The Not So Impressive Stash

Well this is a bit embarrassing. After all the hoopla about my fabric acquisitions it turns out I have very little of interest to show.

Don’t get me wrong. I have been naughty. Quantity-wise anyway. The load came in at 63+ yards, not 43+ yards as I claimed earlier. But it seems like I’ve been way too good in sticking to my boring shopping list. The bulk of my purchases are dull Dull DULL to show & tell.

So here’s a group shot to spare you too much excruciating details!

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From left to right:

  • Sweater pile: Sweater & rib knits from NY Elegant and B&J.
  • Cardigan pile: 5 sets of sweater + rib knits for cardigans from NY Elegant and Mood.
  • Foundation pile: I thought I might tackle foundation wear this coming year. So I got some Powernet & Milliskin from Spandex World, plus foam fused poly lining from B&J which I hope is like the stuff they use for bra pads.
  • SWAP pile: Mostly important but boring supporting casts from B&J, Mood, and NY Elegant for upcoming projects, such as…
  • Just 4 Fun pile: Tame by many of your standards, but as exciting as life gets around here. Mostly from cheap & wacky Spandex World, but a couple from B&J and Mood.
  • Ooh Charmeuse pile: Just because it’s so hard to find Charmeuse in London I got a few more from Mood.

As you can see I got mine from only four stores. It was just too overwhelming otherwise. Especially when I’m shopping with a list and luggage limit. If I were living locally I’d probably shop more from the smaller stores and go with an open mind. But with a list, I find huge stores that have good organizations easier. I can see at a glance whether they have the type of fabric I need in the color I need. It does mean paying more. But my sanity is worth it!

Of the four I go to, I’d say NY Elegant is the most expensive, then B&J, then Mood, and Spandex World is pretty affordable though obviously specialized. NY Elegant & Mood seem to have a better selection of sweater knits. I do like NY Elegant’s system of swatches already attached to many fabric rolls. B&J has lots of fabrics on big sample cards so that it’s easier to browse, see the fiber content, and ask for samples. Some of the Mood fabrics are marked with famous designer names. But as they’re pretty basic looking fabric it seems a bit pointless to name-check. I’d save it for the more unique fabric designs. I mean who cares if your bog standard looking charmeuse is a Ralph Laren, right? ;-)

There were also a bunch of notions. But I’ve already filed them away & can’t recall where they all are now. So just a couple of highlights here:

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Pacific Trimmings have these cool mix-n-match buttons where you pick a base and the accent to go in the center. There’s quite a variety of base and accents to choose from, and the base come in different sizes. How cool is that!

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I also got a couple of kits for fabric covered buckles from Daytona Trimmings (as well as more of that lovely bobbin lace I got last time). I’ve been looking for these for ages. They are so hard to come by these days. Granted the selection isn’t great – only two sizes, both big. But better than nothing.

I bought a fair few more buttons, including these gold ones from M&J Trimming (where I also got petersham ribbons in a few different colors). And big coat snaps, including gold ones from Pacific Trimmings. The black snap fasteners and the gold button with anchor motif in the striped jersey photo above are also from Pacific Trimming. So too are the bag D-rings, bag feet, and magnetic snaps. And RiRi zippers. And lingerie elastics. And eye & hook tapes. Boy, did they get my business this time or what!

But majority of my zippers are YKK that came from SIL Threads. I also got an Italian Lampo zipper from Botani Trimmings on recommendation from Clios. They’re suppose to be really high quality & expensive (she says Chanel use only Lampo). The ready-made metallic teeth one I got wasn’t too bad price-wise. And the zipper action IS super smooth – essential for a tote! I also got a custom reversible zipper in the smallest size available (#3) from Botani. Now that was expensive. The reversible skirt it’s destined for better be a success!

And that was it. Apart from these four pairs of shoes from Macy’s. I did leave four old pairs behind after all. So surely MR can’t complaint about my shoes stash, right?

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Clockwise from top left: Michael Kors boots, Circa Joan & David pump, Circa Joan & David sling back, Alfani ballet flat

 

Sewing Bits & Bobs

While in NYC I also stock up on some useful supplies. Some because they’re hard to find in London. Others because I’m curious or the price is right.

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  1. Extra large sheet of wax carbon paper. I’ve tried the usual carbon paper sold to home sewers but kept going back to a couple I picked up from Steinlauf & Stoller over 2 decades ago. The home sewer version were just too small and don’t last as long or mark as clearly.OK, sometimes these waxy version don’t disappear completely. But honestly, I’m only sewing for myself and it’s not like people I know offline is going to come lift up my hem and examine the inside of my garment! And believe me I’m naughty – I mark the stitching lines with this rather than the cutting line. My reasoning being I rather have more accurate stitching which affects what people can see – the fit & shape of garment – than fuss over what most people won’t see – like the leftover markings.Anyway, this time around I couldn’t see any on display in Steinlauf & Stoller. So I picked these up in a few other shops (Sil Thread, Pacific Trimming, NY Elegant Fabrics, Fashion Design Books). Most were $5.50 per sheet.  The bookstore near FIT has it at $3.75, but I haven’t checked if it’s exactly the same quality as the others.
  2. Clover Chaco Liner & Clover Hera Marker from Sil Thread. Because I’m constantly looking for a better marking tool. The Hera Marker is a curious looking thing. I got it more for transferring fabric painting design than standard marking. I was using an plastic needle for sewing hand knits for a recent project and it did my hand in – blister and all. BTW Sil Thread have quite a few more tools from Clover and other East Asian brands that I haven’t seen elsewhere in NYC.
  3. Gridded plastic rulers. I have a few of these already and I can’t live without them. So useful for pattern alteration & adding seam allowance – if you use inches instead of cm. I can’t handle metric – mm is just too fussy for me. I don’t cut & sew accurately enough for such fiddly accuracy to make any difference. 1/16″ – 1/8″ is as accurate as I can handle. OK if you’re following pattern drafting instructions the decimal system of metric may come in handy for calculation. I just use a calculator. I can convert 1/8″ unit to decimal by heart now so it’s no big deal for me.These are thinner and more bendy the acrylic ones used by quilters. I find it easier to see the marking more accurately. The thick acrylic ones were casting confusing shadows. You can get these in many different places, including art stores like Pearl Paint.
  4. Seam Greats, Stitch Witchery, Stay Tape. Mentioned by a few bloggers, so I’m curious. Let’s see if they get used or just gather dust along with other gadgets I’ve collected over the decades!
  5. 2013-sewing-bits-2Metal Zippers from Sil Thread for the biker jackets + matching skirts that I’ve planned for these newly acquired fabrics.
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    These slide so easily but only come in two lengths. But Sil Thread will cut them to size for a small fee ($1 per cut + $1 per additional pull).

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  1. Lace from Daytona Trimmings. This was one of only two purchases on the day of the Meet Up! I’m not a big fan of lace – because it’s hard to find ones that I don’t think look streetwalkerish! But this one ticked the box for me. Not sure what I’ll use it for yet. It’s obviously not considered cheap. The guy cutting it was like “It’s $5.99/yd OK? Are you sure you really want 3 yards?” Hell yeah. Cheaper than an one-way London Underground cash ticket. And it’s not like I can get more easily whenever I need to.
  2. bag-repairFaux (?) Suede Trim from one of the numerous trim stores…Most of the stuff in the store look a bit cheap (she says snobbishly). But this will be my best chance of repairing a cheap (!) but well-loved and well-used leather handbag. I’ve been searching for a replacement trim for years!
  3. 2013-us-store1-4
    Various Ribbons & Trims from Tinsel Trading Co. I love the feel of this store even though it’s not cheap, especially when it comes to the the vintage trims. There are some lovely bits for the scrapbook crafters too.
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    gold-trim-inspirationTwo of the gold trims I got are vintage. I love the antique gold. I’m thinking of using these to trim jacket like in one of my inspiration photo.

Finally, some obligatory pattern purchases:

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These were ordered during the last online sale and sent to my brother’s. I usually find only 1 or 2 that really interest me. But being a cheap skate, I always try to get max value for my shipping dollars. Which means padding out my order with other half-hearted purchases. I really should just stop buying yet another bog standard pencil skirt or drapy dress pattern and start making things. I must have only used 5% of my pattern collection at best.

So that’s it for my own sewing pleasure. Tomorrow: the sacrifices I made for others! The Selfish Seamstress would have been shaking her head!

LA Shopping Spree…Part 2

Next up on my shopping list are books. London used to have a bookshop aimed at fashion students with hard to find text books etc. But it seem to have closed down. Last time I was in LA, I come across one such book store in the Fashion District. So this time I decided to stock up on unusual finds to keep me busy on that sleepless flight back home.

An Eye-Opening Education

First up is the Fashion Book Store in California Market Center building on E 9th St between S Main St & S Los Angeles St. Here I took the plunge and got a couple of specialist books. They cost an arm and a couple of legs. But I figured that I can’t get the same info easily elsewhere. Plus they’ll last me a lifetime (or what’s left of it anyway). Besides, someone took the trouble to collect, collate, and share all these insights (rather than regurgitate what others have already written loads about). And they deserved to earn some money for their effort.

The Bra-Maker Manual, vol 1 & 2

By Beverly Johnson. It’s not just a book about sewing bras. It actually has lots of discussion and pattern diagrams for different types of bras. Some shows the different grainlines required for different pieces. There are also info on pattern alterations for different bra fitting problems. Very interesting.

Designing and Patternmaking For Stretch Fabrics

By Keith Richardson. This one is very timely for me. I’ve been compulsively shopping a bunch of stretch knits at Tia Knight’s Tissu online fabric store, and trying to devise a basic knit pattern block.

This book has just what I need: Instructions for creating slopers for different types of stretch fabrics. It also has a stretch terms and jargon buster, and simple flat pattern design instructions for stretch garments.

It even has the answer to a question that has been bugging me for ages: What does bias on knit do? The answer: Not a whole lot. It says “bias garments are never created with knit fabrics. Knit bias does not have any of the stretch and drape characteristics that woven bias would impart to garments.”

v1282-layoutWhich begs the question: Why does the cutting instruction for V1282 top recommends a bias layout. For 2-way stretch fabrics no less!!!???

Speaking of 2-way vs 4-way stretch – another question that has been bugging me for a while – this book again has the answer: 4-way stretch is essentially 2-way stretch with spandex added to help with recovery. Stretch outward sideways and up & down without spandex = ‘2-way stretch’. Without the spandex this eventually sags or stretch out of shape. With  spandex added to aid recovery, it becomes ‘4-way stretch’. Presumably the additional ‘2-way’ refer to the fabric ‘stretching’ back into shape – ie inward sideways and up & down.

(I just checked the Amazon reviews for this book. I was surprised to see the low score. This seems to be because of numerous typos in the book. But considering the scarcity of pattern drafting books for knits, I still think the book is worth it. As Kathleen Fasanella aka the Fashion Incubator says in her review of the book: “no book is perfect”. I will just keep an eye out for those typos.)

I almost got “Professional Sewing Techniques for Designers” as well. But I decided it was too similar to other sewing technique books. And I already have too many of those and not enough room to store them. Besides, the tips for working with difficult fabrics don’t cover the type of temperamental fabrics I’m currently wrestling with – stretch fabrics.


