Things I’ve learned sewing this year

1. When you find a great palazzo pants pattern, you’re going to need to make more than one pair.

Because, according to Else, “since the days of the Romans, there is no style more graceful, elegant or more flattering to the feminine form.” Seriously, the marketing copy on these suckers is just one florid adjective away from AS SEEN ON TV. (The pattern copy also declares them ‘party pants,’ a term better left to German Sparkle Party, I feel.)


Also, if you make a pair out of a large blue and white gingham, your boss will tell you “I have pyjamas just like that” every time you wear them to work. Oh, and, the legs are so wide – so wide – that you can tie the ends in a bow when you’re riding your bike to prevent oily caught-in-chain mishaps, and sport a temporary pirate pantaloon look.

2. The stakes are very high with wedding dresses. Especially when the fabric is hand-woven.

But if you can hack the pressure, it’s just about the nicest thing you can do for a beloved chum. I don’t have a photo of her wearing it (actually, rocking it is probably more accurate because she looked flipping amazing) but I do have a photo of the silk she wove, YES, WOVE, to make the bodice. The pattern, the drape, the lustre – oh so very lovely.

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However I was filled with terror that one foul snip would send her back to the loom and our friendship on the rocks. Because you can’t just buy more fabric if you bugger it up. To insure against buggering up, there was a lot of fitting and hand-basting-with-silk-thread, and prevaricating and hand-wringing. It paid off.

3. If it’s nice, make it twice. Immediately.

A lesson learned with the palazzo pants but reinforced with Butterick 7394.



The first iteration made from a vintage 1960sish poplin (thank you, Queensland op shop) uses the bodice from Butterick 9394 with a frankensteined-on-the-fly full circle skirt. Because I wanted something new to wear to the wedding, and circle skirts are good for dancing, and you dance at weddings. Plus, geometry is cool; I like pi and any practical applications thereof. Then the simplicity and goodfittingness of the bodice persuaded me just days later to try once more with feeling, using a stretch cotton sateen from the stash (Rorschach or dalmation spots? You decide) and the original 6-gore skirt from the pattern. It is pink, though, so I don’t quite trust it yet.

4. Gelatine is amazing

I read somewhere on teh interwebs (aha! It was in Threads) that putting slippery fabrics in a gelatine bath makes them stiff and much easier to cut and sew. I fished out an ancient jar of edible gelatine from the spice shelf, dissolved it and chucked in some silk twill that had vexed me and my sewing machine in the past. Hung it over a clothes horse and waited for the magic to happen.

THE MAGIC, IT WAS EXTRAORDINARY. That bratty vile stuff turns into docile papery compliance. A complete piece of piss to handle – why did I not know this sooner? Suddenly I am unafraid of the whole swathe of my stash I had felt unable to tackle.


And lo, I whipped up these silk pyjama pants for my sister-in-law’s BD in just an hour or two and I did not cry or swear [much].


Smug mastery of silk twill.


Nice photobomb, dog.


5. W.M.C. Jackson is delightful

If you live in Melbourne and your machine needs a tune-up, go to W.M.C. Jackson. I took my Bernina sewing machine and Janome overlocker in prior to sewing the wedding dress, and scrawled a note to the technician with descriptions of their ailments. In return I received detailed diagnosis over the phone and a reply neatly written below my messages. My overlocker, which has NEVER worked well, is  now *perfectly* balanced. Plus, when I couldn’t get a taxi home, one of the fourth-generation owners gave me a lift because he was heading to the bank near my place anyway. So, so lovely.

6. You can survive a stash cull

Between eBay, a garage sale and making things, my stash has taken a significant hit. And look! I still leave and breathe! Who knew?


So, what did you learn this year?


50s blouse

Look, I made a thing! That hardly ever happens anymore.


It’s a super-simple bias-cut blouse made from an ancient rayon faille curtain. The print looks like crazy paving – I imagine this curtain hung on long windows looking out to the patio, daddy-o.

