Tuesday, November 5, 2019


Five years ago my then 4 year old daughter wanted to be a witch for Halloween.  I excitedly started Pinterest searching witch costumes and was dreaming of a purple and orange tulle masterpiece.  Sadly my daughter had other ideas.... witches wear plain black dresses.  Booooo!!!!

I made her what she wanted, and in the end I was glad because she was the cutest damn witch I'd ever seen.

Fast forward to now and my 4 year old son wanted to be a witch for Halloween.  I asked him what a witch wears and he said a dress, so we headed to the Pinterest search again and he loved the fluffy tulle numbers.  He wanted to be a "rainbow witch".  All my dreams from five years ago had come true!!

My daughter's dress was made using Butterick 4319, with the hat coming from Simplicity 3680 I believe.  All made out of black poplin from memory.

For my son's dress I wanted to use knit as I had a roll of black jersey, and wanted to use a pattern I already had.  I went to the Stitch Upon a Time Girls Shirtzie pattern.  Advice from their Facebook group was to size up because it's a snug fit and boys aren't usually used to that in clothes.  He measured between a size 4 and 6 around with a 4 in height.  But when I compared the finished measurements to one of his (smaller) t-shirts, it was more like a size 10.  In the end I decided to cut a size 4 bodice with a "full bust adjustment", pivot method, to take it out to the size 10 line on both front and back.  I do FBAs for myself all the time, so this seemed like an easy solution.  It kept the smaller shoulders but added girth to cover his round middle.  I then cut the skirt size 10 at the waist, but a 4 length.  It turned out the perfect size, easy to get on and off, but not so loose that it lost it's shape.

For the bodice, I sectioned off the front and redrew the neckline to get the front panel, and then attached rainbow ribbon.

For the skirt, I was using 6" wide tulle off a roll.  I decided that 6" scrunched pretty nicely into about 1" so I did some maths and cut 9 strips of each colour, which I then divided into 3 rainbows around the skirt.  I just bunched up the tulle and pinned it in place all the way around then sewed it down before gathering the skirt into the waistband.

And that's how I made my rainbow witch, using the hat from 5 years ago with tulle added, and a pair of his sister's slightly too small rainbow leggings.  I loved it, and he loved it which is the most important part.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

You're the One That I Want

The title of this post is because when I first wore this top, my friend said I reminded them of Sandy from the end of Grease.  Sadly didn't get a photo from that night, which is a real shame because I looked HAWT!!!

This is a top I've been wanting to make for a while, and my birthday party ended up being the perfect excuse.  I'd made the muslin a few weeks/months (who can remember??) ago, but hadn't had the opportunity to make a "good" one.  As my party was looming I wanted something NEW and SEXY to wear, but felt I had no time and the shops weren't providing.  At the last minute I had the idea to go ahead with this top, and thanks to RubyJam Fabric's excellent service it was one business week from thought to finished top.  I ordered the fabric on a Monday, received it on Tuesday, washed it on Wednesday, cut it on Thursday and sewed it on Friday!

I made the design using my Frankenshirt pattern and following the Sexy Shoulder Hack tutorial from Little Ragamuffin.  I added the shoulder straps to help make my bra straps less "bra" looking.

The bottom of the shirt kicks out slightly so I can wear it with pants or a pencil skirt and not feel self conscious about my belly.

But I also intend to wear it tucked in with fuller skirts for a more retro look, as seen here with my recent circle skirt make.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Pouf! I made a petticoat, and a skirt.

This one has been in the making since about October I think.  My sewing time has been very sporadic so everything is taking me AGES!!

After helping my niece make a petticoat, circle skirt and blouse for her end of year school social last year, I desperately wanted to make myself one.  I'm really trying to get a vintage vibe into my clothes and what says that more than a poufy petticoat?
My niece's petticoat

Then a fabric opportunity arose and who can resist?  My daughter had a minecraft themed birthday party last year, and we used green net to make a tree.  With all of the 8 metres returning to my sewing room after the event, I was getting a green petticoat whether I liked green or not.
A Minecraft Tree

I had found an online tutorial to make my niece's, but I just made this one from memory of doing her's.  It's made of 3 rows each 8" tall.  The first row (closest to waist) is 2 metres around, the second is 4 metres and the bottom is 8 metres.  The lining is made of poplin and is a half-circle skirt cut using my hip measurement plus 2" (I think).  The bottom row is gathered onto the middle row, then the middle gathered onto the top, then the top row is gathered onto the lining.  For the waistband, I added a cotton lycra yoga style band that is cut 12" high and the folded over double.  For my niece, we did two layers the same to add extra pouf as her's was made of tulle, but for mine I decided on just one because the net is more stiff than tulle.  Even then it seemed a little too stiff so I washed it to calm it down a little.
My petticoat

To finish the bottom edge, I wanted ribbon or something so the net wasn't scratchy and catching on things.  A trip to Spotlight left me wandering the ribbon/trim aisle for ages not sure what to do.  At 8m of hem, the ribbons I liked were going to cost me much more than I wanted to spend on a petticoat that was meant to be "free".  I did fall in love with a gingham ribbon though, and then had the brilliant idea to make my own gingham bias for the hem.  Only half a metre of fabric required, so only a couple of dollars!  But then lots of time making bias (most of which involved it sitting around waiting for me to iron it).

I actually started making the skirt in the midst of doing the petticoat, but didn't want to finish it until the petticoat was finished and I knew how it was going to sit.

This is a circle skirt with the "waist" measurement actually being my hips plus 2".  This makes it plenty big enough to get on and off without needing a zipper.  The waistband is cut in two halves.  The front is half of my actual waist measurement, the back is the remaining amount needed to make it the same length as the skirt opening, then elastic inserted to bring it back into my waist.  The end result is actually a little loose.  I think next time I will bring the elastic portion another inch or two towards the front on both sides.  This puts more fullness of the skirt at the back, but on my body I really prefer this.  It helps balance out my belly and doesn't have too much fabric up front.

I also made the top, but will do a separate post on that. EDIT - blog post on top here

Since this petticoat and skirt was really a wearable muslin to get the fit right, there will probably be another one in the near future!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Almost Punk Jacket

Whilst I was cutting out the fabric for my "Grandma dress", I had the idea to use the left over fabric on a denim jacket and of course this would have to be a made-by-me jacket!

The hunt for patterns began...

I have loved the Kingston Jacket by Rebecca Page since it came out, and generally love her patterns, so it was at the top of my list, but with no particular sales on at the time I wanted to buy, and US-AU exchange rates, it made it quite a pricey option.

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Page

My local had a sale on paper patterns, so I checked out what the big 4 had to offer.  I quite liked the overall feel of the Gertie Butterick 6390, but wanted a more traditional seam shaping.  Gertie's pattern has basically no design lines on the front, just darts, and a V shaped yoke on the back with curved princess seams.  I loved the idea of a lining though.  It makes getting it on over a long sleeve top sound so much easier!
Photo courtesy of Butterick

Then I found McCall's 7729. It seemed to be closest to what I wanted.  Reviews that I found were mostly positive, and $5 on sale I figured it was worth it.
Photo courtesy of McCall's
I kinda made a cross between views B and C.  View B has all the colour blocking and trim attached, which I didn't do.  View C is plain but designed to be made with a sherpa lining so all the seams are sewing flat with exposed raw edges, which I didn't do either.

Of course I had to start with a Full Bust Adjustment.  It took me a while to get my head around that one and in the end was very much a "make it up as I go along" method. I started by joining all the front pieces together as best I could and tracing out as if one pattern piece.  Then I did my FBA on this, and then tried to separate it out into four front pieces again.  The front is made of a yoke and three vertical panels which all have straight seam lines.  I wanted a bit more shape so I ended up with a curved seam between the side panel and the middle panel, to go out over my bust.  On to my first muslin....

I always forget to photograph the muslin stage....

It was big and boxy and I did not like it at all.  I should have known.  Many McCall's patterns that I have made have been rather 'wide and short', for want of a better description.  It also needed an inch or so added to the front length, which didn't get added during the FBA.  I actually added this at the bust level rather than at the hem, because the hem is narrower than the bust level and I really needed the extra length across the bust, not just because the hem was pulling up a little

I took out 1" from each side on the front and back.  This gave the body room to move, it still had the somewhat square-ish shape of a denim jacket but also didn't look like a giant sack on me.

So I added a sleeve to my muslin.....

Then suddenly my arms couldn't move.  Standing straight the sleeves felt good.  I didn't feel I needed a Full Bicep Adjustment.  But try and move my arms forward and it became tight and restrictive.  This I did take photos of.

Much searching online was involved in decided what to do.  I really didn't want to add extra fabric to the sleeves.  I didn't want the jacket to become too loose fitting.  Then I realised that perhaps the strain was actually in the back and not in the sleeve.  I ended up finding this Broad Back Adjustment.
Picture courtesy of trumbelina sews

Another muslin and I was set!!  This broad back adjustment was a bit of a light bulb moment for me.  I've never thought about having a broad back before, and have had problems with sleeves before, but never thought of it as a problem with the back.  I have a dress I started last winter (so over 12 months ago) that languished because of the sleeve fitting problems.  I now feel confident to tackle it again in time for next winter.

Putting the jacket together was then fairly simple.  I decided to steal the lining idea from the Gertie design.  To do this I just cut all the body pieces (ie NOT button placket, collar, cuffs) in the lining fabric, sewed them together as per the jacket, then placed the lining inside the jacket and treated the two as one when attaching button placket, collar and cuffs.  This did mean I had to do some of the steps in a different order to the instructions but that wasn't really a big deal.

After attaching the pockets to the appropriate front panel, I discovered that they gaped open a little.  I think this was because I made the pockets out of the lining fabric which didn't have enough stability to hold it's shape.  I ended up catching the pocket bag in the seam between the adjacent front panel.  There was just enough seam allowance to enable this thankfully.  Now when the jacket is on, the pockets hold their shape together better.

One negative I had found in the reviews of this pattern was that the band at the bottom was not the right length.  With this in mind, I didn't cut this piece until I was up to that step in construction.  Then I measured the bottom edge of my jacket and cut the band to length.  With all my adjustments, I couldn't be bothered beforehand to work out how long it should be anyway.

Buttons became a problem.  Anything I could get locally was just not really what I wanted in colour or design.  I started looking online and found some buttons that I LOVED on ebay.... but coming from China they would not arrive until the end of Winter, so I wouldn't get to wear my jacket :(  I decided to buy some cheap buttons in the same size so I could do correct button holes for now and then replace the buttons later.  So I've done the cheaper buttons and have yet to order the nice buttons, but I'll get around to it one day.

And the last thing to do was to sew the big fat lips on the back, which is what started this jacket way back in May.  I actually finished this jacket in July but had not got around to photographing it until last week month, and now it's taken me a few weeks to get the blog post sorted.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Sewing a 60s Mod Dress

I recently used my Cashmerette Upton dress pattern for the first time in order to complete my Dress Like Your Grandma Sewing Challenge.

One of the big selling points of these patterns are the different cup sizes so you don't have to do a Full Bust Adjustment (FBA).  Last year I made the Washington using the larger cup size, but it didn't quite work for my figure, as I usually make use of the FBA to add extra to the front waist, making it better fit my belly.  Using their larger cup size, then grading at the waist, added the extra to the side which is not where I need it. So this time I decided to go back to the old method, choose a size based on high bust and then do an FBA.

The Upton is a bodice, band (at the high waist) and a skirt.  I was wanting to make a 60s style dress with an empire waist, and princess seam skirt, so I chose the panelled skirt option, knowing I'd have to slim them down a bit.  When I made the Washington, sizing advice from Jenny (at Cashmerette) indicated I should make the 18G/H.  For this Upton, I chose the 16C/D for reasons mentioned above.
Upton Dress
Photo courtesy of Cashmerette Patterns
I actually ended up doing two FBAs.  The first I took to the shoulder seam and tried to rotate the side dart around to the underbust, so there was only one dart.  It didn't quite fit how I wanted and was still a tiny bit too small.  I traced of the altered pattern I had and did a second FBA, this time to the armhole, and left the new side dart in place.  I think my boobs are a bit too big for just one dart.  This then fitted well.  I think the combination of shoulder and armhole points helped distribute the added fullness a bit better.  This can be done in one step by doing a Y-dart FBA.

First FBA with pivot at shoulder
Second FBA with pivot at underarm
Now that the bodice was done I had to attach the waistband and skirt.  Doing the bodice alterations as detailed above, meant that my front bodice was quite a lot wider at the waist seam than before.  Most FBA instructions tell you to angle the side seam back in again to take out this extra, but I need this extra for my belly.  What I did instead was to measure the seam line of the front bodice pattern and then compare it to the seam line of the front waistband piece.  My bodice measured almost exactly to a size 26 waistband, so that is was I used for the front waistband and skirt.  So now my dress was a size 16 bodice and skirt back, 16 with FBA bodice front and 26 skirt front.  Doing it this way means I have enough fabric to cover my belly and hang nicely, whilst maintaining the side seams in an appropriate spot.

After attaching the skirt to my bodice muslin, I needed just a little extra length right at the waist darts.  I unpicked the waistband seam and let it fall to it's natural resting place.  I needed an extra 1/2", just at that point.  So my bodice pattern now actually has a scoop down from CF, but when I'm wearing it, it looks level.  I think that's a really important concept to understand when learning pattern drafting/alterations.  It might look weird on paper, but if it looks right on the body, then that's what you need to do.

You can see how the bottom edge curves down from the CF
Next was the task of reshaping the skirt.  The Upton has quite a lovely flow to the panel skirt option, but I needed a more straight out/A-line shape to get my 60s look.  I'm not very confident at estimating things like this so I went looking for a guide.  I have Simplicity 3559 so I used the angle of the skirt panels in this against my Upton, but this pattern has a front, back and one side panel, whereas the Upton has front, side front, side back and back.  I wasn't really happy with the result, the skirt was still too "full".  By this stage I'd also run into my fabric problem as discussed here, so the whole lot got put in the corner for a time while I thought about what to do.

Then I went to a local destash market, hoping to find some new fabric (which I didn't), but instead I picked up some patterns, including Butterick 6186 (I had been admiring this pattern for a while anyway, so what a find!). This pattern was closer to the skirt shape that I wanted, and included the same panel arrangement as the Upton.  I redrew my Upton panels with the angles from B6186 and the skirt came out exactly how I wanted it.  What I found interesting was the first time I'd taken fullness off all skirt seams, but by following pattern B6186, I only changed the seams between front/side front and back/side back.  The side seams stayed the same shape.

So finally happy with the fit, I moved onto the final product!

On looking at these photos, I can see that the back is actually a little too small.  From the back view I can see the side seams, and the pockets feel a little too far back when I have my hands in them.

I think for the next one I will start with a size 18, and follow the same procedure as I did above for a better fit.

Also, after completion I noticed the bodice shaping (darts etc) was too low at the front.  I don't know if I wore a different bra during fitting (I don't *think* I did) or what happened, but pulling up the front at the shoulders resolved this.  Unfortunately it meant that the front waist band  and hem is no longer parallel with the floor, but it is an okay compromise.  It's only noticeable when you're looking at it from side view.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Dress Like Your Grandma Sewing Challenge

Last year Mrs Hughes (Tanya) introduced the Dress Like Your Grandma Sewing Challenge. The idea being to take a photo of your Grandma (or other female relative, or any historical photo of a female) and recreate the dress.

For last year's challenge, I tried to copy this dress of my Nanna. Being a very different body type it was a bit of a challenge but I think I did well.

Problem is that I haven't worn it since taking the photo. This time of year is getting cold in Melbourne, then once the weather warmed up I always felt the dress was too dressy to wear anywhere that I go. It has hung in my wardrobe and now the weather is cold again.

For this year's challenge, I decided that I wanted to make something more wearable with my current lifestyle. The day the challenge began, my mother arrived from interstate with a box full of family photos.  After narrowing it down to a half dozen, I settled on this one of my mother with her first car.
Left: my recreation, Right: my mother is 1969
Obviously with this photo, there was going to be a lot of “inspired by” rather than a direct copy. I was hoping to use fabric from my stash, so my mum and I sat together looking through my options and together chose this purple floral. It's not something that she particularly had as a dress at that time but is something that she likes and possibly would have chosen. 

I looked online at pattern ideas, trying to decide on style lines etc. I wanted the empire waist and decided on princess seams in the skirt.  Of course vintage patterns are hard to come by, even harder in plus size. I settled on trying out my unused Cashmerette Upton dress pattern.  It has the empire waist and a princess seam skirt, although a little more full than desired.  You can read more about my dress alterations and sewing process in this blog post.

Upon finalising my muslin, I went to get my chosen fabric only to discover that there wasn't as much as I thought, and even then I'd underestimated how much I was going to need.

What to do?? I really didn't want to have to buy more fabric and even if I did buy more, a quick internet search didn't bring up anything that suited me and the project.

Scrolling through my fabric database, I eventually decided on a change of direction.  I'd seen this comic book print last year, and wanted to make a jacket but then realised the scale of the print was too big for the pattern I had in mind. I still loved it so bought some anyway, as you do!

I had enough for this dress, even allowing for careful pattern placement so it was a go. I decided my project would become an “artistic interpretation” rather than a recreation.

So I'm calling this my Roy Lichtenstein 60s dress (thanks to my niece for the "artist tip").
And this is basically my first car too.  I didn't get my licence until 6 years ago, and this is the first car we have bought since then.  I got to choose the features I wanted (out of what suited our needs and was available second hand), and most importantly the colour!!  Not actually my dream colour, but again out of what was available, this was my first choice.

Whilst it probably won't get worn any time soon, because the weather has turned, I'm looking forward to an opportunity to show this one off!  Now I think I might start brainstorming next year's 'grandma dress' so I'm not as rushed last minute as I was this year.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Baa Baa Blue Sheep, Have You Any Pyjamas?

My little boy needed new pyjamas, as all growing boys ALWAYS do.

After tracing off the pattern for him, I decided I would try to make a matching pair for his favourite toy, which is a "sitting" blue sheep called Baa.  But what to do for a pattern?

His pyjamas were made from the Sew A Little Seam Holiday Night PJs. I used this pattern last winter for his pjs and knew I liked it.  I wanted a similar style for Baa so went pattern hunting.  Of course not being a standard toy, I couldn't easily find a pattern that would fit straight away.  After measuring and comparing to patterns designed for Build-a-Bear, and subsequent paths that Google lead me on, I realised that Cabbage Patch Kid patterns might come close.

I have Butterick 5902, which included a front buttoning, collared shirt, so that seemed like a good place to start.  The shirt has kimono sleeves (cut in one with the body) which are a bit flared at the end. The pattern was designed to have the sleeves gathered at the cuffs, so I guess this gave it a more puffed look.  I straightened the sleeves out slightly at the top, and more so at the underarm.  I was a bit worried about their Y shape, but decided to leave it as it would provide room for movement.  I also shortened the sleeves a little after holding it up against Baa to check.

Original shirt pattern underneath with my altered version on top

After sewing the shoulder seams, I tried it on and marked the hem line for the sleeves.  I also decided to create a hi-low hem for the shirt because of Baa's sitting shape.  There was just too much fabric on the front, but the back still needed the coverage.

That sorted out the top pattern and it was just a case of putting it together as per the instructions.

For the pants, I started with the free Hospital Attire pattern from Bear Wear Patterns, which I had found and printed for my daughter the other week because she wanted to make clothes for her Big Ted (yet to happen).  Going by overall measurements, I decided the 15"-16" size was the way to go, but because this pattern was drafted for a standing bear and Baa was sitting, I did a rather large back crotch adjustment, as shown here by the white line.  After sewing them up the basics and trying them on, I needed to shorten the legs, but the crotch/waist was fine.

Lengthened back crotch to account for sitting position
After sewing them up the basics and trying them on, I needed to shorten the legs, but the crotch/waist was fine.

I had a fleeting thought of making a matching dog coat for his little puppy as well (his other favourite toy), but put the thought aside for later.  Of course upon being excited about matching pyjamas for Baa, I was promptly told that he needed matching pjs for Puppy too!!   Guess what's on the cutting table tonight.     *EDIT: Puppy pjs are HERE*

Monday, April 2, 2018

Girls in Science

Someone online alerted me to the She Blinded me with Science lab coat pattern that Lee & Pearl were offering free to mailing list subscribers.

With a daughter who wants to be an astronomer when she grows up, I just HAD to make it. 

Problem was, the pattern is for 18" dolls such as American Girl which, as I've previously mentioned, is a slightly different size/shape to the Journey Girl my daughter (and I) have.

Basically the patterns are too wide. Knowing this, I decided to cut the pattern out of fabric and go from there, I can always trim it down, and there is always more fabric for such a small project.

After cutting out the pieces, I laid them over the doll, and decided to take out 1/4" on each side, front and back. I took it through the middle of the shoulder right down to the hem, to maintain the side and armhole shaping. For this pattern, that meant adjusting the back, front and yoke pieces. It is a fiddly little fold. In future I think I might just cut and overlap because it will probably be easier.
1/4" total taken out of back yoke piece.
I cut on the fold so only adjusted one side of the pattern piece, but you'd need to adjust both sides if you were cutting flat.
Adjustment made to front piece
I think that worked well for this pattern, but the Elsa dress I made also seemed wide in the neck, so I need more testing before declaring it a cure-all.

Once I attached the sleeve (using the flat method) I tried it on my doll and decided the sleeves were going to be too long. They needed shortening by 1/4" as well. Being the lazy sewist I am, I just turned it up that much extra because I'd already finished the edges and didn't want to cut and re-overlock (I think I'd already changed back to black thread). Next time I should actually shorten the sleeve properly before cutting the fabric.

Sewed up the side seams and I was basically done!  I decided to do proper buttons and buttonholes on this because it's easier with the front opening and I'm sure it will sometimes be worn open, plus I think this looks better than false buttons with snaps underneath.
I really loved using this pattern.  The instructions are excellent and the pattern includes so much detail, which I forgot to take photos of, like a tab on the back waist and the perfectly proportioned pockets.

This gives me so much confidence to try converting other American Girl patterns to fit Journey Girls.

Once I had finished the coat, I had the urge to make a Rocky Horror costume to go underneath... but that ones definitely going to be for MY doll, not my daughters!


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