Cheung Sam for my daughter

Quite a few years ago, my daughter chose this dress pattern as her Year 10 graduation dress. It was a trial of difficult fabric (silk brocade …. eeeeekkkkkkk), tricky new pattern, and fitting my super tall daughter. She is a different shape to me, a wonderful slender tall girl, a little hippy or bottom heavy, but still closer to the pattern than I ever get.

She is going to a hen’s night and wanted another dress. She went for a shorter, less formal length (amazingly, above her knees), and this time we went with a Polyester/Rayon Brocade. The fabric is a lot stiffer, although its softened up with handling. Its got a wash tonight so hopefully it softens up more.

Cutting out:
After the debacle of the magical shredding silk, I was determined that I wouldn’t have the problems a second time around. Instead of cutting everything out, sewing seams and then finishing the seam edges …. I cut out each piece, and then immediately serged each of the cut edges. In hindsight, it was probably unnecessary, but I prefer to be cautious.

Cheung Sam dress for Naomi

I struggled with the overlap stretching out last time. This time I used some seam support along the upper neck edge.

Cheung Sam dress for Naomi

The longest zip on the planet.
Cheung Sam dress for Naomi

Don’t you love patterns that don’t have finished widths, or any information on how much ease is included. My daughter had grown slightly since she was 16 (who doesn’t), not hugely, but just enough to go into the next set of measurements on the packet.  Add to that, its been so long I can’t remember how many changes I made to the dress previously. However, at the fitting point, we had just way too much width. I took it in at the side seams, and under the bust.

We got there in the end ….. metres and metres of hand stitching of the lining …. to the neckline, the zip and the hem. Perhaps bagging would have been a better choice, but oh well.

Cheung Sam dress for Naomi

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Animal Quilt – baby gift quilt

This is a gift for a work colleague, who is pregnant with her third child.

The panel was a purchase from my local Spotlight (Aussie equivalent to Joanne’s) not the best quality, and slightly off grain, but cute. My standard quilt MO is straight lines, or wavy lines. However, as I hadn’t done any piecing, I though maybe I should make a bit more of an effort. The animals in the centre have a white on grey dotted outline, obviously meant to mimic hand quilting, so I started by adding an extra layer of batting in that area, stitching *, and then trimming the second layer of batting back to the stitch line. (apparently there is a name for this, no idea what). Then … I followed the zig zags, and outlined the frames.

*yes ….. I actually did some free motion quilting, but I am not a quilter

Outlining the animals

Looking at the quilt, I realised that a simple outline on the animals wouldn’t be enough, as the space in the middle exceeded the quilting distance of the batting. So I whacked the FMQ foot back on, and set about highlighting the outlines on some of the animals. This actually turned out better than I planned, and I can see that practice will help the evenness of my stitches.

Animal Quilt

The end result is a slightly puffy centre to the quilt. However because I use 100% cotton in all my quilts, the loft isn’t all that significant. I think its more a texture effect.

Animal Quilt

Next is the binding. I decided to try flanged binding (Missouri Star Tutorial here ). Binding is orange, with the flange in pale green. It worked out ok, although I had been sewing the entire afternoon by the time I got to the binding, and in hindsight, should have left it to the next day. I ended up unpicking, and restitching at one point, as I had a tuck in the binding that messed with my mind.

Animal Quilt

So quilt is finished, and tucked away in the present box ready to be wrapped and taken to work. I think its time to switch back to clothing for a while.

Animal quilt

Posted in Gifts and Sewing Galore | 2 Comments

Good enough and WOMBATS

Anyone who has seen my sewing room, will know that I am a wee bit obsessive.
tidy sewing room

I can’t work in a mess, I am not a “creative thinker” and I value order and predictability.

That being said, it may be a surprise to many that I don’t seem to always apply that level of obsessiveness to my sewing. I am a big believer in “good enough”. Hem a bit wobbly, seam not quite straight, button hole 2mm off, collar not quite even…….. I have learnt that while aiming for good quality is great, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to sacrifice fabric or your sanity, when something doesn’t work out.

I made two blocks, following the Missouri Quilt Company tutorial for a Missouri Star.
star #2

Of course once they worked out, I decided to make things harder for myself, by using the blocks for a Quilt As You Go quilt. I bought a big piece of backing fabric, and decided to start. After doing two blocks, I realised I had made some fundamental errors. The backing fabric was the wrong tone to match, and the quilting looked abysmal, and I didn’t like the joining mechanism. To add insult to injury, I ran out of the white, and when trying to source more hit a brick wall. Who knew there were so many shades of white?

These blocks had now become a WOMBAT —- waste of money, batting and time.

But,I am not one to waste fabric. I wasn’t going to get stressed about the look of the blocks or the backing ….. instead I made some extra pieces, threw them together with indecent haste, and then bound the lot. The result is not quilting at its best. Points are cut off and misaligned, seams don’t line up, there are two shades of white on the quilt, placement is questionable, and I could probably have rounded off the corners.
Table protector

What I do have, is a table mat that protects my dining table from hot cups and scratches, that doesn’t hang down to get pulled off by accident, and that I won’t mind if food spills on it.

It is good enough.

Posted in Craft and Sewing Patterns | 1 Comment

Tracing PDF’s

One of the most tedious things about sewing from PDF patterns is laying out and taping the patterns. Often you are left with a huge piece of tacked together paper, that will not fold well. And, once the entire thing is taped together, you have to go through the whole process again, to trace the pattern, because copy paper is rarely great to pin to fabric. Yes you can get a pattern printed in A0, but I often want to jump straight into a pattern, not wait till I next have time to get to the printers.

Last weekend I taped together a craftsy pattern, and that was a tiresome exercise. I thought there had to be a better way…… especially when I tried to fold the blinking thing back up. Then I remembered someone commented on a topic somewhere, about tracing each page individually, skipping the taping. I had no other directions, but I decided to give it a go.

Key I think, is if your pattern has a layout guide. This tells you which pages go where.

Tracing PDF's

Then, start at your top left page, and place it at the corner of your tracing material (I use Trace’n’Toile, but you could use interfacing or any other type of material you can see through). Trace not only cutting lines and markings, but also the cutting edge of the page (I used dashed lines).

Tracing PDF's

Continue, lining up subsequent pages with the page edge lines, and the patterns lines as well. Remember to mark what the piece is, and any grainlines as well.

Tracing PDF's

Your pattern will be interspersed with dashed lines, but as long as you don’t use those to indicate other parts of the pattern, they should be easy enough to ignore.

Tracing PDF's

NB: I traced the pants legs in two parts, but the edges are marked with dashed lines, so I can line them up and sew them together, or just layer them when pining to fabric.

Best of all ….. a very tedious step has been totally removed. Yay!

Posted in Craft and Sewing Patterns | 3 Comments

A weekend of black ………

I don’t sew a lot of black things ……  Its hard to see, requiring frequent stops to rest my eyes.  And sewing black requires the overlocker (and coverstitch) to be rethreaded, something I find tiresome and avoid at all costs.  Which is ridiculous, considering it takes very little time. So, my weekend started with a minor clean up of my cutting table, followed by rethreading the overlocker.

And I was off!!!

First cab off the rank, was my TNT Singer Plus blouse, this time with 3/4 length sleeves in black embroidered cotton. I need to source the buttons for this, but its pretty much done. I will now have a black blouse, to wear with a couple of skirts that are bordering on orphans at the moment.


Next along, was another TNT, the StyleArc Amber blouse, in a light cotton lawn. I faced the neckline of this one, rather than binding, and I am preferring the clean lines. I wonder if I will ever make this pattern up as its mean to, with the piped facings?


And finally, a re-purpose of an old skirt. This tiered boho skirt, is a lovely comfortable skirt to wear, and I have had it for a couple of years. But, the shirring is aging, and really it is a tiny bit too long, tripping me up occasionally.

Boho skirt remakeBoho skirt remakeBoho skirt remake

The skirt has a lining, so I staystitched along just under the elastic, to anchor the lining. Then I cut off the shirring just above the stitching line.

I used my KwikSew lounge pants pattern, cutting out a set of waistband yokes. I have used this yoke on a couple of other items, and its quite a versatile waist treatment. Elastic was some very wide underwear elastic I had in the stash, stitched to the upper seam and enclosed into the yoke. I basted the open edges together with a 3 step zigzag.

Boho skirt remakeBoho skirt remakeBoho skirt remake







Then, its just a matter of stitching the yoke to the top of the skirt, stretching to fit, again using 3 step zigzag. I then ran the seam through the overlocker, just to finish everything off.

Boho skirt remake

This a much more stable waistline, and an added benefit, it has shortened the skirt by a couple of inches, eliminating the trip hazard caused by my height. I expect another couple of years out of this skirt.

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I am all peopled out!

This is the standard statement that my sister says.  She often says that she suffers from “social aversion”.  She doesn’t particularly like people, dislikes crowds, will not go to parties, and hates shopping.  Its a quirk of her personality, that I have always said was particular to her.

But today, I have realised that I also suffer from it.

We had school photos today.  I had lots of organisation to do.  Getting everyone in the right place at the right time, tracking down wayward students, getting the family photos organised, talking to parents, teachers and the photographers.   I have spent the day being chirpy and happy,  organising everyone …. hell I didn’t sit down at my desk until almost 12.30pm.

I got home, and of course after a day of teaching Naomi was anxious to chat, as was Nathan.  I decided I had had enough!!!!!!

“I need some non-contact time ….. RIGHT NOW!!!!!”

Like my sister, I am peopled out ….. please don’t make me people anymore!

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Vintage Sewing and pretty fabric

I love sewing with luxurious fabrics ….. silk, satin, chiffon, organza and lace. They aren’t easy fabrics to sew with, more of a challenge. But, sewing in adult proportions is an exercise in $$$$$. My daughters yr 10 graduation dress cost close to $150 in materials, and her year 12 graduation dress & coat was closer to $350 in materials.

Many years ago, back when I first started sewing, I picked up a vintage baby dress pattern in a charity shop. I used the pattern to make a matinee jacket and bonnet for a friend’s baby. Since that time, I had an idea that I could use the pattern, to make special baby clothes.  In part this is because of the simply beautiful gown we were gifted when we lost Isabeau; a stunning smocked affair donated by the Smocking Guild. Dealing with bridal fabrics a few years back, I realised that I could combine my love of special fabrics, and experimenting with these vintage patterns, and make christening gowns. Perhaps I will have a go at heirloom sewing techniques eventually (although I just don’t feel I am artistic enough for smocking), but for now, its just a pleasure creating something pretty.

I just love the way the old patterns yellow with time:
Newborn christening outfit

And here is the first part; a simple a-line petticoat, edged with wide lace at the hem, satin ribbon, with the neckline and armholes bound with satin bias. The fabric is silk/cotton voile; in hindsight just too fine for this work. I think I will probably use the rest of this fabric to underline future gowns, where the fabric is rough underside. And I may do this petticoat as a double layer in future, to present a neater neckline/armholes.
Newborn christening outfit

And the gown; this is a buttery soft (possibly silk) satin, really luscious to touch. I say possibly, because its a piece of thrifted fabric, that I found in an op-shop many years back. The colour reminds me of the gown a friend wore at our debutante, which she accessorised with lilac, which is what inspired me to use the lilac ribbon. My friend was a redhead, a real strawberry ginger, but she just glowed in this colour, and it was beautiful.
Newborn christening outfit

I haven’t decided what I will do with this sort of sewing. I may give away, or sell, I don’t know yet. This outfit is an experiment, just to test the pattern. I may make more, I don’t know.

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Weighted blankets and lap pads

This has been a project that started out of a discussion with my sister. Both her boys are on the spectrum, with the youngest also having SPD. We both looked into making weighted quilts for them. I bought 5kg of pellets and some quilt panels, but she decided to make them for herself, so I had a surplus of materials, and no purpose for them.

I decided rather than waste them, I would make some therapy items for my school. I am normally militantly opposed to sewing things for work (people seem to want more and more if I do). However, we have a very challenging little person at school, who suffers badly with anxiety and emotion control, so I decided to make a weighted quilt, using this tutorial:
How to make a weighted blanket

I used the standard measurement of 10% of the childs body weight. I went on 20kg as an average, so the finished quilt is about 2kg. Thats about 23g of pellets per cell. I liked the tutorial, as it doesn’t mess around with trying to bind a very heavy thing.

Weighted blanket

I still had a surplus of pellets, so I used up some other fabric, and made weighted lap pads using the same method. These are 20x15in in size, and use about 900g of pellets per pad. These are for the “thinking space” at the school, a breakout room for little ones who aren’t coping on the playground or need some help with managing friendships.

Weighted lap pad

Weighted lap pads

They aren’t too heavy, but they are an assistance item for reassurance, not something to pin the child to the chair.

Posted in Craft and Sewing Patterns | 1 Comment

Strawberries and Cream Banana Bread

I also refer to this cake, as my “contingency cake”. I bake these when the bananas are on the verge of being binned, then freeze for morning teas at work.


2 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream (or full fat yoghurt – gives a slightly different texture)
3 bananas – mashed
1 cup strawberries – chopped
1 tsp vanilla
**options*** demerara sugar

1. Oven 170 deg C – grease 1 large or 2 small loaf tins
2. Combine flour, baking soda and baking powder
3. cream butter and sugar
4. add eggs, vanilla, sour cream and bananas, mix thoroughly
5. fold in strawberries
6. fold flour into wet ingredients, mix well
7. Pour into loaf tin
8. bake 50-60mins (large tin) or 45-50mins (small tins) or until skewer inserted comes out clean.
9. Cool 10 mins in the tin then turn out and cool on a wide rack.

**optional** sprinkle top of cake with demerara sugar before baking.
**alternatives** tinned pie apples, diced dried apricots, cinnamon.

Banana Bread

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The Walk Away Dress

When I began my sewing journey, it was primarily because of my daughter. She was a long skinny baby, and rapidly grew into a long skinny toddler. I found that to get clothes that fit her, I either had things that fit but were too short, or things that were the right length but hung off her like sacks. In order to get even the simplest items of clothing for her, I had to sew. As a result, she has been the primary benefactor of my sewing obsession. Its only in the last decade or so, that I have switched my focus to sewing for myself, however occasionally she will request.

The Walk-Away Dress: Start it after breakfast…walk-away in it by lunchtime!” As seen on The Great British Sewing Bee, season 3, episode 3.11. DD is not a sewist, but saw this dress while watching GBSB with me, and asked me to make it. A very simple wrap around dress, sheath front, circle wrap around over skirt.

The first step, was to adjust the dress form back to her size (it does double duty when I sew for my niece). This is always an interesting exercise, as the dress form has to be squished to its smallest position, to go close to her size, and even then we can never get the waist as small as it needs to be. I also tissue fit the pattern on her, just to be sure it fits.


I am glad I did. Despite this being a modern interpretation of this pattern, it still seems the block is based on a shape that includes a corset/girdle. DD has a tiny waist, but I had to grade the bodice up to the next size at that point. Like me she has narrow shoulders. Unlike me, she also has a tiny bust. She takes after her grandmother, being a pure pear shape …. albeit tiny and tall. I can see that if I make her a fitted bodice dress, I am going to have to figure out how to do a SBA, oh joy!

Next the cutting out. This required me to almost entirely clear the cutting table, as the skirt is ENORMOUS!!!


Its a simple enough design, quick to sew up. I did follow instructions to leave it hang for a day to let the bias “set” whatever that means. By far the most time consuming step ….. is applying bias binding to the edges. Using half inch bias means that the binding is super narrow, and inclined to slip away from the presser foot.


The design is interesting, but really the weight of the back of the dress is impractical. It drags the dress at the shoulders, causing the front dress to slide up.Pulling it tight on the waist goes some way to alleviate it, but it still pulls backwards. As soon as I finished it, I was going over in my head, how I could take a regular shift dress, and then incorporate the circle skirt overdress, anchoring in the side seams to carry the weight of the skirt better. Nah …. I think I just find a pattern for a circle skirt dress, and make that for her.  As an exercise in “sewing retro” this has been lovely. But the design shortcuts used to make this fit the super quick/easy dynamic, mean that the finished result isn’t as polished as it could be. DD loves the dress style, but has already asked for a different design.

Posted in Craft and Sewing Patterns, Gifts and Sewing Galore | 2 Comments