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)


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.

Refreshing an old coat by recovering the buttons

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

DKNY coat with covered buttons

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

worn out coat button

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

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

Plastic button back

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

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

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

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

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

Refreshed coat buttons - CSews.com

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

Refreshed coat - covered the buttons with new fabric

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

Refreshing an old coat by recovering the buttons

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

Sewing cake and frosting over the holidays

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

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

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

Sewing cake projects underway

New Look 6838

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

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

New Look 6838 - knit top and pants - sewing plans

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

Vintage Vogue reissue of 1960 top

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

Blue floral print A-line skirt - CSews.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sew frosting projects to start

Skirt for Frocktails

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

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

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

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

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

Asos - high-waisted midi prom skirt - sewing plans

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

High-waisted skirt with inverted pleats - sewing plans

Long Pilvi Coat

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


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

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

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

Clothes Closet Confessions

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

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

Pants patterns

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

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

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

B5682 - Butterick sewing pattern - jeans

Where to donate clothes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sweater knit fabric and Olgalyn’s online course

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

Sweater knit fabric from O! Jolly!

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

Cotton ribbing - O! Jolly! sweater knit

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

Olgalyn Jolly in sweater she sewed

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

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

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

Stretch and recovery of sweater knit fabric

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to cut and sew a sweater - Olgalyn Jolly

Toaster Sweater 2 – big print ponte fabric

Hi, I had big leftover scraps of this large-print ponte fabric after I made my fourth Pilvi Coat earlier this year. So I thought, why not make another Toaster Sweater 2 but make it tunic-length? You can get the pattern on the Sew House Seven website. I had also made this pattern in French terry and jersey knit – making size XL, shortening the sleeves 8 inches to make them to 3/4 length. Each of those versions has a hem that hits at the high hip.

I used the same patterns pieces as my first version with the shortened sleeves and added 5 inches of length to the front and back.

Toaster Sweater 2 - front view - big print ponte fabric - CSews.com

This pattern has side vents with mitered corners. You can see the vent next to my hand in this photo. I added length below the area where the vent starts.

Toaster Sweater 2 - front view - big print ponte fabric - CSews.com

Here’s my earlier version of the pattern made at the pattern’s length. You can see the vent in this photo.

Toaster Sweater - Sew House Seven sewing pattern - 3/4 sleeves - CSews.com

This fabric, which I got at Britex Fabrics‘ moving sale last fall, was easy to work with. I love the print. It looks different on each side of the garment.

Toaster Sweater 2 - front view - big print ponte fabric - CSews.com

One sleeve of this Toaster Sweater 2 has more of the navy blue print on it…

Toaster Sweater 2 - front view - big print ponte fabric - CSews.com

… and the other has more white on it.

Toaster Sweater 2 - right view - big print ponte fabric - CSews.com

You can really see the print here.

Toaster Sweater 2 - front view - big print ponte fabric - CSews.com

Here’s a closer look at the back…

Toaster Sweater 2 - front view - big print ponte fabric - CSews.com

… and the front.

Toaster Sweater 2 - front view - big print ponte fabric - CSews.com

The pattern calls for finishing the hems by cover stitching or using a twin needle. I hand sewed the hems because I didn’t want any seam lines. I did the same thing for my Pilvi Coat in this fabric.

Here’s a look at my hand stitching from the inside. I switched thread colors according to the color on the right side.

Toaster Sweater 2 - tunic-length - hand hemmed - CSews.com

Here’s the right side of the front bottom hem.

Toaster Sweater 2 - big print ponte hem

I also didn’t finish my raw edges because folding it over would have made the hem a little thick and create a line like it did in the sleeve hem of my Pilvi Coat. See that faint line just above the sleeve hem? I ended up unpicking the sleeve hem on this Pilvi after this photo was taken and then hand stitching it again.

Pilvi Coat pattern placement - CSews.com

Here’s a look at one of the mitered corners of my third Toaster Sweater 2.

Toaster Sweater 2 - mitered corner - CSews.com

Ponte knit fabric doesn’t ravel so it’s fine to leave the edges raw.

And here’s one last photo of the front of this Toaster Sweater 2.

Toaster Sweater 2 - front view - big print ponte fabric - CSews.com

I really like this version of the Toaster Sweater. It’s a bit too warm to wear in Berkeley right now but I’m sure it will get a lot of wear when the weather starts to cool. I could also wear it on a cool summer day in San Francisco. Summers are not very warm in San Francisco because the fog rolls in and keeps the temperature several degrees cooler than other parts of the Bay Area.

Have you made anything with a big print? What did you make?

2018 RTW fast – 6 months later

Hi, back in March, I blogged about my participation in the RTW fast hosted by Goodbye Valentino. (See 2018 RTW fast and make your stash sewing challenge.) Now that six months have passed, I thought it would be a good time to report on what I’ve made since I began the fast.

I’m happy to report that I haven’t bought any new garments this year. But it really wasn’t hard to not buy anything. I just told myself, “You have a lot of fabric and patterns. You don’t need to buy anything, just make it.”

I was hoping it would give me the push I need to make more pants (or trousers as people in the UK and Australia call them). I’ve gained a bit of weight so I need to make some that fit. Nearly all my pants are too tight. 🙁 Pants are still on the list.

I also gave myself the additional challenge of fasting from fabric buying for at least six months. And I’m happy to report that I didn’t buy any fabric from January 1 until now. But I did get one piece of fabric for free from the Bay Area Sewists fabric swap in May. (I’m the organizer for the group.)

Then the following month a Bay Area Sewists member told me that a client gave her more than 20 bins of fabric and she wanted to give it away. So I arranged a Fabric Bonanza meetup for the Bay Area Sewists. Of course, I had to check it out and got a few pieces of black fabric and a knit fabric with a fun print. I didn’t buy any fabric but I did add new fabric to my existing stash.

I haven’t had as much time to sew but here’s a collage of some of the garments I’ve made this year.

2018 RTW fast - here's what I've made so far this year - CSews.com

Clockwise from top left:

  1. A rust red hand-sewn cotton knit skirt worn with Toaster Sweater, version 2, color blocked (black with blue sleeves)
  2. Toaster Sweater, version 2 in black French terry
  3. Pilvi Coat in large-print fabric, my fourth version of this pattern from the book Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style (affiliate link)
  4. Twist-and-Drape top from the Japanese sewing book Drape Drape by Natsuno Hiraiwa (out of print, unblogged)
  5. Bias-cut skirt in a beautiful cotton print I got from Britex Fabrics years ago (unblogged)

Not pictured: Day-to-Night Drape Top by Maria Denmark (unblogged), which I bought when she had her 50 percent off moving sale. I’ll be blogging soon about the third Toaster Sweater, which I made using leftover fabric from my large-print Pilvi Coat. I made a tunic-length version.

I have more plans underway – a jacket, tops and of course, pants!

Are you participating in the RTW Fast? What have you made so far this year?


My mom’s last sewing machine – a Scandinavia 200

If you read my post yesterday about taking a sewing machine on a plane, then you know I now have my mom’s last sewing machine, a Husqvarna Viking Scandinavia 200. She can no longer sew because she has dementia.

When my three sisters and I were growing up, my mom made all our clothes. She also taught us how to use her sewing machine, a Singer Golden Touch. She wasn’t an expert seamstress but she knew enough to make our clothes and Halloween costumes.

Here’s a photo of us with my mom. I’m standing to the left of my mom in the red shorts.

My mom, my sisters and I wearing clothes my mom made.

Here’s a closer look at our outfits. She mostly sewed Butterick, McCall’s and Simplicity patterns. It looks like it was a hot summer day at the petting zoo.

Sisters at the zoo wearing clothes my mom made

When my parents moved from Delaware to New Jersey a few years ago, she could no longer sew. But my dad had the movers pack her Scandinavia 200, to their new home. I think sewing was so much a part of her that he didn’t think about leaving it behind. Or maybe he still couldn’t accept that she could no longer use the machine. She was still able to thread it when they lived in Delaware.

But last fall, her dementia got worse so my dad could no longer care for her by himself. She’s now in a nursing home, not far from where my dad lives. Just last year I was writing about sewing patterns for women with Alzheimer’s. We had no idea she would deteriorate so quickly.

My sisters live on the East Coast so they have been helping my dad deal with her things for the past several months. In the nursing home, she has a roommate and a small closet. So she couldn’t take much with her. My sisters have been going through her things and choosing what to sell, keep and donate.

When I was visiting in April, my dad asked me if I wanted her last machine. I immediately said yes. It’s like having a piece of my mom. I sew more than my sisters so I think everyone agreed that I was the right person to have it.

My dad didn’t have the instructions so I found a link to a PDF of the Scandinavia 200 manual.

Viking Scandinavia 200 sewing machine

It will be my first sewing machine with any electronics. My other machines are all mechanical. When I can set aside a good block of time, I will do some test stitches and play around with its capabilities. And then I will sew something for her that’s easy for her caregivers to dress her in, such as a top with snap closures in the back.

It’s weird to deal with my mom’s things when she’s still around. It’s like she’s gone but not gone. She can still recognize us most of the time, which is amazing but her ability to communicate is limited. She doesn’t talk much anymore.

One of my sisters told me that on a recent visit, she told my mom that I had her sewing machine and she smiled.