Clothesmaking mavens

Clothesmaking mavens
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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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Sunday, February 28, 2021

A quick video on the blind hem foot

Yup still at it. The husband and I are sort of housebound this winter and doing these little videos is keeping us out of trouble.


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

A quick little video on the narrow hem foot

Thanks to those who sensibly asked me to use contrasting thread in these short videos.

Made a big difference. This is another one of my favourite feet.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Flypaper thoughts Mars edition

  •  First
  • An apology to all those astronauts who read this blog
  • But those who know me well 
  • Know that the one thing I have little time for is outer space
  • First
  • I hate heights
  • Second
  • And confined spaces
  • So the thought of being that many thousands and thousands of miles out there in the dark
  • In something without windows...
  • And besides the concept of fresh air is irrelevant
  • Is past my own personal edges of where common sense is effective
  • Also
  • Who in their right mind
  • Thinks that the world we are to take care of
  • Is in such a state that
  • Anyone can say
  • Done! Now let's go find somewhere else to fix up
  • Maybe the search for intelligent life would be worthwhile 
  • Here
  • On top of outerspace
  • I have run out of the good interfacing
  • Which is serious enough to have set me off about Mars
  • I am sure you are with me on this
  • Remember when fusible interfacing looked like a picnic table tablecloth?
  • That some one had dotted with Lepages white glue
  • And once fused these glue dots seeped through to make dark spots in the fabric
  • Which now also had the malleability of the paper plates you set out on that picnic table cloth?
  • Fortunately those days are gone, in most cases
  • But fusible interfacing survivors can still be found
  • Wandering around Joanns, Fabricville, and Spotlight
  • Numb with the PTSD of it all
  • However a good woven fusible 
  • And a good knit fusible (let's hear it for Sewer's Dream if you can order it)
  • Are a different story altogether 
  • And something you miss enough to get mad at the solar system
  • When you thought you had tons and you don't
  • I'm thinking these days
  • It's time to actively seek out the bright spots
  • Closer to home
  • For me it was the decision to make sure as many as I can
  • Get a chance to find out sewing is fun
  • So I had the kids and some friends over to sew yesterday
  • Lower the presser foot
  • Lower the presser foot they said to each other
  • I now no longer need to wonder where I am going to store that big bag of stuffing in my new sewing room
  • Everyone made pillows
  • Multiple pillows
  • Go forward and go backward at the beginning and end of the sewing part
  • Don't worry, said the 11 year-old
  • It gets easier with experience
  • Yes it does
  • Yes it does
  • And so grounding

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Another Covid moment

This afternoon one of my sisters, the only one who still lives in the same city as my mom, posted this picture to the family WhatsApp.

It's a picture of the bear my mom has on her bed. 

This bear has been tucked away forever but has made a reappearance during my mother's nearly year long isolation in her house.

Now my mom is about as sharp, tough, and resilient as they come. She says that if the pandemic doesn't end soon she doesn't know what she will get up to next. Still the sight of this little bear, now 93 and the one my mother had as a baby, has really touched me. Note the nose darned by my grandmother, who I never met, who died when my mother was a girl.

The thing about the bear is that my mom recently knit her a new sweater. She says she is going to work on a new skirt next so the bear "looks respectable." 

Now I don't know what is getting to me more. The knitting new clothes or the thought that this little bear has made a reappearance after all these years to be a comfort.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

A quick little video on my favourite foot

 I have been using my edge stitch foot a lot lately. As a result I decided to do a quick video for folks who might not yet realize the power of this little accessory. I figure new sewists in particular would really benefit from this foot in their sewing toolbox.

Monday, February 15, 2021

The stages of learning sewing translated

I had an extremely interesting hair cut yesterday. My stylist was pretty sharp. She did my hair on a Saturday because she has gone back to school during the week.

Because of her current learning we talked about the stages of taking on something new when you have been doing something else for a long time. This is a pretty interesting process to consider.

She talked to me about a classic model of learning, and in particular the first stage, unconscious incompetence.

I thought about our conversation all weekend. These ideas bumped up against other conversations I have been having on the issue of confidence among sewists. I have observed that older sewists are often tentative with their sewing. When I first mentioned this in my monthly newsletter I had many emails from readers who shared the ambitious projects they jumped into when they were younger, and how they now procrastinate with many purchases of patterns and fabric, nervous about actually executing any of these projects.

By contrast I equally see some social media sewists who are quick to jump into expert status with very little actual sewing experience, and in doing so sometimes do not give the best advice to new and returning sewists.

So if you are willing to indulge me I would like to interpret the chart below from a sewing perspective:

I think there is something to think about here and also, I hope some comfort for those on the getting to learn to sew better continuum.

Unconscious incompetence- This happens at the beginning of learning a new skill, I think a hands-on skill in particular. You know the feeling when you look at someone else's work or watch them sew and think "I could never do that." You can, at your worst moments, even think that you will never be good at this. I think this feeling is particularly prevalent about those of us who were raised in a family where aptitudes were considered something you were born with and pretty set for life. You know "she's the athletic one" or "I am no good at crafts/sewing". A lot of people get discouraged or give up or panic at this stage of learning. The learning curve once you begin to see what is involved in sewing, just seems too overwhelming.

Conscious incompetence: This is the stage when folks become students. They buy courses, books, read blogs, Google everything. Some people even stall at this stage and become more students of sewing than sewists. I think this is the stage where the paralysis of confidence can kick in. Sometimes this can be manifest in muslin fittings of many iterations - almost as if the sewist feels she needs to perfect before she sews. A pretty interesting stage. Practice is the key activity here and leads directly to the next stage.

Unconscious competence: As a sewing teacher I see this one a lot - sewists who are more able than they give themselves credit for. These are the people who make me want to chant like my grandchildren do when I am on the trampoline in the backyard "Do it, Do it, Just Do it." Practice at this stage I think is where practice is no longer as much about learning as it is transferring the skills to muscle memory - you begin to acquire a repertoire of things you can do in your sleep - if you give yourself credit for this or not.

Conscious competence: This stage is pretty obvious - you can do it and you rely on those skills. Only practice and pushing through the previous three stages gets you here.

However I personally think this is the most dangerous stage. This is when you think you know it all, or are so confident in your skills, that you can close the book on learning. This is me who jumps right into a new pattern and doesn't read the instructions because, well you know, I am so smart. But of course lots of the time I am not. How many mistakes have I made because I didn't read the instructions? I am not going to tell you.

It seems to me that deciding you don't need to learn anything new is even more tricky than not knowing what you don't know yet. In systems theory any system that is closed, doesn't allow in new information (which of course means you have to embark on travelling through the first three stages of learning again) is system doomed to atrophy. 

And who wants to let their sewing go there?

So what do you think? Does this make any sense to you? What of your own observations would you add?

Wednesday, February 10, 2021


This is just a short one. Appropriately.

I would like to report a miracle. Seems to me that is always worth doing.

As long time readers of my blog will know my old girl Daisy was a much abused puppy mill mom when we got her. 

She was full of tapeworms, had never had her feet outside a cage, never been fed from a bowl. For months she threw up every time we fed her. I remember the first time she stood on grass. Her eye sight is bad in one eye, maybe from a blow to her head the vet said.  She lost most of her teeth.

She is a wonderful little dog, though, absolutely the best. So loving so bonded to me. But she has her scars. She still starts at loud noises, and gets upset if a man raises his arms.

Daisy missed a lot in her life. 

She has never played with toys at all. Once my mom sent her some small stuffed animals. Daisy went frantic. She ran around possessed trying to hide them in the backyard. If she saw anyone looking to where she hid those stuffed animals she would move them to a new hiding spot. In Daisy's mind were these her long ago lost puppies?

Who will ever know.

Then, in her late middle age we got this cat. This crazy confident happy little cat. My son's dog ignores the cat, and Daisy has seemed bewildered by her. I have had my moments when I even wondered if adding a cat to this dog household was a mistake.

But the cat hasn't cared. For some reason she has decided she loves Daisy. She gets in the dog bed with her and purrs when Daisy walks by. She shimmies underneath Daisy's body and delicately grooms her legs.

And lately they have started to fool around, duck and dodge, nudge each other.  At first the cat was just being a nuisance but then Daisy started to respond. She has started to go looking for the cat for some gentle wrestling every now and then.

But tonight for the first time Daisy went and got a tiny ball and batted it to the cat. Who batted it back. For a good ten minutes they rolled that ball back and forth to each other.

Then I saw it. 

This crazy barn rescue little cat has given Daisy what no one else ever could.

The ability to play, to be the puppy she never was.

I don't know about you, but in these times, this small miracle meant a lot to me.