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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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Friday, January 26, 2018

Insta project

When we are on the road my husband does 100% of anything related to food. Buying, cooking and cleaning up. 

The kitchen in an rv is tiny and he loves to organize it. This is a man of a million systems. Also when he was growing up his father, a man of multiple enterprises had a restaurant he sometimes worked in.

My husband also says cooking is to him what sewing is to me, something creative that relaxes him.

So our agreement when we are on wheels is that I stay out of the kitchen and do all the dog walking, the laundry, and my many projects. I also do the phoning people up and talking part. I am better at that than he is.

Every once in a while though I feel guilty. Women of my generation have somewhere a little voice that says if you aren't working all the time around the place then you are pulling some kind of scam.

OK I am pulling a scam here, but the scamee seems happy with it.

Occasionally I wonder out loud about things we could do so he would have less cooking to do. My daughter-in-law has just bought an Instant Pot and I thought maybe those are a good idea. Of course I am the princess eater here not on the production end of this operation, but it's a nice thought right? Like those 50s husbands who used to give the wife a new vacuum for Valentine's day.

Any one out there have one and think they are really really good?

I mean Valentine's Day is coming up right?

In the meantime while I wait to hear from my consultants (that would be you folks) and am engaging in some Insta projects.

When you are living in an rv Insta projects make a lot of sense, particularly the ones you cut out at home (and remembered to pack all the pieces of) if you have promised to stay out of the kitchen, since that more or less leaves just the bed and the driver's seat.

I started with my all time favourite Insta project- this neglected and quite amazing Jalie shirt, described, accurately as V neck and high back:

Now this is the cover shot of the version with a zipper.

I made mine without the zipper and also without the bike helmet and the bike shorts. Seemed like a good idea.

What is amazing about this top (you can add sleeves if you want they are included) is that it essentially can function as a great tank or under cardigan type top and can be made in about 30 minutes.

The upper part of the top, the V neck, is made by laying two front pieces on top of each other (they are sort of rectangles no neckline shape at all) sewing a short 5" line of straight stitches up the middle at centre front, and the folding the pieces, wrong sides together, to each side.

That's it. 

A beautiful V neckline with zero sewing around it, no points of the V, no binding, just a nice folded edge that lies beautifully.

At this point I should stop and say I am fully aware that the above description makes no sense at all and only marginally describes the picture I have in my head, so your main take away here is - no sewing - super easy.

As far as V necks go this one's a scam.

After you have done what I have described, properly because the directions make sense in the pattern, all there is left to do is the back, lower front, side seams and turn and stitched hems around the armholes and along the bottom.

Here is my version - a black knit with a sort of a built-in texture wave I like, modelled in a non kitchen part of the rv, meaning next to the bed and in front of the bathroom door. I am posting two more or less identical pictures because I couldn't decide which one was worse:

Full RV view in my glasses for this interested.

After my busy day yesterday the serger seemed to be too heavy to lift off the floor and put on the table so I sewed this whole unit up with a straight stitch on the Rocketeer using that stretch Eloflex thread.

I know some folks have had issues with that thread but I learned a few tricks that kept it working just fine in my old 60 year old travelling machine:

1. Wind the bobbin slowly. If you whirl that bobbin around too fast the thread will stretch on the bobbin and retract in the stitches, puckering them.

2. Sew slowly and steadily. When I sped up the thread obviously got stretched thin and tight in the tension disks and then broke. When I kept up a conservative and constant pace this did not happen.

3. I bypassed the little thread guide just above the needle and this eliminated any possible fraying. Eloflex looks to me to be a 2 ply twist and is quite stiff. The stiffness means that it dropped down to the needle without having to be further held close, so dispensing with that last thread guide was fine. It also meant that this thread guide which is quite tight didn't get a chance to saw away at the thread.

I also have an idea, untested as this machine has few fancy stitches, that the simpler the stitch the better this thread will perform. A complicated stretch or multi action stitch would probably stretch and strain it a lot and that might contribute to the issues some sewists have reported. 

I wonder. 

Now off to dinner. I have some Indie pattern reviews coming your way and then I think I am going to do a series on hand sewing, like I did on hemming knits.

Does that sound like a good idea?


Moosiemoose said...

Your blog is really enjoyable and usually gives me a chuckle or three. In my humble opinion, the Instapot and a pressure cooker are basically the same thing. I would highly recommend either of them. The XL brand of pressure cooker is probably a bit less money. If you see a Kohls in your travels you can stop and look at them (or go online, of course!). Jean

Mary Deeter said...

