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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Thursday, January 1, 2009


Random thought.

I have been sewing since I was 8 and made Barbie her first nightgown. I am 55 now. You know a lot changes in life. You live in different cities, people move in and out of your life, kids grow up, jobs change and one day you even stop going to work (not there yet). But my whole life I have sewn. I put the fabric out on the table and unwrap the pattern pieces, get up and go to the iron to press, just like I always have done, for my whole life.

Everything may change but when I do this I haven't. Sewing erases time for me and puts me in touch with all the happy times of my past, makes them present, I am in the moment and it is the same moment and I am the same person I always was.

Sewing gives me security in my life.

The first day of the rest of my year

Resolutions for myself.

The first one is to sew more and make more Ottobre or stylish-but-not-stressful wearable clothes.
The challenge of course is to find the time.

I have a lot going on. I love my job and am going to be teaching full time for about 2 more years, and after that about 2/3 time until I am 60. There are always lectures to prepare, classes to teach, reading and marking. The house always has signs all over it that say "clean this up", Rascal likes to walk and I have a standing policy that if anyone in my family, husband, kids in town, kid away, sisters, mom wants to talk, I sit and talk. And of course I need to get more exercise stay in contact with friends etc.

I have also made the resolution to sleep more. Don't laugh, even though I am right now.

There are some cardiac issues in my family that eventually seem to catch up with us and this fall I had all that tested out. I have noted that when I am rested and relaxed my b/p drops a lot (someone give this woman a research grant) and just before Christmas noticed this in the news too. So I have decided to make sure I go to bed early and to try to give up the waking up in the middle of the night and spending 2-3 hours working on Life's issues.

I am even going to try to learn to nap. Something I have never been able to do (the mind like a squirrel cage thing). My daughter works shifts as a nurse and is a world class napper. In fact she and my two boys too never really dropped their naps from when they were babies. My husband has perfected the dozing off thing (usually active when I am summarizing the things I thought about in my Life's issues middle-of-the night sessions) which he calls "listening but just resting my eyes." I need to learn how to do this too.

So when and how am I going to get in the sewing time I need?

Several things. First I am going to get my dedicated sewing area back soon. I gave this up when my youngest son moved back home and combined being a rep for a surf/clothing company with going to school. Half my basement is now a storeroom, complete with racks. It made Christmas shopping easy (wholesale and no shipping) but bumped my sewing back to the set it up and take it down on the dining room table thing. I got so much more done when I could cruise by and do a little stitching while I yelled "I am just putting something in the dryer, be up in a minute" up the stairs.

My DH has built a garage over the holidays (that project slowed down today by the blizzard) and when he moves all his projects out there I get the lovely two window very large room he built under our extension. I should be able to set up a permanent cutting table, pressing area, and all my machines and fabric in there. This will be a big help.

Secondly I am defining Fridays as my sewing day. 3 out of 4 Fridays a month I have this day off and if I run the whole week around trying to keep this day clear I should be able to make some real progress. If I had this day in the office I would and could do it, so I have to do the same for my sewing days.

Now off to start some New Year's cooking. Of course there is no one home but Rascal and DH and I. The boys got snowed in out last night. The youngest had to sleep at the bar downtown where he worked when they got socked in by the blizzard, the other guy just stayed over at a house party. My daughter's dinner guests mostly stayed over at her house too.

We may have a full house or nobody for dinner tonight. The streets have to be cleared first and the blowing snow has to stop.

I will get some things done just in case and get some other things organized.

Because tomorrow is Friday.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Many resolutions this year but one of them is to just make time to sew more. In evidence of that I just finished this Ottobre top, design number 12, under the wire as my husband waits for me to start making our curry for New Year's.

It was my first Ottobre pattern and I must say I really enjoyed it. I have been troubled for some time about my failure this past year to actually sew anything from my Burda World of Fashion magazines. I used to sew from these magazines almost exclusively for years and loved the style. I used to look at my BWF and feel I wanted to make, and wear, just about everything in the magazine.

But somewhere along the line that changed.

Or maybe I did. And maybe that is something I should be concerned about. 

It seemed to me for a long time that Burda clothes were highly fashionable but very wearable. These were days too when I was a young mother and only worked part-time. But now it seems to me that the clothes now look less and less comfortable. The words "plunging neckline" appear a lot, the shoes all have 5 inch heels, and everything just looks so tight. And there are 42 pattern pieces to many things.

Don't get me wrong. It is probably not them, it's me. I still love many of the coat patterns but my sewing time is tighter than my clothes need to be, and I wonder sometimes how long some of the styles will be around. I worked with a fabulously dressed Russian woman at my last job and she sewed all her clothes from Burda mag.They were great, but I couldn't help thinking that many of them would go old fast, so I started to look more critically at what I would actually sew from the magazines that I would still think would be cool in 4 months.

While I was spending way to much time on worrying about this, when I should have been thinking about the economy for instance, or world events, I ordered some Ottobre magazines on a whim. Ottobre is famous for its Finnish kids patterns but twice a year they also put out a woman's issue. One thing I noticed when I looked at the pictures in Ottobre was that the models all had funky, comfortable Scandinavian shoes, like the ones I actually wear, and that nearly everything there (maternity clothes excepted, although if I don't cut back on the festive chocolate soon I may fit into them) was something I would put on and wear to work in my real life.

The rayon jersey (thank you Fabric Mart)  T shirt here is my first attempt and I found the instructions clear and interesting. Thanks too to Debbie Cook for her excellent instructions on how to end a coverhem that solved that mystery and problem for me.

The way it looks to me tonight Ottobre may give me one route to add a little Euro style to my wardrobe that actually fits into my prosaic East coast Canadian lifestyle.


Oh, resolution #1 : Sew more Ottobre designs.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2008



I am not a great knitter but I do enjoy it.

Unlike sewing which is a pretty obvious activity to people, you can maintain some level of creative output during social times, my entire family are mega conversationalists, myself at the front of the line, without appearing too distracted if you knit while you talk.

I started this holiday season struggling in quiet desperation with Lopi yarn. Lopi is made in Iceland from I assume Icelandic sheep and logic would
suggest that anything knit from Lopi yarn would be warm, which in Nova Scotia in winter is generally a good thing. The trouble with Lopi yarn however is that it is about as bouncy and flexible as steel wool (poor cold, tough sheep) so having invested in a fair bunch of this stuff I have knit and unknitted 3 whole sweaters of the same yarn this year, all because each product was rejected by the recipient as being too stiff, tight and uncomfortable. ( I sew for myself, knit for other people). These were 3 sweaters that I completely unraveled and started again, mainly because I am as stubborn and as stiff about somethings, like wasting money, as an Icelandic sheep.

Finally I found these great free designs from Norway and a simple pattern for a garter stitch dog walking jacket for my daughter. Finally I was able to make something that had some stretch to it with this yarn and she loved the sweater, as rough and rustic as it is. And most importantly that Lopi is now of my house.

With a few remaining balls of Lopi I also made some felted mitts, that in Lopi are Arctic duty warm and completely wind and water proof.

I actually enjoy making felted mitts, because the felting, which I do by hand, sometimes even in my nightly bath, is fun and all your knitting mistakes disappear. For those of you who haven't done it yet, felted mitts are knit large and then scrubbed in hot water until they matt and shrink. The blue pair here (knit in a lighter worsted weight here and not so steel like) is a before and after.

I should emphasize, in case anyone thinks I know what I am doing, that it is very, very important to establish that the yarn is all wool before you start this. I had a lovely mystery wool pair made for my son and I spent the 24th of December locked in the bathroom scrubbing away in boiling water to try and make those suckers shrink. To cut to the punch line 30% silk yarn will not shrink. At all. However my Dr. Seuss mitts were great for comic relief Christmas morning and my belief has always been that any cause that produces a laugh is not totally lost.

Since then I have been knitting a compensation pair from some real 100% wool, but do suspect that I will run out of this unique yarn 75% of the way through the second mitt.

As a knitter my success rate is fairly consistent.

Another reason to enforce some quality sewing time tomorrow.

Christmas sure cuts into my sewing time

But that is a good thing. We had our usual chaotic time with people coming and going all hours of the day and night, dogs, music, too much food, hours on the phone to family from away. When I recover I will tell you all about it.

But I am here to say that I haven't been able to get at the sewing machine in a few weeks now and it is more or less getting to me. I have tons still going on and classes to work on for next week but tomorrow I am sewing something.

Or else.