I wear a Lady Tie. Because I am a Lady.


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So once I got confirmation on my last post that I was, indeed, sewing with silk, I got a little gun shy. God knows why, because I’m pretty sure that I have more than I could possibly need for this dress should something go wrong. But I am starting to think that sewing up a muslin might be a good idea.

Unfortunately, what with my sudden silk shyness and the fact that April and May tend to be entirely taken up with morris dancing (or near as makes no difference), I let my sewing table get buried in the three or so projects I had going simultaneously, and didn’t touch any of them. Also fibromyalgia, not going to lie.

But we had a house inspection recently, and I used that as impetus to clean off my sewing table. I finally sat down last week and sewed.

I had drafted a pattern for a lady tie – seriously, that’s what they’re called. Although I have since been informed that they can also be called “cross ties” or “Continental ties” (tip of the hat to the charming Luke), which makes them sound far more adult. But I will probably continue to call them lady ties at least half the time, because it makes me think of the laaaydeees of Little Britain. Anyway, I had drafted a pattern for a lady tie the night before a function at work, and then realised that I didn’t have enough time to cut and sew it and so forth, so put it aside. I used this tutorial as a guide, put on the shirt I was going to wear it with, and then used my flexible measuring tape to determine length and width. It really wasn’t a particularly complex process. Because I felt like making things super-simple, I drafted it on the back of an envelope sans seam allowance, drafted a 15mm (≈5/8″) seam allowance, cut it out, and then traced it onto a piece of clean paper. I have a packet of green paper because of Morris Reasons, so I used that. Bonus: it makes the pattern easy to find in my sewing disaster area.

A self-drafted sewing pattern for a lady tie

Then I had a night at home, and turned out a lady tie in about two hours, from cutting to finishing. I don’t have any suitable tie pins yet, so I used this Homestuck stick pin I got with my backer rewards from the Kickstarter.

A green continental or "lady" tie, worn with a purple blouse and sage cardigan.

Process pr0n:

I just used a random fat quarter that I found in my stash. For what purpose did I intend this fabric? Who knows. I cut out four copies of my pattern, one for each short half, front and back.

I didn’t take a photo of this, nor a good one of the pattern. But (very loosely speaking) basically the tie looks like this:


And each pattern piece looks like this:


I sewed each half’s backs and fronts together.

Lady tie cut out and short halves pinned together, right sides facing.

& trimmed them down with my pinking shears.

Short halves of lady tie stitched together, seam allowances pinked.

Next, I turned them inside out, using a pencil and a crochet hook (hook slightly more effective).

Lady tie half being turned right side out with a pencil.

I turned the end of one half inside by approx half a centimetre, and tucked the raw edge of the other side inside. This was the most painful part, and the bit that required the most fiddling. Having just done another one, I’d suggest tucking one side in, pinning it in place, then tucking in the other. Or doing it a different way. Or making sure that one half is slightly smaller at the end than the other.

Completed lady tie, showing messy centre seam.

Observe the messy centre back seam.

Things I learnt/might do differently next time:

The bit where the two halves join is a bit messy and bunchy. To make this neater, I think I’d sew one long half (both backs) together in the middle, and then sew the two remaining halves around the perimeter onto that long piece, so that there’s only one raw edge on the inside middle seam. Then after trimming down the seam allowances (V. NECESSARY on such a narrow item), you’d turn the entire tie inside out through that tiny seam allowance, fold that inside and hand stitch it closed.

Actually, that’s total lies. Having written that out, I have no desire to finish it as deailed in the previous para. I find turning the short halves inside out is painful enough when you have a rather larger opening to work with. Turning it inside out with such a tiny opening sounds like a recipe for frustration and torn stitches. And the messy seam is hidden under the collar anyway.

Investigations shall continue.


The 1940s sewalong, update 1



So I finally started working on my 1940s sewalong dress this past week. I’d been trying to get other things off my plate first, and when it was clear that wasn’t going to happen, I shelved them and finally got to work.


I’m cutting out my fabric at the moment, having traced the vintage pattern. I have no idea what sort of fabric it is; as I bought it at an outlet, there was no information given. I tried the burn test for the first time:


…which left me not much more clear, actually. It went out on its own, so it’s not rayon (or cotton or wool, but that was already clear from the texture/weave). It does feel very nice. I’m not sure how I’d classify the burnt smell, other than “unpleasant”. Maaaybe as “burnt hair”, which would mean silk, but is that just wishful thinking? And again, I guess it’s charred rather than melted. Certainly the black mess that was left behind wasn’t particularly hard, but rather brittle. I could crush it between my fingers easily.

Anyone more savvy with the fabric burn chart want to weigh in?

I don’t have several gigs to go to this week, so I should get more done on the dress. Woo! (I got to see both The Correspondents AND Tuba*Skinny last week. It was fabulous!)

The Doctor Blake Mysteries

Sorry, guys. I’m too fibro-y for a proper post again this week. This is partly due to the heat, and partly due to the fact that I’m in the middle of adjusting my medication … although mostly due to the general cussedness that is fibromyalgia.

Here’s a top tip: don’t get fibro.

