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Sew Simple / By Vicki Farmer Ellis

Dear Vicki: I would like to make a really special dress for my granddaughter for some portraits. Could you suggest something that you think is really outstanding? I sew very well and have made smocked dresses, but now I want to make something a little different and less formal. Her 3rd birthday is late June, so this can be a very summery dress for outdoor photos. – Sonja S.

Dear Sonja: I am in love with the Sarah Pinafore & Panties from Kari Mecca. It would be just perfect for what you want. It’s embellished with ribbon embroidery and rick-rack flowers. You could make this from almost any summer fabric: linen, broadcloth or pique. Kari has complete instructions inside for the flowers – they are so cute. Once you perfect making rick-rack flowers, you will be using them to embellish shoes, flip flops, barrettes, purses, presents or something else. It will be fun and an unforgettable keepsake dress for sure. Please, as always, try to find this pattern at a local shop. But if you can’t, send me $17.50 (Vicki Farmer Ellis, P.O. Box 220463, St. Louis, MO 63122), and I will send the pattern to you. We will include some swatches from our lovely heirloom fabric collection. Or the pattern can be purchased online at


Dear Vicki: Maybe you’ve covered this, but why do some patterns say to stay-stitch certain areas? Thanks. – Peggy S.

Dear Peggy: Stay-stitching is often specified in neck areas, and this is because the neck edge is mostly bias and very unstable. Just handling cut pieces that have bias edges can encourage the fabric to stretch and reshape itself. So stay-stitching done carefully just inside the 5/8-inch line can help stabilize things, especially for beginners who often overhandle things.

Another thing to look out for is to keep those pattern pieces handy – don’t put them away yet. As you apply fusibles or match pieces, it is helpful to slide the pattern piece under your cut fabric just to be sure it hasn’t changed shape or grown from manipulation or pressing. Don’t ever put a jacket, blouse or dress bodice on a hanger until after you have stitched on the collar or facing.