Curtains for me!

Today was not the best of days.  I had an audition, which never fails to freak me out.  I don’t get stage fright, and I love to perform, it’s the being judged (a necessary part of an audition!) that never fails get to me.  Whenever someone comments on the arrogance of actors and musicians I usually say: A. You’re right and B: Seriously, it’s a coping mechanism.  It’s like a life full of never ending job interviews.

But eh… I’ll live.  To cheer myself up I went to my new favorite restaurant (Tom and Chee – an entire restaurant of grilled cheese sandwiches!)  Afterwards I was happy to find that my linen fabric samples had arrived:

I ordered these samples from fabrics-store.com.  They specialize in linen and they send free swatches on request.  The price was great for the quality.  I decided on plain linen for the large curtain in my living room, but I needed to pick a color.  I decided on the middle color above, which is called simply “natural.”  The other shades are (right to left) aluminum, bleached, natural, krista, and mix natural.  All swatches are the IL019 medium weight linen.  I’d consider the weight to be comprable to Kauffamn Essex linen.  It’s not heavy, but I think it will drape nicely for me (I am lining my curtains anyway!)  I had to order 8 yards to get the fullness I prefer (2x the width of the window).  You can see why I was trying to keep costs down!

I also ordered fabric from fabric.com to make simple tie top cafe curtains for my hall.

 

The pattern I’m using I found at Make it Love it (you can see their finished curtains in the photo  above).  The fabrics are by Michael Miller.  I love those charcoal and pink dala horses, called Wooden Horses,  to death!  They will be the main curtain, and the top/ties will be made of the wood block print behind, also by Michael miller.  I’m going to fully line these curtains.  Thank you for all the advice – I decided that I agreed making the long curtains from quilting cotton might not work, but it’s perfect for a small hallway window!

I’m starting to put the living room back together – I have a rug!

Leon the cat, as you can see, is helping to break it in by shedding furiously.  This is a flat woven cotton rug from Ikea.  I  am planning to paint a design on this rug using fabric medium – I like the white, but it’s not practical around him.  I still don’t have anything else in the room, but I’m working on it!  This project has been intensive, but I’m so much happier already that it’s worth the stress.

 

 

Advertisements

Fabric shopping: Chicago, Minneapolis, and Joann’s (?)

I have retrieved my fabric from my in-laws, and I’m ready to talk about the fabric stores I visited on my trip!  I asked for suggestions here, and you were all kind enough to give me the details on the best places to visit.  I made a plan of attack: visit the Textile Discount Outlet, Fishman’s Fabrics, and the downtown Vogue fabrics location on the same day (they are all near each other) and visit SR Harris in Minneapolis.

We drove to Chicago on Wednesday and made it to our hotel (in Schaumburg – I usually stay downtown, but the price was right, and we weren’t staying long.  Note to self: never again.  Other note to self: should you ever move to Chicago, live close to downtown – the traffic is madness!)  We did go to a fun restaurant there – a conveyor belt sushi place.  I wouldn’t say it was the best sushi I’ve ever had, but it was a fun novelty, and really not bad for what it was.  The next day we went downtown to (among other things) visit the fabrics stores.

Textile Discount Outlet – 2121 W. 21st street

I read the reviews of this place saying how huge and messy it was, but I was not prepared.  I think this photo says it all:

Want that fabric?  Be prepared to move a literal mountain of foam!

I actually love places where you have to dig, but I didn’t find anything to buy here.  There is a ton of polyester, and I’m not against that in general, but nothing really appealed to me.  I was also running on very little sleep, so I was maybe not in the mood to dig deeper.  This place is totally worth a visit if you’re in Chicago – there are several floors in an old warehouse that are literally piled with fabrics (I’d say it’s maybe half home dec? Seems like it would be great to visit for that purpose.)

Fishman’s Fabrics – 1101 South Desplaines Street

This store is located very close to the downtown Vogue Fabrics – less than a block I’d say.  The store is clean and well organized – the photo on the website is very accurate to what the store looks like.  There are salespeople eager to help you with your project, and a good selection of interesting trims.  I’ll be honest – I’m probably too much of a bargain shopper to love this place.  The fabric is all lovely, but it’s mostly pretty expensive.  I don’t shop that way, but that’s because I have the time and willingness to scrounge through piles and wait for sales.  I also go through a pretty high volume of fabric, so I like to save money where I can.  If you want a special piece of fabric this would be a great place to shop!  They have a fun collection of articles and memorabilia from their long history in the entryway, and I enjoyed reading all about the history of the place.