So I’m too tired to sit at a sewing machine tonight. In fact, I’m too tired to stand, or do anything that isn’t lie down and toy listlessly with my iPad or phone. So I’ve been catching up with The Doctor Blake Mysteries on iView. (Non-Australians, if there are any of you reading, I can’t help you find these.)

It’s taking me some time to get through these, not because they’re bad, but because they’re too good; most of the time I spend watching TV isn’t spent watching it at all, but listening to it while I sew. But the DBM have been too distracting to listen to while I sew, because I want to stop and watch them.

I know that some of my friends are fans of a good cozy mystery; Eszter and I spent some time at the last vintage social gabbing on about them. And I’m especially fond of mid-twentieth-century cozies. I started reading Agatha Christie in primary school, wolfed them down in year 7 when I had an easy access, and turned back to her again during the trauma of my last break-up. Kerry Greenwood I’ve been reading for nearly as long; I used to borrow my mother’s library books. I remember the old covers that used to have photographs on the cover (that may have been before they moved from McPhee-Gribble to Allen and Unwin, I don’t remember). The first one I read, I’m pretty sure, was Blood and Circuses. Dorothy Sayers came much later &emdash; once I was in my second attempt at university (long story). I wish I’d found her much earlier, truthfully. I love her Wimsey books entirely too much, although Phryne will always be my cool bohemian older sister, to whom I turn to for advice on life and effortless self-confidence. I’m still working on having a wardrobe fabulous enough for Phryne, although I’m getting closer.

I am old enough to remember Craig McLachlan as a teenage heartthrob, with curly blond hair. I see none of that young man in the serious and quietly damaged Doctor Blake.

It’s 1959, and Lucien Blake is taking over his dead father’s medical practice in country Victoria (Ballarat), as well as his role as police surgeon. He’s far too clever by half, and chafing at the constraints of small town life by getting far too involved in solving the murders of the victims that cross his examining table.

So far what we know about Lucien is that he was in Singapore when it fell to the Japanese, and that he was a POW. It has been excellent to see someone from the Pacific Theatre deal with the aftermath of the war in a way I cannot express. I was geekily obsessed with WWII as a child, but mostly the European Theatre. It’s hard to get excited about Australian history, generally, but I think there is a lot to get excited about. It’s just harder to find good resources because most books deal with European history. Even now, we still look back to Europe, as well as to America (a relationship very much fostered in the Pacific Theatre of WWII) in order to define ourselves as a country.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Australian part in WWII (and I wish I could say that I was more of an expert than I am, and that I still remembered half of what I have studied), the fall of Singapore was a tremendous blow to Australia, as well as its self-definition as more British than anything else. Singapore was the location of a British army (airforce? My memory is rusty) base, and as far as Australia was concerned, it was also one of the bastions from Australian invasion by Japan. However, as Japan marched on, Britain decided that fighting two fronts at once (Europe and Singapore) was too much, and withdrew. Singapore fell, and so did the self-identity of Australia as purely a child of English antecedents, clinging to Britannia’s skirts. Australia, rightly or wrongly, felt very much abandoned in its hour of need, and from then on looked increasingly to the United States as an older brother of sorts. (See also: why the Australian Labor Party spells its name the way it does, Australia’s involvement in Dubya’s war in Iraq, former-PM Howard’s mimicking of former-Pres. Bush’s marriage act, the difference between the Macquarie and Oxford Australian Dictionaries vis-a-vis American spellings.)

I do apologise for any flagrant errors in my armchair history; I’m refusing to look things up as this is meant to be a quick non-post.

The other thing we know about Dr Blake, as at episode 3 (five episodes have been aired so far; I told you I was behind). He had a wife and he’s looking for someone. I noticed in the opening credits of the second or third episode that there is a family portrait of Blake with an Asian woman and what seemed to be a boy (I didn’t pause to look closely). So we can assume that once Singapore fell, Blake lost contact with his wife and possible-son. Since we also know he was in a POW camp, it’s unsurprising that he lost contact. I don’t think we know for certain that his wife is dead, but I think that Blake suspects it by now. And 1959 is over ten years since the end of the war. I think one could safely assume that anyone not found by now either is beyond such searches or doesn’t want to be found. I think we’ll find out the answer as the series continues.

Blake himself is probably closest aligned to Wimsey, when comparing him to classic sleuths. He doesn’t have Wimsey’s silliness facade, but rather presents one of calm: a normal family doctor. But like Wimsey, Blake is kind-hearted and understanding to a fault. The show’s treatment of homosexuality in the third episode was particularly well done. And, of course, both men are damaged by their experiences in war. One could argue that damage is partly what drives them to turn their intelligences towards solving crime. One pleasant thing about the DBM is that Blake’s “Bunter” is a woman &emdash; his housekeeper, Jean Beazley. I’m not quite sure what their previous relationship is, and what leads Jean to stay through at least the first episode or two. I think that Jean was his father’s housekeeper, and I keep wondering if she was something like his brother’s widow (we know from episode two that she’s a war widow). Hopefully we’ll find that out too.

So if you like crime drama, give The Doctor Blake Mysteries a go. It’s a show with warmth and nuance, and thus probably a better bet than yet another episode of Midsomer Murders (which I understand has gone down in quality in the last while since I stopped watching).

[The Doctor Blake Mysteries on iView | The Doctor Blake Mysteries (with some clips and a gallery of photos) on the ABC’s website.]

