The Accidental Zero Waste Dress

I’m all for zero waste, but the last time I attempted a zero waste garment it didn’t turn out so well.

What can I say. Not great unless you are after a Japanese look.

This time zero waste wasn’t my intention, but this is all that was left of 2m of batik, 120 wide. Not quite zero, but pretty darn close!

We are about to treat ourselves to a holiday in Vanuatu, after a very stressful and extremely busy year. Once upon a time I had 3 weeks off for my Christmas summer break, but this year it appears not only to be late, but to have shrunk as well. Still, one week is better than nothing. I am so tired I intend to veg and do nothing but eat and sleep. Forget sightseeing, culture and shopping, I intend to be almost exclusively in the pool or in the horizontal. (Well, maybe a bit of fabric shopping, if there is anything interesting.)

What I thought was needed to swan around the resort, on my way to meals, was a tropical style caftan. Not the sort of garment I need in my everyday life or will wear once back home, but I had some batik left from my last Bali trip and was going to give it a go.

I started off tearing a 6cm strip off along the end of my fabric, for the shoulder strap. Then I sewed the fabric length into the round with a French seam and topstitched that. I made this the side seam opposite the draped side and used a bodice pattern piece (Eva dress) to cut the armscye. I didn’t bother to make the front and back armscye different, just layed the back piece onto the doubled fabric and cut the armscye and shoulder with a rotary cutter. I sewed up the shoulder seam and finished the armscye with a bias trip in a matching colour. This resulted in a rectangle with an armscye in the top corner, worn on an angle.

The shoulder strap had to be placed carefully to hide my bra straps and this would have been a great deal easier with some help. But DH was at work, as he always is right now, and I eventually managed to get the straps in the right place. This took longer than all the rest of the sewing time on this garment! Then I sewed up the open fabric below my armpit and let it drape down.

All that was left now was to use the cut off piece from the armscye to make a tie to gather the straps on the top of my shoulder into a sort of simulated bow and hand sew this in place. Mission accomplished!

…and some location shots…

Lizard Print

Creativity needs energy, and all my energy has been syphoned off by endless hours of work lately, so I haven’t done much printing or fabric painting for yonks. But a few days off over Christmas have revitalised me somewhat, so I have got stuck into block printing. It didn’t hurt that my first project has turned out really well, so then I wanted to do more. Here is a lizard print, grey on light blue cotton.

The Tessuti Mandy, sleeveless and in a cotton woven, is the ideal backdrop. Super simple shape, although you need to enlarge the armscyes etc to make the pattern woven friendly (instructions here). The fabric is the other side of the doona cover I already used for the Sydney dress. I also made a shirt out of the same side as this top, so I really had to eke out the top from what was left. A shirt, a top and a dress isn’t bad for the $11 the ‘as is’ Ikea doona cover cost me! Who says you can’t save money sewing?

However, I have been a little dissatisfied with the quality of block printing. It doesn’t deposit a nice thick layer of paint on the fabric like stencilling or screen printing. Here is a close-up of what I mean.

Not the end of the world that the prints are patchy, but I am going to try some stencilling to see if this will make me happier with the quality. Because I print whole garments with repeating motifs, block printing has been convenient. Put the block on the fabric, apply pressure, take it off, ink it again and put it in the next spot to build up a pattern. With stencilling I could create a stencil with several motifs at once, tesselating, but getting it all to fit together nicely is a bit more effort. So I think I will attempt the same MO with one motif on the stencil. For that to work the important thing is to use a transparent stencil, so I can see where the motifs have to go.


My doona covers tend to not wear out evenly all over, because DH perspires a lot during the night, which means that the top of his cover gets weak and tears while the rest is still good. Sometimes I can patch it, but often I have to replace the doona covers, which leaves me with a lot of fabric on my hands. One lot I made into furoshiki, Japanese wrapping cloths, to cut down my use of plastic bags, and some has been good for muslins. This particular fabric yielded summer and winter pyjamas, a nightie and a top.

So here are the summer pyjamas, authentically rumpled and photographed one morning before getting into the shower. The top is based once again on the Tessuti Mandy Tee with a cuff instead of sleeves, and the pants on my Vogue 8712, my favourite pants pattern but unfortunately OOP, cropped short. Any wide leg pants, elasticised at the top for comfort, would be similar if cropped to above ankle length.

The fabric came from IKEA and originally made lovely bedding, and now has a second life as equally lovely night wear.


I always thought the linen I salvaged from a sofa slip cover would make some nice garments one day. ‘One day’ took a decade or two, but fortunately linen only gets better with age. So here is what I made out of one of the cushion covers, after a little judicious block printing (sofa cushions tend to pick up stains).

