Dear Vicki: It has finally happened – my daughter wants to sew something with my supervision. She is 22 and sort of “kicky.” She has no ability or knowledge but thinks a jacket would be fun. I think fleece or something like that. So, can you recommend a pattern that would appeal to her? – Eileen P.

Dear Eileen: The Sewing Workshop certainly is a “kicky” brand, very young and avant-garde. The West End Top is just perfect. The sleeves are cut into the body, so that will help a great deal with a beginner. The front has an interesting raw-edge construction, and the instructions are great, so she can follow along and you can watch. Also included is a new-looking skirted pant. Please try to find this pattern at a local shop, or send me (Vicki Farmer Ellis, P.O. Box 220463, St. Louis, MO 6312) a check for $23.95. Or go online to


Dear Vicki: OK, I know I messed up and didn’t buy my serger from a helpful store, and now I am in trouble. I thought I was saving so much money – well, I just fooled myself. Here are a few of my questions: One, after I sew and open the seam it looks wrong, kind of loose. Two, what is “differential”? Three, when do I use three threads instead of four? And lastly, how do I reverse to lock the seams? Help, help! – Tammy F.

Dear Tammy: You could go to a sewing shop and ask to pay for some quality instruction time.

I will try to answer your questions. The seam looks funny because it is not a lock stitch like with a sewing machine. Nothing is wrong with it. If you don’t like the way it looks, then sew with your machine next to the serged seam; this will make it strong, and you will still have the serged finish. I will address the rest of the questions next week.


This week’s reader’s tip is from Suzy Moore, of Fenton, Mo.

She writes: “I use a spray stabilizer on lightweight fabrics before embroidering, and it really helps prevent puckering, especially with dense designs. Also, I use a large box to spray into so that not so much propellant gets into the air. This is really good when using adhesives.”