Dear Vicki: Help! I have a group of girls coming over to craft Mother's Day gifts. None of them can sew very well, or at all, but they all want to "sew" something for their mothers or special female figures. What idea do you have for me that they can accomplish and feel good about?
-- Carol B.
Dear Carol: One of my favorite designers is Amy Butler. She has fresh and inspiring patterns for clothes, home decorating and quilting. She also has a beautiful line of fabrics and little instructional videos at her website to help you learn more about sewing and quilting.
There is a free pattern available on her website for a really fabulous fabric necklace. Go to AmyButlerdesign.com/products/free--patterns.php, and scroll down to the pattern titled "Fabric Necklace" to download the complete instructions. I know some of you have trouble with getting anything over the Internet, but once again, I'll suggest going to your public library and asking for help. Carol, I think this will be a quick and inexpensive success.
Dear Vicki: I just had my machine serviced, and I think the straight stitch is a little wiggly, but the mechanic says it is sewing just fine. What do I do?
-- Molly F.
Dear Molly: OK, I sewed on your sample and found that it is incredibly sensitive to the needle and thread used. You will see on the sample I returned to you that my stitch is perfect. Of course I didn't sew on your machine, but I did use 100 percent cotton thread, because it doesn't stretch; poly does, and then after you sew it draws up lightweight fabrics like yours and looks puckery. The needle made the biggest difference -- use a microtex size 70, and the stitches will straighten out. Next time leave a sample of your fabric for the tech to sew on.
Note: A reader suggested using store fixtures to help hold everything in a sewing room. My favorite place is Store Supply Warehouse. Just call (800) 823-8887, and they will be happy to send you a catalog; or log on to the website at www.storesupply.com. It is fun to plan and organize, and surprisingly affordable.