Monday, March 23, 2015

Navigating Notions: Making Your Own Bias Tape

Bias tape is one of the most versatile notions:  it can invisibly finish a seam, it can bind layers of fabric together in a matching color, or it can bring your piece to the next level with a contrasting color or pattern.  It can be as little as 1/4" wide or as big as 2" wide, single fold or double fold, woven or knit...there is a lot of options!  But if you're only relying on premade bias tape, you don't have as many options.  Once you learn how easy it is to make your own, the possibilities are endless!

For example, here's our staff member Claire in her crane dress!  This fabric is part of a collection, and she used a coordinating fabric for self-made bias tape on the neckline and armscyes of her Laurel Dress by Colette Patterns.



And here's Lauren in her Rope Belledone by Deer & Doe (pattern available in store).  By making her own bias tape, she was able to choose the exact color she wanted to complement the rattie fabric.



So without further ado, let's learn how to make our own!  We know a lot of sewists are intimidated by this, but we promise, it's easy!  We used a solid cotton in this demo, but part of the fun of making your own bias tape is experimenting with different fabrics.

First off, you'll want to iron your fabric.  You can see here the crease from the cotton being folded in half and rolled on the bolt.  Before we start cutting strips to make into bias tape, we want a clean, pressed foundation.


Now we will start cutting our strips.  The Clover Bias Tape Maker we're using comes with this instruction sheet.  Since we're using a 1/2" bias tape maker, we will be cutting 1" strips.


You can see here that the edge of our fabric was not cut very straight—not sure what happened there!  We cut a nice straight edge so that the ends of our strips were not so jagged.


Now we will cut our strips.  Make sure they're on the bias!  By cutting at this 45° angle, rather than along the warp (parallel to the selvedge) or the weft (perpendicular to the selvedge), the strips will be able to stretch, so that the bias tape can curve along necklines, armscyes, hems, and more.  Our Omnigrid ruler has a nice 45° angle marking that we held along the bottom edge.


Using our rotary cutter and a self-healing mat, we cut along the edge of the acrylic ruler.  If your fabric is not off grain and has a nice straight edge perpendicular to the selvedge, you should ideally have a triangle like this.


Continuing to use our rotary cutter and ruler, we cut lots of 1" strips.


You'll notice that not all your strips are the same length.  As you can see below, the longest strip will be along this arrow, but don't worry—it's normal to have different length strips.  The more fabric you have to work with, the longer the longest strip will be.   This piece was only 1/2 a yard, which is plenty if you're just using it for bias tape.



Once you've cut your strips, it's time to piece them together to make one long strip.  If you know exactly how much finished bias tape you need, you can do the math and figure out how many strips you need to cut.  (To be honest, we usually just guess and cut a few more extra strips than we think we'll need.  There's always a need for more bias tape!)  The best way to piece bias tape together is at an angle, which is how packaged bias tape is almost always assembled.  To do this, place two strips at a 90° angle with the right sides together.  This is especially important if you're using a patterned fabric!


The picture above shows the seam line you will eventually sew.  It's best to use a matching color thread.  Below is a shot of us sewing the strips together.  Since this is a solid color cotton, there isn't a right side, but if there were, the pieces should be right sides together.  In other words, the strip layered on top would be wrong side facing up, and the strip on the bottom would be right side facing up.  We've tried to make that clear in the picture below.


Next you'll want to trim and press the seam open.  (The picture below shows the seam pressed, but not trimmed for clarity.)  You'll be able to see more clearly why we sew the strips together on an angle, rather than straight across.  This way, when the strip is folded into bias tape, the bulk of this seam is distributed more evenly.  If the seam was straight across, the bulk of the seam would be in one place, and you'd have a lumpy bit of bias tape when it was eventually sewed into a project.



Now for the magic part!  Here's a closer look at a 1/2" bias tape maker.  There is wider side with a slot that we've shown close up.  The fabric is fed from this end and comes out the other.


Watching the fabric strip come out perfectly folded is always exciting for us!


The last step is to press the folded bias tape when it comes out the smaller end.  We usually push the hinged wire part of the maker back against the flat strip and pull the bias tape maker from there to avoid the steam coming from the iron.



And ta-da!  You've made your own bias tape!  If you look carefully, you can see in this close up shot of our finished product how the warp and weft threads are not straight across, but at a 45° angle, making this a true bias tape.



Bias tape can be used to in all your sewing projects, from garments to quilts to embellishments.  Once you're learned how easy it is to make your own, you've opened up new opportunities for your future creations!

If you want some more individualized assistance, check out our #314 Easy Bindings and Facings Class with Barbara Beccio.  For your first few tries making bias tape, any of our #101 Beginnings and Beyond teachers would be happy to help.  Or try our #250 Sew & Fit Labs and get three hours of help for your personal projects!

Please feel free to comment if you have any questions about bias tape making or our sewing classes.  Stay tuned to see what we eventually used this bias tape for!  Have you ever made your own bias tape?  We'd love to see your finished products!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Join the Knit Generation!

WELCOME! 
One of my my favorite categories at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics (SMD) is our Knit Collection. They are comfortable, drape nicely on the body and can be worn as a dress, top, pants, jacket for all occasions - most of us wear them everyday!

At SMD we buy our knits from various garment manufacturers and only stock high quality knits with good value. You, our customer now has access to a wonderful and dynamic collection of knits available by the yard, opening up many possibilities for your next project. Check out my FabricLady blog for many of my own completed knit garment projects or stop by the store and see the trunk show in the Fashion Room! Now may be the time to learn how to sew on these easy fabrics in our sewing classes. And make sure you check out the two great blog posts, on the FabricLady and  SMD blogs. Read on for more!

Stop by our Berkeley store or Webstore to see what's new and get inspired. We continue to celebrate our 34th anniversary here in Berkeley and also want to offer you 20% off your in store and webstore purchase for the next two weeks!

From our families to yours, we all thank you for your support in keeping us vibrant in our community,
Suzan Steinberg
Owner & Daughter 

It's no secret how much we love knits!  They are extremely comfortable, can be dressed up or down, and are often quicker to sew than wovens since knits do not fray.  Suzan has some beautiful knit garments that she's featured on the Fabric Lady blog, such as her stunning Lynn Mizono dress and the Burda top and Victory Satsuki dress she made out of that gorgeous floral silk knit.
The large selection of knits in our store encompasses everything from delicate rayon tissue weight to heavy polyester ponte.  But different knits require different care.  To make things a little easier, let's take a minute or two to learn about different kinds of knits and how to best care for them.
First off, there are a few rules that apply to all knits.
  1. Spandex and Lycra (which are the same thing, just different brands) do NOT like bleach, heat, or dry cleaning.  Seriously though--do not bleach spandex.  It turns whites into yellow!
  2. It's best to hand wash cold. This ensures the best longevity for your garment. But if you want to use your washing machine, use the gentle cycle and line dry. Tumble drying knits can lead to pilling and/or weakening of the elasticity, so you may want to line dry knits or at least use a delicate cycle.
  3. It's best to take a 6" x 6" sample piece of your fabric (before cutting out your project) and wash/treat it as you will your finished garment. That way you will have no surprises after you have gone to the effort of laying it out, cutting, and sewing your garment. Every piece of fabric will behave differently when washing, so it's always best test a swatch first! If you do not like how it turns out, you can try another method or have it dry clean.
  4. If you take your fabric and clothes to a laundromat, there could be the added risk of harsher chemicals and bleaches left in the washer or dryer machine, which could damage your yardage, so be careful.
  5. These are just general guidelines for your garments to last longer and have less pilling (if a fabric or garment comes with specific instructions, you might want to follow those instead). 

Want a top that you can whip out in a few hours?  We found the Uptown Top, a pattern from our newly added indie pattern company, A Verb for Keeping Warm.  It's a simple top to make, especially if you use a soft knit that you don't need to serge or zig zag the seams. The pattern includes three sizes, but even the smallest size is very generous.
This top is so easy, the neck can be finished with its facing or you could use a simple bias strip. We made our Uptown Top with the band at the bottom, making it long enough to wear with leggings.  You can leave off the band and wear it with pants or jeans as the pattern makers suggest...
READ MORE AT THE FABRIC LADY BLOG!
 
CRAFTERS
450A: CREATING WITH RIBBON
FRIDAY 2 - 6 PM
MARCH 20
Use ribbon to create flowers or other trim to embellish anything!  
 

ELASTICS!
 
From hair ties to embellishments, our fun elastics are sure to spark your creativity. 
QUILTERS
TUESDAYS 6 - 9 PM - MAY 5, 12, 19
Turn your t-shirts into a picnic blanket or a memory quilt (a great keepsake for graduating high school or college students!). 
You can print photos and text onto these fabrics to use in memory quilts or as quilt labels.
The printable possibilities are endless!
GARMENT SEWISTS
SATURDAY 1:30-6:30 PM
MARCH 28
Experience how serging can take projects to the next level in our machine-equipped classroom!
ECO-FRIENDLY KNITS
Organic cotton or bamboo rayon our collection of eco-friendly knits are colorful and soft. 
 
FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Caring for Knits

It's no secret how much we love knits!  They are extremely comfortable, can be dressed up or down, and are often quicker to sew than wovens since knits do not fray.  Suzan has some beautiful knit garments that she's featured on the Fabric Lady blog, such as her stunning Lynn Mizono dress and the Burda top and Victory Satsuki dress she made out of that gorgeous floral silk knit.

The large selection of knits in our store encompasses everything from delicate rayon tissue weight to heavy polyester ponte.  But different knits require different care.  To make things a little easier, let's take a minute or two to learn about different kinds of knits and how to best care for them.

First off, there are a few rules that apply to all knits.
  1. Spandex and Lycra (which are the same thing, just different brands) do NOT like bleach, heat, or dry cleaning.  Seriously though--do not bleach spandex.  It turns whites into yellow!
  2. It's best to hand wash cold. This ensures the best longevity for your garment. But if you want to use your washing machine, use the gentle cycle and line dry. Tumble drying knits can lead to pilling and/or weakening of the elasticity, so you may want to line dry knits or at least use a delicate cycle.
  3. It's best to take a 6" x 6" sample piece of your fabric (before cutting out your project) and wash/treat it as you will your finished garment. That way you will have no surprises after you have gone to the effort of laying it out, cutting, and sewing your garment. Every piece of fabric will behave differently when washing, so it's always best test a swatch first! If you do not like how it turns out, you can try another method or have it dry clean. 
  4. If you take your fabric and clothes to a laundromat, there could be the added risk of harsher chemicals and bleaches left in the washer or dryer machine, which could damage your yardage, so be careful. 
  5. These are just general guidelines for your garments to last longer and have less pilling (if a fabric or garment comes with specific instructions, you might want to follow those instead).

 


Lets start about the easiest knit fabric first.  Cotton knits win that prize.  This is why cotton knits are best for children's wear and other heavily used garments.  Most manufacturers recommend to machine wash cold and tumble dry low or lay flat to dry.  If it is a cotton/spandex blend, do not use bleach!  Cotton will shrink, so it's a good idea to prewash cotton knits before cutting and sewing.



 


Next up:  polyester knits.  Since there are a lot of different ways to make polyester and synthetic fabrics, the way you care for your fabric can greatly vary by manufacturer.  In general, you don't want polyester to get too hot since it can melt, so we recommend washing cold, whether that be by machine or by hand.  If your fabric does not have any guidelines, use your best judgement.  If it is a stable, tightly woven knit, you'll probably have more success with machine washing than if it is a delicate, textured, or specialty knit.  Many polyester knits can also be dry cleaned.






Rayon knits are best to hand wash. Rayon fibers are weakened when wet, therefore it is best to limit washing if at all possible. Airing rayon garments on a hanger for a few days instead of frequent washing is also an option. Unless the fabric or garment is quite dirty, washing cold should do the trick.  A lot of rayon knits are fine to tumble dry low, but they can pill up, so use caution.


Nylon knits are often found in swimwear and activewear.  They act pretty similarly to polyester knits since they are another kind of synthetic, so don't get these too hot in the washer or dryer.  That being said, most nylon knits will not take kindly to the dryer.  They also will act adversely to bleach, since there is almost always spandex mixed in.  Some nylon knits--like the kind used in swimwear--would prefer to be hand washed, so refer to the manufacturer's instructions if you have them.


Wool knits are a thing of beauty, but they require some special care.  Unless the manufacturer says machine washing is okay, hand washing cold is the way to go.  Wool can felt (meaning it will shrink and fluff up) with heat or agitation, so never put wool knits in the dryer unless instructed to.  Laying flat to dry is best, since hanging wool knits can leave them misshapen or stretched out.  As with other wool garments, take care with storage to avoid moths and other unwanted little creatures.






Silk knits also require special treatment.  They should be hand washed cold and either hung dry or laid flat to dry.  Be careful not to leave silk soaking in water for more than a few minutes, and don't wring out the silk when drying.  We like to roll silk in a towel to remove excess water.  Like other silk garments, silk knits can usually be dry cleaned.



Last but not least, linen knits.  Linen knits make easy, breathable garments like this vest and are relatively easy to wash.  Many linen knits are machine washable, though you may want to use a delicate cycle.  Avoid bleach, as this will significantly weaken the fibers.  And since most linen knits are so lightweight, it's best to line dry, lest they get eaten up in the dryer!  Ironing while slightly damp is the best way to remove wrinkles.






If you've never worked with knits, check out our Knit Garment Class or our Intro to Serger Class.  The Intro to Serger is a technique-based class, where you learn the ins and outs of that scary machine called a serger!  Take the Knit Garment Class and come out with a brand new t-shirt, camisole, or skirt.  Or try our newer class, Serger Project of Your Choice, where you can work on anything you'd like, from yoga pants to a new scarf!

What's your favorite kind of knit to work with?  Have you ever had an issue washing or storing knits?