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, August 3, 2013

Small projects

My week has been a blur. 

Only two weeks left in summer term with the usual wake-up call going on that everyone (including me the marker) has to get a push on to finish.

And two days ago my step-daughter got installed in the spare room to start her four months of bedrest until her baby is due with breaks when her husband can get home from his job out of province.

Rascal is eyeing her two dogs (nice quiet Labs) with a full exhibition of his Little Man Syndrome and if the fur flies, well I have a new vacuum. And Labs are pretty serene.

This is going to work out fine. My step-daughter ( I need to find a new way of saying this because if I could have I would have chosen her) has one of those crazy even, easy going dispositions and is going to manage being trapped without being able to do much a lot better than I would. Now if she can survive my creative cooking we are all set. I serve a lot of meals with the words "well it may look weird but it's really healthy".

And now I know about botulism too thanks to the University of Georgia Preserving Food at Home self-study course which I finished this afternoon. Since I passed, they are apparently going to send me a certificate and that baby is going to get framed and hung in the kitchen I can tell you. The clientele may find it reassuring that I do in fact know about botulism, in case what is on the plate doesn't make that apparent.

The point is I figured out a long time ago that particularly when there is a lot going on, the one thing I cannot cut corners on is my creative time. It is what makes things work for me.

On that note I finished my useable muslin version of My Favourite Purse, my first purse project, and I am so pleased with it, pleased way out of proportion to how good a job I did, since the cotton duck I used was pretty thick, and some of the stitching is not flawless as a result.

I have used this purse a number of times already and am so happy with it every time I look at it. I even hung it on the back of my bedroom door so I could look at it in bed. It has been a while since I felt that way about a project. I think making something totally new to me made it particularly interesting. Lesson there.

I have a bunch of nice purses, but for some sectors of my life, like being at the pool with the little girls, or lugging groceries, it is nice to know I am not ruining something decent when I fling it onto the floor of the backseat.

And this purse has all sorts of pockets so I can, for the first time in my life, find things when I need them.

You want that car door opened? 

No problem I have the key right here. 

You call me on my cell? 

Guess what I can answer! 

No more waiting 15 minutes for me to find my phone at the bottom of my purse and another 15 minutes for me to find my glasses so I can read the missed calls and call you back.

So what if I can't use this purse after Labour Day, I love it and will probably make another one for fall, even better now I understand how it goes together:

See. A blurry picture of inside (I was trying to take the shot with the other hand) also the white interior helps. I think all the rest of my other purses are black inside, or at least it seems like that.

As if the purse wasn't exciting enough I also decided I really needed to sew a body pillow before my guest arrived. I remember when I was pregnant that getting comfortable in bed was not easy. In the theme of good baby vibes I covered it with Dr. Seuss fabric and here it is:

So that was my sewing week.

I am aware now that I need to think about back-to-school clothes, for me, when I go offline and back into the regular classroom in September. 

These small projects have reminded me just how energizing projects you can sew up fairly quickly are. It gives me a lift to go to bed at night and know I have something finished after even little time down in the sewing room.

This is definitely going to be my fall for knit dresses and I have three patterns I haven't tried before are taxing towards the runway.

More on that soon.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Project collection

Where do I start?

I am facing facts that with two heavy summer courses (with 60 assignments a week to mark) and a whole lot of family stuff going on, it is unlikely I will be posting again before next week. Maybe a review of the new Vogues excepted.

I am also watching the clock because I am off shortly to the 40th anniversary party of some friends. He has early onset dementia unfortunately but I have to tell you if things get rough in this life it helps to have lived a good one. They have six kids (the last two were twin boys, how did my friend do it? I wondered then and I wonder now) and they will all be there today. And they all turned out too, even the twins who were a couple of characters I can tell you. It also helps to have faith, which they do in a sort of practical way.

So what has the week been like?

Yesterday my niece left for Ottawa where she is going to be spending the next two and a half weeks with my sister there before going home to Winnipeg. 

It has been a while since I had a 14 year old to take care of and I enjoyed it. We did a lot. She had surf lessons from her cousin, learned to chase toddlers (new experience for an only child - and I learned how many times a 14 year old says "Oh joy, there they go again"), now can knit on four needles (took me 20 years to get that far), and can cook enough to stay alive. For my part I now understand I need more eyeliner and  how many documentaries are on Netflicks, and that kids really are the same as they ever were, texting or no texting.

It feels odd now not to have someone in the house up till three and sleeping in till noon. I will miss her.

I have already changed the sheets in that room. 

It looks like my half-way through pregnant step-daughter has some issues and has been put on complete bed rest for the next four months. She and her dogs are going to be coming here to do that as she lives in the country and her husband travels a lot with his job. I have a ranch house with a bedroom right across from the bathroom and next to the kitchen and we are only 15 minutes from the hospital. If we do what we are supposed to, and we will, she will be fine. Personally I have decided losing one baby was enough for this family this year. More than enough.

I am always busy but I do it by making sure I have some project time, as random as it is. Here is my update for the week:

The fair isle vest. Well that project is moving closer to the finish line and I only have to cut it open for the neck and arms (yes that's what you do after you machine stitch across the knitting) and sew in 2,000 yarn ends. That will be a back-to- Netflicks project for sure. I had planned to give this to my son's girlfriend, the one I am crazy about in NYC, and I would really like this to turn out, best I can. Here is a picture to prove a) I am not that great a knitter b) I am not lying to you that I am doing this crazy thing:

You will notice, as I have, that this is not perfect. Far from it. I forgot to knit the little yellow dots in the centre of the squares in one row, but I have googled that and am now poised to add duplicate stitches to my repertoire.

I have also been working on my utility summer, going to the Superstore in shorts purse, which I hope to have finished before actual summer ends. I have never made a purse before and just used stuff lying around my sewing room so this is kind of a stuffable muslin.

I really wanted to try for a purse with a lot of pockets so it would be easier to find my things. I am super pleased with this pattern.

I have sort of a messy purse reputation. 

Once when I was working for politicians and talking to the media everyday I lost my cell phone and had to get a new one. In those days a new cell phone meant a new number. By the time I had contacted everyone who needed to be contacted, about three weeks later, I found my cell phone. It had been in my work purse the whole time, down in the dark depths, dead as a doornail along with 14 pounds of pennies.


Here is the partially completed purse, still needing the handle. There is also a bellows external pocket like this one on the other side, a zippered pocket inside and two smaller bellowed pockets, one of which could hold cell phone, near the top of the inside of the purse:

I used some cotton duck and I am telling myself it doesn't look this messy in real life. That little yellow tab by the zipper of course is a fix. The exposed zipper (gawd how I miss good NYC zipper access) went in fine but do you think I could get the markings out I put in to mark the placement at that end of the zipper? No. This made me crazy and I decided that every time I looked at this purse I would go off to get a wet washcloth or something to start scrubbing again and so I decided to cover it up so I wouldn't make myself crazier. Doing that well enough on my own.

Finally, I have been canning my brains out again. For no real reason other than it is in my DNA and because I find this the most soothing of my activities.

Here is what some of that looks like, I have lots of other shelves going on:

I grew up until I was a teenager in a small town in Manitoba. Canning was it. My dad's family were farmers (my grandfather excepted he went into Winnipeg and became a pharmacist and kept the rest of them going through the Depression, but that's another story). My dad's cousin's wife lost her legs quite a number of years ago now to cancer and the thing they say about her is she still got her canning done, the wheelchair worked just fine.

It's that kind of culture. 

In fact a few years ago the local jar making company decided, without warning, to discontinue a certain kind of lid. This caused a huge uproar. One lady in Saskatchewan was left with 3,000 jars she regularly used every summer useless, and the Hutterite colonies had 250,000 duds.

Even the Manitoba Minister of Agriculture got involved and sent a letter to the company saying " This province was founded on families surviving winter on home canned foods.."

So the scene is set. Somewhere in my reptile brain there is no Superstore.

The thing I like most about canning is not just that you preserve the food, but you preserve the day.

On my shelves now is rhubarb jam from the evening when the little girls and I went out back at my daughter's and they helped me pick rhubarb in her backyard, left over from the previous owner who was a gardener (my daughter is no more going to pick and can this herself than fly to the moon). Two-year-old hands picked what is in those jars.

And I have rosemary jelly made with rosemary my son grew on his hill near to ocean, and green beans my niece and I bought in the Annapolis Valley the day I drove her up to the Lookoff and I showed a prairie kid how the valley flowed into the ocean and that Prince Edward Island was just over there but you can't see it.

All that has been put down now. Down on shelves in the basement to last me the winter.