You don't have to be a genius to figure out that the cost of clothing has skyrocketed -- in some cases 25 percent higher than last fall. And yet, the latest styles are simpler -- straight stretch skirts, sheath dresses with no shoulder pads -- and, therefore, easy to sew.

Of course, no one seems to have time to learn how to sew or knit. And yet, each year more and more men and women are learning. There are many quick courses offered in which the basics can be learned in a day or two, or at night after work. The trick to staying interested is to find courses that are fun to go to, like Oscar Britt's popular "Knitting for Beginners" class offered by the Smithsonian Resident Associates Program.

Home knitting has been making a spirited comeback, propelled by the wave of beautiful but expensive handmade sweaters sold in the stores. A pastime perfectly suited to the creative "couch potato," knitting is a way to be productive and still watch television all night.

For those who know the sewing basics, a stretch sewing course would be an excellent next step, because the designers, like Donna Karan, are offering terrific styles in jersey, which takes special skill to sew. For the first time, Karan has created a wardrobe for Vogue Patterns, from seven pieces of her new collection.

Sewing for kids has long been an answer to staggering back-to-school expenses. And thankfully, Butterick has added Esprit Kids to its stable of designer patterns. The patterns mostly call for knits, and feature popular details that are important to the very young -- slim pants, zip fronts and rib-knit trim. Available for kids (Sizes 2-6x) and for girls (Sizes 7-14), the patterns are geared to please children as well as parents. All are labeled "Easy-to-Sew."

Below are listed the locations of many area sewing and knitting classes. Call for more information or to request a printed class schedule.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:

Far Southeast Career Development Center

2526 13th Place SE

767-8706

Classes in clothing construction for both beginning and experienced sewers. Free to D.C. residents.

District of Columbia Public Schools

Department of Home Economics

Armstrong Adult Center

1st and O streets NW

673-7356

Classes in clothing construction and tailoring. Fee is $5.

District of Columbia Schools

Department of Home Economics

Potomac Garden Recreation Center

700 12th St. SE

727-5489

Clothing construction class. $5 fee.

Yarns and Twines

5008 Connecticut Ave. NW

686-6464

Creative British knitwear designer Sandy Black is giving a seminar, "Knitting With Color," Sunday, Sept. 20. Regular crochet and knitting classes for beginning and advanced levels are offered as well.

The Society of the Cincinnati

2118 Massachusetts Ave. NW

785-2040

Katheleen Betts teaches textile conservation to volunteers at the Anderson House Museum. For skilled needleworkers only.

Mount Moriah Baptist Church

1636 East Capitol St. NE

544-5588, 547-5078

Sewing classes for beginners and advanced students.

Naimah K. Omar

889-1460 (7-9 p.m.)

Courses in beginning sewing and alterations. Six sessions for $80.

Adult Education

D.C. Public Schools

Sewing, tailoring and hat-making courses offered at four locations: 1221 M St. NW, 673-6891; 5901 East Capitol St. SE, 767-8272; 2301 11th St. NW, 673-7620; 3145 Hiatt Place NW, 673-7314.

Phyllis Wheatley YWCA

901 Rhode Island Ave. NW

667-9100

Several sewing classes offered.

Smithsonian Resident Associates Program

The Smithsonian Institution

357-3030

Workshops and classes in sewing, knitting, lace-making, quilting and embroidery.

The American Sewing Guild

P.O. Box 2638

(703) 644-0679, (301) 565-8860

A series of classes called "Lifestyle Wardrobe 87/88" that includes sewing tips as well as wardrobe analysis and contemporary tailoring.

Ethel M. Martin

1711 28th Place SE

583-7382

Sewing (beginning to advanced), tailoring and alterations courses offered. Private lessons given also.

The Elegant Needle Ltd.

5430 MacArthur Blvd. NW

363-8891

A course in basic needlework offered as well as a "Work in Progress" class for ongoing needlework projects that require some expert assistance.

Varintra Design Studio

Georgetown

342-7896

Small classes offered in fashion design and illustration. Various levels of skill welcome.

Veni Vidi Vici

3061 1/2 M St. NW

333-VICI

Creative knitting workshops are offered to intermediate and advanced knitters. $35 per session.

MARYLAND:

Katherine Davis

A Woman's Tailor

802 Janice Dr.

Annapolis

(301) 268-1843

Advanced tailoring, apparel design and couture finishing classes for people who sew well.

Yolanda Voss Studio

9017-E Mendenhall Ct.

Columbia

(301) 381-5700

Courses in sewing, tailoring and high-fashion design and illustration. Ten-week program for $475.

Renee Jo Ashby

17800 New Hampshire Ave.

Ashton

(301) 774-9031

Workshops and private lessons on knitting and crocheting. All levels. Six-lesson set for $20.

Mary Alice Hearn

Garrett Park

(301) 946-8358

Beginning and intermediate loom-weaving classes.

Community Quilts

7710 Woodmont Ave.

Bethesda

654-7763

Patchwork and quilting classes for all skill levels. Six-session courses for $16 to $66.

Dale Friend

Rockville

279-7473

Fancy knitting stitches for skilled knitters. Eight weeks for $50.

Jeanne Benson

Silver Spring/Adelphi area

439-0673

Quilt-making classes for all levels. Six two-hour sessions for $48.

