Layering for Spring

Ugh, this week. I’m very glad it’s over! Last Sunday evening the hard drive on my laptop gave up completely as I was trying to back it up (oh the irony). Normally the loss of my laptop wouldn’t be the end of the world (I don’t use it too much), but my final assignment for trimester two is due tomorrow, and I had everything I had written and all my research on it. Thank god the partner of one of my friends is an IT guy, and he managed to retrieve my info off the hard drive before it completely crapped out, so I managed to get it all done (though I still need to edit about 500 words out of it, bit of a pain…). I’ve also been struck down with my usual spring hay fever (thanks pine trees, you dicks!), so I feel like a bit of a snivveling mess. But now that my paper is written and I’ve bought myself every antihistamine on the market things should be looking up, and I have some new sewing projects which I’m really happy with to share.


First up is my first True Bias Ogden Cami, in a lovely rayon from The Fabric Warehouse. I’m really going to have to get over my hatred of strapless bras, because I really like this top and have several lengths of fabric earmarked for more! 


It was such a quick satisfying project, I was able to easily get it out of the metre of fabric I had and it probably only took two hours from cutting to finishing. I took the advice of the instructions and added a ribbon to the back facing so that I can tell the front from the back, which was a good call. I love the facing, it gives such a lovely smooth finish at the neckline, and the double layer of fabric means that it sits really smoothly over my bra and a coloured bra won’t show through. 


I wore this for a night out dancing the same day that I made it, and it was very comfortable in the heat! Unfortunately I clipped the seams around the straps a bit severely, and the next morning I realised that one of the back straps had partially pulled out of the seam. It was an easy enough fix, and I went around and reinforced the rest of the strap attachment points too. Next time I’ll leave a bit more length in the seam!


Next up is my Grainline Driftless Cardigan. This is actually the second Driftless Cardigan I’ve made, though the first one never made it to the blog (I made it out of a beige wool sweatshirting, which is lovely and warm and got worn a lot over winter, but it has pilled horribly and definitely looks like a house-only garment). This one is a cotton/poly blend from the remnant bin at The Fabric Store, and it has an amazing bobbly bouclé texture. I had only just enough fabric to squeeze this out, though I did have to piece the neckband. The texture of the fabric means the join is invisible though, I can only find it by feeling for the extra thickness of the seam. 


I really wanted to use the high/low hem bands from view B, but due to the aforementioned fabric shortage I could only manage the standard hem band. To compensate, I followed the split hem instructions anyway, and I like the result just as much! 


I do like the cocoon shape of the cardigan! I also like the way the slim sleeves balance out the volume in the body, making it look oversized but not like I’m wearing someone else’s much bigger cardi.


I overlocked the whole thing, even the neckband (the instructions say to hand stitch or topstitch the neckband over to give a neater finish), which seems to be staying in plave after a good steam. I’ve been wearing it so much, its the perfect weight for this time of year. Unfortunately I realised this morning that I’d managed to get something yellow on it, I suspect it might be a bit of curry paste from dinner last night! So its soaking down in the laundry, and I’m desperately hoping that it’ll come out. Otherwise I might have to get a black felt pen out to disguise the worst of the yellow!


So those are my new layering staples! I’m so happy with both, though I can’t wait for it to get warm enough to be able to wear camisoles without a wooly layer over the top…

A very French shirt

I really like Deer and Doe patterns, and when they released their spring/summer 2016 patterns I immediately bought both the Melilot Shirt and the Zephyr Dress. I meant to make the Melilot shirt up during the winter, but I just never managed to get it done…Happily I like the short sleeved version even more than the long sleeved one, so making it up for spring wasn’t a hardship!


I’m so happy with the way it turned out! I think its such a flattering shape, and the little round collar and the sleeve cuffs are so cute. I was a bit worried about the very curved side seams not hitting me at the right point, since I have a fairly high waist, but I threw caution into the wind and made it up as is in my good fabric. Thankfully it worked out pretty well! 

I had a bit of trouble getting the hem to sit nicely around those extreme curves. The instructions tell you to hem the fronts and back before sewing the side seams, but I was a bit wary of the length so I wanted to be able to try it on before I committed to hemming it! In the end I decided to leave the length as it is, though I might play around with it next time. I ended up sewing a line of basting stitches at 1/4 of an inch to help me fold it up, then folded it up the same again and topstitched it. Maybe I’ll try bias tape next time, I’m always happy with that finish!

There are some really lovely details in this pattern. The pockets are lined! I’ve only ever lined the pockets on a coat, but it does give a lovely smooth edge and makes it easier to get both pockets the same. Though in this busy fabric that isn’t such a major… I also really like that the collar on this shirt is a proper two piece with a collar stand, it sits really nicely and fits really well. I noticed when I was looking at the pictures of my M7351 shirtdress that the collar is really too big for my neck to be worn buttoned all the way up, but this one is a good size. 

One thing I wish I had done better is matching my thread colour to the fabric. I sewed the majority of this one in the evenings, and it wasn’t until I looked at my topstitching in daylight that I realised that it was really really white against the much more cream fabric. And then, instead of fixing it, I just carried on, and sewed the buttonholes in the same white thread. And of course, the button holes look even whiter and shinier than the topstitching… I wish I had waited and matched the thread, or that I had gone and fixed it before opening the buttonholes, but I’ll live with it! Those glaring white buttonholes will be a good reminder not to be lazy next time. I know you can’t see them in these photos, but I can definitely see them when I look down at the shirt!

The fabric is Atelier Brunette, French fabric for a French pattern! Last month there was a vintage fair in my local town hall, so I wandered down to have a look (hoping to find a pie dish, as I had just figured out that the one I was looking for in my kitchen actually belongs to my Mum, so was in her kitchen instead). Just inside the door was a pile of stunning bolts of French fabric, attatched to a stall that I realised was being run by Miss Maude. Thank god she was taking payment by automatic bank transfer (and thank god for banking apps!), because I would have been sad to miss out on this gorgeous cotton. I also bought a length of Atelier Brunette modal, so I’m sure that’ll be making an appearance this summer! The little black buttons came from my button stash, but I think they originally came from Made Marion, like most of my new buttons. I really like how they look on the fabric, though  sewing 11 button holes was a bit of a chore! 

Expect to see a few more of these over the summer! I really want to make a white silk version with sleeves, and I have a really lightweight cotton plaid that I’ve been planning to make into a button up shirt for over a year, so hopefully that’ll happen this summer too…

Trans-Seasonal Shirtdress

So it’s technically Spring down here in the Southern Hemisphere, but the weather in Wellington this month has been particularly horrible. We’ve slid back into single digit temperatures, and we’ve had hail and gale force winds and torrential rain, so my spring sewing has been bumped back a few weeks! I had meant to make a shirt dress out of this fabric last winter using McCalls 6696 (the pattern which barely needs an intoduction) but I had a list of adjustments that I wanted to make so I never got around to it. Then McCalls 7351 was released, and it had most of the features I was going to try to change M6696 to have (the shirttail hem, the slim back without the gathers, no waistband), so I cheerily switched patterns, and then fluffed around all Winter and never got it made. But finally, here it is finished!

I really enjoyed sewing this dress! I haven’t had a lot of practice with big 4 patterns, but I’ve recently bought a bunch because I’ve had such a good time sewing up the ones I’ve tried. I’ve found that I get the best results if I sew a 12 in McCalls patterns, even though my measurements put me in a 14. M7351 has multiple cup sizes, and I used the C cup bodice. I think it fits well, though it does look like I have a bit of gaping at the buttons across the bust in these pictures.

I love the curved hem and the sleeve tabs!

I did my usual adjustments here, I took 1 inch off the bodice length, and another inch off the bottom of the back bodice at the centre back for a sway back adjustment. I also shortened the skirt by and inch and a half. The only place where I ran into a problem was the sleeves, they tapered so much towards the elbow that I couldn’t lift my arms when they were rolled up into the sleeve tabs. I ended up shortening them by 3 inches, and they’re much better now! I’ll never wear them not rolled up, so I don’t care if they’re weirdly disproportionate now.

I possibly could have taken a little more length off the bodice, but I don’t think its too bad. I never pictured it without the belt, but it actually looks ok!  I’ll also probably never wear it done all the way up, which is good because something a little bit funny has happened with my top button, its a bit off centre…

if the bodice was a wee bit shorter my belt wouldn’t ride up like this…

The fabric is a cotton/linen/elastane blend, so it’s really light and breathable and holds a crease really well (good for sewing, less good for wearing…), and has a little bit of stretch. Its basically a really comfortable lovely fabric, and I’m really glad that I have enough left to make a pair of shorts! The buttons are fake shell ones that I found in the $1 bin at The Fabric Warehouse, which is my favourite place to find packets of buttons. I also used some Liberty Saville Poplin to line the yoke and for the under collar and inner collar stand.

So I’m really glad I finally got this dress made, I think I’ll be able to wear it with tights and boots just as easily as bare legs and Keds, so it should get plenty of wear! Though I am hoping to be in shorts and sundresses sooner rather than later…

Pyjama Party!

Last month my beloved Peter Alexander fox covered pyjama pants suffered a catastrophic fabric failure, rendering them somewhat unfit for function (the bum fell out of them, in short). I was pretty sad, they were so comfortable and soft, but I had been wearing them and washing them for over 4 years, so I suppose it wasn’t unexpected! Obviously that meant that I should make another pair of Carolyn Pyjama pants, out of a super cute Cotton + Steel cotton print. Before I show you them though I’ll start with a pair of Carolyn Shorts which I made way back at the beginning of the year, when we were experiencing some seriously hot summer nights, and which I never got around to blogging…


Zelda the fuzzy photobomber busted her way though the door just as the timer on my camera went off…

These shorts are made from a lovely soft Japanese cotton lawn which I found at Spotlight. They’re made exactly as the pattern instructs, but I piped the pocket opening as well as the cuff just because I thought it looked cute.


I made the piping from some hot pink bias tape, I like how it picks up the pink in the print (try saying that five times fast). I made size 8 shorts again, same as my previous pair.


The tee shirt for both sets of pyjamas is a Scout Tee, made up in soft cotton knit. I love making knit Scouts, they’re such a comfortable shape to wear, especially for sleepwear. I cut the smallest possible size, like I did last time I made it in a knit, and just winged it when making the neckband.

My latest pair are pretty basic, to be honest. I didn’t bother with cuffs or piping, I just let the super cute fabric be the focus! It’s a Cotton + Steel print, from their recent From Porto With Love collection. Its a bit heavier than the Japanese cotton I used for the shorts, but that’s ok for Winter. I’ve never used C+S quilting cotton before, and it is rather nice. I have a length of it ready to be made into a dress for Summer (alsoa navy cat print, I’m so predictable), so I’ll be interested to see how much these soften up with repeated washing.


I seriously considered making a size 10 for these, but stuck with an 8 in the end. I’m not totally convinced I made the right decision, they are slimmer than I’m used to for pyjamas, but they feel comfortable enough!

I love this fabric, the chunky little cats remind me of my own chunky little cat! I asume that the pattern is meant to look like the gorgeous blue and white ceramic tiles that cover buildings in Porto, so I love that they remind me of the amazing week I spent in Lisbon and Porto four years ago. Portugal remains one of my favourite places that I visited on that trip, I’d love to go back!

Grown up lady dress

You know how sometimes you get outfits that you can put on and immediately feel polished? Clothes that make you feel like you’ve got your shit together and can manage pretty much anything? I’m not exactly sure why, but thats how this dress made me feel when I wore it out yesterday. Like I was going to get stuff done! (I got lots of eating done, but thats another thing this dress is good for.)


This is the Kielo Dress from Named, with the sleeve add on they released earlier this year to make it winter friendly. I made it up in a cotton/lycra blend ponte from The Fabric Warehouse, I love the print! I realised when I was organishing my fabric a few months ago how few patterned fabrics I own (except for stripes, of course), so it was nice to use this one! 


The pattern was so simple to make up, once I got past the dreaded tracing/ adding seam allowance stage. The sleeve pattern incorperates a new armscye shape to trace as well, but it was all very straight forward. Sewing was simple as well, I didn’t make any changes for sewing a knit instead of a woven except for using my overlocker for the main construction. I sewed the darts with a straight stitch and used a twin needle for the hems and neckline. I really like the double ended darts in the back, it gives it such a nice shape. I thought I had increased their depth (and shaped the CB seam) enough to fit my sway back, but looking at these pictures there is still a bit of fabric pooling above and below the ties. Just as well I can’t usually see it!

I did make a few changes to the pattern itself, other than adding the sleeves and lopping about 10″ off the hem. For some reason I didn’t consider the distance between the shoulder and waist before I cut it out, so it did what every wrap dress I’ve ever tried on does and bloused terribly in the upper body if I tied it at my waist (or sat unflatteringly at the widest point of my hips if I tied it where the fabric wanted to go). Because of the shape of the wings I ended up with big scoops of fabric between my armpit and waist, not quite what I was going for! In desperation I ended up shorteneing the length of the wings by 2.5 inches on either side, tapering to nothing towards the hem. This helped reduce the excess of fabric, but does mean that they only just meet at the centre front, rather than the more dramatic overlapping shape they had before. But I’m much happier with the overall silhouette, so I’m ok with that!


