I Totally Want a Knitting Machine

A few years ago there was a train wreck of a reality show about a knit bikini designer in LA. All her samples were made on a knitting machine. Until I got a glimpse on that show, I had no idea knitting machines existed. And lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about getting one for myself.

But, a few ‘issues’. Only two companies still make metal-bed knitting machines for the home market (which would allow me to do ribbing). One is a newish Chinese company that clones Brother knitting machines and the other is Silver Knitting (Silver Reed/Studio/Singer) which has a long history of machine making. But, after seeing a machine knitting demo today, I think I want a pre-owned Brother with ribber. A new machine is just way out of my budget. Used machines appear to be plentiful on eBay, easy and Craigslist. But, finding one in good working order can be harder. And, I’m not really clear on what they should cost. Especially considering I know *nothing* about how they work. And, they don’t seem as easy to repair as vintage sewing machines. I decided it might be best for me to get a demo from a knitting machine instructor, so I would at least know what I was looking for and what gauge knitting machine (standard or  bulky) I would want. I went to Woolstock north of Baltimore City where the owner, Leslye Solomon, is a machine knitting instructor and author.  photo IMG_20150411_114659352_HDR_zpsn8712bjn.jpg It was a GREAT demo. I mean, I have no idea which gauge machine I want because I liked them both for different reasons. But, the instructor is a big fan of Brother knitting machines (no longer made) and sells the Chinese clone. I feel totally iffy on spending that much money on a new hobby and really iffy on buying a clone.

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Standard gauge with fair isle motif

So, I’m on the hunt for a vintage Brother knitting machine and ribber that actually work (the nearest knitting machine repair shop is two hours from me in Pennsylavania). I’ve got a few online searches set up for one and hope to find a late model Brother and ribber by the end of the year. Gauge? TBD. But, After this demo, I know at least how the machine should work (which I didn’t be fore) and what it should be able to do.

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Bulky gauge with fair isle on the left and sample ‘lace’ and cables on the right

Unlike sewing blogs, machine knitting blogs don’t seem to be as abundant? I’m guessing because machine knitting’s hey dey was in the 80s and before and the women who machine knit aren’t really into blogging? Within my own feed though, I did find four machine knitters, Rachelle at Smoking Needles, Petit Main Sauvage, Kay The Sewing Lawyer and Kathryn from I Made This. Plus, this really interesting article by Karen at Did You Make That? The machines don’t seem to be as popular here on the east coast of the US. But, in the pacific northwest and midwest, business is booming! Plus, in the UK and Europe, there seem to be quite a few machine knitters. I’m assuming the climate has a lot to do with this. There’s also a super active Yahoo group and Facebook group. Great for inspiration photos. I also found a slew of people to follow on Instagram to see their knitting machine work.

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Ribbing along the bottom and stripe sample above

So, what are my machine knitting goals? Pretty modest I think. 1. I’d like to make a couple of scarves a year. I love scarves and manage to lose them more often than I care to admit. Jordan likes scarves too in bright colors but short of cashmere ($$$) good scarves seem hard to find 2. Two sweaters a year would be amazing to me. I LOVE sweaters. I’ve been buying vintage from the 80s sweaters from ebay and the thrift store and trimning them down to size. Why? Because they were actually made of wool instead of cotton or acrylic.

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20 rows in less than three minutes!!

3. A pair of socks every now and then. In winter, I live in wool socks from REI and such. I wear boots most of the winter and would love warm, cute socks. 4. Occasionally, my own knit fabric to do cut and sew projects from. I am able to get great sweater knits at Mood when I go to NY. But, the pilling factor is a gamble. I don’t know how often I would do this. But, it’s nice to know I might have the option of making my own fabric.

Don’t worry. Sewing is still my first love! And, as Amanda pointed out to me yesterday, yarn is expensive.I also muslined my Hot Patterns Cosmopolitan dress over the weekend. I need to raise the neckline another 1.5 inch and shorten the darts. And, I want a slightly less ‘scoop’ to the neck line. So, I’ll do one more version in a poly knit before cutting into my silk jersey.

20150411-DSC_0125 photo 20150411-DSC_0125_zpshp0jhky9.jpg Unfortunately, it’s too low cut to keep as wearable. But, I really ended up liking the scrap fabric combo! And, I could not love this pattern more. So, any other machine knitters out there? Any advice for me?



  1. No advice at all but yay!

    When I saw Kay’s recent acquisition I almost lost it. I love knitting but tendinitis and carpal tunnel prevent me from knitting now. Oh to have a knitting machine!

    I hopefully you find one in your budget in solid condition!!!

    • I have tendinitis in my right hand too and knitting is just too hard on it. Even wearing a brace. But, I LOVE knit goods! There seem to be a lot of machine knitting shops in Minnesota too. Just sayin’…

      On Sun, Apr 12, 2015 at 10:38 AM, Miss Celie's Pants wrote:


    • Machine knitting stresses different tendons than hand knitting. But it requires shoulders in good working order. Test it out before you decide it’s OK for your body..

  2. Cidell… did you know that I did a book with said train wreck! It went exactly as you would imagine ;-). There seem to be a ton of old knitting machines in various thrift stores in the “West,” which makes sense given the cold mountain climate.

  3. I love creating. When I read on Rachelle’s blog that she owned a knitting machine, I was fascinated. Like you, I started thinking of all the ‘knit possibilities’. Living in Ohio, I tried to convince myself it was worth the investment. Since that time, it has become a back burner issue. Seems like you’re doing your homework. Good luck with this venture. I’ll be watching and reading about your progress.

  4. There is a Brother Knitting knitting/ribbing machine at shopgoodwill.com auction site that will sell at 3 pm Pacific Time (6 pm in Baltimore) TODAY (Sunday). Item number is 20859531. Shipping to Baltimore from San Diego is estimated at $31.61 and the current bid is $56.00. Take a look at the photos, and see if it’s what you want, hon. Not all the Goodwill stores will ship.

    • Dang it! I did see this one but thought it was just the ribber when I looked. And, was in DC all day so wasn’t able to bid. I have set up a search on Goodwill though, so hopefully something will come through. Thanks!

      On Sun, Apr 12, 2015 at 11:17 AM, Miss Celie's Pants wrote:


  5. Sandgrouse waters! LOL. I bought a used Brother 836 a few (well, maybe 10) years ago but had no lessons and couldn’t get it to work. Fast forward 8 years and I got re inspired via a thread on Stitchers Guild. I took. Some lessons at Newtons in CA and now own several machines. Fun, frustrating, and a good challenge for my retiree brain. The Brother machines are amazingly well made and can be reconditioned via eBay parts and YouTube videos. Come yarn is easiest to use when learning. Have fun!!!

  6. I’ve thought about a knitting machine but didn’t know where to start. I love long knitted dresses. I’m curious to see how your search goes.

    • Oooh. I didn’t think of that. And all those knitted tops and swimsuits from the ’40s…a machine would make those achievable (assuming you’re as slow a knitter as I am).

  7. I wanted a knitting machine many years ago when I lived in a state that had winters. I even bought several books on machine knitting, (still on my bookcase) I lost interest when we moved to VA, where I don’t get many chances to wear sweaters. Still maybe one day.

  8. I grew up in Michigan, and some time in the 1970’s I purchased a Knitking machine and loved it but they are no longer made. I brought it with me on my many travels, but when I lived in Texas, I sold it. Wish I hadn’t. I did some searching but could only find information about it as there are none of these machines for sale. I did find this source for uses machines and it is a good one. http://www.customknitsmfg.net/studioknittingmachines

    • I was looking at a Singer / Studio machine previously that was from a really lovely women in PA. But, as I am still deciding between a bulky and standard, I asked her to not hold it for me. I’m glad to know you liked that brand.

      On Sun, Apr 12, 2015 at 12:15 PM, Miss Celie's Pants wrote:


  9. I have an old machine that I’m teaching myself to use. A great online resource is Diana Sullivan (she has lots of YouTube instructional videos and a blog). Best of luck in your search 🙂

    • Thanks for the suggestion on videos! It’s definitely helpful to have visual cues!

      On Sun, Apr 12, 2015 at 12:25 PM, Miss Celie's Pants wrote:


  10. Just had a thought – could you harvest wool yarn from the sweaters you are thrifting? Maybe buy a really big sweater and start it raveling, then get one of those yarn winders and go to town winding it up into balls. I thought of doing that once years ago when I was into knitting.

  11. Hi, Renee! I’m also a seamstress, but got this machine knitting bug almost two years ago. So I bought one, a brother from ebay. Except I went on blind since I did not have anyone to give me advices or even show a real machine. So I searched the internet. I recommend you this site: http://www.aboutknittingmachines.com/BrotherKnittingMachine.html. You can compare brother models and decide what models to hunt on ebay 🙂
    Anyway, good luck purchasing one! With a knitting machine, stuff will fill your closet in no time 🙂

    • I spent an obscene amount of time reading this site. Thank you for the suggestion!

      On Sun, Apr 12, 2015 at 12:40 PM, Miss Celie's Pants wrote:


  12. wooo! I’ve been doing machine knitting with a cheap ($100) bond’s knitting machine for a few years now. while it only does a faction of a proper brother machine’s function, its a good way to get started. i dont like patterns on my sweaters anyway and it works out well for me! (my blog have some project posted so you can see the kind of stuff that can be done there)

    • I have one of those and I’ve used it for everything from hand-spun (those machines, because they are simple, are incredibly forgiving) on up to make sweaters et al. But the one thing I did which I was really proud of was using it to make big hunks of knitted material which I then threw into the washer (if I’d had a dryer, it would have gone faster, I think) to make ‘boiled wool’ which worked really well.

    • I *love* the idea of doing fair ilse on sweaters otherwise a Bond would be great for me. I really like the sort of Icelandic look where the motifs are at the top. But, one of the simpler machines might be good for me to start with and see how I feel about machine knitting. Thanks!

      On Sun, Apr 12, 2015 at 12:59 PM, Miss Celie's Pants wrote:


  13. Ravelry has aactive machine knitting forums. Craigslist iz your best bet but you may have to drive a bit to pick it up. Expand your search to PA, VA, and DE. There’s a steep learning curve, but if I can, you can too!! The shop in PA is going to have Dianna Sullivan in July. I asked and its supposedto be appropriate for beginners.

    • Ohhh. This is only 90 minutes from me. I’m going to give them a call and see if they have a used machine that would work for me. Thanks!

      On Sun, Apr 12, 2015 at 1:01 PM, Miss Celie's Pants wrote:


    • I didn’t know! I only recently started following her on Instagram. Thanks for the tip!

      On Sun, Apr 12, 2015 at 1:17 PM, Miss Celie's Pants wrote:


  14. I LOVE the fabric for the top part of your muslin! You could save it if you wanted to spend a bit of time on the neckline. The big “thing” down here in Florida is using a stripe (usually black and white) to make a band for necklines and wrist bands. The stripey bands are sewn on just about anything and really perk up an outfit. I just saw several examples yeserday at my quilt shop Spring Fling. One was a knit top made with two pink/green flowery fabrics. The black and white stripe band around the neck and wrists was such a touch of genius.

  15. Best with this journey! Back in the 80s I was fascinated by the arrival of home knitting machines, and mystified by their disappearance. Should be a good idea, no? I guess it’s a steep learning curve, and project setup, but once launched, you can really fly. I’m glad they are being rediscovered. My suggestion for learning resources is the pre-blog modality, groups-such as yahoo groups. I don’t think they show up on Google, but they’re still out there.

  16. Reread post: you mentioned groups! Btw, would you consider posting an example of your remodeling of a thrifter sweater?

    • Oh, terrific! Thank you for the blog rec and sending me to SG. I’ll have to check them both out. What a wonderfully long thread to get in to.

      On Sun, Apr 12, 2015 at 2:01 PM, Miss Celie's Pants wrote:


  17. Knitting machines rock! Ravelry has a very lively machine knitters’ group. You can ask questions there – many knowledgeable people will gladly guide you in considering potential machines for purchase, price range, pitfalls, etc. The Brother machines are great if you’re looking for garter stitch capability. I don’t need that so I stick with Singer/Silver Reed (I have both standard and fine gauge machines). I would recommend you find Susan Guagliumi’s Hand-Manipulated Stitches for Machine Knitters – it is an excellent book with a great explanation of how the machine forms the stitches. Good luck with your knitting machine purchase!

    • Thanks! I’m following you now 🙂 I’m leaning to a standard machine because I like the idea of thinner socks and non bulky sweaters. But, I figure if I really like this new hobby, I can also get a bulky for the kind of scarves I like. I’m looking forward to catching up on your machine knitting adventures!

