Swing Coat

As much as I enjoy Lagenlook, I have found it difficult to come up with good jackets. The main problem is that of fitting over Lagenlook tunics, especially regarding to sleeves. Because some of my LL tops have a very wide body with sleeves not starting until halfway between shoulder and elbow, or even lower, the jacket must accommodate all this extra fabric at the shoulder and armscye. What is more, it must accommodate it generously because you don’t want your top to look all crushed when you take your jacket off. This means the jacket has to fit loosely through the shoulders, which can make the whole silhouette look big and baggy if there is also a lot of volume lower down, — which is usually the case with Lagenlook.

Quite a conundrum.

Twotoast has shown some lovely ensembles with jackets on her blog, The Spotty Dog Social Club, but her tops are mostly sleeveles I think, so the sleeve issue doesn’t arise. 

After giving it a fair bit of thought I don’t think it is possible to find one jacket shape that will look good with everything in Lagenlook. With very voluminous maxi skirts or dresses a short, relatively fitted jacket, at least in the shoulders, is probably the best solution. The top or tunic will show below the jacket, but that is fine.

With slimmer skirts or pants there is scope for a looser jacket, with room for tunics with extra fabric in the shoulder area.

My latest experiment with a LL jacket was supposed to strike a happy medium, and go with most of my wardrobe, at least the slim skirts and the pants, both Lagenlook and more conventional ones. I based it on the Tessuti Fave Top pattern, a TNT I have used many times before for tunics. One reason for this was that I only had about 1.80m of the fabric I was wanting to use, 120cm wide, which did no allow a lot of wiggle room in terms of patterns. I also like collarless jackets, because I almost always wear a scarf and a collar just gets in the way.  And finally I really like a nice swing shape.

To convert a top into a jacket is easy, you just need to split the front and add facings. I also like to snug up the neck opening,, so it fits closely at the base of the neck. I lengthened and widened the sleeves, making a deep cuff which goes well with the swing shape. I also lengthened the jacket, for warmth and because I don’t like wasting fabric. That was pushing it, long AND wide can be problematic. Fortunately I do like the result.

Finally I had just enough fabric left over for patch pockets, but decided against them in the end. I like simple lines, the fabric looks beautiful without the disturbance of top stitching and a break in the tone-in-tone pattern, and in any case, in Australia you don’t need pockets to keep your hands warm.  🙂

I bought some statement buttons in Bali a few years ago, which were just right for this jacket. The fabric is a superb black matelasse, bought at Tessutis January sale, also a few years ago. Both had been marinating in my stash waiting for the right project.

This jacket has become a favourite in my wardrobe and has been worn a lot already with just about everything. Success!

This is linked to the blogger party RUMS.

More Fabric Shopping in Bali — Klungkung Markets

I’m glad I didn’t settle for just any ikat in Jalan Sulawesi. Craftastrophies pointed me in the direction of Klungkung Markets to find just the right ones, and boy, was she right. This place is Ikat Central, and if you can’t find ikats you like here then there is no help for you.

I was so distracted by the variety on offer that I totally forgot to take photos while I shopped, so I am going to borrow some from the internet. If any of these photos is yours and you don’t like me using it, let me know and I will remove it.

The market is mainly patronised by the Balinese, so not at all touristy, and on the morning I was there it was quiet and relaxed. No crowds, no noise and no hard sell. I wandered around looking to try and come to grips with the sheer choice and variety of ikats on offer. It wasn’t easy!

There are different qualities apparently. To my surprise the sarongs were twice as much per meter of fabric as the fabric sold by the meter. And the latter also seemed to have a price scale, although even after many years of sewing I could not tell the difference in quality. Maybe I won’t until I wash the stuff.  Or maybe some sellers were more aggressive in the pricing they quote at a casual inquiry, and I did not stop to try and bargain with those. As it happened the fabric I liked was in the cheaper stalls. Yay!

Last time I bought ikats was in 2012, so 5 years ago, and I paid $4 per meter, or maybe $4.50. This time they wanted  $6/m for much the same thing. I bargained this down to $15 for 3 meters, which seemed fine to me. All the ikats are done on traditional looms and 1m wide. I had better luck photographing the ikats than the batiks, so here is a ‘shot-on-the-bed’ of what I bought.

I also bought a sarong, which was 2.20m of fabric, 1m wide, and cost 225,000 rupiahs, AU$22-23. So as already mentioned, almost twice the price of the ikat sold by the meter.

It took me a long while of feeling the fabric to decide that maybe the sarong is a tiny bit thicker than the metrage, but then again maybe not. Or maybe the weaving is more expert? Search me. I like all the pieces I bought, some of them, like the blue above on the left, precisely because the weaving is less intricate, which makes the appearance of the fabric less busy.

One last purchase was a cross-weave grey cotton, good for cotton pants or even a shirt. Being a redhead, grey is my favourite neutral colour. This was AU$4.50/m after a bit of argy-bargy. It was possibly hand woven and I am feeling a tiny bit guilty now thinking that for the low price, but the seller seemed pretty happy. She gave me her card, meaning she wanted me to come back, always a good sign.

Because everything is sold in one place and I was only looking for one type of fabric it took me less than an hour to find what I wanted, do the deed and be out of there. A win for DH who had stuck out his neck coming along.

There is lots more to look at in this market, from birds and fish to veggies and shoes, but one courtesy deserves another, and so after a quick look I rang our driver and both DH and I went home happy!

Fabric Shopping in Bali — Jalan Sulawesi

Whenever I come to Bali a pilgrimage to Jalan Sulawesi in Denpasar is a must. This is the centre of the fabric shopping universe on this wonderful island, although there are plenty of other options too. Indonesia has a fabulous textile tradition and for a textile lover like me this is heaven on a budget!

For my nearest and dearest it is several hours of torture while I ooh and ahh around the fabric shops, so this time I arranged a driver to go by myself and left my beloved to entertain himself for the day. It costs around AU$55 for an all inclusive driver and car, which probably makes a dent in the savings on fabric, but honestly, if I had the choice between fabric shopping and sightseeing for a day there would be no contest. So I am charging the $55 to the entertainment budget, not the fabric budget. 🙂

Jalan Sulawesi is a small street in the old part of Denpasar with maybe 30-40 fabric shops. The Asian custom of grouping like businesses together is a blessing because you don’t need to travel all over the place to get your fabric fix like you would in a Western city. Here it is all crammed into a stretch of about 200m, very convenient, if a little overwhelming.

There are wovens of all kinds, cottons, linens, silks and an avalanche of lace fabrics which are used for the traditional women’s lace blouses worn over a sarong type skirt for formal occasions.


Of course there is also the ever present poly. Lots of treasure amid a bit of trash, and I saw a few knits too, but not many and nothing I would want to buy. I was after wovens, and principally after the kind of fabric I can’t buy at home, batik and ikat.

There are wonderful batiks in just about every store. Most of them are the traditional kind with dark colours and intricate designs. They are beautiful, but for garment sewing I prefer the contemporary style batiks with their brighter colours and simpler shapes. There are 3 shops I found that specialise in these, the largest is Mr Maju near the end of the street opposite the car park. I must give him a plug because I have shopped there for a number of years now, and apart from the fact that he stocks the sort of batiks I like, I have found him straight forward and honest to deal with.

No need to bargain here, Mr Maju’s cotton batiks are all 26000 rupiahs per meter, which is around AU$2.60. I think the rayon batiks are a little cheaper, although I did not buy any.

Unfortunately none of the cotton batiks I bought have photographed particularly well. I tried twice, with the iPad and then with my Samsung phone which normally does a sterling job, but the painterly watercolour batiks I mostly bought, that in reality are a subtle and mellow blend of lovely colours turned out a lurid and harsh distortion.  It gave me some sympathy for people selling fabrics online, especially batiks. But here is one other type I bought for my grandkids that photographed better.

Mr Maju also has a small amount of non batik, plain fabrics from time to time. I bought nice looking midweight black linen, 140cm wide, for AU$6/m and he had other tempting colours as well. Thinking of my already substantial stash of linen at home and my dislike of ironing I just managed to resist. The black will be great for pants and I can live with wrinkles better with those.

White voile for dyeing was AU$2, 150 wide, but unfortunately he only had about 4m left, or I would have bought up big. There was a small amount of silk chiffon, 150cm wide, for AU$6 as well and I bought 4m for silk painting. I should have bought more but it’s easy to be wise in hindsight.

I am not a quilter, but I noticed that he had precuts and fat quarters as well, principally because of the marketing efforts of the dedicated sales team.

The sales assistant in the remnant department was not to be outdone.

A few shops further on is another shop selling contemporary batiks. I have bought lots here in the past, including this quite spectacular linen batik.

Unfortunately this time the 2 batiks I liked only had small amount left, not enough for my purposes.

So I bought 5m of unprocessed (white) batik cotton for my dyeing and block printing, 115cm wide for AU$2/m, and left it at that.

The third shop where I found contemporary batiks is on the other side of the street, further away from the car park end. Their cotton batiks were 10c dearer than at Mr Maju, not that that stopped me from buying 5m each of these:

This should be a classy French navy background with the fish design in a lighter blue. On my screen it looks black and grey.

And this is just a straight white and grey stripe, despite the funny colour variation in the middle in the photo.

Sadly I could not find any ikat fabric I liked. Last time I bought 2 lovely blue ikats, beautiful quality, for AUD4.50 or thereabouts. This time they were more expensive and although there were lots of ikats everywhere I couldn’t find ones where the colours and pattern were suitable for a garment I would want to wear, in my mind anyway. Indonesian and western colour combination preferences diverge, and while the ikats were beautiful in their own right, taken out of their context to be made into a garment worn in Australia would not have shown them to their best advantage. It can be done but you have to find the right one. And I have a rule whenever I fabric-shop in foreign places, where I know that getting my loot back home will need substantial conniving to get past airline weight limits: if a fabric doesn’t jump me, wrestle me to the ground and sit on my head until I buy it, I won’t. Calling to me is not enough!

