About Me, Not Sewing

An introduction is probably in order…

Apparently I've now had this blog for a month, and I kinda just jumped straight into posting. I figured some kind of introductory post was probably in order.

This is going to be a 20-questions style of thing, but firstly…

'Hi, I'm Rachel, and this is what I look like'

😂 true fact – that's a $4 million smile 😁

📸 courtesy of my colleague – and I promise we had well and truely earned those beverages

Age: Somewhere in my 30s. There's a prize somewhere if you get it right – apparently I look younger than I am 👈🏻 cue supremely unimpressed younger sister…

Home: Beautiful, sunny, Brisbane, Queensland, Land Down Under. A lazy 6km/ 4 miles from the beach 🌊

Day Job: I work for a very large international consulting firm (and we're not joking when we call ourselves 'the largest company no one has ever heard of'). I work in Business Development, with just a few large key clients.

Dream Job: Already got it 🤓👍🏻🤓

Sewing Philosophy: I sew because it means that I can wear clothes that fit well, without needing to wear tanks or singlet tops for modesty. And, because I sew for me I can wear whatever colour and print that takes my fancy.
I wore this to work on Friday – my colleague's only comment was 'Why aren't you wearing your gold shoes?'…

Fabric Stash: 🙈🙈 sitting at enough for 144 outfits at the moment, which is way more than usual – my excuse – I shop much faster than I sew 🤷🏼‍♀️

Shopping philosophy: I buy with projects in mind. I don't just buy fabric without it being for a specific project in mind. I wander the store looking for fabric that inspires, work out what I'm going to make and buy enough fabric for the garment I have planned.

Washed, packed and ready to make…

Currently watching: Mixing it up between Criminal Minds and The Great British Sewing Bee. Apparently here in Australia we're second class citizens and have to watch episodes of Sewing Bee on YouTube

Currently making: I have a Carolyn Pajama production line happening at the moment.

PDF or Printed: PDF all the way. In fact next up in the queue is a dress that I have the printed (on tissue) pattern for, and I'm feeling like I'm a little out of practice at using tissue patterns – the tracing off, then the adjusting of traced-off patterns. I'm so used to taping PDFs together!! Also PDFs are the quickest way to get most patterns here, waiting for shipping from the US for indie patterns too hard!!

Furry Friend: Aliyah is the fur-baby in my house – when she's not curled up on her bed in the sewing room, she likes to sleep on my freshly laundered fabric before it gets ironed and packed into the stash. I've given up trying to keep red hair off my clothes – I just don't have a hope…

Sewing Traits: I don't have an overlocker/ serger so I finish all of my seams with bias binding. It takes a little longer, but I love the fact that the insides of my garments are as neat as the outside. I make all of my own bias tape from the leftovers of the fabric from my garments. I have amassed a pretty amazing collection of bias tape, and sometimes I use totally contrasting binding inside my clothes. Always that hidden bit of fun

One-at-a-time, or WIP: I'm a one at a time kinda girl. I do have a Haptic Labs Paris Map Quilt I'm working on in fits and starts as well, but by and large it's one project at a time for garment sewing.

Irony: I quite like ironing freshly laundered fabric, don't mind ironing as part of the sewing construction process, but, ironing the clothes coming off the line before they go back in the wardrobe, not so much… Unfortunately, as I sew pretty much exclusively with cotton, everything needs to be ironed or it looks terrible…

True Fact: Adjusting sewing patterns requires far more maths than you'd ever think… adding from here, taking from there, circle skirts. I usually save testing new patterns for Friday nights and the weekends so I have time to mess around with the adjustments. There's usually a fair bit of consulting google, sew-alongs, and pattern reviews during my adjustment process. But the time investment is totally worth it for the final fit! ✂️

I don't make: Underwear and tights, they're the only things I wear I don't make, and don't really plan to make. I haven't made dress pants, yet – but I have a pattern, fabric, and have had a go at pajamas as a precursor, but have yet to actually tackle dress pants. I'm somewhat procrastinating because I have a feeling that I'm going to spend quite a while messing around with the fit… 😳

Sewing for others: Really not my thing… although I am about to embark on a 'special project' that will require sewing for a couple of others, generally I find it far more enjoyable to sew for myself. Sewing for myself, even with all the maths and brain power required for the adjustments is relaxing, sewing for others where I'm worried about it fitting someone who I can't just try it on then and there – not so much…

Something I want to master: Sewing knits – it's not something I've really attempted, mainly because I don't have an overlocker, so I wasn't sure about finishing edges. But, I've been doing some research, and I found some knit on the clearance table at Spotlight, so I'm going to give it a go, soon, it's in the queue… 😬

All the earrings: Apparently loving and wearing colour and prints in just my clothes isn't enough for me – I also love wearing outlandish earrings. Late last year I discovered a jewellery brand in Canberra that make earrings that brooches that suit my style – bold colours and shapes, aren't heavy in my ears and I'm not allergic too (boo for a nickel allergy). I can be wearing anything 🦐🐛🥑🦀☂️🌩🐕 in my ears depending on what colour or print I'm wearing in my clothes 😍


Earliest sewing memory: Me doing the sewing would have to be making 'quilts' for my Barbies on my Grandma's sewing machine, I was probably about 4 or 5. My quilts involved sandwiching batting of some description between to bits of material and 'machine quilting' it with straight lines all over the place – no binding, no basting, no matching edges – but I thought they were works of art… my Barbies would probably have been better off with washcloths as quilts.

I grew up in a home where my Mum sewed the vast majority of all of our clothes – she designed a lot of them too and embellished them with magnificent smocking or embroidery. Mum and I often had matching outfits, and when my sister came along she became part of a matching trio… until I became a teenager and matching your mum and little sister wasn't cool…

Owning a sewing machine and having the ability to sew is normal for me, but I've come to realise that growing up in a home where this skill was essentially normalised is something of an anomaly for my generation, I hear and read of so many around my age who never touched a sewing machine until well into their 20s when they taught themselves to sew. It's made me appreciate everything I learnt when my Grandma and Mum took the time to teach me sewing. Those skills have given me an incredibly solid foundation which I'm now able to build on with more advanced adjustment and construction techniques.

My Grandma passed away about 5 years ago, and a number of years prior she moved from her house to a nursing home. At that time I inherited her Singer sewing machine that she'd had since at least the 1950s. I pulled it out last week and it appears to still work, although I think I'll be hunting up instructions to remind myself how to thread it…

Look at it!! 😍 Hopefully I'll be able to make something on it soon!!


Finished Projects, Sewing

Happiness is…

Finished a new Upton Skirt, and I'm so in love I'm going to wear it tomorrow, even though I haven't gotten around to making a solid pink top yet and will have to wear this teal top.

I've loved this fabric for ages and originally bought some to make a top that ended up being an utter disaster. Even though I bought the fabric that first time to be a wearable muslin I fell it love with it as I was working on the shirt and was devastated when the shirt didn't turn out and I couldn't find more of the fabric the next time I went to the store.

I'm not sure what it is about the fabric, it just makes me happy looking at it 😁😍

I looked out for it every time I visited after that and about a month later I scored, and there it was!

I bought all of what was left on the only bolt of it in stock on the spot, and with some creative piecing of the waistband (which I'm trying not to let annoy me, because it's very noticeable to me) I managed to squeeze this Upton Skirt out of 2.6m… and let me tell you there is not a bit left – I managed to get just enough bias tape out of the off cuts to enclose all the seams and bind the hem 👊🏻😎

Adjustments, Sewing

The miracle of the perfect fit the first time!

Christine Haynes of City Stitching has just released her latest pattern, the Varda top and dress. It's a nice blend between shift and sheath with classic french darts giving it some gentle shaping.

I'm a long time fan of Christine's Emery Dress pattern, I have *goes to count*, uh-hem, 34 of them 🙊😳🙈, ok, so that's a lot…

When I saw the technical drawings for this new pattern I was very interested – I've got a top pattern with french darts in it that I hacked down from a dress that I make and wear all the time, so I knew I liked the shape, and I liked the option of sleeveless if I wanted to go that way. I've made up View B for now, and will probably try out A and C at some point soon.

I'm right at the very top end of the size range in this pattern, as in my high bust measurement is the same as the bust measurement for the largest size of the pattern, so I knew I'd need to do a significant full bust adjustment right off.

Because I also usually need to grade up the hips of most patterns, I do that by just using the added width from the full bust adjustment all the way down to the hem line. Only very rarely do I need to grade up any further (I think I've only had that happen once out of all the patterns I've adjusted), and I never have to grade the waist down at all…

I did some research into dart rotations before I started the full bust adjustment. I'd never tried it before and I wanted to do something about reducing some of that I knew was going to become an enormous french dart once I'd added the 2.5 inch full bust adjustment!! But… I also didn't want to detract from the clean and simple lines of the garment by adding shoulder pleats or a traditional bust dart…

I settled on rotating an inch from the french dart up to the armscye, and while an inch doesn't sound like much when you just added a 2.5 FBA and made the french dart so big you could probably have driven a truck through, it did the trick!

There was some serious stick tape and guesstimating voodoo going on to work out exactly where I was going where to draft that armscye dart! But when I taped the paper together to close the dart and tried it 'on' it seemed to have worked, so I proceeded to cut out my muslin and get on with it!

Look at that fit!! The print of the fabric means you can't really even see the darts, but believe me, they're there.

I made the pattern up exactly according to the instructions until I got to inserting the zipper, and I even got as far as pinning one side of the invisible zip in before I remembered that sometimes apple-shaped people like me can get away without centre back zips in some styles.

I'll be honest, this has never been the case for me before, and I was highly sceptical that it would work this time, but I figured that it was worth a shot – if I could make these tops without needing to use expensive invisible zips, I was all for it. So I pinned the back seam allowance closed, half pinned in zipper and all, and tried the shirt on, miracle of miracles it fit! And it was looking good!! I removed that half pinned invisible zip quick smart and stitched the back seam closed.

The back darts meant no need for any swayback adjustment on this pattern – hurray!

I've since made another one in a solid colour (finally something to wear with the skirts!). You can see the darts on this plainer version, but I think you'll agree that the added armscye dart doesn't detract from the original design style of the shirt, and I think it certainly helps with the fit!!

Muslins, Sewing

Most things don’t work perfectly the first time…

Unlike last week when my first go at the Varda Top worked perfectly, adjustments and all, I finished my first go the Style Arc Emily Skirt the other night, and I don't love it…

But then when I line it up with my other recent skirt makes I don't mind having a different shape skirt in my collection, so I don't exactly hate it either…

I made a straight size 24 with no alterations for this first time, and it's close enough to right that I'm calling it wearable (around the house at least 😉) but it could be better…

I'm going to make something else (maybe a couple of something elses) from my list and then come back to this skirt for another go.

I either need to go up a size or do a full tummy adjustment (that'll be interesting with all the origami pleats 😳) to stop the gape-y pocket that's going on at the moment.

I want to reduce the width (height) of the waistband to get it down away from my bust and back closer to my waist!

I also want to somehow make the skirt a couple of inches longer so that it finishes just below the knee. I think that will help with the tapered look it's supposed to have.

Monthly Roundup, Sewing

Make Roundup – July 2017

It’s the end of July and I thought I’d do a post with a round up of everything I made this month. I didn’t realise how much I got done!!

  1. Style Arc Amber Top – new pattern
  2. Grainline Morris Blazer – new pattern, managed to make this twice in the same month!
  3. Seamworks Delavan – repeat make
  4. Cashmerette Harrison Shirt – repeat make
  5. Style Arc Candice Skirt – new pattern
  6. Christine Haynes Varda Top – new pattern
  7. Grainline Morris Blazer – repeat make.
Finished Projects, Sewing

Let’s Meet for Brunch

This is my take on the Style Arc Candice skirt. Excuse the severe pattern clashing, solid colour tops are on the make list and rising rapidly to the top of it!!

It's quite similar in style to the Upton Skirt, the primary difference is that in the pattern the pleats are stitched down for 5 inches from the waistband.

I wasn't entirely convinced that I'd be able to sit down in a skirt with pleats stitched down that far, so it tried pinning the pleats of my Upton Skirt down that far and trying it on. Turns out my suspicion was correct – the skirt looked weird on even while standing and sitting was an issue. So, on my version of the skirt I didn't stitch the pleats down.

The size of the pattern pieces for this skirt mean you either have to use 150cm wide fabric, or run it down 112cm wide quilting cotton – it's too wide to fit selvage to selvage on quilting cotton. Although this makes it perfect for full width border prints which is what I used for this one!

The only other adjustment I made to this skirt was to lengthen the waistband just a little and make the pleats just a fraction shallower. These were primarily driven by laziness and not wanting to be bothered with cutting out and sticking together the 40-something pages required to go to the next size up, when 5 minutes of messing around did the trick.

This is probably only the downside of buying Style Arc patterns from their Etsy store – you get 3 sizes of the pattern, but they're not nested in the same file so grading between sizes either requires another round with the scissors and tape or eyeballing it… eyeballing it won 🙄 ✂️

Now I really need to make some of those solid coloured tops – this skirt needs to be out and about… the guys at work are going to love it! 😎

planning, Sewing

My journey of Skirt

As you can see from my recent fabric shopping haul I'm on something of a skirt journey at the moment. I haven't worn skirts for years, I was convinced they didn't suit me. I think mainly because I was always buying and wearing skirts like these…

In fact I've made View C of that pattern and it has languished in my wardrobe for over a year and never been worn – it's now in the 'donate pile' to see if it belongs in someone else's life.

Clearly yoked skirts that are form-fitting down to the hips then flare out with any kind of volume are just a no-go on me 🙅🏼🙅🏼

During my wardrobe planning exercise back in May (away for work with no sewing machine – I bought a LOT of patterns 🙊) I challenged myself to work out what I wanted in a skirt and to find at least one pattern that ticked my boxes…

Much time spent was trawling Pinterest, Google image search and Instagram before I settled on a the design elements I wanted in my skirt:

  • Waistband to sit at my high waist, but not so high it was empire.
  • Pockets (naturally 💁🏼)
  • Box pleats
  • Zip waist not elastic.

Once I'd worked out what I was looking for it actually wasn't as hard to find patterns that ticked the boxes.

First up – the Upton Skirt hack. How convenient that I'd already picked the Upton as my 'Woven Sleeveless Dress', and the hack didn't involve purchasing any more pattern pieces, just the download of some instructions from the Cashmerette Blog (well done, economical me!).

My next find was the Style Arc Candice, which surprise, surprise is very similar to the Upton Skirt, but with less volume, and stitched down pleats.

And last but not least (for now, anyway) is the Style Arc Emily. Not at all what I thought I'd find when I started my skirt hunt, but it ticks all the design boxes, and I'm interested to see how making it up goes – the front panel looks like it may require a Masters Degree in Origami to get right…

Challenge Accepted 👊🏻