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Lady Skater dress – but with stripes and without skates

Indie pattern month on The Monthly Stitch is going to be the death of me! I missed dresses week but next up was “New to me” week and I managed to make two entries for this section of the competition. Early in the week I finished the Watson jacket from Papercut Patterns and now I’ve made the Lady Skater dress from Kitschy Coo. If I’m still alive by the end of the month I’d like to enter the “The Indie Fan Girl, Level: Ultimate” however as this one involves making an entire outfit (two garments minimum) from one indie pattern designer I’m not sure I’ll be getting it done, mainly because I don’t really feel like making two indie patterns up at the moment, but that could change of course.

I usually don’t manage to submit anything for The Monthly Stitch because I’m not that good at managing my time.  Life tends to get in the way, other things take over and meeting deadlines in my personal life (as well as at work) just seems a bit daunting most days.  Then there’s the blog writing and posting wrestle with WordPress which is made tricky by the fact that I prefer to use my iPad for everything and WordPress and the iPad don’t play nicely together.  However the prizes on offer for Indie Pattern Month were so good I had to try to win something.  The competition is very stiff though, head over to TMS and take a look at the other entries for yourself.

I had four hours sleep last Tuesday after finishing sewing at midnight, then waking up at 4am and not being able to get back to sleep because I started thinking about sewing so I got up at 5.30am to trace patterns for some more indie sewing projects. But who needs sleep when you’ve got indie pattern challenges?! It would be nice if 40 hours of potential sewing time a week wasn’t taken up by my job, but I guess that’s how I get money to buy fabrics, patterns, notions and all the other sewing stuff I love (just between us, I do have a large enough stash to probably keep me sewing full time for months so maybe earning money isn’t that essential).

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Meanwhile I present my lady skater….! Isn’t it lovely. It was great to make something very easy for a change and it took just one evening to put together including cutting out. I have carefully and deliberately not matched most of my stripes except for the dominant white stripe on the skirt. I didn’t have enough fabric to match them anyway but I thought that the mismatching would compliment the casual style of the dress and fabric. I wanted to have chevrons in the front and back skirt panels and, because this was a cheap fabric and it’s effectively a wearable muslin, I didn’t pay any attention to the grain line when cutting the skirt pieces, just cut them the way I wanted the stripes to go. The grain is on various angles of bias, not the true bias, but that doesn’t matter at all, knits are so much more forgiving about this kind of thing.

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I had fun deciding on stripe placement and I’m hoping that by putting the white stripe across my bust and the dark stripes around my waist I’m creating the illusion that I actually have a bust and waist.  I was a little disturbed about the arrow I accidentally created at the top of the skirt but I have been assured by everyone else that it’s fine.

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This dress is fast and easy to make. I finished it in one evening, and that included cutting out. I’m afraid I can’t comment on how easy the instructions were to follow because I only glanced over them to see what seam allowance to use, then put them aside.  Ironically I managed to get the one thing I consulted the instructions for wrong – I’ve just had a look at the instructions so I can comment on them and discovered that the seam allowance is 3/8″, I thought it was 5/8″ and used that throughout.  Thankfully it ended up the perfect size anyway so maybe 3/8″ would have made it too big.  I like the way that there are two levels of instructions though.  One comprehensive and illustrated with lots of colour photos, and a second entitled “Skater Dress crib sheet for advanced bad*sses”. Even without the instructions this went together well and was very simple to make.   I’m feeling like a total bad*ss now.

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I would highly recommend this pattern to anyone, it’s simple enough for a beginner and the instructions look extremely comprehensive. I got the pattern when I purchased the Perfect Pattern Parcel #1, along with 4 other lovely patterns, all of which I’m pretty keen to make up at some stage in the future.  If you’re a fan of indie patterns (or patterns in general or just sewing) take a look at the Perfect Pattern Parcel website.  They release parcels of indie pattern parcels periodically and you can purchase a parcel of indie patterns and choose from a range of prices depending on what you’re willing to pay for them.  Part of the purchase price goes towards children’s education.

Fabric: 100% merino from Levana textiles which I bought on the recent Wellington Sewing Bloggers Network road trip. This fabric is a bit weird and the wrong side sticks to itself like Velcro.  I prewashed it twice and I’ve worn and washed the dress again and it’s definitely improving with each wash and sticking to itself and me a lot less now.

Photos were taken at our WSBN group photo shoot with Kat, Nikki, Laura and Sandra.  Here’s a photo of Laura and I freezing while modelling our Monthly Stitch New-to-me entries in the cold Wellington wind

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“Elementary my dear Watson”

Here I am channelling Dr Watson, but I seem to have misplaced Sherlock

It’s indie pattern month and this is my first make from a Papercut pattern, the Watson jacket. I’m ecstatic about how well it turned out. I had my first outing in it today and it think it is probably the most complimented garment I’ve ever worn. It’s a gem.


The pattern was an absolute dream to work with. I’m a standard block size in the big 4 so I’m used to being able to make my size out of the packet without alterations and this pattern was no exception, I made a size small with no changes. The pieces went together beautifully, it’s such a well drafted pattern. It was a very quick make for a jacket, the absence of pockets and fiddly details made the pattern quite simple.

I made a few changes to the construction, my rebellious nature won’t let me stick to the rules entirely.

I used a fusible interfacing on both the centre and side front panels, rather than just the centre as recommended in the pattern. I normally interface the entire front and side front when I’m making a jacket, it stabilises the front and helps it to sit smoothly, and details like pockets sit better on an interfaced fabric.

I made the sleeveless version, mainly because I didn’t have enough of the fabric which I purchased at Fabric-a-brac a couple of months ago, but I also think the jacket is better without sleeves because my fabric is so busy.

I’ve got eight buttons instead of six, because why use only six when you have buttons this cool? I totally ignored the button placement on the pattern and put them where I thought they looked best (actually where my 18 year old fashion stylist told me she thought they looked best). My front is pulled in a little more that the pattern specifies, I lined up my front edges with the princess seams because I wanted to avoid breaks in the continuity of the plaid pattern lines of the fabric.

For the collar I cut the under collar on the bias and interfaced it with horsehair canvas. I normally do that for coat or jacket collars, it probably wasn’t necessary with this collar because it’s cut to sit very flat.

Horsehair interfacing on collar


Trimmed and clipped curve
Lighter weight interfacing on front facing
Interfacing on front panels


The fabric is wool, which I would always shrink before cutting out. I use pretty time consuming methods, either the London shrink or just spraying the fabric with water and then steaming the crap out of it with my iron suspended above it. I thought I’d try the dryer method with this to save a bit of time because it wasn’t a fabric I’ve spent a lot of money on. The method involves putting your dry fabric in the dryer with hot wet towels, then running the dryer on hot for a while. This didn’t work at all for me, I don’t know what I did wrong, my fabric was virtually exactly the same size when it came out as when it went in. I thought perhaps it just wasn’t going to shrink but then when I used my normal spray and steam method on it it shrunk up like crazy.

My fabric’s long and fruitless joyride in the dryer


Oh look, it’s a sarcophagus, perhaps Sherlock is in here

In case you’re wondering what all this marvellous art I’m surrounded by is, I’d like to be able to tell you that it’s all at my house, but unfortunately it’s not, it’s actually the David Trubridge exhibition at Pataka gallery. He makes some seriously gorgeous furniture, jewellery and lighting which is available worldwide, or if you’re in New Zealand you can come ogle it at Pataka. You can also listen to David being interviewed on Radio New Zealand National recently here. His holiday home is featured in the current issue of New Zealand House and Garden and he’s also written a brilliant book So far

What are you doing up there Sherlock?
David Trubridge lampshades in the Pataka spine



The Crazy Butterfly Dress

Apparently there is an age limit on wearing butterfly fabric. I’m fairly sure that at 43 I’m well past that age limit, luckily however I’m also well past the age where I care what anyone thinks of what I wear so when I put this dress on, and my 18 year old daughter said I look like a crazy person, I thought: Good! I was hoping it would look nice but crazy is any unexpected bonus. No one is going to mess with me when I’m wearing this dress. Maybe I should wear it to work… every single day.


I actually made it for the Zoo at the zoo event today with the Wellington Sewing Bloggers Network (WSBN). We all turned up to Wellington Zoo this morning with some yummy food (food is always a fixture at our get togethers, which I’m happy about, food and sewing are my favorite things) wearing something we’ve made which is animal themed in some way. Ok butterflies are an insect but let’s not get too hung up on technicalities. I had five metres of butterfly fabric in my stash and the pattern for the Flirty vintage day dress class on Craftsy turned up in time for me to get it made. I’m not sure how much flirting I’ll be getting done, I think any sane man is likely to run a mile from a crazy lady in a butterfly dress.

My slip is showing!

I’ve never made myself a 50s style dress but it’s the kind of thing I’ve always wanted to try and recently I’ve acquired two vintage 50s petticoats while clearing out my mother’s house. She’s downsized from a massive 6 bedroom house with a 4 car garage to a 2 bedroom apartment so I’ve acquired a lot more than just petticoats!

So with all the stars so meaningfully aligned it seemed like the time to dive into sewing retro.

It all went quite well, there were no major hiccups. I didn’t make a muslin as Laura Nash recommended in the class because the pattern is drafted for a B-cup which I am so I figured I’d just crack on. The great thing about this pattern is that, with seven pieces making up the front bodice, there are plenty of places to make fitting adjustments on the fly so when I found that the fit in the bust was much too big it was very easy to eliminate the extra in the under bust seam.

Left: before alteration. Right: after

The upper bodice is obviously a bit roomy for my little B-cups so I pinned the excess out of the under bust seam.

I didn’t want to make the lower bodice/midriff piece any shorter as it was actually just right for my midriff so I took all the excess amount out of the bust section. I measured the distance I had pinned out and then doubled it and marked that on the bust piece.

Then I unpicked the under bust seam and matched my pen marks to the seam line on the midriff piece, tapering to nothing at the centre front and the sides.
Because my alteration slightly shortened the length of the bust piece, after the seam was sewn the midriff jutted out about 6mm past the edge of the bust piece so I just trimmed it off tapering to nothing at the waist.

I have a special technique for sewing perfect intersecting seams which I used to get a really good result on this bodice. You can check my tutorial out here.

After that everything went swimmingly. Here’s my clever lapped zipper with “privacy panel”. With the wind in Wellington today I could have used some kind of privacy contraption to stop my skirt blowing up over my head, there was quite an updraft by the otter enclosure!

Here are the WSBN having a photo break at a hut in the African village. I had a fantastic time, it’s always great hanging out with the other sewing bloggers and I enjoyed scaring the animals. From front left: Sophie-Lee, Kat, Sandra, Gemma, back row: Jo, Juliet, Joy, me

The particulars:

Pattern: Sew Chic Tia Dress

Craftsy class: Sewing vintage: The flirty day dress

Fabrics: This project was made almost completely from stash stuff, the only thing I had to buy was the zip. From left: Quilting cotton for trim, spotted cotton lawn for privacy panel on zip, fine striped stretch cotton for lining, butterfly print cotton

But wait, there’s more

Here’s some interesting useless information. There are a bunch of collective nouns for butterflies. According to they are; rabble, flutter, kaleidoscope, rainbow or swarm. Christchurch City Library gives only two collective nouns; rabble or flight.

I think, because of the Wellington-wind-assisted aerodynamics of my dress I’m going to name it ‘a flight of butterflies’

A useful wind control technique
Kat’s photobomb

Perfect intersecting seams tutorial

I’ve just used this technique to make the Sew Chic Tia Dress and it works so well I thought I’d share it.

Here are the bodice pieces from the Tia dress. I’ve sewn the upper bodice pieces together and on the centre seam I’ve marked the point 1.5cm from the centre front and lower edge with a dot and finished my stitching there.

Pin the upper bodice to the lower bodice matching notches and the centre front dots.

Stitch each side of the seam separately. Hopefully you can see that I’ve sewn off the edge on each side a little. There is a minute gap at the intersection which will allow the intersecting seams to lay perfectly flat.

In case it’s not clear here it is with some lines to help show the gap. The blue lines show the positions of the edges and the centre front seam, the yellow lines are the stitching. The gap is very small, only the width of a stitch.

Clip seams and trim the point a little. Press one side of the seam open.

Then press the other side open creating a neat fold with the excess fabric at the point.

Et voila!


My Alabama Chanin sampler corset top is finally done. I sewed the zipper into the side seam last night and now it's all finished. I can squeeze into it and it fits like a glove (quite a snug glove – if I had gloves this tight I wouldn't actually be able to bend my fingers)

There have been a few months of procrastinating along the way and it was a time consuming project to complete, but the nice thing about it is that the embellishment can be done while you're doing other things like watching TV, in morning tea and lunch breaks or on public transport and it's surprisingly relaxing and enjoyable to do.

Because I took it with me so many places and it's been seen by a lot of people I've actually had a few requests to make one for other people. Of course my answer was no, but then I'd tell them they could buy their own from Alabama Chanin. No one actually has yet but at least they understand why they're quite costly to buy.

I learned the techniques from the Craftsy class Hand Embellishing Knit Fabric. You could learn the techniques from any of Natalie Chanin's books but I always like to see techniques demonstrated which is probably why I'm such a big fan of Craftsy classes and have enrolled in lots of them. My daughter bought me all three of the books for my birthday last year so I have plenty of material for inspiration for my next project. Next time I might stick to just one embellishment technique for the entire garment.

Alabama Chanin sampler corset front
The front

Alabama Chanin sampler corset top back
There was no way I was going to be able to get into this without a zip

The details

Fabric: Two recycled t-shirts and some blue stash fabric

Pattern: Corset top from Alabama Stitch Book by Natalie Chanin

Stencil: Anna's garden stencil from Alabama Studio Sewing + Design or download from the Alabama Chanin website

Paint: I mixed a grey blue colour with Atelier acrylic paints and mixed it with a Jo Sonja's fabric medium. I didn't use textile paint because I already had acrylic paint and fabric medium in my art supplies.

Other stuff: John James milliners needles, King Tut variegated thread, vintage glacé cotton thread, quilting DMC embroidery thread, Shamrock fine bead thread, Gutermann beads and standard polyester thread for sewing the seams. Invisible zipper. The Button craft thread which Natalie Chanin recommends isn't available in New Zealand and it was going to be expensive to mail order from an international source so I made do with alternatives.

My daughter the pro photographer taking a photo of me putting the cat down, but as it turns out it shows the back quite well


Mr and Mrs Aquarium

It's time to catch up on my blogging! This is what I was doing in November (or Movember)

The theme of my work social club's Christmas party was 'under the sea'. I thought for a bit about making a mermaid outfit or some other kind of nautical/marine costume and then I remembered I had eight metres of tropical fish printed cotton in my stash. I know you're wondering why I would have eight metres of this fabric and I must admit I wondered the same thing. I purchased it so long ago I can't remember why I got so much of it. I know it was very cheap and for me to have bought that much of it it must have only cost $2-3 per metre. I have a feeling I bought it at spotlight but can't be sure. I must have had some kind of plan for it, curtains maybe?

So suddenly I had a brilliant plan to make a matching shirt and dress for my partner and I out of this outrageous fishy print. My bloke was pretty reserved about the whole idea and his children were absolutely horrified when they saw the fabric but I kept going and got both garments finished (I sewed the last button on my dress 10 minutes before the party started). He looked spectacular in his shirt and was pretty impressed with the quality, he said he'd just expected a bag with holes for his arms and head.

Two people wearing this fabric together looks completely over the top, and if you weren't at a costume party you'd look completely bonkers, so I had a minute of extreme horror when we walked into the party and I couldn't see a single person in costume, only people in normal clothes!! Fortunately once we walked around the corner we found all the pirates and sailors, whew!

To cut a long story short I got the prize for the best dressed woman, which I think I probably got because everyone was so impressed that I'd gone to so much trouble to make our outfits. I've worn the dress again to our December WSBN pretty dress theme picnic and my bloke actually wore his shirt to work on casual Friday. He was delighted that he managed to upset so many of his colleagues with it (his boss hated it) so hopefully it'll have a few more outings. Here's a photo of him in the shirt at work. Check out that fantastic mo, he grew it for Movember and shaved it off on the 30th. November 30, most disappointing day of the year

The technical stuff:

Dress pattern: McCalls 6696

Shirt pattern: Vintage Style 1226

Fabric: 100% cotton tropical fish print

Extras: I used David Page Coffin's excellent Shirtmaking book because I'd forgotten how to do flat felled seams. I bought it years ago with the video. The techniques are fantastic for producing professional shirts. I used a vintage men's shirt pattern, men's shirts don't change much so I just chose one with a slim fit




When I told one of my workmates that this month is Frocktober she thought I'd said a completely different word beginning with F and ending in K

Frocktober is the Monthly Stitch challenge for October and after a delayed start I've managed to make two dresses in 10 days and have plans for more.

Here's the first one which is a Burdastyle pattern I made up in a silk/rayon blend I got from the Fabric Warehouse pop-up sale shop for $5 a metre. It was a bit of a gamble because the pattern is pretty weird looking with those enormous sleeves but I had the fabric and I thought that for once I could actually make up a fabric in the same month I purchased it instead of adding it to the stash so I took the plunge.

I omitted the pockets and cut the front on the fold instead of having a centre front seam and slit. Instead of a tie I used elastic in the casing. The sleeve bottoms were insanely huge and looked ridiculous at first. They completely dominated the dress and swamped me. My daughter suggested the seam between the middle and lower sleeves should be at my actual elbow so I shortened the middle sleeve so it the seam was at elbow length and then reduced the depth of the lower sleeve by 4cm which was a vast improvement. I'm very pleased with this dress, it fitted perfectly, it was easy to sew, it turned out well and when I wore it to work I got a lot of compliments.

This is my second Froctober dress. When I saw McCall's M6696 I loved it. I've always had a fondness for shirtwaister dresses, I remember my mother talking about them a lot. I think they featured in her wardrobe when she was young in the 1940s and 50s. I'm planning to make several of these dresses, so first of all I made it in a striped cotton seersucker from my stash to check the fit. I'm a very standard size 12 so it fits pretty well. Next time I'll lengthen the bodice front because it's a tiny bit short and it's slightly wide across the upper chest so I'll adjust that too.

What next? Well there are a lot of possibilities. Here are some of the stash fabrics and patterns which I pulled out as potential Froctober projects

Here's the most likely next project. The fabric is a silk chiffon print from Global Fabrics which was on special for $8 a metre.

I'm thinking of finishing this UFO which I started a long time ago, it's a size 10 so I'm not sure it will fit me now and it's very very low cut in the picture so I'll have to have a really good look at it to see if it's going to be worth putting the effort in. It's not like I'm short of other things I could sew!

Another option is to make this dress from yet another Craftsy class, Sewing vintage: the flirty day dress, which I signed up for last week. That's dependent on the pattern for the lovely Tia Dress from Sew Chic arriving in the mail from the other side of the world in time for me to make it. I keep checking the mail box excitedly everyday. I hope it arrives on a day when it's not raining, my letterbox isn't very waterproof.

The Tia dress by Sew Chic

Watch this space for more lovely frocks from me and, in the meantime, head over to the Monthly Stitch to see the gorgeous creations everyone else has been making. They're so inspirational, my pattern wishlist is getting crazily long after seeing what everyone else has been doing.