My trip to Southern Africa

By Molly Hamilton
on June 14, 2017

My trip to Southern Africa


lions lounging

elephant reflection

Saddlebill stork

I got back from my 2 week trip to Southern Africa less than a week ago!  With my mother, and through the company Natural Habitat Adventures, we visited Zambia (Livingston), Botswana (Okavango Delta region in the north), and South Africa (though that was mostly the Jo'burg airport!).  I learned an impressive amount of information about the ecosystems, animals, politics, and culture of the areas we visited.  Our guide was amazing, and the whole experience was wonderful. 

baskets made from recycled bags

making baskets


Textile- and craft-wise, I learned about traditional Botswana basket weaving and dying of fibers, and even got to try weaving part of a basket myself.  The women (and some men) who work at the lodges weave baskets made from grasses and held together by palm fronds.  They dye the fronds with roots, bark, leaves, and fruits of plants that grow in the Delta, and which they gather.  They gather dyes, dye the fronds, and weave the baskets during their off-shifts at the lodges.  Some of the traditional weaving patterns were "tears of the giraffe", "water lily", "flowing water", and "urine trail of the bull"(!).  I also saw so many beautiful wax printed cloths and skirts and dresses when we were in Zambia (not so many once we were in the "bush"/on safari), and I purchased many meters to play with at home. Women wear the cloth tied around their waist for a skirt, or around their backs with a child in it, or on their heads as a type of turban (especially helpful when also carrying baskets or pots on their head).  The cloth was also used in more tailored shirts, jackets, and dresses, and I was inspired to see the colors, patterns, and uses of the fabric. 


It was a life-changing trip and I am still thinking of it often.


Fabric suggestions for the Old Mexico Dress

By Molly Hamilton
on June 09, 2017

Fabric suggestions for the Old Mexico Dress

There are so many great fabrics that can be used to make the #142 Old Mexico Dress and Shirt.  You can make it from plain, one color linen or woven cotton and add your own embroidery to it.  Or, you can make the dress from one, or a combination of, fabric to make a unique and very quick-and-easy dress or shirt.

Here are fun fabrics from some great stores that would work well for this garment:

  • This embroidered denim chambray from Hart's Fabric is 100% cotton.  $15.99/yard. The boarder is embroidered, making it a great selection for the yoke or bottom edge of the dress or shirt.


    • A beautiful soft white linen would be perfect to add embroidery to, or just use to make a simple summer top.  This one from Hart's Fabric is 100% linen.  $18.99/yard.



        •  Another beautiful embroidered denims from Vogue Fabrics.  100% cotton, lightweight. $18.99/yard.




            • This double gauze (so soft) really pops in this bright golden color. From Bolt Neighborhood Fabric Boutique. 100% cotton. $8/half yard.


            • Essex Yard Dyed Metallic - copper would make a beautiful Old Mexico shirt or dress.  And, would be beautiful with embroidery. From Stone Mountain and Daughter Fabric. 50% linen, 40% cotton, 10% lurex. $11.50/yard.


            • This Durango Dobby in black and white would make an interesting whole garment or you can just use it in the yoke.  100% cotton from Stone Mountain and Daughter Fabric.  100% cotton. $15.50/yard.


            Happy sewing!  We'd love to see what you make!  Post to Instagram or Facebook with the hashtag #folkwear142

            Or, join our Facebook Group, Folkwear Patterns Sewing Group and share your makes there!





            Pattern Profile: #142 Old Mexico Dress

            By Molly Hamilton
            on June 05, 2017

            Pattern Profile:  #142 Old Mexico Dress

            This month the #142 Old Mexico Dress will be on sale for all of June!  This pattern is such an easy pattern to sew, with just 4 pieces that are so well drafted that this is a fun and quick project.  It is a perfect summer top or dress!  And, you can do lots with it - from embroidering (by hand or machine) parts of the yoke or whole dress, to using fun fabric combinations to make this uniquely yours. 

            The other great thing about this pattern is that we just graded it up to a size 3XL!  You have asked for larger sizes, and we were able to start with this one.  So, now this dress and shirt can be made is sizes XS to 3XL!

            I made the shirt version as a gift for my son's preschool teacher (I've had a child in her school for the last 10 years!), and plan to make another one for her of the dress version with some fun animal prints.  I love using this pattern so much (and of course, the actual garment), that I am going to make a shirt for myself too! 

            Interesting things from around the web

            By Molly Hamilton
            on June 03, 2017

            Interesting things from around the web

            Museum Exhibitions:
            Articles of Interest:
            •  From the Sew News blog: an article on how to use a rolled hem foot.  Always good to be reminded how to use those many feet, but I have nearly always used a zigzag stitch with a rolled hem foot, not a straight stitch, so maybe I'll try the straight stitch next time.
            • Saw this lovely article last month on Creative Machine Embroidery about Bukhara Embroidery.
            • You may have seen these before, but Cari (wonderful Folkwear assistant) showed them to me again the other week and they are too good not to share.  What Ellis Island immigrants looked like when the arrived in the US in the early 1900s: here, here, and here.  Many of the pictures are the same in each article, but each has a few the others do not, and the second and third give descriptions of the traditional clothing worn.  I LOVE these!
            • Are you traveling this summer and want to take handwork with you?  Here are some tips for travel with embroidery.  I am basically doing this for my big trip!
            Podcasts, Websites, and Resources:
            • I've not seen this film, but the trailer, about a woman tending her Kashmir goats in the mountains of India, is breathtakingly beautiful.  Has anyone watched it?  It reminds me a little of the Eagle Huntress which I watched with my husband and children (and we all LOVED it).
            • If you want to make the #142 Old Mexico Dress or Shirt this month, and want to do some machine embroidery, this pattern from Creative Machine Embroidery is free to download for the whole month of June.
            • Do you listen to podcasts when you sew?  My very very favorite sewing podcast is Thread Cult.  If you have not listened to them, you are in for a treat. Christine has basically stopped (or severely slowed down) her podcasting, but what is there is a treasure (in my opinion!).

            Sewing with sheer fabrics

            By Molly Hamilton
            on May 19, 2017

            Sewing with sheer fabrics

            The Greek Island Dress is a great garment to use with sheer flowing fabrics, but these fabrics can be a bit tricky to work with.  Here are some tips to help you before you begin to cut into and sew with those wonderful and fun (but maybe intimidating) fabrics.

            • If the pattern calls for interfacing, choose light-weight, sheer fabrics for interfacing, such as organza, organdy, or other sheer fabrics that match the fashion fabric or are flesh-colored.  For materials other than lace, you can even use the fashion fabric itself as a self-fabric interfacing.
            • If the sheer or lace fashion fabric is too transparent for your taste, underline the pattern pieces with a matching or flesh-colored sheer.  To underline, cut the pattern out a second time for the selected underlining fabric, baste underlining to the fashion fabric pieces (wrong-sides together), and handle as one piece. 
            • If neckline, armscye, front opening, or other facings will show through the fabric, omit them altogether, and bind the edges with bias strips, or line the entire garment with a compatible sheer fabric.
            • Cover cutting surface with a muslin, flannel, or old sheet to keep sheer, slippery fabrics from sliding around. 
            • Instead of cutting on the fold, cut in a single layer (making full-size pattern piece as needed).
            • Insert pins in seam allowances only, so you won't have pinholes showing in the finished garment.
            • Start sewing with a brand new sharp (or Microtex) needle and use size appropriate for lightweight fabrics (60/8, or 65/9, or 70/10)
            • If the fabric is too slippery and hard to manage while stitching, put a layer of tissue paper on top of the fabric, then tear away tissue after stitching. 
            • Don't backstitch at the beginning or end of seams.  Instead, set stitch length to 0.  Or, tie the thread tails in square knots.  Also, pull thread tails taunt for the first couple of stitches when starting to sew.
            • French seams are ideal for lightweight, filmy garments. 

            These tips, plus quite a few more (including tips on sewing with lace) are included in the #266 Greek Island Dress pattern.  Happy sewing . . .  with sheers!

            Pattern Profile: Greek Island Dress

            By Molly Hamilton
            on May 15, 2017

            Greek Island Dress #266

            Greek Island Dress with jacket

            Greek Island Dress with jacket, back

            Greek Island Dress with tunic

            Greek Island Dress with tunic, back

            Greek Island Dress with tunic, sleeves

            The early 1900s witnessed many avant-garde innovations as people freed themselves from the constraints of the late Victorian society.  Both fashion and the arts were tremendously affected by new interpretations of classical styles, with outright revolts against recent tradition.  Isodora Duncan (1878-1927) was an influential figure in the 19010s and today is regarded as the founder of modern dance.  She revolutionized dance with her free-form interpretive movements and scandalized audiences by wearing non-restrictive, flowing robes that she adapted from Classical Greek vase paintings. 

