The Pinch Test: The Key to Understanding Fit in Clothing

By Susan Lazear

Sometimes the simplest things in life are the ones we don’t easily see. I would say this is true with sewers and knitters, and crocheters when it comes to understanding how much ease they like in their clothing. When I’m teaching patternmaking or fitting, and helping people create or edit patterns for themselves, I’ll often ask individuals how much ease they want in the style. And.. I’m often met with a questioning stare. There are some simple tactic, which I term “Understanding your Fit Preferences” and one of these involves an understanding of the ease you like in your garments.

What is Ease?

There are two types of ease: wearing and style. Wearing ease is what you need in a garment to breathe, sit, and move. On average, based on a size 10/12, one needs 2 inches at the bust and hips and 1 inch at the waist. This increases/decreases slightly if your body size is larger or smaller, respectively. Of course, if there is spandex in the fabric or you are working with a knit, you don’t need as much. Style ease is the added ease that helps define the style. An oversized boxy garment could have 32 inches of ease at bust/hip, and a fitted jacket might have simply the wearing ease of 2 inches at bust/hip.

If you are going to design or edit patterns for sewing, or fit commercial patterns prior to cutting them out, you need to develop a sense of how much ease you want in the garment. If you are going to knit or crochet, you need to take the time to understand the schematic of your pattern, and if it is not provided, you should make one based on stitches/rows and your gauge.  The best way to understand your personal ease preferences to make a date with your closet and use what I lovingly call the ‘Pinch Test’.

The Pinch Test

The Pinch Test involves simply putting a garment on, and pinching out the ease at the appropriate places, typically the bust and/or hip. Pay attention to the weight and drape of the fabric as this plays a key role in the amount of ease used. Typically, garments made with soft fluid fabrics may have much more ease than garments made with stiffer fabrics. Measure the pinch and multiply it by four to calculate how much ease is in the garment. For example, if you get a two-inch pinch, you will have eight inches of ease in the garment in total (2” X4, which includes the left and right, front and back). The goal is to learn as much as you can about your favorite garments, and ease preferences is a key item.

So, grab a notebook, a measuring tape, and a handful of your favorite pieces. Begin by measuring your own body measurements to notate your bust, waist. and hip. Now, make a chart and create columns; Garment, Style, Fabric, Ease Pinch: Bust, Ease Pinch: Waist, Ease Pinch: Hip.

Put a garment on and pinch out the ease. It helps to hold the center of the garment in place, as you pinch at the side. Now, measure the depth of the pinch. Write it down. Continue through your group of garments, completing the chart as you go.


If you multiply the pinch depth by four and add it to your body measurement, you will know the circumference of the garment at that point.

Try a couple of different garments that have different fabrics, and levels of fit. My black top is fitted at the bust, but is an A-line, so less fitted at the hips. It has a 5/8” pinch at the bust which equals 2-1/2” total ease. (5/8” X 4). At the hips I get a 3” pinch which equates to 12 total inches of ease. If I add those two measurements to my body measurements (38” bust and 40” hip), then I can see that my pattern would need a total perimeter of 40-1/2” at the bust and 52” at the hip.

My print jacket is a semi-fitted double-knit which has some ‘body’ to the fabric. Both my bust and hip pinches are the same at 1-5/8”. Thus, the total ease at both the bust and hip is 6-1/2”.

My orange sweater is made with a firm knit, and it is a boxy style. The bust pinch is 3 inches and the hip pinch is 2-3/4 inches equaling a total of 12 inches ease at the bust and 11 inches of ease at the hip.

Not only is the information you gain from the pinch test handy; it is invaluable. Use it prior to scrutinizing a commercial pattern, prior to cutting your fabric, or to adding ease when you are drafting your own. You have just given yourself the ammunition you need to create or modify patterns so that there is no surprise or disappointment… and what about the elimination of muslin sample? Now, that is cool!

You can seem my notations in the chart I created in Excel. Eventually, this information will become ingrained, as it moves to knowledge as opposed to data.

Using What You Have Learned

There are many ways to use the knowledge you have just gained:

  • If I were working with commercial sewing patterns, I would lay the pattern flat on the table and measure its width at bust/waist/hip. Then, by subtracting your bust/waist/hip, you can easily calculate how much ease is built into the style and determine if it suits your fit preferences, given the choice of fabric. If it doesn’t modify the pattern.
  • If I were going to knit or crochet a pattern, I’d look at the schematic and compare it to my body + ease measurements to see if the pattern and its ease suit my taste and the hand/drape of the knit/crochet swatch I just made. If it doesn’t modify the pattern.
  • When I design patterns (by hand or on computer), I am beginning with my body and a style, and so I simply ensure that I have the desired ease.
  • Garment Designer software users can look at the ease easily when they create patterns, and if the Sloper is turned on, it is easy to see and measure the ease in any style. So, pinch test information can slide directly over to the pattern.

Over Time….

