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Dear Vicki: I am new to sewing and I think I would really like to make something first that is not a piece of clothing. I just want to learn how to put things together without worrying if it will fit me. I am asking for a pattern to make something fun that will be useful but not too intimidating and expensive but not just a little doodad. Thanks. – Shelley F.

Dear Shelley: My favorite independent design company is Indygo Junction, and they specialize in just your kind of project. I am recommending the Banded Baskets pattern; it will be fun. You can combine three or four different fabrics and make different sizes of these nifty baskets to store magazines or other projects, or just to organize your life. These will be easy to sew, and you will have some success under your belt and be ready for a summer skirt in no time. Try to find this pattern at a local shop, but if you can’t, then send me a check for $11 (Vicki Farmer Ellis, P.O. Box 220463, St. Louis, MO 63122, includes postage), and I will send the pattern to you. It can also be purchased online at www.indygojunction.com.

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Dear Vicki: I read a question from a quilter named Maggie K. in your column last December. It was about what to do with leftover fabrics that would be something different from quilting. I thought I’d let you know about the most wonderful book, “Snippet Sensations” by Cindy Walter. – Mary Ann B.

Dear Mary Ann: This is a wonderful book, and Cindy has produced a number of others. The process is simple – apply a fusing agent to the back of your fabric, and snip it into shapes. I don’t love that it is a no-sew technique, but artists who are not seamstresses will love it. The titles of some of her subsequent books are “Snippet Christmas,” “More Snippet Sensations” and “Snippet Flower Bouquets.”

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This week’s reader’s tip is from Geri Rhodes, from Tome, N.M.: “A friend who makes quilts gave me an apron that she made by taking a thrift store half-apron and adding a bib and straps. The colors are matched and the quilted pocket and striped straps counterbalance the original base. It’s a perfect apron now. Old half-aprons are so pretty, but without a bodice they are impractical. My friend’s solution solves this problem so well.”