Monthly Archives: March 2011

How many ways…

…can I stitch a sleeve into the armscye incorrectly? At least 3! I wondered whether taking several (OK, 6) shirts for my husband to last weekend’s sewing retreat was a good idea, and I think maybe the answer is NO! Men’s tailored dress shirts require precision, accuracy, and a fair degree of concentration. All things that are a little harder to accomplish in a room of 20+ sewists. Some of them who are even loud and giggly! Not that there is any wine consumption at such events…. 🙂

Mistake number 1. I stitched the sleeve into the armscye inside out. That beautiful sleeve placket I made just would not have been visible against my husband’s arm, so I ripped it out. And yes, I had stitched both seams of the “felled” seam finish. At 22 stitches to the inch.  And yes, it did require very slow and careful ripping to not tear the shirt fabric.

Lovely sleeve placket detail:


Mistake number 2. I flipped the sleeve I had just ripped out and set it into the same armscye. Uh huh. That’s right. This time I sewed the right sleeve into the left armscye.  Uh huh. Once again I stitched both seams of the “felled” seam finish. More. slow. careful. ripping.

Mistake number 3. I pinned the sleeve I had just ripped out for the second time into the correct armscye. My shirt pattern has a 7/8 inch seam allowance on the sleeve cap to allow for the “foldover” to encase the armscye 3/8 inch  seam allowance on the front, back and yoke patterns. So my third (and thankfully FINAL) error was to reverse the seam allowance. I set the sleeve at 3/8″ and the body at 7/8″. This time I discovered my error after stitching just the first seam.

Sometimes, you just have to step away from the garment. And drinking a glass of wine can help the self-recrimination and destructive impulses too.  🙂 Soooo, I didn’t get nearly as much done on my ridiculously large pile of shirts as I had hoped. Whatever. I laughed with my sewing sisters. I made some new friends. I helped a few of my sisters with fitting and construction issues. It was a fantastic weekend. There will be shirt progress updates later.

WIP shirts:

WIP_PaleBlue     WIP_BlueGrey

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

LRD twirler!


Except for the hem, my Litte Red Dress is done. Wheeeeeee! I am super happy with it, and am hoping it lives up to my wearing expectations. It is comfortable, fits perfectly, and is flattering to my, ummmm, maturing figure. 🙂 What’s not to like?

I had no real construction problems, thanks primarily to checking out previous reviews on As I mentioned in last week’s post, the 3 main issues encountered by others have simple solutions. Problem number 1 was excessive stretching of the skirt side seams. I used a soft but stable rayon seam binding on the skirt seams to counteract this  issue. Since the skirt is two half-circles, there is plenty of bias and plenty of stretching. I was a little bummed I didn’t have red seam binding, but clearly not enough to go to the store! The dress has been hanging more than 24 hours, and so far there is no noticeable “growing”.


Problem number 2 was stretching around the neckline and sleeve facings. Well, for starters I eliminated the facings on the recommendation of some PR members, and turned the SA under and used my coverstitch to finish the edge. I also staystitched the neck and sleeve curves, and then applied a strip of 1/4″ Steam-a-Seam next to the staystitching. Notice how I pulled the Steam-a-Seam slightly? Yeah, that is to tighten up the neckline edge. No gaping, thank you! 


To make sure I did not get a puckery turn under, I clipped the curves up to the Steam-a-Seam, and then pressed about 1/4″ over the Steam-a-Seam. The clipping allowed the outermost edge of the SA to lie smoothly – no puckers! I pressed under a second time (no clipping!) and then used my coverstitch serger to finish the neckline and sleeves. My only gripe with this entire process was my coverstitch balked a little going over the bulkiest areas and some of the stitching is not perfect. When I realized this was happening I trimmed as much of the excess fabric out as possible and that definitely helped. Is your coverstitch machine as finicky as mine seems to be? Sheesh!


The third and final problem noted by some reviewers was the wrong side of the wrap tie showing. I sewed the ties together as recommended, and also tapered the bottom edge so it did not end in a Becky Home-Ec-y straight edge. Come on, Donna – you can do a little better than that!


I LOVE this dress! It fits beautifully, hides things that should be hidden, and the skirt is just made for twirling. It is a totally feminine dress that really makes you feel like a girly-girl. So fun to wear – even just around the house before the hem is in!


Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

A noble fiber

I love textiles. Especially textiles made from natural fibers. I love petting them, shaping them into something wonderful, and learning their story. This video is a visual treat that will take you into a special world: one where people cherish and honor their craft. Enjoy!


Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Super cute!

Pajama Pants

One of my students now has two very happy kids sporting their new pajama pants.  After only 2 lessons and one pair completed yesterday, their talented mother tackled the second pair all on her own while the kids were in school today. Crisis averted!  BOTH kids can wear their new jammies to bed tonight and feel equally loved by mom.  Great job, Mom! Looks to me like you definitely got the kid-seal-of-approval on this project!

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen



I’m in the mood for a little red dress. I wear plenty of black, and since I am thoroughly sick to death of the nasty March weather we have been having lately in the Seattle area, I am gonna make me something perky and bright! I have had this pattern in my stash for, as my youngest son used to say, a “couple whiles”. Probably at least 3 years, and likely more. I had just the right amount of some red polyester knit fabric with a very nice “crepe-y” texture, so I cut it out this morning and it is ready to stitch up. Sweet!


