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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, January 31, 2009

Kimono pictures

Here are some shots of my sister's kimono, made from some marbled cotton she had, showing really how basic it is. The most interesting shot I think is this one as it shows how the underlap/overlap rectangles are stitched to the centre front, then sliced down diagonally to the hip from the neck edge and how the neck piece is attached. Note at this stage the neck piece is two layers and quite wide, when it is flipped over and stitched down, as in the finished version, the band is four layers thick which helps it keep its shape. The woman I know who knew a lot about kimonos told me that this was typical.

I just stitch up the side seam and out to the sleeve, clipping at the underarm pivot. I have noticed in real kimonos that the intersecting seams at the underarm are often left open in sort of a vent/gusset. If none of this is clear please let me know and I will try to help. I am sure this is not an fully authentic method, but it looks enough like the real thing, and is so easy.

Sort of kimono instructions

Today I am going to make yet another kimono for a member of my family, this time for a sister. This is a super easy pattern,  adapted with the help of a woman who had been to Japan because her son was teaching English there, and changed with some child's measurements added based on my own experience.

The beauty of this project is:

1. It's fast, none of the pattern pieces are cut, all can be torn and as each piece is a rectangle.
2. These instructions work for any size person, all you need are six measurements.
3. It is a great stash buster, for a child under ten you need about 2 1/2 yards for an adult 4-5
4. Can be nearly entirely done on a serger

I will be posting pictures of the hard to visualize parts later in the weekend.

1. Essential measurements:
· widest part - chest, waist or hips
· shoulder at neck to finished length
· armpit to finished length
. centre front to side seam

Also measure from centre neck to hip bone level, this is an important reference measurement.

2. Cut :
· One main piece ( in length double your finished length measurement plus allowances and the width of half your widest measurement plus ease, 6-8” for an adult 4” for a child.
· Two front over/underlap pieces in width about from centre front to side seam and equal in length to the armpit/finished measurement plus allowances.
· A neckband, for an adult I make these about a hand width X 2 (that way it is sized for the person, works well for children). The length should be from hip bone level around the neck and back to the hip. Plus seam allowances.
· Two sleeve rectangles, to give a ¾ sleeve,  I usually have the wearer extend her arm straight out and measure from the top of the arm to below the bust/chest, double that and plus seam allowances for the length and measure from the body out along the arm to where they want the sleeves to end and that's the width of this pattern piece. Plus seam allowances.
· A tie, your choice.

3. Fold main piece in half width wise to find shoulder and in half again to find center front. Cut up through center front, stopping in the middle. Cut out from center each side to make a 6-8" neck opening, the front will be cut in a V later.

4. Right sides together pin and stitch overlap rectangles to center front, lining up the short end of one rectangle with the bottom edge. Finish edge of the overlap piece. Fold the whole garment in half lengthwise. Mark hip bone level depth from shoulder line to a point on the long finished edge of the overlap. Cut up through both layers from hip level to point of shoulder/neckline, slicing off a lot of fabric but making a long V neckline (illustrations to follow).

5. Right sides together fold neckband in half. Stitch ends, turn and press. Machine baste long edges together. Matching centres pin band to back neck edge and diagonally down the front, Stitch.

6. Fold over the neckband, covering the stitching and topstitch/ditch stitch in place.

7. Match centers of sleeve to garment and pin, right sides together. Stitch. 

8. Stitch up side seams and bottom of the sleeve, pivot and stitch up the sleeve front a few inches, leaving the rest of the seam free as a sleeve opening.

9.  Make tie and hems.

Friday, January 30, 2009

I have colour scurvy

Today in a slight detour on the way home, where folks were expecting me, I stopped for just a minute and picked up this Simplicity pattern, shown in the last post and some bright, bright pink cotton twill for experimental purposes.

Around here right now what isn't covered in molten ice is grey or shades of. This has gone on long enough. I realize I am developing colour hunger, and this is not helped by my black, grey, white and a little red SWAP wardrobe, or the clothes I wear every day in those same colours this time of year. 

I am remembering Health Class from when I was a kid where they told us that if you didn't eat citrus fruits your teeth fell out and you got thin and weak. Bread and water nearly did the British Navy in until they handed them those limes.

Well it has occurred to me, and I don't know why no one has made this connection before, that lack of colour, tropical, fruit like, juicy, fresh colour does the same thing to your health, head and heart.

In fact it is the exact colours of the fruit that prevent scurvy that hit your soul with the same kind of malnutrition.

That's why I am craving colours in the worst way this week, why my deficiency is hurting me, and why the rest of Nova Scotia has booked a week away in Cuba this week.

Well that's it. Time for dinner, haddock with feta, mushrooms, and red pepper in puff pastry. No I don't cook like that but my husband does.

Me, I am too busy making original contributions to 21 century thought.

Coat picture

If at first you don't succeed, go into the bathroom with your camera and do it yourself. 

I have been wanting to show pictures of my knit jacket with giant snaps so folks can decide if they want to use these things themselves, but my compatriots in this house are not around when I need them for all the jobs I have to assign, so I did this myself, complete with messy hair. Hopefully this will give you a better idea of the impact of the super snaps on a garment.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The end of January

I was woken up this morning an hour before I had to get up with the realization that I had to sew some shifts.

One minute I was asleep with my head cupped on my new memory foam pillow in my big warm bed and Rascal pushing hard against my back, easing me closer and closer to the edge like he always does, and my eyes opened wide to the thought that it was time I sewed some shift dresses for summer. I woke up understanding that this was something I really, really needed to do.

Shifts were what we used to call them in the sixties when I was just a kid. Sort of like a sheath (thank you Michelle Obama for solving all my work wardrobing problems with your fashion leadership - a sheath and a cardigan are just my style) but a bit more ease, almost A line but not quite - operationally a dress that is fitted at the neck and chest but loose enough around the hem that you don't have to put in a back vent to walk. Bust darts for sure, and back neck darts, but probably any shaping more than that with seams from below the bust.

Easy to sew and with pique or cottons with enough body no lining required. Cool in the summer and it seems that every summer I feel hotter, like every winter I feel colder.

You can do a lot with at basic pattern like this. Sleeveless or little sleeves, piping, neckline variations - scoop, V neck and fancy stuff like tabs, and little slits in the front, and pockets, different kinds and different places, or versions where it's about the fabric or the colour, and after this grey and black winter colour would be good, coral maybe, or purply blue, sorbet, non January colours. And if you made it plain you could dress it up with jewelry, long necklaces or brooches, I like brooches, or nothing more than a big cuff bracelet, and probably any of these dresses once I had made a few and could sew them in my sleep, could be done in a couple of evenings or over a weekend at least. I could do binding instead of armhole facings, wear them to work, wash them carefully and hang them on the line to dry.

Maybe some I would line.

And then it was 6:20 and I got up to go to work.

The streets and the yards and sidewalks were covered with ice. Lumpy ice like lava that had been thrown over us in the night. I made it into work but I was the only one there. When I was still in my bed thinking of neckline variations the radio should have been on and I should have heard that my school was closed because of the weather. So I let myself in and had a productive morning of quiet work and I called Fabricville to see when the next pattern sale was.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

SWAP jacket project

I am sort of informally doing a SWAP this year although I haven't had time to get a thread or storyboard going on SG, sewing it is pretty much my focus and goal. I love the rules this year to make things you would actually wear, a novel concept for me some days, so I am proceeding in my own heavily-distracted way.

I have had a nice rayon double-knit lurking around for a while now and I decided to make a jacket-type thing that was long enough to wear over my Ottobre tunic style top and had sleeves loose enough for the gathered wrists of my tops. I found a pattern in the same issue for something called a "mohair cardigan" that seemed about right, even though it had a slight dropped shoulder that I haven't made in a while.

I got worried though that I would end up with something really boring like a grey lab coat so I experimented with some coverhem top stitching with the serged stitch out on the right side and a variegated black to grey thread. And considering that I was going on what to my middle-aged mind was on a techno trend, I used giant snaps for closure. Because my hand-sewn snaps can be messy I dropped my feed-dogs and stitched these on by machine.

The snaps are cool, and they do add a nice weight to the front of a knit jacket, but you have to live with the fact that there are definite dimples on the right side and it does sort of clash with the top-stitching.

But this was an experiment right?

Also as per pattern I bound the back neckline with a strip of rayon single knit.

I may have over-done the decorative effects, which really are not my style (although I did go through my Jacket Jazz vest stage years ago, till I admitted I felt silly wearing all that machine technique) and I hope I haven't gone back there with this one.

Will I wear this jacket? Sure, it's comfortable and I am quite taken by the giant snaps.

I realize my photos are pretty random, but I wanted to show stitch detail, the snaps from all sides and the inside of the neckline. I have tried to bind a neck seam like this before, in a woven it can be hard to haul the fabric over to cover the seam, but it is so easy in a knit. I bound the whole seam and then flipped the facings to the right side.

I will try to get a picture of this on me in the daylight.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Thanks to Robin

I have had a busy few days and just started to get caught up on blog related activities.

My big surprise is that wonderful-blogger-herself (and mother of a great blogger, check out Daphne's cool, hip blog on teaching in Korea) Robin of A little sewing on the side has nominated me for the Kreativ Blogger Award. I am pretty happy about this.

First I am a new blogger; this place is strictly a place to record my own thoughts (basically life, family and sewing, which to me in this head are sort of all the same thing) and I am pleased that another sewer has found what I have written at all useful. I believe they call this peer-reviewed, which people say, wisely, are the only reviews that count.

Secondly I am very pleased because Robin's is one of my own favourite blogs. I have learned new techniques from her (that turned over elastic top on pants for instance), and am endlessly interested in her cheerful approach and continuing projects, which pretty much always look like things I want to make myself. Thanks Robin, coming from you this is particularly nice.

Now the rules, as I understand them, are that I talk about seven other blogs that inspire me. Easy to do, so many great bloggers out there that invariably brighten my days: (previously awarded bloggers should consider themselves included:

Debbie Cook of Stitches and Seams

I always learn so much from Debbie's blog and I want to acknowledge her generosity in going to all the trouble she does to explain techniques. I admit I have had a very under-used coverhem serger that I essentially used to finish seams, but inspired by Debbie's wonderful coverhem instructions I am now using it with comfort and confidence. Thanks to bloggers like Debbie who help other sewers learn.

Lori of SewForthNow blog and podcast.

Lori's podcast in particular has breathed new life into my must-do-wish-I-was-sewing jobs like the floors, the rowing machine, and cleaning under the stove. I hate wasting my precious spare time on non-sewing related activities and thanks to a gift of an iPod, Lori and her great, topical sewing podcasts I have been able to turn drudgery into something that interests me. Thanks to bloggers and podcasters that make every activity sewing related.

Ruthie of RuthieKsews 

Ruthie is the Queen of the SWAP and always manages to pull together several beautifully coordinated SWAPs every year, and best of all, she does it with fantastic and classic colour. Being lousy with colour myself I really admire sewers like Ruth who have a natural sense of it and so Ruth has inspired me to stretch and grow and enjoy colour. Thanks to bloggers who help us see a brighter and more interesting world.

Everything Marji touches is first class. Her garments are gorgeous, her fabrics always look to me like art objects they are so fine, and her knitting, well take a look at her knitting. I have only seen mittens like that in museums. Marji's blog is my favourite place to go when I want to see things made that I could never do, but it comforts me to know someone else knows how to do them. Thanks to bloggers who share their quality.

Cennetta of the Mahoganystylist

When I was engaged in my pants experiment I got lots of good smart tips from Cennatta's blog. To my mind Cennetta owns fit. Her clothes are wonderful and fit her like glove, absolutely first class. Best of all Cennetta has taken the time to show the rest of us how she does it - her pattern and flat pattern alterations are very helpful. Obviously a perfectionist and another inspiration. Thanks to bloggers who remind us the remarkable difference real fit makes. I realize just now that Cennetta has already been nominated, so just let this be more confirmation.

Kristy is a real life sewer and a modern one. I love her work clothes and jackets, but let's face it, it is the new baby pictures and the maternity clothes that get me. Plus Kristy has to get a special award for the best blog name in the www and for sharing her life and sewing as a part of that life. Thanks to bloggers who share their good news.

The slapdashsewist aka Nice Girl on Pattern Review sews an amazing number of cool, stylish, retro garments and goes to the trouble to give really detailed descriptions of how particular patterns went together, in often hilarious detail. This is my blog stop when I want to smile and check out new pattern ideas. Thanks to bloggers who make us laugh.

I have been sewing too, and will post details of that project tomorrow, but before I hit the bath, my sewing magazines and my Ovaltine (such a wild life), let me just say this: