Self-imposed refashion challenge:


Aaargh aaargh make it stop!! What is that THING??

It is a square-necked, puffy-sleeved, drop-waisted, pintucked nightmare in pale maroon. Ye gods. It has a button-up back, too. Here’s a closeup of the bodice:

DSCF9162It had a clothing label, but was made on a domestic machine (zig-zagged seam finishes are always a giveaway there!). No fabric identification label though. It’s crisp and lightweight, irons beautifully, crushes easily and has that almost ‘crunchy’ feel that silk gets after being handwashed a bit too much. I did a burn test and the results seemed to match silk, but I guess we believe what we want to believe.

Anyway, I’d had this monstrosity in my refashion pile for some time. Yesterday afternoon I’d been vacillating between projects, unable to settle on what I wanted to make, pulling out patterns and fabric and generally creating additional chaos in my tiny sewing room. Eventually I gave myself a mental slap and yelled (with my inside voice, of course) ‘JUST CHOP IT UP FOR GOODNESS SAKE’.

So I did.

The fullness of the skirt is created by the bodice tucks, um, stopping, and there’s some gathers at the sides too. I cut the skirt off at that line, and cut the sleeves off as well. There were these big under-puff puffer thingies designed to keep the puffy sleeves from loosing their puffiness. Needless to say they are now in the bin. No puff required in this refashion.

DSCF9165New sleeves were cut from the skirt offcut, using the existing hemline as the sleeve hems, because I’m lazy, and this is a refashion. You know, one of the things I love about refashioning is it allows me to be pretty relaxed about finishes and construction. The thing cost me $3; I’m so not worried about the curved bit of hem which created a little ruck on the inside. It’s on the INSIDE!!! No-one can see it!! Press that sucker from the outside – looks the ticket – job done!

Also not too worried about the sleeve fitting, which was a gamble from the start. I just used a basic sleeve pattern, there was no way I was going to spend time drafting a sleeve head to match this armhole. So the fit at the back of the sleeve is a little wonky. Don’t look to hard.

DSCF9166My goal at the moment is to make a few shirts for work now that that weather is getting cooler. I want to have a go at the 2-hour-top by SewDifferent but as usual can’t decide what fabric I want to use. I also caved in and hit StyleArc during their Etsy shop sale and bought the Elita top, which I have fabric for but am dreading tiling the pattern together. I like the slightly boxy-shaped tops that are trending at the moment, and I think I have managed that with this top.

Do you enjoy refashioning? How do you find it compares with from-scratch garment making?

The Activewear course is now over, and I must say that although it kept me rather busy for the last 6 weeks, it was certainly a fun and rewarding experience.

I now have slopers for activewear and enough pattern-drafting know-how to create all sorts of wacky workout wear!

For example, here’s my effort for the Sports Bra.

Sports bra front & back

Don’t judge me on the outer finishes. This is, essentially, a muslin.

I used a printed lycra that had had a previous life as a failed pair of leggings, elastic at the lower edge and plain black lycra for the upper binding and straps. The strap configuration was kind of organic, as in I put the unfinished bra onto Suzanne (that’s the dressmaker’s model, not a real person) and did a bit of ad-hoc draping with the straps.

The course had us sewing in bra cups, but a) I didn’t have any in my stash and b) I’ve never found them to be either comfortable or useful. So instead, I just lined the entire bra with powernet:

sports bra lining

Again, don’t judge me on the finishes.

Anyhoo, I gave this sucker a test run during the week. The compression factor was excellent, but I will have to adjust the front armscye as it was a little too high for comfortable movement. You can actually see that in the first photo.

The course also included shorts and yoga pants, both of which I didn’t make (but may yet return to). However, I used the shorts waistband instructions and drafted a pair of leggings of my very own!

Side stripe leggings

Here’s what my draft looked like.


It’s all made of the standard slightly-shiny lycra. Here’s a couple of truly terribly pictures of the leggings on me:

side stripe leggings ON

In hindsight (or possibly thighsight) those green panels at the hip hit me at exactly the most unflattering point. “Look world, here’s my widest bit!” Still, I love my sidestripes. This lycra is stretchy-er than the the gray one I used for the previous pair, so the tights aren’t as close-fitting as I would have liked; also the reduction on the waistband wasn’t quite enough to create a nice tight fit.

I solved the waistband problem with some elastic zig-zagged to the upper edge. Things got a little tricky around the in-seam pocket, but I managed. I actually haven’t given these a test run yet – I’ll let you know how they travel!


So yesterday, all inspired I went and haunted the fabric consignment shops in Marrickville. There’s a lot of truly horrible nasty stuff in those shops, but there’s also some bargains to be had. I got these fabulously raucous printed lycra’s for $12/m.


I adore that spacy rainbow one on the right. I think that just gets made into a plain pair of leggings with no extra embellishments, and just let the print speak for itself!! These are all nylon/lycra blends (I quizzed the shop guy fairly heavily on fabric content). From what I understand, nylon lycra takes colour a lot better than polyester. Polyester is apparently better for workout wear though, due to it’s hydrophobic qualities (meaning it takes up no water at all, as opposed to nylon which is hydrophilic and will take up a small amount of moisture – hence why it takes colour better!). Then there’s wicking, which is a combination of fibre type, fibre shape and the actual construction of the knit. It’s all terribly complicated. Have a look at this article.

Have you tried making any activewear? What patterns and fabrics have you used?


Today’s loaf is brought to you by … hmm, that should be despite. Today’s loaf is brought to you despite the challenges  of buying a new phone half way through the breadmaking process and finding it trickier than expected to get pics out of an old phone that no longer has a connection and a new one that didn’t have email set up. Well, it does now, and here we are…

bread for blog 005small

A few weeks ago I spend a wonderful afternoon making bread on an apple farm south of Sydney. Spending five hours or so making bread is always always going to be fun for me, but this was extra special. I was attending a breadmaking class run by the lovely Tara Mills of Mill Lane Workshops.  The workshops are held at Glenbernie Orchard, a farm run by the Fahey family, with a lovely rustic shop selling apples from the farm, potatoes, eggs, honey and more.  You can read more about how Tara found the right place to realise her workshops dream here.

The classes are held in a tin shed just a very short stroll from the farm shop – very handy for wandering across and picking up some fresh produce during a break in the breadmaking! There are hay bales with padded hessian seat-tops around a wooden table in one corner; apple crates along the walls; long wooden tables for work benches; boxes of preserving jars for sale; and flowers and herbs from Tara’s garden tucked here and there.

baking class day 008

We were welcomed with a cup of tea and a slice of cider fruit cake – a recipe I tried to wangle from Tara as it was superb, just the sort of old-fashioned, hearty fruit cake, not dry, not too moist but just right that I love. It’s an old family recipe apparently, and I hope that if Tara ever writes a book, she’ll share it there!

 Tara – a self-taught cook who previously ran a micro-bakery for a year – teaches breadkmaking and pastry classes, as well as a one-day workshop on creating an edible garden. She’s planning to add others later in the year. She’s an excellent teacher, reassuring to the beginners in the class, full of good advice, funny and knowledgeable.

I was there for the a class in making French breads. Essentially, a dough made using a poolish (a pre-ferment, where some flour, fresh yeast and water is mixed up and allowed to ferment for 12-18 hours; the rest of the flour, water, yeast and salt is then added, before kneading, rising, shaping and proving). We turned two batches of dough into fougasse (that’s Tara showing us how to do it, below), epi and an eight-roll loaf. There was kneading instruction, tips from Tara on fitting breadmaking into your day by using the fridge and freezer, shaping, baking, chatting and eating (more tea, more cake).

baking class day 010

The day ended, while the last of our loaves baked, with a cheese platter, bread Tara had baked earlier in the day and glasses of bubbly or cider (made using apples from the farm). And we were sent on our way with a bag with class notes, flour (in a lovely little branded calico sack – you can see that above, ready to be put to use in my own kitchen), some fresh yeast, a dough scraper and all the bread we’d made during the day. Those are my loaves below.

baking class day 077

So today I used Tara’s recipe to make a plaited tin loaf – started the preferment last night, made up the dough this morning, let it rise while I went shopping for the new phone (which took a lot longer than expected – a good thing it was a coolish day and the dough didn’t hurry along too much!) and shaped it when I got back.

Bread for blog 013

Bread for blog 016

Above you can see the preferment at the top, and then the dough mixed up the next day, before kneading.

Tara taught a method of kneading I haven’t used before, a kind of grabbing and slapping down on the bench. It’s very satisfying, and effective, although I’d best not test the neighbours by using it if I’m making bread late at night or early in the morning! This is the dough, below, after several minutes of slapping, and then several more minutes of stretch-and-fold kneading.

Bread for blog 024

After the longer-than-planned rise, it was actually at just the right stage for shaping – divided into three, rolled into three long pieces and plaited, then tucked into a tin.


And there we have it – a loaf created either side of a shopping expedition and posted here despite camera tech challenges! I thoroughly recommend Tara’s bread class if you’d like to learn how to make bread, or if you love breadmaking and would like to pick up some new tips and tricks. If you’d like to see more of Tara’s baking, you can also find her on instagram as @mysouthcoastkitchengarden


hey guys!

