The Savvy Sage of Sewing Stimulation


Sometimes (like lots of times), it appears that those of us who sew well, know it all.  It also appears that we’ve never had any problems and certainly any problems big or monumental enough to stop us dead in our tracks.

Believe me – that’s not even close to the truth, and if any expert tells you otherwise, something’s wrong, because we’ve all been through it.

I can remember numerous times when I really wanted to make something badly for me or a friend or family and it just didn’t turn out.  I had a great work friend (when I was doing  my Mary Tyler Moore immitation during my younger years), and she was like an older sister and guided me through the ways of the big company so that I could negotiate a better deal for myself.  She was really a doll.

One day, she knew I sewed a lot and even some of my clothes (the simpler ones), she asked me to make something for her.  She found this gorgeous Vogue Designer Pattern (below)and asked me if I would make it for her.


We found some killer gorgeous chamois colored velveteen and some wonderful lining, and I was so excited to be able to do something for my great friend.


I took her measurements, measured the pattern and cut it out and was ready with a fitting.

And that’s when things went terribly wrong.  I was making the pants and the jacket/top, and the pants were miserable, and I had no idea 1.) what was wrong (but believe me they didn’t look right and I knew something was wrong), 2.) how to fix it, and 3.) after I took the copious measurements how this could have possibly happened – and it happened over and over  – no matter how much or how exact I cut out the garment.

Then the jacket, which was a little better, but unfortunately my finishing on it was pathetic.

I was frankly mortified and heartbroken and confused and dismayed and depressed and sad – mostly sad!

I remember the horrible let down as I finished the garment, but it never really worked for her and it never really fit.

The few garments that turned out well, were luck.  Remember Mark from the Great British Sewing Bee?  Remember his dress in the 2nd episode?  Remember how it turned out – and how surprised everyone was?  Well, I know that feeling, cause I had a little luck along the way.



Here’s my prom dress from high school.  I was very lucky in a number of ways – one was I found this gorgeous ribbon and then found this acetate taffeta moire to go with the ribbon.  So that was a great find.

Then I found this pattern and amazingly enough it all went together beautifully.  If you notice I didn’t line it – I didn’t know how to do that and just hemmed the dress.

When I look at this today (knowing what I know today), I was sooooo lucky.  Part of this was I had a great figure back then, so hardly any fitting issues, and another part was the pick of the fabric & ribbon was excellent for this dress – just a lucky pick.  The last was that the pattern didn’t require any special techniques, just was simple with the hardest part being the zipper, but I got it in OK.

In a way, this was a cruel trick, cause this buoyed my thinking that I could make something else a little harder.

So I tried over and over and over again.

Nothing came out, except every once in a while I would make a simple top or skirt, and that would turn out, but anything more complicated, and it just wasn’t worth a damn.

Plackets, set-in sleeves, collars, collar bands, notched collars, pants, pull-over plackets, jackets and dresses (with collars, set-in sleeves) were all off limits.  Any time I thought about doing anything like these patterns or designs, I just had to look away.  Every once in a while I would get lured into doing one and fail and go back to working on sewing pillows or fixing a hem or thought about sewing quilts.  I loved sewing and to be honest this didn’t seem fair.

I really wanted to sew clothes.

One day I thought about taking a course, so signed up for a sewing course and this was about as discouraging as what I had been through with myself.  The attitude of the teacher is that I must not have followed the directions correctly and that’s why the clothes didn’t look good (understand that it didn’t look good because it didn’t fit and the seams didn’t go together well – so there was fitting and execution problems simply because I didn’t’ know how things went together.)

I was so disheartened and discouraged about ever learning to sew.

So what in heaven’s name happened to transform me from this discouraged, saddened wannabe sewist, to the professional designer I am today?

The first thing that happened was classes and instructions from a professional (my future mentor).

The second thing that happened was that my mentor never ceased to encourage, empower, inspire, enlighten and most of all educate me.

My transformation in just a short time took me from a haphazard at best sewing wannabe to this….


Here I am with my cousin at his induction into the state hall of fame.  This is my YSL homage to his tuxedo look.

Susan & Claire & Nancy1

This is one of my own creations at an evening social event.  I designed all my clothes while my friends were purchasing theirs at the local boutiques.  I often looked just as good if not better as my clothes were tailored for my coloring, shape and style.


This is one of the most gracious first ladies from my state for one of their inaugural balls.  She was a delight to work with and not only did she look fabulous in this ensemble, it felt really comfortable on her.


This is my talented cousin (another one) with his talented wife, who designs costumes for the movies.  I’m wearing one of my favorite tweed jackets that goes with everything and hasn’t gone out of style in 10 years!


This is the first lady of Devon Energy receiving her induction into the state hall of fame.  I’m so lucky that my clients are delightful and tasteful people.  They are all great fun to work with.


This transformation didn’t occur overnight, but it also didn’t take forever.  Through the encouragement and nurturing of my mentor, I learned how to sew and sew professionally.

That’s why I love teaching.  I know that people can learn to sew well and with style.  Seeing my students and subscribers change from frustration to satisfaction;  from inability to creativity is a real high for me.  It’s like me experiencing that freedom and exhilaration off knowledge – of knowing that only the sky was the limit – all over again.

I have been where the most frustrating and heart-sunken of you have been.

I know that feeling, and I also know that you can learn how to solve your construction and fitting problems – but more than that, I can teach you how to solve these problems with a fashion-conscious and creative mindset so as to bring sewing out of the doldrums of the women’s-libbed exhile of the 60’s to the modern expression of individualism that is so missing in today’s fast and disposable fashion.

This month my newsletter is devoted to that transformation from that desperation of knowledge to the encouragement of enlighten creativity.  Come join me as I start a new section called “Kickstarter” with a project that  features a specific element of design and/or technique meant to spark creativity as well as jump-start your technical skills.


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