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Sewing with less stress Front
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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, January 24, 2015

Fusible thread

Since we last spoke I have been sewing more knits. Two more pairs of the Lucinda pants that I loved so much (the grey ones a few blog posts back) and a sleeveless T with a V neck to go with one pair.

I will post my instructions of how to do a cross-over V, promised a long time ago, tomorrow too.

But tonight quickly I want to tell you about the tee.

I used the Renfrew again as a base pattern, lengthened and swung it out using pivot and slide also described a while back and did a cross-over V. I find that the armhole on many sleeveless patterns are too low for me and the squishy stuff in my armpit is not really my best feature.

As a result lately I am just leaving off the sleeves of a T-shirt pattern I like and just turning under and stitching around the armhole.

This can be tricky so I want to tell you how I do it.

First I replace the thread in my lower looper with fusible thread (my friend Trudy gave me a new spool last week, thanks) and then three thread finish around the raw armhole. I give it a light press under to secure and then top-stitch down from the right side.


This is a million times easier than pinning, basting or hoping. And about two million times easier than using fusible web which I have heard some serious people do.

This is what the fusible thread looks like on the wrong side before it is turned, fused and stitched.

So easy. Top shots tomorrow

On those age numbers

Yesterday my mother turned 87.

I tried to talk to her the night before but she was busy going over Spanish questions with my niece who lives with her, in preparation for mid-term exams (interesting in itself as to my knowledge my mother doesn't speak any Spanish at all). And that was interrupted by call from another grandchild who needed help with an essay.

My mom said that by the end of the day she was pretty sure she could write at least three high school exams.

The day of her birthday she got up and drove my niece to school. Then she swung by the church and did whatever you do when you are on the altar guild. She then spent to rest of the day talking to other grandchildren and friends. When I tried to call her several times throughout the day she was out. God knows where and undoubtedly not using her walker like she is supposed to.

When I did reach her she told me she has a lot to be grateful for. Everyone has turned out, except for one of two who were almost there but she was sure would be just fine (I am smart enough not to ask who, in case one of them is me).

It is very helpful to have a parent who shows you how to age.

My mother once described being old as sitting in the waiting room waiting for your flight to be called. If that's making her sad she doesn't show it. She says she's not dying until my niece graduates from high school anyway and so that's that.

She never starts a sentence with "at my age" and more or less proceeds as if she is about 40.

She has dealt with aging by deciding to ignore it, despite a series of major health crises, and she just treats those as times out. 

My mother does't like to be bored. She has a great mind. As we always say even when it's bad she still finds it interesting.

We are not going to get her to slow down or sit down. I think are all coming to terms with the fact she is going to keel over at some point on her way to a kid's swim meet or some other activity that involves someone else.

I have been thinking about this lately as it has suddenly occurred to my husband that 60 is in fact not the new 30. His psoriatic arthritis is catching up a bit and we have more or less accepted that he is going to have both hips and maybe a knee replaced at some point. And last week he and his boss volunteered to go speak to some kids at a high school career day and HR sent someone who was half their age instead.

And like many men he is considering the reality that his career is going to take new directions, involving part-time work even, rather than being the go-to guy. He has had his turn being that. This is just starting to sink in.

He will be fine of course once this all settles into his mind and he retools - something he is really good at.

I am not sure women, or women like us, go through this the same way. I personally am already behind about 50 years in my projects and have no fears about what I am going to do when I retire.

But the thought of what to do when you hit the day when you realize there is actually a waiting room, or you see your age in someone else's eyes, is an interesting one.

I have thought this over at various points usually around 3:00 a.m. and this is what I have figured out.

Best thing to do is just forget the numbers.

Just forget them. Put them right out of your mind. Listen I teach 20 year olds who are already older than I am.

You aren't as old as you feel, you are as old as you do.

Keep doing, or in my case, keep sewing.

That's quite the back log I have stored up.

Off I go.

Friday, January 23, 2015

What designers do you like?

The comments are the best part of writing a blog.

It is a conversation with folks who get exactly what you mean, and they share with you exactly what you want to know.

A case in point is a wonderful comment Anne in Melbourne (a city I lived in for five years and love) left for us.

In describing her own bridal sewing she directed me to Australian designer Carla Zampetti

I was so glad she did.

Zampetti's clothes reminded me of what successful sewing can look like. Simple shapes, great fabric, and flattering, liveable fit.

Go to the site yourself but here are a few things that caught my eye over my coffee in the chair with Daisy this morning:

It occurred to me that these clothes articulated what for me were the things I didn't like about the latest Vogues - they were trying too hard to be clever, and in doing so the fabric, and the woman inside the clothes, seemed lost. Little sewing, seaming fancy turns in some cases for their own sake, like those pointy sleeve bottoms. And I don't want you to think for a moment that the complete irony of the fact these thoughts are coming from the same woman who made herself clown pants is lost on me.

The clothes I looked at this morning from Australia made me remember that one of the things that matter most to me is clothing doesn't looked forced and that the fabric itself is a primary pleasure. Yes, I know, I know. This being a work in progress takes effort, and humour 

Zampetti's designs also reinforced for me the significance of TNT patterns in a sewer's life. If you look carefully at everyday looks in the collection they really are just that - different fabrications of the same patterns.

Which brings me to another comment that has really stuck with me. Sewingkm suggested I do just that for my wedding sewing, find great fabric and make it up in a pattern with a good history with me.

Of course.

Now I would like to hear more from you all, for all of us to share. 

What designers do you like?

I sometimes go on to look at the collections for ideas and frankly I am overwhelmed. I just don't have enough time in the bathtub with my iPad to go through them all, and would like to skip all the ones with ostrich feather hot pants and find the ones with clothes I can sew and wear.

I think this matters. Working out your style, or returning to home base by remembering what you really like in favourite clothes (for instance simple shapes and great fabric as above) seems to me to be a good investment of pre-sewing time.

So I will put that out there.

What designers do you like?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Is it just me or is it going a little nutsy out there?

First before I get into the thoughts of the moment I want to tell you I appreciated your comments to my last pants post.

Thanks you for your sympathy for the shots I shared with the www of rarely viewed parts of my body. To be honest I should have been embarrassed about showing views of my pants that were less than flattering but I wasn't.

Not one bit.


It's not that kind of blog. Aspiring to fabulousness is not on my agenda. What passes as snappy dressing in my world may not work for a lot of people, but if I think I am a sharp dresser, considering a lifestyle that involves a lot of dog-walking, grandchild talking, student entertaining and basement sewing, then I am, to me, in this life, snappy. Maybe even, on good days, nifty too.

I'm holding the line on this one.

More to the point I try to share as much as I can in this blog that I figure might be useful to someone who is working on their own snappy dressing, in their own place.

So if I see a pattern and wonder, it looks good on that model, but what would it look like on a person like me? and I find out, then that's what I share.

If the sight of me, front, back and sides in my clown pants inspired you to never make striped pants ever in this lifetime then I have personally saved you a yard and a half of 60" fabric.

That's all to the good.

Now onto patterns.

I am on high alert on patterns at the moment. We have a big wedding of my NYC son and the nice girlfriend I told you about, in September. I am making four flower girl dresses, probably a couple of dresses or outfits for me (unless I see something to buy that will save me the trouble), at least one dress for my daughter, and probably the same for my other son's girlfriend.

I have been thinking a lot too lately about comfort and wearable clothes. And much to my surprise, and taking into account that I am the last person in North America not to watch the West Wing, I am catching up on Netflix and enjoying seeing just how wearable that recent era's clothes were.

I look at this and I think you can move in something with that ease:

And I look at this below, and wonder if any blogger in ten years will be saying that outfit made the best of a woman who wanted to be at ease and elegant. 

And I'm not wearing anything like this to any wedding I can tell you. 

What must the model be thinking when she put this on (apart from they don't pay me half enough?):

And the new Vogues I have been holding my breath over have failed to inspire too.

This is what I mean.

The best of the bunch IMO but let's face it, that is some serious sewing in those seams but if you achieve it you better damned well hope there are a lot of sewers in the room who get it - otherwise everyone else is just going to think you've just got a plain dress on.  Also anyone want to write a tutorial on how to do a FBA on that one? Pardon me while I lie down in a dark room with a cool cloth on my head.

Ricci is alway interesting but do you see where that slit is ending? Now picture it in the body that was inside the clown pants. Now picture it in that body in that skirt sitting down on some sofa making small talk. And what's with the drawstring dangling on the sides? Like you forgot to tie the bow. Can't be for drawing, that skirt's tight enough.

This is the outfit you wear if you are the kid who didn't turn out that good. At least it shows what to wear with these shoes which are the kind of shoes you see in the store and wonder what you would wear with them. Well now you know.

I liked the shape of this coat and wondered if I should go all wearable art until I saw this back neck view. I believe this is why I put in neck darts. You sew this and you are going to spend your whole life moving your neck around and pulling at it towards the front and trying to get it adjusted.

Sandra Betzina is a very nice person but sometimes I wonder. This is exactly the kind of dresses my sisters and I made when we were working with sheets and safety pins. No one in the world is going to put this on and look in the bathroom mirror and say "damn I look good."

I guess when you are trying to do something different with a plain shirt you might think of this. Reminds me of the many sleeves I have inserted on the wrong armhole, but didn't leave them like that.

OK. You know those little pictures Vogue has at the side that tell you what body shape this would look good on? Well for this one I expected those squares to be blank.

This is exactly the kind of top you make and you go out in and go home at lunch and change because you don't know what you were thinking. You start out saying you are edgy and then you remember you are actually a person who used to order out of the Avon catalogue. You just want to go home.

The model is thinking - I wasted all that fabric. She would be better off with clown pants and I mean it.

Have you checked out Pinterest for mother of the groom outfits? More like let's bury mom in this outfits. This one deserves pinning to that board. I thought the ensemble below was dumpy but that was before I saw the dress. And not all shades of green look good in shiny.

At first I thought this was interesting and might be a challenge to sew and then it reminded me for some reason of paper plates. And once you have started to think something looks like paper plates you can't stop. Trust me.

Now what am I going to wear to that wedding?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Lucinda pants

Here, as promised, are my photos of the Lucinda pants from Style Arc I made yesterday.

My measurements put my waist at a size 14 and my hips at a 12. I fussed around for a bit about what size to use since Style Arcs are one size. But then I was honest with myself and figured out that my larger waist doesn't instantly become a smaller hip and that my stomach was probably a 14 too.

So these are straight out of the envelope, or in this case, straight off the dining room table where I stuck together all those little papers from my printer (made an Etsy purchase) in size 14.

The lovely fashion drawing of this picture is a bit deceptive unless you have a lovely fashion drawing body. I found the pleats at the front waist added a bit to the middle but really weren't the full down the leg pleats I remember from the last time I made pleated pants.

As to the question of whether or not they could be made in ponte, the answer is no, these were made in a lovely bamboo single knit from Patch Halifax, where I do some teaching, and they really need the drape.

Trudy pointed out yesterday that a person who had a larger waist could in fact just leave out the pleats (that might make them work in ponte) with a hip sized pattern. Just at thought and I might try that.

I also want to point out that yes I know there are a few diagonal wrinkles coming up from the centre crotch, but being a person who has spent about 10,000 hours looking at pants fitting problems there are a few issues that are about some body shapes in pants and not about the pattern. Women who have large abdomens (runs in my family all relatives who read this can back me up on that) and thinner legs are not going to eliminate the excess fabric at the top of the front of their legs without articulating the belly shape. I should know.

So from that point of view I would say the previously mentioned wrinkles are more because of the previously mentioned issue than otherwise.

And I have worn a shorter T shirt with these pictures for educational purposes but would wear something longer in real life of course.

So all that said here are my Lucinda shots:

Imagine these is a longer top. Please.
Good thing no one I know will see these shots. Just everyone on the www. What I do in the name of education is unbelievable. 

And here we go again. I know you want to see these close ups before you sew these yourself. You are counting on me.
A close-up of the pleats on me. 

Really are these not totally comfortable looking? 

In the next few days I am going to show them again with some longer T shirts I have made, so only the legs will show, and I think you will see what I mean about them being real favourite pants.

For comparison I am also going to show you a bit of an experiment I did with the Barb pants trying to narrow the bottom of the leg. Not totally successful as when I tapered in the leg I sacrificed more than I should have over the hip so I think I might take another crack at this idea.

The fabric is a stretch woven, so they are more comfortable than they look, but no where near as comfortable as the Lucinda.

At any rate I am going to find these pants really handy when I eventually run away to join the circus. 

But maybe not before:

Yup off to the circus.

The only appropriate comment here is OMG.

Oh well.

I tried the banana for breakfast diet you know. For two bananas. Then Trudy showed up yesterday after having swung by the nice German bakery. Enough said. I felt more like myself with breakfast I have to say.