Thursday, October 20, 2016

The New Colette Sewing Planner!

I recently had the chance to visit Portland, OR for the first time ever, so I had a lot on my to-do list.  If you follow me on Instagram (lauren_leigh46 😉), you may have already seen my insane Voodoo doughnut.  But in addition to Voodoo, Powell's, and the Rose Garden, I knew I had to make plans to visit another Portland landmark:  Colette Patterns headquarters!

Stonemountain and Colette have had a longstanding relationship that is mutually beneficial:  we send them lovely fabric, and they supply us with fantastic sewing patterns.  As a buyer for Stonemountain, I am often in contact with pattern companies, making orders and giving feedback.  With Colette, I already felt like I knew the entire team, even if I never met them in person before.  They had always been so friendly and kind over email, so I totally felt welcome visiting their studio.  Which is GORGEOUS, by the way!

In addition to meeting the team, I was given a super special sneak peek into their next project, the Colette Sewing Planner.  I'm kind of obsessed with planners, so I was thrilled.  I've spent the last month contemplating my fall/winter wardrobe with the help of this little book, and now that's it's officially released, I can show you!

First off, the packaging and layout are beautiful.  I'd expect no less from Colette!  The cover has a fun foil effect and the 7" x 9" size is great.  Not too big, not too small.  The cute design on the inside is made up of symbols and lines you'd see on a pattern.  There's also a pocket in the back, which I consider essential for any planner.

Love that it's spiral bound!

Before you get to planning any projects, there's a section in the beginning that is like a condensed version of Colette's Wardrobe Architect.  It will really help you narrow down and focus on what you actually enjoy wearing.

Then it's time to get to planning!  After this introductory section, there's two main sections:  one for spring/summer, one for fall/winter.  At the beginning of each seasonal section, there's some pages to get you started.

First is a two-page spread on your goals for this season.  I love how focused this made me.  I'm always planning new projects when fabric arrives at the store (it's so dangerous!), but sometimes I can get carried away.  I really need to keep myself concentrated these next few months, because in addition to sewing my me-made wardrobe, I'm making my wedding dress!  When I'm not working on that behemoth of a project, I want to be working on more simplistic, everyday wear that I can be comfortable in both at work and at home.  I'm all about cozy this season!

This will be the first and last time you see me draw...

The next pages also help you think about the big picture.  One is for inspiration and the other is for your color palette, but I pretty much used both for inspiration.  This was so much fun to make.  It was arts and crafts time!

My fall aesthetic can best be described as "Dog with Flannel Blanket in Boat."

From there, there are lots of pages for designing your individual projects.  These pages are the bread and butter of the planner.  One side has a place you can write everything down, and the facing page is gridded for sketching.  However, I can't draw to save my life, so I printed out line drawings of the patterns along with further RTW inspiration.

When I first saw these pages, I realized how much more I would enjoy this book instead of a basic sketchbook.  I love the idea of planning my sewing, but realistically I'm just not going to draw it out.  Writing it down, however, really appeals to me!  And the prompts given are perfect.

Safran Pants by Deer and Doe in Black 10oz Stretch Denim

I never really thought about which "learning resources" I use for each project, but now I do!  The Linden Sweatshirt is a basic design so I won't need any help with the actual sewing, but I definitely used my co-buyer's Linden expertise to determine which size to make.  Thanks for the help, Liz!

Linden Sweatshirt by Grainline Studio in Cloud 9 Organic Cotton Interlock with Ivory Bamboo/Cotton Ribbing

I also like that the supplies list is broken up into what you have and what you need to buy.  How many of us have unthinkingly bought notions that we already have at home??

Kelly Anorak by Closet Case Files

Did I mention how much I liked my little art project?  It was so much fun to scour the internet for inspiration.

Oslo Cardigan by Seamwork

There's something about seeing your thoughts down on paper that really keeps your brain more organized, you know?

Rosari Skirt by Pauline Alice (a pattern we don't have now, but may in the future!) in Merlot 14 Wale Corduroy

After all the planning pages, there's a Resources section which has some appropriate tips and tables.

The little sewing tips on the bottom of the page are peppered throughout the entire book.

I love the multi-sized croquis at the end, too.  Let's be honest; one size never fits all.

And at the very end, there's pages to reflect.  I think this is really important for home sewers to do often.  I know it's important for me, at least.  Sometimes when I get sucked into an Instagram hole or when I read sewing blogs, I get overwhelmed by the amount of things I'd love to sew.  It probably doesn't help that my job surrounds me with amazing fabric and patterns, either.  But by taking a step back to reflect, I am reminded of my own awesomeness!

