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Important Fabric Concepts for Sewing Students

I have not written a blog post in a while, but I feel compelled now as there are some subjects that come up constantly in our classes that I think are important. This blog post is dedicated our present sewing students and to future sewing students as well.

Wash your fabric before sewing! With the exception of the fleece that we use for stuffies and fabric that says “dry clean only” all fabric should be washed before sewing. Our beginner projects are all done on some type of woven cotton. Flannel, by the way is woven cotton as well. When washing your cotton fabric, it should be in cold water with detergent (preferably unscented!) and dried in the dryer. PLEASE do not use perfumed fabric softeners or dryer sheets. There are several reasons for this.

  1. When the fabric is ironed, these scents and  perfumes heat up and can be a real irritant to your nose and lungs. If you have any allergies affecting your respiratory system, it can make it hard to breathe. This is a real issue in our sewing classroom as we have seen in our classes some children have a hard time breathing being around any kind of fragrance…it’s scary to see a child struggle to breathe if she or he is near the ironing board when the fragrance is intensified by ironing.
  2. Fabric softeners can leave a residue on the fabric which gets on the iron, sewing machine and your needle.
  3. In addition, there is no need for all these chemicals being added to your fabric. All that perfumed stuff was developed to deal with covering up body odor. This is NEW fabric!
  4. Reasons for washing new fabric:
    1. Gets any coating/fabric finish off the fabric.
    2. Gets the “shrink out” as fabric can shrink up to 3% when washed for the first time.
    3. In addition, some new fabrics “bleed” when they are washed for the first time because of the dyes used. After the first washing, you should be able to wash your new garment with your other clothes once it is sewn.


Diagonal Stripes, Directional Fabric & Solids

This topic seems to be misunderstood by many of our parents when buying fabric for their children’s lessons. Adult sewing students also seem to have a hard time with this concept. When we send out information on buying fabric for a class, we ask the following:


diagonal stripesone way pattern













  1. NO SOLID COLORS. The problem with solid colors is if you don’t carefully mark right side and wrong side, people end up flipping the fabric around and sewing the wrong pieces together. What a mess! We have seen this on lounge pants (both kids and adults have made this mistake) and it is a disaster!
  2. NO DIAGONAL STRIPES! Diagonal stripes are almost impossible to lay out with a pattern and match the stripes. This never looks good on a beginner project and is VERY frustrating!
  3. ONE-WAY DESIGNS there are some very cute fabrics with a one-way design, so just buy an extra half yard to a yard of fabric. That way we have enough fabric to lay it out so everything is facing the right way! Example: picture of cup-cakes… if you turn it one way the cupcakes face up, but if you turn it another way they are upside down and if you turn it sideways…well, the cupcakes look pretty odd!


Info on the end of the fabric bolt

When you shop for fabric, look at the end of the bolt and you will find all kinds of information. There is so much information on the end of the bolt! Look at the picture below. end of bolt

  1. Fabric Name (Nice to know if you want to buy it again at a later date, but not terribly important.)
  2. Fiber Content (This is VERY important!)
  3. Fabric Width (This is important.)
  4. Care (read: washing) instructions
  5. Designer (sometimes included, but not always)
  6. Price (per yard)

Number 2 Fiber Content is SUPER important. We ask for 100% cotton because it is the easiest and most forgiving of fabrics to start learning to sew with.

Number 3 Fabric Width is also important. The narrowest fabric is usually 42-43″ wide. Some fabrics are actually narrower (especially some specialty quilting cottons and batik cottons) and some are as wide as 58-60″ wide. The wider the fabric, the more fabric you get per yard.

Number 4 Fabric Care (washing) instructions is SUPER important. If it says dry clean only, it is not a great choice for a beginner project of lounge pants that need to get washed often!

That’s all I can think of for now. I hope this clarifies concepts we have tried to explain in the past. If you have any questions or comments feel free to email me. I love to hear from you! 

Very sincerely,

Rebecca Szetela
Create!® Sewing Studio

Meet Rebecca: Entrepreneur, Seamstress, and Educator

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Rebecca Szetela for Learnivore’s “Most Interesting People in the World” series. She is both the owner and sewing instructor in the fast-paced, creative environment she has developed at Create! Sewing Studio in Acton, MA.

To read the rest of the story, click on the link below:



Ask Becca… Sew Simple! “repurposing”

Ask Becca… Sew Simple!


Q: What are the basics of “repurposing”!

A: First you need to know where to find clothing for repurposing. Your own closet plus thrift shops & ebay are all good places to find vintage fashion!

Let’s start with your own closet. Do you have clothing that feels out of fashion or dowdy? Could it use a make-over? Think about how you could re-work what you already have. 

Next…thrift shops! Shop regularly as the selection is always changing. Found something you like that fits your budget? Buy it now, it may not be there later! Try things on. Wear clothing you can slip an item over to see if it fits. Look for quality fabrics. 100% wool sweaters can be a find, but watch out for furs or leather. Furs can be dried out & brittle or need expensive cleaning. It may sound funny, but smell your items. Don’t bring mold & mildew home!

Ebay is another great place to look for vintage fashions. You can find amazing items, but check sizing carefully. Actual measurements are helpful! Also, the price may be great, but remember to add shipping charges to your final cost!

Repurposing is a lot of fun, good for the environment & can expand your wardrobe in a totally unique way!



New + “Repurposed” = Great Style!
This sewing student’s outfit is both a new item plus a repurposed item. Her fabulous “made by me”
sweatshirt is all new marbled purple fleece, but her gorgeous jeans are repurposed! 

For the repurposing project, she took an old pair of jeans & used decorative thread &
stitches to stitch the stripes around the legs. She made this combination
of top & pants 
into a super cool & updated look!

Loving Create!® Sewing Studio…

I am so inspired this week!

Sunday We produced our first ever Create!® Sewing Studio Fashion Show at St. Matthews UMC here in Acton.

Tuesday Business coach Deb Laflamme taught a group of local business owners (including yours truly) all about the new stuff coming down the pike on Facebook.

Thursday I actually wrote, designed and sent out an email  newsletter for the first time in a year!

All week long! Our sewing students get more and more creative with their sewing projects; having fun while they learn. As my husband would say “It’s all good!”

So… enjoy the Spring weather, but don’t forget to also get Create!-ive! We are glad our students love learning here, because we love what we do!

Fashion Show Models waiting for their cue.Photo Credit: Crystal Gonsalves
Fashion Show Models waiting for their cue.
Photo Credit: Crystal Gonsalves

We are now on Instagram!

Follow “createsewbecca” to see our images.

Creative Inspiration

Young sewing students gather around the dressmaker form to get their picture taken!

I was thinking today about why I do what I do. My dear friend, Lorrie visited today from California with her daughter, Katie and I gave them a tour of our sewing classroom. As I showed them some of the projects our sewing students are working on we talked about creativity (Her daughter also has a creative background.) and sewing and what is important to us.

The thing that started me in this business of teaching people to sew is my passion for creating. It’s why I named our sewing school Create! and it’s what gets me excited every day.

Watching our sewing students literally leap into the classroom (the kids) to get to their sewing classes and seeing the intense joy as they learn to sew wonderful clothing and bags and stuffed animal and (for the adults) incredible valances and home decorating projects as well is a daily inspiration.

As we expand our classes and offer more and more of what our students want, it’s good to remember why we do what we do. It’s the love of creative expression and it’s a blast!

Pig’s Toes!!!

What are Pig’s Toes?  Here at Create!® Sewing Studio, we have renamed a part of the sewing machine. “Pig’s Toes” is the name we use for the Presser Foot.

The reason for this is simple. We do it for safety reasons!

The first time I told a student to put her Presser Foot down and she “pressed her foot down” I knew we had a problem! Then when I found a source that called the Presser Foot “Pig’s Toes”, I hoped that this would solve our problem.

Find me a girl who refers to her feet as pig’s toes!

After over 5 years of teaching kids, teens and adults how to sew…I think we made the right choice! What do you think?

Photo credit: http://eofdreams.com/pig.html

PARTS OF THE SEWING MACHINE: The Take-Up Lever (or “Goose”)


by Rebecca Szetela, founder and owner

Continuing our discussion of the parts of the sewing machine, let’s talk about the “Take-Up Lever”, fondly know here at Create!® Sewing Studio as the “Goose” … a very important part of the sewing machine. The goose is controlled by the handwheel and the position of the goose is important.

Have you ever tried to take your fabric off the machine after stitching only to find that you yank and yank and it’s hard to get the fabric off the machine? Well look no further than the position of the goose. If the goose is not in the top position when you are ready to take your fabric off the machine, you run the risk of  breaking your machine!

To remove your fabric easily, the machine’s rotary mechanism has to go through it’s full rotation (ever thought about why it is called a “rotary machine”?). The indicator that the sewing machine has gone through it’s full rotation is the goose being up. If, when you finish sewing your seam the goose is not up, turn the handwheel toward you until it is. That completes the rotary stitch. Your sewing machine (and you!) will be much happier!

An additional benefit of paying attention to the position of the goose is that when you finish your seam and you go to stitch your next seam, you won’t pull your thread right out of the needle! Have you ever wondered why you are constantly having to rethread your needle? Well, this may be why! So pay attention to that goose and you will have a happier sewing experience!

By the way, the reason we call it the goose has to do with the next part I will write about….the Presser Foot (or “Pig’s Toes”)! See you soon!

Parts of the Sewing Machine: Your Sewing Machine’s Handwheel

Parts of the sewing machine: The Hand Wheel (It’s that “bump” on the right side of your machine!)

In this series of articles, I thought it might be helpful for those of you who would like to expand your knowledge of sewing, to talk about the parts of the sewing machine. The first part I will discuss is the hand wheel.

The hand wheel is an important part of the sewing machine. Although most sewing enthusiasts love the power of the electric sewing machine, there are times when knowing how to do some of your stitching manually is really helpful. On most modern electric sewing machines the hand wheel (that “bump” on the right side of your sewing machine) is turned toward you (counter-clockwise if you are looking at the machine from the right side of your machine) to take a manual stitch.

The times you use the hand wheel to make a stitch include when you want to turn a corner on your project (called a pivot) and you need the needle in the fabric to do this. So…you turn the hand wheel toward you till the needle is in the fabric, lift up the presser foot and turn your work. Then you put the presser foot down and continue to stitch. Another time you need to use the hand wheel is if when you come to the end of your stitching if the take-up lever is down. You need to turn the hand wheel until the take up lever is in the topmost position in order to complete your stitch. Another time you use the hand wheel to stitch a manual stitch is at the end of a dart. I will talk about dart construction in more detail in a later blog post, but this is an important instance of using the hand wheel to make a manual (non-electric) stitch.


Create! Fabric Store List Updated

Please note: I compiled this list from several sources. I do not endorse any of these stores, although I have visited many of them. Please feel free to ask my opinion on a store, but do your own research as well either online or by visiting. This is just a starting point for your own explorations! (Please also note that this list is only Brick and Mortar.)~ Rebecca    

P.S. If you are travelling to New York, email me at rebecca@createsew.com and I will send you my list of stores in the Fashion District of NYC. ~R.L.S.




General and Fashion Fabric:

  1. That $1.99 Store, Auburn, MA (near Worcester) Every bolt is $1.99/yd.
  2. Franklin Mill Store, 305 Union Street, Franklin, MA 02038, Ph: 508-528-3301
  3. Sew-Lo Fabrics, 473 Cambridge St., Cambridge, MA (discount fabrics; hit or miss)
  4. Sew-Fisticated Discount Fabrics, Twin Cities Plaza, 14 McGrath Highway, Somerville, MA, also in Dorchester, MA, (discount fabrics; hit or miss)
  5. Clement Fabric, 80 Bedford St., Boston, MA (Chinatown)
  6. Winmil Fabrics, 111 Chauncy Street, Boston, MA  (Chinatown)
  7. Sawyer Brook Distinctive Fabrics, Clinton, MA (high end fashion fabrics) 55 Sterling Street, 2nd Floor, Clinton, Massachusetts 01510 1-800-290-2739 email: service@sawyerbrook.com (NOTE: This is primarily a web-based mail order business, so call or email first if you plan to go to their warehouse store in Clinton. Also check their website for hours.)
  8. Fabric Place Basement, 321 Speen St., Natick, MA


  1. Quilted Crow, 61 Stow Rd. #4, Boxborough, MA
  2. Quilter’s Way, 340 Great Road, Acton, MA
  3. Fabric Corner, 183 Mass. Ave, Arlington, MA
  4. Cambridge Quilt Shop, 95 Blanchard Road, Cambridge, MA
  5. Mary Rose’s Quilt Shop, 4-6 Brande Court, Reading, Ma. 01867 (Behind Atlantic Supermarket)
  6. Button Box Quilt Shop, 5 Overlook Dr., Wellesley, Ma
  7. Sew Creatively, Elliot St., Beverly, MA
  8. Quilted Acorn, Newbury, MA
  9. The Fabric Stash, 16 Sturbridge Rd., Charlton, MA (also home dec)
  10. Emma’s Quilt Cupboard, Franklin, MA
  11. Tumbleweed Quilts, Pembroke, MA, or West Barnstable, MA (Cape Cod)

Home Dec:

  1. Calico Corners, 440 Great Rd., Acton, MA
  2. Zimman’s, 80 Market St., Lynn, MA
  3. Artee Fabrics 68 Tower St. (2nd floor) Hudson, MA
  4. Still Life Home Consignment 68 Tower St. (1st floor) Hudson, MA  (fabric remnants at good prices)
  5. Freddy Farkel’s Fabric Outlet, 86 Coolidge Ave, Watertown, MA 02472 (617) 924-4144
  6. Ikea, 1 Ikea Way, Stoughton, MA
  7. Marimekko Fabrics, 350 Huron Avenue,  Cambridge, MA  02138


  1. Osgoode’s Textiles, 333 Park St., West Springfield, MA 01089—This is the biggest and best fabric store I have visited outside of the legendary NYC Fabric District.