Archive for the ‘Sewing Tips’ Category
Tuesday, May 14th, 2013
In fashion, “placement print” is what you call a fabric that has a large motif or design that is then strategically placed on a garment for maximum impact. A placement print can have one large graphic that appears only once in the garment, or it can have large, repeating motifs that need to be strategically positioned when cutting out a pattern. Here are some examples of placement prints in recent fashion:
Dolce & Gabbana Spring 2013 dress with central motif.
Dolce & Gabbana top and shorts, Spring 2013, showing large repeating motifs strategically placed.
Christopher Kane top, Spring 2013, with large dominant motif.
Oscar de la Renta Spring 2013 dress with motif placed in the middle of the dress.
Placement prints are stunning to wear, but they provide extra challenges to home sewers. Here are some tips from Mood for working with placement prints:
- If you find a placement print fabric in-store, take the bolt with you to the nearest mirror and then drape the fabric over your body. Place the motifs where you want them to appear in your garment. Do you like the way the fabric looks on you? Walk away from it if you don’t.
- If you are buying online, be sure the pattern repeat measurement is specified. At Mood we try our best to show the entire panel or repeat if the fabric features a large motif(s). Take a tape measure and check the size of the pattern repeat on your body to get a better idea of how the motif will look on you and your garment.
- Bring your pattern pieces to the store. This way you can lay out your pattern on the fabric and quickly eyeball how much fabric you’ll need to accommodate strategic placement of motifs. If you’re shopping online, use the panel size information and approximate laying out your pattern at home. If the fabric is not sold in panels, then buy at least an extra half yard or as much as is needed to add an extra large motif to your yardage. You don’t want to skimp on fabric when you are working with a placement print.
- Play around some more with your fabric at home, before you cut into it. Try placing the motif on several different parts of your body, not just front-and-center. Position the motif over the part of your body you like best and want to highlight. Or, you can strategically place the motifs to create a slimming effect, as Oscar de la Renta did in the dress above by concentrating the design around the waist and hips. Spend some time online looking at how designers use placement prints to the best effect, and then blatantly borrow their techniques.
Here’s a beautiful silk twill panel from Chado Ralph Rucci that’s now sold out at Mood NYC but may still be available at Mood LA (not sold online). It’s a strikingly beautiful print just on its own, but look how stunning it is as a simple coat.
Take a look at some of the panel prints Mood currently has online: FP25966C, FS23873C, and FR25901C. Have you ever made anything with a placement print? I’m almost finished with my shirt made from a Thakoon print that has gigantic paisleys on it, and I hope to share it here soon. Stay tuned!
Tuesday, March 12th, 2013
Blythe silk top available at J. Crew.
Do you avoid sewing silk simply because it slips and slides and you end up with wavy, puckered seams? Here’s an easy way to resolve that, courtesy of Michele of Mood NYC’s silk department:
1. Purchase some parchment paper from your local grocery store, or use pattern paper. Kenneth D. King, couture designer and Mood School teacher, likes to use cash register tape (available at office supply stores).
2. Cut paper into 2″ strips, approximately the length of each seam you have to sew. (No cutting involved if you’re using cash register tape.)
3. Place your garment pieces right sides together and pin to paper strips, with the paper being the bottom layer to feed through your machine.
4. Stitch all three layers together.
5. Gently tear away paper from seam.
Pins and paper help stabilize silk when stitching. We show a roll of Mood’s pink cash register tape here to use for easy paper strips.
Gently tear away the paper to reveal perfectly stitched seams.
Here’s Michele showing you the parchment paper she likes to use when she sews silk.
You’ll notice how the paper stabilizes the silk and prevents it from moving while stitching, so your seams are straight and pucker-free. Michele also reminds you that having a fresh needle in the appropriate size for your silk fabric is half the battle.
What about you, readers? Do you have any silk sewing tips you’d like to share here?
Monday, February 11th, 2013
That little peek at the neckline is all I can bear to show you of this failed top I recently made.
