Sewing with less stress Front

Sewing with less stress Front
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Sewing with less stress back cover
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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, September 20, 2014

Sewing and cakes

Yesterday between all other activities I finished yet another shirt, this one the grey bridges fabric, for my son in New York and mailed it off.

Did I have the presence of mind to take a picture of it? 

No of course not. 

But then again you are probably sick of my shirt shots. I did the flat felled seams on it, Pam Howard's way, and was very happy with them. Just so you know.

The thing is what is this blog anyway? A display case for production? I am not even in the running for that one, so better done elsewhere.

I have also managed to squeeze in a little sewing for myself while I work on my next shirt of bits and pieces. 

Since I am back teaching I sort of rushed through these projects and I am well aware my pattern matching was not up to par. 

We will file that under Oh Well and move on.

Another Renfrew in striped high quality bamboo knit from Stitches Halifax. I figure with my figure I can wear the banded versions of this pattern with skirts and will lengthen it into a tunic for wearing with pants. Here we go, I am in love with this cowl:

I also knocked off a short sleeve version of McCalls 6932.

I was thinking I need an easy shirt for tearing around the house and this is how that turned out:

I really like the way the collar sits but of course being a unisex pattern it has basically been drafted for a man, hence the really dropped shoulders and wide sleeves and more snugness in the hips than these hips require.

Still there is potential here and I am going to follow up on it by going down a size and adding hip ease. Stay tuned on that one.

And now onto cakes.

Today is Miss Scarlett's kid party and I am making the cake.

I made the mistake of going to Pinterest for ideas.

You have to remember that the folks on Pinterest are not operating on the 24 hour clock. They seem to be working with 78 hour days and none of that sleeping. I should have figured this out when I saw this easy craft:


Now these are cute, but what does the rest of a life that has the time and patience to do this look like?

Me I am still trying to match socks.

But reality doesn't intervene much on my aspirations.

After all I sew.

So when I saw this on Pinterest I said perfect. How hard can this be?

Of course I cut it right down to my available layer cake pans, which is four, and hauled out my dusty old box of food colouring, deciding to reduce it to pastels because I am highly suspicious of food colouring.

Anyway despite giving that up and my best intentions here is what I ended up with at about eleven last night:

A brownish purple cake.

A greenish blue cake.

An organish pink cake.

A yellow cake that just looks like yellow cake which in fact it is.

Thank goodness for icing and smarties.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Percolating Butterick 6690

I am almost finished my next son shirt, yet another version of McCalls 6613 which is becoming my go to for a button-down shirt, and thinking of my next project for myself.

I am thinking of this one Butterick 6099 which I picked up on my last pattern BMV buying frenzy. I have an idea in my head to try to use as many of the pieces from my previous male family member shirts in it as I can.

Oh and here is what that pattern looks like:

When I wear this I intend to have a more cheerful look on my face. What's with this? " I knew thong underwear was a bad idea with these jeans"?

The idea has something to do with my visit this summer from my sister Nancy.

Nancy is quite creative and has an eye for decor. I asked her that old "what do I do with my house?" question. The homestead is in a bit of a state of flux, that place you get to when everyone has left home a while ago but left their odds and ends and things much larger than that (like five surfboards) with you.

The battering that happens when you have raised three kids in a small house has remained too along with the what do I do with their old room issue.

One of my sisters promptly sold both beds and turned one room into a sewing room and one into an office. Other folks, like Michelle's Obama's mother kept her old room just like it was in Chicago. I am sort of in the middle. I handed all their possessions over to the two that moved out and stayed local but have been reluctant to do anything with the room of the one who moved away to the US. Having a room that was left behind, like a childhood, didn't really make me happy either, but I don't want to erase his presence from where I am every day either.

I couldn't figure it out.

Then Nancy arrived and helped me out.

Her idea was to take personal things from that room, like some of the pictures and move them into the living room and kitchen where I can see them every day and to make that room into a better guest room so he and who ever else shows up as a real adult comfortable place to stay and not a remnant.

I have started to do that and it feels good to move parts of him back into the mainstream of the house.

This was also part of a process that Nancy calls shopping your house which means you move things you have put away into your main rooms and rotate things with the season. For instance she took old poetry books that were my grandfather's, he loved poetry, and moved them to a shelf in the living room. Lots of things like that.

So in the convoluted place that is my brain I have decided in this next project, rather than just using new fabric or even one piece I have, of shopping my sewing room and incorporating some of what I have been sewing into something that I am working on now.

Does any of this make any sense to you?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Craftsy review: Pam Howard's Classic Tailored shirt

One of the many things that happened to me over the summer was that my male relatives got a look at the shirts I have started to make for my sons and put in orders.

So many in fact that my fall sewing is going to involve alternating between projects for myself and projects for other people - with a required trip to NYC (great) for supplies.

I usually am not all that crazy about sewing for other people, because non sewers can be incredibly picky and request things that can't really be done (can you let out this wedding dress 4" - I forgot to tell you I was pregnant) but family, and those who want basically the same garment, are different.

Also let's face it my vanity took a nice boost to actually have requests for my sewing when the response around here to some of the things I make for myself can run along the lines of "well I wouldn't wear it."

Since I appear to be on a shirt making roll I decided to sign up for Pam Howard's shirt making class on Craftsy.

I will be honest with you, my Craftsy experiences have been mixed, ranging from a fabulous beginners crochet and some interesting cooking classes to a design your own knitwear class that, I should have known better, seemed to require a Phd in advanced mathematics - something that a person who was bribed to finish her grade 10 algebra by her teacher father with promises of pickled herring (I will pretty much do anything for pickled herring) is unlikely to ever get.

Back to Pam Howard's class.

It really wasn't what I was expecting.

In my mind, based on no evidence, I was hoping for some more tricks and tips - industrial methods or maybe a new way of doing the tricky parts, sort of an expanded Off the Cuff style.

I was surprised to find instead that Howard uses fairly conventional techniques and this really is a woman's style shirt, as opposed to a classic man's shirt (which is exactly what the course description promised).

For instance she hand sews down her collar bands and cuffs (no burrito method here) and uses a continuous placket rather than a real tailored placket. I was also surprised that she does her final press with sizing, which I am pretty sure is hard to get in Canada.

So at first impression I was a little disappointed.

Then I watched more closely.

What makes Howard's sewing amazingly precise is her technique at the machine and the ironing board. Like the best of professional sewers she really knows how to manipulate fabric with her hands and that is the secret to her accuracy.

She also has an amazingly calm and serene style and approach - you just feel yourself relaxing when you listen to her - and this, I realized, the perfect anecdote to the mentality of the quick and very experienced sewer who has got into the habit of rushing through sewing.

Pam Howard's message is - slow down, be careful, try holding it this way, enjoy the process - exactly what someone who has been sewing forever, like me, needs to hear.

So this morning as I took it a bit easier and used her simple but careful "finger felling" technique on the current shirt, I actually produced my best ever flat felled seam, no mess, no fuss and no stress.

So my verdict: great class, great teacher, more for even an experienced sewer to learn that may first appear, a great way to get back to some precision sewing and, most of all, find the zen in the process again.

Thank you Pam.