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
Listen to me on the clothes making mavens podcasts

About me

My photo
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



Follow me on Instagram

Follow on Bloglovin

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Why I am here

For those of you in Nova Scotia or parts near there this will not be news, to you but that part of the world has been under snow siege. A fellow in a neighbourhood like mine took this shot:

This is actually not funny anymore. Schools have been closed too many days to count and there is an indefinite parking ban on all the streets.

Under these conditions I am not over emphasizing how nice it is here when we talk to home. But privately I am just so glad we came down here early this year. My husband is able to take it easy and the weather is helping his hips. I just can't imagine how he would have managed shovelling all that snow. He is the kind of guy who would go out and do it even when he shouldn't.

My youngest son's girlfriend is in our house and taking care of things. Her facebook status is "sore arms" or "listening to tunes and shovelling." She is a wonderful gardener and is starting all my transplants for me to be ready when I get back (we are going mega vegetable this year - even threatening to put some raised beds in the front yard).

In exchange I am making her dresses for the wedding. Here is what she is thinking of:

Like this but sleeveless. I have to figure out how to negotiate the fit around the neck and armhole while maintaining the blouson, will probably make a muslin for that.

This looks pretty simple to sew but not sure how to rig it. The obvious choice is a lot of draping, and eventually I want to do this in a good fine knit, but I figure this might be tricky to keep it from being too bulky. Not sure if I want to break my head with a ton of muslins but draping seems obvious. And there is the wrap part. Thinking I might amalgamate a top and skirt pattern. Would like a pattern to launch me. Any ideas?

So thats what's percolating around here.

Also a Daisy update. She is doing very, very well. This is a nice simple life for her here. Walk on the beach, eat, sleep, walk on the beach, eat, sleep. Repeat. My husband built a set of stairs so she could go in and out of the RV more easily and there are lots of dogs here which she loves.

The shattered soul we rescued from the puppy mill is long gone. It's amazing what a year being safe can do. 

I was walking her a few days ago and a huge black Newfoundland lay down in front of her (the dog submission thing) Daisy just marched up and started to play. The owner laughed and said to me "That little one's full of piss and vinegar isn't she?"

If only he knew.

Monday, March 16, 2015

What an ordinary sewer bought and two garment store reviews

First off let's remember this is me writing this blog.  

Not some fashionista photographista but a person about to go online teaching who rushed her fabric bags out into the sun and threw them over a lawn chair and snapped some pictures.

OK, set up the expectations appropriately?

I am in the middle of sewing planning for some wedding outfits for various family members and collecting fabric probably too crazy for my own outfits.

Here we go:

From Mary Jo's in N. Carolina. I have some idea that I could do sleeves and a bit of a bodice with the rest dupioni. OK just idea #93.

After seeing a lot, a lot of lace with beads and sequins I was quite taken by this completely random ... stuff. Don't worry no one at home will let me wear this to a wedding.

Heavy silk jersey for my youngest son's girlfriend. From C&J

Red silk knit out of the bag obviously, heavy and a gorgeous hand. A wrap dress for me.

Melon coloured crepe de chine $15 a yard btw

More crepe de chine. My daughter said something about a striped skirt, she's probably changed her mind now. It would make a good top for me. Such a quiet dresser I am.

Beautiful silk charmeuse for another dress for girlfriend of son #2.
 And now onto two stores I want to talk about.

Both of these places do not have websites so you might miss out on them.

The first is: 

New York Elegant Fabrics 222 W. 40th.

This is a really neat place with a lot of classic fabric that so many places don't carry any more. Swiss dot in many colours, seersucker, home dec, fancy- really a fabric location of your dreams and fabrics priced well and what they are worth. 

If you are the kind of shopper who gets overwhelmed, they also have something I really like - at the end of every bolt there are 3" swatches already cut and you can just pull one of these off and take it home so if you have one of those awful "why didn't I buy that" moments you can snap a picture and email them or even send off the swatch back so they know what you are talking about.

Nice relaxed salespeople. Listen I could live there.

C & J Textiles 7th floor 230 W. 38th

C & J is like an office.

Well dressed folks at desks with papers and phones and business being done you can see through a door. They are manufacturers and garment industry suppliers - those are the deals being done in there.

However the front office is a showroom of discontinued fabrics and leftover bolts, going at good prices for superior fabrics, plus these sample cards of their silks and other fabrics:

Colour card for the silks (every kind you can think of) All fabrics in all of these colours, you just have to tell them what they want - no minimum cuts, and some person in the back will bring it out to you.

This is an upside down picture of the silk cotton (heavy like taffeta) and the colours that comes in

Fabrications means the list of types of fabric they have in the above colours - this will blow you mind - words you haven't seen in a long time - crepes, 4 ply, crepe. And this is a sideways picture in case you haven't noticed.


Good I thought considering what you are getting, for silks:

Crepe de chine  54/55" $17.50
Charmeuse 54/55"  $21.00
Heavy (as in not slinky or clingy) silk knit $33.00 also wide width

Pretty cool?

I thought so.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The ordinary woman's guide to the garment district

I have written about the garment district before and will write about it again. Thanks to the wisdom of a son who moved to NYC I go there at regular intervals.

I am somewhere between feeling pretty comfortable and finding things out that I can't believe I didn't know about before. 

What I haven't lost is my natural ability to be clueless, and like all fundamentally clueless folks I want to share when I have figured something out.

Now this is not an exhaustive or very savvy list. 

There will be more instalments when I have more to tell you in the future. After all I am not Mimi G. or Carolyn, just a visitor who is lucky to be able to go there every once in a while.


Here are some basics:


It depends if you are doing a fabric focused trip or fitting this in as part of a larger venture I guess. I have been in and out of all three airports and tried just about every configuration of taxi, shared whatever, to get myself from the airport to the garment district (West 40th- 37th between 5th and 7th Avenue).

I have tried JFK and LaGuardia. Tried booked cabs, busses and standing in those lines that never move. I have taken Ubers and illegal cabs. I have wasted hours while some shared driver drove everyone else in the van somewhere else first.


If you are fabric shopping go into Newark Airport. 

Once you get out of baggage take the Air Train (millions of signs) clean, fast and frequent which will connect you to a New Jersey train which will take you to Penn station in Manhattan where you can easily walk yourself right into the garment district. No muss, no fuss, lots of people who can help you buy the right tickets. A real get in and sit down and you are there situation. Also your cheapest option by far.

Now if you are going right from your plane to fabric shopping you might want to have a pull along case that is empty along for the ride and a change of underwear and clean socks in your purse.


I always go to Ben's on W38th. Note because the food is spectacular particularly but because it is authentic. Absolutely go there with your head set to realistic and with the knowledge cholesterol is not so much on the new hit list.

Ben's is not the place to go if you are vegan, gluten free, or want a good big salad. It is however an excellent place if you want 10 inches of pastrami in your sandwich, a matzo ball soup with one baseball sized matzo, or cabbage rolls that appear to be made by stuffing one whole cabbage.

It is also an excellent place for people watching. 

Ladies who lunch married to men who now have the garments made in the East, teenage boys actually eating 10 inches of pastrami while talking, and Latina waitresses trying to explain kosher to tables of Norwegian tourists who want milk in their tea.

Bathroom breaks:

If you forget to go at Ben's there is always the ladies at the back of the first floor at Mood.

Now the fabric:

There are the standards, Mood, and not just for the bathroom, Elliot Bermann, Parons, B and J and others like that. Most lists cover those and those are probably the first places most of us go. We figure better places better fabric.

Not necessarily so.

The thing is for first timers the garment district is sort of weird.

The best stores are often up several or many floors up in office buildings and the tiny stores at street level seem to sell only sequinned whatever, the stuff that you would need if you were in the skating competition business or going to other places at night than Joann's before they close, or the grocery store. Five inch heels kind of places.

You walk by all those stores and think "Wow that's way too flashy for this mother of three, where are the good stores?"

Aha. This is where you are being fooled by the garment district.

The idea around that neighbourhood is that the window is the best place for the fancy stuff, the fancier the better - this does not mean however that they don't have exactly what you need down back.

What you are looking for is a place so crowded they don't have a cutting table, they stand the rolls up vertical and cut like that. 

A place where they say "that sandwashed silk 54"? 

"$15 a yard," two thirds what they would charge you at Mood and half what they would charge you at B and J.

A final word.

To shop in the New York garment district you never walk into a place and say "No thanks I am just looking." 

That may work at Joann's, or Fabricville or Fabricland (assuming any staff ever approached you) but in NYC you have to tell them what is in your head and they will start pulling the bolts faster than you can look at them.

You will never find anything by yourself in these places and they expect to work it. 

In NYC everyone expects to work it.

So if what you really want to say is:

"I want something to wear to my son's wedding that is not too matronly, maybe in persimmon"

"I want something to make a summer cardigan in with holes in it"

"Or I want a summer print in cotton that doesn't have flowers in it'

Just say it.

And if they can find it at all, they will.

Tomorrow two new to me stores I really like and pictures of what I bought.