Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Thank you from Sew Chic

I have a lot to be thankful for. 
"Ariel" Designed for Competition about 2001
I began college in 1993 working toward a BS in apparel design, finally finishing in 2003. I gave myself a few years to hone my design skills by going back to custom design, mostly bridal and evening wear, and by 2008 I felt ready to tip toe out into the world with a few designs. About this same time, I saw Colette patterns showing up on Flickr. Sarai (who also lives in the Oregon Willamette Valley) was also doing vintage inspired at the time.

"Chantilly" was inspired by my mother's wedding dress, about 2005

Though I'm stepping a little more boldly now, Colette is definitely running at jet speed. What could I have taken from those business classes that could have made any difference? If I missed something, I'm sure it wouldn't have helped. Business is not my talent, and never will be. I can only be me, and I'm a designer and love pattern making all the way!

"Dalliah" is a mix of three different patterns: Fifth Ave. bodice and drape with Fantasia Skirt, about 2004

Sales numbers are definitely one way to gauge popularity, and the the proceeds of your purchases (where ever that may be) do keep the machine running. But one perk of my job not associated with cash is getting to know you though your communications and kind comments. Today I received the most wonderful and kind compliment when Francesca decided to comment on my Threads article blog post sharing her very sensible strategy when adding to her sewing magazine stash.

"Chinoiserie" was designed for my mother. It's her favorite and she is still wearing it! Yes, it definitely needs to be replaced. About 2003.

She says "I buy Threads sometimes - I don't say always because I have such a stash of Burdas, Neue Modes, La mia Boutique etc that I have to really discriminate - so I don't buy any pattern mags any more unless there's at least one amazing or two useful patterns - doesn't happen much any more, I tend to prefer indies like you :). Threads I buy if there's at least one useful article - and to be honest when I saw there was an article by you I didn't even flick through - just bought it - because your instructions and patterns are so brilliant :). Loved this article."

"Essence" was inspired by a Threads magazine article. 3 Designers were chosen, then told to make something modern using 1914 era as inspiration. Hey Threads, how about another article like that?

 Francesca, you have no idea how you warmed my heart with your kind comments today. You didn't have to say it. In fact, you didn't have to say anything at all. But if the internet is good for anything, shouldn't it be used it to spread good things throughout our world community? Thanks to you Francesca, and all of you who have helped me get down the road to where I am today. I had no idea where those first timid steps would take me, but as one woman put it (the first year vending at the Sew and Stitchery Expo) as she walks away with a smile, "We'll let you know if we don't like you!"  As always, your comments are welcome!

Have a great sewing day!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Tutorial: Easy Ginseng Sash Variation

Sew Chic Pattern Co. Ginseng LN1516
Laura Nash wears Ginseng #LN1516

I like variations. I don' t know about you, but I'm not the type to buy 10 of the same T-shirt, or wear my clothes and matching accessories exactly the same way every time. Maybe that's because I can't remember how or with what I wore it! Even if I like the combination a whole lot, I still can't seem to remember. This can be a problem if I want to dress in a hurry....but on the bright side, I guess this means new ideas are always ready to spill out. So here is another spillage born out of my love for variation!

Those ties do elongate and make us look taller, but why not change it up and turn those long ties into a bow?

Here's how:


 Starting with the wider bottom sash, folding in thirds, fold under to meet the waist.

 Now fold the top sash in the same way.

Pinch together turning each section to opposite sides. The smaller sash moves up and outward and the larger tie turns down and toward dress center, giving it a diagonal angle. Adjust so your fingers straddle three sides with the gathering in the center.

Find your prettiest piece of jewelry with a pinning mechanism on the back and pin it all into place.

My pin does not hold all of the gathers, only bits here and there, enough to keep in tacked down and in place on the surface.

Sew Chic Pattern Co. Ginseng LN1516
Sew Chic Ginseng #LN1516
Here I look as short as I really am (no illusions to help me!), but that's okay because I like the bow and a reason to wear sparkly jewelry is never a bad thing. I can do the elongation another day! What variations can you think of for those sashes? Share with me!

Buy the pattern here: ♥

Have a great sewing day!


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Sewing with Silk for Eveningwear

For the last two weeks I've been working on a gown for my sister. Her daughter is getting married next week, and if you have the experience my family has when shopping ready-to-wear, you just know before you ever get started that there is nothing worth buying. After shopping for months, ordering a dress, then returning it, my sister asked me to make "Grace" from my Gowns by Laura collection. I first made this dress for my Fall Fashion Week debut in 2006.
Grace comes from my Gowns by Laura Collection

If you care to read more, here is an article in my local newspaper about that presentation. The model in the article is also wearing Grace:

The fabric my sister sent me is a very pretty iridescent or two toned silk that feels like taffeta. It's VERY thin, which at first scared her away, but this fabric is very nice for a design such as this. I always put boning and an inner lining in evening wear, but this fabric shows every ridge, and with such limited time I decided to scratch the boning this time. Working with Silk does require a bit of extra care.
 Muslin to Silk
To add an inner lining, cut your pattern from a basic white muslin/cotton and pin to the wrong side of each piece.
Darts and Muslin with Silk
With darts, mark only the muslin, not the silk. Pin down the center of the dart, and then baste.

Basting Silk and Muslin
Sew inside the seam allowance, each angle sewn independently.
Then check it against your pattern once more. Trim away any excess.
Silk and Muslin- darts sewn down center
This is the back bodice. The darts are ready to sew.
Pressing the darts to the center would be typical, but this creates an ugly ridge from under neath.
Instead, trim the darts to 1/2-3/8" from the stitching line, clip up into the dart tip a short way, and press open.
Looks much better, don't you agree?

Next week I will be gone to the wedding, but will post the final result on my facebook page before I go. 

Have a great sewing day!


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Sew Your Own Clothes- The True Savings

Do you sew your own clothing?

If you are reading this post, then presumably your answer is "OF COURSE!" Give yourself a pat on the back. Even if your sewing skills aren't perfect, even if you don't have much time, even if fitting struggles make you crazy, even if your sewing machine explodes. Throw away all those excuses and keep doing it because the benefits of sewing are so awesome! Some of the things I thought of:
  • custom fit to your body
  • pick your own fabric
  • pick your own colors
  • more style and design choices- so many patterns!
  • customization in every way
  • joy of learning a new skill
  • joy of creation 
  • joy of sharing it with others
My own list would also include "cost savings", though most people I talk with tend to disagree.Usually this conclusion comes from a comparison of what the same project might cost at their favorite ready-to-wear store, shop, or boutique. Which brings me to another thought.

Isn't it interesting that in America, even in the last 5 years, the price of food has gone up an amazing amount, yet a Kmart T-shirt (a store positioned to sell at the lowest price point possible) is still below $10? Adding in our sewing time, it's true that making our own T-shirt may not be so economical. I am guilty of thinking in this way too........that is, until I think about the person in some far away factory working longer hours than a person should have to - as quickly as their fingers will let them - to make that Kmart T-shirt.

Will you do something for me this week? 

During college the curriculum emphasis was on Ready-to-Wear (RTW), and of course had to include information on where the cheapest labor could be purchased (think of the smallest 3rd world countries) and solving the "sweat shop" problem. It was a discussion that seemed to have no solution- at least not for big companies with consumers hungry for cheap products. 

The True Cost is a well done documentary that tells the story about clothes, the people who make them, and the impact the RTW industry is having on our world. It will open your eyes to how the industry is run. This movie is available on Netflix (instant watch and DVD), Amazon, iTunes, and VHX.  It can also be purchased.

( Trailer on YouTube)

I saw this movie last week and remembered again those discussions in college. It made me feel glad that I can sew my own clothes and that I don't have to buy Kmart T-shirts. Watch the movie, add THIS to your benefits list and pat yourself on the back (again!). What do you think are the most important points of this documentary?

Have a great sewing day!


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Sewing Pattern Variations: Pendleton Dress

One of the many things I love about sewing is the customization. We all get more value from from our patterns when we can change it up and make them more than once. What girl can’t use a few extra outfits?!

However, the pattern cover can be deceiving. With limited time and space - and to keep it to the point (but cute and appealing) - we must choose only a few "looks" to show it off. 

Ideas don't spring from nowhere, so a few more photos really helps. You may have seen these before ;-)
VIEW A in Houndstooth and Velveteen
VIEW A in Chambray and Pique
VIEW B in a cotton floral print
Pendleton View B Variation

Today I'm sharing a Pendleton variation that is casual and fun, something more than the straight up version on the package. None of these options require altering the pattern or any special skills, but hopefully it will get you thinking about your own variations.

The changes I made:
  •  3 buttons following the front instead of a bow
  •  rick rack versus piping
  • omit the elastic from the bell sleeve (add a facing)
  • back zipper instead of side zipper

My fabric is a comfortable (pre-washed) cotton that is a bit thicker than the other versions shown above. This is great for the bell sleeve because it helps hold the pretty shape and gives a little more structure to the dress too. 

My adventure got started with the gray fabric in my stash of course, but the fun didn't get started until I found these adorable buttons a the store. They deserve to be a focal point.

 The rick rack came next. There are three widths of rick-rack, and this one is the Jumbo size. Centering the rick rack down the seam allowance is made easier by basting the seam on the dress first. The thread leaves a trail to follow so to speak. Lift the rick rack at intervals to center it along the basting while basting to the dress. This photo shows the finished front.

 Making View B without the collar, there is the option of changing the zipper from the side seam to the center back. Simply mark the zipper length on your dress and sew a centered zipper instead of a lapped zipper.

Leave out the elastic on the View B sleeve and it takes on the lovely bell shape. To add the rick rack to the sleeve edge, I needed to make a facing of course, and then top stitched everything in place with the top stitching thread to add the same dash of color. Use top stitching thread for the upper spool only. I use standard thread for the bobbin. You may need to play with the tension a little bit too.
From cute to colorized in 4 easy steps. What do you think?  Shop for this pattern here:

Have a great sewing day!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

ASG Conference 2015 San Diego review

ASG Conference - What a Weekend!

I wore this outfit in the Saturday Fashion Show

My booth!
I recently returned from the American Sewing Guild Conference in sun-drenched San Diego. It was a busy few days, filled with workshops, lectures and fashion. Some of my favorite things had nothing to do with vintage, and that's partly why I go to this type of event -- to mix and mingle with craftspeople who have found their own niche. It's great to share our experiences and learn from each other!

Southern Belle, Simplicity #1061 poster and Tia on display.
Andrea hand painted the flowers on her jumpsuit
I met so many great people!

At the fashion show, Andrea Schewe pulled me aside and said "Is your name Lauren?" (An easy mistake, right?) She was looking for someone her sister asked her to meet. So it turns out I wasn't the right "Lauren" but we discovered our common thread as Simplicity designers, and she is such an easy lady to like! 

Here I am with Andrea, costume pattern designer extraordinaire at Simplicity. I learned she has been working for them for 30 years!  Recall those Titanic dresses that we all fell in love with? Yup, she's the one.  I still have my pattern too! Follow Andrea's blog here:

You need to know about Bobbi Bullard. She is an embroidery designer and now she has a new way to teach kids (or anyone) to sew. She has started the Kids Sewing Studio, offering sewing classes for every age and ability, but what caught my eye was this idea of making a complete sewing class in a box! She has projects for the absolute beginner and for those with basic skills and they are so reasonably priced at $30. This is a great way to get started!

Bobbi Bullard and her friendly helpers.

No more excuses!

My next-door booth neighbors are talented bead jewelry designers from the San Diego Bead Society. It was so fun to exchange ideas and get to know them.They became one of our best customers, and hear this -- they don't even sew! I told them about the Simplicity 1061 sew along and they promised to join in.

Check out these amazing necklaces made by some of the members:

This award-winning bead necklace takes "statement" to a new level!

This necklace was made from vintage buttons

Meeting Diana Cavagnaro ( was amazing. She creates one-of-a-kind custom chic hats -- worn at the Kentucky Derby and by many celebrities. She also teaches millinery (hat making), has written many articles about her craft, and volunteered for years with the American Cancer Society. In fact, she was responsible for creating and donating more than 2,000 hats to cancer patients. I loved seeing her gorgeous creations and learning a little about the life of a hat-designer to the stars, and so much more! 

A few of Diana's millinery videos.
Diana and her talented staff!

I also met another designer I now admire. Julianne Bramson was one of the founders of the vintage reproduction line "Decades of Fashion." To start that line of patterns she said she bought about $10,000 in vintage patterns! She is now co-owner of Fashion in Harmony following her love for the 1930's bias cut in a modern way. This accomplished lady specializes in everything bias cut! In fact, she co-authored a book Bias Cut Blueprints that takes you from picking the right fabric, teaching a fun-to-sew method of bias cut clothing and customizing your piece, and, maybe most important, getting a great fit.
Julianne Bramson, from Fashion in Harmony
We spent a lot of time chatting and ended up trading patterns. It's so fun to meet someone who really loves what she does and is sharing her expertise with the rest of us. If you love the look of bias cut,  I recommend you check out her website and her book!

 It was a very very busy few weeks leading up to this event and the three days I was in San Diego flew by, but I had a great time and met some fabulous people. Thanks to all of you for being some of the highlights my weekend!

Until we meet again have a great sewing, designing or beading day!


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Tutorial: How to Sew a Side Seam Pocket

With the exception of the Simplicity 1061 sew along (which I am neck deep in the middle of), it's been a while since I've posted a tutorial so I figured it was time to address our baggage needs. We all carry a cell phone these days and where to put it is always the question. My bra, at least, was not made to take care of this need, so why not put pockets in everything? No more undressing to answer a phone call! I like that.

As part of the sew along, I've made a pocket pattern to go into our skirt.

1. Down load the pattern by clicking on link below. Cut 2 from contrasting or fashion fabric. Though not as strong, you may choose to use lining fabric too. Being limited by page size, this pattern and opening are small, but big enough to house your phone. If you'd like to enlarge your pattern, lengthen the pattern about 1 inch below the notch.

2. With right sides together, pin the pocket to skirt front and back at the right side seam. Remember that the left side seam has the zipper, so only one pocket on this project.

3. Sew to side seam using a 3/8" seam allowance

4. Press pocket and seam to outside.

5. With front and back side seams and pocket edge matching, sew as directed on the photo. 

6. Press pocket to skirt front. Baste at upper edge. Complete your skirt as directed in the guide.