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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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Thursday, April 26, 2018

How hard can it be?

The title of this post is the motto of my life.

For those of you who are wondering what my life motto is.

Well there you have it.

I am the sort of person who expects things to turn out, it's just my nature. When things don't I immediately figure it's only a matter of time.

This approach isn't probably as wonderful as it sounds. There are some pitfalls. For instance I have an appalling sense of direction and should be more organized in figuring out how to get places. Instead I mostly head out and assume I will find my destination eventually. Sometimes it takes hours. I probably married someone who was clearly unsuitable first time out with too for example. Oh well on that one.

Mostly I always expect that somehow I will figure things out. When faced with a new project or an opportunity, back to the motto, my first thought is - well how hard can it be?

I inherit this trait from my father.

My dad was a dedicated DYI-er. I remember once as a teenager watching him get ready to go off and teach cross-country skiing lessons. He had cut off a pair of navy serge dress pants and gathered them at the knees himself to sort of look like knickerbockers and was headed out the door.

"Dad do you know how to cross-country ski?" I asked him.

"Well I got a book from the library," he said.

"How hard can it be?"

This same attitude occasionally sends me off into uncharted sewing territory.

For instance I have recently decided to make bags.

My reason for doing this is that I haven't done this before.

I joined some FB groups of bag makers where I quickly discovered that making bags is a lot of hard work and requires some elaborate gear, tons of pattern pieces, and even more patience and perseverance.

I streamlined my expectations right away.

The keys I discovered are two things:

1. Getting in structure. Best are fusible fleece or foam interfacing (apparently this is also called headliner foam and you can get it at an auto body shop except I don't go to auto body shops so I got mine at Joann's in the US and I believe it is easy to get online.) With the foam I just zig zagged it on to the main fabric. This stuff saves the project from looking exactly like a home-made tote bag.

2. Hardware. The metal parts really are an easy way to make a simple sewing job look more professional. I got mine from the fabulous Emmaline Bags, which BTW also has great tutorials as well as the free Miss Maggie pattern I used for the bags below. Using some hardware, like rivets, is also an excellent way of getting around the bulk issue with things like sewing on straps. Purse feet are another nice touch and I think add to the durability of the bags.

The other big thing I discovered was cork fabric. This is really just cork laminated onto a poly backing (no it doesn't swell up in the rain) and sews like a double knit. I did find that a teflon foot was important to keep the cork moving smoothly under the needle but that was the only technical adjustment I made.

The natural bag pictured here was made with some packaged cork I got in a machine dealer's store in Texas but the black cork from MM Cork is a much more superior quality. MM also sells remade straps too which might be handy, although I sewed my own.







The concealed zipper application in both bags is from an Emmaline add-on tutorial.



I also made my husband a new wallet from some scraps using this pattern from Mrs. H.




So really in the universe of bag making both of these bags are very, very simple but I have developed a work around by deciding that simple is more classic and looks more expensive.

Justifying laziness is near the top of my list of challenges I line up under how hard can it be.

Actually in the case of bag making, really not all that hard.


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Sewing underwear on a picnic table: Bunzies review

Part of the resumption of my normal life are a few posts of catch up on some of the sewing I did on the road.

I used the opportunity of limited resources (my husband would dispute that the range of sewing supplies I took with me was limited) to do some experimenting while I travelled.

One of those projects was making myself underwear out of some knit scraps. Note the thread doesn't match but the line was drawn at packing 48 cones of serger thread ...

So here they are, my first pair of Bunzies:




This pattern is from Stitch Upon a Time, the same outfit that produced the popular and better known Scrundlewear pattern. I had originally intended to make the Scrundlewear but was advised by the pattern designer that the full back version of the Bunzies had the most coverage, so I made these instead.

The Bunzies pattern is distinguished by various booty coverage options - you have the option to expose various quantities of your backside, something that I have personally been trying to coverup my whole life, as reflected in a lifetime of discernible panty lines and the bottoms of swimsuits that ride up. But this pattern has views that allow you to cover up completely, which I did, or expose various degrees of cheek which I am sure makes someone happy somewhere.

Seeing younger women in really, really short shorts I can see how higher cut underwear, as an alternative to thong underwear (anyone who says those are comfortable IMO is doing some major tuning out of messages from body to brain) might be useful.

Back to the it's not me part.

The base fabric is a beautiful rayon knit and the bands are cotton lycra.

For some time now I have been seeing underwear with knit bands as opposed to elastic edgings sewn up. I have been intrigued by the possibility that using knit edgings would be a good and efficient alternative to having to coordinate hard to find elastic colours. Plus I figured it might be more comfortable and of course cheaper if, like me, you have enough knit scraps to load up the cargo hold of a 747.

I hate the feeling of too tight leg openings, or too stiff leg openings in my underwear and I am sure I am not the only one who feels this.

The pattern was very straightforward and I made these up without any changes. I did note as I often do that the instructions called for some construction details that are not always needed in knits - pressing and finishing the raw edge of the crotch for example. Like the Jalie panties these do not have an enclosed crotch piece in all seams - only one seam is enclosed and the other edge left raw.

In terms of drafting the only thing I noticed was that the crotch piece itself was a bit narrow. I figured out this is because the leg bands are fairly wide and those sort of supplement the crotch by the time they get under there.

Now to the really important question.

How do these feel?

