It’s not a UFO, I was just waiting on the buttons.

when your sewing project has to be put down for a little while.

Have you ever “failed” at a sewing project? Sometimes your project comes together all at once. You find a pattern then the perfect fabric (not your muslin but final garment fabric) then notions are easily procured. Sometimes it’s user error, sometimes its poor pattern fitting, this time it was a notions fail.

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I’m still not sure how to “Summer” style this top but it’s going to be great in the winter

Continue reading “It’s not a UFO, I was just waiting on the buttons.”

Bespoke Jalie Stretch Jeans

How I made stretch pull on jeans out of one of a kind ice dyed fabric.

I ice dyed some Cone Mills Denim natural color with a 20% stretch for these jeans you can read all about it here. Since I was essentially cutting into a piece of art, I made the fit  version out of black denim also with 20% stretch from JoAnns. The quality in the two different denims was VERY noticeable.

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Continue reading “Bespoke Jalie Stretch Jeans”

Fiber arts: Ice Dye technique

My experience and set up for ice dying a two yard piece of denim for making bespoke jeans.

Disclaimer: The substrate I am dyeing on was a gift from www.sewhere.com all other materials were purchased from the listed suppliers.

Too many months ago my friend Mallory gifted me some Cone Mills Stretch denim in natural to “do something fun” with. She suggested pants or a denim jacket and I knew jeans were where I would be heading. I live in jeans and tee shirts. Maybe it’s my up bringing, Grandaddy used to wear “dungarees” and denim work jackets while he taught us how to grow orange trees in the FL heat. Athletic wear on my body everyday seems like a broken promise, and I have enough mom guilt.

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Back to ice dyeing I took my sweet time figuring out the how and what, gathered many pinterest pins and finally settled on something that could read more floral and less Electric Daisy Carnival. I have shopped with Dharma Trading Co. before, picked up my indigo and some dye fabrics there and I love their website and customer service. I went with four colors: a turquoise, sage green, amber yellow, and orange. When dyeing with ice having a variety of light and dark colors as well as some contrasting colors (colors across from each other on a color wheel) can really enhance the outcome.

Shopping list:

Continue reading “Fiber arts: Ice Dye technique”

Knit fabrics and forgiving fibers

Knit fabrics can be a very forgiving fabric to sew with.  The degree of stretch (how much the fabric can be pulled out and recover from) make fitting a garment to your individual shape a bit easier. I have a knit twill skirt that has box pleats and low recovery, it was a bad choice but the print was so much fun I went against my better judgment. When I wear this skirt, at the end of the day it’s pleats are a bit saggy and the garment is heavy. However it has vintage Bakelite buttons and pockets so in the closet rotation it stays. Stretch and recovery vary from fabric to fabric but the overall  structure of knit (the loops and chains instead of the x and y-axis of woven fabrics) help reduce fraying and makes the wearing ease flexible and a useful material to master.

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Knit fabrics can seem scary to sew with but to wear they can be quite forgiving. Giving this versatile fabric a try might be a bit easier with these tools and tips. http://www.laurendurrdesign.com

The patterns that call for knit fabric usually have negative ease calculated into the pattern measurements unlike with woven you have an average ease of an added 3-4 inches for your measurements. Sometimes when you cut out your size (that you have measured your body for, don’t use your store size, please) the paper may seem a bit small, that is negative ease. Your chosen fabric will stretch on your form, unlike woven fabric which must be fit to your form with seams, darts and design lines.

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Just a few of my knits, a brown textured jersey, grey/black sweatshirt, pink waffle, print jersey and red interlock.

Knits also come in many different substrates (the base fabric that is printed on, dyed or knit) and some of the names may be regional. Tee shirts are often sewn in an interlock, jersey or tissue weight jersey. Some of the more stable knits that are stretchy but not as much as interlock are ponte de roma, sweatshirt knit, sweatshirt terry, fleece, and scuba knit. Then there are the knits we use in lingerie and athletic sewing like power mesh, tulle Leonardo, swimwear lining, swimwear lycra, dance lycra (which might have more foils and shiny treatments than swim), nude mesh and some nylon tricots (pronounced tree coat, tricot has a bit of mechanical stretch but not much recovery).

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Some of my nylon tricots, black in front and pinks and corals in back

There are some wovens that behave like a medium weight knit because they have added into the weave fibers like lycra, spandex or polyester. Some of these would be called stretch denim, stretch twill, stretch shirting, and stretch velvet. These substrates do have some fraying tendencies so treating your seam allowance is necessary.

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Swimwear knit can be shiny and sparkly like the black and navy or more matte lithe the print and light orange. It also comes in different weights or thickness.

When sewing knit fabrics on your machine there are needles you need to use called ballpoint or stretch needles. They have different numbered sizes for light to heavy weight fabrics. They are a necessity because the tip of the needle is rounded and will push though the loops and chains instead of cutting them. If you forget to use the right needle you will notice your seams begin to wear out and tear at the stitched thread line.

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Some of the tools I use when stitching knit fabrics are my twin needles to give it that professional cover stitch finish, and my walking foot.

Machine wise you don’t have to have a serger, a straight stitch lengthened or a zigzag stitch will work well. Many of my projects are made on my sewing machine with a zigzag. One tool for your machine that is very helpful with sewing knits is the accessory foot called a walking foot. When your fabric is fed through the machine it is lightly gripped by feed dogs, those grippy teeth like things below the foot. The walking foot has  extra feed dogs on the foot so that both the top and bottom fabric are fed equally. Another way to reduce the drag from the presser foot is to reduce it’s downward pressure. Each machine is different and may or may not allow this, look in your manual or online for tips.

Knit clothing items are some of the most forgiving of all the sewing garments, I think because the fiber stretches giving you up to an inch or more of wiggle room. Understanding the proper tools and tips will get you started with this versatile substrate. The forgiving fibers in knits stretch around your form, fitting you and giving room to breath. Some give and recover their shape very quickly and easily, these usually have more spandex and lycra content (the end of the bolt of fabric will sometimes tell you the percentage). When you make a pair of underwear for instance you want enough spandex or lycra that while you wear them throughout the day they don’t sag down your bum (trust me I have made this mistake).

When you have to hang it up and wait

I have posted about my first and most fabulous Harrison Shirt by Cashmerette Patterns. I made it out of Art Gallery Denim Collection and it is washing and wearing well (except for a little extra wrinkling in the collar but I think that’s a fusible interfacing issue)

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The story of putting a project away and waiting till the right supplies arrive. http://www.laurendurrdesign.com

I had a few yards of black double gauze and half a yard of a japanese print double gauze that I though would be an interesting version #2 with contrast back, cuffs, collar and button placket. Sadly the colors didn’t work for me, one was deep navy and the other true black. Maybe this should have been my first sign to change ideas but I persevered on.

After the new year I reorganized my sewing room (even well-organized places need a refresh after all) and had all my fabrics easily accessible based on what I was most likely to sew often. This unearthed a fine wale corduroy that I had purchased for the big kid probably four years ago or so, back when she still liked pink. Oh how things have changed. A lightbulb went off! Oh what about pink and black and pearl snap buttons!!! And at this point if you are wondering if I have western boots to go with this glorious concoction of contrasts the answer is yes, yes I do. They are grey with rainbow stitching and I found them at a thrift store for eleven bucks, I love treasure hunting.

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So I began, body of the shirt to be black double gauze, back yolk and all little bits were going to be this corduroy print.

Everything was ok the fabrics were playing well together, they have a velcro like stick to each other capacity so less pins. But the corduroy shifts, and warps. Could be user error, not on straight grain or could be a sub par substrate (that is what the base fabric is called). I continued on and used my nifty new Tula Pink Surgical Seam ripper often. Did you know that it’s hard to seam rip black thread on black fabric? I think in the future I will go with navy or a deep grey as my glasses and Ott light didn’t help, I wonder if it was like that black paint and absorbing all the light so I couldn’t see?

Then I run out of black thread, sort of. I later realized I have cones of black serger thread but that’s ok, I went to one of our local independent retailers and found high quality thread (yes thread matters, listen here and find out why) and some seam tape for a future bra. I was on track to finish this shirt in time for my weekend. This project is a lesson in not rushing through.

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My super cute light pink Dritz pearl snaps I bought on sale from WaWak were right where I needed them thanks to my organizing overhaul. I began with a cuff because if I mess up, there is less visual impact. Then where is my snap setter? Can’t find it anywhere. I have an eyelet press, a leather punch and no snap setter, seems wrong to me. Thank goodness for JoAnn’s coupons, in less than 30 minutes I have what I need and hammer away.

It’s not working. The prongs aren’t catching, try again with a new set, and it looks like I have it. I set the mate with no problem, woo hoo! I snap them together, nice tight fit, oh very tight, oh guess I need to pull harder (this is going to be challenging to do up or undo the front) and POP! The pearl back snap has popped off. GRRR. Ok I post a picture and my dilemma on one of my favorite FB groups and ask for help, we all need help sometimes. Prongs are probably too short for my fabrics. SIGH

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I kept the grainy photos because it truly captures how I feel about not finishing this shirt. hoo-hum, whawhaaa, sad trombone

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This shirt is going to be awesome. When I have the right snaps or buttons, I don’t know what it is going to be at this time, but I do know that I don’t need to force it any further. I have a fun shirt that will be finished when the time is right and not a moment before. So there it hangs. I am happy with the fit and will not settle for notions that do not fit or function in a way that make it a pleasure to wear.

What is the longest you’ve had a project sit and wait for the final touches?

Organizing your sewing space

I know how it is to organize a sewing space in a tiny apartment with kids, a loft with your partner, my bedroom, or now in my luxurious sewing room. You see we have moved A LOT, and while it is a pain in the rear, it has definitely honed my spacial relation skills. There are some who have their own space like I do now and some who have to pick up and pack up mid project. It’s hard, but I sew not only for the better fitting, feeling and longevity of my garments but because it brings me peace. I think I must weave in a bit of magic for each successful make.

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How to organize your sewing supplies no matter what space you have.  http://www.laurendurrdesign.com

When my sewing was confined to my bedroom: under bed storage was great for my tools and patterns. It quickly slid in and out-of-the-way, was shallow enough to see everything and held a lot. Fabric has and continues to live (sometimes I think multiply in the dark) in large rubbermaid bins. They stack easily, have great handles and aren’t too heavy to move about. My sewing table was a folding banquet table that I used for craft shows as well but any hard surface would have worked.

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When I shared a loft with my partner: I still had rubbermaid bins for fabrics and those lived in a spare closet. The plastic drawer units held my patterns organized by garment type and my tools by frequency of use (all my leather working tools in the bottom drawer and my sewing scissors and such in the top). I kept the room mostly room like with a large desk as my sewing table and the bed with a cardboard cutting mat as my cutting table (this was before my love of rotary cutters). The only thing that was more sewing room like was the duct tape dress form of myself.

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When I sewed with kids in a tiny apartment: I can’t sing the praises of stacking, lidded bins enough. All fabric lived in a bin organized by home dec, suiting, special occasion, cottons, and knits. Yeah I had a lot of fabrics. My sewing supplies were in a plastic tool box by Martha Stewart for Kmart. I can’t find mine but any art supply bin or Caboodle will do (for us 80’s kids). I still had the cardboard cutting mat and would lay that on the dining room table to cut out my projects. I would work as far as I could then box everything back up till next time. Sometimes it was 5min of sewing or 2 hours, sometimes it was days between. I think this is where my dislike of UFOs started (UFO’s are Un Finished Objects).

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When I have my own room: I love books and now have a book shelf for all my sewing and art related books and magazines. On it I also have a small plastic drawer unit with my sewing needles, glues and tapes. In two other boxes with a lids are my office supplies and electronic supplies. Next to my book shelf is a very small Ikea dresser that has all my big four patterns (McCalls, Vouge, Butterick and Simplicity) and on top of it in manilla envelopes and magazine holders are all my print at home and indi patterns. Fabrics mostly still live in rubbermaid bins but now I am down to two. One for all my quilting cottons (I’m not a quilter so I don’t pull them out often) and another overflowing with my garment fabrics of varying make up. I do have one of the closet hanging shelf things for my sewing and lingerie fabrics as I don’t have much of them. All my notions are in lidded shoebox size plastic boxes by type: zippers, bias and assorted tapes, buttons and fasteners, bra making, elastics, piping and velcro. This makes it easy to grab what I need and know if I have it or need to run to the store.

Do you have any great organization tips to share? I have been meaning to keep a fabric swatch book or a digital form, I hear good things about Evernote. What have you used?

 

Fabric Shopping in Downtown Los Angeles

My tips and suggestions for fabric shopping in Downtown Los Angeles CA

Fabric shopping can be so exciting, sometimes even treasure hunt like. I live about 45 minutes away from one of North Americas few fabric and manufacturing hubs, Downtown Los Angeles. Where there is garment manufacturing there is fabric. If you are visiting Los Angeles, you like to make clothing for yourself or others and you brought an extra suitcase (not really, but maybe) you really should get out there and shop DTLA (Downtown Los Angeles).

Some tips:

  • There is lots of walking and lots of people (if people aren’t your thing try to go during the week or early in the day)

  • It is very dirty downtown and you will be walking, a lot

  • Micheal Levine has a bathroom, most fabric shops don’t, some chain restaurants or food places may want you to deposit a quarter or use a code given by a cashier to unlock the bathroom

  • Bring cash. While many are totally fine with using a card swiper, you have more bargaining leverage if you pay cash, at the smaller vendors especially

  • If you are driving, everything is paid parking expect on average $20 (I’ve usually paid about $15 but rates can change) or use a social ride service, taxi or public transport

fabricshoppingindtlaThere are a multitude of small shops along Maple Ave. packed so tight it’s hard to walk into them but it is so worth it, thats were I found an entire roll of picot elastic for $6.00. Be aware some are closed on Saturday but open on Sunday. In between Maple Ave. and Santee St. on E. 9th St. is my favorite place to find swim and some underwear fabric Blue Moon, Google maps will take you to an indoor mall where its appointment only so beware. On Maple Ave. is Michael Levine’s, the map apps will take you to the right location for this one and it is worth it for a wide variety of fabrics, notions, yarn and ribbon or just a bathroom break.

