Category Archives: Fabric

LA’s garment district

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I’m back from my US trip. It was a great break but I really missed my sewing machine and am itching to get stuck into a new project. I made a quick warm-up knit dress yesterday but I think up next is something nice and meaty like a winter jumpsuit or another coat…

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I just wanted to share some pics from the Los Angeles stop on my trip, because I was lucky enough to meet up with Katie of Handmade Threads (plus her friend Katie – three sewing Katies!) for a guided shopping day in LA’s garment district. It was super fun and the shopping was great! A lot of garment manufacturing is done in LA so it stands to reason that they have good stores to support it.

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We started in an amazing trimmings and notions store, the aisles packed floor to ceiling with lovely laces, tapes, ribbons, bindings, straps etc. Following Katie’s lead I bought some cute bra strapping to encourage me to have another go at lingerie-making (I made a Watson toile a while ago, but it wasn’t quite right), plus some pretty woven decorative tape.

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Next we hit a few nearby fabric stores. My favourite was run by a chap who imports a bunch of (apparently organic) Korean rayons in beautiful prints. I bought some navy ikat print for a Roberts jumpsuit plus a distressed grey for a simple tee.

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Final stop (because Josh was patiently waiting for me) was Michael Levine, which I loved! Every type of fabric you’d need under one roof, from shibori bamboo knits (SWOON) to silks and coatings to an excellent range of quilting cottons including lots of Cotton & Steel. The prices are higher than the other stores but the quality seemed high, and I scored some black sandwashed silk and burgundy sweater knit each around $10/yd.

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Afterwards we got some pupusas (El Salvadorean street food) and coffee in the Grand Central Market. As well as showing me around, Katie very kindly gave me some of the Cone Mills denim that she sells in her store Threadbare Fabrics, so more jeans will be on my horizon too no doubt. Sewists are just the best <3 LAshops11

A few days later I found myself near Mood, which is in a different area of town called La Brea. It’s much smaller than the NYC branch, all on one floor and about half taken up by home decor fabrics. However there’s still a good range of knits, Liberty prints and ex-designer runoffs from brands like Cavalli and Anna Sui. I bought a bolt end of some lovely bouncy silk crepe; I was hoping to find something to make a dress for a wedding in December but there was only 1.5yds left. Sadly I didn’t get the chance to visit a few other stops like The Fabric Store and Michael Levine Loft, but I was right on my baggage weight allowance anyway so it was probably for the best.

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My stash was getting pretty low, so it was good to top it up again for some nice trans-seasonal garment making. It’s all in the prewash so I look forward to getting sewing!

Planning an eco autumn capsule wardrobe

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Finally, I’m feeling a bit of sewspiration again. It only took a bit of buying new patterns and splurging on lovely fabrics, ha ha. The end of summer is not a good time of year for me, to be honest – watching the darkness draw in ever-earlier and seeing the temperature plummet does not fill me with the joys of autumn. Buuut, I suppose it’s a good excuse to recalibrate the wardrobe and do some nice project planning.

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It was a trip to Fabrications to check out their brand new range of organic and ethical fabrics, care of Offset Warehouse, that really sparked some ideas. Fabrications is a sweet little craft store fairly local to me in Hackney which has always focused on textiles and fibre arts, but never stocked fabric before. They’ve now teamed up with online eco textile company Offset Warehouse to offer a hefty range of their gorgeous cloths in store for the first time.

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I popped along to the collection’s launch party last week and couldn’t resist a bit of investment. The good thing is that selecting these beautiful fabrics gave me quite a clear purpose of what garments they should become, and I realised they could form the basis of a really nice capsule wardrobe for the coming months and beyond. I’m increasingly interested in trying to make sure my output is more cross-seasonal, because I find it sad to have to tuck away hand-mades for half the year when they no longer fit the weather. My theory is that by going for natural fibres and a neutral colour palette it’ll be easy to make garments that can mix and layer up for the cold and be worn on their own in the summer. So here’s a look at what I bought and some ideas for what form my capsule wardrobe might take.

capsule-top

I wear my loose woven tops loads so I know this shape will be a wardrobe winner, and this cream striped ikat I bought could be paired with black, blue or grey on the lower half. I may try the Style Arc Ethel I just bought so I can play with the stripe direction across the panels.

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I do love my dresses – I’ve made quite a few super basic knee and midi length semi-fitted smock type ones (generally unblogged as boring!) and they’re in constant rotation. Throw one on and you’re dressed, and they’re great for cycling. I picked out a sage-y green striped cotton to make another; I can’t find it on the site but this is the same in a different colourway. Reading the product description of this fabric makes me feel so darn good about my choice: “The fabric is entirely handmade and hand dyed, using techniques that are thousands of years old…It also has virtually no carbon footprint, as the entire process is done by hand and uses no electricity – including the spinning and dyeing”. Considering that, isn’t it quite the bargain?

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One thing I am lacking at the moment in an in-between-y sort of coat; one that keeps out autumn chill but isn’t heavy or restrictive (I don’t really feel the cold til it gets really cold). I chose this black and white slubby cross-weave cotton which should stay nice and breathable. Actually I got chatting to pattern cutter and occasional Offset blogger Franki Campbell at the party after I complimented the gorgeous self-drafted coat she was wearing, and realised I totally just wanted to copy it: it was a minimal semifitted hip length style with no side seams and a dreamy centre front bust dart detail. Failing that, I love some of Burda’s cocoon type shapes.

capsule-trousers

One final piece of the wardrobe that I managed to resist buying fabric for on the night is trousers. I’m thinking high-ish waist so they can be worn with tops tucked or loose, pegged legs and lil’ cuffs – perhaps Burda 7017 again or the Papercut Guise, which i’m toiling now. Fabric-wise I was thinking of going for a slightly textured navy blue ikat such as this or this.

Well, that will keep me busy for a bit! I’ve enjoyed seeing other autumn planning posts up on other people’s blog (and jealously glowering at southern hemisphere folk planning their spring wardrobes) – what are your A/W sew plans?

Be-zazzled Franken-dress

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Finally, I made a new dress! I haven’t had much time to sew properly since before New York, so on Sunday and Monday I carved out some time especially to knock out a fun new frock. Plus the fabric’s a bit special too…

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This is a true Franken-dress by design. The bodice is a sleeveless Darling Ranges, with the shoulder line extended out to make cut-on cap sleeves rather like the Burda 7078 I just made.. The skirt is from the Grainline Alder, lengthened by 3″ from my previous ones.

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The patterns fudge together fine since you can just adjust the gathering at the top of the Alder skirt to match the bottom bodice edge. I could well have just used my v-neck Alder piece for the top, but I think the DR is just a slightly better fit around the chest and shoulders for me.

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Darling-Alder

I love the drama of the full, swoopy Alder skirt at the back, especially when lengthened. Lots of swish-factor!

kimono sleeve

Tip for converting a sleeveless dress into a kimono sleeve: you’ll want to raise the pitch (angle) of the shoulder line or you’ll find it a bit tight and hard to move your arm up and down. You may also need to drop where it hits the bodice by an inch or so for more wiggle-room. I’m sure there’s a more technical way to make this adjustment, but eyeballing the angles and drawing straight lines worked for me.

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OK, the fabric! I was really excited to be asked by Zazzle to try out their custom fabric offering recently. You can choose from their premade design library (there are some really cute ones), customise a design, or upload your own design entirely – which, being the control freak type, I went for. It was super easy to add my design (a simple moon and stars repeat that I made in Illustrator) and I was amazed that the fabric took only three days to get to my door from the US.

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(I didn’t mean to have the print going in opposite directions on the bodice and skirt by the way, oops.) This is a Pima cotton, described by Zazzle as ‘high-quality, luxurious fabric… extremely soft to the touch and easy to work with…’ I’m REALLY happy with this fabric and would say the description is totally accurate. The handle reminds me of a cotton sateen but without the stretch – it’s smooth and silky, more drapey than crisp. The print is good and sharp and it doesn’t have that papery or coated feel like some digitally printed fabrics do. It had a slight inky smell but that was removed in the prewash (a 40 degree delicates cycle). Zazzle promise no colour fade despite their eco-friendly inks, and I didn’t notice any fading in my prewash. I’m keen to see if that keeps up as I wash the dress some more.

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I’m really pleased that this dress turned out how I imagined in my head, and that it’s super unique thanks to the Franken-pattern and me-designed fabric. The question is will I ever make a non-buttony-up dress again? The jury’s out.

Zazzle gave me a voucher to try out and review their fabric printing service. Views my own!

Alder-ish + NYC

Alder

I’m back from a luuuurvely week in NYC. The weather was mostly kind – and the food/beer/fabric shopping most definitely was (a bit more about that below). Here’s a little dress I made before I left with my trip in mind. I know NYC gets humid, so a breezy cotton dress was order of the day.

Alder

This is my second Grainline Alder, but it’s pretty far removed from the original pattern by this point! I’ve switched the neckline to a V like before and this time I removed the back yoke seam to cut the back as one piece, and cut the bodice and skirt as separate pieces rather than the continuous front panel piece of the pattern. So is it still an Alder at all really?

Alder

I used a random quilting cotton find from Manchester’s Abakhan – I think Alder works fine in a fabric with a bit more body and structure. I did slim down the skirt pieces by about an inch so they didn’t stick out quite so much. I meant to add a wee bit of length as well, but forgot. Still a super fun dress to wear and ideal for hot weather.

Mood

The day previous I went over to Mood for a little meetup with three of my favourite Stateside bloggers – Katy, Kelli and Sonja. Best shopping buddies ever! It was so great to meet those girls and we all bought some pretty amazing fabrics, with lots of egging-on from each other.

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My mission was to buy silk crepes for more Ilsley skirts or similar, and I did succeed! Baby pink with white scribbly dots, and a lovely olive/emerald green.

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A Liberty stretch poplin and a rayon jersey print. Amazingly and bizarrely, the Liberty in Mood is cheaper than nearly everywhere I’ve seen it in the UK at $20/yd, and they have an excellent range. I’ve never used the stretch poplin before – I think it has a bit of extra body and drape compared to the lawns that will make it even more suitable for unlined dresses.

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Second part of the shopping mission was denim for more jeans. Charcoal grey and bright-ish spring blue (this one was from B&J Fabrics over the road).

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In fact I’m well in for denim now, because I was lucky enough to also meet up with the adorable Jennifer from Workroom Social and she generously gave me some of the famous Cone Mills denim as used in the Ginger jeans kits. It feels amazing so I’m really excited to get sewing with it. Thank you Jennifer, it was great to have a beer with you!

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Finally, some more frivolous and fun purchases from the lovely Purl Soho. Robert Kaufman tie-dye print cotton and chambray, and a delicious Nani Iro double gauze. The Nani Iros are only $18 a yard at Purl – about a third cheaper than the prices over here!

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Finally finally I also managed to pop into City Quilter and Brooklyn General just for a little looky and gift purchases. A highly successful trip all round, really. Better get pre-washing…

A Kitty Holly

Kitty Holly

The wildest of all the wild animals was the Cat. He walked by himself, and all places were alike to him.

This is a double By Hand whammy – my approximately billionth Holly dress hack, plus the fabric was printed by their very own super-printer, Patsy.

Kitty Holly

I was one of the first to have a play with the By Hand fabric customis-o-matic – firstly because I helped the girls design the whole uploading process, and secondly because I backed their Kickstarter campaign to fund the printer. When to came to cashing in my reward print of 2m of fabric, it didn’t take too long to decide what to send to Patsy. I designed an interpretation of the Rudyard Kipling Just So story, The Cat Who Walked By Himself, which has always been a favourite of mine since I was a kidlet.

Kitty fabric

When I got the fabric though, way back before Christmas, I was a bit stumped as to what to make with it for a while. It’s not the kind of fabric I’d usually buy: it’s a cotton poplin so rather stiff and crisp to the touch – barely any drape at all. Then I remembered I already made Holly in a fairly crisp wax print and it’s one of my favourite dresses, so suddenly it seemed obvious.

Kitty Holly

Working with the fabric during the sewing process was easy enough. Its crispness means it presses and stitches up really smoothly, so hemming and doing the neckline and cuffs were a piece of cake. However I did find that it left permanent marks when I needed to unpick a few bits (*glares at buttonholes*) and I had a slight issue where I tried on my unfinished bodice and it tore right down the side, requiring a crafty patch-up that’s luckily now hidden under the arm. It feels more secure now it’s all sewn up but I’m slightly concerned I might bust out of it, Hulk-like, with any excessive arm movements. Next time I might consider underlining the fabric for a bit more strength.

Kitty Holly

Anyway, I’m really pleased with the fit I achieved, and with such a crisp fabric you really need to make sure you have the fitting nailed because any little error will show pretty clearly. Despite my initial misgiving about the fabric’s stiffness it’s very comfortable to wear, and I’ve washed it twice already with no noticeable fading or bleeding to the colours.

Kitty Holly

Now if Patsy could just start printing on a nice drapey viscose or knit, that’d make my day!

My favourite UK eBay shops for fabric

Fabric shopping on eBay UK

I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I find eBay can be a great source for those hard-to-find cool dress prints – for me that obviously means a nice geometric print in muted colours in a crepe or viscose, like I used for my Holly dress. eBay is a good place to turn to if you don’t want to spend too much and have a bit of time to trawl through lots of listings. However, I thought I’d help out by sharing my little black book of UK-based saved sellers, who generally offer a really good range of lots of my go-to prints and fabrics. Here we go:

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Cheapest Fabrics UK – their bio claims “WE SPECIALISE IN PRINTS !!! PRINTS !!! PRINTS !!! AND MORE PRINTS !!!”, and I can’t argue with that. Chiffons, georgettes, viscose and knits.

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Favourite Fabrics – Your best pal for cottons including quilting, lawns and some cutesy printed chambrays.

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Kat’s Fabrics – A good source for Liberty Tana Lawns in largeish pre-cut lots. At roughly £30 for 3 metre cut it’s a good deal.

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Neotrims – loads of trimmings and an impressive spectrum of rib knit trims, plus other plain knit fabrics like sweatshirting.

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JK’s Fabrics – a wonderland of viscose prints, perfect for frocks!

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The Fabric Company Ltd – another good one for viscose and jersey prints. My first Holly fabric is from here and it washes like a dream with zero wrinkles.

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The Textile Centre – good for knits, especially florals, and a bit of other stuff like lace and scuba fabric.

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The Trim Bay – super prices on zips, overlock thread, bias binding and all that fun stuff.

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In Fashion Fabrics – I believe this is run by the same company as the Tissu Fabrics website (which has just had a nice facelift), and I’ve been very happy with the quality of their knits despite the low prices. A real go-to for plain and printed knits of all weights, swim fabrics and linings.

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African Fabrics and Designs – does what it says on the tin, lots of lovely wax prints.

All photos yanked from the respective stores! Just to point out, I haven’t ordered from all of these stores so I can’t comment on quality or service from each one specifically. Also, I’m not being compensated at all for sharing the links – I just thought someone might find them useful. Always happy to enable fabric shopping :) Have you seen any you’d snap up?