Jungle January gets gaudy



I’ve been wanting to do one of the sewing challenges that abound online so when I spotted this Very bright silk it just shouted to be used for #junglejanuary. I won’t say too much about the pattern as I need this to be quick if I’m going to technically scrape into January! I realised the time zone on my blog is handily still on the default US time zone, so even though we’ve roared into February here in Adelaide I’m pretending otherwise.

This is the same pattern I used for my previous Spindle Silk, using the Spindle dress pattern from Ottobre. I was inspired to sew up my Jungle January contribution by Siobhan who used a leafy jungle print instead of an animal print.

Even for someone who likes bright clothes this is a bit out there, so I’ve matched it with entirely black.  The sewing is really a bit dodgy, blamed on my haste and general not-sure-I’m-gonna-like-this mood as I was sewing.  It looks surprisingly good though with the bubbly under arm bindings hiding under a cardie (oops). My workplace is like Antarctica anyway so intentions to wear breezy, light summer gear are always dashed and I end up with wearing woolens and a nanna rug on my lap. What is it with the air con in these buildings? I just had a work colleague say they liked the colour so it can’t be all bad!


Spindle silk




Just a quick one today… We’ve been to Monarto Zoo and even though we mostly rode on buses through the park, I’m oddly worn out. We loved the zebras and giraffes though! I can never get enough giraffes, so beautiful, and as for zebras, well I can’t remember when I would have last gazed on zebras close up. I’m sure it would be 20 years ago as I haven’t been to Monarto before and Adelaide zoo doesn’t have zebras. I’ve been to Taronga in Sydney recently but they don’t have them, nor does Dubbo Zoo which we visited a few years ago. I think there are some at Melbourne Zoo but it’s over 20 years since I was there. And Australia Zoo on the Sunshine Coast apparently has some now but didn’t when we used to live nearby. Do you have zebras anywhere close by?

So this sewing was prompted by the quite large amount of leftovers from Milly’s dress in my last post. Being a bit of a Scrooge, I hate it when I’ve bought expensive fabric and the pattern envelope made me buy vastly more than I needed. So, since I found the silk very nice to sew with and the colour is gorgeous I thought I’d whip myself up a little top. It’s not my usual style but when I say there was a lot leftover, there was, but not necessarily in the right shaped bits for a top. This is the Spindle Dress from Ottobre 2/2009. I chose it because it doesn’t take much fabric, and obviously I made a top not a dress. I also cut it with the bottom edge on the selvedges meaning I didn’t need to hem it.The ties are supposed to be 2cm wide but I made them 3cm. I just made one long tie and threaded it right around and tied it in a big bow. I think it looks quite stylish like this. The eagle-eyed will notice I’ve got the pattern running around me instead of up and down like on Milly’s.

I’m really very pleased with this. I wore it to work on a very hot day last week and it felt both smart and very comfortable to wear. In fact I’m so pleased with it I’ve bought some more silk to make another one for the Jungle January challenge.The photos were snapped in a hurry and I’m convinced (and hopeful!) the back looks better in person than in the photo. Backs are so hard to photograph! I think I end up hunching forward because otherwise ones arms look dreadful and then ones back ends up looking equally bad. Oh well!


Simple blue cardigan



All I wanted for before Christmas, (so I could wear it with my my red and white striped dress!) was a plain, short, slim fitting, navy cardigan. Something from Dangerfield would have been perfect but I’ve sworn off them as sadly they aren’t on anyone’s list of ethical manufacturers. I couldn’t find one anywhere else on the ethical list either, so I decided to make one.

I scored the perfect rib knit at Spotlight. Dark navy, not quite as much stretch as I’d like but a nice weight. I generally like my cardigans close fitting and usually buy a smaller size than my regular size, so I looked for a t-shirt pattern to use. Ottobre 2/2006 fit the bill. The pattern pieces are the same size as my actual measurements. I just cut the front in two separate pieces and added on several extra cms for a twice folded self-facing. I also shortened the pattern, but shortened the back about 3 cm more than the front and cut across the hem to match them up.

The main pieces went together very quickly, but the important thing was to work out how to finish the hems and bindings to a good standard. I thought about binding the neckline with a strip of the knit itself, but didn’t feel confident I could get a good enough finish at the front corners, which are obviously really obvious if they’re not well done. I also thought about using bias binding, but I wanted something with more stretch. The answer was some narrow fold-over elastic which Milly spotted in Lincraft. First I stitched a flat piece up one side of the front (the side that would have the buttons attached). Then to do the neckline I also didn’t fold it over, but used it flat, sewing it first to the inside of the neckline, wrong sides together; then turning the whole width to the outside and stitching it down. At the top front corners I then wrapped it around to the inside and hand stitched it in place, tucking the raw edge under. The sleeve and bottom hems are done with a double needle.



Over the years I’ve learned that one of the secrets to a good finish with home sewing isn’t just knowing what you can do, but knowing what you can’t do. My machine (and me) have our limitations… so sometimes if you’re just not going to get the finish you want it’s better to look for a way around it. I bought this machine as a super-sale-bargain two days after my previous 20-year-old one broke down for good. I’m very happy with it overall, but very disappointed with its button-holing. Plus it doesn’t have the capacity to regulate the presser-foot pressure. My old machine was more basic in many ways but did have a knob for presser-foot pressure which was very handy. Anyway, I had a few tries at doing button-holes on scraps but there was no way I was ever going to get them looking good on the knit. With the reasonably thick facing and the rib, the pressure of the foot was too much, and despite being interfaced, the knit was stretching out of shape and looking horrible. Not what you want on the front band of a cardigan! So, easy solution – I’ve left it buttonhole-free. I tend not to do up my cardigans anyway apart from a single button so I’ve put a hook and eye at that point, with the hook hiding behind the button. If I decide I want to do more of it up I might put some more hooks and eyes on but it’s all good for now. I think I’ve managed a store-bought standard if I do say so myself, and it’s a perfect weight and style for wearing over dresses and singlets to work.

Accidentally Christmassy

I’ve come across a few bloggers lately lamenting their obsession with prints at the expense of plains, and I have to admit I’m another. I’m a sucker for a gorgeous pattern and can’t summon the same enthusiasm for sewing plains. So here’s one attempt to redress the balance. Milly and I had a nice little shopping spree at the Pumpkin Patch closing down sale the other day – it’s sad that Pumpkin Patch is closing down but we did get some bargains. And I must admit I haven’t shopped there hardly at all in recent years.

Of course everything we bought is pretty patterns so Milly needed some plains to match. This top is intended to go with a lovely blue and red print skirt, but today the model decided to wear a plain green pair of shorts we also bought at PP. I emphasise she’s only accidentally Christmassy in red and green because anyone who knows me will tell you I’m not a fan of Christmas until closer to Christmas Day, it’s still Advent doncha know!

This is Ottobre 1/2009, the Tintti top (pictured above in the magazine in grey). Almost nothing like the original as it’s intended to be sewn in jersey and I left out the waist gathering and used cotton and satin that I had lying around the house. I think I bought the red originally intending it for cotton lining, and the navy has been in my scrap basket since the beginning of time. Attempting to allow for non stretch fabric for a knit pattern, I went up a size, then had a stuff-up with the armhole seam allowance and binding which I won’t go into, resulting in yet another garment that was way too big. So pleats to the rescue, I put a single pleat both front and back and saved the top from eternally falling off her shoulders.

At the last minute I succumbed to temptation, and unable to resist the lure of decoration I  added some machine embroidery across the front. It’s still a plain top, and will match the style of the skirt, with just a little bit of pretty added on!

But I don’t have anything to match…



This is some fabric I bought online a ridiculously long time ago, and have loved it too much to use it even though I reckon I’ve had it for a good 7 or 8 years! It’s rare to find beautiful thick stretch corduroy in a funky pattern like this, and I’ve been so enchanted by it I just couldn’t bring myself to sew it. Sometimes I think there’s more excitement in the possibility of making something – once it’s cut the endless possibilities are gone. Plus I was using the excuse that I didn’t have anything brown to go with it – no point sewing something then not being able to wear it straight away because nothing matches!

So… I made a plan.  I bought a brown top to match the fabric.  And a lovely brown pair of shoes. And some brown tights.  And finally I sewed my treasured fabric into a skirt. After all that waiting you’d think it would be a special skirt but the loud pattern demanded something simple.  It’s Ottobre from 2007. Lined with a lightweight cotton which I cut on the bias so it would move with the stretch of the corduroy. Typically, I was busy doing my own thing and stuffed up the zip/lining area, and ended up having to just sew straight around the top to attach the lining, so the zip is non functional. The fabric is very stretchy though, and my waist hip ratio is not as differentiated as the health promotion ads say it ought to be, so it really doesn’t matter, I can slide it on and off quite easy enough. I’m very pleased with this skirt and it’s very comfy to wear.  Best of all I still have quite a bit of fabric left so there are still possibilities after all.


Retro Robot shift dress


We went to Supanova today! It’s kind of the poor cousin of Oz Comic Con, and after last year’s Supanova I said it wasn’t worth it and I wouldn’t go again. But then I heard Nathan Fillion was speaking so that was that, seeing as how he starred in the best Sci-Fi TV Firefly, ie one of my all time favourite shows ever!

Normally a dress like this is the kind of thing you expect to see a 5 year old wearing, but at a con it’s positively conservative. It was made as a wearable muslin for some gorgeous corduroy I bought a while ago (of course I’ve not got around to making the proper one yet and now it’s  summer I probably won’t until mid next year). The  robots were calling to me from the specials table at Spotlight and I think I paid about $5 for the fabric. The pattern is from Ottobre 2/2009. I’ve moved the front darts in towards the centre by 3cm each and moved the pockets to suit me. I lined the pockets with some candy pink fabric out of my scrap basket. Weirdly, I don’t remember ever buying the pink stuff, or using it for anything else, so goodness knows where it came from but it was just right. I cut the pocket linings slightly too big so you can see the pink poking out from the front. The sewing is a bit rough but I was thinking of this as my practice version and you can’t tell with the busy pattern.

The zip on the back is a serendipitous op shop find with metal teeth. I never wear pink normally so I’m pleased I could use it on this dress. I’ve put it on the outside and left the bottom raw in some pretence of trendiness.

So Nathan was awesome, of course. We lined up for an hour and ended up in the third row with a great view. It was a huge audience for Adelaide and the atmosphere at these things is always amazing, plus there was some really incredible sewing on display in all the cosplay.

Bright yellow summer days

I must say, I’m really pleased with this outfit, so bright and cool for work in summer! The shirt is a shirt dress I bought on sale and chopped off to turn into a shirt, and the skirt, which I sewed, is exactly how I had pictured a skirt to match. It’s Ottobre women 2007, in a medium weight waffle fabric with quite an open weave, which I bought from the furnishing section of Spotlight. The lining is just a cotton poplin, also from Spotlight. I just love the cute little patch pockets on this skirt. The pattern was a 42 – I measured up and cut what I thought was the right size but when I got to sewing it up I had to take in 10 cm worth of seam allowance so I’m not sure if that was because I’d misjudged how much I added for seam allowance, or because the fabric, although not stretchy, has a fair bit of give. I’d already sewn the back pockets on when I realised so they are a little closer together in the back than they are supposed to be. No one would notice but me though (and you now I’ve told you, oops). I interfaced both sides of the yoke panel which has given it a good weight to not fold over as lighter weight yokes can be inclined to do. I also fully lined the front pockets as I think that gives a better finish than trying to turn under a hem on the pocket curve at the bottom of the pocket.

Cheap, cheap, cheap!

The $2 dress – made out of a dress I bought from an op shop, which was actually brand new with tags, but had a ripped seam. It is Ottobre 3/2008, #12, with the back changed into a yoked style, so as to let me take advantage of the skirt part of the original dress being already hemmed and attach it in one piece. The ties from the original dress make good hairbands. The plan is that it will look good with a black skivvy and leggings worn underneath in winter.

And a little striped top I made a few weeks ago out of leftovers from the surf top of a year ago. I have yet to manage a keyhole fastening that isn’t too bulky once the button is put on, so I don’t think I will try it again, my machine isn’t up to it. Much easier just to make the head opening big and stretchy enough not to need a button at the back.