October zoomed by in a blur. There’s been a lot of making but very little time for documenting. So, it’s nice to be sitting with my cup of tea to write about the Aura Dress which I made for Perth Frocktails! What is Frocktails? In very simplistic terms, it’s a social gathering of people that love to sew and is hosted by the Australian Sewing Guild. Everyone dresses in their beautiful handmade frocks or outfits. I was awed by the creativity and talent around me. Some people were dressed in completely bespoke items down to self-made shoes and bags.
Initially stepping into a big crowd without knowing anyone else apart from my daughter was a bit daunting and put me out of my comfort zone but as quick as the thought passed through my mind, I found myself chatting to so many others that I was soon at ease and having so much fun! I was curious about where everyone’s beautiful fabrics came from and how they started their sewing journey. It was also fun to have my daughter along as everyone was so lovely to her. We had a great night and hopefully this will mean a few more sewing meet ups in the future!
Now onto my Aura Dress which was a lucky win from Papercut Pattern’s monthly sewing challenge. I had entered my Nova Coat for the challenge and was so happy to learn that I had won a free pattern. I knew I wanted to sew the Aura Dress which is a wrap dress with beautiful puffy sleeves and the skirt has the silhouette of a pencil skirt.
I had three meters of turmeric coloured linen in my stash which was perfect for the dress. I sewed the size 4 and because I had started the sew so late, I did not have a chance to toile the dress. Luckily it fitted but I had to wear a slip on the night as the temperature is still dropping at night (remember, I grew up in the tropics). If I were to make this dress again, I would adjust the skirt size to a 5 to fit my 33-inch waist size better. It was very funny and slightly distressing when I sat down in my dress and realised the split in the front rose very high which was also another reason for the slip and the strategically place handbag whenever I sat down on the night!
Perth Frocktails was a blast, and it was good to be part of a real world event in a time where online life has proliferated. I still enjoy and appreciate my online sewing community but now I’m hoping to be able to show someone in the same room what I’m making and say, “Is it supposed to be like that?”.
As I clean my sewing space, I realised that I’ve never documented this hard working space. This space is a space of productivity, creativity and so much joy. I used to sew in the spare room but felt isolated from the family. During the midst of the pandemic, the children needed a study space so we moved a big table into the sunroom where the piano is also located. Well, once the space was no longer needed for the children, I realised what a lovely light -filled and airy space this was so I moved my sewing machine and claimed it for my sewing space. Now I feel part of family life again and enjoy the hustle and bustle around me as it adjoins the dining room, kitchen and living area. Oh! And there are times when the piano and sewing machine have to compete.
My sewing machine sits on a table from Ikea. It has extendable legs so I’ve hitched up the height which has made a significant improvement to my sewing posture. It’s so important to consider the ergonomics of the space if hours are going to be spent at the sewing machine. I used to have my machine on a normal study desk which made me achy in my neck and between my shoulder blades. Comfort and safety levels have improved so much with this new table. I’ve also placed some essential sewing tools in a bamboo caddy from K-Mart. It’s really handy for grab and go items like scissors, different sewing feet, the seam-ripper (hardest working tool), needles and pins. There’s also a trolley on the left hand side which houses haberdashery items such as zips, thread, elastics, and all such goodies. They sit in repurposed containers which helps to organise each item and keeps them dust free. Underneath my sewing table, I keep a handy basket to contain all my fabric scraps including thread offcuts. I will then sort through this when it’s full to either use for toiling, making smaller items, making bias binding or used as stuffing.
The second-hand overlocker sits on a beautiful wooden table that I managed to find on Facebook Marketplace. It was also used for crafting by its previous owner so I was happy to give it a sand, coat of danish oil and a second life. I usually cut my fabric on the dining table but it’s great to have a big space to lay out the pieces for marking and organising. I’ve also organised all my patterns into white labelled envelopes which sit in a storage cube. It allows easy access and often I’ll cut the paper pattern pieces and store them with their instructions.
For patterns that need to be traced, I store the printed sheets in rolls but this feels a bit untidy and I’m hoping for a better solution than this repurposed laundry basket. I have a few more patterns stored in magazine holders in a bookcase. My dress dummy was a bargain buy at $20 from Spotlight Stores. It must’ve been a sales blitz and it’s a great help when constructing garments. It also helps with photographing the garments as I often set the camera on a timer. I use the dummy to set the focus the camera before I get into position. It would be great to have a custom fitted dress form in the future but I am so grateful to have one at all.
Finally, my fabric stash! I bought these rattan cabinets from K-Mart to store my fabric. It’s great that the rattan front allows for ventilation. I used to store them in a spare closet but it was very disorganised and I kept forgetting what fabric I had. Now that they sit in the same space, I am reminded to look through them before heading out to the shops for more! I also have baskets to store ribbing, interfacing and off cuts for smaller makes and toiling. As I’m still learning about fabric, I try to keep a small amount to record composition and details about it.
I’m always captivated by other people’s sewing spaces and curious how someone else organises their space. I feel very lucky to have this bright airy space. It’s helpful to have a space that is comfortable which is easy to spend time in.
Unbelievably, it’s December which makes it time to review my sewing year. Even though I haven’t completed all my Make Nine Projects, I’m very happy with how much I’ve progressed and learnt this year. I find that challenges like the Make Nine are a really useful tool for my learning. I’m not sure who to attribute the creation of the Make Nine Challenge to but a lot of the making and sewing community use it. I love to plan and document with everything that I do so this challenge really appealed to me. The idea of the challenge is to list nine patterns you’ll sew in the year. Last year, I didn’t list exact patterns, but I listed the set of skills or types of patterns I wanted to sew.
Let’s walk through the planned projects. The Amy Jumpsuit was the first project that I completed. I love the idea of a jumpsuit, but I find the closer fitting jumpsuits or boiler suits very uncomfortable to wear. The Amy Jumpsuit is by Closet Core Patterns, and I just love the roomy fit around the legs. I found this jumpsuit to be the perfect summer smart casual outfit.
Next, I made the Kalle Shirtdress, which is also by Closet Core Patterns. I chose this because of the collar and placket instalment. Prior to this, I had never sewn anything with a collar, and I found the instructions were great for a beginner like me. Also, I made it using this wonderful “faces” linen fabric. I’ll be revisiting this lovely pattern to sew the other versions of it.
The Closet Core Pouf is a free pattern! It’s a great piece of furniture and it’s made and filled with all my sewing scraps. The pouf was photographed with some pillows for stuffing, but my pouf is still not one hundred percent full yet. It’s still being filled with all the little scraps that can’t be used for other projects. You can tell by now that I was having a bit of a Closet Core crush!
The Nellie joggers was the next project that I tackled. I love the beautiful designs by Pattern Scout. I find all her pieces so easy to wear. I chose the joggers for the zip fly installation. Trousers require a lot more skill to fit so I try to find trousers that have elements like partially elasticised waists to make fitting a bit easier while I build up my confidence.
I didn’t manage to sew the Nova Coat by Papercut Patterns, but I have the pattern in my stash. I often find myself ruminating over projects before sewing. I bought the pattern, then I found some beautiful fabric from Potter and Co, and I think that was the downfall of the project. The wool was dry-clean only and I found that researching about how to prepare the fabric was a bit overwhelming, so I put it aside. I really want my sewing to be enjoyable so I’m not afraid to step back. I’m finding that sewing helps me in the most surprising way, I’m better at forgiving and being more patient with myself. This will definitely be revisited soon!
It was close to winter when I moved on to sewing the Meridan Knit Dress. I didn’t have a set pattern initially when I put this on my Make Nine. I just wanted to branch out into sewing with knit fabric. I’m glad I came across this dress by Sew To Grow. It’s very beginner friendly but a bit different from the usual T-Shirt dress.
One of my favourite discoveries was the Meridian Dress by Papercut Patterns. The design is just beautiful with the wrap front bodice. It allows the wearer to adjust the bodice piece which is so handy for dinner parties and events where you need to look elegant but want to be comfortable as well.
The Persephone Pants by Anna Allen Clothing was a pattern I bought in my previous Make Nine and I still haven’t made it. I toiled the pattern and I just kept finding reasons not to sew it. I think I wasn’t keen on the grey cotton drill that I bought for it, so I just kept putting other projects in front of it. I’ve now discovered cotton lyocell drill in the Maai Design collection, so my plan is to revisit this project with better fabric. It will get made!
Finally, the Dawn Jeans. I’ve only recently purchased this as I kept vacillating between the Dawn Jeans by Megan Nielsen Patterns and the Ginger Jeans by Closet Core Patterns. Then I started thinking that I don’t like wearing jeans anyway, so I put it off until finally deciding that I love the classic look of the Dawn. So, this will definitely be on my next Make Nine list.
I’m so grateful for a productive year of making and learning with these beautiful patterns. Most of all, I’m grateful for all the connections made with the sewing community. Hoping everyone is a blessed.
The capsule wardrobe is synonymous with a collection of garments, a selection of wardrobe pieces that match well to create multiple outfits to suit multiple occasions. I’ve been curious for a while now about this concept. Sewing allows so much choice in style, colour, fabric selection but what makes a workable closet? This is not an original question as evidenced by the numerous books, blogs and YouTube videos on the topic.
My personal challenge in my short spring getaway, was to be thoughtful in the process of making outfits that fit the criteria of a Capsule Wardrobe. I then wanted to test this out on the upcoming trip. Historically, I am not a minimalist when it comes to packing, in fact, my husband would argue that I pack everything but the kitchen sink.
First step in the planning was to consider the weather. We were heading to the Margaret River region which sits in the south western corner of Western Australia. It’s has tall timber forests, gorgeous countryside and hugs a pristine coastline. It has maritime climate which is cooler than Perth so I had to consider some layering options.
So considering all this, the second step was to determine how many items to make and pack. I decided to limit myself to 5 items plus 1 outerwear. The items I took were:
On the trip down to Margaret River, I wore the long version of the Grace Dress. The 100% cotton gingham shielded me from the hot sun streaming in from the car windshield which made it so comfortable to travel in. When we reached our destination, we ambled down one of the walking trails on the property. This was a beautiful eco-retreat where the owners went to great lengths to help guests reconnect with nature. It was forest bathing at it’s best. The quiet still air was only broken by the sound of bird calls and the whisper of the eucalypt leaves rustling in the wind.
The next day was overcast but fine. Heading into Margaret River town centre, we settled for an unhurried brunch. This set us up for a day of exploring starting with Voyager Estate. Margaret River is a world-famous wine region, a funny destination for two teetotallers, but the region is packed full of things to see and do regardless. Most of the wineries have beautiful gardens and magnificent restaurants. Voyager Estate has also been a favourite for us because they make the most delicious non-alcoholic grape juice. In fact, we’ve often ordered a delivery of it when the craving gets too great!
Back into the car, we took a scenic drive to Boranup Karri Forest. These beautiful ancient trees tower like skyscrapers with an understory of ferns and wildflowers. Layering is always good for changeable weather. I was glad that I had my Grace Pinafore worn with my Comfi Tee. The Wooster Jacket was thrown on when the sun disappeared behind clouds. I was glad for some cloud cover because I spent most of the walk looking up at these towering trees, some are up to 60 metres tall! My only regret was not bringing the right camera lens to capture the beautiful birdlife.
The final destination for the day was Mammoth Cave. My husband initially convinced me that the name was derived from fossilised Mammoths, but he was telling porky pies. There have been fossils of Australian megafauna, which have been extinct for tens of thousands of years, found in the cave. It was very cool in the cave as you use the walkway that guides you through the cave. Special features of the cave light up as you walk through which is accompanied by an interesting self-guided audio tour.
I was so impressed with this combination of Comfi Tee, Grace Pinafore and the Wooster Jacket. It was dressy enough for a morning out and about in town and a visit to a winery, comfortable enough to be traipsing around a forest, everything was made with natural fibre fabrics so it never got hot during the bush walk and it was warm enough in the coolness of the cave.
The final day had an early start. We decided to head to Prevelly Beach. There are two parts to the beach, one leads to surfer’s point and the other part sees the Margaret River meeting the beach. If there had been more time, and with warmer weather, there is a canoe tour which I would love to keep in mind for future visits. However, this day was overcast again so it was great for an early morning walk. I wore my Pietra Pants and Ogden Cami with my Wooster Jacket. I’m so glad I made a light denim version of the Wooster Jacket. The cropped length of the jacket makes it so versatile. It matched equally well with the high waisted Pietra Pants and the Grace Dress and Pinafore.
Dipping my toes into organising a Spring Holiday Capsule Wardrobe will shape the way I organise and consider my sewing projects in the future. It’s so good to know that everything I’m making has a purpose and is used fully. Also, a bonus of planning a capsule is that I only had to pack one pair of shoes. Everything mixed and matched so well!
Thanks for reading and happy sewing!
*Full Disclosure – pattern was gifted in exchange for instagram post. Now a treasured item in my wardrobe and there was no obligation to blog about it.
** I’d like to acknowledge my husband for his beautiful and skilled photography.
Last year, I had been keenly following Ankara Appreciation Week on Instagram which was hosted by Lena King @thatlenaking and Juliet Uzor @julietuzor_ so, when it came around again I was keen to sew something in this beautiful fabric.
Briefly, Ankara Fabric is a wax print cotton fabric which is deeply cultural to Africa. It is called by different names depending on where it comes from so Ankara mainly refers to the wax fabric from West Africa. The prints and the patterns themselves can have symbolic meanings. I bought my fabric from Mapalo Store and when I asked to buy some Ankara fabric I discovered a fellow sewing enthusiast! Her family owns the store and she was so kind in telling me about the fabric. We eventually ended up on her Pinterest looking at some ideas on what I could do with the fabric I had chosen. The main point that stuck in my mind was that with Ankara Fabric, it’s the pattern which determines what you sew up. Pattern matching is crucial to making the most of the fabric. Sewing is such a universal language! I was so touched that she took the time to give me some tips on how to sew up the fabric and now that I have a little experience, I’ll definitely be going back for more fabric to sew up.
Keeping those handy tips in mind, I ended up choosing the Hana Tank Dress by Pattern Scout. The Hana Dress has simple lines so I felt it would let the fabric “shine”. It’s also a dress that I loved wearing in summer and was one that I wanted to sew a few more of for the coming summer. I sewed the size 12 and the only modification I made was to lengthen the dress.
The Ankara Fabric I chose had these cascading repeating blue eyelet pattern on a red background. The blue eyelets actually remind me of peacock feathers. Cutting the fabric was a challenge as I initially thought the pattern was mirrored exactly symmetrically but it wasn’t. Once I realised this, I found a central point of the fabric to coincide with the waist and centre front of the dress. I also made sure the length accommodated to the cascading “feathers” to end with a band of red background around the base of the dress.
The Ankara cloth is such a great fabric to sew. It behaves very well so it’s an easy fabric to sew. It is light but still has structure to it. It’s a very bright fabric so it surprised me when I found it hard to tell the right side from wrong side! Have a look at all the great makes on Instagram under the hashtag #sewankarafabric21
So, whether you’re new to the sewing scene or someone who has been part of the sewing community for a while, you’ve probably come across a sewing challenge at some stage. I think “Me Made May”, which was the brainchild of Zoe Edwards, must be one of the longest running as it’s been going for about eight years. It was so interesting to read her blog on how and why she started Me Made May.
So, the challenge runs for the month of May. To participate, you can make a pledge or statement as to what you are getting out of the challenge. Usually, there is a pledge to wear something you made for each day of May, which was part of my pledge. I also included that I wanted to repair and maintain items as I went along. Part of the beauty of this challenge and what makes it so useful is that you can set your challenge the way it works for you.
The second part is documenting the challenge. Initially, I was a bit hesitant to get in front of the camera daily. There is no rule saying you have to do this as it’s left up to each individual what they want to do. After getting over the initial camera shyness, I did find myself wanting to document my outfits as I wore them as it was motivating and a useful reference.
I wasn’t sure if I would have enough to wear as the weather starts to fluctuate at this time of year. Well, this is where the surprise came as I discovered that I could comfortably wear, with a few repeats, items that I’ve made. Usually when I sew something, I wear it on repeat until my next project. Documenting it daily really motivated me to reach back for items that I hadn’t worn in a while. It also motivated me to correct a few mistakes that I had put off to “one day” fix but never did which inadvertently prevented me from wearing the item more often. This process has also made me realise what lovely investments these patterns are and made me want to go back and resew patterns and experiment with different fabrics.
I have also realised where the gaps in my closet are. This mainly came about when we had the sudden cold snap at the last week of May which often happens here in Perth, Australia. Even when the rains kick in here, we often have quite tolerably warm temperatures until BANG! It’s freezing and down to single digits (Celsius). Due to this cold snap, my Me Made May journey was a bit patchy towards the final week but I was quite happy with what what I had gained from participating in the challenge. Looking back at my Instagram Highlights, I count about 20 days where I’ve managed to wear something “me made”.
Another bonus of the challenge was realising that all my sewn clothing has been standing up well to the rigours of daily wear and washing! I was kindly guided by a sewing friend to invest in an overlocker. I was lucky enough to find an old sturdy (and very heavy) four thread Bernina Overlocker second hand. It’s a beautiful machine and I’m so grateful that I’ve had such good advice on my sewing journey. Once you invest time and effort in a garment it’s very hard to part with it and it’s so important to be able to maintain it.
You can tell that Me Made May is a really cherished sewing challenge in the community. Participation is high even though there is no “prize” to win. There was some cheerful grumbling about getting front of the camera daily but all followed with lovely smiles and fun poses! It’s lovely to connect with new sewing friends and to see how everyone was meeting their pledges. Here are some sample “Me Made May” outfits of mine that received a lot of love! Thank you so much if you’ve been following along.