Sunday, August 2, 2015

A sewing update

I had big plans not to do anything or even blog until I got the flower girl dresses done.

However I have given up on that recognizing that there is a time to stop for the day.

All sewers know what I mean - it's the opposite of the sweet spot - it's that time where you say just one more buttonhole and then you cut through that last buttonhole right through the entire front of the jacket (yes I did this exact thing in a jacket I was making for a girlfriend in about 1975), or you get impatient with taking out a few stitches and rip a hole near the neckline.

I once snipped a thread on my sister's grad dress hem as she was going out the door and cut a hole in the skirt.

You see where I am going with this.

This particular project, these four silk taffeta dresses are going really well and I am being careful. Which is why I knew when to call it a weekend tonight.

I have the skirts all gathered and even hemmed and the bodices finished with the ties in the side seams.

All I have to do now is attach the bodices to the skirts, insert the zippers, and hand hem the linings in place.

Silk taffeta is interesting. It picks up every mark and adopts every wrinkle. I sure wish I could remember who I lent my steamer to, I am going to need it when we unpack in DC. It has made me realize too that when you see those Old Masters portraits in museums and the dresses still have fold lines it is because they were silk taffeta and there was no outlet nearby to plug in an iron or a steamer.This stuff remembers the folds.

When I was doing the hems I got nervous about pins and so used big paper clips to put up the hems when I hand stitched them. This was so fast and easy I think I will use this idea again when doing normal hems:

In my spare time I also made my daughter a simple dirndl style skirt so she could try some pattern mixing with a bought top, to be worn at the meet and great after the rehearsal dinner.

After I made this up, she was away for the weekend when I worked on it, she told me she actually wanted the stripes horizontal. I told her I could take it apart and do that, but I really was thinking if she says yes to that one I am just going to quietly leave town so I don't have to. 

Some things you just say to show off.

Fortunately she said it would be OK so we left it as it was although I did have to take the waistband off and take it in about 3" because apparently no one in my family can be trusted to take their own measurements, and I should know that, so it is probably my own fault. 

A mistake that will not happen again.

Here she is in the skirt out her backyard after a day at the beach with the kids, so you are supposed to take that into account when you look at her hair and make-up less face. 

It kills me that she was surprised I didn't do the stripes across - after all these years of sewing I had more or less assumed that any person wouldn't want their bottom half to look any larger than it is - that is at least what I would have thought. As it is she thinks this outfit makes her look fat. Considering she has a 27" waist despite three kids I don't think anyone would think that.

Finally this is Miss Scarlett who saw me with the camera taking pictures and wanted to show you her being a butterfly, that is fabric from my stash BTW:

Once I have the flower girl dresses done I think all I have left to do is one for my step-daughter and then me.

Mine is this Marfy pattern which arrived in the mail a few days ago - they come in an envelope just the pattern pieces no picture even of the garment and no instructions. I should be able to figure it out and for once in my life may even make a muslin for this one:

Before I get going on this I have to get my 75 jars of blueberry jam made for the wedding welcome baskets for guests.  I have been in touch with a farmer and am going to go out and pick up 40 pints, which I hope is enough, in about ten days, so I better have all my sewing except for myself done by then. 

Somehow this dress doesn't look like something a person who is making all that jam would wear - so I guess my plan is to go to the wedding in disguise.

My husband is coming home Thursday and he just emailed me to suggest a golf over night at a resort for our anniversary.

Little does that man know he is going to be spending his anniversary sterilizing jars for me instead.

For better or for worse, and I am pretty sure he remembers what he signed up for.

Now off the bed. The dogs are looking tired. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

My husband's northern blog

My husband started this blog largely for the entertainment of the extended family when he is away. He inspects big jobs and most of those are remote.

Funny just after I posted my last one he sent me an email that he had put up a blog post about polar bears. Since they are not a day-to-day thing for most people, I thought those who might find this interesting might find this post interesting.

Needless to say the husband is himself a bit of a character.

Flypaper thoughts, night before garbage day edition

  • There are so many things women keep to themselves
  • And from each other
  • Labour is a big one
  • How hard it is after a new baby
  • When it is your first
  • How you can be planning your Christmas list when your husband thinks he has your full attention
  • That there is a moment after the kids have gone when you realize
  • No, this house won't be hearing that kind of laughter again
  • That you actually think you look better than you let on
  • That you eyeball most things
  • That you don't change your needle all that often
  • That you eat all the chocolate chips in the cupboard a lot more often than you make cookies
  • That age first shows the hardest under your armpits
  • That you better learn to live alone at some stage
  • My mother-in-law in moving into senior's apartments
  • Turns out granite counter tops are poor company
  • The new place has a clothesline
  • And there were ladies sitting in a common room talking
  • Makes me so glad I can sew
  • House work could not be my purpose
  • Floors indicate this is very true
  • And that sewing folks like to talk
  • My husband is back in the North Pole again
  • This time actually right near it
  • Right up next to Greenland
  • He has to carry a bear alarm
  • The polar bears are hungry
  • And apparently pretty sneaky too
  • They wait around the corners
  • Even the North Pole has corners
  • I wasn't born to have dinner alone
  • But am fine afterwards down in the sewing room
  • Maybe I should eat there
  • But far from the silk
  • Four flower girl dresses are taking shape
  • Then 75 jars of blueberry jam for the bride to give
  • Little plaid tops on the jars
  • Should keep me out of trouble
  • Or get me into it
  • Pleased she asked
  • Got to help the next house be set up for laughter

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Why it is so good to sew


My sister Nancy and my 14 year old niece Sophia have been staying with me for two weeks. 

They have both being losing their minds trying to find something to wear to the wedding in September so one of the things I have done over the last three days is make them both dresses.

They both chose their own fabric (OK Nancy twice because RTW and sewing patterns are not the same size ...) and I did the measurements, alterations, and sewing.

What I did in terms of alterations was very simple but it is instructive on how hard it is to get RTW to fit a normal real body.

Here we go.

Sophia brought down a chiffon in her favourite colours purple, blue and navy. 

She is 14 and petite. However she is a competitive breast stroke swimmer and has very developed swimmer's shoulders. She is also a modest kid and has no interest in looking sleazy which seems to be the trend for young teens. The wedding is fairly formal but she felt being a short person she would be swamped in something long so we decided to do high low.

The alterations were size 14 for her shoulders, shortening the torso by 2", the skirt by 4", taking in the waist 1" and curving the centre back seam to accommodate her shoulder development.

Sophia is pleased with the result and definitely we could not have been able to find anything to fit her: like this dress does:

The braces were removed two days ago. She is so happy about that.

This is the back of a competitive backstroker

Side view so you can see the high low
Sophia's mom, my sister Nancy, has a small boned frame and she buys a size six. That was the size she cut out in her original pattern when I wasn't looking.

The fact is that Nancy has a size 6 shoulder and a 14+ hip. If you sew you get the picture.

This necessitated a trip to the fabric store that no one minded at all. In the end we decided we liked the new fabric better anyway.

Here is her dress done with the additions made to the width where she needed it. Another situation where it would have been impossible to buy anything to fit and we think she looks terrific:

And finally a mother and daughter shot, with Nancy holding up Sophia's hair to show her back (actually in case you are wondering the back right does fit, figure she was standing crooked and self-conscious for the pictures - being 14 is not the best age for posing):

So that was my sewing last weekend. 

This weekend I made a silk skirt for my daughter to wear one of the pre-wedding events and if I get my school work done early enough it is off to start on the flower girl dresses.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Another shirt

I have just sent off another shirt to my son in Brooklyn.

I am preparing a how to sew faster class for Burdastyle and it really occurs to me that the main thing is to make a pattern you have sewn before.

It is like when you go somewhere first time in the car, it takes so long to get there and so much faster to come back.

These shirts are taking me so much less time than the first versions, and every time I do one I come up with another efficiency.

The fabric is from Cotton and Steele ordered from Hawthorne Threads.

Next up, and project for the weekend is a formal dress from my sister who is visiting.

She has already cut it out, according to the size she wears in RTW.

I think you have a fairly good idea how this weekend is looking.

Off I go.

Friday, July 17, 2015

What do you think about signs?

My husband, who is a very down to earth type of guy, has moments when he runs across what he feels are signs.

This all started with a bag of rags he picked up in a car place when out of town in rural Nova Scotia. 

For some reason my spouse was cleaning the car and  picked up one of those random bags they sell for those things.

Anyway the first rag he pulled out was from a T shirt with a Knoxville Tennessee logo on it. Now Knoxville is a long way from Yarmouth County Nova Scotia and was neither a place he had ever visited, or ever thought of.

Well the point of this story is that very shortly afterwards he got a call to go and work on a project based out of Knoxville that kept him travelling back and forth from there for a few years - and was one of his career highpoints. He loved Tennessee and so do I. It was just so lucky that we made that connection.

Well anyway Babs, is there a place you are going to here?


I have been extremely busy lately with teaching, family, family visits and sewing for that family. And at the end of August I am shifting from full time to part time and trying to get my head around that and working out new priorities.

About the same time a former colleague approached me about doing some work in Fiji (I have been there before) for a UN organization and that commitment and where it might lead, really had me doing some soul searching.

I know this sounds very glamorous but if you have ever done this kind of stuff it still is work and that far away you work pretty intensely, never much down time, and a lot of prep work so when you go do it you don't waste anyone's time.

Of course I was tempted.

However the time frame was putting me pretty close to the wedding and the thought of pulling this together, the sewing I have to do, wrapping up the marking for my summer courses, was pretty intense.

To make a long story short I decided to give it a pass, and more importantly, recommend a younger women who really needs this kind of a career break. Simply I decided someone else needed this boost. To quote superstitious husband who can still exhibit common sense "For you it would be work, for her it would be an adventure." 

This one statement did it for me.

The question is how do I spend my time in this next stage? 

For me I decided that rather than moving into consulting and new opportunities I really want to sew, encourage other people, and help out who I can help out. 

That is more satisfying to me than anything that sounds impressive, if I am articulating this well.

I just guess I am getting to the end of my serious quota. 

Since figuring this out these things have happened:

  • I reconnected with Burdastyle and am running a week long "power session" with them with another one to run in a few weeks.
  • I made my 14 year old niece a formal dress to wear to my son's wedding that, at that most awkward stage in life, makes her feel happy and glamorous (pictures to follow).
  • I am signed up to teach two courses at the hip sewing lounge/shop place around here this fall
  • I walked into the sewing machine dealer when taking my serger in for a service and was asked if I would run a shirt class in October
  • I have worked out a teaching schedule for a limited number of classes I will do at the university on a part-time basis only
And this morning, and this is the sign part, I got up early to finish some hand sewing on my niece's dress and there was an unexpected posting on my Facebook (I am completely inactive on FB).

It was from a student I taught a while ago, a mother of four who went back to school at 40, was diagnosed with breast cancer on the last day of her last class - and who has recovered and thrived. Out of the blue she wrote that my mentorship has meant a lot to her and that everyday she asks herself on the job what would Barb do. (I actually find this a bit unnerving as every day Barb made it up as she went along). After my student's post there was a comment left by someone who worked with me years and years ago who wrote "I wonder how many of us would say that".

Timing is of course everything and a wink that this was the right time for this reorientation is pretty nice. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

T shirt mark one

Deeply involved in my own little world of things that make sense probably only to me I decided to expand my men's sewing repetoire to include T-shirts. (To see how menswear is really done check out Mainely dad.)

Since my birthday boy left to work setting up a wind farm in Texas, Friday I decided I needed to make him a shirt in this knit . It is supposed to represent something to do with the electricity of the NYC subway and I wanted to say, this is the next thing you have to take off the grid.

Art Gallery knits are first class and really cool fabric patterns.

 Nothing really exciting about this project except that I used a Jalie in a larger size than recommended and cut down the neckline, and that I wasn't happy with my cover hem tunnelling so cut off about 1 inch and then sewed the hem on my regular machine with a zig zag (time was running out).

My son liked it except he would have liked this shirt an inch longer.

Wouldn't we all.

At any rate I am going to scope out more of these knits for myself. You can try or my personal favourite source because of the breathtakingly good service Hawthorne Threads.