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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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Saturday, June 9, 2018

Genius ideas: Jalie's Elaine scrub top

There are a lot of nurses in my family - my mother, two of my sisters, my daughter, and now, in training, my nursing student niece.

The uniforms they have worn have changed over the generations- from my mother's white stockings and starched apron and hats, to my sisters' first white nursing dresses, and then to scrub tops and drawstring pants.

It is fair to say that none of our nurses have loved their uniforms (save maybe my mother who I am sure still misses her starched hat).

The reasons the nurses don't often like what they wear to work are these:

1. The almost one size fits all styling means that most scrubs off the rack don't fit anyone (as is the case with garments that are sold to fit everyone) very well. 

Ask yourself. 

When did you notice the nurse or dental hygienist in your life and thought "gee that outfit is a flattering fit"? If you have never made this assessment you can be pretty sure that the female in the scrub feels the same way.

2. The fabric and patterns are often nothing to write home about. Women who are fashion aware after hours would kind of like some quality in the garments they wear most often. I know one of my daughter's joys when she moved into a more administrative role was she didn't have to wear scrub tops any more.

All of which is a lead up to the release of Jalie's Spring release of a scrub top pattern. Here is the line drawing of the Elaine:

Now there are a couple of features that make this a particularly interesting pattern to me and to my nurses:

1. The seaming, specifically the princess seams in the front and back, make fitting, particularly for a larger bust, waist, or hip, very easy. I didn't do that in my version for my niece, but  I did add 2" in length which was much appreciated. We are all so tall.

2. The elastic in the middle of the back adds some flattering shape to what is often a fairly shapeless garment.

3. The V neck is modest but easy to wear and comfortable.

4. There are four front pockets - I hope you can see that there are smaller pockets inside the larger front pockets - a neat little detail that gives more places for more stuff but does not detract from the overall neat professional look of the top.

And of course making your own scrub top means you can choose your own fabric. 

When I asked my niece what she fabric she wanted she said  bright. Right now she is working with dementia patients and bright and cheerful colours are what her patients like best.

I had a lot of fun choosing fabrics. I settled on a combination of seersucker and a loutish print that seemed to say scrub top to this non nurse who has no idea what she is talking about.

Once again photographed by my niece's intrepid boyfriend here are some shots of her scrub top after work, modelled with the leggings I made her I notice, with emphasis on the details she particularly liked:

Hand in the inside the inside pocket shot

A shot hopefully showing how the two pockets are layered together. I also think this shows the vent at the side and the shaping achieved by the simple elastic insert in the back

Such a nice neckline

Isn't this a pretty back?

Finally my niece is very trim but I love this shot because it really shows how not boxy and frumpy the cut of this top is. Huge improvement on RTW scrubs
 My niece is pleased with this top and I was so happy to make it for her. 

Also I am secretly thrilled that I now have a great pattern in the reservoir that I can use  to make her scrub tops for her birthday and Christmas. I am also thinking that she would get a kick out of seasonal prints and this will give me an excuse to indulge my own taste in loud and crazy prints. 

Sarah has an infinite need for tops like these for work. Now I have a great pattern that fits, I think this is could to be the start of quite an interesting sewing partnership ...

Friday, June 8, 2018

Genius ideas: Jalie's Diane swimsuit (swimwear sewing part two)

In three weeks or so I start my summer.

Let me tell you what my summers are like.

For about half the week I do my job type and regular stuff and for the other half of the week I spend my days with my daughter's three kids at this place, the same swimming/sailing/tennis/rec club where I spent the summers  with my own three children when they were younger.

One of the amazing things about Nova Scotia is that it is a modest place to live with some real lifestyle benefits, particularly for families. A club like this costs about the same as a family membership at the Y but for a family of water people like us it has been fantastic resource. My daughter was a life guard, one son was a sailing instructor, and the youngest learned to swim here and went on to be well-known in the local surfing community.

My point is that in the summer we all spend most of our time wet.

My own summers right now on the days I have the kids are spent up to my waist in water with at least one of them hanging on my body and someone else yelling at me to watch them go down the slide. 

There are always at least two swimsuits on the line in the back yard and at least two damp towels going mouldy in the trunk of the car. I start every day at the lost and found trying to locate whatever we failed to bring back to my daughter in the backpacks, and am living monument to the fact that yes any adult can be worn down for money for ice cream if she is tired enough. Which you know sometimes I am.

The wardrobes for my summer are very specific.

I need swim suits that can be pulled on and hauled on without risk of exposure. I need swim suits that a person can actually swim in because some of us are not old enough to go into the big pool without a grown-up. There are no Mi-tais poolside in my life and no laying on lounge chairs. There are always hats and swim shirts because how can you tell someone to put on their sunscreen, sun hat and swim shirt if you don't yourself?
So all of this means I have been long time alert for a sensible suit for real water people and when I saw the Diane pattern I knew this was exactly that pattern:

This is a real bathing suit. The front is high enough and the strap across the back means you can do a breast stroke in it (the grandmother's stroke of choice, something about keeping your sunglasses on and also you can keep your eagle eyes on the charges). The leg is high enough to be reasonable but definitely tugless.

A secure little suit, if you know what I mean.

There was a bit of glam optional in a mesh tie and although I was pretty sure you need a waist to articulate it I went ahead and made this version for my first time out.

I figure why not?

I figure why not a lot.

I actually quite like the tie and have persuaded myself it provides a hint of waist because really, a hint is all you are going to get around here.

I'm stalling.

Here is my most definitely grandmotherly body in my Diane. As to how it feels let's just say I already have two more cut out, plus some for the girls:

Of course I made a rash guard to go with this, using the mesh laid over some power net for the side panels with Jalie 3668, I am going to have to shorten it to above the tie but that will be easy to do:

Now if the ice melts on the pools we will be in business ...

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Genius ideas: Jalie's Melanie kimono (part one of swimwear sewing)

There are a two patterns to talk about this morning but because these two are best described in pictures, rather than words, I have decided to do this as two posts. If you try to put too many pictures up in one post Blogger will implode on me and who needs that?

The first pattern is the Melanie kimono.

Here's the line art:

Now I have made a number of kimonos in my time, and have even taught classes on making them Japanese style, but I have to say I like this pattern better than those I do working with rectangles.

The reason is that in this pattern the basic classic shape is intact but the shaping (see the slope of the sleeves above as opposed to the traditional boxy versions) and proportions, particularly of the band, just make for a better fitting garment.

I am completely in love with this pattern.

I had originally made it as a swim suit cover-up ( see following post) and took it to Portland to Quilt Mart as a sample.

Managing as I always do to pack both an overweight bag and a bad with nothing to wear in it all in the same piece of luggage, I  ended up throwing this cover-up kimono on over a black Lisette skirt and a black sleeveless top (Jalie 2682 my old favourite) for one day of the show, and felt completely chic in it - a feeling I don't often feel.

Now there aren't many garments you can wear both over a wet bathing suit and striding around at work and feel completely appropriate in both venues. 

When you find something like this it is worth paying attention.

So before I show you some pictures I have to put what you see in context.

I had intended to shoot these bathing suit and cover-up pictures outside beside some pool. However there has been an inexplicable cold snap in Nova Scotia, as in the ruining the grape vines and strawberry crop variety, and it is just too cold to do that. In fact two days ago I actually saw some poor woman in a down coat and mitts walking her dog,

Mitts in June.

This is nuts in a place where eight weeks from now folks will be saying things like "I can smell Fall in the air" as if that is a cheery as opposed to tragic thing (see previous posts over the winter on living in an RV down south as a further reflection).

So to get in the summer mood that wasn't I put on sun glasses and a sun hat and stood in the hall way in my house with the dog and tried to look tropical.

I interpreted this a meaning I should put on bright lipstick.

Of course what I really look like is a grandmother in a kimono in a hallway who should really be doing her dishes.

Oh well.

I trust your imagination.

If you weren't the kind of people who can see the picture in their mind's eye better than the reality you wouldn't be sewers would you?

Now here's to the shots:

You don't need me to tell you this but this is the back

This is not the back, you know that too, but it indicates the role this kimono plays as a cover-up

You can figure out that there are pockets too

All these pictures look the same but I had trouble deciding which one to use and of course I like this garment so much I liked looking at it a lot so that meant a series of near identical shot.

Next: what's underneath the kimono. Brace yourself. I had to. 

Genius ideas: Jalie Clara's leggings and my lovely niece

Before we get started on the wonderful Clara leggings I have a back story here.

Just before I got this pattern printed off (and for the reader who wanted to know how to get the patterns quickly in Oz, I suggest you order the .pdf and have the A0 copy shop version printed. Near instant access and no taping of single sheets) I had just finished making three pairs of a very well-reviewed other company legging pattern.

As it was this first other company pattern was not a bad but it was pretty standard, two tubes with inseams and outer seams, joined at the crotch with a little diamond shaped gusset and a fold over yoga band. As a simple garment they worked fine but when I opened up the Clara pattern I was sorry I had already cut into so much of my legging fabric. The Claras were just so much more sophisticated and so much better designed for a good fit.

We will start with the line drawing and then talk about what makes this pattern different:

Notice anything?

No center crotch seams, right?

I have to tell you this is one nifty bit of drafting. The legging front is cut on the fold with a tiny little seam cut away just under the crotch where a triangular gusset is attached that is later captured in the inseam. Pretty artful and definitely more body friendly, and flattering, and as result both looks and feels smoother, that the pattern I had used previously.

Extremely interesting to make a pattern that just wraps around the body like this with such minimal seaming.

The other thing to notice is the nice, waist-high shaped yoke/waistband on the full legging and capri length. I was surprised how deep this piece is but it does provide some interesting fitting possibilities for those of us with a bit of a belly or wider waist. You could definitely fade in a larger yoke size to give you room where you need it above a slimmer hip/leg measurement, or vice versa I guess if you are more a pear shape. 

I am thinking too that I need to hack these into a maternity pair too by widening the waistband and adding length at the front - stayed tuned for that little experiment - because the placement of the yoke seam would be a perfect starting place for this adjustment.

In the meantime I made this pair for my niece. 

They were a hit.

I pretty much showed to finished leggings to her and they went immediately out the door for a run. When she came back in my niece told me that they were the nicest and most comfortable leggings she had ever worn- so off they went, pre photo shoot, for the weekend.

However I was able to text her and ask for some pictures sent back to me for this blog post.  Her boyfriend and a smart phone obliged from Cape Breton, so here the leggings are in full weekend mode:

No side seams, no crotch seams. Jalie has other pieced leggings, like the Cora, but for everyday wear and fast sewing, these simple leggings are so wearable, in this case like pants, which is how girls like my niece would wear them on casual days.

I can't believe how much my niece looks like her mother, my next youngest sister, particularly from the back like this, and below.

Once again another demonstration that if you are related to me it is only a matter of time before your privates in underwear, or your backside, are made public on the internet. Note too how the absence of side seams make these just so sleek.

I know these are navy but try and have a good look at how smooth the front on these leggings are and how full the waistband/yoke is. Such a clever draft.

Now the next ones will be for me.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Genius ideas: Jalie's Frederic hoodie and my husband with his clothes on

I have made my husband a few hooded or polar fleece jackets in the past, I will mention no pattern names, and I haven't been too happy with them.

To be perfectly honest those attempts looked home-made. No other way to put it. Despite the fact they were actually made at home, this is never the look I am going for. The shapes of those jackets were boxy and the details minimal, they just didn't have style, which when you are making a hoodie is already a major challenge going in.

When something you have made is put on only when the oil has to be changed in the car... well you know what I mean.

So when I saw a preview of the new 2018 spring Jalie line-up I was pretty interested to see a new men and boys pattern for a hooded jacket.

When I got a look at the construction tricks and nifty details (see first post in this series) in this pattern, well folks I knew we had a winner.

So let's start again with looking at the line art:

Now these pictures, although very nice, don't really make evident the really cool features of this pattern. So I am going to share that with you now:

1. The hood is lined with a lighter weight knit. In addition to providing some opportunity for playing around with other fabrics, this means that when the hood is not on the wearer's head it still looks nice and classy open around the neck.

2. Additionally the seam that connects the hood to the body of the jacket is covered with a knit binding. Again this is a finishing touch that shows and is another chance to play around with fabric.

Here's a shot of the inside of the hood:

3. Speaking of which there are a lot of seams for different fabric/colour blocking, on either sides of the pockets, top and bottom of the jacket pieces, and of course the hood lining and binding. I actually used four different kinds of grey and black knit I had lying around in my version.

4. Last but best, the pockets. These are slant pockets (so neat inside and outside and so comfortable for the hands) with a concealed zipper opening. Now I know you are going to think pocket like this sound like a lot of trouble but these pockets are a snap to make - due to some particularly genius Jalie drafting that I can't even begin to describe in my own words. If I would try I would say you sew on on side of the zipper to a front, fold it over so it makes a sort of welt imitation thing and top stitch the remaining zipper tape down. And then you stand back and think to yourself I can't believe how easy that was and how totally slick it looks. Every jacket pattern should have this pocket. I have never seen anything like it before.

Here are shots of the pockets from the outside and showing the concealed zipper:

5. The fit is completely ready-to-wear if RTW in fact fitted better. This is no no-style, sloppy hoodie.

I used sweatshirt fleece in grey and black and assorted remnants of grey to make this. I am pretty pleased with myself for how it turned out.

Now the pictures.

Recently traumatized by wearing turquoise underwear for a photo shoot my husband decided to take his own pictures for this review.

Knowing him well (I do make his underwear after all) I knew right away that this was his maneuver to turn the photo shoot into his favourite thing which is to fool around with a gadget, in this case a remote control shutter he could hold himself.

Since his most recent gadget enthusiasm resulted in the drone being crashed lens side down on a large rock I decided that having him selfie the shots was a good idea. I was also aware after the underwear shoot I sort of owed him a bit more control of our process.

So here is the first shot, showing the jacket pretty well I think:

We thought this picture turned out quite well and gives you some sense of the pockets.

Next my husband thought you would really want to see him standing beside his motorcycle (out of the garage for its first of many seasonal trips down to the grocery store, which is where they most of the time go).

Unfortunately my husband got a lot of the motor cycle in this shot but missed out on his head. Such is the life of remote control technology.

Just ask the drone.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Genius ideas: Jalie's Gerald underwear for the male species and a couple of local geniuses

What goes around comes around and lately I am returning to more sewing for family.

I made all my children's clothes when they were little, but as they got to be teenagers, and I got more involved in my work, I sewed less for them and more just for myself.

This is changing. I am using my sewing again to communicate my family connections.

And in this family there are more than a few males.

Sewing for men is always interesting. 

Despite the fact that boys and men will wear a favourite garment past the stage of utility they can still be pretty fussy about what you sew for them. And also, until recently, there just haven't been many decent men's patterns around. Anyone who has made a Big 4 elephant sized pair of shorts or pyjama pants for a husband or son knows exactly what I mean.

So even knowing this a few years ago when weeding out some of my husband's most loved underpants from the laundry basket (as in weeding them right into the garbage)  I invested in a few underwear patterns. I think I had the very ambitious idea that I would sort of do a DIY upgrade of his underwear drawer, and that my spouse would be both impressed and very grateful.

Of course he didn't have a chance to be either. Once I looked through the instructions and realized how much binding, elastic, and little tiny pieces were involved, I ditched the idea. I think I went on to make myself a winter coat or something else less demanding.

So with all that in my history, Jalie's new release men and boys underwear pattern, short, longer and long johns really intrigued me.

What attracted me to this pattern was:

1. The waist was finished with encased elastic, no extra trip to the fabric store, and the hems were just hemmed.

2. The pieces were simple but very crafty, I knew all this pattern drafting thinking would give me a good fit.

3. The size range, as is typical for Jalie, went from very little and young to very large - I love the economy of this.

So let's start with the line drawing:

I decided to make my pairs without the trap door at the front, as both my subjects (age 3 and 65 ) confessed to never using those. Poppa Leo opted for the longer mid thigh length and Billy went for the shorter version.

Here are some detail shots giving you a sense of just how easy these were to make:

Back view, note there are no back or side seams which really makes them super comfortable according to the clients.

The front views and I could not resist super imposing the two pairs because I just thought this was so cute. Both are made of 100% cotton jersey. Note the interesting inseam gusset.

