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.


Dyeing (w)Rit large

Sometimes you’re op-shopping with your mum and she convinces you that you should buy a big piece of fabric, despite its 1980s motel bedspread stylings, despite its swirly floral pattern in shades of plum and pink (ugh) and brown. Because, it’s cheap, it’s big, it’s cotton, and you could dye it.

I was thinking a olivey grassy green would improve things. Rit dye in Kelly Green was a good match from the colour on the box, but in truth it’s a much sweeter, bluer, more transparent green. Still a million times better and something I’m more likely to wear. Here shown nicely set off by a red dog.


Fabric giveaway – come and get it!

Kindly folks have bestowed great piles of fabric on me lately. It has been grand but I think it’s time to pass on the generosity, don’t you?

I like these eight bits of fabric and think they will appeal to seamsters with a vintage bent, but I don’t have imagination to think up something to make with them right now. So, to quote Mr Anthony Kiedis, “give it away, give it away, give it away now!”

Here’s the fine print:

  • To enter, just leave a comment on this post saying a) which bits you want and b) linking to a pattern, whether vintage or modern, or even a RTW garment you’d copy, that you’d like to use the bits for. Inspire us!
  • You can nominate one, two or three bits that you fancy.
  • If you’re the only person to claim that piece, it’s yours. If more than one person wants a piece, I’ll do a random draw.
  • Giveaway entries close in one week on midnight (AEST) on Wednesday 23 January
  • I’ll post fabric free of charge to anywhere in the world.

Bring on the booty! ON OFFER: A summery selection for the southern hemisphere:

Piece 1: 110cm wide x 334cm long

Sheer and lightweight minty-green synthetic with cute tiny white raised dots.


Piece 2: 130cm wide x 120cm long

This is either silk or rayon. Burn test was inconclusive but it’s not a melty synthetic fibre. Very very sheer and drapey chiffon-like fabric in a creamy light yellow with floral print.


Piece 3: 110cm wide x 160cm long

I think all the clothes my mum made for me as a toddler in the 1970s was made from this kind of stuff – floral stripey seersucker in primary colours.


Piece 4: 114cm wide x 165cm long, plus a little bit extra

Crisp royal blue poplin with cute little floral print.


Now you northern hemispherians with your ice and snow might prefer something from this more wintery selection:

Piece 5: 145cm wide x 118cm long, plus a little bit

Blue floral print velvet with one-way stretch.


Piece 6: 150cm wide x 103cm long

100% wool in upholstery weight. Nifty geometrical weave in two shades of brown.


Piece 7: 155cm wide x 81cm long

Lightweight and open-weave checked 100% wool in blue, white and maroon.


Piece 8: 145cm wide x 100cm long (missing a coupla bites out of the corners)

Wool and synthetic blend knit, quite thick, with dark brown on one side and light brown on t’other.


And…. GO!

The haul that came to stay

A knock at the door last night. Who’s that? I’m busy. He’s busy. We squabble over who should get the door. He’s closer.

Turns out it was a SURPRISE FABRIC DELIVERY. Three big bags/boxes from a friend who was cleaning out. I spent the rest of the evening sorting into three piles: fabric for ME, fabric for the OP SHOP, and fabric for YOU. Time to spread the benificence – here’s a peek of the impending giveaway.


This pile, along with a pile of tasty scrappy bits, is mine-all-mine. Love that watercoloury purple cotton.


And the final bit of treasure: a bedspread made by a family member of hers. It needs some repair but I think I’m up to it! What a lovely thing.


Giveaway coming soon!

Bright, sunshiney fail

I loves me some loud, lurid and large 1970s prints for frock sewing. Particularly when they come from someone’s nanna’s old curtains and/or are completely untrue to the era for the pattern I choose to make ’em up in.

I also loves me some frankensteining because I’m already being disrespectful in so many ways, what’s another middle finger to the pattern designer to tell them I think they I can do a better job on that skirt?

The best projects combine all three of these misdemeanours. A friend of mine is getting hitched next weekend and she’s a particularly sunny character. What to make to wear? I plundered the stash and considered many, many options. I kept returning to one bit of op shop curtain that I’d always loved for its extreme awfulness, but thought, ‘nah. Too far. This is just one step too far. That print is larger than my head, and it has more acid colours than a citrus grove.’

Yet, I took that step. You might want to don your sunglasses roundabout now.


I had two pieces, one full-width about 2m long, and a thin strip that had been tacked on to widen the curtain. Just enough for a dress If I cut carefully. I unpicked everything and gave it a wash. I used two patterns: the bodice was from a cheapie 1950s(?)  mail-order (instructions include how to make it up for any size from 32″ to 38″ just by fudging your cutting and seam allowances. Nice.) and the skirt was pulled from a 1970s hippy-gypsy-folksy-leg-o’mutton-maxi dress. Seemed a wise choice to keep the skirt as simple as possible to really showcase the ridiculously large blotches of the print.

It was a wise choice and it look smashing on Headless Esme, but what you can’t see is that I haven’t bothered sewing up the back because the skirt is too narrow. She no fit. I added a bit of width but not enough, and it kills me, because if I’d just flared out an extra inch either side, she’d be apples. WOE! To the Pile of Shame you go, frock.

Sulphurous delight

My 50s sheath made up in 70s lurid sulphur-yellow rose-printed corduroy that I warned you about in the previous post is finished and I’m delighted with it!

Who knew that mashing up two such disparate decades would work?! Love it. So soft and cosy. And the fit is great – the only thing I’d change for next time (and I suspect there WILL be a next time) is to bring it in a bit at the top of the back seam where it’s a bit roomy because I have no shoulders.

Otherwise, usual adjustments, blahdy blah, lengthened bodice, widened hips, same old same old.

I would like to make special mention of lsaspacey for two reason. One, is her series on designers on the Colette Patterns blog is awesome. Secondly, she requested that I make the sassy neck detail (done) and talk about the instructions for this given my proclivity to charge ahead without reading them properly. Let’s have a close look at the neckline, eh?

Right. Now the eagle-eyed among you will notice that the wee pointy bit does not line up with the raglan sleeve seam. It’s set back about, oh 1.5cm. How could this be? This is not in the pattern illustration! They lied, again!

Nah. I just didn’t read the instructions again. I sewed the facing on in one fell swoop whereas I should have stopped and started and pivoted and so on to work around this seam. Never mind – it worked out ok, but next time I’ll do it right, if for no reason other than penance, and I feel I owe it to lsaspacey…

Bad drafting indignation

So we rabid fans for old stuff love to shakes our heads nostalgically and talk about how modern sewing patterns are made for the masses and fitting is a dead art, woe, lament, etc. Old patterns were just so beautifully drafted, we say.

Not always so. I’m going to show you a zinger of an error in a pattern I’m working on. It’s a small thing… but surely, because it’s a small thing, the fact that it’s wrong is more puzzling and infuriating.

Here’s the offender – Simplicity 4232, a ‘4 Season Dress’ they say. Cute, eh? Raglan sleeves, French darts, sassy next detail.

Here’s the pattern piece for the bodice. That’s quite a deep dart, non? That’s to be expected because it’s doing the work of both a bust dart and waist dart. Ambitious little thing. Sure to go far in this world.

Let’s see how it lies when the dart is sewn and pressed flat. Traditionally you press bust darts down so let’s examine that first…

Oh my, that’ll never do. See how the dart isn’t caught in the side seam the whole way down? What’s that little triangle going to do flapping away in there, unrestrained? It’ll fray and make a weird bump on the outside, that’s what it’ll do. No no no. So maybe it’s meant to be pressed up? I advocate pressing up anyway because if you’re going to have extra bulk hanging about, wouldn’t you rather have it enhancing your bustular region rather than upgirthing your midriffery? I’m not the only one who feels this way – pattern~scissors~cloth is a bit more scientific about it, though…)

Oh my word, that’s even worse! Outrageous! You can imagine my indignation as I made up my muslin. Well, let’s see how Simplicity explains this disaster! Get me a time machine so I can zip back to whenever this pattern was made so I can shake my fist at the Simplicity patternmakers!