I also checked the reviews for this dress on (This site is one of my favorite sewing sites, and  does and awesome job of alerting you to any problems or issues with drafting or construction on commercial patterns. ) The things I noted on several reviews were 1) excessive stretching on the skirt (which is a half circle so lotsa bias!), 2) some stretching around the necklines and sleeves facings, and 3) the wrong side of the tie wraps showing.  Hmmm. I was considering stitching some rayon seam binding into the skirt seams to stabilize those pesky bias seams…I think I will experiment with a few options. Maybe silk organza selvedge edges would work too. As for the neck and sleeve edges – I am voting for turning under twice and stitching on my coverstitch machine. I will probably either staystitch the  edges before I turn under, or possibly use a strip of light weight Steam-a-Seam, and pull it just a bit to “draw up” the fabric just a touch. I prefer no gaping, you know. 🙂

This dress is a snap to stitch up, so as long as I can stay out of the garden I should be able to complete it pretty quickly. Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen



Run, don’t walk, to your computer and order one of these FANTASTIC thimbles. I soooo wish I had had one of these when I was working on my Chanel jacket. I have tried many, many different thimbles over the years, and virtually all of them were either  too big, too small, covered the wrong part of my finger, slipped off constantly, or the needle slipped off the surface instead of going thru the fabric. Good tools are critical to enjoying the sewing process, and this thimble is seriously awesome.

I purchased mine at SewExpo, but you don’t have to wait till next year to get yours. Just visit, download the sizing template, and place your order. PQF Thimbles come in 16 different sizes, so you can be pretty much guaranteed you will find one that fits your finger. I know. Twenty-five dollars seems extravagant for a thimble, but I have probably spent twice that over the years for ones that did not help my hand-sewing or prevent finger pricks at all. Go ahead and get one. You are worth it. 🙂


Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Ugh. Not the look I was going for….


Some projects just do not come together in reality the same way they look in your mind during the design phase.  Such was my experience with this rayon stripey-graphic knit dress. I thought I loved the fabric. I thought the pattern would look as cute on me as it did on my ASG friend. Pretty sure I was wrong on both counts. 🙁

Despite all the positive reviews on, this pattern ( New Look 6429) just didn’t work for me. Or maybe the fabric is not as interesting as I thought when I purchased it. Or my fabric/pattern combination was off.  WAY OFF, huh? I hate when that happens. During construction this weekend I auditioned several trim options from my stash, and decided I prefered the lighter grey.

LightTrim          DarkTrim

The dress sewed up quickly and easily….but that is about the only positive thing I can say about it. When I wore it Sunday morning, I felt like I was wearing a sack. Albeit a soft and comfortable sack, but a shapeless, unflattering sack nonetheless.  I am going to put it aside for a while and see if a solution presents itself.  In the meantime you won’t be see me out on the street in this outfit!


Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Pursue your dreams

Men <Sewists> often become what they believe themselves to be. If I believe I cannot do something, it makes me incapable of doing it. But when I believe I can, then I acquire the ability to do it even if I didn’t have it in the beginning.
— Mahatma Gandhi

I want to give a HUGE shout-out to one of my sewing students, Sisley, from Vancouver B.C. She is going to be attending the Parsons fashion design program in NYC this coming fall. CONGRATULATIONS, Sisley!!!! You worked very hard, and I am so proud of your accomplishments.

I just love it when people work really hard, AND they achieve their dreams. Life doesn’t always work out that way, and when it does, it makes my heart sing. Sisley had almost no previous sewing experience, but what she did have was intense focus, plenty of determination, and a willingness to learn. We spent most of a week together in January, and not only did we complete one garment and almost a second for her portfolio, we had a great time!  I can’t wait to see what Sisley does next- it is going to be something special for sure!

Happy sewing (and follow your dream! )

Maris Olsen

What’s next?

I sewed hard and long the last couple of weeks before Sew Expo, and I need a little down time before getting back in the saddle again. I met with several new students today, and am excited to see them get started on their sewing adventures. I did a little clean-up (really, only a little!) in my sewing room, and have been thinking about my next project. I have several knit dresses and tops all cut out and ready to stitch up…that has some appeal after the intensity of my Chanel jacket. Or maybe a fun artsy jacket….I definitely got me some inspiration at Sew Expo. Or I could finish my grey ponte knit sheath dress. Or work on my pants pattern.

Hmmmm. I think I’ll go to bed and read. Happy sewing!

Maris  Olsen



I finished the jacket with almost no time to spare. Sometime in the future the buttons are going to get changed out, and probably another set of small pockets added on top of the current large-ish ones. But for now I am calling it DONE. Amazing how sick to death of a garment one can become after handling it almost non-stop for a couple of weeks!

Tomorrow I’m off to Sew Expo for the day at the Western Washington State Fairgrounds. My local sewing guild, Greater Seattle ASG, is hosting a banquet tomorrow night and I gotta look sharp. That’s why all the intense effort to finish the jacket. And the Anna Sui blouse. And the black wool crepe “fishtail back” skirt. No dirty jeans and tees will do, my sewing girl friends are expecting something a little better from me!

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen