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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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Saturday, December 9, 2017

I have disappeared down a Christmas rabbit hole

If you wonder where I have been lately the title of this post might help.

Have you ever gone into a sort of thing where you feel compelled to do something that makes no sense?

Well this year for some reason I have ended up on a mission to make fairly complicated gifts for everyone. Despite the time constraints, despite life, despite common sense, and despite the fact they might not all want this stuff.

No matter.

I have found myself the last few weeks in a place I often see my students this time of year when they become submerged in end of term papers and assignments. 

This time of year my tizzed up students are transformed. Pyjamas are worn to class, the extensions and eye make-up and contacts become the old glasses, the messy bun, and bad skin. They are tired, they cry, they stress eat donuts and don't do yoga. 

They do nothing but school work. Right now I am doing nothing but sew.

My husband calls me during the day and says what's for dinner and I say beats me. My three-year-old grandson comes over and suggests I wash the kitchen floor (OK he is a pretty neat three-year-old) I walk the dogs, get the mail, and pre-sew the next stage in my head.

I have no idea why I am doing this.

Maybe it has something to do with my last birthday and thinking what am I going to do with the rest of my life. I thought about what was most important to me. That list began with family followed by sewing so I guess I am expressing that moment of self awareness, something I don't experience a lot.

So I am aware that I am doing this as much for myself as anyone else. It is a long time since I did anything but sewed at the edges of my life - right now I am a snowplow in the middle of the highway.  What I am doing now is teenager stuff.

Of course what I make may not even fit (it's a surprise) or be appropriate.

I remember one woman I know who found the Nova Scotia tartan vests she made for two adult sons who were bankers in England stowed away in the back of a closet after they had boarded the flights back to London.

Sometimes my taste isn't their taste, in this case often because they are the ones with good taste.

All that said I have about another week of this ( I lie it's going to take me longer than that) before I return to multi-dimensional living. And I do have to do that hemming review of the stretchy thread, I haven't forgotten about that,  just been out of the country a little bit.

In the meantime here are some random shots and thoughts:


The kids got their Christmas jimmies early. Billy's pants have since been shortened. I like sewing for them because I can go a little excessive (the girls totally get ric-rac) and make things I would like to wear myself.

I am pulling all my tricks out of my trick bag.

Here is how I make details, in this case a shirt placket. I draw the unit/markings on tracing paper, pin it to the fabric stitch where I have to, in this case the placket opening box, and then tear away the paper:




It's safe to show this because my youngest son is too busy to read the blog. The print is from Spoonflower on poplin (if you don't know them they print custom designs on a fabric types you choose). It's electrical circuits because he works in wind energy and is now based in Austin Texas.

I have put my vintage buttonholer to good use:



I have sewn on and owned so many machines but nothing gives me perfect, predictable fast buttonholers like these units. Unlike current machines that move the fabric under the needle as they stitch the buttonholes these buttonholers move and the fabric stays still. They also work by following cams, like train track, so there is absolutely nothing to keep them for doing the exact same buttonhole on any fabric in any location in the garment (collar stands we are talking about you here).

It should be noted that there are two kinds of these buttonholers. One kind, that which fits onto most machines with a straight needle bar, moves more because the unit has to go back and forth the make the zig zag sides. The end result buttonholes are beautiful but the unit is noisy and rocks around a lot, plus you have to insert the came in the bottom of the unit, which means you have to take the whole thing off and turn it over whenever you change the cam to make a different size buttonhole.

The other kind, the one pictured here, works only on old Singer machines with a slant needle, like my gorgeous Rocketeer - thank you thank you to my friend Kathleen for gifting me a second Rocketeer last week to use exclusively for buttonhole making.

The slant buttonholers, unlike most which just use the straight stitch and covered feed dogs on sort of a free motion principle, use the machine's zig zag setting. This, plus the fact that there is a built-in feed dog cover you can operate with a little lever, means a quicker set-up and quieter, IMO more efficient, operation.

And best of all the cams are dropped in from the top of the unit (see the little lever above) which means that once attached there is no need to take off the buttonholer every time you want to change the cam to make a different size buttonhole.

Well folks off I go, back to my busy and happy place.

Talk more soon, hope you are all well and happy too.