for our next 6 wk session of sewing classes!
Space is limited.
Our next session of Sewing Classes will begin the week of February 24-March 1, 2014
Whether you’re a beginner or expert sewist, you can find something to learn here at Laura’s Sewing School. From learning how to set up your machine and mastering the basics. It could be learning speed techniques, which maintain the quality of your work, or even improve it. Or, the details that bring your work from OK, to WOW!
Adult classes meet
for 3 hours per
week and are available M-Sat
either morning or evening.
You can see our schedule below.
Classes are also available for kid and teens. These After-School classes meet from 3:30-5:30
and are open to kids ages 9+.
(If you want to see bigger versions of the pictures,Â just click on them.Â Press the “back” button to return to this web page.)
We had a great time on Town Day.Â The Town of Arlington celebrates everything Arlington each September.Â The festivities begin on Friday evening with fun family activities at the Boys and Girls Club field, with the evening culminating in a spectacular display of fireworks over Spy Pond.
The next day, Saturday, Mass Ave is closed off between Pleasant St and Mill St, which is the corner our shop is located closest to.Â We packed all of our stuff for our booth the night before and were able to catch the fireworks over the treetops.Â We are not give our booth location assignments until the morning of Town Day.Â I found out that we were the 4th booth from Mill St, and could have walked all our equipment over there.Â We did walk it back at the end of the day.
Regardless, we had a wonderful time and met many new people.Â We offered a make and take project for free.Â It was elastic band bracelets, or many kids know them by the name Rainbow loom bracelets.Â My friend Alixe’s daughter, Helen, showed me how to make fish tail bracelets without a loom.Â They are so easy and look so cool.Â We had kids and teens and adults, both male and female making them.Â We went through 6,000 ELASTIC BANDS!Â If we hadn’t run out, we could have gone through at least a thousand more!Â There was a little boy who wanted to make a bracelet so bad, he was picking bands off the pavement.Â It was nice to get the help cleaning up.
You can see how popular this project was.Â By the time this picture was taken, I had run out of my supply of multi-colored bands, so I pull out my back up supply of red, orange, pink and yellow bands.Â The color didn’t stop the boys from wanting to make more bracelets.Â I had 6 chairs and had people standing around the table and others grabbing a handful of bands and standing at the display tables.Â I even have a couple of bracelets that I wear from this project.
You can see the two I have.Â There are 2 easy ways to make elastic band bracelets with your fingers.Â This style is called a fishtail.Â If any of you want to learn, just bring in some bands and I’d be happy to show you.Â I had some great help last Saturday at my Town Day booth.Â Two of my Wednesday after school Students, Galen and Jacqueline were great at teaching the project.Â They were hugely enthusiastic.Â Also, my adult students came to help, Elena and her daughter Ana, Connie, whose top was on display and now in the shop window, Colleen and Liz.Â My daughter, Amelia, helped with set up and some of the teaching at the beginning.Â Thanks to all who helped.Â I couldn’t have done it without your help.
The following pics are from 2009.Â These are just a portion of what students have accomplished here in their classes.
All the rage here at Laura’s Sewing School, we are having such fun and interest in making Amy Butler’s gumdrop pillows that I have scheduled a one day workshop for us to go wild and make them together.Â I will order the stuffing and patterns and you will purchase the fabric of your choice.Â You can see the details (dimensions, materials list) about the pattern on Amy Butler’s website.
These cushions are made of drapery weight fabric.Â You can find that weight of fabric here in Arlington, at Fabric Corner, at Freddy Farkel’s in Watertown (also known as Fabric Showplace) and online.Â Fabric Corner just ordered a large selection of Amy Butler home dec fabrics and they have received 12 of them! They will go fast, especially because they will be posting them for online sale, too. So, you may want to get there as soon as you can to pick up the fabric.Â If the weight is fine, it can be any brand of fabric.Â You just don’t want a fabric which is too loosely woven, or unravels easily.Â Fabric.com has a nice selection of Amy Butler printed twills if you want to use her fabric designs.Â There are 8 panels, all the same, which are sewn together like sections of an orange.Â They are packed with a LOT of stuffing.Â I found hand sewing the first one, Amy Lou actually did that work since it was her project, rather tedious.Â So, when I made MY first one, I used an invisible zipper to close the pillow once it was stuff.Â Much easier and quicker.
Kids absolutely love this pillow. They have found it as a great place to sit and bounce and roll on or off.Â Adults do find it useful as a footrest. Â You can make them with one fabric or two.Â If you cut it from one fabric, you fussy cut it, making sure that it is cut in the very same place on the fabric, for all the pieces.Â This makes interesting, kaleidoscopic patterns, especially if the fabric has symmetry.Â You can see this on both of Amy’s pillows.Â Even though I used 2 fabrics in the pillows for my nieces, I did cut all of the large-scale, patterned fabric in the same place.Â There is an octagonal patch on the top of the cushion.Â I fussy cut that, centering it on a flower or pattern.
I propose that the workshop be on Sunday, March 15th.Â From 10am-4pm.Â That should give us plenty of time to work and eat and stuff and finish one gumdrop cushion.Â The next one, you will be able to do on your own and much faster.Â I will provide the stuffing and the pattern. You provide the fabric, thread (good quality polyester like Gutermann or Mettler) and an invisible zipper in a matching color.Â The only part of the zipper to show will be the tab.Â Buy a 12-14″ zipper or longer.Â It will work for either size pillow.Â And, if you have to buy a longer zipper to get a color match, it is very easy to shorten.Â Better too long than too short!Â The Fabric Corner sells invisible zippers and the presser foot to apply it to your project.Â I just talked to them about ordering enough for all of you.Â The presser foot is adaptable to most sewing machines and can be used over and over again.Â It is reasonably priced and worth buying.
I will have to price out the patterns and stuffing.Â So, I will have to get back to you on the price for the class.Â I think that we can have 5, possibly 6 students for the day.Â Let me know if you want to take the class and I will let you know the price.Â If the 22nd of March is better than the 15th, let me know.Â I am flexible about the date.Â If you are available during the day, M-F, I could possibly meet with you for a workshop on a Thursday.Â I am excited about this project.
Here are just a few photos I had posted on my Wirkkala Designs website.Â I thought that I would copy them here.Â The first is of the curtains and pillows I made for the Master Bedroom in my old house.Â You may recognize them, since they now hang in the front windows on my Sewing School!
Second picture is of a lamp I found in the trash.Â I cleaned it up, had it rewired and made a lampshade out of some Elephant print fabric I have, which you may recognize from a quilt I have pictured below and in another post.Â I glued the trim on with white glue.Â I prefer double sided tape nowadays.Â Less messy, instant tack and no burning potential when using a hot glue gun.Â This picture was taken at the base of the stairway, leading to the 1/2 bath on the first floor of my old place.Â The painting on the wall is a watercolor I did.Â I copied a picture of leaves scattered on the forest floor.
The third picture is of my daughter’s crib, from when she still slept in one.Â Of course, she slept with the side on, but the picture looked much better without the railing.Â I made the dust ruffle, bolster pillow, the bumper pads and the duvet cover for the crib-sized down comforter.Â (The only place I was able to find that size of down comforter was at the Company Store in Wisconsin)Â Amelia still uses the duvet and even though she is too long for it to cover her, she takes it with her on sleepovers and, at home, has me put it on top of all her other blankets.Â Once I pieced the top, I backed it with cotton batiste, stitched those layers together in the ditch so that it would keep the patchwork seams from fraying in the wash.Â It has worked well because this cover has been washed many times in the last 8.5 years.Â Don’t you just love the walls behind the crib?Â They were painted during the 4 days I was in the hospital when I had Amelia.Â The painters did this beautiful paint effect.Â Plus, they painted faint cloud images on the ceiling.Â Dave Matuccio and his crew did the work.Â Great guys.
Following up from the Quilt project posting, here are pictures of various projects I completed in 2008. It’s not all of them, but the ones that are loaded into my shop computer. As you scroll onto the picture, each has a label of what it is.Â Just like on the other pages, if you click on the photo, it will enlarge. To return to this page, click on the Back Button. (When I made so many items from a duvet cover: shower curtain, sink skirt, a top and a dress and then had some fabric left over, I couldn’t help but think of Carol Burnett’s “Went with the Wind.” Their take on “Gone with the Wind.” Check it out on YouTube, especially part 2 and the dress she makes…… Part 1 and Part 2)
Well, I haven’t been very prolific when it comes to posting new things. I do sew as much as I can, but haven’t been keeping up with posting pictures of my work. And, I have made more things than I have the photos to prove.Â So, I thought I would quickly post my latest quilt project. I make quilts, not for money, but for friends and family. There is so much time and work involved, it would not be a financially viable way to make a living. I do it for the love of the process and the recipient. Piecing a quilt top requires precision, and since I have a streak of perfectionism in me, it is a good outlet for that. (To see an image closeup, click on it. To return to this page, press the Back button.)
The pictures of the individual blocks are in order from left to right, top to bottom. If you look closely, you can see that I put the border print in every block. I had to “fussy cut” them but the effort was worth it.
The Last picture is of the pillow my daughter, Amelia, made for Joan. She took scraps from when I was making the center block, and without help from me, cut and sewed the pinwheel. Then, she asked me to rotary cut some strips. She did all the sewing and stuffed the pillow and hand-sewed it closed.
This quilt was started in the fall. It was a gift for my daughter’s great aunt, who was suffering from cancer. I had bought a set of 1800′s reproduction fabrics from Keepsake Quilting in New Hampshire. My friend, Sara, and I went on a day trip there a few years ago. We wanted to see their store and take a day off together. She makes wonderful quilts. Sara always has a quilt in process and is very organized. She brings a file folder of fabric swatches with her so that she can fill out the colors needed for the quilt. I tend to enter a store and buy what appeals to me. I didn’t plan on buying anything that day. But, of course, I could not resist…… 19th century style fabrics are not what I usually work with. I tend to like batiks, bright colors, and more contemporary styled prints, including some modern. I bought a variety which would go together well. Trying something new, or should I say “old?” I thought I would make a feathered star quilt. But, as I let my fabric age, I never started it. When I thought of doing so, I couldn’t find them in my stash and then, when I could find them, I had misfiled the pattern.
Last Fall, I decided to make a quilt for Joan. I thought she would like the more traditional fabrics. She was a fine needleworker. Amelia received several gorgeously made smocked garments. And, Amelia was christened in a gown Joan had made for her children, grandchildren and other family members. Amelia was the 11th to wear it 9 years ago. She was a photographer, and writer, too. I decided to use Biblically inspired blocks for the quilt, since Joan and her husband are devoted Christians. I used 2 books by Rosemary Makhan for the patterns, “Biblical Blocks” and “More Biblical Blocks.”
The 6 squares above and below the center block, are 12 inches square and placed on point. They are divided in thirds, fifths, sixths and sevenths. That means that some of my cutting was to the 1/16th of an inch, yikes! For the triangular piecing, I used a paper piecing technique using freezer paper patterns. I used freezer paper templates, ironed to the fabric for the odd shaped pieces in the Tree of life block. The rest were cut to size and pieced together. The borders were cut to show the pattern at its best. It was hard to match them at the corners since the pattern in the red section was not symmetrical. I was in a hurry to put on the outside border, so I just crossed my fingers and left it up to serendipity that they would look good. It turned out better than if I had tried to second guess it. As you have probably figured out, I did all of the cutting and sewing for the quilt top.
Since I needed a fast turnaround on the quilting, I decided to have a professional machine quilter do the work, if I could find someone who was available. Georgette Gagne of Black Wolf Quilting Services was able to help me. I gave her the top on a Sunday afternoon. She lives in Webster, NH. We met the following Wednesday at 5pm in Nashua. I drove right back to my shop and started putting on the binding. I finished it after my evening class, around Midnight. I printed a label on my inkjet printer. I set the ink with a dry iron. The printing was done by ironing a sheet of 8.5 x 11″ sheet of freezer paper to the back of the fabric. I trimmed the sides evenly and ran it through my HP. I used the same fabric as the quilt backing. So, to have it stand out, I bordered it with a rust colored print, which coordinated with the binding fabric.
I used the freezer paper piecing method on my Elephant Walk quilt, pictured below.Â It hangs in my shop near the cutting table. It is easy and precise. All of the triangles in the compass and the borders are done this way. It was especially helpful when I did all of the green triangles in the Tree of Life Block. This technique was the brain child of Judy Mathieson. I took a workshop with her a few years back in which I did the center compass of the Elephant quilt. She is an extremely talented quilter whose best known for her Mariner Compass quilts.Â Since I was intent on using the Elephant print fabric somewhere, she suggested that I have Elephant’s walking across the quilt.Â Thank you, Judy!Â I machine pieced all of the geometrics.Â I hand appliqued the various Elephants who are walking outside the lines.Â Needle turning under the 1/8″ inch wide tail of the smallest elephant is not something I would like to do again.Â Then, I machine quilted in the ditch around all of the triangles and compass points and borders.Â Then I free-motion quilted around all of the elephants and plants and flowers and the cream colored background of the center block.Â Trimmed bound and labeled it.Â The label is also done on the inkjet printer, like the Biblical quilt above.Â It’s been in 3 shows.
This summer was amazing. I met so many new students and was thrilled with their work. I wanted to share some photos of a few of the many projects which were completed over the 7 weeks of classes. I will be adding more pictures shortly.
You can click on any one of the images to enlarge it. When you want to return to this page, just use you “Back” button once.
Before I say anything else…….CHECK YOUR MEASUREMENTS AGAINST THE PATTERN SIZE CHARTS!!!!!!!!!! The current retail market sizing does not coincide with the sizing the pattern companies use. The major American pattern companies got together in 1971 to agree on a standard for sizing their garments. They not only agreed on the standard measurements for each size but that they would not change them in the future. This means that, for the most part, those measurements matched the retail industry at that time, 1971. Over the last 37 years, the retail industry has been “deflating” sizes. Why? This is because most of us females will choose a smaller size number when offered 2 garments that are exactly the same. (Vanity is hard to admit!) Designers have been doing this for decades. Now all of the retail market has done it. And, the sizing has gotten to be very inconsistent from brand to brand and store to store. Sometimes, you don’t even know what size you will wear until you try it on.
One of the most basic things you must not get stuck on when you make your own clothing, is the number of your size. If you currently wear a size 4 in women’s, you may end up making a size 12 or 14 Misses in the patterns. The fit is what is important, not the number. Also, no matter what the style of the garment, your measurements are taken in the same place on your body as indicated on the size charts. Currently, the common placement for a “waistband” on clothing for young people (tweens, teens and young adults) is below one’s natural waistline and belly button. It can vary widely depending on the style. When the size chart refers to your waist measurement, it is referring to your natural waistline, which is above your hip bone and below your ribs. Usually, it is the smallest measurement of your torso. Please click on the following link to find the instructions to measure your body and size charts for McCall’s patterns. Each company has size charts listed on their websites.
All of the patterns have multiple sizes in each envelope. There will be at least 3 sizes, possibly more in each pattern. If your measurements span more than one size, that is OK. Several sizes are included with each pattern. If you bridge the gap between size groups (you straddle sizes 12 and 14 and the pattern you want comes in sizes (8-10-12) and (14-16-18), purchase the size that most closely matches the measurements you need for the garment you want to make. For example, if you are making pants and you are bigger on the bottom than the top, buy the larger size.
When you purchase your pattern, MAKE SURE YOUR SIZE IS INCLUDED IN THE ENVELOPE YOU PICK UP. STORES DO NOT TAKE RETURNS ON PATTERNS. The envelopes for different size groups all look the same, except in the small area designated to label what sizes are included in the package. Make sure you check for that. It will be along the top or side edge of the front of the pattern envelope.
I am including many pictures and links for patterns from the Big 3 American Pattern companies below: McCall’s, Simplicity and Butterick. Also, I found some interesting patterns from New Look and Hot Patterns. All of these are meant as suggestions for learning sewers. Usually, the less pieces and details, the easier the clothing is to make. Also, the less tailored, the easier it will be to fit you.
I strongly urge you to stick with woven cottons or linens/linen blends for your first clothing project. A nice stable fabric will be much easier to work with than something flowing or sheer or slippery. Please follow this advice. There is nothing more frustrating than to have to work with a fabric which is hard to control, especially without the experience to back you. Also, no knits! We wear knits all the time. They are so inexpensive to buy in ready-made clothing. But, for sewing, they are not easy to handle if you haven’t sewn clothing before.
When I mention cottons or linens, here are some examples. Many cottons designed for quilting are wonderful for pajama bottoms, skirts and tops. Flannel is great for pajamas. Linen and blends can work very well for any of these items depending on the weight, or thickness, of them. Cotton eyelet can work nicely. Also, for a closer fitting skirt or pant, you can find some nice bottom weights, like a stretch twill cotton, which includes a little lycra. Or a lightweight denim.
Please wash & dry your fabric ahead of class time. This will preshrink the fabric and remove any sizing (starch) and residual pesticides that have been added to the material to keep it well in transit and storage and on display. Do not use fabric softener in the wash or softener sheets in the dryer. If you will be using a fusible interfacing, the softener will keep it from adhering to the fabric. After the garment is made, it is fine to use fabric softener when it is laundered.
Make sure to check the back of the pattern envelope. It has a lot of information. Here are the items to take note of: a list of required “notions.” These are the items you need such as thread (which they may or may not list), a zipper, buttons, hooks and eyes, elastic, cording, etc.; you may need “interfacing.” This is material which goes between the layers of fabric to give you more strength and stability in certain areas or the gament like, the collar, cuffs and button band, the waistband, the neck and armhole area of sleeveless, collarless shirts, etc.; the patterns below may suggest lining, Bemberg/Ambiance rayon lining is wonderful or you may want a cotton batiste, but, I hope that there is no lining in your first project.
As far as thread goes, buy a good quality 100% polyester thread such as Gutermann or Mettler. Both are made in Germany. One spool is usually enough for a basic project. Do not buy discount, cheap thread. As with fabric, you will be spending a lot of time and effort sewing, don’t scrimp when it comes to thread. If it is low quality, your garment may fall apart at the seams. Purchase a color which blends with your fabric. If you cannot find the exact color, use one that comes close in the same shade (lightness or darkness.) If you must choose a color which is a slightly different shade, see which one blends better. Usually, go darker for a dark fabric and lighter for a light fabric. It is hard to judge how well a thread will match by holding the spool to the fabric. If you have ever tried choosing a paint color, you may have had the experience that the sample chip from the store looks a whole lot different when the color is intensified by being painted on a wall. The spool is like the wall, what we want is the “paint chip.” The color of the spool is too intense. Separate a tail of the thread, lay it across the fabric and see how that looks. It comes across a lot different. Perception of color is subjective. It is influenced buy the colors it surrounds.
When you first work with clothing patterns, there are so many things to learn. Your first pattern will be the hardest because of this. Patterns contain a lot of information, but they also assume a certain amount of understanding in order to work with them. Once you have gone through one pattern, with help, you will find that following projects are much easier to do on your own.
I mentioned some pattern makers above. There are many other companies which produce patterns for clothing. Burda is a German based company. They have many great designs, but for beginners, I find that their instructions and illustrations lacking. Kwik Sew is based in Minneapolis, MN. They offer patterns for clothing items you may not find in the big companies. The one thing that I don’t like for beginners is that many of their patterns include a very small “seam allowance” of 1/4.” The major companies usually use a 5/8″ seam allowance. It is much easier to work with when you are learning. Vogue produces many beautiful patterns. But, they lean toward designs which require more advanced sewing skills. So, keep them in mind for later projects.
There are small pattern makers. They can have very innovative designs. Often, the instructions are geared toward a more experienced sewing enthusiast, so I recommend that you gain some skill before endeavoring to use their patterns.
I say all this because I wish you success in your first clothing project. The best way for you to finish and have pride in your work is to keep things as simple as possible. Usually, simple pants and skirts are easier to start with than tops. Some of the patterns I link below include tops and dresses. Some are very easy, like a peasant blouse. Some are a little more involved, especially if it involves setting in a sleeve or collar. I tried to only list ones which I thought would be good for a novice. Some of the tops, included in pajama patterns & separates, may be for knits and I do not recommend that you make them at this time.
The links for the patterns will lead you to the online stores the their respective companies. There are many places to buy these patterns. The companies which produce them, local fabric stores, like Fabric Place in Woburn and Framingham, or JoAnn Fabrics in Burlington, Natick, Saugus and elsewhere in the Boston Metro Area. I have links in the right hand column of this page for many resources, including a company called Sewing Patterns.com. They carry all of the pattern companies from big to small and offer good discounts and many sales.
I am happy to answer questions for you. If you want to know if a pattern no listed here would be appropriate for your project, please send me a link for it so that I can give you my feedback.
Butterick Pattern company is now part of McCall’s and Vogue. They do not have very many Kids/Teens patterns. So, go further down to Simplicity and McCall’s Listings to see more for youth.
Simplicity has some nice styles and some very up-to-date looks for young people. They have patterns inspired by the show “Project Runway.” I do not link any of those here because the patterns are more complicated to follow. But, they could be in your future if you gain the skills to make them. The Simplicity web site also lists the New Look patterns.
McCall’s has a large selection of patterns. They have been around for awhile. There are some nice styles for kids and teens, as well as women and plus sizes. The McCall’s web site also lists the Hot Patterns.