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Sewing with less stress Front
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Sewing with less stress back cover
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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, November 27, 2009

One of my Christmas cooking dresses

Last weekend I had an urge to make something asap. I had only a few hours and my soul needed something done from start to finish before I went to bed. So I grabbed some weird black velour with some white line designs on it (think it was a Fabricmart extra) and pulled out a basic T shirt pattern with those little gathering things at the centre front neckline and cut it out long enough to be a sort of an A line dress. Not going out Christmas wear, but Christmas Eve cooking wear that can get thrown in the washer and dryer once it has cranberries all over it (I need some bigger aprons.)

It is what it is, and it filled several needs. The only slow part was fiddling around with my Pfaff 5 thread coverhem which does a great job if you are willing to spend 40 minutes setting it up and waiting for it to start working right. I gave up actually and finished the job with my wide twin needle and decided I am going to get myself a dedicated coverhem that doesn't get me down to my last nerve every time I have a simple hem to do. The machine works great as a serger so I think I will leave it at that and make my life easy. I sew a lot of knits and am planning on investing as much of my precious time as I can in expanding the sewing space in my life and so this seems to me to be a sensible thing to do.

Any suggestions for good ones?

Aren't these pretty?

I have been making quite a few earrings and went so far as to borrow a book from the library on big beads. It's due back tomorrow so I took a few pictures of some necklaces that caught my eye and really don't look hard to make at all.

Imagine the dresses you could make to go with these.

What turns out and what doesn't

Of course not everything you intend, or expect, to happen does. That is probably the hardest thing about being the mother of adults. You know that and they don't. Not yet. And part of you doesn't want them ever to find out.

I have been very happy in my life but that has taken a lot more work than I expected, and some of the help I was expecting didn't come through, but what didn't happen easily I made happen. But it has been a lot of work and it still is.

Just turning 56 has made me think though how much work I want to keep doing. How many years do you go thinking there is not enough time in the day? Is this the pivot point where you realize its not about so much about not enough time in the day as time in the life? Is there a time that you think, hey wait a minute I keep investing in this career but now that the long term is the short term is it over investing?

I am not talking about fading out, but engaging in fewer things and most importantly letting those who are still trying to make it do that. One more academic year and I am going part-time.

It is worth thinking about aging and what you are going to do or how you intend to do it.

I have two stories.

When my former mother-in-law was exactly my age she made a strange announcement. She told us all that she had decided that she figured she knew all she had to know or in fact wanted to know and that she was just going to go on from that point working on what she had stored up.

As I write she is now being treated for dementia.

The other story is about my 82 year old current father-in-law. Some time last spring he announced that he was going to build a new house. Didn't like the old one, knew a nicer part of the countryside. What he meant was build his own house, like sit at my dining room table and draw it, drive around in a truck with wood and borrow an excavator. I was completely against this whole idea. For a start he has had several little strokes and this is a man who freely admits he doesn't remember last Christmas  "So tell me anything interesting happen?" I did a great job nagging my DH to put a stop to this crazy idea being planned by a man who was likely to kill himself and a few other people in the process and that if you couldn't remember Christmas it was not a sure thing that this new house would be some place he and my saint of a mother-in-law would be living in for too long.

My husband did what he is good at which was not argue at all with me and go help his dad make this happen. To my spouse it wasn't about common sense but about that fact that this was what his dad wanted to do.

Thing is, it's done. They moved in today and are planning a new garden and landscaping and to my father-in-law his future is just as large as anyone else's. Reminds me when the doctor told him to stop going into the woods fishing with his heart issues in case he had another stroke. "Don't care about that at all" he said "I love to fish and if I die fishing at least I would be fishing."

So this is what sense I am making of all of this. Keep doing what you love to do, keep trying to learn new things about it. Keep new ideas coming into that head, and never stop starting.

Never stop starting.

Babysitting again after a 40 year break

That's right, the kids are out and I am on duty sitting at DD's dining table listening for baby sounds. They're at a concert, the first time they have gone out since Miss Scarlett was born.
Babysitting hasn't changed, although the last time I did it I charged 35 cents and hour and 50 after midnight and this time its on the house. I can tell it will be the same, look around at someone's house, eat the snack they have left and try to keep awake until that you can hear that car in the drive way. I have different things on my mind though. In those days I used to spend the quiet time away from my busy and noisy home thinking about my life and where it was going to go, generally full of hopes and worries about boyfriends and jobs and school and money and where I was going to find a place in the world for myself and if, in fact, I was going to find one, or the right one for me. This time out I am thinking the same things but having these thoughts on behalf of kids who aren't settled yet, not like this one here with the nice husband and beautiful baby. Of course my daughter worries too much - if the baby only wants to sleep during the day in her arms does that mean she is spoiled, but if she cries will she have attachment issues. Yesterday Miss S. fussed for a time between 5-7 does that mean she will do that every night? I keep telling her don't worry it all goes away and resolves itself, they all turn out fine, don't waste these precious years worrying it away, enjoy what you can while you have it.

Advice this old mother should apply to her 20 something sons who are lovely boys, just not settled, just like Miss S isn't between 5-7.

My babysitting days changed how I looked at sewing.

In the neighbourhood I was a teenager in there happened to be a colony of Swedish executives all over here working for a Swedish company and my sister and I were their on -call sitters. To us they introduced us to an exotic world. For a start they left us weird snacks, a long way from Mom's tuna casserole and Heinz soup can cuisine. Caviar on rye bread, raspberry whips and something called Jonson's temptation for dinners we sometimes ate with the kids, a sort of scalloped potato with tons of anchovies mixed in - like my mom would ever make that.

But most of all these Swedish mothers did non-stop handiwork and sewing. There were botanical cross stitches on the wall, bright living room curtains that they actually changed every season, getting brighter as the days got darker, and Bernina machines set up in the corners of kitchens and Burda magazines left on the kitchen tables for me to look at. One lady I sat for, Lillamore, had a different dress on every time I saw her and many of them, linen tent dress things, very 60s style, had often plackets of machine embroidery on them.

It was my first exposure to women who sewed recreationally, and constantly. It legitimized sewing to me as a style of living not something you did when the money was tight, or the child too large for store-bought clothes or because it was Hallowe'en.

I used to sit in these houses waiting for these couples to come home and think to myself that I am going to be like this when I have my own life. I am going to handcraft my own place and make my own clothes and have colour and have style. I am going to change my curtains with the seasons, and spend my time cross-country skiing and rolling smoked salmon to put on flatbread with dill sprigs, and I am going to buy Burda magazines and sew. Sew all the time.