Portia Dress – toile stage

If there is one thing I love, its a good maxi dress. I am far too short, and wide for such a thing, but the comfort factor far outweighs any society expectations. And really, there is no disguising my size. I figure, I can’t hide it, may as well decorate it.

A friend pointed me to this designer, a new indie pattern company. I am fond of anyone who drafts for plus sizes, and better still if the design is wearable. The initial sew along design is a freebie; who doesn’t love freebies?

But, close to three metres of fabric is expensive to waste if it goes wrong, so I decided to make a toile. Yep I know, not a step I usually take. I just made the pattern length. I will extend to a maxi for the good version.

But, I am not going to make things easy on myself. After the clean up and organisation of my stash, I “found” a big length of rayon jersey. This fabric is a cow; moving as you cut, stretching out as you sew, getting wavy regardless of tension settings, and generally just behaving badly. A super quick sew, took longer, because I reinforced the neck edges, shoulder seams and waist edges with bias stay tape. It was worth it for the firm feel to the seams and edges, but not what you are supposed to do with a toile.
Portia dress toile

Initially I traced of a 4xl, grading out to a 5xl for the skirt. I think like a lot of plus sized people, I believe I am bigger than I actually am. The bodice was significantly too big, and needed close to an inch taken off the side seams. I also have too much fabric in the skirts at the sides, causing a fold over. I have pulled the pattern back to a 3xl graded to a 4xl for the hips, and I will see if that works ok next time. I am tempted to pull the shoulders up by a 1/2inch or so, but I actually like the neckline where it sits, so may just wait and see. While I hemmed the sleeves, I didn’t bother with the skirt hem. I would have to reinforce the whole hem, or it would be wavy and ugly. The viscose doesn’t fray, so I plan to just leave it as it is. I am not convinced with the back opening. The fabric is stretchy enough to go over your head easily. Its a visual aspect I suppose, but I am thinking I may leave it out, and instead shape the centre back to allow for my short waist.
Portia dress toile

The sleeves are an interesting exercise. They are open, almost all the way to the waist edge, and when you look in, you get a great view of side boob and bra. But, the fullness pretty much ensures you don’t get too x-rated. There is an option to sew a seam up from the waist edge, providing some shaping around a larger bust as well. It does ok, although I may lengthen the seam a bit for the next version.
Portia dress toile

I will sew this dress again, next time in a maxi version I think. I may also experiment with a tunic length. It clings a little at my tummy, but then, pretty much everything does that, so I just plan to ignore it.

Portia dress toile

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2018 – the year of sewing for me!

After a couple of years focussing on quilting and gift sewing, with only a small amount of clothing sewing, I recognise that I need to update and refresh my wardrobe.  Items are falling apart, with a number of favourite shirts pilling and developing wear holes across the front (well yes I really need to develop an apron habit in the kitchen to protect my clothes).

My first step …. update my project board.  **the pink dots are things already cut out**
January 2018 - project board

No 5 on my list is some pj’s, a new pattern. I am seriously in love with my fabric, so I decided to do something I don’t normally do, and do a toile for the pattern. I think the universe decided to give me a hand.

This is my favourite summer house dress; it must be at least 4 years old, and is wonderfully soft and cool to wear.
Ella Cami toile

But, that habit of mine of cooking without protecting my clothes, means that the fabric has broken down at the front, creating a wear hole and tear.
Ella Cami toile

I decided to use this dress, as fabric for a toile for my PJ pattern, the Ella Cami by Designer Stitch. There a couple of good reasons for this. I am thick through the middle, but narrow back and shoulder, meaning that I need to test and alter most patterns. And, my love affair fabric is lawn, so hideously expensive …. I don’t want to stuff it up.

