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Sew Simple: A quilted vest helps keep chill away

Dear Vicki: I get so cold all winter. I wear turtlenecks and sweaters, and I want to have help picking a pattern for a very casual jacket that I can wear all day just to keep me warm. Thanks. – Violet H.

Dear Violet: I just made a quilted vest myself using Butterick 5957. I took off the collar so that I can wear it with some of my shirts as well as any other sweater. Now I am excited and have ordered some down online and plan to make a silk print into a down-stuffed vest. I think it will be really neat. I have down-proof lining fabric, so I will first make the down enclosure and quilt it, then baste the silk over it and then put bindings around the neck and armholes. It will be toasty and fun for going out for lunch or dinner and still being a bit dressed up.


Dear Vicki: I know you write about sewing, so maybe you can answer this question about fabric. I have some linen drapes that say dry-clean only. I don’t understand why I can’t wash them. Thanks for your help. – Sheila W.

Dear Sheila: If you make the drapes yourself, you could prewash the linen, but they still can’t be washed later unless you also wash the lining, interfacings (at the top) and every other notion used. This is why drapes and many ready-to-wear garments are marked “dry clean only,” because something in the manufacturing wasn’t prewashed. Often I find, even then, if I am careful and wash by hand with cool water and dry on a towel, almost everything can be washed, but there are no guarantees that you won’t have a few failures. Realize, of course, that linen is very difficult to iron properly, so be sure you like the laundered look.


Each week I share a reader’s tip and thank him or her with a set of 100 fine English hand-sewing needles from John James. This week the tip is from Rosemary Bahrs, of St. Louis, Mo. She writes:

“I have big feet – there’s no two ways about it. Sometimes I can’t get my shoes through the bottoms of my pant legs. This is especially a problem with jeans. So I put short zippers at the bottom. It’s a nice fashion detail, and now it’s always easy to get them on!”

Please send tips and questions to Vicki Farmer Ellis, P.O. Box 220463, St. Louis, MO 63122, or email