Monthly Archives: July 2012

A second week of summer sewing fun

I remember summers being mostly about fun when I was a kid. No homework, no school plays, no sports team workouts, no debate team prep—just lots of swimming, Girl Scout camping trips, family vacations, and loads of unstructured time. There was plenty of time for sewing despite Mom adding a few more household chores to my daily routine.

Last week I got to be a kid again, too, in addition to being a teacher. I spent most of the week with four amazing young girls in another session of Kids Sew Camp. One 9-year-old had never sewn while another had been in an after-school sewing program and was totally fearless. The 11-year-old had her own sewing machine and her own ideas of what to do with fabric. The 12-year-old had sewn a little and was very attentive and focused. Every day we did work on our “chores” of sewing exercises and planned projects, and every day we also had some unstructured fun time just for creating. As usual, I started by having the girls sew on paper, since there are no worries about “wasting” or “messing up” paper. They sewed paper seams and measured them to evaluate their accuracy. They learned what happens when you don’t put the presser foot down! I asked them to sew around a sewing pattern that is chock full of corners and curves to be negotiated. There is ALWAYS plenty of complaining about this exercise on the first day, but there is method to my madness. When they sew the pattern again on the last day of camp they see exactly how much they have progressed in just a few short days of sewing. Sneaky, huh? 😉

Sewing pillows

All of the students in this session were just bursting with creative energy, and completing a single teacher assignment was not enough for them. Scraps of fabric, ribbons, fiberfill, and trims became scissor bags, purses, doll aprons, and more. Those girls were sewing every minute, either on my planned project or something of their own devising. So much imagination and energy! I loved watching their skills increase, as well as their self-confidence. Take a look!

Two aprons          Fairy scissors holder

Small zippered bags were the planned project for day one. With a little help from WonderTape, they all made a cute lined bag with a zipper. (Sorry to have missed A. in the pix – she made one too!)

Zippered bags

Pajama pants, a sleeping bag and a poodle skirt for American Girl dolls were also made during Kids Sew Camp. They quilted batting to denim fabric, couched cording onto their poodle skirts, double-stitched seams, made a casing for elastic in their pajama pants, and plenty more.  I hope all these girls keep sewing, because they already have some mad skills. Practicing will increase their confidence and mastery for sure. I wonder where their sewing journey will take them throughout the years?

AG doll sleeping bag and T

If you would like to see the entire album for this Sew Camp, be sure to visit the Sew Maris Facebook page, and check out the Sew Maris Kids Sew Camp July 2012 album. I guarantee you will see more cute stuff!

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Missing in action

Dear Readers,

So sorry that I have been missing in action around here the past couple of weeks. Evidence of the reason for the blog post shortage below. I know. Adorbs. 🙂

Oona 7 mos

I think my DGD is almost ready for sewing lessons, right? And she is definitely company in the sewing room, especially if Mommy is with her.

Oona and Erin

Back to my semi-regularly scheduled posts next week.

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Gain a little self-esteem

I am old-school. <begin rant>I think people develop positive self-esteem by actually acquiring and mastering skills, not just by being told incessantly how awesome and perfect they are </end rant>.  One of the great benefits of teaching sewing is I actually get to witness the concrete progression of skills that students attain over time. Like watching C cut out a new skirt, for instance. Maybe not 100% accurately, but a darn good job for a nine year-old.

Cutting out praactice

Nice work, C, keep it up!

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Get yourself a dealer

Mary sewing

Everyone who owns a sewing machine needs a good great dealer. A place where the mechanics really know their stuff, and the service is prompt, friendly, and courteous.  Every day in my sewing studio I hear students complain about their experiences at sewing machine dealers around the Puget Sound area, and I tell them there is another option. Sewing Machine Service in Renton! I want to brag on them a little today, because they are far and away the best Bernina dealership I have ever worked with. Sometimes I call Cevin just to ask him a random question about sewing machines because I love listening to his encyclopedic knowledge about all things machinery. Today I bring you Cevin Waffle (owner) and Mary Collen (salesperson/teacher/seamstress extraordinaire) from Sewing Machine Services. Ta da!

Maris: Cevin, do you like to describe SMS?

Cevin: We are really a full service dealership. Although we are a Bernina dealership, we work on all brands, both for home sewing and commercial production. We have 2 full-time, factory-trained Bernina mechanics, as well as hundreds of years of combined expertise in sewing machine repair across our entire staff. We try to establish a real and lasting relationship with our customers, we really want to earn and keep their trust.


Maris: Cevin, when did you first start working for Sewing Machine Service?

Cevin: I was 15, and still in high school. It was my first real job, and it is the only place I have ever worked. Over time, I gradually I learned more and more about how to clean and adjust home sewing machines. I met my wife, Shelly, when she started working here after graduating from high school, and then we decided to buy SMS in 1998 from Harry Fraley, the original owner.


Maris: Mary, tell us a little about how you got started working at SMS?

Mary: I was not even looking for a job, but I came into SMS one day and thought “This is the place for me.” I went home and told my husband I thought I wanted to go back to work, applied for the job, and have been here for over three years now.


Maris: How has the business changed over the years?

Cevin: Probably the biggest change is the competition with online retailers. We can’t always compete on price, but we definitely have the edge on customer service. When people buy a sewing machine, they need to find a dealer for both repairs and service, and we want to be the dealership they choose.


Maris: Mary, what do you think sets SMS apart from other sewing machine dealers?

