Since starting Seam Allowance last July, I've wanted to highlight garment makers local to the shop and beyond. Life has been moving at a fast pace, though I am happy to finally post this great interview of Bill Jones by fellow Seam Allowancer, Linda V. I hope you enjoy this interview and are inspired by the creative and productive life of Bill Jones.
If you would like to provide a personal essay for the Seam Allowance blog, or have someone you would like to interview who has either taken the pledge or is an innate creator and inspiration to those of us who have taken the pledge, get in touch.
You may know him from the Seam Allowance Ravelry Group as the friendly guy wearing a plaid shirt in his Ravatar. And, if you are a regular in the group, you've more than likely benefited when he's shared some of the tips and tricks he's garnered from a lifetime of sewing, knitting and crafting. His name is Bill Jones, and he is the first in a series of Seam Allowance members who will be profiled here. We hope these profiles help those of us attending Seam Allowance in person get to know each other better, and help make those participating from afar feel more a part of the group.
Born and raised on the east coast, with an undergraduate degree in Fine Arts from Arizona State and an MFA in Interior Design from Ball State University in Indiana, Bill eventually settled in San Francisco. His adventures in the City by the Bay include 25 years teaching Theater Design at San Francisco State University; being an early member of the San Francisco Bay Area Puppeteers Guild; making costumes and the hair that holds those fabulous hats for Beach Blanket Babylon, a San Francisco institution; acting as principal make-up artist for the San Francisco Opera, where he is currently doing make-up for the tattooed Queequeg in their production of Moby Dick; and collaborating with Frank Oz of the Muppets. Not surprisingly, his Ravelry profile lists "glitz" as one of his favorite colors.
Bill is self-taught in both sewing and knitting. He taught himself to sew as a child when he became interested in puppetry. The first clothing items he sewed for a non-puppet were western shirts for his twin brother. His brother is in some ways responsible for Bill's life in craft. When they were children and it was time to go to kindergarten for the first time, Bill didn't want to go. He insisted on staying home, while his brother went off to school. When his twin came home with a wooden toy boat that he had made in class, Bill changed his mind about the whole school thing. He wanted to make a boat too! The rest, as they say, is history.
In addition to making clothing for himself, as a young man Bill sewed his future wife's wedding dress, then made his daughter's wedding gown when she married, and now sews and knits clothes for his grandchildren. His favorite self-made garment is his tuxedo coat, which he designed with reference to vintage fashions. Bill says that he "tends to think three-dimensionally," so he usually designs his own sewing patterns as he finds the process intuitive.
Bill took up knitting again after a long hiatus when his grandchildren came along. Among his efforts is this adorable stranded colorwork sweater-in-progress.
In addition to the tux and a variety of vests he has made to go with it, Bill also makes many of his own shirts, often embellished, such as this shirt appliqued with quilting cottons. This is good inspiration for using all of those lovely cottons you've been eyeing at Verb!
One of the reasons Bill makes his own clothes is that he can't find what he wants in stores. Sound familiar? Here is a leather vest he made, appliqued in suede. Definitely not off-the-rack.
Those who saw his cabled black silk tuxedo vest at show-and-tell recently know that Bill doesn't hesitate to mix knitting with sewing. He has developed a technique for stabilizing hand-knit fabric so that it can be cut and sewn like (and with) woven cloth. The technique enables the knitter to make rectangles of fabric in the desired stitch or colorwork pattern without worrying about shaping. The fabric can then be cut to whatever shape is desired and sewn together. Here is a teddy bear he made using this method.
Bill will be teaching this technique, which can also be used to stabilize steeks, buttonholes and zippers, at the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat in February. It promises to be a fabulous class. As one who has benefitted from his wisdom, I can say with absolute confidence that those 25 years at San Francisco State were good practice—Bill is a great teacher!