Somewhere in time… the 1940s Butterick dress

The truth of motherhood is, that whilst 99.9% of the time you want to be the cool, fun Mum you thought you’d be before you had kids, there are going to be some days that you are just getting by and you rely on the “little” things to try and make your little people happy. The last week has been busy. I have no clue how my friends with more than children find time to sleep and rest! Two keeps me quite busy. And in getting caught up in the ‘busy-ness’ I think its super important to take time to relax. Or just have a cup of tea (or wine) and have your thoughts to yourself.

One of my favourite things to do for “quiet mummy time” if I am not too exhausted in the evenings is pull out some of my treasured catalogs or look over my patterns. My to-make list is of course endless, but sometimes it is really interesting to just look at a design and analyse it… what makes it different? Special? What makes it work? Do I want to make it? There is potential in every pattern…, every pattern could be come a dress… and the dress could become apart of a special moment….

Butterick 3714

Butterick 3714

Whilst looking at Butterick 3714, I kept on remembering a dress in a photo of my grandmother and her friend, taken in the 40s. I love the photo. My grandmother looks somewhat serious, her friend is looking at someone unseen, they’re holding hands, a gesture which speaks of great friendship. There is an unmistakable sense of happiness in this picture, of occasion. Possibly a wedding but all the caption on the back says is “Beryl and close friend”. I have to admit I also love it because in an age where people simply delete images that don’t comply with the “rules” (everyone looking at the camera, everyone smiling, hair falling just so), there is an element of Cartier Bresson’s sense of “moment” in this image.

But when I dug the photo out and compared the pattern…, voila… magic… What are the chances that I would actually own or even recognise the dress pattern in this photo? Seriously there had to be thousands of photos sold and used in Australia during those years… But there it was, the jewel neckline with the single button, the double sleeve effect echoed with the partial peplum… its quite distinctive…. it had to be the dress? I was convinced it was the dress.

It felt funny, this discovery. It brought that moment in the past so much closer, it wasn’t just a black and white world, the people in the picture seemed that little bit more alive to me. And as for my grandmother, who passed when I was a baby and whom I knew only through the many stories my father and others told me- proud, loyal, feisty, proper- I felt a little bit closer to her world, as it had been. I have a few photos of her and I think from what I have been told we would have gotten along royally…

A few years ago I visited my Italian Godmother who had been my grandparents neighbour in Hobart for decades- its a little street that I think looks a lot like it would have done in the 1940s. Each morning when my Godmother raised the shutters, it was apparently the “signal” to my grandmother that it was time to come for coffee. They would sit and drink Italian espresso when their chores were done.

That story always stuck with me, life didn’t always serve her what she wanted. It must have been hard for her, her only son conscripted for Vietnam… and when he came back, he never returned to Hobart to live. I have other photos, though not many, she clearly enjoyed keeping up with the fashions… from the 30s with Wallis Simpson fluttery elegance, the winged sleeves of 50s housewife glamour to the fresh sophistication of the 1960s… what interesting times she lived in.

Whenever my husband and I visit, as we are about to in a few weeks, I drive past that house where my dad was raised and where the photo was probably taken. I think its important for my kids to know where their family is from. Its also my way of remembering people who were so important to me.

We might not do everything right or perfectly as parents or as people. But I think the best we can hope for is that when all is said and done, we have done our best and are remembered. And stopping for that espresso, those stolen moments to oneself, of pressing the pause button… that is all really important. It was a good week to feel connected to the past.

Thumbs up for Collette Dinnigan’s Young Hearts line at Aldi


So, there were about 30 people waiting for Aldi to open at the Canberra City store this morning….  Given the range of $15-20 for fun, brightly coloured girls swimwear I was certainly keen to inspect Ms Dinnigan’s offerings, as a thrifty mumma “who sews”. For such prices, what quality would could be expected given our cheap equals disposable consumer culture ? Could these pretty threads look as pretty as the sun drenched marketing in Aldi’s catalogue? (credit: the catalog images shown here are by Hugh Stewart…. Gold)!


I bought a number (cough cough, a lot)!of pieces and whilst I was less keen on some of the cotton pieces (the skirts for one, I would be less likely to buy because I could whip them up with a minimum investment of time), the range represents very good value for money. There are still a few loose threads to be snipped, for the most part hems were neatly machined and I very much disliked the way some bows were machined on to some of the sleepwear items, but these are overall great buys.

If you were thinking of popping into Aldi, do snap up the swimwear! Best value. But don’t hesitate…  I don’t think the best pieces will last long. Even the girls party dresses with lacy trim are pretty good at $30 when you consider the styles offered by Ms Dinnigan at David Jones…. Here are a few of the things I picked up from my own sweet girl…





The last picture was a toddler swimsuit, you can see how they have been neatly finished inside…

Romperlicious… Springtime and a visit to Kangaroo Valley, Berry and Seven Mile Beach

Its been a while since I blogged I know but the household has been very busy since my second born made her entry into the world. Sewing has been happening but very slowly… glacially… incrementally! But it has been happening and with my daughter’s first birthday I had set myself a deadline to finish a few things. We had booked a few nights away in the Kiama area on the coast… about 2.5 hours from Canberra and a stones throw, really, from Kangaroo Valley, Berry and Seven Mile beach.


The first dress to show off was a dress for little Miss M’s birthday itself. Daddy couldn’t get the day off work so we called Grandma on our way to a pretty Garden nursery in Piallago here in Canberra that emulates something of a dream garden. I told my husband I wanted to move there. The set up is excellent with a great little playground and forethought enough to put an outdoor water station for thirsty parents. We sat in the early Spring sunshine and dreamt of Summer. The “birthday dress” was a 1970s Style pattern which I had played up with some chintz and red rick rack… I wanted the rick rack to peep out from the yoke and sleeves like little petals… What do you think? i was really happy with the effect.


The “petal dress” … 2015 does 70s, 70s does 50s!

sporting Grandma's sun hat... still a little big!!!

sporting Grandma’s sun hat… still a little big!!!

The second outfit was a 1950s pattern- a romper which I adapted using KAM snaps at the back and loads and loads of ruffle for the skirt- I didn’t skimp there and let me tell you, with price of Liberty lawn it can be tempting but this is a dress I want to keep for my daughter when she is older… I put a lot of time into it, I finished it with french seams and adapted the pattern so the legs area wouldn’t bunch… Here it is being worn on Seven Mile Beach. I love these photos of my children…

The Liberty romper... my kids enjoy early morning sunshine on Seven Mile beach...

The Liberty romper… my kids enjoy early morning sunshine on Seven Mile beach…

Here you can see the KAM snaps, they worked fine but obviously using lawn there was a layer of interfacing between the lining and bodice pieces. I used lawn for the lining also,

Here you can see the KAM snaps, they worked fine but obviously using lawn there was a layer of interfacing between the lining and bodice pieces. I used lawn for the lining also. I liked the ties at the shoulder because I loosen them as she grows.


Finally, another 50s pattern which has a popular type of construction from the 40s and 50s made in mint seersucker. I drew on a lot of mail order catalogs from the era in making my design choices. Again the pattern was customised and instead of the massive ruffles in the original pattern I gather alternating rows of eyelet lace from my stash with more petite seersucker ruffles. It was actually a little big for her but its something she can wear more comfortably towards the end of the coming Summer.

Love the back of this one! But I would (will) make a bolero to match because the sun can get pretty hot...

Love the back of this one! But I would (will) make a bolero to match because the sun can get pretty hot…

The front of the mint romper... customised from a Butterick pattern

The front of the mint romper, accessorised with sand! of course!… customised from a 50s Butterick pattern

For anyone thinking about visiting the area, I highly recommend it. Stop at a cafe in Berry on the way… enjoy Seven Mile Beach. RELAX! And if you kids, make sure you visit the Kiama blow hole, our three year old son was enthralled! There is also the Little Blow Hole not too far away, less spectacular but just as much fun little ones who may not like the crowds.

Seven Mile Beach ... early morning

Seven Mile Beach … early morning


Seriously old school… advance 6897 with vintage style embroidery


So I have about 4 projects happening in tandem for my daughter at present… The jumper dress at the top left is one, in grey blue and white seersucker…  Perfect to pop over a onesie when Spring arrives.


Depending on how much time I have, thinking of adding heart shaped embroidered pockets as per the following vintage illustration from a 1940s vogart hot iron transfer. Embroidery is new to me, but looking forward to giving it a go….


My husband is one of the few people I know who still uses handkerchiefs so embroidering his initials would also make a wonderful birthday present later in the year.


I have the book Sublime Stitching… Pretty ideas if anyone else is interested.