a regular business.
Have you tried destashing fabric on IG or Facebook? Did you sell anything? Please feel free to comment below and let me know what groups worked for you. And if you’re interested in buying one of the fabrics still for sale, please comment below or on my IG destash account @csews_destash.
Hi, I like denim, especially dark denim. I’ve never worn an all denim outfit though – for example a denim jacket and jeans. That look just makes me think farmer, not fashion. But I added a “Casual Style for Women” board to my C Sews Pinterest account earlier this year and I’ve pinned quite a few denim fashion looks. I mostly wear separates but I usually avoid separates that match – as in same color top and bottom – unless it’s black. I have plenty of black tops and pants. But I don’t have other colors in a solid that I wear together.
I like these pins. They either reminded me of denim or were made from denim. They make me want to wear an all-denim ensemble. Do you typically wear denim as separates? Would you ever wear an all-denim outfit?
I’ve been pinning denim fashion ideas because I have several yards of denim in my stash and I need to start sewing it. Some has been there for at least five years, maybe longer. And last year on a trip to New York, I bought some lightweight denim at Mood to make trouser jeans. Then last month, I found two yards of denim in my stash that I forgot about. It’s been sitting in a chest in a small room that has a lot of my husband’s vinyl records and books. I don’t go in there very often.
Here’s the Butterick sewing pattern (B5682) I got last year. I want to make version E, the trouser version.
I also had a knit fabric in my stash that looks like denim.
I had intended to use it to make a dress. But I never got around to making the dress. After seeing all the fun denim outfits, I decided to make a pair of knit pants and a top to go with them. But you’ll see that outfit soon – more on that outfit tomorrow. It’ll be my first all-denim look.
Hi, in August I wrote Part 1 about DIY Shibori and then a follow-up post about washing indigo-dyed fabric. Part 1 was about the indigo dyeing workshop I organized for the Bay Area Sewists and goes into more detail about mixing the dye and some Shibori techniques. Towards the end of that post I mentioned that I would reveal the results of my additional dye experiments because I had taken a bucket of dye home to try a few more folding and binding techniques.
I had wanted to have a total of eight pieces of fabric, each with a different design so I could use the fabric to make a 16-sectioned skirt. The pattern is from the Japanese sewing book Basic Black: 26 Edgy Essentials for the Modern Wardrobe by Sato Watanabe. The A-line skirt has eight panels for the front and eight for the back. I already had one dyed piece from the workshop so I needed to dye seven more pieces of fabric that were large enough to fit two skirt sections each: four were about 18″ x 20″ (46 cm x 51 cm) and the other three were bigger, to fit the bottom pattern pieces, roughly 18″ x 35.5″ (36 cm x 90 cm).
I made a version of this skirt in a solid black cotton piquet, which you can see here. It’s hard to see the different sections in the finished photos because I’m not great at photographing black.
For my DIY Shibori experiments, I tried doing a variety of things to the muslin – using clothes pins, rubber bands, chopsticks, cotton twine, and curtain rings – and then hand-basting and gathering, pleating and folding or binding the fabric.
After everything was bound, I wet them in my bathroom sink before I took them outside to dip in the dye bath. Pre-wetting your fabric is supposed to make the fabric more receptive to the dye. But what’s more important is that you prewash your fabric before dyeing so you remove any sizing or chemicals that have been used to treat the muslin.
DIY Shibori – Eight variations
Here’s what the fabric looks like when it’s dry. I had photos of the fabric as it was drying but the color is darker when it’s wet so I decided to rephotograph them – thus the additional delay in doing this post. (Please excuse the folds – I’ve had the fabric neatly folded in a bag, waiting to be cut and sewn.)
1.) I randomly clipped clothes pins to the muslin and got this nice result. The clothespins had been dyed from the workshop. 🙂
2.) I folded the fabric lengthwise a few times and then put chopsticks at an angle, securing them with small rubber bands. I copied the technique of one of the Bay Area Sewists members at the workshop. You can see exactly where the chopsticks were on the fabric. The darker parts of the fabric were the two sides that were directly exposed to the dye bath.
3.) Next, I hand basted the muslin like so…
… and then I gathered it, knotting the threads at the ends and put it in the dye bath to get this intriguing result. I didn’t gather it too tightly or else I’d get too much white, which I wanted to avoid.
4.) Here I folded the fabric into wide pleats and then folded that into triangles to get this nice result. The dark edges were exposed to the dye bath the longest.
When I first took it out of the dye bath, it looked like this. The mere act of folding makes it resist the dye – pretty amazing, isn’t it? So I put it back in the dye bath to make it all blue. I think if I had a really lightweight fabric, this design would make an interesting scarf.
