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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, April 23, 2010

Making shorts on the road

As I said in my last post I needed some shorts. On the road with me was some 100% white cotton twill and this Simplicity pattern, that for some reason at some time I was going to make pants from. Well I adjusted the size a la Nancy Zeiman, basted and tried them on.

Your basic drawstring waist pattern of which there are a hundred patterns (hey do any of you wonder about the future of Butterick? It seems to me that those offerings are slimmer every season and since the same group owns Vogue and McCalls it wouldn't surprise me if they got fazed out). Of course drawstring pants and elastic waist pants are always a mistake IMO because you get all that pleaty volume around the waist that looks particularly bad if you are wearing a T shirt or anything over it, so I was not surprised that I didn't like the look of these ones, even for vacation sewing.

I was also not impressed with the below the belly, way below the belly waistline, which is a) dated thank god and b) just not all that comfortable.

What I did find interesting about this pattern though was that the yoke, into which the drawstring was supposed to fit, was cut on the bias and was of course, even in cotton twill, quite stretchy. This got me to thinking of some ready-to-wear pants I have seen and one pair I actually ripped apart to look at the construction in the interests of science.

So I decided to build a waist high yoke, cut on the bias and sloped in quite a bit at the waist. The original pattern piece was your old rectangle cut on the fold, one for the front and one for the back. I added about 2" to the depth of the yoke and took in about the same amount each piece, for a total of about 4-5" at the top. And to retain the bias I had to cut two pieces, one for front of the yokes and one for facings for the front and back and seamed them together at the top.

This was really interesting because of course what I was doing was making a yoke that I could try on and off before it was attached to the shorts, to make sure it stretched enough to go over my hips but snug enough around my waist. When I got there I then stitched the yoke to the facing and stitched a slightly stretched piece of 3/8" elastic to the inside of the seamline through all seam allowances, as a stay really not to gather them in, as I had seen in my ready-to-wear pair, flipped it all over to the right side and understitched the seam allowances to the facing.

The next step was just to stitch the yoke to the shorts.

I am really pleased with the results which give a nice flat, just as easy as an elastic waist, waistline that is comfortable and smooth under even a tight T shirt (I probably wouldn't wear this particular T shirt with them but wanted you to see the effect). I have also, at the risk of offending a family audience lifted my shirt enough for you to see how this rides on my three baby body.

I think there is some potential here for a comfortable, easy-to-sew slick waistband. I think this would work with any pants or skirt pattern if you placed the yoke just at the point of the bottom of the waist darts, which afterall are where the shaping in to the waist from the hips starts. You wouldn't even need a yoke pattern if you started out with a front and back yoke piece that = the width of the top of the pants/skirt at that point and was as high as you wanted it. With some self-fitting of angling the side seams of the waist in and trying it one yourself it would be pretty easy to adapt the yoke to fit your body and the stretch that the particular fabric was giving you. I used a fairly rigid cotton here cut on the bias and am looking forward to picking up a real stretch woven, probably a poplin, to explore this further.

I realize that these pictures are not the best, no real iron here and the yoke looks heavy and would be much better in a finer fabric if I had some (this is very funny because of all the fabric I have at home - but maybe the necessity of invention will be good for me).

What do you think?

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.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Why knitting socks is like golf

I don't golf but my husband does and occasionally we go to the driving range and he makes an attempt to teach me (if you haven't had this experience substitute a husband teaching you how to drive a stick shift or something similar).

At some point in these lessons I have to make it very clear that this head can only follow one piece of advice at a time so there is no point telling me to bend my knee, straighten my arm, sit back, stay loose, hold my right hand this way and my left hand that way, to look here not there. We agree that if I am not going to do any stomping off to the car that Barbara is only required to do one of these things a turn and when this becomes absolutely automatic (see previous post on muscle memory) will she then move onto the next piece of good advice.

Teaching myself to knit socks appears to involve the same process.

OK I have found out that if you knit on needles that are too large you get loose socks. Have learned about gauge.

Next pair, bamboo needles break ( but they are so nice and the steel ones have given me sores in fingers - so get more bamboos and don't sit on them). But learned how to graft a toe.

Next pair, learn now pick up extra stitches to avoid holes at the sides of the heel from Youtube video. Good no holes, a very good thing.

Nice wool counts. I am crazy about this Opal yarn which is so soft in the hands and knitting this first sock for a large footed son has made me happy just to look at the colours. Also very happy with the k3 p1 sock top so that is another thing I have learned.

Still to figure out:

A decent cast one that won't be too tight. For this pair I used a cable cast on with one purl and three knit ( I saw this on another Youtube video) which is pretty flexible but not enough and still a bit messy looking.

Everything I read tells me to do the Long Tail cast-on and my reliable sock book tells me to do something called the Old Norwegian cast on which looks completely nuts like cat's cradle and both methods are supposed to involve using one end of the yarn from the top and one from the rear end of the yarn, if you can find it (and I couldn't and practically unravelled a whole ball trying to find it with my DH finally telling me "I don't know what you are trying to do but I can tell you that doesn't look like it is going anywhere good" and he was right I had twisted yarn all over my seat belt and NO OTHER END of the yarn at all) and also involves working out a length of tail that is exactly the right length and no longer (or apparently you will run out early) and that involves calculations of how many twists around the needle per stitch, and all of this just seems to me to be way too much work and completely nerve-wracking.

But still something else I have to learn.

So I am doing sock two the same way and doing some sewing while I think this through.