      On Sun, Apr 12, 2015 at 2:16 PM, Miss Celie's Pants wrote:


  18. I have a Brother knitting machine – an 800 series that takes punchcards, it has a lace bed but no ribber. I bought it off eBay, a long time ago. Someone warned me that it would end up gathering dust under my bed, and it has. It arrived with the case dented (they are heavy and big), but otherwise in working order. I tried it out and it seemed pretty cool and easy to use but then I discovered that it needed a new spongebar. The spongebar holds the needles down and is essential to the machine operating correctly. Since they no longer make Brother knitting machines, they no longer make spongebars. I have seen where you can buy some on line (about $25) made by a third party company or DIY one using ribbon and window insulation foam strips, but I have done neither. Someday I’ll try it out again – provided the electronics still work. But in the meantime I prefer handknitting my sweaters because I like feeling the wool. However I do fanaticize about using the knitting machine to make knit yardage or knit trims for sewing.

    • I’m glad you mentioned the electronics. I think I’m leaning to a manual. *only* because I’m nervous about the electronics going and not having a good repair option. Please start knitting so I can be jealous 🙂

      On Sun, Apr 12, 2015 at 2:53 PM, Miss Celie's Pants wrote:


  19. Maine College of Art introduced a textile major in 2013 and machine knitting is a large portion of it. You may be able to get some help from the Dept. Chair there-Anne Emlein.

    • Thanks, Martha! I’ll have to send them a message. I’d be very curious to know what they are teaching on. The Maryland Institute of Art has a Fiber Arts program. Their chair recommended a shop on the western Maryland / PA border.

      On Sun, Apr 12, 2015 at 5:10 PM, Miss Celie's Pants wrote:


  20. I was going to recommend Elizabeth’s blog (The Fabulous Dr E) as well – particularly about 6-12 months ago when she wrote a lot about knitting, but see that Claire has beat me to it. Elizabeth is on Ravelry too, ejvc, and recommends the machine knitting group there.

  21. There is a knit room at work that has 10+ different types of machines, but I didn’t know you could own one personally. I thought they were only for commercial. You learn something new each day! I’d be happy to put you in contact with the knit room manager. He was an adjunct professor at FIT and could have some resources for where to buy.

    • Oh, thanks! I would love to know if anyone is using these Chinese made machines. Don’t get me wrong. They are wicked expensive. But, I’m curious how they are holding up. Also, I love the idea of making my own ribbing for projects.

      On Sun, Apr 12, 2015 at 7:08 PM, Miss Celie's Pants wrote:


  22. That dress is super cute. Could you wear it with a tank top underneath? That’s what I’ve ended up doing with some of my clothes that are too daring.

  23. I have the Bond machine and it has been really handy for making lots of plain stockinette for fulling projects.

    If you don’t mind hand-knitting ribbing, the Bond may be sufficient for your needs.

    Have you thought about learning hand-knitting? It’s very relaxing. With practice, you will get faster. I’m up to about 50 sts/minute. A medium sweater is about 20-30,000 sts in a medium gauge.

  24. I’m excited for your new fiber journey. I just took the plunge into weaving and bought a loom. It was a bit scary but now it feels really good. I am so enjoying the entire process. I think it’s great that you’re expanding your skill set and know you will really enjoy all the new adventures it will bring. Hope you find the machine of your dreams real soon.

  25. How funny, I just saw a knitting machine at our local thrift store, but didn’t pay a great amount of attention to make or model or even how much. I might have to go back on Tuesday to take a second look. I know our thrift store always has great prices here in Nebraska.

    • Hit the thrift store today and it was a Brother 551 machine for $30.00. I don’t know if it is in working order but I went ahead and purchased it. It reminded me of the one that my Mom had.

      • That’s awesome, Tammy! I think the 551 was made in the mid 60s. I was looking them up yesterday. It’s like a pretty mint green color, yet? There are loads of free downloads for learning and for the manual if you don’t have one. Everything I’ve read says you should get it serviced first and to definitely replace the sponge bar. Keep us posted!

        On Tue, Apr 14, 2015 at 8:56 PM, Miss Celie's Pants wrote:


  26. Even if you haven’t made your decision yet, how wonderful that you live near a place that sells knitting machines so that you could get a demonstration and perhaps future support! I bought my current favorite machine used. There are some great deals if you’re patient.

