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).
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.
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 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).
I do like the happy yellow color but the fabric didn’t quite work but I think I’ll still wear them.
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.
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.
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.
Here’s the line drawing so you can see the design details of the jumpsuit.
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.
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.
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!
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.”
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.
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? 😉
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.
Then after sewing the 1 cm (3/8″) seam, the back looked like this.
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.
Here’s the inside view. My serger isn’t working at the moment so I used the zigzag stitch to finish my seams.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, Sewaholic Patterns are designed for pear-shaped women, Cashmerette Patterns for curvy figures (cup sizes C–H) and Skinny Bitch Curvy Chick Patterns (SBCC) 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 nearly 5′ 8″ (172 cm) and I really haven’t given much thought to the height that patterns are designed for. I’ll be sewing more pants (trousers for you UK and Aussie sewists) so I’m looking more closely at height; then I can make any pattern adjustments before I cut my fabric. I recently finished the Mimosa Culottes by Named Clothing, a Finnish pattern company that designs for my height.
My next pair will be Megan Nielsen’s Flint Pants. I discovered that she designs for a height 5′ 9″ (175 cm) so I trimmed one inch from the length on my pattern piece before I cut my muslin. This experience made me want to find out what height pattern companies use for their designs. And of course, I thought, why not make a chart of all the companies whose patterns I’ve sewn or are in my stash? So that’s how I selected the list of companies. – with the exception of Cashmerette, whose patterns I don’t own, mainly because I’d have to do a significant small bust adjustment. (I’m an A cup.) So this is by no means a comprehensive list. But I will be updating it. If you are a pattern company and would like to be added to this list, please contact me and send me a link to your size chart, height and cup size you design for.
As far as I can tell, the Big Four (Butterick, McCalls, Simplicity and Vogue) all use the same height for misses (5′ 5″ to 5′ 6″) and petite (5′ 2 to 5′ 3″/157 cm to 160 cm).
The 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 and the cup size.
*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.
** 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.
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’ve been meaning to update it for a long time. This update was spurred by Michelle (@michellegw) who helpfully sent me height/cup size of some additional indie patterns in her collection. Thanks, Michelle!
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.
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.)
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.
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.
I topstitched the violet panel. This is a machine-washable skirt and topstitching will make it easier to press.
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 …
… 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.
Here’s what it looks like when I unhook it.
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.
The skirt has horsehair braid at the hem, giving the skirt a nice fullness without the need of wearing any petticoats or tulle.
More views of my Frocktail skirt
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!
She taught me and my sisters how to use her sewing machine and made most of our clothes when we were young girls.
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.
The box had a few other black-and-white photos that I had never seen before, like this one with her beehive hairdo.
I’m not sure where this photo was taken but I like her style.
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.
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.
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!
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:
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.”
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.)
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!
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.”
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.)
And here’s a view of me wearing the coat with my newly covered 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
… 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.
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.
I’m not sure where I got the black prom gown 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.
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!