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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, April 28, 2012

Chloe Parker: The Style Arc interview

As promised here is the text of my interview with Chloe Parker of Style Arc.

I am sure you will find this very interesting, but before you start reading I really have to share my own feelings.

As a sewer I love my Stylearc patterns. They fit me and the styles are both classic and current - not an easy combination to find.

I came out of this interview feeling that Stylearc could be best described as an artisanal pattern company. These are crafted patterns, hand drawn patterns - with a fairly short distance between the designer and the end user. 

Now on to the interview:

Thank you so much for doing this interview Chloe. Like many other sewers I have become a huge fan of your patterns in a very short time. To be honest I really feel your patterns are designed to fit me and your designs reflect what I see around me, what I want to wear.

But like so many other Style Arc fans I have questions. Who are these folks, where did they come from, and why do their patterns just seem to work ? For a start can you give me a little background on Style Arc. For example how long have you been in business? How would you describe your company?

      Style Arc is an online clothing pattern business with an industry base. We started Style Arc at the beginning of 2010 and it came about one Saturday morning over coffee with a couple of colleagues from the rag trade.  We started chatting about home sewers and what patterns were available to them? We researched and noticed that there was a gap in the market place for ready to wear patterns… which lead to the beginning of Style Arc.

      Our company is small like any business starting out, and consists of 5 people with a variety of educational backgrounds and life experiences in the rag trade over many years.  Our team consists of 2 pattern makers / graders, one sample machinist, and 2 people in the design/forecasting team.  A positive drawn from working in a small company is that you are involved/ exposed with all areas of the business and that is very rewarding to us all. 
Can you tell us a little about your design and production process? 

The design team research on a daily basis whether that is trolling the internet, flicking through the latest magazines or on a buying trip, their job is relentless.  Being an online line business we are always conscious of the different seasons across the world, and strive to design accordingly, putting forward appropriate styles for the different hemispheres.   The design team sketch up the range for the forth coming months and present it to the team.  At this stage some styles will make it and some will get the chop.  For those that make it they are handed to the very skilled patternmakers and then on to the machinist for sampling.  We will fit the first proto and review it all together.  More often than not we will need to make alterations to the pattern after the first sample to ensure that the fit is correct and then review it again.

Do you have any plans for a North American distributor? 

      We are constantly reviewing the business and how better to improve our services to the customer.   So in answer to this question it would be a possibility for the near future.

Tell me. What do you think is different about the Style Arc draft for sewing patterns?

       It is most important to our brand that we keep the personal touch and customer service at this level along with great fitting patterns.  That is not to say we don’t wish for further growth.  We are so pleased with what we have achieved in such a small amount of time and look forward to the next 12 months.
      Thank you Chloe for a great interview, for your time, and for your patterns.

Friday, April 27, 2012

On consignment

Every once and a while I see a fashion article with one of the garments "vintage from the consignment store" or some arty jacket made of felted Fair Isle cardigans.

I have gone down to my local Value Village and all I have found are acres of acrylic 80's tunic sweaters completely pre-pilled, dusty Fisher Price with the people missing, plastic purses pre-cracked, and salt and pepper shakers stolen from some restaurants.

Is this vintage I wondered?

Well yesterday my daughter and I went back to one of the baby consignment stores and, what do you know, there was a modest looking resale store for adults next door.

Bingo folks we have a winner.

This I could not believe.

As far as I can figure everyone from New York comes to North Florida with their little black dresses, takes one look at the beach, and decides to off-load them.

Designer names. Coach bags, Louis Vuitton, not the knock-off, and even a beautiful St. John knit suit, sadly in size 4 and not in my colour (this one had estate written all over it). 

My daughter picked up a trendy knit dress in turquoise and silk sandals to match. And this is what I got myself to boost my retro wardrobe:

Wool crepe and fits perfectly. I particularly liked the curved seams which would be a pain to do. Anything tricky to sew is a bonus purchase to me. $14.00

O.K. a fish beach cover-up is a bit of a cliche but then again so am I sometimes. On the bod today. $12.00.

Very 60's hostess to me. Maybe if I lost some weight I would wear this with white cigarette pants and drink Martinis if only Martinis didn't taste like gasoline IMO. Or I could wear it with shorts to walk Mr. Rascal. $12.00

After this little episode we felt guilty, we had left the little girls with Poppa just when they were due to wake up from their naps, and we moved on to the baby store. But now we have realized the potential for local consignment shopping we may revise the itinerary.

Now I almost never buy clothes but at this price a few things I wouldn't make myself are exceptions.

Do you ever shop recycled?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A highly illustrated day.

First the new Vogues. Some lovely formal dresses but unless this blog is awarded for an Academy Award in the original costumes by an independent, or in the slightly more likely event that I am appointed ambassador to France (reflecting only that option A was really unlikely) I am probably wouldn't get much wear out of them. Best I can hope for in formal functions in this century is mother of the bride and if that's in the immediate cards someone is not telling me something.


It was a startling collection for other reasons.

First of all it appears I continued to be stalked by the Channel jacket. Claire Shaeffer has caught up with me. This one had NO MORE EXCUSES written all over it.

Climbed right back into the bucket list:

Not sure I can get a motorcycle helmet to match. Believe mine has a purple monster on it. Gloves are not purple.

But there was, incredibly a dress that really is something I would wear at lot. Got real dress written all over it. 

I probably won't do this walk with it though, not in those shoes:

Thank you so much for the sewing extension table ideas. Got to find some of that Styrofoam. In the meantime this is what my husband has made as a prototype. Exactly what a person would need to make another Chanel jacket:

So busy.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Flypaper thoughts

  • Started teaching a new class today, had students set up blogs to record progress.
  • Commented without logging out of this account.
  • Shut down my sewing on the edge profile until I can figure this out.
  • Can't have my worlds collide.
  • The little girls and my daughter arrived today.
  • Fed Miss Scarlett spaghetti outside while she washed the wooden play food I got her at that great place for $8.00.
  • Then I went for a bike ride.
  • My daughter put them to bed.
  • Being a grandmother works for me.
  • Yesterday we saw a fox chase a raccoon into the woods.
  • You don't see that every day.
  • Also saw another 8 foot alligator plus a baby.
  • On the 8th hole.
  • Travel is broadening.
  • Off to bed now.
  • Here some folks are up at 5:00 a.m...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sewing extension tables

A while ago it occurred to me that of the many sewing machines I have owned/own I have never had a Bernina.

And once I get an idea in my head ...

With a Pfaff 7570, a sturdy Pfaff 85 as back-up, a nice small Janome for traveling, my grandmother's Featherweight, my 4860 Pfaff 5 thread serger and my Janome coverhem, you couldn't really say I was short of machines.

However once I get an idea in my head ...

To cut a time consuming story short I started hovering eBay and was a failed bidder at numerous auctions where I was amazed how expensive good vintage Berninas were.

Enter my spouse the man who is responsible for an infinite number of small padded post bags from all over the world with camera or computer parts (and I am not even going into the 4 GPS fiasco ,that once had us traveling with at least two and a half of them going at the same time - all talking in those annoying metallic voices, with different accents, and sending us in the wrong direction, at least two wrong directions, while I yelled "the sign right above our heads says this is the exit").

Suffice it to say that the rules of GPSs are that you are not allowed to read the road signs particularly those that are telling you to go in a different direction than the voices.

Anyway, incredibly we are still married, and back to eBay.

On one late night auction the GPS man, experienced with his pressure purchases, actually took the mouse from my hand (in my books grounds for divorce) and I "won" a Bernina 801 for $130.00.

It arrived and turned out to be in beautiful condition but minus the bobbin case and the extension table. Signs all you home ec teachers will know right away means it was used in a classroom. Put into a drop down desk and all the bobbin cases in the teacher's desk, because, well you know, kids.

Of course it has been impossible to source an extension table (the original bobbin case was easy) and I have been thinking I need one. Sewing on a free arm alone isn't enough.

I am going to have to go with an adjusta model and those are really quite pricey. And it's sort of a principle to not spend more on the part than on the machine.

Companies like this one  have nice looking tables like this:

Which really look beautiful, but I am a garment sewer and not a quilter, and only need a little something for my left hand and to rest my right hand during a longer seam.

I have searched DIY but those look like involving my spouse, who sort of feels about these jobs the way I do about replacing zippers in jeans. He is far more into jobs like tear down that wall.

So I am wondering how I can make one for myself, with easy to source materials. So far I have come up with cardboard from the box that my Fabricmart order came in and legs made of Opi nail polish bottles that just happen to be the right height.

But what about my toes?

It's all really stressful.

Any ideas?

Monday, April 23, 2012


I don't know about you but sometimes a trend appears that I just can't warm up to.

For me it has been the hardware heavy bags that have been around for a while.

Don't get me wrong. 

I love a big bag. One that can hold a wallet with 14 pounds of pennies in it (thank god the Canadian mint is going to stop making these, but think of all the $4.99 price tags that are going to have to be changed), a hairbrush, 5 lipsticks, a cell phone, a sock to knit, an iPad, work keys, home keys, car keys, a book to read in case one of the four bamboo knitting needles gets broken because I sat on my purse, sunscreen if it's summer, warmer gloves if it's winter, pens, address book, diary, a plastic bag (a.k.a. a "poop purse" in this household, no explanation necessary), lunch in large glass containers because I have gone responsible for the planet, a barrette and a sock Miss Scarlett left at my house, and a pattern to think about.

I am not a clutch sort of person.

Once when I was working in political media relations and everyone was supposed to be able to talk to me at any time, even when I was hiding from them, and I was never to ever go to the bathroom, I lost my cell phone for three weeks. The office had to replace it and I had to tell everyone a new number for some reason, and that was too many people.

It turns out I had lost it at the bottom of my purse. Battery dead. For three weeks. (Come to think of it was this just before our office administrator quit? See earlier post).

Anyway. I like a big purse but I thought all the hardware could look sort of junky but I was afraid to say that out loud, since everyone else was carrying these purses and often had paid a lot of cash for them.

So all of that leads somewhere. 

Here to a one of those lovely Bill Cunningham NYTimes pieces on the the new bags. You could even make these:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Jane top : Loud version one

Here in all it's retro glory is the 3/4 sleeve Jane top from Stylearc with proper fusible interfacing in the collar. It stands out a bit, but I have not pressed it as well as I should have maybe because I am waiting until I get home and can serge the back neck seam to tack down the facings.

I never, never put back neck facings in shirts and blouses. To me they are just a huge mistake invention - devised only to cover the back neck seam allowance and as such all that interfacing and stitching and finishing is overkill. All it gives you is bumps and things that don't lay right around your neck.

Who needs that?

I have tried all the alternatives and have decided that simply serging the collar seam along the back neck makes the smoothest and very durable product.

The fused collar went well and is very much crisper than the 1890 version done entirely with sew-in. 

Since it was all I had I also fused the same interfacing to the blouse facings and decided a shirt collar and cuff interfacing was too stiff at the front of a blouse for me, particularly when this means two layers, one for each facing. I have often used different interfacings in different areas of a garment and in future would probably use this fusible for the collar itself and go with the softer sew-in for the facings. I think that would make a front that felt less intrusive to me.

My other thought was this loud retro quilting cotton suits me. I thought when I bought it that the scale of the print was too big. But I can see that I am not a small person and this works as a garment. In fact I can see that some of my prints that I am less than crazy about when I make them up are just too small scale on me.

At any rate I can feel a theme coming on where I end up wearing kitchen curtain patterned shirts all year to teach. Bet I would be the only teacher to do that.

This definitely would be one of your DIY wardrobe options.

The colours are brighter actually in real life than in this interior picture but I really like this shirt. I will be making many more, probably too because until the Stylearc order arrives here - it is my only pattern.

Cool eh?