The New Year’s Eve dress


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So this dress has been “finished” (for a given definition of finished) since, well, 31 December 2012. But it has been sitting in my boudoir, getting slowly crushed ever since. I freshly handwashed it last night in order that it be ready to be worn today to a cupcake party (for the launch of Natalie’s Vegan Cupcakes). You saw the fabric way back when in my second post.

Woman sitting on couch wearing lilac home-made dress.

That is my housemate’s couch. Above me is a giclee print of a painting of me playing the melodeon (a type of accordion). I bet you think I’m joking.

As I said then, I used the Colette Macaron as the bodice, and a gathered square skirt as per Gertie’s tutorial for the, well, skirt. I didn’t follow Gertie’s tutorial precisely for the width, but tore the cotton silk to about the right length and then just gathered the full width of the fabric. Don’t look too carefully at the hem, because it still has a crappy machine-stitched blind hem. It was my first machine-stitched blind hem, and it shows. I was planning on hand-stitching the beggar, but rather ran out of time. Pro tip: don’t try to sew two dresses in less than a week.

As I mentioned in the previous post, the illusion neckline is oyster-coloured silk organza, and the rest of the dress is a pinky-lilac cotton silk. Both fabrics are perfect for Australian summer. The bodice and waistband are self-lined, and I used leftover silk organza to line the waistband and (from memory) the bodice.

Not so pleased with the placement of the waistband, which is why I’m wearing it with one of my favourite belts (from Modcloth, natch). When I first wore it, I decided that the waistband was much thinner than I was expecting; I was unthinkingly expecting it to be about two inches wide, but once sewed up with seam allowances gone, it was more like one inch. I realised today, putting it on for the second time that although a thicker waistband might have been nice, it’s really the placement that bugs me. The bodice finishes just below the arch in the front of my ribs, meaning that the “waistband” finishes above the bottom of my ribcage, or about two inches higher than my smallest point (my natural waist). Since I actually made a muslin of the bodice, I probably should have realised this, but I was mostly just focused on making sure that my bust fitted (I’m between a B- and a C-cup, so I got away without a small bust adjustment. Woo! One day I will have to learn how to do bust adjustments, but thankfully it was not that day.) I was thinking about taking the dress apart and fixing the waistband so it was thicker, but since I’ve realised it’s the bodice that’s too short, I’m not sure I can be bothered. I would have to go buy more fabric, for a start, both of the cotton silk *and* the silk organza, and there’s a side zip, you guys. I’ve only just started putting in zips semi-successfully by lapping them. The idea of re-doing one traumatises me a little (although it would probably be fine: see previous remark about finally being semi-successful at zips by lapping them).

Photo showing a dress's waistband two inches above wearer's natural waist.

The blogger pauses to take an unflattering selfie (housemate being asleep), NFF mug in hand. I have adjusted the position of the belt so you can see the difference between where the pattern waist was placed and where my waist is. That weird underbust crease is not usually there.

If I look again at the image of the Macaron on the Colette Patterns website, I can see that yep, the waistband is higher than the model’s natural waist. I realise that doing this emphasises the length of the legs. Still, I was aiming for more of a 50s rather than 60s style, and since I am a pear shape with a small waist, I like emphasising that. So I could have maybe realised that the bodice was foreshortened had I paid more attention, but it’s not something I would even have realised to look for.

Basically, if I were to re-do this with more forethought next time, I would have chosen a different pattern for the top part, since when I had this dress in mind I envisioned a more pronounced heart shape to the bodice line, and was a little disappointed with how flat the Macaron shape was. Annoyingly, I found another pattern that would have suited my original plan much better something like a week later, but I didn’t save the link or even pay attention to which blog I saw it on. C’est la vie.

My reservations aside, it is a good-looking dress, and the high waistband doesn’t actually look too bad. It’s probably even more flattering than a natural-waisted dress since it better hides my poochy belly that I often feel self-conscious about. I just feel weird with a waistline on my ribs.

I actually planned on dyeing the dress darker purple with an ombre effect, beginning at the hemline, since I didn’t find fabric in a purple colour I liked. I also planned on possibly sewing on some artificial violets, but I didn’t find any. The dress was actually conceived to match a fascinator hat I had planned, in honour of my favourite cocktail, the Aviation.

The Aviation, for those not up on their classic cocktails, is composed of gin, maraschino liqueur, crème de violette, and lemon juice, apparently invented in the 1920s (says the 1806 bar menu). Basically all of my favourite things. I read once that violets were a covert code for lesbianism, but I have no idea where I read it, nor if it was true. I swore then and there that if I were to ever get married, violets would feature somewhere.

A cocktail hat with a small cocktail glass on it, with white-dot veiling attached.

This is actually the only photo of me from NYE 2012, and I only took it so I could remember how I’d draped the veiling.

Doesn’t look too bad, does it? Sadly, this is a completely unfinished hat. I just made it good enough for theatre. There is a clip tacked to the bottom, but no fabric finishing the bottom of it, and the veiling was attached directly to my head using bobby pins. I still haven’t finished the hat.

By the way, you may not have got the (OK, accidental) joke: that is a cocktail hat. With a cocktail on it.

