Merry Christmas, Laura!

Laura is one of my oldest and most favourite of internet friends. We met back in the golden age of mommyblogs, and she impressed me right away with her generosity and kindness. Despite many, many significant heartbreaks in her life, she has remained open and loving. I can’t tell you how much I admire her for this.

Back when Frances’s father and I were separating, Laura made Frances a quilt. It was pink, as that was Frances’s favourite colour at the time, and lovely and just her size. The generosity and thoughtfulness of this gift blew me away then, as it blows me away now. We still use this quilt on days when Frances is in need of extra comfort, even though it is now too small.

And then when I got a new job and moved to Dundas–she made us a picnic quilt! Bright colours of blue and green, because she knows I love them, with star patches on them because they were windmill-shaped and I was starting to work in the wind energy industry, and one of the stars made of a newsprint patterned fabric because I was doing some freelance journalism. We have brought this quilt with us on picnics (and camping trips and outdoor concerts) many, many times in the years since. Again, her generosity and thoughtfulness blew us away.

I’ve given her gifts too over the years, but none as personal, meaningful or full of effort as these. Laura’s quilts are the kinds of gifts you make plans to take with you if the house is ever on fire. Books and gift certificates for fabric stores are not. But when I saw this project in a magazine, I knew it was meant for Laura: a sewing roll with gorgeous brightly coloured flowers, and a spot to put her initials:


Six little pockets for sewing tools, that folds up and ties with the bias-binding straps.


I put some of my stash fabrics in the box for good measure, but that’s more of a favour she’s doing me rather than a gift I’m giving to her. I’m sure they’ll be made into something beautiful. All of her quilts are gorgeous. A few little sewing goodies were tucked into the pockets, too.

Of course this is not the same as two full quilts (!!), but I hope she loves and gets years of use out of this little gift. And I hope she takes this post, too, as part of it. Laura is a person who makes the world better by existing in it.

Merry Christmas


To all of you who celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful day filled with good memories.

To those of you who celebrate something else, please forgive us once again our annual excesses.

And for those of you who are struggling right now, I wish you survival, good alcohol (if appropriate), and good company (if desired).

My favourite holiday song this year is Tracey Thorn‘s Joy, discovered from an internet friend many moons ago.

It puts the darkness and the light together in a way that I think is better and truer than the constant onslaught of Merry Merry Merry. I hope you love it as much as I do.

this is not a blog about refugees

Except for when it is. Today is that day, you lucky readers!

We’ve had an agonizing whiplash situation with respect to Syrian refugees here in Canada over the last few months. Of course, if you are Canadian, you know this already; but to recap for the readers in the outfield seats, early in the fall it looked like the Conservative party might win the federal election largely by appealing to anti-immigrant, specifically anti-Muslim, sentiment here in Canada. Perhaps those of you in America are having a well-isn’t-that-a-coincidence moment right now.

Then the Liberals smashed the Conservatives (and the NDP, unfortunately) in a wholly unanticipated landslide win. Since then, our new federal government has committed to taking in 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of February (this is, to my mind, insufficient but at least it’s a good start) and the new national pass-time has become obsessively watching and reading stories of Syrian newcomers, at least if my FaceBook feed is any indication. Community groups all over the country have formed to sponsor refugees under the private sponsorship process, in which individuals, families or groups commit to donating or raising at least $27,000 per family of four, to support them for one year after they come to Canada while they are adjusting and looking for work etc.

There are of course a ton of such projects all over the country, each of them worthwhile and deserving and a great use of donation dollars, but today I am going to share with you one formed by a friend and former co-worker, Katie Meyer-Beck, who is working with a small group of people to sponsor two families of Syrian refugees (with three small children between them) to relocate to Hamilton.

Walking Together

The short story is that the first family (of four) came to Walking Together’s attention as relatives of a Syrian family already living in Hamilton, and they committed to almost the entire $27k required to resettle them here. Then they found out there was another family of three also related to those two initial families, and they are trying to raise the money required to bring them over too.

As of my writing, they are about $15k short of their fundraising goal. And hey, if you live in the States and you are wishing you could do something to directly support people living through this crisis, and you want to take advantage of the crazy US/Canada $ exchange rate, here is your chance! (Or anyone else too.)

There are a lot of ways to express financial support, and I’ll feel remiss if I didn’t mention them too:

Wesley Urban Ministries, coordinating the resettlement work in Hamilton
Immigrant’s Working Centre’s 20for20 campaign, through which Walking Together is planning their sponsorship effort
and the UNHCR

All of whom would, so I understand, make wise use of your donation dollars on behalf of refugees.

But if it seems ok to you, and there’s still room in the Walking Together campaign when you read this, please consider donating to this effort.

The Hoard

My fabric stash and I recently had a chat about the Meaning of Life. It was impromptu–all right, it was an intervention. She cornered me in my den and threatened me with death by asphyxiation under a mountain of cotton.

An early Purge Pile
An early Purge Pile, plus a Frances

She is not enormous by First World standards, which is to say that if it were all sewn up, I could clothe an extended family, but not a village. Still, when seen in those terms, it is clearly excessive.

Stash: Please tell me you are not adding to me today.

Me: What? No, no … just these two fat quarters for that quilt I’m planning, and this metre of cream bamboo jersey Frances has been asking for.

Stash. You are adding to me today.

Me: Well, ok, but such a small purchase hardly counts.

Stash: Look at me.

Me: I am looking at you. I’m trying to find a place to put these.

Stash: Get your hands off me, back up a few paces, and look.

I did.

The three large storage bins in the closet were full: of scraps for muslins, large pieces of specialty fabrics like faux fur and chennille, and various kinds of battings. The three hanging storage units were also full: of quilting cottons, shirtings, wools, corduroy, silks. Pieces of suede and leather covered the top of the dresser. The green storage bin for Christmas fabrics was not entirely full, but close. The closet shelf was stacked with linings.

The spare office chair was piled high with impulse summer purchases. And worse, the floor–Dear Readers, the floor had three large fabric piles; pieces that there was no closet, bin or chair room for.

Me: Well, I admit that this is a little bigger than it needs to be.

Stash: A little?

Me: But I have plans for all of it. It’ll all get used.

Stash: I’m sure by sometime in 2043, most of it will have been used for something. But you have pieces of fabric in me that you have been keeping for  particular projects for fifteen years.

These quilted coasters have been made partially from coordinating cottons bought because they looked pretty together.
These quilted coasters have been made partially from coordinating cottons bought because they looked pretty together. The reverse is scraps from a cotton robe project.

Me: I’ll get to it!

It sighed. I swear to god. Large piles of fabric can be remarkably expressive when they want to be.

Stash: Listen–you have a problem. It’s like you’re a dragon or something …

Me: This will be interesting.

Stash: … only you hoard fabric instead of gold and gems. Like one of those survivalists who turns their bank accounts into gold bars, only you’re fixated on fabric.  If the global economy collapses next year, at least you and your daughter will be well-clothed! Or like you are anticipating the zombie apocalypse and you think you are going to beat them off with homemade shirts. The world is going to hell, but that’s all right, because you’re equipped to construct a 20-foot-high wall of security blankets.

Me: Are you done?

Stash. Yes. I am done. I am DONE. Done with endless growth at the expense of other goals and priorities. Where the hell are you going to put your daughter’s new desk with this mess? Hmm? And you want to add more?

Underneath the coasters are appliqued tea-towels-in-progress. The white waffle fabric was bought for tea towels I don't even know how many years ago. I also bought red linen for tea towels, scraps here included for the appliques on the white--I bought that red fabric two houses ago. And have carried it with me ever since. Sad.
Underneath the coasters are appliqued tea-towels-in-progress. The white waffle fabric was bought for tea towels I don’t even know how many years ago. I also bought red linen for tea towels, scraps here included for the appliques on the white–I bought that red fabric two houses ago. And have carried it with me ever since. Sad.

Me: I think you’re catastrophizing a little bit.

Stash: You have no need for new clothes and enough clothing fabric to construct an entire new wardrobe for all four seasons. You’ve needed to replace your bicycle for three years, but you can’t because your money ends up all being invested in the fibres market.

Me: I see your point. A stash diet may be in order.

Stash: This goes beyond the need for a minor diet. It’s time to stop. Just stop.


Me, meekly: Until when?

Stash: Until I can fit comfortably in the closet with room to add new fabrics.

The laminated cotton on the bottom part of this bag was bought--to make bags with--two years ago. But then it was never time to make bags because there were always clothes to make instead.
The laminated cotton on the bottom part of this bag was bought–to make bags with–two years ago. But then it was never time to make bags because there were always clothes to make instead. The cotton on top of the bag was bought to coordinate with a pink-and-green print I have since given away.

Me: But what if there’s a really good sale and I …

Stash: NO!

So here we are. I’m a little frightened of what she might do to me if I fail to comply.

I pulled enough fabric out of the stash to get rid of the floor piles, and moved it down to the dining table. I then started a list of things that could be made out of it:

  • Heavy-duty tote bags (at least two, pictured above)
  • Outdoor seating cushions
  • Book tote bags (at least one)
  • Mid-weight patchwork tote bags (at least two, pictured below)
  • Approximately 8 appliqued tea towels (some pictured above)
  • Quilted coasters in a quantity yet to be specified but sure to be terrifying (12 so far, pictured above)
  • Regular coasters, in potentially an even greater quantity
  • A dish cloth
  • Little stuffed christmas trees (not that I need more xmas decorations–but anyway)
  • At least one tea cozy, and probably more (pictured below)
  • Zippered pouches
  • Storage boxes/baskets
  • Patchwork and applique cushion covers (at least two)
  • Yet Another Button Up Shirt
  • Yet Another Drapey Jersey Shirt (you haven’t seen the first one yet, but just take my word for it)
  • Fleece pants muslin for Frances
  • Potentially some dolls or stuffed toys
Mid-weight patchwork tote bags. The prints used for the patchwork were all so adorable, and what's a fat quarter between friends? The pink linen forming the bulk of the bag was bought to make a purse with. After making two large patchwork tote bags, I still have more than enough left for the purse.
Mid-weight patchwork tote bags. The prints used for the patchwork were all so adorable, and what’s a fat quarter between friends? The pink linen forming the bulk of the bag was bought to make a purse with. After making two large patchwork tote bags, I still have more than enough left for the purse.

I’ve been cutting, sewing and pressing furiously. The stack of in-progress and completed projects is growing. The purge pile, alas, has yet to appear noticeably smaller, and there is a substantial pile of fabric still to be put into a project. It is rather depressing as well as embarrassing. How the hell did it get this out of control?

So questions for you, to further impose of those of you kind enough to have actually read this whole thing:

1. Do you any of you know of any legitimate organizations with legitimate needs for these? I’m not a big fan of the “let’s give our garbage to Deserving Unfortunates and pretend it’s charity” trend. It’s crazy making for me when people try to foist their crap on me and act like they’re doing me a favour, and I can’t imagine that this would be different if I were poor. (Do you want this elliptical machine? It’s totally fine except a ball bearing broke. You’d have to get it fixed. I know you already have an elliptical machine that is better than this one and that works, but still, I think this would be a really great deal for you! No? How about this broken TV?) Please believe me when I say that sick children do not want a handmade teddy bear from a stranger, hospitalized children do not feel better when they put their heads on pillowcases made from quilting cotton, and third-world children probably do not need garish and overly-flounced party dresses made by a well-intentioned lady with an overgrown fabric stash. In all these cases, cash donations to relevant organizations are much more welcome and actually helpful to the populations in question.

Tea Cozy the First
Tea Cozy the First. Tula Pink fabric bought to make an apron for a friend many years ago. I ended up with an extra metre of fabric, and of course I couldn’t let it go…

However, if anyone knows of people actually asking for relevant donations, I’d be happy to do so. (By which I mean, just to be 100% clear, not organizations that are asking for these donations without having consulted with the target populations to get their input on what would be really useful and helpful, but organizations where the targeted population has, of their own accord, asked for the items in question.) (In other words, I don’t want to transform my stash problem into someone else’s problem.)

2. Are there project types I’m overlooking? I can only make so many tote bags and coasters. I mean, I could make hundreds if I had to, but what on earth am I going to do with them all?

3. No, I am not going to sell them.

4. However if any of this sounds like something any of you might like, and you don’t live too far away, I’d happily give you one (or more). And if you actually want part of my godforsaken (and mouthy) stash, that might be arranged. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, though. It has opinions.

StyleArc Katherine pants v. 2.0: alpaca flannel

Sorry about the super boring pictures right now. We’ve entered cold-and-dark season in these parts and my brain is just not cooperating with me on finding exciting photo opportunities.

At the 2013 fall Creativ(e!) Festival, I circled round the alpaca at the Sultan’s Fine Fabrics booth like a dieter around the desert table at a holiday party.

I really shouldn’t … but it was so nice … but so expensive! and unnecessary! … but soft and warm and lovely … oh, but too much, and I’d regret it later … but how often does an opportunity to buy alpaca fabric come along? and how much would I regret it if I didn’t take the opportunity?

And so on, and on, all day, as I wandered into the booth, felt up the alpaca, wandered away again to look at other less expensive things, wandered back, ad (near) infinitum.

I took the plunge. They offered me a “special deal” of about $115/yard, if memory serves. I bought 1 1/2 yards, enough to make a skirt.

And then I didn’t make the skirt.

I never wear skirts in the fall and winter, I reasoned. To use the alpaca for a skirt would be to waste it. Wouldn’t it be better to make pants? But then did I buy enough for pants? And should I use the stripes on the right side, or the reverse? Or should it be a skirt? But I’d never wear a skirt. Pants, then. But what kind of pants?

Two years, it took me. Two years.

To be decided largely by impulse after making up the wool Katherine pants and deciding that I loved them.


I do, too. They’re comfortable, stylish, work-appropriate, have great pockets, and go together well. The basic modifications I used in the wool version worked very well and made for warm, comfortable pants that can be worn to work all winter and look like I bought them in a nice store.

(O/T: I went shopping for an afternoon during my impromptu vacation. I looked in all the stores, Dear Readers. The cheap stores, the mid-range stores, the young-professional stores, the middle-aged stores, the old-lady stores, the one-percenter stores. Everything was fucking polyester.

Let me rephrase, as that is giving me some unfortunate mental images: No x-rated behaviours involving oil-based synthetic fibres were going on in any stores. Everything was made out of fucking polyester. It felt cheap and plasticy and yet somehow it cost a fortune. Apparently not buying myself clothing for a few years threw me right out of the mindset of being able to appreciate what’s on offer at your standard suburban shopping mall. $100 for an acrylic cardigan. $95 for a poly t-shirt. I was outraged. In a very western, first-world kind of way.)

Anyway, on to the pattern review and construction notes:

In this version I fixed a few of the issues from the wool ones, and made some aesthetic changes:

1. Fixed the lining around the front fly.


I had no instructions for this in any of my books and it’s not included in the otherwise-excellent Craftsy pants-class by David Coffin, but I was able to find a good how-to in a Threads article from 2011. Highly recommended. It works like a charm, but only if the underlap is narrower than the overlap top-stitched to the pants front. This is not the case in the Katherine pattern, so I left the underlap on the inside instead of tucking it in to the lining, and catch-stitched it down on the bottom. (If this is something you want to address in your own Katherine pants, I would suggest widening the overlap piece. I found it pretty narrow.)

I also changed the underlap pattern piece. Instead of one piece of self-fabric folded in half, stitched and flipped, and then attached to the zipper (as one does), I cut it in half lengthwise and added a seam allowance, made the top piece from the self fabric and the bottom piece from the lining. The side that was sewn over the zipper tape was lined up with the selvedge on both pieces so there’s no risk of fraying.

By the way, if you too are attempting to line the Katherine pants and want to know how I made the front lining piece, I just traced all three of the front pattern pieces onto tracing paper, lining them up along the stitching lines, and turning the resulting front princess seam into a tuck (the back dart was also tuck-ified). This version I lined all the way down; the wool ones I lined to the knee.

In order to help hold the lining in place, the bartacks on the pockets and at the bottom of the front fly went through all layers.

This version is much neater than the wool one.

2. The waistband on this version was lined with muslin.

The original wool pants used wool on both the outside and inside of the waistband, but I wanted to do something a little different here. The flannel, as thick as it was, was soft and I feared a bit malleable for a waistband, even interfaced. I wasn’t sure it would hold up over time. But the bemberg would be too slippery to hold still when worn with a shirt tucked in. Also I polled my lovely friends on IG and FB and they told me that stable cotton would be what they would do, so:


It’s a good, solid muslin, never washed so still very stiff and starchy. I’ve got no plans on introducing these pants to water in any form at any point ever, so I think the lack of pre-shrinking will be ok. I added interfacing scraps at the centre front overlap so it would hold up even better with closures. And then I used a long 1″ strip cut from the selvedge of the rayon to wrap around the bottom edge so I would have to worry about flipping it under to sew it down; just stitch on the ditch on the right side and catch the inner waistband, finishing already complete.

When everything else was done, I did a bit of catch-stitching to hold the bottom edge of the inner waistband down, but just along the seams so it wouldn’t restrict the ability of the tucks to expand.

And then I added an overly-precious cross-stitched sewing machine motif at the centre back of the inner waistband as kind of an “I made this” label. Not for any reason really, but if you’re going all out to make a pair of literal fancy-pants from a piece of alpaca you’ve been hoarding for years, why not spend the extra hour on a bit of unnecessary cross-stitch?


3. And we’re still on the subject of the waistband…

It’s got a double-closure: hook-and-eye on the outside, and a button on the inside, to keep everything extra flat and tidy. My buttonhole foot resolutely refused to stitch a buttonhole on the inside waistband with all of that bulk in the seams, so I did a bound buttonhole. Yes, I did. Mostly by hand, too. It was so small that it was mostly easier to just do it by hand than it would have been to use the machine.


And the button and hook were sewn on just to the inner waistband, before it was stitched down, so that there would be no stitches visible on the outside.

4. The pants were serged for construction. I know, I know. But I wanted a seam that would hold up for the long haul under the lining (which was also serged).

5. I used the pockets instructions from David Coffin’s Craftsy class and used Liberty lawn scraps. Good and sturdy, very light, hopefully won’t wear out, and with the lining I wasn’t worried about the sticky factor. It makes for very big pockets, but they work well for my insulin pump and I like them.


In case you can’t tell, I love these pants. Now my only problem is going to be working up the courage to wear them in the winter when the sidewalks have been salted. I am already shuddering.

First Day of the New Job Outfit: Sick Day Edition

To say that the second half of my period of unemployment did not go as planned would be an understatement. Rather than a bit of a break wherein I tried to catch up on things and also had some extra fun and sewing time, I ended up spending a hefty chunk of time in the hospital with my father before and after he had emergency brain surgery to remove a tumour. Yes, you read that right. Not all eventualities can be prepared for and brain tumours, as it turns out, are one of those unplannable things.

He is recovering at home very well now. The pathology results have come back and I’m not sure if or when I’ll be talking about them here.

Sewing and making things is how I manage stress, so what will probably happen, in blog terms, is more sewing and less sleeping.  My plan is to keep this a cancer-free space, for my sanity if nothing else. Please don’t think me heartless. It’s just that most of you I don’t know all that well.

So I still did a good bit of sewing, mostly in the middle of the night when I should have been sleeping. I managed not to sew through any body parts (thank goodness), but I did make a series of embarrassing mistakes, like sewing the wrong part of the crotch curve together when making up the pants. I thought briefly about making the rear fly pant closure the latest internet sensation, and then shook my head and tore out the offending stitches.

I managed to get the First Day of the New Job outfit all sewn up and ready before the first day of the new job, and I pressed it and had it all ready to go, and then Frances got sick the night before I was to start. So I spent that day emptying and cleaning out puke buckets (oh the fun things you get to read here!) instead of becoming orientated. I thought briefly of putting the new duds on anyway and taking some photos of myself, sleep deprived, at home, doing Mom On Sick Duty things, but fortunately for you I was just too tired and decided to pass.

Anyway. After much ado, here is the outfit:


The top is Vogue 8689, and the pants are the StyleArc Katherine pants. The Vogue shirt I’ve made before, so I’ll skip most of the verbiage:

1. Blue rayon challis. Very soft and drapey and wonderful to wear as a shirt.
2. 1/2″ self-cover buttons. I couldn’t find any pre-made that matched.
3. Faux-french seams. Serged the seams then top-stitched them down w/ a 1/4″ foot.

4. Shortened the sleeves about 1 1/2 “, and cinched in the cuffs by about 3/4”.
5. Made a total mess of the back of the collar. Good thing no one can see it.

6. Basted the middle of the button plackets to keep all the layers in place while putting in buttonholes and sewing on buttons. But they still seemed to get all out of place when washing.
7. Oh, and I very quickly added a 1 1/2″ ease pleat to the centre back, just under the yoke. I wanted a shirt that was very drapey and loose and would give me lots of movement when driving to and from work, so I just moved the back pattern piece about 3/4″ off the fold line and notched the top seam line where the original fold was so I’d know where to put the pleat. Then I trimmed the shirt down a bit more in the waist so it wouldn’t be too baggy all the way down–just a bit extra across the upper back.


Also, in proof that stylistic inspiration can be found anywhere, this was a shirt conceived after watching Deep Impact on Netflix. That girl journalist had a very nice drapey blue work shirt with a very nice ease pleat in the back.

This one, I think, but no ease pleat view. And the internet has informed me that her name was Jenny Lerner

So that’s the shirt.

The StyleArc Katherine pants were new for me. I thought about doing up a muslin … and then impatience overtook me and I just added some of my standard pant alterations:

1. 1 1/2″ extra on the crotch curve
2. 1 1/2″ extra between the hips and waist, front and back. Lengthened the underflap and overflap pieces for the fly to match.
3. Slimmed the waist down a bit

I used the wool I bought at King Textiles last year in Toronto, a lovely dark gold with a faint plaid to the weave. To combat itchiness, I lined the pants to the knee with bemberg, but imperfectly because I had no idea what I was doing around the fly.


I mean, it works, and no one is looking at my pants on the inside except me, so whatever. But it’s not elegant. And I discovered while wearing them that they really need bartacks on the pockets, otherwise they bag open, even with interfacing to reinforce the opening.


They fit nicely. They’re a smidge on the loose side, which is by no means a negative when you’re going to spend most of your time in them sitting down. My doctor switched out one of my medications recently and I think it’s made me lose a few pounds; I’m never sure whether a medication-induced weight change will be permanent or not, so I left the pants a bit big. I didn’t want to make them small enough to be snug now, only to gain five pounds next month and then I can’t wear them anymore. So.

Also, I sewed in a buttonhole and then decided I didn’t want to interrupt the waistband with a button, so I didn’t slash it open and sewed hook-and-eye closures in instead.

The pattern overall was simple to sew together, and the pockets and the front seam detail add a nice touch. Pieces match up and sew well, with the exception of the smaller pocket bag piece. It didn’t match the side seam of the pants at all. I cut out four of the larger pocket bag piece and trimmed two of them down to fit instead.

And now if I can finish the blazer I have on the go from the same fabric … I’ll finally have that suit!

That’s the quick-and-dirty version. I’ll share some more details when I write up the pair I made from the alpaca flannel I’ve had in my stash for years.

Oh hey look! It’s another Renfrew!

But this time, with a little added something.


I made it purposefully quite loose, even adding extra space to the sleeves, and then dug through my Fabric Manipulation book to get some ideas for adding a little something extra. Originally, I wanted to do something like this:


It’s just little angular bits of self-fabric sewn to the t-shirt in the centre (storebought). But the bamboo jersey I made for this renfrew was too high quality to curl up at the edges, gosh darn it, so I looked for something instead that would force some floof and curl into the fabric and settled on the split circle technique. It’s a denser, heavier look, to be sure, but I like it. It adds a little something to what is otherwise a very basic pattern.


And then I took some spiral bits and folded them and stitched them over the cut edges of the split circles so you can’t see the ugly bits.

The embellishment took longer than it did to make the shirt (but isn’t that always the way?). But I’m happy with how it turned out and have already worn it a ton, and it was a good use of fabric scraps, too.

So hey. It’s been a while.

I haven’t been sewing, because Real Life has been eating into my free time something fierce. I realized at the end of July that I needed to find a new job. Not because I’d lost the old one, but because it was not working in so many different ways all at once that the rest of my life was becoming unworkable. Have you ever had a job like that, Dear Readers? Where one day you realize that, yes, they are paying you–but it’s not the job you signed up for, you’re not doing the work you agreed to do, and not only have things not been getting better, but there are no plans on the horizon that will result in things getting better, nor any realization that they should?

I had such an epiphany at the end of July, which is why after the completion of the dragon shirts, I pretty well disappeared. I did everything I could think of–reached out to former clients, applied for jobs, signed up for volunteering gigs, showed up for community and networking events, and did a pile of research on self-employment.

Two of the very first things I did–the second job I applied to and the first former client I spoke with–panned out in a really spectacular fashion just when I needed them most. But let me backtrack a little on that job application, because it’s funny:

City job, close to home, fewer hours than I am currently working, unionized so better benefits, pay cut but not an unmanageable one, working in air quality and climate change, which as you likely know are both near and dear to my heart. Applied end of July and heard nothing for months. Gave it up for dead, as one does. At the beginning of October, they called me in for an interview.

The week before the interview, Frances got sick. Then she kindly shared her cold with me, bless her heart. So picture me, the morning of the interview, wearing my suit with the citron silk-cotton blouse, filled with enough Tylenol cold medication to fell an elephant, and awake only in a technical sense, at a government interview. Have you ever been to a government interview? It is not a conversation. It is a test. (They’ll try to reassure you that it’s a conversation, but don’t be fooled.) There are questions on sheets of paper with checklists which you can see the interviewer checking off, or not, as you answer them; so the temptation is to just dump your entire brain on the table in a big gelatinous heap, in the hopes that the next thing you think to say will get another item or two ticked off. Everything is scored and the candidate with the best score gets the job offer. I was barely conscious and full of drugs and yet I managed to fill 90 minutes answering seven questions. At the end, with all my nerve endings dead from the neck up, I staggered down to my car and laughed and laughed. Well, I thought, I’ll call back in a few weeks and when they tell me I didn’t get it I’ll ask them for tips for next time, and apply for the next job that comes up. Oh my god. Was I even speaking english? What did I even say?

Then I went home and slept for three hours.

Precisely eight days later, I was laid off.

There are a number of things which I could say about this in a more private setting. I can’t say it was a complete surprise, given that I’d had very little to do for a very long time, and in a consulting environment the lack of billable hours is a killer, but the timing was surprising–I had no warning at all.

The day before I was laid off, the former client emailed me about some freelance work.

The day after I was laid off, my references told me that the City was calling them; and then the day after that they offered me the job. “You interviewed so well! We were so impressed! We’d be really lucky to have you!”

I laughed, Dear Readers. I honestly have no recollection anymore of what exactly I said, except for my very distinct impression that what I was saying was completely wrong. But hey, who am I to contradict them? They offered me a job I really wanted and the timing could not have been better. Yes, if it had come through sooner, I would not have been laid off; but I also would not have received severance pay. It should be enough to finish paying off the furnace and get me completely out of debt (except for, you know, the mortgage), and I should be able to freelance for that former client at the same time. So.

Since finding out about the contract offer and the job offer, I’ve finished a muslin shirt for Frances (that will double as part of her Hallowe’en costume), a bamboo knit drapey t-shirt, a new Linden for me, an embellished Renfrew, a new button-up blouse for me, planned as part of my First Day of the New Job Outfit (I can’t be the only person who does this), and a first go of the StyleArc Polly top. I’m going to have a solid month off before the new job–paid–in which I plan to cram as many of Frances’s appointments and tests as possible. And I’m going to see friends. And sleep. And read. And sew. I’m going to make a new pair of pants to go with the new shirt, as well as some knit shirts for myself and my girl, and I may try tackling pants for Frances again. And then I’m going to start a new job while the old one is technically still paying me.

I find I’m ok with this.

BurdaStyle Twisted Maxi Dress, with literal blood, sweat and tears

I sewed through my finger for the first time ever in the making of this dress.

Fortunately the blood washed out.
Fortunately the blood washed out.

Not intentionally–though I have been assured that this sewing-through-fingers business is a rite of passage–but I still think it could add a touch of gravitas: I bled for this dress. Stupidly.

You know how it is. This fabric is a super slippery, very slinky rayon jersey and it did not want to stay lined up properly, so I was using my fingers to hold edges together even though I’d used a ton of pins, and the machine was going really fast and my finger went up and over the presser foot and, yeah. Yelling. Blood. Half a roll of toilet paper to staunch the bleeding. Band-aid. And then, because I am hardcore, right back to the sewing machine to finish the dress.

The Back, with the tie.
The Back, with the tie.

(OK, it’s not that big a deal, but it’s the first time it’s ever happened to me. Any sewing injury stories to share, Dear Readers?)

The dress, by the way, is the Burdastyle Twisted Maxi-Dress 02/2013 #115.  It turns out pretty much exactly as it looks on the web page, it fits well, it’s very heavy due to all the fabric in the folds and twist, it’s incredibly low-cut in the front so beware of that (I ended up stitching the front pieces together an extra 2″ or so to provide bra coverage), and the front twists and folds are fiddly to put together. There was quite a bit of sitting on the floor with the fabric pieces and the instructions, and squinting back and forth from one to the other to figure out how it went together–but it did, and here it is, and look! Not bad, eh?

Front twists and folds.
Front twists and folds. I do look a bit maniacal in this one, don’t I? 

It would look really smashing with a border print, if you have a border-print jersey. If you don’t, it looks plenty nice in a regular jersey cut on the straight-grain, which is what I did, so long as it’s a four-way stretch. It took 3m of narrow fabric and I cut a size 40/44 mix with a bit of shoulder-broadening thrown in for good measure. The hem was just finished with the serger.

The fabric, by the way, was dirt cheap at $6/m, so altogether with the thread and pattern this is a $30 dress, sewn up in a fit of productivity/procrastination for the Dragon Ball. It’s also super-comfortable to wear, and you can’t even see the blood.

Most Boring Post Ever

dvsa hike-30-6

Look, everyone! I made more StyleArc Jasmine shorts! Fiddled with the pattern a smidge more (lengthening the crotch curve, mostly) and got it just perfect. Used leftover stretch pique from the sheath dress, which is super comfortable but stretches out quickly.

Went on a hike with my camera and thought, what the hell. So here you go.

The Back. Plus lots and lots of green.
The Back. Plus lots and lots of green.

This makes my fourth use of this pattern, so I’d say I got my money’s worth.

These pictures were taken in the Dundas Valley Conservation Area, which is enormous, and a five-minute walk from my front door. It still took me about an hour of hilly hiking before I got to the spot with the big mossy rocks, but it was worth it for this.

dvsa hike-18-4

dvsa hike-94-20

dvsa hike-78-17

I’m very lucky to live where I do.

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