Token blogger-in-a-Kielo-Dress shot! You can see that the wings look much shorter than every one elses…( I keep calling them wings in my head, how else should I describe them?) I felt like I was pulling a flasher pose here, hense the ridiculously hammy face!

I also changed up the neckline a bit, I felt it was too high with the long sleeves and relatively long hem. I just eyeballed a more scooped shape, about 2 inches lower at the centre front than how it’s drafted. I ended up drafting a facing for the neckline too, as I thought turning and stitching as instructed wouldn’t work on my now significantly more scooped out neckline (though I haven’t had great luck turning and stitching boat necklines either, to be honest). I treated the facing like I would a woven one, stitching and understitching it (though with a zig zag stitch rather than a straight stitch) and then topstitching it with the twin needle. I’m really happy with how it turned out, no waving or sagging to be seen!


The only downside to this dress is my incessant need to fiddle with it. I’m always smoothing the fabric under the wrapped sides, or adjusting the ties. Its not sitting perfectly in these photos either, probably because we’d just had lunch and I was full of delicious food and not worrying about it! I guess that makes this a more accurate representation of how it looks when being worn…


So there we go, my grown up dress! I think it must be the sleeves and the just below the knee length that make me feel like a proper adult… Does everyone else have clothes that make them feel like that? I’m sure it can’t just be me!

Top to toe woolies

From full on glamour in my last post to practical hand knits today! A pretty massive winter storm has hit New Zealand over the past week, and while Wellington hasn’t copped it like the South Island has there is still snow on the mountains around Wellington and we’ve had freezing southerly gales and horizontal hail and sleet. So I’ve been knitting furiously, trying to finish my second sock which has lain abandoned since April when I finished the first one! But first I have a hat which I also finished in April, but when hasn’t had much wear until lately. I find it a bit difficult to post about my knitting, as I generally don’t deviate from the pattern at all so I never really have much to say, so this post is a two for one…


the jersey is my Lesley sweater from Home and Away
This is the Fidra Hat by Gudrun Johnson, knitted up in Zealana Air Chunky. Its been so long since I knitted it that that I can’t really remember how it went, but I don’t recall it causing me too much grief! This yarn is both the most expensive and the most luscious think I’ve ever knit with! Its a blend of cashmere, silk, and possum down, and it is the softest thing I have ever felt. I still have about half a ball left, so I’ll need to think of something fancy for it. 

I do love a big pom pom! This one is a faux fur number which I liberated from a keyring once I realised how expensive it would be to get a fur pom pom off Amazon or Etsy or similar (damn shipping rates). I love it, but it does pull the hat back on my head after a while. I think I must have overstretched the ribbing when I blocked it, and now it’s a bit big. I may give the ribbing a light steam, to see if I can shrink it back together a bit.

The problem with using this wool for this pattern was that the gorgeous texture gets somewhat lost under the halo from the wool. A combination of knit, purl and eyelets form a double chevron pattern which is really pretty. If I was going to knit it again, I think I would use a smoother yarn with a tighter ply (is that the correct term? Something which is less loosely wound together) so that the different textures and patterns would really stand out.

Next up is my first proper pair of socks. I say proper pair, as these are the first ones I’ve made in sock yarn which will actually fit inside a pair of shoes (unlike my actual first pair of socks).

These are Hermione’s Everyday Socks, by Dreams in Fibre, a free cuff down pattern on Ravelry. I didn’t soley pick the pattern based on the name, but I do love all of her Harry Potter references in her patterns! The stitch pattern is actually the same as the Laule’a Socks, with offset purl stitches creating the texture amongst the stockinette stitches. I used the magic loop method to knit these, and found it much easier than using DPN’s, especially when lugging them around in my bag.

My only real problem with these came when knitting the heel flap. I followed the instructions for the Eye of Partridge stitch pattern, and I’ve ended up with a nice sturdy layer with the floats and the back, but the front doesn’t look like the textured pattern that all the examples I looked at achieved! Maybe I didn’t pull my floats tight enough to make the slipped stitches pop out, I don’t know. Never mind! 

Knitting these was really fun, the stitch pattern is so easy to memorise and even the heel flap/gusset went smoothly. The only part I didn’t enjoy was the kitchener stitch to graft the toes, I hate kitchener stitch! I find it so unintuitive, I have to refer back to the instructions for every step (I use the tutorial on Purl Soho every time).

The yarn I used is Madeline Tosh Sock, in the Optic colourway. I really like the tweedy look of the flecks of grey against the cream, it was fun to see how it looked as I knitted with it. I have another ball in the Night Hawk colourway which I’m looking forward to using!

This seems to be how all the hipster girls I see around Wellington wear their chunky socks, but I’m not sure I can pull it off…They’re lovely and warm inside my knee high boots though!

1960’s party dress

I’ve finally finished the second part of my Vintage Pattern Pledge, a party dress made from a vintage Simplicity pattern which I found at a local vintage store. I was sure it was an early 1960’s pattern ( I looked it up when I bought it, and was sure it was 1961 or 62), but I’ve just checked the vintage pattern wiki and they have it down as being first released in 1959. I’m still going to call it a 1960’s drss though, as the pattern wouldn’t have made it to New Zealand until then!


I bought this pattern for the gorgeous stepped neckline, but the whole pattern is really lovely. Vintage patterns have the best details! I had expected that there would be some serious fitting work to do before starting on my final dress, and I made an unprecidented two muslins before cutting into my final fabric. Two! It was worth it though. The pattern is a single pre-cut size, as most patterns of the era are, and it was a size below what I would have made up. I had no idea what the ease in vintage big 4 patterns was like, so my first muslin was made up exactly from the pattern. Once I tried that on  I had a better idea of where I needed to make changes, and came up with the following list:

  • Increase width at the waist by 1/2 an inch on both front and back bodice pieces and skirt pieces, blending to nothing at the bust dart and at the mid thigh
  • Remove 1 1/2 inches from bodice length
  • Take 5 inches off the skirt (ladies in the 1950s/60’s must have been giants!)
  • Take 3/8 of an inch off the raglan seam at the back neckline, blending to nothing after 1 1/2″inches 
  • Shorten bust darts

I then made up another muslin, and decided it was pretty good!


It looks especially good with a black bra and tights…

The bodice fitted surprisingly well across the bust and shoulders, considering I made no changes there other than taking that small wedge out of the back neckline to combat gaping. The darts are perhaps not pointing in exactly the right place, but they’re ok. 


Finally I took a deep breath and cut into this much adored length of fabric. I’ve tried to match this fabric to several patterns since I bought it from The Fabric Store last year, its caused me some grief! Originally I wanted to make a Republic Du Chiffon Madeleine dress out of it, but when I tried to gather a scrap of it it just bunched and looked terrible. Its a silk/wool blend from Tory Burch, and is reasonably hefty with quite a stiff hand. I’m glad I decided to go with somethng more structured rather than persevering with my original plan!


I did have a wee bit of trouble with two parts in the instructions, the lapped zip and the vent. I had to pull out my Readers Digest Sewing Guide for the zip, and I just did my own thing for the vent! I really struggled to get the side lapped zip in neatly (you can see it in the side seam above), so I ended up hand picking it. The overlap is probably too wide, next time I’ll try to make it a bit more narrow and subtle. I was a bit worried that my hand stitching wouldn’t be as strong either, but it held up ok!


I must say, I was rather surprised by just how shapely this dress makes me look! Got to love a wiggle dress. My trouble with the vent stemmed from my decision to line the whole dress, and I didn’t think to look up how to modify the shape of the vent for the lining (the pattern is unlined). But the time I realised I was going to have trouble, it was too late for me to change what I had done, so I just fudged it. Not the most perfect piece of sewing I’ve ever done, but it’ll do!


 I used some deep red bias tape to finish the hem of the skirt and sleeves. I love the flash of bright colour that you can see inside the sleeves sometimes!


The best part of this dress is the shape of the upper bodice though. The sleeves are two piece raglan sleeves, and they’re so beautifully shaped, while the neckline is so pretty! Something I really noticed while making this was how it seemed to be designed to fit on a real, 3D form. I would have had huge trouble pressing the bodice without the assisance of a tailors ham, and pinning and pressing the neckline facing would have been a nightmare without it! So often modern patterns seem to be made up of flat shapes, this was a very different fitting and sewing experience. I used silk organza to interface the whole facing, and then added an extra layer at the front raglan edges to try and keep those points flat. It worked surprisingly well, the points only rolled outwards if there was downward tension on the lining, which was eay to fix with a few stitches through the facing at the raglan seams!


This dress has been a total labour of love, I don’t think I’ve ever put so much effort into a dress before! I’m glad I did though, I would have been gutted if I had done anything less with this fabric. I wore it to the wedding of some of our good friends yesterday, and had the most lovely day. The weather was perfect, sunny and crisp (and no wind!), and the location was absolutely stunning, and it was just a beautiful, happy day!