Clothesmaking mavens

Clothesmaking mavens
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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, May 27, 2021

Flypaper thoughts: unusual times edition

  •  I think we can establish that things have been weird these days
  • Like the moon is stuck in some weird phase
  • You know the kind that makes the inmates jumpy
  • In a full moon
  • But stuck there
  • How about you?
  • This last few months
  • My youngest son moved back here after years away
  • And the day after he was finished quarantine
  • He got an excellent job offer back in Texas
  • So off he goes again
  • Probably for the long term
  • The switch that was on, has been switched back
  • So I have a question
  • Where is the closest good fabric store for a person in Austin Texas?
  • Last few times I was there I could only find Joanns
  • Although Hill County Weavers is excellent for knitting
  • I need to develop more contacts there
  • Daisy also developed some worrying red rashes on her belly
  • Near where her cancer was removed earlier this year
  • Well false alarm
  • Seems the cat, who adores her
  • Has been trying to nurse
  • The vet thought this was very funny
  • Knowing about the stuck moon I was not surprised
  • Since it appears all bets are off these days
  • Speaking of which
  • I decided to apply to university 
  • To do another undergrad
  • Seems students over 65 don't pay tuition
  • When I heard that I was off
  • So many interests I didn't pursue
  • First time out
  • Getting my transcripts forwarded was hilarious
  • "Can you give me the post code of your address when you lived here?"
  • Canada didn't yet use postcodes when I was that age
  • "OK then what was your student email address?"
  • Listen kiddo I graduated before they invented the internet
  • Big pause
  • I am thinking
  • Spanish, because of being really positive about that Texas thing
  • Animal behaviour
  • Clearly there is a lot to learn about there
  • Creative writing
  • Well there is this blog
  • Comparative religions
  • Substantial knowledge gaps there
  • Women and Aging
  • Surely I have the pre-reqs for that?
  • And I am sewing and sewing
  • With family all over the place now
  • I am setting up Pinterest boards
  • They post ideas and I post fabrics
  • When you have taste like mine
  • It makes more sense to sew by demand
  • Than by surprise
  • I have seen a few surprised looks in my time
  • My niece nailed it
  • "Just make it in a colour you would never wear"
  • Good taste is not always CHEERFUL
  • Hence the Pinterest boards
  • Currently working on mother and daughter outfits for my DIL and granddaughter in California
  • That was by request
  • If the vaccination schedule goes as planned
  • I will be free to go to Berkeley to see those guys
  • For three weeks 
  • Mid August to early September
  • So so excited about that
  • Revising my wardrobe to be more packable
  • We are also planning a month in Florida in November
  • And Texas state parks in February
  • I need to link up with sewing people
  • One of my decisions in the year and a half I have spent 
  • In the striped chair, the comfortable one, with Daisy
  • Is to be as social as I can
  • Got to appreciate your people
  • My neighbourhood has kept me going
  • Everyone is doing the same thing
  • Out in the yards
  • Or walking the dogs
  • Talking and talking
  • I had no idea so many interesting
  • Good hearted people
  • Lived five blocks from me
  • Confucius  was right
  • In the midst of every crisis
  • There is an opportunity
  • Making sure I don't miss it

Saturday, May 15, 2021

David Page Coffin

I have had to let the news of David's passing sit for a bit before I could write about him.

David was a good friend of mine. We knew a lot about each other and I could tell many stories. But it seems to me that so much of that is personal now.

I got to know David when I first wrote for Threads and he was my editor. He was a wonderful editor, the best that magazine ever had.

One day, about 20 years ago, he called me. "I've just read the Shipping News and I am going to come and visit you."

Now of course that book was written about Newfoundland and a long way from my little house in Halifax but he came anyway.  I moved one kid out of a bedroom and sent him into the bunk bed with his brother, and David stayed very happily in a boy's room and slept in a narrow single bed.

He was the kind of person who spoke to children as if they were adults. My three kids really enjoyed having him here. He just fit right into family life. We talked about everything.

Over the years David and I kept in touch and saw each other in person when we could at various sewing shows.

We used to write each other about our schemes and plans and sometimes our worries. He was the kind of friend who if he read that something was bothering you in an email would just phone you up to discuss right away rather than write back.

He had of course the most wonderful voice.

What I want to tell you about David Page Coffin is this.

He was the most genuinely authentic person I have ever met. He was exactly who he was, author, sewer, musician and painter, and there was not one thing about him that was not original and authentic.

He was the real deal, absolutely the real deal.

I also think it is important to understand that everything he did was motivated by his generosity to other people. He always had time for you. He truly respected everyone he talked to. All his writing and teaching were motivated, I feel, not simply by a love of the craft but by a love for people. There is a big difference there.

DPC wanted to share useful things he figured out in case someone found it helpful. His work was entirely original and self-discovered, accurate and true, and he wanted to share it.

Over the last few days I have re-read some of our emails. The last one I sent, at the end of February, was never answered.

I am just so sad. I have lost someone I really understood and someone who really understood me.

You just can't replace a friend like that.

Don't fall over, I am back

Hi folks.

Yes I know this space has been quiet but I am getting back in the groove. 

The last month or so has been very busy. I am back teaching two online courses for the university this summer, and after having been away from it for a while now, that has meant re building the courses.

I have also been doing the proofs for my next book, Stressfree sewing solutions, due out in August. That book was my pandemic project. 

I have also just released a second video in my knits series, this one on more advanced techniques, including an easy way to do a foolproof polo knit type placket that I worked up lately. I am pretty pleased with how easy this technique is. I will be interested in some feedback on it.

And of course I have been sewing.

I made a couple of skirts for my sister who has major cabin fever in Ontario, three pairs of maternity pants and two dresses for my niece, sweatshirts for my son-in-law, and a few things for myself.

I did a guest post on the Fabricville blog on sewing with bamboo, and you can read that here.

Here, randomly, are some pictures of what I made for myself this last month:

A golf shirt made with my new method and a skort from Jalie 

The free apron pattern from Tessuti. I made three of these. Note follow the instructions for the top part of the bib where the straps attach. Like all of Tessuti's patterns although they look simple there are usually a few twists in construction that are a bit original but work out well. This one was my first and, being a know it all, I didn't follow the instructions and as a result the strap attachment is subpar. The next two versions were much better.

And finally here is a blouse I made from an Ottobre magazine and the Jalie Renee pants. I did a FBA on this blouse but think I want to go in and cut it again in a larger size anyway for more back room, although this is certainly wearable. I also think I need to do a straight shoulder adjustment, because that's exactly what I have, so the collar lies a little better. To be continued. It was time I revised a TNT shirt pattern or two.

So that's my update.

I have a bunch of more family sewing I want to do, plus some more things for myself for spring/summer. 

Hopefully I will be able to travel to San Franscico in August for three weeks to see my kids there. It has been well over a year since I have seen them and it's killing me.

Talk soon.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Sewing when that's all you can do

This last week my oldest son, the one who lives with his family in Berkeley, had a birthday. 

I really wanted to make him something special. In my mind it became really important to send something in the mail that came from the house he grew up in, a house that remembers him.

He had mentioned once he liked summer pyjamas. So I made him some from a vintage men's pattern, out of seersucker with piping. It seemed to me to be very California dad of a certain era, and being a dad is my son's very best thing. I also wanted to make these using only vintage techniques. My serger was not used in this project. All seams are either French seams or bound. I also bound the back of the neck and around the fly pieces on the inside. I was real careful with this project.

I haven't seen Nat or his family in over a year. Last March I was just about to go and spend a few days with my granddaughter while her parents went away. That trip got cancelled at the last minute, theirs and mine. That's bothered me all year.

I don't have the words to describe how much I miss this guy. That's my own baby I can't get to.

But I can still sew something for him. And because he is my son, and grew up with all this sewing going on around, he knew exactly what pictures to take. When he emailed me a thank you he sent detail shots of the parts that were the most work.

He'd knows.

That's my kid.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Flypaper thoughts illustrated version


  • Since last we spoke I was on March Break duty
  • Running my crack highly structured childcare operation
  • As illustrated
  • My main qualification for this facility is that their mother and uncles turned out great
  • The assumption being that the same child raising principles are still in effect
  • Not so sure about that
  • When I raised the originals
  • I was under the impression
  • That there was a right and a wrong way to do things
  • And I should try real hard to do the right thing
  • There was no pop (soda) in my house
  • TV was limited to PBS at 30 minutes a day
  • As you might have figured out by now
  • That supervisor has retired
  • Which is just fine with the current crew
  • In addition to being a day camp
  • I have been making maternity clothes for my niece
  • Best to get those done before the baby arrives
  • I have made a series of pants with the excellent free maternity waistband from P4P whacked onto them
  • And a made up dress from a T shirt pattern and some pleating

  • Other news
  • My husband has taken up stained glass
  • Pretty nice stuff he is making
  • Interesting to see that collecting glass is not unlike collecting fabric
  • I think the downsizing, move into a condo trend will not find much traction here
  • It's good to have a hobby
  • Or in my spouse's case 43
  • Guy I used to work with
  • Somewhat intimidating at the office
  • Is spending a lot of time posting on FB 
  • About the culture of crows
  • I had no idea
  • About him 
  • Or about crows
  • The cat continues to be entertaining
  • Bit like living with a flying squirrel
  • One who has figured out that if you flip over glasses of water
  • With your paw you can drink whatever hits the floor
  • But what can I say to Daisy's best friend?
  • They have wrestling sessions every night after dinner
  • And then lie down and groom each other
  • The cat works on Daisy's legs
  • And Daisy grooms the top of the cat's head
  • What is going on in those small minds?
  • My husband and the cat are in love with each other
  • She taps her paw on his beard
  • "Like being touched by the hand of God" my husband said
  • Basically not something I would have anticipated he would ever say
  • After all these years
  • But then again this is our first cat
  • I also finished a dress for my niece
  • Not illustrated as it is a birthday surprise
  • Then I am wide open to sew for myself
  • I am considering 
  • Concentrating on things I don't need
  • It seems these days are occupied enough with seriousness
  • Not my area to be adding to that
  • Read instructions this week
  • That told you to sew a hook and eye to close the back of a T-shirt with a knit band
  • What is going on McCalls?
  • You all sitting in there with T-shirts with hooks and eyes on them?
  • Good things about the pandemic
  • I got my sewing room reorganized and fixed up
  • Putting my money where my heart is
  • I have read a lot
  • Even self help books people recommended
  • Most of them are short
  • Which when you are improving yourself is helpful
  • Transitions by Bridges makes sense
  • So does Marcus Aurelius
  • Who sure put up with a lot
  • Running that Roman Empire was no piece of cake
  • I am appreciating every one I know who has common sense
  • Turns out that's all that matters
  • Knew that before
  • But now I know that it's the only thing that matters
  • Trouble is it is something you have to be born with
  • Seems real hard to add later
  • No matter how other people try
  • Or how many books with big letters on the cover
  • You read
  • My grandmother had a sister Hilda
  • Very pretty
  • Used to go over there and talk to her budgie while she 
  • Over wound my hair on perm rods
  • Nicest lady
  • Never heard her described as anyone other than as
  • "That Hilda has no sense when it comes to men"
  • The husband I knew walked around all day with a coffee cup in his hand
  • Awful cheerful man
  • There actually are people who have to be told to come in out of the rain
  • It is quite possible 
  • That this is time to know when to come in out of the rain
  • Time to sit out an inning
  • Not time to read the end of the book before you get there
  • We'll get there and it will be fine
  • In the meantime enjoy the sewing room
  • The crows
  • And the feel of a tiny paw on your face
  • Don't want to miss that one
  • Just in case

Sunday, February 28, 2021

A quick video on the blind hem foot

Yup still at it. The husband and I are sort of housebound this winter and doing these little videos is keeping us out of trouble.


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

A quick little video on the narrow hem foot

Thanks to those who sensibly asked me to use contrasting thread in these short videos.

Made a big difference. This is another one of my favourite feet.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Flypaper thoughts Mars edition

  •  First
  • An apology to all those astronauts who read this blog
  • But those who know me well 
  • Know that the one thing I have little time for is outer space
  • First
  • I hate heights
  • Second
  • And confined spaces
  • So the thought of being that many thousands and thousands of miles out there in the dark
  • In something without windows...
  • And besides the concept of fresh air is irrelevant
  • Is past my own personal edges of where common sense is effective
  • Also
  • Who in their right mind
  • Thinks that the world we are to take care of
  • Is in such a state that
  • Anyone can say
  • Done! Now let's go find somewhere else to fix up
  • Maybe the search for intelligent life would be worthwhile 
  • Here
  • On top of outerspace
  • I have run out of the good interfacing
  • Which is serious enough to have set me off about Mars
  • I am sure you are with me on this
  • Remember when fusible interfacing looked like a picnic table tablecloth?
  • That some one had dotted with Lepages white glue
  • And once fused these glue dots seeped through to make dark spots in the fabric
  • Which now also had the malleability of the paper plates you set out on that picnic table cloth?
  • Fortunately those days are gone, in most cases
  • But fusible interfacing survivors can still be found
  • Wandering around Joanns, Fabricville, and Spotlight
  • Numb with the PTSD of it all
  • However a good woven fusible 
  • And a good knit fusible (let's hear it for Sewer's Dream if you can order it)
  • Are a different story altogether 
  • And something you miss enough to get mad at the solar system
  • When you thought you had tons and you don't
  • I'm thinking these days
  • It's time to actively seek out the bright spots
  • Closer to home
  • For me it was the decision to make sure as many as I can
  • Get a chance to find out sewing is fun
  • So I had the kids and some friends over to sew yesterday
  • Lower the presser foot
  • Lower the presser foot they said to each other
  • I now no longer need to wonder where I am going to store that big bag of stuffing in my new sewing room
  • Everyone made pillows
  • Multiple pillows
  • Go forward and go backward at the beginning and end of the sewing part
  • Don't worry, said the 11 year-old
  • It gets easier with experience
  • Yes it does
  • Yes it does
  • And so grounding

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Another Covid moment

This afternoon one of my sisters, the only one who still lives in the same city as my mom, posted this picture to the family WhatsApp.

It's a picture of the bear my mom has on her bed. 

This bear has been tucked away forever but has made a reappearance during my mother's nearly year long isolation in her house.

Now my mom is about as sharp, tough, and resilient as they come. She says that if the pandemic doesn't end soon she doesn't know what she will get up to next. Still the sight of this little bear, now 93 and the one my mother had as a baby, has really touched me. Note the nose darned by my grandmother, who I never met, who died when my mother was a girl.

The thing about the bear is that my mom recently knit her a new sweater. She says she is going to work on a new skirt next so the bear "looks respectable." 

Now I don't know what is getting to me more. The knitting new clothes or the thought that this little bear has made a reappearance after all these years to be a comfort.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

A quick little video on my favourite foot

 I have been using my edge stitch foot a lot lately. As a result I decided to do a quick video for folks who might not yet realize the power of this little accessory. I figure new sewists in particular would really benefit from this foot in their sewing toolbox.

Monday, February 15, 2021

The stages of learning sewing translated

I had an extremely interesting hair cut yesterday. My stylist was pretty sharp. She did my hair on a Saturday because she has gone back to school during the week.

Because of her current learning we talked about the stages of taking on something new when you have been doing something else for a long time. This is a pretty interesting process to consider.

She talked to me about a classic model of learning, and in particular the first stage, unconscious incompetence.

I thought about our conversation all weekend. These ideas bumped up against other conversations I have been having on the issue of confidence among sewists. I have observed that older sewists are often tentative with their sewing. When I first mentioned this in my monthly newsletter I had many emails from readers who shared the ambitious projects they jumped into when they were younger, and how they now procrastinate with many purchases of patterns and fabric, nervous about actually executing any of these projects.

By contrast I equally see some social media sewists who are quick to jump into expert status with very little actual sewing experience, and in doing so sometimes do not give the best advice to new and returning sewists.

So if you are willing to indulge me I would like to interpret the chart below from a sewing perspective:

I think there is something to think about here and also, I hope some comfort for those on the getting to learn to sew better continuum.

Unconscious incompetence- This happens at the beginning of learning a new skill, I think a hands-on skill in particular. You know the feeling when you look at someone else's work or watch them sew and think "I could never do that." You can, at your worst moments, even think that you will never be good at this. I think this feeling is particularly prevalent about those of us who were raised in a family where aptitudes were considered something you were born with and pretty set for life. You know "she's the athletic one" or "I am no good at crafts/sewing". A lot of people get discouraged or give up or panic at this stage of learning. The learning curve once you begin to see what is involved in sewing, just seems too overwhelming.

Conscious incompetence: This is the stage when folks become students. They buy courses, books, read blogs, Google everything. Some people even stall at this stage and become more students of sewing than sewists. I think this is the stage where the paralysis of confidence can kick in. Sometimes this can be manifest in muslin fittings of many iterations - almost as if the sewist feels she needs to perfect before she sews. A pretty interesting stage. Practice is the key activity here and leads directly to the next stage.

Unconscious competence: As a sewing teacher I see this one a lot - sewists who are more able than they give themselves credit for. These are the people who make me want to chant like my grandchildren do when I am on the trampoline in the backyard "Do it, Do it, Just Do it." Practice at this stage I think is where practice is no longer as much about learning as it is transferring the skills to muscle memory - you begin to acquire a repertoire of things you can do in your sleep - if you give yourself credit for this or not.

Conscious competence: This stage is pretty obvious - you can do it and you rely on those skills. Only practice and pushing through the previous three stages gets you here.

However I personally think this is the most dangerous stage. This is when you think you know it all, or are so confident in your skills, that you can close the book on learning. This is me who jumps right into a new pattern and doesn't read the instructions because, well you know, I am so smart. But of course lots of the time I am not. How many mistakes have I made because I didn't read the instructions? I am not going to tell you.

It seems to me that deciding you don't need to learn anything new is even more tricky than not knowing what you don't know yet. In systems theory any system that is closed, doesn't allow in new information (which of course means you have to embark on travelling through the first three stages of learning again) is system doomed to atrophy. 

And who wants to let their sewing go there?

So what do you think? Does this make any sense to you? What of your own observations would you add?

Wednesday, February 10, 2021


This is just a short one. Appropriately.

I would like to report a miracle. Seems to me that is always worth doing.

As long time readers of my blog will know my old girl Daisy was a much abused puppy mill mom when we got her. 

She was full of tapeworms, had never had her feet outside a cage, never been fed from a bowl. For months she threw up every time we fed her. I remember the first time she stood on grass. Her eye sight is bad in one eye, maybe from a blow to her head the vet said.  She lost most of her teeth.

She is a wonderful little dog, though, absolutely the best. So loving so bonded to me. But she has her scars. She still starts at loud noises, and gets upset if a man raises his arms.

Daisy missed a lot in her life. 

She has never played with toys at all. Once my mom sent her some small stuffed animals. Daisy went frantic. She ran around possessed trying to hide them in the backyard. If she saw anyone looking to where she hid those stuffed animals she would move them to a new hiding spot. In Daisy's mind were these her long ago lost puppies?

Who will ever know.

Then, in her late middle age we got this cat. This crazy confident happy little cat. My son's dog ignores the cat, and Daisy has seemed bewildered by her. I have had my moments when I even wondered if adding a cat to this dog household was a mistake.

But the cat hasn't cared. For some reason she has decided she loves Daisy. She gets in the dog bed with her and purrs when Daisy walks by. She shimmies underneath Daisy's body and delicately grooms her legs.

And lately they have started to fool around, duck and dodge, nudge each other.  At first the cat was just being a nuisance but then Daisy started to respond. She has started to go looking for the cat for some gentle wrestling every now and then.

But tonight for the first time Daisy went and got a tiny ball and batted it to the cat. Who batted it back. For a good ten minutes they rolled that ball back and forth to each other.

Then I saw it. 

This crazy barn rescue little cat has given Daisy what no one else ever could.

The ability to play, to be the puppy she never was.

I don't know about you, but in these times, this small miracle meant a lot to me.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Flypaper thoughts: real commitment edition

  • My current working theory
  • Is that universe has used this pandemic
  • To send those of us lucky enough to be healthy
  • A giant time out
  • As in
  • Maybe you need to go home and think about things
  • How else can we explain NYC and London streets deserted?
  • Doing my part 
  • I have more or less retired
  • Only remaining paying gig is radio work talking politics
  • During which I only express the conversations
  • On my street
  • Lot of common sense on my street
  • Back to thinking
  • Since being more or less retired I have been trying to decide what to do next
  • I have a begun manuscript called "How to be an older woman"
  • Based on thoughts I have walking the dogs
  • Also a cozy mystery based on people I have actually known while I sewed 
  • And things that I know actually happened
  • With the only real fiction addition
  • A real someone who was particularly amoral
  • Who I have finally found a safe way to murder
  • Overdue that one
  • But really this is fooling around
  • When considering more serious and worthy options for my time
  • I decided that apart from my family
  • And my animals
  • The only thing I really, really care about
  • Is sewing
  • More or less since I was eight-years-old
  • So as a person qualified to write about how to be an older woman 
  • I am just going to lean into that fact for the duration
  • With everything I've got
  • Why not?
  • I am now keeping track of my steps
  • According to the NY Times this is important
  • So now I am watching my steps
  • To make sure I don't go over the limit
  • And walk so much I am cutting into my sewing time
  • Got to be careful
  • One of the things about being an older woman 
  • Is that no one really is all that concerned about what you are doing
  • So you have a lot of room to move, self-indulgence wise
  • Which is one thing we have in common with the other end of life
  • When lying on the grass looking for shapes in the clouds
  • And laughing with your best, best friend until you almost pee your pants
  • Is a good and useful way to have spent a day
  • Since I made this decision
  • I have ordered a bunch of online fabric while in the bath
  • And started to organize my sewing room like it is mission control
  • And not just a sideline
  • Or a hobby
  • I am outfitting the bedroom that is most sunny
  • And looks out on my street
  • I don't want to miss anything
  • Even though the street is already heavily supervised
  • Drop your keys on the driveway and the phone rings as soon as you get in the house
  • Mrs. Smith
  • "I think you might have dropped something when you got out of the car"
  • Who needs a security system?
  • My personal favourite
  • "Do you know your husband is on the roof again?"
  • "At his age"
  • No did not know
  • And I am not surprised
  • I can sew and see the boy two doors down
  • Hoping to get into medical school
  • Walking the dog for my 89 year-old-neighbour
  • Who her husband bought for a surprise
  • A golden retriever puppy
  • Yes she was surprised
  • Or the rounds of neighbours who take poor old blind and deaf Garth out to pee
  • So his mom who is working from home
  • At some kind of high level law enforcement
  • Can concentrate on her work
  • No real idea what she does but a lot of shredding in the the recycling
  • She's also a good Italian baker
  • You want an invite to her lawn chair in the summer
  • Presently three rounds of women actually have a schedule to keep Garth going
  • I sit and sew 
  • And watch the daughter of a girl who grew up on the street off to visit Yia-yia
  • Yesterday I used to watch her mother walk to the bus to school
  • In the opposite direction
  • To outfit this sewing room
  • My husband come down from on the roof
  • And I had to move everything into other bedrooms so he could install new shelves and tables
  • Can you explain to me why it takes two other rooms and a hall
  • To hold what I had in one room
  • It's like sewing is an add water situation
  • Watch it and it expands
  • Listen I have a question
  • Part of lining up the life compass on sewing
  • I have come to terms with the things I don't much want to spend time a lot of time on
  • I have faced that fact that in the kitchen
  • I only really really enjoy canning and pickling
  • And some baking
  • The day-to-day stuff I leave to my husband
  • That man
  • He is so precise
  • He actually weighs everything
  • Quarter pound hamburgers
  • You guessed it
  • Every single one
  • That's why he likes to supervise the roof
  • Me I eyeball seam allowances
  • Where we converge is in the eating
  • I love to eat what he cooks
  • But sometimes
  • OK this is my question
  • What are your go tos?
  • I am thinking of what does a person who would rather be sewing like to cook
  • Minimum time
  • Maximum taste
  • This is not too much to ask
  • So I am asking you

Friday, January 22, 2021

Where's your style gone in the pandemic?

 There are many things I wonder about all of us when this thing is all over.

Will some folks discover they are introverts and become agoraphobics  when they are finally allowed to let loose on the streets?

Will people who started to work from home ever go back to the office?

Will we stop baking bread ourselves?

Will we continue to have Zoom meetings with our doctors?

Will we start wearing clothes again for any other reason than they are comfortable?

The last one interests me.

My own style has taken a bit of a turn around in this house.

My daughter and I went shoe shopping last week and I bought something that I wouldn't ever had looked at twice before- these super, super comfortable little boots for walking the dogs. Whenever I put them on (they are Beezies if you are interested) I make a big deal of how completely cozy and comfy they are. 

But not my style at all, you know how elegant I am, with all this fake fur, stitching, and silver heels. 

But things are different these days. All I care about right now is having my feet feel good. Actually all I care about right now is whatever I can do to make any part of me, inside or out, feel good.

What is the pandemic doing to me? Will I ever totter around in heels again? What is happening to me?

I am not the only one. 

I made my daughter, and now by request my son-in-law, multiple bamboo knit sweatshirts this winter. Here is an example of one on my daughter. We love this fabric because it feels so soft and caring on our bodies:

I am also pulling out random fabric from my shelves, of the weird category of "why did I ever buy this" and making sweatshirt type tops to go with my furry booties for dog walking.

Here is some extremely odd quilted knit that I made into a sort of a top with a zipper to the front and I collar I made up. My husband calls it my Star Trek shirt and suggests I add a logo.

I have styled this with my post dog walking hair un-interferred with by things like a hair brush, mirror or haircut, keeping my faith with my decision to show my real life on this blog, as is,

Now this has to end sometime. 

I was lucky enough to be gifted a big pile of old Burda magazines this week. Daisy and I have been going through them and I have enjoyed the complexity of the designs so much. They have awakened my desire to sew more challenging projects again once the great hibernation of 2020-2021 is over.

How about you?

How has Covid affected your style? Short and long term? 

This is on my mind.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Notes from my husband Leo on setting up a projector for projector file sewing

The biggest challenge with the projector set up is getting it fastened in the appropriate place. 

That issue starts with your choice of projector. The normal setup is a projector that sits on a table and projects on to a wall. That works great for watching Sesame Street but you want to project it to a horizontal surface and have the image large enough to cover the entire piece of fabric for sewing pattern projection:

A short throw projector projects a large image over a short distance but these can be hard to come by and are expensive.

By contrast a regular projector needs in the range of 78 to 86 inches to avoid to have to keep moving the image on the computer screen and moving the fabric to get all the pieces projected onto the fabric in an efficient way. 

Unless you have high ceilings the best and least costly option is to purchase a unit that is made to sit on a table (ours is a Bomaker) then devise or purchase a mounting bracket that will allow you to project from the ceiling to the floor - around 82”. I used a shelving wall support and fastened the projector to it and then fastened it all to the ceiling. Once it is fastened to the ceiling it needs to be plumbed in two directions to ensure accurate projection of all the lines.

First direction to check will be across the the front to the rear feet of the projector. You will need to develop a system of leveling if one is not a part of the mounting bracket. I, for instance, used the wooden part of a clothespin that is wedge shaped as my levelling aid. 

Wedge leveling system :

The other direction to level would be across the front of the projector where the lens is. 

Checking plumb front to rear

Checking plumb across the front. 

If the image is not projecting accurately after plumbing the projector there is an adjustment knob (keystone) adjacent to the focus knob that tilts the lens so as to project the image squarely at the surface. 

Next task is to check scale of the projection. 

There should be, as part of the pattern, a calibration square, that is a specific size. You will need to change the size of the PDF in Adobe to match a) the output of the projector b)the pattern scale and c) the distance from projector to surface onto which the image is projected to get the calibration square the correct size. 

For instance with a Jalie pattern, a Bomaker projector that is 82” from the surface scale needs to be set at 21.1% through the Adobe software to get the 2” square to project accurately. 

This achieved through trial and error. Once you have the square projecting accurately you need to check the size of the image as far away as possible from the center of the image to verify accuracy. 

If you cannot get the image to project accurately across the entire image with these steps you may have purchased a projector that cannot be used for this purpose. We initially made that error and returned the bargain priced one and bought the inexpensive “Bomaker “ that works flawlessly. 

There are a few other setups that are used. There is a setup where a projector sits on a table or shelf and projects to a table at 90 degrees and a setup with a mirror that projects in the same manner. I understand how these work but have not used or set one up. 

Friday, January 15, 2021

Projecting your sewing

Well where do we start?


I remember when the only patterns I used were selected from big books, extracted from metal drawers, and driven home. 

I remember when I subscribed to BVM and browsed patterns online and then ordered them to be sent by mail. At the time I thought this was incredibly convenient and progressive.

This was before the world of .pdf patterns. 

I love .pdf patterns. 

I love access to new designers. Yes some of the indies are random drafters, but some are excellent. It has been worth the trouble of sewing up a few dudes to find some lines, like LoveNotions, I can count on.

In addition to the range of patterns that I can now access in .pdf, I also love the convenience. I really like being able to source a pattern just when I want it, just when I am ready to sew.

In theory this on demand access was supposed to mean I wouldn't stockpile as many patterns. Of course the opposite has been true. There isn't a pattern sale on this earth that doesn't get me clicking "add to cart" in that dangerous hour before bedtime.

There is a downside to patterns in this format too of course. 

Once downloaded the patterns have to be printed out before they can be used. This has meant either taping together letter sized sheets, then cutting them up into pattern shapes or even tracing over the print-outs, or sending the file to a copy shop, and going over in the car to pick up the big rolled sheets.

Not exactly convenient or incredibly fun.

And of course these big, large carbon footprint, patterns take up a lot of room.

I have many boxes and baskets of patterns stored like this in my sewing room, or rolled up in a corner, practically to the point where I am tripping over them:


I was become overwhelmed entirely by my pattern collection.

As a result I decided to try projector sewing.

The idea is simple.

You open up a pattern on your computer in the large copy shop or AO format or a "projector file". The computer/laptop is then connected, by cable or wirelessly to a projector that has been mounted above a table or even the floor and is able to project the image of the pattern onto that surface.

A projector file is basically a copy shop size version of the pattern with a grid layer of squares on it. This grid is measured and checked to makes sure the pattern is true to size and if it isn't, adjusted. 

Once the pattern is true to size  you can either trace the image onto paper (economically because this is not a tracing on job not a tracing over job and you can use any large paper to do this) or lay your fabric directly under the image and cut along the lines you see - no pattern or paper involved at all.

I have done both.

The advantages of projector cutting are obvious: 

1. No printing, taping, and cutting or driving to the copy shop and paying at least as much as you paid for the pattern to get someone to do the printing for you.

2. Money saved, time saved, energy (global and personal) saved.

3. It's super fast, particularly if you project right onto the fabric and cut. Even more so if you are one of those folks who cut with a rotary cutter. 

4. Pattern storage is simplified. Mine are on the Cloud.

The challenges are also obvious:

1. There is both software and hardware involved here. Until this all gets refined to more sewist friendly products you are going to need:

  • the right kind of projector and a way of connecting it to your computer/laptop. I found excellent advice on this FB group.
  • the projector has to be a significant distance  from the surface to project the large shapes of the pattern. For most projectors this is about 5-6 feet or 2 meters. There are some more expensive projectors that can throw the image from closer, but for the majority of projectors have to be mounted on a ceiling. This isn't a job you can do with a glue gun or tape. You have to be drill comfortable yourself or have someone who is who owes you, or even better loves you. The best place for my own projector right now is on my living room ceiling. When my niece and nephew finish renovating their house and vacate our basement, and I will move operations down there but in the meantime here is my living room ceiling (only you would do this, says my daughter):

2. There is some fiddling around to do to make sure the pattern is being projected accurately. This isn't actually very hard. For projector files this process is one of measuring the squares and making sure they are the size the should be (usually 1 " or 5 cm) and then changing the image size % as necessary until they are. Here's my screen with the image percentage adjusted to 21.1% which gives me a perfect match between the grid and my ruler:

Note the grid is a layer in Adobe. Once  the image size has been adjusted to be exactly right you can turn the grid layer  off so those lines are no longer projected -just like you can turn off the layers for different sizes in normal pattern printing.

Also, if you have an older pattern or one that doesn't have a projector file, no problem. Just find the registration box, that little box you are meant to check and measure before you print, and work from that:

It really only takes a few minutes to get things adjusted.


I have a folding table I can use under the projector for patterns and also use the floor. I have written down the different percentages for each pattern company for these two projection distances so I know I will always have an accurate pattern. It is actually easier to work on the floor for me because I don't have to worry about the weight of large pieces of fabric hanging off the end of the table.

Right now I am using the projector most often to quickly trace patterns onto brown paper. 

I have a lifetime of working with paper patterns, so once I have them I can use them quickly. Also I still like the paper for adjustments and still like a paper version of a pattern I suspect I will be using multiple times. 

Tracing along the projected lines onto paper is a crazy time saver compared to printing, taping etc,

I have also projected directly onto fabric and liked that too. The only issue is that until I take the time to learn a free program called Inkscape so I can arrange the pattern pieces so they are in a good position for on the fabric layout (the pattern pieces in most files are not laid out for economical use of fabric) it is necessary to move the fabric around under the image to place the pattern pieces. In some cases I find this a bit slow because I had to fuss around with grain. It might also be possible that I haven't fully adjusted to the weirdness of moving the fabric to work with the pattern, rather than moving the pattern to fit the fabric - like I have for decades and decades.

As to cutting you just cut away, but bear in mind that the fabric layers are not pinned. Pattern weights of some kind really are a necessity. I take some care to slide my scissors not lift them and the fabric but that isn't hard.  Folks who cut with a rotary cutter and mat might be even more efficient.

So that's it.

I am definitely a fan of projector sewing.

To me it is well worth the hassle, and some expense, to get this going.  But to my mind the return in time and money saved from then on makes it worth it.

Confession though. 

I actually had the set up done by my tech savvy husband. As a result he knows more than I do about the hardware side of this. I think I am going to ask him to do a guest post on how we did our set up for you.

Watch for that post shortly.