Monday, August 22, 2016

Teal Lisette Coat


I've finished my first garment using a fabric I bought in New York City, lined with another fabric I bought in NYC, and using one of the new Fall Butterick patterns released a couple weeks ago.

It's all new new new!

Teal Lisette Coat

I'm starting to realize that I need to sew faster if I want to make several more items before Munich and Paris!

So I am.

I purchased this gorgeous paisley brocade at B&J Fabrics:

I decided to make Butterick 6385, View C, a Lisette coat pattern:

Lined with the navy silk I bought at Kashi's (on top):

I purchased some vintage buttons from Britex. They were $5 each, but worth every penny!

They even coordinate with the lining! (I took this pic at night under incandescent lighting, so the colors look weird.

I started with a size 18. The pattern comes in cup sizes A to D. I used size D. I made several changes:

  • Cut the fabric across the grain (mostly) and mixed up the "nap" (direction) of the pattern pieces. I wanted to break up the giant print so it didn't look so regular and even. I didn't want to look like an upholstered sofa!
  • Lowered the Dior bust dart (typical)
  • Increased the waist by a couple of inches (typical)
  • Narrowed the shoulder by 1" (typical)
  • Shortened the sleeves by 1" (typical)
  • Added small shoulder pads. The pattern may have called for them, I can't remember. I tried it with and without and liked the jacket better with them.
  • Replaced the inseam pockets with welt pockets
  • Added inside patch pockets
  • Reinforced the back of the stand-up collar with a crescent-shaped piece of stiff interfacing and rows of top-stitching. (This is on top of the regular interfacing.) Before I did this, the collar was quite limp, even with interfacing.

Note that the armhole is high and small on this coat and the sleeve is on the slimmer side. I decided it was fine for my purposes, and I like a nice high armhole, but you might want to check it in muslin!

Welt pocket

Inside patch pocket. Picture taken at night under incandescent lighting, so the color looks weird.

Back lining. This pic also taken at night. I love the texture of the brocade!

I'm pretty happy with this coat. This is one of the nicest fabrics I've ever sewn: It presses like a dream, doesn't ravel too much, and eases like wool. It's fabulous!!!


I recently met up with Kathy and mem at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. It was like a current-and-former-Dart-writers offsite!

I was eager to see the Straandbeest exhibit. I knew about Theo Jansen, the Dutch inventor of the Straandbeest (translation: "beach animal") from various Youtube videos. These machines move via wind power, and I wanted to see one in person.

Full disclosure: the museum has a good-sized space dedicated to the Straandbeests, however it's indoors. They have demonstrations at fixed times throughout the day when you can see one of two beests in action but, since it's inside, the beests don't move under wind power. They move via compressed air stored in bottles.

It was less cool than seeing them walk a sandy beach, but it's still pretty cool!

The beests are made from narrow PVC pipe. Some of the pipes are heated and partially flattened, like those on its feet

The Exploratorium used to be located near the Palace of Fine Arts, on the northern tip of San Francisco. Several years ago it moved to Pier 15, along the Embarcadero on the eastern side of the city, and I hadn't visited since they moved. I used to take my kids there when they were little—it's a great activity on a nasty day. It was great to go with other grown-ups and play with exhibits that make science principles fun!

The other, larger Straandbeest that walks, but not when we were there.
Photo credit: mem

I would have loved to see this hamster-powered Straandbeest in action!

Make persistent wall shadows!

The "self centered mirror, where you see yourself in all 34 panes. I didn't bother taking a picture of it's cousin, the mirror where you don't see yourself in any of the 34 panes.

The upside-down-y mirror

Getting all 3 of us in the upside-down-y mirror was a challenge!

Close to the entrance of the Exploratorium is this disgusting fountain, right next to a normal fountain.

It didn't bother Kathy, who says she must be part dog

Kathy playing with their giant clock

mem playing with a hot/cold sensation exhibit

This exhibit was fun! It reminded me of the psychedelic effects popular in the 70s.

In fact, I made a video!

We had lunch at the office nearby.

View of the Ferry Building

View in the other direction of the Bay Bridge. Just look at those fabulous rooftop gardens!

I just love these planter boxes!

Thanks for a fun day, you guys!

Here are a few images you might enjoy!

The current window at Valentino. Very art deco!

The window at Chanel. I really liked the fur collar and pocket welts on the jacket on the left.

So I took a close-up. The "fur" has a texture reminiscent of a bath mat.

I loved the pocket on Kathy's jeans! Yes, I was following her trying to take a picture of her butt. ;)

I'm in Seattle for a quick work trip, but I have a second project almost completed from another B&J fabric I bought in New York. I can't wait to get back to my sewing machine!

Join me on Patti's Visible Monday!.

Have a great week!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

New York City, Part 4: Fabric and Trim Shopping


Shams Unleashed in the Garment District

For many sewers who visit NYC, fabric shopping is the main event, amiright?

If you have never been to the garment district in NY before, you may have heard that "it's much smaller than it used to be." Yes, this is true. Most designers and RTW operations now send their clothes offshore to be manufactured, so the garment district has shrunk.

But it's still mind bogglingly big!

If you think you can see it all in half a day, or even a full day, you are wrong. If that's all the time you have, you need to be selective. One thing you might consider is asking an expert. Mimi of Shop the Garment District sells maps, which she keeps current (because things keep changing). You can buy one of her pre-made maps or you can have one customized. For example, "I want to make athletic wear, a Chanel suit, and a leather corset and I have one day." Or "I make flannel shirts, am desperate to find good sweater knits, and I only have a half day." Or, "I'm making my daughter's wedding gown, where is the best (or most economical or most extravagant) lace?"

Give Mimi a challenge! I bet she'd love it. ;)

Also, don't assume that you can just walk through the garment district and see everything. You will see some of it, but much of it is not at street level, or even identified at street level. Often, you must enter a glitzy lobby, or sometimes a decrepit lobby, identified only by an address, and ascend in an elevator. (I never saw a business that was below ground. Does it exist?)

The elevator opens up and, voila, maybe you are facing a store front (Mood, B&J), or maybe you have to navigate a hallway to find the business (Kashi, Elliot Berman). Collect the addresses of the stores you want to visit beforehand, and make sure that the address includes the floor number, or you might be hopelessly confused!

The last time I was in the garment district was in the early 1990s and it has changed since then, though it has the same vibe. One of my favorite stores back then is gone now. I can't even remember the name, though I asked some locals. Carolyn remembers the store, and even the location (which I've already forgotten), but not the name. It was a large store and they had a mezzanine level the full width of the store, but set back a bit. Does anyone remember the name? I loved that store.

There are too many fabric and trim stores to list them all, so I'm going to list my favorites. And, yes, you can get into some serious trouble here. Luckily, most stores, at least most of the larger ones, are happy to ship your purchases home for you—even purchases you made at another store. I had four boxes of fabric shipped home.


I know, I know, but they weren't large boxes! I also shipped home a book from the Met, and some newly pleated fabric from International Pleating. So, yeah, that's six packages total. My suitcase was 38 lbs when I flew to NYC and 52 when I flew home so, yeah, it was a good trip, acquisition-wise.

By the way, I've already started sewing up two of the new fabrics, and you'll be seeing them soon.

Which was my favorite store? That's hard to say. I mean, how do you measure "favorite"? If you measure it by "spent the most money", it would have to be B&J Fabrics, hands down, followed closely by Elliot Berman. If you measure it by yardage purchased, it would have to be B&J, followed by Elliot Berman. If you measure it by "just-leave-me-alone-to-run-naked-through-the-stacks" and "wish-I'd-come-here-first" it would have to be Elliot Berman. I also found some treasures at Metro Textiles, but not as much as you might think, given Kashi's infamous persuasive techniques.

And then there are the trim stores. Omigosh, the trim stores. I went in to maybe ten trim stores. You can pretty much find anything here. I enjoyed most but only one had my heart pounding and left me with an overwhelmed-but-happy afterglow: Botani.

More about specific stores below.

