Sunday, March 30, 2014

Take control of your stash!

Hi, my name is Jane, and I am a fabric stasher.

At least once a day someone will walk into The Drapery and mutter guiltily about how they shouldn't even be looking at fabric, given the size of their stash at home. Raise your hand if you can relate. I can!

I recently decided I needed to do something about my own fabric hoarding so I thought I'd share a few tips that have been working for me.

1. No fabric is 'too precious to use'.
It's fabric. It's meant to be sewn into something. I remind myself that I have honestly never regretted cutting into 'special' fabric. My son chose some stunning silk brocade that my mum had brought back from India, for the wall pocket that holds his books by his bed. It's used and appreciated every day. Some voile in a beautiful but difficult geometric print made a luxurious dress lining. I boldly snipped into some Nani Iro double gauze from a couple of years ago to make a shirt. And I stitched a dress from Liberty Tana Lawn that had been in the stash a couple of years.

2. Don't beat yourself up. A stash is a useful thing.
Say you want to make a 'wearable muslin' to test a pattern that you think will be pretty good, but you don't want to cut into your 'best' fabric first. Head to the stash!
Need a costume in a hurry? Chances are the stash will provide. I used some white polar fleece scraps to make a 'Miffy' costume for Book Week, and some red cotton ribbing was cut into a very quick scarf and some more Indian silk became a tie. Hooray for the stash!

3. Lost the love? Re-home it.
The five metres of sale fabric for curtains that never happened. The baby girl knit for a gift you never made. The op-shop velvet that was too good to pass up. (I speak for myself, ahem.) If you're not going to use it, it's probably just sitting there giving off negative vibes every time you contemplate your stash. Sell it on eBay or Gumtree. Offer it to a friend. Donate it to the Salvos. Just get it out of your stash because it's not earning its real estate.

4. Make gifts.
Try a simple, spacious tote bags like this one that would be good for grocery shopping or everyday use. Or how about cushion covers? It's never too early to start sewing Christmas gifts! I chopped up a vintage linen tablecloth I'd been hoarding to make a very large and sturdy tote for a friend who shares my love of quirky handmade. That was such a success that I snipped into another precious stash piece to make this apron for a friend, who I knew would find it both hilarious and useful. Satisfying, and gone outta my stash!
yes, it's a Map of Tassie

5. Find a simple 'go to' pattern and make a bunch of them. 
I've made five versions of 'Dress A' from the Stylish Dress Book. It's a great stash buster: doesn't take vast amounts of fabric, really simple to construct, extremely comfortable and works in loads of different fabric types.
Stylish Dress Book 'Dress A' in vintage fabric from the Salvos: yes, released from someone else's stash!

6. Ditch the small scraps.
Even the bigger ones, if you're unlikely to use them. I am now reasonably convinced that a fabric fairy does not die every time I put a wee scrap in the bin. Make a scrappy quilt if you're that way inclined (personally they're my favourites). Or keep a special large bag for scraps that you will one day stuff into a big puffy handmade ottoman. But make a point of realistically assessing scraps from each project and only keeping those that could be genuinely useful.

7. When you buy, choose quality.
Sewing is ever so much more pleasurable when you use good quality fabrics that you love. So choose quality and you will enjoy sewing more. Therefore, you will want to use your stash more. (See how easy that is to justify?)

We hope you find these tips helpful. Remember, a stash can be great, but only if you use it. Do you look at your stash and feel inspired to sew? Yay! Do you look at your stash and feel overwhelmed and disinclined to start anything? The change of seasons is a good time to reassess and take some action. If you love your stash, set it free!

Do you have any stash-busting tips to share?

- Jane & Fiona xx

Monday, March 24, 2014

What can you make with brushed cotton?

The Drapery has recently received some really lovely Japanese brushed cotton fabrics, and the weather here is beginning to make them look so appealingly snuggly. So what can you use brushed cotton for?

Cool weather garments

We tried one of our favourite shirt patterns, the Esme by Sew Liberated, in Nani Iro 'Birds Eye' brushed cotton. We think you'll agree, it's such a lovely match of pattern and fabric. This garment will be on display in-store. (For as long as one of us can resist snaffling it home to wear.)