Here’s a slightly better shot, showing off the hat:

Woman sitting on black couch with cocktail hat on

Another shot of the hat, attached to my head by bobby pins and hope. Now I’m starting to think I prefer it without the veiling. Hmm.

A cocktail hat resting against a mint green bag

The hat and the handbag: a modern love story.

So far I’ve taken three more photos (as per above) while writing this post. And I wonder why it takes longer than I expect.

So yes. As you might be able to see from the last photo, there is a small plane sticking out of the purple “liquid” in the tiny martini glass. Which is purple. (Mostly because I couldn’t find transparent ones in Australia.) The “liquid” is glue and paint; I mixed the paint colour using a photo of an Aviation as a colour guide. I even made the glue in the bottom part of the glass red, to represent the maraschino cherry. Sadly, the glue didn’t try transparent as I hoped (maybe too much paint in it?), and there are big air bubbles that have appeared since it tried completely. Oh well, it still looks pretty great.

Feeling that glue was cheating, I actually stitched the glass down by tacking large stitches in a sort of sunburst around the stem, across the flat base. Then one of the stitches burst and I glued the stitches to the base, reasoning that if they were stiff it wouldn’t matter if they broke, because they should still stay in place. Then I decided that wasn’t the look I was going for anyway, and glued the purple flowers I bought around the base. They’re not violets, but most people won’t notice anyway.

I didn’t wear that hat today. I wore this one.

Woman wearing pagoda-style hat made of green sinamay

This hat makes me feel like a 1950s Vogue model. Even if I don’t look like one. #I really like hats okay

I didn’t make it. I bought it as-is from Lincraft. I had plans to attach a branch of artificial white cherry blossom that I had left over, but I can’t find it, so I’m still wearing it as I bought it. I love this base style and bought a couple of others, although I misplaced them for a year or so. The other bases are blank; I should really make something out of them.

And you can see my bra in these photos, I know. I promise you couldn’t on NYE, but I decided to go for comfort for today. Also my bra matches my dress, so I decided I didn’t care. Sorry about that if you’re in the “I should not see your bra” camp. (I’m usually over there with you, so save me a place for my tent, okay? Thanks.)

And now, to destroy any Cool Points I may have inadvertently built up, a shot Housemate T took while I was ironing the front of my skirt for the photos. I took these (T took the first and the last two) for this post at the end of the day, after I’d been to the party. Silk creases like a mofo when you spend most of your time sitting down, and also a toddler climbs repeatedly into your lap and you joggle him up and down for a few minutes.

Woman ironing the front of her skirt

Don’t try this at home. Yes, I am ironing my skirt while I am wearing it. I had the steam turned off. Yes, I have my tongue sticking out. I was concentrating.

This is exactly how much of a dork I am. You’re welcome.

Further adventures in haberdashery



On Saturday, our Social Sewing group (we really need a catchier name, I think) ventured forth to conquer fabric shops. Lots of fabric shops. I think the count was nine, in the end. I missed the first three, but still managed to make it to The Cloth Shop (Ivanhoe), Cutting Edge Fabrics and The Button Shop (Malvern), Astratex (an Italian fabric shop in Richmond), before finishing up at The Fabric Store and the Alannah Hill fabric counter at Clear It (Brunswick St, Fitzroy).

So, what did I finish with? Did my resolution to lessen my stash hold firm, or did I buckle under and fling my money across countless wooden counters with brass rulers embedded in them?

Well, no. I think my resolution was helped by two things: one, I missed out on Rathdowne Remnants (I had a couple of things I saw there last time I was there that I have been longing for), and two, I had left my wallet on a tram the previous Monday. So although I got it back when it was handed in to the Brunswick cop shop, I was on a meagre budget of cash that I couldn’t really go over.

However, according to the rules of my self-imposed ban, I did manage to pick up a few things, flensing my budget right to the bone.

First, the free stuff. One of the ladies (whose name I shamefully didn’t catch) brought an enormous bag bulging with patterns, free from the taking. They were, I think without exception, 70s patterns. I’m a bit of an era snob, but I still managed to pick these four:


The bottom left is the one I’m most excited about, and I think the one that someone else handed me as being my style. I’m just excited about those tucks on the blouses on the right. Suspect I may modify the sleeve for #2 if I make it. Not a fan of puffed sleeves in general, even if they extend do the elbow. Still, I have plenty of blouses in my stash, so I can sub in something more suitable. No drama.

The pinafore dress I grabbed to potentially make something for C, but I don’t think she’s very keen. Still, my housemate T (who loves 70s clothes) may be pleased to take it off my hands. (I could still see C in that green one at right. It would look so cute on her made up in her favourite shade of mint.)

The culottes I grabbed because I’m planning on making things like that for cycling. And possibly a cut-off variation for running (if I keep it up). I was pleased this fell in my lap – much more likely for this to happen than if I’d had to ask my mum if she still had the culotte patterns she used when I was a kid.

The petticoat pattern I took because it has become apparent to me that I need more half slips, to be layered as well as crinolines under my circle skirts. My mother shared that bit of wisdom received from her mum, and then Fate took it in her hands to make this necessity apparent later that week. I don’t know if this pattern is needlessly complicating matters, though. Gertie has a simple tutorial for a slip that I was planning on using. Still, the pattern was free.

The purchases:


Funnily enough, these were all bought at the last shop, Alannah Hill. Well, I suppose I was keen to dip into their notions again.

The fabric you’ve seen before; I bought it on my last trip there with Belle (blogged here). This goes with my personal rule that buying new fabric is permitted if it aids in the making of projects from my stash. I measured out the first round of this fabric a few weeks ago, and was disappointed to see that there didn’t seem to be enough for my new pattern. I couldn’t remember how much I was short by, so I just bought 1.5m. (Looking at the back of the pattern again, though, I wonder if I hadn’t read the wrong chart, because I’m pretty sure I *did* have enough fabric. C’est la vie.)


On the left, the pattern I was going to make; on the right, the pattern I wanted to make (Simplicity 2104).

In regards the wide velvet ribbon, all I can say is well played, Clear It, well played. There was some of that same fabric wrapped around a mannequin, and they had the velvet ribbon tied around its waist. And the colours looked so beautiful together. I don’t know if I’ll use it in this project, but I don’t really have any ribbon in my stash.

The thin line of burgundy is some satin piping. I do love piping, but the one time I attempted to make some scarred me for life. I’ve never attempted any since. I may use this in this project; we’ll see.

Close up of the notions:


Here you can see the two types of brown lace that I bought. One is a delicate sort of wavy pattern, and the other is a more densely embroidered bunch of flowers. I have no plans for either of these two, although I could almost see the floral lace on the front of a blouse (in two lines parallel to the placket).

There are also two sets of buttons that I bought. The black looking ones are actually a dark purple, with a tiny sprig of black flowers printed on them. The pinky-peach ones I originally put aside for Amanda of Bimble and Pimble, but there were heaps and I realised that they would look very nice with the fabric I already had. And it just so happens that the new pattern requires buttons.

It would probably be overkill, that busy pattern, AND those floral buttons, AND the burgundy piping around the yoke, AND the dark red cotton lace around the hem. But buggerit. It’s my damn sewing project, and I shall make it overkill. And then wear it once, get horribly embarrassed, and avoid wearing it again.

STILL! I’m kind of excited to get started on this one. After Oanh linked me to Lucky Lucille’s 40s sew along, I knew this was going to be the project I was going to sew for it. I mean, since I was sewing a 40s dress anyway.

I may actually have to work out how to put an image in the sidebar. Look, I’m an old Livejournal and Blogger girl. I don’t understand this WordPress nonsense.

But before I can get re-started on the dress, I have to finish the pencil skirt that’s in pieces on my sewing table…

Sometimes things get between me and things that I want to do



Fun fact: I had to lie down after writing that title.

So I have fibromyalgia. I may write a proper post on this at some stage, but tonight I’m too tired. Because that’s what fibro, or FM, does to you. You have chronic pain, and frequent bouts of acute pain on top of it, and it all makes you very tired. I’ve lived with the chronic pain for as long as I can remember (which is age 12), but the complete exhaustion’s only really been bad in the last few years. Right now it’s quite a bit of effort to hold my head up and not just lie back down on the bed where I’m writing this.

It’s hard to know what, or how much, to share. People don’t really favourably on others discussing medical problems. Think of all the jokes about older women talking about their corns, or their bowel operations, in excruciating detail. But I’m someone who lives fairly out of the closet, and who talks about a lot of things. I doubt there’s anyone who knows me at all, or who’s spoken with me for more than ten minutes together, who doesn’t know that I’m queer. And, for better or for worse, fibro is part of my identity now.

And I’m also someone who is firmly in favour of communication. I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was in primary school, and I first started blogging in late high school (2000). I sometimes work things out by writing or talking about them.

But I also believe that communication is necessary for any relationship, and that includes friendships. And, I suppose, blog writer–reader relationships. And the truth is, I’m not as reliable as I used to be. I can be really excited about coming over to help you move house, but on the day realise that I’m not capable of that at all, and instead spend the time on the couch catching up on The Big Bang Theory. (Not that that is an example from my life, or anything.) Or I’m meant to go to a friend’s house for dinner, but I’m in too much pain, so instead I spend an evening in bed, wishing I could fall asleep, and playing another stupid game on my tablet because I have too much “fibro fog” to read or do anything sensible. (Another fun symptom of fibro is feeling like your head’s been filled with cotton wool.)

So although I have all these posts planned, and even made sure to get some photos of the Parfait I made my girlfriend for her birthday in December, I’m not writing those tonight. I might as well mention that I’ve started another sewing project – turning a wrap skirt into a pencil skirt. I’m halfway through that, but I’ve been busy each night this week, so I haven’t touched it since the weekend. Here’s a process photo to tide you over: I’ve already cut the new skirt pieces from the old skirt.


I’m just going to leave this there. I have a lot more to say on this topic, but no more energy to expend, I’m afraid.

The 1940s rayon dress



I must say, the one thing I did not expect when I started this blog was that I’d have more to write about than I could get to in a once-weekly schedule. I thought I’d struggle to do any more than that, and gave myself permission to skip a week if I really didn’t have anything to write about.

Instead, I have five projects to write about, in varying stages of completion (three of them want little tweaks to be actual-facts done, but are wearable). In addition, I have some end-of-year posts that I want to write (ideally before the end of January…!), and I want to write a post about my stashed patterns.


For this post, I want to write about the latest of the five projects, since that’s the one I have photos of. This is the green-and-brown rayon that was in pieces in my fabric post:

On Sunday I went to a vintage picnic with various other vintage fashion obsessed lasses from Melbourne, including Jacinta from Razzle Dazzle Rose, Gabrielle from Drama of Exile, Marianne from Esme in the Laneway, Clara Cupcakes, Eszter from Kitty’s Drawings, Edie from An Scenic World, Margeaux from no fixed digital abode, and my dear friend Jess from Deadish Darlings (which is not a fashion blog). I’d been vacillating about what to wear: my actually vintage collection is small, and it felt strange to wear one of my repro brand dresses like Heartbreaker. I have a 1920s dress I sewed for a birthday years ago, but I’ve worn that a few times to various events and that seemed far too humdrum. What I really wanted was for my rayon 1940s dress to be magically done so that I could wear that.

I went to Social Sewing on Saturday. I spent most of my time on the purple Ceylon (post to come as soon as I have some photos), and a little bit on beginning the rayon dress. Since I’d finished the green circle skirt that morning on the tram on the way, I was flushed with success and hopeful that a marathon sewing session on Saturday night would bring this about.

And, lucky me, it sort-of did. If “Saturday night” includes up to 1pm on Sunday as well. I’d like to finish my hems more prettily, but it’s more than wearable. Apologies for the darkness of the photos; I didn’t realise how late it was getting.

This dress features lapped seams on gathering, which would probably have been a little intimidating if I hadn’t just sewn the Ceylon dress, which also features these.

Side view! Look at those pretty front seams.

This is the first time I’ve made thread loops. I’m glad I’d already seen a post on it in Gertie’s blog, since the extent of the instructions in the pattern was basically, “Make thread loops for buttons”. I guess they weren’t mucking around when they called it an advanced pattern. My button’s all pretty. It’s a vintage one that I got from one of the ladies at Social Sewing, but I’m afraid I don’t remember who.

I’ve realised that I haven’t really got a photo showing off my *BEAUTIFUL* lapped zip. It’s so pretty, it’s as though it isn’t there at all.

Otherwise, aside from misreading some pattern markings and needing to go back to the original pattern pieces to decode it, this dress was fairly straightforward and simple to put together. I guess my skills have been improving since I’ve been sewing more than one or two garments in the past few months. That’s reassuring.

So, the outcome? I love this dress. It’s funny, because I was mostly making it, I realised in hindsight, because I thought it was neat. I didn’t expect it to look so flattering on. The rayon has the most lovely drape, and it’s so soft against my skin.

The downside: I realised when I was three quarters of the way through that when I first cut this pattern out, three years ago, I cut one size too big. That’s why it’s a little baggier than it should be, and that’s why I’m wearing it with a belt.

So, would I make it again? Definitely. Especially if I can find another soft, drapey woven. But next time I’m cutting the next size down.

Finally: a couple of photos from the vintage picnic. Pro tip: if you’re going to use your phone to play music while you sew something at the last minute, make sure it’s fully charged before you leave for said event, or else you won’t have enough battery to capture the moment.


The amazing spread, mostly prepared by Jacinta, who also arranged the whole shebang. Those professional-looking cupcakes are by Ellie/Clara Cupcakes (appropriately enough).


Gabrielle and Jacinta. You can see more photos from the day at Gabrielle’s post on Drama of Exile and Jacinta’s post on Razzle Dazzle Rose.

Shopping my own stash: fabric

So Christmas left me with many things, including a new sewing bag (made by my mum), a keyboard for my iPad, and Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing (YAY!)

But it also left me feeling a little impoverished (a health issue helped with that, to be fair), and with a renewed resolution to stop mindlessly buying fabric and patterns, and actually do something with the ones I have.

So, with an eye to actually going through my stash and taking stock, come with me and share the pretty (and the mysterious, and the ugly).


First, the fabric that you’ve already seen.
Wasn’t sure whether to include the purple dot fabric here, but this piece hasn’t been cut into yet. It needs to be sleeves. For the rest we have 40s dress fabric, cream/fawn dot silk-cotton blend for a blouse, white-on-white fabric for a blouse, fox fabric (probably also a blouse).

I Have A Blouse Problem
I bought all these fabrics in the last year to make blouses with. Most of the fabric is from Spotlight (various ones have been my local fabric shop for years), other than numbers 2 and 3, which are from Rathdowne Remnants on the first (and thus far only) trip I’ve ever taken there.

The Social Sewing Bunch
These fabrics are from my Social Sewing group. Well, technically the one on the far left I bought. I’ve taken it to Social Sewing to swap it a couple of times, but no-one wants it. Not sure what to do with it; it’s too good to just throw out. Use it for muslin-making, I guess. Or maybe lining fabric.
The other three were fabric that others were getting rid of. Not sure about the roses and the pink satiny fabric now that I look at it again. They’re not really my style. Maybe give to my youngest sister? She’s just starting to sew and might find them more her thing.

The Lustables
The first one my sweet girlfriend C bought for me because I was trying to be good and walk out of the fabric shop with things I needed, not just wanted. But it was cotton with spotty teapots on!! The teapots are quite big, and I had no idea what I wanted to make from it. But I’m tempted to make a gathered skirt like Sew Busy Lizzy did with hers.
The middle fabric has a very art-nouveau design to it. I don’t have a particular project in mind, but I think I’m going to make a 30s dress out of it. I have Wearing History’s Moderne 1930s pattern, so maybe I’ll use that.
The final piece in this bunch was a bit of a mistake. I loved it, and still love it, but I misread the label, and it cost way more than I thought. I thought it was a bargain, and nope. After the five metres had been cut, I realised my mistake. Happily, I have blanked the horrific price from my memory. I still plan on turning it into a 50s style dress (and using some of the remainder to cover a matching hat), but not until I’ve made a muslin of the dress. I’m not messing up that expensive fabric, even if I can’t remember how much it cost.

The Ghost of Projects Past
I bought this years ago to make it into Folkwear’s Beach Pyjamas. Obviously that never happened. I’m kinda glad it’s still around; I really like the ferny fabric (I plain like ferns), and the pink in the fabric always reminds me of Pink Heath, Victoria’s state flower (some things you learn in primary school never go away).

“Current” Projects
These were all in my Current Projects box, although none of them are particularly current. The bird fabric on the left is a voile that I was making into a circle skirt last summer. Not sure what the white fabric was specifically for, but I think it was the lining for the right-hand fabric.
The right-hand fabric is a green and brown geometric rayon for the 40s pattern at the bottom right. I bought it during the first summer after the split from my last partner. It’s partly cut out and I should really get it back on my sewing table.
The green fabric is a voile that I bought for another project, but I have earmarked for making a blouse for morris dancing with. (It’s the perfect kit colour.)


I’m Not Even A Quilter
So these are mostly (all, I think) from years ago. The top row was all bought at a crafter’s and quilter’s expo. The five on the left were all from a New Zealand fabric stall. I had plans that I would make it into a NZ-themed quilt. That would have been four or five years ago, and it obviously hasn’t happened yet. And is probably unlikely to for the next while. So all of these will probably go back into my stash for the time being.

Whut The Heeell Iz It?
I’ve been sewing a long time. And I’ve therefore got some fabric in my stash that I have no idea of the provenance or what it’s for. The red fabric is probably leftover from the dress I made for my North-West morris dance kit (AKA uniform). Probably. The blue-green fabric I probably just bought because it was pretty, although there doesn’t seem to be enough to do anything with. Maybe it was once a fat quarter?
The dark purple fabric seems to be cotton. I could probably do something with that. I should measure it and work out how much I have.
Not sure what the heather purple corduroy was for. I think it might have been designed for a corselet. Possibly as a muslin? Either way there isn’t much of it. Not sure what I could do with it.
The last isn’t really a mystery. The gold curlicues were bought at Christmas and I used them to make stockings. I still seem to have quite a bit left, though.

A Mysterious Selection of White Cotton
What are all these? Who knows. They’re various weights. I did, at least, label the top one: it’s left over white cotton twill from the Victorian Polonaise which I made a few years back (and technically never finished, due to some self-cover button issues).
Then, from left to white right (I swear that was unintentional), we have: a soft lightweight weave, probably good for a shirt; a very stiff, coarse weave that I have no idea about (but would probably make good interlining); a medium-weight even weave that I think might be broadcloth; another heavy denim-like weave that I think might be the duck that I was using to interline the corset I didn’t wind up finishing; another bunch of medium-weight even weave that I think might be the second batch of broadcloth I bought (I bought one lot last year, lost it, bought another lot, and then found the first lot).
I think I might turn the broadcloth into petticoats, since that was more-or-less the original plan, and I have two voile-weight skirts that are as-yet unfinished that need either slips or lining.

Extremely Misc
The top row is voile, for some Tibetan prayer flag–style bunting I was going to make. I’ve only made one so far, and it hasn’t been hemmed yet (just realised that craft project was from three years ago. Eugh).
Of the bottom row, I remember the middle fabric was going to be made into a corselet. The other two fabrics’ purposes are a mystery to me, though. Maybe I could just pif them. I don’t have any purpose for them. I think they’re both fat quarter sized, so not a large enough amount to do anything useful with.


Then I found the white and green cotton on the left on the washing rack (I’d forgotten to bring it downstairs with the rest). Then I realised there was one more box (which mostly held fabric scraps). And then I realised there was still the hessian bag under my sewing table. These are their stories.
The left fabric is the fabric you saw in my last post that I mostly bought because it was cheap.
The next is a Deco-ish fabric. I bought some of this and made a bag out of it. Then my housemate was sweet and bought me more, but I have no idea what to do with it.
The red-looking mess in the middle is a dark pink fabric that’s meant to be a muslin for a 30s blouse from Wearing History. It’s cut out and half sewn together, but on hold because I think I’ve lost a pattern piece.
The brownish fabric was bought on a whim at the same time as the green and white dot fabric that I showed you last time (that is a mostly completed circle skirt). It’s also planned for a 40s dress. I know I had a specific one in mind, and I’ve a feeling it was one of my actual vintage patterns rather than one of the two repro Vintage Vogue ones I have.
The right-hand fabric is another spontaneous fabric purchase in 2012 (the frequency that happened is rather the reason why I’m shopping my stash for awhile). I do love paisley, and I like the olive colour. But I’m not so keen on the blue bit in retrospect. I did have this planned for a blouse, but I’m not sure I’m going to use it for that in the end. Maybe I could use it as a lining. I think it would be nice as a lining on something, even if (since it’s a cotton) it’s not slippery like a satin.


