Hello Stitch – a new sewing studio

Hey, Berkeley now has a new sewing studio with sewing machines, sergers and a long-arm quilter! Hello Stitch offers a place to sew for members as well as sewing and quilting classes (read about membership benefits here). Kristen, Stacey and Terri, the founders of Hello Stitch Studio, “wanted to create a space where people can be inspired to sew and create things by hand.”

Hello Stitch Studio founders - Kristen (left), Stacey and Terri.
Hello Stitch Studio founders – Kristen (left), Stacey and Terri at the grand opening.

 

I got this lovely pin at the grand opening in April. The colorful quilt in the background is by the talented Tara Faughnan.

Hello Stitch pin

Hello Stitch has a spacious studio with high ceilings and gets great natural sunlight.

Hello Stitch sewing studio interior

Here’s a look at some of the sewing machines and sergers there.

Hello Stitch sewing machines and sergers

One wall has these cards with the classes being offered – garment sewing, quilting, accessories and more.

Classes at Hello Stitch sewing studio in Berkeley

Garment sewing at Hello Stitch

If you’re interesting in garment sewing Beth Galvin, who blogs about sewing at SunnyGal Studio and blogs for Craftsy, will be teaching at Hello Stitch. Beth has tons of sewing experience and makes nearly all of her clothes and coats. She also sews custom-fit garments for clients. Beth did a great sewing demo for the Bay Area Sewists meetup group in April, showing how to convert bust darts to shoulder gathers.

Here’s what she’s teaching at Hello Stitch:

Sew basics - skirt class at Hello Stitch taught by Beth Galvin

Quilting classes

Hello Stitch offers several quilting classes, including Innova Longarm Certification, which you must take to rent the longarm. I’m not a quilter but I might want to quilt some fabric to make a coat. Wouldn’t it be fun to make your own quilting design and quilt some fabric?

Bay Area Sewists at Hello Stitch

I’m the organizer for the Bay Area Sewists meetup group and we will be having a “show and tell” meetup at Hello Stitch on Saturday, July 8. If you’d like to attend, join the meetup group and RSVP for the meetup here ($5 fee).

It’s great to have a new venue for sewing classes, especially after Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics stopped offering classes last year. (See my interview with Suzan Stonemountain’s owner Suzan Steinberg.) Stonemountain has a good list of the many places you can take sewing classes in the Bay Area here. I’m looking forward to holding a meetup there.

Alzheimer’s clothing – sewing patterns for women

Hi, I only blogged once in April so I’m making up for lost time and posting twice this week. The posts I’ve been working on have required more time to put together because I needed to gather information or images. (For example, see yesterday’s post on sewing pattern height.) Today’s post is about Alzheimer’s clothing, garments that work for people with Alzheimer’s – something people don’t think about unless they know someone with Alzheimer’s. My mom has dementia so I’ve been looking at sewing patterns that work for an Alzheimer’s wardrobe.

My mom can no longer deal with multiple buttons on a garment. Her dementia has affected her ability to handle the process of buttoning a cardigan. This means that any clothing she wears needs to be button-free. Zippers are still OK and she can manage dressing herself with some assistance as long as my dad lays out the garments for her in the order she needs to put them on (underwear, top, pants). If you gave her a pile of clothing, she would get confused and not know what to put on first.

Whenever Mother’s Day or her birthday rolls around, I usually don’t have time to make anything and then I find myself wandering the petites department at Macy’s searching for appropriate Alzheimer’s clothing. My mom’s birthday is in December so this year, I’m planning way ahead and putting together a list of potential patterns. I also decided to look beyond  patterns just for my mom and just look for patterns that could be useful for other people who may know someone with Alzheimer’s.

Besides the lack of buttons, it’s important to have simple designs without any extra openings. For example, a top with an opening in the back in addition to the neckhole, such as M7570 would not work – nor would a cold shoulder design like V9260. Too many openings. Look for tops with the three basic openings – one neckhole and two armholes.

These sewing patterns wouldn't work for someone with Alzheimer's because they have too many openings and would be confusing to put on.

Here are some Alzheimer’s clothing possibilities for women.

Tops

The Limoncello Cardigan by SBCC Patterns  doesn’t have any buttons. SBCC’s website says that the front drape “does not overwhelm a petite torso, and can conceal a fuller chest.” My mom is 5 feet (152 cm) tall. SBCC Patterns are designed for petite women, using a base height of 5′ 1″. (Check out my sewing pattern height chart in this blog post.) This is a good pattern for my mom. You can get a hard copy or a PDF of this pattern here.

Limoncello Cardigan - SBCC Patterns - this stylish cardigan works for women with Alzheimer's because it doesn't have any buttons

This See & Sew unlined jacket (B6443) doesn’t have any buttons. It’s a nice basic jacket. The pattern also includes a draped vest. My mom doesn’t really wear vests so I wouldn’t make that for her. You don’t want to introduce unfamiliar clothing to people with Alzheimer’s. It’s best to stick to styles and colors that they are used to wearing. (The pants are not part of this pattern.)

Butterick - B6443 sewing pattern - This jacket is a nice option for women with Alzheimer's because it doesn't have any buttons.

The sleeveless Gimlet Top, also by SBCC Patterns, is designed for knit fabric and looks like a quick sew. Maybe I can make it for Mother’s Day. You can get a hard copy or PDF of this pattern here.

Gimlet Top - SBCC Patterns - This stylish yet simple design is a good option for women with Alzheimer's

The Tonic Tee by SBCC Patterns is a nice basic top. You can buy the hard copy of the pattern here or sign up for SBCC’s newsletter and get a free PDF version of the Tonic Tee. If you’d like to add a cute Peter Pan collar to this tee, check out Christine Haynes’s Tonic Tee Upgrade, a guest blog post from 2014.

Tonic Tee by SBCC Patterns - this basic top is good for women with Alzheimer's

Vogue pattern (V9225) has a good basic design and is flattering for different figures. the different sleeve lengths make this a pattern you can sew for hot or cool weather.

Vogue patterns - V9225 - top - a nice option for women with Alzheimer's

Here’s a more fitted Vogue top (V9205), which has some interesting decorative darts. Beth, who blogs at SunnyGal Studios, has sewn it and blogged about it here.

 Vogue patterns - V9205 - this top with different sleeve options is a stylish option for women with Alzheimer's

This Vogue (V9224) handkerchief-hem tunic would be nice for taller figures.

V9224 - Vogue Patterns - handkerchief-hem tunic - an option for women with Alzheimer's

Pants

These Butterick pants (B5893) have an elastic waist. There are also shorts. I recently bought this pattern for myself.

Butterick - B5893 - pants sewing pattern - the elastic waist on these pants is good for women with Alzheimer's

Dresses

The Kitschy Coo Lady Skater Dress is a comfy and flattering dress with three sleeve options (cap, 3/4 and long). The big neck opening is good for people with Alzheimer’s. It makes it easy to get dressed (available as a PDF).

Kitschy Koo - Lady Skater Dress - the large opening for the head makes this a easy-to-wear dress for women with Alzheimer's

Sleepwear

McCall’s M6474 is a simple comfortable design – neck and armholes, which are easy for my mom to manage. The pajama bottoms have an elastic waist. Elastic waists are great because they are easy to pull on and take off. It’s probably best to avoid the maxi length nightgown or you risk a fall, plus a shorter length makes it easier to manage in the bathroom. At this point, my mother can no longer communicate when she needs to go to the restroom so my dad just takes her to the toilet at regular intervals.

M6474 - sleepwear, nightgowns and pajamas for women - this basic design is good for women with Alzheimer's

This cute McCall’s pajama set (M7060) doesn’t have any buttons and comes with an elastic waist – perfect for someone with Alzheimer’s.

McCall's sewing pattern - M7060 - pajamas - the elastic waist makes this a good design for women with Alzheimer's to wear

As of this writing, all of these patterns are in print. Should they go out of print, please search eBay and Etsy for a copy. I hope you find this Alzheimer’s clothing information helpful. It makes you realize the little things you take for granted, such as getting dressed in the morning. You do it without thinking about it. My dad helps my mom get dressed everyday.

They live on the East Coast and I’m in California so I don’t see them as often as I’d like. My mom still recognizes people, which is great. But it can be challenging to make conversation because you can’t really ask questions.

My mom taught me and my sisters how to use her sewing machine. She made all our clothes when we were young. Now she can no longer sew. She doesn’t have the cognitive ability to remember how to use a sewing machine. I guess things have come full circle and it’s my turn to make her clothes.

Here's what you should consider when making a garment for someone with Alzheimer's

Pilvi Coat No. 2 – Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style

Hi! I finished my Pilvi Coat just in time to wear it to a publishing conference for women last week. I thought the fabric was appropriate for the event and because it was March, women’s history month. The pattern is from the sewing book Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style (affiliate link). This is my second Pilvi Coat. I blogged about my first one here.

My first Pilvi Coat was size L. I decided to make one this one size XL because I felt the other one was a little tight in the arms and thought I could use a little more ease in the shoulders. (There’s also a shorter hip-length version of the Pilvi in the book.)

Pilvi Coat from Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style sewing book - using fabric with ASCII art

I got four yards of this wonderful bottom-weight cotton fabric at Stonemountain and Daughter Fabrics. It has a touch of lycra in it. As soon as I saw it, I knew it was destined to be a Pilvi Coat. It shows off the fabric design very well. design is ASCII art – created using letters and characters to create images.

The Pilvi Coat pattern requires three yards of fabric. I had an extra yard to give myself flexibility in pattern placement. Unfortunately, the fabric is no longer available but they have a variation of this design in an other fabric a knit fabric. [My mistake, I thought it was a knit.] It has a grey background but the faces are in a smaller scale. Update: Stonemountain tells me that the sister fabric is a cotton/poly/rayon jacquard and that it also comes in peach! So you can get something similar but the faces aren’t as big.

Pilvi Coat from Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style sewing book - using fabric with ASCII art

I was very careful in my pattern placement. I placed each pattern piece individually so I could decide where I wanted certain faces on the coat. I mainly wanted the women with the sunglasses at the top of the front and the back of the coat.

Pilvi Coat from Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style sewing book - using fabric with ASCII art

The back is supposed to be cut on the fold. But I traced the back pattern piece on the right side of the fabric so I could see where the design would go and then I flipped it over and traced the other side. I wanted the sunglass lady to at the top of the center back. (Please excuse the wrinkles! I wore it all day at the conference and didn’t press it before taking these photos.)

Pilvi Coat from Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style sewing book - using fabric with ASCII art

I finished the facing edges with black bias tape. Then I stitched in the ditch all the way around from the bottom edge all around the neckline and down the other side. I finished the hem with some off-white bias tape in my stash and machine-stitched it in place. I hand stitched the hem on my first Pilvi coat because I didn’t want to see any topstitching. With this coat, the stitches blend into the design.

Pilvi Coat from Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style sewing book - using fabric with ASCII art

I didn’t bother with matching the design at the side or sleeve seams. The design is so large, I don’t think it matters. When I placed the pattern pieces for the sleeves, I just wanted faces anywhere on the sleeves.

Pilvi Coat from Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style sewing book - using fabric with ASCII art

I’m wearing a vintage hat with a veil. There was a slight breeze so the veil wouldn’t stay in place. Here I am trying to hold it down. This is one of my favorite hats but I don’t often wear the veil down.

Pilvi Coat from Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style sewing book - using fabric with ASCII art

I’m also wearing a tunic I made (Draped Mini Dress from Japanese sewing book She Wears the Pants). My pants and camisole are RTW. The sun was really bright so I’m wearing a pair of vintage Vuarnet sunglasses from the 1980s. The big lenses go well with the ladies on my fabric. My lipstick is Ruby Woo by Mac. I got the bracelet from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the necklace from Macy’s and the Pikolinos flats are from a shoe store in San Francisco. You can also get the shoes on Amazon. They are the Pikolinos Puerto Vallarta Mary Jane Sandal (affiliate link).

Pilvi Coat construction details

You can really see the ASCII art in these photos.

Pilvi Coat - from Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style - topstitching detail

Here’s the inside front. I finished the raw edges with bias tape and stitched in the ditch.

Pilvi Coat - from Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style - inside detail

I didn’t use any bias tape on the side seams or sleeve seams because I didn’t have time to get more or to sew it in place. Instead, I finished those edges with a curving stitch on my sewing machine. This fabric has a tendency to unravel so I may also go over those edges with my pinking scissors.

Pilvi Coat - from Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style - hem detail

If I had more black bias tape I would have used that to finish the bottom hem. I had this off-white bias tape so I used that on the hem and top stitched. It matches the design of the fabric.

Pilvi Coat - from Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style - pocket bag

This is the fabric I used for my pocket bag. It was left over from this dress I made in 2011.

Pilvi Coat Details

  • Size XL of Pilvi Coat – no changes to pattern pieces except I made the pocket bag one inch deeper and moved pocket placement up 2 inches (~5 cm)
  • 4 yards heavyweight cotton fabric with a little lycra (3.5 yards was probably enough for this design)
  • Gutterman polyester thread – black (no. 10)
  • Schmetz 70/10 needle
  • No interfacing because fabric was heavyweight
  • Construction changes – instead of folding over raw edges of hem and facing, I finished edged with bias tape. For sleeve hems, I used seam tape and hand stitched in place.

I like this pattern and I’m sure I’ll make another one – perhaps in a fabric that isn’t so heavy. It doesn’t lay as flat around the neckline, which could also be because size XL is just a little too big there. The catch is that if you use a fabric with more drape, the front corners will droop unless you give them extra reinforcement.

One last thing for my Northern California readers – Bay Area Sewists is holding a Sew Together, Fitting + Demo meetup on Saturday, April 8 in Berkeley at Lacis. There’s still one place left for one attendee and one member can no longer make it and is selling her $20 ticket. We’ll have two people with a lot of fitting experience on hand to help people fit their patterns and mockups. Beth of SunnyGal Studio will be show how to convert bust darts into shoulder gathers.

Plus we’ll have a couple of raffle prizes at this meetup – an issue of UK sewing magazine Love Sewing + patterns and a free class valued up to $50 at CourseHorse. You’ll find crafting classes in San Francisco on this site, which is a discovery and booking tool for local classes. CourseHorse is still in beta mode for San Francisco. More classes will be coming soon so you may want to sign up with your email address to receive more info when classes are live.

Pilvi Coat from Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style sewing book - using fun fabric (faces created via ASCII art)

Sewing plans for 2017 – updated

Hi! In December I wrote about some of my sewing plans for the new year. Well, plans are always subject to change, right? So far I’ve made two garments in 2017 – a new Chardon skirt (Deer and Doe sewing pattern, not on my list) …

Chardon skirt for Bay Area Sewists Frocktails in February event

… and a Toaster Sweater (on my list).

Reversible Toaster Sweater - Sew House Seven sewing pattern

I also got two great sewing patterns for my birthday last month – a Style Arc shirt and a Papercut Patterns top, which I blogged about here.

For me, making one garment a month would be great. So it’s fantastic for me to have a skirt and a top completed by March! I made the Chardon skirt to wear at the Bay Area Sewists Frocktails event in February. I made a reversible version of the Toaster Sweater for a guest blog post I did for Britex Fabrics in February. It was a fun challenge. Then I expanded the post on my blog with more construction details here.

I’d like to sew everything I mentioned in December but for the next few months I will focus solely on tops and pants. I really want to sew the Style Arc Juliet Woven Shirt and a couple versions of the Papercut Patterns Skipper Tunic, which has multiple variations. Plus I still have an urgent need for pants. I’ll likely start with the Mimosa Culottes by Named, which aren’t really pants but I’ve made one muslin and I still need to sew up the second one. I first mentioned the culottes last May, when I blogged about four PDF sewing patterns I bought.

Named sells paper patterns but the cost of shipping all the way from Finland is quite high so I opted to get the PDF version. I recently discovered that Harts Fabric, an indie fabric store in Santa Cruz, Calif., now carries now carries Named and Papercut Patterns! How exciting! The store carries many other indie pattern lines as well – and shipping is only $6.50 for U.S. orders. You can see the inide patterns Harts carries here.

Here’s a gif of the current sewing plans: Style Arc Juliet Woven Shirt (interesting tie in front), four versions of the Skipper Tunic (neckline, sleeve and length variations), and the Mimosa Culottes. I need to shop my stash to see if I have any fabric for the Juliet shirt. I’m sure I have some fabric I could use for the Skipper Tunic. And I have a black fabric with a nice drape for the culottes.

My updated sewing plans for 2017 - Style Arc Juliet Shirt, Papercut Patterns Skipper Tunic, Named Mimosa Culottes

Have your sewing plans changed? What’s on your sewing table?

Making a reversible Toaster Sweater

Hi, I wrote a guest blog post for Britex Fabrics about making a pattern reversible using a double-sided ponte knit fabric. This is an expanded version of that post with a few more photos. I made a reversible Toaster Sweater, version 1. In my Britex post, the photos of the completed top weren’t very good because it was a cloudy day. Later that week, I took more photos at a different location (in front of this brick wall) – and the sun came out for a couple of hours.

Reversible Toaster Sweater - Sew House Seven sewing pattern

For a long time, I’ve been intrigued with the idea of making something reversible. I got the opportunity when I picked this wonderful reversible ponte knit fabric at Britex Fabrics. This stable knit has a really nice weight and drape. This lovely deep red is heathered and the black on the reverse is a warm black, probably because of the red. Sometimes it seems dark brown and other times it seems black.

I decided to make a reversible Sew House Seven Toaster Sweater. Version 1 of this pattern has raglan sleeves, a neck band, cuffs and a band at the bottom.

Sew House 7 Toaster Sweater sewing pattern

I chose this pattern because it’s pretty simple and the bands make it easy to convert to reversible pieces, and I didn’t have to worry about how to finish the hems as you’ll see in my construction details. To keep it simple, I decided I wanted to make one side all red and the other side all black. The cuffs are rather wide and I didn’t know if I would like them color blocked – for example, making the cuffs black and everything else red. Plus I liked the idea of having a secret other side.

I made size large. I made a test garment using fleece but I made size XL thinking that would help accommodate my wide shoulders and hips. But there was too much each around the bust. It fit better just making a straight size L but adding a 1/2 inch (1.27 cm) to the hip area.

