Inspired by Koos van den Akker


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This tunic is my first foray into recycling with stretch fabrics, which I find presents a whole array of new challenges! These are not knit fabrics, but stretch wovens, which I happily picked up in the op-shop because I liked the print on one, and the others went with it. I paid no regard to the stretch factor! This was a garment I started at the first meeting of the Wear To? group of the Embroiderers’ Guild earlier this year.

I more or less self drafted the pattern, and I say more or less because I actually cobbled it together from a couple of commercial patterns, and kind of filled in the gaps. I made a muslin, which fitted not too badly, and went ahead with the recycling.

I chose to make the tunic using a colour blocking technique, but instead of dividing the pattern pieces up using straight lines, which would be more usual, I chose to use curved organic shapes. I actually derived these from the shapes on the printed fabric, I just took a photo of the fabric, printed it out, and then sketched the shapes larger onto the muslin. Then I cut that up, and used it as a pattern to cut the sections of the tunic.

A combination of inaccuracy when cutting out, and the stretchiness of the fabrics, meant that when I stitched the pieces together the front of the tunic didn’t lie flat. Even when it was lying on the table it looked as if somebody was inside it. I held it up against myself and it looked even worse. It was largely the olive green pieces, for some reason they had grown, and I figured that somehow I needed to shrink them again. I certainly wasn’t going to unpick the seams and re-cut them, so what to do? Some others at the workshop came to study my problem, and the suggestion was made that I just stitch some tucks in that piece of the garment to take up the fullness. That seemed like a good way out, so I made the tunic as flat as I could on the table, and pinned tucks into it which reduced the lumpiness. Then I whipped over the tucks using a variegated embroidery thread to turn them into a decorative feature.

I continued to put the rest of the tunic together, but still felt it needed something else. I had an image in the back of my mind of a garment made by Koos van den Akker, with machine stitching in a random zigzag pattern over the seamlines. So I threaded up my machine with two different colours of thread at once, and went over all the seamlines with free machine embroidery. I quite like the result – I’ve tried channeling Koos’ work before with very limited success, but I’m happier with this effort.

Even though I’m reasonably happy with the result, I’m still not sure it’s a garment I would wear in public. I did wear it yesterday though at another workshop with the same group of people, but the great thing about such workshops is that people will comment with interest about what you are wearing, and don’t look at you strangely when you say ‘I made it myself’.

Origami Pockets


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I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of origami using fabric instead of paper, it’s just one of the many things I plan to explore further one day when I have more time. (I’m not sure when that day will come, but never mind!) So at a recent meeting of my neighbourhood group of the Australian Sewing Guild I took the chance to make a sample origami pocket.

Actually, as folding fabric goes, this is pretty simple. Check out the work of a guy called Jeffrey Rutzky, author of the books Shadowfold and Kirigami. I couldn’t find his website, perhaps he doesn’t have one, but there are plenty of images of his work online and they are amazing.

Our pockets were basically a welt pocket with a triangular opening, and three lips to fill that opening, all different shapes and angles. Mine looked like this:

Origami pocket sample

I wasn’t careful enough about the placement of the pieces, not realising at the time how important it was, so mine has a hole in the middle, all of the lips should actually meet. But, I could turn this into a design feature by making my pocket bag to go behind it from some contrasting material, and make it look as if it was intended to be that way!

I did a quick Google search but I couldn’t see a tutorial for making these particular pockets. I think originally they may have been in a Threads magazine article. There is a YouTube video of a guy called Arif Khan making what looks roughly like the same thing, only he uses knit fabric, which I think adds another layer of difficulty. There are also lots of other ideas for decorative and original pockets, room for yet more experimentation and play. What’s your favourite?

Free Machine Embroidered Lace


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An inspiring and creative day on Saturday with the WearTo? group of the Embroiderers’ Guild of Western Australia. We did a workshop on using water soluble stabiliser to create lace, or fabric, or really anything you want to create! There are several different types of water soluble stabiliser, but, as the name suggests, they all wash away in water. By stitching on one or more layers of stabiliser, and adding threads, scraps of fabric, silk or wool tops, it’s possible to create anything from the whispiest airiest lace, to a solid fabric to a piece of sculpture. The latter requires some kind of fabric stiffener, but if you retain the stabiliser in the fabric, just melt it and let it dry again in a different shape, it works quite well as a stiffener, and even the opaque type is clear once it has been melted.

I didn’t take any photos of the samples during the day, which was silly, but by trawling the net for images came up with the following.

One talented user of the technique is Linda Matthews, and there is another tutorial on Urban Threads, although that is using machine embroidered patterns, we did free machine embroidery in this workshop. There are also numerous examples on Pinterest.

I did take a photo of my sample, which didn’t come out quite as I expected, but that’s the whole point of a sample.


I had gaily laid down some threads, and scraps of fabric, and stitched over them all to hold them together. I used a layer of black sheer fabric underneath, which meant I didn’t have to be quite so careful about making sure all the lines of stitching joined up. If you don’t use any fabric underneath, all the stitching has to join together, or the lace will fall apart, or at least have bigger holes in it than you intended! I assumed that by piling on all the threads and scraps they would somehow meld together, but of course they didn’t, the pieces I put on top were still on top after I had done the stitching, and the bobbin thread was completely hidden by the sheer black fabric. If I were going to do a similar piece again I would layer the threads and fabric more carefully, probably weaving them over and under each other so that they were exposed in some areas but not in others, and would also only use black thread in the bobbin.


I then worked on another piece, which isn’t anywhere near finished, using just white fabric and thread, and strips of fabric criss-crossing over each other to make a grid. As you can see, the stabiliser I used is quite opaque, which makes it harder to envisage the finished effect, but it’s also more sturdy than some others I have used, so easier to work on. I didn’t use a hoop, whereas I think with the more plastic type of stabilisers you really need one. The stabiliser I used is Soluvlies by Vleiseline, sometimes referred to (I think translated) as Solufleece, which is a bit misleading as it’s not a fleece at all.

I’m not really sure how this piece will turn out, but it will be interesting. I haven’t yet decided what would be the best way of stitching the strips together, so I’m trying different options. Again, I guess that’s the whole point of a sample!



I can see lots of possibilities for this technique in garment sewing.


Challenges Everywhere


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The Refashioners Community Challenge finished on the last day of September, last Friday, with an extraordinary response. Not having been involved before I had no idea how many people would take part, I think perhaps nobody else did either because it seems to have been much bigger than last year.

There was an extraordinary variety of entries, some on slightly similar themes, but on the whole all different. It’s going to be very difficult for Portia Lawrie, who runs the challenge, to pick the winners, but I’m sure everybody who took part has gained something just by being creative and having a go. I know that I have also gained a lot of ideas for future projects, not by copying what others have done but by using their work as a spark to ignite more ideas. It’s always possible to look at a project and think ‘now what if you changed that bit, or used this part to add to something else?’

I’ve been working on my entries for the Australian Sewing Guild convention challenge as well. This year the theme is ‘put a wrinkle in it’ which opens up all sort of possibilities. I decided to enter all three categories, which was probably a mistake since I don’t think I’ve really had time to do justice to any of them. The three categories are garment, fashion accessory, and home decor accessory. For the garment I cheated a bit and used a shirt which I made for a workshop on sharks teeth that I ran at our neighbourhood group last year. It has two panels of sharks teeth tucks in the front, one vertical down one side and the other horizontal across the yoke. I’ve found now that I didn’t take any photos of it at the time, but here is one of another similar shirt I made many years ago.


Sharks teeth shirt

My fashion accessory entry is a bag, not finished yet, and the home decor accessory is a trio of pincushions, masquerading as cupcakes. I didn’t get time to photograph them before sending them off either, so they will have to wait. They were pretty complicated to make, so they probably need a blog post all on their own. Next time!


The Refashioners 2016 Community Challenge


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I was really excited when a friend sent me a link to the Refashioners 2016 Community Challenge being run by Makery. So much creativity, not to mention some fantastic prizes. Since recycling denim is my thing, I was quick to check out the details, and equally quick to decide to enter. At this point I must admit that I didn’t make this garment specifically for this challenge, it was one of my entries in the Australian Sewing Guild’s Castaway to Couture competition earlier this year.

Since I have done several denim recycling projects before I have a dedicated box full of discarded denim, both whole garments which I haven’t taken the scissors to yet, and bits left over from previous projects. For this challenge I decided to re-visit a theme I have used before, which entails many hours with a seam ripper. I find the most interesting bits of old denim are the bits which have faded, hems, seams, waistbands etc, anywhere the denim has been folded or creased. The fading creates beautiful patterns in the fabric, reminiscent of Japanese shibori dying.

