A Sewlebrity-Studded Spring

It’s an understatement to say the spring of 2020 has been like no other before it. What we members of the American Sewing Guild count on is coming together with others who share a passion for sewing to hone our skills, share our triumphs, get guidance on the things that aren’t going as planned, encourage and inspire one another. With the increasing vibrancy of the online sewing community, ASG is one of the few organizations that stand apart with its opportunities to meet in person (IRL for those of you who aren’t of a Certain Age) and know the joy of being in a room filled with others who are eager to “speak sew”. Those opportunities evaporated along with so much else that was lost or put on indefinite hold in response to the pandemic.

At Sew Chicago, we did a quick pivot to convert our March meeting from in-person to virtual on the day of the meeting and then put our minds to finding ways to give our members a quarantine treat that was not fattening and didn’t leave our kitchens with piles of dirty dishes. The idea was simple: if we are all logging in from remote locations, why not invite a celebrity teacher to give our programs from yet another remote location? That’s exactly what we did.

In April, Sarah Veblen gave us endless inspiration for combining different fabrics in a single garment. Each sample she presented has a story that tells what she was trying to accomplish, what her starting point was, what discoveries she made along the way and why she chose to go in one direction rather than another.


Our guest speaker in May was Jennifer Stern Hasemann of J.Stern Designs and in June we heard from Gail Yellen of Gail Patrice Design. These two fantastic teachers just happen to be the two halves of Stitching Zen with Gail and Jen. 

Both Jen and Gail generously donated their time to present to us and other members of the ASG Chicago Chapter. Jen gave in-depth advice about how to work with different types of knits, starting with how to hold the fabric to test it for stretch. It’s always fun to gain new insights into things you thought you knew already, as well as things you’ve been meaning to explore but haven’t gotten to yet. 

Gail’s topic was decorative hems, but she took us way beyond that. She covered her great technique for getting a cover hem to stay straight, even when it crosses seams in the garment, and gave us some great troubleshooting tips. 

We had every intention of sharing some video clips of these programs with you, but video editing turns out to be something that has to go on the To Learn list. Trust us when we say you should jump at any opportunity you have to take classes from these three teachers. We are so grateful to them for providing us with time immersed in the pastime we love just when we needed it most. 

Sew Chicago Zooms Into the Future


As our March 2020 meeting time approached, we were scrambling to keep up with ever-changing recommendations and guidelines that have since become mandated restrictions on just about every aspect of city living. As concerns turned into necessity we had to act quickly to cancel our in-person meeting and look for an alternative way to come together and enjoy some semblance of normalcy. Co-Leader (a/k/a Chief Creative Officer) Stephanie Torres and I have been discussing taking steps to make it possible for members to participate in our meetings from remote locations. We tried this once several years ago, but the technology wasn’t quite there yet. Recently, Susan participated in a meeting via FaceTime from her new home out of state and it was great to have her “back” with us. We know it’s a major pain for members who live in the suburbs to get to downtown Chicago by 5:30 on a Friday and for some it’s pretty much impossible. The situation this month turned out the be the catalyst for making that discussion a reality.

We accomplished our objective with Zoom and some helpful guidance from Ashley and Sheila, as well as other members who use the platform for work meetings. It was so comforting to see those familiar faces on the screen and spend time talking about our shared hobby. We even managed a full Sew & Tell!

Ironically, the meeting program was a roundtable discussion of internet sewing resources. We focused primarily on free videos. Here’s a list of what we discussed:

You Tube

  • Silhouettes Patterns
  • Inside the Hem
  • Gertie’s World
  • Bernadette Banner
  • Evelyn Wood
  • Seamwork
  • National Sewing Circle
  • Angela Kane Sewing TV
  • Sew News TV
  • Creative Machine Embroidery
  • Sarah Veblen
  • J Stern Designs
  • Zipper installation video (Kenneth King)
  • Pamela’s Patterns
  • Andrea Schewe – How to Modify Sleeves for Better Armhole Mobility
  • TomKat Stitchery
  • Marcy Tilton

Internet Tutorials and Sew-Alongs

Sew & Tell

Rita showed us her Burda jeans in which she added lace to the pockets and yoke. She also modified the pattern to move the opening to go within a pocket instead of at center front to allow for a smoother look.

Rita also had a tunic with inset triangles from a Vogue pattern and showed us 5 pillowcases she has completed for the 2020 ASG Chicago community service project, Ryan’s Case for Smiles.

Steph showed us the fabulous dress she made to wear to her sister’s museum exhibition opening.


The cutouts echo shapes in the show pieces. Steph’s sister is sculptor Jennifer Torres and the show is called Misfit Children.

The rest of Sew & Tell was a progress report on the 2020 Sew Chicago Jacket challenge. Check out the latest on our challenge page.


February 2020- Paris sewing trip review

The Susan Khalje Paris Tour has been a “bucket list” item for me ever since I can remember learning about it! It was one of those dreamy ideas, one of those someday I’d love to ideas. And then one day I found myself in the position of going, why wait for someday! My NG co-leader and good friend Wendy Grossman and I discussed it and decided well, why not?!?!?! So we signed up for the 2019 Paris trip and oh what a trip it was!


If you have never been to Susan’s website I encourage you to go and take a quick read of the description of the tour. https://susankhalje.com/pages/the-paris-tour

Did the tour live up to the description and my expectations? YES and took it to levels that I never expected! Now, I will be honest, this trip is not for the faint of heart. It is expensive but it was worth every penny. It is also a physically challenging trip. Not physical in like you are riding bikes or power walking for miles, but physical in like the days are jam packed with wonderful things, there is a lot of time spent on your feet and in/out of the train system and public transport, walking on lots of cobblestones and in general just a lot of activity for 9 straight days.


Highlights of the trip- the biggest thing for me was that at every museum or special exhibit that we went to we had a private guide plus several of them were done prior to the museum’s regular hours. Talk about a wonderful treat! Each guide was specifically knowledgeable in the area of expertise and it was such a treat to be in some of these places before the general public! IMG_5799

Each of the fabric stores that we went to was exquisite in their own way. Susan knew the owners and the products and gave us a good debriefing before each one. She was also there for questions and mini-consultations while discussing fabrics and how much to buy. The fabric shopping was just amazing!!! This trip I planned on my fabric purchases and packed an extra suitcase!IMG_5843IMG_5840IMG_5842

There was a superb mix of learning, meeting people in the fashion trade and shopping, and of course… eating! The food in Paris is wonderful and they drink champagne to celebrate our wonderful life all the time. Contrary to the popular myth, all of the people we met and had dealings with were just lovely!

There were several amazing workshops and visits to ateliers that were just beyond wonderful.




Sew & Tell began with status reports on our 2020 challenge, a jacket or coat. Check out the progress on our 2020 Challenge page.

Liz H. and Sue also treated us to a preview of the samples Liz is working on for their upcoming ASG Chicago workshop on the Camp Shirt. Here is Liz with a sample in striped linen and an innovative pocket she adapted from the book Pattern Magic.

Liz is also teaching an advance knitting class at College of DuPage and showed us samples of the challenging projects she has in store for her student.

And Linda was thrilled to show her first JStern Tee, which is also the first project she’s completed entirely on her serger!

Happy Sewing!!

Planning and Executing a Capsule Wardrobe

Sew Chicago kicked off 2020 with some suggested approaches to planning a capsule wardrobe and a tool for getting the garments in that plan completed.

Capsule Wardrobe Planning

We looked at an example of a capsule wardrobe plan that has sketches, fabric swatches and notes using Wendy’s MyBodyModel croquis.


Janice provided limitless inspiration for capsule wardrobes with copies of photo spreads  from her fabulous blog, The Vivienne Files.  Wendy offered a list of suggested questions to ask yourself when starting the process and a few guidelines it might help to follow. Steph talked about her more organic approach specifically geared to a travel capsule wardrobe, which starts with a color palette.

