Hi everyone!

So it’s been, ahem, a while since my last post. I do apologise – there’s been a lot going on! Not least of which was preparation for a trip to Japan for a karate training seminar! So of course I had to make time for some crafty excursions while I was there.

As luck would have it, I found a Yuzawaya on my first day in Tokyo, not ten minutes walk from my hotel. Yuzawaya, as I discovered, are sort of like Lincraft (or possibly Joanns).

Blog Collage 1

Not wanting to go too crazy on my first day, I only bought a fat quarter with a cute retro dance print, and a Japanese pattern book – Machiko Kayaki’s “home couture selection book”. It has some really cute, simple patterns that I can’t wait to try out. The instructions are of course in Japanese, which I can’t read, but the illustrations are very straightforward so I don’t think I’ll have too much trouble.

After my 3-day karate seminar, I headed off down to Nagoya, where I had enrolled in a shibori workshop. Arimatsu is known as ‘the home of shibori’ – it was a popular stopping place on the Tokkaido road, where many shibori artists plied their trade.

I took a billion photos of the Arimatsu Shibori museum, which I am going to upload to flikr as there is too many to share here. Here’s a little snippet:

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Just before you go into the museum, there are two little old ladies sitting on a platform doing shibori. You can sit and watch them, and they will demonstrate the techniques they are using, and show you samples of how it would look after dying. Of course all of this is in Japanese, of which my understanding is extremely limited, but a needle is a needle and a stitch is a stitch.

The workshop consisted of me and one of those ladies, with a pre-designed t-shirt and ‘noren’ (Japanese curtain). I’m going to do a post in further detail on this later. Basically they show you how to do the shibori stitches, then they send it off to their dyers and mail it to you. Mine arrived in Australia about two weeks after the workshop, which I thought was pretty impressive.

Here’s some souvenirs I brought home from Arimatsu:


After some more sightseeing in Nagoya I headed back to Tokyo. Thanks to tips from some awesome ladies in Those Darn Sew & Sews Facebook Group, I knew that Nippori was the place to go. It is actually called ‘Textile Town’.


It’s a whole street of fabric, craft and sewing supplies!!! Heaven!

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It was sensory overload after a while, though. So many great fabrics, so little room in the suitcase…

I took an organised approach and did a lap of the main drag, stepping into nearly every shop, taking pictures of fabrics I liked so I wouldn’t forget. Then I wrote a little wish list, and then I pared that back to how much I could actually afford to buy/fit in the suitcase. That turned out to be quite a lot, as I’d packed an empty duffel for exactly that purpose!

First purchase was a blouse pattern and some sweet cat-print lawn to make it from. On the way to the register I picked up a remnant of cotton in a groovy retro floral print.

DSCF9643The pattern was 1,000 yen, the lawn was 900Y per metre and the remnant was 850Y (it’s 110x110cm – about a square yard). The Aussie dollar is not that strong against the Yen at the moment, but the lawn cost aout AUD$11/metre, and the cotton about AUD$10. These were from one of the Tomato shops – there were at least three. It’s the same shop, but with different departments in different locations along the street. One of them I didn’t go into at all, because there was a queue out onto the street!!

Next stop was some black cotton print. The cotton prints are quite heavy, like a quilting fabric, but with an uneven weave which gives them a lovely texture. I bought a pre-cut 2m piece for 1290Y (about AUD$15).

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These next two pieces were purely for colour & print! Unfortunately despite my best efforts I lost the reciept, but I don’t think I paid more than AUD$20 for the lot.

The circle print on the left is a soft, drapey woven, possibly viscose or rayon. The floral/plaid on the right is a crisp polycotton woven.


Precut pieces were everywhere, and I couldn’t resist these little bits of animal print, and a piece of laminated print – panda bento!! The laminate was 650Y (50cm x 112cm) and the fat quarters were 108Y each.


These two little bits are both 50cm x 110cm and were 400Y each; heavy cotton woven.


Of course I couldn’t resist some stretch fabric too! These two pieces were 900Y/m. They are a heavy jersey, sort of like ponte. I’m thinking sportswear, of course!


You can’t spend much time on Fabric Street without wandering into a second-hand kimono shop. I found three, but I have a feeling there were a few more on some of the side streets. 20160402_144813

Racks and racks and racks of pre-loved kimono! Both mens’ and womens’. I thought I was dreaming when I saw the price on this one – 1000Y!! That’s about AUD$12, folks!!


This one is hip-length and is fully lined.

At those prices, though, I couldn’t go all the way to Japan and only buy one.

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Isn’t she beautiful?? She is definitely pre-loved – there are a couple of tiny stains and the lining has seen better days. But for 1000Y I can find a home for that gorgeous print. There’s so much fabric to use in a full-length kimono!

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Also in those stores they sell parts of kimono – I guess in an effort to recycle as much of the garments as possible. I snagged a shibori scarf and a old sleeve for a couple of hundred yen. (I’ll be using that shibori scarf in a future blog to show you more about shibori!)

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(I did actually buy a few other pieces, but I’m not going to share them here yet as they are destined to be gifts.)

I’d love to hear from anyone who has shopped in Nippori, or anywhere else in Japan that rocks the fabric world!


And if you haven’t seen this, you don’t know what you’re missing:

Seriously though, I do actual active things in my active wear, and if you’ve followed the blog at all you might recall the time I did the Burdastyle Activewear Course. It was a good course and if you want to get into sewing with stretch fabric, I recommend it as a good starting point.

After the course I went and bought miles of stretch fabrics, most of which has been languishing in the cupboard for quite some time. Finally, I got around to redrafting a pattern for a sports crop top, and making it up in a couple of the groovier fabrics I’d found.

Croptop collage

First up was the blue not-quite-animal print. It fits okay around the bust but the shoulder straps are too long, it looks snug but does not provide enough support.

As a practice run, though, it was a great success. I sewed the first side seam and then moaned for a few minutes because I’d messed up the tension and it was too loose…. then I realised something.


Croptop Collage 2I’d flatlocked it.

Completely by accident, and back to front, but I had!

I scribbled down those tension numbers right away, then finished that top and started the next one, this time in a bright geometric print with a contrast side panel. I’d found the bra had too much room in the front armhole, so I created a side-front panel and took a little wedge out of that seam. I got the flatlocking round the right way this time. Looks almost professional!


As you can see it could probably do with a little more taken out.


Both tops were lined in the front with white powernet. In the photo above it looks like only the side panel was lined, but I assure you it was the whole front.

I did the edge finishes in two different ways. For the blue bra, I sewed elastic directly onto the fabric edge, stretching it a little as I went, just using a zigzag stitch. Then I folded it to the inside, and stitched it down – armholes with a zigzag again, and the neckline with a twin needle. This was an experimental piece after all, I just really wanted to see what various finishes were going to look like.


On the green/geoprint top, I used a binding of the same fabric as the side panel, basically the same way you’d normally do a contrast binding, only stretching the binding as I sewed as I would have with elastic.


The lower edge elastics on both were done the same way as the blue top’s armholes, only using a wider (and fairly strong) elastic.

The geo-print top has better support than the blue one, but still seems a little long in the shoulder strap area, so the pattern will have to undergo at least one more permutation! Maybe I’ll finally get around to making some tights…

Have you tried sewing activewear? I’d love to hear what patterns you may have tried!


My apologies, dear friends, I have been remiss in updating the blog. Here’s the yeild of some recent adventures in the sewing room.

Tee One:


Using the Zoe Raglan from Liola Patterns (which has become one of my favourite patterns EVER!) I created this contrast tee. The Zoe pattern has a groovy multi-pleated long sleeve, so I redrafted the sleeve pattern to get a plain short sleeve.


The main body of the tee is a viscose jersey (or rayon jersey, however you want to call it) that I picked up in a remnant bin for about $6. I love rayon, in a woven or a jersey. It just feels soooo nice. The sleeve pieces are cotton sateen, left over from another project (that one was a total fail, unfortunately, which was a shame because I really dug that print). Because the cotton sateen had less stretch than the jersey, I added a little more ease – about a dress size’s worth – into the sleeve. Sometimes winging it works, because I love this tee!


The neckline I bound with a bias strip of the sateen – I know, as a stretch fabric I could have used it on the straight grain but intuition told me bias would be better – and I was right, it sits nice and flat. I think the contrast neckline really adds some drama! I also gave it a slightly dropped hem at the back – not obvious in this picture.

Tee Two:


Another remnant, this is a fairly rigid cotton interlock – half price remnants rule! I managed to squeeze out blouse #122 from Burdastyle June 2011. You can see their version here. The pattern is designed for cotton sateen, but as this interlock wasn’t too stretchy I thought it would work okay (having just played with some sateen recently!) I wanted to make the top a bit longer than the pattern but didn’t have quite enough fabric.


I think the boat neckline is rather sweet, but I haven’t worn this top yet so not sure how it will go. It’s still a bit warm here for anything with long sleeves!

And finally, Tee Three:

ombre top refashion

This was a last-minute refashion (because I love a deadline – NOT) brought on by The Monthly Stitch’s Challenge for January – “Cheers for New Years”, a beverage-inspired theme.

I originally bought this tunic ($3, I think, it’s been in the refashion pile for some time) because it reminded me vaguely of the Macchu Picchu cocktail I’d seen years ago, holidaying in Peru. I realised later the colours were all wrong, but I still really liked the ombre effect of the fabric.


Last week when I finally caught up on some blog reading, I saw the January Challenge and immeadiately thought of this tunic. A quick search of the interwebs led me to believe the colours were in fact more along the lines of a Black Velvet – but I was still in the realm of layered cocktails! (Not that I’m a big drinker, mind, but they are pretty!)

Back I went to my trusty retro Butterick 6572, which has been a bit of a workhorse pattern for me. For this version I skipped the front placket and drafted a facing instead.

DSCF9381There was a slight shortage of fabric across the bust – the tunic was a small size – but a little gusset under the arms and a cap at the top of each sleeve took care of that. I used the original hemline, to save both time (no unpicking, no hemming!) and fabric. I took the time to understitch the neck facing – a process I highly recommend as it achieves such a great result. This fabric was a slippery polyester which did give me some greif. (And unpicking all the beading on the original sleeves was a bit of a nightmare, too!)


Seems like a while since I did a ‘refashion’ that didn’t involve using a paper pattern and recycled materials. This is one that stalled a while back for want of orange thread for my overlocker. Today I decided that my regular machine could handle it just fine.


It all began with this knit top and chiffon shirt. I liked the double button effect on the shirt….. but not enough to wear it as is.

Orange top collage

So what I did was slice the sides off of the knit top. Then out of the shirt I cut two pairs of dolman-shaped sleeve-side pieces. I french-seamed them together at the shoulders. Because the chiffon shirt wasn’t long enough, I needed to add some length at the bottom of the side panels. Originally I was going to use the sleeves of the chiffon top to get this length, but in between starting this refashion, stalling it, and starting it again, I lost some of the fabric and didn’t have enough. Instead I used the knit top sleeves, cleverly using the sleeve hems at the bottom on the garment.


Once the side/sleeve pieces were altogether, I sewed them onto the sides of the knit top using a shallow zigzag stitch. I then used my serger (with plain old white thread) to finish those two long seams.


There’s plenty of tutorials on the internet concerning how to hem very light fabrics like chiffon. Basically they seem to come down to this: fold under once and stitch (using a small stitch length). Trim raw edge close to stitching line. Fold under again and stitch. Press. Done. Actually it was pretty easy.

And that was it! Done!


My hems are out by like 2mm there at the back. Please ignore. (Also please ignore my weekend hairstyle. On lazy Sundays in the sewing room, I really could care less about the hairdo!)


Knickers were the name of the game today!



I used the free pattern from So Zo What Do You Know? and some various bits of jersey leftover from a few projects (you might remember this, this and this).



The blue picot-edge knicker elastic and the red stretch lace are both op shop scores; the maroon picot elastic I bought ages ago from Lincraft. It matched the maroon jersey perfectly!

I made the shiny purple ones first to test the pattern out. They fit so well I immediately production-lined another three pairs. To be honest I’d been meaning to make some undies for ages, but it kept slipping down the priority list.



Made any underthings lately, or found a good underwear pattern? I’d love to hear about it!

Whew! Another busy month passes by, and I missed the Monthly Stitch deadline by only one day.

October’s challenge was ‘The Final Frontier’. I immediately thought of this sweet Star Wars print voile that I picked up a recent sale:


But I just couldn’t decide what to make out of it.

But then I remembered a cute poplin I had in my stash with an unbrella/cloud print. And I needed new summer pyjamas. Voila!


The top is actually a nod to a previous challenge, Vintage Patterns, which I failed. Vogue 9215 has been on my to-do list for quite some time.

Vogue 9215

Now, Vogue 9215 is a Size 8. I am not a size 8. So I decided to put my newfound pattern-grading skills to the test again, and graded the little jacket up to a 14.

You guys!!! It worked!!!! This little baby fits perfectly. I used some scraps of blue satin from my stash for the neck band and cuff facings, to make it look pyjama-ey, and I think it looks adorable. The buttons, also from my stash, cost me 60c from an op shop somewhere in Melbourne.


For the shorts I used good old Simplicity 2721. They are pretty baggy but I’m going for sleep comfort here!! To keep the theme I used a bit more of the blue satin to bind the leg hems.


Sewing the square corner of the neck band seam was a little tricky, but luckily I had only recently completed very similar navigations on StyleArc’s Tamara Top. I was lazy and didn’t baste the seam this time (I should have!!) but it turned out okay.

The cuff facings were terribly flappy and I did have to tack them down all the way around. There’s a couple of episodes of Stargate Atlantis right there! Hand-sewing is a such great time to catch up on your sci-fi viewing.

The cuffs were also supposed to have little buttons on each side but a) I only had six of the little blue ones and b) I thought as PJ’s it might not be comfy to have buttons sticking into my shoulders all night.

Hope you all had a happy Hallowe’en, whatever country you’re in! I guess because it’s the day after, I should really be saying happy All Saints’ Day, right? 😉

Hi all!

September’s theme on The Monthly Stitch was ‘Vintage Patterns’. I decided I was going to dip into some of my gorgeous retro Burda Moden magazines for a pattern.


This is only a selection. I have more.

But which one to choose from? So many fabulous offerings.



Backless was all the rage in the German summer of ’77.


Honestly, I could totally see this dress walking down King St on a Saturday night (or Oxford St, or whatever street near you that has trendy party people on a Saturday night).

But then there’s this beach robe.


Oh. My. God. It has POCKETS, people, POCKETS in the LAPEL!!! Because you need somewhere to keep your sunscreen!!! Does it get any better??

Eventually I decided to make this cute little wrap sundress, which reminded me of the Big4 vintage pattern reproduction that was so popular a couple of years ago.


Now, the old Burda Moden magazines only had each pattern in one size. And this dress was a 36. Which I am not. So this was going to be my pattern-grading lesson as well. There’s heaps of tutorials out the in the interwebs, so I got out my tracing paper and my ruler and my coloured pencils and got to work grading up to a 40 (or thereabouts, based on my measurements).

The good news is, when I made up the muslin, the bodice was perfect. Sadly, the very full gathered skirt made me look downright frumpy. No photos. Nope. I was disappointed and didn’t have the heart to continue with the pretty fabric I had dug out of my stash. I’m thinking I could do pleats instead of gathers, as they sit flatter, and also take some of the fullness out completely. But basically that project got sidelined for the time being.

The rest of my September weekends were full of non-sewing related stuff and I didn’t actually get much sewn until last weekend, in a last-ditch effort to produce a successful ‘vintage’ pattern project.


Enter McCalls 6852, circa 1980-something. That dolman/batwing sleeve is ‘on-trend’ right now I believe! The pattern is a 14, but it’s designed for a woven cut on the bias. I decided to not do any grading and make it out of jersey.


With a nod to Buy Nothing New Month, I recycled two t-shirts and a thrifted maxi skirt to make version ‘A’ of this pattern. The back of the tee is solid black. I’m wearing it today and it’s oh-so-comfy! The fabrics are a soft viscose or rayon jersey so have a nice drape and hand. Sadly I didn’t make the September deadline for The Monthly Stitch, but I might sneak over and post it anyway 🙂

Summer hit Sydney pretty hard on the weekend so I see some more short-sleeved makes in the future. There’s some of that the printed jersey from the thrifted maxi left so it may make another appearance.

Do you have any seasonal projects upcoming? Do you use thrifted fabrics?