Monthly Archives: April 2015

Sewing Circle Tote Review

My version of the massive Sewing Circle Tote bag is finally done.

Sewing Circle Tote by Sew Maris

Let’s be clear: there will not be a repeat performance. Way.Too.Much.Work. I already bitchedaired some feelings about this bag in a previous post, but I have more to add now.

Oh, this bag will definitely hold loads of sewing goodies, and likely even be very handy to transport things back and forth to sewing retreats. Though this cute black and white print tote of similar dimensions might do the job just as well. 🙂

Sewing Circle Tote by Sew Maris

Sometimes we sew things for reasons that cannot be explained. Especially to husbands, friends, and frequently even to ourselves. It SEEMS like a good idea. It WILL be cute, or useful, or possibly even perfectly suited to the task.

But sometimes the process is not worth the outcome. That’s my take on the Sewing Circle Tote. Just.Not.Worth.It. The hassle of handling so many layers of cotton canvas, denim, quilting cotton, webbing, and more offset both the cute factor and the potential functionality of this bag, IMHO. Oh, I will use it. I might even like using it. But I could have spent $35 + zero effort and gotten approximately the same amount of schlepping capability. Albeit minus some exterior & interior pockets. 😉

Sewing Circle Tote by Sew Maris

As for construction and drafting, I had some issues that were irritating. The “large pocket” side of the lining (on the left in the image above) was not the same length as the opposite “small pockets” side of the lining. It was enough off that I had to do some ripping and re-stitch. I broke 2 needles and bent a third getting the lining attached to the exterior bag. If step number 82 (where the lining bottom is sewn to the bag bottom) had read “Stitch the lining to the exterior only between the handles” instead of “It doesn’t have to be pretty” I don’t think any needles would have been  harmed. And extending the short handles 1 inch above the upper edge of the bag (step 85) is a complete waste of time, as I ended up cutting them even with the bag edge anyway. I am also not a fan of Elizabeth’s method of making her pockets. It works, but in general I prefer seaming + pressing over pressing + topstitching in place. My 2 cents on that.

Have you made anything recently that exceeded the enjoyment:effort ratio? Tell me your story!

Happy sewing!



First Time Skirt Drafting

I was not only wrong; I was dead wrong, in fact.

Skirt drafting class by Sew Maris

Young sewing students CAN draft their own patterns.

I really thought drafting patterns from body measurements would prove too difficult and too frustrating for teens. Too much math and “plotting” lines and angles. I thought it was a skill that required both more sewing experience AND more experience taking an idea from concept to final product.

But it turns out that fashion designing is a good way to practice that concept->product process.

Mistakes WERE made. By all of us. But working together, these three young gals were able to learn how to take accurate body measurements, draft a straight skirt sloper, adjust the fit, and finally design and draft a “real” skirt using the sloper as a pattern base. Oh yes, there is plenty more to learn. More practice would be a good thing, too. I need to tweak the course curriculum. But much was accomplished in just 4 days as well.

Skirt drafting by Sew Maris

Did you notice one student, “I”, is not wearing her skirt? She made a darling circle skirt with a high waist. Out of PLEATHER. And yes, it is adorable. But her mom recently moved back to Germany and somehow the skirt ended up packed somewhere and was not available for picture day. You’ll just have to take my word; it rocked!

“D” made a cotton print skirt with soft pleats in the front and back, and added an organza overlay before adding the waistband. There is a slit up the back to provide enough walking room, and a nicely inserted zipper in the back. Looks great, right?

Skirt drafting by Sew Maris

“H” wanted a slim skirt silhouette with pockets in the front. She drafted the pocket pattern based on another skirt she had at home, and used a contrast solid color to accentuate this feature of her skirt. She has already worn her skirt to a birthday party, and loves the great fit!

I am so proud of these gals, and we all enjoyed spending the week together working on these skirts. I will definitely be hosting more pattern drafting classes for teens in the future!

Have you ever taught young teens to draft their own patterns? Have you done any pattern drafting yourself?

Happy sewing!



Set the Bag Exterior Aside

Set the bag exterior aside.

Sewing Circle Tote made by Sew Maris

Such an innocuous little statement in Elizabeth’s Sewing Circle Tote instructions.


Sewing Circle Tote made by Sew Maris

OMG. Thank goodness my Bernina 710 can handle stitching through nearly a half inch of cotton canvas, webbing, denim, layers of cotton fabrics, and ByAnnie’s Soft and Stable to wrestle this bag into submission. I feel like I had a gym workout this morning.

Sewing Circle Tote made by Sew Maris

I don’t know if I am going to feel like this bag was worth the effort. I am not even sure why I got excited about making it. And for sure I think my version of patchwork pockets suck. But then, we all know quilting is not my forte, amiright?

I can’t even remember how many hours it took me to cut out all the various pieces, but pretty sure it occupied the better part of 2 evenings. Hint # 1—any sewing project that takes days to cut out is not likely to provide sufficient enjoyment:effort ratio.

Sigh. Hint # 2—any sewing project that produces shouting and swearing is not likely to provide sufficient enjoyment:effort ratio. Sorry.

But now that I have this much into it I am going to finished the g.d. thing and see if I even like using it. Assuming I do find a use for it. My original thought was to use it to haul stuff to my sewing retreats. We’ll see.

Are you sewing on something enjoyable today? Do share! 🙂 Or send dark chocolate STAT!

Happy sewing,


I Don’t Want Your Money

Seriously. There are times when you and I are just not destined to enter into a business relationship.

My business is teaching people how to sew, and puh-leeze don’t get me wrong—I LOVE teaching. Almost as much as I love sewing. Nothing makes me want to jump out of bed faster than the prospect of seeing that “AHA!” moment click in a student’s brain. (Well, maybe a double tall latte. 😉 )

Sew Maris Sew Camp students

But sometimes I am not the right teacher for you, or not the right teacher for your child. Sometimes, I just don’t want to take your money.

1. I am a process sewist. I like to sew things together well. I like to use advanced, couture, designer techniques because I think they often (tho not always) produce a better-looking finished garment. For me, the process definitely matters.

It is OK with me if your type of sewing is to lay a pair of pants/leggings/underwear on an old T-shirt, cut around it, and sew it up any old which way. Have at it! Have fun! Just don’t ask me to teach you to sew that way. That is not my way. You don’t have to like my way; you don’t have to agree with my way; you can sew any way you like and I promise not to judge you. I also promise that if I am your teacher, I will show you how to sew MY way. Because it’s all I got for you, sister.

2. Older is usually better when it comes to machine sewing. Kids can start hand sewing much earlier than they can sew on a machine. After a few lessons or a few days of sew camp, I expect my young students to be able to wind a bobbin, thread their own sewing machine, troubleshoot basic problems, and read simple, written instructions. Can your seven year-old really do all that? Most can’t. It is not because they are not smart enough or mature enough; they just haven’t had enough time on this earth to develop the necessary manual dexterity, problem-solving, reading comprehension of written, technical information, and concentration skills to be able to excel at sewing. Even if they beg you, waiting another year (or two!!) will always result in your money being better spent. What’s the hurry, anyway?

3. Sewing birthday parties. Please see number 1 above. I never do sewing birthday parties for adults or children. Sugar (or wine)+excitement+lots of chatting = wrong environment for learning. Not my jam. Not at all.

Sew Maris Sew Camp students

If you are a super-sewing-nerd who loves to geek out about which needle is best for which type of fabric, can spend hours in a fabric store without getting bored, love to read sewing books as much as mystery novels, then I might just be the sewing teacher for you. Schedule a private sewing lesson for yourself or a sew camp for your child, and we’ll see what kind of business relationship develops. Sometimes, actually often, my students become my fast friends. Because we share the love of all things sewing.

Happy sewing!



The magic of pattern-making

Start by learning to take accurate body measurements.

Write ’em down. Do a little dividing, adding and subtracting.

Plot the results as a “shaped” rectangle.

Pattern drafting students by Sew Maris

Cut out some fabric according to this “shape”, stitch it together, and BAM! you have a skirt pattern custom-fit to your body measurements. Easy breezy,right?

Ummmm, sort of.  While it is true the individual steps are not really difficult, they are quite a few of them, and there are plenty of opportunities to make mistakes. For this and other reasons I have resisted offering pattern drafting classes to kids.

Skirt drafting class by Sew Maris

But the kiddos keep bugging me.. Some want to learn the process of pattern-making; some are not satisfied with the current pattern options; and some are just anxious to get started designing their own fashion line.

This week the first ever Sew Maris kids pattern drafting class is underway. In the first two days measurements have been taken, skirt block calculations calculated, basic pattern blocks drafted, muslin samples sewn, and sample skirt fitting has happened.

Pattern drafting by Sew Maris

Next up these students will learn how to modify a basic block to create a personalized skirt design. This is where they transform the skirt in their own mind into reality.

This is an ambitious undertaking. For them AND for me! Hopefully on Thursday we will have 3 completed skirts to show you. Fingers crossed!

Happy sewing!