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The Confident Stitch

  • Getting Ready to Open!

    I'm making progress toward opening a brick-and-mortar store! My new plan is to be open by September 1, which is much closer than you may think! I am finishing up negotiations on a location, and I'm buying fabric and notions. I spent Monday and Tuesday this week in Las Vegas at a textile expo. I bought lots of fabric for the shop, met two of my idols -- Janet Pray and Kathleen Cheetham -- and peppered my fellow shop owners with questions. Here is some eye candy from Telio in Toronto and Seven Islands Japanese Fabrics, all of which will be available in Missoula and online soon:

    Gorgeous stretch denim from Telio. Gorgeous stretch denim from Telio.

    Double-sided scuba knits from Telio. Double-sided scuba knits from Telio.

    Bottom-weight linens! Bottom-weight linens!

    Affordable poly birds. Must make blouse(s)! Affordable poly birds. Must make blouse(s)!

    Japanese double-gauze. Japanese double-gauze.

    Japanese double gauze knit. So soft! Japanese double gauze knit. So soft!

    More double-gauze.... More double-gauze....

    Double-gauze with funny bunnies screaming to become a blanky! Double-gauze with funny bunnies screaming to become a blanky!

    Japanese canvas -- Deer with glasses Hahaha! Japanese canvas -- Deer with glasses Hahaha!

    Buying fabric to sell to others is scarier than I though it would be. What will people buy? How much are they willing to pay? If you were to open a fabric shop, what would you make sure to carry?

  • Belated Stitchery Expo Report

    Based on the time between blog posts, you may think nothing is going on here at The Confident Stitch. Not true! I have been working at The Sewing Palace in Helena, teaching classes at the Palace, learning Quickbooks, buying a building in Missoula, filling my basement with fabric, trying to find a website development company, getting two houses ready to sell. You get the picture.

    I did find time to go to the Stitchery Expo in Puyallup, Washington. I find walking on concrete all day and fighting crowds indoors overwhelming. Nevertheless, I met my hero, Linda Lee, learned about measuring from Lorraine Henry, hugged my mentor, Pati Palmer, looked through Katherine and Marci Tilton's fabrics, and saw so many inspiring projects.

    At the end of next week, I head to Las Vegas for a wholesale expo. Then I'll be back in Montana selling two houses, moving to Missoula, and opening a brick-and-mortar and on-line shop by the beginning of October! Stay tuned!

    The lovely and multi-talented Linda Lee in her booth. The lovely and multi-talented Linda Lee in her booth.

    Detail of Linda's Alabama Chanin Tee. Detail of Linda's Alabama Chanin Tee.

    A jacket from the Indygo Junction booth. A jacket from the Indygo Junction booth.

    And Pendleton.... And Pendleton....

    Pendleton.... Pendleton....

    And more Pendleton! And more Pendleton!

  • My First Sewing Retreat!

    I just got home from my first four-day sewing retreat. It was quite an experience! Organized by The Sewing Palace in Helena, 20 women gathered at a camp in Gold Creek, Montana. The sewing talent and alcohol consumption were both epic. Yes, there was dancing on the chairs. Yes, there was quilt-ruler limbo. Yes, there was loud music. Yes, everyone was able to stitch straight lines after a few glasses of wine!

    It was a great experience for an introvert who loves being with people (like me). I loved watching the others drink and sing and dance. I loved the music. 

    Arriving at the camp, I saw women unloading chairs, ironing boards and crates of fabric from their Suburbans, and I had a flash-back to my days as a swim-team mom. Back then, I would pack a couple towels for each daughter, throw in a few fruit roll-ups, make sure everyone had their suits, goggles and caps, and drive to the meet feeling like a well-packed mom who thought of everything. Then I'd arrive at the meet and realize my inadequacies. The other parents would be wearing matching t-shirts, have 37 towels for each kid, a snack-bar worth of food, folding chairs, a mini-DVD player to staunch the boredom. Summer meets were the worst -- families brought tents they could stand in, coolers, hibachis, giant blankets. 