Recently I was talking to a designer who buys fabric from Mood for her collections. Does every garment you make turn out just the way you had envisioned?, I asked her, wanting to know if she ever had failures like home sewers are prone to. She laughed and admitted she still did from time to time, but that she did a lot of prep work to avoid wadders.
“I play with the fabric on my dressform first, making sure it will drape the way I want it to without having to force it,” she explained. “Then I consider all the details. I’ll test first how the fabric will perform when sewn as a hem or a pocket, for example, before I start on my garment.”
And as she said that I knew exactly why my most recent sewing project had failed: I didn’t test the details first. If I had, I would have seen that stitching a narrow hem causes the fabric to become wavy. Instead of the chic and delicate top I’d envisioned, I was stuck with something that looked lumpy and unbalanced.
Experimenting with shantung for the first time got Cindy sent home from Project Runway this week.
Watching Project Runway this week, the moment Cindy said she had never sewn shantung before but was making a dress out of it for Heidi anyway, I knew she’d be the one packing up her work area. It’s funny how often we home sewers fearlessly cut into a fabric that’s new to us and then just start sewing away, fingers crossed for the best.
That’s what I did with this novelty fabric of boucle threads sandwiched between poly organza. I told myself I’m just making a simple little top, what could go wrong. A lot, actually. (Sure, this top is salvageable, but I’m still putting it aside for now.)
The next time I sew with a fabric that’s new to me—and there are fabrics at Mood Fabrics I haven’t sewn yet—I’m taking the time to test the details first. With God as my witness, no more skipping the getting-to-know-you phase with my fabric!
What about you, readers? Do you test all the details, like hems, before you sew? Do you feel you spend enough time getting to know a new fabric? Tell us here!
Sunday, January 20th, 2013
Sewing inspiration: Missoni wool poncho, available at MyTheresa.com
How’s this for a sewing catch 22? I’m surrounded every day by the most beautiful fabric in the world but I’m too busy to sew. Gah! Because I would go crazy if I had to give up sewing entirely, I’ve modified my sewing strategy to keep things really simple:
When I get the urge to sew something I gravitate toward sites like Net-a-Porter and My Theresa, in search of something easy to make where the fabric is the star. Then I look through my pattern collection for a pattern I can easily adapt. With a job at Mood where I’m always busy and a family and home to take care of, I need to keep my sewing projects on the simpler side, and this method works well.
So you can see why a poncho like this one I saw at MyTheresa.com jumped out at me for a sewing project. I already had an old poncho pattern at home, and seriously, how hard is it to make something like this? Two shoulder seams, stitch the edges under and that’s it.
Pardon the low-contrast iPhone photo, but you can get a good idea for how fabulous this wool plaid is. It’s a lightweight wool and doesn’t feel too hot or too heavy to wear over a sweater or top.
For my poncho I chose a beautiful wool plaid that I found in Mood’s wool department at the NYC store (also available online as well at MoodFabrics.com). I pair it with a cream cashmere turtleneck and tan wool pants, creating a look very similar to the Missoni above, and I get a ton of compliments on my outfit when I wear it to work and out. This poncho has become one of my favorite pieces in my wardrobe, and it had to be one of the easiest to make as well.
To stabilize the neckline, I bound it in some contrasting leather I had in my stash.
So here’s my recommended strategy for home sewers with no time to sew: 1) Look to established designers first for inspiration, because they know best how to make beautiful clothes with simple, clean lines. 2) Dig through your pattern collection to find an adaptable pattern. Even if you own just a few patterns you’re likely to have one that’s readily adaptable to your needs. 3) Let the fabric be the main focus of your garment, rather than relying on a lot of seams and darts and gathers and other structural details.
Tell me here about your sewing strategy!
Monday, December 31st, 2012
Use your machine to accurately mark edges to be turned and pressed.
Here’s a quick tip from us at Mood Fabrics on how to dramatically improve the appearance of your finished garments: Stop eyeballing and measure everything.
