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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, April 25, 2015

Follow up on the sock thing

I have to tell you that I was disturbed by some of the comments to my last post, the PSA on compression socks. 

What bothered me was that it was clear that folks who would benefit from these things weren't wearing them for all the reasons I gave - ugliness and, in so many of the medical supply types, a really tight band at the top that makes them so uncomfortable.

I have a feeling that I have found my causes. I will keep you updated on anything new on this subject that comes up if you are interested or not.

My public service activities appear to be rescue dogs and compression socks. A logical fit.

Being me, I have also read the peer-reviewed literature, and it is quite clear that compression socks on long haul flights can be a literal life saver, head off the development of further varicose veins, and in some folks as they get older, prevent or help heal some of the circulation sores you see on old folks' legs. 

Also they feel really great on if you have the right pair and are excellent for certain athletic issues and injuries, like pulled hamstrings, achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis. 

I myself usually am suffering from some sort of athletic injury. 

Whether it is dropping a 40 pound wooden cutting board on my foot and walking the treadmill so I could watch Craftsy classes instead of doing housework, having saddle sores from the exercise bike while binge watching Netflix, developing tendonitis and plantar fasciitis from fabric shopping in the wrong shoes, I am using healing from some adventure. Since I have been wearing these socks has really helped those situatioins too.  

So continuing to think about these things I am also posting pictures and links to another of my good sources, this time for plain old cotton or breathable socks from this place. The brand is Allegro and they are very cost effective:

They are unisex, I wear a small and my own knees are somewhat less hairy. My sock of choice for golf with shorts or a skort so comfortable.
Wearing the navy knee highs reminds me of my days as a Brownie and a Guide. When I think of it those times had their weirdness. Sort of a paramilitary look to the uniform and badges based in those days on housewife skills. Here is what we looked like then, and probably what I look like now when I am coordinated in my navy socks:

I wasn't an excellent Guide like my younger sister, who went on to great achievements or my mother who was a Brown Owl. Mainly the part I liked best was the sewing on of the badges and learning to do intriguing things like how to darn a sock over a light bulb (I still know how to do that but requests for that service have died right down).

But here I am back in the socks, all that is missing in the RV is a paper mache toadstool. Ta-twit-ta-twit-tawoo.

Tomorrow I think I am going to talk about crochet.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Compression socks and fashion or lack of that

I have been putting off writing this post because I don't like to do the personal medical detail thing but this does have a fashion angle.

So I am seeing this as sort of a PSA, public service announcement.

As I wrote a while back I have a genetic clotting disorder called Factor V Leiden. I have only one gene so my situation is not very serious, and raises my risk of blot clots only after surgery, below the waist, long travel and if I were on any kind of hormone therapy or the pill which I am not.

This is a common genetic disorder among those of European descent, about 1 in 15. It is estimated that about 40% of folks who have clots after long haul flights have it.

I wouldn't even know about this except for a clot in my leg after a C section thirty years ago before they knew about all of this. If I had got up and moving and had been taking an anti-coagulant at the time, standard practice now, something my daughter did after her last baby, I would be fine.

As it is I have some valve damage in that leg which means in certain situations, like after I injured my foot in the fall, the blood return and swelling are slow to move. In normal circumstances I have zero issues but of course this might change when we are dealing with an elderly Babs.

I saw an excellent doctor who told me that if I wore compression socks during the day I would be taking care of things. She also referred me to a specialist who does vein surgery in a private clinic and I will see him when I get back. I need to find out if my clotting issue makes sense for surgery when socks will do the job.

This is no big deal at all. Everyone has something they have inherited and this is one of mine and a minor issue.

Now onto what is important.

Finding compression hose as they call it, that does not make you look like an idiot is no small feat.

This really annoys me.

Compression socks at the strength I need, 20-30, are not just for old ladies and even they need to be fashionable.

With long haul flights this concerns young folks too (I was 32 when I had my clot). My physio says that sometimes healthy folks with low blood pressure can be more at risk - she knows a marathon runner who has had several DVTs after big flights to races. Think of Venus Williams.

Also compression is easy on your legs. Every person at the vascular clinic, nurses, techs and docs were wearing them. My brother-in-law wears them when he is on his feet performing surgery.

For folks like me who need them the doctors tell me that the main issue is compliance - meaning people should wear them but don't - they are too darn ugly and often hard to put on.


So tell me why there are 2,000 different kinds all weird beige and very few other options?

The principle seems to be that if you skin is lighter it is yellow and if it is darker it is dark orange. I wore a pair out for lunch with my new friend Susan here and we agreed they made my real legs look like prosthetics. I mean I had a sewing student who made fake legs for a living and hers looked more realistic.

When I got mine measured it was in a place where they were also selling commodes and walkers. Me and a young woman with three little kids were being fitted - we felt right at home.

