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, October 23, 2010

Sewing in my head

Not sure how much I will be sewing this weekend. 

My husband has had it confirmed that he is going back to Tennessee for the winter, with time off to come home at Christmas, and leaving in a few weeks. So between some school work I need to get caught up on this weekend, and things we are doing to "winterize"me and the house (the fridge died yesterday - only a few years old - GE side-by-side- won't be buying another one of those, and the furnace is leaking ...), I am not sure how many times I am going to get to go down to my sewing room.

Too bad, because I have three versions of this Vogue T shirt cut out and I am itching to get them done. I realize that since I found out I will be batching it, at least week nights while my son is away at college too, he often comes home for the weekends, I have been making comfort clothes.

My work wardrobe is pretty developed.  I am waiting only on some dress fabric that I had sent to my son in DC from Michael's in Baltimore, but I have been feeling a lack of new things to wear this winter, when it is me and the dogs in the house in evenings after work.

So this weekend it looks like I will be doing some sewing in my head. Thinking of projects that I might do, or goals I might set for myself this winter between my own trips south to visit.

Here they are:

1. I am too random for contests but am wondering about Patternview sew-alongs. There is a cardigan one going and one for pajamas. Both are on my list. I have never made a cardigan and have three pieces of nice wool sweater knit, and a definite pj request from my daughter.

2. Outer wear. When all the kids were little I used to make all the winter jackets and snow pants. I was the master of warm clothing. We live in a port city on the North Atlantic and I live at the top of a hill. The elementary school is at the bottom of that hill. My kids used to come home for lunch and so walked up and down that hill four times a day.

My middle son, who has climbed Kilimanjaro, said he felt his whole childhood had been one big training session.

I made winter clothes out of waterproof, windproof fabric, called Commander,  lined with Polar Fleece that I had sewed insulation to,  too. They used to come into the house with sweat pouring down their faces, poor kids.

The thing is, these units I made for them wore like iron. In fact my mom has sent back to me a girl's winter jacket and pants I made for one sister's kids one year,  and eventually was worn by three families. My mom sent it on in case Scarlett could wear it one day (I need to take a picture this weekend). It's as good as new.

Lately, I have been thinking, as the weather gets colder, that I should be making a big girl's version for this winter. I know how. There is also an winter wear contest coming up at PR.

3. I had this crazy idea that I should make 10 white shirts, as a way of seeing if you really can never have too many white shirts, and as a way of stretching my creativity - I mean who would sew 10 white shirts all the same unless they were dressing a choir?

4. More shirts/blouses in general. They really are the only true trans-seasonal garments.

What do you think?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hidden patterns

I don't know about you but so often I read a blog and see a great new outfit made up and I just can't believe I hadn't noticed that pattern before. I mean where were my eyes? 

In fact this is one reason I love reading blogs so much - seeing how other sewers catch things I didn't.

Last week I ordered Butterick 5533 "Pattern of the Week" via BMV because the line drawing of the pattern showed me an interesting back that you just wouldn't see if all you saw was the cover shot. BTW if you search for this pattern under "Coats and Jackets" you won't find it - it is under "New patterns", which seems to me something the web site administrators should fix.

I am anxious for this new pattern to arrive. I am coming to the end of a cycle of making some around-the- house-tops to  wear over leggings and slimmer pants, but now I realize that my going-to-the-store jacket isn't long enough. 

Isn't that just the way. Tops get shorter and waistlines go lower then waistlines go up and tops go down and nothing goes together the same way. I believe they call that fashion.

Well, I don't mind it keeps me interested.

I had coffee once in with a woman who was doing research and writing a book on fashion in the old USSR. She was so interesting. Stalin, it seems, made the decision that changing styles before clothes actually wore out was a waste of resources (few husbands might agree with him there - I know my dad, father of four girls would have) so he ordered that all women's magazines could publish patterns for only the same styles, year after year. In fact, what he was doing was decreeing the end of the fashion cycle.

Just think about that. The exact same patterns being your only choice every year. Maybe that's why every Russian woman I know is so very fashionable these days.

Now fashion can be frivolous, I know, but wearing something new, or a look I haven't worn quite that way before, refreshes me and how I feel about myself. And with women's lives being so much about giving out to people, a little bit of a recharge is a good, well, I would also say even a socially useful, thing. Take that Joseph Stalin. People, particularly the busy and hard-working ones, should smile.

Beside it's fun.

And, see early post, that matters a lot too.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Birthday suit

Busy day today, took the day off but have spent most of it on the phone to extended family, good thing.

Did get to do one project though and that was to turn some marinating-at-the-bottom-of-the-Rubbermaid cotton terry/velour knit into a sewing/blogging top to go with my leggings. Taken in my basement because on short notice that's where I found a spot to steady my camera on remote. Not the world's best picture but does the job today. Sorry about the spots on the knees, also did a bit of cleaning today.

Very nice birthday. My husband who has been working out of town, and was due back tomorrow night,  called to say he had arranged for someone to take over and he is coming back to take me out for supper. Nice talks with all my kids and my surfer/student son called to say that for my birthday, since he is a poor student, he isn't giving me anything but taking something away - he got his hair cut. Since he has been walking around with his hair looking like an eagle had made some sort of random nest up there, I am pleased.

Back to sewing - I really like this pattern and am happy with my day.

What will you do with the rest of your life?

Every now and then I get called to go down and talk on the radio about politics. I think I am supposed to be representing the ordinary person, which would be about right.

Well anyway when I was there this week one of the guys in another area was putting together a show for the noon call-in called "what do you want to do with the rest of your life?"