5.) For this result, I folded the fabric and wound it around a small water bottle (16.9 oz/500 ml) and then put a bunch of rubber bands around it. The darkest part of the fabric was the part that was exposed directly to the dye bath. The other side of the fabric is a lot lighter.
The water bottle looked like this when I first took it out of the dye bath.
And here’s what the fabric looked like when I unwrapped it. The fabric closest to the bottle didn’t absorb much dye. So I dipped that part in the dye to get that a little darker. If I used something wider, then I’d have a larger dark area.
6.) For this experiment, I pleated the fabric at a diagonal and then used small rubber bands to hold the pleats in place. You have to be careful not to move the rubber bands so those areas will resist the dye. If I try this again, I think I would use cotton twine, which won’t move around so much.
7.) Here I put tied two curtain rings inside the fabric, folding the fabric at a diagonal and then using cotton twine to tie it together. The curtain rings made the two circles in the fabric.
8.) Pleating and folding the fabric means that a lot of the fabric will resist the dye. I didn’t want any white so after the initial dip, which was done at the workshop, I put it back in the dye bath unfolded so the rest of the fabric would be dyed. I wanted all of the muslin to be blue for my skirt.
Here’s what pleated fabric typically looks like after the first dip – a lot of white. So I put it back in the dye bath to make it blue. It’s still wet here so the blue is a few shades darker than the color it is when it’s dry.
So these are the eight pieces of fabric that I will be using to make my skirt. I’ll post WIP (work-in-progress) photos when I cut the fabric. I’m hoping it’ll look good and not too much like some tie-dyed garment.
Last month I visited my family on the East Coast. I was able to make a quick trip to New York while I was there. Here’s a brief summary of my trip, with many photos.
My first stop was to Mood Fabrics where I searched for lightweight denim and bought these two to make a trouser jeans.
The I wandered across the street to Sposabella Lace, which carries all sorts of bridal laces, and drooled over some stunning embroidered lace that was draped over the counter.
Then I asked them if they had any netting, which isn’t easy to find. They had several colors. I bought a yard of navy and black netting, which I’ll add to a hat at some point.
Then I went uptown to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to view the stunning “Manus x Machina: Fashion in the Age of Technology” exhibit, which “explores how fashion designers are reconciling the handmade and the machine-made in the creation of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear.” It was a fascinating showcase of jaw-dropping handcrafted and machine-made fashion.
I was truly surprised by how compelling this exhibit was. Vintage fashion was displayed next to 21st century designs, revealing the similarities and differences between the past and the present. I couldn’t stop taking photos with my phone. Here are a few highlights.
This 1958 Dior dress designed by Yves Saint Laurent is called L’Eléphant Blanc – or the White Elephant. It’s made of silk, metallic thread, glass, and plastic and was sewn by machine. This lovely confection has five layers of tulle. Behind the dress was a video that slowly panned up the dress, showing the beading in detail.
This is a 2010 Chanel dress and cape designed by Karl Lagerfeld. The dress is made of pink silk chiffon and charmeuse, hand-embroidered with pink silk satin flowers, pearls, and pink-frosted crystals, hand-finished. The cape is made from 1,300 hand-pieced pink silk satin flowers by Lemarié with pink frosted crystals. Wow.
Notice how the flowers are of varying sizes? Here’s the bottom half of this cape. I love it. This could be a fun – albeit time-consuming – way to use fabric scraps. 😉
Check out this laser-cut patent-leather dress by Iris van Herpen.
And look at this autumn/winter haute couture 2015-16 Chanel dress by Karl Lagerfeld. It’s made from black silk tulle with hand-embroidery by Lemarié with hand-glued and stitched black ostrich feathers.
Lemarié has come up twice in this post so in case you were wondering who is Lemarié, it is a specialized workshop in France, founded more than 130 years ago, designing “feather and flower creations for luxury fashion houses.” They also do other techniques such as smocking, pleats, and ruffles.
The pleats on this ensemble are amazing. There was a video near these Dior garments that you could watch, showing the ribbon being sewn to the white silk organdy and how the fabric was hand pleated.
I’ll need to do another post with more photos from this exhibit.
After the Met, I went back downtown to meet two sewcialists for lunch – Olgalyn, who designs and sells knit fabrics for her company O! Jolly! and teaches at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Yoshi, who I “met” via Instagram. She’s @garmentgirl on IG, Olgalyn is @ojolly, and I’m @csews. Here we are at Rin Thai on 23rd near 8th Avenue.
