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  1. Simplicity 1717

    June 23, 2014 by rosie


    Wow. it’s been about 6 months since I posted anything. Where did those months go?! How can it be June – and almost July – already?!

    Needless to say, 2014 hasn’t really been the year of amazing, endless sewing productivity and inspiration. In fact, it could be fair to say that I completely lost my sewing mojo. My zeal for that, and anything else I usually enjoy, just seemed to disappear altogether. Just thinking about getting out fabric or pulling out the sewing machine made me feel overwhelmed.

    Not that the year has been completely sewing-less. I did make this dress back in February, and didn’t get around to blogging it:

    DSC_0050 (Medium) DSC_0047 (Medium)

    And then, there was the 6 meter ‘golden curtain’ I had to make in two days for work for a function. That was an interesting experience – I got to legitimately ‘work from home’…swapping my PC for my sewing machine in the name of ‘other duties as required’! It required metres and metres of fabric (over 14 metres of disgusting synthetic shiny stuff we found in the back of the work storeroom from a function years ago) – sewing in putrid hot summer heat. It was almost as long as my single-fronted house; working with such a large amount of fabric was a bit tricky to wrangle. I used fishing hooks in the bottom to weight the curtain down and I just used curtain gathering tape at the top, with some black ties to tie it on to a rigging beam.

    The end result:

    golden curtain

    Then there was the 14 metres of purple-themed bunting for my best friend’s Hens day. I had a very tight timeframe, so my sister came over with her sewing machine, and we set up a production line in my living room, cutting and zooming through triangles, and listening to songs on the radio from the 1980′s. Here’s a sample of just some of it:

    DSC_0074 (Medium) DSC_0077 (Medium)

    And then I became an Aunty for the first time, (Yay!!!)  so I knitted a little cardigan to welcome Walter into the world. 7 weeks later, he’s already well and truly grown out of it!

    walter-1 walter-2

    But apart from these things – which I consider more craft than sewing – I’ve really had to force myself to get back into anything, including my sewing room. My first sewing attempt was waaaay too ambitious, and ended up being a complete and utter disaster – both financially and for my self worth! I’m not yet ready to talk about that one. Let’s just say I don’t think it’s salvageable and for the time being it’s screwed up in a ball out of sight.

    In order to ease my way back into the sewing world, I decided to be kind to myself and attempt something decidedly more achievable. Something that would be quick, straightforward and with minimal fitting or construction issues. The resulting project? – Simplicity 1717.

    skirt_june2014-6You might remember my fabric shopping spree last year. Among my purchases was a remnant of green, brown and cream check wool. Not my usual colours, but it was on sale and the green was sort of cheery.

    With winter well and truly at home in Melbourne, it was time to bring down by boxes of winter fabric. This piece seemed to fit the bill – there was just enough for the skirt, and it is so thick, it’s basically like wearing a warm woolen blanket.


    It’s funny, I haven’t really worked that much with fabrics where you have to align a pattern, like a check. It was evident too. It took me AGES to lay the pieces out in a way which I thought would cause the least interruption to the check pattern. The centre seam was a bit of an issue, as this isn’t cut on the straight of the grain, so I knew that no matter what, the lines were going to look bit skewiff. However, even despite my painstaking attempts at lining things up perfectly, I realised AFTER I had cut out the pieces that I should have laid it out on the perpendicular grain, as the squares were evenly spaced that way and not that way I had cut it out. DANG!!!!!!


    I decided to embrace the busy-ness of the check pattern and go with the massive over-sized pockets (who doesn’t love a pocket?!). And, in order to maximise the busy-ness, I decided to cut these on the bias, to add contrast and to detract the eye away from the (sort of mis-aligned) background check.

    I’m so glad I did! I love the pockets!



    I made a few changes to this pattern, as follows:

    • I cut the pockets on a bias
    • I added a lining
    • I used lining fabric for the waistband facing, as the wool was just far too bulky
    • I didn’t hem the top of the pockets as described (again due to the thickness). Instead I just finished it off with a bias binding. (Unfortunately, I only had some lilac colour on hand, so it doesn’t exactly go)
    • lengthened the skirt a bit.

    I probably should have faced the pockets with some calico or something, to avoid it stretching. Whoops – I didn’t think of that until I was finished.

    After sewing and wearing so many retro style garments in recent years, it felt really strange to wear something that was slung lower down on my hips. Comfortable, yes, but odd. Too be honest, it’s probably a little lose. And because of the thickness of the fabric, the bulk at the seams, especially where the skirt attaches to the facing, means that it’s a bit bulky, and, kind of unflattering. It makes me look fatter than I am.

    But, it’s super comfy, it’s cheery and really warm!

    All in all, an easy pattern that didn’t have too many nasty surprises. A good project to ease back into the sewing world.

  2. Stash Slasher: McCall’s 6433

    January 23, 2014 by rosie


    McCall's 6433

    Well, I’m well and truly back at  (my actual) work, and consequently the sewing has slowed down.

    Those of you in Melbourne, especially, will also know that we’ve been experiencing some pretty extreme heatwave action last week. Consecutive days of temperature well into the 40′s means that even sewing is too much – everything, along with my brain, was fried in the heat – staying cool was pretty much the only priority for everyone.

    (On a side note, this is my first summer with short hair – what an amazing difference it makes! It’s so much cooler and less hassle, AND I can still wear a hat! )

    Anyway, this weekend there was a bit of turbo (read, sloppy) sewing action. I had cut out this dress before the heatwave, but I didn’t really get a red hot go at it until a week or go later. I decided that I just needed to get it out of my system, so there was more rushing than I would have liked, which has resulted in a few questionable finishing techniques and end results, but I’ll get to that later.