Hi Barb...I love my instant pot! My husband is retired and does the bulk of the cooking since I work. He is currently building a new shop and last weekend said he was really struggling with the cooking with all the work on the shop and could I come up with a meal plan for the week. Instant Pot to the rescue! I pulled it out and another pressure cooker I have and made 6 meals in a couple hours. It saved me with a potluck at work today because I was able to whip up a batch of chili in no time at all...better than the bag of chips I would normally contribute to the effort. Gives me more time to sew!!!

BarbaraShowell said...

I love the shirt and appreciate your take on eloflex. I've got a couple spools and a rocketeer, so I'll see if I can duplicate your good results.
I am an instantpot cult member. The instantpot may be the only brand with a nice stainless steel inner pot. The XL brand has a teflon inner pot that I did not like and managed to burn/scrape off in less than a year. (I'm VERY hard on teflon). The inner pots are the same size and you can purchase them online so I guess you could have one of each.
There are several facebook groups with recipes and wisdom for the IP. Yuo can cook anything in these things, though maybe a few things are better in the oven or frying pan. Scrambled eggs, a nice steak, crisp fat things. Some things that you wonder why would you? turn out surprisingly good, like a cake steam cooked in the IP. Dense moistness. Takes some learning but well worth it.

Laura Albee said...

My husband does most of the cooking. He also likes kitchen gadgets, which drives me a little nuts because we don't have a lot of space and they are generally a pain in the patoot to clean. I was not happy when he brought the instant pot home but now I love it. We even got a second, larger, one and got rid of the old crockpots. I can cook stew and lentil soup so quickly! He likes it for cooking wild rice since we eat a lot of wild rice soup in this house. And it is pretty easy to clean.

Anonymous said...

I have always used a pressure cooker but haven't got it out of the cupboard since getting the Instant Pot (not "Instapot" btw). I think they are marvellous mainly because you don't have to babysit them, it's set and forget. There are endless recipes and ideas on the Internet and it means you can carry on sewing knowing there will be a good meal later. And I just dug out that same Jalie pattern which I like because it keeps the back on my neck warm.
Vivienne (another Edinburgh dressmaker!)

Ccmel said...

Just to be contrary I wonder if cooking is your husband's creative outlet the stirring, tasting, time is part of the process. I think pressure cookers or slow cookers are great when you are time poor though. Have you made a Presto popover top. The neck construction sounds similar. Bit of a head scratcher until you actually do it.

Marianne said...

If cooking is to your husband what sewing is to you I'm not sure he'll like using an Instant Pot. Almost like giving us RTW so we don't need to spend so many hours in the sewing room! The men I know that love to cook really enjoy cutting, stirring and improvising during the process and say cooking is a way to relax. Nice top!

Anonymous said...

What an attractive top! I hope the weather warms up enough to allow you to wear it outside - we are expecting another warm day here in Virginia - but not THAT warm, just "warm for January". No experience here with InstaPots or pressure cookers (my memory of those is of various blowing up episodes at my grandmother's - hopefully the technology has become more user friendly!). Looking forward to your hand sewing series, mine is not as expert as I would like.


Ms. Russell said...

I started with a stove top pressure cooker years ago before the electric ones were on the market. I fell in love with it! It's much quicker to cook a roast or whole chicken. Although, I have some delicious recipes for pork chops and chicken breasts. I have since updated to the electric pressure cookers and love them even more. The electric pressure cookers are nice because once I get all of the ingredients in the pot, I can put the lid on it, set it, and walk away. Definitely more convenient and doesn't need as much supervision as the stove top version, which frees up time for sewing! :)

theresa said...

Barb, you have now given me another reason to buy another pattern, That Jalie is right up my alley for bike tops as I need coverage in the back neck due to sun sensitivity. And it has sleeves too!

Your posts make me giggle. I'm the cook in this house but last night came home from an all-day seminar and told my guys they were cooking, I was not and they came through with a wonderful meal. The Instant Pot sounds intriguing. Time to investigate one.

Theresa in Tucson

beckster said...

Where oh where do all these men who like to cook live??? I have rarely seen one, and certainly not in my house, ever. I love that Jalie pattern! Your top looks great. I have an Instant Pot, but I haven't used it much yet. What I have done in it, I like. There is a learning curve, and your husband may enjoy getting up to speed on using one if he likes to implement a method for everything. I think your suggestions for the next post are great!

SKP said...

A handsewing series would be most welcome! Also, thanks for the pattern review, this looks like a good one.

Anonymous said...

Hi Barbara-I have an Instant Pot and use it a couple times each week. What I would like to suggest for an RV is a tiny pressure cooker like: Hawkins CB15 Hard Anodised Pressure Cooker, 1.5-Liter

My son uses his for camping. He cooks meat, rice, beans, etc in it. It takes up much less room than the Instant Pot and doesn't require electricity. He has used it on the grill. Finally, when he releases the steam, he points the steam at whatever he wants to steam clean.

I love my Instant Pot but it used much needed counter space and storage.I would rather have that room for fabric.

Lisa, San Francisco Bay Area

Marianne said...

I have an Instant Pot and I love it for the 3 or 4 things I use it for. I still use my regular pots for most of my cooking, but then, speed in cooking is not that important to me. The IP is just another cooking tool. For this reason, I would not buy one for someone else, though, just as I would not want someone to buy me sewing tools. I guess you know your husband best, does he like to buy his own stuff?

Yes, why do we feel like we are pulling a scam if we are not busy around the house? That is exactly how I feel today, a low energy day after a poor sleep. Would I really be a better person if I did some housecleaning? What foolish messages we give ourselves.

My DH works very hard on stuff at work and home, but unfortunately he doesn't cook. I think I could learn to live with your problem, haha!

ElleC said...

I bought myself an Instant Pot for Christmas. I love it. My husband is a vegetarian and cooking healthy veggie/vegan meals has never been easier or more satisfying. Legumes, presoaked or not, cook in no time, brown or wild rice, fast and easy. I think the best part about cooking with these (besides the speed) is once set, you can walk away, there is no need to stay in the kitchen. The machine is safe to leave alone, unlike the old fashioned stove top pressure cookers.

I bought the Instant Pot brand for several reasons, one being, most of the recipes online are specifically for the IP. Second, IP is a Canadian product, we gotta support our fellow Canucks. Third, 750,000+ members of the Instant Pot Facebook group can't be wrong.

Bernice Francisco said...

I've been eyeing the Instant Pot so it's interesting to see the comments. I haven't yet taken the plunge to buy one. I've been looking at many Instant Pot recipes and often see instructions at the end saying that the recipe can also be made in a slow cooker but to increase the cooking time from x to y. So I've been trying a lot of recipes in my slow cooker and that's mostly worked out pretty well. Of course, I have to plan a little more ahead of time than with the Instant Pot but I am fine with that. So...still debating whether I need another appliance with limited kitchen storage.

Your new top looks terrific. I always enjoy your blog - thanks!

badmomgoodmom said...

I have the instapot and highly recommend it. I use it to cook beans, rice, steam veggies and dumplings, dim sum, oatmeal, rice congee, quinoa. stews... It's a necessity at high altitude.

I made the Jalie top and it was so snug, I had to give it to my daughter. I notice that Jalie has a snug fit around the shoulders and I need to size up for my figure. Where does the bust seam hit you? It hits me right across my bust and I prefer the seam below it. Is the back horizontal seam necessary?

With the zipper, it would make a really nice bike jersey. Perhaps that is why it is so snug. For sportswear, cut a size larger and eliminate the back horiz. seam?

Anonymous said...

Hi Barbara
Long time reader first time commenting, I’ve been sewing for years but have learned plenty from your fabulous informative blog. Used your v neck tutorial yesterday and it came out perfectly ( even though I made life difficult for myself scraping a neckband out of scraps and only leaving myself a scant quarter inch seam ).
I’m commenting on this post because I am a bit obsessed with this pattern. I’ve made a few in helenka mesh. Self lining the other pieces to match the fronts, lengthened the top and cut a quarter circle skirt to skim over my excess padding. I feel like a million dollars in them.
Fave is a black one with subtle goldish brown large paisley.
I’ve made it in thick velvety brown fleece with a kangaroo pocket on the front. Large enough to go over a polo neck sweater, wore it all winter for shopping.
I’m trying to make in woven and want to make it as a jacket but the back neck is bagging.
I’m going to make another fleece one but carry the zip all the way down, I will work it out eventually.
Every fabric I see that I like I envisage it in this pattern... I need help lol.
I’ve just bought the Jalie turtle neck after reading your review,( I do make other things occasionally). I will treat myself to your book for my birthday.
Thank you so much for your blog and all the precious info you provide.
Very bust wishes
Janet (from northwest UK)