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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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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!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Back on track, the Yari jumpsuit

Now folks I realize my blogging has had its ebbs and flows this last six or months or so. If you have been reading you know that we have had our adjustments to make this year. Lately my focus has been even more so on family. That slowed down my posting. I have been sorry about that. I feel I have a relationship with my readers and I think about you a lot.

Things are settling down. 

My daughter's MS diagnosis has been finally definitely confirmed and all that stuff they say about the new normal is in fact true. She is strong and smart and her medical care is excellent. We are going to be fine.

During this period in my life I have sewn a lot for everyone else. It has been a way of keeping myself on an even keel and of, without words, a way to say to people I loved them.

So this has meant that my writing as had its busy times and its quieter times while I have sewn instead. And because many of the things I was making were "surprises" I didn't show them or talk about them here.

I have decided however that sharing things on the blog with other sewing people is different than sharing the real thing in person. As a result I am going back to show and tell as I make things, while the process is clearer in my mind.

So here we go.

My daughter-in-law's birthday is in June, but I will be seeing her in Nashville next week. So I asked Maddie what she would like to me to make her for her birthday. She sent back a picture of a jumpsuit she had just bought and a note that as a mother of an infant, she really liked the pockets. Here is my version:

My daughter also is interested in jumpsuits (never thought I would see those again in my lifetime) so I had a pretty good idea what was out there. In this case the pattern I found that looked most like the picture Maddie sent me was the Yari jumpsuit by True Bias.

Here is the pattern picture:

Maddie's choice was not belted so I didn't do that but otherwise made the pattern as per instructions. 

I used a linen with some rayon added that I washed and dried on a low heat because I knew this garment would be going into a household where that made the most sense.

This was an interesting pattern. 

It has a lot of long pattern pieces, front, side front, back side and back, seamed. This meant a lot of long but easy seams and a lot of top-stitching but I kind of enjoyed that. The big and useful pockets were easy to do of course because the sides were contained in those seams. They are nice and large.

The only issue I had was with the bottom of the front placket.

 Always these days now my daughter is sewing too, very competently as she does every thing, I eye instructions wondering if a newer sewist would find it hard to do. 

The bottom of this placket, depending as it does on some pretty precise clipping, really is a potential Danger Zone. I managed, but even while doing exactly as instructed and it turned out as it was supposed to, the many layers of fabric in that small area make a bit of a lump that shows up under the soft linen more than I would like. I pressed as much as I could, to the point that more pressing might make it worse, but mentally figured out a better way to do it.

I think your eagle eyes will be able to pick out what I mean in this shot - no mistake here but the layers do distort. (I am thinking as I write this that this is exactly what every sewing person does - only see what they are not happy with first in any garment).

I am pretty interested in plackets at the moment. I have been reading a lot of old sewing books and am amazed at how many really nifty ways of sewing plackets, in the days before zippers were always the default, there are and how many of them are so easy to do - much easier than the technique used in this pattern.

I think I would have used a placket that was more of a patch than and clip, twist, and turn for this linen and probably will next version I make. (I know I need to do some blog posts on some of the cool techniques I have unearthed!)

All that said I am really happy with how this looks. Who would have thought a jumpsuit would look elegant?

Well maybe not on me but on Maddie this will look elegant.

My daughter has added two more jumpsuits to my queue so there will be more of these coming up.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Review of Tessuti's Tokyo Jacket

Good morning folks.

I have been sewing my brains off recently but haven't been able to share it. Mostly this is because I have been working on seven of the new Jalie patterns and I can't share those until the patterns are released.  That should happen very shortly so get ready for that.

I also sneaked in some sewing for myself of a pattern, and a pattern line, I have wanted to try for myself. Melbourne's Tessuti patterns, and the Tokyo jacket in particular.

I usually find that I need to make one pattern in a new line to see if it is my kind of sewing - it's almost like seeing if you speak the same language, or if their idea of how clothes relate to body shape fit yours.

I have hesitated a bit because on first glance Tessuti uses a lot of loose shapes and those, I regret to say because they are such easy sews, often just swamp my tall and narrow (belly excepted) body. For exact this reason I have bought fewer Stylearc's recently as their boxy silhouettes lately are just too big in the shoulders for me, even with careful sizing. Their pants are still great, but the upper body garments right now not so much.

So all of this is a lead into why I have been stalking and wondering about Tessutis so long.

That said I recently bought some double gauze fabric, a fabulous red at Stonemountain and daughter in Berkeley, and some white at my local Fabricville, and decided I wanted to make jackets out of it.

I wear a lot of jackets and cardigans. 

When I am home in Nova Scotia that's because I am home in Nova Scotia and the words North Atlantic pretty much explains why. When I am off visiting my boys in Texas and California I need jackets of a different type and weight, for some sun protection and for light cover up but not warmth.

I need both gale force wind and light hint of a breeze jackets.

It's this last type of jacket, for summer here and for my upcoming babysitting week of the marvellous Miss Anika in Nashville (the kids are doing a Memorial Day weekend with friends not too far away and Miss Anika and I are going to be staying in an Airbnb), is the one I decided to make out of the double gauze. (Gee I write long, is this OK with you?)

Enter the Tokyo jacket.

I have made a few kimono type jackets in the past, love Jalie's kimono pattern for that, but let's face it those are pretty wide sleeves and not entirely practical for all situations. The Tokyo jacket has cut-on sleeves and looked somewhat neater than the traditional kimono so I figured why not?

A note first on the fabric.

Double gauze for garments is a kind of fabric that if you had looked at it two years ago you would have said "Really?" but this year seems sensible. It is exactly the same fabric that is in the receiving blankets my daughter-in-law Maddie used to most expertly swaddle baby Anika, like a carefully wound pea in a pod. It also resembles the bird's eye cotton I used for diapers for the boys because anything that was not very breathable gave them terrible diaper rash.

So basically we are talking about wearing diaper fabric jackets.

I anticipated that this would mean somewhat wavy hems and no crisp edges but I figured that would be OK, but I also figured that the pre-crinkle would mean that these jackets would be very packable and crushable which suits my life.

I made my size according to my measurements and although this meant a wide body but the sleeves were quite narrow, about right, so I would use this size again.

I really, really enjoyed this pattern.

I always look for evidence of a designer's mind and experience in patterns and was quite pleased with what I saw here.

The method for the pockets, although complicated in the read through - I was quite convinced that the wrong sides were being sewn together until I saw it turn out - is brilliant. Patch pockets with semi-closed openings and zero top-stitching which was a definite plus given my fabric texture and mobility.

Smart thinking went into these pockets.

I was also interested in the instructions to use tear-away stabilizer around the neck and front openings as a stabilizer during construction. Stabilizing edges is a theme in my first couple of newsletters (they are free and you can sign up through the contact form above) and often not included in instructions these days. I did sew these two jackets at a sewing retreat however and didn't have the full force of my resources with me, so I used interfacing, that I carefully removed in the white jacket, and stay- stitching on the red jacket as substitutes. I think I would just stay stitch next time.

So here are the pictures. Because I am tall I lengthened the red jacket by 2" and the pockets by 1" to maintain proportions in the red jacket:

In the white jacket, because I figured I might throw it on over a bathing suit while I chase kids this summer (my one rule as a grandmother is to return the same number of children to their parents as have been delivered to me) I lengthened this one by 4" and the pockets by 2":

I had fun making this pattern and now want to see how it would look in a more structured fabric. I am definitely going to be exploring more Tessuti patterns.Definitely.

In the meantime I now have two jackets that I know I will be wearing all summer done - both sewn at a leisurely speed in one day.

Hard to beat that.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Flypaper thoughts post Seaside Sewing edition

