Sewing with less stress Front

Sewing with less stress Front
My newest sewing book

Sewing with less stress back cover

Sewing with less stress back cover
What my new book is about

Clothesmaking mavens

Clothesmaking mavens
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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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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year

Tonight we are having Chinese food with the little girls and babysitting them so their parents can go out for New Year's with Mr. Billy as an attachment.

When I last saw those girls this afternoon they were playing summer with their bathing suits and sunglasses on in the kitchen, all laid out on towels hoping for a tan.

This has been a good year in my family.

Mr. Billy the world's most smiley baby was born in the summer. My middle son got engaged to the kind of girl I hoped he would marry in the fall. They have asked me to make the four flower girl dresses so more on that project later, much more.

As in every year and in every family there were some sad things, for me one of those was losing the one and only Mr. Rascal last spring. But then we adopted Miss Daisy who spent last Christmas locked in a cage in the dark waiting for the police to shut down that particular operation. One of the many things I learned from her is that even when you are just so sad someone, somewhere needs you anyway.

That and that when things seem hopeless and doomed, you never know, you just might get rescued, even when that doesn't make any sense at all. It is hard to put into words but there is something in that dog that just believes in something better, she has faith in things unseen as they say. 

You just can feel it.

And the thing is it turned out she was right, and every one else was wrong.

So I want to dedicate this one to her and leave you with some pictures taken today on a long walk on the golf course near me. It is hard to get her to stay still but maybe here you can get a sense of her first family Christmas:

One of her specialities is divot retrieval

Divot capture
On the way home in what is known as Mom's dog car
And finally after a wild Christmas with family, dogs and small children tearing up the place, here she is beside the wreckage of the much jumped on couch:

I had a cover on that couch for dog protection so much for that idea

A new year tomorrow.

New and improved placket pattern

My dear husband got up this morning and looked at my last night posted pattern and said - are you nuts?

So he redid it more professionally for me this morning, being someone who works with engineering drawings.

Thanks kiddo.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Sewing a shirt placket

For a start let's talk about the continuos placket or lap method of finishing a sleeve vent. Before we go any further let's talk about what this little unit's job is:

To finish the raw edges of the little opening above the cuff that is necessary so your hand can get into the bottom of a sleeve where it is closed when the cuff is buttoned up.

That's it. 

Raw edge finishing of a little slash that is about 3 inches long. 

This is not worth having a nervous breakdown about. 

And that might be where making a traditional, inevitably bulky, continuos placket can take you. Too many layers in such a small space with the monumental challenge of trying to sew through 12 layers of fabric (including seam allowances) diagonally across the top of the vent, over a wide throat plate hole, as is necessary in a zig zag machine, is a challenge that in my books hardly ever turns out well.

By contrast a tailored shirt style placket is dead easy and produces immaculate results with very little mental engagement, around here always a plus.

The way I do shirt placket requires photo copies or hand drawn copies of my simple pattern piece. When I put these little numbers in I do not:
  • mark
  • measure anything
  • use more than a few pins
  • stitch down anything until I have pressed and arranged it by eye so I know it will look right, if it doesn't I re-press till it does.
I do the entire placket by eye and feel and it works great. 

This is how I do it:

Step one:

  • Cut out the placket piece.
  • Make a little clip at the bottom of the sleeve where the cutting line of the vent should be.
Step two:
  • Press under the two long edges of each vent by what looks to you like about 1/4". Just make sure that the pressing is about the same depth on each side.
  • Press under the little pointy peak at the top of the placket, clipping in about 1/4" where marked in the attached diagram so you can actually fold the second side of the peak in. Turn it around to the right side and if none of this looks even and neat try it all again at the ironing board.
Step three:

  • Pin the placket to the wrong side of the bottom of the sleeve so you are looking at two wrong side fabrics, this means the right side of the placket is facing the wrong side of the sleeve fabric.
  • Pin a paper copy of the pattern on top of the placket lining up the marked cutting line in the centre of the stitching box with the little clip at the bottom of the sleeve.
Step four:

  • Shorten your stitch length so you have smallish stitches and stitch around the stitching box.
  • When this is done tear away the paper and cut up the centre of the box and right to the corners.
Step five:
  • Turn the whole unit to the right side and press so the top of the box looks faced and square. If it is a little lumpy go back in a cut closer into the corners but don't stress about it - remember the placket part you see from the outside functions as a giant patch that covers all sins.
Step six:

  • You now have a pointy big side to the placket and a thinner side, wrap the thin side around the stitching on one side of the box, just as far as you need to so as to cover that stitching and top stitch it down. Again don't fuss too much about the top it will also be covered up by the placket patch.
Step seven and the last one:

  • Laying the whole thing in front of you fuss around with it with your hands until the placket part with the point covers what it has to and covers the part you just stitched up.
  • When you have it the way you think a placket should look put in a few pins and stitch the folded under edge down, around the pointy part and back across horizontally. Go look at a shirt you have for a better idea of what you are trying to make this look like.
  • You are done and it looks great.

Here below is my hand drawn pattern for a female sized sleeve placket. I have written in the directions for what to do with each marking so I won't get confused, which I often do when there are too many lines to figure out.

Note I don't actually make any of these markings, I just use the shape of the pattern to cut out the vents and the words and lines to remind me of how this goes together and what I am supposed to do.

Instead of marking I use photocopies of this drawing, or I trace off the outline shape and only the stitching box (cleverly marked with little stitches in this very home made drawing) and pin it to the placket and stitch through the paper in lieu of any more complicated markings.

The paper can then get torn off (easy if you use small stitches for stitching around the box), slashed, turned and the placket completed from the right side.

Pattern and instruction drawings for a sleeve placket below. Note this placket is fairly wide, it's one of several I have made up, but I thought it made the techniques easier to see. You might want to reduce this in width to suit your own taste, or use these methods with your own pattern piece:

Placket pattern and instruction sheet:

Placket pattern and instructions:

Kicking off with plackets

Jodie has emailed me to ask about sewing shirt plackets, as in the men's shirt kind, rather than the continuos plackets that are usually suggested in shirts for women. Pam Howard uses continuos plackets in her Craftsy course on sewing shirts and they are also a feature of the Alder shirt for women by Grainline.

I know this is a classic womenswear technique but I don't like it at all.

How I look at sewing explains why.

But before I go there, and I will be posting my own placket instructions tonight, I want to explain why I have introduce the new sidebar for any sewing issues you would like discussed.

Like most people I have used the time over the holidays to think about life changes/improvements. This time focused on things I actually want to do rather than half to do, or should do, which narrows it down a lot.

This is my transition year, my last of full time teaching and a move into doing only the courses that I really love according to my own schedule. I intend in filling the freed up time with more sewing and sewing communication. That's why I have started to teach a few sewing classes again and why I have been thinking about this blog.

I love this blog but I really want to keep up my communication with you all without feeling pressured. Ask any blog writer and there comes a point where they might think "I don't feel like sewing something but I have to - for the blog." I often wonder if this kind of pressure is why some of my favourite bloggers have suddenly dropped off the map.

So I wanted to blog more and talk about sewing more, in addition to my unsolicited and frequent flypaper thoughts, but without feeling like I had to be a regular production factory. There are so many other folks doing such a good job with that.

So I came up with this sewing issue idea, something that would allow me time to time to talk about sewing but only do a few hand-sized samples in between the larger garment construction projects. I also figured out, as someone who always tries to find the easy way, that doing a bit of this would help me build up my store of teaching samples and save me from having to complete a whole new garment every time I teach a class.

So that's it and tonight I will be posting on plackets done as painlessly as possible.

Make sense?

Monday, December 29, 2014

Just when you thought you have heard everything and a shout out to Stylearc

So much to talk about.

Christmas was one of those really good ones. I spent a lot of it walking around with things I wanted to post but time with my head out of the dishwasher was at a premium.

Enough flypaper thoughts to wallpaper a house. Enough sewing ideas to fill every room.

For some reason the holiday season always leaves me, after a long period of doing for family, with a burning desire to do some serious sewing for myself.

I started that today by downloading and sticking together a Stylearc pattern. They now have a bunch of their patterns on Etsy - such a good, good idea. Thank you Stylearc. Three sizes in one download, which is handy for those of who are weighing in at some lifetime upper end achievement numbers on the scale, and high instant gratification, with no postage fees for those of us who want to sew now.

I personally do not usually like sticking letter size pieces of paper to the dining room table with scotch tape for three hours before I can actually start making something. However I have to say that Stylearc's downloadables are in a totally different class to anything I have pieced together before. Clear with nice margins so you can cut around each .pdf so you aren't just hoping that the cut edges of the paper are lining up right. Feels very accurate and clean.

Me and Mr.Paypal will be visiting Etsy often over the winter I can see that.

Now back to the title of this post.

For various reasons, partially kicked off by my return to teaching sewing, I have been asked to look at a lot of sewing problems lately and asked for my two cents.

When you have made as many mistakes as I have in my sewing career a person gets pretty well qualified to identify what went wrong. She also comes up with a few ideas of how to make it go right next time.

Over the holidays it seemed to me that it might be interesting to share some of that here.

Which explains the new sidebar you see on the right.

Of course this advice will be coming from me, so you might want to consider that before you ask my opinion.

There is a possibility that I may tell you to just throw it out of a second storey window and drive over it with the car and go back to the fabric store - which is something I actually did once, but still don't want to talk about.

So keep things in perspective on this little project.

Now off I go with nothing to do but eat, sew and write things on my blog for the next few days.