June 26, 2008

Being Brave! The Transition from Quilting to Clothing

Today's post will discuss the transition from quilting to making clothing. I know there are a lot of you out there who think that you can't sew for your own body or others.....my response is, "Yes, you can!" Think of it in a way you never have before...quilting is all about accuracy. That 1/4" seam eats me up whenever I am in the middle of trying to piece something together! Making clothing is much more forgiving. For one, you have a bigger seam allowance (I allow 1/2"), so you can fudge things a bit if needed. For example, if you have to make one seam a little bigger or smaller than another, the end result will not reflect that...think of it as altering the pattern to fit you best!

Of course, I know that is the part that intimidates some of you....so keep this mantra in mind when making clothing for yourself, "To thine own self be true". "Why this phrase?", you ask....because the first thing you have to do if you want to make something that fits you well is measure yourself! I know....it can be scary to actually attach numbers to parts of your body, but let's face it. We are all different sizes and that is what makes everyone unique. So let's embrace that uniqueness and get going!

My advice for making the transition from quilting to clothing is to make something simple and fast. You don't get simpler or faster than a skirt. There is no crotch to deal with or pesky inset pockets. It is a good way to get introduced to interfacing, facings, and adding zippers. Plus if you have to alter a skirt, it is relatively easy to do. My designs for skirts are in 2 basic shapes....straight and A-line. A lot of people find that A-line skirts are great to get started as they look good on any body shape. It must be that "float away from the body" characteristic they all share! Below is a photo of our Tiffany Skirt....it is an A-line made with raw edge construction so the scallops sort of fray after washing and wearing a bit....really fun and sure to draw in the compliments.
Next is our Bella Skirt, also an A-line with a lined yoke. It offers a front buttoned closure, so you don't even have to put in a zipper on this one! You can layer coordinated fabrics to show off those special 2-3 prints you bought at your local shop.
Straight skirts are great for those body types that are somewhat curvy (to show off your assets) or fairly straight (where your waist is not a lot smaller than your hips). For the straight folks, these types of skirts can give the illusion of curves! Below is our Kendra Skirt. It is straight with a flirty dip in the hemline at the back.
Back to that measuring thing.....for a skirt you only need two basic measurements....waist and hips. I recommend in my patterns that you go with the hip measurement and alter the waist if needed. Let's say for the sake of example that you are 42" in the hips but 34" in the waist....the pattern says for that hip size that you should be 32" in the waist...uh oh, that doesn't match your measurement....no problem! Then next size up is 34" in the waist, so what you would do is combine these two sizes. It sounds hard but is truly a cinch. All you would do is keep all of the sizes intact when cutting out the tissue. Then, use the size with the 34" waist and TAPER the side gradually down to the 42" hip size. Just fold the tissue to taper and there you have it.

I also suggest that you make a muslin...what is that? A muslin is an article of clothing that you make as a test run...it doesn't have to be made out of muslin literally. Let's say that you have an ugly piece of fabric that you wonder why you thought it was so great when you bought it (maybe it was on sale)....use it! This is a test piece anyway before moving on to that fabulous fabric that you just had to buy! Why make a muslin? It is a great way to make any other alterations....maybe you will need to take more from the front seams or side seams or add to the length....this piece will allow you to test all of these things, MAKE NOTES of changes, and then use these notes to make your "real" skirt. Not only can this be accomplished for you, but for anyone else you want to sew for. I have done this many times and the results are fantastic!

Fabric choices.....ah, one of my favorite parts! There are so many wonderful fabrics in the quilt shops these days.....those funky color combinations and large scale prints are just the best for clothing. Plus they are all cotton and can be washed without having to worry about what they will do when put in the washer. Making clothing from large scale prints is fun because your pieces are larger and you aren't disrupting the pattern in the fabric as much....it is time for those fabric designs to shine!

Think of how proud you will be when that first compliment comes your way....you can brag about how you made it yourself and how easy and fun it was! I promise...making these things can be addictive!! Soon you will be thinking about how many more you can cram into your wardrobe in this color or that. Get creative! Make your skirt from several coordinating fabrics, add simple applique designs, machine embroidery, ribbons, trims....the possibilities are endless! Once you get going, you will wonder why you waited so long! Being brave has its payoff!

June 18, 2008

Making Bags: What in the heck is buckram?

