All the best intentions....

Wednesday 22 December 2010
As I said in my last post, I had so much I wanted to get done for Christmas this year but I only managed in the end to get a little done. Oh well, the good thing about Christmas is that the next one is only 12 months away....

I did get all my Christmas shopping done and wrapped, travel plans arranged and booked (no chance of snow related delays here) so the major things are ticked off and all is well. But this year I wanted to get more into the Christmas spirit now that Anna is cottoning on to what it's all about, and I did want to make some child friendly Christmas decorations for the tree, using this tutorial:
*image from

I bought some blue and white felt, dug out some buttons from the stash but this is as far as I got:

Hmmm, maybe I'll finish them for next year! In the meantime, unbreakable baubles from Ikea came to the rescue.

I also planned to make some wristlet style zippered purses for the carers at Anna's daycare centre instead of giving the standard chocolates or gift box of sweet smelling toiletries of which they must get heaps. Wristlets are very simple to make and there are loads of tutorials out there like this one. I went through my stash and pulled out some pretty fabrics, linings, zippers and even embellishments and this is what I came up with:

Success you might be thinking? Well sort of - I think these two are gorgeous, but I was planning to make seven of these! I ran out of energy and time to make any more, so instead went and bought seven boxes of chocolates. Life is too short to spend time sewing for people you are not sure will like what you've made. I think I'll give these two to my mum and sister instead.

This is starting to sound like another 'oh dear' post isn't it? But wait, there's more! When I'm away from my sewing machine and fabric I still have to keep my fingers busy, so I get into papercraft in a big way. Seriously, in my office I quite the collection of origami since I like to fold paper when I'm stressed or bored (beats mediation) and I have access to an endless amount of paper in the office. I found these cute paper partridges in little bird cage decorations available for free download at this site. All you have to do is print, cut out and glue, and you should get this:

But I only managed to make two from the eight I printed (I was making these at home and two year olds + paper = disaster), and even those two look a bit, well, if I'm being honest, crap:

And my final best but failed intention: I bought a gingerbread house kit from Ikea because I knew I wouldn't have the time to bake gingerbread as well as assemble and decorate one. All I can say is thankfully the kit has an expiry date of August 2012, so there's always next year!

I did manage to get a little Christmas frock done for Anna in time for Christmas (no less!). It's just a simple a-line shift dress that is fast becoming my TNT pattern (McCalls 5916) for her since I've made it several times before.

My very talented photographer friend Vanessa and I set up a Christmassy photo shoot to take some photos of our kids and we tried so hard to get them all smiling or at all least looking in the same direction but it was absolute chaos to say the least. There were a few funny photos to come out of it though!

Merry christmas everyone, hope you have a lovely holiday season. Thank you all for reading along with me this year, and leaving wonderfully supportive, helpful and funny comments. I'll be back in the new year.

*Yes that is my christmas tree, minus any handmade decorations.

It's all Japanese to me....

Wow, has it really been a whole week since I've come on here and posted inane blather about my life? Time certainly flies when you're absolutely flat out doesn't it?

I managed to get some photos of Anna wearing her new little shorts made from the Japanese sewing book I got for my birthday last month. They are the shorts with the gathered pockets made from the "Let's Go Out Girls" pattern book (ISBN 9784529048163):

It wasn't too difficult to sew these even though the instructions were in Japanese thanks to the illustrations in the book and this helpful sheet of Japanese character translations I found over at my little mochi. It took about two hours all up, including head scratching time and unpicking only two seams so a relatively successful project I think. I say 'relatively' because I did end up with two pattern pieces left over that I couldn't for the life of me work out where they are supposed to go, but the shorts look good and unlike flatpack furniture that you put together and end up with spare screws I don't think these are going to spontaneously deconstruct one day!

These are basically a standard elasticised waist shorts with cuff band, with a gathered pocket sewn to each side which are drawn in by a ribbon (or self fabric tie if you could be bothered sewing and turning a fiddly tube). And the fit is amazing! The measurements in the book correspond closely to Anna's, and the end garment was near perfect on her. I guess since she is part Asian she fits the body type that these patterns have been drafted for, unlike the Big 4 patterns which are always way too big but way too short for her.
From the front they have a delightful puffy appearance:

ISBN 978-4-529-04816-3-Japanese-sewing-book-puffy-pockets-shorts And you can see how the pockets wrap half way around the back too:

ISBN 978-4-529-04816-3-Japanese-sewing-book-puffy-pockets-shortsA bonus with these deep pockets is how much they can hold - Anna has just worked out that pockets are for putting things in, and has now started collecting bits and pieces that she finds about the place. Now when I'm looking for a lost earring or some loose change her pockets are the second place I look after checking under the lounge cushions!

