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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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Friday, January 22, 2021

Where's your style gone in the pandemic?

 There are many things I wonder about all of us when this thing is all over.

Will some folks discover they are introverts and become agoraphobics they are finally allowed to let loose on the streets?

Will people who started to work from home ever go back to the office?

Will we stop baking bread ourselves?

Will we continue to have Zoom meetings with our doctors?

Will we start wearing clothes again for any other reason than they are comfortable?

The last one interests me.

My own style has taken a bit of a turn around in this house.

My daughter and I went shoe shopping last week and I bought something that I wouldn't ever had looked at twice before- these super, super comfortable little boots for walking the dogs. Whenever I put them on (they are Beezies if you are interested) I make a big deal of how completely cozy and comfy they are. 





But not my style at all, you know how elegant I am, with all this fake fur, stitching, and silver heels. 

But things are different these days. All I care about right now is having my feet feel good. Actually all I care about right now is whatever I can do to make any part of me, inside or out, feel good.

What is the pandemic doing to me? Will I ever totter around in heels again? What is happening to me?

I am not the only one. 

I made my daughter, and now by request my son-in-law, multiple bamboo knit sweatshirts this winter. Here is an example of one on my daughter. We love this fabric because it feels so soft and caring on our bodies:



I am also pulling out random fabric from my shelves, of the weird category of "why did I ever buy this" and making sweatshirt type tops to go with my furry booties for dog walking.

Here is some extremely odd quilted knit that I made into a sort of a top with a zipper to the front and I collar I made up. My husband calls it my Star Trek shirt and suggests I add a logo.

I have styled this with my post dog walking hair un-interferred with by things like a hair brush, mirror or haircut, keeping my faith with my decision to show my real life on this blog, as is,




Now this has to end sometime. 

I was lucky enough to be gifted a big pile of old Burda magazines this week. Daisy and I have been going through them and I have enjoyed the complexity of the designs so much. They have awakened my desire to sew more challenging projects again once the great hibernation of 2020-2021 is over.

How about you?

How has Covid affected your style? Short and long term? 

This is on my mind.



Sunday, January 17, 2021

Notes from my husband Leo on setting up a projector for projector file sewing

The biggest challenge with the projector set up is getting it fastened in the appropriate place. 

That issue starts with your choice of projector. The normal setup is a projector that sits on a table and projects on to a wall. That works great for watching Sesame Street but you want to project it to a horizontal surface and have the image large enough to cover the entire piece of fabric for sewing pattern projection:


A short throw projector projects a large image over a short distance but these can be hard to come by and are expensive.

By contrast a regular projector needs in the range of 78 to 86 inches to avoid to have to keep moving the image on the computer screen and moving the fabric to get all the pieces projected onto the fabric in an efficient way. 

Unless you have high ceilings the best and least costly option is to purchase a unit that is made to sit on a table (ours is a Bomaker) then devise or purchase a mounting bracket that will allow you to project from the ceiling to the floor - around 82”. I used a shelving wall support and fastened the projector to it and then fastened it all to the ceiling. Once it is fastened to the ceiling it needs to be plumbed in two directions to ensure accurate projection of all the lines.

First direction to check will be across the the front to the rear feet of the projector. You will need to develop a system of leveling if one is not a part of the mounting bracket. I, for instance, used the wooden part of a clothespin that is wedge shaped as my levelling aid. 


Wedge leveling system :


The other direction to level would be across the front of the projector where the lens is. 


Checking plumb front to rear


Checking plumb across the front. 

If the image is not projecting accurately after plumbing the projector there is an adjustment knob (keystone) adjacent to the focus knob that tilts the lens so as to project the image squarely at the surface. 

Next task is to check scale of the projection. 

There should be, as part of the pattern, a calibration square, that is a specific size. You will need to change the size of the PDF in Adobe to match a) the output of the projector b)the pattern scale and c) the distance from projector to surface onto which the image is projected to get the calibration square the correct size. 

