The Seamstress Tag

I was catching up on blogs this morning, and enjoyed a post by Emily over at Self Assembly Required!. It’s the sewing version of one of those social media Q and A games, where you are to share the answers to random questions, and your friends are to post their answers, and so on.

I’ll play, and I hope you do, too!

Who are you?

My name is Roxane, and I am a happily-retired textile dilettante living in New Mexico.

When/why did you start sewing?

Back in the Jurassic!  It must have been 1963; while the boys took shop classes, girls were required to take a home ec class in seventh grade that consisted of sewing and really idiotic cooking (even then, nobody really made ordinary toast by broiling it). The sewing part consisted of two projects: a basic apron to be used in the stupid cooking class, and a dreadful skirt made of three yards of fabric with no pattern. (We cut off six inches of fabric along the selvedge to make a nice fat waistband that rolled when worn, gathered the rest, put in a zipper, make a waistband to fit and hemmed this masterpiece.  Oh, and checked fabric was highly recommended, so the checks could serve as seam guides.

My dears, it was hideous. It was a checked balloon that could easily have wrapped three times around my then-skinny body. We were just starting to see the wonderful clothes from Carnaby Street, and this is what we had to make!

But mom was thrilled–and no, not because she didn’t want me to have a social life. She really wanted to sew, and she blithely assumed  that I, having had this dubious experience,  would be able to teach her.  She bought a reconditioned Kenmore sewing machine, and the blind led the blind for a couple of years until somehow we started to catch on.

Favorite/Proudest make?

I’ve never made anything astonishing in itself, like a bridal gown or formal dress. There were a lot of good dresses over the years; being short-waisted, it’s always been easier for me to make a dress than find one that fits.  Of the things currently hanging in my closet, my favorite is the Sewing Workshop Tremont jacket.

Disastrous make?

In eighth-grade home ec, we were required to make something from a purchased pattern.  The teacher did not really give us any advice on pattern selection or fitting, and in those days there really weren’t any of the pattern categories designated for beginners that pattern companies now have. Elastic waistbands, or other things that let you fudge the fit, were pretty much unheard-of. Fool that I was, I chose a pair of tailored culottes–and the pattern wasn’t even really the right size, because I foolishly believed the numbers on the back of the envelope.

Let’s just say the results weren’t pretty.

There have many disasters over the past half-century, but I remember this one because it almost stopped me from sewing. I am very glad it didn’t.

Favorite place for fabric shopping?

They all seem to have vanished!  S.R. Harris, when I visit my daughter in Minneapolis.  Other than that, I order online and cross my fingers.

Most used pattern?

Something from Sewing Workshop–either the Hudson top, Alex top, Peony vest or Plaza jacket.

Most dreaded sewing task?

Hand sewing. Thank you, arthritis!

Favorite sewing task?

Fabric selection.

Favorite sewing entertainment?

Audiobooks or Pandora.

Printed or PDF patterns?

Printed. Taping pattern pieces together is right up there with hand sewing on my list of not-favorites.

What sewing machine do you use?

A Pfaff 2040 and a Viking 910 serger. Can’t believe how old they are getting. I, of course, am not.

Any other hobbies?

Knitting, spinning, quilting. In fact, knitting really is the main one. I used to dye and print fabrics, too, but don’t really do that any more. Tried weaving, but one must draw the line somewhere.

And to this list I would add two additional questions:

What’s your favorite gizmo?

The stick-on LED light for my sewing machine, shown in the photo above. I bought two brackets, so I can move it to the serger as well.

If you could go back in time, what piece of advice would you give to your beginner self?

Take photographs of every single project. I really wish I could show you those stupid culottes and that revolting skirt. Not only would it give everybody a laugh, but it would show people how badly you can start out and still make a go of it.

4 comments on “The Seamstress Tag

  1. Roxanne,
    Love reading your blog. I have started to sew after a long hiatus, but things don’t turn out right. Too tight, too short, wrong material for patterns. My figure has changed alot as I age. No one else in this small town seems to do fashion sewing so proper measuring is out. Now that I am done whining, any suggestions?


    • Thanks for the kind words! I have knitting friends, but as far as sewing goes, I too am working alone in the wilderness.

      I no longer try to do really fitted clothes; I mostly do things that fit through the arms and shoulders and flare over everything I want hidden. I once attended a wardrobing lecture by someone whose name I unfortunately forget, who said that at this point in our lives, when we are getting further and further away from the “slopers” that companies use to draft their patterns, we are better off with clothes that take their shape from the garment rather than from the shape of the body underneath. As long as it fits in the shoulders, you don’t look like you are wearing a burlap sack. That is certainly the case with the Tremont jacket I linked here, and many of the other Sewing Workshop patterns. And I get boatloads of compliments on that jacket.

      And that is the sum total of my wisdom on the subject! Good luck!


  2. Great post. I always enjoy reading about other peoples sewing past. My school sewing experience, like yours, started badly. That changed when I got an inspirational teacher who had us sewing toys. My favourite was a lion cushion with appliqued features and a wool fringe mane. I learned so many techniques from this teacher in a way that appealed. Good teachers are instrumental in building interest, and then skills.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Toys would be a fun thing to do. Later, when they started letting boys into these classes, I read that some of them were making backpacks. There used to be a company here called Frostline that sold kits for things like packs and outerwear garments, and they used those. Back in the day, my husband and I had made a lot of those–packs, anoraks, parkas, our first tent, a down comforter…


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