    Ravelry has an active group of machine knitters http://www.ravelry.com/groups/machine-knitting with lots of helpful people. Do check out Diana Sullivan’s excellent videos on YT. And I have a machine knitting blog (not updated regularly now) for when you get past the beginner stage. 🙂 http://knittinginthefastlane.com

    All the best! I know you’ll figure out just what you need in good time.

  27. My mum and grandma are machine knitters here in New Zealand there is an annual machine knitters festival with workshps etc-mostly older 80 ish year olds, some younger like Mum at 58. Quite active Mum uses a passap and i is hooked up to the computer and you can garments clothes with a programme called creation6 and garmet designer (i think). They are very cheap to buy in Nz, Grandma sold hers for 100 nz. Probably not worth freight though 🙂

    • Re: freight, probably not is right! LOL. But, see! A much bigger industry in other parts of the world. But, a dream of a vacation for sure. Too bad I wasn’t into the thought of this when I went to NZ and OZ years ago.

      On Mon, Apr 13, 2015 at 3:37 AM, Miss Celie's Pants wrote:


  28. I just inherited the machine in the picture. I have a mini van and it took up most of its room with all of its attachments, parts, manuals and gegals. It was all set up. We dismantled it and packed it up. I was absolutely overwhelmed by the intensity of it. It was my grandmothers. She made all of us sweaters with it! She passed then my father inhereted it. He was just figuring it out then he passed away unexpectedly. Someday hopefully I’ll learn to master it. ❤

    Of you are ever in Arizona, I will gladly show you how to set it up and maybe we could learn to mayer it together.

    I live in the desert. Quite possibly the hottest location in the world. Not a big need for sweaters, lol. This might be a good place to search for a hot deal. *grin*

    I'd be happy to help you look at one if you found one here from an estate sale or something.

    Best of luck.

    • Aaccckkkk!!! I just looked at Arizona and there are several on CL there. I think because of retirees? I found a few near my dad in Tampa too, but overpriced I thought for what they were. Thanks for idea! And, how fantastic to get one through the family. What neat memories. Please let me know how you like the bulky knitting 🙂

      On Mon, Apr 13, 2015 at 8:44 AM, Miss Celie's Pants wrote:


  29. I have yet to really make an effort with my machine. I have a Singer I bought from a local Craiglister. It came with heaps of extras, I only realized afterward what a deal I got. I feel like I need a machine knitting class to do the thing properly, and I’m fortunate to live in NYC where I have options, but that’s another several hundred dollars investment and hard to pull the trigger on.

    I did just get 10 free cones of yarn that my aunt’s tenant was getting rid of which has inspired me to give it another go. .

    • I saw your post on your machine last night. You really did hit the jackpot! There are great classes in NY I saw. Watching Leslye, I was wondering if this was something I could teach myself or not. I didn’t have too much trouble with sewing. But, knitting machines seem like another animal.

      On Mon, Apr 13, 2015 at 10:40 AM, Miss Celie's Pants wrote:


      • Cidell, There’s a learning curve whether you teach yourself or go with an instructor. I’m self-taught and have learned using You Tube and the helpful folks at Ravelry. The most important thing is not to use a used machine until you replace the sponge bar. The shop is PA has them and can get them. You have an adventurous attitude. Believe me, if this gray haired grandma can do it, so can you! I just remember the shop in PA has a group that meets once a month on Tuesdays, I know that you work, but perhaps you could take one Tuesday and go. There used to be on in Northern VA, but I’m not sure if they’re still meeting.

  30. Hey, welcome to the 1980s!

    Another machine knitter – http://www.studio-alexandra.com/category/knitting/machine-knitting/#.VSv1lfnF98E
    Just FYI, I would avoid the Bond machine. I hated mine.

    I have 2 LK150s hooked up in series. I have every attachment ever invented for that sucker, I think (intarsia carriage, Fair Isle carriage, weaving tool, knit radar, probably more). Even bought Cochenille Garment Designer software with the best of intentions. But I haven’t used mine in years because NO TIME.

    Also gathering dust in one closet is a fully functional circular sock machine. I am grieving that I don’t have time to master that sucker.

