bananas in pyjamas

23 July 2011

Let us talk of pyjamas. I kind of… grew out of them. Wore them as a kid, yes. Wore them in college and in share houses, mostly out of courtesy to others. Stopped wearing them after that. And then I moved to a cold climate. I rediscovered pyjamas for winter. Nothing is toastier on a cold Canberra night in an unheated house than a piping hot shower, cosy pyjamas, a hot water bottle, and two doonas.

I made three pairs this winter – one for me, two for the mister. Even though we’ve now moved to a house with heating.


Mine are the yellow ones. All three used the excellent pants pattern in Sew La Ti Do.

This is the only sewing I’ve done in a long time. Why? Well, here is a picture is my wardrobe.

I have so many clothes, and I only just have enough space for them (not shown: the blanket box full of summer clothes and big jumpers, the summer dresses hanging in the spare room, and the coats hanging in the hallway). I’m running a one-in-one-out rule, which means if I want anything new, I have to let go of something old. And I like everything I own, so it’s really tough to let things go. So no new things for me for a while.




let’s fly

9 June 2011

One of my recurring themes is the project that is 99 per cent finished then languishes long because there is something that needs to be fixed that I don’t get around to doing.

This cape is the perfect example. It was 99 per cent finished in July last year, and I had a great time making it. The fabric (a beautiful thrifted wool that I was given by Sally) was a dream to work with.

I made welted pockets and sewed the button holes by hand.

And then I discovered that I had screwed up the lining. I trimmed it too short, then didn’t fix it properly to the hem (read, I was too lazy to do it properly), and surprise surprise, it looked terrible.

After 8 months, I gritted my teeth, cut out the lining, and made a new one, and this time fixed it to the hem properly. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better. And as soon as I wore it, I loved it.

It’s warm and stylish, perfect for cycling (wind-proof but leaves arms free, and no sweaty underarms). Perfect for walks in the woods. Perfect enough.


:: fabric :: thrifted and gifted 100% wool herringbone

:: pattern :: lindsey from BurdaStyle

:: modifications :: added welt pockets and changed the angle.

on failure

7 February 2011

I thought it might be time to talk about failure.

Some weeks ago we thought we might have a picnic one Sunday evening. I don’t know about you, but I associate very retro images with the word ‘picnic’ – something like the picnic scene in Mad Men. So I decided that if we were going on a picnic, I needed a full Betty-Draper-style skirt.

By coincidence, Kris had posted a link to what looked like the perfect full skirt, and it looked so easy to sew – two rectangles, some gathers, a zip, you’re done. I also had a fabric stashed that would take the retro theme even further – Hawaian print in dirty greens and blacks with bits of tan. Obviously everything was coming together for me to cut the perfect retro dash at my picnic.

:: oh dear…

You’ve already guessed where this is going, haven’t you? The skirt was an utter failure. I’m not posting a picture of me wearing it because it would set my body image self esteem back a year or two, it was that bad. But you might be able to guess from the picture above that it came out all wrong – drapey where it should have been stiff, full and heavy around the waist, not full enough around the hips. To top it off, the zip I used wouldn’t stay closed – it would slide open every time I moved.

But failures are for learning from, yes? So here’s what I learnt from the Skirt of Fail.

  1. I cannot imagine a fabric into being something it is not. The fabric I chose was the perfect print. But not the perfect farbic. It was drapey and soft. It was never going to stand out stiff and crisp the way the skirt should have. I think I knew this at the start, because I tried to correct for it by adding an underskirt or black cheesecloth – forgetting that cheesecloth was going to drape as well, and creating a result which was think and bunchy but still drapey.
  2. Icannot imagine my body into being a shape it is not. I love the full-skirted new-look look. Love it. But it is very hard to make it work on me. While I’ve got the small waist, it sits between a short body and larger hips and I’m not very tall. I need exactly the right full skirt, that flares out below the hips and doesn’t sit too high on the waist. The Skirt of Fail flared out from the waist, and it was full and thick over the hips, so my waist disappeared, my hips were two sizes larger, and I looked about 6″ shorter to boot.
  3. If something is cheap, there’s usually a reason why. The zip for the skirt came from a batch I picked up at Reverse Garbage a few years ago, 10 for a dollar. There’s a reason they’d been sent for recycling: they’re broken. None of them will stay shut.
  4. This technique for gathering fabric is FANTASTIC, and I will never ever go back to the way I used to do it (the traditional way, pulling the bobbin thread).

    :: the only good bit

  5. I now know how to do an external zip. As you can see above, I did the zip so that all the zipper tape is on the outside of the garment – I got the idea from the dress you can see in this blog entry (which, by the way, is an example of a full skirt that I CAN wear). I really like this look, so I hope to be able to use it again soon.
  6. I can have a perfectly fun time on a picnic even without a retro skirt. To go a-picnicking, I wore the dress in the picture below – it’s one I made in 2005. It’s faded now, but I still really like it. Probably because it’s made from a suitable fabric, it suits my body shape, and the zip was brand new, so it stays zipped up.

About this time last year (was it really that long ago?), I made some cushions for my loungeroom. At the time I intended to make another round of them in warmer tones, for winter.Well, winter came and went and I didn’t sew the cushions.

Summer came again, and I remembered we had a second cover for our sofa, in summery blue and white stripes. Which didn’t match the first set of cushions so well. Luckily, cushions are easy to make, and I had a gift voucher for fabric burning a hole in my pocket.

Here’s the new look.

:: fresh

The fabric is a beautiful cotton-linen blend. It was so restrained and beautiful that I knew immediately I wouldn’t be able to leave the shop without it.

:: in grey

And the shades of warm pale grey and duck egg blue look just right against the crisp stripes of the sofa.

:: in duck egg blue

These are so easy to make. I’ve written up a how-to which you can find in the my designs section. There are instructions for a 50cm square cushion, and a ‘recipe’ to fit the same design to any size.  Enjoy!

on buttonholes

18 January 2011

There’s a saying in knitting that you don’t knit a man a jumper till he marries you – because men’s jumpers take so much work and tend to be very plain (and therefore tedious) knitting, you want to be sure he’s not going to leave you and waste all that effort.

As I don’t intend to be married any time soon, Mr Machen will have no jumpers from my hands. I did make him a shirt for his birthday though, and here he is wearing it.

(apologies for the bad photo, he was only prepared to pose for one)

Erm, that’s his birthday as in the birthday he has in July. I didn’t quite get the shirt finished in July, so the one he got on his birthday had no buttons or button holes, but I did promise to provide same within a month.

And then disaster struck. My sewing machine had a tantrum over button holes. It. Would. Not. Sew. Nettie came to the rescue with a tip-off: a tailoring service that would sew buttonholes (TT Fashions upstairs at Bailey’s Corner, for those locals reading).

So after a few months of the shirt sitting in a bag in the hallway (‘Are you taking that shirt to the tailor this week?’. ‘Oh yes, this week for sure, I just didn’t get round to it last week,and the week before that, and the week before that’.) off it went to the tailor.

Now, this is the sad part. The lovely Mr Tran at TT Fashions gave me a discount on the button holes – usually he charges $4, he did them for $3 each. But a shirt has 13 buttonholes, so they cost me $39 in total. Mr Machen pointed out, that’s the price of a cheap shirt or half a nice one.

To me, $3 per buttonhole is sort of a bargain – I find doing buttonholes quite nerve-wracking and tiring, and I was kind of glad my machine refused to play along so I could hand the job to someone else. But if a whole shirt only costs $39 or so, designed, cut, sewn, wrapped, tagged and delivered, how much is someone paid to do just the buttonholes?  And by golly, buttonholes aside, there’s a lot of work involved in the rest of a tailored shirt too. There are many pieces to it, and there are a lot of steps. The collar, the cuffs, the slit in the sleeve, a yoke. But somewhere, someone does it all so that we can buy shirts for $39…

:: details ::

pattern: Vogue 8096, view B.

fabric: cotton-linen blend, purchased at Tessuti.