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Sewing with less stress Front
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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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Monday, January 19, 2009


Like most women my age I am going through the transition of having my children go out on their own, sometimes far away from me. For those of us, and that would be most of us, who have the fleeting feeling sometimes that the best time of our lives was when we and our children were living together in a sunny and safe cocoon of simple routines, when we wonder if that was our best zone, and maybe it's gone, I think it is important to remember all the families we are part of in our lives.

After all if I had stayed totally enclosed in the family I had my own happy childhood in, I would have missed the family I started myself. And if I try to hold on to a certain version of my children now, I will miss my place in their new lives and new families. Sometimes the best of us has to be cut up and sewn in usefully as pieces in something else, like a new quilt, or like the buttons we cut off good old coats and save until we can use them again.

If a sewer can't understand making new things, who can?

On applying elastic

I forgot. There was a new twist on applying elastic to the top of garments that I learned from my Ottobre instructions that is worth sharing.

First this is how I usually do it, and probably how you do too.

The circle of elastic is sewn into, well a circle, and pin and marked in quarters. The quarter points are also marked on the garment. The elastic is then stitched/zig zagged/serged to the top of the waistline, stretching to fit between the quarter points. It is then turned and flipped over and top stitched from the right side.

The issue with elastic always of course is that the more stitches you put into it the more it can lose its shape. I have inserted more than my share of bowed out waistbands.

What the Ottobre pants pattern instructions suggested instead was that the circle of elastic was pinned to the inside of the garment at the quarter points and that vertical basting length ditch stitching was added at each of these (which on the pants meant centre front, back and each side seams) and then the elastic was flipped to the inside and topstitched down at the casing line. I used my coverhem which I am trying to use as much as I can these days to increase my comfort level.

Note there was no first line of stitching to attach the elastic to the top of the waistline, only the final stitching of the casing. This eliminated one whole line of needle holes in the elastic and I found that the lines of basting were far more effective at holding the ring of elastic in place than pins, which can move into the diagonal and shift the elastic pretty easily.

Definitely this is the method I will use again, particularly with the coverhem- it was nice not to worry about pins.

Learn something new everyday. Particularly if you sew

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sew like a crazy person

No one is going to give anyone in this household a prize for photography, that's for sure.

But that's not the point.

Yesterday I decided to make a pair of fleecy pants that did not fit into my SWAP, were not on my sewing to do list, and took me away from priority jobs, like cleaning this house.

After a busy week and much human and dog traffic that included wet boots and paws, trekked-in salt and everyone passing through here on the way to other missions, and not doing much maintenance along the way, what I really needed to do was some deep cleaning.

But I didn't. Chilled in my bones all week (do you know the feeling? Your bones are cold and no amount of hot baths, sweaters and even hot flashes can warm them up) I wanted to sew cozy. Real bad.

So taking the advice of my long ago babysitter who advised "Don't worry dear the dust will wait for you, the little people won't." I sat down and sewed. I used a the yoga pants from Ottobre 2-2008 for the top of the pants and the Jazz pants for the longer legs and this is what I got.

Not what I was expecting because the last time I made anything like sweatpants it was when they were in style and these are almost more like leggings with looser bottoms. Really comfortable (because this is a family blog I am not posting the side and back view) and I will definitely wear them with longer tops and to walk Rascal.

The fabric was weird. Something that Fabricmart called a Sweater Knit but actually is more like an interlock on the right side and a micro fleece on the inside. I also cut out a jacket to to with it. Yikes. I am I starting to sew stretchy pants suits? Senior style here I come. Might get to that today, after I deal with the dust. Mrs. H. was right. It waited for me.

This is leading somewhere.

Last night I braved the cold and went out to a hall to a friend's surprise birthday party. He has had a difficult year with his dad dying, and his sweetheart decided a birthday party with the surprise sister flown in even, would do him good.

It did.

Great big huge party with a live Big Band dance band made up of a bunch of the kids who play and of course mittens.

You see that years ago my friend decided he was bothered by single mitts lost on city streets and on snow banks. He saw that so many of them were hand made and it made him feel bad to see someone's expression of caring for someone else left alone in the slush. 

So he started to bring them home and hang them on his clothesline. The deal was that if you came to his front door with the mate he would give you the partner back. Most winters he has hundreds and hundreds of mitts on his line. People write him sometimes with stories. "My favourite aunt knit me these grey mitts before she died and I think I lost one when I got off the bus and I would sure like to find it." And he sees what he can do.

This friend of mine has had a pretty interesting career in public life and politics but actually the mitts have sort of defined him, that and he is a wicked ballroom dancer. 

So we were asked to each bring a single mitt to the party and when I walked in the hall was hung with clothes lines and thousands, and I do mean, thousands of mitts of all kinds on them.

The next election will likely be my friend's last. And I can tell you from my observer standpoint in a job there, that once you leave government it is as if you have never existed. That's how it works. But in life, and at a milestone birthday you think about these things, it actually is your interests and your hobbies that say who you are, and what people attach to you, are attracted to in you.

It may be your pastimes are what lasts.

So sew all you want. When the phone is ringing, when you should be cleaning, making supper, and doing responsible things. 

Surely a good life is the sum of all the time you have had just doing what you enjoy.