For instance with a Jalie pattern, a Bomaker projector that is 82” from the surface scale needs to be set at 21.1% through the Adobe software to get the 2” square to project accurately. 

This achieved through trial and error. Once you have the square projecting accurately you need to check the size of the image as far away as possible from the center of the image to verify accuracy. 

If you cannot get the image to project accurately across the entire image with these steps you may have purchased a projector that cannot be used for this purpose. We initially made that error and returned the bargain priced one and bought the inexpensive “Bomaker “ that works flawlessly. 

There are a few other setups that are used. There is a setup where a projector sits on a table or shelf and projects to a table at 90 degrees and a setup with a mirror that projects in the same manner. I understand how these work but have not used or set one up. 


Friday, January 15, 2021

Projecting your sewing




Well where do we start?

Patterns.

I remember when the only patterns I used were selected from big books, extracted from metal drawers, and driven home. 

I remember when I subscribed to BVM and browsed patterns online and then ordered them to be sent by mail. At the time I thought this was incredibly convenient and progressive.

This was before the world of .pdf patterns. 

I love .pdf patterns. 

I love access to new designers. Yes some of the indies are random drafters, but some are excellent. It has been worth the trouble of sewing up a few dudes to find some lines, like LoveNotions, I can count on.

In addition to the range of patterns that I can now access in .pdf, I also love the convenience. I really like being able to source a pattern just when I want it, just when I am ready to sew.

In theory this on demand access was supposed to mean I wouldn't stockpile as many patterns. Of course the opposite has been true. There isn't a pattern sale on this earth that doesn't get me clicking "add to cart" in that dangerous hour before bedtime.

There is a downside to patterns in this format too of course. 

Once downloaded the patterns have to be printed out before they can be used. This has meant either taping together letter sized sheets, then cutting them up into pattern shapes or even tracing over the print-outs, or sending the file to a copy shop, and going over in the car to pick up the big rolled sheets.

Not exactly convenient or incredibly fun.

And of course these big, large carbon footprint, patterns take up a lot of room.

I have many boxes and baskets of patterns stored like this in my sewing room, or rolled up in a corner, practically to the point where I am tripping over them:


 

I was become overwhelmed entirely by my pattern collection.

As a result I decided to try projector sewing.

The idea is simple.

You open up a pattern on your computer in the large copy shop or AO format or a "projector file". The computer/laptop is then connected, by cable or wirelessly to a projector that has been mounted above a table or even the floor and is able to project the image of the pattern onto that surface.

A projector file is basically a copy shop size version of the pattern with a grid layer of squares on it. This grid is measured and checked to makes sure the pattern is true to size and if it isn't, adjusted. 

Once the pattern is true to size  you can either trace the image onto paper (economically because this is not a tracing on job not a tracing over job and you can use any large paper to do this) or lay your fabric directly under the image and cut along the lines you see - no pattern or paper involved at all.

I have done both.

The advantages of projector cutting are obvious: 

1. No printing, taping, and cutting or driving to the copy shop and paying at least as much as you paid for the pattern to get someone to do the printing for you.

2. Money saved, time saved, energy (global and personal) saved.

3. It's super fast, particularly if you project right onto the fabric and cut. Even more so if you are one of those folks who cut with a rotary cutter. 

4. Pattern storage is simplified. Mine are on the Cloud.

The challenges are also obvious:

1. There is both software and hardware involved here. Until this all gets refined to more sewist friendly products you are going to need:

  • the right kind of projector and a way of connecting it to your computer/laptop. I found excellent advice on this FB group.
  • the projector has to be a significant distance  from the surface to project the large shapes of the pattern. For most projectors this is about 5-6 feet or 2 meters. There are some more expensive projectors that can throw the image from closer, but for the majority of projectors have to be mounted on a ceiling. This isn't a job you can do with a glue gun or tape. You have to be drill comfortable yourself or have someone who is who owes you, or even better loves you. The best place for my own projector right now is on my living room ceiling. When my niece and nephew finish renovating their house and vacate our basement, and I will move operations down there but in the meantime here is my living room ceiling (only you would do this, says my daughter):

