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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, February 9, 2019

On hibernation and life

It is deep winter here in Nova Scotia.

Icy and cold outside. Daisy walks with boots on and a down coat.

This season, which is one of great therapeutic value in many ways (Canadians tell themselves things like this a lot), has made me think of how wise nature is. 

The smart ones fly away like the Monarch butterflies who go 20,000 miles to Mexico and back, or like the V shaped flocks we see going away every fall and coming back every spring.

But lately I have been thinking of the hibernators, the bears, skunks, bees, and bats who eat up, hole up, and snuggle up till it is reasonable to come out.

For this human hibernation has been a whole lot of sewing.

This year we put off our annual trip south to be able to spend more time with my daughter. But next week we are going to be leaving to go down to Texas to visit one son in Austin, and from there a flight to Berkeley to visit the other son, my daughter-in-law, and new granddaughter. I admit to you I am feeling anxious about leaving my daughter who has a a few new challenges lately, but she has promised to be truthful about how she is feeling when I am away. And planes have been invented right? And I really need to spend some time with my other kids.

On the way home we will be stopping in Tulsa where I will be teaching at the Vintage Sewing Adventure. I have corresponded with the organizers a lot and really like them so decided this was something I wanted to do. Plus the conference will have an association with the Sewing Machine Museum and I really want to see that a lot.

Now those of you who know me know I am not exactly a vintage styled dresser. The style thing which I love, but not compatible with my current life.

BTW anyone else watching Mrs. Maisel on Prime? 

The clothes alone are worth it. Although I have to say that it is not entirely believable. Why would Joel at any time not want to work in his dad's garment district factory? This part makes no sense. I love the shots of the bolts of fabric and the machines. He has a chance to work in the garment district in its heyday. I wish when I talk to the screen that he could hear me.

Back on topic.

So even though I am not a vintage dresser I have become recently very interested in something I am calling Heritage Sewing. To me this is the technical side of garment construction that utilizes methods and thinking that previous sewing women used.

I have been doing a lot of research on this and this is my big discovery.

There are a lot of really cool techniques that have been lost! 

It has been my big discovery that in the mass production/simplification/commercialization of all aspects of the sewing industry that some intriguing ideas have been sort of been forgotten.

I have decided to do a little work on sharing as much of that as I can.

I think this is important for these reasons:

1. So many of these methods are so effective and easy. Some of these ideas would make modern sewing better and easier. Somethings are meant to be passed down generation to generation. What happens when a few generations stop doing that?

2. Cultural responsibility. This is women's history. I am talking about housewife and home dressing maker sewing here. History is made by who kept the records. That's why so much of boring history is all about politics and men. Those were just the folks who were writing it down.

I want to acknowledge the work and creativity of those who were unrecorded - specifically women who worked alone in their homes and made wonderful things with their hands for themselves and those they loved.

I want their afternoons remembered and honoured. I want their work and thinking to be passed on in some way in this relay of life.

Does that make sense?

So I decided to go to Tulsa and teach a session on vintage sewing machine attachments as a starting place in this.

Here's why.

So many of these crazy, bizarre looking attachments do an amazing job of completely aceing some of sewing's more tricky jobs. 

A few of these attachments of their modern pseudo versions I have used, some like modern binders and narrow hemmers, but I have to tell you the vintage attachments just work so, so much better. As in hands off, relax and watch it work better. 

No struggle.

Now one of my sons and I were talking about this. He works in the tech industry in San Francisco and understands the theme of our time - that all things technical are just advancing and advancing. That this year's model is better than last years.

I get this. 

I am not a nostalgia type, good old days person of the sake of needing to just slow it all down. I am not a collector or a period dresser, that is something I respect but just not me.

But I know a good brain when I see its fruits in action. 

And I have been seeing some really smart engineering and thinking in evidence as I have watched some of these old 50-60 year old attachments (which BTW with and adapter foot will fit on and work on modern machines) manipulate fabric and place it exquisitely, effectively under the needle.

This has been a light bulb moment.

What about the concept of lost technology?

What if a better way to do some things had been developed and then forgotten?

What about that?

So this is what I am going to do.

Right now I have been making my samples up for Tulsa and putting together class notes. 

I have decided to turn these notes into a little how-to booklet that I will share after I have done the workshop.

Do you think anyone would be interested in something like that?

Tomorrow I am going to do a long post on blogging and what I am wondering about that.

In the meantime here are some shots of my vintage attachment using samples:





















More later.