You know what we mean when we say eyeballing, right? You’re pressing and turning under a seam that’s supposed to be 1/2 inch but you’re not using a sewing gauge to measure as you turn and press–you’re just eyeballing it and telling yourself it’s probably close enough. Or you’re laying out a pattern and assuming that the grainline is perfectly parallel to the selvedges–because it looks that way to you.
This way of eyeballing as you sew is so 2012, readers. For 2013, strive to practice more precision sewing. Don’t trust your eyes alone anymore, no matter how accurate you think you are at eyeballing. By using measuring tools as you work you’ll save time–because you’ll get it right the first time and won’t have to rip seams when something is wonky–and your finished garments will look so much more professional.
Want to know a fast and easy way to add more accuracy to your sewing? Whenever you need to turn under and press an edge, trying using your sewing machine to mark the distance that needs to be turned. For example, you’re attaching a lining to a dress or a jacket by hand and need to press the edges under 5/8″. Just stitch along the lining’s edge at 5/8″ using a long stitch, then turn and press under using the stitching line as your rule. So much faster than pressing along using a sewing gauge; just make sure you press so your stitching line isn’t visible. I do this now anytime I have to turn and press–it’s fast and accurate.
Here are some of the measuring tools I rely on to check accuracy as I sew.
Mood is steadily trying to beef up the line of sewing notions we offer, both in our stores and online. We know there are a gazillion types of sewing tools out there–tell us here what tools you like for accuracy or anything else sewing- and construction- related. And Happy New Year from all of us at Mood Fabrics!
Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012
I made this simple unlined leather tote bag using a regular home sewing machine. The leather is Ralph Lauren closeout leather available at Mood NYC.
“I’m afraid to sew leather!” We hear that from customers all the time at Mood. Would you believe that leather can actually be quite easy and simple to sew? And that you can sew lightweight leather on your home sewing machine without any special equipment? Read on for Mood’s tips on working with leather:
• Start small with your first leather project, just to get the feel for working with leather. My first leather piece was a basic tote bag. Very often leather dealers will have small scraps you can buy to practice on.
• Buy your leather from a place that will take the time to show you the types of skins that are appropriate for your project. Excuse the shameless plug for Mood’s leather department, but Dmitry (shown below) is really wonderful about patiently advising customers on the different types of skins and what will and won’t work.
• For your first leather garment, take a cue from today’s fashions and only sew a part of the garment in leather. For example, you could make a jersey t-shirt with the sleeves in leather, or a wool dress with just the front yoke in leather. One skin can usually give you two short sleeves or part of a bodice, saving you money on leather.
• Bring your muslin or pattern pieces with you to the leather store so you can lay out your pieces on the skin. Skins vary in size, and you can save several dollars by buying just the right size skin for your needs.
• Use a rotary cutter to cut out your pattern. Use weights to hold your muslin in place as you cut.
• Only sew with leather when you are alert and using all your smarts. Mistakes in leather can be fatal because needle holes show. Set your machine speed to turtle, and think, think, think every step of the way. Remember, you can take in leather seams but you can’t let them out because the stitching holes will sew.
• Seams can be topstitched or pressed open and glued in place with Stitch Witchery or contact cement.
• Leather can be pressed with an iron (press on wrong side of hide) or pounded with a rubber mallet.
• Wonder Clips (Clover) are perfect for holding pieces together in lieu of pins as you stitch. (Pins leave permanent holes.)
• Use a stitch length of about 3.0 for seams, longer for topstitching.
Tools for sewing leather:
• Universal sewing machine leather needles in sizes 90/14 or 100/16 (I’ll admit I’ve used regular sewing machine needles and haven’t had a problem with them)
• Regular nylon or poly thread
• Teflon sewing machine foot (doesn’t get stuck on the leather like a regular foot can)
• Stitch Witchery for adhering seam allowances flat
• Leather glue/contact cement can also be used to hold leather in place
• Rotary cutter (you can cut leather with sharp scissors too)
• Wonder clips from Clover (available at Mood NYC)
• Rubber mallet for flattening seams and other areas
This is Dmitry of Mood’s leather department. Every time I start a new leather project I go to him for tips. He’s incredibly helpful.
