Category Archives: Sewing students

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!



Hooked another one

Watching a kid light up with enthusiasm for a new interest totally rocks. You can almost see those synapses firing away as they connect all the dots, right?

Making PJ pants

And those funny “faces” you can design on a stuffed tomato with pins —priceless!

Pincushion fun

It is a little thing, yet not. A bit of fabric. Some thread on a spool. A machine that stitches the pieces together. Someone to help guide you in the process.  Added all together; magic.

Checking for problems

I have so many reasons I love to teach sewing. Their names are Helen, Gabby, Devon, Leah, Mavin, etc.

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen


Another new beginning

You know how the race to the finish feels.

August/early September felt like trying to make it across a half-marathon finish line. Kids Sew camps, private lessons, blogging, babysitting my DGD, planting, harvesting, designing new projects, a short vacation with my DH, and plenty more. Calgon, take me away!

September always seems like a mini-new-year to me. New schedules, students, cooler evenings, yearning for soups and stews, yarn that wants to become knitted, coats and jackets calling out to be made. Finally, life is starting to take shape around here. The new shape of fall.

One of my new students this fall is young (8), and oh-so-enthusiastic. It is amazing what kids can accomplish with focus, interest, and a little direction.

Malia working on a zippered bag

A completed zippered bag of Halloween theme fabric – all ready for pencils or any other small treasures. Nice work, Malia!

Malia's Halloween zippered bag

Welcome fall, new students, and another new beginning.

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen


Gain a little self-esteem

I am old-school. <begin rant>I think people develop positive self-esteem by actually acquiring and mastering skills, not just by being told incessantly how awesome and perfect they are </end rant>.  One of the great benefits of teaching sewing is I actually get to witness the concrete progression of skills that students attain over time. Like watching C cut out a new skirt, for instance. Maybe not 100% accurately, but a darn good job for a nine year-old.

Cutting out praactice

Nice work, C, keep it up!

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Stampede ready!

Western costume front

Doesn’t she look all ready for the Calgary Stampede parade? This little gal has worked might durn hard on this costume, and is righfully proud of her work. C. has not been sewing that long, and Simplicity 2843 is definitely not a pattern for a beginner. There were plenty of concerns about how hard it was along the way, but there was one proud little girl in my sewing studio today when the garment really came together. Tomorrow we need to hem and add some finishing touches, but she will definitely be modeling this garment in the parade later this week. I am pretty sure she learned something about pushing thru a hard job, too. It is really not that big a deal to accomplish a simple task, but it feels pretty darn great to struggle a little and then finally accomplish something really worthwhile. Who knew? Sewing offers life lessons, too. 😉  Nice job, C!

Western costume back

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Rockin’ the apron project

Fierce apron!

How’s this for a “fierce” sewing project? Delaney’s grandma recently gave her a sewing machine as a gift, and she has been taking lessons with me for the past few weeks. This Four Corners apron is only her second sewing project ever, yet she managed to complete this UH-dorable apron for her grandma in just 4 hours. I am telling you, this girl knows how to stay on task!

My young sewing students constantly amaze me with their creativity and focus. Delaney has definite ideas about the projects she wants to make, and when she is in a lesson she is all business. She has a nice eye for design—I love her apron fabric and pattern choice—and you ought to see the cute Halloween napkins she is also working on. I just get a total kick out of working with her, and can’t wait to see what else she is going to sew. Go Delaney!

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Second garment underway for Stacey


Don’t look at the big mess in my sewing studio – check out the big smile on Stacey’s face! I am pretty sure it has something to do with that stinkin’ cute skirt she finished up a few weeks ago that she is modeling here. Or maybe it is the new dress she is cutting out and prepping – her second garment since she started sewing lessons.  This lady know how to get things done, she has a great eye for color and pattern, and I especially love how we laugh nonstop during her lesson time!

Have I mentioned before that sewing students totally rock? Keep it up, Stacey, I can’t wait to see how the red and white dress turns out!

