That 80s Dress With The Ruffles {Vintage Simplicity 5884}

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If you follow me on Insta, you would have noticed that I’ve been getting into a bit of pants (sorry UK friends – trouser) sewing lately. I bought the Jedediah Pants pattern by Thread Theory and figured I’d start with sewing pants for my husband since he’s a bit less curvy than me. He’s actually the complete opposite of me – tall, angular and mostly straight lines. I made one muslin, a couple of changes and bam – now he has three pairs of pants (which I’ll blog when I can photograph them all on his person). Did I get cocky? Yes. I moved onto Closet Case Patterns Morgan Jeans for me. Oh man, what a steep and painful learning curve. Long story short – even after two muslins I can’t get any semblance of fit.

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So what’s a girl to do to come back from such a knock to the ego? She bloody digs through her gifted vintage pattern stash and finds something to reassure herself that she can actually sew. An elastic waist almost guarantees that baby will fit.

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I’ll admit I did hesitate. I mean, look at it in all its 1983 glory. It could be amazing or really, really bad. There is no middle ground with a pattern like this.

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Did I sew that sucker anyway? Of course! I do love me a frill and they are bang on trend right now. Not that I’m a huge follower of trends, but frills man – so fun.

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I sewed this one out of a super light and floaty Lizzy House double gauze (I bought mine locally and I’m not sure it’s even available anymore). If you’ve never used double gauze before, let me try and describe it for you. It’s a bit like a Labrador puppy (stay with me) – soft as hell, cute as a button but does like to roll over on itself and misbehave in a ridiculous manner. Plus it sheds like crazy. It needs a firm but gentle hand or it will end you (or itself when it throws itself under the overlocker blade – fabric, not puppy – the puppy analogy ended).

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I think after the ruffles and the forgiving waist, the coolest part of this pattern is the rad way the back is finished. On modern patterns with the keyhole back, I’ve only ever seen them finished by slashing the back and wrestling with a very narrow seam allowance to stitch down either side. This way is so much neater and easier! You sew the facing around the neckline and then stitch down the back to a point (through the back and facing) and back up. Then you slash between your two stitching lines to get the back opening. It’s super cool (and I might have been living under a rock but I’ve never seen it before). I do find I learn new techniques from vintage patterns.

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To be honest though, I really wasn’t sure how this would turn out until the very end. I’d decided to attempt sleeves because I really do prefer them, but I knew those puffy delights on the pattern weren’t for me. I decided to make them but leave off the gathering into the cuff on the bottom – I figured they’d be more like flutter sleeves that way. ALMOST RIGHT KATIE. But I forgot one thing – the metric shit tonne of ease in the sleeve caps. OMG. It was like gathering another skirt. Those babies stood out all on their own with structure never seen before in double gauze, no doubt. Those sleeves were turfed into the bin, I dug out the sleeve pattern pieces and traced it again, this time taking a couple of wedges out of the cap. Not technically correct I’m sure, but it worked very well.

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Feeling pretty damn pleased at my problem solving skills, I tried the dress on before hemming. Oh wow, I nearly cried – frump city. The skirt hit me between the shin and ankle and was very very ‘sister wife’ looking. I had nothing to lose, so I cut 15cms off the bottom, hemmed it and tried it on with a belt. YASSSSSS. It was just as I’d hoped. It’s truly amazing what a hem and a belt can achieve.

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I was so damn pleased with my frilly 80s secret pjs, that I went up to my sewing room and grabbed this beautiful nautical print from The Material Girl that I’ve been saving for something special.

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Isn’t it amazing? Bearded sailor, pretzel rope – what’s not to love? I only had 2m so had to forgo my precious sleeves. If it comes to it, I can wear a cardi or a fitted t shirt underneath.

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I sized down for this one as the gauze one is slightly blouse-y and because I was using a quilting weight (although incredibly soft for qc) cotton this time, I thought it would be better a bit smaller. Also that clever back facing wants to flip on this version, so I’ve stitched it down.

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I love this dress so much that you might just see its friends appear in the shop eventually…

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Merry Christmas {Vintage Simplicity 9008 in Outback Wife fabric}

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If you sew, you probably know about Outback Wife, the range of barkcloth designed by Cathi of Gertrude Made. If you don’t, I’ve blogged about it before here. Want some? I scored mine from Voodoo Rabbit in Brisbane, but be warned, it sells out damn fast.

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This particular range of barkcloth is 100% cotton, made in Japan and feels amazing. How special is this red colourway? It’s the perfect Christmas palette really, without screaming Christmas – because you can bet I’ll be wearing this baby all year round. I’ve loved this one since I first spied it on Instagram months ago. I didn’t have it pegged for a Christmas dress, but I just happened to see that Voodoo Rabbit added it to their shop a few nights ago and petrified that it would sell out, I made sure I bought some. As it turned out, it arrived super quickly and I couldn’t wait to turn it into a dress.

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I decided on the Gunne Sax dress that I’ve made three times recently. I know. But it is quite an easy sew and fits well. There was no way I was risking a new pattern on this fabric. This time though, I swapped the huge paneled skirt for a more simple circle skirt – it uses less fabric and I also didn’t want to cut through the print. I know that’s weird, especially for me and especially with a floral (I’m generally not into them), but look how pretttttttty it is.

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I used a vintage zipper from my stash and popped some pearl buttons on the front. They are dual purpose and help keep the front facing in place. This time it wanted to keep flipping up, which might just be the nature of the fabric. Ooh and I swapped the tie straps for slightly wider regular straps. I interfaced them this time too because the barkcloth seems to stretch out a little bit.

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I’ll be wearing this beauty tomorrow when I hang out with my family on the river, as is our tradition. We’ll arrive at about 7am, have bacon and eggs on one of the BBQs down there, swim, drink cold brew coffee, laugh, eat some more and then head home for a bit of a nap by about 11am. Then in the afternoon we’ll head to my parents place for a late lunch/early dinner that will consist of seafood, ham and salad. I’ve made Malteser cheesecake for dessert. It’s far too hot here to eat a traditional Christmas dinner. How do you do Christmas in your part of the world?

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Thank you for your comments, love and support, beautiful people. Have a wonderful Christmas and a happy and safe New Year. See you again soon.

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That 70s Dress With The Shoulder Ties {Style 2667}

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The other day I ran an Instagram poll to decide which dress I should sew next.

Style 2079

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or Style 2667.

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How good are Style patterns? I’ve made a few now, love them. They seem to have gone the way of the dodo, which is a shame.

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Anyway, Style 2667 was the winner of the instagram poll. But I ignored that and cut out both anyway. I made 2079 first and then whipped up 2667 yesterday. It was a super fast sew. Just front and back bodices pieces, front and back facing pieces and the skirt pieces. I ended up using plain circle skirt pieces though because the ones included in the pattern have gathers too and I really didn’t have enough fabric for all that frou frou.

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It didn’t fit as well straight out of the envelope as 2079, but I will forgive it. The bust darts are suuuuuuper long (you can see that in the pattern illustration) but the bodice was also too long for me. Which meant tying the straps up higher on my shoulders – in turn raising those bust darts way up over my boobs. So I managed to drop them about 1.5 inches (the darts, not the boobs). That will do for now, although it’s giving me some weird armscye issues. Nevermind, fixable for next time.

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And still wearable. I think as time goes on, I just get more and more fussy about fit issues that wouldn’t have even blipped on my radar in the past.  A while ago I was picking apart fit problems on something I’d made and someone commented to me that it’s something we’d accept in RTW and she was right. We are far harder on our own sews than something we’d pick up in a shop.

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So I’m happy. Pretty dresses and full skirts make me feel good. French bulldog printed fabric also pleases me. This one is designed by Christopher Thompson for Riley Blake and I bought it here. The facings and pockets are just plain pink lawn.

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Ed snagged a shirt out of it too (it’s a Tadah Troop Shirt). He calls it his Sid Shirt.

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Sid doesn’t really approve, but then he doesn’t approve of much these days.

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That 90s Dress That’s Not Really A Dress {Style 2079}

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The year was 1991.

Katie was 10 years old.

Terminator 2 and Silence of the Lambs came out (I didn’t see them until years later, obviously).

Style 2079 was also released.

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Fast forward to 1996. Katie was now 15. Oh yes, things were getting serious. The movie The Craft was released. Angsty Katie loved it so much she bought the soundtrack. Cue Morrissey banging on about how soon is now.

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Make the leap to 2017. Emo Katie is now 36 years old with a husband, two kids and a dog and lives in the burbs. And yet, when Dear Stella released this print she jumped on it as quickly as humanly possible. Because emo Katie still loves The Craft and all things 90s. Who doesn’t, come on.

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Ok, I’ve finished referring to myself in the third person now. How good is this print though? Love it so hard.

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This one is a risk though, let’s be honest. It had the potential to be very, very bad. The print saves it though, I think. It brings a pretty modern twist to a 90s shape. Plus, I have seen this style kicking around a bit in RTW these days. It’s trying to come back, along with those high waisted jeans that the gang from Friends wore.

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In case it’s not apparent from the pics, I made the culottes version of the pattern. Which means I have to strip to pee. Worth it. I can’t believe how well it fits straight out of the envelope. Will I make it again? Maybe. I’ll probably give the dress version a go.

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‘You see I’ve already waited too long and all my hope is gone…’

Is it in your head now? I hope so, it’s in mine.

 

Another Gunne Sax {Simplicity 9008}

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As soon as I finished the first version, I cut out another from this rad rainbow border print. I managed to use up most of the 6 yards I had. Such a fabric hungry dress. I couldn’t help it though, that silhouette is pretty amazing.

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I tried my best to line up the panels, but they aren’t perfect. Luckily the skirt is so full that it isn’t super noticeable.

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I won’t blather on about this one since I literally just made another one the same.

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The only changes this time were omitting the sash and adding horsehair braid into the hem. Which is a really easy way to finish never ending circle skirt hems. Apparently I can’t stitch straight though.

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It’s been a bit of a day. My little old Bernette wasn’t sewing well yesterday and because she’s never skipped a beat, I assumed it was the end. Turns out I was right and my sewing machine repair guy confirmed that for me today.

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So this dress was sewn mostly on my vintage Janome, which goes really well to be honest. She isn’t a fan of knits though. Now I have the fun job of trying to decide what will replace my faithful little Bernette. She was only a cheapy but she will be missed.

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There ain’t nothing like a rainbow dress to cheer you up though right? The boys told me this was their new favourite and I should definitely wear it on Christmas day. I think I will, kiddos.

 

 

 

That 70s Dress That’s A Gunne Freaking Sax {Vintage Simplicity 9008}

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If you’re all like ‘WTF is a Gunne Sax, ya big weirdo?!’ it’s totally fine. Here’s a bit of info –  basically it’s a clothing  label that was successful in the 1970s and known for its prairie, Victorian and Edwardian styled designs. Gunne Sax only came to my attention recently when I watched the Netflix series ‘Girlboss’, which is based on Sophia Amoruso’s autobiography and tells the story of how she started selling vintage clothing on ebay.

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Obviously though, by the time 1979 had rolled around (the year Simplicity 9008 was published), there was less lace and high collars and more of the above. Apparently the designer had moved towards creating dresses with prom dress features. Still, I was kind of taken by this baby when I found her in my vintage stash yesterday. It was originally given to me in about 6 boxes of vintage patterns which is why my memory of it is a touch hazy.

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So I was digging through my vintage pattern stash, wanting to make something different and found this one right at the bottom. That 50s shape spoke to me – the full skirt and that collar are beautiful. I very rarely wear dresses without sleeves, but I’m making an exception for this one. Plus I thought it might be cute with a little tshirt underneath or I can always wear a little wrap top over it.

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Deciding on fabric was hard. I wanted something I wasn’t hugely attached to as this would basically be a muslin – one I hoped would be wearable, but considering the grading up I had to do, I was unsure. I hate wasting fabric but I also hate spending hours sewing without being able to wear the finished product. Another thing – it’s bloody massive. I had 4m of the bear cotton/linen and I only just managed to tetris the dress out of it (I did use plain black lawn for the facings). Being directional obviously added to the challenge. The fabric was originally intended for dresses to sell, but after I washed it the black faded really unevenly and I didn’t really want to pass that on to paying customers. So in the end it was perfect for my sorta muslin.

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See that skirt? There’s eleven panels in that sucker. Thirty pattern pieces in total. Thirty-four if you count the pockets. I think it’s fuller than a normal circle skirt, my petticoat barely makes a difference.

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I didn’t change a whole lot beyond grading it up. I just followed the pattern pieces of a princess seamed dress that fits me well and it worked pretty successfully. Once I’d redrawn the bodice pieces, I lined them up to see how much I had to add to the skirt pieces (not much surprisingly, although the 3cms added to the bodice is spread pretty thinly over all those skirt panels).

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Redrawing the bodice pieces meant also redrawing the collar and facing pieces and I ended up slightly off with my collar pieces unfortunately. They just don’t quite reach in the centre. Not a big deal though and I’ll correct that for next time.

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Next time? Oh yeah. It’s taking all I have not to make another one of these ASAP.

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That 60s Dress With The Metal Zip {Vintage McCalls 9083}

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Have I told you before that my mum is a legend? My mum is a legend. Last week I received a very excited phone call from her because she found a few things at an op shop that she knew I’d love. Two of them were these barkcloth (I think) table cloths. Both in excellent nick and around 1m x 1m. One looked like it had never been used, one slightly used. Not a huge difference in colour between them both though.

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My ma knows me well, so of course they became mine. I had planned on making a full gathered skirt with them, but decided to see if I could stretch it to a dress instead. It was time to make something a bit different. I dug through that lovely vintage stash that was given to me a while back and came up with McCalls 9083, a dress pattern from 1967.

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I did make some pretty significant changes to the pattern. First and foremost, my bust is nowhere in the vicinity of 34 inches, so some grading up had to happen. Then a 2 inch full bust adjustment on top of that. I am so glad I did too, because it fits like a glove. FBAs are magic, 10/10 do recommend. I use this tutorial to do mine. I lowered the neckline slightly too, because that sucker is high.

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I slashed and spread the skirt, eliminating the darts and making it more A line in shape. It’s a bit of a weird feeling for me because I am so used to wearing very full skirts. I feel a little bit naked, which is ridiculous.

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I decided on patch pockets because I had a feeling side seam pockets might stick out a bit on this style of skirt.

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I had planned to use an invisible zip, but it turned out I didn’t have one long enough in my stash. Then I remembered I had a pretty long thrifted metal one hiding somewhere, so I dug it out. I think the metal is way cooler and gives all that floral a little bit of an edge.

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The bodice is lined in black lawn and yeah, I probably should have used black thread but I wasn’t sure whether to match the lining or the zip. So the zip it was.

Peace, love and tablecloth dresses.

Rainbow {Vintage Simplicity 7189}

I know. Now I’m just showing off.

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You’ll remember good old S7189 from the lipstick skirt I made a while back.

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It’s a bloody gem. I wear it all the time. I love those giant pockets and the way it wraps around the back. Yes, another wrap thingy. That’s two in two days. Buffet breakfast come at me.

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If you haven’t noticed the fabric then you’re obviously not a child of the 80s and we can’t be friends.

Just joking. We can be friends. Please?

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YEAH IT’S RAINBOW BRITE! So cool. It’s a poly cotton I scored on ebay. I’m generally not a poly cotton lover but I’m ok with it when it’s a print that’s hard to come by. It actually drapes really nicely and won’t need ironing, which is a bonus. The pocket and tie facings are in gingham, just for fun and to break up the print a bit. Small black dog growing out of me is an added bonus. He’s a ninja, I didn’t even realise he was there.

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Weeeee! I’m an adult!

Stay Puft {Old numberless dress pattern from vintage Ghostbusters sheet}

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‘The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man (also known as Mr. Stay Puft or nicknamed ‘Tubby Soft-Squeeze’ by Ray and Peter) was the final enemy of the Ghostbusters in the first film. He was the chosen Destructor Form of Gozer…’

I had to Google it. I couldn’t remember if he had a legit name.

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Ebay. She’s been good to me over the years. I’ve never really had a bad experience, but this one was borderline. Being a fitted sheet that is nearly as old as me, I expected some wear and tear. I’m a realist. The listing described the condition as ‘has some wash wear’. Mate, it’s threadbare. It was like sewing with tissue paper. Also ‘one small stain’ roughly translated to ‘has multiple brown stains that I really don’t want to think about too hard’. To be honest, I was pretty disappointed when this arrived in the post from the US. But onward, right? I soaked the sucker in Napisan for two hours and now there’s not a mark to be seen. There’s very little that can’t be fixed by a good soak, including my mindset.

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The wear however, can’t be fixed with a soak. It was obvious it would have to be fully lined, so I just used white cotton lawn. I’m used to lining bodices and do it all the time, but I very rarely line skirts. Which took a bit longer than usual because I had to use my brain to consider how I would add the pockets and finish the hem (the lawn is only 108cm wide compared to whatever the width of a single sheet is. Wide). I really should have lined the sleeves too, one is way more faded than the other due to the tetrising I had to do to get Mr Stay Puft on both sleeves.

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Still, it came out ok. I reallllllly wanted to use the Emery pattern for this, but alas those darted bodice pieces wouldn’t fit on the sheet I had left after cutting the skirt. I could have sacrificed some of the skirt to make them fit, but because the print is so large I was a bit pedantic about the way it was cut. And I wanted that skirt super full. Which is helped out by the lining too.

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In the end I decided on my old faithful tea dress bodice. The princess seams mean you can move the pieces around to get the absolute most out of your fabric. It’s a very old pattern that I inherited from my nanny and has been much altered over the years. It’s the pattern that launched my business and I still sell dresses from it in the shop today. I did have to shorten the bodice slightly and lower the back to get the pieces to fit, but it’s all worked out in the end.

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I ain’t afraid of no ghost.

 

 

 

Girt By Sea {Ken Done Smock Top}

Ken Done, what a legend. If you’re Australian, you’ll know him. If you’re not, let me explain – Ken Done is an amazing artist best known for his bright imagery of Australian landmarks. I remember his work was huge when I was a kid in the 80s, my Mum had one of his bags and every second person would have had something featuring his artwork in their house.

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(Image from Time Out Sydney).

A good friend of mine, let’s call her Phoebe (coz that’s her name) has been keeping her eyes peeled for all things Ken Done for me. She’s the best shopper of vintage I know. She found this doona cover for me via a seller on Instagram. Of course I had to snap it up immediately. It’s languished in my sewing room for the last couple of months while I decided what to do with it. I can’t just be cutting into Ken Done willy nilly, you guys.

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As it turns out, I’ve been working on a big collaborative project with some very talented women lately (more about that in a bit), so I’m currently feeling quite a bit of love for Australian designers. I was admiring my Ken Done again and decided that it was going to be an Illawong top. This style of top is something I sew up and stock in the shop and was inspired by a 70s girl’s smock top pattern. It has a yoke (which I usually sew in a contrasting fabric) , bell sleeves and an oversized fit. They are super comfortable and a great top to wear with jeans. I will often wear them when I’m photographing as I can bend and move and not worry about flashing anyone. I generally make them out of lawn or rayon because they need something with drape, regular old quilting cotton is too rigid.

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The old doona cover was so washed and worn that it had softened over time and I knew it would work in this style, I’m pretty sure it’s a poly cotton blend.

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Yep, it works and I love it. I kept the Ken Done signature (?) and made sure I cut it so that it could be seen (it’s on my left shoulder in the pic). The yoke is from the bottom of the fabric which has a bit of a border print.

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So what’s the other project I’ve got going on? It’s Girt Squad and you can follow along on Instagram and Facebook. It was started by the lovely Ellie Whittaker, who has designed some pretty damn cool work for a bunch of us makers to use to create a cohesive and unique collection. If you’re been following me for a while, you’ll know I’ve used a couple of Ellie’s prints in the past. I love those bright Aussie themes.

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We haven’t launched yet, but it won’t be too long now! I’ve created a completely brand new design for Girt Squad and can’t wait to share it. Wait until you see what the other ladies have come up with, it’s pretty amazing. There will be women’s and children’s clothing, accessories and home decor – all available in the one shop. Stay tuned…