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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, August 13, 2011

Vogue 1261 : revisited

Can you stand it?

I am doing this a lot these days, do a pattern once, figure it out and do it again to see if I can improve it. I have realized that most of the time this entails going back and making a FBA so I guess the message is that I should do that in version one.  I really don't enjoy the FBA process and love, love those cup multi-sized patterns that do it for me. 

And some times I go back and add to the waist, too.

What's with the waistline? It's not something I am doing, I can tell you, apart from not starving myself which I am dispositionally unable to do anyway. Sometimes I feel like my middle is sort of like one of those tubes of Pillsbury dough once you cut the cardboard - you know how it sort of expands before your eyes.

O.K. let's move on to things that are more interesting to the general public.

I had another round of 1261 with a FBA (my easy method cut from shoulder and split down through the bust point) and construction wise I serged in the sleeves, nothing exposed, cover-hemmed the collar and ran a row of cover-stitching around the hemline but left it raw from there down. I figure this was sort of the hem look the original probably had.

Here is version 2:

The hem looks sort of raggedy but that's one of those modern things you have to get used to, just like you have to get used to not everything matching as in white pants, turquoise shoes, white and turquoise patterned top, turquoise earrings and necklace, white purse with turquoise trim. Go out of the house like that and your daughter will just say "Mooooom" at you and suggest you just skip to the chase and have the year you were born tatooed across your forehead which you can't really do because you aren't that cool.

The point of the cut hem of course is that it really allows the knit to hang very nicely. I am sure that the points of this top would get too pointy if I had cover-hemmed them too. Better to save that machine for a structured shape.

Here are some detail shots:

The hem of this top, if it gets too raveled I can still just hem it
In and outside of the collar
I really like this top now I have done like this and am torn if I should use up two more pieces of sweater knit on it, or wait and see what else the pattern gods bring me. It is always a real dilemma. Do you keep making something you like and use up good fabric, but then get bored with wearing the exact same thing in the same but only different colour fabric, or wait.

What would you do?

On another note I want to share with you something I did for my anniversary a few days ago. We went out for a very nice meal of course, and I found a great pop-out card, but frankly getting a man an anniversary present is not an easy thing. 

The silk pajamas last time were not such a hit, he said they made him nervous, and stuck with his Tennessee Vols shirt and the red plaid pants with the Golden Retrievers on them that he bought when I wasn't there to protect him from himself. 

So this year I got one of those roll on letter things and put this on the bulkhead over the stove where he spends most of his spare time:

I figured it was appropriate and he loved it. Of course I had to tell him to look up. A friend of mine had her husband's name tatooed on her ankle and it took him two months to notice, which kind of killed the romance. 

The part I don't get is how she contained herself for two months.

Off for dinner and tomorrow on to the next project.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Important clarification

I need to make sure you all know I am the step-mother of the bride, not the MOB. 

The bride's mother is a great person and absolutely terrific to me, it's important she gets full credit for raising a wonderful girl with my husband, even long after they divorced. Generosity of spirit is not always evident in this world but it it has been Beth's gift to us all to have made that one of the ground rules in this blended family. We are all pretty lucky.

Wedding shots

Our Hilary got married last night and it was beautiful, a fantastic wedding. The ceremony was in the courtyard of a really nice historic inn and the meal afterwards was amazing. Here is my husband and Hilary walking into the courtyard and a shot of us as a group with me in Vogue 1250:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Up next

I probably won't get a lot of sewing done the next few days, work is very busy, today is my anniversary, and tomorrow my husband's daughter's wedding (I am talking step everything out of the vocabulary). Disappearing down to the sewing room "just for a minute" is probably not on.

I like to have at least three projects going and at least one in my head. I am doing 1261 again in a sweater knit, got the sleeve plackets pinned and ready to go on my son's two shirts (no wonder my kids have to wait years to see anything productive for them come out of sewing HQ), but I have decided to just jump in and do this next too:

Yes, I know I said I wasn't going to order this pattern but well you know what I changed my mind. And yesterday some fabric came in the mail for me from my sister in Ottawa who was visiting my mother in Winnipeg and did some fabric shopping there for me, as I am so fabric deprived, and she sent me some pleather here to Halifax, if you can follow that.

Now I have never sewn pleather before and am not sure in this light if this isn't the type that is used to re-upholster car seats. I am also wondering if I should cut into my good wool crepe to sew to it, just in case it is car seat vinyl (no dis of my sister who was only buying exactly what I wanted and where I wanted it bought) but I have decided to jump in and do it anyway. Without a net, which means no muslin wearable or otherwise.

I mean why not?

Of course I will need totally new shoes to wear this providing it turns out enough to be wearable, and I am not sure, since I am well in touch with the shallowness of my usual motives, if this isn't why I have decided to make this outfit next.

Love new shoes.

Later and maybe with wedding pictures.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I just had my head exploded

Sometimes when you teach something comes at you from the most unexpected places and just surprises the hell out of you.

Today I marked what was essentially an organizational behaviour paper. 

The student's thesis was that since leaders and managers are more comfortable traditionally in hiring and promoting those that look like them, professional woman have traditionally favoured pants and jackets (think Hillary Clinton) shoulder pads, and tailored clothes. I always figured it was to dress like the boys but the idea that the boys are more relaxed dealing with someone who looks like them is an interesting twist.

The student also noted the studies that correlated power with height (more CEOs and presidents are tall etc.) and argued that those really high heels are not sexy shoes at all but a response to power that is on a subconscious level at least, achieved only when you can "look them in the eye."

OK, this is interesting enough but the conclusion that women in power suits and super heels are really cross-dressers sort of hit me out of left field. Digest that idea folks.

I think this is why I teach.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Vogue 1261 : the technical notes

Let's start with the whole issue of designer patterns. 

Now I doubt that Kay Unger or Alice and Olivia or DKY sit down and write out these instruction sheets for us home sewers. Most likely some version of a sample or standard size pattern is sent over and the folks at Vogue go into the cut and paste library or translate what they see into instructions. But it is quite clear to me that the garment on the envelope is not made exactly the way the guide sheet inside describes. This is particularly true in knit garments, and very true with this pattern.

I am going to try to organize my thoughts under headings, but begin by saying that this is an interesting pattern with some good shapes but the instructions are way out there. Way out.

Now from the general to the specific:

Thing that drives me crazy #1:

O.K. let's lose the straight stitched double seamed illustrations. Knit tops are not being sewn on treadles. Anyone post WWII has a zig zag and sergers have been around a very, very long time. In fact I bought my first serger after I attended a workshop given by some machine reps at a local motel. I was so desperate to see this new machine I ran through the snow and because I was late climbed over a snow bank with a fresh episiotomy - that's as graphically as I can describe how LONG ago it was that I saw my first serger.

We all have sergers or at the very least a good zig zag with some straight stitches. So what's with illustrating and writing the instructions as if electricity hadn't been invented yet?

Let me tell you none of those folks down at Vogue are sitting there writing this stuff in serger-free clothes.

OK, now let me tell you how I really feel.

In case you want to know what sent me over the edge (see name of blog above) it is this: A bias arrow printed on the collar binding pattern piece in a knit. Of course you only cut something like a binding on the bias to make it stretchy but of course this is completely irrelevant as the fabric is two way stretch - and says so on the very same pattern piece:

Exhibit A:

 Exhibit B:

I mean I have been around the block enough times to ignore that bias arrow, but think of the children, think of the children.

Thing that drives me crazy #2 (pattern specific):

OK, I got ahead of myself last night in talking about the seam in the centre back (it's straight and you can put this pattern piece on the fold - I did) and the seam at the back of the collar. As far as I can figure out they were trying to replicate a flatlock or maybe a coverhem but since the rules were not to use or imply the use of modern machinery they made up this weird twin-needle stuff. Now remember most twin-needles are really close together, unless you get yourself off to a sewing machine dealer for a $6.00 speciality one and most people won't.

Which means you are being asked to straddle butt seams with a tiny little space between two needles. I am not even going to go into the fact that in most cases you are advised to stitch from the wrong side which means a sort of messy zig zag is what is going to show on the right side - I mean why not just use a zig zag to start with?

