Dear Vicki: I need Christmas ideas for my little sewer. About six months ago we gave her a sewing book that you recommended all about hand sewing and filled with projects – she loved it. This year we will start to think about a sewing machine, but before we do, please recommend a book that focuses on using a machine instead of handwork so I can get her ready. I still want to monitor every stitch, so I want her working on my machine for a while. Thanks so much for your opinions. – Eileen H.

Dear Eileen: The women who wrote the hand-sewing book you love, “Sewing School,” have written “Sewing School 2.” And it is exactly what you want. You already know that the style of presentation works for your daughter, so I fully recommend this one. It is filled with photos and projects, with 20 patterns included. This book starts at the beginning with tips on threading the machines and feeding the material. It’s very gender-neutral – that is, there are lots of boys pictured, and my two boys always were interested in crafty things when they were little. You should be able to find it at major bookstores and local sewing shops. But if you can’t, then send me $20.95 (Vicki Farmer Ellis, P.O. Box 220463, St. Louis, MO 63122), which includes postage, and I will send it to you.


Dear Vicki: I know pleated skirts are not exactly cutting-edge fashion, but I am very slender, and they look good on me. I found a really cute one at a resale shop – beautifully made, but too long. I hate the thought of taking all that hem out. Someone told me to take off the waistband and shorten at the top. Is that possibly correct? It sounds too good and easy to be true. What do you think? – Jackie S.

Dear Jackie: Yes, it’s a good way to proceed. Just be sure to stitch around the skirt below the waistband before you remove it to hold all of the pleats in perfect alignment. It’s very possible you’ll have to reapply the zipper, but that is still easier than pressing out the pleats and rehemming the bottom and then pressing the pleats back in. So go ahead and shorten it this way.


This week’s reader’s tip is from J. Mouhot of Lake Charles, La. She writes: “To check tension on the sewing machine, stitch 8 to 10 inches along a true bias. Pull along the stitching. The thread that breaks indicates which tension to adjust (that one is too tight). Use different colored threads on the bobbin and the needle for ease in identifying where the problem lies.”