Vogue Fabrics – 623 West Roosevelt

I visited the downtown location.  I did not make it to the flagship store in Evanston, but I enjoyed the downtown location.  There is a lot of fabric in this place.  Organization isn’t too bad, but it’s not great either – there are a lot of mystery fabric bolts.  There is a whole room of remnants, most of which are a decent size (enough for a top or short dress.)  This was my favorite of the Chicago stores, although I once again failed to buy anything (as I mentioned, I was pretty tired and coming down with a sinus infection!)  I really wish there had been a better selection of natural fibers – as with most stores these days, there was more poly than anything else.  I wasn’t surprised, because one of my frustrations with the vogue website is how much polyester they carry, but I suppose they know what sells better than I do!  I don’t hate polyester in some forms (knits mostly) but I wouldn’t choose any of its more slippery forms (charmeuse, chiffon etc) because they are so hard to work with.  And yes, that is a poly charmeuse down the page… the price was right and I loved the print, I’m a hypocrite!

So yeah, I left without buying anything – can you believe it? I think I was not in the mood.  But I still had one more stop.  Several days later my husband and I ventured off to SR Harris in Minneapolis (my in-laws live in St. Paul, and it was about a 35 minute drive to the store.)  And this is where I fell in love:

This store is huge.  Seriously, the photo doesn’t even begin to show the size of this store.  It’s basically organized in sections – linens/wools/knits/shirting/knits/quilting/ silks/designer fabrics.  There is a lot of fabric.  It’s not all labeled – some is wound onto reused bolts.  The fabric is stacked in a way that requires some serious muscle power to get out of the stacks!  The best part?  A ton of natural fibers.  Tons.  It was easy to find the area I wanted, though not to find fabrics.  I spent two hours here, and could have taken more time.

Fabric cutting is self-serve, and checkout is on the honor system (you make a tag for each fabric with the price on the bolt and how much you cut.)  All fabric is 50% off the bolt price (I assume this is all the time.)  This makes most fabrics roughly the price you would pay online at a place like fashion fabrics club or fabric.com.  It’s a great deal in my eyes, particularly if you know what you’re looking for!  They have a decent selection of designer fabrics – I saw Donna Karan, Ellen Tracy, Anne Klein, Ralph Lauren, and even a few Milly prints (sadly, not the ones I wanted!)  I didn’t buy any of those, choosing to take my chances in the stacks.  Here is my final haul, along with the patterns I’m considering.

I was able to buy three linens to make my colorblocked shift dress (Vogue 8805).  I plan to make this soon – I love the color combo!

Nice quality matte jersey to make McCall’s 6553.  The color is a deep grey.  I’m fascinated by this pattern, and not at all convinced it won’t look like a giant weird sack (it has a belt through the front only) but I want to try!

This was a mystery fabric – I think it might be a linen, but it was filed with the denims.  I want to make a dress with some chevron stripes – maybe Vogue 8789, which is designed for stripes.  On the other hand, this fabric is a bit on the stiff side – I’ll have to wash it and see how it comes out.

This is a Michael Miller linen/cotton print.  I love the print so much, and want to make a fun novelty skirt using New Look 6872.  This print comes from a collection of Tammis Keefe reprints they came out with a bit ago.  It will need to be lined.

This is a soft batik print.  I thought it was a rayon challis(it was not labeled, other than manufacturer name) but according to the Robert Kaufman website it’s a combed cotton.  Either way it’s soft with a nice drape, and appropriate for clothing.  I ordered the Jade dress from Style Arc along with my recent order, and I think this would be a good fit!  It has a beachy feel, which I like even though I don’t go to the beach (and I love the turtles.)

I also bought this cotton/lycra print.  The pale seaglass green is my favorite shade, and I couldn’t resist.  I’m not sure what I will use it for (a vintage dress I think) but I’m glad I picked it up!

On our way home I went to a Joann’s on a rest break (that’s a long drive!)  They had 50% off clearance fabrics, and they were getting rid of the April Johnson Project Runway line from last year (they have new fabrics – the line looks to be recurring.)  And yes, it’s sad that I ended up buying fabrics there – but I don’t have a real hate on for Joann’s.  For many people it’s their only fabric source, and I really feel like they’ve been trying hard to improve their apparel fabric offerings.  Plus – cheap!  None of this was over $5 a yard, and most was much less.

This fabric looks like lots of tiny eyes staring at you.  Try to unsee that image now!  But I like it anyway, and want to use it to make Simplicity 1803 (I’ve been looking for a fabric all spring for this one!)

I mentioned Burda 7220 the other day.  I want to try it in this fabric, which is a bit lighter than it looks on my screen.  Orange isn’t my usual thing, but I liked this one for some reason – and it’s the same on both sides, essential for the odd hem.

