Sunday, 25 September 2016


I bought the most marvelous leather hide over a year ago.

Burnished to a beautiful hue - neither gold, nor bronze, nor pewter or platinum.

But somehow a magical mix of all, straying to one hue or another in different lights and with various backgrounds.

Magical perfection.

And LARGE! So far I have made a clutch, sandals and this latest bag and I still have plenty left!

I had been dreaming of making a supersized tote out of this leather. I even stalked my neighbour's RTW tote, whose design lines and seaming intrigued me no end. I borrowed it and took photo after photo of all the details. But I just couldn't figure out how I'd achieve all the exposed seams and a similar pattern was not forthcoming.

And so my hide languished, occasionally brought out to be stroked and yearned over.

Then at the library last week, I stumbled across this book...

And lo and behold as I flicked through it's lovely projects, I saw this awesome sling bag...

And the decision was made. It's big, it's interesting, but still simple and stylish.

This make wasn't without swear words. Whilst the outside of this hide slides beautifully through the feed dogs of my Janome, the insides... oh my, the insides.

You see this beauty has a black heart. Literally. The backing of the hide has been dyed a very heavy black and the suede tends to flake off and get on everything. My Janome was not pleased or enamoured. Oh no, she spluttered and misstepped and basically told that leather to get the hell off her.

But I am nothing if not completely single-minded and bullish and I forced that baby through. I might want to consider a leather foot or walking foot for future leather projects, I know.

The topstitching was dicey to say the least. The bag is formed from four pieces, with the front and back composed of two pieces joined in the centre, with the handle cut on and seamed at the top. Those seams are sewn as normal with right sides together, then the seam allowances finger pressed open and topstitched down from the right side.

I used a size 16 leather needle and regular polyester thread to start, but realised the thread broke very easily which alarmed me (wasn't my regular Gutermann, let's just say that). So I switched to upholstery thread (which I used on my clutch) which I do think is great for leather sewn on a machine. It's strong and I think it's weight is more visually appealing on anything above garment weight leather when the stitching is exposed.

Side and bottom seams are not pressed open or topstitched.

Needless to say I am ecstatic with the result and see myself getting bucketloads of use out of this. It's truly a statement bag and since metallics are my neutrals it'll go with pretty much my entire wardrobe... especially those lace ups...

Stay tuned to see my next pair of leather sandals which are in progress. Just waiting for an awesome water-based (non-toxic, yippee!) glue to arrive.

Saturday, 16 July 2016


Sometimes a fabric just screams to be scooped up and taken home to be loved and stroked and perhaps even made into a garment that makes you squeal hell yes!

Special fabrics. Delightfully soft and spongy woolly fabrics.

In the most unusual and vibrant shade.

A golden shade. A shade of perfection.

In a boiled wool that surpasses all my previous experiences of boiled wool.

Even when said fabric is a small remnant 90cm x 150cm from Pitt Trading and you're in the habit of making voluminous tops of the trapeze/sack variety.

And that's where Japanese pattern books completely come to the rescue yet again.

This is Pattern S from a book with ISBN 978-4-579-11517-4 and my translator app tells me is titled The Form of Clothes. But I like Christy's interpretation after making up a piece. She made up the title Rectangles and Circles with Head Holes, which is kind of an accurate description!

As such it is untranslated, but after making up many many Japanese patterns before and based on the utter simplicity of construction it was a breeze to sew up. From tracing the pattern, to lengthening said pattern, to cutting and sewing - all up maybe 90 minutes max. That's partly due to the beauty of boiled wool which requires no edge finishing or hemming. Yeeha!

This is a very cropped over-top as drafted and since I am long bodied it would have hit at a weird place on my torso. The pattern calls for 90cm of fabric and my remnant when I measured it was closer to 1m. As a result I was able to add 5cm length to the top and I'm so pleased with the result. It's cropped, but not too cropped and in fact hits basically at the top of my jeans waistband when viewed from wearing height (all my photos are taken on a mound so the camera has to point up a little. It makes me look tall and my clothes short!).

The pattern calls for applying fusible stay tape to the neckline, lower hem edge and sleeve edges to stabilise those edges. I followed those directions except for the sleeve opening, as it would have been visible during wear. I also stabilised the entire length of the shoulder/sleeve top seam with the same fusible tape applied to the back seam allowance only.

The raw edges of the neckline, sleeve openings and hem are finished with a row of topstitching 1/8" in from the edge as directed by the instructions. This is to assist in ensuring fraying doesn't get out of control, which is not necessary with a boiled wool, but I figured it would stabilise those edges further.

My skin is normally quite sensitive to wool, but this fabric is so delightfully soft I can wear it directly against my skin. I am wearing a tank under the top in these shots, and in colder weather I'd add a long sleeved tee. I didn't pre-wash the fabric as... wool. It will have to be a dry clean only garment which I'm ok with as I will always have a layer underneath and wool is very good at repelling soiling. Famous last words??

I don't care, this top is such an impossibly perfect surprise I'm gonna kiss it and hug it and maybe even sleep with it. Yep, you read it here first!

And dang if it doesn't look fabulous paired with my new gold lace ups. It's a good day people, a good day.