Sew Liberated - Esme - in Nani Iro brushed cotton
FYI: this top used 2 metres of fabric at 110cm wide. 
You can use brushed cotton in pretty much any circumstance where you would use cotton flannel / flannelette. It's slightly sturdier (very stable to work with) and has a slightly less fluffy surface, making it more appropriate for daywear. We can also imagine: button-up shirts, dresses  and skirts for women and children, kids' pants, scarves.

Nani Iro 'Birds Eye' is also available in mauve.

Cushions and pillowcases

It's easy to imagine cosying up with these fabrics in the months ahead.

Quilting - whole cloth or pieced

Add texture to a pieced quilt or showcase the beauty of a single fabric. The Nani Iro 'Painting Check' above (also available in red and grey colourways) uses the same hand-painted design as seen in our tutorial 'Whole Cloth Quilting with Nani Iro Double Gauze'. Just substitute the brushed cotton in and the result would be even snugglier.

Soft toys

Being a very stable, mid-weight fabric, and lusciously soft, these brushed cottons would make adorably cuddly soft toys.

Have you ever used brushed cotton, and if so, what for?

Also, what do you think: should we put together some whole cloth quilt kits, with instructions and all materials (lap quilt or cot quilt kind of size, 110cm square)?

- Jane & Fiona xx

Monday, March 17, 2014

Merchant & Mills Factory Dress

Here at The Drapery we recently received our second shipment of patterns from the incredibly stylish UK company Merchant & Mills.

Originally Merchant & Mills released their patterns in single-size format on sturdy brown cardboard, which was lovely but a bit inaccessible to overseas shoppers due to postage and sizing uncertainty. Their new 'Classic Export' pattern range brings us multi-size patterns in standard envelopes. Hooray!

The instructions are all contained on a double-sided A4 sheet. The diagrams are charmingly hand-drawn. The pattern is printed on quality paper that's sturdier than standard tissue.
(extra scribbles on instructions are my notes to self)

I chose to make the Factory Dress for its combination of austerity, comfort and - let's face it - kind of schoolgirl sassiness. To up the 'Depression-Era Chic' factor I selected this beautiful, drapey Yuwa Japanese cotton that has a definite dusty-old-armchair vibe.

The pattern description:
"A smart and easy to make statement dress, inspired by generations of industrious women with things to do in style. Features bust darts, front skirt tucks, a straight collar and dropped shirt sleeves with rolled cuff finish." It also has in-seam pockets - a definite plus in my books.

With no zips or buttons, and forgiving loose styling, it's a fairly easy sew that just requires a degree of patience and accuracy.

Size: The pattern suggests to go by bust size only for this loose style. I made a muslin of the size 12 bodice, based on my upper bust measurement of 36" (in the interests of sharing useful fitting info, my full bust is 38"). The fit seemed good so I proceeded with the size 12.

Alterations: After attaching bodice and skirt together and trying on, I noticed substantial excess fabric at the back waist seam area. I am short-waisted and this is a common fitting issue for me. I re-sewed the back waist seam with a slight curve, taking out about 2cm from both bodice and skirt at the centre (i.e. 4cm depth total), tapering gradually to nothing at the sides. Excess fabric was then trimmed from the seam allowance on the inside. The fit was then much improved.

- This is a really loose-fitting style. For a closer fit I could probably have gone down a size and done a full bust adjustment. (But sometimes, life's too short for FBAs, yeah?) As a loose dress I think it will be good for layering in winter.

- Pay close attention to the construction diagrams, since I often found them more useful than the written instructions. Often the diagrams show seams being finished (zigzag edge) where the written instructions have not mentioned this.

- My first attempt at attaching the collar was a failure since I matched it to the wrong notch. The ends match up to the outer notches (furthest up the neckline), which means a bit of easing the collar into the neckline, particularly around the tight curves at the shoulder seams. Rest assured, this easing helps give the collar its proper end shape. Once I did this, and then pinned the facing in place on top, I found it helpful to hand-baste the layers in place (hand-stitch with a long running stitch) and remove all the pins before machine sewing.
hand-basted layers: facing, collar and bodice neckline, prior to machine sewing
(interfacing is our lightweight woven cotton fusible, available at The Drapery)

- There's a fair bit of 'press seam open, press from the other side, press closed' kind of thing which I obeyed. But to be honest, it all seems a bit like witchcraft to me and if you just want to press things the way they will finally be going, I reckon it won't make a jot of difference. But feel free to enlighten me.