B&J Fabrics*

I have only shopped off the the B&J website once or twice—I find it to be a little overwhelming. I don't think I looked at their site at all until I noticed Margy shopping there. B&J is open at 8am on weekdays, which is fabulous! To be able to stop by on the way to work is wonderful, and I was there, three times, at 8am. They are located on the second floor of their building, and the elevator opens to the store front.

A chiffon hand embroidered with feathers and beads for $710 a yard. This pic doesn't do it justice.

Some of my friends who live in NY don't often shop at B&J. It's more expensive than other stores, but I felt right at home here. They have fabrics from $13 a yard to $710 a yard. The first time I visited, at 8am on Tuesday, there were some designer's assistants shopping fabrics for samples, zipping around the aisles with intense focus.

On my first visit, I focused on fabrics for my teal-black-cobalt Paris wardrobe. I found three pieces—these went into box #1. (I've almost finished sewing the first of these fabrics and have started the second.) You can order samples from B&J's website but, when you shop in person, they will give you up to 15 samples. I took advantage and came home with several samples.

Lovely Lorena cutting one of my fabrics

This brocade went into box #1

I went back to B&J on Wednesday morning. Box #2.

I raved so much about B&J, that Robin decided to visit on her last morning. I joined her. She had already splurged on a beautiful fabric souvenir at Mendel Goldberg and wasn't planning to buy any other fabrics, when she spied their linens.

A bemused Robin, "not buying any more fabric." LOL

Some of the stores with ample floor space and more of a retail-space vibe, such as B&J and Mood, have developed the fine art of draped fabrics displays. I've also seen this art in San Francisco's Britex Fabrics. They take a length of fabric, drape it on a dress form and, using only straight pins, manipulate it to look like a fabulous gown. They often add trims, also pinned to the mannequin. I took several photos of these displays—they boggle my brain.

Playing with Robin in B&J

*Don't refer to B&J Fabrics as "BJ" or even "BJ Fabrics". Just don't. In common parlance, "BJ" refers to a particular sexual act. People will snicker. "B and J" is sort of a mouthful (don't go there)—they could use a new nickname, like "Banj" (soft j) or "B's".

Elliot Berman

Of course I'd heard of Elliot Berman but, based on their website, I had no idea of the delights within. They do not have a retail space, the way B&J does. You shop in their warehouse, wandering amongst their fabric stacks. Once Carolyn and I entered, announcing ourselves to the folks working at the desks (let them know when you enter, so as not to surprise them), the owner (I can't remember his name) walked us through the stacks, showing me what was where, as Carolyn has been here many times. There are no prices on the massive bolts—you have to ask. This is a wholesale business that is willing to sell to home sewers, so they have to calculate the retail price. (Please, when you visit, don't do anything that might convince them that home sewers are too much trouble to host in person.)

And, OMG, the stacks, THE STACKS of fabric. OMG. Unlike most jobbers, this place is big. So.big. The scrumptious wools... The beautiful knits... even viscose knits... OMG.

A wool that Carolyn had her eye on

I should have come here first, when I had the most disposable income, but no matter. I found a few gorgeous pieces that were shipped home (box #3).

I didn't take many photos here. I was too busy trying not to drool on the fabrics, stroking the fabrics, and laughing maniacally, but Carolyn did take a couple pics. They carry those oval-shaped wool panels, in many designs, with the holes for the arms. You cut out the armholes, and around the outer edge, put it on, and go. I knew that this style is not flattering on me, but the wife of the owner (sorry, I've blanked on her name) wanted me to try one on, so I did. Carolyn took a few pics and, yes, not a great look. (The back view is better than the front view...)

If you peek past me, you can see just one of their many aisles of fabric

Despite this, I bought one of these panels. Why? Because it was red and black (I'm clutching it in the pic at the top and bottom of this post) and, because it had some minor damage, they sold it to me for $25. I need to refashion it somehow, because I love that fabric!

Metro Textiles

Kashi's reputation in the garment district is such that most people don't say, "I'm going to Metro Textiles", they say "I'm going to Kashi's". This is one of those shops hidden from the ground level—you ascend an elevator, exit, turn right, and Metro Textiles is at the end of the hallway.