ISBN 978-4-529-04816-3-Japanese-sewing-book-puffy-pockets-shortsDespite those two left over pieces, the shorts held up well during some adventures in the playground:ISBN 978-4-529-04816-3-Japanese-sewing-book-puffy-pockets-shortsISBN 978-4-529-04816-3-Japanese-sewing-book-puffy-pockets-shorts
although they do look pretty wrinkled which is because I sewed these from some grey linen fabric remade from a sheath dress I made for myself years ago. As much as I love this colour and the fabric, I made this dress before I knew what I do now and I didn't construct it all that well. I didn't line or underline it which meant it not only got crazily wrinkled but it also 'grew' during the day as linen has a tendency to do, so that areas under strain like around my butt would stretch out but my waist area would still be fitted, and the fit would just end up looking all wrong. I was going to pull it apart and remake it, but it is easier to start from scratch with some other fabric of which I have an abundance of and do a proper job from the beginning. But at least I could reuse the fabric, and since I did wear the dress alot despite those problems the fabric is already soft and comfortable for Anna to wear.

So, only three days until Christmas people! I have so much to do, and I'm doubtful I'll get it all done.....

Christmas party frock

Monday 13 December 2010
I'm glad I provided you all with a laugh at Anna's escapade - think of it as my Christmas present to you. She has been better behaved these last few days, but it is still exhausting keeping up with her as she leaves a trail of destruction around the house. Thank you especially to those who left tips on how to get the sudocream out of the carpet, I am going to try it as soon as I can muster the energy. And as for the dog, well he can sleep on the floor while he learns his lesson!

And as promised, here's a pic of my new frock made just in time for the festive season. My social calender is looking a bit light this year, with just a few casual get togethers scheduled which is actually kind of nice and much more relaxed. And because it's so hot, all I need is a simple but colourful dress, just like this:

It's made from Simplicity 4930, which is undated but I'd guess that it's late 1950s/early 1960s. It's very similar to the dress I made for Christmas last year which is the white, black and red print dress up in there in my blog header, but this one doesn't have the contrast 'bib' and it has a lower cut back.

I made it from some medium weight cotton which has mint coloured stripes on it which are graduated in colour so the stripes on the bodice are darker than that of the skirt. I bought this from an op shop some time ago I think. The fabric is a bit vintage itself, according to the selvedge it's a 1983 Robert Burton (an Australian designer): look at that font, it reminds of the school projects I used to so proudly print out on my commodore 64 when I was in primary school!

Not much to report on the construction of this pattern, it is so simple and a pretty typical fitted bodice with full skirt type pattern. I did switch the side zip to a centre back invisible zip just because I don't like the zipper tape and pull digging into the flesh under my arms. I also didn't sew the skirt to the full width required by the pattern because I didn't have enough fabric, if I had the skirt would have been enormously voluminous. I also fully lined the bodice because that seemed easier than fiddling about with separate neckline and armhole facings.

And you can see from the photo above that I matched the stripes at the back perfectly, and the sides are pretty spot on too. It must be all that practice I've had lately with stripe matching....

Just for k, here's the wretched Santa photo:

I'm pretty sure my face wasn't that shiny, they just had a super dooper flash happening. And I wished for what I always wish for - a full nights sleep with no screaming or tears, but I'm not sure if Santa can deliver on that!

oh dear.....

Saturday 11 December 2010
Ever had one of those weeks when practically everything goes a little bit wrong, and all you can do is sigh and say oh dear? That was my week last week.....

Oh dear #1

It turns out the blue polka dot skirt in my last post was too tight across my ample rear end, because on my second wearing of it I heard a little rip and this happened:

It's torn vertically, but right in the centre of the topstitching of the pleats so that was obviously causing too much of a strain. Luckily I was at home when this happened and no one was there to witness my wardrobe malfunction! So, I've already pulled the waistband off and taken the side zipper out, and I'll remake it into a centre back zipper because that rip is right in the middle of the back and is just right for a centre back seam. I'll also gently gather the fullness of the skirt evenly around the waistband, instead of those somewhat unflattering pleats on either side - I don't know why I keep making things that add volume to my wide hips and saddlebag thighs! Hopefully this will also remove the problem of the skirt bunching up between my legs as I walk too.

Oh dear #2

I found out the hard way that leaving a toddler with an almost full tub of nappy cream is disastrous. Anna got hold of a newly opened tub of Sudocream, which is a very thick, white, oil zinc based cream that is good for her little butt, but not so good for her hair, the walls, the floor and especially not the carpet!

We were about to go out for a photo with santa, but instead I spent a good 45 minutes cleaning her, the walls and the carpet (with little success with the carpet unfortunately). What's worse about this situation though is that she did the exact same thing again the very same afternoon with the replacement tub of cream I bought, only to a lesser extent since I decided to check up on her because she was being too quiet!

And the photo with Santa was disastrous, involving lots of tears, running away, no smiling and in the end we got a photo with me and Anna and Santa.

Oh dear #3

I did about a bajillion loads of washing this week since we finally had some great hot and sunny weather. Sadly, this knit top that is my bestest ever effort in sewing with knit fabric:

went through the washing machine accidentally and shrunk so much that it would now probably fit Anna. Except for the neckline and hem that I so carefully stabilised before sewing - they stayed the same size and are still perfectly straight with no waviness! The fabric did felt up nicely though, so I'll chuck this in the refashion pile and make Anna a cardigan next winter instead.

Oh dear #4

Remember this bed I sewed for my dog, which is stuffed with fabric scraps:

well that lasted about three days before the dog tore it apart and it looked like there had been an explosion of the fabric kind in his bed:

(Don't get alarmed, we don't lock him in a cage, that's actually a collapsible travel crate that he's had since a pup and he loves to sleep in there.)

Well I finally got around to sewing up a second one, this time from some sturdy upholstery fabric and some more fabric scraps. It lasted a few weeks this time, but he dragged out into the yard and tore it open so now our entire backyard is covered in fabric scraps. Good husband was not amused picking them all up before he mow his beloved grass.....

But to finish on a good note, I made a pretty awesome dress for myself and successfully made my first item from those Japanese sewing books I bought recently. I hope of all you have had week that made you say oh yeah! instead of oh dear....

Going dotty

Monday 6 December 2010
Finally the sun has made an appearance over Sydney skies, so I took the opportunity to get take some snaps of my new skirt. Using a navy blue and white polka dot cotton from the stash (yay for more stash busting), I made skirt 103 from Burda 10-2008 which looks like this:

It's a super simple skirt - a wide waistband that sits at the natural waist line, three pleats on either side of the centre that are top stitched down, and a side zipper. It's unlined with just the waistband faced with self fabric, although it would be a simple matter of adding a lining if needed. My fabric is a fairly dense weave that I think will be fine without a lining, and since this is a summer skirt I wanted to keep it cool. And here's how my version came out:

A bit blah isn't it? Possibly that's the fault of me wearing it with a boring plain grey tshirt. Let's add some accessories and see if it works better:

Ah, that's better! Although I probably should have worn a darker brown belt to match the shoes, or worn heels instead of flats because I just don't feel dressed wearing flats. But we were only going out to the local shopping centre to buy a christmas tree, and if I had worn heels I would have felt too overdressed. How's that for irony Alanis Morrisette? Although now she's about to have a baby of her own, I'm sure she'll be able to write several more verses to that song!

The back of the skirt is also pleated and top stitched down, although it only has three pleats in the centre back:

Looking at this photo I think the top stitching across the pleats means the skirt isn't wide enough to fit properly around my wide beeehind, and is causing those drag marks at the sides. As much as I loathe taking rear photos, they are certainly valuable for seeing what you really look like from behind!

Overall, a simple and quickly made skirt that once I figure out something more colourful to wear with it on top will be a welcome addition to my summer wardrobe. The only negative I have found after wearing it for a day is that those pleats on either side of the centre front cause the fabric to gather between my legs so that the skirt closely resembles those baggy culotte shorts that we used to wear in these parts during the early 1990s, usually in an ugly floral fabric. Not good, not good at all!

And happily I didn't put the leftover fabric back into the stash, I used it to make Anna a pair of elasticised shorts instead:

They looked awesome worn with her hot pink high top Cons, but it seems my daugher prefers to be barefoot and wildhaired pretty much all of the time.

No I haven't gone completely dotty, we shan't be seen wearing these garments together at the same time, trust me on that! But boy am I happy to have made two garments and do a little stash reduction at the same time.

And speaking of dottiness, Lindsay T - I had a good chuckle at your suggestion of a brother or sister for Anna! Actually, it was more a scoff followed quickly by a shudder. One day she'll get one, but while I'm still shellshocked daily at toddler behaviour and sleep is just a long forlorn memory I can't bring myself to contemplate doing it all again. But I'm sure I'll get the third degree about it from my inlaws over christmas, and even my husband has starting dropping subtle hints.

Mrs Juzzie Green - I have been known to shop at the Remnant Warehouse on occasion. Oh alright, it may be been on frequent occasions until my husband confiscated my frequent purchasers card and reminded me of my self made promise to only buy fabric retail if I had a specific project in mind. He tolerates my opinion that purchasing fabric from op shops is 'rescuing' it but goes get concerned whenever I step foot into a retail store!

Re a comment from two posts ago - Melinda thank you so much for pointing out the croquis templates over at, I think I like them even better than the Hokey Croquis ones. The main difference is that the fashionary ones are lightly dotted so you can't really see the template when you've drawn your sketch over the top, whereas from what I can tell you only get that effect after photocopying the Hokey Croquis one. But it's great there's so much choice in tools out there for us amateur fashion designers.

And from a few further posts ago, Kirsten asked where I bought the Japanese sewing books. I purchased those two from the Kinokinuya book store in the Galeries Victoria on George St in the city, which I love to browse in because they have an enormous selection of sewing, fashion and craft books. But I know you can also buy them from Tessuti Fabrics as well.

And now I only have two more outfits ready for a show and tell from my very industrious week last week!

bye bye UFOs.....

Saturday 4 December 2010
The weather has been very gloomy and dull around these parts, and it's already been declared on the six o'clock news that this will be our wettest summer ever - yes it's that serious that it made the evening news! It's a total disaster for most Sydneysiders, who like to wear summer clothes and thongs (jandals/flip flops/havianas) and hang out at the beach pretty much all year round. Not this Sydneysider though, I quite like a bit of rain. I only mention the weather because waiting for the sunshine means that I now have quite the backlog of projects to photograph before I can do a show and tell here on this blog. I was so industrious last week I pretty much made a new garment each night (soon I'll be able to prove it to you).

But I did manage to photograph a new outfit I made for Anna to wear to her daycare christmas concert that was on this morning. The children had to wear a yellow top or dress to be bumblebees in one song, and not having any yellow garments at all, I made her a yellow top on Monday night:

This is Kwik Sew 3665 again, the same pattern I used for the black and white gingham shirt I made a few posts ago. I'm not exaggerating when I say it took at most an hour and a half to cut out, sew and finish this shirt - it's that simple. Because it's raglan sleeved there's no need for fiddly easing of the shoulder cap, and the elasticised neckline means the head opening is really wide so there's no danger of it being too small to fit over one's head (which has happened to me previously!).

In fact this top probably took longer than necessary to make, because I refashioned this out of a UFO that I realised I was never going to finish, which meant there was a bit of unpicking going on before I could cut it out. I used this shapeless and too short shirt that I made years ago from a yellow polka dot cotton:

Are you thinking it doesn't look too bad? Well aside from it being shapeless on me, that collar isn't meant to be a notched collar, it just turned out that the collar was too short for the neck opening and I tried to fix it in a 'sewing fail' kind of way.

Turns out that a bit of topstitching in this case couldn't save the day. But happily there is now one less resident in the UFO box and Anna has something new to wear - double yay for productivity and recycling.

But wait, there's more! Anna needed something to wear with her new top, and since grey and yellow is my favourite colour combination, on Thursday night I made her a pair of simple elastic waist pants for Anna from pair of grey linen pants that were also residing in my UFO box. These pants were unsalvageable due to being too tight around my hip area and generally poorly fitted, even though I let out all the seam allowances as far as they could go.

So it's bye bye to two UFOs, hello new outfit perfect for striking sassy poses:

But in case you think she looks adorable and a little angel, check out this similarity:

Trust me, she gets so cranky sometimes I am very glad that she doesn't have pyrokinetic powers!

ooooh, look what I found!

Monday 29 November 2010
I had a very annoying 60 minute wait at the doctor's surgery last week, luckily neither Anna or I were very sick but it's still very hard work trying to control a toddler in a small room with other people waiting, when she should be having a nap and instead wants to go berserk! But it proved fortuitous because while waiting there I managed to speed read an old Shop Till You Drop magazine and spied this:

It's a notepad that comes complete with preprinted female croquis (ie body outlines) that you can sketch your fantabulous fashion designs on! Hokey Croquis sells this one and a smaller travel notepad on their website, and I think I shall be sending the link to my husband as a not so subtle hint for a Christmas present, because sadly I'm not being sponsored to do this post. Although I would accept sponsorship if you're reading Hokey Croquis! (*chirp* chirp* why do I hear the sound of crickets?)

