Yearly Archives: 2010

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Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays to everyone!

Make a Cozy “Green” Sleeve for your Water Bottle!

Here are directions for another really easy sewing project. Note: You can also find this project on a dvd  called “Sew Green: repurpose, recycle and restyle.”

So, this is what you do. First you need to find an old sweater. Thrift shops are a great source for old  wool sweaters. (Suggestion: Wash the sweater first!)

Basically you cut a piece of the sweater sleeve off the sweater that is as long as the middle section of your water bottle. I used a rotary cutter which made it super easy to get a straight line, but scissors would work fine too (especially for younger kids who are not quite ready for a rotary cutter!).  After you cut the sleeve off the sweater, turn the sweater sleeve inside out. Try it on the bottle and pin the excess width (most sleeves are bigger than the bottle’s circumference) down the length of the sleeve. Stitch down the length of your sleeve. Trim the excess away to make a narrow (1/2″) seam allowance.

Then take the flatbed off your sewing machine and stitch around the circumference of your sleeve where you cut it off the sweater. The finished cuff of the sweater looks nice heading toward the top of your bottle and the sewn part works well at the bottom.

That’s it! Done! Slip it onto your water bottle and Voila! No more “sweating” bottle in the summer and icy cold water bottle in the winter!

P.S. One thing I found that makes this project easier is finding a sweater with stripes. It helps with cutting the sleeve off in a straight line. Happy sewing!

Fun with Fleece! Create an easy scarf…

This has got to be the easiest project yet!
Check it out…
Fun fleece scarf

Take a piece of fleece fabric that you really like (we used a piece of scrap fleece from our fabric bin) & cut a strip 7″ wide & the full width of the fleece. NOTE: The width of the fleece becomes the length of your scarf. So you end up with a piece of fleece that is 7″ wide & 45-60″ long. You can use a right angle ruler, a yardstick & tailor’s chalk to draw a line on the fleece so your cutting lines are straight. If your scarf  is too long for you, just cut some fleece off until you get to a length you like.

Next, put this long rectangle of fleece on your sewing machine, choose an edging stitch like a zig zag or blanket stitch & stitch around the whole piece as close to the edge as you can. This finishes the edge of your scarf.

The last step (& the most fun) is to start stitching in the middle of your fleece scarf with whatever is your favorite decorative stitch on your sewing machine. Stitch for a while, playing with the width & length of the stitch, then switch to another of your favorite stitches! Then keep going until you have used every decorative stitch on your sewing machine. The great thing about this is you really learn what all of the stitches look like & your scarf becomes a kind of sampler of all of the decorative stitches on your sewing machine.

That’s it! You get a cool handmade scarf & a decorative stitch sampler at the same time. If you can bear to part with it, it also makes a great gift! It’s so quick & easy, you can make bunches of them and give them as gifts to all of your friends.

Happy stitching!

I Just Sewed My First Shirt! by Brian S.

I chose KwikSew #2000 for my shirt pattern because I wanted a shirt that was large and loose for maximum ability to move while fishing. Although this pattern already has a lot of ease, I added to the looseness by adding 1.5” to the body length & going up a size to “extra large” for the body of the shirt, using my regular “large” size for the neck & collar.

The pattern directions were quite clear, starting with constructing the shirt front with patch pockets & flaps, however once this was done, I had difficulty trying to visualize how the outside & inside yoke edges attached to the shirt front & back. I finally figured out that the body of the shirt rolls up between the yoke pieces to create a “pig in a blanket” effect. This attaches the right side of the  inside yoke to the wrong side of the front. I pulled the body of the shirt out through the neck opening. To finish the body, yoke & sleeve seams, I used a “faux” flat-felled seam by machine-stitching the seam, then pressing the seam allowances together to one side and overlocking them without removing any fabric from the edges. Then I topstitched 3/16” from the initial seam.

I goofed one late evening after ripping out the collar stand with it’s attached collar to redo some seriously substandard edge-stitching. Unfortunately, when I put the collar stand/attached collar back on the shirt neck opening, I put it on inside out! The fabric was fraying so badly on the edges… I decided not to rip it out and redo it. I figured that the fish will never notice my mistake! You may notice that the collar turns slightly outward at the front edges instead of having a nice downward and inward roll effect. I learned to use a 1/8″ rolled hem foot to do the bottom hem (with about 80% success) and finished the curved areas by hand.