I also visited Kinokuniya the Japanese book store in Weller Court, Little Tokyo. Surprisingly it also has a good selection of fashion and sewing books. I was a bit tempted by the Pattern Magic & Drape Drape series and others like them. But my days of weird boxy Japanese garment aesthetics is really behind me. There was a time decades ago when I was a big fan of COMME des GARÇONS. But now I’m making the most of what figure I still have. Maybe one day I’ll get back into hiding the body again! For now I got this:

Fundamentals of Garment Design

By Bunka Fashion College in Japan. This is the first in a series of textbooks. Thankfully they have all been translated into English. I only got this one because the other focus on specific types of garments like dresses and jackets, and again, they’re a bit too boxy for my liking.

Unlike western fashion textbooks, this intro book covers a wider range of topics. The bits I find particularly interesting are the overview of how anatomy, different body proportions, and movements affect garment design; measurements insights; Bunka-style sloper instruction; and examples of sloper fitting adjustments shown on Asian women, some with combinations of fitting issues.

Then there’s the answer to my other pestering question: What happens to that back shoulder dart in designs without a dart in that area? It seems like the dart is pivoted to the armhole and/or neckline as eased volume (presumably held in check by sleeves and collars). But it’s never pivoted to the waist dart. So that’s this sloper axed then!

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There’s also a curious mention of a “Half Bias Tape”. The photo illustration shows a tape with grainline that doesn’t look like true bias grainline. But there’s no mention of “Bias Tape” at all!!!??? It’s described as having “moderated stretch and to some degree controls stretching. Front edges, shoulders, necklines, etc.” So I’m assuming it’s used instead of true bias tape. But why?


Last but not least are a series of Fabric Dictionary & Swatch Books I ordered directly from Rain City Publishing:

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Thanks La Karibane for suggesting this series. It’s great to have nice fabric samples illustrating the different types of fabrics. Descriptions alone are no good as most are so generic as to be pointless for identifying fabrics.


And that was it…Or was it?

Well, not quite. There are always those bits and pieces that are  invisible in the results, but absolutely essential in the making. Like…

patternsA bunch of Vogue, McCall, Butterick patterns bought during the recent online sale.

interfacingA bunch of highly recommended interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply of Pam’s Off-The-Cuff sewing blog.

threadsFrom Wawak, formerly Atlantic Thread Supply, more MaxiLock overlocker threads than I have storage space for.

Plus a small velvet pressing board at the cheapest price I can find. Everywhere else I looked it’s over $100. It’s pictured here with my sleeve board for size comparison.

zippersI also got a bunch of zippers to catch up with the wilder color fabrics I started collecting. These are from Mood Fabrics and B. Black & Sons. Zip Up Zippers has a wider selection of zippers and notions.
But it was too chaotic to find what I want and I can’t just help myself. I don’t like getting a sales person involved unless I’m desperate. I always feel too much pressure to buy.

rulersFinally, there are these C-thru rulers which I got from Golden Cutting & Sewing Supplies. You can also get them at art stores like Pearl Paint. I’ve tried lots of different rulers, but always come back to these. They’re thin, so don’t cast shadows that make it hard to align the ruler edge with lines. I’m a imperial measure girl, and I like the handy 1/8” grid which make pattern work easy.

Unfortunately the # 1 item on my wishlist was nowhere to be found in LA. It’s loose sheets of large 26” x 19.5” dressmaker’s carbon paper that I used to get from Steinlauf & Stoller in NYC. (It’s not listed on their site, but I swear they carry it. Or used to anyway.) All I can find in Downtown LA were pre-packaged small sheets. I guess I will just have to stick to Burda Carbon Paper for now. Or plan a trip to NYC soon!


As you can imagine, it was a bit of a struggle fitting all these into my luggage. In the end it was like 13 lb overweight. And at $200 surcharge you bet I was frantically transferring stuff into my carry-on’s at the airport check-in desk.

Now I better get back down my rabbit hole and churn out some more garments, so I don’t feel so guilty for spending a small fortune and taking over so much space in our tinsy winsy London apartment!