Saturday, 2 July 2016


Sydney has been doing its darnedest to freeze my butt off this winter.

I know, I know, compared to other places in the world it's positively balmy.

But seriously, it's been the coldest it has been in 20 years. There's no snow, no sleet, not even a true cover of frost in the morning. But my poor body is not coping.

Me shivering and looking grumpy about being outside in the cold
I was not made for cold climes. My bones hurt, my skin resembles a lizard about to shed and I get tired of shivering. So much shivering. And my clients shrink away from my hands in horror at their frozen touch (it's ok, I am expected to touch them and it's not at all creepy... I swear).

Sydney homes are invariably not set up for cold weather. We have pathetic little heaters we drag out for about four weeks a year and swear next winter we're going to upgrade and get something a bit more effective.

But we never do. Because, four weeks! But lord those four weeks knock me off my normally warm little feet.

I needed a new coat, and fast. My Tessuti Sydney Jacket was simply not cutting the mustard in this (frigid) cold with its (ridiculous) 3/4 sleeves (I still don't get that). So what's a maker to do? We make!!

I had a piece of mystery coating fabric I picked up for a song at a Salvos Store a number of years ago that had been moldering in my stash. I'd known it was moth eaten along one edge, but I'd taken it with me anyway as I could tell that the rest (about 1.7m) was of reasonable quality. And then it just sat there.

I always thought that making a coat was too fussy. Involving too many tailoring techniques and such, when those who know me, know I like a quick-ish win.

But one can never forget the power of the Japanese pattern. How could I forget, since pretty much every item I make these days is from a Japanese pattern book? And after a little perusing I found the perfect match for my sensibilities and my stash fabric.

This is Coat 1-A from Aoi Koda's Pattern Lessons for Autumn and Winter Wear.

In my opinion there's a lot to love about this coat. It has the slightly more casual feel of a duffle coat (without the toggle closures I'm personally not that fond of) but with a nicely double-breasted closure. A soft, relaxed fit. A good partner to my everyday uniform of skinny jeans and boots.

Perfection. I just needed to figure out how to tetris my pattern around the moth eaten sections. And yay me! I did it!

In terms of the outer fabric it appears to be at least mostly wool. A burn test revealed nothing but natural fibre, and whilst I understand burn test results are often sullied in a mixed fibre cloth, there was absolutely no chemical smell or hard melted beading. And, shock horror, given that the fabric cost me next to nothing I decided to toss it in the washing machine on a wool cycle to pre-treat it and not only did it weirdly survive perfectly, but it stunk of wet sheep. Good enough for me.

I cut according to my measurements with a size 9 at the shoulder and bust, an 11 at the waist  and a 13 at the hip (yes, hello pear). I did toile it in a delightful (not) piece of yellow corduroy to check fit and the only changes I made were to add 1cm to the length of the arms and 3cm to the jacket hem. I wanted it to cover my tush and it does rather nicely now.

The pattern calls for a different fabric for the under collar and back neck facing. I'm not sure what kind of fabric was suggested as my translator app completely threw up its hands. But I had a vision. A vision of using my carefully hoarded 1/2 yard of Amy Butler Lotus Wall Flower fabric. I don't even know what I was thinking when I purchased this 1/2 yard (!!) piece probably five years ago. But hooray! It finally found it's perfect home.

I just adore the pop of collar and whilst the weights of the fabrics are quite vastly different, I still think it works beautifully.

In my planning phase I also envisioned yellow binding used to finish the edges of the front and back facings. The pattern called simply for overlocking or zizagging the edges and that would have been adequate... but a bit un-special. I imagined my coat blowing open and seeing a cheerful pop of yellow against the black. Then I thought, why stop at that? I'll bind the sleeve and coat hem edges too instead of the double fold hem suggested.

This fabric seriously attracts link like nobody's business. I swear it's not pilling already.
And what easier or better way to bind than using my Singer Featherweight and its miraculous binding foot?? Genius, just genius.

Then of course I had to have the yellow buttons to tie the look together. Because black is not normally my "thing".

I reinforced the pocket openings with the little triangle stitch thingy I always do on patch pockets and I'm kind of cursing myself that I didn't at least reinforce the pocket opening with stay tape if not actually fusing the entire patch. I can see how it might will stretch out what with me constantly shoving my hands deep down seeking warmth. Ah well you live and learn.

I went off piste from the instructions when I completely interfaced (fused) the front and back facing with whisper weft (or the medium weight version of this. I relied on the lovely Susan to advise me when I purchased these at Pitt Trading). I really felt it would better stabilise the edges, and the front as a whole, than the suggested fusible stay tape around the facing edges.

The pattern was untranslated which presented a few challenges since I'd never really made a coat before (the Sydney doesn't really count). I had made my Jacket Mona, but I was still puzzling over some of the diagrams. I had the genius idea to check some of my English translated tomes and lo and behold there were a few jacket patterns and the one step I couldn't quite work out was solved.

And in the end, I freakin' nailed it!!

Nailed. It.

P.S. Sorry for the deluge of photos, I'm just so crazily proud!!!