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Sewing with less stress Front
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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, January 9, 2016

Cozy sewing

Every once in a while I read something that seems to hit exactly where my head is at the moment.

Today it was this article on Hygge Chic which apparently refers to a Scandinavian idea of "feeling cozy and snug, and being kind to yourself." 

Of course it doesn't escape me that this idea came out of a cold weather climate like mine, and say not out of the Caribbean, where the need to wrap yourself up is undoubtedly not the same.

Hygge is an idea worth thinking about. 

It suggests treating yourself kindly as a style statement, as something you can plan for, as opposed to something you revert to by putting on the old worn standbys hoping that no one comes to the door.

This idea of dressing for your actual life, and sewing for it, finding fashion that fits these needs rather than trying to fit yourself and your style into fashion, has been on my mind all week.

To give you an example here is what happened, among so many other things, in my life this week, what I really need to dress for:

  • My daughter's family all had the stomach flu and so I did more than my usual picking up of Miss Scarlett after school at 2:30. High point was when she threw herself around in front of all the other parents - "I don't believe it. I have to go home where they are all boring and sleeping and all I want to do is go to your house and sew!" (Couldn't do it that day, had to teach, but have booked two sewing session next week after school).
  • Taught my first class of the term online and video, happy to be back part time and on my terms. However doing online stand up requires careful prep and the rearrangement of the backdrops at the home front. Moved books that had appropriate titles in and Dr. Suess and cookbooks out of the shot.
  • Took two dogs for three walks every day, crunching over the salt and balancing on the snowbanks.
  • Discussed the liver enzymes of two other dogs with relatives in detail, over the phone.
  • Discussed in even greater detail my nephew's new residence arrangement at university.
  • Wasted about five hours researching bra patterns until I remembered I buy very good ones in the US every spring at the outlets.
  • Calculated what this will cost with the Canadian dollar in the tank.
  • Realized that we are on par with the Aussie dollar so spent 10 hours researching (researching really means me lying in a cooling bath with my iPad) online fabric sources in Australia.
  • Spent a day mending for my youngest son who has gone to South America for three weeks to walk the Inca trail etc. The only garment repairs I don't avoid are those for my baby boys. This time it was my son telling me that for safety reasons it is really important when traveling in the third world (which probably is much like Nova Scotia but generally warmer) not to wear new clothes. Pretty much only the thought that zig zagging rips closed might save his life made me do it.
  • Started my fifth attempt at sleeves that fit in that sweater I cut up. That's all I am going to say about that one.
  • Tore over to my step daughter's son's sitter to retrieve him owing to the fact that the sitter's own child ate some money and had to go to the ER, with the other kids I was taking care of that day in the car.
  • Dropped the car key under the seat once I arrived and was blocking the sitter's driveway. The four-year-old and I crawled under all the seats (how long has that other stuff been down there?) and finally found it although not right away.
  • Spent a day worrying hard and a day being relieved over some family medical tests that in the end turned out fine.
  • Watched the news and wondered if there is anyone with any sense out there.
  • Thought of all the things I have to pack before we head off in the RV for points south in ten days.
  • Listened to my husband say "what's to pack? Shorts and golf balls."
  • Tried and failed to deal with my secret Tupperware and Nutella addictions.
  • Counted my steps and realized that if you can't remember why you went to basement until you go back up and start over again you can really get fit.
  • Which apparently is excellent for the memory.
  • Answered a million student emails.
  • Moved things into and out of my sewing to-do pile before we leave.
  • Went back upstairs and then went back down and did it again.
You just don't do this life in Spanx and three inch heels, although hats off to those who can.

No wonder Hygge Chic is speaking so loudly to me.

As a result I decided to tackle real garments I need, one issue at a time.

First up getting up in a national park and taking the dog out for a walk when I wish I didn't have to. 

Needing pockets for the poop purses (what we call the doggie bags for some reason) and my phone, because I might as well count steps, and my son might be emailing me an "I am alive in South America" message.

What I came up with was this pattern and some sort of cable type patterned Minky. Very cozy if not elegant, as close to adult swaddling as you can get. I hope to make a lace/mesh vest version too to go over shorts and T shirts when I need the pockets and not much else.

Back to the Hygge jacket. Made as per pattern but put in one giant snap in case I need to close it up:

Basically feels like a short housecoat but hopefully people won't immediately figure that out

Side view because some people like to see those, also my boots

How this will probably actually be worn.

I have been thinking I should make a wool tailored suit, just to have in the can in case anything official happens sometime, but suspect this jacket was probably better immediate use of my sewing time.

Let's see if the vest version is wearable or just weird.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

New Spring Vogues

I was about to head down into the basement and the treadmill when, looking on my iPhone to see how many steps a person takes when they have done nothing but work on a computer all day, I saw the new Spring Vogues were up.

Since the outside is polar temperatures and the landscape white icy concrete, anything with the word "spring" sounded pretty good to me.

So here, still on the way to the treadmill, are my impressions.

Disclaimer is that there are some trends that just refuse to go away despite the fact I don't like them at all, never did, never will. I won't be commenting on those patterns at all.

These trends, just so you know, are high/low which my eyes still see as a mistake, colour blocking, which I know from experience is something you get pretty sick of after you have worn it three times, and those innumerable tops that stick out in points at the sides.

That said here are a few interesting patterns I noticed and noted:

Really pretty skirt, very ladylike. Will have to contextualize into the lifestyle that is heavy on walking shoes and dog walking, but for someone, somewhere, it is perfect.

Bit concerned about the boxy look everywhere. There is hourglass and there is toy box. The clump, clump shoes, even in silver, are not help.

This one is a wow. As in I am in grade nine and learning to sew. The neckline, and waistline just don't fit, and this girl is perfect. See above on high low, but really anyone would feel like a dumbbell in this dress. Oddly looks to me like one of those poor women who comes out of the Ladies with her dress stuck in her underwear and the mean girls won't tell her. I would. Just did.

What marching band does she play in and what instrument. I'm thinking drums.

The line drawing does not show the flower appliqu├ęs which are what caught my eye, and all the binding is decorative, but in linen or some really cool fabric this would be spectacular. Look at those cool sleeves.

I wasn't really taken with Kathryn Brennen's earlier designs, that seemed to me to use an awful lot of fabric without much style, but this dress is lovely in a tea dance the afternoon before they bombed Pearl Harbour sort of way. So nice to see something feminine like this.

With some nice silk this would be a great top to wear to one of those events you don't really want to go to but figure if you have to you might as well be comfortable. 

OK no one is going to walk a dog in this but really what a fun skirt. If I had a daughter going to the prom I might try to talk her into the glamour of this rather than the $5 hooker outfits most of the other girls will be wearing.

Nice jacket, very wearable with a good back, in the right fabric.

A dragonfly pin cushion. Just the project for someone who has completed every other task in life, right down to sticking names on the bottom of dishes she is leaving the kids, or has attached pre-wound bobbins in matching thread to every spool she has. I would have to be reincarnated a thousand times before I would have time to make this, but I like it anyway.

So now down to go read Ravelry while I walk, sort of fast-ish.

Monday, January 4, 2016

When the pictures don't match

While back I mentioned that this was my pick for the early Spring McCalls if you were looking to sew something wearable (sorry I am not putting jumpsuits - a garment that designers have being trying to sell us for generations - in that category):

Now correct me if I am wrong but doesn't this look like an A line but more to the straight skirt shape?

So why does the line drawing look like this?

And the hem width is really wide.

I have my suspicions.

I once helped unpack Big Four fashion show samples and saw much evidence of "tweaks" of the pattern to achieve a more camera ready look.

Probably not the biggest mystery to be solved on the planet today but one I am thinking about.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Butchery ongoing at my place

I have to make this quick.

We cut the cable cord over here a few weeks ago, since all we watch is online news and Netflix, and now I have to go over to my sister-in-laws tonight to watch Downton Abbey.

I enjoyed Christmas. I always do. That's just me.

I know that there are a lot of folks out there who don't feel like this. Some people associate this time of year with terrible memories and of course I get this.

Every time I read of someone who bought it on the roads this time of year I always think great, now that whole family is going to have to think about this every Christmas. My own dear friend lost her dad on Christmas Eve and her husband on New Year's Eve and needless to say the holidays for her were just something to last through. Who wouldn't understand that?

However without that to think of for some reason, despite all the intensity of emotion that Christmas always brings out in families, I always enjoy myself. I had fun the Christmas everyone vomited, for instance, I have found times to enjoy in all crises that coincided with the holiday, in sickness and in health, in things coming apart and that person who gets glum, I don't know, I always have a good time.

Think it's maybe the bright lights.

I like those.

My made with loving hands got mixed reviews this year. Miss Scarlett loved the doll clothes and her less diplomatic four year old sister said "well I like them but not that much."

Fair enough, it was a good quote anyway.

My sweater for my middle son, the one he requested, was not one of my greatest hits. Sometimes I find it hard to transition from sewer to knitter. 

For example there was a four inch jump in the sizing and my kid ran between the two so, knowing he had slim hips but strong shoulders, I came up with the idea of going down a size in the hips and up to the next size in the shoulders. (He has a 42 inch chest so I did 40 hips and 44 chest).

What resulted was a sweater that looked so V shaped on that he did a muscle man imitation in it, my husband asked "Is this supposed to be a Superman suit?" and my son-in-law who I otherwise really like laughed so hard he fell off the couch. I was actually planning on gifting this particular SIL with a sweater for his birthday but now may do that next year instead. Or the year after that.

At any rate I had to reclaim the sweater for a major fix up. 

Now a good knitter would have unravelled it and started again but I am a risk taker and also a sewer so I looked at this differently. Seeing the sweater as fabric I knew exactly what kind of alteration it needed I figured (ignoring the fact that I have already demonstrated faulty judgment so far on this project) so instead of unraveling, I zig zagged the lines where I needed to take it in, cut right through my knitting (I sort of remember this idea for making steeks in the Craftsy course I obviously dropped out of) restitched (small zig zag, think sweater knit, in this case literally) and then inexpertly picked up new stitches around the armhole for more normal looking sleeves.

I am pretty sure all this proves is that I am an experienced sewer and probably never going to be a great knitter.

And if you don't believe me here are the pictures:

Now off I go to see if the Mr. and Mrs. Bates can avoid criminal charges for at least five minutes, if Lady Mary will ever figure out that Tom Branson really is the obvious choice for next husband, and if poor Edith can pull herself together long enough to understand that if she stops expecting the world to abuse her it might do that.

Wish me luck.