Fabric Hunting: Paris – In Search Of Inspiration

Fabric Hunting: Paris – In Search Of Inspiration


fabric hunting paris

I am back in Paris, one of the places in the world I feel at home, and yes, this was once home when I was so poorly paid and blissfully happy. It is a dichotomy, to be sure, but I am well aware of how blessed I have been to be handed the opportunity of living in one of the most iconic cities in the world and the home of Haute Couture.

I have come to Paris in search of inspiration, half forgetting all the pretty people I know have left town, leaving it to the tourist to indulge in. Any Parisian with time, family, or friends with an extra couch will leave town for the rocky beaches of the south or the sandy shores of the old colonies. It is bliss to suck up the sun and enjoy the wide avenues despite the crowds, especially for us who live in the southern hemisphere and are running away from the cold, damp, poorly insulated houses.

A bit of Paris-

What can I say about Paris that you already know? Hardly anything, so I will concentrate on the view from my lens.

My favorite thing about Paris is the light at dusk when the sun bathes the city in this golden glow. It makes me feel that everything will work out best and that anything is possible. This glow charges me with hope… and makes me think that before the french give up, they rather clean the slate and start again. There is so much to learn from this attitude.

Fabric Hunting Paris
View from the Ile de Saint-Louis

I love watching people at the park. So many people come with a modest basket; cloth napkins, cutlery, cheese, fruits, jam, bread, and wine all gather around in happy chatter. The old man in profound political conversation, the games of chess, the artists concentrated on a painting, the pretty girl in a bikini sucking up the sun, the lovers by the trees making out, the whole scene is an impressionist painting.

A walk along the Seinne early in the morning when hardly anyone is around.

I could drop a small fortune here in art shops, bookstores, and stationaries, but I am content with just looking around.

Notice, my dear readers, most of the things I love about Paris are free.

A bit Of Geography

Paris is divided into 20 areas called arrondissements, starting at the center in the shape of a spiral clockwise.

Administrative Map Of Paris

Left and Right Banks, the Seine flows westward, cutting the city in two. The top part of the city is associated with the right bank and the lower one with the left. The most significant attractions tourists want to see are located on the right bank.

A Bit of History

Here is a quick summary that I found detailing Paris’ long and exciting history. The great thing about Paris is that it has always been a unique city, from whatever time in the past all the way to the present.

A Bit Of Architecture And the Best Sights from my camera

Paris was once a dirty plague-ridden town to what is now one of the most visited places on the planet, with wide tree-lined boulevards and imposing stone facade buildings with double windows and zinc grey mansard roofs.

Boulevard Beaumarchais, in the 11 arrondissement
The scenery of Paris and the Seine River from the Eiffel Tower.

Louvre Museum and the Jardin de Tullerie.

The current reconstruction work at Notre Dame.

Le Champs-Élysées and the Arch de Trioumph
My lovely family…

Fabric Hunting: Paris

There are two major areas where to shop for fabrics in Paris. Montmartre on the 18th and Le Sentier in the 2nd arrondisement.

Montmartre

Montmartre area is very well known to tourists since it is the home of the oldest fabric store in the city. It is the place to find inexpensive fabrics for costumes and fancy embellished tulles. T

here are many small stores around the foothill of Montmartre. Today I will only mention the best-known.

Fabric Hunting Paris
Marche Saint-Pierre seen from La Reine Store.

The beginnings of this shop are very similar to Bassetti Tessuti in Rome. A man comes to town with a cart of fabrics, building a reputation for good quality, well-priced materials. And when the opportunity knocks, in 1920, he rents a building and starts selling in one location.

This is a seven-floor french institution, and I am happy to see that despite the pandemic, the store is still in business and with paying customers inside.

The road level is where you will find all the bargains. Tulles for costumes, Ankara fabrics, and printed cotton are perfect for handbags and summer dresses.

I head to my favorite floor: the basement.

fabric hunting Paris

Here is the place for all the beautiful fabrics for couture gowns, and wedding dresses and a good selection of silks, cotton, leather, and laces.

I recommend buying the Guipure lace seen above, the felt wool which is perfect for hats and jackets at 60 euros for a piece of 3 meters 55″ broad, not bad at all, enough for a coat and beret for the winter. Silk chiffon for some very flowy dresses and blouses and, silk velour for a soft skin tight underlayer, wide-leg pants, and trimmings for underwear.

This haberdashery is an Alibaba cave for every crafter, ribbon, elastic, lace, braid, needles, thread, buttons, fasteners, scissors, and they have it.

Pay special attention to the buttons section; some are small art pieces. Here are some pictures to get a general idea, but you have a much more extensive selection on their online shop.

I have been coming to Tissue Reine for a couple of decades. This is a typical fabric store in many cities, Liberty cotton, quilting fabrics, home deco, jeans, cotton, silks, laces, and sewing equipment, including patterns.

The bargains are outside on the sidewalk for you to browse freely. I recall the many hours I spent with my mother looking through the fabric rolls for costumes for a play.

Inside the store, everything is well organized, and the amount of natural light and lighting helps you choose a fabric in the color you are looking for. My favorite things to buy here are the cotton and cotton blends in natural fibers, cotton/rayon, cotton and silk, and cotton and linen.

I should mention the gorgeous silk chiffons in happy and tasteful prints would make an elegant blouse or a long summer dress an item that would last many years.

The main floor is where you find fashion fabrics.

The haberdashery on the second floor is where I can find the Swiss threads Mettler that works so well with the Bernina embroidery machines. All types of sewing notions are found here, and a pervasive pattern section.

This store surprised me; whenever I am in Paris, I try to find a new store to explore. TissuMarket did it for me, a small hole in the wall, but inside, the quality and beauty of the fabrics take you back. Justin, the man in charge, tells me this is just a small showroom, but if I wanted to see the whole store, go to the 2nd Arrondissement. So I will talk about it in the next section, but I will leave you with some pictures so you can find TissuMarket if you are around Montmartre.

Le Sentier

Le Sentier is a lesser-known area for tourists and one of my favorite parts of Paris. This is the fashion district of Paris, where students come to buy fabrics for school projects, up-and-coming designers have their showrooms, and wholesale materials and designs are sold. You can buy small amounts, but many stores have a minimum requirement. You need to ask before falling in love with any fabric.



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10 Tips For Buying A Sewing Machine

10 Tips For Buying A Sewing Machine


buying sewing machine

For Me, Buying A Sewing Machine Is A Big Decision

I know it is the same for most of us.  If I buy well, hopefully, the new machine will be a lifelong investment and even something I can give to my daughter eventually.  However, I also know that if I choose badly, the new machine may be nothing but trouble and something soon discarded.  And who can afford to waste many that way these days?  

What is more, once I get accustomed to using a machine, it’s a real disappointment when things go wrong and this can set me back days or even weeks on my sewing projects.  Hence we should be extra careful when buying a new one.  

A Few Things You Need To Consider Before Buying A Sewing Machine

1. Choose Your Features

sewing machine

The type of machine you buy should depend on the type of sewing projects that you undertake. Even though most sewing machines perform the basic function of sewing, there are certain additional features that you should consider. There are embroidery machines, machines with quilting features, those with options for stretch stitches and some even have specialty feet. Consider if you want to go with a basic model as you are likely to outgrow it once you start doing new projects. Get a machine you can grow into as your skills grow.  

Another aspect of the machine’s features is what accessories are available for the machine and whether standard accessories like presser feet will fit the machine.  We’ve written a lot about presser feet over the years.  If you want to know all about press feet, please review this article More presser feet than you will ever need.


2. Brand Origins And Materials

sewing machine brands

There are a variety of brands offering sewing machines like Singer, Bernina, Brother, Husqvarna Viking, Kenmore, Janome, Juki, and even Toyota.  (One of the best machines I’ve ever owned is a Toyota.)  While selecting a brand, you should take into consideration the country of manufacture and the material used for construction.  

Many of these brands come from large industrial companies with long histories of quality products and some brands have remained true to their origins.  These brands often, although not always, still manufacture in their home countries or countries with reputations for quality manufacturers such as Japan (Toyota), Sweden (Husqvarna Viking), Germany (Pfaff), and Switzerland (Bernina).  Sadly, I’ve not been able to find any machines still being made in the US although there are rumors that Brother might have built a plant in the US.  Try to choose a machine made in one of these countries.  It will give you years of trouble-free use.

Unfortunately, other brands have been sold off or licensed to mass retailers or lower-quality manufacturers and their quality has slipped sadly.  You often don’t hear such good things about Singer, Kenmore, and even Juki these days.  (I’m talking about the newer machines.  I’m sure many of us have an ancient Singer that just won’t quit.  I certainly do.)  I bought a small Juki recently for light work around the house.  It was made almost entirely of plastic and has been nothing but trouble, unfortunately.  Generally, lower-quality machines are coming from China, Vietnam, and sometimes Taiwan.  Buy these machines with caution.


3. Price

buying

The price of a sewing machine can range anywhere between $100 to $700 or more. Unfortunately, good quality sewing machines are expensive, and the old saying “you get what you pay for” is definitely true for sewing machines like it is with so many other things.

Sewing machines made of plastic tend to be cheaper and may not provide sewing precision or durability over the years.  Metal frames and construction is usually a better choice.

Generally, it is advisable to go for machines in the mid-range, where you can often find a good mix of quality and features at a reasonable price.  The absolute cheapest machine is rarely the best option, but of course, only ever buy what you can afford.   


4. Buy From A Dealer

buying sewing machine

When you buy a machine from a big chain retailer selling lot of other items, the salesperson is very unlikely to know the detailed ins and outs of each machine.  Whereas when you buy directly from a dealer he will be able to guide you in selecting the right machine based on your exact requirements.

The sewing machine dealer will also be able to provide you with useful information on how the machine works, demonstrate it and teach you how to clean the sewing machine.  For additional information on how to clean your sewing machine, please check out our article on the topic. 

Some dealers still even offer trade-ins or trade-ups which can be good value.  Dealers are also the contact point for warranty claims which can save you time and headaches in the future.  Many dealers offer used machines that could save you a lot of money too.

After-sales support and access to spare parts is also important consideration.  A general or mass retailer will not likely provide much or any support and almost certainly not stock spare parts, but your local sewing machine dealer makes their living on such often-needed services.


5. Test The Sewing Machine

sewing machine

Before finalizing on any one brand or machine, you should always test the machine.  You’ll almost certainly be able to do this at a dealer but probably not at a mass retailer.  Take some swatches of fabric and thread with you to the store and stitch the fabric to see how the machine works.  Does it do everything you want it to?  How does it work with the fabric and thread you use most often?  How is the quality of the buttonhole?  This is one of the keys to a garment looking professionally made or not.

You should pay special attention to the smoothness, noise, stitch quality, and stitch options of the machine.  If you don’t like it, try another one until you find a sewing machine that you like.  The more types of fabric you can test with the sewing machine, the less likely you’re going to get any surprised later when you use it for the first time say on a stretchy knit fabric or light sheer fabric.   


6. Buy Local If Possible

buying sewing machine

It is often advisable to purchase your new sewing machine from a local shop. This way you are not only supporting a local business but also making sure that help is at hand if you need it.

When you purchase the machine from a big shop or through an online store, you may not always get the after-sale service as expected.  You also won’t have anyone to turn to if you need help and guidance on how the machine works or to make repairs.  

We know it’s not always possible to find a local sewing store anymore, unfortunately, but it’s in all our interests to continue to support the trade when possible.


7. Read The Reviews And Do Your Homework

buying sewing

There’s an enormous amount of information available these days on the internet.  The web has become the primary information source for many, if not most, people these days and it is a great tool to use when trying to research a new sewing machine.  There are a number of good review sources for sewing machines.  

I’ve always found that Consumer Reports is a good place to start when looking for relatively unbiased reviews and information about a product.  You may want to check out their section on sewing machines HERE.  They also have a useful video on understanding the different types of sewing machines available.  

Another great resource is reading through the comments on Amazon from people who have bought particular machines in the past.  If you have a look at the machine below, at the time of this writing, nearly 6,000 consumers have left reviews and comments on the Brother CS6000i.


8. Ask Your Friends Or Join A Chat Group

sewing machine

It is always advisable to seek the help and advice of someone you know who knows about stitching and sewing machines before zeroing in on a particular model.  There’s usually nothing better or more trustworthy than first-hand information and feedback from an acquaintance.

If you don’t have a neighbor you can ask, and join one of the online chat groups about sewing.  Here at So Sew Easy, we think we have one of the best online chat groups around where you can get the opinions of nearly 19,000 members (at the time of this writing) and which you can find on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/soseweasychat/

This group is extremely active and I’m sure you’ll find someone with information about pretty much any sewing machine you’re thinking of buying.  However, to keep the group focused and useful to its members, the chat is a “closed” group which means you have to request to join.  Because we review every new potential member, there can be a short wait to get in from time to time, so please accept our apologies if there is any delay.  We always do our best to keep up.


9. Shop The Sales

buying

Like with any other product or commodity, sewing machines will go on sale quite frequently and you can save a bundle.  Sometimes prices can be cut in half or even more for brand-new, modern sewing machines.  Figure out what machine you want and then keep a look out for when it goes on sale.  


10. Consider the Second-Hand Market

buying

While new sewing machine prices have come down a lot in recent years, sometimes you can get a lot more for your money if you buy a good used machine.  There are plenty of ways to find a second-hand machine from your local classifieds or bulletin boards to Craig’s List or eBay.  As mentioned above, sewing machine dealers often recondition and sell used machines.

You can even potentially buy a good quality industrial machine that will last you a lifetime for a fraction of its new value.  We wrote an article about this recently so you may want to review it:  Do you need an industrial sewing machine? for more ideas about this.  I bought an industrial Pfaff 563 machine made in Germany a few years ago.  It’s an absolute workhorse and I have no doubt it will help me sew thick fabrics like denim, multiple layers of fabric, and even leather for many, many years to come.


Hopefully these tips will help you with your choices when next you’re thinking of buying a sewing machine.  If you have any other good ideas that we should share with everyone, please leave your thoughts in the comments below.  We always love hearing from you!

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Fabric Belt Tutorial – Making Use Of Your Scraps

Fabric Belt Tutorial – Making Use Of Your Scraps


fabric belt

This Fabric Belt is a perfect project for using your scrap since you will only need a couple of strips of fabric.  This fabric belt tutorial applies to any size buckle.  The key is to know how much fabric to cut to be able to fit into the buckle.

Belts, of course, are an essential piece of anyone’s wardrobe. Making one using spare fabric not only saves expense but allows you to create a design that fits any outfit or style.

Materials

  • A strip of fabric 9 inches longer than your waist and 4 times as wide as your buckle
  • One rectangle that is 7″ X 5″ in diameter
  • Fusible interfacing
  • Thread to match
  • A buckle 1 1/2″ wide
  • 6 grommets

Tools

Buckles Suggestions from Amazon.com:

How To Sew Your Fabric Belt

Note: There are kits specialized on belt making, however, I am trying to show you how to make a belt at home with minimal cost and using what you already have at home.

Step One: Cutting The Fabric Belt

Length

Measure your waist + 3 inches for seam allowance to attach the buckle and make the end of the belt plus 6 inches to add extra length.

Width

The fabric should be cut depending upon the width of your buckle.  I am using a 1 1/2″ wide buckle.  Add a 5/8″ seam allowance to all sides.

Grainline

The grainline will run parallel to the selvage. This will make your belt last longer and when worn tight to the body will not fold.

Interfacing

Regardless of the width, you choose to make the belt the rule is that the wider the belt the stronger their interfacing to avoid the belt folding when sitting down.

Loops

Cut two rectangles 3 1/4″ X 2″. Apply fusible interfacing.

Step Two: Applying Fusible Interfacing

Apply fusible interfacing avoiding the seam allowance, this will reduce the bulk and it will be easier for your machine to stitch the fabric belt plus it will make the belt look smooth.

fabric belt

Step Three: Designing Your Belt

In here I will let your imagination run, you can

1. Make a plain belt to match a skirt or pants you already have.

2. Make an Accessory that will stand out and make your outfit smarter and attractive

3. Make an accessory that will complement your handbag.

I am going for number 2 and 3, I am in a process of sharing with you a belted pouch, the belt can be used on its own and the pouch can turn into a hand clutch/ wristlet.