    I clearly learned nothing from the swim meets. I packed three projects, my sewing machine, an iron, a small cutting mat, and an entire box of graham crackers to share. The other women brought adjustable chairs, yards of fabric, yummy food, wine, wine glasses, individual cutting and ironing tables, Orphan Girl Bourbon, Bose speakers.....

    This is This is "all" I brought.

    This is most of the fabric brought by Julie our organizer. This is most of the fabric brought by Julie our organizer.

    Julie and Laurie shared a little cutting and pressing table. Julie and Laurie shared a little cutting and pressing table.

    Not only were the women amazing sewers, they also brought their hidden talents. Beverly led yoga classes and trimmed hair, Dawn and Laurie were amazing dancers, and Sandra made sure everyone felt included. Have you ever attended a sewing retreat? What did you love about it?

    Beverly, our yoga teacher. Beverly, our yoga teacher.

    Sandra, the queen of fun. Yes, she brought that chair with her. Sandra, the queen of fun. Yes, she brought that chair with her.

  • Thunk, Thunk

    For the past six weeks, I have had the honor of working at a fabric shop — The amazing Sewing Palace in Helena, Montana. Every time I unfurl a bolt of fabric and hear the thunk, thunk of the bolt hitting the cutting table, I am carried back to my childhood.

    I first heard the thunking of a bolt of fabric standing next to my mom at the McCaulou’s department store in my hometown of Lafayette, California. Like most department stores, McCaulou’s had a fabric department until I was in my late twenties. 

    When I was young, my mom and I would walk past the children’s department, and the juniors’ department, to the back of the store — the fabric department. We would leaf through the giant glossy pattern books to choose the perfect thing for my mom to make for me, using tiny pencils to write the pattern numbers on scraps of paper. The lady behind the counter would pull the pattern from one of her giant drawers.

    Then I would have the pleasure of selecting my fabric and notions. Sometimes, McCaulou’s would have the actual fabric used in the pattern photo! When we got home, I would not-so-patiently wait for my mom to turn the cloth into special clothes for me. 

    By the time I was 12, I was the one sewing the clothes. Although I sewed too hastily, and my makes were always clearly homemade, the possibility that I might make a beautiful garment out of the beautiful cloth was magical.

    Growing up, I thought of the children’s department as the “land of no.” My mom always said no to ready-made clothes, except for the one shopping trip in August when we would buy school clothes. The fabric department was the “land of yes.” My mom was always happy to sew me something when I was small, and she was always happy to buy me the fabric to make myself something as I grew older. 

    As I take steps to open my own fabric shop and online store, I am buoyed by the hopefulness and empowerment I always felt when I heard the fabric bolt thunk on the cutting table. What does buying fabric remind you of?

    I would have loved this outfit in elementary school. Image from Etsy.com. I would have loved this outfit in elementary school. Image from Etsy.com.

     

     

    I'm sure I made this dress. Image from Etsy.com. I'm sure I made this dress. Image from Etsy.com.

    I made so many dresses like this! Image from Etsy.com. I made so many dresses like this! Image from Etsy.com.

    And wrap-around pants! Loved them! Image from Etsy.com. And wrap-around pants! Loved them! Image from Etsy.com.

  • Polka Dot Jean Jacket: The Professional Photos!

    Here are the professional pics of the jacket I made at the same time as the dragonfly jacket. For each step, I watched Janet Pray on Craftsy, and then took the plunge with both jackets. By the end of the process I was getting a little loopy. I would catch myself wondering why Janet only had to sew two cuffs when I had to sew four. Ummm......Perhaps because I was making two jackets?

