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I am a mother, a grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge was published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Friday, November 20, 2020

A great free pattern

 Before I live up to the promise of the title I have to say two things that are really important.

One is thank you thank you to all of those who left comments, or emailed me with gluten free cooking advice. I have been trying to figure out what has been going on with my body for a while now, a diagnosis is great, but figuring out this day to day has been an adjustment. I felt so helped and supported by your kind interest. It really made me feel better.

The second thing I want to say is that I have decided to just post pictures of the real me in clothes for the purpose of letting you see the details rather than fussing too much about the having folks see what my actual 67 year-old-body looks like. This is me, and that's all there is to say about that.

Now onto the free pattern. As you know I have been doing a lot of sewing for my family. This particular pattern for "Yoggers" sort of jogging pants with some fit, sort of, was something I made 11 times this last month. Three pair for my 92 year-old-mother (for her I left off the cuff at the bottom) four for my daughter and four for me.

The funny thing is that I made the same size for all of us, just with my little mom's inseam 4 inches shorter.

It's a free pattern from Petite Stitchery. Here is the picture and here is the line drawing:

I actually never thought I would make myself some "sweats" to wear around the house, since I am such a well-known fashion icon as you have probably already picked up.

But honestly.

If there ever was a winter to retreat into the homestead and wear comfy clothes it seems to me that being in the middle of a global pandemic would be it.

I found this pattern when I was doing the usual time wasting pattern site cruising. There are a million of this type of pattern around but I liked this one the best because:

1. It was free

2. The leg wasn't too tight. Honestly some of them look like leggings with cuffs.

3. The waist goes all the way up to the waist.

Now this pattern has optional pockets which I should have put in but I was sewing up 11 pairs in periods of time when I was supposed to be cooking dinner so they were out.

The pattern also has a drawstring waistline, rather than elastic, which I wasn't sure I would like but I do. No trying to figure out how long to cut the elastic and they stay up nicely. However for my mom's did put in elastic because I figured she was not at a drawstring stage of her life. For my daughter's I put the buttonholes for the drawstring on the outside of the waistband and for mine on the inside so I could tuck the drawstring in and out of the way.

On a couple of my pairs I made both the cuffs at the bottom and the waistband piece out of ribbing which I thought was extra comfortable. I just made all my buttonholes by drawing the size on a piece of interfacing and making them from the wrong side right through it, which was really fast.

There is a nice leg to these pants. I should tell you that the cuff at the bottom isn't particularly tight, this makes them very comfortable, so you might want to check that if you want something tighter around the ankle.

So here are a couple of my pairs. I will be wearing these in my house until the spring I expect, or a vaccine, whatever comes first!

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Flypaper thoughts from the animal house

  • My life is currently exactly as illustrated
  • You don't even want to see the Christmas knitting
  • I am now sewing on the dining room table
  • Because the two dogs and cat need to all see where I am
  • Who am I to confuse them
  • The cat has taken a shine to Daisy
  • Stays about three inches from her and sleeps on the dog bed circled up
  • Cats sleep about half the day
  • This is fine with the dogs
  • Because the rest of the time is spent doing horizontal and vertical circuits around the house
  • Broken up by mid air zoom by leaps over Daisy's back
  • Never a dull moment
  • Which reminds me
  • I was just diagnosed as celiac
  • Anyone have recipes for gluten free anything hit me up
  • Looking for, among other things
  • Bread that doesn't resemble a white envelope
  • Is about that tasty
  • And costs $3 a slice
  • Which is more than an envelope actually
  • Including postage
  • I am treating myself
  • Signed up for a surprise box of subscription fabric
  • From Watertower Textiles
  • They have great quality
  • And these days it's nice to have a good surprise every month
  • You need to book it
  • I will show you what I've been sent 
  • Maybe tomorrow
  • How sneaky are cats
  • Very it turns out
  • Daisy likes to sit on the mat while I have my nightly bath
  • And order online fabric
  • She chased the cat out from our private time
  • Now when she hears the bath water run
  • Pepper glides in to hide behind the toilet
  • And then slinks under the vanity
  • So she is in position to stand up under the shower curtain and watch me
  • Daisy doesn't even know she is there
  • Lots of stories like that
  • Maybe I should make a Christmas dress
  • Even though this will be a bubble only year
  • When we were little my grandmother used to give my next closest sister and I
  • Matching velvet dresses
  • Being Christmas they were always red
  • So in every Christmas picture my sister had her mad face on
  • She had red hair and hated clashing
  • Speaking of which
  • I have seared in my memory
  • A craft project in grade two
  • We were cutting out flowers from fabric and pasting them on Mother's day cards
  • "Barbara" the teacher scolded me
  • "You have put red and orange together. You can't do that.
  • They clash."
  • Boy aren't you glad they don't make teachers like that anymore
  • Wonder what she would have done with an eight-year-old Kaffe Fassett
  • Or any body else who was interesting or turned out interesting
  • Don't you wish you could tell your younger self
  • Or other younger selves right now
  • Best not to bloom too early
  • A full bloom takes some time to get ready
  • What a terrible thing it would be to have the prime of your life
  • Be a time no one but you remembered
  • Like say grade six
  • Better to save it for when it can do someone else some good
  • Better to wait until the time that some other girl can say
  • If she can do it I can too
  • Better to wait until an age when you have done so much
  • That the small things are given credit for the big things they really are
  • Like sitting with a cocoa 
  • And a small rescue dog snoozing glued to your hip
  • And a small rescue cat draped around your neck
  • Out of dog sight
  • Like some elderly woman's mink collar
  • Purring because we are all together
  • And together is good as it ever gets

