Monthly Archives: July 2011

Vintage or new for you?


I am team vintage all the way. For sewing machines, that is. I totally and completely double-heart my 36 year-old Bernina 830. That machine has been with  me longer than my husband! And it is WAY easier to feed and care for, I might add! 🙂 A new needle every 8-10 hours, some cleaning and dusting after every garment, a drop of oil now and again, a yearly physical tune-up, and my little baby continues to just hum along without a single complaint.

Look how cute she is – all eager to have the next sewing student sit down and take her for a spin. She won’t let them down. The stitches will be balanced and smooth, the tension even, the adjustments simple and easy – she is a real workhorse. She has sewn everything from my firstborn’s Swiss organdy christening gown to 48 linear feet of vinyl cushion covers for my nephew’s coffee shop. Without a single complaint, thank you very much!


Let me introduce her younger sister, only about 15 years old (20 maybe?). This is  my daily machine now, since I have been spoiled by the “needle down” button and the automatic buttonhole function. Especially on my DH’s shirts – cuz the likelihood of me getting 13 buttonholes exactly the same length is nil. Zero. Zip. Nada.


How about you? Do you prefer the newer, computerized machines with all the fancy embroidery and other functions? Have you bought a new, inexpensive model that is working well for your needs? Did you score a great machine at a garage sale or thrift shop? Or, like me, are you still sewing on vintage model machines that work beautifully? I’d love to hear from you!

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

McCalls fall fashions inspire….yawns

I can’t wait for new sewing pattern catalogs to come out.  As anyone who has been to my sewing studio knows, I LOVE to collect patterns. I love getting all inspired by new possibilities….it can be so much more stimulating than working thru a fitting or construction issues on an actual garment! New patterns are all about creativity, options, and the design process of combining patterns, trims, and fabric into a unique garment. What’s not to love!

The fall McCalls pattern collection has been out for a week or more, and I have looked at it several times online. I have been trying in vain to find something I like, but I just don’t think it is to be this season. IMHO, the collection does not include a single Misses garment that hasn’t been done before, and frankly, been done better!

For example, do you see anything new or interesting in this sheath dress?


This dress is, well, sort of, OK, except it feels a little mod squad 60’s to me. Maybe it is the boots on the model? Nah, it is the whole thing. The bands on the cap sleeves, the trim on the zippers….just not really feeling it. Sigh.


I love me a cute jumper. They are comfortable and make me feel all school girlish. But this one….shudder.


Too bad we haven’t seen a couple of hundred patterns already for fitted, tapered pants.


It is certainly unusual when I can’t find a single pattern to love in a new collection. I even tried and failed for “like”. Guess I am sitting this one out, McCalls. I hope Vogue and Butterick come up with someone more enticing.

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Edgestitch, a definition


Edgestitch: a line of stitching 1/8″ away from a folded edge or seamline.

Source: Sew Everything Workshop by Diana Rupp

Edgestitching is just topstitching by another name, and in a specific place on the garment – namely very close to the EDGE. Get it? Edgestitching is close to the edge!! It is dead simple to do, especially if you use an edgestitch or blind hem foot like the one shown above.  As long as you keep the “guide” along the edge where you want to apply the stitching, it will be straight as well as an even distance from the edge. This is important in creating a garment with that RTW finish – even and straight!

See how the needle is positioned to the right of center below?  Moving the needle to one side or the other is part of the edgestitch set-up on my machine.


Here is the finished product – with a slightly longer than normal stitch length. Just cuz I like it that way. 🙂


(No, DH, I am not making you another shirt right now! This was just a sample for demo purposes. I have clothes to get ready for ASG conference in August – no time for dress shirts for you – sorry! 🙂 )

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

“L’atome” initially shocked

A few scraps of fabric, only slightly smaller than previous two-piece versions, shocked the world in 1946 when le bikini was first introduced in France in 1946. Wow. I wonder what it would take to shock our fashion sensibilities today?

