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

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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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Monday, September 7, 2015

On girls

Several thoughts.

First thanks for your comments, they have me thinking.

Before I get into that I want to share a something a colleague said to me recently.

He told me that, surprisingly, his early teen daughter had really got into sewing her own clothes and was more or less obsessed with it. He told me this because I was the only person I think he had ever met in his life who sewed.

He told me about his daughter's sewing with a tinge of embarrassment. He and his wife are intellectual and very professionally engaged. It was as if her interest in sewing was a detour down.

So I went on long and loud on how sewing is, on the contrary, a highly empowering activity for a young girl.

Let's face it the teenage years are usually not the best for most girls, even worse now I imagine with social media comparisons. Most of us feel better, and feel better about ourselves and look better as we get older.

I was a teenager in a time when you were supposed to be small, blond, and perky. That was it. If you weren't you were falling short of everyone's expectations and you sure knew it.

I was 5'9" in grade seven. My skin broke out. A teacher once handed back my class picture and laughed. My mother discussed my hair and my skin about eight hundred times a day with members of the general public, trying to figure out why I didn't look like my next youngest sister, who had gorgeous hair, skin, and yes played sports well too. My dad bought me golf clubs and hoped maybe I would take up a quirky sport at least (he was about 30 years too early on that one), he liked the young crowd that hung around the golf club, who of course were the same kids who looked right through me at school.

It was not my prime time I can tell you.

I know, as I am sure most of you do too, how acutely a young girl feels judged by her appearance at that age and how much her sense of self is defined by how she feels other people are seeing her.

Of course the gawky part of being a teenager is largely because of things you can't control, but you are not that fair to yourself at this age to understand this.

However I could sew, or at least was learning to. I could decide what I wanted to look like, what I looked good in, what I felt good in, what I aspired to be, and I had the power to make that happen myself. Somewhere I knew that I was a person who was going to do just fine and have an interesting life, even if no one else seemed to believe that, and I sewed for, and dressed that person.

Sewing taught me the most valuable of life lessons - if you want something to happen, make it yourself.

So even if I was tall and gawky and never going to be small and blond and perky I had something to show the world that could be admired, that could make me proud of how I looked. 

When folks came to the house I would be trooped out and displayed "Barbara made this herself." Grown women would tell me, sometimes even accurately, that they could never make anything like that. In Grade Ten and teacher said to me "are those really bound buttonholes?"

Well yes they are.

Sewing took what could have been a painful time in my life and turned it into one of my life's most creative periods.

It taught me to create my own substance when that isn't exactly being delivered to the door with a bow.

Again and again through my life I have been able to turn to sewing for the strength I have sometimes needed to recreate myself.

Anyone can learn to golf later.

And I did.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Whatever happened to home economists

I finished the last wedding event outfit I am going to make a few days ago. A knit top and skirt for the breakfast the next day.

I had of course planned on all sorts of other sewing but when I downed tools on that one I knew I was done.

Like a dinner.

My mojo never leaves me but right now the sewing tank is empty. I counted eight dresses/outfits for myself and other folks in the last six weeks and that's it for me for a bit.

I am also contemplating the first fall, I am taking this term right off except for some grandchild childcare, that I haven't gone to work in a million years. 

I have a backlog of life to catch up on and a house with many projects to do. I've gone domestic to cleanse the work palate and even though my husband won't be home for a week, doing a lot of cooking for myself. I will flypaper to follow.

But I have one other longer thought.

Who here remembers home economists? Or is one?

I am probably the last generation that recalls this as an academic discipline, the Mrs. degree my dad used to call it. In fact my own university had a very well regarded home ec. program but that became sort of embarrassing and it was morphed into human ecology or human nutrition etc. and the sewing part quietly phased out. Folks who want to sew are now directed to art schools where they go right from textiles to designers skipping the part where the neckline fits.

Listen I get it.

In the old days smart women where supposed to apply their minds to the current location - rather than become a macro economist they were directed to the economics of menu planning. Rather than running countries and corporations they were supposed to run households instead.

You could see glimpses of what this meant when you watched home ec. grads in action. They were the women who actually measured and weighed when they cooked, who never eyeballed it in sewing, and wore dress shields with silk blouses. Nancy Zeiman.

Of course this was not a good fit for so many women, my highly intelligent mother having to suffer the 1950s and 1960s with zero interest in things domestic, a woman who could debate politics and yet was judged by the dust balls.

And of course this culture denied the world cardiologists and yes macro economists and corporate CEOs who maybe would have said yes tobacco caused cancer.

All this is true but I wonder about the women who are doing other things who really would have liked home ec. and now have no where to go. Except maybe Pinterest, mommy blogs, and indie patterns produced, sometimes with more hope than skill, on desktop printers in the spare room.

Lost home economics grads who are DIY taking beautifully lit photographs of first projects on rail fences. GOMI is not the same as useful assessment and teaching.

Somewhere in the back of my mind there is a project here, a sort of distance program in home ec. free like Kahn Academy that my generation of women should get going so it is easier to get the basics, the intermediate and the advanced - the 100, 200, 300 and 400 level courses. Going to think about that. I am sure many of you could come up with the units.

Is this making any sense to you?