    Both jackets are getting a lot of wear. I love the fit of Jacket Express. My only alteration was to lengthen the sleeves by two inches. Janet's instructions on Craftsy are great, and so are the written instructions that come with the pattern. Islander Sewing Systems patterns each come with well-illustrated instruction booklet with clear drawings and an innovative order of construction.

    I also lined the cuffs, yoke and pocket flaps of this version with Liberty Lawn. Photo by Andrea Jones. I also lined the cuffs, yoke and pocket flaps of this version with Liberty Lawn. Photo by Andrea Jones.

    Nothing remarkable about the back, except you can see how well this jacket goes together. Great drafting! Photo by Andrea Jones. Nothing remarkable about the back, except you can see how well this jacket goes together. Great drafting! Photo by Andrea Jones.

    I scored some faux leather buttons that were originally used by Anne Klein. I actually prefer faux leather to real leather because I can wash them. Yes, you can see my yellow chalkoner lines. Ah well....Photo by Andrea Jones. I scored some faux leather buttons that were originally used by Anne Klein. I actually prefer faux leather to real leather because I can wash them. Yes, you can see my yellow chalkoner lines. Ah well....Photo by Andrea Jones.

    Linen jacket with linen pants. Yay! Photo by Andrea Jones. Linen jacket with linen pants. Yay! Photo by Andrea Jones.

  • Dragonfly Jacket -- The Professional Photos!

    Andrea Jones took a lot of fun photos of the dragonfly jacket. I detailed the process a few posts ago. As I mentioned, I made this jacket while following along with the Craftsy class, Sew Better Sew Faster, with Janet Pray. I loved the class and highly recommend it. The first jacket I made while following along with Janet, I took all of her shortcuts and ended up with a non-wearable garment. Janet is such a good seamster, she can do much more on the fly than I can. With this project, I slowed down and did some pinning and some basting. It turned out much better. The only alteration I made was to lengthen the sleeves by two inches. I also made a medium even though I'm usually a large or extra-large. 

    Me as a sassy librarian. Photo by Andrea Jones. Me as a sassy librarian. Photo by Andrea Jones.

    I even had some silver dragonfly buttons! Photo by Andrea Jones. I even had some silver dragonfly buttons! Photo by Andrea Jones.

    I lIke the way the insects are flying around the back. Photo by Andrea Jones. I lIke the way the insects are flying around the back. Photo by Andrea Jones.

    I lined the cuffs and the yoke with Liberty Lawn. Photo by Andrea Jones. I lined the cuffs and the yoke with Liberty Lawn. Photo by Andrea Jones.

  • More Burgundy Pants

    I love burgundy and burgundy loves me. It's a great color for my skin tone, and I have burgundy jackets and tops that get worn all the time. I have never made pants in burgundy, though. Last month, I pulled out burgundy ponte and burgundy linen from my stash to make pants. Color me happy!

    This is another pair of Style Arc Katherine pants -- my favorite pants ever. This is my fourth pair (the rest have ripped or worn out). I don't need to alter them at all. I just add an extra "just in case" inch to the side seams to ensure they'll fit in all kinds of fabrics. I learned my lesson about the just in case inch when I was making my second pair of these pants out of a non-stretch denim/linen blend. I was able to squeeze into them with a teeny, tiny side seam allowance, which came apart at the hip during a conference in Seattle! Luckily, I was able to casually hold my conference materials next to the rip as I snuck to the elevator scurried to my room as fast as possible.

    I tried a new technique for these pants -- A button fly! I followed David Page Coffin's instructions in his Making Trousers for Med and Women book. I made a test version and then went for it in the pants. I love the retro feel of the button fly. It also gave me more control over matching right and left sides of the fly, making the fly construction less stressful. Check out my Instagram feed on the right side of this blog for a close-up photo.

    The width of the flare is just right for me. Photo by Andrea Jones. The width of the flare is just right for me. Photo by Andrea Jones.

    I love the flat front pockets. Photo by Andrea Jones. I love the flat front pockets. Photo by Andrea Jones.

    Fits in the rear, right out of the box! Photo by Andrea Jones Fits in the rear, right out of the box! Photo by Andrea Jones

  • Thoughts about Pockets

    I finished the non-muffin-top burgundy pants (V8859), and Andrea Jones photographed them. I love that they are stretch pants that hit at the right spot on my waist. I also love that they don't look too casual -- they have a design element on the knee and actual pockets in the back. The back pockets were quite problematic, though. I knew the pockets were too small and badly located, but I didn't know how to fix them for the best visual effect. After my photo shoot, Heather Lou at Closet Case Files had a great blog post on jean pocket placement. She went into great depth about pocket size and placement, and she included many photos of good and bad placement. After reading her article, I ripped out my pockets and cut a bigger pair. I then pinned and repinned the pockets in place (I'll spare you the multitude of photographs) until I had them even and well-placed. I'm much happier with the look of my derriere in the pants now. If you want to make these pants, or any others with small, high back pockets, do yourself a favor and read Heather Lou's post first. Friends don't let friends have small back pockets!

    Cute knee detail. Photo by Andrea Jones. Cute knee detail. Photo by Andrea Jones.

    The front -- They are long enough! Photo by Andrea Jones. The front -- They are long enough! Photo by Andrea Jones.

    The back with the original pocket size and placement. If super flat butts are ever in style, I'm set. Photo by Andrea Jones. The back with the original pocket size and placement. If super flat butts are ever in style, I'm set. Photo by Andrea Jones.

    Home photo of bigger, lower pockets. Please ignore the many markings. I feel much more confident with these pockets! Home photo of bigger, lower pockets. Please ignore the many markings. I feel much more confident with these pockets!

  • Muffin Top? What Muffin Top?

    Lately, I have been lamenting the muffin tops created by my store-bought jeans. Why didn't I notice the pouch when I was buying the jeans? Why did I decide to buy the jeans at all? What are they doing in my closet? As usual, Sally McGraw at Already Pretty answered my question as though she could hear my thoughts. It was eerie, but wonderful. Her November 10 post was titled simply, "How to Get Rid of Muffin Top." I hoped she wouldn't tell us to do more sit-ups, and she didn't. Instead, she offered this sage perspective: "In my opinion, there are two answers to that question [how to get rid of muffin top]: Buy larger pants, or buy differently shaped pants." Oh...okay....I can sew myself out of muffin-top land! And, Vogue 8859 pants are in my queue.

    She couldn't have muffin-top if she tried. She couldn't have muffin-top if she tried.

    I have a bunch of burgundy ponte knit from Fabric Depot in Portland, Oregon. I'm ready!

    Even though I look nothing like the model in my version of the pants, I'm going to walk you through some of the alterations I made. Because I love you, I'm even going to show you my rear in these pants. Here goes:

    I had some serious lengthening to do. I started with 1 inch above the knee and 3 inches below the knee, but re-trying the tissue revealed that I needed at least 5 extra inches below the knee. These pants have a design element right at the knee, which is a little tricky when your legs are much longer than average legs. The design element hits me at the knee when I'm standing, but not when I'm sitting. I had some serious lengthening to do. I started with 1 inch above the knee and 3 inches below the knee, but re-trying the tissue revealed that I needed at least 5 extra inches below the knee. These pants have a design element right at the knee, which is a little tricky when your legs are much longer than average legs. The design element hits me at the knee when I'm standing, but not when I'm sitting.

    The pants were super easy to sew. The only fiddly part was the fitting. The tissue fit pretty well in the width, so, after lengthening the tissue, I and sewed everything but the side seams. Then I pinned the side seams to figure out where to sew them and sewed them up. Then came the tricky part, which involves my derriere (sorry in advance).

    Yucky bagginess! Yucky bagginess!

    Less bagginess. I fixed it by first deepening the crotch curve (i.e. creating more space for my derriere), and pulling up the center back. Less bagginess. I fixed it by first deepening the crotch curve (i.e. creating more space for my derriere), and pulling up the center back.

    I had an elastic around my waist. I pulled the fabric up until I had everything hanging the way I wanted it to. Then I marked the top of the elastic all the way around. It was not parallel with the top edge of the waistline, and that's okay.  I had an elastic around my waist. I pulled the fabric up until I had everything hanging the way I wanted it to. Then I marked the top of the elastic all the way around. It was not parallel with the top edge of the waistline, and that's okay. 

    I did not make the pants as tapered as the pattern envelope photo depicts. I may taper them more after I see them in different settings. Today, I like them a little loose. One of the wonderful things about sewing for yourself is the freedom to do little alterations to ensure your clothes are flattering.  By making these pants my shape, I erased my muffin top without doing any sit-ups! Yay!

  • SEWING BETTER AND A LITTLE FASTER

    The temperature has barely risen above zero degrees fahrenheit for the past few days, which I have taken as a clear signal to stay inside and sew like a maniac!

    I am making two Islander Sewing Systems Jacket Expresses while following along with Janet Pray's Sew Better Sew Faster class on Craftsy. I love this class, and I made my first Jacket Express a year ago.  Although Andrea Jones was able to make my jacket look good in photos, it did not stand up to close scrutiny. The cuffs were not securely connected to the sleeves, and the facing did not lie flat. 

    Oh my aching back! Oh my aching back!

    I had some Cloud 9 dragonfly fabric and some Moda linen sitting in my stash, waiting for me to have time to make jackets out of them, so I had the “brilliant” idea of cutting them out together. I wanted to cut out the dragonflies as a single layer to improve the chances of pattern matching. I laid the dragonflies on top of the linen and cut them out on the floor, constantly smoothing along the way. It took FOREVER! Cutting out on the floor with scissors is terrible compared to cutting out with a rotary cutter on a lovely Martelli cutting table! Next time, I will cut things out separately on my table.

    While making these two versions, I followed along with Janet’s industry techniques up to a point. The way Janet starts construction is brilliant. Preparing and top stitching most of the pieces before constructions works great. Plus, I now have two sewing machines, so I threaded one with thread for construction and one with topstitching thread (I used the same color for both makes). It worked great!

    Sleeves, backs collars, pocket flaps topstitched and ready for construction! Sleeves, backs collars, pocket flaps topstitched and ready for construction!

    Janet makes the entire jacket without pins or basting. I was able to avoid pins and basting through the construction of the yoke, and even the sleeve insertion and the welt pockets. I knew from experience that the cuffs would need some pins, and the facing would need to be basted from the wrong side so I could topstitch it from the right side and keep it lying flat. I also basted the upper front pockets from the wrong side so I could see where to topstitch from the right side.

    The cuffs needed some pins to assure attachment to the sleeves. The cuffs needed some pins to assure attachment to the sleeves.

    The industry technique has you topstitch the upper pockets somewhat blindly. I decided to baste them from the wrong side, so I could see exactly where they were on the right side before topstitching. The industry technique has you topstitch the upper pockets somewhat blindly. I decided to baste them from the wrong side, so I could see exactly where they were on the right side before topstitching.

    .....And I liked the flatness and accuracy of the result. .....And I liked the flatness and accuracy of the result.

    I also basted the facing from the wrong side so it would lay flat and be marked on the front. I also basted the facing from the wrong side so it would lay flat and be marked on the front.

    Nice and flat and visible from the front. Nice and flat and visible from the front.

    The basting allowed me to confidently topstitch the facing with contrasting thread, which I think increases the professional look of the jacket. The basting allowed me to confidently topstitch the facing with contrasting thread, which I think increases the professional look of the jacket.

    The weather promises to remain face-stinging cold tomorrow, so I’ll get the buttons and buttonholes done before it’s time to go outside again!

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