I am a very ordinary sketcher, but I am constantly drawing loads of pictures of gorgeous outfits I see on people in the street in my Filofax (yeah, I'm old skool too) to the point where there's hardly any room for writing down appointments in there. So this would be a great addition to my handbag, as well as improving my fashion sketching no end. The only thing these notepads are missing are little holders for pens or pencils, because they always seem to go missing from my handbag, thanks to a pair of little hands treating my bag as a lucky dip.....

And if you want to try before you buy, or you need it now, or you're a bit of a tightwad (no shame, that's me to a tee), they even have some free downloadable croquis on their site too. I know there is a set of croquis over at Burda Style as well, but the good thing about the Hokey Croquis ones is that it includes a number of different body poses so you can choose the best one to illustrate your idea that is burning a hole in your mind (or is that just me?).

Thank you all for the lovely comments on the dress in the previous post. I am pretty happy that a simple fitted dress style paired with a graphic colourful print resulted in such a great outcome, and I suppose it makes a nice change from my usual grey and neutrals too! Did you all see the interesting tip in the comments from Pin Queen to sew a skirt bar (from a hook and bar) across the top of the vent to hold it together in the event of the seam ripping? I've never heard of this before, but I'm definitely going to do this because it's a simple thing to do but would prevent an extremely embarrassing wardrobe failure. Although I suspect as Amanda pointed out that the dress probably doesn't even need an opening because it's not really that tight around the knees (it's just that I'm too lazy to unpick the hem and seams of the dress and lining and sew it all back up!). And sewingelle thank you for confirming for me that the Vogue is the superior choice to the Burda pattern, although I do confess it was only laziness that made me choose the Vogue over the Burda....

Ann, the issue I found with the jacket pattern was that not only was it very shapeless as Shannon described, I also found the neckline didn't sit correctly on me. It would gape forward at the centre front in more of a v neck shape, and the two fronts that overlap wouldn't sit on top of each other neatly like the pattern illustration but would rather hang rather haphazardly to the side. At first I thought it was because I used a heavy linen fabric that didn't have enough drape, but I had the same thing occur when I made it out of a soft wool blend as well. But the style certainly suited me when I was pregnant, because the loose fit and cropped style accommodated my growing belly right to the end (although I don't really look all that pregnant in this photo):

And finally I have to share this fantastic giveaway that extremely generous Denise over at The Blue Gardenia is offering: a gorgeous 1950s vintage Butterick pattern, 4 yards of Italian wool fabric in a lovely teal colour, and a Revlon Fire n Ice nailpolish and lipstick. You have until 3 December to think up a comment about why you like vintage patterns that is good enough to impress Denise (which I think will be tough 'cos Denise is one witty lady).

Now I must get back to work (I'm writing this in my lunch hour) before the cranky IT people dob me in to my boss, and helpfully provide him with a graph showing how many hours and how many websites I visit during work hours. Yes they have done that before, and yes it was bad.....

does this look familiar?

Saturday 27 November 2010
I liked the black and purple graphic print tulip skirt I made a few weeks ago so much, that instead of putting the remaining fabric back into the stash to sit for a few more years, I decided to use it instead. One point to me for stash busting properly! I had thoughts of making this dress from Burda 3-2009 (dress 107):

but before I could muster the energy to trace it out, I remembered that I had Vogue 8319 which is very very similar (and predates the Burda, not that I'm making any accusations):

I've made the jacket from this pattern twice, one from a heavy linen (which is in the UFO box awaiting a refashion) and one from a soft wool (which I refashioned for maternity wear) and both weren't that great. But I'm glad to report the dress pattern is pretty good, so this pattern didn't turn out to be a complete waste:

This is a really simple dress, fully lined and with long princess seam style darts that resulted in a close fitting. The only thing I don't really like is the slit at the bottom of the back hem - it's just one of those done on the seam line so it spreads out, whereas I prefer the underlap style which I think looks neater (excuse the wrinkles, this photo was taken at the end of a long love in with office chair all day):
I did do a slight sway back alteration to get a close fit at the back, although I'll probably wear this with a belt for a more finished look, which cinches it in anyway:

So once again, this is another finished item that was not on the list of summer things to sew! But I really like it and will get a lot of wear out it. It's a great sheath style dress for work situations because with the wider shoulders there's less chance of visible bra strap, and according to fashion theory the wider shoulders should balance out wider hips too. I can see another version of this in a plain, subdued colour with piping at those shoulder seams with a matching self fabric/piped edge belt too. I was going to say that I'll put that on the list for next year's sewing, but if I do that I probably won't ever make it judging by my current form....