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  1. A Jaunty adventure with Tadah Patterns

    September 16, 2018 by rosie

    The ‘Jaunty’ Dress by Tahdah patterns

    Now that our little Miss is (scarily) hurtling towards being a 4 year old, she is becoming more and more vocal about what she wants to wear. At the moment, it’s all about having big twirly skirts, and tutus. She only has one of each, and they are on high rotation in the washing machine…they are the only things she’ll deign to wear. They often end up being worn to bed, and it’s then a full-on meltdown when I need to get them off her to wash them the next day.

    Unicorns, horses and fairies and are all highly coveted, particularly if they are pink, pink, pink! So when I found this French Terry in Spotlight a few months ago, I knew it would be a hit.

    This was my first time using French Terry – I don’t think I’ve ever even seen it in Spotlight before. It’s nice and fuzzy/fleecy on the inside, so it feels soft and cosy, and while it’s cotton, I think it had a little elastane (maybe 5%) so it was comfy and stretchy too.

    I’m actually not a big unicorn fan, so I can’t say I love this print, but the design on the only other French Terry on offer was really quite weird, so it was the only viable option. The musky pink background combined with the unicorns is quite overly saccharine, but at least it doesn’t have sparkles and glitter all over it. And, in the eyes of my almost-4yo, it’s gorgeous.

    Fairy wings and head garland entirely optional

    This pattern is from an Australian indie company, Tadah patterns, that I’ve only just discovered. Evidently, I’m very late to the party, as I realised when I joined their facebook group (TahDah Pattern Party). Thousands of people have used these patterns, and there are some gorgeous and inspiring versions of the designs that people have posted. It’s made me all enthusiastic, and now I have dozens more projects added to my mental to do list. It’s amazing how much time can be spent scrolling through the Facebook feed ooh-ing and ah-ing over all the beautiful dresses people have made! It also has made me purchase quite a lot of the patterns. But that’s OK – as I pointed out to my husband, I love that I’m supporting an Australian business.

    I’ve only recently discovered the whole indie pattern thing. I’m not sure how I stumbled onto Tadah Patterns, but I’m so glad I did. I’ve been listening to the British podcast, “Stitchers Brew”, which I’ve been thoroughly enjoying, and it’s made me realise that the whole indie pattern thing is an entire world in itself.

    First, you don’t have to drive to a shop to get a pattern! Or wait days on end for the post to arrive if you order a physical one from one of the big 4’s online. Secondly, you can literally buy an indie pattern online, and BAM! the PDF is in your inbox instantly, ready for you to print off and get sewing. Yes, you have to print off a lot of different pages and tape them together, but honestly, its not as bad or as time consuming as I expected.

    The perfect dress to wear when taking dolly for a walk.

    So, this is the “Jaunty Dress” by Tadah patterns. The instructions are super clear and thorough, and the whole dress is very quick to make. I read through the instructions to begin with and then pretty much went ahead and made it without referring to them again. It does recommend using an overlocker for all the seams – I decided to give this a go, and on the whole, it wasn’t as traumatic as I was expecting. The seam allowances are very overlocker-friendly at 6mm, so that helps. And I learnt a new trick – the “overlocker flip method”, which helps give a nice clean and secure finish at the end of the sleeves, something I’ve struggled with in the past. Another revelation was using a rotary cutter instead of scissors to cut out the fabric! Brilliant!

    I must admit, this isn’t my best handiwork. I botched one of the seams –the bodice and skirt side seam don’t quite match up, but because it was all overlocked, I wasn’t about to unpick it!. I also managed to make a complete mess of the twin needle topstitching around the neckband. I have NEVER managed to do a good job on this, but this one was so bad, I ended up unpicking it all and calling it quits. If you look closely, you can see where the stitches were, but luckily this is of no concern for its wearer!

    In conclusion, this pattern is great – the full circle dropped waist skirt is comfy and flattering over little tadpole tummies, and affords full twirling capacity for all the ballet/fairy/princess moves. It’s comfy and easy to wear, and comes with quite a few sleeve variations (so I’ll be making some more for the warmer weather – if it ever gets here!). The final garment was, thankfully, met with approval by its fussy recipient; after wearing it all day, she insisted on wearing it to bed as well.

    The circle skirt enables full twirlage

    Did I mention it’s good for twirling?

    This is a size 4 – I made no adjustments to the pattern aside from doing a slightly smaller hem on the sleeves in order to make them a little longer. I probably should have made a 5 so that it would fit next year too, but I didn’t think of that until after it was all cut out. I suspect there will be many more Jaunty dresses in my life for the next few years!

    A very happy customer!

  2. A not so Kwik Sew K3977

    August 24, 2018 by rosie

    Let’s ignore the fact that I haven’t posted anything on here for, well, ages.
    I am attributing this to a whole range of reasons – including increased working hours, juggling a three-and-half year old, a ridiculous amount of sickness this year, and also a bit of an identity crisis triggered mainly by the devastating realisation that I need to wear orthotics, and, consequently, chunky sensible shoes. This has severely impacted what style of clothing I can wear and, consequently, my sewjo.

    Anyway, moving on.

    Behold Kwik Sew 3977. I haven’t used Kwik Sew much before. The styling and cover art of this is a bit dated – I’m always a bit behind the times, catching up on fashion trends just as they are fading away.

    Knowing that there was the distinct possibility that this could turn into a frumpy mess, I thought I’d give it a go regardless. I wanted a long-line, easy, comfy and casual jacket I could just throw on over jeans etc.

    Of course, I had nothing appropriate in my stash of fabric, but a trip to The Fabric Store in Brunswick Street solved that problem. The fabric suggestion on the pattern envelope is a bit confusing – it says it is designed for heavyweight stretch fabrics, and then it suggests fleece or boiled wool. I didn’t realise that boiled wool was considered a stretch fabric?

    Anyway I found a double-sided wool/cotton that was quite thick and also had a bit of stretch to it. One side is a plain reddish colour, the other a checked blue and red. I thought given that both sides would be visible in the design, having the contrast would work well.

    I checked out Pattern Review, to suss out how other people found this pattern. I was thankful for the recommendation somebody suggested to increase the seam allowance on the centre back neck, so that the edges could be finished properly, as this seam may be visible, depending on whether the collar sits up or down. The original pattern only allows for a 6mm seam allowance – I think it assumes people will overlock all the seams, negating the need for much allowance. That kind of freaked me out a bit – I’m just not used to working with such tiny allowances.

    Anyway, I did make the seam allowance on the neck larger (the normal 1.5cm), and I ended up finishing this by tucking under the allowances and stitching down through all thicknesses so that both sides of the collar had a neat appearance.

    As for adjustments, I graded out across several sizes to accommodate my small bust and wider hips; I also lengthened the sleeves a bit, and thank goodness I did! They only just ended up long enough.

    This should have been a really simple, speedy sew, but it ended up taking much longer than expected, due to the fact that:

    1) It took me ages to cut out the pieces, because I was trying to pattern match the checks, as well as waste the least possible amount of fabric. Turns out I didn’t do a particularly good job of this, and I had to fudge the side seams a bit to get the horizontal stripes to match all the way down.

    laying out the pattern pieces and trying to match the stripes

    2) I hated how messy the inside was at the seam that joined the shoulders and collar ( stitched all in on). So I ended up cutting a strip of the same fabric and hand sewing this down on top to create a sort of binding. That took much longer than expected. It also ended up being a bit bulky by the time the edges were folded under, but I think it’s ok. It’s a bit wonky, but at the very least, it’s an improvement to the original seam!

    The finished seam of the collar contrasted with gross seam of the neckline (with a whole heap of tailors tacks still there!). I ended up stitching a bias strip over the neckline seam to neaten up – but forgot to take a photo of the end result!

    3) I couldn’t deal with the suggestion to leave all the edges unfinished (un-hemmed). So I decided to bind the sleeve and all the way around the edge of the jacket. I made a trip to a posh expensive store in the city on the quest for woollen binding to use. The lady offered to help me, and suggested a red binding. It wasn’t QUITE the same red, but I thought, “well, if she thinks it’s ok, it must be”. She then offered to help me measure the jacket to figure out how much of the binding I needed. As I was watching her, I was thinking to myself “I don’t think her measuring or her math is right”. But then I thought, “well, she’s the expert, not me”.

    Of course, when I get home that night, I find I have nowhere near enough binding. And it became evident under my lighting that the choice of red was completely off.

    Frustrated with the lady and annoyed that I didn’t trust my own judgement, I refused to go back to the store or spend any more money on the project. By this time, I was pretty over the whole thing anyway.

    So I found an old remnant of navy wool crepe in my stash and cut out my own bias binding. I had to join it together in quite a few places, as it was a rather small piece of fabric.
    I then decided to hand stitch it all down to finish the binding – I feared that I couldn’t top stitch that accurately through such thickness on a sewing machine. Again, this was quite time consuming – from memory, at least 2 episodes of Mindhunter on Netflix.

    Hand basting the binding in place before hand-stitching it permanently down.

    The final product – see how low that pocket opening is?

    I couldn’t be bothered putting in two pockets, so I just did one, made from some navy cotton drill I had left over from a previous project. To me, I feel that the pocket placement is slightly too low – it almost hangs down further than the hem of the jacket, and the pocket opening seems a bit too far down the body to feel natural.

    A pocket!

    All in all, I’m reasonably happy with the end result. It doesn’t look too bad, and it’s surprisingly warm. Turns out though, I’ve hardly got anything that goes with it!! I think I’ll have to make a few plain separates next, so that I can actually wear the jacket!

    The back – I did end up getting those strips to match, with a bit of wrangling.

  3. Australian Home Journal 9044

    May 16, 2017 by rosie


    One of the problems with having small children is that they grow so quickly. In terms of sewing, this is a problem because:

    a) I finally get around to sewing her something, and then she hardly gets a chance to wear it because she grows out of it.

    b) She grows so quickly and I have minimal sewing time, so by the time I consult my (somewhat extensive) toddler sewing pattern stash, I realise with horror that half the patterns I’ve been thinking about and dying to make are no longer applicable, because they are too small. I can’t help but mourn for the patterns I may never have the chance to realise.

    So, when my little vintage Australian Home Journal coat pattern arrived in the mail, I decided that I should just go for it and make it ASAP, in order to maximise wear before winter set in. I had a feeling it would be a little on the too big side, but I figured that this was a far better outcome to have than too small – maybe she’ll even get to wear it next winter too!

    It was, of course, exactly around this time that my beloved Bernina started playing up, and I had to take it in to be serviced. SIX WEEKS LATER I was finally able to get stuck into the coat.

    This is definitely a stash slasher. The wool is left over from a project I made about five years ago; the lining was a piece of silk that had been wallowing in a tub for a couple of seasons. Even the inter-lining was a piece of Shapewell I found in mum’s sewing cupboard when I was up visiting at Easter time (thanks mum!).

    As for the pattern itself, I’m guessing it’s from around the 50’s, but that’s really a stab in the dark. I don’t think it had ever been used- it seemed to be still factory folded and I couldn’t see any signs of wear and tear or pin marks etc. I always get a little thrill when I discover an old pattern and I am able to give it another chance at becoming a real garment. Maybe the original pattern purchaser had my problem, and by the time she got around to making this coat, her child was too big for it!

    img_1520Anyway, typical of the era, there were no markings on the pattern, just a couple of punch holes that you have to decipher to tell you where the grain of the fabric is etc. And no separate pattern pieces for linings – just a brief sentence or two about how to alter the existing patterns and the assumption that the reader will figure it out.

    Similarly, the instructions are crammed onto two pieces of paper (the other sides are advertisements for buttons), with tiny hand-drawn illustrations that aren’t always completely accurate. Each ‘step’ actually contains about 4 or 5 steps in one that are sometimes only partially explained, and again, sometimes just assumed knowledge.

    The other challenge was that the front envelope illustration wasn’t a completely accurate depiction of the coat – particularly the collar, which doesn’t meet at centre, as implied in the drawing.

    I confess I did a bit of googling to brush up on bound buttonholes – the ‘instructions’ supplied just didn’t cut it for me! Plus, they used a different method to what I had used previously and I wasn’t confident it would work with such bulky fabric. In the end, the method I went with turned out pretty well in the end and were not as traumatic as I was expecting them to be.


    img_1617Sewing the points of the yoke was a little tricky – trickier than I was anticipating. The finished result isn’t perfect, but luckily, working with such a bulky fabric means that it’s quite forgiving. Still, every time I look at it I wish I had done a better job!


    I don’t think I’ve ever done welt pockets before, so this was a new thing for me too. They are not perfectly even which annoys me slightly but I’m glad I gave them a go – it was tempting to just sew right down that seam and omit them altogether!

    dsc_0412The lining is attached by hand to the jacket. I suppose being a child’s jacket, this task didn’t seem too onerous – not sure how I’d feel about doing this in an adult size though!

