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Published Jan. 25, 2012

By Vicki Farmer Ellis

King Features Syndicate

Dear Vicki: I have decided to make a coat, and I need a pattern recommendation. Also, I need advice about what fabrics I should be looking for to make a really warm coat. Thanks for your help. Tammy K.

Dear Tammy: I'm so glad you will be making a coat. They usually are easier than you might think, because the shapes are basic and the fit is easy. You can make almost any fabric toasty warm by basting cotton flannel to the pieces before beginning to sew them together. The pattern I am suggesting to you is Butterick 5685. It has a lot of style, and can be a short jacket as well as a coat. This pattern features custom cut options for different bust sizes, so it makes fitting the bodice a snap.

Turn fabric scrapsinto sweet gifts

Dear Vicki: I know the holidays are over, but I want to make something small but wonderful for Valentine's Day for my mother and my girlfriends. They love handmade things, and I am a quilter, so I have lots of scraps.

Do you have any ideas? Mitzie P.

Dear Mitzie: Indygo Junction has a darling new pattern called Yo-Yo Blooms. It makes a bracelet, necklace and decorative pin to wear. They can be made very quickly and are as cute as can be! As always, look for the pattern at a local store, or send me $9 if you cannot find it and I'll send one to you.

Get the perfect fitwhen you use a form

Dear Vicki: I know some sewers use dressforms. Just what are they good for? Do you have a favorite kind, and how do you use it? Pam F.

Dear Pam: You know I sew a lot, so you won't be surprised to find out I have three different ones.

I have a Uniquely You, which has a canvas cover that is fitted to me and then zipped over the top of a foam cover. This one is the easiest to get going with, but you need a friend to pin-fit the canvas.

The Fabulous Fit dressform ( is more work, but you can do it alone.

The My Twin ( is the greatest, because it is you, your posture and bust - just as it really is. However, it is a big, big job to construct. (I have had one for 15 years, and I pad it up when I get bigger and shave it when I lose weight.)

All can be found online. If you need help, send me a stamped, self-addressed envelope, and I will send you a printout of addresses.

Most of us need a dressform, because our bodies are not the perfect shapes that pattern companies design for. A dressform is essential to help you fit shoulders, sleeves, darts and fitted waists. You can pin-fit pattern tissue to the dressform, or muslin can be slashed and added to or folded out to fit. You even could try designing your own patterns by draping muslin on it. If you get one, you will instantly upgrade your sewing to a new level.

Some people say they don't like to look at their dressforms (because it reminds them of the things they don't like about their bodies), but I keep mine dressed in one of my favorite projects.

Some winning tipsfrom readers

Every month, I share readers' tips and send them a set of 100 fine hand-sewing needles from John James. The set has 100 very fine English needles. It's a wonderful, useful package for any sewer.

-This tip is from Marion Attridge of St. Petersburg. She writes: "To make threading your sewing machine needle easier, place a sheet of paper or file card behind the needle. It will show the hole."

-Linda Mueller of Sunset Hills, Mo., writes: "I am restoring a 19th-century crazy quilt, and some of the pieces are very deteriorated. The black velvet especially is rotted away, so I covered those areas with black tulle and couched it with feather stitches to match the rest of the quilt. Now I have made it look nice and have also retained its historical value."

-Sandra Klassen of Albuquerque, N.M., writes: "I like to make quilts. Sometimes it happens that I don't have enough of the right fabric to cut out all of the shapes I need, but there would be enough if I could stitch leftovers together. To match the pieces, I press about 1/2inch under on one piece, attach double-sided tape to the underside, carefully match this piece to its mate, and unfold and stitch a seam along the pressing line (which is also at the edge of the tape). Then I remove the tape and press the seam. This works better than pinning and is easier than basting."

Send your tips and questions to Vicki Farmer Ellis, P.O. Box 220463, St. Louis, MO 63122, or email her at