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I deserve to feel proud of my accomplishments, right?  I did that "2016 Make Nine" thing on Instagram last December where I planned nine garments I'd like to make in 2016.  I told myself then that making my first pair of jeans was my ultimate goal.  And now I've made four!

Now that I've shown you my fall/winter wardrobe plans, let me show you some of the garments I've checked off so far!

Cardigan sweaters are my favorite way to keep warm.  Easy to throw over any top and so comfy.  I'm a sucker for a soft sweater knit!

The Oslo Cardigan is just so cozy!

And here are my Safran pants with their crazy neon highlighter yellow topstitching.  I adore the fit of Deer and Doe patterns on me, and these are no different.  I actually made no adjustments whatsoever!

Shown with my Tunic No. 1 by 100 Acts of Sewing in a Me + You batik

And just in time for your fall sewing, we have the Colette Sewing Planner in stock now!  It's available online and in store.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

❤, Lauren

P.S. Thanks again to the lovely ladies at Colette for a fabulous time!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Community Project: Social Justice Quilts

This past summer, we were contacted by a young woman who told us that she would like to bring a group of high school students in to choose fabric for a special program they were participating in. The students soon arrived at opening one morning, with their fearless leader, Sara Katherine Trail. Sara guided the awestruck teens through the store, allowing them to explore endless ideas and encouraging their eager enthusiasm. 

As the students piled fabric on the cutting tables, our staff assisted the excited group and soon grew curious. What were they working on? When asked, the students drew forth sketches of their quilts-to-be. These incredible illustrations depicted their experiences and frustrations with various social justice issues. Sara and the students left with their supplies in hand and we couldn't wait to see what they made. 

The quilts were completed in July, culminating in a final show of the pieces. We were thrilled to see what the students created and had to learn more from Sara about the program and how she got involved. Read on to learn about Sara's incredible sewing journey and see the social justice quilts made by East Bay high school students. 

Our high school visitors explored the whole store, choosing from fabrics, buttons and trims.

Sara (in coral) assisted her new-to-sewing students every step of the way.

How did this project get started?
I used to teach (along with my mom and mentor, Eleanor) a free after-school sewing class at my church for teens who wanted to learn how to sew. After seeing my sewing projects and watching my peers express their interest in sewing and fashion design, my pastor, Henry Kelly, went to Walmart and bought a dozen sewing machines to use for the classes. I brought fabric from my home and Eleanor also donated her time and fabrics; we taught kids how to make purses, quilts, pajamas, pillows, and even prom dresses for some of the high schoolers. The classes were fun and even at the age of 10, I knew that I had found my passion in teaching sewing classes!

I decided to start the Social Justice Sewing Academy (SJSA) when I realized others may want express themselves in the ways that I had, by combining sewing and social justice. Together a tremendous amount of positive energy can be directed towards creating change through combining sewing and social justice efforts. I knew that sewing was a valuable skill that young people should have the opportunity to learn. I received the Stronach Prize at UC Berkeley, which provided the resources needed to purchase machines, fabrics, and materials to start a sewing class. The SJSA in Berkeley this summer gave me the opportunity to expand standard classroom instruction to include sewing instruction. It was a powerful experience. The feedback from the high school students really let me know that the SJSA is a positive experience for students. They leave the class knowing how to sew and how to process their societal concerns into beautiful artwork that will be admired by many.

What is your role?
My role, as a reflective educator devoted to teaching young people how to engage in activist-art making, is to center my teaching around how art can impact the social injustices faced by individuals and communities. The academy creates a space for students to become activists, to be leaders, and to speak of what’s important to them. The academy gives students a forum to express themselves and a tool to find their voice. My role is to facilitate intellectual growth and provide new ways for students to become activists.

What is your connection to sewing and quilting?
My family comes from a line of quilters. During slavery, my great-great grandmother, Margaret Smart, was a quilter who used scraps from discarded clothing to make quilts for her family. At the time, women who could not sew quilts to keep their children warm risked their children dying in harsh winters, as most slaves’ quarters had no source of heat. Sewing was a matter of survival. I have a quilt that Margaret Smart made in the mid-1800s. My 86-year-old grandmother, Emma Cox, gave my mom this quilt from her grandmother and my mother passed it down to me. It is a priceless treasure to my family and I.

My mother Katrinka Trail and my Aunt Emory both love to quilt. I began using my first sewing machine at four years old which horrified my grandmother. My mom told my grandmother that if I ran my fingers under the machine (which she had locked to a slow speed), she would take me to the emergency room and that my injuries would not be life threatening. But I really wanted to sew. My mom reminds me that I often cried until she let me sit in her lap and guide the fabric underneath the needle. I learned to sew straight lines on the sewing machine at a young age. I did not prick my fingers until I was 12 years old, while trying to sew and talk on the cell phone at the same time. I hid this injury from my mom and never tried to sew and talk on the phone again.

