Monthly Archives: September 2014

Sewing As Therapy

Today you are going to hear from a very special lady, Deby Coles from So Sew Easy. If you haven’t met her yet (can that even be possible?), you are in for a treat. Her story about how she got into sewing is definitely unique, but her passion for this craft will resonate with all of you, I’m quite sure. Thanks for sharing, Deby!

Celebrate National Sewing Month by Sew Maris


I’m delighted to write a little for Maris about “Why Sewing Is Important to Me”, for National Sewing Month. There are many reasons people of all ages take up sewing, and even more reasons why people love doing it. My own reason for sewing may be a little more unusual but the benefit I receive from it I know I share with many others, because many have written and told me their sewing stories in response to my own.

A little over 2 years ago now I had a stroke. The usual kind where you are affected both physically and mentally, but thanks to my age and otherwise good health, I was soon back up on my feet again. The worst effects for me were mentally and I lost a lot of my memory, forgot people, places, events, how to drive, even how to do my job. My short term memory and concentration were shot. I was confused a lot of the time, but there was one thing I was not confused about – I NEEDED to sew. It was all I could think about.

This was a rather odd compulsion seeing I had never sewn before, but a friend kindly lent me her machine, I rummaged around and bought some fabric remnants and I started to sew. Obsessively. From the very first time I sat at a machine with a piece of fabric, I started to write about it. I needed to document my journey, and keep a record of what I was learning, afraid I would forget it all again. I never expected my online diary to ever be found or read, but from the very beginning people began to leave me messages and feedback, and words of encouragement for my sewing projects.

I was hooked. My love of sewing and the So Sew Easy site were here to stay.

So Sew Easy Collage

Over the last couple of years I’ve ‘met’ many others through my site who sew for various therapeutic reasons. It’s calming, repetitive, there are instructions to follow, projects to work on whether they are 30 minutes or 30 hours. The rat-tat-tat of the sewing machine breaks the silence of a quiet home. Sewing has something for everyone, for every level of expertise, whether you sew for you, for family and friends, for charity or for a living.


But sewing isn’t just good for you. It can be good for those around you too or for those you have never even met. In the last year, the So Sew Easy readers have helped others with their efforts. For example, we teamed together to fund a loan for a lady in Tajikistan so she could buy a new sewing machine and set up in business to support her family. Within a couple of hours of my posting about it, the So Sew Easy readers had funded her loan! I hope our interest in sewing helped to improve her life. There are a lot of women looking for support with their home-based sewing business all around the world. Please support them with a small loan if you can. Kiva will even give you money to loan when you sign up.

Many also took part in a charity sewing project, sewing tote bags for those newly diagnosed with newly diagnosed with cancer. MJ of MJ’s Lost Cause wrote about the story of her diagnosis and the hand-made bag she received from the hospital with her information, a journal and a few simple gifts to make life a little easier. Again the So Sew Easy readers rose to the challenge and supported her efforts and in the end she received more than 550 bags!

Free patterns collage

So I like to think that at So Sew Easy we are more than just people who share a love of sewing. It’s a site where people support each other, chat in the comments, solve each other’s sewing dilemmas in the Readers Questions feature – and more. I’m keen to introduce more people to the joys of sewing and share lots of free sewing patterns, projects and sewing tutorials every month. Why not drop in and say hi? I’d love to see you!

photo credit: fishin widow via photopin cc


Deby, you are an inspiration in every way. Thank you so much for sharing your story today, and I know our paths will continue to cross!

Happy sewing!


Grainline Archer Sew-Along: Muslin, Yea or Nay, Part 2

Alright friends, I know you want the meat of the muslining issue, and today you are going to get it! WARNING: this is a mighty post! Do not read 3 minutes before bedtime. You will get too excited about all you are learning about muslining and shirt-making and be totally unable to fall asleep. Get a cup of coffee or tea, send the kids outside to play for an hour or so, and digest this wisdom. Oh. In case you missed Part 1 of the muslin story, do take a minute to glance over David’s initial thoughts on when/if to muslin.

David: it’s all you, baby.



OK, today let’s get down to some specifics for muslin (or non-muslin) fittings on two very different body shapes:

First I check through what I know about the specific case I’m facing. In this first example, I’m working on my female display form, which is presumably designed to make clothes look good, but is a pretty unlikely shape (dare I say…Barbie Doll!?), so it makes for a good example in back of a shape that might need only slight tweaking in the fashion fabric (FF), but in front and elsewhere will be more challenging. It’s got wide shoulders and a flat “good-posture” back, but a thickish neck and extremely narrow waist and no hips to speak of. So I choose to be bold and cut out in FF all around, but might have decided to cut just the front in muslin, we’ll see…

I start by basting the CFs and side seams right sides together, but overlap the seams going into the yoke, with the yoke underneath and the front and back on top (recall from Part 1 that I basted closed the CFs for the test), all as shown below. Note also that I pinned the fronts to the yoke, but basted in back, leaving a few inches at each armhole unstitched for easy adjusting, confident that this would be the most likely and most logical place to make any adjustments.

Pix 1-3 in this collage are BEFORE, showing the unmodified Archer, sized by bust circumference, on Barbie with no adjusting. The yoke fits nicely as expected, but there are dramatic saggings and drag lines everywhere below, and the front seems quite a bit too wide overall. The armhole is pulled forward out of shape by the undarted bust.


Pix 4-6 are AFTER adjusting as described below.

I start in back (pix 4 in collage), by simply lifting the ends higher at each armhole, pulling up on the back seam allowance so it overlaps the yoke more deeply…


…which very easily smooths out the back drape as seen from both the back and the side (image # 5 in the collage shot above), altho that also exaggerates the deformation of the armhole in front (pix # 5 in collage).

To deal with the excess width at the center-front, I first try to spread it out to the sides, which mis-aligns the armhole seams at yoke and front and exaggerates both the need for a bust dart and the overall bagginess of the body fit:


I consider also raising the entire front at the sides to bring the neckline closer to where it should be, but this is beginning to seem like way too extreme a response, plus it’d be trashing the armhole which I’d rather not change any more than I have to. So, instead I decide to fold out the excess at the center front, bringing everything in more closely, and like this better all over.


Plus it greatly reduces the size of the dart needed to smooth out both the armhole and the side seam/side front, which also means less dramatic distortion if I choose to leave out the dart, which I might well decide to do, since this is my fashion fabric and I’m loath to cut another front. Here is when it occurs to me that I might have been wiser to cut just this troublesome front out of muslin, leaving the back and yoke in the FF, so I could feel less restrained in my explorations; no need to be all “either/or” about that… But I can make this work, too, since all my changes will make the pieces smaller, which I can manage by trimming.


My chosen solution to the too-wide front means I’ll have to draw and cut a better neckline, but that’s easy and expected anyway, and overall, the fit may not be as shirt-like as intended by the original design, but it’s still got a lot of body ease, and now that I notice, those shoulders seem to fit the supposedly over-wide yoke almost exactly, so maybe that’s telling me that drooping shoulders aren’t really going to suit this shape anyway… The armhole has gotten slightly smaller, so I’ll either cut a smaller sleeve using the new armhole seam-line length, or slightly redraw it to return it to the length specified on the original pattern pieces. That decision would be directed by how all these changes felt to the actual person all this would be done upon in-real-life.

(Which raises the question: Could you do this on yourself? Well, probably sort of, by necessity; we solitary sewers are often called upon to deal with the really awkward… But obviously, a not-too-clueless or at least trainable helping hand would be great. My best advice: Make a body-double fitting form!)

Also note that what I’m choosing to do with my muslins is to correct them by draping in place, on the wearer or their stand-in, rather than to mark them up and then try to respond to the markings with flat-pattern techniques when the muslin’s off and back on the table. That’s what makes sense to me (while the other really doesn’t), but it’s just one of many ways to proceed. I like this draping approach since it’s all visual and immediate, no measuring, and the working goals are so easily perceived (and explained if that’s necessary): Lift or shift edges until the piece is smooth and falling parallel to the grain (as a rule); find the place where the smoothness needs as few pins as possible to stay smooth (I.e., it just sits naturally where placed with little or no strain or shifting back as excess pins are removed); do your best to minimize deforming adjacent pieces as you fix the one you’re moving; and with shirts especially, work towards reducing those darts, if you can’t eliminate them.


OK, next I’ll move a little closer to the real world by trying all this out again on my own quite asymmetrical body form, with the added degree of difficulty a full bust provides courtesy of a borrowed elastic sports bra stuffed with socks. In other words, a shape that KNOWS it needs a muslin.

It makes for a good example from all directions of a shape that needs to be altered for. It’s got quite wide shoulders for a “female” but quite within a normal range for big, tall women, and a very rounded “bad-posture” back, a thickish neck and little shaping below the bust. The shoulder shapes are so non-uniform and non-symmetrical that here I choose not to cut out pattern shapes at all for the front and back, but to call upon my method for custom shirt draping as described in Shirtmaking, my book on making dress shirts.

The idea is to start with only the yoke from the fashion pattern at the desired size, which can be cut from FF, since it’s usually not going to be altered. Instead, unshaped back and front pieces NOT cut from FF (Yay! Muslin at last:) will be arranged over the yoke to fall as smoothly as possible without redrafting the yoke, using its edges as guides for drawing in the front and back seams, as shown a few pix down. The yoke will be arranged as smoothly and in as balanced a way as possible on the body, which should be wearing a snug t-shirt to allow for pinning without creating any excess bulk under the “muslin”, as shown here:


I started by measuring a comfortable shirt as described earlier, ang here I paid special attention to the shoulder or yoke measurement, since this is where I’ll start the fitting, and chose a garment which provides an extended shoulder somewhat in keeping with what I take to be the intention of the original design. It turns out the largest Archer size provides plenty of matching circumference around the body, but nowhere near enough width at the yoke to create any excess width for this body, which I expect will be needed to accommodate the bust without darts. So, my first step is to extend the yoke pattern to match the comfortable garment, without changing the yoke portion of the overall armhole length, like so:


I press under the yoke seam allowances at the front and back edges so they’ll be easier to feel through the draped fabric I’ll adjust on top of them, placing pins just at these edges, too, for the same reason.

