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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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Monday, January 27, 2020

The changing world of patterns

I am starting this post with a picture from from Vogue's new spring collection.

Now where do we start with this one? 

Anyone have an iron? 

Look at those hems. Look at that unpressed tie. Look at where the shoulders fit, or rather don't, on this poor girl who has every right to be as fed up as she looks.

I mean who in their right mind would wear this get up but more to the point, this was something that was sewn! What would you think if you had made this and this was what you saw in the bathroom mirror when you went to try it on?

It's time we all faced the new reality. 

The pattern companies, the Big Four are just not what they once were. A lot of things aren't anymore of course. I am OK with that, and with change. You can't expect some for profit company, or in this case companies, to just continue to knock themselves out because we find it so reassuring to have access to the resources we are used to.

This month the Big Four, yes that's right all the large pattern companies, were bought by one British outfit that sells wrapping paper and greeting cards. Clearly the pattern companies are loosely related in a retail, they might be sold in similar stores sort of way, but the pattern companies are just another commodity, a line in this context.

Under this new system don't be expecting any revisions of those nutty pattern instructions that tell us still to staystitch knit necklines and sew all T shirt seams twice on a straight stitch. 

Don't be expecting and revisions to the sizing charts that still think some women have 32" hips or that a woman's waist is always 10" smaller than her bust. 

And don't be expecting all four pattern companies (and we should probably also include New Look, Kwik Sew and probably printed Burda into the mix as they would be included in the sale) to be maintained as separate identities, approaches to clothes or levels of complexity. 

And don't be expecting someone with taste to come into work at the pattern department any time soon either.

The way I see it if they have unplugged the irons at Vogue all bets are off. 

Now don't get me wrong. 

Some of my favourite TNTs came from the Big Four. Just not lately. I used to be beside myself with excitement when I got an email that a new season's patterns were out (but the way Butterick hasn't released a new collection since the fall) but now when I get around to having a look, all I can think of is who would wear that?

It's not really that they dropped the ball.

The times just caught up with companies that produced masses of paper patterns and shipped them out to stores who would pull them from the catalogues four times at least a year and dump those "discards" in the garbage, or ship them back to the company. 

It takes a lot of women sewing, and a lot of sewing/fabric brick and mortar stores, and a lot of not having any other options to sustain a system like that.

And that environment just doesn't exist anymore.

I have had some early indicators on this whole situation.

 F+W Media, who owned Burdastyle, Interweave Press, Sew News and a bunch of other well known enterprises, went into bankruptcy this year. I was actually, without knowing it, one of their creditors. I got a letter in the mail every month all last year or so saying that I was on the list to get paid but don't hold my breath. 

I had recorded a series of Burdastyle webinars a couple of years ago and I was supposed to be paid something every time someone took the course. That hadn't happened in so long I sort of forgot about it.

Burdastyle was recently picked up by a holding company of some kind. I noticed as a result that they were remaking the website in a more commercial way - with prominent add to cart icons for example.

I also noticed that for many of the patterns, information that was really useful to me, and was always on the old site, like technical line drawings, yardage requirements etc. was missing.

Now you know with any pattern, but particularly with those weirdly posed Burda fashion shots, if you can't see the line drawing you really don't know anything you need to know about that pattern.

So I wrote them to say, more or less, what's up with that?

This morning, to their credit, I got a nice email back saying they have recently changed hands and it will take a while to get things up and running again, and offering me 10% off a pattern.

I am wondering now if that too is going to be another company that won't be giving me the patterns I want to sew.

Now this is not all a complaint. 

Pattern companies are not sewing. Needs change and really was throwing out all those paper patterns a good idea?

A person has to keep up.

I have a funny story to tell on this. 

When I was in Berkeley my DIL, who I really love, was getting ready in the morning and we realized we were out of coffee. I went into my Nova Scotia MIL routine and said immediately write me a list, I will go to the store for you, and bring back whatever you need. 