I also picked up this Burda (7204) when I got the pattern above.  Wouldn’t the top from this pattern look nice in a turquoise tie-dye voile?

I got two other clearance fabrics that I don’t have any ideas for – but I’m sure something will come up!

  

The sequin print is a poly charmeuse, and I know… it isn’t my favorite fabric.  But I think it could make a cute blouse, and I’ve liked it since I first saw it (it was something like $3 a yard.)  The second fabric is a cotton sateen.  I’m considering Vogue 1298, the new Rachel Comey dress.

Whew…

I’ve had a crazy week!  My friend who was moving has been farewell partied, packed, and is now in  Washington DC.  Another friend got married this weekend in a beautiful ceremony.  I was involved in the music (and she’s a fellow soprano, so there was a lot of music!)

My in-laws came down for a bit, and we toured Homearama (the new homes showcase.)  This year it was in a crazy development.  It contains houses that are designed to look like the houses in my neighborhood (ie grand victorians) but for twice as much money as one would cost in my neighborhood (and a good 30 minutes from downtown.)  My friend who runs one of the local preservation organizations called it “Historic done by Disney,” and the comparison was apt.  I would never want to live there, but it was curious to see.  And I am certainly glad to see the idea of creating neighborhoods like mine, but I wish they didn’t also have that odd isolationist aspect to them.  I know perfectly well that there are odd and crazy people where I live (along with really rich people) but I like it that way – I would hate to only be around people like me!

I have done zero crafting.  It’s too hot to stay in my sewing room (tomorrow’s temp: 100 degrees, and that’s without the humidity factored in.)  I did take advantage of the sale on knits Fabric.com had last week.  I bought entirely too much knit fabric, but it was so cheap – and it’s all nice quality too!  These are mostly ITY knits or what Fabric.com calls “starlet knit,” which is basically ITY (poly/lycra jersey.)  I find this sort of fabric comfortable in both summer and winter – it’s not like old polyesters!

The purple leopard is a doubleknit, and the green/black swirl print on the bottom row is what they call “silky knit,” and what I call “stretchy woven charmeuse.”  I don’t think it’s like a knit.  I plan to use it to make one of the Vogue patterns I have that call for charmeuse.  I’m happy with all these, but you should be aware that not all the ity knits fabric.com sells are the same weight – some are light and others heavy!

I’ve been trying out different things for my exercise plan.  As my husband said “You don’t do anything halfway, do you?”  Nope.  If I’m going to do something, I’m going to be good at it, darn it!  I’ve taken a few pilates classes, based on your recommendations.  I really love it!  It reminds me of ballet class, and it doesn’t have the spiritual aspect of yoga, which to be honest is not really my thing.   I’ve also tried some workout videos (also from your recs) through my Netflix plan.  I don’t feel nearly as silly doing them as I thought, though we don’t have the largest living room ever (my piano lives in the actual living room, and we use a loft area instead.)  I’ve also been using the elliptical machines at the gym, with a killer workout mix I made on my ipod.  Marc got me a dependent ID, which entitles my to work out at the student center gym, the hospital/medical campus gym, and the faculty/staff gym.  At $60 a year (plus a $45 fee every semester for group classes) it’s very cost effective.  It isn’t fancy or anything, but it’s working so far.  I’m waiting to see how crowed it is during the regular school year (though I mainly use the hospital and off campus gyms anyway… we don’t have a university parking permit, as Marc bikes or rides the bus to work.)

My current dilemma involves workout clothing – it’s expensive, and I’m thinking of making my own.  Does anyone have any patterns/fabric sources to recommend to me?  I’m a total newbie to that sort of clothing!

Spring fabrics, mmm day 27

This afternoon my serger decided to stop working.  I panicked, imagining myself having to buy a new one, but as it turns out it just doesn’t work correctly with larger cones of thread.  I usually use Guttermann Todi-lock or Maxi lock, but I had bought a large cone of black.  No good – it wouldn’t spool correctly, and repeatedly broke the needle thread.  I had to go to Joann’s to pick up some black serger cones.  They had a 25% off your entire purchase (including sale items) coupon this weekend, and it was madness!  When I got my ticket for the cutting table there were 20 people ahead of me.  I decided to get some fabrics from their new Spring collections, at least the ones that were also on sale – I doubt I will be able to get them so cheaply before they hit clearance!  As I’ve said before, Joann’s seems to be trying to improve their garment sewing game, and the new collections are very nice.  I also got to see the Lisette fabrics, though they were not on sale, and they seem like nice quality to me.  Here is what I got:

\

Clockwise from top left: 1. Rayon/lycra knit for Butterick 5491.  My obsession with painted looking fabrics continues.  2. Linen/cotton blend print, to make retro Butterick 5603 (the tie shoulder version.) 3. Poly charmeuse to make the new Vintage Vogue reprint 8728.  I am not a huge fan of polyester, but I wanted to make this dress cheaply to start out with.  I do love the nautical print! 4. Stretch cotton sateen for DKNY pattern Vogue 1220.

I also found a yarn in my stash to use for my sweater:

This is Manos wool/silk blend.  I have part of it knit into a tuscany shawl (which will never be finished) and I’m ready to frog it.  I am not totally decided on the pattern, but I’m leaning towards Audrey in Unst.  I think it will look great in this color, and I have just the correct amount of yarn.

Finally, here is my me-made-March outfit of the day.

Sweater: Knitted by me, the “Not so shrunken” cardigan

Dress: Vogue 1225, Tracy Reese design

Shoes: Mia

This sweater is really too big for me, so I’m wearing it wrapped around a bit.  I love this dress (and yes, it still needs a hem… I am so chicken about hemming knits!)

Sweater closeup:

Winter outfits and Spring shoes

We have snow on the ground, and temperatures in the 20s this week.  I pretty much fail at dressing for this sort of weather – I’ve only recently started layering, and I’m still trying not to wear pants.  Actually, I find the combo I’m wearing in the first photo – leggings with tights, socks, and boots, to be much warmer than pants anyway – and they don’t drag in the snow and get wet!

Jumper: Simplicity 2848

Sweater: Merona, thrifted

Socks: Merona

Boots: Alfani

I’ve had a lot of trouble incorporating this jumper into my wardrobe.  It has a tendency to look a bit young to me (and it’s short, which doesn’t help.)  I’ve layered it with a button down shirt, but I didn’t care for that either.  This is the best combo I’ve found, other than wearing it as a dress with nothing underneath (which does work.)  I like the look of the cowl draping over the neckline, and it’s also pretty warm in this combo (the sweater is tunic length.)  I also like the looks of socks peeking over the top of my boots, which I’ve seen quite a lot lately.  This outfit was warm, especially when I wore it outside with a heavy coat, earmuffs, and a handknit scarf!

Sweater: Ann Taylor, thrifted

Dress: Vogue 8663

Boots: Nine West outlet

Here I’m trying out the “sweater over dress” method of winter layering.  It works well to take this dress into the colder parts of the year – though it has long sleeves, the knit is rather thin.  I think this would look better with different shoes, but I’m unwilling to subject any of my shoes to the snow and salt except these two pairs of boots!

I’m still having trouble with my eyes, thus the glasses.  The infection is gone, but I’m having difficulties with my contact lenses going blurry after several hours (and they are supposed to be the kind you can wear overnight.)  It’s like they develop a film over them that is hard to clean off without leaving them overnight in the heavy-duty cleaner.  I have an eye appointment on Friday, so hopefully that will clear things up.  Perhaps I need different contacts.  I’ve decided that I need to come to terms with my glasses and wear them occasionally, to give my eyes a rest from contacts, but I don’t like these frames.  They need a new prescription (I bought them ten years ago) because one of my eyes has worsened, and I need bigger lenses – since I am pretty nearsighted, I have a lot of trouble reading etc in these, because the field of vision is so small.  I read over at The Story Girl about a company called Warby Parker.  She ordered glasses there, and hers are so cute!  They offer free at home try on of 5 pairs, and have a lovely selection of the vintage styled frames I like.  They are also pretty cheap – $95 for prescriptions between  -4 and +4(and only a little more for over – and mine are over -4!)  I’ve ordered 5 pair to try on, and when they get here I’ll be sure to post for opinions.

On to the other part of this post title: spring shoes!  I have mentioned my love for shoes before – I do not thrift them, so they are nearly the only clothing item that I buy new.  I usually look at the new styles, and then wait for them to go on a big sale or clearance.  I don’t pay full price.  My favorite place for clearance shoes is 6pm.com, which is Zappos’ clearance site.  I’m a big fan of Zappos – their warehouse and clearance center is located here, and my best friend used to work in the warehouse, packing and shipping shoes, and she only has nice things to say about their treatment of their employees.

Last spring I fell in love with two new styles from Seychelles.  They make great vintage-style shoes, which are also sold at Anthropologie.  I was unwilling to pay the full retail prices, so I waited until yesterday, when the daily email from 6pm informed me of a sale of Seychelles.  I got these two styles:

Trip the Light Fantastic in taupe.

I ordered these shoes in black last year, but ended up cancelling the order because I felt bad paying full price.  I thought the taupe would go with most of my closet, and it’s not a color that I already own.   These are sold out now on the website.