Outside of my earliest mentors (mom and Aunt Emory), my biggest mentor is Mrs. Eleanor O’Donnell. I met Eleanor at a quilting class at the age of 11. She saw my passion for sewing and offered to teach me advanced quilting techniques in her home. My parents dropped me off at her home 4 or 5 evenings every week after school. Eleanor is an incredible quilter and responsible for my quilting talent and styles. From 6th grade until I graduated from high school, Eleanor was always there, behind the scenes helping me grow and develop in quilting. Her kindness and patience as a mentor is a gift I can never repay. Because of Eleanor, I was offered an opportunity to write the book, Sew With Sara and create the DVD, Cool Stuff to Sew With Sara.

Mrs. Laverne Edwards also mentored me in fashion design. Laverne is a retired college professor of design and color theory. She is the most talented dressmaker I know. For countless days and hours, Laverne taught me tailoring, pattern design and color theory. When we watched Project Runway together, I would sketch the design, and then we would make the garment later that afternoon. Teaching me how to visually see a garment, sketch it and create a 3D reality is invaluable. It is because of her years of mentoring that I was able to land a contract with Simplicity Patterns and design a pattern line, Designed with Love By Sara. Laverne’s color theory instruction helped me when I was offered the opportunity to design fabrics, Biology 101 Fabrics and Folkheart Fabrics by Fabriquilt.

Sara met her helper, Robin Gadient (top right), by chance at the cutting counter at Stonemountain.

How did the students choose their topics?
The SJSA's mission is to help young people develop a sense of agency and critical civic engagement through art activism. In addition to the sewing aspect, students are responsible for reading select texts that are rooted in sociology, history and political science. Readings used in SJSA were chosen because each author represents a unique viewpoint to a particular demographic. For example, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me addresses challenges African Americans endure, while Debbie Irving’s Waking up White discusses how white privilege can be overcome. SJSA only lays the foundation of topics; students have freedom to critically analyze these topics and contemplate other social justice issues that adversely affect themselves or their communities. Students typically mine through the news, are inspired from topics discussed within the curriculum, or focus on an issue that personally resonates with them or their loved ones for their social justice art quilt topics.

How did you meet the woman who helped you and what was her role in the project?
Upon taking the first SJSA class down to Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics, I met Robin Gadient who was showing us her high quality hand-embroidery work! After a brief conversation, I asked if she would be willing to come in to give a hand embroidery lesson to the class the next week- to which she excitedly agreed. After learning about her multi-cultural, inclusive, and creative perspectives on social and racial justice, I invited her to join the SJSA team and she agreed upon the role of the Creative Director. She was extremely helpful in the success of the first sessions with SJSA through teaching sewing instruction and contributing countless hours after class prepping for the upcoming week and even came to Chicago with me after the first session ended and helped out even more!

How did the students react to quilting and working with fabric?
Students were at first very excited at the idea, but all of them told me they had never sewn before so they expressed a bit of nervousness. However, after the process began, everyone became immediately comfortable with the idea and very anxious to go to the fabric store and get started! Check out this video to see them work on their projects!

What was your favorite part of the process of creating the quilts?
The level of community that we created during the sewing process of the quilts was definitely my most favorite aspect. Seeing students helping each other, having students volunteer their lunch time, and seeing the high levels of passion and creativity radiating from every student was amazing to witness.

Will you be doing any more projects like this in the future?
I am currently working on establishing the Social Justice Sewing Academy as a permanent program in partnership with a local high school.

We're so excited to see what's next for Sara and the Social Justice Sewing Academy. To learn more about this and other amazing projects, visit the SJSA website:

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Brightest Little Delivery 2016!

This September, we had the opportunity to deliver over 200 blankets to the Alta Bates Summit NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). Since we began this project 15 years ago, we have continued to make deliveries made possible by our amazing volunteers in the greater San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.

Since we released a newsletter focusing on our community project this past July, we have received an overwhelming response. Many of our customers near and far have expressed an interest in getting involved in this amazing project.

This delivery was especially important because we had the opportunity to reconnect with NICU Clinical Specialist Alison Brooks. Alison was one of the founding members of the BLS project and it was amazing to see her again and be able to deliver blankets to her.

Stonemountain & Daughter owner, Suzan with NICU nurse, Alison Brooks

Thank you to Alta Bates Summit NICU and all of our volunteers who have made this project possible for 15 years!

Get Involved!

Join us in sewing flannel blankets and scent dolls for babies in the NICU at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center! Fabric and notions will be provided for all volunteers. These simple, soft flannel blankets offer comfort to parents who are going through the stress of caring for a sick infant or who have lost a little one. Our goal is to have a blanket or scent doll for each of the over 1,200 newborns that are cared for each year, and you can help!

Organize a sewing day with your local sewing guild, school, or church group or sew them on your own.
Supplies are provided!

Want to learn how you can contribute?

Contact Us
(510) 845 - 6106

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Summer Tassel Scarf Tutorial

You wouldn't know it with the lingering clouds here in Berkeley, but it's finally summer! We have dreams of breezy sundresses and cute shorts, but sometimes we just don't have the time or inclination to work on sewing a whole garment. In the meantime, here's a quick and fun project you can whip up in no time! This scarf is quick to sew but has beautiful details like mitered corners and fun, handmade tassels. It's also a great way to show off gorgeous fabrics. Bonus—it doesn't take much yardage!

Here is what you'll need:

Step 1:
Square up your piece of fabric. Fold your fabric with the selvages aligned and place your ruler straight on the fold parallel to the selvages to find the 90 degree angle. Using your rotary cutter, trim away as little as possible to even out this edge. If using scissors, first mark this line, then trim.

Repeat steps for opposite side. Once the 2 sides are trimmed, repeat steps to remove selvages.

Your piece of fabric should be around 26"x43" or 53" (depending on your fabric width).

Step 2:
Mark your "fold to" lines. Using your ruler and marking tool, mark 1" in from the cut edge on all four sides. The fabric we are using does not have a right or wrong side but if yours does, make these markings on the wrong side of the fabric.

Step 3:
At your ironing board, bring the cut edge to match the marked line (1" from the edge) and iron fold in place. Repeat for remaining 3 sides. Don't worry about the directions the corners are folding, these will be addressed in the next step.

Step 4:
Mitering the corners! Fold your scarf along the diagonal into the corners. Place your ruler on the fold of the diagonal, with the edge aligned to the raw edge of the fabric. Using your marking tool, mark a line where the ruler meets the raw edge (90 degree angle from the diagonal fold). Sew on marked line, making sure to back stitch at the beginning and end of the seam. Trim seam allowance and threads. 

Repeat steps for 3 remaining corners.

Step 5:
At your iron, fold your hem a second time to hide the raw edges. Using your finger or a point tuner, poke out the corners. Starting from the corner, iron the second fold in place working your way towards the center. It works best to start at each corner and work towards the center.

Step 6:
Stitch around your hem, pivoting in the corners.

Step 7: Tassels!!!
 For each tassel you will need 2 skeins of floss (8 total) plus additional lengths from the 9th skein for tying and attaching. We want our tassels to be big and noticeable so we have our Clover Tassel Maker (size small) set to the largest size (2 inches).

Unwrap your floss to find the ends. Hook the two ends onto the side of your tassel maker and begin wrapping around the  center. Wrap until you're out of thread.

Using your sewing thread (rather than embroidery floss), wrap a length of thread and tie into a secure knot. If the wrap or knot do not seem tight, do it again. It's important this stays secure.

Using the grooves along the top and bottom of the tassel maker, cut through your floss on both ends to remove from the maker.

Holding at the wrap, let the upper threads cascade over the wrap. You want to spread them out evenly from the center. We found pushing the tassel through your fingers can be helpful in getting the top smooth. This step is kind of like brushing a doll's hair.

Cut a length of thread (about 12") to use for creating the head of the tassel. Make a loop at one end of the strand. Hold the loop at the top of the tassel (about 1/2" from the top) and wrap the length around the tassel, keeping the loop visible in the wrap. Insert the end of the floss wrap into the loop. Pull both ends until secure.

 Wrap a piece of paper around the tassel and trim the tails evenly.

Step 8: Attach the tassels to the scarf!

Take a length of floss and tie a knot on one end. Our favorite trick for this is to point the tail of the thread at the point of the needle, wrap the tail around the needle a few times, then pull the wrap down the needle and thread until you reach the bottom. This usually creates a perfect, sturdy knot! 

Insert your needle into the bottom of the tassel and pull until your knot is hidden. 

To secure your tassel to the scarf, insert your needle through the bottom of the mitered corner, pull the thread leaving about a half inch length so the tassel can dangle. Loop back through the scarf twice. To tie off; insert the needle under your loops on thread, catching the fabric. Before pulling through, insert your needle into the loop twice, then pull taught. 

Rather then cutting your thread here, bury the tail to create a cleaner look. Insert your needle in between the seam allowances of the hem,  exit an inch or two past where your knot is and cut your thread flush to the fabric. 

Repeat steps for remaining 3 tassels.

You're done! YAY!