Category Archives: burrow & sing

#SolidarityChic, plus #SewcialDistancing

Dear Readers, here is the Prime Minister of Canada during a recent physically distanced question period:

Please take note, if you will, of our fearless leader’s very noticeable lack of a recent haircut.

You’ve already noticed the lack of recent haircut. Maybe you read an article on his lack of recent haircut. Maybe you saw that video meme of him sweeping his hair back from his face during a press briefing.

Of course Trudeau hasn’t had a haircut; all the barbers and hairdressers are sitting at home waiting out the pandemic, like so many of the rest of us.

Yet I keep hearing from friends about their hair growing out and how badly they need a haircut.

Friends, if the Prime Minister can go on camera in front of millions of people every day and reassure them with hair that is at least two months’ past its trim-by date, you can sit in your house in your pajamas and facetime with your aunt or boss with shaggy hair. Particularly considering both your aunt and your boss and everyone else you know also badly needs a trim.

And hair isn’t half of it, for some folks: body hair, eyebrows, facials, massages, gym time, sports practice: our bodies, in function and appearance, are maybe for the first time radically out of the control of their proprietors.

Of course, for some of us, that’s been more or less true all along. The one thing that is radically different is that we are all going through the non-control-of-our-appearance-ness of this at the same time. Which means it basically doesn’t count. No one can hold your haircut or your eyebrows or your roots or your reduced fitness level against you when our entire society is experiencing exactly the same thing. (Or they can try, but they’ll be dicks.) You have a once in a lifetime pass to let yourself go.

I don’t know. I personally am finding this part of it kind of amazing. Like: “oh hey, grey hair! And I can’t do a single fucking thing about it! That’s fantastic!”

I guess I could buy a box of hair dye, but I DON’T WANT TO.

This does of course reflect some privilege: for some of us, hair (for example) has been used as an active tool of discrimination and exclusion for a very long time (eg. black hair, and all the ways rules around it have been used to exclude and silence black people). And yet, it’s mostly white people I’ve seen complaining about their hair.  So consider this directed solely towards those people who, like me, are at worst experiencing mild discomfort around lack of aesthetic services:

We can just collectively declare spring and summer 2020 the year in which it is trendy to look like you’d just been rescued by park rangers after being lost in Banff for a couple of months. It’s cool! It’s totally in style. It’s what everyone is doing, including the Prime Minister, and god knows he of the Vogue cover is not immune to vanity.

Let’s call it #SolidarityChic, and be done with it.

In that spirit, I share with you a few anti-vanity recent sewing projects, in all my shaggy, non-make-up, what-is-the-sun glory.

Masks, because it’s gone from fringe accessory to public participation necessity. I used the Marfy pattern and made it 1000% more complicated for myself by insisting on screen printing, stenciling,  and stamping them in such a way that they match up across the centre seamline, for no reason whatsoever except that it sounded like an interesting challenge. This inspired a few cursing fits but I think they turned out pretty well in the end.

I also embarked on a large collection of stretchy pants with pockets.

For the first time in my life, I’ve needed them.

Tailored wool pants are not a great choice when you’re working 8 hours at the kitchen table with a puppy who insists on being on a lap and who sheds–not sparingly, but in a fluffy cloud that follows her like Pigpen’s dust. I have leggings of the “can wear them for an hour for a workout” variety, because their lack of pockets means I have to take off my insulin pump, which I can only do for so long.* I had two nice-ish pairs of non-stretchy jeans that are great for going out shopping or for casual Fridays at the office, but that I don’t generally wear for just hanging out.

And I had exactly one pair of stretchy jeans with pockets comfortable enough to sit at my new kitchen-table-office for hours at a time, but also seven years old and starting to wear through the knees.

So I ordered myself some leggings fabrics from Discovery Fabrics and went through the stash for any stretchy bottom-weight stretch cottons I could make into pants and went to work.

First up: two pairs of Jalie Eleanore jeans.

I have never, ever before in my life owned or wanted pull-on jean-like pants. But these were desperate times. I quickly drafted a simple pocket in the front seam (the one that looks like a pocket, but isn’t) and made one pair from an extremely stretchy blue twill with a snakeskin like embossed pattern on it from Downtown Fabrics, and another in a fantastic huge floral print with less stretch but just enough to make these work (from another Queen W store, but I forget which one).

God, I miss Queen West.

It is Jalie, so of course the sizing is impeccable and everything lines up. I can’t comment on the instructions since only partial ones were included with the pattern (which directs you to their website for the rest). But the partial directions get you through to the faux fly just fine, and if you’ve made pants before, you know what the rest is anyway.

Continue reading #SolidarityChic, plus #SewcialDistancing

So. Uh. Have any of you found yourselves sewing through your fabric stash a bit faster than you’d anticipated when making your New Year’s Resolutions?

Oh, not asking for any particular reason–just–you know. Around the time I published that last post, I stopped looking at my closet full of fabric as an Embarrassing Monument to Lack of Self-Control and started seeing it as a fabulous sandy beach in which I can bury my ostrich head. Which might work better if I weren’t refreshing the John Hopkins site and three local news sources approximately once every three minutes.

It’s been three weeks of school closures here. And since that announcement, we’ve seen the near shut-down of the provincial economy, with all in-person non-essential workplaces closed down, as well as colleges and universities, border closings both external and internal and now all public gatherings limited to five people max. No visitors to hospitals or long-term care homes. All outdoor public spaces closed. Grocery stores only letting in one person per family, and only a small number of people at a time.  Everyone swimming around in their own little home fish-bowl.

You will be shocked to learn that I am sewing things I don’t need. You will also be shocked to learn that I have been making more mistakes while sewing than I normally do. I have finally found the time to sew up Frances’s rain jacket (Jalie City Coat) with some breathable waterproof fabric I bought from Discovery Fabrics last year. The jacket is sewn up and hemmed and pretty much done except for the zipper, which is on its way in the mail. Your guess is as good as mine as to when it’ll actually get here.  (The pattern is meant for buttons, but I think a zipper makes better sense for a waterproof jacket, so I’m going to try a replacement.) But I guess at least now Frances has a waterproof cape-like garment.

Otherwise, I have been sewing myself completely frivolous and unnecessary jersey garments; honestly, who knows when I’m going to leave the house except for daily walks and occasional grocery visits?  What use are tailored wool pants in these circumstances? Maybe it’s time to finally make myself a pair of leggings with a pocket for the insulin pump. … Actually, that’s not a bad thought.

I’d post my latest projects, but that would require getting dressed, and possibly wiping the stunned look off my face. What are the chances?

Tell you what: if I look in the mirror and see a facial expression that isn’t some version of “WTF?” I’ll consider taking pictures of the new projects and doing a proper post.

It’s not just the hoard that’s become a sudden advantage.

Frances’s medical condition is extremely rare; fewer than fifteen people have been diagnosed with what she has. We’ve had years of practice in navigating symptoms and syndromes that doctors don’t understand yet.  Those medical issues often mean cancelling plans and not going out much. And I work in a field where exponential growth in something has catastrophic public health consequences (among other things) and that’s just … Tuesday.  So while everything is different, nothing is different, if you know what I mean.

But weirdly, the same things that have been sometimes very costly disadvantages–being a chronically ill single mom to a kid with a very rare condition, and no family support–are the very reasons why I am now working from home with my regular job for my regular pay, when all of my colleagues are working weird schedules and overtime on the front lines.

Our dog has gone from bug-eyed ecstasy every day because her humans are staying home again to taking us completely for granted and sometimes hiding in the basement.  Still, she’s the clear winner of our current situation. Playtime on demand and endless laps for naptime and walks every day.

So much of this is so incoherent and formless still that I can’t think of a way to tie this post off with a neat bow. It’s weird, and yet its deeply familiar. It’s excruciating, yet marked mostly by unending tedium. My day to day is largely wonderful, spending lots of time with my favourite human and the Impossible Puppy and watching spring unfold, but in a town and world that is holding its breath and wondering how bad this is going to get.  I think all we can do right now is let this be wide open, and hold our uncertainty and others’ very gently.

#SlowFashion2020: Create Your Own Sustainable Challenge — Frivolous At Last

Now here’s a sewing challenge I can get behind completely.

But as someone who already almost never buys clothes, it was challenging to think of a pledge to make! Here’s what I’ll be working with:

1. I’m going to work on appreciating beautiful fabrics with my eyes instead of my wallet: just because it’s gorgeous and would make the perfect pattern-x doesn’t mean it needs to become MY version of pattern-x. Gods know at this point when I add fabrics to my stash it becomes a project at the end of such a long list that it will take me years to get to it, at which point I won’t want to make that pattern anyway.

2. I’m going to find other ways to support the local fabric stores I love besides buying fabrics I don’t need. I’ll take the classes or workshops, or introduce friends to them, or give gift certificates for classes/workshops/products to friends, etc. Because I do want these stores and places to thrive and often that means I am buying things I don’t want and can’t use (even though they are very nice!); I need to find another way.

3. I’m going to work on slower sewing projects. There is this loop I’ve been caught in where, to justify the fabrics I’ve bought, I try to race through the sewing projects so the stash doesn’t get “too much,” which just transfers the excess from the stash to my closet, where I can’t possibly wear it all. So I want to work on slowing down on the sewing: make more complicated clothes, screen print or embroider projects where appropriate, and make more things for other people.

I’m also looking at the 30 Wears Challenge, which also asks you not to buy (or make) a piece of clothing unless you believe you will wear it at least 30 times. This sounds like a good judgement check at the moment of purchase or cutting and I’ll be posting about this and the slow fashion challenge on IG. But, you know, probably slowly.

 

I can’t believe 2019 is almost over! What are your sewing hopes and plans for 2020?


Hi friends! Happy holiday season to you! As we come to the end of another year, how about a fresh new challenge for a fresh new 2020? I’ve started up Slow Fashion 2020, where you decide what challenge you want to set for yourself in terms of being more sustainable with your clothing making/purchasing. As […]

via #SlowFashion2020: Create Your Own Sustainable Challenge — Frivolous At Last

A cozy travelling duo: Simplicity 5271 and Butterick 5934

I know, another sewing post! Don’t faint.

Today we have a double post: pajamas and a duffel bag.

(Both of which were made for a trip, although both were needed too. The pajamas because I haven’t had a proper pair of new winter pjs for decades; and the duffel bag because the last one I bought was in university and is falling apart, and also sucks.)

(And the trip because I was totally exhausted and feeling burned out on the job/house/dog/kid/kid’s medical needs/my medical needs/climate action overload, and happened to read about an author’s trip to the middle of nowhere with her kids so they could have a night dark enough to see stars. And I thought, oh god, yes, a night dark enough to see stars … but maybe without the kid, just this one time. And I booked a teeny cabin in the middle of nowhere over Canadian Thanksgiving.)

Pajamas!

