Dear Vicki: I have been sewing for some time and really enjoy it. I have made quilts and purses and simple pieces of clothing and doll clothes. I find myself wanting to make more clothing, but teaching myself to sew is ridiculous. I need a teacher. Should I travel to seminars or go to a local community college? None of the stores in my area seem to be offering anything but beginner’s sewing. – Carol B.

Dear Carol: Yes, go to seminars, meet other sewers and keep searching in your area for classes. has some very good classes online. Sometimes the shops you go to are just waiting for customers to ask for more advanced classes. Meanwhile, I am going to suggest that you try making Louise Cutting’s The Blouse Perfected. Louise is a master at construction, and her patterns offer superior instruction.

I promise you will learn the art of shirt-collar construction and many other tips that will improve your sewing – her insights and techniques are the best. Make one and you will be hooked; you will be so proud of the results and the knowledge you will gain. Please try to find the pattern locally, but if you can’t, send me $21 (Vicki Farmer Ellis, P.O. Box 220463, St. Louis, MO 63122), and I will send it to you. Let me know what colors you love if you want us to send suggested cotton shirting samples. Or go online to


Dear Vicki: When I use a pattern with bias cutting, I have terrible trouble with my pattern paper shifting and with the fabric growing and stretching – my pieces become unrecognizable. What kinds of general tips can you give me? I love the graceful drape of bias tops and skirts. Thanks. – Pat H.

Dear Pat: Working with bias in sewing can be quite a challenge. Yes, fabric does “grow” and stretch after it has been cut. I like to put tissue paper down on my cutting table before I lay out the fabric and then the pattern so that the fabric is sandwiched between – this helps tremendously to keep the pieces stable. Don’t remove the paper until you are ready to stitch. Sometimes the best results come from keeping the tissue paper pinned and sewing through it.