Monthly Archives: May 2014

10 Great Ways to Sabotage Yourself

I.Love.This. Originally written several years ago by Keri Smith, I think it is a great list of ways we sabotage ourselves as sewing-artists.

How to Feel Miserable as an Artist

1. Constantly compare yourself to other artists.

2. Talk to your family about what you do and expect them to cheer you on.

3. Base the success of your entire career on one project.

4. Stick with what you know.

5. Undervalue your expertise.

6. Let money dictate what you do.

7. Bow to societal pressures.

8. Only do work that your family would love.

9. Do whatever the client/customer/gallery owner/patron/investor/ asks.

10. Set unachievable/overwhelming goals. To be accomplished by tomorrow.

At times, I have done each item on this list. How about you? Any resonate with you? Are you still struggling with any or all of these behaviors?

Happy sewing (and creating!)


A Tiny Hermione

Thank you so much, Tasha, Maegan, Karen, and Amy for including me in your awesome Crafting Con blog tour! I got the fun job: sew a cute, practical, wearable outfit for my DGD based on a theme of my choice. Well, actually it ended up being my daughter’s choice. After all, she is my DGD’s momma, so I guess she can have veto power.  We decided to go with a Harry Potter theme, and specifically Hermione. She and my DGD have much in common after all: they are both only children, brilliant students, and love books! Duh, a no-brainer! 😉


Hermione spends time in a pleated wool skirt and pullover sweater—hardly toddler-friendly clothing. I wanted to design an outfit that my DGD would love to wear, and also be comfie and hassle-free for daycare, the playgound, or running errands with Momma. After loads of sketches and discarded designs, I chose leggings, a simple pull-on top, and a cardigan sweater in a Hermione-inspired color scheme.


I used a vintage Kwik-sew pattern (KS 2024) for the grey cardigan, and added gold and maroon buttons down the front bands for a little color pop. I had some grey sweater knit in my stash that was cardi-perfect. The white cotton interlock top was hacked from Selvage Design’s Soleil sundress pattern, and a bit of maroon fold-over elastic (FOE) trim around the armholes tied it into the Hermione-theme. Both the fabric and the FOE were also from my stash. The leggings are from Oliver + S Playtime Tunic and Leggings pattern, and I ruched the legs and added matching gold and maroon buttons in a smaller size to give them a fun detail. And of course I had to knit a maroon and gold Hermione scarf! Amazingly enough my DGD  loves the scarf! The legging fabric, yarn, and buttons were the only things I had to buy for this whole outfit.


Wizards have to practice their flying skills, right?


Oooh, sneaky, sneaky Oona escaped capture by squeezing through this tight little space!


Little wizards-in-training LOVE showing off their skills to those less-gifted-than-they. Like daddies, for instance. 😉


Ohh! Good balancing, Hermione!


Little magician-wizards need fast running shoes for all those times when they can’t find any spell-casting ingredients or remember the right incantation

This whole project was a total win-win. Oona loves her new clothes, they are definitely wearable for every day, and I loved being part of this fun Crafting Con challenge. Thanks again, Tasha, Maegan, Karen, and Amy! Happy sewing!



That’s-Sew-Kari | Two Novembers | Swoodson Says | Manafest | Sew Maris

GYCT Designs | Calm and Carrion | Create 3.5 | Crazy Crafty Haute Mama | Paisley Roots



Tutorial: How to Ruche a Sleeve

A really fun (and cute!) way to shorten a sleeve or pant leg without re-hemming is to add a bit of ruching. You can do this to RTW clothes as easily as clothing you have made for yourself, and best of all—it is fast and easy!

Ruched Sleeve Tutorial by Sew MAris

The only slightly tricky part is deciding what length you want to be gathered. This is definitely a case where less is more, because the finished ruching section will be approximately half the length you initially measure. For my sweater sleeve example, I put the sweater on and marked with a pin approximately where I wanted the upper end of the ruching. Keep in mind the bottom edge of the ruching will obviously be lower—how much depends on the length you gather—but about half is in the ballpark! The good news is if you don’t ruche enough, you can just add a bit more elastic on top of the area you already completed. No need to rip anything out, just add a new section right on top of the first one.


These supplies will be needed for this project:

  1. Garment to be ruched (knit sweater or top, or leggings are good choices)
  2. Thread
  3. Fabric marker(chalk, Frixion pen, etc)
  4. Narrow elastic (I used 1/4” clear elastic)
  5. Basic sewing supplies
  6. Sewing machine with a zig-zag stitch

OK, let’s get started with the specifics. Here’s how you ruche a sleeve:

Sleeve ruching tutorial by Sew Maris

1. Turn the garment inside-out, and fold in half. Measure the length you want to ruche on the fold (opposite the seam) and mark with a pin. In my example I put a pin 7 inches from the hem edge, which will result in approximately 3-4 inches of ruching when I am done.

Sleeve ruching tutorial by Sew Maris

2. Draw a chalk line along the fold from the hem edge to the pin. You can use any marker appropriate for your fabric; I just used chalk because it showed up the best on my cheetah print sweater knit. Not great, but better than anything else I tried!

3. Set your sewing machine to a medium-ish zig-zag stitch. I used L=3 and W=4.

Sleeve ruching tutorial by Sew Maris

4. Lay your elastic on the hem edge of the chalk line, extending it beyond the hem by an inch or more. DO NOT CUT ANY ELASTIC.

5. Secure the elastic in place by backstitching over the elastic to the hem edge, and then take 5-6 stitches forward and stop.

Sleeve ruching tutorial by Sew Maris

6. With your sewing machine needle down securing the fabric + elastic in place, pull hard on the long end of the elastic and lay it directly over the chalk line. At the same time, from the back of your machine pull on the hem edge of your garment (hem pulling not shown above since I needed one hand to shoot!).

7. Zig-zag directly on top of your super-stretched-out elastic. Go slowly, and make sure you are not catching anything but the one layer of your sleeve while stitching—things are definitely bunchy so it is easy to catch another part of the sleeve. You will only be able to stitch a few inches at a time.

Sleeve ruching tutorial by Sew Maris
8. When you get to the end of your chalk mark, backstitch or lockstitch to secure the zig-zag stitching.

Sleeve ruching tutorial by Sew Maris

9. Now you can cut the elastic. Trim threads and cut off the excess elastic at both ends, and you are done and done!

Ruched Sleeve Tutorial by Sew Maris

I hope you have fun with this technique. I have used it as a quick fix for droopy sleeves and also when I just want this detail on my garment. Try it and let me know what you think!

Happy sewing!


Quick Tip Tuesday: Narrow Hem Coverstitch

If your coverstitch machine has 3 needle positions, try using a narrow hem on soft knits. I was in the habit of always using the widest hem option on my coverstitch machine, but I have seen the light!

Tunneled hem with side coverstitch on soft knit by Sew Maris

See the “tunneling” in the middle of the hem in the image above?

Narrow coverstitch hem on soft knits by Sew Maris

Ahhhh, that’s better! I just figured this out!

Give it a try. I think there are way fewer issues with hems “tunneling” when using a left + center needle position rather than the wider left + right needle position while coverstitching. Let me know what you think!

Happy sewing!


Memorial Day Thoughts

Today I am thinking about all the men and women who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, and especially about those who have lost their lives during their tour of service.

I am one of the lucky ones. My immediate family has not suffered the loss of loved one to a war. Other families have not been so blessed. And even if their soldier came home, many families have lost the life-they-once-had with their soldier because of the toll of his/her service.

My husband and I took a trip thru Normandy a few years back, and seeing the loss of so many young lives firsthand was very moving, and at times overwhelming. Thank you, to all the men and women who have served and sacrificed for our country. Thank you to their families who sacrificed as well.


A Cool Cardigan Sweater

Who doesn’t love a great cardigan sweater? Since my work no longer requires professional business attire, I wear a skirt or pants + a woven or knit top + a cardigan sweater most days. And since my business is all sewing all the time, I try to wear mostly me-made clothes. Because those kids ask me every day if I made what I am wearing! 😉

Pamela's Patterns Cool Cardigan Drape Front sewn by Sew Maris
Check out this stinkin’ cute Cool Cardigan – Draped Front by Pamela’s Patterns. The fabric I used was a tissue-thin sweater knit in a quiet little cheetah print. Nothing over the top for me! Since I have not been so successful with mesh and other featherweight knits in the past, I was very hesitantscared to death to sew it up despite loving the print.

Pamela's Patterns Cool Cardigan Drape Front sewn by Sew Maris

By George, I think I’ve got it now. A better fitting pattern, a little less volume in the completed garment, a few construction tips from Pamela Leggett, and my sweater happiness quotient is up, up, way up!

Pamela's Patterns Cool Cardigan Drape Front sewn by Sew Maris
I completed most of this sweater last weekend during the Seattle ASG Spring Educational event with Pamela Leggett. Surprisingly, the fabric really did not torture me too much. I wouldn’t say it was exactly easy, but it was manageable. Increasing the differential feed on my serged seams to 1.5 helped, and maybe the fabric was just afraid to act out in front of Pamela. It must have been smart enough to realize the big guns were on deck last Sunday. 😉

Pamela's Patterns Cool Cardigan Drape Front sewn by Sew Maris
After wearing my new sweater for a bit, I decided to ruche the sleeves up so they are more of a 3/4 length. Long sleeves bug the heck out of me, so I don’t know why I even cut the long-sleeve version of this pattern. Besides, the ruched sleeves and the ruching at the back neckline on this sweater make me feel all girly and feminine when I wear it.

I would give Cool Cardigan – Draped Front an A. Give this easy pattern a try and let me know what you think, I’d love to hear from you!

Happy Sewing!


McCall’s 6787: Knit Dresses for Spring

It is Friday and I think you are in the mood to read something that puts a smile on your face, amiright?

One of the most popular sewing projects in my studio is McCall’s 6787 knit dress. Girls just love to make it with stretch lace sleeves, which gives it a feminine and flirty touch. We have made it in some of the Kids Sew Camps, and some of my private students have also sewn up this pattern. The variety of looks they create is so much fun to see!


It is a pretty quick project—no zippers or buttons to fiddle with—just a quick pull-on dress. An elastic casing around the waist and a binding around the neck gives students some practice with techniques that are a little more challenging. I try to encourage the girls to use cotton interlock or French terry, as these knits have a bit more “heft” and are easier than rayon/lycra or cotton/lycra for beginning students to manage.

McCalls 6787 by Sew Maris students

I love the bright colors these two gals used for their dresses. Some girls just can’t get enough pink, can they? And the French terry blue & purple stripe is adorable!

McCalls 6787 by Sew Maris students

Love the pose, girls—you know how to rock it!

Have a great Memorial Day weekend, and happy sewing!





Tutorial: How to Stay Knit Neck Edges

A common way of finishing simple knit T-shirts is to just turn under the raw edge around the neckline and topstitch or coverstitch the edge. Fast and easy! I have done it plenty of times, and my normal method of preventing gaping around the neckline was to stabilize right up against the cut edge of the neckline with knit stay tape. Worked reasonably well, but I did occasionally need to clip into the neckline so that it would lay smoothly when I turned it under prior to topstitching. You know what I’m talking about here.

knit stay tape placement around neckline by Sew Maris

This past weekend I learned a new trick from Pamela Leggett that produces much better results. Funny how just a slight change can make a big difference sometimes, huh? Here is <almost> Pamela’s awesome method:

  1. Baste around the neck edge on the stitching line. (This is where I differ with Pamela. She staystitches instead of basting – but I like to remove this stitching after I am all done so I baste using a contrast color of thread. I also “push” the knit fabric into the presser foot a little bit to prevent stretching the neckline edge.)
    knit stay tape placement around neckline by Sew Maris
  2.  Fuse Knit Stay Tape below the basting stitch. The tape should be on the garment side of the body. closeup of knit stay tape placement around neckline by Sew Maris
  3. The next step is to topstitch or coverstitch from the right side of the garment—your choice. Knit neckline stay tutorial by Sew Maris
  4. Fold over the neck edge and topstitch or coverstitch. I can do it without pinning or basting; you will have to decide if you are comfortable doing that. Knit neckline stay tutorial by Sew Maris
  5. When you are finished topstitching, on the inside of your neckline the cut edge should cover or almost cover the knit stay tape. At this point I also remove the basting thread.
  6. The final step is to press the neckline edge by holding the steam iron over the garment and shooting steam into the knit. Use your fingers to “block”  the neckline into shape. Do not touch your iron to the fabric!

This technique often reduces the need for clipping the neck edge, and also creates a smooth, consistent surface for your topstitching. It really is often a combination of little improvements that can elevate your sewing to a higher level, and this is definitely one of those tips. Brilliant! Thank you, Pamela!

Completed sleeveless tank by Sew Maris

Pamela has a great online video tutorial where she demonstrates this technique, using her sleeveless tank pattern that is included in the New Versatile Twin Set pattern. I can highly recommend this tank pattern; it is shown above in the yummy “coffee bean” knit from EmmaOneSock. I love how it fits snugly around your arm so no arm “boob” hangs out, and using her neck stay technique the neckline really hugs against your body. Win win!

Happy sewing!




Quick Tip Tuesday: Serge a French seam

Have you ever tried serging the first stitching when you make a French seam? Pamela Leggett described this technique last weekend at our ASG educational event, and it reminded me of the serger heirloom sewing technique I learned in the 80’s. It is a fast and simple way to get a clean edge on the first French seam stitching.

Just like a normal French seam, start with wrong sides together and serge a narrow overlock stitch. Press and turn the seam so the right sides are together, and stitch the final seam on your regular sewing machine. No little pokey thread sneaking out of your second seam. A miracle!

Happy sewing!


Why do you sew?

I have been sewing for nearly 50 years (yikes!!),  and some of the reasons I sew today are different than they were when I was young, and some are still the same. BTW, just how did I get to be so old??;-) ,

Here’s my why-I-live-to-sew list:

1. I love the feel of fabric. I am very tactile, and I have always loved touching and petting nice fabric. Still do!

2. When I was growing up, all my female role models sewed. My beautiful mother was an excellent seamstress, and both my grandmothers and aunts were pretty darn handy with a needle. I am aware not all women in that time period liked to sew, but most had at least been taught the basics at school or from a family member.

3. Home Economics was required in school, and sewing was part of the curriculum. I remember (and am FB friends!) with my first Home Ec teacher other than my mom: Mrs. Hoover. I am sorry to say I thought I knew more than she did because I had already been sewing for several years with my oh-so-perfectionist mother. I am still embarrassed when I think of my attitude toward this wonderful woman. She had graduated from WSU with a degree in Home Economics, and I still remember her tremendous patience teaching a room full of 7th grade girls to sew. Sheesh! Only a 13 year-old could be so sure she knew more than a college graduate! I’m sorry, Helen!!

4. The process of taking flat fabric and patterns and turning them into 3-dimensional articles of clothing seemed magical to me. Still does!

5. I have never had any interest in trying to manufacture my own clothing designs, but I always wanted to wear clothes that were uniquely ME. Colors I liked. Fabrics that I enjoyed wearing. Design lines that were both functional and pretty to my aesthetic sense. Still do!

6. Fit. I grew up wearing clothes that were custom fit to my size and shape. Why would you settle for something off the rack that wasn’t “just right” when it was easy enough to “make it so”. I see friends of mine exclaiming over the “great fit” of their RTW garments, and most of the time I manage to keep my mouth shut. Most of the time. 😉 OK, occasionally.

7. I love the process of sewing. It is a challenge to sew. You have to “think it through” and keep your brain engaged pretty much the whole time. Forget auto-pilot; ain’t gonna work out for you.

8. Sewing beats the pants off watching TV. Except for possibly Downton Abbey. Even as a kid I really never cared much for TV, and now even less so. When I do watch TV these days I am usually knitting or sewing at the same time, with only partial attention to the tube.

9. I get to sew adorable clothes for my adorable grand-daughter!

10. Being part of the local and national sewing community has enriched my life beyond even my extremely fertile imagination. So many friends, so much support, and so much darn good fun. Y’all know that ASG is my favorite sewing organization, and the online community has expanded my connections around the globe. What could be cooler?

11. Now I get to pass the joy and skill of sewing on to others. No matter how tired, stressed out, or anxious I might be, when I see one of my students light up with pride at their accomplishments, I wouldn’t trade that moment for anything. Not even Extreme Moosetracks ice cream. For reals!

12. My sewing machine never talks back to me. I can tell her anything and she never complains, but just listens patiently, and purrs along. Ohh, the secrets she could tell. 😉

13. I love creating, and sewing is my favorite medium. It engages my brain, tickles my design sense, and gives me a big ole endorphin-rush of happiness.

How about you? Why do you sew?

Happy sewing!


p.s. For another creative blogger story, be sure to read Stephanie’s story of “Why I Create” .