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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Friday, December 17, 2010

Movie clothes

Last night I got serious and knitted right through from after dinner until the Christmas lights went out all along my street. I am going to have to rebook Christmas to get all this knitting done.

At any rate I had a huge revelation and that the most interesting place to see cool clothes is in the movies.

Think about it. 

I like looking at (but do find it exhausting, I need to decide what designers I like and focus) but it is hard to translate the super skinny models on the runway into clothes I will wear. Plus the runway clothes are the most exaggerated versions.

In a movie, on the other hand, you get to assess clothes on realer people (I mean most of them are still a lot thinner than I am) doing realer things (OK it's been a while since I jumped over cars with George Clooney), but best of all you see them styled, put together.

So my big revelation last night was to see a ruffled cotton shirt on Rachel McAdam's in State of Play with Russell Crowe (and Ben Affleck who was well-cast as a guy with no real personality who didn't move his mouth when he talked- what's up with that? He and Jennifer Anniston would make a great movie if the rules were no one showed any animation).

The thing is that McAdam's shirt was worn under a men's wear vest, and That Is It. The Secret. To make all these white shirts I am going to have to incorporate at least one with ruffles. I have been concerned about that because I am more a tailored type of person (translate - too old now for frills).

However with a vest, the ruffles show as a feature at the neck and there is a sort of real counter balance that makes this work.

You can actually not see this very well in this video 

Also isn't this a cool sweater:

See what you learn when you knit socks?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Collar stays

Even here at Santa's workshop our minds wander to other topics.

Like the shirts we are going to be making in the New Year with this load of white fabric brought across the Canadian border by various family members in various suitcases.

The more I think about it the more I am interested in the differences between a shirt made for a man and a shirt sewn by a woman for herself.

I made a shirt in the spring for my sartorial son in DC. He said all the right things but told me that the next one should have collar stays.

OK, why do you think a man's dress shirt has collar stays? To keep the points crisp, right? To add more to the body of the interfacing?


It seems that the point of the stay is to hold the collar up and close to your neck when you aren't wearing a tie (which I don't). Interesting isn't it?

Now I think of it your average tailored shirt on me can look sort of sloppy as in Exhibit Unstiffed from this website 

Food for thought isn't it? Santa never stops thinking.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


OK how is this, everyone gets one knitted sock and one ball of wool? And a promise. Plan B.

Today was spent on that work stuff and on putting up my outside lights.

My neighbourhood has this crazy reputation for Christmas lights. There are buses from the senior's homes going by all evening. It is a terrible thing to lie in your bed and hear those buses driving slowly down the street and to think to yourself - "damn I'm letting the old folks down", the only dark house on the street.

So I spent considerable time tying bows to the railings, staggering between the bushes with tangled lights and about two hours on the internet trying to read instructions on how to make a great bow on a wreath (failed that should have stuck to felt food).

The good part is that although our neighbourhood is famous, it has no reputation for good taste. These are not residences of designer trees, silver bulbs and twinkling fairy lights. Think more of plywood reindeer made in some old guy's basement and full colour strands, some blinking, some not, some burnt out. But lots of lights, lots of stuff and if you drive by real slow in a bus and sort of squint your eyes it does look quite pretty.

Tomorrow or Friday I will get the tree up. My next door neighbour is giving me her old one, ( one day old) her husband trimmed too much she felt on one side so she went out and got a new one for him to try again, and the one she rejected is now on her back deck and looks fine to me. So did the colour her entire first floor was repainted to get ready for Christmas until she decided she didn't like the new colour and sent her husband out to get more paint to redo it. Don't get me wrong, great neighbour, lovely woman, good house but I particularly appreciate the fact that she makes me look like fun wife of the year.

Lots going on, and a sock to finish tonight.

Wonder what's on the tube?

I have a plan

Back from DC, had a day and a half there, and counting down to Christmas. Looking for toys for Scarlett got me to thinking that there is a lot of plastic stuff out there and IMO too much stuff turning little kids on to a lot of digital consumerism too early. So I decided to make something for her myself.

I got a real stainless steel set of pots and pans and some dishes at Joann's of all places, and am going to be making some felt play food. Since there is a bit of a time crunch going on the schedule is to make one meal a day.

This is today's bacon and eggs. The toast with grape jelly is going to get done after I sign off here.

It is really fun to do, and of course the bacon doesn't really look like bacon (and I played around with the decorative stitches when I did it) but close enough for a toddler I think.

I am also on an intensive sock knitting thing. Moved onto the heavier wool at this stage and size 4 mm needles. Trouble is you make them for one you have to make them for them all.

I think I can pull this off.

My plan is to watch two TV movies a night, go to bed about 1:00 a.m. and get up by 7:00 to start making play food. I think I'm on for sandwiches tomorrow a.m.

And of course I will be doing the work thing and life maintenance in between.

Do these men know that if we quit Christmas would just have to be completely cancelled? Either that or we would all get and give marked down slipper socks to each other, adjourn to take out dinners with no vegetables, although there would be enough to drink.

Just kidding.

OK, not really.

So for the next little while I will be posting weird felt food and movie reviews.

Last night it was "Four Christmases." Reese Witherspoon is really short, even in 4" heels. Vince Vaughan is really big. Got as far as turning the heel on that one.

That's my review.

Best of luck with your own countdown.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

On shirts, Cary Grant and airports

I have been away for a week now, visiting my son in DC, visiting my husband who is working in Tennessee, and doing my part to help out the American retail economy. The DH will be home for a week at Christmas and then going back. We don't know for how long and I have been taking advantage of his current US address to have things shipped to him, some of which I brought back this trip, some he'll be bringing back later.

It was a bit of a shock, a nice surprise but still a shock, to walk into his suite  and see it filled, and I mean filled, with fabric boxes. has free shipping you know for orders over $35. Since that is about what I would pay for duty I would have been a fool not to have spent my fall clicking that "add to basket" button.

In addition I have been on the Joann's website most mornings and texting him pattern numbers to pick up for me when there are sales. The guy's a sport.


It appears I now have a collection of every shirt pattern that has yet to be discontinued and about 50 yards of white fabric of various kinds, textures, weaves, and potential applicabilities.

It's not often I amaze even myself but I managed it this time. It is safe to say I am set up to make more shirts, once I get this Santa's Workshop thing wound down. That in itself deserves a post.

Back to my travels. There isn't a lot to do waiting for planes, except knit ( I finished second son's hopefully NYC style socks for very nice girlfriend in Newark airport between flights - only person who was having a good time there for sure) and look at the magazines.

Well, I picked up the GQ Style Manual because it had a cover line about shirts and boy is it ever good. I think any sewist would get a charge out of this one. So much detail about the tiny variations of men's clothing. So much talk about fit and quality, so many good ideas, I have to tell you, if you are shopping for an young man on the list.

Who knew that silver tie clips were back? That you never button those little buttons on the collar of an Oxford shirt? That the best way to iron a shirt is with the ironing board backwards? Some of it is obvious if you sew, or are anyone's spouse or mother, a lot of it was new and food for thought.

There are two things about this magazine that are particularly great. 

The first are the shots of men like that one pictured below who really knew how to bring out the best in a shirt.

The second is the shirt section which has this sidebar from Style Guy Glenn O'Brien on why "that white shirt is always right," p. 29:

I have a veritable Pantone book of colored shirts, but it wouldn't bother me to give them all up for the Don Draper white shirt that virtually every businessman wore daily until the late '60s. Nothing looks dresser or richer than a crisp, immaculate, high-thread-count, perfectly fit white shirt. Nothing sets off a tan better. Or a dark suit. You can always supply color with a tie of cuff links, but that white makes you look brilliant. And white won't clash with anything else you put on. My grandmother insisted that a gentleman wears white shirts at night (if he has time to change), and she has a point. My favorite is a placket-front French-cuff shirt from Charvet. It works with a tie, but you take away the tie and you have a perfectly smooth and clean look. It also doubles nicely with a tux and eliminates the need for studs.

The only thing I might disagree with is the last few words. 

Case in point.