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
What my new book is about

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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, May 14, 2011

A hobby gene?

When my dear stepdaughter and her sweetheart, who are both in the toy soldier business and doing very well,  were here we had some interesting conversations about what people do in their non-working lives.

Here is what they had to say:

There is a difference between a past time and a hobby. A past time, like listening to music, reading, or reading online, is enjoyable but isn't a hobby.

In fact they say that in their industry they talk about something called the "hobby gene" something some people have, and some don't. 

The hobby gene has the following characteristics:

1. It involves commitment, of time, and active effort, that has nothing to do with pleasing anyone else or in financial reward. You just do it and do it a lot because you just have to.

2. It usually involves some element of collecting.

3. Someone in your life has passed this on to you (hence gene). You watched a relative, teacher, or friend do it and caught their enthusiasm. They also validated the idea of a hobby as a good use of your time.

4. If you have this gene chances are you have more than one interest, beside your passion. You may have sub hobbies

I found this all very interesting. 

I definitely and obviously have this gene and just as definitely know people who don't. 

As I look around Florida I see many old guys who are retired and sitting on balconies in lace up shoes, dark socks, and shorts staring gloomily across the street to the "New York Style Deli" signs. I can hear the voices of the kids in my head "If only dad had a hobby."

I would suggest the hobby gene has to be in your bones - you don't catch it when you retire.

So what about you? These are my questions:

Do you have the hobby gene?

What else, apart from sewing, do you do?

Who got you interested in your hobby?

Is collecting a big part of your hobby?

What is your story?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Up to date

Blogger has been down for while and I am just catching up.

Yesterday I woke up early with the odd and not very familiar session that I had a fox terrier's tail up my right nostril

Yup, I was right. That's what it was.

After that start the obvious thing to do next was to get up and make a batch of Okra and hot pepper pickles:

The man at the local hardware store says they have had a real run on canning jars. Makes sense to me. Or there may be other Nova Scotians in town. We absolutely can't get over the great produce, here. Sad really when a grown person calls his wife into the kitchen to say "look at all the juice in this lemon! Can you believe it?"  I suspect we will be coming back this way.

Of course we are the same couple who are amazed that everyone doesn't have their laundry out on the line. Where we come from people would kill for drying weather like this.

I am having a great time. Even the golf is going well. I am keeping myself motivated by the thought I will have to make more clothes for this. Can't you see me in a skort?

Back to sewing.

I have decided to transfer my first set of Simplicity pants pattern alterations to a new pattern, this one with a higher waistline and considerably more design ease, 3 1/2" at the hip. I should have it all cut out tonight and then there is no stopping me.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pants and update

First of all thank you to those who left kind comments on my last post. And thanks too for Kay for telling me exactly what I need to do next. I have another Simplicity pants pattern on the chopping block and will transfer those alterations there.

But not tonight. 

Today I played my first ever 18 holes of golf with my husband. When I write my sure to be a best seller book of advice to new brides make sure you remind me to put never say you are going to do something just because you love someone. 

It makes it harder to weasel out of the deal.

Here are my comments on my golf career to date:

If family are reading, a sand wedge makes a lovely present.

No, I was not the one who put so many balls in the water trap that the alligators woke up.

All in all as an experience remarkably like sewing velvet.

For someone you don't even know.

At midnight.

Later folks, I am off to play the princess who needs someone to cook dinner for her.

I believe we are hitting the links, or something or someone, again tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Brace yourself: pant thoughts and photos


I have worked through a pretty decent Wild Ginger PMB pant but the leg and style are frustrating me. I would like a sort of narrow leg slack a la Betty Draper, and like some I have seen in the Spring collections. Never mind that I am built like two Betty Drapers. That's not the point.

I would like to make pants that were slimmish and comfortable. I would also like to work out a protocol for standard pattern alterations for pants patterns like I have for upper body garments. You know a set of things I could wack onto any pattern I liked and have it work.

I decided to try all of this out on Simplicity 2261, despite the fact that you really can't tell from the photo what these pants look like.

I have also been thinking a lot about where most sewers, myself included, have trouble with pant fit and it seems to come most often down to two problems: 

1. a baggy front crotch with so-called "smiley lines" although no one is smiling about them
2. saggy stuff and the infamous diagonal wrinkles under the butt

The fixes for this are many. I decided however that for my body one of the problems and frustrations was a pant leg that was too large.

So this is what I decided to try.

I cut out a pants pattern for my thigh measurement ( flat pattern and about 2-3" ease) this gave me a size 14.

