Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Sheer for Summer: Two Tools for Working with Tricky Fabrics

Even though it's been chilly and grey here in Berkeley, California, we're getting ready for summer sewing!  With our beautiful silk chiffons, soft double gauzes, and dreamy cotton voiles, there is plenty to be inspired by in the store.  Sheer fabrics like these are perfect for breezy summer garments, but they can be notoriously hard to work with.  Luckily, we have a few tricks up our sleeves, and we'd like to share with you two new items we're carrying that will help you conquer any fabric.

If you've been following us on our social media platforms or have been to the store lately, you might have noticed we now carry Soak products.  We talked about Soak Wash in the last blog, and now it's time we introduced you to Flatter!  Flatter is a starch-free smoothing spray made from plant-derived and renewable ingredients.  It really makes ironing easy!  Here we used Flatter on a pink 100% linen that we wrinkled up.  This picture below is before ironing or using Flatter.

We were using the scentless Flatter.  It really is scentless, and it is made with a mild formulation for sensitive skin.  What really sets Flatter apart from other starches or starch-alternative sprays is its fine, even mist.  It won't drip or leave big splotches of liquid on your fabric.  And it certainly won't leave any wrinkles!  As you can see below, Flatter was used on the bottom strip and it really made a difference!

Another way we've been using Flatter is for finger pressing.  This is especially helpful with delicate fabrics that don't respond well to ironing or steaming.  Below, you can see the piece on the left after ironing, without Flatter.  The piece on the right was not ironed again, just smoothed out with our hands and Flatter.

You of course won't get the same results with finger pressing as you would with an iron, but it works well, especially with fine, delicate fabrics.  And while we're on the subject of helpful new products, let us tell you about another new tool we're loving!

Tulip needles have quickly become a staff favorite here at Stonemountain.  We never gave much thought to our hand sewing needles before, but after using Tulip needles, we realized what a difference the needle makes!  Whether you are hand finishing a hem, hand quilting, or sewing appliqu├ęs by hand, these needles make a noticeable difference to your hand sewing experience. What sets Tulip needles apart is their smoothness, flexibility, and strength.  The Hiroshima-made needles are polished lengthwise so that they glide through fabrics with ease.

This smooth fabric piercing is also made possible by the needles' points, which have undergone special high-density abrasive polishing treatment for sharpness.  You don't feel you have to grip the needle as hard to push is through many layers or dense fabric, like denim, which makes a huge difference for those with carpal tunnel syndrome in their sewing hand. Last but not least, the needles have just the right amount of flexibility so they are resistant to bending or breaking.

What also makes Tulip needles different is their adorable packaging!  We're suckers for the little vials these needles come in.

You can read more about Tulip needles and the history of needle making in Hiroshima on Tulip's website.  We are currently carrying #8 sharps, #9 quilting betweens, #3-#6 embroidery, and #7-#10 embroidery needles, with plans to carry more of their line.  They're just that good!

Have you ever used Tulip needles or Flatter?  Tell us about your experience!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Soak & Seamwork—a Match Made in Heaven!

There has been a lot happening here at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics, but we wanted to talk about two things in particular today:  Soak and Seamwork.  If you haven't heard of either, let us be the ones to introduce you!

Seamwork is an online magazine that releases two PDF patterns along with its great articles, and it is run by Colette Patterns.  We are thrilled to have been featured in the May 2015 issue.  One of this month's patterns, the Adelaide dress, is shown in a beautiful ikat of ours, and we think the combination is perfect!

We're already big fans of these PDF patterns, and we can't wait to make up this dress ourselves.  Previously, Lauren made one of Seamwork's first patterns, the Oslo Cardigan!

This oversized sweater is seriously comfortable.  And its construction was easy and quick!  If you've worked with knits before or you're a confident beginner, you'll be able to complete this in under two hours.  Even if you're brand new to knits, this cardigan is a fast one!  If you want to make the Oslo, but are intimidated by knits, you can always take one of our Sewing with Knits classes, #290.

This is part of Seamwork's mission:  to offer patterns that you'll be able to knock out in a few hours, not a few days.  Projects like these are perfect to fit in between working on larger, more complicated projects.

We love instant gratification sewing projects like these.  They can be a confidence booster when you're stuck in a creative rut, or they can open up options when trying to create a handmade wardrobe from scratch.  Perfect for Me Made May!

Lauren loves her Oslo Cardigan, and it only makes us want to create the Adelaide dress even more!  But before this Oslo came to be, Lauren knew she had to prewash this fabric.  This orange sweater knit was a bit of a mystery.  (It was purchased from the Michael Levine Loft in LA where you buy fabric by the pound!)  So with no information, no care instructions, and not even fiber content, a burn test and a prewash were a must!

Lauren determined it was primarily a polyester sweater knit, so she knew washing cold was best.  (Read our Caring for Knits blog post to brush up on your washing skills!)  She also could tell that the sweater knit had a relatively open weave, which could be disastrous in a washing machine.  Finally, seeing as how she had no idea where this fabric had been, washing before wearing was a must.

Luckily, we at Stonemountain & Daughter were ready to try Soak Wash!  After testing out the product ourselves, we have decided we love it so much, we will be carrying these products in our store!  Soak Wash is an environmentally friendly soap made from plant derived and renewable ingredients.  It also has a wonderful formulation that allows for the suds to die down after a few minutes of soaking, so no rinsing is needed!  This is not only a time saver, it makes hand washing very drought-friendly, which is seriously awesome right now here in California.

Lauren used the Celebration scent of Soak Wash, and it was heavenly!  Celebration is a yummy floral scent that doesn't come off as sickly sweet like some florals can.  The smell lingered for a bit during cutting and sewing, to our delight.  While washing the sweater knit, some dye began to come out from the fabric, so Lauren was sure glad she washed it alone first.  If this happens to your garment or fabric, don't worry!  This is completely normal, especially the first time something is washed.  You can see the slightly orange-tinted water in the picture below.  You can also see how the dye continued to run while the fabric dripped dry, so let this be a lesson to us all!  Don't use white towels for this, unless they're already grungy and filled with mascara stains...which this one totally wasn't, we swear....

Soak also makes a starch-alternative smoothing spray called Flatter, and it's been great as well!  Look for an upcoming blog post on how exactly you should use Flatter and how to efficiently clean your fabric and garments by hand washing!  Also be on the look out for more Stonemountain & Daughter fabrics in Seamwork swatch service page every month.  After the success of Oslo, we can't wait to see what patterns they cook up next.

We are so happy to be branching out with new products, new patterns, and new online sewing communities.  We wouldn't be here without the support of our customers, so thank you!  We can't thank you all enough, but we'll try!

P.S. Now that you know about Seamwork, make sure to peruse their Reader Deals page... ;)