The “Bad Hair Halloween” Top

The Vampire boys and I – heading out

I was so disorganized for this project.  I spent two hours of looking for my jumpers to upcycle, the brooch and the red satin I planned to bind the jersey edge with and racking my brains. Finally just got it together in time to sew this afternoon.

I didn’t have a pattern, I just traced around the faux leather vest I am wearing in the photos.

This was easy to put together using my over-locker.  The great thing about knits is that you can easily mold and sculpt them.  I used a straight stitch to attach the bias binding.  One tip if you are sewing things (elastic, ribbon, binding) on to knit fabric is to keep moving in the same direction, don’t turn around and make a rectangle if you get what I mean?

It would have been nice to have a bow and arrow but I couldn’t cope with making a prop as well this week.

Where did I put my bow and arrow?

I bought the cheapest brown wig I could find – isn’t it just awful.  I tried to braid it before the photos – but it fell out straight out.

It was fun trying to be Catniss Everdeen from “The Hunger Games”, creeping around the garden.  Looking back at my photos I look absolutely nothing like Jennifer Lawrence and I think the curly wig doesn’t help.  I found it difficult to imitate her serene expression.

The boys and I are looking forward to Wednesday.  Halloween has become very popular in Australia in the last few years.  The dressing up part is a hoot and it’s a really nice time with friends walking around the neighborhood, it’s usually warm weather and we end with a barbecue dinner together afterwards – great, no cooking!

The Facts

Fabric: Two Merino Wool Holey Polo Neck Jumpers

Pattern: Traced off another garment

Year: So right now

Notions: Red Bias Binding

Time to complete: 1 hour – yay!

First worn: For the photos and trick or treating on Wednesday

Wear again: Maybe to Yoga! or around the house


The boys vampire costumes were a collection of clothes they  already had, the velvet cape I made years ago which has seen so much use and a few opshop pieces (the white shirts) and a new cheap plastic cape which ripped in 5 minutes – we had a blast and the boys collected a week’s worth lollies!


The “That’s Torn It” Top

I am an Autumn – what are you?  Know what I mean?  If you were around in the 80’s you might remember Carole Jackson’s book “Colour Me Beautiful”, or her book for men “Colour For Men”.  I became slightly obsessed with this book.

I tagged along with Mum the day she went and had her colours done – waited outside in the car for an hour or two!  They took one look at me and told me I was, like Mum an Autumn.  She carried that little packed of swatches in her handbag for years – wonder if you still have it Mum?

I love that we still discuss whether this colour or that, is right for us.   I bought a “lovely” pastel apricot skirt and jacket on the strength of it.  I took it with a grain of salt when I started wearing black all the time – since then to now!  But I do like to whip out a nice red, or a forest green, a lime or even an olive green, and I love kelly green.  And kingfisher blue.  But I feel depressed when I wear brown.  And cream just doesn’t feel right.  I did have a very pale yellow cardi for a while.  Orange is fun – in small amounts but not all over.  And my Dad used to hate the rust dressing gown Mum wore for about 20 years.  It’s not science.

If you are interested – you might find this book at your local opshop/charity/goodwill shop.  If you read it you can determine your own colours – it’s fun.  I know now that I should not wear Grey, Pink, Aqua, Purple – and yet most of my friends are winters and they look amazing in these colours.
Have you had your colours “done”?

My 40’s Sailor Style Pants are from Retrospect in Sydney’s Newtown

I hear its been updated – my friend told me she is a Clear Spring with Flair!   What ever that is.  A funny piece on the subject here

So when I heard about the Sew Weekly Autumn palette I knew I would have no trouble pulling something for it from the stash.  This silk is a a rather recent addition and just cost a few dollars at a church fair that I frequent – I don’t love the print and all the yellow but I thought it would be a shame not to try and use this silk.

I also recently purchased this necklace which is 1940’s Celluloid Autumn Leaves – how perfect!  Ebay again!

I seriously ran out of time to finish this garment.  Since I’ve been back at work – I have not put much time in to sewing as I have had very stiff shoulders and a sore neck.  I think the 6 weeks I had off I did a lot of sewing and it just caught up.  I have had a couple of massages and even tried cupping (like Gwyneth Paltrow) at my local Chinese massage therapy place.  You should see my back – it’s like the biggest outbreak of polka dot bruises ever.

I used New Look  pattern 3691 which was very easy.  I pleated this up and staystitched the neckline, leaving the arm holes unfinished.  I threw  some bias binding  on the neck and it slipped and slid around, fine silk does that.

I think this silk is fairly old – probably from the 60’s – silk is vulnerable to light, heat and microbes.  If you iron it on too high a heat setting, it may show no signs of damage at the time – but in time – the fabric will just perish and come apart.

So I was all ready for my photos outside in  front of the Bougainvillea bush when the neighbour’s gardener turned up and started mowing next door – I was too embarrassed to go outside and get all posey, so I put another load of washing in the machine and rip, went the armhole!

Ah well, glad I didn’t waste my time finishing it beautifully, just to have it rip while I was wearing it at work!  I have scrunched it up in a bag and will donate it and other fabric scraps to my local Preschool – where it will live on in the children’s artworks!

70’s Rug Heaven

So super excited to show you what came into my hands this week!  “Rugmaking and Macrame” by Anna North and Noreen Gladwin, straight out of 1974.

I have been on the lookout for a rug that features the colour palette in our living room – lime green, turquoise and browns. I want wool for all of its amazing inherent properties. But is it just me or are rugs expensive?! Especially wool.  So I thought I’d love to try and make one myself.


I adore the pink toned rug with the Saarinen chair – what a great look!

When I was at Wellington Polytechnic I remember the Textiles Students manking rugs with a gun like tool that shot the yarns into the base cloth. It look liked great fun and seemed easy! I am sure it was not – given the price of rugs – or perhaps the equipment is prohibitively expensive?


This one is pretty but my boys would have biscuit crumbs embedded into that shag pile before I could blink.

Although its having a come back I don’t. think I’ll be attempting a macramé over skirt anytime soon!!


Has anyone out there made a rug? I’d love your advice please.



The “Lighthouse Keepers” Dress

This was the dress I made for the Sew Weekly’s literary challenge.  “The Lighthouse Keepers Lunch”, by Ronda Armitage is my very tenuous inspiration for this challenge.  It’s a cute story – about a guy whose wife makes him an amazing lunch every day while he’s at work in a lighthouse.  It’s very English and there are many titles in the series.  My boys enjoyed this story sent to them by their Nana.

My real inspiration was Mena’s Dark Nauticals Skirt.  My mouth dropped open when I saw her skirt.  It dropped open again when I found this fabric for sale on eBay a few months later.  I was thrilled that the seller accepted my offer so I got it for about $40 + postage.

Hands like Mena!

I have to say, I love this print.  I love a black background, and the New England? fishing village is not somewhere I’ve been – but I would like to go.   The fabric is lovely quality and was so beautiful to sew with.

I spent quite a long time, working out pattern placement to best effect.  The actual dress is very simple.  I really wanted a square neckline and I wanted the skirt to have pleats – like a vintage 50’s dress I bought recently.  I have put the side zip in upside down – a la Stephanie.  So easy to do up that way!  I have an aversion to dresses that are cut too high up under the arm – so I dropped it way down.  Too low – as my bra is showing – darn it.

The terrible hem

The other issue was that I machine sewed the hem up which looked terrible because it became warped.  So I have unpicked it and hand sewed it using Gertie’s method – pins and basting – this method is slow but good!

I went to town buying accessories to go with this dress – thanks Etsy! The Bakelite? Ship Steering Wheel belt buckle, the nautical charm bracelet, two brooches: a sea gull and a yacht. And let’s not forget the hat.

I wore it to my favorite event The Fifties Fair at Rose Seidler House in Wahroonga, in Sydney.  If you are interested I suggest you Google it.  The day features markets and musical performances, fashion parades – it’s a great day out.

More Lighthousey fabric – in brown and orange -skirt for $195 – not impressed!

It wasn’t until I got home and went through my photos that I saw that my comfey flat shoes didn’t look great, and my petticoat has slipped down.  And I should have gone with the seamed stockings I had bought.  And the effect of the cardi (for the slightly chilly morning) was really too much with the hat, (which has a wonderful shape – but the details are really not complimentary at all), add that to the big 50’s plastic shopping basket and the lucite topped handbag I bought on the day my overall look is more crazy bag lady than 50’s style queen!!

It all screams trying too hard I feel.  Anyway, the good news is that I thought I looked fabulous – my shoes were comfortable and I had a brilliant time!  So no regrets!

Thanks to my dear friend Toni for saving the day with the hair do (after my attempt failed!) and for her photos!

The Facts
Fabric:  Vintage Cotton – $60 from eBay
Pattern:  A neckline from here, an idea from there – let’s call it self-drafted

Year:  1950’s inspired
Notions: Zip, interfacing
Time to complete: 10-12 hours – but I enjoyed every minute
First worn: August 2012 to The Fifties Fair
Wear again: Bring on that warm weather, put new elastic in the petticoat
Total Cost: $65

Here is is, hiding at the bottom, fresh to you from Instagram:  The full effect of the Bag Lady.  Shame it was the moment I got to meet the very sweet Michelle from Ravishing Retro – a Sydney Vintage Blogger.  Doesn’t she look faultless.  Actually she was the poster girl for the whole event – Wow!  Do go and take a look at her blog.

The “Baz and Catherine” Flapper Dress

The Facts

Fabric: Cotton Foulard from Spotlight $40

Pattern: 5700 from an unknown company 50 cents

Year: Circa 1980’s

Notions: Art deco glass diamante buttons from the stash.

Time to complete: 4 hours

First worn:  For the photos

Wear Again?:  Saving it for Bali, Indonesia

I wasn’t going to bother taking part in the Sew Weekly’s Gatsby week for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, my idea of Gatsby fashion is skewed more 20’s than the 30’s frocks Mena and her friends wear to the Gatsby Weekend.  I feel I know almost nothing about 1930’s fashion except for bias cut satin evening gowns, and there is no way I am going there!

Secondly, there is nothing less flattering that a drop gathered waist on a woman with heavy hips and thighs.

However,  the Sew Weekly contributors’ efforts for Gatsby Week were so inspiring that I thought I’d have a crack at it!  Also, a few months ago, scenes from The Great Gatsby movie were shot at St Patricks Seminary in Manly  – half an hour away from my house in Sydney – what an opportunity!  With a house full of international guests – I was keen to work in a little photo shoot to a spot of sightseeing with coffee!  The stars aligned, I found cloche hat, and I even managed to get my hair bobbed in time for the photos!

The Seminary can be seen early on in the trailer, with its ivy covered walls, it has undergone a dramatic transformation into a castle in post production!

I was thinking of buying the famous 1920’s One-Hour Flapper Dress but I am too stingy to pay for what is a very simple pattern!  So a few weeks ago I was pleased to find this very ugly-looking 80’s dress.  I thought it would probably work – when you have been patternmaking and sewing for years, you develop the skill of being able to see how the pattern pieces go together and what they will look like.  Beginner sewers – take heart, this takes time.  This patterns wins the prize goes for worst pattern illustration ever.  I saw that there were no shoulder pads to give that exaggerated shoulder line and I knew it wouldn’t sit like that, or do I just have broad shoulders!?  I eliminated the centre front button placket and cut it in one piece.

I extended the sleeves, following the angle they were on, and sewed just to the end of my shoulders.   All the edges and hems were sewn with rolled hems.  I wanted a floaty sleeve, with an open top arm seam.  We are going to Bali next year.  The Balinese are unimpressed by the display of armpits – I hope this dress will be acceptable – light  floaty and no visible underarm! I finished them with a pair of little art deco glass diamante buttons from the stash.

A trick for minimizing the hippage, I recommend is to give it a good press, with the focus on the gathers.  I wanted them to sit flat – rather than billowing out – adding volume where none was welcome.

This fabric was wonderful to sew – it is a very fine twill weave – perhaps a foulard.  I realize that the fabric is more 50’s in feel than any other era- but that is my thing isn’t it!

My dad took the photos for this shoot.  We were up against it.  It was windy again and the camera’s display is broken – so he really couldn’t see a thing – He did pretty well though and was very patient to take 250 photos!!  Mum was great  at directing the photo shoot.  Thanks Mum and Dad!

I am sure you know that Australian Film Maker Baz Luhrmann, Director, and his wife Catherine Martin, Production Designer, are creative collaborators in this movie.  Baz with his amazing vision and kooky musical inspiration and Catherine with her incredible attention to detail – I salute you.

The “Weigh the Anchor ” Shirt and Bandana

I have written about my family’s affinity for the sea before but I haven’t worn anchors since I wore big plastic earrings with neon yellow mesh ankle socks one Christmas Day in the 1980’s.  My Dad’s diver mates gave such a hard time that day, about the anchors, that I doubt if I ever wore them again.

I found this shirt in a local oppy for $11 .  It had a couple of tiny red paint dots on the front which probably explains why it appears to be unworn genuine 1970’s vintage. Score!
The Bandana fabric I also picked up for $1.  It a polyester/cotton.  Heavy on the polyester – unwearable in my opinion – but OK for a headscarf for a bit!

After I washed it, Mum helped me to pin out darts in the back. I did the front ones and pinned in the side seams – making the shape more feminine. The rule of darts and fitting is that you take out the same amount on either side so they are even.

I did two little embroidery polka dots to cover up the paint marks. I changed the buttons to these fabulous anchor buttons I picked up in NZ.

It was a nice easy up-cycle. I recommend asking your Mum, or a friend to help with pinning out your back darts – it’s so much easier than trying to do this yourself!

I am wearing the “Cats Meow” Jeans that I made back in May for 40’s Week.  I have worn these a lot.

My Mum has been staying for a 5 weeks (Dad and my brother a week) helping me out but last Saturday we waved them all on their way, my parents touring up to Queensland and my brother back to Scotland for work as a diver in the North Sea. Its been lovely having all my family around – weigh the anchor!
Thanks to my brother Gav, for taking the photos at Balmoral Beach (not far from where Mark and I got married by the Rotunda there) – it was quite windy that afternoon and crowded as you can see.  I tried to disappear behind a palm tree and not attract too much attention!

The Facts
Pattern: None

Year: 1970’s

Notions: Anchor Buttons

Time to complete: 3 hours or less

First worn: To Balmoral Beach for the photos

Wear again: Maybe?

Total price: $15