Sewing with less stress Front

Sewing with less stress Front
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Sewing with less stress back cover
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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, June 4, 2011

McCalls 6241 on me

Tonight I dragged my husband away from the stove and had him take a picture of me in this top so you could see the issue with the neckline. Also it's always nicer to see a pattern on the wearee I think.

 I am definitely going to try again with a faced neckline.

Again, as usual, my weekend hair is pretty frizzy, but I may also be frazzled by being in the kitchen when my husband was in heavy pizza production. He's been cooking them in the oven at the self-clean temperature where it only takes 2 minutes each to cook a really nice pizza. Good for him when he is doing mass cooking.

I would never do such a crazy thing but he says it is a piece of cake as long as you take out those two screws from the door. Don't ask, I'm too smart to.

Also this is a lots of ease pattern, I made a 12 in this one and I haven't been a 12 since I was 12.

OK off to clean up after the cook.

McCalls 6241 and making things worse

Last night I made this pattern, previously written about as a what-was-I-thinking? and loved it. Just goes to show, try new things. Some work, some won't.

I will qualify that.

At the fitting stage, before I had hemmed the neckline, sleeves and bottom, I loved it. I was surprised at how elegant it was. Maybe not wearing it with sequined leggings as per the pattern envelope helped.

The fabric I used was a rayon/polyester single knit from and it had the drapeyness that this pattern obviously needed. I went slowly (easy to do when it is a super easy pattern) and basted the pleats in place so they wouldn't slip:

Because it was hanging so nicely in the fitting I decided to keep the edge finishes as light as I could (the cut edges hung perfectly). I then spent about a hour trying to get a roll hem on this fabric and even a 3 thread with no luck. The fabric curled away from the stitching in the roll hem and even with the differential waved too much with the 3 thread. 

So in the end I hand basted all hems in place and cover-hemmed them.

Not so good.

The hems at the bottom and sleeves were fine but the neckline was terrible. With the weight of the stitching the edge turned towards the front and the backside of the stitching showed. I was sooo disappointed. 

In the end as a fix I turned and hand-stitched the neckline down which is not a good solution and means I won't be wearing this for anything but dog-walking.

But I want to make this again. It has great potential.

Solutions I am considering include a facing for the neckline. You know extra length that you leave just cut and turn under. I have seen and used that on other patterns.

I have some more of the same fabric in navy in the wash now and am going to have another go at this.

Any thoughts?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Do you ever change your mind?

A while ago Robin  posted an idea that has had me thinking for weeks.

She wrote that she sometimes sews bright and trendy, but keeps clipping Lands End.

I know exactly how she feels.

The first few days home I have been doing domestic catch-up, unpacking, laundry, groceries and visiting. Oh yes, I have been working too.

I have also put away my winter clothes and put out my recently worn-in-Florida summer clothes, despite the fact that it's still not all that warm here all day. I have actually seen people in wool hats around here. Yes I know.

Of course packing up a season brings you face-to-face with things that you didn't reach for all winter. Question is do you put them away and see if they appeal to you next year?

Probably not. 

This can be illuminating if the garments in question were things you worked hard at, ordered in patterns for, mail ordered just the right fabric, and yes paid the duty. It is entirely possible to make a great outfit that is currently totally on trend and still not something you wear - because it was designed for another kind of life or it just someone feels like someone else's clothes and not your own.

By contrast there are some garments that just get worn often, mostly because they are comfortable, maybe because they don't need ironing, but mostly because they are just you.

A long time ago I took out a style book from the public library, wish I could remember the name, where you were asked to choose three words that described you, not how you looked, but who you are.

Think this one over. It's pretty hard.

I am still working on my three words, but on the short list are: simple, resourceful, energetic, cheerful, family and people centered.

The idea now is to take your words (I am going to have a terrible time narrowing this down) and look at every style, forget the pear-shaped and whatever, and see if it reflects these words.

It is an interesting test.

Right now I have on my sewing table two patterns that I was all fired up about when I was at the "add to cart" stage but I now wonder if I will ever make up. Here they are:

OK I love this dress but am not sure if I would wear it. Does it look simple, resourceful, energetic, cheerful, family and people centered to you?

The other one, that I actually have laying on top of the fabric ready to be cut is this :

Now try those words again. The sequined pants top don't work but even still I think only the short sleeved version works for me.

I think I will make it up tomorrow and you can be the judge. Interesting at least to consider the person inside the person and not just the shape inside the garment.

What would your three words be?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Settling back

Today was spent visiting with family, unpacking, and house cleaning. Miss Scarlett and I were very glad to see each other and you can't beat having a small child happy to see you. Not at all.

I also got caught up with work and made arrangements to help out by teaching full time in the fall only and taking more time off after Christmas. Hope I don't regret this.

All in all it was very good to be home. Family is already booking visits for next year to join us. I know having family on your vacation may not be what everyone wants, but for us it is a chance to catch up with people we just wouldn't have this time to be with.

I have to say though that by dinner time I had a vague sense of loss, but couldn't figure out who I was missing because I have seen everyone over the last few months.

Then it hit me that who I was missing was a part of myself. 

The part that on vacation has time to do things for the hell of it. This holiday I started riding a bike again after decades and decades on my own two feet. There were a few moments when I cruised out of the driveway and onto the sidewalk in the hot sun when I felt exactly the same way I did when I was 8 years old. I could have sworn I was on summer holidays then, with my mom even waiting for me at home, with no reason to go anywhere but off for a bike ride.

I know that anyone driving by in their car would have looked over and seen a 57 year old woman carefully and sedately wobbling along on a conservative safe old pedal bike. That might have been what they saw, but to me, inside I was a kid again and man I was racing, was I racing.

Think tomorrow it would be a good idea for me to do some sewing and really settle in here.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Learning, crochet, golf and yes I can single crochet - it took 10 hours

O.K. where do I start?

Well, with golf. 

The thing is when you are learning anything completely new you have to have time to build new neuron channels in your brain (to paraphrase that reliable medical source CNN's health page). As far as I can understand it, once those paths are built you have muscle memory in place which means you can do things like knit and watch TV or ride a bike. (BTW that thing about riding a bike being something you never forget is only partially true, I have found that riding a bike at 57 on a sidewalk is like riding it up a steep hill when you are a kid- why does the body come with a full warranty and knees have only a 25 year manufacturer's warranty?)

If you are doing something really new to you my idea is that not only do you have to build a new path but you have to also buy the land, blast the rock, and move in the heavy machinery before any little roads are laid down. This is my explanation as to why it sometimes takes me so long to learn some things, I really have to stick to things before they stick to me.

Take golf. 

I have figured out why learning golf is frustrating to both the new golfer and the new golfer's spouse. The "advisor" looks at what is wrong and provides advice that matches what they see. I would call this observational instruction. The trouble is for the learnee is that they don't see or observe themselves - they only know how it feels to be inside the learnee body, and trying to see yourself and adjust yourself is distracting and moves you outside the body that you are supposed to be 
using properly.

Am I making any sense at all so far?

So if you want someone to learn something you have to feel it like they feel it and talk to that. Not "bend your knees and sit down slightly while you swing" observational, but " stand so you can feel more of your weight on your heels" and just swing. How it feels from the inside.

Now this brings me to trying to teach yourself crochet from written instructions and even YouTube videos.

Who writes or broadcasts these?

People who have been crocheting for about 40 years and can do it in their sleep who function entirely by muscle memory and back out and observe what they do and describe this, not see it as a complete newbee would.

This makes it hard.

For example " take the yarn in your left hand and thread it over the fourth finger, under the third and around the index finger - this gives you tension". This instruction means your new crocheter can spend a lot of time figuring out which is the fourth and third finger when really all you need to say is " your yarn needs to feed evenly into the hook, experiment with ways of holding the yarn with your left hand until you find a way that you can control the tension evenly."

O.K. again.

