Ryliss Bod on pattern alterations, interfacing and her fabric stash

Hi, I intended to post part 2 of my two-part post on Ryliss Bod, founder of Sewing and Design School and host of #SewApril – the day after Part 1 but life got in the way (more on this in a later post. The first part of my post was very long so I decided to put our conversation about about pattern alternations, interfacing and her fabric stash in a separate post. Thanks for your patience!

Pattern alternations - CSews.com

Learning pattern alterations

When Ryliss went back to graduate school at Central Washington University, where she studied clothing construction and textiles in the Home & Family Life Department, she took pattern alterations as an independent study. “I learned the Jan Minott method and I’ve used it ever since,” says Ryliss. “Jan Minott used real bodies – women who were 30-something, 50-something.”

Minott is the author of Total Pattern Fit: The Minott Method. After Minott retired and became ill, her students bought the copyright from her for $1 and kept it in print. Then the copyright was sold to another one of her students for $1. Last year Ryliss bought the copyright from that student for $1. Ryliss has made the book available on a flashdrive and sells these two books:

Fusible Interfacing

Armo weft interfacing – white

Ryliss said that her tailoring instructor Carolyn Schactler did her master’s thesis on fusible interfacing. Part of her testing was having all her fusible in clothes, washed 40 times and see which ones adhered really well. “Two are still used today,” says Ryliss. “Stacy’s Easy Knit and Armo weft interfacing.”

Easy Knit interfacing

Pellon now owns the copyright for Easy Knit (white Easy Knit, black Easy Knit, affiliate links), which is a tricot nylon knit. “It’s a great formula,” notes Ryliss. “It holds on to fabric. I use it for all fabrics.”

Ryliss always recommends testing the interfacing on a 4-inch square of your fabric and seeing how it interacts with the fabric. Sometimes you get unexpected results, says Ryliss, depending on how the chemicals interact with the glue and fabric. Easy Knit interfacing is widely available. You can find it at most fabric stores or online.

Armo fusible interfacing

Ryliss also uses Armo weft interfacing in a lot of things. “They wove it so it really sticks into the fiber well,” notes Ryliss. “It doesn’t stretch.”

Armo weft interfacing – black

However, Armo weft interfacing tends to be expensive and not every fabric store carries it. Ryliss says the best prices for large quantities of Armo weft are in New York. I was in NYC earlier this month and kept this in mind when I went to the Garment District. I bought two yards each of 60″ wide white and black weft interfacing from Mood Fabrics for $4/yard. (I took the photos of the fusible interfacing that I bought.)

Fabric Stash

Ryliss says her fabric stash is too large but it’s an excuse show some of it off at her school. “I had to buy huge utility shelving for my fabric,” notes Ryliss. She says she has to sell what’s at her school if students really want it.

She likes organizing by color because that “makes it a snap to look for something to coordinate with something else.” Ryliss learned to organize by color from quilters.

She also has a huge amount of fabric at home, “behind closed doors,” she laughs. Ryliss says it’s inevitable that she has an enormous amount of fabric because she takes students on field trips and find things you can’t find again.

Thanks again, Ryliss for chatting with me about sewing and fabric!

Ryliss Bod – founder of Sewing and Design School, Sew April host – Part 1

You may know Ryliss Bod from her Instagram account @sewing_and_design_school, which now has more than 200,000 followers or from #SewApril—the month-long Instagram contest she has been hosting every April since 2017. Ryliss began using Instagram to share her love of sewing and fashion as well as bring attention to Sewing and Design School, the business she launched in 2012 in Tacoma, Washington (population: 213,418). Her mission is to teach people the art of garment sewing. Her school offers classes on sewing from beginner-level classes to pattern alterations and drafting. She frequently invites experts such as Kenneth D. King and Linda Maynard to teach at her school.

I interviewed Ryliss in March and discussed everything from her sewing background and Instagram account, teaching sewing and more. I’ve split the article in two parts because it’s much longer than I thought it would be. Stayed tuned for Part 2 tomorrow, which discusses interfacing and Ryliss’s favored method of pattern alternation. 🙂

Learning to sew at a young age

Ryliss  was born and raised in Washington state. She says she grew up in an era when women sewed really well. “My cousin’s grandmother was a seamstress who sewed all the cheerleading costumes for the local schools,” recalls Ryliss, who is 67 years young. “My mom sewed phenomenally well. She made all my school clothes. Sewing was a very productive part of her housewife life.”

When she was 9, Ryliss really wanted to sew but her mother thought she was too young to use the sewing machine. So when she strategized when she could use her mother’s machine. Ryliss knew it took 15 minutes for her mother to get to the grocery store so the next time her mother went to the store, she took the opportunity browse her mother’s fabric stash, which was stored in a cedar chest.

“I took out some pretty fabric, cut out my dress and threaded the machine by the time she came home.” That audaciousness convinced her mother that her daughter was ready to sew. Her mom started her on simple things, such as an A-line skirt.

When her family moved to the country, she joined the 4-H club, which was focused on sewing and cooking. “4-H had you start with sewing a pin cushion, an apron. I thought it was so elementary.” Then she got to make pajamas. “My mom didn’t make it easy. She had me make it with flat felled seams and then Hong Kong seams for the robe.”

“Our mothers were our teachers [at 4-H],” says Ryliss. “We had a gold mine with my mother who was trained in couture sewing.” Her mother had experience in pattern drafting and showed them tricks on construction.

After 9th grade, Ryliss says she never took another sewing class. “I had a wardrobe that was really nice, ” Ryliss recalls. “It looked like ready-to-wear but I kept it on the downside that it was my own creation. We all kept it secret because of high school pressure.”

The path to sewing instructor

Ryliss didn’t know she wanted to teach sewing until she was in graduate school at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Wash., located about 100 miles southeast of Seatlle. She put herself through college and got a degree in teaching art but by then time she graduated, there were no jobs. The Vietnam war had just ended and “all the people returning from the military but the first job interviews.”

She and her boyfriend got married and joined the army. Ryliss was the art specialist at Fort Lewis in Tacoma and later was based in Alaska. When her stint in the army was over, went to graduate school. But at 24, she says she felt old because everyone else was 18 or 19 years old.

