Blog post #67 is not about sewing. We’re going off on a tangent and shining some beams on the software company which allows me to write this blog:


I usually stop in my tracks for any book title that is fashion related. Therefore author Scott Berkun’s book caused a stop-in-your-tracks moment (um, the word “pants”). A second look at the cover image indicated that it could be porn for all I knew (shudder). The sub-title cleared it all up – it was an inside look at, the blogging software I use every day. It’s like someone writing about your friend although I have no personal or business affiliation with Automattic or author Scott Berkun, and probably never will. So, in the interest of turning the tables, below are some things I took away from the book about and their work style.

  • It was eye-opening for me on several levels. Scott Berkun joined Auttomatic on the condition that he could write about it. Not as a fly on the wall, but actually working as a team leader. In the book he has divulged the unconventional work style of a successful software company from the inside out. To use a sewing analogy for all my seamstress readers, it’s like turning an unusual piece of couture clothing inside out to see how it was created (there, this post is not totally devoid of a sewing reference).
  • As a reader, a user of and clueless about programming/coding, and one who will never use the information about unusual work styles for the rest of my life, I found the book engaging and simply written.
  • Matt Mullenweg owns Automattic© which owns Get the play on words? Matt…. Automattic©
  • Employees are called Automatticians. Clever Matt, taking cues from Disney and their “imagineers”.
  • Automattic© operates by dividing the entire company into mini (as small as four people), self-motivated and autonomous teams. This is referred to as a “distributed” company. There seems to be minimal input by the CEO, and the employees are driven by their own vision and love for their jobs, which somehow seems to dovetail into the CEO’s vision. In my next life, I want Matt Mullenweg to be my boss.
  • The teams are given names like “Team VIP” (for big clients like CNN, Time, Inc. and other biggies), “Team Social” (the author’s team which worked on the Comments section and social media connections, if I understood correctly) and so on. The most aptly named is “Team Happiness” (you and I know it as the Help Desk or Customer Service). Members of Team Happiness are called “Happiness Engineers”. Their job is to keep users happy. Can you guess what “Team Theme” does?
  • Working with Team Happiness is required for all new hires before moving on to their own specialized team. Why? Because Team Happiness has the most thankless job ever – dealing with issues/complaints from customers/bloggers like us, fixing reported bugs and the like.
  • It’s a global company in the most authentic way. Employees work from anywhere in the world on a daily basis, interacting with each other online, through Skype or other ways. When they do meet, its in places like Athens, Greece or Hawaii. Each team chooses its own meeting destination when a face to face interaction is scheduled. Verrry nice. I repeat, in an alternate universe I want to work for Matt Mullenweg.
  • New updates, improvements and features are released frequently and seamlessly; I don’t even know what was done and when.
  • Scott Berkun refers to what he calls the “Future of Work”, defending Automattic’s distributed work style, and at the same time calling it “chaos”. It’s a successful chaos.  Is this the future of work? I, personally, think so. Automattic beat most others to it.


PS: If you’re a blogger and into attending blogging conferences, the BlogHer 2014 conference is being held next week in Silicon Valley, CA and will be there, and there will be a”Happiness Bar”. Way to go Team Happiness! People, take your blogging questions there and get happy.

PPS: I promise to go back to sewing posts. Thank you for reading!



It summertime and the sewing is easy.  Next month, it will be hotter ‘n hell in Texas.  While the fashion industry and most well-organized home sewers are planning and replenishing their fall closets, I am still trying to sew summer clothes for myself.


Casual Lady V2

This striped tunic recently came off my sewing machine in the way of summer clothing. Its the Casual Lady pattern (available from Go To Patterns), sewn in striped fabric  from Spoonflower.  Please note that I have a complete stash of striped fabric. The striped fabric fairy visits me often, and I have more striped stuff in transit as we speak……


The tunic pattern was purchased in 2013 because at the time the money went to a worthy cause; I’m happy to say that the pattern itself fits well and is nicely shaped. This, by the way, is the second use of the Casual Lady pattern; the previous one was made in 2013 and was inspired by a Jason Wu t-shirt. See that post here.

I will use this pattern again since it is a good easy make for summer. I could lengthen it to the floor and call it a maxi. I could go the opposite way and make it into a crop top, at the risk of being disowned by family and friends.

Occasionally I get obsessive/compulsive about sewing details in the most casual, quick-sewn item. Here is what I just had to do when turning the armhole edge.


Instead of sewing up the entire hem edge with the same cream thread, I stopped at the beginning of the mustard part and changed to mustard thread. Don’t raise your eyebrows; Coco Chanel changed the thread mid-buttonhole to match the print in haute couture items! I’m in good company…

What have you sewn for the summer? Have you skipped summer sewing and gone directly to replenishing the Fall wardrobe?









Happy Independence Day, America!


Wrap Cover

Page 36 of a special publication by Stitch magazine features my “Out & About Wrap” in all its glory. It is super simple to make, and super chic to wear. It works for 21st century women like us. I want to thank the editors for making it look glorious in the pages of “The Unofficial Downton Abbey Sews” . It is just how I like to wear it in the winter.

 Bonus use

There is another option to wearing the wrap, as mentioned in the accompanying text. It can be worn as a big old scarf around your neck on cold and windy days. The scarf option is not pictured in the magazine, so I am showing you here with my own wrap, the original one. It has been road tested many times in the harsh 2013 winter of Texas.

My globe trotting friend thought it was the ideal thing to have in her air travels.

So I’m asking you, dear readers, how would you wear this tweed wrap?


There are other beautiful items to make in this publication, designed by talented designers, all inspired by a collective obsession with the PBS program Downton Abbey.

Are you ready for the next season? You can watch the new season while making this wrap. Really.

Happy sewing :)


PS: Can someone please tell me why the font in WordPress keeps changing on me?



Hi readers,

I am thrilled to post this update to last week’s blog post about the double triangle zipped pouch. The designer, Nancy Shriber contacted me to dispel my thoughts about the author of the book not actually making the bag. She did, and I owe her an apology. Nancy, I am sorry.

Take a look at the original!

Folded Triangle bag by Nancy Shriber

Folded Triangle bag by Nancy Shriber


Very kindly, Nancy has included her zipper installation process in the message below. In her own words….

“Dear Samina, Thank you for the kind words. I would like to clarify a couple of things in your blog.  I have indeed made multiple handbags of all the designs in my book and taught numerous classes for years sharing these techniques.  I will send you, via separate email, a photo of the actual handbag that is illustrated in the book.  Concerning the zipper installation, the zippers are sewn in the bag by hand to eliminate machine stitches on the right side or fashion side of the handbag.  The line of machine stitching divides the handbag into two separate compartments.”

Another update: Nancy Shriber is one of the many instructors teaching at the 2014 American Sewing Guild Conference. If you are in the St Louis area, head on over to the venue. Details here.  There’s a class schedule on the ASG Conference page. For details on Nancy’s class, scroll to find classes 31A, 31B and 31C.

Happy bag sewing!







There should be a UFO (unfinished object) month celebrated in the sewing community at least once a year.

Bracelet bag2Finished

Look what I found in my unfinished sewing archives (aka UFOs). An indigo blue 14” square, embellished with the Japanese folk embroidery called Sashiko (s-a-a-sh-i-k-o). This was a class project for Sashiko expert Nancy Shriber’s class – um, several years ago.

Sashiko thread

What does one do with a 14”, flannel backed square like this? Why, make little bags, of course! Just like the ones in Nancy’s book. Of course Nancy is a garment sewer and incorporates her exquisite Sashiko-embroidery expertise in beautiful garments. But for Sashiko-newbies like me, her book,Sashiko Handbags, 14 on 14  (2005) gives ideas for using up those squares for little Asian inspired, folded bags. I would have loved to see actual photos of the bags rather than illustrations. Even though they’re pretty water color renditions done by Nancy’s sister. I was going to link up Nancy Shriber’s website as listed on a sticker on the book, but it cannot be found.  Here’s a link to the Amazon page where you can buy the book. There’s something amiss, though because a new copy is priced at $64.93 (!!) and a used one at $59.50 on Amazon.

I decided not to add images of the book, since the author prohibits the reproduction or transmission of any part of the book.

For my square I chose to make it into bag #11 on page 47– the Folded Triangle.  Here’s how it went down:

The original square was already Sashiko-ed up. I needed the backing/lining; a quick dive into le stash found flowered indigo/white Chinese cotton (brought back from China by my daughter). Since I did not have flannel for backing the lining (as the book suggests), I found the thinnest cotton batting in the stash. (What a non-quilter is doing with piles of batting in her stash is beyond me). Chinese cotton lining and the Sashiko square are then put together, ready for binding.  The bias binding was created and applied. If one were looking for detailed binding instructions in this book, there are none; just a couple of paragraphs on how to cut bias strips and join them.

Sashiko UFO Square2 Square3

Now, as Nancy says, the project looks like a potholder (a 14 inch potholder). So far I’m good.

Turning the “potholder” into the illustrated bag is a bit of a head scratcher.

The first step suggested by the author is folding the square into a triangle, then sewing a line from the center of the folded edge to the corner. This creates two triangular sections. The next step in the instructions is to install two zippers in each triangle opening.

Wait, wait wait…… think ahead to how zippers will be installed in the two triangles – it will be near impossible in such a closed area, even by hand.

Don't sew

At this point I’m losing patience with the printed instructions, but want to make it work. So, I DO NOT sew the line down the middle after the first fold; it will be easier to install the two zippers when the piece is still a flat square. Here it is.

zipper zipper2

Not difficult, but not easy peasy either. After much folding and pondering I added the two zippers, with each zipper tape sewn to a side of the square.  It turned out to be a very fiddly process. To make it more confusing, the end of the zipper needed to be turned inside – see last image above. Or you can buy a smaller zipper than the 14” recommended by the author, or cut the end of the zipper after sewing some horizontal stitches on the teeth. Well, the zippers are in, and I needed to move forward. I was now wondering if the author actually made this bag.

My next step was to make and sew in a loop with each end (of loop) on the opposite corner of the Sashiko square – on the lining side.

Loop Loop2

Now, we’re ready to sew the center seam which divides the piece into two triangles. Can you see the seam in the picture below?  Done. Whew.

Center seam

I then hand-sewed the bottoms together with a slip stitch. It could have been machine sewn but with 2 batting layers and 4 fabric layers, I just grabbed a hand needle and slip stitched away.

Sew bottom

Add a little doo-dad to the loop and the bag is done. At this point, I ignored the book instructions to add an elasticized wrist loop.

Loop closeup Finished

Instead, I threaded the loop through my bracelet!

Bracelet bag

Now, to road test this bag. I like how it turned out. What do you think of the bag? Do you think I should have added a picture of the book illustration to compare the two, in spite of the dire warning prohibiting it?





In the finest American business tradition, McCalls Pattern Company recently proved to me that customers matter.

Remember my post about Vogue 9005 and how the draft seemed wrong?

Since McCalls Patterns is now active in social media (best business decision ever), I sent a direct Twitter message about said draft and, was thrilled to see an immediate response (see their comment on the above referenced blog post) with a contact e-mail to send the details of my pattern problem. I did, and got a reply from Laurie at  Vogue Patterns Customer Service; she knew exactly what I was talking about, and that she had forwarded the issue to their grading department. Them pattern companies know their stuff…..


This post is dedicated to McCalls Patterns where I’ll briefly show you something I own, which the company probably has in it’s archives.

Read on, all sewing history nerds….


McCalls Pattern Book, Spring 1953, Fabric Issue

Let’s take a peek inside.


Editor was Marion Corey. In any magazine, one of my favorite pages is the editorial staff listing. I always want to know who created the deliciousness on paper.

Ed page

Inspiration: It is 1953 and the inspiration seems to be Christian Dior, especially in the look on the left.

The much coveted European look, non?

Dior-like European

Tailoring was king, even in spring. I love this outfit with the lace collar.


The dolman sleeve is rampant, especially in the “jiffy” patterns. The “tube jersey” dress, top of left picture is so easy, it may not even need a pattern. Click on the picture to read the text.

Jiffies IMG_1376

An advertisement for Avondale – chambray never had it so good!  On the right, an ad for the new Slant-needle Singer sewing machine. Ergonomic machine from the pioneering Singer Company. Readers, did you, your mom or grandma own this one?

Chambray Slant Needle Singer

I am now coveting this gorgeous parasol print on the left by Bates.  On the right, um, no politically correct ads, please.


Parasol print IMG_1377

 There’s much more in this precious pattern magazine, detailing spring colors, sewing questions and answers and more. I’ll save that for another post. 

McCalls Patterns, thank you for years of sewing enjoyment!


PS: not sure at all why the font changed on me…


…. and done! As we all know there is no feeling to match the strange equilibrium one feels after actually finishing a sewing project.

Finished upright

This is the end result of my previous post about the WIP iPad keeper using Trace ‘N Create templates from Clover and Nancy Zieman. I must say, it turned out very pretty, even if I say so myself. Thanks to both companies for designing a great product. Again, no affiliation with either company. Soon, this keeper will travel to it’s destination and receive it’s very own iPad.

While making this project, here are some items that clearly became my best sewing buddies, and made the process easy. Plus, a couple more thoughts.

  • Binder clips. Whoever invented the binder clip as an office supply, must have really meant it for sewing a binding. Otherwise why are they named “binder” clips? They are perfect for the job! Sew binding, turn to other side, hold with binder clips and stitch-in-the-ditch.

Binder clip binding

  • Edgestitch foot #7 (Bernina). It helped me immensely with sewing a straight line close to the two sides of the inside spine, and elsewhere. Talk about precision sewing.

Edgestitch foot

  • Double sided basting tape, which is actually recommended in the instructions for a couple of tasks in this project. One of the tasks was joining the ends when finishing the binding process. I also used the tape to align the center spine since no pins were going to work with the thick Peltex inside.

doublesided tapeBinding join

  • Rotary cutter, which actually cut the plastic inserts to size very smoothly. Not sure whether to give credit to the plastic or my rotary cutter.

Plastic insert

  • Size 16 Universal needle by Schmetz which sewed through all layers including the thick Peltex (Pellon)interfacing, like butter! Like. butter.
  • The old Bernina 1230, circa 1989, my BFF for life.
  • Remember the concern I had about the ¼” seam being too small? No basis for that fear. It worked fine. Moral: obey Nancy Zieman.
  • The plastic inserts were smaller than the fabric pouches – enough to not catch in the final stitching around the perimeter. Another concern dispelled.


  • The last step is stitch-in-the-ditch for the binding, which was perfect on the outside, but a little funky on the inside.  Anyone has tips for maintaining an even “under side”?


  • I changed the elastic from the headband (see WIP post) to regular ¾” black sewing elastic on the corners.

Now I’ll have to see about making a Nook HD keeper, which I actually own.

Please comment if you’ve used the Trace N Create template for tablets, and what are your thoughts about it!



Hi there, Readers!

Today, I’m telling you about a WIP (Work in Progress), which was supposed to be a finished project for this post, but life got in the way of completing it. Stuff happens.

This is my first experience with a Trace ‘N Create template, designed by Nancy Zeiman and produced by Clover. I have no affiliations with either company. This particular template is for Tablet Keepers – electronic or paper – in three sizes. The WIP here is an iPad keeper for which the medium size template is used, and I’m making one without owning an iPad. Long story…

In the first picture you can see the template, and sundry notions, and below that is my progress so far. Main pieces are cut and interfaced, binding strip and the narrow spine strip is cut and ready, the closure strip with Velcro and d-ring attached, and just starting to attach elastic holders on the corners of the pink interior.

 Parts 2 Parts

So far, these are my thoughts about the product and process:

  1. I suggest that you read the instruction sheet a couple of times to make everything clear, especially if you’re a beginning sewer, or making this project for the first time. I also recommend that you watch videos (this particular one focuses more on embellishment) on Nancy Zieman’s site, or read this informative post on her blog. I recommend reading this post first.
  2. My initial response to a new-to-me project is: “How hard can it be?” (insert smug look here). I did however, did a lot of watching and re-reading before starting on the Keeper.
  3. I ordered the Clover “notions” just to use whatever the designer used for making the Keeper. I sort of like to gauge any pattern the same way – make the first one the way the designer intended. However, after the first time, there are some supplies that can be substituted for the recommended ones, such as the plastic “Keeper Shaper” by Clover. Plastic needlepoint canvas (or any plastic sheet of similar weight which can be cut to size) is a good substitute for the pre-cut shapers sold separately by Nancy’s Notions. Word of advice: do not skip the plastic shapers/inserts. They are key to protecting your electronic device.
  4. Nancy recommends using non-slip elastic headbands as a substitute for the polyurethane elastic corners holding the device in place. I’m not sure the headbands I’m using are non-slip. Will have to wait and see.
  5. The one thing I’m waiting to see, and which prompted me to read the instructions several times, is the ¼” edge to which the binding is applied. Is that really enough of a seam allowance for a sturdy binding? The videos do not touch on the binding process in detail; just Nancy asking us to use our favorite binding method. We’ll have to wait and see about that, too.
  6. I also wondered how the binding could be applied with the plastic already inserted – until I dug in again, and found out the exact size of the pre-cut plastic shapers for the medium size. Each plastic piece is about an inch smaller than the fabric rectangle. That’s do-able. I bought the large size shaper, assuming it could be cut to size, but in hindsight should have ordered the pre-cut assortment. According to the package, the plastic can be cut with a rotary cutter. No biggie there.
  7. As I work on this, I was reminded of the fact that interfacing a piece with a fusible WILL shrink it a little bit (the pink fabric shrunk a smidgen more than the plaid even after I soaked the interfacing in warm water and air dried it). I’ll have to “fudge” it this time (as in push, pull or take a slightly larger seam) but next time, will interface an approximately cut piece before cutting it to the exact measurement.
  8. Idea videos: I recommend – again – that you watch the video linked in #1 where embellishment of the basic Tablet Keeper is demonstrated, which is fun to see. Some are embroidered with initials and social media icons, others are made with quilt blocks, and still others are from re-cycled garments. Nice and very gifty.

So, wish me luck in completing this project successfully. I need some successes these days.

Nancy Zieman and Clover sell two different Tablet Keeper templates, the original and the Tablet Keeper 2.0 for newer sizes, because the electronic industry keeps changing the size of each upgrade – of course. Nancy Zieman has kindly provided a list of tablets if you want to see whether you should order the original or the 2.0 template. Click here for the original tablets AND here for the next generation.

By the way, the Trace ‘N Create templates are available for bags, purses, and quilt designs! Anything to make things easier & faster for sewers and makers is a good thing.

Have you made this tablet keeper? Have you used a different method, or design for your e-tablet? I would love it if you commented below, whether your interest is in a paper tablet keeper or an electronic one.

Hope you have a great summer.


Dear Readers, in spite of thoughtful and diligent sewing by the seamstress, this is how some sewing projects are abandoned or thrown in the UFO pile.   It hurts me to say this, but after many hours spent thinking through the making of Vogue 9005, then deciding to “just sew it”, I have to abandon the project.

pattern envvelope

But first, just as the pieces of Vogue 9005, View A were coming together for me, I came across a review by this nice young blogger named Jessica who actually made the same pattern and was beautifully successful! Wow, and I thought I was the only sewer in the world who had purchased Vogue 9005; here was someone who also likes View A.

As I progressed, however, there was something not quite right with the drape in the right shoulder area.  In the picture below you can see the slack in the “draped” shoulder.


After spending hours and a sleepless night or two (yes, I take my sewing personally), after checking into everything to see if I had made an error, the conclusion is this: it’s a pattern error.

Pattern Unmatch Drape error

Specifically, the armhole of the front under-drape does not match the armhole of the front over-drape and the tank top (the three are sewn together as one, so they HAVE to match) – the under-drape which is the middle layer is much smaller. Therefore, THIS is what happened (above right). And no, I did not cut out the wrong size drape; I cut the pattern tissue in a straight L (16-18) size. The drape is one huge pattern piece and I followed L (large) all the way — I checked it many times.

This became a painful turn of events, because I really like the design of View A; it’s a summery tank top but with added interest, and I like that classic with a twist look. The other views are silly toga-like numbers – not for me.

Just as painful, I used a great fabric – a mint featherweight rayon jersey from Mood Fabrics in LA. Ideal for Texas summers, although it needs a camisole for modesty.

The lovely blogger who I mentioned above, apparently did not experience the same problem. She made it in a small size. It makes me think that this error may be in the ZZ (L-XL-XXL) pattern envelopes. I don’t profess to know how Vogue patterns are drafted or printed, so maybe I should reserve judgment – but I knows what I knows.

So until further notice, this beauty is going in the unfinished pile – not discarded. I will take it up later after taking a sewing breath; it may be better to draft my own drape, don’t you think? Except there is not enough of the same jersey for the drape; just enough to possibly redraw and replace the shoulder piece of the front under-drape. What would you do?

Vogue Patterns, tsk……..



Hangin 2 Finished hem

Behold a blind hem which can be made really fast on a serger. No need to attach a special foot or fiddle with the settings if your serger is set on the 3-thread setting.

Here’s the back story. I realized that there was a dire need for dish towels in my kitchen – yes, dire. Like a good DIY girl, I went immediately into a pile of fabric, pulled out a couple of home dec fabric pieces and cut them to the appropriate length and width. But wait. I was in no mood to patiently turn & press the four sides for a double fold hem and change the thread on the sewing machine to match the fabric.

I noticed that my serger was threaded in a somewhat reasonably close thread color.  A light bulb moment ensued.   Here’s how I finished the raw edges and serged a blind hem in one pass . It took less time than using the sewing machine, and even less time and effort to get into the car, park at the store and buy a couple of dish towels.

1. Cut appropriate fabric to the desired size of a kitchen towel. I rotary-cut out a rectangle 18 x 24.

2. Press under 5/8” to wrong side, on all sides. For a deeper hem, press down 1”, or more. You will work on one edge at a time. No pivoting the corners here.

Press up

3. Lengthen serger stitch to it’s longest setting.

Increase stitch length

4. Turn back the fabric at the edge on itself, exposing the raw edge, as shown in picture below. This is the same method of folding when you’re using the blind hem on a sewing machine.  I folded back the fabric to expose just enough edge so the knife could cut through a little bit on the right side; the important thing is for the needle to catch the fold on the left, just barely.

5. Locate the needle marking on the serger. That is where you will align the fold. How much to leave exposed for the knife depends on how deep you want the hem to be. For this project, the hem depth was kind of a moot point.

locate needle pos locate needle pos 2

6. Serge all the way, and off the end. Note that the needle catches the fold on the left.

stitch closeup

7. On the right side, pull the hem a little to flatten it out. You will see the needle thread on the right side resembling a hand hem – almost. Press.

Finished hem

8. Repeat the process on other three edges of towel.

9. Sometimes, you may miss the needle stitch on the fold (if you went too fast or were not paying attention).  In that case, run the serger again just on that part.

Where can one use this really fast serger blind hem besides the lowly dish towel? How about children’s play clothes? Anywhere you can think of?   Try this technique on a casual project; I think you’ll like it!



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