Couture Lunacy

Exploring Fashion One Thread At A Time

A List of Requirements for Your Atelier

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Patterns we all know about. Some are good, some are bad. Find a brand you like and stick with it. You can adjust and change any pattern to add the style elements you want. We will cover this in another post – but first find the pattern company or designer whose clothing you like and stay there.

You will need pattern tracing material – I get mine from for $2.15 a yard. I buy 20 yards at a time because they ship for free after $35 and also because I know I will use it. This material helps you copy your pattern so you don’t mess it up. I don’t cut the actual pattern anymore – I trace it off because I have to adjust it. See FBA post for the BIGGEST adjustment (literally and FIGURatively).

Then you need  either a Sharpie or a good pencil. Get both. The Sharpie is a great tool when you need to see a line and if you need to mark leather or vinyl. The pencil is good for tracing.

Tailor’s chalk, tracing paper and a wheel. Those pattern markings are not on the patterns for no reason. You must mark them. You can do a tailor’s tack which is just putting a stitch by hand through where the mark is or you can mark it with chalk. If’s it’s a big mark I use the wheel and paper.

A ruler and an Olfa cutter. I cut flat. I am left-handed and learned to cut with scissors with my right hand. We didn’t have left-handed scissors back in the Dark Ages. I cannot cut a straight line for crud. The edge always looks like I was drunk. So I cut with a cutter. Watch that puppy – I have sliced major parts of finger – once even a finger nail with this thing. Be good to it and watch where it’s going.

Pins. Lots of pins. Mine end up on the sewing room floor. I had a lot and now I need more. Too lazy to pick them up. I like the small headed Japanese pins because they don’t mark silk.

A tailor’s ham – which looks like a ham. This is for pressing anything that isn’t a straight seam. Drape your seam over the ham and press away. I also got a wooden rackie thing for it. This way it doesn’t go missing in the sewing room from Hell. A sleeve board is also nice and a clapper – although I have neither. I want them but am copping out for now. My money always goes to fabric.

A good iron. I love Rowenta and I have one with auto shut off and self-clean. The auto shut off is cool because I can forget I have it on and leave the room. For days.

Clear elastic to make sure shoulders keep their shape, iron on interfacing, sew in interfacing, knit interfacing, elastic, and thread. You will need miles of thread. I usually buy Gutterman but I’m not sure why. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it clumps. Since I finish every seam I use a lot of thread on a garment.

Sewing machine. Get the best you can. I have a Bernina 440QE. I love it. I would love to have a serger – I would go for Juki as they make Bernina sergers. ( Update – I got a serger for Mother’s Day! I chose the Juki 644D and I love it.) I sew almost everything with the Bernina. I use the overlock stitch which is an easy number punch on my screen and it works well. Your sewing machine should not fight you. If it does – lose it and get a good one. It will pay for itself in time not lost futzing with a stupid bad machine. I had an Elna once that kept jamming in the bobbin. I hated that machine. I finally put it in the attic and gave it eventually to Good Will. I don’t know how much good will I got for that but maybe somebody is more patient than I am.

Needles. Sewing machine needles. Every time you finish a garment take that needle out of your machine and throw it away. I have spent hours trying to figure out why my machine was skipping stitches and it was because the needle was bad. Needles are cheap – get a range of ball point, standard, microfiber, leather if you sew on it, and every other needle type there is that you can find.

English: modell QE Deutsch: Modell QE

English: modell QE Deutsch: Modell QE (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hand sewing supplies. Yes you will need to stitch by hand if you want your work to be beautiful. Get a good range of needles and a thimble. It took me ages to learn to work with a thimble but now I can’t stop. I am thimble addicted. I wear the thimble on my right hand middle finger and of course I learned to sew right-handed not left. Mom was right-handed. If you’re left-handed you wear it on your left middle finger. It keeps you from bleeding.

Bandaids. For when you do bleed. You will stick yourself at some point. Keep your fingers out from under the sewing machine needle. Trust me – you do not want to sew through your finger. I did it and it hurt.

Seam binding – for Hong Kong finished seams and hems. Hug Snug is nice and there’s one I can’t remember the name of at Sew True online that is elastic so it hugs the edge really well.

Fabric paints. Really. I sometimes use paint as an accent. Really weird but you will love it on a tee shirt. Just keep in mind that it can be inflexible. I use Lumiere by Jacquard. Dharma Trading Company has this and a gazillion other things for your creative soul – like plain white fabrics to dye. Lots of silk cotton and rayon and dyes and already made clothing to dye and paint ………. plus you can use the fabric paint to silkscreen if you have the patience.

Zippers. You may as well stock up if you’re going to make jackets or pants. Seven inch zippers are great for pants and 24″ or longer are great for jackets. Just make sure you have a stockpile because you will want to make something with a zipper and you will have to leave the sewing machine and go get them. Boring.

Hooks and eyes, snaps – CAN ANYONE TELL ME WHERE TO GET DESIGNER SNAPS – buttons! I have an old tin of buttons my Mom and Grandma collected and if I can’t find new buttons I want I just paint them whatever color I need. Even better if they aren’t all the same size – makes a shirt look interesting. I buy vintage buttons whenever I can.

A flexible curve – french curve – compass – mechanical pencil – all for pattern making. Which I’ll write about as soon as I learn how to do it.

And what else? Hmm. Well fabric of course. Here’s some places to search on the internet. Unless you live in New York or L.A. or Paris or London …………. there aren’t a lot of choices for fabric stores. We have a quilting fabric store and a JoAnn’s in Bangor Whooptido. I don’t wear quilting cotton and I don’t buy cheap fabric. If I am going to spend hours, if not days, creating a garment, I want it to last and to be beautiful. Just as with my art quilts, quality is key.

Online is the way to go. Search for Gorgeous Fabric, Emma One Sock, Elliott Berman Textiles, Sewing Workshop, Mood Designer Fabrics (of course if you follow Project Runway) and if you just search fine fabric on Google you’ll get some hits. Also Tessuti Fabrics in Australia. They ship to America for FREE if you spend $150! Again watch cheap. Cheap is not good. You will always get what you pay for in fabric. Pay what you can.

The most important tool in my sewing room is my dress form. It is adjustable, so it is a very good fit for me. I can now fit my clothing on the dress form and not have any issues with clothes that look poorly fit and consequently, homemade. Having your clothes look homemade is is not why you sew. You sew because you want a fantastic couture wardrobe at a fraction of the cost.

And that’s all I can think of for now ………………. I think it’s probably enough to be moving on with –

English: Hong Kong Island 1986

English: Hong Kong Island 1986 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Author: Jennifer

I came from a family who made things. My father was a carpenter with a passion for making furniture. My mother sewed, crocheted, cooked and made a home on a shoestring. My grandmothers both quilted. As a teenager, I found batik through a wonderful art teacher who allowed me the freedom to batik yards of fabric. I then cut them up into a pattern and wore the item I made. I was ecstatic. I painted in my teens and twenties and my parents gracefully supplied me with oil paints and turpentine. When I needed an easel, my father took me to the shop where he worked and made me one. When he found unused and unwanted canvas, he brought it home and stretched it for me with wood from his shop at home. I was indulged at every step of the way. I wasn't ever told that I could not do something or that I should not do something. I was given freedom to chose my path in life. A blessed life I have lived, for sure.

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