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, November 15, 2008

The pants all five of them

Well here, finally are my pictures of the P&S pants. A light and dark grey pair, a black and grey mini houndstooth, a navy and black pair, all from the same pattern.
 I realize now that I have been at this a while, a few months at least since I started this and 40 years (!) if you count back to my first pair of awful pants. I am pretty happy with these, not perfect, but if you scroll down to the versions that got me here, much improved. I also feel that I learned enough about my body and this method that I could apply this to other pants patterns. A more casual pair in twill with narrower legs, maybe bootcut would be another one I would like to try, and also something more trendy. Katherine has made some good pattern suggestions and I think I will follow up on that, next Vogue pattern sale.

So what have I learned:

1. Let go of your assumptions about your body. I realize that my grandmother who was also tall, 5' 9" was very tall in her day, told me when I was a teenager that I had "a long pelvis" like she did. So since then I have dutifully added and added to my crotch seams just like I added to my skirt lengths and bodices, being 5'9" myself. One thing I have found out by measuring myself and comparing those measurement to the pattern that in fact I don't have anything at all like a long crotch length, and am shorter in the front crotch than even the standard draft. Glad I cleared that up. Wonder how much money I have wasted on wadders over my lifetime of sewing. Sometimes you live by your own family myths.
2. And speaking of money rather than spending a fortune, as I have, in search of the elusive "good pattern" it makes sense to just deal with a basic pattern and compare your own measurements to the flat pattern and learn where the differences are. The Simplicity pattern I used for this experiment was nothing fancy or really stylish but it was an uncomplicated place to start applying this method.
3. One step at a time. Pants fitting I have decided is a lot like learning to how the tension on your serger works. I have seen sewers who had tension issues and just gave each tension dial a little twist to see if that helped. It doesn't. Much better to make a fine tune to each dial at a time, because one adjustment affects another.
3. There may in fact be something to this buying a pattern two sizes smaller thing. These were fairly wide legged pants to start with but I added, mainly to the hips and waist and only slightly to the upper thigh to a size 12 pattern. If you look at the pictures and imagine if I worked from a size 16, and working from the pattern envelope measurements I would probably have cut out a multi-sized pattern somewhere between the 16 and 18 imagine how these same pants would look. I am looking forward to trying this method again on some really different pants to see how it goes.
4. Sometimes it pays to just focus. I haven't let myself work on anything but pants for at least two months now and I really have learned at lot. My previous approach would have been to make one terrible wadder, give up, then buy another pattern eight months later and repeat that same process. It feels great to finally have something that fits, I almost feel as if I have the basis for jumping into a SWAP.
5. I am pretty impressed with the old Pivot and Slide. I should have read this book when I first bought it 20 years ago.

Now time to settle down and plan my Christmas sewing.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Oh dear

My great pant sewing experiment has run into a bit of a snag. The last of my P&S pants will be hemmed tonight, and if my husband and I can coordinate picture taking and daylight (which falls earlier every night now) we can get some good photos taken outside on the front steps. I have discovered that photos of dark pants taken inside just don't show up at all. So hopefully tomorrow.

I have made five pairs in the last week from this pattern and they are just fine, at least by my standards. I am more or less thrilled and feel pretty comfortable that I can make other pants fit fairly well with this method.

Now what do I do next? My original plan was to go on next to Wild Ginger and try that as a comparison but do I really want to make more pants I do not urgently need, now one month before Christmas? I did not plan in any way being satisfied with an early experiment.

I would probably go on to Wild Ginger after a bit of rest pants-wise for other styles, casual pants and something more fitted and conventional in a woven, like a twill and I would like to try Joyce Murphy's method because it has rave reviews. 

But to be honest right now I have a pattern that I am happy with already and may take a pause from pant production until I do that.

This is always the line I find hard to draw in sewing, the should-dos from the want-to-dos.

Which brings me to another one of my sewing dilemmas.

It's about the SWAP and group sewing and how fashionable am I comfortable being.

When you hit 55 it's time to get serious about maintaining your style. 

I have had a couple of weeks now of public places, meetings, doctor's offices, out in the stores and am quite distressed to see the number of women my age in jeans and sneakers in venues that I feel require lipstick. Sarah Palin even voted in jeans for goodness sakes, although I am sure that was deliberate and playing to the base.

There is no reason that comfortable has to equate with tired and bland, so I am going to try to keep an effort of some kind up. There are lots of stylish ways to be comfortable even at home, Loes Hinse patterns are as comfortable as sweats really as an example if you like her look, but I also have to negotiate the fact that I am more at home in classic clothes and simple shapes than anything too trendy.

So this is my compromise. I am going to work on the basic patterns that I can make over and over and to increase my style quotient I am going to try to make one item a month from Burda World of Fashion.

So back to the pant dilemma.

The thing I need to do now is compile my basic list and figure out what I need to develop. Feel free to contribute:

1. Pants - at least one version - Check
2. Straight skirt - a Wild Ginger version to revise - half Check
3. Twin set - need to develop
4. Basic blouse - see above
5. T shirt - I have a princess seamed Vogue with potential
6. Tank - can I devise from the above?
7. Comfortable dress that I can multi vary. What does this look like? I have a great fitting Wild Ginger straight sheath but I need something that is a little easier to wear to teach/walk to work.
8. A lounger. OK you know what I mean, not unwrappy like a housecoat, something that I can wear when I have family to talk to after my bath/book routine at night. Seriously schlepping. I am definitely getting old. Stop me before I hit the quilted brunch coat,
9. Lots of other things I will think of later.

Seems to me that while I focus on Christmas and other projects that I might do some work on a Wild Ginger blouse since the fit was so good in the dress, although I am likely to divert into pants too.

Lot on the go at the moment, renting out our house at the beach since we don't get down there much, and many calls from son-in-London who may have a new job in Washington D.C. Yeah! That's some place I can drive to when I miss him, not the same with the Atlantic ocean in between.

Now off to hem the last of those pants.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The best sewing book I have

Great day yesterday and in between many errands serge finished, partially seamed, and installed invisible zippers in four pairs of P&S pants. Should have no problem finishing them today and posting pictures.
One of the things I will be 
doing is adding the waistbands and closures. This has never been a detail I have been happy with. Hooks and eyes, either conventional or the traditional skirt hooks and eyes, are too bulky, and personally I find doing a nice buttonhole through all those layers (if you own a sewing machine that does great, consistent buttonholes please let me know) and in that small space very challenging.

So I was thrilled to discover a new method in my favourite sewing reference book Professional Sewing Made Easy by Helen Metrakos 

I love this book. I have never learned so much from any sewing book, most of the techniques are new to me. This is really interesting because I find that most sewing books I look a
t these days have information in them that I already know. Not, I should emphasize, because I am so skilled (this blog should make it clear that this is not the case) but because I have read so many books and articles over the years.

I met Helen a few years ago at the Creative Needlework show in Toronto. Helen is from Montreal and has that great polished chic that the rest of us can only aspire to. S
he was also very modest and down-to-earth and has a really great couture-industrial method approach to sewing that I find really fresh. 

That is all expressed in her book which describes fine-sewing methods that are also smart, sort of the way the best clothes are made by high end manufacturers rather than the hand sewing intensive methods that other writers like Claire Shaeffer espouse, and that I don't have the time to pursue.

Her method for closing a skirt, the one I now exclusively use for my waistbands, is one example. Here are pictures of how it is done, but please look at her book for more complete instructions:

1. Attach a waistband (I like mine narrow) to the top of the garment. I stayed the waist because there was some stretch in my fabric.

2. Press the seam allowance up into the waistband and both end seam allowances right into the waistband so the finished ends are flush with the zipper.

3. Make a loop of covered round elastic and machine stitch this to the inside of the waistband, so the loop is facing out.

4. Fold down and ditch stitch the waistband in place. Note that the ends of the waistband are not stitched closed.

5. From the right side top stitch the ends of the waistband, and attach the button.

I love this treatment. It is easy, flat and  with the little bit of stretch comfortable and durable. Thank you Helen.