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The Afternoon Blouse - Pattern Release Sneak Peek...

Friday, March 28, 2014
So, I've been keeping secrets. I've been busily working away on my first pattern for release, The Afternoon Blouse!

WHAAAA! {insert excited, nervous, happy dance here}

Yes, I know - everyone and their cat (and/or dog, fish, rabbit, guinea pig, chickens...etc) have been releasing patterns lately, but after a few doubts and some sage advice, I thought 'Why not?!' and bit the bullet. You see, sewing is my passion and I want to share it with everyone I possibly can. The worst that can happen is everyone hates my patterns and doesn't buy them, but at least I've had fun making them right?

So, how did this all come to be? Well, it sort of started when I approached our local Recreation Centre about the possibility of teaching sewing classes there (oh yeah, did I mention I'm going to be teaching sewing classes starting on Monday? YAY!! Except, more nervous dancing - what if I forget how to sew?). I wanted to teach two classes initially to gage reaction to them, one a Learn to Sew class and the other an Introduction to Dressmaking class. For the latter, I decided that I kind of wanted to teach my own patterns and so away I delved, into the relatively unknown. Cue: huge learning process here.

These patterns were originally going to just be for my classes, but then I realised what a whole buttload of work was going into one little pattern, that I wondered if I should sell them too. Just in case, you know, any of you wanted to make one!

So, my first pattern, The Afternoon Blouse.  I guess you could sort of call it a retro-vival pattern, as it is based off an original 50s pattern. However, I had made a number of significant fit changes to my original Afternoon Blouses and I've made even more changes to the pattern that I'm going to be releasing. I've made it easier to construct, have drafted a second neckline option and have made the overall shape and design of the blouse more modern so it should blend in well with a vintage and modern wardrobe.

It is a beginners pattern but for the advanced sewer, you should be able to make the blouse in an afternoon - hence the name, but it's also kind of perfect for receiving afternoon guests and for just kicking around in on a lazy Sunday afternoon - making for a quick and satisfying make.

As I said above, the blouse has two necklines to choose from, a round version and a square version. The Button detail on both versions is decorative (aka non-functioning) and it also has my very favourite, soft 1940s style kimono sleeves.  While the blouse is designed to be tucked into high waisted skirts and pants, it looks equally cool worn with jeans and sandals for the modern gal. Really, it's the perfect flowy blouse for those of you heading into summer, and you can make it up in luxurious silk or a practical cotton. Both work perfectly!

The pattern is currently with my lovely testers at the moment and it will be available in the next week or two. At this stage, I'm only going to be releasing it in PDF format, however, if there is enough of a demand for paper patterns, then I'll certainly look into getting them done as well.

AND if you don't sew, but want one, I'm going to be taking orders to make custom Afternoon Blouses for all! Ain't no reason why you non-sewers should miss out, right?! The Afternoon Blouse ranges in size from an NZ6 right through to an NZ20.

So, keep an eye out for when the pattern is officially released for download straight to your computer - I'll be announcing it right here! I'm also pretty sure there'll be a giveaway somewhere in there as well.

Can't wait to hear what you think!!


The Anna Blouse...

Monday, March 24, 2014

I'm having a bit of 'blog' writers block at the moment. There's a lot to say, but words just aren't coming easily this week. So, a short and sweet sewing blog post with mostly pictures will have to suffice this time round.

This is the Anna bodice turned into a back button-up blouse. Pretty sweet huh?

I actually made and took photos of the blouse before we moved into our new house. I was hoping to find the time to make up a tutorial to go along with this post but unfortunately, that just hasn't happened yet.  If you would like to know how I did it, let me know in the comments and I'll rustle up a tutorial for you.

And just quickly, while we're on the subject of the BHL ladies, have you seen their kickstarter page? I've had the honor of meeting (and fabric shopping with) Elisalex and Charlotte, and they are such lovely ladies! There are some pretty sweet goodies available for all pledges (big and small), so if you can pledge anything towards their project, you can do so here

I'll be back this week with a sneak peek of what's been eating up my life at the moment (and has taken up all my words. And it ain't just the house, though that has been taking up plenty enough on it's own). Can't wait to share...



Thursday, March 13, 2014
Well folks, here she is, my version of the By Hand London Flora Dress!

When the BHL ladies contacted me a few months ago to see if I wanted to test their newest pattern, well, it was kind of a no-brainer. After my love affair with the Anna bodice (of which I have 2 more finished projects to show you!!), it would have been dumb of me to say no, right? Also, luckily for me, this was just before the 'Very First House Purchase' storm!

I opted to make version 2 of the dress, though version 1 has a lovely faux wrap bodice, which I might need to try once autumn/winter has left our fair isles.

I cut out a straight size 8/12 in the bodice and could have probably taken in the waist a tiny smidge (or it's the perfect dress to wear out where large amounts of food may be consumed!).

I also cut out a size 8/12 in the skirt, but lowered the front of the skirt by cutting it 2 sizes longer (just because I prefer my skirts longer). I then also lengthened the back of the skirt by the same amount so that it would keep its dramatic high-low hem.

The dress came together exceptionally easily and as the bodice is lined, it looks just as beautiful inside as it does out. I also love the pleats they've added to both the front and back of the skirt (making it even bigger and more dramatic!), it's a style that is super flattering on all shapes and sizes.

The gorgeous fabric I used was sent to me courtesy of Tessuti Fabrics in Australia and is a beautiful poly/rayon blend called Tea Party in Mauve (best name for a fabric ever! Unfortunately it's now sold out). The fabric is so soft and has the perfect amount of drape for the skirt with just enough hold for the structured bodice and a tiny bit of stretch for comfort. I also love the textured plaid design running through it - a subtle amount of pattern without being too much.

The circle skirt does take  up a lot of fabric, so you will need to take special care when selecting the width of fabric you opt for. But, in saying that, if a small corner of the skirt went off your fabric, you could either a) just make the skirt a little less full than it is, or b) you could add a little triangle of the same fabric, or a contrasting fabric, to fill in the gap. You would have a little seam line where you had added the extra fabric, but wouldn't a contrasting section look AWESOME??!! I kind of wish I had done that!

As I've found with all the BHL patterns I've made, the instructions are friendly, talkative and informative. Sewing can be such a solitary act, but I always feel like I'm having a conversation with a very knowledgable sewing buddy when reading BHL instructions.  Is that weird? Does anybody else feel this way? (After writing and reading that, I feel a little like Shirley Valentine, though instead of talking to a wall, I talk to my sewing patterns!! Eeep!).

The only thing I was a little worried about with this dress is that sometimes the straps don't quite cover my bra straps. This is easily solved by either adding bra carriers to the straps or wearing a strapless bra.

Righto, time for some Instagram selfies... cause that's how I roll.


PS) Blank sewing room walls and a large window for indoor photo-taking FOR THE WIN! Pity a rather large cutting table will be landing in that very exact spot in a few days...

New Home Sneaky Peeks...

Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Hi All!

Well, we've been in our new home for just over a week now - we finally got the internet hooked up this weekend and I'm hopeful that I'll resume normal bloggy service shortly.

Today I wanted to quickly show you the beginnings of my sewing room. I've not had the time to sew anything new yet, but just having this little corner set up makes me feel good. My room gets amazing afternoon sun, but I'm still toying with the idea of possibly taking the room next door which gets all day sun - we'll see. It's currently David's office/library and is a rather lovely room to sit in and read...

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll have seen a few sneak peeks of our house, mostly of the late summer/early autumn produce we've been harvesting. Our plan at this stage with the garden is to harvest as much as we can, get rid of the weeds/over zealous nasturtium, prune everything back and get it ready for winter.  David and I have spent hours in the garden already, and it doesn't even really look like we've made a dent! But we're loving it. As are our ladies - they've been feasting on all the snails we've been finding.

Two of three chickens free ranging in a bit of garden David and I had just cleared. We couldn't catch the third one! 

Daisy (Left) and Rosemary (Right). Marigold (Missing - aka too smart for her own good!) 

Our house blog is coming! Stay tuned... 

I'll be back this week with my version of the Flora Dress that you've probably seen popping up all over the internetz - I had the pleasure of testing it for the ladies at BHL, and what a lovely little dress it is...


The Round Retro Cushion - Pattern Chart & Tutorial

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Now that we've bought our very first home, I'm itching to get in and make it our own. Ever since I joined Pinterest, I've been furiously pinning inspiration for when when it eventually happened and having a round retro cushion (or two or three!) was high on the list.

I've always loved the round retro cushion, but I just couldn't justify the expense of buying one - cushions are serious investments these days! So, I decided to make one and show you guys just how easy it is to make your own as well!

Make sure you download the pattern chart I've created to go along with the tutorial below. The pattern chart is not to scale, but explains in black and white the pattern markings you need to make on your fabric to make making the Round Retro Cushion a breeze.

 JLV Round Retro Cushion Pattern Chart

The bulk of the cushion is hand-sewn, so it does take longer to make than your traditional square cushion cover, but the results are simply gorgeous (the centre grid on this cushion took me about 2-3 hours to hand sew one evening). It also gives you a chance to practice your hand sewing and it's really quite forgiving if you're a bit rusty.

While the cushion itself looks complicated, I've hopefully made the process much easier to understand and once you get the hang of it, it's a little like knitting with it's repetitive stitches which makes it great t.v sewing.

  • Free Downloadable Pattern Chart
  • Rectangle of fabric measuring 22inches width by 47inches length
  • Matching Thread
  • Hand-sewing Needle
  • Pillow Inner (Round - 40inch circumference or Square - 15x15inches)*
  • Pins
  • Ruler
  • Fabric Marker of your choice (I used a ball point pen)
  • 2x 2inch Buttons (or similar)

*Use these measurements as a guide only as they really depend on how 'full' you want your final cushion to be. For reference, I used a square 15x15inch insert in my cushion.


1. On the wrong side of your fabric, measure out your grid according to the pattern chart download. You should end up with 46boxes in length (with 1/2inch SA on each side) and 8boxes width.

Note: You will not be able to see the underside of your cushion. So while you can use a fabric marker that will rub off like tailors chalk, I've gone for a black ball point pen here because I didn't want my markings disappearing half way through sewing.

2. Draw in your diagonal lines according to the grid in the pattern chart download.

3. Double thread your needle and tie a knot securely at the end. Use a length comfortable for you as you'll need to re-thread several times throughout the project.

4. Starting at the corner of your first box (Point A on the pattern chart), thread your needle into the corner pulling the thread through to the end.

5. Then take your needle and following the diagonal line you drew in, thread the needle through the opposite corner (Point B on the pattern chart).

6. Draw your two diagonal corners together tightly with the thread so that they are touching, then thread the corners together one more time to secure and tie a knot in the thread (don't cut your thread off).

7. Now that your first box is secure, take your needle across to the corner of your second box (Point C on the pattern chart) and keep this thread loose! You do not want it tight. Tie a knot at Point C.

8. From Point C, take your needle and follow your diagonal line to the corner at Point D and draw C and D tightly together (as you did for A and B). Thread the corners together again as you did at step 5. and tie a knot.

9. Continue in this manner up your first row (down your second, and up your third) drawing your diagonal lines tightly together so they are touching and keeping your horizontal lines loose.

Note: If you accidentally make your horizontal lines too tight, don't worry! Because you've been knotting your thread in each corner as you go, you can snip this thread without worrying that your sewing will come apart.

As you sew up your first row, this is what the right side of your fabric will start to look like - it looks a little like you're plaiting your fabric!

And this is what the underside of your fabric will look like - 

10. Once you've finished hand sewing your centre grid, with right-sides together, pin your 1/2inch seam allowance together at the side, taking care to match up your 'plaits'.  Sew together using your sewing machine.

Note: your seam allowance will want to 'bubble', but try as much as you can to sew them together with no bumps or gathers in the fabric. If you can't manage to sew the seams flat, don't worry too much as your side seam does become hidden in the folds of the fabric.

11. Once your side seam is sewn up, you'll end up with a tube of fabric. Turn it right side out and prepare your pillow inner.

Note: in the photo below, you can see my side seam (centre of the photo). You can see already that the seam has almost disappeared into the 'plaits' in my cushion. It will also be hidden on the top and bottom with the pleats.

12. Insert your pillow inner. Make sure the 'plaited' centre of your pillow case is going around the circumference of your pillow inner.

Note: you'll notice that my 'round' retro cushion is actually kind of square. That's because I used a square insert that I already had on hand. Feel free to use a square, rectangle or round insert depending on what shape you want your final cushion to end up as.

 Looks a bit like a bug here, no?

13. With your pillow inner in place, pick a side and start pleating the fabric into the centre. Pin your pleats in place.

You'll notice that your pleats will form quite naturally and easily from the plaits around the circumference of your cushion. Just make sure you angle all of them to the centre and they should fall into line. Adjust as necessary until you are happy. Repeat with the other side.

14. Once you are happy with the position of your pleats, secure them in place with a few hand stitches. You don't need to be too neat as the stitches will be hidden with a button, but do make sure they are secure.

Once both sides are secure, run your needle and thread back and forth through the centre of each side of the pillow and pull tight. This will give your cushion that lovely indent in the centre making it look plush and soft.

15. Nearly there! Finish off both sides of your pillow with a button to hide your hand stitches. It can either be a self covered button or a contrasting button.

If you are using a standard button with holes in the centre, it's best to sew these in. However, if you are using a self covered button or a button with the shank on the underside (and not visible) you can go down the lazy route and glue them on with either a hot glue gun or fabric glue.


You now have an awesome retro cushion ready to adorn your couch, chair or bed!!!

This kind of sewing project is great to take everywhere with you as you don't need a sewing machine for most of it. Do it while waiting for the bus, take it on holiday with you or simply have it around for when you have a spare few moments to sew but don't want to set up your machine. It's just as portable as knitting, if not more so!

Feel free to get creative and add or omit rows of 'plaits' or even change up the size of the squares in the grid - you may want 2inch boxes or half inch boxes! Do note however, that changing the grid sizes may change the size of fabric or pillow inner required.

These cushions also make great gifts as they look really complicated, but in reality, the most complicated part is making the time to do it.

If you do give one of these a go, please let me know!! I'd love to see them.


ps) Making and writing these tutorials takes a butt-load (technical term) of time. If you do make one of these and blog or write about it, please make sure you link back to me! Thanks!

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