I cast on 6 feet of foundation chain stitch and decided to work away on it from Virginia to Maine until I got it, the plain and simple single crochet. I know I have a slow learning curve time so I always allow myself lots of time to practice and learn. The results are pictured above.

I am pretty tired out but happy. My head hurts as it always does when my brain has been building and blasting new paths. I always tell my students if you head doesn't hurt you aren't learning anything new.

This is what I learned today and what I would tell a new aspiring crocheter as a supplement to the usual instructions:

1. You make a chain of simple stitches from an initial slip stitch and this is called a foundation chain because everything else is built up from it. It is really, really important that you don't make this chain too tight or everything that comes next will be a fight. Nice loose relaxed stitches.

2. Row two, the one after this foundation one, is unique. All other rows subsequently will have a nice V shaped complete stitch to dig your hook into but the first row you make into the foundation row only has a simple set of loops to work into, so make each stitch by putting your hook into the middle of each stitch on the chain. (lots of instructions go straight into putting your hook under both loops of each stitch and in fact you aren't going to be seeing this until row three.)

3. Each single stitch in single crochet is in fact a two step process, involving two yarn overs. You will begin of course with one loop already on the hook, you don't work with that right away. Step one of two is to put the hook underneath the little V shaped stitch in the chain of stitches you have already made (we are talking row three here and those thereafter) and both loops (each side of the V). BTW don't make yourself crazy trying to find these two loops by looking at the top of the chain - there is a tiny hole under each stitch if your tension is loose enough - just stab your hook into that little hole and you are in business.

Once you have stabbed your hook through this, make a whole yarn over, back to front over the hook, and pull the yarn through the stitch of two loops to make the first step of the single crochet stitch (refer to many good illustrations as on Lion Brand's site on what this looks like).

Step two of the stitch is to do another yarn over and put that yarn through the two loops on the hook (one created by step one of the stitch and one the first loop that was already there before you started to make this stitch). You have now made on "single crochet" stitch.

4. So the ends of your rows do not all squish up you need to make a step sort of hinge stitch at the end of each row, just single loop to move you up to the next row. Don't work into this stitch, consider it a hinge only.

So that's what was going on my section of the I-95 today.

Quick one: learning new things

This will be fast. The husband is under the impression I am packing up for another day on the road and not blogging while he is out walking the dog.

It occurred to me while I looked at the beautiful southern scenery and knit socks in the car yesterday, that I have learned a few new things in the last year. 

Like knitting socks, which I thought I would never be able to do. The socks have been a good idea. The all purpose gift that anyone appreciates. Any family member I have given them to has said "keep them coming". This has not be at all true of many of the things I have given people.

I have also decided that I have learned to play golf, even if the rest of the golf course wouldn't think so. 

I mean I don't bowl it all the time, I have avoided many sand traps, some of the water, and every once in a while hear that cool sound where you actually connect with the ball. More importantly I have learned to drive a golf cart, which I can now do with one hand while I hold a club, sometimes from the passenger's seat and can even do it backwards, which is safe because a loud noise goes off when you drive a cart backwards.

Man I love driving that golf cart crazy over the hills, that's the best part of the game as far as I am concerned.

I also have learned how to flag down the lady who also drives around with "refreshments" and know how to stand on the green and wave my club in the air so the three foursomes behind you can "play through."

Yes, I think I have golf covered.

So that, and socks, got me to thinking last night about other new skills I should learn and have been avoiding. I decided I to try crochet again.

One of my sisters is a crochet ace and can't figure out why I can't seem to learn this, despite many over the phone tutorials. Neither can I.

Well last night I hit YouTube and tried real hard.

I find this sooo difficult for some reason, and here is the result of about 3 hours effort:

I have about 10 hours in the car today to work at this some more while I wait for my sock wool to dry out. Seems we had a spill of the dog water in the back of the car we didn't notice and Rascal didn't tell us about.

The other thing I am placing, yet again, on my to learn list is better photographs. Don't need to explain why.

If anyone has any good sites for either crochet or photography, well you know who to send them to.

Off now to look busy.