Making pants for Frances that fit is one of the reasons I got into sewing clothes.
It’s also one of the most challenging projects I’ve ever worked on.
I’ve tried so many patterns and so many alterations, and most of them, Frances couldn’t wear. They were too tight here or too loose there or too low-cut or fit on the legs weird. So in the meantime we bought a lot of very loose blue jeans in bigger sizes and hemmed them shorter.
Frances’s body grows differently; it’s part of her genetic condition. Her bones are a lot shorter, the joints are a slightly different shape, her back is quite curved, her ribs (and therefore torso) are bigger. Relative to other kids her age, she needs pants with a bigger waist, a snugger back, shorter legs; and then of course she likes things to be in her own style, which at this point in her life means “casual.”
It’s been an incredibly long project to get a set of alterations that fit her well and she enjoys wearing. But by George, we’ve finally done it.
Theses are the first pair of proper blue jeans I’ve made for her that she actually wears, and that fit.
They are not perfect. My sewing machine was incredibly unhappy about sewing through all the layers of denim and interfacing on the waistband and at the seams, so the topstitching is crap. One of the belt loops was sewed on a bit crooked.
Otherwise. I LOVE THESE. And so does Frances.
The pattern is a custom hodge-podge of Jalie stretch jeans, an Ottobre denim shorts pattern, and a trace-off of Frances’s favourite Old Navy Jeans, all with her alterations. The denim is very heavy, 97% cotton 3% spandex, from European textiles on Ottawa St N in Hamilton. $9/m, I think, so they were overall cheaper than Old Navy jeans. Nice metal jeans zipper. The pockets are quilting cotton with an adorable fox pattern on them, because Frances loves foxes.
I rigged up a buttonhole-and-button setup on the inner back waistband so we could get some buttonhole elastic and ensure that the back waistband is as snug as she wants it to be. It’s not as tidy as I would have liked, but it is functional.
My sewing machine went on strike over the buttonhole at the front: too many layers of fabric. I tried four buttonholes and ripped out three; the last one only completed halfway. So half of the buttonhole is by machine and the other half is by hand. It turned out pretty neatly, I think.
They fit her well (YAY!) but I have a list of small tweaks for the next one:
take some length and depth out of the front crotch curve
angle in the back yoke a bit more to make the waist a bit snugger back there.
add maybe half an inch to the back rise
lower the front pocket curve by about 3/8″
deepen the front pockets by an inch
and use angled pockets for the back rather than the rounded ones that came with the Ottobre pattern.
I can’t emphasize this enough, Dear Readers: rounded back patch pockets in thick fabric with contrast topstitcing are the devil. The fabric doesn’t want to fold in nicely to match the curve, even with gathering stitches to help; and the sewing machine has no interest in moving smoothly around that curve while topstitching afterwards. Angled pockets. They’re the way to go.
The important thing is that now we are a hair’s breadth from having a perfect pants block for Frances. So I can make her pants that she can wear, hallelujah.
Also hallelujah: Frances has decided that the next pair of pants she wants, is leggings. That should be a much faster and easier project than blue jeans, even having to trace and alter a new pattern. (And in fact they’re already done, traced out and sewn up in a single day. Thank goodness.)
But after that: more jeans. More leggings. Fancy pants to wear when she needs to dress up and doesn’t want to wear a dress. Pants forever.
I cannot wait to make All The Pants for Frances. Frances now has a lifetime Pants Avalanche coming her way.
I keep trying to make them the same hobby. Mostly by buying something bright and shiny and cheap and then shoe-horning it into a sewing pattern for a garment that I don’t actually need but will (hopefully) wear often enough to make it worth it.
Anyway: Saw this–I think it’s a light boucle? Definitely it’s woven loosely from chunky yarns and ravels at a touch. It’s wool; I can tell because it’s super itchy. It’s also shiny thanks to a beautiful gold lurex thread running prominently through it. Regularly $12/m, but half price. I thought I might make a full, pleated skirt from it and bought 1 1/2 m.
Then had about a hundred second thoughts. (Thoughts two to 102.) Do I really want, will I ever wear, a neutral metallic full pleated skirt anywhere, let alone to work? Maybe not. Pencil skirt? Too plain? This is the downside of treating fabric shopping as its own separate hobby.
A friend suggested a pencil skirt with a kick pleat. I didn’t have a pencil-skirt-with-a-kick-pleat pattern but I did have this pattern in the stash, which I’d never had a chance to make up. (It was a toss up between this one and a burda straight skirt with a front pleat, but their skirts are often very boxy and hard to peg, so I went with this one.)
And that 1 1/2 m was just barely enough, length-wise, thanks to having to worry about stripe-matching and the length of the flounced pieces in the back. I do have about a fat quarter left.
It’s a straight view D except for pegging it in an inch on each side of the hem. The back flounces provide lots of room for walking. It was a straightforward pattern and I didn’t even look at the instructions (so I can’t comment on them at all); even drafting a lining from my skirt sloper was easy (short form: cut them out, treat the darts as tucks, serge the bottom of the pattern’s facing pieces, baste them to the lining pieces, sew the right side together; attach to the skirt; understitch; join the left side below the zipper; attach to the zipper; serge the hem to a consistent length; done). (By the way, the lining is a chocolate brown bemberg from the stash.)
What made the project challenging was the loose weave of the fabric and the fussiness of the stripe matching. The first two pieces I put together I matched every second stripe with a pin and sewed it with a regular foot, and it was ok but didn’t match as nicely as I would have liked. So for the rest of the seams (and to be clear, there are three pieces on the front and sixon the back, then sewing the front and back together) every horizontal stripe was matched with a pin, the pins stayed in while I sewed–slowly–over top of them, and I used the walking foot. That worked a lot better and I am super proud of how nicely those stripes match up.
The seam allowances were serged separately after I sewed the pieces together to make sure that the seams would be a good consistent 5/8″. I hand-sewed petersham ribbon to the inside of the waist facing for extra stability–it’s such a loose weave I worried about the waist growing over time–and did a catch-stitch by hand on the hem to prevent that from stretching out under the presser foot.
There’s lots of room for more pegging. Given the stripes on this one, I didn’t want to take it in more than an inch, but if you want a good fitted skirt with a dramatic back flounce, you can certainly do it here.
Even with the stripe-matching, sewing-plus-serging, drafting a lining, and pegging-after-the-fact, this was still a one day project. And it’s very much an Andrea-netural, so I expect I’ll be wearing it to work a lot over the winter.
I’m calling it my mullet skirt because it’s business in the front, party in the back. Get it? I know, not actually that funny.
Just in case anyone’s wondering: it’s a Renfrew hack, with the FBA rotated into a very, very gathered neckline, squared off a bit, and a 1″ neck band for something a bit different.
The centre back, middle back and centre front pieces are identical for all three sizes in the envelope; all of the extra for the larger sizes is on the side seams. This meant that I could give myself a bit of a break and just cut all of the pieces out and cut the side pieces a bit big, rather than trying to measure the pattern tissue first and choose the right size. So I cut between a 14 and a 16, sewed the fronts and backs together, and then measured the waist and hip widths on the assembled pieces to see what I’d need. As it turns out, I needed something about a 12 or maybe a bit smaller, considering I joined the sides together with a 1″ seam allowance.
Oddly, the facings ran true-er to the sizing chart than the pieces did. It’s possible that the skirt pieces stretched out a bit while sewing, I suppose; but while the size 14 facings were about 14 1/2 ” each, adding up to the actual published finished measurement, the front and back skirt pieces, once assembled, were closer to 17″ in the waist. That’s a lot of stretching.
Again, I should be a size 16/18 according to the size charts. This skirt runs a bit big, but not as big as many of their other patterns–definitely the facing is off by only about one size. If you want to sew this one up, I’d choose the envelope that contains the size one down from the one you “should” be. Then cut yourself a size up on the side pieces and adjust accordingly once the front and backs are assembled.
Once again, I saw a yellow dress that I wanted to have and knew I wouldn’t be able to buy–this time because it retails for $7,260 USD. HAHAHAHAHA. (Ahem.)
But it is stunning. And I know I’m not the only one because I’ve seen it in several spreads in September fashion magazines.
As well as a live sighting or two.
Silk-lurex with a gorgeous beaded collar. You can really see the lurex in the Kirsten shot. To me it looks like a knit.
The embellished collar and shoulders are just stunning. I wouldn’t do beading on a project like this for myself as I want something I can toss in the laundry without fear, and I’d worry about wear and snagging. But this, I thought, was a great opportunity to try out a blackwork collar, and just in time for the Monthly Stitch’s collars challenge.
Which was in September. I didn’t factor in anything like enough time to embroider the collar, so this is a month late. But better late than never and it did turn out well, so…
I found a dark gold-yellow stretch silk in a store on Queen W for $59/yard … and put it back. Gorgeous but I would have been terrified to wear it to work. So instead I used a dark yellow brushed rayon, without stretch, from Fabricland on sale for under $10/m. I bought 2, and just barely managed to eke out the altered pattern pieces.
So this $7,260 USD dress was copied for about $30 CDN, if you include buttons, thread and embroidery floss.
M7351 has the shirt dress with an a-line skirt and a collar, but it doesn’t have the puffy elbow-length sleeves or the length. (It also doesn’t have the hip seam line but I wasn’t really a fan of those as they don’t seem to fit the model well.) So first step was altering the pattern:
Changing the longer sleeves to elbow length puffy sleeves, by slashing and spreading from the shoulder all the way down to the elbow and drafting a basic fitted cuff.
And lengthening the skirt by about 7″ to take it below the knees. That was all my cut of fabric could accommodate.
This is the Big 4, so of course it makes no sense.
I’m meant to be a size 16/18 according to their charts. This is a size 10D, graded to a 12 at the hips, with a small FBA.
Which is the point of the post, and also extremely technical and complicated, and therefore boring. I wrote a more detailed and technical post on embroidering collars with lots more background here, for those who are curious.
Collar pieces were not cut out. The cutting and seam lines were traced on to the fabric, and then the seamlines were thread-traced so I could embroider without worry of losing them.
The entire upper collar piece was interfaced, waste canvas attached, then basted to a piece of muslin large enough to fit in my scroll frame. I basted it around the edge and also around the cutting line for the collar, then trimmed away the muslin in the embroidery area. (I didn’t want to have to worry about differential shrinking between the rayon and muslin pieces later on, even though both were pre-shrunk.)
I doodled, researched, sketched, and combined blackwork embroidery ideas for the collar. I wanted something geometric and abstract that would echo the beadwork of the original, but also that had a recognizable motif. This was a tall order. This is what I decided on: the “floral lace” repeat from RSN’s blackwork book.
Again to echo the beadwork on the original, I used heavier threads at the front collar points. I worked the pattern from the points towards the centre back so the visible points would match. I’m not super worried about what’s happening under my hair at the back. I took photos of the first side then flipped it in editing software so I could exactly copy it on the other side and ensure the pattern was completely symmetrical.
Once the blackwork was done, I removed the basting stitches and cut out and assembled the collar per standard directions, following the embroidery to make sure it was exactly symmetrical.
I measure my embroidery time in TV shows, so, not including prep time and a few odd hours stitching while talking to Frances, the embroidery on this collar took the first season of The Defenders, the second season of The Get Down, and almost all of the first season of Master of None. Aka, a really, really long time.
It’s a shirt dress. Pretty standard.
Since the collar is the last piece to go on, I worked on the dress assembly while I was embroidering the collar. The rayon is very soft so I took extra care and fused some interfacing around the neck seamline so it wouldn’t stretch out while waiting for the collar. Otherwise: put the bodice together, put the skirt together, joined them, added the plackets, assembled and joined the sleeves, then the collar, buttonholes and buttons.
If you can believe it, after all that work, I made a small goof on the collar stand: I pinned it to the collar, decided it was 1/4″ inch too long on each side, took that 1/4″ off, pinned it again, and realized I was wrong and it was actually the perfect size before–but it was then too late. So I had to ease the dress slightly around the front to make it fit the collar stand without puckering. Woops. It turned out all right, but man, what a mistake to make, so close to the end and with a collar that was so much work to make in the first place.
The darts on the bodice ended up very pointy, so I took them out and did them again, twice.
It turned out the way I wanted, so yay! It’s rayon and wrinkles at a touch so this is as wrinkle-free as I can get it; also one of the lower buttons pulls across the hips when I sit down. Be careful of that if you use a soft fabric and make the narrow skirt. I’ve patched up a bit of pulling already and reinforced that area to keep it happier long-term.
This is another repeat dress inspired by a fabric purchase; this time a dress-weight poly knit with a gorgeous floral print that I made up into a heavily modified M7160, first made up earlier this year in a blue rayon knit.
1. Shortened the bodice by 1″ all around. The weight of the skirt pulls the bodice down; taking an inch out puts the waistline on my waist.
2. Swapped out the circle skirt of the pattern with the 3/4 circle skirt I drafted for the La La Land dress.
3. Shortened the 3/4 length sleeves by about 1″.
4. Did an FBA by tracing the front pattern piece and slashing and spreading from the shoulder to near the waist, to create shoulder gathers rather than darts. It worked well, but I should have then leveled the waist seam. I have a bit of tilt now introduced by this change.
There’s clear elastic in the shoulder seams and on the waist to help support the weight. Overall it was a really quick sew and makes for a practical and comfortable dress. (And this one also came to the conference in Victoria with me. I think it was $6/m for the fabric, and it can’t have been more than 2.5m for the dress–so a $15 dress. I am pleased.)
It does have pockets. The original pocket pattern for the full circle skirt worked just fine in the 3/4 circle skirt.
(When I was trying it on to fuss with the hem, Frances, sitting on the couch, said, “Oh! It has pockets!” Frances is a kid who wears a dress maybe twice a year, and yet even she knows that dresses with pockets are better than those without. If only manufacturers could manage this mental leap.)
I spent a bit of time looking up colloquialisms using the word “plum” for a punny title, because why not, and I was shocked! to discover that the use of the intensifier so many of us (or at any rate, I) are so familiar with should actually be plumb.
“I plum forgot” and “that’s plum crazy” and “we were plum exhausted”–all wrong! Who knew. English, you scamp.
But I couldn’t resist the punning so I am having it both ways here.
My search also turned up this gem, from Anthony Trollope’s Is He Popenjoy? Trollope, in case you’re not familiar with him, was a contemporary of Charles Dickens’ both chronologically and philosophically, particularly in their attitudes towards women:
“The words which his cousin had spoken had not turned him–had not convinced him. Were he again tempted to speak his real mind about this woman–as he had spoken in very truth his real mind–he would still express the same opinion. She was to him like a running stream to a man who had long bathed in stagnant waters. But the hideous doctrines which is cousin had preached to him were not without their effect. If she were as other women–meaning such woman as Adelaide Houghton–or if she were not, why should he not find out the truth? He was well aware that she liked him. She had not scrupled to show him that by many signs. Why should he scruple to say a word that might show him how the wind blew? Then he remembered a few words which he had spoken, but which had been taken so innocently, that they, though they had been meant to be mischievous, had become innocent themselves. Even things impure became pure by contact with her. He was sure, quite sure, that his cousin was altogether wrong in her judgment. He knew that Adelaide Houghton could not recognize, and could not appreciate, a pure woman. But still, still it is so poor a thing to miss your plum because you do not dare to shake the tree. It is especially so if you are known as a professional stealer of plums.“
I don’t seem able to go to Queen W without coming home with some fabric; when I was last there, introducing a local sewing friend to the joy that is the textile district, this fuschia ponte knit told me it really wanted to become a long-sleeved dress.
Well, who am I to stand between a bolt of ponte and the deepest desires of its knit heart?
And after working out the fit issues with V8685 with the red bamboo jersey dress, it seemed that it would be a fairly quick and rewarding project. Which was true. And because I could alter the tissue in advance rather than trying to alter the fabric pieces after they were cut, some of the difficulties with the red one were solved nicely (like the shoulders).
1. Removed 1″ from the armscye, front and back.
2. Cut a 12 everywhere, except grading to 14 at the hips
3. Did an FBA on the front, rotating the darts into the tucks
4. Took out 1″ from the centre back length
5. Took out 1″ from the sleeve cap, and then another 2″ in the sleeve itself. Which turned out to be about 1/2″ too much, but I can live with it
6. And took out about 1 1/2″ in width from the sleeves, which at first were baggy as hell. Even now they are pretty loose
Because the ponte has a decent amount of structure, and because the fitted skirt on this version doesn’t have the weight of the full skirt on the last one, I didn’t have to interface the bands or yokes and I didn’t need to make it quite so tight. I replaced the neckline facing with a strip of bias tape cut from a matching cotton satin, to prevent the neckline from stretching or sagging out over time and reduce bulk. The dress holds it shape nicely and is super comfortable. And I got to wear it for the first time presenting a talk on my community climate change impact adaptation planning project as part of a panel on community engagement strategies.
(“Community Climate Change Impact Adaptation Planning project” is, to be fair, half the talk, since the project title is so bloody long.)
It was a nice little confidence booster, and I’m betting I’ll be getting a lot of wear out of this one over the winter.
According to the BMV size chart, I am a size 16/18. This dress was cut in a size 12 with an FBA on the front bodice pieces, grading to a 14 at the hips. As you can see it is still not too tight. I love this pattern, but be warned: size down.
(I’ll be posting a project shortly with an embroidered collar, and rather than clutter that post with a lot of background information on embroidered collars, here is an info-dump to be read in conjunction.)
A nicely-embroidered collar can be a fun and fairly easy way to work some embroidery into a clothing project, taking a basic neutral garment and turning it into something a little special.
A badly-embroidered collar can be a fun and fairly easy way to turn a basic neutral garment into something that looks so unbearably amateur in six months you’re not sure you can wear it.
Collars have a big advantage for beginning embroiderers: They’re small, so it doesn’t have to take long to stitch up even if you’re new.
Collars also have a substantial disadvantage for beginning embroiderers: They’re highly visible and right near your face, so you will be carrying any mistakes around in a prominent location.
What’s a newbie to do?
You can make a regular collar and be extremely careful. Or you can make a detachable collar.
Of course, a detachable collar presumes you have a collarless shirt, dress or sweater (or several) to attach it to. I’ll assume you can manage that part, being enterprising sewers who know how to make collarless garments on which a collar would not later look completely foreign. I’ll also assume that you’re basically familiar with collar construction, and then gently nudge you towards David Coffin’s instructions on making plain detachable collars. And then we’ll get into the business of embroidering them (which of course also works on regular collars).
Here is an incredibly fancy detachable collar:
It’s hard to picture it being worn, ever, with anything but a cocktail dress. I can’t zoom in enough to be sure, but my guess is a stiff black silk, stabilized, backed with a lighter black fabric on the reverse. The silk would have been embellished before attaching to the reverse, and given the bulk of the embellishments that may have had to be done by hand. It would be heavy, for one thing, and stiff, for another, but it is beautifully done. It looks like clear crystals outlined in goldwork.
Here is a much less fancy embroidered collar:
This one’s not detachable, but you can see your range of options pretty clearly. Assuming you can transfer the script neatly to the collar piece this would likely take about an hour. It’s just a backstitch in plain black cotton floss.
Mark the area to be embroidered
The easiest way to do this is if you haven’t yet cut out the collar piece. Trace the cutting line and the seam line onto the right side of the fabric where you can clearly see them. Interface the whole thing as you normally would. If the interfacing is non-woven or a stiffish woven, you’re probably fine; if you’re using a loosely woven interfacing on the collar, stabilize the area to be embroidered separately.
If you have already cut out and interfaced the collar piece, trace the seam lines on to the right side. You can baste the whole thing to a stabilizer and hoop that, and just cut the excess stabilizer away when you’re done embroidering.
If you really, really don’t want to have to do this and really, really have a problem with hoops, you have a few options: either embroider using a pattern or style that minimizes any travelling threads on the reverse (this is what will cause pulling and warping) or resign yourself to being very patient as you go. Stop periodically and give the collar piece a good stiff tug to ensure that the embroidering threads are loose enough not to pull or warp the collar. Still stabilize, but just the area to be embroidered.
2. Pick your pattern or motif.
Colour contrast, size of pattern, heaviness of stitches, heaviness of threads, and any light-reflecting embellishments will have the biggest impact on how much attention the collar draws. If you pick something heavy, either because the stitching is very dense or the materials have weight (beads etc.), this may affect your choice of stabilizer, so be prepared to use something stronger if you choose an embellishment style that is very heavy or dense.
