Grading Patterns

Pattern grading: making sets of patterns to fit a range of sizes, the next step in the design process. Ever since the 1950's, there have been machines that will do this for you. But, having your patterns graded professionally can cost a lot. Luckily, grading one manually is not too difficult. The website www.burdastyle.com has some great tutorials on grading all different kinds of patterns.

Burdastyle has a ton of great free patterns, as well as a sewpedia, a comprehensive tutorial section, and a place for members to showcase their creations. It's definitely a site worth checking out, and maybe spending some time there learning a few new things.

Grade a skirt and pants pattern
Grade a sleeve pattern
Grade a bodice pattern


Places to Buy Fabric Online

I'm fortunate to live in an area that offers a variety of fabric stores other than the usual Jo-ann Fabrics and other craft store chain giants. Those are nice for getting basics like lining and thread, but if I want something unusual and unique, I go to one of those other independent fabric stores. There are also some really neat fabric shops online, in case you don't have a local fabric supplier. Here are some of my favorites:

www.reprodepot.com - great source for vintage reproduction fabrics.
www.kitty-craft.com - really, really cute japanese-inspired prints.
www.kiitosmarimekko.com - great source for buying Marimekko fabrics, my favorite design company.
www.melinamade.com - neat vintage inspired prints.
www.denverfabrics.com - lots of everything.
www.purlsoho.com - a ton of really nice fabric, and you can search by the type of print. Good resource for yarn as well.
www.wazoodle.com - great prices on knit and jersey fabric.

And if you're still looking for more places, craftster.org has a whole directory here, with about 85 listings! If anybody knows of more places, feel free to post them in the comments.


Business Essentials

There are a few things that help the business end of Always the Forest run smoothly, I call them business essentials. Not to be confused with craft essentials, which would be the obvious sewing machines, fabrics, thread, etc. They are:

1. Computer with internet access. I use my MacBook all the time for ATF related activities. I used it to build the website, and then to edit photos for the site and blog. With 24/7 internet access, I'm notified of orders as soon as they come in. I can also keep track of the latest craft shows and opportunities.

2. Shipping center. I have my very own shipping center in my hall closet. Inside, I keep bubble wrap, packing tape, postage labels, and different sizes of shipping bags and boxes. I also keep promo buttons, stickers, and business cards in there. When I get an order, I can go straight to my shipping center, package everything up, and it's ready to be sent out. I ordered all of my boxes completely free of charge at www.usps.com. I didn't even have to pay for shipping!

3. The Switchboards. The forum at www.theswitchboards.com is a wealth of information ranging from legality issues to website help to helpful hints from other indie businesses. It has proven to be indispensable whether I'm baffled about taxes, business insurance, suppliers, and most every other aspect of running an indie business.


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