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Sew Simple / By Vicki Farmer Ellis

Dear Vicki: I sew clothes and home-decorating items, but have never quilted. I am retiring now and would like to try to make a quilt, but I don’t know how to get started. I have actually bought some fabric and other stuff, but can’t quite get off the ground because I don’t have a buddy to guide me. Do you have any suggestions of good beginning projects? – Arlene P.

Dear Arlene: I love quilts, but I think you all know that I am not a quilter. However, I did find this amazing magazine from Missouri Star Quilt Co. It has a number of quilt patterns and lots of tips to help you get unstuck. Their in-house publication is a beautiful, inspiring guide for you to get started. You can go online ( to purchase an issue – they currently have three issues – and also to read their wonderful story (I am planning a road trip with my best sewing buddy just to see the store). If you can’t go online, then I can send you the magazine. I don’t know which issue is my favorite. Please send a check for $5.99 plus $3.49 for postage, for a total of $9.48 (Vicki Farmer Ellis, P.O. Box 220463, St. Louis, MO 63122), and I will send you one.


Dear Vicki: My mother sewed all her life, as did her mother before her. I have inherited all of their sewing “stuff” and am trying to organize and sort out what is useful. I am stumped by the thread. How do I know what is good and what is too old to use? Can you give me some tips about what to do with fabric and patterns that I know I will never use? – Carol S.

Dear Carol: First, do a stress test on each thread. Just wind a length around your two index fingers and try to break the thread. This should tell you if it is too weak for use. If the thread is an embroidery thread, it might fail the stress test but still be fine because it isn’t made for seaming but for surface appearance. Save the wooden spools and donate them to art centers for crafting. Even partly used spools of good thread are welcome at church sewing groups. We are fortunate in St. Louis to have a clearinghouse for anything sewing that donates to various charity groups and schools. Small fabric stores might know just who can use your precious but unwanted fabrics and patterns.


This week’s reader’s tip is from Nancy Bush, of Sunset Hills, Mo.: “I read this years ago in your mother’s column. When hemming jeans, after sewing the actual hem, I take out the needle and thread and then run the hem through the machine as close to the bottom of the hem as possible. This helps sharpen and define the hem.”