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Welcome to the new era of menswear sewing. Go ahead and create something exceptional!


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A New Canadian Fabric Store! Blackbird Fabrics

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In case you haven’t already heard, there is a new online fabric shop based out of Vancouver!  It’s called Blackbird Fabrics and its proprietress is the Caroline, the skilled seamstress with a warm smile  who you will probably recognize as a regular contributor to the Sewaholic blog.

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Blackbird Fabrics specializes in high quality fabrics for garment making.  The shop carries a gorgeous selection of carefully curated prints and solids as well as an excellent variety of unique textures (check out the quilted knits!).  There is also an ever-growing collection of quality dress-making tools and supplies including really nice high quality interfacing which I find difficult to source locally.

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When Blackbird Fabrics was launched, I promptly emailed Caroline to introduce myself and congratulate her on her new shop (it was a great excuse to make a new sewing friend in B.C!).  Caroline is super friendly and has kindly taken the time to respond to my long-winded questions about her new shop.  Get ready for a great behind-the-scenes peek at the Blackbird Fabrics Studio!  And…make sure you read to the bottom of the post because Caroline has generously provided a 10% discount to her shop for all Thread Theory readers 🙂

 

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions Caroline!  First off, can you introduce yourself and your new fabric store to our readers?

Of course. My name is Caroline – most people know me as Caroline from Sewaholic! I’ve been lucky enough to work with Tasia over the past few years, but up until a couple of months ago, I was doing it while working a full time job! I recently left my job of 5 years in the fashion textile industry to set up Blackbird, my new online fabric shop. I’m based in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. My online shop carries fashion fabrics and my favorite dressmaking supplies and tools.

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What are your current goals for Blackbird Fabrics (i.e. what fabric types do you plan to emphasize, what tools do you dream of stocking?).

The emphasis will always be on garment fabrics. I’m working hard to find new suppliers so that I can have a diverse selection. Right now I’m focusing on finding more knits and woven prints in natural fibers. I’m also excited to add new fabrics based on customer feedback! The goal to begin with was to fill a hole in the market. So I’m definitely taking requests and suggestions seriously and keeping them in mind when I’m sourcing new fabrics. 

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I’m SUPER excited about your fabric store as I know that there is a dire need for online garment fabric resources in Canada and I love how local you are for me!  From your experience so far, have Canadians been your main customer or have you been selling your fabric mostly internationally?

I was actually really surprised when I launched, to see that there were lots of international customers ordering! So far it’s primarily Canadians, but I get plenty of US orders and a good chunk of international too. It’s super exciting to see people on the other side of the pond interested in my fabrics!

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What does a typical day at Blackbird Fabrics include?

I’m lucky that I work from home, and my studio/sewing room/inventory storage is in a separate room within my apartment. I’m not exactly an early riser, and I’ve learned not to fight it as much anymore. I usually wake up at around 8am, make breakfast, and answer e-mails for both my business and Sewaholic. Some days I work on a blog post, other days e-mails and other computer work takes up most of my morning. Lately I’ve been working on finding new suppliers, which can take a lot of digging!

If I don’t have any errands to run, I spend my afternoon/evening in the studio packing orders, and sometimes photographing products for the shop. Some afternoons I’ll focus on Sewaholic, so I’ll cut and sew samples for new patterns we’re developing.

Honestly though, so far, no day has been all that typical! Ask me again in a year I guess, haha. I’m still finding my groove, and trying to balance my business work and contract work. It’s been a lot of late nights! No complaints here though – I’m truly loving every minute of it.

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You must be very knowledgeable about fabrics after working for Telio!  Can you explain how this career in the fabric industry has aided you in launching your own business?

It’s funny, because when I was in school studying fashion design, I never thought I would have a career focused on fabric. I got an internship at Télio in Montreal right out of school, and over that summer I fell in love with textiles. After that, I worked for a year in the merchandising department, building the line, developing color stories, choosing and recoloring prints. I spent lots of time putting together trend reports for the sales reps, and working on graphics for the website. That year really shifted my focus. I learned so much about fabric resourcing, and what makes a cohesive and sellable collection. Not many wholesalers do it as well as Télio does! Then I heard about an opportunity to open a showroom in Vancouver, and I decided to go for it. That’s what brought me to the west coast! I set up the showroom, and spent the next 4 years developing business out here and working directly with clients. I think my experience in merchandising and then sales really gave me insight into what types of fabrics people truly love to buy and work with. I’ve also bought a lot of fabric over the years, for myself, so I’ve had the chance to test out different qualities and I really have learned what to look for in a great quality fabric.

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Of course, you have been a big part of Sewaholic over the last year and I hear that you plan to remain so!  You guys are single-handedly making Vancouver into a super sewing destination!  What plans do you have for working together with your businesses?  Have you established a few tricks for juggling two jobs? (I think Matt would love to hear any you might have! :P)

I’m thrilled to continue to work with Tasia! She has been a huge inspiration for me because she is a business superwoman. Personally, I’ll continue to do what I have been doing; sewing samples, customer service, and weekly blogging.

As for our businesses, I think they compliment each other really well. We’ve tossed around the idea of doing a pop-up shop together in Vancouver, and so far the feedback is great so we might try to plan that for the spring.

Right now I think the most exciting thing is that I’m going to work on stocking lots of the fabrics that we feature on the Sewaholic blog. Often we get those fabrics from Télio (a wholesaler that is not open to the public), and we don’t always have a retailer to direct readers to. This way, it will be easier than ever for readers to get their hands on those fabrics, because they’ll be a click away in my shop! 

On juggling two jobs… I think the most important thing is to know when to take a break. Working too hard can only lead to a burnout! So I try to take time during the day to get fresh air, make a nice lunch for myself, or go to a yoga class.  I also find that I get the most done when I compartmentalize. If I need to spend an afternoon focusing on Sewaholic, then I step away from everything else and try not to get distracted by e-mail or instagram or whatever. Oh yes and lists! I’m a list fiend, I write everything down. Recently Tasia and I started using Trello to organize our to-do lists, and it was pretty life changing. I use it for everything now.

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I’m really excited for your store’s blog to start up!  What sort of content do you hope to include?  I see Blackbird Fabrics is on Facebook and Twitter.  Where can customers connect with you the most?

I’m excited about the blog too! I’m going use it to feature new fabrics, show some behind the scenes peeks, and I’ll write about my own sewing projects too! I’d also love to feature customers’ finished projects sewn with Blackbird fabrics. I’m hoping to have the blog set up in the next few weeks, so I’ll definitely announce it on social media when it’s up and running. Speaking of social media! I’ve personally caught the Instagram bug – I just love it – so that’s probably where you’ll see me the most. But I try to stay active on Twitter and Facebook as well. You can also sign up for my newsletter on my homepage, I’ll be sending out shop updates every so often and I’ll give advance notice of any upcoming sales!

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Thank you, Caroline, for taking the time to chat with me on the Thread Theory blog!  And, of course, thank you for offering Thread Theory readers a discount to your store!  To receive 10% off everything at Blackbird Fabrics, enter the discount code “THREADTHEORY10” upon checkout.  The code is valid until this Sunday, November 9th 2014, midnight PST.  Happy shopping!

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The Sewtionary Blog Tour: Interview with Tasia and a book giveaway

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Have you got your hands on a copy of The Sewtionary yet?  It is a a new publication that is quickly becoming a necessary reference book in every modern sewist’s arsenal of sewing tools.  It is written by Tasia, of Sewaholic Patterns, who, as I’m sure you all know, is a fellow Canadian sewist and entrepreneur who I much admire.  When Tasia asked me to be part of her Sewtionary Blog Tour, I was thrilled to join in!

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So, in case you don’t already know her, let me introduce you to Tasia! She is the designer and mastermind behind the gorgeous Sewaholic patterns which are, invariably, classic and easy-to-wear designs with careful pattern drafting and clear, well-thought out instructions.  Matt and I had the pleasure of meeting Tasia just a couple weeks ago while she was on a Vancouver Island holiday.  We were inspired to no end by her enthusiasm for sewing and her business!

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The Sewtionary: An A to Z Guide to 101 Sewing Techniques and Definitions, is exactly the sort of book you might expect from the woman behind such successful patterns – it is beautiful, easy-to-use (the spiral binding allows it to lay flat on the sewing table), well organized, and wonderfully logical.  I’ve interviewed Tasia about her new book so that you can learn a little more about it before acquiring one for yourself (head to the bottom of the post for a giveaway of a printed copy!).

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Can you summarize the purpose and content of your book and how you came to write the Sewtionary?

I was approached by F+W Media about the possibility of turning the Sewtionary page on my blog into a book. Of course I was thrilled about the idea when I first received the email! I often read books that have very good tutorials, or useful tips, but then when it’s actually time to sew a garment using the technique, I can’t remember which book had the info. The purpose of the Sewtionary is to be a sewing dictionary, an easy to use alphabetical book that makes it easy to find what you’re looking for. As well as demonstrations, I also wanted to include WHY you might want to know this skill, and examples of when it’s used. Instead of trying to have something from each letter, I picked what I felt were the most important 101 techniques and organized them from A to Z.  I wanted to have all real fabric examples in the photos, instead of diagrams, so it would easy to follow along at home. Because it’s a reference book, it features a coil binding so it can lie flat when you work. (Usually I weigh down other books with my phone or a stapler or something to keep it open, and end up bending the spine.) I wanted it to be a very useful book in all aspects, from the content and images to the physical book design.

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When writing your Sewtionary, what areas of the process most surprised or challenged you?

I definitely underestimated how much time it would take to sew all of those samples! There are literally thousands of samples in the book, one for every single photo. Plus the garments! For the step-out samples that I had to cut or sew during a demo, I made extras in case I screwed up or in case we need to retake the shot. And there were some samples that didn’t photograph well that I had to remake for a reshoot.  That was surprising, the sheer amount of time it took to sew everything, and a good reminder to always allow extra time for new or unknown projects. The other thing that surprised me was how many people are involved in writing a book! I had an editor, a tech editor, a book designer, photographers, and of course my own writing and sewing, with Caroline’s and Corinne’s help. So many people review and edit the material, it’s an amazing amount of work. It’s given me a new respect for the book publishing industry.

Who do you imagine will find your Sewtionary most invaluable as a sewing room resource and how do you imagine it to be used?

I bet some people will read it cover to cover, just to see what’s inside! That’s what I would do if I had just bought it. I think it will be most useful later on though, when someone needs a tutorial on bound buttonholes, wants to know what a godet is, or needs to look up different seam finishes. That’s when the A-Z format will be really helpful. I’d love to see it used in a classroom setting, especially at the high school level.

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What feedback about your book have you found to be most rewarding?

So far, the number one comment is that it’s so beautiful and there are so many pictures! People are loving the format of the book, especially the coil binding.

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I found it very clever and also stylish how you incorporated samples sewn using your sewing patterns throughout the book – do you have plans to display these finished garments on your blog?

Some of them, yes! The border print Cambie Dress is so pretty I might use it for fresh photos on the shop page.

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And, of course, do you have plans to write another book soon?

Not soon, that’s for sure! It took nearly a year from start to finish for the Sewtionary book, including writing, sewing, and editing, so it would be a while before another book would be a possibility. I’d love to wait and see if this book does well before starting the process over again. I’d also want to have a really good idea, something fresh and new, and right now I don’t have anything in my mind as good as the Sewtionary concept. It’s so rewarding to see the book out in the world now, so I could see another book in my future some day!

 

Tasia and her publisher have kindly offered a printed copy of the Sewtionary as a giveaway on our blog.  Enter the contest by commenting on this post for your chance to win the book (Please comment about the Sewtionary – what skills do you hope to learn from it?)!  And head to the Sewaholic store to buy your own (signed) copy if you don’t want to wait for the winner to be drawn :P.

The give-away will end on Wednesday, Sept. 17th.  The winner will be drawn randomly from the comments on this post.  Good luck!

Here is a schedule of the rest of the book tour – follow the links on the listed dates to read more about the book, enjoy tutorials and projects related to the Sewtionary and have the chance to enter other giveaways!


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Sewing Indie Month: Let me introduce you to By Hand London!

Today marks the second to last day of Sewing Indie Month!  It has been a great month featuring all sorts of newly forged connections and creative projects.  Thanks again, Mari, for organizing this for all of us indie pattern companies!

As the last scheduled event of the month (aside from the sew-along contests of course – you still have time to enter before they close on June 4th!), I have interviewed the talented women behind the indie sewing pattern company, By Hand London.

 

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If you haven’t heard of them before (I am fairly certain most of you have!), they are the creative masterminds behind the dress pattern that went viral not too long ago…yes, they produced the Anna dress pattern!

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As far as indie pattern companies go, the By Hand London team and patterns are certainly one of our biggest inspirations here at Thread Theory.  I am an avid reader of your blog and most of all love the enthusiasm and humour the three of you put into everything you do.  Can you introduce yourselves to our readers and discuss the essence of BHL?

Well, hello! And thank you for such kind words – the highest kind of compliment coming from you!

I’m Elisalex, and I make up one third of BHL – Charlotte and Victoria being my partners in crime. We design sewing patterns for women like us who take creative control over their own style. To further our mission of self sufficient style, we are also on the brink of launching a print-on-demand fabric service! (Head to their “About Us” page to read more!)

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By Hand London is quickly becoming so much more than a sewing pattern company.  Where do you see your company going in the next few years and what do you wish to add to and encourage within the sewing community?

We’ve always been big dreamers that’s for sure! Even in the early days of BHL we had keep reminding ourselves that we couldn’t do everything we wanted to do all at once, so we started with sewing patterns, and within a year had already begun planning our next move into the world of print-on-demand fabric… While world domination is very high on our to-do list, we want to expand organically, and most of all in a way that immediately responds to the demands of the making community. Over the next few years we’d like to find ourselves in our dream studio (club tropicana themed of course, and open to one and all to come and hang out and sew), efficiently juggling the fabric printing and the patterns, with more fabrics available, an ever growing library of sewing patterns and hopefully with a few more humans to bulk up the BHL team! We’re all full of ideas and potential plans for the future of By Hand London, but we’ll just have to see which ones end up materialising…

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A huge challenge when sewing menswear is attempting to source interesting textiles with the correct fibre content and right weight to suit a pattern. Due to this, we are VERY excited about your new move in the direction of printing textiles.  Can you outline some of your plans for this area of your business?

It’s great to know you’re as excited as we are about the fabrics! The print-on-demand fabric printing is going to be SUCH a thrill for us – not least of all because we’ll get to design our own fabrics and champion our favourite artists! The fabric printing will really open up a whole new world of making for BHL as we won’t be limited to providing a service for female sewists only. The fabric printing will be open to one and all – be it men, women, children, dressmakers, fashion designers, quilters, crafters, homemakers, students, party planners… The list is endless!

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(Watch the BHL Kickstarter campaign video for more info on their fabric printing venture!)

 To begin with, we will have two types of cotton available to print on – the cotton poplin (which is already available in the form of our delicious Eloise print , and a soft and floaty cotton lawn – both wide width. Customers will be able to upload and edit their very own designs or choose from our gallery of existing designs, which will champion the work of artists, illustrators, designers and students who’s work we love. We’ll also be holding regular competitions open to one and all – our first of which resulted in over 200 entries and three wining designs, which are currently being test printed ready for production!

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Do you plan to offer a range of textiles that can be custom printed?  For instance, will your textile printer be able to print on knits or twills in the future (we hope so because it would be soooo amazing to have access to custom printed knits that are better suited to menswear garments!)?

To begin with we’ll have just the two types of cotton – the lawn and the poplin – but we absolutely plan on adding more! Rather than ordering in thousands of metres of every type of fabric under the sun, we plan on adding new fabrics as per customer demand. If we see that everyone is screaming and shouting for knits, we’ll be sure to provide.

Can you explain the printing process for your fabric?  You mention on your blog that the fabric is printed digitally and uses eco-friendly inks.  Can you explain how this is similar or different to the fabrics commonly found in fabric stores?

If you imagine a very big, very long inkjet printer, that’s essentially what we’re dealing with! The fabric is fed through and simply printed on just like paper in your printer at home. It’s that satisfying! One of the popular traditional fabric printing methods is also digital, but using reactive dyes, which although very vibrant and colourfast, need to be thoroughly washed, steamed and dried after the dyeing process. This uses up a lot of water in the process, which is not eco friendly at all! With pigment inks, all you need to do after printing is pass it through a (very hot) oven for a minute or two to effectively ‘bake’ on the dye – no water wasted and lots of extra steps needed! And best of all, the inks are safe for even the most sensitive skin.

