We are excited to announce our featured designer of the month for May, Khristal Jouett! Khristal is a designer we discovered not too long ago who lives locally to our Sew Beautiful office in Huntsville, Alabama. She was first published in SB issue #129, where she shared her fantastic “Panel Discussion” dresses with us. You can also see her work in our upcoming July/August issue, where she has provided readers with a free pattern on the pullout centerfold for her vintage-inspired, apron-style top (or dress) for girls (pictured above in gray and yellow, and below in red and turquoise). We are excited that Khristal has several other upcoming projects planned and can’t wait to share more of her design style with our readers on the pages of SB! On with the interview…
SB: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Khristal: I don’t talk about myself much, but here goes: I have lived in the Huntsville area since I was about 2 years old. I attended Monrovia Elementary/Middle School and Sparkman high school, and then graduated from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. I am blessed to have my momma, daddy, brothers and sisters still living in this area. I love God, my husband, daughter, family, and friends. I like all kinds of music but shy away from Dixieland and jazz fusion (too busy and chaotic). And, before this starts to sound like some kind of online dating form, I have to confess that I have a “slight” fabric collecting problem. It’s starting to outgrow the spare bedroom and is making its way out to the garage.
SB: How did you get started sewing?
Khristal: I started sewing when I was in the sixth or seventh grade. My momma showed me how to operate the sewing machine safely, read pattern instructions and lay out the pattern pieces. She gritted her teeth and let me go for it. I started making doll clothing and pajamas for myself. When I started sewing, money was tight and making my clothes was a money saver. It also gave me a chance to experiment with my look and get out of doing lots of yard/garden work. My daddy’s momma was a seamstress, so he let me slide on pulling weeds and picking okra! 😉
SB: From where would say you get your inspiration for your sewing projects?
Khristal: Vintage patterns, ready-to-wear clothing, museum exhibits, watching little kids, fashion designers, and television.
SB: Many of us who sew also participate in other hobbies, do you?
Khristal: Knitting, cooking, and redesigning our home.
SB: How does your daughter react to the clothing you make for her?
Khristal: She likes to pick colors and fabrics so that I can make her “stuff”. As long as I don’t make her look overly fancy, she’s happy. She loves the twirly dresses and skirts, but she likes to run and play; so I pair dresses with capris, leggings, and little shorts you don’t see — just in case she feels a cartwheel coming on.
SB: Your first article for Sew Beautiful, “Panel Discussion”, was published in our March/April issue and we have your work planned into more issues over the next year, including your free pattern for July/August: a vintage-inspired, apron-style dress for girls. Tell our readers a little of the story behind how you came to be published in Sew Beautiful. What is it like for you to have your designs in print?
Khristal: It’s an honor to have my ideas translated into a tangible product that Sew Beautiful readers can hopefully enjoy making for their little ones. Back in 2007, I took my daughter to have her portrait done at Jennifer & Company (NOTE: Jennifer of Jennifer & Company is our beloved, long-time photographer for Sew Beautiful here in Huntsville, AL.). We were asked if she could model a couple of outfits for the July/August 2007 issue. Jennifer later asked if we would like to fill out a form to have her listed in the Sew Beautiful model pool, and of course, we said yes. Each model profile has a few headshots, and in my daughter’s shots she was wearing one of the outfits that I made for her. SB editor Kathy Barnard liked her outfits and asked the photographer (Jennifer) about them, who asked me if I wanted to give Kathy my contact information. After I calmed down (that jumping for joy stuff can be kind of noisy) I said “Why yes, that would be lovely!” I probably didn’t sound that refined, but you get the picture; and here we are.
SB: Your pieces have a distinctly vibrant fun, youthful appeal, which we might attribute to your bright contemporary fabric choices and your unique pattern adaptations. How do you go about panning a garment, with so many choices along the way?
Khristal: I like to see my child in bright happy clothing that she can have fun wearing. I “audition” the fabrics and trims by laying them out on the kitchen table (which is near the window). Sometimes the fabrics and trims get moved around and changed for a couple of days; sometimes the combinations come together more quickly. Also, picking fabrics from a designer’s
collection is helpful. Fabrics in a collection are usually made so that they complement each other.
SB: What would your advice be for a true beginner who wants to learn how to sew garments for children?
Khristal: Start with a simple pattern (pajamas, play clothing, etc.), a fun woven fabric (no stretch, no plaid, and no prints that have to be matched up). Take time to read the pattern instructions first. Use pattern paper to trace the correct sized pattern pieces. Keep the original pattern as a master pattern for use later. Take your time, breath deeply and enjoy this hobby that lets you express yourself creatively.
SB: What are some of your favorite go-to sewing tools and resources?
Khristal: The seam ripper; I don’t like to have to use it, but everyone does. The rubber band and a ruler; I use the rubber band as a seam guide. The ruler helps me to position the band correctly for the right seam allowance. A clear 6″ x 24″ ruler, a T-square, and a french curve. I also always like to refer to the Internet and great books and magazines for information. You can often find vintage sewing information at the public library. There are plenty of how to videos and articles that can show you how to do a technique you may not be familiar with. Check out Lezette Thomason’s videos on You Tube.