Saturday, 4 June 2022

Reconstruction: Linen dress not quite as good as the original garment, but much more useful

 Doesn't the Lady Grey Colette coat adaptation look lovely under the Jacaranda in this photo? I was half pleased with myself when I made this (ulp) 11 or so years ago, and I had a very interesting and in retrospect, enjoyable time making it, albiet with some slightly burdensome fitting woes.

However, I have never worn it, other than in the photo shoot. A very poor outcome for some lovely linen fabric and a lot of work. It has languished in my wardrobe, because frankly, it is the wrong type of garment for the subtropical climate where I live. It is too hot for autumn and spring, being fully lined with Imperial batiste,  ridiculously too hot for summer, and not warm enough for our very brief, but chilly, winter mornings and evenings. Despite this, I had great difficulty in setting scissors to it, despite several attempts over the past few years. I become attached to my projects.

2022, I decided, was time to Woman up and do something about this.

Naturally, I stuffed this up fairly spectacularly.


I used an op-shop find pattern, Kwik Sew 2255 as a starting point for the planned transformation from shoulder line princess double breasted coat to princess line frock.

 I had never used this pattern, but for some strange reason, did not make a toile, despite nearly always having to adjust patterns. Instead, maybe thinking that I only needed the general shape of the neckline, I merely traced out the front  and back bodice pattern pieces and merrily chopped away at the front of the coat to approximate the top edges of the front and back bodice pattern. I clearly need to go back to first principles with my sewing, because when I held up the massacred garment to myself, the neckline was unable to cover the salient sections of my bra.

You may have guessed that this experience did not encourage me to go forward with the project. In fact I think the coat  spent more than 3 months lying on my sewing table whilst I moved on to more immediately gratifying projects. 

However, after I'd made a few little smocked baby garments, my not-very-latent smocking addiction was looking for new targets. I thought that a smocked insert would satisfy my embroidery urges, and possibly rescue the garment from the too-depressing-to-finish pile. ( This pile usually finds it way fairly quickly to the rag bag, but the beautiful linen was resisting this move).

The smocking was great fun. I did show some embellishment restraint, and smocked the fabric in the closest shade of DMC stranded embroidery thread that I could find for some pretense at subtlety.

 I then had to work out how to attach these smocked sections to the neckline. 

 I carefully hand basted, then machine stitched the smocked sections to fill in the bodice, serenditously finding that I could slightly gather the top edge using the holding stitches from the pleating to encourage the neckline to sit nicely against the body. This was a little fiddly, but I was pleased with the end result.I then attached the back piece of the dress, and piped the neckline for stability.


Originally I had intended to keep the coat lining, and make a lined dress, but decided that this made the dress too warm to wear. Instead I drafted a deep facing from the original collar of the dress. This facing extends down the entire front of the dress, and I was able to reuse the interfacing from the coat for this purpose. I bound the facing with a constrast bias binding, as there were not enough scraps from the coat to make a self fabric trim.The only trouble with removing the lining is that I was unable to improve the seam finishing for the back seam of the coat, which orginially was pinked, then topstitched. The photograph was taken after I had worn and washed the dress, and some fraying is occurring.

I shortened the sleeves of the dress, mended the unavoidable left over buttonhole from the double breasted coat fastening at the waistline, and found some suitable buttons from my stash.

On starting to make buttonholes I realised that my forward planning skills have become very rusty. The smocked section is thick, mobile, and not suitable for a buttonhole. Oops.

I made a thread loop, oversewn with buttonhole stitch, and this works quite well for fastening the very top of the bodice.

The dress is not as well constructed as the coat, and despite my best intentions I cannot stop noticing the mended waistline buttonhole,  but I feel very comfortable (and thrifty) in this dress and  have already worn it multiple times.


Now I am feeling inspired to make something impractical and frivolous.


Sunday, 13 February 2022

First Birthday dress

 This has been a highly enjoyable project. My friend bought some fabric for me, and asked me to make a birthday dress for her beautiful little girl. I may have hinted quite strongly that I would like to do this.


The pattern I used was a conglomeration of the romper Lollipop (Australian Smocking and Embroidery 72) and the dress Serious Fun (Australian Smocking and Embroidery 87). I should probably say that it was a simplification of the two patterns as really, the fabric and the smocking do the talking here. Basically this is a sleeveless square yoke dress with a contrast back button band and hem ruffle. The mini piping at neckline, armscyes and bodice, and the neckline embroidery are my own addition.

The smocking design is a modification of the smocking and embroidery from the Lollipop pattern.

My friend has a terrific eye for colour, but is not experienced in buying fabric. Unfortunately she was sold some rather off grain printed cotton, which required a lot of starch to line up nicely through the pleating tool. I think it turned out quite well despite this wrestling, and the recepient seemed quite comfortable on the day by all reports (Alas, I was in isolation and could not attend the party to view the dress in action, but daughter-the-second took some photographs for me) My daughter cunningly managed to gain the photographs before the consumption of cake and before the water play in the rain and puddles. As I reassured the baby's parents, smocking is very robust and a smocked cotton dress has no trouble going through the washing machine, even if you forget to turn it inside out.


Underneath the dress, there is a pair of ruffly bloomers, made from the white cotton also used for the dress ruffle, but with the ruffles made from the yellow polkadot print, edged with white binding. I modified the overall pattern that I had  used for her previously:  Burda Style 02/2016/141 to make these)  Naturally one should not photograph a young lady's underpinnings in situ, (well, I forgot to photograph them before they were provided to the birthday girl), but I assure you that they look very sweet, and could possibly turn into shorts in their next wearing, which one could photograph with impunity. I will keep an eye out for photo opportunities. Both the dress and the rompers were made for size 1, but as you can see, the dress has a little room for growth, which is an advantage for baby clothes. The romper elastic at the waist had to be shortened by about 5 cm to fit.

technical drawing from

I love sewing little girl's clothes.

Thursday, 3 February 2022

Smocking revisited

I was asked to make a first birthday dress for our friends'  little girl. It seems that my friends have noticed that there have been a few baby clothes sent their way and that I may be addicted to sewing cute little garments for small people who already have plenty of clothes. Naturally I had sudden delightful visions of something very ruffly, with smocking and maybe embroidery, seeing as I wouldn't have to iron it. The only problem is that it is about 10 years since I last did any significant smocking.

To overcome this issue, I made a practice dress, except it wasn't a dress, because the 10 month old recipient had only just started walking, and a crawling baby tends to have a bit of trouble with a dress, so I made a romper.

I had a lovely time persuing my collection of Australian Smocking and Embroidery magazines, and in consultation with the baby's mother, came up with a combination of patterns:

Issue 87 Serious Fun

and Issue 72 Lollipop

I didn't really like the construction details for the cross over bodice for Serious Fun, and think that the bodice ruffle is both a little too large for a slightly sub size 1 baby (pattern is sizes 1-2) and also a very tight gather, but other than those mild quibbles, find this a pretty and practical garment (admittedly overtrimmed, but I am a bit trim deprived lately, making boring work clothes) . I did use snap tape instead of buttonholes at the crotch seam.


The main fabric is cotton quilting fabric, and the ruffle is a high thread count cotton sheeting. The pattern fabric calls for damask, which is usually a heavier fabric that the sheeting I used, so the ruffle could definitely be a bit shorter without any loss of frilliness. 

My smocking construction skills definitely needed a refresher. See my buckling seam between the smocking and the bodice ? I used to use an iron on tape for this placement, prior to sewing, but didn't have any to hand. I plan to baste a lot for the next one. I told myself firmly not to unpick this as it is a practice garment, and I'd already had to patch up a big slice I put in the front bodice (due to having no more of this fabric to cut out a new one) but it was difficult to resist the urge to re do it. Fortunately this garment does not live at my house and I won't see these sewing glitches glaring at me very often.


I tried to get an action shot, but there was a lot of action. You know the idea that if you can't see it from a galloping horse it doesn't matter ? I hope this applies to the active toddler.

Her walking skills improved dramatically between the start of construction and the finished garment (about 2 weeks). I think I am set for a dress for the birthday party. I am planning to both avoid slashing errors with my constructed dress parts and also to have a much better seam between the smocking and the rest of the garment.

Sunday, 8 August 2021

Baby sewing Burda Style 02-2019: 127, 128 and 129

 You might have noticed that I don't blog very much lately. I still sew quite a bit, but am finding that taking the photographs is not so interesting. Fortunately, some other people take photographs, and here is a delightful one which includes some of my sewing. (Permission given to post this photo by a former colleague of mine who is the mother of this adorable 4 month old baby)

Quite some time ago, in February, I went to a baby shower for my former colleague, and naturally I felt that this was an excellent opportunity to indulge in some tiny-little-person sewing. The gender of this baby was unknown at the time, so I started with a red and white colour scheme, and made the "boy" version of the top Burda style 02-2019-127, which is identical to the girl version, 02-2019-128, other than the feminised version including a zig zagged elastic at the hipline. You may notice that I also made the girl version. This was an extra gift for another colleague's baby, whom had arrived a month prior to my sewing. 

For sizing reference, I made Burda size 0-3 months, 56cm, but added 2cm cuffs to the length of both sleeves and trousers. The pictured baby is a tall (67cm) 4 month old baby, and her mother tells me that the waist of the trousers is still a bit loose. The other recipient is now 6 months old, and 65cm tall, and both the trousers and top are still a little too big for her.


I used Imperial Batiste for the tops, this being cool to wear and having enough polyester in the poly/cotton mix to avoid ironing. However, I used a little bit of cotton-lycra knit to make cuffs at the end of the sleeves, instead of an elastic gathering (girl version) or just a hem (boy version), as in my experience, very loose sleeves end up at the baby's armpit, and zig-zagged elastic can be rough on a new baby's skin.For this reason I used shirring elastic for the hipline of the feminised top, with a bridging stitch.

For both versions of the top, I used french seams for construction, and a rolled hem at the bottom. I embroidered running stitch around the neckline and facing, and used a red and white striped button with a thread loop for fastening. 

Addition: Here is the other recipient, at 7 months.


The  red and white details were used to coordinate with the stripey red leggings, Burda Style 01-2019-129, but are hopefully subtle enough that the babies can wear the tops with other trousers, or under an overall or romper.

The fabric I used here is a very soft rayon knit, with four way stretch. I did not have much of this fabric left, as it was a remnant from a t shirt I made for myself, so I was quite pleased with myself for managing to squeeze two sets of leggings from the remnant by changing the direction of the stripes. I used the same cotton-lycra knit for the cuffs and to make a wide, soft waistband.

I really enjoyed sewing these little clothes.

Just for fun, I'm including a photo that I took when out walking this morning.

Yes, we do have kangaroos hopping down the middle of the street here.

Sunday, 24 January 2021

Vogue 9207 Patricia Underwood Hats version C

 Recently,  my husband and I had the great good fortune to visit my daughter in Tasmania. Naturally I needed new clothes for such an exciting adventure. Well, really, I only needed a new hat. For reasons that need no further discussion, I had not been hiking in the past year, and all my hiking clothes were therefore in perfect condition, albeit a little snug around the nether regions. I am claiming that this is due to lack of hiking and not from excessive chocolate consumption.


The main reason I needed a new hat, was that my favourite Patricia Underwood Vogue 9207 version A hats have a very large brim, and that this has proved incompatible with carrying anything bigger than a day pack, as it bumps into the backpack and doesn't stay on one's head. 


 Last time I went hiking I (shock) wore a purchased hat, but this, in the way of purchased hats, had shrunk when I washed it.

We hiked the 3 capes, carrying our own gear, and not staying in the luxury huts, so my pack was quite large.


Hence a trial of version C from the same pattern.  Version C has a brim the same size as my Cancer Council approved purchased hat (if you sneakily use a 3/8" seam allowance at the outer brim instead of the 5/8" allowance of the standard version), so I was happy that the hat would shade my face sufficiently, but this was only the case with the brim turned down.

 Version 1 was made from some cotton canvas, some special purchase hat stiffening interfacing which looks suspiciously similar to much less expensive curtain heading interfacing, and lined with shirting cotton.

