Make IT…Take IT at ASE

Hi Everyone,

Last year at the American Sewing Expo I had a Make It-Take It project in my booth… It was a not so exciting Back Jean Pocket…  I thought I would be fun because I included instructions to add it to a simple tote bag… Let be honest, it was boring!!!!   This year I decided to do something fun.   So I came up with this silk bead bracelet.   It’s made from twisting a strip of silk and stitching over it with a zig zag stitch.   Then it’s folded in half and twisted again to create a loop for a button closure.  Before the button gets sewn on,  you can pick out a “pandora” style bead and slide it onto the twisted fabric silk cord.  Two tight knots hold it place.    I had fun testing a few different fabrics, and I think this will be a cool project.

MakeitTakeit…It may seem like this project has nothing to do with what I do :)….  But, there is a small amount of fitting to get it to be a comfortable length :)

There is motivation behind coming up with something fun…  I’m participating in a Charity Cycle Challenge in March 2015.  I decided that this project can help kick off my fundraising.  I’m going to be spinning (Cycling on a stationary bike) for 8 hours to raise money for The Alzheimer’s Association.  This a a charity that’s near and dear to my heart because Alzheimer’s is a health concern in my family.    I’ll be giving more information about the Cycle Challenge as the date gets a little closer… but it’s never too early to start!!!!

See you at the Expo!!


Getting Ready for the American Sewing Expo in Novi MI

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Hey Everyone,

It’s an exciting week for me… I’m getting ready for the American Sewing Expo in Novi, MI.   I’m teaching my jean fit workshop on Thursday’s pre-show class day and and Updated Professional Construction Techniques Class on Saturday.  I’m also doing a daily seminar on how to do an FBA for D+Cups… very fun!!   If you’ve never had the chance to attend this show, let me tell you what you’ve been missing.   All sewing expos have a lot to offer, but I love the American Sewing Expo because it has lots of inspiration and a special energy.  This family run show has a lot to offer.  In addition to all the excellent venders on the floor, there are contests and fashion shows.  The Passion for Fashion  Sewing Challenge is both… participants have the opportunity to create a fantasy garment right on the show floor.  This event is sponsored by baby lock, Fashion Supplies and McCall’s… so the prizes are amazing!!!   (Actually I can’t get over how generous these companies are… They really support the sewing industry!   Here’s a photo of last year’s winner :)


This year there is a half-scale challenge… Fashion Designer, Joi Mahon inspired us last year with her black and white striped sundress…. so cool.    I entered this contest before I left the show last year.  I love my half scale dressform… sadly, it’s staring at me right now… completely nude :(   The deadline came up too quick for me… But, I can’t wait to see what everyone came up with.


There is also a special event for young sewers… Innovation Generation.  This is my favorite because I’m always so amazed by what they come up with… So much talent at such a young age… It’s the best!!!

If you are not attending this year, stay tuned because I’ll be posted updates on what’s going on…  Sneak peeks at what my students are doing in class and juicy details from some of the events and the vendor floor!!! Maybe you’ll be tempted to come next year!!!    Happy Day

Japanese Denim after the Wash…

photo 3Hey everyone,

Hope all is well.   I wanted to take a minute to update you on my Japanese Denim Jeans…  I wore them when I was at the ASG Conference in St. Louis.  They got pretty gross because I was staying at a different hotel than the one the conference was being held at.  The 5 block walk back to the hotel after dinner… in the super heat… did them in.  By the time I got to my room they were sticking to my legs.

So, I decided that I couldn’t stand wearing them again without washing them.  I put them in a dark wash with some other jeans.  Then I did them a second time.   When I took them out of the dryer, they were really crinkled up… I had to steam them really well with the iron to get them to flatten out.  (I wish I had thought to take a photo before I ironed them.)  The first thing I noticed when I put them on was that the denim was much softer and more comfortable to wear.  The did not feel tight like other jeans feel right out of the dryer, so they stayed pretty true to size… (Remember, the swatches that I test washed didn’t shrink either.)

