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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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Thursday, May 23, 2013

The best dress pattern

For a while all spring I have been looking for a new basic dress pattern, something simple I can make into 2,000 variations a la Carolyn.

I knew what I wanted. 

A front and a back and sleeveless with a neckline that wouldn't make me too hot. Something that was adaptable and basic but not a just a fabric envelope with holes for your head and arms to stick out of.

Something basic but with a bit of style.

Well try to find a pattern like that. Simple, comfortable and well-drafted.  

I looked and looked and finally ordered the KISS dress from Brensan Designs I admit I have a blouse pattern from this line but haven't made it up yet, and as a non-quilter, as a garment sewer, I wondered if these patterns were for me.

Here is the pattern envelope:

Now in my opinion this is one dynamite dress pattern, beautifully drafted, with these cool features:

  • There is a pullover, more house dress, casual option that is made by placing the back seam on the fold and not sewing in the vertical back and front darts - only the bust darts are sewn. I made myself one of these directly out of the envelope in black and white cotton.
  • There is also a more fitted version - to get this you use the same pattern, just sew in the front and back vertical darts and put a zipper in the back.
  • There is a one piece back/armhole facing piece and a one piece front/armhole facing piece - so the whole top is sort of lined without any facings that can flip up or out.
  • There are instructions to bag the facings/dress involving some pulling through the shoulder seam that is really slick. I can't explain it here because I am not sure I totally understand it but I followed the instructions on two dresses and presto it turned out. Very fast, neat and RTW.
  • Most interesting, and you really need to pay attention to this, is the suggestion that since this dress has a scoop neck to sew the first 1" or so of the top centre back seam and then to put the zipper in below that! This means the back neckline is nice and smooth and faced and the invisible zipper is set a little way below in the seam. This totally dispenses with that horrible finishing the top of the zipper at the neckline hassle that has disappointed me in about 500 dresses.
Here is a picture of what that looks like in a photo that shows nothing and it totally non-illuminating but might make the point that this is one nifty way to put in a zipper in a dress with a neckline that goes on over your head:

That little bump you can't really make out about an inch below the neckline is the white zipper pull. Isn't this a totally cool idea?

So now the dresses. 

The first one is the vertical dartless pullover version I made with pockets to hold my dog leash, car key, and vegetable peeler as well as any other odd stuff I find on the floor.

Made this when I first got here and have worn it a lot. Notice just arrived from Nova Scotia pale legs.
Side view so you can see what the effect of not sewing those darts is. I might make this with only the back darts in for another casual dress, or make the darts slimmer.
And now for the very same pattern made up with the darts sewn front and back and the zipper in. 

Much more fitted and IMO an A1 dress to have. Note in both dresses the darts were perfect as is. In the second version I took in a little at centre front neckline to accommodate my scrawny neck:

 And this is me apparently holding up the house:

Back shot to show that if I had more fabric I would have matched the print:

So there you have it. A wonderful dress pattern.

Now I think I will go and have another look at this line.

Scenes from the golf course

We are playing 18 holes every evening and one of the things I enjoy most is the wildlife. Some scenery sharing.

And an actual sewing post tonight.

Brace yourselves.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Knitting in the round

I actually have done a bit of sewing, which I will be posting when my second dress is photographed, but I have been doing a lot more knitting. It is sort of cool to be learning something new.

I have always enjoyed knitting, the therapeutic slightly rocking in the corner of the mental institution soothingness of it, but I am not very good at it - owing to the fact I haven't invested enough time and attention in it. And there is all that counting. (I was once actually a paid counter of items in incoming orders in a warehouse when I was a student and held the company record for never getting the same number twice, counting the same order. Myself and a Phd in Medieval English, worst counters they ever had.)

Back to the present.

My quiet days here in Florida are giving me some of that time and, well, here we are.

There is one part of knitting I absolutely hate however and that is the sewing up pieces part.

My neat sewer, 2.5 stitches, back tack, 5/8 seam allowance, seam roll pressing, serger finishing self just finds knitted seams sort of substandard and, well, sort of weak and sloppy. I just can't believe they will hold up, and as my surfer son has proven, they often don't. (Eventually I had to machine stitch the armholes in the Central Park Hoodie I made him a few years back).

Also sewing up knitted pieces does not appeal to me on a philosophical level.

I mean fabric, which we don't make ourselves, comes to us flat. We have to take the flat and make it round because people aren't flat. This requires seams and things like darts and stuff like that.

However with knitting, which aptly has been described as two sticks and some string, (as opposed to a $12,000 sewing machine if you believe some machine dealers which I don't) you have the ability to make it round in the process, to sculpt around the body, not imitate flat fabric.

(All this intellectualization is a justification for not repeating a trauma of my past which was the time, when knitting the Central Park Hoodie, when I took so long I actually knit three sleeves because I had forgotten I had already done two).

To cut a long story shorter I invested in Ann Budd's top down ebook which I got from Interweave I believe and is nice can convenient on my iPad:

It offers formulas for multiple size sweaters and as experiment number one I have been working on this alpaca version for my husband for our not-in-Florida life. He claims to hate scratchy wool so hence this nice alpaca brought to the State Road A1A by eBay.

Now it isn't perfect, and there are some hole weirdnesses going on under the armpit where I did something odd when I picked up stitches, and I am going to work on narrowing the body below the chest which seems appropriate for the male shape so we are not dealing with a rear peplum thing, next time. I read a Mary Thomas idea about changing to smaller needles as you go down that sounds like a possibility, but really it is fine, and he likes it.

And there is zero sewing up knitting this way, so I am sold.

This of course has kept me up late on the iPad searching books on Icelandic sweaters ( I love how they are constructed, although the last time I wore one my Icelandic sweater felt a lot like wearing a sweaty bush) and Nordic knitting, and resisting the impulse to eBay them all, and making me think I should get up my nerve once this is done to cast on that Fair Isle Vest project for the Craftsy class I signed up for.

I have watched the videos but got sort of frozen when I got to the diagrams of 47 different kinds of Shetland sheep, going to take me a while, me who has armpit holes, to feel up to standard for that class. So I have been knitting my first round sweater and thinking and listening to ebooks.

Guess who is thinking about the beauties of retirement?

And even preparing.

My Diana interchangeable needle set - probably one of my major, gee I actually didn't waste money purchases. I love these, I can change around needles to get gauge which is a task I more or less find impossible, and don't have to keep running to the store to buy a different size needle every time I screw that up.

This actually looks better on, you can try on as you knit with this method, and my husband smooths out that chest crater.

See how nice the stitches look? Next time you see this sweater it should be on a man in shorts.