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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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Saturday, May 25, 2019

Review of Jalie 3905 the Gisele round neck top and Jalie 3908 Simone wide-legged pants

I made the new Jalie Simone wide-legged pants and the Gisele round neck top as a set for comfortable travelling.

Here are the line drawings and pattern pieces:

They were both very easy sews and gave me an outfit for sleeping around airports and life that is a comfortable as pyjamas but considerably more stylish. I used a rayon challis from Fabricville for the top and a washed cotton/linen, also from Fabricville for the pants.

The top first.

This is such a simple top but has some really nice details. The 3/4 length gathered sleeves obviously, my favourite sleeve length because I can't drag my sleeves into things like dishwater, and the neat hem treatment, with a slight higher at the front thing that is actually quite flattering.

This is a no darts top but fairly wide so I didn't have any issues with pulling over the bust. I went and made my husband do an out side shot with my arms out so you could see the width of the top, and the pants, better:

 I would note though that the neckline is quite wide, fine for people who don't have my scrawny shoulders, so I might bring in the neckline in about an inch each side next version so I have bra covering security, and in this one I will probably go back and add lingerie guards #borninthe1950s

If I make the neckline smaller next time at the neck edge I will probably implement the back neck vent - something I eliminated here.

I made two changes to my version of the pants.

First I just couldn't bring myself to put a bow on over my stomach. Just couldn't do it. I have devoted years of my life to trying to de-emphasize my belly and it seemed pretty late in the game to deviate from that mission.

Also in the linen cotton I thought for sure a bow would be too stiff. That said the next version will be in a tercel twill so I may try the tie in something more drapey.

I also cut these off short and made them sort of long culottes. The pants version are really wide and I decided recently in a lay over in San Francisco when I observed every woman but myself was wearing cropped pants to try that look myself.

These elastic waist, slim at the hips, pocket included culottes/crops were perfect I thought for real world wear

I am probably going to try the full length in the tercel, but in the meantime I am very happy with these. I like full shorts so stay tuned for a shorts version soon - maybe even a longer short to wear at the golf course, that might be interesting.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Review of Jalie 3902 Nicole knit dress

The new Jalie Nicole knit dress reminds me so much of two of my all time favourite knit dresses, bought 30 years ago from Landsend, and worn until they more or less fell off my body.

I liked them so much because they were comfortable, I didn't need to iron them, and I could wear one unit under a jacket to work and still look as professional as I get.

This was the exact same pattern. Here are the line drawings and pattern pieces:

This pattern is a classic case where it might make sense to be a bit strategic about the size you choose. I note that someone with a strong bust line, since the dress goes pretty straight down front the bust, will have more waist/ hip room, as you can see in this pattern cover shot. The drapes fabric also facilitates this too:

For someone like myself, who has a hip/ lower waist measurement very close to my bust measurement, and made up in a fairly firm cotton/lycra, the fit across the lower body is fairly close, right where belly/bum wise I am very curvy:

I love this picture of me - this is the face of a person whose daughter has just suggested Spanx.

Nope, nope and nope. This body has had three kids and one hysterectomy and deserves to just be itself. I am standing firm on that one, even if it's the only firm going on here.

Point taken though. See how the back of this dress rides up? That's because I have a lot of shape back there.

So I know exactly what I am going to do. Just like I moved up a few sizes in the Lisette skirt (love those 20 plus sizes) to get exactly the ease I want, I will be sewing this again in one or two sizes up. 

That should make it just right.

I am so happy to have my favourite dress back and love the look of the mock turtle neck and the short sleeves.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Flypaper thoughts in transit edition

  • Everybody in the world but me has eyelash extensions
  • Some look pretty, but a bit long
  • Some look like bath mats attached to eyelids
  • If you ever wonder if simple is not best
  • Sit and people watch in an airport
  • There’s your answer
  • When I am boss of the world
  • No in-transit food stop
  • Will be allowed to charge 2000% more for a bottle of water than it costs at the Superstore
  • I am not talking about the Romaine spine wraps
  • Oh shoot
  • I don’t like air travel
  • And I bet you are picking up on that
  • The good part
  • However 
  • Is arrivals
  • Families with flowers
  • Signs that say welcome
  • Mothers getting young sons home for the weekend
  • Just long enough for them to remember that these really are the best people in the world
  • Not replaced by book clubs
  • Grandchildren shy to meet grandparents
  • Who have borrowed strollers from the neighbours for this visit
  • Goofy guys being hugged and held for a real long time
  • By girls probably too good for them
  • And the guys know it too
  • But maybe the girls know something we don’t
  • Yes sometimes the getting there
  • Is worth all the trouble

Jalie's 3902 Nikita knit sport top or knit dress pattern

The Nikita pattern was a bit of an adventure for me. 

Here is the line drawing and the pattern pieces:

You can see why this pattern interested me. The way the back wrapped around to the front was cool I thought. 

But because for myself I didn't see doing the open back top, I decided to make a knit dress, view B for my granddaughter Scarlett who never turns down a dress.

So speeding ahead thinking I was making just an ordinary knit dress with a lace yoke I didn't pay enough attention to the shapes (the garment photos from Jalie came out after I made this up). As a result I don't think I really understood this pattern before I made it up.

Now I see the photos from the new pattern cover, I have a much better appreciation of the real Nikita see and how the pattern really should be used.

Let me explain. 

Here is the pattern shot that really explains it all:

As you can see this top, and of course the dress even with its full back version, has large and loose armholes and really needs to be worn with a sports bra underneath.

This is exactly the kind of outfit/top I wish I had on when I participated in my middle son's yoga demo class in Austin Texas a month and a half ago.

That was the occasion when I did a demonstration of my own on how much an older woman can sweat all over her top and her borrowed yoga mat. If you have ever done that you really would understand how a top like this one, that also wraps around to the front so it won't ride up a lot, would be so very useful.

You can bet on seeing a few versions of this in the top version on my in the near future.

Of course this is all something I understand now. 

When I made Scarlett's version we were both initially surprised at how open the armholes were. So open that the first thing I said to her little 9 year old self were "OK kiddo that's a nightgown not a dress."

You will see what I mean in these pictures, which I have left full size, landscape included because this is my daughter's wonderful backyard in spring:

Now this is a great nightgown and I am a more clued in grandmother.

And it has me thinking laterally of a few other uses for this pattern.

First, one of my vintage sewing books has the hilarious suggestion that women try out a new dress pattern by making it first as a nightgown. The hilarious part is that this suggestion comes from the '50s when the dresses had tight bodices and full skirts and I have always wondered just how comfortable those would be to sleep in.

However it also reminds me of the time one of my sisters, desperate to get through the night in early menopause without soaking the sheets, phoned and told me she had found "menopause friendly" nightgowns for only $150 online. I think they were made of linen or something.

When I went back and looked at the dress view of this pattern, and thought about implementing the open back too in the dress, I thought bingo the ultimate menopause nightgown! Or for people like me, who are always telling the spouse to turn the heat down at night and survive only by keeping a window open in the bedroom until some grunting man gets up to shut it, exactly what I need.

So that was my Nikita experiment. Not a dress for a nine year old maybe but a great yoga top for me and a nightgown for myself and all sisters who want one

I am looking forward to making those up!

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Jalie's 3906 Tania knit jacket pattern

I have decided lately I am a third garment person. 

This is a pretty complex theory but basically here it is.

If you wear separates, say a top and bottom, you look about 100% more put together if you have a third garment, some kind of jacket or cardigan etc. on top. Of course this doesn't work in tropical conditions but third garments of various weights are pretty useful.

The problem of course is finding jacket type things that are comfortable. Knit jackets work, but really how many patterns for those, apart from mini tight jackets that really don't function usefully as third garments, are there out there?

For this reason I was particularly excited when I saw that a knit jacket was in the new Jalie line-up.