It's a small, but packed, shop and the fabrics are organized by type. If you tell Kashi what you like, what you are looking for, he will direct you to various corners and start pulling bolts that you might find interesting. He's a jobber, meaning his prices are good and his inventory is at the whim of what manufacturers are selling off. I love jobbers for several reasons. One, their prices tend to be lower. Two, you get fabrics that are really used in ready-to-wear, and three, it's the thrill of the hunt. They aren't so good if you have a very specific fabric (or type of fabric) in mind—you may be disappointed. But if you enter with an open mind, and some general ideas, you will often be delightfully surprised.

On my visit to Kashi's, I found 4 or 5 pieces that came home with me. It wasn't a mind-blowing experience, but the prices were very good. Probably my favorite piece is a gorgeous silk that I plan to use as lining. At $12 a yard, it was the priciest fabric I purchased from him. I also purchased some polyester chiffon for $3 a yard. As Kashi measures your fabric, he encourages you to buy MORE yardage. First, he suggests how much you might buy, "Five yards?" When you tell him how much you want, "Is that all?!" is a common response, followed by, "What else do you like?" I enjoyed his good-natured banter. He was happy to ship my fabrics home and he'll even include fabrics that you've purchased elsewhere (box #4).

Carolyn, who is a frequent visitor to Kashi's, took these pictures while I was shopping there. Thanks, Carolyn!

Kashi measuring my teal silk, destined to become a delicious lining

Yes, that's right. Three yards is good.
"Is that all?"

And some of this, too, please!

There we go!

Some of my haul: teal silk, woven grey wool (with holes), polyester chiffon

Thanks, Kashi!
And thanks, Carolyn, for these pics!

Relaxing with Carolyn afterwards, enjoying some cold drinks
Thanks for taking those photos!
Photo credit: Carol of MakeItAnyWear

Mood Fabrics

Yes, that's Mood up on the 2nd floor

Mood Fabrics is unique because it's pretty much the only fabric store I can think of that's become a tourist destination. Well... maybe Britex in San Francisco is almost as well known, but Project Runway put Mood Fabrics on the map even with people who don't sew.

When you exit the elevator into Mood's store front, you first have to check your bags with security. I visited twice while in NY and it was pretty much a zoo both times. Swatch, a celebrity in his own right, seems to mostly hang out on the main floor, near the entrance. Like most any celebrity, he's unimpressed by crowds or photographers.

On my first visit... it was a hot day, poor doggie

Later that same day, Tim Gunn posted this pic to his Instagram feed. I guess I just missed him! (And I agree with Swatch's apparent assessment of this fabric...)

Not counting the separate store front at street level which houses Mood's Home Dec fabrics, Mood consists of 3 floors of fabric. I crawled all three, with particular focus on denim, knits, and brocade.

Alpaca aisle on the top floor.

Buttons on the main level

I believe the silks were on the main floor, but I might be misremembering

I really like the Mood website. It's easy to search, and I often find must-have fabrics there. But, despite two in-person visits, and the second visit was a long one, I found very little that I wanted to bring home. I found one piece of a heavy rayon, and it is gorgeous, but that's it.

I also bought a tee shirt: "Thank you, Mood!"

On my second visit to Mood, I ran into Peter Lappin, who was choosing fabric for his next Mood post. We had a nice chat.
Photo credit: Peter Lappin

With Mary Glenn
Photo credit: Peter Lappin

Mood also has some draped fabric art on display

On my second visit, I managed to catch Swatch in a more energetic moment.

Who's a good boy?!
Photo credit: Mary Glenn


Have you heard of Botani?

Margy brought their website to my attention two or three months ago when she ordered some giant snaps from their site. I added them to the list of shops I wanted to check out but I would have found them anyway. They have a very prominent store front on West 36th Street. I passed by their shop many times during my stay.

I was drawn to their store like a moth to a flame.

What first caught my eye when entering (once I got past all those buttons) was their zippers. They carry two brands of zippers: Lampo, made in Italy, and their own name brand, made in Korea. Both brands are high quality. What really excited me was their aisles of zipper sliders. I frequently order custom zippers from ZipperStop. ZipperStop carries YKK Zippers which are a great brand but, frankly, I'm getting a bit bored with their limited selection of sliders.

I want more variety!

Botani has a huge variety.

Just a few of their zipper pulls

They are happy to customize a zipper by cutting it to length and adding your chosen pull. I ordered four custom zippers while I was there. I also confirmed that they are happy to take custom orders by phone or email, if you know what you want. I've already ordered a custom zipper since returning home.

Unfortunately, their website shows only a limited selection of their slides. Because I had photos of their slides, I emailed them a picture of the slider I wanted, with the pull circled, like so:

Botani doesn't just carry zippers and buttons, oh no. As I was waiting for my custom zippers, I noticed another doorway. I entered their second room, full of hardware! Buckles, studs, snaps, and rivets, oh my!

Their hardware room

While trolling this room I noticed another open doorway leading to a fabric room! This store is much larger than it appears from the front entrance.

The only downsides to Botani are a) their website shows only a tiny fraction of what they carry and b) they are more expensive than ZipperStop. For comparison, the custom zipper I ordered on my return (38", 2-way separating, size 5, black tape, charcoal teeth, custom slider) was $41, including a $10 shipping fee. Last June, I ordered a similar zipper (38", 2-way separating, size 5, black tape, silver teeth, Foxtail slider) from ZipperStop and it came to $26, including $9 shipping. But, if you want a special zipper, this place has many options. The other hitch is that my custom order got "lost" in their system. Almost two weeks later I was still waiting for my zipper. I phoned, they looked it up, and it hadn't been shipped. Oops. I guess this happens when one goes rogue with the ordering system and doesn't follow the usual process. Next time: get a tracking number right away. (It's now en route to my sewing room.)

The Rest

Here are just a few of the other stores I visited in the garment district.

Paron Fabrics

Paron used to have a larger store than their current location, but they carry very nice fabrics!

I found this beautiful piece of chiffon

Chic Fabrics

A small store, stuffed with treasures. I found this silk chiffon burnout. (I saw a lot of silk chiffon burnout in NYC—it must be a trend.)

SIL Thread

SIL Thread is a notions store. Do you need French curves, rulers, tape measures, flexible rulers... you can get those here.

SIL Thread warrants special mention because they have an entire aisle of Hug Snug seam binding, favored by many sewists.

They also have an impressive selection of off-the-shelf zippers. (They don't offer a customizing service.) They have aisles of zippers.

And, yes, they have loads of thread.

I'll stop here, though I also visited M&J Trimmings, Daytona Trimmings, Pacific Trimmings, as well as many other fabric stores—too many to list or even remember!

Oh, wait, there is one fabric store I should mention: Spandex House. This is THE place for all things spandex. I bought two very cute swimsuit fabrics here.

There were also stores I didn't have time to visit, but I'll be back... :)

And this is my last post on my trip to NYC. Phew! If you've missed my earlier posts, you can find them here:

Sunday, August 7, 2016

New York City, Part 3: International Pleating and Blogger Meet Ups

Today's post on NYC talks about my visit to International Pleating and other bloggers that I met up with in NYC. My last, and final, post on NYC will cover the fabric and trim stores.

International Pleating

When the folks at International Pleating heard I was coming to New York, they suggested that I stop by for a visit wearing my new pleated skirt. When I asked if I could see pleating in action I was told that, no, that process is a closely guarded secret, but there's still plenty to see in their factory. I told Lisa that I needed a better reason to visit than to show off a skirt that THEY pleated and she replied, "Come to show us your skirt, stay for the company."

How could I resist a quip like that?! Besides, I wanted to ask for clarification about some of their pleating services such as mushroom and Fortuny pleating.

I actually stopped by their factory twice. The first time to meet them and chat about pleating. The second time, two days later, I dropped off a piece of fabric I bought in the garment district to have it pleated.

It was a very informative visit! I met with Lisa, who handles most of their online correspondence, and George, who runs the company. George's father, Leon, was also on deck.

With Lisa in front of one of their pleating machines
Photo credit: George at International Pleating

With George
Photo credit: Lisa at International Pleating

I very much enjoyed talking with Lisa and George! George is very passionate about pleating, so there was much to discuss, and we also had a lot in common, family-history-wise.

George and Leon

Lisa examined the hem on my skirt and pronounced it good. I told her that I had tried very hard to avoid a flared hem and yet it still flared slightly. She said that even hems on the purl merrow machine flare very slightly and she pulled one to show me.

Sunburst pleated skirt finished with a purl merrow hem

I purchased their pleating sample kit

After returning from NY, I wore my chiffon skirt to work where the hem had several unfortunate encounters with the wheels on my desk chair. Parts of the hem are rather torn up and I am now considering sending it back to International Pleating for a purl merrow hem (cost: $15). Lesson learned: don't wear a long chiffon circle skirt to work!

Mushroom and Fortuny Pleating

I have always thought that mushroom pleating and Fortuny pleating were, essentially, the same thing. In fact, neither of these terms have been defined officially and, in many minds, they are equivalent. But, as George put it, it's like having two recipes for Banana Bread—each recipe is different but both result in a similar treat. (I'm paraphrasing here.)

When George talks about mushroom pleating, he's talking about pleats created on a pleating machine. Fortuny pleating is done, at least at his factory, on a table using a proprietary technique. The result of both processes has a similar look and sometimes he combines both techniques. The fabric, the budget, and the desired effect, determine which techniques he uses. You can learn more in George's article, What is the difference between Fortuny pleating and mushroom pleating?

I'm eventually planning to have some mushroom pleating done, but I haven't yet identified the project. They now sell pleated fabrics on their website. You might also check out International Pleating's Etsy shop which offers some pre-pleated fabrics as well as other goodies.

P.S. Mushroom and Fortuny pleating are similar, but not the same, as Broomstick pleating, a popular craft from the 80s. If you aren't familiar with Broomstick pleating, which you can do at home, either google it, or read this excerpt from The Art of Manipulating Fabric.

Meeting Bloggers

A big part of my trip to NYC was meeting up with other bloggers. I've already mentioned meeting up with Carolyn, Robin, and Mary Glenn, but that was the tip of the iceberg! New York City is full of sewing bloggers!

One of my local sewing peeps, Wendy B (who is active on Pattern Review), was visiting New York at the same time. We met up for a quick round of fabric shopping.

Robin joined us for lunch at Indian Project in the garment district

The food at Indian Project was very good but, what they consider "medium" spicy I consider very spicy!
Photo credit: Wendy B

Robin and I playing on her last morning, at B&J Fabrics

Carolyn and I taking a break from shopping in the garment district
Photo credit: Carol of makeitanywear

While Carolyn and I were enjoying cold drinks at Pret a Manger, Carol of makeitanywear saw us in the window. It was nice to meet her!

Carolyn very graciously organized a blogger dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Hells Kitchen. In one fell swoop I caught up with old friends and met some wonderful new people.
top row: Oonaballoona, Aspen, Grace, Claudine
bottom row: Carolyn, Robin, me, and O! Jolly
THANKS so much, Carolyn, for a wonderful evening!
Photo credit: our waiter

It was a hoot watching Aspen and Oonaballoona play with the filters on Snapchat

After our day of museums, Mary Glenn and I stopped into Mood Fabrics where we ran into Peter of Male Pattern Boldness. He was choosing fabric for his next Mood blogger project.
Photo credit: Peter Lappin

Mary Glenn and I at Mood
Photo credit: Peter Lappin

A few more photos from the garment district:

I couldn't resist a pic with the Garment Worker statue—I approve of his technique!
Photo credit: Carolyn

Robin is giving him a hand!

The iconic Button statue

The Fashion Walk of Fame runs along 7th Avenue

Three posts down and one to go. My last post on NYC will cover fabric and trim shopping.

Have a great week!