Sunday, December 20, 2015

From Santa's workshop

I have been neglecting my blog lately, but that is probably a function of focusing on my family and getting ready for Christmas.

I had a non teaching term this fall and for the first time in decades have been able to get more of what I can get done for the holidays.

Hands up if some of the pressure for December for you is the continuous process of giving up on your to-do list or if you have ever sat at your desk after 6:00 p.m. and piled things into the Amazon cart.

That's been me, but less so this year.

So to give you an idea of what I have been doing since I haven't been blogging, here are some pictures. (Some shots, like the Christmas dress I made for my daughter a few weeks ago are still to come).

Here is Miss Scarlett in front of the children's hospital where my daughter works, waiting for her to come out so we can take her home:


For the first time ever I did not do the big tree in the corner. 

To fit that into my living room every year I have moved out a chair and this year I decided I really needed the seating. My Pinterest daughter came up with the idea of a table top tree. I fought the idea thinking this was part of the slippery slope that might one day lead me to sitting in a dark house at Hallowe'en so I don't have to hand out candy. Or having a small pink fake tree on the coffee table while I sit there in my fluffy slippers.

However I have my real tree still and all the random, not decor, heavy on memory decorations that represent all my Christmas to date:


And here are thirteen pint jars of my sister Dawn's wonderful antipasto recipe. It is sitting on top of a 130 year old treadle machine my parents gave me when I was 16, painted up by a neighbour, in one of those years when my dad went to grad school again and money was tight. It worked wonderfully BTW:



Here is the recipe, it is really great and simple:


This shot is Mr. Billy exploring my table top tree. My daughter's tree doesn't have anything on the lower half since Mr. Bill is very good at yelling "Ball" and hurling the decorations across the room:



One of my slower projects has been clothes for the American girl dolls. Basically these involve the same sewing time as the same garments would be in adult size. Let me tell you the doll sized jean jackets have been put on hold:


Finally as I have said other years my little neighbourhood is famous for its lights. In fact some evenings we have as many as four tour buses going up and down the streets. (It is a point of honour if they slow down in front of your house). My own place is well decorated but these shots are of other houses near me that I snapped on an evening walk. 

My neighbour who lives in the one below told me that one evening when she came home late from a meeting, her husband was out of town for a few days, and there was a car parked in front of her house. Tired she went up to bed but was detoured by a knock at the door, "Would you mind turning on your lights?"

That's how it is around here.



I also actually finished knitting my youngest son's sweater. This took me about a month, breaking my own land speed record and expectations. I pick him up at the airport today coming in from Texas so I go this done under the wire for sure:


 I also made twenty pair of polar fleece lined felted wool mittens. My husband has been collecting wool sweaters for me from consignment shops as he toured around rural areas for work. They should be warm:


So back to the workshop, with extra dogs in the house and a husband booking tee times down south for the winter, I need to stay focused.

More later.

Friday, December 11, 2015

I stand corrected, or in this case educated

Well first of all my apologies, cosplay, of course I get that. Makes perfect sense. Speed readers unite.

I know all about anime, and can spot a steampunk outfit from across the street, but this one has passed me by, or at least my neighbourhood in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

I read more, once I read the helpful comments, and realized that I understand cosplay, and like all women have been doing this, dressing in character or like a character, so much of my life.

Hands up if you ever suited up for work, or heaven forbid are old enough to remember when dressing for success meant a version of what men wore right down to the little scarf numbers (Palmer and Pletsch did early do-it-yourself instructions) that were lady ties.

Haven't we all done this? Haven't most women dressed the part at some stages of their lives, or tried to redefine themselves with wardrobe changes?

It is a really interesting question.

The bride who feels like a princess. 

The woman who is caught by a co-worker out getting milk and is horrified someone she works with has seen her without make-up. 

The way you feel in your first heels, like a real grown up woman. 

The way you want to get out of those heels the day you decide you are wearing them for someone else. 

Why you put on your lipstick when you have had bad news. 

Why wearing flannelette pyjamas makes you sleep safe like your dad was still in the living room.

Everyone is so sure the way women should look and we try so hard to pick up on that.

What are you wearing is the first most important question.

I wonder if we are really asking, who should I be?

Or how much unlike you can I risk.

At some level I think sewers, an undoubtedly cosplayers, are exploring this - one trying to find self definition through self expression, possibly the other trying on different ways of being.

As for me right now as my own life is opening up again, post child raising, work more strategic than routine, I am wondering if it is time to dress the outside like the inside - which is something I am going to have to do myself. 

Wonder what that is going to look like?


Early spring McCalls

Just when I was about to further descend into Christmas preparations with the usual combination of self-delusion and over ambition, I had a good reminder to stop taking myself too seriously with the arrival of McCalls pre-spring collection - reflecting the trend these days to move onto the next thing before you have experienced the first. 

(I remember the melt down of my youngest son once in a department store when he saw the "Back to school" displays up on the last day of school before the summer holidays.)

There was one knit dress I liked, mainly because there was some waistline gathers rather than the usual knit dress belly articulation that seems to go with interesting bodice treatments:


There were also a few that are definitely not making it into my to-do pile, although I assume that they are exactly what some folks are looking for, and I am trying to act now as if I am sophisticated enough to believe that is true, or that I actually know these folks:




No these are not Halloween costumes but something part of a cultural phenomenon called co-play, which I had to Google and I suggest you do too, which was a term I had, until I did that, assume meant you let someone play with your truck without hitting them over the head at daycare.

I have to give McCall credit though for going after new sewing communities, if not this one.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Remember my dress for the wedding?

I know I know I am a crappy blogger photographer and who just rushes off shots so she can go onto the next thing.

That said I did promise you all a while ago a picture of the dress I wore to my son's wedding (Marfy sort of burgundy dupioni ).

Well just now my most excellent daughter-in-law sent me this picture, of me dancing with one of my son's very best high school buddies.

I had asked Maddie if she thought I should let me hair go natural (that would be greying) and she sent this along with a note that I would maintain my "spark and energy" even in grey and white.

This kid's a real catch.

So this is my wedding dress project picture, in action:


I had a real good time at that wedding. Real good.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Drive by

Yes I have been sewing my brains out, but because friends and family read my blog I can't show you what until after Christmas.

Speaking of which I also hope to finish a dress for my daughter today, a Christmas party emergency number. We will get shots of that.

On an aside the current issue of Collette's Seamworks ezine came into my mailbox today. I was struck by some of the photos, but this one in particular which is a wonderful illustration of what a difference dart placement makes. I am brewing a review of Indie patterns soon, but this is a case of why remembering the basics in execution is worth the thought:




Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A hope post

A few months ago I got a call long distance from my son Ben who is doing some work on windmills in Texas.

Driving across the job site he saw a small, sick, starved dog on the side of the road. He was at work but stopped anyway and picked her up. He couldn't keep driving.

He called me to ask me to get on the phone for him to find a no kill shelter in his part of Texas.

That took some doing. In fact every place I called, and he was working the car phone while he drove, they told us that they would have to put down any sick animal he brought in.

But they don't know my Benny.

In the end he located somehow a woman who was running a private rescue for sick and mangey dogs who told him sorry no room left, so many needy animals.

Ben went over there anyway and with a donation and offer to volunteer he persuaded her to take in the pup. He kept in touch and helped when he could.

Now months later here are shots of that little dog. Happy, fit and now placed in a forever home in Colorado. They call her Dreamy.

This little story reminds me that bothering to help and not giving up are principles to live by.

You never know, you just never know, we all need to remember that.


My Ben and the dog he found.


Chairs and learning styles

Well here is the dad's lazy boy done.

My part in this project was much of the disassembly, cutting, sewing and moaning.  My husband did the hard part, the putting it back together, stapling and not giving up.

The spouse like puzzles and likes detail. This is after all a man who buys crabs and spends five hours cooking them and squeezing out the meat to make a crab quiche like he hasn't even heard of a can opener.

Here he is in action picking up where I left off with the chair:



And below here he is doing the test elevation in recovery mode. It was a huge job, particularly for our first ever upholstery job:


   
And here is the final chair, with the weird eyeball fabric I thought at the time would update it:




Now I can absolutely say that if I did not have my husband's persistence this would not have ever been finished. Once I got into taking it all apart my own personal reaction was, you have to be kidding, this is waaay too much trouble.

I am not a fussy sewer. I can be careful and precise when I sew but it is not something I like to repeat too often.

I like variety, the challenge of a new pattern, trying to figure something out. My mind is so often on to the next project before I finish the current one.

I am a garment sewer entirely. I like that there are two sleeves and one collar. I would not enjoy 50 sleeves and 25 collars one after the other. It is beyond me how quilters can do 524 pieces the same. In fact one of my sisters, who is a meticulous quilter and I should add also great at upholstery, and I once tried to make a quilt together for our parents. I did my squares and sent them to her. She sent them back to me.

"Haven't you heard of a 1/4" seam allowance?"

I eyeballed it. Got it done didn't I?

Well not really.

I operate more on enthusiasm than a system.

It has taken me a long time to understand this is just part of my style and to go with it try to make the most of it, rather than trying to meet other expectations.

This orientation is why I am always a SWAP drop out, and probably why I nixed my one Chanel jacket project.

I am careful if I can do it once and say "Cool" but not if I have to do it over and over again.

Does this make sense to you?

What kind of sewer are you? What kind of projects do you enjoy most? 

What kind of sewing have you accepted you don't enjoy and stopped doing it?

What guilts have you given up?

This matters.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Grainline Linden top

A while ago I promised a photo of my Grainline Linden top and here it is.

There are few things you need to know about this pattern. 

First there is a lot of ease in it. 

Probably designed for sweatshirt fabric or as a layer, although this loose bamboo knit version was great for a home day for me. I made a 12 which fit my measurements exactly and this is the fit. 

In a class I am doing for beginners with this pattern students tried on samples and most of the younger women are making a 4 when their measurements are more 8-10. 

Consider that.

As you can see the neckband is quite narrow, fine, but for beginners I am having them it twice as wide because getting used to stretching a neckband with your hands to fit the neckline first out is hard and I want them to have a success.

Also it should be noted that this is a raglan T shirt, something that we haven't seen too much of lately. Raglans are really the most comfortable sleeve shape, good if you have sloped shoulders, and easiest to put on children, and those with mobility issues. Worth remembering. I always sew raglans for babies.

Not too much else to say except this picture is taken on my daughter's back deck and you can see the state of the landscape around here.

I am also confirming my status as the sewer with the least staged pictures on the internet, notice the sock feet. In Canada we take our shoes off the minute we get in a house and Canadian homes usually have entries full of random piles of shoes. It is considered sort of rude to leave your shoes on even in the summer. A by product of all the slush, snow and salt we would otherwise track in I guess much of the year.

I am wearing some Barb pants by Stylearc in this shot too if you are interested. As well as about 20 extra pounds I see, proving that those second helpings (I have the appetite of a 14 year old boy, although I do understand I am not a 14 year old boy) do take residence.

Going to do something about that some day.

Now off the finish the chair project. Have to get that in the out basket today or else.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Flypaper thoughts Fall edition

  • OK I admit it
  • We are into fall
  • No going back until we go through the ice and snow thing
  • Went with my husband overnight to a job site he had to check up on in the country
  • "If you go for a walk, stay on the roads"
  • There's the bears
  • Of course the coyotes
  • And it is hunting season
  • In rural Nova Scotia that means stay inside
  • The hunters apparently are not able to distinguish a tall woman in a shocking pink jacket from a deer
  • Something I am sure the bears and coyotes can do
  • In case you think I am one of those bloggers who talks about sewing but doesn't actually do it
  • That is not the case
  • The spouse has taken over supervision of the late-father-in-law's chair
  • You know the sturdy model A Lazy boy the FIL sat in for 40 years
  • The one I have been trying to drag to the curb ever since I inherited it
  • Apparently everyone's favourite most comfortable chair
  • This thing has 87 parts and each part has 9000 staples
  • I had plans to sew silk pants this weekend
  • Instead I have been working for a foreman who says things like
  • "You sewed the curved piece to the straight piece instead of the straight piece to the curved piece"
  • I am not enjoying this
  • I have been trying to sneak the 87 parts to the curb
  • Nothing doing
  • Laugh of the weekend was "Now we know how we can do this we can do this again if we want another colour"
  • Yes well
  • The next wife can do that
  • This one is about to down tools
  • Reminds me of someone who I used to work with
  • He was a genius, someone you stood in awe of
  • He had doing absolutely nothing down to a fine art
  • It actually takes a lot of effort and brains to never do anything at work for an entire career
  • How many of us could actually do that?
  • So easy to slip up and forget and complete an action item
  • So easy to make the call at least out of boredom
  • It takes a tremendous amount of self-control to never lift a finger for decades
  • Whenever you cornered this guy with a task he would say
  • "I would rather stick needles in my eyes than do that"
  • I realize now he was speaking of upholstery 
  • Hunting season makes me think of a woman I knew in Newfoundland
  • Her husband was RCMP in the middle of nowhere
  • Which no offense covers a fair amount of that province
  • Every fall they would go the pair of them into the woods
  • To hunt moose
  • "I cut her in half and tie one half of the moose to me and the other half to Joan and we haul her out"
  • The rest of the time Joan sold embroidery machines
  • When I am gone no one in the family will have known folks like that
  • Best the kids are going to do is one day know someone who keeps five urban chickens and blogs about it
  • Yes I am aware of the irony 
  • Speaking of hunting
  • Which is worse you think?
  • The sight of mouse poop behind the bed or the sight of a nice little mouse in a trap
  • Who can blame them it's getting cold outside
  • Those crack canine operators around here are falling down on the job
  • Least they could have done is wake up
  • I mean I can cut cheese up ten miles away and they hear it
  • You know silk pants would have been pretty nice this weekend
  • It's getting cold outside
Lobster pots in a yard in rural Nova Scotia


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Remembrance day

I have mixed feelings about this day of memories of war. In Canada we call it Remembrance day which is about those who fell rather than veterans in general like in the U.S.

I have so much trouble with all the young men who have died for causes now forgotten, but they need remembering.

They were someone's child, that's what I keep thinking.

Here is a picture of my maternal grandfather and three of his brothers who went off to WWI. Another brother, the one who didn't want to join up, was killed and not in this picture, my grandfather is second from the left looking at the picture.




My strongest memory of war occurred in a fabric store.

It was a long time ago and I was standing at the table waiting for something to be cut. They had a radio running in the background and interrupted the music to say that Bagdad had been bombed.

I remember an older woman, a quilter by the looks of her fabrics, picking up her bolts and slamming them onto the cutting table:

"Stupid men," she said. "It's going to be the women and children who suffer most."

Last week at my granddaughter's school they showed this music video by the Ennis sisters from St. John's Newfoundland.

This says it all.




Monday, November 9, 2015

High performance womanhood

Starting to think about Christmas reminded me of a conversation I had with my daughter this week.

Now I need to set this in context. 

My daughter has three kids six and under. She has a big house which is spotless, and she has a Golden Retriever. Once or twice when I have gone over the help her clean, like when she had a new baby, I would go into her bathroom and stand around in there for a bit, maybe read a magazine, and then come out and say "Done!" She would go in and inspect and tell me things looked great.

Of course they did.

My daughter also works part-time in children's oncology, crafts, entertains tons, and has great friendships. 

But still she often wonders if she is doing enough.

Her whole crowd wonders the same thing. 

A week ago one of her friends organized a make-up party with a make up artist to show them how to do up their faces so they didn't look tired. The girl who organized this is my dentist, with her own practice and four kids under five - including two twins. Boys so busy that at one stage they had to have their diapers duct taped on them.

With this life she is supposed to be tired as far as I can make out.

IMO the bar is too high and the next generation of women is bending under it.

I think we all need a little less Pinterest, a few more honest bloggers, and fewer high performance Instagram play-by-plays.

It's time we brought back slackness to modern life.

I for one didn't expect the house to look great until the kids were grown up, not knowing then that by the time they did I liked the house the way it was, dents and all.

My mother based her entire entertaining career on Twinkle cake mixes and a dip made of dried onion soup mix and sour cream if she was going all out.

Sometimes I bathed my kids in the afternoon and put them in their pyjamas for something to do. And then did it again later in the day if it was still 5:00.

I once kept my daughter home for the wrong week for spring break because I read the note wrong and she was my first.

I thought that was funny.

When my first mother-in-law went to work full time she announced they were going to take away dinner from the local Hungarian restaurant every night and they did, she had no intention of doing it all and didn't intend to try.

Life can get too serious sometimes to take the times when it isn't, seriously.

You will be remembered by how you made the other guy feel far more than what you did.

You can pin that one.



Sunday, November 8, 2015

Christmas on ramp

How sewers approach Christmas goes through evolutions. 

There are the early days when on tight incomes you try to make everything for everyone, which works until you figure out that it costs more to make gifts half the time, or you have had the delightful experience of having the recipient ask "What's this?" Christmas morning.

Then there is the stage when you decide what the hell I am sewing for me and do your best in the stores.

Later, and this is where I am now, the kids are big enough to buy their own good taste stuff, and you are best taking orders. 

At least it is something no mall or online merchant can give them and it does spare them your own random taste, which in my case is quite an issue. My daughter's classic line when shopping with me is "well that looks like something you would wear" - a comment that suggests she will never be one day writing a book called "What my mother taught me about style" or that she and the daughter-in-laws and granddaughters will ever be killing each other for a crack at my curated wardrobe after I have drifted off to that great fabric store in the beyond.

I am doing pretty good with the order up system, up to the point where my youngest son asked me if I can knit him a sweater for Christmas.

I have a distinct feeling that he means Christmas 2015 not 2016.

Here is what I am supposed to be trying to knit. Five hours of Netflix and I have the ribbing on the bottom done. My goal for this afternoon is to see if I can knit while I walk on the treadmill. Stay tuned on that one, or watch the local papers for the accident reports:

 

I really wish I could say that I knit at even a fraction of the speed at which I crochet. I have been happily crocheting cardigans for the kids.

I have to say though that part of the reason for the swiftness of my crochet production is that I have no idea what I am doing, even when executing the most simple of patterns.

For example I suggest new crocheters learn how to actually count rows before they start a pattern. If you count ridges say thinking they are actually rows, rather than counting both the ridges and the dips underneath as two rows, which they in fact are, you will crochet arms that are, just saying, about twice as long as they should be. This is what that will look like:

Unblocked but that isn't going to fix anything
Probably the worst part of this is that it took me two sweaters to figure out I was doing anything wrong. In fact it took me going back to the picture to realize that the original did not have cuffs on the sleeves rolled up to the armpits. I just figured it was part of the style to keep kids really warm.

Onward as they say.

Now I have a question for you.

Are you attempting any self-made gifts this year, if so what are they?

If you are giving fourteen people stranded Norwegian colour worked mitts, or tailoring your husband a sports coat, or or crocheting everyone an heirloom quality bedspread feel free not to leave a comment.

For the rest of you, I really want to know what you have on the on ramp for this year, and what you actually think you will get done, or what your generally philosophical position on gift giving this time of year is.

We are, after all, in this together.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Flypaper thoughts Sunday night


  • Kids went out last night for Halloween
  • Lion, the witch, and the wardrobe 
  • The four year old was not too happy being a wardrobe
  • Hard to explain irony to someone who wanted to be a princess
  • Next year it will be sparkles all the way
  • I like food that tastes like where it came from
  • Beets, dirt
  • Trout, rivers
  • Chocolate, the check out aisle
  • Cut the 2.5 inches off the right side of the shirt twice
  • This was not as instructed
  • In case you are wondering
  • New right front has pattern running across rather than up and down
  • Like the rest of the shirt
  • Even I can't pretend this is a design feature
  • More like a stupid me feature
  • Moving on
  • Sewing is excellent for developing great moving on life skills
  • You get lots of practice
  • Just so you know I don't care what Caitlin Jenner thinks
  • About anything
  • Nail polish does not make the woman
  • Moving on skills do
  • Taking care of people does
  • Speaking of which
  • Children have no idea how much we love them
  • Probably be terrified if they did
  • Do you know rather than hemming a knit skirt you can just cut it twice as long
  • And fold it up
  • Fold becomes the hem
  • Maybe I should post pictures
  • I really appreciate the blog comments
  • Better than the blog
  • My mom calls me to discuss 
  • Not much beats a laugh with a girlfriend or a kiss from a dog
  • Anyone out there having trouble meditating?
  • Really feel I should be able to do it
  • How do you let your thoughts float by like clouds?
  • When your thoughts are things like " did I already cut off that 2.5 inches from the right front?"
  • Or not
  • Do you know a friend of my son's once decided against a proposal when on vacation
  • Mailed the ring back to his mom in a sock
  • She got his refund
  • Ms. Jenner you taking this in?
  • Get back to me on the meditating
  • I am being left behind on this one

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Linden sweatshirt, new sewers and new sewing spaces

In November I am doing a two night workshop on the Linden sweatshirt and on sewing knits. Almost certainly the students will be new sewers or sewers who have not sewn knit fabrics before.

The Linden is a simple pattern for a raglan sleeved relaxed fit sweatshirt - like I have made over the years a thousand times before.

I say this because it requires a bit of a rewind of my head to realize that such a classic pattern has new life as an "Indie" and fairly pricey pattern.

Like its sister knit tops the Renfrew or Frazer sweatshirt from Sewaholic  the bands at the sleeves and bottom, which in all cases are more one-to-one than the gathered in bands of traditional sweatshirts, get around the issue of hemming in knits for new sewers. As a result these patterns tend to produce garments that work first time out.

The raglan sleeves are also nice. 

Not sure if we all remember it but a raglan is the easiest top to put on. That's why it my favourite when sewing for small children, seniors, or those with mobility issues. 

I also feel the raglan seams really suit the sloped shoulders many women have and are natural for adjusting the computer body - you know bent shoulders that mean a pull across the back and a narrow chest - just add more to the back/sleeve seam and take in the front/sleeve seam.

It is always easiest to adjust a pattern that has seams exactly where you need to make the adjustment.

The neckband on the Linden is the standard ring stretched to fit. 

I must say though that this band, although it looks very nice done, is fairly narrow and with 1/4" seam allowances, as are used throughout this shirt, may have the potential to be tricky for a new sewer struggling to get the hang of holding onto one layer of knit while stretching it, and being careful not to stretch the bottom layer.

In class I think I might suggest students cut the band wider.





The cult like status of many indie patterns among new sewers is interesting. In so many cases there are scads of similar patterns available for so much less cash from established pattern companies. So why do new sewers go for the indies first? I am sure there are some heads shaking in corporate offices wondering the same thing.

Here are my thoughts.

First off so much of sewing is about community and connection. It is also, for a generation of new sewers who did not grow up in homes with a sewing machine in the back of every hall closet, about education just as much as about instruction. Education and instruction are different.

The Linden comes not with an instruction sheet but with a nice little book that explains every little thing in great detail in a really human and conversational tone. 

Patterns like this - small business products generated by a designer/blogger/real person who writes about themselves and is totally relatable - are invitations into a shared culture as much as they are about making a garment.

I am aware that this too is part of my job in my workshop - we are going to have two 3 hour sessions to make this top -  my dialogue about sewing and my sewing habits and my sewing stories are what the students seem to enjoy most.

So the indie pattern movement isn't about making something to wear as much as is about finding the creative person inside and joining the community of sewing. Classes like mine, taught in a beautiful small sewing shop/studio/lounge, are part of the same impetus.

And of course the Linden is a pretty well drafted pattern too.

This old hat sewer will be making more of these in future.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Fay feedback

Thanks for the comments on my Fay pants. Yes there is a little too much fabric on front, probably caused by the extra bit I added at the top of each seam to accommodate a larger than specified waist. Also a bit of drag too because I had these on over the suspension tights, but that is part of that work in progress.


I want to make another pair now exactly as per pattern for comparison. But first I have to get some work done on a Sewaholic Granville shirt and Grainline's Linden sweatshirt.

On a completely different note I have another niece here and she has been comparing various relationship advices from all of us, a family of infinite opinions.

So what makes a good husband/ partner? So far my daughter says you have to be a team, my son that it should feel easy, and me I said if you want a husband you need to marry a husband, which actually disqualifies many prospects.

What would the one piece of life partner advice you would give a young woman theses days?