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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, May 18, 2019

Review of the new Charlotte Jalie 3900 cardigan pattern





As I said I think last post I am interested right now in adding more basics to my closet. Life is pretty much grab and go these days. 

For this reason I really responded to many of the patterns in Jalie's new spring collection. These are wearable classics, no cold shoulder tops in the bunch, and will be good soldiers in my wardrobe for as long as I need them.

The Charlotte cardigan is one of these patterns, and as one of my favourites the new line, the one I have decided to lead off my reviews.






Here is a the line drawing and a shot of the pattern pieces:



This is a simple cardigan, long or chopped version, with or without buttons.

I made the longer version, another 3" added to the length to go with the proportions of my tall figure. I used a rayon/poly novelty knit I had on the shelves for quite a while and had no idea what I was going to do with it. Turns out this was a great choice because when the sleeves are pushed up, as mine usually are, it makes sort of white band things I think look cool.

Most definitely this is a pattern that I will be using over and over again.

I see some room too for playing around with the design. 

The bands on the top of the pocket, cuffs, and the bottom band could be made in another fabric or colour, and the square corner at the neckline could be softened with a more curved edge or even cut down into a V.

Such a useful pattern.

As it turned out I had some fabric left over so I dug out Jalie 3245 and did the racerback tank, with the back racer back redrawn a bit for more coverage over my bra straps. I haven't worn a "twin set" in a while but this one will be really useful packed for travelling. I am likely to be wearing it Tuesday when I fly down to Nashville vis Newark, figure it will be perfect for warmth on the plane and I can take off the cardigan if Tennessee is hot:



Wednesday, May 15, 2019

New Jalies and my review schedule

Many of you will already know that the annual release of new patterns from Jalie opened this morning.

This is the second year in which I have participated as one of the people who gets an advance look at the collection. I also have an opportunity to sew those that have most personal interest.

This is actually quite different from the "tester calls" you may have seen from a number of independent pattern designers recently (I did one of those for Love Notions last year).

The few of us who do this for Jalie sew up the patterns we like best and check out the instructions as sort of sewing copy editors. In my experience so far changes to the exact patterns themselves have never been necessary.

I really like being able to see the collections early. I like seeing the garments made up in this period by other sewers as it generally helps me see the potential for the designs for me. 

Some patterns of course aren't always relevant for me or for my family. No one figure skates or is in competitive gymnastics for example, and this year I didn't opt for any of the men's patterns since the men in my life just want me to sew more editions of the patterns I have made for them already. I guess that also speaks to the success of earlier patterns.

So annually I pick and choose and make only those patterns that have most immediate appeal to me.

Some of you may remember that last year my resolution was to make more independent patterns. I have stuck to this, the jumpsuit I made from True Bias and posted yesterday is an example. 

This process of sewing more widely from different designers has been really interesting. It has helped me redefine what really interests/matters to me most about sewing. Some of this was about remembering what I really like to do, some of it was getting over some bright and shiny object attraction.

So here's my new list of what matters to me when I choose a pattern. Your list may, and probably should be, quite different:


  1. I am a construction technique fascinated sewer. My favourite sewing moments occur when I encounter a way of putting a garment together that I think is particularly clever, ingenious or new. This would be as opposed to seeing the same old text book technique suggested when I figure I know a more efficient way of doing the same thing.
  2. I am a really busy person. I just don't have the time to work on seven iterations of a muslin before I cut into the good fabric - and even if I had more time I probably don't have the disposition to do that. Let's face it I am more of a how-hard-can-it-be, jump in and see what happens kind of person. I am more and more interested in a repertoire of TNT patterns that I can make up in different fabrics. Another favourite part of sewing to me is just watching that needle go up and down in the fabric. Of course I will try new patterns, like jumpsuits, but the bulk of my happy sewing is with patterns I know I trust.
  3. My life requires basics. There is not a lot of room around here for shoes you can't walk in or fabrics that require special care. And there is not a lot of time for putting an outfit together or styling it. I love being able to reach into my closet and pull out a top, bottom, and jacket/cardigan and feel like I am more or less presentable. Or a dress in the summer. I need the right components for my life. And I am pretty sure I would rather look stylish than styled.
  4. I really appreciate real pattern makers. I am figuring out that if you have sewn for four years and have decided to launch your own pattern line that can show. As a matter of principle I believe completely that genius or at least great talent can happen anywhere, at any time, but there is a lot to be said, as part of the development process, for knowing what you don't know and learning it. Also how many ultimate, indispensable, essential, iconic and only-tee-you-will-ever-need patterns can the universe hold? I have about five Indie pattern makers so far I think are solid and probably more than that I am wondering about.
  5. I sew for more people than just myself. I dis-extend my extended family with my sewing. And since bodies are various and children grow up at the speed of light a big size range means a lot to me.  I have resolved not to spend more on patterns every month than we spend on utilities - which will be a novel experience for me.
So understanding all of the above I am returning to sewing more and more Jalie patterns. 

I have also added two new insights into the mix:

  • Jalies are great TNT basic for more creative work
  • I can make the same pattern in different sizes for different effects, for example I now make the pull-on pants in three different sizes for different looks. The fact Jalie has such a large size range, only an inch difference between sizes, makes this possible, versus a S-M-L range
I will be doing a review of some of the new Jalie collection in this order on these dates. 

I am really looking forward to sharing these patterns, definitely some real winners for me in this collection:


Charlotte Cardigan: Saturday May 18:

Tania Jacket: Sunday May 19:

Nikita Knit Sports top/dress: Tuesday May 21:

Nicole Knit Dress: Thursday May 23:


Simone Wide-legged Pants and Gisele Woven Top: Saturday May 25:


Michelle Dress: Sunday May 26:



Of course my versions won't be exactly like the cover shots, but I am excited to show you what I made!




Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Back on track, the Yari jumpsuit

Now folks I realize my blogging has had its ebbs and flows this last six or months or so. If you have been reading you know that we have had our adjustments to make this year. Lately my focus has been even more so on family. That slowed down my posting. I have been sorry about that. I feel I have a relationship with my readers and I think about you a lot.

Things are settling down. 

My daughter's MS diagnosis has been finally definitely confirmed and all that stuff they say about the new normal is in fact true. She is strong and smart and her medical care is excellent. We are going to be fine.

During this period in my life I have sewn a lot for everyone else. It has been a way of keeping myself on an even keel and of, without words, a way to say to people I loved them.

So this has meant that my writing as had its busy times and its quieter times while I have sewn instead. And because many of the things I was making were "surprises" I didn't show them or talk about them here.

I have decided however that sharing things on the blog with other sewing people is different than sharing the real thing in person. As a result I am going back to show and tell as I make things, while the process is clearer in my mind.

So here we go.

My daughter-in-law's birthday is in June, but I will be seeing her in Nashville next week. So I asked Maddie what she would like to me to make her for her birthday. She sent back a picture of a jumpsuit she had just bought and a note that as a mother of an infant, she really liked the pockets. Here is my version:



My daughter also is interested in jumpsuits (never thought I would see those again in my lifetime) so I had a pretty good idea what was out there. In this case the pattern I found that looked most like the picture Maddie sent me was the Yari jumpsuit by True Bias.

Here is the pattern picture:




Maddie's choice was not belted so I didn't do that but otherwise made the pattern as per instructions. 

I used a linen with some rayon added that I washed and dried on a low heat because I knew this garment would be going into a household where that made the most sense.

This was an interesting pattern. 

It has a lot of long pattern pieces, front, side front, back side and back, seamed. This meant a lot of long but easy seams and a lot of top-stitching but I kind of enjoyed that. The big and useful pockets were easy to do of course because the sides were contained in those seams. They are nice and large.

The only issue I had was with the bottom of the front placket.

 Always these days now my daughter is sewing too, very competently as she does every thing, I eye instructions wondering if a newer sewist would find it hard to do. 

The bottom of this placket, depending as it does on some pretty precise clipping, really is a potential Danger Zone. I managed, but even while doing exactly as instructed and it turned out as it was supposed to, the many layers of fabric in that small area make a bit of a lump that shows up under the soft linen more than I would like. I pressed as much as I could, to the point that more pressing might make it worse, but mentally figured out a better way to do it.

I think your eagle eyes will be able to pick out what I mean in this shot - no mistake here but the layers do distort. (I am thinking as I write this that this is exactly what every sewing person does - only see what they are not happy with first in any garment).


I am pretty interested in plackets at the moment. I have been reading a lot of old sewing books and am amazed at how many really nifty ways of sewing plackets, in the days before zippers were always the default, there are and how many of them are so easy to do - much easier than the technique used in this pattern.

I think I would have used a placket that was more of a patch than and clip, twist, and turn for this linen and probably will next version I make. (I know I need to do some blog posts on some of the cool techniques I have unearthed!)

All that said I am really happy with how this looks. Who would have thought a jumpsuit would look elegant?

Well maybe not on me but on Maddie this will look elegant.



My daughter has added two more jumpsuits to my queue so there will be more of these coming up.