Thursday, December 19, 2013

Stashoholism Confessional: NYC Garment District

PS Fabrics 11-2013

I had a brief trip to New York for work November 14-15 and managed to sneak in a little bit of fabric shopping.  My poor shelves!

I found P&S Fabrics in Chinatown through a random Yelp search a few weeks before my trip and became obsessed with going there.  My train arrived at 4:45 and P&S is open until 7 and I thought I could just squeak in a visit.  There was so much traffic the cab took forever to get to my hotel (I had a suitcase and didn't feel like hauling it up and down the subway stairs).  But I thought I could still do it.

I took the subway to Canal St.  I found where the address should be.  But it wasn't there.  The street number was skipped.  After *much* puzzlement I realized I was on W Broadway rather than Broadway.  I figured if I walked long enough I would finish with the west part and get to the regular part, as that is how normal streets work.  I walked over a mile and I was still on W Broadway and showed no signs of getting to regular Broadway and at this point it was 6:50 so I had to pack it in.

I think I am finally ready to get a smartphone, because when I looked at a map on my computer back in the room I realized that Broadway and W Broadway run parallel to one another.  Dangit!  A smartphone would have told me that while I could still do something about it.  In the morning I returned.  Their Yelp listing says they open at 9:30 but in fact they opened after 10 and there was a line of people waiting to get in.  Oh, and I realized at that moment I'd forgotten my camera.  Boo!

In the end, the visit was worth it.  They have a great selection of high quality fabrics at reasonable prices.  I feel compelled to note that Kashi's prices at Metro are the same or a little lower for much of the same merchandise, though P&S is about 5 times the size of Metro.  The staff was friendly and efficient.  I picked up the silk to line a coat, and the red wool will be a dress.  They had the sequin appliques by the cutting table and I picked two of them up because, hey, they were $1 each.  I didn't even realize they were mirror image and it is pure luck that they had arranged them alternating on the peg--I just picked up the two top ones.

Paron 11-2013

My next stop was Paron.  They offered a Groupon shortly before my trip, $100 merchandise credit for $40.  I snapped that right up!  The new location doesn't have an annex per se, but there are some fabrics in the back priced at 50% off (you have to check each tag).

When I was there (and I confirmed this with a very quick visit last week) they had a large bin of silks at 50% off--the prices I give on the photo are the prices with the discount included.  I always want silk for lining so I picked up as much as my budget would hold.  I'd never really worked with anyone there, but Mercedes was my cutter and she was a hoot.  She had very strong opinions about what I should buy, a bit like Kashi in that way...  All told, my total came to $106, only $6 over my Groupon, and with the 50% off and my Groupon I paid about $5/yd for these silks.  Yes, you can hate me.

Kashi-Metro Textiles

My last stop was Metro.  Kashi was happy to see me, as usual.  Side story:  the boyfriend's hobby is records and there is a record store he always visits when he's in South Carolina.   He told me that one time he walked in and the proprietor, a guy about our age, was on the phone with someone regretfully saying he wouldn't be able to buy whatever item they were discussing...until the boyfriend walked in; his eyes lit up and he said, "Let me call you back--I may be able to find the money."  Ha!  I think that is how Kashi feels when I come to his store.

Tidied Store-Metro Textiles

Kashi recently recovered from a pretty serious health scare (his arteries were blocked and he had to have surgery to clear them).  In his absence, I think his staff tidied the store, because there was a lot more room to move than usual and it was quite well organized.

Wools-Metro Textiles

Since I clearly can't stop buying fabric, I am trying only to buy high quality fabric that I won't just end up giving away.  It was getting into colder weather and I was naturally drawn to the wools.  Kashi has some great stuff right now.  If you want to make a red coat or jacket he had the perfect red.

Silk-Metro Textiles

He also had a lot of silks, and kept trying to tempt me with this burnout silk, which he has in several colorways (though naturally I was drawn to the olive.  I had just stocked up on silks, though, so I had to resist.

Metro Textils 11-2013

Even leaving the silks behind, I ended up with quite a haul.  Wool knits were high on my list to look for in New York and Kashi had two I liked.  The gray wool sweaterknit is really lovely and super warm.  The rust is a wool jersey and I will make it into Vogue 1329 eventually, when I have the patience to face the extensive alterations I need to make to the pattern (the neck/yoke is too wide, the armscye too low, and the whole thing just too big overall).

