Monday, December 20, 2010

Vintage patterns

I’m in waiting mode at the moment – waiting for a call from the car service place (really, if my car is booked in for 10am, why am I still waiting at 3:30pm for a phone call to say bring it in??) – so I thought I’d post up some lovely pictures from my pattern stash. Make the interwebs a prettier place. :0)


This is easily my favourite pattern (that I’ve never made up…). I purchased it on a weekend getaway with friends in a gigantic shed somewhere near Mount Beauty (or rather, somewhere between Melbourne and Mt Beauty). It cost me a whole dollar.

I didn’t care if all the pieces where there or not, I just fell in love with the story I made up in my head, about Miss M Gardner who lived near Ned Kelly country of Glenrowan, carefully clipping a coupon from a magazine in March 1937 and sending it away to the big smoke of Sydney.

Imagine my delight when I got it home (nope, resisted even PEEKING inside it) and found that all the pieces were there except the belt (meh… who cares?!?!) AND the instructions AND the original picture was included.


I have no idea if the magazine included it when they sent the pattern or if Miss M. Gardner clipped it from the original magazine article and then put it with the pattern when it arrived. Either way – I love it!


She’s pretty! I love the drape neckline and the back pleats with bow at the back of View 1. I haven’t made this one up yet, but the View 1 is looking quite likely.


I love these because of where they have come from. My Aunty Bub is the seamstress in our family – some of my favourite childhood dresses were made by her. I’ll have to dig some up and scan them in.

A few years ago on a family visit, Aunty Bub gave me a huge stash contribution and the above four were included. I particularly like the halterneck, top right. No… haven’t made any of these up yet.


Another Aunty Bub special AND why yes, I HAVE made this one up! I just can’t find a photo of it. I will do a full scale hunt for the photo after Christmas because it came out incredibly well.

I made up view B in a gorgeous Hawaiian print with a red background.


Aunty Bub Special. ABS from now on… What is with View B’s hip-thrusting don’t-mess-with-me stance, View A’s apparent discovery of her boobs and View C’s body building regime which doesn’t allow her to lower her arms…?


ABS… I’ve just noticed all the crossover/draped necklines in her collection. Love it.


This one I got from Miss Helene’s Vintage Sewing Shoppe. Apparently the inability to resist a draped neckline runs in the family!

CIMG2488 This doll is a little more damaged than the rest and I honestly can’t remember where she came from. Rescued from an unloving store somewhere I think.

I know some people have gigantic fabric stashes… my weakness seems to be collecting patterns. I have every good intention of making them up, but then just don’t seem to get around to it.

I’ll have to get one of those kitschy pottery round tuits – that way I’ll have no excuse.

There are more patterns but Melbourne is having an unbearable cold snap right now and fingers and feet are frozen. Time to go stamp up and down and do some more mechanic cursing.

I’m not sure if I’ll get another post in before Friday so I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy Christmas. If you’re not celebrating Christmas, then I hope you have a very happy multi-denomination festival. :0)

Santadog 2 Seamus says “same here”

Monday, December 13, 2010

Two more projects finished

I feel a bit of a cheat on this post… it’s not like I’ve made a dress from scratch or anything… but finished is finished and so here’s the proof.

Project one - I was given a short dress by my ex’s sister, who acquired it from the drama department of the school she works at. A beautiful electric blue with black blobs that look almost like poppies. Someone – for drama purposes – had shortened the dress to above knee length and chopped off whatever they took up, so there was no going back there… and damnit, I dislike showing my knees. Anyway, bygones… moving on. All the dress needed in order to be wearable was to be taken in on the sides a little in the waist area – but that has taken me about two years.

Ta dah though… it’s finished! Now I just need to get a little musty smell out of it and being silk I’ll need to go to the interwebs for some advice… unless any of you have some for me. There’s a musty smell and also a little B.O. which arose in a stenchy cloud when I pressed open the new side seams. I’m just hoping that ironing hasn’t entombed the smell forever.

Enough chat – here’s the dress. And my gorgeous gas meter.


Jealous? Don’t be, the gas meter came with the house, I was just lucky…

Project 2 – this one is embarrassing in it’s tiny proportions and disproportionate amount of time it took to finish. Conservative estimates and carbon dating put this at around the 2 year mark. How embarrassment!!


Yep. Not even 10cm across. Shameful. When I lose the vibe, I really lose the vibe. It’s staggered me how many unfinished projects I have laying about the place. Just today I pulled out a gorgeous 1948 Vogue reissue that I cut out of some glorious light blue/grey satin-backed crepe about four years ago… and that’s as far as that went. The pattern tissue is still attached to the material. I’m not even sure I’ll still fit into it now. :0)

Oh, there was another thing that I sewed this week. Another long in the tooth project that I rescued and actually used.

The swing dance school that I go to had their Christmas party on Friday night and the theme was Christmas movies… anything you like from a movie about Christmas. Being contrary and having the right clothes in the wardrobe meant that I changed the theme to TV and went as Miss December 1962, Stirling Cooper – Mad Men for the non-watchers.

I had made a red dress a couple of years ago from a McCalls 8-in-1 pattern but I hadn’t worn it. Couldn’t figure out why as when I tried it on last week it looked OK… until I turned around and remembered, ‘oh yeah, this is the dress that gives you a tail.’


The damned back zipper ends right at the spot on your butt where the end of it sticks out and gives you a weird mutant tail bump. I tried a couple of fixes including shortening the zip, but I didn’t have a lot of room to move before shortening it meant I wouldn’t be able to get into it so it is still tailesque. However, much to my surprise I was at the point of ‘I don’t care’ which doesn’t happen often with my sewing. I’ll usually worry at it until it’s better or ball it up and piff it away.

So, I took out some white fake fur, sewed it around the bottom hem, then made a little scarfy tube that I draped around the front of my neck and dangled over the back. I was going to sew that on as well, but I found I really didn’t need to – it stayed put fairly well and then the ends could just drape over the back and goodness knows I love a bit of drape.

I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out – I think I could have gone with more lift in the hair – and I also found that I don’t want to make sewing with fake fur a habit. I swear it looked like I’d killed a chicken by the time I’d finished… white fluff everywhere. Turns out a vacuum cleaner is your friend when sewing with fake fur… but whatever you do, not matter how tempting you might find it… do not ever vacuum your clothes whilst wearing them, especially not a Dyson vacuum cleaner. They take no prisoners and will give you a hickey right through your clothes. :0)


Mad Men and the cheekiest Santa’s helper named Elise ever…

Friday, December 10, 2010

I’m back and fixing furniture!

Hi all!

I have dropped off the twig of late, with regards to blogging… my Dad’s heart surgery,two deaths in the family and surgery for me have all taken their toll.

I am feeling reinvigorated now though and am back on the horse – so to speak. No dancing for another two weeks though… I’m looking at that light at the end of the tunnel and just cannot WAIT for it to arrive… surely it isn’t an oncoming train after all the events of the last few months!! :0)

So… here is something I have finally finished though! I took a scuzzy looking black bookcase, pulled it apart, stripped it down, sanded it back, and then stopped…

CIMG2102 My original plan was to sand off the rough bits and repaint, then it was strip it back completely and then repaint… but then… I saw the beautiful wood that was lurking underneath.

CIMG2200 My real problem though was that the top two shelves – the two on the left of the above photo – are different wood to the rest of the bookcase and so the question was then ‘to stain or not to stain’.

I love the look of wood au naturel but I wanted the finished product to have a cohesive look – not a hodge podge of different woods all cobbled together… although that would have been appropriate as I think from all the extra holes in it that this is a refashioned piece. I think it was something else in a former life. :-)

Anyway, to cut a far too long story short… I ended up giving it one very light coat of a walnut stain, applied with a rag, then many, many, many coats of a satin finish – sanding between each coat.

And here’s a before and after shot…

before and after I did like the look of the black paint – gave it a kind of jappaned look – but the natural wood did need to be released!

Hooray! One project down. Oh, two actually… I also touched up the chips on four figurines I bought on a trip to Cleveland in June AND put them up on the wall!

CIMG2451Who knew that little plaster Asian figurines go with the Creature Of The Black Lagoon, chandeliers and red ceilings?


It feels good to get two more things ticked off the To Do list… I think this month’s motto just might have to be ‘All’s well that ends…” :0)


Friday, October 29, 2010

Isn’t it always the way?

Ever notice how when you really need something that you can’t find it and conversely that when you don’t need something… magic, it appears?

Melbourne feels like it has been cold for about eight months now – I’m sure that’s an exaggeration but that’s what it feels like – so what happens when the sun finally starts to appear and jackets, scarves and gloves aren’t necessary inside the house anymore…?

Well, I find an awesome jacket of course!

A couple of weeks ago a friend and I were wandering through a secondhand store in the city when I came across a couple of awesome 1940s jackets but one was up on a mannequin and I couldn’t find a staff member to help me take a closer look at it and another one had a few too many moth holes and a missing button for the price they were asking… sure, it sounds a little like laziness but I’m also trying to not spend money and also not increase the vintage section of my wardrobe until a few things that no longer fit are taken out.