Here is what those destructions look like:

By tape they mean the scotch tape holding on paper behind the butt seam made by pressing under each cut edge 3/8"

Less hysterical commentary:

Sleeves: As I said last night these are cut real slim and the cap is high, I hate to say it but these would best go in as a set-in sleeve if you don't want to distort the cap, or at least ease in the cap before you try flat construction just as the pattern suggests. The seam allowances are left to the outside and you are told to do this to them. I in fact just zig-zagged instead:

The collar: FYI the band that is folded over the cut edge of this single layer collar is smaller than the opening which means it pulls the collar in a bit so if you fold the top of the collar in it doesn't flip out. This is not a bad idea. Instead of all the twin-needle business I just zig-zagged this down, three step so it wouldn't tunnel. On a more substantial fabric (I made a million samples with my coverhem with starch and stabilizer but still got some tunneling in my soft single layer of bamboo rayon) I would and will use my coverhem to do this:

My fabric actually looks nice in real life but I had to distort/lighten it so you could see the details in navy fabric

The raw edge hem:

See note above about this fabric not looking so crappy and linty in real life

Now I am actually going to make this top again. I have invested so much emotional energy in it I figure why not. But in a sweater knit (remind me to hang that up before I go to bed, it's wet now) with a coverhem.

We will see how that turns out.

BTW my darling husband fed me while I wrote this. One of his super pizzas, he and it, deserve a picture. I have no cranky comments to say about his cooking methods, none at all:

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Long, emotional review of Vogue 1261

I spent a lot of the weekend working on Vogue's Alice and Olivia knit top with unfinished edges V1261

This pattern raised profound philosophical issues for me about how the pattern companies handle some things.  I will go into those in detail later. I have a lot to say about this pattern and the thinking that went into it before it went into the pattern envelope.

I think I will start here with general thoughts on the style itself and then do the technical stuff tomorrow night. I have some work to get ready for tomorrow that I need to do before I go to bed.

First the pictures of it on the sewer:

General comments on this design:

Flared, slightly asymmetrical top with pointed hems at the side. Main feature was the unfinished hem at the bottom and what appeared in the pattern envelope picture to be a lot of unfinished construction edges. I really wanted to try this as I really believe that knits are best with minimal handling and wanted to know how that worked. It will take a little getting used to but I really do believe having a cut edge at the bottom allows this top with an uneven hem to flow and hang better than if I got at it with hemming techniques.

A couple of deceptive features you might not notice:

1. The sleeves are really narrow. My own arms were once described by a physiotherapist as "deconditioned" which I believe means the muscles of a mouse. If you have more than the muscles of a mouse and say can open your own jar lids you will find these sleeves pretty darn tight.

2. Likewise the chest is pretty tight, this really has a T shirt fit and in another version I would add a FBA (I have already altered the pattern for this the next time by slashing up through a hypothetical bust point from the bottom stopping in the middle of the shoulder and spreading.) 

3. Speaking of the shoulder seam it is only about 1 1/2" long. You might not be able to see it from these shots but the cowl is cut really wide, almost as wide as a ballet neckline and so the actual top of the body drapes a bit not just the cowl.

4. I added 2" because I am tall to this and it ends at about hip level. This is fine with me because my hips are not my issue, everything above them is, but if you have hips this top might not be your best look, although the cowl does balance pretty well. IMO the other views with the super wide about to slide off necklines would make pretty dumb tops unless you were into wearing a lot of things underneath like camisoles with straps showing or were going for the "Footloose" off the shoulder look. I am not, and only wear one top at a time, it's all I can get organized, apart from a nice cup of tea cardigan which I might add as necessary.

Now the technical side of this top is really something.

I will give you a hint, they suggest some seams be butted (pressed under 3/8" first), have paper taped behind the place where they are joined, sewn up with a twin-needle straddling the butt, from the wrong side so the underside of the twin needle is on the right side, and then have two rows of ribbon top stitched on either side of this so-called seam.

Can you imagine your average new sewer getting mixed up in this, an "easy" pattern.

Give me strength.

O.K. The details tomorrow.