Then a woman complimented Ryliss  on what she was wearing. And when Ryliss told her it was something she made, the woman said, “I want you to meet my professor. I’m taking a tailoring class.”

“I go to class and within first half hour,” says Ryliss, “I knew I wanted that woman’s job and that was going to be the direction of my life. I was only going to teach adults.”

The instructor, Carolyn Schactler,  explained in manner that I understood, says Ryliss. “I learned so much in that tailoring class.”

Ryliss began writing up her own classes to create new areas of study. She volunteered to be TA in pattern drafting. She took weaving and textile classes and soon began teaching sewing classes at Bates Technical College. “I had about 20 to 25 students at the most per day, doing different sewing projects,” says Ryliss. ” I had my hands on thousands of garments.”

When she first started, she says the average student was age 54 who brought a size 10 pattern when they were in reality, a size 22. She notes that size 10 was the size when they were married.

“It was a dream job,” says Ryliss. “I had so many students that did not even want to take a break. They so loved coming to sewing class. One student said it was cheaper than therapy. They needed that one day a week. People discussed all kinds of subjects during class and some become good friends outside the classroom.”

Sewing and Design School

Ryliss launched her own sewing school when Bates Technical College stopped offering sewing instruction and bought out her tenure. Though Ryliss’s classes were over, her students didn’t want to quit. She suggested that they meet in the public library for free and she also offered to give three free lessons until she found a rental space in an arts and crafts facility. And that’s how Sewing and Design School began.

Ryliss paid rent for half the month and put the sewing machines away when she wasn’t there. “I started with workshops,” she says. “People didn’t want sewing classes to end in Tacoma. I’m the only game in town because the college ended those classes.”

About three-and-a-half years ago, Ryliss got a full-time space. “It’s just a small space in the backside of a real estate business. There’s free parking and I have access to a kitchen and bathroom.”

Ryliss Bod teaching at Sewing and Design School - Tacoma, Washington - CSews.com
Ryliss Bod teaching at Sewing and Design School in Tacoma, Washington

Her school has seven Bernina sewing machines. Ryliss says six are mature machines, more than 27 years old.  The models are 910, 1120, 1090 and a 550. She also has two Bernina sergers.

Some of her current students had taken Ryliss’s classes in the 1980s when she was teaching at Bates. They retired and and now back taking classes again with her. “My oldest student is 85 years old,” says Ryliss. “She drives from Seattle to Tacoma.” (Tacoma is about 34 miles (~55 km) from Seattle.)

Ryliss and Instagram

“I started my instagram about three years ago,” says Ryliss, who wasn’t doing much with her account at first. “One of my students showed me how to Instagram. She almost didn’t come to class because I had a poor Instagram presence.”

The student was about 35 years old and flew from Atlanta to take a moulage class with Kenneth King at Ryliss’ school. “Over the course of the next few months she gave me little lessons,” says Ryliss. “A couple months later, I get an email from Vogue Patterns magazine about posting one of my photos. When the article was published in the August/September 2016 issue, she found that @sewing_and_design_school was listed as one of eight great Instagram accounts to inspire sewing and fashion.

“It exploded,” says Ryliss. “I started seeing some really cool things out there and I wanted to grow it. I wanted to reach people from around the country. People fly in to take classes here; it’s like a vacation for some people.”

Ryliss realized that she needed to get herself out there. “So I Google, ‘how do you build followers on Instagram? And I read photo challenge, a contest.”

She had run a photo contest when she was in the military, so she thought, I can do this. And #SewPhotoHop (hosted by Rachel of  @houseofpinheiro), who blogs at House of Pinheiro) was happening at the time. “It was a lightbulb moment for me.”  

She began participating in #SewPhotoHop in September 2016. “The themes were so thought-provoking.”

Sew April’s beginnings

Ryliss decided that she was going to do an Instagram contest but she didn’t know when. “I started investigating what month did not have a contest. So I picked April calling it #SewApril. And I just had to change the year.

She began prepping for it in December, contacting all kinds of fabrics stores to participate, picking a variety of themes. Before she began #SewApril, her Instagram account had 10,000 followers. Two weeks after the contest began, it had grown to 18,000. And it continues to grow. I think maybe a year or so ago her followers exceeded 100,000 and now it’s more than doubled.

But Ryliss’s Instagram growth didn’t magically happen. It was a combination of #SewApril and all the time she puts into curating her feed. She spends about an hour a 45 minutes everyday on her Instagram account, posting 8 to 12 times a day. Yes, you read that right – 8 to 12 times a day!

“Today I did 12,” says Ryliss. “I like to post 8, sometimes 9, sometimes 6 in my collections.”

Ryliss saves images on her phone. And if she finds a design that’s out there in retail, she tries to find four patterns that match it. Plus she tries to answer all comments. As she works on her posts, she is simultaneously working on her iPad to find the information she needs for each post.

She has created a schedule of what types of photos she posts each day. Here’s what she posted on her account about two weeks ago about her IG schedule.

@sewing_and_design_school on Instagram - Sewing and Design School - Ryliss Bod - CSews.com

Her caption reads:

I want YOU to know what I Instagram about to inspire you to sew. ❤️Ryliss
Tip- if you want to look up a collection of dresses, go to #dressfriday. If you want to see a variety of skirts go to #skirtwednesday. Statement Sleeves have been all the rage for several seasons. #statementsleeves has over 14,200 posts! Interested in pants? Check out #seasonoftheleg. Looking for a fabric store? Simple as #fabricstore or #onlinefabricstore.

So if you’ve made a dress or skirt, be sure to use those hashtags and you may be featured in her feed. (My Chardon skirt with an adjustable waist appeared on her feed last year as one of her #skirtwednesday posts.) And be sure to check out #statementsleeves. Ryliss had been using the hashtag #yearofthesleeve but when the year was over, she realized she needed a more evergreen hashtag – thus #statementsleeves.

Despite her Instagram success, Ryliss doesn’t feel like an expert on Instagram. “I’m always learning,” says Ryliss.

I asked Ryliss, “What are the hashtags you use most often?”

