So I have this pattern:

Simplicity 1590

Of course I wanted to try and make it by refashioning another garment! So when I found this men’s 100% cotton shirt at Salvo’s for $6 I knew I was onto a winner. I was confident there would be enough yardage in the sleeves to make the peplum.


I liked the woven check pattern, and the fabric has an interesting texture and, for once, the existing buttons were quite cute:


So I set to work tracing off the pattern onto, er, tracing paper. I do this with most paper patterns these days – it does require extra work, but it means if I want to remake the garment in another size, or lend it to someone, I haven’t completely destroyed the original by making lots of alterations or scribbling all over it.

As usual, according to the size guide, I’m a size 22 in the waist and an 18 in the bust. This is grossly incorrect. I have curves, but not those curves. I went with a size 14 to start with, then took some measurements and made some adjustments. I’ll let you know how that went.

To work with the shirt, I cut open the sleeve seam, and unpicked the side seams (just in case). Then I folded the shirt along the centre front and back, like this. I went around and pinned it together along the armholes and matched up the buttonholes, pinning them together. I was going to use the existing button placket in the new shirt, so they needed to match up.


I’d previously marked the position of the shoulder seams, so I lined up the shoulder seam line on the front and back pattern pieces on the shirt, and maneuvered it around until the centre front and back of the pattern were on the centre front and back of the shirt. There was a bit of trickiness around the bottom of the existing armscye on the front, but as luck would have it, the bust dart was in a position to take up the extra fullness. Sweet.

Then I went ahead and cut it out. Then I did tailor’s tacks to mark the darts. I learned tailor’s tacks last year, from one of my many sewing books. Now that I’ve done them a few times and got the hang of them, it’s quicker than messing around with pins and chalk; plus, your marks won’t accidentally get rubbed off. Or, if your garment ends up in the UFO box, the marks won’t have faded by the time you get back around to it.


See all those little bits of purple thread? Tailor’s tacks. I love ‘em.

Anyways, then it was time to see if I really could get the peplum piece out of the sleeves. Turned out I couldn’t quite.


See how I’ve folded the pattern piece over there? I allowed for some seam allowance along that edge, and cut that piece out of the bottom of the shirt front. It was the centre back of the peplum, so the seams shouldn’t look too out of place.


I did try to match up the plaids, but it just wasn’t going to happen, so I stopped worrying about it.

The rest was just following the pattern. The front corner of the peplum was a little interesting, it’s sort of sewn in using the front dart, but the instructions weren’t too hard to follow.

Then I tried the thing on …. not happy, Jan. It swam on me. Probably a size and half too big. I don’t know what kind of maths I did when I was working out the alterations, but it was wrong. Aaaargh. This made me depressed, and I had to go have a lie down.


Luckily I had time and a seam ripper, so I removed the peplum, took in the side seams, enlarged the darts, shortened the waist a little, and put the peplum back on. Sigh. I had enough material to make a facing (which the pattern wanted) but I was a bit over the whole thing by then so I just used some white bias binding on the neck edge.


Sleeve edges were finished with a narrow hem, and I made short work of hemming the lower edge of the blouse. I did have to remove and re-position a couple of the buttons, but that was more to do with the original shirt being a bit wonky.


I really like how the seam of the original armhole has created a faux cap sleeve.


I’m actually pretty happy with the result, given the setback in the sizing.


Enough sewing! Let’s eat!

I love slow cookers. Honestly, I would happily use it every day – except I do like a salad every now and then. But, seriously, slow cookers, or crock pots, are such a fantastic appliance. Whack all your ingredients in the crock pot of a morning, and WHAM! get home to a dinner ready and waiting. It’s pretty hard to over-cook anything too, the only danger is not putting enough liquid in the pot.

Now, I’m an experimenter. If I had a head for science I would probably be in a lab coat somewhere cackling madly, surrounded by foaming green test tubes and worried assistants.

Luckily, I was useless at chemistry at school, so world domination can be safely left to those with a better grasp of the table of elements.

My point is, I can never just follow a recipe. And I’m obsessed with cobbling together six other recipes to see what might happen. I’m pleased to report that the disaster statistics are actually pretty favourable.

So last year I was in central America. At a restaurant in Playa del Carmen, I tried a dish called Mayan Achiote Chicken. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. It was amazing. So I made sure I bought one of the little bricks of achiote paste at the souvenier store. I forgot to look at the ingredients panel at the time, and was a little worried by all the things listed as numbers rather than actual food items. Erk. Oh well. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right?


Then I set out to do a little online research into achiote chicken recipes. It appears it’s usually barbecued or roasted, but I was determined to do it in the slow cooker (I’m time-poor, okay?) So I came up with a recipe that seemed like it would produce something a little bit like the meal I had in Mexico.



  • 2 chicken breasts (about 1.5lb or 700g), cut into 2″ chunks
  • juice of 1 orange
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • stock or water
  • 1 tsp castor sugar
  • 1/2 block achiote paste (about 55g)
  • 1 green capsicum, cut into 2cm pieces
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2-3 potatoes, chopped into large chunks
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano

Put the meat & vegetables in the slow cooker. In a jug, mix the achiote paste with the juice & herbs until smooth. Pour the liquid into the cooker, and add a little stock or water so the meat & vegetables are almost covered. Put the lid on, turn the cooker onto ‘Low’ and leave it be for about 8 hours. (Or, on high for about 4 hours.)

I served this with some green beans on the side. In hindsight it would have gone well with some rice, but I wanted a one-pot meal, plus there were plenty of carbs in the potatoes already. Also, I think it would have worked better with chicken thighs than breasts. I used a small crockpot for this recipe too, so if your crockpot is a big one you may need to double the recipe. It made enough to serve four, or more if you served extra veggies on the side.

The flavour of this was pretty different to the one I had in Mexico, but I still really liked it. The citrus really lent itself to the mild spiciness of the achiote. I’ll probably try this again with a couple of the variations I’ve mentioned. After all, I’ve got half a brick of achiote paste left to use!

I found this awesome Hawaiian-print cotton sundress at Vinnie’s for $7.


It was huge though. I didn’t even try it on, just went ‘Yeessss!’ and threw it in my basket. Look! Pockets!


The neckline and sleeves were nicely finished with facings so I decided to take a different approach in smallerizing the top part of the dress.


The shoulder straps were really wide, so I folded them in half and darted out a couple of centimetres, taking the dart down almost the depth of the armhole at the front and back.


Then I stitched along that line, and pressed it flat – it sat perfectly. I was so happy!

Of course, I wanted to keep the pockets, so taking in the side seams was not quick – I unpicked the pockets from the side seams, trimmed the sides down, and re-sewed the seams with the pockets. It had been a while since I had done a side-seam pocket, but I managed! As usual though, I got a bit carried away and forgot to take pictures of this bit.

Now the original bust dart was pretty generous, so when I let that out and put in a Laura-sized bust dart, the front of the dress was a few centimeters longer than the back! ooops. Now, it would have been easy to chop the front the match the back, but the fact was it was a pretty short skirt already. So I managed to salvage some strips from the side seams to lengthen the back.


It’s still a little short, but I’ll  happily wear it as a beach coverup. In cooler weather it might look cute with tights, boots and a denim jacket.


It was sunny last week when I made this dress, although it is raining now, but still warm and humid.  Props to any readers in the northern hemisphere undergoing snowstorms – stay safe!

Alice&Olivia Copycat

For the first of my 2014 sewing challenges, here’s a copycat refashion to start off.

I found this longline button-up blouse at the op shop for $6.


Hey, it’s retro Liz Davenport! That’s some designer style, right there.


It’s a soft, slightly crinkly polyester, with self-fabric cloth buttons. And the first thing I did was remove those bits of velcro, which were no doubt for attaching some highly attractive shoulder pads.

I decided to have a go at this pretty silk blouse from Alice+Olivia.

I cut the sleeves off at the stitching line, then took the side seams in by about 3cm each side. I also sketched in a new armscye curve and trimmed that down.


I used my patchwork square (it’s so handy) to take a few inches off the head of the sleeve, while still maintaining the curve. I did have to modify it a little by hand as well, to get the curve nice. Then I trimmed that down, sewed a line of basting stitch around the upper curve to gather in the ease, and re-set the sleeves back into the new armholes.


Then I used another shirt of my own to get the length and created a lower, curved hemline at the back (I’m not sure if the original shirt had that feature, but I like the effect so I did it), trimmed it, turned it under twice and stitched it down.

Then I cut the collar off. Yep, just chopped it right off. No, I lie, I unpicked it. Had ya going there for a second, huh? ;-)

I snipped off the top two buttons, and unpicked the top few inches of the button placket. To my delight it was not interfaced, which made it lots easier to fold under at an angle to create my new v-neckline. I had to trim a wee smidge off the inside edge to make it sit flat.


The inspiration shirt had a much wider and deeper neck opening, but I didn’t want to go down to the next buttonhole as it would have been a bit scandalous. Also, I did try folding it back at a sharper angle, but it just wouldn’t sit right. I wasn’t unhappy with this so I went with it.

I used the neckline to draft a facing pattern. There wasn’t  big enough shirt offcut to make a self-fabric facing, but I had some white lining left from the skirt I used in this project which worked just fine.


It’s a bit uneven, I know! Not to worry. I attached the facing in the usual way, and hand-stitched it to the inside of the yoke and the button placket.

Then it was time to tackle the cuffs. Because I’d shortened the sleeves from the top, the cuffs were too small to go around my forearms. I used the stitch ripper to remove the cuffs from the sleeves, and the buttons from the cuffs. Then I was able to open out one end of the cuff and add an extension, made from some of the offcut scraps. The newly- extended cuff got sewn back onto the sleeves (after I let some of the gathers out a bit) and the buttons were sewn back on.

At this point I realised I would have enough offcuts to make the pockets – I’d been leaving them til last as I wasn’t sure if the scraps would stretch. It was pretty easy to cut out two squares for the pockets and two rectangles for the pocket flaps. I even managed to cut the pockets from the lower hem offcuts, using the original hem as the pocket opening hem!

I’ll admit though that I totally eyeballed the pocket placement – no tape measures were used in the placement of these pockets! So they might look a smidge skewiff.


Then at the last minute I decided to add tabs & buttons for sleeve-rolling. I managed to dig up two tiny pearl buttons, and I made a couple of little tabs and hand-sewed them into the sleeves.


I believe this sleeve is known as ‘bracelet length’. I learned this from watching the Great British Sewing Bee, which I really wish they would do an Australian version of!


Although this wasn’t a difficult refashion, it was quite fiddly and took a fair amount of time. However, I’m really pleased with how it turned out, and I’m rather looking forward to wearing it. 

sewing challenges 2014

So, although I haven’t done much actual blogging over the last month, I have been thinking a lot about posts I could be making. Uppermost in my mind is setting myself a series of sewing challenges that I could tackle over the course of the year.

This is going to be a fairly hectic year for me – I’ll be moving house in a couple of months, having recently relocated back to beautiful Sydney; I’m amping up my karate training with an eye on the world championships next year, and I’ve also taken on a teaching role in karate;  plus I’m trying to continue some of my studies in nutrition, not to mention all the Craftsy classes I have signed up for but not finished!

And now I want to squeeze some sewing challenges in there as well? Lord have mercy!

These challenges are not going to be time-oriented. What I mean by that is, it’s not going to be challenge-a-month for me. I’ve got a list, but it’s not in any particular order – I can tackle whichever takes my fancy at any time, and even be working on more than one project at a time (well, I pretty much always do that anyway!) – oh, and I can do as many of each as I want! My restrictions are that I have to follow the rules within each challenge, and that I MUST use up my stash – the only new materials I’m allowed to purchase are basic haberdashery (thread, machine needles) and specialty items (like corset busks). If I don’t have it in my stash, it has to come from the opshop. I’ve become quite passionate about not buying new – every small effort counts when it comes to saving the environment.

My missions, should I choose to accept them:

Minimal Deconstruction: This one is a refashion challenge. A lot of my refashions consist of completely deconstructing a garment and using the fabric to make another garment. However, I’ve seen lots of refashions that really utilise the original features of an upcycled item of clothing, in a completely out-of-the-box kind of way, and I want to see what I can come up with. These are some inspirations:

Reconstruction Inspiration

Okay, so I’m leaning towards refashioning suit trousers.

From-Scratch Stashbuster Challenge: This is one where I’m not allowed to refashion! Don’t laugh. The fact is, I’ve got an oodleplex of fabric in my stash, and a bunch of patterns that have not been used. I have fabric and patterns I bought with certain purpose, purchased so long ago I can no longer recall what pattern went with which fabric. So I have to use ‘new’ uncut fabric and an unused pattern from my stash. Although, I’m allowed to use notions, like buttons and zips, that I have salvaged from other refashions or thrifted items.

The Vintage Pattern Challenge: I also have quite a few vintage and retro patterns that I have collected over the years. You can see most of them here.  So the challenge is to use one of them. Not a particularly difficult challenge, in itself, but it’s one of those ‘get around to it’ kind of things that I haven’t gotten around to. Vogue 1664  I’ve been dying to try, and of course I have a stack of vintage Burda pattern magazines that I absolutely adore. I’d also love to be able to finish this challenge on my vintage sewing machine.

Vogue 1664

CopyCat Challenge: I’ve developed a real thing for copycat refashions lately! Whilst I don’t exactly follow red carpet fashion, I often see things in shops or on Pinterest that I like and want to remake. I don’t think I’m in the same league as the amazingly talented Sally from CharityShopChic, who is a whiz at drafting her own patterns, but I’ve got a couple of projects in mind that would require a fair amount of refashion surgery to achieve. Speaking of pattern drafting…

Pattern Drafting Challenge! This one is exactly that: coming up with a design, drafting a pattern from scratch, making a toile, making adjustments and having a good finish on both the inside and outside of the garment. I’ll be following either ‘Fast-Track Fitting‘ or ‘The Couture Dress‘ on Craftsy for this one.

Made to Measure Challenge: Ever since I did a short pattern drafting course last year, I’ve had a hankering to do some pattern manipulation – moving darts etc. The most pattern manipulation I’ve done consists of enlarging the waist on a pants pattern. Boring! To make this challenge a bit more, er, challenging, I have to make it for someone else rather than myself. I have some measurements for a few of my friends who will be my guinea pigs. I’m allowed to start with a commercial pattern for this challenge.

Waste Not, Want Not Challenge: This challenge is twofold. The first part is about stashbusting –  I need to go hardcore on my stash and be realistic about UFO’s I’m never going to finish, the fabric I’m never going to use, and the patterns I’m never going to – no, wait, scratch that, the patterns stay. The second part of this challenge is to finish at least three UFO’s. 

Wow! Is that enough challenges?? That’s seven; I was trying to come up with eight. It would be great to have a reader challenge, so if you have any suggestions I’d love to hear from you!

These challenges are sort of like a sewist’s new year resolutions. What are your resolutions as a sewist/refashioner for 2014?

Hello gentle readers. I am afraid I have been very lax this month and have not posted in a couple of weeks. No excuses really; I have been working on a couple of projects, and have some results to post, but haven’t managed to take any photos of the finished products!

In the refashioning stakes, this week’s efforts consisted of the hemming of several pairs of jeans. I’m a bit of a shortie and it’s rare for me to find trousers the right length! Apparently, if you’re a size 14 in the waist or hip area, you must also be six feet tall. Sadly, there are no Valkyries in my genetic heritage, and I’m only 163cm. (You spend less time ducking under stuff, though. There’s always a silver lining.)

Anyway, I decided it was high time I had a go at the jeans hem where you keep the original hem. I had a look at a couple of tutorials, but this was the one I found easiest to follow. (There’s plenty of tutorials out there, so I won’t bore you with another one.)


I was so enthused I did three pairs that way! The other pair (second from the top in the picture) I had already taken up previously, but grossly miscalculated the new hem, so I had to take them up some more.

Jeans HemPlease excuse my enormous hobbit feet.

I did do a spot of baking too. I’m the nominated birthday cake provider at my workplace, which is great because I can test out all sorts of recipes (like the Chocolate Coconut Cake) and not have to have cake in my house for days. (Because, as I’m sure everyone knows, cake in the house = cake in the tummy. Nom nom nom.)

The lucky birthday person this time is quite health-conscious, so I whipped up this Gluten-Free Carrot Cake.


I followed the recipe exactly, no changing of any ingredients. Thanks go to Kylie for the supply of some gluten free flours and for separating & beating the eggs for me!


The cake was well-received and got many compliments. The birthday person went back for seconds, and took the last couple of pieces home for his family!

Now, I’m off to read some more of House of Estrela‘s January Refashion Month Series, which I only discovered today!

I’m excited about reading this series; some of the contributors are known to me but others are new, so I’m really looking forward to finding a whole new bunch of blogs to stalk read!

Have a happy Australia Day everyone!

Hello all!

It appears that my keyboard is having some issues with the ‘L’ key, so pease excuse any spelling mistakes that I miss editing out!

So I found this skirt at a Vinnies store for around $4.


It’s a light floaty polyester, fully lined, with an elasticated waist, side seam pockets and hits the awkward just-below-the-knee length. Perfect!


I thought the print was really cute, like a sort of miniature version of some of those crazy abstract patterns so popular in the 80′s. Like this one.

At the moment, I don’t have access to my pattern stash – I know, it’s tearing me apart. Luckily, I had a Burdastyle mag  (July 2013) that had a couple of possibilities, so without further ado I set about tracing out the pattern for this top:


The top has a centre front seam so really lends itself to a refashion where fabric acreage can be tricky. However, it’s fully self-fabric lined, so I was not going to have enough fabric from the skirt to do a full self lining. (Okay, this sticky ‘l’ key is reallly starting to bug me!!)

Enter this too-small purple batwing style top, $4 from the same Vinnies store.


This top had a seam at the centre back, so I opened that out and used the front of this top to make the back of my new top. I utilised the existing neckline so I could avoid having to finish that edge. This top is narrow at the lower edge, and my top is not, so the pattern actually crossed over the side seams – you’ll see in some later pictures how this gave the top an interesting seam detail.

I decided I would line the front, as per the pattern, but leave the back a single layer – this proved easy to accomplish, probably easier than a full lining in fact. As usual, I got carried away and neglected to take pictures of my process, so I’ll just explain as best I can!

So I cut out one back piece, on the fold, and 2 lots of front pieces – one outer and one lining. The front pieces I stitched together along centre fronts first, the sewed them together at the armhole and neckline, leaving the shoulder seams open. The back neck was already finished – the original manufacturer having kindly taken care of that for me – so for the back armhole edge I just turned under twice, as a narrow hem, and stitched that down.

Then the fronts and back I sandwiched together at the side seams and sewed them together. After a good deal of thought, to make sure I was sandwiching them the right way!! It all worked out, and when I turned it right side out, no side seams were visible on the inside of the garment.

The shoulders of the front pieces had formed a kind of tube, so I pressed the seam allowance into the tube, then twisted the front shoulder over and pinned one of those seam allowances to the back shoulder, right side to right side, and machine-stitched them together. Then I hand-sewed the remaining front seam allowance to the other side of the back shoulder seam, from the outside. By some miracle, I managed to do all of that so the seam that showed on the outside was the machine-stitched one.


The floaty polyester fabric wasn’t inclined to press very well, so to get the front edges to sit a bit better I topstitched them as close to the edge as I could. I probably should have understitched them earlier in the process, but, well, 20/20 hindsight and all that!

Then all that remained was a hem and I was done!


Here’s the seam detail on the back I mentioned earlier:


It’s symmetrical, so it totally looks deliberate!


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