Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Beginner's Series: Fabric

So, you want to go out and buy fabric for the dress?

Ok, great.  So you walk into the fabric store and have a panic attack because of all the different kinds of fabric and you don't know which one to buy!  So, I wanted to write this post just for making this dress.  BUT!  If you are just starting to sew, one of the things I recommend to you is to go to a bunch of different fabric stores and touch all the fabric you can.  This is the only way you will be able to start differentiate between a challis and a chiffon; a damask and a jacquard; a lawn and a voile.  Or, you can do what I did, scout online sales and buy cheap fabric and work with it.  This is how I discovered my love of lawn.  I just loveses lawn. 


for this dress, I recommend using a cotton (especially if it's your first dress!).  It's easy to work with and easy to wear.  But, just saying cotton doesn't tell you anything.

Quilting Cotton:
*le sigh* no matter what I say, I will be saying something wrong here.  Some people are anti-quilting cotton (to use when making garments).  Other people think quilting cotton is the best thing!  My personal preference is to not use quilting cotton because 1) I can never make a professional looking garment with quilting cottons 2) I don't like how heavy it is in the summer 3) and I don't like the scratchy feel.  That being said, quilting cotton is a great place to start for beginners and those prints just pull me in!  As a warning, if you are going to use quilting cotton, I would advise against the shawl collar.  You can try it; it could work.  But, quilting cotton is pretty stiff.

Some ideas: Rainbow chevrons, records, I may have to get this fabric to match my glasses, photography dress, don't like bright prints? how about a pirate dress?, you know I love me some floral, fancy some sushi?, cherries?, or what about a nautical dress?

So, those are just random fabrics pulled up on Hart's fabric. 

Cotton Lawn:
I just love lawn.  Seriously, I could make me entire wardrobe out of it and be happy...cold during the winter, but happy. Next year for my birthday, I am going to get 3 yards of liberty.  I think this dress would look beautiful in this lawn, no?  Hmmmm....did you hear that?  Oh that's just my husband having a heart attack upon seeing the price tag of that one!  It is beautiful, but $47 a yard is a bit much.

So, cotton lawn provides a lot of prints, but is lightweight and breathable for the summers here on the northern hemisphere.  The only catch with lawn, is that you need to make sure that it is not see through!  If you buy it, bring it home and then realize that it's see through, don't panic.  Hop online, buy some batiste and underline it.  Don't know how to underline?  Stay tuned, I'll show you :)

Some ideas: alternative to the libertyretro asian lawn, more floral, yellow floral, ok, ok I have a slight obsession with floral lawns! 

Seersucker is pretty amazing stuff.  It hides wrinkles (see Mom, I listen to you!) and it hides puckered seams!  It's also super lightweight and pretty much perfect for summer.

Some ideas: gingham seersucker, striped seersucker, I can't find any more online, but sometimes Joanns has some pretty cool seersucker.

Swiss Dot:
You have probably seen swiss dot before.  Swiss dot is essentially a cotton lawn with little embroidered dots all over it.  It's like cotton lawn with chicken pox.  One thing to keep in mind, make sure that if your fabric is see through, grab some lightweight cotton to underline the pieces with!

Here is an example of what it looks like.  I can't really find too much on the interwebs right this second.

Have somewhere fancy to go?  This dress would look great in a brocade.  Brocade really isn't too difficult to work with either.  I do have some pretty black brocade, however if I use it for this, you guys wont be able to see too much. 

Some ideas: this is super pretty, if I had a complexion other than "pasty white" I would buy this fabric in a heart beat :), love the dark colors on this one!

Sateen is on the heavier side of cotton.  I personally love sateen, I haven't sewn with it too much though.  I have a 3 yard piece in my stash and I don't know if I will ever use it.  It's just so pretty. Sateen is not very drapey at all, so the pleats on this dress would stand out a little more than if you use swiss dot or lawn.

Some ideas: Green/Purple floral print,

Well, anyways.  I hope that gives you guys some ideas. 

Things you should keep in mind when buying fabric:
1) If this is your first big project, stay away from anything slippery, silky, or shiny (other than sateen).   Sateen isn't super shiny, but don't go and get satin or silk/silk-type.  Trust me, do yourself a favor and stick with easy right now.

2) Ask yourself what you want the dress to look like.  If you want it light, go with a light weight fabric (swiss dot, lawn).  If you want it to have a little more body, go with a medium weight (sateen, brocade, some lawn). Pick up the bolt of fabric and unroll a couple feet.  Is the fabric stiff?  Is the fabric light and airy?

3) Ask yourself what collar you are going to use.  A light airy voile (similar to a lawn, but less crisp) will not react well if you try to make the structured stand collar, but it would look nice as a shawl collar.  A medium weight sateen would look good with both collars, but the shawl collar will be stiff.

4) Don't buy knit fabric.  Seriously, just don't do it.  Knits are easy to work with, but you would have to adjust this pattern.  

5) Remember the pleats in the dress.  A lighter weight fabric will kind of disguise the pleats, while a medium weight fabric will make them stand out a little more.  Does this make sense??

6) Check the opacity of your fabric BEFORE you leave the store.  That way you will know that you need a voile, batiste, or a lawn to underline with.

GSWDS: Bodice Darts and Skirt

I was going through my posts and realized this one never posted!  It just hung out as a draft!!  Sorry!!

Oh my goodness gracious!  The reason why I scheduled the sew along in February was because I usually don't have much going on in February.  This last month was so insane that up until yesterday I didn't even have time to check my email, now to top it all off I am sick.  I didn't get sewing or blogging or reading my blog done for almost this entire month.  So yeah, that's why it's been quiet on the blog and I haven't been responding to any blogs.  But, I am here now :) and I feel everything getting back to normal.

So, darts.  There isn't much to say about darts, honestly.  I do it the same old way as everyone else.  However, I wanted to post about this because I wanted to talk about how I mark my projects.
For this particular project I am using the Pilot Frixion Erasable Gel Pens.  I love these pens!  When I first started using them, I would actually make my husband and daughter watch as I ironed them.  So basically they are pens whose ink disappears when it gets hot, which makes them pretty perfect for sewing.  However, the one thing you need to do is test it on your fabric first.  On a little test square, just make a couple marks in a couple different colors and then iron them away.  You will see that some colors disappear better and some colors may actually discolor your fabric after you put the iron on it.  They are pretty awesome and they're definitely worth a try.

When I am using dark fabric, I use my allary chalk set.  There are two things to mention when using this chalk set.  1) sometimes the chalk doesn't want to come off your fabric 2) sometimes it doesn't want to stick to your fabric!!  So, once again you have to try it out on your fabric.

I used to use this, but I don't use it much any more.  It's not because I don't like it, because I do really like it.  However, I am running out of ink and I have yet to buy another one.  They aren't really expensive, but I just haven't gotten to the store and bought one-I just keep putting it off.  It is worth mentioning, though.  The purple end has ink that disappears after prolonged exposure to air and the blue end has ink that disappears after exposure to water.  I find that the blue end works really, really well for buttonholes.  

Then of course there is tailor's tacks.  Which I really like doing, however, they have a tendency to slip out.  There are directions in Gertie's book on how to make these.  I always use silk thread or handbasting thread for tailor's tacks.  I find that these threads are just easier on the fabric.  

So, mark your darts and sew them up!

I also figured pleats were pretty easy, I do have pictures if you want them, though!  

Now, you need sew the bodice fronts to the skirt fronts.  Since I was working with challis I used a french seam to attach them.

Introducing the Beginner's Series

Hey guys!  Yeah, I know!! I am so freakin' behind on posts its ridiculous.  Part of the problem is that my computer doesn't reliably get internet access, which I don't understand.  I talked to my (IT) husband, but I don't think he knows either and it's kind of difficult posting on an iPad or iPhone!!  I have been working on my shirtwaist dress but I will post about that later.

So, the other day I got an email make a long story short, a friend, and she was asking me to help her make M6349.  I played good blogger and advised against it!!  :P  Anyways, after a couple novels emails later, we decided on Simplicity 2444.  I was going to send her a list of things she would need, then that turned to "maybe I should send pictures?", then that turned to "I should put it on my blog so I could help her and whomever else needs the help".  (Yes, I am one of those people who still use the word "whom") So, the Beginner Series was born (button to come!).

This series is going to be a little different then my Shirtwaist Dress sew a long.  I wanted to put up posts slowly.  Especially considering my Shirtwaist Dress sew a long STILL isn't finished :P  So, this first post is just a list of supplies that a beginner would need.  Also, post here or email me if you have any questions (even if this post is like 20 years old).

Are you ready?

1. Sewing Machine:
 There are some projects out there that could be done with hand sewing and I suppose this is one of them.  I mean technically anything can be done with hand sewing.  For the sake of this series, we are going to use a sewing machine.  Any machine will do, as long as it sews straight and zig zag.

 2. Needles:
You will need hand needles and machine needles.  While we will be using the machine, there are a couple spots on this dress that need some hand sewing.

For your machine needles, get a universal pack with a bunch of different sizes (it does not have to be Schmetz brand.  Get the right brand for your machine).  Make sure that you don't get "ball point" needles-those are for knit fabrics and we will not be dealing with those today.

3. Measuring tape:
Do NOT go by your RTW (ready to wear) size for this.  Just because you wear a size 8 dress, does NOT mean you wear size 8 pattern size!  I will go over measuring in a later post.

