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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, December 3, 2019

A little dress

A week ago my youngest granddaughter turned one in San Francisco. I sent her a doll from my mom, a pair of moose hide Mukluks (she will be here over Christmas) and I decided to go old school and send her a plaid dress too.

I have a terrible time imagining weather in places outside my window (which is why I am the world's worst packer) but I had enough sense not to send velveteen or wool to California.

Fortunately I found some plaid in a very nice rayon and hopefully that counts as winter wear on the west coast.

For a pattern I pulled out this out of print Jalie that I got on a sale of their old stock a while ago. I really really enjoyed sewing it and seeing practical but traditional baby clothing details. There is a double folded hem with the potential to add nearly another 4" in length and a back that opens full length for easy dressing.




The pattern also came with some cool bloomers, big enough to cover the biggest diaper, and I made those too. We'll see about the fit but one of the reasons Jalie is my go-to for kids clothes is that there are so many sizes in one pattern - this one has 10 baby/toddler sizes.


I am sewing a lot for family these days (this has had an impact on the blog I am trying to figure out - I might block family members!) because I want to show things that are also surprises.

Right now most of the time I am sewing requests. I realized that rather than having family handle the fact that my kids probably don't want to wear what I would wear, everyone is happier, including me, if I make to order. This also expands my own repertoire and experience by introducing new territory to me.

That said every once in a while I enjoy sewing something that is just a sewing indulgence for me, like this traditional little dress.

It reminded me of the smocked dresses my friend's mother made for my daughter years ago. Who does that these days? Who has the time? Beautiful party dresses with smocking patterns that must have been decades old, giant hems like this one.

Even babies have history.


Thursday, November 21, 2019

Dark November flypaper thoughts


  • In the background my husband has the TV on
  • Impeachment hearings take me back to ironing
  • When it was Nixon's turn we used to go home to my friend's house after school
  • We watched her mom, an ashtray on the ironing board, doing her ironing and watching
  • Like many Eastern Canadian families they had family in the States
  • Including the famous Auntie sister who was such a drinker she set her alarm to get started
  • There was also a person called Uncle Brother who retired early. Real early.
  • So when I hear the TV voices I am thinking I should get out the ironing board
  • But am not likely to do the sheets
  • Or the underwear
  • Like my friend's mother did
  • I am also thinking about craft
  • My youngest son's girlfriend takes picture but uses film
  • She waits for them to be developed
  • Waits
  • These pictures are gorgeous
  • This girl knows craft
  • No digital
  • No editing
  • No filters
  • No tricks
  • No instant Instagram fame
  • I gave away my top-of-the-line machine
  • And now sew on old machines that rely on my hands
  • Not a circuit boards
  • This month I put the knits on hold for a bit
  • And made bound buttonholes
  • French seams
  • And careful binding
  • It was stress less not stressful
  • Like yoga breathing
  • Or ironing

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Red boiled wool coat



Before you all fall over when you see a blog post from me let me show you a red boiled wool coat I made. 

Despite my vacancy from the blogosphere I have been family event busy and sewing my brains out. So much of what I have made is off to the recipients, unphotographed. Sometimes real life makes it to the front of the line before recorded life.

Not shown here are the yellow wool socks I made for a new girlfriend up from Texas. We didn't want her to go into cold weather shock and write off Nova Scotia just because it was November, a fairly miserable month outdone only by February, you know that time of the year I personally will be thawing out in Texas. I figured if her feet were warm she would feel at home here. This is something we want.

There are few issues in life I do not think have a wardrobe solution.

Also not shown are mended snow suits, a cross back apron for my florist sister's nice co-worker at the home and garden store, a birthday dress for the now one-year-old in San Francisco, and two warm velour pullovers for my daughter.

If you come to this blog I am sure you have given up a long time ago that you would find beautifully coordinated outfits photographed on a regular basis and more likely to find flypaper thoughts from a life dressed for those kind of thoughts.

So here we go.

I had some neat patterned boiled wool from the local Fabricville. I decided to make a cozy sweater coat thing out of the stand collar version of this pattern:

In recognition of the loft and texture of this fabric (essentially this jacket is a high grade polar fleece jacket) I decided to make bound buttonholes. I have a no brainer method for these that makes them easy - got to get instructions done).
For the same fabric reasons I also sewed the pockets on by hand (backstitch on the wrong side, slip stitch on the right side).




Also because the fabric was thick I put in a false hem and a chain to weigh the hem down.




