Sewing Machine Thoughts

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I’ve been a Bernina lover for a long time and I still am. I own a little Bernina Activa 230 and that machine has seen me through thick and thin, literally. Honestly, I didn’t even know how much I loved that machine until I started trying others and working on machines that students would bring to classes I taught. Not trying to bag on any machine, but wow, I noticed a world of difference. Machines that wouldn’t even sew through a certain thickness of fabric (like 2 layers of wool), had crummy, crummy tension problems, made frightful buttonholes, tears started flying when the word “zipper” was mentioned – things I’ve never really dealt with coming from my experience with my Bernina.

Then I decided that I was interested in doing a collaboration with a sewing machine company. There are a lot of reasons why, but let’s just say that I was interested. I did ask Bernina and never got a response. So I looked elsewhere. I had worked on a couple of Pfaffs that students had brought into some of my classes, and I was impressed with their simplicity and ease of use and so I thought I would ask Pfaff if they were interested. And they were. We all got to talking and emailing and we made a deal and by August of this year or so, I had a shiny new Pfaff Performance 5.0 in my possession.

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For what it’s worth, and since I’ve had some time to get used to my new machine I thought I would go ahead and give an honest review of my experience with it and what I think. Coming from my great experience with my Bernina, I thought this might be a helpful review if you’re in the market for something new. There’s more than one fish in the sea, it seems.

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Let’s start with this. Not only do I love Berninas now, but I passionately love Pfaffs. This machine is marvelous to work with. Again, I have the Pfaff Performance 5.0. This machine has a beautiful stitch. Perfect tension. Truly, perfect. And the great part is, it is perfect even when the fabric is really really thick, or if you’ve got a nice heavy topstitch thread plugged in (something my Bernina struggled with, but still did a passable job). I ALWAYS look at this sort of thing first. A big win there. This machine is a computerized machine, but the computer system is surprisingly easy to use. I say that dreading any kind of “getting used to” computer things on anything. The learning curve here is pretty intuitive. There were very few things that I couldn’t just figure out on my own and the simple manual that comes with this machine is helpful (and simplified – did I mention it’s simple?).

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There’s a crazy amount of stitches on this girl. As someone who doesn’t use that many to begin with, I was impressed and then more impressed to find that the stitches are pretty fun to use if and when you get the chance. The triple straight stitch is pretty amazing; my Bernina can’t hold a candle to it. There’s several really, really awesome buttonholes and I love the buttonhole foot that already calculates how big to make your buttonhole just by having a pre-specified size already programmed into the computer interface. I still have to measure the button and do a tester but, it’s a nice change to calculating the right size for my Bernina buttonhole (though my Bernina makes beautiful buttonholes too).

pfaff-love-7I’m loving the control I feel with this machine. The foot pedal is absolutely marvelous. You have so much control – it’s not just a race car right out of the gate. Still getting used to the knee lift (pictured above – no, that is not just some random crap shot of my dirty sewing room! ha ha!), but I’m beginning to love this more and more. It’s nice to have more free hands in various parts of the sewing process. I die over the free arm space. Feel like I could shove a quilt through that free arm. It’s that big! You can take the bed of the machine out and voila, instant sleeve bed. Love that.

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IDT is pretty amazing. I love that you can use it or not. Like when I’m putting in a sleeve, don’t want IDT. But when I’m stitching on a voile, chiffon or other lightweight fabric, this is a dream! No ripples (or lots fewer ripples) and the stitch is even. (IDT is short for Integrated Dual Feed and it’s Pfaff’s built in system for the foot and the feed dogs to feed the fabric evenly – like a walking foot, but without having to change the foot out). In the photo above, the IDT thing-a-ma-jig is that blackish foot at the back of the presser foot.

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My Pfaff came with a plethora of sewing machine feet. They are snap on – not my favorite, but I love the fact that they are more evenly priced and I’m loving the clear feet that I’ve got (how did I ever live without these before!). The invisible zipper foot is marvelous and so is the regular zipper foot – my favorite thus far out of all the machines I have ever used. The bobbin is topside. At first I was turned off by this, but the stitch is so marvelous I can’t complain. I love the old-school storage for feet and bobbins in the bed of the machine. Such a simple thing, but something that ticked for me.

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I think that about wraps it up. This machine is a goodie and I’m thrilled to be collaborating with Pfaff for it. There’s a crew of us over at the Sewing Party that are working with some fun machine brands and contributing to this site. Lots of good stuff going on over there! Really good stuff. Definitely check it out. And hey, if you’re in the market for a new machine, come this holiday season, get yourself over to a Pfaff dealer and give these guys a test run. Worth. every. cent. Just sayin. I’m giving the Pfaff Performance 5.0 a 5-star rating.

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some like it hot. really hot.

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It was fairly recently that I discovered that Style Arc now has an Etsy shop where you can purchase PDF versions of many of their patterns. I stalked it for awhile. I mean, I actually have several of their patterns that I’ve ordered and have the printed paper copy of (their official webstore is located here). Having only heard good things about Style Arc – especially as concerns fit – I’ve long wanted to try one. Why I couldn’t just settle for using one that I’ve already purchased I don’t know. I have that squirrel disease. “Oh look, SQUIRREL!!!!!!!” In other words, my attention span has been fairly short lately.

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It only got shorter when I saw a few versions of the Kate wrap dress. If there’s one thing that I know about myself, it’s this. I love wrap dresses, but never make them. Yet, whenever I’m pattern perusing/shopping, guess what pattern I always end up purchasing? Some sort of wrap dress. Always. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many I have. Another disease, I’m certain, but I have a lot of them. Wrap dress patterns, I mean. Not diseases. So the Kate dress. This one somehow, jumped into my Etsy shopping cart and was downloaded and printed before I could even mouth the words Kate in my half-crazed-Kate-Dress-looking-up-everything-and-every-image/review-internet-vortex-stupor.

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I cut out and stitched up, what was supposed to be, a wearable muslin. That didn’t turn out. I mean they never do for me because I’m such a picky thing. I think I might finally be cured of the idea that I can make a wearable muslin. Ha. Anyway, the muslin told me a few things that I needed to fix and most importantly it told me that fabric choice in this dress is key. Non of that slinky, show-every-lump-and-bump kind of rayon jersey that I used in my muslin. I needed to use something beefier. So I decided to splurge on a stash piece of wool knit. It’s a pretty nice wool knit and it was perfect for the job.

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All in all, I made very few alterations to the pattern, which I found impressive (and which then prompted me to go right ahead and purchase a couple more downloadables from the Etsy shop, but hey who’s keeping tabs on that kind of thing?). I opted to use the left front for both front wrap pieces – wasn’t wild about the tucks on the right front for me (even though yes, I tried them). I lowered the waistline to where my waistline actually is which was about 1 1/2″ down from the original pattern. I chopped about 2 1/2″ off the hem (after lowering the waist). I took 1/2″ off of the neckline all the way around because, hey I’m up for a little sex appeal here and there and a little more skin was just the ticket. I got rid of the tucks in the sleeve (personal preference) and shortened it a mite. Lengthened the tie about 15 inches (wanted to be able to tie in the front) and Voila! done. These are pretty minor tweaks if you ask me – most of which are purely aesthetic. I mean usually I have to do a major forward shoulder adjustment on the bodice coupled with a broad upper back adjustment. Add in a sway back, plus a serious side seam take-in at hips and waist even though my measurements are a whole inch bigger than the size chart measurements on the back of the pattern envelope (I’m sure y’all have no idea which pattern companies these might be, right? Right???)

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Some construction deets. These Style Arc patterns come with a few lines of written instruction at best. I’m totally fine with this as I usually have a better construction method than the directions offer anyway. I opted to do a turned under neckline binding and I did the binding out of cotton/lycra jersey, for comfort. I applied it just like bias tape, due to the bulk, and then shortened it so that it hugged the neck. No gaping here! I used SewKeyZ woven stay tape for the shoulders and the knit stay tape for the hem of the dress. Used my coverstitch for the sleeve hem and dress hem and well, there’s not much more to say. This dress is easy peasy. Would even recommend to a beginner.

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Wearing one of my Gertie slips underneath this dress and it works out wonderfully! Works well and makes it nice and comfortable against the itch factor of the wool – though the wool isn’t that itchy, slips or linings always help, in my opinion. Plus, in the event that our Utah wind flips the wrap flaps open, I’m covered, literally!

Expect more Kate Wraps in my future. I’m on the lookout for a printy ponte as I feel the print would hide some of those lumps and bumps better (I know, we all have them, well at least I do). This thing is just the ticket for a working girl. Secret pajamas I’m telling you. Plus, once I find the right silk jersey for the job, it’s full blown DVF territory – if I haven’t hit that already. For those interested, here’s my full review of this pattern. Cheers and here’s to a happy October!

Made: Butterick 6031 Slips

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There comes a time in every woman’s life (I might be prone to exaggerate just a tad) that she has to face the need for new underpinnings. I don’t know about you, but for me this is such a needle in a haystack. I can look forever and ever for just the right bra or just the right underwear or as the case may be, just the right slip. And correct me if I’m wrong, but especially in the slip department, there are some serious, serious deficits. Even if you can find something, it’s usually an arm and a leg, or it’s just….grose.

Well, I couldn’t even find anything. Nothing. Not a thing. I’ve looked. I’ve scoured. I’ve even tried to find vintage slips at the thrift and right now, there seems to be a serious slip MIA because I finally decided to stop wasting my time and energy and just make something! Personally, I have nothing against making underpinnings of any kind, I just usually always opt to make something else first. But when the need arises, I’ll rise to the occasion.

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I had purchased Gertie’s Butterick 6031 awhile back. I was out with my mom and we were getting a few patterns from the local JoAnn. I couldn’t resist this particular pattern because the slips just look so pretty on the model and with some things I make, I do like to wear a slip. I waited several weeks before I even picked up the pattern again and decided that it needed to be made. I just finished up a wool knit wrap dress and was in desperate need of a nice slip to wear underneath.

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I pulled out my fabric and found a few micro jerseys to choose from (where I find all this fabric, I have no idea, sometimes it feels like it just magically appears). This is the fabric that Gertie recommends as per her sewalong and I had picked up the nude from Emma One Sock and the grey/blue and lavender from a local fabric shop (Designer’s Resource, if you live here in SLC). There are a few other fabrics that I think would work wonderfully in this pattern, namely swimsuit fabric and/or lining. I’ve seen some of those at the local JoAnn and do think they would do a marvelous job, but if you’re looking for these micro jerseys be on the lookout from something that falls away from the skin, feels cool to the touch and is usually a polyester and spandex blend. Usually something like 92% polyester and 8% spandex. They stretch in both directions but recover immediately.

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Anyway, once the fabric was set, all that was left was finding all the notions that one needs for this project. I can see why Gertie did kits for this because there are several things that you need. I happened to have leftover stretch lace from my shop – a blessing since this calls for quite a bit. I actually forgot that I had picot edge elastic and instead used some swimsuit elastic for my first slip and just folded over the elastic and did that fancy straight stitch zig-zag. I had to send off for the strap elastic and rings and sliders (bramakerssupply.com) but I was pleasantly surprised with the quick shipping. For my first rendition I used the strap elastic for the whole of the strap as I didn’t have any of the right width of stretch lace and then for my second and third rendition, I got on a comfort soapbox and tried something else. For those, I opted to make a strap from swimsuit elastic that was encased in the matching micro jersey. First I attached to one edge with a zig-zag and then then folded over twice and did the fancy straight stitch zig-zag. Uber, uber comfy and doesn’t cut into my shoulder (I am so picky about comfort, it’s almost ridiculous!). Stole the idea from a bra I love.

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And then I just made silly little bows from the outrageous amount of ribbon I have and voila! Done! I made the third – the nude version – in about 3 hours time, cut to finish. Addicting for sure and a project that I highly recommend. While I don’t look like the model in the finished slips (yup, I have a tummy!!!) I still feel pretty, they do the job and they are so comfortable. All wins in my book!

If you’re interested, here’s my full review. And now, off to make another wrap dress before I put it all together.

Sewing Secrets, part 1st

I’ve been working on some nice and well, rather uneventful sewing projects lately. I thought it worth highlighting some great tools/articles/information I’ve been using as of late. I just love anything and everything that can make my sewing life easier and my end result more professional. Seriously, a tailor’s ham is a girl’s best friend. The right shears/cutting tools make you feel like getting up in the morning. Having the right iron is like having that one best friend that will never, ever tell any of your secrets to another living soul – even if they were tortured! What better way to celebrate these small daily sewing spots than to pass the tips along to you!

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Have you tried this stuff? It’s like crack for ironing addicts. It’s like way way way better than starch (and I am a starch lovin kind of gal and no, don’t you dare question my age!!!)! Mary Ellen, whoever you are, you’ve won my heart with your Best Press. It can only receive a glowing commendation from me.

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Tanya Whelan came out with this lovely book a bit ago. I have been relishing it as a bit of a treasure because I love how it teaches you how to manipulate/draft patterns to be something else instead of reinventing the wheel with trying to fit yet another pattern. And she gives you a basic pattern to start with as a base. So you’ll fit the one pattern and then guess what? You can manipulate the pattern to be the other dresses in the book and those will fit you too! Y’all know how much I love this idea. It’s like smart and stuff.

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Since I’ve been playing around with doing some of the above from Tanya’s book recently, I’ve also had the chance to use this little guy. Claire’s Curve Runner is pretty amazing. So clever. It’s so nice to be able to measure a curve without having to break out the measuring tape. Claire is kickstarting a business, so I think it’s only apropos that she gets some help. Small business is not for the faint of heart, as I’ve told you before. And these clever tools she’s got are worth every penny. Do go and give her some support.

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I am not a Pellon enthusiast. But, I will say that this lite tear away stabilizer is absolutely amazing for buttonholes. I doubt that you’ll need it for all buttonholes, but when it comes to working with fine shirtings that tend to be on the thinner side, this makes all the difference. The buttonholes on my machine tend to bunch up and pucker. Well, no more! No more! I use this stuff on the underside as I stitch a buttonhole onto my garment and then voila – I tear the excess away! They end up looking marvelous.

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And I can finally let the cat out of the bag on this collaboration. I’m excited to be apart of the Sewing Party this year. Even better, I got a new friend. Pernell’s got a way with pretty much everything. Gorgeous buttonholes (speaking of), beautiful stitching, topstitches through granite, has a clever little ant stitch, has a giant free arm space (love this so much) and has more gadgets and gizmos than I even know what to do with. Those Pfaff Performance 5.0’s are in a league of their own. I’m loving mine! Promise: a full run down later on. I’m sure you’ll want to know all the dirty deets on Pernell. Oh and don’t miss my post on how to line an easy skirt, aka the Hollyburn Skirt – my favorite!

Enjoy!

xx, Sunni

bittersweet

Oh goodness. I’ve written this post so many times in my head and when it comes right down to it, it’s hard to find the words. I’ve wanted to share my feelings about what I’ve gone through as a small business owner the past four years and so here goes. It’s a long one! I’ll try to start at the beginning.

I’ve been blogging here since – sheesh, a loooonnnnng time ago, it feels like – 2007. It wasn’t always under A Fashionable Stitch. I went under the alias, the Cupcake Goddess for many years. Wow, that seems like forever ago. When I started blogging, back in the day, I had no idea what I was really doing, what I planned to do with it or what blogging would do for me. When I finally found a focus in sewing apparel, things started picking up for me.

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I loved fabric. I still do. Fabric is big for me. I love fine fabric, unusual fabric, printed fabric, textured fabric, fabric from all of the different natural fibers, fabric in all different colors, knit, woven, you name it. I just love it so much and I feel I have a natural affinity for picking good stuff. Now, don’t worry, I’ve picked my share of bad stuff, but overall there’s been more good than bad. I also had connections for superb sewing notions and tools and since I wanted to live a creative life to it’s fullest, aka making my creative passion my business I thought I would give selling notions and tools a try. Things that I use myself and I felt this would be a good thing to start with when it came to selling things under the umbrella of my magnificent obsession.

I’ve had an online store for quite a while, but I didn’t make it truly official until March 2011 (meaning I filed my business name with state and federal institutions). I had quit my day job and decided to go whole hog. And things were good. I felt good about the niche that I was filling and generally I felt like I was adding something to the conversation and that I did people a favor by having these great sewing notions and tools all in one place.

