Posted in fabrics, sewing, sewing patterns

The Joy of Fabric Shopping (and yet more sewing for the winter)

How many times have you read a book or watched a movie that was at least partially set in a book shop? There are quite a few (remember You’ve Got Mail?).

But what about a fabric store? Wouldn’t that be an excellent place for characters to explore life? I mean, just think about the possibilities.

There are so many temptations―so many choices to be made. There are practical considerations, and there are aesthetic considerations. There is an opportunity to do something serious (remember mask-making and sewing up scrubs?), but there is an equal opportunity to do something frivolous―that chiffon cocktail dress, perhaps? All in all, I think it’s a marvellous idea. Alas, there are so few.

I did set part of one of my novels in a fabric store. Remember The Year I Made 12 Dresses?

Charlie meets a fabric whisperer guru in a fabric store as she learns how to make increasingly complicated dresses while learning increasingly more about herself―and her late mother. That fabric store was inspired by one that I frequent myself in the fabric district in downtown Toronto.

A jumble of fabric bolts of a dizzying array of colours and fabrications, Affordable Textiles is as good as its name. Its crowded aisles, with bolts of fabric to the ceiling, inspired Sew Fine Things, the fabric store in my novel. Just as their name suggests, they carry the more affordable fabrics that I like to use with occasional pieces of natural fibres like bamboo, which is one of my favourites. I did find the bamboo for this T-shirt there.

Across the street, I love Chu Shing Fabrics because they are the most organized store on Queen Street West! They carry higher-end products of higher quality.

Of course, I found the fabric for my husband’s bespoke shirt at Maryan’s Fabrics up on Yonge Street. Affordable it is not! Indeed, I spied the most expensive fabric I’d ever seen on their shelves.

Two years ago (just pre-COVID), my husband and I took a Florida road trip. What I love about being the planner of these road trips is that I can sneak in fabrics stores along the way. My husband has come to love browsing in these little gems. I found a great one in Sarasota. Florida. Situated along what is really more of a highway, Pennie Fabrics is located in an old bungalow where even the garage is filled with bolts of fabrics. I found a terrific piece of fabric for a shirt for me and some printed silk charmeuse that made its way into the lining of a jacket when I was teaching myself traditional tailoring. I always think it’s worth incorporating a bit of fabric store reconnaissance into any vacation planning!

This past fall, we took the train to Montréal, where we ventured into the northern part of the city from where we usually stay near Old Montréal to find the fabric district there. Rue St. Hubert is the street. It is lined with fabric stores from the high-end Tissus St. Hubert to the cheap Goodman’s. I shopped at both. The myriad Italian silks and wool jerseys at Tissus St. Hubert were breath-taking, and the jumble of polyesters at Goodman’s was such fun.

But is there any fun in online fabric shopping? First, what does it mean to shop, really? Does it mean you have to buy? I don’t think so (at least that’s my position on this, and I’m sticking to it!). I love to window shop in online fabric stores. Who wouldn’t love a lazy half-hour browsing through the collection at Mood Fabrics online (I did have the opportunity to visit their LA store a few years back. It was fabulous!). And then there’s Britex with their excellent high-end offerings. I also like to browse Watertower Textiles here in Canada since they seem to have a collection of higher than average quality cottons and bamboos.

And what about Etsy? OMG, I can fall down that rabbit hole so easily!  I have a favourite shop which is located in India. Sownsown has such an array of fabrics that it boggles the mind.

I’ve bought two pieces from him, and his service is impeccable. I used one piece for my son’s bespoke shirt, and the other awaits fabrication into a summer top/blouse/shirt that I hope to make before we head off for our winter holiday in the Caribbean (if it happens, of course. These days, there are no guarantees!).

Fabric from Sownsown on Etsy.

Finally, who among us in Canada could write about online fabric stores without mentioning Fabricville? Every time someone compares them to Joann’s in the US, I chafe because there is really little comparison. Of course, they do have their penchant for synthetics (polyester, anyone?), as does Joann’s, but they do offer more. I was able to procure two lengths of higher-quality fabrics when I blogged for them over on the Fabricville blog. I loved the bamboo jersey and the digitally printed rayon blend. But I’ve also made mistakes (or they have made mistakes). Here are some fabrics from Fabricville online and stuff I’ve made:

I ordered fabric that was supposed to be a double knit, but it turned out to be heavy scuba *gag.* I also have a weakness for their end-of-season buy-one-get-two-free sales. I end up with three metres of something with an idea of what to do with only one-and-a-half metres usually. *sigh* It does, however, give me enough fabric left over to do something with rather than those little scraps that would only make patches―or a single sleeve―and who wants patches? Or a single sleeve, for that matter?

As I continue my winter sewing projects, I finally decided what to do with that beautiful piece of red fabric I bought at Chu Shing (mentioned above).

I used McCall’s 7247 again. The last time I used it, I chose an inappropriate fabric―read I didn’t follow the cross-grain stretch recommendation. The top looked terrific but was uncomfortable―the neckline had no “give” to it. That was when I first started sewing with knits. So, I’ve learned that not only does fabric sewing have to focus on aesthetics, but also the functionality and appropriateness for the project in mind.

With all the research I’ve done over the years, I think I have an idea for a novel set in a fabric shop. Sound interesting?

Posted in sewing

Continual Improvement―Sewing Goals for 2022 (and free classes to get there!)

I don’t know about you, but continually learning is one of my life goals. Way back in another lifetime, I worked in a job that had in its title “continuing education.” That kind of lifelong learning is still a part of my psyche. I don’t think it matters how old you are (and we’re all getting older as we speak)―you can (and, in my view, should) continue to learn new things.

There are lots of reasons why we should learn new things. There are new things to learn even within a specific area like sewing or styling fashion. And it doesn’t matter how good we get at some aspects of sewing and style. There is always something new to learn. But, you might ask, why should you learn something new?

Quite apart from the obvious one that your skills will improve, there are lots of other more general reasons. Here are a few I think are important.

Learning one new thing increases the speed and ease of learning other new things. I think this is brilliant. If I learn something new today, it could take me less time and make it easier to learn another new thing. Evidently, this results from the stimulation of neurons in your brain. Who knew?

Learning something new makes you a more interesting person. Think about those friends you get together with regularly (or did pre-COVID). Have you noticed that the conversations can become similar from one encounter to another? Learning something new gives you something new to talk about. Just imagine learning something new about sewing and being able to share that excitement with others who sew! And what about all those friends who don’t sew (horrors, I know―but they do exist!). What if you could wear something new that you created after learning a new technique? How to re-create a Chanel-style jacket, perhaps? Now, there’s something to make you sound (and look) interesting!

I sought out online mentors before learning how to make this, my first Little French Jacket

Learning something new prevents the dreaded boredom. Every time I see that someone has lost their “mojo” to use the jargon, it makes me sad because I think that learning a new way of doing even the same things you always do can make you less bored. But what about if you learned something completely new? No more boredom. (And if you’re nearing retirement, learning something new is the best way to stave off boredom.)

Over the past two years, I’ve learned shirt-making by seeking out online teachers and great books.

Continual learning can help to avert the dreaded dementia. This is a heavy one, but the science is there to back it up. When you learn new things, you prevent what is called demyelination of the nerve fibres in your brain. Your brain cells have a myelin sheath that can deteriorate with age. This deterioration is what contributes to the development of dementia. Learning can slow that process. What more could you want??

Learning something new can give you a great sense of accomplishment. I remember when I learned to tailor a jacket using traditional methods. I searched for online assistance and found several teachers who helped me through―and what a sense of accomplishment when I was finished!

Learning new things makes you happy! This is the best one.

So, where is all this coming from today? Well, today is the day that registration begins for a series of classes called Sewing Summit 2022.

I had the privilege of being asked to participate as a teacher for this online sewing summit. Since I’m primarily a storyteller, I produced a class that drew on my research for my recent books. The class is all about Sewing with Vintage Patterns from the 1960s to the ‘90s.

But my class is only one of the classes that anyone who registers has access to starting January 31 (but get registered asap!).

The 2022 Sewing Summit is a free online event with 42 classes.

You’ll learn how to sew bags, toys, garments, games, decor and more. There are specific references to pattern adjustments and how to sew with a wide variety of fabrics.

Join me and thousands of sewists like us worldwide for the FREE online summit from Jan 31st to Feb 4th! I’ll be taking a few classes myself.

What – Sewing Summit 2022

When – Jan 31st to Feb 4th

Where – Online, watch from anywhere in the world

Who is it for – Everyone who loves to craft!

Cost – Free!

Here’s the link to register: https://rebeccapage.lpages.co/2022-sewing-summit-free-registration/

FYI I don’t make money from this. It’s a labour of love!

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.”

Henry Ford