Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fabric Shopping With Dad

Before I tell you about that, I have to show you photos of the Chinese suits I don't have to sew for Chinese New Year next February/March, thanks to Mum and Dad buying these for the girls. Hurrah! I love this thick, solid brocade paired with the very subtle prints in the facings.

I'm still planning on making some for the girls, in some modern fabric versions as well as this traditional brocade, but Mum and Dad have bought me time with these, so I can wait another year.

Today Dad wanted to go fabric shopping at JoAnn's so off we went - Mum, Dad, the girls and me. Dad was there to check out nylon packcloth and foam padding for the bowcases he's making back in Singapore. Loaded him up with specialized sewing needles (denim, top-stitching) which are hard to find back home. In the midst of our animated discussions on zippers, bindings, the denier factor of nylon packcloth and methods of lining and padding bags, it suddenly occurred to me that it would be fun to tell you about our afternoon. I'd often gone fabric shopping with Mum while I was still living in Singapore but I'd forgotten that I did that with Dad, too. We didn't buy garment fabric so much as trawled the streets of Chinatown, trying to track down the old suppliers of 600D and 1000D packcloth. Very funny.

I also bought neoprene:

Let me tell you, I shall never buy this online again. I bought a yard of that raspberry-black neoprene from JoAnn for $10 a yard, and paid 5 times that for about half the amount online. Hate online fabric shopping.

Dad was quite excited about the neoprene and we had more animated discussions on what to make with it (pouches for tools, for instance). Not the same kinds of things as I would make with it (insulated lunch bags and little waistbags for the girls) but good to brainstorm and expand my horizons a bit. I think filial piety compels me to share my new neoprene stash with him, especially after years of dipping into his stashes of bag hardware as a teenager and young adult. 

Dad wants to hit the other fabric hotspots around here over the next few weeks, so more fabric shopping for us. Must remember to bring a huge arsenal of snacks for the girls - today I didn't, and they were not their usual well-behaved selves. 

Mum and I have been dissecting my drafting books after the kids are in bed, randomly jumping from topic to topic and whipping out the brown kraft paper rolls to experiment. On a whim, we drew up a raglan sleeve block/sloper the other night. I'd done raglan sleeves before but never from a sloper and I wanted to visualize how one adapted a basic body block into a raglan sleeve block. We read the books and then surrendered and had Mum do her "draft by feel" thing with the color pencils. Then we got sleepy and went to bed. If I find cheap and ugly knit fabric in some fabric store soon, I'll make a muslin and see how that turns out.

Oh, and I found out that I have another sewing aunt who drafted her patterns directly onto fabric when sewing clothes. She'd take a person's measurements, draw the pattern right onto the fabric itself and cut it out. Without a paper pattern. 

"What- you mean like a shapeless, dartless dress with a gathered waist, sort?" I asked.
"No," said Mum. "Like uniforms, you know, for hotel staff. Tailored coats and jackets and things like that. She was very good."

This dear aunt has since passed on, but while she was alive, she also used to do amazing machine embroidery. And her husband - my uncle - is a tailor, which was a fact I'd known but forgotten till Mum mentioned it again. Suddenly felt very self-conscious that I was making chickens and pantyhose potatoes and morphable totes and spending entire years working on strange rubbishy things like mannequins. So frivolous in comparison to the other people in my family who are actual seamstresses.

Anyway, Mum and I think we might work on those Chinese frog buttons together - she remembers them better than I do. We might do a tutorial and share it here! 


  1. Thanks for sharing this, L! It feels like I'm right there with you and can EXACTLY see and feel the experience (especially the drafting thing with your Mum) :)

    Hurray for parents!

    Enjoy every second with them :)

    Love you all!

  2. Love the new CNY suits and that is a really good moneysaving tip concerning the neoprene! Enjoy your visit, sounds like you are having a blast together.
    I would really enjoy the frog closure tutorial, I have a couple of missing frogs on some otherwise lovely outfits.

  3. Those Chinese suits are gorgeous! Your girls will look sooo pretty in them! (I'm surprised they weren't IN them for the photos. ;) )

    How cool it must be to shop for fabrics with your dad. No doubt there aren't many women who can say that, especially here in the U.S.!

    Looking forward to hearing about more of your "adventures". Enjoy!

  4. it seems you are having a great time with your parents! it's great when you can share so much. I also love it when we talk projects with my mom...with my dad is the DYI stuff. I would love to get some neoprene like yours.

  5. JoAnn is now selling neoprene? Fantastic!!!

    My grandmother made clothing like that - just taking measurements and cutting out the cloth. Really cute things that fit, too. Somehow her mind just knew where and how to cut!

    Enjoy the rest of your visit with your parents!!!

  6. your family is amazing - thanks for the peek! I have NEVER known or seen someone who could just cut into fabric knowing only a person's measurements. That astonishes me.

  7. @Margo
    Margo: it astonished me, too. My draw dropped.

  8. @KJ@letsgoflyakite
    Yes, go to Joann. Find neoprene in the upholstery section where you'd normally find vinyl and headliner and stuff like that on the long, horizontal rolls. Neoprene is considered a "utility fabric" but it isn't in the utility fabric section because the bolt it's on is too long (54" long). The retail price is $19.99 but use your half-off coupon.
    I bought my 2? 3? square feet of neoprene from that online Seattle Fabrics store, on readers' recommendations. Be warned: their shipping costs are very, very, very high, and it takes a loooooooooong time to get to you.

  9. I have wanted an inexpensive laptop sleeve - now I know where to get the neoprene. Thanks!

  10. I think it is really neat that sewing is in your blood. You use your gifts well to serve your family and fans. Thank you!
    Jenny Anderson
    McHenry, IL

  11. Wow, your family is the coolest ever! You are so lucky, and we are all lucky to benefit from your fabulous creative genius!! :)

  12. It tugs at me to read about your talented needleworking family -- whenever I have an idea for a project that seems so simple/useful/utilitarian yet completely like nothing I've seen on the net/c.2011, I often think that someone in my family must have made one/had one and I'm just remembering their crafting wrong.
    Love the CNY suits for the girls! Reminds me that I have a stash of brocades that should be used up...

  13. Thanks for the neoprene heads up. I RAN to Joann's to get some. It's very exciting. I have no idea what I am going to do with it, but I just like knowing I have it. I agree about Seattle Fabrics... the shipping costs are really high and it took my order 2 weeks to arrive.

  14. "Anyway, Mum and I think we might work on those Chinese frog buttons together - she remembers them better than I do. We might do a tutorial and share it here! "

    Oh, yes, please do! I'm also eager to see your deconstruction of Fleur. :-)

    Sounds as though you are really making the most of every moment of your parents' visit. Good for you and your family! Enjoy the remainder of your time together.

  15. completely off subject, but I thought you would enjoy seeing this:

    A cardboard play space that folds flat!

  16. My great grandma died when I was 15, and apparently her mother had been a dressmaker to Queen Victoria. My mum tells me she had lots of stories about their adventures and was amazing when it came to hand beading an embellishing, but I never got a chance to talk to her about it. can't help thinking it was sad that her skills were lost, so glad you're enjoying working with your Mum.

  17. What store did you purchase the awesome neoprene?


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