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Recycle materials for boutique-style bag

Dear Vicki: I am interested in patterns that use recycled materials for making bags like I see in some boutiques.

They use newspapers and chip or cookie packaging and make purses and lunch bags. I need help getting going because I have a group that wants to make different sorts of useful, recycled objects, and some of us want to sew such things, if possible. Thanks for your help.

-- Carol B.

Dear Carol: Check out Samantha Miller's website, www.everythingsam.com. There are all kinds of recycled things to see there.

Now, after you get excited, go to my website, www.eunicefarmerfabrics.com -- we sell the patterns to make the things on Samantha's website.

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Dear Vicki: I have been sewing for years and love it. Now my daughter wants me to make a beaded gown to wear to her wedding, and I am terrified. I found a beautiful and expensive beaded lace. Give me some tips on how to sew this. I was practicing on a small bit -- the beads are falling off and my machine can't maneuver over the sequins and beads and still sew. And how do I finish seams? The seam allowances show through. So many problems. Help! The store was no help at all.

-- Meredith S.

Dear Meredith: I do have a few solutions and tips to pass along for these problems. First, get a board and a hammer. Along every seam allowance, smash the beads. This way you don't need to cut any threads; this helps the rest of the beads not to fall off.

Now you can sew smoothly. Use a narrow zigzag stitch instead of a straight stitch; it will be more flexible and forgiving than a straight stitch. You may want to use a fine, flesh-colored organza for facings.

Since the lace is a net, it won't ravel. Still, a good seam finish is to cover the edges with bias strips of flesh-colored organza or sheer tricot.

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