Get Outta Town in nude

These are sold out in nude, but there are some left in white here.  I remember seeing these on several style bloggers last year (were they sold at Anthro?)  I think they will look nice with casual dresses.

It’s worth signing up for the daily emails from 6pm… the deals sell out fast, though anything left usually stays at that price until it sells out.  There are more Seychelles still on the website for cheap.  I’m waiting for a sale on Poetic License shoes, my new obsession.  I have a pair of these boots, bought at the clearance center, and I love them, but their new shoes are super adorable, kind of like doll shoes.

Yes, impractical, but so cute!  And the heels are all manageable heights.  I like to wear heels, but I won’t wear anything over three inches (the red shoes are 3.25″ but have a platform, so it would feel like 2.5″.  I’m not interested in damaging my feet, and I do have to stand up a fair bit.

 

Prints for spring/summer

I’m still sick and unable to work (because I pretty much can’t work without my voice, not that I’m bedridden or anything, no worries) so yesterday I sewed up McCall 5974, the Palmer/Pletsch wrap dress.  I will review it later this week, when I feel up to taking modeled photos, but if you are looking for a wrap dress without the possibility of wardrobe malfunction, I heartily recommend this one (it’s a mock wrap.)  It’s very flattering, and I thought I didn’t even like wrap dresses!  I now have a backlog of completed projects to blog, but my fashion statement of the day includes a pair of flannel pajama pants and one of my husband’s band t-shirts (the Residents, which means I have a giant eyeball on my chest.)

I’ve also spent my sick days planning for spring/summer.  I prefer warm weather – I’m always cold in winter, and it’s a little harder to find prints in appropriate fabric (yes, I have a print obsession!)  The weather here is also probably tilted a bit more towards warm – I can usually wear summery clothes (with maybe a sweater and tights) from March to the end of October, and that’s most of the year.  It does help, of course, that I work from home and don’t have to deal with dressing for a commute!  I went through the fashion shows for resort and spring over on style.com, looking at silhouette, prints, and colors.  I’m happy to see that fashion seems to echo my current preferences.  As far as prints go, I’m a little tired of the painted style florals that were big the last year or two (there is only one below, and it’s more for nostalgia’s sake!)   I still love abstract or geometric painted/printed designs, and I’ve rediscovered a love for tiny ditsy florals  – I loved them in the 90s, so why not again?  Apparently we are having a bit of a 90s revival, which seems crazy to me, but oh well!  I still love stripes, polka dots, and gingham (I’m staying away from larger plaids for a bit – I may have a little plaid fatigue, and I see that as more of a winter print anyway.)  I recently bought some large-scale ITY prints from fabric.com – I tend to avoid large prints because I am small, but I plan to make several maxi dresses (yes, I am late to that party) and I like maxi dresses with large prints better.  Here are some options for what I might use this year (last year I was still learning… I’m hoping to knock out some great dresses this year!)

As I’ve mentioned, I’m a big fan of Fashion Fabrics club, despite the sometimes dubious customer service.  If you know how to read their descriptions you can find some really great deals!  These are the fabrics I’ve bought from them this year that  I think might work for spring/summer.    From left to right: 1. Cotton Poplin in a ditsy floral to make Simplicity 2591. I’m actually copying a Modcloth dress (below) that is nearly identical.  I think this dress could work for most of the year, except the coldest days (with a sweater, naturally.) The website claims this fabric is blouse weight, but it’s heavy enough for dresses.  And speaking of FFC weirdness, this fabric had what appears to be a coffee stain on the selvedge (but not on the print itself… for this cheap I’m not complaining.)  2.  Stretch Cotton Sateen – The quality of sateen I have gotten from FFC varies widely.  This one is nice – not too light, and not too heavy.   I will admit, I bought this fabric because it is almost exactly like the dress I wore to my grandpa’s second wedding in the early 90s!  I’m going to make a sundress of some sort, and relive my Blossom obsessed days.  3. Cotton Lawn – This actually isn’t too sheer, but it will need a lining.  I want to make Vogue 8645 – it calls for Batiste, and includes a lining (actually, I will probably line in cotton batiste.)   4.  Cotton Print – I was nervous about this, because if the weave isn’t specified on this site the quality can be dubious.  But this is lovely – similar to a poplin.  I’m going to make the new Cynthia Rowley design for spring.  5. Rayon Matte Jersey – I was pleased with this, because rayon matte jersey can be expensive, and I think I paid $3 a yard.  This is the fabric I’m going to use for the 1970s Diane Von Furstenberg pattern I posted the other day.  It’s actually navy blue, and has a little lycra, but not too much.

Image: Modcloth

simplicity 2591 (dress from Modcloth, but pretty much the same!)  I love the piping around the armholes and the pocket, and I definitely plan to copy that!

I love rayon crepe and challis, but they can be difficult to find!  They make great subs for silk – they are easier to care for and sew, and of course far less pricey.   I occasionally buy fabric off ebay, because there are some great deals, but you never can really tell what you are getting.  I was nervous about this fabric (all from seller OldHippeCloths) because I couldn’t really tell what type of rayon they were – but at $3 a yard (on sale at the time,) I thought I would take the chance.  Luckily, the quality is great!  I don’t have specific plans for these yet, but they will get used this spring/summer.  If you have any suggestions for the red/black stripe let me know – it’s so me, but I am stumped on good patterns for horizontal stripes!  The pink/black gingham is a crinkle – I tested washing swatches of these, but ended up not washing this one because it crinkled so much.  Can I use it for a normal pattern if I commit to drycleaning, or am I just asking for trouble?  I don’t like it all crinkled up, as I have already had my broomstick skirt period.

I promised to post about these – I bought these last week from Fabric.com, before their New Year’s sale coupon expired.  I was planning to use these prints for maxi dresses in the summer, and I think they will work nicely for that.   The first one is actually turned sideways – the print runs up and down the body.  The quality is ok for the price (I think I paid around $4 a yard?)  They have a slightly textured hand, almost like a matte jersey, and they only stretch in one direction (horizontally on the body.)  They aren’t too sheer (a problem I have had with fabric.com’s knits to the point where I hesitate the buy them.)  Be aware that the prints in this group are a pretty large scale – I am apparently incapable of interpreting a ruler in a photo – I need fabric draped over a dressform or at least with a quarter!  I think the print on the dotted fabric looks a little pixellated up close, but it looks good in the photo, so I’m sure it will be fine – who is examining my dresses from an inch away anyway?

Speaking of knits, ebay can actually be a great place to find knit prints.  Be aware of the descriptions though – I wouldn’t buy any that contain nylon, because that feels like swimwear fabric to me, and watch for the large amount of dance/clubwear fabrics that are either sequined or covered in glitter.    These are from Bestonlinefabrics, and I think they are both rayon knits.  The one on the left is slightly textured.  I appear to be going through a purple phase (apparently the  “it” color for next season is Honeysuckle pink, but since that’s terrible on me I will abstain.)  The one on the right is just really gorgeous – it’s tie-dye, but not too hippy looking.

I swore I was good on warm weather fabrics after going through all these (and my fabric.com order,) but Sawyer Brook had their pre-season clearance sale.  I’ve had my eye on these fabrics since last summer, but I’m pretty much unable to bring myself to pay that much for fabric.  When they went on clearance I had to buy them (the two on the right are sold out now.)  I absolutely love that pixellated fabric, and I know it’s totally crazy.  I have no excuse, other than that my husband walked by when I was looking at it and loved it.    The third fabric is a J.Crew fabric, like the dress I just finished, and I have found the quality of fabrics that originated with them to be just lovely (I have another shirting print from them somewhere.)  I’m hoping the color looks good on me when it gets here! I can usually get away with these colors, because they are bright, but they aren’t my absolute best!

So there you go… a fabric preview of spring/summer!  I was so happy photographing and dreaming about these fabrics, that it’s almost enough for me to want to move to a warmer climate (but – I love my city too much, and I expect I would miss autumn… just not winter.)  My best friend lives in Florida now – I am very envious, but not of how cold she was when she visited for Christmas!

What kind of prints are you liking for warm weather?  Can you even think about it yet?  I know I’m early, but planning is at least half the fun.

As promised: an online fabric shopping guide

Teaching yourself to sew can be daunting.  For those of us not located in a major city, classes are few and far between, and mostly oriented to quilting or heirloom sewing.  Teaching myself was not without its ups and downs, and let’s just say it’s lucky that I am a very patient person!  I’m writing this series of posts to help out my fellow beginners.  I am not an expert – just someone who loves to assimilate and share knowledge!  I talked about books for beginners here, and now I’d like to talk about another challenge facing the beginner… fabric selection.

I live in Louisville, as you may know, and until 2008 we had a fabulous downtown fabric store, Baer’s.  They closed with literally a day’s notice, leaving us with only quilting stores, Joann’s and Hancocks.  I shop at the last 2 stores often, but to be honest I do not find many quality apparel fabrics (though should you want sports logo fleece they are a goldmine!)  I mostly hit the pattern sales and buy Gutterman or Mettler thread.  So that leaves me with online shopping, which believe me I am grateful for!  But… if you are a beginner, how are you to interpret the descriptions?

