Late Fall Classes are now open for registration! Most classes begin the week of October 19-24, 2015

Fall Sewing Classes begin the week of September 8, 2015

September 1st, 2015
LSS logo for CC

Register Now for our Fall session, starting right after Labor Day
Adult classes meet weekly for 3 hours.
Kids/Teens after-school classes meet weekly for 2 hours.


CLICK HERE to register now!
We are instituting a small increase in tuition this Fall.  It has been almost four years since we have raised prices. This is to keep up with the rising costs of running our sewing school.  
We are now taking registrations for our next session of sewing classes.  Register now to secure your spot.
Space is limited.
A Norwegian Vest, beautifully made from authentic Nordic fabric.
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, while maintaining the quality of your work, or even improving it.  Or, the details that bring your work from OK, to WOW!
We are Si ah me ese if you ple ease…
Cat Costume for Halloween?  We can do so much with the right imagination and intent!
Adult classes meet for 3 hours per week and are available M-Sat. 
either morning or evening.

after school Sewing Classes meet for 2 hours per week and are available on Tues, Weds and Fridays.  Kids/Teens are also welcome on Saturday morning and afternoons. Those classes meet for 3 hours each week.  Open to Ages 9+

You can see our schedule at the bottom of this block.

We offer:

Semi-private lessons which allow you to create  

what you want, at your own pace!


What does this mean?

  • First off, the classes are small in size, 5-6 students, so that we can give instructions to students, one on one, during the class.
  • We customize our instruction to the student.  We see how you learn, and if one way doesn’t work, we find a way that does for you.
  • We don’t specify a project for you to work on, you choose what you create.
  • We will help you choose a project that is right for your level of experience, but it is your choice of project, pattern and materials.
  • Because we work with each student individually, you can be a beginner in any of our classes.  (unless noted otherwise.)
  • Since there is no deadline for when you finish your project, you can work at your own pace.  There’s no right or wrong speed when it comes to learning to sew in our classes.

(Click on map or highlighted address to go to the same map online.)
Parking on street
Arlington, MA 02476

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Late Spring and Summer Sewing Classes 2015

May 19th, 2015

LSS logo for CC

Registration is now open for both 
Late Spring May 25-June 23, 2015
Adult classes meet weekly for 3 hours.
Kids/Teens after-school classes meet weekly for 2 hours.
Summer July 6-August 8, 2015
Summer Sewing Classes
Adult classes are M & W evenings, T, Th, Fr, Sat am  
3hrs per week for 5weeks.
Kids/Teens Summer Vacation classes meet 2-5pm M-F
Sign up for 1 or more of the 5 sessions scheduled.
More weeks may be added in Late June (22) and through August (29)


CLICK HERE to register now!

We are now taking registrations for our next session of sewing classes.  Register now to secure your spot.
Space is limited.

My Speedy sewing student, Sophia, made this vest out of blue fleece and bias trim.  Looks great, fits great and she did a wonderful job.  Doesn’t the zipper match perfectly?
This Late Spring Session begins the week of May 25 and most of the classes are for 4 weeks, with an exception of 3 or 5 weeks. The class dates are listed on the registration form, which is linked above where it says REGISTER NOW!
The details about summer classes are in the green block below.

Ginny’s Linen Coat
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, while maintaining the quality of your work, or even improving it.  Or, the details that bring your work from OK, to WOW!

Close up of Ginny’s Coat.  She found this remnant at Zimman’s of Lynn, MA.  The pattern is a simple cut pattern from Vogue, (I know, is there any really simple pattern from Vogue?)  It’s a perfect pairing of fabric and garment style.  Excellent job!

Back view of Ginny’s Coat.
Adult classes meet for 3 hours per week and are available M-Sat. 
either morning or evening.

 after school Sewing Classes meet for 2 hours per week and are available on Tues, Weds and Fridays.  Open to Ages 9+

You can see our schedule at the bottom of this block.

We offer:

Semi-private lessons which allow you to create  

what you want, at your own pace!


What does this mean?

  • First off, the classes are small in size, 5-6 students, so that we can give instructions to students, one on one, during the class.
  • We customize our instruction to the student.  We see how you learn, and if one way doesn’t work, we find a way that does for you.
  • We don’t specify a project for you to work on, you choose what you create.
  • We will help you choose a project that is right for your level of experience, but it is your choice of project, pattern and materials.
  • Because we work with each student individually, you can be a beginner in any of our classes.  (unless noted otherwise.)
  • Since there is no deadline for when you finish your project, you can work at your own pace.  There’s no right or wrong speed when it comes to learning to sew in our classes.
ONE NOTE: We will fill the T, W & F after school classes before we open registration for the Thursday Kids/Teens class.

Here are some helpful Documents:

The pictures above are of a Tea Cozy, made by Melissa L.  I just love the fabric!  It’s bee themed and the outside is the picture on the left, the interior picture is on the right.  I’d have a hard time deciding which side to use.  She did finish it well enough that you could use either side.  It’s being donated to an auction for the Waldorf School in Lexington.

Summer is coming quickly upon us.  We will be offering Adult Sewing Classes which will meet once a week, for 3 hours, over 5 weeks time, beginning July 6, 2015.
Adult classes times are in the mornings or evenings.
Tuesday, Thursday, Friday & Saturdays 9:30am-12:30pm
Monday and Wednesday Evenings 7-10pm
Kids/Teens Summer Vacation Sewing Classes 
will work differently than the adult classes.  

  • Sign up for 1 week at a time, choosing any of the weekly sessions offered. From June 22- August 29
  • Each session meets M-F, 2-5pm
  • For ages 9-18 yrs old. (younger must be accompanied by adult or approved by Laura) 
  • Beginner through advanced skills.
  • Classes limited to 6 students
  • Teacher/Student ratio of 1:3
  • Bring your own machine, or use one of ours for a small fee. ($30/wk)
  • Student gets to work on projects of their choosing. They pick/purchase their own materials.  We will assist students in this so that they pick something that will give them the best skills and success.
  • Students get a discount at the fabric store downstairs 
  • Students work at their own pace.
  • Teachers work individually with each student, customizing our instruction to the student’s needs
  • Students can sign up for one, two, three… many weeks as they wish to attend.
  • No makeups are given for these vacation week classes.
  • Cost $260 per week.  Machine and materials extra.
The summer classes are listed below the Late Spring classes on the registration form.  Click the blue link above to go there.

I have some wonderful helpers this year. Stephanie Griffin (in red shirt in picture to the right) has worked with me several summers and the kids love her.  Amy Lane is just finishing her second year in the Fashion program at Mass Art.  She will be bringing some great skills and ideas to the program.

(Click on map or highlighted address to go to the same map online.)
Parking on street
Arlington, MA 02476

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Preparing for your first sewing class

November 4th, 2014

 If you have a portable sewing machine, we recommend that you bring it to class.  That way, we can help you troubleshoot any problems and you will feel confident sewing on your own at home.  If you do not have a machine or it is inconvenient for you to bring it, we do have machines available for in class use.  The cost of $30 for the whole six weeks will cover the cost of maintenance, replacement needles and bobbins.  This can also be handy if you are just trying your hand at sewing and want to wait to catch the sewing bug before you purchase a machine.  It will also allow you to be a better informed shopper when you do go to buy one.  We have our recommendations, and are happy to let you know what we think.  We do not get any kind of financial remuneration for our advice about sewing machines.

We have some information we would like to share with you.  First, please look at our “Basic Sewing Tools List” located on the Sewing Tool & Supplies page on our website:

I have recommendations for where you can purchase these items.  I have tried many different sewing notions, or tools, over the 40+ years I have been sewing.  I have recommended certain tools and brands because I have tried them all.

  •  Locally, Fabric Corner, on Mass Ave in Arlington, has nearly everything on this list.  (We are now in the same building)

Their web address is:

They have an email list which is helpful to join.  They do not share your information with anyone and they often, usually monthly, send out a 40% off coupon via email.  That is worth a lot, because they carry quality materials.  By the way, my students, which you can consider yourself to be one now, receive a 10% discount at Fabric Corner.  This is good on any regular priced items, sewing notions, fabric, thread, etc.  Just tell them that you are one of my students when they check out your purchases.

  • JoAnn’s may be inexpensive, but the quality of their materials varies greatly and it may be hard for you to distinguish good from bad when you first start sewing.  You can trust the quality of materials from Fabric Corner.  They may cost a little more, but why not buy better fabric when you will invest so much time making it yourself?  Plus, well-made goods are usually easier to work with, look better in the finished product and last longer.

JoAnn’s does have some great sales on notions and patterns and thread and other stuff that makes it worth being on their email, as well as “snail” mail, lists.  I receive flyers with coupons every 2-3 weeks and am happy to share them with my students. The link below should take you to their web page for their current sales flyer.  They will also have an email signup box in the upper left corner of the page.

I think, in order to sign up for their postal mailing list, you have to do that in the store.  They do have a store locator at:

  • A favorite shopping venue for me, from the time I moved here in 1989 was Fabric Place.  Sadly, they closed a few years ago.  Luckily, one of the sons of the founding family decided to open a new fabric store, selling a wide variety of fabric, notions, patterns, and yarns.  They are located in Natick and are called Fabric Place Basement.     Here’s what they say on their website:

PETER ISAACSON, proprietor of Fabric Place Basement, has a passion for fabric and the background to match. As a kid, he grew up working (and playing!) at Fabric Place, the family business started by his grandmother. As a manager, buyer and later fabric sales rep, he traveled the country to locate the best fabrics at the very best prices, making connections with designers and suppliers everywhere. Ever since his family decided to close Fabric Place, Peter has dreamed of opening a great store of his own where he could bring together the creative people and the fabric they dream of at affordable prices. Fabric Place Basement is a dream come true. Now come visit and share the fun!

Peter has generously offered my current students a discount of 15% off their total purchases.  All you need to do is have me fill out a certificate for you to show them when you check out at the register.  I can do that on the first day of class.  Check out their website, and sign up for their specials at:

  • If you would like to skip the trip to the store, Wawak Tailor Supply,   Wawak has a website which is not very good.  They have a great catalog and phone service, so I suggest you go through that rather than online.  They have an online copy of their catalog, that makes it easier to find items. It’s in the left hand column of their webpage.  Plus, even though they sell mainly to businesses, they will sell direct to consumers, too. Their prices are 30-50% off retail prices, every day.

  • Some of my students have found good deals on not only books, but dressmaking shears and some other items at  Amazing but true.  It works well if you have Amazon Prime or buy more than $25 worth of products, because then you get free shipping.  You may want to shop locally if you’re buying less than $25, or are in a hurry.

If your interest is in making clothing, PLEASE,PLEASE PLEASE, Read the following page on my site!

I say that because there is very important information about sizing, fabric choices, prewashing, and thread and so many things that will help you make a good choice of pattern and fabric.  I have pictures of patterns with links to the pattern company websites you can activate by clicking on the photo.  I won’t say any more here, since you can read, and even print out the page, on my site.

We are looking forward to having you in our class.  If you should have any other questions, please feel free to call or email.



A Secret Sewing Space

October 13th, 2013

When I was first sewing at home, we had one table for eating, doing homework and for me, sewing.  I would often set up to sew and then break everything down for family dinner time, then set it all up again to continue working on my project du jour.  I didn’t mind, as that was what I had to do to sew.  As an adult, I finally was able to set up a complete room dedicated to sewing.  This has been a luxury in my life, now, it is really an essential component to my living space, for that past 23 years.

Many people cannot dedicate a whole room to a hobby.  Maybe, once the kids leave home, but rather than having to set up and break down your work space, there is another alternative.  Read more about it below in my most recent newsletter.  If you would like to receive my newsletters, you can join by filling in the box in the upper right hand corner of this page on my website.


Create your own special Space for Sewing/Crafts

Dear Laura,

I am known for my sewing skills and teaching the craft of sewing.  But, I have always been interested in many forms of handcrafts.  Whether it has to do with fabrics, yarns, threads, all of which are soft.  To refinishing furniture, to decoupaging or decorating pieces that need a facelift.  I love all genres of creativity.I want to suggest that you, too, can expand your realm of how your express your creative side.  I just moved to a new home and in doing so, I had to downsize and reconsider what I use for what purpose.  I had to sell quite a few pieces of furniture, and on moving day, I realized that 2 armoires that I have will no longer fit where I live, or be necessary.  So, I got thinking about ways to repurpose them………
Here’s one example of a Sewing Armoire 
What’s nice about this one, is that it has a table with supports that folds out of the upper part of the cabinet.  And behind where the table folds, are a series of shelves.
You can see below, that there is a serger on the shelf.  You can imagine that an armoire meant for an office, with space for a printer or desktop tower, could be repurposed for holding a machine or other needed sewing items.
Here’s another, and there is a website detailing how it was done……. 
I found this online, there are so many great ideas that people are sharing on the web.
The blog, written by Lindy, is located at: this page, she talks about why she wanted to do this project and how she accomplished it.  Very well done.

What I love about repurposing furniture, is being able to play with color and pattern.  The armoire above, has not only been painted, but decoupaged with a fun and lively pattern on the door panels.  I have a dresser in my shop that I got from a yard sale.  Since it was already painted white, I decided to do a paint treatment and then decoupage the front, top and sides.  I used 6 sheets of wrapping paper that I purchased from Bob Slate Stationers in Harvard Square.  I cut around all of the images and then found a way to put them on the dresser that looked good.  Once they were glued down, I then coated the piece with 4 coats of waterbased varnish.  It took a total of 9 hours to do the whole decorating.  And, I’ve been enjoying it for quite a few years now.
I’ve also used fabric in decoupaging furniture.  I did an email a couple years ago about that.  I did a table top and a desk, both top and drawer fronts.  They are still being used.  The table is as a desk in my sewing school office.  The desk is being used at my home for my serger.
The inside is set up to hold tools within easy reach and the whole thing looks great, whether open or closed.
For those of you who want to sew, but the dining room or Kitchen table needs to be used again, and it’s just too much work to keep setting up and breaking down your sewing area.  This armoire, gives you a designated space, that looks good anywhere in your house.
Laura Wirkkala
Laura’s Sewing School
Potential Sewing Armoire for Sale!
Amelia in Finnish Costume Front View

Originally over $1000,   I am selling it for $500 or Best Offer.

Currently, it’s in the garage of my new place, wrapped in movers blankets, ready to go to a new home.  Will it be yours?
Well, you had to know that I was leading up to something.  I have two armoires that I cannot fit in my new home.  And, one of them, I think, would be fabulous as a sewing cabinet.  I would convert it myself, but I already have a custom sewing cabinet in my sewing room and don’t need another.
You can see the armoire behind my daughter in this picture.  It is from at least 5 years ago, when they had International Day at her school.  I stayed up until 3am making her this Finnish girl costume.  The point today, though, is the armoire behind her.  It’s still in gorgeous condition.  Solid wood and has an upper and lower section.  Shelves, drawers and such.  The doors fold back completely out of the way.  Originally designed for a media center, it is furniture quality, no particleboard here.
I think it could be easily converted into a Secret Sewing Space.  I would hate to paint it, as the wood is so pretty, but you could do what you want with the interior and no one would be the wiser.  The back is cut out for ventilation for CRT TV’s, but you could put in a panel of pegboard to organize sewing tools.  Follow the blog above and insert a fold down table.  Or, I saw a cool set of table extensions on Nancy’s Notions website.  Click here to see them.
Laura’s Sewing School | 785 Massachusetts Avenue | Arlington | MA | 02476
Laura Wirkkala <>
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The charm of old sewing machines, and why I love sewing with them.

October 4th, 2013
I love to work with OLD sewing machines.
Whenever I make a shirt for my boyfriend, of which he has received 5 this year, I always turn to an old Singer in a cabinet. The machine only does a straight stitch, but WHAT a straight stitch.  Also, the machine is so smooth and quiet and being set into a cabinet, there is support for my project all around the machine.  The only time I move away from the Singer is when I go to the serger or make the  buttonholes at the end.


You can see one of the shirts I made on an old Singer in my shop at the bottom of this article.  The fabric is a silk/linen, Ikat (pronounced ee’ kaht).  I matched the pattern down the front and around the pocket, too.  But, you can see how nice and even the stitching is on the pocket picture to the right.
Close up shot of Presser Foot and Throat Plate on Singer in my Shop, not the one I’m selling, but similar.
What I like about straight stitch machines, they have a narrow presser foot.  It gives maneuverability that I liken to the difference between roller skates and roller blades.  With roller skates, you have 4 wheels and you have to lift your foot to turn.  With a roller blade, you have all the wheels in a line, and all you do is lean to turn.  You can see in the picture to the right, how narrow the presser foot is.  Also, the hole in the throat plate, or where the needle enters the machine is very small, a circle rather than an oblong.


When you have a fine fabric, the small hole supports the fabric and keeps the needle from pushing it into the machine.  This can happen with the larger hole on zigzag machines or more modern machines.


So, the machine pictured at the top, is an old Singer Red Eye.  It’s called a Red Eye, because the decals on the machine, resemble eyes.  I got this machine awhile back.  It’s footprint when it is closed is quite small, yet, when you open it up, there is a nice support leaf to the left.  The front door opens, and there is storage there for bobbins and such.  It’s electric, and the power is controlled with your knee, rather than your foot.  It’s a nice machine, and you can find many more like this for very little money.


If you do want a machine like this, but miss out, many people are selling these machines on Craigslist, not knowing their true value.  Grandma died and left a machine in the house.  Mom downsized and doesn’t sew anymore.  Yard sales an second hand stores are also a source for some old beauties.  I got a lovely portable machine 10 years ago at an antiques coop.  It was sitting on the floor, being unobtrusive.  I paid $60 for it and it was in pristine condition.  Because it had a knee control for the power, I had my daughter use it as her first electric machine.  She was 4 or 5 years old then.  I still have that machine.  It only goes forward, no backstitch.



Silk Linen Men's Shirt Pocket detail

My sewing projects of Late………

August 8th, 2012

One of my students, Elena, commented that I’ve been very prolific this year, more than she has ever seen me to be.  I’m not sure why that is.  Maybe, because I am not being hindered by RA (rheumatoid arthritis) which is now under control.  Or, it could be that I love my new sewing school space and I am inspired to sew to decorate it, as well as make samples to inspire you, as students, or potential students who like to peek in the windows…..

Whatever the cause of my large sewing output, I have been excited to produce many a project this year.  It started with quilts.  One lead to another, like pieces of chocolate, or the oft mentioned Lays potato chips…….I made a quilt for my daughter, inspired by a fabric one of my students brought to class.  Then, since I wasn’t crippled by RA, I could then quilt it myself at Laurena’s Longarm studio in Burlington, MA.  I then made a quilt for each of my nieces, then another for my daughter.  Then, I thought I do one for myself.  I finally finished a quilt I started at least 8 years ago, and hung it in the new sewing school bathroom.  It matched the decor so well.  Then, another student, Sherry L, brought in some blocks she was working on that involved folding the fabric like you would paper for Origami.  I had her show me how to do it, and by the end of the day, I had 25 blocks folded.  I made a wall hanging quilt and had it done within a week.  I finally stalled out on my 8th quilt of the year, when I g0t stuck on finding the right fabric for the border…….It’s still on my design wall.  I thought I’d take a break from it.

More recently, I was dabbling in clothing, for myself, my daughter, and my sister.  One of the most recent items I sewed is the skirt made from sneaker themed fabric (made by Timeless Treasures, C5522 Brite.)  Again, the fabric caught my eye, when Avery, a teenage student, brought it in to make pajama bottoms.  I purchased what was left on the bolt, thinking I would do the same.  My daughter loves her high top Converse sneakers.  When I showed her the fabric, she said that she wanted a skirt that she could wear with her high tops.  Then, she told me exactly how it should look.  And, it should have randomly placed zippers on it.  So, having been given this task, I designed a skirt to those specifications.  I like to use a pattern that is close, has the right sizing and then alter it from there.  I often get donations of sewing fabric and materials.  So, I reached into a box of donated zippers and brought them out to see if any would work in this project.  I had eyelets, like what you find in sneakers or sometimes in belts.  They were years old and I wasn’t sure that I could find them.  But, miracles of miracles,  I did find them.  And, the pliers to set them into the fabric.

I decided to put in to parts in the back of the skirt that have shoe lacing.  I used white eyelets, since most of the sneakers on the fabric have white eyelets.  I used white shoelaces as well.  It was really fun to play around with these things.  So far, all the girls in my classes love this skirt.  My daughter does, too.  I had to bring the waist in, it was too big, but other than that, it’s well liked, and will be worn.

I’ve never been one to make bags much or purses or totes.  But, since I came across the Weekender Totes over a year ago, I have been hooked.  With the use of fusible fleece and peltex and other fabric stiffeners and stabilizers, we can make some pretty amazing bags out of quilting fabric.  And, Very Bradly being such the rage, these bags are really in!  I think the photos pretty much show off why it has been so fun for me to make these.  And, it’s a new kind of challenge, working in ways that I haven’t much in the past.  Plus, as I say in one of the photo captions, it’s an opportunity to play with mixing colors and prints on a smaller, quicker scale than making a quilt!

I hope you enjoy these photos.  If you want a closer look at a picture, just click on it and it will expand to fit your window.  To get back to this page, just hit the “back” button.

Common Troubles with Sewing Machines!