That jacket is the Tania and here is the line drawing with the pattern pieces:

A couple of things really struck me about this pattern. 

First it has one of those sneaky cleaver Jalie pocket details, not dissimilar to the Helene, mirrored with some pieced/angled seams in the back that would be great for colour blocking.

I also notice right away that the collar was meant to be worn up, pretty sharp actually, but new to me until the same day the pattern came out my niece walked into the house with a knit jacket with exactly this same collar detail - and I realized this was what all the cool kids were wearing.

I was also interested, based on my new thing about making Jalies in different but closely related sizes for different looks, to see that Jalie suggested sewing this jacket up to your usual bust/chest measurement for a casual jacket, but making it by matching your upper bust to the pattern size for something more fitted.

For the version here, because I was going for the most widely useful jacket, I made it in the version with more ease, in my usual bust measurement pattern size.

A note too on the fabric.

About a year ago I was at a wedding in Washington DC and we had one of those lulls while they took pictures. Faced with a couple of hours, and knowing I wasn't that far away from G Street Fabrics, I ran over in my heels (OK not exactly ran) and got some weird but interesting fabric. 

This one was a knit navy like a crepe with some cotton grey single knit bonded to it. A cool fabric but I had no idea what I was ever going to do with it. You can see the reverse side of the fabric and the interior construction details here:

For this project it was perfect. I knew I had a good reason for leaving that wedding, and I was even back for the food.

This pattern was a breeze to sew. I think it hits that sweet spot between being really comfortable but tailored-ish enough to wear somewhere you wanted to feel sort of efficient at. Like a work, or some place where the other folks are organized.

For the record I put this together with my all time favourite shell Jalie 2682 and a Lisette skirt 3883 . I make that skirt flatter my not flat stomach body by sewing it not in the negative ease intended, but in a size in which the hip measurement is 2" larger than my own, giving me the 2" ease I am more comfortable with.

I am pretty much sure this is going to become my go-to jacket pattern for quite some time now. 

I am going to try it next in the upper bust measurement size and see how that goes, maybe in a white for summer, and if it looks too much like a lab coat I will just give it to my daughter who always needs lab coats.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Review of the new Charlotte Jalie 3900 cardigan pattern

As I said I think last post I am interested right now in adding more basics to my closet. Life is pretty much grab and go these days. 

For this reason I really responded to many of the patterns in Jalie's new spring collection. These are wearable classics, no cold shoulder tops in the bunch, and will be good soldiers in my wardrobe for as long as I need them.

The Charlotte cardigan is one of these patterns, and as one of my favourites the new line, the one I have decided to lead off my reviews.

Here is a the line drawing and a shot of the pattern pieces:

This is a simple cardigan, long or chopped version, with or without buttons.

I made the longer version, another 3" added to the length to go with the proportions of my tall figure. I used a rayon/poly novelty knit I had on the shelves for quite a while and had no idea what I was going to do with it. Turns out this was a great choice because when the sleeves are pushed up, as mine usually are, it makes sort of white band things I think look cool.

Most definitely this is a pattern that I will be using over and over again.

I see some room too for playing around with the design. 

The bands on the top of the pocket, cuffs, and the bottom band could be made in another fabric or colour, and the square corner at the neckline could be softened with a more curved edge or even cut down into a V.

Such a useful pattern.

As it turned out I had some fabric left over so I dug out Jalie 3245 and did the racerback tank, with the back racer back redrawn a bit for more coverage over my bra straps. I haven't worn a "twin set" in a while but this one will be really useful packed for travelling. I am likely to be wearing it Tuesday when I fly down to Nashville vis Newark, figure it will be perfect for warmth on the plane and I can take off the cardigan if Tennessee is hot:

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

New Jalies and my review schedule

Many of you will already know that the annual release of new patterns from Jalie opened this morning.

This is the second year in which I have participated as one of the people who gets an advance look at the collection. I also have an opportunity to sew those that have most personal interest.

This is actually quite different from the "tester calls" you may have seen from a number of independent pattern designers recently (I did one of those for Love Notions last year).

The few of us who do this for Jalie sew up the patterns we like best and check out the instructions as sort of sewing copy editors. In my experience so far changes to the exact patterns themselves have never been necessary.

I really like being able to see the collections early. I like seeing the garments made up in this period by other sewers as it generally helps me see the potential for the designs for me. 

Some patterns of course aren't always relevant for me or for my family. No one figure skates or is in competitive gymnastics for example, and this year I didn't opt for any of the men's patterns since the men in my life just want me to sew more editions of the patterns I have made for them already. I guess that also speaks to the success of earlier patterns.

So annually I pick and choose and make only those patterns that have most immediate appeal to me.

Some of you may remember that last year my resolution was to make more independent patterns. I have stuck to this, the jumpsuit I made from True Bias and posted yesterday is an example. 

This process of sewing more widely from different designers has been really interesting. It has helped me redefine what really interests/matters to me most about sewing. Some of this was about remembering what I really like to do, some of it was getting over some bright and shiny object attraction.

So here's my new list of what matters to me when I choose a pattern. Your list may, and probably should be, quite different:

  1. I am a construction technique fascinated sewer. My favourite sewing moments occur when I encounter a way of putting a garment together that I think is particularly clever, ingenious or new. This would be as opposed to seeing the same old text book technique suggested when I figure I know a more efficient way of doing the same thing.
  2. I am a really busy person. I just don't have the time to work on seven iterations of a muslin before I cut into the good fabric - and even if I had more time I probably don't have the disposition to do that. Let's face it I am more of a how-hard-can-it-be, jump in and see what happens kind of person. I am more and more interested in a repertoire of TNT patterns that I can make up in different fabrics. Another favourite part of sewing to me is just watching that needle go up and down in the fabric. Of course I will try new patterns, like jumpsuits, but the bulk of my happy sewing is with patterns I know I trust.
  3. My life requires basics. There is not a lot of room around here for shoes you can't walk in or fabrics that require special care. And there is not a lot of time for putting an outfit together or styling it. I love being able to reach into my closet and pull out a top, bottom, and jacket/cardigan and feel like I am more or less presentable. Or a dress in the summer. I need the right components for my life. And I am pretty sure I would rather look stylish than styled.
  4. I really appreciate real pattern makers. I am figuring out that if you have sewn for four years and have decided to launch your own pattern line that can show. As a matter of principle I believe completely that genius or at least great talent can happen anywhere, at any time, but there is a lot to be said, as part of the development process, for knowing what you don't know and learning it. Also how many ultimate, indispensable, essential, iconic and only-tee-you-will-ever-need patterns can the universe hold? I have about five Indie pattern makers so far I think are solid and probably more than that I am wondering about.
  5. I sew for more people than just myself. I dis-extend my extended family with my sewing. And since bodies are various and children grow up at the speed of light a big size range means a lot to me.  I have resolved not to spend more on patterns every month than we spend on utilities - which will be a novel experience for me.
So understanding all of the above I am returning to sewing more and more Jalie patterns. 

I have also added two new insights into the mix:

  • Jalies are great TNT basic for more creative work
  • I can make the same pattern in different sizes for different effects, for example I now make the pull-on pants in three different sizes for different looks. The fact Jalie has such a large size range, only an inch difference between sizes, makes this possible, versus a S-M-L range
I will be doing a review of some of the new Jalie collection in this order on these dates. 

I am really looking forward to sharing these patterns, definitely some real winners for me in this collection:

Charlotte Cardigan: Saturday May 18:

Tania Jacket: Sunday May 19:

Nikita Knit Sports top/dress: Tuesday May 21:

Nicole Knit Dress: Thursday May 23:

Simone Wide-legged Pants and Gisele Woven Top: Saturday May 25:

Michelle Dress: Sunday May 26:

Of course my versions won't be exactly like the cover shots, but I am excited to show you what I made!