The parting word on this subject was to not let the planning become a project in itself (a/k/a avoidance activity) that eats into already limited execution time.

Getting it Done

There is no shortage of time management advice “out there” as well as tips and tools for tackling big projects or establishing new habits. This type of advice is particularly visible at this time of year when so many of us vow to make those New Year’s Resolutions stick for a change. So, why not add one more suggestion to the mix?

Wendy offered a sewing project planner/tracker as a tool that you can download here: Project Worksheet.

This document has three parts. The first has the name of the project, which can be the pattern name or number, a sketch or copy of the line drawing from the pattern, fabric swatches, a list of supplies needed (such as do you have matching thread?) and a checklist of preliminary steps needed before cutting into the fabric.


The second page has space for laying out the steps needed to complete the project and checking them off as they are completed. You might find it helpful to group tasks together by what you think might fill a single sewing session, such as an evening after work. You also may prefer to actually schedule these sessions with calendar dates. These task lists can be marked up as you go, not only to check off completed tasks but to show how much you actually accomplished in a single session so you can see how realistic your expectations/time estimates were.

If you are following pattern instructions, you might just want to list the steps in the instructions by referencing the numbers. If you are using a self-drafted pattern you might need to insert extra pages. The process of plotting out the steps ahead of time helps remind you of steps you might have missed and make sure they are completed in the right order.


The final page of the worksheet has space for a picture of the completed project, start and end dates and notes about changes to make for next time. Keeping this information here means the entire worksheet can go into a completed projects notebook for future reference.

Completed Project page

Sew Chicago Challenge 2020

We ended our program by taking this worksheet and giving it a specific application. The Sew Chicago challenge for the 2020 ASG Chicago Chapter Fashion Show is to make a jacket or coat. We recognize that this is a pretty ambitious challenge, especially for those members who are opting for a tailored coat or jacket. To help members stay on track, we prepared a workbook we are modestly calling The Definitive Anti-Procrastination Guide to Getting That Jacket or Coat on the Runway. You can download it here: Jacket Challenge Workbook Downoad

We will be devoting a portion of our monthly Sew & Tell segments to progress reports. Suggested milestones to be met in the months of February to September can be found on the Challenge page of this blog and in the workbook.

Sew & Tell


Linda created a new bathmat with chenille rick rack from her stash. The blue color matches her bathroom walls perfectly.


Debora shared a Style Arc knit top that she made with a digitally printed knit she bought when living in Germany. We all brainstormed ideas of the best way to hem this knit on the split side top. Always great to share ideas and discuss as a group!


Debbie was inspired by another Sew Chicago member to make a Boxy Tee using this Threads Magazine online article, A super cute woven tee!


Sharleen shared her unselfish sewing! She made a lovely button down for shirt for one of her grandsons. She also shared a cross stich inset tea towel that she embroidered with her machine. Great way to make some gifts!



Liz H shared her fitting woes of New Look 6415. She reminded us that it always pays to check both the body and finished garment measurements on the back of the pattern envelope! OOPS!! She had to take things in quite a bit!


Sue C share her new Holiday dress that she made with fabric that she picked up while on her recent trip to Africa. A wonderful and updated look using the very colorful Dutch African wax print. Sue also brought with her several other fabrics that she has from Africa. The colors and the prints are so striking!


Liz C shared her new faux lambs wool coat that is lined with kasha flannel backed lining and has a set of beautiful vintage buttons.

Steph T shared her latest ‘Athleisure’ wear outfit. You can read about this on her blog.

It was a great meeting and we are looking forward to February with a review of the Susan Khalje Paris trip and Paris fabric.

2019 wrap-up!

An entire year has passed and the blog has now been re-activated! 2019 was a great year and Sew Chicago members enjoyed many wonderful programs, had a great visit to Soutache for a button meeting and a fun time showing off pajama’s at the Chicago Chapter Annual Fashion Show.

We wrapped up 2019 with our Annual Holiday Luncheon at Italian Village Restaurant in Chicago.


Each year at the Holiday Luncheon everyone fills out a card with the ideas of programs that they would like for the upcoming year. These cards then get passed around the group and if you agree with the idea then you check the ‘me too’ box! Next, thee get collected and brought home to be tabulated, collated and interpreted to the best of my ability and the ideas get ranked in order from most requested down to least requested and the top 11 get chosen for programs. A wonderful way for us to get input from everyone about what the upcoming year will look like! To see the new 2020 program line-up head on over to the Calendar page.

IMG_0478 (2)

We also voted on what the Sew Chicago Challenge would be for the 2020 Chapter Fashion Show and this year. The overwhelmingly popular vote went for a Jacket and Coat challenge!! Since this is a bigger project we will be giving you ways to check in throughout the year to stay on track and have a newly created jacket or coat to be worn on the runway in October.

Ashley Jean, our talented member who also bakes and creates amazing cakes, cookies and all manner of delicious and fun baked goodies made us all a fun treat for the holidays- Button Cookies!! They were not only beautiful to look at but were also delicious to eat. Thank You to Ashley for sharing them with us.IMG_4677

We also enjoyed sharing a holiday gift with each other. It is always a grab bag style so bring a gift take a gift. I think everyone really enjoys this little tradition.IMG_4675

We are looking forward to sharing a wonderful 2020 with our Sew Chicago Neighborhood Group!

Happy Sewing!

A Milestone Celebration!


Ten years ago(!), Nancy responded to a notice Wendy put in the ASG Chicago Newsletter inviting members who were interested in a Neighborhood Group in downtown Chicago to contact her. Since then, Sew Chicago has welcomed new members from the city and suburbs and explored the finer points of garment sewing in an enthusiastic, supportive environment. Along the way, friendships have formed, skills have been refined and much laughter has been shared.

To celebrate, our newest member Ashley created this fabulous cake.

And Steph, our Chief Creative Officer, presented everyone with a lovely needle book that she made using ASG fabric and vintage buttons from her collection. What a labor of love this was.

We feasted on Mediterranean specialties at Kurah Mediterranean restaurant in their loft space. The waiters got quite the workout carrying everything up the stairs!


Steph printed menus and Nancy helped with setup.


Valerie, president of the ASG Chicago Chapter, made a special treat for Wendy and Steph.


As always, there were fun and useful sewing-related gifts in our grab bag and everyone wrote down their wish list for programs in the coming year.

And almost everyone had a Sew & Tell to inspire us all.


From all of us at Sew Chicago, past and present, our very best wishes for a very happy holiday season and a happy and healthy new year.



A visit to Soutache!

Sew Chicago took our October monthly meeting on a road trip to Soutache. Maili, the lovely owner of Soutache invited us to come spend an evening with her and her delightful friend Lorraine.p4p3p2p1

Lorraine brought with her a trunk show of vintage garments, buttons and trims that she had collected over the years while living in England. Many of them were Linton tweeds and vintage Liberty prints in cotton lawn and silk. It was so delightful to meet Lorraine and hear her history and the history of her beautiful fabrics!

Lorraine was kind enough to offer a  selection of her vintage fabrics, buttons and trims for sale! What a treat 🙂 Several of us left with some beautiful fabrics.

After the truck show we had an update from Liz Houlihan the Education chair for the Chicago chapter on the great educational events that are in store for 2019.educational

Ruth showed off the bags she made for Wings charity in Sew and Tell, they were quite lovely and we collectively donated 9 bags to the Chapter event for Wings.ST1


Both Wendy and Debbie showed off some new garments. Debbie showed us a new winter knit long sleeve tee that she made and Wendy shared with us her fabulous 2 piece ensemble that has a very interesting design detail that repeats itself on the neckline and the sleeve cuffs. ST2ST4ST3

Stay tuned for more updates on Sew Chicago!

Happy Sewing!

Mix it Up with Sew Chicago

Our May program explored the art of mixing different textiles in a single garment. This subject is right up Steph’s alley, as she demonstrated with her delightful mini trunk show from her own closet.



But she didn’t stop there. Steph showed up in her personal tribute to the summer’s patriotic holidays with a red, white and blue ensemble that defies all convention.


She walked us through her design and construction process, beginning with fabric selection and moving through the pattern work she needed to achieve the effect she was going for in her jacket.


If you’d like to learn more about Steph’s jacket, you can visit the in-depth post on her blog, 10 Sewing Machines and a Serger.

Liz G. followed through on the fabric mixing theme in her Sew & Tell entry.


And Rita did the same.


Liz H’s Sew & Tell showcased her fascination with the versatility of stripes.


And Linda’s entry gave us an update on her continuing progress in working with knits. The pattern she used is Simplicity 1463, which has an interesting sleeve treatment.


The winner of the May Sew & Tell prize was Debbie, who gave us a mere tease peek into the super-secret project she’s working on.


Stay tuned!

Sweater Knits

April brought more snow and cold to Chicago than we want to think about, so our program about sewing with cuddly sweater knits felt just right.


Stephanie King whipped up a garment in a sweater knit, provided samples of others and walked us through the various techniques she tried for sewing seams and finishing edges. Steph reported on which techniques were most successful with each type of sweater knit. The key takeaway was that making samples is an absolute must.

We shared resources from the Internet, including helpful articles from Seamwork Magazine, Paprika Patterns, and the in-depth series by Kathryn Brenne at EmmaOneSock.com.

Sew & Tell included Liz Buckley-Geer’s art quilt show entry and the photos that inspired it, Rita’s wonderful preemie clothes that she and a fried are donating to a hospital and Debbie’s great graphic print tee.


Both Steph’s and Debbie’s Sew & tell incorporated different fabrics, which just happens to be the topic of our May meeting.

Rita won the participation prize, a Liberty of London tape measure.



Designing with Darts

The Sew Chicago March program was all about taking a well-fitting pattern and using dart manipulation to change up the design. The meeting focused on using the Slash Method.


Wendy and I started with a discussion of how we both use this technique. The best part about the slash method is that it is fairly easy, you do not need knowledge of pattern drafting or any advanced skills to play around. What you do need is to start off with a well fitting bodice pattern, a pair of scissors and a sense of adventure and a willingness to make a muslin or two!

I started out with showing a progression of blouses that I made using the same base or master pattern and going from a single dart to parallel darts to a shoulder princess line.

Wendy actually brought her progression in the form of her actual patterns and muslins which was very interesting to see.fun1

After our discussions we moved to the table and had some hands on fun. Each attendee was given a sheet of 4- 1/4 scale bodice patterns, colored tissue paper and plan paper to tape the finished project on. It was so much fun!

We walked through several specific exercises:

  1. Moving a dart from one seamline to another.
  2. Dividing a single dart into 2 or more darts.
  3. Converting a dart into a seamline.
  4. . Method to true up a dart

Each participant followed along with the 3 basic exercises and then had the liberty to play and come up with an exciting design for the 4th 1/4 scale bodice.


We also had some excellent discussion on converting darts to gathers and tucks and using yokes on a bodice. Everyone had a good time and came up with some excellent and interesting designs using the Slash method of moving darts.

We wrapped up our evening with Sew and Tell! This month’s drawing winner from Sew and Tell was Liz H! She selected a gift from the bag and was delighted with the Scissor snips.


Almost everyone had a Sew and Tell this month! Well done Sew Chicago !


Last but not least! We are delighted to welcome 2 new members to our group , we are very happy to have you both!

Ashley J 


Rita S

Reminder: next meeting is Friday April 13th and the program will be on Knits- Hemlines and Necklines with an emphasis on sweater knits.



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