I mentioned in my last post that I used up the last of my pant-weight black knit on my LBD, so replacing that fabric was a huge priority.  I found nothing(!) in Spandex House.  Everything they had that was an appropriate weight was incredibly shiny.  Kashi saved the day--this fabric is only a smidge lighter than my last batch and will be a flattering fabric for bottomweights.

I picked up the hot pink double knit because ponte is so great to sew with and I love the color.  On prewashing I realized it is rayon, rather than a rayon/poly blend.  I am interested to see the pilling situation.  Does anyone have any guidance on whether the smooth face or the more textured/weave visible face is likely to pill more?  It will be Vogue 1282 with long sleeves, assuming I have enough (I hope!).

My indulgence was the silk/wool on the left.  It doesn't look like much in the photo but it's a beautiful iced aqua color with incredible sheen.  The fabric is a little stiff so I need to experiment with pre-treated swatches to see if I can loosen it up without decimating the sheen.  It will be a nice sheath dress.

Since I had found P&S through Yelp I figured I should check out Metro's listing to see what people said.  It only has a couple of reviews and it had been categorized into general craft stores.  I fixed the categorization so now it's a fabric store, but there are only a few reviews.  If you Yelp, I'm sure Kashi would appreciate a review.


The cruelty of all this fabulous shopping is that I have had zero time to sew since I got home from that trip, due to the busy social season.  It makes me so sad.  My saving grace for all this buying is that the day I got home I managed to make the gray into a cute sweater to wear to a party that night.

But other than that, I have not completed a single thing.  This has to be the longest I've gone without sewing in years.  I have a top about half constructed that I hope to finish before flying to Texas for the holiday.  I am suffering major withdrawal.


For the sweater I used my TNT tee and the neckline and cowl from Simplicity 4539, which I have made many times before.  The cowl is just a rectangle piece and I think was not the best choice for this moderately thick fabric.  I added more drape by twisting the cowl, as shown here.

I *had* planned to wear this to our office holiday party (nothing fancy--a potluck in a conference room) but then they announced an Ugly Sweater Contest and I was afraid to wear it in case people were like, "Hey, that is an awesomely ugly sweater!  Ha ha ha, it's so hilariously bad!" and I would be like, "Um, I am wearing this sweater in earnest."  More photos of the sweater here.

Should Appliques

And those crazy appliques that I tossed in--apparently I really was drawn to them!  I thought they were the perfect way to dress up an otherwise tasteful gray sweater.  Tasteful is not my thing.  I loosely hand-basted them so they'll be easy to remove and reuse.


eBay Silk Twill 11-2013-1

I had planned for this to be the last of my fabric shopping for the year, but of course that didn't happen.  After using tie silk to line my Tweed Ride jacket I realized how much I love it and how little I have left.  So I went searching for sources and thought I'd check eBay.  This is scarf weight, not tie weight, but could still be used for lining and I love the mod print.  And the price!  I think the seller was a little frustrated that I was the only bidder and got the very low starting price, because it took them about a week to put my package in the mail...

DC Meetup 12-2013

And finally I picked up this knit at the DC PR meetup/swap last weekend, where Nikki kindly took the outdoor photos of my sweater.  I made Vogue 7898, a wrap dress with an asymmetric hem, several years ago.  I like the shape of the dress a lot but the hem is now way out of fashion.  And of course, the pattern doesn't have the option of a straight hem.  And it turned out not to be a simple matter at all to mark a straight hem because the front piece has gathers built in so it is oddly shaped and the grainline isn't perpendicular to the floor so I couldn't use it to judge.  Anyway, I need a striped knit to test whether my marked straight hemline is actually straight and this is perfect.


And is this really really the last fabric buying of 2013?  Well, um no.  I had to get this post in before my Fabric Mart order of merino wools shows up!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Variations on a Tee #7: Raglan T-Shirt Dress

Raglan Dress Thumbnail

BCBG Max Azria Pre-Fall 2013

Clio pinned the Max Azria on the left sometime last year and I immediately loved it.  She has shown her awesome raglan tee so I figured I should get around to showing mine (which I made several months ago--hence the three different sets of photos!).

Michael Kors, $1695

I dig the bare front cutout in the Max Azria, but for my real life sheer sleeves like the Michael Kors on the right are more doable.  I would not wear this dress to work, but it is the perfect LBD for winter parties.

