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Profile for MaryRay - Threads


Banner Elk, NC, US

I am a former associate editor for Threads and I was a contributing blogger on I’ve been sewing for as long as I can remember. I began making quilted garments after joining a quilt guild and got hooked. These pieces began appearing in fashion shows and winning awards. I’m a devotee of quilting and fashion. I have written numerous articles on the subject and teach my techniques at shows and retreats around the country. I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina – a Mecca for fine craft.

craft interests: quilting, sewing

Member Since: 12/09/2008

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Underlining with Fusible Interfacing

Excellent fusible products make underlining a breeze and give your fabric and garments a boost.

How to Salvage Your Selvages

A good selvage is like a bonus with your fabric purchase. Learn nine clever and creative ways to use fabric edges.

Sew Better with Staystitching Fundamentals

Although one of my favorite parts of sewing is creating interesting surface design, I’m well aware that it’s the underpinning steps in the process that make a garment truly successful and wearable.

How to Sew a Sweater Using Knitted Fabrics

Combine a knit fabric with a knitted scarf to make a sweater using a sewing machine and hand-sewing needle.

Make Lace From Scraps

Create a fabulous openwork fabric.

Use Slot Seams to Embellish Garments

Use slot seams creatively for surface design.

A Vintage Blouse Embellished with Soutache Braid

Looking at vintage garments can inspire your sewing and can be a great teaching tool.

Combining Fabric Weaves and Weights

Create a stir with garments that combine textures, prints, fibers, and weaves.

Turn Your Special Textiles into Something Special to Wear

Here's a way to make a garment from pieces of home textiles and preserve some memories at the same time.

How to Restyle a Straight Skirt

Take a straight skirt from plain to fabulous with a little inspiration.

Add Texture to a Garment with a Variation of Strip Piecing

Although beautiful fabric can always stand alone, sometimes it’s fun to play with it and create an entirely new surface.

How to Sew a Textured Vest

This bohemian-style vest is cute, comfortable, and super quick to make.

Piece a Binding then Machine Applique it in Place

It’s a great way to add a creative and decorative finish to any edge.

Shape a Sleeve with this Easy Fold-Over Placket

You can use this trick when you’re making something from scratch or when you want to alter an existing garment.

Pintuck a Ruffle

A deep ruffle at the bottom of a skirt keeps the fullness away from the hips. Replace gathers with pintucks for a flounce that's less fussy.

Facing a Facing

The inside edges of facings might be for your eyes only, but you still want them to look clean and pretty.

Create Fashionable Quilted Garments

Create soft, supple, lightweight, and shapely garments in which the quilting lines serve as embellishment and detail.

Choose the Right Batting for Quilted Garments

Here are some tips for choosing matching your batting to your project.

Keep These Seam Finishes in Your Bag of Tricks

Here are a couple of simple and efficient ways to beautifully finish seams.

3 Neat Edge Finishes for the Sleeveless Styles of Summer

Lightweight fabrics require light finishes. Here are some you’ll want to try.

Trimming Tricks

For beautifully faced edges, you need to eliminate bulk. It’s not glamorous, but a few simple steps produce amazing results.

A Minimalist Finish for No-Fray Fabrics

Sometimes it’s best to let the fabric do the talking and with just a little help it can turn into a stunning oration.

Machine Quilt a Supple and Stylish Garment, Part II

Finishing touches, both inside and out, will take your quilted garment to the next level.

Machine Quilt a Supple and Stylish Garment

Here’s a way to eliminate the bulk and accentuate the detail when you make a quilted jacket.

How to Cover Snaps for that Touch of Couture

When large snaps are called for, covering them with fabric takes your project to another level.

A Satin Stitch Adds Elegant Detail to Quilts and Garments

When you want to add a little zing to the surface of your project, sometimes the simplest stitch gives the best results.

Create Perfectly Mitered Corners

If you love precise, crisp edges – this technique is for you.

A Visit to Waechter's Fine Fabrics in Asheville, NC

Waechters is not only a great resource for fabrics, buttons, patterns, and more – it’s fabulous eye candy and a wonderful place to go for inspiration and education.

Do You Have a Sewing Question for Threads?

Threads tries to cover all the bases, but if you have a question about anything sewing related and would like help from the experts -- here's your chance.

recent comments

Re: Underlining with Fusible Interfacing

I'm sure that fusible is available elsewhere, although I don't know of other sources. But, if you call Professional Sewing Supplies they are very accommodating.
I would also suggest that the tricot and Pro-Sheer Elegance Light from Fashion Sewing Supply would also be suitable for this project.

Re: Underlining with Fusible Interfacing

Thank you, Everyone, for your comments. Let me address some of your questions:

First, I think the results are better when you cut fabric and interfacing separately -- at least they are for me -- especially when using fabrics that are less stable. I also think it's easier to fuse in small doses.

Preshrinking is necessary with some fusibles -- especially the wovens. However, I have never had a problem with the knits. Sometimes it's a good idea to steam the fusibles in place by letting the iron hover over the fabric with steam first. Then, press in place.

The interfacings I sampled are all listed at the end of the aricle. I think any of these would be suitable for the rayon/linen jacket. However, as I've stressed above, always test a sample first.

In answer to the question about the suitability of non-wovens: I don't think I would choose any of them as underlining in garments. However, some work well for adding structure to handbags and totes.

Re: Sew Better with Staystitching Fundamentals

Hi Trudy,

Sorry to take so long to address your question. You're doing the right thing by clipping between the scallops, but here are a couple of additional tips.
Whenever you sew curves, it's a good idea to shorten your stitch length. That does a lot from smoother the curves. Then, instead of clipping along the curve edge you need to notch -- actually make some wedge-shaped cuts along the curve so there's room for the seam allowance when the scallops are turned right side out. Another way to accomplish this is to trim the seam allowance using a pinking shears.
Hope this helps!

Re: June 2014 Expert Chat Schedule

Hi Malsews,

I can't enlarge your photo to a clear level. However, the yoke on my dress has rows of stitching about 3/8" - 1/2". On other projects, 1/2" is about the maximum distance I've done. I don't think there's any harm in having them wider apart. Maybe the piece won't be a durable. Your blouse looks lovely, but if you think you need more stitching, you might be able to go in a do some of that carefully on the completed garment. The great thing about this technique is the randomness.

Re: Use Couched Elastic to Create a Ruched Effect

Thanks for your questions. Let me try to cover them:

First, the pattern for the top is actually a very simple jacket pattern that I adapted. There are no seams where the elastic is placed, although it looks like there are. It's Butterick 3345, view D.

Couching is the technique not a type of elastic and beading elastic will work as will elastic thread, which is very narrow and often used in the bobbin. I prefer couching because I lthink you get more "stretch" that way. I also prefer the beading elastic -- it's a little thicker -- but you can't use it in the bobbin.

Regarding the 1/4" elastic for the sleeve alteration -- it's hard to advise without seeing what you mean, but I think the 1/4" would work. To determine the length needed, test by placing the elastic around your wrist to find a comfortable place that fits the look you want.

I think the best way to deal with the ends of the elastic is to hide them in a seam or hem. If that's not possible, try turning the end back on itself and sewing it in place with a tight stitch. Or, you could even whipstitch it down by hand.

Re: Sew Better with Staystitching Fundamentals

Thanks for all of your comments. Regarding the question about stay stitching at an armhole edge -- it depends on the fabric and shape of the armhole. As you know, that area needs to be somewhat flexible. However, if a fabric is very loose and the armhole is cut high, I might stay stitch the armhole. But, most of the time I don't.
And those of you who stay stitch to the point of a V are correct because that is the proper way to sew with the grain. But to reinforce the point before clipping, you really need to sew continuous stitches around the V. Using stay tape in some instances is also a good idea.

Re: Sew Better with Staystitching Fundamentals

Yes, catch stitching to an underlining is a good way to finish the seams.
The edges can be serged, zigzagged, or bound as well. Be sure that you allow the clips to open before finishing the edges. So you need to clip first, then finish. The point of clipping is to extend that curved edge so it fits the adjoining seam. I realize the seams don't look as pretty on the inside when they're clipped, but the results on the right side of the garment will be smoother.

Re: How to Sew a Sweater Using Knitted Fabrics

Thanks for the tips. I actually stabilized the shoulders on this sweater with a strip of narrow (1/8") grosgrain ribbon. But, stay tape, clear elastic, or the selvage from a woven fabric works, too.

Re: How to Sew a Sweater Using Knitted Fabrics

Thanks for all of your comments. I really love this sweater, too. I'm glad you've been inspired! I like hearing about what you're considering as well.

I like your idea of raveling the sweater knit and actually knitting a band to it. And, you mentioned stay stitching before cutting the neckline -- very important.

Re: A Vintage Blouse Embellished with Soutache Braid

Thank you for this information. I had not heard of a Cornely machine. I did a little searching online and just found a great video on YouTube that shows a pair of extremely skillful hands using the machine.

Hope you can all check it out. It's very cool. Do I need one of these??! Apparently there are some for sale on ebay. Help!

Re: A Vintage Blouse Embellished with Soutache Braid

Thank you all so much for your comments and your insights. I was thinking that it could be a special machine that did this stitch, but it's also very possible it was finished by hand. I wish I knew more about the history, but I'm happy to have the piece in tact. There were many other garments that my aunt sent to use for dress up and they didn't survive. There were beaded blouses and a wonderful wool coat with a silk lining that was very Japanesque as I remember. I would love to have them back, but I'm also happy that I had the opportunity to play with them as a child -- they were definitely better than the Barbie I never had!

The pink soutache -- I can't remember where I purchased that. I have a small plastic container filled with odds and ends of trim and found it there to make this sample. Just another reason to have a "stash!"

Re: Piece a Binding then Machine Applique it in Place

It's not weft-insertion interfacing, but I can see why you would think that. It's a piece of silk fabric -- you can see it in a couple of the other photos -- that I believe is from a vintage Japanese kimono.
Mary Ray

Re: Pintuck a Ruffle

Thanks Laurie,

Yes. Fat quarters are actually half of a half yard, so you get more of a square piece instead of the long narrow piece you get when you purchase a 1/4 yd. of fabric. It's a great way to indulge in a lot of beautiful pieces. And it's so much fun to mix and match. Quilt shops sell bundles of even smaller pieces, too.


Re: Keep These Seam Finishes in Your Bag of Tricks

In answer to your question about finishing princess seams -- It always depends on the fabric, but I think that there are times when the finishes I used in this post can be appropriate. If the curve on the seam is deep, you'll need to do some clipping which opens up the seam allowance. This is not a problem when you pink a seam, but if you finish the edge with a zigzag stitch, be sure you let the seam allowance spread at the clips so it shapes over the bust area then do your zigzag stitching letting the stitch form a "chain" across the open areas.
I hope this makes sense!

Re: 3 Neat Edge Finishes for the Sleeveless Styles of Summer

I'm so glad this post has been helpful.
Let me answer a couple of your questions. First, you don't necessarily have to sew the bias together initially at the ends, you can sew it around the armhole and then connect it. But you should seam the ends and press that seam open, instead of overlappying them, in order to create a smooth line at the underarm.
Next -- yes if you follow my directions you will be taking in the armhole slightly. It's such a small amount, however, that it probably won't make a difference. But, if you're concerned, make the first fold 1/2 in. from the outer edge. The second turn of fabric should be about 1/8 in. and that gives you the full seam allowance.

Re: 3 Neat Edge Finishes for the Sleeveless Styles of Summer

The silk burlap is wonderful and it absolutely does not itch! It's very soft and drapey. I got it at Waechter's in Asheville, NC The pattern -- well, that's my adaptation of a tent dress pattern. But, when you use any of these finishing techniques that don't require facing patterns, you can adapt patterns with sleeves as well. Just eliminate the sleeves and cut the armhole so it slants toward the shoulder. Check to make sure the underarm seam is not too low.

Re: Trimming Tricks

Hi Tissy,
Your question about pressing a seam open before pressing it together is a good one. You need to do it to open out the seam so when you do turn the collar, or whatever, to the right side you don't have to struggle to get a neat, crisp edge. The best tool you can have is a point presser and pounding block, which is essentially a very narrow solid wood ironing board that lets you get right into the point of a collar, but works when you press curves and straight edges, too. Pressing open before you turn is one of those essential steps that makes all the difference in your results.

Re: A Minimalist Finish for No-Fray Fabrics

To continue where I left off below -- yes, this is similar to Davidow's technique. You can learn more about it and see some great photos of Davidow suits in a past issue of Threads, #60. David Coffin, former senior editor of Threads, wrote a wonderful article about the designer's process -- another reason to get that DVD with all the past issues.
And, if you want to learn more from me, I'll be teaching it at the American Sewing Guild conference in Atlanta in August in a class I call, "The Softly Tailored One-Layer Jacket."

Re: A Minimalist Finish for No-Fray Fabrics

Thanks for all your comments. Let me try to answer some of your questions. First, I purchased both of these fabrics a few years ago from Habermans in Michigan ( The green wool fleece is soft and seems to just get better with wearing. The boiled wool has great body for an unlined coat.
Both patterns include a collar stand so there's that extra piece to consider, but I basically attached the stand and the collar by overlapping the seams or sewing the right side of collar to wrong of jacket and topstitching the seam allowance down much like a flat felled seam with a raw edge.
And you can see most of the backs of each garment in the photos. The Miyake jacket has a center back seam with side back panels that have the cut-out edges. The coat also has a center back seam. And -- I'm running out of space so I'll continue in another comment!

Re: Machine Quilt a Supple and Stylish Garment, Part II

When I make a quilted garment, following the batting and pressing tips I talked about in the previous post, the "sandwich" is thin and I don't add anything to the size.

Re: Machine Quilt a Supple and Stylish Garment

Thank you all for you comments. I'm really glad you want to hear more. So -- stay tuned for Part II which will include additional pattern/design info and seam finishes.

Re: A Satin Stitch Adds Elegant Detail to Quilts and Garments

Thanks for your tip. Can you post a photo of this? It would be great to see it.

Re: How to Cover Snaps for that Touch of Couture

I didn't mean to cause a fuss. Your comments about expecting the best from Threads are appreciated and well taken, as are your comments about using an awl -- which, for many fabrics and snaps is the best alternative and I should have said that. However, the fabric I used in my example is a very tightly woven dupioni, which the awl penetrates to spread the threads but does not leave a large enough opening to insert the ball of this very large snap. So the tiny cut in this case stays pretty much within its territory and even with numerous "snappings" has not increased the size of the hole.(The photos, by the way, are of high resolution so the yarns of the fabric look enormous!)

Thank you all for paying attention, keeping me on track, and most of all for being such loyal Threads readers and fans.

Re: Create Perfectly Mitered Corners

I would love to give Linda & Louise credit, but – and I’m sure they will both agree – much of what we have learned, as writers and teachers about sewing, has come from our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, high school home ec teachers, design schools, and industry careers as well as our own experimenting and tweaking of various methods. We are simply conduits of useful information. I certainly take no credit in inventing this mitering technique and I’m not sure where I learned it. But, I did some checking and found the same basic process in every sewing book that I own, including one that goes back to 1943.

Re: To Go Bag Challenge

What fun! I love seeing your bags. I wrote the article for Threads and designed the bag and it's great to see such a variety. You inspire me, too!