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The Confident Stitch

  • Why I Sew

    IMG_6980 Jane just started sewing, and she's already making amazing things! Dress Pattern: Merchant & Mills Camber Set. Fabric: Traffic in Cherry by Anna Maria Horner.

    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!

    The Confident Stitch Founder, Kate McIvor, outside our shop in Missoula, Montana. The Confident Stitch Founder, Kate McIvor, outside our shop in Missoula, Montana.

    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

    Kate McIvor, Founder Kate McIvor, Founder

    Jane Mandala, Shop and Web Manager Jane Mandala, Shop and Web Manager

    Bess Bird, Photographer Bess Bird, Photographer

     

    Bonnie Thompson, Seamstress Bonnie Thompson, Seamstress

  • World's Easiest Last-Minute Gift

    Handmade scarf made from Robert Kauffman plaid flannel. 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! 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 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. 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!

  • More Scenes From the Grand Opening

    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. 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. Cutting Cotton + Steel Quilting Cotton. Photo by Sahra Susman. My guy Fred served wine, cheese, grapes and cookies. 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. Lovely Jane (in an orange coat) will be my full-time employee starting December 1. Photo by Sahra Susman.

  • .....Make That November 6....

    The Sandwich Board is ready to roll to the sidewalk on opening day. The Sandwich Board is ready to roll to the sidewalk on opening day.

    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. 

    The Pattern Drawer with Library Pulls are ready to be filled with patterns. The Pattern Drawer with Library Pulls are ready to be filled with patterns.

    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).

    The rolling cutting table and roll-on-tube fixtures are ready! The rolling cutting table and roll-on-tube fixtures are ready!

    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!

  • Our Bodies, Ourselves

    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.

    I can do this, but my belly spills over the top of my shorts. Image courtesy of www.massgeneral.org. I can do this, but my belly spills over the top of my shorts. Image courtesy of www.massgeneral.org.

    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 can do this, but my ribs do not stick out at all. Photo courtesy www.healthcare-online.org. I can do this, but my ribs do not stick out at all. Photo courtesy www.healthcare-online.org.

    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?

    I can even do this! Photo from Bikram-nyc. I can even do this! Photo from Bikram-nyc.

    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.

  • New Favorite T-Shirt Pattern

    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.

    Andrea Jones did not move to Missoula with me, so we all have to put up with my fiance's Andrea Jones did not move to Missoula with me, so we all have to put up with my fiance's "artistic" sense. Gotta love the tree in the eye.

    In this side view, you can see that I need a little more fabric across the bust so the armseye will lay flat against my body. In this side view, you can see that I need a little more fabric across the bust so the armseye will lay flat against my body.

    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.

    Emma Seabrooke has a huge variety of stay tapes, all of which help with sewing knits. Emma Seabrooke has a huge variety of stay tapes, all of which help with sewing knits.

    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!

    Extra precision with the seam guide! Extra precision with the seam guide!

  • Big Day Coming....

    John Lennon sewing! What could be better? John Lennon sewing! What could be better?

    October 9 is an AUSPICIOUS day. How auspicious? John Lennon was born on October 9, as were his son Sean, and Tony Shalhoub! And....my new "baby" will also be "born" on October 9. The Confident Stitch will open a brick-and-mortar store in Missoula, Montana, and simultaneously launch a web store in seven short weeks!

    Both in Missoula and online, the shops will be welcoming places to feel inspired, supported and uplifted. The website will have beautiful photographs and detailed, fun descriptions of everything for sale. My website designers are making the site looks gorgeous and is easy to search.

    The hands-on shop, formerly an art gallery, will be appointed with beautiful fixtures, inspiring samples, and knowledgeable staff members.

    The walls have been painted. New carpet is next, then cabinetry and fixtures. The cardboard The walls have been painted. New carpet is next, then cabinetry and fixtures. The cardboard "furniture" is a button rack and buttons!

    I love the industrial ceiling and the lighting. The windowed enclosure will eventually house a seamstress. I love the industrial ceiling and the lighting. The windowed enclosure will eventually house a seamstress.

    I have spent the past year traveling to trade shows in search of the best fabrics, tools, notions and indie patterns from around the world. Many of the voiles, denims, linens, knits wools and sateens I have found are one-of-a-kind.  Others are the best from major fabric manufacturers like Robert Kaufman. 

    The Confident Stitch will also carry modern quilting cottons from great young designers like Cotton + Steel and Alison Glass, and from all-time favorite artists, such as Amy Butler, Kaffe Fasset, and Charley Harper.

    Most exciting for me is the back room of the store, which will be a classroom that opens onto a deck overlooking the Clark Fork River. I have taken many classes from Pati Palmer and Marta Alto at the Palmer/Pletsch School of Sewing in Portland, Oregon. I can't wait to teach Pati and Marta's methods and help people make beautiful, well-fitted clothes that will last forever.  I will also teach beginning sewing classes. And, as soon as I find a great quilting teacher, he or she will be teaching quilting classes.

    If you were to open your dream fabric shop and sewing school, what would you be sure to carry? what would you be sure to teach?

  • Jalie Yoga Pants -- Yes I'm Brave Enough to Show You

    Do you know about Jalie patterns yet? Jalie is an independent Canadian pattern company with a great variety of patterns. They are well-drafted and each envelope contains 27 sizes.  Jalie carries patterns for what I consider 'regular clothes' -- Polo shirts, dolman-sleeved tees, easy knit dresses. I have made a Jalie swimsuit, which I like, but you will never see. I am brave enough to show you these yoga pants, however. I love this pattern because it has a center back seam. The seam improves the fit in general, and allows for extra tweaking (no, I did not say twerking). The waistband is also two pieces, allowing for tweaking and interesting design elements.

    This is my first version of these pants. I unintentionally treat the first version of anything I make like a muslin. I should make actual muslins, but I'm too antsy and hopeful. I promise myself I will pay attention to all the details and make sure everything is perfect, and then I jump in with both feet. Unfortunately, I am always too distracted by finding the correct fit and learning how the pattern goes together. Although I like this finished product, I put the waistband on backwards, I completely forgot to match the pattern on the waistband, I cover-stitched with blue thread instead of black....

    Long yoga pants....A tall woman's dream come true! Please disregard the center-front waistband seam -- it's supposed to be in the back. Photo by Andrea Jones. Long yoga pants....A tall woman's dream come true! Please disregard the center-front waistband seam -- it's supposed to be in the back. Photo by Andrea Jones.

    I made these pants with a super-strong polyester-spandex from Rose City Textiles. The fabric is from a famous bike-short company, and the pants are thick and WARM. I think the fabric is better suited for shorts. These pants will definitely keep me cozy through the Montana winter!. The waistband is a fun cotton-lycra jersey from Art Gallery. Both will be available in my shop and online (soon!).

    The back. I tried enhancing the photo so you could see the center-back seam, but other things were also enhanced. No thank you! Photo by Andrea Jones. The back. I tried enhancing the photo so you could see the center-back seam, but other things were also enhanced. No thank you! Photo by Andrea Jones.

    I chose a size based on my hip measurements, and made no changes to the pattern except lengthening (my inseam is 36 inches). The waistband is held up by half-inch elastic cut to fit your waist and sewn on the inside. I can't wait to make more pairs!

    Close-up of the waistband -- wouldn't it look good if I had matched the pattern and put the vertical seam in the back? Photo by Andrea Jones. Close-up of the waistband -- wouldn't it look good if I had matched the pattern and put the vertical seam in the back? Photo by Andrea Jones.

  • Another Liberty Shirt

    I have a few "tried and true" (TNT) patterns, and The Sewing Workshop's Liberty Shirt is one of them. Not only is the shirt well drafted with interesting details, but Linda Lee also guides us through its construction in her Sewing with Silks Craftsy class, a GREAT class. I have made this shirt in a stiff silk from China, and in a lightweight rayon. Today's version is made of Robert Kaufman's Brussels Washer Linen in yarn-dyed red. Brussels Washer is 55 percent linen and 45 percent rayon. It's washable and dry-able, but it does shrink. My Merchant and Mills Factory Girl Dress is also made with Brussels Washer Linen, and I have washed and dried it many many times. I wish I could claim that the rayon keeps the fabric from wrinkling, but you can tell from the photos that it does not. 

    I love the diagonal side seam. Photo by Andrea Jones. I love the diagonal side seam. Photo by Andrea Jones.

    The only alteration I made to this pattern was lengthening the sleeves. Looking at the photo below, I think I should do a small Full Bust Adjustment. The buttons across my bust are gaping a little. Or, perhaps I just need to make sure a button is located at my bust point (much easier!).

    There is no actual princess seam. The shirt has a top-stitched facing. The diagonal side seam makes the front appear narrower. Photo by Andrea Jones. There is no actual princess seam. The shirt has a top-stitched facing. The diagonal side seam makes the front appear narrower. Photo by Andrea Jones.

    Because this was the third time I made this shirt, it came together quickly and smoothly. I cut and mostly sewed it at the sewing retreat I attended in March. It was a great antidote to my struggles with fitting the J Jeans.

    The diagonal side seam makes the back a little flowy. Photo by Andrea Jones. The diagonal side seam makes the back a little flowy. Photo by Andrea Jones.

    I don't consciously put patterns on my TNT list, or plan to make multiples of them, it just happens. I'm sure it will happen again with this one. I think my next Liberty Shirt will be a lightweight, drapey fabric. Perhaps even silk! 

    Do you have TNT patterns? Do you love how quickly the go together?

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