Sew Simple: By Vicki Farmer Ellis - The Buffalo News

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Sew Simple: By Vicki Farmer Ellis

Dear Vicki: I will be attending a fancy wedding this summer, and I have a perfect dress but don’t feel comfortable wearing the strapless look in church. Can you find me a pretty jacket or shawl to wear over my shoulders? I would like to be able to use it for other occasions too, so nothing too ruffley or lacy, please. – Harriet P.

Dear Harriet: I really love the circular flounce of the Butterick 5761 cover-up. Any sheer, soft fabric would work well. It is unique and should be easy to make. Since the entire hem is bias, you should serge and then press the edge up and topstitch a hem. If you don’t have a serger, then zigzag the hem while feeding a piece of dental floss under the stitching, then you can draw the floss up slightly to control stretching of the bias and then turn and topstitch the hem.


Dear Vicki: I have bought a serger, and I really love the idea of the professional finishes it gives garments, along with the speed. I also love the napkin edges, and I made a pretty scarf with the rolled hem stitch. My question or complaint is this: The stitches don’t hug the edge of the fabric. I have taken it back to the store, and it performs there, but not at home. What can be going on? Thanks for your help or ideas as to what my trouble is. – Carole B.

Dear Carole: When you are using your sewing machine, it is best to hold the fabric both in front and behind the presser foot so you are the “boss” of the fabric. But when you are guiding the serger, it is very important not to have your hand at the back of the foot, because even a small amount of pressure can cause the edge of your fabric to pull back and allow the stitches to move off the edge. This might be why at the store your machine is good but is naughty at home. Try it and see if the answer is just your guiding hand.


Each week I share a reader’s tip and thank him or her with a set of 100 fine English hand-sewing needles. This week the tip is from me. It’s a reminder, really:

All wash-away stabilizers, interfacings, adhesive tapes, glue sticks and fade-away markers should be kept in zip-lock bags to maintain their best quality and longest life. The culprit is our central air conditioning, which pulls moisture out of the air.

Please send your tips and questions to me, Vicki Farmer Ellis, P.O. Box 220463, St. Louis, MO 63122, or email

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