The body fabric is a heavy poly/lycra knit I got on eBay several years ago from a seller that has, unfortunately, stopped selling (Uptown Fabrics High End Fabrics).  I bought it for yoga pants, and it is a really nice heavy weight for skimming over lumps and bumps.  I made a pair of yoga pants and a pair of hiking capris with it, and with mixed emotions used up the last of it for this dress.  I got the sleeve fabric, a rayon burnout in a sort of zebra print, at a DC area meetup fabric swap

Since I already have a perfect t-shirt pattern, I decided it would be easier to draft it into a raglan than the start with a raglan pattern and alter it.

House of Jo posted some great instructions for how to draft a raglan sleeve from a bodice block.  Visit the link for full details; here is a cursory overview of the process.

Mark Bodice and Pin to Sleeve

Start by marking the raglan line on your bodice.  Can you spot my stupid mistake here?  Yep, I only drew my line into the shoulder, rather than the actual neckline.  I got pretty far into the drafting process before I realized it.  I went back and did it right, but didn't take new pictures so these will have to suffice.  I used Kadiddlehopper's trick of using Frixion pens to make the markings on my pattern and just ironed them away when I was done.  Brilliant!  I've been using Frixion pens to mark my fabrics for a while, but it never occurred to me to use them on patterns.

Then you pin the bodice onto the sleeve, matching the notches, and matching the seamlines as well as you can.

Trace MarkingsTrace your bodice markings, including the dart at the top.  The dart is what gives the sleeve shape, and is the reason I wanted to use my TNT pattern.  I have narrow shoulders, and on commercial raglan patterns the "shoulder" extends far from my actual shoulder and creates an ugly bump.  The dart placement on my drafted pattern is absolutely perfect; it required no tweaking whatsoever.

From that point you remove the bodice pieces and trace the underarm curve of the sleeve and you've got yourself a pattern.  It's surprisingly easy once you untangle the instructions (my lack of spatial relations is painful for drafting purposes).

Clip Corners at FOE Join
There was no magic to the construction here, it's just a simple t-shirt dress, but I did want to show how I do foldover elastic ("FOE") when I'm being fastidious.  First you cut the FOE to about 75%-90% of your neckline opening, on the lower end of the scale for loose weave fabrics with little recovery and the higher end for firmer knits with a lot of lycra.  I did about 90% for this fabric.

Stitch the ends of the FOE together, right sides together.  The key here is to clip the corners of the FOE in the seam allowance, as shown.  Otherwise, those ugly ends poke down below your stitch line.  I use fray-check on the cut ends, but I am paranoid.

Stitch First Pass of FOE

Next it's a two-step process.  Zigzag the wrong side of the FOE to the wrong side of your neckline.  The white marking here is my center front; for my V-neck dress this was necessary for a later step.

Use Blind Hem Foot on Foldover Elastic

For the next pass, I use my blind hem foot to stitch as close as possible to the edge of the elastic.  Stretch slightly as you sew, to make sure you have enough thread in the straight stitch.  I have not popped any stitching on FOE I've applied with a straight stitch on the second pass like this--but I generally go for deeper necklines, not higher crew necks.  Your results may vary if your neckline has to stretch a lot to go over your held.

Stitch Second Pass of FOE

Here is the second pass sewn on this dress.  You can see that it is rippling a bit at the V neck.  We're about to take care of that.

Stitch FOE into a Point

To make the V point, fold the FOE at the marked center front, and then stitch diagonally across it as shown by the white dots.  Press to one side and you have yourself a little V.

With Obi

The impetus for this dress was a request from the boyfriend.  We were out to dinner one night and a girl walked by in an open back top like this one.  He had strong feelings about how much he didn't like it, which was kind of hilarious because he is *not* a fashionisto.

At any rate, the conversation somehow became him asking, "So, do you have one of dress thingies?"  And I was like, "You mean a Little Black Dress?"  He wasn't familiar with the term as such, but it appeared that's what he was talking about.  I do have a couple (literally two) identical fitted knit dresses that I wear on our dates in the winter, but since I *never* wear black he had never gotten the full LBD effect. This was on my project list anyway so I bumped it to the top.  He was pleased with the results.

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Simplicity 1736, Cloche for Tweed Ride

S1736 Thumbnail

Rather than use my rather embarrassingly large amount of millinery supplies, I went the easy route for Tweed Ride and sewed my hat.  Once again, Simplicity shoots itself in the foot with its pattern photo for Simplicity 1736.  Why did they have Natalie Portman (truly, the likeness is striking) model the least distinctive and attractive hat in the envelope?  How does a shapeless blob in a novelty fleece print make the cut over the 20s cloche and the 40s fedora?  Are they deliberately cultivating the frumpy label?  So many questions.  I only bought this pattern after seeing someone else make the cloche.

Dyed Fabric
With my burgundy and deep teal plaid jacket, turquoise skirt, and mustard tights I was running out of colors!  Even after making a jacket I still have a ton of this Vera Wang wool left from's legendary $1.99 blowout, but the original magenta color was too close--but not close enough--to the burgundy in the plaid.  Enter some orange Rit dye and a magical transformation to a luscious rust/copper color that coordinated with the outfit but wasn't too matchy-matchy.  I was so pleased!

Layer Seam Allowances

The pattern is well drafted--all the pieces fit together nicely and easily and it was true to size for my small head.  My only gripe is that the crown is taller than my head, so it is a bit puffy and lumpy rather than totally sleek as a traditional cloche is meant to be.  

It uses 3/8" seam allowances (a fact for which you have to dig a bit, which is annoying).  The crown is made of four pieces, and the three seam allowances come together at the sides.  It takes a lot of steaming and pounding to get them flat, but in my wool I was pleased with the effect.  The pattern is recommended for fleece and I think it would be harder to get the seam allowances looking nice, though fleece doesn't ravel so you don't get the bulk from finishing the seam allowances and it can be trimmed very close.

You can see that I couldn't get the serger into all the seam allowances and had to zigzag.  For the second half I just went straight to zigzag, as it was much easier.

Topstitch Seam Lines

When I put on the constructed crown to get a preview of what the hat would look like, I was a bit disappointed that the seam lines were lost in my fabric.  The pattern is designed to have the crown seams piped.  I don't know how you handle all that bulk where the seams come together, but I think something has to be done to emphasize those lovely lines.

I used a twin-needle to topstitch the seams with jeans topstitching thread.  I'm not sure I made the absolute best color choice, but I was working with what I had (I have only two colors of topstitching thread, denim gold and the original magenta color of the wool).

Interface Brim

I interfaced the brim for stability.  Again, my wool performed beautifully under the iron with crisp corners and nice body.  The pattern does not call for interfacing, but I think even fleece will benefit from it--though you might have to experiment a bit to find an iron setting that fuses the interfacing without melting the fleece.

Layer Hat, Brim, And Lining

As drafted, the pattern is unlined and the raw lower edge between the ends of the brim is meant to be finished with hem tape.  I was not into such an unfinished look, so I lined it with leftover tie silk from lining my jacket.

I constructed a crown of the silk, leaving an opening in one of the seams for turning.  To put it together you layer the right side of the fashion fabric crown to the brim and then sandwich the brim with the right side of the lining.  Stitch all the way around the circle.

Turn Right Side Out

Then turn it right side out through the opening in the lining and close the lining with hand stitching.


It results in a lovely hat both inside and out and really doesn't add much time to the construction.  The hat uses so little fabric it's a nice way to use of scraps of silk too small for anything else.

Front, Unembellished

For every day wear, the hat as drafted is very cute and actually quite practical for winter as it covers the ears.  But for Tweed Ride, cute and practical are definitely not the values we're going for!

Hand Stitched Netting

I dug into my millinery stash and came up with orange netting and some feathers, along with a vintage brooch.  I *love* sparkle pins and buy them at just about every antique store I visit.  I just gathered the netting into a semi-circle with hand stitching, and then hand stitched it to the hat, with the edge hidden by the brim.

Feather Bundle

The feathers I gathered into a bundle and secured with floral tape, then hand stitched the bundle to the hat (again, the join hidden by the brim) and then took a few hand stitches to splay the feathers into the netting the way I wanted them to look.  Up close you can see the stitches, but they disappear at about 12 inches away.  Normally you would use glue for this, but I wanted the embellishment removeable so I could use the components again and have the option of using the hat plain for just a regular winter hat.

Embellished Front

Asymmetry is usually more flattering to my face than symmetry--I'm not sure what that says about me--so I wore the hat with one "side" at the side of my forehead.  Theoretically, it was supposed to swoop down as I have it arranged here on the head form, but in actuality the weight of pin made it sit pretty much straight across my forehead.


It ended up being the perfect crowning glory for my outfit and I received many compliments on it.  It was another one of those simple projects that only takes a few hours but makes a big impact when you wear it.  It also helped that it was toasty warm!

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.