Sewing with less stress Front

Sewing with less stress Front
My newest sewing book

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Sewing with less stress back cover
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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, August 15, 2008

Wild Ginger part one

A while ago I made a blouse, a fitted classic simple blouse and although I did all the necessary alterations I still ended up with something too loose at the neck and too tight across the bust, etc. of course this was at the muslin stage, but something in me just said Barbara who has time to make muslins, you hardly have time to sew as much as you want and the next thing you know I downloaded version 3 of PMB by Wild Ginger.

So far I am very pleased with my skirt and the sheath dress (pictures of that will follow this weekend). The sleeves have needed tweaking and the pants were not too bad first couple of times out, but with everyone of my "improvements" they are getting worse. I have found Karen at WG very helpful but even she said that my last pants photos had the crotch length looking like it was 3-4" too long... I think my next step will be version 4 and some serious pants fitting. The interesting thing of course is that I can actually buy pants that fit, providing I try on 48 pairs. Serious pant fitting is in my future. 

I considered posting my last pants versions here, but my youngest and very wise son Ben said to me that as a general rule I would be best not to post anything on this blog that I wouldn't want to see up at a bus shelter. How is that for a sobering thought? 

My current issue with the pants is actually that the back is not so bad but the pants (in all my versions) have this handful of fabric at the front just above crotch level. Not so good. I suspect the issue is, as my sewing machine repair man used to say, that "the problem is in the chair" meaning me. I will sort that out on another day.

So back to the skirt. This one fits really well and is a true classic. What I like is the option to "taper" the bottom slightly, which makes me look thinner at least in my own mind than I am. I have also customed the back vent. I hate sewing vents. They are fussy and they tear if you are a little hard on your clothes as I am. My solution is to lay the vent extension on the fold, press it into a box pleat and stitch across the top. Photos to follow tomorrow. I also sew a thin, non interfaced waistband, only about 5/8" wide finished (wide waist narrow band is my rule, and I suppose narrow waist, wide band makes sense too) a flat button, and an elastic loop at the top of the zipper.

So skirtwise WG has worked for me, but my real favourite is the sheath.

Tomorrow. Rascal needs his walk and my DH is hoping I put the clean sheets on the bed. We tend to wait that one out when we are both tired to see who gives in first ...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Liberty of London

The end of next week I will be in London for five days. The nice thing about Halifax is that London is just right across the water which is convenient if you have a kid there, and I do. My flight to London is only costing me what it would to go and visit my mom and sisters in Winnipeg, although once you get there Winnipeg is a whole lot cheaper, but then again it's not exactly London.

And my son Nat isn't there is he? Nat is working in the financial industry and at 24 working very hard, I have to go over and make sure he isn't working too hard, and to see where he lives, shops (he's a big foodie and goes to all the markets) so I can picture his day to day life when he emails or calls me. Obviously I miss this kid, the middle one of my three, like crazy but this is an adventure if you are 24 and I have to keep up right?

I have my first day while he is working to do my own thing and of course that is going to be fabric related. I have my notebook and camera ready for clothing ideas (Halifax isn't exactly the leading edge and neither am I) and know for sure that I will be heading off to the Victoria and Albert to look at the fashion collection, going to fabric shops on Berwick Street (thank you Stitchers' Guild for archive posts on where to shop in London) and of course will be going to Liberty's of London. Liberty's has changed a lot in the 30 years since I was last there, as a pilgrim to Mecca on a post university trip with a sewing friend, and Nat didn't even know they sold fabric, they have become such a trendy accessory place.

Liberty's is having a retrospective show that I am really looking forward to and of course there is the question of buying fabric...

I have been on the website and looked at the prints, the wonderful classic prints, and considered my options

Predictably the fabric is not cheap, about $40.00 Canadian a meter, and tends to the floral which is not really me as a 5 foot 9 inch non-dainty type. If I bought it I know I would love to sew it, I made a dress years ago for an accountant friend of mine and the Liberty cotton was a dream to sew, I just loved the way it felt in my hands, but would I wear it? Should I get some on principle because if I don't I will regret it? I can see maybe a nightgown for summer in one of the lawns, but a floral blouse, I don't know.

Of course once I touch the stuff I will be struck by fabric fever, but I am trying to use my head these days too, involved as I am in the great closet clean along. I am one of those people who makes beautiful things in beautiful fabrics and then wears the old comfortable stuff instead. Drawing the line between nice to sew and compatible with my need to be at ease in what I wear is a problem.

Of course I need to go notions shopping, as in buttons and trim, in London too. Anyone have any idea of where to go?

I was in Tel Aviv in February on a work related trip (don't ask what I was doing there I wasn't really the most qualified person to go, my boss was being nice to me and thought I would find it interesting which I did of course) and bought mega fabric at the market. About 40 pounds worth, involving me running sweating in the wrong shoes to the tour bus before they left without me, and of course being hit with over weight at the baggage counter on the way home - not exactly the bargain fabric I thought I was buying. This episode made me realize that buttons are a great sewing memento from a trip.

Anyway back to the issue of the day. If you were me would you spring for Liberty fabric? And where in London do I go for buttons and trim?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

It's been worth the wait

Continuing on my theme of great tops buried inside separate patterns I have to tell you about my all time favourite top pattern.

I threw it out years ago.

Every once in a while I go through the urge to change my life and do a symbolic purge. Say I make a pair of pants and they are a disaster. The process is then for me to make a policy decision not to make any more pants for myself and to direct my precious sewing time into things that I know will turn out. This I decide is the right decision for the rest of my life. To implement this new life decision I then do a ritual throwing out of all components of whatever sad process I have decided to leave behind.

These decisions have meant that I have abandoned a whole slew of patterns, a huge industrial roll of Banroll and even a carved set of wooden handles for a knitting bag (the last one was after a sweater didn't fit). It is sort of the equivalent of throwing out an ex's stuff to get them out of your head, but more regrettable.

Anyway at one point I decided to wear dresses only to work (one thing to sew, iron, wash etc. rather than three, you get my drift) and in the process through out a really great top pattern that happened to be part of a suit.

Of course I regretted this right away as I always do because my sewing mind is completely unstable and have been trying to wish that pattern back for about twelve years.

Well guess what? I found that exact pattern this month on

I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw my missing pattern there. I was stunned. Of course I ordered it and it came. 

There appear to be second chances in life.

What I love about this blouse is its simplicity. Dolman sleeves, princess seams and a nice front inset wrap, with enough shape to be worn over skirt/pants without looking sloppy. And of course the not unwrapping part I like. This would be a great fittable pattern for someone who, unlike myself, might need a full bust alternation.

Pull-on, no closure, no sleeves and not even any interfacing. Also a top I always got complimented on when I wore it in the one version I had the sense to make.

I have two pieces of random silk cut out now and will get those made up and posted as soon as my work and general to-do list gives me time. Or even if it doesn't.

There is no way that the pattern photo of this great top pattern even hinted at its potential and in the last ten years or so since I threw out the original there has not been another pattern even close to this one in the books.

I know because I have been looking.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Finding a good top pattern

If you have Swapped or even if you haven't, you know that sewing tops is an excellent way to extend your wardrobe. The issue is of course finding top patterns that are a) versatile enough to be worn on their own and with other garments b) are easy enough to sew that they can achieve favourite -TNT status. Something that you can whip up when a new top would be a definite pick-me-up as they say, but you really don't have the time or the heart to fit and perfect a new and complicated pattern.

Not so easy to find such patterns.

My revelation was the discovery that some of the best patterns in the books are not in the Blouses-Tops section but hidden away as the third or fourth minor garment in the Separates section. I have found some really great top patterns while looking for something else. The secret I figure is that these top patterns were actually designed to go with other garments, so guess what they do.

This one is one of my favourites, an OPP Anne Klein knit wrap top. Four pattern pieces and really basic construction, but for me the best part is that the wrap is high enough not to unwrap. Nothing ruins the look I have discovered like a strategically place safety pin dimple. I love this pattern, but should point out that the secret to the unwrappiness is that it has two complete fronts, one layered over the other, so if you are making it in a wool jersey like the one shown here, you'd be best to save it for colder weather, which here in Nova Scotia is not a problem for about eight months of the year ..