Sewing with less stress Front

Sewing with less stress Front
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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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Saturday, April 7, 2012

On editorial errors

As an explanation there was, for a few moments at least, a link at the top of this blog, now gone, to my husband's motorcycle and food blog. That's how the other half lives. Will try to keep them separate in future, so not to be even more confusing than necessary.

Reinventing Coco

I had a real moment with my jacket yesterday. It was rapidly being renamed from "my classic Chanel jacket" into "this stoopid jacket."

I wanted something that felt like a sweater and I was starting to think, well why didn't you make a sweater then smarty-pants? 

I got the sleeves in and with the 3 piece sleeve change I made (remember that it ran a seam down the centre from the shoulder point to situate the decorative vent where it would show more, a Chanel detail apparently) the extra seam meant, in this fabric at least, that the sleeve didn't have the nice smooth cap I am used to. I am sort of missing interfacing and wonder if I should have fused the whole thing.

Of course that would have added 10 more hours to the 90 I have already spent on this project.

So I decided to do a moment of truth and locked myself in the bathroom with my black trim and buttons and four little pockets (what would I put in those pockets, the car keys?)  and stuck it all on my body and took a look.

Since I had read my vent instructions wrong the vents were also backwards.

Did I mention that? 

I haven't been this upset since I threw the EZI-Knitter out of a second story window, and listen I have gotten over marriages faster than I did my failure to master EZI knitting. I still don't want to talk about.

Back to me in the bathroom with the shadow of a Chanel jacket on me.

What I decided was that the whole effect was too old on me. I mean really a black jacket with black trim and conservative silver and black buttons. This is not me.

So then I had to ask myself why was this not in the garbage can already?

Well because it has fabulous zebra silk charmeuse lining and it feels so good, particularly if you are wearing a bathing suit under it.

So I decided that if what I really like is the lining, since that's the only part of this jacket to date that is really me, that I should pack up the trim and buttons, trash the pockets, cut off the mistake vents (done) and leave the slit where those things were open, so you can see the lining, and bind the whole thing in bias silk.

Can you see what I mean?

With the way the seam is on the top of the arm when I move my arms at all, and I will wear this teaching, it falls open so you can see the lining.

This, I figure, will look sharp.

So right now I am thinking this jacket is no longer in the style of Chanel, but in the spirit of Chanel, who I believe threw out old ideas to suit.

Kids I can spin anything.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Sewing like a pelican

I have to beat this channel jacket into submission.

It's ruining my golf game.

This is what I would like to say about golf:

  • You don't have to be an athlete to do it. Look around the course. If you bombed out in high school gym class that fact is completely irrelevant to golf.
  • Golf is a mental game. It gets better if you are relaxed and just look at that little ball and put the rest of it all out of your head.
  • However if you look at that ball and see a sleeve with all the lining you still have to hand stitch hanging out of it, well you are going to hit that ball about 3" and feel just like you did in high school gym class.
(BTW on a completely unrelated note those jokers at Augusta better start admitting women asap or I am going to have to go over there. This exclusive golf club stuff is not about golf it's about power. How often in my career did I see women work all weekend and see the men come in Monday morning with the new agreements they had made over a game of golf on Sunday?  If the only reason I am not allowed in is because of how I look then, well you sure better come up with a better reason. That sort of nonsense has caused nothing but grief and it's stopping now).

OK, that feels better.

My husband and I golf every evening and if I don't get this jacket out of my head I'm not in the game.

Thank you so much for the fitting comments. 

They were sooo helpful. And Shannon as a woman of a certain age you nailed my upper chest. I trimmed off about 1.5" total from the front armhole and the fit is much improved. I put in one sleeve last night and am going to do the other one today, plus a whole lot of lining stuff.

When this is all over I am going to write what I learned. 

That's what I always say to students when they freak out over a bad mark, "What have you learned? What would you do differently next time?" I even say to them that a bad mark can be more meaningful and useful than a good mark because it teaches them more. I now know why they find me so annoying.

I even went for a long beach walk to ponder your comments and my frustration with this jacket.

That's when I watched the pelicans and realized how much they know about sewing.

Pelicans are very strategic. They know what they are looking for and they focus their energy on the job. You don't see a pelican stabbing around in the ocean hoping they get lucky and hit a fish. They cruise around and dive bomb very specifically. 

They don't feel they have to sew everything; they are not seagulls throwing themselves at every wave. They don't hang around there for hours, like the vacationing humans do, where there are no fish. They know when to draw the line and move on.

They get smarter as they go on.

I am giving this jacket another day or two and then going back to the instant stuff that is more suitable for a sewer on vacation, or for a sewer like me who just wants to have fun.

The thing about a pelican is they aren't there to prove anything, they just do their particular job really well.

They see the fish, the ball, and the jacket. They know they are not Coco Chanel.

And they couldn't care less.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

For your further education

Just so you know, and for more information, so you can see what my process has been here. I grabbed my camera and, still in my nightgown, got my turkey bacon cooking, and put my jacket on again, holding it closed at CF as it was when I was fitting. Maybe the baggy armpit is fabric as well. what do you think?

These boney shoulders are actually mine very own.

Oh hell view one and two


First off feel to add to the Cool Clothes list, I am going to post a master list in a few days.

Now on to my actual sewing.

My Chanel jacket has hit a brick wall. This particular brick wall is called Poor Fit.

I have had a hell of a time with this pattern. Big all over. I am a 16, cut a 14, which I took in inches on, should have started with a 12. Who was to know?