Here’s what they look like.

photo 2The overall color of the denim got a little more blue.  Anywhere the denim folded up on itself, or wrinkled, there is an obvious fade mark.  I have them running down the side and inseams and in random places.  There are also a couple of places where the denim actually distressed like it had been cut.  They look like little frayed spots.   I really don’t recall catching or snipping the denim there, but maybe I did.

photoThey also faded along the pintucks that I stitched under the front pocket and along any folded edge, like the front pocket openings and the edges of the flat fell seam between the top of the back leg and back yoke.

photo 1My plan is to wear them, wear them, wear them as much as possible before I wash them again.  We’ll see what happens… I think that in the end they will look cool.   Not thrilled with all the streaks of fading along wrinkles, but I think that will work itself out as I wear, wear wear and wash!

Updated Front Fly Zipper Instructions

Hey Everyone,

I can’t believe it’s September 1!!!!!  …Between you and me, I’m glad it’s still warm out, I haven’t had enough float in the pool time :)   I’ve been working on a few things that are very fun and exciting.  First I’ve been fine tuning the fit of  my shorts, and I hope to get a second pair finished before the warm weather disappears.  The bonus will be that once the shorts are perfect, the pants will be too!  I have some yummy gray tropical weight wool that I’m dying to cut into!  While I was working on fitting my shorts, I revamped my front fly zipper instructions. I promised a copy to everyone who took my Professional Construction Techniques at the ASG Conference in July.  After emailing them off to everyone on my list, I got a few mail returns :(…. If you’ve be waiting for these instructions, please email me so I can send them to you!!!


I’m also going to start offering detailed pdf lessons  on my website for a tiny fee.  Techniques like the front fly zipper have a lot of step, and I think it may be helpful to some to have color photos of all the steps at your finger tips while you’re sewing.  To kick off this new venture, I’m going to offer the Front Fly Technique pdf for free for the whole month of September. Look for it in the next couple of days…. As soon as I figure out how to upload the pdf, so you can download it :)

Another thing I’m working on is a new class for Patternreview… The fitted shirt.  I’m really excited about this class because it’s giving me an opportunity to work with some sweet fit models… Like my Mom!

Hope you all are enjoying your Labor Day!  Jen


Kissing Fish Finale :)

Hi Everyone,

Last week was amazing for me.  I realized that I love quilting, I had so much fun making these baby quilts.  My time got crunched up at the end, so I apologize for not posted a completed project, but I do have some more steps I can show  you.  Here’s a snap of Abby organizing the half triangles into kissing fish squares.  I ended up with 32 different color combinations.  Each double strip of fabrics made 4 squares… 2 for each quilt.

photo 2After all the squares where sewn together, we spread out king size sheets on the driveway and played with the overall layout of the quilt…7 squares across x 9 rows.  (7 and 9 were my grandmother’s lucky numbers…)        I’m not going to lie, trying to decide how to position those square was probably the hardest part of making these quilts…After several revisions and trying different color combinations, we piled them up and I started sewing them into strips.  To keep everything in order, we pinned labels to the first square of each row.

photo 3When pinning the rows together, the challenge was making sure that the points lined up with each other…

photo 5Here’s a close-up of matching up the points.

Remember when I started sewing the quarter triangles, I pressed the seam allowances to the darker fabric.  That was a bad idea because it created extra bulk along the seams where all the triangle points meet.  So I decided to use one of my jean making tips to soften the bulk.  I used a small hammer to gently pound down the bulky seam allowances.

photo 1-1Here’s the last picture I remembered to take… it got a little hairy at the end… I was sewing binding onto the edges of the quilts an hour before we had to leave for the family reunion… Totally forgot to take a  pic of the completed quilts :)  Thank goodness Abby was helping me with this project… she did an amazing job pressing the seams for me!  Not sure I could have finished on time otherwise.

photo 4Had a wonderful time at the family reunion… Plus I got my “baby fix”… Now it’s back to garment construction and fitting.   I’m working a new shirt fitting class for Patternreview... Very exciting, stay tuned!

Kissing Fish Part 2–Cut Triangles

Lots of half triangle fishies

Lots of quarter triangle fish pieces

Hey Everyone,   Today was cutting, and cutting and cutting day.   I used the Creative Grid 4 1/2″ Non-Slip Quarter-Square Triangle Ruler.   I love this ruler because it makes short work of cutting triangles.  Basically all you have to do is line up the base of the triangles on the ruler with the raw edge of the strip of fabric.  Then cut along the side edges of the triangles.    If I had a lot of time to work on this project, I probably would have cut one or two pieces strips at a time…. But since I’m on a tight deadline, I stacked 4 or 5 strips on top of each other before I cut triangles.  Most of my strips lined up almost perfectly with each other… Happy Dance :).  But, there were a few sets that I may have to fudge… we’ll see.   Using this ruler, you cut 3 full triangles and one side of a fourth.

Using ruler to cut triangles

Using ruler to cut triangles

When you line up the ruler to cut the next set of triangles, you have to space the ruler so that you’re leaving a 1/4″ straight edge.

Space the ruler 1/4" away from the cut edge

Space the ruler 1/4″ away from the cut edgeHere’s a close-up of the ruler placement


photo 5So in the end, I could make 8 triangles across the entire strip… Sorry for the bad color correction (it is the same project!)

photo 1-1I am a little disappointed that my daughter does not think that these triangles look like kissing fish…  We’ll have to work on her imagination when she gets home from vacation tomorrow!

photo 3I also managed to cut out an equal number of white triangles which will serve as the background for my fish.  I prewashed all these fabrics to make sure the bright colors would not bleed onto the while after the quilt was finished.  I was really impressed with the white tone-on-tone fabric I picked out.  It’s really soft and has some body to it… I was surprised.  I guess they make some pretty great fabric in the UK!

photo 1…I’ve already started to sew sets of a colored triangle paired with a white triangle…Stay tuned for an update tomorrow.   :)

J Stern Designs can Quilt too….

Hey everyone,

I’m back from the ASG Conference and I’m caught up with a lot of stuff that needed attention… Now I’m taking a garment break to sew two baby quilts.  My husband’s cousins both had beautiful baby girls, and by the photos they’re posting on Facebook (which I enjoy very much) I can see that they already have many cute outfits.  Because we’re all friends, I can’t post my new quilting project on Facebook… But I can give you a sneak peek at what I’m doing because I’m reasonably sure they don’t follow sewing blogs :)


Maura Rose and Julianna

Maura Rose and Julianna

We are going to a family reunion on Saturday… So I have 5 days to make two quilts… (I love deadlines!)  Instead of going with baby prints, I decided to use pastel batiks with a few brights thrown in. I’m going to make “Kissing Fish” blocks which are made up of 4 triangles.  Two triangles will be cut from two  2 1/2″ strips that are sewn together.   I started with 12 1/2″ yard pieces of fabric.  My mic stand also doubles as a rod I can hang stuff off of,  it came in really handy to organize this project!

photo 3-2 Then I started grouping the strips into pairs.  I made light, medium and dark sets as well as combinations.   Then I started sewing them together.  I used the “chain stitch” method of feeding in each set of strips directly after each other.   I’m working on a Designer I sewing machine.  and I’m using a 1/4″ foot that does not have a guide.  …I do use the foot with the guide sometimes, but I think when you’re trying to be really efficient, the guide can give you a false sense of confidence.  If the fabric is pushed against the guide, it can  sneak under and you may end up with a larger than 1/4″ seam allowance.   So I decided to use the foot without the guide so I could keep the raw edges in sight.

photo 1-1After I stitched all the sets, I ironed them flat.  I pressed both seam allowances toward the darker print.

photo 3-1The next step is to cut these striped pieces into triangles.   I’ll give you a peek at that tomorrow.  I’m so happy that my daughters are coming home from Maine on Tuesday… Abby is excited to help me figure out how to pair up different colored triangles into blocks!  Tomorrow I’ll show you the Creative Grid Ruler I’ll be using to make quick work out of cutting all these triangles… I need 63 for each quilt!

My pile of striped pieces

My pile of striped pieces

I LOVE No SEW Pant Hooks

Hey Everyone,

I had to take a break from getting ready to go to the National ASG Conference to show you how excellent it is to put in no sew pant hooks…. They are so fast and easy to put in, let me show you how.

photoIf you didn’t interface the waistband/waistband facing you’ll need to stabilize the right and left ends of the waistband.  This fusible interfacing serves two purposes.  Fuse small pieces on both the wrong side of the waistband and the facing.  The interfacing will support the fabric where the hook and bar are installed and protect the opposite pieces from wear.  So for example, on the right end of the waistband, the interfacing on the waistband facing will support the hooks.  The interfacing on the waistband will protect the waistband from the back side of the metal hardware that will be up against the wrong side of the waistband.  I like to fuse a double layer of interfacing.

photo 3-4

Start on the side of  the waistband that is above the front fly topstitching. (This side of the waistband overlaps the other side.)  Mark the position of the hooks on the waistband facing.  Keep in mind that the metal hardware will extend a little bit toward the end of the waistband, so position it far enough from the folded end…approximately 3/8″ from the folded end.

