Monthly Archives: July 2014

Downton Abbey WINNER(s)

Thank you all for your wonderful comments about the inspiring Downton Abbey sewing projects! It is so much fun to think about these lovely creations; how you might make them up, where you might wear them, and just dreaming about these beautiful clothes.


It was just too hard to pick only 1 winner, so I am sending my review copy to Linda so she can inspire her wonderful 4-H students, and my giveaway copy to Rita so she can make more pretty dresses and keep those compliments coming her way. We all could use more of that, right?

Thanks to each of you for your fantastic comments—you know how much I love hearing from you!!

Have a perfectly awesome day sewing!


Summer Kids Sew Camp Update

It’s summer, so that means we are all Kids Sew Camps all the time around here. It is both a huge amount of fun, and extremely gratifying to help young students improve their sewing skills. As important as I think sewing skills are, students also gain self-confidence in being able to do things on their own, learn how to solve complex problems, and work cooperatively to help others. Sounds kinda like some life-skills, wouldn’t you say? 🙂

Kids Sew Camps by Sew Maris

Helping a friend….

Kids Sew Camps by Sew Maris

Operating a sewing machine is fun!!

Kids Sew Camps by Sew Maris

Love the concentration…

Kids Sew Camps by Sew Maris

Learning how to make a burrito pillowcase…..

Kids Sew Camps by Sew Maris

A finished kimono bathrobe and bubble skirt. These two have some mad skillz!

I hope your summer is as enjoyable as mine is turning out to be. These kids put a smile on my face every day, and I feel grateful and privileged to be able to teach them a little about the joys of sewing.

Happy sewing!





Tutorial: How to Make A Perfect Buttonhole

Buttonholes can induce a little anxiety, especially if you have to make ten or twelve of them on a shirt. But if you follow these simple steps, and practice, you will soon be making lovely buttonholes without batting an eyelash. Really!

Grainline Archer by Sew Maris

Please note: This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you decide to purchase. Thanks!

Here’s what you need to get started:

  1. A garment with appropriate interfacing applied to the area where buttonholes will be made
  2. Sewing machine with buttonhole foot
  3. Thread
  4. Water soluble stabilizer (like Solvy)
  5. Marking tool (I like the Frxion pens for this job)
  6. Optional: Simflex buttonhole marking tool
  7. Optional: Fray-check

How to Make a Buttonhole


How to make a perfect buttonhole tutorial by Sew Maris

1. Using the pattern guide or a Simflex marking tool, mark the placement for your buttonholes on your garment. In the example above, the buttonholes are vertical, so I marked a horizontal line where the buttonhole needs to start, and a vertical line to keep my stitching correctly centered on the shirt front.

Hint: If your sewing machine automatically stitches the correct buttonhole length like mine does, you will only have to mark the starting placement line for the buttonhole,and the machine will determine the . correct ending point.

2. Select the buttonhole stitch on your sewing machine.

Hint: If you increase the stitch length slightly your finished buttonholes will look more ready-to-wear (RTW).

3. Cut two strips or enough rectangles of Solvy to place on top and underneath each buttonhole marking. (Make a “sandwich” of Solvy-garment-Solvy.)

How to make a perfect buttonhole tutorial by Sew Maris

4. Align your garment under the buttonhole foot so the needle is at the beginning of the buttonhole mark, and stitch the buttonhole. Well, the machine does this part.;-)

How to make a perfect buttonhole tutorial by Sew Maris

5. Repeat until all your buttonholes are completed. That wasn’t so bad, was it?

6. Gently tear off the excess Solvy around the buttonholes, and place a “line” of Fray-check in between the 2 rows of zig-zag stiching of each buttonhole. Let dry.

How to Make a Perfect Buttonhole tutorial by Sew Maris

7. Cut open each buttonhole. That’s it! Not so bad, especially with today’s modern sewing machines that really help simplify this task.

Hint: My preferred method of cutting through the garment is to use a Japanese 15 mm buttonhole cutter as shown above. The knife edge is both very sharp and very thin, so you are much less likely to cut into your stitches. You can also use a seam ripper to open a little hole in the buttonhole and finish cutting with a pair of sharp scissors, or you can fold the buttonhole in half and snip a hole with sharp scissors, too. Regardless of which technique you use, BE CAREFUL! If you cut through your stitches it is possible to “re-stitch” , but your buttonhole will look a little sad. 🙁

I hope this tute helps you make purrrr-fect buttonholes on your next garment. It really is just a series of little things that add up to making a better buttonhole. Be sure to practice on scraps before you tackle the “real” garment.

Happy sewing!



Quick Tip Tuesday: Aligning Pattern Changes

We all need to make adjustments to patterns to get them to fit correctly; some need to make loads of changes and some of us are lucky enough to have only minor revisions. But I have yet to meet the person who makes no changes. (Well, OK, some don’t; but should. 😉 )

Quick Tip by Sew Maris

Be sure you draw or use a vertical alignment mark on your pattern to keep the correct grainline/pattern piece orientation. On the bodice shown above, I used the pattern’s grainline mark to keep the bodice back on grain when I shortened (petite’d) the pattern through the armscye. I drew a vertical line though the shoulder (anywhere is fine) so I could correctly align the top edge of the shoulder after adding extra length to the back for my forward should adjustment. This little extra step will really help keep you pattern properly aligned when you are cutting and slashing!

Happy sewing!




Dressing as a Downton Lady or Gent

Along with many others, I am totally addicted to Downton Abbey. Lady Edith just can’t get any kind of break, Lady Mary lost the love of her life, and poor Lady Sybil! I love the characters and the drama of their lives, but really. The CLOTHES! It is not exactly all about the clothes, but….well, actually it is. 😉


Andover has created a line of Downton Abbey fabrics, and now Interweave, owned by F&W, has produced The Unofficial Downton Abbey Sews, which is a magazine chock full of modern versions of Downton Abbey fashions, accessories, and home dec items. Most of the patterns are available through free downloadable PDFs. I haven’t had a chance to make any of them up yet, but I have definitely been drooling over some of the designs.


I have no idea where I would wear this lovely lace creation, but I.Want.It. Sooo pretty and feminine. Since it is a “tabard” (kind of like a pinafore) I could take it off before I clean the toilets or teach a sew camp, right? 😉


Pretty pillows!


I wonder if I could get my husband to wear that vest? Very Tom Branson, eh?


Hahahahaha. No. Just no.


I have no flapper vibe, but I still think this is stinkin’ cute. I would totally wear it if I were in my roaring’ 20’s!


Both of these designs are totally wearable, don’t you think?


SOOOO smart! Love the blazer and double-heart the jeans. Look at those front pocket zips; smashing, right?


I am wearing that headpiece on the right to my next ASG meeting. Or maybe grocery shopping. I AM a sewing goddess, after all. 😉


Accessories too!

Now the kindly folks at F & W Media sent me an extra copy of The Unofficial Downton Abbey Sews magazine, and I am dying to give it to YOU! Leave me a comment about your favorite outfit and why you love it, and I will send you this magazine quick as can be. You have until July 11 to leave a comment (include your email please!!), and sorry, but U.S. shipping only.

In case you are not the lucky winner, you can also purchase the magazine online too!

Happy sewing!





It’s a Teaser

Well, I am just pleased as punch about having my cute little drawstring backpack design featured on Sew, Mama, Sew today! Sew.Darn.Fun!

Drawstring backpack by Sew Maris

Even on a simple project like this, there is plenty for a confident beginner to learn. I am pretty sure the way I show you how to sew on a button might be new-to-you, and you can also think about different seam finishing techniques and the right kind of needle for your sewing project. Definitely jump over to Sew, Mama, Sew so you can get all the deets on how to make this cute and easy pocket drawstring bag for yourself. Thanks Kristin and Beth!!

If you like this project, you might also have a little girl in your life that would be thrilled to have a new reversible skirt in her closet. If you like to sew for “bigger” girls, I hope some of the dresses, coats, or tops I have made will inspire you to spend a little more time at your sewing machine. Because for me, that’s what it is all about. Let’s just get EVERYONE sewing, and loving sewing! It might not be world peace, but it would definitely increase the happiness factor on the planet.

Happy sewing!






Don’t Be That Person

Some people never change their sewing machine needles unless they break. Do.Not.Be.That.Person. You paid good money for your fabric, and a dull needle can damage it. How happy are you going to be when stitching up the final seam on your uh-mazing new dress, and BAM!—the needle punches a big hole or causes a run in your fabric?

Right needle for the job by Sew Maris

Sewing machine needles have a life span, and it is rather a short one at that! Eight hours, people. Eight hours of stitching time, max. Personally, I think it is a little tough to track hours of stitching time. It is easier to change the needle every project, or every other project if you are doing something quick. At a minimum you are saving yourself skipped stitches, and potentially much bigger problems. And since most needles cost less than a dollar, really, what’s your hangup with throwing away a needle, anyway?

Now, let’s get down to it. You need to know a few needle facts. Let’s cover the basics first.

Right needle for the job by Sew Maris

Types of Needles
There is a wide selection of needle types. You need to select the type of needle that is appropriate to do the job.You wouldn’t build a cabinet using a sledge hammer, and the same principle of fitting the appropriate needle to the task applies.

Ball Point Needle
Made especially for sewing knit fabrics. The rounded tip of the needle “pushes” the knitted fibers apart so the point does not break the fibers and cause a “run” or “ladders”; same concept as getting a “run” in your pantyhose (does anyone wear pantyhose anymore?).

Denim/Jeans Needle
Duh. Just like the name implies, this needle is for denim. And it also works for any densely woven materials such as imitation leather or home dec fabrics. This is a very strong + sharp needle.

Double Eye Needle
This “specialty” needle is often used for embroidery and topstitching with decorative threads. It has two eyes so you can try sewing with 2 different colors of thread.

Double Needle (Twin Needle)
These specialty needles were designed for producing a RTW-looking hem, but can also be used for decorative topstitching. Since there are 2 needles on a single shaft, this needle produces 2 rows of parallel stitches at the same time. There are double Universal, Denim, Machine Embroidery, Metallic, and Stretch needles available. One caution: the distance between the two needles varies, so be sure to select a needle that will fit into the hole in your presser foot as well as the hole in the stitch plate of your machine.

Embroidery Needle
In addition to a long smooth groove and a large eye, embroidery needles also have a special “scarf” on the back of the needle. All of these characteristics help protect the fragile specialty embroidery threads by guarding against excess friction.

Gold Embroidery Needle
Similar to an embroidery needle, but with a special Titanium Nitride ceramic coating. This helps improve needle wear resistance in high stitch count applications and penetration of coarse or densely woven materials.

Hemstitch Needle
A specialty needle, also known as a “wing” needle, that creates decorative openwork or cut-work on tightly woven fabrics.

Leather Needle
Duh. These needles have a darn sharp cutting point that is needed for leather and imitation leather.

Metallic Needle
Have you ever tried sewing metallic threads without this needle? A “must have”for sewing with metallic and other specialty threads because the elongated eye prevents shredding and breaking of metallic threads.

Microtex Sharp
This little baby is a very slender needle with a thin shaft that helps make very straight stitches. It was originally developed for the modern micro- fibers, polyesters, and high thread count, high quality fabrics. Try it for topstitching or edge stitching! This needle needs to be changed more frequently because it is a bit more fragile than most needles. (Pssst! I use these when I make dress shirts for my DS andDH. PERFECT for edgestitching!)

Quilting Needle
Made especially for piecing and machine quilting, the thin tapered design of these needles allows them to pass through many layers smoothly to help eliminate skipped stitches and keep stitches even.

Self-Threading Needle
This specialty needle can be helpful for children, those with vision problems, or those with fine motor coordination issues resulting from arthritis or other conditions.

Stretch Needle
NOT to be confused with a ball point/jersey needle designed for knits! These needles are made especially for synthetic suede or highly elastic synthetic knit wear. Great for stitching through elastic because of a special coating that prevents “loops” from pulling out of the elastic.

Topstitch Needle
These needles have an extra large eye and large grooves to accommodate the heavier weight of topstitch/denim/buttonhole twist threads.

Triple Needle
Like a twin needle, only more so. 😉

Universal Needle
This is your basic workhorse. A general purpose needle that can be used on knit or woven fabrics. It has is great for zigzag stitching, does not damage knits, and is still sharp enough to go through a lot of different types of fabrics. Because of the slight ball point it is not ideal for going through many layers or high thread count fabrics.

Needle Sizes

In addition to the variety of needle types listed above, needles come in a range of sizes. The smallest is 8/60, and the largest is 20/120. These numbers are actually reflective of the 2 different numbering systems used to classify needles. The U.S system range is 8-20, and the European system is 60-120. So, the finer the fabric being sewn, and the finer the thread being used, the smaller the needle you should select. Logical, right? 😉

Right needle for the job by Sew Maris

Putting It All Together

Alright, friends. Now that you have the basic facts about needles, how do you choose the right needle for the job? There is a little science and a little art involved in this. The 2 factors that control your decision are the type of fabric and the weight of the thread. For example, cotton lawn or voile is lightweight fabric, so you know right away you want a small needle. It is a natural fiber, so probably a universal tip is best. Microtex is not required because lawn is not a tight weave, and Ballpoint/Jersey is out because it is not a knit. I would start with a Universal 8/60, and because this small needle has a correspondingly smaller groove in the front and a smaller eye, I would also choose a lighter weight thread. Something like a 50 wt cotton.

The thread you select should not occupy more than 40% of the eye of the needle. That is a little-known fact you can toss out at your next cocktail party conversation to look all witty and smart (or maybe just all-sewing-geeky-like! 🙂 ). If I was sewing a rayon/lycra Ponte weight dress, I would start with a Ballpoint/Jersey size 70 or 80—depending on the weight of the Ponte. I would also use a standard 40 wt polyester thread.

The art part of the proper needle selection means you need to experiment a little. Better to do this on scrap fabric rather than your actual garment, BTW. 😉 Sometimes it seems like a size 80 will be perfect, but on your sewing machine the stitches look better with a size 70. after a while you will learn what works best for your machine and your fabrics, but it never hurts to run a few tests to see how things look.


Really. I don’t even know how that hot-mess-of-a-needle even happened! I am blaming a student. 😉

Want to know my pet peeve regarding needles? When people think a stretch needle is for all knits. I will call you out if I hear you making that mistake! 😉

Happy sewing!


Quick Tip Tuesday: Leave Out Your Needle

Do you struggle to remember when you last changed the needle in your sewing machine? I recently read a tip (somewhere!) that an easy way to keep track is to remove your “used” needle at the end of your sewing project, and do not replace it. Then, the next time you break out your sewing machine for a new project, insert the appropriate type and size needle for your new sewing job into the empty needle slot. Brilliant idea!

How do you track how many sewing hours your needle has racked up?

Happy sewing!