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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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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Vintage summer dress

I fly off to London tomorrow and got up early to think about packing and to finish some marking so I can get my class marks for summer term in before I go. 
Am I doing any of that? No. Instead I have been thinking about my latest project and how satisfying it is to sew something easy and fun. Back to an earlier post I have been feeling pretty warm this summer, and there have been a lot of hot days too. Not that we ever complain about that in Nova Scotia. In searching for something quick and cool to wear I came across this 60s Vogue pattern for what we used to call a tent dress. Very full four gores, gathered into a band that ties at the back. I think I made something very similar if not identical for my daughter when she was a baby in fact. I also had some crazy glazed cotton with 50s sort of print from Fabricmart in navy, white and pink and it seemed to me to be suitably retro. The dress also has large lined patch pockets and an optional tie self fabric tie belt that adds some shape if you want it.

The pattern instructions were very interesting. Being an old Vogue it even suggested every piece be interlined, which is a stage I skipped since this was supposed to keep me cool. I did slip stitch the pockets on though as suggested and I am glad I did. They seem to flow lighter into the garment - I think topstitching would have stiffened it a bit and since the pockets were self-lined it seemed a respectful thing to do.I wore this out to dinner on Sunday to our favourite Lebanese restaurant and I felt comfortable and stylish.

I am wondering why I enjoy these patterns so much. One thing is of course they do have style. I figure if a pattern is 40 years old and still looks cool then it is not going to go out of fashion on me any time soon. Secondly I just love the guidesheets, I learn something new every time I sew one of these patterns, something new or I remember a technique  I had forgotten. Finally I like to connect with the time these clothes evoke. To me this dress reminds me of my mother and her neighbours, making the coffee rounds in the backyards when we were kids. Agendas were lighter then and it's not bad to remember that was just O.K.

Now back to my to-do list. I am really looking forward to this trip because it is to visit a beloved son, but I have a few stresses over traveling. Which is funny because I have done so much business travel in my life. Two things are hard for me, one is packing. I seem to be unable to ever pack the right clothes, always the wrong temperature, I always end up wearing the same one thing and hauling the rest around. The other thing is that I have no sense of direction. None, absolutely none. I practically get lost in my own house. I have to get myself from Gatwick to the hotel in Kensington (he has a flat mate so mom is in the hotel) to a meeting in Soho, to fabric stores, the V and A and back to the hotel by dinner. Nat is leaving London A to Z, tube passes and a cell (mobile) to reach him, as he'll be at work on Friday at the hotel for me to pick up so I should be OK, although I am the stuff of legends when it comes to getting lost. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The pleat detail imported

Having learned something very useful from my vintage skirt pattern I have thought a lot more about bulk in all my sewing. My Wild Ginger sheath dress, mentioned a couple of posts back, my really best TNT pattern has been on test case. One thing I have done is overlap the shoulder seams on the facing of this dress (yes it has a shoulder dart but a small one and I just pinch that out) and cut the facing all in one. It is amazing how much reducing this bulk in the facing construction makes the shoulders smoother and flatter.

Secondly I now lay my back dress pleat on the fold just like the vintage skirt pattern. The pattern piece looks weird I know, this means the whole dress back is cut in one piece, but when you fold it in half hopefully it makes sense, and this really does make for a fast and discrete back pleat. It makes me wonder now how many other seams I sew could be better served by folds.

I love vintage patterns

I love old patterns, not just for the style but also for the sewing lessons I learn from them. I realize now that the last generation of sewers sewed a lot but this meant that as regular sewers they were just as interested in fast and efficient ways of sewing as I am. These patterns are just so clever and ingenious.

A case in point is this skirt pattern. I am always on the lookout for straight skirt patterns that have some pleat detail so I can have the slimming lines, but still be able to move. If it isn't comfortable it just stays in my closet, and also I hate sewing vents, I know I have said that before, but I really hate sewing vents.

Of course pleats in themselves can be some extra work, so imagine how happy I was to see that this pattern didn't actually have any pleat pattern pieces it was just laid on the fold at center front.

The pleat was made simply by stitching up about half way along the centre front line as you can see from the instruction sheet. Of course the really great thing about this way of doing a pleat is that there are fewer seam allowances, less bulk and therefore the pleat hangs so much easier.  A trick to keep the pleat in shape is to hem the skirt, press the pleat, in this case a box pleat, in shape and then on the inside edge stitch on the pleat fold lines just in the hem area, I have posted a picture that hopefully shows what that looks like.
Slick. I love this pattern and have imported this approach to all my pleats.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Bustling a wedding dress

This has been wedding dress weekend. I was intending to do some sewing for myself before I head off at the end of the week for my jaunt in London to see Nat, but one of my daughter's friends has had a dress emergency. She is getting married next weekend and her dress, ordered and paid for 5 months ago at this city's biggest bridal shop, just came in. Seems the partners have been having issues with accounts and the dresses were held back and only recently shipped. Apparently this shop also has a policy to tell brides to order larger because it is easier to take in then let out, so this girl, who is a 4 if she is anything, has come home with a size 10 dress from a store that told her "sorry we can't do any alterations, no time." 

Statements like this are prompts for my daughter to say "don't worry my mom can do it." Of course I love this bride, she actually lived with me for a while. In second year of university when Katrina decided to move downtown to live with friends for a while, this girl, present bride, just moved in to her room to live with me. Typical- kid moves out, friend moves in.

So back to the dress. I took in the back seam, added a few small darts at the top right under the arm (it's a one shoulder dress and the left shoulder is fine, but the right and strapless side sort of drooped) and then had to add something so she could bustle the back for the dance.

I have limited, as in none, bustle experience but thank goodness for the internet and the ideas it shares. There are two ways to bustle, up and under, which means hooks on the inside - the easy way - and the up and over which means visually acceptable fasteners on the outside of the dress - of course the way the girls wanted me to do this.

I am posting pictures of my solution. They are:

1. I opened the center back seam along the train at the point where I needed a hook to pick up the skirt and fasten it to the back bodice, about an inch. I back stitched either side of this opening so it was secure and wouldn't tear.
2. I made a silk loop and covered a button. Due to the magic of fabric stashing I had a perfect match in a box in the basement.
3. I sewed the loop on the inside to each seam allowance on either side of the opening in the seam.
4. I stitched the covered button at the bottom of the bodice on the center back seam.

When worn you can't see the opening or the loop. When it is time to bustle the train one of the attendants has to reach into the opening in the seam, pull out the loop and attach it to the button. The train is really quite light, so I am not sure if I will need to add further loops in other seams or not. The girls are coming for a fitting this afternoon and I will find out then.

Go Mom go

When Rascal and I went out for our walk yesterday morning we saw small groups of women heading up our hill on a breast cancer walk. I didn't know we were on the local hospital's route so I wasn't expecting this. I noticed too that many of our neighbours had pink ribbons on trees or on their front windows. I wondered at the stories behind those windows.

I was quite affected by this sight. These were ordinary women on a very ordinary street, but so many of them. This is a disease that has not touched my family, even though we are a lot of women, but I can't help thinking how important it is to have this support. If you are sitting in a hospital gown in some hall waiting for treatment, does the thought of so many women behind you caring what happens to you and trying to help, make you feel better? I hope so.

I had a friend, the manager of my local fabric store, who passed away from breast cancer a few years ago. She should have gone to the doctor sooner but that's not the issue. Or maybe it is, maybe if there is more awareness women will take more immediate care of themselves or demand better care for themselves.

I remember her visitation. I walked into the room and they had set up her serger and sewing machine on a table, with the lights on. There were tables all around the room with so many of her projects laid out. All her co workers from the store had their name tags on. When I told my husband about it, he thought it was all pretty unusual but to me it made perfect sense. This was her life.

Thing is when I saw these women yesterday and all the families, husbands and kids standing around at the local school where there was a water station, it just made me proud of ordinary women.

Go mom go.