And finally the shot you have all been waiting for, the actual underwear on the actual guys who will wear them.

I have to tell you that during this photo shoot my son-in-law (Billy's dad) announced this was probably the strangest thing of many strange things that had happened at his house.

My husband, who generally is a pretty good sport, particularly when he senses that being a good sport is the quickest way to get me to stop talking about something, wondered if we couldn't do this picture taking in private. However when I pointed out I was going to post these pictures on the internet, and modesty was a dead cause anyway, he just gave up.

This is a really great pattern but sewers have to see it on to assess fit and make their own judgements.

I personally think they both look pretty cute:

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Monday, June 4, 2018

Genius ideas: Jalie's new Lisette skirt and Mimosa Tee shirt

Yes I have been sewing my brains out and have a lot to show you this week. 

Today I would like to talk about the Lisette skirt and Mimosa T-shirts from Jalie. 

Let's discuss.

First the Lisette skirt:

This is a pattern for a variety of pull-on knit skirts. The versions with the angled seams are interesting and would probably be quite flattering particularly on boxy bottoms like mine as they would provide some illusion of hourglassness that is not really there. However for my first time out I decided to make the plainer version with the interesting waistline/yoke because it was the higher waisted option.I was interested in the dropped waistline at the front.

I thought this detail would be particularly comfortable (less cutting in when you sit down) and I was right.

I need to mention, and you need to know, that this is a negative ease skirt, fine in a knit, I used a nice ponte, and it will fit right close on your body. This is fine for many of us, but if the idea of something that fitted scares you off you might want to measure the pattern and go up a few sizes for a profile you might be more comfortable in.

I have to say that I do this a lot with my Jalie patterns - I trace off sometimes 2-3 sizes and use them for different fabrics or looks accordingly. 

For instance I use a size smaller than I measure in the Jalie pull-on pants when I want to use a knit, my exact size for a stretch woven, and a size larger for real woven like a linen. Having such a fine graduation in sizes in among the 26 allows me to do this.

For this version of the Lisette I actually made it to size, that meant negative ease and I feel somewhat like I am wearing Spanx in it (I am a woman of a certain age  with a body that got me this far) which is why I made the Mimosa T-shirt to go with the skirt since the Mimosa ends well after the stomach evidence.

The waistband on the Lisette is very much like a yoga waistband, a wide shaped knit band with narrow elastic encased along the top - comfort without much slippage.

Here is a shot of the front of the waistline with the interesting slope:

I was so taken with this waistband that I detoured in my pattern testing and made a maternity version for my daughter-in-law. She wanted a longer skirt so I actually added a centre back seam and a walking slit and for her I added the elastic insert in the back but left it out of the front to make it less constricting on her belly.

She tells me it is very comfortable and just got back from wearing it around a trip to Sweden:

 See how versatile this pattern is?

Now back to the original, my own, teamed up with the Mimosa.

 I see a few horizontal lines in these shots, this skirt actually came right out of my own suitcase. Although my own trip was to Winnipeg not Sweden ...

Now on to the Mimosa Tee, here are the line drawings:

These tees are a real departure from Jalie's line of fairly fitted T- shirts and sort of something I had been looking for to fill a gap in my own closet. I like to float over my belly but am getting tired of all the triangle shaped top patterns I have and this seems to be a bit of a solution. There are several interesting variations (I am happy to see a looser body but with not sloppy sleeves) but of course I made the one with the ties on the sleeves because how could I not?

The particular fabric I was working with was a very buttery rayon knit with terrific drape ( I think the softness of the fabric shows in the bottom of the neckline and if I was thinking I might have added some fusible knit interfacing to the band to counteract this, but I am not at all bothered I didn't do this actually) and I made it in my bust size, a 38, but will probably trace another one with in my high bust size, 35, for some slightly heavier but still drapey knit I have next time. It will be interesting to see how that works, slightly closer to the body particularly around my shoulders.

More and more I am using these Jalie patterns to customize my own looks. I can see this one extended into a dress and even into a night gown. I have some linen knit that I think I will make the long sleeved version in as sort of a pullover (might go up a size so I can wear it over a shirt) and I am definitely going to finally make myself a decent white T shirt with this pattern to wear with jeans.

You never know.