Preparations for Indie Pattern Month

Let’s talk about something very exciting – sewing, and more specifically Indie Pattern Month on The Monthly Stitch coming up in June.  I’m so excited about this!  Fortunately I recently got over the fatigue I’ve been struggling with for years and I have so much more energy.  All I want to do now is catch up on all the sewing I’ve been fantasising about during those years of feeling completely knackered.  While I was too tired to sew I may have been slightly obsessed with buying fabric and patterns that I wanted to make so now I can ‘shop my (colossal) stash’ for everything I need for IPM.

There’s a lot of choice and I’m finding it difficult to decide what to make.  I’m not sure I have time to make everything (but I’m not going to deny the possibility of getting everything done).  Here are a few options I’ve pulled out of my stash:

I got this retro houndstooth check wool at Fabric-a-brac last week and I think it will be great as a StyleArc Ziggi biker jacket.  I have such a fetish for biker jackets, I think I’ve got at least three patterns.  The DKNY fabric is for the lining and I’ll do the shoulders and upper sleeves in a contrast, possibly plain black.  I’d love to do leather but that would involve a bit more shopping so I’m not sure…


I’m also obsessed with trench coats and I have four patterns for those.  I’m not sure which of these fabrics to use.  The red and lighter beige are light weight suitings so will be more of a summer weight coat.  The darker fabric is a gorgeous wool gaberdine that I bought at Wellington’s premier department store, Kirkcaldie and Stains way back in the late 1980s when they had an amazing fabric, haberdashery and wool department, but haven’t had the courage to make it up into anything.  Sadly Kirks closed recently but will be replaced by Australian department store, David Jones in the next couple of months.

These two trench coat patterns are the StyleArc Prue and the Named Isla


I got this printed silk chiffon at The Fabric Store for $8 per metre.  Originally I bought it for my daughter but it was so long ago she probably won’t recognise it when she sees me wearing it, hee hee.  I got the awesome vintage glass buttons at Fabric-a-brac.  I’m hoping they won’t be too heavy for the fabric.  This pattern is the Named Kanerva blouse and I’ll be making the peplum version.


I have so much of this printed silk noil from The Fabric Warehouse.  I fell in love with it and bought some full price when I saw it in the shop and then I got some more when it was at the pop up sale at Porirua.  It’s very narrow so isn’t wide enough for the By Hand London Flora dress skirt so I’m going to have to piece the skirt together.


This lightweight silk satin, which I got for $5 per metre at The Fabric Warehouse pop up sale, could become a Named Shane pleated top but I’m not sure because I’m going to a 1920s themed birthday party next month and it might have to become a Madelaine Vionnet dress instead.  I’ve got 5.5 metres so I’ll probably have enough for both.


Maybe if I have time I’ll make some underwear out of these cotton/lycra knits I got at Levana in Levin about 15 years ago with Ohhh Lulu patterns


I’ve already started my IPM makes, here are some I made last week:

This is the StyleArc Emily skirt which I made for a client out of a thick cotton, I loved it so much I’m making one for myself out of a soft squishy wool fabric.


This Papercut Bowline sweater is out of a merino sweat shirting which I got for $8 per metre from The Fabric Store.  I had just over 1 metre so I had to cut it carefully to get it out of the fabric.  It’s such a great top, sort of like a dressy sweatshirt, and it’s super cosy with a brushed back on the fabric.


I also made a pair of StyleArc Erin culottes which look absolutely terrible on me!  They were easy to make and went together really well but I think the fabric, which was a $5 polyester crepe remnant from The Fabric Warehouse, is too stiff and I don’t like the way they look in the front.  I’m hoping they’ll soften up and drape better after they’re washed, otherwise they’re headed for Recycle Boutique.  I’m wearing them with a ponte knit jacket (Simplicity 2446) which I haven’t finished yet, it needs buttons.


After I saw the IPM sponsors’ discount codes I just had to buy two Ralph Pink patterns because it was difficult to resist them with 20% off and they have such gorgeous patterns.  I love the elegant design aesthetic and it was difficult to limit myself to just two!

I’m planning to make the Farri Coat out of an interesting heavy khaki satin I got from The Fabric Warehouse pop up sale in Porirua.  How fabulous is this going to look as an evening coat?


And I also got the Sula Jacket because it’s too fantastic not to make!  It looks like a very versatile blazer.


If you’d like to get 20% off these beauties head over to Ralph Pink and use the discount code INDIMONTH46.  Check out the other Indie Pattern Month discounts here.

I hope you’re all excited about Indie Pattern Month too.  I can’t wait to see what everyone makes.  IPM is always a bit hard on my bank account because I add so many patterns to my wishlist after I see other people’s creations.


Meet Tina Tuna

Hi everyone! Look I made a gigantic eel! I know you’re probably wondering why… It’s not the sort of thing I’d wake up on a random morning inspired to make but I work with creative people and that’s just the kind of stuff they think up so a couple of weeks ago my colleague, Margaret, decided that we needed a four metre long replica of a New Zealand native long finned eel for the Porirua harbour themed revamp of the children’s Tuatara education space at Pataka. I’m not sure how many other people she asked to make it before she came to me but I know there was at least one and she said no, luckily for me 😉

Of course I said yes! I actually said, ‘OMG, YES PLEASE!!!’ Nothing this exciting normally happens to me at work. I was so excited I was two year old excited. You know how excited little kids get about really great things that happen to them, well I was that excited. I was so thrilled I told some of my work colleagues that I was making a giant eel three times without realising I’d already told them twice already.

Me and Tina

There is a back story behind this which may explain my excitement. Recently work sent me on a Dale Carnegie Leadership for Managers course which is a fantastic course, I’m enjoying it immensely and learning a lot. As part of the course we’ve done a Myers Briggs personality test (I’m an ENFP) and when our instructor read out the summaries of our personalities I found out that I am not suited to jobs involving figures. Guess what my job is! I’m the Finance and Reporting Co-ordinator (I love my acronym). Figures are just about all my job consists of! But it actually gets worse… While I was googling away finding out info about my personality type (and I know that lots of people think they’re a bunch of unscientific crap but mine is pretty much spot on so I’m going with it) I found this blog post about the definition of Hell for each Myers Briggs personality type. Mine is ‘Every minute of the rest of your life has been scheduled for you – and it’s a long series of arbitrary, solitary tasks’. This description is alarming close to what my job consists of (admittedly I didn’t like the sound of any of the other personality types’ worst nightmares either). So when I was offered a chance of escape from the drudgery of my day-to-day existence I was so thrilled I was bouncing off the walls. I was more excited than this.

Margaret and I headed off to Pete’s Emporium, which is the local shop where you can buy almost anything cheaply and we got some fabrics and a gigantic bag of stuffing, which is what you need to stuff a colossal eel. We made the mistake of not taking a vehicle and must have looked interesting carrying it across town back to work. Here’s Natalie, my stuffing assistant posing with the bag of stuffing, she’s quite a lot taller than Margaret and I.


After getting the materials I got quite busy with other things and didn’t start on it until the education team were beginning to worry that I wasn’t going to get it finished in time, but finally after rushing through all my soul-destroyingly-boring normal work I was ready to crack into it.

Making a four metre long eel takes quite a lot of space and I realised after contemplating it for a few days that I wasn’t going to be easy to make it at my house. I don’t have that much room and I didn’t fancy crawling around on my floor marking and cutting it out (and I’d have to tidy up to do that too) so I decided to take my sewing machine to work and make it there in the education classroom space, which is perfect because they have big long tables, lots of room to spread out and great lighting.

See, there’s enough room to swing an eel


My creative process works best when I have a few days to think a project through, sleep is a very important part of the process. First I think it over for a few days and form a bunch of ideas of how it will work, then I put pen to paper and start to rough out a plan. After that I leave it until the next day because I come up with more ideas and refinements to my plan after a night’s sleep. Often there are some details that still need to be ironed out but I’ll make a start anyway because some things have to be worked out once I get to that stage and can see it in front of me. During the making process it’s beneficial to take a break and pick it up again the next day because refinements and solutions to problems come to me after sleep. Interestingly that’s pretty much exactly how I approach doing a budget as well.

I started by downloading and printing a few images of eels from different angles.  They’re not the prettiest creatures…


I found a handy diagram which I took measurements from and with the help of an online ratio calculator scaled them up for the four metre long eel, then I started drawing plans. Fortunately an eel is really just a simple tube so it wasn’t difficult to work all of this out. The trickier parts were getting the mouth, lips and the shape of the head right. They took a little more thought and the finer details were worked out on the go.