Keep adding to your chart; in fact, make it become a morning mantra to pinch out the ease on whatever garment you are wearing for the day. Always make a mental note of the style (fitted, semi-fitted, average, over-size, etc.), and the fabric.  Soon you won’t need to refer to the chart, and you will simply ‘know’.


The Pinch Test is a great tool to use in the dressing room when you are trying on clothing. I use it all the time to evaluate a style so I can recreate it at home. I’ve gotten pretty good at eyeing the depth of my pinch and determining how many inches it is.

Susan Lazear is a Professor at San Diego Community College and the owner of Cochenille Design Studio, a company that develops software for sewers, knitters, and other fiber crafts. She will be teaching a class at Sewing and Stitchery Expo called “Fit Preferences: Understanding How you Like Your Clothes to Fit”. There you will learn more about the Pinch Test and other helpful information.

Awakening My Design Eye

By Marlis Kuusela – Owner of Flair Designs

Laws of Attraction

When fabric patterns or designs catch my eye, an inner voice says, “I like that!” I usually get a warm feeling that accompanies the discovery, grateful for the chance to find a new treasure that makes my life richer. Many times, I go on without analyzing why I like it and place the experience to the back of my mind and wait for other things to follow. Over the years, customers have asked me, “How or where do you find the beautiful items you have for sale?” or, “How do you get your ideas for garments?” My answer to these questions is: “The items I have for sale and my design ideas find me without a conscious effort.” These special objects or solutions to problems always show up at the most unexpected times and places. I have taught art for many years, I know what I like in terms of design elements and I am open to seeing similarities and crossovers in different mediums. This awareness allows me to notice similar things in my environment. People that know why they like something are much more likely to attract and notice those things around them.

Awakening a Design Eye  

   So, how do you awaken your design eye if you are not sure of why you like or dislike something? All of us are capable of improving our sense of observation.

We must develop an awareness with purpose.

As you see something that strikes your fancy, analyze why you like it in terms of the elements of art. *

Better yet, write your thoughts down and take pictures to jog your memory. This intentional thought will hone your inner design sense and sharpen your awareness of the environment.  You will begin noticing more and more things that are similar, in short, they will offer more opportunity for you to be aware of your design eye. For example: this wallpaper design  was drawn by William Morris. The following analysis tells why I like the design. 

Analysis of William Morris Design

Color: It contains various values of low intensity colors and uses a limited palette. Ex. Light, Medium, Dark Olive Green-Light, Medium, Neutral Rose.

Shape: It uses intertwining wild rose vine in lattice and relies on perspective to create a 3D image on a flat surface.

Value: The shading is incomplete; some areas are colored while others are just line and the shading is reversed…see space below.

Space: Some positive space shaded (flowers), some negative space (behind the lattice).

Visual Texture: Thorns, wood grain…some textures left incomplete, while
others are detailed.

Line: Undulating curves are woven around straight lattice lines. There are many areas of detailed drawing vs. sketch which gives a feeling of selective focus.

Notice I tried to be as specific as I could in the element descriptions. For example, under color I tried to describe specific qualities of color, not just I like the color.

Art Elements

If you are unfamiliar with definitions of the art elements, the chart gives a basic description.  Elements may overlap, for example, colors contain value, and lines may have texture. Being able to pick out these qualities in design helps you zero in on what you like and just as importantly knowing what you do not like.

Seeing these Elements in your Environment

Once you have made note of these elements, you will begin to notice them in your surroundings.

As an example: the color scheme of muted pinks and greens was used in a book cover for a mail order catalog with sweatshirts to match. These colors remind me of the Morris Design.

   Nature is always a good place to find inspiration. Trees, leaves, or patterns on animals are endless. Catalogs like Sundance, Coldwater Creek, and Soft Surroundings, to name a few, are great places to look for design and frequently are inspired by nature. Remember, it is just as important to figure out why you don’t like a design, as like it. You learn just as much from your dislikes, as well as, your likes.

The Creative Stew

Letting your newly found likes and dislikes slow cook is part of the thinking process, so don’t rush yourself. You probably won’t use all of the ideas in one project. You might find you like and often use only a couple. Be open to changing plans as you work and welcome mistakes which drive us to new solutions. The following images show art elements in my previous projects which share qualities in the Morris design like: muted color, reversal of positive and negative space, undulating line, and visual/tactile texture. Notice how very different they look from his work, yet they share commonalities.

The throw vest above uses the olive-green muted value tones and reverses positive and negative space. Each vest side and trim are the exact opposite color of one another. The textural fringe on the lapels contrasts with the smooth chenille woven yardage.

Element analysis will make your design eye clearer. 

Finally, keep in mind there are no right or wrong design eyes. Be true to your thoughts. The more you practice this exercise, the more things will find you that relate to each other. This awareness will make your life richer and will make you a better designer as you awaken your design eye.

Intertwining line, undulating shapes, clear versus incomplete focus and reversal of light and dark are hallmarks of the wall hanging, necklace and jacket. Muted colors, asymmetrical piecing, and high value contrast are also standbys for my design eye.