I cut up the side seams, saving the shoulder straps to re-use. I lay out the pattern, realising my first hurdles. The frill piece most definitely wouldn’t fit, resulting in less gather, but that didn’t bother me too much. However, there was no way I can fit the facings onto my available fabric. I have decided to cut strips of the left over fabric instead, and bind the neckline/armholes. I think I will actually finish my final version this way, as I think its a less bulky option.
Ella Cami toile

The finished top ……. is too big. Yep, despite all my careful measuring, I have enough fabric under the arms, to need to consider a tuck/pleat to make this version useful. I also need to consider the centre front, which is a little too wide.
Ella Cami toile
I have another dress that is also in my UFO box, so I am thinking I will need to re-trace the pattern, and make some adjustments.

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Solstice Quilt – a gift for the new adult

My niece turned 18 this year, a fantastic milestone.  Quite a few years back, as part of my first steps into quilting, I made her and her brothers a quilt each, all single bed sized.   I am sure she wasn’t all that impressed with it, having said to her mother, “well … its very PINK”.  Having reached this important stage, she has upgraded to a big bed, so I thought it was time to replace her quilt.

This quilt came about as a result of a sew along.  It started in January, with the summer solstice, with a block every week, until the winter solstice.

Solstice Quilt - block 2 Solstice Quilt - block 1





Each block is different, and I included just a smidge of red in a few of the blocks.


The centre block was supposed to be a very old fashioned grandma’s basket, but I replaced it with a multi layered heart, much more suited to a teen girl’s tastes.
(BTW – the quilt is square, so I didn’t put the heart in sideways 😛 )
Solstice Quilt

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Xmas 2017

Oh my poor neglected blog, you poor thing.  This has been the year of Thyroid Cancer, and I just didn’t have the energy to maintain this blog in addition to everything else that I was dealing with.  For those that didn’t know, I was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer this time last year, and had my thyroid removed in Jan 2017.  Follow-up radioactive iodine therapy (after a hiccup caused by my iodine allergy) happened in August.  I am now in the “wait and see” stage, that is so frustrating but a necessary part of a cancer journey.  I am relatively healthy though, so I am happy with my blessings.

So, as a way to launch the blog again, I figure a good place to start, would be on my xmas sewing for 2017.  While many things went by the wayside this year, my sewing did not.  I focussed on gift sewing, as I just wasn’t inspired to clothing sew.  I need to remedy that this year …. things are falling apart.

Shall we begin?

First cab off the rank was a gift for Raylee of Sunflower Quilting and Stitcheries, a good friend.  She creates (along with her mother) these embroidery designs, and asked me to test this one.  I had the fabrics (she is batty about sunflowers) left over from a previous sew, and decided to put the two together. The table topper is insulated, and can be used as a table protector.

Bees and sunflowers

More designs from Sunflower Quilting and Stitcheries, this time made into mug rugs.

mug rugs

The same designs, used in a table runner.

Spotty table runner

Next …… a very large number of table napkins.  In total I made 20 sets …… thats 160 pieces of fabric: cut, pressed, stitched and packed.
Table napkins Napkins 2

napkins 3 napkins 3

napkins 3

Table napkins







I dabbled in a bit of quilting too:  Xmas decorations, and table runners.

Table runner

And finally, Tony’s contribution to the xmas craft.  In exchange for me providing napkins for a few of his work friends, he produced sets of napkin rings.

3D printed napkin rings.

It was truly a craft xmas, and the result of a full year of planning and sewing.  There is quilt as well, but I will feature that separately.

Thank you to all my friends for the chance to sew for you.  I appreciate I probably do too much, but gifts are as much for the giver as the receiver, and I really love the planning and work involved.

Merry Xmas.

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Summer Sewing

While I didn’t get as much sewing over the summer break as I would have liked, I did finish a few items.  My energy levels were terrible, and I was having almost constant headaches, so focussing was difficult.

My priority last year and this year, is work friendly clothing.  Stuff that is comfortable and sensible, but better suited to my figure (or lack of it).  I decided that it was time for A-line skirts and a good fitted shirt.

The A-line is an Ottobre pattern, altered for my comfort requirements.  Instead of a fitted waist, I add 3 inches width at the centre back, leave out the zip and kick split, stitch the waistband on leaving openings at the side seams, and then insert elastic across the back.  The result is a comfy skirt that looks professional from the front.  Since I don’t usually have tucked in shirts, the elastic doesn’t look out of place.

Red and black sateen
Black and red outfit

Pink Linen
Pink Linen Skirt

Navy and cream sateen
Navy paisley skirt

To match to the skirts, I have made a couple of tshirts, using a free pattern I found online. I did have to do an FBA on these tops, and the resulting top is gorgeous, and a step up from a regular shirt.

Black – in a heavy poly knit.
Black and red outfit

Navy – in a heavy cotton/lycra
Navy sweetheart neckline top

I am waiting for some coordinating fabric for a blouse for the pink skirt. I have one more skirt, and two more tops on the project list, and then I think my work wardrobe will be set for a while.

Red and black
Black and red outfit

Navy and cream – taken indoors as it was 41C outside, and I ain’t burning my feet on the veranda in that.
Navy paisley skirt

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Xmas Sewing 2016

A quick scroll through my photo albums, shows that I have been particularly slack with documenting my sewing for the last few months.  Those that know me, would understand that this has been because I was diagnosed late last year with Thyroid Cancer, and I had surgery for that cancer in January 2017.  This has taken up my time, energy and attention as you can imagine.  So I apologise, but I will be doing a couple of “catch up” posts.

To start with, I have my xmas sewing.  Primarily I tend to hand make small gifts for my work friends.   I try to get them done through the year.  Some years I make the same for everyone, and some years, I make a bunch of different things. For 2016, I went for multiples in a small number of things.

Xmas table runners – I made 3 of these.  Thankfully I keep my gift lists every year, so I made sure these went to recipients who didn’t get runners from me in previous years.

table runner

Just one of this set – this didn’t end up going to a work friend. Instead I donated the set to go in a donation basket from my work to a local family who needed support.
Placemats and table runner

Two potholders and a matching tea towel – I made two sets of these, a good way to use up the dribs and leftovers from a jelly roll.
Potholders and teatowel

Star decorations – I made 7 sets of these, a very handy pattern. I went monochrome this year, and was quite please with these.
Xmas stars

Makeup pouches – I made 8 of these, and I think they were the best of everything. Made using scraps of silk (repurposed obi’s) with quilted satin linings, I filled these with a mini handcream or soap.
silk makeup pouch

I didn’t photograph everything, because ….. well because I just didn’t. Still they were all well received.

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The Bookshelf Quilt

Its not often I get inspiration for my quilt making. Unlike my very good friend Raylee of Sunflower Quilting (who is a professional quilter artist!), I am less inclined to challenge myself, preferring to make pretty things that keep people warm.

However, this is the exception to the rule.

Deb is the librarian at the school I work at. She has been with the school for *ahem* many years 😛 . In addition to all the wonderful work she does for the students, she keeps the teachers stocked with lollies and chocolates, she’s the one who does all the recording for sports carnivals, she manages the report producing process, organises the duty timetables, and will jump in and help wherever she is needed. She is a legend.

I came across this tutorial, and it fired the imagination.

Mini Bookshelf Tutorial

I broke my own rule about never cutting out fabrics, or making scrap quilts. I didn’t want to make a mini quilt, so I set about expanding this tutorial, to make a good sized lap quilt. In addition I had to source a jar block tutorial, because Deb’s Library had to have lolly jars.

Deb's quilt

Any book quilt needs a good quote:
Deb's quilt

and a lolly jar or two
Deb's quilt

Raylee put an nice gentle meander quilting over the whole thing; I think a good counterpoint to the straight lines of the books. The fabrics are all left overs from various projects I have done over the last few years. Its like an eyespy quilt but only for me.

And because life isn’t complete without a corner shot.
Deb's quilt

Spine labels out of selvedges. I had to get these from another quilter, as I usually only sew with pre-cuts, and I didn’t have any.

Deb's quilt

And my own form of labelling. Machine stitched using the letters on my sewing machine, straight onto the binding before stitching it on.

Deb's quilt

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Barter clothing

I am a big believer in bartering skills.  I am quite happy to pay for a service, but its nice when someone values my skills, as much as I value theirs, and is willing to swap.

I had a quilting project that I wanted done  (details to come at a later date), that I was quite willing to pay for.  My friend is a professional quilter, and to me a stunning artist. But, she is very time poor.  I appreciate that while she is a talented seamstress, she just doesn’t have the time to devote to putting together an outfit of clothes.  Sewing clothing is a slow process; the nature of the fabrics mean that you can’t rush.  So I offered to make her some clothing pieces, in exchange for the quilting project.  I do think I got the better end of the deal.

The fabric she gave me, was a very fine houndstooth pattern wool, stunningly soft, in hot pink, orange and cream.  She had cut out the panels (the pattern supplied was a 6 gore skirt), and supplied piping in hot pink.

Checked wool skirt 

I inserted a standard dress zip, as I felt an invisible zip may give under pressure.

Checked wool skirt

The hot pink piping was inserted between the front and back gores. Primarily this was to avoid the hassle of trying to match the very small pattern. Because I inserted a lining, I used twill tape on the waist seam. I could have used the lining as the waist treatment, but I was aware that without something to grip, the skirt would be prone to spin around the body.

Checked wool skirt

But, I have an issue with the fact that with such a vibrate fabric, there will be a danger of creating an orphan. Without something to match, the skirt is at risk of hanging in the wardrobe, and not getting worn. I picked up a beautiful thick burnt orange cotton/lycra, and cream cotton drill. Using the same pattern (sorry forgot to note the pattern number) I made a matching tunic, and a short jacket.

Wool skirt outfit

Considering the busyness of the skirt, the plain rich colours are a good offset. Thank you Raylee, for the opportunity to sew for you.



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Mental health check

Having suffered mental health issues as a teenager, I am aware of my “balance”. When I am feeling the strain, and when I know that my brain needs to cut it out and give me a break.  Sometimes these moments sneak up on me, but sometimes, I can feel them building, even see it.  Its a level of clarity that comes from a lot of introspection, although I am not 100% sure it helps a lot.

I am not feeling overly loved at the moment.  This is not anyone’s fault really.  Hubby’s work is intense and stressful and absorbs the majority of his emotional quota.  His hobby tends to be all-encompassing at the moment, perhaps in an effort to offset the stress of the work, but some days I wonder why he bothers, since it seems so stressful all on its own.  I feel that in the competition for his attention, I am fighting a losing battle with electric vehicles, computers, his mates and even books.  I bite my tongue, not because he doesn’t care, but because I know that these are his pressure valves, and he needs them.

My sister is fighting her battles, my brother is living his committed bachelor life, my children of course have their own lives to live, friends have busy lives ……… I just don’t feel all that paramount in anyones life right now.

Its these times, when I feel isolated, thats when my brain messes with me.  A footballer recently commented that its that internal voice, that says you are worthless, and unloveable … that is hardest to deal with. And it never goes away.  My internal voice takes every little event, and turns that into a judgement on me.  On my loveability ….. on my worth.  I find I throw myself into my sewing, and cooking ……. desperate for approval and acknowledgement.  I find myself then brushing these compliments off (annoyingly, just like my mother used to) because while I do it for the approval, in reality I know its not that big a deal.  I find myself cringing internally, because at times I feel like I am a 5 year old, jumping around going “look at meeeeee”.

I would love to know how I could change my landscape….. change how I view myself, and how I get my emotional needs met.  I would love to know how I could communicate this to my husband, and to my family, without adding to their emotional burden.   I don’t have the answers yet …. probably never will.

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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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