january fabric & pattern hauls

Let me begin this post by saying that I really miss this. I haven’t started 2018 in the most gangbusters way in terms of posting regularly, but it’s not for lack of motivation or inspiration. Quite the opposite: I’m bursting with new ideas, and I’d love a couple free days to just sit and write and stay on schedule. But things are a little crazy here at the moment. We’re so close to wrapping up the bulk of the work on the kitchen/first floor renovation we’ve been in the midst of since September, and a few big deadlines are finally upon us. Drywall is going back up this week, cabinets will be installed at the end of the month, painting happens after that, and then it’s all the finishing touches like countertops and lighting and flooring. Ty and I spent the weekend finishing demo at the top of the stairs and working on putting the insulation back in the walls and ceilings. It’s been really time consuming, not terribly fun work. It’s kind of a small miracle that I’ve been able to sew even a little bit the past week. All of this to say that my resolution to establish and maintain a consistent blogging schedule will just have to come in time. There’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel! And thank goodness, because I’ve recently started to curse this house and turn sour on this project. I need walls and a kitchen again!

One thing I’m always able to stay on top of is fabric shopping. (If you laughed at that statement, it’s okay. I laughed too. What a thing to be really good at, sheesh.) My after Christmas shopping is focused on fabric, so around this time every year I like to add a few new things to my fabric stash. The thing with having a sewing blog is that quite a lot of time can pass before the cuts of fabric become actual garments. I’ve never really dedicated a post that highlights my recent purchases, but I think it’s something I should do more often. I can’t tell you how many times I posted a finished garment last year and the fabric was already sold out, and it bummed me (and everyone else) out every time. So today I’m going to show you the fabrics I’ve gotten lately. That way, if you want some too you can get it before it’s gone.

I buy fabric from lots of different places, because the good stuff can come from anywhere. I’ve bought super expensive pieces and found nice fabric at Goodwill – there’s no right or wrong place to shop. I first shopped with fabric.com years and years ago before they became the destination that they are, and their inventory has only gotten better over time. Fabric.com carries a huge selection (the biggest, I believe) of TÉLIO fabric, so I usually start my shopping there. I recently got two things: a gorgeous navy floral rayon print, and an emerald green double wool stretch suiting. The rayon challis will make a great dress or separates combo this spring or summer, and the stretch suiting is going to be a dress in the spring.

Rayon Challis English Floral Navy/Mauve/Coral

TÉLIO Double Weave Stretch Suiting Emerald

Vogue 9279 is a pattern I picked up on Monday, and it’s what I’m going to use to make the dress I have in mind. The Duchess of Cambridge wore the most gorgeous Dolce and Gabbana dress during a tour in Canada a while back, and I have kept that dress in the back of my mind ever since I saw it. The stretch suiting is a perfect match (if a little more teal than emerald, but it will do), and the pattern is a close enough copy of the dress that I can modify slightly to get an even better match to the D&G dress. (I’ll go the route of the Duchess and opt for a dress sans the clock.)

Yesterday, fabric.com launched a Grab Bag Giveaway, where 50 lucky winners will receive an assortment of 10, 1-yard cuts of fabric. There’s no purchase necessary to enter, and you can submit an entry every day. To enter, click on the photo below and fill out the form. It’s so much fun to win things, and it could be you – good luck!


Like everyone else, I shop at Mood from time to time, and I found the most darling cotton/linen print a couple weeks ago. It’s another piece that won’t get used until later this summer (you know I like my navy in the summertime), but I simply could not resist this. It’s so charming and playful, and the pineapples are huge! They’re about 18″ tall, so whatever I make with this will have to be something that shows them off in the right way.

Sea NY Navy and Ivory Pineapple Printed Linen Woven

 

There’s a Hobby Lobby close by, so it’s my go-to when I’m in a jam and need thread or a zipper. Over the past couple seasons their apparel fabrics have gotten quite good, and I’ve found a few things there in that time, including a couple chambray shirtings and a blush sequin fabric. I popped in a couple weeks ago, and the seasonal rack was already filling up with pretty things for spring. There were quite a few fabrics I could have gotten, but I decided I couldn’t leave without one in particular: this cotton lawn lemon print shirting. It would make a lovely, floaty spring dress, but I have two lemon print dresses (see here and here), so this will become a blouse. How great will this be with a yellow striped skirt or white, wide leg linen pants?! It wasn’t on sale when I got it, so I just pulled up a 40% off coupon. I especially love that’s it’s cotton. Easy to wash!

I also picked up a few things at Fashion Fabrics Club earlier this month when they were running a $20 off a $100 purchase promotion, and one of them is this showstopper sequin fabric. You know I love the sparkly stuff, and this is a perfect addition to the black and white collection I’m working on right now. You’ll see this made into a skirt in a couple of weeks. And it was a steal at $5.25/yard! It’s got some stretch to it, and it needs a lining, but I love the combination of black and white and the various sizes of the sequins.

Silver Texture Sequin Stretch Mesh

I’ve had my eye on this striped raw silk for ages. The colors are so pretty and perfect for spring. I think this will make a gorgeous jacket or skirt. Great price for silk: $8.95/yard. By the way, if you ordered this after I posted it on Instagram Stories and got the wrong thing in your package, the same thing happened to me. The item number was listed incorrectly on the website, but the nice folks at FFC made it right and sent me the right item two days later. It happens, no biggie!

Beige Multi Stripe Silk

There have been a few pattern sales lately, and I added a handful to my collection, with a few coming from the brand new Early Spring collection from McCall’s. I’m loving the pants and the shirtdress with the high-low hem!

I’m slowly making progress on all the pretty black and white pieces I’m working on, so expect new project posts soon. (You can follow along and watch the progress on Instagram.) You know I love making things in colorful collections, but I’m surprised at how much I’m enjoying working with black and white. Most everything I’m making will be a piece I’ll wear a lot, so that feels good.

Let me know what you’re working on! January is my birthday month, but I always feel like it’s such a bummer time of year. The holidays are over, the weather is dreadful, everything is brown and grey, and it’s just generally uninspiring. Thank goodness for sewing to get us through!

-Emily

P.S. This was me at almost 1am last night, putting the insulation back up in the ceiling. Ty was on a work trip, so it was just me and my coveralls, with Friends re-runs on the background. Wasn’t the most fun I’ve ever had, but it wasn’t the worst night of my life either. Drywall starts going back up tomorrow – YAY!

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sewing for beginners

Sewing is a skill. It takes time and lots and lots of practice to learn it and get it right, but we all start somewhere – everyone is a beginner at some point. One of the questions I get asked most often is what I recommend for a new sewist: the best machines, the easiest patterns, the most user-friendly fabrics. Quite frankly, I’m surprised it’s taken me the entire year and a half I’ve been blogging to address it. (I’ve been distracted by pretty fabrics!) So, I thought with the start of a new year it was a great time to talk about a few things you’ll need if you’re just starting your sewing journey.

First things first, a good quality sewing machine is absolutely essential. If you’re really serious about getting into the craft, buying the best sewing machine that your budget allows is the way to go. I always recommend that, because there are a lot of great sewing machines out there that don’t break the bank, and they do everything you need them to do. Last year, I took the HUSQVARNA VIKING® DESIGNER JADE™ 35 for a test drive, and it’s a great sewing and embroidery machine for a beginner. But if you don’t need embroidery capabilities, I would recommend the SINGER 4425 Heavy Duty sewing machine.

I own this machine, and it is reliable, sturdy, and has a lot of basic, built in functions that come in handy, like the automatic, one-step buttonhole. There’s also six basic stitches and four stretch stitches, so you can sew both wovens and knits with ease. I like the idea of a heavy duty machine for beginners because you can mess up and make mistakes (and we all do) and a machine like this is so tough it won’t miss a beat. And as you build up your confidence and gain experience, this machine comes is exactly what you need for sewing more challenging projects like handbags and jeans and heavy wool coats.

In the beginning it is really, really easy to tackle too much. When I first started sewing, I was so excited to learn and make things that I ended up with a bunch of so-so projects that were very rushed and I eventually tossed them. The best thing you can do for the first little while is go for one project at a time. I speak from experience – being overwhelmed only leads to frustration and you waste your time and fabric. Start with simple patterns, and slowly make your way up to things like zippers and buttonholes. Look for patterns with a wrap design and things that aren’t too fitted. Closures and alterations can come later.

Pajamas is a great place to start for a beginner sewist. Jammies are usually pretty straightforward (nothing too complicated to sew) and because they’re designed to be loose fitting you don’t have to worry about getting the fit just right. There’s a lot of basic concepts in pajama patterns that make a great foundation to build upon, like easy hems and seam finishes and drawstrings.

“Lifestyle” or “five easy pieces” patterns are also a great option for beginners. Oftentimes, the designs are more simple and easy to sew, so there’s usually a number of projects to choose from. I like this Vogue pattern because there’s a lot of really nice pieces in it, and not one is too complicated or difficult. The pants actually wrap around you with one button in the front and back, so there’s no worrying about a zipper, and the shell and poncho are fantastic basic pieces. How great would those pants be in linen at the beach?!

This pattern has even more concepts in it, like using bias tape, sewing French darts, attaching trim, and elastic waistbands (on the shorts), but not one of those things is something a beginner can’t tackle.

 Sewing is all about concepts that build on one another. Once you’re familiar with some basics and are comfortable with the construction process, you can apply those skills to more “advanced basics” like swishy dresses with bias tape finishes and blouses with sleeves and garments with pockets and gathers.

Butterick 6214 (a great little top for beginners and experienced seamstresses – it’s a great basic!), Butterick 5757 (a classic, easy to sew skirt), and Butterick 6350 (love that for summer).

When you’re just starting out, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the fabrics out there. Here’s my best advice: stick with cotton, linen, and lightweight denim and wool and ignore the rest. Just because you’re new to sewing and working with only a handful of fabrics doesn’t mean that your projects have to look like beginner projects, so don’t think that working with a few fabrics is limiting. I work with cotton and linen all the time, and I use simple patterns all the time too – simple and easy doesn’t mean it’s bad!

Save rayon, silks, sequins, and prints that require precise matching (plaid, stripes, directional prints) for later. Investing in a book that explains all the different fabrics and how to use them is a must. You’ll be glad you have that resource, and it’s something you’ll reference for years. There’s lots of great books out there, but these are two of my favorites. I own an older version of this Fabric Savvy book, and it’s a pretty comprehensive guide to fabric, and it gives you information on what size needle and interfacing to use which is really helpful.

All New Fabric Savvy: How to Choose & Use Fabrics

This is also a book I’d recommend. This one is nice because it shows different fabrics as they’ve been used by designers on the runway and in collection. It’s informative and inspiring.

The Fashion Designer’s Textile Dictionary: A Guide to Fabrics’ Properties, Characteristics, and Garment-Design Potential

Just like anything else, being good at sewing takes practice and time. But it’s also not an insanely difficult thing to master. Half the battle is accurate cutting and pressing, pressing, pressing. Invest in a nice pair of scissors and a good quality iron. I use these scissors, and I love them so much I have two pairs.

As far as irons go, there are tons of good, inexpensive options. I’ve used Rowenta for years, but Reliant is also good and Black & Decker makes a good iron too. This Rowenta iron is similar to the one I have, and I love it. (I have a “Master” and this one is a “Pro Master.” Either way, both are great.)

Rowenta DW8080 Pro Master 1700-Watt Micro Steam Iron

Beginners will also want to invest in a sewing kit with a few tools like a seam ripper, hem gauge, thread, and needles. Getting into sewing will cost a little money, but you can do it without spending a fortune. Nice cotton fabrics are pretty inexpensive, and grab patterns during a sale – which happens all the time. And here’s a few tips that will help lead to sewing success:

  • Take your time, and don’t rush. You’re learning, so don’t worry about doing things quickly. Speed and accuracy will come in time.
  • Read the pattern and sewing instructions carefully, and don’t be upset about starting over or ripping out a seam. I think most commercial patterns have pretty good instructions whether you’re a beginner or know what you’re doing, it’s just a matter of reading and understanding the visuals.
  • Take advantage of all the available resources out there: books, blogs, video tutorials, and anyone you know who may sew. Most any question you have can be answered by a quick online search – don’t be afraid to ask!
  • Your iron is your bestie. Good sewing and well made garments are a direct result of careful cutting and pressing like it’s nobody’s business. Press as you go: seams, darts, facings, hems – all of it. Don’t wait and press everything at the end.
  • Use good fabrics. There is nothing worse than the frustration that comes with working with poor quality, cheap fabrics. Just don’t do it. There are plenty of inexpensive fabrics out there that aren’t cheap. And the good stuff can come from anywhere. I actually found some really nice Oxford cotton at a local Goodwill store over the summer.
  • Study at your favorite stores. A lot of my “shopping” trips are less about actually shopping and more about looking. I’ll pop into J. Crew or Dillard’s and look at how the garments are made. How they’ve done the hem or what type of buttons are on a blouse. Same thing applies to designer shops. I take pictures of those things too, especially if it’s something I can use on my own projects.

I’m always telling folks to “go for it!” and “keep sewing!” because I know how rewarding sewing is, and I want everyone to experience it. And that’s not to mention how fantastic it is to be able to make clothes that you can’t find anywhere else that are a true representation of who you are and what you want to say with your style.

There’s no reason whatsoever to be intimidated by sewing. Besides a few obvious things like a sewing machine and fabric, you just need a healthy amount of desire and determination to get into it. I hope this post helped answer some of the questions you have, but if there’s anything I’ve forgotten let me know. Leave a comment or shoot me an email, and I’ll get back with you. I don’t know about you, but I have never been more inspired about a new year – let’s sew!

-Emily

P.S. I post updates on Instagram occasionally, but it’s been a while since I shared our first floor remodel with you here. Things are coming along, and we’ll have walls again next week. Cabinets will be installed at the end of the month, and we’ve picked paint colors and countertops. My dad was in town last week to help us, and I loved having him here. He helped me figure out a new furniture arrangement in my studio too, which was a huge help. I’ll write more about my studio in the coming weeks, but here’s a look at our house in its current state:

We’re going with white and grey, and quartz countertops. (Basically obsessed with everything in this picture!)