Anyway, I’m half-heartedly browsing when I spy an awesome plaid in the racks. Now I have quite the collection of tartan skirts – I call them kilts, but as I don’t have any family affiliation with the tartans, I sometimes feel a bit funny wearing them. Am I being overly sensitive here? I do have some Welsh ancestry and I have tried to look up the tartans of my particular kilts, but have not had any luck matching any of them… except a Black Watch scarf that I have.


I love the kilt pins that have come with some of them… particularly the fat little thistle with a purple sparkly in it’s top. Fooling around on Wikipedia today, I have only just found out that you aren’t supposed to put the pin through multiple layers, only the top of the apron… the extra weight of the pin being enough to hold the fabric down. I guess I’ve been overly cautious in ensuring a pesky wind doesn’t whip open that top layer by pinning the two together. :0)


ANYWAY… back on track Denise… I’m looking through this rack of clothes when I spy a plaid… it’s in the jackets section… wait a second… this has bias cut pockets and shell buttons… why… it’s a Pendleton ‘49er!! Woooooooo!! Mine!

Even better… it’s works beautifully with the Simplicity 4911 skirt.


There’s a tiny little hole in one of the sleeves and there was no belt… but I love it… and the weather has, of course, turned lovely and warm and completely unsuitable for a wool jacket. Grrr…

Still, I have it now and it will keep until next year when the wind and rain returns.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Another dancing video. Balboa rocks!

Hello all,

I’ve been busy with dancing again, so my apologies for the complete lack of ANY sewing related posts. Normal transmissions will resume… soonish-ish… :0)

In the meantime though, my dance partner John and I were asked to give a Balboa demonstration at a tango night last weekend. Pretty intimidating stuff as we found – and were also warned – that the tango crowd are very dance educated… so we knew they’d be watching closely.

Also, quite a few of our moves are… ahem… borrowed from tango to start with so the thought of perhaps badly executing a move that they would already be familiar with was a little nerve wracking.

There were a couple of stumbles, missed connections and less than smooth transitions… but the footage looks pretty good – plus the crowd went nuts at the end and we were dragged back for an encore so I guess they liked it! They were very quiet during the dance which was a little disconcerting as swing crowds are usually very encouraging and clap along with the music and yahoo and woo when they see something they like… but like I said, it was all applause at the end so all good.

I’m always my own worst critic so I won’t mention any specific parts I’m unhappy with and will just say I’m grateful for the opportunity, for not falling on my butt, having a reason to do more practice and having yet another excuse to wear that same skirt! It seemed to get almost as many compliments as it did at the Brisbane competition… and that’s saying something coming from the tango crowd who prefer their outfits a little more slinky than preppy cute… and no, I still haven’t fixed the catches on the skirt waistband. Bad me!!

One thing that I did note that people mentioned again and again was how much FUN they thought our dance was. I suppose when you compare it to tango it is a lot less… intense… and our music tends to be upbeat and bouncy… which again, is quite different to tango music.

Now, no more chit chat – here’s the video.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Dancing – it is the best fun!

So… my weekend was fun… how was yours?

Last weekend was the annual Balboa On The River dance camp, set in beautiful sunny Brisbane in Queensland.

My dance partner John and I have been practicing hard for the last two months and I’m ecstatic to announce that we have successfully defended our title and are now the Australian Balboa Champions for the third year in a row. Woooo!! :0)

Here’s a quick peek at what we do…

Yep. That’s a pretty fabulous skirt… even if I do say so myself! It’s a vintage, full wool number that on this occasion was held together by safety pins as I ran out of time to fix it before the competition. Oops. :0)

I also entered the Jack And Jill competition which is where you are randomly paired with a partner. You line up, follows (girls) facing the leads (boys), the dice is rolled and the follows move that many places to get their new partner. You then dance for a minute and a half. Line back up again, dice is rolled and so on. This happens three times. It is basically a test of how well you follow or lead, incorporating musicality and responding to your partner.

Of course girls can and do certainly lead and some guys can follow, but I haven’t seen the reverse in competitions here in Australia. It’s all a little nerve-wracking but a whole lot of fun.

Here’s the second heat of the Jack And Jill – I had a ball in this one, dancing with a guy called Lindsay.

I was lucky enough to have a really great night and I ended up taking home the trophy for this competition as well. Some nights you’re on, some you’re not… I was lucky enough to be on… and I had an absolute ball. So much fun.

