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Simple party dress has youthful look

Dear Vicki: I'm just learning to sew, but I feel I'm ready to make a dress. I want something cute that I can wear to parties or showers. I have not tried sleeves or collars, so I don't want to start those details on this project -- just a really new look. When I go to the fabric store, I am told to look in the pattern books; no one can help me, and many of the patterns look old to me.

-- Christine D.

Dear Christine: My 26-year-old daughter has just made Vogue 1209. I think you might like it too. There are no sleeves to set in, just a little cap. And it has a simple shirring on the front and back that looks very young. Choose a lightweight crepe, and make sure it's not too slippery if you feel iffy about your ability to boss the fabric around. When you get to the hem, zigzag or serge the edges. Apply 1/4 -inch strips of Steam-A-Seam, then turn and fuse up the edge for a simple, pretty finish.

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Dear Vicki: Please tell me how to press on velvet. I made a velvet dress for Christmas, and when I pressed the first seam, I absolutely ruined the pile. How can I make my sewing look finished when it is not pressed?

-- Molly F.

Dear Molly: Don't actually touch the velvet with the iron, even on the wrong side. Instead, use steam, heat and finger pressure. Years ago, there was a sewing notion you could purchase called a velvet board. It actually had thousands of tiny wires standing up that allowed velvets to be well-pressed without smashing the pile. They became expensive to produce. Now we press velvet by first placing a scrap piece of velvet on the ironing board and then positioning the seam over the scrap, and use that to help protect the velvet. Maybe your seam isn't ruined. Try holding a steam iron an inch above the velvet to see if the steam will bring up the crushed area.

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