She uses hashtags specific to the image she’s posting and then uses the following hashtags:

#sewinginspiration
#designinspiration
#sewersgonnasew
#sewers
#sewersofinstagram
#sewists
#sewistsofinstagram
#dressmaker
#dressmakersofinstagram
#seamstress
#seamstressesofinstagram
#sewersoftheworld
#sewistsoftheworld

Sew April 2019

This year’s Sew April contest began yesterday (use the hashtag #SewApril2019). In one of her recent Sew April posts, she says it “was designed to inspire you to sew, design, knit, weave and crochet. Post a photo or video relating to the daily theme for an opportunity to share your post with others and win prizes. The contest is open to everyone, no restrictions. Post every day or whenever you want.”

Here are the themes:

Sew April 2019 - Instagram contest

Be sure to check out the hashtag #SewApril2019 and get inspired!

Thanks for sharing, Ryliss! And please visit my blog tomorrow soon for her comments on pattern alterations, interfacing and her fabric stash.

WIP Frocktails skirt with Marimekko fabric

My Frocktails skirt is slowly coming together. I haven’t worked on it very much over the past few weeks and now I’ve got to finish it by Saturday – when the Bay Area Sewists Frocktails in February event is happening.

This was my #SewFrosting project that I started in January. I sewed the pleats in the back about a month ago. Here’s what the back initially looked like when I basted the pleats. You can see bits of white thread that I used.

WIP Frocktails Skirt - Marimekko fabric - back inverted box pleats - CSews.com

But I decided not to sew all the way down the red fabric. Instead I sewed about 2/3 of the way down and the back now looks like this.

Frocktails skirt - inverted box pleats on the back- CSews.com

I pinned the ribbons in place to see how it would look and then realized that the Petersham ribbon is a bit stiff and quite wide (2 inches, ~7.5 cm), it would be hard to bring the two sides close together. I chose Petersham ribbon because when I tied it, it would stay tied. The problem with a satin ribbon is that it’s rather slippery.

Ribbon tie for Frocktails skirt - Marimekko fabric - CSews.com

So I decided to fold the ribbon in thirds and then sew it to the top piece. Before I sewed the pleats with the ribbon ends inside, I fused some interfacing on the wrong side of the fabric to give it some extra support.

Frocktails skirt - ribbon at waist - CSews.com

It took me a long time to figure out how I wanted to place the pleats in the front. I needed to have some extra fabric for an adjustable waist – but not too much fabric or the waist would be too loose. (See my Chardon Skirt with adjustable waist.) So I played around with how deep those last two center pleats would be and how far apart to place them. I finally put them about 8.5 inches (~21.5 cm) apart.

Frocktails skirt - ribbon at waist sewn into inverted box pleats - CSews.com

I don’t have a dress form so I spent some time looking at different placements in front of my bathroom mirror. I mostly make garments from existing sewing patterns so I really didn’t need a dress form. Plus I don’t have space in my apartment to store a dress form.

However, this is a skirt that I’ve drafted and it would have been helpful to play arond with the pleats on a dress form.

I decided at the last minute to have a facing because I want the top of the skirt to have some body and it will also look more tidy on the inside. So I drafted a facing over the weekend and I’ll attach some lining to it. The box pleats are rather deep and I’d like to cover them up.

Here’s what’s left to do:

  • buy lining fabric (red? purple?)
  • attach lining fabric to facing
  • sew facing/lining to skirt
  • decide on whether to add an invisible zipper to the side
  • hem the lining
  • hem the skirt

If I can do a little bit every day I should be able to finish this by Saturday. How long does it usually take you to finish a project? I feel like this WIP Frocktails skirt is taking forever.

I also promised my husband I would help fix a sweater of his. I’m hand sewing suede elbow patches to a favorite sweater. I finished one patch yesterday – one more to go!

Refreshing an old coat by recovering the buttons

I’ve had this DKNY coat for several years. When I bought it, the raw edges were trimmed with pleather as were the buttons. After a few years, the pleather bias tape began peeling. I still liked the coat so I removed all the bias trim and replaced it with premade black bias tape I found at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley. It was a synthetic fabric that had a sheen to it that make it somewhat similar to the pleather – and hopefully would last a bit longer. That was my first go at refreshing an old coat.

DKNY coat with covered buttons

A few years later, the pleather on the buttons was peeling and looked rather unsightly. So it was time for another refresh – this time it would be the buttons. Nearly all of themlooked like this:

worn out coat button

I bought a 1/4 yard of some very nice Italian polyester from Britex Fabrics. I thought I could pry apart the buttons and replace the pleather.

But they were custom buttons with a plastic backing. I couldn’t pry them apart without damaging the back. I used pliers and tried to coax the pieces apart but they wouldn’t budge. Darn.

Plastic button back

The other alternative was to purchase covered buttons and make new ones. I like covered buttons (see the covered butons I made for a top). However, these buttons weren’t a standard size. They were about 1 3/8 inches (3.5 cm) – in between the standard sizes for covered button kits. The other thing about covered button kits is that the back of the button is silver, which wouldn’t look great. Black is better.

So I opted to cover the original buttons the old-fahsioned way. I cut circles of fabric, hemmed the raw edges by hand and then sewed a gathering stitch. I placed the button in the center of my circle, pulled the threads tight and then stitched around the gathering to ensure that it stayed in place.

Covering coat buttonsn with new fabric by hand - CSews.com

I’m happy with the way they turned out. It took a couple nights in front of the television to finish. I should also mention that for my first button cover, I cut too large of a circle of fabric. After I gathered the fabrics, the gathering was too close to the button shank. I didn’t have enough room to maneuver my needle to sew the button on.

As you can see below, the button at the botton has too much fabric; the one on top was made with a smaller circle of fabric, leaving enough space for the needle to reach the shank and sew the button on my coat.

Refreshed coat buttons - CSews.com

Here’s a close-up look at my refreshed buttons. There was one that wasn’t peeling so I left it as is. It’s the one on the left in the second row. I covered six buttons altogether. (One button was missing when I got the coat so I replaced it with a slighter smaller button. It wasn’t a functional button.)

Refreshed coat - covered the buttons with new fabric

And here’s a view of me wearing the coat with my newly covered buttons.

Refreshing an old coat by recovering the buttons

It’s nice when you can refresh an old coat and continue to wear it. Have you refreshed an old garment? What did you do to make it wearable?

Boatneck top – New Look 6838 finished

Hi, it’s been an overcast and rainy week so I decided to take photos of this boatneck top inside. The photos are pretty boring but at least you can see the finished New Look 6838 top. I wore it to work so it’s a little wrinkled from sitting this morning.

Boatneck top - New Look 6838 - CSews.com

Version A has 3/4 length sleeves but as I noted in yesterday’s post about the pattern, the sleeve pattern piece was quite long. After I sewed and hemmed the sleeves, the hem was about an inch above my wrist bone. So I cut about 5 inches from the length and hemmed them again to make them the current length. And I have long arms so if you have average-length arms, the 3/4 sleeves will be long sleeves on you.

I put my finished sleeve next to the pattern piece. Here’s how much I lopped off.

New Look 6838

The houndstooth knit fabric doesn’t have very good recovery so I think the boat neck neckline will likely get stretched out. You can already see that in the front it doesn’t quite lie flat. But this was my mockup so it doesn’t really matter.

Boatneck top - New Look 6838 - CSews.com

One common complaint in the Pattern Review reviews for this pattern was that the boatneck neckline was too wide. I didn’t make any changes to the front. The width was about 3/4 inch too wide for me – even with my broad shoulders. You can see that the shoulder seamline droops a bit off my shoulder bone.

New Look 6838 - boatneck top - CSews.com

I do like the neckline because it reveals my collar bones. However, the width also reveals your bra straps. If I make it again, I’ll need to sew in bra strap holders at the shoulders and make the shoulders a little more narrow, which will be a first for me. I often do a wide shoulder adjustment.

Boatneck top – back view

This top has a center back seam, which seemed a bit unusual for a knit pattern. I decided to go with it and see what that would look like. My fabric has a tiny houndstooth print but I didn’t bother trying to match the print. The knit print was a leftover scrap from making Vogue 9191 wrap pants in 2016.

Boatneck top - New Look 6838 - CSews.com

The seam curves out slightly at the bottom to give some shaping but I think you could just eliminate the seam allowance and cut it on the fold – unless you have a booty that would benefit from the curve.

Side view

You can really see the droopy shoulder here – partly because the top was shifting because the neck opening is a little too wide. It doesn’t quite droop this much. If I center the top, it’s about 3/4 inch off.

Boatneck top - New Look 6838 - CSews.com

I did stabilize the hem with fusible stay tape but as you can see the hem is a little rippled. I used a twin needle but I haven’t pressed the hem. Maybe it’ll be a little flatter after pressing.

Here’s another view of the left side.

Boatneck top - New Look 6838 - CSews.com

Here’s a look at the right side of this boatneck top. I pulled down the back to smooth out the wrinkles and pulled down the neckline back there. So it looks like the hem is lower in the back but it’s not drafted as a high-low top. The hem is actually the same length front and back.

Boatneck top - New Look 6838 - CSews.com

Making it again

I will certainly make this boatneck top pattern again because I like the bateau neckline. I will bring in the shoulders about 3/4 inch and shorten the sleeves by 5 inches. I’ll pick a medium weight jersey with good recovery and make sure I test fusible stay tapes and whether I should use a double needle or just a zigzag stitch, whichever will look better. (I don’t have a cover stitch machine.)

I’m not sure if I’ll keep that center back seam. This pattern could be a good stash buster. You could have fun color blocking it – using different colors for the back, sleeves and front.

New Look 6838 – a popular boatneck knit top

Hi, I got this New Look pattern a while ago – mainly for the boatneck top. This neckline is one of my favorite styles. New Look 6838 is likely out-of-print because I couldn’t find it on the Simplicity website. I discovered that the pattern has been in print for several years when I noticed that my envelope looks like this…

New Look 6838 - knit top and pants

… and I saw the pattern envelope on Pattern Review, which shows this old New Look design.

I searched for the oldest PR reviews for this pattern and saw that reviwes went back to 2002! Wow. I didn’t realize that some patterns can stay in print that long! It must have been a really popular pattern.

New Look 6838 boat neck top, pants, separates

I skimmed a couple of reviews and learned that for most people, the neckline on version A of the top (the striped one), was too wide and the 3/4 sleeves were more like full-length sleeves.

However, I didn’t read the reviews until I had already cut and sewn everything but the hems. Oops. I was using fabric leftover from other projects so it didn’t really matter. This is my mockup. The houndstooth knit was a fabric from Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics sale floor. I used it to make a pair of wrap pants from a Vogue pattern. The fabric doesn’t have much recovery.

Houndstooth and black jersey knit fabrics for New Look 6838

I’m not sure where I got the black fabric for the sleeves. I have quite a lot of black jersey and other solid black knit fabrics in my stash.

New Look 6838 pattern adjustments

I did a 1/8″ square shoulder adjustment on this top – probably not really necessary considering this was a knit top.

The hem of the so-called 3/4 sleeves landed about an inch or so above my wrist – too long. So I cut off about 5 inches from the sleeves to make them 3/4 length. I have long arms but even these sleeves were too long for me.

I also have broad shoulders so I thought, “Why not sew a 1/2″ center back seam instead of 5/8″ seam?” That was just a whim as I was pinning the back before sewing it. But I didn’t need to make it wider. (Note to self: Measure the pattern pieces before making an adjustment.)

One of the results of making the back a little wider is that the neckline gaped in the back. My fabric also got a little stretched out so I think the gaping was the result of fabric and the seam allowance. This houndstooth knit doesn’t have much recovery. So I unpicked the neck hem around the center back seam. My first attempt wasn’t quite right because my seam wasn’t gradual enough to lay flat. I drew a line for my second attempt. The stitching on the right is the original seam.

New Look 6838 center back seam

I didn’t make any other changes to New Look 6838.

Stabilizing the fabric

This houndstooth jersey fabric needed some stabilizing at the neck, which I neglected to do. If this were my fashion fabric, not a mockup, I would have played around with the fabric – stretching it out and looking at the recovery (how quickly did it spring back).

I hemmed this top with a zig zag stitch at the neckline and for the sleeve hems. I used a twin needle for the hem of the body.

For the hem of the body, I used Design Plus super fine bias fusible stay tape. It comes in white and black. I had white in my stash so I used that. I usually get it at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley. (Here’s an affiliate link to black super fine stay tape.)

Note on New Look 6838’s sleeves

I used some lightweight black jersey that was in my stash. It was a lighter weight than the houndstooth knit I used for the body.

The sleeves of New Look 6838 are treated like sleeves for a woven: You sew a straight stitch in between the notches on the sleeve head, slightly gather the seams and ease the inset sleeve into the body with the side seams already sewn.

I thought I could sew the sleeve head to the body and then sew one long seam from the sleeve hem down the side seam to the bottom hem of the body. But my sleeve fabric was too fiddly. So I pretty much followed the instructions. Maybe if I used a knit fabric of the same weight for the sleeves and the body, sewing it the other way may have worked.

It rained over the weekend so I didn’t get a chance to take any photos of me wearing the finished top. I’ll have to do that in a separate post. I’ll be sure to wear a fun hat for those photos.

Lastly, here are some questions for you: Do you make a mockup (aka toile or muslin) before you sew your fashion fabric? When you are trying a new pattern (or new-to-you pattern)? I’d love to hear from you!

Sewing cake and frosting over the holidays

I’m looking forward to finishing some projects and getting started on some new ones. I plan on sewing cake and frosting.

Happy holidays! Will you be sewing over the holiday break? I hope to take advantage of some time to sew. I’ve been too busy lately to do much sewing or blogging. So I’m looking forward to finishing some projects and getting started on some new ones. I plan on sewing cake and frosting. (See Heather Lou’s post on her Sew Frosting challenge.)

Here are my potential sewing plans for next week. I am considering it a wish list as opposed to a task list because I don’t want to feel bad if I don’t finish everything – and I may not get to everything.

Sewing cake projects underway

New Look 6838

This pattern that has been in my stash for a while. (I couldn’t find it on the Simplicity website so I think it’s OOP.) I love boat necks and knit tops so that’s why I picked up this pattern at Joann’s a while ago.

I am making top A, which has 3/4 sleeves, size L. I had this houndstooth jersey leftover (see photo below) from making my wrap pants (V9191) and I had just enough for the body and I found some black jersey in my stash for the sleeves.

New Look 6838 - knit top and pants - sewing plans

All I need to do is hem the bottom and shorten the sleeves, which are too long for 3/4 sleeves. The hem is about an inch above my wrist so they look like long sleeves that are a little too short. (Side note: Did you know that 3/4 length sleeves are just below the elbow and 7/8 sleeves are a few inches below that?) I’ll write a separate post about this top later.

Vintage Vogue reissue of 1960 top

I made a skirt from this beautiful cotton print for the Bay Area Sewists Frocktails in February earlier this year. Here’s the only good photo I have of the skirt where you can really see the fabric – a splurge purchase from Britex several years ago. I love the watercolor look of this fabric.

Blue floral print A-line skirt - CSews.com

I had less than a yard leftover but I thought I could squeeze out version A of this sleeveless top (V9187, a vintage Vogue reissue from 1960). The idea was to make it seem like I was wearing a dress. But I ran out of time to finish it in time for Frocktails.

V9187 - Vintage Vogue reissue - design from 1960 - sewing plans - CSews.com

I made one quick muslin and needed to adjust the bust. Luckily it had princess seams, which makes it easy to adjust. But I am fitting it on myself, which means incremental adjustments. Also, the pattern has all these facings for the neckline and armhole, plus a center back zipper.

I didn’t have enough fabric to cut facings from my fashion fabric so I decided I would line it instead. So I had to figure out how to put together some of the back pattern pieces to create the lining pieces.

The other change I made was to move the back zipper to a side zipper. I don’t want a zipper in the back because it’s designed for a separating zipper and I don’t see how I could put it on by myself.

Where I last left it, is that I went ahead and cut my fashion fabric, crossing my fingers that my last bust adjustments would work. I still need to figure out the back lining pieces. Then I can start sewing it.

Sew frosting projects to start

Skirt for Frocktails

For the last two Frocktails in February event, I made skirts at the last minute. For the 2019 Frocktails, I’d like to spend more than a day throwing it togther. In 2017, I modified a Deer & Doe skirt pattern, removing a few of the pleats and making an adjustable waist with a ribbon tie. Here’s a photo of that skirt and a link to the blog post, My adjustable waist Deer & Doe Chardon.

Deer and Doe Chardon - modified by removing two front pleats and adding a ribbon to give it an adjustable waistband

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, then you know this is one of my favorite skirt patterns. I’ve made it multiple times. I like this modification so I’m thinking of doing a variation of this with the Marimekko fabric in my stash (see last month’s Sew Frosting post on the fabric). But I want to make a longer midi-length skirt.

I’ve also been browsing Pinterest for additional skirt ideas. Here are a few images that caught my eye.

This skirt is by Asos and is described as a high-waisted midi prom skirt. (Really? Prom skirt?) I have a 2-inch wide Petersham ribbon that I’d like to use for my skirt and make it an adjustable waist again. I like the center placement of this ribbon and the way the skirt has a bit of a paper bag waist. I’ll need a facing that will be a little stiff to make sure it stays up.

Asos - high-waisted midi prom skirt - sewing plans

I like the inverted pleats on this skirt. (Sorry, I didn’t note the source. )

High-waisted skirt with inverted pleats - sewing plans

Long Pilvi Coat

Ever since I saw images on Pinterest of the 2017 Valentino collection, I’ve wanted to make a long jacket with the hem near my ankles. A long red jacket would a combination of sewing cake and frosting.

Valentino - 2017 - sewing plans

I got a few yards of red ponte in New York earlier this year to make another Pilvi Coat. I want to use it to make a long red jacket with side vents. Or maybe I should try another pattern. I’ve made the Pilvi four times using different fabrics:

So maybe it’s time to check out a new pattern. But since I know this pattern so well, it won’t take long to make it. Plus I’d be making some modifications – adding length and side vents.

