Sewing with less stress Front

Sewing with less stress Front
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Sewing with less stress back cover
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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 14, 2012

Toy store

My daughter and the two little girls are coming for three weeks the week after next, to be joined later by my wonderful son-in-law.

I remember enough about toddlers to know that a bored kid is a whiny kid (not that grandchildren ever whine, that was their parents), so this week I hit a fantastic consignment store and look what I picked up cheap, cheap.

The furniture is not quite to scale but it will do for a 2.5 year old who likes to pretend. I am going to have to go back for a bag 'o Barbies and find some clothes somewhere. I do not make Barbie clothes. Setting in those sleeves is as dumb as it gets.

A big bag of dress-up clothes.

Unused Easy-bake oven, but going to have to make up my mixes, who knows how long the ones that came with it have been around or what's in them? Do you believe it? An easy-bake oven.

Golf clubs, good weight. A putter, driver and a 7/8.

For Miss Heidi

Miniature Tupperware. I think I used to own the full set life size. We are eco etc. and this is plastic but OK for water and giving Rascal drinks if he can't escape.

I would also like some books. 

When the boys were little they loved Rupert and Tin Tin. Rupert is English and they used to publish an annual that I gave the kids every Christmas. My sons were great admirers of Rupert's mother. When he would say things like "Mum I am going to fly to China on a dragon" she always just said "I'll make sandwiches" and never "be careful" or "are you crazy?" She didn't get out much, all that sandwich making.

They also went to French school and totally hated the French children's books which they told me were all about girls. Yuuk. The only French books they would read, comics really, were about Tin Tin who lived alone with Snowy, the terrier and precursor to Rascal, who was usually nearly killed in every one of Tin Tin's adventures, but like any terrier always signed up for more.

I once spent a hot afternoon in Amsterdam's red light district (those ladies are just resting) with a obsessive child (you know who I am talking about) who had been told that somewhere in the neighbourhood there was a flea market that sold Tin Tin T shirts.

Toys are important at any age.

My sewing room and points in between are full of my toys - I don't know how adults who don't still play survive.

What are your favourite toys? What do you remember? What do you play with now?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Not a waste water pipe

On the third tee I asked my husband what that thing was I saw out of the corner of my eye.

"Don't worry about it," he said, "just putt, it's only a waste water pipe."

This is the man who tells me I look great when I am in the living room and he is in the fridge in the kitchen. This is the man who swears every time I report a noise in the car that they all sound like that, it's just damp.

And this is what that waste water pipe looked like:

I am just going to do some quiet hemming tonight.

The nice side of sewing

I so much appreciated your comments re the Chanel jacket. In fact as part of my sporadic attempts to update and clean up this blog I put comments on the sidebar because they mean so much to me - only the punctuation format gets messy, must fix that.

I was surprised that some comments mirrored back to me that this jacket was negative experience for me. 

Not really, it's just that sewing is such an incredibly emotional experience for me - when the sewings not happy, momma's not happy. However I learned a lot. I am determined to take the good parts forward and do it again. 

Just not right now.

First I have to find pattern that I love. In the fantasy world of wardrobe planning that I occasionally depart into I had this idea of finding one jacket that I could master and make 47 ways. I hoped this was it.

Not so.

I went on the Stylearc site again to stalk the Coco pattern but noted that on the Gallery page the one illustrated looks like a bomber jacket that stops at the waist - not the high hip length I saw in the illustration. Since there are few things that I think that would make the most of my worst like a fitted bomber jacket I emailed Chloe this morning to be a real nuisance and ask her if this was as intended, or just one particular sewer's edition.

In the meantime I need a break from the demanding stuff so got to work on this blouse:

I am making the camp shirt version because I have been wearing the same camp shirt for 22 years. 

I think I need another one. Even the family notices.

This has a nice yoke, a great detail because I feel smart when I do that enclosed yoke thing, but I realize no bust darts. Sort of figures for a casual shirt but it's been forever since I made a shirt/blouse without darts or princess seams, so we will see where this goes.

It is gorgeous and warm here and the sun shines every day. 

This may not be a big thing to most of you but if you live in Nova Scotia to have sun every day any time of the year, particularly in April, is huge, just huge. In fact my daughter and I both bought those lights to sit in front of last winter to keep us from getting crabby at people during the month of February - although I realize this winter since she started to sew she didn't feel she needed it.

Anyway, back on topic.

I can't tell you what extreme pleasure it has given me to be sewing something nice and bright. without pressure, on a sunny day.

Here is my current sewing space with the blouse pieces over a chair. To me this is as beautiful as any painting, any landscape. It is all set up so I can see it from my bed when I wake up and it makes me happy.

Those pink things in the corner are the hand weights I was going to use to finally develop my upper body strength. Maybe tomorrow.

There are few things as beautiful as a cotton collar on an ironing board.

No serger, so I clean finished the facing, sewed my sew-in interfacing to the facing piece turned and pressed.
The facing from the right side.

I am hoping this pattern works out, because I also pre-washed this fabulous fabric today and hung it on the line.

I love it just love it. It's no Chanel jacket but it does have Babs written all over it I am afraid. Maybe I will be classic and tasteful in the next life.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sunshine award

I feel badly about this because Karin nominated me some time ago and I didn't get myself together enough to respond. I really appreciated her recognition and love her blog.

Now I am on vacation and have time to start catching up, and now the Chanel jacket is on the hanger, here goes:

Favorite color: Red, always was always will be.

Favorite animal: Dogs of course, terriers in particular despite the fact they are lovable only to their owners - terriers have personality and are chipper till the day they die. I have had Airedales and we thought that a Wire Haired Fox Terrier because it would be smaller, would be easier to handle - in fact Rascal is sort of a terrier concentrate.

Favorite number: Evens, I always am happier when I have an even birthday. Just found out that one of my sons feels the same way. Must be a gene.

Favorite non-alcoholic drink: Iced tea, I like sweetened but know I shouldn't so I order unsweetened. Some places do a light sweetened that is perfect and you have to remember which places those are. You can't get it in Canada.

Getting or giving presents:  My children and husband give me great thoughtful gifts every year, don't know how they do it, and I more or less spend all year trying to think of things for birthdays and Christmas. As my children get older they appreciate hand made most - I am currently into socks and sweaters, I sew for myself, knit for them and for my granddaughters. Currently I am knitting my son's roommate in NYC lucky socks.

Favorite pattern: Right now I am making a lot of Stylearc which appear to be drafted for me.

Favorite day of the week: Thursday. This is a hold over from childhood, you know the weekend is coming up but not one part of it is used yet. I wasn't a big fan of having to sit in a school desk.

Favorite flower: Violets. The only plant I don't kill. They seem to thrive for me under total neglect.

Favorite celebrity role model:  Don't think of celebrities much but the one I really admire is Michelle Obama. I am sure she never planned on this challenging future but handles it well. No one would ever see her as anything but her own woman which I admire. That's tough to do.

Now I am challenged to think of blogs that have not been picked, but a few I enjoy for a lift are:

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Chanel jacket deconstructed

A lot to say about this project. Here is the summary:

  • Yes, the finished project is as comfortable as promised. This is a serious consideration when thinking about doing one of these jackets. I have long thought that so much sewn into women's jackets - all the interfacing, lapels, taping and shoulder pads, sleeve heads and shoulder stays really are all constructs of male tailoring. I do not need to look like a male banker and I don't want to feel like one. You have to be comfortable to get through a girl's day.
  • However you really need to love your pattern. Note to self. Any pattern that took this much time to fit, in the muslin and in process, was a bad pattern for me. A good pattern for you requires only a few tweeks - I have decided once you start to do more you and the pattern are at cross purposes and always will be.
  • You really, really need to love your fabric. I loved my lining and would have thrown the whole thing in the garbage at the first midnight otherwise. It would have been good to have felt the same way about my outer fabric, which I am convinced spent the whole time wishing it was something else, like say an A line skirt. Don't try to convert your fabric. Also you are going to spend so much time with this you have to like it to get past the worst part of for better or for worst.
  • All the hand stitching was wasted in the sleeves. Because I did a 3 piece sleeve (waste of time for a vent but worked for my rescue treatment) I ended up with 12 little flags of silk to hand stitch down before I could sew it in around the armhole. I found these little units most annoying. Next time I unit quilt the sleeves and hong kong the seam allowances on them. Done and just fine. I may still do the body traditionally as it does make a nice little inside next to your body. You never know when you will wear this with a bathing suit.
  • The chain is a good idea - might sew light chains to the hems of some knit jackets or cardigans as an experiment.
  • Forget tiny pockets unless you are a tiny person who carries tiny things. No dog leashes, no snacks.
  • On the subject of scale my expensive bought trim looked wimpy. I figure to scale it up to me I need a trim that is about 1.5-2 inches wide. This would require layering a couple and that would have required driving back to Nova Scotia to get it. I doubt there would have been much buy in for that.
Will I do it again?

Yes, but only because it is comfortable, but with a new pattern (I really enjoyed stuffing the old one in the kitchen garbage can) and something simpler. May even do this New Look pattern

After all if all I want is a sweater disguised as a jacket why complicate things?

BTW Janine's suggestion to add a button to the top of the vent is a great one, I even dug out a scrap from the garbage in case I can locate a button form somewhere.

Next I am putting my feet up and sewing Stylearc's Jane blouse.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Final shots, that damned Chanel jacket finally

Well here we are. Nicely accessorized with beach bum hair, Peta pants-into-shorts, and tank top. 

See you can wear Chanel with anything.

Tomorrow, when I have recovered from sewing that hem chain in till late at night, I will post some profound thoughts on this experience.

In the meantime here are some pics taken by a photographer who made me laugh because he has been listening to this all week and is just as glad as I am this particular project is in the out basket.

Note my original open slit sleeves. You can do this yourself if you put your vents in backwards and cut them off in a rage at 11:00 p.m..

It's actually pretty easy.

Please tell me if these sleeves look like what they are which is a huge mistake and a tired attempt at a save.

More tomorrow in the words department.

Let me outta here. Got to do a cotton blouse next.

Monday, April 9, 2012

What I am eating while I sew: Cuban sandwiches

The Jacket will be finished today. I under-estimated, for the forty-seventh time,  how long this would take me.

In the meantime I want to share with you my husband's current craze, which is making Cuban bread and Cuban sandwiches, which if you haven't had them, are absolutely fantastic, although they do produce a need for more alterations.

First here are the process shots:

And now the recipes:

Cuban bread:

Although it is made with the same basic ingredients as French bread, the baking procedure for Cuban bread is different. The dough is put in a cold oven, set above a pan of boiling water, and left to rest for a few minutes before the oven is turned on. Because the bread continues to rise as the oven heats, its crust is very thin and crisp. It is made without fat, so it is best if eaten on the day it is baked, as it will go stale quickly. You can try this method with any yeast bread.

1 scant tablespoon or 1 (1/2-ounce) package active dry yeast
2 cups warm water (105 degrees to 115 degrees) 
1 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 to 5 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, soften the yeast in the water.

Add the salt and 3 cups of the flour. Beat vigorously with a dough whisk or a heavy-handled spoon for 2 minutes. (We used the dough hook on our mixer.)

Gradually add more of the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough forms a mass and begins to pull away from the side of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface.

Knead, adding more flour, a little at a time as necessary, about 8 to 10 minutes, or until you have a smooth, elastic dough and blisters begin to develop on the surface.

Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl. Turn to coat the entire ball of dough with oil. Cover with a tightly woven kitchen towel and let rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface and knead it into a ball. Put the dough on a well-greased baking sheet and flatten it slightly so that is about 3 inches high. Make 3 slits in the top of the loaf, about 1/4 inch deep and 2 inches apart.

Pour 1 cup of boiling water into a shallow pan and put the pan on the lower shelf of an unheated oven. put the dough on the shelf above, wait 10 minutes, turn the oven to 400 degrees. Bake the bead for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 200 degrees. (Ours took an additional 15 minutes to come to temperature.)

Immediately remove from the baking sheet and cool on a rack.

Source: "The Bread Book" by Betsy Oppenneer 

And a how-to on the sandwiches:

Cuban Sandwich, sometimes called a cubano, is a Latin variation on a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. This undeniably delicious sandwich is grilled and made with ham, pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard and Cuban bread. The essential ingredient is the roasted pork.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutesIngredients:
•1 Loaf of Cuban Bread (Substitutes: French or Italian Bread)
•1 pound cooked ham (sliced)
•1 pound roasted pork (sliced)
•1/2 pound Swiss cheese (sliced)
•dill pickles (sliced)
•Yellow mustard or Mayonnaise
1. Preheat a griddle or frying pan on medium heat. 
2. Cut the loaf of bread into quarters and slice each quarter in half lengthwise for the sandwiches. 

3. Spread the mustard or mayonnaise on the bread. Then make each sandwich by layering the pickles, roasted pork, ham, and cheese. 

4. Lightly coat the cooking surface of the griddle or frying pan with cooking spray or butter. Place one sandwich onto the hot surface. 

5. Put a clean, heavy skillet on top of the sandwich to flatten it. Press the bread down to about 1/3 of its original size. 

6. Leave the skillet on top of the sandwich and grill for one or two minutes. Lift the heavy skillet, turn the sandwich over and repeat this step for the other side of the sandwich. 

7. The cheese should be melted and the bread golden brown. Slice each sandwich in half diagonally and serve. 

Serves: Makes four sandwiches.


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter

However you celebrate this, or even if you don't, I wish a great day for you today.

For me this is the first one in 31 years that I am not doing an Easter dinner for family, and another one that puts me one more away from those late nights of hiding eggs in clever and original ways for three kids who were disgusted if they were easy to find.

I will be talking to them all today and later my partner in golf and life and I will be eating out on a restaurant I have scoped out that is on stilts over a swamp.

I am also going to finish up that damned jacket.

I desperately need to do some fun sewing and have a new Stylearc shirt to try.

The hand stitching is taking forever. You know those analogies that say if you put all the whatever, plastic water bottles or something end to end, they would go around the earth 10 times? Well there are enough hand stitches in this thing to go Nova Scotia and back to St. Augustine at least twice.

Not the best use of my quality time I have decided.


This thing has taken me about 2,000 X the time I would have put into anything and I can tell you it is not 2,000 times nicer. In fact I have just scraped together a sort of save on this one and it will never be A Favourite. In fact I will probably wear it just long enough to sooth my need for some kind of return on this investment.

I have some Linton tweed at home and will be trying out the Stylearc jacket on it. Maybe, after I recover.

In the meantime I am refilling fussy jackets under "Things I really don't need to be sewing for myself."

I have a couple of things on that list right now, only a few, like jeans, which I can buy. To my mind what you occasionally buy need to be viewed as things I am doing to free up more sewing time.

I am about to close the Cool Clothes list tomorrow, but in the meantime what is on your own personal list of things you buy rather than make?

I am listening while I hand stitch this thing into submission.