Saturday, June 27, 2015

Mermaid shirt

My youngest son is off to Texas next week. 

He works in wind technology and there is a big project there that will last at least six months.

His birthday is July 4th and he will be on the coast. He wanted a new shirt to wear that night and here is the fabric he picked:

I am developing quite a little sideline in weird made-to-order shirts for my boys.

Every one I make I refine the pattern a little more. To date that means:

  • No interfacing in the front bands, despite the pattern instructions. The ready-to-wear I have examined doesn't have it and this would make for too much stiffness in a casual shirt IMO. Instead I do not trim the seam allowances inside the sewn-on attached front bands. So far I am happy with this.
  • I have reverted to hand-stitching the collar bands down in the inside neck and then top-stitching like Pam Howard does in her Craftsy class. Yes I know this is old school but I get good results and it is more relaxing. I like to sew relaxed. If you make your stitches invisible as you can and don't pull the threads too tight so there will be puckers no one would know.
  • I have shaved about 1/2" off the top sleeve cap so I am not fighting with any sleeve top puckers. This is what a shirt sleeve top should look like anyway. Also see above sew relaxed.
  • After flat felling and french seaming and top-stitching seam that sets the sleeve into the shirt I am now double-stitching and serging the seam allowances and then top-stitching instead. It works well and again is stress free, see above. I French seam all other seams.
The boys are big on collars that button down, since they obviously have a poor understanding of sew relaxed. I find locating the exact place to sew that button  in the shirt body to attach the collar the only hard part of this whole exercise.

The pattern instructions McCalls 6613 are hopeless on this. 

First they tell you to use a normal shirt size button, way to big you need a tinier button for the collar, and have you do the button hole way up into the collar. 

Every shirt I have inspected in the laundry has the button hole right into the point of the collar, some nice shirts even have it cutting into the collar top-stitching.

I have found the only way too to know where to put that button in is to try it on and see where the collar wants to lie.

Also when I sew on the button on I put a tiny circle of needle punch in the back (I have also used felt left over from craft projects with the kids) as sort of interfacing. I think something softer is easier on the skin (I am sewing for my baby boys after all, over six feet that they are now) and besides I have tons of needle punch and I can't be bothered to go out and find something else.

Here is the collar buttonhole with some wobbly top-stitching I realized. Excuse - I am under the gun want to get something else made too for his birthday and for his brother too:

More later. 

Right now though I have to go wash some baseboards because one of my other sisters is coming to town and I would like her to think I do more housekeeping and less sewing than I actually do. Although I after all those years including some where she shared a room with me she probably has already put two and two together. 

(I just remember she once made a line in the middle of the room with masking tape so I would keep my messy (I preferred the term creative) self in my own territory - problem was the door was in her zone and I had to climb up on a chair and jump onto my bed to get in).

Wonder if the husband has knee pads?

Friday, June 26, 2015


Busy day today, hopefully the last of this term's marking and the buttons on one shirt.

But before I do that I have to share with you a picture my sister Nancy sent of herself and her dog Molly. They are fairly sure Molly was abused as a pup but here she is here.

I feel there is a special bond women have with dogs and to my mind this is what it looks like:

Now back to human responsibilities.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Flypaper thoughts Sunday night

  • Thinking tonight of my dad who died 20 years ago
  • He filled my childhood with humour
  • That lasts
  • A lifetime - his and now mine
  • Marking a mountain of assignments as summer 1 ends
  • These are my rules
  • Never spend more time giving feedback than a student did in writing the paper
  • Take a break when you find yourself wanting to write "You're kidding."
  • It is worth it you know
  • Every once in a while you read something that is so smart and wise it takes your breath away
  • Usually from someone who stayed quiet all term
  • Once this is done I am in heavy sewing mode
  • Shirts and a T shirt for sons
  • Youngest is going off to work for six months in Texas
  • Middle son's fabric just arrived on backorder
  • Then we start the bridal sewing
  • Three adult dresses and a formal skirt for family
  • Four flower girls 
  • Last, whatever I am wearing
  • When I used to show my dad works in progress he always said the same thing
  • "It would look better with sleeves"
  • Or " Are you going to leave it with those threads hanging down on the bottom?"
  • Worst was when you tried to impress on him how much money you saved
  • And you asked him "How much do you think this cost?"
  • "Five dollars" he would say, always five dollars
  • He thought everything in the world should cost five dollars
  • When we ate out he would price the ingredients
  • "Why aren't we eating at home?" he would ask
  • Heidi my middle granddaughter asked me who God was this week
  • Knew I had to get this right but probably wouldn't
  • "Sort of like a grandfather who takes care of everyone" I said
  • "Papa Leo is God?" she said
  • Poppa Leo is my husband
  • You could do worse
  • How long do you think all this sewing is going to take me?
  • Factor in I am taking all kids to tennis and swimming lessons all summer
  • Factor in I am still working until the end of August
  • When my dad went out he would always bring me back a cherry blossom
  • Those are hard to get these days
  • Lump of chocolate with a candied cherry in it
  • They always know when you sneak one in the car because the steering wheel is sticky
  • I'm thinking two days a dress if I don't answer the phone
  • Or check email
  • Or cook
  • Or eat cherry blossoms
  • I am taking all fall right off to teach sewing classes and babysit
  • Need to recharge 
  • That will do it
  • Then back only part time
  • It is hard to mark and hold your breath
  • My dad used to eat sandwiches late at night
  • Made of buttered bread, brown sugar, and Spanish onions
  • That man really knew how to enjoy himself
  • You can't get food like that in a restaurant
  • Not even for five dollars
  • I have shirts I made him hanging in my closet
  • Shirts are always worth making
  • He was a chemistry teacher 
  • You can see the holes he burnt in them
  • Always was a bit sloppy
  • But being funny made up for it
  • As it does most things

Thursday, June 18, 2015

There's something you should know about me

I have a character flaw that is sometimes a good thing and sometimes not.

When I get on a challenge I don't move on until I get it figured out and get on top of it. Not until then really, which I am sure sometimes makes me annoying. This is particularly true when I have decided I am indignant about something.

So bear with me while I work this one through.

You may remember a while ago I wrote about compression socks/stockings.

Shortly after this post I went and got my eyes tested and fitted for new glasses. In the middle of trying to read the last line of text, the really small one where you hope that is an E and not an F but turns out to be a P, it hit me.

Glasses are medically necessary.

When you get your eyes tested and you need them they give you something called a prescription. It means essentially that your eyes are not up to scratch and you need something to keep yourself operational.

Not unlike the millions of folks who have less than idea valves in their legs, because of age, injury, or occupations that stress their circulation (think nurses, teachers, anyone on their feet) or other circulation issues.

However when you go out into the big room to choose your glasses no one says "these are medically necessary so your choices are these four kinds of steel rimmed industrial numbers" in fact you have a gazillion options of these "fashion accessories" and more often than not get more than one pair. Many of us feel pretty sharp in our glasses.

Now compare this experience to the compression hose business that still believes it is in the medical supply business and not in the fashion business.

Think what a difference it would make if these folks readjusted their heads and started to think of themselves as selling accessories?

So after this great epiphany I sent off a link with my post with your comments to every manufacturer and supplier I could think of to see what they could suggest.

I heard back from three manufacturers, Rejuva, Sockwell and Sigvaris, and one online seller Brightlife.

The response from these four was excellent. Rejuva asked to repost what I wrote on their own blog, Sockwell sent me a pair of light coloured socks to try and some short socks for relief from plantar fascia and Achilles tendon issues.

Bright life sent me a pair of Mediven Soft and Sheer thigh highs to test and Sigvaris also sent me a pair of  suntan and grey Eversheers to try.

I am being very specific about this because I have never on this blog accepted any product for review. However given the cost of these is $100 a pair and my insurance only covers a total of five pairs a year, which really does not leave much room for trail and error, I thought it was fair enough to test these.

And I am more or less obsessed with finding a support hose that I can wear comfortably and not look like a dork. And I know I am not the only one who feels that way and we are now at a point where I have a social responsibility thing going on in my own head.

You should also know that I accepted these products only on the proviso that I would do completely honest reviews.

Before I start with the review you should know that I have in the past tried two other makes and not been happy with them.

Those are:

Allegro thigh highs from Brightlife - the colour of "natural" can only be described as ochre which is not what my legs or anyone else's are.

Bauerfeind support stockings - this company also makes a number of medical support devices. Although their support hose look good I have found them really uncomfortable. The tops of the knee highs are tight which I don't think helps the circulation, and the backs of the knees of the pantyhose crease when you walk and build up a tourniquet. I went back to the person who fitted me and her only suggestion was that I travel with Rubbermaid gloves and go in and out of bathrooms smoothing them out. I don't think so. There is a normal life to lead here.

Now onto the current ones I am using. 

Inappropriate picture alert, I had my husband and then my sister take leg shots for educational purposes and you know we will do just about anything around here for educational purposes.

Sockwell: Again if I could live in Sockwell socks I would. They are the bomb to quote my sons. Natural fibres great support. Here is the light coloured version of the circulator sock, wore it yesterday:

Sockwell also sent me this compression sock for plantar fascia and Achilles tendon issues. They are snug and if you have ever hurt your tendons, and I have, these would be really helpful while you heal. I wish I had had a pair of these when I had my foot injury in the fall:

Mediven Soft and Sheer thigh highs from Brightlife. I have tell you the customer service from Brightlife is amazing. They have answered a million questions and been so interested in this project. 

The first pair "wheat" colour they sent me turned out to be a dry mustard colour and they replaced it with natural. I found these thigh highs comfortable and easy to put on. The colour wasn't that natural but OK and they are quite sheer. My legs felt great in them.

The only issue for me personally was that the silicone band at the top gave me a red rash after one wearing that took about a week to go away. This is probably my issue. I have sensitive skin and know for instance that I can't even use many bandaids because of the same issue. This is too bad because I quite like these. Someone suggested I wear them inside out so the silicone is not next to my leg and I might try that and see if they still stay up. 

If it works I will let you know.

In the summer I wear a lot of knee socks with shorts and short skirts but there are times when that is not the look you want. These have a little sheen to them but to give you an idea of how sheer they are I can clearly see all the moles in my legs in them - this is a small thing but if you have been a victim of industrial strength support hose this information will be of significance to you. Yes I realize I must be insane to post these pictures but you need to see this to understand what I mean:

I would not actually wear these shoes with stockings but I wanted to give you an idea of how sheer the toes are. Again with the education.

I have a suggestion for Brighlife and anyone else who will listen. The big issue is colour and gee I wish the manufacturers did some work on that. I can't imagine how hard it would be to order these online working only from the little inaccurate pictures you see on your computer. 

How about making swatches available? 

I know when I order online fabric I am happy to pay for a small swatch to get the colour right. I just paid Mood $4.50 for a silk swatch but when I am ordering $150 dollars of fabric (what support pantyhose cost) I consider that a good investment.

Next I tried Sigvaris' Eversheers. Again these were very comfortable, made my legs feel great and were easy to put on. 

A bonus I had no issue at all with the silicone band irritating my skin. The colour was not quite as good (the light colour made my legs look like prostheses according to my husband who never notices anything) and my sister said the darker colour, shown here was a little too dark, but that otherwise they looked just like ordinary pantyhose, which is a bonus. See what you think. Note these are more mat and do not have that sheen, although they are also quite sheer. I could wear these quite happily in the summer.

Again these house shoes are not my footwear of choice but I had to grab a photographer when I could
The truth is that getting a skin colour support stocking that doesn't look like a bandage is a challenge. If you want to wear a colour it is easier because of course you are not matching anything. 

Fall and winter will not be a problem and I note that many of the manufacturers are trying to expand their lines into colours, probably for that reason. I have seen mint and yellow (not trying those) from some lines and the Sigvaris rep sent me these product photos, and while I do not endorse anything I have not tried, these are worth showing as an alternative approach and as a trend. Also they illustrate legs much thinner than mine:

These are patterned and called Allure

The quest continues, and I will keep you posted.

Hopefully this information is useful to some of you.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Completion but not the sewing

I am settling in at home again after a weekend in Montreal and Ottawa. I have a sister in Ottawa and we drove up to Montreal on Saturday so I could speak at a memorial for my old and best friend Sue.

People say these things are good for closure and I don't like that word. I am never going to be closing any kind of door on her. But on a beautiful bright sunny day I felt and still feel a real sense of completion, which is different, and better. She was interned with the husband she lost 33 years ago, when we were all young and just married. Those were the pictures I saw all around me and somehow that day felt like the right thing.

We talked about how her house really did have an unfinished sewing project in each room and when her sister said to me Sue had gone into the hospital suddenly and the house showed she thought she would be back, I knew that was code to me that there were still sewing and knitting projects everywhere when they went into the house. 

I thought that was O.K. too. 

Better to always be a work in progress with works in progress. I actually think she got most pleasure out of the planning and starting than the finishing anyway and that's all that matters.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Men's shirts

In between other things the last week I managed to get some overdue shirt making done.

I have a thing going with the men around here that for birthdays and events if they pick out a fun fabric from Hawthorne Threads (best service anywhere) I will make up a shirt to specs.

Here is the one I made for my son in NYC including a picture I received from him this morning on him. Yes I know this is out of the package and needs an iron but my boys all went out into the world with good shirt ironing skills - you know I still can't get over what they pay other people to do for them in New York City, but everything you can you should know how to do yourself.

At least that's my world view.

Back to the shirt:

This was the pattern I used, my standard for this guy, although I am going to flatten the sleeve cap a bit next time to make it easier to set in, more shirt like and less blouse like:

I also made a shirt for my husband the family dinner cook, with a fabric pattern that suits him for obvious reasons:

I used a different pattern for him just to try it out, this one from Kwik Sew that as expected fit together very painlessly:

A couple of things about this pattern. First it is not as fitted as the photo might imply. Think more of the business shirts men where in the southern US, a looser fit, what some call a traditional fit as opposed to tapered.

That is exactly what is popular around here and I will be definitely be making this one again in some other tasteful fabric.

When I do though I will add to the seam allowances. This shirt is drafted with 1/4" s.a. which makes putting in the collar so much easier of course, but I really like to do more with the seams in a shirt than a serge and stitch - my only option here. Mostly I do french seams and top-stitch them down (looks the same as a flat felled but much easier) and I wish I had had the option to do that here.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Great free exercise app

A person needs some exercise.

If you don't do something you will end up having to learn new alterations. That's that.

I know this, but really am too busy to go to a gym I like something I can do at home with only the dogs watching.

However after the big fix-up I was given a list of exercises I was not supposed to do if I were going to avoid another hoist up of the insides (TMI but this is just between us).

In trying to reconcile all of this I found a fantastic free app that is both pelvic floor safe but also really effective.

It covers all the basis, including stretches which are important, and has three levels.

I need to stress however that although these are safe exercises for folks like me that is mainly because a lot of them are done on the exercise ball but are also serious and suitable for the general population.

I have this loaded onto my iPad, the one I dropped and now is held together with Scotch tape to the embarrassment of my children (it still works, so what's the big deal? Your mother has no need to be cool). The workouts are simple and show you a quick video of each exercise if you want before you do it. There is also a clock you watch to tell you when you have done enough.

At any rate this is worth sharing, really a first class and simple way to avoid the need to learn more alterations.

The link for the app is here.