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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, May 7, 2011

On fashion and mothers

I have been pondering the issue of fashion, as in following fashion, a lot lately.

Last month I gave a little slide show for the local sewing guild on spring runway fashion. Yes I know, yet another in the long line of things I have done without any idea whatsoever of what I was doing on my famous "how hard can it be?" theory. You know the one I have built careers on.

Back to fashion. It was a fun, but tough audience. Later one of the ladies said to me that it had been informative as "sewers tend to forget about fashion."

The more I thought about it the more I found this an odd comment considering that this was a room of compulsive garment sewers. Maybe the rigours of fit and the pursuit of a pants pattern that works have overtaken an interest in fashion for many sewers.

I have also thought a bit about the whole fashion following thing as I hit the outlet stores with my stepdaughter. I personally love fashion but there is a point where a very large part of me says "Oh my gawd, how exhausting to be a 'what's in' chaser". Not to mention the frivolity of wearing yourself out going from store to store to update the handbag situation when there is global warming (we are still waiting on that in Nova Scotia), the dolphins, and so many people with nothing at all to put into a handbag.

I mean I care about those things too.

But I do care about fashion, just kind of trying to figure out the edges of it. 

As a sewer (and as such a wearer of clothes that have been produced in an ethical workplace - if you don't count the way the cost of fabric is sometimes not recorded according to Generally Accepted Accounting principles) and as a person who when she got up at 2:30 a.m. to drive folks to the airport and was told she looked "so coordinated".

But I think I have figured out a way to explain/understand/place fashion in my life.

Being in style, which I consider to be a step above and somewhat more thoughtful than being in fashion, is really about living in the moment.

Being in the moment.

I feel that living in the present, enjoying the most we can, the best we can, every day we have been given is just about the most important job any one of us has. It's the difference between happiness and unhappiness, between a life of regret and a life of no regrets. It's the difference between appreciating what, and more importantly who you have in your life. Fully.

Being in style means you pay attention to the time you are in.

It's a way of saying and of expressing that the here and now is worth something to you. It's not about wearing something that's worn out because, well, why not? It's not about waiting to dress up for a dress up event, or when someone else will see you, or when you lose that weight.

It's about saying May 2011, well I was there, and I lived it.

Even if I am 90 I want to look like the year I am in.

So amazingly in the way the universe converges sometimes I saw this tribute to stylish mothers online this morning and for me this just sums it up.

Who wouldn't want to be remembered, in even a small way, like this?

Friday, May 6, 2011

How do quilters keep from quitting?

This morning I would like to pay a tribute to quilters. 

You ladies are stronger women then I am. I am not really quilting. I decided to sew together some pre-cut strips from a couple of on sale jelly rolls, sew some long white strips to them (some of my white shirt fabric arrived and it was really ivory, which I never wear), and channel quilt them.

This is where I am so far:

I forced myself to sew all those strips together and then cut them up with a rotary cutter and the mat on the coffee table here and then sewed those strips together again. Now I have to sew about 475 miles of strips together and then get my husband to drive me over to the local quilt store on the motorcycle for backing and batting.

I am just so not that into this.

Now don't get me wrong. 

I love the look of quilts, when they are finished. One of my sisters is an ace quilter and one of my best friends is even a quilt teacher/expert. I truly appreciate the fine, careful work they do. But I can't face it.

The existential questions for me are:

  • why cut something up just to sew it back together (OK we garment sewers do this in a way) and then cut it up again to sew it together again? I feel like I am setting in a sleeve and then cutting it off to sew back on the other side ( Hold on I think I have actually done this).
  • why do so much sewing that is exactly the same? It's like having 500 buttonholes on a blouse to me.
  • how, and this is the Big Question for me, do women cope with such big pieces of fabric? My intention was to make a queen sized quilt because I have beds that size (although the spouse and I had to get ourselves a king sized because Rascal won't move over). I can't sew something I can't see the edges of. I feel like I have a parachute dropped on my head.
I need to sew clothes, and fast. I have checked my Fed Ex tracking number and my order from FabricMart is due for delivery today. Including a Mystery Box which I have decided will contain silks in my colours.

