What’s in my sewing queue — 2021

I have a growing pile of sewing patterns, books, and fabrics in my sewing queue. Some patterns have been sitting in my stash for a few years while others I got over the past year. But what they all have in common is that I haven’t made them yet. And this is partly why I haven’t made a Make Nine list since 2018. LOL Frankly, I didn’t want to make a list and then feel pressure to make them or feel bad that I never got around to making them by the end of the year.

I had a productive year in 2018 and actually did a follow-up blog post in March 2018 showing the progress I’d made. Wow. My really sewing dropped off when I started a new job in the summer of 2019. And then in 2020, the pandemic hit and my job became extremely busy. So it was a year of even less sewing. But a few months into lockdown in the Bay Area, took stock of my patterns and fabric. I thought, “Hmmmm, I have this pattern but no fabric for it or not enough yardage to make it.”

Fabrics in my stash

Last year I organized some of my fabric into neater stacks, following the great advice from Kelli of True Bias in her post Fabric Stash Organization. Her fabric is neatly stored in a bookcase. I wish I had an empty bookcase for my fabric but all our bookcases — except for one shelf of fabric — are filled with books. The rest of my fabric is in bags and bins.

Stack of fabrics in shades of red

I discovered that I had a lot of denim, red ponte, red prints, red wool crepe, black ponte, black-and-white prints, and other various prints. And that’s when I also realized that a lot of the patterns I wanted to make required more yardage. My cuts of denim were 1.5 or 2 yards (~1.4 m or 1.8 m) at most and the dress, skirt, and jacket patterns needed more fabric.

Patterns in my sewing queue

Last October, I wrote a blog post about sewing patterns in my queue. I still haven’t made those patterns but they are still in the sewing queue!

Here are the other patterns in my current queue, in no particular order, starting with the two that I already traced: the Array Top by Papercut Patterns and the Neige Sweatshirt by Deer and Doe. I got both patterns from Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley.

Image - woman wearing Array Top in blue fabric with flared sleeves, tunic length

I made the Array Top in a purple rayon with elastic at the wrists. Now I want to make a tunic-length version with flared sleeves with this lovely teal Nani IRO double gauze.

I also have some lucious teal French terry to make the Neige — both fabrics from Stonemountain (sorry, no longer in stock last I checked). The sleeves and the funnel neck of version A of the Neige got my attention. Spring weather so far has not been very hot

I also got some fun French terry from Marcy Tilton Fabrics, which she called White Maze. So I splurged because she was having a sale and I was thinking of making a second Neige from this fabric.

But then I recently got a newsletter from Peggy of Sew House Seven with a link to a free pattern – the Elemental Pencil Skirt PDF — for her newsletter subscribers. And guess what? She said her favorite fabric for this skirt is a bamboo French terry! So now I think I’m going to make this skirt from the White Maze fabric. I don’t know the fiber content of this black-and-white fabric. It’s sold out on Marcy Tilton’s website and the order info only says French terry, nothing else.

I think it will make a fun pencil skirt. Peggy describes it as a “slim, high waist pencil skirt with a hidden elastic waistband designed for knit fabrics with at least 50% horizontal stretch.” This will definitely be a comfy skirt to wear. What’s more comfy than French terry?

Jalie patterns

When I was perusing the sewing patterns on Stonemountain’s website, I discovered a couple of Jalie patterns I had not seen before, the Gisèle Round Neck Blouse for lightweight wovens, and the Reneé Ponte Pants. Jalie is a Canadian company that makes a lot of patterns for knit fabrics — and plenty of sportswear as well as patterns for gymnastics and figure skating apparel. I didn’t realize they had any patterns for wovens so I decided to get the Gisèle and some lovely blue sateen chambray.

I have quite a few yards of black ponte that I set aside for pants a while ago. Some of it was deadstock from Stonemountain that I got a couple of years ago, well before the pandemic. It has a nice weight to it – perfect for pants.

I’ve also had Jalie’s Drop Pocket Cardigan in my stash forever but have not made it. I got it because I had seen other sewists versions of it a long time ago. However, back then I didn’t have much experience with knit fabrics so I was hesitant about making it and choosing fabric with the right amount of stretch. But I’ve sewn a lot of knits since then so not problem now!

When I have knit fabric scraps, I now make underwear. I got the Julia Camisole, Bralette and Panties pattern a while ago. I’ve cut the pattern pieces for panties and a bralette. So far I’ve only made one pair of panties. Underwear isn’t very exciting so I haven’t made more yet. But they are in the sewing queue!


I’m sure you adjust your queue often — especially when you see a new pattern. I know I get distracted whenever I see something new. My sewing time and energy is limited these day because of a busy job. I used to feel bad that I hadn’t made anything in a while. But that’s certainly not helpful so I just sew when I can. Any sewing feels like progress! So here’s to progress. 🙂

Q&A with Chelsea Gurnoe of Friday Pattern Company

I first discovered Friday Pattern Company on Instagram (@fridaypatterncompany). The models wearing the Seabright Swimmer and the Wilder Gown really caught my eye — and I loved the flowers in their hair. I soon realized that Chelsea Gurnoe, the founder and owner of the indie pattern company, showcases women of color as well as people of different body types. When you look at the patterns on her website, you can see that she highlights a variety of models to feature her designs.

Although these designs were not quite my style, I did make the Joan Trousers and I bought the Square Neck Top pattern. Earlier this year, I added Friday Pattern Company to my sewing pattern height chart and I interviewed her via email, asking her questions about fashion, sewing, and her company. Thank you, Chelsea for taking the time to answer my questions!

Photo of Chelsea Gurnoe wearing Sagebrush Top, Friday Pattern Company
Chelsea Gurnoe of Friday Pattern Company wearing her Sagebrush Top

When were you first interested in fashion? 
I have loved fashion for as long as I can remember. I had a single mom and I used to have to go to work with her and she worked at this amazing vintage shop. My “play area” was the dressing room when there weren’t customers. I loved to try on different outfits and imagine where and why I would be wearing each thing. 

What attracted your eye when you were first interested in fashion? 
I think having a distinct style from my peers has always appealed to me. I love the way it feels to express myself creatively and getting dressed is a way that we do that every day. 

Fashion design, inspiration, and more

Why did you decide to go to fashion design at San Francisco State University and why did you leave?
I was always into fashion and sewing and fashion school felt like the logical next step. I ended up leaving my program because I became disillusioned with the fashion industry. I also really did not relate to the other people in the program. I think there are probably really great fashion design programs out there but the one I was in felt very stifling and corporate. 

What inspires you now?
I like to start with identifying how I want to feel in the garment and where I want to wear it and kind of expand from there. 

What are your go-to wardrobe staples?
I feel like this changes seasonally but right now I wear turtlenecks almost constantly. In summer I feel like all I wear is elastic waistband shorts! I also wear a lot of dresses and I try to make them work year round because I feel my best in a dress.

Learning to sew

When did you learn to sew? 
I learned to sew when I was a kid.

Who taught you? 
My grandma taught me 🙂

What was the first thing you sewed?
We sewed a little tiny quilt.

Friday Pattern Company

What inspired you to launch the Friday Pattern Company?
I worked in a fabric store around the time that indie pattern companies started to emerge and it just seemed like the absolute perfect combination of my love of fashion and sewing. 

How would you describe your aesthetic for your designs?
Ha! That is hard. They are my personal style. Probably modern with a bit of drama. Dramatic with a bit of modern? 

What do you strive for in your patterns?
I want my patterns to be fun to sew and approachable for beginners. I want them to inspire the person making them to put their own stamp on it. I tend towards designs that are adaptable and hackable if that makes sense.

Your initial size range went from XS to XXL. Then you went up to 4X and last year you extended your size range to 7X (60″/152 cm bust). Why did you decide to increase your size range?
I initially decided to increase my size to 4X like you said, and then I just saw that there were still people in the community who were not in that size range. I also have more resources now that my company has grown a bit so I was able to continue to extend my size range. 

Women wearing Heather Blazer, sewing pattern by Friday Pattern Company
Heather Blazer pattern size range goes from XS to 7X

Currently, several your patterns are available in extended sizes (XS to 7X). When do you expect to have all of your earlier patterns available in extended sizes? 
I am hoping to finish in 2021 but I can’t promise that. I should have most of them done this year. 

What are the challenges of grading in a wide range of sizes? 
There was definitely a learning curve but I have a great group of testers and a plus fit model who has been an asset in developing my plus size block. 

Women wearing the Hughes Dress
The Hughes Dress is available is sizes XS–7X.

Your patterns are available in print and as a PDF. Do you sell more of the printed patterns than the PDF versions or vice versa?
I sell more PDF. It’s nice because it makes my patterns accessible to sewists around the world. 

Looking at the models who are photographed for your patterns, it is obvious you are committed to being inclusive. Your models have different body types and include people of color. What process do you go through to select models for your patterns?

I love hunting down models. A lot of my models are my friends and family. The models who I don’t know personally I generally find through instagram. I kind of feel like a creep but it has been effective for me so far in finding different types of people who wouldn’t necessarily be signed at a modeling agency (although they should!). 

For each pattern, you donate 5 percent of your proceeds to a selection of charities, which include U.S. and international organizations. How did you select these charities?
They are a mix of charities that have empirical data that they do the most good like Against Malaria and Give Directly, and also charities that I find to be doing incredibly important work like the Trevor Project and the Loveland Foundation. 

What are you working on now?
I am working on updates and new sizing for the Ilford Jacket and also a spring dress that I am particularly excited about!

Chelsea’s Tips

What advice do you have for aspiring fashion designers?
Find your niche, have a clear vision for what you want to do, and go for it! 

What practical skills are most useful for aspiring designers?
I don’t think I am much of an authority on what aspiring designers should be doing, but I do think it is crucial to be clear in your point of view. Knowing why you are designing can center your designs and provide a lot of guidance.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received? 
It’s not advice per se but I have a very artsy and creative family and they always steered me towards creativity and self expression. That push helped me more than anything in figuring out my path in life. 

Sewing pattern height – a chart – 2021 update

Everyone’s body is different. We come in all shapes and sizes, which can make it challenging to find a sewing pattern that fits your body. Luckily, some indie sewing patterns design for a particular body type. For example, Deer and Doe designs for an hour-glass shape, Cashmerette Patterns for curvy figures (cup sizes C–H), Sew DIY for tall women, and Skinny Bitch Curvy Chick Patterns (SBCC) and Petite Plus for petite ladies. Each size is designed for a particular bust, waist and hip measurement, but not every company provides the sewing pattern height.

I’m 5′ 7″ (170 cm) and when I first wrote this post in 2017, I hadn’t really given much thought to the height that patterns are designed for. That year I finished the Mimosa Culottes by Named Clothing, a Finnish pattern company that designs for 5’8″. (You can see my version of the culottes here.)

Named - Lexi A-line top and Mimosa Culottes

After that, I made Megan Nielsen’s Flint Pants. I discovered that she designs for a height 5′ 9″ (175 cm).

Behind the chart

That experience made me want to find out what height pattern companies use for their designs.And that led me to make a chart listing sewing pattern heights. The height they design for is typically the height of their fit model. I began with companies whose patterns I’ve made and then added more several others.

This is by no means a comprehensive list. But I am trying to update it annually. I did my first update in 2020.

Sewing pattern height -blog post -  illustration of women of differnt heights and bodies

Size ranges

This year I added a column listing the size ranges for each pattern. Since I first began this chart, many companies have expanded their size range, are in the midst of expanding their size range, or offer new patterns . adding additional sizes or offer some patterns with an expanded size range; they are indicated with the single asterisk in the size column. Underneath the chart is a bulleted list of those companies.

I also updated the links to the size charts. There were many changes, including the links to the Big Four (Butterick, McCalls, Simplicity, Vogue), since they are now owned by British company Design Group. I linked to the U.S. pages for size charts. But you can also find measurements for Butterick, McCalls and Vogue on this PDF.

Sewing pattern heights

My 2021 chart includes links to each company’s body measurements/size chart (if they have one or a link to a pattern with the size chart), the height they design for, cup size, and size range.

Sewing Co. Size ChartHeight: inHeight: cmCupSize Range
100 Acts of Sewing5′ 5″165CXS-4X
The Assembly Line5′ 6″-5′ 7″168-170XS-L, XL-3XL*
Blueprints for Sewing5′ 5″165BA-P
Burda women’s regular5′ 6 1/4″168B6-34
Burda women’s petite5′ 3″160B6-20
Burda women’s tall5′ 9 1/4″176B6-20
Butterick-misses5′ 5″-5′ 6″165-168B4-26
Butterick-petites5′ 2″-5′ 3″157-160B4-26
Cashmerette5′ 6″168C-H12-32
Chalk & Notch5’7″170A/B, C/D0-24
Christine Haynes5′ 6″168BXS-4X
Closet Core Patterns5′ 6″168B0-20
Closet Core Patterns (expanded)5’6″168D14-30
Deer and Doe5′ 6″168C, D34-52
Friday Pattern Company5′ 5″165BXS-XXL, XS-4X, XS-7X*
Grainline Studio
Grainline Studio
Helen’s Closet5′ 6″168B, D0-30
In the Folds5′ 7″170BA-J
Itch to Stitch5′ 6″168A-DD00-20, 22-40*
Marilla Walker
(size range 1)
5’6″168B1-8, 1-10*
Marilla Walker
(size range 2)
McCalls – misses5′ 5″-5′ 6″165-168B4-26
McCalls – petites5′ 2″-5′ 3″157-160B4-26
Megan Nielsen5′ 9″175B0-20 (also XS-XL)
Megan Nielsen (curve)5’9″ 175D14-30
Merchant & Mills5′ 6″168D6-18, XXS-XXL**
Muna and Broad5’6″168flexibleA-G, A-M*
Named Clothing5′ 8″172B0-24
Paper Theory Patterns5′ 7″170C6-28*
Papercut Patterns5′ 7″170B/C***1-8
Paprika Patterns5′ 7″170B-C1-10, 1-13*
Pauline Alice5′ 5″165B34-44, 34-48*
Petite Plus Patterns5′-5′ 4″ 152.4- 162.5D12-24
Pipe Dream Patterns (Beatha)5′ 5″165C6-20
Pipe Dream Patterns (Saorsa)5’10”177DD20-34
SBCC Patterns5′ 1″163B/CXXS-XL
SBCC Patterns (expanded)5′ 1″163D/EL-4X
Seamwork (misses)5’8″172C00-16
Seamwork (curvy)5’9″175DD12-26
Sew DIY5′ 10″177C0-32
Sew House Seven
5′ 6″-5’7″168-170B/C00-20
Sew House Seven
Sew Liberated5’5″-5’7″168-170C0-24, 0-30/34*
Simplicity-misses5′ 5″-5′ 6″165-168B4-26
Simplicity-women5′ 5″-5′ 6″165-16818W-32W
Style Arc5′ 6″168B4-30
Today’s Fit by Sandra Betzina5’5″-5’6″165-167A-J
True Bias5′ 5″165C0-18, 14-30*
Vogue-misses5′ 5″-5′ 6″165-168B4-26
Vogue-petites5′ 2″-5′ 3″157-160B4-26
Wiksten5′ 7″170B0-18, 0-22

* These pattern companies have some patterns available in larger sizes or are working on making all patterns available in an expanded size range:

  • Some Assembly Line patterns are currently available in larger sizes. See their FAQs for info on larger sizes.
  • Friday Pattern Company is working on making all designs available in the expanded size range, some go up to XXL, others to 4X or 7X. The goal is for all designs to go up to 7X.
  • Some Itch to Stitch patterns are available in plus sizes but the majority are not.
  • Marilla Walker‘s Belemnite Dress is available in extended sizes (bust 42″-48″/107 cm-147 cm)
  • Plus-size pattern company Muna and Broad is extending its size range from A–G (bust 40″/102 cm–52″/132 cm) to A–M (M: 83″/211 cm).
  • Paper Theory is adding sizes 22-28 to all of its patterns.
  • All Paprika Patterns are available in sizes 1-10, some are available up to size 13; they are working on making all designs sized up to 13.
  • Newer Pauline Alice patterns go up to 48.
  • Sew Liberated size range varies depending on the pattern: 0-24, 0-30, 22-34.
  • Some True Bias patterns are available in sizes 0-18 and some 14-30.

**Merchant & Mills says their patterns are not tailored/fitted so they don’t really design for a particular cup size but if they had to say, they say D. Some patterns are available in size range 6-18 and others in XXS-XXL (6-28).

***Papercut Patterns says it usually designs for B/C for sampling but, “We always advise to go by bust measurement … rather than cup size.”

Not all of the indie designers include this info on their websites so in some cases, I contacted the companies to find out. They graciously answered my queries within a few days. I hope you find the information useful.

Height is not everything

Sewing pattern height is an interesting measurement but it’s not the most important one. Patterns can easily be adjusted for length. The critical measurements are bust, waist and hips. The finished measurements are also very helpful when it comes to pants and skirts. When I make skirts or pants, all I first look at the hip measurement to pick my size. What measurements are the most important for you when you choose a size to sew?

Note: This post was originally published on May 1, 2017. I first updated it in 2020.

Sewing pattern height - 2021 update - chart listing Big Four and indie pattern heights that they are designed for, size ranges, cup size (The Assembly Line, Cashmerette, Deer and Doe, Friday Pattern Company, Named, Megan Nielsen, Papercut Patterns, and more)


Array top in rayon

I got the Papercut Patterns Array Top pattern last year at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics‘ Valentine’s Day event (printed version is sold out on the New Zealand company’s online shop but you can get PDF version). Thinking back, that visit was likely one of the last times I was physically inside the store. Wow.

A month after the event, Alameda County issued a stay-home order. Now it seems like years ago instead of less than a year. The Berkeley store’s doors have remained closed for in-store shopping but they put the majority of their merchandise online and it is open for curbside pickup and they also ship worldwide.

At that same event, I got some lovely Nani IRO double gauze at Stonemountain to make the tunic version of the Array pattern, which you can make in three lengths — top, tunic, and dress. I’ve been trying to add more teal to my wardrobe ever since I made Papercut’s Sapporo Coat in a teal wool coating.

Nani IRO double gauze fabric - teal blue background with lines in dark blue and bright blue creating shapes

I didn’t want to cut into Nani IRO fabric until I made a muslin (a mockup or test version). Over the holidays I finally made a muslin of the Array Top to get a sense of how it would fit. My shoulders are a bit square and I wanted to see how the dropped shoulder would hang on me. I had this purple rayon in my stash and decided to use it and attempt a wearable muslin. There is plenty of ease in the pattern so I figured it would fit even if I cut it as is.

Size range

The size range for the Array Top goes from 1 (bust 29.9″/76 cm , waist 22″/56 cm, hip 32.3″/82 cm to 8 (bust 46.5″/118 cm, waist 38.6″/98 cm, hip 48.8″/124 cm). I made size 5, which has these measurements: bust 39.5″/118 cm, waist 31.5″/80 cm, hip 41.75″/106 cm.

Pattern adjustments

It’s a simple pattern — front, back, sleeves, and tie pieces. The rayon fabric I was working with was a bit fiddly so I decided not to make bias tape for the neckline, which is what the pattern calls for. Instead, I made a facing by tracing the front and back pieces around the neckline, making to about 2.5 inches (6.3 cm) wide. Then I had to figure out how to finish the raw edges and opted to pink them so the facing wouldn’t be visible. The fabric is lightweight and has a soft hand. If I folded over the raw edge or even serged it, I was afraid the facing would be visible.

The Array top design has a bias tape neckline that’s finished with topstiching. I didn’t want a topstich around the neckline so I handstiched the facing in place. I think the neckline looks pretty good. Here’s what the Array top looks like without the ties.

Array Top - Papercut Patterns - in purple

I topstiched the hem as instructed because I didn’t want to hand stitch it. This patterns has a center back seam, which you can barely see here.

Array top - back view

The design has you sew one tie piece to each side seam at the waist. But that means you must always tie it or you’ll have two long ties dragging behind you. If you attach the tie, you’d wrap it around and then tie it in front. But, I thought, what if you didn’t want the tie? So I decided to make it optional by sewing the two tie pieces into one long tie. This means that you’ll have a shorter tie and it will have a center seam.

I tied this with the center seam in front, criss-crossing in the back.

Array top in rayon with tie

Here’s the top tied with the center seam placed at the back and then criss-crossing at the front and then going around to tie at the front, which makes the ends quite short.

When I make the tunic version with the double gauze, I will add a little more ease around the hips. But otherwise the pattern fits well.

The sleeves

The sleeves are nice and full at the bottom and will be more poofy if you use a fabric with a crisper hand. You could finish the sleeves with elastic like I did here or just hem them. If you hem them then you’ve got statement sleeves with dramatic flare as you can see below from this image from Papercut’s website. You can make the fabric in a variety of fabrics — from wovens to knits.

Array dress version - Papercut Patterns

I have long arms and the sleeve length is fine. I think the sleeves would be long for most people so pay attention to the length of the sleeves, particularly if you make the version without elastic at the wrists.

Array Top with elastic on sleeves

Fabric weight

The weight of the fabric will have a big impact on the sleeves. This rayon is lightweight with a soft hand so the sleeves aren’t that dramatic. If I made the Array top in a medium-weight woven, the sleeves would be quite puffy at the bottom. If you want statement sleeves, use a fabric that is more crisp.

Heres another look, wearing it tucked in front.

Stay tuned for the Array top in the Nani IRO fabric. I’m not sure if I’ll go with elastic on the sleeves or just hem them. My issue with flared sleeves is that you have to watch them when you eat. If you reach over, the sleeve will just dip into whatever’s on your plate when you’re eating. Which sleeve do you like? The elastic poofy one or the flared? Let me know in the comments!

The rest of the ensemble

I’m wearing the Joan Trousers by the Friday Pattern Company. (I have only blogged about the pair I made in yellow.) I’m also wearing a self-drafted six-section cap I made several years ago and suede boots by Børn that I got on sale at Nordstrom last year.

Note on photos: I took these photos four days after the insurrection at the Capitol and did not feel much like smiling. These are grim days for democracy. Sewing is my respite from the enormous challenges we face with the pandemic raging in the United States, the dangers of white supremacy, and economic catastrophe. Stay safe.

Joan Trousers in yellow ponte

Earlier this year (before the pandemic hit the United States), I made a pair of Joan Trousers by the Friday Pattern Company in a black poly ponte. They were very comfy but because they were poly, they can get warm — and a bit sweaty. Even so, I wore them a lot because they were indeed like wearing pajamas. When I got the black ponte from Fabric.com, I also bought some yellow ponte. The black was essentially my toile (mockup version).

Joan Trousers by The Friday Pattern Company - front view - hands in pockets
Joan Trousers by Friday Pattern Company – in yellow ponte

I picked yellow because I wanted to add more color to my wardrobe and I don’t have any yellow. It’s a color I’ve always thought I should avoid because of the yellow undertones to my skin. But I was inspired by seeing other folks on IG wearing yellow pants and hey, the model on the Joan Trousers pattern was wearing an orange-yellow version of the pants.

Joan Trousers - The Friday Pattern Company - pattern cover image

Sewing the Joan Trousers

I sewed my yellow Joan Trousers using a shallow zig zag stitch on my sewing machine. When I was nearly done and tried them on, I realized I needed more ease. Whoops! I could see panty lines — rather obvious in yellow. Black hides wrinkles and blends them in the shadows. 😉

What happened? Well, it turns out that the yellow ponte wasn’t exactly the same weight as the black ponte. I assumed they were the same because on Fabric.com’s site called both by the same name —Fabric Merchants Ponte de Roma Stretch. Wouldn’t you think that fabric’s using the same name but different colors were the same? Apparently not and this somehow affected how they fit. The black ponte was 8 oz/square yard. The yellow ponte was 6.3 oz/square yard. [Update: There was also another issue, which you can read about below in the pattern adjustment section.]

So I ripped out the outer side seams and reduced the seam allowance from 5/8″ to 1/2″. I left the inseam as is. Still, these pants could use a tad more ease. Unfortunately, I had already trimmed down the side seams with my pinking shears. Maybe the fit will give me incentive to get a little more in shape. One of the reasons why I picked the Joan Trousers was that they were designed for a knit fabric so they could be somewhat forgiving.

Joan Trousers with black hat and top - front view

Joan Trouser pattern adjustments

The waistband is one long rectangle and the narrow elastic along the top. When I made the black version, I didn’t like the way the center overlapping waistband looked. The top corners didn’t lay flat and they pulled away from each other because of 3/8″ (1 cm) elastic that runs along the top of the overlapping waistband ends. You sew on a button where the ends overlap (see the button on the pattern’s cover photo above).

For my yellow ponte version, I decided to get rid of the button and the overlapping part of the waistband. I cut off the seam allowance from the waistband to dispense with the overlapping part and placed the waistband seam on the side. But the Joan Trousers in this yellow ponte didn’t look very flattering at the waist so I’m hiding it with this top (pattern from She Wears the Pants by Yuko Takada (affiliate link); I’ve made this top a few times, see more versions of the top).

Instead of topstitching the hem, I handsewed the hem. I don’t know if I like the way that looks in this fabric. The stitches aren’t as “invisible” as I’d like them to be. And there’s something off about the fit in the crotch of this version, likely needs more ease. When my hubby saw them, he said, they looked strange.

Update: I wore my black Joan Trousers a few days after this post and realized that the difference between the two versions was that I had added about 1 cm to the waist of the black ones. I added that ease to see if I could avoid that pulling of the corners where the front overlapped. The result was that the waist was actually a little too big and they hung low a little on my hips. But they were more comfortable in the crotch. So if I make them again, I need to add a little length to the rise (the distance from the crotch seam to the waist).

Joan Trousers by The Friday Pattern Company - front view

I do like the happy yellow color but the fabric didn’t quite work but I think I’ll still wear them.

Joan Trousers by The Friday Pattern Company - back view

My hair is long enough to put into a ponytail! I haven’t had my hair cut since February. I think I will get it cut later this month. It hasn’t been this long in years and it’s really annoying. The positivity rate has dropped to less than 2 percent at the moment so I’m hoping that it’s safe to get my haircut.

Patterns in my sewing queue

Hi! Sorry I’ve been absent for many months — life, a new job, the pandemic, sheltering in place, adjusting to working full-time at home. All of these things definitely affected my sewjo. But occasionally, I’d go through my patterns and revise my sewing queue. It changes for a variety of reasons: when I see a new pattern, reassess my fabric or pattern stash, buy fabric, and so on.

In the Bay Area we started sheltering in place on March 16 and I didn’t buy any fabric or patterns. Then towards the end of June, I made my first sewing purchases I made since the pandemic began: two patterns and some cotton and linen fabric. I was inspired after a Bay Area Sewists meetup with Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics.

That meetup was a Q&A I did with Catherine Nolan, buyer and social media manager for this Berkeley-based institution. Stonemountain had closed the brick-and-mortar store to the public and put more of its stock online. I miss being able to shop for fabric in person (!) or just meeting other sewists face to face but this is our reality for now.

