Happy new year, internet world! The last few weeks have been wonderful with lots of festive fun and travels. Now that the new year has begun, I have started working hard on a few hats that will be the perfect accompaniment to this lovely hot summer we are having.

The hat I made today was supposed to be a cute little narrow brimmed casual hat from a 1930s pattern. What I loved about it was the fact that you tie it up for your headsize and the ties also act as a lovely trim. Here’s the original pattern pic:

One thing I knew straight away was that I’d have to change the brim completely if this hat were to offer any actual sun protection. What I didn’t count on was the fact that it’s a very shallow crown (or potentially a child size pattern..?) so it really doesn’t fit over the whole head. You can see on my hat block that it sits sort of at the back if the head. It would never survive a windy day!

Not to worry! I set about redesigning the shape and size of the crown piece to accommodate my (tiny) adult cranium, and potentially up to about 24″ headsize (yet to be tested on a larger head!); a part-maths-part-intuition exercise. The results were fabulous! So much so that I decided to line the second toile and keep it as is! The crown is much deeper and sits quite securely on the head when the ties have been adjusted to the appropriate size. And I think the bow looks pretty ace.

Anyway, I was so pleased with this bad boy that I decided to reward the effort with a trip to the beach! The new hat passed the test: the brim I made is wide enough to keep the sun outta my face and the hat doesn’t fly off in the wind. I wish I had made this before my sunny trip to Asia.. It was well needed and would have fit so easily in my luggage. And now for the gratuitous beach photos!


Working on hats!

Well I’m still crazily obsessed with my hat mission. I’m currently experimenting with drafting a calico “helmet” style hat. Something that fits the head really perfectly. It’s challenging! Here’s a little collage of recent creations:


In the meantime, I thought I’d post a sneak preview of a saucer style hat I’ve been working on for my friend’s birthday. It’s been so great to put my millinery skills to use with this one. Lots of meticulous hand sewing!




And on that note, I really should go to sleep now.

So I made the dress to wear to my friends’ wedding. Actually, a dress, a hat, a petticoat and a pocket square. Feeling puuurretty good about it.

The skirt section of the dress has a faced opening that is not part of the side seam. You’re supposed to make a nice faced section and then sew the skirt to the bodice and insert a regular zipper. My problem with that was that the fabric I used is fine and lustrous and lightweight and I didn’t want to ruin its appearance with an ordinary zipper: only an invisible zipper would do. However, I didn’t know whether it would be possible to insert an invisible zipper into this sort of faced section. Turned out, it’s totally doable!

Here are the original pattern instructions:



I followed the pattern instructions for creating the faced section, although I cut the facing fabric a little wider and longer than specified, just in case. I also overlocked the edges instead of rolling under. Basically, I figured that I was meant to be creating a nice, neat little slot in the skirt. Considering I wanted to insert an invisible zipper I thought it would be better for the stitching lines to be closer together than 1/4″. I reinforced the corner section just in case. Here are the pics!









The next step was carefully cutting between the stitching lines to the corner and then turning the facing pieces out and pressing.




The skirt was then ready to be joined to the bodice. Because I made the facing sections extra wide, they extended beyond the seam allowance of the bodice opening.



I then pressed my invisible zipper tape to prepare for insertion. I found that all I had to do was position the teeth on the facing carefully, right where it meets the skirt fabric and it worked just fine!




Doing the other side of the zipper tape was a bit awkward when it came to actually sewing because I was starting from the same position as the first side and then sewing down again (I was trying to avoid the fabric moving around and slipping waaaay out of place) – the bulk of the dress was bunched up to the right of the needle. But it worked, so no complaints :-)



So here are a few piccies of the final dress on location (and some of my favourite people):






First of all, the dress is for me to wear but the wedding ain’t mine! I was going through my fabric stash looking for something to inspire a new project and I came across a beautiful sunny yellow Egyptian cotton.. doona cover! It was perfect. Immediately I thought something with a big skirt would be the most fitting sort of dress to show off that fabulous fabric. Anyway had a quick look through my patterns and came across a couple that could easily be combined: the shirt-style top of a 60s pattern and the big skirt from a late 40s/early 50s one. I loved that the sleeves have sexy gussets and the skirt comes with pockets. So right!


When making the gussets for the sleeves, I was very grateful to have my trusty tailor’s ham on hand. It’s a fiddly little section that does require some care and attention, as well as careful pressing. So here are a few process shots as well as a finished gusset. You’ll notice there is excess fabric, which I’ll cut later.

Oh and another tip: when garments have lots of darts and stuff that needs pinning, sewing and pressing; where possible do the jobs in bulk: pin all the darts/sections that need pinning, then sew them all and then press. This saves lots of time.





Now onto the how-to: bound finish for a facing edge:

The pattern I’m using for the bodice instructed me to turn the raw edge under 1/4″ to finish the edge – BORING! And also, in my opinion, that never looks very nice. Specifically because there’s a curved edge around the back facing part. What a terrible idea! Anyway, instead I decided to enclose the edge in a piece of bias binding and it looks fabulous.

First I pinned the bias binding to the raw edge on the ‘wrong’ or inner side of the facing pieces and stitched in the groove of the bias binding.



Then I carefully clipped around the curved areas, each snip being about 1.5-2cm apart.


Next, I cut the excess off the seam, leaving about 3mm. This is really helpful for the next step.


Because the excess was cut off, it was really easy to fold over the remaining edge of the bias tape without getting lumps of fabric inside. And the pins stayed in place.



I then sewed close to the edge.


The final step is to give your beautifully bound edge a good press and voila! Here’s the finished product alongside the original instructions:


Stay tuned for updates on this lovely garment!

I recently went through my fabric stash and found some gorgeous floral fabric I had completely forgotten about. There was enough there for a top and a skirt.. or so I thought. When it came time to making the skirt, there simply wasn’t going to be enough fabric to make a waistband. I did my best to Tetris the pattern pieces around but it was no use. Determined to make it work somehow, I decided to use some of the remaining off-cuts appliqué-style on a neutral fabric base.

So here are the steps:

Firstly, I cut out the waistband piece out of plain fabric and interfaced it. I cut it longer than necessary, adding about 3 or 4 extra inches. This was a precautionary step and you may not need to do this if you’re really careful with measuring. Fold it in half lengthwise and press.


Next, I folded the waistband in half and marked the side seam, and in half again to get the centre front. If you are using commercial pattern pieces, the centre front may already be marked which is handy. You can also double check where the side seams will be (and therefore where to make the CF point) by carefully laying the waistband piece over the garment’s waist and marking the side seam points.


I fiddled around with the off cuts and chose the best ones. I actually only did this for the front of the waistband but obviously there’s no reason you couldn’t do the back as well. They fit quite well within the front section of the waistband when I lay the pieces on top.



Time to prep the scrap pieces. Mine were already the same shape which made things easy. If you are going to for symmetry, pay close attention to getting the shape identical for both pieces. I stay-stitched the diagonal edges to make sure they didn’t warp or move around. I then chopped off the excess fabric at the corners, and then folded those diagonal edges under and pressed carefully. Pressing the corners can be a bit fiddly so just take care to make sure they don’t move around too much. You want the corners to be neat so the raw edge doesn’t poke through. Then I stitched the two scrap pieces together at the centre and pressed that seam open.






Next, I aligned the appliqué pieces (which are looking rather pretty at this point) with the centre front marking on the waistband and pinned them in place. Make sure you open out the waistband before pinning the appliqué on and sewing, or you will sew through two layers of waistband to the inside (like I did!)



A final test to see how it looks against the skirt before sewing. I then sewed the appliqué pieces on, stitching close to the edge. Slow and steady here, especially when you get to the centre and need to pivot. You want the stitching to look neat because it’s visible.




I cut off any excess, overhanging bits after that.



From here onwards, it was waistband-business-as-usual. I stay stitched about 1.2cm from the top and bottom of the waistband, making sure that the stay stitching was the same length from the fold on each side. I then folded the waistband in half again, with the appliqué side facing down. From here, I folded the raw edge (of the inside of the waistband) under so that the fold line matched up with the stay line of the outer part. I pinned this fold and pressed.