Sushi Wall Hanging – Below


Jigsaw Airbrushed Necklace


Liberty Shirt with Flair


About the Author: Marlis Kuusela created Flair Designs in the early 1990’s to sell her airbrushed fabrics to quilters and garment makers. She continues to teach creative thinking and sell her fabrics to a loyal clientele nationally and internationally after 30 years. Check out Flair Designs on Facebook! 

Using Varying Needle Art Specialties to Create Three-Dimensional Cosplays

Cosplay broadened my horizons about what can be achieve through needle art. By nature, cosplay is a very three-dimensional hobby. The bigger your dreams are, the further you must reach into the craft to execute various aspects of art from. I have always been a sewist, but because of cosplay, I have ventured into the realms of making hats, shoes, armors, wig fashioning, aging fabrics, and endless explorations into makeup art. This article will be mostly based on what we can do to push the boundaries of our sewing/embroidery machine.

One of the biggest challenges in remaining faithful to the original cosplay concept is the unique and often obscure fabrics, trims, and embellishments that the artists designed for the character. My usual way of thinking is to work through with traditional hand or machine embroidery. If it is a specialty techy fabric, I also consider getting the fabric printed or creating freestanding lace. For example, I made several earrings and necklace from the set of freestanding lace.

An embroidery machine’s ability to stitch out freestanding lace allows for gorgeous raised surface details as well as freestanding components for your costuming needs. Whether you want to design your own or buy a design online, I have found a few useful tips on embroidering and would love to share with you.

  1. Use a strong water- soluble stabilizer that keeps stitches aligned. This ensures that the stitches lock together to form the structure and hold.
  2. Use 30-40 weight cotton thread whenever possible. Cotton has a lot of unique qualities that can stabilize stitches together and form structure. This is essential in forming freestanding lace.
  3. Use variegated threads to achieve different looks. Use dye to achieve a specific color pattern or to add dimension to the design. You’ll be surprised when you realize the different effects this can achieve!

While making armor and such, you probably wouldn’t think of using fabric to execute a stiff design. But there are ways to ensure sure these kinds of creative expressions are possible. For example, this set of arm bracers is made of 100% sewable fabric.

The reinforcing substrate that I used is felt and thick stabilizer. The raised detail is a combination of freestanding lace and a 3D embroidery with 3MM puff foam.

The materials are:

Try it for yourself by downloading the Bracer Pattern. Watch the video below for the full process.

Video Transcript

About the Author: Anna He is a costume designer and cosplay artist based out of Seattle. She has designed patterns for McCall and has worked for brands including Norma Kamali, Eileen Fisher, and Nordstrom. Get to know more about Anna and her work  Join Anna in classes #3930 & 3931 for more great techniques regardless of whether or not you’re a cosplayer or sewing for everyday wear! 

The Importance of Belonging


In this busy, busy world, finding time to pursue our precious sewing and stitchery arts can be tough. And often the thought of joining a group or guild feels like just another distraction. But joining a group can actually be the most life-sustaining thing we do to support and pursue our creative interests. Belonging is amazingly important and foundational to inspiration!

Community Benefits


Groups and guilds are devoted to encouraging their members and offering help with questions, techniques and specific projects. Yearly dues are nominal, meetings are generally held monthly and include opportunities for demos of new tools and tricks as well as lively conversation with other members. Optional yearly or bi-yearly retreats and special events are a valuable bonus benefit of membership. What could be better than several long days and nights dedicated to sewing with those who understand your passion?

Over the years, I have belonged to many different groups. My membership and attendance at meetings has been incredibly vital to my creative life. I rush home from meetings, head straight to my sewing spa and immerse myself in plans and projects inspired by fellow members. And I’m not alone! Chatting online with members of the Seattle Chapter of the American Sewing Guild reinforced the joyous benefits of group membership.

  • “I love being with my tribe! No shortage of fabulous sewing sisters in my life, thanks to ASG!!” – Maris
  • “It’s a tribal thing, complete with fitting buddies who have my back–literally.” – Carolyn
  • “I love the excitement that comes from meeting up with people that are so willing to share and learn from one another. I also love seeing what others are making and getting inspiration from them. Oh, and seeing the tricks and tools they use!” – Molly

Finding Your Tribe

Across the US, Canada, Australia and other countries, specialized groups and guilds are available near almost every town. An online search for sewing, quilting, needlework, stitchery, knitting or crochet guild will bring up contact information and possibly web sites that you can explore. But if there’s nothing in your nearby area, why not start your own group? Those of us who quilt or sew usually know at least one or two others who share our “stitchy” obsessions and that’s a great start right there!

Quilting guilds have long been instrumental in nurturing our desire for “no idle hands.” Although most of us do not sew or quilt out of necessity, the art of quilting holds a unique appeal in our technological society. Quilting guild members gather for quilting bees, retreats, special speakers, joint charitable projects and small group opportunities. Members are enthusiastic about their groups and the benefits they receive from belonging as I learned from more online chatting.

  • “I have been a member of a large guild and a couple of smaller groups. I love it for the inspiration, a place to show quilts, a place to give charity quilts and retreats. The smaller groups especially foster deep friendships. “ – Carol
  • “I quilt once a week at a local church with a GREAT ecumenical group of women making charity quilts which are distributed worldwide! Every few months we lay the quilts on the church pews for Sunday Service before they are taken to a distribution center!” – Linda
  • “We have a very active group of around 80 to 100 ladies. We have a quilt show every two years. Many of the ladies meet in their houses for quilting bees. Our ladies share their talents, help new ones get started, and are fun to be with.” – Gail

The Sewing and Stitchery Expo is the perfect place to find a group or guild to join! Fabric, notions, and pattern vendors often know about groups from their local area or may have a guild meeting right in their store. Sewing machine dealers often have groups that meet in their stores, too! These groups are often focused on particular techniques or your chosen machine. At this year’s show, you’ll find booths manned by the American Sewing Guild, the Embroiderers Guild of America, charitable Sew Powerful and more. Stop by their booths, ask questions and see what fits you and your interests. You may go home with lots of friends, a new membership and a powerful sense of belonging!

Grouping Up Online

Online groups abound and are a good supplement or substitute for in-person meetings. Facebook is full of creative group pages that charge no fee and offer inspiration, support and fun challenges. The best place to start is the Sewing & Stitchery Expo’s page. Here, you can connect with attendees from all over the world to share advice, projects, and ask questions. This online community serves as a wonderful resource for not only finding but creating new connections! New Expo fabric vendor, Sew So English also offers a wonderful Facebook group full of inspiring pictures of smiling sewists wearing SSE fabrics and offering sewing tips. Check your favorite fabric company or store and you may find that tribe meeting online, too!

While many groups and guilds include a charitable component in their yearly activities, there are also online groups centered around helping their communities. For instance, Quilts of Valor and Quilts of Honor groups offer support to the US military. Project Linus benefits traumatized children and most local Children’s Hospitals have sewing or knitting guilds creating blankets and hats. Again, an online search will yield many choices and ways for you to find your charity-oriented tribe!

Passion, Friendship and Inspiration Unlimited

Do you belong to a group or guild? If you’re a regular attendee of the Sewing and Stitchery Expo, then you can loudly answer YES. There’s a delicious connection that takes place at this show. Everyone is smiling, everyone is your friend, resources are gathered and tips and techniques are shared. It’s the most exciting and largest “Gathering of the Tribe” in the whole USA. If you just stumbled on this post and haven’t yet attended Expo – do it and do it this year!

I’ve outlined many of the common reasons for joining a group and how to find one that meets your interests and needs. The force of “The Importance of Belonging” is strong, but maybe you’re still not convinced? Reading about groups, how they’re organized and what their missions are is interesting, but it’s the marvelous communal energy that makes joining a must. So, I’ll close with more words from gratefully dedicated group and guild members who wouldn’t trade their experiences – even for fabric. And, I think that will probably tip you over the edge of the bolt or skein and into a group or guild!

  • “Makes my heart sing when I hang out with these folks!” – Michelle
  • “I love being with people that speak the same language. People who understand the peace that comes from the hum of a sewing machine.” – Shelley
  • “I love it all: the peeps, the fabric exchanges, fitting help, technique tips, education events, the inspiration from all of the super creative people…..and the retreats!!!” – Debby

About the Author: Annette Millard recently started her own blog, The Sewful Life, which utilizes her sewing and teaching experience to provide helpful tips and tricks, tutorials, and project ideas. Visit the blog at  and be sure to say “hi” at Expo in one of her classes! View the class catalog to learn about the classes Annette will be teaching in 2019. 



Shopping for a New Machine?

Is this the year when you get to pick out a new sewing machine?  Will it be your dream machine or do you have a tight budget to stick to?  The Sewing & Stitchery Expo is a super place to shop for machines, whether it is a standard sewing machine, for embroidery, serging, or quilting.  In fact, there are so many machines to be seen, it can quickly become overwhelming if you don’t stay organized.  Here are some tips to help you make the most of your time:

  • Check out the list of vendors that will be at Expo ahead of time to get a feel for the different dealers who will be present. View the list at
  • Take a notebook, pen, camera (phone is fine) and large envelope containing paper clips
  • Shop alone or with one very good friend who will help you stay focused
  • Plan on spending as many days as you possibly can so you can revisit machines you like
  • Know your budget, whether or not you will pay cash, credit card or buy on terms
  • Make a written list, in your notebook, of features you really want
  • Bring along some 10” squares of your favorite fabrics and a spool of your own thread

How to shop:

Of course dealers are going to put the prettiest, shiniest and most expensive machines front and center.  Go ahead and admire and try those machines, but be sure to take a look at all of the machines available.  Start by writing down the booth name and number.  Usually a sales person approaches you immediately and you can share that you are shopping all of the options at the show and won’t be making any decisions immediately.  Write down the sales person’s name.

Tell the sales person your list of features and give a price range.  If you say, “Under $2000”, they will show you machines that are $1999, so you might say, “In the $1400-1900” range.

Sit down and try out every machine in your price range.  Spend a good 15-20 minutes with machines you like.  Try all of the features you normally use, using the fabric you brought and learn about some new features, too.  Pull the thread out and see if you can easily rethread it.  Same with the bobbin.  How do you wind bobbins?  How easy is it to remove and replace them?  Does your favorite thread work in the machine?

As you try each machine, make careful notes of the model, features and price.  Write down what you like and dislike about the machine.  Take pictures, being sure to include the model name in the photo.

Get up and stretch between machines to clear your head.  Note the booth number on any handouts, paperclip all the paper from one booth together and place them in your envelope.

Most dealers will have “show specials” and you can ask if the offers will be available in shop after the show and for how long.  Be sure to ask about special pricing on the demo models!

Each evening, after you’ve relaxed awhile, spread out the brochures and consult with your notes and photos.  Run the deals by a friend or spouse and see what they think.  Make more notes on the ones that you are interested in.

If you are ready to make your purchase during the show, go back to the booth and see the same sales person if possible.  Ask about add-ons like classes, thread, bobbins, free delivery and set up, carry cases, etc.

When you find the deal you want, go for it!  If you can’t find a good fit, you may still be able to get a great deal soon after the show.  In any case, take the time to really learn about your machine, either through classes or the manual or both.  Gotta love that new machine smell!

About the author: Julie Luoma, along with her husband, owns Off The Wall Quilt, a quilt pattern and notion company.Julie mainly designs quilts and dabbles occasionally with making tote bags.  She refuses to make clothing as no one ever seems to fit in the garments.  Roaming the country from show to show, offering their wares and sleeping in hotels, Julie has managed to produce 2 books, several patterns, and speak at quilt guilds along the way.

Join Julie in classes #1928 Coloring Outside the Border, #3941 Quick and Easy Reverse Applique, and #1932 Diamonds on Top. Purchase your tickets now at

A Marvelous Sewing Addiction – The Modern Kimono

The Kimono that began my addiction. Stitched from Sew Caroline’s Florence Kimono pattern in an Aztec sweater knit with added fringe.

An Easy-to-Sew Fashion Star

The humble yet classic kimono is a huge star in current fashion and its popularity is on the rise. Seen on the runways as well as in the grocery store aisles, it’s a versatile garment that can be worn by almost everyone. The kimono’s comfortable yet simple shape holds so much possibility within it’s easy fitting lines that easily lend themselves to every occasion from holiday to casual. Today’s fun, quick to make kimonos are the perfect canvas for beautiful fabrics and embellished designs. Perfect for those of us who love to sew our own handmade wardrobe!

If you’ve never made or worn a kimono or decided they’re not for you, keep reading. I’ve developed an obsessive Kimono addiction that I’d love to share with you! A basic kimono can be cut, sewn, and ready to wear in four hours or less making it an excellent choice for a last minute garment! Most kimono patterns consist of just three basic pieces: front, back, and sleeves. They may be finished with bands around the neck, front, and sleeves or facings. Every handmade wardrobe should contain a comfy kimono – or two – or five!

Made from Art Gallery Rayon, this is my shortened Sew Caroline Florence Kimono trimmed with velvet bands.

An Adaptable Shape for Everyone

If a Kimono has always seemed like just too much fabric for your comfort level, consider fit and length. To avoid the boxy sharp rectangles, look for a kimono designed with a slight curve under the arm. My favorite is the Florence Kimono from independent pattern company, Sew Caroline. Florence has a gently shaped underarm curve that makes all the difference in its flow and fit. It removes the boxiness while maintaining the traditional shape and creates a kimono that is wearable for most of us.

When choosing your kimono pattern size, consider how much ease you are comfortable with in a “jacket” or “cardigan”. If you don’t care for lots of drapey fabric on your body style, you may want to make a smaller size than normal. If you’d like more drape, go up a size.

Think about your favorite finished length, too. Kimonos can be waist, hip, or knee length, or even longer. With your fabric choice in mind, consider the sleeve length that will be most flattering for you. For a super-quick Spring or Summer sew, leave the sleeves off so your kimono can easily be thrown on over a t-shirt or swimsuit.

My “Pumpkin Spice” Kimono. Stitched from Indygo Junction’s Contemporary Kimono pattern using a Yukata cotton panel and Japanese cotton purchased at the Sewing & Stitchery Expo.

A Buffet of Fabric and Embellishment Choices           

The rectangular pieces used to create the traditional t-shaped Kimono were originally designed for 14” – 16” Yukata fabrics. Light to medium weight fabrics like silk, rayon, chambray, linen, cotton, tencel, velvet, lace, knits and sweatering are all fabulous choices for today’s kimonos.  The simple shape is also perfect for maintaining the integrity of a large print or other fabric you “can’t stand to cut into”. The large pieces that make up a kimono will compliment your fabric’s design and show off the print, stripe, or weave beautifully!

Kimonos are and amazing canvas for embroidery, applique, beading and all forms of embellishment. Use your creative skills to add interest to the back, front, or both. Embellish the front and sleeve bands with applique or pieced fabrics. Add lace or machine embroidery to the shoulders for a surprising pop of gorgeousness. And, don’t forget the edges – they’re perfect for fringe. Whatever you choose, you’ll make a unique statement of your own talent and fashion style!

I modified Simplicity 8172 to maintain the color and design integrity of this coarsely-woven, fringed Sarong length purchased for me in Indonesia by my husband

Unlimited Wearable Options

Don’t feel limited by the traditional styling of your kimono. There are SO many options! Think of it as you would any other jacket or cardigan when you’re putting together different looks. Try these styles with your Kimono:

  • Top a Summer tank and skirt or shorts with a kimono and add your favorite sandals.
  • Carry your kimono to the beach for a swimsuit cover-up with instant style.
  • Go Boho with a long kimono worn over wide leg jeans, a t-shirt and a floppy hat.
  • Add a kimono to your Summer dress or Winter LBD and create an ensemble.
  • Change your kimono’s silhouette by adding a belt or tying the fronts in waist high knot.
  • Dress up your kimono with stunning jewelry and add a cross-body bag for shopping trips.
Another Sew Caroline Florence Kimono, stitched and pieced with Japanese Indigo fabrics and Chambray. The Japanese fabrics were purchased at the Sewing & Stitchery Expo.

Watch for Creative Inspiration

Although it’s often thought that we can’t save money sewing our own clothing, the kimonos shown on the Johnny Was web site will make you think differently. Ranging in price from $300 to $800, these simply shaped jackets are stitched from luxury fabrics and embellished with embroidery and applique. All things that are readily available to those of us who enjoy sewing our own handmade wardrobes and at a much lower price! While attending the Sewing & Stitchery Expo this year, plan time for a trip to Bellevue, WA to visit their store and collect loads of inspiration to recreate on your own!

I’ve been blogging about my journey into kimono obsession on my own blog, The Sewful Life. For more details about the kimonos I’ve made, hop over there and search for “Kimono” on the right hand side. You’ll find five blog posts about the kimonos I have known, sewn, and thoroughly love!

About the Author: Annette Millard recently started her own blog, The Sewful Life, which utilizes her sewing and teaching experience to provide helpful tips and tricks, tutorials, and project ideas. Visit the blog at  and be sure to say “hi” at Expo in one of her classes! View the class catalog to learn about the classes Annette will be teaching in 2019. 

Sewing for People with Sensitivities

I started sewing when I was five, learning to make everything I wanted the way I wanted it. From doll clothes to Halloween costumes, to prom dresses, even my own wardrobe in high school and college that fit me perfectly. But it wasn’t until I had a child with sensory processing disorder and Asperger Syndrome that sewing became more than just a part of my everyday life. It became a gift I could give my son.

If you know children (or adults) who have sensitivities or special needs of any kind, you will undoubtedly nod in acknowledgement when anyone speaks of cutting tags out of shirts and pants, wearing socks inside out so the seams don’t touch the toes, and an outright refusal to wear jeans.

For my son Peter, the difference between a good day and a call-mom-at-work-to-pick-up-the-child day was almost exclusively down to the clothes he wore. After my otherwise mild-mannered child had a giant temper tantrum over an orange shirt, I realized I needed to pull out my sewing machine to help him. It wasn’t the color of the shirt that was the problem. The problem was that the thickness of the fabric caused the overlocked interior seams to be very bulky, therefore not smooth on the inside. The seam itself caused him such distraction, he had no attention left over to tolerate any other irregularities or external input, hence the overwhelm and subsequent meltdown. I was only able to discover the underlying issue because he was a highly verbal child at three years old. Imagine how much more difficult it is to interpret the cause of sensory overwhelm in a nonverbal baby or child (or nonverbal adult, for that matter).

The solution, as is often the case, was far simpler than the problem. I just needed to make him the smoothest possible seams in every piece of clothing he wore. Eighteen years ago, we couldn’t find tagless t-shirts or raw-edged sweats at the store, so I learned to make the most comfortable little boy clothes I could imagine. These turned out to be the “secret pajamas” on which I would later base my entire sewing philosophy. I only bought fabrics that would wash well and not pill in the dryer because those little balls of polyester fleece were irritating to my boy’s little legs.

I started to sew his shirts inside out, tacking down the seam allowances with an additional line of stitching. I sewed strips of thin polar fleece inside jeans to flatten and soften the seams. I even stitched the pockets to the front of his trousers with soft twill tape so they wouldn’t flop around or bunch up at the side seam.

T-shirt from Sewing for Boys by Karen LePage and Shelly Figueroa, Wiley, 2011

I learned to remove tags from those t-shirts he really wanted from the store and sew an extra binding on the inside back neck if I couldn’t completely remove the tags and paper or rough ribbon remained.

Between the extra special clothing and occupational therapy, my son transcended his sensory issues and thrived in school and beyond. He’s now a completely independent successful adult, going to college, working full-time, and living in his own apartment without giving a second thought to his clothing.

When we make clothes for ourselves and others, paying special attention to their specific needs and considering comfort as much as style we truly give a gift that can affect their experience. Over the years, I’ve been able to help children who would otherwise collapse with sensory overwhelm live normal kid lives.

About the Author: Karen LePage has written books about sewing for children and adults. She is the indie designer’s patternmaking secret weapon, and has taught video and in-person classes to anyone who would listen since 2008. She believes that sewing clothes is a radical act of self-love. For more information and a demonstration of specific techniques, please join Karen in class 1926 Sewing for People with Sensitivities. Sign up at when the ticket office opens. Also be sure to visit her blog One Girl Circus to learn more about Karen’s experiences and how you can adopt similar philosophies when sewing for others.

The Future Is Now: Zero Waste for Home Sewing

All sewists have various idiosyncratic ways of buying, using, and storing fabric. Personally, this practice crystallizes around an anxiety of discarding all fabric waste. No matter how small the remnant, swatch, or bit of fiber, I’m sure that one day a masterpiece will be formed with the aggregate of my horde of fabric scraps. From large black trash bags to big plastic bins, stuffed in a corner or pinned on the wall, I have scraps everywhere! When does the insanity end? If you find yourself in a similar situation, there are two choices: Start creating with the scraps amassed or create without producing any scraps in the first place. Either way you tackle it, the process is part of a global movement called Zero Waste. This movement centers around the idea of  the reduction of waste sent to the landfill through an improved design on our use/reuse of resources in daily life. As sewists, this means re-evaluating methods, techniques, and overall design of projects to produce the least amount of waste possible, if any at all.

During the ‘80’s and ‘90’s garment manufacturing became very inexpensive as production was primarily outsourced to China and other regions where labor costs and environmental oversight were and still are limited. Today, I find the recent resurgence in garment sewing is fueled not out of economic necessity but because we enjoy it! We don’t want to look like a cookie cutter, we want clothes that fit and that express a unique facet of our personalities. With this resurgence of home sewing, Zero Waste is quietly making a name for itself by answering so many of our contemporary garment sewing needs. Following the Zero Waste philosophy, sewists are discovering new ways of cutting garments that produce little to no scraps, new projects for using scraps, new techniques for fitting, and an overall wonderful creative outlet.

Much has been written about of Zero Waste fashion design. So much so, that a quick internet search (especially on Pinterest) will result in many resources. If you are returning to sewing after a pre-internet hiatus you will find the pattern industry has changed drastically to include scores of independent patterns lines, .pdf downloads, shop copies, blogs, and Instagram pages. With this explosion, Zero Waste has found an emerging spotlight in the industry. A few pioneering names to know include Holly McQuillan, Julian Roberts, and Timo Rissanen. Projects like and are also inspiring a new generation to become more conscious of how and what we consume by supporting a movement in making, repairing, and reducing.

Above: Example of the Zero Waste French Fold Shrug (pattern available from Diane Ericson) cut out before being sewn.

Below are some tips for those interested in exploring this approach further:

  • You can throw out almost all you think you know about conventional fitting techniques. Darts, folds, tucks, and pleats have no standard placement.
  • Decide if you want a clean and minimal finished product or handmade and artsy.
  • When fabric shopping, always look for reversible/double faced fabrics, trust me. There is no right and wrong side, both sides will most likely be visible.
  • You will work with a maximum of 1, 2, or 3 pattern pieces when following a Zero Waste-inspired pattern.
  • Develop a toolbox of finishing techniques for cleaning up raw edges such as slashes.
  • Hand finishing is fun!
  • Helpful materials include fold over binders, tapes, ribbons, and a selection various hand sewing threads like sashiko, silk button hole twist, and #50 silk tailoring thread.
  • Visible mending – Perfection is out and individuality is in! Take advantage of “blemishes” by adding a bit of originality to your pieces. A simple internet search can help inspire different ways for mending your garments.

About the Author: Ina Celaya is a designer and owner of L’Etoffe Fabrics and the Center For Pattern Design. She studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Los Angeles Trade Tech. Visit Ina at Expo at the L’Etoffe Fabrics booth in the Pavilion. Visit for booth assignments.


Common Sense Fitting

If you don’t sew for yourself because nothing ever fits, you’re missing out on the joys of a handmade wardrobe! It doesn’t have to be hard and a few quick tips will make a world of difference. Grab a tape measure and your common sense. You can do this!

Give Yourself the Keys

A few basic measurements are the beginning to a better fit. While this may not take you to couture level, you can quickly adjust any pattern to fit your body. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with you, it’s the patterns! They don’t fit any of us and they’re not sized like the ready to wear items you buy in the store. Remember, we’re not talking about a precise fit here, but you can make it better! To begin, start with these four key measurements: full bust, high bust, waist, full hip, and arm circumference. Write them down and make sure you find a safe place to keep them. Be honest! This is just for you and no one else will know. Others just get to enjoy the beautiful clothes you’ll be making!


You’re in Charge

There are so many beautiful designs available in today’s patterns! But often we think we can’t wear a particular pattern because it looks too tight, too loose, or we don’t like the sleeves or another element of the design. Remember: You’re in charge of that pattern and how it’s going to look when you’re done. Be fearless! Using your measurements, you can change the cut of a sleeve, the fit of the body, or the way the neckline sits. The most important thing about a design is that you love the garment after it’s sewn. Spend a little time and do what it takes to enjoy sewing for yourself. That’s the real common sense secret to creating a handmade wardrobe you love and can wear proudly!

About the Author: Annette Millard loves to encourage others to make sewing easy, stress-free and fabulous! She has sewn her own clothing, taught sewing, and worked in the sewing industry for most of her life and loves what she does. Her blog, The Sewfull Life, provides helpful tips, tutorials, and project reviews. Visit Annette on her blog at and be sure to say hello at the Sewing & Stitchery Expo in one of her three classes!

7 Easy Tips For a Better Fit

Tip #1: Don’t go by another sewist’s experience fitting a pattern! Because we are all wonderfully unique, it’s doubtful that you are the same exact size and like the same exact fit!

Tip #2: Use your pattern to find the body measurements and finished measurements before you cut! Consider how much extra room (ease) you like in your garments and keep that in mind when you choose your size(s).

Tip #3: You don’t have to use just one size of the pattern! Find the right size for your measurements and go with that. I often use two to three sizes when I’m sewing.

Tip #4: Assemble your tools and don’t be afraid of the pattern. You’ll need a dressmaker’s curve, a sturdy tape measure, a straight ruler, and a variety of marking tools.

Tip #5: Banish too tight sleeves! Compare your arm circumference to the pattern sleeve and make the proper adjustments if needed. You’ll want more ease for a woven fabric than a knit, so keep that in mind.

Tip #6: Don’t just hope it’s the right length! Measure, measure, measure. Before you do any cutting, determine the length you want, compare it to the pattern, and make your adjustments.

Tip #7: Sign up for my Common Sense Fitting class at the 2019 Sewing & Stitchery Expo. You’ll learn more valuable tips and take home a measurement chart and handout and see how easy it is to make adjustments to your patterns. I can hardly wait to hear about your success! Visit to learn more about purchasing class tickets.

Why We Cosplay: Creating Community

Cosplaying is always better when you have someone to share it with and this community is fantastic for that kind of camaraderie! I have been making costumes for nearly eight years and every time there is a convention coming up, I always seek out like-minded people to share my joy with. At last year’s Pax (Penny Arcade Expo), one of the largest video game consumer conventions in the nation, I reached out to a group of friends with whom I share the love of the video game Final Fantasy. I asked them to join me in making something from the franchise. Our theme? Classic Characters. We dug deep into the game’s original graphics and came up with simple yet iconic costumes for the White Mage, Black Mage, Red Mage, and the ever present Chocobo.

Instead of using conventional cut and sew methods for my White Mage, I decided to knit it with a knitting machine. The finished product was a fully fashioned sweater robe with a peplum of the iconic red triangles.

For my husband’s black mage, I used a gorgeous soft ultra-suede to make his robe and thick premium felt for his mage hat and gloves. For the veil, I used a black mesh which allows him to see through but still have an opaque texture from the outside. The group comprised of Sammy N. as the adorable Yellow Chocobo, Kelly M. as the Powerful Black Mage, Me as the White Mage, and Megan D. as the Red Mage. We formed an amazing party indeed!

In other instances, the community comes together to offer advice and help on costumes. While traveling in Japan last year, I couldn’t help but stop by a fabric store in Osaka. While there, one fabric really grabbed my attention. It is an Alice in Wonderland type fabric, with tea parties, pocket watches and rabbits. As I am relatively new to Lolita costumes (a style characterized by a Victorian-esque voluminous skirt), I asked the community to help decide on the styling and involved them in every subsequent step of the way.

I started the conversation by posting about my fabric and my general idea of making a Lolita dress. From there, the ideas started to pour in! Suggestions were to make a dress, a parasol, etc. Ultimately, I only had six yards of this fabric, so I had to plan accordingly. Once I reached the decision to create a dress, I set out to research different styles and showed the community my favorites. From those inspirations, I designed a whole bunch of dresses. Not wanting to overwhelm and to get a clear direction, I presented two of my favorites for the community to pick from.

While it was clear that the community favored B, there were also additional suggestions including adding a pocket to the dress. With that in mind, I designed another more complete and detailed version.

I continued to post on my social media pages for more sewing and construction videos, tutorials, and feedback and then of course, to share the final finished dress. To thank and give back to the community, I created a video demonstrating my method of draping this piece. Please check out my video below, enjoy!

Video Transcript

About the Author: Anna He is a costume designer and cosplay artist based out of Seattle. She has designed patterns for McCall and has worked for brands including Norma Kamali, Eileen Fisher, and Nordstrom. Get to know more about Anna and her work and be sure you’re on the mailing list to receive the 2019 Sewing & Stitchery Expo class catalog to learn about Anna’s 2019 class offerings before tickets go on sale in January.