To Quilt or Not To Quilt?

I don’t travel and teach much these days. I live about two-and-a-half hours from a medium-sized airport, so besides the normal hassles of air travel, I have the added long commute before and after a trip. Besides, I’m basically a hermit, most happy when I am at home with my hubby and my cats and my fabrics! But when I was asked to teach for a wonderful group of stitchers in Florida, I couldn’t say no. You see, back when I¬†coordinated Project First Day for the school kids of Joplin after the devastating tornado five years ago, this group sent not just a few garments, but hundreds! They have ongoing charity sewing projects. They’re good people. So, I’m going to Florida soon!

One of the projects I’m going to teach is this “To Quilt or Not To Quilt” table topper. Lots of heirloom techniques! It’s pretty without quilting.


But I wanted to demonstrate how quilting can add an extra dimension to a project like this! So here is the same project (well, some of the laces are different, and the crazy patch center block is different) layered over taupe silk dupioni and quilted!

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I know quilting is not for everyone, and it takes a lot of practice to be able to do free-motion quilting smoothly (I quilt on a sit-down machine, not a longarm; in other words, I move the fabric, not the machine,) but it really is pretty! ūüôā

Here are the techniques included, in both the unquilted and quilted versions:

Puffing with entredeux and lace insertionIMG_5804_2IMG_5815_2

Lace and Rickrack Bridging…(Sorry, I didn’t get a photo of the full unquilted block. But this lets you see the technique close up.)IMG_5806_2IMG_5819_2

Bias Linen AppliqueIMG_5803_2IMG_5814_2

Transparent Reverse AppliqueIMG_5802_2IMG_5821_2

Machine FaggotingIMG_5801_2IMG_5816_2

Lace Crazy Patch…IMG_5800_2IMG_5823_2

Many of these techniques are covered in detail in my class “Heirloom Sewing: More Classic Techniques,” which you can get for just just $24.99 here.

I spent days preparing the class kitsclass kit

In this nice little plastic bag are 11 pieces of pre-cut fabric, 3 pieces of pre-cut water-soluble stabilizer, an embroidered motif (which I made), 4 yds. of bias linen strips which I cut, rickrack, entredeux, and 3 kinds of lace (over 12 yds. total!)

I’m ready to head south!




Transparent Reverse Applique and Burda 6890

When I was preparing for my second Craftsy heirloom techniques class, I wanted an adult garment showcasing my Transparent Reverse Applique Windows and Hem techniques. I had several children’s garments, but nothing for women. Fluffy and frilly for grown-ups is not “me,” so I wanted to make something with classic, simple lines, and just a bit of embellishment. Something that I might choose to wear.

It doesn’t get much more classic than a sheath dress, so that’s what I was looking for when I went pattern shopping. This is what I chose.

Trans rev app B6890

A straight, semi-fitted sheath dress, with darts front and back. I chose the sleeveless version (because I wanted to¬†use as little as possible of¬†the really awesome shadow-check linen that was in my stash!) This sample was for display only, and the dress form in the studio is a size 10, so that’s what I made. Besides, when you’re travelling with dozens of garment samples, smaller is better!

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I wish I could wear the dress, but I haven’t been a pattern size 10, which is much smaller than a ready-to-wear size 10, since I was in about 7th grade. And this is a very fitted size 10! One thing I did notice about the pattern is that the dart points at the bust are very close together – they end only about an inch apart, so the person wearing this would have to wear a pretty pointed bra! Other than that, the pattern was well drafted and went together nicely.

Here’s a photo of the dress with backlighting.

trans rev app

I underlined the shadow-check linen with light pink cotton batiste. The edges of the linen were shaped with water-soluble stabilizer for the Transparent Reverse Applique Window at the neckline…

Trans rev app window

…and the Transparent Reverse Applique Hem.

Trans rev app hem

Pink silk organza was pinstitched to the shaped edges. The techniques are covered in detail in Heirloom Sewing More Classic Techniques. I made a little slit in the silk organza hem for a little extra room in this very straight dress (even though no one will ever wear it!)

I think my sample turned out to be a very classy dress, showing that heirloom sewing for women doesn’t have to be frilly; a dress that many women of different ages and sizes could use as inspiration!



Don’t Forget!

Time is quickly running out to enter for a chance to win my newest Craftsy class…

Heirloom Sewing More Classic Techniques!

You have to enter before the class goes live (and we’re talking only hours until that happens!)

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You’ll learn sooo many great techniques! If you’ve taken Craftsy classes, you know the advantages. But if you haven’t, here are some things to consider…

  1. Craftsy is the fastest growing creative community on the web! Learn, make, share and have fun as you join more than 8 million members in over 200 countries.
  2. Pursue your creative passions in online-video lessons led by the best instructors in the world.
  3. Craftsy lets you learn at your own pace, with online-video classes you can watch anytime, anywhere, forever.
  4. Learning is more fun with the family! Bring friends and loved ones together and have a blast learning new skills.
  5. Craftsy classes let you take virtual notes, so you can write things down as you go and keep all of your learning in one convenient place.
  6. You won’t miss a single, exciting detail of your class thanks to crystal-clear HD video, stunning close-ups and convenient closed captioning.
  7. Craftsy gives you the support to succeed. Use the Craftsy platform to ask questions and get answers from your classmates and instructors.
  8. Craftsy is a creative community where members inspire one another by sharing projects and encouragement.

Maybe you will be the one to win! Click here to enter, and stay tuned!

It’s Almost Time!

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Some of you may have guessed that I recently filmed a new Craftsy class! Heirloom Sewing More Classic Techniques will be launched soon. Do you want a chance to win a free class? Click here to be entered into a drawing to win – Craftsy will draw a random entry, and I’ll let the lucky winner know the day the class goes live.

Look at some of the¬†things I teach in the class…

Rickrack Techniques2516.jpg2304 resized.jpg2424 resized.jpg

Straight and Curved Puffing2524 resized.jpg2261 resized.jpg2485 resized.jpg

Tiny Single and Double Piping2269 resized.jpg2208 resized.jpg2415 resized.jpg

…and lots more!

Stay tuned for more photos and info. Be sure to follow my blog so you don’t miss any updates. And remember that with a Crafsty online class, you can take it as many times as you want, whenever you want, and you can ask me and other students questions and post photos of your work! Super-sharp HD quality video and audio make it easy to see exactly what I am doing each step of the way.

Dont’ forget to sign up for that free class!

Sweet Pea

My husband hates sweet peas. These pretty little flowers smell heavenly, but the vines are aggressive. My dad, a farmer, said that a weed was just a plant that wasn’t in the right place. Well, sweet peas in iris beds are in the wrong place! Several years ago, Mark dug up¬†an entire iris bed to get at all the sweet pea roots, then re-planted the irises. Those sweet peas have not shown their pretty little faces in that bed again!

When it comes to my Sweet Pea pattern, however, it’s a different story!

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The pattern got its name because of the twisty spiral skirt, which is like the twisty spiral sweet pea vines.

The skirt gores can be made in the same or contrasting fabrics.

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Here’s another version that was in a Sew Beautiful pictorial in 2011, I think.

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It’s been one of my best-selling patterns (although people tell me it tends to run long, and if you need to shorten it, that must be done at the waist before stitching the skirt to the bodice.)

Not too long ago, S.G. sent me a photo of a dress she made from this pattern. “I used Swiss Lawn AKA Fairy Fabric. I used shaped lace between the gores because the fabric was too delicate for the serger.¬† I created the fabric for the bodice by embroidering a lace fill in white rayon all over the fabric, then adding white beads on every other intersection.¬† I cut my sleeve in a circle flounce to echo the flounces on the skirt. The little girl,¬†who turns 4 next month loved wearing it, it twirls perfectly.”

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So when I was making up samples for my Craftsy class, Heirloom Sewing Essential Techniques, I picked this pattern for the lesson on tucks, to show multiple ways to use tucks to embellish a bodice.

First, I showed how to stitch plain folded tucks on a block of fabric, then cut out your pattern piece from the tucked fabric. (I’m sorry these photos are sideways – for whatever reason, my photo editor would not save the rotated version today, and I just don’t have time to fight it!)


Next, I showed double needle pintucks, and how they could be combined with a bit of lace.

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Here are pintucks stitched close together in trios, with spaces in between just wide enough for the presser foot, where I stitched decorative stitches.

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Cross-hatched pintucks create a yoke effect.

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And finally, the bodice I used for the finished dress – bias, cross-hatched pintucks, some embroidered Swiss insertion, and curved pintucks!

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Here’s the full dress – I used Imperial broadcloth, and a tiny little Swiss trim on the sleeves and neckline.


Here is a backlit photo of the bodice


And another photo of the pintuck detail


Tucks are versatile, and sweet peas can be sweet! ūüôā

Last Chance!

Time is running out to have a chance to win $1000 to donate to your favorite charity that focuses on art or craft-type activities. For most of my readers, that would be sewing or quilting. Think Quilts of Valor. Or SAGA. Or Threads of Love. I’m sure you know of many others. How do you enter to win that donation? Everyone who purchases a class from Craftsy through an instructor’s link – this is mine – will be entered in the drawing. March 13 is the last day to have this chance! You don’t have to purchase my class (although I’d like for you to!) Any class will do.

In the interests of full disclosure, I earn a small amount from any class purchased through my link. That means more fabric!

Because I’ve been encouraging people to try out new interests, I thought I should, too. About a week ago, my husband and I watched “Mexican Street Food: Tacos¬†& Salsas.”

Then he made tomatillo/cilantro/avocado salsa while I tried my hand at homemade corn tortillas. We cheated and used a rotisserie chicken, but oh my goodness!Mexican

I am totally hooked on those fresh tortillas! I’ve already made them three times. I had no idea they were so easy. And, no, I don’t have a tortilla press; I just used my cutting board and the bottom of a large saucepan to press the tortillas.

Click here to take this class!

This is another class that, if I had little people in my life, I would take. Not all sewing has to be heirloom or contest-worthy ūüôā

In “The Costume Box,” learn to make capes that transform your child into a princess or superhero; wings for a dragon or fairy; no-sew skirts, crowns and sparkly wands; or a sword and armor.


Other classes that I think would be fun (click on the images to read more:)

Okay, I need to stop looking through the class catalog and thinking, “ooh, I want to learn this, and this, and this…” and get to work on my next big project! ūüėČ

Cathedral Lace Windows

When I was preparing for my Craftsy Heirloom Sewing Essential Techniques (get it for 50% off here!) class taping, I wanted an adult garment showcasing the Cathedral Lace Windows technique. The Amber Woven Blouse pattern from Style Arc seemed too perfect to pass up!


The narrow front band looked like it would be a wonderful place to place a strip of this embellishment, and have a top that would be sophisticated and not at all frilly.

I chose ivory, black, and gold silk/cotton Radiance from my stash. (Yes, I know, I have a serious case of Radiance hoarding!) A strip of black insertion lace, some tiny cord to cover for piping, a little lightweight fusible interfacing, and I was set to go.


Like the¬†Fleur and Marley¬†tops made as samples for the class, this one is a size 10 to fit the dress form, so it’s a bit too small for me. But I love the way it turned out! I think the top would fit me perfectly in a size or two larger.

The Cathedral Lace Window strip down the center front is the highlight of the top. 1

It was made from the instructions in the class. You can get the class for only $24.99 here, and until March 13, 2016, you can be entered to win $1000 to be donated to your favorite art or craft centered charity (think Quilts of Valor, or Threads of Love, or any other 501-c3.)

In this pattern, the center front strip and front neckline reverse facing are made as a unit, then applied to the blouse front. Be sure that when you’re stitching the center strip down, it is exactly in the center. Yes, I got mine on a little catty-wampus the first time and had to take it off and stitch it again.

I think¬† that if I make this again, in my size, I would do a couple of things differently. First, I would increase the biceps¬†measurement of the sleeve a little, as I do for almost all Style Arc patterns. I would also lengthen the sleeve an inch or so, and I would finish the lower edge of the sleeve differently. The pattern allows for just 1/4 inch narrow hem. You can’t cut a deeper hem because of the curve of the lower edge, but I would either make a facing or bias binding to finish the edge. I think I would also shape the side seams a bit, or perhaps add a center back seam or back darts to shape the waistline just a little.

This is a nice pattern, and I can think of lots of ways to use color blocking and a little embellishment to make it unique!


Win $1000 for your Favorite Craft-Based Charity!

March is National Craft Month! I’m pretty sure every single person reading this blog is involved in crafting – most of you in sewing or quilting, but I’ll bet many of you do other things as well. Or would like to learn. Now is a great chance to learn, and also to have the chance to help others learn. How exciting would it be to be able to win $1000 to donate to the craft-based charity of your choice?! (Any art or craft focused charity or nonprofit (501(c)) will qualify.)

From Feb. 29 through March 13, use these links to shop my online Craftsy classes¬†(with 50% off) Heirloom Sewing Essential Techniques and The Machine Embroidery Inspired Quilt. Purchase any class,¬†and you’ll be automatically entered to win $1000 for the craft-focused charity of your choice. And you don’t have to buy just my classes through these links – any class you purchase through those links will count as your entry in the drawing. Just remember, it’s important to click the links provided in this email, because that’s how you’ll be entered to win!

Besides having this chance to win, what are the benefits of taking a Craftsy class? You get to learn from top teachers in very well-produced online classes, for a very reasonable price. You can watch the classes whenever you want, as often as you want (even in your pajamas!) You can ask questions and interact with the instructor and other students. Craftsy will even refund you in full if you don’t enjoy the class! What could be better than that?

You wouldn’t think that machine embroidered quilts and upholstery would have much to do with each other. But instructor Cynthia Bleskachek and I have been working on a fun collaboration.

I made this, using the embroidery designs and quilting tips from my machine embroidery class


Cynthia found this beauty at a thrift shop!chair4

A new seat…


…and a new coat of paint equals a vanity chair fit for a princess!chair2chair3

You can learn Cynthia’s easy techniques for re-upholstering your own chair seats in Getting Started With Upholstery with my affiliate link!

Maybe you’d like to try your hand at cake decorating with The Perfect Birthday CakeThe Perfect Birthday Cake

Maybe you’d like to improve your garment-making skills with Janet Pray’s Sew Better, Sew Faster Advanced Industry Techniquesunspecified1

Or maybe you’d like to quilt up some of those quilt tops, and don’t want to do free-motion quilting – try Creative Quilting With Your Walking Footunspecified

When you purchase a class through one of my links, I get a percentage of the class fee. Thank you for helping me make money to buy more fabric! ūüėČ

Happy Leap Day!

Shark’s Teeth

Once upon a time, way back in 1990, Martha Pullen sent me a fragment of an antique petticoat and asked me to recreate the technique. Surprisingly, I had seen the technique several years before on an apron, and at that time I had examined it and figured out how it was done. So when I received that petticoat, I already knew how it was done! (Have I said before that I really enjoy the engineering part of sewing?!)

Well, I made one small pillow with this clipped-and-folded-and-stitched tuck technique, by hand, the way the original was done. And I realized that I had to find a way to do this by machine! So I did! I made garments with rows and rows and rows of these triangular tucks.

At the time, my children were very young. We lived near the original Bass Pro Shops, and sometimes, on rainy days, we would go to the store for fun. The kids could watch the fish in the huge aquarium and climb on the boats and in the tents. There were waterfalls and trees and even a stream running through the store. And there were taxidermied animals everywhere! One day, while I was in the midst of making those rows and rows and rows of white triangular tucks, we walked into Bass Pro, and there was…the Great White Shark, mouth open, with rows and rows and rows of white triangular teeth! And the name “Shark’s Teeth” was born!

This was my first article in Sew Beautiful, in the Summer 1991 issue.3a5a8a

I wanted more samples, so I made a dress for Annie and a shirt for David.


I was scheduled to teach for the first time at the Martha Pullen school in July 1991 . I was so nervous I couldn’t sleep and my stomach hurt. This magazine had come out just weeks before the school, and while the technique was too new to have been included in any of my classes, I did demos of this new technique at the Table Top Clinic evening event. I was swamped with some 350 students, plus many teachers and assistants and employees. I lost my voice that evening! Twenty-five years later, Shark’s Teeth remains popular, and I’m proud to have named it!

I’ve taught Shark’s Teeth so many times I could do it in my sleep! Now it’s included in my Heirloom Sewing Essential Techniques Craftsy class. (Click here¬†to take the class for just $24.99, a¬†50% discount!)resized 3a

Do you see the linen shirt-jacket on the¬†dress form¬†behind me? Well, I needed some updated samples, and more adult garments for class samples. This is my newest Shark’s Teeth garment.

I used the StyleArc Marley Woven Shirt pattern. This pattern is also available as a PDF on Etsy.


While I rarely wear boxy jackets myself, I knew this would be a good pattern to showcase some rows of Shark’s Teeth along the front opening.18

I used a rust-colored handkerchief linen that has been in my stash for a long time. I used a size 10 pattern, because that’s the size of the mannequin, but it’s too small for me, so bear that in mind when looking at the photos of me wearing it. I would need a size 12 or 14, and as with most StyleArc patterns, I would increase the biceps circumference. Otherwise, the shirt is great! Here it is worn open…


…and buttoned.034

You can see here that the dart points are too high – if I had been making this for myself, I would have lowered the darts, in addition to using the larger size.

Here’s the back – again, a shirt that’s too small for me. But it’s nice to see garments on a real person!50

One thing I really like about this pattern are the deep hems and slits at the side seams and at the cuffs.


The rest of the photos show details, but the color is waaaaay off – sorry! These are the slits and deep hems.


I used French seams for all the seams, so the inside is nicely finished.


Instead of hemming the fronts as indicated on the pattern, I made a facing the depth of the hem. If I had used a hem, the tucks, if folded under, would have been quite bulky. A facing eliminates that bulk. And I slip-stitched the front placket edges to the seamline of the innermost tuck.


The collar stand on this pattern was different than any I’ve done before, but it worked nicely.


All in all, a great pattern, and a time-tested technique!

StyleArc “Fleur Tunic”


My Craftsy class went live on Monday, and (yay!) it’s doing very well. I have already had several questions about the white tunic shown on the mannequin behind me in Lessons 2 and 3, about basic heirloom sewing techniques.¬† Well, here’s the “scoop” on that garment!


Here’s the top on me. I made this from StyleArc’s Fleur Tunic pattern.¬†This is a size 10, so it’s a little small on me. It was made for the mannequin on the Craftsy set and fits her better ūüôā


I wanted to make a ladies’ garment that was truly wearable. I really like that StyleArc patterns have a¬†great size range – this one is available in sizes 4 – 30!


I wanted just a bit of lace, with no frilliness. The neckline insert in this pattern seemed like the perfect place for that. I stitched together lace and embroidered insertions to form pieces large enough for the front insert pattern piece. I did not line the insert, as directed in the pattern, because I wanted the look to be more delicate. I used a teeny, tiny Swiss trim for the center front edge, for stability, and I edged the insert with entredeux, instead of using a regular seam.

The body of the tunic is made from Spechler-Vogel Imperial batiste – it’s inexpensive and easy-care.


I used French seams for the construction, which is pretty minimal – shoulder seams, shirt-type sleeve seams, and side seams.


The roll-up sleeves are secured with a buttoned tab. I interfaced the tab with a lightweight interfacing, so the lightweight batiste would hold up to a buttonhole. I did find that the marking on the pattern for the placement of the tab was a little too high for my taste, so I lowered that mark about 3 inches.

This is a roomy pattern. As I said, I made a 10 for the mannequin. My measurements are between a 12 and a 14. I¬† would use a 12 and not a 14 for myself, and I think I would lengthen it a bit – but then, I’m pretty tall. I think it works well with jeans, and I think it would make a great swim suit cover-up if lengthened, although I wasn’t thinking much about swimming when we took the pics today, as it was barely above freezing!

If you want to learn about the simple techniques I used to create the lace insert, and save 50% off the regular price, check out my class, “Heirloom Sewing Essential Techniques“!