3. Ensure it fits nicely within the collar.
You won’t just be sewing the collar piece to the under-collar; you’ll also be topstitching or edgestitching. It’s best if you can leave at least 3/8″ of empty space between your motif and the seamline. If not, you’ll be topstitching on top of the embroidery. That’s not necessarily a problem, but it does affect the look of the collar and it’s best to choose your preference in advance of stitching.
4. An iron-on transfer or tracing/freezer paper is your best bet.
If you have an iron-on motif already, figure out how you want to position it on your collar, then trace the collar cutting lines or seam lines around it before you cut the motif out.
If you are tracing your own motif, same: trace the cutting lines or seam lines as well. This will let you get a perfect mirror image when reversing the pattern on the other side of the collar.
If you’re doing a cross-stitch or other canvas embroidery style, you can use waste canvas instead and count your stitches. This is a bit more work as you’ll have to baste the waste canvas to the collar piece and remove it afterwards. A higher number on the waste canvas equals smaller stitches; keep in mind this means more stitches, and more time stitching. A lower number means an easier, faster project, but maybe not quite as elegant or neat.
5. Hoop and stitch
Or use a scroll frame etc. Scroll frames have the advantage of holding the entire project flat and taut, and the disadvantage of extra steps if you want to use them for a small piece. In this case I basted the collar piece to a scrap piece of muslin and cut away the embroidery area in the back. But once the set up was done the stitching was a lot easier and there were no hoop marks on the finished piece.
6. When you’re done, and you’ve pressed the collar piece nice and flat, and it’s ready to be attached to the under-collar, I recommend using a regular zipper or piping foot to sew them together. Then you can stitch as close to the embroidered area as you need to.
Don’t press your stitches. If you need to press the embroidered area, treat it like velvet and use a needleboard or a towel so you don’t flatten your work.
Embroidered collars can be delicate.
(satin stitches, mostly)
They can be pretty.
(From here. satin stitches and french knots–and by now you are probably seeing that this was done a) on a purchased shirt, after collar construction, b) by a beginner (look how much neater the left hand side is than the right) and c) without stabilizing or a hoop, causing those bits of pulling and warping.)
They can be shaped
(machine embroidered; shaping of the collar also done by machine satin stitch. You can shape a collar with the same set of techniques you’d use for a scalloped hem, but I won’t get into that here)
They can be a bit cheeky and odd
(all satin stitch–check out how neat the borders are and how flat and shiny her floss is) (also: deliberately assymetric is a nice choice if you’re not sure how accurate your mirroring is going to be)
(satin stitches, back stitches, french knots, and some straight stitches it looks like)
(satin stitches, back stitches, french knots, maybe some buttonhole stitches; it’s cute and graphically it’s a lot of fun, but as embroidery it is not stellar. Still, it’s totally wearable.)
They can be ornate and dimensional
(I love this one. The work is gorgeous, the colours are fantastic, the collar is nicely put together–wow. She’s got fern stitches, fly stitches, a ton of woven picots, and pistil stitches. The fabric is a bit wobbly, which I think is a result of embroidering at least part of it after the collar was assembled, and the weight of the thread on a fabric that looks fairly light. From Senorita Lylo.)
(Another one by the same person, this time on a printed fabric. Just to give you a sense of how you can work with embroidery on a printed fabric.)
They can be incredibly fancy, like the D&G one.
A warning on the fancy stuff: The plus of using colourful and casual threads like cotton floss or crewel wool, as a beginner, is that mistakes (so long as they aren’t too numerous) look intentionally-wonky and charming rather than slipshod. The same does not apply for thread painting, goldwork, stumpwork, beading, or other fancier embroidery techniques. Then mistakes, even in selection of materials, just look sloppy and translate pretty directly to becky-home-ecky. The fancier the materials you’re working with, the less room for error you have.
Your daughter wants to sign up for a fun neighbourhood activity.
She has a disability–she’s scared about how people will respond to it. Respond to her. If they’ll point or stare (it happens). If they’ll ask her rude questions (it happens). If they’ll act like she doesn’t belong there, like she’s lying about it, making things up (it happens). But she wants to go, and it could be a good experience. Making friends, learning new things, being a kid.
The facility isn’t accessible. The facilities are usually not accessible so this doesn’t surprise you. It’s a community with limited facilities; maybe this was the best they could do. You, your daughter and (sometimes) her walker learn to negotiate the stairs that are the only way in.
One of the leaders of the group acts like everything related to your daughter’s disability is an enormous imposition. As if you are lucky she is allowed to be there at all.
She makes stupid arbitrary rules like all the kids need to stand. Your daughter can’t stand for very long wihout her walker or some kind of support. At first she tries to follow this rule and ends up in pain after every meeting. You coach her to advocate for herself–to take the damned chair and sit down when she needs to, because damn it, she shouldn’t be in pain after a fun community activity.
You worry about how off-site trips are going to go. You go around the leaders, communicating with the head office to ensure it will be accessible and she won’t be excluded. You don’t want to make things awkward by making the (adult) leaders (whose job it is to implement accessibility in the meetings and activities) upset (in case they aren’t able to control thesmelves and blame your kid and take it out on her).
She has now participated in two full years of this group. It is the start of the third. The leaders have had two years to get used to your kid, her physical limitations and her walker. You show up to drop her off and are told they will be in out the neighbourhood. That their route uses stairs. That she cannot bring her walker on foot. That the car is too full to bring her walker. Your daughter cannot come to a two-hour on-foot activity unless she is willing to hurt herself to do it.
Appalled, you turn around and go home.
On your way to the car, one of the leaders asks you to take home some cookies to sell.
The organization, via the head office, has a wonderfully inclusive accessibility policy.
The policy is obviously flatly disregarded by the local volunteers.
It happens. Volunteers are hard to come by. Hard to discipline; if they don’t follow the rules, they can quit. There’s no penalty. It’s hard to maintain oversight. It’s not like head office visits the individual groups to monitor accessibility. They only find out about problems when a parent calls to complain. Most of the volunteers are wonderful, and do everything they can to make sure that every girl can participate in every activity, that this is planned ahead of time and communicated.
But not all.
Some of them act as if they believe that disabled girls should stay home and not trouble people with their needs.
But you and your daughter have paid the registration fee like everyone else, and it’s the fucking law that there be no barriers, so you call to complain.
The head office is going to investigate. They seem shocked and genuinely upset abut the experience your daughter had, and you’re relieved that they’re taking it seriously. You hope something will be done that won’t result in the volunteer resigning and thus breaking the group. But this is a peace you’ve bought with your silence for two years now and you and your daughter can’t pay that price anymore. Pay it with days of sore ankles, sore backs, sore hips, tears, baths with epsom salts, motrin doubled up with tylenol.
Your daughter is a person who is empathetic and compassionate, much tougher than she should be, who tries hard to be good and doesn’t want to be a bother, who wants to follow the rules. She expects to be excluded, stared at, bullied–because she has been. She came home that night angry and hurt. She felt singled-out and less-than. In her words, she felt “degraded.”
The next night she cries on your shoulder.
Not because they hurt her. Not because she was excluded. Not because she missed out on an activity. She expects all of that.
But because she hadn’t been able to advocate for herself in that moment. Because she couldn’t find the words to say that would fix it.
She blames herself for being treated badly, then blames herself for not being able to say the right words that will fix it in that moment.
That is the weight carried by a visibly disabled thirteen-year-old. That is how much she already expects of herself, to be able to participate in the things that other kids do without a second thought. To bear the pain and anger of mistreatment so well that she can respond with perfectly persuasive eloquence.
This is the world we’ve made for disabled people. Disabled kids.
It’s not their job to fix us. It’s our job to fix it.
(And you can apply this, with some changes, to many groups in our society that face discrimination. That they are so often expected and even required to face the pain, anger, humiliation, even violence of being excluded and attacked with grace, equanimity, composure and eloquence–to take on the burden of education and conversion with love and compassion towards people who extended neither–is inhumane and inhuman.)
We live in a province with two pieces of legislation that require organizations, businesses and institutions to remove barriers to full participation for disabled people. The groups always have fantastic policies in place, with wonderfully inclusive language. And yet I know whenever Frances starts something new, or goes somewhere new, I need to budget time to call people about removing those barriers, often more than once. It’s exhausting and demoralizing. And I think about my little girl having to do this for the rest of her life, and–
One more Edna St. Vincent Millay. Then I promise I’m all done with her for a little while.
So it’s been a busy summer, in the best possible ways. Lots of dancing, bunch of concerts, lots of time with friends old and new, and a good smattering of dating. Plus, of course, sewing. Not necessarily as much sleep as my doctor would advise but that’s what we have caffeine for and I can always catch up in the fall.
Four of those five are nothing but pleasure. Dating–oy.
I like being single. February workday mornings after a major blizzard, ok, I wouldn’t mind having a guy in the house. But most of the time I love having my little house all to myself and my girl. I like being able to decorate it any which way I choose. I like not having to answer for how I spend my money. I like having the bed to myself. I like being able to leave an emormous pile of fabric and a stack of sewing projects in progress on the dining table for weeks on end. I like never feeling any pressure to spend my evenings watching a TV show I really hate to make someone else happy. I really, really like never ever having to pick a grown adult’s dirty underwear off the floor so I can move it two feet to the right into the laundry hamper. It’s well worth doing the yard work for. Or as Frances tearfully said one day when she was (needlessly) terrified that I was going to bring an xy-person into our lives, “I really love our single lives together!” I love it too. Maybe somewhere out there is someone even better than all of that, but he’s going to have to be. Better. Than all of that.
Which means dating, for me, is just getting out of the house, meeting new people, doing something fun, and who knows, maybe at some point finding the someone who’s better than all of that (it does seem unlikely that such a person would just materialize in my living room while I sit there in my pjs working out the fit on a new dress pattern). But I’m in no rush, and if it doesn’t happen that is perfectly fine.
But oh, Dear Readers, the number of times I have wanted to vent here about the assclown(s) I just ditched. It amazes me that in 2017 so many guys still seem to have the expectation that a single woman of 42 must be so desperate to be with somebodyanybody that they can behave any which way they please and a girl will just lap it up.
Most recently I had the pleasure of informing someone of why I, and I suspect most women in Canada, are going to be uninterested in dating a man who spends most of his time as a semi-professional internet troll, hating everyone except a very narrow band of straight mostly-white conservative guys who belong to the Proud Boys and read Rebel Media. As you can imagine, that excludes most people. It certainly excludes everyone I care about (so far as I know).
He actually provided me with his full name in a message and begged me to stalk him, which was how I found out about his online activities.
I harbour no illusions that being turned down for a date by a woman on a dating site is going to result in the kind of wholesale character transplant that would be necessary to encourage someone like this to start treating people with courtesy and respect, and if someone expresses a single off-colour opinion or even revolting come-on, I either block and delete or ask them a polite, pointed question or two before blocking and deleting. And most of the friends I asked about it recommended blocking and deleting, saying that they feared how someone would like this would react to anything harsher.
But to me, this is exactly the kind of behaviour that enabled the win of Trump, and is exactly the kind of behaviour since then that Trump’s win has emboldened: proud, public displays of hatred. This idea that we can just Nice awful people into better behaviour, that if we talk to them in exactly the right magical way they’re going to change everything about themselves and become good after a lifetime commitment to being horrible, that the important thing is keeping the conversation polite and on some mythical high ground–hell no.
We don’t do this with other antisocial behaviours. Sure, we hope people are going to do the right thing and pay their taxes, but if they don’t, we have an entire enforcement apparatus to ensure that they do regardless of whether they think taxes are good or neutral or evil or a sign of the apocalypse. And we spend a lot of time in kindergarten teaching that violence is wrong; and for those people whom the lesson did not stick, we have large, well-funded police departments to deter violence and prosecute violent offenders. (Its efficacy and fairness being up to serious debate.)
Yet when it comes to hate, we just … smile and keep talking until every individual’s mind is individually changed and they do right out of the pure goodness of their hearts? Just no.
Some people are hateful. Who they hate is going to change, but they’re going to hate. No one can change that. You can only change the cost/benefit analysis of acting on that hate.
Being one person, I can’t enact or enforce legislation; but I can confront this kind of thinking and behaviour when I see it. I think as individuals oftentimes the only thing we can do is make it clear that there is a social price to pay for being this kind of person, and it’s important to, because not doing so ultimately reinforces their ideas that everyone actually thinks the same way they do and they’re the only brave souls willing to express it. But I do really hate it when this kind of thing intrudes on what is supposed to be, basically, a fun social activity.
I was very careful not to call him names, and I was also extremely blunt.
It did not go well.
Mind you: “well” in the traditional sense isn’t what I was aiming for. But this was a guy who’d been very careful to keep all of the misogyny, racism, islamophobia, violent threats, homophobia etc. off of the dating app. So I thought if I engaged him I might be able to flush him out and report him. And while he obviously had made serious investments over the years in being an awful human being and is unlikely to change, he might pause before expressing it if he knows it’s going to interfere with his orgasm supply.
He was stunned and heartbroken to find I was not impressed with his digital footprint.
Dear Readers, to call these things walls of text would be a disservice to the construction feats that texts are capable of. These things were the motherfucking Donald Trump Mexican border wall of text. They stretched from horizon to horizon. I’d get one monster message, and stare in astonishment as the little typing-bubble popped up immediately beneath it.
It took me seventeen screenshots to capture his last message to me.
I reported him.
HE WANTS ME TO SPEND A YEAR ARGUING WITH HIM ABOUT WHETHER OR NOT HE’S A BAD PERSON.
Oh my god honey. Why don’t I take the stuff you post on the internet and run with that idea now.
The funniest part was him going on and on and bloody on about how at least he puts his name on what he writes and stands by the consequences, unlike antifa–a word I never used but he could not stop talking about them–and then tagging each message with this disclaimer:
And then any specific tweet or post I pointed out as being gross, he has since deleted. Not to mention that this Proud Boy, who has listed Proud Boys as his employer on LinkedIn and has a Proud Boys tattoo on his shoulder, started distancing himself from the Proud Boys philosophy as soon as he found out he might not get laid on its account. His bravery and conviction are truly astounding.
These assholes are why we’re all suffering through Trump.
Millay wrote a poem that I think is perfect for the age of internet dating (so about 100 years ahead of its time), possibly because being in a lifelong open marriage gave her lots of experience in brief encounters.
I shall forget you presently, my dear,
So make the most of this, your little day,
Your little month, your little half a year,
Ere I forget, or die, or move away,
And we are done forever; by and by
I shall forget you, as I said, but now,
If you entreat me with your loveliest lie
I will protest you with my favorite vow.
I would indeed that love were longer-lived,
And vows were not so brittle as they are,
But so it is, and nature has contrived
To struggle on without a break thus far.
Whether or not we find what we are seeking
Is idle, biologically speaking.
I think it’s safe to say that I’m not going to forget this one–but I won’t remember him fondly, that’s for sure.
So in addition to the regular pleasures of online dating including dick picks, inappropriate come-ons, regular harassment, and guys who mistake it for a therapy app–let’s add the odd conversation with out-and-proud neo-nazis.
And this entire post’s only tangential connection to the sewing project is this:
I said no to a date (to someone else who is safely non-bloggable) to stay home and sew this instead because I knew it would be more fun, not to mention the garment won’t make inappropriate demands on my person or my patience. If I don’t want to wear it one day, it’s not going to pout or throw a rage-tantrum. It’s fun to wear and it’ll never send me dick pics. It goes without saying that it’s not going to post hate speech on the internet.
(I do have a Sewing Rule when deciding on a date: If I know or reasonably believe I would have more fun staying home sewing or reading a book, I say no.)
It’s the skirt half of a Sewaholic Cambie view B, sewn up in and lined with a silk-cotton voile (bought half-price because that’s the only way such a thing is cost-effective). It’s airy and unbelievably flouffy. I could have five kilogram bags of flour strapped to my thighs under there and you’d never know. It has pockets in the front that you completely can’t see except as extra flouff. The construction was standard: join, gather, attach to waistband, install zipper, join lining and outer, finish hems.
There’s a second half to this project that will hopefully be done and posted sometime soon, so you may see this skirt again.
You probably won’t be seeing anything about dating again, unless and until someone exceeds the neo-nazi. Please join me in hoping that that never happens. I feel like I spent the weekend dragging my brain through sewage.
But of course I couldn’t make it black and white. Friends would probably worry about my health if they saw me in clothes without colour. So instead:
Where the white was replaced with a large-scale multi-colour floral on a black background. Both are cotton satins, not at all stretchy–and despite Burda’s directions, given the ease and boxy fit, you don’t need stretch. This is my now-standard 38/40 combo and it is nowhere near tight. I probably could have gone down another size, particularly given the faux-wrap in the front and the walking room it provides.
It’s not a really complicated pattern, once you have it traced and cut out. Tracing the pieces out correctly and cutting everything out on grain so that the print is aligned over the bands is the hardest part. Also a note of warning, in case you overlooked it as I did: Both sides of the front have a facing on the bottom rather than a hem, so don’t add a hem allowance, just a regular seam allowance. And the instructions will try to tell you that underlining the facings will keep them in place, but the skirt will laugh in your face if that’s all you do. Some extra stitching is needed to keep them from flopping down at the bottom.
The skirt front is two pieces when constructed: the right hand side with all the bands on it, and the left hand side underneath that is all cut out of the main fabric with two standard darts. You then baste them together across the top and treat them as one piece for the construction of the skirt.
I really like it. It’s boxy but comfortable and striking with the large print and the bands. Plus it has so many bright colours in it that it kind of matches by accident with half the shirts in my closet.
It might also be fun to make up with a solid for the main skirt and the print on the bands, if you like the overall pattern but find this a bit much. I’m a fan of a Bit Much personally, so this works for me.
More poetry! I’m sorry, but when I was writing the other one this came to mind and it seemed like a fun poem to build a post around. (Oxymoron for those of you who hated english in high-school, maybe, but give it a shot.)
I had a little Sorrow,
Born of a little Sin.
I found a room all damp with gloom
And shut us all within;
And, “Little Sorrow, weep,” said I,
“And, Little Sin, pray God to die,
And I upon the floor will lie
And think how bad I’ve been!”
Alas for pious planning —
It mattered not a whit!
As far as gloom went in that room,
The lamp might have been lit!
My Little Sorrow would not weep,
My Little Sin would go to sleep —
To save my soul I could not keep
My graceless mind on it!
So up I got in anger,
And took a book I had,
And put a ribbon on my hair
To please a passing lad.
And, “One thing there’s no getting by —
I’ve been a wicked girl,” said I;
“But if I can’t be sorry, why,
I might as well be glad!”
Come on. It’s awesome.
(I once recited this poem to a boy when he asked if I’d memorized any of the very large number of poems on my bookcases, and his response was, “Did she get the guy?” What? That’s not what this is about. Don’t be That Guy.)
(I mean, obviously the narrator of this poem has “got” any number of boys, which is probably the Little Sin she’s trying and failing to feel sorry about in the first place.)
Anyway. Here is a sewing project in which one can try and fail to feel gloomy, sorrowful, and guilty (pattern link). But also in which one might be able to accomplish a little light sinning.
The silhouette is a basic pencil skirt, but the front darts were converted to those lovely diagonal seam lines. It’s slightly more time consuming to make, but just slightly, and the front seaming makes it worth it. Other than that it’s fairly simple.
The Burda original was sewn in white wool and lined. This is hot pink cotton satin and unlined. It has a walking vent in the back and the most god-awful vent construction instructions in history, which I ignored with, I think, decent results. The seam allowances are serged.
For a while I toyed with the idea of doing some piping or hand embroidery along the front seams (Burda instructs a hand running stitch), but instead I decided to top-stitch at a 1/4″ with a rayon embroidery thread in a slightly darker shade. It adds just the right amount of emphasis to the seamlines for me.
This is a petite pattern, but I found I needed no alterations to make it fit (I’m about 5’8″). It’s meant to be a fairly long skirt. As usual with Burda, I had to size down by one to get a good fit, so while I should be a 20/21 in their petite sizing I made a 19/20. It is not snug; I have easily an inch of ease in the waist.