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Catch up instalment one

 My life has been exceptionally busy lately. I have been sewing a lot but going from one project to the next, a lot for my daughter and mother as well as Halloween costumes and birthday presents, without hardly stopping to take pictures or blog.

So I have a lot of catching up to do.

In the middle of it all, after about 45 years of always having a dog, we have acquired a kitten. Here she is:

As you can see she is completely adorable and right in the middle of everything in our household. She was born in a barn, literally, and came to us with a bit of an infection but has recovered well. However she has tested positive for FIV, which is like AIDS in cats. I am hopeful that is just because she still has her poor mom's antibodies and she will be negative when she is tested again around 6 months. Not that it matters, we will take good care of her, now an indoor cat, with the help of our marvellous vet who also happens to be a friend of my middle son. We think she is wonderful.

Her name is Pepper.

She is now a member of our family. Daisy has given me a few "what were you thinking?" looks over the last few weeks but they have adjusted well. I think that Pepper is so well meaning that Daisy has just decided to accept her.  

Maybe she understands this is another rescue.

On the sewing front one of the things I did was to make two pairs of red ponte pants. I swore I would never make red pants after I saw Anthony Weiner wearing them on the way to jail. But listen I had the fabric and some patterns I wanted to test drive. I am fairly over leggings, but wanted something that comfortable to wear with looser tops around the house.

For some reason I had acquired two almost identical patterns for ponte knit slim pants. They were the Stylearc Parker ponte pants:

And the Jalie Renee ponte pant:

The Stylearc pant is cuffed (I didn't do that in my version because I was squeezing my fabric to get two pairs out of what I had) and the Jalie one isn't.

Remarkably they are nearly identical in fit. The Jalie only slightly wider in the leg, and have the exact same triangular insert piece at the front - sort of a shaping detail not a pocket.

Here they are on me. The Stylearc Parker:

And the Jalie Renee:

 It's pretty hard to tell them apart isn't it?

There is one major difference though, and that's in the waist treatment. It's a difference that has a big impact on wearing comfort.

The Parker pants have a conventional elastic encased waistband, you can see the inset piece in this picture too:

The Jalie Renee pants however go right up to the waist and the elastic is stitched to the top raw edge and then turned under and secured by some ditch stitching at each of the four seams (front, center and sides).

In the interests of science, and not vanity, I am going to share some non flattering pictures of my mature body in these pants, so you can see how this waist treatment sits. It's a good thing the internet is so private:

I just realized as I write this, that I am actually wearing these pants now. Even though the two pairs are virtually identical I find I always, always reach for the Renee version. They are just that much more comfortable. It is interesting to me how much nicer it is to wear a pair without a separate waistband.

Look for more catch up posts shortly, I have been sewing a lot!

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Creative Spark online course

 Hi folks.

I have some news.

One of my latest projects has been to do a video course for the Creative Spark online learning platform with my publisher C&T. This course is for any one with a sewing machine, of course you can use a serger/overlocker if you have one, but they are not required. In fact I demonstrate many techniques on my sewing machine and explain why in some instances I use my sewing machine even though I have both a serger and coverhem machine.

The link to my page and my course is here and this is a video describing the whole project.

I decided to do a small series, starting with this first course, on sewing with knits. This course is not of course geared towards folks who are already knit friendly, but for sewers who have what I call knit nervousness.

Specifically I am dedicating this one to my sister Dawn. Dawn   is an amazingly accomplished quilter but more or less every year, at least once, tells me she should make a T-shirt but doesn't understand how to work with knits. Every year I tell her it's easy. Every year she says she knows she has to make the leap.

This course is the basic introduction to working with stretchy fabrics I think sewers like her might find useful and I have included all my own opinions and tricks in it.

This first course is on T-shirts, subsequent ones are planned on swimwear, neckline variations, skirts, pants/leggings and sportsbras/underwear.

I really enjoyed doing these videos. They were filmed, Covid-style, in my kitchen by my good sport husband.

Hope someone finds the course useful, and given the circumstances, entertaining!

Friday, October 16, 2020

Flypaper thoughts Friday night edition

  • These are interesting times
  • For some reason the screen on my phone just said
  • You have no new destinations
  • I was a bit offended
  • I consider myself a person who always has a destination
  • Even if it was the fabric store
  • But, let's face it not now
  • Not these times
  • Not real destinations
  • But let me tell you when I am able to pack my bags I will
  • You see all my trips have someone I love at the other end of them
  • My husband is away during the weeks for a bit
  • Off doing a contract and staying somewhere in an AirBnB
  • Always a cook and even more always an eccentric
  • He has discovered that in-ground heating, as this place has
  • Is excellent for making bread rise
  • I keep getting pictures of multiple fluffy loaves
  • He is now starting to take in breakfast to the guys on the project
  • Meanwhile back at the ranch I still have racoons on the roof
  • 8,000 fruit flies in the kitchen
  • And yes, the mice are back
  • I am expecting breakfast in bed tomorrow
  • Amazon delivered humane mouse traps
  • They look like toy trains
  • I am somewhat relieved they appear to be useless
  • I hadn't thought ahead to the part where I am supposed to drive trapped mice in little boxes with me in the car
  • To a far away location where I will tip them out and they can go to someone else's house
  • And hopefully not back in the car
  • I have mice in the house because my husband
  • Before he went off to bake bread for coworkers
  • Climbed into his basement workshop through a window
  • Because my niece was sleeping in the basement
  • And he didn't want to disturb her with the stairs
  • He is ingenious like that
  • And he left the window open for two days
  • I guess when he went off to do the next interesting thing
  • The mice noticed but at least the racoons didn't
  • I have been sewing pants in my spare time
  • Three pairs for my mom and four for my daughter
  • The same pattern actually because we have a family body
  • Except my mom's inseam is about 2 feet shorter
  • Just like she is
  • I will post a review soon because it was a free pattern
  • And excellent
  • Some news is
  • Daisy has been declared cancer free
  • Really what else matters?
  • Not a lot 
  • What's the vote on I should get a cat?
  • Any thoughts on how it would get along with the dogs
  • Yes I am babysitting my son's older border collie at the moment
  • That's two quiet dogs in the house now
  • The grandchildren are all for it
  • But they liked the turquoise glasses
  • So take that into account
  • Change is interesting
  • I generally deal with it with a sledgehammer
  • Figure out what I can make out of it
  • So I don't look back
  • But now I have no destination
  • According to my phone
  • So for a while where I am going
  • Is here
  • Maybe the next change
  • Will be in me

Friday, October 9, 2020

Hyyge collection: depression era sewing

 It's been a bit of a busy week but ended well.

Last Friday Daisy had a cancer removed from on her belly. Yesterday the vet called to say the results came back from the biopsy. It looks like it was low grade and they got it all with margins. This was much better news than we expected. I wonder if this whole covid thing has put it us all in an expect the worst mentality?

It's funny what behaviours are coming to the surface these days.

For myself one thing I have felt drawn to is making the most of what I have. Maybe being more homebound (Nova Scotia has been more or less covid free all summer, expect for a few quarantined travellers) in the sense I can't leave the "Atlantic bubble" and go see family, has me looking harder at what I have hoarded just where I am.

For what am I saving so much fabric? If I don't use it now, then when?

I have also been aware that I am short of warmer spending-the-winter-in-the-house type clothes. So I have decided to go on a little tear on tops.

I am again using Jalie's Romy, sort of an almost bat wing sleeve raglan, because the sizes of the individual raglan components are smaller than a regular top with a large front and back. I thought this would make it easier for me to fit in some actual garments from odd shaped left over fabric.

There is a shorter and a tunic version for this top but I decided not to do the longer view, what I would usually do being tall. It looked pretty fitted to me and my stomach and backside are not areas I tend to like really fitted.

So here is what I did, randomly, with whatever fell off my shelves. First off is some stripe from Joann's I bought for some reason. It was this garment and the process of trying to wiggle out some stripe matching that produced my no stripes need to be matched during the pandemic policy. Included is an action shot because on me action involves talking.

Next up is what I made with some random ribbed knit and less than a meter of boiled wool. My warm dog walking sweater:

And finally some leftover cotton velour, another cozy top:

I feel pretty good with these tops. Definitely I like having made something out of nothing, which in some ways is what all sewing is.

Before I go though I would like to dedicate this post to my grandmother, a prairie Depression era housewife. She was a woman who would wrap up and save a quarter of a leftover pancake, and once nearly had a heart attack when she saw me unwind the wrong colour old thread from a bobbin and throw it out. 

"That's good thread you are wasting!" she scolded me.

I think she would have approved of these tops. But it is a good thing she can't see what's still on my shelves.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Flypaper thoughts: covid rules edition

  • My daughter is very smart
  • Yesterday she said to me
  • People who are doing OK right now
  • Are actually doing very, very well
  • Some odd decisions being made around the place
  • I dyed my hair on the advice of a 6 year-old
  • That's a pretty good example of what I mean
  • When small children chant "Do it, do it, do it"
  • Best not too
  • Particularly if this involves dyeing your hair
  • Or new moves on the trampoline
  • Take it from me
  • It seems to me the present times have new rules
  • Here are some of mine
  • Stripes don't need to be matched till next year
  • Current standard practice is to get out a pattern and fabric
  • Cut it half out and then put it away
  • And start something new and then decide the first project was more interesting
  • Until you realize that those little scraps you threw away
  • Were in fact the facings
  • Amazon prime must be making a killing
  • I ordered a $35 bar of shampoo soap 
  • To save the environment
  • It will come 2,000 miles on a plane
  • Figured it might fade the hair
  • Something has to
  • Also
  • It is sensible to spend hundreds of dollars on a projector to hang from the middle of the living room ceiling
  • To project digital patterns onto the fabric
  • To save money
  • More detailed explanation to follow one day
  • The Canada food rules have been revised to make rainbow sherbet its own food group
  • Store was out of popsicles
  • Someone must be hoarding
  • Two daily servings recommended
  • A lot of things are on hold
  • There are no challenge projects being started around here
  • And some things aren't getting deferred
  • I have decided to sew my 92 year-old mother a new wardrobe and mail it to her
  • And do you know about Jake?
  • An aging dog who went missing over the weekend
  • Sad signs on all the community mailboxes
  • "Help bring our boy home"
  • Well guess what
  • Jake turned up yesterday
  • Three nights unaccounted for
  • Travelled several neighbourhoods over
  • But Jake beat the odds and is home
  • I knew a man once who was suddenly let go from a job 
  • He was middle aged and devastated
  • In angst for months
  • Then his dream job appeared
  • He went from selling newspaper ads 
  • To selling sailboats
  • Which is what he wanted to do since he was 14
  • What he said to me was very interesting
  • If he had known for those hard months
  • That things would work out just fine
  • He would have enjoyed the summer
  • A lesson there
  • One I had not considered
  • But I think Jake did