Tag Archives: fabric

Welcoming 2016 with intention

Happy New Year!

Do you make resolutions? It may not be common practice for fabric stores to make resolutions, but we’re doing it for 2016.

Inspired by the wise words of Dame Vivienne Westwood, we intend to ‘buy less, choose well, make it last’ this year.

Nancy's logo new 2015

For us, this means spending time creating clothing that is made to last, out of fabrics that are made to last. It means taking the time to fit patterns so that the garments we make look incredible when we wear them. For some of us, it means using treasured fabrics from our stashes in addition to buying beautiful new pieces.

If you follow us on Facebook, you may have seen this video that we shared in December. We appreciate the sentiments expressed by Carin Mansfield of in-ku about the complexity of garment construction and the changing face of ready-to-wear fashion.

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-35122104/embed

As part of this year’s theme, we will use our blog to share simple-but-long lasting construction techniques, consider the versatility of patterns, and look closely at our favorite fibers and textiles. We will also continue sharing tutorials for small sewing projects, along with our series of interviews with employees, friends, and store departments.

Buy less, choose well, make it last.

We are very excited for the year ahead and hope you will help us make it fantastic.

Late-in-the-game gift ideas

It’s December 24th! Where has the time gone?

If you are in the market for some last minute presents, we have some fun ideas for quick to assemble gift sets. Check it out!

Do you love sewing down-to-the-wire? Our toweling-by-the-yard is a perfect solution for a handmade gift made in a jiff! The sides are already hemmed, so all you have to do is pick a length and hem the top and bottom! Mix and match a few patterns for a great little hostess gift!NSB - last minute gifts toweling


If you know a child who has wanted to learn sewing, we have all the right tools to get them started, from the cutest notions to an informative and fun book! The gift of sewing is a gift that truly keeps on giving!NSB - last minute gifts kids


For kids of all ages, make a little craft kit including a book and the supplies to make one project! It’s a perfect way to keep hands busy during the lull between gift opening and dinnertime.NSB - last minute gifts handcraft


Know a vintage fashionista? We have vintage reproduction patterns and gorgeous fabrics & trimmings to help them create a unique look, plus cards and journals to help them share their style!NSB - last minute gifts vintage


Have a laundry lover in your life? Assemble a few great products to help them treat, wash, and iron their favorite garments and textiles!NSB - last minute gifts laundry


Is your loved one is a lover of Liberty London? Give them the gift of Liberty Tana lawn to keep…or of Liberty note cards to share!NSB - last minute gifts liberty london


For the artist in your life who loves color and sewing, help them make their own color-wheel quilt! Pick up a copy of Last-Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts, a package of candy colored wonder clips, and pick out 52 fabrics for their color-wheel!NSB - last minute gifts color

If all of these sound like they require a bit too much effort, remember: we sell gift certificates!

Nancy’s Sewing Basket is open today until 4pm, for all your last minute gifting needs!

 

 

Interview with a store department: Flannels, Fleeces, and Minky

Winter is finally here!

Though we are experiencing typical Seattle weather at present (cold and rainy), we have a forecast for snow on Christmas morning. It’s been a while since our last department interview, so we thought it would be fun to chat with the fabrics that keep us warm and cozy during these chilly winter days!

NSB - flannels interview header

Who are you?

I am the flannels, fleeces, and minky department.NSB - flannels interview solids and minky

Where do you reside at Nancy’s?

Since the store was rearranged this summer, I primarily reside halfway through the store, on the right. During the cooler months, however, I feature some of my wares along the stairs and main walkway.NSB - flannels interview prints table

Do you have a special focus?

Anything cozy! My fabrics are perfect for making blankets, scarves, pajamas, bathrobes, and more!NSB - flannels interview prints side 1

NSB - flannels interview prints side 2

What is your most recently received product?

Frankly, the most recently received products have been reorders. Restocking our basics in solid colors and the most popular prints and plaids in our fleeces and flannels.NSB - flannels interview fleeces

Do you have a current favorite product?

I have two favorites at present.

One is the Mammoth and Shetland Flannel lines from Robert Kaufman. Talk about making cozy fabrics even cozier! These are some of the plushest flannels I have ever encountered.NSB - flannels interview mammoth

The Shetland line uses classic weave patterns and colors in updated combinations to create fresh, modern flannels. These are two color yarn-dyes with one hue in the warp and another in the weft. So lovely.NSB - flannels interview shetland flannel

The Mammoth line features different plaids woven from crêpe yarns and the result is marvelous. NSB - flannels interview mammoth flannel

In addition to creating a more plush flannel, the texture of the yarn creates a dappling effect between colors.NSB - flannels interview mammoth detail

The other favorite is the fleeces with Seahawks and Sounders prints! It is really fun to see all the projects people make with these.NSB - flannels interview sports

Any favorite projects you’ve seen made from your wares?

Is it weird to say everything?

One recent fun project is the Laura Ingalls Wilder dress made for the Nancy’s Once Upon a Time raffle using Shetland Flannel.NSB - Once Upon a Time raffle - Little House in the Big Woods

Another sweet project I’ve seen was pajamas made for the whole family. Mom and dad each had their own plaid and the kids got a third plaid that incorporated colors from the parents’ plaids.

Beyond that, I love that my wares are perfect for last minute gift making. Fun gift ideas include flannel pillow cases, fleece infinity scarves, and quick blankets made of minky!NSB - flannels interview minky blanket

Quick and easy tote tutorial

This tote pattern was inspired by the best bag I ever had: big enough to carry a small selection of groceries or a creative project, but small enough that it never felt cumbersome. To expand on that bag’s great shape, I created three different sizes, each perfectly useful in its own right.

NSB - quick and easy tote tutorial header

The simplicity of this tote design provides so much opportunity to exercise creativity! Choose a fun printed fabric and embellish it with embroidery. Create some graphic patchwork and quilt it for additional texture. Paint your own fabric to be used for the outside. Make it in leather for a chic look.

This pattern goes together so quickly, I doubt you will want to make just one!

SUPPLIES

For all sizes, you will need:

  • Fashion fabric (I used printed cotton)
  • Lining fabric (I used printed cotton)
  • Webbing or ribbon for handles
  • Thread
  • Fusible fleece (optional; this adds body to the bag and stabilizes fabric)

TOOLS

  • Rotary cutter (recommended) or scissors
  • Quilter’s style see through ruler (I use 6.5” x 24”)
  • Self-healing mat (if using rotary cutter)
  • Marking tool (pen, pencil and chalk are all fine)
  • Sewing machine
  • Iron
  • Hand sewing needle (optional)

DIMENSIONS

quick and easy tote dimensions chart

Finished tote sizes:

  • The small tote finishes approximately 9.5” tall x 8.25” wide x 3.25” deep
  • The medium tote finishes approximately 12.25” t x 10.25” w x 4.25” d
  • The large tote finishes approximately 14.75” t x 12” w x 5.25” d

DIRECTIONS

For this tutorial, we show the construction of a medium tote. All seam allowances are 3/8”.

1. Cut fashion and lining fabrics to size. If using fusible fleece, follow manufacturer’s instructions to fuse to back of fashion fabric.NSB - quick and easy tote cut fabrics to size

2. For each piece of fashion fabric, find center point of top edge. Measure and mark the distance from center point according to dimensions chart (e.g. for medium tote, measure and mark 3” to either side for a total spacing of 6”).NSB - quick and easy tote mark center and strap spacing

Next, take one strap and align raw edge of webbing to raw edge of fabric along the top, matching to the  outside of the spacing mark.NSB - quick and easy tote align strap 1

Repeat with other end of strap and second spacing mark.NSB - quick and easy tote align strap 2

On sewing machine, baste straps in place (I like to sew 1/4” from the edge).NSB - quick and easy tote baste strap

3. Pin and sew one lining piece to fashion fabric along top edge using 3/8” seam allowance. NSB - quick and easy tote pin lining to outside

Repeat for second fashion fabric and lining pieces.NSB - quick and easy tote sew lining and outer pieces

Iron to set seam, then iron lining and fashion sides down (this will help create a clean finish along top edge).

4. Take one side and reopen; lay wrong side down. NSB - quick and easy tote lay wrong side down

Open second side and lay atop the first, right sides together, matching fashion fabrics and aligning the seams at edges.NSB - quick and easy tote pin tote pieces right sides together

Sew the two side seams and the bottom seam for the fashion fabric. On the bottom edge for the lining, leave a 4” to 5” opening in the center. **NOTE: it is best not to  backstitch at the corners, as these will be pressed open and cut off**NSB - quick and easy tote sew all sides leaving an opening at bottom of lining

Press flat.

5. Create the box bottom: in one corner, pull the two fabric pieces away from each other so the two seams match; press seams open. Using the ruler, measure and mark the length shown on the dimensions chart perpendicular to the seam line (e.g. for the medium tote, measure 4” from fold to fold). I find a quilting ruler marked with 45° angle to be particularly helpful to this task, as I can align with the folded edge. NSB - quick and easy tote mark box bottom outer fabricNSB - quick and easy tote mark box bottom lining

Sew on machine; be certain to backstitch at the edges. NSB - quick and easy tote sew box bottom

Trim seam allowance to 3/8”.

Repeat for all four corners. Press to set seams.

6. Turn the bag right side out through opening in bottom of lining.

Edge stitch the opening closed on the machine or blind stitch closed by hand.

NSB - quick and easy tote stitch opening closed

Fit the lining into the tote body, matching the box corners.

7. Iron the top edge (this is where that ironing in step 3 comes in handy). Pin in place, if desired.NSB - quick and easy tote iron top edge

Stitch around top 1/8” from edge; stitch again 1/4″ from edge.

8. Admire your new bag!


As mentioned above, there are many ways to personalize this tote!

In one version, I added a pocket to the lining…

…which would also work very well on the outside!NSB - reusable gift wrap large tote pocket outside

For another version, I used a printed fabric and a coordinating near solid for the lining. I added embroidery to the printed fabric and made a matching appliqué for the near solid. By finishing the ‘lining’ by hand, this becomes a reversible bag!

I hope you enjoy making your own version of this tote! If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below!

Using fabric as gift wrap

After making my advent calendar, I became excited by the idea of starting another new tradition in my household: reusable gift wrap. Just thinking about the amount of torn wrapping paper that goes to recycling after opening holiday presents is enough to make me feel faint, so I thought: why not wrap gifts in something that is easily reused?

The solution? Fabric!

NSB - reusable gift wrap header

Wouldn’t it be so fun to find this stack of gifts beneath the tree?

Whether using a cut of fabric to wrap a gift or sewing it into a bag that can double as a fun holiday tote, there are many fun approaches to wrapping gifts in fabric. Let’s take a look at a few of them.


 

Earlier this year, we shared a tutorial for our easy gift bag pattern. This bag is quick-to-make and perfectly fits a wine bottle. It looks great made in a variety of fabrics, from novelty print cotton to a shimmery organza. Tailor it to the recipient or the specific bottle you are giving!

NSB - reusable gift wrap easy gift bag


 

Nancy’s carries the excellent book Wrapping with Fabric by Etsuko Yamada, which explores traditional ways of using furoshiki. Totally inspired, I decided to try a couple basic wrap styles using fabric in fun prints.

 

NSB - reusable gift wrap with fabric and book

These were wrapped in rayon challis (left) and cotton broadcloth (back right). Both prints are festive, but neither is specifically “holiday”, so they can easily be reused for other occasions.

 

While a traditional furoshiki has two selvedges and two hemmed edges, I decided to serge around the four edges of my fabric for minimal sewing. This would be a lovely way to wrap a present for someone who sews, as the wrapping fabric can double as a gift!

NSB - reusable gift wrap fabric

Can you guess what’s inside? The green parcel has a pair of books and the red gift is a sewing basket! I purchase 3/4 yard of each fabric to create my version of the furoshiki.


 

Our free grocery bag pattern (NSB grocery bag instructions) also makes a great gift bag. The shape is especially great for larger and bulkier items!

NSB - reusable gift wrap grocery bag pattern

I left off the handles for a clean finish and added ribbon for festive flair. The fabric I selected is actually toweling-by-the-yard, which is the perfect width for this pattern!


 

I love the idea of wrapping a gift inside of a gift (think of it as the turducken of giftwrap). Enter our quick and easy tote in three sizes!

NSB - reusable gift wrap three totes

These bags combine the fun and ease of wrapping in a gift bag with the practicality of a tote bag. I love the notion of filling this bag with a collection of small gifts for a deserving recipient. Make a home spa kit for a beauty enthusiast or tuck a couple books into the tote for your favorite bookworm!

All three sizes of this tote are incredibly useful and appropriate for anyone, young or old.

NSB - reusable gift wrap small tote outside

The small tote is perfect for kids or for reuse as a lunch bag!

NSB - reusable gift wrap medium tote

Our medium tote is the perfect ‘anytime’ size!

NSB - reusable gift wrap large tote outside

The large tote is an excellent size for commuters and students, easily carrying a laptop and a couple books.

Interested in making a quick-and-easy tote of your own? Check back with us tomorrow for a full tutorial!

 

Reusable advent calendar

Who can believe it is already December 1st? As we start counting down the days to the holidays, I thought it would be fun to share a handmade project that helps to do exactly that!

Inspired by one of my favorite holiday traditions, I decided it would be great to make an advent calendar that can be reused from one year to the next.

NSB - reusable advent calendar header

When designing this calendar, I wanted to capture the essence of the classic window style advent calendar, choosing to feature individual fabrics for the days. In lieu of doors, I created small pockets, which can be filled with a variety of objects, like small gifts or treats.

After determining the size and shape of this advent calendar, I began pulling fabrics from my stash, picking out a few novelty prints, which all have a fun, retro quality, and then selecting coordinating prints and yarn-dyes from our store. My color palette ended up as classic red and green, which I updated slightly by adding a pale grey for the pockets and any framing for smaller cuts.

NSB - advent calendar window fabrics

Inspired by talented embroidery artists, like Yoko Saito, Rebecca Ringquist, and my coworkers Susan and Kitrina, I decided to embroider the numbers for each pocket. I began by finding a font I liked for the numbers (Desdemona), which I printed onto Sticky Fabri-Solvy™. To pick up the colors in my fabrics, I selected three hues each in red and green.

NSB - advent calendar embroidery supplies

I had fun experimenting with different stitches and let the shapes of the numbers inform some of my designs. For a bit more visual interest, I embroidered the even numbers in green and odd numbers in red, adding an occasional silver stitch for effect.

NSB - advent calendar pocket rows

I am particularly fond of the last row of numbers, because each number has some red and some green. Plus, 22 is a pair of candy canes and 24 is a little house, which were so fun to stitch out.

Though embroidering the numbers took some time, the rest of the construction was very simple. And I am so pleased with the result!

NSB - reusable advent calendar complete

While the calendar I made will house little treats and gifts, in keeping with the concept of reusability, I love the idea of filling each pocket with an ornament that can be added to the tree after retrieving from the calendar. Alternately, it would be very fun to track the days by moving a small holiday token forward each day.

If you like this calendar – and want to make one for yourself – stay tuned later this week for a tutorial on how to make one of your very own!

Get to know a Nancy’s employee: SPECIAL EDITION!

Today I am sharing a particularly exciting edition of the ‘get to know’ interview series. In celebration of Nancy’s Sewing Basket’s 37th anniversary*, I sat down with Nancy (yes, that Nancy!) and her mother Jackie, who owns NSB, to learn more about the store itself and the people who started it.

NSB - gtk nancys header

The original shop location, with a familiar face sweeping in front

Tell me a bit about the shop. What inspired you to open a fabric store?
Nancy:
My mother and father wanted to open a retail shop on Queen Anne. We talked about an Italian deli but opted for a fabric store. Quite a leap! Both my mother and I loved to sew, but we were tired of being in the middle of a project and having to get dressed up to take the bus to downtown Seattle to purchase notions, patterns, and fabric at Frederick & Nelson. This was at a time when you did not go downtown without looking your best!

Jackie: I remember Nancy really hated having to leave Queen Anne for a spool of thread. Opening a fabric store in our neighborhood was a good solution.

Did you have much experience in retail prior to opening Nancy’s?
Jackie: No. Well, the truth is when I was about 14/15 years old, I ran an ice cream shop in my hometown in North Dakota. I never ate a drop of ice cream the whole time I worked there because the previous shopkeep – a relative of the owner – got fired for eating ice cream. We were open year round, though summer was our busiest season. I did that for about two years.

My husband, John, loved business and was very interested in starting one of his own, which is why we went for it.

Nancy: No retail experience at all. I studied hard in high school taking bookkeeping, business, and economics classes. When living in Arizona, I took some accounting classes at the local community college.

I was very nervous during the first months the shop was open. Since I had very little schooling in sewing techniques/fibers/etc. I was sure everyone who came into the shop knew so much more than me. But, what I learned is that you treat everyone politely and answer their questions the best you can. When I did not know the answer, I got back to the customer with the proper information. My mother and I had so much fun talking with, helping, and building very loyal customers and friends.

Tell me a bit about the early days.
Nancy: The original shop – where Caffé Ladro is today – was so small.

Jackie: We had fabric reps who originally refused to even come into the shop because it was so small! The first storefront was a small, cramped space. We worked in very tight quarters; there was barely room to move behind each other at the cutting counter! We met with reps in a tiny room you could hardly turn around in. But right off the bat, we made decent sales.

Nancy: Yes, we were successful enough to expand into the two north spaces (originally a beauty shop and a real estate office) by our third year.

The first shop was not fancy and was so jam-packed with fabric (everything from quilting cottons to woolens to imported French laces), notions, buttons, yarn, and patterns. Jackie and I loved to buy lovely things. We wanted to carry everything! We wanted to be the local fabric store our customers could count on to find what they needed.

Jackie: Nancy, John, and I spent a lot of time in the shop over the years; it was real work.

How has Nancy’s changed over the years? 
Nancy: 
When we purchased the last space on our block of Queen Anne Avenue and built our permanent location, the shop started looking more organized.  Jackie and I worked with an architect to create a space we thought would reflect the character of Queen Anne and work for our purposes. Today, with the ideas and creativity of the Nancy’s staff the shop looks amazingly beautiful. It is like Nancy’s has grown up from our very humble beginning.

My one disappointment is that Nancy’s now has the reputation of being very expensive. Yes, we have some very special fabric and it is expensive. But, we also have the basics!

Jackie: Well, the store has changed in some ways I didn’t originally expect. Like Nancy said, we now carry a lot of special fabric that can be expensive. I always loved notions and the supplies that contribute to making small crafts. While we still offer a lot in the way of notions (Ellen does a great job with our notions department) and we have a nice selection of craft materials, we don’t really carry all those crafting supplies anymore. That isn’t what I anticipated.

What is your current role at Nancy’s?
Nancy: I do the daily bookkeeping and set the budget for all the departments. I keep in touch with the shop management via email and telephone on a daily basis. And, I still participate in the most fun stuff: buying the lovely fabric we offer to our customers.

I must say I miss being at the shop. It was such a huge part of my life for a very long time. It was so special to work with all our customers.

Jackie: I’m on the back burner. I talk to the store every day to keep up on what is happening, what’s selling well, what kinds of projects people are doing. Mostly just supervising from a distance. I still like to participate in buying fabric!

Do you have a favorite memory of running the store?
Jackie:
I have a few favorite memories. One time, in the early days, I had a customer who came in looking for Velcro. I hadn’t ever really used it and, in my unfamiliarity, I accidentally sold them only one side! I was so embarrassed. They never did come back for the other half…

Another time, in our first space, a customer came in asking if we carried woolens. I very proudly showed him to the wool section, which at the time contained just three bolts!

One more: for several years, Nancy’s would put on fashion shows, where all the staff would make an ensemble and then wear it in a runway show. One year, one of our staff was a bit behind in her sewing and to complete it on time she used glue to finish her last few seams. It was a workable solution; she got to wear it on the runway!

Nancy: Over the 23 years that I was at the shop daily, there are too many to mention. Okay, here’s one: I am a punctual, on-time person.  Even though I was always at the shop on time, my dad often beat me to the shop and that annoyed me at the time. But looking back, it was so fun to see him sweeping the sidewalk, always there to say hello. It was very special. He loved the shop and that is why our building has a memorial plaque in his honor.

Let’s switch gears a little; I want to know more about you. When did you learn to sew and what was your first project?
Nancy: My mother taught me the basics of sewing at a very young age. In high school, I took the required course of home economics. Mrs. Hayes was the home ec teacher at Queen Anne High School and Oh! My! Gosh!! My first project was a hand sewing sampler and you were either lucky or talented if you passed that! I passed, not sure if I was talented or lucky! 😉 Then we moved on to the machines to make an apron with perfect seams. She was like a drill sergeant but, oh my did you learn the proper way to sew.

Jackie: I started with embroidery work when I was 8; that was my first fight with a needle and thread.

When I got older, I learned how to sew clothing because I wanted to go to the school basketball games. You see, it cost money, which I didn’t have, to go to the games. Then I figured out that if I joined the band, I could get in for free. I stabbed at the clarinet, and could really only hit a C note, but they still let me play. But back to learning how to sew: in order to be in the band, you had to have a pair of white pants. Those, like tickets to the game, cost money that I didn’t have. My first sewing project was my pair of white pants for playing in the band. I joined the home economics class and got enough help from the teacher that I completed the pants! I think she must have helped me with all the buttonholes, because I don’t remember putting in a zipper.

Do you still sew much? How do you spend your time now?
Jackie:
No, I can’t really do that any more. I work on all sorts of paperwork for another business. I also spend time with my three littlest granddaughters (twins who are two years old and a baby who is one). They are very well-behaved and so fun.

Nancy: I do not sew much anymore, although I have great plans to get up to my sewing room someday soon when my life finally slows down! I joke with friends that my sewing these last years has been repairing horse blankets.

After managing the shop for 13 years and then commuting to Queen Anne from my farm, south of Olympia, for another 13 years, I decided to semi-retire. Since I know the shop is in good hands under the management of Tamara and Kitrina with the help of our amazing staff, I can relax.

These days I spend my time with my horses. I train and have competed the last 19 years at dressage with my amazing Morgan geldings. My husband, Bill, and I  have been on many trail rides, rides at the beach and weekends spent riding and camping in the National Forest Wilderness.

Of course, living on a farm, there are the annual garden veggies that need to be processed.  So, I am busy, busy.

My husband and I love to travel.  We have had some amazing adventures in the last 20 years.

Did you have a special focus in sewing?
Jackie: Well, my sewing was pretty basic. I primarily made simple clothes for my grandchildren: tee shirts, nightgowns, and pajama pants. I didn’t sew much for myself. I made a couple of dresses over the years, and I still have a shirt that I made that turned out very well. I’m not a particularly accomplished seamstress, but I was good with the basics.

Nancy: I did a little of everything – tailoring, sewing for my boys and family, always having a project in the works. I especially liked making Halloween costumes for my boys – fun, creative, and you did not have to have the perfect fit!!  And: they loved it.

Jackie: Nancy was a really talented seamstress. All her garments were finished impeccably; she could wear them inside-out!

Do you have a favorite or most memorable sewing project?
Jackie: One year, when my younger son was around 12 years old, I made rain-capes for him and his football team out of a waterproof material. It was a simple silhouette, not much more than a hole for the head and a couple of seams on the sides, but it was a fun project. I must have been the only mom who could – or would – make them!

Nancy: I made the most beautiful hot pink – but not hot pink – wool crepe dress with bias cut matching silk binding from a Vogue pattern, more difficult than I had imagined. It was for an especially fancy New Years Eve event. After 40 hours of constructing this dress I was finishing the hand work until the minute before we left! I felt like a princess in it.

Thank you so much, Jackie and Nancy! This was a really fun interview and I have an even greater appreciation for the shop and its history!

*the Nancy’s Sewing Basket anniversary sale will begin on Monday, September 7th. For more details, please check out our website.

Thanks for reading this special interview! If you have any questions for Nancy or Jackie, please leave them in the comments below!