Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What Not to Wear...

Stacey and Clinton continue to rescue women from their poor taste in clothing. Last night a beautiful, tall 47 year old woman who was comfortable in her khakis was transformed into a beautiful woman who looked totally uncomfortable in her own skin. Maybe she looked a little plainer before but her natural beauty shone through. Her clothes fit well. Did they really have to all go into that trash can? Wouldn't it be a real challenge for Stacey and Clinton to take her existing wardrobe, add a few accents, build on it and come out looking great. Or that just wouldn't make for great tv? Now that woman has to contend with trips to the hairdresser once a month to keep up the colour and trim the bangs. She looked great in her blonde blunt cut that would look good for several months at a time. And she has to learn to walk in those heels. I hope she has the strength to take from that experience what she's comfortable with and able to maintain and ditch the rest.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Islander Course: Shirtmaking Magic! June 1 & 2, 2011

Make shirts like magic! Learn how to make a shirt the professional way. Spend two fun and informative days with Islander Sewing System owner, Janet Pray. She demonstrates each step; then you do it yourself. The skills you develop while making this handsome shirt will happily translate to greater successes in all of your sewing projects.

You'll use the Islander EASY SHIRT pattern, selecting casual or dress shirt fabric to suit your guy's lifestyle. The industrial sewing techniques you will learn in this class include: Fine topstitching, how to create a lined back yoke without hand stitching, how to sew a two-piece collar, how to sew a sleeve and attach a cuff, all without pins or basting. That's right! No pins! No basting!

Supply List and pre-class preparation. Students will need the Men’s Easy Shirt pattern ($19.95), garment fabric and notions as part of pre-class preparation. Sewing machines are required.

Invitations will be going out shortly to anyone on the DSS email newsletter list. To be added to the list email You may unsubscribe at any time.

The Perfect Pant - Guaranteed! May 30 & 31, 2011

Altering a ready-made pant pattern is nearly impossible and more time consuming than drafting your own personalized pattern. Join Janet Pray, owner of Islander Sewing Systems, as she takes you step-by-step through the process of drafting your own pant pattern using the easy Islander method.

In this comprehensive two day course you will not only draft the pattern, you will also make the muslin to ensure you leave with the “perfect pant pattern” made just for you. It’s easy and works every time. Janet will show you how to make any style pant or skirt and you’ll never again worry if it will fit.

Supply List. Bring your own sewing machine. Students will need the Pants, etc. workbook which will be available for sale in the classroom for $24.95. Students may choose to purchase the Pants, etc. DVD for $41.95 (workbook included) instead.

This course will be held in Oakville, ON. Invitations will be sent out shortly. If you wish to be added to the DSS email list, email You may unsubscribe at any time.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wealth Defines a Person's Character... or not.

Fortunately in Canada we have CBC radio; to me one of the rare sources of intelligent media, with absolutely no commercials, sponsorships or pleas for funding.

This morning, I caught part of a CBC radio interview with a former editor of a Dublin publication. This man was talking about what happened to Ireland's economy; the same sad bleak story as we have seen in the U.S. Everyone consuming more than they can afford, business leaders and politicians denying the signs, followed by the financial collapse and bankruptcy of a nation and many of its people.

He did not advocate a return to the good old days. No he said that it was an era where consumption was conspicuous, where a person's reputation was defined by their material possessions. His position was that we have to find a better way to build character than by economic status.

I like that. I saw a lot of Armani and Boss suits on Bay Street; $1,000 shoes, Rolex watches, Mercedes Benzes. If you are a pensioner or a shareholder who just lost a lot of money, that's where some of your hard-earned savings went and possibly are still going.

So I say, the heck with all that ostentatious stuff. Sew your own clothes, drive a moderately priced vehicle or take public transit and appreciate people for who they really are, or are not.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Copyright and Doing the Right Thing

I love doing consumer sewing shows. As an online business, the shows are where I get to meet creative people face to face. It's also where I see people taking advantage of the independent designers who have worked hard to develop their own techniques and are making a living by sharing them with consumers who purchase their products.

This is a true story.

I usually do a trunk show at the fashion theatre where there are sample garments made from independent designer patterns and my fabrics. In order to educate the consumer about the patterns and help them make good choices, I describe the product for them.

At one show there was a person who approached our booth three times. Each time she asked to be shown the garments and have the techniques described in detail. The individual seemed to be struggling with the concepts, so each time we did our best to assist. After the third visit we said, all this information is in written out in detail in the pattern for your reference, with illustrations to guide you. The person said " But I'm not buying the pattern."

The sad thing is, it's not the first time it's happened to us. I always like to think the best of people, especially people who sew. Don't do this to vendors and designers. If you want to have the information badly enough to spend this much time getting it, just buy the product.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Islander Sewing Systems - Pants, etc. and Shirts, etc.

Well, you heard it hear first! Janet Pray, president of Islander Sewing Systems is returning next year to teach two back to back courses for us.  The first is a two day pants drafting course which will take place Monday, May 30 and Tuesday May 31, 2011. Students will work in pairs and class size is limited to 12 to ensure adequate time and attention.

The second course is a two day shirtmaking course which will take place Wednesday, June 1 and Thursday, June 2, 2011. Students will work on a man's shirt and class size is limited to 20 students.

Janet is an incredible teacher and students will learn how to sew their garments using techniques from the garment industry. No pins! No basting! No dreaded homemade look! So save the dates so you don't miss out.

It's early days but details will follow in the New Year. The course will take place at a location in Oakville, ON. Anyone who wants to be notified about the course, please send an email to

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Invisible Zippers - Don't believe everything you see on YouTube

The great thing about the Internet is that you have access to lots of information about sewing. The bad thing about the Internet is that you have access to lots of information about sewing. I just viewed a very long and detailed video by a well meaning individual on how to insert invisible zippers. It made the whole process seem truly daunting and was fraught with techniques that result in the dreaded homemade look. So yes, there's some great videos out there but be careful!

I can't say enough good things about Janet and Rosebud's video Easy Zippers. And Rosebud has worked in the garment industry and sewn hundreds of miles of zippers so she knows zippers inside out and backwards!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Word about Copyrights and Sewing Patterns

I see copyright infringement all the time in my business. There are lots of grey areas and there are some hard and fast rules. I am probably even guilty if ignorant of my own infringements. But I try to be careful in this area to respect the property of others.

I sell sewing patterns that are developed by independent designers. I usually deal directly with the designer and producer and I have a personal or at least business connection to that person. Contrary to popular belief, these designers are hardworking individuals much like you and I. Many of them are popular, even celebrities in the sewing world--but none of them are making a killing at it.

Their patterns typically cost more than those of the major pattern companies because their production costs are higher and they don't have the same clout and distribution. But if you like their designs for the uniqueness they offer, then you may be willing to pay that higher price.

When you buy a sewing pattern, you are usually buying the right to make as many garments or sewing projects as you want for your own personal use. That's pretty straightforward. You can't make it and sell it and you can't claim it as your own design.

Major pattern companies have the resources to check online, at craft fairs and so forth and to fine violators. Independent designers typically do not.

If you make clothing for others and want to use a commercial pattern or a pattern of an independent designer, you must purchase one pattern per garment. That is part of the cost of that garment. And to avoid temptation of reusing that pattern, you should give the pattern to the purchaser or destroy it.

Legally if you obtain written permission from the copyright holder to reproduce and sell goods made from the pattern you are OK.  Major pattern companies have not to my knowledge ever given that permission.

Independent designers might give you permission or sell you limited rights but you must ask and you should get it in writing and if you do get permission you still may not claim the design as your own.

Tempting as it may be, don't share your patterns with others. Keep to the rule, one pattern per person.

Think of it as if you were in the designer's shoes.  Would you like to have several strangers take $5 or $6 dollars out of your paycheque or savings account every week? No? Well that's exactly what you do to the designer every time you copy and share sewing patterns.

When a friend asks if I will share a pattern, this is what I say.

I don't feel comfortable sharing this pattern because of the copyright. I know how hard the designers work on their sewing patterns and if you purchase your own copy, it will help them stay in business.

If you see someone distributing copies from books, patterns or websites, don't accept them. It's OK to distribute the sources but not the materials, unless you have obtained the rights to do so.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Stop the Busywork! Do something meaningful.

A facebook friend brought to my attention that there's a new book on the market--Do More Great Work by author Michael Bungay Stanier. It's about stopping the busywork and starting to do work that is fulfilling. I haven't read the book so I'm not endorsing it, just commenting on the topic.

Well busywork isn't news to me but I am glad to see that some young consultant is making a living at educating the corporate world. And hopefully succeeding at it.

When I worked in the corporate world, the more enlightened executives all knew that busywork was wasteful and annoying to boot. But we were powerless against it. The old guard believed that you had to be on your computer or Blackberry responding to email as they hit the inbox. If it was at 3:00 a.m. in the morning, even better because that meant you were really a "team player". Coming in early, working late and weekends--ooh, you must really be good. Were you wearing Armani suits and playing golf? Even better.

Of course, you would only respond to the emails of the "important people" right away. The rest who were actually trying to achieve something were best ignored, waylaid or put in their proper place by the "chain of command". Heaven forbid you actually came up with a good idea that wasn't your bosses'. Of course, all would be forgiven if you were male or a very attractive female, loved hockey and went to the "right schools".

The standard answer to the morning greeting, "How are you?" was "Busy". So some people starting asking, "How are you? Besides busy?" Hhmm, well hard to come up with a good answer. People were always in meetings (secret meetings meant you were special), and dealing with endless emails. Busywork, useless, wasteful and unfortunately, boring--unless you had a shiny new Blackberry to use conspicuously in front of your co-workers, at client functions and on the golf course.

It's hard to turn something like sewing garments and selling fabrics into busywork. I just love it and it takes a wonderful blend of planning, execution and creativity.

So my advice to any of you who are still in the corporate world is this. Don't get caught up in that game. Have the confidence to stand on your own two feet and do great work that matters to you and your job. Stop going to meetings where nothing is accomplished or intervene and make them shorter and meaningful. Refuse to answer those emails that come in at 3:00 a.m. If it's really urgent, someone will call you.

"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work … If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” - Steve Jobs

You won't die wishing you'd sent or answered more emails or spent more time in meetings. But you will regret not spending more time on the things you love and if it's sewing, then that would truly be a shame.

Invisible Zipper - Again

Lotus Skirt
Having sewn an invisible zipper recently, I thought I'd just put another one in based on memory. You see, my husband was working on my website and I didn't have access to my computer's DVD drive to play my Easy Zippers DVD. And I was too lazy to go and put it in the DVD player and watch it on television. I was working on another Lotus Skirt from The Sewing Workshop Collection. The zipper is inserted in the side seam which is has a curve and a cross seam due to the yoke. You want the zipper to match exactly the cross seam and follow the curve without gaping or rippling; and match up at the waistline.

Well my memory wasn't that great and although I was too lazy to play the DVD, it turned out I wasn't too lazy to rip out the zipper twice after making a mess of it. I set the whole thing aside and this morning, got up, played the Easy Zippers DVD. There were Janet and Rosebud showing me the correct way to do it. I followed the instructions and I got a perfect result, first time. Duh!

But I learned something else in the process. The skirt called for a 9" zipper. My local fabric store only sells 8" and then 15" invisible zippers.  I should have gone for the longer rather than the shorter version. In the sewing process the 8" becomes a 6.5" and it may be difficult for the wearer to get it over her shoulders or coming the other way, over her hips. Next time...