Want to smock? Don't have a pleater? Here are some solutions before investing in one.
Imperial Batiste is a polyester-cotton blend from Spechler-Vogel. Spechler-Vogel is my favorite fabric manufacturer.
Because it's a poly-cotton blend, it resists wrinkles well. It also makes this fabric really affordable. It just barely has that "see-through" quality sought out for in heirloom fabrics.
At $6.50/yard for a 60" wide piece, this is also a great choice for beginners who don't feel comfortable sewing on higher-end fabrics yet.
I bought this all the time back in college, but now I still love it for casual outfits as well as lining. I love to keep a few yards of white for various linings.
Welcome to the completely addicting, wonderful world of [heirloom] sewing!
I hope this page gives you the inspiration, encouragement, and resources to begin your journey.
There are a variety of broadcloth fabric that I've used. I prefer batiste over broadcloth, but broadcloth has its place, too. It has wonderful body and pleats beautifully. It's a joy to smock, but I prefer not to hand embroider on it. It's not hard to do embroidery on this fabric, I just prefer batiste over broadcloth.
Okay... now what about sewing notions? What are the "must-haves?"
1. Send your fabric to me through my pleating services and I'll pleat it for you.
3. Pleat by hand. I have these dots to help with the process, but you could make your own too.
4. Take advantage of built-in geometry of certain fabrics and hand pleat using them. I have a tutorial on this method. In addition to gingham, you can use dotted Swiss or polka dots... the idea is that you're looking for spacing around 1/4" or 3/8".
1. Scissors: Best quality scissors that you are willing to buy. You really get what you pay for here, so I wouldn't spend any less than about $20 (unless you find a sale or have a coupon). Cheaply made scissors are miserable to work with. I use these guys from Gingher and have been pretty happy with them. Regardless on which pair you buy, I'd strongly suggest that you get ones that are spring-loaded. life.changing.
2. Pins: Go for the glass head ones. They are only a few dollars more and are way more sharp, so they won't snag your fabric (ahh!) and they won't melt under your iron.
3. Machine needles: Get a pack of universal assorted sizes and you should be good to go. You can go down a rabbit hole with needles and we don't need to do that to you yet ;-) I would stick with the Schmetz brand, though.
4. Hand needles: I am way unconventional when it comes to hand needles. With the exception of silk ribbon or yarn, I exclusively use sharps/milliner/straw needles for all my hand sewing, hand embroidering, and smocking endeavors.
5. Iron: Likely you already have one of these, so use what you have. Irons are a hot topic (ha!) here in the sewing world. Again, you can go down a rabbit hole trying to find one that doesn't spit, stays on without continuous use, etc... and I do have my favorite irons. But for now, keep things simple and use what you have :-)
6. Thread: This white gutermann thread covers most of my projects... basically, if the fabric is a light-medium-ish weights (all the fabric I've talked about on this page would qualify) and don't have a drastic color, then I reach for this thread.
7. If you want to do hand embroidery, I'd suggest getting the frixion head activated pen. It is not made for fabric, but it works really well at giving a fine line with no smudges. It also doesn't reappear constantly unlike that blue water soluble. If you put the garment in cold weather for an extended period of time, the ink will reappear, but you can use these solutions to truly remove the ink and then it won't come back again.
1. Children's Corner Patterns. These guys are a gem for classic lines, unnestled patterns (aka no tracing required), and correct fit (they stay pretty much in line with Carter's). I recommend their Jamie pattern since it's so much bang for your buck and have an entire playlist on garments I've made from this pattern. And here is a playlist for tutorials using some of their other patterns. Their patterns are also easy to mix and match amongst their line (ie a sleeve from this pattern with a bodice from another).
2. Women's patterns? Well... that gets more tricky, ladies. Here are some of my favorites, but that may vary depending on your body type and personal style. Here are some guidelines regardless of those things:
Here are some of my favorite dress patterns. All of these are easy to construct and fit. I've made maaaany of each of these dresses, but that was before I did public sewing so I dug up what photos I could find ;-)
In my humble option, beginners should only work with 100% cotton or some poly-cotton blends. Spechler-Vogel (well-known fabric manufature) makes a fabulous imperial batiste. This means that it's a mixture of polyester and cotton. It feels like cotton, and resists stains and wrinkles thanks to the polyester. Beginners should also stay away from strips and other geometrics since matching up the designs across seams and such can be an added frustration when beginning. One thing at a time :-)
Below are my recommendations for affordable, easy to work with fabrics that still have that heirloom quality. All of these are easy to machine sew, send through a smocking pleater, and easy hand embroider on. I have more information on fabrics over on my favorite products section.
Another Spechler-Vogel favorite. This is soft and has good body. Pleats, smocks, and embroiders wonderfully.
Love, love, love this fabric. Another Spechler-Vogel fabric. For me, it's a good balance of affordability and quality. When you put this side-by-side the imperial batiste, you'll see why this is priced at $15/yard. The big difference is the wonderful sheen this fabric has -- it's not shiny, but it tastefully smiles back at you.
It pleats like a dream and has that wonderful sheer quality sought after for heirloom fabrics. Make no mistake, this is a heirloom quality fabric. I also love stitching on this fabric as I do embroidery work.
It is machine washable and does maintain the sheen.
sharing my passion for classic and heirloom sewing