Like most of you, I’m always on the hunt for fabric. Even when I don’t really need anything, I like to keep up with my favorite suppliers just in case something new is posted, something that I can’t live without. I like to think of fabric like shoes or watches or lipstick or any number of things people can’t stop buying. (But go ahead and put me in the “can’t stop buying lipstick” group too, I guess.) Buying a cut of a gorgeous floral print or swishy silk or delicious wool is the jumping off point for creativity and critical thinking and, in the end, a new garment. Buying fabric is better than buying clothes, because no one will ever have the exact same dress that you have, and we are in total control of our clothes. It’s empowering and fun. But I don’t have to tell you that, you already know.
I’ve been fabric shopping for a long time. Add that to my years as a business owner making wholesale purchases and I can share a number of great places to find great fabric. Because I get asked about this all the time, I thought it would be a good idea to share my favorite places. I’m going to start with a company I just discovered last summer, Promenade Fine Fabrics in New Orleans. Hot tamale, they have the most gorgeous stuff you’ve ever seen. Now, full disclosure here, they are not cheap, nor should they be. This is where you go to treat yourself or find the perfect fabric for a special project. Promenade is a small, family owned business and they truly care about their customers. Be sure to check out their Etsy store for end-of-bolt pieces too. I’ve gotten really lucky there.
There’s a handful of discount suppliers out there, but my go to is Fashion Fabrics Club. I’ve been shopping with them for more than ten years. You really have to dig for stuff sometimes, but the prices are worth the endless searching. I stock up on solid color cotton sateen there, and you can also find linen, chambray, and rayon challis prints for a steal. Nice selection of wool and knits too, but bright colors and prints are few and far between. Quality is mostly excellent, but there have been a few blemishes along the way. Sign up for the newsletter for notice of sales and free shipping promotions. I used my Christmas money on an order last week when lots of cotton was on mega sale and they were doing free shipping on $79+. That’s how you do it!
Here’s a small (very, very small) group of items I’ve done with fabrics from FFC. I’m telling you, there’s good stuff there. (These are all things I designed for the biz, back in the day. I’ve since made a couple of these for myself.)
Earlier this year, Ty and I had the opportunity to go to Amsterdam. It was actually a work trip for Ty, and I was lucky enough to get to tag along. We spent a week in Amsterdam, and then I went to London for a few days while Ty was in Tel Aviv. It was absolutely magnificent. Like any other good designer worth her salt, I always look for the fabric stores. I found a great market in Amsterdam with an entire block of fabric stores which was a highlight of the trip, for sure. In London, I stayed in a cute little hotel in Kensington, and there was a fabric store just a few blocks away. On my last day there, I spent about two hours at this shop, slowly making my way around the racks of thousands and thousands of fabrics. This particular shop was known for their inventory of Liberty prints (pretty sure they had every single print ever made, it was crazy), and the entire first floor was packed to the ceiling with Liberty prints. While lovely, I find Liberty prints a little small in scale, so they’re not always the thing that really grabs my attention. This place also had a huge selection of wool and other apparel fabrics. I walked out of there with a couple bags of truly unique fabrics, giddy with excitement and anxious to get home and get sewing.
One of the fabrics I got that day was this gorgeous red plaid linen. I loved it for a number of reasons, including the fact that it was linen and it had all my favorite colors in it. I didn’t want to rush into just any old garment with this fabric, and I only had 3 yards to work with so I had to be careful. Well, I wasn’t. Over the summer, I cut a dress out of this fabric. One of those easy to to pull on, loose fitting dresses with a sash belt. After I cut it out, it sat in the “ready to be sewn” pile for months until, one day, I woke up and asked myself what on earth I was thinking. This fabric had to be a blouse. With a bow.
I spent most of the afternoon one day re-cutting this blouse out of that dress. Luckily, I had enough to cut out all the pieces, but I did have to narrow the neck tie by about 2″. Take it from me, people. Think long and hard about your projects before rushing to cut something out that you’re less than enthused about!
Other than narrowing the neck ties a tad, I didn’t make a single adjustment to this pattern. I cut a size 16, and it has the perfect amount of ease. There are front and back bodice darts as well as back shoulder darts which seems like a lot, but they make for one seriously flattering blouse. I’ve made this in chambray too (which I’ll show you in January), and I’m going to cut it out in a navy swallow print poplin soon. Love this one, big time.
Easily one of my favorite looks of 2016, but it’s hard not to love anything that involves a big tulle skirt and a pussy bow blouse:
A match made in heaven if ever there was one:
All tied up:
For the continuous lap on the sleeve I cut the strips on the bias, which I think is a nice little detail. I did not topstitch the cuff, because topstitching on plaid can look messy and distracting, so I slipstitched the inside. I used red thread for the buttonholes and the buttons. The buttons are 5/8″ instead of 1/2″, because I used my 1/2″ navy buttons on the chambray blouse, and I was in no mood to fight the holiday shopping crowds for two cards of buttons. If this ever happens to you, know that you can go with a bigger or smaller button and you’ll be just fine. Now, 3/4″ or bigger buttons would have been ridiculous, and teeny tiny buttons would have been equally as silly. These 5/8″ buttons were fine. Or, you can plan better than I did and be prepared with the right size buttons!
If you haven’t sewn a long sleeve with a button cuff yet, don’t be intimidated! I promise, it’s much easier than you think. And it looks so lovely!
It’s been a while since I’ve worked with plaid so this was a fun project, and it was so much fun to wear this season. I have a feeling I’ll be wearing this one year round.
It’s hard to name a favorite color. I love them all equally.
Just kidding, I can’t get away with that. Navy blue does it for me. It’s a classic color that is universally flattering, and it looks and feels much less severe and harsh than black. I actually don’t like wearing black at all. I feel sad in black, and I don’t want to spend my time in anything that makes me feel sad. I don’t even own that many pieces in black, just a basic pencil skirt and a blazer. No other dresses or skirts. Now, just because I love navy doesn’t mean I don’t like other colors. Quite the contrary, I love all the colors. I go through phases where I lean towards certain colors (red has my attention at the moment), but my one true love is navy. Oddly enough, though, I don’t make as many things in navy as I’d like. It’s hard to find the right navy, and it took me years to find the navy floral eyelet in this post.
Even when I don’t have a “need” for fabrics, I’m always on the lookout for must have fabrics. (Aren’t we all?!) Prints, lace, wool, linen, sateen, you name it. On my wishlist for years was the perfect navy eyelet or lace. I looked everywhere. I found a couple things I liked, but they were always lacking in one way or another. Too washed out, too thin, too much polyester, too much not good enough. I visited my family in Nashville last May, and my mom and I went to a fabric store called Textile Fabrics, just a few blocks from downtown Nashville. Side note: we’d just had brunch at a place called Biscuit Love (you must go there, it is so delicious you’ll want to cry tears of joy), and then we’d walked a block to the Lucchese store, only one of the most fun places if you’re a cowboy boot lover like I am. Anyway, back to the fabric store. My mom and I probably spent close to two hours in there, slowly making our way around the racks of fabric. There were buttons and ribbons and notions, and it was fantastic.
Then I found this navy floral eyelet and got really, really happy. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a navy floral eyelet: it’s a true, deep navy; 100% cotton; and the floral design is delicate and beautiful. I kept this fabric in my stash for months, knowing I wanted to make something truly special with it. I thought about a shirtdress or separates but I landed on Vogue 9197, because it’s truly the ultimate dress. A nicely fitted bodice with a jewel neckline, sleeves, and a full skirt. Because the bodice is so classic and it hits at the natural waist, I knew I would get a lot of miles out of the pattern because I could draft any number of skirts onto the bodice, making for endless options. Also, the bodice has a French dart, which is perfect for lace or eyelet because it hides that element the best.
So, here’s what I did to this pattern:
#1. I added a little more fullness to the skirt. This meant I had to cut it on the cross grain, so I also cut the bodice and sleeves on the cross grain so that the pattern would match. My fabric is 100% cotton so I didn’t lose any stretch cutting it like this because there wasn’t any to begin with, but if you’re using a fabric with some stretch in it (like a poplin or sateen), be mindful that there’s little to no stretch when you cut on the crossgrain. So make sure you’re cutting the right size so that you’ve got enough ease.
That’s it. I got really lucky this time in that I didn’t make any fitting adjustments either. I cut a size 16 without doing a thing to the pattern pieces. I didn’t even adjust the length of the sleeve. I liked it just as it is.
I used an underlining in this dress because I wanted continuity and clean lines in the dress. I also wanted the fabric to pop, and putting a nude/gold lining underneath it achieved that. So, after I cut out the navy, I cut out the nude lining, and then I cut the actual lining. I put the navy on top of the gold and sewed them as one, together. So, for each piece I placed the navy eyelet on top of the nude underlining and then treated it like a single layer. I serged the side seams and center back seams of my skirt, and then attached the pockets as I usually would.
My original intention was to put an invisible zipper in this dress. Again, keep things as clean as possible. The night before my last opportunity to photograph this dress before my family came to visit us for Christmas, I tried on this dress and the zipper broke. I’m telling you, I have never met an invisible zipper I liked or that liked me back. So I went from having a little hand sewing to do to ripping out a broken zipper, reinstalling a new one, and then finally getting to my hand sewing–all in one night. I went with a regular zipper in a centered application, which is not ideal but it’s what works, literally.
The French dart, and skirt gathered into the waistline:
The construction of this dress is straightforward and uncomplicated. I think gathering is a bit of a pain, but this was easy and I even added about 6″ of flare to the skirt. I went with a hem facing, and I let the dress rest on the dress form overnight to let the bias fall. I knew it would only fall a small amount, but with the underlining and hem facing happening, I didn’t want any ugly pulling or puckering anywhere. I cut off about 1/4″ in some places when I leveled the hem. Not a lot, but enough to make a difference.
I cut the hem facing in navy sateen, and I used the blind hem stitch on my machine to attach it to the underlining:
This dress is fully lined, and I couldn’t be happier with it. The extra effort and time invested in a piece like this is always worth it. I know I’ll get tons of wear out of this one.
I’m excitedly figuring out my projects for January which definitely include a couple of outerwear pieces in addition to the usual lineup of dresses and a few separates. I’m in the mood to add a few fabrics to my stash, but I’m not finding too much that inspires me. If you know of a great supplier, let me know!