Mark the position of the hooks

Mark the position of the hooks

Push the spikes on the wrong side of the hook through the facing

Push the spikes on the wrong side of the hook through the facing

Position the hook along the guideline.  Push the spikes on the back side of the hook through the facing (and fused interfacing).   When I am using two hooks, I like to position the lower one 5/8″ from the bottom edge of the facing, and the hop one 1/4″ from the top edge of the facing.

photo 2-4Here’s a photo showing the wrong side of the waistband facing.  The spikes on the back of the hook are pushed through to the wrong side.

Put on the backing for the hook

Put on the backing for the hook

The next step is to slip the hook backing into the spikes.  Here’s a photo of the backing that fits onto the spikes.  Notice that it is indented so the spikes and be pressed flush against the backing.  Make sure that you position the backing with the indentations facing out.

Use needle nose pliers to bend the spikes down

Use needle nose pliers to bend the spikes down

Use needle nose pliers to bend the spikes down and press them firmly into the indentations.  Bend the single spike so that it’s pointing away from the other two.

photo 1-2Here’s a close-up of the backing with all the spikes pressed into the indentations.

photo 1-4Here is what the facing looks like after both pant hooks have been installed.

Bend back the overlapping side of the waistband to see where to position the bars

Bend back the overlapping side of the waistband to see where to position the bars

The next step is to zip up the zipper and mark the position of the bars on the opposite of the waistband. Bend the end of the waistband back so you can see the hooks.  Mark the positions of the bars on the right side of the waistband as shown above. The bars should be positioned so the line up with the very back edge of the hooks.   Align the bars with the guidelines that you marked.  Then slip the backings on and bend the spikes in toward the center to secure them to the waistband.

photoUsing these no sew pant hooks really give your pants that ready-to-wear look.  Plus, I can attest to how well they hold up because I’ve been wearing my new shorts almost every day, and the hook is staying in place like a champ (…super impressive because I only used one hook for the shorts!!)

So I’m working on a sleeveless fitted shirt to wear while teaching my fitted shirt workshop at the ASG Conference… hoping to finish a pair of Khaki pants to go with it ….  Very exciting stuff, stay tuned!  Happy Sewing.



Simple Front Fly Construction and Better than Ready-to-Wear Fit!!

Hey everyone,   I’m in shorts fitting heaven!   I finished my shorts…and my pants and I’m thrilled with the fit.   As you can see, these shorts already look lived in.  I can sit and stand with out any sliding around (the back waistband stays comfortably in place.)  Plus, they have a nice relaxed fit…no pressing on my belly.

Front View

Front View

One of the things that can affect the overall fit and appearance of your pants or shorts is how the front fly is constructed.   I’ve been paying close attention to each step as I put the fly together. Here are a few tips.

inside view of right fly piece

inside view of fly …Left fly piece is positioned on top of right fly piece

Here is a view of the fly after both fly pieces and the zipper have been sewn in.This photo shows a few things that help make a nice flat fly.  First notice that the zipper has been sewn to the left fly piece twice (The two rows of stitching just to the right of the front crotch seam).  This helps keep the zipper nice and flat and securely attached to the left fly piece.  You can also see that the front crotch seam connects aligns perfectly with the seam that sewed on the left fly piece.  This creates a smooth transition from the crotch seam to the base of  the fly.   I also think starting with simple rectangle shapes for the fly pieces make it easy to sew them together.      Notice how the right fly piece is slightly wider than the left fly.  That way, when the pieces are laying in position, the right fly piece will completely cover the left fly piece for a nice neat view.

