Spool T

To my readers who have faithfully and very sweetly been reading my blog posts: you will see more frequent posts here because I’ve gone and signed up for Blogging 101, a course offered by the blogging software company – WordPress.com – whose platform I use to publish my posts. The posts published while I’m taking this course may or may not be sewing related; they may be scintillating prose or just plain drivel. Please bear with me while I do some learning. You know I love you all.

To any new readers who may venture here, thank you! I’m Samina, and I sew everything (or try to) and like to show you that it can be done. The first assignment is to write a post about “who I am and why I’m here”. The very old and battered t-shirt I own (pictured above) says it all; you know, the spool of thread graphic tying in with my obsession with sewing…….

That sewing obsession is what started this blog. And I must say that only another sewing obsessed person will understand it. I mean, is the activity of wielding needle, thread, fabric and a sewing machine (in the interest of making fashion, décor and other things) worthy of obsession? Of course! The expensive jacket you’re wearing was made on a sewing machine, people! Why should it not be my sewing machine?

And – that is why I’m here; to share the good word. The whole “make your own clothes” thing can be done. There are a million sewing bloggers out there, and I realize that it is quite a monumental task to make myself heard; I’ll be a sewing blogger anyway.

Eagerly anticipating the next assignment from WordPress.com ‘s Blogging U.

Thank you for visiting! I’d love to see your comments and suggestions!


Happy Fourth of July!

Are you getting the urge to sew something – anything – this summer?  Heed these words from an old sewing book I own:  “…. a seamstress will sew with the urgency with which an artist paints…”

In my last blog post, I mentioned that another blog post will be unlikely to appear for another 2-3 months. True, that. I did not anticipate sitting down to sew, let alone write a post about it. My mom had just passed on, and almost 2 months later my daughter’s wedding reception was to take place.

As it turns out, I did sew in those two months, leaving me with the sense that no matter what the circumstances, a sewing enthusiast will take up a needle/thread/sewing machine/fabric, given the smallest opportunity.

I made these three projects in improvised locations around the house (sewing room being dismantled to make room for visiting family), on a mechanical Bernette sewing machine. Not the ideal set-up, but…….

Improv Sew Table

1. Curtains:

Curtains Curtain components

I managed to dress this window in these here curtains so the anticipated wedding guests have some privacy. I think they’re adorable!  The fabric is quilting cotton, purchased only because of the awesome print; I lined them with, wait for it — lace!! Why lace? Because I had it; fortunately it worked out perfectly. Between the quilting cotton and the cheap polyester lace, the curtains are thick enough for privacy.  Of course, I also indulged in my newfound love of plastic grommets to thread the curtain through a spring rod (manufactured as a shower rod).

2. Pillow covers:

Tie dye Striped back

Long hoarded tie-dyed pieces made by one of my daughters as a school art project decades ago, became these fab pillow covers this year. The blue/white cotton pillow-back was also a stash piece; I think the sewing stars just about aligned here. The pillow coordinated with some pretty storage bins in this room. (This guest room sported unintentional sewing décor).

3. Blouse:

blouse blouse sari

This deserves an entire blog post; in short I managed to make this silk brocade blouse (lined) to wear with my grandma’s sari. The blouse is beautiful! But as it turned out I had to go to plan B because my grandma, bless her soul, had spilled food on her sari a lifetime ago. I’m glad I finished the blouse, although it was not worn.

So, there you have it.  All of the above projects were made just because I had to sew something — anything.

There is no stopping the “urge to sew”.  Do you agree?

Have a great Independence Day!


  photo 2

If you have to haul your dirty clothes to the laundry, I suggest you haul them in great style. I made this pillowcase-style laundry bag for my daughter who was probably just requesting a utilitarian sack to carry her dry cleanables to the corner laundry in New York. No fun. Trust Mama to turn a boring item into a fun sewing project.

Well, the laundry bag travelled across country to the West Coast, then went back to the East Coast as my contribution to the Spring 2015 Stitch magazine! Before the Spring issue is taken off the newsstands, go ahead and buy it. And make the laundry bag :)

photo 1

Besides being fun, it is the perfect, easy item to jump start a sewing slump. Details and instructions in Stitch (Interweave Press). Since we sewing enthusiasts are huge show-offs, here’s another one I made. The laundry bag below is made the same way as the published version. There are some changes I made; firstly, I appliqued some “laundry”, secondly, instead of making buttonholes at the top I installed plastic grommets. Thirdly, I covered the cotton cord with bias tape. You’ll notice that one of the words embroidered on the bottom panel is upside down — adds to the fun, funky character of the laundry bag.

New bag

The grommets are manufactured by Dritz, and took me a few years to actually be able to install them. All previous attempts ended in failure, and I almost threw the whole package away, and am so glad I didn’t.


Here is how I installed the plastic grommets.

1. Interface, interface, interface. The fabric area where the grommet will be added needs some body – the kind provided by a non-woven fusible. On the upper white band I used an interfacing by Pellon.

2. On the right side of the interfaced area, use the template provided in the grommets package to trace a circle. All circles should be traced at a predetermined equal distance.


3. With a small sharp pair of scissors, cut out the traced circle – through both layers.


4. The plastic grommets are paired thusly: One has grooves on the underside and it’s partner has pins.

Grommet Parts

5. Place the grooved grommet behind the hole you just cut out, making sure the edge of the fabric circle is tucked in. The inner plastic edge should show. Note: Work on a solid surface such as a table, or uncarpeted floor.

Grommet Placement

6. Place the circle with pins on top, both inner edges aligned evenly.


 7. Press down with your thumb, or the fleshy area just below your thumb. While pressing, circle around the inner edge until you hear a click.


The grommet is in!


Until next time, have fun sewing up a storm!


PS: No affiliation with Dritz and Pellon – two wonderful companies, nonetheless.


Dear readers, I’ve been away from sewing, and posting on this blog for a long time. You see, I was occupied with saying goodbye to my Mother. She was the last member of the previous generation in my immediate family. Much as I did my best to keep her comfortable, it pained me to see her decline; but decline we all must.

Ammi Composite

Left, photographer unknown, circa 1954. Right, photo by Ashley Reed, 2015. Ashley, age 22, was one of my mother’s outstanding caregivers. Picture composite by Junaid Razvi.

Habiba Razvi

1925 – 2015

Rest in Peace, Ammi

She passed on just a week short of welcoming her first great-grandchild. A baby boy was born to my niece to kick off the newest generation in my family.  Both proud mamas are pictured below, bonding with their first born babies, both boys. Top, my mother and brother in 1949. Below, my niece bonding with her baby, circa 2015. 

Photographer unknown (could be my dad or uncle), circa 1949

Photographer unknown (could be my dad or uncle), circa 1949

Photo credit: Chapman family

Photo credit: Chapman family

Below are my parents as newlyweds. Don’t be thrown by the serious looks on their faces; they were blissfully happy.


Photo credit: Central Studio in Hyderabad, India. Circa 1948. Not sure the studio exists anymore.

A word about what my Mother is wearing in the photo above – it’s a gunmetal gray metallic silk sari embellished with star-shaped border appliques. I remember her wearing it a lot on special occasions, but am not sure what happened to it. I do remember that the appliques were made with silver ribbon folded into a star shape. Being a crafty kid, I paid attention to that sort of thing. Someday, I’ll try to re-create it.

Below, a photo of Habiba at a great point in her educator career. She was the Head of her department at a university, and thus got to welcome no other than the Queen of England, Elizabeth II. You know… one of the times when British monarchs decide to visit former colonies. As a little girl I remember the preparations and excitement for the event.

Ammi and Queen2

Photographer unknown. Circa 1960

While I decompress and welcome my first grand-nephew, I will have to say that there will be very few new posts on this blog for the next 2-3 months.

However, we have to make a wedding reception happen!! My daughter and son-in-law will be celebrating their marriage right here in her hometown!

Photo credit: Junaid Razvi, 2015

Photo credit: Junaid Razvi, 2015

Until the next post, happy sewing!


Altering:   taking apart a whole or part of a garment, making adjustments and sewing it back together in the same style to make it fit better.  Millions of American women can sew (30 million is the word on the street) – but its safe to assume that most of them hate to make fit alterations to an existing garment.

Refashioning: taking apart an existing garment and re-sewing all or parts of it back together to give it a different look. Most American seamstresses love to refashion. Also referred to as upcycling.

To me altering and refashioning are two sides of the same coin!  Since I discovered the joys of refashioning some years ago, a few distinct ideas have gelled in my mind about the different areas the art of remaking clothing has settled into.

1. The Bespoke ReFashioner:

This category is personified by Junky Styling, a UK business, somewhat inaptly named, I think. The bad news is that it seems to be closed. The first time I came across it, I immediately ordered the book which chronicles the “Junky Styling, Wardrobe Surgery” journey into saving items from landfills. They (sometimes literally) turned existing garments upside down to create couture worthy items. Did you ever think this jacket was once a trench (they call it a rain mac, being Brits and all)? While some of their styles will probably not end up on my back, their bespoke-on-it’s-head look is admirable and inspiring.

JunkyStylingBook JunkyStyling

2. The Everyday ReFashioner:

I use the word “everyday” because of lack of any other appropriate word. This sewer recycles items to be worn in daily life, so they must fit her lifestyle. Beth Huntington of Renegade Seamstress personifies this style of refashioning clothes – she is a kindergarten teacher and her clothing reflects that! Isn’t that how it should be? The content of Beth’s book consists of taking ill-fitting and outdated clothing from thrift shops and hitching them up, fitting them, maybe combining two items, and sewing them up into stylish, updated daily wear.  I enjoyed reading Beth’s commentary in each chapter on how sad looking clothing called out her name. She writes refashioning tutorials for eHow.com, and provides a link in her blog posts. Beth has presented webinars for Burdastyle on refashioning clothes – a feather in her cap!

 RefashionBook RefashionBook2

3. The Boho-Look (Sometimes Goth-Look) Refashioner:

This group, in my estimation, consists mainly of the younger sewing demographic; which is not to say that people my age are not part of this group. The example here is the content of the magazine Altered Couture by Stampington publishers. The magazine contributors seem to be inspired by the fabulous fashions of Anthropologie, as are the rest of us.


Pages of Altered Couture

Pages of Altered Couture

Anthropologie Catalog

Anthropologie Catalog

4. The Fast Turnaround, Whiz Bang Refashioner:

Marisa Lynch of New Dress A Day comes to mind. Her aesthetic is as follows: dash-to-Goodwill, whack with scissors, pin, sew … and wear. Always, with great results. And, she has authored a book! Check out her blog – Marisa’s exuberance shines through the posts!


5. Self-Wardrobe Refashioner:   And then there’s me. I don’t set foot in thrift shops because my own closet is the best thrift shop ever, or my daughters hand me something that they do not deem worthy of hanging in their closets anymore. Anything outdated is checked out for possible refashioning before discarding. Before a refashion, I have a good Q&A session with myself. Do I still love the original, outdated as it is? Is the fabric worthy of refashioning? Will I honestly be able to update the style? Here are some befores & afters.


JCrew original on the left. Hacked at right






Original cardi


photo 1


 Then the eternal question: What will I do with all the unsewn fabric in my stash if I keep upcycling my closet?

Can you think of more distinct categories of upcyclers? And, where would you list yourself, if you do happen to refashion clothing?

Well, I suggest that we all keep upcycling our clothing until it’s impossible to do it. But about the fabric stash………….

Here are some lovely refashioning blogs I follow on social media:

Refashion Co-op


Happy Sewing! Think happy re-sewing thoughts!


A recent dive into my fabric and pattern stash turned up this blouse pattern designed by the fabulous Peggy Sagers owner of Silhouette Patterns, plus some red pleated fabric purchased together, waiting patiently for me to re-discover them. This duo goes back to the turn of the 21st century – 14-15 years ago. Yep, the new pattern envelope has live models and everything (click on the link above). I told you I bought the pattern, oh, probably when it was first published.

Pattern&Fabric 34

The pattern includes two views. A tank top drafted in a B, C, and D cup. The second view is the pleated top, which had my full attention because there is just one pattern piece! Glorious and intriguing! A total of 3 construction seams for the pleated top – one side and two shoulder. The fit of the top lies in spreading properties of the pleating – therefore, this view is best made in a pleated fabric. I made a wearable muslin first in a cotton lycra which did not stretch enough, forcing me to add two gussets (wedges) between the two side seams. I lost the 3-seam aesthetic right there.

IMG_1691 IMG_1692

The pleated top pattern has a multi-size pattern for regular misses sizes, and another one for 14W through 28W. These size ranges are also helpfully identified as S, M, L, XL. A wee bit of confusion started to well up in me, and I measured the W sizing on the tissue (for the finished measurements), figured in the fabric stretch and traced first the Medium for the cotton/lycra muslin. after the muslin I cut out the L for the pleated fabric (see next paragraph).

The pleated fabric, it turns out, “stretches” far more than the cotton/lycra. Regardless, I went for a size L to make the red top.  The L is boxier than I want and the armholes are larger than I want. I could have used the medium size and the pleats would have stretched enough to get a good fit without looking too stretched. Note to self: Add to “fix list”.


 The fabric: It took me longer to research how to sew with pleated fabric than it took to actually sew it. This kind of Fortuny like pleating is permanent, which can only mean that the fabric is synthetic. Permanent pleating does not take” in natural fibers like silk and cotton. Mr Mario Fortuny is said to have owned the secret to permanent pleating with silk about 100 years ago – and took the secret to the grave with him. If his design house knew the secret, they did not divulge it.

When sewing this pretty red fabric, I found out just how synthetic it was. I used a sharp microtex machine needle, and still felt that the needle was sticking and the stitches were not quite right. But I got through the three seams OK. The top needed to be worn! No occasion, I just wanted to WEAR it.

side seam

Cutting: Laying out the fabric was not too fiddly since the pleats tended to stay “together”. I just needed to make sure that they were evenly together when the fabric was laid out. Weights and a rotary cutter worked best. There was no need to mark anything. I did make the length longer to give the top a tunic-like vibe. But looking at the photo, it seems to be cutting me in half. Additional item for the “fix list”.

Prep: The only prep for sewing needed was applying fusible tape to the shoulder seams.

taped shoulder

 Sewing it together: I used a modified zig zag, almost-straight stitch for shoulder seams and a straight stitch for the one side seam; since this is just one pattern piece with 3 construction steps (not counting the serge-finish), it went fast. Finish the edges with a serger (neck, armholes and hem). Sew shoulder seams and then the one side seam. I kinda liked the way the hem edge was already cut in a scallop, and left it as is. Done. Fair warning: the pattern does not ask you to stabilize the shoulder seams, nor does it detail tips for working with pleated fabric. For that, I consulted my collection of sewing literature, especially Sandra Betzina’s More Fabric Savvy, which had a photo of this very same top.

Unrelated thought: there should be a college course called “Sewing Literature”. (“I have to study for my Sewing Lit exam”).


 The pleated top has been worn several times already and it does not look too bad. However, the following fixes will need to be made (isn’t that why we sew?):

  1. Take in the sides; and make the next version a smaller size
  2. The above fix will make the armhole higher
  3. Apply red bias binding to armhole; the serged finish of the armhole is not that great.
  4. Shorten top length by chopping hem at least 3 inches.

Your turn, readers! Anything else you can suggest?  If you’ve made this pattern already, what are your thoughts?


Dear Readers, did you ever read the fascinating history of Coats and Clarks‘ 200 year timeline back in 2012? You must! I love it when centuries old established companies live in the 21st century – so of course, Coats and Clark has a sewing blog called Sewing Secrets with awesome content. No, this is not an affiliated post, and I have no involvement with Coats other than using their products.

To begin, I am not making a New Year’s or any other kind of resolution. I seldom do well with resolutions. Remember the sewing room revamp resolution a year ago? Fail……………. :(

But I do make sewing lists, and there are things on my 2015 list which are sorely needed to fill holes in the wardrobe such as pants (an eternal black hole) and some spring attire. And, there are things so much fun and so impractical that I’ll definitely sew them in 2015.

Leaflets - Copy

Enter sewing leaflets from Coats and Clark from the 1930s called “Smart Cuts to Sewing”. Propelled by a fascination with western fashion’s past, I will go ahead and make the items in my set of leaflets – one by one. The leaflets pictured above include some items that would be easily integrated into one’s 2015 closet, but not the others. Today I’m asking for suggestions from you to modernize them.  To help me keep my word, all I’m saying is that by the end of the year, I hope to be able to make them all.

First up, publication No. 580-A, circa 1934: Frilly Jabot with Collar.


IMG_1676 IMG_1677

How will the really cute, frilly, food-stain-magnet, white organdy jabot created 81 years ago fit into my wardrobe in 2015?  I’m all about stylish, but wearable & practical apparel. Here are some options I’m considering:

  1. A ruffled bag. Make the jabot in fake leather, eliminate the collar, add a zipper to make it a handbag or clutch!
  2. Sew it up in a drapey, sheer fabric, printed or solid, attach to a matching blouse, and press down the ruffles so they’re not quite so — out there. Voila! A neckline appendage which is more 2015 ….. and age appropriate?
  3. Let the ruffles have a raw edge. The original ruffles have a folded edge. They’re bias, so no fear of fraying.
  4. Make fewer but wider ruffles.
  5. Any other ideas?  Need your help, readers! How can this jabot be fashionably au courant?

Would you also join me in making this appendage? Oops, I mean jabot.


I am a fan of Claire McCardell, the post WWII designer who is said to have “invented” modern American Sportswear as we know it today. Her designs are classic & utterly wearable today. As well, they have a unique quality which makes them intriguing.

Therefore I am beholden to Julie Eilber of jetsetsewing.com for adapting this tube-like wrap by Claire McCardell. You can find the downloadable pattern on WeAllSew.com , a blog by BerninaUSA.

Original McCardell Side

The original by McCardell fits snugly around the shoulders. The adaptation is a quick sew… which I did…. in an afternoon. I “hacked” Julie’s pattern to make the neckline look a little more like the original McCardell. Plus, my impatience in wanting to put this over my head as soon as possible, made me eliminate a few things.

This is how my sewing process went down:

  • I chose a thin soft-but-scratchy, grey raschel knit (with some lurex) which IS a knit but is stable, and does not ravel. Raschel knits do not stretch as much as the recommended sweater knit, but mine stretched just enough.


  • A grey polyester/lycra was pulled out of the stash for the lining but I decided to make it without a lining. That impatient monster again….
  • On the downloaded pattern, I extended the neckline upwards to make it “cowl” (used as a verb here) a little, like the original McCardell.

Pattern hack

  • I stitched the two side seams with a modified zig zag, pulled the wrap over my shoulders, liked what I saw after a little bit of tugging and pulling in the right places.
  • For the neck and hem edges, I simply stitched a zig zag 3/8” away from the raw edge and left it at that. Trying to pink the edges made them shed fibers.

In making this wrap, I questioned its wearability and comfort. I mean, how does one deal with a wearable which pins your arms to your sides? When McCardell designed the original, America had not seen anything like it, and the wrap sold out in a short time. That many American women can’t be wrong. They weren’t. The wrap is extremely wearable, I can move my arms easily – well, maybe reaching the top shelf would be a problem, but I’m willing to pick my wearability battles. I like to think that if this piece restricted the wearer’s movements considerably, Claire McCardell would not have put her name on it.

I don’t do strappy dresses or cocktail parties, but if you do, this wrap is perfect for an event where you won’t need to lift your arms too much above the elbow, except raise a glass.

Julie has another way to wear this wrap; pull it up around your neck and it’s a cute scarf!! Also, check out the hack of her own pattern, to resemble an Eileen Fisher poncho/wrap.

I want to make this again – in a sweater knit and lined – as it was supposed to be. Meanwhile, I love my raschel knit version. Thank you Julie Eilber of jetsetsewing.com and WeAllSew.com! Go read Julie’s post to read more about this wrap, and to WeAllSew to download the pattern.


Readers, do you think you’ll make this wrap? I highly recommend it; if not for yourself, find someone to make it for.

Just for fun, some trivia about Claire McCardell:

  • She actually entered the fashion industry as a fit model.
  • As a designer, she trained her models to have a somewhat slouchy, shoulders back, hands-in-pocket, casual stance that came to her naturally.
  • She’s an alum of Parsons School of Design (yes, that Parsons, the school made famous today by Project Runway).


Hi readers!

This post features an item I made 2 years ago, and about which I wrote a couple of blog posts for the American Sewing Guild, where I was employed at the time. You can find the posts here and here. The original collar was featured in “Gifts You Can Make Yourself”, a book from the 1940s which my mother was gifted as a young married woman, before my siblings and I came along. I grew up with this book and it has always been on my parents’ bookshelf and now on mine, in all it’s shredded glory.

3 book 4 inside cover

I remember my mother knitting cardigans and vests featured in the book for my father and grandfather.

8 dad vest 7 gramp cardi

I’m told that this cable knit baby shawl was made when my parents started their family.

9 baby blanket

Yep, my mom was a prolific knitter in her day. I guess that knitting gene morphed into the sewing gene in me.

Skip to 2012 and I decided to sew this lace collar from the book. The difference between the original (top right in the left photo) and my version is twofold; I used a wider lace which made the collar a little bigger in size.

5 collar variations 1Finished collar

Second, I skipped the folded binding at the neckline and stitched on two rows of a rayon binding inside the collar. You can also see the hook and eye I attached at the ends.

2 closure

The way I’m wearing it here, the hook and eye is not used. In the “wearing of the collar”, it was handsewn to the v neckline of a black knit top, and this is the result. I wear this a lot!

Mama Mirza Collar2

Now a word about my photo.  Thanks to Brian J. Campbell who shot the portrait. Also, Brian is my awesome, brand new son-in-law. Go see his website.  Photography is his after-hours dream job.

Happy Sewing!


Merry Christmas to all readers who celebrate!

1 Original art 8 Final

For your sewing enjoyment, I am directing you today to a post I wrote for the online magazine MasalaMommas. I hope you enjoy it. The inspiration for this project is Angelina Jolie’s bridal veil; for those of us not paying much attention to Ms. Jolie, her veil was embellished all over with her children’s art. Click on the link above to see the picture of the original veil on People magazine’s website.

So, go ahead and read the instructions, and let me know what you think. It was easier to do than I at first thought. Enjoy!

Happy Holidays! Hopefully, I will be able to come back soon to my weekly blogging schedule!



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