Wednesday, August 31, 2011

From Trash To Treasure.....

This is a tale of two tops.  Since last summer I have admired these beautiful floaty apron tops on women in the streets.  I hadn't actually seen one in a retail store which isn't surprising really since I have been avoiding the malls like the plague since last Septembers earthquake.  I spied a rtw one in a local boutique at the end of last summer and like all good dressmakers, went over it with a fine tooth comb to see how it was constructed.  When I saw a pattern on Trademe for just this top, that was it, I was making one.  I chose a beautiful floaty saturn and made it up.  Boy was I disappointed.  It didn't meet in the middle at the back and I felt like a sack of spuds tied in the middle.  I threw it on my sewing table in disgust.  It was gone but not forgotten! 

Once my frustration had worn off, a couple of months had gone by and I realised that this fabric was too lovely to waste.  I decided that a blousey peasant top would look nice in this fabric for spring.  Fortunately, I had bought too much fabric for my previous top so had plenty left over to use for Simplicicy 4589, a pattern that had been bought but not yet used.

I extended the sleeves to make a long sleeve version and added 15cm to the length of the top with the intention of adding and elastic waist.  After trying the top on however I liked the look of a tunic style as well so just rescued the belt off the disaster top for a variation.




This tale doesn't end there.  When I do buy rtw clothing, like all dressmakers, I am quite partial to quality and therefore stare clear of cheap mass produced clothing where possible and tend to buy quality boutique clothing.  Unfortunately, also being a dressmaker, I don't like the price you need to pay to get the quality.  I therefore quite regularly visit the vintage clothing stores in pursuit of the designer bargains.  A couple of weeks ago I came across a pair of Principals Designs pants that had hardly been worn.  They were a bootleg style and unfortunately a tad too short so I originally decided to cut them down for shorts.  When I got them home I figured that because they had really long hems I may get away with letting them down.  I am more of a fan of skinny jeans as well so they went from this.......


After a little sewing, and a spin through the washing machine with some detol (I am a little germ phobic when it comes to anything preloved), I ended up with the stylie pair of skinny pants I am wearing above.


Sunday, August 28, 2011





I mentioned in an earlier post, that most of my older two childrens earlier clothes were made by me.  I blogged about my favourite overall pattern and the many uses it had over the early years.  Another of my favourite things to make was dresses for my daughter when she was small.  I can't find the exact pattern I used for the dresses pictured here but I do know they were all made using the same pattern.  My mother used to joke that my baby girl was my dress up doll and probably there was a little truth behind it.  Being a June baby, for the first 3 months, she didn't own a dress but once the spring and warmer weather came she was constantly in pretty dresses usually made in the same pattern.  All of the dresses except the last birthday one had matching bloomers to cover the cloth nappies which also played a large part in our household. The hot pink dress was made of a gorgeous knit with white teddies printed on it.  The blue dress which she had her Pixi photos taken in was a woven cotton check in royal navy and white also with a teddy print.  It was lightened up with a gathered broderie anglaise white lace trim on both the bottom of the dress and the bloomers.  The last dress was her birthday dress and was made of a cream woven with a teddy print (are you seeing a trend here) and long sleeves which were gathered at the wrist with a frill.  This dress was fully lined because it was June and this one she wore with tights and incidently the little patent leather shoes I wore at the same age.  Paired with the dresses was usually a head band sporting a bow which I also made.   When I did buy my children ready to wear clothing I usually preferred Pumpkin Patch because at that time they were made in New Zealand and the fit, design, colours and quality were fantastic.  I used to get a lot of my design and colour inspiration from these catalogues and when they came out each season I would spend hours pouring over these and my fabric stash working out my combinations.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

As I was walking my son to school this morning, the birds were singing and the sun was warm on my face.  It was difficult to believe, as I passed the park, that we skied there only last week. This morning the grass was green and the council had the irrigation going.  The days have warmed up considerably and it seems to be time to pack up the winter woollies and dig out some lighter layers.  
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The top that I am wearing today started life as a dress.  Unfortunately I didn't prewash the fabric before making up the dress so after it's first wash the dress became a mini dress.  I am not a minidress wearer, so I cut the bottom off and it from then on became a top.  The pattern I used was McCalls M6120 which I have used on quite a few occasions.  I like the style but unfortunately I found the fit to be somewhat off so it requires quite some altering to achieve the perfect fit.  Because the days are now warm (18-20 deg C) but not tropical and the mornings are still cool, I am wearing it today with a rtw long sleeve tee shirt and my new Jalie jeans which I blogged about a few days ago.   The warmer days also mean't my boots, which I wore yesterday and actually overheat in at this time of the year, have been discarded in favour of my new ballet flats.  
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Incidently, the ugly suit I blogged about the other month, had it's inaugural wearing last night as it was opening night of the school production.  I only saw the last 10 minutes when I picked my son up, as we have tickets for tonight, but what I saw was fantastic.  The ugly suit looks great on stage and my son was outstanding in one of the lead roles .....but then, I am a little biased!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

 I have had an obsession lately with pencil skirts.  I hadn't made one in a long time.  I tend to favour a line skirts because they are less tight and don't require a split at the back which I find annoying.  I came across New Look 6345 online and decided that it looked to be a fantastic option.  To make the skirt more practical I bought some fabric with some lycra content to it.  As it turns out quite a bit of lycra content.  I cut the skirt to a size 12 as that was what the measurements on the packet indicated but as soon as I laid the pieces out I new I would be altering it.  I cut out view A but added the pocket detail of view C for interest.  I ended up recutting to a size 10 before making the skirt up and although it is really a simple skirt to make I actually had to run it in several times before I was happy with the fit.  This was quite a frustrating process because it also mean't unpulling the yoke as it was added last to the front and back of the skirt.  I couldn't sew it at night because being black and with the pinstripes it was impossible to sew my stitching in the night light.  In the end I probably ended up with something resembling a 6 in the waist and a 10 in the hips.  I intend to make this skirt again and already have the fabric to do it in.  Next time I may get brave and add some piping detail.


Please excuse my photos today.  I didn't want to wait around until my daughter returned from school to take photos so was experimenting with the timer on my camera.  There are two bonuses with blogging about sewing, one is I have learn't a lot about my camera that I didn't know before and the second is I actually can see where the deficiancies in my wardrobe are.

Sunday, August 21, 2011







 I have finished version one of the Jalie jeans and I have to say, I love this pattern!  I bought some black stretch denim with a fine white stripe while I was waiting for the pattern to arrive in the mail.  I bought 2.5m which turned out to be double what I needed so actually I have enough to make a second pair.  I wasn't sure whether to make size S or T based on my measurements and ended up making size T.  The fabric I chose didn't have quite the required 20% stretch so I am glad I did because although they fit perfectly they do have movement and are therefore very comfortable.  The only alterations I made to the pattern apart from turning them from bootcut to skinny was to make alterations for my sway back and also to run the waistband down the grain instead of across like the pattern states.  I have read reviews saying that the across the grain waistband is difficult to get to sit nicely and since all of my rtw jeans are cut down the grain I thought this would be the safest option.  I also added cargo pockets to the legs because I have seen a lot of these worn lately and fancied a pair.  I am so pleased with the results I have bought two more pieces of fabric to make more jeans.  In the first picture I am wearing the jeans with a merino cardigan made using Simplicity 2603 another favourite in my wardrobe.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The snow has all but gone, washed away in an endless Antarctic downpour.  The grass has turned yellow and there are puddles everywhere.  It is bitterly cold, only around 8deg and the poor daffodils just waiting to open are the only sign that spring is on its way.  My evenings have been spent curled up on the couch in my slippers watching "The Block" and secretly planning all of my backed up sewing projects.  No matter though, they are promising us some sun by the weekend....yah!

When I was a kid, I came from a home where nothing was wasted.  My dad was creative and very much a hoarder because you just never know when you may have a use for something.  We had a fantastic vege garden and every vegetable we ate came from that garden.  My grandmother was also creative.  She was a professional dressmaker and used to make all of our clothes from leftovers from her customers orders.  It was always like Christmas when our new seasons clothing arrived all boxed up.  It was always colourful and stylish.  I was the oldest of three girls so enevitably my younger sisters all wore them when I grew out of them but finding my sisters dressed identically to me was not uncommon either, especially at church on Sunday.  Our evenings during the winter months were spent huddling around a ridiculously small heater and making granny square blankets out of the leftovers of my Mum's knitting projects.  I loved doing this.  I loved rummaging through and choosing the colours and seeing the whole thing come together.  I still have these fantastic blankets.  They weigh a ton and are rarely used but I would not part with them ever.

Given my upbringing then, it is really no great surprise that I also try to maintain a zero waste system where possible.  We have a vege garden, worm farm, and a compost bin alongside our curbside recycling.  We tend to live work and play in the same area so don't travel large distances and all of our appliances are energy efficient.    All of my childrens clothing is either repurposed, sold or handed on as is my own and my husbands.  Anything unsuitable for handing on I give to charity shops or rag collections.  So, this last week or two I have been busy sorting through my clothing and my kids and sorting out what needs replacing and making piles for sale, handing down, charity and rag collections.   This is also a process I enjoy, because I get quite a sense of accomplishment knowing that my trash is of some use to someone else.

Monday, August 15, 2011

It is snowing here again today, so it is hard to get motivated to sew.  My industrial overlocker is in my garage and given it is struggling to get above 2 deg, the garage is the last place I want to be.  So far today, I have made soup, put a casserole in the slow cooker, skiied in the park with the kids, taken heaps of photos and dried mountains of wet clothing.
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I haven't been completely idle on the sewing front lately though.  I had a couple of maternity shirts in the charity clothing bag that had hardly been worn and the fabric was a really nice quality synthetic stretch knit.  I decided to make some more underwear out of it.  I had done a course quite a few years ago now through Knitwit but had not persevered with the project.  Until now, I hadn't realised how simple underwear making actually was.  I haven't perfected my pattern yet, as I found the knitwit pattern quite long in the rise.  I will definitely be making more of these.

Saturday, August 13, 2011



When my son was four years old, I took him to Melbourne to stay with his cousins. He hadn't been before and it was an adventure I had promised him before he started school. We visited the zoo, rode the train, trams and just generally hung out. One of the highlights of his visit was a dinosaur costume my sister had made for her boys. I had never made dress ups before, relying more on old jewelry, clothing etc for that sort of thing. When we got home he kept asking for a dinosaur costume. After all, when you are a four year old boy, dinosaurs are the bomb! So, I gave in and we went shipping for fabric. I think this was the only time in his short life he actually agreed to enter a fabric shop. Spotlight was his least favourite shop in the whole world and I can't say I blamed him because it always involved long lengths of time in queues. We chose green and yellow because, although I don't think a T-Rex is actually green and yellow, it did look kind of realistic. He was very happy with the result and proudly modeled his costume for the camera. Sadly it no longer fits, but it was used a lot, even for a parade at school for book week.

Thursday, August 11, 2011




I mentioned in my last post that I had a few projects to finish before I started on my new patterns. Since my first pyjamas were so successful I couldn't just stop at one pair. Don't these pyjamas just spell summer. I love the strawberries. It reminds me of picking fresh strawberries out of my own garden in the summer months. I originally bought this fabric to make trainer pants for my nappy business and this is what is left. The pink was a piece I bought for another project that didn't eventuate....so another gap in my fabric cupboard!
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The second project I wanted to get finished this week is some more cushion covers for sale on Trademe. Now....let the fun begin!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011





They're Here....They're Here!
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The eagerly awaited patterns have arrived. The neighbours can stop thinking my letter box watching is actually spying! I can't wait to start. My first project is to be the jeans. I need a new pair for spring. I fancy some skinny's with cargo pockets on the side to wear with ballet flats and the Jalie tops above. I have bought some fantastic black, light weight, stretch denim for the job. I did fancy grey but couldn't find any I liked in the shop and this black was cheap at $8 per metre so perfect for trial pants. I have a couple of projects on the go first, which I am itching to finish....can't leave a job unfinished because I am always reluctant to go back to it. I am also debating how to go about tracing off the pattern. I can't bear to cut the original so have a couple of options. Firstly I could photocopy the original and cut this out or secondly, I have some frost cloth that is still in the packet and I have been told this makes good durable patterns. I have also been told that Spotlight sells clear table cloth by the roll which would make the job super easy but possibly a little more difficult to store. Also after another expensive trip to the fabric shop yesterday to pick up one small item I am reluctant to visit again for fear of having to sell an organ to pay for it all, so trying to stay away for the forseeable future.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011




I was sifting through my patterns the other day and found some patterns I used to make my children clothes when they were small.
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Before the beginning of each season, I would drag out my entire stash of kiddy fabrics and my patterns and plan for the season ahead. Just about everything my older children wore was made by me. I loved the creative process and it certainly eased my budget as well. Sadly by the time my youngest son came along, life had got in the way. I had 3 young children and we were renovating so time was in short supply. I had a lot of clothing from my older son so I didn't really make much for number 3. One of my favourite and most used patterns was Burda 4622. I don't know how many times I made this one up but I certainly got my monies worth and it is a pattern that even though I don't have a use for it currently, I can't see myself ever parting with. The fit is so good, nice and roomy, perfect for nappy bottoms and because the pants are cuffed, I found they were good for two winters.

Monday, August 8, 2011



I have been spending a bit of time out in my garden of late, cleaning up after the ravages of winter and there are definite signs of spring. My roses are budding up, my fruit trees threatening to break out into blossom and the daffodils are smiling at the sun.
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Last week I visited my favourite fabric shop on the premis of buying some dacron to cover yet another chair, and a couple of zips for more cushion covers and came out with far more than I bargained for which is really no surprise. The colours of spring in the shop sucked me in. I ended up with a few new pieces of cotton and four new patterns. One of those patterns was for pyjamas. My spring/summer pyjama collection is really not much more than a sad collection of well used and washed out rags and every year I promise to replace them. I trawl the shops in vain looking for a nice pair of pyjamas and ultimately come home empty handed. This year it is time to try a different approach. I whipped up these pyjamas over the weekend using my new Simplicity 3696 and some cotton interlock that my mother gave me from her collection, a couple of years ago. I am now feeling a little smug because not only do I have some nice new pyjamas for the new season, they only cost me $4 for the pattern on sale. I am so pleased with the results, I spent some time today, digging through my stash and washing up some more fabric for another pair. I made up a small, even though my measurements dictated a medium and am really pleased with the fit of the top but the trousers are a little on the large side and I had to run in the calves quite a bit. I have also made these 3/4 length rather than full length. I can see this pattern getting a lot of use.

Saturday, August 6, 2011




I have been working on a project this week utilising the growing pile of cotton lycra tee shirts that are in really good condition but sadly to small for the wearer and some gorgeous fold over elastic that I bought through the American fabric co-ops when I had my nappy making business. I looked at the pile of colourful creations that I was so excited about blogging about and was promptly vetoed by a member of the household who shall remain nameless...sigh! Never mind, I shall respect their privacy and move on...
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I couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to purchase two very large bags of upholstery fabric ends and samples for cushion making at $5 per bag. I have been looking at them and playing with them periodically ever since, trying to come up with colour combinations for cushions as usually there is not enough fabric for more than one complete cushion. My own cushions were looking a little sad after being thrown around the floor, jumped on, slept on, had popcorn fingers all over....you get my drift! So one cold wet afternoon I whipped up these cushions. My inners needed attention as well so enter the remnants bin, some shredding of old inners and roping one of my sons in to stuff the new inners and hey presto we have some cushions suitable to grace my living spaces.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


I find it really difficult to know what to wear at this time of the year. The day's are warm but the mornings are still freezing. Today I had some post to do at the local mall, so since it was such a nice day, rather than get the car out I would enjoy the fresh air and ride my bike. This tunic is made of a cotton tee shirting knit. It has a cowl neck and an uneven hem being longer at the sides than the centre. I self drafted this pattern based on a rtw tee shirt I bought last summer. Underneath I am wearing a Glassons merino and leggings and ballet flats...perfect for cycling! In my basket I have a shopping tote I made some time back using embroidered cottong drill in black and beige.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011



I'm Over My Winter Clothes....
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Usually at this stage of winter, I am over my winter clothes and looking forward to the change in seasons and this year is no different. The blouse I am wearing today, I made last winter using Simplicity 2756. It is made of gorgette and while I am happy with the way it looks on, I was not so happy with it's construction. I added elastic to the hip section because it was too wide and hung a little like a sack. I have had to repair it because the fabric frayed and pulled away at the neck line. I wouldn't be in a big hurry to use this fabric again but I do like the print. It has a little of a hippy vibe but I also liked how the tartan was on trend without me having to look like a cowboy. Because the mornings are still crisp, I am wearing it today with a chocolate coloured merino polo neck that I picked up yesterday at a charity shop.

Monday, August 1, 2011


Waiting For the Mail!

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My Patterns have yet to arrive from the States so while I wait....patiently or not, I am trying to clear out my "what do I do with this" fabric stash. When my oldest son was small I got rather carried away buying suitable fabric for overalls and shorts. At 12, I can't see him wearing bold stripes or checks in cotton drill, so it is time to think out of the box...or pack the fabric away for one day in the distant future when I can sew for grandchildren! Not being that much of a hoarder or very patient, I need a use for those fabrics now. I have a rather shabby pile of eco shopping bags in the back of my car that I have collected from the supermarket and other freebe places and they are neither stylish and some not even practical. I decided that my expensive groceries and other shopping needed something a little more stylish to be carried around in. I now have a stylish shopping tote and a gap in my cupboard...bonus!