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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 18, 2019

Batch cutting

I woke up this week on Monday and decided it was time I took some time to sew for myself.

Things have gotten a bit thin in the practical clothing department - a combination of a lot of quality time spent sewing for family and a combination of the influence of that stupid Kondo book (my apologies to anyone who thinks it is not stupid - just reflecting on my own situation) which has meant that every time I remember some odd garment that would be perfect for an odd occasion, I realize I have decluttered it out of life.

A person who saves things just in case is really swimming upstream these days. With both my daughter and one of my sisters all into minimalism and decluttering I have been talked into saying real dumb things to myself like "have a worn this in the last year?" before throwing them out.

Any realistic person, particularly one who sews, will tell you that not having worn something for a year is a completely meaningless criterion.

Reasons that a person might not have worn something for 12 months might include:
  • no one has died recently and that is a perfect funeral outfit
  • no one has gotten married recently and that is a perfect vaguely related to somebody on some side wedding guest outfit
  • forgetting you owned this item of clothing
    • because your closet is so full of other more recent sewing projects it was jammed in a closet corner
    • because your mind is elsewhere like on what you want to sew next so deeply that has pushed the what you have sewn already stuff out of your brain and through your ears into space or something like that
    • because you just forgot - which in itself means nothing and is a sign of nothing OK?
  • that this garment was so a) tedious b) slow c) tricky to sew that by the time it was finished you were so sick of the sight of it that you ignored it for a good long while
  • it needs some sort of alteration. No need to explain further, we all know how we all feel about alterations
  • you decided to change your look or style or whatever and went through a period where you decided you were anti-blouse and a knit person until the random moment when you remembered that knits cling and you really suit blouses
Well none of the above are good reasons to kiss any garment goodbye and send it on it's way thanking it for its service.

Although right now if I could get some things back from Value Village like that blue blouse that had a FBA and really fit or that Persian Lamb coat I might kiss them then.

All of this is to explain why I woke up this Monday morning and said "my turn."

So for most of this week when I wasn't working or being semi responsible or dog walking I cut out a bunch of projects, all things I need for the immediate future which next month is going to include state parking it to Texas and back.

Little explanation on the state parks and my husband.

Although the rv is pretty comfortable my spouse is an out in the woods versus a rv park with golf carts kind of guy. 

I like this myself, apart from the coyote sauntering past me sewing at the picnic table part, but it has very specific wardrobe requirements. Like warm clothes for when the propane runs out, or sort of publicly decent housecoats for going to the bath house for a shower because the hot water has run out because, well see above.

So I kind of let everything slide this week except cutting out. This is what I have on the table now:

4 pairs of knit jogger/sweatpants
2 pairs of linen wide legged pull-on pants
1 housecoat (that's what you call them in Canada. A lounger? bathrobe?) with a zipper to go in it
9 tee shirts
1 sort of sweater coat thing in really cool speckled jogging fleece
3 pullover Lovenotions Constellation tops
8 pairs of underwear because I had a lot of scraps and well that propane thing
I pair of knit pyjamas in a style that a six year old would wear in a snowflake print I was hoping to use up at Christmas

Of course I have a list too of things to make for other people, including an apron for a florist one of my other sisters works with, but my plan is to try to get as much of this done as I can over the next few weeks, and pack the rest up for finishing on the road, we leave on February 15th.

When all of this utility sewing is done I will turn my attention to a hopefully more interesting spring wardrobe. Right now though I am sort of looking forward to just getting some new things to wear for real life.

And I will post pictures.

In the meantime I will post a picture of what is in front of me now, my daughter's dog Reggie. I am sort of the designated dog sitter around here, Reggie and even my newly single long ago first husband's dog, because I like the dog.

Reggie is the biggest character though.

If you make eye contact he comes and sits on you, all 80 pounds and more or less you need a crane or another person to get him off, because he sure likes laps.

He also eats whatever isn't nailed down. This starts conversations around here like 

"Belt. Do you think I can leave my clothes for work laid out, even the belt. No you are right maybe not the belt. Better put it up somewhere high." 

Last time we had him he ate three pounds of butter and one pie, although he is a very neat eater. 

So far his personal best is an entire pineapple including the green leaves at the top. 

Not any dog can do that.

Well here is Reggie.

Probably resting up or at least digesting something.

He has to pace himself. I guess we all do.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Messages we send children

Before I get to what's on my mind tonight I should apologize for being a rotten sewing blogger. 

In the last four days I have made two garments for my daughter-in-law and another jacket for my husband. But before those could be photographed, which is what a good blogger would do, the jacket went off to work on my spouse and the things for my DIL got packed to be delivered by my daughter who is flying out tomorrow to meet the new baby.

Oh well.

For the next little while I am going to be making some crazy things for myself and you know I do stand still enough for pictures.

Now back to the subject at hand.

For various reasons this week I have been thinking of the things we say to children and how those things, if we intend to or not, get carried away with them as part of who they are, for life.

That's a pretty significant responsibility and it is something all of us need to be mindful of.

Right now I am considering all the times we affect young children not by what we tell them they can do or who they are, but of all the times we limit them by carving off some experiences as not for them.

I am thinking for example of toys, among other things.

I have three grandchildren here, the two girls and a boy. 

Over the holidays a woman my daughter works with sent over bags and bags of American Girl doll clothes her own kids didn't need any more.

It was quite a haul, a huge number of outfits and even an American Girl bicycle. Imagine how cool that is.

Well the girls have been happily playing with all this stuff for a while now and little Billy, their brother, has just been relegated to watch and plead for a chance to put on some tiny jacket, some pair of tiny shoes.

Last time I was over this week doing after school duty he told me that more than anything in the world he wanted and "American Girl Boy doll."

Of course he did.

So on the way home I swung by Walmart because it was on the way and checked out the toy department. Myself and another grandmother, who was there looking for a baby doll for her African Nova Scotian granddaughter, went through the shelves. I was pretty pleased to find that there was quite a variety, Asian dolls (now that's about time), dolls in wheelchairs and dolls with arm braces. Dolls that looked like the people who would play with them.

And me, I found an 18 inch boy doll for Billy.

Well this is what he thought of that:

Of course if I had been thinking ahead I would have realized what would come next - a request for clothes. Pyjamas, a bathing suit, and of course, because this is Canada - a hockey uniform.

This last one made me smile.

Billy's dad, my wonderful son-in-law, tells a story of when he was a kid and quit hockey. He just decided he would rather stay at home on Saturdays and watch the cartoons than go to practice, like his brothers.

Well the first Saturday morning he did this his dad threw a Sears catalogue down the stairs to the basement. "Here, if you are going to stay home, pick out a dress," his dad said.

The irony of course is that one of his brothers, down at the rink, would end up coming out as gay. 

They all love that story now.

The thing is of course not that boys can't play with dolls (or bake in Easy Bake ovens as this viral campaign proved) but that by not giving young males little people to play with we are, even unintentionally, cutting them off from opportunities to think about and practice taking care of other little humans. 

What a terrible thing it is to dam up something like that flowing in any child.

I was thinking of this after Billy, with great gentleness. held a newborn last evening, or of my son in California who takes care of his infant daughter as completely and as carefully as his wife.

Billy's sister already plays hockey. I am thinking that next time he is over he and I are going to cut out some doll clothes. I am sort of disappointed in myself that I didn't think of this before.

He would like that.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Happy New Year!

It seems to me we all like making resolutions because most of us have some degree of hauntedness about things we should be doing but aren't.

Social media and technology has made this ridiculous. It used to be that all you had to deal with was the relatives saying stand up straight.

Now Bloglovin' and Pinterest are crammed with charts on a better you that say #1 Get up earlier! #2 Work smarter! #3 Work faster!

And of course in the off time you are supposed to practice mindfulness and Self Care.

There are apps to make sure you drink enough water and get enough sleep.

Well listen.

Here's what I think. 

If you are overwhelmed.

Two things to do:


Recognize the beauty of boundaries. Women need to do this.

The way I see it what we owe other people most is this:

  • Listen
  • Recognize that if someone is cranky there are probably other things going on you don't know about. Give them that benefit of the doubt
  • Take care of as much of your own shit as you can 
  • If you need something ask clearly and be OK with the response (women in particular waste lives hoping people notice and will provide, mostly they just need clear asks)
  • Listen

Note not on this list is fixing everything, or worrying yourself sick for their sake. I remember always the advice a woman in a playground gave me about children years ago.

Don't do for them what they can do for themselves.

The flip side of this of course is that when someone can't do for themselves you can then be fully available.

If you want to eat better:

Do more of your own cooking.

The main reason people don't eat well is time. 

Figure out what you can make fast yourself and you will eat better. Avocado or tomatoes on toast is just fine if that's what you want. Make yourself a soup with vegetables in it and make salads with leftover cooked vegetables. Have this in the fridge.

By the time you figure out how to negotiate that new diet plan there will be something else on the agenda. (Note everything on Facebook is "backed by science". Also note there is more than one scientist).

If you want to exercise more:

If exercise is a should not a want for you, here's what I think.

Again two things.


Go outside more. Most people when they are outside don't just stand there. We are not counting lying at the beach.

If you are outside you will walk, pull weeds, shovel snow, talk to the neighbours.


Do more around the house.

This is my observation.

All those fit old ladies are really busy. You see them mowing their own lawns. Spring cleaning. They hustle and they bustle. From the minute they get up until the minute they go to bed.

A distant relative by marriage just died.

She was one of those tiny busy old Greek ladies, she cooked, cleaned, gardened full time nearly to the end of her life. 

She died a few weeks ago at 105.

Without paying any attention to her breathe or her core.

Finally, since I appear to be kicking off 2019 in a know it all mood.

See the funny side in everything. Particularly yourself.

Believe me it's there.

Happy New Year