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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, July 17, 2014

One step forward two steps back

I am involved in one of those quick and easy sewing projects that keeps throwing up road blocks.

I am attempting to do an instant dress by taping together the various pieces of this Stylearc pattern, the Charlotte dress:

I have owned colour-blocked garments before and they fall into the category of things that look up to the minute one day and totally dated the next. Since the trend has been around for a while now I figure if I make a colour-blocked dress the trend will take an instant nose dive.

In piecing it all together with great optimism and enthusiasm and unwarranted self-confidence I assumed the vertical piece in the middle was in fact in the exact middle so I sliced it in half and stuck it onto the front piece.


Since even I have noticed the front is much wider than the back now and much wider than the front facing my suspicion is that this piece was designed to be off centre.

I have considered seaming down the middle of the front to take out the excess, but will probably just pleat the neckline in a bit as that sort of still in style, maybe, and proceed. If that looks dumb I will revert to the centre seam idea.

Whoever said measure twice cut once was for sure a sewer and not a carpenter.

In addition the fabric has spit up a few surprises. It is a good quality rayon challis from Elliot Berman but once I got to work on this I noticed that the pre-washing, cold water, line-dried treatment I always do had put little black spots on the light parts, from some running dye apparently.

At that stage the whole thing had been cut out (wrong as it turned out but still cut out) so after spending an hour trying to talk myself into believing that no one would notice I tore out to the store and bought this stuff, appropriately called SOS:

I put this in a bucket of really hot water overnight. The next morning the water was totally black, which was a worry when the fabric is mostly light yellow, but amazingly the run was gone.

I rinsed the whole lot in the washing machine on cold rinse with a cup of vinegar thrown in. 

I added the vinegar because 80% of all household hints involve vinegar, you don't even have to look it up. The other 20% involving baking soda of course.

So here I am back to square one with a dress that is too loose at the front.

Since I am too, this may work out yet.

Always the optimist.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Things a kid needs to know before going away to college

You are going to have to help me with this list, the final post on this subject.

My sister has been smart this summer. 

My nephew is planning on going away to university after his next and last year of high school. He wanted to get used to more independence by working and living away from home. 

That's why he is here. 

My sister also wanted to make sure he got used to managing things on his own and one of my jobs here is to encourage that.

Sometimes it is easier to do this if you are not the parent and already well in the role of doing things for your own child.

Yesterday we did laundry intensive for example, including how to use a clothesline because they don't have one at home.

He already cooks well so that's not an issue. And he is a conservative guy so probably will handle his money well but his situation has made me think of launching my own kids and of all the first years I see every fall.

One story that sticks in my mind is a mother that bought her son a chest freezer and filled it up with his favourite frozen dinners.

Another is of a really nice 20 year old boy who asked an accountant who was a guest speaker how to claim bankruptcy because he was in so deep with credit cards. Or the girls who take their student loans and go to the Dominican at spring break.

My students also tell me things like learn how much you can drink so you know when you have had enough (for me that would be two glasses of wine max, their self described limits would amaze you), or that girls need to always take their drinks with them at a bar, even into the washroom, so no one puts anything into it. (I find this one so sad).

I also remember my middle son telling me the most useful thing I ever taught him was how to iron a shirt. That's it. After 19 years of my upbringing what he remembers is shirt ironing.

So what's on your essential skills list? Here is the start of mine:

  • how to iron a shirt (details first then the body, use steam)
  • how to make quick dinners with pasta that don't require tomato sauce
  • what interest is and why it is scary (be aware that your freshman is going to be surrounded by credit card kiosks)
  • how to sew on a button
  • how to look at the unit price of food
  • that students are no longer living at the level of their parents' income (I am blown away by the "essential" $30 lipsticks and Coach bags my "broke" students bring to class)
  • how to sew a button
  • how to treat girls with respect
  • how to expect men to treat a girl with respect
  • how to separate colours in the wash and why some things need to be hung up
  • how to do a quick clean even if it is only with a box of disinfectant wipes
I know I am going to think of a million more things through the day but now its your turn.

Over to you.