Monthly Archives: May 2014

Pamela Leggett rocked it for Seattle ASG

Hey there, how did you spend this past weekend? I got the chance to hang out with loads of sewing nerds learning all kinds of cool things about working with knit fabrics. Awesome!

Specifically, the Seattle ASG chapter hosted Pamela for our spring educational event, and we had a near-sell-out crowd at Renton Technical College for both this past Saturday and Sunday. Seriously fun sewing times, people!

Students for Pamela Leggett Seattle ASG Event by Sew Maris

Check out the crowds filing in for Pamela’s Saturday’s lecture class. Thee were some brand new ASG members as well as plenty of long-standing members in attendance. It is always so much fun to be with your people.


Pamela had loads of patterns and products to share with us, and no, I am not going to tell you how many patterns I bought. I was my normal restrained self. 😉


Once Pamela started her Design Details and Knits and Fits lecture, people were all ears. Notes were taken and questions asked.


Look at the fun crew we had serving our lunch! Of course, anytime someone wants to cook for me they are immediately my new best friend. 😉


Sunday we had the chance to make a cardigan sweater using one of Pamela’s Patterns, either the Draped Front or the Banded Front cardi. The thing that sets her patterns apart from others is she has built in some of the most common adjustments required by women, ummm, of a certain age. Things like a forward shoulder adjustments, and shortening the armhole. Very clever, and not to mention useful.


Everyone was measured to make sure they started with the correct size in Pamela’s pattern, and after cutting out our fabric we were ready for the construction process. There was a fun variety of knit fabrics and colors in the room.


Marge is getting her shoulder length checked before she adds sleeves.!


Pamela demo’ed plenty of techniques thoughout the day, making sure each student was able to complete or nearly-complete a cardigan.

If you ever have the opportunity, RUN to sign up for a class with Pamela Leggett. She is the goddess of all-kinds-of-stretchy-knits, and she sure taught me a thing or two this weekend. I have sewn with knits for years, but I still learned some great tips and tricks from her that I plan to implement right away. Like yesterday, ladies!

Happy sewing!




Tutorial: How to tame your gathers

Now that you know how to gather successfully, the next challenge is making sure that your gathers are straight and even when you are sewing big onto little. Easier said than done, right? How often have you ended up with a full skirt stitched to a bodice and the gathers look like Indiana Jone’s snake pit ? Don’t sweat it; I got a couple of tricks for you to tame that fabric fullness. As a matter of fact, you don’t even have to read to the end to learn my tricks. 😉

Trick # 1: Double up! Run 2 parallel rows of gathering stitches, using whatever gathering stitch method is appropriate for your application.

Trick # 2: Fractions are your friend. No worries, this math is easy and not scary at all.

OK, now that you know all my tricks, let’s walk through the steps to attach a skirt that needs to be gathered onto a bodice. I know you are going to want to know what dress I made for my DGD, so I will just come right out and tell you it is Lauren Dahl’s awesome new pattern for little girls, the Soleil dress. Too stinking cute!

1. Construct bodice and skirt per pattern directions.

Taming your gathering stitches tutorial by Sew Maris
2. Run 2 parallel rows of gathering stitches (straight stitch length as long as possible, or at least 5). One row should be less than the garment seam allowance, and the second row should be more than the garment seam allowance. At a minimum, break your threads at the side seams. If you are working with a large amount of fabric, break your threads more frequently. Be sure to leave long thread tails on both ends!

Taming your gathering stitches tutorial by Sew Maris
3. Divide both sections of the garment into at least quarters, and place a pin at each quarter mark. If you are making an adult size garment, you might divide it into eights, or or sixteenths, or whatever is manageable. What I mean by “manageable” is you can easily distribute the fullness evenly in each fourth, eighth, or whatever fraction you used. In this toddler sized garment, I divided both the bodice and the skirt into quarters because I was able to easily distribute 1/4 of the skirt fullness onto 1/4 of the bodice.

Taming your gathering stitches tutorial by Sew Maris
4. Connect each of the quarter mark pins of the skirt to the corresponding quarter mark pins of the bodice. Notice I have not pulled up my gathering stitches yet. Also, make sure you are connecting the front of the skirt to the bodice front, etc. But you know that already! 😉
5. Now pull both rows of gathering stitches at the same time. The idea is to work only on one quarter of the garment at a time, and to pull until the length of the skirt edge is the same as the length of the bodice edge. Continue until all the sections of the skirt are gathered and the skirt circumference is the same as the bodice circumference.

Taming your gathering stitches tutorial by Sew Maris
6. Take your time in this next step. Distribute the gathers evenly, and also be sure to get the gathers straight and perpendicular to the cut edge of the skirt. This is where 2 rows of gathering stitches really really helps. Pin as frequently as necessary to hold the fabric in place, and a shot of steam wouldn’t hurt either to tame those gathers into place.

Taming your gathering stitches tutorial by Sew Maris
7. Now you can serge or stitch your skirt to the bodice, but you are still going to need to “manage” those gathers as you stitch. Keep them straight and be careful the presser foot doesn’t smoosh them all out of shape and position as you sew.

Taming your gathering stitches tutorial by Sew Maris
8. Voilà! You have a nicely gathered skirt!

Happy sewing!


Tutorial: Gather successfully!

Let’s face it, gathering fabric can be a pain. Especially if the fabric you are using is a heavier weight than say, quilting cotton, or if you have yards and yards of it to be gathered for a home dec project.

Even on small projects, I have found that young sewists struggle to gather without breaking threads halfway through. This common sewing frustration led to the creation of this video. I hope you enjoy it!



Happy sewing!


Quick Tip Tuesday: Keep the pythons out of your dryer

Probably most of you serge or zig-zag the cut ends of your just-purchased fabric prior to running it through the washer and dryer in preparation for cutting out a new garment. Good idea! But an even better idea is to connect the two cut ends so your fabric forms a circular-tubey-like thing, and then stitch or serge them together. It should look kind of like a giant infinity scarf when you are done.

Fabric serged into a tube for laundering by Sew Maris

Sewing your fabric ends together into a tube prevents the dreaded twisting/snarling/mass of fabric from squeezing the very life out of everything else in your washer and dryer. Who needs a python in their dryer? 😉

Happy sewing!


Ziggi Style Arc WINNERS Announced!

Well, we promised prizes, and Style Arc delivered! Chloe and her awesome team very generously offered one free pattern to the completed Ziggi with the most interesting use of fabric, and another to the Ziggi demonstrating the best workmanship. Thank you “sew much” Chloe + team!

Style Arc's Ziggi jacket pattern

Drum roll please!

The winner for the “Best Use of Fabric” is Dodgy Zebra, known to some as Mary Quinn. Mary used a striped twill fabric that gave a very interesting effect on her Ziggi, especially her handling of the sleeves. Check out this awesomeness on her Ziggi Flickr page. Congratulations Mary, and thank you so much for being such an great participant in our sew-along.

Second drum roll please!

Our next winner was such an enthusiastic participant she completed not 1 but 2 Ziggi jackets during the sew-along. Ruth Forrester, the live person behind  CoreCouture, really just couldn’t stop herself. She blazed ahead with Ziggi #1 before all the instructions were even posted, and then liked her first Ziggi so much she made another! Double Ziggi awesomeness! Take a look at her Flickr stream and you can see why she won the prize for best workmanship. Congratulations Ruth, and thanks a million for sewing along with all of us.

Watch their blogs to find out the next Style Arc creations they will be sewing up!

Happy sewing!




Georgia, you are on my mind


Whew, what a week! Here is what it looked like for me:

  1. wrote 2 tutorials (How to Sew a Button and Coverstitch Knit Hems)
  2. finished and mailed off 2 knit dresses + 1 scarf to a very-soon-to-be-new-lawyer
  3. taught private sewing lessons to 7 students
  4. wrote my weekly blog post for
  5. wrote a blog post for The Monthly Stitch about the 2 knit dresses
  6. applied and was accepted on, featuring my Easy 1-Hour Skirt tutorial
  7. finally posted my advertising policy/updated my site menu
  8. packaged and shipped piles of cool Japanese sewing notions available in my Etsy store
  9. hung out every morning this week with my favorite DGD, and as you can see above, she likes to sew too!
  10. attended a performance of The Little Mermaid so I could clap loudly for one of my awesome sewing students!
  11. barely managed to run a few loads of laundry, cook a few meal items, and vacuum up the big chunks & dust bunnies floating about

Style Arc Georgia peplum blouse asmade by sew Maris

This weekend? I am hoping to immerse myself in some luscious sandwashed silk from District Fabric that has been longing to become a Georgia kind of girl. I am thinking about ways I might stabilize the CB seam so I can insert the invisible zipper, and I have one idea that I want to try. Fusing on silk is generally not a great idea, tho there are a few products that do not cause glue “bleed through”.

To all you who are blessed as mothers, I hope you have a wonderful Mother’s Day! Around here, that would mean loads of sewing time!

Happy sewing!


Tutorial: Sew a Button FAST & Easy

Everyone should know how to sew a button onto a shirt or coat, right? It is a life skill! And like many life skills, it can be a total pain the buttrather tedious. But I bet by the time you try this method you are going to be singing a different tune, and you may even search out opportunities to sew buttons on your clothes, as well as those belonging to friends!

How to sew a button by Sew Maris

Here’s what you will need:

  1. Thread
  2. Beeswax or thread conditioner
  3. Hand sewing needle
  4. Button
  5. Small scissors
  6. Thimble (optional)

Steps to Sew a Button by hand

1. Thread your needle with a piece of thread approximately 18-24 inches long. Do not tie a knot at the end, but do double it.

Sew a button by Sew Maris

2. Run your thread over thread conditioner or beeswax to reduce twisty-tangles while sewing. (Hint: if using beeswax, be sure to press the coated thread with a warm iron onto a paper towel before sewing. Otherwise the wax will come off on your fabric!)

3. Mark the button placement on your fabric.

Sew a button by Sew Maris

4. Take 1 small horizontal stitch on the button placement mark, and pull the needle through the thread loop. This will secure the thread to the fabric without creating a lumpy thread knot. Pretty cool already, right? Repeat, this time taking a vertical stitch on the button placement mark. Congrats: your thread is now secure!

Sew a button by Sew Maris

5. Trim the short thread ends so they are not sticking out under your button.

Sew a button by Sew Maris

6. Fold the fabric at the button placement mark.


7. Put the button on top of the fabric fold, and center the button holes over the button placement mark.


8. Starting on the back side, insert the needle thru a bit of fabric and then thru one of the button holes. The needle + thread is now on the front side of the button. You know the next step, right? From the front side, insert the needle thru the second button hole and also thru a bit of fabric. Now the needle + thread is again on the back side of the button.This is the “secure the button to the fabric” stitch. 😉

9. Repeat this “secure the button” stitch twice more for a total of 3 stitches. Do not pull the thread super tight, but also do not leave any loopy or dangly threads.

Sew a button by Sew Maris

10. On the back side of the button, wrap the thread around your stitches 3 times, creating a small button “shank”. This shank creates a little “breathing” space for the fabric/buttonhole to sit under the button without puckering when the garment is buttoned up.

Sew a button by Sew Maris

11. You are almost there! The last step is secure the thread, and it is nearly identical to step #4. Just insert the needle into the fabric next to the shank pulling the thread until you see a small loop, and slip the needle thru that loop and pull tight. Repeat once more, and you have a secure, neat button sewn to your garment!


I only recently learned this technique from a very talented sewing instructor, Jacque Goldsmith. She learned this method from her high school Home Ec teacher, and demo’ed it for one of our Seattle ASG neighborhood group meetings. Despite the cumulative “sewing years” of our group, this technique was new to every one of us!

Have you ever tried sewing a button this way? What are your favorite button sewing tips and tricks? I’d love to hear what you think about this method, or about anything else!

For another great technique, be sure to read SewMcCool’s “secret” button sewing tutorial!

Happy sewing!






Quick Tip Tuesday: A common thread tension problem

One of the common problems that I see with new sewist’s stitching is thread tension. But adjusting the tension dials is usually not the answer! Often the problem is that the tension disk has been bypassed during the threading process. Oh, the thread was sort of “placed” into the tension area, but it did not truly engage into the tension disk.

Serger threading example by Sew Maris

My answer? Pretend like you are flossing, and hold the thread between both of your hands when threading the machine. Be sure that you have some resistance on the thread, and that you “snap” it between the tension disks. Push back a little and you will feel the tension disks “grab” the thread. And don’t be a wimp! It is really pretty hard to break your sewing machine. On the other hand, don’t benchpress 250 against your machine 🙂

This tip applies to the tension disks in your sewing machine, your serger, and the tension spring used for winding a bobbin. Snug that thread in there, sistahs!

Happy sewing!







Tutorial: Use a coverstitch to hem knit garments

If you sew with lots of knit fabrics, you have probably run into difficulties creating a nice hem on at least some of these fabrics. The more slippery and light-weight the knit the more challenging it is.

Hemming knits with a coverstitch tutorial by Sew Maris

My favorite method of hemming knits is to use the coverstitch function on my Bernina 1300 MDC serger.  Here is what you need to get started:

  1. Garment to be hemmed (duh)
  2. Coverstitch machine, or serger set to coverstitch function
  3. Steam iron
  4. Narrow (1/2 inch or so) strips of fusible interfacing, or purchased knit stay tapes
  5. Thread
  6. Scissors
  7. Ruler or hem template

Hemming knits with a coverstitch tutorial by Sew Maris

1. Press the hem using a the correct temperature setting for your knit. Instead of a ruler I use a tagboard template cut to the exact width hem. It is much faster and easier than a ruler and marking pen, since you can press directly on the tagboard.

Hemming knits with a coverstitch tutorial by Sew Maris

See the press line on my sample? Knits will definitely not produce the same kind of crisp line that firmly woven cotton will, but usually you can still see the line and it will help you to turn the hem evenly.

Hemming knits with a coverstitch tutorial by Sew Maris

2. Press a 1/2″ wide strip of fusible interfacing or purchased knit stay tape on the cut edge of the hem. This will help prevent “tunneling” of the fabric between the 2 rows of stitching.

Hemming knits with a coverstitch tutorial by Sew Maris

3. Hand baste the hem turnback to the garment. Now, this step is optional, but sometimes it is the only way to keep knit hems in the proper place/position when you are actually stitching. It also provides a guideline to help keep your coverstitching straight.

Hemming knits with a coverstitch tutorial by Sew Maris

4. Using a standalone coverstitch or serger set to a coverstitch function, hem your garment. See how the basting thread is visible while you stitch?

Hemming knits with a coverstitch tutorial by Sew Maris

You can see the basting stitch is (somewhat!) centered between the 2 rows of stitching on the front of the hemmed garment.

Hemming knits with a coverstitch tutorial by Sew Maris

Annnd the back side of your hem.

Hemming knits with a coverstitch tutorial by Sew Maris

5. Remove the basting thread, and you have a hemmed garment. Whew!

One final hint: if you are working with a lightweight knit it might be helpful to reduce the tension settings on your needle threads. This plus the stabilizer on the cut edge can really minimize the dreaded “tunnel” effect!

Happy sewing!




Simplicity 3775, done and done!

Woohoo! Both Simplicity 3775 dresses are done and ready to pop into the mail this week. I originally blogged about these dresses last week when the basic construction was completed; they were just needing the finishing touch on the neckline, armholes, and hem.

For the black and white polka dot version I decided to use the narrow binding specified in the pattern. This knit fabric is rather thin and soooo slippery that keeping the binding an equal width all the way ’round was a bit of a challenge. I stitched it on my serger, and found that lining up the fold edge of the binding alongside the edge of my foot was the best way to keep things even. (And yes, I did need to re-stitch one section that was too wide! 😉 )

Simplicity 3775 as sewn by Sew Maris

Here is the full view of the completed dotty dress.

Simplicity 3775 as sewn by Sew Maris

The red dress got one of my favorite binding treatments for knits: foldover velvet elastic. I think I bought mine from M & J Trimming in NYC, but I noticed a similar looking velvet elastic ribbon on Etsy.

Simplicity 3775 as sewn by Sew Maris

I used my coverstitch function on my serger to hem both dresses—fast and easy on the red dress and a bit more of a struggle on the thinner knit of the black dress. Applying a narrow strip of fusible interfacing on the edge of the hem really helps minimize the tunneling that can occur, and saying a little prayer while stitching also can make a difference. 😉

I used the same process to apply the velvet foldover elastic on this dress as I did for the 1-Hour Skirt waistband. I love how you can barely see the final zig-zag stitching!

Simplicity 3775 as sewn by Sew Maris

It is always a bit of a miracle if I complete sewing projects in time for the actual event, so I am especially glad my DS’s girlfriend will have her law school graduation present prior to commencement.

Happy sewing!