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
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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, November 13, 2010

The planning so far

As I said in earlier posts, I have been doing some seam experimenting, as well as thinking of what sort of shirts are going to be making up the big ten.

 BTW I am so glad to see that those of you who have signed on for this project are doing other things too - I really didn't want this to be an obligation, and I hate sewing deadlines so I like the idea of ten or so, or one or two white shirts, being a subject of thought, with natural rate production as it evolves.

I personally have set the goal to be making ten white shirts, eventually. I like the word eventually this morning. It recognizes that life gives you jobs to do that are not on the list, like it has to me this week.

Maybe I should be saying eventually more often. 

How about at work?

At a meeting - Can we ask you to do that Barbara? Sure I will get it done eventually.

At home - When are we eating dinner? Eventually.

I think this works for me.

So with that as a starting point this is sort of my working list on what I would like to sew in the white shirt department subject to change and distraction:

1-3 One classic all-purpose white shirt for three seasons - sleeveless, short-sleeved, long-sleeved. 
4. One shirt with French cuffs. What else makes a French cuff work like a white shirt?
5. At least one from a vintage pattern.
6. Some sort of Tuxedo front, or maybe a pintucked piece in it - sort of a classic
7. A big shirt, tunic shirt to wear with jeans - maybe in a more durable fabric
8. A white silk shirt
9. Something with fancy sleeves (my first shirt)
10. Something with embroidery or some kind of decorative effect
11. A cowboy shirt - or at least something with those details. I remember an old David Page Coffin article on cowboy shirts and I was in love with the curved welt pockets.
12. A shirt with a tie
13. A back-buttoning shirt
14. Something with ruffle somewhere but not make me look like an idiot, as I am too tall to be frilly
15. A camp shirt with pockets, maybe pleated pockets, I am thinking of Safari style but again not to make me look like an idiot

As you can see there are more than 10 on this list and I am sure I have missed something.

Now off to sew.

This Saturday

First of all I want to thank all of you who have left such supportive posts about my poor sick dog. 

He is still at the vets on an IV but he refuses to eat and drink by himself. I have been going over to try to feed him, have made and taken over food he likes, and although he is alert and fairly bright he just won't eat. I will talk it over with my old and favourite vet when he is in on Monday. If by then, about a week, he still doesn't feel well enough to eat I think I will bring him home Tuesday, all he wants is to get to the door and get out of there, and see how we do. If he won't eat at home either then he is telling us he is just too sick. They have pretty much tried all they can do.

I am learning something from all of this. One of these is patience. I know that when you are sick it is sometimes hard to believe you will ever feel better, and it is important sometimes just to hang on. I am sort of doing that on his behalf this weekend. The other thing I am getting to appreciate is that I can see that sickness and suffering can have a purpose, and that is that it gets you both ready to let go. That is  a necessary thing and how much harder would it be if dying denied you that?

So I am still hopeful but understand that we will understand the outcome in a few days.

So this weekend I am going to mark a few papers and sew.

Best thing to do.

Friday, November 12, 2010

On hold

I feel badly I am behind a bit on my shirt but this has been a week when I have been occupied by other life things. Because it was a holiday yesterday, and because the vet was unable to get Mr. Rascal to eat, he was discharged to me for the day. I spent yesterday doing things around the house and cooking for him and trying to get him to eat and drink. 

About 11:00 last night I drove him across town to the emergency vet for the night and some IV fluids and will be taking him into my vet again this morning. Because my vet is near my school I have also been going there between classes all week to try to feed him.

We will see how he goes over the next few days.

I have been able to do a few things, like the collar and some seams but that's been it. I really need some sewing time though to make me feel a little better.

I know that to those of you who do not have animals this all may seem a lot of fuss, but I love that guy and he sure trusts me to take care of him.

The one stress relief task I was able to do, which I enjoyed, was to order three different kinds of white fabric from - a swiss dot, pique and some linen. 

More later.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Thinking sewing

I had intended to continue on my first shirt tonight but Mr. Rascal my wire-haired fox terrier is sick, a sudden and bad bout of pancreatitis. At present he is at the vet's on an IV with a pain patch and not doing too well. They said they would call me overnight if he got worse.

So somehow my heart isn't into doing anything much tonight.  I would miss him in my sewing room where he noses around and keeps me company.

Now I am not one much for medical stories but I am thinking of one tonight and it is connected to sewing.

A few years ago I had to have a breast biopsy, many of us do. Fortunately this one turned out fine.

Anyway, on the day I wasn't feeling too happy, and not sure if it was such a great thing that I was awake during the whole procedure. I felt out of place in a hospital.

At any rate I am lying there numb while the surgeon starts to cut and the assisting nurse looks at me and says "my god don't I know you from that lingerie course?" Of course I did and we started talking about the things we had made since and how we both had the same slips.

At this point the surgeon, who I thought was a fairly dry old thing, stopped and looked at me, and said "Well I sew too" and proceeded to explain to me exactly what stitch she was using and why and told me she essentially does her hems the same way. We had a pretty good conversation about sewing, and not in just the "distract the patient way". I could tell she actually also sewed clothes as well as people.

I found it immensely interesting and comforting to hear about sewing stitches and techniques at that particular moment and was so grateful for the OR nurse for reaching out and normalizing that situation for me.

You see sewing to me is so much more than a hobby, it is sort of both a life raft and an anchor to me. 

This moment also made me realize that I had been looking at hospitals all wrong.

To me, like many people who only go to them when something is scarily wrong or someone you care about is sick, hospitals are places where bad things happen.

I realized that day that in fact they represent something entirely different.

Next time you go past a hospital look at how large that building is. Consider what a wonderful, touching and significant thing it is that our species goes to all this trouble to try to take care of each other. All that work, all those people, all that effort, all that research and thinking and just plain trying hard, even when the outcomes are not what you want, just to try to take care of each other. 

And even animals. Even little two-toned, often belligerent, scrappy, silly guys like Mr. Rascal. A 24 pound terrier, but one who has made it his business, and his life actually, to sit and wait with me for whatever we are waiting for, and doesn't need to know why. Who stays right pressed next to me whenever I am sick, and who today, driving to the vet, counted on me to take care of him. Completely.

And the best I can, I will.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fit issues first

I have been meaning to do this and so I will do it now. I made several flat pattern adjustments to my first shirt based on what I have learned to do to make a standard pattern fit me.

These are my usual alterations:

1. I add 3" to the length. I am tall and for some reason patterns seem to be running shorter lately. I can always trim down if it is too much.

2. My fit has improved 100% since I started buying patterns by upper bust and adding to the side seams, with Nancy Zeiman's pivot and slide method which preserves the smaller armhole (my arms are kind of scrawny, unlike my legs) rather than the usual method of adding to the side seams which increases the armcythe. I add 1/2" to each side seam (2" in total) and also make a full bust alteration, not because I have large boobs but because I am larger in relation to my upper bust measurement.  I was excited that this was a multi-sized pattern so I was saved all that cutting and slashing stuff.

But thanks so much to KMQ at Smoking Needles for alerting me to the fact that there were some things to check out with princess seams, because she saved me some trouble by running into first herself.

I know that a princess seam fit requires a measurement from centre front to the seam line, which is supposed to run down the apex of the bust, and from the shoulder neck intersection to the fullest part of the curve. In this case I found both measurements were a little skimpy on me which kind of makes sense since a larger bust may be lower and wider than the norm. I did about a 1/4" and 1/2" realignment to the seam line position and widest part of the curve respectively and I think that is going to make a difference to my fit.

3. I rotated the shoulder seam up 1/2" at the outside edge to accommodate square shoulders, again Nancy's method. Basically you cut out the neckline, put a pin at the intersection of the neck and shoulder seams, rotate up (or down) moving the outer edge of the shoulder seam, cut along the new shoulder, move a pin to the intersection of the outer shoulder seam and armhole seam, rotate the pattern back so it aligns back so the centre fronts match, and cut out the armhole and down. This will also be adding, or subtracting, a little to the bottom of the pattern. And do it both front and back of course.

This shoulder adjustment is really really important and one of my most important alterations. It is also not something you see mentioned a lot.

For years I avoided shirts because no matter what else I did the necks rode up. I finally figured out, by looking at the pattern, that there was a slope down to the shoulder seam and my body went straight across, like a ruler was on my shoulders. There was no where for that slope to go except up around my neck.

This makes sense when you think about it, that shoulder fit is crucial, because the whole garment hangs on your shoulders.

For a totally fascinating description, beautifully illustrated as usual, of the exact opposite feature, sloping shoulders, which I expect more women have, go to my friend Robin's blog .

I really think that looking at shoulder fit is The Next Big Thing and might even be as big as FBA was when it hit our world.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What white shirts are telling me

I discovered something about white shirts and about myself this weekend.

The first thing I discovered is that taking the colour and garment range out of the equation sure gives you time to focus in again on the real act of sewing.

I made a decision when I sat down yesterday, with the plain white thread in my machine and the plain white fabric in my hands, to take my time, really take my time with these shirts.

Just making that decision made me realize how rushed my sewing has become, for years now. Trying to produce so much in such slivers of time, giving myself deadlines, always feeling that I should be working on the next one while I was sewing the current project. I decided to slow that down, in fact I decided to do nothing but practice and experiment with different seams yesterday, to see what ones I might want to use in this and subsequent projects.

I mean I never do this, I am always in such a rush to get things done.

I think I will post the results of those experiments tomorrow because I want to stay with this subject for a while.

A few things in my life are making me rethink time.

For a start I have been doing some sitting of my 14 month old granddaughter.

I had forgotten how full a toddler's day is, completely agenda free.

 There is practice walking, and saying meow at the cat, and reading books upside down and then trying to tear them apart, and saying no to yourself before someone else takes something pointed and interesting out of your hand, and dancing, and there is lying on the floor with your thumb in your mouth and your blankie waving your legs in the air while you look at the ceiling.

How long has it been since any of us just hung around like that? Just spent some time doing things for no particular reason?

How would you act if you actually felt you had lots of time to do things, in fact some time to just move around in? What important and interesting things would you do if you opened the spaces around your time like that?

So I decided to play around with seams before starting on my sewing job.

I had the best time.

I also discovered, or rediscovered, just how the act of sewing gets me back to myself.

It was a crazy busy weekend and it is lucky I had any time to sew at all. My husband went stateside Friday, and Saturday morning the one week old new giant fridge started to heat up. About the same time the clothes dryer stopped heating up at all. A weeks worth of wet wash and a weeks worth of melting groceries are an interesting combination. 

It is like the appliances got a memo that Mr. Fixit had left the building.

I am also in the middle of my last full-time teaching year and have 70 term papers due Wednesday. This means that the "can I have an extension" emails and requests for emergency appointments have started coming. I had already warned them, no grandmothers this year. I had five go down the week before papers were due last year (thank god they pulled through and recovered a week or two later).

For those of you with college aged kids tell them this. If they have to go to a teacher and ask for an extension say the truth. 

Something like "this is my first term away from home and I have been fooling around and partying and I need three more days because I screwed up.

This make sense, instead I am hearing:

I have been called home because of an unforeseen medical emergency in an elderly family member and am late because my car broke down on the drive back to school and my room mate was supposed to call but her cell phone was stolen so I couldn't call her to tell her to pick up my computer and now the repair place is closed to Monday and my laptop had all my notes on it and I can't get it back until next Thursday because I have to work and it takes me six hours to get to the place where my computer is because I have to take the bus because my car broke down, and I am sure you understand because I am passionate about your course and definitely feel I have a strong future in the profession if I can just have the opportunity, until next Friday, to show you how I can excel, which you deserve to see since I got only a 30% on the midterm through no fault of my own but due to extenuating circumstance which I am not at liberty to discuss as it involves an elderly family member with issues that are causing great stress in my large and very close family to which I am highly committed.

 Thank you so much in advance for your  support.

It's enough to make a sewer run away to her sewing room and close the door and spend three happy hours making play seams and finding at the end of that,

 she feels just like herself again.