Fifties repro fabric – an unlikely source

If you are in the market for reproduction fifties style fabric, perhaps a source you haven’t considered is right under your nose – your local quilting shop.

Admittedly, I live pretty close to one of the best in Australia’s: Material Obsession, at Drummoyne.  Their selection is mouthwatering.

Here are a few things I spotted in there recently that I thought might work for fifties style garments.  I didn’t take any notes about the fabrics, all I can say is get in there fast as they sell out fast and not always reordered, so the lovely lady who helped me could tell me.

I was extremely lucky to find the scarlet print with the bows was still in stock – I have been dreaming about it since the last time I visited – months ago.   I think it will be perfect in a blouse like Butterick 4985.

If you are in Sydney’s Western Suburbs I recommend Fred the Needle – I haven’t visited them in their new location in Dural – but their Penrith store was fabulous.

If you have a good one one near you – I would love to hear about it.

Also if you have tried sewing garments with quilting fabric and how that went.  Thanks.

It’s the second week of the school holidays and I just heard the little guy say, as he tumbled around the living room “I can feel my brain moving” – had better go.







The “I Love You” Apron

I am dedicating this weeks sewing to my husband of thirteen years, Mark.

He is so great.  He is a humble man.  He takes our marriage seriously.  I appreciate how hard-working and responsible he is and how he loves our boys.  That I was able to stay home with them for seven years and that we have a lovely home.  He doesn’t mind my mad op shopping and the mess in the sewing room.  Well, he minds sometimes!

Waiting for my man

He works really hard as a Tiler – making other people’s homes absolutely beautiful.  Those tiles behind me he did them – aren’t they great!?  And he let me have exactly what I wanted – to go with our recycled country-style kitchen that I designed.  I had to wait a long time for him to do them but it was worth the wait!

Last time I made one of these novelty aprons I swore never to make another one!  But how irresistible are the hearts?  And it seemed like the perfect use of this Cherry Print fabric that has a quite a clichéd fifties look to my eyes now, but that I adored when I bought it a couple of years ago.  It was good to use up some of the pink Ric-Rac in my stash and the Rose Print and  that was left over from my “Coming Up Roses” Gypsy Blouse, which is still one of my favourite items of clothing.

Sorry about the heavily airbrushed legs and fake tan.  No, actually  I’m not!  This week I learn how to do that on Pic Monkey (photo editing software) – I might get them out again for you!
Let’s see if he reads this:  “I love you Bubba!”

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.

Lighthouses and old movies

I have been trying desperately to keep up with Sew Weekly challenges lately – and failing!

I have made a blouse for the Olympics Week – and a skirt which still needs a zip inserted for the “Yellow Week”. But I am overwhelmed by the thought of doing yet another solo photo shoot or using my mannequin, again!

Truth is, I am a little distracted by thoughts of the Fifties Fair – coming up on 26th August.

Here is a little peek at the fabric I am using:

What do you think? It’s a different colourway of Mena’s Lighthousey “Dark Nautical” Fabric! It was on Ebay and I negotiated the price down and ended up getting 5 metres for about $50 including postage – bargain right?!  I love its depiction of a New England Fishing Village.  Maybe one day I will travel there?

I love a black background, and a splash of red.

I am attempting a dress with a bolero.

Bodice under construction, Lighthouse on strap – Back view

I like to watch old movies while I sew – they keep me company. This week I watched “The Seven Year Itch” – which is really funny – if you havent seen it. Also appropriate to mark the 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s passing. And “All About Eve” – a fascinating portrayal of selfish ambition!

I really have a lot of sewing to do – I will try to put some more progress shots on: Instagram under: quiet_vintage_sewing – I hope you don’t become as addicted to this ap as I have!!

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?

The “Coathanger” Skirt


The Facts
Fabric: Seven vintage tablecloths from Op Shops – about $40
Pattern: Vogue 7924
Year: 1950 something
Notions: Zip, bias binding for the waistband
Time to complete: 8 hours
First worn: For the photos
Wear again: Yes – while the warm weather lasts and with toned down accessories and minus the petticoats.
Total price: Under $50

Gidday!  I finally got myself out of the ‘burbs and down to the water for some photos for the The Sew Weekly City challenge.  The Sydney Harbour Bridge is colloquially known as The Coathanger and she turned 80 recently.  She is a stunner!

I moved to Sydney on New Years Eve of 1992.  I had just finished studying Fashion Design and I was going to have to leave my home town Wellington, New Zealand for work.  I had friends in Sydney so I came to stay with them.  I planned to stay a while and save for a trip to London.

That means I have been here for 20 years this year!  I did make it to London for a wedding back in 1997, but I love it here!

This skirt is my ode to Sydney.  Sydney is huge, brash, outspoken and good-looking (hopefully so is this skirt!) and so are its people.  It can also be lonely, rude and expensive, congested and HOT!

I met my husband here, (he’s of Italian and Maltese background so he’s very special).  I have two Australian children.  It’s home now and the sickness is not bad after all that time (I miss my parents in NZ).

I have lived all over the place – so you know what that means – I know all the good op shops!  This is where I found the fabric for my skirt.  Collected over several years, but most of it pretty recently.  The roses on the grey background – is one of my favourites in the skirt and just came home a week ago!

A considerable amount of time was spent cutting and arranging the patchwork, much like making a patchwork quilt.  Not to mention the pieces that had to be unpicked and moved.

I have made this skirt before and it is the style of skirt my mum alway said suited me best.  The yoke is more flattering than gathers from the waist on my pear shape.  Thanks Mum!

If I tire of this skirt – it may be upcycled to become the mother of all table runners!

I felt more than a little bit silly wearing this ridicoulous outfit down by the water.  I thought that it wouldent be that busy down at Kirribilli on a gorgeous public holiday.  So I just had to suck it up and get it done, as I had dragged the whole family down there just for my photos!  One thing about Sydney is that people dress pretty casual most of the time!  I had skyscraper heels, two petticoats under the skirt and a massive flower in my hair.  The worst moment was when a boatload of tourists turned up!

Wishing the ground would swallow me up as the Ferry full of tourists cruises past!

The tablecloth skirt – I loved this baby from Anthropologie and started adding to my collection of vintage tablecloths soon after seeing it.

Source: via Trish on Pinterest

Sydney is a great place to live – and a wonderful place to visit – if you lob in and if you need a tour guide – give me a hoy, I will take you on a tiki tour!

Spring Palette – and a dose of reality

It’s Autumn. Sydney’s mornings are starting to feel a bit nippy. There is the odd tree around that has leaves that change colour – but the gum trees are deciduous so it stays looking pretty green.  I always know Spring on its way when the wattle trees in the National Park near our place, turn lime green (before turning yellow). Lime is one of my favourite colours.

Once I made a lime green jacket.  It was the 90’s – my lovely friend Tiffany was getting married.  I wore it with pride to the wedding.  It was nothing to be proud of – it was polyester and was pretty awful!

Source: via Trish on Pinterest



A pair of Florence Broadhurst upholstered vintage teak armchairs with high backs and surfboard armrests, upholstered in Kabuki pattern.

Tiffany was a textile designer.  She worked at Signature Prints in Sydney.  She had a big hand in bringing Florence Broadhurst prints back to the world!  She has since retired from the heady world of fashion in Sydney – as have I.  “Fashion is so glamorous”- that is the perception and not the reality.  The fashion industry can suck you dry.  It is so empty of meaning – that it takes a really tough person to stay in it.

Wow this has become rather deep rather fast!  Let’s look at something pretty – ‘cos let’s face it – that’s why you came!

Ironically I have put together my take on a spring colour palette based on Pantone’s forecast of which colours will be in next Spring – believe me I need that much time to get the sewing done!  It is rather heavy on the tablecloths as next week I plan to cut up a whole lot of vintage ones (stained and too small to be useful – but still needing admiration.

The colours are:

Tangerine Tango (ORANGE), Solar Power (YELLOW), Sodalite Blue (ROYAL BLUE), Cabaret (HOT PINK), Starfish (TAUPE), Margarita (PISTACHIO GREEN), Sweet Lilac (LOOKS PINK TO ME!), Driftwood (GREY BROWN), Bellflower (PURPLE) and Cockatoo (AQUA)

If you want to see what the colours look like then hop over to : The Fashion Plate where they have a lovely graphic stripe representation.

Actually, this apron has lots of the colours in one print  – I think it’s 1950’s what do you think?  I think it’s a Chintz fabric.    Would have looked amazing on a woman with the right skin tone – its fate is to join the aprons in the skirt.

So am I going to be in fashion next spring?  I like the oranges and browns.  Pink I usually restrict to pyjamas.  I think it’s a shame that lime’s not in fashion.  Or I could do my usual, and do my own thing – who’s with me??

Why not see what the other Sew Weekly ladies have done for their Spring Palettes?