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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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Thursday, November 18, 2010

On a good dress and those voices in your head

What a couple of weeks.

First my vet called and the expensive bloodwork they had sent off to Toronto for Rascal came back. 

Summary is they spent a week treating the wrong thing, and were almost ready to suggest he be put down, but missed what was found when I had the tests re run Saturday. With the right treatment now he is more or less back to his old self. I think it is hard to diagnosis dogs since they can't talk. 

This experience makes me wonder about all those times a little voice is trying to tell us something and we push it back down because it doesn't make sense. 

Maybe making sense isn't the best thing to be doing all the time. I think paying more attention to gut feelings, not swatting them away, is going to be a job I set out for myself.

Secondly I got a call from an acquaintance of mine to ask me if I would be a guest at their table for a Black tie and Bingo fundraiser. A lot of places have these to raise money these days. Basically everyone dresses up to the nines and they give you dinner and then you all play bingo. A lot of laughs actually - seeing all those men in their bow ties with daubers.

Since it was a fundraiser to raise money for student scholarships  (a cause dear to my heart) I went, but of course had to think of what I had to wear - fortunately I still have my Vogue meet the Queen dress so I hauled that out.

I felt perfectly dressed and was so pleased in my generally non-glamorous lifestyle to be able to wear it again.

This made me think of the whole issue of fancy dresses.

I don't know about you but I get horribly stressed whenever I have to make something for an event like a wedding or some kind of do. I always feel too pressured, can't find the right pattern or fabric when I need it and generally don't like what I wear.

I decided last night to take a new approach and make sure I keep something in my wardrobe  really dressy on standby. So often I see a fancy dress in Vogue and say I would like to make that but don't know where I would wear it. From now on I am going to just make it and consider myself set for whatever shows up. That would take the pressure off sewing to deadline and give me time to enjoy the process.

Lastly. best news is that I have three days I can see ahead of me for white shirt sewing interwoven with final paper marking from my students.

About time.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

You are absolutely right

A couple of comments have reminded me of something I should have mentioned and thought of.

A French seam and faux flat felled works only if you are dealing with a light, shirt weight fabric. Anything heavier and the traditional flat felled would be the seam of choice.

I had no problem doing  the topstitched French seam thing with my current cotton broadcloth but would go back and use a straight up flat felled when I am working on my pique shirts.

Appreciate the reminder.

Seam thoughts - and one possible solution

I have done some seam thinking, about sewing white in general, and about the conventions of shirt-making. 

These are my thoughts, and the results of my experiments:

1. First of all, unlike other fabrics your seam treatment has the risk of really showing through from the right side when you are working on these shirts.  Your old 5/8" serged seam is going to look messy unless the fabric is fairly thick as well as white.

2. This means a narrow finished seam  of consistent width, because any unevenness is just going to show up badly.

3. As the ultimate basic white shirts may be in your wardrobe, and therefore worn for quite a while if you avoid really dated details,  they need to be fairly sturdy.

These three factors led me to one conclusion - time for flat-felled seams and time for French seams. 

The question of what treatment to use brought me back to the differences between how tailors and home sewers sew - something  that I read about when I did my "what's the difference between a shirt and a blouse?" research a few posts ago.

A flat felled seam is the one that is used most often in the straight seams of men's shirts. 

This of course involves sewing the seam, wrong sides together, trimming one seam allowance and turning the remaining seam allowance under a bit and edge stitching it down.

This treatment lays the seam allowances on the right side of the garment. It is used in men's shirts in all seams, although I have noticed in many ready-to-wear shirts the seam where the sleeve attaches to the body is done in the reverse, where the felled seam is often made with the seam allowances on the inside, which leaves you with only one, rather than two stitching lines showing on the right side.

After much experimenting I made the front and back princess seams on my shirt with flat felled seams but decided to do them the reverse way instead, like an armhole seam. I felt with the puffed sleeves that having the bulk of the seam allowance topstitched to the right side made them too bulky and too tailored for the look of the rest of the shirt.

Here is what the seams looked like, felled, from the wrong side of the garment:

And this is what that seam looked like from the right side of the garment:

If you take your time these seams aren't hard to do, although I found with the curve over the bust I had to  put aside my felling foot (something David suggests you use in his book) and do it with my own careful trimming and pressing.

This wasn't bad but really the hard part was the very even trimming and pressing. 

As a result this got me to thinking about French seams which are so much easier to do, and part of the sewing vocabulary of seamstresses, women, rather than tailors.

So for my next experiment, and the shoulder seams, I sewed a French seam instead and just topstitched the edge of it down to look like a fake flat felled seam. Here is what that looked like and I would like to know if you can see the difference:

Looks pretty much the same doesn't it? The only difference was no fussy trimming ( you just have to make sure that the two seamlines you use to make the French seam, the first one with wrong sides together, and the final one with right sides together, add up to 5/8") and no fussy pressing.

And making things easier in my world means my chances of getting it right are hugely improved. I think my stitching was more accurate on the faux version.

Who says I have to sew like a man anyway to get a good strong white shirt when I can sew like a smart woman?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Now on to shirts

I have been trying to find the time to post this, because I have been doing some actual white shirt sewing. 

First of all here are the sleeves - full, but 3/4 gathered sleeves on a band.

I am pretty pleased with them and they will look even better on the shirt I imagine. I used a technique a sewer shared with me in a class for the gathering - so obvious everyone in the world but me was probably already doing it.

Rather than pull up and adjust the gathers into the band - you know all that repinning and adjusting you usually do? I measured the band and then gathered and perfected the gathers to that measurement and basted the gathers in place and then pinned it to the band.

Seems obvious to work to measurement not pin to the opening but this was new to me. 

I do the same thing when I ease in a sleeve now, measure, adjust the gathers, and steam the sleeve cap over the end of the ironing board, getting rid of all those potential little puckery things, before I even think of pinning it into the armhole. So much easier than pinning, stitching and then trying to unpick the pleats or trying to press them into invisibility after the sleeve has been stitched into the armhole.

Sewers are like terriers

A few updates first on Mr. Rascal.

After a week on IV fluids I was told that he just wasn't improving the way he should, and since he wouldn't eat at all, we were running out of options.

Problem, I looked him in the eye and it seemed to me that there was something else going on.

I got that feeling you get that I see in other sewers all the time - that can't let it go for some reason - the thing that makes you put away a project and get ready for bed but calls you back to your sewing room and makes you sit down and fix it.

Have you ever done that?

Ever had that moment when you pick up your seam ripper and start pulling out stitches even when you know you are too tired and you know you should just leave well enough alone - but you just can't stop yourself - and some relentless part of your sewing self takes over and you realize you have no choice.

Have you ever been there?

So yesterday I asked for another ultra sound, a repeat of an earlier test - just to check to see if there was anything we had missed, I know it was annoying of me but I just couldn't help it, something was not right - something between the vets words and the look in his eye was not matching for me.

Well the repeat test showed something new, something they hadn't seen before - stones in the bladder that were causing a lot of pain and other troubles. So they added some meds for that and over the last day he has started to pick up and they sent him home, where he has started eating again.

Who knows how Rascal will go, but it was that exact same feeling I had yesterday, that feeling where you know just can't let it go until you re-stitch that seam, that came over me. It was odd, but as any sewer knows sometimes it just isn't the time to let go.