Thursday, 3 April 2014

Sewing success - the Staple Dress

Like I said previously - sewing for myself is only a success 50 % of the time, case in point the first 2 garments below.

Burda 8517

A friend made this in a stretch fabric with short sleeves and it looked great. This has sat in my wardrobe unworn for the past 3 weeks - out it went today. It just isn't working for me , without a belt it looks sack like and well the print is just too big for me. When I look at this photo I think it looks ok, but I just don't feel good in it , so I moved it into the give away box.

Vogue 8805

Well I have worn this once but I think it is not destined to stay. A sewing synthetic nightmare - slippery horrible fabric - purchased not that long ago in a sale - as it turns out - not a bargin! Those sleeves - argh - first I used a bias cut piece to bind them and they just looked horrible, so I abandoned that idea and overlocked them and turned the edge up and top stitched - and they rolled up - equally horrible. So I used the overlocker to do a rolled hem - first on the bottom hem of the top and it was ok so I tried the arms.Not so good - sort of wavy which really annoys me. So on a cooler day I wore it with a cardigan but then I got hot and really sweaty in that fabric - yick - not a winner.

So , in need of sewing success, I made another Tova ( about number 6 I think), people either love or hate this pattern/style - I am in the former group - it is just so easy to wear. I made a few minor modifications, I use 2 layers of fabric in the insert so when the neck falls open it looks better. I stitch up the placket at the front about 5 cm - I think it sits better.
On this one I did a shaped shirt tail hem and also added a bit of shape by flaring it out a bit front the waist to the hem ( hard to see in the picture but it's not straight up and down like my dress.(see here)

Then my April Rhodes Staple Dress Pattern arrived.

Version One
Silk /cotton .
I measure a size M so that is what I made , it's roomy but comfy in hot weather, it looks a little frumpy in the picture , I felt it looked better on but then I made a second stretch version which is way better.

I made the waist just a little higher than the pattern line and the arms are about 1-2cm longer -just because I wanted them that way. Because I was using stretch I made a size S and I think the fit is much better, I think it works with a little black cardigan too - I think this is my favourite of all my recent makes.

I then had a play around with the pattern and made a tunic top in stretch

For this one I only shirred the back and 15cm in the middle of the front .

Shirring is something I had never done and to be honest didn't really like the look of, but it's strangely addictive , now I have the urge to add little rows of shirring to the back of a few tops to give some shape.
If you need a bit of extra reassurance before trying it Made by Rae has an excellent tutorial , although the Staple dress pattern instructions are pretty good too.

Despite all this sewing I still haven't made the denim tunic I wanted - because I wanted some lighter chambray fabric I can layer in winter or wear alone in summer and just can't find any. I am thinking elastic pattern as in the orange top above but with a straight hem ( I seem to have gone a bit made and made lots of drop hems lately).
So there you go - that was March's sewing binge, next up a BIMAA top or two for G.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014


Two days ago I had a fleeting burst of super mother :
My daughter ate a full 3 course breakfast ( not a breakfast girl - usually I get excited by 1/2 piece of toast)
She made it to school before the bell rang
I baked and put home made muffins in her lunch ; 
Small triumphs

( he watches in disbelief as I rush around madly)

I then managed to fit in a quick bike ride and do the dishes, washing and make beds by 10 am. Instead of the lie down I needed I then had to speed pack, shower and head to the airport.

Consequently I had 5  pairs of shoes( for a 2 day trip- I wore 2 pairs ), no socks , no warm tops, no shampoo and the poor cat had to wait til the evening to get a meal.

Today after late nights and early starts I am slack mum - iPhone games , random pick your own food choices , sitting on the couch reading on my ipad.

Last week was really hectic, a full long working week and at 5 pm on Friday I rushed around tidying before my sister and family came to stay - irritated at my husband and the piles of washing to be folded - until I saw his photos taken on the evenings I was working - playing at the river, he and our daughter happy and relaxed.  Much more important than housework.
This week I have been reading  Colour me Anna and Practising Simplicity  plus after several sewing failures (  trying out new patterns and a synthetic nightmare ) made myself a wearable top/ tunic using the Tova pattern ( see Here ). 

Seeing as I won't be purchasing any new items this year  I have more motivation to sew items I really like and the fabric choice is a really big part of it. When I get up the energy to photograph the not so great items I made last week I'll show you what I mean.


Reading to herself ( Dappled Annie and the Tigrish by Mary MaCallum)

Warm sunny days, and summer fruits

His habit of hanging out wherever we are

Pocket money well spent on a really fun Instax camera ( she is making a little photo story about her toys and setting up the scenes)

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Making the most of where you live

Choose furniture you love

 I decided in a pre trip, pre xmas restlessness to make a few changes to our furniture; doesn't really fit with the whole consume less and good for the earth theme as with my wardrobe rationalisation but is making me feel happier about our home and where we are at.

There is sort of a moral to this story though - buy once and buy what you love ,and I think the best quality you can afford. Had I waited and saved up initially I would not be changing our chairs at all!