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

I created a monster…

…and her name is Jenny! This perfectly awesome woman who used to spend her evenings relaxing and bonding with her husband and two daughters has turned into a sewing monster. Her husband hasn’t seen her in days. Her children haven’t had a home-cooked meal in weeks. Her horses, well, that is another obsession. 🙂

Jenny started sewing lessons with me about 6-7 months ago, ostensibly to learn to make home dec items. You know, like pillows. I *might* have mentioned somewhere along the line that home dec was not my favorite kind of sewing, but she ignored me and forged ahead. After a few pillows, she started talking about how fun it would be to make cute clothes for her two daughters (who BTW, are two total lamb chops). Twirly skirts were first, and now she is on to jumpers and more.  Then I started on my jeans-making obsession. So Jenny got on that bandwagon too. She borrowed one of my, er, several sewing machines so she could practice sewing at home. Then Sew Expo came along, and she decided to at least go talk to all the sewing machine vendors. Yep, now she owns a new Viking machine with plenty of bells and whistles. Oh, and there’s her eBay serger purchase, too. Did I mention that?

Today Jenny was finishing up her first pair of jeans. Nice work!


Here is a darling pillowcase she made for one daughter, and yes she did make a second one for daughter number two.

The Pillowcase

Once you get started, you just don’t have any idea where the sewing bug will take you. I hope Jenny’s husband is happy Jenny and I met. I know I am! Keep on sewing, Jenny!

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen


Cooking with class

One of my darling students, Elena, is a beginning sewist with a definite sense of style and a precise approach to sewing. She is such a fast learner, AND a fast stitcher! I love it when students sew fast—it shows me they are definitely the boss of the sewing machine.

Elena is busy these days working on a pretty new apron. I love the main fabric she selected for this garment—all my favorite garment colors. I think this pattern is adorable too, and it makes me think maybe I should add a fresh apron or two to my tired old collection. Wait—I really only have 1 apron. Guess that isn’t much of a “collection”.

Anyway, back to Elena’s project. Like most patterns, this one includes some techniques that are transferable to other garments as well. Like the ruffled edge around the hem. And turning the bodice edges under twice and topstitching. Lots of applications of this hemming technique on other garments and in other places. Elena also chose to use French seams on the apron skirt to enclose the raw edges. Nice touch!

 McCalls apron pattern and fabric

Elena is a star student in my book, because she only likes to work on techniques she doesn’t understand during our lesson time. Otherwise she sews independently at home. Awesome! Here she is working on gathering the ruffling to be applied to the bottom of the apron. Aren’t you just itching to see the final product?

Elena stitching apron ruffling   

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen


Boundless creativity results in PJs and “uglies”


I am constantly amazed by kids – their creativity, attention to details, and the unique ways they approach the art of sewing – sometimes I learn as much as they do! Yesterday was one of those days. I spent most of the morning sewing with my special pal, Jodie. She has her own sewing machine (thanks to her sweet grandma!), and we planned a simple pajama pant project to help her get more comfortable using her machine without adult help (subtext = her totally awesome mom is not that helpful in the sewing department 😉 ).

Well, make pajama pants we did. But since I had needed to trace off a pattern in her size before she could get started, Jodie decided to make a few “ugly dolls” while she was waiting on me. She had brought one along that she made earlier, and I thought these small dolls would make the perfect “pocket treasure” for the Dresses ‘Round the World project. Sweet Jodie offered to show me her process, and make 6 dolls to go with my completed dresses.

I let her go thru my scrap basket for any fabrics she wanted to use, and after finding some rayon velvets and cottons, she got started. All I supplied was a little scrap fabric and batting for stuffing – she supplied all the creativity and energy to get the work done.  I think they are just ador-a-belle, and it’s easy to imagine the pleasure they will give little girls without much to call their own. Awesome work, Jodie!


Oh yes, we did finish her green leopard print pajama pants, too. But the highlight of the day for me was learning how to make ugly dolls from my favorite ten year-old. Thanks for the great sewing time, Jodie!


Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen