Machine sewing at Sunnyside Library

by Robin Gallagher

I learned to use a sewing machine when I was about 10 years old, and then I filed that skill away in the back of my mind for a long time. But a few years ago, I took up sewing again more seriously. I have never looked back. I find a great relief from anxiety in the hands-on work and a great pride in creating something from scratch or in fixing something worn out or torn.

Sewing involves math (there are some patterns that rely only on measurements), technology (understanding, using, troubleshooting and maintaining complex machines), engineering (understanding how to turn a 2D fabric into a 3D object) and, of course, art (picking fabrics, adapting patterns). It is a welcome break from screen time and an opportunity to develop concentration and attention to detail.

Learning how textile products are constructed also gives a new perspective on the real human and environmental costs of “cheap” garments. And it provides the skills necessary to repair or upcycle items instead of discarding them.

If you have an interest in machine sewing, whatever your motivation, then the Ottawa Public Library collection has many titles to inspire and guide you. And if you’re interested in sewing but don’t yet know how to use a machine, then you’ll be happy to hear that Sunnyside will be offering machine sewing programs this spring. Programs will be offered for children (ages 10+), teens and adults. Programs will require registration and will be listed on our website once full details are available.

Reinvention: Sewing with Rescue Materials is currently one of my favourite sewing books. If you are interested in sewing as a way to have a positive environmental effect, then this is the book for you. Maya Donenfeld offers easy and accessible ways to transform “rescued” materials – that is to say, materials that would otherwise be landfill. Donenfeld walks through many unique and appealing upcycling projects for ripped jeans, Tyvek (used for mailers and home wrap), old T-shirts and other materials.

If you are brand new to sewing and are looking for some simple and clear project instructions, then Brandy Nelson’s Sew with Me is a good place to start. The book offers a concise machine guide and leveled projects to help you start and then build confidence and skills. These projects are appropriate for adults or for children (with guidance).

If you already have a bit of sewing experience and are simply a little rusty, then we have dressmaking books in stock. You’ll find helpful refreshers and loads of inspiration in Love at First Stitch. Tilly Walnes will walk you through machine set-up and easy projects step-by-step.

If you have a stash of fabric that you’ve been saving, then Little One-Yard Wonders is for you. All the projects in this book require one yard or less of fabric. In addition to some items of children’s clothing, it also includes instructions for hot and cold packs (with animal faces!), butterfly or bat wings, artist portfolios and, of course, a library portfolio bag. While most of these items are intended for children and tweens, this book is aimed at adults.

Sewing Happiness is half memoir, half sewing book. But the projects in this book are a little bit unusual, so it warrants a mention. Projects include a triangle eco bag, a camera strap and origami pillows. Overall, this title may be a little bit less accessible for a beginner sewist, but the book is beautiful enough to warrant a peek.

These titles and so many more are all available at the Ottawa Public Library.

Robin Gallagher is a librarian at the Sunnyside Branch of the Ottawa Public Library, where she works primarily with children and teens. When she is not at the library, you can find her reading (to herself or to her kids), walking her dog, sewing or making music.

Pat McLaughlin’s book of poetry is available by emailing the poet.

Aging: The Best Alternative

Poems by Pat McLaughlin
Review by Clyde Sanger

Wow! What a pleasure!
It is truly a treasure
The book I’ve been asked to review.
The editor chose me
As we’re friends and she knew
That I’m old and write poems too.

What sort of poems? Well, I tend to write sonnets as they are short and the rules are clear. When I saw old men in wheelchairs slumbering in the corridors of this retirement home, I decided to spend my time writing.

The succession of sweethearts who have been company for me twice a week like poems about themselves. “Done Cuddling” is the best, and two of them claimed it, although it was really about my darling wife Penny, who helped start the Glebe Report back in 1971.

Enough about me.

Pat McLaughlin came to writing rhyme-poems more methodically. She was a kindergarten teacher and later taught ESL students, who were “more eager to learn.” Two years ago, she started writing poetry for an online workshop called “Sharpened Visions.”

Then two writing groups and a six-week course with Phil Jenkins a year ago clinched it. Jenkins suggested adding a drum and a guitar to her rhythm, and off she went. “Poetry is like jazz and abstract art,” she explains. “I don’t always understand them but the trick is to read it again or listen again or look again and if the work speaks to you, then great, if not then go on to another.” At tea-time readings, she reads each poem two times, “the first for sheer enjoyment and the second to start to understand what the poem is about.”

The 23 poems in her book, one to a page and some only seven lines long, reflect her feelings about stages of aging, the joys and the frustrations. The poems are visually striking, exciting. I loved them all. “Granny” is shaped with a big belly as is “Millenials’ Lament,” and “Wakefulness” has a large bell hanging. There is no punctuation, except capital letters. Pat speeds along with a single rhyme, although ”Ice Cream” runs out!

Is this poetry or visual wordplay? She calls it a chapbook, and Octopus Books, with broad disdain, does not stock them. Her book, now in its second printing (the first was 50 copies), is available from Pat McLaughlin at

Clyde Sanger, journalist, author and poet, is a longtime Glebe resident and Glebe Report contributor who now lives in Old Ottawa South.

Pat McLaughlin’s book of poetry is available by emailing the poet.


My Word

By Pat McLaughlin

Lost my word
How absurd
It was just there
under my hair
Now it’s gone
Tongue to brain
must regain
word power
this hour
Can’t talk
Must stalk
a synonym
Feeling dim
Mind is blank
dark and dank

Sometime later
the traitor
and jeers
Time has past
Feeling cast
Into old hood
which isn’t good


©2019 Pat McLaughlin

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