Deborah Moebes is amazing! She is like a sewing bff...or a sewing super hero. She owns and operates the stitching party powerhouse Whipstitch. She has also written an amazing book, Stitch by Stitch that is an essential sewing primer for learning to sew. In fact it's pretty much a gift that she has written and given to the world. It is comprehensive, supportive, helpful and it's a book that allows you to grow as your progress through it.
I've asked Deborah some questions, and you're in luck... she answered them!
We read that before you were heiress to an Atlanta Sewing Empire, you were an archeologist. Does this effect your process in any way? Meaning, I am a printmaker and it effects everything that I do. Thought process, work process, finishing process...
Totally! Archaeology is about quantifying and measuring--data, artifacts, structures--but in the end, it's really about people. What I learned as a scientist translates directly to the way I look at what I do now, especially my understanding of how sewing has changed over time and how people learn to sew. I think that the way I approach my own sewing is more methodical and planned because of my years as an archaeologist--I think through projects way more than I did before I was a scientist, and I see more organization and system in my projects, if that makes sense. I also think that the human connection of past to present is huge for me, and is a reflection of my background--there are very few things I do in sewing where I don't think about the timeline that led to me making that very project in that way; I really wanted the book to be part of that larger context, and to represent another link in that ongoing chain.
When choosing fabric for projects, what are your personal specifications besides what a pattern calls for?
I refuse under any circumstances to use a polyester fabric, and that almost always includes blends, as well. I really, really feel strongly about using natural fibers and about wanting the fabric to feel good under my hands as I work. After that, I'm like most people: I want something pretty that flatters me, and that appeals to my eye and personal aesthetic. Most of us tend to develop a palette over time, and gravitate toward particular colors; I tend to use a lot of lime and chartreuse, a lot of tomatoe-y reds and clear blues for myself. And as surprising as it seems, considering how much I love so many of the prints that are on the market right now, I generally prefer to make garments from solids (and then accent with accessories made in prints).
You have included a very thorough section about types of fabric, how they are made, and design specifications. Do you have a favorite cloth to work with? If so for what reasons?
I find cotton to be a really versatile and forgiving fabric--it's certainly the fiber I recommend for anyone looking to learn to sew. I use it for the majority of my projects and love the way it behaves and feels and how easy it is to work with. As a fiber, it also comes in a wide range of fabrications, which is so great--everything from broadcloth to voile and lawn to knits. I'm working with more knit cottons lately than I have at any other time, and am really excited to see so many more interlocks come on the market.
Let's expound on choosing fabrics. How and why should we choose what fabric to use, Deborah?
When choosing a fabric to suit a planned project, your goal is always to focus on
three qualities of the fabric: the weight, the drape, and the print. These are the
characteristics that affect the functionality, the desired shape, and the aesthetics of
your finished project.
Weight is the heaviness of the fabric, which has as much to do with what season
to wear it as it does with where on your body to wear it. Fabrics with more weight
have a better recovery and staying power: a lightweight cotton, for example, won’t
put up with being used as pants, and will leave you with a saggy bottom after a few
minutes of sitting, but a heavier twill will retain its shape longer and recover better,
so that when you stand back up your behind is all it was meant to be.
Drape is how the fabric hangs on the body. It is related to weight, but fabrics of
the same weight can have very different drape. A cotton canvas, for example, is a
heavier weight fabric, but some have a soft drape that hangs and conforms to the
shape beneath it and others have a stiff drape that creates cones and hard folds.
Choosing a fabric with the correct drape for your project is essential to getting the
shape that you want: you don’t want a tote bag that goes limp when you set it down, or a wrap dress that looks like a snap-on outfit because it doesn’t move.
The aspect about fabric that most people really spend their time thinking about
is pattern or print. It matters, don’t get me wrong, but this should be the final
consideration in choosing your fabrics. The weight and drape of the fabric mustbe
right before moving on to the print and pattern!
The major considerations in print selection are scale and placement. Scale is the
overall size of the design, which can vary from a “ditty” print of very tiny images to
a large-scale print with a 20”+ repeat. Smaller prints make the wearer of a garment
look larger, and larger prints shrink the figure. Placement matters, too—few things
are more frustrating than finishing a dress and finding that you’ve placed the arrow design on your fabric so that it points to….parts you might not want an arrow pointing to. You may also want to deliberately place a particular part of a print in order to best show it off, like when you center an image on the front of a handbag, for example. Watch the scale and the placement in order to achieve the overall impact you want your project to have!
This is Lizzy again. I was always told by my teachers, and I have passed it on to my own students... People often say that they can't paint. They generally have only painted once... but the first time they did paint they were using a brush that cost $1.00, a box set of paints from no one knows where, on a store bought canvas that has essentially been lacquered with starch. None of those are the right tool for the job. A brush that you have no control over? paint with no vehicle, mystery pigment, and questionable binder? A canvas that is dead? how would it ever have been successful?
You don't need to be a painter for this to apply to you. Your materials, when you sew need to be the right tools for the job, and you will have success! Deborah does an amazing job in Stitch by Stitch by giving you a wealth of information that you can store in your armory of sewing knowledge to help you progress as a sewer/sewist/seamster/seamstress.
Follow the rest of the tour!
- Thursday, Sept 16: Fat Quarterly
- Friday, Sept 17: Made By Rae
- Monday, Sept 20: Motherhood Uncensored
- Tuesday, Sept 21: Sew, Mama, Sew
- Wednesday, Sept 22: Mod Podge Rocks
- Thursday, Sept 23: True Up
- Friday, Sept 24: Simply Modern Mom
- Saturday, Sept 25: Wardrobe Refashion
- Monday, Sept 27: Miss Britt
- Tuesday, Sept 28: Luv in the Mommyhood
- Wednesday, Sept 29: Bari J
- Thursday, Sept 30: Attack of the Redneck Mommy
- Friday, Oct 1: Grosgrain
Thank you Deborah for sharing this info, and of course your wonderful book!