Above left:  Alice, the Social History Curator dresses up as an enormous eel
Above right:  The lips get some contouring done from the inside


Above left:  detail showing the contrast lower body intersecting with the bottom fin
Above right:  Margaret appliqued the eyes, I assembled and attached them

There are a couple of things I would change if I made another eel. The lovely red velvet in the mouth is stretchy, I should have interfaced it so it didn’t stretch when it was stuffed. I’ve hand sewn some darts to take in the excess inside the mouth which actually looks quite good, it gives the impression of contours so it wasn’t a complete disaster. For the bottom lip I extended the head bottom piece out then gathered the outer edge, folded it in, stitched and stuffed it but because it’s partially on the bias parts of it want to twist and buckle. If I was making it again I would cut the bottom lip separately and attach it like I did for the top lips. The stiffening in the lower and upper jaws aren’t ideal. I’ve used plastic embroidery canvas and cardboard but they’re not as stiff as I’d like and they aren’t secured in place very well so they may migrate a bit. Next time I’ll try to find something better to stiffen this type of project and attach it more securely.

I managed to stab myself with pins and needles on this project more than I’ve ever stabbed myself making anything. That may be because of the layers and thickness of the fabrics, the unwieldy size of the project, being unaccustomed to the 10-15cm dollmakers’ needles I was using to do soft sculpting etc. I probably should fill in a health and safety incident report and do a hazard assessment, if only for the entertainment value it will give the HR department. After all these years sewing I’m not sure that there’s a way to entirely eliminate accidental pin stabbings. I’d like to know if anyone else has figured it out.

I also got very tired sore hands from wrestling with the project while doing the handsewing parts. On the last two days I wasn’t able to snap off a row of Whittaker’s 72% Dark Ghana chocolate for my dessert after dinner. It was a problem until I realised I could just gnaw on the whole block. I may have lost track of how many lines I ate…

Tuna is the generic Maori word for freshwater eels, hence the name Tina Tuna, that and she has a good singing voice…

Here she is immediately after being released into her natural environment.


One of my other work colleagues, Mark, has a pet eel in the stream at the back of his country house. She’s quite tame and comes to be fed (raw meat). She’ll even come up out of the stream and slither around people’s legs like a cat… a big freeky wet slithery cat. Can’t say I’d be keen to experience that. I asked him if Tina looked like his eel and he said she looks a lot friendlier and less aggressive than his.

I hope she doesn’t give any children nightmares.  Are you a fan of eels?


The weirdest thing I’ve ever sewn

I was just over on the Monthly Stitch checking out what everyone’s been up to for the current month’s challenges and I saw Melissa’s post about the crazy things she sews for her husband and it reminded me of the craziest thing I’ve ever sewn which is a deck screen/side thing for my man – I’m not sure what the proper name for this is.

Scott was having a party and wanted to enclose his deck so it wasn’t too cold because it was happening in late winter/early spring so we needed something to keep the wind and rain out in case the weather wasn’t good on the night.  The professionally made deck screens are quite pricy and he had access to a free Toyota advertising billboard.  They’re made from a reinforced plastic canvas sheet probably pretty much the same stuff as the bought deck screens are made from so we thought why not have a go at making one ourselves.

The tricky thing is sewing something this large, awkward and heavy but we solved that by putting the sewing machine on a trolley and moving that instead of the canvas sheet.

From one end of the deck...
From one end of the deck…
... to the other
… to the other

We cut out recesses so the top edge fitted around the deck roof rafters and then sewed a pocket along the top edge which a thin pipe was threaded through above the rafters to hang it up.  The bottom was attached to the deck by laying a wooden batten over the bottom edge and screwing it onto to the decking.

And here’s the end result…  It’s pretty impressive – the ultimate man cave accessory

Hilux deck side

One day we might get around to figuring out how to put a door in it where the steps up to the lawn are…  There are also plans to make screens for the ends of the deck.  We’ve got another billboard for that – anyone remember the Toyota Corolla ads with Smitten the self-harming kitten?  I’m not sure how he’s going to look with the Hilux, but hey cats… 🙂


0 Degrees of Separation

I haven’t blogged for a long time! I have done a little bit of sewing over the past few months and I’ve started writing some blog posts but haven’t quite got to the stage of actually posting anything but fortunately Leimomi The Dreamstress came up with a brilliant idea for a challenge which would force me to blog about it.

Based on the fact that all of us in the Wellington Sewing Bloggers Network (WSBN) shop in the same fabric stores (often at the same time – just imagine the enabling that goes on!) and we often buy the same fabrics quite by accident, Leimomi had an idea to see if we could create a chain of makes linked by either the same fabric or the same pattern as the previous person. You can read her explanation here, and she has links to all the posts which are being updated daily.

A few of us caught up for a photo session in our 0 Degrees dresses.  It was a bit of a flying visit for me because I had to rush off to look at a flat with my daughter (she’s moving out!  I’m going to have a sewing room!!) but I had enough time to sit on a wall at Te Papa with everyone while we looked very happy in our dresses.


Why am I wearing a dress with babies on it? Well Juliet from Crazy Gypsy Chronicles went into her local Spotlight store and saw fabric which horrified her so much she took several photos and posted them on the WSBN Facebook group page with a comment about how creepy and awful they were. She probably wasn’t expecting what happened next which was that a lot of us said “Gumnut Babies! Cool, can you buy us some”. So poor Juliet, having one day regarded the Gumnut Babies fabric with derision has to go back the next day and buy almost all of it. When this challenge came up and the complicated process of working out the fabric and pattern matches and creating the chain of links began it was especially easy for me because we already knew who had this fabric.

‘Twas the night before the get together for our group photo for this challenge so I thought I’d better start making the dress, so finally at 8.30 I made a start. Luckily, having made the Alder twice before and this being the easiest fabric ever to sew (it’s a lovely crisp stable cotton) I didn’t run into any problems and the dress went together quickly over the course of the evening and the next morning. You might notice the fact that I didn’t bother doing any pattern matching or centring at all. For starters there wasn’t time for that but I also thought this might be a one wear dress, after all it has babies on it! When I first looked at the finished dress I thought I should have at least centred the pattern on the front and the back but I’m not that bothered by it. I’ve seen so many quite expensive ready to wear clothes lately with uncentred patterns I figure I’m not going to get upset about this. The only thing I made an attempt to match was the pocket (only in as much as I’d cut two out and just picked the one where the pattern seemed to line up with the pattern on the dress in the pocket region).  Oddly the pattern on the back lines up perfectly at the bodice/skirt seam.  This was a total fluke because the pattern isn’t even centred across the back.  Leimomi mentioned that she liked the way I’d put the babies heads and butts on my button band, that was a happy accident too.

Grainline Alder shirt dressGrainline Alder shirt dress

One thing I’m very happy with is the buttons.  I had bought a bag of buttons at the op shop (thrift store) earlier in the day for $1 and there were some just the right shade of yellow in the bag.

I love this dress, it’s not very obvious that it’s covered in babies, it just looks like a busy print. Like my other Alders (which I haven’t blogged about yet) it’s a great comfortable throw on summer dress. It’s a pity that summer is over here and it’ll have to live in the wardrobe for a few months until the weather warms up again, even so I’ve still worn it two Sundays in a row.

Grainline Alder shirt dressGrainline Alder Shirt dress

In case you’re wondering what the story is about the weird fascination with baby fabric there is a series of children’s books about the ‘Gumnut Babies’ by Australian author May Gibbs and these fabrics feature the cute characters from her stories which many of us remember from our childhood.

There were other prints in the range.  Check out this cute shirt dress that Jo at Making it well made from the fabric she got.

Less well known are the New Zealand equivalent of the Gumnut Babies, two little characters called Hutu and Kawa from a series of books written and illustrated by Avis Acres. If anyone printed these little cuties onto fabric I’d be tempted to wear babies a lot more often.




Two dresses, a jacket and no funerals… yet

This all happen last month.  I was so excited about my amazing accomplishment and wanted to broadcast it to the world but life got in the way.  My mum got out of hospital after a three month stay and I’ve been kept extremely busy looking after her since then so haven’t had a chance to blog about this but here’s my big news:

I made three garments in two weeks! Wow! I’m not sure I’ve ever managed that before. I probably have in the misty obscurity of my past when I was young and full of the joys of life but these days I’m just not normally that productive.

