How to use a Serger, Overlock Machine, Quilting, Quilting Room, Serger, Sewing, Sewing and Embroidery, Simple Sewing

National Sewing Month

Okay, I admit that I get pretty excited every year during National Sewing Month. It is a fantastic time to get back to sewing, quilting, embroidery and all things related. Naturally, the sewing machine manufacturers are fully aware of this and just to tempt us, they put out their new products in time for NSM events and strong forth quarter sales. Brother has released a machine that has me REALLY hyped – the all new 5 thread CV3550.


Fans of Sewing Pattern review can find comments here:

Brother Cover Hem CV3550

My personal take on this machine is that is the perfect addition to any sewing or quilting studio. The Brother CV3550 Video does a great job showing off the hemming features but just touches on how amazing it is for piecing and quilting. Since it does a chain stitch and has a generous 6.1″ to the right of the needle I can definitely see myself using it to piece and sew because it will NEVER need bobbin thread. No more running out at just the wrong moment. No more fiddling for matching colors. YAY!

There are two great attachments for the machine:

The Dual Function Fold Binder is used to fold 1.25 inch (32mm) wide bias fabric tape into 0.31 inch (8mm) wide double fold bias tape, and then apply the bias tape binding to the edge of fabric. Attach the binder to the cover stitch machine simply with the two included screws. This accessory may also be used as a binder for single fold bias tape.

sa231cv-d  sa230cv-d

The second attachment is perfect for finishing collars and armholes on sleeveless apparel.

The product specifications can be found at the official website : Brother CV3550 Details

We will have this model on display at the shop soon. Look for event details!





Starting, Running and Growing a Sewing Business with no money

Do you dream of having your own shop filled with beautiful fabrics, fun classes  and wonderful customers? Perhaps you would like to start an independent pattern company? Designer Sewing Center started with just one friend asking me to help her with a T-shirt quilt for her daughter. It grew to a little online club for a few friends and fellow sewists, called The Sewist Club. I started a four page newsletter, called Sutura Style, to share tips, tricks and tidbits. Then more classes at home, in my living room. In the Spring of 2015 I started teaching at Hancock Fabrics, and when that grew to the point that I needed a space of my own, we moved to our new, permanent home, at our shop Designer Sewing Center.  It has been a wonderful, sometimes nerve-racking, but always exciting, experience. While the shop has been getting set up, all sewing has been pretty much on hold, but I realized that the journey is a story well worth sharing.  Here is a picture of our shop, before signage or merchandising the windows.

 I was blessed to receive some really great advice at the beginning and it has kept me in good stead every step of the way, “start small and build your way up slowly and carefully”. The ISBDC, in the state of Indiana, provides mentors who can help you learn what you need to know to write a solid business plan which is key to mapping out your future success. It takes patience and passion to start from ground zero with nothing but your two hands and no money, but it can be done. It also takes time and some other way of paying the bills until your business is in a position to stand on its own. The money portion is the toughest part.  Turning your passion into a profit making venture actually takes more time than most people realize.

So, I want to bring money in, but I’ve got no money to open a business with. Starting with my own circle, my first student was our Pastor’s wife and my buddy, Robin. That was back in 2013.  I didn’t charge any money but I the joy of spending time with my buddy and I learned a lot about sharing what I know with others. Fortunately, I kept a notebook to write down my experiences.  I was selling cosmetics through a direct sales company to keep positive cash flow. Robin was a wonderful person to have a my first student. She was so encouraging!

My buddy Robin Mullins and I with her completed T-shirt quilt.

Lessons I learned:

First, volunteering pays in ways we can’t imagine.  Being with someone who cares about you provides the safest place to get feedback  and to share your knowledge. Second, listening and writing about experiences is payment in wisdom. Having the chance to listen to Robin’s questions inspired me to finish the first workbook in the Sutura Style series, Sew Like a Pro. It has been revised several times since the first thoughts were but put to paper but the foundation was based on listening to the needs of others instead of merely trying to regurgitate acquired knowledge.

After meeting with Robin, I decided I wanted to have a teaching business from home but it was nearly a year before I found my first paying customers, our neighbors. Those who have been following this blog know about how illness struck suddenly and all my plans were derailed. To be in business, good health is vital.

 My living room turned sewing studio circa fall 2013

Lessons I learned: there is a time and a season for everything.

I spent the rest of 2013 and most of 2014 writing, making videos and sewing, carefully testing every lesson on entry level, domestic sewing machines and listening, listening, listening. And healing.