I’d recommend picking up a fabric guide (of course!  I love books!)  I like both of the books above: Claire Shaeffer’s Fabric Guide and More Fabric Saavy by Sandra Betzina (this is not a sequel, but rather a revised edition.  You can see a limited preview of this book here.)  These guides have been invaluable to me because they not only tell you what the fabric is, they tell you what needle to use, seam finishes and special care, and tell you how to wash your completed item.   You can also find an excellent online guide to sewing different types of fabric at Emmaonesock here.   It’s important to keep in mind (and confusing to beginners) that fabric has two elements – the weave and the content.  So, for instance, faille is not a fabric but rather a weave, and it can come in many weights and fibers.  But of course, a fabric guide means nothing if you don’t know how the fabric feels – and how can you find that out?  If you have a local fabric store, I recommend just going and investigating the fabrics.  Even Joanns and Hancocks can give you an education!  Buy small amounts of different types of fabrics, and practice sewing with them (the clearance tables are great for this purpose; Joanns often has 50% off of clearance fabric.)  If you don’t have local fabric stores at all, consider joining a swatch club – Sawyer Brook, Vogue Fabrics, and FabricMart are 3 that will send you a variety of swatches every so often, which you can get a feel for not only different types of fabric, but the quality of fabric at that particular store.  Vogue sells back issues of their swatch service very cheaply.  The fabrics are often still in stock, and you can get a ton of swatches so you can later remind yourself what a particular fabric type feels like.

So now you have read the guides, maybe investigated different fabrics, and you are ready to approach online shopping… how to tell what you will be getting?  The first tip is to order swatches.  Many  retailers offer swatches for a nominal fee.  It’s the only way to tell for certain what you will be getting!  Of course, you do run the risk that the fabric you want will be sold out by the time you get your swatch… but sometimes better that than to end up with a fabric that is much different from what you expected!  Having said that, I only order swatches for fabric that is super expensive, or that I need a lot of.  For instance, I need 4 yards of wool crepe for a 1950s suit, and I’ve been getting swatches in order to figure out what I want (no luck so far, but eventually I will hit on the right fabric!) Watch out for scale on prints.  Often, fabric will be displayed with a ruler measuring the repeat, or with something such as a penny for scale.  Think about how the scale of the print will look on you – for instance, I am overwhelmed by really large prints.  I prefer sites that show the whole bolt draped over something  – it gives an idea not only of scale, but of the drape of the fabric.

And then there is the issue of color.  Not all monitors will display colors the same, though usually it is close enough, if you aren’t trying to match exactly.  Some retailers use the pantone color guide to tell you what number the color is, though I don’t have a pantone guide (I understand they have become harder to find of late.)

Now the hardest part… how to match your pattern with a fabric.  Read the list of suggestions on the back of the pattern.  Vogue patterns are especially good here, because they are specific.

Take Vogue 1182, a  Kay Unger design.  The suggested fabrics are: Shantung, Satin and Jacquard. None of these fabrics are light and drapey – a chiffon, for instance, while lovely, would not give this dress the structure it needs.  So even if choosing a fabric not on the envelope, the envelope will guide you in the right direction.  On the other hand, some brands are less useful, for instance Simplicity.  I have observed that modern Simplicity patterns give you a list of about 15 fabrics which don’t always have much in common.  In that case, look at the drawing or photo – does the design fall in graceful soft waves, or is it tailored and structured?  Fabric selection will make or break many projects, so it pays to really visualize the project in the fabric.  I like to make digital design boards sometimes, so that I can see all the elements in one place.  Any image editing program can do this, though it is easier with some than others.

Mostly, don’t fear shopping online!  You will make some mistakes and flubs – I now own a pepto-bismol colored wool that feels like a horse blanket.  No idea what I’m doing with that.  But I have found lots of fabrics that I could never have sourced locally, such as beautiful wool crepes and silk jerseys.  If I am sewing for myself, I will be using quality materials – I dislike synthetics, which often do not behave well when sewing, don’t breathe, and retain odors.

Here is a short list of the retailers I have shopped and recommend (US based, but many ship overseas.)  As a disclaimer, I am not associated with any of these stores, other than as a normal customer.  My opinions are just that, and your experience may vary!

Boutique type Retailers

Gorgeous Fabrics The fabrics are here are well described, with a pattern suggestion for each one (helpful to get a better idea of the hand, even if you don’t plan for that project.)  Ann offers swatches, and fabrics don’t sell out so quickly that you can’t use them.  Not the cheapest prices, but not the most expensive either – in line with the quality and price I want for my handmade projects.   The selection of knits is especially nice, and I have some of the wide silk Shantung, which is beautiful.  The fabric for these items came from here: Mod dress, Leopard dress, Rooibos.

