I read something recently that talked about how September is “back to” month. We get back to school or schoolday routines, back to sports or performance schedules, back to the gym or volunteer work that we gave up while the kids were home for the summer.

And most of the things I am doing are “back to”s — back to the gym, back to eating right, back to Tuesday class and Sunday school, back to Chamber Singers. But I think it is also important to do new things.

The research that shows that people’s brains continue to function well as they get older if they do crossword puzzles was a great boost for the producers of crosswords. But it turns out that doing the crossword every day of your life won’t actually do the trick. You have to change it up. Crosswords, yes, but also sometimes sodoku and chess and charades. Elasticity of the brain demands new thoughts and attempts at new skills, not just repetition of old ones.

So my decisions about my schedule for the fall have been made, with this in mind.  In addition to the things I have mentioned, I am also going to do a conversational Spanish class that is being held at the church in the half hour before choir practice. Half an hour a week will probably not allow for much progress, especially since I already have a little bit of Spanish. But it might be fun, and I might end up better able to talk with the increasing numbers of Spanish-speaking customers at the store. Spanish would not be my first choice for a language to study, and Chinese would actually be more useful at the store, but the Spanish class, like Everest, Is There.

straight skirt And I am going to improve my dressmaking skills. I would like to take a tailoring class, but there doesn’t seem to be one around, so I am going to do some diligent self-study. The book I have on the subject said to practice the new techniques on a skirt or vest before attempting a jacket, so I let the skirt I made over the weekend be a practice piece for some new techniques.

First, darts. Not that darts are a new technique for me, but this time I endeavored to do them right. I used the correct methods for fitting and marking and sewing them. Over the summer, I actually did three items with darts, and had to do a lot of taking out and redoing each time. This time I was completely successful. This picture is supposed to show one of the nice unobtrusive darts in the skirt, but it may be too unobtrusive. It’s up there at the top. This is Simplicity 4950, by the way, a plain straight skirt with no waistband. Marji has an impressively comprehensive review of this year’s pants and skirts over at her place, if you want to see some more interesting silhouettes.

I also did the hem with a new technique. Having learned about hem tape from a fellow Sew?I Knit member, I moved on to hem facing. A deep hem often has to be eased at the top, which I have never really liked. The facing also has that nice row of motifs at the top, which I found helpful in making a really even hem stitch. I like the lace, myself, being a fan of lace, but you can get this stuff in plain versions as well. hem facing

Then it was time for edge finishes. I was going to use all the different edge finishes on the various edges. Sort of a sampler. I had overcast the edge of the waistband facing, so then I could do a Hong Kong finish on the right side seam and —  I caught myself in time. Thinking like a dressmaker, I overcast all the edges, and was pretty good at it by the time I finished.

I am very happy with this skirt. The next piece for my SWAP is a matching jacket. Considering the construction of the jacket, I recognized that I was going to have to get better with set-in sleeves before I could make one, so I sewed up another SWAP piece I had cut out, a sweater-knit top in a heathered charcoal gray. This was my fifth piece with set-in sleeves this year, and I have to say that I still had difficulty with them, but again — with diligence and the closest thing to precision of which I am capable — I was successful.

Frankly, I have trouble with set-in sleeves when I knit, too. However, in knitting, you can rip back the sleeve cap and make it fit the armscye better, not an option in sewing. Or at least not for me.

The other thing about jackets — besides hems, seam finishes, and set-in sleeves, I mean — is the interfacing. I may make a vest in order to practice that before I actually undertake the jacket. However, fresh from my victory with the tailored skirt, I believe that I will make a jacket in September.

Yesterday was a very relaxing day. In a few minutes here I will head out for the gym, or, given the remarkable loveliness of the morning, a walk in the park. It is possible that when I come home tonight we will have a working refrigerator.