So I am currently undertaking one of the many online courses Burdastyle are offering, the ‘Activewear’ course. I have been quite keen to have a go at making my own for a while now. I’m especially inspired by Fehrtrade‘s range of sports gear, and her latest pattern, the Steeplechase Leggings, are pure genius. I previously bought the PBJam leggings pattern but of course haven’t made them yet!

Anyway, the Burdastyle course includes slopers for tops and leggings, and video tutorials to draft and make six different articles, including a sports bra. I am quite behind but luckily we will still have access to the videos after the course is over.

My first item was a running tank which was a disaster.

running tank 1 backThe fabric is cool, but something went horribly wrong with my draft at the back neckline there.

Next there is a panelled tank and a t-shirt with some interesting design lines, both of which worked quite well.

Tee front & backThis is the t-shirt, which I made from some plain black cotton lycra, and some black animal-print stretch fabric left over from these leggings.  In hindsight I should have done the sleeve panels the other way around, with the lycra at the underarm and the animal print on top, but as a totally wearable muslin (and yes, I’ve worn it already!) it’s just fine.

yoga tank front & backThe panelled tank worked well as far as size and fit goes, but sadly my overlocker decided that thread tension just wasn’t something it wanted to do anymore, so all my seams are going to need re-stitching. This tank is meant to have binding on the armholes and neckline, but I’ve left it off for now so I can go back and fix the seams, as I quite like the way it’s turned out. The black is more of the cotton lycra, and the stripe is something I’ve had in my stash for years – I’m pretty sure I got it on sale somewhere. It was a similar weight and stretch as the black fabric so worked well in this top.

And yesterday I finished the leggings assignment, after much hmm-hmming about the stretch factor of the fabric I wanted to use and the stretch factor required by the pattern.

LEGGINGS FRONT & BACKIt looks black, but it’s actually a dark-ish grey. I used a polyester lycra for the main fabric, and the contrast is some random stretch fabric I picked up in an opshop ages ago. I’ve no idea of the fibre content (apart from it being man-made, that is.) I’ve still got about 2.5m of that contrast fabric so be warned, you may see more of it being used for stretch muslins!!

The leggings fit okay, probably a smidge tight in the thigh (and definitely a bit loose in the ankle) but I will give them a test run this week and see if they are wearable.

I don’t want to give too many details of the course content as I believe they will be offering it again in the future. I’m only halfway through but I have learned quite a bit about pattern drafting, as well as many handy tips for sewing with stretch fabrics.

Stay tuned as there are a couple more garments to go in the course!


Two of my favourite Discworld novels. Although ‘favourite Discworld novel’ is a bit of an oxymoron, because really, how could one choose?

I remember when I first got my hands on a Pratchett book. I was probably about twelve or so. My sisters and I spent a lot of time reading, because when you grow up in the country there’s not a lot else to do (especially on the interminable drives into and out of town). We regularly visited a secondhand bookshop in town, the kind where you could take in a pile of books, the lady behind the counter would do some esoteric maths and give you a credit to pick out some books to take away.
I picked up a (slightly preloved) copy of The Colour of Magic for two reasons: one was of course the fabulous Josh Kirby artwork, and the other was the title – anything with the word ‘magic’ in it had my vote in those days.
And I was hooked.
I returned to that cover art many times as I read the book, and not just the first time either – every time I read that scene (or any scene featuring The Luggage, really) I would flip back to scrutinise that incredibly detailed cover.
That copy of The Colour of Magic is no longer in my possession, having been lent out and never returned; I did replace it with another secondhand copy though, just so it would feel right.
Favourite character? Well, it used to be Granny Weatherwax, until I met Sam Vimes. Which is why the two pictured above are my favourites.

I haven’t yet read Raising Steam, but I’ll be dashing out to pick that one up as soon as I can get to a bookshop; I’ve also got The Long Earth waiting on my bedside table, and obviously the other two in that trilogy are on the reading list too. I hope the publishers think to do an extra-large run of The Shepherd’s Crown, because I have a feeling that puppy is going to sell like hotcakes.

Sir Terry will be terribly missed. My heart breaks for his family and I wish them every sympathy.

EDIT: I chose to read Monstrous Regiment, which I haven’t re-read in quite some time. I wasn’t sure why until I came across this line:

“….. all the sound in the world could not have filled that sudden, tremendous silence.”

I know I’m not supposed to buy new patterns. I know that. I know I’m on a budget, and already have a gajillion patterns in my possession. But I had heaps of reasons to buy this pattern.

1. I wanted to make leggings, but I could not for the life of me find the McCalls legging pattern that I’ve not tried yet.

2. I’ve seen some bad reviews of that McCalls pattern.

3. I missed Indie Pattern Month.

4. Ummmm….. yeah, actually, that’s about it.

I did a bit of research first. There’s FehrTrade’s PBJam leggings; there’s StyleArc’s Monica Pant. There’s the Ooh La Legging from Papercut Patterns. The Carol tight by BurdaStyle. Among others! But eventually I settled on Cake’s Espresso Legging Template. The pattern had loads of lovely user-friendly reviews and I liked the concept of the personalised template. When I first printed it out & taped it together, I was a little intimidated. I’m not used to sewing with knits and I could have used a little more direction with the fabric requirements; I know that the stretch and recovery of knit fabric is kind of vital to a successful garment, but the Cake pattern didn’t really give me enough to go on: ‘Suitable for stretch fabrics’. No, really? Anyways, I had a stupid amount of white lycra at my disposal. errr…. why? And…. why? Well, it’s amazing what you can pick up backstage after a concert. This is why I have 8m of double-width white lycra.

FYI, I do karate. In winter, it can get mighty cold wearing just a heavy cotton dogi, barefoot on a wooden floor. So I got into the habit of wearing athletic tights underneath, but it’s kind of hard to get white ones in women’s sizes. Skins make white compression tights for men. But not for women. Thanks, Cricket. I did try making a pair of white tights a couple of years ago, but they ended up waaaay too big. This time however – success! Well, mostly.My measurements were out in the back crotch, making it too short in the waist. I fixed this by cutting the front down as well, so the waist was too low all the way around, then added a waistband instead of elastic.


They’ve now had a test drive (me being behind on my posts – what? really? noooooooh) and stood up quite well. I think this lycra is very very stretchy and doesn’t recover all that well, so these may get saggy sooner rather than later – but for a wearable muslin they performed admirably! And I was so excited by the success of the pattern I went and made another pair, using some stretch fabric from my stash.


It’s a sort of animal print, shiny-on-matte, and I was able to get the back crotch measurement correct on this one.

Flushed with success, I made a three-quarter length pair, using some more stash fabric, this time black with a random silvery print. However, this fabric was quite thin, and not quite as stretchy, so they ended up a little tight. Fine for a spot of loungeroom yoga, though.


Then I went completely mad and made two more pairs, one for me and one for my sister.


The fabric I used was a thick, printed lycra; I don’t know what it was intended for but it certainly wasn’t this pattern. There was not nearly enough stretch to work for the Cake pattern. Okay, yes, I probably should have been a little more accurate in checking of stretch (‘that looks about right’ doesn’t always work, in case you didn’t know) before I cut and sewed.

It was even more disappointing because the fabric was a groovy print (taupe/brown swirly for Kylie, orange galaxies for me) which is now in shapes too small to really do much with. Back into the stash it will go.

And back to the learning curve for me! I have picked up some cheap nylon lycra to practice with – when I get a little more confident I intend to purchase some supplex from Funkifabrics in the UK. The range of prints they have is INSANE and I am having serious difficulty in deciding what I would like to get!

Sadly, I didn’t make any of the above pieces during the contest period for PatternReview’s Activewear contest. I did have a top made, which I may share at some point, but  I didn’t get any pics taken in time – and to be honest, it wasn’t my best work!

So tell me – have you tried sewing stretch fabrics? Made any of your own active wear? What’s your experience?

Okay yes so my last post was, er, last year…. I know, I know, I know. I’ve had stuff going on. Stuff like this:


However, that was back in November, so not really much of an excuse!

Anyway, I may not have been posting, but I haven’t been idle. Here’s a refashion I did back in December. I couldn’t decide what to wear to the office Christmas party, so I made two tops and a pair of pants. See? That’s why I haven’t posted. Too busy makin’ stuff!

Not long ago, the clever girls over at Spit Up & Stilettos had a bit of a pattern giveaway, which I totally took advantage of. (Free patterns? I’m there in a flash!!) One of the ones I snatched was the Isabella Tank, a sleeveless top for woven fabric.

After downloading, printing, slicing, matching up and sticky-taping the pattern, I made a couple of adjustments for my curvy hips and waist, then went to town on this delightful little number.

Pink polka dot top

It’s hot pink. It’s polyester. And it has teeny tiny polka dots. It also had awesome shoulder pads and boring plastic buttons, but I got rid of those quick-smart.

It took a little creative engineering, but I managed this:


Not enough shirt fabric for the facing, so I used some white silky lining fabric from my stash.


The front pattern piece came out of the back of the shirt, but the back pattern pieces were slightly too long for the remaining front sections of the shirt. So I thought to myself, if I’m gonna add some length, it’ll look more deliberate if it’s longer. So I gave it a bit of a mullet hi-lo hem.


And a cute little heart-shaped button for the back neck closure.

The pattern fits really well – the adjustments I mentioned earlier were pretty minor. The instructions were clear and the garment was pretty simple to make up. I’m definately looking forward to trying the other patterns from SpitUp&Stilettos. Has anyone else tried any of their patterns?


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