I think my favourite part of the weekend is the fact that the judging was done by five of the balboa dancers that I most look up to in the world. They are all from the US and they are all just wonderful. Actually… I’ll show you two of them in action here..

Wow right? This routine just… wow….!! I love their dancing SO much – and they are both really lovely people too.

Anyway, enough of that.

Balboa – it rocks! :0)


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Not the usual programme

Hi everyone,

Whilst this has nothing to do with my usual yarns, I found this video so powerful and moving that I just wanted to share it.

Be warned, I’ve just gone through two handkerchiefs on this one. Fllloooooods of tears.

Danny & Annie from StoryCorps on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Tomato, tomahto – let’s call the whole thing off

Or not. This is my favourite sewing “gadget” – of the extremely low-tech variety.


It’s a tomato… with a strawberry! Random? Well the strawberry, yes… the tomato as pincushion…. not so random.

Widely considered poisonous until only a couple of hundred years ago – even though the Aztecs had cultivated and consumed them for a long time before that – tomatoes were viewed as a symbol of good luck, with many families placing a tomato on their mantlepiece to invite prosperity within the home. The problem with that superstition is that in most parts of the world tomatoes are not available all year round and this lead to the replacement tomato – a ball of red fabric, stuffed with sawdust or sand… ta-dah! Good luck and prosperity: ensured. A safe place to store your precious, pointy, dangerous pins: created.

More useless tomato facts anyone? It’s scientific name lycopersicum means wolf peach and comes from German werewolf tales, which declares the tomato’s family tree of the deadly nightshades to be the dog whistle for werewolves.

I also like the etymology of the Aztec’s tomato name… xitomatl = plump thing with a navel. Hehehee!

Sure, mine is looking a little Hellraisery right now…

hellraiser … or a strange, spiky red Saturn but I love it and just might put it on the mantlepiece anyway just because it’s so darned cute! :0)

As for its strawberry emery earring… there’s not a lot of information on why it’s a strawberry but my guess it’s a convenient colour for your leftover tomato scraps and an easy shape to make up – and small enough to be economical to fill with your emery grains. Yep, the same emery used on emery paper for sanding and emery boards for… well, sanding your fingernails. Jab any blunt or rough pins and needles in your strawberry to sharpen them up a tad.

There’s a sentence I never thought I’d use. I don’t usually advocate strawberry violence… I like them… especially when dipped in dark chocolate!


Thursday, September 2, 2010

The most troublesome skirt I’ve ever made

Hula Bob is a friend of mine… he’s been hanging around for about five or six years now but he had recently developed a problem… his skirt was disintegrating in the sun… which isn’t great for a hula guy.

When we first met, his skirt was made of a lime/fluorescent green hair-like material… which lasted about… oooh… five or six years before crumbling into nothingness…

He had also developed a bit of jaundice, looking decidedly yellowish instead of tanned… so a quick paint job and it was onto the skirt.

The crumbling hair stuff just had to go and so I purchased 10 metres of green raffia… and that gave the stingiest, thin skirt you’ve ever seen – you could totally see his spring and everything! I should add at this point that Hula Bob is about 20cm tall and sits on the parcel shelf of my car, wobbling at fellow motorists, not some odd dude who likes being painted and wearing disintegrating hair skirts…

Anyway… raffia is a right witch to sew… you get it nice and thick and even and it squirms around and lets itself get flattened out by your presser foot and… ugh… it’s not fun. Bob’s undercarriage, where his spring meets his torso, has a little stepped in section, so that first ugly spare skirt was tied on that under section and glued up the wazoo… not Bob’s wazoo… I’m just sayin’ I used a lot of glue.

I then bought another 10 metres of raffia, folded it over and over a million times to get the right lengths, sewed a straight stitch through them and then encased the ends in a grosgrain ribbon… except of course the raffia kept moving and slipping out of the ribbon and… ugh… it’s not fun.


For something different and so I could say I had used the stitch on my machine, I picked the stretch stitch that kind of looks like a vine with leaves. Much like Marilyn Monroe, Bob was then sewn into his skirt, given a trim around the bottom and tah-dah… just like new…


Yep, there are two black lines of stitching peeking out from under his ribbon waistband which would ordinarily give me the twitches but honestly, I just wanted to see this project done and have Bob wobbling in his rightful place in the car again… so they stay and become “a design feature”… much like I say there is no such thing as a wrong move in dancing, there are just new ones… unless it involves pain and/or blood, then it is definitely wrong.

So that’s Bob’s story… a new skirt – this time closer to grass than his previous one. Here’s hoping he’s good for at least another five years.

hula bob

20 metres of raffia in that little skirt… I know, ridiculous, right?? I can’t imagine how many you’d need for an actual person-sized one. I just know I won’t be volunteering to make them anytime soon! :0)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Burning things: fun but not that helpful

Hello all,

For some reason I hadn’t really thought about my suit material until reader Laurie asked me what it was.

As I got it in the “assorted fabrics” area, I’d never known what it was – just that I liked the colour, weight and feel of it.

My More Fabric Savvy book by Sandra Betzina suggests burning a small snippet of fabric and observing the fabric, flame, smell and ash to determine fabric content.

Sounds simple – and fun on a chilly winter’s day – but was it? Let’s just say I won’t be giving up my day job to become a fabric identifier (if anyone was ever paid to do that for work).

The results…


The first attempt, the fabric didn’t really burn – it just kind of melted away from the flame and smelt a bit like burning paper… but that didn’t really fit any of the categories listed in the book, so I lit another match.


This was a much more successful burning, with a yellow, slightly spitting flame, but then the fabric kind of melted onto the tweezers and I was so engrossed in the flame that I forgot about the burning match in my other hand… doh.

As you can see, it definitely melts, it’s brittle – there’s no real ash to speak of, no smell, burnt with a slow, yellow, slightly spitting flame.

The book lists acetate, acrylic, cotton, nylon, polyester and wool as having some of these properties but I don’t know which fabric’s properties cancels another’s when combined.

For example, if you combine cotton with nylon does that mean you’d get cotton’s burning paper smell or nylon’s “celery smell”.

So, I’m left guessing… and I’ve decided to go with a cotton acrylic… that is, of course, a total guess. :0)

Acrylic – melts (but keeps burning after the flame is removed which mine didn’t), leaves a brittle, black bead and has no smell.

Cotton – burns quickly with a yellow flame (mine was slow with yellow), keeps burning after flame is removed (mine didn’t), leaves soft, grey ash (mine didn’t), smells like burning paper (did the first time but didn’t seem to the second time – maybe I was smelling the match…?)

See… confusing.

Maybe Spotlight was right in naming it “assorted fabric”… it’s assorted alright!

Anyone else got any ideas? Better informed than me would be good (and pretty easy as you can see I’m just guessing).

I tell you what I do take away from this experiment though… I’ll make sure to stay away from any open flames… having a fabric melt onto your skin is a particularly uninviting proposition! Mind you though, the slowness of the flame makes me think this is probably one of the safer of my outfits… I’ve never had a flaming accident before so its not something I’ve personally ever considered… and flammability has never been on a list of reasons to buy or not buy an outfit or fabric before… and if I’m honest, it won’t be in the future either. :0) but at least I’m aware of it now…

Monday, August 30, 2010

Evidence of Simplicity 4911 being finished!

Hooray! It’s been months – nay, years! – since I first started sewing this suit and although I officially finished it a couple of weeks ago, it is only now that I’ve taken photos that I feel it is truly finished!

And so… without further delay… Simplicity 4911

To recap, it started as this…

CIMG1932 It now looks like this!


I apologise for the non-smilingness of this photo – really, I’m ecstatic that this has turned out so well – but my camera was playing silly buggers and had just NOT taken three lots of self-timer shots, so I wasn’t really sure this one was going to turn out either (and the self-conscious ‘this is weird’ posing had started to kick in)… :0)

Contrary to the photo evidence, the back of the skirt hem isn’t longer than the front, the camera is just perched quite low. Besides the collar weirdness that I mentioned in a previous post (CIMG1937 ) I also decided to lengthen the sleeves about an inch. Some of my dancing partners have made mention of my ‘freakishly long arms’ but I seriously think they were just making excuses for not getting themselves out of the way in time to avoid a whack. Remember follows, it’s always the lead’s fault. :0)

I also had a bit of trouble with the waistband and after struggling with it for about an hour I just ditched it and made my own. I think the likelihood is I may not have cut it correctly because I just could not make it work… hmmm… that’s the same story as the collar situation. I see a pattern here. :0)

Once I got the camera working correctly, I went to town on the shots, so here’s some more.

CIMG2029 I call this one ‘Nevermind About The Top Of My Head, Check Out My Remix Shoes!’ I think my dance teacher would be happy with the shape of that hanging hand too… pity I can’t remember to do it when I’m actually dancing. This photo also shows the nipped in waist… that curve also gave me a bit of gyp. One of the peplum sides does kick out a little funny, but I think I’m probably just being too critical… I’ve decided I won’t worry about it until someone points at it and screams in an overly dramatic fashion. Then I’ll think about worrying about it…


Not a terribly illuminating shot of the suit, but… I liked it, so here it is. Oh, and if you are wondering, the white ruffle is not connected to the suit at all. It is a gorgeous ruffle-fronted blouse I picked up at one of the Way We Wear fairs a couple of years ago in Williamstown here in Melbourne.

And here’s a picture of the blouse… but don’t look at my weirdly large hand.


What’s wrong with you?! I said not to look at it! Honestly…

Just jokes, just jokes. One final picture… in this I was trying to show the lovely vee at the bottom of the jacket… but I think the packet illustration still show it better.


I hope you have enjoyed the pictures… I’d love to say I had a ball making this suit, but I didn’t. Some bits of it were a little tricky and maybe if I sewed more regularly than I do then I wouldn’t have had any trouble at all… doubtful though… I mean, this IS sewing, right? However I’m more than happy with the end result.

In hindsight, if I was going to make this again, I’d look at lining it to give it a little more weight. Without lining and in the light material I used, it is definitely not for chilly weather. Mind you, the way this Melbourne winter has been making me feel for the last three months, nothing but an electric blanket and flannelette sheets makes me feel warm. Still… only two days to go until SPRING!! Finally… :0)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Success!! A finished project!

Finally – I now know what I have to do to finish something!

Unfortunately it involves getting sick and sniffly, but at least I know!

The upside is that Simplicity 4911 is now in the fully finished pile!

The downside is that I’m so sick that I can’t bare to put the suit on to take a photograph!

I’m away for about a week – my Dad is having triple bypass surgery on Tuesday so I’m making the trip north tomorrow and then travel to Canberra for a dance weekend – but once I get back I promise to do my hair, throw the suit on and take a picture or two… and then post them of course.

Hooray for finished projects!

And this is exactly how much thread I had left over at the end of this project! Lucky eh? Usually I am minus a foot – although how would a photograph of that differ to this one? Anyway… it all worked out!


Monday, July 26, 2010

Another day, another project

Hmmmm… on reflection, I think I might be in the running for the Queen Of The Unfinished Projects award…

I’ve started yet another project (without finishing any of the others) and this one is a doozy! I’ve decided that with just a book and some YouTube videos that I have enough information to try draping.

Like I said to a friend, this could easily end up being the worst dress in the history of worst dresses, BUT it is going to be extremely interesting trying it.

I read something recently where the author said she was getting frustrated with having to stop sewing to research a way out of the problems that were arising… but then she realised that each roadblock lead to learning and gaining new skills… something I for one am extremely happy for… if we aren’t learning something, then what is the point?

Anyway, enough philosophising… here’s a picture of the bodice so far… I’m excited and extremely glad I don’t have to go to work tomorrow so that I can spend the day working on this.

Wish me luck!


OK… well not the whole day… maybe I’ll finally pull 4911 out of the pile too. :0)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Universe says… finish Simplicity 4911!

So, my lethargy towards 4911 continues so I pulled out another incomplete project to continue it and… my sewing machine has had a breakdown! It is sewing the most gigantic knot around the bobbin that I’ve ever seen.

I’ve pulled the bobbin mechanism/shuttle race apart, de-linted it, cleaned, polished, waxed (well, not waxed, but you get the idea)… and it is still making knots… it’s like the thread isn’t being pushed high enough to clear the mechanism… anyway, I truly don’t know what is up with it, but I went to Spotlight and bought some sewing machine oil, so that is my final grasp at making this work before I give in and take it to the shop.

Fingers crossed.

I can’t help but feel though that the universe is trying to tell me to get on with the handsewing of 4911 and stop slacking off.

So… to do list reads as follows…

1. take your needle and thread out and finish this project!

2. oil the machine

3. never again sew any muslins in cute fabric. They are not meant to be worn, they are meant to be drawn on, pinned up and ripped apart. My ‘incomplete project’ is a muslin for McCalls 9852 – a nice shirtwaist dress with a full skirt… but my mistake was deciding to make a muslin from some cheap (but cute!) blue and white gingham… stupid, stupid idea…. I want this to work out so much… :0)

Has anyone else fell victim to the ‘wearable muslin’…?

McCalls 9852

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Simplicity 4911 – so close to being finished that it is not funny

Many moons ago I purchased a whole bunch of vintage patterns from the wonderful Miss Helene's Vintage Sewing Shoppe, one of which was Simplicity 4911.

