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Sew Simple / By Vicki Farmer Ellis

Dear Vicki: Can you find a stylish dress that I can just pop over a bathing suit? Of course, something with no zipper or buttons. Please pick one with some sort of sleeve. Thanks. – Kara S.

Dear Kara: I found this Vogue pattern for you. It is pattern No. 1395 from designer Rebecca Taylor, and it has just the details you asked for. It is a nice, easy non-fitted dress, not just a swimsuit cover-up. Next week I will explain how to easily make the tiny hems. Pick a pretty rayon batik, and it will be comfortable even on hot days.


Dear Vicki: I have a few technical questions about sewing that I wonder if you can clear up for me. Why do sewing machine needles have a right and wrong side, and why does my thread sometimes knot up under my sewing and yet the repair man says it’s me and there is nothing wrong with machine?! Thanks for all the inspiration.– Donna B.

Dear Donna: There is a vertical groove on the front of the needle, and the thread fits into it. This is essential, and if the thread is very heavy, you need a large needle with a big groove to fit the heavy thread, or it will bunch up above the fabric or just shred. The back side of the needle has a scooped-out area above the needle eye that the shuttle hook fits into when it comes by to grab the loop of thread to make each stitch. When your thread knots and bunches under the work, it almost always means that you threaded with the pressure foot down. When the foot is down, the upper tension is engaged and closed, so the new thread cannot fit into it. So the foot must, must, must be up when threading. That said, most machine needle threaders work best when the foot is down, so thread the mechanism with the foot up and then lower it for the needle.


This week’s reader’s tip is from Sue Williams, of Elkhart, Ind. She writes:

“After I open a pattern jacket and use the appropriate pieces for the project, I have a terrible time trying to get all of the cut pieces, instructions, etc., back in the envelope without crushing or tearing everything. Now I just put everything in a zip-lock bag. It stores nicely as well.