Really a nice cozy coat and this time of year that's essential.

Now I am up for a breather watch this space for more posts. They will be coming!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Nurture their nature


I think every mother knows that one day her time as perfect in her child's eyes will be up. 

Every mother, no matter how hard she tries, knows full well that if one of the kids ever goes to therapy as an adult the first thing the shrink is going to say is "tell me about your mother."  Whatever goes wrong in the future we all know that the string will be followed back to us.

Daughters in particular have an extremely clear eye about ways in which their mothers can improve. For instance today mine mentioned to me that I was a very intense person and they all know that. 

WHAT DO YOU MEAN I AM INTENSE?!

She must have seen me with a seam ripper in my hand at 11:00 pm.

She also says some very nice things to me too, which I like to think are as accurate as the above.

One thing she tells me is that I nurtured their nature, meaning the three of my children are all very different and I noticed this.

Now we both know there is very little difference between sewing and life. One informs the other.

Fabrics are like children.

It seems to me that too often we proceed as if completely different fabrics should behave the same way.

"I never had this trouble with your brother getting him to do his homework."

And of course this approach works about as well for fabrics as it does for kids.

Case in point.

A few weeks ago I made a Rockford Raglan out of some weird but wonderful crinkly grey tissue knit. I was doing some assembly line sewing at the time, under pressure to get some tops made before I went on a little trip. As a result I whacked on a neckband to this fabric just like the neckbands I successfully had put on a few other shirts.

Somewhere in the back of my mind when I did this was a little voice saying "this fabric is super light, are you sure this is a good idea?"

At the time I was not in a slowing down mood so I ignored that voice.

The neckband was of course not very nice. I persuaded myself that the rippling was simply the result of the wrinkles in the fabric and not operator error.

However I wore this top yesterday and that neckline bothered me all day.

So last night I cut it off just before bed. 

Below is exactly why this neckband didn't work and evidence that I should have known better. See how all that heavy serging overworked the fabric? 

Exhibit A:



Honestly Babs. 

I should be ashamed to show you this. I make a lot of sacrifices for the educational value of this blog.

A complication of this surgery was that I was left with a top that was crazy terrible with a wide open neck that would never fit on my chicken neck and shoulders. 

Exhibit B:



Remind me to learn how to take a selfie. How are you actually supposed to do it when the phone is in front of you? A learning task for another day apparently.

After this bit of drama I went to bed and couldn't sleep.  I couldn't figure out what I was supposed to do with this hacked up top now.

When I got up this morning I had an idea.

My idea was to nurture the random floaty fabric of this top  with my one remaining remnant and put in a cowl neckline. I figured this would bridge the opening and my neck, and let the fabric sort of be fluffy like it wanted to be. 

Here is the result as photographed by my granddaughter this afternoon.


And here is the full view:


A shout out to my photographer. I asked her if she had time to take my picture. 

Scarlett said "Babs I am a kid, I always have time." 

She did however want me to explain that this messy wrinkled fabric is supposed to look like this. She doesn't want you to think I am a person who doesn't know when something needs to be ironed.

And here she is, a kid who always has time and has heard of ironing:


Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Exit of skinny leg pants

The title says it all.

After years and years of narrow leg stretch woven pants and long tops worn to cover what these pants reveal I have decided to totally embrace wider, even shorter, pants.

I needed some new pants anyway and this seemed like a good time for an update.

The first thing I did is dig out the very first StyleArc pattern I ever made, the Linda pants. Some time ago I decided that the widish classic leg of these pants was insufficiently stylish for a Nova Scotia fashionista like myself, so I put this pattern aside when I went narrower like everyone else.

It was however a terrific pattern with that trademark Stylearc crotch curve that fits me without any alteration at all. It also has that smooth elastic containing waistband that lies as flat as any regular waistline. I am glad I saved this pattern.

However in a mild updating of it I made them a bit shorter this time out. To tell you the truth I am happy to let go of that look we were supposed to have with heels and hems grazing the floor.

Listen if you live where I do and a lot of the year is spent sloshing around up to your ankles in frozen slush and on salted roads. That super long leg look was never too practical in my world. In fact when I saw pant hems were going up my first thought was "Great no more arriving at the party with salt stains on the dress pants." Fellow Maritimers back me up here.

The kids and my daughter took the pictures. It's probably not hard to figure out which ones were taken by an 8 and 10-year-old.

The top is the Love Notions Classic Tee.