Checking it out on the Vintage Patterns wiki, I was chuffed to see that the picture online is the exact copy that I purchased from Miss Helene’s – except somewhere along the way a few more pieces have sadly fallen off the envelope. You can’t tell from the picture below, but I’ve matched crease marks and tear lines and it is definitely the same one. I feel like I own a celebrity pattern… :0)

Here’s the pattern envelope today – well, after I scanned it, printed it and made it a whole new working envelope. The original is now tucked safely away to protect her from further damage.


Yep… I did draw their shoes back in. If you are wearing a gorgeous suit like that, you cannot go around without shoes… or indeed feet. It’s not proper. Miss Pink Ruffle is one day going to end up with a gorgeous green pair to match her bag and hat.

But I digress. This suit has been a long time in the making. I have made outfits from vintage patterns before – posts will be forthcoming about those at some point – but Simplicity 4911, your maker’s name denies the truth.

The skirt waistband gave me the yips so I ripped it out and made my own.

The collar of the jacket – I cannot even begin to recall the number of times I sewed, ripped, re-sewed, re-ripped, re-flippin’-sewed that thing. It was like the pattern did not allow enough material for the undercollar to meet!

I ended up inserting a weird little triangle of fabric because no matter what I did, it would not come right. I had two of my sewing friends even have a half-hearted poke at it and walk away scratching their heads.

And here’s a picture…


As you can see, the base of that triangle is not an insignificant amount. I don’t know what went wrong, but after having this jacket sit defiantly on my dressmaker’s dummy for a couple of months, I was thankful to get out of it with a weird triangle on the underside of the collar, instead of my usual “ball it up into a ball and piff it into the corner” solution. Very happy.

But, I’ve stalled again. Maybe it’s because it’s so cold here in Melbourne right now. Maybe it’s because it’s all handsewing left. Maybe it’s because I’m just not in the mood… or maybe because the times I’ve tried it on it just hasn’t lived up to my expectations and I don’t want another blah outfit in my wardrobe taking up space.

Ridiculous, I know. I just need to put my excuses aside, sew three buttons, rip open the buttonholes and decide how I’m going to finish the cuffs (again, the Simplicity instructions left me cold there so I’ve made up my own strange variation which I’ve got to decide how to finish) and I’m done!

Get on with it, I say! But not tonight… I’ve got a housewarming party to go to… :0)

Oh… here’s the jacket. The skirt is currently hanging in my wardrobe and I have worn it out a few times. I’m counting that piece as a definite win.


It looks a bit wonky and lopsided, but it doesn’t have its ubiquitous shoulder pads in… when the weather isn’t cold enough to freeze my mouse hand I’ll put the whole outfit on and take a picture… but that is definitely not tonight.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Planes, trains and automobiles

I have had an extremely interesting couple of months with regards to transportation… and isn’t that just an ancient Chinese curse!

At the end of May my job was declared redundant and in one day I lost my income, my phone and my car. Quite the shock after 15 years, let me tell you.

Anyway, losing the car has led to a cavalcade of adventures… from catching a bus in Melbourne for the first time since moving here almost ten years ago to buying my first ever car. Buying the car was quite exciting but probably not my most considered purchase… hey, don’t get me wrong, I did do some homework, but I tend to fall for older (think 1950s), bigger (think Chevy Belair) quite impractical cars… so buying a 1995 Saab was, for the most part, quite sensible… for me.


My Dad told me during the week that he was being presented with a 30 year service medal from the NSW Rural Fire Service (a volunteer organisation that used to be known as the Bushfire Brigade) and my younger brother Michael was up for his 15th year medal. These heroic people give up a lot of their time and put huge effort into training. They fight bushfires, attend car accidents, help with traffic control, raise funds for the brigade as well as for charities – particularly kids’ charities. I think that they are all amazing, wonderful people for what they do and so to hear that Dad and Michael were both being honoured on Saturday meant that I just had to attend, hairdressing appointment be damned!

So, I packed up Saabrina (I’m not normally the car-naming type, but this name just fits) and headed off from Melbourne at around 2:30pm on Friday for the 9 hour drive.

All was going great. The car was handling well, traffic wasn’t too heavy and I had already listened to about nine Hamish & Andy podcasts of their UK trip, when I decided to stop for food and petrol at Yass at about 9pm(ish). I meant to stop and eat my KFC burger but I just wanted to get going again so that I wouldn’t arrive to long after midnight… so eating in the car it was and off we went.

About 40 minutes later I had just passed the Goulburn exit when I noticed the “Check Engine” light come on… noooo…. that is NOT something you want to see on the Hume. I switched cruise control off and the car started to slow. If I put my foot down there was a little surge but not much before we started slowing again. Now, I’m not sure how far it is to the second Goulburn exit – I was just extremely thankful that there IS a second exit  - but it felt like a very long way. Finally, finally the exit swoops into view and we are off the freeway, merging with the old Hume Highway… for which you have to slow from 110 km/hr down to 80… and once doing that slower speed we just continued to slow and slow and slow and no amount of accelerator pedal was increasing that speed.

Hoping for no road-pizza’d wombats or kangaroos, I had to pull off onto the shoulder of the road as by now there was a little bit of an incline and I was now doing a top speed of around 5km/hr. Lucky for me we did reach the top of the hill and it was a coast down into town from there. To cut this long story short, I had luckily (again with the luck) purchased RACV roadside assistance the day after I bought the car so the NRMA covered us in NSW. A lot of waiting around in a petrol station carpark, a phone call to Dad and the guy eventually showed up to say there isn’t anything he can do without some kind of computer to plug in so the CAR can tell him what is wrong. I’m sure I’m being way too harsh but it seems to me that unless your problem is a flat tyre or that you’ve run out of petrol, there really isn’t a lot they can do with modern cars. Anyway, I did say short version, so I  will skip the frustration and crying-fest in the hotel and just say that I had to spend the night in Goulburn and get a tow in the morning to the service station.

Of course I had a slender, unrealistic hope that the tow would be quick, we’d be there by 8:30am when they opened and it would be a quick 30 minute fix and I could be at Mum and Dad’s only 30 minutes late. It never hurts to be hopeful but reality soon set in and I ended up at the service station until 12:30pm, missing Dad’s ceremony by a couple of hours.

Now I could look at this whole saga and say terrible luck, but in reality I had some EXCELLENT luck…

  • Saabrina broke down within hobbling distance of one of the largest towns on the route. Another 15 minutes and I’d have literally been in the middle of nowhere, sitting in my car in the cold night on the shoulder of a freeway full of speeding trucks. Not much fun there. Not to mention all the dingos, dropbears and Tasmanian Tigers just hovering in the nearby bush… ;0)
  • I had roadside assistance from the NRMA. The guy couldn’t do much to help me, but he did advise me not to try and drive the car any further without having it checked at a garage. I was going to try, believe me, but as I pulled into the carpark of the hotel the “check engine” light came on again and I knew the game was up. He also gave me the card of a good service station to go to in the morning.
  • If things had gone differently or I had tried to continue driving I actually could have ended up as flaming wreckage on the side of the freeway. The guy that fixed the car said that it appears that the fuel filter had never been changed in the life of the car and that the fuel pump was trying so hard to get the petrol through that the car actually burst its fuel line. If that fuel had hit the exhaust system… well… like I said, I was lucky.
  • I ended up at a service station that I was really happy with. They didn’t treat me like an idiot, kept me appraised of what was going on and left me with an overall positive impression. It could have easily been a different experience.
  • Whilst it wasn’t the cheapest visit to a garage (my Uncle Bluey told me a story today about how a garage near the Nullabor Plain changed his fuel filter for $10!!), I had visions of thousands of dollars flying out of my bank account so I was quite pleased.

So yes… I missed the actual reason for my trip, but I’m still calling myself lucky.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Entering the blogosphere… Houston… are you there??

Hi there… long time reader, first time blogger here…

At this point in the life of my blog, I have not really decided on a plan or direction… well, no there is a vague direction – there will be sewing, dancing – swing dancing, mainly Balboa – greyhounds (because I am owned by one named Seamus), lots of 1920s through to 1950s things (music, furniture, architecture, pictures, fashion)  and probably pretty much anything that annoys me in the news… which is a lot of late.

My reasons for doing this…? I hope mainly to share the passions of my life with like-minded individuals and maybe even introduce a few people to a new passion of their own. I will also probably use this page to vent a little when things upset me – BP, you’re my biggest target right now - and I also hope to make a few new friends on the way… at least that’s the way I feel about the bloggers that I currently follow… funny huh… friends I’ve never spoken to, never met and yet I’d miss them if they weren’t around. :0)

My apologies in advance for my overuse of the ellipsis… I just love it… see…?

Oh… and my apologies for my lack of manners! My name is Denise. Pleased to “meet” you. ;0)