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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, December 2, 2020

I am not as smart as I think I am

Let's be honest. 

    I have been sewing if not daily, at least a couple of times a week, for fifty years. I started very young making my own clothes (what was my mother thinking?) I wore some strange outfits to school when I was getting going though I can tell you.

    However the end result of all this sewing is that I have done so many things over and over again I have sort of got used to disregarding the instructions. 

I am so smart after all.

    In fact I had a standard practice of throwing out the Big 4 instructions as soon as I opened the envelope - a practice that annoyed the hell out of the sister who used to borrow patterns from me "Just forget it. I would rather buy the pattern myself, there are never any instructions in them."

    In the interests of full disclosure and transparency I have to tell you that this assumption of competence is not always a great practice. I am horrified to realize that I am, in my sewing, on the verge of becoming, in some areas at least, that most dreaded of mature people - the one who thinks they know everything because they have been around and around the block many times.

    I am reminding myself of those women I used to sometimes run across in sewing classes who would announce they had been sewing "for 30 years and this is how I do it" even if how they did it, like never changing the needle even when it sounded when it sewed like a Sherman tank driving on a metal road, or edge stitching not on the edge but always, always a presser foot away in every situation, wasn't really best practice.

    And too the young and enthusiastic new sewists in my classes, the new who were wide open every scrap of information they could collect, and were always so willing to try and try again until they got it right, taught me a real life truth - just because you have been doing something for a long time doesn't mean you have been doing it right. 

    In fact it is entirely possible to do the same mistake over and over for 30 years, if not longer.

    Once again life if it doesn't always imitate art, certainly does seem to imitate sewing.

    Now this profound statement leads me very naturally to a discussion of shoe bags.

    Last night I reviewed and posted pictures of Jalie's Nordik slippers and shoe bag. I was pretty interested in how cleverly the slippers went together and when I got to making the shoe bag, well after dinner, I thought I could just look at the pieces and figure it out.

It was getting late. 

    The dogs were agitating to get to walk down the hall to the bedroom and the cat was agitating the dogs who had no interest in joining her for a top speed circuit around the house.

    That's my defence but there really isn't any. Not from someone who knows the route around the block this well.

    However my sewing conscience is pretty active, it has to be, so when I woke up this morning I decided to actually check out the instructions just in case. Of course I had missed a critical step.

    Rather than simple sewing around the rectangle shape which this smarty pants assumed she should do, I should have folded the side seams in 1 1/2" at each end and stitched over them like this, like I did this morning:


    This is such a simple manoeuvre, I have done the boxed corner thing many times but never this, but it gives a nice pleat and shape to the sides of the bag- more three dimensional:

    This completely changes and improves the look of this bag. I advise you follow the instructions on this one.

    This whole episode has reminded me one of the main reasons I enjoy sewing with Jalie (apart from the huge size selection which is important for someone like me who sews for an extended family) - I love the little technical tricks.

    So I learned something new today. 

    This little episode has also made me consider the role of long standing assumptions in life. As I go about my business today I am going to reflect on other areas where I might have rushed to judgment, thought I already knew something but didn't, where maybe I haven't been as smart as I thought I was. It seems to me that long term output might inhibit the occasional interesting input.

    So I have a question. Have any of you had an experience like this? In any area. What sort of assumptions have you revised lately?

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Jalie 4025 Nordik slippers and shoe bag

 Every once in a while I feel Jalie comes up with a pattern that seems to me to be particularly Canadian. The new Nordik slipper pattern is one of those:

This pattern is all about cold feet and about taking your shoes or boots off as soon as you go into a house.

If you grow up in this country you are well used to the feeling of cold toes. How many of us walked home from school in the winter with frozen feet? How many of us skated when we could no longer feel our toes? The idea of getting inside and thawing out/warming up are real and very familiar.

That's what this pattern is about, both the jazzy boots and the more modest slippers that I made. Think of this footwear as sort of a sleeping bag for your feet. You will need some lofty batting to interline them.

This pattern also contains a shoe bag, a really nice simple make it in 15 minute type pattern. That's the other thing. In Canadian houses it is considered good manners to take off your outer footwear, shoes or boots, as soon as you enter a house and to leave them at the door. If someone walks into your house and keeps their shoes on (being Canadian you are too polite to say anything) you sort of wonder where they are from.

It is common, in fact it is usual, to have say a fancy house party and to have everyone all dressed up and still have them take off their shoes and for everyone to be sitting in the living room in their sock feet. It's like there are no fashion requirements below the ankles. Every entryway is piled up with all the shoes and boots and you get used to climbing over those when you come in the door.

This is why this pattern also contains a shoe bag. If you want to have something to wear when you arrive at a house you might want to bring some indoor shoes or, in the case, some slippers.

Puffy slippers.

I had a lot of fun making these up. Here is my version, to fit my feet. The pattern has you measure the length of your foot and there are multiple size options, from a child to a large adult. This is yet again another of Jalie's big family size range patterns.

I will probably be making the boot version for myself for wearing in the RV when we go off not this winter but next. We usually head south in January, and although the RV has a great heater the floor is totally uninsulated. Doesn't matter how many rugs we put down I always feel as if I am walking or standing on an ice rink until we hit the Mason Dixon line. These slippers will be perfect.

For the time being for my winter in the house this year I decided to make the simple slipper version.

This is a really interesting pattern in that it is made from woven fabrics with a back insert from ribbing with a strip of elastic inside that. I used some cotton velveteen I had and some fleece for the lining. Although I like the way these look in retrospect I would have been better off to use something lighter to keep the seams smaller. I have seem some of these made up in quilting cotton and that, or flannel, would be ideal.

I am not entirely happy with the batting I had on hand. That pattern calls for 1" thick batting and what I had was loose, almost like fiber fill in sheets. I think that a proper bonded batting of that thickness, or even two layers of something thinner might have been nicer although this did have the nice fluffy look that pattern aimed for. Here is what my own batting looked like zig zagged to one piece:

In construction I found it easier to use clips than pins too.

With my photographer out of town and neither the dogs or the kitten all that handy with the camera I am unable to show you anything sensible of the slipper on me. That said I want you to see how neat the ribbing at the back is so here, sort of, is that:

All pretty clever and extremely cozy and comfortable.

And I have to say that the shoe bag is really simple but very nice, I am definitely going to be churning a few of those out before the holidays too.

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