Thursday, August 17, 2017

Fall sewing and ponte inspiration

I am trying to reduce the winter footprint as much as I can in my life.

Going down south and working remotely for three months a year sure has been a help in that campaign.

The fact is though that fall and winter still happen and happen even to me.

So the thought of fall/winter sewing is crossing my mind a bit these days.

Ponte is a fabric for that season.

I am sure you think those thoughts too.

For those of you in a planning mode here are some inspiration ideas from Simply Bella boutique in San Francisco.

I might try to do something similar myself:







Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Detour week continued, wallet edition




I am spending this week in Cape Breton with my husband who has a project out of Cheticamp . He has been doing this project for two summers now, although he is home and on the weekends, is getting a little road weary.

So I decided to come up and stay in the RV to keep him company in the evenings, and of course to walk my some cute petit chien and sew.

Since this was a last minute decision I packed only basic supplies, odd fabric, my Bernina Minamatic 807, which sews through everything, and a few bag patterns that I had bought and never used.

I felt isolation would force me to do something new. I am a garment sewer, or sewist as I am supposed to say.

Whenever I attempt something out of garments it does not go well. 

There was the time I was a smocking school drop-out and the time my expert quilter sister and I attempted to jointly make a quilt for our parents - and she sent my half of the squares back.

I am pretty used to fronts and backs, and facings, sleeves and darts. I recognize these things and have been working with them since I was eight.

However there are such as thing as ruts and even when they are comfortable they can still be ruts and that's not something you want to self-identify as is it? Yourself as a rut stuck person?

So I got this idea in my head that I should try making bags since I am noticing some amazingly professional bags out there being made by home sewers - a far cry from the tote bag patterns that were all that was around for say the last 60 years.

I started with a wallet.

My husband lost his over the weekend despite both he and I supposed to be paying attention. He needed a new one. I volunteered on the spur of the moment to make one, and here is how that went.

First I used this pattern from Mrs. H in the UK. I downloaded the pattern a while ago and have noticed that there is also now a free add-on for a zipper pocket addition that I think would be very much worth doing.

I dug around in my scrap box and cut apart some packaging I found in the RV for an identity card window (not ideal but all I could figure out) and used some random heavy duty interfacing that I picked up in a bargain bin in Winnipeg.

What I am getting at here is that this was prototype more than a perfect product.



I learned a few things making this wallet as a garment maker:


  • this was a lot of fun. I am so used to garment patterns I always know what is coming next and why. I had no sense of that here and as such was pretty pleased with myself when something actually turned into something it was supposed to. Quite a satisfying project and did jiggle around the brain cells which has to do you some good.
  • this is more complicated than it looks, this bag business. I think I remember 40+ steps in the instructions and this unit is only palm sized.
  • Some stuff is weird. I added some seam finishing and I struggled a bit with bulk. The instructions call for heavy weight interfacing for the outer piece and I get that but you then have to do some topstitching through it all, many layers. I used a denim needle and the old Bernina is more or less the sewing equivalent of a snow plow, but I am not sure most machines could do it. Particularily for the final part at least when you have essentially two turned wallets that you stitch together at the bottom through all layers.
  • there is a good reason why so many bags seem to start from quilting cottons- bulk is such an issue that too heavy a fabric, I used a light weight denim,  after all the interfacing would be too hard to stitch. I would go into the next project thinking ahead more about reducing fabric layers.

Finally I enjoyed making something right outside my comfort zone. In fact have cut out a little bag for myself today, took most of the day to cut and fuse, but I am excited to see how it goes tomorrow. This one even has a turn lock.

Long way from facings.

Now tell me what new things have you tried and how did you find that experience?





Monday, August 14, 2017

Another detour (updated so I believe it is possible to see the videos)

A while ago I bought a Singer Rocketeer because I wanted to dedicated machine for a Singer buttonhole attachment which, in my opinion, make the most beautiful buttonholes.

I found the machine listed on Kijii (Canadian Craigslist) and found it set up on a table in a random backyard. Not sure what the story was but this machine was about as dirty as a machine could be. Like it had been buried alive years ago down a mineshaft of lint and black oil.

Folks who don't know any better often use any old oil on machines, not the fine clear proper sewing machine oil, and it gums up and thickens up and gathers fabric lint and turns it to concrete.

However I figured, well why not, I paid $50 for it and the light did turn on.

Since then the little girls have been attacking it with Q tips for me and I have been working with a degreaser (if you are in the US and can order it the best stuff is called Bluecreeper).

Yesterday with my first day off from family obligations in a while I had a to-do list as long as your arm and a pile of UFO's about that high too.

So of course I took the Rocketeer out to the picnic table in my own backyard and finished cleaning her off instead.

This machine was made in St. Jean Quebec (that makes it a 500J) in a time that the factory was a real going concern:




Hard to believe now that the manufacture of sewing machines was once a huge industrial endeavour.

The Rocketeer was of the last generation of sewing machines Singer produced before it started to introduce cheaper plastic parts. It is all metal and gear driven (no belts) and meant to look new age and spacey like a rocket.

The decorative and utility stitches are made by bumpy cams that are read by little arms called followers that trace the cam shape to move the needle.

An old sewing machine guy once told me that cam stitches are the most regular and beautiful of all speciality stitches.

I find the way this works fascinating.

We all spend all our lives now using devices about which we have no knowledge of operations. We have passed all that over to mysterious strangers. 

We depend on things we can never understand.

That's a new gap or gulf in our lives we never think about.

Some folks had trouble with that divide.

I remember my late father-in-law used to call my husband with software problems with this computer (like he couldn't get email to work).

"I have my screw driver right here," he would say. "Now what do I do?"

It seemed to me as I happily worked cleaning and oiling the Rocketeer, and applying grease to the gears, that sewing people still occupy that divided place in modern society and that we thrive there.

Think of all the people who dress everyday in clothes made by people they will never meet with methods they have no knowledge of.

The Rocketeer it seems to me is a point of connection to some part of me that really is and to some part of sewing that really matters.

So here are is a video of the Rocketeer rocketing along and with the cams in operation:







Saturday, August 12, 2017

Taking detours

My week flew by. 

Someone said to me I should blog more and unfortunately I can't figure out a way to let you all have access to my head as I tear around so you can read the posts that are written there but not published in the real world.

Second thought maybe access to my head might not be a good idea. Pretty confused in there with the day-to-day intermingled with grandiose sewing intentions.

OK so back to the week.

This one I took care of the three grandchildren for two days and spent two days cleaning my about-to-move-to-Austin son's place at the beach. He lives upstairs in a spectacular apartment and rents out two units on the main floor. Those are what I cleaned.

Here is one unit and here is the other.

This kid is really enterprising, like all my kids actually. He is my real money saver and bought this place for not much - I had my doubts-  it was run down and decorated in dusty rose with pictures of cats '80s style, and he completely re did it himself.

My best part of that story was my husband and I were out one weekend staying in the RV helping him paint and I woke up to see a strange light moving around the yard.

I looked out the window and there was youngest son with a miner's helmet on dipping each board for the siding one at a time in natural stain and setting them out to dry in the dark.

Lately I have been thinking of my family.

I have friends and neighbours who have kids who all live close by. In a month both of my sons will be in the US, working at good jobs they got from very hard work. I still have my daughter here with the kids, a few minutes away and am extremely blessed about that. My daughter too is a hard worker. She is a children's cancer care coordinator and is about to go back to school to become a nurse practitioner - while working with three kids.

Sometimes I wonder why we all try so hard. I wonder about folks who have all children close, but I know this is how we are and were meant to be.

I become a single mother in my early 40s unexpectedly. I remember my daughter saying "we are watching you and if you are OK we will be OK." 

Well that was that.

I also remember an angry father coming up to me in the line up at parent teacher's (both my boys were school presidents) saying "I don't understand why your children are doing well - they come from a broken home, and my son doesn't."

Things people say.

This week was my 15th anniversary. My husband Leo is, to quote my mother, a gift from God. When he met me, my kids knew his kids, he told me that I, a middle aged mother with three kids, a dog, and a house that needed a lot of work, was someone he knew he had to "snap up before someone else got there first."

You see where my mother is coming from.

I don't usually share much that is personal on this blog but every once in a while I think it doesn't hurt. Part of blog culture for sewers is everyone posts great pictures of their garments and lives look smooth. 

I think the sewing is real and the lives behind the sewers are too. 

We are all just trying to make something.



Saturday, August 5, 2017

On a TNT mission



Every once in a while there comes a time when you really need a few patterns that can be made up mindlessly in multiples.

I have decided golf outfits fall into that category.

The golf clothes you buy, at great expense considering what they are made of, are not grabbing me. I have some "breathable" polyester athletic fabric I picked up at the amazing Northwest Fabrics when I was last in Winnipeg, but I seriously doubt if it is as breathable as natural fibres. However once I have the pattern side nailed down I am going to try it out. We will see. I have been around the fibre content block a few times in my sewing career and I am a polyester skeptic when it comes to hot weather comfort.

However since golf fashions appear to be updated only about every 80 years (although I note that Augusta will allow some women only if they have skirts that cover their knees - not that this matters to me as I believe I remember I am boycotting them for political reasons anyway-they don't have a good attitude to my people- and they are boycotting me for the reason I can't really play golf) it seems like a good investment to figure out some basic golf patterns that I can trust and churn out - since I am married to Arnold Palmer.

So I decided to start somewhere.

To begin with I used Jalie's older pattern for a polo shirt. Jalie has a nice fit on me always and this is a traditional tab front without buttons, a stand collar (to get around the taped neckline you usually see in facingless tab fronts), and a fairly pointy collar. 

Since this was a purely wearable muslin for me, and since it has been atypically hot here this summer, I used a a thin rayon knit I had that obviously would have been better served in a less structured design. Even though I interfaced both the collar and tabs the neckline is too floppy for me and I think the stand and collar are a bit dated and not quite the golfy look I was going for. 

Also this neckline is too low on me. As you can see my genetics are showing through in my chicken neck and boney chest - this is the neckline of my Prairie farm ancestry - this is the neck of generations of women who cut the lawn at 90 and canned vegetables when they were using walkers. But all good sewers.

You know exactly what I mean:

The patch is a terrible fail but at this point I just wanted to finish the pattern and wear it to test the fit. 

I have to say however that this shirt was super comfortable in the heat yesterday, and as long as I kept moving and didn't run into anyone who sewed I figured I was OK wearing it on the course. But of course am on the hunt for a better pattern to use for my purposes. I have downloaded another version from Burdastyle and will try that next. I might even have to go vintage pattern hunting to find what I need.

For the golf skirt I used Jalie's new Loulouex skort. I made it up once with just adding 1 1/2 " but really it was way too short - you have to remember that there is a lot of bending over in golf - so this version is lengthened by a full 4 1/2". 

The thing is of course that there is a panel in the front that is straight and the sides and back are essentially a circle. In a short skirt this is cute, but I think when lengthened this is maybe a bit much. However since this is a knit garment and so fast and easy to sew it is worth some pattern adaption.




I am thinking of maybe slashing and overlapping that back piece to reduce the circle to something more A line. I am also not sure if it needs to be a little shorter too.

The pattern also has an attached set of boxer short things with a band around the legs and an interesting and very comfortable square crotch insert.

63 year old legs I know, purely shared for educational content
The pattern also suggests the whole unit be made out of a stretchy bathing suit knit but I figured right away if I did that I would expire in the heat. So as a compromise I made the shirt in a nylon knit, sort of a leggings, heavy swimwear with a matte finish, and the shorts in the same rayon knit as the top. Test wearing this was very cool and comfortable.

BTW since I was deep into just testing in this outfit I used the opportunity to play around with my new Juki cover hem machine. There are double and triple needle cover hems all over both pieces with both the needle side right side up and the looper side up in various places. Bit random but good practice.

So where this golf outfit quest stands is at the beginning.

I need to try new patterns and find some decent sources for the right fabrics.



I also am in desperate need for a good hat pattern. Sort of a visor but one what covers the crown of my head.

I have a large collection of hats but none of them are right. I have a big head, probably stuffed with too many project intentions, and I need a hat that doesn't hurt and shades my face well too.

Any suggestions of a hat, or golf outfit patterns, that I can make for myself would be most appreciated.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Flypaper thoughts, hacked sewing edition


  • If you were waiting to see my swimwear projects 
  • You might want to settle in and keep waiting
  • Detour
  • Arnold Palmer is off and home all next week and we live 4 minutes from the golf course
  • So I decided to work up a golf outfit
  • Outraged that the stuff you buy is all polyester and about three times the price of the same stuff if it wasn't called golf clothes
  • Some hits and misses and some progress
  • Test polo shirt tab bottom was just a tiny wee bit off in one corner
  • No one would notice 
  • So I decided to fix it with my seam ripper
  • Operative word ripper
  • Polo shirt now has a crooked decorative patch under the tab
  • Haven't pulled a fix that crude since my high school outfit days
  • You know when you are down to your last nerve?
  • Well stop right then
  • I don't have much of a temper
  • Blow every 15 years or so
  • But then you could sell tickets
  • Take the knitting machine
  • Got one because hand knitting is so slow
  • Husband could run it like a charm
  • I did my best
  • Those things require the same amount of time to set up as it does to knit a sweater
  • Well when you finally have it ready the first row jams
  • Threw it out of a second story window
  • Spouse stopped me when I had my car keys in my hand
  • Was on my way to drive over it to make sure
  • That was 15 years ago
  • Speaking of violence a giant excavator backed up over the car when husband was inspecting a job site this week
  • He was fine but the car looks like a giant excavator backed up over it
  • Hence a week off to golf I think
  • I am probably the worst golfer you could meet
  • A lot more interested in the outfits than my handicap
  • BTW way do you know Birdie (my son's frequent visitor dog) once left a present for me under a cushion on the couch
  • It was a single racoon hand
  • No racoon attached
  • Sort of took me by surprise when I was straightening up 
  • Eerie how human a racoon hand can look
  • This is the part where it becomes really apparent I do not live in New York
  • Anyway we put it in the compost
  • Birdie is generally a good dog
  • What reminded me of that?
  • The knitting machine?
  • The excavator?
  • More likely the crooked patch on that shirt
  • Something that serious brings all of life's surprises and regrets to the surface
  • I mean really
  • I sew better than that
  • Off I go
  • Fresh start to tomorrow
  • New fabric, new pattern
  • Sewers have good bounce back 
  • We have no choice

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Granville shirt: a semi review





A long time ago now I cut out and almost finished a Granville shirt from Sewaholic. The Sewaholic knit T shirt pattern, the Renfrew, is one of my all time favourite patterns. The shoulders on the Renfrew fit well and the pattern navigates that fine and elusive line between too fitted and sloppy. I love it.

I had similar hopes for the Granville.  I have to say it is another well-drafted Sewaholic pattern. The pieces for this shirt go together precisely and the fit is perfect for a body that fits Sewaholic's pear- shape profile.

A minute here to detour on one of my new themes.

This thought is that so many fitting issues can be dealt with by working with a pattern draft that matches the body you are working with.

In the old days we didn't have many options. 

The Big 4 with their more or less similar sizing and basic blocks were supposed to fit everyone and they didn't. As a result there were a million how to fit articles written and a millions cuts and pastes made to countless patterns, and an infinite number of 1/2" or more cut on as "extra" outside pattern pieces.

Sometimes this worked and sometimes it didn't.

At any rate it was a lot of effort to get a pattern to fit.

All of that has changed with the many new indie pattern companies. The determined fit challenged sewer has many more opportunities to find a pattern company that has her shape in mind. As a result major fitting work has sometimes been reduced to minor tweaks.

And isn't that great?

So all of that means that the Granville shirt is excellent for pears but not quite as perfect for us bananas.

I find the side seams very curved out at the hip for me, and the shoulders a bit too sloped. In addition I don't feel that man style collar shirts really work on my scrawny neck and shoulders, so this shirt, one that I cut off to make short sleeves, will likely not be one I will make for myself again, but would recommend to the other right people.

I had fun making it, in a nice loud summery cotton, and I particularly enjoyed matching the pocket.



Now a question for you. 

Stylearc pants are perfect for me out of the envelope, but I sometimes find their tops too wide shouldered. Jalie on the other hand fits my upper body.

What pattern companies work for your own figure and why?

This is information other sewers might find useful.