When you cut your pattern pieces, you need to think about the following:

  • Finishing seams so they look good on both sides
  • Adjustments to pattern pieces, such as adding seam allowances to pieces cut on the fold
  • There is no “wrong” side but you need to know where each side goes or you will sew the wrong pieces together.
  • Sequence of construction – when to sew which piece, the order may need to be different from the pattern instructions so you can make the pieces reversible

Sewing and Finishing seams

I used a zig zag stitch on my sewing machine instead of a serger because I wanted to cover my raw seam allowances. Then I had to consider how I would finish the seams on the “wrong” side.

I decided to trim one side…

… and made a variation on a felled seam by folding it over the shorter side and sewing it down.

But instead of cutting one seam allowance exactly in half, I cut the other side close to the seam because ponte knit is a little thick and I’d rather sew through three layers instead of four. (To make a flat felled seam, you trim one side of the seam allowance in half and then you fold the other side over the shorter side and sew it down.)

Here’s what one finished seam of the raglan sleeve looks like on the red side. I don’t have a coverstitch machine so I just used a shallow zig zag.

… and on the black side – with the raw edge tucked under. I think it looks pretty good.

Making Pattern Pieces Reversible

For the Toaster Sweater, the pattern pieces for the neck band, bottom band and cuffs all fold in half. If you’ve sewn a T-shirt neck band to a collar, you fold the neck band in half and stitch the raw edge to the neck.  (Check out this excellent Threads video on sewing a neckline binding for knits.) Before you follow the Toaster Sweater instructions for the neck, bottom band and cuffs, you need to add a step because you’ll be sewing two pattern pieces instead of one.

To make the neck or bottom bands reversible, I folded the pattern piece in half lengthwise and then cut two pieces on the fold instead of one. For these pieces, I didn’t add seam allowances because I wanted those pieces to be slightly narrower. It you want to follow the exact dimensions of the pattern, add a 5/8 inch seam allowance.

Here’s the neck band. The actual pattern piece is 7.5 inches (19 cm) tall and 10.5 inches (26.5 cm) wide. Instead of cutting one wide piece on the fold. I folded the pattern piece in half lengthwise and then cut two pieces instead of one. I sewed the pieces together lengthwise so one side was black and the other side was red. Press seam so the red and black sides perfectly align. Then follow the instructions for sewing the neck band – except for Step 4, I only attached ONE raw edge of the neck band to the body (see cuff photo further down). I also top stitched the edge.

Cut two neckband pieces - Toaster Sweater - Sew House Seven sewing pattern

You need to leave one side free so you can hide the seam allowance. I sewed the red side first, leaving the black side open.

Seam allowances on the cuffs and bands are thick where all the seams meet because the reversible Toaster Sweater has an extra layer of fabric there. So you need to trim those seam allowances. Here’s a trimmed neck band.

Here’s the neck band with the red side sewn to the body. The black side with the raw seam allowances has been folded and pinned it in place. I was in a bit of a hurry to finish it so I didn’t baste, I just pinned the black side, then I pinned the red side and removed the pins from the black side. I tried to stitch in the ditch from the red side but it was hard to stay in the ditch because of the seam allowances. Go slow!

Here’s here’s the finished neck – red side…

Neck detail - reversible Toaster Sweater, version 1 - Sew House Seven sewing pattern

… and black side.

Neck detail - reversible Toaster Sweater, version 1 - Sew House Seven sewing pattern

To make the cuffs, you cut two pattern pieces instead of one because you are no longer cutting it on fold. Then you need to add a seam allowance where the fold is before you cut the piece. You’ll sew the two pieces together and turn them right-side out before you attach them.

For example, here’s the cuff. The pencil is pointing to the side where the fold would be. Rather than cutting one pattern piece on the fold, I cut two pieces, adding a seam allowance to the fold side.

TIP: When you sew the two pieces of double-sided fabric together, pay extra attention which sides faces the other. It can get confusing!

Sew the two pieces together at your new seam allowance. Press and then follow the pattern instructions for sewing the cuffs. Here’s the cuff pinned to the sleeve. The red side is facing the sleeve.

Toaster Sweater, version 1 cuff

BUT instead of attaching both raw cuff edges to the sleeve, you need to sew just one side and leave the other side free. Stitch the cuff.

Pin cuff to sleeve, leave one side of cuff free - Toaster Sweater, version 1 cuff

I top stitched the edge.

Cuff top stitched - reversible Toaster Sweater, version 1 - Sew House Seven sewing pattern

Then I folded the remaining raw edge to hide the seam the seam allowance and hand stitched the cuff in place because there wasn’t enough room to use my sewing machine to topstitch it in place. The cuff was a little too deep to reach.

Cuff sewn - Toaster Sweater, version 1 - Sew House Seven sewing pattern

Here’s a close-up of the cuff edge. You can see it’s black on one side and red on the other. The seam where the two colors join is where the cuff is folded if you are making a regular Toaster Sweater.

For the neck band and the bottom band, I didn’t add seam allowance because I wanted them to be thinner.

Construction

The pattern instructions have you attach the front to the back at the underarms and side seams and sew on long seam. But I decided to sew the sleeve seam at the underarm first so I would have enough room to finish the seam on the black side of the fabric. Because the side seam is left open, you have more room to maneuver.

Finishing the sleeve seams on the black side was a little tricky. However, a raglan sleeve is a bit roomy at the top, so you can actually pin and sew about 3/4 of the sleeve seam before you run out of room because the sleeve fabric gets all bunched up.

Then you cut your threads, turn the sleeve around, pick up where you left off and sew down to the wrist.

For the cuffs, neck and bottom band, I pinned one side of the piece, same colors facing each other, to the body and stitched it in place. The other side is open so you can hide the raw edges.

Here’s the bottom band before folding the black side and stitching in place over the seam allowance.

For the bottom band, I decided to topstitch instead of stitching in the ditch. I folded the raw edge so the fold lined up exactly with the 5/8 seam. Then I stitched 1/4 inch from the folded edge – similar to the other topstitching.

Materials

  • 2.5 yards (2.29 meters) of reversible ponte knit fabric (I used an extra half yard because of the extra pattern pieces I cut to make it reversible)
  • 70/10 Schmetz jersey needle
  • Guttmacher thread – 596
  • Walking foot (helps ensure both sides of the fabric are evenly sewn)

And here are a few more photos of the finished reversible Toaster Sweater! I’m wearing the skirt I made from the Japanese sewing book Basic Black, which I blogged about here.

Reversible Toaster Sweater - Sew House Seven sewing pattern

And here’s the black side.

Reversible Toaster Sweater - Sew House Seven sewing pattern

And here are photos of the back…

Reversible Toaster Sweater - Sew House Seven sewing pattern

Reversible Toaster Sweater - Sew House Seven sewing pattern

And in case you don’t believe that it’s really reversible, see the red side?

Reversible Toaster Sweater - Sew House Seven sewing pattern

And see, nothing up my sleeve but red.

Reversible Toaster Sweater - Sew House Seven sewing pattern

It’s like wearing a secret – a two-in-one top! Have you ever made anything reversible?

A reversible Toaster Sweater made with double-sided ponte knit fabric - Sew House Seven sewing pattern

Big Four sewing patterns – a look at spring possibilities

Hi! I’ve been pinning a lot of early spring fashion photos on my @csews Pinterest board “Sewing Inspiration.” Then I waited to see what was in store for Big Four sewing patterns – the Big Four being Butterick, McCalls, Simplicity and Vogue. I meant to post about it last week but went off-topic and wrote about the Statue of Liberty instead.

Here’s a look at what I discovered, what I liked, what patterns reminded me of some indie pattern designs, and what stuck out. They aren’t in any particular order except by pattern company name.

Butterick

I picked out these four Butterick patterns: This wrap dress (B6446) with three lengths and a sleeve variation looks easy to make and comfortable to wear. This midi-version is my favorite length.

Butterick - B6446 - sewing pattern - Misses' Pleated Wrap Dresses with Sash

Here’s Gertie’s latest sewing pattern (B6453) with two skirt variations. I think I would change the gathered skirt to inverted pleats, like one of my Chardon skirts. Gathering can get bulky.

Butterick B6453 - Patterns by Gertie - Misses' Princess Seam Dresses with Straight or Gathered Skirt

I picked this Butterick blouse (B6455) as an example of impractical sleeves. You can’t wear it while cooking and if you’re eating, you definitely have to hold your sleeve out of the way when you reach for anything. But this pattern does have three additional sleeve variations – two are shorter and another has the sleeve gathered at the wrist – so no dipping danger.

Butterick B6455 - sewing pattern - Misses' Gathered, Raglan Sleeve Tops

I made a knit top several years ago that had lovely bell sleeves. I just loved the way they looked but then hardly ever wear it because the sleeve just gets in the way.

I like this top (B6458) because of all the color blocking possibilities. Five pieces make up the top part of the bust area. I like the extra ease in the front pleats. There’s also a more fitted variation and a sleeveless version.

Butterick B6458 - sewing patterns - Misses pullover, paneled tops

Five McCalls Patterns

This knit dress (M7538) is fun and has plenty of color-blocking opportunities, too. You can do a lot with the crisscrossing band in the middle.

McCalls - M7538 - sewing pattern - Misses' Crossover-Band Top and Dresses

I’m not usually a fan of jumpsuits but this pattern (M7539) intrigued me, plus there’s a dress and a romper variation. The main issue I have with jumpsuits is clothing management when you go to the bathroom. You have to get half-undressed.