"No it's OK," she said." I have an app."

And she did too, ordered all the groceries with one hand on her phone. Done in 10 minutes. Everything was at the door by lunch, meat in ice packs even which we left outside with the boxes for them to pick up and recycle, being in Berkeley of course. 

Now this got me to thinking, once I had absorbed there was a mother-in-law app, how marvellous this was. I thought of my 92 year old mother in Winnipeg, of my own mother-in-law who needs to wait for someone to take her shopping, of the tired babies I see at the grocery stores at 9:00 on weeknight.

Keeping up is a good thing.

Which made me think that all changes are like coins, you turn them over and there is the opposite on the other side. My DIL is a very child centred person. Her app gives her more family time.

And the fading away of the pattern companies of my sewing life has been balanced by the direct and personal contact with Indie pattern designers. Ironically the end of something big has made room for something, many things, smaller.

And some of those Indies are really great - far more responsive, and dependent on good reviews actually, than the Big Four. Yes we have all sewn some real Indie duds but I notice those operators tend not to be around any more and there are many that are just so good.

 Stylearc, Jalie, Lovenotions, Megan Neilsen (mostly), Liesl and Company, the list keeps growing. Copy shop printing has liberated many of us from pdf taping and it's nice to work with good paper too.

So now, over to you.

What are your feelings about the changes in the pattern industry?

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Flypaper thoughts back in the state park editon

  • Back at the campsite in the Florida state park after a great week in Berkeley
  • It's taken me a couple of visits to get into the Berkeley groove
  • But I think I am there now
  • It is a place for gardeners
  • And folks writing novels that don't require completion
  • For shrub pruners
  • And ferment makers
  • For doctorates and migrants
  • For non-conformity as ordinary
  • The only thing I did not see there
  • Was a human in a suit
  • Anyone power walking
  • Or a briefcase
  • I did see
  • A store that sold only typewriters
  • Like the Royal down the basement at home
  • Gluten free bread made with ethically sourced oat milk
  • Worried four-year-olds asking if the weiners were vegan
  • "Read the labels sweetie, remember Mommy said read the labels"
  • I saw a blinding white painted high school in the sun
  • And teenagers indifferent to walking home in paradise
  • Not knowing they had been brought up on dessert
  • As if they didn't know that not everywhere has Crème Brulee for breakfast
  • So much natural beauty in California it knocks me out
  • It's like a drink where all the sugar has settled to the bottom
  • And someone lives there
  • I saw End Homelessness spray painted on the dome of a synagogue
  • And everyone smiled at me
  • No need to hustle when there is room to be anyone you are
  • I saw elderly women in the fabric store in knitted berets and wearable art skirts
  • Holding forth with authority among bolts of linen
  • Artists improve with age
  • Don't they know that everywhere?
  • I saw older women lead not follow behind
  • I drank cappuccino and opened my laptop
  • Like everyone else
  • Working on that novel I guess
  • I dropped sustainable crumbs on my keys while I search fabric sites
  • Sort of my novel
  • But more than that
  • I spent wonderful hours with a wonderful child
  • Hours looking at the birdies
  • And examining the rocks
  • At 66 I met my 1 year-old soul mate
  • Who would have thought?
  • Who would have thought?
  • I hope you all know that at any time
  • Life can mail you a great gift
  • The trick is to never not believe it won't happen
  • Yes I know all those days you trudge to the mail box
  • Thinking nothing there is what it is now
  • But the intermission is just that
  • The best can always come
  • The trick is understanding that life is generous
  • With a timetable still at the printers
  • But that doesn't mean 
  • You can't wait for the birdies
  • They always come

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Flypaper thoughts Berkeley edition

  • Landed in Florida and now doing a week in Berkeley helping out with my granddaughter
  • My DIL is at a reunion
  • Berkeley is the easiest place in the world to dress in
  • Walked the baby in the stroller with what I had warm in my suitcase
  • A beret and raincoat
  • Cropped pants and Fair Isle socks
  • Clunky shoes
  • I asked the kid how I looked and she laughed
  • However I felt the height of fashion
  • Purple linen pants are the little black dress here
  • Older women are unapologetic in Berkeley
  • Unlike the lady my age on the plane who couldn't close her mouth
  • The skin had been pulled too tight
  • Women should be unapologetic everywhere
  • Mother is a verb not a noun
  • Love being able to help out
  • We are down the street from the Berkeley Academy of Bull fighting
  • Which if you have trouble finding it is across the street from the Socratic elementary school
  • Half a block from the Herbal Apothecary and soap making classes place
  • Which is next door
  • Dropped by a fermentation bar yesterday
  • We were running low on Kombucha
  • Picked up some fermented lime pickle
  • So excited about that
  • Time to get fermenting in the RV
  • One more week in Florida then off to Texas via New Orleans
  • But first I have some fabric shopping to do here
  • In Florida we get to see my dad's best friend
  • A man who laughs so hard when we tell dad stories that he can hardly talk
  • They used to live across the street from us
  • The kids waved to each other in the morning
  • Picture window to picture window
  • Now that whole family comes down for March break
  • Next year for sure
  • The Texas situation is TBD on my son's work anyway
  • Do you know that my dad's first name was Norval
  • You can't make this up
  • He wished we could
  • His dad had a drugstore and he named my dad after the president of the company that was his best seller
  • Yup. Modest sanitary napkins
  • My grandfather called my dad Skip 
  • No wonder
  • And no surprise that my father was known best for his sense of humour
  • What was the choice I ask you?
  • Off to settle someone for their nap

Friday, January 10, 2020

Flypaper thoughts South Carolina edition

·      One week into our annual trip south
·      Have used up my data looking at patterns on the road
·      Or searching for style ideas for my new style
·      I am always looking for my new style
·      Currently I am working on one called
·      Whatever is still clean
·      My husband gets texts from my son
·      They share podcasts on the intelligence of mushrooms
·      Do you know that a mushroom fed oatmeal designed the  Tokyo subway system?
·      Don't feel bad a lot of people don't
·      I can send you the link
·      How could I have not have heard of this before?
·      Discovered the state park we are in in South Carolina has a snowbird monthly rate
·      For December, January, and February
·      Explains the Canadians
·      Folks in shorts and T shirts
·      Identifiable next to the locals in wool hats and gloves
·      Woman a few sites over is delighted to find out that the person in her next site
·      Lives on the same street as her cousin's uncle's sister
·      Back home in Moncton
·      I am in constant contact with my own network
·      I get texts of pictures of the snow storms
·      News my niece and her sweetheart
·      Who is also my son-in-law's nephew
·      Are moving into my basement
·      You would think I was from Moncton
·      My husband is in his element
·      He runs this rv like it is his own submarine
·      When I step in here it is more like enlisting
·      Things are stowed, not put away
·      I am seeing a lot of walking around with power tools
·      And a happy guy
·      Man loves his activities
·      Bought himself a vintage sewing machine yesterday in a thrift shop
·      It was $8.00 because it was broken
·      He actually took it apart and fixed it right there in the store
·      Attracting attention of a few older men
·      I went to look at glassware
·      I hear there is such a thing as food grade anti-freeze
·      Don't panic
·      But I am not kidding
·      He brings me dinner on a tray when I am writing
·      Every rv has a dog
·      Some have three
·      I lie happily in my bed here in my sub under the stars
·      And feel I am sleeping in a colony of dogs
·      Accompanied by their drivers
·      I shower in the bath house
·      With the other Canadians
·      Thrilled we don't walk there in snow
·      The sound of the shower in the rv worries Daisy
·      Sometimes it takes 15 minutes for the water to get hot
·      But I have the time
·      And when I walk back in the dark I look at the stars
·      And hear the dogs snoring

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Flypaper thoughts somewhere in Nova Scotia sometime before Christmas version

  • I have down tools on the sewing
  • There are folks who will be coming expecting to eat
  • My husband will take over Christmas cooking on the day
  • In his male mind the only time to think about Christmas is for about 5 hours every year
  • Now my own idea of Christmas is the equivalent of launching the invasion of Normandy
  • Needless to say I do gifts
  • His contribution is to say lots of time and they don't expect anything
  • I am dealing with a crazy person
  • Obviously
  • I am not expecting Pinterest but focused eyes would be helpful
  • Any guess what I got for my last birthday?
  • A bidet attachment for the toilet
  • If I had sat in a room for a hundred million years
  • This is not something I would have thought of
  • "It was your birthday and I was in Canadian Tire"
  • "And I thought, can't be hard to plumb that in"
  • Bingo problem solved
  • But he makes a hell of a turkey
  • Christmas is huge for me
  • Yes I realize that many people don't like it
  • But my Auntie Bonnie who was a glamour girl 
  • In the dances at the beach during the war
  • Who used to wear knee high nylons with her summer dresses in her old age
  • Still believed in gloves
  • And whose favourite saying was
  • "In life you have to have your jazz band dancing"
  • She was onto on of the great truths of life
  • Nice afternoon yesterday
  • Visited my friend who is now in a memory unit in long term care
  • Early onset
  • My own feeling is that he had so much life he kind of used his quota up early
  • Lately he has said the dog's name 
  • So I went with his wife, my old old friend, to do dog duty
  • Folks who no longer were sure who they or the family are
  • Still look at a dog and smile
  • Soul to soul
  • Can't take time too seriously
  • Just some things are out of synch
  • But never underestimate the ability of the universe to send you something to your heart
  • Tomorrow our baby girl from California arrives
  • She looks so much like her dad, my son, that it is eerie 
  • Of course she is herself
  • Sometimes like all mothers
  • I think can I have them back just for one day
  • And then suddenly here comes this one just like her dad
  • And I have that day back
  • Who would have thought?
  • So to me that's what Christmas is
  • You never know
  • You just never know

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Social media and we have to talk

First my complete apologies to those I may of offended in my last post where I wrote who smocks anymore? 

I was commenting on the state of the world not on why would anyone smock. Of course not. I have beautiful dresses made by a friend's mother that are as perfect today as they were 38 years ago. 

What I meant was who irons any more? I do and more people should. I travel in the rv with a good iron and full side ironing board. 

Who takes their hat off in a restaurant any more? You see where I am going with this.

No offence intended and you smockers keep at it. We are counting on you.

Now we are on the subject of offences you might of noticed that my blog posts have tapered off a bit. There are several reasons for this:

1. Most of what I have made, and I have been sewing continuously, in the last few months has been for other people. 

2019 was a year that I had a lot of folks on my mind. My daughter, who is now doing really well, got her MS diagnosis. My mother had a fall. I had a granddaughter on the other side of the continent, and two boys and a daughter-in-law I am close to, in the US. I have sisters and I have friends. I think about them.

So 2019 was a year when I came to terms with the fact that sometimes you can't change the circumstance of someone else's life.

But you know you can always sew for them. 

So that's what I did. I used my sewing as my main tool of communication - as a connection between me and people I cared about but were not often near enough for direct contact, or dealing with things I couldn't resolve for them.  My sewing was my I love you and I support you messages.

This has been hugely helpful to me in making some life adjustments in a positive way. It allowed me to speak about my own life in my own language. My mother tongue.

Now this might have been healthy for me but it has been unhealthy for traditional type sewing blogging. I can't show surprises/gifts and these guys often don't get around to sending me pictures of the garment on them to post. I sew for busy people.

Right now, before Christmas, I have sewn my fingers to the bone but can't show you any of it, except maybe the picture above. This is not good for blogging.

2. I have started to send out what is now a monthly sewing newsletter. I had this idea in my head that it would be useful to fill in some of the blanks for new and returning sewists - to sort of tell them some of the important things pattern instructions leave out. To sign up just send me your email. This little project has diverted some of my sewing instructor energy I admit, but has been very gratifying. I got a lovely email today for instance from a young woman in Norway who is teaching herself to sew on her own and has found the newsletters helpful. That means a lot to me. I will say however that working on the newsletter has taken me away a bit from writing some part of that information here.

3. I have become increasingly interested in writing. I have just finished editing a novel for a local author. I have several of my own projects percolating. I want to do more writing out of my sewing life but also letting it reach into other areas. I really enjoy writing the flypaper thoughts a lot. I want to do more of that.

4. Social media is developing and its role in my life is changing. When I started writing this blog a decade ago sewing blogs of the I made this and these are my comments were a new thing. For a really long time I was one of those bloggers. To be honest it wasn't my best thing and it gets hard to keep up. Now I simply am not in a place where I can sew a garment or more a week and blog about it. Right now that would feel like a job and I don't need another job. The life roster is pretty full. I love to post a garment when I make one that can be an interesting topic of discussion, but I don't want to feel I have to keep up a schedule. I really feel other bloggers right now are doing a better job of that than I can.

Which brings me to my idea, the where we go from here.

How about this?

1. I write all my tech stuff in the newsletter and any other sewing publications I get organized.

2. I post the majority of my garment pics/makes on Instagram @bemodi. Just so much easier for me to do that on the fly than try to organize my husband to take a picture and then argue about why I am always shot leaning or with my head cut off. 

3. I use this space more and more to write flypaper thought themed stuff. A lot on sewing sure but more on life in general. The thing is the older I get the less serious I feel and the more random thoughts I have. Who is interested? Maybe someone out there might be. Maybe not. But maybe typing out my random thoughts and tying them to a virtual pigeon and tossing it out the digital window would help me get some of what's in, well out.

I think this is the point where it's over to you folks.

Does this make sense?

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Flypaper thoughts illustrated from the production room

  • Fairly certain that sewing to-do list for this season would be enough to get me committed
  • Diagnosis totally out of touch with time and space
  • Sometime tomorrow some folks are likely to be bumped from the handmade to Amazon delivered
  • About to go into Titanic mode
  • Women and children are saved first
  • Or in this case sewn for first
  • My oldest granddaughter has been invited to a family New Year's Eve party
  • This is huge Babsie she said
  • We are staying up to midnight
  • Grown ups and kids will be there
  • Pause
  • Really fancy and I mean fancy
  • There will be snacks
  • So I made her a dress that in her ten year old mind will be glamorous
  • Jalie's Bella, super easy

  • As sparkly as I could make it
  • As to there rest of them the production line has been conveying belt along

  • You my people will know exactly what this is
  • And what it represents
  • In the middle of all of this my husband has decided to learn to sew
  • Randomly he bought a Touch and Sew in a cabinet and is in love with it
  • Some men buy red sports cars at this stage
  • Or dye their hair and decide they haven't lost their touch
  • Which is true only in their own minds
  • And I guess other men are happy with a Touch and Sew
  • He is pinning his patterns down with safety pins
  • Which I haven't seen before
  • A lot of things I haven't seen before
  • You just never know do you
  • Not to be dropped from my list is a request for a red velvet jacket with a white fur Peter Pan collar
  • Every eight year old should have one
  • Someone's mom has been watching White Christmas with the kids again
  • How can I not make that too?
  • For what a small sliver of life does someone want a white fur Peter Pan collar?
  • Can't let that slip by
  • In one month we will be on the road in the RV for three months
  • If you live in the Southern US and SW I will wave
  • We will trade one cocoon with dog to a smaller cocoon
  • Still with dog
  • I have to pack for that at some point
  • Between the shortbread making and the Amazon waiting
  • What are the chances that someone would be happy with half a sock?