Family History Skirt

As I’ve mentioned before, the majority of my sewing hardware has come from my Nana. My sewing machine is her 1968 Bernina Record, I use her shears, her needles and thread, and her sewing box full of odds and ends lives in my sewing space. Sometimes I feel quite sentimental about the whole lot (and this is one of those times). I’m not sure when I aquired this woolen skirt of Nana’s, but its been in my drawer for ages. It was always too big, but it was made from some lovely tartan wool so I kept it.

 (I think there was dust on my camera lens when I took this, its all speckly!)

This is the original A line skirt. It had a side lapped zipper and a hook and eye, four darts in the front and two at the back, and had a facing instead of a waistband. It was also fully lined, and had a blind machine hem. The wool is Ross hunting tartan (Nana’s married name was Ross, and she’s a Scot), and was apparently purchased by a friend of Nana’s when she was in Edinburgh and brought back to NZ for her. I really wanted to remake the skirt into something for me, because the fabric is lovely and I like the connection it has with Nana. So I unpicked the facing and the darts and all the seams, and rescued the zip, and chucked the whole lot in the washing machine (on a cold delecate cycle with wool detergent, don’t fret!) to get rid of its musty wool smell and to try and relax the old seam lines. Then I gave it a good steam, and sat down to cut out a By Hand London Charlotte Skirt

 (Looks like I need to press my darts in better….sorry!)

Cutting out took me hours! I was determined to match the tartan across all the seams and the waistband, and I had so little fabric to work with that I found it quite stressful. And I’ve just realised that I didn’t get any pictures of the side seams, so you’ll just need to take my word for it that they all match up… I ruled lines across my pattern pieces to make sure they’d match. Just as well its a PDF, I made such a mess of it!

You can barely see the cente back seam though, so I’m pretty chuffed with it. I had to piece the waistband, as there wasn’t enough fabric in the original skirt to cut it in one piece. I ended up folding the pattern piece into three, so that the joins would match up with the side seams. It all worked pretty well, I think! I do wish I had included a back vent, because its quite narrow at the knees, but I didn’t even have enough fabric for that. I decided matching the tartan was more important than being able to take the stairs two at a time.

This is my first ever lapped zipper! I hand picked the lapped side, which I think looks really nice. The hand stitches just sink into the wool and become pretty much invisible. The button came from the amazing collection that I was given by my friend Kelly a few weeks ago, which had belonged to her Grandmother, so its definitely a skirt made of vintage materials.

I reused the original lining by cutting out the skirt pieces again, but I turned the darts into pleats to allow for slightly more movement of the lining. The original lining was hemmed with a three stitich zig-zag, which was such a pain to unpick! I wanted to do the same for the new hem, but I must have selected the wrong stitch and ended up with the blind hem stitch. Which isn’t blind, because I don’t have the right presser foot, so it looks a bit odd! But its the lining, so nobody will care. 

I really wanted to use the same techniques on my skirt that were used on the original, so there is a lot more hand sewing  on this skirt than I would normally use. Aside from the zip, the hem and the inner waistband are both hand sewn. I finished the seams with a zig-zag stitch, which I would never normally do anyway, but especially not on fray-prone wool like this! But thats how the original was done, and it seemed to last well enough, so we’ll see. The hem is finished with some green vintage bias tape which I had in my stash, as it was going to be too short if I turned it up twice and stitched it down.
Here are some closeups of the innards. I really enjoyed taking my time over this skirt, I even enjoyed the hand sewing! 

I’m really pleased with the fit of the skirt too, for the most part. The only bit that concerns me is that there appears to be some excess fabric pooling across the centre front between the points of the darts. Its something I noticed on my Brume skirts as well, so I might need to look up some pattern adjustments to see what I can do to reduce it for next time…

I wore it with my Nettie Bodysuit, which was a good choice. Usually when I wear pencil skirts I do up the waitband over my top, then pull the hem up to my waist and smooth everything out before I pull it back down, but the hem of this skirt is too tight to do that! Nettie means that I don’t have to worry about wrinkly tops making funny bulges under my skirt.