I’m the organizer for the meetup group so after cancelling our March and April meetups at Britex Fabrics and Hello Stitch, respectively, due to the pandemic, I began holding virtual sewing meetups. For our May event I hosted a Show & Tell meetup on Zoom and for June. I wanted to have a conversation with Catherine about the impact of Covid on the store, what were some of their most popular patterns as well as her favorite fabrics and notions.

Zoom screen shot of Bay Area Sewists Meetup with Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics social media manager and a buyer for the store.

All attendees to that meetup got 20 percent off merchandise on that meetup day. So I splurged and added more patterns to my sewing queue.

Additions to my sewing queue

I got two of the patterns Catherine mentioned during the meetup. The first was The V-Neck Jumpsuit by Swedish pattern company The Assembly Line. I made The Assembly Line’s Elastic Tie Sweater twice (my first one blogged here) and their Three Pleat Skirt (unblogged). Plus I’ve been meaning to make a jumpsuit so I bought the pattern.

Model wearing V-Neck Jumpsuit by The Assembly Line - pattern in my sewing queue
V-Neck Jumpsuit by The Assembly Line

Here’s the line drawing so you can see the design details of the jumpsuit.

V-Neck Jumpsuit by The Assembly Line - line drawing
V-Neck Jumpsuit by The Assembly Line

The other pattern I got was the Free-Range Slacks by Sew House Seven.

Models wearing Free-Range Slacks sewing pattern by Sew House Seven - pattern in my sewing queue
Free-Range Slacks by Sew House Seven

I’ve made Sew House Seven’s Toaster Sweater, a reversible version 1 and a few of version 2 (tunic length and color blocked). I like Peggy’s designs and wanted some comfy, casual pants so this was another easy purchase.

Fabric for the patterns

At that meetup, Catherine mentioned that the store got some solid cotton fabrics with a lovely weight, calling it “favorite cotton.” So I splurged and bought some of this favorite cotton in a deep navy blue for the V-Neck Jumpsuit (on the left in photo below). I don’t see any of the favorite cottons on Stonemountain’s website anymore so it must have sold out.

Dark blue cotton fabric on left, coral linen fabric on right
Favorite cotton for the jumpsuit (left), coral linen

For the Free-Range Slacks, I decided to go for a colorful linen. So I got some coral linen for the Free-Range Slacks in an attempt to add more color to my wardrobe but I think the color is a little too bright for pants —maybe I’ll make a skirt with it because it’s a bottom weight.

The last two pairs of pants I made were black – the Friday Pattern Company’s Joan Trousers in a ponte and the Flint Pants by Megan Nielson in a linen (both unblogged but I was wearing my Flint Pants during Me Made May and took this photo below). I’ve worn the Joan Trousers a lot and the cheap poly ponte (from Fabric.com) has been pilling. I’ll be blogging about that soon. When I took this photo it was just starting to sprinkle — thus my hands were out.

Chuleenan wearing black Flint Pants (Megan Nielson pattern).
My Flint Pants (Megan Nielson pattern) worn with the Trench Coat (pattern from book Chic & Simple Sewing by Christine Haynes)

What are you sewing?

Are you doing more or less sewing during the pandemic? What’s in your sewing queue? What are you making? I’d love to hear what you’re doing. Please share your thoughts in the comments!

The Elastic Tie Sweater in a wax print fabric from Africa

Elastic Tie Sweater - pattern by The Assembly Line - wax print fabric - CSews.com

I discovered the Assembly Line patterns at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley at a Bay Area Sewists meetup in June 2019. The first pattern I bought from this Swedish company was the Three Pleat Skirt pattern. (I will blog about the skirt after I’ve made another one because I didn’t quite follow the instructions – though I am happy with the results.) In November, I had fun shopping Stonemountain’s two-day 25 percent off sale and decided to buy two more Assembly Line patterns: the Elastic Tie Sweater (pattern here) and the Puff Shirt. Their patterns are available in digital and paper versions.

Over the holidays I decided to make the Elastic Tie Sweater. In case you’re wondering, the pattern is not drafted for sweater knits. It’s for woven fabrics; on the website page for this pattern, they suggest “mid weight fabrics such as cotton twills, denims, lightweight canvas.”

Hitarget wax print - CSews.com

I thought this would be a great pattern to use a wax print I was gifted by a lovely colleague at work (thanks, Rachel!). She got this border print fabric in Africa a while ago. The border of small and large circles runs alongside both selvages. The selvage says “Veritable wax block print Hitarget 2016002F.”

I did a brief Google search and I was reminded that Hitarget is a Chinese company that often knocks off Dutch designs from companies such as Vlisco (read about Dutch wax prints and counterfeiting in this informative article, “West Africans ditch Dutch wax prints for Chinese ‘real fakes,'” by Northeastern University anthropology professor Nina Sylvanus). I used a Hitarget wax print for the maxi Chardon skirt I made a few years ago.

Elastic Tie Sweater - pattern by The Assembly Line - African wax print - CSews.com

Border print details

You can see the border on the sleeves at my wrists. I cut the sleeves perpendicular to the grain so the border would be at the bottom of the sleeves. There is a dart at the elbow so the bottom of the sleeve has a curve to it. This means that you won’t be able to match the border print at the seam line. I decided that wouldn’t bother me and who looks at the sleeve seam anyway, right? 😉

Border print on the sleeve - CSews.com

It was fun to figure out where to place the border. This pattern has a center back seam so I decided to cut the back pieces so that the border was on each piece. The small circles of the design weren’t quite equidistant so I deliberately cut the pieces to make sure the smaller circles didn’t line up.

African wax print - center back seam  - CSews.com

Then after sewing the 1 cm (3/8″) seam, the back looked like this.

Back view - wax print - CSews.com

The smaller circles are cut in half by the center back seam and that creates a different design – sort of an “S,” which wasn’t quite intentional.

The trickiest part of this pattern is sewing the front shoulder to the center back collar. But the instructions are clear and there’s a nice illustration to show you how to sew it. Here’s what it looks like before I topstitched the seam.

Front shoulder detail - CSews.com

Here’s the inside view. My serger isn’t working at the moment so I used the zigzag stitch to finish my seams.

Shoulder seam - CSews.com

The Elastic Tie Sweater has four sizes: XS, S, M, and L. All measurements in the pattern are in centimeters. I did the conversions to inches (yes, in the United States we’re still using the old Imperial system, which we began when we were a British colony). The pattern has a lot of ease. I made size L, which has the following finished measurements:

Length: 59 cm (23.2 in)
Bust: 119 cm (46.9 in)
Bottom: 127 cm (50.8)
Front center neck to end of sleeve: 84 cm (14.8 in)
Upper sleeve (bicep): 46 cm (18.1)

For size L, the pattern calls for 150 cm of 140-150 cm wide fabric. This means about 1 2/3 yards of 55″-60″ wide fabric. However, my fabric was 44″ (112 cm) wide, which meant that I used more (and wasted more) fabric because the front and back pieces couldn’t be placed side by side. I probably used more than 2 yards (~183 cm) to cut out all the pieces. This is why the pattern calls for 140-150 cm wide fabric. You waste less fabric.

Elastic Tie Sweater - pattern by The Assembly Line - wax print fabric - CSews.com

I have a small bust so it is quite roomy on me. I’d say that the Elastic Tie Sweater can easily fit a C cup and maybe even D, depending on how much ease you prefer. I have broad shoulders and long arms and it fit well. No need for a wide-shoulder adjustment.

Side view of the Elastic Tie Sweater - pattern The Assembly Line - CSews.com

I really love the high neck and the elastic tie detail. There’s interfacing in the neck facing, which is what ensures that the collar doesn’t flop over. I used Pellon Shape-Flex woven fusible interfacing, which I got from Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics. I had some thick elastic cord in my stash that was perfect for the Elastic Tie Sweater. You need cord that’s 3 mm in diameter. This cord gets threaded through four holes that you have to make through the facing.

Close-up of elastic cord in the front - CSews.com

Buttonhole stitches

The instructions direct you to use a buttonhole stitch around the hole to finish the raw edges. I used black Coats & Clark Dual Duty Plus Craft & Button thread in my stash – leftover from hand sewing various skirts from the Natalie Chanin’s 2012 book Alabama Studio Sewing + Design (affiliate link). (In fact, I’m wearing a handsewn knit skirt using a pattern from that book.)

Elastic Tie Sweater - pattern by The Assembly Line - CSews.com

I made the buttonhole stitches by hand using this heavy duty thread. Because the thread is so thick, you can’t make too many stitches. Regular thread would be fine, too. But do practice the stitches on a scrap if you aren’t familiar with this stitch. It took me a little time to figure it out and make stitches in a circle.

Here’s a closer look at the buttonhole stitches around the hole. You can see how thick the thread is. If you use button craft thread, you may need to make 4-5 mm holes, rather than 3-4 mm per the instructions.

Close-up of buttonhole stitch detail - CSews.com

Once the stitches are in place, you fold the cord in half, push it through the holes and knot the ends. I had a tough time pushing the cord through the holes because the thick thread made the hole smaller. I later realized I could use a loop turner to grab the cord and pull it through the holes.

Elastic cord detail - CSews.com

I really like this pattern and will be making more of them. Quilt-weight fabric will work well with this pattern. The only drawback with the roominess of this top is that you need to wear a loose-fitting coat or jacket if it’s cold outside. If you don’t wear something loose over it, it will get wrinkled because of all the ease.

Here are two more photos of the Elastic Tie Sweater.

Elastic Tie Sweater - pattern by The Assembly Line - CSews.com
Elastic Tie Sweater - pattern by The Assembly Line - CSews.com

Congratulations! You got to the end of this post. I hope to blog a little more regularly in the new year. But I needed to take a bit of a break from my blog and social media after I started a new job and my mother passed away during the second week of that job.

Though I was still sewing, I had absolutely no interest in taking photos of anything I made or blogging. But finally, over the break, I got inspired by the fabric, the pattern, and walking by this interesting abandoned building with its rusting exterior and bed of small pink flowers. I made note of the street and decided to take my photos there – just me, my tripod, and my phone. I will revive my newsletter but likely only send it out every other month rather than monthly.

My Frocktails skirt – finished

Hi, I finished my Frocktails skirt in February to wear at the Bay Area Sewists Frocktails event earlier this year. I finished it just a few hours before the event began. It began as my Sew Frosting project but I didn’t finish it in November and then I thought of it as my #SewHappyColor project. However, I didn’t take photos in time to post it during the Reds and Pinks week of that Instagram challenge hosted by Katie Kortman. Ultimately, I consider it my Frocktails skirt.

Frocktails skirt for Bay Area Sewists event using Marimekko fabric - CSews.com

I wrote a WIP post in February about sewing the pleats and attaching the ribbons. For this skirt, I used three different fabrics – the main fabric is the Marimekko print. I had 1 1/3 yards (~1.2 meters) of the Marimekko fabric, which was 58 inches wide (147 cm). I wanted to use all of it for a nice full skirt.

Side note: When I did a search on my blog for “Marimekko,I discovered that I blogged about this Marimekko fabric in 2013, the year I bought it. I wondered how long I’d had this fabic.)