    I’ve always loved little girls’ jackets, especially with a vintage vibe. I’m glad I had the courage to give this one a go, even if the end result is far from flawless. And yes, it is too big (especially in the sleeves), which I might address at some point if I have the time.

    dsc_0417I should have given it a bit of a press before taking these photos – it had been sitting on the back seat of our car up when I popped it on her and it’s a little crumpled.


    Winter is well and truly on its way here in Victoria, so I’m glad I got it done in time. Problem is, its little headstrong owner is refusing to wear any type of jacket (or cardigan or jumper or poncho) at the moment! Maybe next year…

  4. Sew… it’s been a long time!

    October 21, 2016 by rosie

    So, yes. I confess it’s been a little while since my last blog post….like, 2 years or so. It’s difficult to blog about sewing adventures when you’ve hardly stitched anything together. And the reason for the lack of sewing? I had a baby!

    In my vision of pregnancy, I imagined I’d be in a flurry of creativity – sewing up tons of teeny-weeny outfits in preparation for the little one’s arrival; knitting up a storm and making my own soft furnishings and heirloom pieces for the nursery. All while sporting my own thrifty yet stylish hand-made maternity outfits that had a lovely vintage vibe and minimized the use of stretch fabrics.

    Ha! This, it turns out, was nowhere near reality. The very thought of craft, knitting or sewing, for some bizarre reason, made me want to throw up. So did everything actually, when I think about it. Combine this with the unimaginable fatigue that accompanies pregnancy, full time work followed by an unexpected 10 week hospitalization before our baby was eventually delivered, via emergency C-section 4 weeks early, and there wasn’t much chance of getting my craft on, let alone do the whole ‘nesting’ thing.

    And, I confess, if pregnancy has taught me anything, it’s that stretch fabric is a godsend. However, the amount of pregnancy clothing that is completely polyester is so incredibly frustrating. And ridiculously overpriced. I did make two maternity dresses from vintage patterns, thanks to Enid Gilchrist’s maternity book. They were great, and I would have loved to have made more items from her ‘collection’. I highly recommend it, if you can be bothered drafting out all the pattern pieces. Here’s one of them. It was a silk/cotton fabric, and it was my ‘good’ maternity frock for work functions. I made up a little matching ‘hat’, which was pretty fun.  In these pics, I’m wearing it at a dear friend’s wedding. The next day I was hospitalised for 10 weeks – I’m so glad that I was able to attend the wedding before everything went pear shaped.


    So, now, 18 months on, and I feel like I’m only just beginning to feel vaguely ‘normal’ again. I’ve moved house and I’m back at work part time, and these days, sewing is more of a luxury than ever – something I sneakily do at night, or when a certain someone is napping. And always with the guilt and knowledge that I should be cooking or washing or cleaning or doing something else! Projects these days tend to be quick, achievable low-fuss items designed to give ‘instant’ gratification, and be more ‘mum friendly’ than before. I also feel like I’m always in a hurry when I sew these days – everything is a rushed-job, often with sloppy execution. While I still love all things vintage, the reality is that it’s often just not practical when hanging out with a toddler.

    I love sewing for our little girl. It’s fun, usually quick and very satisfying. Kids’ clothes are so cute – and there aren’t too many fitting issues to worry about. I swear I have never used so much elastic in my life since I started making things for her! Again, I thought I would be making dozens of little things all the time, but the reality is I’ve only managed to sew a fraction of these things. I have so many patterns in my stash that she is now too big for and which I never got the chance to make her she never got to wear.

    Here are a few of the things I did manage to make:

    First up, a few knitting/crochet projects

    Some general sewing bits and pieces


    And my mum even taught me how to smock! IMG_0504

    Sewing for myself has been a bit more sobering. Let’s just say that my body shape has changed – learning to sew and adjust for this is still a challenge, as is accepting that it will probably never be the same as pre-pregnancy. I hope that over the coming months I can crank up the Bernina a bit more often, and actually manage to create some outfits that aren’t too shabby. To get back into it, I dove in the deep end and made a full-length evening gown in less than a week. Probably not the best tactic, but I’ll tell you about that next time.


  5. 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!



  6. 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.

  7. 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!



  8. 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!

  9. 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.




  10. 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.