Ty and my dad taking out the horrible built-ins at the top of the stairs. Those are the stopping point for phase one of this whole remodel, and it’s so much brighter and open with them gone.

We’re finally getting to the point where things start to get put back and rebuilt, so I’m looking forward to the next few weeks. In the meantime, I can retreat to my studio and sew! 🙂

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getting to know the DESIGNER EPIC™

For years before I became an official brand ambassador for HUSQVARNA VIKING® I was already spreading the word about this brand and telling anyone with an interest in sewing about everything it has to offer. So this past year as an official ambassador has been very special to me, and I’m very thankful for the opportunity to share my love of this brand with you. In 2017, I took four machines for a test drive, visited the headquarters in Nashville, partnered on a huge holiday giveaway event, and I’ve refined my own skills as a seamstress. It’s been immensely rewarding, and I think it’s quite appropriate that we capped off the year with DESIGNER EPIC™ sewing and embroidery machine. I remember when this machine made its debut a couple years ago. I was totally floored by it, and for good reason. With over 1200 stitches, more than 650 embroidery designs, an enormous tablet-like touch screen, built-in tutorials, WiFi connectivity, a larger sewing area with bright LED lights, and a fully automatic needle threader, this sewing and embroidery machine will absolutely spoil you rotten.

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I took this picture shortly after I turned the machine on for the first time. (And, side note, it plays a little song when the home screen comes on. It’s the cutest thing ever.) There was a brief moment when I wondered how I would even begin to navigate the screen, but you don’t even need a crash course to figure it out. If you’re even remotely familiar with a smart phone, you’ll have no trouble getting the hang of this. It’s so easy!

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Yesterday, I highlighted the embroidered jacket project I made on the DESIGNER EPIC™. Not only did I use the DESIGNER EPIC™ for the embroidery, but most of the designs on the jacket itself come from the machine too (651 designs come with it). I didn’t download anything from online – there’s plenty to choose from on the machine. That project was one of those “I pretty much know what I want this to look like, but I’m also kind of, sort of winging it” situations, so I actually embroidered one of the pieces twice when I saw there was lots of blank space that could be filled. I picked the designs from the EPIC (not the computer, ignore me when I say that), duplicated them, spaced them according to the size of the yoke piece, and embroidered them after I’d already done the chain stitch. The back yoke piece ended up being one of my favorite things about the jacket. It’s so interesting – and perfectly straight!

The really crazy thing about the DESIGNER EPIC™ is that through the mySewnet™ services cloud
you can access embroideries from multiple devices, including your computer or tablet or phone and even the DESIGNER EPIC™. The free mySewMonitor app sends you real time updates to your phone. So while you’re working on something else as the embroidery hums away in the background, you’ll get a notification to your phone when it’s time for a thread change or when the embroidery is finished. If you needed further proof that it’s 2017 and technology is crazy awesome this is it.

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Embroidery is just one of two things the DESIGNER EPIC™ is exceptionally good at, and the other is sewing – of course. After I embroidered this jacket I thought, “Okay, great, this embroidery is so awesome that I’ll just use the EPIC for embroidery” but this machine does everything with such precision and ease that to not take advantage of how beautifully it sews everything would just be silly. I absolutely want to make a leather handbag now!

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In a time of high tech gadgets (and sewing machines) and all the conveniences they bring, I still appreciate packaging and old school thoughtfulness. The DESIGNER EPIC™ is in a class by itself in terms of modern technology and sewing and embroidery capabilities, but it also comes with a canvas machine cover and a canvas suitcase for the embroidery unit. I wish I’d gotten my reaction on video when I unboxed all this. I mean, a machine of this quality should come with things like this, but that doesn’t make it any less cool in the moment. And, quite frankly, I’ve always wondered how/where to store embroidery units when they’re not in use but you want them easily accessible. Well, this is it.

In just about every HUSQVARNA VIKING® I’ve written this year, I’ve wrapped it up by encouraging you to familiarize yourself with the brand and visit a local dealer – most of which are in JOANN stores. I’m going to do the same thing today, because purchasing a sewing machine is no small thing. It takes research and thought, and seeing things in person and being able to do a little sewing for yourself before buying a machine is a huge benefit.

I always have been and always will be a cheerleader for HUSQVARNA VIKING®, and it’s been an absolute pleasure to shout from the rooftops how wonderful this brand is this year. I know this series has encouraged many of you to purchase new machines, and I’m very humbled by that – and I hope it continues!

Happy New Year!

-Emily

At the HUSQVARNA VIKING® headquarters in Nashville, June 2017. <3