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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, September 3, 2011

Clothes matter

This came in just now from my son in London. Enjoy:

Friday, September 2, 2011

Report from out of controlsville

I will be posting the final pictures of that Vogue 1264 jacket tomorrow. Looks fine, but maybe it needs pockets.

More or less nuts around here.


Up for nearly two nights now. Once because of going to bed late and getting up early yesterday because I had too many projects on the brain and back-to-school looming next week.

Up most of last night down at the hospital with my daughter who has about 5 weeks left to go with her second pregnancy. She has the stomach flu so bad we had to take her in for IV Gravol and a couple litres of fluid. My son-in-law stayed home with Miss Scarlett. I sat in the room at the maternity hospital and knit. She is somewhat better today but not much so we might go back for more fluids. She's a nurse herself and pretty matter of fact about all of this. She is off work because of a tough later pregnancy anyway so we are sort of hanging on this last month.

On the home front you might remember that my husband most unexpectedly disabled the downstairs bathroom (actually the toilet is now sitting in the middle of the floor in another room) and ripped out the laundry room last weekend. This happened the week before I go back to a course overload (for those who don't teach think of this as three months of overtime) and a busy fall.

Well, anyway.

I live in a 50 year old house with the original kitchen complete with the dings of raising a bunch of kids in it. My spouse and I have been sort of thinking of a new kitchen in a vague sort of way. We saw a model kitchen in one spot and had our names written down as potential customers.

Two days ago we got a call saying that the store was going to change the display kitchens and if we would remove the existing one for them they would give it to us for 50%.  My husband said yes, so now we have an entire kitchen to gut, stuff like flooring to figure out etc.

One problem.

This beautiful complete kitchen is 1 1/2" too long for our space. After much problem-solving discussions  we figured out if we got a new fridge, that was slightly narrower, it would all work.

So new fridge. Not too newsy.

 But this is the thing.

I already have three fridges and one chest freezer. Have I mentioned that my spouse is food obsessed and there is cooking and family eating going on around here non stop? I have a 36" wide fridge in my kitchen that holds my milk and home made dog food, and all my condiments (love to can and love spicy food). There is also another 36" fridge in my husband's office down the hall (see above) for other stuff, and a back-up in the basement, and freezer. We need the space. When my old friend came for dinner the other week my husband cooked lobsters the size of Mr. Rascal and that sort of thing takes up room and happens often.

And now we decide we need another fridge. 

There are moments like these when I realize, I am probably nuts. I live in a little modest house with family pictures, three fridges, and a life time supply of fabric. I don't have beautiful furniture or a spotless, well-ordered home. Most of my life is what are we going to eat (and I wonder why the weight isn't going away), what am I going to sew, and who is coming over. That's it. The rest is pretty vague.

What are you going to do?

Well tomorrow I am going to start a quick and easy top and hide out in my sewing room and hope the rest of it blows over.

Make sense?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

McCalls thoughts

I am cheered as always to see new patterns come out, Vogue can't be far behind, but haven't exactly had my socks knocked off by this latest McCalls batch.

Here are my thoughts:

This dress is interesting in that the garment shot shows a wider skirt than the line drawings, and the pleats explain that. If the bodice wasn't so boring I might have considered it.
Is that a centered zipper I see in this double-knit dress? You are kidding. This definitely would have an invisible zipper in RTW and there is not a zipper application harder to do than a centered zipper. The sample makers shouldn't put in details they wouldn't see in real clothes or wear themselves.

If you live where I live any jacket with a nice warm neck catches your eye. I think it would be possible to get creative with this pattern and I just might do that. But tell me where were their heads when they put a cozy neck on a jacket and then made it an unlined garment. Warm neck, cold body? The pattern companies seem to be in love with unlined jackets which to my mind are a contradiction in terms, plus those jackets stick and never hang right. 
This one caught my eye as wearable and sort of interesting but there is no bust shaping and a FBA would be too much trouble to add in such a simple dress.
I don't really need this pattern but thought this had potential for sewers who wanted a slim knit pant without going to leggings extremes and you have to love that natural waistband. I will look to see other sewers working on this one and may change mind about not needing it.

So overall I probably won't make an order for any of these, but might throw the jacket into the basket if Vogue delivers and I do my usual first-sale-possible purchases.

Tell me did I miss anything?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Last day of August and executive decisions

Today was the day. 

The day when I got up and could smell autumn in the air. Not that it wasn't a nice day, it was warm and sunny- but it was thin good weather - you could feel the cold behind it waiting, and coming out once it got dark.

I am a teacher's daughter and I teach now myself. September has always been the start of the year for me and I hope I never lose that "Back to school" feel although I am so happy not to be caught up in school supply shopping anymore. 

So finishing things up, I tried to get going on that old Vogue 1264 jacket again but could feel my heart just wasn't in it.

Maybe it was the cool new patterns that arrived today from my last BVM indiscretion. As likely it's because there isn't anything unexpected about this mandarin collar, boxy jacket. I know more or less how this, and things like this, will turn out. 

There isn't that crazy thrill of going to the bathroom mirror and opening your eyes and not knowing if you look like a princess or a complete idiot until that moment, because you haven't made anything like this before.

There isn't the intrigue of interesting construction or new techniques that make you stop and think.

This has become production sewing for me and I feel rushed to do something before the cold moves in closer, rushed to do something with more unpredictability, more risk.

