Jungle January in by a cat’s whisker

Deadlines. Sometimes they’re oppressive. Other times they’re inspiring. Jungle January, by definition, finishes today and look at me scraping in just in time!

As promised, I made a frock from vintage Japanese silk twill with some kind of animally dot. I don’t think any real critter is bedecked thus, but this is as close to animal print as I’ve ever been or, in all likelihood, will ever get. I worked out why most animal prints make me wince – it’s the beige background. I loathe beige. Ugh. No matter how wacky the spots and stripes are, if the background is beige, I declare BEGONE FROM MY EYES.


The fabric came from Rathdowne Remnants in two pieces. It’s clearly from some old lady’s stash – sometimes RR has utter diamonds buried in their remnant buckets – and smells faintly of mothballs when wet. One piece had the end of the roll stamped with the manufacturer’s details, which is why I’m clear on its Japanese origins. It’s the softest, slinkiest stuff and required a good gelatining before it would sit still enough to cut and sew.

Soft folds at waist

Soft folds at waist

I made Butterick 5850 view B but left off the bow (for I am not a box of chocolates, thankyouverymuch) and added length and width to the skirt. For those keen to make this pattern, be aware there’s an error in the neck where one piece (back neckline) is impossibly too big to fit to its intended neighbour (the collar). I did some darts in the spot fabric and gathered the lining to compensate. It’s ugly, but works. Not sure I’d recommend the pattern for this reason though.


I think the animal print discombobulated me because I put the bloody zipper in upside down! Ah well.


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?

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.


Project round-up: New Look 6674 wrap dress

You may have noticed some seriously shabby photographs assaulting you on MITYFI. I apologise profusely and promise to treat your precious retinas with more respect. See, I’ve been reduced to cruddy phone snaps because my point ‘n’ shoot packed it in a while back. I’m in the market for a new camera and kindly, my Ma has lent me a DSLR to test out and get a feel for this newfangled film-free SLRing. Anyhoo, I have a backlog of projects I haven’t posted just because I didn’t want to subject you all to more rotten pics.

But lo, with the fancypants camera, I’ve hardly roamed from the auto-everything icon on the dial (I’m calling it the ‘dumbass setting’ ) yet it makes even my scribbled, misspelled pattern alteration notes look arty.


These are the changes I made to New Look 6674 to make it fit. The neck dart and the shoulder narrowing are my usual adjustments to fit my human A-frame construction. I changed the waist (not ‘waste’) shape as a de facto bodice lengthening trick. I also made the front skirt sections much wider. I don’t know why the model looks so smug on the pattern envelope because that nasty tropicale print with dark blue band looks completely rubbish.


And here’s mine, made from the dyed piece of op shop floral. Authentically crumpled from wear and from acute residency in my dirty washing basket. If you’re offended by my utter disinterest in ironing, just look at the glories of my vegie garden instead.


Gertie’s Sweetheart Sundress

Here ’tis, modelled by Headless Esme who does not share my prudishness (or, must be said, my fleshiness). The dark blue band perfectly matches the navy in the print, and it supplies a satisfying provocation to those blue-and-green-must-not-be-seen naysayers. The blue fabric was a surprise gift from a colleague who was moving house and mentioned he had some fabric he didn’t want. Oh yes, I said, I’ll have a look. He neglected to mention that it was metres and metres of slubby silk and fine silk and I almost lost my shit when I saw it. For meeeee? This magnificence? YES PLEASE THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Now, back to the dress. I intend to add buttons to the back so the straps can convert from halter to shoulder. I’m also toying with adding pockets that echo the blue trim (refer to hastily slapped-on mock pockets below. I believe gravity overcame the pocket at a critical moment, but you get the idea. Thoughts?)

I used a very plain A-line skirt rather than Gertie’s gathered suggestion. I also added 1.5cm to the bodice length and trimmed off the odd little point at centre front waist which did not sit right at all. Dunno about you, but I don’t have a widow’s peak at my belly button.

So. Note well, buxom sewasauruses, that the Sweetheart Sundress may be NSFW as drafted. I might make it again and add an inch or two to the neckline. Flipping the trim up might also work. For me, it went together easily with very little fitting and fussing. Be sure to check out frkbustad’s lovely gingham version and pearlconcubine’s floral one too!

Starting in on Gertie’s New Book

You all know Gertie, right? I’ve been following her blog ever since some folks got all ranty-pants about her tattoos. I just liked her frocks.

Anyhoo, fast forward to the release of her book, Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing which I bought myself as a birthday present. I thought the sweetheart sundress pattern would make a good summer frock I could wear on those stinkin’ hot days, praps even to work.

Let me start by saying I will NOT be wearing this to work. Cripes! I thought it would be demure and breezy, but despite using the folksy poplin print from the previous post, it’s more the saucy older sister of the frock I had imagined. The sister who knows what boys like. Apparently I’m a big ol’ prude because I don’t feel comfortable posting the pic of me in said frock on teh interwebs!

Mr Men dress

At a vintage fair a couple of weeks back, I bought a big (curtain? Bedspead?) panel of 1960s Sheridan linen. I love this stuff so much. Shades of green and bile, big chunky floral… My cuppa tea for sure. But you want to be careful how you slice in to such a thing. Not only is it irreplaceable but big prints call for simple lines.

So I tested out a basic shift pattern. This is most unlike me because of my extreme human A-frame construction. I generally need me a cinched waist.

I’ve had this Mr Men curtain for perhaps 7 or 8 years. Nicely stash-ripened and time to cut. A few modifications – length, darts, neckline – but look, I made a shift! Terrible photo. I must take a better one.


If you must have your own Mr Men dress, I spotted the same fabric for sale on eBay.

Spring’s the thing

It being the first of September, I declare that SPRING is HERE, and my apricot tree wholeheartedly agrees. As do the bees feasting upon its bountiful blossom.

That sky, those flowers… they’ve got me all inspired. Next project must combine this shirtdress and fabric. Springy as!


NYC barkcloth made up

STOP PRESS! Headless woman wearing awesome barkcloth dress seen in laneways of Melbourne!



(This headless thing gets a bit silly, doesn’t it?)

This wonderful loud barkcloth is one of my treasures from the NYC garment district. So I reckon Peter is partly responsible for this dress because I may never have been brave enough to venture in without his able assistance. Unfortunately he remains profoundly shellshocked by my prediliction for the loudest prints I could lay my coarse sunburnt-country hands upon and I understand he’s avoided Australians ever since, even managing to arrange MPB Day to remain an antipodean-free event.

The pattern is the bodice from the red seersucker dress (1960s Simplicity 4595) but with some tweaks: I ditched the sleeves, lowered the neckline at the front, raised it at the back, and fully lined it in black cotton voile because the barkcloth weave is a little loose. After a tiny bit of further adjustment, this bodice will be pretty much perfect for me. You’ll see it again, for sure.

The skirt is just a rectangle with deep inverted pleats evenly distributed around it. No pattern, just patient pinning. The only things it’s missing are pockets because I simply forgot! But I’m rather pleased with it otherwise and I’m glad to have started my springtime sewing frenzy. When the weather gets warmer, I get constructing.

Now I just need to work on my serious-Melbourne-languid-hipster poses. Now that Australian Ambassador to NYC is no longer a career option for me, maybe modelling is just the ticket. Whatcha think? Natural talent, or what?


Mulberry madness

What colour are we calling this? Purple? Burgundy? Magenta? Plum? Mulberry?


No, there’s nothing wrong with your eyes. This is a blurry photograph. Let’s call it an arty action shot, shall we?



Still swirling.

Having made a rather slapdash and short-lived version of this old English Woman magazine pattern once before, I took a bit of time to get this one right. There was a muslining operation, there were fitting tweaks (narrow the neckline, lengthen bodice, futz with darts til they were right) and an all-important bilateral pocket installation. I was thinking of frankensteining a straight skirt, but at the last minute the deflated balloon won out. (I’ve used the skirt pattern before in this tropicale number and this Burda concoction.)

The fabric is this cheapie poplin from Spotlight which is wonderfully crisp. It makes a swishy noise when I move so it sounds like I mean business. And the colour is fabulous.

I made a very quick and easy belt with a wide strip of leftover fabric and a big belt buckle I found on the road. Really, I did. One side has asphalt marks on it from where it was run over by a car. I am the recycling champion of the universe!