Simple projects should pique kids' interest

By EUNICE FARMER Special to the Times
Published May 3, 2007

Q: My 8-year-old granddaughter is dying to learn how to sew. How do I go about helping her begin the right way?

A: She is at a perfect age; she can read and understand directions. And the summer is a great time to learn a new skill. Check to see if any fabric stores in your area offer classes for preteens - this is the best solution. If not, see if she has a friend who also wants to learn, and arrange to teach them yourself.

Begin by letting them select fabric. This is a good incentive. A great beginner project is a slip-on skirt with elastic or a tie at the waist. The first project won't be perfect, but practice makes perfect. Make it a fun experience. She will be so proud and want to continue. I have discovered a fabulous booklet called Simply Sewing designed for children just her age. It is filled with many easy projects and teaches hand and machine sewing, etc. In fact, we use it as a teaching tool in our summer classes for kids. If you would like a copy of Simply Sewing, send $9.95 to Eunice Farmer, Box 31729, St. Louis, MO 63131, and I will send it to you.

A trendy top

Q: Everywhere I look, the blouses today are all worn over the skirt and not tucked in. Is this a fashion change that will soon go out of style? My teenage daughter wants me to make her one. Can you help?

A: I suggest Butterick 4985, sized 6-20, as a perfect new blouse. Yes, most of them are worn over the skirt or pants. It's a different look, and the girls all seem to love it. Also check out the new sleeves - we called them "puff sleeves" when I was young; today they are called "bubble sleeves." Today's blouses can also be worn as lightweight jackets.

Double duty

Q: I have been looking at the new skirts in an expensive shop filled with designer clothes. Some of the skirts have two 4-inch zippers, one on each side seam, instead of one long zipper.

A: Designer clothes often have more variations than you find in mass-produced clothes. My guess is that with the shorter-length jackets shown today, the two shorter zippers on the skirt work better because they won't show below the jacket. This can't be done with the standard 7-inch zipper. Actually, the fit is the same; it just takes a little longer to apply two zippers than to apply one.

This week's winner

Each week, a reader wins a prize for sending in a helpful sewing hint. This week's winner is Phyllis Wetter of Salina, Kan. She will receive a collection of 100 hand-sewing needles from England. Her tip:

"For those of us who love to do machine embroidery, try keeping different spools of colored thread in an ice-cube tray in the order that they will be used. Each cubicle is numbered accordingly - sure saves time!"

You, too, could win a collection of hand-sewing needles. Send your sewing tips to Eunice Farmer, Box 31729, St. Louis, MO 63131, or go online to info@eunicefarmerfabrics.com If she selects your tidbit for publication, you'll receive this prize.

Eunice Farmer is a nationally recognized authority on sewing. She is an author, teacher, lecturer and fashion reporter, and she owns her own fabric boutique and sewing school in St. Louis.