    I was instantly attracted to McCall’s 6433. I love those front pleats in the skirt and the shoulder tucks on the bodice – just enough detail to make it interesting, and yet still quite a sensible and smart dress for the office.  I think those pleats and tucks also hint at a bygone era, but it’s still quite modern. I also like how it’s not skin tight – there’s a bit of a breezy looseness to it that makes it look comfortable and cool.

    Line Art

    Recently, I purchased some new shoes in the post-Christmas sales – one pair was multi-coloured (a little 1980′s ) in bright pinks, reds, blues and greens. I fell in love with them instantly, purchased them, and promptly realised that I hardly have any plain garments with which to wear them. The piece of fabric I had in mind for this project was the perfect blue, so I figured it was a sign that I should make something from it.

    new shoes

    The purchasing of these new multi-coloured shoes forced me to use this fabric

     The fabric is a blue silk crepe that I’m pretty sure I purchased from the Fabric Store on Brunswick Street a few years ago. I loved the bright rich blue, but when I got it home, I was too scared to use it. Too scared, because it felt like ‘good’ fabric, and I didn’t want to muck it up, and also because of the “drapey” properties, which I thought would be slippery and tricky to work with.

    I was right on that front. Cutting this out was tricky, and getting those tailor’s tacks in the right spot for the pleat markings was extremely difficult. The fabric has a way of sliding around and stretching, and when I was sewing the darts, it kept moving so that it was impossible to stitch where I wanted to. This meant that there was a lot of hand basting – pretty much every dart, tuck and pleat, which was very time consuming. On the other hand, the crepe is pretty amazing. I’ve never worked with it before, but it’s quite springy and malleable, and feels like it has quite a bit of natural give in it. The feel and drape of it is  pretty heavenly. I was surprised how well the pleats ironed. However, it also frays like nothing else.I have some left over from the dress that I’ll save for another project. I might even try and research how to properly deal with it next time.


    McCall's 6433

    The slippery nature of the silk crepe meant that marking the pleat lines accurately with tailor’s tacks was very difficult

    I lined the bodice with a lightweight silk/cotton blend voile that I had leftover in my stash. The bottom half, the skirt lining, is a silk that I quickly purchased from the Fabric Store.  The pattern doesn’t call for a skirt lining, but the crepe is a bit see-through and I knew that the whole thing would sit better with a lining. For the lining, I just used the skirt pattern, the back piece exactly as is, and just placing the non-pleated side of the skirt front on the fold. I wish they’d drafted a separate bodice lining without the shoulder pleats – I think this would have acted as a stay for the outer fabric, and would have helped with making sure that the under side didn’t peek out. As it is, I think because of the difficulty in cutting out the fashion fabric, I ended up having to hand baste small tucks in the lining at the very end as there was excess fabric and the lining was showing from the outside. Not a very nice finishing touch on the inside!  I’m sure many of you are horrified!


    McCall's 6433

    Front Shoulder Pleats

    McCall's 6433

    The final result…I probably should have made it a little smaller at the waist and hips, but I still wanted a blouse-y feel to it.

    I had a few issues inserting the back zip and getting the centre back skirt seams to line up. I unpicked it twice and still couldn’t get them to meet. I gave up due to the delicate fabric, but it REALLY gets to me. Even though I’ll wear a belt (a cheap, hot pink belt to match with the shoes was an emergency purchase over the weekend), I still hate it. I’m contemplating undoing all the hand stitching around the zip and unpicking the back waistline seam and lining and trying to get it to match up. At the moment it just looks really sloppy. I’m quite embarrassed by it.

    I lengthened the bodice by 1 centimeter. I probably could have even added in another 1/2 centimeter to this – I think it still sits a little high. I added more to the side seams at the hip, based on the body measurements on the packet, but I ended up having to take this, and probably more, in. The front V neckline gapes a little bit (no surprises there), so if I made this again, I would probably take some small tucks out in the pattern to make it a little more taut – I’d probably also try and do the fancy stay tape down the seam that many of the sewing books suggest (and which I knew I should have done, even as I was sewing it).


    McCall's 6433

    Will I ever be able to iron all those pleats back in?

    All in all, it’s a really lovely pattern, but not my best sewing work. I’m disappointed in myself, and also because I know that I’ll probably put this pattern away now and move on to something else, and it deserves a better outcome than the one I’ve given! I am a little worried how I’ll go ironing back all those pleats once it’s been washed, especially now that the tailor’s tacks have been removed!



  3. Stash Slasher: Simplicity 2154

    January 5, 2014 by rosie

    Simplicity 2154

    Remember my fit of pattern buying back in 2013? One of the patterns in this frenzied purchase was Simplicity 2154 – a 1960′s reproduction complete with smart pencil skirt, shirt and two jacket options. At the time, being winter, I envisioned making the suit up in my pink plaid wool, but that still hasn’t happened. This is partly because I discovered that the jacket isn’t lined (!?) , and I have not had the energy to sit down and figure out how to draft/assemble a jacket lining.

    Now that it’s summer, I thought I may as well have a crack at the blouse pattern. I’m so attracted this blouse – mainly because of that ridiculously massive, over-the-top bow. I just love it. It even looks awesome on the real life model on the pattern cover!

    For this project, I again consulted my stash. I wanted something lightweight and happy. I’m a bit of a scrooge when it comes to fabric – I’ve got quite a few lovely fabrics that would have been perfect, but if I hacked into them for this project, then I may not have had enough leftover to make a dress from it, and I didn’t want to ‘waste’ it. So I found this piece of cotton – I think it might be voile – that I’ve had sitting there since I was at university!

    I remember purchasing this piece of fabric. It was at a remnant sale at Clegs store in the city. It was opening early at 8am, and when I arrived, there was already a queue of mainly middle-aged women outside the front. As soon as the doors opened, there was this mad rush to the table where all the remnants had been laid. A frenzied flurry then ensued, of arms and legs and bosoms and elbows as the ladies’ quest to  to find ‘that’ piece of fabric turned into a formidable fight . It was a battle, and, as a relative new sewer at the time, I was way out of my league.

    But I did manage to snap up this piece of fabric. I loved the fine cotton and the bright crisp vivid colours. There wasn’t much in there, so it’s been languishing away in a tub since then.

    It’s probably not the ideal fabric to use for this design, as the busy pattern inhibits the details of the blouse’s collar and bow, but I figured it would do, and it could act as a ‘practice run’ before I ultimately make it up in something a bit more luxurious.

    I’m actually really happy with the result! This pattern gets a big thumbs up from me! It was straightforward to make, the pieces fitted together really well and it wasn’t super fiddly. For some reason, I was dreading inserting the side zipper (I had this vision of the bottom ends not matching up, as you insert it upside down), but even that went in perfectly first  time round!

    I really love the keyhole at the front and back, and of course the bow. Now, here, I must say that the pattern calls for an interfaced bow. The only interfacing I could find on hand of the right amount was probably overkill – as a result, this bow is mega stiff, and it probably could be a little softer and droopier.  I suggest that if you make this pattern, have a play with various types of interfacing before launching straight into it like I did – it might be the case that you don’t need to interface it at all. Having said that, I’m getting along just fine with my overly rigid bow.


    loving that bow!

    loving that bow!

    I took the shirt out for a quick test drive the very evening I finished making it. I dusted off my bike which had been exiled to the shed and took the blouse for a spin.


    I’ll definitely be making this one again. Next time I might make it a smidgen longer. I can’t wait to see what it does when made up in different types of fabric. My only complaint is that it doesn’t come with sleeve options – that would really have made it useful for making winter versions.

    And of course, I need to make the rest of the pattern’s family members – maybe the pencil skirt will be an easy one to whip up soon.

  4. Stash Slasher: Butterick 5708

    January 4, 2014 by rosie

    Butterick 5708

    Spotlight had their post-Christmas sale on, so I trundled off  “just to have a look”. There was such a good deal going on with patterns (excluding Vogue, of course!) that I ended up coming home with 9 of them! (I would have bought more, but they were out of stock of some of them).

    Butterick 5708 is one of these patterns. I’ve eyed it off when flicking through the pattern books on several occasions, but it had never made the cut previously. The reduced price twisted my arm, and I thought I’d give it a go.

    It’s an intriguing pattern. A reproduction of a 1953 dress, the line art on the pattern cover looks so fetching, doesn’t it? With just a change of the shoulder bow/straps, you can create various looks, from the sweet girl-next-door central image, to sophisticated cocktail dress and summertime holidaying outfit and more. And of course, the ‘models’ are all so glamorous.  Just look at them! They are so poised and coy and calm and classy, and they’ve managed to whip themselves up this dress without misplacing a single strand of their perfectly coiffed hair, and their impossibly tiny waists don’t seem to have suffered at all from the post-Christmas bulge. I want their life.


    Part of the reason I hadn’t pursued it in the past is because, like those line drawings, it just all seems too good to be true. When I look at it, I hear warning bells in my head – it’s not possible for one dress to ‘do’ all those looks and fit and sit well. It won’t look as flattering as it does on the fictitious ladies, and with those V shaped bodice pieces, altering for sizing and fit is not going to be easy, if at all possible.

    I think this is a common problem with vintage patterns and their offerings of glamorous, non-realistic women on the cover. One must ‘filter’ internally and try and reinterpret what the pattern is really doing, and what it is likely to do on a real life figure.  I find that looking at the actual line drawings on the back of the pattern (the technical outline of the garment) often helps. For instance, in Butterick 5708, the line drawings show that in none of the variations is the bodice completely ‘wrinkle free’ – so it’s unlikely that the bodice will be super close fitting, particularly given that it’s cut on the bias. It needs to be on the bias in order to manipulate those shoulder ties into all those different shapes; because of this, there will be a certain element of drape (or, if you will, gaping) that will be inevitable.You can see that in all the views, there is an element of a cowl neckline going on. Even the ladies on the front hint at this.

    Having said that, the bias-cut lower pieces of the bodice did worry me. A quick look at other encounters with this pattern on confirmed my suspicions. The pattern didn’t seem to pose a problem for a lucky few, but it seems most  people had a lot of trouble with this bodice. I think a few of these people didn’t factor in the ‘drape’ aspect of the bodice, but nevertheless, common  complaints were that the tie ends were much bigger in real life than in the drawing, that the bodice sizing runs large, and that the bias cut of the bodice pieces means that nothing sits well. Before I had even begun my version, I felt the project was doomed. I was also surprised by how many people lopped off the length of the skirt, in order to make it look more ‘modern’.  I think it needs the length to visually balance the top half. Also, the weight of the skirt probably helps to anchor down the bodice and smooth out any bias wrinkles.

    The fabric I used for my version has been in my stash for  a couple of years. It’s cotton, and not particularly fabulous quality. I bought it at Lincraft on sale – it was very cheap, and the bold hot pink florals just screamed ‘massive 50′s statement skirt’ at me. It reminded me a bit of the dress Betty Draper wears in one of the early seasons when they go picnicking and they leave all their rubbish behind.

    It’s been taking up room in my stash ever since. So much yardage is bulky, so I figured it was time to use it. Plus, as it was cheap, I wasn’t too emotionally attached to it – I didn’t care too much if the whole thing turned out to be a disaster.

    big pink flowers for summer!

    big pink flowers for summer!

    As I was feeling impatient and little grumpy, and I had a fair bit of fabric to spare, I didn’t bother making a muslin. I did the usual depressing alterations of grading out the pattern from a size 8 bust through to  a size 12. The skirt is so huge, they don’t even bother changing the pattern for the different sizes there!

    One thing I did differently that the pattern didn’t call for was I used interfacing on the lower portions of the bodice. I thought this might help to get a ‘stiffer’ look on the bottom part of the bodice, and add a bit of support to the bias cut fabric. The fusible interlining (cotton), didn’t iron on that splendidly and  there are a few wrinkles and bubbles that I just can’t get rid of.  Perhaps silk organza interlining would be been better. It’s not disastrous though. Overall, I think the interfacing probably did help, actually.

    The instructions for this dress are very sparse and not very detailed. They didn’t even tell you to reinforce and clip at the v points before joining the upper and lower bodice parts! Anyone with a bit of sewing experience has probably encountered this before, but if you were a beginner sewer, omitting this tip would really inhibit your sewing pleasure and end result. And as someone on Patternreview pointed out, they don’t bother to tell you to leave the side seam open on the opposite side for the lining- an obvious thing to do if you have made linings before, but not so obvious for the beginner. I’m not sure if these instructions are exactly as they were in the 1950′s, when a lot of knowledge was assumed, but they could really have done with a bit more detail, I think.

    I constructed my dress in a different order to that in the pattern. There was no way I was going to attach the whole massive skirt and THEN attach the bodice lining and try and deal with all that bulk and weight! I also waited until the end to insert the zipper, so I could adjust the fit (I ended up taking in the waist seam a fair bit), so I’m glad I did this.

    I also made a fabric belt, using buckram as a stiffening and a white plastic buckle I had kicking around. I find that waisted 50′s dresses look awful on me unless there is a belt to cinch in the waist – this is especially the case if the waist is gathered. And boy, is this skirt gathered!! Making this dress reminded me how much I hate gathering full skirts. Ugh!! So fiddly and annoying! Hand stitching around that hem took me hours!

    I love the full skirt (supported by a net petticoat), but not sure the bodice is so flattering


    Trying to get the ties to sit right is a little tricky

    Trying to get the ties to sit right is a little tricky


    I don’t love this dress, but I don’t hate it. I probably need to wear it out somewhere and see how I feel about it.  I love the hot pink flowers and the full skirt, but the top of the bodice is a bit…weird. The bodice drapes and cowls as anticipated – I’m just not convinced that it’s super flattering on me, particularly on such a small bust. It’s a bit fiddly and takes a while to get the ties in the right position – a bit of twisting helps, I’ve discovered, and you have to be prepared to muck around a bit with it. The fit isn’t super flattering either, but that could also be the fact that it’s January, and I haven’t worked off Christmas yet!


    • Awesome full skirt
    • Summery and fun design
    • Only 4 pattern pieces (plus skirt)!
    • Relatively straightforward to make


    • Not much room for alterations in bodice
    • weird bias-cut means not super sleek fit in lower bodice
    • difficult to get the ties/upper bodice to sit right – inevitable gaping/draping/cowl
    • You need a lot of fabric!



  5. Stash Slasher: Simplicity 1609

    January 3, 2014 by rosie

    My blue of my new dress goes well with the mustard of my new bag!

    I actually made this project in early December, but it took a while to take photos etc, and then Christmas craziness got in the way, so I’m posting this a month late.

    Simplicity 1609 is a 1960′s reproduction pattern, and the perfect project to ease my way back into sewing. It had been so long since my last project, and I wanted something quick, easy and summery as the weather had finally begun to warm up a bit.

    The fabric in question has been in my stash for a year or so. I’m pretty sure I picked it up during a sale in Spotlight – I had fallen in love with the cornflower blue and the little cutout circles in the centre of the flower motives.

    However, there was a reason why the fabric was so cheap. If you look closely, the fabric mimics the patterns on broderie anglaise, but the flower motives are just printed, not stitched. This is fine, but what isn’t so cool is the fact that the cutout holes aren’t reinforced by stitching. I soon discovered that this makes the fabric very delicate, and the tip of the iron tends to get caught in all the holes and tears them. Once I realised this, I mentally shifted my approach to the project as a ‘test run’, rather than a ‘serious’ garment. Consequently, the final product is a bit slapdash, and I’m not entirely happy with the finish.

    This dress is a bit of fun to wear

    This dress is a bit of fun to wear

    However, the pattern itself is cool! It really is simple to sew, and is great for instant gratification. I didn’t do too much fiddling with pattern alterations – I just did the usual tapering from the bust outwards to accommodate my wide waist and hips. However, I did overcompensate a little and ended up taking a bit in around the hip area after trying it on – better to be safe than sorry though! For this dress, I did a size 8 bust, but next time I might do a 10 instead, as it’s quite narrow across my shoulders.

    My version of Simplicity 1609 enjoyed its debut outing at the local cafe down the road from our new place.

    My version of Simplicity 1609 enjoyed its debut outing at the local cafe down the road from our new place.

