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About me

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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, August 9, 2019

Flypaper thoughts Friday night in August editon

  • Nova Scotia is a tricky place
  • The summers are so incredible
  • The sky and air clear and bright and sharp
  • So powerful it makes you forget all the majority months
  • The ones that are cold and wet and grey
  • But you know what is the best thing about a tough climate?
  • People are absolutely delighted when it's summer
  • Everyone is out 
  • Everyone walks around like it's their birthday
  • Whenever I travel I am amazed that folks in sunny places are wasting it
  • The church down the street is selling ice cream cones
  • $2 and the proceeds going to the poor in Cuba
  • At 2-3 scoops for kids not sure of how much they are sending out
  • Apart from right messages
  • Much of my summer has been spent with the kids
  • Treading water at the bottom of water slides
  • You are doing pretty good for an elderly grandmother they say
  • OK you are sort of elderly
  • Breaking up fights in the back seat
  • I mean it, just one more time and that's it
  • No idea what it is
  • But I mean it
  • Crinkle that plastic bottle one more time and I am stopping this car
  • "It wasn't me"
  • Letting anyone cook anything in my kitchen 
  • Because I can take the mess
  • And believe you have to learn to chop sometime
  • They know where the band aids are
  • Their mom and uncles survived this system
  • Leaving behind wet bathing suits
  • Hearing a hundred sentences start with "It's not my fault."
  • Or "she made me do it"
  • So hot that in the evening I walk Daisy and drag the dog stroller beside me
  • She only goes in one direction and hasn't figured the we have to walk back part
  • That's what the stroller is for on hot nights
  • You have to respect someone who at 16 pounds can plant her paws on a sidewalk 
  • Like she is concrete herself
  • And won't move
  • As big as I am and as small as she is
  • So I just keep going in the direction she wants 
  • Out of respect
  • And wheel her home when she is tired
  • Sewing odd ball projects
  • Summer nightgowns
  • Bags with zippers
  • A hat for my big head
  • One size does not fit all
  • Ever
  • The return of the skort was a good idea
  • Now that's a word
  • Makes you kind of feel like putting rollers in your hair
  • Summer wouldn't be this sweet if it lasted
  • Which is really all you need to know about being alive

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Fitting process: example of a basic woven tee

This summer in the Northern Hemisphere has been very hot. It has quickly become apparent to me that knit tops are just too warm for this weather. What a person does not need in the heat is something clinging to her body. As a result I have returned to the idea of a woven tank top - something I haven't made in years. 

To be honest my daughter had great success with the Willow tank but I decided I needed something with a good bust dart. I also thought it was about time I used some of the patterns I had bought in previous bursts of quickly burnt out enthusiasm before I went out shopping again.

That prompted me to try the tiny pocket tank from Grainline. Here is their shot of it done up:

I am fairly scrawny in the neck and shoulders area so even before I attempted this pattern I had my doubts that it would be a success. But I decided to give it a go and work through the issues with my own fitting principles.

Version One:

This one I did on the rule I have made for myself for all new patterns - make it as the designer intended first so I could get a good look at exactly where this particular pattern needed adjustment. It is to easy to assume that you need to make the same alterations to every pattern. However if you are not careful it is very easy to start cutting up the pattern and changing it so drastically right immediately that you never can find your way back to the original.

So here is my first iteration done in a remnant left over from my cotton gauze jacket. Note my bust measurement is between sizes so I cut the smaller of the two possible sizes:

For this one I tried a free background removing program to see if that would be handy for those times when there is a garbage can or something non artistic behind me. What do you think?

Now this top makes me look distressingly matronly and is way too loose IMO. The darts are in the right place though and that is a good thing. I also lengthened this unit by 2" because I am tall, but I am thinking as waists go up and pants get wider that I need to reconsider shorter tops. I have worn this several times in really hot weather however and I have to say frumpy is comfortable and cool.

Version two:

OK I went down a full size to what is actually 4" less than my full bust and did a full bust adjustment. I also hoisted up the shoulders about 1/2" at the front because I have text neck, and added two small darts at the back neck. I also raised the neckline at front 2". I also did not add length to this version.

These were too many pattern alterations to attempt at one time, I know better, and this is what happened:

The neckline and shoulders are more where I need them on this body, and the length is better. The above the bust fit is good but look at those darts! Of course they moved up when I raised the shoulder.

Back to the drawing board. BTW the fabric is a nice cotton gauze from the Grandmothers for grandmothers (Canadian grandmothers helping African grandmothers raising grandchildren) annual fabric and craft sale, which is amazing. I still have a bunch of this left.

Version three:

This one has the darts in the right place and the overall fit is comfortable. I used the block method to move down the darts which is exactly what it sounds like, I cut a square around the dart and just moved that whole block down. Gives a much more accurate dart than just reorienting the point.

But what else is happening here? 

Look at those wrinkles under my arm. Fortunately wrinkles are easy to read - wherever they point is where there is not enough room. In this case I am back to another issue created by my decision take up some fabric in the front shoulder seam - I created a raised front armhole. Good lesson here that one alteration can produce the need for another one - always interesting to me how issues ricochet around a garment.

Fabric was a remnant left over from a shirt I made for my oldest son. These fitting experiments are great for using up leftovers.

Which brings us to:

Version four:

I cut down the underarm for this version a full 3/4" here and most of the wrinkles are gone. It certainly feels better. I do think that I have one more tweak to do and that is to cut out the front of the armhole a bit to reduce the potential to bind when my arms go forward. When that's done I think I am good. The fabric is a stash resident that was bought to line a bag but I have such a weakness for retro prints here it is in a top instead. I have yet to make a bag this summer.

A few thoughts on this whole process.

Generally I don't enjoy fitting. I really love construction and I sort of feel that fitting is a nuisance process I have to do so I can get to the fun part. I have friends who make innumerable muslins of every pattern before they make a garment. I would never do that. I mean my favourite kitchen utensils are the food processor and the crock pot.

That said I really do spend the time to refine a pattern when I feel it is going to be a TNT basic for me. This is now something I can whip up when I want to use a nice print. Also since my travels and my own climate make shell and cardigan combos really practical, I am working now on the idea of tops I can wear in the summer and later wear with some kind of a jacket/cardigan when its cooler. This pattern will work for that.

I am also not a great believer in over fitting. It is certainly possible to obsess over every wrinkle and fold but when you eliminate those completely you often lose mobility, not to mention the over articulation of your own shape, which may or may not be a good thing.

What do you think?

Saturday, July 27, 2019

How to sew a crossover V neckline video

Hi folks.

I had a request to make a video of how to sew a crossover V neckline so I did just that. Note we are not exactly running Universal Studios over here so probably should have instructed my cameraman to zoom in more, but what can I say? You get what you pay for.

Here is the video.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Another experiment

Hi folks.

At least a few times a week at least a sewing person contacts me directly to ask for help and/or an opinion. Usually I try to do my best over email but do recognize that sewing is visual.

So rather than trying to help out in writing I was thinking of putting aside some time for some video coaching, either through FaceTime or Skype. I am thinking of someone who might be getting to the high frustration level (been there many times myself) and think they might benefit from a second opinion or another set of eyes.

This may be something of no interest to anyone but worth making the offer. Of course there is no charge for these sessions which I have set up to be 30 minutes max each in a few places in my week when I have the time.

If you think this might be helpful here is the link where you can make an appointment for a chat. I will be in my sewing room at these times so needless to say the whole thing is informal.

Is this a good idea do you think?

Basically I am on a sort of a mission to get encourage more happy sewists, and like my free newsletter this is aimed I guess to new and returning sewers (sewists? I have to make up my mind).

Sunday, July 21, 2019

My apologies

Hi folks.

There were a couple of extraordinary comments left yesterday and the day before that I deleted after I had read them, a case of slippery fingers on a hot night on my phone. I really feel badly about this because they were really beautiful.

You know who you are, so thank you.

Back tomorrow with shots of a birthday outfit for a little boy and his doll. Take that sisters who won't let him play!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Nightware suggestion Simplicity 9505

Sarah has thoughtfully sent me an image of her favourite nightwear pattern and I am inserting it here. Looks terrific. Just wish Simplicity was available still in Canada but will look for this somewhere online:

Summer sewing list: bite sized goals

This happens every summer. 

One minute I am digging out the summer clothes and the next minute I  realize it is the middle of July and all those things I was going to get done over the summer better get done before the summer clothes get packed away again.

I decided today that in addition to my usual round of family sewing, I needed to think about good summer projects for myself.

Unusually I decided to get sensible. So instead of time spent on ambitious sewing projects I decide to be nice to myself instead. I decided to make some things that have been percolating for a while now and would actually be useful.

Most of these are fast projects I can fit in around my other activities. All of them are outstanding:

  • A good bag for taking my cosmetic/shampoo etc. gear around with me in my travels. I have made nearly everyone in the vicinity a version of this free pattern, in the large size that holds everything, but why not me?
  • At least one hat. Obviously these are important in the sun but I have a terrible time finding one that is big enough for my large head. All the ones I own really have to be jammed down. I have a couple of patterns but might try this one, again a free pattern, or this one, because they have several sizes. I can make the brim bigger in the bucket hat too if I want. I am even thinking of trying some foam, like they use for bags, for the brim. I read in expensive sites like Tilley's about hats that float and I can figure that one out.
  • Some pyjamas and night gowns. I really need something cool for the summer and something decent to wear so I don't scare the children when I visit. I have Jalie's reliable old pyjama pattern for a start, again something I have made for everyone but me, and am thinking too of this Burda pattern. I need some cooler wovens, knits can get hot. 
  • Some kind of housecoat (this is a Canadian thing, in other parts of the world these are called robes etc.) that is covering enough for travel and staying with people but doesn't take up a lot of room in the suitcase. I had high hopes for this Vogue pattern, such a pretty drawing, but even when I sized down it was big enough for three of me and had sleeves that looked like A line skirts. I would actually just like a pattern that looked like the picture. I could probably figure something out if I have to.
  • And finally I really want to sew at least one decent handbag. I have danced around this one for a while. I always something more urgent to work on, but these patterns and bag creations really are what catch my eye most when I scroll through my Facebook posts on my phone when I am drinking my morning coffee. I think that after a person has liked say the Boronia bag 700 times she should probably bite the bullet and make one. 
So that's it for me. I am trying out a new and novel idea which is making sewing to-do lists of things I might actually make. I will let you know how this goes.

Now over to you.

What are your personal sewing projects for the summer? 

The comments are always the best parts of this blog!