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Do you plan to offer your curated gallery of fabrics for sale through stockists worldwide or will your fabrics be available online only? 

Given the nature of print-on-demand, our curated gallery of fabrics will be available only through us, as it will be printed and packed as each individual order comes in. But as with everything we do, if we find that we’ve got all the haberdasheries asking to stock our gallery, then I’m sure we’ll reconsider 😉

Can you describe the By Hand London studio?  Do all three of you work in the same space? (I hope your studio is large – a textile printer would certainly not fit in ours :)!)

Ummm… Well right now our studio looks something like a shipping crate crossed with a prison cell. Throw in some rickety old shelving over-flowing with fabric and notions, and crockery that may as well be alive, and you start to get the picture! This has been our very first official studio, and most definitely a stepping stone until we find the next big thing. We’re searching high and low as I type for a bigger, brighter and more inspiring workspace that will house our printer, our growing collection of patterns and the three of us!

What does a day at the studio involve for the three of you?  Who does what task and why?

A day at BHL HQ usually starts with getting the menial tasks and adminny stuff out of the way – packing orders, replying to comments and emails, going through numbers and the odd spreadsheet and such. As we do this we’re almost always catching up on each other’s love lives, weekend shenanigans and fighting over who’s turn it is to choose the playlist (which will invariably be sleazy RnB as Victoria’s choice, 80s grooves for Charlotte and Southern blues and country for me!). When we’re done with that, we’ll point blank ignore the amount of tidying up we should be doing and get to the fun stuff – this is changeable depending on what we’ve got going on any given day – we might be designing, blogging, planning a sewalong, heading out to do some fabric shopping, and always always always hustling and master-planning!

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Your connection with the online sewing community seems very strong and always active.  What are the key steps you take to ensure this?  What methods lead to the most successful connections?

As I’m sure you’re aware, the online sewing community is absolutely the core of what we do. It’s all the wild and wonderful bloggers/Instagrammers/tweeters that not only help to spread the word to sewists the world over, but who also help to shape our patterns with their feedback and suggestions.

We really enjoy being a part of the constant flow of online communication, and I’d say, being visual creatives, that our favourite portal is Instagram for sharing and keeping up with day to day goings on. Twitter is great for quick fitting advice and general chit chat, but above all, and we’re very lucky here in the UK, we have a really active community of UK based sewists who go above and beyond to forge friendships in real life. Almost on a monthly basis there are sewing meet-ups, some huge: last year saw a 50 sewist strong meet-up organised by Rachel Pinheiro in honour of Sew Busy Lizzy s visit to London, and some more intimate – last month Clare Szabo organised a surprise bachelorette party for Roisin Muldoon! Needless to say, we all had very sore heads the next day…

What areas of BHL do you find the most rewarding?  Does this answer differ for each of you?

While we all have different roles within the company and find different tasks more rewarding than others – I for one am happiest sat at the sewing machine or dreaming up and creating blog content – I think I can speak for Charlotte and Victoria when I say that seeing our little “company” grow from nothing is what rewards us all the most and spurs us on. We feel like we’ve achieved a lot in a very short space of time! Reading all the wonderful reviews of our patterns, hearing from happy customers and seeing the ball drop when we teach classes are all top on the Rewards List.

I can’t help but notice that you love cats…seeing as we have a very spoiled cat here at the Thread Theory studio who loves nothing more than lying on tissue patterns and batting pins around, do you have any stories or photos to share of your cat’s sewing related shenanigans?

We certainly do love our kitties! At my house (which started out as our studio, before we found the cell) I have two cats – one of which right now happens to be grooming her nether region whilst snuggled up in the quilt I’m still working on…

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We love them, but man do they get in the way!! The amount of pattern tissue they’ve torn, fabrics they’ve embedded with their fur and bobbins lost to their playfulness… But we get them back pretty good – there was the time when we turned a white paw blue with felt tips… And that April Fool’s when we “released” our first sewing pattern for cats!

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Thank you, Elisalex, for and inside look at your quickly growing company!  I am so impressed with how far you’ve come in such a short amount of time and I eagerly anticipate where your next adventure in fabric printing will take you!  I hope that Thread Theory readers – who I know are constantly looking for new sources of menswear fabrics – will take your hint to scream and shout for you to expand into knits eventually ;).

What types of fabrics and prints do you most look forward to ordering from the BHL ladies?  They’ve started with such an interesting selection of florals: I love how subtle their monster themed Eloise print is and I think one of their next prints, Charlie, is absolutely stunning!


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Tutorial and Video by Seamster Sewing Patterns – How to skip hemming the Comox Trunks

Sewing Indie Month

Today, we have a guest tutorial for you, as part of Sewing Indie Month!  Mari, of Seamster Sewing Patterns, is not only the mastermind behind this month’s cornucopia of events, tutorials, and contests, she has also kindly taken the time to contribute a tutorial of her own to our blog.

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She’ll be walking you through how to dye fold-over elastic with food colouring and how to apply it to our Comox Trunks.  The tricks she will be showing you will allow you to avoid using the self-made binding for the fly and to skip the worry of using a twin needle or zig zag stitch while hemming the legs.  These are both of the steps that sewers found to be the most tricky during our Comox Trunk Sew-Along.  Thank you, Mari, for providing an alternative method to finishing these areas of the trunks!

Now over to Mari, who you can thank for making your Comox Trunk sewing life just that much easier!:Seamster Sewing Patterns

Hello Thread Theory readers! I’m Mari and I run Seamster Sewing Patterns. Today I’m going to show you how you can easily dye fold over elastic with simple ingredients you have at home, like food coloring. Then, I’ll walk you through attaching fold over elastic to the Comox Trunks.

Why dye fold over elastic when you can get a lot of colors online? It’s fun! Seriously, I find it really excited to see what colors I can come up with. It’s like finding a spare $5 in your pocket when doing laundry; the color you get can be a total surprise, but a really good one. Dyeing is also a great way to quickly customize a project, make it extra special, and get fun colors you won’t be able to find in your local fabric store.

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Before we begin though, let’s go over a few dyeing basics. 

In this tutorial we’ll be acid dyeing nylon fold over elastic. Acid dyes are one of the easiest dyes to get started with. They involve the use of acid (nothing scary dangerous, just vinegar for this tutorial!) and can be used to dye protein fibers like wool or silk and often nylon. They will not dye cotton or polyester. That is why it’s very important to make sure you’re using fold over elastic made from nylon. How to find out if your elastic is made from nylon? Ask your local or online shop. I bought the elastic I’m using in this tutorial from Peak Bloom. They told me their solid colored fold over elastics are made from nylon, while their patterned fold over elastics are made from polyester. Keep that in mind if you order from them.

The reason why I’m not showing you how to dye polyester is because it’s difficult to do at home. It also necessitates constant, high heat, which would badly damage the spandex in your elastic. Acid dyeing with nylon also calls for heat, but is a little more forgiving. So, we must strike a balance between heating our dye bath (solution of water + dye) with maintaining a temperature below 105F (40.56C) so our elastic doesn’t degrade .

One more thing to note before we get started, you’ll see I’ve been very specific in the list below by specifying the use of wooden, plastic, or stainless steel tools. That’s because certain metals act as mordants, which can change the color of your dye.

Here is a quick reference “recipe card” that Mari made for you to refer to while dying.  She includes a detailed write-up and photos below, so keep reading before you begin your dyeing project!

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…And now the full tutorial:

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In order to dye we’ll need a few things:

  • crockpot (you could use a regular pot over a stove, but I find it’s easier to use a crockpot for consistent temperature and because it lets me walk away without worrying about burning the house down)
  • water
  • food coloring
  • distilled white vinegar
  • non-iodized salt (optional, it helps drive dye into fibers, but I only had himalayan salt on hand, so I didn’t use any in my experiments)
  • wood, stainless steel, or plastic stirring utensil
  • plastic gloves (optional, but great if you don’t want to scrub dye out of your hands)
  • glass or stainless steel bowl
  • plastic, glass, or stainless steel measuring cups and spoons
  • thermometer
  • dish soap or synthrapol (special soap used when dyeing)

Here’s my basic dyeing recipe:

  • 1 c water
  • 10 drops food coloring (you can use a couple drops less and still get a brilliant color; for a light color use just a few drops)
  • 1T distilled white vinegar
  • 1yd 5/8” fold over elastic or 2yd 3/8” fold over elastic

For the Comox Trunks I graded from a size 28 to a 34, for which I only needed about 30” of 5/8” fold over elastic to sew to the leg and cup openings. However, it’s best to give yourself a little extra, so instead of 30”, I dyed a full yard, although you may need to dye more.

Because my local fabric store doesn’t carry wide elastic made from nylon that’s needed for the waistband, I dyed an extra yard of fold over elastic to sew on top of my polyester elastic waistband for purely decorative purposes (Morgan: Nice idea, Mari!  What a great way to customize boring waistband elastic by adding strips of colour!).

In total, I dyed 2yd of fold over elastic, for which I doubled the basic dyeing recipe above.

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Here’s how to dye nylon fold over elastic:

  1. Fill your crockpot about 3/4 full with water and turn it on. (I set mine to high, but each model cooks at a different temperature, so you’ll need to experiment)
  2. Fill your glass bowl with water (going by the recipe above) and mix in salt if you’re using it.
  3. Stir in your food coloring and let the mixture heat. This is your dye bath. Once it has fully heated, take its temperature. If it’s well below 105F (40.56C) you may be able to bump your crockpot up to medium or high. If it’s above 105F (40.56C) lower your crockpot to medium or low.
  4. While waiting for your dye bath to heat, wash your elastic. This will get out any chemical residues that could give you an uneven dying job.
  5. Submerse your still wet elastic in your dye bath. It’s important that the elastic be wet before putting it in so that the color will take up evenly.
  6. Pour vinegar around, but not on top of your elastic. Thoroughly stir it in. As you pour in your vinegar you’ll notice your elastic quickly chaining color.
  7. Let your elastic sit in your dye bath until you’ve reached your desired color or until your dye bath is exhausted. Periodically check on it and give it a little stir to make sure it’s as dark as you want it. I usually let mine site for about 1-1/2hrs. A dye bath has been exhausted when the fiber has soaked up all the dye that’s in the water. My recipe is a little heavy on the dye, so there’s usually some left over. Since food coloring is cheap I don’t mind that there’s some extra dye being thrown away at then end.
  8. Wash your elastic. If dyed at high enough of a temperature, there shouldn’t be much dye rinsing out of your elastic. If you’re concerned about more dye leaking out, toss it in a washing machine. Let your elastic air dry.

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If you’d like to know more about dyeing, check out Paula Burch’s All About Hand Dyeing site. It’s a great wealth of information. 

How to add fold-over elastic to the Comox Trunks: 

Now that we have our custom dyed elastic, let’s sew it to the cup and leg openings. Note that the Comox Trunk pattern calls for the leg openings to be hemmed at 5/8″. By binding the openings with fold over elastic the legs will be 5/8″ longer than if they were hemmed. (Morgan: You could simply trim off this extra 5/8″ if you would like to keep your trunks the original length.)

To show you how to sew fold over elastic to the Comox Trunks I made a video tutorial. The technique shown here can easily be used with other knit garments too, like my Yellow Tail Camisole. If you prefer reading over watching, below the video is a transcript with a few extra tips that didn’t make it into the video.

Video Transcript:

Hey everyone! This is Mari from Seamster Sewing Patterns. As a part of Sewing Indie Month, a month long sewalong and celebration, I’ve been working with fellow indie sewing pattern maker Thread Theory to bring you a tutorial on sewing with fold over elastic. 

Fold over elastic is a great way to finish the edges of knit garments. Today I’m going to demonstrate how to do that with Thread Theory’s Comox Trunks sewing pattern. 

For this tutorial I’m using less than a yard of 5/8” wide fold over elastic for the size 34 Trunks. Fold over elastic is like the knit version of bias tape. That means it will fold over on itself to encase the raw edge of your fabric. Before we begin, take a good look at your elastic. See the central groove running down the length of your fold over elastic? That’s the fold line where you’ll be folding your elastic in half. 

Also see how one side is shiny and one is plush? You can use either side. For these trunks I want the plush side to be visible, which also means it will be directly touching the wearer’s skin, while the shiny side will be hidden. 

I’m going to show you how to attach fold over elastic two ways. But if you’ve never sewn with fold over elastic before you’ll definitely want to practice first on a scrap of fabric! 

To begin with, we’ll be attach the elastic to a flat edge, in this case the cup opening on the Comox Trunks. To figure out how much elastic you need, lay the elastic in a straight line alongside the curved part of the cup to which it will be sewn. Your cut piece should be long enough to reach from each end of the cup opening. 

Now for the sewing! Use a wide zig zag stitch for this step. I like a stitch that’s 3 wide by 3.5 long. In this step we’ll be stitching the fold over elastic to the wrong side of your fabric, or what will be the inside of your garment.

Remember that the side of the elastic you DON’T want visible will be the side that directly touches your fabric; in this tutorial that’s the shiny side. Line up the raw edge of the fabric with the central groove in your elastic. That means half of your elastic will be sticking past the edge of your fabric. It’s also easiest to get started if there’s a little extra fold over elastic hanging past the end of the cup opening. That helps prevent your fabric and elastic from getting sucked down into your sewing machine. For easiest visibility while sewing, your fabric should be on top of your elastic and your elastic should be directly touching the throat plate on your machine. 

Once you have everything lined up, begin stitching the two together. Stop after you’ve sewn a few stitches, making sure your needle is still piercing your fabric and elastic. Now gently pull your fold over elastic. It is incredibly easy to stretch out your fabric as you attach your fold over elastic. Gently pulling your elastic helps prevent that and as long as you don’t pull too tightly it won’t gather your fabric. Keep stitching your fabric and elastic together, making sure the raw edge of the elastic aligns with the center groove in your elastic and that your elastic is slightly stretched out while your fabric is feeding through your machine at a normal rate. When you get to the more curved section of the cup opening you may wish to pull on your fold over elastic just a little bit more tightly. 

Now we’ll stitch the front of your elastic to the right side of the fabric. Fold the remaining half of your elastic over the raw edge of your fabric. Stitch it to your fabric using a straight stitch or a very narrow zig zag stitch. When stitching 1/8” or closer to the edge it’s called edge stitching. If you’re using a contrasting colored thread like me, you may want to break out an edge stitch foot if your machine has one. That way you can more easily edge stitch a nice, straight line. And that’s all there is to it!

Next, I’ll show you how to sew fold over elastic in the round to a garment’s opening, like a sleeve or neckline. In this case, we’ll be binding the leg openings of the Comox Trunks. 

Before we begin, we’ll need to determine how much elastic to cut. Lay your assembled trunks on the table. Like we did when cutting elastic for the cup opening, we’ll lay our fold over elastic out in a straight line, from each edge of one of the leg openings. Double that length and cut your elastic. Next, fold your elastic in half, right sides together. Using a 3/8” seam allowance, straight stitch the raw ends of the elastic together. Do this for each leg’s elastic. 

Your fold over elastic will be smaller in circumference than your leg openings. So, mark your leg openings and fold over elastic at four evenly spaced points. Then, pin the elastic to the leg openings at those marks. See how the leg openings are larger? It’s important to evenly pin the elastic and fabric together so that the elastic evenly stretches to meet the fabric. 

Same as before, we’ll stitch the fold over elastic to the wrong side of our fabric. What we’ve got to watch out for here is that the raw edges of the elastic’s seam allowance don’t peek out. Now, stitch the elastic to your fabric using the same 3 x 3.5 wide zigzag stitch as we did when sewing the cup opening. After you’ve sewn a few stitches, stop with your needle piercing your fabric. Then grasp your fabric and elastic where the next pin is and pull until the elastic is the same length as your fabric. Sew the elastic and fabric together, remembering to align the raw edge of your fabric with the central groove of the elastic. Keep sewing like this until you’re back to where you started. 

After that, switch to a straight or very narrow zig zag stitch. Fold your elastic over the raw edge of your fabric. I like to start stitching a little bit before the elastic’s seam allowance so that I’ve got a few stitches anchoring things down. Often when I get to this side the fold over elastic’s seam allowances will be peeking out. So, I’ll tuck them under. Using a seam ripper helps since the seam allowances are so small. Once your seam allowances are no longer visible, keep sewing around the garment’s opening until you’re back where you started. 

That’s it! Simple, easy, fast, no annoying stretched out edges.

To make your own Comox Trunks, go to threadtheory.ca, where you can also find another tutorial by me on how to dye your fold over elastic.

To see what other great tutorials and hoopla is going on around Sewing Indie Month, head over to SeamsterPatterns.com.

Thanks for watching and happy sewing!   

 

Thanks Morgan and Matt for having me on your blog! And happy Sewing Indie Month everyone!


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My Mom’s Peacoat Sewing Experience

If you were a little overwhelmed by all the handstitching involved in Dana’s Tailored Peacoat Series last week, never fear, you can still easily sew a Goldstream Peacoat if you are new to sewing outerwear and only have a limited time frame for sewing.  Here is my Mom to tell you about her experience sewing the Goldstream Peacoat!

A Peacoat … Sure I can! And even better … if I can, you can!

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Not one to resist a challenge, I agreed to sew Farrell a ‘Goldstream Peacoat’.  I had been happily enjoying the winter coat that Morgan had sewn for me.  I showed it off to many people who admired her skill and my luck at having a daughter who would take the time to make it for me.  My favourite comment was from a friend who said that wearing a wool coat hand made for me was like getting a hug from my daughter every time that I put it on!

With that in mind, I tackled a peacoat for Farrell.  I did so without the confidence I typically have when sewing. I have not sewn much in the way of men’s clothing before.  I can sew but I think of myself as someone who tackles projects.  Typically the projects are ones that require my logical math brain, such as puzzling out how to sew boat cushions, window coverings, or specialty pieces including windlass covers.  I decided to trust Morgan’s instructions to get me through the techniques required for this project with the bonus of her support only a phone call, text or email away.  Turns out I needed very little help!  Farrell is wearing his beautiful pea coat regularly and has made some strong hints that he would like a lighter spring version.

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I selected a very thick Melton wool fabric in a black/almost navy with a shiny backed tan coloured lining.  I also purchased a metre of horsehair interfacing so that I could play with laying out some panels on the front pieces.

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The cutting out went well.  I decided to sew an extra-large rather than the large as we wanted to make sure that Farrell would be comfortable wearing a heavy sweater (his Newcastle) underneath.  Turns out that was a good choice for him and the types of activities he does when wearing his coat.  He has lots of room in the jacket for movement and doesn’t feel stuffed inside it when he is wearing layers.

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I carefully followed all of the steps that were thoroughly described in the instructions, right down to the tailor tacking.

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Because of my inexperience with sewing clothing, some of the steps were hard for me to logic out.  Instead, I just followed them and then ended up being delighted each time that the pieces went together and the intent of the step became clear to me.  Only once did I text Morgan a question.  I needed to check to see if I was interpreting her instructions as she intended.  In my impatience to keep going on the jacket, I didn’t wait for the reply and proceeded anyways. With relief I did fine as trying to unpick a black thread on the heavy wool seam is a tough task.  My light duty sewing machine coped with the heavy layers well.  The only challenging seam was the one where I sewed the outer jacket to the lining with collar and a leather piece that I chose to add.  With a denim needle and some patience, I got through it. (My mom’s tip to use a denim needle for thick layers is a great one, have you tried this?  I had never done this until the other day and I found this improved the quality of my stitches when going through several layers of wool.)

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The jacket turned out great! I meant to keep track of the time it took me but got carried away with the sewing and forgot to.  Once I set my mind to it, I just tackled a few pieces at a time and it was complete in approximately 20 hours of sewing. My confidence has been bolstered and I am ready for more sewing projects.  I think I will start on the Comox Trunks which are waiting for me.  I have my eye on an item of clothing yet to be released in the Alpine Collection.  Farrell has already been ‘living in’ the first sample that Morgan sewed in his size.  He has dropped some not so subtle hints about that too.

Thanks, Mom, for sharing your experience!  My dad looks very dapper in his Goldstream Peacoat!


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Tailored Peacoat Series: #7

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Day #1 – Tuesday, March 18th: Prepare Pattern, Cut Fabric, Mark Seam Lines

Day #2 – Wednesday, March 19th: Adjust Pockets, Apply Canvas and Interfacing

Day #3 – Thursday, March 20th: Sewing the Facing and Lining

Day #4 – Friday, March 21st: Sewing the Main Body Seams and Adding Shoulder Pads

Day #5 – Saturday, March 22nd: Creating the Collar

Day # 6 – Sunday, March 22nd: Inserting the Sleeves

Day #7: – Monday, March 23rd: The Finishing Touches

Today is the last day of the Tailored Peacoat Series!  Thanks for following along!  Today we are sewing the finishing steps and will have a finished peacoat to present by the end of the post.

Finishing

Topstitch the coat, starting at the edge of the facing along the bottom of the hem, and stopping at the mark for the top buttonhole and roll line.  Don’t backstitch, but pull the thread to the back of the coat and tie off.  Flip the coat and topstitch from roll line to roll line along the lapels and collar, then flip again and stitch from roll line to the end of the facing.  This way, you’re always stitching with the “right” side of the coat facing you.

I made buttonholes by hand, and also made a buttonhole on the right side of the coat and sewed a flat button underneath the top decorative button on the left side.  This button supports the underside front and keeps the coat hanging nicely.  Bonus points if you actually remember to button it when you wear the coat.

underside button

Remove all the basting threads and tailor tacks (there are a lot!!!).

Press the coat, working slowly and making sure edges are crisp and seams are flat.  Use a clapper to smash out any bulky spots.  It can take an hour to properly press a coat.

The finished coat! (Wahoo!  What gorgeous results after all of this hard work.  Congratulations, Dana!)

