Monday, September 7, 2015

On girls

Several thoughts.

First thanks for your comments, they have me thinking.

Before I get into that I want to share a something a colleague said to me recently.

He told me that, surprisingly, his early teen daughter had really got into sewing her own clothes and was more or less obsessed with it. He told me this because I was the only person I think he had ever met in his life who sewed.

He told me about his daughter's sewing with a tinge of embarrassment. He and his wife are intellectual and very professionally engaged. It was as if her interest in sewing was a detour down.

So I went on long and loud on how sewing is, on the contrary, a highly empowering activity for a young girl.

Let's face it the teenage years are usually not the best for most girls, even worse now I imagine with social media comparisons. Most of us feel better, and feel better about ourselves and look better as we get older.

I was a teenager in a time when you were supposed to be small, blond, and perky. That was it. If you weren't you were falling short of everyone's expectations and you sure knew it.

I was 5'9" in grade seven. My skin broke out. A teacher once handed back my class picture and laughed. My mother discussed my hair and my skin about eight hundred times a day with members of the general public, trying to figure out why I didn't look like my next youngest sister, who had gorgeous hair, skin, and yes played sports well too. My dad bought me golf clubs and hoped maybe I would take up a quirky sport at least (he was about 30 years too early on that one), he liked the young crowd that hung around the golf club, who of course were the same kids who looked right through me at school.

It was not my prime time I can tell you.

I know, as I am sure most of you do too, how acutely a young girl feels judged by her appearance at that age and how much her sense of self is defined by how she feels other people are seeing her.

Of course the gawky part of being a teenager is largely because of things you can't control, but you are not that fair to yourself at this age to understand this.

However I could sew, or at least was learning to. I could decide what I wanted to look like, what I looked good in, what I felt good in, what I aspired to be, and I had the power to make that happen myself. Somewhere I knew that I was a person who was going to do just fine and have an interesting life, even if no one else seemed to believe that, and I sewed for, and dressed that person.

Sewing taught me the most valuable of life lessons - if you want something to happen, make it yourself.

So even if I was tall and gawky and never going to be small and blond and perky I had something to show the world that could be admired, that could make me proud of how I looked. 

When folks came to the house I would be trooped out and displayed "Barbara made this herself." Grown women would tell me, sometimes even accurately, that they could never make anything like that. In Grade Ten and teacher said to me "are those really bound buttonholes?"

Well yes they are.

Sewing took what could have been a painful time in my life and turned it into one of my life's most creative periods.

It taught me to create my own substance when that isn't exactly being delivered to the door with a bow.

Again and again through my life I have been able to turn to sewing for the strength I have sometimes needed to recreate myself.

Anyone can learn to golf later.

And I did.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Whatever happened to home economists

I finished the last wedding event outfit I am going to make a few days ago. A knit top and skirt for the breakfast the next day.

I had of course planned on all sorts of other sewing but when I downed tools on that one I knew I was done.

Like a dinner.

My mojo never leaves me but right now the sewing tank is empty. I counted eight dresses/outfits for myself and other folks in the last six weeks and that's it for me for a bit.

I am also contemplating the first fall, I am taking this term right off except for some grandchild childcare, that I haven't gone to work in a million years. 

I have a backlog of life to catch up on and a house with many projects to do. I've gone domestic to cleanse the work palate and even though my husband won't be home for a week, doing a lot of cooking for myself. I will flypaper to follow.

But I have one other longer thought.

Who here remembers home economists? Or is one?

I am probably the last generation that recalls this as an academic discipline, the Mrs. degree my dad used to call it. In fact my own university had a very well regarded home ec. program but that became sort of embarrassing and it was morphed into human ecology or human nutrition etc. and the sewing part quietly phased out. Folks who want to sew are now directed to art schools where they go right from textiles to designers skipping the part where the neckline fits.

Listen I get it.

In the old days smart women where supposed to apply their minds to the current location - rather than become a macro economist they were directed to the economics of menu planning. Rather than running countries and corporations they were supposed to run households instead.

You could see glimpses of what this meant when you watched home ec. grads in action. They were the women who actually measured and weighed when they cooked, who never eyeballed it in sewing, and wore dress shields with silk blouses. Nancy Zeiman.

Of course this was not a good fit for so many women, my highly intelligent mother having to suffer the 1950s and 1960s with zero interest in things domestic, a woman who could debate politics and yet was judged by the dust balls.

And of course this culture denied the world cardiologists and yes macro economists and corporate CEOs who maybe would have said yes tobacco caused cancer.

All this is true but I wonder about the women who are doing other things who really would have liked home ec. and now have no where to go. Except maybe Pinterest, mommy blogs, and indie patterns produced, sometimes with more hope than skill, on desktop printers in the spare room.

Lost home economics grads who are DIY taking beautifully lit photographs of first projects on rail fences. GOMI is not the same as useful assessment and teaching.

Somewhere in the back of my mind there is a project here, a sort of distance program in home ec. free like Kahn Academy that my generation of women should get going so it is easier to get the basics, the intermediate and the advanced - the 100, 200, 300 and 400 level courses. Going to think about that. I am sure many of you could come up with the units.

Is this making any sense to you? 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Dress sorta done

Well sewed hard since I last posted and with the help of my sewing friend Trudy yesterday got this dress done.

Trudy took pictures of me in it but of course I erased them by mistake so here are some lovely back of the bathroom door shots of the dress finished but yet to be finally pressed.

Of course I pressed as I sewed but handling it again to hem etc. inserted a million wrinkles and it will need a careful going over.

I am not going to do that now, I need a little distance and a break.

My luck held, no major disasters, and it would tempt fate to put it to the iron tonight. 

Best both the dress and I have some time apart before that happens.

I think I managed to interpret the instructions that were not there fairly well and on me I learned a few things.

That weird hanging down part actually looks fine folded up and secured with a brooch like in the design picture on the website. I need a pin that matches the dress pretty well but fortunately when I went into a nice little shop today they told me they are expecting a shipment of many hundreds of 40s and 50s pins from an estate. As soon as they arrive I will tear down there.

So if you have a good imagination, and squint a bit to blur the wrinkles, here is the dress. Proper shots of me in it to follow when I have everything, including my nerves all smoothed out:

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Flypaper thoughts late Saturday night edition

  • My dress for the wedding is a day or two away from finished
  • Took everyone's advice and think it is going to be OK
  • Hard to sew though when you are saying "shit, shit I better not blow this"
  • Every seam
  • Forgot what hyper careful sewing felt like
  • And I mean hyper
  • Makes a real difference but could only do this every once in a while
  • Oh my nerves
  • As they say around here
  • Got shoes with giant bows on them
  • Different colour
  • My daughter is on match-matchy alert around me
  • But my people, we were brought up to match
  • She doesn't get that
  • Causes me pain not to wear the jewelry sets
  • But she can spot those from across the street much less from across the room
  • I am not sure if Miss Daisy is recovering fast enough
  • Check-up Monday
  • How do you put someone on light duties whose only duties are walking around and sniffing the floor?
  • Have a dog sitter organized but are still on standby to see if we need that operation
  • Wedding in three weeks
  • Oh my nerves
  • Miss Scarlett is learning to sew at nearly six
  • If you are born to do it you can start early
  • By instinct she knew to turn under the raw edge on the hem
  • Burnt her fingers on the iron
  • We are not telling her mother
  • Part of the initiation
  • Went silent when we were out
  • "Babsie I can see hems everywhere"
  • Waited my whole life to hear something like that
  • When you make a dress in silk dupioni you realize when you are done
  • That first time you sit down you will make it all wrinkles
  • Nice to sew though
  • Presses well
  • Why can't dogs talk?
  • Maybe because they are too busy listening

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Advice appreciated

Just to let you know I took the good advice and added two back darts, brought in the back shoulder, rotating that seam forward by 1/2" and took in the centre back seam at the top by about 3/4" curving it back by the time we got to my shoulder blades.

So much better and the front fits better now too, reminding me again how improving the fit in one area helps another.

So folks I am going to try to get the good stuff cut tomorrow and start the steady but sure sewing part.

So helpful to have had other eyes on this project, thank you.

Beginning the mother of the groom dress

First off it might be useful if you remember who you are dealing with here.

Do not expect to be seeing a dress you yourself might actually wear to your son's wedding, or something you would find in the MOG section at a store, or many iterations of careful muslins and series of multiple adjustments.

I want to make a cheerful dress that I feel comfortable in and then forget about it. 

I have a dog to think about, a granddaughter who wants to learn to sew, and the crab apples on my tree in the front are getting ripe.

Let's face it, mother of the groom is not the main event. 

I figure that I have already done my bit by providing a decent groom and one who will be an excellent husband or his sister and I are going to kill him.

Also I really like the mother of the bride and we are in a mutually supportive situation going into this, so I don't feel any pressure there at all.

That said I do want the guests of they are thinking about my dress at all to think "I can't believe she made that herself" as opposed to "do you see what she is wearing? I hear she made it herself."

So I am putting some effort into this, which includes making a "muslin" to test out the pattern (Marfy does not come with instructions or pictures - which is OK because I never use instructions anyway, even when it is obvious I should).

So what we have here today is mark one of the muslin, made up yesterday.

I pinned the pattern, which comes without seam allowances to some scrap fabric (if you thought I was going to go out and actually spend money on proper muslin then you obviously didn't grow up in rural Manitoba where a person's grandmother used to wrap up and save quarters of left over pancakes). 

I traced around the pattern with a ballpoint pen and added an inch to the structural seams to play around with, half and inch where there was a standard attachment like the collar, and did not add anything for these purposes at the armholes so I could see what it would look like finished:

Now before I show you the muslin here again is the design drawing from the website for this pattern. Having done some sewing on this unit now I can report that when you look at this taken into consideration that the person in the drawing has about 40 years and 50 pounds less going on than I do:

She also did not appear to have gone to her daughter's friend who is starting out as a hairdresser and seems to have an approach to hair cutting that produces a result not unlike letting a rodent chew your head, in spots. 

The real purpose of time of course is to let your hair grow back.

But that is another story and another blog post.

What you don't see from the pattern picture, but you see when you unfold the pattern pieces, is that that diagonal bit is actually a separate piece you sew in, in the picture outlined with ribbon, and the collar ends with this sort of tab that is supposed to be held in place with a brooch.

I have some dupioni and some lace. My plan was to do the insert and the collar in the lace, the collar insert underneath in the silk, but to have the hanging free end of the collar in lace only. The rest of it in dupioni one of my favourite fabrics.

The idea of a matching brooch is beyond me so we will think about that one later.

Here are the fabrics:

Now, delaying this as long as possible, here I am in the first cut, sewn as per pattern, no alterations yet.

I am happy with the bodice, think the collar is cool, but definitely that hanging down piece needs to be in something light.

I have to add enough length to cover my knees so I look dignified and need to smooth out the side seams which always come with a curve at the hip this banana shaped body does not need.

The insert which looks pretty aggressive here in my left over contrast from a skirt I made my mom, is a bit wide and does not have the dramatic swoop the picture has, maybe having a significant difference between waist and hip makes a difference.

The back of this dress does not have back darts and as a result my rear looks like what it is, which is prominent. I have to think about adding darts or just more room at the back. Best not to over fit that part and articulate it maybe.

And I have to curve the back seam so reflect my body.

Feel free to leave comments, including, you must be crazy.

My husband actually said he liked it, although he has been known to tell me that something looks great from the other room behind a closed door.

And on we go.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

This is what out of control looks like

I know it has been a while since I have posted.

Well let me tell you what's been going on.

First off Miss Daisy is recovering, as much as you can tell when someone doesn't talk. She is on light duties, no running, jumping, horsing around and no walks.

Only the last one can we really control, that and keeping her off stairs and things she can jump down from. When she gets too wild she goes back in the Pack and Play where she "moans" to quote my middle granddaughter.

End of the month we go back to see the vet. Hopefully he will think she is sufficiently healed to go slowly back to normal life and we have dodged the surgery bullet for the time being. 

I have to tell you that I am a little stressed about the next month with her. 

Next week my husband goes back up north for his final round of duty and I hope she continues to improve so I don't have to drive two provinces over with a sick dog on my own. And third week in September we are away at the wedding and I am not sure what to do with her. The original plan was a dog sitter friend of my daughter's was going to stay here with her own and our three family dogs but I am thinking that is going to be too chaotic and I need someone who can take fairly careful care of her here until I get back. So far I don't have anyone to do that but am working on it.

Good news though is she is getting better. Trying to keep an energetic dog in pain quiet and still has not been all that easy to date.

Other news is I am winding down the end of my last term, only marking left, and going to be taking the fall off completely, and after that doing only a course or two a term of my favourite classes, and by distance. This is a huge life transition for me and one I am getting my head around, but in a good way, very good.

I will be teaching a few local sewing classes however when I get back from the wedding, and am looking forward to that.

Now to the title of this post and the picture that follows.

Last Saturday my husband and I made 107 eight ounce jars of blueberry jam. I drove to the country and got the berries right off the farm and we moved fast to get them all done when the berries were completely primo.

I have to say that it was quite the operation.

My husband prepped the batches for me, crushing the berries by hand, stirring in the lemon juice, and sugar. Being a systems guy he did several large bowls at a time so I could just move from one to the other.

In theory it was a good approach but right around noon this happened:

For reasons that would take too long to explain that man has a full sized double door fridge in his office in the house. He figures he needs stuff handy. Well at any rate he was using this fridge to store his prepped bowls and, moving at typical top speed, he slammed one into the door when he was putting it on the shelf.

What you don't see here is that this sugar berry mixture went all over the room too, right over his desk and all over his computer monitor. 

For once I was speechless and that hardly ever happens, I can tell you that.

When I heard his yell I left my post, temporarily, at the stove to go see what was up and all I could say was "well I guess you had better clean that up."

He had more or less figured this out.

Many sticky footsteps later he was back at it and about 10:30 that night we had screwed the last lid on the last jar.

Since this jam is destined to be handed out to wedding guests we are going to be sticking little circles of Nova Scotia tartan onto the lids.

But I think we might take a little break first, what do you think?