It was a really fun trip! I’ll post more photos from Manus x Machina soon…
Hi, earlier this year, I took an indigo dyeing (also known as Shibori) workshop taught by Anna Joyce at Craftcation, which was so easy and so much fun. You can see photos from the workshop in my post My Craftcation 2016 Weekend. When I posted photos on my Instagram feed (@csews), a Bay Area Sewists member Ali (@sewmsboncha), commented that I should teach it to our meetup group (I organize monthly meetups for the Bay Area Sewists). I thought, why not pass along what I learned?
So four months later, I finally taught the Shibori workshop the first Saturday in August, passing along what I learned. The above photo is some of the lovely dyed fabric drying outside. We held this meetup at The Sewing Room in Alameda, courtesy of its lovely owner Jennifer Serr who graciously let us invade her space last Saturday afternoon. Jennifer offers sewing classes at The Sewing Room and sells Tilly and the Buttons patterns as well as her own pattern line, Bonjour Teaspoon, in the shop.
I used the same indigo tie dye kits we used at Craftcation – the Jacquard Indigo Tie Dye Kit. I also bought five-gallon buckets at Home Depot , which we filled with four gallons of water. Here are some of the supplies I gathered: buckets, sticks to stir the dye, and the kits – taken before I left for Alameda.
The kits are really easy to use. You get the indigo powder and two other separately packaged ingredients – thiox and soda ash – to pour in the water. (Thiox is a reducing agent, which means it reduces the oxygen in the water. Soda ash fixes the dye to the fiber you’re dyeing.) According to Anna Joyce, it doesn’t matter what order you put them in because the indigo is pre-reduced, which means it easily dissolves in the water.
However, I just watched this video by Jacquard, which says to put the indigo in first, followed by the soda ash and thiox. Well, we did it both ways indigo first and last and didn’t have any problems with the dye. You can always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and watch their video –Indigo Tie Dye Kit from Jacquard Products:
I got the kits at Artists & Craftsman Supply in Berkeley, which is conveniently located near Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics. 😉 So Bay Area folks, the next time you’re buying fabric, just go across the street and walk a half-block down to the art supply store and pick up an indigo dye kit. You can also buy the kits from Dharma Trading here ($8.49 per kit) or on Amazon for $9.97, affiliate link here. There is enough dye for 15 shirts or 15 yards of fabric.
I also got three different sizes of rubber bands to use (size 8, 16 and 64), plus cotton twine to use to manipulate the fabric. Size 8 are really tiny – they fit around my pinkie finger. I remember that we had tiny rubber bands at Craftcation, which are useful when you want to make small circle shapes in your fabric. I ordered them via Amazon (affiliate link here) because regular office supply stores don’t carry that size. They had a lot of size 16 (thin long rubber bands) and size 64,the thick rubber bands. In reading about Shibori – after the workshop – I see that at Craftcation, we mostly did the shape resist technique – or itajime shibori – where you fold and bind the fabric and a variation of kumo shibori – pleat and bind. Some of just did binding, no pleating.
I gave each Bay Area Sewist a yard of muslin to play around with. (The dye works best with natural fibers – cotton, linen, silk, wool, and rayon.) We folded, twisted, clamped, and tied the fabric and then put it in the dye bath. I prewashed (and ironed!) the muslin a few days before the Bay Area Sewists workshop to ensure that the dye would take. At Craftcation the tea towels and tote bags we dyed were a little dye resistant. The finishing on the fabric was the problem. Anna said she didn’t have any problems at another workshop she taught so she was surprised. I guess the materials came from a different supplier.
One member, Maria, asked if the fabric should be wet first and I said it wasn’t necessary because we didn’t wet it at Craftcation and I prewashed the fabric.
I relied on my Craftcation experience to lead the workshop but in retrospect I should have at least read the Jacquard instructions more thoroughly. My apologies, Bay Area Sewists! I spent more time gathering supplies than anything else. Jacquard says to wet the fabric after you fold/tie/bind it and squeeze out the excess water and air. Then you put it in the dye bath. If I do this again, I’d like to do a comparison – prepare the fabric in the exact same way, then wet one piece of fabric and leave the other one dry and see what happens after dyeing it.
Here’s what I did with one piece of muslin – accordion-folded and then folded in thirds and then I held it together with three rubber bands. The rubber bands weren’t too tight because I was more interested in the folding lines and didn’t really care about the lines the rubber bands would create.
As you can see, there’s a lot of white space. I decided I wanted it to be blue so I put it back in the dye bath and now it looks like the last photo. I think I like the previous version better. Next time!
