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I am a mother, a new 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 first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Thursday, April 22, 2010

On body images and Nancy Zeiman

I can't pack. No matter how well I think I am planning I inevitably pack clothes from where I am coming from instead of where I am going. A lack of ability to vision on my part for sure.

This has left me in Florida right now with a lot of pairs of pants and no shorts. Fortunately I am traveling with my sewing machine and a random assortment of patterns and fabric so I decided to make some. I have also had my 11 year old niece here and as she is a tall big strong girl who loves to sew I thought this would be a good time to talk to her about it being just fine to be non-standard, petite size, because if you sew you can fit and if you can fit you will always look good being just who you are, and that being who you are is every women's right. I believe very strongly that what we say to young girls has a huge influence on how they feel about themselves the rest of their lives and you have to do this with awareness. I can see her already wishing she was small and cutesy and I sure don't want her to waste the rest of her life wishing that. No not when she can sew and look her best.

What words said without thought when you were young are still in your head? 

For me I have always been tall 5'9", I have a prominent rear end that has been referred to as a caboose, and terrible fine frizzy hair. My three sisters all have thick beautiful hair but really if I had a dollar for every time I have heard a family member wonder what happened to my hair ( worse now with thyroid issues) well I could just move here to Florida permanently and live on the beach. But now I have a hair dresser who has introduced me to the wonderful world of hair straightening and smoothing products (and there are a lot of them) and I add inches to my patterns, and yes have learned to scoop out those back crotch seams, a lot.

So my niece and I spent a good evening with Nancy Zeiman's fitting book, one that just works for me and one with nice simple clear instructions that made sense to a young sewer. Zeiman's method which is a common sense edit of the old Pivot and Slide works well for pants for me. Her advice about shortening or lengthening side hips to reflect not crotch length but hip shape (more for a curved hip less for a straight shape like mine) and going down two sizes in your pants pattern and then adding to hip, waist and crotch eliminates the baggy front crotch and saggy legs I used to get, for years actually using hip measurement to buy pants patterns.

Maybe this is also works for me because I pay close attention to Zeiman's words. You see Nancy Zeiman is one of my heros. In the days when I was at home with the kids they knew that "Mom watching Nancy" was the one time you didn't bug her, and in fact it was peaceful if you sat on the couch and watched with her. My kids can all tell you about all the times they sat with me and watched this woman who was like a god as far as they could figure out. I think she represented to me a connection with my aspirations as a sewer and I appreciated any contact with someone who took sewing as seriously as I did. My kids also remember the day we all went down to the post office and picked up the book I was sent that had the hint I submitted in published in it. To their small minds it was as if Mom had won an academy award.

Of course we are all a lot more sophisticated now, or at least they are, but it felt very reconnecting to introduce Nancy to my niece who was as impressed as she should be.


RuthieK said...

What a lovely post, and yes those words are valuable in a young girl's life, it is good you said those things to her. Regards RuthieK

Judy said...

Wonderful post...kids learn body image so early now! I bet you are having a blast with your niece!

I had to chuckle about you watching Nancy. I not only watched, I recorded episodes for years and still have them all indexed for quick reference. I hope my vcr doesn't go out on me!!
My 35 yo son came in the other day while Nancy was on and couldn't believe I was still watching her. I was impressed that he remembered!!!