Colorful skirt using Marimekko "Tultakero" fabric  - right view of skirt, hand in pocket - CSews.com

Because I didn’t have enough for a midi length – my favorite length – I color-blocked the skirt – adding a red panel at the top and a deep violet panel at the bottom. The pleats are in the red panel. If you look closely, you can see the topstitching on the Marimekko fabric in the photo below.

Inverted pleat detail in color-blocked skirt using Marimekko "Tultakero" fabric -  CSews.com

I first thought about making the skirt back in December when I blogged about my Sew Frosting plans. It took my a long time to figure out the pleats – how deep to make them to use all the fabric, how far apart to place the pleats, and how much space to put between the two front pleats for an adjustable waist.

The deep violet panel at the bottom is a quilting cotton I got at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics. I brought the Marimekko fabric with me to find a fabric for the bottom panel. It’s a nearly perfect match for the color in the print.

Detail of color-blocked skirt hem -  print - Marimekko "Tultakero" - quilting fabric for the topstitched bottom - CSews.com

I topstitched the violet panel. This is a machine-washable skirt and topstitching will make it easier to press.

Color-blocked skirt for Bay Area Sewists Frocktails -  Marimekko "Tultakero" fabric -  CSews.com

When I wore the skirt to Frocktails, I realized that the ribbons weren’t staying tied and it was gaping in the back. I thought the Petersham ribbon would stay tied. Plus, the red fabric was a stretch cotton, which didn’t work well for that part of the skirt. I used that red fabric because it was in my stash and it matched the Marimekko fabric. I was attempting to sew my stash.

To solve my problem, I added a hook to one ribbon …

Adjustable waist of colorful skirt - hook attached to Petersham ribbon - CSews.com

… and an eye on the other side to ensure that the skirt would stay together. Here’s what it looks like when it’s hooked together.

Skirt hook and eye attached at waist - CSews.com

Here’s what it looks like when I unhook it.

Skirt detail - unhooked at the waist - CSews.com

I got the Petersham ribbon from Britex Fabrics. The ribbon was also in my stash and perfectly matched the trees in the print.

Inside the Frocktails skirt

I lined the skirt with a soft cotton rayon from Britex that complemented the print. I drafted a facing and attached the lining to the facing. Here’s an inside view of the skirt waist.

Inside view of skirt facing and lining  - CSews.com

The skirt has horsehair braid at the hem, giving the skirt a nice fullness without the need of wearing any petticoats or tulle.

Inside view of hem and horsehair braid - CSews.com

More views of my Frocktail skirt

Frocktails skirt for Bay Area Sewists Frocktails - holding out ribbon ends - CSews.com
Frocktails skirt for Bay Area Sewists Frocktails - CSews.com
Frocktails skirt for Bay Area Sewists Frocktails - view of left side - CSews.com
Frocktails skirt for Bay Area Sewists Frocktails - 3/4 view of back - CSews.com
Frocktails skirt for Bay Area Sewists Frocktails - back view - CSews.com
Frocktails skirt for Bay Area Sewists Frocktails - right view - CSews.com

I’m really happy with how the skirt turned out. I think it could use a bit more support at the waist – maybe I’ll add a stiffer interfacing – but I like the length and the colors.

Do you hold on to fabric for years before you sew it? Or do you sew your fabric right away? I’d love to know!

Update: Here are a few photos from the Bay Area Sewists Frocktails event. You can see more photos on the Meetup page.

Frocktails photo on the stairs at Tupper & Reed in Berkeley - CSews.com
Beth, me, Tee and Pauline on the steps of Tupper & Reed, where we held Frocktails 2019

Life is precious

I was in New Jersey last month to visit my family. My dad asked me to come in early April because my mom’s health has been deteriorating. This is partly why I haven’t blogged in weeks or spent much time on Instagram. As some of you may know from reading previous posts (Alzheimer’s clothing – sewing patterns for women or My mom’s last sewing machine), my mother has dementia.

She taught me and my sisters how to use her sewing machine and made most of our clothes when we were young girls.

Finding photos

While I was there, my two younger sisters and I spent an afternoon going through boxes of photos and photo albums, looking for photos of my mom. They will be part of an eventual slide show for her funeral. I know that sounds rather morbid but it was better that we share this responsibility in advance rather than doing it at the last minute. We enjoyed going through the many photos and finding images that we hadn’t seen in decades or had never seen before.

I found this photo in a small box. My dad said it was taken before they married, sometime in the early 1960s.

Mom in a fur coat and gloves in the 1960s - CSews.com

The box had a few other black-and-white photos that I had never seen before, like this one with her beehive hairdo.

Mom with beehive hairdo in the 1960s - CSews.com

I’m not sure where this photo was taken but I like her style.

Mom in the 1960s - CSews.com

I also discovered this grade school photo of me. There wasn’t a date on it but I think I was likely in second or third grade. I’m wearing a top my mom made.

My mom today

My mother is now in a wheelchair, living in a nursing home, and really can’t eat solid foods. As a result, she’s lost a significant amount of weight, which was hard to see. She still recognized me and actually responded when I asked her if she was tired. “Extremely” was her response. I’m really glad I was able to visit.

This is a photo of her hand in mine during a visit to her nursing home.

Mom's hand in mine - CSews.com

My parents have been married for more than 50 years. They had never lived apart until my mom had to move into a nursing home about a year and a half ago when she began to have trouble walking and it was too difficult for my dad to care for her at home.

If your parents are still alive, take time to talk to them – especiallly while they can still respond to you and can remember events that occurred in the past. If you have any questions about their childhood or your own, ask them now. Life is precious and you never know what will happen.

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:


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!