Right fly piece

Right fly piece

Here’s an inside view of the fly with the pieces  positioned as they should be when you are wearing your pants.    Notice that the right fly piece is only partially attached to the right leg.  The bottom 1 1/2″ of the right fly piece is left free.  This is so you can fold it out of the way when you’re topstitching the fly.

photo 4

Inside view with right fly folded out of the way

Here’s a photo of the front fly after the fly has been topstitched.  This shows a few things.  First, while you’re probably concerned with how the topstitched fly looks from the right side (I’ll show you that in a minute)…it’s also important on the wrong side of your pants.  Notice how the topstitched fly detail anchors the left fly to the front of the pant.  It also catches the outside end of the zipper twill tape.  The left fly piece is now secured nice and flat against the front leg.   If you’re working with stretchy fabric or light weight fabric you can fuse some interfacing to the wrong side of the left fly piece to make it more stable before you stitch it onto the left leg.  The second thing I want to show you is why it’s important to be able to fold the right fly piece out of the way when you’re topstitching the fly.  Notice that the base of the topstitching ends right at the top of the front crotch seam.  If the right fly was laying flat in position, you would have to sew over it.  This makes it hard to get a nice smooth topstitched fly.  Plus the right fly will not lay flat when it’s folded over the left fly piece.

Here's the fly from the right side

Here’s the fly from the right side

Here’s a close-up of the front fly topstitching.  Notice how nice and flat it is at the base of the fly.  You can barely tell when the front crotch seam stops and the fly opening starts.

Stay tuned for a tutorial on how to finish the waistband for a nice clean finish… I’ll show you how to use NO SEW pant closures.   No button or buttonholes required!!



And the Fitting Goes On…

Hi Everyone,  I hope you all had a Happy 4th… I know if you live near me in Connecticut you probably got a little rain.  We still went to my Brother’s picnic and I had a great time participating in my yearly game of Croquette… (We play with my Grandparents beautiful wooden set that’s older than me!)  …I was the last one to get knocked out :)    Anyway, before and after the picnic, I have been working on my pants.  It’s really interesting to me that there are subtle differences between fitting and fine tuning pants vs. jeans.    Many of the jean adjustments that I’ve used to get great results work well with pants… but I have some lingering things that I need to get right.  Below is a pic of me in my favorite pair of shorts… basically they are my favorite because they are now the only pair I own that do not squeeze me when I’m wearing them.   Sadly, I’ve worn them on a couple of fishing trips with my husband and they are starting to look yucky…  (because I fell down a few times and made contact with the bottom of the river :)

Check out the wrinkles and the way these shorts fit…


My favorite shorts

My favorite shorts

Now check out how my pants are fitting…

Pants as they are...

Pants as they are…

I’m getting really close.  I did fix the “too much fabric along the front crotch” issue that I was having…   Here’s how I did that.

Pattern adjustment

Pattern adjustment


I slashed the pattern vertically…and horizontally right above the front crotch curve.  Then I pleated out about 1/2″ along the vertical slash and 1/4″ along the horizontal slash.  I did this on my shorts pattern piece… so I didn’t have to true-up the inseam.   I will show you how to do this adjustment to pants later.

I posted my shorts so you can see what my goal is…  I have made a number of changes to my pants.  I’m going to transfer all of adjustments to my pant pattern and cut out another pair to see where I am.

Here’s a peek at some of the things I did to my pants.  I felt that my rise was too long… and that I had excess fabric in the crotch.  If you are trying to fit a pair of pants that are already cut out and sewn together, you can take the inseam apart and offset the seam to take length out of either the front or back crotch…  It can be tricky to decide when crotch point needs to be shortened… If you think the inseam is in a good position, shorten the back crotch point to take out the excess… Because if you shorten the front crotch point, the inseam may pull too far forward….

Shorten back crotch point and take in inseam slightly

Shorten back crotch point and take in inseam slightly

Here’s a photo of my crotch… You can see that I offset the inseam so that the back crotch extended about a 3/4″

Here's how the inseam looks

Here’s how the inseam looks

From this view you can see that I took out a fair amount of the inseam too.  They did fit better after I did this adjustment, but I created another fitting issue.  The inseam between the crotch point and the knee notch is too short in the back when I compared it to the front inseam.  So I pleated out some of the length in the front inseam…  That’s when I realized that these pants were going to be sacrificed in the name of fitting perfection.

Pleat out excess length along front inseam

Pleat out excess length along front inseam

I put the inseams together and pinched out the amount I needed to remove.  Then I sewed a horizontal dart across the front leg.    You can see that it would not be attractive to do this to pants that you are planning on wearing.  Even though I cut out some nice khaki fabric to make these pants, I don’t feel bad about “wrecking” them because I learned a lot.  I can’t wait to transfer all the changes to my pattern and cut them out again!  Stay tuned :)