Sunday, July 24, 2016

Back in business and with Jalie

Those who read this from Nova Scotia won't need this explained.

Summer around here is visitors' time and that is what I have been doing. I won't go over the line-up but let's say I have enough time between guests to do one load of sheets in the washer and dryer. The slogan on the license plates is "Canada's Ocean Playground" and that is apparently true.

Being a conversationalist (that's a nice way of putting it) I love, love company and running my own version of visitor tours that are heavy on getting lost and ad libbing interesting stories about places I never thought we would be in.

However vacation season cuts into my blogging.

The next couple will be catch-up. My current visitor is one of my nieces and at 15 she is quite happy I think for a few moments of peace while I blog.

One thing I have been working on is some reliable version of linen type summer pants. Long loose pants are useful to have in the summer as a alternative to bug bites, that gummy wetsuit that is sunscreen and exposing one support stocking that you hope folks think is a wooden leg or something just as interesting.

A while ago I made Stylearc's Tessa pant which is the narrowest leg of their wide leg pants but I felt pretty swamped in them despite the promo that they were not too wide and not too slim.

As an experimenter I have then tried Jalie's Pull-on pants and shorts. I have to detour here a bit to say that I get all the Indie pattern emails, and although I find many nice patterns that way, I am getting a bit jaded with the elastic waist pants and plain T shirts billed as Iconic, Essential, and Ultimate, as I have said before.

I mean the wheel is already out there and has been for some time.

Nice to see a pull-on pair of pants called that, particularly if they have Jalie's superb drafting.

Back to topic.

These pants are wider in the leg but quite slim in the hips. The waist and angled side patch pockets are faced and of course you can have the facings on the inside or outside depending on how fancy you are feeling at that moment.

To give you a sense of how different these are from the Tessa's here is a Jalie pattern piece laid over the Tessa pants that I decided to recut:



Quite a difference isn't there?

I made this first pair as is, as I always do to see what alterations this particular pattern needs and was pretty pleased with them. Next version will have one inch added to the top waist because I am liking the feel of a secure waist these days and I am adding  1/2" to the facing so I can put a 1" elastic in the casing rather than the 5/8" I think the pattern calls for. The pants are certainly wearable as they are but having straight up and down hips I have a vague feeling when I wear them that suspenders would be a good idea.

I am also going to add a little sitting down room to accommodate what I sit down on. 

My current favourite method for doing that is this one which adds across the back side without increasing the fabric at the top of the back leg much or messing with the top of the crotch seam or side seam.

This Russian Pinterest graphic explains how it works:



Finally here are some on me shots in two photo shoots. The first ones were done in my backyard today by my husband, gives you a good idea of leg width and also how little bulk there is at the waist and hips. I will be reviewing the top soon too. Pardon the windy day hair, just look at the pants:


You can see through this thin T shirt where the waist line hits and why I am going to be adding a bit.

Yup there is a wrinkle but these are linen pants and I have already been running around in them
The wide leg shows in the back here at the top of my leg but given that they are wide linen pants I am OK with that,.
A little more fabric across my rear would improve the hang.


This is not the first photo shoot of these pants. Earlier in the week I spent the day with the kids at the place we swim and at the end of that day had my niece take some pictures while we ate ice cream.

My niece was careful and gave instructions, Front, Side Back and we didn't realize until I looked at the shots that the girls thought those orders applied to them too.

Not the best garment shots (particularly when I unflatteringly decided to show my stomach so you could see where the waist line sat) but good for a laugh and that, in my books, is everything:




Friday, July 8, 2016

Flypaper thoughts decluttering edition


  • My daughter is amazing
  • She loves her job
  • It involves giving little kids chemo and calling mothers later to say what the bloodwork looks like this week
  • My baby does this and feels called to do it
  • Her favourite line is "they are still kids"
  • She tells us more funny than sad stories
  • She is amazing
  • She has a sideline however
  • It's called getting me shaped up
  • Right now it's decluttering
  • Who needs 18 family pictures in the living room? she said
  • Doesn't it feel better to have just a candle and a clean surface?
  • Actually no
  • Listen I know it's very big right now
  • Apparently there are folks who have the time to hold every item in the house in their hand
  • And ask "do you give me joy?"
  • If it doesn't say the right thing 
  • It's off to Value Village's in-box
  • Where it will stay, until next week
  • When someone asks you to make a jelly salad in a jelly mold for a retro party
  • Or in organizing you decide to file papers in the paper trays you gave up at the same time
  • They actually tell you right now to keep only one memento from each child
  • Ha
  • You want the rock you painted the happy face on in 1991?
  • Got it
  • You want the pillow you sewed buttons on for mother's day 1992?
  • On it
  • More to the point this does not work for sewers
  • No matter what button came off I can find a match
  • Whatever I need I have just the thing right here
  • Purse stiffening for the purse I meant to make ten years ago
  • Invisible zippers from before they made a comeback
  • Enough shirt buttons to button up Wall Street
  • Purple sequinned chiffon for when the American Girl has an event
  • Stuff so the bottom of never knitted slippers won't slip
  • Your house looks like you have lived in it for 30 years she says
  • Well I should hope so
  • If I wanted clear surfaces I would book myself into the Holiday Inn
  • Right now my kitchen counter holds this:
  • The only dog food that doesn't make Daisy have diarehha
  • A kerchief my dad wore around his neck when camping
  • Spices a one year-old unloaded just for fun
  • A picture that says To Babs fr. SJM I love you
  • Stink weeds in a jar
  • A box of disinfectant wipes we split
  • One burnt oven mitt
  • A photo of Mr. Rascal standing in the dishwasher I want to frame
  • The frame
  • An iPhone with a shattered screen
  • Speaking of which
  • I have a req for an X ray to see if I have another sewing needle imbedded in my foot
  • Last one was a Schmetdz 70 jeans
  • It says drop-in these are the hours
  • I also have a 5:10 appointment at the Apple store with a genius
  • And an email of nine things to do before I get there
  • Another email saying to get there ten minutes early before the genius sees me
  • All to fix a screen that broke because no one thought ahead that this might happen if you give someone something thin and slippery
  • Listen
  • A genius is someone who invented penicillin
  • Or the zig zag stitch
  • And you kiddo have the face of someone who passed because you were in a good group
  • Maybe what we are cluttering our lives with isn't on the counters
  • However I do have one word of wisdom
  • If the B12 says it expired in 2008
  • You might want to throw that out

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Style when life changes

For a while now my friend Carloyn at Diary of a Sewing Fanatic has written about her transition from dressing for a Manhattan corporate office job to one that has a dress casual approach.

I have followed her on this topic with interest.

My own life is also under transition.

For a long time now I worked in political communications, where you were always on for the media, and then as a university prof. I admit to a far amount of vanity with my sewing for work.

I admit it.

For instance a term required 24 lectures and I made sure I had 24 different outfits for every lecture. My female students sometimes commented on this, many knew I sewed for myself, and I enjoyed having an audience of sorts to sew for.

It has been almost a year now since I have taught in the classroom. Instead I am teaching my courses online and can do that from home or anywhere I am at the moment. This really suits my life right now and I enjoy not being tied to a specific location every Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday.

I also really like the online format. I have designed the courses I teach and work to keep them dynamic. I am on video cam on my laptop so the students still see me, and I can see most of them. The conversations are active, either when a student takes the mic, or by the constant flow of texting at the bottom of my screen.

However what to wear is no longer an issue. They see me from the neck up and like so many news anchors I have seen who wear a jacket on the top part of the body that shows, and jeans and runner below, the pressure to dress is not the same.

My life now is so much more home based. I prepare my classes from my dining room table and this summer will be spending two days a week taking care of kids while my daughter works, and hosting various friends and family.

Most of my former wardrobe is now irrelevant.

I thought about this when I wistfully looked at the new Vogue dresses - many are things I would have made before, but really they represent the kinds of things I have just taken and donated to Value Village.

I know there are some bloggers who are largely at home and say they still sew and wear this stuff but really I don't know how they do it. How do you walk the dog, scrub out the bath, sit and mark papers in a pencil skirt and heels?

I want to look stylish of course, like I always have, but not sure how to do that. What we have going on here is a work in progress and likely some new mistakes as I try to figure this out.

Interestingly one of my sisters told me to watch Frankie and Grace on Netflix and, although those ladies are older than I am, they are where I am going eventually, and I am intrigued by their styles, which seem to represent two different versions of non working women dress:



One one hand you have Jane Fonda in shirts and fitted pants (so think she looks frail IMO but that is off topic) and Lily Tomlin in loose layers.

I note a lot of sewers are going the Tomlin route and it certainly has its advantages - easy to fit and sew for one. The Tilton sisters look, the Louise Cutting look.

I am pretty sure I am somewhere in no man's or no woman's land between these two ladies and not sure where it is going to turn out.

In my experiments I have made a few new pants shapes lately to see how I like them. I am still wearing support hose on the leg that had the dvt and I am not sure how I feel about that in dresses. In the winter in tights it is not an issue. I am also letting my hair go grey, it is in so much better condition when I do, and those two things at one time seem a little much for me right now.

It is interesting but changing your style can actually make you feel quite vulnerable - that is both surprising and a challenge.

So on that note I am going to share some actual outfits I wore on actual days this week.




These are another pair of Stylearc Talia pants and a way too long crochet top I made (you have to remember I am the most rudimentary crocheter, just a beginner) because I was so pleased I could do the pattern that I just kept going. These are wonderfully comfortable pants and I made them shorter as per the pattern.

I know I looked a bit rumpled but this outfit was worn on a day of taking care of an almost 2 year-old, a 4 year-old, and a 6 year-old. We played school, pioneer family and topped it off with a request from Scarlett that we do a spa day in the backyard.

This is what that looked like:


That's yogurt on her face and she was thrilled. The other two ate their cucumbers and went on the trampoline.

Some time ago I made Louise Cuttings Easy, Ageless and Cool pants (took note of the comment that a reader would not let her husband see her in them ) which I shortened by three inches to see how that looked:



Better but still big. Note I have thoughtfully styled these with a $7 Vera Bradley handbag my daughter bought me at a consignment shop and a banana. Wore this driving my husband to pick up his motorcycle at the shop. I call these my house cleaning pants. The giant pockets on the sides of the legs are excellent for picking up the random stuff you unearth while cleaning like bobbins and toy wheels under the couch or clothes pins on the lawn.

Finally I also tried Stylearc's Tessa pants in black linen. Of the very many elastic waist wide pants Stylearc has right now these are actually the narrowest and despite the claim that they have just enough fullness to fit smoothly at the waist I found them fairly gathered. I also had to remove 4" in length which is unusual for me as I am 5'9" even still I am going to have to go back and chop off some more length I see here - I won't be wearing these with heels in my front yard.



I am giving myself credit for trying new things but not sure if the loose look really works on this rangy midwestern body (rangy except for the middle part). 

I feel I am starting from scratch here at this new stage and obviously have a long way to go to figure out my new style for a new stage.

My question for you all is, what is your at home/casual style? What works for you and what doesn't? I could use some help here. I really could.

Those Vogue dresses are looking pretty good.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Handy sewing hint of the day #20 and a sort of pattern review

It has been non stop around here but I finally found time for a photo shoot of sorts and can catch up on some blog posts.

Today I want to talk about a concept I would call matching your technique to the fabric. I can give you an example with a UFO I had the great character to finally finish this week.

By matching your technique to the fabric I mean, continuing on the theme of following pattern instruction sheets with discretion and your own bright ideas, use light techniques with light fabric and heavier with heavy.

Not at all clear is it?

Examples help.

If I am sewing a military type fabric like wool gabardine I would go for military, ship shape type treatments. Hard presses with a pressing cloth and clapper, visible in fact articulated with top-stitching thread as opposed to sewing thread top-stitching, crisp edges with the top-stitching close to the edge ( the thinner the fabric the closer to the edge the top-stitching should be, the thicker the fabric the further away). It is a compatibility and matching thing:


A corduroy jacket top-stitching - some dimension to the fabric


Edge-stitching on a gab coat- notice how much closer to the edge the top-stitching is on the thinner fabric


I thought of all of this when I made this coat, an OOP Vogue in a wool mohair.



Aren't the flip flops perfect? I apologize for lack of styling but I wanted to get blogging and it's hot outside, what can I say? This is me.


The pattern number isn't really relevant is I am not entirely impressed with this pattern. 

Like many Big Four patterns it was unlined (makes no sense to me, coat fabrics need to be lined to go on and off easily and to cover the possible roughness, not to mention you are wearing a coat because you want to be warmer) and I went ahead and made my own lining.

However when I tried it on during construction I realized the sleeves were very narrow, almost blouse narrow and a lining would constrict them even further. Good thing I have skinny arms is all I can say.

So I threw out the lining, across the room actually, and ended up Hong Kong finishing all the seams instead in some silk I had left over from when I thought a grey and black blouse would suit me. I also hand stitched a patch of that fabric to cover the darts on the inside, not exactly sure why, must have been something on Netflix and I was sitting down anyway.

Now faced with a light feeling fluffy coat, sort of an upscale polar fleece, I decided to keep it as light as I could in construction. 

This meant no top stitching, no back neck facing (written about this before) and light aluminum snaps instead of buttons and buttonholes that I felt might themselves distort the fabric hand.

I also hand stitched on the patch pockets, super easy to do if you are watching the Mindy Project - slip stitched as invisibly as you can from the right side and then backstitched firmly catching the seam the pocket edges from the wrong side. In a fabric with this much texture you can't see the stitching:


Back neck seam finished with hand stitched flexible velour braid left over from when I had Chanel jacket illusions:


Those nice, almost weightless snaps from Botani in New York:


While I am not as crazy about the grey and black as I was when I bought this fabric - now my hair is grey I don't like to look monochromatic, but really this is a nice little coat for going to the mailbox or those days when you really want to face the world in your bathrobe.

Bonus shot of Miss Daisy next to a treadle sewing machine our neighbour painted for me when I was 16. It is a Challenge X farm edition and now well over 120 years old, although I see a handle is missing.



Miss Daisy has put her long back out again and is off to the playpen while I clean up the sewing room but in this picture she doesn't know that.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Flypaper thoughts early summer edition

  • When someone shouts "Do it Babsie, do it."
  • Maybe you shouldn't listen
  • Particularly if the shoutee is four
  • And you are on a trampoline
  • You should probably never crochet anything with orange in it
  • Children are like transplants
  • You start them in the house under wraps
  • When they get bigger you might move them to bigger pots
  • And eventually a few hours out on the deck to get them used to the outdoors
  • Then you plant them outside and watch them from the window
  • You share the harvest
  • Can you believe a person can be this profound with her feet up on a beach ball?
  • Surprise party for the youngest tomorrow
  • He is too busy to read this blog
  • Good thing
  • I have been working on food all week 
  • I made six quarts of pickled carrots
  • Why?
  • Girl friend wants to borrow my cutting out table for Beer Pong
  • Not sure what that is but suspect it will be a first for that table
  • I have noted that whenever any one has to go to a costume party they shop my closet
  • I bet those minimalist folks who dress like French woman can't say that
  • When they tell you not to grease the angel food pan because the cake won't rise
  • They are right
  • Big news in politics right now
  • All I will say is that I watch the news these days on my laptop with earphones
  • Some presumptive nominee's voice scares the dog
  • Nothing and no one is allowed to scare the dog
  • Do you think I can make blue jello look like water?
  • How much do vegans eat?
  • Do vegans eat blue jello?
  • I think I have figured that one out myself
  • Never be someone who says "at my age'
  • Don't even think it
  • Except
  • On trampolines

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Handy sewing hint of the day #19 and pattern review

It is interesting to me that many Indie patterns are reviving an edge finishing technique that might of being more familiar to sewers of the 1950's than those who have stitched their way through the Big Four patterns in the decades since.

I am referring of course to bias binding.

At one stage, pre-serger, binding raw edges was a sturdy way to finish seam allowances, and for budget minded home sewers, a fabric thrifty way to make simple garments without facings.

Think of all those traditional aprons, single layer, finished with miles of seam bound edges:


On the finer side of dressmaking nicer garments have also used bias binding instead of facings, neck and armhole for instance, with the effect of finishing these edges elegantly with less bulk.

I have to detour here a bit too with my own statement of self-disclosure.

I hate many forms of facings, and never use them in my own sewing.

Too many, I feel are in the category of strange home sewing inventions that you just don't often see in well- made purchased clothing.

The top of the hit list for me are of course the notorious back neck facings that IMO plague so many home sewn garments, particularly blouses and shirts.

The thing to think about is what is the function of a back neck facing in these garments?

Basically to cover the raw edge of the back neck.

For this do you really need a kidney shaped piece of interfaced fabric that, because of turn of cloth, hardly ever fits to the shoulder seams you are told to tack it to?

Myself I never use them, either looking for shirts with yokes (the Negroni by Colette has a brilliant yoked treatment for a convertible collar shirt that totally dispenses with the need for back neck facings) or serging or binding the collar/neck edge along the back.

IMO yet again, this is a wonderful use of bias binding.

I also prefer to use binding in many necklines and armholes of sleeveless tops and dresses for the summer because eliminating all that extra fabric in facings just makes for a lighter, more comfortable garment.

And of course binding the seams around the armhole of an unlined jacket, or along the edge of a hem or the outer edge of a front facing adds a nice touch that will make you smile to yourself when you see them - a small and reoccurring pleasure that is worth the initial effort. I have just finished, almost, a mohair coat where I have done this and will post that soon.

I like binding. 

However there are a few things you should know that make applying it easier:

  1. Forget the stuff you buy in those little packets. I know it is tempting to have the stuff all thin and folded and easy but my best comparison is that this stuff is to sewing what instant mashed potatoes are to cooking (apologies in advance to anyone who was going to make those up for dinner tonight). Near enough is not good enough. The fabric in purchased binding tends to be a cheaper fabric than you would use to sew a garment, and is full of sizing (starch). 
  2. I always make my own bias from fabric (you can use strips of masking tape or painters tape laid on the fabric for a bias cutting guide) and use bias tape makers to help pressing the edges under.
  3. Take advantage of the curvability of bias fabric. If your binding is going to be attached to a curved edge get it to your ironing board and press it into that curved shape before you apply it to the garment. It will then go in so easily and you won't have any weird pulling, puckering or diagonal wrinkles to deal with when you are done.
  4. One of my rules is I never, never attach the binding, as most patterns say, by attaching the binding on the right side, wrapping it around to the back and topstitching from the right side and hopefully catching the unsewn edge of the binding on the wrong side. Instead I sew the binding, one raw edge right side of the binding to the wrong side of the fabric, then wrap it to the right side and edge stitch it in place. So much less stressful (and no turning it over and seeing you missed a spot) always nice and neat on the right side. Make sense?

A bias tape maker:


So I do use binding a lot and am interested in the number of new patterns that require it.

Patterns like this, the Lakeside pyjamas by Grainline that I made for my daughter-in-law's birthday.



I really like the shape of these for summer, and made them out of seersucker because it is the coolest fabric for hot weather because the ridges keep the fabric from sticking from to your body.

Here is my version:


The front, I had to shorten the straps about 3 inches, not sure what that was about, but I figured it should sit above and not below the boobs.
The back, overlapped for breeziness - these would be good menopausal nightwear but since DIL is about 20 years away from that I won't mention it
These seemed so tiny when I was making them, I felt I was making doll clothes, but they fit. To match the overlapped back these have sort of overlapped side seams like gym shorts.
Now a few of my own technical notes:

  1. Lovely pattern style wise and easy to sew, with one exception.
  2. Personally I would throw the binding instructions out the window (there is over seven yards of bound edges here). I was annoyed to no end to see this pattern described as for beginners with complicated instructions for applying narrow 1/4" seam binding. Listen by the time you wrap a 1/4" around to the wrong side there is not going to be much left and you certainly will have a tough time catching the wrong side from the right side. I suggest you use the technique described above and make your own 1 1/2 " binding so there is actually something to work with. All those poor beginners working quickly during nap time in tears.
  3. The instructions for putting the shorts together with a series of complicated start and stops of the binding at various stages should be thrown out the window and way past the driveway, IMO of course. Best bet is to just bind all the pieces and then overlap the side seam sections where they should go and top stitch them down. Easy and you will have all your nerves left at the end of the process.
Final verdict, great pattern but there are much easier ways to put them together than the instructions suggest.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Taking orders

Scarlett did her sewing presentation for her grade one class. It went well and afterwards kids approached her with orders.

She has yet to learn how sewing for other people can get annoying. But then again she is only six, still time. In the meantime she is pretty pleased with herself: