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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, September 23, 2020

Flypaper thoughts: covid rules edition

  • My daughter is very smart
  • Yesterday she said to me
  • People who are doing OK right now
  • Are actually doing very, very well
  • Some odd decisions being made around the place
  • I dyed my hair on the advice of a 6 year-old
  • That's a pretty good example of what I mean
  • When small children chant "Do it, do it, do it"
  • Best not too
  • Particularly if this involves dyeing your hair
  • Or new moves on the trampoline
  • Take it from me
  • It seems to me the present times have new rules
  • Here are some of mine
  • Stripes don't need to be matched till next year
  • Current standard practice is to get out a pattern and fabric
  • Cut it half out and then put it away
  • And start something new and then decide the first project was more interesting
  • Until you realize that those little scraps you threw away
  • Were in fact the facings
  • Amazon prime must be making a killing
  • I ordered a $35 bar of shampoo soap 
  • To save the environment
  • It will come 2,000 miles on a plane
  • Figured it might fade the hair
  • Something has to
  • Also
  • It is sensible to spend hundreds of dollars on a projector to hang from the middle of the living room ceiling
  • To project digital patterns onto the fabric
  • To save money
  • More detailed explanation to follow one day
  • The Canada food rules have been revised to make rainbow sherbet its own food group
  • Store was out of popsicles
  • Someone must be hoarding
  • Two daily servings recommended
  • A lot of things are on hold
  • There are no challenge projects being started around here
  • And some things aren't getting deferred
  • I have decided to sew my 92 year-old mother a new wardrobe and mail it to her
  • And do you know about Jake?
  • An aging dog who went missing over the weekend
  • Sad signs on all the community mailboxes
  • "Help bring our boy home"
  • Well guess what
  • Jake turned up yesterday
  • Three nights unaccounted for
  • Travelled several neighbourhoods over
  • But Jake beat the odds and is home
  • I knew a man once who was suddenly let go from a job 
  • He was middle aged and devastated
  • In angst for months
  • Then his dream job appeared
  • He went from selling newspaper ads 
  • To selling sailboats
  • Which is what he wanted to do since he was 14
  • What he said to me was very interesting
  • If he had known for those hard months
  • That things would work out just fine
  • He would have enjoyed the summer
  • A lesson there
  • One I had not considered
  • But I think Jake did

Monday, September 21, 2020

The Hygge collection one of the cardigans

 I am a great cardigan fan. 

Cardigans are useful to hang over the back of your sewing chair. They are handy when the dog decides to do an extra 3:00 am pee and you have to put on something over a night gown and stand in the dark, look at the stars and say "go pee, come on go pee" for a good 15 minutes. Cardigans are useful and comforting. This winter I think they are going to be the anchor players of my hygge wardrobe.

Here is one I made this week.

I styled this in the old T shirt and culottes I wore to clean the bathtub, just before this, yet another motorcycle shot, was taken. The random hair is due to a thyroid condition that has been unstable lately, but not much I can do about that. The fabric is a bamboo french terry that feels like this:

The pattern I used was this old standby from Patterns4pirates It is a cocoon cardigan obviously, but the fronts, unlike many cocoons, meets generously at centre front which is useful if you want to wrap it around yourself like I did here. It has front patch pockets big enough for a cell phone on one side and a dog leash on the other.

As a sew it is an extremely simple pattern. There is a back and two fronts and a giant band that goes all the way around. This band can be narrow or wide. In either case it is hard to get the bands not to fold in a bit around the curves so I actually prefer a wider band as it turns this into a sort of shawl collar. I did the narrow band here but the next version which I will post in the next day or so is with the wider bands.

Here is a shot that shows, sort of, what the inside looks like:

The serging that attaches the bands can show a bit when the cardigan opens up, so on the next version I actually hand stitched down the band on that one.

Since I made this cardigan I have put it on at some point in the day, every day. We all need to sew more clothes like that. And I will.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

The hygge collection continued

 Can you stand it?

I have allowed myself to go a bit nutty on some anticipation of winter nesting clothing, aka my hugge collection, and am cutting out and making simple clothes for staying in.

I am working with random bits of fabric from the shelves, fabric that was long designated for other projects that I never got around to, and simple patterns.

This one, another of my motorcycle shots, was made in some DBP (double brushed poly) that I picked up somewhere.

Now I never really sew or wear polyester. It doesn't breathe and I like to. However this stuff is so soft and cozy. I have made a few tops to wear in colder weather from it that I love. When the girls come over they go into my closet and pull these tops and put them on and generally wear them home. Eventually I get them back.

In keeping with the being home and comfortable I actually made this top out of a pyjama top pattern- the top half of Jalie 4016 Knit PJ set the Jeanne. I liked the high neckline and cuffs. It seems to me that this is a good basewear long sleeved T- shirt type thing that I could wear under a sweater or a cardigan. 

Here is the pattern envelope:

On my lower half, if you are interested, I have on a cropped version of the Jalie Simone wide legged pants. I found them a bit overwhelmingly wide as pants but quite like them cropped. It is a nice pattern and I believe would make good shorts, something I will do for next year. Here it is:

I really should warn you I am pretty out of control in the comfortable sewing department. I made two more tops yesterday during a sewing day with my friend and scrounged up some fabric and pieced together another two today. You can look forward to those pictures soon.

I am pretty sure that this type of sewing is my version of a squirrel putting away nuts for winter. I intend to insulate myself from world events in friendly garments.

What's next of course in the Hugge collection? Knitted slippers? 

Come on. Really?

But funny you should say that. Knit while I watched a Norwegian series which was interesting in itself as I do not speak Norwegian. Or knit particularly well.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

The beginning of the hygge collection

 We have had that day this week- the day when you get up to walk the dog in the morning and think "it's changed, I can feel fall."

This year will be a little different. 

For reasons we all know about we are not going to do our regular winter trip to the US. We have been doing that for the last ten years, saving up our vacation when we were both working. It will be weird to be at home for the winter this year, all winter.

Because of our annual trips I always see my fall/winter sewing as half warm weather clothes making. 

This year I will be at home and either in the house or out in the cold, for 5-6 months.

Getting your head into this space requires considering the Danish term hygge very seriously. Canadians don't have an equivalent term, unless you call it hockey season, but we do have an equivalent climate.

Pretty much everyone has heard of hygge these days. It is that sort of cozy, snuggly, comfortable holed up securely at home situation that seems to me to particularly relevant to the times ahead. Workers at home will even be hygge in the office this year.

So with these weighty issues in my mind right now I have decided to do a full on hygge winter wardrobe.

To me this will involve sewing some new clothes that hopefully should feel like old clothes.

I have been thinking about a book these days my kids and I used to read "Need a house call Miss Mouse." Miss Mouse was an architect and she made homes for various animals. We used to look at the pictures and everyone would decide what was our favourite house. I learned a lot about my kids by seeing what house they chose.

This was my favourite, the fox's den. I could totally live there and live like that. Just add a sewing machine.

These are the homes my daughter liked best and they seem to me to be very pandemic relevant. 

First Bear's house, for hibernation:

And Worm's house, well-stocked:

I am pretty sure my winter is going to look like one of the above and I intend to be dressed for it.

To start this I pulled out my favourite old Jalie sweatshirt pattern. I have tried other sweatshirt type patterns but this one is my favourite - I like the high ribbed neckline, the loose but not too loose body, and the fact the sleeves aren't sloppy -a lot of the other ones I have sew had wide necklines too that didn't feel this cozy.

Here is the pattern envelope:

The trick to update this pattern I have decided is to not do the waistband ribbing too tight- just slightly smaller than the bottom of the top is fine and avoids the bloused in look.

I made my version in a french terry with sort of embossed dots on it. I picked this up at Joann's in my travels in the kids fabric section.

Now this, like a few other pictures, was taken in front of my husband's motorcycle. He bought the bike out of nostalgia a few years ago and uses it primarily to run down to the store for ingredients when he is cooking. He is definitely not a biker unless there is a group somewhere called " We are out of cilantro."

However the bike is vintage and shiny and if I want to interrupt him to get a picture taken I have found saying "why don't we do a picture of the bike?" generally works pretty well.

So here I am in the first of many holed-up-for-the-winter tops and my neon turquoise glasses which I guess suit both my top and the prop.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Flypaper thoughts fallow year edition

  • I am settling into the long termness of our situation
  • I'm facing facts this week
  • It could be a year until I see my son, my DIL, and grandchild in California
  • A year is a long time in a child's life
  • And I have always been able to get to one of my children if I have to
  • This is the way it has to be
  • My 92-year-old mother says she wonders if she will be in isolation the rest of her life
  • Right now I would have to quarantine for two weeks if I flew to see her in Winnipeg
  • And two weeks back
  • I would do it but no one thinks I should fly
  • My lovely mother-in-law has decided she won't see us
  • "until all this is over"
  • Despite next to no covid here
  • But since my husband works and I see the kids
  • She doesn't want to risk it
  • She won't even go for outside visits with masks
  • What can we do?
  • My youngest son's girlfriend in Texas has broken it off
  • She couldn't stand the waiting
  • He is building a friend's house and surfing
  • But not talking much
  • He was counting on this
  • My niece and her boyfriend (my SIL's nephew)
  • Have moved into our basement while they are house hunting
  • She is a nurse and if we have a second wave
  • Plan is she will move into the RV to be safe
  • So that's the situation
  • I am sure you have yours
  • But I have been thinking
  • About fallow years
  • When I was in middle school in the middle ages
  • We used to sit at our desks and the teacher did a short bible reading after lunch
  • How long ago was that?
  • I am remembering the part about the fallow years
  • To keep producing every seven years the land was not worked and people lived off the good years
  • As I remember it was not a good idea to break this pattern
  • Pretty much horrible things happened if you tried to opt out
  • I have been thinking about rest too and how hard it is for us to just sit
  • We got into this pattern
  • So busy, more and more
  • Don't stop
  • I thought of this when I saw women risking their lives for manicures in those states that opened too early
  • I talked this week to a young woman who as far as I could see
  • Was in a frenzy fed by social media competition
  • Thinking of my own life 
  • Worked so hard at my job and then retired and went deep into a book
  • Every day for the last eight months I worked on it
  • Worried myself because it meant I was not posting here
  • People contacted me and said get back to blogging
  • I see favourite bloggers post garment after garment
  • And me I make things and give them to people and forget to take the picture
  • One more thing
  • I drove yesterday past streets named for boys who didn't come home from the war
  • I thought of those mothers who waited
  • And at best only got letters
  • Sometimes
  • I want to ask them what did you do, how did you do it?
  • Airmen from Australia farm boys from the Canadian prairies
  • It makes me think how foolish we are
  • And it has made me think of our exhausted selves and exhausted lives
  • And all that documenting, busyness, continuous self improvement
  • Like all those over 50 style posts
  • Thin women with big bags and and white shirts
  • None of them in an apron
  • Made me wonder about the lesson of fallow years
  • And letting things sit to revive
  • Why is this the last option we want to consider?
  • It seems to me that right now the bravest thing to do 
  • Would be to just sit
  • And have faith
  • Today I am canning tomatoes
  • To taste this summer during my quiet winter
  • You?

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Flypaper thoughts, yup we are still at this place edition

  • I remember, not that long ago
  • Saying, well we will see you the end of the summer 
  • When things are back to normal
  • I think we all are pondering life more these days
  • The only folks I am losing patience with
  • Are those who are pressing on and expect you to too
  • What part of a global pandemic aren't you getting?
  • But it is good that we are doing what other generations did
  • Considered that life is fragile
  • And should be lived with some thought
  • More than anything I am finding I want to read more
  • Of the old philosophers for instance
  • Of course so far I am only reading quotes on Pinterest
  • But that's a start
  • Seneca had things to say I can tell you
  • Overall though 
  • This is what I am thinking myself
  • Sickness and death are part of life not some kind of mistake
  • Almost everybody before us knew that
  • It's part of the deal
  • So it's important to 
  • No matter what you are faced with
  • To find what learning you could be doing from it or in it
  • This is what I have got so far
  • A fabric stockpile is a good thing
  • If you are ever going to be holed up for long
  • You'll need it
  • Canadians get this anyway I think
  • We are always braced for The Big Storm
  • That's why we have chest freezers
  • And figure a furnace, heat pump, pellet stove and generator in the garage should just about do it
  • Friends are a good thing
  • Possible the most important good thing
  • If you ever doubted that this big storm came to remind you
  • Never before in my life have I so deeply enjoyed the company of other people
  • Been so thrilled by new friendships
  • Fascinated by the conversation of people in the neighbourhood
  • Daisy and I meet
  • A retired policeman who had both hips done
  • Fascinating
  • And grandmothers, like me, running summer day camps
  • Dusting off the picture books, filling the wading pools with the hose
  • Making vintage lunches for kids who say is it healthy
  • Which reminds me of a grievance
  • Why does A&W have a grandpa burger, a mama burger
  • A papa burger, a teen burger and a baby burger
  • But no grandma burger?
  • There are pictures of grandma doing the cooking
  • But no burger of her own
  • 4,000 years of human history summed up right there
  • Me
  • I had to order an uncle burger
  • Yes the uncle got one
  • An uncle
  • Those guys arrive late and leave before the dishes
  • Who do I talk to about this?
  • Back to friends
  • There is something that you let out when you talk to a friend that you are not supposed to be holding in
  • If we all lived as if the most important thing in the world was other people
  • Pretty much any problem I can think of right now would be solved
  • And you know what?
  • I am glad Seneca took the time

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Knitting during a pandemic

I don't want to labour a discussion of the times. We have had a pretty easy time of it here in Nova Scotia and let's hope it stays that way.

However this affects everyone and we are all staying close to home more than usual and there is a sort of anxiety running in the background. I now only check the news once a day and told my husband that if he is going to listen to things more often than that would he please put on headphones - some voices I don't need to hear in this house.

I am trying not to add to anyone's angst myself and to focus on things that are more enduring than this moment in time. Nature, children, dogs, cooking, ordering fabric.

And I have returned to knitting in the evenings.

Now I am a garment sewist through and through and I put a lot of effort into my sewing. I am particularly interested in construction details and techniques.

To me knitting is about none of that. I realize how innovative and technical knitting has become but that's not why I knit. I knit like a sort of repetitive meditation. Round and round without a lot of thinking. Like those Buddhist monks in Japan who spent their lifetimes raking gravel into patterns as sort of a religious practice. When I first talked to someone who had gone on a Buddhist retreat and did just this for a couple of months I have to tell you it didn't make a lot of sense to me. My cultural background is big on the useful activity and sitting down or any activity without a meaningful output was just not on the books.

However these days when there is too much incoming to handle all at once the idea of stopping a raking the gravel, or knitting the same stitches for hours if not days at a time, is starting to make sense to me. It's like you jump off the train for a bit onto the platform to catch your breath and let a few of those trains just pass you by.

So committed to non-demanding knitting in my evenings has meant some basic circular knitting with easy patterns. I just don't need to be doing anything right now that requires me to stop and watch a YouTube video to figure it out. 

You get what I mean?

Any of you learning a new language at the moment?

See what I mean.

As a result I have been knitting a lot of socks and a few sweaters. The first of these, appropriately, was the "Homebody" pattern by Heidi Kirrmaier. I had some Eco wool in a bin and knit this up for my daughter. I left it at her house and she sent me back this picture with the message "It fits perfectly."

The fit around the shoulders and neckline in particular is outstanding and due to the placement of the raglan lines. Since this is a seamless top down pattern (I love hand sewing but completely hate sewing sweater pieces together) it is hard to get a nice fit without a lot of shaping but I think this one does it. I think I will knit myself one too once I have figured out a decent online yarn source. I know where to order fabric but not yarn and I am not feeling like hitting the stores at the moment.

As far as patterns go it was pretty cryptic. Heidi is an excellent designer but has a technical professional background and her instructions were very efficient but all charts and numbers. Being numerically challenged, and highly text based,  in a few places I wrote the instructions out in words to I would stay on track, but you wouldn't probably need to do that. I intend to knit more of Heidi's patterns and maybe won't even need to do that myself again now I have a better understanding of the logic of her patterns.

The second sweater I knit was for myself from Ann Budd's really interesting Book of Sweater Patterns. This is a great resource for folks like me who only want to knit something simple and hate fooling around with gauge. Basically you knit a swatch first with a needle size and yarn you like, measure the number of stitches per inch and then match the gauge you already have to the numbers you need to cast on etc. according to the size you want.

Did I explain that correctly?

Anyway it's a pretty relaxed approach to low key sweater knitting and that suits me just fine at the moment. Here I am in a basic dropped shoulder, knit in the round with no seams to sew, V neck. I am wearing my favourite poplin antique pull on shorts and some pretty weird glasses.

The moral of the story with the glasses is if you go into the optometrist's and announce "I need something bright and cheerful" and you only try on the glasses with a mask on over your whole face when you go back to pick up these glasses they might be pretty bright turquoise. The six-year-old thought they were outstanding, my daughter, his mother thought they would be just fine for wearing around the house. 

There is of course a real possibility too that at this stage of the game I worry more about cheerful than looking like a maniac.

Now tell me what you are doing? What are your own current self soothing activities? Any of you knitting too? Reviving lost activities? (I have also considered hauling out some 30 year old cross stitch patterns).

How are you mediating? How do you manage to actually do that? What is your mediation equivalent?

Seems to me ideas on this are worth sharing.