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Sewing with less stress Front
My newest sewing book

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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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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Machines of integrity (in the mood for drama tonight)

You may or may not remember, that would depend on how long you have hung in with me on this blog, that last spring my husband and I put together a vintage Bernina Sport from parts on eBay. We got a good body and power cord from one seller and collected an extension table, feet, and bobbins from others.

I think the whole project cost us about $450.

We cleaned, downloaded manuals, and oiled and greased it.

Of course in my too-busy life at home I didn't have much of a chance to get to know this machine after all that trouble so I brought it down here to do just that.

Currently I am working on a very successful sheath dress from a new pattern (more on that later) and having a wonderful time with this machine.

This experience happens to coincide with some email traffic about new machines from several dealers.

Now listen. 

I have enormous respect for the hard work it takes to be a sewing machine dealer these days. They are caught between far too many large companies who pressure them non-stop to sell machines like it was 1960 and every woman is spending happy afternoons set up over the beige broadloom and sewing away making everyone's clothes, and the present.

Modern women should be so lucky.

Anyway the thing about sewing on this old Bernina is how great it feels. 

I don't care what you tell me about your new $12,000 top of the line but it has to feel right under my hands.

This machine does. The stitch is perfect and I can feel all those metal parts working away without a snag.

It feels like a well-oiled machine. Because that's exactly what it is. It cruises over those lumps and layers without an hesitation. I hold my breath when I am about to sew over a definite juncture, and I can let my breath out.

This is the way it is supposed to feel.

Now I have a couple of very good machines at home, including a former top of the line that does embroidery. It didn't get to go on vacation.

The sewing machine industry is in a dilemma. 

An economic crisis. 

With so many fewer hall closets these days hiding a necessary sewing machine somewhere under the tails of coats and the boots, the only way the companies can survive with so many fewer units sold is to amp up the price of the machines they do sell. And also there has to be a new and better model every few years. So suddenly we have machines with computers in them that can digitize, maximize, minimize, flip, reverse, mirror and advise on screen.

Machines that cost more than a second hand car and are about the size of the bathtub in a cheap hotel.

There are two problems with this approach:

1. The buttonholes are still often suspect.
2. You don't need any of this to actually sew clothes.

This whole new machine culture is starting to offer machines that, I hate to be really rude here, but they look like a bunch of guys designed them.

You know exactly what I mean.

You know when that male in your life, any age will do here, shows you something complicated, mechanical or electronic, but most of all new, and therefore apparently improved, and you are real patient and then you say "well when would you exactly use that?" and they look at you like you just told them there was no Santa Claus. Or Easter Bunny. Or no snow day and school is cancelled.

Well that is the mind I see behind so many of these new machines.

Here's an idea.

If I were to buy a new machine this is what I would want to hear:

This machine is the most carefully manufactured machine we have ever made. The stitch is impeccable, the buttonholes are the most beautiful anywhere. No one else has a machine of this quality. No where near.

Let me know if you hear anything like that.

On a less serious note I have three unique pieces of intelligence to share with you tonight:

1. If you leave the back door open in the evening in Florida, well, when you wake up there might be an extremely large toad in the middle of the living room floor. Extremely.

2. If you are making a dress and you are in a sewing frenzy and try it on and decide you need to move the darts down half and inch and you do that. Well when that dress is all sewn up and this time you try it on with a bra on, or at least a good one, well you are going to have to cross out those new markings you put on the pattern, because those darts need to be moved up half an inch.

3. And if you make tailor tacks, I do, and get fed up with ripping the paper over the markings, just make a puncture hole in the pattern where you are going to want to make that tailor tack. A golf tee works great if your pattern is lying on beige broadloom.

This is the life.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Fabric and pattern big news

First of all the fabric:

On the way here we had a necessary detour at Fabricmartfabrics in Sinking Springs Pennsylvania. It's a small store front on an older partially residential street that disguises a large and highly organized inventory in the warehouse rooms in back and upstairs.

In the main store part there were racks and tables of ends at super prices. Some $1 a yard silks, and I kid you not.

To avoid losing my mind I decided to focus on knits and what you see here are 24 yards of mostly rayon/lycra with a few yards of cotton/lycra thrown in. Nice quality and this whole pile cost me $100 which, as I explained to my husband, is another example of how sewing saves me money.

I definitely will be putting Fabricmart on the permanent itinerary along with that great Thai place with the vegetable spring rolls, the world's best, in Freeport Maine of all non-Thaiwanese places. A must stop.

Now onto exciting pattern news. In my travels I had some time to think and it occurred to me that sewing really was my core business, despite all the other things I do with my time, some of it for a salary.

My mind is going with the sewing all the time.

So to cut a long drive, and a think, short as soon as I was in a place with a table where I could write I emailed off Stylearc and said you know those Linda pants are great but a slimmer leg version would be nice.

And they emailed right back and said, well that's exactly what we are releasing this very minute, and now well we are going to call it Barb.

This completely thrills me, you have no idea. This means more to me that any of those prizes I won in university, by far, and more to me than all the elections I helped to win (sorry about that senior members of government).

I mean this is a pattern.

With my name on it.

A pants pattern.

I couldn't be happier if I had negotiated world peace. Sorry about that.

I can hardly wait to sew it:

Isn't life exciting?