Sewing with less stress Front

Sewing with less stress Front
My newest sewing book

Sewing with less stress back cover

Sewing with less stress back cover
What my new book is about

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Clothesmaking mavens
Listen to me on the clothes making mavens podcasts

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, September 10, 2021

Flypaper thoughts back home version

  • Arrived home a day ago
  • Wonderful, wonderful trip to see my family in California
  • A year and a half way too long
  • Berkeley
  • Do you have vanilla ice cream?
  • No
  • Do you have chocolate ice cream?
  • No
  • Well then
  • What do you recommend?
  • Our cardamon is very popular
  • Good reason
  • Stonemountain and Daughter was closed to the public
  • I did walk down though and stare through the open door
  • While they filled orders 
  • Including mine
  • Saved so much money
  • Because I couldn't get close enough to hear 
  • The bolts calling my name
  • Practised my Spanish on the men on the corners waiting for work
  • So polite they were
  • Except I don't speak Spanish
  • Although that is what I am doing
  • In my first undergraduate university course in 40 years
  • Yup back to school
  • Try getting a exemption/credit
  • Just because it is a course you also once taught
  • In that very same institution
  • Admin offices haven't changed in these decades
  • Nope
  • But I could appeal
  • Like a person who has waited 40 years to go back to school
  • Has time for that?
  • But guess who's getting an A
  • If it kills us all
  • As it probably will
  • Started this week
  • Sharpened my pencils
  • Pro tip
  • Not necessary for online learning
  • Almost three-year-olds are amazing
  • Best afternoons in a long time
  • Sitting in semi-dark rooms telling stories
  • To someone in a very small bed
  • What's the rest Babsie what's the rest
  • It's nice to be back in the nap time story business
  • By popular demand
  • For someone who says
  • But it was a very nice racoon wasn't it?
  • This grandmother gig 
  • Has a lot to commend it
  • Kind of nice to be the person sitting in the backseat
  • After all those years trying to get it right
  • Up front
  • Then you realize maybe you did
  • At least parts that really mattered
  • And now you can sit back there and say
  • Whatever you want is fine with me
  • And discuss silly stuff with the compatriot in the car seat
  • Nu nu head is an underused concept
  • I am pretty sure I have met some
  • They now work in Admissions
  • Airline travel
  • Not that good at it
  • Too shy to ask the poor person
  • Pushing a cart full of old cups up and down the aisle
  • How to fix the movie thing
  • I accidentally turned it to Hebrew
  • And the help menu is in Hebrew too
  • When you are a person just trying to expand your Spanish beyond
  • Loud Holas yelled by someone in a crooked hat and a mask pushing a stroller
  • With a person in it asking if you really know where you are going
  • So I am not quite up to learning Hebrew
  • At the moment
  • At least not before we land
  • It seems to me that being an airline attendant
  • Now is like being a monitor on a school bus
  • Of junior high kids who don't care if you tell their mother 
  • And about that glamorous
  • For Canadians
  • It is worth going to California
  • Just to taste the way the food tastes before
  • It is picked unripe and put on a truck for six weeks
  • Next time I am taking my canning equipment
  • So you have anything to declare?
  • How about forty lids and rings
  • And a pair of forceps
  • Suitable for lifting jars from boiling water
  • Or difficult deliveries
  • As required
  • What I wouldn't do for a few Meyer lemons
  • Here in Nova Scotia
  • Do you know folks there let fruit fall from trees and just let it sit there?
  • Which reminds me
  • Here at home the crabapples are ready
  • Meyer lemons they are not
  • But very popular among folks
  • Who are the kind
  • Who appreciate this
  • And rhubarb jam
  • Which you cannot buy anywhere
  • But every grandmother of a different generation made
  • On toast in the morning while you watch the birds in the backyard
  • And are glad you have a grandmother like that
  • To be so old now that I remember what the Depression did
  • To women like that
  • Half a pancake wrapped up and saved in the fridge
  • Buttons cut off and saved in a jar and passed on like an inheritance
  • Salads with home made mayonnaise
  • And radishes, always the radishes
  • Quilts made with the cut off and saved tops of hand knit men's socks
  • Like sleeping under a sidewalk those were
  • To have come from that
  • To cardamon ice cream
  • Is quite a journey
  • Quite a tale

Quick request


I have many pattern reviews to do and some flypaper thoughts to share. But before I start those I have one request to put out there. For those of you who have bought my new book online, can you leave an honest review on the site where you made that purchase?

My community team, all those who came through and helped this project launch during a pandemic, and I would appreciate it.

Also browsers should have an accurate idea about how this book may or may not be useful to them.

That's it.

Now back to the real business.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Oasis dress from Sinclair patterns

 Continuing with my catch up reviews of various patterns (I am working up to my reviews of the new Jalies next) here is one of the Oasis knit dress from Sinclair patterns.

I am always on the lookout for easy to wear knit dresses and I thought the asymmetrical waist on this one looked interesting. To be truthful I was sorry to see empire waistlines fade out of fashion. I am long waisted and they suit me by redressing that balance.

Apart from pinning all the pleats in place, this is an extremely fast and easy pattern. Both the neckline and cap sleeves are finished with bands.

I made my own version in bamboo knit from Watertower textiles, an excellent source for quality bamboo knits, one of my favourite fabrics.

Here are two shots that give slightly different views of the dress. 

It's very comfortable to wear and was particularly popular with my husband and oldest granddaughter for some reason. It probably would have looked more elegant if I hadn't been wearing clogs, but it is another of the house dress editions I guess.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Stylearc Iris dress

 As my Instagram followers would know, I am currently in Berkeley California visiting my family there. I was cut off from travel to see them for over a year and a half. Being here is like water to a plant. I hadn't realized just how much not seeing my kids was taking out of me until I got here.

I am doing a lot of childcare right now, which thrills me, to bridge a period between a nanny and the start of nursery school.

Because my daughter-in-law does a truly amazing job of running her household, despite two high pressure careers in this family, I have some time to myself during naps. No one needs me to cook and clean around here, although I do the nightly after dinner clean up which I quite enjoy.

My daughter-in-law is one of my best friends. She is just about the nicest, most thoughtful, person I know. Since my celiac diagnosis I was a bit worried about travelling - I really get sick if exposed to gluten but I also don't want to be that person who is fussy. When I arrived here the kitchen was all geared up. Maddie, who has a master's in food from NYU plus a food safety certification, was way ahead of me in knowing what to eat and how to handle cooking, without any fuss, which is important to me. So being here has been so easy for me. I am lucky. 

Now back to the naps.

It has been very busy back at home lately so these few hours of time in the afternoon here are giving me a chance to catch up on some blog posts.

Today I want to talk about Stylearc's Iris dress.

Measurements are always interesting. The usual bust-waist-hip are measurements of the soft parts of a body and don't account much for frame. What that frame looks like varies a lot in the blocks different designers use.

Over time I have come to realize that although Stylearc fits me perfectly when it comes to pants, which are located on my largest parts of my body, I have more trouble with the upper body fit. I find that tops and dresses in Stylearc are just too big for my small boned shoulders, arms and neck. As a result I am wary. I usually pay a lot of attention to the finished pattern measurements, as much actually as the attention I pay to the body measurements in the Stylearc size chart when I choose a size.

I also am starting to make a beta version of each pattern that I think has the potential to be a style I might make over and over again when I sew Stylearc.

Which brings us to the Iris dress.

I decided this summer that given my home based and children heavy lifestyle (I have been taking care of my three grandchildren in Halifax three days a week this summer) I could do with what my mother and her friends used to call "house dresses."

Basically a house dress is one unit dressing for people who are short of time and need something sturdy and washable. My house dresses just go on over my head when I am running late, and the world is just lucky I am not going to go through the day in my housecoat.

With this criterion I thought the Iris dress would be perfect. Deep pockets and no closures; neck and armholes bound and a machine hem. I also thought the slight cocoon shape would give me some room to move in case in the middle of my day I decided to say clean the bathtub or chase somebody around the back yard.

Here it is:

For my first version I used some mid weight dark denim I picked up somewhere. For binding I used some striped poplin left over from a shirt project.

I made this first version sized according to my measurements, a size 10, which actually is a shade smaller than my actual bust.

Here it is:

As you can see the neckline slides around my chicken shoulders and the armhole is a bit looser than I like.

That said, despite these issues I still have been wearing this dress around the house - it is sort of a functional apron like garment for me. Practical if not glamorous.

But I knew that if I made it again I would have to go a size down at top.

So that's what I did next. 

I cut out a size 8 (which was over 2" smaller in the bust measurement than I actually am) and graded it back out to the 10 at the hips. This time I used a better fabric, a lovely rayon print from Blackbird:

This version has given me the fit I think the pattern makers intended. I think the simple shape really suits the large scale of the print.

Now I am not suggesting here that all Stylearc patterns "run big" as we say in sewing urban myth land. If you had more meat on your bones around the neck and shoulders than I do then this pattern, as sized, would probably work just fine for you. 

What I am saying though is that it always pays to consider your bones when you think sizing. And sometimes a small change in sizing choice can make a huge difference.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Kitt knit dress from Stylearc

 A while ago I posted that I am revisiting some of Stylearc's simple shapes and I am overdue in my posts about them.

So here we go. 

Right now I am in Berkeley visiting my son, daughter-in-law and youngest grandchild after a very, very long time. I will be here for another two weeks.

This visit is overdue thanks to Covid and I am refilling my well.

We are busy of course with an almost three-year-old but I am able in the evenings to catch up a bit.

So let's start with Stylearc's Kitt dress. This pattern was a freebie a while ago and so I acquired it. Getting ready for my trip I decided I needed some knit dresses. Of course as usual my sewing ambitions were bigger than my sewing time so the simplicity of this pattern made it a sensible sew.

Here is the pattern illustration:

 Ironically I made this dress out of fabric I ordered in from the marvellous Stonemountain and Daughter here is Berkeley. For some reason their shipping to Canada is super, super fast - whenever I make an order from them it arrives with in the week if not in a few days.

Not much to say about the construction of this little number obviously. The V neck is essentially one of those ones that is a knit band same as a T shirt with a little dart at centre front to make the miter.

Due to fabric shortage, I squeezed this out of what I had I actually also used knit bands to finish the sleeves. Honestly this whole project could not have been easier.

So here it is - an extremely simple dress and one I feel is perfect for a strong print.

I will be making more of these - why wouldn't I?

Monday, August 2, 2021

The Jensen shirt on one of my favourite models

 The son who has recently moved to Texas was back this weekend for a wedding. That gave me a chance to hand over the linen Jensen shirt to him and to snap a picture when we went out for breakfast.

He's tall and lean like we all are so the only alteration I made to the XL version was to add two inches in body length. I also made sure to pre-wash and pre-shrink the linen because I know that chances of this shirt being ironed, unless I am there to visit, are not incredibly high. Just see how wrinkled it got from sitting for an hour in a restaurant. Got to roll with it.

The linen was from Blackbird Fabrics which once again delivered top quality. As I think I did too when I gave birth to this guy.

I'll be making him more of these for sure.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Flypaper thoughts first of August version

  • You are kidding
  • August 1st?
  • After a year of everything going too slow
  • This came on too fast
  • However in two weeks I will be seeing my kids in the US
  • About time, about time
  • We all need more hellos and fewer goodbyes
  • I have spent the last month
  • Sewing for everyone
  • Treading water at the bottom of water slides
  • Saying you can do it you can do it
  • Having dinners with the table full after a long, long pause
  • Remembering my recipes for crowds
  • Hearing about heat waves everywhere else
  • While I think I feel fall in the air here
  • And writing
  • Few projects there
  • This year has taught more than all the meditation apps 
  • In the world could
  • About the present moment
  • And it's gifts being all you've got
  • The rest is not in our hands
  • Which is a good thing
  • Our hands are busy enough
  • I am a meditation drop out
  • Tried and tried but failed
  • And it's supposed to be the answer to everything
  • Let those thoughts float by like clouds
  • And let them go
  • But what if those thoughts are these
  • When did I last take the dog out to pee
  • What if I dried those herbs in the Intsapot
  • When was the last time I watered the herbs
  • How many buttons do I need for that shirt
  • Seven or eight
  • I wish I was in NYC
  • I get the best buttons there
  • I need some shell buttons
  • The ones that look plain on the front but like pearly shells 
  • On the side you can't see
  • That's quality
  • How many buttons would I have to buy 
  • To justify a trip to NYC
  • What am I saying
  • Who needs to justify button buying
  • However at the moment it is just one shirt
  • My neighbour's son has been transferred to Moscow
  • She thought he was coming home
  • When my boys where little
  • Her husband cut off the pickets to the fence
  • That separate our yards
  • He was worried either his boys or mine
  • Would impale themselves 
  • When they went over that fence
  • As they did 8,000 times a day
  • Playing games
  • That involved the older boys inventing
  • Elaborate challenges for the younger ones
  • For admission into some club
  • Where only older boys got to do the fun stuff
  • But the younger guys never figured out
  • Since they were too busy running around the block five times
  • As instructed
  • Well now they are in Calgary, Edmonton, Berkeley, Austin and Moscow
  • And we have a different fence
  • The grapes are out in the vine around my window
  • I can hear the raccoons running across the roof at night
  • Not light on their feet
  • My neighbour across the street told me that he saw 4-5 of them up there one night
  • My big laugh of the week
  • Was some poor soul trying to sell door-to-door security systems
  • Ha I already have one
  • She's called Mrs. Smith
  • Also across the street
  • One foot in the front door and the phone rings
  • You left the trunk open on the car
  • You dropped a mitt on the driveway
  • She does the day shift
  • Barry does the night shift
  • That's why he's on top of the raccoon situation
  • No I don't need an app for that
  • Not sure I need an app for much
  • Sorry about that
  • Sewing is my meditation
  • And after I sew sometimes I am rewarded with a look like this
  • On a face like this
  • Beats clouds