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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 9, 2014

Shirt thoughts

As I said I have been sewing shirts. I have a few thoughts worth sharing I think and a couple of shots.

First pockets.

Since I am making patterned shirts for the clientele with well-developed senses of humour and hipster sense I am matching patterns on the patch pockets in those times I can.

For a person who has extraordinarily wide tolerance for lack of attention to detail in the rest of her life it is interesting how little things in sewing matter to me. I hate it in RTW when they slap on a pocket out of pattern on the front of something and don't match the pattern.

It is actually very easy to match the pattern of a pocket to a shirt. 

Here's the method I use:

  1. Pin the front pattern piece to the fabric and cut it out. Leave the pattern piece on the fabric. So far to good.
  2. Since you are using a thin paper pattern you can usually see the fabric pattern pretty easy through the pattern piece. Lay your pocket pattern piece on top of the front pattern in position as marked. Again so far so good.
  3. Using a pencil lightly trace the main outlines of the pattern onto the pocket piece as you can see them through the layers of tissue.
  4. Mark the top corners of the pocket on the front and remove that pattern piece.
  5. Take your pocket piece and find a spot in a fabric scrap where you can lay the pocket pattern on matching your pencil marks to the pattern.
  6. When you position your pocket to the front to cut out all you have to do is find the corner marks and line up your pocket pattern so it matches the front and top stitch down.
This is what the end product looks like:

A shirt for me I will finish when I have the boys shirts done.

Because I am making the boys a sort of casual shirt, with a collar and band and buttons on the collar points I am using this pattern:

McCalls 6613
I am having a final fitting today so I can't speak to that yet but I have a few construction notes.

The first is that this pattern has separate pattern pieces for the front bands. This makes sense when you are trying to do something fancy like cut the band on the diagonal like they have in the man's shirt pictured above, or if you are working with a fabric that has a right side different from the wrong side, like I am.

Be aware however that this is not the usual, or the best way, to do a band in a standard, both sides the same, shirt fabric.

RTW shirts are made with the front bands being mere extensions of the fronts (to add this to your pattern measure your finished band width and add 2 X that to the fronts measuring from the seam allowance). In construction the button hole band is folded twice towards the front and top-stitched down along each long edge and the button band is folded twice to the wrong side and top-stitched along the inner, folded edge only.

I like this way of constructing a band best, once you have adjusted the pattern if you have to, because it is fast, easy and looks professional.

It also does not use any interfacing because you in fact have three layers of fabric on each side, or six layers over all.

In patterns like McCalls 6613 above with a sewn on band for some crazy reason they have you interface both bands. This is not a good idea, even if you use very light interfacing, much lighter than you would for the collar (if you try to use collar weight interfacing for this your wearer will not be able to bend forward without impaling themselves in the neck with their button band).

Instead you need to forget about interfacing the band at all and just don't trim the seam allowances once you sew the bands on. This will give you a weight and support very similar to the first product and to a professional feel to the shirt.

All that said here is my latest son shirt, with the button holes all done but not cut and the buttons not sewn on. I have to position the collar buttons first. This fabric was originally intended for shorts so I was a little short and had to do a contrast for the inside yoke and the pocket matching described above was not possible. I tried the best I could with the fabric I had to extend the sails of the pattern so it is better than nothing.

I am pretty pleased with this shirt overall:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Butterick goes old school

The new Buttericks for fall are up and much to my extreme surprise there are a few I will definitely be getting and definitely making (as opposed to the general collecting and dust gathering I am more familiar with).

These are real life clothes.

In fact it has been a while since I have seen a collection with so many wearable staples. (Note none of these picks are the full skirted waisted dresses that I can assume someone, somewhere is making).

A good basic coat - crazily described as unlined which annoys me. If you don't need a lining you don't need a coat. Don't make it easy by making it bad - fortunately adding a lining to something like this is easy. 

But don't you think if either of these coats below were hanging in your closet don't you think you would reach for them? These are the kinds of coats that you put your hand on when the other hand has the car keys.

I think the first coat would be practical and ladylike in a soft wool and the second on would work if it had more buttons.

I also liked this jacket, again another shawl collar, as something you could wear with pants or a slim skirt for a casual suit or just to cover up a T shirt. Again not going to change the world but practical and not every day changes the world, or at least mine don't: 

I also liked, and would probably wear a lot of, these shirt views. I am getting tired of droopy tunics with my pants and these are good around-the-house and the around-the-neighbourhood basics:

Finally here is this unexciting staple but it comes with the FBA already done which is worthwhile. You never know when you might need a shell and you could always play around with the neckline if you wanted to:

Maybe if Butterick could find a place as a location for TNT's it might finally find a home in the BMV corporate model.

Monday, August 4, 2014

On handling professors

I am in the middle of marking right now and continuing my discussions with my nephew on what university life is like.

I am also aware that this fall I will be dealing with a new batch of new students.

Here are some thoughts, and I know they seem pretty basic, on professor management tools most students have to learn.

In no particular order, meaning I have mixed up big and little ideas:

  • Read the syllabus. This will tell you when the assignments are due and when the exams are written. It should also tell you what the expectations for each are. If it doesn't make sense go and talk to the prof after class. (Students have caught typos in my course outlines and it has been helpful to know that).
  • Read the syllabus. Most of the questions I am asked can be answered if the student read the syllabus.
  • If you are going to submit an assignment electronically (more and more courses, like mine, have you upload assignments to a course website) save your document as a .doc or, if the prof asks for it, a .pdf . If in doubt submit .docs, they are easier to mark with track changes. If you are a Mac person and believe the whole world should use Macs still have Office installed so you can save .docs. It is the industry standard. A prof marking a mountain of assignments doesn't like to have to email a student asking for a resubmit when they can't open the document. (I work on a Mac but still run into this).
  • Always put your name and student number as the file name in assignments you hand in. (I get many sent in as "Final assignment" then I have to resave after I have added the name etc.)
  • If you have any questions at all, about an assignment, what any course expectations are etc., go ask the prof directly. Do not ask other students. Repeat do not ask other students. If I had a dollar for every time 15 students misinterpreted something because one student had it wrong and that was the student every one else asked, I would be golfing in Florida right now.
  • Profs have office hours. This is time they sit and wait in their offices for customers with questions. If you are worried about a course or an assignment go early and go often. Do not be the kid who only shows up the week before the end of term and says "I'm going to fail this course what can I do?"
  • If you are unsure about what a prof wants in a paper or an assignment see above but even better give it back to them in your own words to see if there is a match, as in "OK so you want me to do some research on this topic and make an argument on why this theory is useful using 5-10 scholarly sources, 10 pages double-spaced 12 pt, font."
  • If you get a bad mark in an assignment never, ever whine about it or tell the prof you feel bad. To be honest this is about learning and work not about feelings. Make an appointment and go in and say "I didn't get the mark I expected for this assignment so what can I do next time so I get a better mark?" Keep your eyes on what you can do instead and on making this assignment a learning experience. This stuff is music to a prof's ears and they will be more than glad to help you regroup and raise your mark next time.
  • If you are really stressed or sick and think you are not going to make the deadline go and talk to the prof at least 48 hours before this is due and ask for an extension. Be prepared to supply a doctor's note.
  • Never plagiarize, whatever your friends tell you. You can get a zero in the assignment, the course, or even be asked to leave the program. You never know what prof is going to come down hardest on this (I do) and once that process starts there is no going back.
  • If you are in your first year and managed your time horribly and are freaking out go and see your prof and be honest about that (they are still not obliged to, and most won't, give you an extension but honesty is always your best bet).
  • Never go with a problem without a solution. "I am not going to get this to you Friday at 6:00, I have been sick, can I have an extension until Monday at 9:00?"
  • Do not under any circumstances send an email, or go see a prof with a fake excuse. Profs have fake excuse radar like you wouldn't believe.
  • Do not say your grandmother is sick. I once had six grandmothers go down the week before exams. Miraculously they all recovered. 
  • Do not write emails that say "I was on a family trip over the weekend and we didn't have internet access so I couldn't hand in my assignment."
  • Do not write "my computer crashed and I lost all my files including this assignment and I have had to start all over again." I this has never happened to me so it makes no sense it happens to certain students every term. Back up if you have to and be prepared to have no one believe you if this does happen.
  • Do not write that your computer fell out of the window.
  • Do not write that your room mate took your laptop to class by mistake.
  • Do not write that your boyfriend ran over your laptop in his car by mistake.
  • Do not put a smiley face at the end of an email asking for an extension.
  • Do not put a picture of a sweet kitten at the end of an email asking for extension because someone has said I like animals.
  • No smiley faces and no kittens.
  • I mean that.