Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas countdown

Hi folks,

First of all I want to thank you for the supportive comments.

I mean it about a book. I want to write a sort of self-help book for sewers and I am going to do it. I have eight months of full-time work left and that will be my percolating time.

Stay tuned.

I also want to say I need some time to grab to answer the interesting comments that have been left for me, but it is nuts, with Christmas stuff and work things going on.

So what I have to share tonight are flypaper thoughts:


  • One week to go
  • The secret is to lower expectations
  • For yourself first and other people second
  • All the good things in a family and a life can't be expected to come together on one day of the year
  • I have multiple decades of personal experience backing this one up
  • They must sell a ton of super bulky yarn the week before Christmas
  • My son-in-law had not serious but highly uncomfortable surgery yesterday
  • The kids have colds
  • The son arrives late the night before Christmas with the fiancee
  • Things shaping up as normal
  • Just fuse a small piece of knit interfacing where they tell you to stay stitch at the clip
  • Who need to pick those stay stitches out at midnight?
  • Do you think a Sirarcha and honey cookie will be too weird?
  • Who would even ask that?
  • Will report tomorrow
  • Fluffy slippers are excellent
  • One year I had four minutes between the time the last one went to sleep and the first one got up
  • Am most disturbed that the early spring patterns are all for waisted full skirted dresses
  • Waists move around in fashion but where yours should be is the worst place
  • Miss Heidi has taken this lump of coal thing to heart
  • Walking around in stubby legs muttering "that time I screamed at my family I was a baby. I am going to be good now I am a big girl"
  • Makes me feel bad that I told her about Melvin Clark
  • The kid I actually know who once got a lump of coal
  • Parents pulled those stunts in the old days
  • It appears grandparents pull them now
  • She is already stressed enough for three
  • And not just because of the sneaky looking Elf on the Shelf
  • Like about racoons
  • I told her about the time I found a racoon hand under the cushion on the couch
  • Must have fallen off someone in the backyard
  • Birdie brought it in for a present
  • I live in Nova Scotia after all
  • One more story and I am going to be put on grandmother probation
  • She would rather stand than sit on the couch
  • Much like her father
  • These things happen
  • Why would my husband think I wanted a car that can talk to me?
  • I get into the car for peace and quiet
  • We have traded back
  • If kids can't spill juice in it then it's not for me
  • My neighbourhood is famous for Christmas lights
  • We have tour buses drive slowly all night
  • Makes you run downstairs to throw the switch on while wearing your fuzzy slippers
  • The last thing we were famous for was the Bird House gang
  • Bunch of gangsters were going into yards at night and switching around the bird houses
  • Giving the senior men fits
  • Only their wives laughed
  • It's a tough neighbourhood
  • Do they still sell red and green Rice Krispies?
  • In case the Sirarcha cookies bomb
  • As if that's going to happen

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Archer shirt

Yes I know I was a sort of sign upper for the Archer shirt sew-along and finished that shirt about a month ago, but haven't got around to posting anything on it yet.

Here is a simple hanger shot:



The fabric was a voile cotton with almost a suede finish which will explain some of the odd colour shading.

This is a very good pattern.

Well-drafted, which means it slots together well, and a great fit for a comfortable shirt. Good smart directions too.

My only comment is that it uses the traditional blouse continuous lap placket which is something I hate doing. Far too many fabric layers in a short space and as a result they never, IMO, lie flat (I have turned the sleeve around for the photo so you can see what I mean.)

Far better to use a nice neat, and if you want a more feminine version a smaller, proper shirt placket like the one I put in a Negroni shirt for my nephew last night:




I know there are versions of this being put on the Archers over at the sew-along. However again I think that doing it in two pieces is unnecessary - a one pattern piece version, as you find in the Negroni, is just so much easier and always turns out perfectly. The trick is of course to trace the stitching box on typing paper and pin it directly over the placket piece on the shirt sleeve and just stitch through the line on the paper with a small stitch (you can tear the paper away easily afterwards) to get around what looks like complicated marking on the pattern piece.

I know I should be doing some tutorials, but it really is getting a little nuts around here pre-Christmas time. Hopefully I will get a chance to catch up.

I have been reading a lot of indie pattern instruction sheets lately and I am also thinking I really need to write a sewing book.

Soooo many of these patterns (some of them designed by folks who are now publishing their own basic sewing books) are just telling sewers to do things the hardest way possible and with that the largest margin for error.

Over and over again I want to say "there is an easier way to do this, there really is, with better results". 

It seems to me that some of these talented young designers are looking up techniques in standard sewing texts. Fair enough but they are missing out on the knowledge of a whole generation of sewers, brilliant women who were under-employed as housewives and went on to write amazing books (often self-published and I have them) full of smart and nifty ways around sewing problems, and to teach and broadcast in some places really interesting classes where they taught their methods.

The problem was that this work was often not well captured and the new generation of sewers can't access it.

But I can. 

I read those books, I took those classes, I taught those classes. 

I knew those women. I was the part of the last generation they passed on a way of thinking about sewing to.

Someone has to get this information out there.

I really am seeing too many gapping knit necklines ( 3/4 ratio for self fabric, 2/3 for ribbing, pin-and-mark-in quarters) too many V necklines done in the way that has a 99% chance of ending in a little bump rather than a way that has a 99% chance of success first off.

So I need to write a book and have to figure out how to get that done.

Now off to packing that shirt off for Winnipeg.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sewers are born not made

I have many, many things to write about right now but tonight I want to share what my middle granddaughter did today at nursery school.

It was her day to make a wish for what she wanted her circle group to do as an activity. Usually it is a story or a game etc.

Today Miss Heidi said her wish was to sew ballet clothes. So they got her some fabric and helped her cut and this is her outfit. Note she even made her shoes:


Lately, since the baby, Miss Heidi has had a few time outs for things like cutting the points off the bunting flags her mom made to decorate her room, and cutting up her own clothes and gluing them to the floor (I am a terrible grandmother I just laugh no matter what goes down over there) but I am putting this together now.

This kid is just a born sewer trying to get out.

And I am ready for her.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Christmas baking : not too sweet ideas

Yes I know.

I am still marking.

However that doesn't mean I don't go AWOL every once and a while and surf the web during break time.

I am often amused by the cookie recipes published this time of year, based on the assumption that your average busy person, with a job, family and 8,000 responsibilities has spare time to make ganache, dip delicate cookies in chocolate and role in toasted pecans, or ice up little numbers like these:


I can tell you for sure that anyone who is spending her time on projects like this is way behind in making up her Lazy-boy tops.

Way behind.

There is also a limit to the amount of icing sugar, cream cheese and butter a person can buy these days when the rest of world has gone diet responsible. Not everyone tucks away the sweets like they used to, or I still want to.

So with all of that in mind I was quite interested in, and wanted to share, these Washington Post recipes for off-beat Christmas cookies.

I might actually make some of these.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Sharing a breath

I will get to those instructions, or find them in a book, soon. I really have to keep soldiering on with the marking though, students and administrators are waiting, before I can take time out to do that.

There is however one fast story I want to share.

Back in the early summer when we adopted Miss Daisy, many pounds and vet treatments ago, she was a small terrified wreck. The first day she came home with us she lay on the floor shaking like a seizure.

I didn't have a clue what to do.

So I decided to think of the safest she had ever felt and wondered if that was with her mother when she was a puppy. So, no other ideas in my head, I lay down on the floor with her, pressed my body all along hers and did strong slow breathing. The kind they tell you to do to help with the pain in labour - it didn't really work then, but I figured I was dealing with some kind of pain I didn't understand and it was all I had to reach for.

After a while she calmed down.

Last night we had a thunderstorm. 

Unlike the first time she was in a storm with us, when we lost her for hours since she was in the back of a closet where her little black self was invisible, she wanted up on the bed and she crawled up to the pillow between us. 

She lay there, pressed to the wall and I could not believe how she was shaking, how a little body could have those many tremors in it. 

So I just did what I did before. 

I put my hand on her back and my face next to hers and I just breathed,  slow and deep, like a person who isn't afraid of anything would breathe just before they went to sleep. Just like a mother who knows something about the thunder you don't and just knows it will be OK.

After a while I could feel her breathing matching mine and she feel asleep. Even while the wind continued to blow.

This has me thinking of Mr. Billy the baby.

Billy sticks to my daughter's body like a mussel to a rock - we joke he is four months old and has agoraphobia, all he wants is to be plastered to her at home in his own house.

I wondered this morning if maybe all he is doing, quietly in a way we are not noticing, is matching his breath to hers before he lets go.

I wonder.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Lazi-boy top #2

It should be pointed out at this stage I am not a lazi-girl (84 more papers to mark but who's counting) but I really want to be.

In the meantime I am sewing aspirational tops during break times.

The latest was this one from Burdastyle, one of those digital patterns you tape all those pages together. Here is the picture of how it looks on someone who is not me and actually never was me:


They made their's in a sort of fake fur but I decided against that in case the folks around here thought it was a Halloween costume.

Besides I had some of that purple loopy knit like I used in the first Lazi-boy top and a purple scarf with wiener dogs on it which I don't get a call to wear as often as you might think.

Here are the pictures. 

They show this is a really big top, even on me and suitable for wearing with leggings or any time you might want to disguise your actual true body shape, as I often do, or if you are unexpectedly carrying triplets. One of these is a better shot of the top, the other one is included because for once I don't have a dopey look on my face or am inspecting fleas on the ceiling:



This is an excellent top for schlepping around, marking papers, or cutting out Lazi-boy top #3.

Now some technical notes.

Probably because they actually thought someone would make this top, and not as a Halloween costume, in fake fur the neckline is finished with bias tape turned under and stitched.

Even before I started following these instructions (or as my friend Sue likes to call them the destructions) I knew this woven binding, even in a bias, on a knit is a bad idea.

I figured it would distort the knit and bow out the V neckline and for once I was right.

I still tried it out though. 

You never know. Sometimes in the rare instances in which I actually follow the instructions (like when I can find them and haven't thrown them out with the back neck facings) I learn something new, which since I am in education is probably an experience I should support.

Back to the neckline.

Once I had established in the bathroom mirror that this did stick out and look horrible I just cut the binding right away from that neckline. A lot faster than unpicking a knit. Borrow this idea if you want.

I then installed my super easy cross over V for idiots that always works out and requires no thought.

Here is how you do it:

1. Cut a long piece of knit twice as wide as you want it finished ( you will be folding the band in half lengthwise) and much longer than the measurement around the neckline ( you can cut off the extra later- apply the band with a good few inches extra hanging around at the bottom of the V)

2. Starting at the point of the V stitch up one side of the V, without stretching the band, stretch slightly around the back of the neck so it will cup a bit, and back down in the direction  the point of the V on the other side - Stopping a few inches before the point of the V on the second side.

3. Lay the whole unit out on a table right sides out and tuck the end of the side of the band that was stitched from the point of the V into the gap left unstitched on the other side. Arrange it around so it looks alright from the right side. Pin it in position.

4. Go back to the wrong side and finish stitching that bit of seam on the second side you left unsewn through all layers of band that are there. 

5. Cut off any extra band length.

Now I want you to know that I tried to take pictures of this but it came out as one dark purple blog and despite the fact I am fully aware that instructions without pictures are useless - I can and should do instructions later.

It is a great method.

Perfectly fool proof and about 1000% easier than all other methods I see described anywhere else I look on the www.

If I get enough requests I will do a proper tutorial like a decent blogger.

But right now I have too much brain numbness after the many assignments I have already marked today.

You know when all you can think of to write at the bottom of a paper is "You mean this is it? You're kidding right? " it is time to call it a day.

For educational purposes.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Lazi-boy top #1


A few years ago my husband went out and got himself a Lazi-boy chair. At the time I thought we didn't need another chair in this house and particularly one that was  such a cliche. 

You know how cool I am. It's well-known.

Of course the minute that man was out of the house away for work I was right in that old Lazi-boy, feet flipped up and enjoying myself a lot.

Eventually I bought one for myself, once it became apparent he wanted his back.

Yes that's right. 

We have his and hers Lazi-boys down in the family room in the basement. So much for cliches.

Listen I admit it, being comfortable is a real default and for good reason. If you were coming home after a day standing up teaching and generally being pulled in four hundred directions and just wanted to cruise the pattern sites and pretend you were going to actually sew all those things, where would you plant yourself?

As illustrated above or, in this:


I hope I am not insulting anyone's design sense or living room, but I kind of rest my case.

It has occurred to me that I do this with some of my clothes.

Go for the chic picture and forget how I will feel in it.

I need more Lazi-boy tops.

I know I would wear them a lot.

With that in mind I pulled out this pattern I have been meaning to sew for a long time:


I am a big fan of shawl collars, as I am of details that are from the culture of women's clothes, so I always liked this pattern.

I decided to add about 4" total to the width, and inch each side at the underarm, to make it more a tunic but still maintain the fit in the shoulders, and I added the same to the length.

I used a sort of loopy knit that is kind of a cross between a fleece and a terry and here it is:


There is no head in this picture because the photographer focused on the dog and not me and my face is a little blurry, not to mention the hair is vertical.

Here is the close-up of the collar:


Now if this doesn't say ready to recline, I don't know what does.