Vintage Treasures

My friend Justine has just discovered a cupboard full of old dresses back home. Granny’s bridesmaid dress, aunty’s Sunday best, etc. Real treasures! Her daughter has tried a few of them on and fits them.

So, I have taken the pattern of this lovely old silk dress. And it was not hard, because by now I have got so many block patterns, it is so easy to make anything!

The block serves as a solid starting point, I just move the darts, alter the neckline and other details!

Justine also had a big box of vintage sewing patterns and I took a few to copy. Initially I found it impossible to work out what’s what. The tissue paper nearly disintegrated in my hands, and there were no markings on the pieces apart from different sized wholes! Most patterns had no instructions enclosed, so there.

The most useful pattern to teach me how to read the cryptic information was the most worn one – I followed the tracing lines of an anonymous seamstress (likely to be related to Justine) and understood that the biggest dots denote the grain line. The tiniest dots denote the seam allowance. And the medium dots, they mark everything else… darts, vents… too easy!



This is an eclectic collection of information of weird and wonderful things that have happened over the last few weeks. No no particular order:

Seven Bridges Walk: One sunny Sunday I completed a 27km charity walk with 3 friends. It was such fun to do the Seven Bridges Walk through the city, the bush, and crossing 7 iconic bridges in Sydney. Afterwards we had a cool beer and jumped in the pool…Screen shot 2015-11-06 at 6.48.30 AM

Curtains!: Patrick has had a moment to hang the first set of curtains I have made for the house. They have been sitting there, un-hemmed, for some time. They get moved from the cutting table when I needed to work (to the pool table), they got moved from the pool table (on the sofa) when people wanted to play pool, they got moved to the cutting table (when people wanted to sit on the sofa to watch TV)… you get the idea. So now they are hanging up, but we need to get stronger steel rods that don’t bend with the weight of the curtain.

Also – these two curtains have 3 panels of fabric. I have decided to take one panel out on each of them. There will be several advantages in this, though it’s a real pain to undertake this type of ‘curtain surgery’… (1) the weight will be significantly reduced, so damage to the rod etc is less likely (2) you see the lovely pattern much better (3) it will be a fair bit cheaper, using less materials… BUT a pain to do. Next week this is my project!image

A new toy – eh tool: Since I intend to make curtains for my entire house, I have not spared the expense to order a tool to put the huge eyelets into the top. Nothing like this can be purchased here in Australia, and the curtain tape that I tried (the tape has the eyelets already in, you sew it on and cut the hole out) was simply too bad quality and the weight of the curtain would have ripped the eyelets out fairly soon. I also like to plain look of the curtain that has just the big eyelet – no gathering up, no small folds for the dust to settle in… much more sleek look and easier to look after! Isn’t this just beautiful? It came lovingly wrapped in waxed paper to prevent rusting.imageimage

Big machinery: A tree was taken out of our neighbor’s garden this week. Wow, I could not believe the size of machinery that rocked up for the job. Mind you, the tree was 35m high, so something substantial was needed to do take the 35m tree down! I don’t understand how they got the crane into our driveway!image image image

Wildlife in my kitchen: I got a real fright when I emptied the dishwasher yesterday morning: a gecko was sitting there. Poor thing. No idea how it got in there. Obviously it had not survived the big adventure.image

Presents: Sue came for a knitfix and I don’t know how long it’s been since we saw one another. An unusual 2 months or so! Anyway, she has been on travels to wonderful places and as per usual, she made me feel like it is Christmas with all her small gifts… Tea, honey mustard, exotic relish, pom pom makers in 3 sizes and plenty of chocolate. Thank you so much, Sue!image

Knitting: Whilst I really ought to finish the cardigan I started for my niece just before her birthday in July (!), I had the real need to cast something on for myself. I had made a lovely top down cardigan some time ago, it has stretched a bit and though it’s still lovely, it is a bit loose and not as fitting as I designed it. So, I cast on this week, and did not get up until the tricky bit was over, which is the bit where all the shoulders are cast on separately, joined, sleeveheads cast on and knitted with short rows etc… Sorry, no photo.

Exclusive Two Skeins Club: Just as I toyed with the idea of joining Kate Davies’ Seven Skeins Club I received a parcel from Ireland! My dear friend Eva (and bridesmaid 20 y ears ago!) send me hands pun wool (SHE did it!) from her OWN Alpaca! How exclusive and wonderful! And she still has got the waistcoat I knitted her 25 years ago!imageimage

11209372_1627925310826150_9032442332158189916_nScreen shot 2015-11-06 at 9.00.48 AM




Good dogs: Our dogs had some serious dog training to get them to bark less. They have very much improved, but it is easy for us to slip back into old habits and they bark again straight away. Here is a picture of the model canine citizens in they new bedroom.image


In Top Gear

I am beside myself with exitement because I made a phone call, just checking how the land lies in regard to that film/ theatre work. Part of me thought it was a bad idea because it makes me look potentially very pushy. But on the other hand I thought that I might just not get the work, unless I am proactive and let people know that I am keen.

So, I made the call and managed a light chit chat with the designer, pleasantries and so forth, but mainly letting her know that I am very keen to take on some work and that there is that flexibility with my other job and voila – within 12 hrs I had a call from the cutter to let me know that she is totally overwhelmed with various jobs and could I please come and work in her workroom for one or two weeks! YIKES!

This opportunity has made me so very very happy, I have been sewing and making patterns for all sorts of things during the weekend.

I cut Esther’s T-shirt up and up-cycled my old plain one. Looks cute!image image

I took the pattern of Clare’s jumper – it is the nicest fit ever, so plain and elegant! Now I need to do the number crunching and then I can start knitting away. I am afraid it will be a slow process, the alpaca yarn is very thin and I will knit it with 2 mm needles.image

Here are some linen pants that I started. The pattern is from the Mills & Merchant book. Unfortunately this project is on hold, since I broke the only needle for my industrial sewing machine. Spares are arriving mid- week! I enjoyed the fly, the pockets… All that detail…image

And I also prepared some patterns from the Alabama Chanin book. I bought this some time ago because I just love the simplicity of the collection – the book comes with a CD with all the patterns! But wow – printing the patterns and sticking them together takes forever…image

I did not buy organic cotton – I just cut up some old T-shirts! imageThis skirt is so comfortable. And again – the pattern for my size was way too big, so I just took the skirt in. Any other patterns I will make I will use one or even two sizes smaller!image

Spring is in the Air

We have had our first dinner on the verandah last night, enjoying the view over the tree tops. I had forgotten how quickly it gets dark and how the mosquitos come to join us. image imageThere has been a lot of spring cleaning going on in the school holidays, hosing down garden furniture, blasting away the cobwebs and also giving my workspace a good tidy up. I find a clean workspace very inspirational! starting new things, venturing into deeper waters, trying something new altogether.

And I got myself a few treats, some nice buttons for something special (not sure what that will be as yet) imageand two beautiful books. I don’t need them, no, in fact Patrick said I could write them, true. The design and layout is just stunning, the illustrations, diagrams, photos and even the information is succinct, to the point and professional. Here and there are a few bits on info np entirely new to me, eg. how to make a tailor’s ham.image

imageSo all the three books have a different purpose: the one on the left is really an overview of the art of tailoring/ sewing and lays out all the fundamentals. I bought it last year. It does have a few easy projects and patterns, aprons, pillow cases, travel bagsa and the like. Every project introducing different materials and referring to the techniques illustrated. The book in the middle is just a small reference volume containing the essence of techniques, it’s like Mao’s little red book for sewers. I was so pleased about their brief chapter on full facings, which have been posed an ongoing mystery to me.image

Finally, the Workbook ‘All Season Wardrobe’ is just beautiful. It contains a heap of nice patterns (size 8-18) for very basic, timeless clothes that I love to wear. Plain tops, skirts, pants and jackets. It’s the crumpled and casual linen look… imageAnd I have so many fabrics that are waiting to be made into something… So I made this cotton top last night. NOTE: (1) the patterns are all a bit oversized, that IS their look. I am a size 10, but made this top in a size 8 and it fits nicely. However, I might make a size 10 top from a different fabric and look – so those are still decisions to be made for each garment. (2) the pattern layout on the fabric may not always be accurate in the instructions. I got the size 8/ 10 top pattern pieces out of the fabric amount they recommended – not sure size 18 would have worked.image image


My kind of weekend!

It’s been a great start of the school year, especially for Esther, who is now a fully independent high school kid! She seems to know all the bus routes and has gathered all sorts of relevant intelligence pertaining to her new life in no time at all…
Patrick is about to change jobs, it was a serendipity type of situation and he grabbed it – we will not know whether it really is a good move until he moves, but a change was sort of waiting to happen and this came along and he grabbed it! (What seemed to have persuaded him was that it is a ‘nice ride along the river to Paramatta’, let me translate to you without the local knowledge: it’s 1 1/2 hours by bicycle – and Patrick simply likes to stay fit!).
I have slipped into my new role as TAFE teacher, academic and event manager fairly seamlessly… so I am co- authoring a paper on consent in context of innovative surgery (job 1), organise the 2015 AAP conference in July (5 days and 12 streams, FYI a that means 12 philosophers talking simultaneously, but THANK GOD in different rooms!) (job 2) and teaching textiles (JOB 3).

Despite having taken heaps of reading home on Friday for job 1, I barely got any done. UHhh quelle surprise… I enjoyed plenty of culture this weekend… It all started with watching ‘Still Alice‘ on Friday with a bunch of girlfriends and afterwards enjoying a hot Thai meal, washed down with a fair amount of cold beer.

Then yesterday we went to the museum of Contemporary Art at Circular Quay (enjoying the classic Sydney vista!) to check out the Chuck Close exhibition. It was really wonderful!

In the evening Patrick and I went to the Theater, we saw Radiance at the Belvoir. Moving, beautiful, authentic… A story about the unraveling of ‘the given, the assumed’, a tragic revelation of the real. We happened to sit in the front row and saw every tear, flinch, emotion of the 3 actresses (FYI a Leah Purcell was one of them, one of the most celebrated Aboriginal actresses of our time).

Today… well… action man had to cycle many km at Akuna Bay before sunrise (nah, was probably later, but just felt like it…) with fellow action man Craig, whilst I walked puppies in the wild and then had lot’s of coffee and (ripped and re-) knitted amazing poncho.

cashmere poncho

When middle child awoke (and I thus gained access to textileshed) I made lot’s of relevant samples for job 3.

How to insert a zipper into a bag (I tried to illustrate 3 stages).image

How to make a classic pocket (again, 3 relevant stages).image

Some embellishment with bias and straight (home made) tape.image

Explaining bias and straight grain.image

Inverted and (what’s the word… ) other type of non-straight edges and how to treat them.image

Different types of seams a and two types of binding.image

When I got too hot (hours later…), I then dipped into the cool water of our pool and felt like a Hollywood movie star :).

After lunch, I also gave both dogs haircuts, which took forever, but seems to have knocked ‘years off them’. Just compare the old and the new hair style on Jasper…


… and after…image

It’s just because of the tics around here… they can kill dogs. So with short hair we can spot them easier, but they are less likely to stick in the first place…

Fortunately, we also managed to visit David, which was very good…image and Jasper did show off his new haircut!

And (YIKES….) I have got an iPad!!!! Patrick just got me one… So I think I am now truly in the 21st century… I am a bit technologically challenged, so it’s a learning curve… But that’s ok… I am looking forward to taking so many more photos! I also downloaded a yoga app… Uhhh…. So exiting!!!

So – somehow it’s after 8pm and we had to recruit some children to cook some veg and bbq some meat… where has the time gone??? Hope you had a good weekend, I feel well rested and energized for the next week.

Calico Messenger Bag

I have been experimenting with embroidery samples, to make them exiting, small samples that students could pick up when they are stuck with their project… and that could be incorporated into another project, eg a calico bag.DSCN9704 2

The bag hiccup certainly made me go into overdrive… I have explored a lot of stuff over the last few days – with the greatest intention to keep it SIMPLE so the calico bags would be suitable student projects – but I just couldn’t help myself adding DETAILS. Here is my ‘prototype’ – you can still see some of the magic marker lines that will disappear in the next few days (I love that thing!).DSCN9705 2

Here is the bag.DSCN9707 2

Ta taa – surprise when you lift the lid – extra pockets for small things and those pens!DSCN9709 2

And a zip pocket for your keys at the back!DSCN9712 2

And it is not too hard to do with my students – Mia made this yesterday – I just LOVE the fabric!

I was lucky to get a free ticket to see La Boheme at the Opera House last night. I have not been to the opera in ages… and I love opera nearly as much as sewing and knitting. Matthew and I cried through the entire acts II & III. It has never happened to me before (and I have SEEN opera galore), sure, the odd tear, but not like this. Not only was the production design amazing, but last nights performance was just so much more than the sum of it’s parts. Every artist involved gave their heart and soul, it seemed they gave their utmost, as if it was going to be their last every performance…

Screen shot 2015-01-15 at 7.51.11 AMIt made me think that what I should do, when my 6 months contract finished at uni… is… what I really should do – is follow my heart and go back to making costumes…

Embracing Mistakes

I think we all have regrets, thoughts about how we could have done something better, prevented some mishap or how we could enjoyed something more while we could (before it disappeared from our lives) and so forth. It’s hard to watch others make mistakes. We want to stop them, let them enjoy the benefit of our hindsight. So hindsight – how do we gain it? Through mistakes. Our mistakes. Us paying for our very own mistakes. So we better embrace them. Because there is really nothing else we can do. They are good for us.

I stuffed up a little pouch that I attempted to make. I cannot believe how I stuffed it up – spend an entire afternoon stuffing up this tiny easy project – NO, I am not putting a picture up for you. (I am just really quietly embracing my mistake). But what happened as a result was really awesome. I chose a difficult bag and collected lot’s of determination and I did not leave the shed until the job was done, … well done, I may add. I found a nice bag pattern on the internet and decided to customize it. And funny that – all of a sudden the pattern didn’t really work anymore and all of a sudden a heap of stuff had to be altered, since I didn’t think the whole thing through very well in advance.DSCN9701

I just unpicked, re-did, re-drafted, re-consulted google, changed my mind and am really happy with the result! I also added some extra details – like the little pocket with button loop at the back…DSCN9702

… and an inside pocket with sections sewn for pens (so I don’t have to keep nicking them from everywhere because I now have them in a secure spot!).DSCN9703

Note the wee tags at the end of the zip – to make the zip go in smoothly…

I made a lot of mistakes, which made me explore so many more options of possible groovy details to put into other bags, notebook covers and other items.



Upcycling to getting Organized

DSCN9694This might all be down to watching ‘how to get organized’ YouTube videos with my youngest daughter – we got hooked on Bethany Mota’s stuff, even though a lot of her crafty suggestions are not of very sound quality or long lasting… we just got inspired to salvage wrapping paper and bows, toilet paper rolls, paint a feature wall in Esther’s room and so forth…

As for me and the rest of the house and my craft stuff – I went out again to buy a set of sock needles in a size that I was sure I had somewhere… but just couldn’t locate and that’s when I thought enough is enough – just get organised in a crafty sort of way and sort your stuff. So here is the result.  DSCN9692

DSCN9691 I really enjoyed using up that Dresden plate patchwork sample to decorate this fabulous little sock knitting needle organiser!DSCN9693


I was just going to write the needle sizes on the fabric with a black pen… but then I thought it would make it hard to change the organisation of the needles, should I wish to do so for any reason… so I used these wee tags.

And it was not so hard to make, I just cut 2 pieces of calico (or one big piece folded in half) to have the entire pouch double thickness (a) for strength and (b) for sewing on the Dresden Plate and the dividing stitches – so those stitches would not show through to the other side.Then I sewed on the decoration, stitched the dividing stitches and then bound it all with ‘home made’ binding: NOT on the bias, just on the straight, and I used a 1″ bias binding maker.DSCN9688


Surviving Mid-December very nicely

We are all stressed in December, right? My policy of not joining any kind of Christmas party has probably paid off – I am staying in a fairly festive mood, and am not totally run off my feet. Though – it is busy… I am organising a big event that finally ‘eventuates’ tomorrow, then there are Lena’s leaving party, other parties catching up with friends, public lectures on Bioethics, presentation evenings and mornings at various educational institutions, a job interview (YES! I have got an interview to teach textiles/ fashion for 6 months!), free tickets to see Bangara Dance company… thank GOD we eliminated those Christmas parties.

The annual real estate event has come and gone and will be repeated before Christmas, no doubt, because there are so many mouths to feed.DSCN9236

We have been watching many Australian movies to educate Lena, there are 12 more on my list (and only 17 nights to go), but I doubt we will manage to see them all… There has been plenty of sewing, especially amusing has been the creation of a stocking advent calender… I have had this idea for years, but it has always been too much work. So now the kids can sew and they started late November… but then lost enthusiasm. Now we always play ‘catch up’ – when we have nearly reached the date we make a few more, otherwise there will be no surprise in the morning… so we just hang them up at the house entrance, pinned to the hessian wall paper.


I have been digging out books because I have been so inspired by planning those sewing classes and loved using the new space…  DSCN9218

DSCN9219DSCN9220On the weekend I have made some dresses with Anita and Lena and realized that those would probably be a little time consuming and difficult even for intermediate seamstresses… And much to my surprise I keep finding interesting ‘stuff’ that I think is really suitable to teach in classes, like this cushion that Marlena made aaaages ago:Minas cushion


I hope you all keep your sanity in this busy time of year… put yourselves first, and all will be good!