            Our Greek Island Dress pays homage to this unforgettable woman.  The dress is a Greek Island Dress line drawingsloose fitting sheath with back zipper and narrow shoulder straps.  A jacket or tunic is made to be worn over the sheath dress.  The jacket has a center back goddet that adds flair without adding fullness and a dramatic collar that extends over the sleeves like a filmy canopy.  The tunic is a breeze to sew, with front and back sailor collar and floating sleeve panels that can hang or be attached along the top of the arm.  This classic dress/tunic is on trend right now, with statement sleeves and the cold-shoulder look. 

            We are featuring #266 Greek Island Dress this month, and it is on sale for the entire month of May!  This dress would make a fabulous summer gown to wear at a wedding or to the beach.  Made of soft filmy fabrics like chiffons or gauze, it is a perfect and unique summer make.  Do you have some beautiful sheer fabric in your stash and not sure what to do with it?  This is the dress to try!

            Also, to help you make this dress, I will be posting some tips on sewing with sheer and lace lacy fabrics later this month.  So, keep an eye out for it!



            Bonnie's Pattern Shop - a Folkwear stockist

            By Molly Hamilton
            on May 11, 2017

            Bonnie's Pattern Shop - a Folkwear stockist

            I love the great small businesses that stock Folkwear patterns!  They are fabric stores, sewing supply shops, online retailers, specialists in historic costuming, and on and on. Folkwear can be found in their shops all through the US, and also in Canada, the U.K., the Netherlands, and Germany.  These stores and shops are committed to providing high quality sewing supplies and fabulous customer service.  You can see a list of all the companies who stock Folkwear patterns on our Stockist page. 

            I am going to occasionally post short interviews with Folkwear stockists here on the blog, so you can learn about these great small businesses and check out what else they do.

            Bonnie's Pattern Shop has been selling Folkwear patterns for over 8 years.

            Tell us a little about your business.

            I began selling patterns online around 2001, and it quickly grew.  I offer a wide range of patterns (over 350 different patterns!) for the family, home, pets, and crafts.  I specialize in designs from independent pattern companies not found in most stores.  I offer many patterns for historic costumes ranging from medieval through the mid-1900s.  I have a large selection of patterns for Colonial, Pioneer, Victorian, Western, and Civil War ear clothing.

            I also carry many patterns for Native American moccasins and costumes for Pow Wows.  I offer many patterns for gymnastics and skating costumes as well.  My customers have included movie, TV, and theater production companies.  I love being in the pattern business.

            How can people find you?

            I am on several sites:




            Anything else you want to let us know about?

            Customer service is extremely important!  I take care in preparing packages to arrive safely to the buyers.  Packages are mailed promptly and buyers are sent confirmation with tracking numbers. 

            So many patterns!  Thanks, Bonnie!

            Hats - Miss Fisher, Metropolitan, and Derby

            By Molly Hamilton
            on May 05, 2017

            Hats - Miss Fisher, Metropolitan, and Derby

            I just finished watching my first episode of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries on PBS, and though I've heard a lot about the great clothing on the show (and it is great), Miss Fisher's hats were my favorite.  I love the colors, embellishments, and the style.  They are fabulous and she wears them well! 

            We are featuring the #269 Metropolitan Hat this month (May) in our store.  It is a great hat to start building your own hat collection, and similar in style to Miss Fisher.  There are so many ways to interpret this hat - from floppy linens to structured wools, fabric prints, and pins, bands, flowers, or your own creation to add to the brim.  This hat can be a statement piece or a casual sun hat (and it makes a great sun hat!).  I created a new Pinterest board that is starting off with hat inspiration for the Metropolitan Hat (Board is called Hats and Bags, so I'll be filling it up with Folkwear hat and bag photos and inspirations).  The Metropolitan Hat is on sale  this month!

            All the hat inspiration also came from the excitement leading up to the Kentucky Derby - and all the amazing creations coming from that event (or series of events).  One of my best friends is from Louisville and she always shares photos of her friends attending Oaks and Derby in their incredible hats.  I love seeing the creativity and color of those hats.  My friend also pointed to Dee's Hats as great place to get hats made in Louisville, and their website was fun to look at, so if you love hats, you should check it out.

            Happy Hat Making!

            And, as always, we love to see what people are making, so tag us if you post pictures on Instagram or Facebook or Pinterest.  Or, join the Facebook Folkwear Patterns Sewing Group and let us all see what you've made!