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Checking out a poly lace in my favorite color at The Loft, I’m wearing the Tina Givens Bloom Dress without center split in a vintage quilting cotton.

Across the street from the main Michael Levine location is their Upholstery fabric and The Loft above. DO NOT MISS THE LOFT! This is where the treasure hunting starts. Up above the beautiful rolled and sorted upholstery fabrics are large boxes and bins of “one offs” “remnants” and “end of bolts”. Sometimes it’s a yard or it could be four, all of it is sold by the pound. I found loads of poly and nylon for lingerie sewing and knits, oh so many knits. The Loft is closed on Sunday so plan accordingly.

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All the interlock and knits!! The Loft

If you go on a weekday or Sunday (they are closed Saturday) there is a large vendor of trims and elastics on Maple between 9th and 8th. The building has “Trim Expo” painted on it but I don’t know if that is still the name of the business. So many beaded trims, woven ribbons, wedding lace and lingerie elastics in the back.

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Mood Fabrics and the shirting section

Once you are done getting down and dirty for your fabric fix, head toward Mood Fabrics in the Miracle Mile/La Brea part of Los Angeles. There on S. La Brea Ave you will find Mood fabrics and a bit farther up The Fabric Store-Los Angeles. This is where you can find silks and french ribbons, linens and New Zealand merino Jersey. At Mood they are happy to help pull down rolls or if you are wanting to “wait and see” give you a generous swatch. I am still using the swatch of Tulle Leonardo I received there, Bra making is great for using small bits of fabric.

There is also FIDM to visit if there is a costume or fashion installation to be displayed but that is for another post. I hope this has giving some intrepid sewist out there the info they need to explore what DTLA has to offer, it really is an experience that should not be missed.

Until next post, As Above Sew Below,

Lauren Durr

My top ten sewing notions

Sewing notions can be a bit personal, some have tried and true (TNT) brands they stick by like Clover, Bohn and Dritz. Your favorite brand of notions may not be mine but I always love hearing about new tools and gadgets so feel free to share in the comments.

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I like xyz company and my well respected peer likes abc. Neither are wrong and everyone’s milage may vary. Here are some of the items that I use for almost every project:

  1. Thread snips by Gingher (any brand will do and truth be told these are a bit heavy)
  2. Metal seam gauge (I like metal because I can press very close to it without melting it)
  3. Magnetic pin holder (mine needs replacing after too many sky diving trips)
  4. Pattern weights small and LARGE (I made these book ends filled with rice but they get more use as pattern weights now that my book case is filled)
  5. Tape measure (retractable is fine but you need something flexible to circle your entire body)
  6. Clover’s erasable pen (blue, purple or pink this thing is so much better than the dressmakers pencil or pens I have found in the big box store’s notions)
  7. Glass head pins (you can press on them without melting!)
  8. Super clips or Wonder clips or whatever they are called when you can’t pin the substrate (like leather or vinyl) these are handy.
  9. Blue painter’s tape, I use it to mark what pieces are where or in bra making what is up, down, right or left. Mostly keeps me from making two of the same cups or pant legs, mostly.
  10. Seam ripper, it happens to all of us beginner to advanced. I like the blade one’s but either type will do.

What do you find useful while sewing?

Embellishment & Mending: Sashiko Stitching

Sashiko or little stabs are a Japanese technique of mending clothing or reinforcing areas of high wear. Usually it was white or natural cotton thread onto indigo dyed garments so the contrast as well as the rhythmic dashes create a functional and aesthetically pleasing focal point. Whether or not it was intended to be. Quilters have used this type of stitching as well to quilt together the fabrics or create interest.  Continue reading “Embellishment & Mending: Sashiko Stitching”

Silk, Shibori and pattern hacking

How I made a difference in dye value work in a finished garment.

I love silk noil or raw silk. I first found it when I was working at JoAnne’s Fabrics and I bought the entire bolt of tan 45”. I made wonderful wide leg drawstring pants out of it and a tank top. It had a great drape and being silk it just wore really well. It does have a bit of a Continue reading “Silk, Shibori and pattern hacking”