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
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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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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Evidence of sewing

In addition to  thinking about sewing/life (I find the two so similar I often mix them up) I actually have been doing some actual sewing. First of all the curtains for the first big bedroom window are done (when you break down a wall and make two small bedrooms into a master bedroom large enough for two of us and one Rascal you acquire a lot of windows) - tab curtains, lined and heavy enough to be stage curtains. The best thing about them is that they are done, but of course not put up yet. One step at a time. The other windows are smaller so I am counting on having these out of the way as something to inspire me to keep going.

I am also posting one of my elastic waist skirts, just to let you know it is not all couture sewing out there.

And two more versions of my now much loved Simplicity dress, shown a while ago in black and white linen - one in denim and one in dots. I think you can tell which is which.

And today six knit tops cut out for the trip because I realize that the husband's itinerary doesn't have any laundromat time in it.

A progress report, because yes there is progress, even in the middle of a hectic month.

So many things to say

I feel badly about dropping below the radar on this blog, because it is important to me. I think I will catch up with posts on various topics if you don't mind. I am going to be away later this month and want to get reconnected in my blogging before I go.

In two and a half weeks we are off on a little trip to DC and points south and I am pretty excited about that, and have been scrambling to get my assignments and marking to the point for all of my 97 students that I can press Submit on the online grading system at school the night before we take off, and then the next morning just do that. My daughter is a pediatric oncology nurse and working a night shift that night and coming with us for the first 4-5 days so she can see her brother in Washington and we are going to pick her up at 7:00 a.m. off her shift, load her in the car and head out. She should sleep until we hit the outlet stores in Maine.

My first story from this month:

A few years ago I took a machine embroidery course. There was a very nice woman there but she had a lot of trouble with her project. I remember at one point she threw up her hands and said, "Can't do this, I'm always just all thumbs." Well guess who the surgeon who operated on my DH last week turned out to be. I am assuming orthopedics is easier than sewing. Must be. All went very well, although there is a random staple that we can't quite explain, no where near the incision. He feels terrific though and that is all that matters.

Second story:

My dear daughter, mentioned above, is into her second trimester of pregnancy. On my learning curve is that this is not my pregnancy and she has actually been very sick, something I never was, which I realize has nothing to do with anything. She has been sick to the point of being quite miserable so one thing we decided to do was to go to matinees together when our schedules allowed to take her mind off it. 

The world of matinees is new to me and I have to tell you it is terrific. Instead of hordes of junior high kids we usually have the afternoon theatres to ourselves, except maybe for another mother and daughter duo. The rules are we go only to girly movies that require no thought and where the clothes are as interesting as anything else.

I had forgotten how important clothes are in movies. With all my angst over personal styles I realize that this is exactly what a costumer designer does for a film. Each character has a style that both reflects her personae and makes the most of her appearance.

Now isn't that exactly what we are all trying to do as we SWAP and in our discussions at places like Stitcher's guild?

Most instructive.

OK this is what I have noticed:

1. Colour is important. Obviously the actresses have to look good but they have to wear the clothes not the other way around. Colour draws your eye to the main characters, the extras are usually wearing neutrals.
2. Styles are actually very simple, very simple. Again probably that makes sure that the clothes don't dominate, there might be some decorative detail but the shapes are very simple. In one scene in Duplicity Julia Roberts wore a plain pant suit with a mandarin collar jacket and no closures, as plain as it could be, but in a wonderful silk in an unusual blue.
3. OK if the clothes are simple and the colours strong, accessories are interesting and key to the character. Remember Meg Ryan's cardigans in You've got mail?

There is a theme here and of course you only see the themes that are moving in the same direction you yourself are.

I have been wondering in my busy life just what I wear that I feel most comfortable in. 

I hate to admit that lately it has been the three elastic waist straight skirts I made this month and knit tops and sweaters. So how many fancy sewing projects do I need or want right now? 

Sometimes when I look at other people's blogs I am so impressed with the quality of the workman ship or the ambition of the garment that I think that's what I need to be doing too. I love these pictures and descriptions and undoubtedly spend hours and hours every week enjoying the sewing I see being done in other lives and in other homes. 

The truth is that I have done far more complex sewing in the past and imagine that when my life adjusts to give me sewing days and weeks on a regular basis rather than sewing minutes and hours I will be able to do more of that again. But right now, today, this week, this year, this life, I have to be more strategic in how I apply my time and energy and contrive how to feel the best I can in my clothes (as in comfortable and confident that I look as sharp as I can) with what I have to work with.

For me right now that makes fit a priority, more flattering colour and good fabrics.


Now that's what's missing. I have been diligently sewing up a lot of the back log but what I am left with is basic - how excited can I get over yet more black linen blend. Who wakes up early to go look at basic black yardage?

I most definitely need to get myself into a place where the fabric is delicious for once and capable of making me feel that way when I wear it. Serviceable I can buy, beautiful I need.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Quick late night thoughts

I have been off air this last week and I am sorry about that. If only the posts written in your head could count. A medical issue in the family is now looking much better, 71 term papers are marked, and I am getting back to normal.

When things were stressful I realized the role sewing plays in my life as an escape - thinking about sewing takes me to a place that gives me some mental space when I need it. When I think about it too the times in my life when I was the most sewing productive they are often times in my life where other things were lacking, when my kids were very small and I needed to feel I had goals and achievements, on long nights on my own when my first husband was away at work, in fact any time in my life when I needed to have a personal sense of achievement, particularly when other kinds of achievement were hard to come by. Sometimes I can remember even think then  I was spinning straw into gold, turning borrowed bits of time and sometimes scare resources into something productive and even on good days, beautiful.

So when I was going through a bit of waiting and worrying this past while, but didn't really have the time or energy to sew, I became almost obsessive about thinking about sewing. 

After everyone was in bed at night, or early in the morning before the day started, I was constructing imaginary wardrobe plans, cruising the pattern sites, putting almost fabric purchases into my virtual shopping basket and then closing the window when I got to the checkout, making notes and plans for myself.

Clothing quite apart, my sewing world is my safe and sane place, a place where I can create all sorts of different realities, a positive, familiar place. My vocation, really, and like all vocations comforting in the security of skills you could execute in the dark, comforting in the way you can only feel when you are doing the stuff you really know how to do, that you are good at.

When I think of all the jobs I have picked up and put down in my life, using my education and experience to learn new things, fit into new positions, acquire new personae, it means a lot to me, underneath it all, underneath all my masks, the mask of professional for example, which some days in some situations takes a lot out of me to not let that mask slip, not in public, I possess a skill. 

A permanent skill, a craft that I can take with me, touch bottom with, count on. A skill and a craft with its own vocabulary, techniques, culture and associations. At these moments I understand why guild membership lasted for centuries in the middle ages, why it made sense to start a project that would last for centuries (see my stash), and why wherever a guild member travelled they knew they could find fellow travelers and could sit down with them, and out of common knowledge, start familiar, and useful conversations.

Like those we are having now.

Thank you.