The Confident Stitch
The very first piece of clothing I made once I started sewing in earnest was a Grainline Scout Tee. It's become an indispensable staple, along with its knit sister, the Lark Tee. I appreciate the simplicity of the designs (everyday wear, hurray!) and the well-written instructions.
Last month, I decided to make Grainline's Lakeside Pajamas for our hot Montana summers. I. Love. Them. They have enough design to make them interesting, but are simple enough for a novice like me to sew up with no problem. This has been one of the few patterns I've cut and sewn straight from the box - no alterations needed. There is something so satisfying about having a pattern that just fits, right off the bat.
When making a shirt or a dress, I usually I have to make the top one size and then grade out a size or two below the waist. With the Lakeside PJs, I was able to make the top in a size 6 and the bottoms in a size 10. (Try doing that with ready-to-wear!) I double-checked all of my measurements and then followed the sizing guidelines, and ta-da, they fit like a dream. As tempting as it was to make the entire set in a size 6 (oh hi, vanity!), I'm relieved that I actually made the size that was recommended for me; believe me, carefully sized and drafted patterns are not to be taken for granted!
The shorts required a leap of faith. You have to attach most of the bias binding to the edges of each piece before you sew up any major seams, which makes it really difficult to make adjustments once you're underway. (Of course you could baste or pin the shorts together without the binding before you get started for a rough idea of fit, but did I think to do that? Of course not!) The method for sewing on the binding and then assembling the shorts seems confusing at first glance. But I dutifully followed the instructions step by step, and, as promised, it all worked out beautifully.
I made these PJs with Art Gallery's Sunday Clippings Voile. Because it is so silky and lightweight, the Art Gallery Voile was a little slippery, but I used a new needle and took my time, and I was able to handle the fabric with very few problems. If you haven't sewn with Art Gallery fabrics yet, you are in for a treat. The quilting cottons are finer and softer than most quilting cottons, and the voiles are even finer than Liberty of London (in my opinion). AND, Art Gallery voiles make great blouses. Our customer, Debrah Fosket wore her lovely Vogue blouse to the shop the other day and graciously agreed to be photographed.
I highly recommend these jammies -- and of course I'm partial to the super-soft voile. They're comfortable, cute, and a fairly quick sew (especially if you use pre-made bias binding like this). Plus, either the shorts or the tank top can stand alone in the right fabric. No one needs to know that they're a pajama pattern! I'm already planning a light summer tank top with this pretty rayon and some casual shorts with this sweet tencel.
I think rayon is a great choice for all the Merchant and Mills dresses, which are not very fitted, and can look boxy. Bonnie made me a size 16 based on my measurements, but a size 14 would have fit just fine.
I washed and dried the fabric before Bonnie cut it out so that I wouldn’t have any shrinkage.
Bonnie loved working with both the fabric and the pattern – her only caveat is that the fabric is slippery, which makes it hard to cut out. We have been experimenting with Best Press for slippery fabrics. It is a clear spray that is touted as a “sizing alternative,” and it gives all fabrics a little stiffness.
I love this dress! The curved bib in the front gives it enough shape, and the shirt-tail hem is so cute. I could wear it every day in the summer!
Photos by Bess Bird Photography
Even though I am a certified Palmer/Pletch Fit instructor, I am also a certified shortcut-taker. I know the correct way to alter a pattern to fit, but I my brain automatically tries to find a faster way. And, owning a shop and setting up a website keep me busy, so I’m always doing everything at the last minute.
As I prepared to teach a Sewing with Knits class, using the Jalie Dolman Top pattern, I felt too rushed to do a proper full-bust adjustment. I also wanted to give my students an easy alternative to an involved full-bust adjustment.
Noticing that the center front of the shirt is on the fold, and the Jalie pattern drafters moved the center front farther and farther out as the size increased, I decided to cut out the size based on my high bust measurement, but add fabric at the center front by cutting the center front on the size that fit my full bust. I then cut out the top in our lovely rayon/poly stripe knit in black and cobalt.
I hemmed the neckline, instead of binding it, and added sleeves. I love it. The back fits well, and the deeper, wider neckline formed by cutting a larger size at the center front is cute and flattering.
Then I taught the class again. Only two students signed up, and I knew they would both benefit from a full-bust adjustment. I was curious how a true FBA would compare to my cheater FBA, so before the class, I altered the pattern using the Palmer/Pletsch Knit for Real People book, and here is the result. I used Riley Blake’s Four Corners Knit in Black. I bound the neck, which raised the neckline a little, but as you can see, the two methods created two very different looks.
So, if you love the neckline on a pattern, do a traditional full-bust-adjustment, as described in Fit for Real People and Knits for Real People, but if you want a wider neckline, just add fabric to the center front. That’s why we love sewing. Everything is custom, just for us!
It’s easy to fall in love with sewing when you’re surrounded by gorgeous fabrics. As every new shipment comes in, I swoon and sigh, and the wheels start turning. By now I'm pretty sure I’ve got a plan in mind for all 1,036 bolts of fabric in the shop. But let me back up.
I was not always into sewing. Before starting at The Confident Stitch six months ago, I’d learned how to do the basics, and throughout the years made some curtains, napkins, and tote bags. In other words, very square things. My attempts at clothing always ended in frustration, irritation, and an utterly unwearable piece of clothing. After each attempt, the sewing machine ended up back in the basement to collect dust.
Thankfully, I have since discovered a whole world of inspiration, and, more importantly, instruction. I’ve been introduced to the sewing blogs and Instagram accounts of talented sewers and pattern designers across the world, and am excited by a new generation of modern garment makers. The tutorials available online, particularly from the independent pattern companies we stock, are an invaluable resource. Closer to home, I am constantly impressed by the things our customers make; no two look alike, and each person's interpretation of a pattern is unique to their style. Finding this network of makers and doers online and in my own community convinced me to give garment sewing another chance. Armed with some good patterns and lots (and lots) of patient advice from Kate and Bonnie, I’ve become nothing short of obsessed.
I’ve always been a consumer of other people’s creativity – artwork, food, books – but now I’ve discovered a way to explore my own. Just as quickly as I learn a new pattern, I end up changing it. Some changes are functional; I often need to tweak darts and or add length to the torso. Some are purely for fun: adding a shirt-tail hem or a keyhole neckline. But that’s the beauty of making my own clothing. It’s truly my own – the pattern is just the jumping off point.
I still take out almost as many stitches as I put in. I’ve cursed at more bias binding than I care to admit. And I require much, much more practice before I can comfortably embrace the label of seamstress. But along the way I’ve learned that some silhouettes work on me and some never will, that my back has a deep curve to it, that my top half and bottom half are two completely different sizes. I’ve learned that clothes I’ve made myself are washed more carefully, worn more frequently, and complimented more often. I’ve learned the difference between rayon and voile, bamboo versus soy, and been introduced to that most magical of fabrics, double gauze. I’ve learned that a single pattern has infinite possibilities.
And so, piece by piece, I’m building a handmade wardrobe, and building confidence in my skills. I’m heartened that the slow fashion movement is gaining momentum and that there is a new generation of (mostly) women breathing fresh life into sewing and pattern making. I’m stubbornly optimistic that we have options beyond the chains selling us unsustainable fashion. And did I mention that sewing is just fun?
Quilting is another matter entirely. I’ll let you know when I take that plunge…
Welcome to The Confident Stitch! We are glad you’re here! Our goal is to help you feel empowered to express yourself through fabric, whether you’re making clothes that fit just right, a quilt, or just playing with scissors.
Take a virtual stroll through the shop – we have fine fabrics from around the world, high-quality notions, patterns from independent designers, inspiring books, buttons, ribbons – everything you need to make your next project a success.
All of the products in our little shop are organized by category and attribute. We have also cross-referenced products with companion products, such as fabrics with appropriate patterns -- to help you find things, and to make browsing more fun!
We’d like to say this site is the culmination of a year of hard work, but The Confident Stitch feels more like a work-in-progress! Let us know what you love and what could be improved. We’ll accentuate the positive and improve the improve-able!
While we worked hard to describe, photograph and link every item, credit for the beauty and quality of this site goes to Flying Horse Communications, and our web developers, Drew Schug and Wes Broadway. They did amazing work taking Kate’s vision for a great website to reality.
We will also be using this blog as a forum for describing our experiences sewing with the patterns and fabrics you see in the shop.
We look forward to getting to know you!
Kate, Jane, Bess and Bonnie
Handmade scarf made from Robert Kauffman plaid flannel.
Now that we’re in single-digit days before Christmas, we’re sure that all of your gifts are all ready, wrapped, and under the tree. Er… not quite? If you’re in need of a last-minute gift or two, we have a fabulous (fast) project. A handmade scarf with gorgeous, cozy fabrics – for men or women – is easy to make and sure to get lots of wear this winter.
Robert Kauffman's plaid flannels are cozy and come in lots of colors!
We made our scarves from our Robert Kauffman line of plaid flannels, which are thick, cozy, and come in a variety of cheerful colors. We also made some lighter-weight scarves out of the beautiful Anna Maria Horner wovens, which have a luxurious feel, nice drape, and unique designs.
Anna Maria Horner's "Loominous" line.
First, get 2 yards of fabric. Next, cut your fabric in half length-wise, so you end up with two long rectangles. Each one will make a full-length scarf. Then, beginning at one of the short ends, start pulling the horizontal threads out to create the fringe. We found that a sharp thread tweezers work well for this purpose. Some may find this tedious, but others of us find it oddly satisfying…especially when paired with a favorite TV show. Once your fringe is long enough for your liking, do the other side the same way.
Pulling out horizontal threads one by one.
Finally, press the long edges of the scarf under twice and simply stitch up. And voila, you have a beautiful, handmade gift to give away – and enough fabric to make a duplicate for yourself!
The Confident Stitch shop opened on Friday! Since it was the first Friday of the month, the art galleries of Missoula were all open late, so the shop stayed open until 8:00 pm. I was exhausted, but very happy with the turnout. From 5:00 pm until 8:00 pm, people were constantly flowing in and out.
My friend Katherine came from Helena. We have been friends for 25 years! Photo by Sahra Susman. Cutting Cotton + Steel Quilting Cotton. Photo by Sahra Susman. My guy Fred served wine, cheese, grapes and cookies. Photo by Sahra Susman. Lovely Jane (in an orange coat) will be my full-time employee starting December 1. Photo by Sahra Susman.
After all my October 9 hype, The Confident Stitch is actually opening on November 6. I have enough fabric, patterns and notions to open in two days, but The Confident Stitch website and point-of-sale system are going to be very robust and searchable. Guess how inventory systems become robust and searchable? Someone writes the text and enters the details! In this case, that someone is moi, and I am not done.
I had a lot of help getting the physical shop ready – the fixtures are up, beautiful, and ready to display inventory – I just need to finish getting the virtual shop ready. I have been collecting fabrics for the past year, so I will have some lines that are getting hard to find (like Cloud 9 Bark Cloth, and the original Cotton + Steel lines).
To thank you for your patience, I will be rolling out specials and coupons to you, my loyal blog readers, over the next few weeks!
Don’t worry, The Confident Stitch is not going to become a body- conscious blog. But….we are all conscious of our bodies, and many of us sew in order to fit and flatter our bodies. So, I’m going to share my recent epiphany about my body.
I love yoga. I love the strength and the stretch and the concentration involved. I’m sure it will become an even more important part of my regime after I open the store and stand and lift and twist all day. In Helena, I went to a yoga class I loved. In Missoula, there are many yoga studios, and I have felt a little bit like Goldilocks searching for the right one. The first two yoga studios I tried were not quite right. They were both too loosey-goosey.
The third studio fits me quite well. The teachers are professional yet fun. The yoga is very challenging. The studio space is clean and lovely. The post-workout popsicles are only $1.00.
But…the third studio is the Bikram Hot Yoga Studio of Missoula. It is the first place I have taken yoga that has mirrors, and it is the first place that is HOT yoga. In case you have never taken hot yoga — the room is 110+ degrees with lots of humidity piped in. Some days it feels bearable. Other days it feels impossibly stifling. Every day, I want to be wearing as little as possible.
So, I find myself in front of a mirror, with other people, wearing tiny spandex shorts, and twisting my top into my bra. During the first class, I was struck by two things — I am indeed very good at yoga, and my tummy is embarrassingly huge. After that first class, I wanted to apologize to the other women in the changing room for baring my big white belly.
I’m glad I did not apologize, however. As I further master the 26 Bikram positions I have been reflecting on what my body is for and how I should feel about it. Does my body exist to look absolutely perfect? Or, does it exist to stretch and balance and walk and sew? Why should I feel bad about a body that can balance on one leg while holding the other leg straight out in front of it at a 90-degree angle for a whole minute? What more do I want from my body?
The answer is, nothing. Each day, as I watch myself in the mirror bending, twisting and balancing a little better that the day before, I feel thankful for my body just the way it is.
I have a new front-runner in my never-ending search for a flattering t-shirt pattern. What am I looking for in a t-shirt pattern? I'm looking for a top that minimizes my bust, and makes me look slim without clinging. Welcome to my life, Jalie 2682.
I'll be carrying Jalie patterns on The Confident Stitch website SOON! As I mentioned in my yoga pant post, Jalie is a Canadian company that makes great patterns for regular clothes. I love them, my 20-something daughters love them, and they come in small children's sizes, too.
I have made two versions of this V-Neck top. The first version was crafted out of an awesome soy knit. Soy knits feel like bamboo, but they don't pill as much. Yes, they'll be available in the shop! I can't show you the first version, because my 23-year-old daughter snagged it on her last visit home: "Oooh, Mom, this shirt is so flattering on me. Can I have it? Thanks." In case you're not the mother of girls, the previous quote can be interpreted as HIGH PRAISE.
This second version is made of an Art Gallery cotton/spandex knit. The fabric, and many more Art Gallery cotton knits will be available in the shop. The only alteration I made was to lower the underbust seam by one inch so that it would actually go under my bust, and not across the apex. I wish I had done a more traditional full-bust-adjustment because there is some pulling at the front underarm seam. Next time, I will do a complete FBA and show you how I did it. The v-neck and shawl collar are created ingeneously, so the FBA will be a little tricky.
In addition to constantly searching for the perfect t-shirt, I am always looking for the best way to hem clothes. There are so many options! This top called for simple, single-turned hems for the bottom and the armholes. I decided to use 1/2" SewkeysE double-sided fusible stay tape to hold the hems in place before I stitched them. The tape is extremely fine and pliable. I pressed one side of the tape to the edges of the hems, turned and pressed the hems, removed the paper backing on the stay tape, and re-pressed the hems. (notice the all-important hyphen. No one wants a "repressed" hem.) The stay tape held the hems perfectly in place for stitching -- no bubbling or shifting.
I also used my new seam allowance guide that screws onto my sewing machine. Pushing the fabric against the blade of the guide ensured the zigzag stitching was even on the right side of the garment, and the stitches caught the fold on the wrong side of the fabric. The stay tape and the guide made the hems so nice and easy. Double score -- great t-shirt pattern + great hemming method!