All posts by Andrea McDowell

Pink? Avalanche #4, and a dress: Jan/18 #102

Is this pink or red? Can I claim that it’s red so obviously not part of the pink avalanche?

The Front, first view

I’d already made an altered Renfrew out of this fabric (which has shown up paired with other things from time to time), a very lightweight drapey poly jersey, with a nice big scrap left over–just enough to test out this top pattern before cutting into a rayon jersey I’d been hoarding for the perfect dress.

The Back

It’s not a quick jersey shirt, by any means–there’s lots of pleats and interlocking pieces–but it does work up nicely. My one quibble is that the shirt is very, very long. I have 11″ between my waist and full hips, and even so, I had to hem this by about 3″. If I make this again I’ll shorten the back at the waist. It’s tougher when it’s one piece, so I may just use the dress back pieces and shorten accordingly.

Otherwise it’s a great top. The pleated pieces across the waist mean it can’t really be tucked in, but they do snug the waist in nicely and add a nice detail.

The Side, with shadows

And so of course I cut out the dress version in the rayon jersey which is–happily–Not Pink! And because it took me so long to take pictures, I was able to trace the new pieces, alter them, take a month to hem the dress, and wear it a few times, and I can still put them in the same post. Here it is:

The main difference is that the peplum is replaced by a skirt, however:

  1. Neckband is replaced by a higher neckline with a facing.
  2. They want you to put in a zipper; I ignored that. Having ignored it, I turned the back skirt piece into a single piece.
  3. The back piece is split and has a waistband seam for the dress version.
  4. The sleeves are shorter.
The Side

I really like this dress pattern. It’s too bad, given how cold and snowy it’s been this year, that I haven’t had more chances to wear it; but it’s rayon so I should be able to continue wearing it until short sleeves become necessary.

The Back

You can see there’s a lot less bunching and dragging in the dress version, which is really just because it has seams. If you normally do a swayback or short back adjustment on top patterns, you may want to use the back pieces for the dress on the top to make that easier.

Sizing Note

I should be a 40/44 in a Burda shirt, but as usual I traced up a size 38 for most of it, grading to a 42 in the hips, and doing an FBA across the bust. In this case, with all the pleat action, I cheated a bit: I traced a 38 for the neckline and shoulder height, extended the shoulder to a 44, traced the 44 armscye down to the bust, then graded from a 44 at the top to a 38 at the waist, making it quite a dart–but it worked out perfectly. I measured the tissue and it gave me just a smidge of negative ease across the bust, and thank goodness because this was much easier than the usual cut-pivot-and-tape of a standard FBA. In the back I also extended the shoulder to the 44 line, and then graded back to a 38 at the bottom of the armscye. I also straightened the curve between the waist and the back neckline because I always find a curved seam there gives me a lot of floof between the shoulder blades that I end up removing anyway.

Bossy Pants

(Dear Readers! Friends! Tired of my wordy prologues? Tl/dr: there’s a poll at the bottom. Enjoy!)


A boyfriend once told me–repeatedly–that I am terrible at taking direction.

Let’s just sit with that one for a moment, shall we? A boyfriend repeatedly told me that I am terrible at taking direction. Why on earth, you might wonder–I certainly did–would I want to, need to, or try to, take direction from a boyfriend? Excellent questions all.

Putting aside the inappropriateness of his remark (on so many levels!), it does happen to be true.

It’s not true at work. But outside of work?

I like good rules–the kind that help societies and communities function well and for the benefit of everyone. I’m quite happy to pay taxes, for instance, and stop for stop signs, and I actually loathe shoveling the sidewalk with an unholy passion but I do it as soon as I can for the benefit of people who are using mobility aids or strollers or what have you and need that concrete bare. No problem, or at least not much bitching.

But a lot of rules are really dumb. They exist either for no benefit to anyone whatsoever, or to preserve unearned benefits for one group at the expense of another. I joyfully break those rules.

I actually dye my hair red for the sole and express purpose of clashing with my clothes. All that stuff about “redheads can’t wear pink”–or orange or yellow or whatever dumb thing–inspired me to spend money and time making my hair red every six weeks so I can wear pink–and orange and yellow, sometimes all at once–just to poke those rules in the eye.

And the idea that I should go about my life happily Taking Direction from anyone, including random strangers, is just weird. Like the man outside the grocery store who said, “Miss! Your purse is open. … Excuse me! Miss! Your purse is open! … MISS! Your purse! Is open!” At which point I looked at him, said “I heard you the first time,” and he stalked off in a huff that I hadn’t immediately corrected my pursing misdemeanor.

Or the time when, out with a large group after a dance evening, two men–neither of whom I am interested in in the slightest–had a conversation about women while staring right at me.

Man 1: Sometimes women are just too independent.