First I made my Pacifika garden party ensemble for the big garden party we’re going to have at work this Thursday.  I’m kind of a bit too wrung out now to organise the party but my colleagues are going to help.  I’m really looking forward to wearing this crazy outfit, it’s been a bit difficult to resist the temptation to wear it before the party now that the weather is improving.  My daughter has told me that I’m not allowed to wear the dress and jacket together unless I’m at the garden party but sometimes she’s still asleep when I’m leaving the house and what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.

I love these bright colours and now I want to get more of this kind of fabric to make stuff.

I seem to have put the patterns I used away and can’t find them to show you but the dress is the super-cute Simplicity 1873 by Cynthia Rowley and the jacket is a discontinued Butterick pattern.

The second dress I made for my lovely friend Tracy to wear to the Porirua Business Excellence Awards.  Tracy is my double neighbour, she sits next to me at work and we live really close to each other.  She asked me if I could copy a dress, which she’d bought recently, in a more evening appropriate fabric and I said yes, crazily thinking a week would be plenty of time.  It would have been if things had gone normally, but you know how sometimes stuff which is normally a piece of cake and you’ve done it a million times before so you can normally do it blindfolded and with one hand tied behind your back just doesn’t go as you know it should.  The pattern just didn’t work out.  What should have taken me an evening took a whole extra day of mucking around, but fortunately once I got the pattern wrestled into submission the rest of the project behaved and I got it finished at lunchtime on the day of the Awards.

First we went for a speed shopping trip to The Fabric Warehouse which had just had a huge shipment of gorgeous spring fabrics arrive and this fabric jumped out when Tracy saw it.  It’s an utterly gorgeous cotton/polyester blend with a little bit of lustre so it can be worn for dressed up daywear as well as in the evening.  It has a subtle brocade type texture in coral, peach and hot pink. This is what it looks like in natural light.


This is the dress I copied, it’s the Loobies Story Indochine dress and it’s very beautiful, the fabric is a lovely heavy textured cotton which holds it’s structure really well.  To get the same structured effect I underlined the fabric with a silk organza.

The fitted dress has princess seams, pleated cap sleeves and a slit in the front, which turned out to be a bit indecent without the mini pom-pom trim on the neckline of the original so I sewed a modesty panel behind the slit so everyone at Tracy’s table didn’t get an eyeful of her spectacular cleavage all night. The original dress has a vent in the back but I didn’t put one in the replica because the skirt isn’t tight.

I used an old Vogue princess seam sheath dress pattern I had in my stash. It’s a size 10 and Tracy is slightly bigger than that with a full bust but the fit was ironed out with a FBA and some adjustments to the muslin.  It’s been a long time since I made a garment for someone with a bigger-than-B-cup bust.  I’m so used to patterns just fitting me out of the envelope, I had forgotten what an interesting exercise it is to get a 2-D object to fit around a very 3-D surface, but it all came back to me pretty quickly.  I had trouble with drafting the sleeve and adding in the pleats, it kept pulling and not sitting right so in the end I just draped it which was what I should have done in the first place.

Vogue 7995
The assembly was very straight forward once I’d got all the organza and fabric layers hand basted together. It’s a simple dress and it went together really quickly. I had to use my walking foot to feed the layers of silk organza underling and outer fabric evenly and I hand tacked the invisible zipper before machine sewing it in with my invisible zipper foot otherwise the feed dogs were going to pull the fabric too much and kind of gather it onto the zip. I overlocked/serged the raw edges after I stitched the seams.

Muslin used as the pattern which is marked onto the silk organza with a tracing wheel and dressmakers carbon
Hand basting silk organza onto fashion fabric with silk thread

I was intending to line the dress but by the time it was underlined I felt it was heavy enough for a spring-summer dress and didn’t want Tracy to roast if she chose to wear it in warmer weather.  I can always put a lining in it later if she decides she’d like one.

The only hand finishing was the hems, stitching down the facing and sewing in the panel behind the slit.  Then I dropped it off after a thorough press over my ham.  After Tracy put it on she had to dash off to the event so there was no time for a photo so, until I get around to visiting her and getting a proper picture of her modelling it I just have a hanger picture, which really doesn’t do it justice because it looks about a million times better on.

My timing was a bit out on these projects, I was a month early for Froctober over on The Monthy Stitch and now I’ll have to make another dress for that. I have plans to make a lot of really nice dresses for the coming summer and my daughter has a growing list of sewing projects for me too.

I’m very tied up with looking after Mum so hopefully I’ll manage to get something done, in between spending almost all my time, when I’m not at work, looking after her, and hopefully I won’t die of exhaustion or go crazy before she’s able to move into a rest home in two weeks.  As I type this at 10pm, she is getting things out of the pantry to make her breakfast because she thinks it’s the morning even though I’ve told her twice that it’s time to go back to bed.  Hanging out with her while she wanders around the house six times a night thinking it’s time to get up could be quite entertaining if I didn’t have a full-time day job as well.  Thank goodness I only have to do six nights of sleepovers before her night carer comes back from her trip away, then I’ll be back to just visiting two or three times every day.  She’s pretty hardy despite her dementia, I’m definitely not as resilient and I’m finding it really hard to keep up with all my commitments.  When she gets into her rest home apartment I’m going to be so excited to have a break.

The Great WSBN Sewing Room Tour of 2014

This month the Wellington Sewing Bloggers Network is doing a sewing room tour after Gemma from Sixty Six Stitches brilliantly suggested it as a good way to kick off our southern hemisphere spring.  I wonder whether she was secretly trying to get us doing a bit of spring cleaning in our sewing rooms?

Check out the other great creative spaces starting with Gemma’s, followed by Laura, Sophie-Lee, Nikki, Juliet, Sandra J, Kat, Holly, MaryLouise, Nina, Sandra M and yesterday was Melissa’s turn but today I’m hogging the limelight, yeah!!

Unlike most of the other WSBN bloggers I don’t have an actual sewing room.  My daughter, Monica, and I live in a two bedroom townhouse with an open plan lounge/kitchen/dining area and my sewing space is along one wall.  It is supposed to be contained there but frequently expands into the rest of the room, partly out of necessity – I have to use the dining table for cutting out and overlocking – but I’m also quite messy and have far too much fabric and other stuff.  Poor Mon puts up with a lot and she’s a very tidy person so she regularly cracks the whip to get me to tidy up a bit, otherwise there’s no telling what the place would look like, we’d probably end up on one of those ‘world’s worst hoarders’ TV shows if I hadn’t already suffocated under a fabric avalanche.

I’ve had dedicated sewing rooms in other houses but I actually really love living in a little house, it only takes  minutes to vacuum the whole place and it’s really easy to keep warm, and not having a dedicated sewing space might keep me a bit tidier than I would otherwise be, however Mon might disagree with that.

Here’s what my sewing space looked like this morning before I started getting it ‘sewing ready’.  I have a big screen which is supposed to hide everything, in theory I can put it in front of my sewing area and it just blends in and looks like a wall.  Mon hates it and thinks it’s ugly but I think it’s a vast improvement on looking at what’s hiding behind it.  I can turn it around so that the cross braces don’t show which looks more wall-esque.


The green ivy print object in the bottom right corner is the back of my couch so you can see how small the space is.  The couch is covered in a hideous fabric which looks like Popeye had a huge feed, then threw up all over it, but it has really good bones.  I purchased it on Trademe for $100, it’s over 60 years old and came from Maple & Co in London and from there travelled to the Middle East and San Francisco before settling in New Zealand.  One day I’m going to have it recovered and it will be fabulous.

But back to sewing….

I bought a vintage blonde oak veneer wardrobe and installed shelves so I could store just about everything in it.  It’s on the right behind the screen.

  • From the top:  baskets and bags contain wool, knitwit patterns and other bulky things.  Bluey the cat by textile artist Pru Durrant keeps an eye on the action.
  • On the top shelf I keep boxes, baskets and tins of notions – buttons, zips, laces, bindings, embroidery threads etc.
  • The second shelf holds stationery, drawers of pens, art materials and equipment.
  • The third shelf is the home of my cameras and accessories, paints, our wireless printer and paper supplies.
  • The sets of drawers store sewing and craft equipment and art supplies.  Knitting needles are stored in canisters in the gap beside the drawers
  • Monica’s sewing machine and my two overlockers live on the bottom shelf.  There’s space for another sewing machine in there but that’s currently living at my lovely man’s house because I need to sew sometimes when I’m there.
  • I’ve got PDF and traced patterns for projects I want to make soon hanging on the door


I collect interesting tins for storing different types of buttons and other small items


Larger stuff like lace, trims, zips and elastic live in baskets and boxes in the top of the cupboard.


Out of everything in my sewing area these two get the most use, my Bernina Favorit 740 sewing machine purchased  for $40 on Trademe, which must be the bargain of the century.  It was made in 1964 so it’s a bit older than I am, but she’s ageing very gracefully.  I love this machine, it purrs like a kitten and sews everything beautifully;  and my Phillips iron which I chose because it was the steamiest one I could find at the time.  I like to have plenty of steam to shape and manipulate wools and get a good sharp crease in natural fibres.


I like to keep some things close to hand so my thread snips, pins, bobbins, machine feet, needles, seam gauges, tailors chalk and stuff like that live in the drawers in and on my sewing machine table.


On the right of my sewing table I’ve got an untidy bunch of rolls of fabric, horsehair interfacing and tracing vilene.  I’m part way through reupholstering the lid of the basket on the left which will then get some kind of as-yet-undecided-on paint job.  Once it’s finished I’ll use it as a place to hide WIPs and not so much a surface to dump things on.


And speaking of projects for my sewing room I have a small shelf and a set of drawers from a treadle sewing machine waiting for a paint finish to match the basket.  Eventually I’d like to paint my sewing machine table and apply a paint effect to my big storage cupboard.  Someday my sewing area will look coordinated and stylish like other people’s.


The stacks of boxes on the left contain interfacing, linings, my top priority patterns and WIPs.




Here are the ‘girls’.  The svelte white one adjusted down to it’s smallest size is Mon and the Singer one wearing my latest WIP – the Style Arc Zara dress – is me.  Occassionally when Mon’s boyfriend, Wiremu, visits strange things happen to Mon’s double, I sometimes find that the hips and chest have been dialled up as large as possible, it’s quite unsettling.

My Singer is getting quite elderly now, I’ve probably had her 20 years and she’s seen better days.  Her velour covering is detaching from the metal plates.  When I tried sticking it back down with spray glue it just left a white mess on the fabric so she’s due for a nip and tuck.  I was going to try recovering her with a jersey knit with a thin cotton batting underneath which would be a major undertaking because she’ll have to come apart completely, but I saw Sandra J has a black cover on hers in her sewing room tour, so I’m going to keep it simple and just cover up all her flaws.


You may have noticed I quite like old things.  I have my mother’s chain stitch sewing machine which she used as a child in the 1930s and 40s. I used to sew with it as a child too but the needle has broken and a standard one is too long.  One day I’ll go on a hunt to find the right size so I can get it working again.

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I’m unintentionally accumulating a collection of vintage buttons and buckles.  Most of these are from vintage fairs and fabric-a-brac.  There’s an amazing button lady in Wellington who does the rounds of vintage and sewing markets and most of my favourites have been purchased from her, but the rococo buckle at top left was bought in a Dunbar Sloane antique auction in Wellington and the silver mermaid buckle is a family piece.  I made it into a belt with wide black elastic and wore it with a half circle vintage taffeta skirt in the late 80s – early 90s, it looked amazing and I wish I still had a little waist like that.  When I see beautiful old things like this I can’t resist them, I have to buy them because I might never see anything like them again.


I have a domestic goddess section in my bookshelf which includes my sewing books and my collection of Mrs Beaton’s books of household management, but considering how messy I am I don’t think anyone would believe I’ve ever read them.  I mainly look at them for the entertainment value and interesting recipes like mock turtle soup, pease pudding and syllabub.

Because space is limited in my house, I’ve started buying ebooks rather than physical copies which brings me to my favourite piece of technology, my iPad.  I’ve got everything on there – ebooks, PDF patterns, all 170 Threads Magazine issues off my Threads archive DVD, Craftsy videos, blog readers and blog creating apps, and a database I’m building of my fabric and patterns.  Luckily I got the 128GB one, I’ve already used half of that, 24GB alone in downloaded Craftsy videos.


I know what you’re thinking, where is all the fabric?!  Well we have to go somewhere entirely different to see that – the garage.  Some people think that garages are for cars but, as sewers, we know better.  Garages are actually for storing fabric, only sad people who don’t own enough fabric to fill a garage have to put cars in them.  I do have more boxes of fabric and patterns in my garage but the back corner is the part I’ve tidied up and it’s the only bit suitable for public consumption.  Hagrid is standing on my vintage Singer 201K sewing machine.  I’ll take you on a stash tour another time, that could be a very big blog post!


You’d think that having my sewing space in my living area would actually allow me to sew a lot because I could do it while spending time with my family or watching TV.  I could probably even sew a couple of seams while cooking dinner, and sometimes this does happen, but not as often as I’d like.  I don’t have any particularly good excuses, my TV is even on a big, extendible, swivelly arm so I can pull it out from the wall and point it at the sewing area (which does come in handy if I want to stream a Craftsy video from my iPad to my TV via my Apple TV).  I think it’s mostly due to overcommitment, disorganisation, lack of prioritising and exhaustion which are actually all things I can change.  How does that saying go?  If you don’t have a plan you might end up where you’re going, ie nowhere.  I just Googled that and couldn’t find anything close so perhaps I just made up a quote!


Here it is relatively respectable and ready to sew.  Sewing is my happy place, so this is my happy sewing space.  I’m wondering why I don’t spend more time there…

So, what am I going to make next?  Well we’re planning a staff ‘garden party’ at Pataka, the gallery where I work, because we’re about to install an exhibition of beautiful Karl Maughan garden paintings and we haven’t had a silly dress up party for a ages.  Our children’s activity space has been turned into a ‘garden’ so we’re going to hold it in there – why should the kids have all the fun?  I’ve decided everyone needs to wear floral and I’m going to make myself a pasifika theme floral outfit, here’s my fabric and pattern.  I’m really looking forward to the party, I think we’re going to need lots of Pimms and cucumber sandwiches.


A tour of my sewing space wouldn’t be complete without my little ‘helpers’.  These are our fur-babies, Hagrid up top and Spider, lying on my traced patterns.  Hagrid was having some emotional issues recently, he was very grumpy and anti-social and he was getting a bit vicious – not his normal cuddly affectionate self at all.  We thought we were going to have to take him to the vet to get some kitty prozac (I kid you not, it’s actually a real thing) but then I left an unattended ball of wool on the table.  After he shredded the lovely ball of alpaca boucle we put him on a diet of cheaper odd balls from my stash.  Now there’s always a messy tangle of wool somewhere in our house, usually on the kitchen floor because he loves sliding around in it.  It’s good to see that my stash makes the cat as happy as it makes me.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour of my sewing space.  I love seeing other people’s creative spaces and I’ve really been enjoying the WSBN’s sewing room tour.  There are still plenty more to go so remember to check in and see The Crafty Mermaid’s tomorrow

Happy creating everyone 🙂



That got your attention didn’t it 🙂

I love fabric shopping but what sewer doesn’t.  I’ve almost given up on calling myself a sewer, I think I’m more of a fabric collector and curator.  Unfortunately I work with museum professionals who laugh heartily when I say this and tell me that I’m definitely a hoarder, but what the heck do they know.

I live in a city north of Wellington called Porirua.  Here’s a couple of interesting facts about my home town.  We have the youngest population in the country and also New Zealand’s youngest Mayor, Nick Leggett, who along with our Deputy Mayor, ‘Ana Coffey, form the country’s youngest mayoral team.  Here’s a rap video they made recently all about Porirua’s bid to win the Gigatown competition and get cheap access to gigabit speed ultra-fast broadband.

Here’s a more serious video showing a day in the life of Porirua.  It features my second favorite thing (next to fabric) – Whittaker’s chocolate which is made in our city.  If the wind blows in the right direction on roasting day the whole CBD smells like chocolate.

We’re young, we make the world’s best chocolate, and we also have a very large Pasifika population.  While Pacific people make up 7.4% of the entire population of New Zealand, in Porirua it’s 26.2% so fabric shops in my town look like this!


A riot of joyous colour and everything is really cheap.

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We’re having a garden party at work soon and I figure I’m going to need a fun floral dress to wear so I’m going to have to make a shopping trip this week.  Yipee!  It’s going to be so difficult to decide what to buy though.

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