Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Delightful Dolores

Phew! 6 gigs singing with 3 different bands (including 550km travel), rehearsals for each band, my end of year piano student concert as well my usual teaching and other life stuff - it's been a busy week!

Needless to say, I didn't get much sewing done. I did however, manage to take some photos of my latest make - the Dolores Batwing pattern by the lovely Zoe of "So, Zo... What do you know?" blogging fame. I was lucky enough to win a review copy of the pattern back in September and I'm so pleased to have finally got round to making it. I had promised to make it before the end of the year so I just managed to scrape in there.

This was my first time using a PDF sewing pattern. There seems to be a load of great indie patterns coming out in PDF format recently but I must admit I haven't been that keen on the idea. The thought of printing, cutting out and sticking together a pattern has always put me off but I think I may have been converted. Zoe's clear instructions made this really easy to put together and there are only 11 pages to print out so it hardly took any time at all (apart from my printer refusing to print at 100% so I had to get it printed elsewhere - aarrgh, technology).

It was also my first time sewing with knit fabric. Sewing with knits seems to be all the rage in the blogosphere lately and after seeing so many fabulous makes and new patterns coming out I've been desperate to jump on the bandwagon. The biggest thing stopping me is availability - if there are any readers from Perth out there, please tell me where I can find some decent knit fabric! (Unfortunately shipping from overseas to Australia is really expensive)

I managed to find this fabric which is a lovely colour and it has an interesting textured pattern to it which makes it not so plain. I've no idea what it is exactly but it's got quite a nice drape without being slippery which I thought was a good option for my first foray into knits.

The Dolores Batwing pattern can be sewn as a top, a short tunic or longer dress and each option has a choice of short or long sleeves. I went for the top with short sleeves as we're heading into summer here and according to Zoe's sizing chart made a size 12. The fit was perfect, though I had to make it slightly shorter due to the amount of fabric I had. I ended up taking 7cm off the length and I think I would shorten it again next time, though probably not quite as much.

I sewed the entire garment on my serger (another first), apart from the hem which was done on my sewing machine using the three step zig zag stitch as suggested by Zoe.

The batwing sleeves give Dolores a nice retro look which I really like and it also makes it super comfortable and quick and easy to make - 3 hours in total, including assembling the PDF pattern - AND step by step sewing instructions with photos - what's not to love?

So Zo - thanks so much for sharing your pattern with me - it was a joy to sew and if I can get my hands on some decent knit fabric soon, I'll definitely be making more!

Monday, 8 December 2014


Hello - it's been ages since I last posted, but I have been super busy. Most excitingly, I was in Japan touring with my band which was fabulous fun. We did 2 shows in Tokyo, one of which was the legendary annual BACK FROM THE GRAVE Halloween party – 32 bands playing from 5pm to 5am – with a dressing room larger than the performance area and just as entertaining. We also played in Osaka and in Kobe, 1 hour away in the smallest venue I have ever been in, let alone played in. The bar was downstairs with a ladder leading up to the band room which wasn't much bigger than my bathroom. With the band and 7 go-go dancers there was unbelievably still room for 20 or so punters which made for a pretty crazy gig – only in Japan!

Clockwise from Left: Singing with my good friend Junko from Tigerlily;
Halloween Backstage; Halloween Onstage; The Bees Knees Bar in Kobe.
(All pics wearing me-made outfits)
Aside from the all the craziness and partying I did manage to slip in some fabric shopping - stay posted for my guide to fabric shops in Tokyo and Osaka coming soon.

Life's been crazily busy since we got back but I've managed to squeeze in a bit of sewing here and there when I can. As well a bit of gift sewing I whipped up these cat cushions for the house with some fabric purchased on my trip.

So, I'll bid you Sayonara until my next post and leave you with some cute Japanese cat photos :)

Clockwise from Left: Cat Pastries; Giant Cuddly Toy Cat; Godzilla Cats;
Sushi Cats!

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Crazy Cat Peasant Blouse

So why was this one of the most fun sewing makes ever? Well, just look at that fabric - guaranteed to put a smile on your face anytime!

Look at him!
Thanks to Miss Crayola Creepy and her Crazy Cat Lady Sewing Challenge, I am now the proud wearer of a crazy cat peasant blouse. I bought this fabric in Tokyo last year with the idea of making a knitting bag but never got around to it and when Erin announced her Sewing Challenge it got me thinking - could I make something so that I could actually get away with wearing this ridiculously cute fabric?

I used McCall's 6346 dress pattern and hacked it into a blouse using a top I already had for reference. I had made the dress version before so I knew my size - yay, no need to toile! All I did was square the side seams from under the arms down to the length I wanted.

I shirred 6 rows 1 1/4 inch apart as this was how my reference top was done. If you're a newbie to shirring as I was - I used this tutorial and it was really easy. I had been wondering how much fabric one has to allow for shirring and everything I had read said to double the amount. Well, I certainly didn't do that and if I had done, it would have ended up enormous. Maybe this was because my rows were quite far apart, I'm not sure. Initially I thought the shirring may not be tight enough but all you do is steam over it with an iron and it soon pulls in.

I whipped it up in an afternoon at my friend Karen's house which is the other reason this was so much fun to make. She has the most amazing new sewing room which I'm very jealous of but also super pleased she's willing to share it! It's great sewing with a friend, we had a good laugh and both ended up with something new to wear!

Thanks Erin for hosting this sewalong that I couldn't resist, be sure to check out what some of the other crazy cat ladies have made. I had a big smile on my face the whole time working with this fabric (though it was a little weird sewing over some of those cute little faces when I was shirring).

Of course they're not as cute as you, Koko!
I'm off to Japan again next week where I'll definitely be picking up some more fabric - I could do a whole collection of crazy cat blouses - how awesome would that be?

Saturday, 18 October 2014


It was a dreary October night, the rain smashed against the window pane and the occasional lightening flash brightened up the gloomy, candlelit room, exposing the mighty creation before me. I had taken one part Simplicity 2512 and another part New Look 6002, unleashed them on a flock of unsuspecting flamingos and lo and behold, my Frankenpattern was born ...

The flamingos were captured on a field trip to the Goldhawk Road in London with my accomplices Marylou and Nicole Needles. I knew right away that they would be perfect for a tiki dress and my search began for a suitable pattern. You can imagine my excitement when I came across New Look 6002 with it’s perfect specimen of a bodice in view C, but wait, the skirt would not do, I had to find the ideal companion to complete my vision!

I turned to my trusted accomplice Nicole for guidance - she had used the Simplicity 2512 Cynthia Rowley skirt to make her beautiful tiki mash up dress - that was the answer! All I had to do was track down the now out of print pattern and bring my cunning plan to fruition. 

At last a copy was acquired and I set about bringing my creation to life. It was just a case of fitting a skirt to another bodice, surely it would be simple? Alas, it wasn’t as easy as I thought. If I didn’t want my dress to end up looking like some grotesque monster from a nineteenth century gothic novel, I would have to toile and toile again. 

Deep into the night I toiled away, a little tuck here and a little tweak there, until she was just right. 

And now, my work is done!

For more details please see my notes on Pattern Review and check out some of the other wonderful creations that have been conjured up for the Frankenpattern Contest - and don't forget to vote!

Saturday, 4 October 2014

One Pattern, Many Dresses

I often think that I'll make a repeat of a pattern but then I end up wanting to try something new - except it seems when it comes to New Look 6699 - turns out I've made it 8 times! But with so many mix and match variations, you don't need to make the same dress twice. I must say, multiple makes of a pattern has advantages too - it's quick because you've done it before and you know it's going to fit with no need for a toile - yeeessss!!!!!

Here is my latest version: The Tropical Blaze dress

I scoured around looking for the perfect dress to make with this fabric - and 6699 kept calling out "pick me, pick me". Although I'd made it 7 times before, I still managed to come up with yet another variation. 

I love the vividness of the colours on this print which I picked up on the Goldhawk Road in London. It's bright and summery, perfect for the coming months ahead.

So let's open the vault and see what other gems 6699 has to offer:

My Very First Dress:

This is probably my favourite version. I guess I have a soft spot for it seeing as it was my very first dress (though I did have a bit of help putting it together) but I love the fabric and I think it suits the pattern so well.

Red & Black Leopard Sequins:

Sequins look fab under stage lights but working with sequins is not for the faint-hearted. Multiple needles were broken in the process (I'm sure there's probably a special needle out there for such things but that didn't even occur to me at the time, I was too excited about the prospect of wearing a red & black leopard sequin dress!). The lining has tulle round the edge to give it more fullness. This was a pretty tight fit at the time I made it and unfortunately I can't get into anymore :(

Jungle Juice Dress:
Pebbles grows up and discovers rock & roll!
You will no doubt notice the superior quality of the photography here, these pics were taken for our "Jungle Juice" cd. We went all out with the jungle look here complete with the jagged skirt edge and turkey bones in the hair. Next up ...

The Monster Dress:

I blogged about this a little while ago here - I  just love the fabric and I love wearing this dress, it's so much fun!

Gingham Copycat Dress:

Moving away from the stage outfits, I made this dress for Peneloping's Copycat Challenge and thought the pattern was a perfect match.

Black Cat Fever Dress:
This is the same combination as my very first dress made up with cute cat fabric purchased in Tokyo. I love the way the cat heads are not really obvious until you get up close.

There was an eighth brocade version but I had such a nightmare with the fabric fraying that it ended up being way too tight, I only wore it once and then it got buried in the giveaway pile which is out of reach at the moment. 

I dare say I'll probably end up making another one of these - do you have any favourite patterns you just keep coming back to time and time again?

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Blog Hopping

I'm jumping on board the latest Blog Hop folks - this is where various bloggers spill the beans on their writing and creative process and then pass the baton to some fellow bloggers to do the same. I have been nominated by Sarah from Prairie Girl Knits who I met on Ravelry during the recent Outfit Along. Make sure you check out Sarah's blog where she knits, sews and cooks up a storm - she even manages to combine two of her passions and knits food!

So here goes:

What am I working on?

I've always got lots of ideas floating around in my head but I try not to have too many different things on the go at once as I find it too overwhelming and I'd probably never finish any of them. I've pretty much always got a sewing project on the go and since I started knitting a year and a half ago, there's always something on my knitting needles (even if it might sit there not being touched for a while).

I've been on a bit of a knitting roll lately. I'm a good way through Andi Satterlund's "Chuck" sweater, even though I've discovered my cable mishap on the side (oops), not sure what I'm going to do about that! The sweater is a fitted, 3/4 sleeve, cable design and so far it's been really straight forward to follow (provided you pay attention, like I obviously didn't) and once I got my head around reading a pattern within a pattern. Andi has a great article about this on her blog so that was a huge help. I've decided I want to do full length sleeves but I will need to figure out how to do the calculations, so if anyone has any tips, please feel free to send them my way. 

So, onto the sewing table: I just finished a dress which I'll be blogging about once I have photos ready. But I've also been delving into the murky world of fitting lately, in a desperate attempt to understand my fitting woes. I tried my very first Full Bust Adjustment on Colette Pattern's Rooibos dress using their sewalong blog as a guide. It actually worked out pretty well but the end point for the side dart is too close to the apex so I'll need to make that adjustment.

I've also been plotting and planning my creation for Pattern Review's "Frankenpattern Contest" - (cue loud thunder clap and lightning bolt) heh, heh, heh. I love a sewalong! I get a real kick out of seeing all the different creations people come up with and you end up discovering a bunch of other sewists in the process, which brings me to my next question.

Why do I write/create what I do?

I think if you're passionate about something, you want to share it with others. I love making things and being immersed in the whole process, but unless you're sewing with a buddy, it's a solitary experience and it's nice to be able to share your wins as well as your "hair tearing" moments with others. That's why I started writing my blog, to connect with other sewists and share tips and inspiration.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I'm not sure if my blog is hugely different from other sewing blogs out there, but I guess the main point of difference is that I make a lot of my clothing to wear on stage. I have a few different groups that I sing with so I always have an excuse to make a new dress! Some of my creations are strictly for the stage but most of them can be worn to go out in too, they just tend to be made with bold and fun fabrics.

Day-to-day Wear?  Maybe not.
But I would wear this to go out in as well as on stage

How does my writing/creative process work?

I'm fairly new to blogging so I feel like I'm still finding my feet when it comes to writing. Mostly, I just try and be myself and imagine that I'm having a chat with a friend and keep it pretty conversational.

When it comes to sewing, I usually fall in love with the fabric first and then see what I can turn it into. Very often I'll be inspired to make a garment that I discover on someone's blog and sometimes it will be a pattern I never would have considered until seeing how good it looks on someone else.

Next on the Blog Hop Train

Thanks Sarah for inviting me to join in. It's been really interesting for me to think about these questions and I've also enjoyed reading about what sparks other bloggers to do what they do. I can't wait to see what my next Blog Hoppers have to say when they post their answers next week. I'm delighted to hand you over to:

Ree from Ree-Sewn who I met through the Dolly Clackett Sew Along for which she made an impressive FIVE dresses, all of which are gorgeous!

And Kath from Bernie and I - fellow Aussie blogger (though way over on the other side of the country) and queen of the shift dress, she certainly knows how to rock the 60's mod look!

And finally, the lovely Nicole Needles who I was lucky enough to meet recently in London. Nicole makes fabulous vintage inspired clothing with an attention to detail and finishing that puts most of us to shame (well, certainly me, anyway!)