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Dear Vicki: I would like to make a summer project with my kids – something we could use for summertime decor. It needs to be a group project. Do you have any ideas? – Karin F.

Dear Karin: I think this Patriotic Pillow pattern from Indygo Junction would be fun for all. Some kids can fold and pin the stars, and some can stitch the stripes. This pattern can be made from old jeans and gives specific instructions for cutting from old work shirts, so it can be a lesson in recycling, too. As always, try to find the pattern at a local shop, or can send me a check for $11.75 (Vicki Farmer Ellis, P.O. Box 220463, St. Louis, MO 63122), 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 just bought my dream sewing machine, and I am having fun playing around with its abilities. My question to you is this: There are all sorts of optional feet and accessories that I could buy to go with this machine, but I am not getting much help from the store about which ones I would like most. Since I know you make all sorts of things, I would like you to tell me what feet you use the most in your everyday sewing. Or do you just use the standard issue? – Gayle H.

Dear Gayle: I use a straight-stitch foot most of the time, and it was an optional extra. I can see exactly where the needle is going to stitch, and when I am turning corners or stitching darts or any precision seam, it’s a must. So look for a foot that is open in front of the needle for this, but it must be only open for straight stitching and not zigzag, so that the stitch is as tight and controlled as possible. Next on my list is an edge-stitching foot to keep my topstitching arrow straight. I also love the narrow hemmer foot for tiny hems, a piping foot (it does a much better job of applying cording than the zipper foot) and an applique foot – just like the straight-stitch foot, it lets me see where I am going for intricate appliques. An all-time favorite is my cut-and-sew foot that makes French seams so easy and also lets me use my machine much like a serger. I love a walking foot for shifty fabrics and matching plaids and stripes.

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This week’s reader’s tip is from Nancy Scott, of Ballwin, Mo.: “To poke out your corners, take a wooden chopstick and sharpen it in a pencil sharpener. It works wonderfully and gives you a long handle.”