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Riley Sewalong Day 1

Welcome to the first day of the Riley sewalong. The Riley is definitely our most involved pattern to date, so we have broken it down step-by-step and into eight days of Sewalong information to make it as easy as possible. Honestly, the pattern itself is not particularly hard. In fact, the forgiving fit makes it a pretty simple sew in that regard, but there are a lot of steps which can feel overwhelming.

If you havn't already sourced fabric and notions, check out our blog post from last week that goes over all of the details in that regard. Today we are doing a bit of additional preparation. Being an intermediate/advanced pattern, I didn't feel the need to walk you through downloading and printing your pattern, but if you do need some extra help on that, click here to access the first day of the Jesse Sewalong which does walk you through that information.

What I do want to talk about today is some basic pattern adjustments, pattern markings, and testing your stitches.


The relaxed fit and the adjustable straps mean that the fit is super forgiving so I would not recommend going out of your way to make a bunch of adjustments if not necessary.


Generally speaking I would recommend using your hip measurement as your main measurement in choosing your size. If your other measurements are within one or two sizes of your hips, I don't think that grading between sizes is necessary. If your hip measurement falls between two sizes, I would recommend going down to the lower size.


You may, however, choose to lengthen or shorten the pattern. The pattern is drafted for someone who is 5'5". Our bodies are all different and getting to know your own body and proportions is key in sewing. A good rule of thumb is to compare the finished pattern measurements to something in your wardrobe with a similar fit. This will give you a really good idea of whether or not you want to add or subtract length. Also think about how much to add or subtract. Keep in mind that our torsos or legs are only portions of our body and therefore height difference. Don't make the common mistake of adjusting for your entire height difference in one area. For instance, if you are 5'8" that is 3 inches of height difference from what the pattern is drafted for. If doing the full length version of the Rileys you may add 1/2" to the bib, 1/2" to the rise and 1-2" to the legs. If sewing the shorts version, you might only add half of that height back into the pattern. Knowing your own body and proportions is key in knowing where to add/subtract length. The pattern has multiple lengthen/shorten lines and I recommend dividing up the height differences amongst them.

Cuffed Hem

The Riley is designed so that the hem of the pattern is rolled up twice at 1" each time. If you do not plan on rolling your hem, you may want to take about 2" off the bottom of the leg. You could do this now, or wait and try on the Rileys and adjust before hemming if you prefer.

Pattern Markings

Once your pattern and fabric are cut out, you will want to mark your fabric where indicated. There are a few different markings you should be aware of.


I mark my notches with a simple clip with the scissors. Keep the snip small - no longer than 1/4" - so it doesn't risk extending into the seam allowance. 


There are multiple dot markings throughout the pattern. I find the easiest way to mark these is by using a pin to puncture thru the pattern paper and into the fabric. Then I use a temporary marking tool (my favorite is a washable crayola marker in a similar color to the fabric) to place a marking close to the pin. Try to keep in mind if the marking should be on the right or wrong side of the fabric when marking. For instance, all pocket placement markings should be on the right side of the fabric while stitching markings like dart ends and the front crotch curve dot should be marked on the wrong side of the fabric. 


There are a few buttonholes to mark on the fabric as well. These should be marked on the right side of the fabric using pins to mark the ends and then a temporary marking tool to connect between. 


You will also want to mark the back darts on the wrong side of the fabric. I do a small clip at the ends of the dart along the top raw edge of the back. Then I use a pin to mark the end dot. Next I use a ruler and marker to connect the top clip down to the dot. 


Before sewing tomorrow we should practice stitching. Sewing through multiple layers of thick fabric can sometimes be a lot of work for your machine and skipped stitches/broken needles can occur. Make sure you switch over to your jeans sewing machine needle first. 

I will be using matching all purpose thread for the basic construction of the Riley and white contrasting Mara 70 topstitching thread for all of the visible stitching.

Get a scrap piece of fabric and fold it in half so that it is two layers thick. First I practiced my basic construction stitching at a normal 2.5mm stitch length in the blue matching thread.

Next, I put the white topstitching thread in the machine (top thread only) and practiced it. After doing a few runs I decided that I liked the look of the topstitching right around 3.1mm in length.

Lastly, I folded one edge over and practiced a double row of topstitching through all four layers of fabric. First I stitched 1/16" from the folded edge and the second row was 1/4" in from the first. We will use this exact double topstitching a lot in the sewing of the Riley.

Once you have practiced, adjusted, and finalized the stitches you will be using, you are good for today. Come back tomorrow and we will jump right into sewing.