McCalls M7539 - sewing pattern - Misses' Dresses, Romper and Belted Jumpsuit with Collar and Pocket Variations

I’ve always been secretly attracted to the off-the-shoulder look but never worn anything like this Big Four sewing pattern (M7543). I think as a young girl, I thought it was the height of sophistication – baring the shoulders just seemed so adult. Now I look at it and wonder how tight the elastic would be to ensure that it didn’t fall off.

McCalls - M7543 - sewing pattern - Misses' Off-the-Shoulder Tops, Tunic and Dress

I like the use of lace in this sewing pattern (M7544) but I don’t know how this style would look on me. I have broad shoulders and maybe all that gathering at the top would make me look like a big puffer ball, even with my small bust. There are also two pleated variations.

This dress (M7535) reminded me of the Lady Skater Dress by Kitschy Koo but without the princess seams. I have the Skater Dress pattern but haven’t made it yet. I first saw the pattern when Katie of Kadiddlehopper made a lovely Lady Skater and blogged about it here in 2013.

McCalls M7535 - sewing pattern - Misses'/Miss Petite Fit and Flare Dresses

Simplicity

The sleeves on this dress (8292) are a bit much and remind me of the Flutter blouse and tunic by Papercut Patterns but with less full sleeves. I made a muslin of the Flutter blouse a while ago but it needs more ease in the shoulders. I really liked this version of the Flutter tunic by Sew Busy Lizzie, which is why I got the pattern. But I won’t be getting this Simplicity pattern.

Simplicity Pattern 8292 Misses'/Miss Petite Dresses

This easy pattern (8299) has skirt and pant variations. There’s an elastic waist, which has its benefits. I need more casual pants so I’ve been looking at a lot of pant patterns.

Simplicity Pattern 8299 Misses' Skirts or Pants in Various Lengths

Version C of this Big Four sewing pattern (8300) reminded me of the Sew DIY’s Nita Wrap Skirt. (I was a pattern tester for Sew DIY. You can see my version here.) It’s cute but too short for me. I’m just not comfortable showing that much leg. 😉

Simplicity Pattern 8300 Misses' Skirts with Front Variations

Here’s a fun overall dress and knit top (8301) by Mimi G, the founder of fashion, lifestyle and sewing blog Mimi G Style. I first heard about her last month when Abby Glassenberg interviewed Mimi G for her While She Naps podcast. Then Mimi just seemed to be popping up everywhere – Simplicity and then I saw that she also organizes a three-day Fashion Sewing Conference (!) in Los Angeles, which will be taking place June 16 to 18 this year. She has more than 200,000 followers on Instagram (@mimgstyle). Wow.

Simplicity Pattern 8301 Mimi G Style Misses' Overalls and Knit Crop Top

This shirt (8297) appealed to me because it has quite a few variations. I’m not sure I like the peplum in stripes because they’re not cut on the bias. I think it would look better in a solid or nondirectional fabric.

Simplicity Pattern 8297 Misses' Shirts

Vogue

Color blocking appeals to me because you can make the same dress in many variations. You can play around with colors and patterns. This knit dress (V9240) has many possibilities.

Vogue V9240 - sewing pattern - Misses' Knit Paneled Dresses

I like all the elements of this Five Easy Pieces pattern (V9246) set (jackets, belt, top, pants).

Vogue Patterns - V9246 - sewing pattern - MISSES' DROP-SHOULDER JACKETS, BELT, TOP WITH YOKES, AND PULL-ON PANTS

Here’s another jumpsuit (V9245). This pattern also has a sleeveless variation. I don’t like this fabric but I like the wide-leg pants and sash.

Vogue V9245 - sewing pattern - Misses/Misses Petite Button-up Jumpsuits and Sash

I include this Big Four sewing pattern (V9243) because the sleeves kill me. Did someone think more is better? There are other sleeve variations but I don’t think they are an improvement.

Vogue V9243 - sewing pattern - Misses' Princess Seam Tops with Flared Sleeve Variations

Here’s the line drawing for all the versions.

V9243 - line drawing

And that’s it for my brief look at spring Big Four sewing patterns. Have you seen any new patterns that you like?

Big Four sewing patterns - spring 2017 - Butterick B6458, McCalls M7538, Simplicity 8299

SeamstressTag – Getting to know me

A few weeks ago, Stefanie of Sea of Teal tagged me to participate in #SeamstressTag – a way for other sewists to get to know one another. I’ve been following Stef on Instagram (@seaofteal) for a while now. I enjoy seeing what she makes as well as the beautiful photos of nature and sunsets. And I discovered from her SteamstressTag post, that her photos are taken by her talented husband. He takes great photos of her and she always looks great!

She has a lovely photo of herself in her blog post that I decided to see if I could find a blog photo that didn’t have a lighting issue. I’ve made a lot of garments using black fabric (so hard to get the exposure right!) and I’m slowly getting better with using the timer on my camera. I went all the way back to 2015 to find this photo I took of my Deer & Doe Chardon skirt (blogged here) and wearing a velvet vintage hat.

Deer and Doe - Chardon Skirt - sewing pattern - SeamstressTag

Stef has given me a set of questions to answer as part of #SeamstressTag. Here are the questions and my answers:

1) Who are you?
This is an interesting question. My first response is a list of nouns (woman, wife, sister, daughter and so on) but that doesn’t really say much, does it? So here are a few random facts. I grew up in upstate New York with three sisters – one older and two younger, no brothers. My parents liked musical theater. When we traveled to New York City (a 4.5 hour road trip), we’d sometimes sees a Broadway musical. The ones that stand out the most are Annie and The King and I, starring Yul Brynner, during his final Broadway run in 1985 before he died of cancer later that year.

I live in Berkeley, California, which is in the northern part of the state. It gets cold in the winter in Berkeley – but not usually cooler than 40-something degrees Fahrenheit (about 4 degrees Celsius). Los Angeles is roughly 376 miles (604 km) south of Berkeley. It’s L.A. that has the warm weather, palm trees and beaches usually associated with California.

When I’m not sewing, I’m writing, editing or managing copy for a variety of clients.

2) When & why did you start sewing?
My mother taught me and my sisters to how to use her sewing machine. I can’t remember how old we were when she gave us the basics on threading the machine and using the straight stitch. She made all of our clothes, such as the ensembles we’re wearing below, when we were growing up. I’m wearing the white top with red shorts, petting the goat.

Sisters wearing clothes made by mom

English wasn’t my mother’s first language so she just looked at the step-by-step illustrations to figure out how to construct the garments. I remember many trips to Jo-Ann Fabric over the years to buy fabric – that was back when Jo-Ann’s was primarily a fabric store.

In junior high school, I took a mandatory home economics class and we all sewed stuffed animals from kits. I made a whale. I really enjoyed that class and learned how to sew fake fur. I sewed off and on throughout college – making some of my first hats on my mom’s Singer Golden Touch when I was home on break. I didn’t use a pattern. I just experimented, trying to copy hats I saw that I liked. After college I didn’t sew for years and years.

In 2009 I got a machine as a Christmas gift and began sewing again, making dresses from vintage patterns and sewing other garments. I forgot how much I enjoyed sewing and began sewing knit fabrics, which was new for me back then. Two years later, I started this blog.

I continue to sew because I get so much pleasure from it. I love having a finished garment to wear. I also enjoy seeing what other sewists make on Instagram.

3) What is your favorite or proudest make?

I don’t think I really have a favorite make. But one of the dresses I wear most often is my first Anna dress, a By Hand London pattern, which I made with a border print in 2014 for Sewing Indie Month. It was a finalist for the Dressed to the Nines sewing contest. I wore it to a wedding last summer. The fabric is from Britex Fabrics. I’ve also worn the dress to a Bay Area Sewists meetup at Britex. (Thanks to writing this post, I found the better photos from the original photo shoot and just updated some of the photos in the blog post.)

By Hand London Anna Dress - border print fabric - SeamstressTag

4) What is your most disastrous make?

I don’t know think I’d call it disastrous but probably the most challenging make was when I had to figure out a lot of pattern adjustments to make the Thread Theory Newcastle Cardigan for my husband. The pattern is drafted for slim figures and I had to make many adjustments that I had never done before to get it to fit right. I made the largest size and it was too tight everywhere. i nearly gave up. It took me three tries to get it right. You can see some of my adjustments in this post.

5) Where is your favorite place to go fabric shopping?

I’m really lucky to live in the Bay Area where we still have family-owned and -operated fabric stores. I live within walking distance of Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley, which carries a wide array of fabrics and indie sewing patterns. San Francisco’s Britex Fabrics has four floors of fabric and is easily accessible via public transportation – just a 23-minute train ride from where I live. And just a few stops from Britex is Fabric Outlet in the Mission District in San Francisco.

Britex Fabrics in San Francisco and Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley

6) What is your most used pattern?

I have made four different Deer & Doe Chardon skirts so it’s definitely one of my favorite patterns. (Here are some links if you’d like to read about the other three, besides the floral one pictured above: my black-and-white Chardon, my maxi Chardon in an African wax print, and my linen Chardon (pictured below). I’m planning on making one or two more this year. I just love the inverted pleats which are great for wide hips.

Deer and Doe - Chardon skirt - linen fabric - csews.com

7) Your most dreaded sewing task is…

Making pattern adjustments for my husband. He’s a big guy and all the adjustments are different from anything I do for myself. So I really dread making them pattern adjustments but I’m getting better and I get help from other sewists via Instagram (@sewbrooke is particularly helpful because she works as a costumer). Now I tissue-fit first and make as many flat pattern adjustments as I can so I can reduce the number of muslins. I’m hoping I only have to make one muslin of the Kwik Sew cardigan I’m making for him now (fingers crossed!).

8) And your favorite sewing task?

Choosing fabric and hemming – because it means I’m nearly done!

9) What is your favorite ‘sewing entertainment’?

Lately, I haven’t really been listening to anything when I’m sewing on my machine unless my husband is around, then I’ll listen to whatever he’s playing, usually jazz or R&B. If I’m doing hand sewing, I’ll do that in front of the TV.

10) Printed or PDF?

I prefer printed but I also sew PDF patterns.

11) What sewing machine do you use?

I use a Kenmore sewing machine from Sears, which I got in 2009. It’s a good basic machine. Unfortunately, Sears no longer carries sewing machines, which you can read about on here on the Sewing Machine Lady’s website. The Kenmore machines were made by Janome. In 2014, I got a used Bernina 1008, which is a mechanical machine, no fancy electronics. It stitches very nicely but you can’t adjust the pressure of the presser foot which is a problem when sewing knit fabrics. So then I switch to the Kenmore or use my serger (a Janome 204D), which was gifted to me by a generous Bay Area Sewists member at then end of 2015.

12) Do you have any other hobbies?

I’m a hat collector. I haven’t done a recent count but I likely have more than 60 hats now. I’ve been buying and making hats for more than 20 years. I’ve taken a few millinery classes, learning about embellishing hats, covering buckram frames with fabric and even making a sculptural lace hat. In all of my blog photos, you’ll see me wearing one of my hats.

Hat collection

Before a photo shoot, I’ll usually stare at the hats on the bedroom wall or on the small hat rack on the dresser – and then pick one or two to wear with my ensemble. I have many vintage hats and some new hats, too. I made the red hat in the top row using upholstery fabric. You can sort of see the lace hat I made – it’s just below the grey wool beret with the tan button in the middle. The lace hat is sitting on top of a linen and velvet vintage hat.

I don’t have enough room for all of my hats so some are stacked on top of each other. And yes, they do collect some dust. I have a special brush that’s just for my hats. So I’ll just give them a once-over with the brush before I wear them. I have hats in a few hat boxes, too. They are the hats with sequins and feathers. I have a lot of “flat” hats, such as berets that are in the closet.

This is one of my favorite wool berets, which my sister got for me in London more than 20 years ago. This photo was taken by professional photographer Sarah Deragon of Portraits to the People. It was one of the rejects for the editor’s page of a publication I used to edit.

Beret - Chuleenan of C Sews -csews.com

If you want to see a few more of my hats, check out my January newsletter, which has a column showing five of my hats, also taken during this photo shoot. I brought a hat box full of hats that day.

Thanks so much for tagging me, Stef! Now it’s my turn to pick a few sewists I’d like to know better. I’m tagging:

I really enjoy seeing what they make on Instagram and need to visit their blogs more often. They are all very talented and creative sewists whose work I admire. I look forward to their answers!

The questions:
1) Who are you?
2) When & why did you start sewing?
3) What is your favorite or proudest make?
4) What is your most disastrous make?
5) Where is your favorite place to go fabric shopping?
6) What is your most used pattern?
7) Your most dreaded sewing task is…
8) And your favorite sewing task?
9) What is your favorite ‘sewing entertainment’?
10) Printed or PDF?
11) What sewing machine do you use?
12) Do you have any other hobbies?

#SeamstressTag - Getting to know me, Chardon skirt and Anna Dress by Chuleenan of CSews.com

Body measurements, fitting, and sewing projects

Hi, way back in September 2014, I organized the first fitting meetup for the Bay Area Sewists. (You can read the meetup description here.) The idea was that we would help each other with fitting, learn about pattern adjustments, and pair up to take our body measurements.

At that meetup, I also did a demo for a small bust adjustment and another member, Ali (pictured below in the geometric top), showed how to do a full bust adjustment. It was a lot of fun.

Bay Area Sewists Fitting Meetup 2014

We’ve had two fitting meetups since then. Last year we were fortunate to have Kathleen, a member with a lot of fitting experience help us out. She works as a technical designer for Old Navy. We kept her really busy! I blogged about that meetup, too and discussed making pattern adjustments.

Before each fitting meetup I printed out this two-page worksheet for body measurements, which I found on Sewing.org‘s website. Anyone who wanted to get their measurements would pair up with someone else. This worksheet has 28 measurements – everything from high bust and bicep to cross back width and crotch depth. The diagram indicates where you’re supposed to measure.

Body measurement worksheet from Sewing.org - 28 measurements

At our most recent fitting meetup this past September, we had assistance from Jennifer Serr, owner of The Sewing Room and founder of Bonjour Teaspoon patterns, and Bay Area Sewists member Dana Taylor, who has done numerous fittings for her five (!) daughters. I asked Jennifer if there was anything missing from the worksheet and she suggested adding these three measurements to the list:

  1. Shoulder point to shoulder point, measuring from the back
  2. Shoulder slope – the amount your shoulder slopes downward. If your shoulders are really square – your shoulder slope will be zero. Jennifer measured mine using two rulers – holding one ruler parallel to the floor with one side at the highest point of my shoulder (near my neck) and using another ruler to measure from my shoulder point to the other ruler. My shoulders are fairly square so my shoulder slope is 1 inch. It’s hard to measure shoulder slope by yourself but Make My Pattern has instructions, which you can find here. (Make My Pattern is a website where you can customize free patterns designed by Joost De Cock. You need to enter your measurements to get a pattern.) You could also take a shirt that fits well in the shoulders, lay it flat and measure the slope, as demonstrated in this YouTube video. (If you want to learn more about shoulder slope, check out this Threads YouTube video: Shoulder Slope 101.)
  3. Inseam – measuring leg from ankle to crotch.

I had all my body measurements (except for the above three) taken in 2014. I knew I needed to get my measurements updated because I’ve gained (ahem) quite a few pounds/kilos since then. I got an even bigger shock when I went for a routine doctor’s visit and was weighed. I’ve gained nearly 20 pounds (9 kilos)! My first reaction was “OMG, I’m fat!”

OK, maybe that seems like an overstatement and not what one is supposed to say in this era of body positivity and acceptance. Well, I’m not thrilled at not being able to wear some of the skirts I’ve made. The extra weight is the result of being more sedentary over the past two years – too much time in front of a computer and too little exercise. It just kinda creeped up on me. Now I have more incentive to cut back on the chocolate and cheese and be more physically active.

Jennifer took my body measurements at the September fitting meetup. This weekend I finally sat down to compare my current measurements with the worksheets. It’s not pretty. I’ve gained about 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) in the waist and 3/4 inch (~2 cm) in the hips and thighs. Yikes. Of course, I knew my waist was bigger because certain pants (trousers for you U.K. and Aussie folks) no longer fit but I didn’t know all the expanded numbers.

Clearly, I need to get serious about getting in shape but in the meantime, I need to figure out what to do about my wardrobe. Do I let out some seams or just make clothes for my current body? Part of me says, lose the weight and fit back into those now-too-snug clothes. But who knows how long it will take to get back into those garments. Ugh.

For now I’m going to hold off on letting out any seams and focus on making some new garments.

I wanted to have one mock-up completed for our September fitting meetup so I had measured my waist so I could pick the right size to make my first Named Clothing pattern – the Mimosa Culottes. I cut a U.S. size 12 (U.K. 16, Euro 44). These culottes have wide legs so the hips are very generous, which meant I only needed the waist measurement. I brought my mockup of the Mimosa Culottes to this meetup and Jennifer pinned the back to get rid of some drag lines.

Fitting Mimosa Culottes, Named Clothing sewing pattern

When we transferred this change to the pattern piece, we folded it so it was the widest – about 1/4 inch (a little less than 1 cm) – at the center back and then zeroed it out at the side seam.

Mimosa Culottes - Named Clothing - back pattern adjustment

Jennifer also suggested adding a little more ease to the back crotch area by dropping that curve down about 3/8 inch (1 cm). It was a good idea because it was a little snug back there. I also lowered the hem 3/8 inch to compensate for the change in the crotch depth.

Now just to be sure it fits right, I’ll make another muslin. But I’ll just cut a new back and attach it to the front pieces I already have. I sewed this mock-up with a long stitch length so it would be easy to take apart. 😉

I’m also sewing these Vogue Patterns wrap pants (V9191), which don’t have side seams. They are just attached at the inseam and center front and back. The back wraps around and is tied in the front. So no worries about fitting but I added little more to the back side seams to make sure I had enough coverage.

This is the photo from the Vogue website. They look really comfortable don’t they?

V9191 - Vogue Pattern - csews.com

I’m using a hounds tooth knit fabric that doesn’t have much stretch to it so I’m treating it like a woven. I got it on sale at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics. However, there are four waist darts in the back and six in the front, which I didn’t notice until I cut the pattern but I decided to go ahead and cut the fabric. I used a shallow zigzag stitch for the darts. I did a few tests using a straight stitch but it really didn’t work with the fabric. I’ve never sewn darts with a zigzag stitch before.

After sewing two darts with a small zigzag (stitch length 1), I realized that I needed to stabilize the fabric so I sewed the rest of the darts using Sulky Tear Easy stabilizer (soft, lightweight tear-away), which I got at Stonemountain for the Tessuti Eva dress pattern.

I had already pinned my darts for the Vogue pants, so I just put a small piece of stabilizer underneath the fabric and sewed the darts.

Sewing darts with tear-away stabilizer

The darts looked very neat when I used the stabilizer. At the dart point, I just sewed off the fabric on to the stabilizer.

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I put the front pattern piece on me and the darts look like this. I haven’t pressed them yet so they aren’t quite laying flat.

Darts sewn - Vogue Patterns - V9191 - wrap pants

Now the Sew House 7 Toaster Sweater is in my queue because it’s a new pattern and because it’s nice and roomy. My extra weight won’t be an issue here. Heheh. There’s a paper and PDF version. I got the paper version at Stonemountain, which carries many indie patterns as you can see here. I’m going to make it using this medium-weight wool double-knit that I got on sale at Stonemountain – pictured behind the pattern. It seems to match Version 2 of the pattern, which was a complete coincidence. I didn’t have the pattern with me when I bought the fabric.

Sew House 7 Toaster Sweater sewing pattern

I’ll measure the pattern pieces and if it seems like there’s enough ease, I might just go ahead and sew it up without making a mock-up.

Also, in my queue is making a 16-panel Shibori skirt from the fabric I indigo dyed. I’ll be using a pattern from the Japanese sewing book Basic Black by Sato Watanabe (Amazon affiliate link here, Tuttle Publishing link here). I made a skirt from that book and it still fits well because it has a lot of ease (blogged here).

For now, I’ll avoid the more fitted patterns and focus on patterns with a lot of ease or have a relaxed style. I want to make things that will look good not matter what my weight is.

What do you sew when you’ve gained or lost a significant amount of weight?

Taking body measurements for fitting sewing patterns

Jennifer Serr – an interview with The Sewing Room founder and Bonjour Teaspoon designer

Jennifer Serr of The Sewing Room

Jennifer Serr began sewing when she was seven years old. All the women in her family sewed so she was following a family tradition. The first thing she made was a reversible pinafore for herself. And once she realized she could make doll clothes, she sewed doll clothes, too. Eventually she made most of her clothes.

“My grandfather told me if I got straight As [in school], he would pay for whatever fabric I wanted,” says Jennifer, who grew up in Fremont, a city about 38 miles southeast of San Francisco. “My mom didn’t have much money so I got really good grades. I could get whatever fabric I wanted: fancy hounds tooth wool for a skirt, green taffeta for a prom dress with big rhinestone and pearl buttons on the front, a royal blue wool suit with a little bolero jacket and shorts.”

When she was 15 years old, she and her mother moved to San Diego. In high school, other students noticed Jennifer’s nice wardrobe and asked her to make their prom dresses. So she would sew her own prom dress and two or three others for her friends. “We would go together and shop for the pattern and fabric,” says Jennifer. “They would give me $50 and the rest was for fabric, mostly strapless mini-dresses.”

Two weeks after Jennifer graduated from high school, she went to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (better known as FIDM), to study fashion design. She spent a year at FIDM in San Diego and then a year at FIDM in Los Angeles, earning an associate arts degree. Then she moved back to the Bay Area, working part-time at Z Gallery and began making hats and selling them at different boutiques throughout the Bay Area. She enjoyed making hats but had to stop after she realized she needed to pay self-employment tax and pay the government the taxes she owed. Her next jobs set the stage for her to open her own sewing business and launch an indie pattern line.

I spoke with Jennifer about how her career evolution. She was also a guest speaker for the Bay Area Sewists’s October meetup. Here’s an edited version of our conversation.

What happened after your hat business closed?

I got a freelance job at Gap. I was hired to measure clothing. They had had fittings three times a week. We would measure clothing against the spec sheet. I helped out at fittings and then became a full-time technical designer in the 1990s for Gap kids, Baby Gap, and knits. We were building spec packages for the factories. I would go to the fittings, adjust the spec packages, and send comments off to the factories.

It was not design work. I was making sure the garments fit the models, that they were functional. [Pointing out] if the head opening wasn’t big enough, telling factory how to construct the garment, giving them details about the top stitching or the size of the buttons.

A friend of mine got married and I made her wedding dress. Then I got married and all my friends started getting married and I was making their dresses. It became clear I couldn’t work at Gap and make wedding dresses. And I was burnt out from working in the corporate world.

In 2000 I left Gap to start my own bridal gown company making custom wedding gowns. I took take classes with Susan Khalje and tried to soak up what everyone else in the class was doing. I took the class to get more familiar with lace. It was great to work with nice fabrics and see immediate fit results. At Gap you didn’t know what results would be.

I opened a little studio in downtown Oakland and then was able to do it full-time for a couple of years. I would see people in the fall for spring weddings and I would be working on their gown right up until the wedding. My busiest time was between January and June.

Then I decided to have a baby and be a stay-at-home mom. I wrapped up everybody’s project and was a mom for a few years. But it didn’t pay any bills so I took on some more freelance work. I also taught pattern making at CCA [California College of Arts in Oakland]. Sometimes I filled in for a teacher or taught a class. I started having workshops at my house or at Julie’s Coffee and Tea. It was fun and different. People were excited about what they were learning.

How did you get started teaching kids to sew?

A friend had a daughter who was really into fashion design and she asked me, “Would you teach kids?” This girl was darling and she would come over once a week and have sewing classes at my house. My daughter Emma was in preschool by that point. I had been teaching kids for about a year and one parent told me, “You should really do a summer camp.” I hadn’t really been to a summer camp as a kid. Modern moms didn’t stay at home over the summer. The following summer, I had a sewing camp and it was a mad success – lots of kids signed up. It was for a couple of weeks and I held it at Rhythmix Cultural Works in Alameda. The owner had been in the fashion business. That student – Maya – had a birthday party at Rhythmic and had a runway fashion show. I had the fit model from Gap give runway tips to the girls.

I taught at Rhythmix, where I could rent space by the hour. I was there almost every day and I had to share the space with whoever needed it and sometimes got kicked out of space because a performance was going on.

It wasn’t a huge risk. It was affordable. As I would make money, I would invest in more equipment. I went from kids bringing their own machines to having machines.

When did you open The Sewing Room?

Four years ago, I opened up The Sewing Room with a friend who sold clothes in the front and I had the back of the shop, teaching after-school classes. Eventually she moved out because she got lonely and there wasn’t much foot traffic. My business would come to me because people would hear about my classes. So when she moved out two-and-a-half years ago, I took over the space.

I have an affinity for teaching kids. I had no idea that I would be good with kids. It was hard at first knowing how to handle a large group of kids. I knew I could handle a large group of adults but I eventually figured out what would work.

The first thing I learned, you gotta give them a snack. If they get restless and loopy, give them a break and a snack, it’ll be fine. I’m just sharing what I’ve learned throughout my lifetime and looking back at the past and a lot of it was self-taught. I would make it lighthearted and fun and not be concerned about the right way of doing it. I’d ask, “How do you feel about it – if it’s going to bother you, rip it out, if not, leave it.”

When I’m teaching adults, I have a different perspective on it. Some people are really afraid of making mistakes. For me, it’s how you learn.

If you put in a sleeve the wrong way, you cry about it and put it back in. It’s all ok. That’s my philosophy. We’re going to figure out the best ways for you.

For the kids’ summer camps, I like them to start at age 8 or older. One student, which is now 10, learned about my classes when she was 6 and waited two years to start sewing with me. She would come to the summer camps and sewed at home as well. Some of these kids won’t sew at home, just in my class.

How did your pattern line get started?

I had this one bag pattern I made and I was selling the bags made from recycled materials. One time I was teaching and I had this pattern and all of the other kids said, “I want to make it!” So I went home and traced it out ten times, wrote out instructions, photocopied it, and stuck a picture on it. Then I sold it to them for $10 and they kept asking for other things.

How did you get the name Bonjour Teaspoon?

Before I was pregnant with Emma, I went on a couture tour to Paris. We went to a pattern-making demonstration by a pattern maker for Azzedine Alia. While we were there, his little pug dog kept escaping from the kitchen and kept visiting us. I fell in love with the dog. His name was teaspoon – we kept saying, “Bonjour Teaspoon!”

Bonjour Teaspoon is cute and appealing to girls. How it evolved into a pattern line when kids would bring me things that they wanted to make. I helped them make a pattern and modify them so it would fit their size. I made a little collection inspired by the kids and then some of my original work.

Bonjour Teaspoon sewing pattern - Ava Lounge Jacket - doll and girl versions

One student started bringing in all these doll clothes patterns for her American Doll pattern. I saw that they had a partner program and you could design for dolls. They had a different philosophy about design and were encouraging people to make things from the patterns. They were saying, “We’re inviting you to have your own little business and help you with it.” They had a class in their pattern design academy on designing clothes for dolls. I totally learned a lot from this class about proportion and taking clothes from kids world or what they find fashionable and translating that to doll size.

I made kid patterns first and then did the doll patterns. I sent them a couple emails and they said they were interested in having girl doll and matching patterns. Because not too many people were doing it, it was technically challenging to get the girl patterns into digital form so you can print it out.

Bonjour Teaspoon - Ava Lounge Jacket sewing pattern

Now I sell my girl patterns and doll patterns digitally on my website (Bonjour Teaspoon), which is connected to Etsy. Pixiefaire.com is where the doll patterns are sold. I’m happy to talk to anybody about how I do it. [You can see Jennifer’s doll patterns here.]

Where did you first print your patterns?

I was able to have my first original pattern scanned at a large-scale printing company. Then I could trace them off into Illustrator and I went to I went to the print shop around the corner, the Alameda Word Factory that could print on large printer – 24 inches [61 cm] or 36 inches [91 cm] wide.

I came up with photographic booklet in black and white – put it in a 6×9 [15 cm x 23 cm] white envelope and put a sticker on the cover.

I still have them printed 50 at a time, which makes it more affordable. I have a few wholesale accounts as well – Stitchcraft in Petaluma and two stores in Portland.

Bonjour Teaspoon - Mia Dress sewing pattern

How many patterns do you have right now?

I’ve got patterns for garments and accessories, about 15 or 16 patterns. All of the hats come in kids and adult sizes. The Ava Lounge Jacket is sized for kids and adults. There’s a vest for adults only.

Most of my customer base is kids – having a size that goes from 6 to 13/14 is a good size range for my main clientele. I do like making patterns for grownups, too. I would almost have to drop the teaching business if I was going to pursue the patterns on a bigger level. Right now I’m at a standstill with the patterns. I will keep it as it is.

The doll patterns are easy to produce. If could produce two new patterns a month could make a lot more money.

What advice do you have for people who are looking for a printer for their own pattern line?

If I was going to expand the pattern business, I would do it a little differently now. I found a printing company that does printing for independent pattern designers, Palmer Publishing in Minnesota. But you need at least six patterns ready to go. I’ve also been contacted by pattern distributors. One distributor you had to use their fabric and photograph everything in their fabric. Another distributor said, “Oh, you might want to contact this place, a lot of our pattern vendors use this company PalmerPrinting.com.

You need to have a pattern line and it’s best if you have at least six that going to print. They will give you all the formats and paper sizes. There are different options for how you want to have patterns.

What advice do you have for people who want to launch their own pattern line?

Try to reach out to other pattern designers and get tips and tricks. Expand your community to expand your business. I can’t say that I’m the most experienced with the pattern part of my business. I would like to learn more about it and expand it some day. I studied fashion design and I want to be doing some design.

For independent design, I like Colette Patterns – the styles are really cute –  Waffle patterns – love her Instagram, love following her, and Sew Over It London and Cashmerette. I like the whole look of Tilly and the Buttons patterns and the sewalongs.

I love the Vintage Pattern Lending Library, which take old patterns and republishes them. I love 1920s fashions. I like the Wearing History Patterns company and Decades of Style for the same reason.

What should budding designers know?

Pattern grading is important. They need to know how to grade a pattern properly and they need to know about pattern balance.

One of my big issues with Colette is balance – the corners aren’t squared off at intersections.

Take some pattern making classes or learn about pattern grading. Test all your sizes if you are making apparel. Make sure your sizes work. I sewed up largest size of one of my patterns. The sleeve was way bigger than the body. The proportions weren’t right. Test your different sizes and learn about pattern grading.

Go online to some of the big manufacturers like Gap, J Crew and companies like that and look at their size charts. You can kind of see what the body measurements should be – what the measurements should be for each size. They have it down for the most part. Gap has everything online – some have plus sizes. At Gap we would make a test version for everything. Sometimes we would have to tweak the different sizes. We would develop our grade based on major size-range fittings. In the pattern room we would try on everything. Take each other’s measurements and see the different body shaping fit.

What keeps you inspired?

It was really teaching at CCA that drew me to teaching. Initially I got into it because I needed freelance work. Then I really enjoyed teaching. It’s what I loved to do. It was so full filling to see their confidence grow. Kids get so excited by learning something new and being able to make something. They have really good enthusiasm and pick things up really fast and don’t care as much. They don’t care about the same things as much. There is no preconceived notion about things. They are able to do it on a different level. I just love it when people have fun doing it.

I have fun hanging out with the Bay Area Sewists. They are just so enthusiastic about garment sewing. It’s just so much fun when people like doing the same thing that you do.

Jennifer Serr interviewed about her sewing business The Sewing Room and her pattern line Bonjour Teaspoon, which features patterns for dolls, girls, and adults

Sewing with lace – a resource list

Beautiful lace at Britex Fabrics - csews.com

Last year Natalie Wiener, the notions manager at Britex Fabrics, gave the Bay Area Sewists a great overview of lace for our Learn about Lace meetup. (I’m the organizer for the group.) She also gave us a really helpful handout with links to lace tutorials and more on lace. I put a version of this list as a page under the Bay Area Sewists section of my blog but it was pretty bare bones – no photos and just URLs.

I think it deserves its own post. So I went through all the links to make sure they still worked, added the article titles, more info on sources and photos from the meetup. All the comments after the article titles are from Natalie, unless otherwise indicated in [brackets].

I took the photos at the Bay Area Sewists meetup at Britex Fabrics. Here are links to some of Britex’s lace fabrics and lace trims. (I wrote a recap of this fun meetup here.)

Recommended Tutorials for Working with Lace

General Lace Info

Eyelash fringe on lace - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

Seams and Finishes

Chantilly lace with roses and sequins - Britex Fabrics - csews.com

Embellishment with Lace (Applique, Insertion, etc.)

Heirloom Sewing

Lace at Britex Fabrics - csews.com

Patterns and Projects

Thank you for this great list, Natalie!

Lace tutorials - a resource list compiled by Natalie of Britex Fabrics - lace seams and finishes, lace embellishments, heirloom sewing, lingerie lace

 

Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics – What’s next?

Suzan Steinberg - Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics - csews.com
Suzan Steinberg

In February the Bay Area sewing community was shocked to hear that Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics was going to stop offering sewing classes at the end of June. This great store had offered classes for two decades. Owner Suzan Steinberg made this momentous announcement on her Fabric Lady blog. You can read that post here.

As the news about Stonemountain’s classes gradually spread, I could tell from conversations I had with a few people at Bay Area Sewists meetups (I’m the organizer of this Meetup group), that there was some confusion about why the decision was made and what it meant for the future of the store. So I decided to go directly to the source and interview Suzan. After our phone interview concluded, she also sent me these two paragraphs about the store, which will give you some sense of its history:

Our family has been in the fabric business for nearly 100 years and in our current incarnation since 1981. My Dad and I are third and fourth generation! You may look around your home and see a little bit here and there from Stonemountain – in your closet, curtains, quilts, crafts & more. We cater to the creative community – serving the crafter, quilter and garment maker with a wide variety of fabrics, patterns, buttons and sewing notions.

Twenty years ago I dreamed of teaching classes here at Stonemountain & Daughter in our upstairs discount fabric room. 1996 was a sewing school desert in the bay area. Since we began our school, I have been blessed to see it grow into one of the most successful in-store sewing schools in the country: a place to come and learn how to sew, design and play with our amazing fabric while growing our sewing community. Our classes have helped Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics survive by teaching the next generations how to create and use the fabric they love!

Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics - photo by C Sews - csews.com

C Sews: In a March blog post on your Fabric Lady blog, you said that you came to this decision based on “looking at ALL current economic realities, long-term trends heading our way, the vast amount of time it takes to schedule, produce and administrate the classes, and the great benefits of selling fabric in the upstairs bargain room.” Can you please expand on that?

Suzan Steinberg: There are many things going on in the world, especially with having a brick and mortar fabric store. I’ve been doing this since 1981. There were tons of fabric stores in the area when we opened up. I’ve seen many stores going out of business over the years. We are a family business making a living providing goods and services to a community that really needs it. That’s why I joined the business with my father! I felt that “need” but the need lessened as I watched these multimillion-dollar businesses close around us. Poppy Fabric, New York Fabrics, and Kaufman’s – they’re all gone.

Besides Britex Fabrics, we’re one of the only full-service fabric stores in the Bay Area. Other stores are around but they are hit or miss. They’re based on bargains alone. We’re based on a curated collection from all the categories of fabric: cotton, wools, rayon, linen, silk, knits, and also patterns and notions needed to complete a project.

Sewing class at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics - photo by C Sews - csews.com
Upstairs classroom space

We are one of the last great full-service fabric stores in the country. There are less than 50 in the country – there used to be at least one in every city and town! Our sales people are talented and can answer your questions and help you out. They are consultants. If you go to Joann Fabrics (a national chain) you may not find people to answer your questions.

I come from the perspective of always trying to stay ahead and to not necessarily base my decisions on what is happening with other stores but trying to stay true to our customer base. We’re at another phase and crossroads. We’re also dealing with higher rents and rising costs. We rent our storefront and the people who work for me are paying higher rents in the Bay Area as well. It’s time to navigate through these changes and get even stronger.

At the beginning of the year, the writing was on the wall for many Bay Area businesses. I’ve been looking at every aspect of my business with my team, asking where is it fun and where is it worth our time? Where is the greatest need and where do they intersect? For me I never really thought about NOT doing the classes.

Summer sewing class at Stonemountain - photo by C Sews - csews.com
Barbara Becchio’s summer sewing class at Stonemountain

I didn’t consider that until my CPA suggested it in February of this year. After all, we jump-started the sewing revolution and have held space for classes when very few were sewing clothes.  Spending hundreds of hours on the classes (outside of my full-time job running the store) has been a ‘labor or love’. We wanted to provide low-cost quality instruction in our store classroom upstairs and look at what we created! It really feels like a time of graduation and completion. Twenty years later, my personal life is moving in a new direction. In my spare time outside of Stonemountain, I’m an astrologer, I have a family, and I love to travel. This is a significant time to pass this mission onto the next group of teachers.

