Monthly Archives: March 2012

Spring finally arrived in Seattle

No sewing got done this weekend, it was all about gardening, sunshine, and ibuprofen for me. We have had such a nasty, miserable spring this year that I simply could not stay inside the house. The sun was out, the garden was calling me, and by Saturday night so was the bottle of painkillers. But the snap peas are in the ground, and lots of weeds are gone from sight.  

I know, I know – the christening is coming up fast and the dress isn’t done. Luckily I work well under pressure. 😉 Tomorrow the real Maris will be back – sewing like crazy.

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

I created a monster…

…and her name is Jenny! This perfectly awesome woman who used to spend her evenings relaxing and bonding with her husband and two daughters has turned into a sewing monster. Her husband hasn’t seen her in days. Her children haven’t had a home-cooked meal in weeks. Her horses, well, that is another obsession. 🙂

Jenny started sewing lessons with me about 6-7 months ago, ostensibly to learn to make home dec items. You know, like pillows. I *might* have mentioned somewhere along the line that home dec was not my favorite kind of sewing, but she ignored me and forged ahead. After a few pillows, she started talking about how fun it would be to make cute clothes for her two daughters (who BTW, are two total lamb chops). Twirly skirts were first, and now she is on to jumpers and more.  Then I started on my jeans-making obsession. So Jenny got on that bandwagon too. She borrowed one of my, er, several sewing machines so she could practice sewing at home. Then Sew Expo came along, and she decided to at least go talk to all the sewing machine vendors. Yep, now she owns a new Viking machine with plenty of bells and whistles. Oh, and there’s her eBay serger purchase, too. Did I mention that?

Today Jenny was finishing up her first pair of jeans. Nice work!


Here is a darling pillowcase she made for one daughter, and yes she did make a second one for daughter number two.

The Pillowcase

Once you get started, you just don’t have any idea where the sewing bug will take you. I hope Jenny’s husband is happy Jenny and I met. I know I am! Keep on sewing, Jenny!

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen


March Madness Pattern Super Sale

If you have been pining for a few patterns from the McCall pattern company (Vogue, McCall, Butterick), they are having a SUPER SALE online. Only $1.88 for Butterick and McCall, and $3.88 for Vogue (plus shipping).  It usually takes about a week for my order to arrive, so you won’t be able to sew with them today, but maybe by the weekend?

Joann’s had a Vogue pattern sale last week for 3.99, so I already grabbed a couple I thought were interesting in the new spring collection. I might work on fitting these AK pants when I am at my spring ASG retreat the end of this month. And I LOVE the blouse for spring. That is, if we ever have a spring here in the frigid PNW.

Of course I had to my vintage pattern obsession with these two:


I should never buy another pattern, but somehow I can’t stop myself. What are you in the mood for making for spring? Let me know what you are planning (or at least dreaming of making) for your wardrobe!

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen


Grandma’s joy, an heirloom christening dress

I feel blessed in many, many ways, but it hardly gets any better than being Nana to my first granddaughter. Little Oona will be christened on April 15th, and my DD asked me to make her christening dress. The last christening dress I made was 34 years ago for said DD! At that time, I used Vogue 2878, which is still in my stash, and was under consideration Oona’s dress.  Of course we still have that first dress I made, but after being used for 4 babies,  it has a few stains and doesn’t seem quite right for DGD #1.


So, to smock, or not to smock? I thought about something like the dress pictured on Sew Beautiful, but my DD didn’t want something too fussy and too specifically girly.  Sounds like they might want to leave the option open for a little Mr. in the future, eh? 😉


Well, I loved the dress pattern below, lengthened of course, but DD was not swooning as much over it as I was. Hmmm. After a little back and forth, I decided I would use the pink version in the lower right corner  as my inspiration, but try to simplify the style a little. Hahaha, right! Remember my mantra – if a little is good, more is better! Well, despite my appreciation for excess, I’m trying to design something I think my daughter will like too. DGD won’t care at all, so I might as well try to please her momma.


I wanted a “T” style design, a moderate amount of fullness in the skirt, and a flared center panel. DD requested no pleat tucks and no ruffle at the bottom edge of the dress. Noted. Since I was basically drafting my own design, I made a mockup to test the scale, construction concept, and the lace placement. Please ignore the gross yellow fabric and cheap grey hem lace tape on my test sample – it sufficed to work out the design kinks!!


Since my construction process worked and the lace layout looked good to me, I went ahead and cut out and assembled the actual front of the christening dress. I am using some luscious Swiss voile that is a bit sheer and a dream to sew with. The front is drafted as a single piece of fabric, with a “dart” under the armhole that is gathered to the yoke to provide some fullness. For the lace, I drew placement lines using a Frixion marking pen, and layered water soluble stabilizer on top of the lace to keep both the lace and fabric smooth during stitching.


 After I stitched down the mitered points, I cut away the fabric backing and the folded edges of lace to reduce the bulk. After I add the embroidery I will finish cutting away the fabric under the lace. Verrry carefully. Don’t say it. Don’t even think it! I don’t want to jinx myself!!


Here’s a full length version of the front, which is ready and waiting for me to limber up my embroidery fingers again. It has been more than a few years since I have done much smocking and embroidery. What fun to have another chance! 


Here is a closeup of the front yoke, sans embroidery. The faint red marks in the picture will be embroidered loveliness soon.


There should be more pix next week documenting progress. Happy sewing!!

Maris Olsen

Perfect Fitting — a mini review

Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting












I recently ordered Sarah Veblen’s new book, The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting, and I have to say that at first blush it looks appropriately named. Some concepts are not new. Making muslins, or test fitting garments, is hardly revolutionary. Though I was a little surprised that Sarah makes from 4 to 10 test garments to get the fit just right. Ten! It seems she is indeed striving for perfection. She shows photographs of fitting issues on real bodies, not stick thin models, so that is also helpful to illustrate specific points. Again, other fitting books have done this as well. The part that was new to me was her method of showing fitting problems related to length issues. Sarah visually shows the impact of too much or too little length by having sewists draw a horizontal balance line, aka HBL, on all fitting garments. For example, on pants this line should be drawn across the hip area. If the HBL dips down toward the floor, the crotch is too short and the solution is to add more length. Doh! Just by having this visual marker you can instantly see a fitting problem, AND you can also see when you have corrected it sufficiently. Nicely done, Sarah! I am going to try this method to adjust my jeans pattern since I am not at all happy with my current fit. I promise to post again after actually using her techniques and provide details. Maybe once I get my own jeans fit corrected I can stop looking at everyone’s butt to see how well THEIR pants fit! 🙂

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Note: this post contains Amazon affiliate links that provide revenue for Sew Maris


Cooking with class

One of my darling students, Elena, is a beginning sewist with a definite sense of style and a precise approach to sewing. She is such a fast learner, AND a fast stitcher! I love it when students sew fast—it shows me they are definitely the boss of the sewing machine.

Elena is busy these days working on a pretty new apron. I love the main fabric she selected for this garment—all my favorite garment colors. I think this pattern is adorable too, and it makes me think maybe I should add a fresh apron or two to my tired old collection. Wait—I really only have 1 apron. Guess that isn’t much of a “collection”.

Anyway, back to Elena’s project. Like most patterns, this one includes some techniques that are transferable to other garments as well. Like the ruffled edge around the hem. And turning the bodice edges under twice and topstitching. Lots of applications of this hemming technique on other garments and in other places. Elena also chose to use French seams on the apron skirt to enclose the raw edges. Nice touch!

 McCalls apron pattern and fabric

Elena is a star student in my book, because she only likes to work on techniques she doesn’t understand during our lesson time. Otherwise she sews independently at home. Awesome! Here she is working on gathering the ruffling to be applied to the bottom of the apron. Aren’t you just itching to see the final product?

Elena stitching apron ruffling   

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen


Pants with lots of topstitching

Jeans! They are just pants with lots of top-stitching, right? I must be a glutton for top-stitching – I love making my DH’s dress shirts and am having loads of fun experimenting with making jeans. I don’t have the pattern fitting right yet, partially because I keep playing around with different fabrics (stretch, non-stretch, different amounts of stretch), and partially because I keep messing around with a variety of patterns. So far I think the Jalie 2908 is the best-fitting pattern for my body type. Huh. readers already figured that out…doh!

But….I have been kind of obsessed with my vintage Calvin Klein 2442 pattern, so I based my latest black jeans attempt on this design.


At least it was my starting point. I tapered the thighs a little and added some flare below the knee instead of keeping the full, straight leg design. And the pattern’s curved waistband was not working for me at all, so I ditched that as well.  What I did love about this CK pattern though were the little construction details. Great little coin pocket. Sewn on fly extension. Great curve on the front pockets.

I still need to work on the booty fit. I am definitely making progress on the construction details, the fit is improving, but perfection…..not quite there yet. Anyway, I plan to wear these jeans around the house tomorrow and see how they perform. Pictures coming!

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

How to shorten a sleeve pattern

I bet you thought you could just whack the excess length off the bottom edge of your sleeve pattern, am I right? Bad idea, unless of course you like a really loose fit on your wrist. 🙂 Instead, I’ll show you how easy peasy it is to shorten a sleeve pattern.

Here is what you need to get started:

  1. a “too long” sleeve pattern
  2. an 18 inch ruler
  3. a pencil
  4. some kind of tape – either blue painters tape (easily removable) or transparent tape (permanent)
  5. extra tissue paper
  6. paper scissors

 Everything needed

One thing you really need to keep in mind is when doing any pattern adjusting is the grainline. You either need to maintain the existing grainline, or redraw it so it is accurate. For this adjustment it is easy to maintain the existing grainline.

Step #1. Fold the pattern piece perpendicular to the grainline mark on the pattern piece. There may or may not be a “lengthen/shorten” line drawn on the pattern, but you can always draw your own. There is already a lengthen/shorten line on my sleeve pattern, so all I did was fold “horizontally”  on one of the 2 lines across the entire pattern piece. Notice that the vertical grainline marks are directly on top of each other. This means grainline goodness, peeps.

First Fold

Step #2. Fold the pattern piece again half of the total amount you want to shorten the sleeve. I am shortening the sleeve 2 inches total, so my second fold is 1 inch from the first fold.

Second Fold Measure 1

To make sure the grainline is maintained, this second fold must measure exactly one inch across the entire pattern piece, and the vertical grainline must stay parallel. I like lining my pattern pieces up on a grided mat so it is easy to see/correct the grainline.

Second Fold Measure 2 

Step #3. Draw the hemline (shown in blue on the left side) across the pattern piece. My pattern piece specified a 1 1/4 inch hem, so I drew a blue line 1 1/4 inches from the bottom edge of the pattern. This is all in preparation for blending the little “jog” on the sleeve seam that was created by folding the pattern. You can see the little jog about in the middle of the picture below.

Side Seam Before Blending

Now why, you ask, do I need to draw the hemline? Because you are blending the line between the hem edge and the top of the sleeve seam – not between the bottom of the pattern piece and the top of the sleeve seam. If you blended all the way to the bottom of the pattern piece you would remove the shaping needed for turning up the hem allowance inside the finished sleeve. Just trust me on this one. 😉

Step #4. Place the ruler between the “blue hem edge” and the top of the sleeve seam, as shown below, and draw a new line.

 Blending Ruler Position

Your new sleeve seam line should look like this:

Blended Side Seam

Easy peasy, right? Tape down the new tissue underneath the original pattern, cut the new sleeve seam on the blended line, repeat drawing, cutting and taping the other side of the sleeve pattern, and then party with your “just right” sleeve.

Happy sewing!!

Maris Olsen

Sew Expo coma

I was at Sew Expo all day Saturday and Sunday, and yes, I am a bit worn out. Lots of walking. Lots of navigating thru large crowds of very slow-moving people. Lots of vendors. Lots of classes. I have a mild love-hate relationship with Sew Expo. I love the fact that there is this huge gathering of sewing nerds practically in my own backyard—we Seattle-ites are so lucky! Being surrounded by thousands (yes, THOUSANDS!) of people who love sewing is totally awesome. The part that bites for me as a garment sewist is that probably 75% of the show is geared to quilters. Definitely a case of  the market dictating the offerings. 

This exhibition is billed as the largest sewing show in the U.S, so for the novice (and even the seasoned) attendee, it can be overwhelming. There are several types of classes offered—45 minute lecture/demos or 1 1/2 hour to 4 hour project-based technique classes. I signed up for the cheapie classes. On Saturday I took a Knit Finesse class from Katherine Tilton, Sassy, Savvy Scarves from Katrina Walker, Details from Sandra Betzina, East Meets West in Surface Design from June Colburn, and It’s All About Needle Felting and Embellishing from Barbara Crawford. I was mostly underwhelmed, tho I did pick up at least a nugget or two from most sessions, and definitely enjoyed June’s design perspective. Barbara was a riot, and her Needlefelting class was fun and interesting. My ASG chapter, Greater Seattle, always hosts an “after Expo” dinner on Saturday night, and as usual it was great fun. I like catching up with folks from my chapter that I don’t see often, as well as meeting new people from around the country. Last year we even had a group of women from Australia! Peggy Sagers of Silhouette Patterns was our speaker this year, and she was AWESOME. It was wonderful to hear how she got started running her own design business.

Sunday I attended Contemporary Heirloom Techniques from Kathy McMakin, Turn Your Sewing into Money from Martha Pullen, and Learn to Sew with Your Feet by Debra Justice.  All of these speakers were well-prepared and delivered a great  presentation—especially Debra. She was entertaining AND packed the 45 minutes with loads of information about specialty feet for sewing machines. I use many of my feet, and I still learned plenty. Nice!

I don’t even know how many vendors are at the show. Boat loads. All the big sewing machine dealers are there too. I can’t believe I actually had a demo of the Bernina 830 Limited Edition. I swore for years I was not even remotely interested in an embroidery machine. Evidently I’m now beginning to thaw a little on this issue. Still not enough to lay out $10K for a this awesome machine, but I was pretty wowed. As for monetary damage, I was pretty darn restrained this year. I bought a Silhouette pattern, some accessories from Debra Justice (Labours of Love), some sueded cuddle for a coat for my DGD, a bit more fabric and lace for same DGD’s christening dress, and a “Quick Pleater” tool. I didn’t even require a sherpa to help me haul my booty out to the car this year – amazing! That’s it till next year for Sew Expo, fellow sewing nerds!

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen