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A return to my garment-making roots!

Friday, February 25th, 2022
Princess seam top, Simplicity S8333 (pattern currently available), commercially purchased linen pants. Made on my beloved Janome M7 Continental, aka Albus the 2nd (after Albus Dumbledlore, the greatest wizard that ever lived)

It appears months have evaporated since I last wrote–at least I am keeping up with my newsletter! On a lark, and in my endless quest to always be learning and improving my sewing, I signed up for Garment Makers Question Time with Philippa Naylor. A little over a year ago I took a 2-hour online piecing workshop with her that was brilliant; even after decades of quilting I learned stuff. Since I’ve also started sewing clothes again, I decided to sign up–it is only $150 for a full year and let me tell you the value you get for the HOURS of detailed instruction each month is amazing. Students range from total newbies to garment making and sewing to those like me with decades of experiencing and we are ALL benefitting! Wish you could see what total newbies have accomplished in both fit and construction.

I made view C without the scallops on the sleeves and slightly altered the depth of the neckline. The white is inexpensive fabric for dyeing… I will likely un-sew the basting then dye the fabric for piecing and quilts. Especially in the bottom right photo above, notice that the upper bodice, above the full bust, is too roomy–the neckline folds out and lots of excess near the arms. Read on….this is why you make a toile/muslin/practice piece!

A “toile” is a sample garment made to refine the fit since patterns are made to an average shape and measurements and, let’s be honest here, NO ONE is exactly that fit. The first month in GMQT is to make an A-line dress. I have never worn one in my life and never will….but…. I made a simple dress with bodice and gathered skirt (that’s coming in next month’s newsletter–use the sign up box on the right of this page or at the bottom of the other pages on my website to subscribe).

While waiting for the fabric I wanted to use for the more fitted project (a delightfully soft linen from online), I came across this pattern on sale at Simplicity online. I LOVE square neck tops, and thought the practice of fitting a princess seam top would be useful. I bought some Rifle Paper Co. fabric at Fiddlehead Artisan Supply in Belfast, Maine, then worked up the muslin or toile (above right). The pattern is multi size so I can grade from one size to the next as needed. I have a broad back, and broad, square shoulders, so using what I learned from the not-yet-made-dress toile, I knew how to adjust for the shoulders so it was quick and easy. This pattern is the first I’ve ever bought which offers B, C, D and DD cup sizes. That meant I took the B and decreased (sigh).

I learned that to get the ideal bust fit in addition to full bust and high bust, you measure from the apex of the bust to the neck, to the shoulder and to the belly button. That means you can triangulate (measure) on the flat pattern piece and get the apex of the bust in EXACTLY the correct spot for a perfect fit. With a princess seam, the adjustment is so much easier than the slice-and-pivot stuff on a darted bodice: you just adjust the curve and seam depth on the side front piece (in my case trim away)! I left the bodice center front intact and didn’t change the design lines at all–the fitting was done from the side piece. Finally, I lowered the base of the square neckline about 5/8-3/4 of an inch. With those changes, the excess fullness in the first toile fitting above is eliminated.

I’ve always used fusible interfacing, but chose to try Philippa’s method of using cotton lawn, a soft, finely woven, lightweight cotton instead. You cut the cotton “interfacing” the same size as the facing, then sew right sides together on the bottom edge and turn right side out. No awkward 1/4″ to turn under–a perfect, smooth, lined facing that supports the neckline softly–probably better than fusible, and certainly nicer look and feel. In this image I have clipped the curves so the seam will lie flat. You can also see two lines of stitching and the understitching line.
The bodice is to the left, the facing and seam allowances to the right of the seamline in the photo above. Using my 1/4″ Acufeed HP foot and the single stitch HP throat plate, I ran the inside left edge of the foot next to the seam, which yields a perfect parallel line of “understitching” which is the line of sewing that secures the seam allowance to the facing. This process helps prevent the facing from trying to roll back outward and produces a beautiful flat facing.
Ta DAAAA! Look at that nice, flat facing, sharp inner corner, tidy understitching and smooth clean facing edge thanks to the interfacing as lining.
I used the Hong Kong finish, which is a first cousin to a single layer quilt binding, on the shoulder and princess seams. It is trickier to manage (nearly impossible) on the “J” curve of the side seam which extends to the cut-on short sleeves, where I just overcast the raw seam edges. I used a voile, a cotton every so slightly lighter than cotton lawn, for this finish. You cut a 1″ bias strip, sew it to the top of the seam allowance, wrap to the back, and then stitch in the ditch. The back side of the Hong Kong finish is a single flat layer, not double like a quilt binding, which reduces thickness. Because of the bias cut and tight weave, no worries about fraying, plus that side is hidden under the pressed-open seam allowance. I used the 1/4″ foot with the guide/flange on it for applying the bright lime green.

Also, here’s a link to a Facebook post with a brief video showing me using the M overcast edge foot on the Janome to finish the side seams.

To make this even more fun–see the sleeveless version in the pattern? I was watching Call the Midwives and in that episode Trixie was wearing that EXACT blouse style! What a hoot! And Fiddlehead (my favorite store!) has GINGHAM–it’s back! Hmmmmm…….

Now that it is snowing again… six inches expected… all I have to do is wait for warm weather!

Int’l Quilt Market Part 2

Saturday, November 16th, 2019

So I actually did see things besides the productive visit in the Michael Miller booth (previous post). The Martha Negley quilt and fabrics were across the avenue in the Free Spirit booth:

I had so much fun tootling about and was delighted to see that Martha Negley fabrics are again available…she is one of my favorite designers.
In the Free Spirit booth. I also saw this amazing quilt across from the Martha Negley display:
Calico Horses by Lorraine Turner has all sorts of cool stuff including wool roving and yarn as well as regular cottons. Free Spirit booth.
The feel of the scissors in this booth were amazing quality for price. Based in Toronto, Canada, I think this young couple is just adorable! Here’s to their success! And yes, I bought a pair of scissors for me. I put them in contact with SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) which is looking for vendors for the conference in Toronto in March.
They even have a few kitchen items (not all on their website yet). I bought the wood-handled poultry shears for Joshua’s birthday. Even if he just hangs them on the wall they are beautiful, but they work. AND the two on the right separate easily for cleaning kitchen yuck!
Denise Burkitt’s fabric for Free Spirit made my heart soar! I just fell in love with everything about it. She is a fabric dyer, so I totally swooned over the original pieces and the phenomenal printing that captures the hand of the artist in the cloth. WANT! And want to channel her muse when I’m next in the dye studio.
Alas, my photo of Denise is blurry. She made a shirt out of some of her fabric — it is her own design but I’d love to find a pattern like it, the collar is so flattering and versatile (wear long sleeve underneath in winter). And I’m really loving what Free Spirit is selling!
Tula Pink is always amazing, with a beautiful booth. (this is a visitor in the booth, not Tula)
In Tula Pink’s booth: I WANT THIS. I have been thinking of re-doing our cushions for the porch rockers and settee. I’m now thinking pieced!
I wore my Vogue 9112 dress made from a fabric by Brandon Mabley that I have hoarded for years…I love it! Well, as I’m walking market who do I see taking a bit of a short rest in the Kaffe Fassett booth but Kaffe Fassett, Brandon Mabley and Liza Prior Lucy. So as I walk by I say loudly “Hey Brandon” and point to my dress. He came out immediately and we got this selfie even though he said he is usually reluctant to do them…thank you!

So that is part 2… I think I’ll save the rest for a third and final post about Market. And no, I didn’t really get to see many of the quilts at all–I was having way too much fun doing Market!

Jiminy Christmas!

Sunday, December 16th, 2018

Happy winter folks!  Egads….time whizzing by, change in the behind the scenes stuff on my website so trying to write a blogpost is totally unlike what it has been for 14 years…. I’m lost!   Don’t even know how to add a photo.  Well, it has been busy as usual what with massive house cleaning, getting ready for the holidays and all that.  I’m also starting a newsletter, so there is a new sign  up button on my home page and, if I can figure out how, I’ll put it in here, too. 

 Here is a snapshot of the house so far..Eli came home from college last night so we can finally finish trimming the tree this weekend.  We are due to get snow tonight and tomorrow, but after a cold and wintry November it is warming up in December so I don’t think we’ll have a White Christmas (but I’ve already watched the movie for the season!).

So it looks like I added a photo, now what…gosh I hate when things change so radically!   Trying to decipher MailChimp has been hard enough for the morning.  So here’s a quick peek at what I’m doing in the studio:

The start of a rose hip……

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions?  When I grew up we made candy and delivered it as gifts, but haven’t done that in decades.  In the interest of fitting into my clothes, I am restraining myself.  But I love remembering who gave me various ornaments or where we went that year.

Here’s an ornament made by my friend Deborah Boschert, an angel that was on a gift from my cousin Anne sometime in the mid 60s (for anyone from southern California, probably it came from Pic N Save!), a spider web in glass from my first tour in the Foreign Service in Toronto (and miraculously not broken despite traveling around the world for umpteen years) and my two beautiful Lalique discs, at the top of the tree out of pet danger.

and here is an attempt at a pop-up sign up for my monthly (or maybe every other month) newsletter…I’ll fine tune formatting another day, ahem. now, I need to figure out a logo!  Give me suggestions LOL! PS–scroll down, I can’t figure out why so much blank space.

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QA TV Series 2000, including me, is now on air!

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

Hi everyone…a quick pop-in to share that Quilting Arts TV has begun airing.   Check with your local PBS station to find out when it will air in your area.  In Maine, it will be on Maine Public’s Create channel (I think).  If you’re like me and don’t have access to a PBS station (grumble) that airs it, you can download the episodes or series at Interweave, here.  I’ve even got a new badge:

Sarah’s on Quilting Arts TV again, Episodes 2001, 2007 and 2012.


I’ll be talking about my journey from hobbyist to professional in the industry (Episode 2001), how to get crisp corners when facing art quilts (Episode 2007), and  my way of using thermofax screens to blend collaged fabrics prior to quilting (Episode 2012).  I hope you’ll enjoy the journey with me–nothing of mine is earth shattering, but not much in life is.  It’s the little tweaks and changes that make the difference, and I hope my tips and techniques will improve your quilting and life.




The Rewards of Teaching

Friday, February 5th, 2016


A student learning to Thread-Color the Garden  (class listed at Sarah Ann Smith Classes just scroll down)

It is so heartwarming to receive feedback such as this from your students:

“Sarah, Your class was really great and I learned a lot. You are an engaging teacher with down to earth instructions and entertaining anecdotes. Thank you so much for traveling all the way to Greenville! – Joanna”

and from Emily who organized the class, “I want to share that I’ve heard wonderful reviews of the technique along with praise for your teaching style from lots of the women.  “Very informative”, “Encouraging”, “Addictive,”  “Practical,” and “Approachable” are just a few of the accolades!  I personally want to thank you for making the journey north and sharing with all of us.”

Comments like these are the greatest reward of teaching!  Thank you Emily G., Joanna and all my students in Greenville!   I’d love to return–and as long as it isn’t sports season for Eli I’ll bring chocolate chip cookies for all (one of the benefits of teaching in driving distance from home–more quilts and food!).


Class in a church basement in Greenville (southern edge of Moosehead Lake in northern Maine)


A student ironing behind the “goodies” table


a Practice snippet before students worked on the main image for learning to thread color


Learning how to blend thread colors. Instead of worrying about messing up a quilt top, work on a printed photo!