Everyone had fun experimenting. Here’s how Jacquard says you’re supposed to take your fabric out of the dye bath -” squeeze it just below the surface as you slowly remove it from the vat. You want to prevent splashing as this introduces oxygen back into the vat.” You can read the full instructions here.
One fascinating thing about indigo dye is that the fabric is green when you first take it out of the dye and then when it oxidizes, it turns indigo blue. For a darker blue, you just wait about 20 minutes for it to fully oxidize and then put it back in the dye bath. You can keep putting it back in for a darker color – but you need to wait for it to oxidize before you dip it again. Keep in mind that when wet, the color looks a couple of shades darker than it will when dry.
I took a bucket of dye home and posted a video on Instagram that shows how green fabric initially is. You can see that it gets darker when it’s out of the dye bath – and you can see the other fabric that’s been out of the dye bath for a longer time. (You might have to wait a little bit for it to load because it’s taking the video from IG.)
What I learned at Craftcation was the tighter you tie/twist/clamp it, the more white space you’ll have. So if you want more indigo blue in your fabric, make sure more fabric is exposed to the dye and that you loosely tie/twist your fabric.
What’s so great about indigo dyeing is that you see your results so quickly and you can just have fun experimenting with manipulating the fabric.
At Craftcation we were only using the dye for that workshop, which is likely why Anna Joyce didn’t mention anything about not introducing oxygen to the dye bath. No one was going to keep the dye so it didn’t matter if the dye oxidized. If the dye is oxidized, it will be indigo, .
The bottom line: You do need to be careful about introducing oxygen to the dye bath. This means no splashing when you put the fabric in the dye bath, slowly stirring the dye, and putting the lid on it in between dyeing. If the dye oxidizes it won’t adhere to the fibers as well.
The day after the workshop, I cut up a couple of yards of muslin and experimented with different folding/twisting/binding techniques. I’ll reveal the results of those experiments next week – with plenty of photos – in Part 2. UPDATE: I decided to write a post about washing indigo-dyed fabric before I wrote about my dye experiments.
Meanwhile, check out the Shibori techniques in these articles. (If I do the workshop again, I’ll have a lot more information to pass along!)
Shibori DIY – a Dharma Trading article on three Shibori resist techniques: Arashi (pole-wrapping), Kumo (twist and bind), and Itajime (shape resist).
DIY Shibori – a HonestlyWTF article showing the Arashi and Kumo techniques with photos of the binding and the results.
DIY Shibori Designs – a Design Sponge article on three folding techniques and how to make abstract rings of white.
Have you done any indigo dyeing? What’s your favorite binding technique?
In February the Bay Area sewing community was shocked to hear that Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics was going to stop offering sewing classes at the end of June. This great store had offered classes for two decades. Owner Suzan Steinberg made this momentous announcement on her Fabric Lady blog. You can read that post here.
As the news about Stonemountain’s classes gradually spread, I could tell from conversations I had with a few people at Bay Area Sewists meetups (I’m the organizer of this Meetup group), that there was some confusion about why the decision was made and what it meant for the future of the store. So I decided to go directly to the source and interview Suzan. After our phone interview concluded, she also sent me these two paragraphs about the store, which will give you some sense of its history:
Our family has been in the fabric business for nearly 100 years and in our current incarnation since 1981. My Dad and I are third and fourth generation! You may look around your home and see a little bit here and there from Stonemountain – in your closet, curtains, quilts, crafts & more. We cater to the creative community – serving the crafter, quilter and garment maker with a wide variety of fabrics, patterns, buttons and sewing notions.
Twenty years ago I dreamed of teaching classes here at Stonemountain & Daughter in our upstairs discount fabric room. 1996 was a sewing school desert in the bay area. Since we began our school, I have been blessed to see it grow into one of the most successful in-store sewing schools in the country: a place to come and learn how to sew, design and play with our amazing fabric while growing our sewing community. Our classes have helped Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics survive by teaching the next generations how to create and use the fabric they love!
C Sews:In a March blog post on your Fabric Lady blog, you said that you came to this decision based on “looking at ALL current economic realities, long-term trends heading our way, the vast amount of time it takes to schedule, produce and administrate the classes, and the great benefits of selling fabric in the upstairs bargain room.” Can you please expand on that?
Suzan Steinberg: There are many things going on in the world, especially with having a brick and mortar fabric store. I’ve been doing this since 1981. There were tons of fabric stores in the area when we opened up. I’ve seen many stores going out of business over the years. We are a family business making a living providing goods and services to a community that really needs it. That’s why I joined the business with my father! I felt that “need” but the need lessened as I watched these multimillion-dollar businesses close around us. Poppy Fabric, New York Fabrics, and Kaufman’s – they’re all gone.
Besides Britex Fabrics, we’re one of the only full-service fabric stores in the Bay Area. Other stores are around but they are hit or miss. They’re based on bargains alone. We’re based on a curated collection from all the categories of fabric: cotton, wools, rayon, linen, silk, knits, and also patterns and notions needed to complete a project.
We are one of the last great full-service fabric stores in the country. There are less than 50 in the country – there used to be at least one in every city and town! Our sales people are talented and can answer your questions and help you out. They are consultants. If you go to Joann Fabrics (a national chain) you may not find people to answer your questions.
I come from the perspective of always trying to stay ahead and to not necessarily base my decisions on what is happening with other stores but trying to stay true to our customer base. We’re at another phase and crossroads. We’re also dealing with higher rents and rising costs. We rent our storefront and the people who work for me are paying higher rents in the Bay Area as well. It’s time to navigate through these changes and get even stronger.
At the beginning of the year, the writing was on the wall for many Bay Area businesses. I’ve been looking at every aspect of my business with my team, asking where is it fun and where is it worth our time? Where is the greatest need and where do they intersect? For me I never really thought about NOT doing the classes.
I didn’t consider that until my CPA suggested it in February of this year. After all, we jump-started the sewing revolution and have held space for classes when very few were sewing clothes. Spending hundreds of hours on the classes (outside of my full-time job running the store) has been a ‘labor or love’. We wanted to provide low-cost quality instruction in our store classroom upstairs and look at what we created! It really feels like a time of graduation and completion. Twenty years later, my personal life is moving in a new direction. In my spare time outside of Stonemountain, I’m an astrologer, I have a family, and I love to travel. This is a significant time to pass this mission onto the next group of teachers.
We are still dedicated to education. We’ll focus on our blogs, newsletters, and other forms of social media that are reaching thousands of people – putting out quality content and inspiration. All of this takes time and creative focus to share the quality of our message we strive for.
We will have more in-store events and videos on YouTube. We have people in our store that are good at that and ready to go! Please refer to our Affiliate Teachers in our Guide to Bay Area Sewing Classes when you are ready to have guidance in all of your fabric arts projects.
CS:You have a YouTube Channel?
Yes, we started it a long time ago but haven’t activated it lately.
CS:The impression is that because people need to buy supplies for the class, they would be buying things from Stonemountain so that helps you make money.
Yes, that is a point that has been greatly considered. Let me address that. Not having classes will affect our business, but we have to ask, what is the cost in going after that sale? So much of the store’s energy goes into classes, but is it sustainable? That’s what we have to look at and be brave and courageous and see what is better for our business long-term. As we transfer our time into supporting staff, customers, other shops, schools and teachers, then the larger our sewing community grows with ease and fun!
Another interesting point it that the last number of times I’ve gone upstairs to look at the classes, 50 percent of the people are not buying fabric from us. Maybe they’ll buy some thread and zippers, but they are buying fabric from Joann Fabrics or other places a lot of the time. That’s their decision. We give them an option and a coupon to purchase our fabrics, but we’re not forcing people to buy from us. So seeing as how about half of our students don’t actually buy that much from us, it makes me feel better about our decision.
CS: Upstairs the space where your sewing tables are will be replaced with fabric. What will be different upstairs?
We can now buy larger lots of fabric and fill the upstairs. We’ll have the space to display one-of-a-kind designer discount fabrics. All the fashion schools want it and sewing groups, like you! We’re filling a big need and it’s an opportunity to have more designer goods at great prices.
The basis of a great garment is finding a great fabric. Our store is based on choice. The decision is really to further serve the community in a joyful way, to change the store around to make it more airy, spacious, and creative.
We received 14 barrels for fabric on Friday. We’ve been painting the outside of the barrels and they will be tubes of delight, filled with Designer over-runs and sample yardage. So exciting!
CS: You’ve also made some other changes with the sewing patterns you carry. What’s happening there?
Of the big corporate sewing patterns, we carried Vogue, Kwik Sew, New Look and Burda. These companies are now selling online, directly to the consumer for cheaper than our wholesale prices. This has hugely undercut our pattern sales and the big companies have no sympathy or remorse. When we asked for fair pricing, they denied us because we are a retailer. Not to mention it costs us thousands of dollars to manage and stay up on inventory control. So, the decision was really made for us.
Another part of this decision is asking, how would we run the business if we were to start now, if this were our first year of being open? What patterns would we choose to carry? We want to be here for as long as we can to serve the growing sewing community in the Bay Area, nationally, and internationally. Bottom line, these big pattern companies were not there to support us.
CS:So all the sewing patterns will now be indie patterns?
