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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, September 22, 2012

Butterick 5760 and me

In my quest to develop some more TNT I made this cardigan from Butterick 5760:

It was a pretty straightforward sew with a few observations:

  • It is quite fitted. Not usual for the Big 4 but nice and sort of ready-to-wearish
  • The instructions have you interface the bands, attach them, and then do a sort of usual knit binding around the neckline.
Of course the binding is not interfaced and it goes right over the top of the band to the edge. (Are you visualizing this?) 

That means that the un-interfaced neckline can pull as a soft thing against the firmer band thing and there is a bit of a wrinkle in it.

If I make this again and I will I will apply the neckband and then sew on the extended front bands. This will deal with that problem and allow me to put a buttonhole up closer to the neck.

Here is my finished version in some rayon knit I had hanging around:

I had this idea that if I put on a belt it would define my waist more, but that was before I remembered I don't have a waist to define, so I actually wore this the whole day beltless.

I really am pleased with the potential of this pattern and am on a sort of a cardigan of all types roll at the moment.

On other Saturday night news around here you might be interested to know we are doing our usual expanding dinner cooking for both sides tomorrow and my husband is also making up a giant batch of his home made yoghurt.

Not to imply we are back to the land, hardly, but he loves to do odd projects.

So today after a round of golf in the rain with the dog coming along (no one else was on the course because of the rain and we know the manager - we had only to put Rascal on the leash at the 15th hole owing to the large porcupine on the green) my spouse has come home to make his yoghurt.

He puts a the whole bowl of whatever it is cooking along by keeping it the right temperature on an old pilled heating pad carefully monitored with an asphalt thermometer from work.

I couldn't make this stuff up. 

It's actually pretty good yoghurt considering the origins and I know he is precise, accurate and safe because no one has fired him from work yet and I am still alive.

The high point of my own day (no it wasn't playing 18 holes in the pouring rain) was running into Miss Scarlett and company at the supermarket.

"Nice top Babs, but what's happening to the neck?" (it had those gathered things on it).

"Let me see that, did you sew it yourself?" (I lean closer so she can turn the neckline in to see the stitching)

"Why are the sleeves a little bit short?" (I explain the usefulness of 3/4 length sleeves and she pushes hers up).

Pretty smart three year old with all the right interests.

The way I figure interest in garment sewing skips generations in my family (my grandmothers were clothes sewers, my mother and daughter think it's too fussy).

But I can tell you this one, Miss Scarlett, is one of us.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Wardrobe config part two

As you can tell I am continuing to think deeply about major issues and what works for me, as opposed to everyone else.

The truth is when we are all kids we are pretty clear about what we want to do, and what we like.

I am reminded this every time one of the little girls spits out weird food or does that hit the floor in despair over the injustice of life thing - like being told to do something not when they want to or how they want to do it.

All that changes, maybe beginning the first time someone says, "what a good girl you are." Translated as  you did something you didn't want to, but I wanted you to do it.

Fast forward to the expectations of boys, and then men, and workplaces, and all that advertising stuff that we think we are too intelligent to be affected by but of course are.

If you sew you also are influenced by looking over to the next sewing machine (I am getting highly poetic here so this is a figure of speech, a metaphor or whatever) and thinking you should be sewing better, faster, more stylishly, more often. And if you read blogs let's face it sometimes you get this feeling really frequently. Unless of course the blog you are reading is this one.

I am the only one who has tried to peer into the background of those shots for housework/chaos of life evidence to see how they really get all that sewing done? I am self-revelatory phase, you might have to excuse me here during the confessions.

The thing is it is easy to get detached from yourself, I am totally into reattachment activities right now as you can tell, and far more significantly from the reasons you sew.

In periods of deep mediation, while staring at serger this evening, it occurred to me that I am really a fabric sewer.

I have the shelves to prove it.

I just love fabric.

Sewing and patterns give me an excuse to have it, work with it, be consoled by it, and be elevated by it.

Now I like a good pattern, but I really like it even more if I can cut it out more than once, many more than onces.

A good pattern to me is like designing a good course for my students, you tweak it and improve it every time you do it, but a good course can bring out the best in a totally new group of students - that's it's job - but it's working with the kids that matters.

Connecting with good fabric is like that moment when I am lecturing and I look out and some student catches my eye and they are smiling/laughing and we have that moment character to character.

The character of fabric matters to me. 

When I remember a favourite dress it's for the fabric, and when I think of my best sewing memories it's the fabric.

Do you remember you first fabric shopping experiences?

We used to have these department stores in Canada called Eatons - ruined of course by a bunch of second and third generation dingbats - with terrific fabric departments. 

I used to wander around those departments (kids used to go downtown by themselves on the bus when they were young in those days) and used to have to go and sit down at the pattern chairs every once in a while to give myself a break when I was too overcome by the fabric.

That was good fabric.

I have been thinking of this lately and kicking myself that I didn't pick up some off white boiled wool last spring at Mood - now that is a real fabric department store- and thinking that one piece of fabric you regret is worth 50 yards of fabric you got just because.

I am thinking that this TNT thing, with a few new pattern accents thrown in, might be me, after many detours, because that's where fabric sewers land.

What comes first for you?

The pattern or the fabric?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Wardrobe reconfig part one

I have been sorting through things lately.
This is not my favourite seasonal change (my apologies to all those who love fall, including my daughter who was always thrilled with the return to order and school).
Sure the leaves are nice when they go red, but then they have to be raked (we have a 40 bag yard) and what you are left with is waiting for winter, which to me is the season where I wait for spring.
Dispositionally I am sort of a casual flip flip type of person. On the inside at least.
I was never the mother who looked forward to back to school and always regretted the end of schedule free days and people running in and out of the house at random. 

As a kid I hated September too as it meant the end of my major season of uninterupted projects - I took my first summer sewing class when I was 12 and the rest they say is history - and a whole pile of fabric.
Back to my closet.
In part of the big seasonal pack and unpack (which I am resisting as best I can and even swimming in an outdoor pool most days, moving my regulation old lady breast stroke through the floating leaves) I came to terms with what I really end up wearing.
It is not the tailored work clothes even though I work.
Because most mornings usually find me rushed and thinking, I reach for something that makes me feel sort of stylish, however I am defining it at this moment, and is comfortable.
Also you know something?
I think I have earned a stage in my life where I have arrived enough, am as confident enough that I am worth my paycheck, at least some days and at least part of those days, that I want to dress as myself and to please myself.
Handle it.
My wool suit, control top pantyhose, heels that come off as soon as I get in the door days are over. So over.
I am announcing the official end to the two wardrobe closet.

At least this closet. My friend Mary is threatening to do the same and she even knows how to do a proper Chanel jacket without whining.
News conference to follow.
This is it.
I have decided to not wear to work what I wouldn't wear at home and vice versa.
If it wears out faster I will just make more.
So what's the problem?
This means my work wardrobe has become more colourful and comfortable (I never said I was letting go - take me out behind the barn and shoot me if that happens) and I am dressing up more at home.
No saving for "good" to quote my mother, or work.
As far as I am concerned it's now all one man.
I am one person with one life and it's all good.
All good.
It means more aprons at home and more stylish at work. More stretch wovens and flats on the office and more jewelery worn to do the laundry.
How does this feel?
I have never enjoyed, the key word here is enjoyed, getting dressed for work and never as professional around the house, and believe me sometimes this house could use a little professionalism.
We are taking the real Babs on the road and so far the world is coping.
Who would have figured?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


I've done it.

I have all my little students organized and on track for the term. I have myself on track for the term.

I have given away some obligation fabric to friends at the sewing guild and am excited about new fabric I am going to need for my new wardrobe direction - more on that later.

If I don't get myself to Mood Fabrics in NYC soon it is going to kill me. There is nothing around here and I sew nearly every day.

I have my trip booked for November.

I have had my little girls overnight as a practice for when their folks are going to NYC next month - it was great.

I have been making dresses for Miss Scarlett including one the day before her birthday because the day before she told someone "Tomorrow it is my birthday and Babs is making me a beautiful pink dress." That was news to me but I did it.

Off tonight for dinner with a fashionista/traveling friend who used to work for me only really I worked for her.

More later.

Enjoy your day.