(Simplicity 5271)

This is a Simplicity pattern that I’ve used for Frances many times. You know it’s old, because I bought this Simplicity pattern in a Fabricland store, and they haven’t carried them for years (cost dispute). But it’s a good basic pattern.

This lovely cotton french terry I picked up on sale at Needlework. I think it’s gone now, but it’s so gorgeous. Almost too gorgeous to make into pjs. (Almost.) Neck band is a bit of scrap cotton ribbing.

I actually chose the size based on my measurements (for a Big 4!) since I wouldn’t care if the PJs were too roomy and the finished measurements looked ok. As a unisex pattern with all sizes in one envelope, I didn’t have to worry about not having the size I needed. Very much appreciated.

And look! Look at these! These are perfect PJs for hanging out in a tiny cabin in the middle of nowhere with a book and a cup of tea.

Luckily, they’re the perfect PJs for hanging out on a sofa in the suburbs with a book and a cup of tea as well. I am set.

Duffel Bag!

(Butterick 5934)

Alice in Wonderland was one of the first books I ever read. I read it and its sequel probably dozens of times when I was in elementary school. I used to dream about finding portals to other worlds (Narnia too).

So when the anniversary Alice fabric was released a few years ago, I snapped up some of the canvas–again from Needlework–and good thing too, because it didn’t last long.

Yes, it does have Bill the lizard flying through the air! There are teapots and cups full of tea stacked willy nilly! The Cheshire cat’s floating grinning head is hovering in mid-air! The dodo bird is marching in his goal-less circles! There’s the Queen, the King, and the White Rabbit! And yes there are little metallic flourishes all over it! It is perfect.

I haven’t read the book or watched the Disney movie for decades, but every time I look at poor Bill on the duffel bag, I think, “There goes Bill!” And I guess if you were less of a die-hard fan and don’t remember Alice eating or drinking yet another thing she shouldn’t and growing to fill the house she’d entered, to the point where her leg is jammed up the chimney, and they send poor Bill the chimney-sweep in to try to flush her out, and she kicks him sky-high when he tries, that might not mean much to you. But basically, this duffel  bag was loaded with memories as soon as it came off the sewing machine, which is pretty well perfect.

It’s lined with two quilting cottons: one for the main, and a Tula Pink snails print for the zippered pocket, both again from Needlework, probably neither still available. The contrast handle fabric is a cotton twill from King Textiles in Toronto, and the bottom contrast fabric is a Merchant and Mills oilskin–also Needlework, and still there! It gives a bit of extra toughness and waterproofing that’s useful in a travel piece, I think.

The pockets that came with the pattern
The zippered pocket that did not come with the pattern, but is very easy to add in.

Two layers of interfacing: I had to move the sewing machine to a big table to squeeze the bag through the throat for the last few steps, but it was worth it.

This pattern is OOP, but overall it worked out well. All the pieces fit together, the instructions were good, and it makes a nice roomy bag.

(I haven’t yet made the detachable strap; I didn’t have the right hardware. The zippered pouch I added following the instructions in Lisa Lam’s The Bag Making Bible.)

Sizing Note

Wonder of all wonders, I used a body measurement chart to pick a size for a Big 4 pattern, and it actually worked. Of course, this is a loose-fitting garment where the penalty for getting it slightly wrong is very low.

Burda 10/2018 Pants #114: Every work wardrobe needs a pair of bright pink pants

Holy cow, a sewing post!

I have been sewing–slowly–but not many new patterns, and I’m not someone who likes to review patterns I’ve already reviewed unless I did something substantially different. And there’s not a whole lot of gaps in my wardrobe to fill right now, so not much need to sew.

One thing I have been trying to make more of lately is pants for work, hence these:

DSC_0045

They are swishy, they are magenta, they are linen/rayon. In the magazine they made them up in cashmere, but I thought it best to try it out in something a little less expensive (but still wearable) first. This is the second pair I made; the first version, in rayon twill, is just a smidge too stiff for the pleats. Also, since the pattern has a belt, I made the whole thing up in a size 40 thinking I could just cinch it in. And I can, but it doesn’t look right or feel right with everything hanging from the waist tie, so I don’t recommend that. The twill pants I do still wear, but not as much as I would have liked to.

The linen/rayon blend is much drapier, and I cinched in the waist by about an inch on this version, so it can actually stay up on its own without hanging off the belt, and that helps. The linen/rayon is from Needlework; the magenta was pretty popular and went fast but I think this was the only cut to end up as pants.

DSC_0057
The Side

The pattern goes together well; it’s a side zipper rather than a fly, so it’s not time consuming, as pants patterns go. I stabilized the pocket edges with selvedge from a scrap of pink poly chiffon, so it is both very thin and very stable. And I did my now-standard buttonhole-on-the-inside-of-the-pocket trick to make it more functional to wear with an insulin pump.

DSC_0061
The Back. It is big.

They’re … not slimming. That would be my one cautionary note, if it matters to you. Otherwise it’s a good pants pattern that makes work-appropriate and comfortable pants with a few fun details. I’m not sure if I’ll use my cashmere on these (are they too trendy? Will the pleats and bow be unwearable in a year or two?) but I enjoyed making these ones.

Sizing Note

In Burda, according to the their body measurement chart, I should be making pants up in a size 40/42. For the first pair, I made a straight size 40, which was too big in the waist. For the second pair, I made a 38/40; this is my usual Burda size, and it fit just fine.

Crafters for Climate

I’ve done something a bit mad, and I’ll talk about why I’ve done this to myself more in another post, but for today I’ll just tell you what it is:

I’ve committed to creating, hosting or participating in one public Climate Change event connected to each of my hobbies, ideally before the Canadian election in October but if that can’t be arranged ASAP.

Sewing was first: two small workshops held at Needlework here in Hamilton, using scrap fabrics to make small climate action banners and support the youth strikers, while I spoke a bit about what the climate emergency is and how it connects to our much loved hobby.

So great to see a bunch of kids out on Friday!

I’ve put it all together in this post as a toolkit that you can take to your favourite local sewing space and do yourself (or with a friend!).

Approach

I absolutely did not have this well thought out to begin with: I just went to my favourite local fabric store with a hugely sketchy pitch:

With the climate crisis being so much in the news, and the UN climate conference coming up again, and a federal election being faught over the carbon tax–and with Greta Thunberg and the youth strikers asking for adult support and participation in the Sept 20 and 27 climate strikes–wouldn’t it be great if an unexpected community like crafters and sewers were to speak out in support of climate action? We could fabric scraps, I suggested, and maybe piece them into a banner for the shop window or the protests–or people could make their own–or iron slogans on t-shirts, or make tote bags–or, I don’t know, what do you think?

Fortunately Kate and Liz were super enthusiastic and supportive and had the much better and easier idea of using fusible web to make banners, but yes, out of scraps. And I’d talk a bit about climate change while we all make our masterpieces, and we’d raise some money for a local environmental group, and in short, it would be fabulous. Liz and Kate did most of the work: making the blank banners, setting up the event on their website, and collecting donations. (A huge thank you again!)

Agenda

After everyone arrived, Liz and Kate gave a basic introduction to the event and a how-to on the fusible web. Attendees brainstormed a slogan, sketched it out, and started tracing and cutting. About an hour in, after everyone had their slogan planned out and was focused on getting it done, I jumped into my talk.

It was very short–just a few minutes–and we were all working on our projects at the same time, so it was very informal.

Afterwards we kept chatting while we finished up our banners.

Here’s the one I made on Saturday morning, hanging at home on the living room wall.

Talk

Do any of you remember seeing the headlines about “twelve years left to save the planet” from a year ago? And if you do, how many of you feel like you have a really solid understanding of what that means? What is it we had twelve years left to do, and what happens if we don’t do it?

Here’s the basic rundown:

If we want to be reasonably sure that the planet can continue to support human civilization in something mostly like what we’re used to, we need to limit total warming to 1.5C.

We’ve already experienced 1C of warming, so there is very little margin left, and the global carbon cycle is so slow that what we’ve already emitted will get us to 1.5C some time this century whether we continue to emit carbon or not.

That sounds bad, yes? So when global leaders met and signed the Paris Accords saying they would try to limit warming to 1.5C, it led straight away to the question: ok, great, but how?

The IPCC commissioned a study on that question: how do we do this? CAN we do this? And about a thousand climate experts from around the world collaborated on putting together the information that came together in last October’s report. What they concluded was:

  • If we cut emissions roughly in half by 2030
  • And completely decarbonize by 2050
  • And then go into NEGATIVE emissions in the second half of this century

We have about a 66% chance of keeping warming to 1.5C, though we may overshoot it for part of that time before negative emissions have an impact.

That twelve years is how long we have to cut our emissions in half. Of course right now emissions are still rising, so that’s a big challenge.

AND! It will affect our beloved hobby, too. Let’s talk a little bit about how: we’re sitting in a space where just about every product started out as a plant on a farm, and which will be affected by a changing climate. Textiles and fashion have environmental implications beyond climate of course, like water use and transportation and fertilizers and chemicals during processing and dyeing, but I’m going to limit myself to climate impacts today because that’s what we’re here for.

Climate change—impacts on cotton:

  • higher temps a mixed bag, depending on geographic region and how close they already are to upper tolerance levels
  • drought, storms, all decrease yields
  • yields in some countries already declining
  • during the 2011 Texas drought, 55% of cotton fields were abandoned
  • even in low-warming scenarios, yields in America expected to decline 30-46%
  • solutions include GMOs for heat and drought tolerance, using more wild varieties and cultivars that tolerate extremes better, and changing farming practices to better conserve water etc. Even so, yields will almost certainly decline.

https://www.greenbiz.com/article/why-climate-change-material-cotton-industry

https://www.bizcommunity.com/Article/129/358/172950.html

Click to access Bange%20and%20Constable.pdf

Linen/flax

Not as much research or writing, but yields are declining for now and expected to continue to decline; however, not as severely as cotton (because it uses the entire plant, not just the seed?)

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/329655637_Flax_crop_production_and_climate_change_from_diagnosis_to_solutions_for_the_future_Philippe_GATE_and_Olivier_DEUDON

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25796897

Polyester/synthetics

A single polyester t-shirt has carbon emissions of 5.5kg, (about double that of a cotton t-shirt).

https://oecotextiles.wordpress.com/2019/02/26/textile-industry-and-climate-change/

Bamboo & Rayon

We also have a solution here too. There are definitely sustainability concerns with the production of rayon, but bamboo was described by Project Drawdown as having significant potential to sequester carbon because it’s a perennial plant that grows very quickly.


So there you go. Everything in the world, including this shop, affects and is affected by the climate crisis.

And of course, it’s not just textiles, is it? If it were, we might be less concerned, though I personally have no interest in living in a global nudist colony.

Reports on climate impacts expected for Hamilton this century include: more extreme weather events, more precipitation in the spring, winter and fall; more drought in the summer; more ice storms; more extreme heat, leading to an anticipated 2 months or more of extreme heat every year by the 2080s ; more invasive species; new pests and diseases to our region (like Lyme disease).