It started after looking at houses for sale when I decided ours was too small, only to change my mind and decide actually I like our home it just felt  a bit cluttered and a few things annoyed me - irrationally - like the dining chairs I have never liked . So I decided to change things  - first to go were the above dining chairs - purchased because they were cheap and I couldn't find any I really liked in our price range at the time.  After looking at lots of pictures of dining chairs on pinterest and the likes I decided a new rug would freshen up the room too. My husband couldn't give a toss what we sit on so I have free range on most furniture options. As long as it is comfortable he is happy although he was fine with the old chairs - but since new chairs were cheaper than a new house he went along with me.

Voila - a new fresher look via ikea ( Stockholm rug) and trademe ( Eames reproduction chairs).  That rug may turn out to be a disaster with white under the dining table - but so far so good. Georgie is refusing to use the kids chair ( in picture 1 and instead a cushion on a black chair -despite  her kids one being a much more comfortable height) . The white chair is just because I liked it ( & is the most comfortable ) I actually have 6 of the black but it was just a bit too matchy for my liking.

We also plan to do some landscaping outside next summer to  make an outdoor dining and more usable outdoor living area . In the mean time I seem to have a never ending declutter happening.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Home sweet home & the Simplified wardrobe

Wardrobe overhaul
True to my word I came home and embarked on a wardrobe cleanout, that and the list of other jobs as long as my arm. I read a few helpful blog posts : Wide eyed Legless has a good series on the perfect wardrobe. I did the standard - try it on - and if I didn't feel good in it , it didn't fit, I hadn't worn the item in a year ( excluding special occasion clothes like ball dresses) or was  just shabby it went out.

Living out of a suitcase with just 2 pairs of jeans for a month helped put the size of my wardrobe into perspective - that and the fact I could barely shut the doors because of clothes falling out. I don't buy huge quantities although I do regularly purchase new pieces with each new season - but the combination of making new clothes as well as buying and not getting rid of any old ones meant I really had more than I needed.

What I realised when going through my clothes is that certain brands for me are well worth the money - Chalky digits ( NZ made) Lululemon  & Patagonia , all have been long lasting and I wear regularly.  Plus I like the fact that these 3 companies all seem to have made an attempt at ethical fashion with some thought to the environment and conditions for those that make their clothing. Aside from these 3 brands I have a few other NZ designed pieces I love and some I have made that I wear .  Most of the items I removed from my wardrobe were either cheap chain store pieces that were never quite right or things I have made that didn't really work with the rest of my wardrobe.

I'd love one of those minimalist wardrobes with matching hangers but I am a long way off that yet. Even pulling out a third of my clothes I still have ample - the picture above is actually the "after" shot of part of the main rail,( trousers and knitwear etc are folded above and shoes below). It  doesn't include a dresser filled with my t shirts, socks, underwear and sports wear.

After going through my clothes I boldly told my husband I wasn't going to buy any new clothes for myself or Georgie for a year! With a few exceptions - she is growing so will need new shoes , socks and one or two selected items like bigger ski pants. Myself I am waiting for a work cardigan I ordered to come in but aside from that I don't think I need anything else. Although if the elastic does all suddenly go on my knickers I won't be holding out for a whole year.
I am still going to make clothes if I feel like it - it's a hobby I enjoy but I will try to use the fabric I have without buying any more. Hopefully after a year I will be much more selective in what I purchase and what I keep - wish me luck.

Monday, 10 February 2014


We had a 2 night stop over on the way home, great as we really needed sleep although I can't say Chinese New Year is a good time to sight see in Singapore - long queues at the zoo made one day there enough in the heat.

It is a fantastic zoo though and with less crowds is worth visiting. The second day we opted for air con at the Art Science museum for a dinosaur exhibition that was fantastic with no one else there. Singapore is a good stopover with easy public transport and didn't seem too expensive - esp compared to Europe on an NZ$.  Now we have been home for a few days the NZ summer heat has seemed very bearable and being a homebody for a few days a very attractive option.


Three nights were not enough. I had thought that with a seven year old and non city loving husband in tow that 2 and a half days of sight seeing would have been plenty  but I was wrong.

We started with a guided tour of the Eiffel Tower - well worth the money.  Then we headed to the Arc de Triomphe and a walk down the Avenue DesChamps Élysées to the musee de Orangerie to see Monet's water lily paintings.

Interspersed with patisserie stops it was an enjoyable day.

Day 2 we went to the Louve to see the Mona Lisa, we got audio guides - actually this was not great with all 3 of us on slightly different audio timing and crowds of people it would have been much better to have had a guided tour.  I had underestimated the sheer number of works and after 2 hours we were exhausted and so walked to Notre Dame for long cold queues.

 Crepes however make everything better and after this we did a bus ride and went to a Toy section of a large department store instead of another famous building.

If we do it again I would like to go to the Catacombs, Musee de L 'Armee  and preferably in spring as it was freezing outside and in Musuems and galleries I ended up carrying arm loads of clothing as we progressively striped off layers.  Cold aside we loved Paris and there was lots to do with kids, we had a lonely Planet guide called Not for parents :Paris - everything you ever wanted to know . This was a really great book and everywhere we went Georgie would recall facts from the book and it made the whole experience much more meaningful for her.