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, October 16, 2010

Simplicity 2568

At the end of last winter I picked up a couple of pair of really great leggings - very heavy, good quality knit, and super comfortable to wear, I thought around the house, or for shopping, dog-walking - things like that.

What I soon discovered was that I had few tops that really worked with these leggings. Few that looked simple and comfortable without looking messy and too Big Shirtish, and weren't too short for my seasoned figure. I also wanted to save my serious sewing time for dresses so have been on the look-out for easy-to-sew comfortable top patterns that would work with my leggings.

Simplicity 2568 was one I tried.

Now this is a woven pattern but it had sort of an interesting very retro shape ( I think I wore exactly this top, as a dress, in high school). I decided to try it in some rayon/anonymous double knit I had at the bottom of the old Rubbermaid boxes (there must be a lot of fabric in those containers all over this continent).

I cut my usual size, but went down to a 12 at the neckline as an experiment and added 13" to the length. Of course as this was a knit I disregarded the zipper and made this just a pull-on number. I realized that there was not a lot to this pattern, just a front and a back really, as the sleeves are cut-on dolmans - so I added the little tab buckle things that was in the view for the short top for some interest.  I miscalculated when I placed these tabs though, and they ended up at belly level, breaking my rule to make sure absolutely everything I sew a detraction from my Worst Feature. I most definitely wish these buckles were about waist height.

That said I really like this top. I wanted something to go over leggings that didn't look too much like a gathered maternity top, and something I could wear my wide assortment of short fitted knit tops and T shirts under in colder weather.

This is a pretty loose but I like it, feels so comfortable without being sloppy. I already have another one cut out.

These tops, with leggings would be great to wear for my precious staying at home and sewing days, and that is probably where I will wear them.

One more detail that I want to mention. Despite the simplicity of this pattern the facings were really nice. The front facing has a deep curve in it at centre front so the neck, which will gap a bit, never shows anything but a nice smooth finished face - so much better than similar necklines I have seen that just have turned and topstitched necklines.

My version of lounge wear.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Remembering who you used to be

Tonight I did some grandchild babysitting. At one, she is full of personality, so strong that you wonder how life will ever change it.

Next week I attend our convocation ceremony. One of my jobs will be to line up the grads so they can march across the stage in the right order to receive their degrees. By the time they graduate I know them quite well. At formal events like this I think to myself of something I said to my step-daughter when she was getting married - which was: live your life so you never look back and wonder where that girl went to.

This has been on my mind after a conversation with someone I have known for years, who has had some difficult things happen to her. What struck me after we talked, is that along the way she seems to have lost a lot of her interests, her humour, and, well, all the personality that I remember in her and saw today in our baby.

It has taken me some time to figure this out but I have decided that the best thing you can do if circumstances, or someone, has not treated you right is to do all you can to still be the person you were before all that happened. Sometimes it is important not to let life reshape you too much. Sometimes it's just time to get your own shape back.

This has also reminded me of something I haven't thought about in years but should have filed away at the time as a not-a-good-sign. 

One time the first man I married went through my closet when I was at work and filled a garbage bag of all the clothes I had he didn't like. Of course these were mostly things I had made, and not things I had bought, and in fact were the most personal of my clothes, the ones I was most attached too.

Now no one would do that to me these days, not even think about it, you better believe that, but I was too young then and he was one of those black-and-grey-urban-minimalist guys, and well I was me. That entailed a lot of colour in my clothes and things I thought were interesting, and even patterns. Can you imagine? Even patterns. Some pretty loud ones I seem to remember - I always thought they looked happy.

The point is that over the years many influences have affected the way I dress, like the expectations of life and jobs can affect how you see yourself. Until you get to the point my old friend was at - where she told me she wasn't sure if she remembered what she was interested in anymore. 

Now, everything I think about eventually makes me think about clothes. I have always been like that.

So this has led me to think that maybe sometimes it is a good thing to follow that string back. To where you used to be, to see if you have disconnected from things you enjoyed or even were just part of who you are. Like some folks get into genealogy or eat that old weird mac and cheese their mom made them when they are stressed, even if they are an arugula person now. Or like when you go back, you want to drive by the old house.

This has me thinking,  as the weather gets colder, that I sure used to like flannelette pajamas. I used to love putting them on when they came out of the dryer in the winter especially, but I haven't really worn them since I was a kid. I think I stopped wearing them right around the time I started wearing black.

Now even when I was 15 and starting to get tall I do remember that after a few washes they turned into capris on me. So I am going to have to sew myself some. In fact I think I will be moving this idea to the top of the list.

It seems to me the one thing you shouldn't do in this life is forget what your pleasures are.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I have been cooking

Today my husband and I cooked, because tomorrow is our Thanksgiving. We had a lot to do ahead because monster turkey is going to consume that whole oven. To tell you a lot about my husband, the turkey cooker, he worked out the whole cooking time, with and without stuffing, for comparison on a Excel graph to help with is planning.

I would absolutely never do that, as a graduate of the gestimate school of cuisine. Which is why he is doing the cooking of the bird.

I did however make Gina Neely's pumpkin cheesecake which is perfect, perfect so much better than the one I usually use. All of her recipes just work so well for me.

For a break we went out and saw The Social Network which was really good and a nice quick date, although odd because at the 4:30 we were the only people in the theatre. Strange to sit there just the two of us but kind of fun in away, we could talk all we wanted right through - our own running commentary to each other.

If I get up early enough before the Turkey captures the oven I am considering making cornmeal biscuits. Read this blog entry for the recipe I am thinking about, read it too about what you really, really, really want to do in your life.

Me I really, really, really just want time to myself to sew. That about sums it all up for me,

On the creativity of limitations

I realize this fall I have been sewing entirely from my stash and not buying fabric.

There are a couple of reasons for this.

For a start I have been really busy and reaching into one of my fabric bins is the easiest way to shop. Also, my local fabric store just isn't inspiring at all, ordinary fabrics at inflated prices, and I just can't see paying $50 shipping for my Fabricmart "bargains" any more. 

I have enough stuff. I need to work my way through some of it to see more clearly.

At what point did we sewers stop being the clever women who could make beautiful clothes from what we had on hand?

At what point did sewers become women with thousands of dollars of sewing machines, stashes that rivaled fabric stores, masses of patterns, industrial irons, fancy dressforms, pattern making software, and mail order couture buttons who produced ordinary clothes? Count me guilty of all of this.

I have hit some kind of a wall. 

Maybe it was too many sewing shows watching hundreds of women in jeans and sweat shirts pulling along trolleys of newly purchased gear saying they hadn't touched what they bought at the last show? Maybe it was my own faint nausea when I hit the "submit order" button one more time, knowing in my heart that it would be a long, long time before I had the time to sew this fabric and knowing too in my heart that as a sewer I was being overtaking by greed, not by creativity.

It's the creativity I want back.

And I am getting there, trying to make the most of what I have this fall. By waiting for pattern sales rather than sending off for $20 indy patterns I am now divesting to women I have never met to just get them out of my house and off my conscience.

Great sewing, both the experience and the process, is like cooking. Not so much about elaborate ingredients but about working with good ingredients and with care - tasting the tastes, not obscuring them.

Think about Depression quilts, think about how those women used their creativity to extend their limits.

So I think my new plan is to stock up once a year when we go to the US and I get myself into some good fabric stores and spend the rest of my year making it count, living off my investments, not digging myself in deeper.

Make sense?