Friday, May 22, 2015


I have to say something came in through my inbox this week that disturbed me. It was this picture for a new Morris jacket pattern from Grainline Studios:

You know I have had excellent experience with Grainline. I have made and worn both the Archer shirt and Adler dress and I like them both. 

A lot.

But this sample garment disturbed me because the stripes don't match along the very obvious centre back seam, and judging from the difference of the stripes at the front points, the stripes don't match along centre front either. The side seams I can't comment on because the sleeves cover them.

Listen you all know I am not the world's most fussy sewer. 

I worry a lot more about the outside looking good than I do about the inside looking as good as the outside. (Sorry mom and both sewing grandmothers).

I am after all the person whose nerves were so frayed by a largely hand-stitched Chanel jacket that I almost took it out onto the driveway and drove the SUV back and forth over it. I would have done that in fact but the garbage men came first.

But I am just disappointed to see such an obvious lack of care here. That these stripes are out of whack in a promotional photo for a new pattern described in glowing terms bothers me.

It is like when you go all out to a very nice restaurant and then you notice that there is someone else's bright red lipstick on your glass - sort of makes you wonder if they are wearing their hairnets in the kitchen.

Bit of a let down.

The thing is matching stripes is real easy.

The trick is to cut out single layer. 

You will never get it right if you are working blind with one layer hidden underneath. Fabric, particularly striped fabric, likes to move around under there.

If your pattern piece is in two parts like this back with a centre back seam, all you have to do is cut out one, flip it over so you're getting same sides together, and fiddle around with it so the stripes on the bottom piece are in the exact same place as you see the stripes on the top piece. Then you just cut around the pinned pattern piece as it lays on the bottom layer of fabric, and you are done.

Two identical striped matched patterns pieces that with a bit of care can be stitched up so the stripes stay matched.

And of course if you are cutting a piece that  needs to be cut on the fold, just pin your pattern to the single layer, cut it out carefully stopping the cut exactly at the fold line, then flip that piece over, folding it along the fold line. Then, sandwiching the pinned paper pattern between the two layers of fabric, adjust so the stripes all match, and cut it out.

That's how to do it in words, the illustrations are clear here in my mind's eye. If I had an Apple phone I am sure I could press it to my forehead and you could see it too.

I mean no disrespect to the pattern designer here. I do understand that some samples are made under pressure and when you are tired, but really if it is the picture you are using to sell your pattern you really need to just call me and I will come right over and do this part for you.

A good pattern should look like it is.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Heartbreak, sewing and new starts

Where do I start?

We have been home for almost two weeks. 

An hour before we drove into the driveway we got a call from my youngest son to say he had broken up with his long time girlfriend. The girlfriend who was living in my house and filling  it with her transplants.

I really like this girl but the family saw this one coming. Different directions.

What it meant to me immediately though was a heartbroken very nice girl in my house when I arrived home. To make a long story short she stayed with me for a week and a half. I did everything I could to support her. It really, really tore me up to see her heartbreak. But at the end of the day it became clear to her that living in my son's childhood bedroom crying and having the mother of the guy who broke her heart make her tea wasn't the best way to heal.

I am sure she will be just fine. I expect I will hear from her from time to time in the future. She really is terrific, but the right guy for her is just not this guy.

That happens.

Between you and me having someone that sad in the house wore me out. You want to say, listen hearts are stronger than you think. One of the best things about getting older is knowing that, but of course you know that only because when you were 25 someone broke your heart and there are no shortcuts. When you are older you can see the humour in even the really terrible things, if only fleetingly, and you are better able to take care of yourself. For instance if that had been me I would have sat myself down and started ordering fabric - that always helps.

In fact when all this was going on I did some sewing. I made a knit straight skirt and this top:

The Madeleine from Stylearc.

I was pretty pleased with it (pictures pending, my photographer is out of town right now) and wore it to an extremely weird event where two former politicians who have each written books stood on a stage and accused the other guy of lying. I was supposed to be moderator.

How do I get mixed up in things like this?

At any rate here is my in the outfit sitting down. 

Pictures are interesting.

I realized that all that extra fabric bunches up when you are not standing in your bathroom admiring your wonderful sewing in the mirror and I have since taken in the side seams and tacked up the wrap a bit since I wore this then. That's what I will show you when I get the shots snapped this weekend.

Anyway here I am dumpy on the stage:

Finally I was so sorry to hear Nancy Zeiman is dealing with bone cancer. My daughter who is a paediatric oncology nurse always says that the reason folks get nearly all cancers is just bad luck, but I was so sad to see that this is something Nancy has to deal with. Hopefully her treatment will go well. She certainly is one tough cookie and so many of us are rooting for her.

If you haven't seen the statement she put on on youtube here it is

Sewing with Nancy was such an important part of my life when my kids were small. Catching that show was a highlight of my week - a time when I got to concentrate on something that interested me. As soon as they could walk my kids knew that when Nancy was on mom wasn't going to do anything for you until it was over. Not get you a bandaid, make you lunch, rescue you in the bathroom.

In fact I can remember standing with the three of them in the grocery store unwrapping a book from Nancy I had just picked up at the post office she had sent me because she had used one of my hints on the air. My hint was actually published in the book and I was thrilled. To my little kids this made me a star because they sure knew how important Nancy was.

You know I was probably far prouder at that moment than I have ever been at anything else I have done, the world reflected in the picture above included, maybe particularly.

The things that the world thinks are important or impressive so often aren't the things that really matter to you most, you know, but only you know that.

I heard from an old boyfriend this spring, a source of a broken heart 40 years ago. We have both gone on to happy lives, me with Leo, he with Stanley, and I am so happy our friendship has returned to us. In fact I am sending off all those photos from years ago to him. They have his mother and a brother he lost in them and those belong to him not me.

In one of his messages to me he wrote that he had read my blog and was happy to see I was still sewing, because "sewing was always in your blood." I found that someone remembered that about me enormously comforting in a tough week.

All this is in my mind because yesterday I think I may have found the person who could replace me at my job. As of the end of August I am leaving full time teaching and going to be doing only a course or maybe two some terms. I love my teaching but need to open myself up to the projects that have been waiting for me.

It feels good.

Sunday, April 26, 2015


It turns out this two month stay in Florida has been about two things: teaching my classes and learning new things.

One of the new things is golf. 

My husband would rather golf than eat (he once did 72 holes in the rain after a course was closed and they said he could keep playing). I like being outside and particularly enjoy the Florida landscape. When many outside the state think of Florida they think Daytona and high rises, but we stay in a small place where nothing is more than two storeys and the locals still far outnumber the tourists. 

The lushness and the wildlife make the visit for me.

I decided this year however to start working on being a good golfer. 

You see I started to think about sewers I know who have sewn for a long time. Some will say things like "I have sewn for thirty years" and then complain that things still don't fit. 

I have finally figured out that having done anything for a long time does not mean expertise, in fact it can just mean repeating the same mistakes a whole lot of times. In fact some of the best sewers I know are young women who really worked at it over a short period of time. 

It's about application.

So I had this sort of epiphany after yet another wild shot, that I didn't want to be golfing this exact same way for 20+ more years. I don't want to be one of those women who can golf only with their husbands.

My ambition is to be good enough that I can join in on the Wednesday night scramble where they put you with anyone and you just golf. 

You see they have a buffet for the players after the scramble every week. I have seen them setting up the tables through the window.

It looks pretty good.

The second thing I decided to do is really learn to crochet beyond making crooked dishcloths. I really like any kind of knitted top because they are so comfortable and you don't need to iron them. 

Trouble is I am a really slow knitter. So slow in fact a lady in the waiting room for bloodwork even offered to show me how to knit faster but unfortunately her number was called before she could do that.

I figure in the snippets of time I have available I am good for one sweater a year, which is a pretty depressing number when you consider I have 400+ patterns favoured on Ravelry.

Then I heard crochet was faster.

That was it for me.

I have never really liked the look of crochet however which was a bit of a problem. Then I figured out that crochet culture seems to have involved a high proportion of really stiff polyester yarns and a lot of orange and brown stripes. However the newer designs (you seem to have to look in the crochet magazines to find anything fashionable) are much better.

So I started.

So far one top in three weeks made between teaching and golf and another is halfway there. 

The fast thing is true.

Mind you what I am making is not loopy hole free and it is super simple, but I am starting. I figured if I hadn't just gone on and worn things I had sewn even with the mistakes I would never have kept sewing. 

You have to just do it.

So here is my first project, essentially two giant dishcloths sewn together, but at least the sides are straight. It hasn't been blocked but here it is:

Not a masterpiece but the main thing I enjoyed doing it.

That really counts.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Follow up on the sock thing

I have to tell you that I was disturbed by some of the comments to my last post, the PSA on compression socks. 

What bothered me was that it was clear that folks who would benefit from these things weren't wearing them for all the reasons I gave - ugliness and, in so many of the medical supply types, a really tight band at the top that makes them so uncomfortable.

I have a feeling that I have found my causes. I will keep you updated on anything new on this subject that comes up if you are interested or not.

My public service activities appear to be rescue dogs and compression socks. A logical fit.

Being me, I have also read the peer-reviewed literature, and it is quite clear that compression socks on long haul flights can be a literal life saver, head off the development of further varicose veins, and in some folks as they get older, prevent or help heal some of the circulation sores you see on old folks' legs. 

Also they feel really great on if you have the right pair and are excellent for certain athletic issues and injuries, like pulled hamstrings, achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis. 

I myself usually am suffering from some sort of athletic injury. 

Whether it is dropping a 40 pound wooden cutting board on my foot and walking the treadmill so I could watch Craftsy classes instead of doing housework, having saddle sores from the exercise bike while binge watching Netflix, developing tendonitis and plantar fasciitis from fabric shopping in the wrong shoes, I am using healing from some adventure. Since I have been wearing these socks has really helped those situatioins too.  

So continuing to think about these things I am also posting pictures and links to another of my good sources, this time for plain old cotton or breathable socks from this place. The brand is Allegro and they are very cost effective:

They are unisex, I wear a small and my own knees are somewhat less hairy. My sock of choice for golf with shorts or a skort so comfortable.
Wearing the navy knee highs reminds me of my days as a Brownie and a Guide. When I think of it those times had their weirdness. Sort of a paramilitary look to the uniform and badges based in those days on housewife skills. Here is what we looked like then, and probably what I look like now when I am coordinated in my navy socks:

I wasn't an excellent Guide like my younger sister, who went on to great achievements or my mother who was a Brown Owl. Mainly the part I liked best was the sewing on of the badges and learning to do intriguing things like how to darn a sock over a light bulb (I still know how to do that but requests for that service have died right down).

But here I am back in the socks, all that is missing in the RV is a paper mache toadstool. Ta-twit-ta-twit-tawoo.

Tomorrow I think I am going to talk about crochet.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Compression socks and fashion or lack of that

I have been putting off writing this post because I don't like to do the personal medical detail thing but this does have a fashion angle.

So I am seeing this as sort of a PSA, public service announcement.

As I wrote a while back I have a genetic clotting disorder called Factor V Leiden. I have only one gene so my situation is not very serious, and raises my risk of blot clots only after surgery, below the waist, long travel and if I were on any kind of hormone therapy or the pill which I am not.

This is a common genetic disorder among those of European descent, about 1 in 15. It is estimated that about 40% of folks who have clots after long haul flights have it.

I wouldn't even know about this except for a clot in my leg after a C section thirty years ago before they knew about all of this. If I had got up and moving and had been taking an anti-coagulant at the time, standard practice now, something my daughter did after her last baby, I would be fine.

As it is I have some valve damage in that leg which means in certain situations, like after I injured my foot in the fall, the blood return and swelling are slow to move. In normal circumstances I have zero issues but of course this might change when we are dealing with an elderly Babs.

I saw an excellent doctor who told me that if I wore compression socks during the day I would be taking care of things. She also referred me to a specialist who does vein surgery in a private clinic and I will see him when I get back. I need to find out if my clotting issue makes sense for surgery when socks will do the job.

This is no big deal at all. Everyone has something they have inherited and this is one of mine and a minor issue.

Now onto what is important.

Finding compression hose as they call it, that does not make you look like an idiot is no small feat.

This really annoys me.

Compression socks at the strength I need, 20-30, are not just for old ladies and even they need to be fashionable.

With long haul flights this concerns young folks too (I was 32 when I had my clot). My physio says that sometimes healthy folks with low blood pressure can be more at risk - she knows a marathon runner who has had several DVTs after big flights to races. Think of Venus Williams.

Also compression is easy on your legs. Every person at the vascular clinic, nurses, techs and docs were wearing them. My brother-in-law wears them when he is on his feet performing surgery.

For folks like me who need them the doctors tell me that the main issue is compliance - meaning people should wear them but don't - they are too darn ugly and often hard to put on.


So tell me why there are 2,000 different kinds all weird beige and very few other options?

The principle seems to be that if you skin is lighter it is yellow and if it is darker it is dark orange. I wore a pair out for lunch with my new friend Susan here and we agreed they made my real legs look like prosthetics. I mean I had a sewing student who made fake legs for a living and hers looked more realistic.

When I got mine measured it was in a place where they were also selling commodes and walkers. Me and a young woman with three little kids were being fitted - we felt right at home.

I was handed a pair of XL rubber gloves for "donning" and told I would wear them for life and the minute I got out of bed to bedtime. They were also expensive $100 for knee highs and $150 for pantyhose (I have good insurance that covers a few pairs which is helpful). I need graduated compression, tighter at the ankle and looser as they go up (think squeezing the toothpaste) and can't wear leggings or anything footless because they might cut off circulation at my ankle which really isn't the point. Few athletic socks are graduated compression at 20-30 (firm support and opposed to moderate - the doctor said if you are going to do it you might as well do it and that's what she wears).

So these are the challenges:

  • Ugliness. Would it kill most of these manufactures to consider that people who wear these things might be young, active, or just plain fashion conscious? Would it be possible to make at least on pair of white lace something or a pattern knee high to wear with a summer dress for instance?
  • Many of the knee highs are fine except they have a tight band at the top that digs in - since this isn't good for circulation this makes no sense to me. The lady at the fitting suggested I carry my giant rubber gloves with me for frequent adjustments during the day. I think not.
  • The pantyhose are nuts. For a start you ease on leg on at which point you have encased yourself in super Spanx up to the crotch and then you are supposed to do leg two which means you have to get your second ankle up to the crotch without falling off your bed. Takes about 20 minutes, makes even the dog laugh, and would be useful only if you wanted to get a million hits on Youtube for laughs. Plus the fact that there is a real possibility that you make a snag in your $150 pair of pantyhose the first time out. Exactly what I did.
Here however are the benefits:
  • Your legs feel great. If you have ever come home from a long day and just wanted to get off your feet you don't have that feeling any more. One of the things I have been thinking of about possible surgery is I would probably keep wearing these things most of the time for comfort. It is hard to describe - think of the difference of going running with and without a bra. Best I can do for an analogy.
Here are my strategies:
  • I am not wearing those ugly pantyhose. Take me out behind the barn and shoot me first. I will be wearing those about the same time I start accessorizing with giant bright white velcro runners which will be never.
  • In the stocking department I wear thigh highs by Sigvaris. The colour is terrible but they are comfortable and easy to put on and you can actually do a bathroom break with them in under two hours. I can wear them under maxi dresses and will wear them under my regular tights which you can wear in Nova Scotia all but three days of the year.
  • I am wearing knee socks and if I want to wear sandals yup I am doing the Birkenstock thing until I can think of something else, maybe clogs. Further footwear reports. This is a fashion challenge and requires some reconfiguration of the look into sporty and opposed to whatever I was when I wasn't wearing knee socks, but I decided I would rather look eccentric than as if there was something wrong with me, because there isn't.
  • Search high and low for options. Contact manufacturers and lobby. Maybe young people who fly a lot and could benefit or people of all ages who would feel great in these socks would do so if they were not so terrible looking and fitted in places that sell commodes.
Here is the good news. There are some limited but excellent options. Here is what I am wearing by company:

Sockwell. American made in Tennessee.

I can't say enough great things about these socks. They are super comfortable, have excellent compression and are in natural, breathable fibers. Only downside is the dark colours which limit summer wearing. I love, love these socks and think everyone should be wearing them:


This company was started by a young entrepreneur and DVT survivor. I have these rosebud socks and love, love, love them. They are synthetic but have a nice rib knit and have zero cutting in at the top. Excellent socks and I am keeping my eye on them for more options.

Of all the compression sock companies this one has the most fashion options. Unfortunately they are right now only offering 15-20 compression but are going up to 20-30 in August. I can hardly wait to try them:

Finally the athletic compression socks:

Very few of these are true graduated compression but I did find something reasonable at Runningskirts. These are my husband's, and surely the little girls', favourites:

A bit of a challenge but I am not giving up on this and will keep you posted on any updates.

And that's it for this morning's PSA.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


Here we go as requested:

Here we go. Slightly more wine coloured in real life than this shows on my monitor.  How about $45 for all 5 yards plus postage. 45 inches wide.


Funny story.

My husband read my post yesterday and said he actually liked that dress, it was the other blue dress he didn't.

So I really appreciated all your comments and you are right, I will be raising the neckline and changing in the side seams a bit next version. I think it has potential and I am going to be looking at other wrap dress patterns as suggested too. A wrap dress is just too multi-purpose, dress up and dress down, not to be figured out.

Since you're asking here is the other blue dress my spouse was not nuts about, despite having seen me wear it before without comment. Navy pique cotton and in this picture a little wrinkled from sitting:

And here is the detail of the back zipper, set below the neck a few inches in the seam for a neat neckline finish, since the dress can go over my head when I put it on due to the wide neckline:

And here is a shot of the facing, one piece which I love about this pattern:

Finally on the out of control wedding fabric buying front I have found a solution to my dupioni issue involving how to do merlot when you are working with a fancy lace layer for the top that has that slight bright pink thing going on.

Got a real nice sort of dark, dark pink swatch from Mood and that works so I am redefining Merlot to sort of a Beaujolais, maybe even a screw top, almost a Zinfandel in a dark room, almost to a box wine - the kind that you take out the silver bag out of the cardboard and squeeze out one last little bit into a coffee cup so the kids (who are now full adults) won't know mom is drinking while she is doing the dishes after Thanksgiving. (All those who were raised in the responsible Canadian Prairies will not need to have this explained.)

Which now leaves me with, among other things, 5 yards of dark red, sort of merlot, Dupioni with a slight black under sheen when you bend it (you know how dupioni works). 

Make me an offer.