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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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Friday, February 20, 2009

On dresses and staycations

I have just posted a new picture of my underlining baste-and-then-cut-out technique which should give you an idea of how bright my staycation sewing has been, despite the relentless grey, ice and cold of the outside.

I really decided this week, as is obvious, to leave aside the should dos for the want to dos. Despite some hilarious suggestions from my husband along the lines of "gee since you are at home this week this would be a good opportunity for you to paint the bedroom, move all the junk from the basement to the garage, etc." Needless to say those jobs are for another time, along with the curtains.

This week I had the extreme pleasure of sewing without interruption, unless I wanted to like a matinee and swim with my daughter, and I realized that it has been years, and yes I mean years, since I have had a chance to sew like this.


Too often my sewing now is bits fit into weekends or evenings done with the uneasy feeling that I should be doing something else, and there is always something else, and usually on a project that I need to wear. Obviously in February in Nova Scotia my staycation summer dresses are not under a deadline.

What a difference that makes.

I took my time to perfect the fit on one dress pattern, it took three versions to get it right and then went on to make one in linen, black and white shown here, underlined in Bemberg and silk in the bodice, and for once I have what my mother and grandmother told me to aspire to - a nice on the inside as on the outside.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Underlining technique

Made some careful progress on my two-tone black and white (please see picture on the pattern envelope- I am so creative) linen retro A line summer dress today. Tested top-stitching for the seams down the front- used white buttonhole twist in the top of the machine and the same thread in black in the bottom, loosened my bobbin tension a lot and tightened the top tension which means that some of the bobbin thread shows between the stitches on top so it sort of looks like a hand saddle stitch. Felt clever. 

Then I tried really hard to find a way to underline the white linen bodice so there would not be a lot of show through from the darts etc. (if you make this dress the darts are deep and short and the only way to get them to press properly is to slice them open almost to the point). The interesting thing about white fabric I found out is that you can line it with 75 layers and you will still get show through. Finally I tried fusing a tricot knit interfacing to the piece I was going to cut out the bodice from and that worked very well. The tricot is dense and it does the trick, plus it is laminated on. It will also help the linen bodice with those assertive darts hold its shape, and as this is only one small part of the dress it will still be able to breathe, something I like to do myself in the summer heat of the city.

Which is why I love linen. Nothing to my mind is as cool and it is lovely to sew and press. But there is that wrinkly thing. The only way around it I decided was to wash the fabric once, which I did, and to underline each pattern piece, in addition to the tricot I put into the bodice. I have some Bemberg rayon in black and some nice China silk in white. It is actually amazing what my supply shelves are capable of spitting out, and I am trying to work with what I have.

Now the only problem was that  I hate working with lining, lightweight fabrics, China silk in particular. I once made a silk chiffon blouse and it was undoubtedly the worst experience of my life. And that includes child birth. To my mind it is like cutting and sewing dust and about as controllable. And I have no intention of emerging from my staycation down to my last nerve. Also underlining is tricky stuff. No matter how carefully you cut both the fashion fabric and the underlining it seems that in these hands at least, the two are never quite the same size, they slide away from each other when you try to pin, baste, serge them together and the end result is often a little buckled.

Plus I hate cutting out floaty fabric. I believe I have mentioned this.

However I had a brain wave this morning (I really needed this time off) and this is what I did and it worked.

Here we go:

1. Cut out the fashion fabric pieces.
2. Lay these fabric pieces opened out and single layer on top of a single layer of the lining/underlining fabric.
3. Pin the fabric pieces to the lining/underlining. Use a lot of pins.
4. Quickly baste close to the edge of all garment pieces through all layers.
5. Then, and only then, cut out the lining/underlining carefully around each garment piece.
6. Remove pins.
7. Repin pattern where necessary and add markings to underlining side.

Each garment piece will be then be underlined, to size and without any wrinkles or buckling. I then treated each laminated piece as one and serged all edges that would be exposed in seams, the necklines and armholes were already attached with the basting.

Really easy.

Tomorrow on to sewing this dress up.

Day one of the sewing staycation

For some reason my camera isn't working this morning; it keeps saying that there isn't enough light. Obviously it has joined the rest of us in mid-winter, February light and colour depravation. The kind of problem I can hand DH when he comes in the door.

This is Monday and the first day that counts in my staycation as it is the first one where I would be at work.

Over the weekend I warmed up by working on a TNT version of the previously posted Simplicity retro A line shift. Version one, in shocking pink cotton twill, my tester, was great apart from some tightening across the bust as I cut out a smaller than usual size to try and fit my shoulders. Version two in denim that I had kicking around added a FBA (thanks Debbie Cook) which was great but that added a bit too much to the under bust seam, so yesterday I rotated half of the below bust point width into the side bust dart.

We will see how that works today in a more final version in black and white linen, underlined.
More later, I have a lot of sewing to do, then off to a matinee with my daughter, who is now undergoing shift from too sick to eat to eating everything that isn't nailed down. 

I am looking forward to a nice day. I now really understand why retired people look so happy.