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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 30, 2010

On your own style

Won't you be glad when I am back at work and don't have all this posting time?

One of the housecleaning jobs I have done is to clean up my bookmarks on my computer. You know every time you come across a cool sewing site you click "add bookmark" and soon you have hundreds and hundreds. I have decided to do an edit and in doing so have divided those that reflect who I am from those that represent what I feel I should be.

So I am sorry but all those "how French women dress" blogs and sites are gone now. Along with all the ideal wardrobe advice. 

I think I need a real wardrobe before I need an ideal one. 

Why? Well because I am what I am and although I admire and learn some things from French style it would be pushing it to say that I would be comfortable in another skin. To tell you the truth too I find all those "what French women do" books and articles a little annoying. For a start I have lived in Montreal for quite a while and my dear husband's mother is French as in Acadienne. Now before anyone thinks that drinking red wine is going to make you French size I have to tell you that a lot of it is genetics not lifestyle. I mean my very wonderful mother-in-law and sisters-in-law love to eat, but those girls, well they are built like birds and nothing is going to change that or change me into that.

It's about coming to terms with who you are and where you came from and working on expressing that. Now I am not saying that if your background runs towards sweatshirts and running shoes with mom jeans at the supermarket that you should just stay there and not step up your game, I mean even my own mother knows what cilantro is for goodness sake, which she sure didn't when we were growing up, but it's like cooking, you integrate in new ideas if they are smart and suit you - you enjoy who you are and enjoy new ways of being that, and when you get dressed aim for some style and don't ever decide that the occasion, the day, or yourself isn't worth that effort.

Which brings me to healthy weight and living. I remember when I was a kid there was a pathologist who lived next door in our small town and when the hockey coach died in his early 40's, much to everyone's amazement because he was the fittest guy we knew, the doctor friend when quizzed about this man's arteries couldn't say much, but did say "you know sometimes it's not just what you eat, but what's eating you."

Doctors used to talk like that.

If you're traditionally built go with it and the way I look at weight is just to ask yourself if any of those pounds are there because you are not happy with who you are, and if they are, then that's what you have to lose first.  Eat just one serving most meals if you can and remember the foods that working people ate where you came from. Trouble is we all eat now as if every day was Sunday. Keep your body moving even if it is washing the floor. Don't make it harder than it has to be.

You have to like your own skin before you worry about what you put on it. So I have cut out all the self-improvement bookmarks and kept all the being myself ones. The blog sites on my sidebar are those I love and belong to sewers who make clothes I would wear myself and have the kind of style I aspire to. 

Cutting out the clutter.

Have you ever watched children play?

You will understand this.

If you have ever watched children play there is an intensity and focus about them that most of us don't see again. Particularly in ourselves.  It reminds me always of Piaget, "play is the work of children."

I think I go there again, many of us do, when I sew. And I haven't had the luxury to go there with this intensity, like I am having in my week of hotel sewing, in a long while.

This is a different kind of work than I usually do.

Let me tell you about a job I had for quite a while until I started teaching.

I used to work for a politician. It wasn't a job I choose but one I got, if you understand the difference. It was fairly interesting but most of all a bill payer. Let me explain politicians, these are people who think that the point of your life is their life. I remember once in the middle of an election when I was taking media calls and so tired I was practically hallucinating thinking that if I said "you know my leg just fell off" he would say " Gee that reminds me of the time that my leg almost fell off, did I ever tell you the story about..." I think you get the picture. I still get occasionally called back to do some of that work. They find you.

That time in my life was when I started to stash. It was the closest I could get to sewing, so I ordered online and cruised the sewing sites and blogs and  planned so much more than I could ever, ever do. I couldn't even get near to it.

That backlog is part of what I am sewing through now, as I understand that stash, and why I am going to have to cut some of it loose so I can start living in the present. No point in living with old intentions. The ones you have outgrown.

So this week I have found myself sewing pretty intensely, not rushed, not guilty, not deadlined. Thinking what a good feeling it would be to think of something and make it the same day or week. 

I am deep into it and it is more than play. I feel like it is my real work and I am getting back to who I am.

I have had unusual nights this week and I want to talk about that too.

I have been dreaming with the same intensity as I am sewing and I don't know much about brains or dreaming but mine has decided to pull a lot of stuff I had put away like my stash and bring it out. This has been some hard sleep I can tell you. I have had mother dreams, intense dreams about my children, that they were in terrible trouble but then they were OK, about the sadness my first husband made me feel, something I have not realized, or admitted, to myself all these years because I was so busy showing that I was just fine, absolutely just fine, I never once used the word sad in the daytime or in my mind ever, I have dreamed about my dogs, here and gone, they are all with me in these dreams, and most of all in all my dreams my dad is there. He has been gone too now for 16 years, but there is my dad helping me out and making me feel it is all OK and I wake up feeling that way you do when you have a dad there, and I know I miss him but I also feel that feeling you used to have when you were a kid lying in your bed at night listening to the sounds of your parents around the house and knowing that someone was taking good care of you. I am waking up like that.

My sewing like this is bringing me back to myself and I realize that this is my particular, personal important play and there is a reason I am doing this that is about far more than making clothes.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Same pattern dress three

This of course is my favourite. Enough with the dark colours, the greys and blacks I have worn all winter. This is a really nice polished cotton sateen that I underlined in china silk.

I really wish I had the patience to underline all my summer dresses in china silk. It feels so good on my body. And of course the best thing about underlining is that you can sew your hemming stitches into the underlining and spare yourself the trauma of trying to make your hand stitches not show at all on the right side of your hem, which by the way, I consider to be impossible in anything with a sateen finish and I don't care if you are Claire Shaeffer even.

I love this dress. It is perfect for an occasion I haven't thought of yet.

Same pattern dress two

This version is my coolest dress, sort of a house dress for summer ( how retro is house dress) a slightly crinkley cotton that I thought would be good when I don't want anything sticking to my body. Keeping with that I eliminated the facings and substituted binding, which I always like because the bias makes the checks look different. I like it enough to wear it out of the house too I think.

One pattern three new dresses: Dress one

I love this pattern. I have made it several times and of course it is faster each time I make it. Nice upper bodice shaping with an easy empire type seam that turns into a bust dart, but not too fitted under the bust. The A line skirt is also very comfortable and I think this pattern shows that you can have sheath-like style with an A line shape. The first of my three dresses is in a slightly stretchy fairly substantial cotton sateen from Fabricmart and I like the Island colours, very summery to me. It came through lunch today wrinkle-free and that is a plus.

The happy week of a crazy person

Today marks day four of the four weeks I am going to be spending in a hotel suite (as they now call hotel rooms with kitchens, in my youth they were called "housekeeping rooms" and were for people to cheap to eat out - or had a lot of kids) in Knoxville Tennessee while my husband goes back to work. It seems like he going to be here working every other month for the undefined future and at home in Nova Scotia the other months. I am lucky to be able to join him this month and we will then be heading back home for June after which I will stay there and go back to work myself.

Now I realize that to a normal person being in a hotel room in a strange city with a fox terrier with a pulled ligament (which means restricted walks while he heals up - try keeping a fox terrier quiet in a hotel ...) is not everyone's idea of a good time. 

I, however, am a sewer and to me after about two years of working almost straight through with not a lot of time for  my own stuff, this is a gift.

I have a large board room table to sew on. I have a TV across the room and someone else to do the laundry. The kitchen is so small no one expects me to cook. I have no obligations to anyone, child, employer, or student in about 2,000 miles. I can sew all day and take as much time as I want, and as I could only bring some of my stuff, and not my whole sewing room and my  sometimes oppressive stash (I mean my stash is great but I have to shrink it - it is taking on another life of its own and is almost acquiring the personality of another employer), I am making the most of what I have.

I am taking time to fit and to experiment. I am doing things I have been meaning to do forever.

And particularly nice, I was contacted by a fellow sewer from Stitchers Guild who lives here and had read I was in Knoxville and she met me here today, took me out to lunch (side trip to JoAnn's for some notions) and we had a lovely time, so much appreciated. The sewing community is a wonderful thing.

So apart from one terrific lunch out, what, after my four days alone  have I done?

I finished the pair of socks I started in Opal yarn, first one pictured a few posts ago.

I finished three dresses that were cut out over a year ago.

I experimented with a bra pattern and after some disasters have refined a great pattern that fits and made two bras, and cut out four more.

Now I suspect the very nice people here at the hotel must wonder why this woman stays all day in this room. My husband didn't help the cause much when the men he works with asked him whatever was his wife doing all alone all day and he answered "Making bras".

I know that only a crazy person would find this a wonderful way to spend some time off.

Or another sewer.