For a foray into wide leg 7/8 length pants I tried Stylearc's Como pant. I made mine in ponte and didn't include the tie thing draping down over my belly. The top here is another version of the Love Notions Rockford Raglan, which I think has a slight and obviously inappropriate maternity vibe, but still OK I hope.

For some reason I think that these wide pants look better when they are a little shorter. Maybe cropping them off keeps the volume from being overwhelming. What do you think?




Not crazy exciting sewing I know, but these are basics and I needed some of those as sort of ballast in the old wardrobe. I will definitely be making more of these, the wide pants in particular. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

A simple little weather idea

I am facing the fact these days that summer is over. 

The leaves falling off the trees, the groups of children on the sidewalks back at school, and myself in a warm and dry coat when I walk the dog are my first clues.

This week as the weather has spent a while looking like it is about to rain. As a result I have been glad I have a coat with a detachable hood I can stuff in my purse for emergencies. I can see putting something like this in a backpack for a kid too.

It's a simple idea and one you have probably already thought of but here's mine edition.

To make a detachable hood all you need is a pattern with a view with a hood and one without, with just a collar.

I used the Jalie City Coat:


I made my own coat in some softshell with a fleece backing on the inside. Very practical, warm, dry, and cozy. The coat I made had just the collar, much like the one pictured above.

I then made the hood as a separate item and hemmed it. Next I sewed some of those big snaps that are now available, three of them, a set on the under collar where they don't show, and on the hood.

Here's how that looks:



Pretty simple really but one of those practical manoeuvres a person who sews her own clothes can make.


Thursday, October 17, 2019

Flypaper thoughts tray edition



  • Today I officially finished my Hallowe'en sewing
  • The baby flamingo costume has arrived in San Francisco for the youngest
  • Complete with a crocheted hat with a crooked beak
  • Swerved it a bit so it wouldn't fall between her eyes
  • Anika is going to be busy enough putting the fluorescent feathers in her mouth

  • Finished a Flash costume for the five-year-old boy.
  • Oh to be so young and innocent 
  • That a sweatsuit pattern made from red ponte scraps with some yellow zig zags straight stitched on can make a person race around at top speed
  • "Did you know Babsie that when I run I can feel a cloud of air behind me?"
  • That such magic can be created from just this

  • Made a black cape with a hood and a mohair skirt from some black wool I once had high ambitions for
  • Found black elbow length gloves for a ten-year-old (terrified I was going to have to make those) at Value Village
  • And bought black tulle for a veil
  • So that pre-teen can feel both terrifying and cool
  • Made a filly apron and hat for our baker
  • With a giant pocket in the front for loot
  • And found 1. a toy tray and a mug that we glued marshmallows on and 2. Japanese sugar marshmallows that look like donuts
  • All glue gunned to the tray
  • A person hits a strange season of life when they don't miss a former profession and job
  • But they are thrilled out of their minds to have found fake donuts 
  • Maybe I haven't left something but am returning somewhere
  • Am going to make bound buttonholes tomorrow
  • A soft boiled wool jacket would be violated by machine buttonholes
  • Had to get Hallowe'en done early because I am going to Winnipeg to see my mom next week
  • Forgot to ask if the snow was melted
  • The one city I never get lost in
  • Has the geography of a Monopoly Board
  • Do the police on Portage still wear Buffalo coats in the winter?
  • They did when we were kids
  • What did those coats weigh 100 pounds?


  • Yup that's my background
  • Created people who are very resourceful
  • But without any sense they could actually move somewhere else
  • If they had sense
  • A place where your lungs can freeze in the winter if you breath too deeply
  • Where my sister once froze her cheeks solid while we were playing
  • I remember the white circles on her face
  • I was supposed to bring her in then but didn't
  • A place where people say things like
  • Well Joyce lost her legs to cancer but you know she still got her canning done
  • Of course she did
  • A place where no one was allowed to sleep in
  • And you saved it for good
  • And the liquor was kept in the linen closet behind the towels 
  • In case the grandparents came over
  • And we wore our Hallowe'en costumes over our snow suits
  • So they had to be made big
  • And I once won a city wide competition for a Little Bo Peep costume
  • To go with the lamb costume my sister wore
  • That my mother made while lying on the couch recovering from a miscarriage
  • Which is exactly why I retired to crochet a flamingo hat
  • And to glue gun Japanese sweets to a plastic tray
  • It makes perfect sense