For the draping steps up next, I cut two rectangles large enough to go well beyond the sides and shoulders of the body, marking the CF and CB clearly. Note that I’ve chosen a woven gingham to make it easy to see the fabric grain while manipulating it. I prefer a small, minimally distracting pattern rather than bigger checks and stronger color contrast, and don’t require an all-cotton fabric as I would typically prefer for most other muslin operations, as these pieces won’t be pressed or involved in much actual sewing. So long as it drapes and handles in a shirting-like way, I’m good to go.

Draping the back is very simple. I match the centers, then smooth the gingham up over the yoke below trying to keep any distortions as it molds to the rounded back pushed above the edge of the yoke, which will be trimmed back to the width of the yoke/back seam allowances. To have this work out as intended, it’s critical that the yoke’s back edge falls at or near the crown or break-point of the roundedness, in other words, at an ideal location along the entire back for placing a shaping seam to accommodate the specific roundness you’re dealing with. If the yoke’s lower edge is too high, the distortions from the curvature will appear on the back piece; too low and they’ll form on the yoke. Happily, the Archer’s yoke is just right:)


Note that to mark the back drape when all is placed so that the back falls smoothly, I’ve simply traced along the yoke edge, feeling it through the gingham and been careful to show exactly where the yoke ends are at the armhole. Back done!

In front, the only difference is that I first cut into the upper edge of the gingham along the CF marking for a few inches to allow an opening to form around the neck when the rectangle is placed up against the body high enough to cover the entire front of the yoke. With the rectangle draped and loosely pinned over the shoulders I first establish the neckline, using a paper strip “collar” to guide my marker, then trace along the folded front edges of the yoke to transfer these to the front piece again carefully establishing the yoke ends at the armholes, as shown below.


Next, here’s how I transfer the exact shape of the pattern’s front and back armholes to the draped ginghams off the form, using the fabric grain and the yoke-end markings to guide and orient the pattern pieces to the fabric. Front, neckline and armholes done!


Now I can at last convert all this draping into something very like the test garment I used in the first example, by trimming seam allowances into the gingham rectangles along the markings and stitching them to the yoke, then pinning the sides together, like so:


Not too bad, altho I see right away that my neckline still needs work, and the overall circumference is quite vast, not too surprising considering how I expanded the yoke. OTOH, the dartless armhole looks pretty great…but, hmmm, look how the grain is tilting forward in front below the bust as seen from the side.

OK, some fixing options, treating each side differently, left-hand image below. Most obviously, I’ve slashed the CF all the way down, that being the simplest way to relax the neckline; I’ll add half the spread to each CF on the pattern pieces. On the picture’s left side I’ve repinned the side seam to taper it in below the bust and at the waist while keeping the armhole unchanged, noting that so long as I keep the tapering identical on front and back, the sides remain smooth, but also that a small dartish fold begins to appear at the armhole, and that there’s a strain line coming off the extended shoulder towards the bust. On the other side (the picture’s right), I’ve completely removed the yoke extension so carefully added at the start, to see if it’s really needed on this shape. I took the muslin off the form to do this of course, but used the same method to shift the armholes from the pattern as I added them before, simply sliding the patterns inward but still on grain in relation to the gingham (altho note that I COULD have pivoted the armholes inward or outward from the yoke end points to accommodate a more dramatic difference between the shoulder and the circumference below if that had seemed warranted). The armhole is thus only slightly changed in overall length and not at all in contour. I’m delighted to see that the armhole remains very little distorted. Perhaps the best solution will be to merge these two ideas, reducing the yoke and shaping the side seams, easily done, and still leaving me with a usable FF yoke piece. I don’t think I’ll even bother to test the sleeves…

V_C2014-09-24_08-36-25_PM copy

So, muslin done!

Well, THAT took more time and space than I intended, so I think I’ll just go eat something and fall senseless to the couch so I can be refreshed enough some other day to finish up with sources, tips, whichevers and whatevers, and the questions no doubt springing to the mind of any readers who’ve made it this far with me. Please don’t hesitate to ask! Thank you and a very good night to all.

Thank YOU, David, for sharing so much of your vast shirt-making experience with us. And you get all the space on this blog you need or would like. 🙂

Happy sewing!


Grainline Archer Sew-Along: Muslin, Yea or Nay? (part 1)

Ohhh readers, you are in for a very, very special treat today. The incredibly generous, kind, self-made expert-of-all-things-shirts, David Page Coffin, is going to share a sampling of his wisdom on making a fitting muslin. Or not! This post covers WHY you might even be interested in making a muslin at all, and in a subsequent post he will cover a bit of the how-to-do-it stuff. Enough of me, and now for the real deal. Take it away, David!



So, do I HAVE to make a muslin first for this new Archer pattern I’ve got?

Here’s how I see it:

NO, you don’t have to, if:

  1. you’re quite happy with the way most of the ready-to-wear shirts you’ve bought fit and feel, or
  2. you have even one shirt that feels really just right, or
  3. you’ve made lots of other tops that fit perfectly well with no alteration—or with the fixes you’ve learned to always make so your top patterns work out better, or
  4. you’ve tried on your friend’s Archer and it looks great on you

If any of these are you, and you’re still reading, what I’d do in your shoes is get out that best, most favorite shirt or altered-as-usual pattern and measure it in the following places:

  1. the shoulders from armhole to armhole just below the back neckline
  2. across front and back just below the armhole
  3. at the waist or hip if your shirt happens to get wider as it moves down towards waist or hip

Then I’d pick the Archer size(s) that best match these measurements using the Finished Garment Measurements chart from the Archer booklet, and just dive right in.

