How to Hem (In 4 different Languages!)

Teaching anyone to sew by hand for the first time can be challenging.  The awkward way they hold a needle, overcoming their mental block of not understanding a new skill and using the new vocabulary of sewing is difficult in of itself.  Imagine having these obstacles combined with not speaking the same langauge as some my students and a dead video projector that usually blows up the images so students actually see what’s going on in my hands: That was my week.

My school has a very large population of English Language Learners (ELL students) which require special attention while planning a lesson.  With my projector, I could literally display what I was doing on the board using my Document Reader (like a really awesome camera that zooms in on my hands while I sew!).  This helps ALL my students  see  an enormous image of what I am trying to show them, instead of having  small groups gather around my hands like a pow-wow.  So now I have no camera, which is helpful for my ELL kids since they can simply follow my hands instead of my voice.  Challenge.

This made for a very humorous couple of days in my Fashion Design class.  These girls were awesome: they were patient, asked good questions and didn’t get too frustrated with me.  Our main problem came with my interesting way of explaining things (which is usually helpful to American students!) but completely confused my ELLs!

While hand hemming (which I will post below), one step requires the needle to angle down into the fabric.  This is a strange step because the students always assume everything has to be perfectly straight when they sew.  Therefore, when I am performing this step (usually on my camera, but this time standing in front of the class) I make an airplane noise and tell the students to nose dive into the fabric.  Don’t judge me.  They like it.  They get it.  But, my Ukrainian student gave me the oddest look.  With her dark eye brows furrowed, she says “What airplane are you talking about?” (imagine in kind of a “Moose & Squirrel” type of accent).  Funny.

I also enjoy personifying the English Language a little bit.  In the last step of the final stitch, the needle goes through the loop to make a knot.  For some reason, this is beyond my students realm of thinking.  But, telling them to put the bunny in the hole always makes them laugh and they know exactly what I’m saying.  Not a kid who doesn’t speak English.  My Russian girl yells, “Meesis Dahmreen, whahhht bunnies are you talking aboud!?”.  All the Americans had a good laugh, and her partner showed her the loop on her fabric- she got it then and gave me a smile.

Then, my Burmese student begins to mock me.  I start to discover that she knows exactly what she is doing- growing up in the jungle of a war-torn country, I guess you learn how to sew without a machine pretty proficiently.    Before I have chance to describe a step, in her raspy, meek and (I have no idea how else to describe a Burmese accent) she talks to herself and mimics exactly what I’m going to say before I have a chance.  SO FUNNY! 

By the end of the week we had successfully sewed on buttons and learned to sew a hem- language barriers and all. Tune in next week, when I teach my Culinary Arts students to julienne a carrot (in Vietnamese, Ukranian, Burmese and Spanish!)



1. Measure the length of the desired hem and press.

2. On the raw edge, press under ¼”

3. Place the needle INSIDE the two pieces of fabric (so the knot is hidden between the fabric) and push out into the wrong side of the folded fabric (the inside of the garment)

4. Pull the thread tight and push the needle back through fabric JUST above the folded edge (into the single layer of fabric) and to the left of where the needle come out.

5. Once you’ve pushed the needle through the single layer of fabric, take a SMALL amount back onto the need (however much fabric you take is how much the thread will show!)

6. Push the needle back through the folded fabric, angled slightly.  Stitches will not be straight, but consistently angled.


October 5, 2012. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Pin #7: Ruby’s Slippers

If you weren’t (insert occupation here) what would you be doing?  Me? I would be enjoying a brilliant career as a children’s shoe designer.    After a few years of being a consumer of baby and toddler shoes, I have many times been on the verge of a very loud “UGGHH” sound in the baby shoe section.  Why? Because they aren’t made for baby feet or baby clothes….ever.  People who buy shoes for babies who don’t belong to them think the itsy bitsy shoes are adorable and buy them for the cute factor, and as a recipient you often find that the hot pink glitter sling backs with purple sequence butterflies don’t match anything that has ever been created. Cute?  yes.  Ridiculous? yes.  How about the progression of toddler shoes that they wear when they can actually walk?  I recently bought Clara 2 pairs of somewhat “matchable” flip-flops only to have her flip-out when I put them on her feet.  I realized that the sole of the shoe was thicker and harder than my own shoes, and the plastic “thong” part was exactly the same size as mine!  How are little feet supposed to walk in these?

While I can’t quite gather up supplies or skills to make Clara some reasonable shoes, I can make Ruby some sensible white  slip-ons that she can wear to church.  White.  No lady bugs, no polka dots.  Little elegant white shoes that will match any baby dress.  Although the elves are supposed to make the shoes while the Cobbler sleeps; this Cobbler made the shoes while the elves slept 🙂

Lots of flaws, I know.  I made a poor fabric choice because I had some left over from a Wilma Flintstone costume.  I swear those toes are perfectly clipped and rounded off- but her little toes just curl up inside them and make the fabric pucker.  Oh well.  I’m pretty happy with how they turned out and only have 2 suggestions from the TUTORIAL:

1.  Topstitch the top of the shoe:  I made a first pair and noticed that there was a lot of puckering and not enough shape.  After the second try the topstitching really helped the shoes take form.

2.  Make sure you cut a Left and Right:  Sounds dumb but it’s not in the instructions (which it really shouldn’t be).  But I had to stop myself when cutting out the sole and remember to flip one of them over before I cut and LABEL it. 

3.  Add elastic:  After finding that one slipper was slightly bigger than the other and that 2 month old babies love to kick their feet- I added some elastic to the inside back of the heal to grip her sweet little foot a little bit better!

July 10, 2012. Fashion, Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Pin #6: What Mommy Outgrows Becomes Clara’s New Clothes

I’m cheap.  Like really, really cheap.  I have a very hard time buying clothes for my daughters that cost more than $5 at the very most.  I love to scope out the clearance racks, and friends hate going shopping with me because I look at EVERYTHING on every clearance rack.  But, that’s how I manage to keep my ladies dressed in super cute threads for super cheap.  However one of my retailers, Wal-Mart, has been majorly letting me down lately!  They must be hoarding all of last seasons deals in some magical wharehouse somewhere because I haven’t been able to spend my weekly 15 minutes lost in their clearance.  Therefore, it’s time to turn to Pinterest for some thrifty ideas!

My first attempt at repurposing something old into something new for Clara came after my husband mysterioulsly got a bleach spot on a fabulous shamrock green linen shirt. It was just a darn shame to let this fabric (a clearance steal I got for him @ GAP outlet last summer) go in the trash.  So, I turned to Pinterest for some inspiration.  I ended up with this little gem. 

Daddy’s ruined shirt

Clara’s new tunic!

I was really happy with the end result and learned that the trick to making these dresses NOT look homemade is to use as many of the original seams as possible.  My next project came after ridding my closet of clothes I should have never bought or would take a miracle for me to able to wear again.  I could blame it on having two babies- but I’m really just lazy and chubby.  I pulled out this little number from the DAV pile and imagined a very fashionable little frock for Fall. 

This cheap knit shirt I purchased from Sarah Jessica Parker’s clothing line at Steve & Barry’s turned out to be a great repurpose project because it itself was not perfect.  While making a pattern for the sleeves I noticed that they weren’t even the same size!  Way to go Sarah Jessica Parker.  This fact didn’t make me so sad when the stripes didn’t match anymore when I had to resize the collar.  Oh well, old imperfection to new imperfection I guess.  To make an extra layers of ruffle, I used the hem from last weeks tank dress that was cut off.  Clara LOVED this little dress and I could barely get it off her to put it away for Fall church attendance.  I even tried to put a little flower on it to dress it up a bit, but she thought it was so cool she eventually tore it off!


I used an outgrown dress to help create a pattern and a paper bag to draw a sleeve patternAlways remember to make new pattern piece at least 5/8" larger around all edges!

I made an extra layer of ruffle from the bottom hem of last weeks tank dress!

July 1, 2012. Family Life, Fashion, Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Pin #3 The “initial” project

Some pins come across the page and even after you save it your “wish list” you can’t get it out of your head: you’ve got to try it, make it or eat it ASAP!  This was one of those pins for me!  I was crazy disappointed when Hobby Lobby didn’t carry an oval frame in the size I needed, but I honestly didn’t want to spend more than $20 on this project in the first place.  So, I used a garage sale find from last weekend and my sweet skills as a former furniture painter/distresser (another random job I had in college) to make this project come in at less than $4.  It was an ironic journey to take an old picture frame that was scratched and faded, paint it like new, and then sand it down and wax it to look old again!  I still wish I had found a cheap oval frame, but I think my final outcome really spruces up my mantle.  I finally got to get rid of the random items I had above the fireplace – things I had put up there 5 years ago just to fill in space and have been driving me crazy ever since!  This week I am so thankful for pinterest because it has inspired me to make something that refreshes the style of one area of my home without forcing me to get out of my “too cheap to ever buy anything new” box!



June 13, 2012. Interior Design, Uncategorized. 1 comment.

Pin #2: Frozen S’mores!

The Memorial Day weekend festivities were held at my homestead this year, and I wanted a special treat for the kiddos.  We don’t have a handy firepit- but I have been craving s’mores for weeks!  And when I come to think of it, I love the flavor of s’mores but I’m not a huge fan of the texture combinations: crunchy cracker, gooey ‘mallow and “not ever quite melted enough” chocolate. So, I found this recipe for a frozen s’more treat that has all of the tastes,  more consistent texture and is perfect for a hot summer cookout!

May 30, 2012. Tags: . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

The Wonderful World of Laundry!

      Today was a lesson that could possibly be deemed, “Home Ec-y”.  My Fashion Design classes are smack in the middle of their Textiles unit, and today we learned about clothing care.  I didn’t go too old school and discuss how to do laundry, (however I will be doing that after Spring Break with my “Life After High School” class) but we are discussing……… CLOTHING CARE LABELS!  You know, those weird pictures on your clothing tag underneath the care instructions.  Supposedly, the coming years will see a complete change in our care tags and we will be switching from words to symbols.  At least we better be, because that’s what I told them was the point of the lesson!  The purpose?  Clothing can be sent all over the world with ONE tag representing care in symbols that can be read in any language!

                In case you didn’t know this, here is a little lesson on how to read these puppies!

1. Know the COMMON symbols that are the base for every instruction:

2. Understand the different CARE symbols that can be placed with these in order to read the SPECIFIC instruction:

If there is a BAR _______ under the symbol: Permanent Press

2 Bars? = Gentle Cycle (I had a good graphic for this, but it wouldn’t upload!)

How can you remember what these dots and lines mean?  I tell my students to think of volume, the higher the volume (heat), the more dots.  The more bars under the symbol are like more mattresses, so it is softer (gentle).  My brain just works that way and they seem to think it’s funny!


 Finally, here are the random symbols that always make the students laugh, and for some reason yell at me since they don’t see the relation between the symbol and the meaning!

Can you guess the last one?    HANG TO DRY! 

Happy Launder-ing? (or something like that)!

March 15, 2012. Tags: . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Project: Recycle Your Old Clothes!

Fashion Design II is a class I teach within my regular Fashion Design course.  Previous students sign up for the course again, and make more challenging patterns and learn new skills.  I LOVE my “Fashion 2 Girls”!  They are the best and brightest from past years and have grown so much in their skills and love for do-it-yourself fashion.

This semester, I have challenged them to Recycle an old garment into something new & fresh.  They have some wonderful ideas so far, and are still in the process of sketching and pattern making.  My girls also have a weekly blog where they post their reflections on their project- and for this project will eventually post directions to their recycled style.   For my blog today, I would like to share with you one of their blogs about the stage of the process they are in.  When they are all finished and posted I will make sure to add a link for everyone to enjoy how talented they are!

Fashion II Student Blog

February 8, 2012. Tags: . Uncategorized. 1 comment.

What’s Your Color Season?

My Fashion students have loved learning about color the past two weeks!  This week, we discussed how they can choose the best garments according to their personal coloring and body shapes.  I taught them how to determine their “Season” which dictates what colors look best on them.  So much fun! 

My favorite part of the lesson is bringing volunteers to the front of the room and putting color swatches under their faces.  The class then tells them which colors look best on them, and this is how I prove that they indeed are a particular season.  During one such evaluation, I placed a bright raspberry colored swatch under a beautiful hispanic girl’s face.  Her dark hair, eyes and beige skin were wonderfully accented by the color.  To that, another student replied, “Everybody would look good in that color!”.  I simply smiled at the girl and raised the swatch up to my rosy skin, ash-blonde hair and blue eyes.  To this she replied, “Ugh….. nevermind! You cannot wear that color Mrs. Dameron!”   Hooray for application of knowledge!

If you’re interested in your determining your Season, I have attached the PowerPoint used in class this week!  Enjoy!

Choosing Your Best Colors

October 7, 2011. Uncategorized. 1 comment.