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Seamstress Q&A on making slipcovers, teaching kids about sewing

Here is a Q&A with Nicole Morgenthau, owner of Finch Sewing Studio in downtown Leesburg, Va.:

Q: What are your thoughts on making slipcovers at home? I have a home-grade machine, fair sewing skills and two to four modern upholstered chairs and a sofa to slipcover. A pro can do a great job faster, but the cost difference is huge. I’m going for an unfussy shape, possibly edge-stitched instead of piped, in a white cotton or linen twill. My goal is to be able to launder the covers a few times per season.

A: There are projects that are not worth the struggle in a home setting (without the benefit of professional equipment, experience, etc.). But I think if you are someone who will be more proud of your space and your work because you put your own hand to it, this is the right project for you!

Q: I’ve sewed most of my life (mostly garments, some quilting), but only with a pretty basic home-grade sewing machine. I just upgraded two years ago to a new computerized machine with some fancier stitch patterns and such, but I’ve always wondered if owning a serger would be worth the cost. I’m not making a ton of items, maybe a clothing item every month or two.

A: I love this question. What you need to know is that sergers are accessories. Many people think that not having a serger is holding them back from doing really “great” sewing, but that is not the case. I have two words for you: French seams. That said, I have a serger, and I love it, but I don’t use it every day. It does make fast work of finishing a garment, that’s for sure.

Q: I was reupholstering some dining room chairs, and I had a lot of trouble getting the fabric to tuck right around the seat. I also had trouble keeping the fabric stain-free. How should I go about reupholstering these seats?

A: There’s a great book that will be a big help. It’s called “Spruce: A Step-by-Step Guide to Upholstery and Design,” by Amanda Brown.

Q: How can I get my kids interested in sewing and knitting? I really want them to know how to do some of these wonderful crafts.

A: Let them play! Kids love to play, and they will come up with amazing things on their own. My philosophy when teaching kids is to allow them lots of free rein. They develop an idea on their own, we fine-tune it and design it together, and then I help them throughout the project, giving them the skills they need as they go. Parents tend to give more input than is necessary. If you let kids pick out and design on their own, they'll be really proud of themselves. You’ve got to have patience. This can be really hard for parents who are teaching their kids to knit or sew (or do anything, for that matter). Remember that they are thinking about a lot of moving parts, so the instructions you gave them two seconds ago may have been replaced by another thought the moment the instruction was given. You'll be repeating yourself a lot.