And for all you folks who know you’re going to make a muslin anyway, I’d strongly suggest you do the same thing with your favorite shirt, even if you think its fit could be improved upon. In other words, at the very least, you should know how your Archer is going to compare to something you already know well, and don’t choose a cutting-out size for it that’s smaller than what you know without some careful thought. It’s easy to adjust for smaller, but not for bigger!

You’ll note that I mention measuring the shoulders, even though there’s no shoulder measurement included in the chart (very few patterns do include this, unfortunately). I measured all the Archer yoke patterns from CB to the shoulder notch, subtracted the seam allowance, then doubled; here’s what I found:

0=15½”   2=15¾”    4=16″    6=16¼”    8=16½”    10=16¾”    12=17″    14=17½”    16=18″    18=18½”

If you’re an A or B cup, (or you already know you’re going to add front darts or do some other FBA, because you always need one) you could skip measuring the shoulders. But if you’re a C cup or bigger and you want to see if you can get away without adding darts to this pattern (especially if your favorite shirt is also without front darts), or if you’ve got noticeably wide or narrow shoulders, I recommend measuring your comfortable garment’s shoulders. You may choose to ignore this factor in your initial size choice, but here’s why I think it might be a good idea to at least be aware of it:

Comparing the Archer front to a bunch of other (all Big-4) women’s shirt patterns at the same size I saw a strikingly wider shoulder and bigger overall circumference than typical:


Shirt muslin process by Sew Maris


…which I interpret as a deliberate strategy for reducing the need for a front dart, very much the way a big-shouldered man’s shirt often does when worn by a woman. It’s not just the bigger circumference that does that trick, the widened shoulder is critical as well; you could think of it as containing an unstitched shoulder dart. It seems very likely to me that this feature of the Archer draft is a large part of why it’s so popular, so, whether or not you need or want to apply your shirt’s shoulder measurement to your size choice for the Archer pattern, it’ll be a good thing to know about, and perhaps to adjust as an option further along if something’s not working as well as you’d hoped.

OK, back to diving right in for the no-muslin folks:

Before cutting out the collars, collar stand, cuffs, and sleeves, I would cut out ONLY the fronts, backs and yoke from the fashion fabric (FF), making the neckline a little bit smaller on the yoke and fronts so I’ve got more wiggle room to adjust this, and then pin or baste up the body for a test try-on. I’d just baste the center fronts together at this stage, rather than finishing the bands on these edges, but you could do that now if you’re confident. Then I’d confirm the neckline is to my liking or adjust it, measuring it to re-establish the length of the collar pieces needed if changed, and measuring down from the yoke’s armhole seams to nail the sleeve length I wanted, given the Archer yoke I’d settled on. I WOULD probably pin on muslin versions of those pockets at this stage…

IMPORTANT CENTER FRONT NOTE: If you’ve bought the pattern recently and it has separate and different right and left front pattern pieces (unlike earlier versions which only have one front piece), the CF on the right side is also the cutting line. So, to baste your fronts at CF for this FF try-on, you’ll need to add a temporary extra 1/2 inch SA on the right front piece, if you’re going to put off doing the bands ’til after tweaking the neckline.

In fact, I’d go further at this stage and see if some fine-tuning at the yoke and side seams could improve the shoulder and body fit. If I was smart enough to remember, I’d probably even cut out the fronts and back with 1-inch seam allowances at the sides and yoke to facilitate this. I’d do this tuning-up just like I would in muslin, as I’ll describe next time.

And NO, I wouldn’t make a muslin, if any of the above is true, but I still wanted to try out any of the construction steps coming up that were new to me or seemed challenging. I’d just make samples of those details, ideally in my fashion fabric and selected interfacing if I had enough of it, especially if it was the collar or cuffs I wanted to practice on. No way would I want my final collar in my perfect fabric to be a first-time venture!

MAYBE I’d make a muslin, if I was trying out some quite non-typical, or very new to me fabric and had some concerns about how it would work…but it’s hard to imagine just what that non-typical Archer-suitable fabric would be…so, nah; I’d probably still only do a few sample seams and details just to loosen up and feel better prepared, especially since this would actually need to be a test garment in the fashion fabric if I was doing it right, not really a muslin at all, and I can’t recall ever being able, let alone willing, to do that.

Definitely YES, I’d make that muslin, if I was in any way not happy with how RTW shirts or all my previous DIY shirt projects have always fit!

But just as described above for tweaking the cut-out FF, I would NOT simply cut out everything and make up a sample garment with collar, cuffs, pockets and sleeves all in place. In other words, I’m not trying to see if maybe, against all odds, THIS pattern will magically fix all the shirt fitting problems I’ve always had before, no matter how many rave reviews it’s gotten. I’d want to have maximum opportunity to fix things I can be pretty certain will need fixing before moving on to other things! So, my muslin, too, would include only a yoke, neckline and body, with muslin sleeves cut and tried on only after those were tweaked, if at all, which may not be necessary if your arms have never before caused you to alter a shirt-sleeve pattern. You might however want to check how they fall from an altered or redrawn armhole.

So I hope this helps you make a good decision about the eternal question To Muslin, or Not To Muslin. In my next post I’ll show you how I’d work an Archer-fitting on 2 very different body shapes.

Wowsers! Thank you David, for such a thorough analysis of why we might want want to muslin the Archer pattern specifically, as well as some great measuring tips that can be applied in all fitting/muslining decisions for any garment.

Happy sewing!


The Need to Create

Today I want you to meet a wonderfully talented young woman, Terri, who blogs at Crooked Whimsy. As a busy mom to a young daughter, you might be able to imagine that squeezing in sewing time is tough! You will get more time in the years to come, Terri – I promise! In the meantime, puh-leeze keep on sewing!



Sewing has always been an important part of my life.


My grandmother sewed, embroidered, and crocheted, among other creative ventures.  I remember running my fingers over her colorful embroidered pieces with admiration, as well as other detailed handiwork that she’d patiently crafted over the years.  I always hoped I could create such beautiful garments and pieces of art like she had for her family and their home.


I recall using a needle and thread for the first time at a Brownie meeting when I was in the second grade.  We were in our school’s cafeteria, sewing little pillows, and mine was a crooked red stuffed heart.  Despite its many flaws, I was so proud of it, and after that experience, I was hooked.  Eventually I started hand stitching clothing for my Barbies and Cabbage Patch dolls.  I loved the feeling of making something out of fabric and thread.  It was so satisfying, and the possibilities seemed endless.


I didn’t use a sewing machine for the first time until my early twenties.  When my grandmother passed away, she left me her all-metal Singer 500A AKA The Rocketeer, and I quickly printed a manual from the Web and taught myself how to operate it. I made a few handbags and loved being able to use something I’d created by myself.


A few years ago I made my first quilt.  I had wanted to attempt the task for a while, but I was simply too intimidated.  Finally, I purchased a quilt kit from JoAnn Fabrics and hand stitched it in its entirety, including the quilting.  It took me forever, but I was so excited to gift it to a family member who was having a baby girl…such a rewarding feeling!


When I discovered I was pregnant with my first child nearly two years ago, I quickly sewed plenty of bibs, burp cloths, and blankets for my little bundle of joy.  And since she arrived last fall I have attempted to make her garments for the first time…pretty floral dresses and whimsical rompers.


While self-taught, I’m constantly learning from my mistakes.  Sewing has always been my escape.  It brings me calm, but also challenges me.  There’s always something new to try…a new quilt block, a new skill, a new pattern.


Sewing allows me to quiet my worries, to slow my racing thoughts.  It offers me an opportunity to turn an idea into a reality, to bring it to fruition.



Since I became a mom, I rarely have the time to do much sewing.  But I still try to squeeze it in during those late night hours when my little one is sound asleep and I’m fighting to keep my eyes open.


I welcome every opportunity to create with a needle and thread because it’s like hanging out with an old friend who knows exactly what you need.


Terri, thank you so much for taking the time to share your story with my readers! You will live through this stage of parenting, and before you know it you will have loads more time on your hands. And sewing might become even more important then!


Happy sewing!



It’s Just Fabric

Today you get to learn a bit about Maria from the land of Oz, known in the blogging world as Velosewer  This gal has some crazy-good sewing skills, and I always appreciate hearing what she has to say on my own sewing adventures. So let’s hear it from Maria!

Celebrate National Sewing Month by Sew Maris


I sew.
I’ve always sewn.
I love to sew.
And I love to sew most clothing. And the funny thing is, I don’t stress about sewing projects anymore.
It’s just fabric.

Oh – and I ride my bike when I can.

A few years ago, I heard some local sewist say they were concerned about how sewing becoming a ‘lost  craft’. Well, thanks to the web that’s not an issue anymore. There are so many creative crafters on the web sharing their experiences everyday.


I’m school taught and then got a degree to be a home ec teacher, and I have always loved face-to-face sewing classes when they’re available. Mum knitted and her mother crocheted. That’s my heritage.

Now, I Google what I’m looking for or ask other sewists for advice – in any part of the world. How good is that?

In Australia we now have three Spoolette groups in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, so sewing isn’t a lost craft.

Once I’ve finish a sewing project, I share it on my blog. Many people have helped me with my sewing so I share what I know to pass this knowledge on. Sharing is caring.

I have a little sewing library that keeps me company. The new Simplicity sewing book from way back is my ‘go-to’ book for techniques as well as the Palmer Pletsch books and Sandra Betzina’s books. Winifred Aldrich Metric pattern drafting, Enid Gilchrist Teenagers and small women and Pattern Magic series are my pattern drafting books. For fitting, I use ‘the red book’ especially when I collaborate with fellow sewists.

My main sewing commitment is my Minerva Crafts projects. I’m part of the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network – a collection of amazing bloggers from across the world – and when I visited Minerva in the UK, I realized how unique it is to be part of a global network of crafters. The Minerva Crafts family are three generations of crafters and they are totally supportive of everyone’s creativity. Their support can’t be beat. This creative support drives my own creativity.


Mr V’s is used to my meeting sewing bloggers when we travel. I love catching up with sewing bloggers anywhere and he encourages me to do this. Meeting sewing bloggers gives him time to do his own sight-seeing.

Pattern testing for others is something that makes me feel I’m contributing in a different way. I’m happy to help sew new patterns, proof their instructions, or simply check their English translations. Helping others gives me a unique insight into their creativity. I also learn construction techniques that I wouldn’t have tried on my own bat.

I’m a sewing consumer so I’ll sew projects from any pattern line as long as it meets my needs, too.

Each pattern testing project is similar but different. I have pattern tested for Iconic patterns, Amity of Lolita patterns, Marie of Seamster patterns, Deepika of PR, Erin of Seamstress Erin, Rachel of House of Pinheiro, Melissa of Fehr Trade, Pauline of PaulineAlice patterns. I do each project in my own time as I work full time for a company I love, so I pattern test for fun.

I also check the English translation for Sacotin patterns. Vero of Sacotin bag patterns provides her patterns in French and in English. If you buy an English  Sacotin pattern and the spelling or the grammar isn’t right – blame me! Vero’s English is much better than my French. I tried using Google translate and I’ve stopped doing that.  #embarrassing.

What I love the most is working on a new creation with inspiring designers and assisting their creative process.


I love making complex projects. Projects like coats and jeans always seemed complex but now I love making them. My next challenges are to make my own ‘smalls’. That’s a scary thought for me.

The other real life sewing goal was to keep making clothes for Mum as her care needs increase but her dementia has progressed and this challenge has meant less sewing and more time just sitting together and having a cup of tea with her.

Matching fabrics to patterns that work on me is a bit edgy. Bound buttonholes and welt pocket are a challenge and I haven’t worked my way to making bras yet, but I will.

Pattern Review is my go-to site to checking out the quality of patterns either before I buy them or when I’m about to use a new pattern. Managing sewing contests for PR has been fun and I’ve learned about new and different sewing aspects through these contests, too. The Vintage contest made me love vintage patterns and styles. So much that I contacted Lara Nash at Sew Chic Patterns and she gave me two of her patterns to review.

So you see, I’m actually sewing with lots of sewists all the time!


Maria, thank you so much for sharing your story with my readers. I know how much I have benefitted from your wisdom and generosity, and I hope your “sewing circle” continues to expand and grow!

Happy sewing!


5 Reasons Why I Sew

Today I am super excited to share one of my favorite sewing friends with you! I first met Deanna at The Sewing Summit in Salt Lake City last year, and despite the miles that separate us now, we manage to “talk” online nearly every day. This lady knows how to get real.

Celebrate National Sewing Month by Sew Maris

Thanks Maris, for inviting me to share why I sew! I’m Deanna, and I blog at Sew McCool.

When I was a child, I wanted nothing to do with sewing.

I remember long (well, seemingly long) trips with my mom to the local fabric store. The drawers of patterns, the books…it was all so boring to me.

Sewing seemed like something only “moms” did. And I wanted to be so much more than a mom. I was going to change the world somehow…some way…something that didn’t involve staying home and doing something as drab as sewing.

(sorry Mom.)

I’d love to say I had some deep, life-long desire to create garments and quilts, but as I mentioned, that’s simply not true. The sewing bug didn’t hit me until my later 20s.

So…..why do I sew now? You know, beyond simply liking it?

5 reasons why I sew - for

Here are 5 reasons I sew. Do you have any in common with me?

1. I minored in art in college, where I drew lots of nude figures. After college, I couldn’t convince random strangers to strip for me so that I could draw them…so I needed a new hobby.

Okay…I’ll be honest…I never asked anyone to do that. ‘Cuz I’m a little quirky but I’m not a freak. Asking people to strip so you can draw them is weird. Most of the time. I think. Right?

2. I really suck at any sport that involves catching, hitting, or throwing a ball, but I still love doing something fun with a group of friends.

Team sports? Not me. I have zero depth perception. Or maybe it’s just poor eye-hand coordination. Or something.

(Though I’m not bad at ping pong because I played a lot of that in college.)

Sports camps? No way! A quilt retreat? I’m there, baby.

3. I’m a bit of a control freak.

Can’t always control my kids. Can’t control my husband (why won’t he splurge for that diamond necklace anyway?) And my new dog peed on a $72 pattern grading textbook when I wasn’t looking.

But fabric? Yeah, baby. I can control that. Sometimes we think we can’t…but we can. I can match points in a quilt top, topstitch with precision (well, much of the time), and press a crisp seam until it sings. And if I do it wrong? I can take it apart and start over.

By the way, I’m still trying to get the odor out of my grading books, since it smells like dog urine (it’s in a bag with baking soda. Fingers crossed). Pass along any suggestions if you have them. Please. “Eau de canine urine” is not my perfume of choice.

4. Sewing is my form of therapy.

I know many of us feel this way. In my case….I have a family member with a mental illness that has been at times maddening, and at other times, heartbreaking. Apparently there’s no card for, “sorry so-and-so has been been in a mental health facility for a week.” I assume there isn’t such a card, because no one who knew about the hospitalization sent one.

(Get on it, Hallmark, okay? You usually find the words when others can’t. And no one seems to have the proper words for discussing mental illness.)

I’m not much of a drinker, and I wouldn’t steal this family member’s meds. And I don’t feel like spending an evening a week talking about these issues in a “sharing” setting, because I’d rather not think about them all the time. So when I feel a little sad, or even feel a little sorry for myself, I either sew, work with ribbon, or run. (not run away, mind you….though I’ve considered it…just, you know, “run.”)

5. I like to show off.

This is a little hard to admit, but don’t we all want to show off – just a little? C’mon. I’m sure a part of you likes to show off. Since I can’t play basketball in front of a cheering crowd, why not show off an outfit I made for myself or one of my daughters? I like compliments. I don’t need them always…but now and then, yeah. It feels good when someone says, “You MADE that????”…and they mean it in a good way.


Thanks Deanna, for sharing the story of your sewing journey. I can’t wait to see what you are going to create next!

Happy sewing!



Deanna McCool writes for If you enjoyed this post, you’ll enjoy reading 6 things never to say to someone who sews. To make sure you don’t miss a fun post, please follow SewMcCool by e-mail or check out SewMcCool on Facebook.


Quick Tip Tuesday: Mark Pattern Notches FAST

I do not have to sew and do EVERYTHING in my life at top speed, but I  am really not into wasting time performing necessary tasks in an inefficient manner. Take pattern notches, for example. Why in the name of Sam Hill would anyone spend time actually completely cutting  the triangular shaped notch in their fabric? Can you spell stoo-pid timewaster?

People. A quick, small snip (1/8 inch!) into the center of the triangle is all that is required. Done and done.Now get back to sewing. Or eating chocolate. 😉

Happy sewing!


Sewing With Confidence

Today I want you to meet wonderful Sally, the creative energy behind Sally Bee Makes. How this busy young mom finds time to sew and blog is beyond me, but I am glad she shares her journey with us all!

Celebrate National Sewing Month by Sew Maris



Pssst! Sally made the Style Arc Ziggi jacket below in the my Ziggi Sew-Along earler this year. I think she did an awesome job, don’t you? Now let’s hear from Sally!


Crafting has been a constant in my life for as long as I can remember.  School holidays were spent learning knitting, cross stitch, quilling and all sorts from my Mum and Gran.  Sewing was one of the few things we didn’t do, so I’m not sure what it was that planted the seed in my head but I knew that when my Mum asked me if there was anything special I would like for my 21st birthday there was only one answer: a sewing machine.  After all these years it is still the best present I have been given.

It started off practically – I was fed up of being unable to find clothes that fitted and that I liked, but it took me a while before I started wearing the things I made, not because they weren’t very good (I still wear the first skirt I made) – they weren’t great but they were wearable.  It was all down to confidence, or rather my lack thereof.

My already low confidence took a big hit when I became a mum.  I was at home alone with my daughter most days, I was exhausted, wrapped up in looking after Faith, and, let’s face it, mostly smelled of baby sick!  I lived in jeans and whichever top was least unclean.  As such I had neither the time nor inclination to sew.

It was arranging Faith’s christening that got me back into it.  I was determined to make her gown and it was the best thing I could have done.  The gown was far from perfect but she looked perfect in it, and it was that which made me realise that it doesn’t matter that things aren’t perfectly sewn, no one sees all the mistakes I see and they probably wouldn’t care even if they could.  What matters is that I like them and feel good in them.


Once I’d got over that hurdle there was no stopping me.  I began sewing whenever I could, I started wearing the clothes I made more often and I began to feel like me again.

As for perfect sewing, I’m still working on it – I feel like I’ve come on leaps and bounds over the past few years, mainly thanks to picking up tips from sewing blogs.  Seven years ago when I was sewing my first skirt, I could never have imagined I would be sat in front of that same machine making silk bridesmaid dresses for my sisters wedding and feeling completely calm and confident in my abilities to make something so special.

Why is sewing important to me?  Well, without it I would be one stressed out, unhappy mum but with it I have the confidence to be me and I think that’s the most perfect thing about it.

Sally, thank you so much for sharing your story and why sewing matters to you. Your daughter Faith is lucky to have you as a creative role model, and you get the fun of making special garments and memories just for her. Keep on sewing!

Happy sewing!



Tutorial: How to Draft a 1-Piece Collar

A 1-piece collar, you say? Why in the world would I want to make/use one of those crazy-looking things?

How to Draft a 1-Piece Collar by Sew Maris

The first few shirts I made for my husband I did not use a I-piece collar pattern. What was the point, after all? Well, in time, I realized that eliminating the seam on the front edge of the collar produces a smoother line. And the collar and the front placket is your first impression of a shirt. Uh huh. So make it count, people.

Also, my husband loves a good button-down, and eliminating some of the bulk in the collar point area enabled me to create a better-looking buttonhole.  OK, so far that’s 2 points for a 1-piece collar.

What about the downsides? Well, you have to draft it yourself, usually. I don’t believe I have ever seen a pattern with this piece included. Now, I haven’t seen every pattern produced (my husband would disagree, based on the size of my pattern stash!), but for sure it is not the norm in a shirt pattern.

Because the shape is a little wonky, a 1-piece collar requires a bit more fabric than the more typical upper collar and under collar pattern pieces. It just doesn’t fit easily into the little sections of fabric that are often “reserved” for collars, cuffs, and other fiddly little who-ha’s.

Alright. That’s 2 for, and 2 against; a wash. Let’s talk about how you can draft your own 1-piece collar, and you can decide when/where you want to use it.

How to Draft a 1-Piece Collar by Sew Maris
1.  Trace a new, full size copy of your upper collar pattern piece, and draw the stitching lines on both of the front collar edges.
2.  Trace 2 copies of the under collar pattern piece, and draw the stitching lines on both of the collar front edges.

How to Draft a 1-Piece Collar by Sew Maris

3.  Lay the under collar pieces on top of the upper collar piece, aligning the stitching lines. Make sure that the collar point end of the under collar is attached tot eh collar point end of the upper collar. Tape to secure.
4.  Trim da “wings”. 🙂

How to Draft a 1-Piece Collar by Sew Maris

In the image above, the collar pattern is folded on the front edges, and you are looking at  the under collar folded on top of the upper collar. You can see the overlap of the under collar pieces at the center back, right? Of course those 2 pieces are seamed during construction, but this shows you how the weird flying bird-shaped pattern piece actually looks like a collar when it is sewn.

That’s pretty much all there is to it.  Actually, really simple pattern drafting, right?

One more thing. I like to shave a bit off the collar edge (closest to the bottom in this image) and the center back of the under collar only. Why? Because the under collar is on the bias and will “grow” a bit. Since I want the under collar to actually be under the upper collar, it helps to reduce the dimensions of this pattern piece slightly. Only logical, right?

Oh, I guess there is another thing. It will save you time if you also draft a separate interfacing pattern piece for this collar. I like the interfacing pattern piece to cover only the upper collar section, and not extend onto the under collar at the fold. Less bulk which keeps that front edge fold smooth and perfect. Again, only logical.

For another tutorial on this subject (and a glimpse of my cute DH!), you can check out my Craftsy post on How to Make a One-Piece Shirt Collar.

Or, if you prefer, you can watch a quick, little video I made to demo this process.



Have you ever drafted/sewn a 1-piece collar? What did you like about using a single collar piece compared to a separate under and upper collar piece?

Happy sewing!



Grainline Archer Sew-Along: Fabrics and Interfacings

I am so excited about the response to my Grainline Archer Sew-Along—thanks for your support and enthusiasm!!

So I have already had a few questions about where to buy fabrics, so I want to give you a few of my suggestions, and I would LOVE to hear from you if you have other sources that are new-to-me (does that fabric store even exist? 😉 )

Let’s talk about cotton shirting. First off—no lycra. Do I make myself clear? I love a little comfy stretch as much as the next person, but this is not the time and place for lycra. Your shirt will not press properly, and you must not deny yourself the luxurious, sensual pleasure of working with beautiful, high quality, high thread-count, 100% cotton shirting. I vastly prefer Italian shirting. English is great too, but harder to find and usually pricier. Japanese cotton is dreamy, too. What you want is fabric that goes thru the washer/dryer and doesn’t come out looking like 100% badass linen. Some Oxford cloth can force you to spend hours at the ironing board, but I have not had any trouble with Italian and most pima cottons. They are usually in the $14-$16/yard range and are 60 inches wide. If you decide to use something else, well, don’t tell me about it. And for sure don’t bother complaining to me about how your shirt looks/feels, cuz then I will find you out. Remember, I raised teenage boys. Not that likely you can slip something past me. 😉

So. Sources. Here are a few of my favorites. I look for and buy high quality cotton shirting every time I go fabric shopping. It can be hard to find, especially if you are looking for anything other than white and blue fabrics. My husband needs tan, sage green, and browns, so it is not always easy to find what I want in those colorways. If you only have access to a big box store whose name rhymes with fo-fans, well, I’m sorry. Try one of these online sources:

  1. Michael’s Fabrics. I have bought loads of fabrics from Michael, and he has top-quality stuff. The website is sub-par and difficult to navigate, but they are super helpful if you call. Right now he is running a 50% off sale, so what is shown on the website might go fast, but it is worth a check.
  2. Mood Fabrics. Oh, I miss the days my DD and SIL lived in NYC, and I could go to Mood frequently. Loads of selections, decent prices, good quality. What’s not to love?
  3. EmmaOneSock. When I used to work at Microsoft, I used to have Payroll just send my check directly to Linda. It was faster and easier that way. All her fabric is beautiful, but shirtings are not her specialty, so you may or may not find something that works for you. Definitely worth a look, though.
  4. Gorgeous Fabrics. Some stretch cottons mixed in, but a few nice Japanese and Italian cottons without lycra.

And how about interfacing and buttons?

Alrighty then, I hope some of this helps. I want to hear your favorite places to buy shirting fabric too, because in my world, there is never enough pet-able shirting in my stash! 🙂

Happy sewing!