Sewing with less stress Front

Sewing with less stress Front
My newest sewing book

Sewing with less stress back cover

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, May 26, 2012

Packing for travel

As I think about, but not do, the re-pack for home I know I need to write down what I brought that was useless so I don't do it again.

This is our third year in this house, in this neighbourhood in Florida. We will be back next year. We're so lucky our work, our scheming, and the internet lets this happen.

The first year I came with every should-do project in my sewing room and all my Christmas presents to make. 

See previous post. What was I thinking?

The second year I brought every item of summer clothing I owned, which included so many dresses I am embarrassed to write it down, and a huge bag of junky books.

This year I brought more shorts and tops and some of my to-do list of sewing.

Next year I am bringing:

  • my serger and two sewing machines
  • Notions, tools, a good iron 
  • Interfacing
  • Patterns
  • Only three, two one pieces of fabric. I can mail order in everything I want on the day. This is a sort of get up and see how you feel place.
  • Only enough yarn for a pair of socks on the way down and on the way back. This year I brought about 47 balls of yarn and my husband is already stressing about how he can explain to customs these are not declarable purchases - his wife was just delusional enough to think she could knit all this up when she should have remembered she was here to golf.
  • Two dresses only for the going out occasions and more golf shirts.
  • The password for the library e-books
  • A printed copy of "Snakes of Florida identified." Running around looking for the iPad when some 5 foot visitor slithers into the yard is not cool.
This is also a good place to give a shout out to my very favourite of all the  so-called assistants I have worked with.

Like all good assistants she told me exactly what to do, she was always smart, and she was always right. She kept me out of trouble and she taught me a lot. 

I worked for her.

We wore matching polka dot rain hats (we both bought them without knowing the other person had done the same) and considered ourselves the best undiscovered power team in town.

She has gone on to a better job than I ever had and I am very proud of her.

I am also very proud of what she has done with her life. 

After some time of wanting to travel she decided to stop waiting for anyone and to do it herself. She has become a world traveler, food blogger and photographer of excellence and has written a great list of things to take with you when you travel here.

What can you say about a girl who travels with a silk sleeping bag liner so even the most budget hotel feels comfortable?

That she is a real pro.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Dumping out the bucket

I have been thinking about bucket lists lately ever since my middle son shared his with me. It had things like Climb Kilimanjaro and sail around the Mediterranean crossed out, and a whole lot of things no mother wants a kid to do left on.

I also read this in the Huffington Post this morning and decided it's time.

Here is what I am dumping out:

  • I will never knit an afghan out of left-over sock yarn. I will either throw those scraps out (Grandma the Depression is over) or knit Barbie tube dresses for the little girls. You can decide yourself what is more likely.
  • I will never learn to do or apply hand-made buttonholes. With all due respect Claire Shaffaer (and I do respect you) are you nuts?
  • Drape, draft, or fit a custom pants pattern. Make my own pants pattern. Thanks Style Arc.
  • Make monogrammed machine embroidered pillow cases for the whole house. The People's Republic is taking care of that.
  • Actually sew only from my enormous stash for a whole year. Not when fabric buying is my number one stress reduction technique.
  • Sew a properly tailored suit. Have thought about it but since all my energy is going into moving my work life to a from home/online basis this makes no sense. Never did actually.
  • Learn to use all aspects of my Wild Ginger software. OK maybe if I were stranded on a desert island that had a power outlet. But it's the sewing part I like.
O.K.  I am sure I will think of a lot more to add to this list today.

But over to you.

That's always more interesting.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

How do you decide what to sew next?

I have spent the last few days pre-treating fabric I have bought and thinking about what I will sew here before I go home.

It might not be much. I have a pile of things I want to sew up for my daughter first, plus I want to make the most of the weather, the beach and the produce (yes I am making more mango chutney) too.

Also I have a confession to make. One of the things I find hardest to do is sit still but it seems as if you don't learn your lessons the occasions to learn them keep coming at you.

I really bashed myself up pretty bad when I failed to make that sharp right turn on my bike, I was going too fast. I figured keeping on riding for another five miles and 36 holes of golf would fix it all up but that wasn't true. So the last few days I have been off the course and slowing down and it is helping. 

This made me examine the fact that I treat every event as an opportunity to double up and do more.

Which naturally brings me to sewing and my resolution to stop over-planning, over-committing, and over-scheduling.

I am really going to try to just sew what I feel like on the day rather than working my way down the to-do list. I always want to sew far more than I often have time for, and that leaves me feeling under-achieving when in actual fact I am doing just fine.

So the question I have for you is this. 

What motivates you to sew your next project? 

  • The to-do list you worked out for the season, SWAP, or some wardrobe plan you have in mind?
  • Seeing something fabulous on another sewer's blog?
  • New patterns, new trends?
  • The feeling that you need to start sewing up some of that enormous stash?
  • Because it has been on your to-do list forever and you just want it done?
  • To try out a new skill/challenge as part of your sewing self-education?
  • Wardrobe gap or need?
  • To justify the money you have already spent on patterns?
As always what have I missed?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I find out at last : I am an eight

I don't know about you but I am occasionally frustrated by Vogue patterns "Figure flattery" allocations.

How many times have I liked a pattern and have seen it is not recommended for what is my apparent figure type.

You know this list, by which I am an H:

Inverted TriangeTHE INVERTED TRIANGLE: Large bust and/or broad shoulders with narrow hips.
TriangleTHE TRIANGLE: Small bust and/or narrow shoulders with full hips and/or thighs.
RectangleTHE RECTANGLE: Balanced on top and bottom, but boxy, with little or no waist definition.
THE HOURGLASS: Equally balanced on top and bottom, with a trim waist.LASS: Equally balanced on top and bottom, with a trim waist.

I have always wondered about this criteria because well, I look my best, pretty normal front on, which is the angle these characteristics seem to have been taken from. But my shape (note I said shape not issues) is revealed in the side view - a tummy and a butt that really sticks out (trying to think of a delicate way to say this but can't).

So last night I was poking around and found this reference to the 8 shape who "carries her weight at the high hip, just under the waist, on the bottom,  rather than the low hip/thigh area which is where the X shape carries hers."

I am now thrilled to know I share the same body type as Beyonce, who if you have ever seen interviewed seems like a really genuine nice person with a sensible mother:

This has made my day.

For more detail on what 8s wear check out this post on the InsideOutStyle blog.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A day off

I am sure going to miss the luxury of daily posting when I go back to the real life, although I am going to keep it up as much as I can, and am taking some time today to catch up on things.

Like my job, marking, and teaching.

Like making my mango and papaya chutney, (recipe somewhere on this site) that I made last year. Recipients asked me to bring them home some more. Requests for my recipes or for dishes "just like mom made it" are not all that frequent in my life and not to be ignored. In fact all three of my children are much better cooks than I am.

I also decided to take some of the Florida sunshine home with me by using the line here to pre-treat fabric, including a humungous life-time supply of RPL I got from Fabricmart:

Of course what I wasn't counting on was all the sand still left in the washing machine.

I have also finished my latest Sacha shirt, which I just love. I love that the sleeves are set-in, fit well. and require almost zero easing to fit. I love that the fit on is slim enough to wear tucked in with a skirt if I want. I love that this pattern came with the darts in the right position.

I will make some buttonholes here but probably wait until I am home to get some grey buttons, or some black triangles if I can find them. The only local source here is Hobby Lobby and they don't have all that much in buttons.

I might pin it closed and have a shot taken tonight, love this shirt.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Flypaper thoughts

Monday, monday.

  • There is a reason only eight year olds should attempt tricks on their bike.
  • I love sewing cotton, everything is easy. 
  • Cotton makes you feel like a great sewer. 
  • Velvet makes you feel like a lousy sewer.
  • Sew cotton.
  • If you can still swing a golf club it's not broken.
  • Making mango and papaya chutney today and or tomorrow.
  • I see couples who take deck chairs down to the beach and set up and watch the waves in the evenings and hold hands and drink wine.
  • Very nice.
  • My husband throws the ball for Mr. R every night at the beach and I pick up the poop.
  • Also nice.
  • Only a week and a half more here.
  • Then back to family.
  • Very nice.
  • Going back full time this year, so many students.
  • Then starting the long ramp to retirement with more online, less classroom.
  • Going to start converting the wardrobe to more casual.
  • Look out.
  • Linen sleepwear sounds great Bunny.
  • All those linen dress projects are about to become jammies. 
  • Great idea.
  • Saw a house painted robin egg's blue with dark red trim.
  • Actually what I really saw was a dark red skirt with a blue blouse.
  • That was some ditch.
  • The red wool is at home, I need to buy blue for the blouse.
  • Cotton, but smooth cotton.
  • If I can get the fender off the back of my bike I can still ride it.
  • Off I go.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The little bit I know about buttonholes

In response to a few comments about buttonholes here are my thoughts:

First of all many times buttonholes are demonstrated during the sales pitch in the best of all possible conditions. This means a cotton fabric like twill that gives lots of places for the lock stitch to bury and so looks nice and neat, and a sharp needle - a 70 denim is the sharpest of all needles and gives the best stitch. Stablizing helps a lot too.

That's why the buttonhole in the dealer's may look better than you feel you can do at home. There are a few things you can do yourself however that will make your own buttonholes look better:

1. Use a new sharp needle. A friend of mine who was a great shirt maker always put in a new needle just before he made buttonholes - he had noticed that often he got a skipped stitch or two in his buttonholes (using the same needle he had made a whole shirt with) and this eliminated it. He then left the new needle in to start the next project.

2. If you don't already, and if your machine doesn't have some sort of default for this (or like the Bernina have a hole in the bobbin case to thread through the bobbin thread just for buttonholes, effectively tightening the lower tension) loosen your upper tension to about a 3 or less so the lock stitch join is pulled towards the back - giving you the smoothest possible satin stitch on the right side.

3. If you fabric is light and tends to tunnel or pull with a tight satin stitch, stablize your fabric behind the buttonhole area.

4. Use a cotton machine embroidery thread to make your buttonhole. This is fuzzier than sewing thread and therefore fills in the spaces between the stitches and makes a smoother satin stitch for your buttonholes.

Some buttonhole realities. 

Don't make yourself nuts trying to figure out why the right side of the buttonhole looks nice and the left side looks messy. 

This is just going to happen in any buttonhole that sews down one side and reverse up the other. All machines sew more effectively in forward than reverse. A buttonhole that is designed in an automatic system to sew both sides forward (usually this is achieved by a reverse row of straight stitches up the second side that are covered in the second row of satin stitching) will generally always look neater in my experience.

Always make your test buttonhole in interfaced fabric with the same layers as the garment. This will eliminate the surprise of buttonholes that suddenly seem too small for the button.


For the most stress free buttonhole experience you can always invest in an old Singer buttonhole attachment (eBay is full of them) and a simple straight stitch machine from a yard sale even (must be one that is low shank and has feed dogs that can be covered under the attachment). This attachment  uses metal cams or templates that sew identical buttoholes, noisily, on light to medium weight fabrics. Completely foolproof with either keyhole, or my favourite, round ended buttonholes.

I have this set up on a small Janome at my shirt button default and can do a row of perfect button holes in about 5 minutes.

For fancy automatic machines with buttonholes that are a disappointment you can still make up your own system by playing with your zig zag, the right width and density for sides and the end, and of course you can swing this around to make a buttonhole that sews forward both sides.

I finally did this with my 7570 and wrote down on a little paper the settings I liked. A bit fussy but better than unpicking a messy buttonhole. For the Pfaff 7570 or 7550 you can usually get a fairly decent buttonhole if you use the default on the first display screen and always, always use the buttonhole sensor unit.

The problem with the Pfaff buttonhole, in my opinion, is that the sides are sewn in the opposite direction and that the sides are sewn too close together- it can be nearly impossible to cut the buttonhole open without cutting some threads. Too bad in machines that have that wonderful built-in walking foot.

Now what did I forget?