I think this jacket will be fine but the process is holding me back.

Which brings me to this:

About 40% of the work on this jacket is on two vertical welt pockets with the old pleather (read can't press) welts. I am reading this 40% as time, and so I decided today to get this baby into the Out basket and to dispense with the pockets.

I don't know how you feel about pockets but I often don't put them in. That's why I carry a purse. You will notice that the model in this picture is doing a lot of standing around waiting with her hands in her pockets and I don't get to do much of that. In an outdoor jacket maybe, but not in an inside jacket like this.

Probably I should make these pockets but I can tell you I wouldn't use them. Not like the days when I had a phone set on vibrate with me all the time (even under my pillow at night - never work for a politician).

O.K. these pockets look kind of nice but are too much trouble for me today. Back to school on Wednesday and I have to keep moving. I am finishing this jacket up tomorrow if I have to cancel all other useful activities. 

Ever have a project like that? Every dropped a detail because you just didn't care that much?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Quick follow-up on last post

Shams see how famous your style is? I knew as soon as I posted those photos last night from Ottobre that you would know how to make those coats work. Unfortunately I don't have the issue, have to renew to get it, and don't think I will be doing that.

Too bad because the older Ottobres, still available from the website, are great collections of wearable classics. And yes frumpy is the word for some of the latest styles.

Off now to continue my exciting hand-basting of the interfacing to the pleather on that Vogue jacket - this is a fairly involved project. Running a bit behind schedule as I just got in from this movie:

Since we went to The Help a few weeks ago together my husband has rediscovered the Big Screen and decided this afternoon we should go to see this as soon as he got home from work.

What have I started?

The clothes weren't much in this movie, I can tell you that. Sewing inspiration, you will be surprised the hear, was limited.

Now off to baste.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Ottobre designs- balloon suits?

I have in the past enjoyed my Ottobre designs for women subscription. There were always some good, slightly funky, around-the-house or basic patterns in every magazine. And I loved the fact that the models were real, rather than unreal, women.

And yes it made me feel sort of cool to sew up a Finnish design. Like I was a woman who went cross-country skiing before breakfast, and ate a lot of cheese and wore clogs and was progressive and so damned healthy. You know, like chunky jewelry and bangs.

However I don't know what to think of this autumn/winter selection. I probably won't be renewing. These are some pretty damned weird coats IMO.

Have I lost my edge? Am I too suburban/North American after all? Not enough fresh air? Cheese? Style?

Or will this be one of the many new profiles I think is nuts at first and once I see it everywhere, and just about when it is going out of style,  decide it's OK?

What do you think?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Steamy day

No Irene in this neck of the woods but it has felt odd and so damp. The patterns in my sewing room feel like wet paper towels and things have just been weird.

First of all the dehumidifier overflowed, something to do with some thingy that I bent emptying it. So there was water all over the basement floor. One thing led to another and in the clean-up and my husband, who recently got his certification as a home inspector (a retirement plan idea although there is no indication he will be retiring for a long time yet), decided to check out the condensation in the downstairs bathroom. That  led to the toilet being taken up and out, then the floor, then the walls, and then that spread over into the laundry room which now doesn't have a floor either. I think another wall is going to be taken out too.

I feel this is only the beginning.

Now that's his end of the business.

On my end I took the dogs out for a walk at a new place (through the parking lot of the Mormon Temple and into the woods they share with the Sisters of Charity convent) where the dogs promptly lost four more balls. This is partially my fault as I have just about as much accuracy in using a Chuckit (if you are not a dog owner this is that stick thing you use to throw a ball further in case you throw like a girl and your natural arm propels balls about four feet) as I do in using a  dehumidifier apparently.

I really can't afford to keep these guys in balls anymore. Yes when I use the Chuckit I do hit trees and things bounce backwards. But they are dogs. They are supposed to find things. Things in tall grass and behind bushes. They are dogs. They are supposed to do more than look blankly at me and munch grass and go find sticks for me to throw when they hear  me say "Go find the ball."


Since I couldn't do laundry or use the bathroom downstairs, or have the dogs show any signs of intelligence, initiative, or instinct,  I threw myself into cutting out the jacket for Vogue 1264, of the great, but short, but fashionable, pants. (Check out the divine Miss E's version today I am seriously reconsidering a red pair).

It's a bit of a cutting marathon what with the wool crepe, the pleather, the interfacing, and the lining and the FBA etc. going on.

I don't know about you but cutting out is something I dread. A necessary step between the purchasing/planning part I love and the sewing part I also love.

There is a lot of marking too and I always mark with tailor tacks using different colour threads for the different size dots etc. :

Sometimes I think this is a lot of trouble but really it takes a lot to keep me organized. Which brings me to this.

Near the end of my cutting session I realized I have lost Piece #8. The collar.

Now with it being so humid I had the windows of the sewing room open (my spouse was also using one of those windows to throw drywall pieces out onto the lawn - don't ask) so Piece #8 probably got blown around somewhere.

I limply looked for it for a while then asked Demolition Man for help. He took the guide sheet with the little pattern pieces on it, took a picture converted it into a .jpeg opened it in Autocad, a program he uses for work, figured out the scale and made me this:

Made me feel kind of bad for suggesting earlier that he was better at taking things apart than putting them together.

I will be glad when this project moves onto the sewing stage and this storm breaks.