    It would have even been quicker and simpler to whip up were it not for the fact that I needed to underline the dress due to the cutout holes. I used a white lawn as a backing fabric. Originally I thought I would make the inner and outer layer separately and do away with the facings, but I soon realised that this would mean that at the seams would be flimsy wherever the cutout holes hit the seam line, and the fold back of the seam inside the dress would mean that the white wouldn’t show through near these seams. So in the end, I treated the white and the blue fabric as one, and used the facing in blue to ensure that no white would peek through around the neckline and armholes.

    I think the collar is super cute. I used a white cotton drill I had on hand, but really, this is too thick. As a result, the sewing of the scallops isn’t super precise, and was a bit bulky when turning it out and pressing to get a nice rounded finish on the outer edges. Actually, to be honest, it’s downright sloppy and the main reason why I’m a little ashamed of the dress.  I tried to roll the seam slightly to the underside (a little trickier than normal, due to the scallops), but I also forgot to trim down the excess this created from the raw, neck edge of the collar. I stupidly ended up with excess fabric underneath the collar, which I didn’t realise until I’d sewing all the facings on. I ended up hand sewing little tucks on the underside to try compensate because I was too lazy to  unpick everything, but it’s sloppy and a  bit of a botched job.  Even though nobody can see it because it’s the underside of the collar, I still know it’s there and it bothers me!


    The pesky collar!

    The pesky collar!

    However, the dress ended up being my Christmas day dress, and I still love the colour and the pattern. I’d like to make another one (maybe with the bow option), but I have so many other patterns waiting in line that I’m not sure I’ll get around to it.

    And of course, even though it’s summer, the Melbourne weather is being pathetic, and it’s too cold to wear it anywhere!

    Taking some Christmas/Summer leave means that I’ve been busy in the sewing room over the past week, and I’ve made a few other garments – photos to come soon!

  6. A Burning Desire: conducting a flame test on fabrics

    January 2, 2014 by rosie

    After a ridiculous hiatus (involving moving house and all the associated trauma), I’ve finally set up the sewing room. It was the last room in the house to be sorted. This is mainly because we’ve downsized and now my fabric stash and associated sewing paraphernalia is more overwhelming than ever before, and finding a way to make it all fit proved challenging.

    Moving house did remind me just how much sewing stuff I have – whether it be fabric or patterns. It makes me feel a little guilty – I really should stop buying both, as I already have years’ worth to keep me going, and so much of it has been left untouched for so long.

    I’ve promised my husband that I’ll try really hard to reduce my fabric stash this year. And I’ve promised myself that this year, there will be more sewing action than in 2013.

    One of the first things I did once we’d settled into our new house was something I’ve been hankering to do for a while, but wasn’t exactly sure how to go about it. I did a burn test on various pieces of “mystery” fabrics.  It was like those science experiments we did back in high school – I felt I should have donned a lab coat and plastic goggles, and written out my ‘hypothesis’, ‘method’ and ‘conclusion’ in my notebooks.

    Instead, I convinced my husband to help me out, and we set fire to various strips of  ‘unsub’ fabric – mainly pieces I had thrifted or inherited over the years -  on a baking tray over the kitchen table to see if we could determine the fibre content. I used this website as my reference point.

    I must say, I was pleasantly surprised by how much the process revealed about the fibres. While there are obvious limitations to the exercise – such as not being able to identify the exact make-up of blends, or the precise type of fibre – it soon became evident which of the fabrics were made of natural fibres and which weren’t.  There are several clues – the way the fabric burns (or melts, if it’s some disgusting plastic chemical), they way it smells, and the residue/ashes the fabric leaves behind.

    Let’s just say that, as a result of the burn test, many pieces of fabric were swiftly thrown out or donated to the local charity – after inhaling the sickening chemical smell and watching the samples drip and melt into a congealed blob, there was no way I wanted to be wearing any of those pieces! Sadly, there was one great 1960′s piece I’d been given that I’d been holding onto for years because of the colours – even though I had my suspicions, I was secretly hoping it would prove to be all natural, but a burn test quickly revealed that this was certainly not the case.

    There were a few pleasant surprises too, and, ultimately, I managed to whittle down my fabric stash just a little bit more!

    If you have a mystery piece in your stash, I highly recommend the flame test as a quick way of determining the basic properties of the fabric. A word of waring – just make sure you do this in a well ventilated area – the aromas of burning synthetic are strong, unpleasant, toxic and tend to linger.




  7. I’ve got the Blogging blues…

    October 8, 2013 by rosie

    I feel like this blog is doomed! Part of the problem is that in order to post, I feel I need to have created something new to share, but I have had so many setbacks lately, I just haven’t had the chance to sew anything!

    Last time I posted, I was all revved up about winter patterns and 1960’s-inspired pinafores and a bit of a fabric splurge on winter woolens at the Fabric Store’s sale. Unfortunately, sinus surgery put a big fat ugly spanner in the works – two weeks bedridden, in totally unglamorous recovery without even so much as cutting out a pattern let alone making something. Even knitting was too hard (I’m not a very committed knitter – I’ve been on and off knitting this for over a year now).

