Five Must-Have Notions (in our humble opinion)

We all have a basic sewing kit: Tape measure, seam gauge, chalk pencil and marking pen, glass head pins with pin cushion and, yes, a seam ripper.

But there are some tools I have in my top drawer next to my sewing machine because I use them all the time. The first four give that special finishing touch that take my garments a step up to a professional look. My number one is like my right hand. I can’t live without it.

I joke about these five favorite notions so much that one of my students said, “You should write an article.” So here goes:

#5 – Fray Check. Also known as seam sealant. Put a line of it on the back of your buttonholes before cutting them and you will indeed keep the cut from fraying. Also use it to secure serged ends, such as the corners of napkins. Sergers can’t backstitch. So think of Fray Check as a substitute. I’ve washed my napkins dozens of times and the corners still hold.

 

 

#4 – Buttonhole punch. Don’t use a seam ripper. Spend the $10 and get one of these instead. Even better when it comes with a small hunk of oak or self-healing pad. My industrial buttonholers have what I call a “guillotine” on them to cut open the buttonhole. This punch does the same: A nice, clean cut with smooth edges.

 

#3 – Steam-a-Seam. It’s a fusible web. You may have seen these as Stitch Witchery, Heat N Bond. Steam-a-Seam also comes in sheets and rolls. But you should choose the two-pack of 1/4″ wide “Steam-a-Seam Lite.” Fuse your knit hems before stitching them. It stops them from rippling. Or be like many of today’s apparel manufacturers and just fuse. It’s strong. It doesn’t leave a mark or edge. And like I say, we’ll have another Ice Age before your hem comes out.

 

#2 – 1/4″ Wash-Away Wonder Tape. Sometimes I slip and call this basting tape because that’s what it does. It bastes your seam before you sew it. But basting tape is skinny, stays in unless you pull it out and turns hard and yellow over time. Wonder Tape goes away in the first washing as in “I wonder where it went.” It holds such things as pockets and bias curves on necklines and waistlines in place before you stitch them. And it doesn’t gum up your needles.

 

#1 – Gingher blunts. Officially, they are 4″ safety point scissors. But I like the name “blunts” better. I keep them on a retractable leash clipped to my collar. This way, whenever I need to clip a thread, I know where they are. I used to use pointed nippers but they kept poking holes in my clothes. Now I wear the blunts nearly all the time: During class or at the grocery store after class when I’ve forgotten to take them off. But what the heck. You never know when you’ll have a sewing opportunity. And it’s a wonderful conversation starter.

These are my top five. By the way, these aren’t ads, just my personal experience.

Number 1 isn’t likely to change. But I could be persuaded on the other four. So let me know: What are your five favorite notions?

PS — Want to make the cute rollup jewelry and notions roll in the top picture?  Visit PFI Supply’s free patterns page here.

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Silks — and how to use them

Cold weather makes us want to sew something hot.  Time to make some lingerie or a special dress.  That means hunting for the right kind of silk.  With so many types, which one should you choose?

PFI Supply (www.pfisewing.com) offers fabric just for this occasion — including plenty of silks in a broad range of colors.  Here are some of the most requested kinds and how to use them.

How silk is made

Silk is one of the oldest known natural fibers. Most silk originates in China, India and Southeast Asia. Domestic mulberry silkworm pupae spin it. Commercial growers kill the pupae before they emerge as adult moths. That way, the cocoon can be unraveled as one long continuous unbroken thread.

Peace silk allows the moth to eat a hole in the cocoon to emerge. The hole makes it impossible to unreel the cocoon. So the fiber must be spun. The result is a more matte finish with a rougher look. Peace silk is also called wild silk.


Chiffon
.  If you can sew sheer, you can sew most everything. Soft, light and fragile, chiffon is a balanced plain weave with hight-twist crepe yarns used in both warp and weft. Sew on the straight grain before you try sewing bias. Save the selvages to help stabilize your seams.

Georgette.  What’s the difference from chiffon? Both fabrics are sheer. Georgette has a more substance with a cloudier look. Its fibers are twisted and alternate every one or two yarns from an “S” to a “Z”, giving a pebbly, crêpe feel. It is stretchier and harder to control than chiffon. Use it for lingerie, nightwear, blouses, dresses, evening and bridal wear.  It’s said to be named for a French milliner, Mme. Georgette de la Plante. who used this fabric a great deal.


Charmeuse
 is the queen of silk, the lightest of silk satins and most difficult to sew.  Of all woven fabric, it is the smoothest and most lustrous, thus most desirable.  The warp yarns float over weft yarns.  The more the floats, the more the luster. So don’t press charmeuse or you’ll flatten the floats and leave “burnished” dull spots. Use a seam stick, seam buffers (such as strips of paper under the seam allowances) and the tip of a mini-iron if you must press seams. Charmeuse snags easily and holes are permanent so don’t overwork it.  Sew it once and sew it right.

For more details on how to work with silk, visit PFI’s lingerie, dresses and shirt classes.

Vanishing Higher-Ed Hasn’t Put a Damper on These Portland Fashion Schools

 

In 2018, the Art Institute of Portland—the only college in the city offering bachelor’s degrees in apparel design and fashion marketing—closed its doors, shifting the balance of local design education options. The school, well known for its fashion alums (including no fewer than three Project Runway contestants) had been through a tumultuous few years, with the nationwide chain of colleges forced to grant $103 million in loan forgiveness on top of a $95 million multistate lawsuit settlement to students for consumer fraud. Since then, Portland has also seen the closures of the 112-year-old Oregon College of Art & Craft, which offered a smattering of experimental design courses, as well as other non-fashion Portland-area mainstays Marylhurst and Concordia.

But the great higher-ed vanishing hasn’t put a damper on advances in the local fashion scene. Nike, Adidas, and Columbia all continue to operate design studios here that employ hordes of fashion folk. There’s three-year-old Sneaker Week, an annual footwear event that brings in industry kin from all over the country. And, prepandemic, of course, local fashion shows were continuously popping up with new names and design collectives, like “The Ones” on E Burnside, which lets newbie designers share space alongside veterans of the fashion world.

A look from PFI student Chuck Ryan’s final collection.

The question, in the absence of higher ed, is where are all of these people learning their craft?

Across the river in the Hollywood District, Portland Fashion Institute caters to that seeking-a-toehold-in-the-industry demographic, but also embraces Portland’s indie days of yore with a program that runs students through not only the ins and outs of things like sewing knits and Optitex computer patternmaking, but also business classes on how to run your growing design empire. PFI founder Sharon Blair was a full-time instructor at the Art Institute of Portland before leaving to found her own school in 2010. That move, she says, was about taking her years of education experience plus the perspective from running her own small clothing line, SKB, to students for a fraction of the cost. Despite having several of the same instructors helming classes, the accredited school is vastly more affordable than the Art Institute, where the final tuition hit $485 per credit hour vs. Blair’s zero-debt vision. At PFI things clock in around $30 an hour for a sewing class and just $55 per patternmaking class, even with access to the expensive computer programs.

The commonality among all the schools? Each one gets students trained for a future career with classes that are faster and cheaper than traditional colleges, all with access to industry professionals that value time on the floor over textbooks.

9 steps to perfect pant fit

Creating pants that fit seems to be the goal of every clothing sewer.  That’s our goal for you two.  There are nine simple steps to get there.  You can start with one of the five PFI patterns that best flatter you (we have dress pants and jeans for men too!).  Then visit our blog page on “Four Fast Flat Fell Seams” to choose the one you like for a professional look.  Best of all, take Britta’s Pants, Jeans and Overalls class to learn the skills that will get you to your goal every time.

#happysewing!

7 easy steps to a Mme Grès drape

Turn off FB news feed & Twitter. Shun FB hate groups & cults. Believe only in trusted, verified sources — such as Mme. Bridget. As one of the last members of the Mme. Grès atelier, she taught me how to create Grès pleats. Here are 7 easy steps to make them.

  1. Cover the right side of the mannequin’s bodice with paper.
  • Line up two layers of silk organza over the pattern for one bust. Pin to hold.
  • Thread trace the pattern to the silk. Choose an embroidery needle.  Use one strand of contrasting thread.
  • Line up the lines of the dart. Join with ¼” running stitches. Choose an embroidery needle.  Use one strand of matching thread.  Start at the dart point.
  • Trim the dart down to ¾”. Press down.
  • Place the organza on the form. Match the CF and breast point.  Pin in several places to hold in place.

  1. Fold a 24” piece of ½”-wide rayon or silk fabric in half lengthwise.Press.
  • Start 2” beyond the CF point. Place the fold of the ribbon along the upper thread traced line.  Pin every 2”.  Continue until 2” beyond the SS.
  • Repeat for the bottom thread traced line. Make sure the binding pieces cross exactly at the CF point.
  • Join the binding to the organza with ¼” running stitches at the top and bottom of the long edge of each binding. Use one strand of matching thread.

  1. Press a 24”x24” square of silk jersey.
  • Mark the center of the crossgrain with pins.
  • Start 1 cm from one side at the center. Place a pin exactly at every 3 cm.
  • Start with the 2nd Bring each pin up to make a pleat.  Expose 2 mm of the previous pleat.  Remove previous pins as you fold.  Place a pin on the edge of each pleat.
  • Pick stitch the pleats in place along the centerline. Catch just a thread of the pleat fold as you stitch.  Make the underside as clean as the outside.

The first three steps should take you about 2 hours.

  1. Place the centerline on a straight line from the CF to the breast point.
  • Pin each pleat onto this line.
  • Start with the top half beyond the centerline. Fold under 3/8” of the top edge.  Gently stretch as you place it to hide the top edge of the binding fold.  Pin every 2”.
  • Place each pleat for the top. Make sure to stay on grain and leave only 2 mm of the previous pleat showing.  Keep the pleats smooth.  Stretch as you place.  Crowd the pleat as they approach the SS.
  • You should have only 3/8” fabric overlapping the centerline from bust point to SS.

 

This step should take you about 4 hours.

 

  1. Repeat for the bottom half of the fabric.
  • Fold under the remaining 3/8” of the bottom edge of the fabric to cover the bottom edge of the binding fold.

 

This step should take you about 4 hours.

  1. Chose a 1” fine curved needle.Use one strand of matching thread.  Start with the top half.  Backstitch two layers of pleats at a time.  Work from SS to CF. Be sure not to stitch through the paper.

 

This step should take you about 4 hours.

  1. Repeat for the bottom half of the fabric.

 

This step should take you about 4 hours.

 

Congratulations!  After 18 hours, you have completely one breast section of a Mme. Gres dress.  Now proceed to the other breast.  Then drape the rest of the garment.

The New Norm in Fashion

By Eden Dawn
@edendawn @PortlandMonthlyMagazine

Friday, August 7, 7pm, free
Virtual event: https://bit.ly/2EMCnZW


What Will the New Normal in Local Fashion Be?
Producer Abibat Durosimi releases a series of interviews with local creatives diving into the subject.

Design Week is in full swing right now—digitally, of course. When the pandemic ruined the annual city-wide showcase of all manifestations of beautiful things, the org pushed to August as we all waited to see what unfolded. (As you already know, what unfolded was many more months of eventless quarantine life.) So this year the celebration is an online one, currently running everything from collaborative online zine workshops to the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism hosting a panel on ethical design in immersive media. And on Friday night, in lieu of the big fancy fashion show that was set to happen in April, producer Abibat Durosimi launches a mini-documentary called The New Norm in Fashion.

The 35-minute long video features socially distanced interviews that Durosimi conducted in July with seven local creatives about the state of fashion. The film is meant to be an extension of the events and panels that she’s put on through Bloom Beauty Collective for the last few years in hopes to create more space and visibility for Black creatives in fashion and related worlds. Now Durosimi aims to add production and talent agency under that umbrella as she pivots from the events world to a new future.

“I feel like I have a better opportunity to conquer the mission. We have the open space for people of color to get acknowledged for who they are and what they do, and people are opening their doors,” she says. “Everything we’ve done for years has prepared me for this moment, how to learn to pivot when I need to…. I love that I got to do this mini-documentary. I love hearing people’s stories and learning from them.”

Watch folks like expert tailor Tony Iyke, athletic and outdoor apparel designer Jocelyn Rice, and founder of Portland Fashion Institute Sharon Blair (and, full disclosure, me) talk about how things are shifting in regard to sustainability, diversity, and even attitudes around fashion.

# # #

Fashion Career Help Offered

Sharon Blair, of Portland Fashion Institute, and Bloom Beauty Collective, a Black-Indigenous-People of Color production and talent agency, have announced a fashion design scholarship for teen students of color, valued at nearly $20,000. Candidates have until Tuesday, September 1 at 5 p.m. to submit an application.

The contest is open to high school juniors and seniors in the Portland and Vancouver area who are persons of color. One winner will be chosen. That winner gets one year of fashion design classes valued at nearly $20,000 at the Portland Fashion Institute, located in northeast Portland.

The winner also gets a chance to intern at a local apparel company. The goal: To build skills so the winner can launch a business or create a portfolio for entry into a top fashion design college of their choice.

The winner will be announced at a Bloom Beauty Collective 2020 event. Classes start in September.

With 25 manufacturers and nearly 250 related companies, Portland is a center for the apparel industry.

“This is a challenging time for the apparel industry,” says Portland Fashion Institute owner and director Sharon Blair. “But crisis creates opportunity. Right now the world needs forward thinking in fashion design more than ever.

“We’re looking for candidates who can lead the way and tell us where they think the world of fashion is going. We believe we can find that among the many talented people in an underserved sector of our region,” says Abibat Durosimi, founder of Bloom Beauty Collective.

Candidates submit their ideas and details for a clothing line through a three-minute video to info@pfi.edu. Entry forms are available at www.pfi.edu/scholarship.