  • I am home after six days of sewing away at a retreat
  • 10-12 hours at the navy yacht club
  • Home to sleep and get more thread then back
  • Will post the clothes as I get pictures done
  • I married my husband
  • Because when I tell him I ran out of the bright pink pills that I am supposed to take every other day
  • Two weeks before the boring ones yellow I take on alternate days
  • Because I always reach for the nicer colour first
  • He says well that makes sense
  • And means it
  • Even though he is a person who uses the scales
  • To make sure the quarter pound hamburgers are in fact a quarter pound
  • All that sewing makes me want to do more
  • Like an performer who hears applause
  • Feels like more
  • What can I do next?
  • Every once in a while a child will have a period when you are particularly important to them
  • Right now a middle grand daughter wants to dress like me
  • We are just alike, we are practically the same person she says
  • Cancelling the decades
  • These quick moments in time require
  • Cozy cardigans for two
  • An election here this fall
  • The secret to good politics
  • One politician told me
  • Is always just to ask people about themselves
  • We all remember with affection 
  • Anyone who lets us talk about ourselves
  • Good advice to those who are 15 
  • Or find cocktail parties make them feel that way
  • I am considering a tattoo 
  • Of grandchildren's names
  • First I have to find someone who does cursive
  • Might take a while
  • I am pretty sure I spent the first four years of my education
  • Learning cursive or having it corrected
  • Elbow on your desk
  • And I went to school in modern times
  • Define modern
  • Listen I was there when cartridge pens replaced fountain
  • Now that was ink
  • A tattoo nearly ended the marriage of a woman I know
  • For her anniversary she had her husband's name put on her ankle
  • Thing is it took him three months to notice
  • That would do it
  • You know in that four years I could have learned something else
  • But I was in a system that had me learn Latin instead of typing
  • Now that came in handy
  • Or it would have if I had ever gone to Britiannia
  • Conjugate that
  • At least we had Home Ec.
  • Which I believe I failed
  • Got dragged down by cooking
  • Maureen Campbell and I dropped our batter on the floor
  • And tried to tell the teacher those were raisins not ants
  • You get the drift
  • Fast track to an F I can tell you
  • Our self esteem was no one's priority
  • Although it seems we had lots
  • Maureen and I made all our own clothes starting in grade 7
  • We kind of freelanced and sewed everything with the same colour thread
  • An allowance went only so far
  • Fabric we got by the pound at a place called the Farmer's Supply store
  • I am not making this up
  • Been there lived that
  • Maybe this explains why I turned out not to dress like a French woman
  • Maybe it explains a lot

Monday, April 29, 2019

My busy week flypaper thoughts

  • Packing now for a six day sewathon with my local guild
  • When I emerge I should have all my new season's Jalies done
  • And maybe the birthday present for my son-in-law's birthday made
  • It was his birthday yesterday
  • Remind me too to get cracking on those napkins for Christmas
  • You know Christmas 1992
  • Fired off the first of my weekly newsletters last night
  • It's intended for just learning to sewers
  • Send me a message if you want one
  • This side project is dedicated to my daughter
  • And a young girl I met in Kansas
  • She couldn't afford my sessions so waited outside in the hall to ask me questions
  • I talked to her at my breaks and instead of lunch
  • I tried to share what patterns don't
  • Just a little hint can make a difference between thinking it's you and knowing it's them
  • I am looking forward to uninterrupted sewing this week
  • Life has interruptions
  • Daisy is so happy to be home
  • And walk her route
  • I hear the golf course will open soon
  • Also hear that there are new sand trap rules
  • That mean everyone doesn't have to wait all day while I take 25 tries to get it out of there
  • My policy right now is to golf with only my husband who would golf with the dog if she would go
  • And folks who have an excellent sense of humor
  • And think conversation on the course is OK
  • This narrows it down quite rapidly in the golfing world
  • I am considering returning a bit to wovens
  • I have been making things in linen and cotton for family
  • And damn it's nice to press
  • The smell of steam is one of life's most satisfying pressures
  • Thank goodness I have given up eating the Easter eggs
  • Mainly because I can't find any more
  • My husband is planning his vegetable garden
  • Another hint I have returned to Nova Scotia
  • Can't plant until after the first full moon in June
  • He says that means no risk of frost
  • It takes skill to make a 10 day growing season work
  • I want him to plant celery again
  • The fresh stuff has real taste
  • Not like those pale rolls of woody newsprint you get at the store
  • I also want more rhubarb
  • Next to pickled herring rhubarb is my favourite food
  • This says something but not sure what
  • I am distracted now by wondering if I have enough navy thread for the retreat
  • For the first time in my life I am doing a capsule
  • Around one base colour
  • Better check
  • Will post pictures during the week
  • Now where's the thread?