Sunday, August 28, 2016

Hold the phone, combining clipping and notching, hint #22 and #23

In the middle of my pickling I just had a thought.

Princess seams.

Princess seams are interesting as they typically around the bust area at least have both a curve out and a curve in part, a fit-in-bigger-part that curves out (usually the side front panel) and a fit in, stretch-it-out-part (usually the centre front panel).

These can be a pain, the side fronts can pucker and pleat, and the centre front seam allowance always seems too short.


Notch the side front curve out part (stay stitch for security first just inside the seam line) and clip the curve in front panel along the same section.

This will make it all work.

The seam allowances in the front panel will now stretch comfortable to fit the side panel curves, which you can pin in without bunching because all the extra get in the way fabric in the seam allowance has been notched out.

If you are a visual learner, hold on.

My next project is a jacket with princess seams I think and I will take pictures.

In the meantime I hope the above is clearer than mud.

Handy sewing hint of the day #23

My sister and her husband left at 6:00 a.m. this morning to drive home to Ottawa, leaving their nursing student daughter with me. I am so happy to have a student/kid back under my roof. My ideal zen state is to be in sewing room working away but to have the sound of other people in the house, same as Miss Daisy and Birdie when he stays over - they sniff around at opposite ends of the yard but every once and while look over to make sure the other one is still there.

Some of us are just pack animals, and if you are, you might as well admit it.

Today I will be doing a little cleaning up after a summer of company (my son's in-laws will be here in two weeks and I am looking forward to that a lot - lucked out there) and making pickles.

I am for the first time going to try fermented dills and pickling a bunch of Jalapeño peppers. It is a mystery why someone who doesn't like to spend more than 10 minutes on making dinner is happy spending hours pickling- probably some genetic remanent of my rural background.

I am also thinking of trying a sewing podcast to go along with my Fall of Sewing. If I did that anyone think they would listen?

Now back to the title of this post and a sort, but I hope useful, handy hint.

I have talked about trimming, grading and clipping, and what is left is notches.

Often instructions, particularly for more complex patterns, will tell you to notch. If you don't know the why, many sewers just clip when they read this, but notching is very different.

You cut notches, instead of clips, in any application where you have a convex (curving out) shape that will later be turned inside. 

Now as I continue to explain this you have to take into count that I haven't taken any geometry since Grade 10, being a beneficiary of the marvellous Quebec educational system in high school that allowed you to drop all maths and sciences early on as part of the French romantic languages tradition. This used to drive my pharmacist turned science teacher father nuts and I passed Grade 10 geometry only because he bribed me with promises of pickled herring (my favourite food then in the days before I discovered Creme Brûlée ) if I paid attention during our kitchen table tutoring sessions.

Which explains why I am so proud that I remembered what convex means.

Back to my explanation of notching.

When you have a curve that bends outwards, as you do in a curved collar shape, a curved cuff edge or  more often a round edge patch pocket, once you turn that shape to the right side you are going to have a lot of extra fabric (because the seam allowance is going to have more fabric in it then the shape it turns into) pack into that shape. This means bumps and lumps and weirdness that a iron can't eliminate.

Notching removes this extra fabric so when that patch pocket is turned right side for example, it will lie nice and flat.

Here is what it looks like:

Such an easy idea, isn't it?

And so effective.

Now back to scrubbing cucumbers.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Fly paper thoughts flying home version

  • Leaving my family visiting in Niagara tomorrow. 
  • Putting my mom on the plane for Winnipeg and then marking in the airport until my flight
  • Two days at home getting the semi-apartment in the basement ready for my niece to move in
  • Then it's me, Daisy, and the sewing room
  • Look out
  • Working on reworking my style
  • Starting from scratch on that one
  • Heard somewhere you need to come up with three words that describe you on the inside and find clothes that look like this on the outside
  • Having a hard time with those three words
  • Unserious?
  • Sharp, except for those areas of life where I really am not
  • Parallel parking, the times tables, things like that
  • Homebody
  • Who like travel
  • Dog lover
  • Food lover
  • Easy
  • Colourful
  • Damn this is hard
  • So far I am envisioning only slippers and poop bag and a shift with a zipper
  • Which is probably what I would be happy wearing anyway
  • Not feeling closer to style at all
  • Some system
  • What are your words?
  • Met a new family member who speaks only Spanish
  • Went to the bathroom and googled words and practiced in there
  • Impressed myself
  • Only myself
  • Had a gold crown taken off before I left
  • Dentist asked if I wanted it
  • I know just the person who would I said
  • She is four and goes everywhere with a metal lunchbox full of treasures
  • It's so beautiful Babs, I love it Heidi said
  • I have the best grandmother
  • But the other one wouldn't talk to me all day
  • Why did she get your gold tooth and I didn't?
  • Don't you have another one?
  • What have I started
  • Only a fashionista in slippers and a poop bag gets in a corner like this
  • Define classic
  • What you should wear or always wear?
  • What everyone else wears?
  • What doesn't wear out?
  • I have a secret addiction to Tupperware
  • Not so secret anymore
  • Now that's a classic
  • Use mason jars but have kept the Tupperware cups with the dog teeth marks still on the tops
  • Four dogs and three childhoods ago
  • My sister freezes bags of crumble ready to go and dumps in on fruit
  • She is a great hostess
  • Anyone have a good crumble recipe?
  • Can't reproduce the one I like
  • My mother just told me that her favourite food is oatmeal
  • When she was a kid she used to order tomato soup when she went out
  • Maybe the Depression is to blame
  • Or Scottish parents
  • We have just told her we are having calamari and somosas for dinner
  • From jellied salads to Thai in one generation
  • Should I spend the first part of the fall trying to perfect a shirt pattern?
  • Or trying to decide if I even like shirts?
  • There are no three words to describe all this

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Handy sewing hint of the day #22

This one is about clipping.

Patterns tell you to clip a lot.

They don't really tell you why, how much, or how often.

Those are the important parts.

To make it plain as it can get I would say the thing to remember is you have to clip a seam allowance most of the time when it needs to be attached to some other shape that is different (say a curved neckline to a straight collar for example) or otherwise stretched in some way to liberate the fabric to go around a corner, in a insert as one case.

You don't clip seam allowances that are turned inside, when constructing a round pocket or a curved shaped collar as some examples. For that you need to notch, which is another thing all together, that I will talk about in the next post.

For now back to clipping.

This is what you need to know:

  • To get the stretch advantage of clipping you can't clip like a mouse. This is no time for nibbling at the seam allowance, a victim of the fear that you are not creating a Sturdy Garment. Clip right to almost the seam allowance and be a brave girl about it.
  • As security however put a line of stay stitching (straight stitches, usually a shorter stitch length) in just within the real stitching line. This will act as sort of a dyke to keep the clips for eroding into the garment. You can also, in an instance when you are doing a single clip as in clip to the large dot, iron a small piece of fusible knit interfacing under the area to be clipped, to achieve the same thing but without having to worry about having stay stitches showing later that you have to pick out.
  • Clip a lot, don't be afraid to fringe it almost. This is not a here and there job. The rule is to clip as often as necessary for the fabric to be able to be pulled into a straight line - this will vary by the tightness of the fabric weave btw. A gabardine, as shown below, might need to be clipped every 1/4" or so,  a loosely woven linen every 1/2". Keeping clipping and pulling the seam straight to see how you go.
Here is an example which hopefully makes this all clearer.

A while ago I made a wool gabardine coat. The neckline was obviously round and the collar more or less a straight piece. 

Common situation and you are there every time you yourself put a collar in a blouse. 

You would also know that there is a tendency when the collar gets sewn into the neckline for there to be little pleaty things that annoyingly appear along the stitching line along the neck edge.

You are producing these little pleats you know by the simple task of trying to sew a straight thing to a round thing. 

The solution is to turn that round edge into something straight so the two edges are the same in nature and will sew together naturally.

You get that curved edge to transform into a straight one by clipping. Here is what it looked like once had clipped the neckedge on that coat:

A lot more clips than you expected right? 

True but look at how straight that seam line is, how large the spaces between the clips are - indicating to me how much this seam allowance had to be freed before it could be straight - in my mind representing in each of those spaces potential little pleats of fabric that could have been caught in the stitching line.

Pretty neat trick, eh?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Handy sewing hint of the day #21

I know I haven't done one of these in a while but it's time.

Today I want to talk about cutting.

The truth is most sewers are fairly ambivalent about cutting. Cutting out is the part of sewing most of us like least and most of us are also timid trimmers of seam allowances and other excess fabric.

I think this might go back to what I call the sturdy principle - the sense that if you trim too much and too close things might fray away and come apart after the first wash. 

At all costs we are terrified of this happening and restitch, triple backstitch and disregard trimming instructions in the guide sheets whenever no one is looking.

We need to be braver. In sewing and probably a lot of other areas too. Hand made clothing tends to wear out before it falls apart in my experience and all that excess, should be cut off stuff, can really pack up behind the seams and make things just look lumpy. I have enough lumps of my own I always say, no need in adding any more extra.

So here's what I would say about trimming.

First thing is it's not about just cutting things down but doing the right kind of cutting in the right places. There are three main types of trimming to think about - grading, notching and clipping.

Today I will share a little bit about grading, and cover notching and clipping in the next few posts. 


Grading is necessary when you have a seam that is going to lie close to the body and be well edge pressed and you need to both reduce bulk behind the stitching and avoid a pressed- in ridge. 

To do this you trim one seam allowance down a bit and the other seam allowance about 1/8" even more than the first one. This will create a sort of step down between the two layers of seam allowances so they will blend into the fabric and make a less discernible ridge from the right side after pressing.

The rule is to have the longer trimmed seam allowance on the fabric layer that is on the outside, say the front of a blouse for example, and the slightly shorter one on the layer that is closest to the body. 

Of course in some seams, for instance in a lapel where which layer is going to show on the outside is going to change, at the break point of the collar for instance, you would switch which is the longer trimmed layer too at this point.

Here is a gab collar on the pressing point showing the different widths of trimmed seam allowance. The wider seam allowance is next to the top of the collar:

Pretty gripping stuff I know.

Monday, August 15, 2016

On vacation with the sisters

Just so you know I am thinking of you here is an update.

I am at Niagara-on-the-Lake, close to Niagara Falls with my sister Nancy (in the middle 8 years younger than me) and my mom and niece at Nancy's vacation home there. Yesterday my sister Dawn (the one on the other side of Nancy and 2 years younger) and her family came down from Ottawa and Toronto for a visit and this was shot of us together. Really no memo went out about everybody wears stripes.

The only sister missing is the youngest one at home in Winnipeg.

I am not sewing right now (but ordered a large number of patterns online last night thanks to the magic of iPhones and Paypal) but I am doing a lot of sewing planning. I have a real sewing intensive fall planned for myself and about time. Stay tuned on that one.

I will be here until Saturday and then back  home just in time to help Dawn's youngest daughter move into my basement - she is moving to Halifax to take nursing.

I figure you need a word to know where I have been, if in fact you have been wondering.

At the end of the day they can say she sewed and she had lots of family going on and that would be a pretty accurate summary of me.

These periods when you can't get near your sewing machine but are recharging your inner resources with conversations with people you love are excellent for sewing building up the old mojo.

This is a good thing because this fall I am intending on going deep on a few projects and garment types, more chasing the elusive favourite pattern.

Now off I go to teach my niece how to cast on.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

From the what do you think of this? files

Yesterday's NY Times ran this article on McCalls Patterns and the home sewing industry in general.

It was obviously written by someone who puts sewing in the same category as hand waxing wood floors but that aside here are my own thoughts, and I am dying to hear your own reactions:

OK, I admit it, sewer turned designer after starting to sew four years ago leapt out at me. 

As a teacher I would never dis the devoted learner. I learned a long time ago that it is entirely possible to do something for 50 years and to be doing it badly for all 50 (we all know cooks like that). I also would never ever under any circumstances under estimate the power of determination to learn in turning anyone, fairly rapidly, into an expert.

I well remember a sewing student I once had who took her first class in September, unable to thread her machine, and by the beginning of the next summer was making insulated winter jackets. 

I also remember how hard she worked, and the fact she asked a million questions of me non stop.  She took every class I taught and it was always "Can you look at this? What did I do wrong?" and "Is this better?" Over and over again.

The point too is that she got great really fast but she wasn't doing this on her own. 

We have all taught ourselves, sometimes largely, to sew from pattern instructions. It is also true that there is just so so much you need to know that those guide sheets don't tell you.

There is a reason the guilds had apprenticeships and why trades today do too. Apprentices and journeymen, residents and doctors, sous chefs and chefs.

Experience is a teacher and life without rules of thumb can be heavy going.

Which is why sewers like me feel a strong obligation to pass what we have learned to those just getting going. 

If I know a way that will help you do it without crying I am pretty sure I should share that.

The second thing I felt when I read this was that the journalist had let cliches get in the way of accurate reporting.

We aren't that quaint anymore kiddo. Where have you been?
Crafts, sewing and home based art are not marginal any more.

Has this person heard of Etsy, or yarn bombing, or Indie patterns or sewing lounges? Urban gardens? Mason jar lunches? Breastfeeding and blogging? Things having to have joy for goodness sake?



Listen there might have been a generation skipped over the power suits but young women, my 35 year old daughter's age for example, all tell me that learning to sew is in their bucket list. Soups are no longer coming from the can for these girls. Clothes still don't fit.

Six year old Miss Scarlett's friends have a sewing and knitting club.

Come to think of it give me four year experts any day if it's about the energy.

There is nothing like a half life spent in meetings without end, or magazines where you have to get to page 47 before you are past the ads, or hours spent unpacking things where the packaging is 90% of what you've bought and the what you've bought turns out to be pretty tiny, to make you want to stir your own pot or press your own seam.

Sewing can make you feel powerful, fulfilled and happy. Real happy.

So that's what I think.

Now how about you?