Tag Archives: daughter sewing

Sewing by or for Mon

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


The Ball Dress (or thank God that’s over)

It's been ages since I blogged but I have been very busy. First I was very busy convincing Monica that she didn't want the extremely complicated dresses she had on her wish list. Then I helped her shop for some fabric and guided her towards something which seemed like it would be easier to sew – a dark brown velvet with a lurex stripe in the half price sale at Global Fabrics*. I know what you're thinking, velvet isn't easy to sew! And you're completely right but to give you some perspective copying this couture dress by Elie Saab was one of her first choices:

Dress by Elie Saab

Eventually she ended up with a short list of design features including: skin tight, very low back, wide neckline, full length and sleeveless – to which I added draped back, cowl front and fishtail. Then I spent a bit more time being very busy dreading making the dress and procrastinating. Finally, when I really had to actually start or I wouldn't get it finished in time, I got cracking (apologies for the lack of photos, I just wanted to get it over and done with):

The good:

The bodice block turned out perfectly. I used a butterick fitting pattern from my stash and some techniques I learned in a Craftsy class: Fast track fitting with Joi Mahon. The class shows you how to measure the body and the pattern, make comparisons and alter the pattern before cutting so when you get it made up it fits really well and you don't have to do much fitting afterwards. As you can see from the toile photo it worked out exceptionally well and I'll definitely be using those techniques again.

I don't have a photo of the paper bodice pattern because it sort of got mangled by the cat after I'd finished with it but I did several alterations:

  • narrowed at centre front because her bust points are so close together
  • shortened above bust point and below lower bust curve because she has a short torso
  • Added the amount I took out at the centre front to the side seams so it was still wide enough to fit her.

Meanwhile I made myself a wrap around skirt (just to keep myself sane).

Vogue 7427 and Butterick 5627

I joined the bodice pattern onto a skirt pattern which was luckily exactly what we wanted and fortunately was in my stash already. Here's a picture of the two patterns I used for the dress:

Making the back drape was an interesting challenge, but it wasn't difficult and I'm very pleased with the way it turned out. I used the instructions from Dress pattern designing by Natalie Bray. I took some stitches in the bottom of each fold on the wrong side, leaving a strand of thread between each one so that the folds would stay in alignment.

Cool vintage draping
The drape pleated and ready to be sewn in place
Stitches on the underside to hold the pleats in place


The bad:

Because the dress is backless, she decided to buy a stick on bra to wear under it and it was a bit of a nightmare because her bust ended up completely different sizes, shapes and places depending on where she stuck it. Sometimes she had to reposition it three times before fitting to get it in the right place. It's certainly an interesting object though, her boyfriend was quite fascinated with it and I think he may have tried it on himself at one stage.


The fabric has a very spongy pile and even with my walking foot it crept all over the place. I had to hand tack every seam and dart before I could machine sew it
Chalk marks wouldn't stay on either side of the fabric so I had to thread mark everything I wanted to refer to later


And the ugly:

A couple of days before the ball I suddenly gained some perspective when I realised she would only be wearing this dress once. It was just as well because at the end it got all very project-runway-stressful in an only-just-keeping-it-together, just short of having to curl-into-the-fetal-position-in-a-corner-and-cry kind of way.

I have to admit there is some very dodgy, thrown together at the last minute, sewing in this dress which I wouldn't want anyone to look too closely at but the springy pile of the velvet hides all kinds of amateurish handstitches and even makes the machine stitched hem much less obvious.

Dodgy machine stitched hem
The lining was roughly cut out and then handstitched in tucking in the excess under the arm but it didn't affect the appearance of the dress at all so didn't matter
The armhole edges were clipped folded down and handstitched in a hurry before the lining was attached by hand. These long stitches are actually unnoticeable in real life even though they're quite visible along the edge of the armhole in this photo


After I dropped her off at the pre-ball function she suddenly realised that when I took the back seam in at her request to make her butt look good it actually made it too tight for her to lift her skirt up to go to the toilet, but it decided that was her problem. By then I'd washed my hands of the whole thing.

Now that it's over we can all move on with our lives. There has been a bit of a delay getting this blog post done because I had to spend a week basically semi-comatose on the couch watching TV recovering in the evenings after work because I was so tuckered out and then everything got very busy again and WordPress isn't friends with my iPad so I got very frustrated trying to wrestle this post into shape, but then I discovered Blogsy so everyone's much happier now they don't have to listen to me swearing as much. Better late than never!

*I know Global Fabrics have changed their name to the Fabric Store but I think that's a really naff name and I don't like it so I still call them Global. They can't possibly have passed that name by a focus group before deciding on it.





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.

Prelude to the ball

It’s nearly the most stressful time of the year for me – the scourge that is ball season! Fortunately my daughter is in year 13 now so this is the third and final year I’m going to have to go through this torment.

The first year she was too young to go to her own school ball so she went to the Scots College ball with a friend of hers in a short dress made from a beautiful silk cotton print we got from Global Fabrics.  The design conversation which went a bit like this:

Monica:   “I want a corset top”

Me:   “Ok, we’ll have to go shopping for a strapless bra”

Monica:   “I want it to be plunging in the back and have back lacing so I won’t be able to wear a strapless bra”

Me:  “Oh”

Monica:   “…and I want it to push my boobs up and make them look bigger…. and it’s hockey season and they’re small so I want extra padding”

Me:   “You know that’s going to be impossible to make”

Monica:   “Meh”

We compromised on the plunging back because I decided it would be too hard to make a push up bra top with no actual back in it,  I wasn’t willing to go head to head with the laws of physics, and after a lost weekend or two, some late nights, a lot of boning, bra underwires, quilt batting, and some cleverly constructed pockets for chicken fillets, the top was looking fabulous but come dawn on ball day there was NO SKIRT.

Corset top

I knocked off work early and came home to start making the skirt.  While a team of teenage girls worked on her hair/makeup/fake tan I threw together a bubble skirt from the remaining fabric backed with tulle and with tucks stitched into it to make it poof out.  By the time I’d hand stitched her into the skirt it was time to leave so there wasn’t time for photos which is a terrible tragedy because she looked gobsmackingly gorgeous.  Her date was actually speechless when he answered the door and I can’t say I blamed him.

A few days later she told me a friend of hers had asked her to the Wellington College ball and she couldn’t possibly wear the same thing twice….

Mon and Max