This is what I have done, I have sewn two strips of fabric from the fabric of the pouch I will be making, you can embroider, patchwork or free motion quilt a detail of your own.

fabric belt

I love to wear unique pieces of accessories.  I encourage you to find your own twist and make your unique belt.   Please load the picture on your Instagram account with the hashtag soseweasy (#soseweasy).

Step Four: Sewing Your Belt

Place the right sides together using the side of a place or a rounded ruler trace a curve at one end of the belt. Sew the belt at 5/8″ sewing three sides of the strip.

Reduce the seam allowance by cutting half off and trimming the rounded edge.

fabric belt

Turn the belt using a loop turner, a pencil or a hose if you have one or anything long to such as a knitting needle.

Iron the belt, with a lot of steam to set the seams flat.

If you have decided not to add anything to your belt and are using plain fabric or a print, topstitch the edges at no more than 1/8″ from the edge.

fabric belt

Step Five: Making The Loops

We will need two loops for the belt. Cut two rectangles of fabric 3 3/4″ X 2″.  Fold in the middle to create a crease and fold each side to the center.

fabric belt

Sew very close to the edge.  Close the loops with a 3/8″ seam allowance and turn the look so that the seam allowance is inside.  Repeat the procedure to make the other loop.

Step Six: Adding The Buckle

We are going to be working on the open side of the belt.

Insert the two loop into the belt.

fabric belt

At 2 1/2″ from the end of the belt make a mark where you will be inserting the first grommet.  This is where the pin of the buckle will go in.

fabric belt
fabric belt

If you need help learning how to place a grommet here is a tutorial to help you cover the topic.

fabric belt

Insert the pin onto the grommet, then;

a. pass the belt and turn the raw edge of the belt under 3/8″

b. the closest loop next to the buckle.

fabric belt

and using a thread and needle sew using a running stitch. Pass the needle a couple of times to secure the end of the belt.

fabric belt

Step Seven: Adding The Grommets

Measure your waist and mark the belt where you want the belt to sit comfortably.  Using a ruler mark a couple of inches in front and behind the mark you just made. This will allow you to use the belt in case you lose or gain weight.  For more information on Sewing with Grommets, please check out the tutorial below:

fabric belt

Until next time when I will be showing how to add a pouch to this belt large enough to fit iPhone one plus.  In the meantime, if you need a good-looking pouch on the go – check out our running belt with a pouch.

Happy Sewing!

fabric belt

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Easy Camisole Top Pattern – Free And Quick Tutorial

Easy Camisole Top Pattern – Free And Quick Tutorial


I know that this camisole top pattern will bring a smile to your face because it’s one of the most versatile patterns out there.  All you need to do is change the type of fabric and you can make numerous tops; from comfy pajamas all the way to a lovely top for a fancy party.

For now, though, we will concentrate on making this camisole top to use with the walking shorts from a few projects ago.  For the fabric, I am using some lovely cotton that I picked up years ago from Japan.  The best fabric for this project is 100% cotton woven or knitted, but you can check my other fabric suggestions below from that are available easily on Amazon.com.

This camisole top has an easily adjustable bra strap and underbust gathers to give a more flattering look and room for the bust.

There is a shirred back to allow you room for movement and better support should you choose to not wear a bra.

And there’s a cute ruffled hem for a more feminine look.

This project is also a perfect opportunity to practice changing the dials of the overlocker (which can be tricky at first).  I had the opportunity to test the amazing Bernina 1300 MDC for this project.  I must say the results are professional and I love the machine, however, the price of the machine left me gasping for air.  I normally use a Bernina FunLock 008D.  It’s very old and in need of maintenance, but it still manages to do the job.

Really, any overlocker can do a narrow hem such as the one I was able to accomplish, however, be sure to read your manual.  There is great information in those pages and all you need to know to be able to get the most out of your machine.

Sewing Level: Intermediate

In order to succeed using this camisole top pattern, you need to know how to make a bra strap, shirr fabric using your sewing machine, and make a tiny hem.  Unfortunately, we do not have a tutorial on how to shirr fabric using the sewing machine, so I will write it up in the next few days.  If you can’t wait for that, or are allergic to elastic or need more support for your bust, I recommend this technique: shirring without elastic thread.

If you do not have an overlocker but still would like to have the ruffle detail you can use a double edge lace.

Body Measurements

Size 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18
Bust 31 1/2″ 33″ 34 1/2″ 36″ 37 1/2″ 39″ 41″ 43″
Waist 24 1/2″ 26″ 27 1/2″ 29″ 30 1/2″ 32″ 33 1/2″ 36″
Hips 33 3/4″ 35″ 37″ 38 1/2″ 40″ 41 1/2″ 43″ 45″

Fabric Suggestions from Amazon.com

Materials For The Top

  • 1 to 1.25 yards of 100% cotton
  • 1 spool of elastic thread
  • Thread to match
  • 15 to 20″s of 1/4″ elastic

Materials For The Bra Straps

  • 40″ of bra strap elastic
  • 2 rings the width of the elastic
  • 2 sliders the width of the ring

Tools

  • Sewing machine
  • Overlocker

How To Download Your Camisole Top Pattern

Use the latest free version of Adobe Reader, use “Actual Size” and “Landscape” format.

Pattern Download

Our patterns are still free, but now you now have the option of making a small contribution if you like our work! We’d really appreciate it and it will help is keep going with new and fun designs like this. Even a dollar or two really goes a long way.

Thanks so much in advance for helping us out.  You can use any credit card and you don’t need a Paypal account, although you can use one if you have one.

Get the FREE pattern HERE

Pattern Layout

camisole top pattern

How To Sew Your Camisole Top

This pattern does not have a seam allowance.  I like to work with a 3/8″ (1cm).

Make The Bra Straps

I have not written a separate tutorial on how to make a bra strap, however, I have used them in a few other So Sew Easy patterns.  If you can not wait until next week when I write the instructions, please have a look at the bralette instructions as the straps in that project are exactly the same.

Sewing The Front

Gather each cup about 2.5″ spreading the gathers evenly right under the nipple.

camisole top pattern

Gather all four cups.

Place two cups print side up and lay the end of the bra strap towards the top and allow to hang towards the gathers.

Lay the other two cups print side down and sew following the red stitches below.

Clip the corners and reduce the seam allowance to 1/4″ (.5cm). Turn the cups right side up and iron.

Join the cups to the front bodice start front the side to the center.  Overlapping the cups at the front.

Making The Ruffles

Measure the length of the top of the cup and double it in size.  Measure the underbust seam and double it in size.

Make a small hem with your overlocker or make a small hem with your sewing machine.  The ruffles are Your length X 1″ wide.

Gather the ruffles in the middle.

Sew the ruffles starting at the top of the bust towards the center then add the one under the bust. Pull out the gathering thread.

Making The Back

Serge the top of the back.

1 1/4″ from the serged edge start to shirr the fabric.  Follow the table on the pattern for your size.

Print sides together, sew from the hem to the armpits.  You will notice a 1/2″ difference.  This space is where the 1/4″ inch elastic will go.  Pin the elastic to the seam allowance and fold the edge over the elastic and sew.  Overlock the sides and the hemline.

Adding The Hem Ruffle

To make the hem ruffle you need to cut two strips of fabric 2 1/2″ in width times the amount shown on the chart below.  Choose according to your size.  You will need two strips one for the front and one for the back.

Size Length
4 44″
6 47 3/4″
8 48 1/2″
10 49 1/4″
12 50″
14 50 3/4″
16 51 1/2″
18 52 1/4″

Sew the ruffle to the hem at 3/8″ from the edge, and you should be all done!

Also, if you are using knit, the best hem to use will be a lettuce hem.  Check out the tutorial below for a great guide.

I hope you are able to use your overlocker with this camisole top pattern and get some good practice with that very useful machine.

I’m sure this camisole top pattern will become a regular in your summer wardrobe.  It’s just so easy to change and easier to wear.  This top looks so great with a cardigan, under a jacket or to simply with your favorite pair of shorts.

Anyways, look out for more tutorials coming soon.  Until then, Happy Sewing!


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