  31. Only knitting machine owners I knew were when I lived in northern Indiana. The younger woman would be in her mid-50s now, the older would be in her 90s. They wanted to knit their own sweaters because they hated wool and loved acrylic — go figure! Also, their relatively high age brackets might indicate why no blogging … they were entirely typical of stitchers in that part of the country.

  32. I’ll be very interested to see what it’s like on a machine. I hand knit but think how much easier some of this would be on a machine for mundane things like scarves!

  33. Regarding standard or bulky, what are the sweaters you wear like? If you like the idea of thick sweaters but really wear thinner ones most of the time, I’d go with a standard gauge. Also if you got a bulky, could you wear the socks with your current shoes, or would you be needing to buy new shoes? Feet will get cold faster crammed into too tight shoes not matter what the socks are like. It seems like those who have a Bond either love them or hate them, no middle ground.

    I’m glad to see I’m not the only one with a knitting machine languishing in the closet untouched due to lack of time!

  34. One more thing. My first machine was a 4.5 or 9. guage because I could skip every other needle and knit with worsted weight yarn or I could knit with finer yarns on every needle and knit socks. I do not recommend only a chunky gauge, as was my second machine, because you can’t go smaller.

  35. The family that lived across the street from me as a child had a knitting machine. She made the most beautiful dresses for herself and her teenage daughters – I was so envious! She also sewed, too, which of course, my mother didn’t. Of course, my mother was teaching school all day and then had a house-full of children to deal with . . . anyway, I was always fascinated by that knitting machine When I go visit my Dad, I always look over at the neighbors and I wonder if that knitting machine is still there in the sewing room. I never knew how it worked nor do I think I ever say anyone of them working it, but I did see the results. I grew up wearing my brothers hand me downs so having a knitted dress as a child would have been a dream come true! Good luck in your search.

  36. Rather than getting a machine, you can sew with beautiful merino knit wool, which is easy to sew, luxurious and forgiving. I get mine at The Fabric Store on La Brea when I’m in L.A.

  37. Many years ago I bought a Bond knitting machine. It was called the Incredible Sweater Machine. I still have it (in storage). It was pretty inexpensive, and I made lots of sweaters, scarves, blankets etc. It works best with mid weight yarns, and it does not do ribbing easily. You have to do some additional manipulation to get the ribbing done. It has 100 needles, if I remember correctly and is mostly made of plastic. Having only 100 needles means that you are limited in how wide your fabric can be. But that’s ok. You can make panels and join them if you want something really wide. This machine works quite well. Now you’ve made me want to take it out of storage and make some stuff with it.

  38. Enjoy and please bring the knitting machine into the current century! My mum had one and as clever as she was the oems we had to wear were scary! I’d love to see a different side to these machines

  39. This is a great idea! As expensive as yarn is, being able to get just what you’re looking for without having to go through the carpal tunnel mess that is hand knitting seems like it will be the best of all possible worlds.

  40. Yowza, 64 comments on knitting machine. Yeah, Cidell, I’m with you on sewing v. knitting. Man, you can sew a dress for $10 worth of fabric. Try that with $10 worth of yarn. Yes, that’s my way of saying my fabric collection is way bigger than my yarn stash. I can’t justify spending $100 on yarn for a sweater. I’m just too frugal for that. But I do love knitting – it’s portable and keeps me sane when sewing doesn’t.

    Re knitting machines. I don’t know much and my interest level is about zilch, still I’m intrigued. If I were to buy any more crafting toys at this point, it would be a felting machine and a portable weaving loom.

  41. My husband got a second hand kmitting machine many years ago – he was fascinated with it and made a few sample squares but then had no time to use it so eventually we sold it. Now that I’ve learnt hand knitting, I’m intrigued by the machines. But not enough to buy one. Re the dress – if u like the fabric why not finish the neckline with bias binding and make a camisole that matches the skirt – so the neckline is wearable? I have some black patterned tops and wear a black camisole underneath for modesty… It seems to work ok. On the other hand I guess you could put the dress in the thrift box…

    • Carolyn’s dress is incredible, isn’t it?!? I just have to sew up the side seams and my Cosmo dress is done. I got a needle point canvas over the weekend and it’s been distracting me from sewing.

      On Wed, Apr 22, 2015 at 8:01 AM, Miss Celie's Pants wrote:


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