The thoughts, sewing projects, and fabric oglings of a dedicated sewist.

Gifts for Young Sewists

The mother of one of my young students contacted me over the weekend for advice on sewing related gifts. She specifically wanted to know if a dressform (which her daughter wants) would make a good gift. I advised against that (her daughters body will change so much in the next few years that the cost outweighs the value). But that got me thinking about what would make a great gift for a sewing kid.

Most of what I recommend here is available at your local Joann Fabric Store or whatever else you have in your area. I'll provide Amazon or store links for easy online viewing. These gifts are aimed at the late elementary/middle school age level, since that is who I mainly teach in my machine sewing classes for kids. And I'm not receiving any compensation for these recommendations - just my personal opinions.

Sewing Books
There are many wonderful reference and project books out there that can help your young sewist move forward with his or her sewing. 

For a general reference book, take a look at Sewtionary by Tasia St Germaine or The Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing.

Project books often come with a set of patterns, or show you how to cut out the pieces with basic measurements.

1) One Yard Wonders - I used this book a lot when I first started sewing. It has a nice variety of projects (simple apparel, home dec, stuffed animals, handbags) that can be made with one yard or less of fabric.

2) A Kid's Guide to Sewing - Basic projects and instructions. My daughter has this book and it has some interesting projects and good instructions.

3) Sewing School 2: Lessons in Machine Sewing - I don't know this book personally but the reviews are very strong.

4) The BurdaStyle Sewing Handbook - This book is more advanced, but it is a great way to see how you can make small changes to a pattern for a very different look.

And for those who can't make it to a sewing class and but like "live" instruction, check out the online classes at

Sewing Patterns
Finding good patterns that match your child's skill level and have good instructions can be a challenge. I know the pattern lookbooks can be overwhelming if you are not a sewist yourself. Here are a few places to get started.

New Look has a good collection of "tween" patterns that are sized and designed for 8-12 year-olds and I've found that my students really like these patterns. Unfortunately, you can't search on their website for this collection - you have to look for the patterns with a yellow band at the top AND with the tag "tweens" under the yellow band. For newer sewists, look for patterns marked "easy."
New Look 6339

Simplicity Project Runway
The designs in this collection appeal to younger sewists, and many of them are easier to sew. Look for patterns marked for "girls" if your daughter is not yet wearing misses sizes.

Simplicity 8026
In general, you want patterns with a small number of pattern pieces as they will be easier to sew. This can be hard to identify if you don't sew, but if you look at the line drawings on the back of the pattern envelope, you can get a good idea of how many pieces a pattern will involve.

Scissors - Good scissors are essential. New sewists have to build up their hand eye coordination when it comes to cutting, and poor scissors make this process even harder. It's easier to put together a project when you have nice straight edges, and choppy cutting make it harder to sew. I sew with 9" Kai professional shears and Ginghers are also a great brand. I've been sewing for 3 years with my pair without needing to get them sharpened, and the cheaper pair I had before that needed sharpening twice a year. Younger sewists will probably want 8" shears.

Ruler - In addition to a measuring tape, a transparent ruler is also helpful for measuring and cutting. My favorite is the 6" wide quilting ruler.

Marking tools - This is important for marking and labeling pattern pieces. I use clay Tailor's chalk and these Clover Chaco Liners (they come in yellow, pink, white, and blue).

Thread - It is helpful to have a wide range of thread colors available. I know I would love it if someone bought me this set or this set

Who doesn't love the gift of fabric shopping? Get your sewist a gift card to your local store, or to one of the many online stores out there. My personal favorites are: - quality apparel fabrics - huge selection of quilting, apparel, and home dec fabrics, plus free shipping over $50 - quality apparel and home dec fabrics - specializes in knit/jersey, lots of modern prints

Sewing Machine
If you are looking to give your young sewist her first machine, I have a couple of recommendations. Both of these machines are good starter machines that will last for years. Please stay away from machines at the big box stores - the lower prices sacrifice quality by replacing metal parts with plastic.

Pros: Great basic stitches, all metal parts (hard to break), vertical bobbin (also hard to break), decent with thick fabric, sturdy, lightweight, adjustable stitch length
Cons: Poor light, some problems with breaking needles (buying Schmetz brand seems to fix the issue)

Pros: Speed control, adjustable stitch length, basic stitches, lightweight, good quality for price
Cons: Poor light (you'll need an extra lamp), drop-in bobbin (my repair guy says that often beginners break the plastic in a drop-in bobbin and it's an expensive fix), not great for thick fabrics or many layers (handbags, heavy fabric), mostly plastic parts

If you have any questions or if you have recommendations for this list, please comment below!

Happy Sewing and Merry Holidays!

Fall Wedding

Photo: Robert Gaona

In September of 2015, K contacted me about making her wedding dress. She had found a picture online of a dress that she loved but couldn't find anything like it in the shops. I poked around and finally figured out that the original dress was custom made by a woman named Penelope Perkins in Salt Lake City.

Photo: Alixann Loosle Photography

K loved the layered look of the skirt but wanted some changes. I did a few rough sketches until we were both on the same page about what she wanted.  Then came swatches and fabric choices and finding a base pattern. I decided to use Kwik Sew 3929 because the neckline was close to what she wanted.

This was a very different experience from my first wedding dress, as almost everything I needed to do I had already done before. I didn't have the same nail-biting moments where I "knew" what I had to do (but I only knew it because I had read about it in a book or watched a video online) but wasn't entirely confident I could pull it off. So this time around I had much more confidence and much less terror.