Since today is my birthday, 57, that seems like a question worth considering.

Don't let anyone kid you. There is so much about being this age that is great, and worth waiting for.

For a start there is a lot that you don't have to worry about any more. My career challenges have been met and I only do what I am interested in now. I am editing, and have edited, all the people in my life who whine over nothing, and kept all the people that make me laugh, are themselves, and let me be myself. And I am making more time for those people too these days.

I am free about worrying over my appearance - if I think I look great that's what matters most, and being pleased with myself because I made it myself, gives me a lot of satisfaction. My husband thinks I am beautiful and he is my number one audience. He also thinks he looks young for his age, same as mine, and I am prepared to go along with that too.

I no longer go to any cocktail parties - where the food is insufficient and the conversations never get beyond the first line - just because it is part of my job, in fact pretty much that's where my life is at these days - doing only the things that matter and I enjoy.

So it's maybe a good thing I wasn't called in to do the noon hour talk show because if I had been asked, I would have said what I want to do with the rest of my life is be with people that matter to me, walk dogs, eat my husband's cooking,

And sew, lot's of sewing.

I saw a witch yesterday

Seems a good month to do it.

The dogs and I go for walks along a trail in the woods. Yesterday a woman come onto the trail out of the trees. If she wasn't a witch she was sure dressed like one - long black dress, boots, big purple hat. Carrying plants and a big rock. Maybe one of those folks who went to university in the 70s and has the same wardrobe.

I don't know.

The thing that was interesting was how the dogs reacted. Birdie, who is usually a very shy dog, and walks around strangers, ran up to her and in fact jumped up to her and tried to lick her face - he never, ever, does this. Rascal, who is less bright and usually far more suspicious (of the when in doubt bark school), ran up to her absolutely delighted and quiet.

I remarked that this was all very unusual behaviour for them.

"I am just letting them know I recognize who they really are," she said, before she crossed the road and disappeared into the woods.

This made me think.

How many people do we all run into during the course of the day that we don't really see and acknowledge? Don't focus on and consider who they really are?

Is there magic in that?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

More sewing machine advice

When I think of something like this I will post it.

My friend who was trained in a European sewing machine factory also told me this:

1. Most sewers use far too large a needle, this is particularly true when they work with thick or dense fabric. 

His rule: use the finest needle you can. He liked 60 for thinner cottons and rarely used a heavier needle at all, say a 100 (this is metric translate this to a 16). 

In fact he said that the most important part of the needle was the point and that the pointier the easier it was for the needle to pierce the fabric - for wovens he recommended a "sharp" needle and didn't really like universals which he said were like rose wine- not as pleasing as the right red or white. His all time favourite multi-purpose woven needle was a 70 denim (Schmetz makes these among others) which he said was the pointiest needle and did a far better job with heavier fabrics that say a 100 (16) universal. 

"Which would be easier to nail into a wall," he said, "a fine finishing needle or your elbow?" The larger the needle the more area and therefore force required. Stitch quality is lost.

2. Machines, particularly those with metal bobbin cases "love oil." Without oil the friction of the machine causes the metal to swell as it heats and this causes wear and consequently creates loosening in the parts so the efficiency of the mechanism is lost. Like how old machines rattle.

A good hook oil (one that goes in the bobbin case) is clear, not coloured, and evaporates in the air - this prevents oil build up. He advises "washing the hook" every once in a while and showed me how to do this.

You put a piece of paper towel down in front of the machine and take the thread out. You then put quite a lot of oil into the bobbin case on the hook (the finger that goes around the bobbin in the case), put down the presser foot and run the machine fast for at least 5 minutes. All the little fibers will come flying out of the machine with the excess oil.

I do this to my Pfaff regularly and it really improves my stitch.

OK now off to work.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

In praise of my coverstitch

Last spring when I was in Knoxville TN I picked up  Janome 900, not the latest coverstitch model, for a really great price. My serger at home, a Pfaff 4860 (which does an excellent overlock stitch), already does a coverstitch but to use it involves moving a lever over on the foot, lowering the knife and the stitch finger, a complete re-thread and taking out and re-positioning two needles. After that, and I have timed this, it takes about 40 frustrating minutes to get it to actually stitch right - don't know why. My nerves. Not what I feel like doing when all I have is a yard or so of hemming to do on that that fast-to-sew knit shirt.

I complained about all of this to a sewing machine guy I know, who was trained in a European sewing machine factory, and he said to me that really the more functions are added into a machine the more fussy they get, particularly sergers because there is just such a small space to fit so many mechanical actions in.

So it was an indulgence to buy another machine to just do a coverhem (the price was about a third of what I would have paid in Canada) but I am sooo glad I did.

My simple little Janome is totally reliable, and because it does one thing, easy to thread. After years of fussy around I am so happy to just sit down and zip around a hem - stress free.

This is important because my BMV order came yesterday. When this busy day is over I want to try a new pattern for a multi-cup sized tunic shirt.

My sewing machine friend also passed on some good tips on sewing machines and if I get a chance later I will post them too.

Now off to get this day on the road. I am a bit tired this morning after more late night knitting. Looks like I am going to have to get Christmas pushed back this year to meet all my deadlines.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Simple modern style: on the street in Paris

Incredibly this link comes to me from my husband who was watching NY Times cooking videos yesterday and said "You'd find this  interesting."

And yes I did, for its take on the continual dilemma for working women who want to look professional but not too dressed-for-work.  In other words look like themselves, and as competent women, look like they are wearing their clothes and not the other way round. A few silly things here, like the fringed belt, but all the white shirts and the significance of a good tailored coat useful.

Thought you might enjoy this.