I think I am going to take my coffee outside and sit on the front steps and wait.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


OK, I always wear some makeup, my basics are concealer under my eyes, eye shadow, some liner (poorly applied usually), mascara and always, always lipstick. Years ago someone at a makeup counter told me I had the perfect mouth and although its not true I am not taking any chances. I have terrible hair, kinky and fine and about half of it left my head when I had most of my thyroid out (unfortunately this is more or less accurate) but I have long ago decided that there are worse things than losing your hair. However I always wear lipstick on my perfect mouth to compensate.

Thing is that like a lot of women I doubt that my makeup "routine," and I use that term very loosely, is as current as it could be. Most of us started to wear makeup in high school and probably do the same things now we did then.

My visiting stepdaughter has shared with me some makeup artists that are all over Youtube, and all the rage in the UK, called Pixiwoo. Pretty detailed and sort of fun to watch if you need an update or just want to see how much work it is possible to put into putting stuff on your face. There are so many different tutorials they have posted so I am just going to give you a link here to the series. They use upscale products but I am sure some substitutions would work too.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Families, helmets, knitting and toy soldiers

Update from the vacation.

My wonderful, funny, smart, interesting stepdaughter and her sweetheart have arrived for a week. (This is what you risk when you come stay with me and I am taking pictures).

They live in England and both work for a booming business that makes and sells toy soldiers and things to enact historical battles. It took me a while to get my head around the fact that there is such a huge market for this, but then again you folks out there are fascinated by interfacing. I rest my case.

 We are having a lot of fun.

I have also discovered that Kristen has started to knit. This is a baby blanket she is making for a friend, her first ever project out of Rowan wool/cotton. I am going to show her to cast off.

I have also been knitting and here are the latest socks. Please note how the pattern matches identically on each sock. This was a total accident and no one was more surprised than me.

We are off this morning to go shopping. Kristen would like some sock wool and for me to teach her sock knitting and I have decided I need to update my accessories. I hate clothes shopping but man do I love shopping for accessories.

I shared this thought with my spouse who went out and made this addition to my accessory wardrobe:

I am not sure we are totally on the same page on this one. But off we go.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Vogue 1091

One of my resolutions this vacation is to add some reviews to Pattern Review. I like and use that site a lot and my own contributions are overdue. As this is a dress I haven't posted here yet I am going to share that review with  you. I wish I had worn a better slip or not worn stockings, but it was still pretty cold in my part of the world at Easter. And yes I did wear shoes, gold flats that don't show here.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? More or less, pay attention to the wide neckline, revealed in the pattern instructions to sew in lingerie guards.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes they were.
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I made this for an Easter dinner where I knew I would be on dog walking, baby carrying, cooking and dishwashing duty and I wanted something comfortable I could move in that still had some style. It did the job but if I made it again I wonder if I would rethink the facings at the shoulder. Under a knit an interfaced facing is a little bulky and shows some. Cutting the cap sleeves double, with the fold being the hem, instead would have worked well I think. You will also note that this pattern calls for a wide elastic in the neckline casing for effect and although I was careful to use a wide braided elastic that wasn't too firm it still bowed on me, front and back and the shoulders pulled in with little. There were also the dimples as you would expect with a soft knit attached to a large, highly gathered piece of elastic. Didn't like the look of this so opened up the casing and pulled in the elastic about 1 1/2" on both the front and back. This eliminated the bowing, eliminated the need for lingerie guards, and positioned the sleeves so they sat closer to my neck and the dimpling disappeared. Of course this also raised the neckline and you will have to decide yourself if you like that look or not. It did make the dress easier to wear though I thought.

My suggestion is that you leave a small gap in the casing stitching in case you too want to adjust the elastic after fitting. Saves you from the scary job of unpicking stitches in a knit.

Fabric Used: Bamboo knit.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: Added 3" in length as I am 5'9"

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? This is a one time dress for me, not sure how many really loose dresses I want, but I am glad I made it for this occasion.

Conclusion: Good pattern for a comfortable knit dress with some design interest.