The story of the bikini is interesting. Two different French designers independently created tiny swimsuits in the summer of 1946. The first, Jacques Heim, called his “l’atome” because of its dimunitive size. The second designer, Louis Reard, decided to name his creation after the Bikini Atoll since it was introduced just a few days after the U.S. began atomic testing, and he predicted the impact of this new fashion would be as significant as the new bomb! The new style was very slow to be adopted in the U.S., but by the mid-50’s was common on the French Riviera. Do you remember the song by Brian Hyland, “Itsy Bitsy, Teenie Weenie, Yellow Polka Dot Bikini”, released in the summer of 1960? It tells the story of a young girl afraid to show herself in a bikini at the beach – which was how most young American women felt at that time. One very famous Hollywood film of the era, Dr. No, showed Ursula Andress in a white bikini, but many film stars were sticking to the more modest two-piece suits.  By the mid-1960’s tho, most Americans had caught up with the rest of the world and  bikinis were common summer attire here as well.

That was your interesting (fashion) history lesson for the day, or at least a bit of trivia. I can still remember my first bikini, can you? Mine was a red floral print, and had a little “enhancement” added to the top. 🙂 Have you ever sewn a bikini? I made tons of one-piece workout swimsuits for my daughter when she was on swim team, but I don’t remember making bikinis for either of my girls. And since I am WAY past this style, I will not be wearing or making a bikini anytime soon. Or ever! 🙂

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Favorite sewing magazine(s)

I always stumble a little when someone asks me for “my favorite _____ “. How do you pick just one? I don’t have one favorite color, though I am pretty partial to most shades of pink. I don’t have a favorite movie…it depends on what mood I’m in. I don’t have a favorite book; there are just WAY too many good ones to narrow it down to only one!

But I do have a favorite sewing magazine – Threads. I just LOVE opening my mailbox and seeing the latest issue folded inside. I always read it cover to cover, and sometimes I try a project or technique. (And even if I don’t actually try the technique, I love reading about them!)  Of course there are times when not every article lights my board, but in general this magazine never fails to delight. I do really enjoy Sew Beautiful, and have collected many back issues of this wonderful heirloom sewing magazine, but right now I don’t have anyone that I am making heirloom clothes for. I think Stitch is fresh, inspirational, and I love the appeal to younger sewists. But for overall sewing projects and technique articles, Threads has my heart.

What about you? Do you have a favorite sewing magazine? How many do you subscribe to? I’d love to hear about some new sewing magazines that I am not familiar with – pass along your tips. Inquiring minds want to know!!

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Dart, a definition

Dart: a tapered tuck stitched in a garment in order to shape it
Source: Oxford Dictionaries

Darts are used in all kinds of garments, everything from jeans to fancy party dresses. Garments can have many darts or just a few, and they can also be a variety of shapes. The more shaping that is needed in the fabric, the bigger the dart. The acronym “FBA” means “full bust adjustment” – and translates into – make the dart bigger! 🙂

If you are not comfortable sewing darts, practice! Use tracing paper and a tracing wheel to copy the “legs” from the pattern to your fabric. Fold the fabric so the legs match from the wide end to the narrow end. Start stitching at the wide end too, and move toward the narrow end. Go slowly when you get close to the narrow end, and maybe even turn the flywheel by hand so you have more control. No worries, after you stitch a couple of hundred darts they will get easier. 🙂

Happy Friday!

Maris Olsen

Get over it


Getting coverstitching to look professional on knit fabric, especially synthetic knits, is just not that easy. At least not on my Bernina 2000 DCE. I have to stabilize, baste, pin, and fiddle – all things I don’t really enjoy. Well, tough. That’s what it takes to make this stitching even and straight. Everytime I try to skip any of those steps I regret it, and end up ripping. Something I like even less than basting!

That was pretty much the story with the purple tennis skirt one of my students made, and I hemmed. Or attempted to hem anyway. The first pass on the coverstitch looked HORRIBLE. Too ugly to photograph horrible. I did add one layer of water soluble stabilizer, but did not baste, and I also decided to try to go around the entire hem including the 2 side slits without breaking the stitching. Yes, that’s right. I tried to turn corners with my coverstitch. Clearly I was a little delusional.  

Sigh. Take 2 included the following steps:

1. Measuring hem allowance, pinning and basting in place


2. One layer of water soluble stabilizer on top, and a second layer on the botton


3. Take another look at the lovely result when I follow all the necessary prep steps. The ones I don’t really like. Well, I just need to get over myself. All those steps are important and necessary to a professional looking finished product on my coverstitch machine. What about your experience? Do you have a faster, easier way to get a good looking coverstitch? I’d love to hear about it – post a comment and let me know your tricks!


Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen