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Sewing with less stress Front
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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, November 8, 2014

Something I am going to be thinking about

I read something last night in a crochet book I am reading that hit me in the head.

I have been in a sort of Craftsy induced self study program to learn to crochet.

 I think motivated by the fact it took me a whole year to knit some lap blankets for the boys, at least one of which is now a dog bed. I heard crochet was faster and after those projects that is all I needed to know.

I have a long way to go, that dog sweater had some made by me mistakes and is going to be redone, but I have been approaching this as if this was a degree granting program.

What I read last night was this -  before you begin you have to come to honest terms with who you are. Specifically are you a  person who wants to figure out and follow line by line patterns or are you someone who is happy with mindless but relaxing repetition.

When I read this I thought I just want to have something to keep my hands busy when I watch Netflix - you can't do that if you are busy getting lost in instructions. If I want to be precise I will make a shirt.

At least at this stage that's where I am.

I also realized I don't actually like a lot of crochet patterns. I am not a lacey person, so why am I suffering self esteem issues because I can't figure them out?

This made me think about how we approach sewing.

Do you want the clothes or the sewing time?

Do you like simple seams and quick garments or something slow and challenging?

It seems to me that we need to take the should out of sewing.

I see a lot of sewers, particularly those who blog or talk about it, taking on a whole list of projects because that is another skill they have to master. I was myself like that over the Chanel jacket fiasco. I don't actually think those jackets are flattering to everyone, like me who is a banana shape, and I found all that hand basting annoying when I had papers to mark, dogs to walk, meals to eat, and grandchildren to talk to.

I also am a quilting drop out. I like to fit but feel doing the same seam over and over again makes me feel antsy. The exact opposite of my sister the ace quilter who buys her clothes.

So my questions for you this morning are what I realize are the fundamental issues:

What kind of sewing do you enjoy most and look forward to?

What kind of sewing do you feel you should do/learn to do but don't really have your heart into?

I think the answers to this one will be pretty interesting.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Show and tell the first class version

I think I told you a few posts ago about running into blog readers in NYC. This was the highlight of my garment district day.

I also told you about the lovely couple I ran into on the street and about the cooperative husband who took off his jacket and showed me his shirt.

The workmanship on that shirt was outstanding and so I asked for pictures.

And here they are.

Many thanks to Marian for sharing these shots and for her lucky husband Ed for being such a sport.

A standard we can all strive for in the shirt making business:

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Flypaper thoughts Tuesday night

  • This week the extended family has had one mild heart attack, one kid announcing she might marry a refugee so he won't be deported, a niece accepted to nursing and probably going to stay here for some time next fall, and the dog coat I crocheted is too tight for Daisy.
  • You figure out the order of magnitude
  • Pretty normal for around here
  • Best news was my son in NYC proposed and was accepted
  • I am so happy you have no idea
  • This is a girl who notices
  • This is a girl who is so kind
  • She is also the kind of girl you can walk around her place in your pyjamas with cats on them and it is fine
  • She also has good snacks
  • I told her if the kid ever gives her any trouble let me know
  • Not that he will but she should know where I stand
  • The snacks are excellent
  • Miss Scarlett tells me that shoes for a wedding need to have bows on them
  • We are going to have to start planning the outfits
  • You know what I admire most about Miss Daisy?
  • She has bad memories but she tries so hard to move past them
  • You can see her remembering that this used to be scary but willing herself to do it anyway
  • The trying just amazes me
  • We should all have that faith
  • Which reminds me
  • Don't call yourself old
  • Listen folks have already noticed that and it is your main job to show them it doesn't matter
  • I also think that everyone can do something that is ageless
  • I went for a swim today
  • In the water I am 10 
  • Why wouldn't I go swimming?
  • I need to do some sewing
  • Before I get to that I need to put my foot down in the evenings
  • Instead I am lying on the bed talking to my niece about how to break up with her too old boyfriend
  • I can compose a damn fine break up letter
  • "The fact that our time is over now will never take away from what we shared"
  • Is that too many characters for a text?
  • You have no idea how glad I am that I will never have to do stuff like that again
  • So much nicer to say "we are out of paper towels and milk"
  • So much nicer to have a voice in the dark say "nighty night kiddo"
  • I think my son has a girl who already knows that

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Alder shirt dress

Before I start talking about this pattern I want to say a few things about indie pattern designers.

The www and .pdf patterns have created a new environment where anyone with an idea can connect with customers as an independent pattern designer.

Almost entirely I think this is a marvellous development that has given me, as a sewer, so much more access to so many more great designers with terrific ideas and wonderful patterns.

There are of course a few that do not deliver exactly all that they promise, but lets be honest, raise your hands if you have ever sewn a pattern from the big four that was less than stellar, or even a real lemon? 

My point exactly.

I was reminded of that this week when I was shown a skirt pattern from a blogger turned pattern designer and author that I could tell would not sew up as well as it could. It was for an A line skirt, a wide one, with the straight of grain along centre front rather than down the centre of the panel. What this means, and I know because I ran into this once with a big four pattern, is that the sides will stick out at the hem like big triangles rather than falling evenly around (does this make sense?)

I think what happened it is that the pieces looked like you would think an A line skirt piece would look like, as if you just drew it, but of course pattern pieces, good ones, think about more than shapes, they also consider what the fabric wants to do on its own - like hang with the grain.

So maybe not everyone who thinks they are a pattern maker is quite there yet, I know I am not and never would be.

But with all that said I have to say that the vast, vast majority of indie patterns I have tried have been exceptional and reflect a very thoughtful approach to garment making that incorporates some intelligent fixing of common problems.

Take Sewaholic for example. 

The cowl on the Renfrew top is amazing, two shaped pieces that really give a beautiful drape that is simply not possible in the usual large rectangles you see for cowl pieces in most patterns.

I have been similarly impressed with Grainline's patterns to date, and if I weren't currently on the DL you would be looking at an Archer shirt right now.

Instead here is an Alder dress I finished this week.

I added 4" to length because I am tall but apart from that this was made right out of the envelope. What was surprising to me was how loose it was, which I liked, as this makes it an incredibly comfortable and wearable dress. I will be making multiples with this pattern, with variations, just you wait:

This one is for my commentors

I really enjoy your comments so much. 

I am grateful to those of you who take the time to comment, in fact what you write is the best part of this blog. I know I should do a better job of responding, but honestly sometimes finding the time to blog is hard enough. However if you are waiting for an answer to your comment from me and not getting it, say in an emergency situation like a pattern alteration, email me direct. That's a good idea.

That said there have been a few comments lately that I need to give good feedback on.

First Jodie, love hearing from you so much, and this is where I get my interfacing. They ship to the US, Canada and elsewhere and IMO the quality of fusible interfacing they offer is its own food group. Just can't compare. The fusible is not in those annoying little bubbles and the base fabric, which comes pre-shrunk, is very high quality. You will never use anything else.

Next Kay I want to thank you for putting me onto the Dapper Doggie crocheted dog coat. I am working on it now with periodic success and you should know this project is what is currently standing between me and a nervous breakdown while I am confined to barracks this weekend.

I can actually understand, in most places, what the instructions mean which is not the case in most crochet patterns. I was watching the Blentchley Circle which is about female code breakers and I personally think it would take a team like that to figure out what most crochet patterns are trying tp get you to do.

Thank you to you both and to all my wonderful commentators