The Lost Art of Ironing

As man-made fabrics improved and our lives got busier many of us simply don’t find the need to iron anymore. This was wonderful progress, and we all thought polyester would rule and we could pack away those irons for good. The tips our mothers and grandmothers passed down have been lost. Then, along comes the “Natural” movement. All the natural fibres, like cotton, rayon, linen and silk became popular again and we have to learn how to care for them all over again.
This blog is for the mom whose young son points to an iron in the Canadian Tire store and says “Mommy, what’s that for?” It’s also for the single dad trying to figure out how to press the shawl that came with his daughter’s grad dress, and for the young people who suddenly have to look presentable with a crease in their trousers for an interview. I will also include a few tips for the sewers on how to handle specialty fabrics.
Tip number one is to use more steam and less heat for almost any situation. A good steam iron will save more time and fabrics than you would expect. Don’t use tap water on a regular basis or it will build up a residue that might spit out on your clothes (yes, it’s happened to me and made an ugly brown stain that almost didn’t come out!). A bottle of distilled water is handy to have on hand and runs about $2 for 4 litres.
Start with your iron set lower that you think you’re going to need. You can always turn it up, but the burn mark in the middle of your shirt can’t be repaired.
Turn your shirt or dress inside out. This will make it easier to flatten the seams and darts properly AND it prevents a shine forming on the right side of the garment. Press only one layer at a time wherever possible. Press the sleeves last by laying one flat with the seam toward you. Press away from the seam to the opposite side to create a crease from the cuff to the shoulder seam. Do not put a crease in the cuff.
For dress pants, first pick them up by the hems and bring the seams together in the centre. Lay them down on the ironing board and keep the seams matched all the way up the leg to the waist. This will give you a crease that should fall in the centre of your leg. If you are just touching up the crease you will see that the crease is where your pants have folded when you laid them out. I recommend using a press cloth to prevent a shine. Failing that, use steam.
On delicate fabrics like silk and rayon I like to use a Teflon cover on the iron and lots of steam. If you don’t have the cover, keep the heat low. Man-made fibres also require a low heat. This is especially true if you absolutely must press that dance or skating costume.
Natural fibres except wool do well when dampened before ironing. Do you remember seeing your grandmother with a coke bottle full of water and a sprinkler cork in the top? Now we’d use a spray bottle. This method is pretty much the only way to get wrinkles out of linen and heavy cotton.
Wool is another story altogether. ALWAYS use a damp press cloth with wool. A press cloth is typically a fine linen cloth – an old dish towel works well.
And if ironing still sounds like too much work, you can always throw the shirt in the dryer for 10 minutes on low with a damp sheet of fabric softener.
As always, your comments and questions are welcome.

Design for Your Body – different shapes require different looks

Most garments are designed for a size 8 “balanced” figure that is the same measurement around the bust as it is around the hips and a waistline about 10 inches (25 cm) smaller. How many women do you know that actually fit that description? I can think of a couple of 20 year olds I used to know, but that’s about it. No wonder alterations shops are so busy trying to reshape readymade clothes to fit. It is why I started to sew when I was a teenager, but that is a story for another time. Today I want to talk about choosing clothes that actually suit your body, whatever shape that may be.
The “normal” woman’s figure can usually be defined by four basic shapes; hourglass, rectangle, triangle and inverted triangle. Each of these body types needs different style to look its best. The hourglass figure can look good in just about any dress as the body’s curves will fill out the lack of shape in a dress. However even these lucky women can have difficulty with pants and long jackets. I suggest that pants with a waistband or cut high in the crotch length will look best. Accentuate that waistline and don’t let fashion delude you into thinking low rise jeans are flattering. Hip length jackets will hide your shape unless tailored to nip in at the waist. If you are lucky enough to have an hourglass figure, whether size 8 or 18 you should accentuate it and feel good about doing so. We are all striving for that Marilyn Munroe shape that you have.
Rectangular bodies are thick through the waist so that there is little definition between bust, waist and hips. These women find that anything with a waistband will bag around the hips and conversely if the hips or bust fit well, the waist is too tight. They are usually better choosing a lower rise pant, one that sits on the top of the hip bone, just below the waist. When wearing dresses they should look for shapes and colours that give the illusion of a smaller waistline. Dark belts, seams that shape a figure like the princess line are good choices. The retro fashions of the ‘50’s that are popular now really flatter this body type. The defined shoulders and full skirts give one an hourglass figure where none existed before.
Triangle figures, whether bottom dominant or top dominant have challenges of their own and I will go into more detail with suggestions for them in another blog. In the meantime if you’re really tired of having your clothes altered to fit, why not try having them custom made to fit and flatter your figure? It can be a truly uplifting experience.
Your comments and questions are welcome.

Colour Trends – Spring is bright

It is such a relief after a long dull winter of grey, black and purple to see bright turquoise and sherbet orange in the stores again. The colours this spring are BRIGHT!  Brilliant jewel tones are being shown in colour blocks of turquoise and chartreuse, emerald green with rich oranges in a variety of soft flowing fabrics.  For those women who have dark hair and strong colouring this is your year! The colours being shown this spring are going to look fabulous on those of Asian or African descent as well as Snow White look-alikes.  What about those of us with softer skin tones and pale hair? Can we wear the bright tones? Certainly, you just have to choose wisely. Make sure the colour compliments your skin tone and you feel good in it. Hold it up to your face and if the colour of your eyes “pop” then you’ve chosen well.

If you are a little shy about wearing the truly bright colours try mixing them with your favourite neutral. The magazines might be showing that hot pink jacket with a sunshine yellow dress, but you might be more comfortable wearing it with a soft white or cream. Or, if the blocks of colours don’t appeal to you, try the fabulous patterns that are being shown. Bright butterflies on white or black, brilliant flower patterns and some truly retro patterns reminiscent of the ‘60s are being shown. So, go ahead, buy something a little daring and have some fun this spring. Mix up the patterns but match the colour tones. Some patterned fabrics have the same print on a variety of background colours giving you options for spicing up a simple top with a contrasting collar or even make a skirt or pants in the contrast. Check out some of the fabrics at

Whatever you choose this spring make sure it makes you smile when you wear it.  When you smile you look fabulous.



Dance wear – special choices

There are many forms of dance and the costumes for each one have specific requirements. We are all familiar with the ballet tutu and most of us recognise the flamenco dancer’s many layered skirts, but what about ballroom? Dancing with the Stars has given us a glimpse of the fabulous gowns and sexy little cha-cha costumes. How does the amateur dancer choose the right costume?

Let’s start with the basics – the style of the dance. Smooth dances such as waltz and fox trot require gowns that fit snugly to the upper body and allow the arms to be raised to shoulder height without disturbing the line of the dress. The skirts are full and heavy so they swing out with the turns and drop back in place as soon as the movement changes. Embellishments can enhance the dancer and the dress. Feather boas at the hem were popular in the ‘90s, crystals on the bodice, and floating scarf-like pieces continue to be popular.

Latin dances on the other hand; cha-cha, rumba, salsa, etc. call for short and sassy costumes.  You want to emphasize the hip movement and have the costume move with every beat of the music. It must fit snugly from shoulder to hip and can expose as much skin as the dancer is comfortable with. The pros often wear a costume that looks like a bikini with ruffles, but most amateurs feel too exposed in that style and want a bit more coverage. Fringe and crystals are popular embellishments.

Tango is in a class of its own requiring slinky dresses that expose the leg but looks like a smooth/standard gown.  The skirts are not as full as those for smooth dances; in fact a straight skirt is often preferred with split up the hip to show off the leg movement. Irregular hems and minimal embellishments define these gowns.

Watch this site for more information on how to choose a costume that suits your body and style. You can see some samples on my Facebook site.

Your comments and questions are always welcome.