What are your sewing plans? Are you sewing cake or frosting over the holidays?

Sew Frosting – Marimekko skirt plans

Hi, I got a late start to the Sew Frosting party – the sewing challenge hosted by Heather Lou  Closet Case Patterns and Kelli of True Bias, encouraging people to sew “frosting” (frivolous and fun!) as opposed to “cake” (basics and staples). For more about the challenge, see Heather Lou’s blog post and search the hashtag #sewfrosting on Instagram to see all the wonderful makes.

When I  thought about what “frosting” fabrics I had, I immediately thought about this striking Marimekko fabric I got at Crate and Barrel several years ago. I remember it was discounted –not by much – but I loved the colors so I splurged on 1 1/3 yards (~1.2 meters) of this cotton fabric from Finland.

Marimekko - TULTAKERO - cotton fabric - Sew Frosting - CSews.com

Even though it was holiday fabric – note the trees – the colorway didn’t quite say Christmas so I thought it could be used for other purposes. Yesterday I searched for this fabric online to see what it was called. I found other colorways of this fabric and learned that it was called Tultakero. The selvage of my yardage didn’t have the name on it.

Tultakero

I spotted this red, green and white version of Tultakero on eBay. As you can see, it has more of that holiday feel.

Tultakero - Marimekko fabric

The colorway I have doesn’t have any green in it; instead, it features red, magenta, purple, deep yellow and dark violet. Here’s another section of the fabric.

Tultakero - Marimekko - holiday fabric - Sew Frosting - CSews.com

Sewing my stash

I have been (mostly) sticking to my fabric fast this year, trying to sew my stash rather than shop for new fabric. This fabric is 57″ wide and I will cut it in half and use one piece for the skirt front and another for the back.

I want to use inverted pleats or maybe a combination of inverted pleats in the back and one big pleat or fold in the front. I’ll use one of my favorite skirt patterns – the Deer and Doe Chardon as my jumping off point. I’ve made five versions of it – from color blocked to maxi. The most recent one I made I changed the waist by removing a few of the front pleats to make an adjustable waist with a silk ribbon tie.

I tend to gravitate towards the same shades of red, rose and plum. I knew I had a solid red cotton and a fuchsia cotton. I just had to dig around to find them (which bin? which drawer?). I found the two fabrics and also discovered that I have a wide Petersham ribbon that perfectly matches one of the colors in the Marimekko fabric as you can see below.

Marimkko TULTAKERO fabric - CSews.com

I will color block the skirt with maybe the solid red and fuchsia above and below the print. Or maybe the print at the top? I’m not sure.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to start or finish sewing this before the Sew Frosting deadline of Nov. 30 because I sprained my right ankle just before Thanksgiving. 🙁 So I needed to stay off my foot, instead of standing to cut my fabric or using the pedal on my sewing machine. But the good news is that my ankle is feeling much better and I can start making this skirt!

Thanks to Heather Lou and Kelli for the inspiration!

SkinTie – sustainable and high-tech ties

Earlier this month I got an invitation to attend a media event for the latest version of SkinTie, a San Francisco startup founded by Christophe Schuhmann. I hadn’t heard of the company, which he says is a bridge between fashion and tech, which I’ll explain later. What caught my eye is that the ties are “made out of sustainable collagen from fish scales.”  Yes, it’s sustainable and biodegradable.

I wasn’t able to attend the event but I did get the opportunity to meet Christophe in person at his apartment in the Presidio and take some photos of his various unisex ties. They are about half the length of regular neckties and meant to be worn against the skin (akin to a scarf) – thus SkinTie.

Here’s a photo of a model wearing a collagen SkinTie. The tie isn’t much longer than what you see in the photo.

Collagen SkinTie

SkinTie Origins

Christophe says he got the idea for wearing the tie like this by accident. Four years ago, he was invited to attend a party with a “junior prom” theme. He’s not a fan of wearing a necktie with a buttoned-up shirt so he decided to wear the tie inside his shirt. Everyone at the party loved the look and some of the guys took off their ties and wore them inside, too. (See his YouTube video interview on French American TV.

As the evening wore on, Christophe realized that he didn’t like the feeling of the tie touching his belly. So the next day, he cut all of his ties and began wearing them inside his shirts. He wore his ties like this every day for two weeks and got such great feedback, he decided to start a company in December 2014, registering a trademark and creating a website and accounts with Shopify, Instagram and other social media.

His initial version was a clippable tie that used hooks and eyes to attach in the back. The idea was to tie it once and then hook it together in the back. Here’s what it looked like.

Skin tie with hook and eye closure

Sustainable fabric

Christophe later began exploring a sustainable tie and discovered a fabric made from collagen. Taiwanese company Weavism makes the fabric from collagen fiber derived from the Taiwan milk fish scale. The collagen SkinTie fabric is made from what Weavism calls the next generation of “bionic fiber,” a blend of “collagen peptide amino acid from recycled fish scale and viscose fiber, which is 100% biodegradable.”

This is a photo I took of three of his collagen ties. The fabric is soft and feels nice against the skin. The ties have magnets in the back instead of hooks which makes it easier to wear.

Collagen SkinTies

Christophe found out about the fabric when saw this collagen scarf, the precursor to the viscose blend, and he was immediately taken with the softness of the fabric and its sustainability. He gets the fabric from Taiwan and a family-owned business in San Francisco manufactures them. He is selling them as a pre-ordered custom product. You send your neck and torso measurement and the tie is made for your body.

Collagen scarf

Christophe sent me this photo showing himself and model Jamie Panizales wearing his product at the annual SkinTie fashion party last weekend. You can see the length of the tie on Jamie.

Christophe Schuhmann of SkinTie and Jamie Panizales

I’ve been thinking a lot about the environmental impact of the fashion industry, which is the second biggest polluting industry in the world, according to the documentary The True Cost (the oil industry is the top polluter). A company making ties from a sustainable fabric seems like a good thing – especially when so many clothes end up in a landfill (see my post Clothes Closet Confessions).

Here’s an image of a model wearing the collagen SkinTie, which the SkinTie website touts as 100 percent sustainable and biodegradable.

Collagen SkinTie

Fashion and Tech

Where does tech come in ? Well, SkinTie has also introduced SmartTie – a tie with a transmitting chip. Here’s what the chip looks like.

Transmitting chip in tie

The tie wearer uploads the information he or she wants to share in the cloud. Then using an app, you scan the tie with your phone and download the information in the cloud. Christophe says each owner can define what they want to share, which could include images and PDFs.

Here’s what he showed me on his phone. When you scan a SmartTie, you can access the tie wearer’s info. Christophe thinks it could be new and unique way for companies to release information about a new product launch.

App for SkinTie

Christophe is attempting to do quite a lot with his company – create a trend for his style of tie, create a sustainable product and incorporate tech. It’s an ambitious proposition. By day, he works for a tech company in San Francisco and if SkinTie takes off, he hopes to pass it along to his grandchildren.

Meanwhile, SkinTie is based in his apartment where he stores the various SkinTie collections….

SkinTies in Christophe Schuhmann's apartment

… and enjoys the view of the bay from his window.

View of the bay from window in Presidio

Clothes Closet Confessions

Hi, during Slow Fashion October, I did some thinking about my clothes closet. I took this photo earlier this month (a brief glimpse of my closet). It’s getting crowded so I’ve contemplated doing a KonMari on my closet but the thought of taking everything out and going through old clothes has been a bit daunting. The closet pole is full so I’ve hooked my Pilvi Coats and other jackets on the crates on the shelf above. It’s a mess. Here are some of what I’ll call my clothes closet confessions:

  1. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo I bought Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing (affiliate link) but I haven’t read it. The closest I got to the book was reading this 2015 New York magazine profile on Kondo, which is what made me buy the book. Who doesn’t want more “spark joy” in their life?
  2. Over the years, I have given clothes and shoes to Goodwill (job training) and Out of the Closet (benefits AIDS Healthcare Foundation). But in 2012, after reading Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth Cline (affiliate link), I stopped buying fast fashion and stopped donating clothes. Donated clothes often end up in a landfill, with textile recyclers, or sold overseas. (Read my review of the book.)
  3. I have pants from five or so years ago that are now a bit too tight. My subconscious still thinks that someday I will magically lose the 20+ pounds I’ve gained and be able to wear them again.
  4. I have clothes that I don’t want to give away because I’ve told myself I can refashion them. I get inspired by Sarah Tyau’s posts on Instagram (@sarahtyau). I even bought a felted wool sweater from Goodwill with the intention of making it into a handbag. But I still have not done any upcycling.
  5. As a participant in the 2018 RTW Fast, I haven’t bought any new clothes this year. I thought it would give me more incentive to make some pants but so far, pants have not quite made it into the sewing queue. I’ve made skirts, tops and a jacket. I have a pile of pants patterns and accumulated fabrics for pants. Part of my hesitation is that I have gained weight and if I make pants, I have to fit them to my current body. And I think, “Hmmm, what if I lose weight? Then I’ll have to start all over again with fitting. So do I make pants with an elastic waist? Are there good patterns with elastic waists?”

Pants patterns

If you have any pants pattern suggestions, let me know. I do have this Vogue pattern – V1464 – Today’s Fit by Sandra Betzina, which I like because it doesn’t have a waistband and it’s similar to a pair of RTW pants that are getting rather worn out. (V1464 is now out of print but I’m sure you can find it on Etsy or Amazon.)

V1464 - Today's Fit by Sandra Betzina, Vogue pattern

I also have this Butterick jeans pattern. I want to make the trouser jeans – version E. Both of these pants have been on my list for a while. In fact, I mentioned both patterns in my 2017 Make Nine blog post. (sigh) Well, sometimes it takes while to get to going – especially when new patterns are released. It’s all too easy to get distracted by the next new thing.

B5682 - Butterick sewing pattern - jeans

Where to donate clothes

But I digress – so back to the challenge is what to do with the clothes you don’t really want any more? Look for nonprofit organizations in your community that will make sure your clothes go to people who need them. For example, I searched “donate clothes oakland” and found Wardrobe for Opportunity, which “provides low-income job seekers with professional attire for interviews and work.”

I think some of my business attire pants can go there. They are not accepting any new donations until January 2019 so check back then and see when their next curbside drop-off will occur.

You can also donate business attire to Dress for Success, which is an “international not-for-profit organization that empowers women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.” There’s an affiliate in San Francisco.

What about nonbusiness attire? Find a local clothing swap or maybe an upcycle or refashion meetup and see if they’ll take your clothes. At least you’ll know that someone will actually do something with them.

Gently worn or new shoes can go to Soles for Souls, which lets you send shoes via Zappos for Good or by dropping them off at a DSW store (you get 50 DSW VIP points for your donation).

Side note: It is tempting to donate clothes to fire victims in California but the best way to help them is to donate money to a reputable charity. Then the funds will go to whatever their immediate needs are (food, shelter, etc.).

What do you do with clothes you no longer wear? Please share your ideas!

Sweater knit fabric and Olgalyn’s online course

Hi, I’ve blogged about Olgalyn Jolly’s online course “How to Cut and Sew a Sweater.” If you haven’t read that post, here’s a little background on how I know Olgalyn, a sweater knit designer and teacher. Nearly two years ago I interviewed Olgalyn, on my blog and hosted a giveaway of a sweater knit fabric kit. I had been following her blog and her Instagram account  (@ojolly) for a while and met her in person on a trip to New York in 2016.

Sweater knit fabric from O! Jolly!

Earlier that year, I had also purchased the lovely 100 percent cotton sweater knit fabric featured in the above photo and later decided to get some matching ribbing from Olgalyn, which she kindly delivered in person when I met her. (You can still but the ribbing from one of her online shops.)

Cotton ribbing - O! Jolly! sweater knit

Olgalyn is just as lovely in person as she appears in her photos. She also blogs about cutting and sewing sweater knit fabrics on her blog O! Jolly! Crafting Fashion.

