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Sew Simple / By Vicki Farmer Ellis

Dear Vicki: I love to sew, and I am always looking for new things that I can make for gifts. Right now I would like to make something for my bridesmaids and other women in my family. Just a little something that is useful, but not for the kitchen and not anything for them to wear, because there is such a difference in age and size range. Give me a suggestion, please. – Shelly D.

Dear Shelly: You know I love independent pattern makers, and I think these little travel fabric boxes for desk things, jewelry or makeup are perfect. They are easy and quick to make, and you could make sets for each woman or just one with something in it. The pattern is called Tie-dy Up! from Vanilla House Designs. One suggestion is that you spray-starch the fabric before cutting the bias strips for binding the outside finishing edges. This makes it much easier to cut accurately and to handle the bias when attaching it. Please try to find this pattern at a local shop, or send a check to me for $10 (Vicki Farmer Ellis, P.O. Box 220463, St. Louis, MO 63122), and I will send it to you. The pattern also can purchased through Vanilla House online at


Dear Vicki: I foolishly told my daughter I would make her bridesmaids’ dresses, and she has picked chiffon.

I am very scared that I might ruin the dresses because I am not a pro by any means, and I have never worked with chiffon. I know this is a difficult fabric. Can you give me any help? Thank you. – Mary M.

Dear Mary: You are right to be careful. Chiffon has a tendency to lose its shape after cutting, so it is difficult to sew together. Here are a few tips: Use only silk pins and pin only in the seam allowances. First, put tissue paper over your cutting surface, then spread out the fabric and pattern. Pin and cut through all three layers. I like to cut just one piece at a time, so don’t fold the fabric. After you cut and mark, remove the pattern but leave the fabric pinned to the tissue paper. Now, pin and cut again, and don’t forget to reverse the pattern. Next, leave the paper attached and stay-stitch around every edge of every piece. Then carefully remove the paper and sew the dresses. Lower the foot pressure if your machine has this ability. It also would be helpful to slide strips of paper under your seams. Be sure to use a new very fine size needle in your sewing machine, and use new ones frequently as you go along. I’ll share tips for a beautiful hem next week.