November 23rd, 2010
Sue Hausmann & America Sews

The Hausmann's
This past Saturday, November 20, 2010, Nashua Sew & Vac hosted a day with Sue Hausmann.  She has a show on PBS, called America Sews.  She was in town to share much of her expertise and inspire us in our creative endeavors.  It was a little heavy on machine embroidery hints, but there were a few gems she gave us, that I must pass on to you!  And, I couldn’t help but elaborate on related troubles and their solutions.

Bobbins, how to wind them without damaging them.
plastic bobbins
First, Jan Bickford, our serger/sewing teacher, has been educating us to wind plastic bobbins at a medium, rather than fast speed.  The friction on the thread, as it goes from spool, through the tension discs, to the bobbin, causes the thread to heat up.  Sue elaborated on this info by showing us that the heat can be high enough to actually warp and distort the bobbin!!!  She showed us one that was damaged in that manner.  I have wondered why some bobbins are like this when I go to wind them, and now I know!  Warping will cause the bobbin to feed thread unevenly and therefore your stitches will not be consistent.  (This doesn’t apply to metal bobbins.)  Another thing to be careful of, whether using metal or plastic bobbins, is that high speed winding can stretch the thread.  So, NO lead footing allowed!

Problems for which the Solutions involve the Take Up Lever

Many of you have had problems with your sewing machine, and whenever they happen, you’ll say, “What’s wrong with this @#%$&   thing!!!!  %#^@&$*%!”  Often, the machine gets shoved into the closet and collects dust.

Well, here are some hints for you.  First, whenever you wish to stop your line of stitching and pull the fabric away from the machine, you must put the Take Up Lever to its top position. (See the photo and drawing above.)   If your machine has a Needle Up/Down button, use that.  If it doesn’t , then turn the hand wheel, (on the right end of the machine,) top toward you, until the needle is at its highest position and just starting to move downward.  Or, until the Take Up Lever is at its highest point.  I say “top toward you” rather than clockwise or counter-clockwise, because if you are sitting to the right of the handwheel, it turns counterclockwise, and if you are seated to the left of the wheel, you would observe that direction as clockwise.  Since the machine is usually in front of you, I say “top toward you” to eliminate confusion.  Did that help?  Or, did I just muddle your thinking?

What having the Take Up Lever at the top will do for you, is eliminate 3-4 problems that commonly happen to beginners and even more seasoned sewists. (I have to tell you, that I don’t really like the term “sewist” but as I write “sewers” it looks more like “soo-ers” than “Soh-ers,” not an appealing thought!)

Please click on this link to the How Stuff Works website. It will take you to a page on how sewing machines form stitches.  There are 2 animated drawings showing first, how a chain stitch machine works, then, secondly, how our standard sewing machines work.  When you look at the second animation, note that the needle penetrates the fabric and a hook grabs the thread and brings it around the bobbin.  You can see that the needle exits the fabric before the needle thread completes its journey around the bobbin.  The needle thread is made long enough to wrap around the bobbin, by the Take Up Lever giving slack to the thread.  It “Takes Up” that slack, after the needle thread goes half way around the bobbin.  Most people look at the needle when they sew.  So, they think that as soon as the needle comes out of the fabric, that you can pull it away from the machine. Unfortunately, the stitch is not complete, until the Take Up lever does its job and returns to its highest position.

What are the problems that occur when you try to stop before the stitch is fully formed?

Problem 1 You cannot pull the fabric away from the machine
Why?  The hook holding the needle thread has not released it from its journey around the bobbin case.

Problem 2 When, with great effort, you do pull it away, you end up with 4 threads coming out rather than 2
Why?  Again with the needle thread being trapped below, you are pulling the bobbin thread, the needle thread and the 2 sides of the loop around the bobbin, up with your fabric.  You cut all 4 threads and then pull the end of one thread and it comes out of the machine’s throat plate (this is the metal plate that the needle passes through and where the feed dogs pop up.)

Problem 3 When you start sewing again, the thread comes out of the needle and you have to reinsert it into the eye of the needle!
Why?  You cut the thread and the Take Up Lever still has to travel up, before it goes down.  So, it pulls the needle thread out of the eye of the needle and you say, “$@%#^$%%!” and rethread it and continue.
Problem 4.  ALL of these problems can be eliminated, if you do one thing!!!!
When you stop sewing, make sure that the take up lever is in its highest position.  (Circled in red in the photo above, most will stick out of the machine at the top)  If it is not at the top, ALWAYS, turn the hand wheel on the machine, top toward you.  Now, this is counter-intuitive for us.  We bicycle, and walk and crank things in a “top away from you” motion.  But, the motor on your machine turns the handwheel, “top toward you.”  It you turn it the other way, you can jam the machine.

Problem 5 When you start sewing, the machine makes an AWFUL racket and makes a mess of thread underneath, and gets stuck in place.

A.  One of the most common reasons, is that you have forgotten to put down the presser foot.  When you lower the presser foot, you also engage the tension discs, which grab the thread and let it go in a well-timed rhythm.  If the presser foot is raised, the thread flows freely (it isn’t grabbed at all) and when the take up lever rises, it takes the thread from the spool (the path of least resistance) rather than from below the fabric.  Meaning, that the loop that is being wrapped around the bobbin, doesn’t get pulled back up through the fabric.  This will cause a pile up of thread loops underneath.  It’s a domino effect.  Like those classic comedy sketches where a line of people are moving forward, the first person stops and everyone bumps into the person in front of them.  If this does happen to you, don’t just put the presser foot down and try to continue sewing, you’ve made your mess and you have to clean it up before you can sew again. You’ve plugged the drain and it must be unclogged.

Mickey Hudson likes to call this mess “bobbin vomit!”  Sometimes, it seems the most appropriate term for such a mess.
P.S. Another reason, that I overlooked for thread jams, is that whenever you start sewing, you must have the needle penetrate fabric.  The fabric holds the thread so that the loop comes back up from under the fabric.  If you have the needle go down before the fabric, the loop gets stuck underneath and the same bobbin vomit forms.  Yuck!  I do have an industrial machine that always leaves a small knot on the underside of the fabric, unless I hold both thread tales to the back, while stitching the first 2-3 stitches in the fabric.  If you are concerned about sewing all the way to the edge of the fabric, then start with a1/4″ of fabric behind the needle, go forward one stitch to establish the thread in the material, then backstitch/backtack/or reverse stitch to the edge and then go forward.  This secures the thread tales and keeps you from having a knotty mess underneath.

B. Another time that this happens, is if you are trying to sew past a thick seam in the fabric.  If the presser foot gets tipped high in the front, it cannot move forward.  The pressure on the foot is in the back, if the fabric changes from thin to thick, the foot gets stuck in place.  The way around this is to make the foot level.  You need to shim the back of the foot to be even with the front.  If you do that, there is no problem getting past a thick area of fabric.  You can buy tools designed for this called, “Hump Jumpers” or Jean-a-ma-jigs.  I own these tools, but can never find them when I need them.  So, I improvise.  I find a business or index card, folded to the same thickness as the fabric, works really well.  (for those of you who are more adventurous or lazy, who like danger, use a sewing machine needle case, but wear your safety glasses)

Hump Jumper inserted behind needle to level foot over a thick seam.
Jean a ma jig, inserted before seam, to level foot.

How to level or shim the presser foot:  as the presser foot encounters the increased height of the seam, stop the machine, put the needle down and insert shim behind the needle.  Lower the presser foot, continue sewing across the seam.  It will pop out from under the foot when no longer needed.

Leveling Presser Foot, also does general sewing.

Some machines have a shimming mechanism built into the standard presser foot.  Do you have a presser foot that has a spring-loaded, black button on the side near the back, like the picture above?  Have you ever wondered what the heck that is for?  Well, when you sew and encounter a thicker area, let the foot start traveling over the seam, stop, put the needle into the fabric.  Level the foot and push the button in on the side so that it engages with an indentation in the back “ankle” area of the presser foot connection.  Hold the button in while you lower the presser foot onto the fabric.  Then, let the button go. It will stay pushed in.  The foot will remain level as you sew across your seam.  The button will pop out of place when you have passed the thick area.  It is quite amazing!

Now, for those of you, who have had a problem with the thread coming out of the Take Up Lever, this is for you!  I have been trying to figure this out for a long time.  I don’t have this happen to me, but it happens to a lot of my students when they use one of my sewing machines, in particular, the Kenmore model 16231.  Sue Hausmann talked to us about this and I was so happy to learn this, that it was worth attending the 6 hour seminar, if only for this explanation.

This usually happens for people who have a sewing machine which can stop the needle in either the UP or Down position automatically.  (Though, just today (11/23/10,) I had a student, whose machine doesn’t have this feature, have this problem, so all of you should read this!)

Many times, you may find that that AWFUL sound happens when you start sewing a seam.  When you stop, there are big loops of thread down below and you may or may not be able to pull the fabric away from the machine.  This is caused by using the handwheel, rather than the UP/DOWN button, to move the needle/takeup lever to their UP positions.  Sometimes, your machine’s UP position may vary a little bit from what you expect.  If you turn the wheel  by hand, you may not put it right where the machine would and it forms some slack in the thread, that allows it to come out of the take up lever.  Since I love the needle up down button (you can have it stop in the fabric whenever you take your foot off the pedal, so it acts like a third hand, holding your fabric in place on the machine while you adjust it to continue sewing.)  You can also have it stop in the UP position every time you stop.  If it is in the Down mode, make sure that at the end of stitching your seam, that you push the UP button rather than turning the hand wheel.  The designers of the machine want you to use the button rather than the wheel.

Another task that is effected by not using the UP/DOWN button, is threading the machine using the automatic needle threader. Most new sewing machines come with a needle threader.  How it works, is that you push a lever down, as it is depressed, it rotates forward and puts a teeny, tiny hook, through the back of the eye of the needle.  You draw the thread around a guide and then up the front of the needle until it encounters the underside of that teeny, tiny hook (like a minuscule crochet hook.)  You let the thread in your right hand go, at the same time as you release the lever on the left.  Spring loading allows the hook to draw a thread loop through the eye of the needle.  You then pull that loop all the way through to finish threading the machine.  Most needle threaders look like the one above.  None of them work right, unless the machine is IN the pre-programmed UP position.  If you are not sure if the machine is in the right place, hit the needle UP/DOWN button, until it is.  If you do not do this, it will bend the hook so that this will not work in the future.  Many people do not know this.  Remember………If all else fails, read the instruction manual.   Or, come to a class and we will show you what to do!

Pictures of Student’s Work

December 6th, 2009

The following pics are from 2009.  These are just a portion of what students have accomplished here in their classes.

March 27th, 2009

Gumdrop Pillows!

February 19th, 2009

Amy Lou's daughter, Addy, on the pillow that inspired us all.Amy Lou and the Gumdrop pillow I made for her as a baby shower giftCloseup of top of Amy Lou's pillow, check out the kaleidoscope effect made by fussy cutting the panelsBotton of Amy Lou's pillow, cutting the panels in the same place on the fabric creates a wonderful kaleidoscope effect.Katie pretending to sleep on the cushions.My niece, Katie, on her sister, Sanna's, PillowBottom of Katie's pillow, this is the smaller, 18Top of Katie's pillow

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.  I will order the stuffing and patterns and you will purchase the fabric of your choice.  You can see the details (dimensions, materials list) about the pattern on Amy Butler’s website.
These cushions are made of drapery weight fabric.  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.  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.  If the weight is fine, it can be any brand of fabric.  You just don’t want a fabric which is too loosely woven, or unravels easily. has a nice selection of Amy Butler printed twills if you want to use her fabric designs.  There are 8 panels, all the same, which are sewn together like sections of an orange.  They are packed with a LOT of stuffing.  I found hand sewing the first one, Amy Lou actually did that work since it was her project, rather tedious.  So, when I made MY first one, I used an invisible zipper to close the pillow once it was stuff.  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.  Adults do find it useful as a footrest.   You can make them with one fabric or two.  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.  This makes interesting, kaleidoscopic patterns, especially if the fabric has symmetry.  You can see this on both of Amy’s pillows.  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.  There is an octagonal patch on the top of the cushion.  I fussy cut that, centering it on a flower or pattern.

I propose that the workshop be on Sunday, March 15th.  From 10am-4pm.  That should give us plenty of time to work and eat and stuff and finish one gumdrop cushion.  The next one, you will be able to do on your own and much faster.  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.  The only part of the zipper to show will be the tab.  Buy a 12-14″ zipper or longer.  It will work for either size pillow.  And, if you have to buy a longer zipper to get a color match, it is very easy to shorten.  Better too long than too short!  The Fabric Corner sells invisible zippers and the presser foot to apply it to your project.  I just talked to them about ordering enough for all of you.  The presser foot is adaptable to most sewing machines and can be used over and over again.  It is reasonably priced and worth buying.

I will have to price out the patterns and stuffing.  So, I will have to get back to you on the price for the class.  I think that we can have 5, possibly 6 students for the day.  Let me know if you want to take the class and I will let you know the price.  If the 22nd of March is better than the 15th, let me know.  I am flexible about the date.  If you are available during the day, M-F, I could possibly meet with you for a workshop on a Thursday.  I am excited about this project.