Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Fabric Co-op

I first found out about Fabrics and Notions from the discussion board at Threads Magazine.
Basically, a few ladies work together out of the basement of one of their homes to organize photographing, posting, selling and shipping fabrics and notions. They are located near a mill that produces very high quality fabrics, many from designers like Liz Claiborne. Dawn has posted about the quality of the goods, too, and yes... It's all my fault, I dragged her into their hands, too!!! Click here to see her post.

I've found the same fabrics on other websites for a lot more money, which makes me feel great about the quaility and the savings I'm getting, but there are a few drawbacks.

1. They only ship once every other month, so you can't be in a hurry. They are seasonal (at the end of summer wools and coatings were posted), so even though my order was placed a month ago, it will still arrive in time for me to make and use the garments.

2. You don't always get what you order. Sometimes they have a limited amount available and sometimes enough has to be ordered to fill a bolt. In the case of needing to meet minimum, they have posted the status and asked ladies to change they're color or add to their order to get the fabric for the group. I've missed out on a few fabrics, but also ended up getting one by other ladies filling the bolt (Yay!).

3. There are times of chaos and disorganization, but keep in mind that these ladies are passing the discount on to us, and get no pay for their work. So, you must be patient, this doesn't operate like a fabric store. There is give and take when quality fabrics are sold at reasonable prices!

My experience overall has been a very good one. There's this dress, and this dress, and this skirt. The quality is good, the photos pretty accurate color, and customer service is good also.

A huge array of fabrics are posted each month of many types (velvets, denims, cottons, silks, coatings, flannels, childrens) so beware, you'll love a lot and spend a lot! I didn't realize how quickly my "few yards here, few yards there" added up! Right now, I'm on a fabric diet, and have refused to open the picture files to see the new fabrics ("out of sight, out of mind") or buy anymore for the time being. (Did you see the picture at the top???) I do check in to read what's offered, just in case something special comes through. They also do notions buys from time to time (needles, zippers, elastic) but I haven't done anything with that (Search FabricsandNotions2 at Yahoogroups).

The Joining and Buying Process

1. Go to and register or sign in if you're already a member. Here's the link:

2. Post and request to join the group, and then post an introduction message to get "unmoderated" and receive all the messages.

**This is where you have to decide what messaging works best for you. I get a digest, which is messages in batches of 25. There are hundreds of members, and everytime they post, a new email is made, so you're mailbox can fill up in minutes. Or, you can just check into the Yahoo Groups page and read the messages there on your own time.

3. Ressy is in charge, and known as the Evil Fabric Queen (why? because when she waves her magic wand, watch out! You'll fall under her spell and feel the need to buy lots and lots of fabric!). When she posts "New Fabrics" there will be a link to a photo album where you can see pictures and descriptions of the fabrics and their prices. These aren't usually bargain basement prices, so this isn't really a money saver in that respect. But you will see great fabrics at lower prices than other online fabric stores. Occasionally, she'll get a great deal on something (muslin was a recent one), and it will be a super awesome price, but you have to act fast. Again, there are hundreds of members across the country.

4. When you see something you want, you open the database for that fabric at the main Yahoo Group page, and add your record of which fabric and how much you want. Time is limited, though, usually a few days or a week, then it's done and closed.

5. When that sale closes, Ressy will remind everyone to check their records.

6. Payment can be done by snail mail or Paypal. Include a little extra for shipping.

7. When it's time for a shipping, another message will be sent for you to verify your order and payments. This is where you may find out that you didn't get a fabric you ordered. In that case, you'll have a credit on file, and can apply it to another future purchase. If you're paid up, then your fabric will arrive a few days later, with each one labeled by name and yardage.

If you get stumped, you can either email me or post to the Yahoo group, and you'll get fast help! Becky and Liz are Ressy's helpers, and they are great!
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a large pile of fabric to make into jackets, shirts, dresses, pants...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Homecoming Dress

This department store dress was brought to me to recreate in purple. The client liked the design style and fit, but not the color. I've never copied RTW before, but felt confident that by using a combination of patterns and my own skills, I could complete the project in the 3 weeks provided.

McCalls 5623 was used for the bodice, which was nice because it offers fitting options for different cup sizes. The RTW dress was a size 4 and the cup was too big, so I was very glad to be able to accomodate her in that area! The RTW dress also had a bias cut underskirt, so I used McCalls 5100 for that part, with modifications. I needed a flat upper skirt edge, and extended it the required amount to obtain the necessary length from waist to bust. I also used the muslin to determine the correct size to cut. As for the chiffon overskirt, with only gathering in the CF and CB, I used 1.5 yards of 60" wide chiffon, and drafted that part myself.

The bodice was constructed first, basting the lace pieces to the underlying satin, then stitching the bodice together. An additional bodice of just satin was made for the lining. Because the top edge would be wrapped in satin (I thought the RTW top edge was piping, but it wasn't), I basted the two bodices wrong sides together.

The bias skirt was then constructed of satin, but CB seam left open for the invisible zipper. I stabilized the CB skirt edges with 1" wide fusible interfacing to prevent stretching with zipper placement. The chiffon overskirt was measured and CF and sides marked, pinned, and gathered at CF and CB. The bodice and skirt layers were then attached to complete the dress body.
The bow and sash were made of bias cut strips (3.25" wide), folding in half, stitched at 5/8", turned right side out and pressed to produce a 1" finished width. The band was hand sewn over the bodice/skirt seam. The bow was hand sewn into place and tacked down to stay open. I then installed the invisible zipper and closed the CB skirt seams separately, so the chiffon was still flow fully.
I used a narrow hem to complete the CB chiffon seam. The top bodice edge seam was then finished with a strip of bias cut satin, but here is where I would've changed a couple of things. I should've made the trim more narrow to better match the RTW dress, and attached the straps at this point. Not a big deal, though...

To add the sparkles, I used the BeJeweler Stone Styler and heat fix Swarovski Crystals from Sue's Sparklers. I placed the crystals randomly, but evenly spaced apart all over the lace bodice. Super easy, and adds a professional flair, the task was tedious, but completely worth it.
A hem, hook & eye to finish the job.

All fabrics were purchased at JoAnn's.

My client is very, very happy, as am I. This project was scary at first, as it was my first attempt at copying RTW, it had been a long time since I worked with these fabrics, and this dress was for the daughter of a coworker. Not only did it turn out great, it's bringing in more business, so it's a win-win for me.

*Yes, I know there's no view of the back... yet. This dress was too tiny to zip completely on my dress form, so when I get pics of The Girl in The Dress, I will update this post!

Coming Soon: Halloween Costumes and a Silk Jersey BWOF dress for a November family wedding!

Monday, October 6, 2008

No, I haven't fallen of the face of the Earth!

Here's a little peek of my progress with the Macy's Homecoming dress...
If you missed the earlier post, I've been contracted to copy a dress for the 9th grade daughter of a colleague. The original was exactly what they wanted in style, fit, and design, but was not the most pleasing shade of green. So, I'm recreating it in dusty purple. This is my first attempt at copying RTW, and it's been 15 years since I did formal wear. I'm using 2 different McCalls patterns, one for the bodice, and the other for the underskirt (bias cut), and self-drafted the chiffon over skirt.
Still to do: install the invisible zipper, finish upper bodice edge (bias cut satin of underskirt), heat fix Swarovski crystals to the lace bodice, make and attach spaghetti straps, and hem.
I'm just buried alive under the papers to grade (did I mention 35 students x 5 classes each day), the almost finished dress, and the Fire Department Embroidery order (13 knit caps and 5 sweatshirts). Oh yeah, don't forget the doggie sweatshirt Halloween costume and the witch Halloween costume (thank God I have 3 more weeks). I have Parent Teacher conferences tomorrow after school, the Homecoming dress must be done for the dance this Saturday...

Ever wish you had the super hero ability to stop time, but keep moving forward yourself????

Anyhow, I miss you all (school computers have now blocked all blog sites, so no peeking at work anymore), and will post lots of pics in the coming days of both the green original dress and my finished product, inside and out! Keep your fingers crossed for me, I need all the prayers I can get!