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.



Late 1930s glamour

The whole household


is sick so opportunities to sew have been few. I am longing to work in my dress, but have contented myself with stolen moments if fashion research (perusing my beloved catalogues)!

Below is a similar bodice to the dress I am working on, this Vogue pattern featured in an early 1938 Vogue pattern book. Such an enduring style, it would be easy to adapt from some of the modern patterns floating around.


I actually couldn’t resist acquiring the next blouse pattern (below) on etsy… It was rare to begin with let alone in my size! When I get around to it, I actually don’t think it will be too hard to make.


Don’t you just love older fashion illustrations? Beautiful.

Over overcasting? Speed it up!


Found this quickie method of overcasting a 50s dressmaking book in my collection…  I would say I am now working twice as fast…


Here is a sneak peek…. Delicious red shantung…


And here is the Simplicity dress pattern I am working from. Love this style. I have tweaked it just a little…
Hopefully pictures soon but there is one heck of a hem to do yet….


Empire waists and princess seams



It has been busy here, so not a lot of blogging, lately. I have been focused on making a 40s style dress similar to this 70s style pattern, except the bodice is gathered. I am sewing it in red shantung silk (which frays quickly, incidentally), but have really gone the whole hog in vintage seeing terms and am overcasting the seams. Every. Single. Seam. …By hand. Needless to say this is taking me ages, though I have to say it is quite meditative to do, if you’ve never tried it. The plan is to wear it to my daughter’s christening in a few weeks… what are you working on?

Stones and diamonds

Dress details- a design by worth...

Dress details- a design by Worth…

I can’t remember exactly when I fell in love with sewing, but like many moments of love I am sure that the “moment” exists for all of us bitten by the bug. To be honest, it was probably more falling in love with vintage fashion to which sewing and knitting for myself provided a doorway. It took sewing from a “craft” that people to do on a weekend to an amazing world in which so much knowledge could be acquired.


Whenever that moment happened, my thirst for more knowledge followed. This included the acquisition of many rare and hard to find texts on fashion history and dressmaking over years (and knitting, another passion) that now occupies an entire wall in my (cubby hole) “studio” and a cabinet in our dining room. They come from a variety of sources… estates, online auctions like ebay, church sales, fellow dressmakers and seamstresses that have onsold their own collections… every pamphlet and book holds such pleasure, lost fashions, a doorway into a world that once existed.


It was a matter of time before I opened my own etsy shop. I remember sitting in mothers group with another mum who liked to knit marvelling at what was available. And to think I could share some of the out of copyright gems in my collection that way too? It seemed an obvious step.


Fast forward four years later, I am now full time stay at home mum and part time shop owner… these days it has become a great way to meet and interact with so many other great people in the global crafting/ knitting/ dressmaking community. I am so so so awed by the talent that exists out there, by the people who quietly achieve great beauty by making art works that are not destined to be seen by scores in museums, but are bestowed as gifts to their family or friends or become cherished garments for themselves. And my heart fills with a feeling I find it hard to name when they contact me sometimes years later to show me their finished work. Maybe that feeling is joy. Maybe it is pride. But I do know I feel happy that a pattern that was deteriorating with the sands of time in my sewing table drawer or bookshelf is living a life and being enjoyed by someone whether its in Australia or the US or Scandinavia or the UK…


Unfortunately, there has been a down side. When you have a store on the internet your name and offerings are out there. What this means is that someone who has never met you, doesn’t know you, has never bought from you, has no intention of buying from you who may just dislike the fact you are in the reproductions business can find fault with what you have to offer.


I’m not going to bother getting into are “reproductions of out of copyright work is evil argument”, because if they were, Pride and Prejudice would have died at least a century ago. And lets face it, anyone who has been victim to the dark and smouldering looks of Mr Darcy knows that would be a travesty!


But I have one particular product which has proved very contentious because quite separate to any reproduction available in my store, there are apparently others available for a lower price as part of subscriptions and memberships or for “free”. These are someone else’s product, reproductions of the same original out of copyright book.


What this means is that someone can say, completely ignorant of the time or work you’ve put into your product “she should be offering that cheaper or for free,”… because (I assume) the original material is in the public domain and someone else has tried to offer the original content in a different way. Forget the fact that you spent forever agonizing over what software would be best to make the reproduction, did the legal copyright legwork, that you refused to shrink file sizes to trade off easy instant downloads with high resolution, easy to view imagery, that you traded off time with your kids to spend weeks touching up the document page… by …page. And my poor husband, he is the real sucker, I reeled him in to help me with the technology when it wasn’t doing what it was doing and his time was totally unpaid. (Okay… Its nice to be loved).


Seriously, I can’t compete with “other” versions of this book, because mine is a different product and its been created by me with a view to making it as user friendly as possible. I don’t imagine that everyone expects that every copy of Pride and Prejudice is going to be the same quality in digital or original format.And frankly when you are talking pattern schematics, I think quality is all the more crucial. I personally don’t want to waste my valuable sewing time and thats what I’ve had in mind when I undertook a reproduction.


Which product? It actually doesn’t matter. The fact that there is someone out there willing to write up on a public forum to one of my customers- all of whom I value endlessly- that it “sucks” that you sell your product at all because someone else is offering another version… well, it really does turn that great joy to sadness. It was like someone saying “I have no value for your time or what you have to offer and no’one else should either.” My car broke down today (the last day before a long weekend with tons of traffic) with a six month old baby and an active three year old to entertain, this felt so much worse. It was both random and personal.


But you know, it doesn’t matter what business you are in and how much you love it, there is always going to be someone that will push and shove to be the first to throw stones. In that sense my etsy shop hasn’t just been about pursuing a passion or meeting other great people, its actually been a fabulous exercise in business- learning about what distinguishes one product from another – and what is worth my time in selling.


And then there are the GREAT customers, the ones that send those fabulous photos, that make you smile, that get in touch and share their own amazing abilities. One such customer named Letha has just started her own etsy shop Knitting and Donkeys including a product made from one of my patterns… a gorgeous little shrug. Well done Letha! Great job! And thank you.


Life is full of stones and diamonds. Chin, chin… Here is to the diamonds.

letha shrug