Saturday, November 22, 2014

Picture heavy

In keeping with my policy to have the blog with the worst pictures on the web here are a bunch of one of my latest efforts.

I know, I know. 

I should get a tripod and a remote. I should sign up for Instagram how-to courses. I should get lights. I should allow more than 40 seconds for photo shoot. I should be like one of those mommy bloggers who have the photographic skills of Yosef Karsh  (famous Canadian photographer), but that would affect my sewing time.

So in this blog, unfortunately, what you see is what you get.

So here we are.

I got this fabric in New York recently, sort of a heavy knit lace at Parons, who usually are a better source for quality wools and boucles.



I was wary of something with too many seams to interfere with the lace.

I have also decided for the next little while to pursue a new approach to my sewing - I am going to try to sew only things that I will actually wear - as in reach for in the morning when I am in a rush.

This is a new tactic for me, and so original I am thinking of patenting it.

So with that in mind I decided to use this basic dolman top I have used before - knowing from experience that tops with sleeves like this actually work better in fabrics with some body as they go all droopy and is-that-an-old-rag-you-have-hanging-from-your-shoulders if you use something light like a jersey.

Counter intuitive I know but what I have experienced based on bathroom mirror research.

So this is the pattern I used, out of print but there are tons similar:


I also got the bright idea to do the scoop neck version but to make a ring to put on over it to look sort of like a cowl so this top could be more trans-seasonal.

I first tried a long infinity type ring but it was way too many layers and I know would be hot flash inducing, so I cut it down to something that went around my neck once.

I have to tell you that quite honestly I have had my struggles being really crazy about the infinity scarf with everything look. I know I am the only person in the universe who feels this way but my neck feels sort of stuffed into too much fabric when I wear them. 

Maybe I was scarred by a forceps delivery or by having my mother tie too many scratchy wool scarves around and around my neck in Manitoba in the winter (you might get strangled but at least you would be warm was the rule) to really be enthusiastic about the scarved up look.

Enough talking.

Here are the hanger shots:



And here are the shots on me, taken by the only available photographer, the charming Miss Scarlett who was home for lunch (we have lunch together twice a week at my house because it fits both our school schedules) on "pyjama" day:


Here is the result of our photo shoot:


Note lurking Daisy, I didn't want to press the hems, which I did by hand, in case I flattened the lace but seeing these shots I think I will.

The thing with this top of course is you have to wear something under it. I tried a camisole but what is the point of a nice comfortable top if you have to wear body armour under it?

Since I have decided to actually try some of the patterns in my long standing collection I went searching for something to make out of some coincidentally totally matching rayon single knit. It really is too easily wrinkled (rayon is a wood based product and of course single knits can act like paper) for a real top.

I pulled out one of my meaning-to-trys, the tank from Pamela's patterns twin set.

I followed the instructions to choose the size based on high bust measurement. This gave me a medium, and although this was absolutely perfect for what I wanted, nice and loose, it would have been way too big for an actually summer tank as you can see. I could even see the bottom of my bra underneath in the arm holes for example. 

Good to find that out and very nice when your wearable muslin is actually useful. I may in fact extend this to make a sleeveless night gown for summer and now I know that about this pattern:


More tomorrow but right now I have dogs agitating for trips to the park.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Geez, the original hipster

This article was published in our local paper today.  For those of us who were sewing when it wasn't cool it's so good to see new sewers sign up.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Small victories

I went to the vet today for a follow-up on Daisy's teeth.

For those of you who are not hanging on the edge of your seats thinking about my dog's teeth here is the recap.

In August she went in to have about half of her bad puppy mill history teeth extracted. They were black and horrible. In the end the vet could only keep her under long enough to get them all cleaned. So he sent me home to see what I could do with brushing and to come back in a few months to reassess and to book more surgery.

In the intervening months I have been doing Daisy's teeth twice a day with dog toothpaste and these drugstore gloves and a tiny tooth brush. The glove were the most useful, I pretty much could only poke around with the toothbrush.

Well the follow-up was today and the vet told me her teeth were perfect. Amazing in fact he told me, like nothing he had ever seen, her teeth so good that the gums had even grown back and she needs no more dental work at all (this saves me about $2,500).

In fact he came out and told his staff about her teeth and wrote down exfoliating gloves.

Listen there's a lot I don't get on top of or get right.

I have upside down collars and a pile of messages to answer and classes to prepare. 

I haven't touched that mending pile since 1994 and I still don't know why folks are still adding to it.

When my kids started school I bought a cookie jar and thought I would fill it with cookies so we could sit down every day after school and discuss our days. 

I think I managed that once.

Three kids and twelve years of school each.

I was thinking this week I would start a new board called Disinterest where folks could pin all their unfinished projects, record their over ambitions, and all the creative projects they messed up.

I could fill boards and boards all by myself. They would be called:

"Stains Dawn dish detergent did not get out"

"Doors with no wreaths on them"

"Squares that stick to the bottom of the pan"

"Slow cooker meals that require $37.00 of ingredients and still taste like water"

"Messy kitchen drawers"

"Weird things that have been found in messy kitchen drawers"

"Rolls of undeveloped film of the childhoods of kids now in their 30s"

"Dogs with dust bunnies on them because they were coated with coconut oil by well meaning son's girlfriends and who then tried to hide under the couch (the dogs not the girlfriends)"

I think I am on to something.

But I have to say tonight.

What ever else I don't get together in my life.

I am pretty awesome when it comes to dog's teeth.




Thursday, November 13, 2014

How sewing builds, or at least creates, character

I am still supposed to be reducing my running around while the bones in my foot heal from getting beat up by the cutting board. This has shrunk my sewing time to increments.

I have been working in small bursts on the Archer shirt, which really is a wonderful pattern. All the pieces just slot together so nice.

However I have been picking it up and putting it down and this has had its consequences.

Somewhere along this start and stop process I did a very nice job of applying the collar and stand (credit to the pattern) but when I held it up to admire my spectacular sewing skill I noticed I had put the collar in upside down, meaning the center back seam of the undercollar is now on top.

Compared with problems like what to do about North Korea and melting of the polar ice cap this is not the end of the world. But that doesn't mean I just can't believe I was this dumb.

Of course the 500 collars I have applied before in my recent sewing career all went in with this not happening, but what I am going to do? Wear a sign on this shirt that says "I never make this mistake?"

What I am really going to do is just concentrate on the part that was not a mistake, and move on to the sleeves.

I'm tough.

All this sewing has made me this way.

Which has got me thinking about all that sewing has done for my character. Of how many transferable skills there are to it.

Here are a few I can think of tonight, your own thoughts would be much appreciated.

Let's start with the obvious:

Sewing makes you resilient. 

Essentially you have no choice. To have invested so much time and energy in something and have it not turn out, usually because of operator error, but to keep on sewing develops your bounce back. I figure years of moving past the ones that were duds, onto the next one that won't be, develops the moving-forward-despite-current-evidence skill and an outlook that's very useful say when you lose a job, have a crappy interview, or serve your worst ever meal to the people you most wanted to impress.

You learn to say oh honestly, then oh well, and then move on.

Sewing makes you persistent.

I don't actually like to tell those folks who make a pillow one week and want to design their own line the next that, in addition to the ability to move past failures, sewing also requires you keep at learning how to do it better. Buttonholes and zippers that don't give you a heart attack take a lot more practice and patience than anyone is really willing to tell you - sort of like those nurses who refer to labour as uncomfortable. You have to use a seam ripper a lot to be a good sewer. You have to be willing to revise your technique and try new ways of doing things all the time.

What sewing teaches you most of all is that if you stick with it you can get pretty damn slick.

Sewing makes you open to the unexpected.

Right this very minute as I sit here with my dog on my bed with my foot wrapped in ice and elevated on an exercise ball I am wearing a top made out of some fabric that I was going to ditch and in a dolman sleeve pattern that I thought wouldn't suit me. Because I didn't think the fabric was my colour I figured why not waste it on a pattern that will also look terrible.

The thing is that both the fabric and pattern were a surprise and this is my favourite top.

Surprises like this teach a person a lot. They also keep her from missing good opportunities, like that diamond in the rough man or that quiet person who turns out to be real funny. Being open to surprises reminds you are probably aren't as smart as you thought you were and judging too fast keeps you from missing out on some of the real good stuff.

I am sure that over the next few days I will think of more things sewing has done for me, but tonight that's enough to make me at peace about that upside down collar.

What do you think about this?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

My mother and the Black Death: not for squeemish

The back story on this one is that despite Daisy's own ongoing flea medication, a visiting dog has brought fleas into the house. Since Daisy is on something that kills fleas once they are on her they still have to jump on to get that to point,and I have found a few on her belly. I saw the vet today about something to add to that process.

I think you get the drift. You don't see any fleas around here but I know they are there.

October and November are the worst months for fleas. Those little nuisances are occupied with catching the last train into a warm house and a warm body before the big freeze hits - but I am ready for them.

So ready.

You see my mother was a nurse in the fifties when infectious diseases were the thing. She nursed through the polio epidemic and through TB. Later she was a volunteer taking care of one of the first folks to die from AIDS when that was getting going. She's 87 but I know she is on standby waiting to take the call to take on Ebola.

My dad used to say my mother could stop the bubonic plague in its tracks if she had too. She used to make nurse sisters who came from the hospital change in the porch before they came in the house.

When we were growing up she sterilized everything, good technique she called it. If someone gave us hand me down books she baked them in the oven before we were allowed to read them. I had to go to school before I found out not all books had wavy pages.

When I had children she sterilized all the toys before she even had her coat off when she came to visit.

I don't want you to get the impression that she was a neat freak, far, far from it, but I grew up in a very untidy house that was nevertheless bacteria free.

So when I assessed the flea situation I channeled my past. I have washed everything that can be washed in hot water and for the things that can't be I have come up with my own invention.

I found out that freezing kills fleas at all life stages so, you guessed it, anything that can't fit into the washer is now in the chest deep freeze. Go looking for ice cubes around here and you might be staring at a rug.

My mother would be proud.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Something I am going to be thinking about

I read something last night in a crochet book I am reading that hit me in the head.

I have been in a sort of Craftsy induced self study program to learn to crochet.

 I think motivated by the fact it took me a whole year to knit some lap blankets for the boys, at least one of which is now a dog bed. I heard crochet was faster and after those projects that is all I needed to know.

I have a long way to go, that dog sweater had some made by me mistakes and is going to be redone, but I have been approaching this as if this was a degree granting program.

What I read last night was this -  before you begin you have to come to honest terms with who you are. Specifically are you a  person who wants to figure out and follow line by line patterns or are you someone who is happy with mindless but relaxing repetition.

When I read this I thought I just want to have something to keep my hands busy when I watch Netflix - you can't do that if you are busy getting lost in instructions. If I want to be precise I will make a shirt.

At least at this stage that's where I am.

I also realized I don't actually like a lot of crochet patterns. I am not a lacey person, so why am I suffering self esteem issues because I can't figure them out?

This made me think about how we approach sewing.

Do you want the clothes or the sewing time?

Do you like simple seams and quick garments or something slow and challenging?

It seems to me that we need to take the should out of sewing.

I see a lot of sewers, particularly those who blog or talk about it, taking on a whole list of projects because that is another skill they have to master. I was myself like that over the Chanel jacket fiasco. I don't actually think those jackets are flattering to everyone, like me who is a banana shape, and I found all that hand basting annoying when I had papers to mark, dogs to walk, meals to eat, and grandchildren to talk to.

I also am a quilting drop out. I like to fit but feel doing the same seam over and over again makes me feel antsy. The exact opposite of my sister the ace quilter who buys her clothes.

So my questions for you this morning are what I realize are the fundamental issues:

What kind of sewing do you enjoy most and look forward to?

What kind of sewing do you feel you should do/learn to do but don't really have your heart into?

I think the answers to this one will be pretty interesting.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Show and tell the first class version

I think I told you a few posts ago about running into blog readers in NYC. This was the highlight of my garment district day.

I also told you about the lovely couple I ran into on the street and about the cooperative husband who took off his jacket and showed me his shirt.

The workmanship on that shirt was outstanding and so I asked for pictures.

And here they are.

Many thanks to Marian for sharing these shots and for her lucky husband Ed for being such a sport.

A standard we can all strive for in the shirt making business: