Monday, December 29, 2014

Retro swirl

Firstly thank you for the lovely comments about my silk dress.  They meant a lot to me.

I sewed quite a lot in 2014, but didn't blog much.  The one thing that will drive me away from blogging is the lack of a tripod or a willing photographer!!  I do like this dress a lot more than the look on my face suggests.

It is a trial run of Simplicity 1651.  I've used a pretty floral print crepe bought from my favourite fabric charity The Fabric Cave.  I had enough left over to make a mini skirt for my daughter who refuses to take or pose for blog photos.

I'm still deciding which piece of fabric for the final version and need to make a few minor adjustments to the bodice. There is not enough yardage in any of the pieces being considered to make the full skirt, so I may blend my self drafted pencil skirt rather than the gathered slimline skirt from the pattern.  I also plan to make up the half circle skirt from this pattern as a winter skirt. It fits and feels so good.

Now let me swirl around one more time!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Dress, memory

In showing you this dress, I am reminded of Lorelei Vashti's coming of age memoir Dress, memory. It recounts the dresses worn for significant events over a decade, every dress with a memory stitched into it of the events and people involved.

This dress was made for a happy occasion, my niece's wedding.  However, etched into its stitches are both happiness and sadness.  Tragically, my much loved brother-in-law passed away the night before the wedding.  He had been gravely ill for three years.  In Jewish tradition, the wedding went ahead and was a beautiful celebration of his life and the positive hopes for the future for his daughter and new son-in-law.

The dress is also a reminder of the wonderful holiday I had in Italy with my daughter.  The silk panels were bought for many Euros in Rome.  

I've used Burda Style 9/2012 134 - A Matthew Williamson design.  The only change I made was to raise the v-shaped back as the original was not bra friendly.

While I've employed couture techniques, including silk organza underlining and hand stitched bemberg rayon lining, I'm not sure I can bear to wear it again. 
It will hang in the back of my closet, and every now and again I'll touch it and remember my brother-in-law and close friend.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Remember the Burda Book?

Yes that's right The BurdaStyle Sewing Handbook copyright 2011!  The one you all bought and dutifully sewed lovely things from straight away.  Well I guess I'm not an early adopter.  While mine took a little longer to come to fruition I am really happy with this top.

I cut a size 38 and made a 2 cm full bust adjustment.  The only other change I made to the original design was to self face the upper front as I was working with a very sheer silk chiffon.  This gave the top of the garment more opacity and structure where it is needed.  BurdaStyle include an invisible zip in the side seam of the garment, which I omitted.  With the combination of elastic and drawstring at the waist the zip is not needed.  

One of the lovely things about it is that the fabric was a freebie from a Sydney Sewing meetup swap session. I've given the silk chiffon the respect it deserves with French seams and a satin bound sleeve head and self faced finishes - creating a very neat finish inside and out.  I don't know who it came from originally but I am extremely grateful for their good taste. 

While I have too many patterns and ideas to give too much thought to making another one, the bodice is a great starting point for drafting everything from camis to kaftans.  That was the essence of the Sewing Handbook idea after all.

I haven't been in Sydney all summer for a while now and have lost a bit of weight.  I am very conscious of having NOTHING TO WEAR as the heat approaches.  My three top priorities: a new swimsuit (Bombshell pattern and Tigerlily print lycra at the ready); shorts and light trousers (self drafting and Wyomee Boyfriend jeans pattern to try) and dresses for my niece's wedding in December. 

My daughter is still thinking about whether I'm making her dress for another wedding in Bali - pending arrival of an ebay purchase I think! 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Animal magic and blog hopping

I've been tagged by He Cooks...She Sews to participate in a blog hop about blog writing. I'm flattered to be considered for this as I don't think of my blog as writing, but I'll have a go.

What am I working on now?

As ever I have a number of projects going.  I've just finished the skirt featured in the image above, and another variant from the same pattern Burda Style 03/2014 style 104. I have a blouse and an experimental pair of wide leg pants in uber cheap black fabric cut out.  I also have Burda dress traced and begging me to make it.

Meanwhile my daughter has asked me to make something similar to Nicole Richie's lovely Issa Kimono dress to wear to a wedding in Bali.  I'm delighted to take this on and we've agreed to use some red printed silk already in stash.

Friends say I dream sewing and that is probably true.  I finish one project and immediately start on something else.

How does my work differ from others in the genre?

Seriously?  I don't think it does.  One point of differentiation might be that I make a lot of corporate wear. This is a practical decision as I work every day, I need to look good and I hate boring grey suits that are so prominent in Sydney.

Why do I write what I do?

Blog updates tend to be written in a hurry, so I no longer spend a lot of time on details. I rarely post progress posts as I usually find them annoying to read...especially the today I sewed a seam variety.  However, I do like watching complex couture or tailoring projects come to life in a progressive way.