I was handed a pair of XL rubber gloves for "donning" and told I would wear them for life and the minute I got out of bed to bedtime. They were also expensive $100 for knee highs and $150 for pantyhose (I have good insurance that covers a few pairs which is helpful). I need graduated compression, tighter at the ankle and looser as they go up (think squeezing the toothpaste) and can't wear leggings or anything footless because they might cut off circulation at my ankle which really isn't the point. Few athletic socks are graduated compression at 20-30 (firm support and opposed to moderate - the doctor said if you are going to do it you might as well do it and that's what she wears).

So these are the challenges:

  • Ugliness. Would it kill most of these manufactures to consider that people who wear these things might be young, active, or just plain fashion conscious? Would it be possible to make at least on pair of white lace something or a pattern knee high to wear with a summer dress for instance?
  • Many of the knee highs are fine except they have a tight band at the top that digs in - since this isn't good for circulation this makes no sense to me. The lady at the fitting suggested I carry my giant rubber gloves with me for frequent adjustments during the day. I think not.
  • The pantyhose are nuts. For a start you ease on leg on at which point you have encased yourself in super Spanx up to the crotch and then you are supposed to do leg two which means you have to get your second ankle up to the crotch without falling off your bed. Takes about 20 minutes, makes even the dog laugh, and would be useful only if you wanted to get a million hits on Youtube for laughs. Plus the fact that there is a real possibility that you make a snag in your $150 pair of pantyhose the first time out. Exactly what I did.
Here however are the benefits:
  • Your legs feel great. If you have ever come home from a long day and just wanted to get off your feet you don't have that feeling any more. One of the things I have been thinking of about possible surgery is I would probably keep wearing these things most of the time for comfort. It is hard to describe - think of the difference of going running with and without a bra. Best I can do for an analogy.
Here are my strategies:
  • I am not wearing those ugly pantyhose. Take me out behind the barn and shoot me first. I will be wearing those about the same time I start accessorizing with giant bright white velcro runners which will be never.
  • In the stocking department I wear thigh highs by Sigvaris. The colour is terrible but they are comfortable and easy to put on and you can actually do a bathroom break with them in under two hours. I can wear them under maxi dresses and will wear them under my regular tights which you can wear in Nova Scotia all but three days of the year.
  • I am wearing knee socks and if I want to wear sandals yup I am doing the Birkenstock thing until I can think of something else, maybe clogs. Further footwear reports. This is a fashion challenge and requires some reconfiguration of the look into sporty and opposed to whatever I was when I wasn't wearing knee socks, but I decided I would rather look eccentric than as if there was something wrong with me, because there isn't.
  • Search high and low for options. Contact manufacturers and lobby. Maybe young people who fly a lot and could benefit or people of all ages who would feel great in these socks would do so if they were not so terrible looking and fitted in places that sell commodes.
Here is the good news. There are some limited but excellent options. Here is what I am wearing by company:

Sockwell. American made in Tennessee.

I can't say enough great things about these socks. They are super comfortable, have excellent compression and are in natural, breathable fibers. Only downside is the dark colours which limit summer wearing. I love, love these socks and think everyone should be wearing them:


This company was started by a young entrepreneur and DVT survivor. I have these rosebud socks and love, love, love them. They are synthetic but have a nice rib knit and have zero cutting in at the top. Excellent socks and I am keeping my eye on them for more options.

Of all the compression sock companies this one has the most fashion options. Unfortunately they are right now only offering 15-20 compression but are going up to 20-30 in August. I can hardly wait to try them:

Finally the athletic compression socks:

Very few of these are true graduated compression but I did find something reasonable at Runningskirts. These are my husband's, and surely the little girls', favourites:

A bit of a challenge but I am not giving up on this and will keep you posted on any updates.

And that's it for this morning's PSA.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


Here we go as requested:

Here we go. Slightly more wine coloured in real life than this shows on my monitor.  How about $45 for all 5 yards plus postage. 45 inches wide.


Funny story.

My husband read my post yesterday and said he actually liked that dress, it was the other blue dress he didn't.

So I really appreciated all your comments and you are right, I will be raising the neckline and changing in the side seams a bit next version. I think it has potential and I am going to be looking at other wrap dress patterns as suggested too. A wrap dress is just too multi-purpose, dress up and dress down, not to be figured out.

Since you're asking here is the other blue dress my spouse was not nuts about, despite having seen me wear it before without comment. Navy pique cotton and in this picture a little wrinkled from sitting:

And here is the detail of the back zipper, set below the neck a few inches in the seam for a neat neckline finish, since the dress can go over my head when I put it on due to the wide neckline:

And here is a shot of the facing, one piece which I love about this pattern:

Finally on the out of control wedding fabric buying front I have found a solution to my dupioni issue involving how to do merlot when you are working with a fancy lace layer for the top that has that slight bright pink thing going on.

Got a real nice sort of dark, dark pink swatch from Mood and that works so I am redefining Merlot to sort of a Beaujolais, maybe even a screw top, almost a Zinfandel in a dark room, almost to a box wine - the kind that you take out the silver bag out of the cardboard and squeeze out one last little bit into a coffee cup so the kids (who are now full adults) won't know mom is drinking while she is doing the dishes after Thanksgiving. (All those who were raised in the responsible Canadian Prairies will not need to have this explained.)

Which now leaves me with, among other things, 5 yards of dark red, sort of merlot, Dupioni with a slight black under sheen when you bend it (you know how dupioni works). 

Make me an offer.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Slip on Suzie

To explain myself here is the Slip on Suzie faux wrap dress I made from this StyleArc pattern:

I am always a bit wary about wrap dresses. In my experience they tend to unwrap if you live in a windy place like I do most of the time, or fall open at the Christmas concert when you sit down which is not an optimal grandmother look IMO.

This dress has a closed skirt at the bottom, no wrap, and goes together in an hour if you don't spend three hours trying to figure out how to overlap the various pieces to get the wrap.

I bound the neckline rather than turn and stitch because I am chicken and like to use my hands to head off disaster.

I had read several pattern reviews that said this dress was too low (probably is here too) so I made it in a size smaller than I usually wear to get the fit on my bony shoulders and added to the width from there down. It is my general policy to alway fit the smallest area first and add - always more successful than trying to take something in when the core fabric has already been cut away.

Here are two shots taken on the old RV site and not accessorized at all. If I were a better blogger it would be, but I am sort of waiting on my lunch and getting ready to go golfing.

This really does need a necklace and maybe a belt. The spouse, who rarely offers fashion comments unless you count "what am I supposed to say?," tells me this is not my best look which probably means too bare at the neck and too wide in the middle, which actually describes me so this is not really a surprise.

Here is another shot, that verifies the need for a belt or maybe a another look at Stylearc's other wrap dresses that have more shape, and might give me some.

The truth is I kinda just like this dress myself. I see this design as a real basic, great for travelling, good for accessorizing if you weren't in your flip flops in an RV park, and timeless in that you can keep wearing it until your daughter says "mom you always wear that dress."

My photographer thinks maybe I need blog reader feedback since his didn't impress me and in the meantime I am thinking of this two alternate patterns in the quest for a classic wrap for this not too classic sewer:

What do you think?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Multi-tasking update

Yes I know I have been a lousy blogger. 

Truth is the last year has been exceptionally busy and I have taken what they call some me time since my last class of the term ended at the beginning of the month.

When I go home life picks up the pace again, and I figured if I felt I needed this break I did.

Of course my idea of a break has been to do something different rather than nothing at all. 

My days involve golf with my husband, a long beach walk, maybe a bike ride and about four Daisy walks. I have also been doing illustrated below, note the multi-tasking - canning some mango chutney (I am working on my own recipe) and crochet.

I actually find crochet more fun than knitting but maybe that's because it's faster and because I am learning something new. Pretty much I can sew anything I decide to do and can figure out most knitting but that's not the same as trying to understand something different, which I find energizing.

Here is what all this looks like in an RV:

I think it is safe to say I am turning into one of those women who just get nuttier as they get older, and apparently at top speed.

You know I also do some political commentary on the radio, this week it has been talking about the budget. I am always glad listeners can't see who is speaking, or what else is going on around them. One of the great virtues of radio.

On the sewing front I am ramping up for the wedding sewing and spending a small fortune ordering in the wrong fabric. I will be able to open my own special occasion store when all this is through. It all started with a sales lady at G Street who convinced me that beaded lace with a sort of shocking pink undertone (which attracted me like a moth to the flame even though I am committed to an outfit in merlot) would look great over the right colour of wine dupioni. Sort of an add some sparkle idea.

The thing is the right shade of dupioni (which either I am spelling wrong or spell check doesn't sew) is pretty hard to come by if you are doing your shopping from an RV with some help from the nice man at UPS. Plan B is if the latest shipment from Mood isn't it I am going down to Winn Dixie and buying some wine coloured dye when I certainly will become the only woman dyeing beaded lace this week in the park.

On a more encouraging note, and I haven't checked the horoscope yet, it appears the stars have aligned and Vogue actually spit up the exact pattern I need for the girlfriend's dress, the light purple one posted a while ago. Here it is:

I was considering doing my regular uncharitable review of the new releases (see picture at the beginning of this post, I certainly am well-qualified as a fashion maven, right up there with my qualifications as radio personality), focussing on those that appear to be made out of napkins from some hotel dinner dance event, but I have decided to give them a break this time around since they have saved my life with this one.

Thank you Vogue.