I started receiving more press and my online store and my blog were affording me some pretty grand opportunities. I really did feel great about things for a solid 3 years. During that 3 years, I had the marvelous opportunity to become the teacher of whatever class I wanted to teach at a local fabric shop called Yellow Bird Fabrics. It was absolutely wonderful. I developed some classes that really took off and this along with working one day a week at this fabric shop gave me the opportunity to become acquainted with a whole new animal – the brick and mortar store model. I still had my online shop at that time, I was teaching full-time and I was bringing home really decent money and we were able to live off of this and what my husband was making too. Seriously, it was the life. I think about that snapshot now and it actually kind of makes me a little sad. Those were some really good times and I was feeling way on top of my game.

And then, life happened. The gal who owned and operated Yellow Bird Fabrics was going to have her second baby and she started looking around at things and felt like it would be too much to run a fabric shop, work a day job and have two kiddos (under the age of 2) running around (who can blame her, right?). So she started opening up negotiations with the girls who worked for her so that she could sell her store. She approached me and we started discussing possibilities.

When we started negotiating about purchasing her business, we went through a lot of ups and downs and when all was said and done, I truly did not feel great about the decision to purchase. I had a gut feeling (mind you a very soft spoken gut feeling) that this was wrong for both of us and yet, I decided to just forge ahead anyway. I mean, who am I to listen to crazy voices in my gut or my head for that matter?? “I can do this and I am going to be successful!” I told myself over and over. From the beginning of negotiations to now, I have had nothing but trouble come from the decision to purchase that fabric store. For me, it was the wrong decision. I really feel this way deep down. Sigh…. Some harsh words to face for me, but really, it was the wrong decision for me. I feel it opened up a pandora’s box of a lot of hard, really hard problems that I’ve dealt with on both a professional and personal level that truly, almost did me in. I am amazed that I’m sitting here, writing something sane, having lived through it and come out the other side.

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Once I took over possession of the brick and mortar shop, lots of things started going downhill. We had some ups, we did. But there were many more downs. Just when I thought I saw a little sunshine, BOOM! I was hit with one down thing after another and another and another…..and another. And the workload was unbelievable. I was working all the time! And for no take home pay!!! The business was barely sustaining itself. There were tears. I have never cried so many tears in my entire life as I did this last year. So many tears. SO MANY! And I don’t cry. This is the thing. I DON’T CRY! The frustration was so unbelievable that tears were my only refuge – it seemed a daily ritual! By December of 2014, I had had enough. I tried giving it a go with the Sewing Room and that just didn’t take. It was time to make more hard decisions and face some realities.

As you probably know by now, everything is all closed up. I never, ever thought I would close my online store. I had loved my online store so much (I still do), but after the sad fate of my brick and mortar shop, I’ve lacked the tenacity and passion to continue on with any of it, especially when it was barely making enough to cover itself. Once everything was over for the brick and mortar in March of this year, I went right into working full-time and found that the last thing I wanted to do when I got home from work was work more. I have no idea how I used to do this back when I worked a full-time job and was trying to get my online shop up and running (this was before March 2011). It was a hard decision to face, but in order to be fair to myself, then it was time to be real about closing up everything and letting the dream go.

I was fortunate, so very fortunate, to be able to go back to a job within the same company that I worked for previous to March 2011 – when I struck out to become a burgeoning entrepreneur. I knew when this job came back into my life, it was the right decision and I feel better about it than I have felt about anything in a really long time. I feel like I’m supposed to be there and while I know I’m still going to have my fair share of challenges from all angles and facets of life, this was the next right thing for me.

I don’t plan to mention my stint as a business owner much more, if at all (though if I’ve made something from an old fabric from my shop days, I’ll mention that). I’m not sure that I will ever dabble in owning a brick and mortar again – who knows what the future will bring. But right now, I’m not ready to even think about it. I thought I would put my experience out there, especially as someone who really tried to make it in this creative sewing field of business. Other business owners will have different, hopefully much more positive experiences, but I felt mine was also valid. I have felt so deeply about everything this last year (ahem, the crying thing again). It’s been really hard to hold it back and not let the debbie downer part of my personality take over my life – though she’s still won out a lot this last year. All in all, I’m so glad it’s over. I’m so happy to be looking at the horizon of the future with a new perspective on life and a different and more exciting feeling of hope and happiness. I have so much to be grateful for and I’m so happy to be sewing – yup! That drive is not dead. I have some exciting new partnerships to mention and thrill you with and I’m sure there will be more fabric, more garments, more fitting fights and reveries and well the old suspects that were more present on this blog before all of this craziness went down. I’m just glad to still be around. Cheers!

Thank you all for your support and encouragement as all of this has unfolded. Thank you!

xx, Sunni

Items of Business Vol. II

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Thanks for all the memories and sweet times. The online store is now officially closed. We’re still gearing down the online store. If you thought you had missed everything, let me tell you, you haven’t. I added a bunch of goodies over the weekend and there’s still some more things to sort through and get up online (which I’ll be doing tomorrow and Thursday). And…..

we’re taking it down to 30% off everything! Yup. Use the code AFSCLOSING2 to save 30% off your order right now. And as fast as we can, we’re getting your order cut and shipped out. Exciting times friends. I’m sure we’ll be back soon with another step down. We’ll see what we have left.

Once all is said and done, I’ll be back with some thoughts for you on my business and the things we’ve seen and been through. I’ve been jotting some things down along the way here and there and I think it’s time to make some cohesion from it all. I’m sure you’ll enjoy that. Plus I have some exciting news and an exciting new friend to show you. Yay!

For now, there’s more in the store.

xx, Sunni

Items of Business Vol. I

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Thanks for all the memories and sweet times. The online store is now officially closed. With a little bit of sadness and a huge sigh of relief (whewwww!), I’m finally able to announce that we are closing our online shop. It’s finally official. Things had gone, well, sour. I don’t want to go into specifics because there are a lot of factors that have contributed to the demise of my business. But in good news, I’ve landed a full-time job that will work for me for probably a really long time. I have to admit that I’m glad that I just don’t have the time anymore to invest into something that requires a fairly large amount of upkeep (yet doesn’t pay the bills….). Hard truth, but truth it is.

So I have a few items of business. We are going to be closing everything out. It will work itself in waves until we’ve finally sold everything and anything we can. Right now, everything in the online store is 20% off with the code AFSCLOSING1. Next week, we’ll be stepping down the sale, so stay tuned for that. Everything’s gotta go. We’ll be adding more items here and there – as we have time to do so. (Update – Please note that these “more items” that we have to add will not include any more wool crepe. That is gone and gone forever!! So sorry if you missed those, they were special and amazing!) Additionally, please take careful note that we are discontinuing swatches. Things will probably go fast, so be aware that even if you get a swatch, the fabric might be sold out when you come back to order yardage! First come, first serve! Get it while it lasts!

Will I still be blogging? I will. Admittedly, I’m not sure what’s next for A Fashionable Stitch and my creative sewing life, but here’s to hoping it’s something good even if it’s just creative sewing. I’m good with that actually. In fact, I’m really good with that. I have been working on some sewing projects that I’m excited to show you, talk about and even do some tutorials for. I have to tell you a funny thing. In the past year or so, I’ve had very limited sewing time and so my personal sewing projects were put on the back burner as I ran a business – mind you, a sewing business. Now that I have a full-time job, it’s interesting to note that I am making time for my personal sewing projects and so I feel like I get a little more accomplished. I found out that working for yourself means that you work so much more than you even think and so much more than just 40 hours a week. Since I have workaholic blood in my veins, I felt like all I ever did was work and so I’m happy that I’m going to be doing an 8 – 5 job and creating sewing projects in my off hours and those off hours seem to be so much more than I even remember. Life is good and I do feel positive and upbeat about this change.

I don’t know if this will come as a shock or not, but I do hope that you all understand. I adore the online sewing community and have been apart of it for so very long. Thank you for all of your encouragement. I also want to issue a special thank you to anyone who ever purchased supplies or fabric from my store(s). Thank you so very much. It means the world to me! May you always have a full bobbin and a project that doesn’t need too much seam ripping!

Now hop on over to the shop and clean me out!

xx, Sunni