    However, whilst convalescing, even though I couldn’t physically do much, I did manage to do a lot of thinking about clothes and pattern construction and sewing and fabric. I opened up a few of my books for inspiration – including Claire B. Shaeffer’s Couture Sewing Techniques; the V&A’s The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-1957 (that exhibition traveled to Bendigo back in the summer of 2008/09 – I went twice); and several of my Australian Home Journals. I love my AHJ’s, but the frustrating part is that, until the late 50’s/early 60-‘s, all the gorgeous free patterns are designed for ‘the average 36” bust figure’. I have come to the conclusion that this size is simply too big for me to try and adapt for my body type in a satisfactory way – the difference is just too much. As is my frustration. The only compromise I can see is to use the pattern pieces given as a guide to drafting a pattern from scratch in my bust size. However, there is one obvious impediment – I am not a trained pattern drafter.

    In pondering this whilst bedridden, I rediscovered Harriet Pepin’s Modern Pattern Design – my husband had given me a copy of this book for my birthday a few years back. In a nutshell, this is a textbook, written in 1942, for pattern drafting. The images within it are delightful, and, obviously, all examples and illustrations and designs are beautiful, (and often complicated) vintage concoctions.


    draped skirt

    glamour skirt bodic backs

    The text itself, and its tone, is also a reminder of a bygone era. Harriett makes no concessions, and she certainly doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to her (and her era’s ideas) of ‘good’ or ‘right’ design. Coming from today’s world, where we are encouraged to celebrate a diversity and range of body shapes, styles and opinions, Harriet’s world seems unforgiving:

    “Notice that side seam lines E-F-H should change to conform to changing contours caused by flesh deposits on the heavier, mature figure. If side seam on Mrs. Heavy were to be made vertical as it was for Mrs. Slim, it would fail to divide her silhouette vertically and would reveal her bad figure lines.”

    If the following illustration is anything to go by, it’s amazing what 70 odd years can do to body shape perception. Consider Harriet’s examples below. In a country with one of the world’s highest and fastest growing obesity rate, is this how we would describe “Mrs Plump” ?

    Mrs Slim to Mrs Heavy

    Aside from the historical skew, I’ve been meaning to try out Harriet’s drafting technique for a while. It seems a little more involved than Winnifred Aldrich’s Metric Pattern Cutting, and as it’s ‘genuine vintage’, I guess I’m secretly hoping it will help me achieve a ‘genuine vintage’ look. Apart from the inconvenience of it all being in imperial measurements rather than metric, the one thing that has stopped me every time in the past is the apparent omission of any mention of ease in the bodice. Upon reading the chapter, it looks as though one is meant to take the literal body measurements and use them in the pattern draft without factoring in any ease at all. Surely that would make it impossible to get on the wearer, let alone make for a flattering and comfortable fit? Frustratingly, Harriet alludes to ease here and there in the chapter, but never explicitly states how much to add, or to which measurements. My first attempt at the bodice was pretty dismal – it’s evident I’m going to need a good chunk of time and space (and patience) to try and nut it out.

    Unfortunately, two weeks off work means a lot of catching up upon return, which, in turn, means no progress in the sewing front. The few things I have attempted lately have been disasters. It’s always so disappointing – you invest so much emotional hope and energy into the ‘vision’, and then there’s all the time spent cutting out the pattern, cutting out the fabric, sewing the pieces together, only to discover that, frankly, it looks terrible. The latest to this list was a shirt for my husband. In theory, it should have been fine – I’ve even used this pattern before on a shirt for him, with good results. But for some reason this time round, it’s just not working. It’s the cut of the shirt – it’s too daggy, too old man 1980’s baggy, and I’m not sure I can fix it. So bits of it are lying all over the house, mocking me. Do I spend the energy and try and finish it anyway and put it down to ‘experience’, or do I just move on? The worst of it is that I even used the ‘Classic Tailored Shirt’ tutorial from Craftsy. Don’t get me wrong, the tutorial is excellent, and Pam (the instructor) has such a relaxed and calming way of speaking and teaching. It’s just that, I was even more care careful than usual – trying to be precise in my pressing and turning and folding, and flat felling all the seams! So it’s a real shame that I’m just not convinced by the end product.

    And now that things have settled down a bit, the season is turning, and I’ve realised how fickle I am. We’ve had glimpses of sunshine, the days are getting longer, and daylight savings has just kicked in. All of a sudden I’m looking longingly at my summer cotton stash and thinking of 1950’s sundresses and Christmas party outfits and 50’s inspired shorts and shirts for the perfect picnic and bike ride scenario.

    Too bad we have to find a place to live and move house next month.

  8. Vogue 1338 and gourmet tracksuit fabric: flirting with the 1980′s

    July 27, 2013 by rosie

    Red Dress 001Illness has slowed me down in my turbo sewing frenzy, but I have managed to complete another project.

    A somewhat dangerous trip to The Fabric Store on Brunswick Street resulted in purchasing of more fabric (so much for stash reduction).  They were having a sale (it’s still on, with even more reductions now!), and so my husband wisely felt that I would require his supervision. He was right, and luckily he was able to balance my euphoria and enthusiasm with a more rational approach of forcing me to justify the potential purchase for each piece of fabric fondled.

    So much temptation!

    I ended up with a few really nice pieces of fabric. A great pink and grey houndstooth wool which I think might end up as Simplicity 2154 , some awesome silk to use as lining which picks up these colours, a remnant piece of tweedy wool (not sure what I’ll make from this yet) and a few other pieces as well.

    My Fabric purchases

    But I also purchased some  dark red pure wool fleece. It was so soft and cuddly and cozy, I just had to get it. It has a very slight stretch to it, and the lady at the store felt that it would work for Vogue 1338, even though it’s not as stretchy  and is much thicker than the fabric suggested on the pattern cover. By the time I got home, I realised that I was at risk of serious 1980’s channeling – batwing sleeves, wide belt and – shcok horror – an elasticized waist! And to top it all off –I was about to make it out of what is essentially very gourmet tracksuit fabric!!!!! Was this all a very big mistake?  All I would need to complete this 1980’shorror vision would be some geometric earrings and lashings of turquoise eyeshadow…

    Nevertheless, the allure of a comfy, fuzzy, cosy dress was too much. I haven’t really sewn with many knits or stretch fabrics, and I confess that I have a bit of a fear of them. But I’m so glad that I went ahead – I’m really happy with the result.


    These photos were taken early in the morning after I had debuted the dress at the office. Consequently the dress is a bit crumpled – I really should have given it a pressing. And apologies for the low-res images.

    The pattern packet says ‘easy’, and it really is! The hardest part was laying out the pattern pieces on the fabric  for cutting out– the front bodice piece is really wide, so trying to get all the pieces to fit on with the right grain/stretch direction is a challenge. You really do need to have wide fabric to get it out.

    I love the fact that the design means that there isn’t really any fitting requirements for the bodice- it’s loose and baggy, and there aren’t even any sleeves to set in – Brilliant! I will say though, that with all the folds in the front bodice, you do  have to sew through lots of layers of fabrics – probably about 6 at some points. With my thick fabric choice, this was the equivalent of an off-road 4WD adventure, but my trusty Bernina handled it well.

    As usual, there were a few modifications:

    • The usual tapering of sizes in the side seams,

    • adding 5cm to the skirt length (thank goodness I did!)

    • Omitting the elasticized arms. This was because my chosen fabric was simply too thick to cope with the gathering caused by elastic. These arms are VERY tight – there wasn’t enough give in the arms or the fabric for further bunching up. I simply hacked off the length where I wanted it, and hemmed the bottom.

    • I didn’t have any clear elastic on hand, so I just got a thick piece of white elastic and cut it to fit my waist. I centered it over the bodice/skirt seam allowances, and stitched it down on each side. Believe it or not, I’ve never sewn with elastic before, and I did a bit of a messy job – it looks fine on the outside, but there’s a reason I’m not showing you any photos of the inside!

    I have to say, this dress is very comfortable to wear, and I was warm and snuggly in it all day. And I felt very smug with my little secret that I was, essentially, wearing tracksuit dress to work!


  9. Stash Slasher: Simplicity 1913 “Think Pink!”

    July 16, 2013 by rosie

    You know those projects that look innocently painless on paper, but end up being far more trouble than they should? Simplicity 1913 was one of those for me.

    pink dress2(3)

    For something as basic as a princess line bodice and straight skirt, this dress occupied a lot more time and energy than I anticipated. This was mainly due to the fabric I chose, and some silly oversights and lack of preparation by me.

    I had some lolly-pink wool in the stash that I’d been saving for ages – I had envisaged a straight 1960’s frock in it when I purchased the fabric. When I saw Simplicity1913, I thought it was a match made in heaven. I decided to do things ‘properly’ and so I splurged on some leopard print silk (it was on sale) for the lining – such a decadent choice for a lining! I was convinced this was going to be a glamour frock.

    I deviated from the pattern’s original construction instructions a little. As well as lining the skirt (which the pattern doesn’t call for – I can’t believe that!) I also interlined the back of the skirt with silk organza (I need to find out where I can get this stuff at a cheaper price). I decided to do this as I had been re-reading Gertie’s New Book For Better Sewing, and also another book on couture techniques, both of which extol the virtues of silk organza as a stabilizer. Given that this was a very loosely woven fabric, I felt the back of the skirt might sag, and could do with some extra reinforcement. I also reinforced the zipper with silk organza. I haven’t done either of these before, so I’ll be interested to see how the dress wears.

    This dress is designed to sit above the natural waistline (something I failed to notice until I had cut out the fabric). After making this dress, I don’t think I’m a fan of higher-than-usual waist lines for fitted things. If I made it again, I would be lengthening the waistline. As it is, I did a .5cm seam allowance on the join to try and add in a bit more length.

    In my haste to start the sewing, I COMPLETELY forgot to cut out the lengthened hemline (I always make the hems longer than the pattern does, due to most of my height coming from my legs). I am still berating myself for this – such a stupid mistake!!! I did the tiniest hem possible (bias binding), and I think it’s only just passable. Personally, I feel the dress looks silly this short. If you are on the tallish side, I highly recommend lengthening this dress.

    DSC_0235 (9)

    The other thing that totally didn’t work for me was the gathered waist in the skirt. Maybe it was the bulkier fabric choice, but this just looked terrible on me – far too much bulk and extremely unflattering. I improvised by putting two tucks in the front to get rid of the excess fabric, and by fashioning two darts in the back. I guess the result doesn’t look too bad.

    One thing that really  annoyed me about the pattern/construction was the collar. This is stitched onto the bodice after the lining has been attached. However, the instructions just tell you to leave the edges of the collar raw and exposed. I was shocked!!!! How ugly – and on the outside of the dress! Even though, in theory, this seam allowance is covered by the collar, I still feel that this is scandalous. Once I realised, I had to do something. I didn’t have any binding in an appropriate colour, and it was late at night, so I improvised by sewing this grosgrain ribbon (which was actually a decoration on a wrapped present I was given at Christmas) to neaten up the raw edges. This isn’t ideal – too bulky and springy to do neatly – but still, it’s better than nothing.

    I ended up not lining the sleeves – partly because I tend to get hot in the office during winter, and partly because I loved the lining fabric so much that I decided to make a matching neck bow to place at the collar with the remaining fabric.(Note, I was in such a hurry to wear the dress that I didn’t have time to stitch on the tie for the photos – I wore it to work all day with only two sewing pins holding it on! I think I will make it detachable by putting two little buttons underneath the collar to which the tie can attach).DSC_0243

    By the time I was ready to sew on buttons, I was fed up with the entire dress. I felt I had spent too much money on an outfit that didn’t come up to scratch, and which hadn’t fulfilled my vision – I wasn’t going to spend any more on it! All the buttons I loved were metallic and beyond the ‘budget’ for this dress ($2.50 per button adds up when you have to purchase 8 or so!). I went for some cheap and nasty plastic ones instead. The shop only had 6 left, so I had to be stingy with how many I could use (I had to be quite strategic and careful about where to space the buttons for the bust, to avoid unfortunate placings!). It turns out, these buttons annoy me in their plastic tackiness, so I’ll keep an eye out for some metallic ones in second hand shops and see if I can upgrade down the track.

    DSC_0240 (4)  DSC_0243


    The final change I made to the original pattern was the addition of a structured belt. Because of the dodgy .5cm seam allowance, the waistline isn’t sewn very neatly – it’s a bit uneven, and it needs hiding. It’s also still higher than I’d like, so a wide belt helps the ‘allusion’ of a longer bodice. It also helps to cinch in the waist a bit – I feel this dress isn’t very flattering, and has the opposite of a slimming effect (again, I think the bulky fabric is partly to blame).

    With the amount of re-picking and altering and silly mistakes,  I had to spend some time away from the dress in order to recompose myself and not end up completely hating it. Revisiting it now, and after a very positive debut at the office,  perhaps it isn’t too disastrous? I do love the pink and gold combination.  In fact, I feel like I could step into the  “Think Pink” scene from the timeless Audrey Hepburn classic ‘Funny Face’. And that can only be a good thing, so perhaps this dress will grow on me after all….



  10. Stash Slasher: Burda 7125

    July 7, 2013 by rosie

    DSC_0216This is the first of my recent pattern purchases to be made up into a finished garment. I chose this one because it looked quick and easy – no zipper, no buttonholes, no real fitting!

    However, it took longer than it should have – mainly because of user error!

    The fabric I chose was something I’ve had sitting around for years. I bought it when Darn Cheap Fabrics in Newport was still in existence, and when I was still a student. This combination of store name and my own limited student finances means that, even though at the time  I felt it was an extravagant and ‘special’ purchase  – it is silk after all – it turns out the quality of the fabric isn’t that great. However, I couldn’t part with it, and it actually made it easier for me to hack into it once I realised that it didn’t matter too much if I stuffed the whole thing up. And I still love the colours.

    I decided to line the upper yoke/sleeve part in just a plain thin silk lining I had kicking around from a previous project. This worked out fine, although some of it peeks out a tiny bit around the neckline facing which annoys me slightly, but I can live with that. It’s not too terrible.DSC_0214

    I made the usual depressing size alterations – size 8 bust/sleeve, tapering out the side seams to a whopping size 12 by the time I get to the hips.

    I started out thinking that I would do the whole thing properly and commit to french seams – at least for the side seams. But I wasn’t sure if I would have to take it in anywhere, and I just couldn’t face the prospect of french seaming everything, and attaching the top half of the top, only to have to unppick it all to readjust the fit. So I ended up being lazy and overlocking the edges to stop the fraying. Lately I’ve noticed that lots of people spend the time and effort doing beautiful seam finishes on their garments (binding, french seaming etc), and I really wish I could be one of those types of sewers. It puts the insides of my garments to shame.

    Things were going along swimmingly, until I got to the part where I was meant to turn through the lining for the yoke/sleeve section. The instructions just say ‘turn’, and my poor little brain just couldn’t figure out HOW to turn it through. I ended up with this hideous tangle of sleeves, but for the life of me, I couldn’t get it to turn through. I’m sure there must be a way, but I was tired and impatient and  I just couldn’t figure out the logic to make it work. Grumpy and defeated, I ended up unpicking the lower sleeve hem (where the sleeve is joined to the lining right sides together) and instead cut out a rectangle of the fashion fabric to make a little cuff that would be the casing for the elastic. This worked out fine, but the slippery fabric made this a little more fiddly and messy to deal with. Then, of course, I couldn’t find a safety pin small enough to fit through the tiny channels for the elastic, so I spent a very long time trying to feed the elastic through using various other articles. Once I had done that and tried it on, I realised that in one of the arms, the sleeve lining and somehow twisted.  More unpicking!

    DSC_0217  The rest of the garment went together pretty easily. At the end, the inside of the top looked so messy around the armholes and where the yoke joined the body of the top, I had to do something. I felt that the bias binding I had on hand would be too stiff and bulky for the fabric used to use as a binding, so instead I improvised and decided to use the seam allowance of the black lining to wrap around the other seam allowances and act as a binding to encase all the raw edges. I hand stitched this around the armholes and yoke seams, and although it’s not perfect, it’s a whole lot better, and definitely worth the little bit of extra time. Because I had already clipped into the corners where the needle pivots around corners, these edges aren’t perfectly neatened on the inside, but it’s better than nothing.

    All in all, I’m generally  happy with the result. It’s not an amazing, show-stopping pattern, so neither is the finished product. (I wore it to work and it went through the day unnoticed by friends and colleagues), but it’s comfortable and the fabric feels nice against the skin.  It’s a useful basic wardrobe item, and no doubt I’ll probably make more down the track. I’d like to experiment with using two contrasting fabrics and colours at some point.