Sewing with less stress Front

Sewing with less stress Front
My newest sewing book

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Sewing with less stress back cover
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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, June 27, 2015

Mermaid shirt

My youngest son is off to Texas next week. 

He works in wind technology and there is a big project there that will last at least six months.

His birthday is July 4th and he will be on the coast. He wanted a new shirt to wear that night and here is the fabric he picked:

I am developing quite a little sideline in weird made-to-order shirts for my boys.

Every one I make I refine the pattern a little more. To date that means:

  • No interfacing in the front bands, despite the pattern instructions. The ready-to-wear I have examined doesn't have it and this would make for too much stiffness in a casual shirt IMO. Instead I do not trim the seam allowances inside the sewn-on attached front bands. So far I am happy with this.
  • I have reverted to hand-stitching the collar bands down in the inside neck and then top-stitching like Pam Howard does in her Craftsy class. Yes I know this is old school but I get good results and it is more relaxing. I like to sew relaxed. If you make your stitches invisible as you can and don't pull the threads too tight so there will be puckers no one would know.
  • I have shaved about 1/2" off the top sleeve cap so I am not fighting with any sleeve top puckers. This is what a shirt sleeve top should look like anyway. Also see above sew relaxed.
  • After flat felling and french seaming and top-stitching seam that sets the sleeve into the shirt I am now double-stitching and serging the seam allowances and then top-stitching instead. It works well and again is stress free, see above. I French seam all other seams.
The boys are big on collars that button down, since they obviously have a poor understanding of sew relaxed. I find locating the exact place to sew that button  in the shirt body to attach the collar the only hard part of this whole exercise.

The pattern instructions McCalls 6613 are hopeless on this. 

First they tell you to use a normal shirt size button, way to big you need a tinier button for the collar, and have you do the button hole way up into the collar. 

Every shirt I have inspected in the laundry has the button hole right into the point of the collar, some nice shirts even have it cutting into the collar top-stitching.

I have found the only way too to know where to put that button in is to try it on and see where the collar wants to lie.

Also when I sew on the button on I put a tiny circle of needle punch in the back (I have also used felt left over from craft projects with the kids) as sort of interfacing. I think something softer is easier on the skin (I am sewing for my baby boys after all, over six feet that they are now) and besides I have tons of needle punch and I can't be bothered to go out and find something else.

Here is the collar buttonhole with some wobbly top-stitching I realized. Excuse - I am under the gun want to get something else made too for his birthday and for his brother too:

More later. 

Right now though I have to go wash some baseboards because one of my other sisters is coming to town and I would like her to think I do more housekeeping and less sewing than I actually do. Although I after all those years including some where she shared a room with me she probably has already put two and two together. 

(I just remember she once made a line in the middle of the room with masking tape so I would keep my messy (I preferred the term creative) self in my own territory - problem was the door was in her zone and I had to climb up on a chair and jump onto my bed to get in).

Wonder if the husband has knee pads?

Friday, June 26, 2015


Busy day today, hopefully the last of this term's marking and the buttons on one shirt.

But before I do that I have to share with you a picture my sister Nancy sent of herself and her dog Molly. They are fairly sure Molly was abused as a pup but here she is here.

I feel there is a special bond women have with dogs and to my mind this is what it looks like:

Now back to human responsibilities.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Flypaper thoughts Sunday night

  • Thinking tonight of my dad who died 20 years ago
  • He filled my childhood with humour
  • That lasts
  • A lifetime - his and now mine
  • Marking a mountain of assignments as summer 1 ends
  • These are my rules
  • Never spend more time giving feedback than a student did in writing the paper
  • Take a break when you find yourself wanting to write "You're kidding."
  • It is worth it you know
  • Every once in a while you read something that is so smart and wise it takes your breath away
  • Usually from someone who stayed quiet all term
  • Once this is done I am in heavy sewing mode
  • Shirts and a T shirt for sons
  • Youngest is going off to work for six months in Texas
  • Middle son's fabric just arrived on backorder
  • Then we start the bridal sewing
  • Three adult dresses and a formal skirt for family
  • Four flower girls 
  • Last, whatever I am wearing
  • When I used to show my dad works in progress he always said the same thing
  • "It would look better with sleeves"
  • Or " Are you going to leave it with those threads hanging down on the bottom?"
  • Worst was when you tried to impress on him how much money you saved
  • And you asked him "How much do you think this cost?"
  • "Five dollars" he would say, always five dollars
  • He thought everything in the world should cost five dollars
  • When we ate out he would price the ingredients
  • "Why aren't we eating at home?" he would ask
  • Heidi my middle granddaughter asked me who God was this week
  • Knew I had to get this right but probably wouldn't
  • "Sort of like a grandfather who takes care of everyone" I said
  • "Papa Leo is God?" she said
  • Poppa Leo is my husband
  • You could do worse
  • How long do you think all this sewing is going to take me?
  • Factor in I am taking all kids to tennis and swimming lessons all summer
  • Factor in I am still working until the end of August
  • When my dad went out he would always bring me back a cherry blossom
  • Those are hard to get these days
  • Lump of chocolate with a candied cherry in it
  • They always know when you sneak one in the car because the steering wheel is sticky
  • I'm thinking two days a dress if I don't answer the phone
  • Or check email
  • Or cook
  • Or eat cherry blossoms
  • I am taking all fall right off to teach sewing classes and babysit
  • Need to recharge 
  • That will do it
  • Then back only part time
  • It is hard to mark and hold your breath
  • My dad used to eat sandwiches late at night
  • Made of buttered bread, brown sugar, and Spanish onions
  • That man really knew how to enjoy himself
  • You can't get food like that in a restaurant
  • Not even for five dollars
  • I have shirts I made him hanging in my closet
  • Shirts are always worth making
  • He was a chemistry teacher 
  • You can see the holes he burnt in them
  • Always was a bit sloppy
  • But being funny made up for it
  • As it does most things