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Buying Fabric is Scary!!

Following a text conversation yesterday – that spanned two and a half hours – where my friend was asking my advice on purchasing fabric, I realized something. If you've never done it, buying fabric is scary. As I kid I was constantly in and out of fabric shops, either with my Mom or Grandma. I had so many home-sewn dresses as a little girl that I can only think of one that was store-bought. And it wasn't very cute. But I loved it because it was store-bought and that was such a novelty. (Guess I can't really blame Big for this then. . .) My Grandma could always be counted on sewing me a Valentine's nightgown, an Easter dress, a Birthday dress, a Christmas dress, and then a whole bunch of just because dresses thrown in there as well. I almost always had a say on the fabric, so by the age of 5, I pretty much knew my way around the local fabric shops. My friend had not. In fact, she had just purchased her first sewing machine a few weeks ago.

So, as a result of that conversation, I thought I'd share a few of the basics (and by no means exhaustive) of what you'll need to know the first time you venture into that scary, but magical place they call the fabric cutting counter.

Fabric is priced by the yard (3 feet/36 inches). In a physical fabric shop (excluding JoAnn's and the like — they'll cut 2" if you want), the minimum that you generally can have cut is 1/8 of a yard – or a 4.5" strip. Online, it varies, but the most common seems to be a half yard — and be careful!! Some online stores list their prices by the half yard instead of the full yard.

Quilting/Fashion weight fabric — that is, fabric that is suitable for sewing a quilt or other crafts, and fabric that is suitable for sewing clothing — is typically 44" – 45" wide. Home Decor weight fabric and Upholstery weight is typically 54" wide. All fabric will have 2 cut or raw edges on the top and bottom and 2 selvedge sides, which are the tightly woven edge produced during manufacturing to prevent the fabric from unraveling and needs to be cut off for your project. Along one of the sides will be printed the information about the fabric, such as the manufacturer, designer, what line the fabric belongs to & the name of the fabric design. Designers somewhat annually come out with new collections of fabric, or lines, and will give them a name for reference. Typically, it will be a set of designs that compliment each other, and then those designs will further be broken into sets of color ways that go together. For example, they might come out with 8 different pattern designs, but they'll have a set of those 8 designs in warm pink & yellow tones, but they'll also have a set of the same designs in cooler blue & green tones.

In quilting, it is popular to purchase Fat Quarters & often a store will have pre-cut Fat Quarters by the bin-full available for purchase. Online, you can find several sites that offer Fat Quarter bundles of several fabrics for purchase. What makes these different from a standard Quarter cut of fabric is how the yard is cut. A standard Quarter cut will give you a short, wide strip of fabric, because it is cut horizontally.

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A Fat Quarter is cut both horizontally & vertically, giving you a nearly square piece of fabric.

So, this is by no means exhaustive of everything you need to know when it comes to fabric, but perhaps it will get you in & out of the fabric store without having a panic attack (or buying a full yard when all you really need is a half)! And, just because I want to make sure the new seamstresses out there know their fabric selection is not limited to JoAnn's, here's a list of some of my favorite fabric designers: Amy Butler Anna Marie Horner Heather Bailey Sandi Henderson Joel Dewberry Tula Pink Denyse Schmidt Oliver + S Heather Ross Lizzy House Tina Givens . . . and so many more! Have fun discovering your favorites.

DIY Hankie Dress

Remember this?  

We'll call this a guide rather than a tutorial. Almost everything about it will depend on your size and can use various sized of squares/rectangles, depending on how long you would like your dress to be.

Since I was using Anna Marie Horner's Square Dance fabric, which is naturally divided into 12" x 14" rectangular sections, that is the size of rectangles I used (however, I will refer to them as squares from here on out). For a longer dress, use larger squares.

For the first panel, take two squares and sew together, right sides together. Unfold & Press. Repeat with two more squares. 

Next, take the two sections you just sewed, and sew those together along one side, right sides together. Unfold & Press, creating a larger square.