The downside of all this beauty is that it only happens where the denim has been folded. Whilst the rest of the jeans are attractive, the best bits to me are generally small, so it means lots of unpicking to harvest them, and then lots of patching together to make a new garment. I think it’s worth it though, what do you think?

I seem to have been so caught up in the creative process for this challenge that I didn’t taken many photos of the work in progress. There is a pile of bits left over –

Still raw materials for a few more projects here!

Then a few details of the finished garment –

The lining, which you can just see, and which saved me from having to finish all the seams, was a sundress from the op shop.

And finally me modelling it.

Pants Fitting, and a Light Bulb Moment


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At a recent neighbourhood group meeting of the Australian Sewing Guild we worked on fitting pants, assisted by I* and K*. I think this would have to be the most difficult garment to fit, you are trying to get flat fabric to go round the body at a part where one cylinder (the trunk or torso) splits into two cylinders (the legs), all the time allowing enough room for movement but in most cases still having a reasonably fitted profile. I know that I’ve tried in the past, and whilst I’ve had some successes I think they are outnumbered by the failures, to the point where I’d pretty much given up trying. Fortunately I’m usually able to buy pants that pretty much fit, so I’ve focused my sewing on less frustrating garments.

Since there was a pant fitting workshop on offer though, I decided to take up the challenge again. I needed to make a muslin to take to the workshop, so I dug into the stash for some fabric which I hoped would make a wearable muslin. I found a large piece of denim left over from making jeans for my daughter about 12 or 14 years ago, and decided to use that. It’s a fairly heavy weight denim with a white pinstripe woven in, which meant I didn’t need to mark grain lines on the muslin but could just work with the stripes on the fabric. In the end there wasn’t quite enough, I had to use scraps of other denim for the waistband, but that was OK.

I selected a Sandra Betzina Today’s Fit pattern, (number 7608), which I had made before without success. The result of that effort is still in my possession, but I don’t think I ever wore them, they were too baggy. I don’t remember where or when I bought the pattern, I don’t think it is in the current range, it’s reviewed here on

Having done another workshop earlier in the year with K* about accurate measuring I reviewed which size to cut, and ended up with a smaller size than I had done before. I haven’t lost weight, but I must have allowed too much ‘just in case’ fabric last time, which is probably why the pants were baggy. This time I cut according to my measurements, and basted the pants together ready for the workshop.

When I tried the pants on they weren’t too bad, but still baggy round my thighs, particularly at the back. I* advised me to undo the inside leg seam, and take in the seam allowance on the back of the pants between the crotch and knee. I took in about 1.5cms, and restitched, which was a great improvement. I had already shortened the pants by about 3cms at mid-thigh level, since they would be too long otherwise. If shortening pants you need to do it in the leg rather than just cutting off the bottoms, otherwise the width that is intended to fit round your upper thigh just ends up round the lower thigh, and is another cause of bagginess.

There was still room for improvement, but I was happier with the pants than I had been before, and since I had taken my machine with me I had started to turn them into a real garment rather than a muslin. I was still pondering the slight bagginess around the crotch on my drive home, and then there came a light bulb moment. I remembered reading, I think it was in Threads, an article about pant fitting which talked about body space. Basically you need enough space in the crotch curve to fit your body (obvious, right!), but if the crotch is too low/baggy, while it seems as if you have too much fabric, in fact you don’t have enough. More fabric, in the form of a longer inside leg seam and a higher crotch curve, means that the crotch seam fits more closely to your body. It’s the same principle as an armhole, in order to have a fitted armhole which comes closer to your body, you need to raise the bottom of the armhole, which means you need more fabric.

When I got home I went straight to the sewing machine, and restitched the crotch seam with only the minimum seam allowance, about 3/8″. Tried on again, and another improvement in the fit! Unless I take the pants apart again and add on some more fabric, then re-cut the seam line, this is the best I can do, but I’m happy enough. When I make the pattern again I will raise the crotch seam more and see what happens.

I’m so enthusiastic now about these pants that I have finished them, and they will definitely be a wearable muslin. I had to face the bottoms, since I had only the very minimum of fabric to make them and no hem allowance, plus the waistband is in a different denim, but since I don’t wear my tops tucked in that won’t matter. I’m even going to drag my previous effort out of the cupboard and see if they can be resuscitated.

Again, no photos for this post. At this time of year the only time I am home in daylight is at the weekend, and the last couple of weekends have been very overcast so no sunshine for taking photos even then. I am spoilt really, so much of the year is bright and sunny and so I just assume that I can take photos outdoors, but lately it hasn’t been happening. The forecast for this weekend is better, I must make time to go out with the camera and photograph a few projects that haven’t yet been recorded.