Although the pattern recommends medium weight woven fabrics (like flannel or corduroy), I used Burlington Moisture Control Sun Blocker fabric. It’s a lightweight synthetic wicking fabric with a high SPF which I thought would be great for those hot sunny June days on the sand flats of the Great Marsh. The color is listed as “dove grey” but  I call it “beach sand” …perfect for saltwater shore fishing! The fabric is soft, densely woven, lightweight, but somewhat slippery to cut. (I used serrated scissors to cut it) and it frays easily. This made  ripping out  stitched seams challenging with it’s ¼” seam allowances. I overlocked some of the raw edges right after cutting out the pieces, but I should have done this with all the cut edges.

I highly recommend this pattern. – I love this loose fitting sporty garment and I hope to get a lot of use out of it next spring!

My next project is a wool winter topcoat!

More Bookmarks plus Mini-purses too!

So…the teens forgot to bring their bookmarks back for pics, but this week one of my younger classes made bookmarks, and mini-purses like crazy! Here are some of them for my readers to see!

Sewing Projects for Kids

At the sewing studio we are always on the lookout for fun sewing projects for kids. One project that turned out to be a real quickie and managed to keep eleven teens engrossed for an entire hour was a simple felt  bookmark project! We found a version of this bookmark online at: but I have to say, this group of teens really made it their own!

What you do is take a piece of felt and cut a rectangle approximately 2.5″ inches wide by 6″ long using pinking sheers. The beauty of felt is that because it is not a woven fabric, the edges don’t need to be hemmed or finished in any way. Then you cut interesting shapes out of the inside of your rectangle with a pair of regular scissors. Then you cut 2 more layers the same size as the first. The middle layer is an interesting woven fabric that will “peek through” the shapes you have cut. The lowest layer is another piece of felt. Once this is done, you make the equivalent of a “fabric sandwich” by pinning the 3 layers together.

Then bring it over to your sewing machine. Now stitch around the the perimeter and if you want to get really creative you choose some interesting stitches and stitch around the cutouts as well. Voila! a handmade bookmark that is one of a kind!

One of the kids made felt “kitty cat” shapes and a dog silhouette and sewed those as appliques on top of one of a plain felt rectangle. There are lots of potential creative ways to do this project. As soon as I can get the kids to bring their creations back to class, we will be able to post some pictures.

Happy sewing!

Who taught you to sew?

Who taught me to sew? The standard response is that I had sewing lessons in a little town  north west of Boston from a 7th grade Home Ec teacher…but really? Well…not really…but I did learn to sew a pleated blue and white checked gingham “half” apron with my  name embroidered (by hand!) on the waistband in a contrasting color of embroidery floss (butter yellow)!

Honestly, that was a jumpstart, but if those were the only sewing lessons I ever had I would not be writing about sewing today!

The truth of the matter is that much (but not all!) of what I know about sewing was taught to me by my mother, my grandmother and my sister. My mother sewed skirts and dresses for us and our dolls until she started sewing business suits for herself. Then one day she wore one of her home-sewn suits to an interview, got the job and then continued wearing her home sewn creations to work!  Grandma liked to sew just about everything, but by the time I was around, she was in her home decorating phase; making curtains, pillows and table cloths. My sister liked to sew totebags and stuffed animals. She made me a stuffed turtle and felt bean bags we could toss around.

I learned a lot from mom, grandma and my sister, but I also continued my sewing instruction by taking private sewing lessons with at least a half dozen other instructors… so far! I also continued my education by learning about color and design in high school, college and art school and also in my former career by working as a graphic designer for many years. Then it was practice, practice, practice by making all kinds of sewing projects from simple to complex that solidified my knowledge and gave me the confidence to tackle just about any sewing project. Becoming proficient at sewing certainly takes an investment of time and effort plus a desire to learn, but it is creative and satisfying  and practical all rolled into one!

Can you sew? Who taught you to sew?

Vintage Sewing Machines

The saga begins…

A couple of years ago when we first started teaching  people to sew, we got “bitten” by the vintage sewing machine bug. Uh oh! It was a bit of a detour from sewing lessons, but a lot of fun! We scanned listings of used sewing machines for sale on various websites, bid on various auction sites and started travelling near and far to look at used sewing machines.

We participated in vintage sewing machine Yahoo List discussions with other enthusiasts, many of whom were incredibly helpful since some of the machines (especially the Necchis from Italy) have very little documentation. Many of these folks are very knowledgeable. Some are even sewing machine technicians donating their time and knowledge to us “newbies”.

