At our December brunch, someone asked whether anyone had good ideas about what to do with scraps. That got us to thinking. Hats – the kind you sew, which once were called dressmaker’s hats – typically use about a half yard of fabric, plus even less for lining. And they can be downright adorable, so why not do a program on hats?

Our Chief Creative Officer, Stephanie King, took the idea and ran with it. She not only made samples to show and discuss, but she made up kits for everyone to take home and try themselves.here. As you can see, it makes an adorable hat worthy of Miss Fisher. The maroon wool fabric for the kits came from fabric that was donated to to the ASG Chicago chapter. Valerie Koppenhaver brought the fabric to the January Mary Ray workshop as a special treat for the attendees.


Steph showed samples of other hats she made, discussed the types of interfacing that work well (she put samples of those in the kits) and went over the simple construction process. She also demonstrated the proper method for measuring your head to choose the correct size and measured anyone who was interested on the spot.

Lee also brought in a sample of a hat she sewed for her daughter.

Steph’s Sew & Tell was her wonderful shirt with a dropped neckline and rolled collar following the instructions in Sarah Veblen’s article in Threads Magazine No. 182, December 2015/January 2016.

Liz Houlihan showed her fun top with the surprise in the back.This is from the new Marcy Tilton Vogue pattern #9207.

And both Liz and Steph showed us the Tremont Jackets they made in class with Linda Lee at Sewcial on February 11th. In the few days we’ve been back from that trip, Liz whipped up another version of the Tremont Jacket in a great striped silk dupioni she found at Fabrications in Richland, Michigan on the way home.

Sew & Tell also included Wendy’s first Appleton Dress and Lee’s latest purse with all sorts of organizer pockets.

We hope to see everyone at our March meeting- Incorporating Lace in Garments. You can see a full schedule of Sew Chicago meetings on the Calendar of Events page.


Sew Chicago’s 2017 Kickoff

Sew Chicago welcomed the new year in January with a lively roundtable discussion of favorite sewing tips. The business meeting was led by our new co-leader Stephanie King, who has  chosen the honorary title Chief Creative Officer.


Liz Buckley-Geer brought in a great technique for inserting invisible zippers with a clean finish from an article by Gail Grigg Hazen published in Threads Magazine No. 59, July 1995.


Linda explained what she’s learned about altering pants patterns to get the fit just right. She also explained how she made herself a cost-saving alternative to a seam stick that is long enough to press an entire pants seam without having to reposition the fabric.

Wendy shared the amazingly easy and always accurate technique for inset corners that Susan Khaljie teaches.

Steph showed us a sample of a great zippered pocket with the bag attached to the waistband so it stays put.

She also brought in samples of free lace inspired by one of the garments in Mary Ray’s trunk show and some fun noodly shapes she made from strips of knit fabric that were ready to be made into a necklace.

These and other tips sparked discussions of other helpful techniques.

Sew & Tell included Liz Buckley-Geer’s lovely sweater from The Fearless T-Shirt pattern by Cecelia Podolak.

Steph showed us another one of her fabulous knit dresses from Vogue 1336 that showcases her talent for combining fabrics as well as intricate construction.

img_0156Wendy showed her peplum blouse and Debbie W. got some advice from the group on pattern alterations. We can’t wait to see the finished product!





Mary Ray Workshop

This past weekend ASG Chicago offered a Friday evening trunk show and 2 half day workshops with designer, clothing maker and teacher Mary Ray.

Despite the bitterly cold temperatures there was a full house for this special event, including quite a few regulars from our Sew Chicago Neighborhood group. It was a special treat to spend a full day together learning, sewing and being inspired by Mary Ray.

This special event started with a trunk show on Friday evening at the College of Dupage in the Fashion department.


A sample of some of the beautiful garments that Mary Ray brought to show off during the trunk show and lecture.

Satyrdays workshops were held in the sewing room at College of Dupage Fashions department. This worked out great! No one had to lug their sewing machines around. Many of us worked on the industrial JUKI sewing machines. It sure was fun to try those out, most of us had to turn down the speed, we just aren’t used to sewing that fast on our home models.

The space in the Fashion department is quite lovely! Great big rooms with a wall of windows. SO much natural light and space to work in without being overcrowded.


The morning workshop was on Tucks, Pleats and Folds

Description from Mary Ray Designs website: Simple techniques often produce the most effective embellishment. In this class, you’ll explore numerous ways to create texture, emphasize style lines, add detail, or just jazz up a basic garment using easy-to-do tucks, pleats, and folds. You’ll learn the secrets of measuring, pressing, and stitching—and get lots of design ideas, too

Mary started the workshop off with a short lecture and demo and then we moved onto sewing techniques. She provided us with a very well put together kit. For each technique she first discussed its use and when applicable showed us either garments that incorporated this technique or showed us samples that she had made.


Wide pintucks with an insertion. On the left is the sample we created in class and on the right is a beautiful silk organza skirt created using this technique.


Inserted tucks. Left sample we created and on the right are 2 garments made using variations on this technique.


pictured clockwise from upper left: Waffle tucks in yellow, Easy pleated trim, Random fused folds and Slot seam.


The afternoon workshop was on Well-Crafted Edges, Plain & Fancy

Description from Mary Ray Designs website: The hems and outer edges of your garments deserve special attention. In this class you’ll learn many ways to a smooth, professional finish – including perfectly turned facings, beautiful bindings, decorative piping and applied trims, as well as how to leave edges raw and get away with it. You’ll pick up ideas for wonderful closures, too.

As in the morning workshop, Mary Ray started out with discussion about different techniques showing us both samples and the techniques applied to her own garments.


Example of a baby hem on a beautiful wrap belt on the left and the right shows my example of the baby hem. This was much easier to do then fighting with the rolled hem foot on my machine! It may take slightly longer to do but you are guaranteed a much better result.


Hong Kong seam finish in a quilted jacket, left and right is sample created in workshop.


I found this techniques to be very interesting. When creating an unlined garment and want to roll back a cuff to show off the other side of the fabric you can switch the side your seam is sewn on. Top is finished sample we created, a mini cuff. the 2 bottom photos show the seam allowances on each side of the seam.


We also created samples for various other techniques including Applique binding, miters, and tube trim.

If you missed this workshop you can always sign up for Mary Ray’s Craftsy class: The Fashionably Quilted Jacket. craftsy.com/quiltedjacket


Group photo of the afternoon workshop participants.

Thanks to ASG Chicago Board members  Valerie Koppenhaver, President and Elizabeth Houlihan, Education for putting this workshop together! And special thanks to Sharon Scalise and College of DuPage. Don’t miss out on future events, check in with your Neighborhood group leader or keep an eye on the Chicago chapter website special events page.





Sew Chicago’s Festive Holiday 2016


Sew Chicago celebrated another year of learning, support and camaraderie with our annual holiday brunch. This is the third year that we held our brunch at Troquet River North, where we enjoyed a warm welcome and a variety of tempting menu selections.


This year, Linda made the table extra festive with centerpieces that showcased her machine’s decorative stitches and made good use of fabrics that have aged long enough in her fiber archive.

We continued our traditions of sewing-related gift exchange and party favors. This year’s  favor included samples of fine Japanese hand sewing needles compliments of Sarah Veblen.


Another tradition we continued was brainstorming ideas for program topics for the coming year. The result was a full calendar of programs for 2017, which are now posted on our Calendar Page.

Sew & Tell included Stephanie’s latest Appleton Dress from Cashmerette Patterns, Debra’s latest ensemble from Style Arc Patterns made of scuba knit and Linda’s hand-knitted shawl and the details of her centerpieces, which fold for easy storage.

For the second year in a row, brunch was followed by a field trip to Fishman’s Fabrics, where some of us found some absolutely irresistible additions to our fiber archives. At least some of these discoveries are destined for projects in early 2017.

All of us at Sew Chicago hope you are enjoying a very happy holiday season. We send our best wishes for a happy and creative 2017.


Sew Chicago at Soutache

November’s meeting was held at Soutache Ribbons and Trim. Maili Powell, owner of Soutache, keeps her shop open late for us, lets us use her wonderful space, bring in food and drinks and in return we all have time to shop her exquisite collections of ribbons, laces, trim and buttons. I think almost everyone at this meeting ended the evening with a new treasure or two! Some of us left with a quite a bit more 🙂

The program for this meeting was a roundtable discussion of what we each learned and took away from the ASG national meeting in July. It was very nice to have a couple months to see what things we actually learned, started to use and put into implementation.

Linda Anders showed off her new gored skirt that she started at conference and brought home and completed! Linda also gave us the rundown on her conference experience, one of her goals was to try out different sergers since she is looking to make a purchase in the next year.img_9142

Wendy Grossman, our NG leader, showed off the necklines that she developed in the day long Neckline class with Sarah Veblen. These are still in the mockup stage and we are all looking forward to seeing what great neckline design Wendy comes up with in her next garment.

To follow along with the neckline theme, Stephanie and Wendy discussed the 1/2 day Jennifer Stern neckline class that they took. This class took the basic boatneck neckline form The Tee pattern and changed it up in many ways. Both members have gone ahead and run with the neckline variations! You can see Stephanie’s variations in this blog post- Neckline Extravaganza. Jennifer Stern has a wonderful booklet available and a class on Pattern Review called Beyond the Boatneck. If this was a class that interested you and you could not make it to the national conference then this video class is just what you need! Guest member, Monica Walker, from the northern Virginia chapter just happened to be  wearing one of her versions of The Tee. teeworkbookcover-1024x576

Wendy discussed techniques from a class with Vaughn Pierce who teaches Heirloom sewing techniques. She showed off a sample with baby piping! A very delicate and lovely application.

The last roundtable discussion was on a class taught by Janet Pray on waistband and zippers. Wendy brought in the samples completed in the class and Stephanie showed off the burrito waistband techniques used on the skirt she wore that evening.Both agreed that they really enjoyed this class. Janet took her time and made sure that everyone was moving along. The format was a discuss, demonstrate and then hands on for each step of the project.IMG_1860

This brings us right into the details of the Sewcial retreat in Novi, Michigan in February. There will be shopping at Haberman’s on Friday, a day long class with Janet Pray on Saturday and a day long class with Linda Lee on Sunday. Several members are signed up to go! Here is the link to The Sewcial February retreat if anyone is interested in joining.

Valerie Kopppenhaver, ASG Chicago chapter president, joined us for the evening to show off samples from the latest Chicago chapter workshop given by Gail Patrice Yellen. Gail Patrice Yellen had a friday evening trunk show and two half day hands-on workshops. The first workshop was on embellishments and the second was a take on bound buttonholes.


Sew and Tell-

Linda showed off the shirt she wore in the chapter fashion show, complete with trim from Soutache!


Stephanie showed off a self drafted long wool princess seamed pencil skirt trimmed with chunky zippers and a Cynthia Guffey top trimmed with rayon ribbon from Soutache.

Special thank you to Maili Powell for keeping her store, Soutache, open quite late for us!

Reminder: December’s meeting is our annual Holiday Brunch on Saturday December 10th. Please check your inbox for the invite!

Sew Chicago walks the runway!

Thank you to all the Sew Chicago members that participated in the ASG Chicago chapter annual fashion show and luncheon.

We had 4 members, Wendy Grossman, Liz Houlihan, Linda Anders and Stephanie King walk the runway in the Sew Chicago Neighborhood group challenge of a buttoned down shirt. The criteria for the challenge was to make a button down shirt with collar and cuffs and at least one embellishment. The embellishment could be decorative topstitching, contrast fabric or actual embellished details such as trim or buttons.

The shirts ranged from casual to evening, fitted to relaxed and had a variety of details. Stephanie completed her look with a black layered skirt that had lovely movement as she walked.  Linda and Wendy wore pants they made from the Eureka! They Fit pattern from Fit for Art that Sarah Veblen fit on them in workshops.

The Chicago Chapter Fabric challenge had a large number of adult garments this year with a total of 8 tops and 5 or 6 entries for the accessories category. Due to the choice of fabric, a polyester silky, some of the other challenge sections were sparsely entered. Only one entry each for home decor, kids garments and doll clothing.

We had one entry from Sew Chicago from Stephanie King. It was Cynthia Guffey blouse t-2025 with ruched sleeves and neckline.


Sew Chicago generously donated a basket full of notions and 2 separate packages of batting for raffle giveaway prizes. Several other neighborhood groups also donated gift baskets for the raffle. Some of the best prizes were for fabric store gift cards! Linda Anders was the only one from our table to win a prize this year.



Our chief instigator, Wendy Grossman looked beautiful as she kicked off the runway show in her Neighborhood group challenge from LAST year! We finally got to see Wendy’s Spoonflower dress walk the runway. She did such a wonderful job on this dress and we can all agree that it was worth the wait to see it!

Wendy also showed off her ‘leaf’ dress that she made over the summer for a rehearsal dinner party in NYC. The time she spent on her pattern placement really pays off with the perfectly effortless look of this dress. This one was a real stunner and the audience really enjoyed it.

Stephanie also took to the runway to share 2 of her favorite garments. The first to go down was the beautiful yellow jacket ensemble that she made for her granddaughter’s baptism this past June. The yellow fabric is just so vibrant and full of life and those sleeves are works of art! The second garment was her ‘sneaker’ dress. This fabric was purchased in July at the ASG National meeting from Cutting Line Designs and before the end of the month this dress was completed. Yellow converse sneakers and yellow sunglasses complete this fun summertime look.

Thank you to all the Sew Chicago members that come out and supported the runway models and the Chicago chapter. Wendy Grossman, Liz Buckley-Geer, Linda Anders, MaryFran McMahon, Liz Houlihan, Danielle Schultz, Nicole Barker, Stephanie King and guest Melissa Janowicz.  We all had a lovely afternoon together! Next time I promise to get a group picture!



Accessorize Me!

The October meeting at Sew Chicago was all about accessories. As designers and sewists we spend a lot of time thinking about the clothes that we make. Many decisions come into play such as choices about color, silhouette, fabric type, construction details and more. As sewists we expect our garments to have a voice, to make a statement to the world and the people that we come in contact with. However, we  often struggle with how to accessorize our beautifully sewn garments. We all have our go-to shoes and our go-to jewelry that we just automatically reach for, it’s time to break free from those habitual motions and time to accessorize our garments thoughtfully.

If we just take a few extra minutes to reach outside our comfort zone you may just surprise yourself with what you can come up with! Try on different jewelry and shoes and just see how it looks. Ask a friend or a loved one their opinion or take a photo in the mirror of several choices, this allows you to take a step back and become an impartial viewer and look at the entire picture you are presenting not just focused in on a single area.

In our last meeting members were encouraged to bring the outfits that they would be wearing for the fashion show or any garment that they just wanted some help with accessorizing.

Wendy and I both brought our garments for the fashion show and we both ended up accessorizing differently than if we had been left to our own devices. Having a supportive group session to discuss and encourage was a perfect way to make accessory decisions. Thank you to everyone for your input.

October Sew and Tell:

We ended our meeting with a lively discussion started by Danielle. She posted the question to the group about what we all did with our old patterns, do we save them? or do we recycle them/give them away/throw them away? The group was pretty much split down the middle! Some of us keep them and save them for posterity and/or later use and some of us routinely get rid of old, unwanted or unused patterns. I personally, have a small house and do not have the room to store hundreds of patterns so I am not a saver and I also find too many patterns to be mentally cluttering. I believe Danielle said she has every pattern she has ever sewn up! What a great way to reminisce and to jog your memory on so many past projects. I can see merits to both saving and purging. Fell free to chime in and leave a comment on your opinion, should they stay or should they go?

We look forward to seeing everyone at the November meeting.

*Special date and place* Friday November 18th at Soutache.

Contemplating Coats

IMG_1979Yes, it’s been hot and humid this summer, but we Chicago gals know that won’t last for long. Before we know it, the weather reports will be talking about wind chill. Before that happens is the best time to assess our outerwear for fall and winter and decide whether we need to add to that part of our collection.

To help us plan, Linda walked us through a comprehensive list of practical considerations when constructing a wool coat that can stand up to long waits on an El platform in the worst of Chicago’s winter weather. In addition to warmth, her advice addressed durability so we won’t have to tackle this project again for several years. For greatest durability, Linda recommends sew-in interfacing. Coat designs with single button or no closure are great for those whose only exposure to the elements is the trip across a sidewalk from a limousine, but the rest of us in the Windy City need a full complement of buttons. And don’t forget to check the pocket size on your pattern. You might need to increase it so it can accommodate the warm gloves you’ll need to stow away.

Liz B. brought a gorgeous faux fur-trimmed coat she made and a copy of the Marfy pattern catalogue for us to browse beautiful coat patterns. It was enough to inspire even the most reluctant of us to try our hand at a coat.

Our handout collected information on Wool Melton from More Fabric Savvy by Sandra Bettina and Claire Shaeffer’s Fabric Sewing Guide, off-grain openings and steam shrinking sleeve caps from Couture – The Art of Fine Sewing by Roberta Carr and construction notes Linda took in a class with Marla Kazell. Another highly recommended resource is Tailoring from the Singer Sewing Library.


Sew & Tell included Mollie’s latest beautiful knitted sweater and a fun and practical hat she was inspired to sew after reading an entry on Rhonda Buss’ blog.

Liz B. showed us a great dress she made from fabric reclaimed from a vintage skirt. The “vintage” McCall’s pattern she used for this adorable dress was the pattern Mollie’s bridesmaids used. In the author’s opinion, it looks absolutely perfect to sew and wear today.


Debbie wrapped up our August Sew & Tell with the latest dress she made from her favorite go-to pattern. Don’t you love the pocket detail?


Happy Labor Day weekend to all.

ASG National Conference 2016


Sunrise in Indianapolis

Indianapolis was the birthplace of the American Sewing Guild and it was the site for its 2016 Annual Conference. Four Sew Chicago members were there to meet sewing enthusiasts from all over the country, expand our knowledge of sewing and design and add to our collections of fabric, patterns, books and tools.

We arrived late Wednesday afternoon, just in time to meet Jennifer Stern-Hasemann of J. Stern Designs. Then it was off to dinner with Sarah Veblen and Monica Walker.


On Thursday, three of us took Sarah Veblen’s all-day workshop designing flattering necklines. Monica assisted Sarah in this class. Steph and Wendy were roommates, and we had to test out our jewel-necked mock-ups we brought for class.

Everyone left the workshop with multiple necklines to try out.


Thursday evening was the opening of the vendor hall. The first booth was Anne St. Clair’s Needle Nook Fabrics. Anne had thoughtfully made up kits that are perfect for the lingerie sew-along we’re planning for the Sew Chicago sewing retreat in October.


We also found must-have trims at Soutache Ribbons and Trim and fabric – of course – at Cutting Line Designs and Fabrications.

Fabrications is where we’re having our retreat in October, so we’ll have an opportunity to shop with them again very soon. 

Friday was the official opening of the “core conference.”


Wendy and Liz started off with a hands-on class on Fine Finishes taught by Vaune Pierce. We made samples shown in Vaune’s article that was featured on the cover of this month’s Threads Magazine.

Stephanie took Fabulous Shirts and Blouses with Marla Kazell. Where the class started with a wonderful trunk show of the many ideas that you can make a single, well fitting shirt pattern into. The rest of the class was all about playing with ideas! The kit included quarter scale shirt patterns plus 3 different full scale hidden placket designs.

One of the highlights of Conference this year was the Keynote address by Linda Przbyszewski, Ph.D. (Professor P.), author of The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish. Those of us who have read the book have been inspired to make and wear day dresses. Her talk was delightful and the pictures she showed were chock full of inspiration. Autographed copies of our books and a picture with her was a must.

Steph & Wendy with Linda P

Friday afternoon saw several of us in the same class, Innovative Set-In Sleeves with Sarah Veblen.


There were over 50 students in the class, and many who hadn’t worked with Sarah before were highly skeptical at the beginning of her lecture. As the class progressed, it was fun to watch Sarah win over the skeptics. The new designs Sarah presented gave us lots of new ideas to try out.

Friday night, we enjoyed a fabulous dinner at St. Elmo’s Restaurant, an Indianapolis tradition.

Bright and early Saturday morning, Stephanie and Wendy took Jen Stern-Hasmann’s class, Beyond the Boatneck, in which she led us through several neckline variations for her flattering knit top pattern.

Then it was off to an early lunch so we could change to model in the fashion show. It was a thrill to be in the line-up with so many nationally-recognized sewing educators and accomplished sewists from around the country. Stephanie and Wendy each modeled two ensembles. We’ll post pictures once they’re available.


Two other members of the ASG Chicago Chapter were in the fashion show. Jeanette, who won the editor’s choice award at the show, and Lori, who modeled the ensemble that won her first place in the Illinois Make it With Wool contest.

On Sunday, Wendy and Stephanie capped off the Conference experience with an all-day workshop with Janet Pray learning the Islander Sewing System method for inserting a zipper and attaching a waistband, all without pins.

We headed home on Monday, but first stopped at The French Seam to buy more fabric.

We had four very full days of learning new things, stretching our creativity, adding to our fabric collections, meeting new people who love to sew as much as we do and hanging out with good friends. What more could we ask for?

Here’s a last look at the view of downtown Indianapolis from our hotel window.


Border Prints Beyond Boho

We are all familiar with the traditional use of border prints in garments – place the border along the hem of a skirt or dress. At our June meeting, Sew Chicago explored other possibilities for using non-directional border prints and some tips about using these fabrics in garments.

Liz H. treated us to a trunk show of her border print creations, which included this silk charmeuse border print dress made from the Fashion in Harmony Magic Bias Dress pattern.

Here are some other pieces from her collection:

Wendy made a handout with inspiration pictures and tips that included some pictures of  auditioning border print placement on a dress form.

Steph was unable to attend, due to a scheduling conflict. But she provided an excellent blog post about summer pants she made from a lovely floral border print.

Linda brought some great border prints from her collection and several patterns that lend themselves to border prints. Thank you for shlepping all that to work so you could share it with us at our meeting, Linda!

For Sew and Tell our newest member, Liz B, wore an example of a directional border print in a skirt she redesigned from a thrift store find.


Liz H. showed a knit and a woven sheath dress made from the same pattern.


Debora showed the one purse she made for herself this year, and Linda showed her completed prototype of the Perfectly Fitted Shirt by the Cup-full by J. Stern Designs, which Jen fitted for Linda at ASG National Conference in St. Louis.

Speaking of ASG National Conference, a group of Sew Chicago members will be there in July. It’s going to be tons of fun!

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