A piece of cake it was not!

Well this piece of cake took forever to make, it was supposed to be my Christmas dress, but never made it to the day.

This is the Piece of Cake frock by Jody Pearl. It is called the Piece of Cake because it is supposed to be a very straightforward make and to be fair to Jody, the troubles I had making this dress were because the bodice is not suited to my body shape, but I was impressed with the photo img_2742 and went ahead without thinking. You can find out more about Jody here.

I am drawn to an empire waistline, I don’t like the feeling of constraint around my body, which is why an empire waistline is one I really like wearing. Unfortunately, this bodice has no provision for anyone with more than a B cup bust, nary a dart or shape is to be found and the length of the shoulder “strap” was just too long for this shorty 😦

I did do some fitting through the making of the first version, but thought I could deal with the bodice length problem afterward.


When I shortened the bodice, it brought the waist up too high and squashed my breasts to billyoh- I could hardly breathe! I became quite despondent and disgustedly put the dress into the too-hard basket.  There was another problem with it and that was the colour of the bodice. There are no pictures (they were quickly erased), but the bodice was a very pretty solid blue poplin, unfortunately it was just too much blue and I hated it.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, Christmas is over and I have 3 more weeks off work to fill, out comes the Piece of Cake. I started unpicking the bodice, but gave up and cut it off the skirt, I thought I might salvage it, but I think it is destined for the bin.

I thought I would try making a new bodice pattern, customised to me. I did a Connie Crawford workshop years ago on making a bodice “sloper”, but tbh it was a bit beyond me at the time. This time, I pulled out my trusty Threads fitting guide and attempted a full bust adjustment. I know many seamstresses do this as a matter of course, but it is a first for me (and it does stick in my craw because I had a breast reduction years ago!).


So I took the dartless bodice and added side darts and waist pleats and it turned out pretty well, it also gave me a new bodice pattern to use for remaking this dress.

I had to shorten the bodice again, but without worrying about the end result as this white poplin was never going to be the final version. It did however give me a new colour for the bodice and I ended up making the final version in some white bengaline left over from my sage pants (bought from Spotlight last year), the skirt is made from a really nice stretch woven cotton from Knitwit in Nedlands. I did a sway back adjustment, added a waistband to compensate for the shorter length at the shoulder/neckline and raised the back to accommodate a bra band.

It is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it is okay and I will wear it. The inside is a mess which needs tidying up and there is a bit of topstitching to finish (not compulsory, but I do like a bit of topstitching!). Unfortunately, being sleeveless, it does accentuate my tuckshop-lady-arms (yet another point I failed to take into consideration when buying the pattern), but I am working on those and will probably end up looking like a weightlifter instead of someone with two huge, flaccid bags swinging from my shoulders. The waist darts look a little odd, but I can live with them, I stitched down the skirt pleats (you may have problems seeing them as the skirt fabric hides them), so as to not accentuate my tummy, but it is not the most flattering garment I have ever made.


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Forgive the unironed appearance, that will be remedied before it is worn outside the house!

Will I make it again? The jury is out, I may, but probably just the tunic version and in a lighter-weight fabric. I have learned a lot making this little dress and will not shy away from altering patterns to make them fit better in future although I do prefer clothing that is looser to wear.


A new toy and some pants

I recently made another pair of the StyleArc Sage pants in a white bengaline, lovely slim fit with a flat front (and I really need a flatter front 😉  ).

img_2472  img_2470  img_2471


Anyway, I used the Janome to make them and found it has a really nice overlock stitch which got me thinking…

I had a rush of blood to the head… I needed wanted a side cutter presser foot. The question I ask myself is why? Why, when I had given away my overlocker/serger a couple of years ago, it wasn’t a finish I was looking for on my garments (I didn’t want anything that made my clothing look like it had been commercially made) the conclusion is I guess I am my Mothers’ daughter after all (oh she of the multitude of kitchen gadgets).

Here it is in all it’s $15 glory  (free postage from Hong Kong)


That little round knobby thing at the front is the cutter. Can I say it’s not perfect (hey, it’s a 2 thread overlocker which nobody would ever buy), but it serves a (limited) purpose, here are the first two attempts on a piece of calico- not too bad methinks

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Unsurprisingly it has its limitations, they being mainly that it doesn’t cope with thicker fabrics or more than two layers of thinner fabric. I am currently making a dress for Christmas and the foot did not deal with a lot of the work so my opinion is, the foot is cute but a bit meh (unlike the pants)!


The head is getting bigger…

Sorry, still proud.

Over the weekend, I made this FullSizeRender Um, no, I didn’t make the whole thing, just the teal-coloured slipcover. 12 square metres of stiff cotton (covered in sizing because I thought it would be easier to control- wrong, just bent a whole heap of pins), tailored to fit my oversized three seater sofa.

