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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, August 14, 2010

Butterick 5277

It has been a while to get this pattern posted and the shots are in the early evening sun so I hope you see what you need to. 

The collar attracted me to this pattern and it still is what I like most about it. My fabric was a heavy rayon crepe and I am not nuts about this fabric (this was sort of a muslin) but this pattern needs something heavy. The collar pieces are cut on the bias and not interfaced.

There were only french darts in the front and back and I added, semi-successfully, a bust dart by copying one from another pattern and adding the extra to the length. I just couldn't figure out how to do a FBA with these raglan seam for the sleeves.

The extra ease that would be accommodated in a bust dart was allowed for in this pattern with easing at the side seam (I absorbed this into my dart) and some easing at the top of the bust incorporated into the front raglan seam. I did use this ease into the raglan seam and did it carefully but I think it still produces a bubble above the bust that you can see as sort of a wrinkle under the collar.

My other issue with this pattern is that these little sleeves are lined to the edge (tricky to do without any wrinkles at all with all that bias going on) and with the way the collar is supposed to close at the back neck.

The edges of the collar (each piece, right and left is essentially just a large rectangle) go straight up even with the centre back and the theory is that you sew hooks and eyes to hold it all closed. Now remember that this collar is not interfaced and on the bias. I spent 3 1/2 hours putting hooks and eyes on and taking them off trying to get it to lie right and not pucker.

In my opinion it is a dumb idea to trust your whole dress to something like a couple of hooks and eyes. 

Which reminds me what's with there only being eyes in those packages these days. Eyes wooble and are weird, those little metal bars were good - nice and sturdy and they held things in place (thread bars are totally useless IMO - I never saw one that the metal hook didn't saw through in 20 seconds). Who decided to take those bars out of the packages? I want to know.

So in the end I just took them off and let the collar do its thing, but really this collar should have been angled out to overlap nicely and naturally at the back.

Finally I thought the underarm was cut away too much. As far as I am concerned it's the armpits that are the first to go and there is not a damn thing you can do about it so don't cut away those armholes.

My verdict?

I still think this is the cutest collar ever and I am going to save it and trace off the neckline (I love that this is a big collar but not tight around your neck) and put it into a TNT sheath.

I am not a thin person but I think I look that way in this dress because the collar is just so balancing. I kept thinking this would have made a dynamite plus size dress if the pattern companies had any sense.

BTW the brooch in the last shot is from my son-in-law. He is one of the best things that ever happened to this family, many a family event he looks at me and I know he is reading my mind. 

He is one of my blessings. I will be glad to wear this brooch.

What I can tell you about installing windows

When you take the old window out you can break some of the tiles around the window frame. You know the ones you just re-grouted. These have to be replaced, which will be a new skill.

In this morning's paper there was a flyer from the community college - Home Maintenance. Guess who's signed up? In no other area of my life do I rely on someone else to do it, so why here and with this? My sewing is largely self-taught and I never gave up on that.

I have also finished a dress about which I have much to say, just need someone to take the right pictures.

I'll be back later.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The best thing about sewing is not the clothes

My mom is one of those who says "it's always something." She is right of course, if you have a big family who is always in everybody else's business and we do and we are, well there always is a something.

Lot goes on in life and if you are looking for material to worry about, well yes mom, there always is something to work with.

It can crowd out your mind. You know what I am talking about. The thoughts you have in the middle of the night, the issues that don't have tidy solutions, the things you are not crazy about, can't do anything about, but know you are going to just have to learn to live with. Some things don't happen for a reason, that's the truth, some things just happen. 

But when I go down to my sewing room it all just goes away. Knitting, you do when you have to think, but sewing takes you to a place where your mind lets go of everything but your project. When sewing takes over it takes you away.

It is such a relief. You are relieved.

I think sewing just rests my soul.

You feel that?

A Jalie to give away

I am continuing with my clean out. I am never going to make this pattern, just not me. But if it is you, send me your address via email and I will send it to you. I enjoy giving away things I don't need to someone who does. Beats tossing it out.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A bit of a fabric crisis

I am working away on my latest dress. Sewing incrementally, the five minutes here and five minutes there system, which I always find irritating. But I have no choice this week due to the interruptions caused by a particularly busy time at my paying job, and the fact I decided to become an overnight renovation craftsperson the last two weekends.

While my hands are working away at the current project, in my mind I am planning the next one. Of course.  This pattern arrived today in my BMV order and I am itching to get to it.

There is an exposed aggressive zipper on the back of this skirt.  I went out today (and was late for a meeting as a result) to buy one. There was a moment when I did consider that heavy metal even only 8" of it at the back of a skirt, might not be suitable for someone who is going to be 57 in October. Then I remembered that  no one pays a lot of attention to what you wear when you are this age and well, if not now when? And when isn't much of an option if you are already having second thoughts at 56.

So I quite happily bought that zipper.

Now the crisis. I don't have fabric for the top. The good news is there is the one local fabric store at the bottom of my street; the bad news is that I can never find anything interesting in it. One of those chain things.