Mood is holding a class on learning to sew leather on Monday, November 5, 5:30 p.m., on the Home Decor floor. It’s taught by noted sewing instructor Kenneth D. King, and he’ll let you in on all the ins and outs of working with leather. Click here to register today.
Friday, August 31st, 2012
Look at this fantastic lining! Tsumori Chisato trench coat.
Just a quick thought as we head into this Labor Day weekend…
The next time you buy lining fabric for that coat or jacket you’re making, think about using a print instead of a boring solid color. Imagine wearing the trench coat above and then flashing everyone with that cool lining. Sarah Jessica Parker, a Mood NYC customer, buys silk prints to line her coats because she likes the unexpected surprise of a print lining. I replaced the lining on a friend’s J. Crew coat with a charmeuse print, and my friend says she gets more compliments on the lining than she does on the coat.
So instead of automatically reaching for a matching solid lining fabric the next time you sew a coat or jacket, consider a fun print. Here are two from MoodFabrics.com that I like:
302144, silk charmeuse
302132, silk charmeuse
Enjoy the long weekend, and happy sewing!
Monday, June 4th, 2012
The raglan sleeve for my dress in progress. You can see the organza interlining on top of the matelassé.
I’m making McCall’s 6460, a simple sheath dress with raglan short sleeves, out of the silk-blend matelassé I blogged about May 22. Here’s a quick recap of my sewing process so far:
- Since this pattern was new to me, I made a muslin
- Made minor adjustments to the muslin to accommodate my shape (rectangle)
- Cut out pattern pieces in silk organza (I’m using silk organza for interlining) and transferred all markings (darts and seams) to it
- Pinned organza pieces to the matelassé and cut, using organza pieces as guides
- Hand-basted organza to matelassé at seams and thread-traced all darts (two layers of fabric now neatly held together as one)
- Hand-basted dress’s darts and seams and tried dress on for fit (just because your muslin fits doesn’t mean your fashion fabric will behave the same way)
- Hooray! I got lucky and the fit is spot on
- Machine-stitched everything, which went super-fast because so many seams and darts were already held together by basting (skipped pinning)
You probably read steps 1 through 6 and thought aaugh! that’s a lot of work to do before even sitting down to a sewing machine. Truth be told, the prep work goes quickly, and you avoid ripping out stitches in your fashion fabric (and potentially damaging it). Work out your fit issues before you machine stitch and you’ll always save loads of time in the long run. Now I just need to construct my dress’s lining, attach it and that’s it.
How do you feel about hand-basting? Hate it with a passion, or think of it as peaceful communing with your fabric? Let me know!
Tuesday, May 29th, 2012
We just got a huge shipment of "famous American designer" silk prints at the Mood Fabrics NYC store. All the more reason to try your hand at sewing with silk.
Do you suffer from silkaphobia? You know, fear of sewing silks. You can admit it, because this phobia is actually quite common. Just look at all the people who entered our recent silk giveaway, only to comment that they hadn’t sewn silk before because they were afraid of it.
Readers, I also once suffered from silkaphobia. But I got over it and so can you, because silk is too beautiful and classic a fabric not to have in your repertoire. Today I’m sharing a few simple tips that helped me overcome my fear of silk:
Go pick up the excellent fabric guides by Claire Shaeffer and Sandra Betzina: Claire Shaeffer’s Fabric Sewing Guide and More Fabric Savvy by Sandra Betzina. Both are great resources.
Invest in real pattern weights like the professionals use. The accuracy of my cutting greatly improved once I bought these weights, which you can find online at sewing supply sources. (Do not, I repeat, do not use food cans to hold down your pattern when you are cutting out silk. Ask me about the lovely ring that’s subtly imprinted on my gray silk-blend jacket.) Heavy weights keep all fabrics, especially slippery fabrics like silks, securely in place when you are cutting.
I love my iron pattern weights! The handle allows you to hold them securely so you don't drop them on your toes (ouch).
In lieu of professional pattern weights and if your silk is shifty, pin your silk in a single layer to tissue paper or other lightweight plain paper. Pin silk to paper around the edges and in the center, but only in places that aren’t a part of your pattern. Pin holes can show and mar your lovely silk.
Use the right needle for your type of silk. This is a mandate for all fabrics but especially so for silks. Test results with a 60/8 needle and polyester thread, not silk thread. A Microtex needle may work well but I often have equally good results with a Universal needle.
The hallmark of a well-made garment is in the pressing, and this holds true for silk. Always use a pressing cloth. I’m partial to my silk organza press cloths, which I made by buying a yard of white silk organza, cutting it into large squares, and then serging the edges. If your iron spits or drips water, empty the water out completely and use a dry iron: Don’t risk water spots. Press your seams flat first to meld the stitches into your silk, then press them open. To prevent show-through ridges from appearing on the right side when pressing seams open, use a wooden seam stick pressing tool like the ones made by Golden Hands.
Test everything first on a large scrap of your silk. Needle, size, stitch length, pressing and marking. Make sure your marking method completely disappears on a scrap before you try it on your garment; plain old chalk may be your best bet.
Plan your seam finish before you sew. I could fill up pages with all the different types of seam finishes you could use on silks. For the silk maxi skirt I just made I sewed French seams, which work best on straight seams with no curves and on lightweight silks. I’ve also hand-overcast my silk seams, and on 4-ply silk I’ve pressed open, stitched close to the edge of the seam, then pinked the edges. Do not serge or zigzag on lighter-weight silks–your machine will be too likely to eat your silks.
Don’t you just hate when you practically have to take your machine apart because your fabric was eaten at the start or end of a seam? Here’s a trick: Begin your seam on a small strip of paper that overlaps with your silk and continue sewing onto the fabric. When you’re done just tear away the paper and knot the thread ends together. Never backstitch to secure a seam; just clip the threads and tie a knot in them and your machine won’t eat your fabric.
Watch how you hold your pieces together when sewing seams. As I mentioned earlier, pins leave holes in silk. If you pin, do so in the seams where the holes won’t show. I keep meaning to try out Clover’s WonderClips; let me know if you’ve used and liked them and I’ll see about stocking them here at Mood.
• • • • • • • •
I hope these tips make you a little less apprehensive about sewing silks. Silk is such a rich and timeless fabric that I bet you’ll find your handmade silk garments never end up in a bag for Goodwill. Do you have any tips for sewing silk fabrics? Please feel free to share your silk sewing tips here. Thanks!
Tuesday, May 1st, 2012
10 Crosby Derek Lam Maxi Skirt, available at Shopbop.
Lately I’ve been seeing maxi skirts everywhere in New York City, on stylish women of all ages. So of course now I’m craving one for myself and may make this my next sewing project. Let’s look at pattern possibilities…
- Vogue 1310 Chado Ralph Rucci: The draping of this maxi skirt is to die for. A person could look like a slender column in this pattern. I think I’d shorten it so it doesn’t sweep the floor (not really practical for running up and down the stairs here at Mood NYC).
- McCalls 6567 or Butterick 5757: Nice basic patterns, easy elastic waists, look like they could be swishy enough and would work well in a number of fabrics
- Simplicity 4188: A yoked waistband and multiple panels make for a very swirly skirt. Soft wovens like silk would work well with it.
- Burda 7553: Very similar to the Derek Lam skirt above.
Now for fabric possibilities…
. That’s where it gets a little harder, only because there are so many good choices. Today I left my office on Mood’s lower level and went upstairs to the main floor to see what fabrics struck me. At first I thought silk jersey
, for sure, because it drapes so well and feels great to wear. But then I wandered by our bamboo knits
and fell in love with their soft hand. I grabbed Ann in our silk department to ask which fabrics she’d recommend for a maxi skirt: “Crepe de chine
or washed silk
,” she suggested. Oy, so many choices. But then she pulled out this silk and lycra blend, shown below, and I was all “Eureka! That’s it!”
A silk-and-lycra blend that would make a stunning maxi skirt. Available at Mood NYC for $35/yard.
I think a maxi skirt made out of this fabric and paired with a white shirt and black or dark accessories could look so chic. What do you think? Too bold? Or perfect for a summer day?
Tips for sewing a maxi skirt: Well, not a whole lot, actually, because I think sewing a maxi skirt should be purposely simple and easy. Choose a fabric that drapes well and doesn’t need a lining, and that’s half the battle. Do a simple machine-stitched narrow hem, finish seams as appropriate for your fabric, and that’s it. Wear and enjoy!
• • • • •
Shop our COLOR EXPLOSION sale happening now! We’ve discounted all our colorful fashion fabric by 20% at Mood Fabrics online. Save now through Thursday 5/3/12 11:59 p.m. (Excludes black or white solids, prints in black & white, all home decor fabrics, codes starting in PV, and dressforms. Online only.)
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Check back here again on Friday, when we visit with Danyce of our Home department for Favorite Fabric Friday. See you then!
Wednesday, April 25th, 2012
An example of a test garment, or "muslin." Threads Magazine has an excellent article on sewing muslins. Photo: Scott Phillips.
Here’s a question for you: What is the most valuable fabric Mood Fabrics sells? The $350 per yard embroidered lace in our NYC store? Not even close. It’s the $3 a yard muslin. For fashion students, designers and home sewers alike, plain old cheap muslin is priceless in terms of saving time and money and getting the best end results.
Definition of a muslin for sewing (I’m borrowing this one from Webster’s online dictionary because it’s pretty good):
“When sewing clothing, a test or fitting garment may be made of inexpensive muslin fabric before cutting the intended expensive fabric, thereby avoiding a costly mistake. The muslin garment is often called a muslin and the process is called making a muslin. With the availability of inexpensive synthetic fabrics, which closely resemble the hand (drape and feel) of expensive natural fabrics, a test or fitting garment made of synthetics may still be referred to as a muslin, because the word has become the generic term for a test or fitting garment.”
While muslin cotton is the preferred fabric choice for creating test garments, as you can clearly see stitching lines and it’s easy to write on, you can substitute any inexpensive fabric as long as it mimics the properties of your fashion fabric. I like to pick up fabric at rummage sales to use for many of my muslins.
Do you sew muslins regularly? Fashion students are taught to make muslins, and designers always use them, but most beginning home sewers aren’t initially aware of this important step. Personally, once I started sewing muslins as a routine part of my process, the quality of my finished garments really improved and my sewing success rate went up.
When should you sew a muslin?
- Any time you’re trying a new design or pattern that is not similar to previous designs or patterns you’ve sewn
- Any time you’re making a garment and the fit needs to be spot-on
- Any time you’re sewing with fabric that you’d cry over if you cut, sewed and then discovered you hated your pattern or cut it too small, etc.
Here's a jacket muslin I made and subsequently discovered that my pattern was too big. Making size adjustments to a muslin is way easier than fussing with good fashion fabric.
Sewing muslins: For home sewers who don’t need to worry about production issues, fast and quick is fine. Machine-stitch with long stitches. Mark anything with a pen or tailor’s chalk that you may need to see to make alterations to your muslin, like seamlines and darts. Sometimes I’ll leave off details like a collar or pocket and sew a muslin just to the point where I can tell if it will work or not. Sew and alter a muslin to the point where you’re confident it’s ready to be used as a pattern with your fashion fabric.
Hopefully you’re convinced muslins are the way to go. Now here are some muslin-worthy fabrics ready for you to sew!
Stunning Marc Jacobs brocade, $50/yd
Lovely French chenille lace in pumpkin, $30/yd.
Scrumptious 4-ply silk in lavender, $40/yd
You know we have lots more where those came from. Visit Mood Fabrics online.
Are you a muslin maker? Or do you prefer to take your chances and forge ahead with your fashion fabric? There’s always healthy online discussion among sewers about this very topic.
Thanks for stopping by. Check back here again on Favorite Fabric Friday, featuring the effervescent Sueann of the cotton department in the NYC store. She’ll share her favorite fabrics of the moment, and she has great taste.