When I started working on bag designs last year, I thought about what makes a bag useful. One of my biggest pet peeves is a bag that simply doesn't stand up for itself! No wimpy bags for this chick! So, of course, that brings me to the topic of today's post which is buckram. "Buckram?", you say, "What on earth is that?" I have gotten that comment a LOT since I designed the Bridget Bag for last spring! To answer the question, buckram is a stiff but lightweight woven stabilizer that is made from cotton fibers. Why do I like it? Because it gives a bag stability in a way that other stabilizers such as Timtex and Peltex do not. Buckram can be creased, which gives you the ability to iron the sides and bottom of a bag, leaving a crisp professional finish.

"What is the story behind buckram?", you ask..... Well, it has actually been around for a long time. It is probably one of the first stabilizers ever developed. It was first used in the process of making drapes. Remember the drapes with pinch pleats at the top? Well, something had to be in there to hold the fabric stiff to get the right look and buckram did the job. Now, it is more common to see buckram on the inside of the front of a baseball cap....take a peek inside and see if you can spot it!

Where can it be purchased? That is a good question also. It is not kept in the same area of a store with other types of stabilizers, rather you can find it in the drapery section of stores that sell decorator fabrics. It is sold on a roll, is 20" wide or so, and is fairly economical. Some quilt shops are beginning to carry it also, so keep your eyes peeled!

One other thing about buckram. There seems to be about three different weights in the marketplace, ranging from very lightweight (almost like crinoline) to something that is so stiff, I don't know how anyone could sew through it or more importantly, turn the bag right side out after sewing it together....avoid the two extremes and go for the middle weight. It should basically feel like heavy cardstock in your hands. This will provide enough structure for your bag without being too difficult to work with or too wimpy to give the proper support.

Things to keep in mind when making bags:

It is advisable that you should spray your finished bag with something like Scotchgard, as buckram should be dry cleaned only. It loses its umph if put in the washer.

I also use a machine needle suitable for denim when making my bags as I usually have several layers to penetrate and hate it when the needle breaks.

Since buckram is not a fusible product, use a temporary spray adhesive such as Sulky's KK2000 or 505 to layer fabrics. This keeps away puckers and eliminates the need to pin anything, plus these adhesives are safe to use with your sewing machine.

Be sure to check out all of the bags in the Boutique Chic line that use buckram. Once you try it, I think you will see why it is my primary stabilizer!

June 5, 2008

Here I Am!!

Well folks, I have decided to jump on board with this whole "blog" phenomena! It seems like everyone has one now and the sharing of information is crazy! I just got the blog set up this morning, so I feel like I have been wading through some mud while trying to figure all of this out. I am sure it is one of those things that will get easier as I go....right now it is a bit foggy.

I should tell you a bit about myself first. I am a designer of sewing patterns for clothing and accessories. I have been operating my company for seven years and it has been such a journey. Before starting the business, I was an elementary school teacher for nine years. While I feel that there were many valuable things I learned from teaching, it was alas, not my true passion in life, but working with my hands (particularly sewing) always has been. I can't tell you the number of times that people I worked with would say,"why don't you sew for a living?".....it is much easier said than done. It did get me to thinking about how I could make my love for sewing into a career and that is when I began thinking about designing patterns....that way I could still design and sew, but not be chained to the sewing maching making the same things over and over again....I tend to get bored with repeating tasks.... : ) After talking to some local shop owners, I discovered there was interest in my design work, and the pattern business was born....so I resigned from teaching school and I never looked back!

As for my love of sewing, it all started many years ago when I was a young girl (maybe 7 or 8) and my mother taught me how to hand sew with needle and thread....from then on I was a true addict! I have dabbled in just about everything with needle and thread.....cross stitch, hand embroidery, punchneedle, beadwork, and just about anything else you can think of. I began working with a sewing machine not too long after starting out with that first needle and thread and was of course again, hooked! I made most of my clothing through high school and even made my wedding dress. It was not uncommon for my sister, mother, and me to all have sewing machines going at the same time with everyone working on a project as I was growing up! Those are fond memories.

I guess in marrying my love of sewing with teaching, I began to realize that maybe I had a special angle to offer with my patterns. I learned from teaching that if you want specific results, you have to be specific about your instructions.....I have brought that skill with me over to pattern writing and do my very best to give detailed instructions and hints to help make the sewing experience a good one.

In getting to design patterns for a living, you get what you want.....a lot of times there were patterns I wished for and now I can just design them! It is a tremendous challenge, but one that is so fun! The very best part of what I do is being able to share my passion and bring excitement for sewing to others.

I have met so many great people in the past seven years....some of whom I have placed links to, as they are designers and other talented people in the industry. We are so lucky to be able share our excitement for design, fabric, and all other things that are "sewing wonderful". I hope that I can be of inspiration through my posts to everyone who decides to visit this blog....and I hope you will inspire me too!