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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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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's resolutions and Maddie top

Here we go with getting ready for the new year.

First the resolutions:

1. Sew more. 

2013 was a very busy year and I felt pulled in many directions by many forces. The result was I felt pulled away from myself a bit. I have been thinking this over.

Last night I was babysitting at my daughter's. The house was quiet and I was thinking about my life and all the roles I have played, all the different things I have done, all those experiences. Then I thought, as middle-aged adults do, of where I started and the person I was when I was a kid. 

I was always a kid with projects. Ask my mother. I more or less drove the street and the other mothers nuts with my schemes. My major theatrical projects with a cast of thousands, the time I set up a sweat shop in the garage making doll clothes until I was shut down by mothers who instituted labour and consumer protection laws.

Well I sat last night and looked at that dollhouse, as messy as it was, and as bright, and thought to myself I have travelled in a direct line from there to here.

My wish for you right now is that you can see your own direct line and aren't letting life move you off it.

How this all pertains to the resolution to sew more needs no explanation with this crowd here.

2. Be more experimental in my sewing. 

I am not a production person but an artisan. What do you think about that?

I am proud of myself for picking up this word and applying it to myself. 

This is a result of having spoken this morning with my son in Brooklyn who talked this evening about going out for artisanal cocktails. Having walked around Brooklyn a lot on my last trip I now understand what this means. Being a craftsperson implies a high level of practiced skill, but artisanal products I realize now means DIY and generally involves fooling around a bit. A craftsman makes a perfect martini. And artisanal cocktail involves things you might not think go together like maybe pickle juice and vodka and muddied chocolate basil (I am just making this one up but I do not put it past some artisan to be mixing this exact recipe up tonight for my son and his girlfriend).

I intend to work with more basic patterns and fool around with them a bit. Like an artisan.

3. Buy more interesting fabric, but only 10/10 stuff. 

I don't really need to explain this. I need this for items one and two.

4. Sew more StyleArc patterns, try more indies.

Listen StyleArc patterns fit me and are interesting and smart. Why I have wasted so much money on other stuff is beyond me.

So in summary here is the latest, a sort of 2014 warm-up. A pair of Barb pants and the Maddie top

I actually got this pattern only for the name, which is the name of my son's girlfriend and sometimes I really miss her. 

What is wonderful about this pull-on top is that it has a beautifully fitting neckline, nothing sloppy and the bands at the sleeves and bottoms are doubled so you have weight to help the top hang and the need for hemming is eliminated.

I made this out of some silk crepe and the bands out of some light weight pleather I had looking at me from the shelves.

I am super happy with this pattern (only took a few hours start to finish and I was in a rush as I wanted to wear it down to do some radio, which as my husband pointed out, doesn't make much sense) and will be using it for many more experiments. It absolutely wants to be a dress I can hear that from it.

No construction notes for the top, except if you are not putting in a back opening (you don't need it IMO) eliminate the seam.

I am wearing this top with the latest pair of Barb pants and I have one comment (in addition to adding a bit for the hips if are you not sure about the stretch of your stretch woven). I want to point out that the pattern calls for 2" elastic in the waist casing. I couldn't find any around here and so in previous pairs used 1 1/2" which I figured wouldn't make a difference.

It does. 

For this pair I overlapped my 1 1/2" with some 1" elastic and zig-zagged them together to make a sturdy 2". What a difference, these pants feel so much more secure on the body. I might be making a couple more pairs over the next few days, I am so happy with them, when I should be doing some cooking for the troops.

So here is the shot:

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

The dollhouse shots

As requested here are some shots of the notorious dollhouse taken by me lying down in my daughter's family room. There is a video of it around somewhere of the whole thing but this should give you an idea.

It was a huge hit and my daughter says the little girls have been playing with it more than any other toy. It is Barbie scale so they have lots of dolls (some with hands that have not been chewed off by dogs even) to put in it.

The main idea is that this is not going to be pinned on Pinterest any time soon.

To be perfectly honest with you my execution was not up to my mental images of how this was going to turn out. My main error was thinking I could Modge Podge on scrapbooking paper to look like wall paper. I was working with my head inside the dollhouse and that stuff wrinkled and crinkled and tore in places and I could not get the cuts to line up with the edges. I realize in the pictures it was even worse than I thought.

I would rather make a dozen bound buttonholes in silk charmeuse (this is the most extreme example I can think of) than go near another bottle of Modge Podge again. I am now going to look at all those women in Michael's aisles with new respect from now on.

But listen. I am not a crafter right? And the girls like it. A lot. As my daughter said when it was unveiled, "well it sure has personality."

Because there are two girls and both my husband and I are the eldest of four in our families, we know all about pushing and shoving around the same toy. So we decided to cut a four shelf bookcase in half and back to back the parts so there would be two rooms each side so they could play without the other guy saying "she's messing it up." My husband also cut a door on the second level so they could still see each other and the Barbies could walk through.

The roof didn't get finished due to time constraints and we will be going back to finish that.

So here it is in all its messy glory:

There is a Barbie curling iron in the drawer of the vanity.

A sleeping mask like Babs wears. The girls like to borrow mine and walk into the walls.

The doll house is now up on a coffee table so they can see it better for playing. What you might be able to see are Barbie and Ken outside on the park bench.

A blender for smoothies like daddy makes.

It is crazy what you can get for $1.99 at Value Village, if you in fact are crazy enough to buy it.

TV remote on the coffee table but Barbie can only watch her shows for a limited time each day. That's the rules.

The biggest hit in the whole house was the toilet paper.
I collected this vintage furniture on eBay from across the continent. There is a turkey and pie in the oven for Christmas. I actually got into a bidding war over them.

The wardrobe is full of clothes I bought in a gas station parking lot from a woman who advertised on Kijji (Craigslist in Canada) the collection includes a wedding dress and leather pants and jacket. All now smelling of Detol.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

I have been thinking

Carolyn, the wonderful Carolyn, at Diary of a Sewing Fanatic, wrote something a few posts back I have been mulling over.

It was one of those posts that expressed exactly how I feel. 

In it Carolyn described, no defined, herself as a sewing blogger as opposed to a fashion blogger. What she clearly meant was that she was here to sew and to share what she sews with other sewists who get that. Period. This means her time and emphasis is on the sewing, not the styling, not the photography.

This is of course one of the reasons her blog is one of my favourites. Authentic bloggers like Carolyn stand out as more and more of my good old sewing bloggers are writing what sounds like ad copy and clearly now spending as much time with photography and presentation as sewing.

Listen good for them. 

They have interests and skills in areas I do not. Their blogs are beautiful and professional, but you know are no longer the ones I visit regularly. If the blog looks like a magazine, well that is fine, but I no longer can see the sewer, or the real woman in it with the kind of connection that feeds me as a sewer, and as a person. 

What is missing in the picture perfect blogs is the spirit.

You know what I mean.

I treasure most the spirit I see in shots of that latest outfit taken in offices early before the rest of the staff are in. 

I am proud of the finished product shots taken by some husband of his wife standing in the driveway, both pleased that she did this herself. 

I love the shots taken in bedroom and bathroom mirrors after the kids have finally gone to bed. 

I am touched by the pictures taken of, and by, women who have had to get back on in the saddle after one of life's many curve balls and had the, what do you call it, the gumption to make something new to wear when really they were feeling worry, heartbreak, or disappointment.

All the evidence of just showing up to life, of trying, of putting out the effort and of just displaying hope and optimism and spirit, just spirit, in all those family-snapped, taken in the mirror shots, is what really matters to me.

These are the sewers who inspire me.

And you can't style that.

Vogue 8961

You are probably a little relieved, as I am, that we are back to regular programming around here and that means sewing. I have been doing some pre New Year's Thinking About My Life which I will summarize some other time, but suffice it to say here and now it will involve more sewing.

I am also continuing in my quest to introduce more colour into my wardrobe and exit the black, because I feel that is more consistent with who I am, but it occurred to me over the holidays the black fabric I have would work very well for pattern testing and experiments. At worst I would only wreck fabric I have not a huge interest in wearing, at best I would fine tune a new pattern and have something to wear in my more subdued dressing environments, like work for example.

On that theme I decided to make a New Year's Eve outfit from some silk twill I had lying around in a pattern I have yet to try. That would be Vogue 8961.

Listen I knew going in that I would not look like this picture when I was done and that waisted dresses are not my best look as I am both long waisted and at this stage of the game sort of waist absent. However this looked like an easy pattern, very comfortable, and it reminded me very much of a favourite dress I had in the '80s. So in the interest of nostalgia and optimism I went for it. 

Here are the results:

A couple of things about this pattern:

  • The top is really wide (cut-on dolman sleeves) and the neckline is wide. I used one of my old tricks and cut and sewed the facing together and tried that on before I actually cut out the dress and figured I would get away with it and I more or less did.
  • I cut this out in a 14 and I am a 16 top and 18 bottom so that tells you something.
  • Crazy comfortable so if you want to go out in an outfit you can easily make in a day and feel like you are wearing jammies this may be the pattern you are looking for.
The pattern suggested a technique I think is nutso for the ruching for the sleeves and the elastic casing in the waist. Both involve sewing the seam allowance together (with something more complicated for the sleeves that does not bear discussion on this valuable space.)

Having done this once, the elastic in the seam allowance treatment just twists and is annoyingly difficult for threading through the elastic.

So whenever I see this method in the instructions I do this instead which is IMO better and with less nerve wracking results.

  • Press open the seam allowances
  • Sew some seam binding (the kind you add to a hem not the fold over kind) over the seam stitching each side of the tape to one seam allowance.
  • Thread through your elastic and you are in business.
This is what it looks like:

Finally, I think this dress needs to be accessorized so it doesn't look too much like a quick and easy elastic waist pattern.

I added a link belt I had and a statement necklace. I am afraid I didn't actually have one of those in stock as my necklaces run more to the statement that every woman-should-own-pearls, so the one in the picture was provided by those fine jewellers at Target.

Since we are going out to dinner I also decided I needed a little bag, a sort of set it on the table beside the bread and butter plate bag, that holds the lipstick, the debit card, and the driver's license for the designated driver. Since New Year's is classy I figured the on the floor under the table, slung over the back of the chair, or sitting on the table like a library book bag wouldn't do so I decided to make a fold over clutch for which there are 900 instructions on the internet for free and another 900 for sale on Craftsy and Etsy. I did the free version of course and really didn't need instructions because this is just an envelope with a slanted top underlined with fleece (wouldn't use that again for such a small bag, maybe some heavy duty interfacing.) The size was determined by the available zipper which was 7". Too bad the garment district is so far away.

Here we go with that project (BTW top stitch the lining away from the zipper so it won't catch, had to go back and do that):

There is more zipper tape showing in this picture than in real life I think, maybe not.
And of course I am not a crafty person, that has been established. However if anyone has any cool clutch patterns to pass on I would be interested.

So that's what I made over the last day.

Let's see what else I can fit in before the end of the year.