Category Archives: Gifts

Wallet pattern obsession, V2

A much improved V2 of my wallet-making obsession is finished and already in use!

Back view of finished wallet

Really, I think I am most excited about the back side of the wallet. I love how the D-rings look on that little strip of fabric, and they can be used to hook a wristlet as I have done here, or a longer strap could turn it into a cross-body bag. Options are important, right?

credit card slots in wallet
The inside may not look at much different at first glance, but the feel is very different. Adding the fusible batting to the back of the wallet and quilting it makes the wallet feel much sturdier and like a higher-quality item. No one wants to make something that feels chintzy, right?

Accordion pocket in completed wallet
The accordion pocket is the same, but the zipper pocket construction is different and better! I stitched one side of the zipper to the front wallet piece, attached a pocket to the “out” side of the zipper, and then topstitched the pocket piece onto the front wallet piece. Kinda hard to understand theoretically – maybe a wallet tutorial is on order – but trust me, it eliminates bulk and is very functional. I kept the D-ring in the side seam – now I just need to get an extra house key onto it! BTW, my cell phone fits in this pocket perfectly which means this wallet is perfect for quick trips when a purse-ful is not required. Awesome.

credit card slots in wallet
No change to the credit card pockets. They work fine as is, tho maybe could be tightened up a little. Did I show you the pocket behind that works for bills?

Pocket behind credit cards
I still think there are some tweaks that could improve this design even more. I want to try a heavier stiffener inside, or maybe 2 layers of the weight I did use. I think experimenting with this pattern is going to be fun, and I have plenty of gals who have expressed an interest in receiving one of these. As long as they have been good this year Santa just may leave one in their stocking!

Happy sewing!


Are you a holiday Scrooge or a busy elf?

Tis the season when many women drive themselves crazy by doing and overdoing to create a “perfect” holiday experience for their families. One where every morsel of food is made from scratch, the house decorations would turn Martha Stewart pea-green with envy, and every perfectly wrapped present has been lovingly handmade.

Been there. Done that. (Well, except for the Martha Stewart look-alike house decorations. ūüėČ )

How about you this year? Are you sewing until the wee hours of the night for everyone on your list? As your “to-do” list empties, are you just adding more and more tasks? Did the 3 pairs of pajama pants turn into 3 matching sets of pajamas, robe, and slippers?

This year I want our holiday to be about a little less. A little less craziness. A few less cookies. A few less commitments on the calendar. I am yearning to do some slow sewing, some of it by hand. I’d like to design some useful and beautiful items using interesting fabrics combined in unusual ways. For that kind of sewing I need plenty of good blocks of open time and the brain space to visualize and create.

What will make your holiday season special this year? Whatever you need, I hope your wishes come true!

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Making a Memory quilt

A very dear woman contacted me last winter, and asked me to make a quilt from her late grandson’s clothing. I invited her to come to my house so we could talk about the project and design she had in mind. From the moment I met her, I was hooked. Not because I know much about quilting. Not because I know anything specifically about making a memory quilt. But because I am a mom, and she and her family had endured the greatest loss of all. The loss of a child.

The quilt is done, and I will be giving it to her tomorrow. It was an honor to make it for her family, and I hope it brings them a small amount of peace and healing.

Memory quilt

RIP dear James, you are very loved.


Maris Olsen


Life is a gift, and I am very thankful for mine. Even tho I ate more than I should, and made all our traditional Thanksgiving dishes, this holiday is not really about food. It is about a way of being within the world.

Thank you, dear students, and dear readers, for enriching my life in so many ways. I hope you had a blessed and joy-filled Thanksgiving with people you love. I did.


Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Show some handmade love

Tired of crappy clothes, toys, and other household items made in developing countries by poorly paid workers? I am, and I know many others in the same boat. Maybe I can’t change everything about our global economic system, but one thing I CAN do is change my personal buying habits. Voting with your¬†wallet, as it is known, definitely produces results.¬†Why do you think Wal-Mart is now the largest buyer of organic food in the U.S? Certainly not because the board of directors decided organic food would be good for our diets. ūüėČ

¬†I found a new website today titled I took the pledge, and I encourage you to think about doing it as well. I am not going to make my own shoes or weave my own fabric (yet, anyway!), but I am going to make a make an even more concerted effort to only give handmade items to those I love. I¬†believe that honoring¬†the creativity, time, and effort of others is worthwhile. In this techno-obsessed era, “personal” is starting to gain recognition as a necessary component of our lives and relationships.¬†

How about you? Are you interested in trying to up the percentage of handmade gifts you make or buy for others? I’m in!

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Stitch up a quick project


Sewing student profile
Mary Beth sews for the kitchen













Meet one of my favorite sewing students, Mary Beth. She has been taking sewing lessons for a few weeks, and recently completed a fun (and useful!) apron to ward off a few of the kitchen grease splatters. I like the simple lines of the pattern she selected, Simplicity 2555, and in keeping with her style she chose a classic and feminine color combination. Super cute!!

The basic shape and construction process was straightforward. Cut out an elongated rectangle with straight-sided shaping at the top for the armhole and top. Double-fold and stitch down the sides and bottom of the apron. Cut out two packets. Apply trim and attach. Make a re-e-e-a-l-l-y long strap for the neckband and ties. Now here comes the part that was both poorly drafted and not well-explained in the instructions (<insert> rant about frequency of terrible instructions in patterns </end rant>).

The pattern had you cut out and apply facings to the armhole (well, not exactly a hole, but the under the arm area). OK so far. But they also instructed you to turn under the raw edge of the facing, and stitch that to the apron front to create a tube for the neckband/ties to pass thru. The combination of the ribbon trim application, and the facing application instructions created multiple stitching lines as well as a very small tolerance to get the strap inserted without bunching, not to mention a lot of fiddling to press under the edges of the facing ¬†(<insert second > rant about frequency of¬†terrible instructions in patterns¬†</end second rant>).¬†¬†We decided instead to finish the long edge of the facing with a serged edge finish, and apply the trim prior to stitching the facing in place to create the tube. We also changed the way we applied the trim so that it was in one long, continuous piece. Easier and looked better. Mary Beth’s apron turned out cute and definitely wearable – good job MB!.

Apron sewing project
Finished apron front




REMEMBER: The technical writers for patterns are not gods. Some of them are not even that smart.  They write the instructions in a way that is easy for them to describe, and to include simple illustrations. They do not always write the instructions in a manner that is best for you, the sewist, nor in a way that is best for the garment. What should you do about this conundrum? Read lots of books about sewing. Take classes. Make lots of different projects from different pattern companies. Think about what you are doing before blithely following along with the printed instructions. It is just some ink on paper Рfeel free to ignore. As you continue to sew and practice, you will develop your own techniques for doing things, and become more comfortable ignoring the pattern-maker-technical-writer gods.

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen