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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, March 26, 2011

Beyond the pattern

The other day in class one of my students was talking with one of her friends about an outfit she had made to go out. Seems she had bought two dresses and cut them up and sewed them together to make one dress that was exactly what she wanted.

I, of course, couldn't resist going off topic and later asked her more about her sewing. She explained to me that her mom had sent her to kid's sewing classes, that as a teenager she had moved on to the Big 4, but of course now these days, because she had been sewing for such a very long time, she was "beyond the pattern."

She is 21.

This made me wonder at how pattern dependent I am, although I am dipping my toes in Wild Ginger's software.

So I decided yesterday to make something patternless.

I pulled some wild silk charmeuse that I have used before to line things, made a gathered tube for the body and another smaller tube for my upper chest, attached a couple of purchased bra straps that I have collected in one of the million grab bags I have purchased in my life, and stitched those at the top. 

And now I have a new nightgown.

 I know from past experience that those silky type straps are hopeless for sliding around when you sleep and getting wrapped around your neck so I was pretty pleased with the bra strap idea, and of course that they are adjustable.

A little wild, but hey, I didn't use a pattern. (Or a lot of taste my DH is probably going to think.)

Not to worry, it is super comfortable and I sure like it.

Now a housecoat to match ....

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sewing what I feel like

In the last few days, in breathers between marking (you learn to take a break when you find yourself wanting to write "You have got to be kidding" at the end of a paper), I have done some quick and easy projects.

Wide linen pants.

Knit shorts.

A sort of caftan 80s thing.

I am severely photographically challenged at the moment. 

My photographers are AWOL, and since the only interesting thing about the pants and shorts is fit, there doesn't seem to be much use in posting a hanger shot. I will have to keep cornering family members and emailing my DH that I really need him at home.

In the meantime I am going to go ahead and show you my caftan thingy anyway, on a hanger.  My daughter told me when she saw it that it looked awfully Bedouin and North African, and of course I did make it while watching CNN, so I think I am going to call it my In solidarity-with-the-Libyan-people outfit, documenting once again how shallow and impressionable I am, and which sounds better anyway  than housedress, which is how I will wear it and what I had in mind when I made it.

To me this garment will fill a specific wardrobe gap in the upcoming trans-seasonal early spring/summer period. I will wear it:

  • blogging on Saturday morning, or more likely reading other people's blogs when I am avoiding the dishes
  • running out very early on Wednesday mornings in a race to the curb with my blue bags just ahead of the recycling truck
  • over a bathing suit to the pool on not so hot days
  • as something to put on after a bath when it is too early to go to bed and too much trouble to put on real clothes but when there might be other people around
  • when I am feeling lazy, which can occur at any time
Here is the original pattern found in the massive collection of vintage patterns given to me by a neighbour:

Of course I had to add in a major way to make it fit my no longer 1982 body, but this was a nice, fun, well-thought out pattern to make.

The more I look at these old guide sheets I have to tell you I am absolutely convinced that the quality of pattern instructions was about 1000% better when I suspect they had sewers who were actually considering the pattern in front of them writing the instructions, rather than the generic cut-and-paste stuff we get today. I don't know about you but increasingly I don't see any mind at work in pattern instructions, just some word processed default instruction for a detail slapped in without any effort to make sure the method chosen is the best one for that specific garment.

At any rate here is my version of this old Butterick, in striped linen, which eventually I will get someone to photograph on me someday when I am in action lounging around not doing anything useful - which is exactly the occasion I had in mind when I made this.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Playing hooky

OK I did it.

I took this last weekend off from working/marking. A reckless thing to do, and I got up at 6:00 this morning to start and catch up, but I sewed instead.

I just needed it and figure the week is about working and I needed some time off. I have been marking/working every weekend since I came back from Tennessee on spring break.

I am rethinking my sewing and just wanted to implement that rethinking.

I am realizing that when I go part-time soon I will be working at home a lot more and only teaching two days a week. I'm feeling the need for comfort clothes, but not messy clothes. My sister called me over the weekend to tell me she went to a funeral and the middle-aged daughter of the elderly neighbour who died showed up at church in pants and turtleneck and an old sweater. We decided that the trick to keeping yourself up is to make sure what you are wearing at home is nice, otherwise it can get too easy to just run out (even to your own mother's funeral) in what you have on.

So on that theme, and because I am only sewing what I feel like, I made a pair of very, very wide leg linen pants from my Wild Ginger basic, adapted, since they seem to be one of the looks this spring and generally comfortable, and I pulled out a vintage pattern for a sort of caftan/dress knee length thing I made up also in some striped linen. I am getting pictures taken by my daughter the end of the day.

I really enjoyed myself and intend to do more of putting things aside when I need to sew. I am so much happier this Monday morning than I would have been otherwise.

Now back to the marking.