This is why I stash. I knew this day would come. In fact I should have stashed more.

We had news too this week that my husband's company is bringing him back from Tennessee. Although I am very happy I won't be living single again, I was awful happy with my little DC to Knoxville route and all fabric stores in between. Not to mention the extra trips I was getting to see my son in DC, and not to mention the convenience of having fabric sent to DH's hotel, and thus avoiding the ridiculously expensive cost of shipping to Canada.  That I will miss. 

The edges of my system are still somewhat intact however. I got the amazing folks at Michael's in Baltimore to send a few pieces of Zegna on sale fabric home with my son who is coming back for a week  ("Don't worry, we have your son's address in DC, still above the restaurant right?") and we will be down in the States again. To be truthful though I admit I am a bit put out with the husband's firm. I should have had more notice, could have bought up really big, and of course I will miss my own trips - I love the US.

All this has made me realize once again that it's getting tough to get the fabric you need when you need it.

What are the options?

I  was looking at the wonderful Erica B's blog today and noted that her last two garments, spectacular as usual, are made in polyester. I never sew polyester, despite having grown up as we all did sewing nothing but. I think the hot flash thing did me in, and some bad pressing experiences. Maybe I should take a second look. Maybe these fabrics are better now than  I remember. Certainly polyester is easy to care for.

Am I a  left-over, like those annoying women in my sewing classes who say things like they never sewed with anything by natural fiber threads, and look down at my Gutterman? Am I out of date, ignoring some perfectly good fabric I could be using?

I would like some advice here. Do you sew polyester? What do you think?

In the meantime I am doing my best. I have a piece of old light blue Fabricmart mystery silk soaking in some Mexican Red dye in the basement sink.

See how that turns out.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Of any interest? Make me an offer

I am taking that decluttering thing to heart. 

I have decided to put some of my patterns up for grabs, no charge, every once in a while in addition to my every-other-Wednesday vintage give away. I will give each pattern a week and if no one wants them that's fine and out they go. Postage for patterns only costs a couple of coffees and I feel better about another sewer having them than the recycling machine. I will be putting up some current Jalies later in the week when I have time to take pictures.

I have a few other things though that I should actually sell because they have some value. Up here now are a 1954 pattern catalogue and a vintage buttonholer. I will send these off to someone who will pay the postage and what these are worth to them. What they are worth to you are their value as far as I can figure this out, and I would feel good about sending these off to appreciative homes.

Just email me direct if you think you could use either of these items.

*update: the vintage pattern catalogue has found a good home. The button hole attachment is still available.

The last word on housework

After reading everyone's comments yesterday I called on of my sisters, Nancy, to ask how she does it. Her house is large and her two kids are still small and she works part-time and does a million crafty things (see her shoes in an earlier post).

And her house is immaculate. Her thoughts echoed what some of you have said, do small bursts, some things she just doesn't do,  and do things on designated days so you don't think about it the rest of the time.

Small bursts: she buys those antibacterial wipes at Cosco and wipes the bathroom and kitchen throughout the week and then throws them away. That way there is no big cleaning once a week. 

"During the week as I spend most of my time on the main floor I do a bit everyday perhaps only 15 or 20 minutes. Vacuum, dust (which I hate to do, it is so boring).The kitchen is an on going day to day clean, 5 minutes here 5 minutes there, like wipe counters and cupboards."

Designated time: She does her downstairs during the week between activities and her upstairs on the weekend again around the kid's activities.

"On weekends I clean upstairs, kids strip beds and put clean sheets on clean towels for the week replaced in bathrooms. I use Norwex cleaning cloths on all bathroom, just spray water and wipe with clothes, excellent products and they remove 90% of bacteriaI vacuum all bedrooms and dust with the "norwex mittens." I will not go to bed Sunday night until upstairs clean."

What she doesn't do:

"I don't clean my kids rooms,  They are a total mess, they do  a total clean out three times a year, one in August before school year,Christmas and spring break."

" Plan meals on Sunday Shop on Monday morning for ingredients."

OK now these are her secrets:

Keep stuff off the coffee tables. The less junk you have the easier it is to clean.
"Throw out junk, nicnac's, anything that has not been used in over 2 years, or put in storage. Make room to move around faster."

#2  " I move like lightening to get over fast so I have more time for myself."

OK there you have it. My big take-aways from this is to do more small bits, move faster (I clean with the speed of an eight year old boy on the first day of school) and get rid of stuff.

Declutter is a big one for me. After 23 years in this house and all the kids that have grown up here, not to mention the dogs, I move around a lot of things that other people have left behind. I have just realized that my space has become as much of a collection of artifacts as a place for me to live now.

Do I really need eight large framed pictures of my niece for every year of school? ( I have those of my own kids). How about one picture of her now? Do I need everyone's old winter coats? They are not going to be wearing them any more and what kind of a real keepsake is a winter coat. It's a big list. Loving people doesn't necessarily mean keeping everything they left behind. Holding on to all those things doesn't bring those days back.

I think I am going to promise myself two garbage bags a week until it's all gone.

Now back to my dress-sewing.