The “Two Birds, One Stone” Ensemble



School Projects, or home work for parents I call them.

This term project is an investigation into Materials and their Properties, using recycled stuff.

Alex wanted to make a glove, I thought we could do better!

I encouraged Alex to make a whole outfit!  Using leather! of course – it’s the prefect material to use for your first ever attempt at sewing!

He did a fantastic sketch and I was determined to make it a reality, an On-Trend reality!

We started out with some burn tests to examine the properties of the different fabrics – he totally loved that and was so astute in his observations.

I had seen this great image of a garment with leather sleeves in a Vogue mag – I think it was USA April edition.  And how fabulous is this great Alexander McQueen sweatshirt??!!

Source: via Trish on Pinterest

Leather – for a beginning sewer?  Why not!

I had these leather samples stashed since B.C. (before children) when I used to work for a Furniture company.  They were just throwing them out when a new colour range came in.  I have moved house with them twice now and have a whole box – they are really heavy, super stoked to be reducing my stash.

We had extensive chats about how to make the design.

I used the pants from Simplicity  7020, Adding the essential knee patches.  If you have boys, you know what I mean about the knees!!

The hoodie was from the shirt pattern on 7064, using the hood from 7020.

We  had made the pants one evening after school, and had left all of the Hoodie till Saturday morning so I was having kittens about it.  Turns out my industrial sewing machine eats leather.  And for the first time in ages, it didn’t break a needle mid project.  He helped me sew the patches on the knees.

Alex cut out the paper pattern for me, drew the pockets and marked up the sleeves on the leather (with ball point pen – the best way to mark up leather) as he is  left handed he had trouble making my huge right handed shears cut.

Turns out this pattern is great.  It just flew togeher.  The leather was not quite wide enough to get the sleeves out so I just added a strip to the under side of the arm.

The back yoke and the pockets are in leather – no need to finish them properly.

I used a leather needle for every seam – which was a mistake as it left some pretty big holes in the jersey fabric.  It probably will not stand up to too much washing (neither will the leather).  So if we get a handful of wears of it – it will have served his purpose!

Isn’t he cute?  I was so pleased he was totally into this project and I had him sitting with me on my chair lifting the foot up and down, turning the work as we sewed around the pockets,  while we talked all the time about winding bobbins, and how the machine works.  He put his foot down on the pedal once, early on, and got a big fright from the big noise the motor made (think 1970’s Coronation Street – remember that clothing factory??).  I just suggested he put his foot on the pedal was I am sewing so he could get a feel for it.  With industrial sewing machines – learning to control their speed is difficult for beginners.  He was very helpful about turning through the sleeves and trimming the threads.

I hope he gets a good mark for with this project.  He deserves to – he was so enthusiastic!

The Facts
Fabric: Recycled Leather Samples, Sweat Shirt Fabric from an Op Shop $7
Pattern: Simplicity 7020 and 7064
Year: 1985
Notions: Thread
Time to complete: 5 hours plus
First worn: For the photos
Wear again: For the fashion parade at school, and yes, though perhaps not together if I have any input!
Total Cost: $7


The “Magpies and Blue Skies” Skirt

During the middle of my photo shoot – i.e. me with camera set on self-timer and using a chair on the trampoline as a tripod, a magpie broke into my house. My youngest son was panicking and screaming as it flapped about trying to get out – I opened a latch on a window and shoved the glass, but the window was stuck so I broke the glass and knocked over a vase of flowers!   He made such mess pooing (the bird not my son) from one end of the house to the other, on the carpet, on a book, on clean washing!  Argghh I could have wrung his neck!  Luckily I didn’t cut myself and there was no serious damage.

So I am not smiling in these photo – I am fuming!

I bet you are fuming too because, guess what – I have made this boring skirt three times!

Oh yes, and it’s even a UFO so all I had to do was take off the too small waist band and re-attach because its taken me making this skirt three times to work out what my waist measurement is!

We are careering towards the end of the kids second term and we are tired! I work three days during school hours and there are speeches for 6 year olds (ridiculous right??) and projects for 9 year olds. The laundry is piling up around the place and its been wet all week so it is taking over our living spaces!  Oh yes and my husband is at work for the twelfth day straight!  First world problems right?!

Being grateful helps me when I am whining so here goes; I have a garden where Birds of Paradise are in  flower, the Sydney sky was blue for the first time in days, for the photos, my camera has a self-timer and this skirt is finally finished.

I really like that print. It is the exact colour palette of one of my Dads 1960’s Hawaiian shirts that I used to wear when I was a teenager. It was a remnant so I didn’t have enough to make a dress and I wasn’t even able to piece together a top, despite quite a bit of time spend trying – which is probably why I abandoned this for 6 months – hours of sewing getting me nowhere is incredibly off-putting.

I might get some laces for some platform shoes from the scraps – we’ll see.

If I were going on a lovely tropical holiday or a Tiki Party  – this is the kind of thing I’d like to wear.  Dreams are free!

Oh and I found a tripod at an op shop for $12 this week – score!

The Facts
Fabric: 3m Cotton Lycra Sateen at $12.99 per metre
Pattern: Skirt from McCalls 9400 – without pleat/underlay
Year: 1950’s
Notions: Zip, Button, Waistband interfacing
Time to complete: 4 hours includes unpicking
First worn: For the photos
Wear again? Yes, a lot I think
Total Cost: $39

The “Warm Hug” Cape


It’s quite cold now in Sydney, so I feel like making warm things.  I have had this  wool in my stash since BC (before children) so approximately 10 years.  I had planned to make a skirt in it originally.   But there was just enough fabric to make this cape – as I have gone off the skirt idea.

The pattern calls for fake fur to be used – so does not advise the use of interfacing, but as I know things like collars and fronts (where there will be buttons) perform better with the support of some interfacing I put some in.

I am very happy to finally use up this fabric – I love this Kelly Green colour.  It is one of the colours  in my “It was meant to be – Blouse“.

I was test driving this cape while spending some time with my computer one night recently and the room was cold, but I felt warmer and warmer – such is the beauty of wool’s insulating properties.  It was just like a warm hug.

This pattern is so easy!  Hooray! I think this would be an ideal project for a beginner.

And this spongy fabric is also great for beginners.  It is beautiful to sew.  It goes where you put it, is resiliant and if you gently press it on the reverse side (inside) or use a pressing cloth – you can mould and shape it easily (not like awful springy polyester).
If you see some pure wool going cheap I suggest you grab it and make something easy!  I think you will start to avoid polyester  – rotten stuff.

You know I really wanted to do another Mad Men inspired dress so watch this space!

The Sew Weekly challenge this week is TV so I googled TV and Green Cape and out up popped the Wonderful Samantha from Bewitched who had a green flying cape. I watched this all the time as a kid – loved her beautiful face, helmet hair, bright clothes and crazy magical antics.

Source: via Trish on Pinterest

Image Credit: Screen Gems – Columbia

The Facts

Fabric: Kelly Green Wool Coating, Navy Twill Menswear Rayon Lining (in stash 20 years)

Pattern: Vogue 9968

Year: 1998

Notions: Big button and press stud from stash

Time to complete: 3 hours – plus 1 hour handsewing at the skate park – not counted!

First worn: June 2012 – to lunch with friends

Wear again? Yes easily

Total Cost: $40? 10 years ago

Compulsory reading! I don’t read trashy mags so please excuse me if you have seen some of these “stars” before the saw their hair and make up artists! Ahh suddenly feeling a lot better about myself!

Delancey Dame Vintage

There has been a lot of press lately about over-photo-shopping, airbrushing and other means of visual “correction” in the news as of late. Most notably in my mind is 14-year-old Julia Bluhm, an 8th grader from Waterville, Maine, who managed to garner 25,000 signatures in favor of Seventeen Magazine producing one photo spread per month without the aid of Photoshop. Bluhm was tired of looking at super doctored photos of girls and women in major fashion publications and felt that viewing these images on a regular basis could be detrimental to young girls’ self-esteem. “We know that Photoshop can be very harmful to girls because they think they have to look like these images. But it’s not even real, it’s Photoshop. So it’s kind of impossible to look like that in real life.”