- I'm about 5ft 3in (163cm) and I turned up quite a deep hem to bring this to just above the knee on me. The instructions suggested overlocking or zigzagging the raw edge then hem-stitching by hand, however for a cleaner inside finish I turned and machine sewed a tiny edge before turning up to the correct length and hand-stitching.

- When the dress was finished, I was slightly worried I looked a bit too much like a Depression-era factory worker. But my husband rather liked it and had the perfect fix: "It just needs a brooch!" And I think he was right.

- Jane x

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

New: some Amys and an Anna Maria

Amy Butler 100% cotton voile in two beautiful floral designs from her range 'Hapi', just in time for the last blast of summer weather we're having. Incredibly silky and floaty. How lovely would these look as a Saltspring Dress from Sewaholic? Or a Victory Satsuki (pattern in-store)?

Below is a new Amy Butler quilting cotton we simply couldn't resist. The colours are even more vivid in person.

And this is a quilting cotton from Anna Maria Horner's Dowry range: 'Dresden Bulbs'.

Voiles are $35.20/m (137cm wide) and quilting cottons are $23.65/m.

- Jane & Fiona xx

Monday, March 3, 2014

What's so wonderful about Liberty Tana Lawn?

You may have noticed our excitement at The Drapery when we received our first and second shipments of Tana Lawn by Liberty of London. And we've just placed an order for more, due mid-2014. But what is it about Liberty that makes it so coveted among sewists? Let us count the ways....

It feels so luxurious.

Liberty Tana Lawn is an extremely tight weave of very fine, long-staple cotton. This produces a silky feel and drape that is simply addictive to wear! 'Lawn' refers to a crisp, light and tightly woven cotton fabric and 'Tana' came from Lake Tana, near the original source of the cotton in the Sudan. (Find more history here.)

Yet it's easy-care cotton.

Wash-and-wear just like any other cotton: the strength of the fabric holds up beautifully, creases iron out easily and the prints stay sharp and vivid. Its washability (and dense prints) actually make Liberty great for children's clothing.

It's stable and accurate to cut and sew.

Liberty Tana Lawn produces crisp, precise edges and rarely distorts or frays as you sew. Its fineness and willingness to conform under a steamy iron makes it an ideal fabric for French seams. Quilters love Liberty not only for its beautiful prints but also for the pleasure of working with such fabric. Tip: use a sharp, fresh machine needle for each Liberty project. It does a lot of hard work pushing through those tight fibres.

The Classic Prints.

Do you have a favourite Liberty Classic print? Some designs like those by William Morris go right back to Liberty's beginnings in the late 1800s. Many of the Classic prints bring back memories of people's childhoods, and precious garments sewn for them by loved ones. Old prints are revived in new colourways, although always in a distinctive Liberty 'palette'.

The Seasonal Prints.

Liberty has a team of artists (and sometimes well-known guest artists) working on new designs for seasonal releases. These are generally the quirkier or more polarising designs. Some will go on to join the Classic range. (Our vote's on Jess & Jean, the second from the left here.)

The density and sharpness of the prints.

Like the feel of the fabric: simply, in a class of its own.

The print names.

Ranging from the obvious (Apples) through the lyrical (Betsy, Heidi Maria) to the curiously odd (Ranga, Kevin). It's charming to be able to refer to your fabrics fondly by name.

Many prints are suitable for men and boys.

Liberty's not all pink florals as some may imagine. In fact at The Drapery, simply due to personal taste, we probably err on the side of more 'unisex' designs and colourways.

From a sustainability point of view, it lasts and produces heirloom-quality items.

No, it's not organic cotton. But it's a natural and biodegradable, highest quality fibre. Treated with respect, it should make garments, quilts or craft items that are used with great appreciation for years, even generations.


We could go on and on. We are thrilled to have Liberty Tana Lawn at The Drapery, and we are gradually investing in a growing range. When you purchase Liberty from us you are supporting local small business and you have the opportunity to see the designs in daylight, drape yourself in front of a mirror, purchase the precise amount you need and experience our friendly service.

So go on. Don't you deserve some Liberty?

Have you made anything in Liberty or would you like to share some links to great Liberty projects in the comments below?

- Jane & Fiona xx