Category Archives: Works in progress

My Leather Obsession

It’s time to pick my blog back up again.  It’s been very neglected for a long time.  I’m not the most tech savvy blogger, I struggle a bit with posts and getting photos the right size and correctly aligned and stuff like that and I tend to start writing a blog post and it takes me all afternoon by the time I’ve fiddled with the formatting and getting looking ok and then I have to leave it to go do important stuff, like life, and I never get back to it again.  But I’ve got some exciting stuff happening now and I really want to tell you all about it so I’ve persevered and written two tutorials, as well as this post (and now I think I need a big lie down).

Here’s the back story which has led to this change of events:  Firstly, I got a new job last year, and it’s the best job ever, it’s fabulous!  I work at The Fabric Warehouse in Wellington which is my happy place.  I love my job and I look forward to going to work every day.  My workmates are fantastic, my boss is awesome and the customers are lovely.  There’s nothing not to like about it.

Here I am at work.  As you can see, I like to blend in.

Secondly my boss, Stephen, recently acquired a lot of beautiful apparel weight leather, a mountain of lovely leather.

In case you’re wondering, this is what a small portion of a leather mountain looks like.

I love leather, I’ve always wanted to have leather clothing but it’s really expensive and it’s usually very expensive to buy leather hides so it’s too intimidating to try sewing it.  I don’t want to make a mistake and ruin a lot of expensive leather.  But then Stephen bought the leather mountain and it’s cheap enough to take the plunge and try sewing it without worrying about losing too much money if it doesn’t work out.  It’s worth the risk.

I’ve got four garment lots of leather and I’m busy up-skilling so I can get these made up.  The coral leather and purple suede are to make jackets for me and the black and beige leather are for a jacket and skirt for my daughter, Monica.

Here’s a photo of my daughter, as you can see she really looks like she needs some leather clothing to go with her awesome life 🙂

In the past week I've got a degree, a job, and a (pink) car 🚗🎉

A post shared by Monica Hawthorne (@monicaursula) on

My problem was that I didn’t know if I could sew leather with my ancient 1960s domestic sewing machine so I did a bit of testing.

Now, it’s not that easy to find information about sewing leather and it’s quite different to sewing fabric.  I’ve been scouring the internet and libraries for techniques, and I’ve got some invaluable information from my colleague, Caitlin, who is a Massey Uni fashion grad.  I’ve made a few discoveries and had amazingly good results with the samples I’ve made so far.

So, I’m going to share my discoveries with you so you won’t have to reinvent the wheel.  I’m starting with two tutorials covering basic supplies and sewing straight seams

Don’t be afraid to try sewing leather yourself, it’s not difficult.  In fact, it was easier for my machine to sew than denim.  Using a leather needle makes it easy for your machine to puncture the leather.

Remember though, that I am a complete beginner at leather sewing.  I’m learning as I go and I’m just discovering these techniques and passing them on to you.  You might know a better way of doing the things I’m doing and I’m happy for you to share that, but I don’t know anything more than what I’m including in my tutorials because I’m not an experienced leather garment sewer.  Let’s all experiment together and share our findings.

I suggest you try all the techniques by making samples until you are confident, as I have, before you tackle a garment.  Leather is completely unforgiving of mistakes.  You can’t rip a seam out and resew it because it leaves permanent holes.

The Fabric Warehouse sells leather scraps and these are what I used to practise on and make my samples.

Some of the scraps are quite colourful

I’ll be adding tutorials as time allows and as I try out new techniques so follow my blog if you’d like to see them as they’re posted.

Sewing Leather on a Domestic Machine – Part 1 – The Basics

Part 2 – Sewing Straight Seams



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.


My cats like to “help” sew


Monica is drafting a pattern for the culotte shorts she’s making for textiles at school. In this picture you can see Spider helping her position the square correctly. He’s done an excellent job of marking the tape measure with strategically placed teeth marks, placing precision holes in the pattern paper in random positions and leaving dribble spot marks. I honestly don’t know what we’d do without him.

The sampler corset top

This is my first post and I’m posting the most ambitious project I’ve ever undertaken so it might be all downhill from here…

Here is my sampler corset top which I’m making as a result of an online class I took on Craftsy, Hand embellishing knit fabric

Front panels
Front panels

I have no idea why I signed up for the class, hand embroidery has never been my thing and I wouldn’t ever have thought I’d have the time or inclination to do any hand embellishment on my clothes. It was under the “would be nice to have but I’ll never have time for that” classification. One day I was just bored, or more likely procrastinating, and I decided to have a look at the Alabama Chanin website and that was it! From that moment on it was all over for me, it was love at first sight. I can imagine myself wearing handmade cotton jersey clothing all the time and since my daughter gave me all of Natalie Chanin’s books for my birthday it’s even worse, I want handmade cotton jersey homewares as well.

Back panels
Back panels

After quite a long time I’m nearly finished… the embroidery part that is.  It hasn’t taken as long as I expected it would but it’s been quite an involved process, starting with sourcing good quality t-shirts for the fabric, hand cutting the stencil, mixing a special paint colour, stencilling the design onto the fabric, buying threads, beads, needles etc, and then there was the hand embellishing part which has taken the longest.  The whole project so far has been surprisingly good fun.  I’ve spent between a day and a week completing the embroidery on each of the panels depending on how much time I’ve had to devote to it.

I chose the corset pattern because it was the smallest project I could find to try out the techniques.  I didn’t want to start on something too big and not finish it.  The size of my project was also limited because I was using recycled t-shirts, one pale blue and one beige Mossimo shirt with a stationwagon print on the front which I’ve incorporated into the design.  I didn’t have quite enough of the top fabric so I used some lightweight dark blue cotton jersey I had in my stash for the side front panels

Bugle beads
Bugle beads

I used a selection of stitches and techniques from the course and the books because I couldn’t decide on just one and wanted to try everything.

I’m almost ready to start sewing it together so I am really hoping it fits me, otherwise I’m going to have to starve myself, and I’m not good at that

Seed beads
Seed beads
Couching - it takes ages to do, hence this is the only couching I did
Couching – it takes ages to do, hence this is the only couching I did