Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bell Bottomed Flower Children

A customer of mine came in the other day wanting to do something to extend the life of her toddlers jeans that she had grown out of. I think she came up with the most adorable idea! She's not a stitcher herself, so she just needed some help wit the execution.

This blog post is all about what we came up with and how you can do it too!

Here is the before:

Here is the after:

Here is the How-To:

1. Cut the toddler jeans just below the knee, straight across. Do one first and then fold the pair of jeans in half to get the other leg even.

2. Cut two pieces of groovy fabric that are twice as wide as the jeans where you cut them off. The pieces should also be long enough to extend past where the too-short jeans stopped. Also add an additional 1 1/2" for seam allowance & hem.

3. Hem the bottom of the fabric extension pieces with two small 1/2" inch folds. Hemming cotton fabrics is best done with an iron. Stitch the hem at the top of the fold so both layers of the fold get stitched.

4. Put your sewing machine on the longest stitch length it has, and set your machine tension slightly loose. Sew along the edge of the ring that is not hemmed, leaving nice long threads at each end. Do not back stitch.

5. Gather this side of the fabric extension piece so it's as wide as the cut off pant leg, plus an inch for seam allowance. Tie each end of the long thread pieces so the gather stays.

6. Fold this piece in half so the bottom hems & gathered ends touch each other and you form a ring with each of the fabric extension pieces.

6. Place the gathered extension fabric pieces, with right sides up onto the cut off jeans and match edges. Make sure the gathers are even all the way around the pant leg and pin the fabric to the end of the jean pant legs.

 7. With a 1/2" seam allowance, stitch the fabric extension piece to the jean pant leg on each side.

8. Trim all your threads and you've got yourself some groovy bell bottoms for that flower child in your life.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tips for sewing Vintage Sewing Patterns

So we just wrapped up our Fashion Lab Vintage Dresses class this past month. We had such a blast teaching it and people had such a great time making all the vintage dress, we'll be offering it again right away on Wednesday nights on September. All four of the styles of dress (no matter which era they were from) were completely fashionable in today's standards and it was so fun to see how sewing patterns have changed since way back in the day.

In the class we learn how to make four different vintage dress styles based on the actual sewing patterns from the 1950's, 1960's & 1970's. There were certain things that rang true each week, no matter what we were making.  I wanted to share with you three major tips for using vintage sewing patterns to make garments.

1. Vintage pattern pieces are VERY fragile. In order to make them a little safer to copy and cut your fabric from them, before each class I would reinforce them. Usually this meant using packaging tape to tape the actual paper patterns onto interfacing and reinforce in the spots that needed it. I suppose if you have a fancy laminating machine that would work too. But I don't have one of those, so the tape worked for me. And actually by sewing it to a light weight interfacing, it made it sturdy, but also malleable enough to make it easy to cut the smaller sizes by folding the edges under.

2. Sizing can be tough! Vintage dress patterns came in only one size and the sizing is completley different from today's sizing standards depending on when the pattern came out. I found that it was easiest to make a version of the dress we were doing that week in the size that was stated on the package and then determine (based on today's sizing standards) what size it is in today's sizing. Or if you wanted to get a bit more technical about it, determine how big the waist, hip & bust measurements are for the size of the pattern and scale out (or in for the skinny minnies) based on how much bigger you need it to be. Or as we found in the class, when in doubt, make it too big and size it down to fit your measurements by adding darts and pleats.

3. Yardage Recommendations on the package of the pattern are different for older patterns. One the envelop you will find yardage recommendations that may be confusing.  The reason is that back in day, fabric came in narrower widths then they are today. It was commonplace to find fabric widths measuring 36" & 39". Now most fabric widths are 45, 55 or 60" wide

I hope this helps! I know it helped us in the class a ton.

You'll see that most pattern companies that are still around today have re-issued patterns based on their vintage styles from years ago. This will have taken care of many of the above issues. But isn't it more fun to not be afraid to tackle the genuine vintage patterns that you find at your neighbors garage sale, or that your grandmother has had in her attic since you were a baby! Happy Sewing!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

We'll be doing the kid version of this in class on Saturday

I just found this adorable and super simple felt slipper project (well, I might be billing them as "flip flops") on the Purl Bee Blog. Not only are they completely adorable, there is not a lot of sewing involved, making them a perfect activity for the 5-7 year old craft class we do at the studio on Saturday mornings.

This class has been going great so far. This past Saturday class they decided they had graduated beyond the blue plastic needles they had been struggling to sew with. They're a great idea, but they don't really make for good sewing, unless you are using fabric that is woven super loosely and this can make sewing very frustrating for someone any age.

This week they all decided they were ready to try the real metal needles (super fat ones, with barely any point on them, of course) to do their hand sewing. I was soooo proud.

With this coming weeks flip-flop project, I foresee them sewing all kinds of buttons and silk flowers and even fabric scraps onto them. Oooooh this is going to be fun class!

Friday, April 30, 2010

The Black Skirt Challenge

Not too long ago, we had our latest Fashion Lab Meetup.

Our group got together in Hoboken at the Clinton Social, so we could get some food and drinks while we admire each others projects. 

The challenge was this: We all met about a month ago for part one of our meetup. This was the sew-along portion of the meeting where we all brought black fabric to sew a black a-line skirt together! Pretty simple, but super fun sewing with a group, as always! 
At the end of the meetup, everyone exchanged one yard of fabric of your choice. People brough their one yard of cotton trade fabric wrapped up so you couldn't tell what the print was. We all ended up with someone elses fabric to take home and embellish our black skirt with.

I have to say I was more than impressed with the results! 

Here are some photos from the event:

Laura rocked her skirt out with some adorable little ruffly flowers on the bottom right hand side. She was complaining about her awful fabric that she had to work with (okay, yes, it did have musical notes on it) but I think she used it in a way that was perfect to make her 
black skirt even more special

Andrea did this cool trim on the end of her skirt. You can quite see all the detail here, but the end was kind of folded and the edge of the fabric was left unfinished. Very cool!

This photo is horrible, but lauren did a similar thing with her fabric, as she added a cool border to the bottom edge of the skirt.

I was impressed with Kathy's design as she not only made all these really cool flowers for the skirt, she treated them all with a special potion of elmers glue and water to make them super stiff! Really added an awesome 3-D effect!

And the piece de resistence was from Roslyn! She turned her simple black skirt into a complete ensemble! She used the red fabric (from the trade to create a top that had this amazing corset back. Extra point go to her because she wore exactly this outfit to work that day! Be sure to check out her photos below to really see the workmanship that went into this project!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

HAD to repost! Thank you Sew To Speak!

Vintage Dress Lab - Vote on Which Dresses you want to see as part of the class

We are trying to nail down our summer class schedule and we need YOUR help on deciding which projects to make part of the class.

We're very excited to hold our first "Vintage Dress Lab" sewing class this July! The problem is there are too many great vintage dress designs we'd love to be a part of the class. 

Can you help us and vote on your favorite dress designs out of the following 10 choices! We're looking to find out your top 4 choices. 

Please Use the comment section to voice your opinion. Tell us the names of your 4 favorite vintage dress designs.

Okay here goes. 

And the nominees are:

1. "Twiggy" - Sixties Inspired, Multi-Paneled Dress

Could be made with long, short or no sleeves. Cute little collar is an option as well.
2. "Dynasty" - Late 1960's/ Early 1970's Maxi

Could be made with funky collar or not.
3. "Flower Child" - Late 1960's/ Early 1970's inspired faux wrap with Empire Waist

Long or short, long sleeve, short sleeve or no sleeve always an option.
4. "Diamonds are a girls best friend" - 50's/60's shift with funky diamond detail.

Long or short, long sleeve, short sleeve or no sleeves.
5. "Go-go Scort"

Fabulous neck detail, the longer version is straight-up dress, the short version, you can add some shorts into the pattern.

6. "Radio Hour" - 40's/50's Dress

Cinched waist with divine neck collar detail.
7. "Ladies who Lunch" - Full skirted with the fabulous neck & chest tie detail

8. "C'est La Vie" - Simple 60's Shift with Peter Pan Collar.

9. "Mrs. Cleaver" - V-neck, Belted Waist

10. "Waist not, Want Not" - Strapless & Belted hi-waist dress

Option for sleeveless or tie straps

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Wear your Sewing Projects to the Art & Music Fest on Sunday

Come out for the Hoboken Art & Music Festival on Sunday May 2nd dressed in your favorite duds YOU MADE YOURSELF!

Come visit our booth (in front of Cold Stone Creamery on Washington Street) wearing something you made at an M Avery Designs Sewing Class and get coupons for sewing class discounts.

For each article of clothing and/or accessory you wear (up to 3) to our booth on Sunday you will receive a coupon that can be used towards any of the classes we teach at the studio

These coupons will be able to be used in one of three ways:

-Take $5 off ANY 2 Hour Workshop (Priced $25-$45)

-Take $20 off ANY Four Week Class (Priced at $149)

-Take $45 off ANY Fashion Lab Beginner Sewing Boot Camp (Priced at $299)

(Please note, more than one coupon cannot be used together on any class!)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Adorable Credit Card Guard Project from

I saw this project  by Erin Lewis on the website last week and immediately thought, Wow - What a useful little thing to make. It's adorable and would come in so handy if you consider yourself a super spender. This would come in super handy everytime I am on ebay browsing vintage sewing machines...

Anyway - here is how you make it:

    1. Decorate fabric or Tyvek with whatever message will keep you from spending. (Embroidery optional.)
    2. Press fabric with an iron.
    3. Place the credit card on top of your design, leave ⅛-inch seam allowance, and mark an outline with chalk.
    4. Trim fabric (should be approximately 56 inches), with your design in the top half.
    5. Fold the fabric in half around your credit card. With fabric held taut, pin all three sides.
    6. Carefully sew around the card through both layers of fabric, using your traced outline as a guide. Reinforce stitching at each end, adding a second line of hand stitching if the first isn’t snug enough.
    7. Pull threads to the inside of seams. Trim with pinking shears to prevent fraying.
    8. Insert the guarded card into your wallet. Remove all scissors and Swiss army knives from your handbag to prevent spontaneous spending.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Big Yarn Necklace Tutorial - It's kinda sewing...

I happen to think this necklace is awesome! Lucky for us, I just found the tutorial on the Burda Style Magazine website! Wooohooo! Who's gonna make one with me?

Step 1 You need: scissors, 2 balls of self-striping yarn, tubular silver lurex band, grosgrain/petersham ribbon, sewing thread, needle, straight pin, silver chain

Step 2 Pull layers of various thickness off each ball of yarn, lay them in loops, and cut them off – repeating until all of the yarn has been used up.

Step 3 Twist each loop until it twists back on itself in a tight bunch. Pin the twists on the back to prevent them from coming undone.

Step 4 Lay the twisted yarn bunches next to one another in the form of your necklace, then sew them together. Weave the silver chain in and out of the yarn bunches.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Teacher First, Small Business Owner Second.

Things have been a little hectic lately around the shop because we are trying to promote our summer camp program that begins on June 21st. It's starting to feel a little more urgent, as our camp was waaaay more full at this time of year last year. This is WAY stressful to someone that doesn't get a weekly pay check...

Obviously there are probably a lot factors are contributing to this. I am sure the economy is a huge part of it and people are feeling a little more strapped then they felt at this time last year. But what I am thinking (and hoping) it may be just that parents haven't yet started thinking about what is going to go on in their kids lives over the summer, as they just returned to school from spring break.

But in this frantic-ness of these last couple of weeks, promoting the heck out of our summer camp and trying to get the word out in every possible way, I was able to step back and reflect on the summer camp itself.

This little card helped me to remember that even though I am a business owner and one of my major goals has to be making money so I can stay in business. The other major and more important goal of my job is being the best teacher and educator I possibly can. I am able to teach kids my passion of sewing. I get paid to inspire and create and for that I am the luckiest girl on the planet.

I am good at what I do and kids LOVE coming and creating with me. This camp is going to fill itself, as it does every year and I am not going to stress about it anymore!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

WIne Bottle Tiki Torch Project

Here is a great project I just found while browsing one of my favorite design blogs Re-Nest.

I'll admit, it doesn't look like the safest form of keeping the bugs away/lighting up your backyard, but I kinda wanna give it a try...

Here's what you do :

What You Need

1/2" x 3/8" copper coupling ($0.97)
Tiki replacement wick ($1.54)
Nylon thread seal tape ($.97)
Recycled wine bottle or beer bottle (Free!)
Citronella torch fuel (price not included)


The construction is pretty simple:
1. Wrap the pipe wrap around the copper reducer many times. The opening on our wine bottle required about 15 times around so that it would stick and we actually inserted the smaller 3/8" side into the bottle as the 1/2" side didn't fit (as compared to the original How-to). In the future, we'd also want to try it in beer bottles for smaller torches to place around the yard.
2. Insert the wick into the reducer.
3. Fill the bottle with Citronella and insert wick. Let the oil be absorbed into the wick before lighting.
4. Light, enjoy & be careful!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Summer Camp 2010

Summer Camp to include Ages 5-7 For Summer 2010

It's hard to believe that summer is just around the corner, but I guess the weather makes it a little easier to start thinking about that stuff.

As many of you already know, we have had our fashion lab summer camp for the last three summers, teaching kids age 8+ basic fashion design and sewing.  Due to the popularity of the Saturday morning crafting classes for ages 5-7, we have decided to include this age group in our summer camp for summer 2010.

We're pretty excited about this and thought you might be as well! Similar to the  Saturday morning classes, kids in the camp will learn *Beading *Hand Sewing *Cutting *Glueing *Needlepoint *Weaving & More AND there won't ever be any repeat projects from the Saturday morning classes. So you can be sure each week it's a new and exciting project.

Here are the details:
Camp begins Monday June 21st, 2010 and runs until Thursday July 29th, 2010.

There will be two different groups to choose from:
(Please note: The only things different between the two groups is the days of the week the classes meet.)

Group 1 Meets Mondays & Wednesdays
First Three Weeks: June 21, 23, 28, 30, July 5, 7
Second Three Weeks: July 12, 14, 19, 21, 26 & 28

Group 2 Meets Tuesdays & Thursdays
First Three Weeks: June 22, 24, 29, 31, July 6, 8 Cost is
Second Three Weeks: July 13, 15, 20, 22, 27 & 29

I am lucky enough to have pre-school teacher extraordinaire Kate Rockland helping out with the kids class this summer!

Kate Rockland's Bio - Kate has taught preschool in Hoboken for four years. She is a Hoboken resident and her favorite thing to sew is baby quilts! When Kate's not teaching or sewing, she's writing. Her novel "Falling is Like This" has just been released & is in book stores everywhere.

Cost is $110 for a three week session and $175 for the full 6 week session.

We are only taking a max of 8 kids per group and when we are full, we are FULL! So sign up early to ensure your childs spot.

More information here:

Black Skirt Challenge - Ideas & Happy Hour

We had another great meet up last night where we created our black a-line skirts together! I didn't take photos (like a doofus) but then again, they all kinda looked like black A-line skirts.

At the end of the meetup, as planned, we exchanged our 1 yard of cotton fabric that will be used to embellish our skirts. I don't think anyone really had terrible fabric to try and embellish with (although I did end up with a pastel colored frog batik print that I am not quite yet sure how I am going to get to match to my black skirt, but dyeing the fabric, I guess is not out of the question...hmmmm....)

We decided for the next meetup, we would all wear our newly embellished skirts to the meetup. We also decided that instead of meeting at the store, we would switch our location to a nearby neighborhood restaurant and grab a drink and some snacks.

So - even if you didn't make it out for the meetup last night and create a skirt with us, we would LOVE for you to join us in two weeks to see what everyone created, as well as just get to know you!
Become a member of our sewing meetup group for all the details:

For those of you who did make the skirt and are looking for some crafty ideas to wow all of us in two weeks, here are some cool embellishment ideas I found.

Check 'em out:



Thursday, March 4, 2010

Turn A Mens Dress Shirt Into A Skirt

So we have just created a great new class here all about "Green" sewing!  In this four week class you get to create clothing and accessories made from things you already have in your closet. One of the best things about the class is that you don't really need to buy any supplies! For example those old T-Shirts you have been keeping in the back of your closet for a while can be made into a cute T-Shirt shrug.   The first Green Sewing four week class starts on April 7th.

So I was looking for some more fun "green" projects to share and saw these instructions for a skirt.  Craftstylish shows you how to turn a mens dress shirt into a belted skirt.  The instructions are pretty easy to follow and the finished skirt looks really cute.

*Project by Christine Haynes at CraftStylish

What you'll need:
  • One men's dress shirt with a straight hem, wide enough to be gathered at your waist, long enough from the armpit to the hem for the skirt
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine and thread
  • Pins
  • 1/2-inch elastic about 30 inches long
  • Large safety pin
1. Lay your shirt down, folded in half lengthwise. Following a ruler, cut straight across the shirt, from under the armpit to the buttons. This bottom piece is your skirt.

2. Using other pieces from the shirt, cut two waistband pieces, about 5 inches tall by the width of your hips. Cutting from the rest of the shirt, cut pieces to combine together to make two belt straps. These pieces should be 5 inches tall by as wide as you can get.

3. Combine the belt pieces to form two strips that are roughly 24 inches long by 5 inches tall. Press the seams flat where they were connected. Fold one strip in half with right sides together and sew, forming a long tube. Stitch one end closed and repeat on the other strip. Turn the tubes right side out and press flat.

4. Lay out one waistband piece face up. Lay the two belt pieces on top of the waistband piece, on each of the two short ends, about an inch from the bottom. Lay the other waistband piece on top of the first one, matching sides. Pin the two short ends together, including the belt pieces. Stitch each side, capturing the belt in the side seam. Fold the waistband in half, wrong sides together, and press flat.

5. Baste the top of the skirt and gather to fit the width of the waistband. Pin the waistband to the skirt, right sides facing and with the belt pieces toward the front of the skirt, with the raw edge of the waistband lining up with the top raw edge of the skirt. Stitch together, being careful not to sew the belt pieces into the seam. Leave a 1-inch opening in the seam when connecting the waistband to the skirt.

6. Cut a piece of 1/2-inch elastic to a comfortable width for your waist, plus 1 inch for overlapping. Pin a large safety pin to the elastic and feed into the waistband casing. Once you've gone all the way around, pull the pin out the hole and overlap the two ends of elastic about 1/2 inch. Zigzag-stitch them together and release into the waistband. Stitch the hole closed in the skirt.

7. Press all your seams crisp, and slip on the skirt. Tie the belt pieces in front and go!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Who wants a fabulous checkbook cover?!

I know I want one!
I found this cute checkbook cover tutorial linked to one of my favorite blogs Craftzine.  Since our meet up group challenge is in a few days I thought it would be perfect to show a project that again requires less than a pound of fabric.  There are several steps to the tutorial but Step 5 is optional so you can pretty much stop there!  It all depends on how detailed you want the checkbook cover to be.  Check out the tutorial and maybe you will be inspired to make one!

*A project by Kristine Tsai

Step 1: Cut the fabric

From the outer fabric, cut two 7×8-inch (WxL) pieces. Cut two pieces of interfacing the same size.
From the pocket fabric, cut two 7×7-inch pieces. Cut two 7×3.5-inch pieces of interfacing.
Cut two 2×4-inch strips of the outer fabric.
Cut a 7-inch piece of 1/4-inch elastic.
Step 2: Make the pockets
Take one pocket fabric piece and fold it in half wrong sides together. Press. Open the pocket up again and insert the interfacing between the layers and close the pocket again.

You should now have a nice 3.5×7-inch pocket. Baste along the open edge (the one across from the folded edge) together. If you’re a fan of top-stitching, top-stitch across the folded edge. You can also use some fancy stitches here if your machine has them.

If you want to embroider anything on the pockets, now is the time to do so. Keep in mind that you’ll lose about 1/2+1/8 inches around the sides due to the seams and top-stitching.Repeat for other pocket.
Step 3: Prep the Outer Cover and Lining

Take each outer fabric piece and baste the corresponding piece of interfacing to it.Now is a good time to decide which cut of the outer fabric you prefer to be on the outside of your checkbook. Place that one aside.
Step 4: Complete Lining (Pocket Placement)
Take the other outer fabric piece (this will be the lining of the checkbook) and place the pockets width-wise, lining up the raw edges. Make sure the folded edges of the pockets face each other and the center. Baste around all 4 sides.

From here, I’ll refer to the transaction register pocket as the “top” pocket, and the check pocket as the “bottom” pocket.
Step 5: Closures and Holding Pieces
This step is optional. Depending on how you like your checkbook, you can use these ideas or come up with completely different ones.

a) First, we’ll make some pieces to hold the used pages of your transaction register.
Take one of your two 2×4-inch strips. Fold in half length-wise (wrong sides together). Open up and then fold the long edges towards the crease you just made and fold it in half again (pretend you’re making a really tiny and skinny bag handle). Sew 1/8-inch across the open long edge. There should be no raw edges on the long sides now, and your strips should be 1/2×4-inches.
Repeat for the other strip. You can also use ribbon here if you prefer instead of making your own strips.Position these pieces on the top pocket at a 45-degree angle, approximately 1.5 to 2-inches from the corner in each direction. Baste in place and trim off excess.
b) Now we’ll add a piece of elastic to hold the checkbook closed.
Take your 7” piece of elastic. Place it about 1.5-inches up from the bottom of the bottom pocket. Baste in place.
Step 6: Putting it together
Take the outer piece you set aside earlier. Now you want to decide which part will be the “top” (the side you’ll see when the book is sitting on your desk) of the checkbook exterior once you fold it in half. Embroider as desired (I originally wanted to do initials, but I was too lazy to). Take care in accounting for the 1/2-inch seams and 1/8-inch top-stitching when positioning your embroidery.
Pin right sides together with the inside piece. Make sure you orient the exterior piece so that the top part of the exterior faces the transaction pocket part of the lining. Sew along all four sides with slightly more than 1/4-inch seam allowance to hide all the basting stitches. Don’t forget to leave a gap for turning! I usually put the gap at the one of the shorter edges. Turn right side out and press.This is what it should look like. You can see how our optional holding pieces from Step 5 will work.

Now is the time to check the fit of the cover with your checkbook stuff. Upon putting it in, you want at least 1/4-inch space of horizontal wiggle room to accommodate the top-stitching. If you have too much excess wiggle room, flip the cover inside out again and stitch around with a up to 1/2-inch seam allowance. I had some variation when I made mine—the first one used a 1/2-inch seam allowance and it turned out perfect. The second required a 1/4-inch seam allowance along the length (8-inch direction) but could still use a 1/2-inch seam allowance along the width (7-inch direction).Once you’re happy with the fit, clip the corners and trim the seams to reduce bulk.
Step 7: Finishing it off
For the last time, turn right side out, press, and then topstitch around the entire edge. We’ll be closing gap you left for turning with this topstitch.

Press again. Fold in half, and press the crease. Insert checks/transaction register and you’re done! HURRAH!