Sewing with less stress Front

Sewing with less stress Front
My newest sewing book

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Sewing with less stress back cover
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About me

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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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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Omletes and the simple life

This has been a week with no shortage of stupid moments, only some of them caused by me. Waiting for cars in those lounges of old car magazines and candy dispensers, frantic calls from old employers wanting me back because they are in a crisis, a sore tongue from biting it instead of saying "well you should have appreciated me more when I worked for you."

Enough of this.

I need some major sewing time this weekend and for everything to be simple, simple, simple.

That started with my kick-off irresponsibility lunch.

I decided to make an omelet because it was fast. I don't really make very good omelets and have always wished I could because it is a very 50's fast dinner and I am very 50's myself in everything that matters.

I am also reading Julia's Kitchen Wisdom in the bath at night. I borrowed it from the library and basically it is all her handy hints and her totally easiest, survival mode recipes. I followed her this noon hour and made a perfect omelet, a life time first. There were new ideas in Julia's advice and so I decided to share:

1. Basic recipe: 2-3 eggs, 1 tablespoon of water, salt and pepper. A tablespoon of butter in the pan.
2. A large nonstick pan. A small pan keeps the eggs too thick to cook evenly.
3. Highest heat and she says it should only take less than half a minute to cook an omelet and she's right. The high heat was new to me.

OK, this IMO is what made it work. You jerk the pan around pretty roughly which she describes in great detail. I found talking loudly in a Julia voice helped me do this.

1. Heat the pan at high until the point where the butter is about to go brown.
2. Pour in the eggs and rotate that big pan around so it coats the whole pan.
3. Start jerking that pan around, pulling it towards you and pushing it away, wildly. Rotate it around too. Get crazy.
4. When it is almost set (really this happens fast if your pan is big enough) hit the handle of the pan hard with a fist. Julia says this will cause the omelet to detach from the pan and she is right. No egg lifters or spatulas involved in this violent method.
5. Tip the pan and a plate towards each other and slide the omelet onto the plate.

It will look like it is supposed to.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The schmatta business and context

Yesterday was spent on yard work with family helping out and we went late. As a result I didn't get sewing but instead retired to the bedroom with two dogs to watch "Schmatta: rags to riches to rags" on HBO.

Now maybe not every viewer would have been as fascinated as I was but it was very interesting to put my own personal production and construction in context. Did you know that in the mid 60s 95% of all the clothes worn in America were made in the US and that the present ratio is 5%? Certainly puts our constant regrets about the decline of great fabric stores into context. Certainly makes too, or should make, us all think about what we can do to support local manufacturers. Send me the "made in the US or made in Canada" suppliers links and I will post them.

Much of the documentary was about the unionization of garment workers after the Triangle Shirt factory fire and beyond, but a lot of it too was about the skill of those who worked in this industry, which at one time was the biggest employer in NYC.

If you are like me, and you are, just seeing folks cut and pin and make clothes was on its own fascinating. I recommend this.

Now I have to share a line that I just loved.

A flasher approaches a woman coming off her shift in the garment district and opens his raincoat.

"You call that a lining?" she says.

Says it all.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I need a sewing sorbet this Canada Day

My very funny oldest step-daughter once referred to a person she was dating casually as a "boyfriend sorbet", someone to help her clear the palate she said after a major heartbreak and before she was ready to try again seriously.

I feel that way now about my Vogue dress constructed in record time. A sewing sorbet.

I still want to sew but I really need some instant gratification, and easy pattern, something I can mostly serge.

I'm thinking about a pull-on summer dress to be started this Canada Day, between lawn work and weed pulling.

The Queen as a TNT

I must admit that I haven't given Her Royal Highness much thought in my life. If you spent your childhood in Canadian schools there was probably a picture of her in the school gym but that's about it. If you travel to the US you note that the tune of "My country is of thee" is the same as "God save the Queen." And I remember that my grandfather always had to stop everything at 11:00 on Christmas morning to listen to the Queen's Christmas greeting.

But in general my feelings were that the monarchy is some strange left over from another time, my grandfather's time, and totally irrelevant to the Canada I live in. Happy Canada Day BTW.

So it is fair to say that I went off to my royal party with fairly modest expectations. When I got there the crowd was a lot of navy couples (this is the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Navy, as opposed to the British navy I suppose) all dressed up. I was amazed by the lack of security, it is 1000 times more complicated to get on a plane these days, basically I had my invite, someone looked at that and I cruised in.

The Queen and Prince Philip walked around, listened to some music, chatted and left in about 45 minutes.

OK this is the surprising part.

I was expecting formal, stuffy and well, serious. Instead I saw an extremely relaxed older couple (she is 84 he is 89) in terrific shape, sharp as tacks and well they were just, well, laid back. Comfortable in their skin relaxed, the least serious people in the room. Definitely the least pretentious people there that night. Prince Philip joked and teased some women I was with, another lady said to the Queen "you know you and I were married the same year" and she said "yes and we both made it this far." 

What I noticed was their effect on people. My former boss, now the premier, is a modest man and often not comfortable at really formal events, I saw him walk around with the Queen laughing and at ease, and his wife who is a lovely shy woman and one to avoid events was completely relaxed as she cruised around with the prince.

It was then that I realized that they were working, real pros, and that their profession was making other people feel good about themselves. You could tell that when they get up they have the power to make someone's day with a smile, a comment and expression of interest in who someone is and what matters to them. No star quality, just nice people.

Now as to her clothes, here is a slide show of what she wore, and on the night I saw her she had on a bright yellow brocade suit, simple, collarless with white appliques. Yes and princess seamed and yes it looked to me like  TNT. Her ladies-in-waiting had on identical suits in different colours.

And she carried a purse.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pictures of the final dress

Tired out from sewing this dress in about a day and from the evening with HRH. Words tomorrow, pictures tonight taken by my wonderful DD in her backyard on the way to the party. I have included the so-called "wrap" which was just a rolled hem piece of chiffon and the second hand store coat I had picked up some time ago and never worn because I didn't have anything to wear it with, until tonight.

Pre-treating silk

I sewed pretty hard yesterday and my dress for tonight is done as far as the shell goes but I have the lining and the detail work to do today, plus the "wrap." I worked a little on that late last night and basically it is a 1.5 yards of matching chiffon with 6" borders of silk sewn on at each end. All I could think of at this late date. I am a bit annoyed I have to cover up my arms as I don't think it will look all that great with this dress, but I wasn't going to start looking for a new pattern and a summer dress with long sleeves seemed odd too. However I realize I haven't seen HRH's arms ever in photos so I guess fair's fair and it's her event.

I am pretty pleased with the dress so far, no time to underline as I had hoped. When I underline which I like to do with dress weight silks, I have to hand baste the underlining to each piece or it warps and that is just out of the question right now, particularly with so many pattern pieces.

What I have taken the time to do though is pre-treat the fabric.

Sewing with dupioni is great in most ways. Presses well, sticks to itself without skidding around, unlike its sister from hell silk chiffon.

However it water spots.

To my mind a fabric that stains from just water is absolutely not reasonable. Lipstick, ballpoint pen, BBQ sauce, OK. But water? You should be able to get away with water.

This means you have to be far more careful than you want to be during construction, use a dry iron and cope with the creases that you may iron in by mistake but can't deal with because you can't use steam. It also means that you acquire stains from doing really innocent things like shaking your wet hands in the lady's washroom after you wash them, or laughing really hard while you are drinking the toast when the dumb friend from high school that no one should ever asked to MC at the wedding starts telling stories about the girl before this one.

Not to mention what happens when you try to rescue your silk dress from that little bit of seafood sauce, mayo, or satay whatever with just a tiny bit of water on the corner of a washcloth and you might get the stain but you have also created a large water mark that means the drycleaner is only going to yell at you for trying to take the matter in your own hands.

You can avoid all of this by making your silk water bullet proof and this is how you do it, with only a slight sacrifice to the crisp hand of the fabric.

Here is what I do:

1. Lay your fabric folded to fit the bottom of the bathtub and turn on the shower with cool water. You don't want to soak this through or agitate it just get it all wet.
2. Put the wet fabric in the washing machine at the end of the spin cycle to shake all the excess water out of it.
3. Set your iron for wool, a dry iron and put a sheet on the floor under the ironing board.
4. Iron your fabric dry. This will only take a minute, it dries so fast. I would use a pressing cloth maybe for dark fabric but usually don't bother. 

Once you have done this you can sew away in peace. If you need to iron out a crease daub the area lightly with a damp cloth and press away. Water marks will no longer show on this fabric.

OK, back down to the sewing room and onto the lining. I don't like the look of the lining instructions and the potential to screw this up still remains.

I have to get this done by noon to get the rest of my ready, nails and all, and to give me enough time to get some fine panty hose bought.

Not really my favourite way to sew, but let's see how it goes.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Down to the royal wire

I got home last night from my family visit to Winnipeg and looked again at this invite to the evening with HRH.

Turns out it is tomorrow night and Babs hasn't even cut out her dress except for a few pieces. Also had the sense to email someone I know at the provincial protocol office (and how tedious a job must that be) because I heard you always have to wear pantyhose to see the Queen. I told my contact too that I was going to wear a sleeveless dress and she emailed back "a wrap would be lovely" which I guess is protocoleeze for you need to cover those arms. I feel like Michele Obama. I wish.

Rats. I am  not giving up on this pattern because I made a muslin so I am going down to the store now and looking for some kind of chiffon I can roll hem into a wrap.

Time is of the essence now and I am also thinking I am not all that much of a monarchist but if I don't go I won't see what everyone else is wearing.

Got to run.

Talk soon.