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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 11, 2011

Worry and coats

OK these two things are unrelated but both on my mind tonight. My mind is particularly skilled at holding unrelated thoughts.


Tomorrow we are going out to see my mother-in-law to talk and visit. Part of that discussion will be about things like selling her house in the country and moving in town near us by the winter. My MIL's grace and strength and serenity after my father-in-law's death is amazing to me. She just takes things in stride. I am not sure how much of that is her quiet but solid faith, and how much of it is the family attitude of "there is no sense in worrying." They don't just say it, they actually mean it. Can you believe it?

This attitude to life is something I can only aspire to some days. My own background was more of the if you worry you are creating some kind of insurance of preparedness. Suffice too to say that my father's nickname for my mother when we were growing up was "the voice of doom." She always said that it was better to think of the worst and get ready for that and all the rest was a nice surprise. Well, maybe not so nice because you had pretty much worried yourself to a frazzle by the time the good news came in. But I think you get the picture.

Recently however in our last visit I have noticed how often my mother says things like "well I just can't worry about that." I can actually say that after heart attacks, becoming a widow, and a whole series of other challenges, my mother seems pretty carefree these days. I think it comes with aging, least for her.

I have noticed this in myself, a tendency, after a lifetime of some fairly world class episodes of catastrophic thinking, to start to draw the line and say, well I can't be worrying about that. Maybe when you realize that you don't have decades and decades of time wasting ahead you just get to a point where some things are in and some things are out. 

So lately I have looked at some of my relationships or work situations or people (every one of us has a few of what my dad called "the big stupid" folks visited upon us) and said to myself "well I am just going to have to put all of that, and you, in the can't worry about it box - even if you or it are worry worthy, I'm just not able to do it. Sorry."

Sometimes you just have to do this. Some things you are just going to have to let go undone. You don't always get the big fix-up, the last word, the second chance, the resolution or the result you want. 

I am still working on this. There are a couple of things I know I worry about too much and that the worry isn't advancing anything at all. But at least now I have started to label somethings as things I can't worry about is a real good start. After all the only response to some situations is "oh hell"  and there is no amount of getting ready that is going to make it any different or better. And the only response to other situations is just plain gratitude and your job to be able to fully do that when that happens is enough of an assignment for anyone.

One thing I do know is that the more activities you can enjoy the easier it is to let go of some of the worry. Sewing plays a big role in this for me.

I hope that the folks who don't sew have their own way.

The other thing on my mind is how I have to sew a totally great winter coat this year. I have been waiting for the right pattern now for several  seasons.

It seems that the coats we have been seeing have been nice and fitted, which is nice but doesn't fit my cold winters.

A person really needs a fashionable sharp coat that she can throw on over her at home clothes and look fabulous going to the grocery store at the last minute, to work, or downtown for a meeting. A real style item but also one that is warm.

The coat pattern I am waiting for has these features:

1. In addition to extreme style it has enough ease to fit over the other warm clothes I need to wear like sweaters.

2. It has non-drafty edges. A neckline that closes around your neck. Sleeves that close around the wrist or if the sleeves are wide, storm cuffs up inside to keep out the cold air. A hem that is not too full - ease but close to the body at the hem or some kind of waist shape, to keep you warm is important. 

3. Good secure closures. What's with the closureless coats BWF has been showing? Or coats fashioned with one button or with only a leather belt? I would like to meet those designers at the bottom of my hill some Nova Scotia February and we can walk up together, against the wind or heaven forbid the sleet.

It's only June and I am going to hold on to every sunny day I can but man do I need a new coat come winter. I need it, but I am not going to get too worried about it quite yet.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Following up on the pizza

Ha. You thought I was joking about the self-cleaning pizza cooking (BTW the oven has never been so clean) but now you can see it for yourself.

It has occurred to me that my dear, try anything husband, is morphing into his father - the hero of his youth who once removed a tumour from the head of a budgie bird with an uncle administering the ether to the beak and all kids in a circle attending. The bird apparently survived. For a while at least.

My husband took away from this and about a thousand other experiments, that a person can do anything themselves. 

And that has brought us to this place now in my kitchen. 

But a person who has spent most of her adult life planning wardrobes she has yet to sew is in no position to be disillusioning.

I had to take a day off sewing today. I had to get my upcoming work schedule straightened out at school and later in the afternoon I had Miss Scarlett come over for the day and over-night. My DD is working a night shift and my son-in-law is away.

Scarlett spent most of the afternoon sitting under bushes in the backyard with the dogs giving me a running commentary on life and some time with toilet training experiments in the house. My place is apparently an ideal toilet training venue. A nephew of mine once said "You can even poop on the floor at Thia (aunt) Barbara's and she will just say that's great." Whether or not you consider this a compliment depends on your age and your standards.

I am geared up for some serious sewing. I have mother skirts to finish and want to do another version of my slim fit (I am referring to the hem circumference not myself) pants and clear the decks for some tops over the weekend.

I then have some summer dresses to make before I haul out the White Shirts. Three in a row were enough in a row when I first had this idea but I have been away from that project long enough to want back in.

But all that is for another day. Right now I am going off to bed, I understand waking up time is 5:30 a.m.

I will sew in my sleep.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

That crazy man

If you want to make an excellent artisanal pizza with a nice crisp crust and a nice soft top you can do it. In you home oven at the self-clean cycle.

If you are nuts. 

Here is how you do it as it is done at my house:

1. First get all your pizzas ready. If you don't have real pizza sliders (those long lifters they use in real pizza joints) then you can get all your pizzas ready on pieces of cardboard that you have coated with corn meal so nothing sticks. (I of course did none of this but I was only an observer/eater/witness).

2. Get the oven ready. This involves putting in a double layer of Home Depot 16" ceramic tiles in the oven (to replace usual pizza stones because these are large, square and provide superior even heat).

3. Remove two screws from the latch in the door so you can open it to insert the pizzas once the self-cleaning temperature is underway. Decide to not lose these screws (there are more than a few screws loose in this process let me tell you).

4. Turn on oven to self-clean. Wait 45 minutes for it to get all fired up.

5. Cook pizzas one at a time - Average time is 4 minutes each with some variables being 2.5 minutes for the first one and up to 6 minutes for the last one depending on how many times you open the door.

Resident chef suggests you watch your pizzas closely (no kidding) and wear oven mitts at all times.

BTW these pizzas are incredible.

Monday, June 6, 2011

All cut up

I am actually back working this week so my sewing will have to be organized, not self-indulgent.

I have two new versions of McCalls 6241 cut out with a neckline facing extension and I will see how that goes:

I have also cut out and serged two pairs of pants from one of the patterns I tested on my holiday, and cut out four elastic waist skirts for my mom.

I am feeling badly that I haven't done more sewing for my mother. I sewed her a couple of these skirts two summers ago. She brought them to Florida and told me how great they are and how her friends admire them. Older women get stuck in polyester and things that don't fit.

I was embarrassed. 

Because I don't see her every day (she is in the middle of the country and I am on the edge) although I talk to her nearly every day, I had no real idea of what she needs to wear. Look at all the sewing I do and all the thinking and talking about sewing and blogging about sewing I do. All these skirts are is a front and a back and an elastic and a hem. She also told me she has only one pair of capris because it is hard to find anything for an 83 year old woman who is short and has a waistline wider than the average. A tailor, a tailor, told her to buy a larger pair and they would take in the legs. You and I both know that wouldn't work. And what would they charge her?

I have to start sewing for her. This is after all a woman who drove down at 6:00 a.m. and joined a gym that specializes in cardiac patients so she could stay fit enough to keep up with grandchildren.

I also had some random thoughts on my own sewing.

I looked at my skirt fabrics and figured that I need to make some more straight skirts over the summer for the school year that's coming up. And I realized that if I continue to teach part-time for another 5 years or so that I could potentially sew up all the straight skirts right now that I would need for the rest of my career. That gave me a very odd feeling.

I then realized that since I started working I could have used the exact same straight skirt pattern all these years and been in fashion every single year I wore them. Now what other garment can you say that about?

I also thought about tailoring. I actually know how to do it from a period of my life when I was putting a lot of effort in learning things like that. But I don't really do it much at all any more.

Why? Mainly because my sewing has become more about comfort and variety and fashion and speed I guess. The return on that pad stitched lapel just isn't there for me anymore. I actually don't want to be sewing any one garment for more than a week (and I am talking part-time sewing) these days and I certainly don't want to be wearing anything over and over for years. I am already wondering what neat things might be in the fall pattern catalogues.

I also wonder how much of this has to do with internet sewing. It's not the same now with online catalogue access, cyber shopping and the eye candy of other blogs as it was when it was just me driving over to thumb through the patterns on my own. I see so much more now, my community of inspiration is so much wider, and my life too is that much busier.

How has your sewing life changed?