Man 2: Yes. Women can’t be too independent.

Man 1: Women who are successful and strong might have a hard time getting a man.

Man 2: Yes, a woman who wants to be with a man shouldn’t be too successful.

I do believe I stared at them in open-mouthed shock at the idea that I should be making myself lesser and my life smaller so that they could be attracted to me.

Generally, the fastest way to get me to not to something is to tell me I must do it, for no good reason whatsoever. I believe this has served me well in life. I truly believe I’m alive today and relatively functional because of this bone-deep, Canadian Shield-like stubbornness.

And yet today, Dear Readers, you have an opportunity to tell me what to do.

(Do you see how long it took me to get around to the point?)

The Point

Mind you, it’s limited. You can vote for what piece of fabric I should sew up next as the Monthly Stitch’s Miss Bossy challenge for April.

Though true to form, the instructions said participants should choose three pieces of fabric for readers to choose between, and I could only narrow it down to four. Three of them are pieces I’ve had in the stash for a few years and have struggled to find the right pattern for, so now you get to force the issue.

Anyway, here they are:

This lovely Liberty of London silk-cotton voile. It’s very light and fairly sheer, though with the mint-green background not unwearably so. I have about 2m.

Half-width. Full-width is 56″, I believe.

This linen/rayon/spandex blend. It’s as stretchy and drapey as a jersey, but it has a linen-knit-like texture and the rayon makes it very cool to the touch. I love this print, but it’s been a challenge to use as a) the stretch is entirely horizontal, so I can’t cut it on the cross-grain, and b) it’s very very narrow at 42″ wide. I have about 2m.

Full width. It is pretty.

This yellow Anna Maria Horner cotton–with I think a bit of spandex, as it has some stretch on the cross-grain. About 1.5m. I love this print! So much clashing.

Half-width. Full width is 56″. I love those climbing roses.

This Nani Iro double gauze, from off-white to orange on the cross-grain. Also 2m.

Full width.

They’re all beautiful, they all deserve to be worn rather than stuffed away in a closet for posterity, and none of them are too fussy for sewing so I should realistically be able to fit them into my April sewing plans. None of them were so expensive that I’ll be gutted if they don’t work out. And every one is going to be a challenge to find a good pattern for.

But which one?

What do you think?

V8946: A shiny pink velvet dress: Pink Avalanche #3

Look, a dress! How unlikely.

This project is a double-jeapordy impulse project: the pattern (V8946, now OOP) was picked up in the discount bin at the local fabric store for $5.99 (CDN), and the fabric was picked up at Marina’s fabric store on Ottawa St for no reason other than it was pink and shiny. And then it seemed like they would go well together.

The fabric is a light panne velvet with a very shiny foil print on it–not metallic, more like a varnish finish. It was a challenge to sew as velvet so often is but I tried not to worry too much about seams going askew so long as it fit in the end.The velvet is not super stretchy; it’s more like a stretch woven than a jersey. I can’t remember how much I got it for, but I know it was under $10/m.

This is essentially a knee-length view C. The skirt is quite boxy, so I pegged the hem about an inch on either side, and then didn’t finish the centre back until afterwards so I could see if I needed a walking(/dancing) slit.

The front comes in two pieces, a top and bottom, with an asymmetrical seam. This part was relatively simple, despite the pleats: I did a pivot-and-slide FBA directly on the tissue to add a few inches across the bust, graded in to about a 10 at the waist, and then back out to a 14 at the hips. Thanks to velvet slippage the pleats aren’t quite as even as I would have liked but in the end all the seams lined up nicely.

Side-ish

The back, though simpler, was more of a challenge. It’s one piece cut twice: fine, except that it’s hard to shorten the bodice back if you need to without a waist seam. On the first try-on the back was a disaster with way too much excess fabric coming out in vertical and horizontal ridges along the zipper. I took about an inch off the centre back length off the top thus hiking up the dress. This is much improved, but still not as nice as I’d like; in order to fix it properly, I would probably need to add a waist seam so I can take excess length out of the bodice back. And if I make up this pattern again in the future, that’s exactly what I’ll do.

The Back: Still a disaster, but less so, if you can believe it

Sewn up in this fabric, it could not be anything but a party dress; but the pattern is quite versatile and could be work appropriate in something less, you know, shiny. I would not recommend a ponte; it would be too bulky in the pleats. But you don’t need a ton of stretch or drape.

The dress pattern is lined; I used a slightly stretchy wisper-lite lining. I joined it to the neckline and invisible zipper by machine and then hand-stitched it to the armscyes. I tacked it to the front pleat seam allowances and front waist seam on the inside to help hold it in place.

Sizing Note

This is third in a run of BMV knit patterns where the finished measurements are not on the pattern tissue (or anywhere else). Super frustrating. I measured the key points (bust, waist, hips) and chose to sew up between a size 10 and 12 at the waist, grading to a 14 at the hips; 10 in the bodice with a pivot-and-slide FBA traced right onto the pattern tissue using french curves and rulers. Given the extra length in the pattern already from the pleats, I added only width. Extra width at the waistline was partially taken out in the dart along the pleats and otherwise removed from the side seams.

Again, in their sizing chart I should be a size 16-20. Good thing I got the envelope down from the one I’m supposed to.

It’s clear from the pattern sample photos that this is meant to be close fitting. This looks like no-to-negative ease to me:

So why they have so much positive ease in the bloody pattern–which is then left to the home sewer to discover, quite likely in most cases, after cutting and sewing as the finished measurements are given nowhere–is quite beyond me.

 

Not Pink! Burda 11/17 Top #109 in Turquoise

It’s not that everything I’ve made since the beginning of December is pink. It’s just that everything I’ve made which isn’t a repeat pattern since the beginning of December is pink. (There’s a pair of chocolate brown Style Arc Katherine pants, and a bright yellow version of this Burda shirt, for example.) Except for this absolutely fantastic turquoise bamboo jersey shirt.

The Front. It tucks in well, too, if I’m wearing it to work.

Which, to be fair, I made up for the first time in pink.

But!

It was leftover pink panne velvet I knew it would look fantastic in this pattern; but also, I knew that it would be a good way to test out the fit and alterations because if it didn’t work out, I wouldn’t be crushed, since I already have that fabric in a dress.

As it turned out, the alterations did not work out. It was too snug across the shoulders and the bust, and the biceps were too tight. This velvet was much less stretchy than the jersey recommended, and the photo does show negative ease in the sleeve, so it’s not like it was a surprise. But I still can’t wear it. Luckily for the fabric, I have a good friend close by who is very similar to me in measurements, except a bit smaller everywhere, and I will finish this shirt for her.

The Back

And then I altered the pattern to broaden the shoulders and give a bit more space across the bust, and cut it out in bamboo jersey, and sewed it up, and fell in love with it, because it is a gorgeous pattern.

It is fussy.

The Side-ish

There’s no denying that putting the yoke and ties together, and neatening the seams up under the facings, is more time consuming that your standard basic knit t-shirt. But the faced front drapes beautifully, the ties are gorgeous, and the fit (once adjusted) is that perfect happy medium where it isn’t too snug to be work appropriate but also isn’t baggy. Everything matches up beautifully: the back neck band is just the right size, and if it’s installed per directions, the back shoulders are exactly the same width as the front shoulders. It’s comfortable and pretty and work-appropriate. Highly recommended.

The Front again, just because I love it so.

One construction note: I used fusible knit interfacing tape on the seams of the ties to make sure the bamboo jersey wasn’t stretched out or pulled into the bobbin case (which sometimes happens), and it did help make a smooth seam and a pair of nice, flat ties.

Hang in there: There’s lots of pink still to come.

Sizing Note

Standard Burda: Should be a 40/44; this is a 38 with an FBA. Idiosyncratic alterations also included broadening each shoulder by 3/4″; because the sleeve is snug, you’ll want to make sure the shoulders aren’t also tight or you won’t be able to move your arms.

Burda 1/18 Leggings #107: February Floral

I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned it here, but I take bellydance classes. This has led to any number of awkward and cringe-inducing conversations with men on dates, but despite their belief that the only reason for a woman to take bellydance lessons is to learn to seduce men with all that sexxxy jiggling, actually it’s because:

The Front, how they’re worn to class, with foot covers included.

1. It’s really really hard. It’s a completely different, fundamentally different kind of dancing than western styles I know. All of the ones I’ve ever learned–jazz, tap, ballet, salsa, bachata, merengue, waltz, your standard dance club freestyle–are 95% about where you put your feet and 5% about style, or how you put your feet there. Bellydance is about 2% where you put your feet. The rest of it is how you move the rest of you.

2. It’s also really hard not just because it’s so different, but because the way you’re using your muscles is just … challenging. I felt like my hips were on the verge of dislocation when I learned to do a hip shimmy. And after months and months of practice and repetition I’m still trying to get the backward arabesque. Challenge is good; I like it.

3. There are no men.* I mean that. There’s no sticky hands, no gross comments, no weird vibes, no jerks who won’t take no for an answer. You don’t need a partner to dance–you just dance. There’s no anachronistic and ridiculous gendered expectations like “men have to ask and men get to lead, regardless of whether they’re competent or considerate.” You just show up and dance and no one asks or expects you to be smaller, lesser, or other than you are.

Back, with waistband showing.

It’s endlessly aggravating that something I do in part because of the absence of men and gender dynamics is taken to be, not only at first but often on an ongoing basis, something I must be doing for men; that because men like it and find it appealing, that must be the point.

4. It’s also, from what I’ve seen, extremely accepting. There’s no fat shaming and no pressure to lose weight, at least in my experience. The bellydance performances I’ve seen have spanned the age and size range, styles from classic to folkloric to fusion and modern, and include people of many different gender identities. This is not the case in social dancing, where you have a Man dancing with a Woman and they adhere pretty closely to traditional gender roles, and you have an easier time finding a dance partner if you’re conventionally attractive.

That little bitch session out of the way, another big difference between bellydance lessons and classes in social dancing is that social dancing women largely do in heels (!!!!!), whereas bellydancing is done in bare feet. Your feet need to be flat on the floor and you need to have grip (socks are ok for warm-up but if you keep them on for the actual dancing, you’ll likely slip).

So when I saw this leggings pattern in the January Burda issue:

My immediate thought was that these would be perfect for belly dance class.

The Back, standard view.

They’re cute, they’re full length, and they cover the feet partially while still allowing full contact with the floor. Which you know, in summer when it’s hot bare feet are fine, but in winter in a chilly studio you want every bit of extra coverage you can get.

There was a sale at Fabricland and this polyester spandex jersey was $8/m. I mean, you know I’m not going to make something plain. And fortunately I already had a coordinating workout t-shirt or two.

The Side, with weird white balance

I love them.

I raised the back rise by 2″, tapering to 0″ at the front, and added 1″ to the back crotch curve–personal fit adjustments I make to all Burda pants patterns. The inseam was 30″, which was plenty long enough for me at 5’8″. I did have to shorten the pieces that go over the feet, but I wear a size 6 shoe, so your mileage may vary. I traced a 38 everywhere except for a 40 at the hips, and this is the fit.

It’s really perfect. Just what I wanted. The waistband (which overlaps at the front, a detail I really like) is snugger than the pants and keeps it from slipping down. It was a super fast sew. I put most of it together in a weekday evening after dinner, with just hemming to do the next day.

Waistband Detail, plus insulin pump infusion site.

Can’t speak to the instructions as I didn’t look at them. It’s leggings with a waistband. The only tricky part is the foot covering. (What I did: hem the back leg before attached it to the front; hem the underfoot piece at the heel before attaching it to the front; then hem the front around-the-foot part to fit.) I can say that the outside notches on the legs did not match. It’s possible that I traced incorrectly, but they were way off for me–2-3″. The actual lengths of the pieces matched up fine, so I ignored the notches and it all worked out.

It’s comfortable and pretty and I’ve worn it to class and it was just perfect. I may make a second pair out of something with a bit more heft, if I can find a good fabric, for the really cold days. In the meantime, this is a huge step up from bike shorts.

Sizing Note

By body measurements I should be a size 40/42, and this is a 38/40, so one size down all around.


*In the classes I take. In the larger community and as participants in performances and such, there’s a bunch of men. But it’s still a very different vibe.

Burda 4/2016 Dress 119: Pink Avalanche #2

I started this dress in the fall of 2016, and then it spent a year getting wrinkled while sitting on my ironing table.

The Front-ish: lines are a) contrast settings on the photo editor, b) positive ease and c) slippage on the velvet while sewing.

I was petrified of wrecking the fabric by pressing the seams wrong. The combination of synthetic velvet plus lurex made me visualize melted goldish-pink gluck on my ironing board, and I couldn’t find a velvet board, and didn’t want to risk a towel. Eventually I just went ahead and pressed it with my regular pressing things on my regular tailor’s board on about medium heat and it worked beautifully. Go figure.

Technically, this is not a dress pattern for a knit, which I suppose this lurex pale pink stretch velvet is; but I thought the angled seams on the front that worked so well in Burda’s striped version would be a super fun way to play with the velvet’s nap and how the lurex catches the light.

The Side

So yes, I voluntarily chose to make a dress with half a dozen extra seams out of slippery velvet. But.

I do like it, and it is fun. And the way the light reflects off of the different sections is pretty cool.

The Back. Could stand to have some length taken out along the waist, as always.

Honestly I traced and cut this out so long ago I can’t remember anything about the sizing or alterations, and I would have had to size down for the stretch regardless so I don’t know how relevant that info would be. I do know I did an FBA by adding to the seam joins–I can’t remember how much, but I know I did that because, as I was reminded when I finally got around to cutting and installing the facing, it altered the shape of the neckline piece and thus the facing.

It’s supposed to have a zipper, but it’s so stretchy that I basted the back shut to see if I could wear it without, and it worked, so I went zipperless. Obviously this wouldn’t work if you’re using an actual stretch woven.

The facing is a tricot lining for stretch and thinness, in a flesh tone to match the gold of the lurex.

The panel seams I sewed with a walking foot and as much patience as I could muster; side, back and shoulder seams were first basted to check for fit and then serged to minimize bulk and maximize strength.

It’s incredibly comfortable and it did turn out well, and I think the angled seams would work well for any velvet so long as you have the patience for sewing it. I could stand to take this in a bit more but I’m not sure I will. I’ll see how I feel about that after I wear it a few times.

Also The Front

Pink Avalanche #1: B6489: Velour Top

The velour was bought to make a dress.

But–well–how many pink velvet/velour dresses does one person need?

The Front, looking just about exactly the way I wanted it.

(They haven’t been blogged yet, but I’d just finished two pink velvet/velour dresses. So this would have been #3.)

And the velour is so thick, so plush, and so soft, that I very selfishly did not want to reserve it for occasional wear as a dress. A pink velour dress–particularly third of three–might be worn once in a month. A shirt you can wear once a week.

So I wanted a shirt.

The Side.

It’s velour: something with a lot of seams is going to be tricky to pull off, given how slippery it is.

It’s thick: Pleats, folds, tucks and ties will be too cumbersome.

So I didn’t want something too fussy. But I didn’t want it to be too casual; I want to be able to wear it to work. It couldn’t look like a sweatshirt.

A semi-fitted t-shirt with a peplum should do the trick. Yes? But find me a semi-fitted t-shirt with a peplum suited for extremely stretchy velour knits. All of the patterns I could find were for wovens.

The Back. Could have stood some length taken out.

Ultimately I settled on B6489 (mostly view C with sleeves from D), for wovens, and set about altering it and sizing down for a knit. This wasn’t too taxing: I measured the waist pieces and marked a width that would give me just a bit of positive ease (I did not want this shirt to be snug), left the hips on the peplum quite full, measured the width of the back to make sure it wasn’t too excessive and nipped it in a bit, and then (of course) added across the bust (sigh–but just a smidge), and then graded between the marked points.

It worked beautifully. It’s so soft and so, so warm (pretty crucial for this brutal winter we’ve been having), and very pretty, and can be worn with just about every pair of pants I have.  I wore it out a few times over the winter holidays, and let me tell you, considering how infrequently I bothered to get out of my pajamas over those two weeks, that is high praise and a statement of deep approval. Every time I wear it to work someone tells me how much they like it.

And since I bought enough for a dress, I have about a metre left over. To be used for what? I’ve been thinking maybe this skirt:

Burda Style Pattern B6468 Misses' Flared Skirt

We’ll see.

Love Your Haters

Hello lovely readers. I’m sorry for my long absence. Partially sorry. I know there are blog readers who hate those kinds of apologies–you’re not waiting on tenterhooks for my next post! no one cares if I take a break! just get on with it!–and that’s fair, but I’ve yet to find a better way to begin a post after a long absence. Think of it as filler, like “how are you doing?” or “did you watch the superbowl?”

So I’m sorry for the long absence. This winter has been a succession of things that interfere both with sewing and with taking pictures. Car troubles–I got sick–my daughter got sick–our beloved little Simba passed away quite suddenly. I have lots of posts written up and waiting just for photos, but who wants to see my bleary-eyed, tear-stained, red-nosed face on top of a sewing project? Not me and, I’m guessing, not you. It will pass, eventually, as will this interminable winter which felt two years long on December 27th and by now feels like the winter in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. As if it will never end and I will be shoveling my driveway every three days for eternity.

So I thought, what better way to ease myself back into blogging then to write a non-sewing post that is sure to piss off everyone?

I mean, if you thought the fitting post was bad, or if you were offended by my feelings about the white supremacist sexual assaulter bigot who currently occupies the Oval Office, just wait.

I used to write for publication a fair bit. Mostly small pieces in mostly small publications, and it all ground to a halt a few years back for reasons that are largely incidental to this post, but which you may hear about the next time I feel like alienating my readers with a non-sewing post.

One piece, an essay about being a single mom and a type 1 diabetic, I placed in Brain, Child magazine. I was pretty thrilled. I wrote about how hard it was to take care of my chronic illness when meeting the needs of a small child without any in-house assistance, and how often what I needed to do for myself took a backseat to what I needed to do for Frances.

I didn’t think this was particularly controversial, but it inspired my first ever hate-reader.

My boyfriend at the time found her blog post, and for reasons that will remain unknown forever sent the link to me. He was very concerned for my state of mind on reading it.

This blogger–who was neither a mother nor a diabetic, by the way, let alone a type 1 diabetic single mother–took extreme issue with my prioritizing my daughter’s needs over my own. She’d never had to do it, but she was sure that if she did, she would definitely be able to make her diabetic care needs a higher priority than her daughter. I was doing it all wrong.

“Are you ok?” boyfriend asked. “You know she’s wrong, don’t you?”

“Are you ok?” friends asked. “You don’t deserve this!”

“ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?” I replied. “I wrote something with a big enough audience that I got a HATE READ! This is amazing!”

I didn’t enjoy what she had to say, and I still think she was wrong. But good lord, if there’s one thing that divides the successful from the try-hards, it’s that the successful have very large audiences, and in that very large audience is *guaranteed* to be someone who thinks you are the worst.

Some people hate Shakespeare.

What kind of hubris does it take to think that in a world where people hate Shakespeare, every good person of sense is going to love you?

There is a landmine directly under my right foot, and here I am, about to step on it. Ready? Here goes.

GOMI:

There is an undercurrent of internalized misogyny to the site as a whole that really gets under my skin. And no, it’s not because “women need to support women, always, in every circumstance, no matter what.” Women are humans and have the inalienable human right to like and dislike anything they please for any reason whatsoever. What bothers me is that it’s almost exclusively women who come in for criticism on GOMI, and much of it is incredibly sexist. “She’s a terrible mom because I saw a picture of her kids eating cheetos” and “she’s too fat to wear that” etc. I tried to start a thread once on the execrable “dating coach” and noted misogynist Evan Marc Katz (wisdom includes: sure rape is bad, but don’t let it bother you so much!) and basically no one posted in it. They were much more interested in whether or not a mom-blogger’s kids were allowed to play in an apartment hallway unsupervised for a few minutes one afternoon.

But I’ve found that undercurrent largely (though not entirely) absent in the craft section. Intersectional feminism is a Very Big Deal to most of the regular posters there and there is little tolerance for fat shaming or racism, for instance. Generally–though not always–if you’re being criticized in the craft section on GOMI it’s not because the women there are awful sexists who hate other women.

Generally it’s because they have very high standards. And I’ve gotten to know many former and current posters there, online and in the flesh; they’re not basement-dwelling life-ruiners. (I realize that all associates of basement-dwelling life-ruiners would say that.) Most of them are exceptionally skilled sewers who are very, very irritated at seeing sewing bloggers become renowned seemingly because they’re pretty young white girls who take good pictures, rather than producing clothing of actual merit. And obviously there are pretty young white girls who take good pictures and also sew well; this is the one and only time I’m going to come close to #notallmen-ing in this post.

Before you get huffy and unload on me: I don’t post there anymore. Now I hate-read it, and how’s *that* for irony? I didn’t stop posting because they’re So! Mean! though. They’re not (most of them).

I am going to suggest an alternative way of looking at GOMI to those who receive criticism there:

For god’s sake, how arrogant do you have to be to think that everyone is required to like you, love your blog, and if they don’t, never mention it where you can see/hear it?

No, wait. That’s not the tone I was going for. Let me try again:

Otherwise good people dislike each other ALL THE TIME.

Do you know which films get the worst reviews?

The big ones. The blockbusters. Because they get the most reviews.

And which books get the most negative reviews?

The bestsellers.

Seriously.

Madeleine Thien’s Do Not Say We Have Nothing was nominated for the Booker and the Women’s Prize for Fiction, won the Giller, won the Governor General’s Literary Award for English Fiction, and more. It has 51,394 adds on GoodReads as of today, with 277 one-star reviews. And another 687 are two-star.

Naomi Alderman’s The Power was one of the most-recommended, most-buzzed books of 2017 (and I personally loved it). 111,136 people have added it on GoodReads. 562 of the reviews are one-star, and another 1,701 are two-star.

Twoism, a book of poetry by Ali Blythe, has been added on GoodReads by 89 people.

There are no one-star or two-star reviews.

(I did enjoy it. This is not a criticism of Blythe’s book, only a demonstration of scale.)

Now tell me: which of those books would you prefer to be the author of?

The ones that won prizes, were written up all over the world, discussed endlessly, and sold tens or hundreds of thousands of copies?–and which also garnered hundreds or thousands of bad reviews on GoodReads, some of them probably quite mean.

Or the one with no bad reviews and 89 readers?

And can you imagine, really, either Madeleine Thien or Naomi Alderman reading those one- and two-star reviews, and going on their websites to complain about basement-dwelling meanies or haters?

Like it or not, when you write a blog, you are creating a cultural artefact, like a book or a movie, with an audience.

I can’t imagine deciding that the only reason a person might not like your blog, and might say so publicly, is because they are composed of 100% hate with no good thing to recommend them.

Yes, of course that happens sometimes. There were a lot of reviews on The Power by white boys absolutely outraged by a portrayal of a world in which they were systematically disadvantaged, and who spectacularly missed the point (that being that power corrupts whether it’s held by a man or a woman). But not all of them. Compare these two one-star reviews, both by women:

“It all sounds ok, right? Well, it isn’t. I don’t care one bit about Alderman’s link with Atwood, her ability to write a good sentence, or the fact this book has sold and sold and sold, been broadcast on BBC radio 4, and will probably end up as a movie. It’s sick. I get that the world would alter considerably if women became the big kahunas. I get that things could go wrong. I also understand that there could be a real backlash against men if women suddenly became so strong that they could do whatever they wanted to a man, but I don’t believe women would become so feral and so insanely cruel.”

And this one:

I think the beginning of The Power was a lot stronger than the middle and the end (minus the last few pages, which I actually really enjoyed). I think with some more editing, or perhaps a few stronger or harder hitting scenes, the book would have been better. Unfortunately it kind of drifted off into a sea of blandness and I stopped caring about any of the characters and their shenanigans.”

These two reviews were written about the same book. It’s hard to believe, isn’t it?

I understand the first reviewer’s reaction, though I didn’t share it. I frankly don’t understand how someone could ask for harder-hitting scenes in a book that describes rape, torture, genocide, and the slaughter of children, but that was the second reviewer’s reaction and she’s entitled to prefer books composed of 99% atrocities if she wants. Both of them are entitled to share their opinions on GoodReads, which does not exist to reassure authors and sell books but to help readers find books they’re more likely to enjoy reading, and critical and negative reviews are a part of that.

It would be completely wrong, in every sense, to say that these two women are “haters” or “losers” who live in a basement somewhere and don’t have lives and are just jealous and like to tear successful authors down. They read a book, they are sharing their opinion, it is a critical opinion.

A blog can be a wonderful tool to build communities and make friends, just like a book.

Like a book, it is intensely personal, a long-term effort by a single person who puts a lot of themself into something that feels like an extension of their very soul.

And also like a book, it is a cultural product in the public domain which people are allowed to have and express negative opinions on–even really stupid negative opinions.

You wouldn’t support an actress going on TV to complain about how all the negative reviews of their last performance hurt her feelings and undermine the cause of feminism.

You wouldn’t support an author taking to the press to complain that criticism of their latest actions or writings meant they were jealous haters who lived to tear others down.

(Atwood tried that recently in the Globe and Mail, and it didn’t go well for her.)

You wouldn’t support a musician posting on FaceBook about how negative reviews of their last album must have been written by trolls who don’t understand the first thing about music.

So please, for the love of god, stop posting on your blog about those awful basement-dwelling GOMI trolls who are anti-feminism because they don’t like your blog. It’s childish, it’s unprofessional, and it’s deeply unattractive.

(Although I suppose if Margaret Atwood got money from the Globe to do that very thing, it is quite likely that there will always be people willing to provide an audience for mindless positivity and uncritical acceptance of every god-damned thing on the internet, so long as the ‘content creator’ is well-known. It’s not like she’s been fiscally penalized for her insistence of her every word being treated as Feminist Gospel by everyone. Yet.)

The only way to avoid negative reviews is by having no readers.

You get negative reviews because you have a lot of readers. That’s a good thing.

Since I myself have almost no readers, no one I’m talking about will see this. Alas.

Happy New Year (Please)

I think we’re all still here.

If not, this is a weird and frankly crappy version of an afterlife.

It’s an odd observation, I’ll grant you, but after this year we’ve had, even finding out that I’m actually dead and this is life beyond the grave would not surprise me.

How about you? Do you greet each day now with a “what fresh hell is this?” Do you log on to the internet braced for news of catastrophes? Do you find yourself sitting with friends in stunned silence from time to time, asking each other, “That happened, right? That was real?”

Look, if you’d gone back two years and told me that one day, I would be grateful every time the American president failed to start a nuclear war with North Korea via twitter, I would have thought you were smoking something.

But here we are, and this is a daily reality, as reported on in the press.

Other daily questions:

Does the GOP have a spine?

If so, where did they put it, and can they find it in time to prevent the destruction of all life on earth?

If not, can one be found for them? How?

North America experienced three historically unprecedented hurricanes and forest fires all over, so how is it we keep talking about climate change as something that’s going to affect us “one day?” Is today the “one day” people are talking about? Because that’s some serious and scary shit and people used to say that we’d take climate change seriously when it started affecting us and killing wealthy people in first world countries and here we are and no one seems to be taking it very seriously. Which I personally don’t find surprising, but when I said this previously, people called me a pessimist and a Cassandra. Yet here we are.

How many men who have been held up as cultural icons for decades are we going to learn have been preying on women in not-so-secrecy?

When will this (painful, potentially genital) rash of disclosures end?

When it does, how many people are going to try to shove us back in the box of “it’s not that bad” and “but why didn’t you come forward before” and “it was just a misunderstanding” and “really if you don’t want a superior at work to lock you in an office and show you his penis you should be swaddling yourself head to foot with three layers of chenille blankets every day”?

Will it work? Or is this something new?

If it is new, when is going to trickle down to those of us with predators and abusers who are not famous? Because there are absolutely some men in my history who should be in jail and aren’t, and no way no how do I yet feel like I could come forward with those stories and expect anything but excoriation and grief.

And the whole Russia thing is super weird, yes?

Did America’s former defining enemy actually buy the American election?

Are we sure that isn’t just a le Carre spy novel?

I mean, does it seem credible? Would you have gone to see a movie with that plotline, two years ago?

And Nazis?

Really, 2017? You had to bring back actual Nazis?

Strutting around in public with their faces showing giving Hitler salutes?

In America, in Europe, here in Canada?

Oh plus “I’m not a Nazi” Nazis. “Alt-right” Nazis. “Proud Boy” Nazis. “Nazi sympathizer” Nazis. I’m so glad we’ve found so many creative ways to make Nazis feel less judged about being Nazis. Meanwhile using the preferred pronouns of trans people is, apparently, an assault on freedom of speech. Because it’s good to make Nazis feel comfortable but extending the same courtesy to transgender children is special snowflake SJW ridiculousness, or somesuch.

Will I feel better if I drink more tea?

Was it just not enough tea yet?

How about wine?

Ugh.

~~~~~

Not everything is global doom and gloom.

(It just feels like it too much of the time.)

For instance, we got a (knock on wood) diagnosis for Frances.

Prenatal ultrasounds showed something was up with her bones; and here we are, 14 years later, knowing which funky gene is to blame.

It is a newly identified mutation and Frances is the ninth person in the history of humanity to be identified with it.

This is, perhaps you can imagine, really Big News. I’m still a bit wary of it. That particular rug, the “we’re for sure this time really certain about what’s up with Frances” rug, has been pulled out from under our feet many times. So I’ll believe it fully when the study is published next year and an anonymized Frances is indeed in it and I can see it all for myself. Frances, however, feels much better knowing what’s up, and that is good.

She’s taken to highschool like she was born to it, mastering the hallways and lockers and increased expectations and social demands like a pro. She’s kicking ass and taking names in art and languages, with a midterm 97% in French, as I expected; she is loved by her teachers and her friends, which of course. But it feels like a gift. The school is committed to inclusion and human rights and it is reflected in the way they’ve approach accessibility for her, and what a difference it’s made.

Good things happened this year, but I suspect that in years to come what I’ll mostly remember about 2017 is the constant daily unending stream of global yuck.

But hey, it’s January and we’re all still here.

(Acknowledging that “we” leaves out a lot: the fortheloveofgod American refugees showing up at the Canadian border, the ones Trump deported or who were never able to arrive at their destination, the diabetic guy who died for want of insulin after he aged off of his parent’s insurance, the victims of gun violence, the Rohingya, those displaced by natural disasters–all those who aren’t where they used to be, aren’t where they were allowed to be, or aren’t anywhere at all anymore. That “we” is a pretty lucky group, the ones who are still “here.” So.)

~~~~~

2018, here’s what I’d like:

  1. Trump no longer in charge of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal. Please.
  2. Whoever replaces him to be an actually better human being, not just a slicker friendlier face on the same venomous snake.
  3. A provincial election outcome that doesn’t undo all of the work of the last 10+ years here in Ontario on climate change and LGBT rights and health care and education.
  4. For Frances’s diagnosis to stick, and for her to be able to begin to connect with some of those other 8 people, and please for them not to be douchebags.
  5. For this long-overdue reckoning on sexual harassment and assault to continue; for the balance of power to shift so that men and women and everyone else share the reins; for women to no longer be safe prey.
  6. For outrage against racism and Nazism to continue to grow, and knock that hydra to the ground.
  7. For my girl to be as healthy, happy and loved a year from now as she is today. For her to keep that miraculous self-confidence. For her to never have a #metoo story of her own.
  8. For continued progress on climate mitigation. Any progress at all, please; no more backward steps.

I have no resolutions. No magic words. I want 2018 to be a year worth living, and I have some ideas of how to make that happen for me and for my girl and how we can do our bit for the wider world. If it ever becomes specific or tangible, it may turn into a blog post.

For sewing, I swore up and down that I wasn’t going to do #2018makenine, but then not only did I do a plan, I did a Plan, complete with drawings, paints, and ink pencils. Sometime in November I’ll look it up and I full anticipate to be posting a #2018madetwo around this time next year.

I spent all day Jan 1 tracing and cutting out patterns; needless to say, not one of them is in that drawing.

At any rate: 2018: oh god, please don’t suck.

I wish you all your very own Happy New Year–a 2018 served up on a bed of thornless roses, which you can look back on with some contentment in future years.