You need to know that if I had cut for my hips I would be a size 16 and for my waist a 18.

So I just added that to the pattern. I also tried the famous "clown butt" alteration to add to my centre back  length and to take in some of the extra fabric under my butt. You can find a good explanation of that here kindly posted on Patternreview by Karla Kiser.

Now about my body. That is, after all, what I was trying to fit. 

Some people have an hour glass figure, some of us have a glass tumbler figure. In my case with a large behind and a belly for which I make no apologies- the two of us celebrated Mother's Day together thanks.

These two realities meant that I had to add length to centre back (2" in total) and to the centre front (1").

Here are what the pattern pieces looked like after my alterations:

Now of course I didn't bring my sewing room with me so my trial pair is made in broadcloth, not a good fabric for pants, doesn't ease, but gave me an idea.

I also made one design change once I saw the waistband pieces really were a contoured almost yoke. I eliminated the fly front for this pair and just put in an invisible zipper that I inserted all the way up through the waistband.

Now truthfully, for reasons my belly makes obvious, I could do without such a prominent seam along my middle, and since the pattern says that these pants are meant to sit 1" below the waist, I would probably add that 1" in the pair I intend to make in a stretch cotton when I can get my hands on some.

So lousy test fabric taken into account, I am really pleased with the leg shape in these. I might take up a bit with a more pronounced Clown Butt alteration next time, but considering the shape I am trying to fit and considering I will never be wearing anything tucked in, I am quite happy with these.

You may of course look at this test photos and say "is she nuts" but listen this fit is just fine with me and with this body. I have no intention to drive myself crazy trying to get a perfectly smooth fit over a non perfect, not smooth, body. I am a realist.

However I definitely feel I am on to something with the smaller pattern thing and will try another Simplicity pattern with the exact same alterations and see what happens.

My test pants:

Pants front with top. Photographer did not notice tucked up top. Would get another photographer but this one is a damn good cook and kind to small children, animals, and me.

Butt with dog shot

Sad illustration of all my figure flaws. Nice pant leg though.
Revealing front shot at artistic angle, this time with the dog's butt. Some professional blog.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A shout out to a great book

When I packed to come to go away to Florida for a month I brought my sock knitting book, a pile of mysteries from the library on their wonderful "vacation" extended loan program, and the completely best book on making pickles, relishes and chutneys I have ever read:

I love my condiments and I enjoy making anything pickled. Unlike jams and jellies that get quite complicated - that damn soft ball stage- and which you can buy and get exactly what you want just about anywhere, pickling is easy. You can also make exciting things that are very hard to find if you do a little of your own pickling, and for so little cost. Cost is important, any kind of chutneys and pickles that are at all interesting are so artisanal and boutiquey that you are paying more to accent the meal than to make it.

My son sent me this book for my birthday. At first I thought it was going to be one of those usual compendiums of standards or poorly tested recipes that had been added to just get the recipe count up. You know the kind of book I mean, I own a few of those.

However this book is anything but that. It is a brilliant collection of amazing recipes that, in the many I have tried from it, always produce a winner. In detail, this is what I love about this book, in addition to the great and successful recipes:

1. It is written from experience, lots of experience, and it shows. The advice on pickling in general is all you need to know and makes the whole process very possible even if you have never tried anything like this before.
2. Expanding on the above you can just tell these recipes have been tested to death. Things happened in my kitchen just the way the author, Jennifer MacKenzie, said they would.
3. There is a surprisingly little salt in any of these recipes. This is Major, if you are cooking for yourself or someone and want to cut back on the salt. 

I will give you an example.

When I made my lime pickle earlier in the week (I would have liked to use the recipe from this book but just couldn't source curry leaves locally) I used 10 tablespoons of salt to make 4 jars of lime pickle (and I will be careful about eating them as a result).

By contrast when I made 8 jars of Mango, Papaya and Ginger Chutney with Lime last night (recipe to follow) I used only 1 teaspoon of salt for whole batch.

Just think that one through.

Here is what one of those jars of chutney looks like, the pieces are a bit large but this establishment is knife challenged, not to worry:

Now I have to tell you that this is about as good as it gets. Even my husband, who is the expert cook in this family, stood over the sink and scrapped the pot saying "This is good, this is really, really good." Myself I have to tell you it is unbelievably good - spicy but so tasty. Blows store bought Bombay chutney out of the water. And it was so easy to make I also finalized my test pair of summer pants the same evening. I will be posting more about that tomorrow.

