Sewing with less stress Front

Sewing with less stress Front
My newest sewing book

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Sewing with less stress back cover
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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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Friday, August 5, 2011

Pictures of the North

In the event that you don't make it to the Bay of Deception yourself (in the literal and geographical sense at least) I thought I would share some pictures my husband brought back from his trip there. This is probably as close as I will get to that spot personally. There is only one building I am seeing here and my suspicion is that it is not a fabric store, so that lets me out.

In case too that there are not many caribou in your neck of the woods I thought I would share shots of those too:

And of the lovely northern flowers that you don't see in the big picture but remind me as always that the real story is in the details. Sort of the buttonholes of life (my god I am deep):

On the sewing front the first of my BMV pattern packages arrived today and in it was this pattern which I am incredibly excited about:

This pattern, which I figured would be a great addition to my comfortable sloppy wardrobe, is far much more. It has the totally most nutso instructions I have ever read. This is world class making-things-so-much-harder-than-they-have-to-be stuff.

Now tomorrow I should be making real progress on my son's shirts, but I am sorely tempted to get into this one and provide a running commentary of total construction madness.

We will see.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

New Fall Buttericks

Thank you, thank you sewing gods for bringing me more patterns to think about. I love the tension of trying to make up my mind.

I am doing my best to i.d. patterns that I actually will make versus ones that catch my eye, leaving room for all those other patterns I know when I see them made up on other sewers/bloggers I will want to sew too.

O.K. Here are my picks with commentary:

Of course these dresses caught my eye with the dramatic colour blocking and everything, but really how many times would you wear that orange and black number and not get sick of it? On the other hand if I had a one off event where I wanted to make a statement these would do the trick. The seaming is cool though, maybe in a solid, or how about less high contrast? Grey and black for instance. I am not going to order these but will keep my eyes open for other sewist's versions.

Nice dress and I am so happy to see knit dresses dominant this season. However if there is one thing this summer's draped and cowl necks taught me, it is that having the action around my face and neck works pretty well. I notice that the eye is drawn right to the stomach on this one. So good, but not for me.

Oh, that reminds me of something I am upset about. While my spouse is away I have been really healthy. Exercising every day, no Friday night wines, lots of vegetables, little meat - a diet right out of a woman's magazine. Well guess what?

I am now about 6.5 pounds heavier than when I started this routine. In fact I have exercised and healthy eaten myself to my all time heaviest non-pregnant weight (and that was one long time ago too).

What the hell?

I have taken action though and am dealing with this development. I have taken the scales right down to the furnace room where they can stay.

Now back to patterns.

I can't make my mind about this dress, I think I like it, all the seaming is pretty cool. Is this the one with the side zipper though? In a knit dress? What's up with that? I really need to see this on a real person. The hem width on the back of the pattern envelope is modest (high 40s) I think so it probably isn't as flared as it looks here.

Great coat, neckline would date but the coat would wear out too. Looks warm and feminine, going to get this one and make it longer for sure.

The drapey blue neckline on that one top appeals to me but I might recut it to dispense with the tails, for cooler weather wear they might drag down under a jacket and how dumb would that look?

Now those are my thoughts, what are yours?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Back to work today but wanted to share my shirt collars because they are the best I have ever made due to Debbie Cook's method here.

This system seems to work for me because the last stitching (and in collars the last stitching is usually the tricky part) is when you slip the collar into the top of the neck band, and that is a pretty straight and easy seam to sew.

I have also taken advice from somewhere I forget and used a smaller stitch length for the top stitching. That, and my straight stitch plate and foot, has given me some nice neat stitches at all the scary parts like the collar point and the curve in the neck band:

My husband is coming back Friday morning and I am looking forward to that. The only thing I will miss is seeing "Bay of Deception" on the call display when he calls. Looks very dramatic.

Speaking of drama I have been watching CNN and the debt ceiling debates and votes in the evening. What's left of my work in politics is an appreciation/interest in the process. Of course both Congress and Senate had to go through each getting a Republican and Democrat bill voted down, they needed that to take to the base and for the record before they moved forward. As this is a sewing blog and not a political one, and I'm not going to be writing one, I can only say that my observation is that these are trying times for intelligent people and some of those are at the top.

When I have had enough of politics I have been watching movies and knitting my blanket for the next baby. I bought this yarn because it felt so soft and because the store sample was so baby friendly but frankly it's a pretty boring pattern. I want to move on to something more interesting. 

The slight tedium of this project is compounded by the fact that my TV seems stuck on voice over for the seeing impaired on the movie channel. No matter what I do I can't fix it. So I have a running commentary on everything I watch " John moves to the window and looks longingly down on the street." The credits at the end are the worst.

However I am making sure I am only knitting in good vibes, I am looking forward to another baby in the system:

Monday, August 1, 2011

Shirts and Scarlett

Miss Scarlett and I were on our own this weekend with her parents away at a wedding and my better half still in the land of the midnight sun (but back the end of the week).

This morning I am considering my sewing life and drinking a quiet coffee after an action packed few days.

Here she is in a toy stroller with Pinky Bear. It turns out it was Pinky's weekend to get toilet trained so he spent a far amount of time being fished out of the toilet, washed and then blow dried. He is making some progress but apparently not enough. Day two we had to put him back in diapers. (By the way those are pen marks on her arm - we move fast when Babs is on the phone.)

Miss Scarlett really is our girl and a bit of a conversationalist. When I went to get her up after a nap on Saturday she took one look at me and said "Nice dress Babs, did you make it yourself?" This kid and I will have a lot to talk about.

I spent my evenings doing semi-horizontal knitting and nap times making shirts.

I have two going for the on his way to NYC son. I made him one a year ago and his comment was that the collar was weird and so I have delayed trying another one while I thought about that.

We talked about it last visit and it turns out he was sort of waiting for more shirts and that I had "nailed the fit" and really all the collar needed was a tiny bit shaved off and a place for collar stays.

Being female I don't have a lot of collar stay experience but can see now that they are a good idea. Hold the points up but don't require crazy heavy interfacing.

Gigi has a great tutorial on a really easy collar stay method that doesn't use buttonholes and I did that and am super pleased with the results:

This is what the underside of the collar looks like with the collar stay patch on it - I am making a striped and a plain blue shirt but thought the striped showed best how the grain goes.

Of course I didn't get the stripes matched - the collar has shape and the stay is folded on grain - not that I tried very hard, since this is on the underside.

I also revived a memory of how to do the shirt pocket hem:

1. Fold the top hem allowance to the inside.
2. Fold it down again.
3. Stitch through all layers along the fold 1/4."
4. From the right side press the fold down.

Now I know this shirt fits I am very much enjoying the zen of this sewing project. The details are so precise and clean and classic. The cotton presses so nicely. 

Men's sewing is so different. All the fit fussing just isn't there. This makes me think for the upteempth time that male dress, collar stand shirts, blazer type jackets and pants with flys, are really not natural garments on the female body and a lot of work to get to fit. Tell me what is less stress to sew? A dress or a fitted jacket?

While I was sewing these shirts I was reminded of how much I enjoy sewing machines. That straight stitch plate makes all the difference to being able to top stitch around collars without losing a stitch or packing them up at the corners.

Quite a few years ago I did some part-time work for some sewing machine companies as an educator. It was a bit of an indulgence and something I gave up when work got really busy. It was so much fun though. One of the best things I did was was when one of the companies send me their complete line and I wrote sort of demo guides for them comparing and emphasizing features.

Can you imagine how great it was to have all those machines to test and play with? I am a bit wistful about that. I would love to have machines to review - there are so many new features out there and cruising the net over the weekend I wondered to myself how would anyone ever figure out what suited them? It's all pretty overwhelming.

I wonder if I contacted a few of the companies what would happen?