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I am a mother, a new 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 first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Thursday, June 2, 2016

Very quick one

This week has been a blur.

It started on Monday morning with me sitting under the dining room table beside my daughter's wonderful Golden on her last day while Katrina had to go out (middle child orientation for starting school next year) while we waited for the vet to make a house call. 

It is amazing how the space left when an important soul has gone can feel even larger than their presence.

It just got busier all week but I did manage to get some sewing cutting out done, my husband's pants (guess what, his hip size is three times smaller than his waist - it is not just women who have these issues - and it explains a lot about why he hates clothes shopping) another pair of Talia pants for me, a shell and a birthday present for youngest son (who probably doesn't read this blog but you never know). Tomorrow I am off to see if I can find fabric for an idea I have for my polite and long suffering DIL in NYC who has a birthday fast approaching too and is a recipient of many of my experiments.The more hectic my life is the more I regroup with some sewing fit in in the corners of the day.

I have some more handy sewing hints in my head but just didn't have the focus this week. Bear with me. I am taking care of the three kids while their parents are off to a wedding this weekend so might not get around to being informative until Sunday night.

I had to share a bright spot with you before bed though.

This morning I picked up a little Kenmore sewing machine, a real one not a kid's type but smaller in size that a big machine - must be some sort of older travelling model. It worked well and the stitch was perfect.

I brought it home and gave it to Miss Scarlett after school and she was very pleased. She has set up a sewing station in her room and this means she can sew whenever she wants to now, not just when she visits me. Yes I know she is only six but really that girl can thread and pivot with the best of them.

She told me today that some of her friends have formed a sewing/knitting club on their own. Six and seven year olds. Most of the girls knit she tells me, a few hand sew but she is the only one who can operate a machine (probably the other grandmothers have more sense).

This interests me because her mother and her friends would never have had this interest at this age and most of the other mothers who where my peers didn't sew at all. I realize I am of the generation when sewing was not real cool, good with your hands meant bad with your brains in some circles. I know I certainly didn't talk about sewing much in my professional life. I remember a young colleague once dropping something off at the house on a weekend years ago and he arrived when I was sewing - he told me that his grandmother from the old country sewed but didn't think women like me did.

Does this have any resonance to other women of my generation?

I guess all of this, the split lives we had to lead, persons with interests versus working person, professional woman and mother, make me glad that stigma is vanishing. Those older sewers who look down at bit at the sometimes reckless creativity of the Indie pattern crowd need to remember this - these new sewers have done this, and maybe it is they, not us, who are opening this creative life up for the youngest sewers.

Does this make any sense to anyone but me, late in night, typing from my bed?

At any rate, cleaning up tonight I found this, left behind by Scarlett on one of the practice scraps she was working on with her new machine before she took it home.

This does my heart good I can tell you:


Angela said...

What a sweet gift from Scarlett! I am wondering if her little Kenmore is a 158.1030 series. I found one of these for my daughter when she was 12 or so and that is what she still sews on (she is 19 now).

Eimear Greaney said...

I was talking to a woman older than me yesterday who used sew but doesn't now and while I am used to people younger than me not making or mending, having someone older saying she would not be bothered was interesting, and I could see what she meant as I had stopped sewing once for years. Sewing used be a necessity for me, but working and cheap clothes came along and I slowly stopped. I would always mend but probably never sewn anything to wear for about 8 years - and a combination of things got me back again (rana plaze/eco concerns/and I like it)

Jen L said...

The stigma, yes. Back when I was in art school I did a conceptual project that was partly about this. I didn't refer to it as a stigma, but that's basically what it was. I think my project was called something like Women's Work, and it was intended to reflect the devaluation of traditional women's activities, as represented by sewing. (The project also had a body identity component, reflected by dress fitting).

I suspect that the stigma is/was a result of the connection to housewives. My mother was one once, but by about the mid 70s, there was also a kind of stigma on being a housewife. (Related to that which was somewhat derisively called Women's Lib on television). She went to work eventually, and mostly stopped sewing too. Time obviously being a factor too. Now retired, she's slowly getting back to sewing.

The sewing machine gift is wonderful.

LWS said...

What a wonderful gift for a child! I started sewing at just that age.

When I was growing up in the 1950's, sewing was for people who couldn't afford store bought clothes (or custom made drapes, or whatever), so being good at it branded you as poor. My mother used to come up with creative projects we could make with her fabric scraps, though, so I grew up thinking of sewing as fun. Over the years I have done a lot of practical sewing to save money, but I lacked the time for creative projects and eventually drifted away from sewing altogether. I have returned to it because of the difficulty of finding quality, age appropriate RTW clothing, and am having the most wonderful time now that my imagination is once again engaged.

Some of the kids in the indie pattern crowd may have more enthusiasm than skill, but they promote sewing as a creative process, and I think we can thank them for that.

Anonymous said...

Ahhh! Love your Miss Scarlett!

Your thoughts on sewing definitely resonate.

Very few of my peers sew, although home economics was required when we were young. Thankfully, my mother and a neighbor taught me well before I had to take those classes, or I would have been turned off sewing for life! I don't think the teacher knew how to do much--certainly not fitting patterns!

While I've continued to design and sew most of my life, I had a twenty-year period where sewing fell off the totem pole. Actually, I fell off the totem pole!

Between career, elder care (including 17 years of Alzheimer's care) and the necessities of daily life, sewing just didn't make the cut. Music barely was there. Listening, yes. Creating, very rarely.

Career still plays a big part in my life, but I've returned to designing and sewing during the past five years or so. Not as much as I used to, but things I really want to fit well and be around for many years. Music is creeping back in, as well. Thank goodness! I really appreciate life/work balance much more now than when I was young!


Sandra Thwaites said...

That certainly resonates with me. I, too, didn't talk about sewing when I was in University, or starting my career in what was then a very male dominated field. My male colleagues and clients had a difficult enough time trying to make sense of me. If I told them I liked to sew, I just don't think they would have taken me seriously at all. Now, I'm much older, and have built up enough credibility that it's not really an issue, and also there's the fact that I no longer care what anyone thinks about me, which in and of itself is incredibly liberating.

SilverMom said...

Great post on buttonholes and buttons, and it prompted several of my own flypaper thoughts (TM).

Renita's idea to do the buttonholes first is actually what I do these days. By the time I'm ready to cut into my fashion fabric, I've muslined enough to be confident of my buttonhole placement, so I do the buttonholes before the rest of the assembly. WAY less stress, and much easier to manipulate just one section of the garment.

My Bernina 930 is my main machine, but I keep my mom's 1947 Singer Featherweight pretty much always set up with its Singer buttonhole attachment installed. Such nice buttonholes! It's not totally automatic...there is a bit of a learning curve, even with the templates. I always click all the way around (if you have one, you know what I mean) to make sure the starting point is exactly where it is supposed to be. Also, as Mom taught me, it makes a nicer look if you go around twice. And, here's a trick for working with thick fabrics (there's not much clearance with this style of attachment): cut a piece of very thin stiff clear plastic (I used the lid of a box of greeting cards but mylar would work, too) and place it on top of the fabric as you slip it under the foot of the attachment. Helps in removing the fabric, also.) Hammering the fabric flat also helps - putting the buttonhole in the collarband of a heavy flannel shirt requires some pounding!

I hate the white interfacing threads that peak out of the buttonhole after it is cut open. I clip out as many of them as I can, and color what's left with a matching Sharpie.

As for using cotton thread, I don't embroider, so I don't have any cotton embroidery thread, but just plain old cotton thread (Mettler silk-finish #50 is my favorite) certainly does make a much nicer buttonhole than poly thread.

Lastly, using a thread shank when sewing buttons on is one of the few skills from 8th grade Home Ec I actually still use.

Love your basic sewing skills posts. Thanks.