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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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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Peekaboo patterns review

I sew all the time. Every day, that's what I mean by all the time. And I find that now I am retired from a regular job I am doing even more sewing for even more people.

I love it.

As my family grows and expands I am sewing a lot for children too. 

One pattern company I use a lot is Peekaboo patterns. I find these patterns quite simple to sew (I feel they are designed for newish sewists in mind) and the instructions are excellent. When I am pressed for time but really want to make someone small something, the Peekaboo site is one of the first I go to.

A case in point was this paint smock for my youngest granddaughter in California. My DIL is savvy. When the lockdown started she got in more outside toys. One of the most popular of these was a water table, but of course this meant multiple wet outfits. So I was asked to make a waterproof sort of smock to try to keep Anika dry.

This is the Peekaboo pattern I used. A super fast sew and of course my own lockdown sewing room had exactly what I needed. Here it is on my beautiful model.

I have made more Peekaboo patterns than I can list. I have made nightgowns, diaper bags, stroller covers, sleep sacks, baby nightgowns, and so many other things.

One of my go-to fast baby presents is this diaper clutch, basically a change pad with a place for diapers and gear. I also have the sock pattern I need to try.

I also have to make my grandson a suit. Peekaboo has a suit jacket and pants I can work with. The girls are big on dress up when they come over here, here's a shot of that. My oldest granddaughter is in my mother's going away suit and her sister is in a dress I made her mother when she was young. The crinolines are also part of my vintage clothing stash.

After this picture Billy had it.

"Babsie you have to make me a tuxedo! I have nothing to wear when I have to go somewhere fancy." I can so identify with how important it is to have something suitable for every occasion.

So as soon as I can the sewing room had better spit out a small tux!

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Catch up with my sewing: summer work outfit for my daughter

I am going to try and catch up some of my sewing projects with you. One of the things I have been doing this last week is to sew for my daughter. She needs something cool for work to wear under her lab coats.

She loved the shorter version of the Jalie 4017 skirt but I was stumped for a nice tank pattern that would hide her bra straps. I finally dug out my older Jalie 3246 maxi dress pattern and it was perfect shortened to a tank. I think that because this pattern has to open up for a bit more ease at the waist and hip, being a dress, it has just the right amount of skim in those areas but still is fitted around the neck and shoulders.

Katrina really liked this combination and if I ever get off the golf course this weekend I will be making her another top and skirt.

This will make it the fifth tank top I made for her this week. I had decided to conquer by coverhem binding process as part of this project. I had even bought a generic type binding attachment (my Juki 1500 doesn't have one from the manufacturer for this machine). However after struggling with that for most of a day I put that little unit where it belonged, in the bottom of the garbage can. I just couldn't get the right degree of stretch with the binding and my hands couldn't get in close enough for control.

I was disappointed with myself, since all of Facebook seems to get these binders to work. Then I remembered that the right way to do anything in sewing is your own way so I set out to figure out what worked for me.

Here is what I decided to do.

I did all my seams and attaching the first pass of binding on my serger. I used just a 3-thread and a long (4) stitch length to attach the strips of binding and shoulders to reduce bulk and switched to 4 threads for the side seams.

I used flat construction and hand tacked the seams to one side at one shoulder and the underarms to finish.

Here was the construction order:

1. Sew one shoulder seam, 3 thread serged.

2. Right side of 1" (2.5cm) binding to the wrong side of the neckline and along the armhole of the shoulder side that had been stitched. I just stretched the binding slightly by feel as I serged.

3. Fold the bindings to the right side and tuck the raw edge under. Pin and coverhem down, using the two left needles and keeping the edge of the binding nestled into the inner edge of the foot.

Here is what the binding looks like from the wrong side:

4. Sew the remaining shoulder seam, 3 thread serger, right up through the binding.

5. Apply the binding in two steps as above along the remaining armhole.

6. Serge the side seams, 4 threads, up through the binding.

7. Switch the coverhem to a wide hem, left and right needles the middle needle removed, and hem.

8. Tack the binding down to one side at the top of each side seam and along one shoulder seam. I threaded the serger tail back under the loopers of the seams before I did this. I was all surprisingly neat. Next one I should post a picture of that.

Not a bad little work outfit and fun to do.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Jalie's Jeanne knit pyjamas in the smallest size

I grew up in rural Manitoba. We moved to Montreal when I was 15 so my youngest sister could go to the Montreal Oral School for the Deaf (she signs now) and my life changed considerably after that. 

I have lived in Canada, the US, and Australia. However I have been in Nova Scotia now for nearly 40 years and consider myself to be a true Nova Scotian. Somethings and some places are more yours by disposition than birth.

That said my Manitoba roots, my mom and one sister still live there, are deep.

I could write a whole post on how that peculiar Canadian prairie mentality has affected my life. One of the things that really sticks with me is the whole don't waste concept. When you grow up on the farm like my relatives did, or lived through the Depression in a farming culture, you really don't like to not use everything. It was too far to go to get anything even if you could afford it. I have a strong memory of my grandmother losing it when she saw me unwind some old thread from a bobbin and throw it away. What a waste of those few yards of thread.

During this pandemic stay at home time I have been grateful for my collection of sewing supplies, and all the things I put aside just in case. I have been living off all of that for months now.

One of the things I have appreciated most is my collection of Jalie patterns. Because they come in over 20 sizes I have been able to play around with them making things up in different sizes for myself like the pull on pants in the last post, or make thing for family using patterns I already have.

One of those patterns has been the Jeanne knit pyjamas. I made a nice version for myself a while ago. This month made some with the same pattern in the smallest size for my youngest granddaughter in California.

They are in a monkey print, because, well, she is our monkey. I had to improvise a bit because I didn't have ribbing left in white. I used cotton lycra which means the neck band bows a bit, but I am pleased with them.

She's really a doll isn't she?

Friday, June 12, 2020

A sewing uniform

I have been sewing and sewing lately on various projects and I realized I have definite sewing outfits. Two days this week it has been some old standby Jalie patterns.

The first is these purple linen pants (I call them my Berkeley pants because I wear them when I visit my kids who live there in California so I fit in with all the ageing hippies) 3243 in a size bigger than I usually wear for extra ease. These are perfect for sitting a long time and intermittent running to the iron board, to let in the dog, or to make teas. Not particularly elegant but so comfortable.

I wear them with my favourite top V neck 2682 in cotton spandex knit. I like the print and not everything goes with purple pants. You might want to remember that.

I also have these same 3243s in a smaller size and cropped in grey with the 3890 top. I found that this rayon interlock in the spotted top stretched and stretched so I ended up overlapping the neckline and adding a button. Next version I sized down.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Flypaper thoughts: June in Nova Scotia edition

  • Of the things I am grateful most for this pandemic season
  • At the top of the list has to be the neighbourhood animals
  • The two orange cats who run our street
  • I think they have a schedule
  • They take turns circling the houses
  • Coming to the back doors and staring into the kitchen
  • Confusing Daisy
  • The white cat with three legs who doesn't move aside for anyone
  • And Bailey
  • The young Golden
  • My dippy 89 year old neighbour bought for his wife after her twin spaniels died
  • Nice thought but not if you need a walker
  • So the neighbourhood is bring Bailey up
  • A most walked dog anyway
  • And the new puppy next door
  • The cheerful conventions being held on that lawn
  • Social distanced appreciation of that much joy
  • Six people cheering when he pees outside
  • Such a good boy
  • I am also doing a lot of Greek cooking
  • A lot
  • Have planted the backyard with more herbs
  • Going through a lot of mint, oregano, and dill
  • I think plants like people move towards the light
  • Need this kind of time to appreciate that
  • Also appreciate my neighbour behind me
  • She runs and she gardens
  • All day she gardens 
  • After she runs
  • She raised three successful boys
  • While her husband worked 30 years of double shifts
  • She didn't garden, or run, until that job was done
  • I look out my kitchen window and enjoy the view 
  • And her enjoyment
  • All her hard work gives me flowers to share
  • I have to get silver polish
  • I am letting the kids have tea out of my grandmother's teapot and in her teacups
  • This must be what she was saving them for in her china cabinet
  • Dusted and behind glass
  • Now on my back deck
  • I am assuming they still carry silver polish at the grocery store
  • Haven't checked that since 1972
  • My mother was big on polishing the silver
  • When company was coming you had to either do that or clean the bathrooms
  • I am old enough now to have had a father who used to say he didn't need a dishwasher because he had five
  • Four daughters and a wife
  • So happy to know that my kids would never believe he said things like that
  • Don't remember him doing the silver either
  • These weeks it seems to me to be a time that we clean out our cultural attics
  • Just because you don't use something now doesn't mean it isn't being stored
  • There should be a curbside pickup day for wrong assumptions
  • And old crap you used to hear
  • Yesterday the car stopped at the drugstore and I went in and took a box of semipermanent off the shelf
  • The kids thought it was a great idea
  • And after I was redder the oldest cut my hair on the deck
  • She's 10 and knows what she is doing
  • I was interested to hear all her opinions and views on hair cutting
  • You learn a lot on the head of an American girl doll
  • If you have been stressing about what to put on my eventual tombstone
  • Can I suggest
  • Anything for a laugh?
  • I should add
  • That the same father typed out my honours thesis on a tiny Royal typewriter
  • With a return and ribbon
  • Down in the basement late at night after work
  • Undoubtedly there was no curbside pickup in his day
  • Times were changing
  • Even then

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Spring 2020 : Jalie's Florence

The last of this spring Jalie patterns I previewed this year was this one, the Florence top and dress.

I used a linen blend from Fabricville and a nice bright colour. It seemed to me that this was a spring when the brighter and more cheerful the better.

Construction was simple a straightforward. As is typical with so many Jalie's there were a few nice details. The first I noticed was the outsized chest pockets, that I felt balanced the overall boxy look of the garment, and an interesting curved back yoke with a pleat for ease.

This is very much a put on and go dress and I suspect I will be wearing it a lot.

Here is my version without a belt. Obviously this is the most comfortable way to wear this dress. BTW I made this purse. It's cork, which is super easy to sew, and used the free Miss Maggie pattern from Emmaline Bags.

I also like this dress with a belt. Dug one out that I thought I had thrown out. Periodically I follow the advice to purge my closet and I always regret it. I was happy to see that this belt had survived, hidden away somewhere. I think it suits this dress.

I liked this pattern a lot, and was particularly happy with this season's new releases from Jalie. Now too that I have seen what other sewists are making, I am pretty sure I will go back and try some more, and certainly will be making some of the patterns in other sizes for the domestic clientele.

The Genevieve pull-on skirt pattern is one. Two of my granddaughters want one for themselves, and my daughter, their mother, talked me into shortening the one I made for myself and giving it to her. She's good about doing that. Her reasoning is that this would be perfect summer skirt to wear to work under her lab coat and who could argue with that/

She sent me this picture tonight, I have since cut out another two for her, and I have to say it looks cute shorter than the longer version I wore.

I have a lot on my sewing table right now so expect to see more from me. The truth about my partial absence from this blog for a while has been sewing related. After Christmas this year, when the reality of retiring was starting to sink in, I decided to write down all my best sewing tips. Once I started on that little project I realized that a lifetime of sewing, more or less continuously, had given me more to say than I thought. This has been a little project that has become a very big project. Working on that most days has left me with less time to make blog contributions and I felt I needed to explain that.

The good news is that I am getting close to the end of this particular little enterprise and I will have more to say, and more to post regularly soon. Your patience is appreciated.

Talk soon.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Spring 2020 Jalie's: Maxime Jacket

For a while now I have been wanting to make a light jacket for golfing and general dog walking activities. I needed something in the way of a spring jacket.

As a result I was very happy to see the Maxime in the new spring line up.

This is an extremely practical pattern. I particularly like the big flap pockets at the front and the fact that they also have a side entry, what they sometimes call "hand warmer" pockets. There is a good zipper guard and elastic at the bottom and sleeves, also good for the weather.

I had some rainwear, sort of a tencel I bought a long time ago for another pattern, and some athletic mesh stuff that I thought would work well for a lining. 

Most importantly I had a really nice metal teeth zipper I bought to match in NYC for this fabric and I was happy to have the chance to use it.

One note though about the instructions for the zipper in this pattern. There are some careful instructions about how to shorten a longer zipper and fold over the zipper guard over the top. This was a little more challenging for me that if I had used a plastic teeth zipper. Next time, and I will be making this one again, I would probably just measure the pattern for my size and buy a zipper to fit rather than taking the top teeth off a longer zipper - something I don't think I am particularly good at.

That is just my choice and not a big deal but something to think about.

The jacket went together very well, with some of those interesting industrial type techniques I love to see in Jalie's patterns. In addition to the pockets I also liked the flange at the yoke in the front and the high collar.

I can tell you right now this is going to be one of my favourite new garments this spring. It is neat but has enough ease to be very wearable. I liked the back ease in particular- I want to be able to swing a golf club in this jacket.

A few more pictures of me wearing this one, including my signature talking to the camera man shot. And boy do I need a haircut!