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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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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Butterick 6251

I had to laugh when I read my last post.

I realize that you probably looked at it and thought "Babs is sleeping under a bridge. Oh god that woman."

Really, no need to worry, this was a legitimate RV camping place, just happens that the spots at one end are under the entrance to a huge overpass. 

When you rv down this time of the winter so many places en route just aren't open so you take what you can get when you need it.

At any rate we have landed in the wonderful McKinney State Park just outside of Austin, Texas, where we have one son. For the next month or so this is what my sewing room looks like. We have a real long extension cord and I can set up the ironing board next to the rv and just plug in the iron to an outside plug.

Perfect arrangement.



I will be setting up there shortly with the Rocketeer, a couple of projects I pre-cut at home, and a can of wasp spray. 

The wasp spray is in case I have another coyote circle the table like I did last year. They really are pretty attractive, smooth moving animals, and I don't mind them looking at me, it's the looking through me to another world part I don't really like.

Apart from the coyote issue this is a lovely place to sew. I am looking forward to it after nearly six days on the road.

The campsite has also provided me with a nice backdrop to a project I finished up while we drove - sort of camping sweater coat thing made up in some really thick cotton sweatshirt type fleece.

Here I am with Daisy who is keep an eye out for things that move in the bush

You know how sometimes you make a project and you think it will be great, and it actually turns out kind of not great?

Well in my estimation for every 10 or those you occasionally pull off a low-expectations-going-in project that you really like a lot.

This sweater coat was one of those.

The pattern I used was Butterick 6251  I got so long ago I don't remember getting it. The main attraction of this pattern for me was the shawl collar. Coming from a cold climate and possessing a scrawny neck I have never met a shawl collar I didn't like.

The reason I like this coat so much is probably the fabric. It has sort of a confetti thing going on, a clear knit on one side and a really, really thick fluffy side on the other:




I am completely crazy about this fabric and would get more in other colours if I could. 

Which reminds me to contact Angry Ballerina Fabrics where I got it - one of a number of cool knit little fabric online stores (often with an interesting ranges of weight in solids) we have in Canada. You know my US readers with the dollar it is, it would make sense to look at some of these sources, mostly run by young momenterpreneurs.  Blackbird is probably the most familiar of these companies, but I have also been really happy with fabric from Fabric Snob, Mint Lily Fabrics, L'oiseau fabrics, and Fabric Crush. 

There are other sources too, but these are just the ones I have ordered from. And of course I am on all the Facebook groups for each vendor which means I am able to sit in my bed in the morning with my coffee and order fabric before I am even up or can change my mind.

Back to this project.

I ended up doing a fair bit of hand sewing on this one, which was fine with me as I had 2,300 miles to kill to get here.

First off I followed the pattern instructions and topstitched on the pockets. In the light of day through the window of the rv it became clear to me that topstitching was not a good idea in such thick and bouncy fabric. That hard line of machine stitches just sort of violated the hand of the fabric and cheapened it a bit, as much as you can cheapen a camping coat made out of sweatshirt fleece.

As a result, and since I had some time on my hands which never ever happens at home, I unpicked the pockets and slipstitched them back on with some reinforcing backstitching done into the seam allowances from the wrong side. This is how they looked after I did that:





I also had a dilemma over closures. 

One of the great mysteries of life as we know it know to me is this current idea that a cardigan for any season but the summer makes sense to be closureless.

I mean really. 

Think about it. 

An open, no button attached cardigan might make sense for wearing in the office in one of those places that always have the AC turned onto super, super high, but for any other time when you put on a cardigan you are doing so because you are cold. 

And to stay warm you would want to button it up.

So why not build the cardigan to be able to do it? Why make an article of clothing that you need to keep you warm with a built in draft down the middle of it?

Since I am on a rant let me continue.

I have recently being looking at Aran sweater cardigan patterns on Ravelry. An amazing number of them look like the one worn by this knitter in the home page today:


What do you notice here? 

First there is a lot of serious knitting gone on. This is no make-it-in-a-weekend project.

Second this person obviously has a sweater on because she is cold. She looks cold to me.

Third the only way she can keep warm in this item, that undoubtedly cost her $200 in yarn and four years to make, is to grab it with two hands and wrap it around her. 

I know this look. 

It is the national costume worn by Canadian woman who dash out with a sweater on over their flannelette nightgowns, and in their boots, to get the car started so it will be warm when they have to drive the kids to school.

The problem of course in using your hands as closures is how would you do anything else? Like what if you have to scrape the ice off the windshield? Or grab that dumb cat and bring it in? Or use your phone to call your husband and have a discussion because he said he would put gas in the car but forgot?

Why not put a few buttons on that cardigan?

Where did this no closure movement come from?

Is there a world shortage of buttons going on that you all forgot to tell me about?

So all this means this coat thing I made has snaps.

After having determined that machine stitched on pockets defiled the integrity of my sweatshirt fleece of course I couldn't make machine buttonholes.

So instead I sewed on some nice big snaps I got a while ago in Botani in NYC. 


 These look pretty sharp IMO but to make them work securely you have to stitch them right through the facing which makes a little right side dimple in the fabric, which you can see better here:


I am OK with that but maybe not everyone would be.

Out of interest my T-shirt is the Favourite Tee by Patterns for Pirates and the pants are Stylearc's Margaret pants. Despite going through considerable angst about making wide leg pants because they are fashionable I really wonder if they suit me. In fact I might be shortening the pairs of wide pantsI have made to 3-4" at least above the ankle. Otherwise I think they swamp me. I think the Margaret's are just about right for my legs.

It will be interesting what else I decide to make while I am here in Texas. I have been so, so busy at home this fall and winter. I really intend on letting myself float a bit while I am here. 

Pretty sure it is time for some of that.




Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Flypaper thoughts somewhere in Tennessee edition


  • Fourth day travelling and now in Tennessee
  •  One of my favourite states
  •  Not sure why but I pick up some quirky thinking in the air
  • Driven through snow, ice, sleet and rain
  • Driven through mill cities where the factories are now “executive lofts”
  •  Driven by so many houses and have wondered about the lives being lived out in them
  • What’s for dinner in there?
  •  Are you happy with the life decisions you have made?
  • Or have you just gone along and realized that doing that was in fact a decision?
  • That’s a lot of lawn to be cutting
  • Slept a few times in truck stops
  • The truckers always have room for someone in an RV who needs to get off the road
  •   I am surprised by the number of women driving these rigs
  • A lonely life maybe
  • But probably good money
  • And no supervisor on her way over tell you what you should have done
  • No trying to be more pleasant than you feel
  • Or not as smart as you know you are
  •   Lots of dogs in these trucks too
  • Dogs know it’s all a journey
  •   No need to know where you are going
  • The whole point of travel like this
  • Is finding out you can be comfortable anywhere
  • Thinking of my neighbour on the other side of the back fence
  •  A gardener she always says she could live and die in her backyard
  •  Which is probably how it will play out
  •  Nice though to realize how big the backyard is
  • You relax more when you feel this
  • We are in constant contact with home and the family
  • Baby pictures on the west coast
  •  Son in Texas booking me into see his bodyworks guy
  • My daughter keeping me updated
  • The next door neighbour doing our mail and the plants
  • The man across the street in constant contact with my husband
  • Shelley’s getting her pipes done
  • When will it be our turn
  • The city put in those lines a generation ago
  •  Find out what gauge the new pipes are says my husband
  • Will do says Barry
  • He also writes two days until the full moon
  • Temperature dropping by afternoon
  •  Will probably stop in Memphis tonight
  • RV parking spot under the bridge
  • You hear every car bump over every joint in that bridge
  • And I sleep in my eyeshade
  • Headlights
  • Local police meet up there
  • Nose staggered to cop car nose
  • Discussing Memphis crime
  •  And I can get a good night’s sleep through all that
  •  And get up fresh the next morning and see what the sewing world has posted to Instagram
  • The bodywork guy is going to assess my asymmetries
  • Give me some work to do on balance
  • Doing a little of that on my own now