It was relatively straightforward, draping, folding and pinning in stages, but incredibly bulky and difficult to manoeuvre in the space on my little Pfaff. I had to engage the machines IDT because occasionally the fabric just wouldn’t budge, there was just sooo much of it.

I topstitched all the seams FullSizeRender (3) and made the ties in the same fabric IMG_2441 now I need to make new cushion covers in a complementary shade as that red is just a bit too jarring 😦

You may ask why am I recovering a sofa? It’s simple really, back in the day when my (now ex) husband and I had more money than sense (and no children or dogs), we spent a ridiculous amount of money on a Parker lounge suite. It was late eighties peach coloured in the softest leather, truly a marvel of furniture-making and I am loathe to get rid of it. He got the chairs, I got the sofa. Sadly, the leather has deteriorated over time, helped along by dog toenails and the usual family high jinks, but it is still amazingly comfortable. Now I am on my own, I cannot afford to replace it with anything close to its quality, hence the cushion covers and slip cover.

I think one day, it may find itself in a share house with either of my young adult children taking it with them, only then will I replace it (and I will be a little sad to see it go), but for now, it is staying put.

One question, given I am into colour, what do you suggest for the cushions? All helpful hints will be considered 🙂

Update- thanks everyone for your help, I went with this very busy boho printed upholstery fabric, nice and thick and comfy- I love it!


Does pride goeth???

I am just a teensy bit proud of my latest efforts in making.

(What feels like) a couple of years ago, I started working on a piece of fabric, learning to do free motion machine embroidery, it was not really a project as such, more a scrap which could turn into something. The fabric was a piece of Ikea stuff that I had made a top out of and I liked it, I may have even mentioned it some time ago (but I can’t be bothered looking- sorry-not!).

Anyway, as time went on and it got to look a bit nicer, I thought I might make it into a cushion for my Mother. She was an embroiderer (hand) in the past and really likes soft furnishings with that kind of embellishment (as do I).

So, to cut to the chase… I used a whole bag of stuffing so it’s nice and firm and heavy, plenty of support for Mums back and here it is 🙂


On the weekend, I wondered why it took me so long to make and besides the amount of time each little picture took to embroider (between 20 minutes and an hour each!)  I realised that it was because my ex-partner resented the time I spent sewing. I am relishing the freedom to do as I wish with my time and not be beholden to look after the emotional needs of a very needy person, it is blissful.

One of the activities I promise myself I will do when I am retired (which is about 16 years away) is ceramics. As a child and teenager I loved working with clay, our property in Darlington was surrounded with beautiful red clay and there was kaolin going begging at the old quarry up the track in Glen Forrest. When we moved to another part of Darlington when I was 12, there was no clay, but my cousin came to the rescue and gave me a huge bag of brickmaking clay from Midland Brick where he worked as an electrician. When my children were smaller, I would go off to Jacksons in Jolimont and buy bags of beautiful terracotta clay for us all to work with. (hmmm, what is stopping me from doing that now I wonder…).

So I don’t have any clay at the moment, but my friend Ange and I went up to Joondalup recently and spent the evening doing china painting at Fired Cafe. Forget pastel roses and dainty teacups, that is NOT my style! I wanted something bold and ended up buying a bowl and painting an oversized paisley on it.

img_2336 (before)

To be honest, I was a little disappointed when I picked it up after the firing, but it has grown on me (I may be even a little bit proud of this too).

img_2335 (after firing the glazes really brighten up)

I am keeping it because it’s a bit rough, but I am going back and will be painting a tray, probably with a “Scandi-style” pattern of leaves or feathers with the idea of giving it to someone as a gift.

Do you ever feel proud of something you’ve done, but keep quiet because it’s not the done thing to “blow your own trumpet”? My parents who were somewhat spare in their compliments and we were not encouraged to think too highly of ourselves. The old saying “Pride goeth before a fall” (is that the right spelling?) makes me reticent to puff up my chest and go “Look at me!”. In some ways I think I am not in the minority amongst people my age; I am thinking something might bring me down a peg or two after this blog post!

As an aside- Salsa has had to be ditched, I am having some pretty intensive physio on my poor, wrecked back and there is no way I am going back on a dance floor in a hurry 😦

The Inner Critic

One of the negatives of attaining age and wisdom, is an increasing reluctance to expose oneself to failure. I have always been my own worst critic, calling myself an idiot is fairly commonplace and while I don’t really think I am an idiot most of the time, it is my go-to descriptor when I let myself down and do something silly.

Last week, my friend Angela and I started a beginners class in Salsa. Now we are two mid-50s girls who clubbed our way through our early twenties, you would think we know a little about timing etc…wrong!

Turns out, we are strictly “free-style” (as Ange calls it) and the foot moves are proving difficult for these former New Wave/New Romantic afficionados.

I really can’t stand it when I am crap at something. Years ago I did an 8 week Jazz Ballet introduction and I am embarrassed to admit that it took all that time for me to master running across a room, why did I expect Salsa to be any different?

Ah Salsa…the fluid movements, lithe bodies, beautiful skin, short flared dresses, what a lovely image. TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY AARON MAASHO Dan

Ah Salsa at 54…the wooden jerkiness of a 54 year old with a long-term back injury, the thickened waist, the sun-damaged skin and the clothes chosen to conceal the lumps and bumps, it doesn’t sound like the same dance does it!

To be honest, very few of us in the class are any good, although some of the blokes think they are hot (when all they are is sweaty!). Although the instructors are lovely (and it’s wonderful to dance with someone who knows what to do), I have a feeling that the forced jollity of a group of people who have really very little talent may end up wearing a bit thin.

Will I continue?… it remains to be seen….

Busy, busy, busy…

It has been so nice getting back into the stuff that I have neglected or not had the emotional energy to deal with. Gardening, blogging, cycling, sewing; these things all make me happy, but when the day-to-day was all I could deal with, they took a back seat.

It has been lovely pumping up the tyres, oiling the chain and jumping on my bike for a recreational cycle, I just love living close enough to the river to walk or cycle there plus it’s a decent workout (and I really need a lot of those!).

As mentioned in a previous post, my sewing room is set up and functional, although the Bernina is making concerning buzzing noises and is having an enforced rest, so I have been embroidering on my Janome and sewing clothes on the Pfaff. The Pfaff is easily my favourite machine, it never lets me down despite being around 25 years old (I think). It has quite a workout in the last 6 weeks, which proves how much I have missed sewing.

My first project was a Pilvi jacket using the pattern by Lotte Jansdottir.

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I really like Lottes textile designs and her clothing patterns are unstructured and very suitable for a short person like me. This jacket turned out very nicely, but there is one problem, I always overcompensate for my size and therefore it is too big 😦 I just never trust a pattern to fit, so I am generous with my cutting and fitting (and often regret it later). The jacket is made in indigo, stretch denim and has the inside edges bound in a pleasant quilting cotton, I finished it with some contrasting braid to break up the expanse of dark blue. Unsurprisingly it is very comfortable and warm, but I need to sew in some hooks and eyes to detract from the oversized nature of it.

If anyone is interested, this pattern and the next came from this book  img_2248

My second sewn piece is an A-Line skirt, also from Lotte Jansdottir. img_2247

It is a very simple sew, especially as I made it with an elasticated waistband. The fabric is a lovely remnant from Knitwit in Nedlands, I think it may be a wool mix, but it is very light and will probably be okay to wear on a cool evening as well as right now with this changeable weather we are having here in Perth.

Finally, I wanted some colour. I do get tired of the muted tones of winter clothing; at this time of year, all the inspiration has gone from putting an outfit together, it’s more a case of co-ordinating a look and wishing for the change in season to hurry up.

I bought some textured bengaline from Knitwit. Bengaline is a lovely fabric to sew with, heavy, but drapes well and not too slippery on the sewing machine bed, it’s only drawback for me is the stretch threads looking messy without some sort of overlocking. Because I gave my overlocker away, all my raw edges are zig-zagged, which stabilises the threads, but isn’t as polished in its look.

Anyway, I originally wanted some red work pants, but the textured nature of this fabric made me rethink and I made a skirt instead.

The pattern came from this book

You may be able to see that the skirt has eight panels and I thought it was a bit interesting. Again, rather than using a zipper, the stretch of the fabric meant I just put a waistband and it pulls on. It is extremely comfortable and my work colleagues all commented in the positive about the colour and the panels. My one regret is that I listened to my daughter and shortened it.

Without thinking, I just took the length off the bottom and now my bottom panels are somewhat overwhelmed by the length of the top ones- ergh! My work mates very kindly said they thought the effect was deliberate. One thing I did do on purpose, was to topstitch in alternating directions as I thought it would make the panels a little more noticeable. I really like topstitching, it’s a little polish that says I have taken more time over the making of a garment.

Next on my list are projects for the future.

I am in the process of free-motion embroidering a cushion for my Mother, who turns 88 in October, the work is somewhat laborious, but the end result will hopefully be worth it. She shares her birthday with my little niece who turns 1 and I will be making her a patchwork elephant, similar to the ones I sell as fundraisers for the Womens and Infants Research Fund at the hospital where I work.

Plenty to do for the future and life is good 🙂