Southern Fabric: 25% off Michael Miller fabrics through Wednesday with code miller
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Allie at Indiesew just launched her 2016 Winter Collection, and it’s full of yummy pieces perfect for dressing up or down. She’s featuring a new designer, Kennis of Itch to Stitch, whose Mila Shirt is already proving to be a big hit. It’s a woven blouse with a buttoned half placket, optional collar, hi-lo hem, and optional sleeve tabs. The design also includes cup sizes so that you won’t have to spend time making bust adjustments. And it’s beautiful — one of those pieces that you’d expect to see in the nicer chain stores for big bucks.
As you likely know, Allie also started selling fabric on Indiesew, which is a tremendous resource for home sewists. It’s often difficult to find a curated collection of fabric appropriate for modern women. Apparel fabrics are harder to judge than, say, quilting cottons — there are so many designers and manufacturers out there that it’s a challenge to tell if a fabric is worth its price tag. Allie sources all her fabrics herself, going on scouting trips for designer overstocks and feeling each fabric by hand, so it’s no wonder that her fabric choices often sell out within hours of listing. (more…)
This beauty is the Soho blouse from See Kate Sew. I first saw the Soho in person (specifically on Indiesew Allie Olson’s gorgeous person) and it was love at first sight. It’s just the prettiest top ever: so flowy and summery with amazing little details that make it special. Allie also happened to have a knockout navy rayon border print in stock, so I used that to accentuate the skirt and sleeves in the pattern. If you haven’t sewn with a border print yet, you should. It’s so much fun, and it lets you incorporate prints into your design in a less obtrusive way.
The thing I liked best about the Soho blouse is that it’s such a bang for your buck and your time. This is one of the most satisfying patterns I’ve ever sewn up. If you’ve sewn set-in sleeves before, nothing in it is especially difficult or tricky (with one exception I’ll get into below). The bodice is completely lined so there’s no binding at the neckline or sleeves, which are my sewing Kryptonite, and no zippers or button plackets or anything complicated. There is an option to add ruching at the sleeves, but if you don’t feel comfortable sewing an elastic strip down the top of each sleeve, it’s not a necessary step (and looks good both ways).
Allie did warn me before I took on this blouse that sometimes people have experienced “cupping” of the skirt below the point on the front bodice, particularly with silky and drapey fabrics like the rayon. Instead of hanging straight down, there can be a little pool of fabric that collects at the center top of the skirt. She had a couple of suggestions for minimizing this: first, stay-stitch the bias edges of the bodice to prevent any stretching; second, try to place one of the skirt gathers right on the point. I did both of these things, and I think my results turned out well. The back point hangs a bit better than the front (as is my luck, always), but overall I’m really pleased. I had the usual challenges with rayon; it’s slick and slippery, and it made the sleeves the biggest challenge of the whole thing. But the end result is worth it in the end.
The pattern is designed for a B-cup, though See Kate Sew wisely provides instructions for a full-bust adjustment for the lucky ladies among us. (Can I just say that I really appreciate designers who are inclusive of all women’s bodies in their patterns? You guys rock.) Always an overachiever, however, I am an A, and I think this resulted in the finished garment being wider in the bust than I needed. There was a lot of extra fabric under the arms, which might just be the looser style but also could have been a bust that was just a bit big. As a shorty, I don’t like extra width on top if I can avoid it. I decided to modify the blouse after the fact by pulling a couple of the drapes together on each side and securing them with bar tacks. I would have taken the time to actually modify the pattern if it had been a different style, but I think the “aftermarket” mod really works with this drapey look.
Overall, I LOVE how my Soho blouse turned out. I’m actually wearing this top as I write, and I’m going to wear it out to dinner tonight, and I imagine it will be one of my favorite pieces as we head into late summer and fall. I can’t wait to match it up with some cowboy boots.
As an Indiesew blogger team member, I am provided with patterns in exchange for an honest review. I was also provided with fabric for this post. All opinions are my own.
This post is brought to you by PatternJam! In exchange for my honest review, PatternJam compensated me and provided me with fabric for my quilt top. All opinions are my own.
Like a lot of people, I really enjoy designing my own quilts. Some of the great joy for me is playing with color and finding unexpectedly modern patterns in traditional blocks. I’m a planner, though; I want to have a clear vision before I start cutting up fabric, and that’s tough to do when you don’t know exactly which fabric will go where. Graph paper is cheap and easy, but erasing is a pain and it’s not possible to preview fabric choices; graphic and quilt design software is often hella expensive with a steep learning curve.
Suffice it to say, I was incredibly intrigued when Emily Taylor asked me to try the beta version of the new PatternJam. Emily is an industry veteran; as a designer for Riley Blake and a quilter, she knows life on both sides of the cutting table. SHE GETS IT. Fresh off its relaunch on a brand-new platform, PatternJam is a free (!) website that allows quilters to quickly and easily design quilts based on traditional blocks, then “audition” designer fabrics right on the design. Play around with different fabrics, add them to your favorites, then drag them right to their spot on each block.
I decided to put PatternJam to the test. They were kind enough to send me some Landscape organic quilt cotton from Cloud 9 Fabrics for my test drive. It was a treat to sew with organic cotton, and this line was great for establishing low, medium, and high contrast for my design. There are two ways to design a quilt: buy a pre-existing pattern and modify it with your own fabric, or simply design your own. I chose the latter.
I first chose my quilt size and number of blocks (3×3 twelve-inch blocks; it’s a sweet little guy), then got to work playing with blocks. PatternJam has an easy interface for alternating block designs (as I chose), but it also allows drag-and-drop design for a more individual aesthetic. I chose alternating blocks, but decided to play with the fabrics to create a bit of a 3-D effect. I liked that I was able to change up the fabric in each block; I did notice that dragging a fabric to the block changed every piece of that tone (eg. all “medium” gray triangles in Block A have to be made of the same fabric). I would have liked to be able to play with them, but it gave me a clear enough picture that I just switched the fabrics in my real version. No biggie.
While I plugged in the Cloud 9 fabrics, I noticed that there are hundreds (thousands?) of other designer fabric choices from tons of companies — Riley Blake, Art Gallery, etc. It’s great to see a free website get so much industry support, and I’m sure there is more to come. (Note: While the beta does not quite yet have full functionality, the full site will offer not only quilt designs, but also yardage requirements, more blocks, and popular garment designs for sewists who want to preview fabric choices. Score! I was able to design a quilt I liked, but I am also looking forward to seeing what comes next in terms of design options.) Once I was happy with my quilt, I got to work cutting it up. I loved that I didn’t have to make more blocks than I needed, and that I didn’t have to spend hours fretting over my Design Floor™ to figure out where everything should go. I spent my morning making HSTs and then sewed the entire top up in about an hour. It was awesome.
I have a baby quilt to make in the next few months, and I’ll definitely be turning to PatternJam for my design. It’s a great option for those of us who want to design quilts quickly and frugally, and the fabric auditioning feature has the potential to save time, money, and (most importantly) fabric. Sign up for the PatternJam mailing list now and you’ll be among the first to know when the full site is up and running! Happy jamming!
There’s no getting around it: if you quilt, you definitely need a good collection of cotton solids. If you sew bags or clothes or home decor projects, you probably do too. But as far as solids go, there are so many choices. Some quilters and sewists swear by a specific manufacturer, while others only pick solids based on the prints they need to match. Each of the major fabric companies has its own line of 100% cotton solids, ranging from less than 70 colors to the now-famous 303 (ALL HAIL ROBERT KAUFMAN), but there’s a healthy assortment of smaller companies that offer high-quality fabric solids as well.
With all the choices out there, I thought, why not consolidate the major companies into a cheat sheet? So I did. It’s sometimes hard to keep them all straight and remember which manufacturer makes the thinner fabrics and which have a slight sheen. Here’s a list of the top eight most popular solids—well, okay, seven plus one I really like—and some defining characteristics of each. (Note: I share some opinions here. YMMV.)
Number of colors: 303 Color card: $30, widely available Ease of matching with coordinating prints: 7/10. The sheer number of Kona colors available makes it unlikely that you’ll be able to find a match. However, Robert Kaufman does not publish (at least not on their website) which solids coordinate with each print collection. It seems like it would be easy, and it’s one of my big pet peeves for many of the fabric companies. Some RK designers, like Carolyn Friedlander, do publish solid coordinates for their collections on their own websites, which is nice. Hand: Medium weight and thickness, with a moderately soft hand. Kona’s not the smoothest choice out there, but it washes up well and is perhaps the best quality of all the options on this list. It’s easy to see why these solids are likely the most popular brand.
Number of colors: 66 Color card: $10, widely available Ease of matching: 8/10. One on hand, it’s easy to match Art Gallery prints with solids, because the color palettes of the prints all make up one big mega-collection. With only 66 colors, if a Pure Elements solid looks like it will coordinate with an AG print, it probably will. On the other hand, 66 colors isn’t a lot; it can be hard to match AG solids with prints from other manufacturers. Hand: You either love the feel of Art Gallery fabric or you hate it. It’s very crisp and feels thin between the fingers, with a slickness to it. It’s almost like sewing on paper (which makes it great for rotary cutting). Great for razor-sharp seam lines, not so great for draping.
Number of colors: 197 Color card: $20. I had difficulty finding them easily, but Missouri Star Quilt Co. does carry them. Ease of matching: 6/10. Meh. The RJR website is not particularly helpful in determining which solids go with RJR prints (though Cotton + Steel provides the ones that match their collections). The printable online color card is a cute idea, but doesn’t work very well; printers and screens can’t match colors exactly, so it sort of defeats the purpose. Hand: I have not personally tried RJR solids, but everyone I know who has raves about them. They are known to have a medium weight, very soft hand, and lustery finish. (Can anyone else speak to this?)
Number of colors: 178 Color card: $20, theoretically, though I have not had success in finding one lately. You? Ease of matching: 8/10. Like the other manufacturers, Moda does not just up and tell you which solids coordinate perfectly with their prints. Why? I DON’T KNOW. They do, however, have the Palette Builder on their website, which allows you to upload a photo (or, conceivably, use one of their stock images of Moda prints) to determine which solids will coordinate. The accuracy of the match, however, depends on the computer algorithm rather than the Moda people just telling you what goes. I’m as yet unconvinced, but maybe it works? Has anyone had luck with this? Hand: Moda is more lightweight and a bit smoother than Kona. Some quilters have reported a slight stretchiness to the fabric.
Number of colors: 150 Color card: $25, widely available Ease of matching: 10/10. FINALLY. The names of the colorways of each Michael Miller print collection match the names of the solids for perfect coordination. THIS IS HOW IT’S DONE, PEOPLE. Hand: My personal favorite solid, Cotton Couture is a medium-weight, high-density cotton. It has an extremely soft and luxurious hand without being too slick or stiff.
Number of colors: 100 Color card: Free Spirit used to make a color card, but it does not appear that they still do. Ease of matching: 3/10. [Sad trombone.] Without a color card, it’s really hard to tell which solids match other Westminster fabrics. And with only 100 colors, one might think matching would be easier. Unfortunately, the Designer Solids don’t accurately correspond with all Free Spirit prints. This seems like a lost opportunity here. Hand: Free Spirit solids have a nice medium weight and a pretty drape. Curiously, there is definitely a discernible “right” and “wrong” side to the fabric; one side has a pronounced luster and crisper feel than the other side, making it like two fabrics in one. Depending on your needs, this can be a blessing or a curse.
Number of colors: 62 Color card: $10, widely available Ease of matching: N/A. While American Made is part of the fabric manufacturer Clothworks, they are pretty much their own thang. Clothworks has their own organic solid line that likely corresponds with their fabric, and American Made is marketed toward a crowd more modern than Clothworks’ target, so I wouldn’t have much expectation for coordination. Hand: American Made Brand solids have a thinner weight and rougher hand than most designer solids on the market. I’ve felt them but haven’t had a chance to sew them up yet, so my comments here are limited.
Makower UK is a British subsidiary of Andover and they produce some lovely solids. I accidentally bought some Spectrum one time, LOVED IT, started a project, and then needed more. Enter a months-long goose chase that took me over the pond to the UK! (And special thanks to Drygoods Design, who helped me finally ID my mystery fabric.)
Number of colors: 63 Color card: Not available, as far as I know. Ease of matching: N/A. Swatch colors available on the website. Hand: OMG, y’all. The Spectrum quilting cottons are divine. It’s a slightly looser/larger weave (so more like Kona than Art Gallery, say) but incredibly soft and fray-resistant. It has a lovely sheen but isn’t stiff or crisp. I really enjoyed sewing with these solids and would love to see them have more of a presence stateside. (Andover stockists: GET ON IT!)