Archer Lime & Gingham


What a glorious Easter Weekend we had in Sydney!

When we weren’t out revelling in the sunshine, I was finishing off a stack of shirts I’ve had piling up in the Sewing Salon.

This is my favourite, a Lime & Gingham Grainline Archer.

It really is a superb pattern – beautifully drafted and the sew-along posts really helped make this shirt my best yet! I had several ‘a-ha’ moments – in particular how to get the collar stand and cuff alignment spot-on. As if by magic! A very good confidence builder! I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but I’ve declared this The Year of Shirts…and I am working on perfecting the art of collars, stands, cuffs etc.

I love the colour blocking potential of this pattern. This lime fabric is a butter-soft cotton lawn . The b+w gingham has a slight amount of stretch to it, so it’s very comfy to wear. Both fabrics are from The Remnant Warehouse in Alexandria.

Here it is un-buttoned at the neck, tucked in:


Love the pleat at the back. I inverted it on this version. A later version has it ’round the other way – both look great. (stay tuned)


Check out the fabulous Archer Flickr board for inspiration.

Cutting Table Cat


Cat aficionados know this look… ears back, pounce position…Queue the Talking Heads soundtrack: “Psycho Kitten…Qu’est-ce que c’est ?”

Your pattern’s shredded in seconds….
That carefully laid out slinky fabric is smooshed right off the cutting table…


Meet Jellybean….one of two new feline family members to join us in the last 6 months.

She’s sweet as a jellybean and hyper as kid who’s eaten a bag of them….

DSC00943 1

You can get away with murder (and pattern shredding and fabric smooshing) with a face like that….

All Signed Up and Ready to Sew! Australian Sewing Guild Convention 2014

Pic of ASG website

Very excited!

I’ve been eyeing the Australian Sewing Guild Convention for several years now, but the timing clashed with work/family commitments. This year, however, I’ve cleared the calendar and I’m set to go!

It helps (me) that it’s in Sydney this year, from 28 Sept to 4 October, 2014. You can attend for the whole week or just for a day (or two). The venue is “Shore”, a private boys school in North Sydney (during the their school holidays).

The Conference Coordinators have created an excellent Conference Brochure - with details about what goes on at Convention, what to take and it’s LOADED with fantastic workshops. There’s something for everyone, from new sewists to couture aficiandos! From sewing a classic shirt, perfecting fit on blouses or pants, getting nice finishes on knit fabrics, making a luscious leather handbag, sewing heirloom clothing on a machine, extreme embellishing with a sewing machine, to textile arts and refashioning those creations or store-bought clothes that never fit quite right!

Made my head spin trying to choose which workshops to take, but in the end, I’ve signed up for Elaine Lye’s “Classic Shirt Workshop“. This is the Year of the Shirt for me…I have lots of design ideas but my construction skills need work. This class teaches professional tricks for collars and stands (which elude me!) cuffs and plackets (also elude me!), pockets and hems.

I want to make this blouse (Vogue 1366) with a neutral linen bodice, black linen collar and spotted chiffon sleeves!!! Love the design lines!
V1366  V1366 - Line drawing

This is also the year I tackle making pants, so I’ve signed up for Louise Sparrow’s “Pants That Fit – Create Your Pattern” workshop. Looking forward to creating a pants block that will save me time and hassle when modifying pants patterns! The pants in that Vogue pattern look rather nice…

Conference registration opened today. You need to get in fast to get a place in the workshops that most appeal.

You also need to be a Guild member to attend the Convention. It costs $55 per year (GST inc) and it’s easy to join.

I’ve been a Guild member for nearly 3 years and in the last year, I’ve been working as a volunteer to raise awareness of the fun, inspiration and significant learning that occurs when sitting around a Guild sewing table with people who ‘get’ the fascination with sewing clothes!  You don’t need to be an expert sewist…though there are fair few of them! The Guild also includes members of all ages…some people think it’s only for those of us who are more ‘mature’ …not so! ASG Groups are like the Sewing Blogger world - all ages, sizes and levels of experience! My Group, the Alexandria Achievers is a hoot! We usually bring our machines and work on whatever we feel like sewing. If I’m feeling a bit blecch after a few wadder episodes (eg: Lettuce Shoulder creations), a visit with my Group fires me up and gets my sewing mojo bobbin along! Click here to find a Group near you. You can attend two meetings with a Group before becoming a member, to see if it’s your cup of tea!

Right…my Convention Registration’s sorted.

See you there?

Back on Target

Shot 3

I’m back on target! And aiming for a lot more time in the sewing room in 2014!!
The renovation dust has settled, we’ve survived the HSC and sojourned to foreign climes (France and Spain)
The sewing accoutrements were packed away for far too long!

I’m off to a rocky start, however. There was an attempt at another Ruffle Shoulder blouse (BurdaStyle 2010-07-121) I’ve come to like the light-blah colour one I made a while back…so thought I’d try a green print one. Ah…no. Looks like lettuce stitched to my shoulders. I still like the pattern, but it’s best in another colour or print.


Then I tried to finish a red print Archer I started last year. I made the one with the gathered rear panel, just for something different. Unfortunately, the panel puffed out like a bubble…not a good look. I unpicked the gathered version (the way it was designed) and tried wider pleats. Mmmm… That didn’t work either. I do, however, like it from the front, so I will definitely try again with the ‘normal’ version.


And I whipped up a Jalie 3024 dress…super easy and fast but I’m not in love with the waist band panel. If I make this again, I’ll blend the top, waist and skirt all into one piece. Also probably better made in a more substantial knit…this ITY version is not forgiving!


All which is leading to why I am posting about the B+W ‘Target’ top I made several years ago. I thought it might be something useful for BurdaStyle sewists* looking for a quick top that’s a little sharper than a T-shirt. It’s a lightening quick make: front, back and neck facing/ sleeve bindings if that’s how you like to finish things (I do). It’s BurdaStyle 2011-04-122. See my Pattern Review post for more details. I have the neck folded down. It’s not too hot, though I wouldn’t wear it on a sticky 30+C day.

*apologies to sewists who don’t subscribe to / have access to BurdaStyle Magazine…I can’t find this pattern for sale on the English-version BurdaStyle website.


Now….back to my sewing room!



Here’s what I’ve been up to!  Sewing and wearing Renfrew’s all winter long. And I’m still not sick of them!

I’ve made them in a variety of fabrics and played with seam allowances to create closer or looser fit, depending on my objectives.

This Grey Spotted version is my favourite – and most worn. It’s deliberately loose and works on its own as well as a pullover with a layer underneath.


Here it is over the Funky Red Floral: (it’s not that transparent in real life…the flash just picks up everything!)


And here’s a red one, sewn with 1/4 seam allowances to create a looser fit, for layering:


This is a gorgeously soft, fine jersey version. Feels fabulous to wear! – on it’s own or under something.


And this one is a heavier, sturdier, poly-knit something-or-other…I like the subtle raised floral pattern and the way the cowl sits up.


You will note that they colour coordinate!!! Yes, I am finally getting better at SWAP (sewing with a plan).
The Grey Spotted, Funky Red Floral and Grey with Black Sleeves will be doing double time on a trip to northern climes later this year. I’ve been given strict instructions to PACK LIGHT this trip…and with these mix and matcher’s (and a few coordinating skirts I’ll post about soon), I’m all set!

Now I’ve…had…the time of my li-i-ife!


Alternate Title: “How I Survived Sewing Satin on a Deadline”

I’ve been humming that song for days!

One Sunday afternoon, not so long ago, just as I was about to start sewing a Grainline Archer shirt, Miss Cherrypix returned from trawling the op-shops of Newtown, dejected that she couldn’t find “a pink dress like the one from Dirty Dancing”. And she needed it by lunchtime Wednesday for a school choir competition.

I don’t know what got into me, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to re-create that dress! So that same afternoon we traipsed up to Jack Textiles* on Marrickville Road and found a lovely crepe-backed satin in just the right colour. We also picked up some matching chiffon, blithely thinking I could make a nice floaty overlay.    (* fabric quality is variable but the prices are always good!)

Fortunately, I pored over all my sewing references, including the Threads Archive, re: tips for cutting, sewing, pressing and hemming silky-type fabrics BEFORE I DID ANYTHING. I quickly decided that sewing chiffon for the first time, on a deadline, was a recipe for disaster…so we dispensed with the overlay and just went with the satin, lined.

And as you can see from the smile in the pic above, everything worked out fine. No mean feat when it comes to mothers sewing clothes for 17 y/o daughters! The shot was taken on the night of the ‘event’ via a smartphone…hence a tad blurry… but I like seeing the dress ‘in action’!

Here’s what I learned from making this dress, using Vogue 8766


1. Creating full pattern pieces to cut on a single layer of fabric allows for more accuracy with aligning fabric grain and maintaining it when cutting – which is essential when cutting circle skirts with a lot of bias to make them twirly!

2. Pulling a thread in the satin to create a cutting line on grain is essential with crepe-backed satin…takes a bit of gentle persuasion and persistence to get the thread pulled all the way across the fabric piece…but once you succeed, it’s much easier to cut a clearly on-grain edge.

3. Pinning slippery fabric (lining in the pic below) on to Burda Grid Paper in a single layer, then using pattern weights to hold the pattern in place, works really well for keeping things on grain when cutting!!

??????????????????????????????? DSC00754

4.  Despite advice to the contrary in Threads that slippery fabrics should only be cut with long shears, I found using a rotary cutter on the bodice pieces worked fine…and didn’t push things off grain, The straight of grain was maintained because I sticky-taped the fabric to my cutting matt grid. I think it works OK for smaller garment pieces. I used shears for cutting the skirt pieces….they were too big to fit on my cutting mat.

5.  Stay-stitching can be done by hand!!!  I always thought stay-stitching had to be done by machine, with a very small stitch length!  Noooooo…Susan Khalje advises that you can stay-stitch by hand. And it worked for me, significantly reducing the amount of ‘thread bulk’ round the seam lines that usually occurs with machine stay-stitching.  SK also mentioned using loose threads pulled from the satin for hand sewing …you get exact colour match! Stay-stitching with threads pulled from the satin meant it was hardly noticeable yet stopped the cut pieces from stretching out of shape.

6. Use very, very fine ‘sharps’ hand needles for stay stitching and good quality glass head pins, to reduce snagging the satin.  You will need a magnifying glass to thread ‘sharps’ hand needles. No matter how good your eyesight is!!! Also use a micro-tech needle in your machine…makes a much cleaner ‘hole’ in the slippery fabrics, which are often densely woven. Use a 2.0 stitch length…and COTTON thread …both help to reduce puckers along the seam line.

7. I ‘pinked’ the seam allowances on both the satin and the lining to reduce thread bulk. Makes for a floatier skirt!  Since the dress is lined, you can’t see the pinking anyway, except at the lining hem. We decided to make it a ‘feature’. It looks kind of lacy, peeking out from under the skirt.  You cannot leave satin or lining seam allowances unfinished…they unravel horribly!

8.  Interface the seam allowance next to the zipper with sewn-in silk organza….iron-on interfacing on satin is a just asking for one hot mess!!  (fortunately, I kind of instinctively knew this)

9. Sometimes a machine sewn zipper is better than a handpicked one. I thought for sure a handpicked zipper would be best on this, but it looked very bumpy…so I used my trusty invisible zipper foot to install the zipper…much smoother!!!

10. A Circle skirt should hang for 48 hrs before hemming. Yes, well, not when you are on a deadline and the dress absolutely, positively has to be there (at the school, for the show).  Both the skirt and the lining hung for approx. 24 hrs.  So far, there’s no sign of a droopy hemline.

11. When Susan Khalje, Kenneth King etc say circle skirt hems are best sewn with narrow baby hems… they mean eency-weency hem folds! After creating a few very unseemly hem wobbles (fortunately unpicking was on a side seam, which is hidden in the ‘hang’ of the skirt.) Eventually I turned the edge over just a smidgeon (1/8 – 1/4 inch) and held the fabric in place by sewing with an edge foot. A marvellous little foot !!! Makes such a straight, neat line of stitching RIGHT on the edge of a piece of fabric or garment. There are numerous online resources on how to sew this kind of hem – Allison, from Allison C’s Sewing Gallery has a good tutorial. A word of warning….you have to sew around the dress THREE times for this type of hem finish. It feels like you are just sewing on…and on….and on… and…you could be gone for days!

Narrow Baby Hem and Pinked seam finishes

12. I bound the armholes with self-bias strips, then hand stitched the binding to the lining…this took several attempts because I kept catching the satin…which, as with the hand-picked zipper attempt, looked very bumpy and tacky! Worth the effort, in the end, to get a smooth arm hole edge.

Arm scye binding

Here is Ms Mittens Cherrypix having the time of her life on the dress…She’ll be within an inch of her life if she snags it…


I leave you now with something to really embed the Dirty Dancing song in your head! Geez I love watching a man who can dance like this!

Lobbing a Liebster and Other Award Thank-You’s

I’ve been very encouraged by:

all of whom sent me blogger awards in the last few months. Thank you!!

I think it’s fun to learn a bit about the person behind a sewing blog, so, in the spirit of sewing blog sharing, here’s a bit more about me, in answer to Trice’s Liebster questions:

1. What is your favorite part about blogging?
Interaction with fellow sewing nuts enthusiasts! I enjoy giving and getting encouragement via comments and ‘likes’.

2. What is your favorite type of food?
Anything cooked by someone else! I can cook reasonably well but it’s not a passion like sewing is! Fortunately, Mr CherryPix has developed a talent for slow cooking…so we are frequently spoiled with a house filled with amazing aromas of wonderful roasts/curries/stews/soups. Yes, I know how lucky I am!

3. What was the most embarrassing outfit or item of clothing/accessory you have worn in your life?
Grey Qantas Club jammies…I always seem to be wearing them when someone drops in unexpectedly.   I am frequently embarassed ;-) but pleased to see friends whenever!  (the joys of working from home!)

4. What song do you currently have on repeat?
I am finding it difficult to answer this…for fear of being judged as the complete dag Miss CherryPix (17 y/o) tells me I am re: my taste in music!! I don’t listen to music that much, except when I’m running. I’m more of a Radio National / podcast / audiobook listener.  I do love to go see live music and am really enjoying the renaissance of smaller venues like The Vanguard and the Camelot Lounge where you can get within 2 metres of the performers rather than watching them from peanut heaven on huge video screens! The last gig we went to see was Elvis Costello’s Spectacular Spinning Song Book tour at the State Theatre in January – it was, indeed, spectacular!

5. I scream, you scream, we all scream for _____?
Definitely ice cream…however, I cannot have it in the house…if it somehow sneaks in, the whole tub must be consumed. All at once.  I get regular (and better portion controlled) ‘fixes’ out and about, especially at La Dolce Vita Gelatisserie on King St, Newtown. Favourite flavour: Chilli Chocolate!

6. What is your 9-5 job?
I’m self employed. Have been, on and off, since 1990. I currently have two businesses, one is a national practitioner network for treatment/assessment of work-related injuries/illnesses. The other is a workers comp consulting practice. I work from home…my sewing room is also my office (note the priority order…) Ahem. But seriously, I really enjoy the flexibility of working/sewing/ being around when Miss CherryPix gets home from school. Our head office is in Melbourne, so I go down there for an office ‘fix’.

7. If you could go back to any time in history when would that be and why?
Somewhere between the 1850s and early 1900s, in both Britain and the US.  I have family pictures, letters and memorabilia as well as family tree info from ancestors in this period and I’d really like know what life was like for them. I wonder what they did day to day, what inspired them…etc.

8.Who is your favorite blogger?
Too many to list! I am always interested in reading blogs about things made from BurdaStyle magazine.
Here are a few new-ish bloggers I am keen to see more of:

Silk, Lace & Steel

Just look at this luscious Raspberry Dress she made!! (and photostyled beautifully!)

Thread Theory

After my recent foray into sewing a Negroni shirt for Mr CherryPix, I was excited to discover Thread Theory, a new men’s pattern maker. I really like her latest, the Newcastle Cardigan…but am having difficulty convincing Mr CherryPix…I think I  might make up a version….and if it doesn’t ‘work’ for him, it will look great on another style-meister friend of ours. Thread Theory also has some nice photoshoots – and recently posted some helpful tips how to teach yourself fashion photography.

Beacon Hill Shoot-7


Anyone who can find a cat costume like this …and get her cat to wear it….has my attention!! Gjeometry also sews some great things!

Kitty Accepting His Award Wardrobe Change 3

9. Do you have any goals for 2013?
My running buddies and I are signed up for a number of fun runs around Sydney this year. Next up is a Half Marathon Relay in May; a much more civilised way to ‘run’ a half marathon!! We run in two-person teams; one person runs 7 km, the other runs 14 km, to make up the 21 km Half Marathon distance. I’m running the 14 km leg, in preparation for the City to Surf in August (Sydney CBD to Bondi Beach) which is also 14 km. My favourite is the Bridge Run  (9 km) in September – nothing like running down the middle of the Sydney Harbour Bridge on a gorgeous spring morning! The only niggle is that my achilles are sore at the moment…hmmmm…

10. What hobby takes up most of your attention?
You need to ask??

11. What is your favorite book that you can read over and over again?
I listen to books more than read them. Interestingly, I can listen to an audiobook multiple times, but tend to read a book only once. My all-time favourite audiobooks are the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, narrated by Davina Porter. I’ve never heard a narrator who can create so many different voices, male and female, in so many different accents. Her Scottish accent is outstanding! I’ve been ‘in love’ with Jamie Fraser ever since I first heard ‘his’ voice!  PS: 10,506 reviewers on Audible agree with me….

So…there you have it – all the pips on CherryPix.

I am not going to play strictly by Award Rules….see here for more things about me

Here are 11 Leibster questions for the 11 bloggers mentioned below, if you care to answer. I realise these award things are not everyone’s cup of tea…so, please don’t feel compelled to reply. Just know that I enjoy reading your blog and am interested in you!

  1. Do you mainly wear colours that look great on you or colours that you love? (or are they the same?)
  2. Which pattern have you made the most times?
  3. What is your number-one favourite sewing gadget?
  4. What did you think you were going to work as, when you left school?
  5. Which are you more into: Pattern Review or BurdaStyle Website?
  6. What’s your ideal evening out?
  7. Which sewing reference book do you use most often?
  8. Are you a pattern tracer or a pattern cutter (ie: just cut the pattern pieces you need straight from the tissue) ?
  9. What’s at the top of your reading pile?
  10. Public speaking or public singing (solo) – which scares you the most?
  11. Which of your own sewing creations are you most pleased with? (include a pic or link, if possible)

Renfrew Scooby Doo

Renfrew Scooby Doo 1scooby-velma

Miss CherryPix had fun transforming herself into Velma from Scooby Doo for her Year 12 Mufti* Day, themed ‘Favourite Childhood Characters’. I think she pulled it off well…complete with bright orange Renfrew, whipped up the night before by moi…I’m so pleased I was able to help out with this!!

Renfrew to the Rescue!

* Not sure where the term ‘mufti’ comes from, but ’round here it means wearing something other than your school uniform to school!

Thoughts on the Renfrew’s popularity

Renfrew Green - CropRenfrew  - Stripey - 1Renfrew - Paisley - 2Rendfrew Mondrian Crop

The lovely Marjtrundle recently asked:

“Why is the Renfrew so much better than other t-shirt patterns? ….. I see nothing but very happy sewers on all blogs showing their latest Renfrew t-shirt.”

I pondered doing something scientific like running a blog meta-analysis on the Renfrew’s popularity but I’ve got traces to make and things to sew! I also know there are many other great patterns for t shirts. So, my hyperbole about the Renfrew being the “new classic T” is highly challengeable! Nonetheless, it definitely has been a big hit …here are my thoughts on why:

The first few relate to style and construction:

- Loose-but-still-shaped style - It fits at the shoulders, skims over the stomach and sits nicely on the hips. Seems to fit many body types well, despite being designed for pear shaped figures.

- Great confidence booster for first-time knit sewers – due to the hem and sleeves being finished with bands – so much easier to achieve a nice finish than fiddling with steam-a-seam, twin needles and adjusting tension.

- Easy to construct -  on a sewing machine or serger, instructions are clear and straightforward

You may be thinking “but I can create those things with any T shirt pattern!’ Yes, you can (with a bit of fiddling). So, what I really think it comes down to is clever marketing and great timing – ie:

- Significant exposure - the blogosphere and sites like Pattern Review and BurdaStyle are blooming with Renfrews…all of which look great, on all shapes and sizes! This means the Renfrew is often ‘front of mind’ when someone thinks about a t shirt pattern. Update thanks to Alison: The Renfrew has been voted Pattern Review’s No. 1 Best Pattern of 2012

- Memorable Name - Tasia and many other independent pattern makers make use of great memorable names. In Tasia’s case, she’s using local street names. I think it’s easier to remember and talk about a ‘Renfrew’ top than a G8562* And my grandparents lived in Renfrew, PA, so this pattern’s name has a special memory for me!

- Independent pattern company - there seems to be a growing demographic which loves/supports independent pattern makers. Hence, they tend to choose this t shirt pattern over one from the Big 4.

I may be over-thinking this ;-)

What do you think makes this pattern (or any pattern) popular?

Note: I have not been reimbursed in any way for these comments, I just geniunely like the Renfrew pattern.

*a made-up pattern number for the purposes of illustration

Negroni in Teal

Teal Negroni - Chessie 2

And next we have the lovely Mr Cherrypix modelling his latest Negroni in Teal, accessorised with complementary orange cat.

Mr Cherrypix has wonderfully long arms (and gives the best hugs)…but shirts with sleeves long enough for him are often waaaay too wide in the body. So, I decided to try to make him some casual shirts, with added sleeve length.

Enter the Negroni Shirt pattern by Colette. What a great first-time mens’ shirt pattern! It’s wonderfully drafted and the detailed instruction book made my first foray into collars, cuffs, yolk, flat felling (and more) a real pleasure. The fit is more European (narrower) through the body, yet still wide across the shoulders. All I needed to do was increase the sleeve and cuffs length slightly.

I’m learning to ‘blend’ interfacing types, in different areas. Both collar and cuffs have medium-weight sew-in interfacing. I am fast becoming a fan of sew-in interfacing, rather than fusible. It just feels better, to my way of thinking. [Mind you, I used a glue stick to baste the collar/cuff fabric and interfacing together!] I did use fusible interfacing for the front placket – it’s not as stiff as the collar/cuffs interfacing, which makes for a softer body section.

I love the edgestitching…made possible thanks to my most favourite of sewing feet, the Ditch Quilting Foot S (this is the one for Janome top-loading machines, other brands have similar feet). You can move the needle super close to the edge and maintain an even distance by running the ‘rudder’ along the fabric edge. It’s great for topstitching too!

Negroni Teal - Collar Detail

Negroni Teal - Cuff Detail

The plackets were easier to make than expected. You just need to be very precise with folding and stitching. I drew lines with a fading ink marker, which made it a lot simpler.

I also learned the ”burrito” yoke method which very neatly encloses all unfinished edges inside the yoke. A mind-bender at first, but if you just ‘go with it”, it works beautifully. Colette’s clear instructions are particularly good on this step.


And I had some more practice with flat felled seams. Still need to work on these. It’s a challenge to maintain an even width between the seams.  They also seem to pucker, no matter what you do to press them…due to the fact that you are enclosing a larger area in a smaller one. This puckering seems to occur on RTW shirts too, so perhaps that’s just the way it goes?? I’d love any tips/suggestions on how to reduce the puckers, if it’s possible!?

The fabric is a lovely crisp 100% cotton from Spotlight. I love the colour on Mr Cherrypix…as well as the fit. A shirt that he can comfortably wear cuffed! (Mind you, he still tends to roll the sleeves up, which looks great too).

There will be more of these hanging in Mr C’s wardrobe!

Renfrew Mondrian et. al.

The Sewaholic Renfrew top has become an instant classic!

Nice work, Tasia!

It’s been reviewed/posted about widely….so I won’t go into a lot of detail other than to show you several more iterations.

I present: Renfrew Mondrian:

Renfrew Mondrian 5

Renfrew Mondrian 3

And Renfrew Green…or better known as “Australian Sewing Guild Green” (a lot of ASG-ers fell hard for this fabric!)

(see also Holy Batwings Dress)

Renfrew - Green - 1

Does anyone else get ‘the silly’s’ when taking remote pics of themselves??

Renfrew - Green - 4

Both the Mondrian and the Green fabric are from Spotlight.

I’ve been wearing these tops to death!

(and I wore my Winter versions to death in that season too)

If you haven’t yet invested in a Renfrew pattern…do so, NOW!

A Graphic Wrap Dress

McCalls5974 - A

Yes, it’s another black + white item.

I had my colours ‘done’ several times (I’m a Light Warm, Light Summer or just Summer, depending on the ‘system’ applied)….but keep I gravitating to black and white combinations, especially bold prints.

Goodbye Valentino’s sharp looking b+w wrap dress inspired this creation. I ordered the pattern she used (New Look 6097) but it took a while to arrive and I was itching to use this fabric from Spotlight! Numerous Australian bloggers have commented that Spotlight have lifted their game…and I have to agree, at least as far at the Rockdale (Sydney) store is concerned.

