Thursday, March 4, 2010

Where We Are

Hello from Singapore!

We've been here 3 days and only today got some consistent internet access. I anticipate that we might not have regular access to the computer so I may not read, let alone reply to, email till we get home in a couple of weeks. I apologize if you've left a blog comment or an email with a question or request - I might have to respond only after the trip is over.

The kids (and jet lag) have been keeping us busy these three days so I haven't been taking photos of all the crafty things of my childhood like I'd planned to, but they are coming! I haven't bought any fabric either but I did invest in two oversize seam rippers from the local market. And raided the supermarkets for cardboard boxes to do crafts with the kids. And the kids got to do their first craft with grandpa today - potato printing with letters of the alphabet carved into the potato halves. Why didn't I think of that? They'll be doing paper marbling sometime soon.

Sewing-wise, I sewed one seam. Not amazing in itself, but let me just say that it was done on my old Pfaff TREADLE. Yes, this one. The one I sewed all my stuff with when I lived here as a youngers person. It was like hanging out with an old friend except without any of the who's-put-on-more-weight-over-the-past-20-years types of conversations. I just said, "well, hello there, Old Thing. Sorry I've been fratenizing with those vulgar modern electrical gizmos. There's only ever been you, you know." And my old sewing machine growled back, "Shut up and start sewing, you old twit. You always were one for wasting time talking."

And just like that, I was 19 years old again, working away with my feet, hypnotized by the ker-thunk-ker-thunk of the big foot pedal, never needing anything more than a forward straight stitch.

Started Smocking Lesson #1 last night - The foundation stitch and Which Thread To Use. Fun.
Auntie Laura came over to hang out with mum and me. Together we post-mortemed all the stuff I'd made (like those clothes I made for the kids and mum's bag) and nitpicked all the bits that weren't perfect, like machine tension, unmeeting seams, piping that wasn't cut on a bias and poor choices of interfacing. We analyzed Don McCunn's book and approach to pattern drafting (which I finished reading on the plane and then wrote an outline for a future blog post on How To Draft A Skirt). Why don't I live closer to mum and Auntie Laura? I learnt more in that 2-hour visit with them than I have for a long, long time from any blog, any book or any personal sewing experience. Look out for another future blog post on 5 Things To Do With A Seam Ripper (apart from ripping seams, I mean)!

But I will say this for Don McCunn's book:

1 The man is clever. And an excellent teacher.

2 His book is worth its weight in gold. You should all go and buy it now. Yes, even those of you who believe you should only spend money on books with color photos. This is not a coffee-table glossy-paged inspirational craft mag, folks. It is a textbook. This means it actually teaches you stuff.

3 Only two pages are on how to alter commercial patterns, hurrah, (and even then he doesn't actually tell you how to!)

4 He teaches you how to make a dress form that has your dimensions (and this is the best part) OUT OF CARDBOARD and MASKING TAPE. How can a person not love this book?

5 He teaches you how to make patterns for different body shapes. No just small, medium, large types, but
  • Rounded backs vs flat backs
  • Differently-shaped (and uneven) derierres and bustlines
  • Rounded vs flat abdomens
  • Men vs women
I learnt a whopping lot of new stuff just reading his book this first time around. His pattern-making approach is different (slightly) from the sloper-drafting approach from my childhood in one important aspect: his patterns have a little bit of ease in some parts, that get adjusted (usually reduced) by the first fitting on the wearer. The slopers we drafted in our family have no ease in them. They fit exactly, if a bit constrictively, from the start, if you were actually nuts enough to use our slopers as patterns i.e. baste them to fabric and cut around them. Only when we adapted our slopers to a particular style of garment e.g. an A-line skirt, did we then put in the ease according to the design of that garment. Once I'd figured out that big difference, it was easy to just absorb all his ideas and tips and feel profoundly enriched after.

The husband and I also went on a date today - to buy a USB stick-with-integrated-SIM-card to get us mobile internet (gotta love technology) so we could get internet access finally. Not wine-and-roses romantic, but that's what retired Physics teachers who marry software engineers do when they finally get someone to watch the kids.

No photos in this post because we just finally got internet connection and I don't want to anger the technology deities by trying to offload photos from the camera to the laptop too soon.


  1. You have me really curious about that seam ripper post!

    Your child-free date sounds like the ones Mike and I go on. In our case, they don't even differ much from the dates we went on during our pre-baby days...

  2. giant seam rippers?!? i'm in love! i have large hands and have always thought seam rippers should be bigger.

    i ordered the book based on your reply to my question and am stalking the post man. now that you've confirmed the book is a hit, i'll have to kick it up a notch.

  3. All the while reading this post, I kept thinking: I'm going to be there next week, I'm going to be able to see that book myself (I'd better!), I'm going to be able to glean off your Mum/A.Laura-learning in person, I'm going to see that venerable old lady (Pfaff - no one else in your family fits being called 'old lady' btw), and best of all our kid/kids finally get to interact - and hopefully get along at first sight (unlike you and me, if you recall, keke!).


    And of course I can't wait to see my dear old friend :)

  4. I think I am most impressed that you were able to read a book on a plane trip that long with three kids.

  5. Jen: Auntie Laura has borrowed the McCunn book to peruse! It will be very interesting to hear her analysis of it. She has been instructed to give it back in time for you to peruse it, then we can hear YOUR analysis of it. I'm going to get mum and AL to take my measurements and draft a first block for me. Nothing like having it done right the first time instead of me mucking about with my amateurish attempts. Wish you'd met my grandma - she was quite the drafter/tailor herself. Wouldn't it be fun to have had grandma read McCunn's book too? He he.

  6. Have a real happy trip, and don't worry about not posting - we will be waiting :)

  7. I can't wait for the seam ripper post either!

  8. hi
    love your blog,did you know that don mccunn has a couple of yahoo groups you can join,and he now gives classes over the internet,at the moment we are doing bras

  9. I am glad you like my book.

    Before you draft the blouse, you might want to check out the updated information I have on my blog.

    "How to Make Sewing Pattern" book update.


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