Sewing Slow


I’d hoped by now we’d have announced our fall line release — we’ve got big dreams for these new dresses, and we’re trying a few new things we’re really excited about! That said, the new techniques mean new challenges for us. So, instead of rushing through, we’re going to take the time to Do it Right.

Take these collars, for example. We’ve done collars before, but not many — and silk charmeuse is a critter with its own ideas. And, since white is not a terribly good color for hiding what’s underneath, I suspected that the seam allowances hiding inside the collar would show through (which is just sloppy form!) So I whipped up a quick practice collar to see if I was right or not. Sure enough, there they were.

To help hide the seam allowances, I added an interlining (an extra layer of fabric, which you never see in the finished garment). In this case, the interlined collar not only hides the seam allowances, but also makes the collar smoother and more stable (silk charmeuse can be very slippery). If you could feel these two collars, I’m sure you could tell the difference! Interlining is also called ‘flatlining’, and people often interline for stability or to change the way the fabric behaves. It’s rarely used in home sewing, but it’s one of the techniques that makes professional and couture level sewing so distinctive.

Clipping and grading also take more time, but they’re essential techniques in controlling multiple layers of fabric. Here you can see the edges ‘graded’ — trimmed away in varying amounts to reduce bulk. Grading makes an edge smoother and flatter, reducing the dreaded ‘lumpy edge’ effect!

Clipping is especially important on curved edges, since you’re trying to make the seam allowance either expand (as in a concave curve) or shrink (a convex curve, as in this case) when you turn the item right side out. If you don’t clip, whatever you’re making will buckle or pull — and, needless to say, look terrible! Here I’ve cut notches out of the seam allowance because it’ll have to fit into a smaller space, once the collar is turned. Of course, cutting into a seam allowance does compromise its strength — but if you clip or notch the multiple layers at slightly different points, it’s stronger than you might think.


Whew. Hope that wasn’t too technical for you! Anyway, we’re taking the extra time to do the job right — and I think you’ll see it when we present the finished dresses =)




button love

As you may have noticed, we do like to use buttons on our dresses sometimes. The only trouble is finding the right ones…

Mother-of-pearl is much nicer to use than plastic, but it can be tricky to find them small enough. And since most mother-of-pearl these days seems to be vintage, they’re often a mixed bag of sizes and patterns. So imagine how happy we were to find these 96 matching buttons in a funky little Etsy shop! (Her shop is called the alpinegirl five and ten, and she’s very nice!)


They’re vintage backstock, never used, and still sewn onto their original cards. Since the thread is so old, several of the buttons have fallen off, but that’s ok since we’re just going to sew them onto something else! (And as a side note, that’s why you shouldn’t sew with the really old thread you might find lying around in your attic. Thread can age very quickly, especially if it’s been exposed to lots of sunlight. It gets brittle and weak — and almost impossible to use! So get out there and buy yourself some new thread!)

Anyway, we are very happy with these buttons. Mother-of-pearl seems to last through the ages much better than thread does =)

Hurrah for the magic of the internet!

Melinda and Melody


Subtraction Cutting (and other intriguing pursuits)

Well, it’s been busy and interesting around here — it seems like every week brings new challenges, experiences, conversations, growth opportunites! In short, never a dull moment.

The poor studio is definitely feeling the brunt of it. There are half-finished projects everywhere! (That’s how lots of us creative types do it, I think — we start in on an idea, then switch to a different one when we need a little break from the first =) For starters, I decided to make Melody a dress a few weeks ago, so she could have something new to wear while she’s working… but after getting halfway through, I got distracted with other things (notably, going on vacation and planning for the fall line!)

I also went on a little bit of an investigation expedition the other day — I’d been rereading some old Threads magazines and came across a really interesting article about new developments in the patterning world. Couple the growing global movement of environmental consciousness with fashion, and you get ‘zero-waste’ designs, where every scrap of the fabric is used somehow. The results are anything but boring — they look like a whole new breed of garments (which, in a way, they are), and their luxury belies their smart-stewardship-origins.

a subtraction-cut dress

Another really mind-bending new concept is called ‘subtraction cutting’, invented by Julian Roberts. Basically, you cut negative shapes (for the body to go through) rather than positive shapes (to go around the body). It’s incredible, and I spent some time trying to get my head around it using just what I could learn online (that accounts for another half-finished project in the studio, by the way!) I haven’t bought the book yet, but I think it’s just a matter of time. You get such fabulous, artistic, becoming results — and in a very intellectual, sophisticated way. What’s not to love?


And while we’re on the subject of incredible patternmakers, who can forget Madeleine Vionnet? She mastered the bias cut (a notoriously slippery creature!), and some of the things she did with simple rectangles, triangles, and circles defies explanation. One of these days I’ll make myself take time to try some of her techniques.

Alrighty, enough chatting patterns. There’s a fall collection to sew! =)