Finding New Homes for Fabric

For the second year in a row, Sew Chicago teamed up with the Sew Saturday neighborhood group in Elmhurst to exchange fabric, patterns and books.

Our format is informal. We separate out fabric that members are giving away and fabric to be sold. We ask that everyone label the fabric with essential information, including width, yardage and fabric content (if known).

Patterns and magazines are put in a separate room and everyone has the opportunity to go through them and take what they want. These are all free for the taking.  At the end of the day any patterns not claimed are then sent on to be donated or recycled.


It’s nice to know that patterns and fabric that has been languishing in one person’s sewing archives will have an opportunity to be used. It’s also great to catch up with our sewing buddies, some of whom we don’t see that often.

And, speaking of fabrics, there is a brand new online source of lovely fabrics out there. Louis Cutting of Cutting Line Designs has just revamped her web site and added online shopping for the fabulous fabrics she previously offered only at special events such as ASG National Conference and her hands-on workshops. There is lots to choose from. Check it out!

An In-Depth Look at Cuffs

Sew Chicago’s challenge for the Chicago ASG Chapter fashion show in October is to make a tailored shirt or shirt dress with a collar, cuffs, button placket and at least one embellishment.

We’ve already told you about the presentation Linda made on button plackets in April. For our March program, Steph provided us with a close look at shirt cuffs.


Of course, the starting point is the pattern.



Steph prepared a ton of samples to show us each step of the process.

The finished samples included a traditional cuff, a cuff with a continuous bias placket and some cool variations.

Steph also made a sample of a French cuff and a connected pair of buttons that can be used as a cufflink.

We look forward to seeing great tailored shirts in our chapter’s fall fashion show.

Sew Chicago supports Haute Couture Club of Chicago!

Members of Sew Chicago came out enforce to support the Haute Couture Club of Chicago annual fashion show held at the JW Marriott Hotel in Chicago on Sunday April 10th.

Several members of our Sew Chicago group are crossover members into Haute Couture Club of Chicago and participated in this years fashion show. We are very lucky to have such great sewing friends to come out and support each other!


Susan and Wendy

Susan Gerbosi and Wendy Grossman not only participated in this years HCCC fashion show but they were also the co-chairs for the entire show! What a great job they did in putting together a wonderful treat for us all. The venue was beautiful, the food was quite enjoyable and what a treat to get to see 75 lovely garments walk the runway.

















Liz H

PTPE.Haute Couture Fashion Show.2016-193


Four of our regular members had garments for the runway this year. Wendy Grossman, Susan Gerbosi, Liz Houlihan and Steph King.

Those of us who walked the runway want to give a great warm thank you to the members of Sew Chicago that came out in support of not only us but for the Haute Couture Club of Chicago. Thank you to Linda Anders, Carolyn Angelopoulos, Nancy Snead, Elizabeth Smartt, Liz Cohen, Mary ALice Mayer, Mary Fran McMahon and Debbie Walker.


Wendy and Susan with Sew Chicago friend Sarah Veblen. (center)

To learn more about the Haute Couture Club of Chicago please visit the website at

Impressive Plackets!

The Sew Chicago April meeting was all about shirt plackets. The group continues to get ready for our button down shirt challenge for the Chicago ASG fashion show in the fall.

Member, Linda Anders, took us through a wealth of information on shirt front button plackets. She started by sharing her expertise from years of sewing on the different methods of creating and sewing plackets.SC4-16a

Several of these included:

  • sew-on plackets
  • cut-on plackets
  • hidden placket variations
  • fabric matching on plackets
  • dealing with sheer fabrics and prints
  • contrast plackets
  • tips for keeping finished plackets even lengths
  • tips for taming bias plackets
  • discussion on buttonhole direction

Along with an informative handout, Linda also brought sample shirts with different plackets to discuss and a large selection of patterns. Linda explained that while some of these patterns may be outdated or that she may never sew up some of them as designed that she keeps them because they have a wealth of different details that can be used to mix and match to create many different designs.

After we finished with all the technical discussions Linda had us get into a fun exercise! Imagine if the only top you were allowed to wear was a button up shirt. How many ways could you change it up so you would never get bored?