4. Pins/pin cushion:
Yeah, I have a boring tomato pin cushion.  I have plans to one day make a prettier one, but in the meantime, this does it's job.  Annnd, yes, my pins are organized by color and it looks like my tomato has some awful venereal disease, and this is not optional, I just like it like this.  Also, you want to get some pins that don't have a colored head.  They should be pretty easy to find.  These make marking your fabric infinitely easier (in my opinion.

5. Basting tape:
Try looking in the apparel sewing notions area.  If you can't find it, check out the quilting area.  I use this tape for applying zippers.  You can buy it on Amazon here.  The most important thing about this is that the package says you can sew through it.  Some tape you can't sew through and it will mess your needle up.  Don't buy that's not fun.

6. Bobbins:
I went on Amazon and bought like 50 of these suckers.  I know some machines come with like 3 bobbins or something.  Which is great for this project, but you may want to look into purchasing a package or two.  Or bulk buy them on amazon and never run out of bobbins again :)

7. Seam Gauge:
Yes, I have two of them.  You obviously don't need two right now, so just buy one.  However, later, you may want to pick an extra one up.

8. Seam Ripper:
Meet your new best friend!  Let me just tell you that you WILL need to seam rip.  It's like that children's book, Everyone Seam Rips.  What?  No one has made that book yet?  Well, they should.

So, yeah, I have two of these.  I got the little one with my machine and if yours came with one, then awesome, you don't need to buy one.  I have two for two reasons: A) I have a tendency to lose things.  Seriously it's a family joke, my husband will give me something to hold and 30 seconds later it's lost.  B) the little one is great for ripping seams (go figure) and making buttonholes (I make mine with an exacto knife now, though) and the big one is great for taking out basting stitches.  Again, you don't need two, but you definitely need at least one!

9. Marking Utensils:
Okay, in the beginning you can buy these on a "per project" basis.  Marking pens is really a personal question.  I had to go through many, many duds that other sewers swore by before I cam up with my arsenal.  For dark fabrics I use this chalk system.  Its great for dark fabrics, but honestly, you have to keep them really sharp for them to be super accurate and sharpening wastes chalk.  For lightweight fabrics I use these heat sensitive pens.  These are awesome!!  However, on some fabrics, even after I iron over the marks, there is a light discoloration.  So, for those fabrics, I use a fabric marker (sorry, can't find it on amazon).  Basically, the purple side disappears after a while.  However, after you use the pen for a while, the ink starts disappearing faster and faster.  The blue side disappears after you get it wet.  However, sometimes it doesn't disappear.  Definitely get ALL of you blue marks off your fabric before you iron over it or wash/dry it!!  Heat sets it!

So, the most important rule when dealing with marking utensils is to test your fabric!!  Always test on a scrap piece before actually marking your garment!

9. Clear Ruler:
Honestly, you can pick this up in an office supply store, I am pretty sure.  You can get away with a normal wooden/plastic ruler, but eventually you will want to get a clear one.  I use these for tracing and for marking darts/pleats on fabric and this dress has both!  So some form of ruler is a must!

10.  Tracing paper:
Yep!  I am going to make you guys trace!  Why?  Because I am sadistic!  Ok honestly, tracing seems tedious and it's not.  I started out tracing using tracing wheels (see above...check out the vintage one!  Looks like a spur!  I got that one from Devin's Aunt :D She also wanted to know if I wanted a bunch of "old-I-almost-threw-them-away" patterns.  Ummmmm yes!!) and extra Christmas paper.  If you knew my mom, you would know that there has always been copious amounts of christmas paper and she keeps giving me new, unopened christmas paper from when I was a kid.  So, yeah, that was a cheap way for me to start out.  There is also tracing paper/pattern paper at Joanns.  You can usually find them by the interfacings.  Another option is what I am using now.  However, you may want to see if you like tracing before buying a full box.  It's pretty awesome.  It's light enough to see through, sturdy enough to draw/write on.

One this I would NOT recommend is tissue paper.  It's too weak and flimsy and it will fall apart when you try to write on it.

11. Scissors:
You need TWO pairs.  One normal pair (that you probably already have at home!) for cutting paper and thread.  You need another pair for just cutting fabric, and fabric ONLY!  When you cut paper, it dulls your blade very quickly, if you continually use scissors to cut thread, it can cause a little indent where you usually snip and that can affect your cutting.  I have a pair of ginghers (the pretty pair sitting by itself) and those can be expensive.  You don't need to buy that right now, just buy a pair of fiskers and take a sharpie and write "fabric" on the blades...then hide the scissors for dear life!  For some reason non-sewing people are very attracted to fabric scissors and try to use them for EVERYTHING (I'm looking at you Devin!).  If you have the money, then great!  Buy the ginghers.  Actually, out of everything on this list, a nice pair of scissors and a nice sewing machine are probably the best things to splurge on.

Oh, and by the way, I have a lot of scissors because we are a very creative family of three.  We actually do need all these scissors.  I need to throw out the red ones, though.  They are super dull and are super tight.

12. Pattern:
You need a sewing pattern, of course.  For this particular series, I am using Simplicity 2444.  Do yourself a favor and don't spend tons of money on patterns (unless they're indie patterns!!).  Go to and as of right this second, Simplicity patterns are $5.99 plus shipping.  If you have a Joanns near you, check out their sales.  They routinely have pattern sales where Simplicity, Mccalls, and Butterick are only $1 a piece.  So, yeah.

13. Thread:
When you go to the store and buy your fabric, pick out thread to match it.  To be 100% honest with you guys, I am horrible at this.  Devin and Kayleigh are much better, so I usually bring them to the store when I do this.  :) Then, after a bunch of projects, you will have a thread collection like mine!  I used to buy coats and clark because my Singer liked that thread.  However, with my Janome, Gutterman thread works a lot better.    (On an unrelated note, everything about this picture just makes me happy :) )

14. Zipper:
This is not the zipper I will be using for this project.  I wanted to take picture of the zipper package.  Get a 22" INVISIBLE zipper.  Why?  Well, I refuse to sew any other zipper.  Invisibles look better and are easier to put in.  If your machine has an invisible zipper foot, great.  If it doesn't then you can use your normal zipper foot to put this in.  I will show you how, because I do not have an invisible zipper foot and I am very slapdash with how I put in my zippers, so sorry guys!

15: Bias Tape:
ONLY get this if you are planning on doing the sleeveless version of this dress.  I am not going to do the facings for the armholes because I have always found those annoying.  Make sure you are getting single fold bias tape.

16: Seam Binding or Twill Tape:
If you can find it in packaging like this great.  This is a vintage notion I picked up at a sewing store for 50 cents.  If you can't find it, then you can buy "twill tape".  Honestly, it's practically the same thing.  The twill tape looks just like the bias tape package, but says twill tape.  Or, you can buy some online.  Sunni from A fashionable Stitch has a great store, which now that I look at it, she has the basting tape and the medical exam paper!  Definitely buy from her!  There are a lot more colors of seam binding in her shop and you would be supporting a fellow sewing blogger :)

If you can't find anything you like, buy extra bias tape (see above!)

17: Fabric:
Ahhh yes, probably the most important thing you need.  So, look on the back of the pattern and it has how much fabric you would need.  It gets really confusing because of all of the different pieces.  Don't let that scare you!  You should be safe with 3 1/2 yards of 60" wide fabric and 4 yards of 45" fabric.  I usually overbuy fabric and use extras for muslins.  If you want to do the tie ends, add 1.5 yards of fabric, because they are cut on the bias.

That's not all the fabric you need!  You will need about 1-1.5 yards of fabric for a muslin that we are going to make.  You can use old sheets that you don't use any more, you can use $1 a yard fabric from wal mart, you can use pretty much anything that you're not afraid of messing up.  I am not going to delve too far into fitting for a beginners sewing series, but you need to at least know if your pattern is going to fit!

18. Interfacing:
You will either need to look around for this section OR ask an associate where the interfacing is.  If you're in a craft/sewing store you can ask what weight of interfacing you need for the fabric you're buying and they can help you.  However, interfacing is just something that you need to learn.  First of all, don't buy knit interfacing, we aren't using knit fabric for this.  You should be okay with buying medium weight fusible interfacing.

You should buy 1/2 yard, but if you are going to make the stand collar get 1 yard.

19. Iron and Ironing Space:
Remember when I said Fabric is the most important thing?  Well, if fabric is the most important, an iron is the second most important!  You will be amazed at how much you don't actually sew when you are "sewing" most of the time is spent cutting out or.....wait for it....ironing!  This should be pretty self explanatory.

Oh and the reason why I said "Ironing Space" is because I don't think you necessarily need an ironing board.  As a matter of fact, when I first started sewing, I used a towel draped on the table next to me and just laid my pieces on that and ironed.  Then, my lovely Mother-in-Law (sounds sarcastic, but I can assure that she IS lovely and crazy awesome...just saying) got me an ironing board for my birthday!

Anyways, I will post a good resource for measuring (I guess you kinda need that, right? :P) and I will talk about fabric on the next post.  I don't think that one will be as long.  Besides, this was the dryest part of the whole thing!  I hope....

Oh!  And to all the advanced sewists out there who have made it this far!  Did I miss anything??  Leave a comment and let me know what you think is essential!