Monthly Archives: November 2010

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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!