 Whew, and that’s the end!  Once again, thank you very much, Dana, for contributing this incredible series – what a resource for everyone planning to sew a Goldstream Peacoat!

As I said in previous posts, I have learned a lot of techniques (and have been reminded of a lot that I had learned in the past but have neglected to do!) during this series.  I’m really looking forward to trying out pad stitching and I will certainly be basting A LOT more than I did throughout the last pea coat sewing project!  I don’t know if I’ll have the patience to baste quite as much as Dana did but I really should just slow myself down and force myself to do it.  After all, if I am going to put hours and hours of work into sewing a coat for Matt (not to mention all the money for nice wool!), I would like the finished product to look as beautiful and last as long as Dana’s coat does and will.  Hmmm you just got a glimpse of the boxing match going on in my sewing room: too much excitement to see the finished product vs. the desire to create perfect, quality results.

Now that we are armed with all this knowledge and inspiration, we are completely ready to conquer our fears of tailoring and our habits of sewing only projects that provide immediate results.  It’s time to begin your big Goldstream Peacoat sewing project!  What did you think of this series?  Which tips and tricks do you think you will be using?

 


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Tailored Peacoat Series: #6

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Day #1 – Tuesday, March 18th: Prepare Pattern, Cut Fabric, Mark Seam Lines

Day #2 – Wednesday, March 19th: Adjust Pockets, Apply Canvas and Interfacing

Day #3 – Thursday, March 20th: Sewing the Facing and Lining

Day #4 – Friday, March 21st: Sewing the Main Body Seams and Adding Shoulder Pads

Day #5 – Saturday, March 22nd: Creating the Collar

Day # 6 – Sunday, March 22nd: Inserting the Sleeves

Day #7: – Monday, March 23rd: The Finishing Touches

Today is the last big sewing day for the Tailored Peacoat Series since tomorrow’s post will involve just finishing touches.  Get ready to insert your sleeves using a different method than our usual one (no gathering with this one!).

Sewing the Sleeves

I sewed the front seam of the sleeves, then used a strip of bias silk organza as a hem reinforcement, since I don’t have wigan (you can buy this bias cut sewn in interfacing here).

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Pocketing might have been a better choice.  The sleeve linings were cut with an extra 1 inch of seam allowance at the top of the sleeve (Dana added this extra seam allowance, this is not included as part of the Goldstream Peacoat pattern).

After the sleeves were hemmed and linings assembled, I sewed the seam allowances of the sleeve and lining together for a few inches at the elbow.  This keeps the linings from twisting inside the sleeve.

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Sew the lining at the hem with an ease pleat, and baste the sleeve and lining together about 3 inches below the top of the sleeve.

Setting in the Sleeves

I was taught to set coat sleeves using a different method than the gather-the-cap method almost every book, pattern, blog, etc, uses.  In fact, when I have to gather the sleeve cap (I’m looking at you, 1840’s men’s coats), I usually want to scream/cry/throw things.  If that method works for you, great, but I’ve always had trouble with it.

The sleeves have ¼” seam allowance (The Goldstream Peacoat pattern uses 5/8″ seam allowances but Dana has adjusted her pattern to include 1/4″).  Mark ¼” seam allowance on the armscye of the coat, either with tailor tacks when you cut the coat, or thread trace it now.   Pin the sleeve into the armscye, matching the notches.

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The pins don’t have to be close together, just enough so you can tell how the sleeve is hanging.  Don’t worry about extra ease in the sleeve right now.  Once the sleeve is pinned, check to see how the sleeve is hanging.  The sleeve ease is really well distributed in this pattern, so it should sit well, but feel free to move it around if you aren’t happy.  Next, baste the sleeves with matching thread, since this can stay in the finished coat. Use a fairly small running stitch.

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This is where you want to ease any wrinkles into the armscye; happily, most wool likes to ease, and using a small seam allowance makes it easier to control the fabric.  Check the hang of the sleeve again, and make sure there aren’t any big wrinkles or other unhappiness.  If you’re having problems, you can try pressing the seam, just don’t go more than an inch into the sleeve.  Hand sewing the sleeve into the armscye instead of machining it also gives you greater control.

Once the sleeves are sewn, baste around the armscye from the exterior of the coat, as close to the sleeve seam as possible and going through as many layers of canvas, shoulder pad, and lining as you can.

baste from exterior

You want to push all the seam allowances of the coat and sleeves towards the sleeves, and to hold all the layers in place.  Since there is extra ease in the lining, there might be a few folds when you baste the layers together, just make sure the lining isn’t pulling anywhere.  From the inside with the sleeve facing  you, backstitch through all the layers close to the stitch line using heavy thread.

Backstitch

I was able to go through the shoulder pad and catch the lining on the other side, but if your shoulder pads are thick you might have to do a second line of backstitching from the lining side, catching the shoulder pad to the lining.  Trim away the extra wool, canvas, lining, and shoulder pad; I usually leave only ¼ inch under the arm and taper to ½ inch at the top and sides of the armscye.  Sew a sleeve head in the armscye, starting at the front notch or sleeve seam and going around the top of the sleeve to the back sleeve seam.  Sleeve heads fill out the ease at the top of the sleeve and give a smooth look to the shoulder.  You can buy them or make your own; I used a bias strip of wool 2 inches wide, folded over about ½ inch and pressed.

sleeve head

 Fold the sleeve lining over ¼” and slip stitch in place, matching seams with the sleeve and just covering the backstitching.  Its perfectly acceptable to have small gathers in the lining around the top of the sleeve.  Lining rarely eases as nicely as wool.

stitch sleeve lining

See you tomorrow for the last day of our series!