Whoops! Sorry about the class link everyone, here is the correct link for the 20% off Sew Better, Sew Faster.

When Janet Pray’s Craftsy class landed itself in my email inbox, I immediately enrolled. For those of you who don’t know, Janet Pray is the niece of Margaret Islander of Islander Sewing. Additionally Janet is the founder of the American Sewing Expo which truly is an amazing sewing conference and expo held every year in Novi, Michigan. I was fortunate to attend and teach a little at last year’s expo and of course, I met Janet. Janet is one of those rare people who are unbelievably supportive of the sewing community so for me, it was a no-brainer to enroll in her course.

So, let’s talk a little bit about this class and the jacket pattern that comes with it, shall we? The Craftsy class itself, Sew Better, Sew Faster, is based off of the Islander Sewing System, which is all about bringing industry techniques and tips to the home sewing masses. This is something that Margaret Islander came up with and Janet continues on with today. I had heard about Islander Sewing and I’ve been meaning to purchase a video or two from the website and just hadn’t gotten around to it, so I felt the Craftsy class would be a good jumping point. In the class you learn about sewing pinless and nothing is hand basted, meaning that you don’t pin the pattern pieces together first and then sew them together and everything is sewn by machine. Additionally, Janet talks about sewing ergonomics and how to best achieve a workstation that resembles that of something in the industry, which in turn means better posture, less stress on certain body points and well, faster sewing. Janet shows how to correctly utilize wooden sewing tools like a tailor board and a clapper (this was awesome!!!) and she utilizes the serger and a gravity steam iron (I’m green with envy for that tool). She talks about topstitching and shows techniques and tips for getting better topstitching results. When all was said and done, this class was right up my alley!

Then there’s the pattern, Jacket Express. I was skeptical at first about using the pattern only because as I started to cut out my size, I got a look at the small manual that came with the pattern. I noticed that there were different seam allowances for different pieces and at first, I was kind of put off by this because I usually don’t even read pattern directions when it comes to sewing. But I forged on and I’m glad I did because this pattern is expertly drafted. The fit, for me, is spot on too. I didn’t make a muslin and look, this pattern fits me right out of the envelope!

Deets on the jacket: I made the x-small, which is kind of sad because the pattern itself doesn’t go any smaller and really I’m an average girl size, I think. I made it up in some great italian linen from Yellow Bird Fabrics and I used a heavy Coats and Clarks thread for the topstitching. And actually, can I just say that I loathe topstitching thread? If you get the heavyweight or denim kind its such a pain in the butt and its hard on my machine and its hard to gauge the tension with and I’ve pretty much decided that I’m never using it again. Yup, I hate it that much!!! I ended up unpicking a bunch of topstitching throughout the jacket and it was no fun! Anyway, back to the jacket. The jacket went together wonderfully except for a few places where I wasn’t paying attention, which was my own silly fault. I sewed the entire jacket without the use of pins – can you believe that? I can’t. I’m terribly impressed with myself. Ha ha! The welt pockets were awesome!!! as were the sleeve cuffs (which I’ve folded up and out of my summery way). Then of course, I’m sure you noticed that my version is collarless. I opted not to put in the collar as I loved the look of the collarless version so much. Instead I drafted a back neck facing and added it to the front facing before attaching it to the jacket.

Verdict: The class and the pattern are well worth the money. This jacket has a long and wearable life in my closet. Its a mite too warm for the summers around here, however on a cool night I’ll be good to go. Since I went for a basic color, it will work well in the fall and spring as well. I’m pretty sure I’ll be reaching for it all the time. Its that comfortable and its that good.

On a final note, Janet contacted me and gave me some goodies to give to all of you. First off, enjoy 20% off the class when you click through this link. Additionally, I was able to procure a free class for one of you, so I’ll be having a giveaway of Janet’s class tomorrow! Stay tuned for that!

So, what do you think? Do you sew without pins? Ever tried the Islander Sewing methods?


