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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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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Talia pant: muslin beach walking version

When I showed these to my husband his first reaction was "what are you wearing?" followed quickly by a "you look great."

He knows.

The fabric is a little wild I know but it was all I had with me to do a test pair of the Talia pants. The fabric has a pattern of waves on them, cotton broadcloth, and are just fine IMO for walking on the beach looking at the waves. My version of camo. You won't even know I am there.

This is a new pant shape for me and I wanted to try them out before I cut into the beautiful rayon I ordered in from Hart fabrics - that pair will be posted soon too.

 As always this pattern is available from Stylearc in paper or you can download directly through Gumroad through this link.

When you compare the cotton to the rayon you will see why the rayon, or something drapey, is best for these pants, but even still these are incredibly comfortable pants in cotton and I don't mind the print at all. Not all occasions are dress events.

I have that flashy streak anyway and the dress code among campers is not as high as you probably think it is.

Back to what you are really interested in.

I made a size 12 and added my usual 1/2" to the centre front and 1 1/2" to centre back to accommodate my belly and backside respectively. Apart from that there are no alterations. I am posting a lot of pictures here because I think the cotton pair actually gives you a good idea of what the pattern pieces look like.

One construction note.

The front is flat and interfaced, the back has an elastic insertion that is top-stitched in rows. 

I did the first round as per pattern but found it was hard to assess how the elastic would feel attached to the front (you make up the two units and attach them) so round two sewed the front and back pieces together at the side seams, basted the back elastic in at the side seams, tried it on for fit, closed the waistline seam of this waist unit (basted raw edges together in other words) then top-stitched a few rows through the elastic as I was supposed to.

The completed waistband is then just attached to the top of the pants, which I have to tell you is easier if you are not sewing in the dark.

So here we go, with notes:

Elastic waist back so of course there are gathers, more discrete in the rayon, but not too bunchy IMO

One of the surprises of these pants for me was how high the waist is. Been a long time since I had a waistband that started at the top of my navel. Forgot how comfortable that is.

Another surprise, but this wasn't apparent with the model picture - pretty sure she is not a size 12  - but the legs are fairly loose. As I said earlier this will require a revision of my top wardrobe, don't intend to have too many of this belly articulation numbers in the future top line-up but also don't want to look too much like a fridge. Huge issues to think about obviously

My partner in crime wondering why we are not on our way to a walk.

Not sure why I am listing like this, although I was on a dock, but am not going to query the photographer who is, after all, and excellent cook. Thought you would want to see the leg shape and of course my worst side view.

Another shot of the leg shape but that is not the point. There is a winter parking ban at home in Nova Scotia
Stay tuned for the rayon version, they are really A1.

Note: this post contains an affiliate link.

A pause in the sewing hints for an action shot

Over the next two days I will be posting some Talia pants reviews.

Very interesting pattern and the beginning of a major shift for me from the narrow pants/ long top look to looser pants and shorter more fitted tops look (translate I don't have a lot to wear with these pants until I regroup).

In the meantime I thought you would appreciate some action shots of my workroom or what is referred to in some places as the sewing studio.

Well here is my sewing studio at the moment.

You know you are hard core when you keep sewing in the dark:

Drying rack for pre-treating fabric. Here the light I am sewing with is actually a solar powered lawn light my husband helpfully impaled into the picnic table.The expression on my face is is the same look I have had on my face every time I have sat in front of a sewing machine since I was eight years old.

Full view of the sewing studio in the twilight. Yes that is a rug on the patio and green lights around the edges.  Required  rv outside decor - we found this stuff in the hold of the rv when we bought it.

There is also a small black dog there in the right hand corner but you can't see her because she is small and well dark, in the dark.

Now back to hemming.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Handy sewing hint of the day #7

Remember cut her flat and make her round?

In my mind this starts happening as soon as you take the pieces off your cutting table. 

From that point on I try to keep my construction vertical (as I am most of the time) and in a training situation to be a round shape.

This means that between pressing and sewing sessions I either hang up pieces or, better still, pin them to my dress form. I had an idea a while ago to experiment with draping but that stopped when I realized I am not particularly interested in draping, so I use my dress form as a place where my pieces can practice being a garment.

I feel that you can't take flat fabric, press it flat on an ironing board,  and then expect it to be successfully round the rest of its life. Your fabric has to learn those days are over and there is no time like the present.

Of course this brings us back to pressing and another essential pressing tool, the tailor's ham.

Here is mine:

Now this one, as old as my serious sewing, has a couple of curve variations, but really I use the end and the concave side the most. It has a wool side (napped) and a cotton side. I suppose you could make your own if you had a source for hardwood sawdust and could pack it tight enough into a shape but that would be about as easy as putting on support knee socks IMO.

The point is whenever you have sewn a seam that is not perfectly straight - princess seams, some waistbands, darts - so many things - you will get a better press if you position your fabric over a matching curve.

Oh and because I haven't mentioned it before and should have, once you have that heat and steam in your fabric don't move it until it is cooled. That will give your fabric a chance to set the press.

Tailor's hams are also enormously useful when making collars, particularly those with wool or fabric with some memory to them.

You can set your ham up vertical in a ham holder (you can use cans or, like one woman I know take it  to the garage and put it in a vice on the workbench) and treat it like a fake neck.

That's right.

Wrap your collar around the ham like it would be when you are wearing it.

Note that this will probably shoot the under collar out a bit when you roll the long collar seam under so it won't show - just cut the extra off, this means when you sew the collar to the neck edge the seam will stay hidden - never be a slave to matching the cut edges when you are in the make flat round process.

Back to the ham/neck.

Once you have this set up take your iron and shoot that little unit full of heat and steam and leave it to dry.

This will give you a beautifully shaped, already pressed collar to insert into your garment - with a nice professional press you absolutely cannot get when you are ramming it into an ironing board and hoping for the best.

This is what steaming it on a ham looks like:

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Handy sewing hint of the day #6

Even more on pressing.

There is a lot to say on this issue and I am sure during my regular 2:45 a.m. wake-ups  I will keep remembering more to talk about.

Just pressing seams is huge.

It is entirely possible to ruin your project by pressing mistakes. I should know.

Couple of things.

First of it is important to remember that underneath that seam is a seam allowance. Press a seam flat from the right side and there is a good chance that you will press in ridges representing your seam allowances, on either side of the stitching line. IMO opinion this can make your garment look sort of worn out even before it has been worn.

So what can you do?

First thing is to press from the wrong side. Before you press the seam open, press it as you have sewn it to the side and flat, to impede the stitches, then press that seam open.

From the wrong side.

To avoid the seam ridge thing you can lay some paper strips under the seam allowances, between the seam allowances and the garment to insulate the garment from the bulk.

You can do this with long brown paper strips or envelopes. That's what I use envelopes, but I have to tell you not to use any old ones with writing on them.

I have personally, me, ironed in a return address into some nice silk.

The other way, and probably faster, is to lay the seam over a seam roll and press just along the stitching line. Here is my seam roll:

Because a seam roll is round once you lay your seam on it the seam allowances will be lifted from the garment fabric and won't be pressed into it:

Now of course you can buy a seam roll, they are filled with hardwood sawdust, or you can improvise. I have been using a half done roll of paper towel here in the rv, and have used some of those heavy cardboard rolls they have in fabric store for rolling fabric when I had to at home.

And of course the heavy cardboard or sawdust will amplify the effect of your iron and give you a nice  clean press.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Handy sewing hint of the day #5:

And on with the pressing.

Lots of folks get wound up with an iron, and a good one, heavy and with a burst of steam is important (and hopefully without that annoying automatic shut off function that they all seem to have these days, in domestic irons a least) and these features are certainly are useful.

The truth is that pressing well really depends on good pressing tools, as much or more than the iron you use.

These pressing tools need to be made out of hardwood, or in the case of seam rolls and hams, packed with hardwood sawdust. Pine won't work because it will leave sap on your fabric.

Wood, and paper for that matter, has the ability to catch and hold heat and moisture and return it to the fabric. This enormously increases the pressing power of your iron.

The first tool you need is a tailor's clapper, essentially a long, smooth piece of hardwood that you press down on a seam or hem or edge you really want a hard, sharp edge on (think military crease, think gabardine or denim hems).

Shoot your fabric full of steam and then press it hard with some real weight behind it with your clapper. Don't move until the wood and the fabric go cold.

Clappers are often combined with "point presses" miniature Barbie doll ironing boards mounted on top, that are useful for pressing little seams like collars and cuffs that you just can't get at with an ordinary iron.

I couldn't function without my clapper/point presser.

Here is what it looks like:

And here it is in action, pressing the long seam of a collar open:

In response to questions here is an example of a point presser/clapper: