Winter at the Beach

A trip to the beach at the outset of Winter was the perfect start to the school holidays for my young family. There is no heat, there are no crowds and evening beach stroll can be followed by a hot chocolate before  a crackling fireplace or combustion stove. Winter at the beach is a wonderful tonic for the soul.

beach shadows

Having recently read “The Neuroscience of Mindfulness: The Astonishing Science behind How Everyday Hobbies Help You Relax” (Rodski), we arrived at the Coast with a car full of wonderful activities… puzzles to complete as a family, books, board games and yes…colouring in.

Skeptical of the idea of colouring in, Rodski’s book had otherwise affirmed so many of my own ideas about crafting. My discovery of Rodski’s book came at a time when I rediscovered Personal Stamp Exchange (PSX) stamps which my mother had used to use. These are wonderful for cardmaking and the quality and detail of the stamps, decades after they were originally produced is really good. PSX ceased in the early 200’s and as such have been highly collectible on account of thier quality and beautiful designs…So we stamped and coloured and did walks on the beach to study shells and seaweed and small creatures… We kept the fire going when it got cold, played hide and seek and enjoyed homecooked meals. My daughter lined up shells in order of size, my son watched the fire and “supervised” its lighting each evening. It was a wonderful few days. My heat warmed when I saw my by sit for longer periods than usual, engrossed in his coluring art work.

copic marker test

I use copic markers to colour my PSX images. For anyone else who enjoys cardmaking or who are equally in love with PSX, these are some of my recent “makes”. I love the elegance and simplicity of the wreaths and mixing the colours on the page is, in fact, very relaxing.



Vintage Pattern Love- the 1930s wide legged cuffed trousers

So a few weeks ago, whilst losing myself in the absolute joy of a sale at The Fabric Store in Surrey Hills, I came across this absolutely divine mustard linen which they carried in two weights, lightweight and medium-heavy weight. It was the happy marriage of fabric and pattern- and the pattern was one I had already made a couple of years ago, Simplicity 2395 from the 1930s. My pattern is an original, its perfectly my size and the first time I wore my trousers I had the great pleasure of explaining to a polite enquiry that no, they couldn’t be bought from a store because I made them myself- every dressmaker knows how good that feels. There’s a lot of ease through the hip, they drape well and they feel great to wear.

Buttons chosen for the concealed button closure – one of my favourite elements of the pattern, that escalate it from run of the mill to uber cool

So anyway, this linen lurched at me, it begged to be bought and made and despite weeks of Winter sickness in our household (young kiddos)! I managed to find a few spare hours to get my project started- how could the promise and allure of Summer days on the beach with a big floppy hat and a paperback be ignored?

The trousers are probably less than 7 hours of sewing time from completion (with a thorough press to boot), but I don’t skimp of the hand stitching where its needed, though there are probably some faster ready to wear techniques that could be used, I prefer a true reproduction garment. And yes, I otherwise made it on my beloved vintage Singer 222k (affectionately referred to as “Gidget”)!

On cue, the universe rewarded me with an iTunes viewing of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society viewing with lots of vintage fashion (and wide legged pants inspiration)! Highly recommend the film for fashion lovers (sensational 40s dress inspiration too)!

\ The corresponding cam that I use in my Singer buttonholer- once upon a  time one of the most expensive Singer attachments you could buy. The buttonholes are always  so neat!

The thing about a  pattern you love, is that you know it s going to be a life long affair- there’s no stopping at one or two. And seriously, why just two colours? In linen these are so cool and airy… It appears there is now some red linen finding its way to me.

So what does everyone do with their pretty linen scraps? Mine appaear to be destined for lavendar sachets and dolls clothes for my daughter!

The North Sydney Library stocks an array of overseas fashion magazines and I loved this images of loose, casually fitting clothes-  wide legged pants are definitely classic!

McCalls 3429 Teen doll wardrobe pattern – 70s glam for little girls’ Barbies…

For anyone wanting to whip up a quick dolls dress, the baby doll nightie or shift pattern in McCalls 3429 has one pattern piece can be whipped up in about 10- 15 minutes…. Its a great, straightforward vintage pattern from the early 1970s. I made these two in Liberty lawn for my little girl- I got sick of seeing naked Barbies lying around (I suspect the vacuum is responsible for the loss of original garments)!

Dreams of Spring… Miyake, the Burberry trench and 70s style dresses in Liberty tana lawn


Its been very busy around here, particularly since our recent visit to Sydney, where I had the opportunity to pick up some gorgeous Liberty lawn at the Fabric Store in Surrey Hills and a few smaller cuts at Tessuti (also in Surrey Hills).



Before I could really get started on an Issey Miyake shirt and a pair of 30s style mustard linen pants I had some other things to clear from my sewing table. Above is a Liberty lawn and yellow voile sun dress (Style 2306) for my daughter which now just awaits bias binding at the neckline and sleeves. Pattern cover below (version 2 – great pattern)! I will tell you a secret though, the yoke is actually cut from the skirt of a dress she wore two summers ago- at $50-60 a metre I don’t wast precious fabric once she outgrows her clothes (…in its past incarnation it was previously a splurge from Jacadi in Paris which was wonderful over swimmers at  the beach- now it has a second life for this coming Summer)!

Style 2306 with a store stamp of the now long gone “Ganters Fabric Salon” which was enjoyed by many Canberra Dressmakers for decades.

I did however finally finish a cotton retro cherry pinfaore in “ballgown” length (her words) that demand a wand and tiara for everyday wear… ah, to be 3 again! Childhood is magic.


It would be remiss of me to not mention the fabulous menswear exhibition at the Powerhouse, “Reigning Men”- fabulous if you have any desire to make menswear or just have good taste! The Burberry trench and duffel coat were two of my favs- any guy wearing those is likely to turn heads in this neck of the woods! There was some Ralph Lauren (how classic is that cowboy jacket- so emblematic of his whole wildly successful lifestyle brand…) and there was a zoot suit for good measure! Click the images to look at the details in a larger picture…

If you have kids and live in Sydney, do think about a membership here- my son absolutely loved the 80s style PAC MAN game console in the members lounge and my daughter did too… We- Mum and Dad- could kick back for a few minutes for a bickie and a cuppa (oh yeah)!

My weekend with Oscar de la Renta

“Mummy you’re standing on the table! You might fall!” (wide eyed 3 year old)

“Two more pins for luck?” (wife)

“I have done the pins for luck…!” (husband)

Six months ago, I had ordered 2 yards of metallic “moth” linen from Mood, by Oscar de la Renta. It had sat neatly folded begging to be made. Generally speaking I have had good experience with linen- the silk -like thin kind. I made a vintage reproduction pair of 30s wide legged pants and wore them, literally to pieces (they are on my to mend list). This linen was much thicker, probably a medium weight. In the Winter light of my studio-come-storage-room (think dining room with the most romantic ever chandelier… and lots of boxes, a room which my husband generously surrendered to my passion) the fabric seemed a little lack lustre. But I am strong believer in not “saving” fabrics indefinitely- they need to be made, to live a life. And the voice of this fabric seemed to be louder than the others.

Claire McCardell once said -and I cannot recall where I read this- the more you work with fabric, the better sense you have of how a given fabric will look and drape. My confidence has definitely improved when it comes to working with sheers like crepe de chine and fluttery rayons. I am addicted to my rolled hemming foot. Having selected an Oscar de la Renta Vogue pattern from 10-15 years ago (which also spoke to me last week on ebay), I set to work cutting and thread basting whilst darling Hubbie took the children out… on both days of the weekend! (yes, yes, I know the guy is a super star)!

The texture of this fabric is sure to lure anyone who is vaguely tactile, I couldn’t stop touching the swatches I made for the project. By Sunday night, I was over the scent of the linen and was wondering how many flecks of fraying linen and metallic thread I had ingested over a two day period. I must have vacuumed about 6 times (no joke). But the fabric seemed all the more golden and the options for wearing this box pleat skirt seemed to be multiplying. There was a moment of panic (possible wrong choice, who on earth looks good in a box pleat skirt…!? followed by a subsequent half hour of searching on pinterest)… But by the time I had reached the point of cutting the new hem and sewing on the seam binding, I was confident again… and quite convinced I needed to make a suitable top to wear with it for a posh outing. Maybe something romantic, but definitely something bold in colour and silky smooth in texture like a charmeuse or a crepe de chine. I like the idea of contrasting textures.

The irony is, despite having a dedicated room, I still like to sew where the rest of the family is- I can watch whats going on, be part of conversations, adjudicate over ipad squabbles… and I am sure when my girl is grown the memory will be that mummy danced on the table whilst daddy poked pins in her skirt.

(Pictures of said skirt will follow at a later date)!

My love love relationship with Mood Fabrics…. a life in swatches!

mood swatches

Okay, so most of the time it is love, love, love. But then occasionally, like on my most recent order I put in for 4.5 yards of USD$29.99 per yard fabric and received an email telling me if I didn’t get back to them in 24 hours, they would ship 3 yards in 4 pieces. No, no, no. I mean seriously for good money I don’t want chopped up Armani- I am making an investment piece (two piece suit)… uh… not a library bag.  (Has anyone out there made Vogue 1889, Givenchy from the 90s- attributed to  John Galliano? 

But almost every other time it is love, love, love. And my moment of horror in relation to the 3 yards in 4 pieces was quite unusual, generally Mood are very good.

Current favourite fabrics are almost all sold out, but I am linking them here anyway for others looking for  dressmaking inspiration.

  1. Carolina Herrera crepe de chine (silk) in black and white polka dots- I never tire of this kind of print, its always so fresh and fun and the fabric itself is just gorgeous to sew with. No problems using a rolled hemming foot but with the stretch in the fabric, go slow and still be careful. My first 2 yards are being made into a 90s style gathered front blouse for work or day wear, Vogue 2069 (Anne Klein II) sans shoulder pads; I am debating about using another 2.5 yards for Vogue 2157 (another pretty Givenchy design,  rumoured to be an Alexander McQueen design from his time with the house;
  2. Donna Karan black double knit– its the make up of this gorgeous double knit that I think makes it so wonderful to sew and wear. I made it up in some Donna Karan tapered pants (Vogue 1440) I ended up making a second pair the first pair was in such high circulation in my wardrobe) and at least a year later and many washes (on delicate, flat dried) and there is no nasty pilling, still look fabulous. For anyone who has Vogue 1440 I did make the shirt in a no name stretch poplin from Mood also and I can see why so many on the internet love it;
  3. Caroline Herrera silk faille in deep red. Another high end one, but goodness gracious great balls of fire- I fell in love with the colour on the swatch, (did not expect that to happen) and it was a had to have- would be absolutely gorgeous with a style with less gathers and more pleats and I am currently throwing around ideas on which Vogue Oscar de la Renta pattern to use- there is one from the 90s that looks particularly fetching that I have seen in runway snaps from the 90s, however it does use 4 yards of fabric and other fabric options on the back of the envelope include denim ( a much cheaper alternative). I did run the swatch through my machine to get a sense of how it would sew and react to pleats etc and I really think with the right design this fabric is 5 stars. For anyone who doesn’t like red, there is also a yellow, green and grey- the yellow is similar to the dress worn by Amal Clooney to the Royal Wedding and is a bit more “day” than night. Simplicity 1873 by Cynthia Rowley might be a good option with the pleated skirt.
  4. A black viscose matte jersey by Donna Karan– if it ever returns, this is another winner and I made it into Vogue 8379, another adored pattern of the sewing blogging world AND a Diane Von Furstenberg skirt from a 70s Vogue pattern 1680 with quite an average cover- made it in an hour and also in high circulation in my wardrobe- a great basic if you want a fast and easy knit skirt pattern.

There are other fabrics I have bought from Mood- a red Ralph Lauren double knit (sadly no longer available) that was very nice made up as the skirt from Vogue 1451 by Karan – promise that was actually a fast make; a Ralph Lauren matte jersey which was quite nice but very heavy for the very full, floor length skirt of a 70s Vogue Pucci dress (so heavy that I confess I have yet to attach the skirt to the bodice – it was so heavy and felt like wrestle-mania at my sewing machine).

Anyway, I would love to hear how others manage/ display/ store their fabric swatches from Mood or elsewhere. At the moment I use a photo album but I usually also keep a scrap with every pattern I make. It is always a delight when I discover other seamstresses did the same when I buy vintage patterns. What do you do?

Happy sewing!

delarenta pattern

Vintage dressmaking love: a 1930s velvet evening cape 

Popular through the 30s, 40s and 50s, an evening cape made of a luxury fabric like velvet is an instant wardrobe pick me up. 

Because of its propensity to be crushed if not cared for properly, I had been aware of a length of velvet that I have had in my little studio for a while. 

When looking through my sewing patterns last night I came across a gorgeous 1930s evening cape marked July 1938 in pencil. It would be a perfect marriage, I decided and I took a deep breath, fortified myself with a cup of coffee and finally cut the treasured velvet.

To say the pattern was light on in instructions is an understatement but at the time the pattern was produced most women would have some experience in making their own clothes if not access to a seasoned dressmaker. 

I made a decision to stabilise the Cape front with a selvage edge of silk organza attached with catch stitches and added silk organza to the “Medici collar”. I hemmed with catch stitches….

I plan to make a satin lining today and wear over a black dress for my sons kindergarten performance this evening. Nothing like a deadline!

In the interim here is what Constance Talbot had to say about capes and evening coats in my beloved “The Complete Book of Sewing”…

Simplicity 4612 1940s style mothers day dress for high tea at Old Parliament House

Before I get started on my own dress, this girls dress was made using the Geranium dress pattern widely famed online, for my daughter with a long skirt in Michael Miller fabric (I think it was Cloud 9 for the bodice with a batiste lining). Probably her last wear as she has been growing. But it was fabulous as a birthday party dress when she turned 2. 

On to my vintage reproduction dress…. I adore all the fashion illustrations of romantic floral from the 30s and 40s (which also experienced quite a resurgence in the 80s and 90s). With the addition of revers styled from those appearing in Vogue 5134 this was dress was made for mothers day high tea, using Liberty “hasketh” (100% viscose). The revers on this type of dress appear more frequently in late 30s designs from which I also drew inspiration, (an example of late 30s Australian Women’s Weekly fashions below)…

There were no issues with the fabric but I would warn other sewists using this fabric to be extra careful with cutting the pattern pieces given the subtle one directional pattern of the snowdrops. This was probably the most expensive fabric I have worked with. Mistakes with this equal crushing moments of realisation. Not that I did that (cough, cough).

Alterations included shortening the sleeve and skirt (I used a rolled hemming foot on my Singer 222, did both skirt and sleeves, very fast work). Most seams were trimmed with my vintage Singer pinking attachment. I love working with such a beautiful machine! The waistline seam was lapped.

Anyway, I loved wearing this dress! And it was a great occasion to work towards completion.

1940s floral dress in Liberty print rayon for mothers day… Ooh la la

Enjoying an almost perfect morning with my little girl, Ken and Barbie and Constance Talbot (author of one of my favourite 40s sewing books “The Complete Book of Sewing”).

The Winter sunshine on our patio is gorgeous but I am ever watchful for spiders, having been bitten by a redback a few years ago. Not an experience I recommend at all!

Looking forward to Mothers Day on Sunday and will hopefully have completed this pretty 40s dress project. Being in love with a chosen fabric certainly helps. AND I always love sewing with my Singer 222. Such a wonderful machine.

I plan to fully baste the lapped waist seam before stitching…. I have learnt my lesson with previous projects!

Hope everyone else is also having a great week! Happy sewing!