Fashion Fabrics… now they are in, ooops- now they are out!

So I love finding all kinds of new fabric, stuff I had never tried before, and just want to make something… anything with it!  I am lucky enough to have a well loved hospice resale store close by, this is where I find most of my “vintage” or one-of-a-kind finds, but I admit I do most of my fabric shopping on line.  Granted each and every computer screen has a little different color set up or resolution, so it is very hard to fully trust what you are looking to purchase is good quality.   But through a couple friends, I learned that most of these online stores are more than happy to send  you samples (usually bolt ends or seconds) for a big $ discount, samples that you can actually experiment with.

But I am going to let you in on a little secret, your best asset is your network.  Most small seamstress businesses are more than happy to share their thoughts on a particular fabric, or even better yet a great source!  I love it when someone gives me a “lead”, even though 90% of the time it is a dud.

This brings me to my point.  When we found out we were pregnant, there were many decisions to make.  Luckily we were both in agreement that she would be cloth diapered.  Not only is it truly cheaper, and incredibly easier than disposables but it also is good for our daughters health and the environment!  So I went looking for supplies, at that time none of the big box stores carried any of the items I needed.  I came across a couple COOP and bulk buy Mom’s blogs, but ended up getting my FOE (fold over elastic) and industrial sew on velcro off of Amazon.com.  The PUL (Polyurethane Laminate fabric), which is waterproof and incredibly durable was a little harder to find… but I lucked out. I used a little secret: go to the clearance section.    PUL, which normally goes for 8-15$ a yard online, can be found for $2.50-4 if you can handle a non-popular color… I ended up with a light silver and a peach.  If you want to have a fashion PUL, you can use it on one side and the cheaper on the inside.  Easy peasy.

Recently I was tipped off that Joann’s fabrics had started a whole “cloth diaper” section, complete with patterns and matching FOE!  So cute.  Until I saw the price.  WHOOOOO  they are banking in on the home movement to cloth diaper!   For $15 a yard you can get PUL with dinosaurs printed on it, matching FOE for an additional $7 for 3 feet,  Velcro for an additional $3.5 for 2 feet, and if you want to use snaps instead you can get the set up for $12 + $5 for refills.   One diaper cover comes out to approximately $25…. for a do it your self!  OMG’s   THIS DOES NOT EVEN INCLUDE THE ABSORBENT INSERTS. This is just for the cover!

Would you like to know some good, reliable, suppliers for diaper cover materials?  Fabric.com (they have a whole section just type in “cloth diaper”), amazon.com, hartsfabric.com.

Secondly, fabric comes and goes out of fashion, we all know this.  Look at corduroy, was in in the 70’s back in the 90’s and now making a resurgence.  All the classics make the cycle.  This last year, when I was looking to make some fun Bellydance outfits, I went looking EVERYWHERE for stretch ruffle knit!  Do you know that in September 2010 there were only 3 American suppliers of the stuff (that was not back shelf clearance)?  One was rufflefabric.com, fabric.com, and of course MOOD in New York (but they have flippen everything!).    Even then, the color selection was increadibly minimal.

Recently ruffle fabric walked the catwalk at New York Fashion week, bringing back the fun that had been around years ago.  Now you can find ruffle stretch knit fabric everywhere… even saw a dress design at K-mart.   Super cute!

The problem?  Ruffle fabric is not cheap.

I walked into Joann’s today and guess what I found?  Ruffle knit fabric, the project runway name brand.  They have a few colors, mainly for Halloween.  I picked it up and tested the material, MY FINGER WHEN THROUGH IT!!!  The best part, they are charging the same price for this crappy material as the higher end suppliers!  Another attempt at banking in on the latest fad.  I have already warned many prospective clients against fabric.com and hartsfabric.com as a good supply for ruffle fabric.  I have purchased lengths from them and have not been happy with the quality.  Now I am adding in Joann’s and Hobby Lobby.  If you really would like to play with this material, stop off at rufflefabric.com.  Not only do they have great customer service, but they have high quality material.

I am looking forward to some of the more natural fabrics to come back into vogue, even though I do already have some good suppliers for hemp-silk, bamboo, and wool fabrics.  I just look forward to when these are sought after again by the average consumer.    BTW these good suppliers are hemptraders.com, dharmatradingco.com, and ecofabrics.com.

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Last thing to note and this is pure semantics.  When an abbreviation is used, it is not pronounced out as a word.  ie:  USA is not “uh-sah”, PUL is not “pull”,  FOE is not “foe”, SCA is not “skah”, and NAOH is not “no-ahh”.    So when you go to the store and ask for PUL, FOE, or silk for your SCA outfit please keep this in mind….

Professional Pet Peeves… and a few personal ones too!

I have been quiet as of late on my Etsy and Facebook sites… My sewing mojo had been stymied.

Some may find this rant a little offensive, so please be warned.

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So, as I have been surfing around the wonderful world of Etsy.com and Artfire.com looking at all the wonderful handmade items.  I have come across another professional pet peeve… selling a PDF list of suppliers as a “tutorial pattern”!  The worst part is people have actually been buying it!  HELLO!  seriously? You will pay $5-8 for a list of suppliers that you can google in 10 minutes or less? Though I applaude the Etsy sellers for banking in on something so simple, they are making a 100% profit, good business sense.  but SERIOUSLY?

I can tell you, if you are truly interested in where I get my supplies.  Just ask, I’ll tell you… heck I’ll probably even throw in some coupon codes if I happen to have them at the time.   Heck, I’ll even happily share where I get my non-homemade patterns!

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This brings me to my all time personal pet peeve… the consumer.  Yes, this is a broad statement, but true nonetheless.  I could go on about personal experiences since becoming a small business owner, but I think I will go with one huge example.  A very recent, front page of every major news source example:  Target.

Each year this major retailer has decided to pair with a high end fashion designer to offer low budget apparel and housewares.  Am I the only one who finds this incredibly demeaning and insulting?  Not to mention the fact that the items they offer are considered “low cost” but are still out of the price range of the average american families budget????  So now they are insulting our tastes by offering knock-offs, and demeaning our ability to appreciate quality and uniqueness, but then they have to rub it in that our hard-earned-barely-above-minimum-wage-college-educated-salaries can still not foot the bill?

YET CONSUMERS HAVE FLOCKED TO THE STORE, WAITED IN LINE AROUND THE CORNER, AND SOLD OUT! YES SOLD OUT THESE OVER PRICED KNOCK-OFFS.    I Googled how much a pair of womens tights are… $16 for one pair.  ONE PAIR of poly-nylon tights!   What is even worse… these items are so craved by the american public that people are selling these items on Ebay for up to 10x the retail price.  If you are going to pay that kind of money, you can afford the “high fashion” designs!

What is fueling this stupidity?  the consumeristic nature that has become 2011.  We want what we see those with fame/power have.  You know, no one needed a “bump-it” until Snooki was televised…  Gone are the days that each person made their own personal twist on something in fashion, now it’s in style one week and off to the thrift store the next.

I guess I can just enjoy seeing everyone walking around in their zig-zag stripes, it will make me feel like I’m at the circus!

I know things come and go in waves,  becoming a small time retailer in the last year has shown me this.  What the most popular brands/sellers have, every one else is soon to follow. It is truly hard to keep up with the ebb and flow, especially if you have not found your own niche.  What makes it even harder is when you are constantly receiving questions like:  why should you expect someone to pay $X amount for this item when they can get a similar item at Walmart for less?

So yes, my biggest pet peeve is the consumer.  Gone are the days that items are appreciated for the materials, time put into them, construction, and how long they will last.  All that is wanted is mass produced, made in China/India/Vietnam crap, for “cheap”.  The only problem is, what is considered ‘cheap’ is actually more expensive in the long run… just look at the unemployment rate, food stamps, medicaid, and other government funded public sources that are covering the consumers drive for the ‘cheapest’ price… This drive for the “cheapest” or the best “deal” is what originally drove suppliers, industry, and jobs overseas!

I hope that $3 T-shirt from Walmart, that fell apart in the wash after 5 cycles, was worth the trillions in debt.

I know how much my private sales mean to my family, they have helped fill in the gaps what both our full-time jobs no longer are able to cover.  So when ever possible I attempt to play it forward, so to speak, and make ever purchase count.

So no thank you Target, Walmart, or Kmart… I’ll stick with my Etsy designed over pullover hoodie that I purchased using my first sale profits from my Etsy store.  Or my awesome feathered headband from another Etsy/Facebook seller who can put food on her table… Or my unique butterfly ear pieces that came all the way from a Canadian Etsy…. or my daughters brand new squeeky shoes from a locally owned boutique that happily sells local designers work… better yet I’ll proudly sport my Oscar De La Renta shirt I happened across at a local Hospice thrift shop… atleast I know the money I dropped there went to help a family through the last days with a beloved family member.

We can’t always afford to buy local, or even american made (american made electronics? hah!), or boutique.  But we can decide where our hard earned dollar can do the most good.   We can also decide where our influences lie.

A note on finishing…

I love sewing. I have sewn for a long time, and I know lots of people who sew and take pride in their work.  I always love looking at the way things are completed and I am usually the one to fawn all over the finishing details.  I know I love it when that happens to me, so of course I love to share the “kudos” with others.  Today, I was sitting at my sewing machine during an impromptu rondezvous with some industrial seams,  and all I could think was “damn girl, do you think it might be over the top?”.  Of course I just had to laugh.    The finishing seamstress in me was already thinking on how to hand finish the seams down farther, so they looked flush with the quilted fabric.  Basically becoming invisible.  This is where the practical seamstress reared her pretty head.  The item in question is not Couture,  and using such techniques will devalue those items that are.  But man, did it take a lot to walk away.

I think the way an item is constructed tells alot about the designer.  The most talented artist can turn a dog food bag into a gorgeous skirt, a packing box into a corset, or polyester drapes into an evening gown.    The materials do not make the design, they only serve to enhance the product.    I think it is important to look farther than the surface and truly start to appreciate the work that is put into what is made.

I have a friend who makes the most gorgeous clothing, modern pieces and period correct recreations.  She matches fabric patterns along seams, fooling the eye into believing that the material is one continuous length.  All of her internal seams are folded back in on themselves with the raw edges completely encased and flush with the body of the fabric.  All gussets are hand turned so the points are seamless.  I could just go on and on about finished buttons, zippers, hand dyed fabric facing…. ah the beauty of it all.  Each piece is a true art form, a joy to look at on the hanger as well as the body. It’s almost a shame to store them in a closed closet away from view!

So of course I think of her often, and she inspires me on a regular basis!

Now I’d like to share a bit of seamstress knowledge with you.  It is important on all industrial sewn products, be it couch cushions or curtains, that all seams are reinforced.  Some people may think that this entails using heavy duty thread and possibly surging the seams.  This just causes the fabric to rip where the thread is holding the seam together.  You will still have a solid seam but there will be a hole right next to it.  You want to give the individual fibers in the fabric a little extra support against the pull.

You can do this one of two ways, there is the jean method of folding each piece of fabric over each other creating a box and sewing along each side.  Just look at your jeans to see an example.  Quite effective.  Another method, used for more delicate fabrics that fray easily is the french seam.  But not the one you recognize from soft chiffon shirts or skirts, this way is super supportive.

1.  place the wrong sides of your fabric together and surge them

2.  press the surged seam.

Left: surged seam. Right: encased surged seam.

3.  fold the fabric over so right sides are touching and the pressed surged seam is inside the fold.  Press with an iron, to hold the seam in place.

4.  With a regular straight stitch, sew a line 1 mm to the side of the surged edge.

5.  Press the encased seam. Checking to make sure that you did not accidenatally catch any of the surger thread in the seam.

This method traps all the loose threads creating a 4-5 thread internal barrier from being pulled out.  The folding over of the internal seam creates a mechanical retention for the fabric threads.  The second seam secures the mechanical retention while strengthening the original seam.  The chances of this pulling out or tearing the fabric is slim.  It’s perfect for any thin fabric that will suffer lots of abuse, pull, or twist.

Hope I shared some useful information!

Fuzzy Wuzzy Was a Bear

Who dosn’t just love a stuffed animal?  All that soft fur, cuddly squishiness, and adorable faces?  I am a sucker, every time.  If we had room my daughter would probably have a room full of stuffed animals.  Every time I see them at the store I just have to touch, cuddle, and squeeze as many as possible.   So I decided to combine the two cutest things… a baby in a stuffed animal outfit.   How flippen adorable is that?

Made from Minky faux fur in chocolate and trimmed in Minkey rosette with complimenting cream silk diaper cover,  this set is sized to fit 3-6 mo.  I left the sleeves a little long to allow for customization.  If they are too long, simply cut or roll them back.  This is completely machine washable and dryable.  Yes, it was placed in the Izzy B giveawy, and the winner never contacted me.  So instead of hoarding it, I decided to hold my own giveaway to those still interested!

Simply post a comment with what your little ones are going to be for Halloween, and your contact email!  I will pull a winner from Random.org on my Daughters 1st birthday (9/16/11).  There is no charge for shipping to a domestic winner.   International fans are welcome to enter (if you don’t participate in halloween, post another holiday) but I ask that if the winner is international they cover shipping/handling ($5.50, paid via paypal invoice).

Winner must be a fan of Ursula’s Handmade Treasures, or another winner will be selected.

Toodles,

Ursula

P.S. Stop by my Etsy store (www.etsy.com/shop/ursulaglassgoddess) to see many more adorable items, or brows the “sold” items to see custom made cuteness.