So, what’s the plan? How long do I want the ban to go for? I want to get through a bunch of things:

  • the purple and white dot dress that I’m still finishing
  • the green and white dot skirt that’s getting hemmed
  • the lilac/maroon flower fabric in the first photo
  • at least one of the blouse fabrics from the second photo
  • the bird voile skirt
  • the green and brown geometric rayon dress
  • the brown leaf print 40s dress from the last photo

Once those have been completed, I’ll start buying fabric again.

Also, I can buy notions only if they’re in aid of one of these projects. And I might bend the rules and buy perhaps one more piece of fabric if it means using up one of these pieces (I have my heart set on this cute top that would use one of my new fabrics and the orange blouse fabric … but it needs a knit). If I do buy another piece to go with a project, I will aim to wait until I’ve completed at the very least one of the other projects on the list.

Can you tell that I do best with really defined rules?

Also, I am not allowed on Emma One Sock until I’ve sewed some things up. I only went on it today for the first time and I fell in love with this lantern fabric. I want to make, yep, another dress (probably 40s again – I have plenty of patterns). Maybe I should ask for it for my birthday? (Which is in February…!)

I suppose that if you’re going to break resolutions, break them good and hard.


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So I had made this resolution to myself that I wasn’t going to buy any more fabric for awhile. At least until I’d finished some projects. I rather failed at that this week.

Speaking of projects, let’s have a look at them!
First is my purple and white dot Ceylon.

I traced this at my first Social Sewing day, and cut it out that night. It got put on the back burner when I couldn’t get any of the sewing machines in my house to sew buttonholes, as it needs 16 of them. I did actually begin this before the blouse I drafted from the same pattern. Last night I finished the blind hem and got nearly halfway through sewing on the buttons. Sadly, even though I sized up the sleeves, they’re still too small, so I’m going to set in tulip sleeves like my Lovely Assam blouse.

Second there is the green circle skirt.

I swear that I’m not that into spots as it may appear. But this was the nicest fabric that seemed to go with the fox embroidered appliqué I bought. I got part of the hem handsewn last night (as I didn’t have access to a machine). Still need to finish that – I’m less than a quarter done – then trim, fold up again, and blind hem. And although the button’s sewn on, it needs a buttonhole.

Last, and the one that’s going to take precedent over the others for the next while, is the dress I’m going to sew for New Year’s.

As you may be able to tell, I haven’t got far with this yet. The top is going to be based on the Colette Macaron, although with different sleeves, and the bottom will be a gathered skirt like this one from Gertie’s blog. I wanted fullness, but am currently a little over full-circle skirts!
The lilac silk–cotton blend will be the main body of the dress, while the oyster silk organza will be the top section as an illusion neckline, like those used in 1950s eveningwear. I was going to sew in a floaty sleeve like a short bell sleeve, but considering the stiffness of the organza, I think I’ll go back to my current favourite, the tulip sleeve. At least I have a pattern for that that I know works!

So. How I have failed in my “don’t buy any more fabric” quest. First I was in Spotlight #1 on Tuesday, buying something for Secret Present Business, when I came across this adorable fox fabric that would go perfectly with my green circle skirt.

Then on Wednesday I was in Spotlight on Sydney Rd, buying some more buttons since I’d lost a couple from the purple Ceylon dress. Spotlight on Sydney Rd is sadly shutting down, so I got some fabric for blouses cheaply, as well as a couple of cards of buttons for $1 each. Look at those pretty green iridescent ones!


Today Belle and I went on a long-ranging expedition after our work Christmas party.
We started at Clegs:

This is my first set of transfer paper. I’m excited & going to break it out later tonight.

Then we went to Lincraft:

We have here some calico (=muslin to USians) to make the trial bodice for the NYE dress, a couple of fascinator hat bases (I’m hoping to make a hat for NYE as well – this may be ambitious), some veiling for same, and some more purple dot fabric so that I can make the new sleeves. (I squeaked it out of less than half the recommended fabric, from memory, so there was no leftover to redo the sleeves.)

Then we went to the Alannah Hill outlet on Brunswick St.

I got some grosgrain petersham for the hats (acceptable), and fell in love with that dark red trim. Bought the floral fabric to go with it. Plan to make it up into a pretty 1940s–style dress. Probably shouldn’t have bought it, as I have two other sets of fabric for making up into 40s dresses, but it was so pretty. And I do have several 1940s dress patterns that I have not yet made up.

Then we went to The Fabric Store. It was my first time.

The white fabric on the right was exactly what I’ve been looking for – white textured fabric to make a blouse with that will go with all my things. The cream fabric on the left with the fawn-coloured dots (I know, I know) was an extravagance. But will, I think, make a pretty Sencha blouse.

Next year there will be quite a lot of shopping my stash, I think. Although I do need some plain single-colour fabric to make skirts from so that my summer wardrobe is complete…

But perhaps not until some more projects are complete.