The pattern was another version of the Tessuti Mandy, shortened to high hip level and minus the sleeves. For this I needed two pieces 75x55cm for front and back, and a couple of small pieces for the cuffs I added where the sleeves would have joined. I made them 15cm wide and folded them double. This makes a terrific summer top, even if I say so myself, it was absolutely free and repurposing makes me feel virtuous. What’s not to like? 🙂

Wedding Guest

My niece was married a couple of weeks ago and it was such a happy occasion! You could tell that the brides had been planning this event for years and had put a lot of thought into the service. Not a dry eye in the house! Each wore the wedding dress of their dreams (not the same, that would have been weird), but both traditional long and white, one featuring lace and the other beading.

It was a daytime mid week summer wedding, so quite informal, and a hot day. I have quite a lot of dresses I could have worn, but at the last minute I decided to use a beautiful cotton/silk print I have been sitting on for years waiting for the right occasion. It had arrived!

It is the sort of fabric that wants to do all the talking, so a very simple style without too many seams to interrupt the design was in order. I used my trusty TNT, the Tessuti Lily Linen dress, hybridised with the armscyes and short sleeves from the Tessuti Eva, another trusty TNT.. The sewing took next to no time, including the cutting out and some frog stitching after a brain blip when I attempted to attach the bias binding for the neck to the hem. 🙂

I thought seriously about ballooning the hem by attaching it to a cotton slip, and possibly twisting it a bit, but work has been very busy lately, and time and energy are at a premium right now. So I folded back the hem at the sides by about 15cm to add some interest to the hem. Flat sandals with bling, a straw hat and a baroque pearl necklace completed the outfit. I felt very comfortable and stylish.

The StyleArc Sydney Designer Dress

Even though I am quite short (1.61cm), I always have and still do like oversized clothes. The Sydney has tempted me to try a new pattern,  but like all oversized styles it is designed for the tall and slim. It was pretty clear that it would need some modifications to make it suitable for short, round-ish me.

Lets look at the drawing on the StyleArc website.

And now the fashion pic.

I think you need to be pretty tall for it to look like this. The pic below I found on the net gives a better idea of how much volume there is, although unfortunately it is slightly sideways.


Too much volume for me, as I discovered when I made up a muslin. I cut a size 12, which should fit me pretty well according to the size chart. It was huge, as I more or less expected.

I have said it before and at the risk of sounding like a cracked record I will say it again: a lot of volume in the skirt only looks good on me when the bodice is fairly fitted. so I took in the bottom of the bodice by about 10-12cm, which is a fair whack in anyone’s book. I know there are some wrinkles above the bust, which make it look as if it is too tight, but there is plenty of room. I get those wrinkles all the tim when taking photos, even with loose garments, because my camera is up quite high and I need to lft my arms to turn on the timer to take each shot. The fabric seems to be getting bunched up on my bra when I raise my arms and I never remember to pull it down for the photo. Anyone else have this problem?

After I had narrowed the bottom of the bodice I took a good 30cm out of the skirt circumference as well, divided up between the 6 vertical seams. The result was much better.

But what I also discovered was that the front of the dress has a lot more volume than the back. So for the real version in a light cotton I decided to use the pieces for back of the skirt at the front as well. Then I made 1.5cm seams, which would have taken a further 6-8cm out of the circumference all up. Even 2cm at each seam wouldn’t have hurt.

I skipped the front pockets because I wanted to top stitch the vertical seams. This looks nice but would have been difficult with the pockets. If you really want them it would be very easy to put them in the side seams instead.

All the sewing details are on PatternReview and here are the pics.

Win Some, Lose Some

Not everyone of my projects ends up being absolutely awesome, I have to say. Some things are just a little ordinary and maybe I should write about them too, in the interests of passing on what I have learnt.

This tunic started life as a cover-up for plane travel. Australians are cursed with very long flights if we want to go anywhere but New Zealand, and achieving any sort of comfort is not easy in cattle class. The cotton seersucker I used does not crush and is light and breathable. Planes are often hot, especially when the airline wants you to sleep, and the air is invariably extremely dry. Having a cowl around my face to breathe into saves my air passages from becoming dried out and vulnerable to infection, and a light cover over any exposed skin stops the rest of me from turning into a prune.

There was no real pattern, only a very large square, with dropped shoulders to just about my elbows, and sleeves starting from there. As much as I used to love wearing a tent, these days that seems a tent pole too far. But the tunic had also been very useful in previous years as a light cover when the days are warm enough for short sleeves or even sleeveless, but the mornings are still cool. So instead of keeping it only for travel and make something new to better fit my now preferred silhouette, I decided to fiddle with it, taking out volume and making the dropped shoulders less extreme.

I liked the result a lot, that is until I saw these photos. Funny how some things look so much better in the mirror! I don’t mind looking short and round instead of long and lean, but judging from the photos the wide hem across my hips doesn’t do me any favours, at least not when the black underneath highlights it as it does. Maybe it will look better over a light coloured top, must remember that next time I wear it.

The cowl is quite long and I think would look better just collapsing into itself rather than being rolled like in the photo. That just makes the whole top look even more chunky.

On the upside, my new haircut looks rather good, which is a win. I can take the tunic off, but the hair is more permanent, at least until it grows again. After 15 years of a more or less shoulder length bob I took the plunge and went short, sort of by degrees, but the latest iteration is really really short! I must say I love how easy it is to maintain, because I have quite thick hair and when it is long it takes forever to blow dry. With this cut I just blow it about with the hair dryer for a couple of minutes after towelling it off, without even using a brush or trying to shape it, then brush through it and I am ready to go. How good is that!

I was lucky to find a hairdresser who doesn’t object to someone my age still wanting to look as good as I can, and was prepared to put some effort into making it happen. Worth his weight in gold, that man. For anyone in Sydney, allow me to recommend Ambrogio in Crows Nest. I am in no way affiliated, just a happy customer.

This is the photo on Pinterest that inspired my latest look. Doesn’t she look great!

The Tessuti Iris Dress

I finally got around to buying and making the Iris dress, after my first attempt at it using the Eva as a base and winging it from there. Of course it is the depth of winter now, so linen and sleeveless wasn’t going to cut it. Fortunately I found some Ponte in a suitable colour combination (always a problem!) at a sale, for a winter friendly version.

The actual Iris turned out to be a bit more slimline than my fudged version, and as much as I like the extra volume in a light batik for summer, I do love the more neat and trim version in Ponte. There are other differences too, the lower skirt is wider (I think I had lack of fabric issues with the batik) and the bodice seems a little longer, — not to mention the long sleeves and cowl!

For those who want to know, all the sewing details are on PatternReview.

The StyleArc Maisie Dress

Well, this is a prime example that first impressions can be deceiving. I remember a lot of scoffing online when the pattern first came out, fellow sewists saying how ridiculous it looked. I wasn’t so sure, I thought I could see potential, but the fabric combo of the example put me right off.

I have to confess at this point that I have zero talent when it comes to combining fabrics, especially if this involves prints. I have seen some beautiful examples, created by other people, that I would be thrilled to wear, but my own efforts in that direction have never even made it to the cutting out stage. And so the Maisie was tucked away somewhere in the back of my mind, percolating with the rest of my creative maybe-one-day ideas.

That was until I had bought some Ponte and was looking for a pattern to make this into the type of cocoon dress Rundholz does so well. And as much as I love the Tessuti Eva and Iris, I wanted something new freshen up my small, carefully curated, sure-to-work TNT dress pattern collection.

So I had another look at the Maisie, ignoring the fashion drawing and zooming in on the line drawing. Forget the two colours, I thought, and certainly forget the print and plain combo, the bones are good. Really, really good. The only doubt I had was whether the bodice would be a little long on me, but I decided to cut as per pattern. Lopping a few cm off later is relatively easy, adding on much less so. Looking at the photos, shortening the bodice by 3-4cm is probably worth a try next time.

I toyed with the idea of piping the angled horizontal seams, but simple is much more my style. Topstitching is quite enough as a decorative accent.

The round neck is just right for a blue silk scarf, or one of my blue gemstone necklaces, picking up the tiny blue slubs in the dark grey Ponte.

So here it is, the Maisie in an almost plain fabric, with and without a big infinity scarf and one of my me-made necklaces.

Katherine Tilton Top

I just love the Tilton sisters’ patterns, they are right up my sewing alley. Although this Vogue 8690 by Katherine has been in my stash for a while, it is now OOP and I only just got around to making it. I think it was the V neck that stopped me from making it sooner. I know lots of people like V necks, but I somehow avoid them like the plague. Not sure why, I suppose it’s one of my idiosyncrasies. Being a sewist means I don’t have to put up with anything I don’t like.

Anyway, July and the beginning of August are the coldest time here, doesn’t last long, only around 6 weeks, but it always makes me want to make some quilted tops for warmth. This off-white one is this year’s effort, made with a quilted viscose bought the last time I managed to get to a fabric market in Germany. Keeps me nice and toasty while the temps are down.

The shape of the V8690 is a nice variation on the big Lagenlook top with its side vents. I put a bit of extra volume into the back, and got rid of that pesky V neck. The dead of winter needs a big cowl to keep me warm. 🙂

I am wearing it with my favourite pencil skirt, a Bengaline tube with only one seam at the back, a yoga foldover top and a coverstitch hem. Can’t get any simpler.