So thats my new/old skirt! I’m happy with it, despite its minor fitting issues. I’m glad to have another winter skirt in my wardrobe, now I just need some jumpers and merino leggings to go with it…

Fixing up an old favourite

I’ve always been a big blazer fan. The weather in Wellington can be incredibly volatile (to put it mildly), so I always like to have a few layers when I go out! I looked for my perfect blazer for years before I finally found this one in Spitalfields market in east London (its been nearly two years since I finished up 3 months of backpacking around Europe with 10 days in London, and I’m getting pretty desperate to go back! What is it about London? I feel like it got under my skin, and I need to go back again. Shame its about as far away from Wellington as its possible to get…)

Anyway, I was wandering through the market, and suddenly a chorus of angels descended and a beam of sunlight broke through the clouds and struck this blazer. It was love at first sight!


Ok, there may be some hyperbole in that description. But it was 99% perfect! Navy, casual (didn’t want to look too business) stretchy, nice length, long enough sleeves. Unfortunately, it was lined with pale blue leopard print satin. I am so not a leopard print kind of girl! But it wasn’t enough to put me off handing over some money, trying not to think how I would fit it into my already bulging pack. I didn’t really think about the consequences of having a decidedly non-stretch lining in a stretchy blazer, but prdictably, the first time I wore it…


Just like Bruce Banner! Now, this was two years ago, so it clearly hasn’t worried me too much. I’ve always intended to fix it, but I was initially scared that if I took the lining out I may not be able to put it back in again, and that would have made me sad. And you couldn’t see the huge gaping hole in the back then I was wearing it anyway, so it wasn’t a huge deal. But recently, while rummaging through the remnants bin at The Fabric Store (always a worthwhile pastime! ) I found 2m of navy and white polka dot lining, and decided it was time to bite the bullet!

I unpicked the lining from the outer fabric, and then unpicked half of the lining seams (one sleeve and front panel, and the back centre seam). I decided to leave the other half of the lining sewn together, so that I could refer back to it if I got lost! I then trimmed along the lines of stitching to get rid of the old seam allowance, as it was super uneven, and traced the pieces onto pattern paper before adding a seam allowance back on. I decided to cut the back piece on the fold, and added in a 1″ box pleat to the centre back, to avoid shredding it again! It was actually pretty daunting working from an existing garment, not having any seam notches or anything made me very nervous. I did make an effort to put a notch on the front shoulder curve of the sleeve, so that I didn’t put them in back to front! I also managed to sew the sleeve and lining together at the cuff properly, no möbius sleeve like I made in my Rigel Bomber this time…


(Ugh, sorry about the fuzzy photo! It didn’t look this blurry on my tiny camera screen)

I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out! The cream trim along the bottom made it really easy to finish off, I didn’t have to worry about leaving a hole to turn it right side out through, I just basted it wrong sides together along the bottom and then sewed the trim back over the top. I feel like I learned quite a bit about how jackets are put together during this project, and I have to say I was not terribly impressed with the quality of construction I found inside! Though I suppose I shouldn’t expect too much from a £20 blazer. If I do another similar job, taking a pattern off a garment I’ve deconstructed, I’ll mark some points on the seams before I unpick them, and transfer them over to the pattern as I trace them to help me match everything back up again.


I really like wearing it with the sleeves rolled up, especially now that its polka dots rather than leopard print showing! The only downside to the new lining is that its super noisy! The satin was really soft and smooth, but the stuff I’ve put in is much more rustly (though still nice and slippery).


Flasher pose!

Tiny shiny pretty things


This weeks make is just a small one, as I am trying desperately not to be distracted from writing my final report of the trimester! Its not going so well, and tomorrow I have to go back to the dentist to continue with the root extraction extravaganza, so I’m betting that that last thing I’ll want to do is carry on with writing tomorrow!

I haven’t made any jewellery for a while, so I thought that would be a quick and satisfying job! I’ve been admiring the delicate chain and bead bracelets that keep popping up on Pinterest, especially these ones…

I knew I could make something similar, it would just be a case of finding the right beads and some super fine chain. That was the hard part! I just couldn’t find what I was looking for in the local bead shop, or in any of the craft stores around town. Then last week I walked past one of those cheap jewellery stores that always have a sale on, and decided that I would just repurpose some of the components from some cheap costume jewellery!

This is what I started with

The two necklaces were ones I chose because I liked the pendants and the chains they were on. The small ring is meant to be a ‘midi ring’, worn between the first and second knuckles of your finger (I don’t really get that look, and it was a bit big for my finger anyway). I also threw in some extra chain and the eye pins I had left over from another project, as well as some random beads I had. The first thing I did was break down the jewellery into useful parts.

And this is what I ended up with! You can get quite a lot of useful bits out of cheap jewellery…

I spent quite a long time playing around with different combinations, until I found a look that I liked. I put the heart onto an eye pin and joined it in the middle of a length of chain, rather than just leaving it strung on the chain, as I knew it would annoy me if it kept slipping around to the underside of my wrist! This way it always stays centred. I did the same for the purple faceted bead. For the ring, I looped two short lengths of chain around it, and attached a clasp to each end. (Probably easier to see in the photo than to picture from that description…)


My first hint of trouble came when I tried on the ring and chain bracelet. It was the right length, but trying to do up the parrot clasp was super fiddly with one hand. Its probably something I should have thought about when I was getting started! In the end, I got some nifty magnetic clasps from the bead store in town on my way home from work the next day. These are really cool, and much easier to use than the parrot clasps, but when I put one on the end of each bracelet they all stuck to each other and made a god awful tangle on the underside of my wrist! Again, in hindsight thats a pretty obvious flaw in my plan…


In the end, I decided I liked the look of these three bracelets together, its just a bit less chaotic than having the five I had originally planned on. To get rid of the birds nest effect, I attatched all three to the same magnetic clasp, which has the added benefit of making it easier to get on and off.


They don’t really look like the bracelets which originally inspired me, but I like them anyway! I like simple, delicate jewellery, and I feel like these fit nicely in with the other pieces I wear routinely. And I have enough pieces left over to make some more, if I decide that I do occasionally want the more layered effect 🙂

Dots, dots, everywhere…

I have a bit of a problem. A dotty problem. Slowly, everything in my wardrobe is becoming polka dotted! I’ve been looking for some spotted tights, but I just couldn’t find any that matched my (very specific) mental image. I wanted navy, with little white dots, so in the end i bought a pair of plain navy 70 denier tights and some white fabric paint to do it myself!

I cut some lengths of cardboard to go inside the legs of my tights, so that the paint wouldn’t go through, and to stretch the tights out a bit. Happily, I still have lots of empty cardboard boxes left from our move! Then I spent about two hours looking for my paintbrushes. I had planned to use the end of one of the brushes to make my dots, but I really have no idea where they’ve got to. In the end, the only thing I could find that would make the right sized dot was the end of my old fashioned house key!


Initially, I thought I might make a random pattern of dots, but in the end i went with a pretty standard, regular pattern. I get a bit obsessive about patterns, so its safer if they’re more structured! I was sitting next to a girl on the bus the other day who had trousers pattered with little rearing horses. On one leg the horses were facing up, and on the other they were facing down. Its just as well I was getting off at the next stop, because otherwise she would have noticed me staring in horror at her legs! I wonder if she had even noticed the mismatch? Anyway…once I had both legs all dotted up and the paint had dried (that was the hardest part, waiting for the paint to be totally dry!), I took the cardboard out, and ironed them carefully to set the paint.

I think they’ve turned out pretty well! They match the mental image i had at the beginning, anyway. I’ve got lots of fabric paint left over too, so who knows what I’ll be decorating next! No more polka dots though, or I wont have anything plain to match them with…


Newly blue shoes

I’m home! Technically this project was finished before I went on holiday, but I saved it for this weeks’ post because I knew I wouldn’t get a chance to do anything else while I was away.