The muslin revealed some fitting issues and I made the following adjustments to the pattern:
  • Sway back adjustment of about 3/8"
  • Take in princess seams here and there
  • Lower center front section by 1 inch
  • Lower armsyche by 1/2"
  • Adjust front shoulder slope - not sure what to call this, but I had to slash and spread a little dart (you can see this in the photo below)

Blue lines are new stitch lines

Construction details:
  • The bodice and skirt were underlined with white cotton batiste
  • I used poly charmeuse for the base layer for both bodice and skirt, and the bodice has a lace overlay
  • I used the same poly charmeuse for the lining, and underlined the bodice lining with muslin
  • The bodice has boning at center, side fronts, side seams,  side backs and just outside back zipper for a total of nine spiral steel bones (I later shortened the center bone by about 3 inches)
  • The skirt handkerchief overlays are alternating chiffon and lace - once I knew how long I wanted the points to be for each layer, I got to review high school geometry to figure out the size of each square
  • I cut the waist of the skirt overlays large so that I could add volume with pleats (you can see these in the picture below where K's mom is zipping up the dress) 
  • I did not hem the lace overlay and I sewed a tiny rolled hem for the chiffon layers - about 13 yards worth of hemming
  • Neckline lightly eased to shorter twill tape to help it curve inwards
  • Waist stay added to help distribute the weight of the skirt
  • Wedding dress strength invisible zipper
  • Lining hand stitched to outer layer
  • Fabric was purchased from 

K's mom came to almost every fitting and her joy and excitement for her daughter was palpable.

Photo: Robert Gaona

Photo: Robert Gaona

K works for our local park district and she and her husband were married in one of the local parks. We've had a mild fall in the midwest, and their day was sunny and bright, warm in the sun and slightly crisp in the shade.

Photo: Robert Gaona

I love these kinds of projects: fun, challenging sewing on something that really matters to the client. I am so grateful for this work. Happy Thanksgiving to all my US readers - may you all find projects that will you with gratitude for the gift of sewing!

Photo: Robert Gaona

My Latest

Hey! How are you all? It's been awhile since I posted here (not apologizing, just observing). I post a little more frequently over on Instagram, but I'm a bit downpour or drought when it comes to social media.

I've been working on some fun projects this year and I'll do my best to post about them at some point. Or not. We'll see! My latest is a partnership of two of my favorite Indie pattern companies: Jalie and StyleArc.

I found the inspiration for the trousers in a Sundance catalog that made it to the pile of reading material in the bathroom. When I saw them they reminded me of the Style Arc Lola pants, if you could imagine a few tweaks (which I could and did). I should show you a picture of the inspiration pants now, but they are no longer on the Sundance website and if I get up to go take a picture of the ripped out page, I'll likely get distracted and then this post will join the rest of the imagined posts in my mind. So instead, I'll just ask you to trust me. They looked like Lola pants with front patch pockets and a center seam down each leg.

Casual elastic waist pant with pockets & back hem detail
Style Arc Lola Pants

So I made a muslin of the Lola pants. The only alteration I had to do was to add a 1/4 to each side seam from about hip level down. Now that I've made up the pants in a linen-rayon blend, I kinda want to take that 1/4" back out, but I'll see what happens after I wash them. Oh, and I also added about an inch to the length.

Design changes were to add the center front seam to each leg using the grainline as a reference point, changing out the pockets for patch pockets, widening the front flat waistband so that it lined up with the new center seams. I also ditched the elastic in the back hem, but I might try that if I make a version of these with a heavier weight fabric.

And it looks about like what I wanted.

I bought some of the same linen-rayon fabric (from in a dark teal and I might make a few more tweaks before I sew up a second pair in my more favorite fabric.

The top is the Jalie Haut Twist top without the front ruffle. I love this pattern and the red version is the fifth one I've made since March. And I have an idea for a sixth using two different fabrics. You can see the whole parade of them in my Instagram feed. The fabric for this one plus all but one of the other four came from My changes to the pattern were to add an inch in length, omit the back tie, and finish the neck the arms with clear elastic (I didn't like how the fold under method in the instructions turned out).

So there you go, another two items off my summer list. Because I am trying to follow a list this summer so that I can stay focused. So far I've crossed eight items off my personal list so it just might be working!

What about you? What are you sewing and how do you stay focused?

Goodbye 2015, Hello 2016!

It's here, a New Year. I'm getting back into routine after a lazy, lounge-y holiday with the family. I enjoy the break from regular routine and then I'm hungry to get back to it again, too.

I managed to get a little holiday sewing completed after I finished up the biker jacket for K. No fancy holiday dresses for me, but my handmade presents were well-received and fun to create.

Jalie 3244 Footed Pjs

Jalie 3460 Bella Fit and Flare birthday dress for Mooper

Butterick 5822 Coat for my MIL

She picked out this pop of color for the lining - I like it!

My sewing goals for the year are to make more jeans and outerwear. I'm sure I'll sew up a few jersey tops and dresses for myself in between the challenging projects, but I also want to stretch my skills. Yesterday afternoon I cut out a new pair of Angel Wolf Angel Bootcut jeans and a muslin for the Kenneth King Carefree Fly Front Coat Craftsy course I'm working through, so I'm off to a good start! I've also got some fun client projects lined up for January and February and I'll do my best to share those on this blog. Come find me on Instagram for more regular updates.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year!