My fundamental purpose is to create a community of interest for sewing.  I remember in my first blog post explaining that blogging would "keep me accountable".  Blogging does that - I like to share what I've made, much more than how I've made it. I never presume that I have anything to teach others, and NEVER would share personal problems etc on the blog. 

Through blogging I've met other sewers in Sydney and around the world.  That is precious to me as my friends don't sew - they cook, make jewelry or just work too hard!

How does my writing process work?

 I'm pretty sloppy when I think about it.  I don't tend to review the pattern anymore, talk about adjustments I've made.  For example, the blouse worn in the pictures is recently made.  I can't find the pattern, so can't even offer that to my readers.  All I can say is that I've lost a bit of weight since I made it and next time I'd make an adjustment to reduce the neckline and remove the full bust adjustment.

The skirt has piping inserted into the upper panel seam and at the hem panel.  The original pattern has a gorgeous flounce, but I didn't have enough from this remnant piece.  I like the solution I used.
 The way the blog hop works is that what goes round, comes round.  Many of the sewers I most admire have already been tagged, so I’m passing the baton on to some lesser known women who deserve more recognition than they receive.  Ann from Cherrypix, Fabric Ephiphanes, and Audrey of Sew Tawdry

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Disco Ball

Standing out at one of Australia's top law schools is a difficult thing, but my daughter certainly looked for attention at their ball!

Her dress is inspired by luxury women's ready-to-wear clothing designer Joseph Altuzarra's evening range. The original outfit costs around $3000 Australian dollars.  Mine cost $183 and would have been less if I hadn't overbought the fabric.

I bought the metallic silk from The Fabric Store in Surry Hills.  I self drafted the top pattern which was pretty simple really.  The shoulder straps go through a single loop above the under arm seam.  The over-sized cowl is an Altuzarra signature.  I refused to add the draping to the front of skirt.  My daughter is too petite to take all the extra fabric.  The pattern for the skirt is Vogue 8928  which I've used previously for a dress for my younger daughter.

This outfit would not have been my first choice, but I'm quite proud of the result. My daughter loved it! She received plentiful comments on the night and her friends think the woman in the picture below still pinning and refining the night below is a sewing goddess.  I'll wear that crown for litter while longer!!


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Its time we had a talk

This blog has been in a period of hiatus. Interestingly my sewing hasn't rested, but I get like that sometimes.  I once waited 17 years to go to the dentist and the longer I left it the more embarrassing it became.  

Since I last posted I have completed two t-shirts, a blouse and two jackets!

The jacket featured was made for my daughter's graduation.  The pattern is Vogue 8865 that I think is still available in out-of-print sale.  I love my version made from crazy splatter print ponte from Tessuti with very good quality faux leather sleeves and collar purchased from Cleggs in Melbourne.  The zips give it an edgy feel.

Now the ice is broken, I'll post more photos soon.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

One pattern three looks

When work requires corporate wear, weekends in casual gear take on special significance.  Up until recently I've  focused on work wear at the expense of leisurewear.   

At the Stanwell Tops weekend, my fellow Aussie blogger Ann of Cherrypix lent me her Ensis teeshirt pattern from Papercut patterns.

This pattern is highly recommended.  The shape and fit is great.  But its key strength is as a scrap buster.  The version I'm wearing includes left over ponte from a skirt I made a few years ago.  Ponte works really well on this pattern, giving good structure to the neckline.

The two versions on the dummy (of the plastic variety!) are refashioned from scraps and old garments. The orange and blue striped fabric was leftovers from a toddlers outfit that I made for my now 22 year old daughter! The navy merino is from an old store bought wrap dress that was worn so little the moths attacked it.  I managed to recycle the bottom half of the sleeves and unpicked sections from the skirt to make the body.  Not quite enough to finish the bottom,  not to worry, a scrap left over from my orange merino debacle did the trick.  The black and white version began life a decade ago as a singlet dress and as I've aged has become quite  unflattering.  I still love the fabric so with some deft unpicking and the addition of lightwear knit sleeves cut from the body of a very old cardigan both garments live again.  For this garment I used only the top section of the pattern to shape the neckline and arm hole, and cut joined the separate sleeve pieces into a single pattern piece. 

Now I'm looking swish, I'll take my dog for a walk around the block.

Happy sewing!

Friday, June 6, 2014

My sewcation and robes of saffron thread

I recently had the pleasure of a weekend away at Stanwell Tops sewing with fellow Australian Sewing Guild members.  I completed three garments and made quite a bit of progress on the blouse that I'm working on in the picture above.  

One of the garments I've decided is a wadder, an orange merino wool version of Vogue 8669.  There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the pattern but it is so under engineered that it doesn't flatter.  I'm in the process of salvaging the fabric to make another version of the Ensis T-shirt by Papercut Papers.  

The skirt and top (my saffron robes!) pictured above were completed at Stanwell and I'm very pleased indeed.  The skirt is my standard self drafted pencil made up unlined in ponte purchased from Clegs in Melbourne.  My only misgiving is that I didn't centre the pattern repeat.  It isn't noticable when worn but screams from the photo!

The top is my first attempt at McCalls 6513.  It is a lovely fit and the only alteration I'll make for next time is to taper the sleeves more.  I'm considering a little reverse sewing on this one too - I love it, so why not take some extra time to make it perfect!

I'm focusing on the top half at the moment - casual t-shirts, blouses and jackets - and have a number of garments in various stages of completion. I'm usually much more regimented with my sewing and drafting.  You know finish one garment at a time, make things that add value to the existing wardrobe rather than create the need for new items to match.  But I'm having rather a lot of fun...and that is what counts.

Meanwhile happy sewing! 

Friday, May 9, 2014

I've been sewing but...

I've been sewing but don't have a lot to show for it.

I don't rate my new skirt pictured a success, but it's not a failure either. The twist design is taught has part of Anita McAdam's skirt design course.  To be honest I was playing around and may not have constructed it correctly. It is made from very cheap patterned ponte with a pull on elastic waist. 
The linen dress below is also self drafted from the block made for my daughter's formal outfit.  She came home from university for a short visit and asked for a casual dress in linen.  

She choose the linen from my stash. I should have been more forthright in telling her it was not the right weight for a dress but she wasn't interested in the other options. The muslin fitted well, but the finished dress does not. I suspect the wrinkling across the back is caused by the lining and the fusible interfacing.  I plan to add about 5mm to the hip seams in case the firm fit is pushing the fabric up. Readers' suggestions would be welcomed as my daughter loves the style.

I've finally finished my jacket block and am working on design now.  I'm also very involved in preparation for an upcoming sewcation with the Australian Sewing Guild.

To make the most of the weekend, I need to have everything cut, interfacings applied and notions put together for each garment. I'm aiming for a set of three related garments over two days.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Weekend wonder

Chambray shirt completed, pull on a pair of stretch black ponte pants, pop on the sneakers and I'm laughing.  

It has been the loveliest Easter weekend.  With youngest daughter home from university and eldest daughter's boyfriend here for a visit there hasn't been much sewing. But had the chance to finish my shirt and get three quarter of the way through a linen dress for my daughter.

Once again I've used my  go shirt pattern McCalls 6436. I'm not sure where my sewing will take me next.  I'm still refining my muslins, eldest DD has made a half-hearted request for a ball gown for the Law Ball, and I have no weekend tshirts.  Rest assured something will make me smile.

Happy sewing!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Tribal take two

I just love this dress!  Still a few tweaks to perfect the fit and design.  

I need to resolve an annoying shoulder wrinkle, coming off the armhole. I think I need to lower the arm scythe a fraction.  I also went a little overboard tapering the sleeve for a 'fashion fit'. Could only just raise my champagne glass.  Anita is very keen on elbow darts and now I believe her!

A future version of this dress might use darts rather than panels and increase the angle of the neckline towards the centre front for more drama.

Currently I'm working on my trouser pattern and a chambray shirt.  Meanwhile, happy sewing!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


I couldn't wait to show off my latest self-drafted dress from my work with pattern making teacher Anita McAdam.  I bought this amazing but somewhat overwhelming tribal print fabric a few months ago  from Tessuti in Surry Hills.  It was love at first sight, but then came the obvious question "What on earth will I do with it?".  Teaming it with black was an obvious solution.  The result is a flattering, princess seamed frock that is just is little bit out there.  The body of the dress is lined to the edge, with unlined three-quarter length sleeves for trans-seasonal comfort. 
For those of you who are wondering, those tribal eyes sit well above the bust point.  I love the way the print matched along the centre back zip and seam line.  I'll be wearing it to a function in Melbourne on Sunday, so will post wearing photos.
Check out my new sewing space...courtesy of youngest daughter studying interstate.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Splatter top

Despite best intentions I'm guilty of 'random sewing'.  

I have on my sewing table two nearly done muslins - a trouser block and a jacket block; and two dresses in various stages of completion.  I rushed to finish this simple top for my niece's engagement party and am quite happy with it.  The fabric is a polyester pretending to be silk bought an aeon ago at The Fabric Store.  The pattern is Vogue 8833, an easy to make wrap top with a long tie belt that wraps right around the waist. I made the version with the mandarin style collar. I will adjust the pattern if I make another so that I don't need the singlet underneath.  The gape factor was too much for me.  Despite this, I quite like it!  Happy sewing.

Friday, February 28, 2014

You can't win em all!

I've been intrigued by this Islander Sewing System jacket since I saw Sunni's version.

The pattern comes Janet Prey's Sew Better Sew Faster course on   This is a great course for mastering new techniques and for understanding factory sewing philosophy (faster, cheaper not necessarily better in my opinion).

I went straight to fabric because I was using a very cheap linen-like cotton from my charity fabric shop.  As a result I'm not entirely happy with the fit of garment.  I made a medium which based on the measures could have been too small. Sadly its a little too big, even for a relaxed fit.  The shoulders are the real problem which sit about 1 inch below my shoulder line.  I also think there is too much bulk in the back side panels - a flaw I've noticed in other versions, not just my own.  I'll wear it, but don't love it.  The big plus is the pattern booklet includes the best instructions for welt pockets and I'll also reuse the pocket and cuff design and methods.

I'll post a picture of it on after it has been washed - astute readers may notice my chalk lines are still visible! Next up I'm finalising my muslin for a basic jacket and trouser block - products of my lessons with my great teacher and pattern making mentor Anita McAdam. I've got some great ideas for jackets and pants which I hope to bring to fruition in the coming months.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Take two!


Some garments just put a smile on their maker's face.  I love my latest 'twin set', especially the blouse which is made from the softest cotton viscose blend.

When I purchased this paisley border print from the Fabric Store I was planning a kaftan.  However, in Italy I saw so many blouses with contrasting collars, cuffs and button panels that I saw its real potential.

The pattern is one of my go to blouse patterns McCalls 6436.  As well as being a good basic pattern with a few pocket designs, its real value lies in the A/B, C & D cup fitting options, eliminating the need for a full bust adjustment.  French seams throughout and satin Hong Kong bindings on the sleeve head add to the luxurious feel.
The skirt is another of my self-drafted pencil skirts.  I've made it up in a polyester crepe and have fully lined it.  I'm not a fan of cheap crepe for its sheen and its tendency to crease, but as the piece was bought for $3 from a charity store I'll set my fabric snobbery to one side.  My next skirt will not be a pencil skirt, having made up five from the same pattern.  If your not bored, I am!

Off to plan my next few garments while I'm on a roll. Meanwhile, happy sewing!

Monday, February 3, 2014

I'm back

Happy 2014 sewers! I'm finally back to routine after three and half wonderful weeks in Italy and grappling with the intricacies of enrolling my two daughters into their respective university courses while they were overseas.  Life has been extra complicated as one daughter is moving to residential college in Melbourne and the eldest back to Sydney from Melbourne.

If you will allow me a moment of non-sewing parental pride, I was pleased to need to do this organising as both had won places in the top schools in Australia for their respective courses- one for post-graduate Law and the other for undergraduate Architecture.

On fabric shopping in Italy 
I visited stores in Rome - they are located in the area around Largo Argentina and purchased six pieces of fabric in total - two silks, a silk blend, an interesting patterned cotton blend for shirting, some beautiful camel cashmere and a heavy Fair Isle patterned knit in grey and cream.  Let me tell you fabric shopping in Italy is expensive - and I  should publically acknowledge that Collette from Tessuti is not marking up the price of her collection of Italian fabrics. They really do cost that much (retail).  The other observation I make is that the stores are vast and the fabrics not well displayed.  You need time to take the fabrics off the shelves for a closer look.  I was disappointed not to find Ponte at a cheaper price than I can buy here in Sydney. 

Sewing plans for 2014 
At the beginning of 2013, I published an embarrassingly large sewing bucket list.  It was a difficult year - a child in final year of school, Mother passed away, and work  consumed much of my time.  As a result I sewed much less than I planned.  So this year I'm shying away from lists,  focussing instead on shopping my extensive (that's actually a synonym for 'ridiculous') fabric and pattern stash.  Two at time is my new mantra - a skirt and top, a dress and jacket, pants and a top. You get the idea.  I'm also trying to build my pattern making skills and overcome my sewing bogies  - jacket linings and welt pockets.

I'm off to a good start, with two completed sets.  This post covers my self-drafted pencil skirt and matching knit polo shirt Burda January 2009 No 125.  Both fabrics are from Tessutis.  I cut the t-shirt out over two years ago but never sewed it - how did that happen?  The skirt is from a one metre remnant of chino stretch cotton and I love the fabric.  It's been very hot in Sydney so I created a zip guard, but didn't include my usual lining.   I had intended to cut the fabric differently with a centrally placed upward V-shape, but with only one metre to play with and a complicated pattern to match, this wasn't possible. C'est la vie!

I'm not in love with polo shirt.  The pattern is fine, the fit is comfortable, but I'm not thrilled with style when all the buttons are done up. 

Until next time, happy sewing!