Age and light damage had shredded the curtain edge. I trimmed out the worst of it and had just enough to squeeze out this blouse. The shape is great, mostly because of the slinky drape of the rayon, but the 50s pastels have turned out a bit nanna, methinks. Imma wear it anyways!


Too cold to sew

Winter is a season of sewing senescence at my place because my house is largely unheated and my sewing room is Siberian. I can’t face sitting at the machine in there, not to mention shedding my many layers to fit garments-in-progress.

But I do go in there and potter about, stroke the pretty things in the stash and whittle away at the junk. I found this ad in an old Sewcraft magazine last night and it tickled my fancy because I have a bunch of old Lightning zippers in their original packaging. A zip that is unfazed by strap-hanging! That’s my kind of fastener.


I pulled some ugly things out of the stash, too. I read a very sensible sewing blogger’s declaration that she never, ever sews with fabric she doesn’t love because otherwise when things go awry, she won’t bother rectifying the project. Wise words and I’m sorry I can’t properly attribute them because I forgot who wrote them. I’ll add this to it, too – sometimes leaving things you love in the stash for too long means your tastes change and you don’t like them anymore. To wit: this quilting cotton with reels of thread. It still sorta amuses me but I can’t imagine wearing it, yet several years ago I thought it was hilarious and I had all kinds of stunt frock plans. Now I think it’s best that I eBay it. Maybe that’s what winter is for – raking and pruning and composting while everything’s dormant.


Buuuuuut, I have actually been sewing a little bit – things that don’t need trying on, such as quilts to diminish the scraps pile. Here’s the latest in the series of quilts for babies. I’ll be delivering it to its new owner (and she’s very new, just 2 days old) as soon as her mother is up for visitors.


Red, white and blue and blue

Reminded by A Dress a Day in her excellent Hundred Dresses series of a pattern I meant to revisit, I set about turning a very 70s red white and blue (and blue) tablecloth into a frock.

You can see the first iteration of this exact pattern and frankensteining in this post, Bright, sunshiney fail. This time I had a bash at using the gathered skirt included with the pattern but it looked ridiculous. I recut it as an a-line and matched the big swathes of colour at the waistline. Bodice is fully lined, the armscyes are bound with self-bias, and I weighted the hem with a nice fat bias strip too.

Oh, and I took pictures with Instagram. It means the cruddy photos I take with my phone now look artfully cruddy.


I like the back better than the front! The back skirt is eased in a wee bit.


PJ pants

A pledge to stop buying new fabric has a little-known fine-print clause: if you can make a thing from the fabric within 24 hours and it never touches the stash, it doesn’t count. It’s like it never happened.

I decided to apply this clause when, within the space of a week, my PJ pants wore so thin that they tore, and a sheet-buying expedition to Spotlight turned up the most hilarious flanelette which was also on sale.

Check this out. Animals hiding badly.


The bear just slays me. And interestingly, the selvedge suggests that RMIT students designed the thing! (It also suggests your child will catch on fire wearing the stuff.)


It took about 2 hours all up to turn this soft soft soft flanelette into PJ pants with Simplicity 4023. All I did was make them extra long and add a waistband because they were too low-riding.


PJs are super easy to whip up in no time at all. But if you’re keen to have a little community support, go join the Pyjama Party at Did You Make That? HQ.

Another bi(ke)furcated slip

If I cark it tomorrow, I’ll be happy knowing that my greatest contribution to the world of sewing was the Bifurcated Slip. Especially this one, which is louder, longer and more scandalous when it shows than any of my others.


If you wear a frock and you cycle, you NEED a bifurcated slip. They also help keep you toasty warm in winter. The hot pink silk twill this one’s made from was a bargain from a Sydney Rd fabric shop a while back, and the length is just past my knees! But my poor machine did not enjoy sewing the twill. Two layers: not happy, but bearable. Three layers: pushing it, lady. Four: tell her she’s dreaming. So to get the deluxe French seams to sit flat, I had to do topstitching by hand. And while I was at it, I hemmed and bound the waist by hand. Boooooring. But a bit lovely now that it’s all done.


Melbourne is grey and dreary these days and a flash of fuschia as I pedal past bolsters spirits, methinks.