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

Clothesmaking mavens

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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Friday, March 4, 2016

Flypaper thoughts Friday night

  • Just so you know the handy sewing hints don't work on the weekend
  • The staff, Daisy and me, are working for the next two days on the Talia pants
  • Brilliant fabric came in this afternoon from Hart Fabrics
  • Such a nice day
  • Spent a good part of it with Susan a blog reader/friend who lives here in Florida
  • We walked, ate, and discussed everything that matters in life
  • Dogs, sewing, family, fairness in the workplace and outside, and what fabric to use to recover a sofa
  • I tried on a moto jacket in denim with rib knit sections where the body moves
  • It was in a small and Susan thought it fit and I felt it was tight
  • Discussed whether or not I wear things too loose
  • Such an important issue to consider
  • How about you?
  • Do you have one body area that you dress the rest to hide?
  • Should we be 18 year olds and not care about the loose middle?
  • Also what is your feeling on cherry pie?
  • Or key lime?
  • The middle will have to be lived with
  • There is a little dog here with a tiny body and big ears like a rabbit
  • Daisy and I get up early to see that dog out for a walk
  • How can you not smile first thing when you see a dog with rabbit ears?
  • The RV park is so great
  • A man gave me his business card, address with "on the road to everywhere"
  • There is a navy wife home schooling five kids
  • She looks tired and has a creationist sticker on the car
  • Kids look pretty damned happy
  • There is a widow doing her first trip solo with her Welsh terrier
  • When I walk at night I see them in bed through her open door, reading
  • Quiet, safe, and going to be fine
  • I have met a man who volunteers at national parks, one after the other all year
  • I saw a late middle aged woman out shooting hoops by herself on the basketball court
  • Sinking them
  • There is an older woman here with a tattoo of her cat on her chest
  • And there is the man who calls out "hello young lady" every morning
  • You can do anything here and people just walk by and smile
  • Of course you are sewing jeans on a picnic table with the machine plugged into the side of the RV
  • We are booked solid here
  • How hard does it have to be?
  • It is so calm here tonight

Handy sewing hint of the day #4

Before I go any further I have to say the best stuff on this blog is in the comment section. 

Make sure you read the comments too. The handy hints that are coming in there are terrific. One point of clarification, when I wrote opaque on the subject of pressing cloths, I could have meant translucent, I guess almost transparent - but I probably should have just said thin. As in thin, worn cotton or linen, thin enough you can have a sense what's underneath would work.

Just don't be suckered into those thick so-called pressing cloths for sale.

Now onto ironing boards.

The kind of ironing board a sewer needs has to have the qualities of a steady table. You are going to be using it a lot, pressing down on fusible interfacing, pressing down with your own weight on a clapper to set a sharp crease (more on that later) and you don't need wooble. This is a sewing occupational health and safety issue.

What you don't need is your average rickety modern Walmart ironing board such is produced by a culture that really doesn't do much ironing anymore.

They just won't hold up to real sewing pressing.

Now you can pad an actual table, cover and use that, and buy a sleeve board or something to put on top for the bits that need some kind of point.

The other idea, and what I myself did, was to buy a yard sale old school ironing board of the kind that weigh like they are made out of iron and some family is getting rid of so they can buy a modern, light rickety unit from Walmart. Maybe your mom has one you can talk her out of, maybe your grandmother.

Or, alternately you can go to the Melrose Avenue street yard sale in June and Mrs. Smith will sell you one for $2.00

After you have had someone help you lug this monstrosity home, by someone who invariably will say to you "I thought we were getting rid of our junk not buying more of it" you have to cover it.

Do not, repeat, do not ever use one of those silver teflon "modern" ironing board covers that are supposed to increase the efficiency of your iron by reflecting back the heat.

These things are sewer's Kryptonite and will, guaranteed, fry all your good work, on both sides and do lots of other bad things that I would list now if I could think of them.

You need to go natural and you need to cover that old ironing board in wool because wool will absorb the moisture of your steam iron and slowly release it back to the underside of the fabric you are pressing (now that is how you really increase the efficiency of your iron) in a nice, friendly, reasonable, professional way.

I covered/padded the top of my own ironing board with some thin wool blankets that were given to my mother when she went into nursing school in about 1950 or thereabouts and even have her initials on them. 


I just wrapped those blankets around the top of the ironing board and fastened them on the underside with baby diaper safety pins (we throw nothing out around here, you never know).

Next you have to cover the top of the ironing board with 100% heavy cotton. I favour something with stripes so you can use the surface for lining things up straight or big checks etc. because this is also useful.

Now other sewers over to you, what are your ironing board thoughts?

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Handy sewing hint of the day #3

Time to talk about pressing.

Old school says you should spend as much time at the ironing board as the machine and that is correct.

A few handy hints on this one.

First of all a pressing cloth is your friend. You can spray water on it to augment the steam of a domestic iron, and it will keep you from applying that terrible shine to dark fabrics, or otherwise over pressing/burning other fabrics

But before we go any further the first thing you need to know is :don't ever buy or use something sewing stores sell as "pressing cloths". These things are about as useful as vinyl tiles laying on your fabric - way too heavy and the heat just won't get through.

What you need for general pressing is something opaque so you have a vague idea of what you doing and can sort of see if you have the right area under it.

I personally like cotton organza (something similar is often sold as woven sew-in interfacing - make sure this is not fusible of course), some people use old worn out handkerchiefs or pillowslips but since the Depression is over folks tend not to save that stuff anymore.

I used to have gauze cloth diapers from the kids and used those sometimes but they are hard to get nowadays, too bad, they were great on babies' bums and great for pressing. Birdseye gauze, primo stuff.

If you work with a lot of velveteen, velvet, (and good luck to you too) or corduroy it is also useful to have a pressing cloth under the fabric (lay the fabric nap side down) to support the nap so it doesn't get crushed. A velour type cotton hand towel is idea.

To be continued.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Handy sewing hint of the day #2

This one is for you Jodie.

Read your instructions sheet right through and apply your own logic to what you do, when.

Most instruction sheets have you work from one garment area to another.

Change this.

You will increase your efficiency and effectiveness if you do two things:

1. Do as much as you can to each flat piece before you attach it to another
2. Once you have done all you can to the flat sections, next try to make up all the units, as far you you can, and then put those units together.
3. Do as many like activities at the same time 

For example this means:

Sew all your darts anywhere in the garment, sew on all patch pockets, put in the zippers, sew all shoulder seams (garment and say facings) - you get the drift.

Only press when you have run out of anything else you can do at the machine pick up all pieces and move them over to the ironing board for one ironing session.

When I say put together the units this would mean, for example, sewing the sleeve seams when you are doing a lot of seam sewing, press them in a pressing session, and then, rather than attaching the sleeves to the garment body, put the cuffs on, or hem the sleeves, before you set them in.

Bottom line, forget the instruction pattern instructions and trust yourself. Do like things together and keep units hand-sized as long as possible before you put together a large garment.

Make sense?

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Handy sewing hint of the day #1

If you have been a follower of this blog for a while you know I have been on a theme about how those of us who have sewn for a while know a lot of little things that make our sewing easier, and our garments better, that newer sewers, working from patterns of varying detail don't have yet.

The difference between good and really good sewing IMO  so often lies in the number of little tricks the sewer knows, rather than some overall educational scheme.

Even now, after having sewn for at least several lifetimes, I often pick up some new trick and slap myself in the head with a "why didn't I think of that?"

When you sew it is the little things that matter, and you never stop learning.

The idea of passing on knowledge, even little bitsy bits of knowledge, has also been my mind.

At one point I thought, maybe I should write a book, but there are a lot of new general sewing books out there, and to be honest I am not going to get another one put together unless I give up my family, job, and my own sewing.

That is not going to happen. And I do suspect my mind fires too randomly for a structured book at the moment.

So I have had an idea.

This is it.

Pretty simple.

I am going to post a short little sewing hint every day until I run out of them.

This maybe next week, or maybe not.

Feel free too to send some of your own hints in and I will put them up here too.

Now most of you experienced sewers out there know more than I do, or already know many of these hints, but my intended audience are new sewers.

So in no particular order here we go:

Hint #1:

Children under the age of five tend to have inseam, hip, waist, and head size within and inch or two or each other.

I verified this when I once had to keep a whole pizza party entertained waiting for the pizza to come out and all I had to work with was a tape measure in my purse.

Why does this matters?

If you are sewing a pull over top for most children make sure the head opening is large enough. Way too often the neck openings are graded like adult clothing with the necklines smaller.

It is not unusual to have a four year old with a 21" head and a 21" inch chest. How many women do you know with 46" heads?

See how high level the information I am going to share with you is?

Another one tomorrow.

I mean that.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Pants and ease

I once knew a woman, still do in fact, who has been working on a pants muslin for 30 years.

This is a fairly long time to be frustrated by that same pouch at the front crotch and the drag lines along the inner thighs.

She has far more stamina than I have.

My own on and off again pant fitting issues in the past have taught me two things:

1. Different designers/companies have different pants drafts, particularly in the all important and hard to fit crotch area. May I suggest that rather than breaking your head on 54 tweaky adjustments you explore the possibility that somewhere out there is a pants block that is shaped like you?

For me it is Stylearc. 

I pretty much can make any Stylearc pants pattern as is, maybe these days with a waist addition, but adding for the waist in my view is sort of a standard practice thing not really in the category of pattern alteration if you can follow that logic, and I am not sure if even I can.

Some folks fit Burda patterns, some Vogue, and some another Indie.

It might be worth exploring to find out if your match is out there.

2. Ease is different depending on who you are and where you have what you have. I think this is a fact that is often overlooked, particularly minimum wearing ease in closer fit garments like pants.

This is what I mean.

Remember the cut-her-out-flat and make her round argument? Well this is true, but you need to add in one more thing that makes garment sewing so different from other design activities.

The subject moves and as she moves the shapes change.

Straight up this means that thin, little fat people don't need as much wearing ease as the rest of us.

How you assess what you personally need to have for wearing ease in pants or straight skirts involves this:

  • Take your hip measurement (or your waist, belly whatever) standing up.
  • Holding the tape measurement around the same place sit down and as you do it let the measuring tape expand as it wants to.
Here is my example:

My hips are 40"

When I sit down they are 43"

So a standard straight skirt or pants with 1 - 1.5 inches of wearing ease is going to feel way too tight, or even split when I sit.

So when I assess a pattern I want to make 43" my absolute minimum and am more happy with say 44" ease.

Does this add up to you?

Works for me and I would be interested in your thoughts.