            News (and newsletter) from Folkwear

            By Molly Hamilton
            on May 01, 2017

            News (and newsletter) from Folkwear

            You can keep up with Folkwear news (and sales) as well as get some great links for exhibits, articles, and other fun sewing stuff through our newsletter.  You can sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of the website (and you get a discount code when you sign up!).  If you get our newsletter, you will be the first to know about sales, new pattern releases, and other Folkwear events.  We have one going out today, and the next will be mid-month!

            This month, we have two featured patterns: #266 Greek Island Dress and #269 Metropolitan Hat.  Check out these two patterns, and keep a look out for new photos, styling ideas, and fabric suggestions later this month.

            We are also thinking about bringing back some patterns that are out-of-print, and would love customer input.  So, you can take a survey, and let us know which you might want to add to your pattern stash (you get a discount code if you complete the survey, too!).


            Kimono Fabric Suggestions (and some tips for online fabric shopping)

            By Molly Hamilton
            on April 25, 2017
            1 comment

            Kimono Fabric Suggestions (and some tips for online fabric shopping)

            Sometimes it is hard to find just the right fabric for your sewing project.  Especially since local fabric stores carrying a wide selection of garment fabrics are not a reality for many of us.  Often, we are left with the option of online fabric shopping.

            Shopping for fabric online can be daunting.  Is the color going to be right? the weight? the texture? fabric content?

            A couple of things I do to make sure (or at least as close to sure as I can be) that I get good fabric that works for the garment I am making are:

            • I order fabric from a store I trust.  This is my number one tip, but it takes a little experience to learn who to trust. I go from other people's recommendations or the reputation of a company, or how long it has been around, or sometimes my gut feeling from the information they provide on their site.  If they provide lots of information, are candid and detailed in fabric descriptions, and contact information is easy to find, website is easy to navigate - this all helps. Reviews of the shop or fabric are helpful, especially if shopping on Etsy or other similar sites.  It is also a great idea to call the store if you are unsure about a fabric.  If it is a trusted store, their salespeople will be able to help you pick the right fabric (match colors, etc) because they are on the floor with the fabric.
            • I try to order fabric that lists the weight of the fabric in the description, and definitely won't order fabric if the content is not listed.  You want to know what the fabric is made of, as well as the weave/knit (crepe, twill, jersey, etc.) - which will tell you how it might perform for the pattern you are using. A fabric weight will tell you more about how heavy, or thick, the fabric is, and therefore its appropriateness for your pattern. A good description helps!
            • Go online with an idea of the fabric desired.  It is overwhelming to try and browse fabric online.  That is why I go into shopping for fabric online with a baseline.  I might decide a rayon crepe or a drapey silk would be great for a garment I am planning.  So, I will eliminate the website overload-overwhelm by being able to navigate or search for exactly the fabric content I'm interested in.  Or, the color I want, or the weight.  It helps narrow down the possibilities quickly.
            • Order swatches.  I don't always do this, especially with websites who I trust as fabric sources.  But, for expensive fabrics, matching colors, or fabrics I am just not sure about, I will order swatches.  This step can save you lots of money!  So, does calling the store.

            So, after all those tips, I am going to leave you with a few fabrics I would love to use to make our Japanese Kimono.  We picked these out from some of the fabric stores we trust as online sources., but there are many more out there, so you can see this as just a starting point.

            Rifle Paper Co Wonderland Black from Harts Fabric. This is a beautiful and popular fabric. 100% rayon. $14.79/yard.

            Japanese Dragons - BlueJapanese Dragons - Blue from Stone Mountain & Daughter Fabrics. 100% cotton.  $11.90/yard

            Rayon Challis Crane Print - RedRayon Challis Crane Print - Red from Stone Mountatin & Daughter Fabrics.  Rayon challis with a fluid drape and hand.  This light fabric and a pretty print would make a beautiful and drape-y kimono. $11/yard.

            VF155-13 Bruce Botanical - Satin-Faced Silk Print FabricBruce Botanical Satin Faced Silk Print from Vogue Fabrics.  This is a beautiful print that I think would make a lovely kimono. 100% silk.  $12.99/yard.

            VF155-02 Universe Nuance - Sunstone Abstract Cotton Print FabricSunstone Abstract Cotton Print from Vogue Fabrfics.  100% cotton, medium weight batic.  $8.99/yard.

            Geishas & Ginkos - Ginkos - ML291729 - PurpleGeishas and Ginkos - Purple from Michael Levin.  100% chambray. $13.75/yard.

            Genuine Handwoven Ikat - ML296748 - Raspberry / GreyGenuine Handwoven Ikat - Raspberry/Gray from Michael Levin.  100% cotton.  A traditional eastern look - very beautiful.  $18.50/yard.