I found this pair of 1960’s shoes in a vintage store in Wellington a few weeks ago, and I really liked the shape. Unfortunately, the olive-ish/brown-ish colour made my feet look dead (too pale for that colour, apparently!) and doesn’t really go with anything I wear. So I bought myself some navy leather dye, and decided to give them a wee makeover. First, I removes the laces, then I scrubbed the shoes and rubbed them down with alcohol to clean them and remove any polish still clinging to them. I don’t know if that was the best way to do it, but the dye I chose didn’t come with a stripping medium (I found out later that some brands do). Once they were dry, I tested a small patch of dye on a hidden bit of the tongue. I was a bit worried that they would turn out green if the dye didn’t completely cover the existing colour, but it looked like a few layers would turn them navy.

20140225-173740.jpg After one coat- I was pretty sure I had ruined them at this point!

I painted them with about 4 layers of dye, giving each coat a chance to dry in the sun before applying the next one. I probably should have given them more time to dry, but I’m impatient, and I wanted to see what the final colour would look like.

20140225-174102.jpg Some Wellington sunshine, about time!

I was a bit disappointed with the finish on the shoes when they were dry, they had that slightly copper sheen that you get when you colour something in with a black or navy sharpie. However, once I gave them a good polish, that went away, and they became a lovely shiny navy. To finish them off, I used a navy grosgrain ribbon in place of the brown laces.

Pretty spiffy! And a much better colour against my pasty legs…

I wore them out for the first time on Friday night at Art Deco weekend, for a spot of dancing. They were pretty comfortable, and the smooth, hard soles were perfect for spinning on the brick footpaths we used as a dance floor! Art Deco weekend was amazing, as usual, though it got very hot on Saturday (35ish degrees! Ridiculous!) My Gin and Tonic Jasmine blouse had its first outing on Sunday, for the Gatsby picnic, and I wore my refashioned cloche all three days. I even managed to get Monsieur into a cravat! I think not wearing a tie was an appealing option, in that heat…

20140225-175126.jpg I even found a vintage car to match my outfit!

Valentine cardigan refashion

While I was packing last week, I had a huge clean out of my wardrobe, and took heaps of stuff to the Salvation Army. I was rutheless, but I still have so many clothes! I found this cardigan in my ‘Broken’ pile, I somehow managed to lose a third of its buttons, and it was worn in one elbow and really pilled. But I love the colour, and its a nice soft knit, even if it is acrylic! I didn’t get any before photos, but it just had plain plastic buttons the same colour as the fabric.


The first thing I did was remove the remaining buttons, and then shave it to get rid of all the pilled patches (yep, shaved. With a bic razor. i don’t have a special de-pilling doo dah, but a razor seemed to work just fine, even if it would have looked very strange if anyone had walked in while I was doing it…) Then I sewed on the new buttons. I’m still not sure about them, they might be a bit Sergeant Pepper. I wanted round gold ones to go with the gold polka dots on my patches, but I may change them later.


The patches are made from scraps left over from my Briar tee shirt. I just cut out two hearts free hand, I didn’t want them to be too perfect. Then I hand stitched them on to the elbows, making sure I had them even and over the threadbare patch! Sewing them on would have been much easier if I had some iron on fusing stuff, but they do feel nicer without that extra layer. Luckily I inherited a spool of thread in exactly the right colour in the assortment of random sewing things I got from my Nana with the sewing machine.


(Why yes, I am wearing a cardigan and a scarf, even though its February. Pick up your game Wellington, we’re running out of summer!)

I had big plans to get my camera out today and take proper photos with the timer, but the battery charger has disappeared somewhere in the move…I hope its in a box somewhere, and didn’t get thrown out. So its back to selfies taken with the iPhone. I had so much trouble trying to get photos that showed the elbow patches and which didn’t make me look totally moronic/like a contortionist. I had the added complication of having to stand on a little end table to get enough of me reflected in the mirror, obviously tall people hung the mirror in the hall!

I’m hoping to get my Datura blouse sewn up before I go on holiday on Friday, I’ve had to wait for a nice enough day to pre-wash and dry the fabric! But its out on the washing line now, hopefully I’ll manage to get it cut out tonight and finished by Thursday…