Olgalyn Jolly in sweater she sewed

I’m writing again about her online course because she is reopening registration this weekend, offering a 20 percent discount from Saturday, September 29 to Monday, October 1! The regular price is is $59 – with the discount, it’s just $47.20 (affiliate link: How to Cut and Sew a Sweater, regular price now but still worth the price). When Olgalyn asked me if I wanted to be an affiliate again, I immediately said yes.

I’ve had time to watch each lesson and feel so much more comfortable about cutting and sewing the fabric I bought from her. There really isn’t any other online course available that focuses specifically on sweater knit fabric, which is not the same as jersey knit or other knit fabric.

Olgalyn is great at explaining how to find the right size pattern for your fabric – it’s a combination of looking at the finished pattern size and the stretch and recovery of your fabric. Here’s an image from her online course:

Stretch and recovery of sweater knit fabric

She very clearly explains every step for how to cut and sew sweater knit fabric, including:

  • how to mark your fabric,
  • basting vs. pinning,
  • what type of pins to use,
  • sewing pattern suggestions,
  • how to finish your seam allowances,
  • how to finish your necklines and hems,
  • and how to care for your fabric.

I wish her course had been available when I tried to sew a cardigan for my husband a while ago and it ended up being too big! Now I know where I went wrong. 😉

Plus she include many files for you to download – everything from a “Sweater Sewing Guide,” which she describes as “An outline and checklist for planning the construction of your sweater”  to helpful worksheets.

I really appreciate the time and care she took in putting this course together. And that’s why I wanted to help spread the word about Olgalyn’s course. If you’ve ever wanted to sew sweater knit fabric, you’ll find this online course to be an invaluable resource.

Once again, to get a 20 percent discount on the course, click on this (affiliate) link (or on the image below) from Saturday, September 29 to Monday, October 1. This discount is no longer available but you can still register for the course at this affiliate link. I think it’s a great value at $59. Olgalyn is an excellent teacher.

How to cut and sew a sweater - Olgalyn Jolly

Striped knit top from She Wears the Pants

Hi, I’ve had this striped rayon fabric in my stash for quite a few years – an impulse buy from Discount Fabrics in San Francisco (back when they were still around 11th and Mission St.). I didn’t have any particular pattern in mind when I got it; I just liked it. Since I’ve been on a RTW fast this year – and somewhat of a fabric fast, I have been making an effort to shop my stash. And that’s when I decided to make a striped knit top with this fabric.

Striped knit top - She Wears the Pants by Yuko Takada - Japanese sewing book - Tuttle Publishing - CSews.com

The pattern is the Top with Epaulettes from the Japanese sewing book She Wears the Pants by Yuko Takada (affiliate link here). I made it in 2015 using a medium-weight striped knit. You can see that version on my review of She Wears the Pants – just scroll to the end of the post to see photos of that top. I made size L and added more ease in the hips. I used the same pattern pieces.

What I really like about this top is the classic boat neck design and slightly belled sleeves, which you can (sort of ) see in this photo.

Striped knit top - She Wears the Pants by Yuko Takada - Japanese sewing book Tuttle Publishing - CSews.com

If you use a heavier weight knit, the sleeves will have more body and stand out a bit more like they do in my first version. I think if I make it again, I would use a heavier weight knit to show off the sleeve shape.

Top with Epaulettes - She Wears the Pants - csews.com

This fabric was a little fiddly. I had to take my time cutting out the front and back pieces so they would match on the side seams. First, I cut the back piece because I knew I wanted the dark stripe to be at the top. Before I cut the front piece, I carefully placed the back piece on the fabric, lining up the stripes. Then I placed the front pattern piece on the fabric so it lined up with the back.

I also knew that I wanted the hem to end on a black (or is it navy?) stripe, which meant I could just cut along the bottom edge of the white stripe. My plan was the fold the hem on the bottom edge of the dark stripe.

I pinned each stripe at the side seams, set the pressure on my presser foot to zero and sewed a zig zag stitch on my sewing machine. It was a nearly perfect match! I sewed a test piece before I sewed it. I didn’t use any stabilizer and it was fine.

Matching stripes - rayon knit fabric - CSews.com

Looks like a perfect side seam!

Striped knit top - She Wears the Pants by Yuko Takada - Japanese sewing book Tuttle Publishing

When I cut out my sleeves, I just cut them so the hem would end on a dark stripe. Hems get dirty and this is an easy way to hide the dirt. I wasn’t concerned about matching stripes across the body. I like the way it looks. I’m wearing my denim knit skirt with this striped knit top.

Striped knit top - She Wears the Pants by Yuko Takada - Japanese sewing book Tuttle Publishing

Here’s another view of the back.

Striped knit top - She Wears the Pants by Yuko Takada - Japanese sewing book Tuttle Publishing

The pattern for this striped top calls for topstitching the neck facing and the hems. I opted to hand sew the facing because I didn’t want to see topstitching around the neckline. But you can tell where I made my stitches – see the slight shadows in the white stripe below?

Striped knit top - She Wears the Pants by Yuko Takada - Japanese sewing book Tuttle Publishing - CSews.com

For the hems, I fused fusible stay tape on the wrong side of my fabric to stabilize it. Then I used a twin needle to sew the hems of this striped knit top. The stitches blend into the fabric so you really can’t see the stitches.

Striped knit top - She Wears the Pants by Yuko Takada - Japanese sewing book Tuttle Publishing

In case you’re wondering about the hat, it’s a vintage straw hat with a veil and a fun ribbon detail. I got the hat from All Things Vintage, a delightful shop in Oakland which always has a lovely selection of hats. The label on the inside says The Hat Box, H. C. Capwell Co., Oakland. I did a quick online search and discovered that Capwell’s was a department store in Oakland.

Vintage hat - CSews.com

The building is still there in downtown Oakland. A Sears store was in the space for several years. Capwell’s also had branches in other parts of the Bay Area. You can read about Capwell’s history on the Department Store Museum blog and you can read more about the building on this Oakland wiki page. Uber bought the Capwell building in 2015 but sold it in 2017.

I love hats with veils – though they don’t really fit in with life today. In public, I usually wear my veiled hats with the veil up, tossed over the top of the hat.