2. There is some fiddling around to do to make sure the pattern is being projected accurately. This isn't actually very hard. For projector files this process is one of measuring the squares and making sure they are the size the should be (usually 1 " or 5 cm) and then changing the image size % as necessary until they are. Here's my screen with the image percentage adjusted to 21.1% which gives me a perfect match between the grid and my ruler:


Note the grid is a layer in Adobe. Once  the image size has been adjusted to be exactly right you can turn the grid layer  off so those lines are no longer projected -just like you can turn off the layers for different sizes in normal pattern printing.

Also, if you have an older pattern or one that doesn't have a projector file, no problem. Just find the registration box, that little box you are meant to check and measure before you print, and work from that:



It really only takes a few minutes to get things adjusted.

Application: 

I have a folding table I can use under the projector for patterns and also use the floor. I have written down the different percentages for each pattern company for these two projection distances so I know I will always have an accurate pattern. It is actually easier to work on the floor for me because I don't have to worry about the weight of large pieces of fabric hanging off the end of the table.

Right now I am using the projector most often to quickly trace patterns onto brown paper. 

I have a lifetime of working with paper patterns, so once I have them I can use them quickly. Also I still like the paper for adjustments and still like a paper version of a pattern I suspect I will be using multiple times. 

Tracing along the projected lines onto paper is a crazy time saver compared to printing, taping etc,

I have also projected directly onto fabric and liked that too. The only issue is that until I take the time to learn a free program called Inkscape so I can arrange the pattern pieces so they are in a good position for on the fabric layout (the pattern pieces in most files are not laid out for economical use of fabric) it is necessary to move the fabric around under the image to place the pattern pieces. In some cases I find this a bit slow because I had to fuss around with grain. It might also be possible that I haven't fully adjusted to the weirdness of moving the fabric to work with the pattern, rather than moving the pattern to fit the fabric - like I have for decades and decades.

As to cutting you just cut away, but bear in mind that the fabric layers are not pinned. Pattern weights of some kind really are a necessity. I take some care to slide my scissors not lift them and the fabric but that isn't hard.  Folks who cut with a rotary cutter and mat might be even more efficient.

So that's it.

I am definitely a fan of projector sewing.

To me it is well worth the hassle, and some expense, to get this going.  But to my mind the return in time and money saved from then on makes it worth it.

Confession though. 

I actually had the set up done by my tech savvy husband. As a result he knows more than I do about the hardware side of this. I think I am going to ask him to do a guest post on how we did our set up for you.

Watch for that post shortly.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Flypaper thoughts home for the winter version

  • Other years we are well on our way down south in January
  • This one I am sitting in my chair next to an animal sandwich
  • Trying to warm up
  • Daisy and I went for a walk just now
  • She got cold
  • Despite her winter coat
  • So home, I sat her next to me
  • And wrapped her in a blanket
  • The cat decided to lie on the blanket, on Daisy's back
  • She's been waiting for weeks
  • To find a way to attach herself to a dog
  • With whom she has a one sided relationship
  • They both went to sleep
  • Now I can't move because they might wake up
  • And Daisy might realize there is a cat on her back
  • So I am being quiet
  • Quiet and cold are the words for this month
  • Not that we aren't busy
  • I have made four new pairs of warm pants
  • And made forty sewing new year's resolutions
  • #1 sew from the patterns I already have
  • Same as my intention from last year 
  • And the year before
  • But this time I mean it
  • Like I will next year
  • Fortunately I can be pretty busy in my own house
  • Firing off projects all over the place
  • Making corn tortillas
  • Sewing elastic into rings
  • Talking to my neighbours when I walk dogs
  • Who's that my husband asks, waving at you?
  • Dexter's dad I say
  • Molly's dad
  • Garth's mom
  • You know the pug who must be 400 in dog years
  • Blind and pulled by his mom in a sled
  • Mr. Crow who is trying to walk the equivalent of some trail in Britain
  • He was booked to hike last spring
  • Now translated into miles around and around our streets
  • I count him four times a day past my window
  • Good to have an interest
  • Speaking of my husband
  • He bought me Masterclass for Christmas
  • He's really having a great time with it
  • Just finished a course in how to be a hostage negotiator
  • I can't make stuff like this up
  • He says it's more interesting than Malcolm Gladwell
  • Which I find hard to believe
  • Says he has been using his new techniques on me the last  two days
  • Wants to know if I have noticed
  • Noticed what I asked?
  • How I am using my 80% voice 20% of the time now
  • I mean what do you say to that?
  • Keeping to myself that after three kids I am pretty sure
  • My own hostage negotiator skills are pretty excellent as they are
  • Fair enough he wants to catch up
  • I have identified some wardrobe gaps
  • Biggest one is golf clothes
  • I haven't made much to golf in the last few years
  • Pieced together Costoc skorts and any top with a collar
  • Had to be sure I wouldn't be a golf drop-out first
  • Then I found friends who didn't keep score
  • So now I need to turn my mind away from my putting
  • To what I will wear
  • This is going to be a challenge
  • The rules of golf seem to involve wearing polyester
  • And paying way too much for it
  • Upside is that I can see potential for legitimately dressing in loud colours
  • Contemplating figuring out a golf dress
  • Could churn those units out if I could figure this out
  • I wake up at night and wonder about piping
  • And decide to just make shorts to wear underneath 
  • Rather than attaching
  • These are serious issues
  • It's cold
  • My son has bought a wood fired sauna
  • He lives by the water and no doubt plans to jump in the North Atlantic afterwards
  • Me I am wondering if it is possible to knit in a sauna
  • What do you think?
  • Resolution #3 knit an aran cardigan
  • Been meaning to do this for 20 years
  • I knit socks and watch strange CBC TV
  • Just finished a great series about the Northern Alberta decoy duck carving competition
  • To that you can knit socks
  • Many of them
  • But might do me good to read a chart and pay attention
  • When you are hostage to the winter
  • Your mind can wander
  • Not sure I have the skills to do this cardigan
  • How hard can it be?
  • The motto of my life


Sunday, January 3, 2021

Revisiting patterns

I really like the dress I am wearing on the cover of my latest book. It is so comfortable and the cotton blend ponte is so wearable. I also made my mom a top from this fabric because I like it so much. I got both the fabric for the dress and for the cardigan from my local Fabricville.

There is a story behind this dress.

I used Jalie's Nicole I had made this dress when it first came out and reviewed it here.

Despite really loving the fabric and the style of the pattern I haven't really worn that dress much at all. It sticks to my rear end and stomach too much.

However like I said I really like the style so I decided to take a different tack and try it again. This time I selected not the size my measurements would give me, but the size that the actual garment measurements would give me to what I know to be comfortable around the middle of my body.

This meant going up two full sizes from the armholes down - essentially changing this pattern from close to the body ease to an additional 1.5" of ease.

Here is the result:


So so much better and now one of my favourite patterns. (You can see I did this in the fall - in major catch up blog post mode here).

I think this is a strategy I am going to work on with other patterns. Because Jalie comes in so many sizes and those sizes go up in fine increments it is possible to tweek the ease a bit without a lot of distortion of the pattern lines.

I think I am going to try the same approach with the Lisette skirt pattern, which has beautiful lines but on me made me look like an egg cup. You will notice that when I did that review I focused on the construction techniques and not my body fit.

Once I had this success I decided to go back and look at other patterns.

One of these was the Charlotte cardigan. I had some nice red sweater knit but wanted something really practical and warm. As a result I just lengthened this pattern to something more jacket like to wear with the dress.


The sweater knit was fairly soft though so I didn't make buttons and buttonholes. Instead I used those big snaps that I consider one of the best inventions of this century:



I think there is a theme here. 

One of my take aways from this strange time of the pandemic is about doing more with whatever you have on hand. My house, I have rediscovered, has deep sewing supply resources that I have had no choice but to mine this year.

I used to think, with irony, that I collected patterns, notions and fabric like squirrel. Like I was waiting for the big storm and I couldn't get out.  

Well what do you know. 

That storm came and I was ready.


Saturday, January 2, 2021

How to sew on a button

Now I know no one who reads this blog needs to know how to sew on a button.

That said I am well aware that there are lots of folks who never had to develop skills like this.

For those missing button people I decided to do a video. My husband, who is playing around with iMovie decided to "produce" it. We both had fun.



Thursday, December 31, 2020

2021

 2020 has been a great year for understanding what really matters.

It has also been an important year for truly understanding the things in life you can do without.

When you think about it those are two pretty important realities. Can't think of many of us who would not be better off having faced these things.

The list of things that, as they say, don't really serve who I am now, is long. 

The list of things that matter to me is very specific:

  • my family
  • my animals
  • my sewing
  • my part of the world
  • my friends
  • folks I run into and chat with - I am a social person, casual contact is important to me
  • learning new things

That's it.

We have all been waiting for a new year, or more specifically to declare this one over. 

For the first time I am seriously thinking of what I can do to make sure I keep 2021 focused on the list above - there have been enough detours and distractions in life.

There will be more on my ordinary life in later posts I am sure but this morning I am thinking of my sewing.

2020 was a sewing intensive year for me. 

I really got into sewing wardrobes for other people, my daughter and mom for example. I will continue to do that and am adding in a few folks, my niece is pregnant now and I want to make her some maternity clothes.

Some of my 2020 sewing was of the sample variety. In this last year I also wrote another book. 

I see it is on Amazon already for pre-order (I don't completely understand why) although it won't be released and available until August 2021. Publishing is a complicated and slow process.




Writing this book, essentially a collection of my handy hints, during a pandemic was an entirely weird experience. 

I made most of the samples in lockdown, in a period when the fabric stores were closed and mail order very, very slow. I had originally planned to hit Stonemountain in Berkeley and the garment district in NYC during our last winter's trip to get great fabric. Instead last winter we high tailed it out of Texas and came straight home when Trudeau called us all back to the mothership. I had to drive by the garment district and cancel a trip to Berkeley to see the kids. That was hard.

Once home I started to work on the sewing side of the book. The publisher had  come up with the interesting, and good idea, of colour coding the samples for each chapter. So in addition to scrambling to find suitable fabrics in my house, I also had to make do with what I could in terms of the right colour. 

I am very happy with the ideas in this book but regret that, due to the circumstances, in a few places I had to make do with less than ideal fabric. Poly cotton just doesn't press as well as all cotton for example, but what was a girl to do? In my case carry on.

I was very lucky however that despite the pandemic I had huge support from my people.

The studios at the publisher's in California were closed and the departments who had worked on my first book sent home. As a result to meet our deadline my husband stepped in and did the process shots. A friend on my daughter's street did the model shots and family and friends were my models. Another friend lent me her store for the cover shot (thank you Chris at Patch) and my 6 year-old grandson suggested I put a semi-permanent in my hair (something I regret seeing the cover now) so I did have a stylist.

In the end I hope that something in this book will be useful to someone. That is really is all I care about.

So after a 2020 that was all about sewing focused on other people, family members and the sewing community, I am going to give myself more time to sew just for myself in the new year.

Specifically I am going to do more challenging projects and get into the process more. It has been a while since I have been able to do that. My wardrobe has also reached a place where I don't exactly need a lot so I can afford to experiment.

There is no plan right now other than giving myself the luxury to sew in a more adventurous way, and that's pretty much my only resolution.  I am going to think of 2021 as our collective recovery and applying lessons learned year.

Now over to you.

What are your own thoughts for 2021?