First, a little different. The first time I wore these I felt they were a bit bulky under the crotch, because of the bands etc. but I quickly got used to it. The waist and leg openings are super comfortable and stay put without cutting in any where, which meets my over riding criterion.

They are definitely a pair I reach for in preference in the morning too, which says something. 

I might make the leg bands a bit narrower next time, and I might try this treatment on my standard Jalie underwear pattern too.

Or I may not.

This is definitely a completely easy, lazy person's way to whip up some underwear that will actually get worn so I can see next time I am delusionally convinced I am efficient and decide to cut up some of those scraps, this is the pattern I will reach for.

I actually think making underwear makes sense. The stuff you buy is either a) cheap but wears out/sags real fast or b) crazy expensive given what it is and where it will be worn. 

On other news, because I think sometimes my sewing life needs context, Daisy is back on 6 weeks bed/crate rest for her disk issue in her back. 

She is a hoppy, bouncy, happy walker and ran rings around the back yard when we got back. However I am feeling sorry for not catching her when she jumped on and off the curb when we went for a walk or for, this is horrifying, the time a few days ago when she jumped off a chair she was cuddling in because there was a loud noise in the kitchen.

We never let her go up and down stairs or jump on and off anything so I am feeling very guilty for not catching her in time. The truth is Daisy is going to have this issue on and off for life and we have to be so careful with her. This might be a result of bad treatment in her past (she has some slight issues in one eye probably as the result of trauma) or it might be genetic in a dog with a long back and short legs. At any rate if it gets really bad she might end up with surgery if these bouts of bed rest don't work. It is too early for that option (which costs about the same as a small car, second hand that needs new tires) the vet said, and there are risks too with surgery, so we have to do this first.

So Daisy is set up in a child's Pack and Play until June and the dog stroller is how we are breaking up her boredom.

Even other news is the mouse folks were back and have fixed up some holes that a former and apparently no good employee left when they supposedly mouse proofed the house last time.  As opposed to poisoning for the current residents we have opted for one way mouse doors that let them out and not back in. Apparently it will take about 3 months to move them all out this way, but it is safer.

In the meantime the mice are sort of still running around (thanks for the heads up on the dog food- I hid it in the dishwasher last night - remind me to take it out before I turn it on this morning). 

Last night in fact one ran over my husband's foot in the middle of the night in the bathroom. He eventually killed it with the toilet plunger but after all of this I had trouble getting back to sleep.

I kept thinking of the mouse family that is certainly one of many in my walls.

"Where's Ed? He should be back by now. He said he was only going to nip out for a quick run around the bathroom and he's still not back."

"I told him he should just use the mouse door to the outside. But you know Ed. Can't tell that mouse anything."

Yes I actually thought this lying in my bed in the middle of the night.

Apparently the mice have made me lose my mind.

But at least the underwear fits.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

And here I am: flypaper thoughts


  • Home a week now 
  • Three months away require some catching up
  • Time to reconcile the fact your body is in the cold and grey and your head is still in the desert
  • Takes time to unload an rv
  • And remember where you are
  • Daisy has her spring back in her step
  • Been over to see Moose
  • Her Bernese Mountain dog boyfriend
  • He has been waiting in his front yard for her
  • She ran around him in circles and then pranced home
  • Leaving him whimpering
  • He might want to rethink
  • Have taught the kids to play monopoly and noted that they are all taller
  • They are all coming over for a sleep-over next weekend
  • Up for discussion who will sleep where
  • Trying to get dibs on sleeping with Babsie
  • Alternate arrangements are being made
  • Wondering how old a child needs to be before it's safe to let them make the coffee
  • Talked to my niece who is now living with my son-in-law's lovely nephew
  • Yes you read that right
  • About reclaiming my entire lower level of my house as one giant sewing room
  • The space she has been living in before she found true love
  • Moved her remaining stuff into the bedroom to do it
  • Pictures of one corner at the bottom of the post
  • Now tell me
  • Why was most of my inner life only in one room?
  • Time to move it all over
  • All over
  • Think I will have some of the kids friends' over for impromptu sewing lessons this summer
  • Good friend of mine set up her large house with one project in each room after she became a widow
  • Walked around depending on her mood and did a little work here and there
  • Most interesting house to visit ever
  • Been working on several things
  • DIL is pregnant and doing an early maternity pencil skirt with knit band
  • And a nice dress for myself I will show soon
  • BTW
  • The mice moved back in when I was gone
  • Damn idiots
  • Ate my dad's baby quilt that I had in a drawer
  • This means war
  • Refilled that drawer with zippers
  • Take that
  • And the drawer below with buttons
  • Try nesting in that
  • Keep it up and I am going to pull out the interfacing
  • The mouse catching preventing service I pay for let me down
  • Hell has no fury
  • Like a woman who has had to clean up 90 year old batting
  • Meet me at my house for the big Confront tomorrow a.m.
  • Bring your seam ripper
  • Found the minutes of my grandmother's sewing group
  • They met for 60 years and kept minutes
  • Might share some with you
  • They are hilarious
  • Warning to send out
  • Going to sew my brains out all week
  • Need to get myself resituated
  • Only way to do it
  • Now I am going downstairs
  • To this
  • Note took these shots last night
  • Big windows on the other side don't show
  • Thought you should know that
  • Take what you see here and times it by three
  • Not your designer sewing space
  • But mine