Where’s she gone?

21 Jan

Well… I’m studying writing at uni. First time in my life I’ve had the chance to study what I’ve always wanted to study. Yay!

I’m sewing too, but not quite so voraciously, which probably isn’t a bad thing as my wardrobe is bursting at its seams. But writing about sewing is (ironically) just a bit too much on top of studying about writing. I might be able to get out a post or two every so often, but if not, you know why!


25 Nov

Auramala, I hear you say? A new indie pattern company? A new fabric store?

Nah, nothing so sewing-y. But … it is, nonetheless, something very very awesome. Auramala is a book recently written by my little brother, Ivan Fowler, about a 600 yr old mystery about England’s King Edward 2nd. A real ‘cold case’. And I’ve been working hard helping edit the English language version of it, instead of writing about sewing on my blog. Ahem.

Here it is *drumroll* the trailer for the book! (I feel so old. Since when did books have movie-style trailers? Never mind, check it out :-) it’s great fun.)

As you could imagine, I’m pretty proud of my kid brother :-D I’m not sure when he grew up and got famous in Italy for writing books and operas and stuff, but hey, life does strange things like that, right? I must say, the amount of research he put into the project has been phenomenal. Or maybe that is just the level of research required to write historically accurate novels? My area of editing expertise is more fantasy and contemporary novels, not historical, so it’s been a very interesting process for me professionally. My favourite bit in the editing process was when I got to a scene where the main character carries a burning coal in wet rags against his chest so he can light a fire with it later, causing much mayhem – and of course, an interesting twist in the plot. Little Bro got a note in the editing file from Big Sis saying “I’m not convinced the coal would stay alight wrapped in wet rags like that.”

He wrote back “It does, and it also gets hotter and hotter over time as I described later in the scene. I discovered that when I tried it out.”

See what I mean? Well-researched :-D And SO like my brother to have the time of his life trying out all the moves to ensure accuracy!

Here are a few more links:

English book trailer: http://youtu.be/QUfoCcNu6GA
English site (a free preview of the Prologue and Chapter One can be downloaded here): http://www.auramala.com/en

My brother, Ivan Fowler’s blog: theauramalaproject.wordpress.com
Facebook page (multiple languages): https://www.facebook.com/auramala.book

And the place to purchase the entire book.

If it looks like your cup of tea, something to read while your mind mulls over your latest sewing project, then please, enjoy :-)

Oops! I accidentally stifled my creativity.

10 Oct

Well, I thought it was a good idea to put aside sewing clothes for myself for a bit. You would have thought so too if you’d seen how full my wardrobe was!

I have Other Projects to do. Like some christmas presents. (Yep, I am organised, I’m working on christmas presents and it’s only early October. But the thing is, you see, I sew or otherwise craft my christmas pressies, so I need time to get them made. And most of my family is overseas or elsewhere in Australia so I need to get them in the mail early.)

I also promised my mum I’d make her some new dresses, her wardrobe, unlike mine was, resembling Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard.

I also need a new handbag. Of course, I could just go buy one. *chokes* and indeed it was starting to seem likely I’d have to, until… I found this pattern on Etsy. *dies in delight* in the shop Charlie’s Aunt. An independent pattern designer selling bags and accessory patterns with a retro 1940′s-1950′s flavour. Go check it out. It’s awesome!

Sewing pattern to make the Kitchen Garden Bag - PDF pattern INSTANT DOWNLOAD

Miserable thoughts of having to buy a new bag went straight out of my head. Clearly, I needed to make this bag!

Then I saw this bag pattern in the same shop:

Sewing pattern to make the Brideshead Bag - PDF pattern INSTANT DOWNLOAD

omg *drools* I’m sure I need two new handbags, right? Right! Of course I do! Especially as there was this promotion:

2 PDF sewing patterns of your choice

All in all, I thought it would be good to stop sewing clothes for myself, and sew and craft non-clothing stuff (like a new handbag!) for a bit.

That was about 3 weeks ago. And since then a very strange thing has happened. I’ve just stopped making anything. Ok so I’ve been sick, (nasty virus) but that usually only slows me down, not stops me completely.

And my overlocker has been on the blink. But it just needed a good clean and re-thread, which I’d usually do without it even registering I’d done it.

So why the lack of creative crafty sewing-y goodness?

After much thought the past few days, I’ve come to the conclusion I’ve simply put a damper on my creative energy. I just love making clothes for myself so much I’m almost never out of ideas, or out of enthusiasm for it. (Or fabric, actually, but The Stash is another story!) I also do heaps of other crafting things alongside the clothes sewing, like decoupage, crochet, craft sewing. They get swept up in my overall creativity.

But putting those dressmaking ideas aside for a month or two has just cut my creative verve totally dead.

Weird feeling.

I also took a good hard look at the clothes in my wardrobe and decided very sadly that about 6 or 7 of them (OUCH!) were so faded and worn they needed to be consigned to the rag bin :-( Clothes just don’t last long in this climate. Now my wardrobe is resembling Mother Hubbard’s cupboard a bit too!

I think I need to go sew some clothes for myself…


Tanit-Isis’s Grecian dress goes tangoing

4 Oct

A few months ago I was looking for something different to wear to tango practicas. I had 3m of blue-and-white 1″ gingham, and an afternoon. I’ve been admiring Tanitisis’s Grecian Sundress which I’d pinned on my pinterest sewing boards. There was another, similar dress I’d pinned that was basically a long rectangle with a slit for the head/neckline. I decided to go for Tanitisis‘s dress because I’ve got quite marked sloping shoulders, and I thought her dress was less likely to fall off me. And I loved the gathers across the shoulders too. I downloaded it, stuck the pattern together (I’m getting really quick at that these days!) cut the dress out and sewed it up, all in time for the Tango Practica early that evening. Pretty darned good eh?

  • Fabric/trims/notions used
cotton/polyester gingham in blue and white
  • Inspiration

I wanted something different for practising dance in, not the usual shorts and t-shirt style.

  • Construction notes

Sooooo easy. I didn’t do the shirring, I’ve never done shirring before and I didn’t want to fiddle about learning it, I just wanted the dress done. I think I’ll go back and do the shirring as I think the gathers would sit better than the lace sash I used in the photo.

The fitting for the bust was pretty genius, actually – simply make longer or shorter in the front along the shoulder edge to suit. I made mine a little bit bigger and it hung well on me, ie wasn’t pulling up at the front hem to compensate for my bust.

I love the shoulder gathering but I think I gathered mine a bit too tight. I think looser so it falls a bit further over the shoulder would look a bit better.

  • Last word

Thankyou so much for the pattern (And free too!) Tanitisis! I really appreciate the generosity of the online sewing community!

I had my camera set to take a series of photos, so here are some action shots of me trying out some Argentinian Tango ‘ochos’ in the dress. Tying the sash (first picture) isn’t part of a tango ocho, but costume adjustment form such a part of dancing I put it here anyway :-D


Learning to fit a plus-sized friend (Help?)

20 Sep

Recently I’ve come face to face with body-dislike, and the fears and humiliation that so often comes from having a body at all, let alone  a body nowhere close to what our western society tells us it should be. Not my body-dislike, but a friend’s. She’s plus-sized, and describes her body with a genuinely humourous grin as a ‘beach ball’. And she generally seems pretty ok about her body size and image overall.

So I was a dismayed when we started upsizing patterns for her, (there are very few patterns, even plus-sized, that don’t need adjusting upwards for her figure) that she – well she very determinedly didn’t disintegrate into tears. Eeek!

There’ve been a number of posts and conversations over the years in the sewing blogosphere that talk about the effect of sewing on body image. I’ve even chimed in on a few. Recently Karen of Did You Make That posting in The Guardian “Can sewing change your body image?” created a lot of discussion, The Colleterie has visited this issue. Gertie‘s visited it. From comments and posts generally, it seems some people have found sewing to have a negative effect on their body image. Most seem to have found it positive.

I particularly liked Julie’s Doodle Blog’s take on it, that fitting the things she sews is about resolving the differences between patterns and her body, as opposed to when she shops for rtw it becomes a list of ‘problems’ her body has. This is probably closest to how I personally feel about size, fit, and sewing. However I can’t tell you how I feel about rtw shopping because quite honestly I hardly ever do it. I sew, or op-shop, and the sizing in op-shops are all over the place, as are the styles, colours, fabrics, and quite often the clothes themselves! (Oh I <3 op-shopping!)

And I can’t tell you how sewing has or has not affected my own body image because I’ve been making clothes for myself since I was 10, a year or two before my body started developing. I kinda have no ‘before’ and ‘after’ to compare! But I do know the freedom to create exactly what I wanted to wear – within the constraints of a typically small budget, and the fabric available in the local fabric shops or op-shops (no Spotlight in Darwin back then, for good or ill, and no Lincraft ever) has meant that my feelings about my body and clothing is simply another part of the creativeness that infuses the rest of my life.

Sewing aside, I also danced all through my teen years (Ok, ok I still do! I’ll dance on my deathbed!) and my dance teacher’s focus on the quality of movement rather than the shape or size of the body doing the movement probably had an overall far more positive effect on my feelings about my body than any other one thing in my entire life. (Thanks Mrs H! You’re a legend!)

Believe me, my generally healthy body image isn’t bullet-proof. I avoid reading woman’s magazines like the plague - they inevitably make me feel huge, ugly as hell, covered in acne and wrinkles and that my relationships with my partner, mother, daughter and all my friends are in tatters.

But… all in all, for me, the numbers on the tape measure are mostly just a (pretty useful!) fitting tool.

So here I am, not sure how to teach my friend to sew clothes that actually fit her without accidentally shredding her self esteem about her body, in my enthusiasm to teach her to sew clothes that fit and look good on her. I’m hoping the ‘looking good on her’ will win over the “OMG that pattern is HUGE, look at the vast expanse of fabric it takes to cover me” reactions. But getting to the hopefully positive end product may not help if she doesn’t survive the negative feelings fitting her properly is bringing up.

Any suggestions would be very much appreciated!

She’s visiting from Melbourne for a month, the day she left home it was raining and 5C *shivers* and she arrived to a balmy 30C here. Oddly enough she didn’t have many clothes suitable for the late dry-season weather we’re having, so we ran up a “pillow-case dress” in a gorgeous bright pink-and-orange hibiscus print. Looks great!. I’d LOVE to post a picture of the first dress we made but she’s not sure if she’s ok with it.

eta: she’s decided she is ok with me adding in her picture here! She’s one brave woman in a lot of ways, and facing her body-image fears is just one of them :-)

Vogue 8888 or: a sweet but scratchy vingette

1 Sep

According to wiki, a vingette originally meant “something that may be written on a vine-leaf.” Hmm. A written on a fig might be more appropriate for these lovely french knickers?


  • Fabric/trims/notions used
Royal blue rayon cupro (an op-shop find!) YUM!
Black nylon embroidered lace
Underwear elastic
  • Inspiration

I’ve been working on sewing my own undies for a while, having a lot of fun – and no little frustration – experimenting. Vogue had a $5 per pattern sale at Spotlight recently. An invitation I can’t pass up on. I saw this gorgeous-looking pattern and nabbed it. I have some idea of one day making that wrap. And one day making a cami from it too. But this week I made the french knickers

  • Construction notes

The knickers are cut on the bias. I cut out the largest size – 20, not sure how the fabric would behave, and if the measurements given were stretched bias or non-stretched or what? Let alone having no idea how tight they might be across the top of my thighs, which are quite big. (Dancing. Gotta love it!) Ended up being just fine across the tops of my thighs, but a bit too big in the hips so I cut it right back down to size 14 in the hip, sizing up to 20 in the thigh. I could possibly have sized them down in the thigh a bit too, but they’re perfectly comfortable so I may as well leave them.

I liked the instructions to sew the seam, then simply sew it again just inside the original stitching. I haven’t thrown them in the washing machine yet but being bias-cut I think that’s likely all the seam will need to stay neat and not-unravelling.

The elastic around the waist is pretty loose. I didn’t use the elastic guide, I just estimated on my own hips but I think it needs a more solid affair around the hips. I might cut it off and redo it. The rise is high enough I could easily get away with losing a half-inch from elastic mistakes and the knickers still work.

Rather than following the instructions to put the lace over the actual fabric of the knickers then cut the excess fabric under the lace away, I added it to the bottom of the leg hem. This made them wider in the crotch and longer in the leg. Cute over the leg, but really annoying in the upper thighs, bunching up. I’m not entirely sure I actually like wearing french knickers. Owning them, yeah! But wearing them? Another matter entirely. But with these ones I could actually see that the width in the crotch is vitally important to comfort. Too wide it will start bunching between the upper thighs and pulling the whole garment out of wack. Aha! Maybe if I make the crotch the actual same width as my own self in that area, the knickers might sit nicely not pull out of place when I move, thus staying fitting nicely and be *gasps* comfortable and cute all in the one lingerie garment. That would be a major WIN!

Seeing if I can fix them so they don’t bunch won’t be too hard because …. WAGH!!! The lace is scratchy :-( So much so, that in spite of it making the knickers extra-sweet, I’m gonna chop it off, and either replace it with a simple gathered edging I have in my stash or, of that looks like it won’t work in the crotch area, I’ll just rehem it and try it out sans any trim or lace.

  • Cost

Fabric: 50c op shop find

Elastic – $1

Lace $3

Pattern $5

total: $8.50. Hmmm, that’s competitive with my go-to rtw Bonds hipster undies. Kewl!

  • Last word

In spite of my plans to pretty much redo the waist and leg hems, I couldn’t resist taking a piccie and doing a post coz they’re so very very sweet as they are. Looks-wise, at any rate. We won’t mention the effect of horribly scratchy lace on the comfort of them!

Pink Camo Shift Dress

27 Jul

The friend in America that ended up with the white silk chemise had sent me this delicious pink camo cotton drill fabric as a birthday present back in March. I made it up into a shift dress using a Vogue pattern I’d found in an op-shop. The pattern required so much adjusting to my curvy shape it was no longer too appealing and I returned it to the op-shop. I like to think of it as renting from them! 50c for a few years of renting is very reasonable, don’t you think? :-D

However, sadly, it means I have no idea of the pattern number. It was shown on the pattern cover made up in a fabric with bright big yellow flowers on black. Don’t suppose that helps identify it though!

  • Fabric/trims/notions used
Pink camo cotton drill. No zip needed (I rarely need zips, I’ve found. I have very flexible shoulders and I wonder if that is why I can get into most dresses without one?)
  • Inspiration

I just wanted to try that pattern out! It had been sitting in my stash with its smooth, sophisticated (very Vogue!) pattern cover, for a couple of years. I think it works really well in this camo. Not quite so sophisticated. But then, I live in Darwin and Sophisticated has a very narrow span of use here :-)

  • Construction notes

Fitting it to my figure was kinda crazy. It was a size too small in the bust to start with, and maybe 10 sizes (or that’s what it felt like) too small in the hips. And yes, the model the dress was shown on, on the pattern cover, had more in the line of gentle planes rather than widely-swinging curves. Shoulda taken that as a warning…

Somehow I managed to get it to work out by up-sizing the paper pattern to fit my measurements. Then, perhaps because of the relatively complicated bodice seaming - that you can barely see in camo (It is empire-lined, with waist darts and an upward-pointing V in the centre coming in between the bust,) I had to adjust the fit quite a lot when sewing it up.

Both the dress and I survived this distressing experience, and the main thing I had been worrying about – that it fit my hips and my short waist – proved to be no problem whatever. Yay! My upgrading and flat pattern fitting skillz are improving no end!

To be honest though, if I wanted a similar kind of silhouette and design line again I’d probably use the straight version of Simplicity 3673 without the belt.

It  looks like it’s already designed for a curvier, hourglassy figure. The flared version blogged about here worked so well on me, I’m pretty confident the straight one would work beautifully too.

  • Last word

As far as camo goes, this was thankfully a much more successful garment for me than the green camo skirt. I love this dress! Cute, fits my ‘petite hourglass’ figure well (yay!) and is nice and cool. This last is especially good considering Darwin is not having much in the way of actual cold weather this dry season. *scowls at the weather*

And many thanks to my friend for such a lovely birthday present :-)


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