New from Old – Jumper Wrap Workshop


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Yesterday I attended a workshop at my neighbourhood group of the Australian Sewing Guild run by Jody Pearl of Sew Outside the Lines. Jody showed us how to make jumper wraps, using old jumpers sourced from the op shop or from our own stash. I had bought several garments to use in the workshop from the Good Samaritan op shop, but in the end only used two of them. I had selected a couple of grey to use as a base, and some pink for additional interest, but I ended up using only the grey to make a monochrome wrap. A bonus is that I now have the pink ones left over for another wrap, and now I have done one I also have more idea about what to look for when shopping for the raw materials next time.

The basic premise is to cut up the donor garments, and start by making a flat piece of fabric. A diagonal cut in the first garment means that some of the fabric is on the bias, which is what gives the wrap an interesting asymmetrical look, and also a bit of flare. After that the donor garments pretty much dictate how the finished item looks, as Jody says you let the fabric tell you what to do. Every finished garment is different, since the starting points are all different, and also everybody has their own individual style which influences the decisions they make.

I didn’t get mine quite finished, so no photo yet. I had forgotten to take a cushion, and I find the chairs in the centre are a little low, so after some time sewing my back was aching and I didn’t feel like finishing. I have a bad habit of disregarding my posture until something hurts, rather than sitting properly to start with, and I need to stop doing that. I have something called a ‘quillow’, which is basically a blanket/quilt which folds up and tucks into a pocket stitched on one side of it and becomes a cushion. I really only use it when I am going out somewhere, so I should keep it in the car and avoid the same thing happening again.

When I got home I was pressing my wrap to try and get rid of a small ‘bubble’ where I had stretched the fabric during stitching, and I noticed a pale streak in one of the pieces. I hadn’t noticed it before, but as usual with these things, it is right down the front of the garment, and once I knew it was there it bugged me. I’m not sure how it got there but I need to do something about it. The pressing didn’t work, but I did manage with a great deal of care to unpick that bit of stitching so that I can re-stitch it without the bubble. Unpicking knitwear takes a great deal of care, especially since I had used a closely matching sewing thread, but I did it without making a hole in the fabric. If I had made a hole though, I could just have stitched more fabric on top, such is the adaptability of the whole concept.

My first thought was to get some fabric paint and add more pale streaks to try and disguise the first one, but that meant going shopping for paint. Then I remembered that I had an offcut of pale grey lace somewhere, and thought of stitching that over the top of the panel with the streak. I’d also add at least one other piece of lace elsewhere to make it look as if the lace was intentional rather than covering up a flaw.

Apart from that I have just to finish the armholes and the wrap is complete – watch this space for a photo!


Long story, short message


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A book arrived in the mail this week, I had quite forgotten ordering it. Actually it was one of two, the first I remembered, but I had forgotten that since shipping would be as much for two books as one, I had sneaked the second into my order!

More about both books later, but the one which starts today’s adventure in the sewing blog world is called Artful Machine Embroidery by Bobbi Bullard. I don’t have an embroidery machine as such, so it might seem a curious choice, but having looked at some of the book on Google books I thought it had a good deal of content about general design, placement, colour etc., which would be useful for all sorts of garment creation, not just embroidery. Those things are the part of the creative process that I sometimes struggle with.

This is a really long and complicated story, but we are getting there, I promise!

I looked up Bobbi Bullard on Google, since I hadn’t seen her work before, and came across some pictures from another blog, Thunderpaws Threads. There were several pictures of garments made with Bobbi’s designs, and I spent some time reading, until I came upon the subject of this post. (See, I said we would get there eventually!). It’s the pattern at the end of the link above, from Hot Patterns, another indie pattern company I’ve not heard of before. It’s called a Blouse Back T, which is like a tee shirt in front, but with a panel set in just under the shoulders at the back, cut wider than expected, which can be made out of woven fabric, hence the ‘blouse back’.

This quite appeals to me. I’m not normally a wearer of tee shirts, not in their simplest incarnation anyway. I like a little more structure to my clothes, and also a vee neck rather than a round neck, which most tee shirts seem to have by default. I have often wondered about that, whether it is simply because a round neck is easier to put trim around, with a vee you always have the problem of how to get a really nice neat join at centre front.

It’s already added to my list of ‘someday projects’, which sadly keeps getting longer and longer. Or is that sad, I wonder? Would it be worse to have nothing that one wanted to do? It’s also a cassic example of how a little ‘blog wandering’ can lead to all sorts of possibilities. There is always something I haven’t seen before, something which sparks an idea.

Transfer Dying Workshop – the sequel


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As if to prove that prior preparation and planning cannot always be relied upon, the result of the workshop was a little mixed. There were, as always, variables which I had not foreseen.
The first of these was that the colours are very hard, not to say impossible, to predict. We first did a test strip, using the neat dyes, about 8 different colours. We painted a small circle of each color on a strip of paper, and hurried off to test it on our fabric. Not too hurriedly, the dye must be dry on the paper before transferring it to the fabric. My results:

test strip of dyes and colours

Test strip

As you can probably see, the colour of the dye on the paper is quite different to the colour on the fabric. And I think that on a different fabric it would be different again, so there is no substitute for trying the colours you want on the fabric you are going to use. We then did some more tests, this time mixing two colours together:

test strip of mixed dye colours

Mixed colours

Again, the result on fabric is not very much like the dye on the paper!

We then went on to experiment with different ways of creating designs, and it seems I didn’t take any more pictures. However, I did get some dye put onto fabric, which possibly might end up as a garment at some point. I also came home with some sheets of paper with dye already applied, which I should be able to use somehow.

There are lots of ways of getting colour onto fabric using these dyes, some of which I would not have thought of. You can be straightforward, and paint a picture or design onto the paper, and transfer it onto the fabric. Naturally if you do this the image is reversed, so care is needed if  you are using text.

Alternatively, you can cover the paper with dye, then cut shapes out of it to create a design on the fabric. You could create sheets of flat colour, or mix dyes to a greater or lesser degree to add texture and depth. You can cut out a single shape, like a stencil, or build an image using multiple shapes like a collage. The shapes can be a single colour, patterns or textures. Then you can always print over the top of an existing print with another. A second print made from the same paper will be less bright, but can still be attractive. When you have exhausted the possibilities of transfer dying you can move on to painting with regular fabric paints, or stitching. Really, there is endless scope. The only thing not endless is the amount of time available for all this creativity! However, always optimistic, I am getting together with some other members to buy some dyes, we are going to share them among us so that none of us is too overburdened by yet more stuff!

The dyes come from KraftKolour.

I’m sure I shall find a use for the dyes at some time in the future, apparently they keep for ages, so I have plenty of time. And I am never going to be bored!

Prior Preparation & Planning Prevents Poor Performance?


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I’m excited to be going to a workshop on heat transfer dying with Angela Ferolla this weekend. Angela teaches at the Fremantle Arts Centre, among other places, and I’ve done other workshops with her before. This one is being run by my neighbourhood group of the Australian Sewing Guild.
In preparation I’ve been trying to come up with some designs to put onto fabric, with the idea of being able to use the fabric for something afterwards. I find often that going to workshops results in a bunch of samples of different techniques, but I tend to bring them home and put them in a drawer, and never end up doing anything with them. I’d really like to be able to come home with a piece of fabric that would be useful, to go into a garment, although to be fair that’s not what the workshop is designed for, it’s supposed to be an opportunity to learn new techniques. However, I think that if I put some thought into it beforehand, I ought to be able to use the new techniques to create a coherent piece which I can then transform into a garment. I’ve sorted out two or three potential bits of fabric from my stash, all a metre or two long, although the requirement list says ‘A3 or bigger’. This in itself was a bit of a challenge, since the dyes only work on synthetic fabrics, and my stash tends strongly towards natural fibres. I had one piece in mind which I was unsure about, but when I did a burn test I’m pretty sure it’s natural, probably rayon, which is no good. I’ve always found the burn test difficult to carry out successfully, I’m not sure why, but there was a definite smell of burning paper, which doesn’t seem like the fabric is synthetic.
I also spent some time playing with some images, although I chose to focus just on shapes rather than colour, because I didn’t have any of the dyes to practice with, and I’m not sure how their colours will relate to watercolours or acrylics, which I do have. I looked out some photos I’d taken at my daughter’s property, and found this shot of old fence wire, which I think has potential.
coils of old fence wire
There was also this, a just-opening agapanthus flower head.
partly opened agapanthus flower head
It remains to be seen whether I actually use either of those images, and whether I manage to come home with a usable piece of fabric!
Another shot from the country
sheep and puppy