Armed with copies of a basic shirt drawing, an easel and some markers Linda got to work showing us her ideas and then had us all get in on the brainstorming. What a great way to get the creative ideas flowing! Everyone had a great time coming up with different embellishment ideas, piping, placket shapes, use of asymmetry, fabric manipulation and so much more!

I know that I left friday evenings meeting with a head full of great ideas to jazz up my basic button up shirt.



Field Trip to Downton Abbey

Downton Field trip

Well, we didn’t exactly visit Downton Abbey, but the exhibit “Dressing Downton, Changing Fashions for Changing Times” at the Driehaus Museum here in Chicago made it feel pretty close to the real thing. The gorgeous former home of Samuel Mayo Nickerson, which has been meticulously restored and beautifully furnished, made the perfect setting for the fabulous costumes on display.

Here is a small sampling of what inspired us.

We ended the morning with shopping at the gift shop and a delightful lunch at Troquet River North. An added bonus was that the sun was shining and the temperature is climbing toward sixty degrees. All in all, a perfectly lovely day.


Our members requested a program devoted to learning about the different types of lace and how to work with it. February seemed to be the perfect month for this exploration.

Research for this presentation uncovered a ton of resources, from in-depth histories of the various types of lace to advice about how to work with lace that ranges from couture to kitschy and everything in between. Here are some resources we found helpful.

The gold standard when it comes to working with fine lace in the couture manner is Susan Khaljie’s classic book, Bridal Couture, Fine Sewing Techniques for Wedding Gowns and Evening Wear. This classic reference is no longer in print in hard copy and a used copy can set you back about $100 or so. But don’t despair. You can buy the electronic version of the book on CD from Susan’s web site at the link above. The book has an entire chapter devoted to lace.

Another authoritative resource that explains the differences in various types of lace, provides a full lace vocabulary and gives helpful guidance for working with lace is Claire Shaeffer’s Fabric Sewing Guide. The second edition was published in 2008 and it is available in paperback and electronic formats. Claire Shaeffer also talks about working with lace in the revised and updated edition of her book Couture Sewing Techniques.

Surprisingly, you don’t have to look to couture technique books to develop a solid foundation for working with lace. A comprehensive chapter on lace is in the Singer Reference Library’s Sewing Specialty Fabrics. This out-of-print book is widely available from used bookstores that sell on the web and is an excellent reference. Some of the other books from the Singer Reference Library series include part of the content from the Specialty Fabrics title, but that one is the most complete.  There are lots of pictures and very clear instructions that are easy to follow.

If you prefer to learn from video instruction, Alison Smith has a Craftsy course called “The Essential Guide to Sewing with Lace.”

For in-depth information about the origins of lace, how lace is made and pretty much anything having to do with lace that you might be curious about, check out The Lace Guild website.

The unique requirements of working with guipure lace are covered in Susan Khaljie’s article “Couture Lace Skirt” in the October/November 2014 issue of Threads Magazine, as well as in her Bridal Couture book. In addition, Lisa Hawkes documented the process by which she made a stunning guipure lace graduation dress for her daughter in a three-part blog post four years ago. She has since launched a new web site at  and, in response to requests from us as well as many others, has republished the posts with an updated introduction. Here is a direct link to Part 1 of the series.

As part of the program we had a variety of laces to show off and to pass around.

Look at these 4 beautiful swatches! 

Wendy showed us some of her interesting laces as well as some examples of how to use lace in projects Bottom left is a sample Wendy made in a Susan Khalje workshop at COD several years ago, showing using lace as an appliqué. The bottom right is a sample made to show how easy it is to add lace to silk. Great for use in lingerie and other undergarments. 
Stephanie brought the top to her 2 piece wedding dress that she made back in 1994 to show off sewing with lace. Goes to show you that anyone can work with lace! This was made with her mother and without any lace working experience. I think it came out quite beautiful.

We had a full house of members to enjoy the excellent lace program.

The beautiful sunset colors reflecting off the clouds over the lake. Such a beautiful evening to get together with friends to talk sewing!

We also had several members who had sew and tell this evening. Sew and tell is always a very popular segment of our monthly programs. It is inspiring to see what everyone is working on and it is also a great place to ask for opinions and ideas of works in progress.

Liz brought us a shirt that she has been working on. Look at those lovely striped details and hidden button placket! 
Nancy showed off her lovely shirt, gave us a demonstration of self measuring measuring tapes. Making it easier for one to take accurate measurements by yourself. She brought 4 with her and they were quickly gobbled up! Nancy also shared dates for upcoming fitting seminars. 

It was a great evening learning about lace. Wendy has inspired us all to go home and dream of ways to add some beautiful lace garments to our wardrobes!

Keep an eye on the calendar page for upcoming dates! March program will be all about cuffs.

Happy Sewing!

Sew Chicago rings in 2016 with buttonholes!

Sew Chicago enjoyed a full house for the January Sew Chicago Eplores Buttonholes meeting! It was so great to see everyone post holidays, spend some time chatting about our latest sewing projects and enjoy the lovely snacks that Liz C. generously provided.

January’s presentation was all about buttonholes. Wendy presented us with several options of types of buttonholes. 

Many of the newer sewing machines come with a choice of buttonholes. For example, Wendy’s machine has 9 different automatic buttonholes pre-programmed. Most of us usually stick to just one or two of these. Wendy stitched them all out so that we could see them and the differences between them. Along with the samples, she handed out copies of what these were called in her sewing machine handbook so that we could compare them to what is available on our own sewing machines. Wendy’s samples launched us into a lively discussions around placket size, horizontal vs. vertical buttonholes, best way to sew on buttons and etcetera, etcetera. 

My favorite example of the night was how to incorporate slot buttonholes into a garment. In the picture above you can see how sophisticated a slot buttonhole can look! 

These examples also included different types of interfacing that can be used and how to cut open buttonholes. No one really wants to make the mistake of slashing through a buttonhole when it’s the last step on a garment! Carolyn demonstrated a nifty way to use a buttonhole cutter on a pice of wood that is a pretty darn foolproof way to keep from slicing open the bartacks on the buttonholes. Instead of laying the fabric flat over the piece of wood, in this case the apple shaped wood, you hold it up and let half the buttonhole drop off the edge and only cut half the buttonhole at a time.

Wendy’s handouts included different machine buttonhole variations, a basic directory of buttonholes and buttonhole loops, detailed instructions on how to sew hand worked buttonholes along with a sample where we each got to try our hand at sewing on a hand worked buttonhole and a comprehensive handout on Buttons and Buttonholes from the University of Kentucky Cooperative extension service.

Sew and Tell followed up our monthly programming, It is one of our favorite parts of the evening!

Wendy wore her beautiful new knit top with mesh sleeves and yoke, quite a lovely top and very sophisticated looking. ( see photos at top)

Left to right: Stephanie with a 4 fabric infinity scarf and an Appleton wrap dress. Mollie showing off her new pants and jacket and recalling her woes with buttonholes! Visitor, Mary Beth, showing off her knit dress and a hand knit bolero (not shown)  
 Mollie showing one of two sweaters that she knit! So impressive 🙂 and Stephanie showing a new lace knit cardigan and recalling woes of finding a run in the fabric. 
Please join us next month as Sew Chicago works with Choosing and Sewing with Lace. See the event page for additional information.

Happy Sewing!

Sew Chicago Holiday Brunch

This past Sunday was the annual Sew Chicago Holiday brunch in the private room at Troquet River North.

Liz C, Linda A, Wendy G, Danielle S, Sandra Y, Debbie W, Nancy S, Steph K, Liz H, Carolyn A

Ten lovely ladies joined together to celebrate the holidays. There was a lovely brunch menu and several ladies took advantage of the bottomless mimosas 🙂 

We started our brunch out with general chit chat and hugs and how are you? Along with the favorite what are you working on? And did you make that? It’s amazing how much chatting a group of ten sewing ladies can get into!! We are always so happy to see each other. 

Our neighborhood group leader, Wendy, made us all a lovely favor. A silk organza press cloth with a white chalk marking pencil held together with a bit of wonder wrap, tied with a bit of ribbon and a yardage conversion chart from Fabrications in Michigan. A lovely bit of craftiness full of the most useful items! 

To determine the lineup of program meetings for 2016 we all filled out cards with 3-5 ideas which were then passed around the table and each person then had the chance to check off if they also like the idea. It was interesting to see how many of us had similar ideas, great minds think  alike!  I believe I saw several ‘sewing with sheers’ and various versions of ‘buttonholes’ on the cards. Once all the cards were passed around Wendy collected them and will use these as a guide for the upcoming years programs! A very ingenious way of deciding on what type of programs to hold.

Sew and Tell is always a must at any Sew Chicago gathering! Wendy is modeling her beautiful new self drafted jacket out of a wool/silk blend, sorry folks you won’t find this gorgeous pattern anywhere. Liz H showed off her knitting skills with a fancy new Santa hat, this too was self drafted! Liz C, made B6243 into a lovely top with a sheer overlay. That collar is just lovely and the fabric combination was unexpected and beautiful.  Steph K sewed up the new Cashmerette Appleton dress pattern with a great double faced ITY knit. Best part of this full wrap dress… No pins at the neckline! That’s right no gaping in sight. Not spictured, Debbie W wore a beautiful top made out of a lovely printed French fabric. 

A holiday gathering just would not be complete without a little gift exchange. Each guest brought a wrapped gift valued at 15 dollars. We pulled numbers for the order of gift picking. Always fun to watch gifts being unwrapped. Books seemed to be the number one choice of gifts to give, a great sewing library is a must!


There was much discussion on sewing goals for 2016. Several ladies have clearly put a lot of thought into this. I believe the rest of us are just a bit in denial over 2015 rapidly coming to an end!  Carolyn is going to work on button down shirts and pants. Liz H and Steph stated button down fitted shirts were also on their agendas. 

The Sew Chicago group challenge for the 2016 Chicago ASG chapter fashion show was announced and this years challenge garment will showcase button down shirts. Looks like we will have fantastic participation since several members have shirt making goals! 

Criteria for the challenge:

  • Must use buttons and any type of buttonhole for closure.
  • Must have a collar and cuffs
  • Must include a designer choice of embellishment

In the spring there will be 2 programs, one on plackets and one on cuffs, to inspire the group to get creative with their projects. Handouts on the previous collar program will also be made available for use. 

Nancy Snead also discussed a new Fashion Fit Workshop. An excellent place to go if you need help with garment fitting! Nancy is a certified Palmer Pletsch Fit Consultant. Please contact Nancy at for more information. 

Be on the lookout for upcoming event info to be updated on the calendar page.

Happy Holidays, Happy Sewing and Happy New Year to All!!

Details of Sew Chicago’s Runway Garments

We thought you might like to learn a bit more about the garments Sew Chicago members entered in this year’s ASG Chicago Chapter fashion show.

IMG_0476To start, here is Nancy, who, along with Wendy, wrangled the models, coordinated the submissions and described the garments for the show. Nancy is now co-leader of another neighborhood group, Sew Saturday, but she is a founding member of Sew Chicago.

In this picture, Nancy  is wearing an ensemble that is a little bit retro, a little bit romance.   Anyone who knows Nancy knows she loves working with cotton.  It’s comfortable, easy to sew and just as easy to care for.  Nancy chose two coordinating cotton prints for this dress and cape duo. Using the floral print as the main focus, Nancy added the coordinating dotted print to line the cape and also to make the bias binding on the armholes and neckline of the dress.

Nancy’s petticoat was found at an estate sale for $5 with tags still intact – circa 1950. Nancy thinks it adds some retro fun. With all that Nancy does, she hasn’t found an opportunity to wear this ensemble as we see it, but she is wondering how her husband would feel taking her out to dinner dressed like this! But these garments don’t have to wait for a special event. On their own, the dress and cape are suitable for many occasions.


Here is Susan getting ready for her entrance in a dress that is enjoying a second life. In its first incarnation, this was a casual dress in white cotton with an abstract black floral print. She liked it, but didn’t love it. On a whim, Susan asked Sarah Veblen to look at the dress and Sarah suggested using a black lace overlay to tone down the white. Susan found black lace, cut off and placed the scalloped edge around the neckline and hem, then added black silk in selected areas. These changes transformed a blah cotton dress into a sassy cocktail dress. Susan says, thank you, Sarah Veblen!

Susan has also been having tons of fun making fascinators. She is wearing one example of her many creations here. Susan has generously offered to teach a series of fascinator workshops at Soutache in 2016. Afternoon tea anyone?

Carolyn made her runway debut in a three-piece ensemble that looks all business but is made from patterns whose names make us smile.

Her lined navy Italian wool pencil skirt is made from the Naughty Secretary Skirt pattern. Her knit top pattern is called It’s a Wrap and her neck scarf cardigan is from a free pattern from Swoon Patterns.


Instead of hemming the edges and sleeves of the cardigan as the pattern instructed, Carolyn chose to give them a lettuce edge with wooly nylon and used a rolled hemstitch on her serger.  With this level of skill you would think Carolyn has been sewing all her life, but she’s only been at it a few years. Pretty impressive, isn’t she?

Nancy made another appearance on the runway in an ensemble she made for a casual evening event that was part of a recent recent high school reunion. For her knit top, Nancy chose McCalls 7021, a pattern she had made before, and “shopped” in her stash until she found this polyester print. The length of time the fabric was in that stash is classified, just like the year of her high school reunion. Nancy says knits sew up in a jiffy, which is a good thing because Nancy started sewing this outfit the day before the event.

The pants pattern Nancy used is the Helix Pant from The Sewing Workshop. Nancy uses this pattern in fit workshops she teaches with her business partner Evelyn.

Steph also made two trips down the runway. The first was in her Spoonflower creation, which she documented on her blog, 10 Sewing Machines & a Serger.

The second was in this stunning rendition of Vogue Pattern 1435 in pink wool from Britex.

You can read about Steph’s construction process here.

Linda’s Spoonflower entry was a tunic in navy combed cotton. The McCalls pattern (M6971) features a shaped hemline, side slits and pockets. Linda plans to modify the hem once the trend for this shaping runs its course.

Linda’s cropped pants are made from fabric she bought at Mood last spring during her ASG Sew Much Fun Tour of New York’s Garment District.

Susan, the instigator of the Spoonflower challenge, selected modern jersey in both navy and green for her casual career dress. Her pattern is McCalls 7092. The jersey is lightweight and east to sew and Susan thinks the green adds just the right amount of pop at the neckline and sleeves.

Liz H. used peach polyester knit for this two-piece ensemble. Liz drafted the skirt pattern based on a sketch she made of a skirt she saw someone wearing. She does that a lot. Her top, which is from Butterick pattern 4132, features a cowl neckline and flouncy butterfly sleeves.

Wendy’s Spoonflower entry didn’t get done in time for the show, but will be seen at this summer’s ASG Conference in Indianapolis. Wendy made one trip down the runway in a two-piece navy linen dress that she blogged about here and here.

Ever the over-achiever, Liz H. had four entries in the fashion show.

Here she is showing two different versions of a striped skirt made from a Cynthia Guffey pattern that is designed to work magic with striped fabric. Liz, who loves to work with stripes, was beside herself with joy when she saw how the pattern works. It has no side seams, just side darts and the stripes seem to change directions from front to back. The stripes on the front are mitered into a “V” while the stripes in the back form an inverted “V”.

Liz found another fun skirt design in Simplicity 2449.  This flirty, bouncy skirt is formed from 10 panels that are bustled on the inside with ribbons sewn to the seam allowance. The ribbons can be untied and the skirt can be worn without the bustle.

Liz also participated in another neighborhood group’s challenge to make kimono-inspired garments. She used a 1985 Simplicity pattern, #0017, which has mellowed nicely in her archives. Her fabrics are rayon batik and a cross-dyed cotton purchased at two different sewing expos.


Sew Chicago on the Runway

Yes, Sew Chicago is still alive and well and we do have plans to revive this blog.

Yesterday, ASG Chicago Chapter held its annual fashion show and Sew Chicago was well-represented. Nancy and Wendy coordinated all the garments and paced the models. This was our second year working together on this. Wendy also wrote the commentary and Tina was our fabulous emcee.

This year, we challenged ourselves to make garments from a single print on  We voted last winter and chose the print Entangled by Heather Dutton of Hang Tight Studio. The print comes in a variety of colors and all the fabrications Spoonflower has to offer.

Six of us embarked on the challenge and four of the garments made it to the runway. Wendy’s is in rehab and may emerge next summer. Carolyn’s won’t be seeing the light of day. Here are the four that walked the runway yesterday:

Spoonflower GroupThose great-looking models are, from left to right, Linda, Liz H., Steph and Susan. Steph is our newest member. Both Linda and Steph made their first ever fashion show appearance yesterday.

Sew Chicago was one of four neighborhood groups that had group entries yesterday. All told, there were 65 works presented on the runway. It was a fun day and a great way to inspire our members and guests to sew.

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