Merry Christmas to you all

Wednesday 24 December 2014
Thank you to all of you that have read along with my adventures this year, especially those who took the time to comment whether it was to compliment my successes, laugh with me at my project failures or to offer some advice - it was all gratefully accepted and appreciated!

We've just finished a late night Christmas present wrapping session - I don't know why we leave it to the last minute every single year, maybe it's become our Christmas tradition?! At least we didn't run out of sticky tape or paper, and all is now done ready for the crack of dawn when small children like to wake, particularly on Christmas morning.

I've leave you with some vintage Christmas loveliness, mainly because I didn't want to leave that embarrassing last project as my last post for the next 2 weeks!

image from poshtottydesignz via pinterest

Burda of the month 12/2014 #107 blouse: finishing the year on a hilarious note!

Tuesday 23 December 2014
I was all primed to give myself a high five for finishing my December Burda of the month project but it turns out that instead I'm doing a public service by giving you all some probably much needed mirth in this crazy pre-Christmas period with all the associated stress, tiredness and general frantic running around trying to do everything and be everywhere.

So not much took my fancy in this issue, there is a lovely panelled peplum top that I considered but since I'm on holidays and not at work for a few weeks I instead decided to make another casual loose-fitting drapey top in a lightweight fabric, trying to duplicate the success with last month's Burda project. And I admit to being thoroughly swayed by the cool and insouciant model! So very unwisely I made the v-neck drawstring blouse 12/2014 #107:

I bought a colourful rayon from Spotlight (bought during a recent 30% off sale of course!) and made my version. I think the look on my face says it all, despite my best efforts at hiding beneath a hat and sunglasses:


So where to begin? It turns out the reason that the model in the Burda photo is standing with her hands in the pockets of her sequinned wide legged culottes is because the sleeves are set in so low and the top is so wide that if you move your arms in an upward direction the top does this:


Highly unpractical and very uncomfortable. Aren't those sleeves ridiculously big? I could probably make clothes for each of my children with those sleeves alone:


I thought the placement of the drawstring on the pattern drawing looked too low and would probably look better higher, but it turns out that it couldn't be any higher because of those sleeves. But it makes the back billow out hugely above the drawstring at the back, and the side view looks completely crooked.



My verdict: an easy pattern to sew, but save your time and your fabric. Oh, won't someone think of the fabric!

For my crime against this innocent and undeserving fabric, my punishment is to unpick those overlocked seams and make this into something better and wearable.

I did use the leftover fabric though to make a simple elastic waist skirt for Anna which she is very happy with so all is not lost. I sewed this skirt after I cut out the top but before I had made it, so now there is practically no fabric left so hopefully I can do a remake from the top along (there is a lot of fabric there to use!). But Anna is happy, and that's all that matters:

The circuit breaker: Burda 01/2011 #112 pencil skirt

Thursday 18 December 2014
Isn't it funny how sometimes the simple projects can cause you just as much if not more grief than complicated ones? I've spent more time than I care to think about trying to make a simple unlined cropped jacket in a white stretch denim but it is causing me huge fitting issues and after unpicking it for the third time I had to step out of my sewing room for quite a few days. I was completely over sewing which is unlike me. I even had a sewing day and lunch with some friends from the ASG where I did little more than eat, chat and watch others sew!

As much as I don't want to create any new UFOs, I just had to put it aside and move on with something else, which I did:


Hence why I'm calling this skirt a circuit breaker - I just wanted to make something simple that I could wear straight away to get back some of that instant gratification of sewing and lose some of the frustration. And it worked, because since finishing this last week I've made three more things, including my last Burda of the month project (all yet to be photographed though).

So there's nothing terribly special or different about this skirt, but I've blogged it mainly as a note to my future self about the changes I made to the pattern in case I want to make it again. I used an old Burda, 1/2011 #112 which looks like this:

A few years ago I made a skirt using the alternate pattern (#113) with the little godet at the back hem in a grey glenplaid wool. It is one of the best fitting pencil skirts I've ever made, although I think the waistband yoke is too wide, the skirt was way too long for me and the godet sticks out in a funny way. So for this version I shortened both the lower skirt portion and the yoke, although of course in the floral fabric I've used you can hardly see the seam lines:


I also shortened the yoke at the back so that the seam lines matched at the side but I cut it down the centre back instead of on the fold so I could use a centre back zip instead of a side zip. Since I have curves and bumps at my sides in the hip area I prefer not to use a side zip as they tend to ripple or stick out a bit.  I also made a mitred vent at the hem instead of just a split, it just seems more finished to me but again you can barely make out this detail due to the fabric I used.


The fabric I used is a cotton sateen bought from Spotlight several years ago now. Because I know that sateen tends to bag out after a few hours of wear and wrinkles terribly, I underlined the skirt in a thin lilac cotton that was a long term stash resident, and handstitched the yoke to the lower skirt portion at the seam line. The insides of my garments are all about function - I never have enough patience to make it pretty with French seams and lace around the hem line some other more attentive sewists!


So I don't want to jinx myself, but this altered pattern could well become my TNT and holy grail of pencil skirts! I've already worn it twice in a week and a half and it is really comfortable. With my pear shape, I find that skirts are usually too tight across my hips and thighs so it rides up at the waistband, or I make them looser to skim over my hips but it means that the skirts twist around when I'm walking. This one stays just where it should and even thought it looks very fitted I could sit comfortably in it.


And even though I've worn it all wrong in this photo - I should wear darker colours on the bottom not the top - this skirt goes well with quite a few lighter coloured tops in my wardrobe so I can me wearing it quite frequently this summer. If only I could finish that white cropped jacket to wear with it though!

Burda of the Month: 11/2014 #105 pleat neck blouse in barely there polka dots

Friday 28 November 2014
A quick house update for those who are interested: our house didn't sell at auction unfortunately and all the offers we've had since have been a bit too low, so we've decided to take our house off the market and stay where we are for now. That may sound greedy, but in our area old houses on reasonable sized blocks of land have just skyrocketed in price lately, so for us to be able to afford to buy another place and build we really did need to sell for a certain amount or we'd ben in serious financial debt. And since we didn't achieve that price, we've decided to be sensible and live within our means.

But looking on the bright side, we've decluttered and finished all those annoying little jobs around the place so we can sit back and enjoy the place. And best of all I get to set up my sewing room again so I've decided to give it a makeover before bringing all my fabric home again. Plus all that fabric destashing I did means I will feel absolutely no guilt whatsoever if a few more pieces make their way into my stash in the near future!

Ok, back to the sewing. I made my November Burda project last weekend, but have felt rather ordinary all week with a pesky cold and an annoying cough and not in the mood to take my photograph. But I slapped on some makeup today (maybe too much judging by my orange face in the photos below) to cover up my pasty face and red nose and forced myself to take these photos so I could post November's project in the actual month of November and before the next issue arrived (which it did today).

And here it is:


It's Burda 11/2014 #105 - a pleat neck, three quarter sleeve top. Burda's version looks extremely elegant, from their so called 'high society collection':

photos from

My version is a lot more casual than Burda's, but it's exactly what I need to wear during our extremely hot summers. I made it from a lightweight linen blend that has been in the stash for ages just waiting for the right project. I'm not sure what the blend is, but it feels soft and it doesn't wrinkle as much as pure linen so maybe it's got a bit of polyester blend in it. Whatever it is, it's light and airy enough for a hot day but still gives my arms and shoulders coverage. And can I say how glad I am that none of those large polka dots ended up in appropriate places?!

This top couldn't have been more simple, it might have taken about 2 hours at most.  Yet another raglan top! I've lost track of how many I've made this year but it's quite a few. As usual with Burda raglan sleeves, the pattern is drafted with a shoulder dart that I really should have increased and rounded a bit more for my narrow shoulders because it does poke out a bit at the shoulders, but decided to leave it be because I don't really want this top to be fitted.


There is a slit at the back neckline, which I will make a little longer next time I sew this pattern as I can only just get this over my head. I don't think I have a particularly large head and it doesn't feel constrictive when I'm wearing it, but I don't want to stress the point of the slit every time it gets stuck on my large forehead.


That wide facing that shows through the fabric at the back neckline extends around to the front, and the neckline is just a simple box pleat:


This is a bit different to my usual style - a bit loose and shapeless but I think my lightweight fabric drapes nicely so it doesn't look like a sack. I plan to wear it with slim fitting seperates on the bottom to counter the volume at the top.



That side view looks a little strange though - the hem line at the front seems to rise quite a bit even though the pattern doesn't indicate it and I didn't do it intentionally. And it probably finishes at the wrong point for me, just above my widest part but hey it's casual wear and I can't always look streamlined and professional since more than half of my week is spent out of the office chasing a crazy little boy around.

Speaking of which, if you're thinking that these photos look tightly cropped, you would be right. I was trying to get these photos done without being photobombed by an exuberant 2.5 year old. This is what you can't see in these photos:


 My verdict: love it! I wore this today to the school pick up and another mum who is extremely stylish asked me where I bought it from and couldn't believe it wasn't an expensive designer label when I told her I made it. I think it needs the right fabric though - anything too stiff or heavy weight might just look bulky and with that centre front pleat it certainly has potential to have a maternity look. Actually if you were preggers it would be quite easy to adapt this to a maternity top so I guess it has that added bonus.

This pattern is the illustrated sewing course in the November issue, so if you truly are a beginner sewer or are new to Burda patterns this one would be a good one to try. I'm already planning another one, perhaps in a drapey rayon fabric. But not right now - I've got a sewing room to set up!

Burda of the month: 8/2014 #132.....sort of

Tuesday 18 November 2014
I've almost caught up with my Burda challenge projects that I fell behind on earlier this - only one more past issue to make. And of course the current issue but I'm catching up. It probably doesn't help that I take what should be a simple, quick to make pattern and work on it for a while until it's quite complicated and detailed! But I'm really pleased with the outcome of this project so the extra work was definitely worth it.

So after lamenting that the June and July issues weren't much to my liking, I found picking a project from the August issue just as hard but because I really liked quite a few projects. I've already traced out this cropped blazer with the interesting seam lines, and was highly tempted by this panelled dress and even this kimono style top interested me. But instead I went with this long sleeve gathered knit top, 8/2014 #132:


But I proceeded to change it quite a lot so that my version looks like this:


So what did I change? Apart from the obvious changes - sleeves cropped to the elbows and the gathers on the opposite side (don't know how I managed that!), the other changes are more subtle and arising from my fabric choice and fitting needs. I'm listing them here mainly for my own purposes in case I make this again in future, but if anyone else is thinking about making this top it might be useful too.

1. Raised the gathering line by 10cm so that it sat at my waist line instead of my hips, and shortened the length of the top overall to make it less like a tunic. I could see from the model photo that those gathers sat low on her hips, and I just figured it would be more flattering at my narrowest part so I reduced the length of the bodice above that gathering line until it sat at my waist. This also had the effect of shortening the top which is good because anything finishing mid thigh on me just feels dowdy. I didn't change the asymmetrical hem line, though it does seem less angled across the front, but at the side under those gathers the hem still rises upward:


2. Took in the side seams quite drastically to improve the fit. This pattern is quite shapeless aside from those gathers, and since I've made my top in a wonderful soft but firm white ponte knit instead of a thin drapey knit the pattern was just way too boxy for my liking. So I took the top in 3cm on both sides to get a closer, body skimming fit.


3. Added a centre back seam for a swayback adjustment. Unsurprisingly, I had a lot of fabric at the back because it was way too big and the fabric too stiff for it to pool in my swayback area like a thinner fabric would. Look how much excess there is in the back to begin with, even with the new side seams pinned in:


I cut it open down the centre back and pinned out A LOT of excess, mimicking the curve of my back (and my slouchy posture):


The final product is not perfect as there still are a few wrinkles and ripples, but it's a much better fit:


4. Added an exposed neckline zipper. Before I even cut out the fabric I pinched out 3cm from both the front and back necklines because by the looks of the model it was a very wide neckline. I added an exposed zip to the newly created centre back seam partly to make the centre back seam look like a design feature but also to help get the top over my head! The neckline is probably still wide enough to fit easily enough, but I like the look of exposed zips anyway and I think it gives the back view of this top a lot more interest.


5. Sewed down the pleats. I sewed each pleat down for a few centimetres away from the seam line instead of just folding them down because I found that it sat flatter at the waistline seam line that way. I didn't quite line up those pleats though, as this close up photo shows but no one else will ever notice:


So overall I like this pattern - albeit with the changes I made. I think the original pattern would work fine if you made it in a slinky knit and like the slouchy, tunic style top but I prefer structure and form to my clothes and I think the changes I made really helped that. If you are looking for a simple top with a bit of twist then I can highly recommend this pattern.


Winner of the Marbella dress pattern and a history of sewing machines

Wednesday 12 November 2014
Thanks everyone for leaving comments on my last post - and particularly thanks to Kennis the designer of the pattern who left a comment clarifying the fitting issues I had with the pattern.

As promised, I did a random number selection for the winner of the pattern which came up as Busy Lizzie who said in her comment that she already has this pattern, so I did it a second time:

Number 8 comment is from Rachel who said:

Thanks Rachel, I'm glad you liked the review! And now I hope you can make a version that you'll get much wear from too and many compliments as well. Please email me at KristyLChan "at" so I can email you the details.

And because this post would be extremely boring to everyone other than Rachel, I'd thought I'd share this infographic from Terry's Fabrics website on the history of the sewing machine - the thought of a sewing machine war is very funny!

History of Sewing Machine by Terrys Fabrics
History of Sewing Machine by Terrys Fabrics.

Itch to Stitch: The Marbella Dress in spring floral and a pattern giveaway!

Thursday 6 November 2014
When I accidentally came home month last with a few unplanned purchases from the Remnant Warehouse during their recent sale (admitted to in this post), I thought about making a boat neck tulip shaped dress from the vibrant cotton sateen I had purchased. Much like this short sleeved version I made in fuschia cotton drill using one of my most favourite Burda patterns - #128 of 8/2009 (which I've also made in elbow length sleeve version and even a maternity version!)

But of course since my sewing supplies are now spread between my house, my parents house and the back of my car during open house inspections (where I stash lots of bits and pieces actually!) the pattern was proving a little hard to locate. Then out of the blue I received an email from Kennis Wong, the designer behind Itch to Stitch patterns, offering me her Marbella dress pattern to try out (and presumably publicise here on my blog). And it turns out the Marbella is a boat neck tulip skirt dress, exactly what I was after so of course I accepted.

Image via Itch to Stitch
Now you've probably noticed I don't sew many indie patterns, or get involved in pattern testing. To cut a long rant short, while I think it's great that people are following their dreams to make a sewing pattern, I'd prefer to buy patterns that have been drafted by properly trained pattern makers. I also don't want to pay a lot of money for basic patterns - wrap skirts, shapeless shift dresses and tracksuit pants are just not unique enough for me to part with top dollar. I also don't like pattern testing because I don't like the pressure to make something in a given time and I find it awkward giving criticisms.

So why have I done it this time? Well, Kennis has been sewing for more than just a few years, and while she's not a trained pattern maker the Marbella dress has been pattern tested and reviewed (by more generous bloggers than me!) so I thought I'd give it a chance. Plus it was exactly the pattern I was after so I took that as a sign. And here's my version:



I have to say, I think this fabric is so pretty that it wouldn't matter what pattern I used it would still look good. But that said, I do quite like this pattern although it took quite a bit of work to get it fitting right and it's still not quite perfect but acceptable enough to wear.

The good:

  • the pattern not only comes in sizes 00 to 20, but also comes in cup sizes A to D which hopefully means that for most of us there's no need to do a  fiddly bust adjustment. I made an A cup and the fit at the front came out perfectly:

  • the PDF is better than most I've seen - it has layers built in so that you can select what size to print so you don't have numerous confusing lines. I printed out two sizes so that I could grade between my bust and hip measurements, and only having two lines made it much easier. Also the pages are watermarked to help make it easier to put together, and the pattern pieces are well located on the pages so that you don't get a pattern that is on four corners of four separate pieces of paper.
  • the dress has a yoke at the front and back plus side panels which would really look great colour blocked or piped, although I've gone with a fabric that mostly hides these details!

The iffy:

  • fitting patterns to our bodies is such an individual thing that no pattern could ever be perfectly drafted for, so it's almost silly to criticise on a fitting issue. But I'm about to anyway, mainly because I did notice the same issue I had on a few of the tester's versions. I used an A cup pattern for the bodice, and the fit on the front was perfect but the back was really quite large with a bulge in the centre of my back. And unfortunately you can't discover that until the dress is pretty much fully assembled so I had to unpick the yoke, princess seams and side seams as well as the invisible dress to take it in 1cm at each seam line at the back. And as for the bulge at the back, I noticed that the pattern piece for the back princess seam is as curved (if not more curved) than the front:

I didn't have any other princess seamed patterns around to compare it to see if this is normal, but even though I have quite sticky out shoulder blades I don't have any boobs on my back so I couldn't quite understand why the curve would be so pronounced! Anyway I straightened the curve out and it then fitted much better.
  • I had a huge amount of excess fabric at the top of the skirt at the back. I tried pinning it out in another dart to get a better fit but then it was too tight to sit down so I had just had to leave it as is. It is noticeable though (the wrinkles below my belt there at the back):

I think it's happening because there is so much extra ease in the front due to the pleats, that it gets pulled around to the back when I move because the back skirt is quite fitted. When I try on my other tulip shaped dresses I can see the same issue (although to a lesser extent) so it's not a criticism of this pattern specifically, just an observation of this style of dress.

My verdict:

I quite like this pattern, despite my complaining above! I didn't make a muslin so it was to be expected that some fitting alterations involving substantial unpicking would be needed. But now I've got those bits sorted out the next time should be much easier and quicker to sew because this pattern isn't complicated or difficult. So I probably will make another version eventually, in contrasting fabrics if I could ever decide on what fabrics to use.

Want to try it yourself?

So hopefully I havne't put you off this pattern, it really is a lovely style and having to work on the fit is no different from practically any pattern. I see that the pattern is currently on sale over at Itch to Stitch, but Kennis has graciously given me a pattern to give away to a lucky reader as well. It's a PDF pattern so it's open to anyone living anywhere with an internet connection! Just leave a comment about what you like on this post by Wednesday 12 November, and I'll pick someone at random.

Disclaimer - I was given this pattern free of charge to try with no strings attached and I think I've given an unbiased review. I was offered an affiliate link for patterns purchased via my blog but I declined the offer - if you choose to buy it, good for you and Kennis! 

Halloween sewing - the simple edition

Sunday 2 November 2014
Halloween is certainly growing on me. Before having children I used to be firmly in the bah humbug camp ("it's an imported tradition"/"no relevance for Australia"/"begging for lollies is unseemly"/etc) but now I realise that it's just an opportunity for the kids to dress up and have fun with their friends - but I still am on the fence about the trick or treating part, it just seems to go against everything we tell our kids (don't each too much sugar! don't talk to strangers! don't go around demanding food!)

Halloween in Sydney is generally quite hot, which rules out quite a lot of costume so this year I opted for simple and sweet. Those sexy Halloween costumes make me shudder, especially when seen on young people. Since my kids are still young, I decided to go with cute and sweet instead:

Anna wanted to dress up as a cat, but in a nearly six year old's mind every dress up costume must involve a tutu or twirly skirt, so her cat costume consists of a black t-shirt that I quickly made up using a simple Kwik Sew t-shirt pattern and an elastic waist skirt made of six layers of black polyester organza (because I have a huge roll of the stuff) with the edges rolled stitch to try to make them stick out even more. A tail made of the same black knit fabric, strands of white wool at the tip and stuffed rather lumpily was safety pinned to the back of the skirt (so she can wear the skirt again in future separately) and a store bought cat ear headband. And how could I not mention the face painting? It was what sealed the deal:

Of course whatever big sister gets, little brother wants too. So I made Toby a mouse costume by sewing an oval of white felt to the front of one his grey t-shirts, a stuffed tail pinned to the back of the shirt, and a mouse ear headband made of felt and hand stitched for that twee look. Worn with a pair of grey cotton knit pants and matching face paint he was good to go too:

Don't let these very cute photos fool you - these two can be quite scary when they choose to be!

Fabric Pop Up Store (Warning - fabric stash enabling post!)

Thursday 30 October 2014
Earlier this week I received an email from a reader asking if I could publicise her pop up fabric blog store here on my blog. I don't often do this sort of thing, but after looking at the beautiful fabrics over Designer Fabrics Australia at I decided that I just had to share the link.

It turns out that the blog owner, Liz, is a fellow fabric hoarder who has amassed a huge amount of very beautiful and designer fabrics on her travels around the world, including from Paris and the New York fashion district. Unlike myself though, she has acknowledged that she has too much fabric and will probably never have the time to sew them up. So very smartly she has decided to refine her stash and make them available to us fellow fabricholics (provided you're in Australia though).

There is quite a range of different colours and fabric types, in various lengths and some designer and some not. These are all one off pieces, so when the fabric is gone, it's gone. And postage is via Australia Post envelopes so it's quite reasonable (cheaper than buying these fabrics from New York I'd say).

Even if you're not in the market to buy some fabric I can recommend having a sticky beak because Liz has posted some lovely inspiration pictures to go with the fabrics which are interesting enough on their own.

I haven't bought anything yet, but am seriously considering the length of Marc Jacobs exotic birds silk crepe de chine - it's not my usual style but it's very cute. Plus Spotlight is currently having a $5 Vogue pattern sale at the moment which means I could pick up the perfect pattern to go with it too!

Photo from Designer Fabrics Australia

Apologies to everyone's wallets and stashes in advance, but I thought that some of you might like to know!

July Burda of the Month: 7/2014 #114 Sporty top for the non sporty type

Sunday 19 October 2014
Powering on with my catch up of Burda of the month projects, I made a quick knit top from the July issue. Admittedly I did trace this pattern out a few months ago, but as we all know actually getting started is what takes the most time sometimes!

Similar to the June issue, not much in this issue caught my eye but I always seem to be in need of short sleeved tops in summer, especially those that are little bit different from the standard tee:


I made the contrast v-neck raglan tee 7/2014 #114:


Burda has styled this pattern as a sporty look and I did see that Allison C recently made this pattern in a funky black and purple for gymwear. Unfortunately the closest I get to sporty is tying my hair up in a pony tail - I don't even own a pair of exercise shoes! But this top goes well with a pair of shorts I made last year for hanging out barefoot around the house on a lazy Sunday afternoon:


Burda rates this as an intermediate skill level pattern which I'd agree with. It's essentially a raglan tee which is simple to construct, but getting that bottom point of the v shaped band at the front was really difficult. I re-did it several times before it got close to being acceptable, and whilst I'm calling this top done there is still a little bit of bulging there at the point:


This could be due to the difference in stiffness between the solid fabric (a thick ponte knit) and the stripe fabric (a thinner ponte knit), but is probably just the way I sewed it. In her review Allison mentions that the instrucitons are really good to get a nice finish on that point, but I have to admit to not reading the instructions - the magazine is in storage somewhere with the rest of my sewing stuff so I had to wing it. Lesson learnt - one should at least glance at the instructions before sewing, even if they are Burda instructions!

Because I used a striped fabric I decided to cut the back on a fold rather than have a centre back seam to save on stripe matching. Of course this means that I have a lot of fabric pooling in my sway back which sewing that centre back seam would have resolved, but I realised that all of my RTW tshirts do the same so I'm not bothered by it:



I didn't find this too low at the front which Allison mentioned in her review and which also seems to be the case in this version made by an attractive Russian sewist over at the Russian Burda Style site, but looking at these photos my band seems extraordinarily large, particularly there at the front. Maybe it was a case of dodgy tracing on my behalf but it seems to have avoided that problem for me at least.

Overall I don't mind this pattern at all, and will make it again if I can find two complementary fabrics - I'm hopeless at colour and print matching. If I make this again I will read the instructions to do that centre v neck point a bit better, and would also cut the v neck of the band on a fold rather than have a centre front seam there - I couldn't see the purpose of it at all. I would also use a softer knit than a ponte knit, because the band is doubled it gets quite thick and didn't press well at all so I had to topstitch around the edge of the band to get it to sit flat.

And now onto my next project - I feel a dress coming on, since it's been a while that I've made a dress and now that it's spring I definitely need something cute and comfortable to wear.