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The “Little bit of Horrockses” Dickie

This little apron came from an op shop.  I thought it looked old – you don’t see much polished cotton these days. I sometimes buy aprons because they are often in interesting old fabrics.  I think old ladies (often excellent recyclers!) make them from scraps left over from frocks. This apron was made up from lots of narrow strips and a whole lotta selvage (the taupe section)!  It is sewn in very tight zig stitches which were a nightmare to unpick – so I left some in!

The fabric is pretty special. The print really caught my eye. The figures are dressed in Rococo fashions and are drawn in a very cartoonish style.  Cute colours: pink purple yellow and aqua – very on trend for summer – according to Pantone’s forecast.

Recently I was trawling around the net researching 50’s dresses and I found in Te Papa (New Zealand’s National Museum) collection a Horrockses dress in the same fabric as my little apron.  Thought it would be perfect to make for the Queen’s Jubilee Celebrations this week.  The other ladies on the Sew Weekly are also doing this theme if you care to take a look.

Horrockses Fashions by Christine Boydell

– this book is fantastic if you are into 40/50’s fashions.

When The Queen toured New Zealand in 1953-4 she wore a number of Horrockses dresses.  My mum Natalie Blair bought one in this tulip print in a grey and yellow colourway.  She bought it because it was similar to what The Queen had.  Mum likes The Queen.

So it is with great pleasure I celebrate The Queens Jubilee with a wee Dickie.

It matches my 50’s cardi rather well don’t you think?

She is a trooper – congrats Mrs Quinn, and thanks for all the years of gracious service (said in a strong New Zealand accent. Check out Flight of the Conchords if you don’t know what it sounds like!).

The Facts
Fabric: Vintage apron in Horrockses Cotton $4, and polka dot scrap from stash
Pattern: Vogue 6984 combined with Simplicity S.119 – about $5

Year: Early 1950’s

Notions: A button and the whole front is interfaced

Time to complete: A crazy 7 hours, and a good hour for testing out the wing collar and fitting pieces into scraps!
First worn: for the photos
Wear it again? Yes – its more comfortable than a shirt would be and is a hint of vintage for a work day

Total cost: $10

Charlotte has done some reserach on Dickies here:
And so has Jemina Bean

Sorry it’s on the mannequin – it was one of those weeks and I hate my new haircut!

My Favourite Dress

I have had a huge week at work this week so have been too tired to sew.  Last week my lovely parents were here from NZ so we did things like go whale watching!  It was lots of fun but we didn’t see any sadly!

So I thought I share with you my favourite dress that I made to wear to the 50’s Fair back in 2009.

Photo: Gavin Blair, Hair by James at Sterling Hair

I used my now favourite Cotton/Lycra Sateen fabrics from Spotlight or Lincraft.  These fabrics are perfect for this type of dress as they you can achieve a good fit and still breathe – or eat comfortably!

I posted it on Sew Weekly for the Royal Wedding Hat challenge of 2011 – one of Mark’s and my first photo shoots – at night – inside – dress looks passable – facial expression rather strange.

I think it is my favourite pattern ever because it is easy to sew and and it fitted me without too much effort on my part!

Originally I made a mock up in black wool (what was I thinking!  Must finish that and perhaps put long sleeves in for Winter! I Definately still had baby brain I think, even though said baby was aged aged four at that time!).

Made it again in black and white cross hatch print- a la Prada Autumn 2010.  Adey has a picture on her blog of the inspirational dress – it’s the one with the bare midriff.  I agree with her comments!

I am wearing it with a petticoat or two underneath in the above photo!

Wore that to the “I love Vintage fair” to meet Kesenya of Alice Jeans and Brooke  of Brooke Orchard Photography, for the first time. Note excited groupie expression!

This dress is perfect for pear shapes is fitted to the waist, it skims over childbearing hips and accentuates a lack of bust with the bathered bosum section.  The bias binding is nice and the extended sleeves are flattering to 40+ year old mummy arms.

A very simliar looking contemporary pattern is  Vogue 8728 – which is suggested for knit fabrics.  I haven’t tried it.

I feel like a million bucks in this dress.  Everyone should have at least one dress that makes them feel like that don’t you think?