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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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Pants, it's time

A few days ago when I was engaged  in my trying-everything-I-own on mania I was struck, for the 500th time, by how great it would be to have a wonderful, reliable, well-fitting pants pattern.

Not that I haven't tried.

I have made many pants in my time, some were OK but none were great. In my sewing life my inability to perfect a pants pattern has been one of the great pieces of unfinished business in my life.

Time to finish those pieces of unfinished business.

So this is what I have decided to do, as of October 1st, post wedding:

To systematically work my way through different approaches to pant pattern fitting. One method at a time, using this blog as a way to record my honest progress or lack of progress. As an ordinary middle-aged woman with an ordinary middle-aged body and some sewing skills.

Right now the methods I will use will be:

1. Pivot and slide. This is interesting as it argues for patterns purchased two sizes smaller. I have the original Sew Fit Manual (the one with the very, very beautiful young Nancy Zeiman in it) to work from.
2. Copying an existing pair. I am going to use the duct tape method described in the last issue of Threads. I have a decent but worn pair of pants and lots of duct tape. Also this method is crazy enough that I figure it might work. We will see.
3. Joyce Murphy's approach, as described in the current and previous editions of Threads. There are an awful lot of steps to Joyce's method but her after pictures are impressive.
4. Wild Ginger. I have version 3 and will upgrade to version 4 for this project. I have made a number of pants with this software but they have all suffered from front crotch baggyness. Karen at WG has been very helpful and in our last email exchange said that it looked like my crotch was about 3-4 inches lower than it should be. Charming. Obviously lots of room (literally) for improvement there.

I figure it will take me until the beginning of October to get this all organized. In the meantime if anyone has another pants fitting method they would like to test I would love to hear from them. I am committed to doing this and finding out as much as I can about pant fitting.

And tracking down my own wonderful pants pattern. Any one else want to jump in?

Weddings and life

I can just tell, two weeks before the wedding, that this is all going to cut seriously into my sewing time. Not that I mind, I am very excited about acquiring the world's best son-in-law, about my daughter being so happy, and about the weekend long family reunion, now extended to another family that I really enjoy, that this event has been designed to be.

We are of course also having our challenges. The 50 potted plants that the bride decided to nurture all summer and put on the tables for centre pieces have done what plants sensibly decide to do this time of year in Nova Scotia, and shut down. They have all been moved in for restorative work but we might have to implement plan B as soon as we determine what plan B is.

And the hair stylist who was booked to come and stay and do hair has suddenly decided to "leave the industry." So two weeks before the wedding no hairdresser. I have spent the morning on the phone to rural hair salons trying to line up a replacement. When they stopped laughing and being sympathetic they told me everyone was booked.

I was able, finally, to find a fellow though who is free, will do a trial run next weekend, and will travel to the lodge on the day to do the hair.

Mom saves the day again.

Of course I haven't told her yet that his regular job is on a military base ...

Now when the going gets tough, the tough start sewing in their minds. Which is what I have been doing.

I have decided to work on pant fitting until I get a decent pattern. I will be framing up the details of that project while I bake today.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Good for your heart in the morning

My son in London sent us this clip this morning. Did my own heart good and worth sharing I thought. You may have already seen it, if not here we go to a Link

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sleeve plackets

The latest issue of Threads has a wonderful article on tailored sleeve plackets. Pretty important I thought because the old seamstress's continuous placket is a bit of a problem and something I would put in the vast category of things that sewing guidesheets tell you to do that cannot possibly really work out.

I read a while ago that there is a big difference between how tailors sew and how home dressmakers sew. It turns out that the apprenticeship system taught male tailors certain techniques but that in the old day women were excluded and had to teach themselves, from patterns, from looking at clothes and trying to figure it all out, and from family members. So there are different ways of construction, the tailored way and the more home made home sewer way. Interesting. I know that there are ways I sew a hem for instance that are totally different from the way a male tailor would sew a hem. Blame it on the guilds.

Anyway the continuous placket is a problem. For a start it all occurs in a small space, a couple of inches near a wrist. People are sensitive about what is around their wrists (like their waists). How many of you remove a watch the minute you get in the house?


The continuous sleeve placket I figure not only is small and near your hands but has about 12 layers of fabric involved in it, counting both sides, which if you think about it is a very unmanageable amount of bulk in a small area.

No wonder they are clunky no matter how you press them.

So the Threads article about a flat tailored placket was good to see. It is a method I have used and like.

I also use a quick serged method, that is light, easy and takes about 5 minutes per placket. If you haven't done a placket this way yet you might find it interesting. It requires no marking, and substitutes a rolled hem edge for the actual placket part.

1. Make the cuff, complete. You can even make the button hole and sew on the button at this stage. Just stitch and turn each cuff and machine baste the raw edges at the top of the cuff together. Done.
2. Slash the sleeve up along the cutting line for the placket. No other marking necessary.
3. Pull the slash straight and with the rolled hem of your serger finish the slashed edge. Done.
4. Fold the sleeve, wrong sides together, matching the rolled edges of the slash and sew a tiny dart, a couple of inches long from a point about 1/2" below the top of the rolled hem/slash and fading the point into the body of the sleeve. (see illustration).
5. Baste the finished cuff, right sides together to the bottom of the sleeve. Wrap the 1/4" or so of the finished placket edge around the cuff.
6. Serge cuff to sleeve.
7. Turn and press.

Not the classic way to do this, but neat, bulk free and durable.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The gods must be crazy, at least ask the dogs

I came home from school today all fired up about my own what-not-wear. So I started pulling one outfit after another out of the closet and started trying everything on, and then running through the house from one full length mirror to the other to try and find one that made me look good. 

It was quite a scene and went on for a good hour and a half. Rascal and my daughter's dog who we babysit when she works days figured I had lost it. This made no sense to them at all, being classic dressers themselves. Finally they went down the hall and laid close to each other for protection.

This is what I learned in my wardrobe mania:

1. I tend to sew more rather than appreciate and use what I have sewn.
2. A lot of things I am not crazy about look just terrific when I pair them with other, different, units. My silk wrap tops, that were too patterned for me are great with drapey pants and under jackets, instead of the straight skirts I thought I was going to wear them with.
3. I have about ten more viable outfits in my wardrobe than I thought I had, simply because I have not put the time or effort into working what I have.
4. I forget what I have. I discovered tops and scarves, crammed there at the back that were orphans in the past but now have friends in later additions.
5. Slow down Barbara and make the most of what you have before you stress yourself out reaching for more.

Another of life's lessons delivered to me through sewing channels.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Comfort sewing

Despite all the high level sewing that has been going on in my head, my actual products in the last day or so have been fairly simple.

Our wedding is creeping up on us (I have mentioned my daughter's wedding haven't I?) and one of the things she wants is welcome baskets in each cabin with baking and other necessities in it.

A few months ago we bought a number of apple baskets and she chose several green prints (her favourite colour) and asked me to make her some little cloth things to line each basket. Basically a pillow case with a different print on each side. I have 27 of them done and am now sitting with Rascal at the end of the day hand stitching the small openings closed. I have forgotten how satisfying good simple sewing is. The kind that engages your hands but not necessarily your mind. There is something to be said for non performance sewing, very soothing.

I think in the next few weeks, when laying out elaborate projects and focused sewing will not be feasible, I will collect all my hand sewing alteration type stuff and have those ready to go in the odd moments I can retreat and collect my thoughts, and when I need it, my composure once the extended family arrives in full force.