This is The Perfect Knit Dress from McCall’s Palmer/Pletsch Classic Fit (M5974)

My favourite aspect is the double wrapped ties. They accentuate (what’s left of) a waist but also hide the aspects that have gone to waste…

Tweaks I made:
- added an  inch to the bodice length .. . a cheat FBA…   (Note to self: remember to add an inch to back pattern piece to avoid having to shorten front skirt more than you want to!)
- narrowed the sleeves considerably from elbow to wrist. I don’t know what the intended look was, but the original pattern has a LOT of ease in the sleeve from the elbow down.

That’s about it! It fits very well on the shoulders. A-mazing! And it doesn’t gape. Even more A-mazing.

McCalls 5974 - C

McCalls 5974 - B

I made this just before we slipped into ‘Oven-Roaster’ weather, so have only worn it once…but come the cooler weather, I envisage this dress being worn a LOT.
It’ll work fine on it’s own for work in the late summer/early autumn…and by then, I expect to have at least one, perhaps two jackets to wear over it (Sewaholics’s Cordova  -Version B and Vogue 8627 – Version A)

Best I get on with those!

Black Blouse & Blooms

BurdaStyle 2011-09-128 - 10

This blouse is BurdaStyle 2011-09-128, in a cool black cotton voile from The Remnant Warehouse. It was an instant favourite when the issue first came out and I initially made it in a luscious white cotton voile (see review here) but it always looked better on Dolly …mainly due to the shoulders being too big.


With FBA knowledge, I made it two sizes smaller… the shoulders fit soooo much better! Interestingly, there was still a LOT of room in this blouse, so I nipped in the back with a wide pleat, running from mid back to below the waist. The problem is that the pleat gets rather crumpled by the end of the day…the sides of the pleat are even – but these pics show me I need to be more careful to avoid mooshing it with the belt!

BurdaStyle 2011-09-128 - 12

I added tiny little buttons, which I think look more RTW? They’re from the wonderful All Buttons Great and Small, in Newtown, Sydney.

BurdaStyle 2011-09-128 - 11

The skirt is Butterick 5466, one of seven versions from my ‘skirt-a-palooza’* affair with this pattern! I still wear every one of them, regularly! A great confidence booster of a pattern for first-time or ‘returning’ sewists! The fabric was from Spotlight’s quilting cotton section!!!? ie not the real-deal-Marimekko. I wouldn’t have been mucking around with the real deal in those early days! I have been known to drool on the front window of the gorgeous Marimekko store in Sydney. It was also made before I knew how to print match…ah well…I still love it.

In conclusion: a summer basic which goes with all those Butterick 5466′s!!

*The lovely ArtAttack coined this perfect description!

Award Inspiring

A week or so ago the lovely Kat aka The Couture Academic nominated me for the Very Inspiring Blogger/One Lovely Blog award! I was thrilled!
Inspiration is the raison d’etre of this blog!!

I get so much inspiration from Kat’s bold adventures…from couture dresses to lingerie. She just jumps in and gives it a go! And writes great details about what worked as well as what didn’t, which is just as interesting…if not more so!! Thanks for all the time and thought you put into to documenting your adventures, Kat!

Here are the rules of this lovely award:

1. Thank the person who nominated you
2. Add The One Lovely Blog Award / The Very Inspiring Blogger Award to your post.
3. Share 7 things about yourself.
4. Pass the award on to 10 nominees.
5. Include this set of rules.
6. Inform your nominees by posting a comment on their blogs.

Seven Things About Me: (in no particular order)


  • I’m a sucker for black and white fabric…I think it looks sharp on just about everyone.
  • I adore ‘Bonnet’ movies/series…Pride and Prejudice, Cranford, Wives and Daughters, The Forsyte Saga (ok, that one’s more of a bustle series). Really looking forward to the release of the movie version of Les Miserables.
  •                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I am a dyed-in-the-fur cat person. I have two. Chesapeake, my ginger tom is 20 years old! He’s a bit wobbly on his paws but seems to be the happiest he’s ever been. Purrs up a storm and still tells time very well; lets us know precisely when it’s five o’clock…both am and pm! Ms Mittens is the softest calico kitty with a sweet nature to match. She could also be mistaken for a wombat. The vet warned us she would be prone to overconsumption. (Like her cat-mother…)
  • I am a runner…albeit a slow one….have been running for 5+ years but had some time-outs due to wicked bouts of plantar fasciitis and achilles tendonitis. Things improved when I discovered I could run in MBT shoes (ones with the rocker soles). V. disappointed when MBT declared bankruptcy earlier this year. However, just last night I discovered something that might be even better: a new rocker sole running shoe, Hoka One One (pron: Hoe-kah Oh-knee Oh-knee). Hopefully I won’t be crying ”oh knee, oh knee!” after running in them! Stay tuned.

25/1/2013 Update: Sorry to report the Hoka One One shoes didn’t help – they have too much of a heel, which pushes me on to my forefoot…OWWWWWW (bunion)…I eventually just bit the bullet and got used to the more rigid new MBTs (Mahuta) and after a few weeks of feeling like I’d been run over by a bus, my muscles/bones seem to have realised that the cushy ride is no longer available…and they’ve adapted! I’ve also been doing a lot more cross-training (a variety of Jillian Michaels DVDs  – (kickboxing is my current  fave)  – which has helped a lot, I think…

22/7/2013 Another Update: Guess what? Those Hoka One One’s have become my Favourite Running Shoes! No forefoot/bunion pain from them now!? After 6 months of running in the MBT Mahuta’s (which aren’t designed for running), I began to develop major inwards ankle rolling. The base on the Mahuta’s really isn’t wide enough for running…and as I tried to increase distance for the longer runs I have coming up, I just seemed to roll further and further inwards…which resulted in chronic calf/quad/ITB niggles. The good thing about the Mahuta’s was that I was able to get back to running on a ‘harder’ sole….SO…when I recently dug out the Hoka’s, with their much wider base and better ankle roll prevention …and relatively cushy padding…the ankle rolling was much reduced! And [gasp] I put those rock hard fibre glass orthotics into the Hoka’s too (I was really concerned re chronic rolling)….so far, so good!! Yes, I can feel some plantar fascia strain from the orthotics but have since discovered  I can significantly offset this with HEAPS of stretching….Right. Now to get into to some good ( ‘relatively’ pain free :-) training runs!

  • My entire career has been in the workers compensation industry; mainly various aspects of work-related injury management and rehabilitation. Wasn’t planned that way…just sort of evolved. It’s been interesting. I’ve worked  in Australia and the USA.
  • I was a ‘North Shore’ Girl (Sydney) until 10 years ago when my dear husband convinced me to move to ‘the other side’ (of the Sydney Harbour Bridge). Now I am an inveterate Inner Westie and can’t remember what I was fussed about! Love the constant creative energy of this area! Also love being able to walk down to the corner cafe for fabulous coffee…and up to King St, Newtown to feast on food on from just about any country you can think of !! The shopping’s pretty eclectic too.
  • I read mainly non-fiction. Particularly like psycho-economic-scientific (?) books like The Tipping Point, Freaknomics and Buy-ology. We’ve instituted a ‘Book Club’ at work where we discuss a chapter from one of these types of books each week…great for getting us to think beyond the day-to-day routine and interesting to learn more about each other.

Inspiration Sources: The following list includes 10 blogs/people that have particularly inspired me re: sewing

  • Sewing Buddies from the ASG Alexandria Achievers – in particular, Sharon from Petite and Sewing, Alison from Sewing with Cats and Maria (aka Velosewer) from How Good Is That?. Thanks for your encouragement, generous teaching and sharing of knowledge, especially re: fit! I never knew I had ‘sticky-outy’ shoulder blades! Thanks Alison ;-) . Thanks also to Renata, who doesn’t have a blog but who gently and persistently encouraged posts with pictures of me wearing my creations, rather than just ‘Dolly’.
  • Goodbye Valentino - I wish Sarah would buy double amounts of the fabrics she chooses and send half to me! I particularly love her black and white creations, here and here.
  • Scruffy Badger Time -  While I love reading about Winnie’s sewing creations, lately I’ve been equally inspired to follow in her (running) foot-steps and get serious about improving my running. Particularly liked her post about being a Running Tourist - made me think about taking time to enjoy the view as well as the run, in my ‘own backyard’ (which is pretty spectacular, as backyards go!) She also never fails to crack me up with her hilarious photoshoots.
  • ArtAttack - Dorcas’ enthusiasm is infectious! We first ‘met’ while rhapsodizing over the joys of a perfect pencil skirt in wonderful bold prints – which she chronicled in her post: Skirt-a-Palooza! She can also wear orange better than anyone I know!
  • BurdaStylers - these people inspire me with their wonderful creations from BurdaStyle magazine, my favourite pattern source: SewingElle from He Cooks, She Sews (I want her wardrobe); Catherine from CatherineDaze (want her wardrobe too, especially the coat she’s making at the moment!) ; Tia Dia from MezzoCouture (want her to help me find and sew the luscious fabrics she works with) and Janene from Ooobop (particularly like Janene’s monthly reviews of BurdaStyle!)

”Thank You” for your inspiring posts/help/laughs!

And “Thank You” to all readers and commenters on my blog – you inspire me to keep sewing better!!

Holy Batwings!

Batwings 1Batwings 2

Batwings 3

This dress was one of those ‘just let rip and see what happens’ creations. I need to take that approach more often…

It’s Burda 7625

The ‘just let it rip’ part of this make was that I used Size 20 shoulders/bodice length as an FBA and scaled the under arm section back down to a 12 skirt. And it worked!! I have enough coverage in front and the waist/hips fit fine! The top is a stretch knit and the skirt is a firmer ponte – holds everything in nicely!!

.Other things I did:
- Left off the little front bar that holds the bodice together….just whip stitched the fronts to a height I was comfy with
- Left out the zipper …no need with stretch knits!
- Made the darts a little longer….need some more practice with making darts on ponte…
- Self bound the wrist edges. This was made before I discovered Steam a Seam…though I still really like the bound edge…looks ‘finished’.
- (For now) I’ve left the skirt unfinished….the ponte is a bit bullky when turned up…

Batwings 5

I’ve worn this on several occasions, including a a night out dancing and it was great for that!
This pattern will definitely feature again…for a work-dress with grey ponte picked up at Tessuti’s during the Sydney Sewing Blogger meet up.

Conclusion: A comfortable dressy dress! Particularly good for those nights when you’re running late …just pull on and fly!

Batwings 4


BurdaAddicts Access

I mentioned the BurdaAddicts site in my last post and included a link, but seems a number of people had trouble accessing and navigating the site.

Sorry to get you all excited and then send you to a dud link!!

It seems they’ve had trouble with their Canalblog site and are moving to WordPress.

This only happened recently.  They’ve kept the same idea of grouping posts by issue as well as by garment type.

Each  BurdaStyle Magazine issue has a specific link.  On the WordPress site, the links are on the right side of the site, in green text, listed in date format: eg:

01-Janvier 12  (1)
03 -Mars 12 (4)

You need to scroll down the site to access the most recent magazine links.
The numbers in parentheses refer to the number of posts of items made from the issue.

Hopefully this link will take you to the WordPress blog’s five posts (so far) of items made from Sept 2012 BurdaStyle.

This ain’t no Pattern Review, where you type in a pattern number and instantly access reviews of that pattern. But scrolling through posts of items made from a particular issue means you may see something made up in a way that never occured to you. That’s how I came across the Cool Cowl Dress pattern. It certainly didn’t grab me when I looked through the magazine.

I can still access the Canalblog site , which has a much larger archive. They note that they are no longer accepting posts at the Canalblog site, but the wonderful archive is still accessible.  The issue links are on the left side of the site, in black text. This link hopefully takes you to posts of items from Aug 2011 BurdaStyle.

Hope this helps!

If any other BurdaAddicts fans know of any other tips to access/navigate the site, please advise!

PS – I don’t have any affiliation with BurdaAddicts - I just find it site the best site for viewing items made from BurdaStyle magazine :-)

A Cool Cowl Dress

If you’re looking for a cool summer dress, to dress up or down, check out BurdaStyle Aug 2011 #116, aka The Cool Cowl Dress.

Similar to Catherine Daze‘s recent post, this pattern was a bit of a ‘sleeper’ for me…and one I am glad I woke up to! I was inspired by several versions on BurdaAddicts, especially this Halloween Orange version, made as a top:


If you are a fan of BurdaStyle Magazine, check out the BurdaAddicts site. Various pattern renditions are posted by magazine issue as well as by garment type. I particularly enjoy scrolling through by issue. It’s a French site, but not that hard to comprehend if you are not a French speaker (I am not). I use Google Translate when in doubt. They recently also set up sites for SimplicityAddicts and BMVAddicts.

Back to the dress…it’s similar to the wonderful Vogue 1250, which I’ve also made, but this one is much looser…not so much ‘stomach-sucking-in’ required! (at least for me!)


  • There are only two pieces, front and back (I didn’t add the pockets). The cowl takes up a bit of fabric but not too much. Both pieces fit well within 2m of wide fabric.


  • Both are slinky knits. I have yet to see the term ‘ITY‘ (Interlock Twist Yarn) on a sales docket, but I think that’s what they are. Both fabrics are from Spotlight. The B+W polka dot is a little ‘rougher’ to touch than the floral fabric.
  • I recently discovered the benefits of an FBA but did not need to add one with this very roomy pattern.
  • I definitely need a belt, it’s quite sack-like otherwise (mind you, it’s great for feasting, without the belt… ;-)
  • The sleeves have a self-binding. I also self-bound the hems on both dresses. The floral one looks ok but the polka dot hem looks skewiff…apparently it ‘doesn’t look that bad’ according to my family, but it bugs me….and having recently discovered the charms of ‘Steam-a-Steam’, I’m going to remove the polka-dot hem binding and apply SAS.
  • I used stay tape in the shoulders to keep their shape. The back shoulder has slight gathers. which adds a bit of interest.
  • Be careful  to stitch only up to marked locations on the neck seams. I got a little giddy with success and whipped up a third version in a bright mondrian print and ruined it by sewing the shoulder/cowl too far into the neck and it bunches up unattractively around my neck ! No, I’m not posting a picture of that.
  • I’m going to add 4cm to the length the next time I make this; it’s just a little on the short side when belted.

Such a quick and easy dress – to make and to wear!

Ruffled Shoulders Blouse

Nothing to get ruffled about with this sweet blouse.

It’s from BurdaStyle July 2010, #121.

He Cooks, She Sew’s fabulous red version got me fired up to make this….but first I had to hunt down the July 2010 issue, which I did via eeee-baaaay.

I made a few changes:

  • Eliminated the bust line seam by taping the upper and lower front sections together before cutting out. It just seemed superfluous.
  • FBA (note to self: make it slightly bigger next time). I’m really pleased with how much better the shoulders/back fit now that I have figured out how to add an FBA.
  • Pleated the sleeve rather than gathering it into sleeve band.  Gathering made my sleeves a bit too puffy. The pleats tuck in neatly behind either side of the ruffles.
  • Taking heed of He Cooks, She Sews’s Pattern Review comments, I cut the ruffles on the bias and sewed them onto the blouse ‘unfinished’ rather than narrow hemmed. This makes the ruffles softer and fluffier.

  • Inserted ‘snap’ tape rather than buttons. The jury is still out on this…I’ve hand tacked the tape to the front plackets…unfortunately when I move, the black tape shows and rather distracts….I may revert to the tiny buttons I originally had in mind. Nonetheless, I like the security of the snaps. They hold tight. A sewing buddy, Jenny, from my ASG Sewing Group (The Alexandria Achievers) applied this tape on a similar shaped blouse and it looked great.

Ruffle Shoulder Blouse 3

The fabric is a cotton voile from Spotlight. It’s heavenly to sew!

I like this one! It’s simple but the shoulder ruffles make it just that little bit edgier…

Originally posted on The magical effects of thinking:

With ads like this I’m surprised there wasn’t a mad rush to the local sewing machine shop.    I just read up on the madness/genius of Stan Freberg from the wonderful blog The Automat.    If you are interested in zany advertising campaigns check a few out  here.    Sure to elicit a giggle or two.  The announcer in the Singer ads is Walter O’ Keefe, and his fast talking and irreverent humor  reminded me of Freberg.   Is the 21st century ready for ads like this?  

And here is one more.

View original

Yellow’s Not Mellow (on me)

I have an unrequited love of yellow.

And I keep trying to make it love me….

(sounds like the start of an angsty sequel to “Bridget Jones’ Diary”, eh?)

Similar to ArtAttack’s quest for a set of great TNT tee tops, I am on a quest for a set of TNT woven summer tops. Kbenco’s gorgeous version of this blouse for her daughter’s work experience week had me flicking through my BurdaStyle stash to hunt the pattern down (it’s Blouse 118A  from the Oct 2010 issue) (you can also download it)


So…I found this lovely yellow cotton voile at Spotlight, traced the pattern and began my quest!

I put a few read-but-never-tried techniques into practice too…my first ever FBA (full bust adjustment), properly set in sleeves and I finally nailed fine rolled hems! All worked!

The most useful FBA resource was an online course I took a year ago via Pattern Review – run by Sarah Veblen. Her notes and technical details for a wide variety of FBA (and SBA) techniques are great! I applied a standard FBA to a size 40 blouse and finally got the fit right on shoulders, back and chest!! I know this by virtue of the toile I made before this yellow blouse…it’s perfect. However, I got a bit too excited to finish this yellow one and mistakenly sewed the sleeves in with french seams on the seam line …which made the shoulders a tad too tight….aaaagh…

So, you are not getting a picture of me in it…not only does the colour completely wash me out, the pull lines on the shoulders/neck are depressing. It’s probably going to go live with a lovely dark brunette friend of mine!


If you have the Threads Archive DVD (and I strongly suggest you get it, if you don’t), there’s an excellent article titled “Basics – Setting in a Perfect Sleeve”- on page 20 of the July 2003 issue (#107). It shows how to ease with pins, baste on the seam line, then sew the seam, with body of the blouse against the feed-dogs…no puckers or anything!!! A-mazing!

And for fine rolled hem techniques with Janome machines, I followed the excellent video that came with my FootBook App. You can see my handiwork on the scarf hem and sleeve hem. I think this my new ‘favourite’ foot.

So, while this version didn’t work for me, I think it’s a great little number…one quest success down!!

I have also stuck this on my inspiration board:

or any specific color really.

(for more crack-up sewing memes, check out Fyeah Seamstress Tiger….just hilarious!!!!!!)

The Parka Carked It

I present this as a cautionary tale.

“A perfect spring jacket!” I thought, when I spied Parka #129 in BurdaStyle’s Sept 2012 issue.

Looked great on the page.

And I learned from my Minoru jacket, that gathered waist jackets can look OK on me.

Yes, well…not always….

I suspected this was a tad I went down a size (40)…it’s still HUGE! Everything about it is HUGE…the pockets, the hood, the sleeves, the body… I think you need to be at least 6ft tall and no more than 115lbs to carry this off…(mind you, it might carry you off, if a gust of wind catches that hood!)

There must be some serious styling going on in that magazine picture…I suspect the model is wearing a 36, with the belt pulled as tightly as possible, and it’s double wrapped around her body!

Ah, well, I got some good practice with thread tracing, flat-felled seams, edge-stitching, top stitching and deciphering BurdaStyle instructions.

Note to Self: Stick with more stream-lined spring coats…they’ve always suited you best…

(Sewing) Feets don’t fail me now!

A number of ‘feet’ came with my sewing machine (Janome 6260QC) but I really didn’t know what they were for or how to use them… so I went looking for information. Some of what I found is specific to Janome but hopefully users of other brands will pick up something useful.

Janome’s US website has a great range of video tutorials on how to use various feet - they are short and easy to view (you’ll need to disable your pop-up blocker – the videos pop up in a new window).

I also invested in a Kindle version of ‘The Sewing Machine Attachment Handbook’ by Charlene Phillips

which is great for pictorial explanation. I particularly like viewing this type of book via my iPad because I can zoom in on the pictures and really ‘see’ what the foot looks like. The book is very comprehensive, covering the history of attachments (which is quite fascinating…really!), determining your shank type (the shank is the ‘leg’ that feet are attached to – shanks are typically either high or low), how to clamp attachments to your machine and finally, how to use your attachments. I had a number of ‘aha’ moments reading through this book.

But the best ‘footwear’ resource I’ve found, to date, is an iPad App called ‘FootBook’,


created by the owners of Online Sewing. I don’t have any connection to them but I do like this app! (it’s also available in DVD format). It’s specifically targeted at Janome users and is similar to the Janome video tutorials but provides more information and allows users to highlight the feet that they have as well as create a ‘wishlist’ of feet.


Below is a list of the feet that I have. This makes it easy to quickly check how to use my ‘feet’ without having to wade through the entire catalogue. I’ve also created a ‘wishlist’, printed it and casually pinned it to the kitchen noteboard… in case anyone is looking …


For each foot, the app provides, on one easy-to-read page:

  • an overview of how the foot fits on various machines (high or low shank, mechanical or computerised)
  • description of the foot’s intended use
  • how to use the foot
  • additional uses - this section is the most valuable to me – I knew that feet could be used in many ways, but needed some hints. The screen shot below describes how to use the cording foot for gathering…never would’ve crossed my mind to use it this way!


In addition to the text, they provide a link to a video of each foot in action. The videos are clear, well-presented and easy to apply, with the iPad set up next to my machine. The video on how to use the rolled hem foot significantly saved my sanity! I also learned of another, more effective way to insert invisible zippers. Bonus!

So, I feel like I’m getting better on my ‘feet’….

Are there any ‘feet’ resources that you recommend?

PS. After I initially posted this, I got curious about where the phrase “feets, don’t fail me now” came from…we say it as we fly out the door when late for something. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say: Origin: Catch-phrase that possibly originated during the vaudeville and chitlin’ circuit days. Spoken by several Afro-American actors in motion pictures of the 1920s to 1940s, usually when scared by a ghost or such (whereupon the character scooted). Delivered by actor Willie Best (1913–1962) in the 1940 Bob Hope film “The Ghost Breakers”[citation needed]; delivered by actor Stepin Fetchit (1902–1985) in several films[citation needed]; often attributed to actor Mantan Moreland (1902–1973).[citation needed]

The first time I got a buzz out of wearing something me-made

OzViking (Lene) got me reminiscing about the first piece of clothing I ever sewed…and I just happen to have a picture of me wearing it….


(I got to pick that wall-paper for my bedroom…I loved it! (still rather like it). And how about that psychodelic orange spirograph? The cat poster? I’ve been a cat-lover since I took first breath. And that wig??? No idea why I am wearing it. It was made by my mother for a Raggedy Anne costume I wore to a Halloween Party. Finally, who remembers those tube bracelets with fluorescent paint or bright dye floating in them…the wrist-wear de jour!)

I thought I was just the bees-knees in this red+white polka dot halter top…complete with chubby mid-riff (my first ’round of that fashion cycle; there was a second in the 90s…definitely won’t be partaking when it swings around again.) And oooh…white Lee jeans…I was the height of coolness!

I was somewhere around 11 or 12. Sewing classes were held in a rickety school demountable. My recollections are of a teacher who pretty much just let us rip …ie: gave us an idea and then sat back and waited to see what we’d come up with. There were scraps of fabric and scissors and treadle machines…I can’t recall her name…she wasn’t a major force, rather a gentle encourager. Lucky me!

Mum was generous with letting me play with her then state-of-the-art Singer. She was a Home Economics teacher before I came on the scene, so she was well-versed in how to teach someone to sew…but like my teacher at school, she pretty much left me to create. Thanks Mum!

And thanks OzViking for jogging my memory re: the first time I got a buzz out of wearing something I’d made!

Renfrew Do’s


My first take on Sewaholic’s Renfrew top was cobbled together from the last remants of some gorgeous grey stable knit (for body) and slinky paisley ITY knit (for sleeves/cowl). This looks like a vest over a lighter top.


My second go (immediately after the first, cos it’s a very satisfying make!) used up a stripey cotton/poly/who-knows-what-it-is b+w remnant that my DD purchased at Marrickville’s Reverse Garbage years ago for a school project. The only other use that I am aware of was an outfit DD made for our (then) kitten:

I used some black jersey knit for the sleeves and another stripey cotton jersey from Remnant Warehouse for the cowl.

Initially, I liked the stripey one more than the paisley, but I’ve flipped back….the paisley is now my favourite.

It’s a great pattern. It’s easy. It fits well.

Go for it!

For more sewing nitty-gritty see my Pattern Review

A Denim Maxi … Where Jeans Meet Skirt

A denim maxi…where jeans meet skirt!

(with updated pics…)

This pattern from BurdaStyle Magazine Oct 2011 (#103) caught my eye:

It’s designed for a stretch knit but several reviewers on Pattern Review used denim, and I had some stretch denim lurking in my stash…just perfect for this.

I thought the fly zip might be a challenge, having  never installed one, but it went in just fine! I reviewed Sandra Betzina’s instructions in Power Sewing as well as Debbie Cook’s excellent Fly Zip tutorial. And the BurdaStyle ones weren’t too bad either!

This pattern runs ‘big’. I traced a 42 which is usually fine, but this swam on me! I even cut the fabric on grain, rather than the recommended bias, in an effort to avoid ‘bagging out’ that can occur with stretch denim.  I also used a 2% stretch denim to reduce this potential (many are 3%). Found it at The Remnant Warehouse in Alexandria (Sydney). They have a range of good quality denim … as well as numerous other temptations!

Fortunately, there are many seams to allow even ‘running in’.  I took it in a good inch on the front and back seams and half inch on both sides. The yoke and waistband allow further tweaking, which I think I am getting better at! I’m happy with the fit across the lower back after repeated incremental ‘running in’s’.

To further reduce ‘bagging’, I stablised the top front with calico squares to act as ‘stays’, attached at the side seams and the fly tape. Debbie Cook’s Fly Tutorial explains this very well and it really works! (Sorry, I forgot to take a picture, but you get a clear idea of how it looks on Debbie’s tutorial).

It’s lined with a funky purple & orange stretch poly-charmeuse.

I left the back pockets off. My goal was to have a slightly less ‘jeansy’ look. But it was a bit ‘dark’ and rather plain…so I jazzed it up with some more of my favourite embellishment: hand top stitching…deliberately ‘not perfect’. (Well, that’s my story…).

It’s also quite short. I’m 5’5″ and it hits right at my ankle, without a hem!. To maximise the maxi-ness, I sewed wide bias hemtape to the bottom edge and turned it up on the seam. I then slip-stitched the lining to the hem tape to neatly enclose the innards.

I’ve worn it several times this week…and figured out it’s more of ‘sitting’ skirt than a walking skirt. Hoiking it up to your knees to walk at a reasonable pace defeats the whole purpose…not to mention looks a tad undignified when running for the bus! I’d recommend inserting a back vent, even if using a stretch knit.

Here’s a full length shot:

Also see my Pattern Review.

The Red Maple Leaf Top … And One for Renata

There you go, Renata, a pic of me wearing a couple of my creations…in grainy mirror gloriousness…Note to self: really must get one of those Gorilla stand thingys to take self pics!


The Red Maple Leaf* top  is a version of Canadian-based Jalie Pattern’s 2682 , described as “Stylish V-neck top, raised neckline at  back, with or without sleeves. View A has a zipper at front neckline for more coverage.” *a bit of blogetic license

I’ve made several versions of this top. Here’s the toile.

I wasn’t overly thrilled at first. It was too big width-wise yet the bodice was too short by an inch (size Y). I fixed the width issue by significantly taking in the side seams. As it turned out, this has become a favourite ’round-the-house sloppy joe (sweatshirt).  The cotton jersery is very comfortable to wear.

Next up, I decided to make a sleeveless version for summer. I traced a smaller size, well, two actually, blending a size W top half into a T lower half. Then I had the brilliant idea of removing the bodice line altogether…by taping the top and bottom together.

For those of you who have sewn this pattern, you know of the ingenius neckline construction technique. I tried to describe it for this post but totally confused myself…so I won’t subject the rest of you to clumsy explanations, suffice to say, it is very, very clever and neat and I applied the technique all the way down the centre of the following tops and still got the lovely soft collar!

Here’s the sleeveless version in B+W Paisley, an ITY(?) knit from Spotlight.

The shoulder width is too wide on this top…so last weekend, when I whipped up a couple long sleeve versions for the coming cooler months, I trimmed the shoulder pattern and am now really pleased with the shoulder fit.

And here are my latest versions:

Red Maple Leaf 
This fabric is a slinky ITY(?) knit from Jack Textile, an all-too-convenient little fabric shop in Marrickville (Sydney’s Inner West) (great for inexpensive basics/toile fabric, plus some pleasant surprises to be found). The print was actually pretty easy to match up.  You can’t see the centre seam running down the front, can you? It’s there, but thanks to the ‘stem’ of the leaves lining up well, I was able to hide the seam.  I originally hemmed it with a double needle but later ripped it all out cos it looked distinctly home made and I knew I wouldn’t wear it. I am most likely to wear it tucked in, with sleeves pushed up, so no need to worry about hemming!  The serger did not play nicely* with the fabric, so I sewed the whole top on my sewing machine. (*my learning curve re: serger settings is still in steep ascent!)

Here’s a back view:

[Dolly has some weird back padding going on...]

This is a super soft cotton jersey rib from Lincraft, found on one of those ‘I’m-not-supposed-to-be-looking-at-fabric’ days. I really need more ‘cake’ pieces (as per Tasia’s recent posting about Cake vs Frosting sewing) and this top is a step in the right direction.

S0…that’s what I was up to last weekend, in addition to having fun with hand topstitching on my Red Arc Skirt.

And it’s the weekend again!!! More fun to be had in the sewing room!

Happy now, Renata?  ;-p

The Red Arc Skirt

The ‘arc’ pieces of this pattern intrigued me! Something ‘slightly different’ for a pencil skirt!

BurdaStyle Magazine 09-2010 #116

I made this as a toile but liked it enough to finish it, complete with lining. I wore it a few times but felt the defining detail, ie the arc lines were too invisible. So, in a bout of insomnia last weekend, I handstitched rows of white running stitches along the lines, to highlight them.

That’s what it needed!

Here’s what it looked liked without stitching:

I like the way the front pieces wrap to the back. The white stitching makes this stand out better.

Construction was pretty straight forward.  As per instructions, I fused Vilene strips along all curved edges to reduce stretching out. Seems to have worked! An invisible zip is tucked neatly into one of the back panel seams.

The fabric, a stiff  red cotton drill from the IKEA remnant table, is probably a bit too stiff. Won’t use it again for clothing, but it’s wearable. The lining is from my Goldhawk Rd (London) ‘stash’, a poly charmeuse. I love lined skirts, particularly with ‘surprises’ like this print.

The skirt is quite ‘pegged’, despite the back vents. It’s not a skirt for power-walking ;-p

How Now Black+White Cow?

Art Attack’s blog post today about her gorgeous shawl-collar spa robe inspired me to write this post!

The second item of clothing I made upon returning to  clothes sewing was a dressing gown from Sew Hip Magazine  (Issue 20 – Oct 2010). My DD purchased this magazine for me, to go with the new sewing machine I got for my birthday that year.  It was a great birthday!

Sew Hip Magazine was a good way to gently regain my ‘sewing feet’… not too challenging but not too basic. Unfortunately, despite receiving a year’s subscription, the Oct 2010 edition was the only one that I really made major use of…it’s a bit more crafty than I am into…but you never, know…I enjoy flicking through them from time to time.

When I saw Sewing Daisies’ fabulous version of the Sew Hip Dressing Gown I knew I had to make one (or more)! Love her taste in fabrics!

DD was the recipient of my first version of this dressing gown:

She chose this fabulous colour scheme and still  wears it to death….(unfortunately this is the only maternal sewing offering that’s passed muster…sigh)

In the blush of ‘success’ I whipped up a couple for Christmas presents.

This tulip version was for my MIL…I intended to make one for myself in this fabric…however…I had also made a ‘masculine’ version for my dear FIL in black and white cow  print quilting cotton (an homage to his dairy farming days)…unfortunately, we misjudged his size…and long story short, it came home with us after Christmas.

It hung back of my ‘sewing room’ /office/guest room door for a year… until I just decided it fit me…and I was going to wear it….!

It’s a lovely solid quilting cotton. And b+w is a failproof favourite for me! Although I’m a  cat person, the cows are kind of quirky and fun. It’s comfy and well designed to provide good ‘coverage’ for a wrap style robe.

I was on such a roll, I also made gowns for my Aunts…
Cherries ‘n Cream
Cornflowers ‘n Cream

Technical Snippets
This is a very simple dressing gown with comfy kimono sleeves…attaching the collar band nicely took me a while …eventually I used french seams on all seams except facing and hem…I am now very well versed in how to sew french seams! (and  I learned that I have more patience than I expected when it comes to ‘finishing’ insides as nicely as possible). I shortened the sleeve length, to avoid dragging sleeves through tea and toast! If I make another one, I’ll include pockets!

Now I’m going to don my Black & White Cow Gown, pour a glass of dry white and enjoy catching up on my favourite blogs!


Between a Frock and a Hard Place

Remember that ‘tween’ stage when wearing kids’ stuff was a serious social faux-pas but a majority of clothes that fit were too ‘old’ (and, sometimes, really boring) ?

I found myself, at the half century mark, feeling that way again.

After years of alternating between corporate clone suits and ubiquitous jeans+white t-shirts on weekends, it has been SUCH A JOY to burst out and  sew clothes that I want to wear, in colours and fabric I love!

An obvious statement for a sewing blog, but I find this such a ‘free-ing’ activity!

No longer am I stuck between a frock and a hard place!

When I first returned to sewing (in Nov 2010) , I went bonkers with quilting cotton; blissed out at all the col-ours and pat-terns and prints, oh my!

I also lucked out on my first few sewing projects, finding a couple straight skirt patterns that fit me right out of the envelope, no fussing!

Looking back, I can see all manner of improvements that I would make now …like trying to match prints or strategically cutting fabric to avoid repeats…such is my learning curve…and I am loving every millimetre of that curve!

Exhibit A:  The Triangle Skirt



Pattern: McCalls 5523 – View A
Description: Straight skirt, mid-knee length, has side zipper and faced waistline; skirt A has shaped lower back flounce; skirt B has pleated lower back; skirt C has gathered lower back with self-fabric ruffle; skirt D has two lower back flounces.

What I learned: When working with moderately large repeat prints , it’s best to use a pattern with minimal pieces, to avoid mismatched sections (or else be prepared to spend inordinate amounts of time matching prior to cutting). This print is not linear, so I don’t think exact matching is even possible.  All in all, I think it’s just busy enough not to be too glaring a mis-match, so I have worn it a few times. Of course, one of my more anal-retentive detail-oriented, precision-focussed, male friends commented on the mismatch. There’s one in every crowd…

I also learned, after completion, that sewing the curved hem on the flounce panel BEFORE sewing the flounce to the skirt makes hemming a lot easier and neater…ah, well, next time!

Exhibit B: Yellow Paisley Skirt

Pattern: same as above, McCalls 5523 –  View B


Back panel  pleated section: (slightly creased from sitting on it…)

I love the colour yellow. It does not love me back. However, as long as I keep it away from my face, I can wear it to my heart’s content…And I do. I’m also partial to paisley…so of course this quilting cotton appealed.

What I learned: This print is too busy to show off the pleated back section. This was the first time I’d sewn pleats…so it was good practice, even if they are almost invisible.  I also learned that I need to consider print placement if I am going to use a panelled pattern. The front centre panel is too similar to the front right panel.

General Construction Snippets:
Both skirts are lined in yellow Bemsilk. I line all my skirts/dresses/jackets. It just makes the garment feel all that more special. I didn’t use the facings that came with the pattern, instead, just cut lining from skirt pattern pieces, sewed it up and attached to the fashion fabric the at the waist. I top stitched around the waist seam, to hold lining in place. I also inserted an invisible zipper on the side. I used Sandra Betzina’s invisible zipper methodology, as outlined in her book, Power Sewing, which I highly recommend for excellently explained construction techniques. Mind you, I have to look at this book every time I  insert an invisible zipper…spatial perception is not my forte…a bit of a handicap for a sewist….but where there is a will (and a seam ripper) there is a way!

Here’s to escaping from between a frock and a hard place and  the joy of making clothes that you love!

Rapt in Cotton

I’m definitely rapt with this floaty version of BurdaStyle 09-2010-110, a sleeveless wrap blouse.

This was a ‘just-jump-in-and-see-what-happens’ creation. I like cross-over wrap styles better than button-down blouses.

The soft double-pleated collar falls nicely, thanks to the super-fine, super-soft black cotton used.

I was inspired by these lovely silk and silk/cotton versions. A soft fabric is definitely the go for this. There are also some gorgeous long-sleeve versions (09-2010-111).  I especially like the olive one, with the ‘bishop’ cuffs.

The original design has buttons attached at the side to close the wrap, but, as others have suggested,  a simple thin grosgrain ribbon worked better; didn’t weigh the front down.

I attached two sets of ribbons, one on the inside and one on the outside. Having worn this a lot, I now think I’ll create a small slit in the right side and pull the currently inside ribbons to the outside to tie. That will create a more defined waist.

The collar is integrated with the front pieces. To hold facings in place, I edge-stitched up one front edge , ’round the collar and down the other front edge. This adds a little extra body to the neckline. I  use my most favourite multi-use foot, a stitch-in-the-ditch foot *, with the needle moved left, to stitch just on the edge of the fabric running next to the ‘rudder’ on the foot. Love the accuracy I can get with that foot, for both edge and top stitching!

* I am not recommending this site, just showing you a picture of what my stitch-in-the-ditch foot looks like.

The sides were french seamed and the hem was edge-stitched, again to add a bit of body. I hand-sewed the facings to shoulder seam allowances – possibly not necessary –  but for a fine material like this, hand stitching impacts less on the fabric’s softness. I finished the sleeve edges, per the instructions, by turning twice and stitching a to create a thin hem.

I don’t normally wear white underneath this blouse! It’s just what “Dolly’ had on the day I took the pics!  I ramped up the exposure to show the edge-stitching.

Make this if you want something simple and elegant, that works great with skirts, pants, shorts and jeans!  My plan is to make another in fine white cotton.

More info at Pattern Review

The High-Rotation Skirt


When I stand in front of the wardrobe, my hand reaches for this skirt more than any other!

It’s comfy and striking, it feels nice and gets softer over time! Goes great with a pair of black boots and a black turtle neck (my winter ‘uniform’)

It’s the iconic Clothkits ‘Big Birdie’ Skirt, which comes in a kit with the pattern pre-printed on the wrong side of soft, baby-wale 100% cotton corduroy, in various size gradings (UK 8-18). You just cut the size you need and sew! It’s a very easy project. The kit also includes lining, thread and a matching zipper. (I used my own lining and an invisible zipper cos I like that look better). At £39 ($AUD 60) + postage, it wasn’t cheap but it’s paid off, with high rotation in my wardrobe.

I like the simple, slightly A-line style and artsy bird and flowers screen-printed on the fabric. I contemplated adding some hand-sewn top stitching to the bird and/or flowers …may eventually do that.

The lining, a funky red/black/white poly charmeuse, brings back happy memories of a London trip last April, when I visited Goldhawk Road’s heady gathering of fabric shops.  I went bonkers and had to post a big box of purchases home.


I cut the size 12, but probably could have gotten away with the 10 – the pattern has a fair amount of ease – unless you like to wear your skirts lower on your hips. I added a few darts in the back, which mucked up some of the printed motifs but I wear tops over the waist, so no big deal.

This is one of those items that strangers seem to remark positively on …which always makes a sewist smile.


Minoru – I Love You


My pick for my first blog-post  is… a Minoru Jacket!

This is my latest creation and by far the most adventurous sewing project I’ve attempted. It was love-at-first-sight when the tester versions of this pattern from Sewaholic began appearing late last year.

My sewing buddies (Sharon, Alison & Marie) from the Alexandria Achievers (ASG) also fell hard for this one. They were fantastic with encouragement, suggestions and advice. We all made several toiles to figure out how to get this fitting best for our various shapes and sizes.  At times I wondered if this was the jacket for me… but it all worked out in the end!

Tasia’s Minoru Sew-a-long was invaluable too! I definitely would have been unpicking a lot more than I did, without the visuals and detailed instructions. Unpicking black thread on black twill is particularly unpleasant…

I love black and white and gingham – so when one of my sewing buddies, Alison, suggested gingham for the upper collar and hood lining, I was sold! And I think it worked a treat!

I added piping to the collar to define the edge – another skill learned! (it’s very easy!)

The brass zipper wasn’t what I was initially looking for, but in the end I really like it. The brass ‘gold’ adds a bit of warmth.

The lining (b+w polka dot poly) is soft and slinky. For some reason, when I tried to sew the lining into the hem,  as instructed, it pulled things out of whack! Not quite sure what I did wrong but, hey, the lining works fine unattached.

I also inserted side pockets, as per this very helpful tutorial by Sew Well (another skill learned).

I wasn’t going to add the hood, but did at the last moment, following comments from Marie about how the hood helped the collar stand up (check out her gorgeously ‘finished’ version).  I’m glad I did!  Love the way the hood rolls up in the collar. Feels like a small but comfy pillow.  I suspect I made my collar zipper shorter than it was supposed to be; in pictures of other  hoods they seem to be much wider when out? Never mind… I am more likely to wear mine rolled up in the collar anyway.

Here are two more pics  -  front and back with hood out

Perfect for our summer-turning-into-autumn weather!

I think my sewing buddies were smart for making water proof versions…we’ve had uncharacteristically wet weather the last few months!

PS: Due to the difficulties of showing details when taking pics of black items, I’ve majorily over-exposed these pics…in normal light you can’t see the polka-dot lining through the black twill.