G Street Fabrics

11854 Rockville Pike

Rockville

231-8998

Dozens of classes, beginning to advanced, in sewing, knitting and other crafts. Will mail out class schedule.

Maryland Sewing Machine and Vacuum Cleaner

Branch Ave. and Allentown Rd.

Camp Springs

899-7200

A variety of sewing, embroidery and quilt-making classes are offered for all skill levels.

Julie's Quilt Shop

282 N. Frederick Ave.

Gaithersburg

258-7370

Hand and machine quilting courses.

Crossland Evening School

6901 Temple Hill Rd.

Temple Hills

449-7550

Sewing and pattern-drafting classes.

The Weaving Depot

8008 Norfolk Ave.

Bethesda

652-7080

Fabric weaving for beginner and intermediate weavers.

Karen's Yarn Shop

161 Prince George St.

Annapolis

(301) 263-9283

Offering classes in knitting and crochet for all levels of expertise.

Prince George's County Public Schools

Upper Marlboro

952-6088

Sewing classes for all skill levels are offered as well as courses in pattern making, tailoring and needlework.

The Fabric Center

14340 Layhill Rd.

Silver Spring

598-8640

Several beginner, intermediate and advanced sewing classes offered.

The Yarn Shop

7314 Baltimore Blvd.

College Park

779-8391

Sandy Black, British knitwear designer, will give a seminar, "Knitting With Color," Saturday, Sept. 19. $40, including lunch. Otherwise, a variety of classes are offered in beginning, intermediate and advanced knitting, crochet and stitchery.

Padmavathi Seetharam

1830 Metzerott Rd.

Adelphi

445-5148

Offering evening classes in tailoring, knitting and needlepoint.

Jennifer Lauren Knitting Boutique

1075 Seven Locks Rd.

Rockville

762-1100

Beginning knitting classes are offered both day and evening.

Iris Best

1415 Southern Ave.

Oxon Hill

894-4527

Basic to advanced sewing classes offered.

Ellie's Quilt & Knit Shop

15924 Shady Grove Rd.

Gaithersburg

670-6985

Quilting classes for all skill levels -- one-day seminars and 12-session classes for beginners.

The Needlework Attic

4706 Bethesda Ave.

Bethesda

562-8688

British knitwear designer Annabel Fox will give a guest seminar on "Knitting With Color," Sunday, Sept. 20. $60 admission includes lunch.

My Knitting Lady

2440 Ennalls Ave.

Wheaton

949-LADY

Specializes in yarns and classes for knitting and crochet. All skill levels welcome.

Chevy Chase Community Center

Connecticut Avenue and McKinley Street NW

282-2204

Lessons offered in sewing, alterations and knitting.

VIRGINIA: Stretch and Sew Fabrics

7100 Brookfield Plaza

Springfield

451-0155

Classes in basic sewing, sewing with knits, lingerie, sweaters, ultrasuede, quilting and many more.

Clothing by Design

Christine A. Robinson

11125 Glade Dr.

Reston

620-3807

Sewing courses offered for all skill levels.

Arlington Public Schools

Adult Education Program

2700 S. Lang St.

Arlington

684-9000

Many sewing, quiltmaking, knitting and other craft courses offered for all skill levels.

Fashion International

Design Studio

3136 N. 10th St.

Arlington

243-7377, 533-2893

Classes in pattern making, sewing techniques, construction, design and draping.

Kathy Meriwether

Burke

455-4862

Beginning and advanced smocking classes or private instruction.

Karen Hakola

West Springfield/Burke

569-2657

Classes in French hand-sewing and embroidery.

Mary Penders Quilting Classes

Apple Pie Country Design

1382 Chain Bridge Rd.

McLean

734-0044

Beginning, Sampler or Amish quilt-making classes. Fees range from $35 to $65 for three to six lessons.

Bryant Adult Education Center

2709 Popkins Lane

Alexandria

893-1090

A sampling of classes in sewing and tailoring offered Thursday, Sept. 10, at 7 p.m.

Fairfax County Public Schools

Pimmit Hills Center

7510 Lisle Ave.

Falls Church

893-1090, 560-1481

Many sewing, pattern-making and tailoring classes offered at several locations in Fairfax County.

Bishop Method of Clothing Construction

Peggy Murray, 573-0974

The Bishop Method is sponsoring "Spotlight on Serging" at the McLean Hilton, Saturday, Oct. 24.

Christine Moore

4416 Cortez Dr.

Fairfax

352-7763

Daytime and evening, beginning and intermediate knitting courses offered.

Soo Young Lim

School of Fashion Designing

804 W. Broad St.

Falls Church

532-3325, 532-5535

Basic sewing and fashion illustration courses offered as well as a general course in custom design.

Yarn Barn

8954 Burke Lake Rd.

Springfield

978-2220

Annabel Fox, British knitwear designer, will give a seminar, "Knitting With Color," Saturday, Sept. 19. $40 admission includes lunch.

Wooly Knits

6728 Lowell Ave.

McLean

448-9665

Creative knitting and crochet classes from beginning to advanced. Machine knitting lessons also available.

Quilt-N-Stuff

687 S. Washington St.

Alexandria

836-0070

Several different courses offered for the beginning, intermediate and advanced quilter.