So this morning I emailed Jennifer MacKenzie and asked her if I could post the recipe here. She was very nice and wrote back and said I could.

So here we go: (book also has metric quantities, I used cups etc.)

Mango, Papaya and Ginger Chutney with Lime 

6 cups chopped peeled sweet mangos (look for the yellow ones)
2 cups chopped peeled papaya
2 cups brown sugar divided
1 cup finally chopped sweet onion
1/4 cup finally chopped gingerroot
1 tsp canning salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (author suggested freshly grated, I used ground from the store)
1/8 tsp cloves
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup water
2 hot red or green chili peppers, seeded and minced
1 tsp grated lime zest
1/4 lime juice, freshly squeezed

1. Prepare canner, jars and lids (book has detail on this, I brought my canning rack with me. It's necessary to do a hot water bath if you are going to keep it).

2. In a large bowl, gently combine mangos, papaya and 1/2 cup of brown sugar, set aside.

3. In a large pot, combine the remaining brown sugar, onion, ginger, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, vinegar and water. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring often. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until onion is soft and liquid is slightly reduced. Stir in mango mixture and chile peppers, increasing heat to medium and boil gently, stirring often, for about 30 minutes or until fruit is translucent but still holds its shape. Stir in lime zest and juice.

4. Ladle hot chutney into hot jars, leaving  1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace as necessary by adding hot chutney. Wipe rim and place hot lid disc on jar. Screw band down until finger-tip tight.

5. Place jars in canner and return to boil. Process (this means full boil with about an inch of water over the jars in the canner- my note ) for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and remove canner lid. Let jars stand in water for 5 minutes. Transfer jars to a towel-lined surface and let stand for 24 hours. Check lids and refrigerate any jars that aren't sealed.

Excerpted from The Complete Book of Pickling by Jennifer MacKenzie © 2009 Robert Rose Inc. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

This is soo good.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Bright colours, spicy food

One of the things I have done these last few days is make some lime pickle, the Indian kind, because Florida so full of these great, cheap, juicy limes and I can't stand to waste them.

By the time a lime hits Nova Scotia it is pretty much dried out and fed up and not much good for anything.

I found a terrific super easy recipe that looks like it is going to be a winner. I didn't use the urad dhal (black lentils) or the asafoetida (stinky gummy stuff and who would miss 1/4 tsp?), but I did use the methi seeds once I found out that meant fennegreek which is easy to find in health food stores.

If I get motivated I might make a mango, papaya, ginger, lime chutney today. I might want to be opening a jar of that during the next snow storm.

My FabricMart box also arrived!

Very happy with the contents which included some weird print that I used to make a muslin of some very promising pants yesterday (more on that later, I made a break through), some lilac poplin that is also very muslin worthy and this stuff.

Only one piece of the Mystery Bundle has to go because I really do not do these colours at all. It's a rayon knit, 3 yards, and if it has your name on it, email me directly through the link under my profile and I will mail it off to you.

Here it is:

This is what else was in that box:

I ordered another 1.5 yard of this because that is what I already have at home and I think now I see it this should be a dress not a top. Great hand.

Two yards in the Mystery Bundle of what I have convinced myself is silk chiffon. Perfect for something I haven't thought of yet.

Two of the ponte knits. The red I will definitely wear. I like the purple but have to get my head around it. Will I look like a tall grape? But good winter stock. If I ever leave Florida.

The reason why a Mystery Bundle can be seductive. Two yards of wool jersey.

Bright (obviously) rayon challis. Dress fabric.

Most people who stalk Fabricmart have bought this. Me too.
Now back to beach walking, chutney making and pants sewing.

Happy Mother's Day

I must admit to a certain ambivalence about Mother's Day. 

I mean I don't need to be thanked for the best thing that ever happened to me. And I also know that some of the best mothering/nurturing I have ever seen, or received, was from women who weren't anyone's biological mother.

That said, motherhood is major.

This is how I would explain being a mother.

It's when you finally, finally get two minutes to yourself and you sit down for the first time in the day and from somewhere far off you hear "Mooooom" and you get up and go see who needs what.

Every time.

My youngest sister is deaf and she works hard for Canada Post. She is a single mother and lives with my mother. On paper maybe her daughter would been seen as disadvantaged. A handicapped mother, raised by a woman who is now 84, etc. The thing is my niece now in her early teens, has turned out terrific. School play, competitive swimmer, A student, school project winner successful.

Because  a couple of mothers came through.