I have stitched more brim than the pattern requires, as this helps the brim to keep its shape, both turned up for smart appearance and turned down for more sun protection.

Here it is, made just like the pattern says, size M, except that I have sewn the lining directly to the seam allowance of the brim rather than covering up a raw seam with grosgrain ribbon, as I disliked both the appearance and sensation of this in my previous hats.

 In my usual fashion, I did not allow quite enough time to sew my planned version, which was to be navy blue (cotton suiting) lined with a handwoven ex-sari cotton, in order to co-ordinate nicely with my navy blue hiking trousers and dark purple print hiking shirt.

Fortunately one is not expected to be glamorous when hiking.


When I returned home, I made the blue version, which I had fully cut out prior to leaving on our little holiday. Unfortunately the interfacing for the crown had fallen down the back of my sewing table, and I neglected to include it in the hat.


 Despite this mild sagginess in the crown, this version looks quite good when worn, and is probably easier to pack, being flatter when not on the head.


Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Art fabric: Burda Style 06-2011-106 top, fabric wrestling.

 Last year, my mother took a trip to Arnhem Land, Northern Territory. She had a lovely time, and whilst she was there, visited Injalak Arts, where local people produce, amongst other artworks, screen printed and handpainted textile art.  

Mum had a few things going on after this trip, such as moving house, but a few months ago she arranged to come to my house for a sewing day. She wanted to make a wrap skirt with her fabulous screen print. She then turned up at my house, not only with her skirt fabric, but with another piece, she'd bought as a remnant bargain,  about 60cm of a heavy twill/ light cotton canvas, with quite thick multilayered paint and a wide unprinted margin. The print is by Joe Guymala, and is called Mayhmayh (Different Birds). Despite this title, I am quite sure that there are a kangaroo, an echidna, a lizard and an insect or two in the print as well....

She thought I could make her a top from this fabric.

I tried very hard to persuade her to do something else with this canvas - a gorgeous cushion? A tote bag ?  No, it had to be a top. She was sure that I could manage to make something wearable, even though the fabric was stiff and heavy.

I spent most of the sewing day reading my Burda magazines. Such a hard life that I have.

Eventually, I came up with this candidate, Burda Style 06-2011-106.

 technical drawing from

It wasn't quite right.

I altered the pattern - small bust alteration, more A line shape, round neck line with back opening instead of a slip-on-over-the-head V, more sleeve overhang. The final version met with  qualified approval.

With some trepidation, I cut out the top, and there was not enough fabric for the length that Mum wanted.

I made the top, mostly, anyway. I made a placket and cloth button loop for the back neck fastening from self fabric. This was tricky to handle in the canvas, so I used bias binding to finish the neckline and sleeves - turned in for the neckline and as a bound edge for the sleeves.


The top then hung in my sewing room looking balefully at me every time I went in. 

I kept introducing trim fabric candidates from my stash, but nothing suited.


Eventually I took the top to our local quilting shop, and found a tone on tone green that was instantly appealling


I hemmed the top, with a side split, in the green quilting fabric.


My mother is very pleased with it.



Monday, 28 December 2020

Tessuti Apron - more Christmas Sewing

 The last thing I sewed for Christmas was for myself. Naturally my first thought was to sew myself a new and gorgeous frock, but given that I was to spend Christmas with only my immediate family to whom my default appearance is in gardening clothes or pyjamas, I have made myself a sensible apron instead.

Of course I could not just make an apron in any old pattern  I had used before, this is indulgent Christmas sewing for myself after all. I thought I'd try the Tessuti cross over apron, which is a free pattern.

                                                    technical sketch from

I had some gift fabric to use, a very large remnant of IKEA canvas that a friend had given me last January, and I thought this pattern, with only a few seams, would be a good choice for the large print, and the simplicity of the pattern a good match with the heavy canvas.

I like this pattern. It uses a little more fabric than described to just cover my knees (I'm 165cm tall), but the construction is well described and simple, with a neat finish. I did tweak the front insertion of the straps a little, using hand basting to achieve a sharp corner, but otherwise made this apron exactly as the instructions told me to. That is very unlike me.


I am very pleased with the apron and it was put to good use for all our Christmas cooking.