Yes! We chose our indie pattern lines because they are made by real people, for real people. Each pattern is drafted with care and the sewing community brings it to life. We have personal contact with many of our indie pattern designers and we get to see them grow in their business with us. This is how sewing should be. We appreciate the mutual support we receive from them, something that was missing from our relationship with the larger pattern companies.
Our complete collection is up on our website, as well as in our store. We love supporting the independent and local business movement! What can be better than having great fabric, tools and inspiring pattern choices?
CS: How does it feel now that the Stonemountain Fabrics era of sewing classes is over?
I feel very proud of our contribution. We’ve taught over 20,000 people to sew and over 300 kids each summer. We completed this phase of our mission and now our dream is widening. It feels great, but I do understand the sadness people feel about the loss of our classes upstairs. It has been a fabulous place for people to sew. I’m grateful to everyone who has taken a class with us. They made it as good as it was. What a 20 years it has been!
Many of the people who taught classes at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics are still teaching in the Bay Area. Stonemountain compiled this helpful Guide to Bay Area Sewing Classes for Adults. So all is not lost! You can still take classes with some of your favorites teachers who may be teaching in a variety of locations in the Bay Area. For example, Barbara Beccio is now teaching at Lacis and the Stitch Sewing Lab in Berkeley, the Handcraft Studio in Emeryville, and at her own studio (visit her website Desideratum, for a full list of classes.)
Did you take any classes at Stonemountain? I took Nicole Vasbinder’s “How to start a craft business” when I considered making hats to sell. She provided plenty of useful information which I still have – if I ever decide to do that.
At the end of April Rachel of House of Pinheiro did a post about making her first pair of jeans, which you can read here. She made her jeans using Theory indigo stretch cotton denim from Mood Fabrics (sorry, sold out or I would link to it). And Rachel was offering a giveaway – a $50 gift voucher towards a Mood Fabrics purchase – and I won!
I was shocked and thrilled to win. I’ve left comments on other blogs that were offering sewing-related giveaways but I never won before. So this was a wonderful surprise. Thank you, Rachel! All I had to do was email Rachel my info and she got a code from Mood and sent it to me right away. How exciting, eh?
First, I browsed the denim, thinking I could try keeping with the theme of Rachel’s blog post. Maybe I could find some lightweight so I could try to copy a pair of trouser jeans that are pretty worn out. But after browsing through pages of denim (stretch, indigo, metallic, I got tired of reading the product details. Then I thought, why don’t I get a fabric I’ve never sewn before and that’s a bit unusual?
So what popped in my mind was: silk jersey. I first encountered this fabric at a Bay Area Sewists meetup at Britex Fabrics, which I blogged about here. It was so soft and had a lovely drape but it also seemed a bit slippery. When I searched for silk jersey on the Mood Fabrics website, I found several solid colors and just a few prints. A silk jersey print isn’t very common so I picked this Pink and Red Bold Floral silk jersey print for $24.99/yard. This is the image from Mood’s website:
I really like the bright red flowers. I have to admit that I didn’t really pay attention to the name of the fabric – “Pink and Red” or I may have reconsidered my choice. The background didn’t really register as pink to me. I ordered two yards of this silk jersey. What would you order if you had $50 to spend at Mood?
My order made me eligible for a few swatches so I picked fabrics I haven’t sewn before: silk crepe, cotton dobby, cotton gauze, and silk faille. My fabric arrived in a nice box.
And here’s what was inside…
I guess the website image was pretty accurate. I don’t have any pastel pink in my wardrobe. I didn’t like pink as a young girl either. The closest I get to pink nowadays is fuchsia. But I do like the red flowers so I think I can live with the pale pink background.
Now I just need to figure out what I should make with this fabric. It’s 43 inched wide (about 109 cm) and I have 2 yards (1.8 meters) of it. What would you make with this fabric? I’d love some pattern suggestions – maybe a draped top? The fabric is a little sheer so I’ll likely need to line it. And maybe I could make a scarf from any leftover pieces.
In this post, I’m going to focus on the Mood book. (I’ll review Lotta Jansdotter’s book later this month.) If you haven’t heard of Mood Fabrics, then you likely don’t watch television or buy fabric. Thanks to the reality TV series Project Runway (more than a dozen seasons so far!), Mood Fabrics is famous far beyond the fashion world. The flagship store in New York City gets more than 1,000 visitors a day. Wow.
So it’s not surprising that Mood Fabrics would author a book on fabric. The Mood Guide opens with a brief chapter on the fascinating history about how this family business got started by Jack Sauma, a Syrian immigrant who studied fashion design in Sweden. You ‘ll also get to see photos of employees, the family members who work for the store, and Swatch, the popular Boston Terrier who roams the aisles of the NYC store. The book mentions that some people come to the store just to take a photo of Swatch. Yep, the dog’s famous, too.You can see him in the photo below.
The book cover has a round black circle on it that says “A complete resource from Mood Designer Fabrics.” At 184 pages, with plenty of gorgeous photos, I’m not sure I’d call it a “complete resource,” especially when you consider that Sandra Betzina’s book More Fabric Savvy, is 234 pages long and only focuses on fabric. However, unlike Betzina’s book, which is more of a reference book, The Mood Guide features beautiful photos throughout. I’d call it sort of a combination coffee table/fabric resource book.
As I flipped through The Mood Guide, I wondered who would buy it? Beginning sewists? People who don’t sew but who want to know more about the store because of Project Runway? Intermediate Sewists?
The book is a nice overview of the Mood store and fabric. There’s a chapter titled “Fabric 101: The fundamentals of fabric for sewers and designers,” explaining basic concepts such as cutting against the grain, what’s a lining, interlining, and underlining, and defines terms and concludes with fabric shopping tips from Phil Sauma (Jack’s son), who goes on fabric buying trip for the store. For example, he advises shoppers who are buying a print, to check the fabric before it’s cut. Make sure the placement of the colors are where they should be because a bad print bleeds.
There are chapters devoted to certain types of fabric. Cotton, linen, and hemp are folded into one chapter. Wools, knits, and silks each get their own chapter. The last one (titles “Other Fabrics”) is a hodgepodge of everything from metallic and pleated fabrics to leather, lace, and fake fur.
If you are expecting a book that offers practical advice on how to sew a particular fabric, what needles and type of thread to use, whether you should prewash the fabric, and so forth, you’d be better off getting Sandra Betzina’s More Fabric Savvy.
(For really specific and detailed information on textile terminology, you may want to invest in a copy of The Fairchild Books Dictionary of Textiles (more than 700 pages!). But that book is rather pricey if you buy it new (more than $200) but there are used copies for sale on Amazon, too. I have a used copy of an earlier edition that I got for less than $30 at a book store.)
If you want a beautifully photographed general resource book on fabric, or you’re a fan of the store, this book’s for you.
Do you have a favorite skirt pattern? I just can’t seem to get enough of the Deer and Doe Chardon Skirt sewing pattern. This is my fourth Chardon – but it wasn’t the easiest to make as you’ll see (heheh). I had no idea when I made my first Chardon more than six month ago, I was going to like this pattern so much. I really love the inverted pleats. It’s a lovely pattern, especially for curvy figures (meaning you usually have to grade up in the hip area as I do). The Chardon pattern is a high-waisted skirt with side pockets. You can make it with a bow, belt loops, or contrast band.
This rather long post includes photos of my finished skirt and some construction details as well as a discussion of some of the unexpected problems I ran into as I made this version.
So far I’ve made version A with the contrasting hem (but no back bow), version B (but without the belt loops), and a maxi version using a wax print. I used medium- to heavy-weight fabric for the shorter skirts (cotton/hemp blend for one and a cotton stretch twill for the other) and a quilt-weight cotton for the maxi. This time I had a beautiful linen print remnant, which I got at a Britex Fabrics 50% off sale last May. As soon as I saw it, I thought – Chardon!
Here’s a photo I took on the fourth floor contemplating this fabric as a skirt. It was 1 3/8 yards (1.3 meters) long and 56″ wide. The pattern calls for 1 1/3 yards of 60″ wide fabric (or 1 2/3 yards of 45″ wide). Though it wasn’t quite 60″ wide I thought I could make it work if I didn’t match the print. (The fabric was originally $39.99/yard and I got it for $17.50 (!) – half off the remnant price of $35.)
For this version, I made several changes from the original pattern (some of which I’d also made to my maxi version):
Moved the zipper from center back to left side and used an invisible zipper instead of a regular zipper
Removed left pocket because zipper is now there
Lined it instead of using the facing
Added about 2 inches (5 cm) of length to the main skirt fabric
Added 1 inch of length to contrast band (the solid red linen fabric)
I really didn’t know how long I would make the contrast band. I deliberately cut it several inches longer and I posted three options on Instagram (@csews). The red band is longer (deeper?) as you go to the right, 1.) 5 inches (~12.5 cm), 2.) 8 inches (~20 cm), and 3.) 11 inches (28 cam, ).
Many people were in favor of No. 1 and some liked No. 2 (no votes for No. 3). The third was too long so I already took that out of consideration. (You can see all the comments/votes here.) A couple of people suggested making the main fabric a little shorter, which was a good idea except that I had already attached the red fabric to the main skirt piece. Plus I really loved the print, I didn’t want to make it shorter. I decided No. 1 was a little too short and No. 2 was a little too long. So I made it in between those two lengths, adding about an inch to No. 1.
This version is significantly longer than the pattern,which has the skirt hem end above the knee – not below the knee. What can I say? I like long skirts. I just feel more comfortable hiding my legs. But I have made a couple of things that are knee-length – my first two Chardons and my Bluegingerdoll Winifred Dress. Those were definitely out of my comfort zone. 😉
I assumed that sewing this one up would be a piece of cake. Heheh. Wrong. The big difference was the fabric. This time I used a heavyweight home dec linen/viscose blend that frayed like crazy. And then it wasn’t easy to see my markings for the pleats on this fabric. I inadvertently stitched many of my pleats about 1/4″ (slightly less than 1 cm) longer than they were supposed to be. Oops.
I made this discovery when I tried it on before installing my zipper. To my surprise it needed slightly more ease around my hips. What?! I haven’t gained that much weight since I last made this skirt. I took out my seam gauge, compared the pleat mark on the pattern to what I sewed and saw that those seams needed to be shorter. I had to unpick that slight extra length on nearly all of the pleats and then go back and reinforce the stitches. So much for a quick sew…
I finished all my raw edges with either a zig zag stitch or a curving straight stitch. Then I thought – hmmm, does the waist need more reinforcement because I’m going to line it and not use a facing or interfacing? Will the linen fabric eventually distort? So I decided to add seam tape to stabilize it. (I sewed seam tape to the waist of my Spring for Cotton dress, so I thought it couldn’t hurt.) Here’s a photo of the waist when I had just began pinning down the seam tape. See all that fraying?
After I stitched that seam, I wondered if using seam tape was a bad idea because I now had three layers at the waist – lining, thick linen fabric, and seam tape – and a triple layer of the linen where the pleat folds were (so five layers wherever there was a pleat. Yikes). I used my pinking scissors to trim the seam allowance. See all that fabric above the seam tape? It’s gone now. I trimmed that down so there was only about 1/4″ left. Understitching the lining and a good pressing keeps everything in place.
Then I tried on the skirt and the lining was too tight. Really? More problems? Well, somehow when I cut the lining, it got distorted and thus it wasn’t wide enough at the hips. Luckily the waist was fine so I didn’t have to touch that. I had already machine sewn the lining to the zipper tape and I really didn’t want to unpick that.
So I just unpicked the right side seam before the waist and added more lining to that side. Luckily I had some leftover fabric so I didn’t need to run to the fabric store. I added more fabric than I needed but no one will know or see it, right?
I knew I wanted to add a red contrast band. I first went to Britex Fabrics to see if they had a linen of a similar weight and they did but it was more than $50/yard because it was a home dec linen. It didn’t seem right to spend more on the contrast band than the main fabric. So I went to Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley and found this red linen – a nice match.
Note on fabric and pleat placement: If you use a fabric with a large print, you may want to pay attention to where the center front pleat will be positioned. I didn’t have enough fabric place the front pattern piece so that the red flower would appear at the top of the pleat. It is centered but you only see it below the pleat.
And if you remove the center back zipper, remember that there won’t be a pleat in the center back unless you add one. But I like it without an extra pleat because it shows off the print.
The pleats worked well on my maxi Chardon. I focused on centering the print’s design rather than matching anything on the side seams.
Here’s another photo of the back of my latest Chardon – but it’s a bit off-center on me. I hadn’t noticed but the side seams aren’t quite on the side. (I guess that’s why it’s helpful to have someone help you on a photo shoot – but it’s just me and my tripod.)
I’m really happy with this skirt. I needed some more color in my wardrobe.
Miscellaneous details: I got the hat several years ago in Santa Monica. It was made in China from paper fiber. The top is a sample size Ann Taylor silk sweater knit I got a few years ago in San Francisco. I recently got the sandals (by Elliott Lucca) at a deep discount in San Francisco. My lipstick is from Besame Cosmetics, which described the color as a “cool berry shade from 1945.” The company calls it American Beauty.
The wall behind me is the side of a vintage modern furniture store. In case you’re wondering, here’s what the rest of the chair mural looks like:
Cool painting, isn’t it? Makes me think of Lily Tomlin and her character “Edith Ann” who would sit in a huge rocking chair, which made her seem small (see this photo).
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.
What follows are my notes, Bay Area Sewist members’ questions and comments, and my observations.
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.
Douglas 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!