LOOK AT THAT! They don’t even DRAW DIAGRAMS accurately! Those bust darts are huge, how on earth are they little skinny slips of things now?


TRIM darts and press open.

Trim them.

Ahahaahahhaaa. Right.

My tip to you…. read every word of the instructions. Don’t just look at the pictures. Because old patterns were so beautifully drafted and they thought of everything.

By the way, if you’re easy offended by anachronism and the colour pallette of the 1970s, look away now.

I’m making this dress (with trimmed, open darts) out of some printed corduroy that my sister in law gave me when her mum cleaned out her fabric stash. I love to think the her mum had plans for a suit, or maybe overalls for this. And believe me, that gold colour is even more radioactive in real life. So awful it’s good. I”ll be like a walking velvet painting and eyeballs will be insulted everywhere.

Housecoat conversion

Remember the housecoat? I’ll remind you. Here’s the before (which, in the tradition of all ‘before’ pictures has been taken in poor light with the subject looking frumpy and sad).

Cue happy tinkly music for the big reveal!

Well, sort of. I’m only half-convinced about this one. I’m still viewing it with caution. It still looks…. housecoaty.

Here’s what I did.

1. Choppped off sleeves and skirt. Relocated skirt pocket lower down. (There was a patch pocket with one edge in a side seam.)

2. Chopped off bodice at waist level after humming and hawing about putting in a waistband.

3. Despite measuring twice and cutting once, realised bodice was too short. (How? How? Curses!)

4. Made waistband using another bodice pattern: sewed darts then cut band, which ensures you get the right curve. Had to make band narrower than I would have liked because I was left with not much fabric to work with due to poor cutting (see 3.).

5. Trimmed bodice. Gathered under bust. Attached waistband.

6. Took in yoke at bust to made defacto bust darts. (I decided to keep the yoke and frilly collar because I’m lazy.)

7. Gathered skirt top, attached to waistband.

8. Shortened sleeves and reattached.

9. Added new buttonholes and buttons. Closed up one of the old buttonholes that was now in the wrong place (can you see in pic below?) Mended bits where buttons had torn fabric.

10. Hemmed it and thought about how it probably took longer than making something from scratch and how it still looked like a nanna frock.

Now, where are my ugg boots, dearie?


Oops. I did it again

Savers used to be The Place to score random awesome bits of fabric. Then, everyone else cottoned (ha) on to the fact AND Savers started pricing them as if they were lengths of rare cloth hand-woven from the gossamer locks of virgin fairies.

But. The op shop gods were smiling on me last night.

vintage fabrics

Left to right:

  • Loose-woven wool, plenty for a toasty winter skirt
  • Lovely drapey rayon, plenty for a blouse (mebbe the corker from the last post?)
  • Lurid rayon, narrow width but good length. Loud dress methinks.
  • Metres and metres of very fine cotton shirting
  • Cotton twill with very odd abstract screen-print
  • Vintage cotton with Japanese-style chestnut leaves
  • Polyester – I know, I know, but such a cool stylised hydrangea print

And price? $3 and $4 each. Thank you, op shop gods. Don’t think I’m not grateful.

Static. Or is that stagnant?

Not much doing around here for a couple of reasons. The first is because it’s flipping cold and my sewing room is unheated. Brrrr. The second is because it looks like this at present:

Right. So I need to do me some cleaning up before I can even get near the machine. And I should do so, pronto, because we’re off to the Fifties Fair later this month and I need to construct some kind of anachronistic confection. I’ve wanted to go for years but never got myself organised in time. Hard to imagine from the state of my room, eh?

In other news, I scored some lovely murky-coloured 60s silk at Camberwell Market on the weekend:

The pattern is big but the yardage is not (3m). I’m thinking skirt; any other ideas?