Top 5 – the sewing hits

My “Top 5” sewing hits – as part of the series hosted by Gillian over at Crafting a Rainbow.  This was an easy post to write as in 2017 I had considerably more time and headspace to devote to sewing. It was lovely!

Number five – Singapore shorts – Worn continuously in warmer weather. Yet another re-draft of the basic Barbs pattern from Style Arc. The dark denim are worn the most, I love how the pink topstitching gives them a subtle lift.

Number four – My graduation outfit – gown, shirt and trousers. The gown was repaired by me and worn just the once. The shirt has been worn a few times, for more formal occasions. The trousers are worn weekly, sometimes twice a week.


Number three – my Frocktails top. I’m not really a frock chick so a dress for Frocktails was never going to happen. I went with what works for me (overshirts) and took it a bit further. A beautiful top came out, using fabric from a fabric swap. Easy and comfortable and the perfect blue for me.



Number two – Laptop bags and pencil case – made for Miss 12 and Mr 17 as they started the school year. All going strong, doing their job of  protecting the investment in hardware and saving my children from the distress of a broken computer with nothing backed up offline…

Number one – The Year 12 formal dress and wrap for Miss 17 (almost 18) – worn just once.  The fabric came from the same fabric swap as my Frocktails tunic.

The bodice took three attempts to get the fit just right. This was the first time I’ve used boning in a bodice.The skirt was a heart in mouth moment as I cut into the fabric. This garment is the most difficult thing I’ve ever made!

Instagram video here.



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Sewing top 5 – the misses

I’m doing the annual sewing round up, “Sewing Top 5”. Gillian hosts it, on her blog “Crafting a Rainbow”.

I’m starting with the flops, binned items and the never finished.

  1. Navy trousers for work, for a one afternoon a week job with navy trousers in their uniform. I wear them but the fabric is AWFUL. It bags out the second I put them on. No pictures!
  2. Bra – wrong size pattern that was poorly drafted. Binned it before it could haunt me. I should delete the photos too.
  3. Passport wallet – OK I tried. I became overconfident after successfully making my son a leather laptop bag. The wallet is documented here and was terrible!
  4. Wrap dress – not really a complete loss, just rarely used. The drafting was excellent, and it looks good on me. But, I’m not fond of close fitting garments and I’m just not a frock chick.
  5. I attempted a pair of Lisette trousers, Butterick 6183. Everyone seems to love the Lisette patterns so I though I’d try them. They are sulking and grumbling in the unfinished pile. I chose the wrong size and they are just too small. No pictures!

Next will be the sewing hits post.




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Frocktails – Melbourne

Frocktails – a blend of frocks and cocktails. An annual event organised by some amazing seamsters in Melbourne. A chance to make a special occasion frock, then wear it to socialise with other seamsters.

Frocktails has been running for a few years but this was my first time. I kept missing out on a ticket because I was always too late. Happened again this year. “Oh well” I thought, better luck next year.

Then a happy happenstance – a cancellation that freed up a ticket for me. With two weeks to go the pressure was on!

I floated several pattern options on instagram, and asked family and work colleagues for their opinions. One colleague said an emphatic no to one pattern, describing it as “a bit Millers”, and not really right for me. I eventually settled on Vogue 1415, view B.



The top is cut on the bias and has no darts. The stretch in the bias skims over any lumps and bumps. The fabric was a light poly that I’d collected from a swap event earlier this year (thanks Anna). The fabric was very slippery and slid off my cutting table several times. Lots of pattern weights and pins were needed.


Usually I overlock edges, but the cowl neck on this needed a neater finish. I did a flat fell seam and got to use my duck billed scissors for the the first time.

The fabric was a little too light for this outfit so I got some satin and made a bias hem facing to weigh it down a bit.






The cowl neck sits beautifully over the shoulders. It moves and changes shape as I move. These are the views from behind, front and side:









I had intended to also make the longer wider leg trousers (view A), from a navy blue wool blend. But, the day and evening were just too hot and I was having too much fun with my cargo bike.

I wore some black trousers instead.

The evening was lovely. I was nervous at first, so many sewing people all in one room! I met up with people whose blogs and instragram feeds I follow. I caught up with women I know from social sewing, and I met a stack of new people. The dresses were amazing.

To my great delight this happened:

“Did you get your fabric from a fabric swap?”

“Yes I did”

“It was mine, I had it a long time. I’m so glad to see it made up at last.”

The pleasure is all mine!

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Coffeeneuring rides 5 & 6

The Coffeeneuring challenge for 2017 is described in this post, and rides three and four are in this post.

My fifth ride was a short trip to the train station, then onto work. I got to the station early and had a coffee from Jays on the concourse at Flagstaff station. It was a very nice coffee but they didn’t want me to take a photo of their cafe.

After my train took me part way to work, I cycled the rest then cycled all the way home.



Where – Melbourne – train – middle ring suburb – home

Distance – round trip of 18 kilometres

Drink – coffee

Cafe cup/my cup? – my own thermos cup



My sixth ride was from the bike shop in my newly electrified cargo bike. It was an ambling then a sprint, test ride of the bike.

Where – Melbourne – inner city suburb – home

Distance – round trip of 1o kilometres

Drink – coffee from Pony Bikes – very strong!

Cafe cup/my cup? – my own thermos cup

I’m loving the bike with the new wheel. I can ride it without causing knee pain. So good – I love riding this bike. It is just FUN. Or to quote Sasha from Pony Bikes: “this bike is badass”. A more detailed review in a few months.


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Coffeeneuring rides 3 & 4

I wrote about the Coffeeneuring 2017 Challenge, from Chasing Mailboxes in this post.

My third ride was to a different bike shop with another bike. This time it was my cargo bike (Gazelle Cabby) that also needed a service and some exciting modifications. A post about them eventually. The tragedy of this trip is that I drank water. The shop’s espresso machine was on the blink and Sasha the owner was most disgruntled. She had to make do with filter coffee. (I understand, I really do)

Where – Melbourne – inner city suburbs

Distance – round trip of 7 kilometres

Drink – water, I had coffee at home!

Cafe cup/my cup? – my own mug

My fourth ride was just a spin around and a sit in a nice quiet park so I could read a book. Again I had water, this time I threw it out as it tasted terrible. So again, I had coffee at home.

Where – Melbourne – inner city suburbs

Distance – 8 kilometres

Drink – terrible water

Cafe cup/my cup? – my own thermos cup



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Graduation post 3 (final) – the gown and hood

Yes, I’m milking this for as many posts as I can!

My father was an academic and had several occasions each year where an academic gown was required. He died almost 30 years ago and his gown would have been at least 15 years old when he died. My mother kept it, ‘just in case’, and stored it for all these years.  She sent it to me for my graduation.

Contemporary gowns are polyester blends and can be many different colours, black or navy are the most common. This gown is black and made of heavyweight linen. It was made by Ede & Ravenscroft in London. They started business in the late 1600’s, are still trading and are still in Chancery Lane.

On this gown the sleeves are very long with a hole at elbow height for your arms to stick through.

The gown sits over a shirt or suit jacket and the weight of the gown keeps it from shifting.

Finally the hood goes over the top. It is either safety pinned onto the gown or attached to the button of your shirt. Usually the outside is the University’s colour and the inside is the faculty colour. Mine is dark blue, lined with cherry red. I bought this!

This gown is at least 45 years old, possibly more. It shows signs of wear and has thinned in areas where it was folded and stored. When I got it, it was almost grey in places. I took it to the dry cleaners with some trepidation. Happily it came back looking very black and good.

I did some darning and mending on the more obvious holes and decided not to worry about any others. This gown is elderly, no longer perfect, has clearly been used and has a family history.

The actual day was special on many levels. It was lovely to graduate again, I am very proud of having done a thesis. My family were there throughout the thesis and were there to share the graduation joy. The gown connection with my Dad was also special.









Click for links to the posts about my silk blouse and black trousers.

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Coffeeneuring 2017 – a new challenge

Chasing Mailboxes (terrific title) is a blog about cycling by a woman who lives in Washington DC. This is the seventh year that she’s run the coffeeneuring challenge. She sets a few things to achieve that involve bicycles and coffee (or equivalent) between the middle of October and the end of November. At the end you can get a cloth badge. This year involves:

  • Seven rides over six weeks
  • Seven different locations
  • Each ride should be 3.2 kms minimum (2 miles)
  • Each ride must involve a drink and a photo
  • Reuseable cups are encouraged.

My first ride was to the Dior exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria. Fabulous frocks and close enough for me to test ride my husband’s electric bike.

Where – Melbourne – inner city suburbs

Distance – round trip of 8 kilometres

Drink – tea

Cafe cup/my cup? – my own thermos cup

My second ride was to a bike shop that specialises in electric bikes. My husband’s bike needed a service. I was given a courtesy bike to ride away in. I needed a break from riding it pretty quickly, it was just completely the wrong fit for me. Neck and wrist pain ensued. I didn’t take a photo of the courtesy bike, but got one of my husband’s bike after I’d picked it up again.

Where – Carlton and Melbourne CBD

Distance – 10 kilometres

Drink – tea

Cafe cup/my cup? – my own thermos cup



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Graduation post 2 – the trousers

Black trousers – yet another pair of black trousers. I’ve been wearing the much-modified SA Barbs for a while and am sick of having nowhere to put my hands, my phone or even my keys. I needed trousers that would work for more formal occasions too. Such as a graduation ceremony.

Image from Simplicity website

I used Simplicity 8056 – Amazing Fit flared trousers – view A. I wanted a pair of trousers that fitted without an elastic waist, but that also had a bit of give as my waist fluctuates a bit. I used a self-striped bengaline with a little stretch for comfort. Still not fond of this fabric.

The pattern was OK, it needed several alterations as I went. I used the curvy fit and had to further take in the yoke to fit to my waist. I have an hourglass figure so often have to alter patterns. I wonder if  ‘curvy fit’ means less of a differential between waist and hip, a pleasant and charming way of saying middle age tummy?

The crotch curve is good and the rise front and back suit me just fine. I had dramas with the fly zip insertion. The instructions were not good and there were several (many) swear words. I eventually gave up on the instructions and used my Readers Digest sewing book instead. Success and relief!

They are very flared, more than expected. I have a size 9.5 foot and they extend beyond it by several centimetres. It looks OK, well I’m getting used to it – best of all – I have pockets!

The details

Fabric – 2 metres of black bengaline with a self-stripe, from The Remnant Warehouse – $20.00

Pattern – Simplicity 8056 – $5.00 from a Spotlight sale.

Notions – all from stash.

Nuisance factor – Fly – very high, otherwise medium overall.

Total = $25.00

Do it again? – possibly – considering the shorts option in a firm twill.

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Graduation post 1 – the blouse

I submitted a research masters at the end of 2016. It dominated my existence in 2015 and 2016. A research masters meant I did a thesis not coursework, 35 000 words later and I am relieved beyond belief that it is all over!

My graduation date was the end of September and I needed an outfit. Something that worked with a black academic gown, black mortar board and bright cherry red hood. Something like this:

I played with colours and silhouettes and realised I needed something that would support the weight and colour of the gown, not compete with it. So neutral, but not boring.

I decided on black trousers and a nice blouse. I needed a collar to hold and provide structure for the gown. I had to have buttons to anchor the hood. The gown is heavy, a knit would not cope, it had to be a woven fabric. Enter Vogue 8689, view B, and cream silk twill from the Remnant Warehouse in Sydney.








I didn’t have time to test the pattern. I decided to trust myself, measured carefully and cut the size 18 – D cup. Wise move. I added my usual alterations to top patterns – graded out to add extra width at the hip line and a full bicep adjustment. Also wise moves. I cut the back yoke in one piece, not two, and cut two of all the yoke pieces. I wanted to provide a bit more structure and strength by lining the yokes.

The pieces went together well, the drafting is excellent. The sleeves went in easily and the cuffs were straightforward. I wonder why I don’t use Vogue patterns more often! The collar is not terrific, due to operator error. I am out of practice for shirtmaking. The only change to construction was to do the burrito method for attaching the yoke and bodice. The silk was lovely to use, I do like robust natural fibres.


I like it!







Costs & details:

Pattern – Vogue 8689, bought a while ago in one of the many online Vogue sales, $6.00

Fabric – 2.2 metres of 100% silk twill from The Remnant Warehouse. I used most of it. $16.96 per metre, $37.31 in total.

Threads – 1000m spool of Rasant thread, matched by the Remnant Warehouse – $8.50

Other notions – from stash.

Nuisance factor – very low, this was a pleasure all along.

Total = $51.81

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Formal Dress – 2017 – the wrap

Miss 17 needed something to keep her warm, something around the shoulders that was unstructured enough to balance the very structured dress. I tried to buy her a black velvet wrap but she decided the price was too high and that “you can make one for half that!”

We bought one metre of 150 cm wide black velvet jersey. It is quite heavy and has a lot of stretch. One metre was too wide, but half a metre was perfect. I spent almost an hour getting the material folded into an accurate rectangle of 50cm by 150cm.

Eventually I did it.

I tried to sew it on the sewing machine but the stretch combined with the velvet pile made that impossible. That is 45 minutes of my life I’ll never get back.

I got out the overlocker and it was a dream sew. I left a small opening, pulled it right side out and handstitched the opening.


There is a short video on instagram.

Here she is with the new dress, wrap and shoes, but no head. I’m not allowed to show her face on a blog about clothes.

This was taken the day before the formal. On the actual day she also had a new leather clutch, beautifully arranged hair and had borrowed some of my jewelry.

All done!



Costs & details:

Pattern – Self drafted rectangle. Does that qualify as a pattern or careful measuring?

Fabric – 1 metre of heavy velvet knit from Rathdowne Remnants. $25.00

Thread, broken needle, bent pins & recovery flat white – from stash.

Total = $25.00

Do it again –  only in a different colour.


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