right about 29th street

Beeps and I are about to cross from Hoquiam to Aberdeen when we hear a strange beeping. We slow up on pedaling and coast; moments later a tall, silver-bearded white man slowly crosses a block ahead of us on a segway. Slowwllly he crosses as his siren sententiously announces his passage.

A beat, and then I say to my oldest: “Being on the bike, you are thrown into humanity a bit more,” and halfway through the sentence they are nodding already. We’ve come across a rude cashier, teens cutting eyes at us as they walk home from school, and two young men who pulled over and asked us to buy them beer. And then there’s the distraction of people just doing their thing: mowing lawns or taking out the glass bottles. These few days on the bikes have been incredible for my mood; the sunny days are ecstatic, and the rain and the cold – well, those days I’m glad to get home to the heat and my pantry and my kettle.

I finished two dresses today, and washed and dried a gorgeous two-tone linen for a pair of trousers. My stockpile of fabrics for upcoming projects is, incredibly, slowly dwindling. Another great thing about the bike is it forces me to stop working, and to an extent stop thinking about work. I’ll take what I can get!

Tutorial: A Perfect Sash

tutorial: a perfect sash

Tutorial: A Perfect Sash
You know, I rarely do a basic-basic tutorial, but recent events inspired me! I put together four maxi skirts from African wax print cotton (two adult and two matching toddler skirts), and the project was delightful. Besides the kidney-shaped pocket pieces, every aspect of the skirts were rectangles: the body of the skirt, the waistband, the sash, and the sash carriers.

I got to thinking that I can put together a lovely sash in my sleep, but I had troubles earlier on in my sewing career. While no tutorial can cover *every* eventuality, this is a basic tutorial from a sash made of a stable, woven, nonstretch knit. You need your sash strip – the width and length of the finished sash plus a seam allowance per side.

Tutorial: A Perfect Sash

As you can see above, I cut my sash with a rotary cutter. Tearing is also a great way to get the sash right on the grain; not all wovens tear that well. YOu want everything along the crossgrain as much as possible.

Next, I fold the sash right sides together, lengthwise, and give them a light press. In this photo you can tell the strip is right sides together as the gold metallic print is only on the right side of the fabric:

Tutorial: A Perfect Sash

Then right sides together I sew up the long edge, leaving about a 2″ gap in the middle of the long edge. I backstitch firmly at this gap:

Tutorial: A Perfect Sash

Next, I sew the two short edges:
Tutorial: A Perfect Sash

Next, I clip both the folded corner and the sewn corner at a 45 degree angle, right up to the stitching line:
Tutorial: A Perfect Sash

Taking the piece to the ironing board, I iron the seam allowances back toward the main part of the strip – one at a time. I do this for both long edge seam allowances, and all four short edge seam allowances. This is a great time to really use that iron to press the strip into a flat shape:


Tutorial: A Perfect Sash

Tutorial: A Perfect Sash

At the gap, I carefully fold down the seam allowance and press that too:

Tutorial: A Perfect Sash

Now, it’s time to turn the sash right-sides out. Leaving the gap in the center of the strip makes it easier to turn. If the sash is narrow, I use a wooden chopstick to turn:

C
Tutorial: A Perfect Sash

The ends should turn out nicely – no need to push and prod them. Here are my ends, before pressing:

Tutorial: A Perfect Sash

Close the gap of the sash by a slip-stitch or machine topstitch, give a final press – and voila!

Tutorial: A Perfect Sash

 

 

Nels, Chambray Shirt

more than I can do

Nels, Chambray Shirt
Yesterday my son had his fourteenth birthday party, and it was a small and sweet event. We gathered friends and they carpooled to a swim date while Phoenix and I set up food and music in the house. The group adjourned home for homemade chili and cornbread, fruit salad, virgin mimosas, cake and ice cream. I bought Nels a little Instamax camera and we took instant film photos indoors and outside. Our friends and family – my mother, brother, and sister-in-law – gave generous, thoughtful gifts and my son loved being the center of attention. I tried to hold onto each moment of the day because my children are growing so quickly.

I felt down that evening, as I have been of late. Our son came into the bedroom before he went off to bed and Ralph and I it was his favorite birthday so far. That’s high praise, as we’ve had several very special parties indeed.

Besides the camera, I made him two birthday shirts: a chambray workshirt with pearl snaps and a long-sleeved tee in cheerful red and white. The spring has brought sunshine and with it, I realize – as I so often do – how low I’d been feeling with all the grey, rainy weather. Today Ralph and I took our aging (and ill) dog on a trail walk and it did the three of us good; the dog was limping but eager to continue. Skunk cabbage and verdant greenery; loamy earth and trickling creek. It was an oasis after a hardworking week.

Below, plackets. I enjoy so much being able to sew a menswear shirt without needing directions. These shirts are now soothing to me to make, despite troubles with my trusty Pfaff. I’m planning on making my brother, and my husband, similar shirts in the next two weeks. I’ve struggled with unspeakably painful sadness and anxiety over the last few weeks and it seems like making someone something special is such a pitiful, mundane thing. But it is something I can do and it’s something so few others can. And so I endeavor.

Nels, Chambray Shirt

Nels, Chambray Shirt

Needles

Sacre bleu!

I’ve got a volunteer gig chairing recovery meetings and most the attendees of the meetings are men. I wouldn’t say they scare me so much as, I am wary. Two weeks ago one of them waited until I was distracted, came up behind me and grabbed a book I was using, flinging my phone to the floor. “Thanks, darlin’,” he stage-whispers, clutching my shoulder. I think to myself if I was to say, “Don’t touch me,” the reprisal I might get from him, or others. The thing is, men will touch or grab you when you are distracted. Like my dog who only tries to sneak outside when company comes over.

I do have boundaries and I do speak up. Last night another attendee kept pestering me, asking the same question over and over. I looked right at them and said, “I will tell you in a moment, M__”. Because I’m relatively direct I get treated in a more circumspect manner than I might otherwise be. I still hate those moments, though. I don’t like hurting someone’s feelings. No matter how often I remind myself they put themselves in that position.

Last night’s particular gentleman was missing a part of his body that makes speech possible; he could however whisper and he talked at me incessantly as I attempted to get the admin done for the meeting. I eventually looked at him directly and asked for him to let me be for a minute. That pause and looking right at someone – they get the message. Generally.

I have never wished I was a man in my life. But sometimes I wonder what it would be like if people respected my personal space, and if people – especially men – didn’t launch into conversation and attempt to monopolize my attention. Enough of this happens in one day and I start to shrink and disappear and feel like nothing but a receptacle. Every day I pray for strength but also gentleness, because as is evident from just these handful of anecdota, one could easily see how I could harden into anger and my words could shift from directness to cruelty.

***

I’ve had the middling misfortune of two very troublesome projects in my studio, and these set me back. I am very particular in my work and I rarely have a total loss but in one case I attempted a dress and only realized late into the project that it was unsalvagable. I took the thing apart (to re-use the fabric) but I am crushed at having sliced up yardage. I don’t know why I think everything I make should turn out perfectly: unreasonable. The project after this was a struggle too, but at least the end result is gorgeous.

So today Ralph and I tidied my workspace – it needs constant maintenance – and I cut some simple knitwear projects, including a shirt for my youngest son and a pair of loungewear pants for my own use. I too often go to bed in huge flannel pajamas and perhaps that wouldn’t be so bad but they are also quite shabby at the hems. I put the rest of the family’s clothing purchases ahead of my own most times but it makes sense, really. Ralph requires a professional wardrobe, and the kid are growing – so fast. Nels in particular is shooting up, his shoulders are broadening; stretch marks dance across his lower back and his knees. They children are so hungry all the time they scarcely say no to anything we offer to cook; I heard Nels acquiesce in delight to an offer of oatmeal, a dish which used to inspire the most tepid enthusiasm.

Needles

that little gas powered fireplace insert, oddly comforting

Two days ago my left hip felt a bit stiff; yesterday it woke me in absolute shattering pain. Alarming, really – I’d never had hip trouble before and certainly no trouble with a weight-bearing joint. It was bad enough Ralph and Beeps took me to Urgent Care for an evaluation, and was sent home with crutches and instructions to take an Alleve every eight hours, stay off the offending leg, and ice like a sonofabitch.

The treatment seems to have helped as today I felt about five hundred percent better. I am a bit irritated, however: clearly I retained a sports injury from my daily yoga, and it came (seemingly) out of nowhere and after what I thought was exceedingly mindful practice. The whole episode has left me a little shifted off center. I don’t get too upset about an injury or a setback; I do, however, feel peevish at the thought of re-injuring myself, and not knowing how to avoid it.

I am trying to move through my studio work: a wedding dress (finishing tomorrow!), two tunics and trousers (also finishing tomorrow), alterations for a client, three sweaters, and a bomber jacket. These are the items I have to finish before I can move on to something fun – or a birthday gift for my son, who turns fourteen in four days. And in between this entry and the last, I built a whole fricken’ website for a client! I am a busy little beaver.

Our kitty Pip curls up at my left elbow; he’s waiting for Ralph to climb into bed, so he can cram his little face in my husband’s armpit. Our evenings are familiar and cozy. I am increasingly in less agonies that my children no longer sleep with me – one of the biggest adjustments I’ve made in years. Time races through my hands and I can’t grasp it but in moments I can slow it down just a little.

Tomorrow: a tulle skirt in satin, and Chinese takeout with a girlfriend while we watch a horrible slasher.

Clean finish menswear shirt, picture 1

tutorial: converting a menswear-style shirt to clean finish

As simple as menswear shirts are for me now, for a long while I struggled to understand their components. Years ago when I started wanting to convert my shirts to an entirely clean finish (meaning no serge, pinked, or zig-zagged internal seams) I really foundered in knowing where and how to do this.

While it’s impractical for me to attempt to detail every kind of menswear button-up shirt out there, and while there are many ways to clean-finish a shirt, I’m going to share my tried and true method with the more common builds of menswear shirts. I generally use french seams for all the block joins, including the curved armscye (which some people tend to flat-fell – not me). The collar, yokes, cuffs, and front plackets generally do not need any changes to cutting and marking, but these block joins do.

By french seaming the interior of the shirt, you get a gorgeous finish on the interior. I also think it is faster than flat-felling and leads to a more agreeable effect:

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

For french seams, you usually need a minimum of a 5/8″ seam allowance. Can you just ignore this and make the shirt up anyway? Not if it is at all fitted or semi-fitted – your shirt will be too small. So if you have a pattern with a smaller seam allowance – 3/8″, 1 cm, 1/4″, or 1/2″ seam allowances, you are going to need to add some seam allowance to the vertical interior seams (body and sleeve), the shoulder seams, the armscyes, and (possibly) the yoke joins.

Let’s try to understand a menswear shirt a bit first. Disregarding for a moment the collar/collar stand, cuffs and cuff plackets, and front placket, let’s just think about the body and sleeve pieces. Below is a basic example, which includes four body blocks: a front, a back body, a back yoke, and a sleeve:

Clean finish menswear shirt, picture 1
If you have been following my blog, you may notice I am enjoying the Euro fit pattern (this version by Bootstrap is great). Even though this shirt does not have a back yoke, it is functionally rather similar.  There are five body blocks: a front, a side front, a side back, a back, and a sleeve:
Clean finish menswear shirt, picture 2
In general, the only place you will need to add more of a seam allowance are these basic block seams (including the shoulder and armscye). This is because the collar, front placket (whatever way it is formed), and cuff and cuff placket generally come with the seam allowances required to finish the garment cleanly. There are likely exceptions to this, and if you have any questions please take a few screenshots and ask in the comments.

There are several common variations on collar and front placket, and that can be confusing. I’m going to talk about those a bit.

So for a basic shirt, below are our pattern blocks with seam allowances included (minus the cuff placket piece). We have a collar and collar stand at top left, and a cuff at top right. Below that we have the body back (left), the shirt front with a cut-on front placket (center), and the sleeve (right). My blue lines indicate where you want to add your seam allowance for a total of 5/8″ seam allowance. If your back block is not cut on the fold – if there’s a curved center seam for example – you will also add to your seam allowance there, as it is a vertical body seam. Note you do not have to add any additional seam allowances to the collar pieces, the cuffs, or the cuff placket. Think of these as little mini-blocks that are self-contained.

Also: if you have a back yoke, you don’t have to add a seam allowance to the yoke/body joins if the yoke is lined; most yoked menswear shirt patterns will ask you to cut out two yoke pieces and sandwich the back body between them when you join. You could also ignore adding seam allowance to the shoulder too, in order to finish the front and back shoulder seam using the burrito method.

Clean finish menswear shirt, picture 3

Below: a lined yoke, inside a plaid shirt I made my partner.

More About Plaids

But I mentioned variations – yes? Below are a few more common shirt pattern blocks. On top, we see a collar with cut-on stand (meaning: the collar and stand are one piece). At bottom left, a front with a cut-on front facing. At bottom right, a shirt front with a separate front placket. Again: the collar, neckline, and the front placket pieces have enough seam allowance for a clean finish. So does the front placket. But you will want to add a seam allowance to the shoulder, armscye, and side seams to get your 5/8″ for these french seams:
Clean finish menswear shirt, picture 4

By the way – if you are curious – of all the styles of shirt placket and collar I like the cut-on straight front placket, and the separate collar and stand. This allows me to colorblock and affords me a great deal of control in hand-finishing.

Western-Style Shirt, V. 1

Nels, Chambray Shirt

Below are the blocks for the Euro shirt build I mentioned (which is featured in the photo directly above). Instead of two body pieces for the trunk (a front and a back), the shirt has four body blocks for the trunk that feature princess seams – really great for shaping. Here, we are still only adding seam allowances to the vertical seams, shoulder seam, and armscye. The neckline and front do not need more seam allowances for a clean finish.

Clean finish menswear shirt, picture 5

So there you have it! When you think about changing any construction of a garment, it becomes so much easier to tackle it when you start to really think about the parts, and that is easier with experience. Now, there are loads of tutorials on making french seams online and I trust you to find them. For the 5/8″ version I am mentioning here I sew a 1/4″ seam (just a hair scant) wrong sides together, press open, and trim (if it seems necessary). I then re-fold right-sides together, press again, and sew. And then – the final press! Pressing several times yields very smooth results, which is especially important for that curved armscye.

Bootstrap Blind Date Sew-Along: Semi-fitted Women's Blouse

For the front placket, I find that sewing from the right side of the shirt secures a gorgeous front finish. For the cuffs, I hand-finish the bottom of the collar stand (shown below – you can’t even see the stitches) and hand-finish the inside of the cuffs.

More About Plaids
If you are new or new-ish to sewing menswear style button-up shirts, contemplating all these different shirt patterns can be overwhelming. I advise you make a few of these shirts, and bookmark your favorite tutorials as you do. Soon they will be easy as pie!

You got this!

overwork / natural high

Every day after coffee with my husband, I take a shower, tie my hair up and put on my little zip-up hoodie and get to work. I would work all day if I didn’t have other responsibilities; children, mostly, and volunteer work. And feeding myself so I don’t collapse. Lately I’ve been out of balance: too much work, too much time on other people. I need more rest; I want to take more care of my home. I scooted past a young man today at a recovery meeting, a young man with a broken face who had just a couple days clean. Mistaking my passing for affection, he gave me this little sideways hug. My heart breaks in these little ways when these moments happen; there is no point trying to express what I’m feeling so I don’t try. But I look at him and ask if he’s staying for the meeting, and I remember his name and I know it means something to me.

Back home and my children come by and pull me in for a hug (if I’m standing); they prostrate themselves across my body (if I’m laying down). The college quarter is over and my oldest child has, as a birthday present, a new computer. Both kids shout and laugh from their little basement gaming room; supremely happy. They need this time, and time with friends and food and sleep and affection and those are most of their needs. The house is only tidied when I can yell at the kids to do some work, and when my husband puts his incredibly efficient housework into effect. His body is strong and so is his mind and both rarely slip.

I am sewing on a buttery-soft jersey ITY; I am hanging up dresses on the dress form. I am hemming a little black dress and shortening sexy spaghetti straps. I am work, work, working to keep food in the refrigerator and try to stay on top of these bills. I am busy with the seam ripper with a little heater at my feet and the sunshine of Martina Topely Bird falling on my ears. And I suddenly realize in all our time together, Ralph never put his job before the family. He did his job but he stood his ground. And I think to myself what that shows our children about their value. I see so many straight couples where mother works her ass off and father has (or thinks he has) the big important job and is away from home or too tired when he gets home because he has Bills to Pay and I think it’s so often unfair, so often shit.

I stand up; stretch. My daily yoga practice is sluggish because I am tired in some way that defies explanation; still, my efforts keep those little kinks out of my neck, my shoulders, my hips. But yes I am exhausted, beyond tired. I have a call into a physician because I can tell something is wrong. Some nights by the time I’m in bed, I’m in a fog. I came out about this fatigue recently and as expected people shout explanations, solutions at me. These things can take time. I only hope I have the persistence to see it through, and that I am assisted by a pair of skilled hands and a good mind.

Tutorial: Pintucks in Tissue Knit

tutorial: pintucks in tissue knit

Knit chiffon, or tissue knit: absolutely a gorgeous material to work with. Typically made in 100% cotton and often with a slightly slubbed appearance, this luxe fabric usually has stretch with little if any recovery. I find making a size down, the garment will often stretch with time. In order to shrink it back, you will have to occasionally put the garment in the dryer (remember those tissue tees so popular with the GAP etc, in the late nineties?).

Sheer and semi-sheer fabrics are absolutely wonderful, in that each seamline, dart, and detail is really shown off – like a stained glass window. I tend to make french seams in these garments. And for a bit more interest, here I demonstrate how to create simple 3/16″ pintucks in a black knit chiffon. 

You need:

1. prewashed and dried fabric
2. marking chalk
3. cutting mat, rotary cutter, and see-through cutting ruler
4. masking tape

Tutorial: Pintucks in Tissue Knit

The first thing to note about tissue knits is the grain can often be quite distorted – in other words, not parallel to the selvege. When laying out your yardage you have to determine if you need to cut the pieces on the grainline or no. For the front panel of this tunic, I decided to cut off the grain since I’d be making two rectangular panels abutted together, and could flip the grain (to chevron), making the garment symmetrical. For the sleeves, neckband, sleeve band, and back panel, I cut along the grain in one layer.

Shown below; the yardage arranged with the grain corresponding to the cutting mat; you can see what I mean about the selvege.

Tutorial: Pintucks in Tissue Knit
Now for marking tucks, it is best to cut the fabric and leave it be on the mat – don’t shift it whatsoever – then mark right away. Cut out your panel according to your cutting mat; next you’ll be marking the centerline of your tucks.

Tutorial: Pintucks in Tissue Knit


Tutorial: Pintucks in Tissue Knit

When marking, I use a ruler and line it up with the guide lines on the mat; the sheer nature of the fabric makes this easy to do! You want to be very careful and apply firm vertical pressure to your ruler as you mark, or else you will shift your fabric. If you do shift it, just carefully rearrange to the guidelines on the mat.

Tutorial: Pintucks in Tissue Knit

Here I am applying lines at a 45 degree angle.

Tutorial: Pintucks in Tissue Knit
Be patient; this is the most exacting part of the process. It’s easy from here on out!

Once you have your tuck lines marked, take the piece to the machine.

Tutorial: Pintucks in Tissue Knit

Using a straight stitch or a very narrow zig zag, start your stitching line on your first tuck, folding right on the chalked line and making sure you are stitching at the width you want. My tucks are 3/16″. After you’ve started your tuck successfully, pause and retrieve your roll of masking tape.

Tutorial: Pintucks in Tissue Knit

I like to create a little seam guide by layering about six layers of the masking tape very accurately on top of one another, then applying it to my machine bed. This will help you get exact tucks – note you can use this method to create tucks as deep or shallow as you like!

Make sure not to stretch your fabric as you stitch. Just let the machine action guide the fabric through.

Tutorial: Pintucks in Tissue Knit

Below, I am about 60% of the way through my tucks. They may look a little wavy but don’t fear – we will be pressing them and they will be #legit!

Tutorial: Pintucks in Tissue Knit

The pressing is the most fun. Taking them to your pressing surface, carefully press each tuck as-sewn and then, if you like, you can press them a particular direction.

Tutorial: Pintucks in Tissue Knit

Gorgeous!


Tutorial: Pintucks in Tissue Knit

Tutorial: Pintucks in Tissue Knit
These tucks can be used to create interest in any project – gowns, tops, robes – what-have-you. They add a bit of drama and set your garment apart from others!

My Date

as simple and sweet as a blade of grass

My Date
My son tells me he may have a girlfriend; a young lady from Canada he met on a Minecraft server he frequents. The two of them chat all day long in a Discord channel and are just beginning to exchange photographs. He has mentioned this young lass a few times over the last week and during this time I slowly came to attention, realizing this is a very important milestone in his life. He’s had many girls interested in him in the past, since he was very little. This is the first relationship that has been reciprocal, although of course it is a very sweet and very simple one so far.

My children’s relationships with romantic partners I can chalk up to good parenting, or at least decent enough parenting. My experience was decidedly less wholesome. By the time I was thirteen I’d had boys at me, and spent far too much unsupervised time with a few of them (thanks to public school and semi-neglectful Baby Boomer parenting). My bisexuality quickly became a tidily kept secret after humiliating and scathing accusations; also, too, meanspirited shrieks of “dyke!” as I embraced a beau in the hallway. Into the closet I went! Safer (so I thought, incorrectly as it turned out) to stick with boys. Unfortunately the boys I found had horrible idea about girls.

You know the story. Unutterably wearying to me, today.

I count it as a success that Phoenix’s first beau is still friends with the family – friends with Phoenix but also with me! – and is the sweetest young man. Phee’s second beau came from a stricter family so we saw her far less, and haven’t seen her since we stopped having meetups at the rural school she attends. The last two years have been awkward as Phoenix attempts to avoid attention from the students in their college classes – all too old (another example of an intelligent boundary held by my progeny). Phoenix, like Nels, has several deep (and occasionally romantic or at least not entirely platonic) friendships online. Another difference from my own upbringing. The internet wasn’t a thing then! Hard to comprehend.

Parenting teenagers takes more finesse than parenting young ones. Parenting young ones is like molding hot clay in the hand; teenagers, like folding an origami boat for turbulent waters. Only a little here and there to be done, but with great care indeed, pressing the creases and then setting this delicate craft on turbulent waters. All that work you put in when they were younger, it comes to pay off – or comes to plague you – and if you are intelligent you will simply recognize this and back up just a half a step, ready to help when asked and hoping your child comes to you from their best self, not from a desire to please you or to receive approval.

It snows again; I sew up a little linen dress. I cut the exact and pleasing curved shapes for swimwear, in a severe black and white 30s style geometric print. I come upstairs for more coffee during the day, as much to warm my hands as anything else. My oldest tosses themselves across my lap and asks for me to stroke their hair; anytime I sit down it is a child, or a cat – and occasionally a husband – who lays across my body and asks for attention.

occupations

Today I wrapped up the revamp on my B-movie site; I am mighty darn pleased with the whole business tbh. Website design is one of those little side hustles I get up to – earning a bit of cash sure, and also doing a few favors. In the case of B-movie BFFs! the only favor I am doing is for myself, on and did I casually mention MY NEW CO-COLLABORATOR, the illustrious E. Young, whomst I successfully courted into writing for the site. E.’s first post just hit the press and opens with an ardent declaration of love for Billy Zane.

So as far as collaborators go:

fassy gif: perfection

Besides web design – which is time consuming! – I’ve finished with a large bit of mending, ordered and waded through a whole heck of a lot of samples for a client’s capsule wardrobe, and designed and begun construction on two costumes for an upcoming twin birthday. As wonderful as these occupations are, I have also repeatedly set them aside to tend to my teenagers. My children are able to care for themselves but they still absolutely need my care: today, Tylenol and a smoothie for one child who woke with a painful throat. Then: helping the other child with their testosterone shot. The latter child has wanted more time together so we’ve been on the couch watching a Victorian-era science fiction horror on telly and generally just being next to one another. Teenagers are like great big rechargeable batteries and they benefit from a lot of nutritious food, a lot of rest, and a lot of love. Too many teenagers don’t get enough of all the above.

In the evening Ralph and Beeps are off at German class; my studio is so impossibly cold lately so with my son’s help I haul a few bits of equipment and the right threads and scissors and pins and pattern pieces upstairs and I construct a belted tunic, a pair of leggings, and a tissue-knit sweater – all for little babies, absolutely delicate and wonderful work. Ralph brings home takeout and I finish my yoga practice and take a hot shower and slip into pajamas. Tomorrow I get to make a goldenrod linen dress and I am sure this will cheer me immensely.