Mary: All of the different kinds of machinery we carry, the accessories for so many different machine brands, the back workroom with hundreds of drawers of needles, parts, and all things sewing machines – I love it! I have never been in another dealership that has the range of brands, accessories, parts, sewing notions, and more that SMS has.


Maris: Cevin, how about you? What do you think sets SMS apart from other sewing machine dealers?

Cevin: Well, first of all, Mary works for us, and that is a huge advantage. I would also say our entire staffs’ combined years of experience working with many sewing machines is a differentiating factor. But probably the main thing about SMS I want people to know is the value we place on the customer relationship. Our goal is to help you buy the machine that is right for your needs, and then provide the ongoing service you will require to keep that machine in peak operating condition.

There you have it, readers. Need a machine, or a little tune-up? A new part? You know where to go.  Sewing Machine Service in Renton. Check out all the nooks and crannies, little drawers full of spare parts, the industrial machines and home machines waiting to be repaired – LOVE this place!

Mary snooping around for a part. 😉

Mary looking in drawer

Look at all these machines in the back room!

Commercial sewing machines

The repair room is a v-e-e-r-r-r-r-r-y busy place at SMS.

Sewing machine repair area

Ben is cleaning and finishing up a machine.

Repair man

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen



Share your sewing pain

Dear readers, I need your help. Really. I need to know your pain. (Just your sewing pain, please. Not trying to be un-empathetic here, just trying to stick to topics I can actually do something about, you understand.)

So, if you are a beginning sewist, what do you struggle with? Stitching straight? Keeping the two raw edges of the seam allowances aligned during stitching? Reading a commercial sewing pattern? Picking the right fabric for the pattern? Sewing around a curve?

If you are more than an absolute beginner, do you go a little crazy trying to get those collar points sharp? Not entirely satisfied with how your buttonholes look? Tired of the wonky-ness at the bottom of your invisible zippers?

I’m working on a list, peeps. And then I hope to create a new system to help you overcome your pain. Sewing pain, that is. Because after all, that is mostly what I know.

Happy sewing! (And thanks in advance for your help. I REALLY need it.)

Maris Olsen

Another use for your blind hemmer foot

You know how sometimes you meet someone, and there is an instant “click”, and you can talk and laugh together as if you have known each other forever? I often have that experience with my sewing students, and sometimes we squeeze the sewing in between our conversations about life.

Enter Michelle. She contacted me about learning to sew, we set up a few lessons, and she was off and running. Like many of my students, she made “pajama” pants. Which means of course any pant that is kind of loose around the legs, with an elastic or elastic/tie waist,  and appropriate for both sleepwear and other uses depending on the fabric. We did actually manage to get the pants constructed, in between solving many life problems. Think about it people—sewing is WAY cheaper than therapy and more fun too! (So far no one has cried in my sewing studio. Fingers crossed! 🙂 )

At her final lesson, I showed Michelle how to do a “double turned” hem and stitch it using the blind hem foot. I love this technique, and it almost always produces flawless, straight stitching on your hem allowance. Turn the hem allowance twice and press. Insert blind hem foot on sewing machine, move needle one position to the right, place hem edge against blind hem foot guide,  and stitch with a straight stitch of any stitch length you prefer. Simple enough, right? I have done this same technique on various parts of garments with plenty-o students.

After I got her started by demoing the technique, Michelle took over and stitched away. Did I mention that Michelle was using cotton lawn fabric? When I checked her stitching, she had a few spots where the stitching was only on the “garment” side and not on the hem. Decorative, maybe, but not functional at holding the hem in place. So I had her stitch again. And again. And pretty soon we could not stop laughing. Channel stitching, Michelle—that is what you are doing on your pant leg hem! I am not sure how many times she went around her pant leg before I stepped in to help, but the laughter quotient was very high. Always a great way to end a lesson. Thanks for the fun, Michelle! I hope you enjoy wearing your pants. (Yes, we did move the needle 2 positions to the right for the second pant leg. More effective, but not nearly as fun-filled. 😉 )

Stiching pajama pant hems using blind hem foot

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

SALE Alert!

Lots of fabric stores (Mood,, Elliott Berman Textiles, etc) are having Independence Day sales, including our local Pacific Fabrics with 20% off all fabric. Celebrate our freedom by buying more fabric? Well, happy birthday America, and celebrate however you see fit, fellow sewists!

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Stampede ready!

Western costume front

Doesn’t she look all ready for the Calgary Stampede parade? This little gal has worked might durn hard on this costume, and is righfully proud of her work. C. has not been sewing that long, and Simplicity 2843 is definitely not a pattern for a beginner. There were plenty of concerns about how hard it was along the way, but there was one proud little girl in my sewing studio today when the garment really came together. Tomorrow we need to hem and add some finishing touches, but she will definitely be modeling this garment in the parade later this week. I am pretty sure she learned something about pushing thru a hard job, too. It is really not that big a deal to accomplish a simple task, but it feels pretty darn great to struggle a little and then finally accomplish something really worthwhile. Who knew? Sewing offers life lessons, too. 😉  Nice job, C!

Western costume back

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Adding more to my stash

Not fabric this time, but notions and supplies. As a teacher, I can really churn thru thread, Steam-a-Seam, and iron cleaner working with students. I made a brief stop at my least-favorite sewing store yesterday to stock up during their 60% off notions. The best part of the trip was running into one of my ASG sewing sisters, and the second best part was saving more money than I spent. Weirdly cool, right?


What about you? Did you grab any sale items yesterday? What is your favorite thing to buy on sale? (Duh, fabric!)

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen