Saturday, January 29, 2011

Am I caught in a time warp? No sewing allowed.

I subscribe to many newsletter feeds in order to keep up with what's going on in the world today. One of the feeds is Workopolis. I'm not job hunting but interested. Lately I have been disappointed with all the career advice being given, specifically directed to women:

More candidates having plastic surgery to get the job.

The career mistakes women make.  Apparently you have to be "ballsy". Advice on how to interact with others, ensuring that you eliminate all feminine traits unless you have a job in a "petting zoo".

Women too nice to get jobs.  Being communal in academia is a "no-no".

Who writes this stuff? Is this 2011 or 1980 when it was ok for your boss to chase you around your desk, at least legally. Yes, times are tough and the economy is recovering too slowly for some of us. But has anyone considered that just maybe all those tough as nails, old boy traits got us into this mess in the first place. The underlying message is act like a man and be very attractive, and maybe, just maybe, you will be accepted enough to work here. But please park your annoying femininity at the door (except for the attractiveness) because it's not welcomed here.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Shirtmaking Part 3: Questions and Answers about Shirtmaking Magic!

Q. When and where is the Shirtmaking Magic! with Janet Pray taking place?
A. June 1 and 2, 2011 in Oakville, ON.

Q. Can we use different shirt pattern than The Easy Shirt from Islander?
A. The short answer is no. In order to ensure everyone has the opportunity to see and practice all the industrial techniques that are used in shirtmaking, we all must be sewing the same garment at the same time. Islander shirt patterns are the only patterns that are designed to work with industrial short cuts from the garment industry.

Q. Can I make a shirt for myself rather than a man's shirt?
A. Experience has shown that attendees will get the most benefit from the course if everyone makes a man's shirt. Although fitting tips are given in the course there is not enough time to custom fit each garment.

Q. How do I choose the size of shirt to make?
A. Islander shirt patterns are sized using the same measurements as ready-to-wear shirts using neck circumference and chest measurement.

Q. What if the neck measurement is one size and the chest measurement another size?
A. The Easy Shirt pattern is multi-sized; therefore you can cut the neck for one size and then cut on the line for the size that goes with the chest measurement. Be sure that you also cut the collar band and collar pieces to the appropriate neck measurement.

Q. What fashion fabric should I use for the shirt?
A.  Use fine quality 100% natural fibre (cotton or linen) shirting with no obvious wrong side (e.g. not printed). Stripes are OK if you cut accurately but plaids are too challenging for this class. Yarn dyed cotton flannel (never flannelette) and silky, hard to handle fabrics should not be attempted; but once you have mastered the techniques, they make wonderful shirts. Quilter's cottons are not appropriate.

Q. The pattern calls for 1/2" buttons. Can I use larger buttons?
A. If you are making a tailored shirt, then anything other than 1/2" buttons will look out of place. Shirt buttons are not easy to find but you can take buttons from a old shirt if you are having trouble finding the correct size. When you are making and designing your own custom shirts, you can play around with different button sizes and closures to suit the wearer.

Q. What thread should I use?
A. A good quality polyester thread to match the fashion fabric such as Mettler Metrosene is fine. Matching as close as possible because the thread is used for topstitching and buttonholes and you will want it to blend in. You will need at least two 100m spools.

Q. Any other tips for getting a good fit for the wearer?
Yes.  Take a shirt that the individual likes and finds comfortable and measure it. Compare those measurements to the pattern, taking into account the seam allowances and choose the size closest to the ready made shirt.

After taking this course, you will not shy away from sewing garments such as shirts and blouses with details like collar bands, plackets, buttons and cuffs. And the skills acquired can be applied to all your garment sewing; setting in sleeves, flat felling, hemming curves, topstitching, applying pockets... all without pins or basting! Because pins and basting slow you down and give the garment a homemade look.

To register, click here. For more info, email

Shirtmaking Part 2: Why Islander Sewing Systems is the Shirtmaking class to take.

There's more than one way to skin a catfish and there's more than one way to make a shirt. But which way is best?

There are a few resources out there on shirtmaking. Some of them are by people who are self-taught and are sharing their knowledge with others. And then there are those who have been making shirts for years. Which one would you prefer?

Islander Sewing Systems was developed decades ago by the late Margaret Islander. She had the privilege of spending time within a shirtmaking factory and learning all the techniques that the garment workers used to sew shirts for the ready-to-wear market.

Margaret mastered those techniques and then set about adapting them to the home sewing market and teaching them in colleges, at sewing shows and in various locations across the U.S. and in Canada. She wrote books and produced videos. These techniques are known as industrial short cuts for the home sewer under the Islander Sewing Systems registered trademark. 

Margaret's niece, also a custom clothier and fibre artist, Janet Pray, accompanied her aunt on many of those trips and eventually took over the Islander business when Margaret retired.  Janet updated the book and has been producing the only pattern line of shirts using the Islander industrial shortcuts method.  Janet has taught shirtmaking and made countless shirts using techniques from the ready-to-wear garment industry.

Shirtmaking requires precision sewing, otherwise the shirt will have all the hallmarks of a homemade garment and it won't get worn. Shirtmaking Magic! with Janet Pray will change the way you sew shirts and garments forever. She sews a men's shirt along with the class, demonstrating all the techniques as you go. You will learn to sew faster, more acurately and with professional looking results.

To register click here.

Shirtmaking Part 1: why take a shirtmaking class?

If you like to sew garments, consider taking a shirtmaking course.  There are lots of good reasons.

1. Shirts are ubiquitous: they are always in fashion, worn by men and women, and people of all ages.

2. A well made, well fitting shirt looks good on just about anyone.

3. If you don't like the look of ready-to-wear shirts, you can make your own shirt in any style or fabric to suit yourself.

4. If you sew for someone who can't find ready-to-wear that fits, custom shirtmaking is a blessing.

5. Once have mastered shirtmaking, you can get very creative designing your own shirts just by playing with fabrics, and the various shirt components:  collars, collar bands, plackets, pockets, yokes, hems, pleats, sleeves, seams, cuffs and closures.

6.  You can dress it up for evening or dress it down for casual. You can make work shirts and business shirts.

7. The comfort factor in shirtmaking is important. Is the fabric comfortable next to the skin; is it cool in hot climates, warm in colder weather; is it styled to wear untucked or tucked; open or buttoned up collar; is there enough movement for working or activities? When you sew shirts for yourself or others, you can customise to the wearer's exact needs.

Friday, January 21, 2011

100 Dresses: a book for the birthday wish list

I keep an electronic wishlist on the website of to make it easy for people to shop for my birthday and Christmas. This book is one for the list: 100 Dresses: The Costume Institute/The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
I love to thumb through books like this one. I wonder where the owner wore the dress. What was it like to be the designer or seamstress who worked on it. What techniques did they use to create all the wonderful details? And lastly, how could I incorporate some of the details or style into a modern and wearable garment.

Monday, January 10, 2011

UBS dress code for bankers a big hit online

UBS dress code for bankers a big hit online

The Vancouver Sun had some fun with the UBS dress code.

Dress codes, dress to impress, dress for success and so on...

The following articles appeared in the news late last year. I felt compelled to write about the dress code that inspired them.

Dress to impress UBS tells staff - The Wall Street Journal
UBS dress code:  no thongs or stubble - Sox First
UBS dress to impress Swiss retail clients - Reuters
UBS dress code scrutinizes staff's underwear - BBC News

A major bank that has suffered financial setbacks is trying to regain the confidence of its customers. So it issues a 52 page dress code to its front line employees. Apparently this significant initiative was sanctioned at the highest levels.
This looks like window dressing and that the organization would be better to focus their efforts on ethics, stability and regulations. And they probably are, but this dress code, in my opinion, is just wrong.
It is unlikely that any of these front line employees did anything to cause the bank its financial crisis or reputation loss.
I have yet to hear a news story about front line employee hygiene or dress causing financial crisis or reputation loss.
It must be insulting to these people to be told, down to the length of their nails and colour of their underwear, what to do.
It would appear that the management would like to assure the employees of the benefits of following the code:
“Light makeup consisting of foundation, mascara and discreet lipstick … will enhance your personality,” the code says, while advising women not to wear black nail polish and nail art.
The hair-care section notes studies have shown that properly cared-for hair and a stylish haircut “increase an individual’s popularity.”
I mean, who doesn’t want to improve their personality and popularity? Especially with management.
The code goes on to give advice on colour, fit and washability of underwear. "Your underwear should be functional, and shouldn't be visible through your clothes, nor should anyone be able to guess what's under them."  As if we wouldn’t know?
You've likely heard Pierre Trudeau's famous quote: "The state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation.” So I'm wondering why a bank thinks it has any business in the underwear drawers of their employees?
Nobody is suggesting that good hygiene and grooming aren’t important. But to make everyone into a corporate drone goes too far. Some of the best (worst) white collar crime was created by well-dressed people in expensive suits. They used “the corporate uniform” to dupe people into parting with their savings, take unwarranted risks or trust them with their investments. This dress code has no place in the 21st century. People should be able to dress in a way that expresses their personality as appropriate to their work environment. I’m confident that the majority of employees can figure it out for themselves.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Some Thoughts about Shirts and Shirtmaking

At the 2011 spring Creativ Festival Distinctive Sewing Supplies will feature a fashion and trunk show focusing on the tailored shirt. This show is for anyone who wants to learn more about sewing stylish shirts for people of all ages and tastes.

The tailored shirt is a staple and perennial favourite of major fashion designers worldwide. Certainly most men have a tailored shirt in their wardrobe and many women as well. So why don't people sew more of them?  Some of us think of the shirt as perhaps too difficult or too plain to bother sewing. An oversight like that may be preventing some people from trying their hand at shirtmaking. Once the techniques of shirtmaking are mastered, they become surprisingly easy and satisfying garments to sew.

What constitutes a "tailored" shirt? I've given this a lot of thought and for me it comes down to certain components:

- collar stand
- collar
- yoke
- cuff
- front placket
- sleeve placket
- breast pocket

Buttons or snaps also play an important role in the tailored shirt. Usually the front is buttoned, and cuffs are buttoned or support cuff links. Sleeve plackets may have a button and some shirts feature a button down collar and/or buttoned breast pockets.  Shirts may also have top-stitching detail and/or flat-felled seams. Hems may be curved at the sides or have side slits and may be designed for tucking in or wearing out. Set-in sleeves may be long or short.

Any combination of these components can be used to create stylish shirts to suit the taste of the wearer. Interesting fashion fabric and details make for infinite possibilities. And sewing the garment yourself means that the shirt can be custom fit to the wearer, something not usually possible with ready-to-wear.

There are three ways you can learn to sew professional looking shirts using techniques from the ready-to-wear garment industry:

1. Attend the Islander Sewing Systems Industrial Shortcuts course May 2 to 5, 2011, in Highland MI.  Click here for details.

2. Teach yourself using the Islander Sewing Systems books and DVDs. You will need the Islander Sewing Systems Industrial Sewing Techniques for Home Sewing book or DVD and the Shirts, etc. DVD. Click here for details.

3. Attend the Shirtmaking Magic! course June 1 and 2, 2011 in Oakville, ON.  Click here to register.

 For more information email

The Perfect Pant--Guaranteed! - Class is almost full.

This has been a popular class. It is almost full with only one spot left. I will start a waiting list in case someone has to cancel, but also to determine if there is enough interest to run the course again later in the year or next year perhaps. Email for information or to be added to the wait list.