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Chic dress works in silk or tropical wool

Dear Vicki: I work in a museum, and I want to make a dress that will be new and interesting that I can wear to functions. I am slender, and I want to stand out, but not fancy or evening wear. Can you help me? Thanks.

-- Liz E.

Dear Liz: I have found a super dress for you. Vogue 1155 by designer Guy Laroche. This dress has an architectural look, youthful and fun. It could be made out of a silk dupioni for a dressy look, or a tropical wool and look very chic.

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Dear Vicki: I was buying fabric the other day, and the salesperson asked me if I needed new pins. Why did she ask me that? It seemed weird, because I have never bought replacement pins; they don't have any moving parts, so how could they go bad? So I looked at the notions, and they had so many different kinds of pins, it was amazing and confusing. What do I need to know about pins? Regards.

-- Pam R.

Dear Pam: Sometimes people are using old, dull, thick pins that damage fabric, pulling and breaking fibers when they pierce the material.

The fabrics we use today have glazes and finishes that dull needles, pins and scissors. They are not bad; they make fabrics much more stable and interesting. But these finishes are also very susceptible to snags and damage from dull pins and needles. So now we need fine points on pins and needles, and glass heads are nice because you can press over them and not worry about melting. Silk pins are extremely slender and slide easily through fibers, but they tend to be bendy, so they don't last too long. Quilting pins are sturdier. The longer pins are easier to grab, and flower-head pins are wonderful for hand-woven fabrics. In general, I would say if you use lots of pins, your sewing will be more accurate because your pieces will be firmly in position. Just remember to stop and remove the pins; don't sew over them, because even a glancing blow will ruin the fine point on the needle.

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This week's reader's tip is from Sheila Garcia: "If you have some nonmatching towels, use a coordinating color of bias tape on the edges -- it makes a usable set. It also works in a print on washcloths."