We ended up collecting a bunch of vintage sewing machines. This included several post WWII Italian Necchi (pron.: nek’ ee) sewing machines made in Pavia, Italy. Some were in cabinets, some were portables and some had been pulled out of their cabinets and sold “as is”.

The pictures below are, in order:

1. 1955 Necchi Supernova (pink and cream) in Windsor style cherry cabinet.

2. Necchi Lydia Mark 2 portable

3. Necchi 523 (pulled out of a cabinet).

Pink 1955 Necchi supernova sewing machine

Necchi Lydia

Necchi 523 sewing machine: no cabinet

We also collected several  Singer sewing machines. Here are a couple of those sewing machines.

1. Mocha-colored Singer “301a” sewing machine from the 1950’s.

2. 1960s pale green/white Singer Featherweight.

mocha shortbed Singer 301a 1950s era

1960's Singer Featherweight


We also acquired a two-toned green post-war Japanese machine and an antique Willcox and Gibbs for free! The Japanese machine, a Singer clone named “Fleetwood” was brought to us by a friend who saw it sitting out on a curb for trash pickup. I wouldn’t let it into the house until it was guaranteed 100% ant-free! It must have sat overnight outside and a couple of ants had fallen out of the trees and into the box. Enough to freak me out!  My husband set it up just outside the garage, shooed away any ants, cleaned it up a bit, plugged it in and voila! It worked! See picture below.

Japanese 60s Fleetwood

Another friend stopped by one day with a 1938 Willcox and Gibbs he wanted to give us (see picture below). He just wanted someone to have it who would appreciate it! It’s an interesting machine because it was designed with no bobbin! None of these machines are incredibly valuable, but they are interesting machines nonetheless and pieces of sewing machine history.

Willcox and Gibbs vintage sewing machine

What we discovered on our journey

1. This is a fun hobby, but it distracted us from our main mission of  fostering creativity through teaching people to sew.

2. It’s a lot of work to unjam machines that have been “stuck” for years with congealed oil, felted lint and tangled threads. My husband got pretty good at it, but it took time away from his other hobbies: sewing (yes he sews!), fly tieing, fly rod building hobbies and fishing. To say nothing of the fact that he also has a full-time (paying) gig at work!

3. Some machines (especially with plastic parts) are virtually un-repairable.

4. The ones that can be repaired can wreak havoc on shoulders and backs!

5. Vintage machines are very cool and a lot of fun to sew with, but with the exception of the Singer Featherweight and some of the more “portable models” they weigh a ton and moving them around can be a chore. Now we understand why so many were built into tables. We acquired several of these and the tables are often beautiful examples of fine cabinetry. It’s also way better than having to lift them up onto a dining room table to sew!

6. You have to be careful about wanting to “rescue” older machines from the dump. They are wonderful sewing machines, but you can’t save them all or your house becomes the dump!

7. To be honest, if we ever buy a house that comes with a barn…we will probably start collecting them again! (Once a vintage sewing machine afficionado… always…). They are so interesting and they sew like a dream! We are just out of space for any more vintage machines at this location!

Alterations 101-Fit Your Pants/Skirt vs.Hem Your Pants and Skirts

I am getting questions about what the difference is between these two classes.

Alterations 101-Fit your Pants/Skirt to You! (Saturday)
$54. Nov. 20, 10am-12 noon

Hem Your Pants/Skirt in One Day! (Saturday)
$54. Nov. 20, 1pm-3pm

In a nutshell, Alterations 101 is for those whose skirts or pants don’t fit right. The waistband is too loose, or the seat is too big and you want to take it in at the waist to fit better. The Hem Your Pants/Skirt class on the other hand is for those who bring their slacks and skirts to a tailor or seamstress to shorten them and then redo the hem.

Both classes are quite useful and teach you very practical and money-saving skills.

We also have other very practical classes coming up including a home decorating class called:

Home Decorating: Make Your Own Window Valance! (Saturdays)
$108. Class Dates: 10/30, 11/6, 11/13
Choose morning or afternoon class.
Section A: 10am-12 noon
Section B: 1pm-3pm

Here’s a chance to learn how to make some of your own window treatments!

New *cozy* lounge pants

Here are my new *cozy* lounge pants. Sewn in a few hours and worn the same night! Now I know why our sewing students love these pants so much. They are sooooo comfortable! Sew a pair for yourself!