I usually do OK with fit, having been adjusting patterns for so long. It is not that common for me to really bomb one - I usually know my shape well enough to stay clear from that particular ledge.

I also made a muslin for this jacket and spent a week on it. I used a fairly heavy muslin to replicate a jacket weight. It wasn't flawless but I signed off on it as good enough with some minor tweaking.

OK so here is what the hell view one:

This is my what the hell face, this is me in a well coordinated bathing suit - you know the one I sew in here.
It actually does pull together at centre front and I did quilt it, but the fabric is obviously more a textured wool than a boucle (I ordered it from Fabricmart where it was advertised as a boucle since the local stuff at home seemed to be the kind of polyester stuff you would use to cover foot stools for the rec room in the basement).

So there is a fabric issue, although Angela Wolf did say in my online class that any fabric that could hide the quilting stitches would work.

It looks pretty limpo to me. The silk lining isn't giving this enough body.

That's issue number one.

Next issue is the excess under the armpit. This is the Real Issue.

Now this is interesting as I have my own excess under the armpit. In fact after you get to a certain stage in life one of the places you really collect fat is under your arms. 

This is quite weird. It's as if the body says "We need to put away something for the winter, now where are we going to hide it? The belly is packed, the inner thighs are done. Hey I know under her arms, we can get a lot in there and no one will notice."

All I am trying to say here is that I am not skinny under the armpits and I do know  did know how to fit. So what's with this excess?

Now the pressing has yet to be done well. The local iron produces about as much steam as having a tired mouse stand on the ironing board and spit at it.

Of course the whole body is all stitched up and quilted etc. so the fitting fixes are minimal ( I am not undoing that).

What are my options:
  1. Give up sewing after decades of doing nothing but and become an outlet shopper and free up vast amounts of time for whatever people who don't sew do with their time.
  2. Throw the whole thing in the garbage and email Stylearc and see how fast they can get their pattern to me. Also go online to Gorgeous Fabrics and get real boucle.
  3. Decide I am not as smart as I always thought I was.
  4. Implore you folks to help me out and give me some fitting advice.
  5. Plow ahead and try to make something with nothing.

Situation critical.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The cool clothes list continues

I LOVE the cool clothes comments. Thank you.

I pretty much would add your garments to my own list. I am going to wait a few days and then post a master list.

Got me thinking too.

Why not sew these things for ourselves? Now?

I have a friend, about my age, who feels she has "lost her style." She isn't sure she likes how she dresses these days. Sound familiar?

Once you hit 50 it's kind of weird. Do you:

1. Go conservative, or dress by formula, and then worry you look too old?
2. Go classic and then worry you look unimaginative?
3. Say to hell with it and follow the trends and then worry you are making yourself actually look older because you aren't your daughter and it's bad to look like you are trying to be.
4. Go for comfort first and then look like you have said to hell with it and given up (or in)?
5. Go for arty and then worry you look like someone who lives with 89 cats? (Not that there's anything wrong with that).

Behind 1-5 is in fact only one real question.

Am I looking like myself?

My friend has an intriguing solution.

She is thinking of all the clothes she has worn in her life and tried to remember the stages, styles of dressing, where she felt her sharpest. In her case it is when she wore high-waisted full pants and in fact has gone eBaying to find patterns like this.

You might not go there but when in your life did you feel sharpest?

This is a very good question.

Is there any relation between that and your own private cool clothes list?

Are there clothes you wish you still had but threw out or wore out?

What are the characteristics of the clothes you felt snappy in, whatever the era? Are these characteristics still in your wardrobe now?

Something I am going to be thinking of while I beach walk and then stage a full on assault on the Chanel sleeves this afternoon.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The cool clothes list

I woke up today in St. Augustine Florida after a long day of travel yesterday with planes cancelled etc. No matter, I always think if you can't stand the hassles you should just stay home.

Got in about 1:00 a.m. and my husband had a hot dish of stuffed peppers made for me and a big batch of oatmeal and cranberry cookies. What sort of person drives all day from Tennessee to Florida and then cooks and bakes? Completely sure it wouldn't be what I would be doing.

Guess I lucked out.

Back to sewing.

In all my waiting in airports time I decided to start a new list. Not a "what I need to sew list" not a SWAP or wardrobe planning list, but a list of clothes that I have always thought my whole life were cool or handy.

I would love it if you would add your own ideas to this list.

To give you an idea of what I mean here is the start of my List:

  • A red knitted cabled cardigan, long enough to cover my rear. Sometimes you are cold and you want warming and cheering up. I have never owned one of these. Maybe I could knit myself one. That should take me about 12 years.
  • High waisted black crepe "Hollywood pants". These would be good to have in the closet and wouldn't go out of style. Because of the looseness of the leg this is just about the only pants I could wear that I would dare tuck a blouse into. Good pants. Almost had a pair once but they were a blend and too big.
  • Black and white saddle shoes. These were the first shoes I ever wore as a kid that I thought were cool. Used to get them out of my closet and just look at them. The beginning of my shoe addiction. Since I am a sort of grown up now these might morph into golf shoes unless I can find something somewhere daywearable.
  • Seer sucker summer pajamas. Good quality 100% cotton. Tough to find, never owned any would wear them all the time.
  • One of those red jackets from the 50's with the Mexican wool embroidery on them. Sort of like this but with more organized embroidery and in red of course. Again I caught a glimpse of one of these when I was a kid and was entranced by it. The Canadian prairies are not Mexico:

 This is obviously only the beginning of the List but it is a really interesting exercise to just think of clothes you hanker for without letting your head by clouded with what's in style, what you need, what you have patterns for etc.

What would you add?