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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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Thursday, October 20, 2011

What is plan B?

Flypaper thoughts:

  • Storm today, road washed out.
  • Sewing room under 6 inches of water.
  • Husband got home from work just in time to lift machines and fabric to safety.
  • Tomorrow is my birthday.
  • My mom sent me a Home Depot gift card.
  • Good thing.
  • Each son has asked for a sweater for Christmas.
  • I have a feeling they mean Christmas this year.
  • Last time we drove from Nova Scotia to Tennessee I knit two dish cloths and one sock.
  • They have to be kidding.
  • However my sewing room is under water.
  • I have to stop talking to the TV.
  • What's with those Viagra type commercials where the couple are suddenly transported to two bathtubs where they start to hold hands?
  • I have three children and I have never held hands in twin bathtubs.
  • And I am not going to start.
  • The minister of finance is taking me out for lunch tomorrow.
  • I knew him before this happened.
  • Knowing him it's going to be separate checks.
  • My husband had to take a sledge hammer to the concrete floor in my sewing room to make a place for the water to drain out.
  • So far it has just filled up with water again.
  • Now the floor has to be fixed.
  • The dogs want to know why they haven't been taken out for a walk.
  • Dog pee is a highly effective solvent on floor tile glue.
  • Just so you know.
  • I have just eaten two chocolate cherry blossoms.
  • Thank god.
  • I mean that.
  • So far I have cast on one sweater.
  • That's it for today.
  • Try again tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Technical notes Butterick 5533

Here are my thoughts on this pattern.

I like the jacket. 

I am glad I made it and will wear it a lot. It's corduroy as the pattern suggested, despite the bulk of the many top-stitched pleats at the back, it isn't too puffy as I had feared.

Of course the back detail will date a bit. It is sort of the last vestiges of the empire look but because it's in the back I am hoping not quite as distinctly that. For the couple of years I will probably wear this to death I think it is more interesting than a simple camp coat would be.

It felt odd to be working in corduroy. I can't remember the last time I sewed this fabric. To me it is sort of a fabric from my past. When we were kids my grandmother and mother used to make us spring and fall jackets out of this stuff, lined with flannel to go with the corduroy pants we wore for our entire childhoods. It's tough stuff and actually so easy to sew like all cottons.

I have written before, and won't rave again, on the dumbness of a pattern that is obviously a warm type jacket without included pattern pieces for lining. I made my own in the easiest way possible out of Kasha lining - you know satin stuff on one side and flannel on the other. It is Nova Scotia after all and the leaves are turning.

Here is my cheater lining technique:

1. Cut out one of everything but the collar in lining. I bagged and lined the pockets.

2. Because of the large back piece with all those pleats I didn't want to trap and pull that with a straight lining so I trimmed about 12" from the centre back and made what is still a large box pleat in the lining piece that attaches to the yoke. Here is a bright picture:

3. I turned under the long unnotched edge of the facing and top-stitched that to the front lining pieces to save myself the thinking time of calculating the seam allowances to connect the two. This added two layers of bulk to the facing area but I don't mind that - just beefed up the interfacing and actually gives the front nice support.

4. I have bagged linings a million times but don't do that much anymore. I find the lining shifts a bit and I have to sometimes pull the sleeves down or worse the sleeve linings seem too short and hike up the sleeves a bit. So here I stitched the sleeve lining by machine to the armhole seam allowances and slip stitched the bottom of the lining to the inside of the sleeve hem so I could control the ease of the lining. I made a box pleat of the sleeve lining at the top of the sleeve cap to deal with the ease.

5. I stitched the lining/facing body unit in after having machine hemmed it. Of course the lining takes the place of the back neck facing and it is neat.

6. I then turned under and slip stitched the seam allowances of the lining body around the sleeve top. I realize most instructions that have you sew the lining in around the sleeve top have you do this in a different way - machine stitch the body to the armhole and then slipstitch in the sleeve top but I don't like doing this. You have to ease in the sleeve cap with hand stitches etc. and that requires care and thinking - so much easier to deal with the straight body raw edges.

So that's the lining, and it works.

Only other caution I would note about this pattern is that the sleeves are surprisingly narrow at the wrists.  It was OK for me because I felt this would make the jacket warmer (and again where are the lining pieces?) but you might want to check this for individual fit. Also one view of this pattern shows the shaped sleeve bottoms rolled up like a cuff and they are too short to do this. I had to do what is shown in other views and have them down to make this sleeve long enough. 

If you want a cuff, add.

Finally there is a fair bit of weight at the back with those pleats so shoulder fit is important if you want to be comfortable. If you typically do a straight or sloped shoulder adjustment make sure you do it here.

That's it. A very practical, slightly stylish, probably date stamped garment that is perfect for the casual side of my life.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Butterick 5533 quick shots

Here is this jacket:

Now on me in the yard in jeans grabbing dogs and not doing the leaves as intended:

I am not really styled here, unless you count wind and dogs, but this is a lined corduroy jacket and this is exactly how I will be wearing it.

I will write some detailed technical notes tomorrow (got a few assignments to mark before I go to bed) and there are definitely some thoughts I would like to pass on with some detail shots, for the benefit of anyone else who might want to make this.

I have one other thing I would like to share tonight.

I got a long detailed email over the weekend from the woman who was my first important boss. She is now 80 and her email was full of her activities and the long list of people she was driving, buying groceries for, supervising their healthcare, visiting, moving, packing and unpacking. It made me tired to just read it.

This woman never married and had a great career where she totally micro-managed us. She once sent me out to buy new panty hose in the middle of the day because the shade I had on were not the right match for my dress. I kid you not. 

She was also the first person we called at midnight one night when a group of us had gone out to socialize/dinner and had left an industrial prototype (one of two sent to North America for testing from the factory in Europe) in a car in the parking lot - where it was stolen - undoubtedly by a competitor - and she actually, somehow, managed to keep the bunch of us from being fired. I would have fired us.

This woman was, and is, a powerhouse.

Reading her email this weekend, and seeing how she has moved from a very useful work life to a very useful retired life, I had an insight and this is it:

It is really important how you spend the older half of your life. It is your one chance to show that you paid any attention at all in the first half, that you did more than just let it all go by. How you are when you are older is your best demonstration that you didn't just have things happen to you, you learned from it.

When you are older, and how you do it, really is your evidence of your life's work.

And doing it in a red jacket is probably a good idea too.

More on this pattern later.