Sawyer Brook – This store adds new fabrics every season, to go along with their excellent swatch club.  While the selection is limited, every swatch I have received is of truly excellent quality.  Fabrics are listed by content, as well as organized into collections – be sure to check out The Back Room, where you can find discounted designer fabrics.  I have yet to use any fabric from this store, but I do have a beautiful cotton brocade awaiting use.

Emmaonesock – specializes in designer fabrics.  Not cheap, but the quality is excellent.  I will admit I don’t shop here often – I am a dedicated bargain hunter.  Be sure to click on the fabric swatches to see the fabric bolt draped.  Fabrics sell out quickly, so if you see something you like, jump on it!

Fashionista Fabrics – In addition to carrying the latest Burda magazine (which I have ordered several times) Melody carries a selection of fabrics.  Her tastes must line up with mine, because I’ve used nearly every piece I bought right away!   Very fast shipping, and the prices are good.  I used fabric from this store in the following projects: The Betty dress, linen pants, the ! dress, dotted Rooibos.

Discount Retailers – you never know what they will have, but prices are excellent and sales are frequent!

Fabric.com – I have ordered several times from fabric.com.  Shipping is free over $35, and there are many discount codes (check retailmenot.com for the latest,)  making the already low prices even better.  Quality seems kind of medium, but I’ve only had one purchase that I do not like (a knit that was severely off grain.)  The following projects used fabric from here: Mock 2-piece dress, pleated neck dress,  plaid secretary blouse, Beignet.

Fabricmart – A rotating selection of fabrics, including a good selection of discounted designer fabrics.  I’ve only ordered from here once, but it was a good experience.  I notice that they have excellent sales.

Fashion Fabrics Club/Denver fabrics – Both of these websites are outlets of the same company.  I have placed multiple orders here – fabrics are cheap, and sometimes of suprisingly good quality.  Of course, they are also sometimes of suprisingly bad quality.  Swatches are available, but to be honest shipping is so slow (average time to receive order: 2.5 weeks, and I live pretty near St. Louis) that I don’t bother.  I have had the experience of finding fabrics that are listed elsewhere for far more money several times.  The following projects were made using fabric from this store: Butterick 5490 , dotted cardigan, cozy wrap, plaid maxi skirt.

Web sites of brick and mortar stores –

Vogue Fabrics – online shop for a chain of Chicago fabric stores.  They have several swatch clubs, and you can also frequently buy fabrics featured in Vogue pattern magazine.  It takes a bit of clicking around to see everything, but it’s worth it.  I have made 2 orders – one for swatches, and the other for fabrics.  I was pleased with both.  I have yet to use any of the fabrics I bought here, but I have plans for this winter.

Elliot Bermann Textiles – online outlet of a NY retail store.  I have been very pleased with my purchases from this shop – the fabric was as described and excellent quality.  Prices seem decent for what it is – mostly designer overruns.  I used fabric from this store for my 50s sheath dress.

Mood Fabrics – Mood seems to have recently improved their online fabric shop.  I recently placed an 2 orders for both fabric and swatches.  The fabric was beautiful, and the swatches were large.  The photos seem pretty true to color to me, and they are well described.  Shipping isn’t the fastest ever, and they don’t send out shipping emails, but  I love the selection – the best part is that they carry basics in every color.  Want an exact match for silk chiffon with a habotai lining?  You’re in luck!

Waechter’s fine fabrics – I’ve visited this Asheville store in person – it’s a lovely place!  Fabrics are well described, and swatches are available (I have used the swatch service before – each swatch comes with a labeled tag so you can’t forget what they are!)  Prices are not cheap, but you can get some usual and lovely fabrics.  The fabric for my Tara dress came from this store.

Whew – that’s a lot of fabric shopping!  In addition, here is a list of stores that I have not yet ordered from, but which have decent feedback online:

Hart’s Fabric – great selection of unusual fabrics, including both fashion fabrics and home decor/Japanese cottons.

Marcy Tilton – You know her designs for Vogue, but did you know she sells fabric?  The knits are especially lovely looking, though I have yet to order.

Farmhouse fabrics – heirloom sewing fabrics

And… that’s all!  I’ve gotten a lot of comments about being afraid to shop online.  I know it isn’t the same as shopping in person, but sadly for many of us there is no other option.  In fact, I would say that one of the biggest barriers to new sewers is a lack of access to quality materials.  Educate yourself and give it a try – I have been pleased overall with my online purchases.  As a disclaimer – I am not an expert, and I am not affiliated with any of these companies,  but I do get an awful lot of questions on this subject.  I know when I was starting out it was so hard to figure out fabrics, and I hope this answers a few questions!