We are still dedicated to education. We’ll focus on our blogs, newsletters, and other forms of social media that are reaching thousands of people – putting out quality content and inspiration. All of this takes time and creative focus to share the quality of our message we strive for.

We will have more in-store events and videos on YouTube. We have people in our store that are good at that and ready to go! Please refer to our Affiliate Teachers in our Guide to Bay Area Sewing Classes when you are ready to have guidance in all of your fabric arts projects.

CS: You have a YouTube Channel?

Yes, we started it a long time ago but haven’t activated it lately.

CS: The impression is that because people need to buy supplies for the class, they would be buying things from Stonemountain so that helps you make money.

Stonemountain & Daughter sewing class space - photo by C Sews - csews.com
Upstairs classroom space shared with sale fabric

Yes, that is a point that has been greatly considered. Let me address that. Not having classes will affect our business, but we have to ask, what is the cost in going after that sale? So much of the store’s energy goes into classes, but is it sustainable? That’s what we have to look at and be brave and courageous and see what is better for our business long-term. As we transfer our time into supporting staff, customers, other shops, schools and teachers, then the larger our sewing community grows with ease and fun!

Another interesting point it that the last number of times I’ve gone upstairs to look at the classes, 50 percent of the people are not buying fabric from us. Maybe they’ll buy some thread and zippers, but they are buying fabric from Joann Fabrics or other places a lot of the time. That’s their decision. We give them an option and a coupon to purchase our fabrics, but we’re not forcing people to buy from us. So seeing as how about half of our students don’t actually buy that much from us, it makes me feel better about our decision.

CS: Upstairs the space where your sewing tables are will be replaced with fabric. What will be different upstairs?

Barrels of discount designer fabrics - photo by C Sews - csews.comWe can now buy larger lots of fabric and fill the upstairs. We’ll have the space to display one-of-a-kind designer discount fabrics. All the fashion schools want it and sewing groups, like you! We’re filling a big need and it’s an opportunity to have more designer goods at great prices.

The basis of a great garment is finding a great fabric. Our store is based on choice. The decision is really to further serve the community in a joyful way, to change the store around to make it more airy, spacious, and creative.

We received 14 barrels for fabric on Friday. We’ve been painting the outside of the barrels and they will be tubes of delight, filled with Designer over-runs and sample yardage. So exciting!

CS: You’ve also made some other changes with the sewing patterns you carry. What’s happening there?

Of the big corporate sewing patterns, we carried Vogue, Kwik Sew, New Look and Burda. These companies are now selling online, directly to the consumer for cheaper than our wholesale prices. This has hugely undercut our pattern sales and the big companies have no sympathy or remorse. When we asked for fair pricing, they denied us because we are a retailer. Not to mention it costs us thousands of dollars to manage and stay up on inventory control. So, the decision was really made for us.

Another part of this decision is asking, how would we run the business if we were to start now, if this were our first year Pattern sale - Stonemountain Daughter Fabrics - photo by C Sews - csews.comof being open? What patterns would we choose to carry? We want to be here for as long as we can to serve the growing sewing community in the Bay Area, nationally, and internationally. Bottom line, these big pattern companies were not there to support us.

CS:So all the sewing patterns will now be indie patterns?

Yes! We chose our indie pattern lines because they are made by real people, for real people. Each pattern is drafted with care and the sewing community brings it to life. We have personal contact with many of our indie pattern designers and we get to see them grow in their business with us. This is how sewing should be. We appreciate the mutual support we receive from them, something that was missing from our relationship with the larger pattern companies.

Our complete collection is up on our website, as well as in our store. We love supporting the independent and local business movement! What can be better than having great fabric, tools and inspiring pattern choices?

CS: How does it feel now that the Stonemountain Fabrics era of sewing classes is over?

I feel very proud of our contribution. We’ve taught over 20,000 people to sew and over 300 kids each summer. We completed this phase of our mission and now our dream is widening. It feels great, but I do understand the sadness people feel about the loss of our classes upstairs. It has been a fabulous place for people to sew. I’m grateful to everyone who has taken a class with us. They made it as good as it was. What a 20 years it has been!


Many of the people who taught classes at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics are still teaching in the Bay Area. Stonemountain compiled this helpful Guide to Bay Area Sewing Classes for Adults. So all is not lost! You can still take classes with some of your favorites teachers who may be teaching in a variety of locations in the Bay Area. For example, Barbara Beccio is now teaching at Lacis and the Stitch Sewing Lab in Berkeley, the Handcraft Studio in Emeryville, and at her own studio (visit her website Desideratum, for a full list of classes.)

Did you take any classes at Stonemountain? I took Nicole Vasbinder’s “How to start a craft business” when I considered making hats to sell. She provided plenty of useful information which I still have – if I ever decide to do that. 

Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics - what next after sewing classes end? csews.com

It’s Sewing Indie Month and National Sewing Month!

Hi, in case you didn’t notice, September is the month to celebrate sewing. Yep, it’s not only Sewing Indie Month, it’s National Sewing Month! So if you need to jump-start your sewjo, this is the month to do it.

Sewing Indie Month - Blueprints for Sewing - A-Frame skirt - csews.com

I finished my project for The Refashioners 2015 challenge – to make something from a men’s shirt. (See my post Refashion, Stylish Remakes book review. Psssssst – if you comment on that post, you’ll be entered to win a copy of the Japanese sewing book Stylish Remakes.)

I’ve been wondering if I should attempt making something for Sewing Indie Month, which celebrates “indie sewing patterns and people who make them.” A couple of weeks ago I bought Pattern Bundle #2 (paying $25 and getting 5 PDF patterns – 20% of the proceeds go to the nonprofit organization Women for Women, which helps women survivors of war.) But I hadn’t made anything yet. Then I got this fortune cookie and decided it was a sign – time to get going on my Blueprints for Sewing A-frame skirt and maybe a Nettie Bodysuit by Closet Case Patterns, and a pair of Rose Hips Tights by Seamster Patterns!

Fortune cookie fortune - sewing indie month 2015

I got a PDF of the Nettie bodysuit/dress pattern as part of my bundle and I got the Rose Hips Tights paper pattern from Mari, the designer behind Seamster Patterns and the founder of Sewing Indie Month. Mari and I follow each other on social media and I got to meet her in person when she was in the Bay Area.

More than 20 designers are participating in Sewing Indie Month (#SIM2015), offering tutorials, interviews, and prizes! Yes –  there are sewing contests – make something from one of the patterns or tutorials by one of the participating designers.

I need more casual clothes so I’m aiming to enter the Everyday Casual contest hosted by Idle Fancy. The other contests are Pattern Hacking, hosted by Ronda’s Creative Life and Dressed to the Nines, hosted by Lilacs and Lace. It’s not too late to enter! Your projects just need to be posted by Sunday, Oct. 4. Check out the contest rules here.

I bought the A-Frame pattern more than three months ago but I got busy with other things and only got as far as tracing some of the pieces. I think I saw a finished skirt on Instagram and I really liked the design of version 2, which has a lovely flare. But in the interests of stashbusting, I’m going to make version 1 using this denim fabric, which I got 40% off at Fabric Outlet in San Francisco. I’m going to use both sides of this fabric and use the lighter (wrong?) side of the fabric as the contrast part of the skirt.

Striped denim fabric - csews.com

Don’t be put off by the drawing on the front of the pattern! Yes, the gals pictured seem a bit rustic and the boot-wearing gal on the left seems like she’s ready to go for a hike but …

A-frame - Blueprints for Sewing - csews.com

… check out the line drawings! The pencil skirt and the A-line skirt have lovely lines. Plus you gotta admit, those cover gals are unique and the artist is offering an image of a woman who you don’t typically see on pattern envelopes – women with real figures, not a super-slim models with sticks for legs. You know they saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”? Well, don’t just a pattern by the models on the front.

A-frame skirt - Blueprints for Sewing line drawing - csews.com

And here’s a finished version 1 – the pencil skirt (oh the color blocking possibilities!) – from Blueprints for Sewing’s website:

A-frame skirt - version 1 - Blueprints for Sewing pattern

And here’s a finished version 2, the A-line Skirt (love the pockets!):

Blueprints for Sewing - A-frame skirt - version 2

So it was the line drawings and the finished versions that sold me. I bought a paper pattern and then I contacted the designer to see if she’d be interested in donating some of her patterns to give away at an upcoming Bay Area Sewists meetup. (I’m the organizer for the group.) And she generously offered to send the A-Frame Skirt and the Cabin Shirt/Shift Dress. This Saturday our meetup is at Sips N Sews in San Francisco and we’ll hold a drawing for the A-Frame Skirt AND for Seamster Patterns Rose Hips Tights! If you’re in the Bay Area, you can RSVP for this meetup here. Thank you Blueprints for Sewing and Seamster Patterns!

Check out this illustration of color blocking ideas!

A-frame skirt - Blueprints for Sewing - csews.com

I’m going to make a mock-up of this skirt using this blue floral sheet under the color-blocking drawing.  I got the sheet at Goodwill (charity shop) for a couple of dollars. You know what I’ll be doing over the next week!

What are you making for Sewing Indie Month or National Sewing Month?