Sewing with less stress Front

Sewing with less stress Front
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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, July 2, 2011

I am afraid I am serious

A couple of months ago the incomparable Erica Bunker blogged about "Underpinnings". I was most impressed with this post although I wasn't sure if the ankle length Spanx were something I would ever squeeze into.

It got me thinking though.  I have my own seasonal "underpinning" issue and I am sure I am not the only one.

Read no further if you are a minor. This is a big girl's topic.

I am talking inner thigh and that chaffing thing that happens in these summer months and after you have been swimming - certainly cuts into the long walks on the beach enjoyment.

I am totally convinced that if I starved myself to death, meaning I would give up all pies, not just Key Lime, and stress reducing after work meetings red wines, that even if the rest of me faded away I would still have inner thighs that rubbed together when I walked on summer days.

I have been thinking there has to be a sewing solution to this. I surfed around and found these two options on ModCloth, sorry I can't copy a decent sized shot from the site, for tap pants and under dress bicycle shots.

What do you think?

Good old Kwik Sew has tap pants, of course they do, and you could adapt some leotards in cotton knit working from the Jalie pattern: 

What do you think? What would you do?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The exciting and the boring

First of all let's start with the good stuff. 

Here's a shot of Miss Scarlett in the swimming cover-up I made her. Note the accessories even the trailing blankie. She always has accessories, just like her mother and me.

She was a little hoarse yesterday having spent the day before having her inaugural terrible two temper tantrums. My daughter was worried she wasn't doing the right thing when Miss S hit the floor a few times because things weren't going her way. Like all grandmothers I said what we all say, "She is just like you. You wouldn't believe the temper tantrums you used to have." 

In fact years ago one of my former neighbours, a nice retired nun, told me that she was once on the verge of calling Child Services because of the screams that came out of my house one day. It turned out that my daughter, at age two, had been having a meltdown because there was a wrinkle in her leotards (tights to some folks). No matter how I tried to straighten them out there were wrinkles at her knees and that drove her crazy. It was all about the accessories even then.

Actually IMO Miss S's TT are not that bad and an hour or so sitting around on the steps looking at bugs does the trick.

Of course the reasons for two year old temper tantrums are well-documented. Being tired of being bossed around, wanting to exert control over your environment, the difficulty of transitioning from one life stage to another.

Personally I think we should bring legit temper tantrums back for other life stages.

Wouldn't it be easier if you were allowed to have the terrible 42s ("don't mind her, she just doesn't have five minutes to herself"), the terrible 52s ("she's just gone blue in the face because she has totally used up her patience with dumb bosses") and the terrible 62s ("She just wants to do it herself. That's just normal at her age.")

I think we would all feel better for it, and I don't know about you but there are days when a time out seems particularly attractive.

Now speaking not necessarily of attractive, but certainly of necessity, I have made two new skirts in the last couple of days. 

I am going to need these for teaching summer school and they are the kind of project that the best thing you can say about them is that they are done. Here they go, one linen skirt showing attractive, just worn, linen wrinkles (I held back on the meltdown this time) lined of course. That's about all I can say about this.

And a slightly more interesting version in black and white stretch cotton sateen:

Doing the skirts of course made me realize that despite all the fitting traumas and potential to discover once again that what you knew would not suit you in fact does not, I really am a new pattern sewer. I like to do something I haven't done before. I like surprises. I prefer sewing as an adventure as opposed to production sewing (I have decided I won't get white shirts 4-10 made unless I work with an exciting pattern).

Well that's just me.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


I got the nicest email last night from Elaine, who sent me this explanation of how to do a waistband without the bulk of a seam at the end of the extension, very similar to Lin and Betsey's comments left after an earlier post. Here are Elaine's instructions:

I hate trying to put buttonholes in waistbands - those end seams always play havoc with my getting a good result.
I learned this technique from Ron Collins who comes to Nanaimo often to teach a a local store. Essentially, you redraft the waistband pattern to have a seamline at the top edge, and the 2 pieces will be of differing lengths. For the outer one, the old seamline becomes a foldline, and you extend the band by 2" or so + seam allowance. Depending on where you are putting the zipper, you may have a fly front extension to consider (re extension length). The inner (next to body) waistband is then drafted - the old length being reduced by the amount of the foldback extensions (+ seam allow.) You can interface one or both sides (personal preference). Sew the inner and outer waistbands together at your new seamlines, then sew the top edge. You can use this technique on straight or contour bands, with fly front, side or back zipper.

This made sense to me and then I went on YouTube and found Trudy's illustration in her two tutorials, linked here:

 and here:

I have Miss Scarlett today and as soon as she has her nap I'm down to the sewing room.

Monday, June 27, 2011

On kids and letting go in general

One of my biggest challenges of being a mother is getting my head around the fact that they grow up and go away. 

Yes. I know I know. 

I do think. I do know that this is natural, important and necessary. Just sometimes I think to myself, you know I was perfectly happy when we all lived here together. More than happy to tell the truth.

So. I know this is the way things should be, but sometimes it has been difficult to be as smart and as cool as I know I should be.

My DC now to be my NYC son has been the test of this. In some ways I know this kid has been on his way to New York his whole life. He is that kind of guy. In fact I can't imagine him living here in this city. I actually can't even picture it.

Of course you don't just have to see kids move on, or move out of your life. This happens to good jobs, maybe your work life entirely, to partners, husbands, friends, your animals, and to places. 

