Monthly Archives: October 2012

Creativity + sewing skills + grand-daughters = adorable


Blue Dress with lace

It is awesome to watch my beginning students really get bit by the sewing bug.  Once they get comfortable operating a big, scary piece of machinery (aka a “sewing machine”), there is no stopping them.

One of my new students this fall has 3 grand-daughters, and she had a vision of what she wanted to make for the girls. I am pretty sure those girls are going to have a big surprise this Christmas-Grandma has been ver-r-r-y busy!

You can’t see from this view but this black polka-dot skirt has a rhinestone, sparkly exposed zipper on the back. And what about the rickrack trim? It really makes the skirt colors pop, doesn’t it?

Polka Dot skirt with rick rack

I love the farm scenes on this print, and the brown lace edging is just right.

White print skirt with trims

This one is so cheerful and bright – no one could have a bad day wearing this creation.

Yellow print skirt with blue rick rack

Two strawberry print skirts for sisters – just different enough and both adorable.

Strawberry print with red band and rick rack


Strawberry print skirt with rick rack

I love this pink print – so modern and fresh!

Pink skirt with rick rack

I love watching what happens when someone who already has a creative vision gains a few simple skills at a sewing machine – magic! How about you? What is going to be your inspiration this week? I’d love to hear about it!

Happy sewing,

Maris Olsen


Want to become a bag-lady (or gent)?

Are you wondering what to do with your kids on Veteran’s Day, a “school-only” holiday when you may need to work or want to have lunch with a girlfriend?

I have an answer for you – sign them up for a mini-sew-camp! That’s right, a one-day, action-packed, fun-filled session on November 12th  from 9:30-3:30. The focus of this session will be BAGS. Depending on the skill level of the attendees, the project for this session could range from a lined drawstring tote to a mini messenger bag. You can always use another bag in your house, right?

The minimum age for attendees is 8, and the maximum number of students is also 8. Sign-up is easy. Just download the KSC Registration – OneDay form (Adobe Reader required), fill in all the pertinent details, enclose a check, and pop it in the mail.

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Tutorial: How to center a zipper like Rosie the Riveter

It is time to conquer your fear.

Fear of sewing zippers, that is. What is it about a few inches of nylon coil and firm fabric that sends you, a grown woman,  into a dither? Pffft. Nonsense. All you need to do is gather the right tools, spend a few extra minutes prepping, and a perfect zipper is within your grasp. Really.

Today’s tutorial covers centered zippers. Let’s get started so I can prove to you how easy it is. 😉

1.  Sew the seam below the zipper area, being sure to backstitch to secure the threads.
2.  Magic trick #1: Fuse a strip of interfacing 3/4″ inch wide x the length of your zipper on either side of both seam allowances where the zipper will be inserted. Why? Because the zipper tape fabric is ALWAYS firmer than the garment fabric, and fusing the garment fabric will help prevent that rippling you hate so much. Do this BEFORE basting the zipper area closed or you will not be able to remove your basting threads. (Ask me how I know. 🙂 )

First step

3.  Finish both seam allowances from top to bottom in any way you like (serge, pink, zig-zag, etc). My example shows zig-zagging.
4.  Using a basting stitch length, seam the zipper area.

Basted seam and seam allowance zig-zagged

5.  Press the seam allowance open.

6.  Magic trick #2. Find your package of Wonder Tape or Steam-a-seam 1/4″ fusible tape. No, you are not cheating.

Zipper, Wonder tape and prepped seam

7.  Apply a strip of Wonder Tape on both sides of the top side of the zipper tape, removing the backing (duh).

Wonder tape applied

8.   Press the zipper face down onto the fabric, centering the coils on the seamline.

Wonder taped zipper placed in seam

This is how it should look when you are done. No pins, no hand basting, just a little “glue” to hold your zipper in place. Now you are almost ready to sew.

Zipper in place

9. Magic trick #3. Turn your fabric right side up and chalk a line 1/4″ on either side of the seamline and below the zipper stop. Yes, you can do this step before “gluing” your zipper in place, but I usually forget to. I like to use my awesome Japanese Chakoner because the line is super fine and it dispenses pure chalk (no residue left on my fabric), but you can use any marking tool you like.

Chalked stitching line

10.  Put your zipper foot on your sewing machine, and starting at the top of the zipper, stitch along one side of the zipper and across the bottom along the chalkline. DO NOT STITCH UP THE OTHER SIDE!

 First side of zipper done

11.  Cut your thread, and starting from the top of the zipper, stitch down the other side AND across the bottom a second time along the chalk line.

Second side stitching

This is what your zipper looks like before pressing and removing the basting stitches. Yeah, that’s right. Practically perfect in every way. No rippling of fabric on top of the zipper tape. Stitching all straight and purty. Zipper centered accurately. What’s not to love?

Zipper stitched

12. Last step. Remove basting thread and press. Voila! You did it!

Finished Zipper

I told  you you could do it.

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen







10 Lies Sewists Like to Tell Their Husbands about Sewing Retreats


  1. Drinking while sewing is not allowed.
  2. There is no wifi at camp.
  3. Fabric shopping is not possible – after all – retreat is at a summer camp in the mountains.
  4. Lights are required to be out at 10:00 p.m. every night.
  5. I don’t want to be away from you for the weekend, but since I am a board member I am required to go on retreat.
  6. No snacking between meals allowed, so it will be easy to stay on my diet.
  7. My cell phone has no service at the camp.
  8. There is a prize for the person who sews up the most fabric from their stash over the weekend.
  9. I will finish your <shirts> <pants> <jacket><underwear> before starting any projects of my own.
  10. Of course I’ll be home in plenty of time to make a delicious, home-cooked meal Sunday night.

Ready for the real story? Three days without cooking, cleaning, or household chores, and nothing but non-stop sewing time with all of your best girl friends – that’s what a sewing retreat is all about!

In case it has been more than 15 minutes since your last mouthful – the treat table!

Never enough treats

Yes, ANOTHER red jacket for Evelyn!


I hate Fran. Every stinkin’ thing she makes is beyond adorable. So cute I won’t even show you the darling baby bib she was making here.


Why is Wendy wearing Gaylen’s dress? Oh! Because it matches her socks!

Wendy modeling Gaylen's dress

Susy is so cheerful about making those charity tote bags. Oh, maybe it was really because she got to sit next to me all weekend. 😉

Susy is happy at sewcamp

Molly likes to concentrate while serging.

Molly concentrating while Paula and Saralynsew

How many pairs of scrubs did you make, Judy? Complete with embroidery?

Judy "Scrubs"

My gorgeous, elegant, talented roomie, Virginia!


It’s not that bad, Saralyn. Kate is almost done hammering.


Python pajama top for a 90-something mom, modeled by a much younger Donna. Cool!

Donna modelingPJ top

That’s it until spring, when we tell more lies about the discipline and productivity event known as a Greater Seattle ASG retreat!

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen


Tutorial: Seam finishing (part 1)

Don’t you just love the clarity in today’s pattern instructions? One of my favorite instructional sentences found in many patterns today is “Finish seam.” Wow. How do you begin to follow THAT? What does “finish”mean? Are there different kinds of seam finishes? When do you choose one over another? What is the purpose of a seam finish? Do you ALWAYS finish seams? This kind of useless information makes my blood boil. A beginning sewist reads this sentence and just wants to cry.

So let’s break this down. For starters, the purpose of “finishing” a seam is to prevent raveling and (possibly) to provide additional stability. The type of seam finish you want depends on (minimally) these factors:

  1. fabric fiber content
  2. fabric raveling characteristics
  3. planned method of laundering the finished garment
  4. planned pressing direction of the seam (for example, open, or to one side)

In addition, some seam finishes require special tools, such as pinking shears. You might WANT to pink your seams, but if you don’t own pinking shears or a rotary cutter with a wavy blade there is no point in choosing this finish method. And despite the pattern instructions, yes, there are times when no seam finish is necessary. An example is a lined coat. Since the lining completely covers and protects the jacket seams from wear or laundering abrasion, there is no requirement to finish those seams. You may choose to, but chances are pretty good it is not necessary.

Now that we know why we should even bother to finish our seams, let’s examine three seam finish options in more detail. This is not the comprehensive list of all seam finishes, but includes a few basic ones. More to come in future tutorials! Also, please note the instructions below all assume that you have already stitched the seam. Duh. 😉

1. Pinking

  1. Suitable fabrics: firmly woven cottons, linens, polyesters, blends
  2. Unsuitable fabrics: extremely ravelly fabrics of any fiber composition
  3. Suitable seams: any seam that is designed to be pressed OPEN
  4. Special tools: Pinking shears or fluted blade for a rotary cutter
  5. Preferred seam allowance: 5/8″ or greater
  6. Advantages: does not add any bulk to the SA, fast, easy
  7. Disadvantages: requires a special tool

Pinking procedure

Using pinking shears or rotary cutter, trim a minimal amount of fabric from the raw edge. Press the seam open. Easy peasy!!

Pinking tools:

Pinking tools

Pinked seam allowance:

Pinked edge seam finish


2. Narrow “hemming” seam allowances

  1. Suitable fabrics: firmly woven cottons, linens, polyesters, blends
  2. Unsuitable fabrics: extremely ravelly fabrics of any fiber composition
  3. Suitable seams: any seam that is designed to be pressed OPEN, and is straight (or mostly straight)
  4. Special tools: None
  5. Preferred seam allowance: 5/8″ or greater
  6. Advantages: no special tools, only requires a straight stitch
  7. Disadvantages: a little time-consuming (three stitchings per seam)

Narrow “hemming” seam allowances procedure

Using a normal length straight stitch (usually 2.5 or 10-12 stitches per inch), turn the right side edge of one side of the seam allowance to the wrong side 1/8 inch or so, and stitch. Repeat for the other side of the seam allowance. Press the seam allowance open. Easy peasy!!

Narrow hemmed seam allowance – front side of seam allowance view

Turned-under-edge seam finish (back)

Narrow hemmed seam allowance – underside of seam allowance view:

Turned-under-edge seam finish (back)


3. Overcasting/Zig-zagging (is that a word? lol) seam allowances

  1. Suitable fabrics: firmly woven or semi-firmly cottons, linens, polyesters, wools, blends
  2. Unsuitable fabrics: sheer or extremely lightweight fabrics
  3. Suitable seams: any seam that is designed to be pressed open or to one side
  4. Special tools: Overcast foot (if overcasting)
  5. Preferred seam allowance: 5/8″ or greater
  6. Advantages: works well for ravelly fabrics, does not require special tools (possibly exception an overcast foot)
  7. Disadvantages: can create a little “ridge” of fabric under the zig-zag stitch that adds bulk and can show thru to the right side after pressing; overcasting requires a special foot for your sewing machine

Overcast/Zig-zag seam allowances procedure

If zig-zagging, set your machine for a fairly wide stitch (at least 3.5), and a medium length (something between 2-3).  You can zig-zag each seam allowance separately, or if you want to press the SA to one side you can zig-zag the SA together. If you are overcasting, change to the overcast foot, and check your machine manual to set up the overcast stitch. Just like the zig-zag finish, you can apply this to either each SA or both of them together. Press the seam allowance open or to one side.

Overcast (left edge) and zig-zag (right edge) “open” seam allowance finish:

Overcast and zig-zag seam finish


Hope this helps de-mystify the term “finish” a little – more to come!

Happy sewing

Maris Olsen