Sunday, April 30, 2017

Rethinking clothes

Hi folks. 

Thanks so much for your responses to the Violet knit jacket. And my apologies to a few people who left wonderful comments that got spam filed and deleted after I read them because I clicked the wrong button by mistake.

You all gave me so much to think about. I am pretty sure I just write this blog just so I can have the pleasure of communicating with you and for the chance to read your interesting comments.

I am going to make another version of that jacket, starting with using a lighter fabric, a ponte, and raising the pockets 1 1/2". Either I have short arms or they have really long ones at Stylearc.

As you all know I have been deep in sewing garments for my book, quirky little units, that you will see when the book is released May 2018. Yes it take time.

But enough of that.

Doing the sewing I am supposed to do as opposed to randomly as I usually operate created a back log in me. So yesterday I went into obsessive mode, something my family specializes in, and cut all day.

I am going to put all these pieces in a laundry basket, set up my machines, and do drive by sewing during the week to see what comes out of this pile:



Some of this stuff is continuing experiments, some stuff I need:


  • one Violet jacket 2.0
  • Two cardigans, both different Jalies
  • Two pairs of Margaret narrow pants from Stylearc
  • Two pairs of Brooklyn knit pants Stylearc and a new pattern/experiment
  • Six Jalie T shirts
  • Two dresses, both Adeles from Stylearc, one knit one woven ( a cocoon shape and again an out there experiment)
This is of course entirely delusional as an intention but what else is new? I am going to Winnipeg on May 21, start teaching an online creative non-fiction course on May 9th, probably have some book edits coming my way. I also have a ton of appointments, meetings, some political commentary on the radio to do because we should be starting a provincial election today, and much babysitting - including three days with the three kids while my SIL and daughter stage a well-deserved break.

Oh and yesterday my youngest son asked me to make him a dress shirt with windmill patterned fabric on it (found some at Spoonflower) before he goes to a wind conference in a few weeks.

I am pretty sure that the fact I have so much coming up is exactly why I took the time to cut yesterday.

In one sentence : I sew to feel like myself.

And the busier life gets the more I need that.

On another random note I have long held a theory no one has asked to hear, that fashion has often diverted us to "classics" that are in reality men type clothes. You know button up shirts, blazers, tailored pants.

This forgets, I think, dresses. These women devised to suit us, clothes of our culture. I am picking up, and have written before, about a less tight and revealing backlash in clothing coming from younger women (my daughter like the Violet jacket) and this is redefining the dress.

On that note I was interested to read this morning about sport dresses from this company

I am struck that this look would have been completely absent in the sportswear scene a few years ago.   

I would be interested in what you think of this trend, which seems to me to be very wide range of body type approach. 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Violet knit jacket by Stylearc

O.K. there is a back story on this. Several in fact.

First it has to do with policy.

I have sort of a policy to try new profiles and shapes every season that are out of my comfort zone. Of course this produces a lot of should have known better garments, but it also has on occasion, useful occasion, helped me move ahead. Which when the alternative is to move behind is a good thing.

So this is what happened.

I have been noticing a general enlargement of shapes recently, as the fashion pendulum swings back from skin tight, and thought I should try some looser garments. In the past these outlines have not been good for me. I remember once trying on a bunch of Sewing Workshop garments at a booth at a sewing show and having the nice lady in the booth sort of agree that I looked more like a flagpole in a flag than a chic person.

However I have been thinking.

The end of May I am going to be doing some flying. To see my mom in Winnipeg and then on the Sn Francisco. What to wear on the plane and in spring is hard so I got the idea to try to make one of the Violet Knit Jackets from Stylearc, because it had that go over everything feel and was, back to where I started, completely outside my comfort zone.

However I didn't have any knit that was a coordinating colour in a weight I considered jacket weight.

About the same time I was pondering this serious issue I went to a sewing guild meeting where one of the women always seems to be snagging great yardage at Value Village (yes Lorna this is you). I however do not find anything good the odd times I have been there - strictly mauve polyester twill.

But then last week I was at VV trying to find a new heavy dish for Daisy since I dropped the last one. On a whim I cruised by the material rack and there it was, wool double knit written down to "as is" for $3.00 owing to a certain history with moths in someone's basement I am sure.

Well, I thought, why not? I can make a non wearable muslin in case I look like a flagpole with a wool double-knit flag. So I bought it, much to the amazement of the lady standing behind me in the line up.

At home I washed and hung it all out to dry and then marked numerous holes with tape so I could assess the situation. (Be assured I had a whole list of much more important life business to be taking care of when I was doing this instead).

This is what I was working with and this is how I had to lay it all out:



Pretty nutty I know and BTW I did press the fabric before I really cut out, these were practice photos.

Of course I didn't have enough fabric to cut the fronts double, as the pattern suggested, although I did cut out the bottoms double, which might have been too heavy in this wool knit. If you are sewing this pattern up yourself you might feel happier with something lighter like a ponte because the fronts and bottoms are doubled anyway.

To finish the single layer front edges I got out some ancient wooly nylon left over from some self-delusional Christmas project and did a 3 thread overlock with the stitches set a bit closer than normal, about a 2.

Here is what that looked like:



And here is the whole thing on me:





Now over to you.

Because this is so much not what I regularly wear I am wondering what you think. 

I can certainly see the utility of a jacket like this but if you think I look like a knucklehead you should probably tell me. 

Otherwise Air Canada here I come.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Sewing as a character building exercise

Today my friend Trudy and I had one of our all to infrequent sewing days together.

Trudy made a great knit top and then we both moved on to projects that were unfamiliar to a pair of garment sewers like ourselves. I worked on bags, which meant unfamiliar shapes, and Trudy tried to figure out some stuffy toys for her granddaughter.

My efforts in particular were of the one step forward two steps back variety. The reasons for this were 1) I talked the whole time, once again demonstrating that Babs can't talk and read instructions at the same time 2) I have sewn so much, but not bags, that I skimmed the instructions with the assumption I knew what to do, when in fact I did not and should have been reading every word with full attention (see point 1).

However I didn't give up and improvised a series of fixes on the time honoured principle that most folks would think those extra seams were supposed to be there, and Trudy, being my friend, was wise enough to tell me that no one would notice.

The persisting, which women as we know do, made me think of the things sewing had taught me about lasting through life. In fact Trudy and I discussed various challenging times in the past that we worked our way through, probably because of the way sewing had toughened us up.

To summarize a highly intelligent discussion I think sewing has taught me these life skills:


  • There is no point in freaking out. Cry all you want but that sleeve is still going to be in the wrong armhole anyway. You might as well pick up the seam ripper and get going.
  • O.K. you blew it. Move past that quickly and get onto all possible salvage fixing operations. After all nothing erases a mistake like a good recovery. Or a few extra seams.
  • Sometimes you make a wrong decision but beating yourself up won't transform it into a good decision. Get it out of your sight and think of the next thing. That's what garbage pick-up days are for.
  • It's alright to say you are tired and to take some time out. It will be better in the morning than it will be in the extra half hour you keeping pushing on tonight. As a matter of fact sometimes the  greatest progress is made when you stop pushing so hard.
  • There is always the next one and it may be great. Your bounce back matters. Do enough of it and you will get pretty resilient.
  • It's only clothes. Don't take it all so seriously. Even the serious things in life can be lightened if you ease up.
Now over to you.

What has sewing taught you about life?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Review of Jalie's Hélène cardigan on the job

Every once in a while a pattern comes along that is just so useful and clever you know right away it is going to be a winner. Jalie's Hélène  cardigan is a pattern like that.

Last Tuesday I went to my local sewing guild meeting and quickly realized that half the women there had already made this pattern. I was on my own to-do list so the next day I cut one out.

Of course the recommended fabric was for something soft and flowy but I didn't have that, so I just went ahead and cut it out of some cotton ponte just to try it out.

This is an exceedingly interesting pattern, a cool inseam pocket, a sort of peplum at the back and a high neck shawl collar with a simple turned and topstitched edge that I cover hemmed. Since I am tall I added 1" to the body and 2" to the hem.

The sleeves were narrow below the elbow, fine for me because I have thin arms but if you don't, or want to wear it over another top, I suggest you just widen the sleeve below this point, essentially eliminating the distinct taper.

I was super pleased with this cardigan but when I showed it to my husband he said, "very nice but it looks like a lab coat" - due to the fabric of course. I tried to talk him out of this opinion. He retreated of course as husbands do with a "well what do I know?" but of course he had made a point.

A few days later my daughter who is a nurse, a care coordinator in oncology at the children's hospital, and my niece who is currently living in my basement while she studies nursing, looked at it after Easter dinner and they both said to me,

"Great lab coat."

And of course my daughter wanted it to wear to work. The fact the style and the fabric were somewhat tailored, but that as a knit it was comfortable and stretchy, were perfect for her work with the kids and parents.

So here my cardigan is in its new life as a lab coat on Katrina at work today. 

I am pretty proud of it. And of her:




Maybe not the fabric and use the designers intended but a great result. Katrina now wants three more and said she could have taken orders for 10 more from her colleagues. 

So I will be making more of these for my daughter but not before I make a few for me.

Wonderful pattern, just wonderful.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Count down with me

I have just cut out the last two sample garments for my book. If it all goes according to plan by the time the bunny arrives I should be back to my personal sewing. Two more days folks and I can start to share what I make.

I am so looking forward to this.

I am also going to be travelling a bit more in a month, off to see my mom in Winnipeg and then off for a week to get to know San Francisco. Then back home for the summer when I am going to be teaching some summer courses online and for a good part of the week taking care of the kids for my daughter.

I am thinking that I should plan a proper travel wardrobe for this trip and get sewing as soon as I can. I have been playing around with new to me shapes, looser fit stuff, as I feel that fashion is starting to move that way. It is interesting that these shapes sort of erase the distinction between comfortable at home and going out wear. But this is a radical departure for me and I am not sure if I have it right.

I will be interested to see what you think.

Like these new shapes the west coast, San Francisco in particular, is new to me. The kids will be working and otherwise pretty occupied while I am there and besides I would rather explore a bit on my own than put them in the "now what are we going to do with your mother today" mode.

So for those of you who know the area and the city please send on your recommendations and getting to know the city ideas. You know what I like, pretty much the same things you do.

Now off to thread up some machines so I can get a decent start tomorrow.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Fashion has you covered

What do you think about this?

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/04/06/fashion/covered-up-fashion-style-of-the-decade.html?mwrsm=Email&referer=

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

In transit

just thought I would let you know that while I am in transit and connectivity is spotty I am still posting on Instagram. See you there too.