Monday, July 28, 2014

Pictures, shorts, sweaters and squirrels

First of thank you for the comments. 

A picture and objective eyes are helpful. I have avoided belts for previously stated reasons but I can see your point. Time to revise the assumptions maybe.

I have a lot of school work to do today (thinking of a how to handle professors post this week in the last of my getting ready for university series) but have some random material to share.

My sons, the varying degrees of hipsters, have discovered weird quilting cotton prints, and with it, their mom the sewer.

I now have four shirts on order  I hope to get started on once the paying job stuff is out of the way.

One guy chose this fabric and wanted some old school drawstring shorts. I can do old school quite well since that is who and what I am. I used this pattern dispensing with the elastic waist and fake tie (I mean really McCalls we are grown-ups here) and made a real drawstring with an elastic piece in the middle for a little bit of spring:

There is a fly zipper in there somewhere and the waistband/casing is continuous at the top if that makes sense. I had a lot of fun sewing this happy fabric.

I also submitted a baby sweater to my daughter, she loved it but she isn't a knitter, even though it is apparent neither am I.

I used a pattern I found on a blog which I realize had a few things I shouldn't have done, like the decreases were knit two togethers in the middle of the sleeves which really showed - although all the other mistakes are entirely my own.

I figure my knitting is at the stage my sewing was when I was about 14.

I am going to need some coaching.

First question is how do you weave in your ends so they don't come poking out later? I would really like to figure this one out.

Finally I have decided to really reduce my extra curricular activities. For example I had a good run with some Burdastyle courses but have bowed out of that, and have a few other things I want to ease out of.

The truth is I need more time for sewing and this means less teaching or writing about sewing.

Except for this blog.

For some reason, and they certainly aren't economic, the blog is more interesting and more fun than some other projects and I want to do more here.

I also want to have time in my life to clear the decks for conversations with people like Miss Scarlett.

Here is a sample from this week:

On all the things little Billy hasn't even experienced yet (obviously a long list, took us a while to compile):

Scarlett: "But it makes me said that there are some things he will never see."

Me (somewhat alarmed by the turn of this conversation) : "Like what?"

 Scarlett: "Like seeing me do cartwheels. I can't do cartwheels."

When washing my hair and pretending to be a hairdresser (this is a favourite thing she does- I like it because I get to hang my head over the bathtub and rest):

Scarlett: "Well Mrs. what kind of hair style would you like? How about a squirrel hair do? I know a lot about squirrels. I saw one once and I have a book on squirrel hair styles at home. (all of this is a fake English accent). I will make it go up and then make it flat. How does that sound?"

And finally the best for last. Miss Daisy had a brief escape earlier in the week and disappeared behind some bushes while I was out. My frantic, and tearful, husband (don't judge a book by its cover, tough guys can be pretty sentimental) called and asked me to rush home and coax her out. He was afraid she would make a break for it.

I was bringing the girls home from swimming lessons in the car and said to them "girls we have an emergency."

Scarlett: "Heidi this is great, you always wanted an emergency." (Heidi is two and agreed with this).


Scarlett: "Babsie should I pray Daisy stays where she is until we get there?"

Me: "Good idea."

Scarlett: "Who is God I forget? Grandma Monica told me."

Me: theological discussion before the light turned.

Scarlett: "Listen God I need you to do something for me. You can do this. You made the first man and the first woman so you can do this for us. This is easier. Tell Daisy to stay in the bushes until Babsie gets there."


Scarlett: "Maybe you better get Norval Brown (my late father) to help you."

A person has to be available for conversations like that.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The non-colour blocked Charlotte dress

Well folks here we are. 

A short post as we have just got in from the movies and I have dishes in the sink before I go to bed.

This is the dress that took me a week to hem, the previously described Charlotte dress from Stylearc that was supposed to be colour blocked but wasn't. 

If you remember I didn't do the taping of all the pieces together right and ended up with a front 2" wider than the back (hint to you, if you try to do this line up your front with the front neck facing and you will catch this mistake before you cut).

I ended up making a little box pleat at the neckline to take this in and this probably was a good thing as the fit in the upper bust was fitted enough that I should have done a FBA anyway so this turned out to be a handy mistake.

Once I got the colour run out of this rayon I really liked it.

If there ever was a fabric that could speak for itself it is this one.  I wanted the simplest pattern possible so that could happen.

I tried it both with and without a belt - I don't really like belted things on me, since there really isn't any real waist to cinch and I think belts make me look dumpy. 

I have the kind of belly fat that they write health articles about on the CNN webpage, you know the kind of fat you absolutely are not ever supposed to have - or else - although if someone can tell me how you are supposed to get to post-menopause, have  three big babies, and employ Nutella-on-crackers-eaten-at-the-kitchen counter as the only mindfulness meditation/emergency stress relieving exercise that really works - and not develop a nice little parcel of belly fat I would really like to hear it. I mean enough already, is a person supposed to have done and do all this and get this far without evidence? A map with no roads on it? How can we be expected to have bodies that are smooth when life isn't?

Back to the dress.

I also think this fabric speaks best just hanging there as is - just like it caught my eye on the bolt.

So here it is.

Belted and unbelted. In either case a nice breezy dress for hot days out.

What do you think?

And of course gratis dog picture:

Saturday, July 26, 2014

On why it has taken me a week to hem one dress

And here he is:

A little brother to Miss Heidi and Miss Scarlett. Our newest addition, Mr. Billy, named after a legendary grandfather.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

One step forward two steps back

I am involved in one of those quick and easy sewing projects that keeps throwing up road blocks.

I am attempting to do an instant dress by taping together the various pieces of this Stylearc pattern, the Charlotte dress:

I have owned colour-blocked garments before and they fall into the category of things that look up to the minute one day and totally dated the next. Since the trend has been around for a while now I figure if I make a colour-blocked dress the trend will take an instant nose dive.

In piecing it all together with great optimism and enthusiasm and unwarranted self-confidence I assumed the vertical piece in the middle was in fact in the exact middle so I sliced it in half and stuck it onto the front piece.


Since even I have noticed the front is much wider than the back now and much wider than the front facing my suspicion is that this piece was designed to be off centre.

I have considered seaming down the middle of the front to take out the excess, but will probably just pleat the neckline in a bit as that sort of still in style, maybe, and proceed. If that looks dumb I will revert to the centre seam idea.

Whoever said measure twice cut once was for sure a sewer and not a carpenter.

In addition the fabric has spit up a few surprises. It is a good quality rayon challis from Elliot Berman but once I got to work on this I noticed that the pre-washing, cold water, line-dried treatment I always do had put little black spots on the light parts, from some running dye apparently.

At that stage the whole thing had been cut out (wrong as it turned out but still cut out) so after spending an hour trying to talk myself into believing that no one would notice I tore out to the store and bought this stuff, appropriately called SOS:

I put this in a bucket of really hot water overnight. The next morning the water was totally black, which was a worry when the fabric is mostly light yellow, but amazingly the run was gone.

I rinsed the whole lot in the washing machine on cold rinse with a cup of vinegar thrown in. 

I added the vinegar because 80% of all household hints involve vinegar, you don't even have to look it up. The other 20% involving baking soda of course.

So here I am back to square one with a dress that is too loose at the front.

Since I am too, this may work out yet.

Always the optimist.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Things a kid needs to know before going away to college

You are going to have to help me with this list, the final post on this subject.

My sister has been smart this summer. 

My nephew is planning on going away to university after his next and last year of high school. He wanted to get used to more independence by working and living away from home. 

That's why he is here. 

My sister also wanted to make sure he got used to managing things on his own and one of my jobs here is to encourage that.

Sometimes it is easier to do this if you are not the parent and already well in the role of doing things for your own child.

Yesterday we did laundry intensive for example, including how to use a clothesline because they don't have one at home.

He already cooks well so that's not an issue. And he is a conservative guy so probably will handle his money well but his situation has made me think of launching my own kids and of all the first years I see every fall.

One story that sticks in my mind is a mother that bought her son a chest freezer and filled it up with his favourite frozen dinners.

Another is of a really nice 20 year old boy who asked an accountant who was a guest speaker how to claim bankruptcy because he was in so deep with credit cards. Or the girls who take their student loans and go to the Dominican at spring break.

My students also tell me things like learn how much you can drink so you know when you have had enough (for me that would be two glasses of wine max, their self described limits would amaze you), or that girls need to always take their drinks with them at a bar, even into the washroom, so no one puts anything into it. (I find this one so sad).

I also remember my middle son telling me the most useful thing I ever taught him was how to iron a shirt. That's it. After 19 years of my upbringing what he remembers is shirt ironing.

So what's on your essential skills list? Here is the start of mine:

  • how to iron a shirt (details first then the body, use steam)
  • how to make quick dinners with pasta that don't require tomato sauce
  • what interest is and why it is scary (be aware that your freshman is going to be surrounded by credit card kiosks)
  • how to sew on a button
  • how to look at the unit price of food
  • that students are no longer living at the level of their parents' income (I am blown away by the "essential" $30 lipsticks and Coach bags my "broke" students bring to class)
  • how to sew a button
  • how to treat girls with respect
  • how to expect men to treat a girl with respect
  • how to separate colours in the wash and why some things need to be hung up
  • how to do a quick clean even if it is only with a box of disinfectant wipes
I know I am going to think of a million more things through the day but now its your turn.

Over to you.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

McCalls 6885

One of my favourite bloggers, knitmachinequeen over at Smoking Needles made a golf dress recently from McCalls 6885 that really caught my eye.

As a golfer I was intrigued by the idea of a golf dress as opposed to shorts or skorts. Increasingly I am coming to the conclusion that dresses, particularly in the non winter months, are it for me.

They just are easy to grab and thrown on and pretty much more comfortable than any other clothing combination for me. I dawned on me recently that if a person had enough dresses for different occasions you pretty much would have a closet with everything covered.

I am definitely going to be trying out the golf dress idea myself and just think dress making, literally, may be my major focus for the next little while.

So I tried out McCalls 6885 myself in some experimental cotton.

Knitmachinequeen's assessment was right, this dress is nice, good collar, a placket that I am going to rewrite with easier instructions, but really wide, including the neckline. If I made it again, and I will, I am going to bring the sides in.

When I first saw myself in this I said "tent dress" in my head, for those of you who remember what those were. My husband had a similar reaction. He said "shift" which is a term he remembers from his mother, and then "housedress" when he saw shift didn't go over well, although housedress was worse.

I have decided to leave the sides the way they are with this one however because to be truthful there is a time and a place for a tent dress in the warm summer.

An item with space between it and yourself and it can be a good idea.

I suspect this dress will get a lot of wear for that reason. 

Perfect for taking the little girls with me on errands or as a ... housedress. Something I can wear and evoke memories of my mother and her friends sitting in tent dresses drinking instant coffee (remember that?) in lawn chairs and telling us to go play. 
Not my best posture but I was explaining camera operation to my cooperative nephew

On the dog front Miss Daisy had a full vet assessment yesterday. This was the first since all the remedial work we had done in Florida ridding her of things you pick up in puppy mills.

The good news is the vet said her condition was absolutely remarkable given her history. I walk her a lot, a couple of hours a day, owning to the fact I get such happiness out of seeing her happiness on walks - you never saw such joy, and he said she was a strong dog with the "heart beat of an athlete."

She has a lingering ear infection in one ear however that we are treating, but the bad news is her teeth which are showing the history of her past poor diet and care. Puppy mill teeth are always an issue because of crap food, dirty water, and no medical attention. Bottom line is she is going to have to have two dental surgeries to remove some of her back teeth at the cost of a damn fine sewing machine. But that done she should be good.

Worth every penny of course to keep her healthy and to rid her of the last of her past. She and I signed up for each other and this is part of the deal.

Now off we go for a walk. It is a fine day.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sending kids off to college : part three - where to go?

I should credit my nephew with these posts because they are a reflection of many of our current dining room table discussions.

One of our big topics is where to go, what college or university to choose.

Sending a kid off to school is not unlike that other big milestone, the first day of elementary school. It is one of those acute letting go moments where you as a parent are more aware than they are that this is life changing, that something is being let go that will never quite be recoverable.

It is hard and quite natural for parents to hope everyone will be nice, that the teacher will notice your shy child, or understand the sweet person under your busy one, that your baby will make friends.

You hope for a small caring school and small classes.

I think many of us revert to this when it is time to send them off to post-secondary education. Recruiters know this and the emphasis from the smaller schools on quality of student life, a place where everyone knows your name is big.

It has occurred to me however that what a young person seeking to find their unique place in the world needs is not always the same place as the soon to be ex pre-schooler, and that different environments offer different opportunities.

Here IMO are not good reasons for choosing a particular school:

1. Everyone in the family went there. Even more so that one or both parents had the "time of their lives" there. This is not a good reason on so many levels.

  • It goes without saying that this is about your kid and not about you. I know a young woman who went to the site of her dad's glory days as captain of the football team and didn't really like it at all. She felt he was taking over her experience.
  • Schools change too. Any honest academic will tell you that any department or faculty goes through cycles, they periodically decline and are rebuilt, and the great program you did may not be the same anymore. 
  • College life is different now, part-time work, debt, an uncertain employment future, make the experience far less carefree than it once was.
2. It is a nice small school in a small college town and therefore less dangerous, intimidating, or impersonal than a larger, or more urban school.
If this is your prime reason for pushing a certain institution think again. I once asked my students to name the region's famous "party schools" meaning more wild parties, drinking, drugs and missed classes. All of the schools they named were in the smaller "college towns." None were the big urban universities. When you think about it the reasons are obvious. In any smaller community if there is less to do it is easier to get into trouble, more pressure to conform to a certain stereotype, less room for the individual to be themselves or find like souls. Some are even culturally more like a big high school than a place to find yourself.

When you think of the news and the stories that periodically come out about drinking or drug related college scandals for instance where do they come from? My point exactly.

3. It is a big name school. Obviously getting into Harvard is a good thing but it really matters so much more at the graduate level than the undergrad. Many of the profs who give well-know institutions their reputation will never teach undergrad courses at all, or at least often and certainly only in the final years. A good solid undergrad with great marks is the sensible aim here.

Also, entirely my own view, here are things to consider when choosing a school:

1. An interesting program (see earlier posts) with good faculty. Look who the teachers are and what their qualifications are. Profs should have education from a variety of institutions (more than one degree from the same institution is often not a good sign) and locations.

2. A place your child would actually like to live in. Places are teachers too. An interesting environment is an education in itself. What will your child do outside of class? Hopefully there will be something more interesting than a string of drive-through restaurants and an on-campus beer bash.

3. Diversity. Whatever you child does in the future it will involve living and working in an increasingly global environment. Your sorority sisters might be a fine part of your life but going forward being comfortable with folks who do not come from where you did is like gold. When I was 16 my family moved from a small town in Manitoba to Montreal and I did my first degree there. I learned so much about life, other people, other cultures there. I have benefitted from that experience the rest of my life. And you have to experience it first hand. Knowing that that girl in the hijab has a great sense of humour or seeing someone else get through school juggling three jobs may is part of a real education. One thing education should do is broaden a person's comfort zone, it just makes the rest of life easier.

In short you want your child to find a place where there is room to be themselves. Variety is so important. In range of programs, student population. You don't want your child to just to find themselves but find other people like themselves, fellow travellers with interests, if not history, in common. Look for a place where there is room to be different, because finding your uniqueness is what this period of life is about.

Off I go now to my current students.

A little more sewing and then over the weekend life skills every first year student should have.