I pinned the waistband to the skirt and marked where to cut the excess on the overlapping waistband ends. I then folded the ends with right sides together (and the pressed edge still folded over) and carefully sewed each one closed. I then snipped off the excess at the corner and turned the ends out, pressing again.




Ok now the final pinning of everything together. I sewed the waistband to the skirt on the stay stitching line and then pressed the seam up (into the waistband section). I used my tailors ham for this to help with all the bulk and dealing with the curve of the skirt pieces (especially around the waist pleats).






Once the waistband was pressed, it was easy to top stitch for a lovely neat finish.



And finally, I tried on the skirt, overlapping the waistbands ends, and marking where the hook and eye closures would be sewn. I sewed those on by hand and that was it!




I must say I’m quite pleased with the result. It was a bit of an experiment but it worked well. Next time I will also play around with different waistband colours for a different effect, as well as incorporating some appliqué to the back of the waistband.


Dear Cyberverse,

It’s been a long time since we’ve hung out. But like any old friend, why don’t we just take it from where we left off? Like I saw you just yesterday… Done.

My brain has been swimming in hats! I’ve started designing like crazy and finding inspiration everywhere. I’ve been experimenting with pattern based and free-form draped hats and have been finding it a fun and wonderful experience!

The draping process is like careful, meticulous sculpture work: folding and refolding every pleat until it frames the face perfectly. Not easy to do with my rudimentary supplies blockwise (I own one veeeeeerrry old hat block; tiny tiny headsize; which was covered in plaster and netting, and which I re-covered in foil to keep it from literally falling to pieces). But with lots of trying on and re-pinning I’m getting there.

I started the draping work as an answer to my gigantic piles of fabric off-cuts from years of sewing garments. Although not all fabrics work equally as well (for example, they may need a lot of steaming after getting squashed from flat storage), I do feel that I’ve finally stumbled on a creative “green” solution to my fabric-off-cut-hoarding-problem. And no toiling is needed because the draped hat is both the experiment and the final output. It’s much more time consuming but also more satisfying creatively.


The pattern-based hats are quite straight forward in terms of process because I can follow a series of obvious steps to get to the finished hat. Changing the structure of the hat is also more systematic (though no less fiddly at times). I must say, though it helps to have studied millinery to have the right techniques on hand in order to deal with curves and pressing and easing and linings… The most time consuming part is toiling with these hats. Especially because I’m only using reclaimed materials, so each hat has the very real potential to be different from its sister. Today’s toile had a Hellraiser vibe about it:



I shall dutifully post pictures of the completed creations once they are complete!

Good night, old friend. Nice to be back.

Gardening is a wonderful activity. Aah the smell of earth and mulch, the feel of soil under the finger nails… I’ve been working quite a bit on my garden recently. One thing that I’ve found quite frustrating is planting seeds and then marking where they have been planted, so that they don’t get lost when mulched and watered. Argh! So I came up with a very simple and environmentally friendly solution – re-using cardboard coffee cups, paper towel and toilet paper rolls, and milk cartons. Enjoy!


– used cardboard cups, rolls, cartons

– knife or scissors

– garden patch, plant pot or styrofoam box with soil or manure

– seeds

Step 1:

Cut the bottoms off the cardboard cups or cardboard milk cartons. Cut the paper towel rolls into 3 or 4 sections, and toilet paper rolls can be left as is or cut in half.

Step 2:

Prepare your planting area – I am reusing a styrofoam box, filling it with horse manure, approximately 2/3 of the way up.

Place your open-ended cups or rolls upright in the box, pot or patch. Make sure you allow for some room between plants, as they don’t like to be crowded!

Step 3:

Top up with some more soil or manure, so the cups or rolls become well buried but are still visible.  Make sure they are sitting firmly in the soil or manure.

Step 4:

Grab your seeds and pop them into the soil. Today, I’m planting red capsicum.

Step 5:

Cover them with a bit more soil and water them in.

Now when you mulch, you will have a clearly visible area, where your seedlings will grow. Not only that, but by using cardboard, you can rest assured that the roots of the plants won’t have a hard time breaking through the degradable material.

Here are some silverbeet and red chard seedlings. I planted the seeds using the same method a few weeks earlier. I used cardboard coffee cups, toilet paper rolls and cardboard milk cartons.


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