So this is where I have come to be with all of that.

I don't believe, despite the best of advice, in letting go. I don't think you should let things or people you care about go. If they are in your heart, all the time, I think you should let them stay there. 

But what you have to do is let them loose. Loose to go on to their next stages. Loose to keep being who they are.

So where does that leave you when you feel left behind sometimes?

Two places.

The first is you have to keep up with where they are now, make sure your attachment is to the present, not the past, person. I am on my way to NYC as soon as this guy is ready for visitors.

The second thing is to keep doing what you did when you were in that stage of your life. What gave you enjoyment then will still deliver. I remember an elderly lady telling me she still made a decent dinner for herself every night, and planned a menu, even when she didn't have anyone to cook for any more but herself. I know a few women who stop going places when there is no man around anymore. You still are the same you, you still have the same life.

In my case sewing is something I have always done, through all my own stages, through all the times I had to let someone or something loose. That sewing chair is where this person still is and always will be.

Does this make sense?

Pant thoughts

As I have said here several times I am pretty pleased with my pants fit. I feel confident to go now and try to apply the same tactics to a new pants pattern. But that will have to wait a bit. This morning I am back to work and torn if what I should do next is finish two teaching worthy summer straight skirts or go on to some summer dresses. It has been a while since I have made a dress and I am in the mood.

The truth is that behind this latest version of decent fitting pants lies a heap of about 900 (literally) pants that didn't fit.

So what did I learn? What made a difference? This seems worth sharing.

First of all that old adage about not doing what you have done before if you want a different result is true. Because I was on vacation and feeling reckless, rather than careful, this is what I did differently. This is what you might want to consider in your own pants quest:

1.  Consider that you might not know your body as well as you thought you did. Our body images have to do with a lot of things other than fact. For instance because I am tall I have been told my whole life I have a "long pelvis like Grandma." So every single pair of pants I have ever made has started with at least an inch added all around the top. This invariably produced a droppy butt, extra fabric around the legs, all those baggy front crotch wrinkles. Also bodies change. Like a lot of women of a quality age my legs have actually gotten thinner as my waist has expanded. In actual fact my straight hips require zero extra at the top and in fact a slight lowering of the seam allowance at the sides. I only needed that one inch plus at centre back because of my large butt and at centre front for my belly. Don't start out doing all the standard flat pattern alterations you think you need before you cut out the pattern.

2. Make your first pair just right out of the envelope only make basic width adjustments that you are obviously going to need to get the fitting pair over your body. Choose the appropriate pattern size of course. In my case I bought for my thighs, a 14 and added to the waist width. When in doubt go with a smaller size and add. Taking in for most people is too hard - you can't take in fabric that has already been cut away, at the crotch curve for instance.

I also want to say that IMO pants patterns are better than they used to be, in my experience at least with Simplicity. After 20 years of scooping away at the that old crotch seam because of the big butt (please see earlier shots in earlier posts for dramatic illustration) I just sewed up the Simplicity pants as they were and the crotch seam was perfect. I nearly, actually, fainted as this violates everything I thought I had figured out.

3. Make only little changes and make only one change in each test pair. The famous "clown butt" alteration takes in only 1/2" at the back inseam and adds it to the back crotch seam and that worked very well for me. I needed to see and understand the power of this simple little alteration, without messing it up with 45 other ideas, to know that this is actually something I should be doing from now on. Taking out some of the outer side seam curve, adding a 1/2" more to centre back and front were all additions I made one at a time.

4. Wear a fitting pair for a day before you either sign off on them or start cutting out more pairs. The body moves and what you don't see right away you will feel after a bit. Doing this helped me zero in on the best waistband fit.

5. Speaking of waistbands if you find the top of the pants hard to fit try moving your waist up to your natural waistline. It's now fashionable anyway. Having a natural anchor for your pants smooths out a lot of issues.

6. Don't go nuts with the fitting. I am amazed when I read blog posts that detail lots of "I moved this seam over 1/8" etc. This may be fitting heresy but unless your figure in faultless in the conventional sense over-fitting my in fact articulate your fitting issues (you are so glad I didn't post the pictures of my attempts at skinny jeans) or even worse waste your sewing time.

Listen, you are sewing pants not finding the cure for a life threatening disease at the molecular level. What you want are decent pants that can serve as a backdrop for more interesting to sew tops and which are comfortable to wear.

Be realistic. If you find this hard to do go sit in an airport lounge for a couple of hours. Even your half way fitted pants are going to look better than 99% of the pants you see on most folks in their store boughts.

Also Shams and Betsy thanks for your great comments (everyone read them after my last post) on closures. In my different versions I tried zippers up through the facings, skirt hooks and buttons. In the end I feel better the more secure I am so I think a button and a hook (two extensions is a good idea) are best.

Something is bothering me though.

Somewhere in the back of my brain is an idea for not having a seam at the end of the extension so the buttonhole is easier to make, but I can't remember how that went.

Anyone have any ideas?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

And black pants

And this is what the same pants look like in black covered in Golden Retriever hair, spilled coffee cake and hair and eyes fresh from the swimming pool. I consider this shot more evidence I made another pair in black yesterday than a useful garment shot.

Question for you. 

What is your favourite waistband closure treatment? 

I have tried something different on each pair of pants. More on that later.