At the same time, these impacts are going to be worse for vulnerable and marginalized communities: women, racial minorities, people with low-incomes or disabilities, are all going to feel the effects more.

But this also means that just about anything you do to make the world a better, fairer place will help on climate change. For example, the same people at Project Drawdown found that if you combine the mitigation impacts of education for girls globally and improved access to family planning, women’s rights have as much impact on climate change as wind turbines.


You’ve probably already heard about the things you can do as an individual or a household to reduce your carbon: drive an electric car or take transit, avoid flying, avoid meat, change to LED lightbulbs, set your thermostat to use less heat and air conditioning—and those are all great, but if we need to decarbonize, we need societal change. Our province shutting down all the coal-fired power plants was, at the time, the largest climate mitigation project in North American history, because at a stroke we all emitted less carbon in our electricity regardless of our personal choices.

We need a lot more of that, which means action from all levels of government and business and industry leaders. Which isn’t going to happen unless they hear from a lot of us.

Which is where our lovely banners come in, and the school strikes and demonstrations. It’s amazing to me that even the conservative party has a climate policy for this year’s election. It’s crap, and it would make emissions go up, but they’ve got one–they’ve conceded that it’s real and accept that the public wants to see action. This is a direct result of increasing public visibility and pressure from things like the youth strikes. So the best thing for all of us to do is get more involved.

Other Ideas

You weren’t at the workshop, you aren’t going to a strike: how else can you be part of mobilizing and publicly supporting action on climate change?

It is uncomfortable and new territory for a lot of us, but so much is at stake.  Please find a way to be involved!

Theory

For the climate nerds, here’s the theoretical background: climate communications research shows that conversations about the climate emergency are more successful and lead to better outcomes when:

1. They are in small groups or one-to-one, rather than mass communications
2. They come from a trusted member of that community, rather than from an outsider
3. They are built on shared values and priorities
4. They tackle solutions and a vision of a desired and desirable future

These workshops put that theory into practice in the Hamilton sewing community.

Democracy is a Learned Skill

We’re getting close to a federal election here in Canada (election season here only lasts for a couple of months, so we’ll be all done by the end of October, American friends–whereas you’re already in the thick of it and still have a year to go, which is just mind-boggling to me). It’s the perfect time for me to harp on one of my favourite subjects:

Democracy means rule by the people, not checkmarking by the people.

Voting, as important as it is, is the bare minimum for citizenship in a democracy (and yes, I know a lot of people can’t even manage to do that much).

You’ve got to show up between elections. Politicians do what large numbers of their constituents vocally ask them to do.

In the house I grew up in, people voted, and that was it. Political activities otherwise involved people venting about decisions they didn’t like at the dinner table with immediate family, and otherwise never bringing it up. That’s probably typical. My mother being who she is, even venting with immediate family sometimes brought about several months of shunning, which I hope isn’t typical; but in either case, my family practiced democracy by voting, and then complaining when elected officials didn’t do what we wanted them to without ever taking any trouble to tell the elected officials what that might be.

That’s what my daughter gets at her Dad’s house, but it’s not what she gets at mine: I’ve been dragging her to protests and public meetings and community events since she was a little kid.

And as a result, at 15, she’s confident about attending them and voicing her opinions, she knows what she thinks, and she’s got better knowledge about how government works than most 40 year olds.

Democracy and citizenship are, I think, like housework. You learn how to cook and mow the lawn and get the groceries and do laundry from watching your parents cook and mow the lawn and get the groceries and do laundry, starting when you’re much too young to participate, but learning even then that this is a routine part of living. Then as they get older, seeing and participating more, and taking more ownership.

But how did I learn it? How do you? If you didn’t grow up in that kind of house, how do you figure it out so you can make it NBD for your kids? I mean, I didn’t go to a protest or public meeting until after I started university, and lots of people never have.

Speaking as an adult-learner in the practice of democracy: you just show up.

You just GO.

You don’t need to go with a posse or even a buddy. You don’t need to know the people who are there. No one’s going to make you speak if you don’t want to. Even if it’s a protest, you don’t have to chant or shout, you can just walk quietly, even without a sign–it helps just to have more people. You can sign the sign-in sheet, or not; you can ask questions, or not; you can pick up the brochures and read them at home and then email your questions in, if you have them. It’s not just for experts or professionals or activists.

If it helps, tell yourself you’re going for 15 minutes, just to see what it’s about, just to poke your head in. Make up your mind about staying after you take the lay of the land. It’s fine! You’re not marrying the protest or the public meeting. At this point it’s not even a coffee date. You’re just showing up so you can figure out if you want to swipe right or left.

I remember some of my early meetings and protests like that: just a peak! Just to see what was going on. Just to take it in. And it got easier, gradually. Like showing up for a book club or a dance social or a community art class: every one gets more familiar until one day you’re going to every one and you know all the regulars.

A really great public meeting or town hall or protest is magic. For a few hours, with good people and great ideas, you see for a little while what the world could be like, and it sticks. You take it with you. You bring it to the next one; it builds. I still remember the Occupy Toronto camp, the signs and the tents and the sharing and the marches. That camp ended, but the ideas are still there, and the people who were there bring those ideas into every other movement they join; Occupy principles are in the bedrock of the Green New Deal. And no, the American federal GND resolution didn’t pass, but thanks to the proposal there are GND movements all over the world. There have been two town halls on GND principles and priorities in Hamilton in the last few months. A couple of weeks ago at work, a community group called me up to ask if we’d be interested in participating in a GND-inspired project, with elements from those town halls built right in.

Democracy is rule by the people, not check-marking by the people. And when the people show up, in public, in numbers, they can rule. People who stay home and complain at the TV or on FaceBook have abdicated the throne.

Here’s the other thing: the people organizing those town halls and protests and public meetings? They so desperately want you there. It’s not a secret club with an exam you have to pass in order to have your say. It’s more like a brand new local store waiting for its first fifty customers so they can pay the bills and keep the doors open. Even if you’re not going to buy anything, even if you’re just checking things out, they’ll be happy to see you!

And when it gets easier for you, your kids see you doing it, and they begin to believe that this is just a thing that adults do to make the world work. They’re right about that, too. Because it’s the adults who show up who push politicians to act in one way or another, and if it’s only the angry and hateful adults who have protests and public meetings and delegate at Council, then that’s what’ll happen.

Growing up in a family where no one did anything beyond voting, if that, is kind of like growing up in a family where they all eat take-out all the time. No one knows how to cook! Cooking looks weird and mysterious and hard. What’s a cup measure, anyway? How does a carrot get chopped? Where do you get cashews? If you get the amount of baking soda wrong, will the oven explode?

You can either live with those fears as normal and natural and raise kids who also don’t know how to cook and eat take-out all the time.

Or you can figure out how to cook and teach your kids.

So–I mean, obviously, first of all, vote.

But show up to town halls too. Go to protests. Write letters and make phone calls. Start awkward political conversations about issues that matter to you. Go to public meetings on projects you support. Call your representatives–not about Major Issue Of The Day necessarily, but just to tell them what’s important to you, what you want to see them accomplish.

Participating in democracy in this way is also work. I know. TV is easier and more fun, just like take-out is easier and more fun than cooking. And just like it’s ok to eat take-out sometimes but as a regular thing it’s terrible for your health and your budget, sitting out on democracy is ok sometimes but as a constant thing is terrible for your mental health and your community.

Believe me, it wears on you and takes a toll to live as if you are powerless, to pretend as if the only voice you have is a tick you put in a box once every couple of years.

Also, just like cooking gets better when you find the recipes that work for your schedule and taste buds and budget, participating in democracy gets a whole lot more fun when you figure out whether you’re more the “come to the town halls a few times a year, clap politely, maybe ask a question” type or the “show up at the protest with a sign and yell” type or the “make the powerpoint slides for the community group to delegate at Council” type. Speaking for myself, I don’t love cooking; I cook because I love eating and I’ve found recipes that are fairly quick and we like eating and don’t get tired of. I also much prefer attending town halls and community meetings to knocking on doors during elections. That’s easier to figure out when you’ve tried a bunch of things.

Make participating in democracy as normal as vacuuming. Make it so your kids never have to feel awkward and uncertain about it. Show up, and bring your kids with you.

MeMadeMay 2019 Recap, Holy Cow

I did it. Thirty-one days of me-mades, no repeat outfits. The hardest part was that Frances had uptillion doctor’s visits (more on that in another post), and on those days I worked from home, and I just don’t have as many homemade casual clothes as I do clothes for work. But I still did it!

As promised, here are links to all the blog posts about the projects including patterns, sizing, adjustments, and fabric sources. Here we go:

Day 1:

Burda 02/2017 #111 (unblogged). Love this sweatshirt pattern, not least because of the pockets! in the front. Sweatshirt fleece from King Textiles.

Day 2:

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Burda Magazine Dress and trench coat. Embroidered bag adapted from the book Bags in Bloom.

Day 3:

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Burda magazine top and Jalie Women’s Stretch Jeans.

Day 4:

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Grainline Linden sweatshirt.

Day 5:

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Grainline Linden t-shirt, cropped (unblogged) with storebought jeans.

Day 6:

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Burda Magazine blouse (unblogged version of this shirt) and Burda paper-pattern skirt, clutching a Burdastyle magazine jacket and the same embroidered bag.

Day 7:

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Sewaholic Renfrew t-shirt; Vogue 9155 view C pants (unblogged. Mini review: Should be a 16/18 based on their body measurement chart, but as always, tons of ease so I sized down to a 10/12. The fabric is a Fabricland ponte. Because of the knit I omitted the front fly closure and these are pull on, and it works, but in retrospect it would have been better to keep the closer and use woven interfacing in the waistband to eliminate the stretch because they do bag out over a day of wear).

Day 8:

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Jalie Mimosa t-shirt

Day 9:

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Burda magazine shirt, Patrones magazine pants

Day 10:

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Modified Sewaholic Renfrew t-shirt, Jalie Women’s Stretch Jeans.

Day 11:

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Burda 6910 t-shirt (unblogged and out of print! Mini review: rayon jersey from Fabricland here. It’s been so long I don’t really remember this one anymore but it looks like I cut out a 10/12 on this one. I seem to remember taking in the waist a bit because the gathering at the waist adds a lot of extra space), Burda magazine bomber jacket.

Day 12:

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You can barely see it, but the shirt I’m wearing is a Jalie Mimosa t-shirt without the sleeve ruffles.

Day 13:

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Burda magazine shirt.

Day 14:

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Vogue patterns t-shirt, Burda magazine pants (New and unblogged so far, but hopefully I’ll get to it. Rayon twill from Needlework. I went with a straight 40 on this one reasoning that I could use the waist tie to cinch in the waist, and while yes that kind of worked, it would have been better to alter the waist down to the 38 and not have everything hanging off the tie).

Day 15:

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Modified Sewaholic Renfrew T-shirt, Patrones Magazine pants.

Day 16:

Knipmode magazine dress, Burda patterns blazer.

Day 17:

Burda paper patterns shirt, Patrones pants, Burdastyle magazine bomber jacket

Day 18:

Sewaholic Renfrew t-shirt, Burda paper pattern skirt (I got a huge kick out of wearing an Art Gallery Fabrics skirt to an art gallery). Jacket is a hand-me-down.

Day 19:

Sewaholic Renfrew t-shirt, StyleArt Jasmine pants turned into shorts.

Day 20:

Butterick t-shirt, Burdastyle magazine bomber jacket (again)

Day 21:

Simplicity wrap skirt, Sewaholic Renfrew t-shirt.

Day 22:

Burdastyle magazine for the blouse and trench coat, StyleArc Jasmine pants.

Day 23

Vogue patterns dress, Burdastyle magazine trench coat

Day 24:

Butterick patterns dress.

Day 25:

Burdastyle magazine shirt.

Day 26:

Sewaholic Thurlow shorts (unblogged, stretch linen from Downtown Fabrics) and a Grainline Linden t-shirt (also unblogged).

Day 27:

Butterick t-shirt in what was claimed to be a linen jersey but which I actually think is rayon (Downtown Fabrics), Patrones pants.

Day 28:

Burda shirt, Patrones pants.

Day 29:

Vogue patterns dress, Burda jacket.

Day 30:

Butterick shirt with Grainline Scout sleeves subbed in, and Jalie Women’s Stretch Jeans.

Day 31:

Can you tell I was completely Over It by then?

Burdastyle blouse, Patrones pants.

BONUS! Dance class outfits:

Burdastyle magazine leggings and an unblogged Burda sweatshirt. I even made myself a practice veil from a poly chiffon bought during a Fabricland members’ sale.

Incidentally this is the best pattern for dance class leggings ever.

BONUS! Pajamas and lounging about:

Pants from Amy Butler’s In Stitches (never blogged: pattern works fine but not worth the price of the book on its own; fleece from Fabricland, cotton in the short version from Needlework), tops are Grainline Linden t-shirts and Burdastyle t-shirts (unblogged as I didn’t like the way it looked, which is why it turned into a pj top instead of a regular t-shirt)

BONUS! Dance socials

McCalls dress, Burda magazine jacket; modifified Sewaholic Renfrew and StyleArc Jasmine shorts


I think I did good. I definitely proved that I don’t need to make myself any more clothes, so I stopped and sold my sewing machines.

Hahahahaha! … no. Two of the above garments are ones I made this month, another two have been finished and are waiting for a chance to wear them, and I made myself a dress for Hamilton Frocktails.

Shamelessly stolen screenshot of the IG story.

Sewaholic Cambie in a silk/cotton voile from Fabricland, lined in a white silk/cotton voile. It is the dreamiest, floatiest stuff for a dress, and also pretty fun to dance in as I then wore it out to a dance social which technically was in June so it didn’t count for MeMadeMay. Probably won’t blog this one since there’s nothing different about this one than the first, except that the silk/cotton voile has so much body that I just put in a simple a-line skirt lining instead of the gathered one.

Here’s to 11 months of no daily outfit selfies. Hurrah!

OMG, it’s Me Made May! Again.

It seems like it’s Me Made May all the time–like, at least once a year. Holy cow.

Regardless, here we go again! A month to celebrate making and wearing clothes, and then, in June, a few days to celebrate not having to talk about or taking pictures of ourselves making and wearing clothes. It’s the annual cycle, I think–first the ground thaws, then things turn green, then trout lilies start popping up, then we all spend a frantic month making and wearing clothes to meet a wholly-self imposed standard and documenting the whole thing while spring peepers and green frogs start mating, then in June we talk about how exhausting it is while celebrating that it’s practically summer already, and thank god for skirts with pockets.

Fun!

So here’s my goal for this year:

I’ll wear something handmade every day, trying for 100% handmade but with allowances for those days when something storebought just makes more sense, and not repeating outfits. At the end I’ll post a summary of #ootd pictures with links to posts about the garments, where I have them. Undoubtedly in that post I’ll talk about how I have enough clothes already, for pete’s sake, I hardly need to sew more! And then I will sew more, likely in June, because it’s a fun hobby. Self-knowledge is, apparently, one of the hazards of participation in this yearly sewing rite.

A Rainbow of Renfrews

I keep promising to post about my Renfrew hacks, and I keep finding other things to post about, but no longer! Today is the day I finally write about the approximately twenty I’ve made over the years, fifteen of which I still have (the others long since having worn out and joined the Great Scrap Heap in the Sky).

What today is not, is the day I have new pictures of all of them. Sorry about that. Work explosion + endless housetraining + regular life = absolutely no time for photos. I keep telling myself that this will be the weekend I find an hour to take some … and then the weekend says, “Hey, there’s two community climate talks, and you’re getting your haircut, but I’m sure after groceries and laundry and cooking and housework you’ll still have some free time,” and then the free time laughs and says, “you forgot that you need to stare frantically at a puppy wondering if she’s circling and sniffing because she has to pee or because someone dropped food there two years ago, but maybe there’s an hour in there somewhere,” and then the hour in there somewhere says, “lol, no, this hour is booked solid for staring into space while sitting catatonically in the most comfortable chair in the house.” As it turns out, they’re all right. I’m reading a lot, because that’s something I can do in ten second snatches while worrying that the dog is about to pee on the floor. I can sew a bit in two-minute intervals here and there, though it takes forever right now. I found twenty minutes on a long weekend for photos of three of them. Maybe next month.

My entire sanity is banked on the idea that someday Juniper will learn that pee goes outside, not in the kitchen.

Straight Up

I’m not Sewaholic’s target market, obviously, but I found that I could get a good fit with a size 8 and an FBA. I’m not a fan of the bands, so I just hemmed mine; otherwise these are as indicated in the pattern, and don’t need much explanation. These are made from cotton, rayon or bamboo jersey, or rayon or cotton rib knit.

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I will say that if you like a snug fit, you can’t beat a fine rib knit. The stretch and recovery are fantastic and it’s so comfortable.

Neckline Gathers

In Which I Transfer About Half of the FBA Onto the Neckline

I like this one a lot, obviously, and it’s not so hard once you’ve got a front pattern piece you’ve transferred the markings to. I find it doesn’t matter if you use the v or scoop neck piece because the process of gathering the neckline is going to round out the neckline anyway.

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Here’s the basic process:

  1. Do a regular rather than a slide-and-pivot FBA on an unaltered pattern piece that is about half of what you need (eg. I normally need 2″ on each side; in this case I do a regular 1″ FBA).
  2. Slash the neckline to the bust apex and rotate the side dart into that. Remove the waist dart by re-drawing the side seam.
  3. Use this piece to do a slide-and-pivot for the remaining additional space you need across the bust.
  4. Make a mark on the neckline about 3″, maybe a bit more, away from where you slashed for the neckline gathers, and write on the pattern how much gathering you’ll need. (eg. say you spread the neckline 3″ to create the space you need, and there’s 5″ between that cut and the centre and 3″ to the mark you just made; you’ll want to gather the double of that total ((3+5+3)x2=22″) into the space of the original doubled total ((3+5)x2=16″). That will ensure your neckband length remains the same between the original and the gathered version.
  5. You know how to gather….

Two caveats:

  1. You can probably put all of the extra you need in the neckline gathers if you don’t need to add much. Over an inch or so and you’ll find the gathers get very thick on the neckline and no longer look so nice, which is why you also still do the slide-and-pivot.
  2. This will still make for a snug t-shirt. If you want a loose, drapey t-shirt with a gathered neckline, add extra to the side seam all the way down.

You can probably figure out for yourselves which of these I made loose and which I didn’t. You want something with a pretty decent drape for this; stiff won’t work with the gathers. So these are mostly rayon or bamboo jerseys with one sparkly metallic spandex knit.

Centre Gathers

I only did this once, and because it’s black, I never wear it–but it does work:

  1. Your centre front fold line is now a seam; add a seam allowance.
  2. Do a regular FBA to add what you need.
  3. Rotate the side dart into a new dart line drawn at a parallel point on the centre front seam, and as with step 4 above, make a top and bottom gather mark, and figure out how much you need to gather that into to keep the original centre seam length.
  4. You know how to gather….
  5. Use a non-stretch stick to sew the centre front pieces together. In my experience, a stretch stitch here, given the weight and location, will weigh the gathers out and the whole thing will just sag.
  6. Construct the rest of the t-shirt as you normally would.

This will add a dart bump to the centre front, just as it would the side, that will mostly have to be removed during construction; you won’t need to keep that rounded part for the final shirt construction.

Again, this is a bamboo jersey, as that gathers nicely.

Ruffle

This is an easy but fiddly variation on the basic t-shirt that assumes you have a well-fitting adjusted front piece. I used the ruffle from the button-down shirt in Burda 8/16, shirt 103, though I added about 1″ to the width at the top of the ruffle to make it a bit more dramatic.

Additional steps to attach it to the t-shirt:

  1. Sew the ruffle pieces together at the centre front using a non-stretch stitch and a walking foot; press open.
  2. Trim away any parts of the seam allowance that are visible from the front when the ruffle is laid flat(-ish).
  3. Assemble the t-shirt as you normally would, except for the neck band.
  4. Very carefully pin the ruffle to the t-shirt front:
    1. Down the centre,
    2. Along the neckline, and
    3. Along the yoke line (you’ll fold this down before sewing it on, but right now you’re just trying out the ruffle location)
  5. Try it on and figure out if you want the ruffle where it is, or higher or lower, and adjust until it’s in a spot you like.
  6. Use something like wonder-under to adhere the ruffle where you like it.
  7. Using a narrow zig-zag stitch and a walking foot, sew the ruffle to the centre front and the yoke (now folded under), and baste to the neckline.
  8. Try it on to have another look and make sure you’ve trimmed away any parts of the ruffle centre-front seam allowance that might be visible, depending on how it drapes.
  9. Finish the shirt by adding the neckband etc.

Voila! A t-shirt with a dramatic ruffled front.

I like this a lot with this rayon rib knit (from Needlework) because of the drape and fit; you do want something that has good enough stretch and recovery to fit your body snugly but also enough drape to make a nice ruffle. Even better would be a rib sweater knit with good drape and a more interesting texture.  (I had a storebought t-shirt like this once upon a time; it was a sad day when it wore out, and I’ve never found a sweater knit fabric that would make a perfect replacement–but this is pretty good!).

Embellished

I did this one once upon a time too: basic Renfrew, embellished with pieces of the same fabric. Basically circles, with a straight line cut from one edge to the centre, opened up to make the cut edge a straight line, and then sewn in various places to the shirt.  Fiddly but not hard.

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There you go: a bunch of t-shirt variations on a basic fitted block that will add more interest and variety and replace some need for a FBA. It doesn’t have to be a Renfrew, obviously; whatever pattern you have that’s already adjusted to fit you well will work.