Repeat this 3 more times for a total of 4 Large squares. 

Take 2 of the Large Squares and sew together along one side, right sides together, stopping approximately 6" from edge (adjust distance from edge based on your own height - you are creating the V in the neckline for the front & back here). Repeat with Remaining 2 Large squares. Unfold & Press, creating the front & back of the dress.  

Sew Front & Back together along sides, right sides together, stopping approximately 6" from edge (adjust distance from edge based on your own height/measurements - you are creating the V underneath your arms here).  

Finish the inside edges by continuing the fold from the sewn seams & then edge stitch 1/8" from the fold.  

To make the straps, cut 2 strips 2" wide x 10" long — unless you're taller than 5' 2" — then you may want to make them longer. ;) Fold & iron the strips in half, then fold the raw edges into the center fold & sew close to the edge on both sides of each strip. Attach the strips to the back 2 top corners.  

Try the dress on & pin the straps in place on the front 2 corners. Sew in place.  

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At this point, you may be finished.
Try on the dress, add/make a belt if you wish. If it lays right & you're satisfied, you're done!

However, when I tried mine on, it wasn't fitting right — I think if it had been longer ( ie., I had used larger squares) I would have liked it without any further adjustments. But as it was, it hung oddly at my sides when I added the belt — actually, it poofed out, rather than hung!

Thus, while I had it on, I pinned & adjusted it until I like it, then sewed along that line. (See the dotted line below.) I really liked the idea of the points along the bottom, but they just felt awkward & unfinished at that hem length, so I cut them off and then turned up & hemmed the bottom edge.  

Add that belt once more & enjoy!

xoxo Lori Danelle

Ta-Dah! Dress Revamp

I'm so glad that I decided to start over on the dress I made using the Anna Marie Horner fabric. I probably could have made the first dress work, but who wants to wear something that only just "works"?? Yes, it was more work . . . and involved quite a bit of my least favorite thing that all-too-often accompanies sewing (at least when I do it!) — ripping out seams. But, I believe that you should feel good about what you've made & what you wear, so it was definitely worth it in my mind.

This new version is very flattering and so much more "me". But I'm curious, what do you guys think?

Hopefully I'll have a tutorial posted for you soon! :) 

xoxo Lori Danelle

******UPDATE: I have a "guide" for this dress posted here

Cute Dress – Not so Cute on Me

Last week over my lunch I found myself strangely pulled in the direction of Textile Fabrics, a fabric store that is (dangerously) close to my office, even though I had had other plans when I got in my car. Apparently, either some one was looking out for me or finds it amusing to watch as I unsuccessfully try to say no to fabric that is 50% off.
That's right.
They were (and are until July 2nd-ish, for any locals) having a 50% off sale on their entire stock of fabric. All my favorite designs & colors — cheap. Really, it's just cruel.

I wound up leaving with only one piece of fabric (on that day). Anna Marie Horner's Square Dance voile in Dusk with plans of whipping up a cute & simple dress that she shared on her blog. My friend Jenny has also made this dress in the citrus version of the fabric & shared how she went about making it here. Over the next couple of evenings, I made my dress. After adding the elastic at the raised waist, I tried it on to see the final outcome.

It wasn't so good. 

Mostly it just looked like I was wearing a sack made out of very pretty fabric. My husband even laughed at me! I can't blame him though. I guess at 5' 2" it just wasn't the dress for me. I do need to note though that this photo doesn't really give the full effect. Here it almost looks kind of cute — if I'd get my hair out of a pony tail & put a little make up on once in awhile! :)

So from there I had 2 options: • Make a few tweaks to the dress so it didn't look like I was drowning in it & hope my adjustments worked OR Rip out all the seams and start over on another dress I've been thinking about for years.

Of course, I pulled out the seam ripper and got started pulling it all apart. New dress coming soon. :)

xoxo Lori Danelle