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The Sewing Year That Was...

Tuesday, December 31, 2013
It's always nice to look back on the sewing year that was and know that I actually made rather a few things that I wear on almost a weekly basis. I made 16 things all up including one fancy dress, my Christmas dress, and the rest fit relatively well into my already existing wardrobe of Me Mades, Vintage and High Street.

This year I focussed much more on using patterns I already owned from my vintage pattern stash, which meant that I didn't buy a single vintage dress this entire year! (That little fact actually hadn't even occurred to me until just now). I also have several makes that are finished that I've not yet managed to blog and that never happens!

I do have one major sewing goal for 2014 that I will reveal in the New Year, but for now, here is a selection of my Sewing Year that was... for the full list, head on over to my Finished Projects page.

These are illustrated with some of the outtakes from each photo shoot because I'm sure I'm not the only one who has to take several (hundred) photos only to end up liking 2 or 3!! Unfortunately, as I had switched computers throughout the year though, the rest of my photos are in a box somewhere in the other room, but I hope you'll enjoy the ones I could find...

I got photo-bombed by a dog, did something weird with my hands and laughed a lot!

I make that face a lot it seems, my version of Blue Steel? Hands doing weird things again...

Yep, there it is, Blue Steel. Trying to twirl and showing an eyeful instead (getting a good twirl picture is hard!).

Hair in my face. More hair in my face. A variation of Blue Steel.

I think I was telling David that he had taken enough photos here. Being silly on one leg.

Blue Steel and, um...

Hope you all have a fabulous time seeing in the new year, and I'll catch you all in 2014!


A Merry Stepford Christmas...

Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Merry Christmas Eve everyone!

This is my newest make, the Stepford Wife does Christmas Dress. This dress is actually the result of one of those rare 'happy' sewing mistakes that apparently do pop up on occasion (who knew!).

This dress started out originally as a plain red Anna dress, number one on my Summer Sewing List.
The sizing chart on the back showed that the dress fit me absolutely perfectly made up in a size 8/12. I was so excited and if I'm honest, totally flattered that the BHL girls designed a dress that fit my measurements exactly (because I'm sure they design all their patterns around my measurements right?!). I generally tend to have to grade my patterns between three different sizes with modern patterns, but apparently not with the Anna dress.

I carefully traced and laid out my pattern pieces on the fabric, cut them out, assembled the bodice with french seams and then tried it on.

At this point, I may have squealed.

You guys, this bodice is so darn flattering!! I may never make another bodice ever again in my life! It is so easy to put together, so pretty with it's 40s styled kimono sleeves and so comfortable.

Then I moved on to the skirt...

At this point, I knew I should make a muslin, but being a bit stubborn and wanting to finish the dress in time for Christmas, I ploughed on ahead (I know, I know!! Tsk tsk, moving on...). I carefully assembled the skirt, french seaming everything along the way, attached it to my bodice, pinned in a zip, tried it on! The skirt looked absolutely awful on me.

Being a gal with hips, I need lots of ease in that department to make this style look good. I really should have graded up a size (or even 2) in the skirt to make this work, and to make matters worse, being charity shop fabric, I couldn't go back and get more as I had used every last scrap I had.

My lightbulb moment came a few hours later, after I had banished the dress to the other room and closed the door on my sewing machine. I remembered I had picked up a length of red and white embroidered fabric that I had found at the same charity shop a few days before we had left for our trip to Italy and the UK. Um, YES!

Why I hadn't thought of that earlier we will never know, but my love for the Anna dress returned and I got gathering.  I lined the skirt fabric with a heavy white cotton which has made it seriously lush. It's heavy and full and perfect for twirling. I inserted the zip in my favourite way (a lapped zip) and I'm so happy with how it all turned out. Very much a happy sewing accident if I do say so myself.

Have you been lucky with sewing accidents lately?

Just before I pop off, I wanted to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! I'll be back before the New Year with a little round up of my sewing makes from 2013. It was definitely the year of the return to my sewing machine (and there are several things I've not actually even managed to blog yet. That never happens!!).


Introducing...Shona Stitches

Friday, December 13, 2013
Welcome to the next instalment of my Introducing... series, today I'd like you to meet Shona from Shona Stitches. Shona lives in Florida with her husband, kitty and dachshund pup and is an amazing sewer. I especially love her Colette Patterns Hawthorn and her navy blue Beignet skirt. Oh, and she knits and embroiders too. Is there nothing she can't do?

Tell us a bit about yourself and your blog
My name is Shona and I am completely obsessed with sewing clothing! I blog over at Shona Stitches, where I post about the trials, successes and little things I learn as I attempt to sew my own wardrobe. I live in muggy Gainesville, Florida with my husband, a nosy cat and an elderly miniature dachshund who is my constant sewing room companion.

After experiencing a layoff earlier this year, I decided to pursue my passion and now work at a local sewing store. I spend my work days playing with fancy machines, making samples, giving sewing advice, and teaching beginners how to make their first stitch. It hasn't been an easy career change, but I love what I do!

Why did you start sewing?
When I was about 19 or 20 I discovered Craftser and spent a lot of time lurking around the boards drooling over all the cool, crafty things people were making. I'd always had an interest in making things, but that site really opened up a whole new world of possibilities to me. I tried a few crafts with varying levels of success, but I was really intrigued by the sewing board. I showed my mom some of the things I wanted to do and bought me a sewing machine for Christmas that year. Once I learned how to thread the thing (that took about a week and a lot of consulting the internet), I immediately started cutting up old t-shirts and reconstructing them. Then I traced an old hoodie and made it into a dinosaur hoodie with green fleece and white spikes in the back. I wore it around work for Halloween and called myself Queen Koopa.

Then I moved on to working with patterns, but sewing was still something I only dabbled in occasionally. Years later, I discovered some great sewing bogs and got inspired again. I was amazed at how professional handmade clothing could look! That's when I started really researching proper techniques and learning how to make things that I could be proud of. I started my blog last January as a challenge to get myself sewing more. It worked! I haven't stopped since.

Do you get up to any other crafty adventures?
Yes, as many as I can! I also knit, crochet and hand embroider. I always have a knitting project going that I can work on while watching tv or take to my knitting group. I haven't hand embroidered for a while and really miss it! It's very relaxing and I just love the way it looks. I have to finish this cardigan I'm knitting first's really being a pain!

What has been your greatest sewing achievement so far?
It's hard to pick, I have a few garments that I'm really happy with. But I guess it would have to be the modified version of Colette's Hawthorn dress that I made recently. I finished it in a major rush, so there are a couple of things I'm not happy with (I did at least go back and fix the tight armholes). But I spent a TON of time working out the fit and redrafting the pattern to make the style modifications I wanted.

Winning the contest was extremely exciting! I wanted to post about it afterwards but I was so flabbergasted that I could barely form words! And when the fabrics I won from Colette came in the mail with a little card signed by Sarai, I couldn't stop squealing. You'd think I'd won the lottery or something. Nope, just totally geeked out about sewing!

And have there been any crafty-related disappointments?
Oh, lots! That just comes with the territory. I've sewn things inside out, backwards, upside name it. I've broken zippers...and then gone on to break them again! I've broken lots of needles (don't pull on your fabric, folks - use a hump-jumper!). I've sewn things that have turned out unwearable. One of my favorite tops, the chevron Ava that I made last year, shrank in the wash. But there have been lots of successes too! I look at sewing as a continuous learning process. I have this crazy drive to master it. I don't know where that comes from, but I think that's the only thing that keeps me going after I've ripped a seam out multiple times or ruined a dress I spent 2 weeks working on. I'm a quitter and totally not competitive when it comes to anything else, but with sewing I'm all "No, machine! You will not defeat me!!!!".

Invisible zip, lapped zip or centre zip?
Invisible zip. I just like the way it looks the best and I can insert them pretty easily. For an easy zip that needs to be more sturdy, I go with the centered style. I like the way a lapped zipper looks, but I don't feel like I've conquered that one just yet!

What’s currently on your sewing table?
Two Briars that I haven't been able to work on because of all the sewing commissions that I need to finish first! I'm currently making a dress for a wedding guest, a set of curtains, and a couple pairs of jeans that need hemming. I just finished working a 50 hour week while the shop owners were away at convention, so I have a ton of stuff to catch up on!

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Happy. That's the most important thing. And I'm happy when I can use my brain to think creatively and use my hands to make beautiful and interesting things. I'm still trying to figure out how to turn my dream into a career, but that is my goal.

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone thinking about learning to sew?
Take it slow and don't be afraid of the sewing machine! Take a class or buy a good beginner's sewing book that will help you along. I dove right in without having a clue what I was doing, and (while that approach can be fun) I think that's why I got frustrated and put it down for so long. Don't get too upset when you make a mistake, it's part of the process. You will remember that mistake and improve with each new project! A lot of people will tell me that I must be so talented because of the things I sew, but I really don't think sewing takes talent. It just takes a little patience and a desire to make something unique.

Thanks so much for taking part Shona! Make sure you head on over to her blog to take a peek at a few more of her amazing creations!

The next instalment will be up early next year - this lovely lady is has a wardrobe full of stylish retro makes, my favourite :)

Are you a sewing/knitting/crocheting/baking/vintage/cat-loving/creative/awesome owner of a blog? Do you want to be featured in an interview and become one of my (and others) expanding list of new bloggy friends? Well then, step right in and flick me an email to with a link to your blog and any other tidbits you feel like sharing and we'll arrange an imaginary internet tea and cake date and get to know each other a little better!


The Summer Sewing List...

Thursday, December 5, 2013
Going into each new sewing season, I normally have quite a clear list of what I'm going to endeavour to make. Having a list makes it so much easier for me to stay on track and actually finish projects rather than abandoning them at the last stitch (I really dislike hemming, I don't know why...).

This year though, I'm really struggling to A) narrow down the list of patterns I could sew and B) decide on what fabric to actually make up said patterns.

I think I'm suffering from a bout of too many patterns, too much fabric (TMPTMF) syndrome. It might have something to do with moving countries, going on an extended travel adventure and then coming back to a summer that is not like the long hot summers I got used to in Sydney. Unfortunately the summers here can be a bit iffy, you're never really sure whether you are going to wake up to tights & cardigan weather or summer dress weather.

Having said that, I have managed to compile a small list to gently ease me back into sewing (and making decisions!):

1) BHL Anna Dress in Cherry Red

I really love the 1940's lines in the Anna dress, and after seeing so many amazing versions of this dress on the internet, I'm quite sure this is the first thing I'll be making.

I found the fabric for this on a recent trip to my favourite charity shop haunt and I'm planning to make the knee length version with a slash neckline. Although, I haven't decided whether to keep the sleek skirt or 50's it up with a full gathered skirt and pockets. Suggestions most welcome!

2) Sweet 1950's day dress in textured sky blue

I've had this lovely little 1950s pattern for a while now but could never decide on what fabric to use.  I found this length of textured sky blue mystery fabric on the same trip I found the cherry red fabric for my Anna dress and thought the two would make a simple but classic summer combo. I'll need to wear a slip under the dress as it is a little sheer with the textured lines in the fabric, but I am looking forward to finally making this pattern.

3) 1940's inspired tie front blouse in white with red polkadots

I may not use this 60s pattern for the blouse as I have another actual 40's pattern that I'm tossing up using instead. Both will require some pattern drafting to get the shape I want as well as the right amount of fabric at the bottom for the ties, but I am loving the little peter pan collar on this 60's version.

I am yet to find the fabric for this, but I'm thinking a little red polka dot cotton lawn will look quite lovely.

4) 1940's inspired peasant dress (View 3) in navy blue cotton

This is actually a 70s pattern that I found about a week ago hiding under the table of a little shop I had no idea existed (even after having lived in the area for some time just before we left for Sydney). I think it has a definite 40s vibe about it and looks like the perfect dress to throw on on a warm summers day.

On top of some mending I have to do on 2 vintage skirts I bought in Edinburgh, I am also hoping to make a 1940s slip or two (with a tutorial), a 1930s inspired silk camisole (also with a tutorial) and a few other bits and pieces that I haven't yet decided on.

I'm also about to begin the process of making my first experimental pattern, a simple and wearable 1940s inspired jersey top that is certainly going to test my pattern making skills (or lack there of if I'm completely honest!).

So, what do you guys currently have on your sewing lists? Have you ever suffered from TMPTMF Syndrome?


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