41 thoughts on “Genius

  1. Oh! I am SO happy you let loose about topstitching thread! I was tortured – TORTURED! – by topstitching thread all weekend long! Your jacket looks awesome. I’ll have to move this class from my wishlist to purchased. Thanks for the review!

  2. I’m a beginner and I’ve been eyeing that class since it came to Craftsy. I’ve been waiting for a review, so thanks for that! Hopefully, I can sign up for it soon. However though, I’m wondering if it is good for a beginner. Anyone have any ideas on that?

  3. @Naomi & CJ – Sorry!!! The links are fixed now, you shouldn’t have any problems.

    @Sherri – I’ll admit, I think the jacket is fairly intermediate/advanced, but the skills, tools and techniques are great for beginners and advanced sewers alike. You could use the class, but maybe use a different pattern, like a skirt or blouse or something.

  4. Really interesting, and great jacket! Colette did a blog post a while back on industrial techniques for home sewists, and ever since I’ve tried to minimize my use of pins. It is incredible how much faster things are! And I never used to hand baste anyway, so now I just have a good reason πŸ™‚

  5. I love the jacket, but I can’t believe you sewed it without pins!! I would like to take this class and see how it’s done.

  6. Just getting back into sewing after a break of 20 years quilting…this would be perfect for me. Thanks for the chance.

    Been using my tailor board, clapper and ham as decorations. lol

    Love the collarless version, I would do it that way also and have some pink linen tucked away…hmmm!

  7. I have enrolled in this class and received the jacket pattern…but I haven’t chosen fabric yet to get started. Your jacket looks incredible! I can’t wait to make one too.

  8. Lovely jacket. The colarless style gives it an elegant Channel whiff. I tried some jeans topstitching and my machine was all but amused. This is actually one of the reasons why I am considering a swap for a more robust model. Would you have any suggestions?

  9. Great job on the jacket. I’ve been interested in learning more about the Islander Method. I have not tried using top-stitching thread. I have always used regular thread. I’m wondering if the issues are due to the type of machine you have or are they universal? I guess I’ll stick with regular weight thread for the time being.

  10. Nicely done! I’ve never tried the Islander method, but I do sometimes sew without pins. The class intrigues me…

    I understand your issues with topstitching thread–I’ve had similar problems. I switched to Guttermann Mara and my (older) Bernina was much happier with it (no breakage, no rats nest of threads on the bottom side).

  11. @Jo – So much faster! It’s pretty awesome I think and really, it really is surprising how you really just don’t need pins. Maybe putting in a sleeve, but otherwise, no need for them.

    @Barbara – Before I saw it in action, I never believed that I could sew without pins, but now that I understand the method better and all the ergonomics that go into it, its really easy. I’ll never go back!

    @Deb Praus – I LOVE the collarless idea. I’ve been tossing around Chanel jacket ideas and as I sewed this jacket and kept trying it on, I was so taken with the collarless idea. Its wonderful!

    @France Parijs – Exactly what I was after – a little Chanel-esque! As far as switching out machines for one that handles topstitching better, I have no idea. I have a really solid machine – a Bernina – and it sews everything beautifully, but it HATES topstitching thread. Uggh! I would say, go to a dealer and try them out, taking some topstitching thread with you to see just how each machine handles it. As far as I know, in the industry, there is a such a thing as a “topstitching” sewing machine. All it does is topstitch and it handles that thick thread like a dream.

    @VictoriaR – I honestly have to say I don’t know about the threading thing. I have a really wonderful machine – I would swear it could sew through metal!!! But when it comes to topstitching thread, it really hates it. Grrrhhh!

    @Jen – I’m definitely going to have to try this Guttermann Mara thread. I also have a Bernina, a newer model, but its awful with that thread. I dread thick topstitching thread! I’ve learned never to use it, but I thought I would take a chance here and it was just as awful as usual. Never again! I’ve tried using silk thread, which is thicker and it works pretty well, but I’ll definitely give the Mara a chance. Thanks so much!

  12. Your jacket looks great- I wouldn’t have given it a second look if I hadn’t seen yours.

    Years ago I worked for a local small womens clothing company and learned many of the tricks of the trade- some of which I still use to this day.

  13. Pins, pins, who needs ’em?! Well, I think we all need them sometimes, but not nearly as much as people think. Coming from an industry background I don’t use pins much. When I saw Janet’s class on Craftsy, I enrolled right away. Someone teaching industry techniques?! I was so excited, and I recommend the class too. Where as I kind of learned these techniques by watching others, Janet explains everything so well and makes these skills really accessible to everyone.

    Your jacket looks great!! I was a little hesitant about the pattern but seeing it on you makes me want to make one too.

  14. The jacket looks great and seems like an excellent addition to your ‘everyday wardrobe’!
    I agree on the topstitching thread… as do many in my sewing class. Which is why the teacher recommended using a double normal thread! You just set up two spools, like when you’re using a twin needle, except you lead both threads through a single needle, i.e. through the same needle hole. It makes the topstitiching stand out more than with single thread, yet it’s not so cumbersome to work with as topstitching thread.

  15. Your jacket looks great! I am a pinning fanatic…I am curious to see how this method works! Are you using a topstitching needle with your topstitching thread? They have a larger eye and it made a huge difference with my machine.

  16. Beautiful jacket, Sunni! really, really pretty and it is sooo hard to believe that one could get to this end result without using pins! unbelievable! you are so talented πŸ™‚

  17. I enrolled in that class but thought I would just watch it and use the tips for another project rather than make that jacket as it wasn’t really my style – having seen your fabulous collarless version though, I’ll go for it! Gorgeous!

  18. Your jacket is fabulous, I love the look and style. I am going to head over to check out that class on craftsy and I agree 100% about the topstitching thread.

  19. i’ve really tried to reduce the number of pins i use. incidentally, i used to leave off notching my seam allowances until i realized having those notches made it so i needed fewer pins! re: topstitching thread– i hear ya! it is a royal pain to use. i have found that if i use a topstitching or denim needle the eye is large enough to accommodate the thicker thread. makes a huge difference! also increasing my tension helps.

    i haven’t bought any craftsy courses yet, but this one is tempting. i’m always wondering how the industry does things because i crave the efficiency! also, i’m a huge fan of different SA’s. i hate cutting wide SA’s only to trim them down later. thanks for the class review! oh, and cute jacket! looks like a great staple to have in your closet!

  20. I saw this class and was really excited about it, but wanted to read more in-depth reviews. Thank you for posting this! I’ll be back tomorrow to try to win it πŸ™‚

  21. I’ll definitely be back to try and win this course tomorrow. Sewing faster and more accurately is just what I need! (Then maybe I will get through my other craftsy courses a little quicker). Thanks for the review and great jacket!!

  22. Sewing without pins scares me! And I’ve been trying to slow down and savor my sewing, instead of going faster. But if you give this class the thumbs up, I feel compelled to check it out!

    The jacket look amazing, and so cute on you!

  23. thanks for the interesting post.
    I love the jacket, especially the curved front bottom hem and that it’s collarless.
    I have recently been wanting to topstitch EVERYthing so after a few projects I bought a topstitching needle and topstitching thread — and my vintage Bernina was not a fan! She never complains about anything, so I definitely took notice when she so protested. actually the appearance was fine when it was just two layers but even then she didn’t sound happy. I am going to mess around with the tension a bit (whhhhhat, she never needs the tension messed with) and if that doesn’t do anything I think I will just not make her use topstitching thread πŸ™‚

  24. @ Jennifer@Workroom Social – I agree. Never thought I would say something like that, but yes, pins are fairly overrated. I found the jacket to be surprisingly cute by the end of it all. I was quite surprised actually. Seriously, seriously considering another.

    @SabineC – Yes, an Everyday Wardrobe essential! In the class Janet, talked about using two threads as one, but I didn’t even try it. Ha! I think it would have ended up even easier to sew. The topstitching thread is really just too hard to use. Uggh.

    @PendleStitches – I was hesitant about the jacket too. But it has GREAT bones. Seriously. I am so happy with the finished product. Such a great, versatile piece.

    @Kelly – Crazy enough, yes, I used a topstitching needle – still was such a crummy experience. I thought for sure this would solve all the problems I’ve had with heavy topstitching thread, but no, it didn’t even seem to make a difference.

    @LM – I wish I could take all the credit, but its Janet who really made the whole thing amazingly easy to work through. Very enjoyable experience.

    @To Boldly Sew – I think you’ll find the jacket rather fabulous. I’ll admit that I’m not into “printy” jackets but looking at the line drawing swayed me. So I thought I would just do it in a simple solid color in something that would be easy to wear and pair and its crazy, but I LOVE this jacket! Its a wonderful addition to my wardrobe.

    @lisa g. – I think if this was the one class you purchased from Craftsy, its a killer investment. It was excellently done, the tips and tricks were worth the money and the jacket is seriously expertly drafted. I would say this is one of the best Crafsty classes I’ve taken.

    @Gail – I had my doubts about sewing without pins, but I’m totally swayed. I’ll never go back. In fact, I’m looking into investing in a few more things like a table that my machine can sit in because I loved the experience of sewing pinless so much!

    @LLBB – same! I have a newer model Bernina and it sews wonderfully without nary a hiccup, except when it comes to the topstitching thread. Its awful. I also had to mess with tension and I never mess with it because its always so spot on.

  25. Is it crazy that I’ve never heard of Janet Prey before? Regardless, thanks for introducing me to her. I first heard about not sewing with pins from Amy (Cloth Habit), who doesn’t use pins to sew her bras. I tried it but I’m more comfortable with pins. Hearing that there’s another seamstress in this world, a very reputable one, also doesn’t sew with pins, is making me think it’s time for me to reevaluate my sewing technique. Thanks!

  26. Sunni, I signed up for the class a couple of weeks ago. I love it, but haven’t been well enough to sew (recovering from surgery). I’m hoping to get back on my sewing mojo soon and you have inspired me! Love the jacket without the collar! Thanks for sharing about it. c

  27. Oh man! This is so awesome! I love learning about industry techniques – so this class might be right up my alley too! The jacket turned out great! You look so badass! I love that it’s a nice twist on a denim jacket.

  28. Sunni, this jacket is wonderful! So elegant, so chic, so flattering! I don’t know that my skills are ready for this, but I may try anyway. I have to tell you that although the top stitching was painful, it really makes this jacket in this fabric. Does that lessen your pain? It was worth it! Thanks for another valuable post.

  29. Great jacket! Love the top stitching, too bad that thread makes it so frustrating. I actually use more pins now that I used to because I’ve become somewhat of a precision maniac. It would be good for me to try the techniques in the class and see if they will allowed me to loosen up a little.

  30. This jacket is fabulous! I totally cannot tell that you did not buy it. I may have to look into this class. Great job πŸ™‚


  31. Cute jacket. The sizing worries me as I am pretty petite and it looks kinda baggy. Beautiful work with your topstitching! Could you use a different pattern with the class do you think?

  32. I enrolled in this class and I love it! I’ve watched it about half way through and haven’t started the actual pattern yet. But I’ve already employed her secrets for handling the fabric at the machine, curves, & clapper technique (had the hubs make me one) and I simply crave industry fashion sewing secrets. I consider work flow in almost everything I do – even putting away dishes out of the dishwasher! But had never thought about it with sewing. Duh! There is some floral on white denim on sale at Hancock screaming to be made into this jacket. Think I may have to indulge.

    Oh, I love your new haircut too! I took your zippers class and have only seen you with long hair. The short look is adorable on you!

  33. Hi Sunni… I ended up purchasing this class, and watched while waiting for my pattern (in Jamaica). I’m curious… did you just turn in the seam allowance for the yoke and topstitch? Or was there more involved with your version?

    I despise rounded collars on me – although they seem fine on other folk – so it was my intention to just change the curve to an angle, but your version looks like a great option.)

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