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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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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Kraftex picture frames




I will be writing soon on my recent family visits over the last ten days. But right now want to show a little fun project I have been working on between busy times.

I have been framing some vintage sewing pattern envelopes with strips of Kraftex for sewing room decor:



I decided to use strips rather than cutting out a frame because:

1. This was just so much easier. I was in the mood for not expending any great intellectual effort or manual skill. Most of these little units were made when I should have been upstairs peeling potatoes or something.

2. This was a more efficient use of the Kraftex. It's a cool material and I want to preserve every last little bit.

3. I love the appearance of sewing machine stitches and I wanted to have those show.

I used two kinds of Kraftex. 

One was the straight up unwashed version for the backing of pictures:



I used the washed version, the one that looks like leather, for the framing strips. I cut the strips 2 1/2"



Really there aren't any instructions needed for this. But here was my process:

1. I clipped the strips to the perimeter of the backing piece and stitched around the outside edges to hold them still.

2. I slipped the pattern envelope into the frame and then stitched close to the inner edge of the strips with a long stitch length, right through the edge of the pattern envelope. I used my edge-stitching foot for accuracy and to eliminate the having to think factor, which is sometimes nice.  



In one of the envelopes I had to slide it over to disguise a ragged tear, meaning one poor girl got sort of cut off, but I liked the middle outfit best so I can live with that. Hope she can too:



For such a simple little project I am very pleased with myself over these pictures.  To me a fabric store is more exciting than any museum. To me pattern envelopes are art.

I think these pictures are beautiful.

As far as hanging goes I just put on one of the fabric clips I used in construction at the top. The back of the clip has a little hole in it and that's going to be perfect for hanging.

It can be hard to find an easy way to frame the little things that matter. I am thinking now that I am going to do this exact same thing but leave the frame empty and not stitch the top closed so I can hang kid's art on the fridge. 

All I will have to do is glue gun some magnets onto the back. What do you think?


Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Fabric and Kraftex quick gifts

I have taken a break before the entire family hits here for 10 days to do some easy sewing. I am taxing this ship slowly onto the holiday season Big Sew runway and thinking of ideas.

One of the things I have decided to do is make a number of quick and easy projects with Kraft-tex for gifts this year.

Yesterday I made a couple of Retreat bags with this wonderful free pattern from Emmaline Bags, two in denim with a coated cotton interior, and one in a most beautiful periwinkle shade of Kraftex.https://www.ctpub.com/kraft-tex/







The fabric version required the body pieces to be interfaced and then fused with fleece for support. I didn't need to do any of this in the Kraftex bag because the Kraftex has so much body it stands up on its own - which eliminates steps and cost. 

I love this pattern so much because the large size is really big, will contain all your gear plus a hairdryer if you carry one, and so easy.

I alway add Emmaline's wonderful zipper ends and pulls because it adds a bit of finish for not much effort. Their website has how to install the zipper ends which are handy if you cut down a longer zipper to make one of these bags.



Kraftex is so durable as well as being easy to sew. My husband and I recorded some hilarious videos last winter that show us testing it, including driving over it on the RV, and it held up well.

Here is a wallet my husband made for me with some scraps a few months ago and I have been really enjoying it because it is so light. Another free pattern. Although it carries exactly what my usual wallet carries I often have to check my purse to see if it my wallet is there because I just can't tell by the weight. BTW Kraftex is machine washable and I see this wallet is due that after a summer spent in the bottom of the swimming pool bag.




I have decided to make a few of these wallets for Christmas and some other things like luggage tags (I always stand there with 80 other people at the carousel looking for a black suitcase). I am also doing picture frames (got some really neat ones in the works, watch for those) and frames for pictures with fridge magnets. The last is a grandmother special because when the kids make a picture I always say "I will put it on my fridge like that was a real honour. I am also going to make some passport/boarding pass holders for family members who are organizationally challenged like I am.

It's fun to work Kraftex too. These will be the little projects I can make when I claim I am off doing something else and want to disappear into my sewing basement for a few minutes...

Monday, September 2, 2019

Big time catch up

It is pretty apparent that I have been AWOL for a bit. I am back now.

Here's what's been going on.

First, as many of you know, I take care of the three local kids during the summer when my daughter, who works alternately three and two day a week needs me. I also like to be able to help out at other times too. It is fun but let's say those guys are pretty busy. I had three myself and so I recognize that stage where each one of the three is at a different place in development, and there is usually one doing something surprising off line too.

But because I also had three there have been many moments when I have sat and watched them, usually at the pool place we hang out at a lot, when I felt the sweetness of children in the summer. All the wet towels, all the fights that needed breaking up, and the many, many bowls that I washed after our baking sessions, were a thousand times repaid by those moments. 

I am sorry to see summer end.

Also on the personal front I retired finally and completely from teaching the end of June. I just felt I was getting too busy to work on someone else's schedule. And decided to leave while I still had something in the tank. 

I have always been an admirer of George Foreman.

Rather than climbing back into the ring one more time he invented the grill. So much better to be that guy on TV with the grill than a shadow of your former self dragged out of the ring because you couldn't think of what else to do.

Man am I deep.

So after my retirement, and with all the yelling one more time on that water slide and that's it we have to get home, I took a while to think about what my grill was going to be or, more importantly, if I even needed one.

I folded fabric a lot and I cleaned my house. I wrote a bit on a sewing mystery novel that is about real things that happened to me.  Some parts I think are really funny and in some still laboured. I found things in my house I had forgotten I had and projects that reflected my high ambitions.

I did some real tailored sewing, will be posted at some point in the Fabricville newsletter, and then I will do some more detail here. In the meantime here is a glimpse. For some reason the light caught my hair and made it look white, can't be true.


I also made and sent off a sleeveless version of the Yari jumpsuit to my daughter-in-law in Berkeley. Amazingly, because I had made this exact same pattern before and it fit perfectly, this one in a slightly looser linen turned out way too long. This makes no sense to me at all.

She is arriving this coming Friday with the rest of the crew (I will actually have my entire family plus one of my sisters here together for nearly a week) for a wedding. I am dying to get my hands on this jumpsuit and shorten it.

All that said, because we know that every sewer always points out the problem before anything else, Maddie looks great in this:




Honestly who would have thought jumpsuits would come back and stay so long? It's getting to the point where I am thinking I even need to make myself one.

It is interesting and exciting to think I have a different sort of life to plan and sew for now. My head is filling up with patterns I want to make. 

Now what are you fall goals for life and sewing? I am making the assumption the two are not too far apart.

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).