On a recent late summer afternoon, I spent a little time on our back deck doing a little harvesting.

Plenty of wearable, out-grown kids’ clothes go to our local op shops. Some are too favoured to be let go. Some are just too full of possibilities.

The beauty of taking my time to do this is letting the look and feel of the fabric shift my view from ‘this was a shirt’ to ‘this could be…’

I cut up a complimentary spring green shirt and wondered about a cot quilt. Some softly worn trouser fabric as backing, perhaps.

What’s not to love about this kind of harvesting? It’s thrifty, eco-friendly and gets the creative juices flowing.



Colouring in

I’ve knitting and crocheting steadily over the last little while and I’ve finally had the time (home with the lurgy) and some sun to photograph it.

These are flowers I’m crocheting for the Irish Floral throw in Comfort Afghans and Throws. While I usually have a love/hate relationship with crochet, I’m enjoying these flowers and using wool remnants from projects long finished. I’m improvising the flowers quite a bit and I can highly recommend my picot as a source of well illustrated crochet stitches. If you look under ‘Flowers and volumetric’ stitches, you’ll find some gorgeous butterflies. I’m going to try one of those soon.

The lad has commissioned a beanie and wristwarmer set, according to his own design. This one’s being knit flat to accommodate the colour work.

As gorgeous as this silk shawl is, I’ll be ripping it out. The lace border just wasn’t the right choice for this yarn weight. I’ve decided to go for a crochet border with a knitted, shaped body for its next incarnation.

This was my travel knitting – a bamboo yarn for a short-sleeve, v-neck tee. I’ve changed my mind about the pattern for this yarn a couple of times but didn’t start until I was quite sure. This is being knit in the round and I’ve just got to the point of dividing it for the front and back.

I’m quite ambivalent about this one. I substituted yarn in this pattern and I don’t think mohair was the way to go. This style of asymmetrical jacket needs a little weight to help it drape and show off its angle but the mohair is simply too airy to do that. I’ll see what can be done with shawl pins and other arrangements.

Now to finish off three other projects on the needles.

Vintage style

All of the pieces I chose to sew for this trip come from vintage patterns, in one way or another. I really try to get something that’s my ‘style’ when I sew – beyond fit and flattery – and out to ‘this is me’. It’s not dramatic, outrageous or the height of fashion but it is me. And in searching for that style I’ve found out a few things: the 1930s are very kind to me, the 1950s shirts and blouses are great but not with the skirts; the 1960s and early 1970s love me. Not only do the lines look good on me, I don’t have to alter the patterns.

I’ve also been referring to the Fit to Flatter series over here at stashknitrepeat. Although intended for knitting, it’s a really informative discussion of why particular garment features flatter certain body types, guides you through determining your body shape in a positive way (and going beyond the simplistic straight, hourglass, pear descriptions) and takes a look at a selection of garments and comments on why they flatter the model or how they might be modified to flatter other body shapes.

Getting back to the traveling exoskeleton, I present a wrap blouse from the 1950s (republished from Pattern Retrospective) and a shift dress from 1971 (original, op shop) for your inspection:

I have an hourglass figure with thighs that tend to ‘flare out’ and I’m average height. Based on reading Fit to Flatter and what I’ve learned from experience, I think these pieces will serve me well. The wrap blouse has a high structured collar and neckline which draws the eye up toward the face. The wrap around the waist is something to be careful about because if it’s too full it turns my hourglass into a wide rectangle. Attention to folding and the line of crossover should make it OK. It’s helped by the fact the front hem is 15cm higher than the back hem – the shorter front won’t confuse the line of the blouse.

The shift dress is a fairly standard style but there are little features about this one that I like. The shoulder straps are closer to the edge of the shoulder than to the collarbone and that helps keep the hourglass balanced. It has a princess line construction so that the vertical fit gives a subtle long line to the dress while keeping the hourglass shape (not so evident in this photo). I loved making this. The Japanese cotton is soft and I could make the dress without the instructions (which I found later under the cutting table). It was blissful. Even when I found out I should do armhole facings before the neckline facing. Live and learn.

The next garment to finish is a 1930s long skirt with a structured front seam. I’ve made it before as an evening skirt and it’s flattering and comfortable. I’ll be making it in a chocolate brown linen (how I love the remnant table at Tessuti!) and it has a beautiful hand and drape. I think that tone-on-tone embroidery may eventually make it’s way onto that one.

And then I have to sort out which knitting or crochet project I’ll take on the plane. Ah, the travails of travel.

Rice stitches

I rarely find retail clothing that I like. OK, I rarely find retail clothing that I like AND I can afford. So, as happens in life, compromises often need to be made. A ‘latte’ coloured soft linen skirt from Eco Wear doesn’t involve much compromise as far as ethical trading and low environmental impact goes. The design is okay, with false wrap layers at front and back. But even I had to admit that latte is very easily boring.

So I picked up a book on sashiko and started off on this:

I’ll warn you now and say that tear away fabric stabiliser is the worst thing you can use for this. Tearing it away took three times longer than the embroidery did. But I got impatient, my op shop carbon paper didn’t work, and I just started stitching. With sashiko, the idea is that you’re quilting at least two pieces of fabric together in a form of decorative mending. That explains why the stitches are fairly close together – a 3:1 ratio of top stitch length to under stitch length.

Sashiko thread is very soft and pliable with the same thickness as mercerised crochet cotton. Kimono House (in the Nicholson Building, cnr Swanston & Little Collins) has a good supply in quite a few colours, even tweed. I guess you could substitute embroidery floss but I think the finished textural effect would be less smooth and polished.

I finished it and I’ve forgotten to take a photo (but I promise I will). It’s quite cool, adding a decorative touch in a minimalist style. I’m very happy with it.

But I’m never using the tear-away fabric stabiliser again.

Vintage show and tell

I haven’t blogged properly the results of our trip to The Way We Wear fair because the natural light in our house sucks. So I took along my finds to my mum’s house where it has lots of windows so people can see during the day without turning the lights on. Freaky, I know.

First up is this utterly beautiful spool of silk thread.

It is barely enough for a neckline edging but even if I never use it, it will still look beautiful sitting quietly on a studio shelf.

I found two of Madame Weigel’s patterns. I’m fascinated by such a strong reminder of the roaring rag trade in Melbourne (well, it roared until the 1950s). A brief bio of Johanne Weigel and her family appears here, courtesy of Shirley Joy and the Brighton Cemetorians (thanks to a post by Shula for the tip off).

I particularly love this next one because it may be very nearly my size. The design of the bust shaping is so sleek – shoulder pleats to fullness, nipped back in with three little darts on each side.

Next, two editions of ‘Marion’ a quarterly (?) pattern catalogue from a Dutch patternmaker. The first is 1968 and the second 1970, giving a really good sense of the fashion shift from the 1960s to the 1970s. Each edition carried a few free patterns and these are still with the catalogues. I think you’ll see why I’d prefer to draft my own pattern and it has nothing to do with not knowing Dutch.

Finally, Stitchcraft No. 242 (maybe the late 1950s) with a hint of batwing, berets and bonnets. There is also a stocking cap with contrasting bobbles but I didn’t want to scare people.

Of dressing up and dressing down

We’re a very casual household as far as dressing goes. I have a one or two corporate pieces in my wardrobe, relics of the time when a top with a collar seemed requisite for the Monday afternoon parliamentary meetings. The bloke’s not one for formality and as a musician, teacher, or lab tech it’s not really a job requirement. I rarely wear make up and find jeans or trousers the most comfortable garb to get around in.

So when I get dressed up it’s the cue for the rest of the family about the sartorial expectations of the event. A skirt or dress indicates something just a little fancy or grown up; a bit of make up with shirt and jeans indicates a more important kind of family gathering. A dress or skirt AND make up indicates to the bloke that he must wear suit and tie; for the kids, the only plausible explanation for this freakish display is that I am running away to join the circus.

This helps explain a couple of scenes from our recent domestic life.


Setting: Preparing for the soiree presented by the school’s instrumental program. The lad will perform a duet, on saxophone, with his friend Elizabeth. The lad’s mother is away in Perth. The dress code is ‘something nice’ rather than the usual band uniform.

The bloke: What do you think you’ll wear tonight?

The lad: Jeans and a t-shirt.

The bloke: Um, don’t you think it might be a good idea to wear a shirt or something? I’m sure Elizabeth will dress up a little bit.

The lad: Nah…she only wears jeans and shorts and stuff to school. She never wears dresses.

The bloke: Well, she might tonight because it’s a little bit important. She might want to get dressed up a bit because she doesn’t have to wear the uniform.

The lad: (furrowed brows) Why would she do that? Jeans and a t-shirt will be fine.

The bloke:  (sighs)

An hour later, at the soiree: the lad walks on stage, neat and casual in jeans and t-shirt. He is followed by Elizabeth, wearing a red, empire line dress with black boots.


A discussion of the lass’ Halloween costume which she will wear for her first ever trick or treat experience (for which we are in no way responsible). She has decided to be Hermione Granger and has pointed out the she has similar hair to Hermione. I have pointed out the she has a similar brain. The bloke has pointed out she has a similar personality. The bloke got kicked under the table.

The lass: I don’t think I’ll wear that thing she has. I think Harry and Ron wear it but not Hermione.

Me: The cloak?

The lass: No, not that (pauses and taps her upper chest). I’m not sure what it’s called but she doesn’t wear it.

Me: Oh, I think that they have pretty much the same school uniform.

The lass: (ignoring me, and still tapping her chest)…oh, it’s that thing that Dad wears around his neck sometimes for special occasions…

Me: Oh, a tie!

The lass: Is that what it’s called? I didn’t know the word for it.