Liesl Gibson looks forward to back-to-school sewing. That's not surprising, given that she’s the designer of Oliver + S fabrics and patterns. What makes it a little unexpected is that her daughter “S” goes to a school where students wear uniforms and their color choices are limited to navy blue, khaki, light blue, and white. But that doesn’t deter Liesl.
“There is flexibility as far as the styling is concerned,” says Liesl. “And so many store-bought uniform clothes are made of manmade fibers that I can’t stand to touch!”
While the pleasures of using natural fibers are important, Liesl sees sewing for S as an opportunity for collaboration and bonding.
“Even when she picks out a big, busy print for a pattern with lots of small pieces [for her after-school clothes], I still try and use it,” says Liesl, whose newest Moda line, the Ladies Stitching Club, is shipping to stores this month. “It allows her to be creative and experiment. And when she sees some of my fabric and wants me to make something out of it, well that’s very special.” S likes to hang out with her mom while she sews, something Liesl remembers doing with her own mother.
“A lot of my quality time with mom was while she was laying out a pattern and I’d sit on the living room rug and we could chat,” says Liesl. “In this fast-paced world, time is a luxury and it’s a pleasure to spend it doing something for our children that we find and value and satisfaction in, too. I know my daughter really appreciates it.”
If you’d like sew back-to-school clothes for your kids, but don’t have a lot of experience, Oliver + S offers some patterns that are perfect for beginners (like The Music Box jumper, the Sketchbook shirt andshorts, and the downloadable Sandbox pants). Here are some tips from Liesl for making the most of your back-to-school sewing experience.
· *Separates are especially useful school clothes. Liesl makes a combination of pants, skirts, jumpers, and blouses that mix-and-match.
· *Buy all your fabric at once and buy plenty. “I go out and get several yards of navy and khaki twill and make basics—jumpers, skirts, and pants—with it,” says Liesl. “When I buy a quantity I know I won’t run out and I’ll have it for patches, etc. Liesl also advises buying fabrics for coordinating items at the same time. “That way you can be sure it will all match,” she says.
· * To adapt pants and skirt patterns to fit her tall, thin daughter, Liesl matches S’s hip measurement to the pattern’s measurements. For blouses and jumpers she matches her chest measurement. “I'll make a size that fits around her and then lengthen it,” she says. “It’s really easy to do.” Check out this tutorial from Liesl’s blog for more tips about lengthening and shortening clothing.
· *If your child wears a school uniform, there are still ways to make it personal. Liesl stitched a wool jumper for her daughter of the requisite navy blue, but lined it with hot pink. “She loved it and it made it more fun for her,” says Liesl. And more fun for Liesl, too.