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I am a mother, a new 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 first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Friday, June 15, 2018

Something to share: the summer challenge from my sewing guild

I am lucky enough to belong to a really interesting and active local sewing guild. At our last meeting before the summer the challenge project for the  period until we meet again in the fall was released.

Every year the summer challenges have been very interesting. I always look forward to seeing what other sewers have produced, but this one really spoke to me.

Unlike challenges in the past, which have largely been about technique or design, this one was focused on wardrobing, and that's a topic constantly on my mind.

It also occurred to me that some of you would be interested in the ideas expressed by this challenge so I have decided to share it here.

Credit to the marvellous Leeanne White for dreaming this one up!



• To make three items between now and the Oct meeting that are a credit to your closet (or wardrobe).
• One of the three items can be hand-knitted

 Definitions of Credit (Merriam Webster)

• “something that adds to one’s reputation”
 It should be something that adds to the overall quality and functionality of your wardrobe.

• “recognition by name of a person’s contribution to a performance”
 It should make a significant contribution to the performance of your wardrobe.

• “recognition by a school that a student has fulfilled the requirements of a program”

 It should fulfil the following requirements:

1. Must fill a gap in your wardrobe. Just knowing that you have this item in your closet will give you joy.
2. Must be a hard-working addition to your wardrobe. You will reach for this item over and over again.
3. Must go with several of your existing garments and/or be suitable for many of your lifestyle requirements. They do not need to go with each other, although that would be a bonus.

We have all made things that hang in our closet without hardly ever being worn, even though they
may fit, and we truly love them, but ---

▪ they don’t go with anything we own,
▪ they don’t fit our lifestyle
▪ we just don’t feel good wearing them.

This is usually a result of making something because we love the fabric and/or pattern or there was a sale we couldn’t pass up, but we haven’t really stopped to consider how the item is going to function as part of our wardrobe.

This challenge will, hopefully, result in items that DO NOT fit into the above categories.

And those are the only criteria your makes must meet. The items that will fulfil the requirements of a closet credit will be different for everyone of us.

Pinterest and Instagram are great sources of inspiration and ideas.

So, come to the October 2018 meeting ready to show us your Closet Credits and tell us little bit about how your makes met the requirements for your wardrobe.

PS – completing three Closet Credits for the October meeting is ambitious, so if you manage to get one or two done you have still succeeded and we will want to see and here about them!!

And most important of all – HAVE FUN!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Basic hand sewing stitches #5: the tailor tack

Really, really simple and easy way to transfer markings from a sewing pattern to your fabric.

Yes I know, I know that there are a gazillion tools and pens etc. to help you do it - but really sometimes classic is better.

Here's why I think so:

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Basic hand sewing stitches #4: the swing tack

I'm back with my basic stitches. This one is one of my favourites because it is a real problem solver - the swing, or French, tack.

I use this all the time to attach specific units together without creating right side pulls and dimples.

As usual these videos look like they were produced on the kitchen table, because, well they are.

The swing tack:

Flypaper thought post Jalie week version

  • Really enjoyed my week of Jalie reviews
  • Now of course I am seeing other of the new patterns
  • I am thinking more
  • The Bobbie T shirt, the Julia underwear, and maybe the Rose top
  • Woke up this morning ready to sew
  • Like really sew
  • Like really ready
  • What's the opposite of losing your mojo?
  • Anyone's Spanish that good?
  • BTW got to learn Spanish
  • Spending time near the Rio Grande next winter
  • Because we have never been there
  • So far I default to French with a Spanish accent
  • Pretty sure that's not going to work
  • Particularly since my French is highly incomplete
  • Going to need a better system than that
  • Going to make .20 versions of some of the patterns I reviewed too
  • My head is exploding
  • Getting no sense out of me for a while I can tell you
  • Daisy's back is much better
  • The acupuncture actually has really worked
  • Pretty much every dollar spent on a spring in her step is worth it to me
  • Her ear is flopped over the a and s on the keyboard
  • Got to choose my words carefully
  • Hardly do that when I talk
  • Thinking ahead
  • Going to be babysitting my daughter's 900 pound retriever this fall
  • For three weeks
  • Sort of like having Secretariat in the kitchen
  • Daisy and the spouse might relocate to the rv
  • Considering pop-up shop sewing classes
  • Every now and then saying I am here
  • Want to make ...?
  • Would do it for the conversation
  • Why do I think baby squirrels are adorable?
  • But their mouse cousins not so?
  • I have a binder for my cover hem
  • Generic as my machine doesn't have one
  • Supposed to tape it on somehow
  • Putting this off
  • Will cut into my sewing time
  • But educational experiences are worth it
  • I always say that after every disaster
  • What do you think of swim shorts?
  • Cutting up old bras for the bathing suit cups
  • The ones in the store remind me of coffee filters
  • Is that the look I want?
  • Doing another Youtube tonight on hand sewing
  • Got to get caught up
  • Ran across my old school yearbooks
  • Tracking down one of my daughter's she wanted
  • In mine I looked at all the pictures of the cool girls
  • Which did not include me
  • I was the one not with the flip hairdo and the wing eyeliner
  • Where are they now?
  • Are they still mean?
  • Or has life sorted that out?
  • I was the one with the clothing inventions
  • Hopefully now teenage "makers" feel cool
  • I want to tell them
  • Don't peak too early
  • Imagine if your best years were that old?
  • And your best moments were those that started under the dryer hood?
  • My nerdiest friend is now a famous veterinary researcher
  • OK it's in epilepsy in chickens
  • But how many other people can say they are an expert in that?
  • I made all my own clothes from age 12
  • What was my mother thinking?
  • Probably that I was out of her hair
  • So
  • This means I have been doing what I love since I was 12
  • How many people can say that?

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Genius ideas: Jalie's Elaine scrub top

There are a lot of nurses in my family - my mother, two of my sisters, my daughter, and now, in training, my nursing student niece.

The uniforms they have worn have changed over the generations- from my mother's white stockings and starched apron and hats, to my sisters' first white nursing dresses, and then to scrub tops and drawstring pants.

It is fair to say that none of our nurses have loved their uniforms (save maybe my mother who I am sure still misses her starched hat).

The reasons the nurses don't often like what they wear to work are these:

1. The almost one size fits all styling means that most scrubs off the rack don't fit anyone (as is the case with garments that are sold to fit everyone) very well. 

Ask yourself. 

When did you notice the nurse or dental hygienist in your life and thought "gee that outfit is a flattering fit"? If you have never made this assessment you can be pretty sure that the female in the scrub feels the same way.

2. The fabric and patterns are often nothing to write home about. Women who are fashion aware after hours would kind of like some quality in the garments they wear most often. I know one of my daughter's joys when she moved into a more administrative role was she didn't have to wear scrub tops any more.

All of which is a lead up to the release of Jalie's Spring release of a scrub top pattern. Here is the line drawing of the Elaine:

Now there are a couple of features that make this a particularly interesting pattern to me and to my nurses:

1. The seaming, specifically the princess seams in the front and back, make fitting, particularly for a larger bust, waist, or hip, very easy. I didn't do that in my version for my niece, but  I did add 2" in length which was much appreciated. We are all so tall.

2. The elastic in the middle of the back adds some flattering shape to what is often a fairly shapeless garment.

3. The V neck is modest but easy to wear and comfortable.

4. There are four front pockets - I hope you can see that there are smaller pockets inside the larger front pockets - a neat little detail that gives more places for more stuff but does not detract from the overall neat professional look of the top.

And of course making your own scrub top means you can choose your own fabric. 

When I asked my niece what she fabric she wanted she said  bright. Right now she is working with dementia patients and bright and cheerful colours are what her patients like best.

I had a lot of fun choosing fabrics. I settled on a combination of seersucker and a loutish print that seemed to say scrub top to this non nurse who has no idea what she is talking about.

Once again photographed by my niece's intrepid boyfriend here are some shots of her scrub top after work, modelled with the leggings I made her I notice, with emphasis on the details she particularly liked:

Hand in the inside the inside pocket shot

A shot hopefully showing how the two pockets are layered together. I also think this shows the vent at the side and the shaping achieved by the simple elastic insert in the back

Such a nice neckline

Isn't this a pretty back?

Finally my niece is very trim but I love this shot because it really shows how not boxy and frumpy the cut of this top is. Huge improvement on RTW scrubs
 My niece is pleased with this top and I was so happy to make it for her. 

Also I am secretly thrilled that I now have a great pattern in the reservoir that I can use  to make her scrub tops for her birthday and Christmas. I am also thinking that she would get a kick out of seasonal prints and this will give me an excuse to indulge my own taste in loud and crazy prints. 

Sarah has an infinite need for tops like these for work. Now I have a great pattern that fits, I think this is could to be the start of quite an interesting sewing partnership ...

Friday, June 8, 2018

Genius ideas: Jalie's Diane swimsuit (swimwear sewing part two)

In three weeks or so I start my summer.

Let me tell you what my summers are like.

For about half the week I do my job type and regular stuff and for the other half of the week I spend my days with my daughter's three kids at this place, the same swimming/sailing/tennis/rec club where I spent the summers  with my own three children when they were younger.

One of the amazing things about Nova Scotia is that it is a modest place to live with some real lifestyle benefits, particularly for families. A club like this costs about the same as a family membership at the Y but for a family of water people like us it has been fantastic resource. My daughter was a life guard, one son was a sailing instructor, and the youngest learned to swim here and went on to be well-known in the local surfing community.

My point is that in the summer we all spend most of our time wet.

My own summers right now on the days I have the kids are spent up to my waist in water with at least one of them hanging on my body and someone else yelling at me to watch them go down the slide. 

There are always at least two swimsuits on the line in the back yard and at least two damp towels going mouldy in the trunk of the car. I start every day at the lost and found trying to locate whatever we failed to bring back to my daughter in the backpacks, and am living monument to the fact that yes any adult can be worn down for money for ice cream if she is tired enough. Which you know sometimes I am.

The wardrobes for my summer are very specific.

I need swim suits that can be pulled on and hauled on without risk of exposure. I need swim suits that a person can actually swim in because some of us are not old enough to go into the big pool without a grown-up. There are no Mi-tais poolside in my life and no laying on lounge chairs. There are always hats and swim shirts because how can you tell someone to put on their sunscreen, sun hat and swim shirt if you don't yourself?
So all of this means I have been long time alert for a sensible suit for real water people and when I saw the Diane pattern I knew this was exactly that pattern:

This is a real bathing suit. The front is high enough and the strap across the back means you can do a breast stroke in it (the grandmother's stroke of choice, something about keeping your sunglasses on and also you can keep your eagle eyes on the charges). The leg is high enough to be reasonable but definitely tugless.

A secure little suit, if you know what I mean.

There was a bit of glam optional in a mesh tie and although I was pretty sure you need a waist to articulate it I went ahead and made this version for my first time out.

I figure why not?

I figure why not a lot.

I actually quite like the tie and have persuaded myself it provides a hint of waist because really, a hint is all you are going to get around here.

I'm stalling.

Here is my most definitely grandmotherly body in my Diane. As to how it feels let's just say I already have two more cut out, plus some for the girls:

Of course I made a rash guard to go with this, using the mesh laid over some power net for the side panels with Jalie 3668, I am going to have to shorten it to above the tie but that will be easy to do:

Now if the ice melts on the pools we will be in business ...

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Genius ideas: Jalie's Melanie kimono (part one of swimwear sewing)

There are a two patterns to talk about this morning but because these two are best described in pictures, rather than words, I have decided to do this as two posts. If you try to put too many pictures up in one post Blogger will implode on me and who needs that?

The first pattern is the Melanie kimono.

Here's the line art:

Now I have made a number of kimonos in my time, and have even taught classes on making them Japanese style, but I have to say I like this pattern better than those I do working with rectangles.

The reason is that in this pattern the basic classic shape is intact but the shaping (see the slope of the sleeves above as opposed to the traditional boxy versions) and proportions, particularly of the band, just make for a better fitting garment.

I am completely in love with this pattern.

I had originally made it as a swim suit cover-up ( see following post) and took it to Portland to Quilt Mart as a sample.

Managing as I always do to pack both an overweight bag and a bad with nothing to wear in it all in the same piece of luggage, I  ended up throwing this cover-up kimono on over a black Lisette skirt and a black sleeveless top (Jalie 2682 my old favourite) for one day of the show, and felt completely chic in it - a feeling I don't often feel.

Now there aren't many garments you can wear both over a wet bathing suit and striding around at work and feel completely appropriate in both venues. 

When you find something like this it is worth paying attention.

So before I show you some pictures I have to put what you see in context.

I had intended to shoot these bathing suit and cover-up pictures outside beside some pool. However there has been an inexplicable cold snap in Nova Scotia, as in the ruining the grape vines and strawberry crop variety, and it is just too cold to do that. In fact two days ago I actually saw some poor woman in a down coat and mitts walking her dog,

Mitts in June.

This is nuts in a place where eight weeks from now folks will be saying things like "I can smell Fall in the air" as if that is a cheery as opposed to tragic thing (see previous posts over the winter on living in an RV down south as a further reflection).

So to get in the summer mood that wasn't I put on sun glasses and a sun hat and stood in the hall way in my house with the dog and tried to look tropical.

I interpreted this a meaning I should put on bright lipstick.

Of course what I really look like is a grandmother in a kimono in a hallway who should really be doing her dishes.

Oh well.

I trust your imagination.

If you weren't the kind of people who can see the picture in their mind's eye better than the reality you wouldn't be sewers would you?

Now here's to the shots:

You don't need me to tell you this but this is the back

This is not the back, you know that too, but it indicates the role this kimono plays as a cover-up

You can figure out that there are pockets too

All these pictures look the same but I had trouble deciding which one to use and of course I like this garment so much I liked looking at it a lot so that meant a series of near identical shot.

Next: what's underneath the kimono. Brace yourself. I had to.