Finally, in the fall of 2014 a few neighbors came by for a sewing class. I charged just $10 to cover the cost of fabrics and I put it on as the “beta” version of the new classes that I would be teaching.

Lessons I learned at our first “class”? The most important one was the level of difficulty. After two years of writing, making tutorials and teaching online, I had finally nailed it.  And the  Sutura Style program was born. Into the ISDBC I dove for business plan writing and skill development. When we first opened the shop we had just a few used machines, a handful of bolts of fabric and not much else, all of which had to be paid for by money earned teaching the Sutura Style program at Hancock Fabrics. Earn, save, strive. It’s the best way to build a business from nothing. Oh, and by the way, a hard work sandwich every day will ensure that your business gets off to a good start. That sandwich is made up of Hard Work, Innovation and More Hard Work:)

Happy Sewing,


Couture, DIY Sewing Room Projects, Sewing, Sewing Patterns, Vogue 8543

Vogue 8543 – Part 1

Current works in progress: this list is embarrassingly long:

  • a couture Chanel jacket a la Claire Schaeffer, muslin is cut and stitched, I just need to make corrections to the fit – since this is a sew-a-long for the Sutura Club I’ll be finished by Christmas (I hope!)
  • three pairs of slacks (I cut them all at once to save time and then stitch when I am have time)
  • my black evening ensemble – I actually fooled myself into believing I could get sewing done on a busy Saturday – silly me! The muslin for the corset is done and a new pattern is drafted but I need my Pfaff to pull it off – see below
  • Vogue Pattern 8543 – I am making this in a fun wool tweed from Mood Fabrics – changes will be made to the sleeve. I have long skinny arms and a trumpet sleeve just makes matters worse.

Vogue Pattern 8543

The tweed is a pink-grey color and has a lovely drape to it – you can check it out here Pink Wool Tweed.

The great joy of sewing is that there is never an end to what can be made there are always new ideas, new fabrics, notions etc – sigh. That said, my sewing time has slowed somewhat – here is a look into my crazy sewing world.


It’s been just 2 short years since I set up the living room/dining room as my designated sewing space. I loved the bright natural light in there so much more than the dark, gloomy basement! After two winters however, it has a single, major drawback – all the walls (except the one above) are grey. The room feels chilly and dark during the cold months so, before the snowy days arrive the walls are getting a paint job.

Here’s what my studio looks like at the moment:



Drop cloths, and shambles! Oh well, it can be put back quickly enough. And the color, which appears white in the photos is actually a very pale pink with a tiny drop of yellow to warm it up. Much brighter for winter sewing!

In the meantime, Nina Rose is still going strong in her little corner:


allowing me to keep up with some sewing whilst the work is under way.

All in all, sew much to do and sew little time!

Happy Sewing!


Atelier, Bridal Wear, Couture, Dresses, Evening Gown

It’s National Sewing Month – Enjoy a Free Evening Gown Sewing Lesson at Hancock Fabrics !


It’s that time of year again when I start thinking ahead towards the holidays that are just a couple weeks away. The store is already bustling with busy shoppers gathering up goodies for holiday gifts and purchasing fabric for holiday dresses. My assignment this weekend is to create a beautiful evening gown ensemble using the the corset pattern from Kwik Sew. I’ll create the corselette first and then drape the gown to make the finished product. The fabrics that I have selected are all BFF from Hancock Fabrics. The gown construction will be part of a free sewing lesson this Saturday at Hancock Fabrics, Carmel, Indiana. To reserve a seat please call the store at 317-571-9594.

To make the evening gown  I have selected beaded galloon lace and stretch satin for the corselette and underlining the skirt. The cape will be made from shirred panne velvet using a technique I found in The Best of Threads: Embellishments magazine this summer. The quilted lining, shown above, will help ward off the winter chills.

Finally to complete the ensemble display, I plan to add this black, beaded handle, evening clutch that I made at an in-store lesson for Mother’s Day:

Holiday Beaded Handle Clutch Purse
Holiday Beaded Handle Clutch Purse

Photos of the finished gown and cape will be posted next week!

Happy Sewing!


The Anatomy of a Fabulous Fit – Full Bust and Small Seat

Professional Dressform

I was scrolling through my photo stream and I suddenly realized how often I write/talk/teach/demo about fit. In fact, I think that getting a good fit is the number one subject in class, other than the technical skills needed to create a beautiful garment.

Investing in a good dressform is the same as buying a good quality serger, sewing machine or iron. I was asked recently whether or not I think having one is important. YES! If budget constraints have got you down, there are a number of blogs/tutorials on how to make your own using a combination of double sided tape, dowling and spray foam, or try Kenneth King’s method of using fusible quilt batting, shoulder pads etc to create a body silhouette that can be mounted on a dressform. That said, bear in mind that dressforms are not human forms. I have never encountered a human that had absolutely no buttocks whatsoever. Most dressforms are missing this, together with the lumps, bumps and curves that make us truly female. So, some method of getting the form to accurately reflect your true shape is necessary.

My personal favorite method is the Fabulous Fit system combined with a dressmakers form. I have written about this before but for my new students, here is a fresh take on how to get a perfect fit. For this tutorial you will need a dressform one size (or more) smaller than your body measurements and the Fabulous Fit System in your size. has dressforms for about $150. A small price to pay compared to how much the average sewist will spend on fabric and how much time is wasted trying to get a perfect fit without one. You can also look online at auction houses or, try a retail mannequin form for aroun $59, the only problem with these is that they are very small. The Fabulous Fit System is about $77 also on In addition, I recommend the following items, shown below:

A Cotton Bra that fits you well. Put it on yourself, look in the mirror and then put it on the dressform.

A Copy of the Sutura Style fit chart. Accurate measurements lead to accurate results. Get your copy here.

A piece of elastic equal to your waist measurement less 1″ and tied at the end

A pair of shoulder pads

IMG_1998 Having taken my current measurements and laid out all my pieces, I was ready to go!

S2320001 Step 1 Full Bust Adjustments: Put your bra on the dressform. The instructions tell you to put the first cotton cover on first. That is fine if you don’t need to do a FBA, but since I do have a full bust, it’s important to get that area right. The mannequin actually has the same measurements as I do at the apex, but check out the gaping at the high bust. This is my first correction.

S2320002 I added the bra pads and placed them in such a way that the thick part is up, filling the top area of the bra cup.

S2320003 Here is what it looks like. I took the time to smooth the pads a little more, then added the first cotton cover. It’s the one without the princess seams.

S2320006 Step 2: Filling out the waist. Using the piece of elastic to hold the pads in place, I played with the different pieces until I had the shape I needed. I started out with 2 of the 17″ pads and 2 filler pads (shown above). Then I added the high hip pads. Basically they are politely referring to the butt. I checked all my measurements and then replaced the filler pads with thigh pads. The thigh pads gave me a rounder hip area on the sides and less on the backside.

S2320008 Step 3: Small seat Adjustment. Okay, I’ve got a small butt, but this lady has me beat. I put the buttock pads in the natural spot and then had to drag them down and sideways to get the fullness where it really is. After playing with the pads, I finally figured out that I needed to use the two thigh pads to create my small seat area. The buttock pads were just too thick. So, I took out the thigh pads shown above at my waist and used the shoulder pads to create a bit of a tummy.

S2320010 Step 4: Covering the Form: Once my main adjustments were made, I put the second cover on. Using the elastic helped enormously with this as it was holding 6 pads in place!

S2320011 And now I am ready to sew for the body I really have!

Couture, Fabric

Ways To Save On Sewing Supplies

I had a another conversation recently with someone who was considering purchasing a serger but was concerned about having to buy 4 cones of every color of thread. I posted earlier on thread blending so I won’t belabour the point, instead here are some of my favorite ways to save big on sewing fabrics supplies and notions.

  1. Buy in bulk or from an industrial supplier. There is usually a volume discount available. Share with a sewing buddy if needed. I buy threads from Wawak (woolley nylon) and GoldStar. I love GoldStar for serger thread because the prices are great, the quality is good and they have free shipping. The online color chart is great too.
  2. Be patient with purchases; wait for sales whenever possible (see 7 for exceptions).
  3. Double up on coupons. When JoAnn & Hancock fabric offer the chance to save an additional 15-20% off sale and non-sale items, take it!
  4. Buy things you need all the time, like interfacing, certain colors of thread, and lining fabrics when they hit rock bottom. I posted earlier this week about the sale on Ralph Lauren lining fabric. At a $1.79 for high quality goods, now is a great time to purchase.
  5. Think outside the box. Remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The concept of “it has to look as good on the inside as on the outside” is great, but the person looking at the inside of your garments is most likely to be you. I add funky colors to the inside of garments all the time and smile when I wash. By choosing non-traditional colors and prints and fabrics I can save because everyday prices are often low on things that are less popular. The added benefit is that it adds the “smile factor” to a chore.
  6. Know when to buy. I know that the truck arrives at my local fabric store on a Tuesday, so the best time to check for new arrivals and sale items is Wednesday morning. If you are into higher end fabrics, know the fashion cycle. Understanding it is simple. When the January sales kick in, that means that retailers are making room for spring and summer clothing, and that in turn means that the spring and summer manufaturing cycle is coming to a close. Great fabrics are on sale! Look for then at jobbers like Denver Fabrics, Mood Fabrics and more.
  7. Know what to buy. For example, I love boucle for winter; when a new shipment arrived in a color that I loved I bought it right away. The full price of the fabric was less than a coat made of comparable goods, so I did not hesistate. Knowing which fabrics hold high retail value is important. I saved money in the long run over what I would pay for ready to wear clothing and will enjoy my new coat many seasons.
  8. Try to organize a local Stitcher’s Switch or participate in one. Trading fabrics from your stash that have been on the shelf for a little too long is a great way to get fresh inspiration from unused goods.
  9. Invest in the best. It doesn’t sound like saving money but buying good quality supplies is more cost effective than buying poor quality at low prices.
  10. Shop flea markets, garage sales, re-sellers like Goodwill, consignement shops, and online auctions for great deals. My 2 favorite deals are still the desks I bought and painted, one for my Bernina and the other for my serger. I use old sheets and pillow slips for muslin, lining, and even clothing. If it is made out of fabric – sew it! I bought a jacket for $1.50 years ago just to get the buttons and fabric. Upstyling is good for the environment and the budget.
  11. Buy it and dye it. Shopping for natural fibers makes sound financial sense. They can be used as is or dyed to another color.
  12. Save scraps.  Saving the selvedges, and scraps has helped me out of more corners than I care to write about. Be careful with this one, it can turn into a space consuming monster, lol!
  13. Save old dryer sheet for a multitude of uses in the sewing room.

The final tip is to embrace the place you’re at. If you are a novice then avoid high priced fabric (unless it is deeply discounted) until your skills are up to the challenge. After nearly forty years of designing, pattern making and sewing, I still put myself through my paces before trying to sew on costly goods. This isn’t just about sewing a sample and getting the tension right (both are necessary) but also about practicing the skills I need time and again to create muscle memory.

Fall and winter fabrics should be arriving at excellent prices at this time of year – so I am off to shop!

Happy Sewing,


Couture, Fabric, Fabric Storage

Fabulous Fabric Finds & Couture Kitty Fun

“Bridal Fabric? What Bridal Fabric?” Lol! I keep fabric stored inside glass cabinets in my sewing room until I am ready to cut it. I walked in to find Goku (aka Couture Kitty) inside a bag of bridal fabric that I had cut for an upcoming video (shameless plug here). He had somehow opened the bag and made himself quite comfortable on the beaded lace and satin stored within.



And he looks so mad that I want him to move! Having a pet around in the sewing room adds joy to everyday!

Okay – on to sewing stuff…

The stash blast is over and I am happy with the simple garments that I was able to whip up during the blast. I am even happier to be back to the attelier style sewing to which I have become accustomed. Having cleared out some space in my sewing room, it was thrilling to discover that Fashion Fabrics Club/Denver Fabrics is having a great sale. Whenever these types of sales occur, I always remind myself of a few key things.

  1. See the fabric for what it could be. Just because the site says it’s for dresses doesn’t mean I have to use it like that. Goods that I might not want for the outer garment work well for linings, accessories and more.
  2. At $1.79 – $10.95  per yard, it’s hard to go wrong.
  3. Stick to natural fibers whenever possible. If the color is off, a bottle of RIT dye can fix it.

Silk organza at 4.95/yard in cream? SOLD! I don’t care if it has a bit of light embroidery, I can still use it for a multitude of things. POLO wool for $10.95? YAY! I thought this piece of velvet, stablilized with interfacing would make a fun bag.

Mulberry Print Stretch Velvet – 8019 | Discount By The Yard | Fashion Fabrics.

This piece of black sateen is supposed to be dressweight but I think it would be nice as a luxe lining. They also have Ralph Lauren linings for around $1.80

Ralph Lauren Lining

Not to be left out, Mood Fabrics has a lovely pure wool gauze from Donna Karan for $7.99 and Hancock Fabrics dropped the price on a stunning piece of Aubergine Wool Boucle by 50% plus my coupon for an additional 15% off. Sigh. Sewing is a lifelong passion and I have accepted that there will always be a pile of fabrics at my house.

Enjoy the sales!