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Blouses with ties take a bow

I think my blouses need a new look. What can I make that isn't as boring as a shirt?

For fall, you will see many blouses with a tie at the neckline. They are soft, feminine and very flattering. Look for Vogue 7604, sizes 8-24.

Sewing with silk

I love silk fabrics for dressy clothes, but I'm discouraged by the tiny flaws in most silks. Why aren't they perfect?

It is natural for silk to have irregularities. This is its nature. Surface variations are not flaws and are not considered flaws. Forget these variations; they add to the luxury of all fine silk fabrics.

Can you wash silks? Yes, if you follow two key steps to determine if a garment will wash well. Garments with complicated construction, linings and dark colors are best dry cleaned. If you intend to wash your silk, always prewash for shrinkage and colorfastness.

Fabric grain governs hang

Why do all patterns instruct you to place your pattern on the straight or lengthwise grain of the fabric?

The direction of the grain results in your garment hanging better; therefore, it should always be cut with the grain, with few exceptions. If your fabric has a border, you can cut the pattern on the cross-grain, placing the border at the hem of the garment, the hem of jackets, the edges of sleeves, etc.

Raise heavy inverted pleat

When I make an inverted pleat in the front of my skirts, the hem seems to drag down, making it uneven. Help!

The weight of the extra fabric in the pleat will cause it to hang uneven at the hem. To remedy this, be sure the waistband of the skirt fits snugly. You can lift the skirt in front higher at the waistband until it hangs even.

Border print challenges

I have fallen in love with a beautiful border print, but I don't know what to do with it except use it at the hemline. Can you give me other ideas?

Remember one important detail when using borders: You must use them on straight edges. The material must be straight at the side seams. You may use it at the hem of pants, on the edge of a wrap skirt, as a yoke on a blouse or dress. If the border is geometric and doesn't have a direction in the design, it can be used at the center front of jackets, blouses, etc.

It takes a little imagination to use unusual fabrics.

This week's winner

Each week, a reader wins a prize for sending in a helpful sewing hint. This week's winner is Donna Caldwell of Albuquerque, N.M. She will receive a thumb pincushion. Her tip:

"My tip is for quilters. When I plan a quilt, I use a color copier. It helps me see how the colors will blend before I cut, and it helps me plan. I also use a black and white copier to determine my contrasts. (Sometimes I get strange glances when I throw the fabric on the copier, but the few dollars it costs certainly saves me money in the long run!)"

You, too, could win a thumb pincushion. Send your sewing tips to Eunice Farmer, Box 31729, St. Louis, MO 63131.

Eunice Farmer is a nationally recognized authority on sewing.

King Features Syndicate

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