Sewing with less stress Front

Sewing with less stress Front
My newest sewing book

Sewing with less stress back cover

Sewing with less stress back cover
What my new book is about

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About me

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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, November 19, 2008

So where did summer go?

The fact that this post is called that should tell you all you need to know about my current level of organization.

Suddenly I looked out the window at Nova Scotia today and guess what? It was snowing. Big, wet flakes of the stuff we had everywhere around here this time last year. Great weather for tea drinking, internet surfing, and sewing - inside. The kind of weather that makes you want to call work and say "I will see you in four months". The kind of weather that no one but the dog wants to go out into, and which leads to long discussions about whose turn it is to walk the dog.

Last time I looked it was August.

So what happened?

Well we had a wedding at the end of September, and for those of us who teach, an October spent catching up for the fact that our minds were not on job-related planning all September, and then pants fitting, and now it's mid November. Practically Christmas and another one that I will not do all the wonderful things I resolved last December 26th to get done this year. Make a beautiful, meaningful gift a month all year for example.

And I feel like sewing. However I have things to do in the next month, and major sewing projects will not be one of them. So here's what's up:

1. Three pull on elastic waist skirts for my mother from black, grey and purple rayon/poly crepe. When I visited her in Winnipeg last spring I made my mom three simple skirts like this from cotton. Like most other 80 year olds she is finding it impossible to buy clothes that are comfortable and not made of 100% polyester. In a sewer's world there is nothing easier to make that a two-piece elastic waist skirt and I felt terrible when I realized how thrilled she was with them. Worse still when she called me (we talk every day so I heard this a lot) that all her friends and the ladies in church wanted to know where she got those great skirts. So those are my mom's present this year.
2. Alterations. I know this is the dreaded sewer's "A" word and most of us would rather make a fully lined winter coat than say sew on a button or, worst of all,replace the zipper in jeans but, facing the fact that the next few weeks are just going to be too busy to start anything major, I realize that there are so many items in my closet that really could be moved from gathering-dust-on-the-hanger to wearable status if I just got moving and used my skills to update/alter/refurbish. I am thinking of great blouses that I should add darts or tucks to, to give them shape, skirt waists that need taking in, long sleeves that should be 3/4-ed. 

I think I will start the list. And the best thing about all of this, is once it is done I won't have to do it again. The holiday dishes will be done and I can get back to real sewing.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

What I really learned about fitting pants

I have often noticed that what I learn about sewing also turns out to be something I learn about life. So this afternoon as I ponder why it took me so long to make pants that fit I realize that there was a distinct turning point.

This occurred when I let go of previous assumptions about my "fitting problems" and stopped trying to apply what I thought the solutions should be - specifically the moment when I realized that my grandmother had steered me wrong when she implanted in my head the idea that because I was tall I had a long crotch length and therefore had to begin from the starting point that I had to add length to every part of every pattern.

I am thinking now that we do the same things in many areas of our lives when we continue to proceed with trying to fix, or feel bad about, fitting problems in our lives.

Next month is my Dad's birthday; he died now over 14 years ago. He was a terrific guy, funny, smart, and most of all compassionate and generous. He was raised to inherit a family business. Then when I was in grade two he quit, went back to school and became a high school teacher, where he excelled and had an enormous affect on many lives. Basically he walked away to be with his family, something he never would have had if he had lived his own father's life with 18 hours a day away at the business. My dad was an amazing father and set us up in life as people who enjoyed other people and were always able to deal with challenges with humour. 

Thing is I know that my dad sometimes felt like a failure. He made the right choices in his life but did so against a background of peers who went on to be CEOs and professionals and parents who valued material success. No matter what he did achieve I know that in the back of his mind there was some sense that he had not measured up. I wish that in his lifetime he would have understood how many people thought he was the bravest and most successful person they knew.

Those things, often unfortunately, get said at funerals when it is too late.

In my own life I have had to deal with getting out from under my own set of expectations. 

I married young and at 45 became a single mother with three children. My husband then for lack of another way to say it, had a wandering eye. There was no way I could have understood this when I married him, and I realize now not anything I could have done about it. The impact of this was of course that my wonderful, happy children had to go through a divorce and it pains me every day in some way that there was nothing I knew how to do to give them the complete family they deserved.

Now my life has turned out. I have since married a wonderful man and the kids are amazing, good people. But coming to terms with the feeling that I let them down has been difficult, and of course I know they have had their own pain to work through.

But in making these pants, all these pants, it occurred to me that holding on to the idea that perfect children had to have a perfect life has been holding me back, just like my dad's view of success from his old neighbourhood, and just like the wrong idea of my non-negotiable ways to alter my patterns was.

Sometimes you have to let go of the things you know to be true to make something turn out.

And they say sewing is just a hobby.