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
What my new book is about

Clothesmaking mavens

Clothesmaking mavens
Listen to me on the clothes making mavens podcasts

About me

My photo
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



Follow me on Instagram

Follow on Bloglovin

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Lucky socks

Once in a sewing class I took, a woman shared a post-Christmas story about cleaning up after her grown-up sons had gone home.

She always found the present she made them left behind.

This story was like a stab to my heart and to every mother and sewer who has wondered if the gift you made yourself was really what they wanted. I know I felt like that the year I made everyone a quillo.

Male relatives, sons, husbands, brother-in-laws, fathers, nephews and the rest of them can be just so difficult to buy gifts for. The trouble with most men is that despite the fact that they can be the plainest, or worst dressers, on the planet they are highly particular about how they do this, not to mention they usually like to buy exactly what they want for themselves.

Upgrading and treating are not things they understand or appreciate. A man my husband works with confessed that his wife had given him a pedicure for their anniversary (these guys work outside on an environmental engineering project) and I don't want to know the back story there. You would think she had suggested a sex change. And last Christmas I gave my spouse silk PJ bottoms (I thought because he likes silk on me he would like it on him) and he gave them back to me last month, unworn, because they make him nervous.

Woman are so much easier. Most woman have a huge list of things they would like to buy for themselves if they could and basically feel totally comfortable with whatever luxury they can get their hands on.

Which brings me to socks.

So far I have not knit myself socks but have been knitting them for the men around here. Husband, son, son-in-law, nephew. They actually like them, no they love them. All men wear socks, everyday most days, and apparently hand knit socks are comfortable. They actually prefer my socks. I have orders for more.

How about that?

Even my surfer youngest son who is usually totally indifferent to things material wore his, for three days straight actually until I caught him at it. He said they were his "lucky socks."

Pictured here is my 13 year old son, Nick, Nancy's son, in his lucky socks.

I actually think the lucky one is me.

My sister Nancy

One of the people I am visiting here is my sister Nancy. She is one of the most remarkable people I know.

Nancy has a gift. She has the ability to make something out of nothing, to find the humour in everything, to make the best of any challenge.

She is ingenious.

Her house is beautiful and decorated in old furniture she refinished (some of which she has found in the back lanes), things she has made, and things she has invented.

Which brings me to these shoes. Nancy is a home-based floral designer and one day in the winter she said she just looked at some old shoes and decided to make something out of them. The result was these crazy floral shoes (many of the flowers are handmade) that she has placed in shoe stores and bridal salons.

I had to share them, and her, with you.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Family visits and fabric

There are no pictures with this post as I am writing it from Winnipeg on a borrowed computer. I am here with my DD and Miss Scarlett visiting my mom, two of my sisters and nieces and nephew.

It is nice to be here. To open the drawers and see knives that you remember from your childhood, to revert a little bit to that feeling that you are in your parent's house and not quite totally responsible. To walk on sidewalks your father and grandfather walked on. To be amazed at my mother who is handling 82 by proceeding with a schedule and a life of someone who is about 32. She is at all kids events, still tutors reading at the school, reads the paper before I am even up and then wants to discuss it.

Of course having a baby here has revived extensive discussions about the babyhoods of everyone in the extended family. Who was a good sleeper and eater. When who crawled and walked when. Nearly every story is exactly the same, how some child was totally hopeless and some mother did the wrong thing, but always that the kid turned out just fine.

I also realize that to my family the real me is the sewer. I sewed all the time I was growing up and they are used to my mammoth fabric purchases. All the other jobs and things I have done don't really matter, to them I am the sewer. In the first hour I was here my sister gave me a skirt to make a pattern copy for her from, in the first morning I was off to the big discount fabric place here that I traditionally visit every day of every visit. Lingerie elastics for next to nothing, knits, cottons for tops and most importantly some African cotton for a summer dress. I love, love African prints. I am a bright colour, geometric pattern not flower type of girl, not being a small person, and African cotton is nice to sew. I am pretty pleased with this.

Oh and the baby story about me?

I didn't crawl until I was a year old and walk until I was 16 months old. But before my first birthday I was way ahead at what I liked best - sitting behind the curtains and unpicking the hems.

And I have had a seam ripper in my hand ever since.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Do you make a muslin?

This weekend my sister asked me if I make many muslins since I am for this current project. The answer is no. I just doesn't suit my crashing through life with enthusiasms personality. I mean the hardest thing for me about knitting is checking the gauge, which is about the best advice anyone can give you and I have a six foot long Christmas stockings to fill every year to prove it.  I curse myself for not checking my gauge every year as I realize I have been reduced to looking for stocking stuffers of volume not of quality (carmel popcorn anyone? Six packs of sport socks?)

My sewing time is precious and the thought of making every garment twice makes me crazy.

However there are some occasions when a muslin becomes a time saver and not a time waster. This particular dress project falls into that category, the category being:

1. It's a style you haven't worn before, or has details like this asymmetrical front that you just can't visualize without working with it with your hands. Sometimes you can find something similar in the stores and sometimes you can't. Plus you have to find parking and if you really liked trooping around the stores that much you wouldn't be a sewer.

2. The fabric is something you would feel really bad about wasting. Check.

Now once you get your head around the time investment here are a few other advantages to muslin making:

1. You get to burn through some of your more hideous fabric and can get it out of the inventory and out of your conscience, guilt-free. I would never wear this loud print and you know it's been eaten up by the process and now I don't have to.
2. You can also get rid of dumb zippers that you can't even remember why you bought them (for me because I am now invisible zipper only these days I can get rid of all my old school zippers.)
3. You can clean up your old bobbins and ends of weird threads that you bought for just one mending job. I have sewn through the ends of six bobbins to do this muslin.
4. You can sew like you were in grade nine again. No seam finishing, marking with permanent markers. Write advice to yourself right on the fabric.

So yesterday I made my muslin which just goes to show that different bodies react differently to the same pattern. For a real pro job on this dress, beautifully finished, go to the Sewing Lawyer for her version. I note that Sewing Lawyer and I  didn't have the same issues, which is another reason to make a muslin when the garment counts. I also see she interlined her's with silk organza and I will be doing that too, it seems to have worked so well in her wonderful version.

This is what I found out about Vogue 1182 on me that I would not have known otherwise, or known too late, if I had gone directly to the fabric:

1. It is too short. I am 5'9" and add 3" and the raw edge, so unhemmed, is still hitting me just at the top of the knee cap. I am going to have to add a surprising 5" to this dress just to get it to mid knew which for this event is where I want it.
2. I was concerned that this large open collar would gape since the one part of my body that is scrawny is my neck, so I cut the top a size 12 (I am not a size 12) and that proved to be a good call, and I am happy with where this sits. However being a tall person who teaches I spend a lot of time bending over and my neck bends forward, not that attractive I know but that's the way it is for us tall middle-aged women. As a result the large collar at the back sort of gaps and stands away from my back neck and I note that the centre back seam actually curves out a bit. I curved it back in at the top 5/8" and trimmed the same off the back of the collar pieces. It would have driven me crazy ever time I looked in the mirror to see the back of that neck gaping.
3. OK ease. I am a size 16 hip and a size 18 waist so obviously knew I had to add to the princess seams to make this size 12 fit. I did that and the result was humungous. The fact is that this pattern has 3 1/2" ease built in at the bust and 4 1/2" at the waist and hips and IMO that is just way too much for this fitted style, even when you take the pleating into account. I also think that too much bust ease would make it harder to hold the wide low neckline in place. So the real version will be cut for 1 1/2" ease at bust and waist and 3" at my hips which is plenty. I restitched the muslin and this works. I am also going to lower the side seam shaping an 1 1/2" which I should have done in the first place.

Off for five days to Winnipeg now for family and fabric,those two closely related activities, and will be eager to start this dress in the final version when I get back.