Here is an ikat I bought a few years previously and made into a long jacket.

There were lots more beautiful cottons, silks and linens I could have investigated, but after 3 hours and slightly more than 40m of fabric I called it a day. I must be getting old!

A final word about bargaining. I have spent much time in Asia and lived several years in the Middle East, so while I am no expert, I do have some experience.

As a tourist you will never get the same price as the locals. That is ok, you have a lot more money than they do. (The exception is buying gold and diamonds in a Middle Eastern Souk, but that is a whole different category.) What you are after is not necessarily the lowest price possible, but a little respect, you don’t want to be the dopey foreigner who was suckered into paying an outrageous price just because of sheer stupidity. Much better to settle on a price both seller and buyer can be happy with. Always smile and be pleasant when you are bargaining, treat it as a friendly game. Inexperienced Westerners are often embarrassed to bargain, and when they don’t get the price they want they feel rejected, and can come across as bad tempered or aggressive. That ends up being unpleasant for everybody.

Do your research, then after the seller starts the process, make a counter offer maybe half of what you think you will have to pay.  If the seller refuses to bargain further you know you have offered much too little. If they agree too quickly you may have offered too much. Walking away is often a good method to judge how low a seller will go. If they want to sell they will make a lower offer. If not you can usually find the same item in another stall or shop and try again. The Balinese tend to be friendly and fair-minded, it’s a good place to learn if you are a beginner.

Another thing to remember is that Asian sales people will always know how much you want something. If your livelihood depended on judging other people’s face and body language you would be good at it too. Consequently things you don’t want very much will be ridiculously cheap and things you want a lot much less so. Can’t be helped. If you want something desperately, give in and pay up cheerfully!

Specifically regarding bargaining for fabric in Jalan Sulawesi, the contemporary batiks seem to be fixed price, 26000 or 27000 rupiahs per meter. You can get a small discount if you buy a lot, but not much, maybe a dollar or two. With the other fabrics I thought there was sometimes some leeway for bargaining. The way to find out is to ask if you can get a discount after they quote the price, or if this is the ‘best price’. If they quote lower you can try to bargain them down a bit more. But really, the prices are pretty good anyway. I was offered plain heavy linen in good colours for AUD10, and white cotton sheeting 240cm wide for AUD4.50, a price that can compete with pretty much anywhere.

Just steer clear of the women who approach you in the street and want to show you around. They will charge a commission for ‘introducing’ you to a shop, an introduction you don’t need. All the shops are perfectly happy to deal with you direct, in fact they prefer it. Say no politely, but firmly, and stick to your guns.

Shopkeepers and their staff will call out to you, but there is no real high pressure selling. I usually greet them politely, with a genuine big smile because I am having a great time fabric shopping. If they beckon me into their shop I either go in if I’m ready, or tell them ‘just looking now, maybe back later’. They are perfectly happy to let me do that.

If you want to read a bit more about fabric shopping in Bali, here is another post I found on the subject, written by a young South Australian sewist.

Fabric shopping in Denpasar Jalan Sulawesi and Klungkung market

Another Noa 

Here is a second version of the Noa, this time in silk dupioni. I had more fabric to play with this time, so the tunic is closer to the original in length, but not enough for the enormous cascading cowl, which is at least a half circle, if not three quarters. Instead I did my usual rectangular cowl, which is less spectacular but will have to suffice for the moment.

I used the StyleArc Toni Designer Dress as a base pattern this time. Details of the sewing process are on Pattern Review.

With different accessories and a scrunched down cowl.


This is linked to RUMS.

The Great Tunic Knock-Off

Not sure if it will be that great, but I certainly have put in a considerably amount of effort so far. Here’s hoping! My target is Bryn Walker’s NOA tunic. There are pictures of it all over the internet, and they all look great.

I wanted something similar and started a process of trying to develop a pattern. My first try was simply winging it, based on an analysis of this picture I found.

That didn’t go so well. It was especially disappointing because I had used an expensive linen in a favourite colour. It looked a bit like the image below, flat at back and front with some extraneous bits tacked on at the sides.


I am happy to say that I managed to recut the tunic and rescue the beautiful sea coloured linen I had used, but the result wasn’t the same as a NOA. So I had another go, this time sensibly intending to make a muslin first.

Now what pattern to use? I made a start with Vogue 9188 by Kayla Kennington.

Strangely, this pattern seems to have disappeared without a trace from the Vogue site, although I bought it only recently. Maybe nobody else liked it. I wasn’t that thrilled with it either, but I wanted it because it had an extension on one of the side flares, just like the NOA. However, when cutting out, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t really need to piece the fabric there in any case. Maybe the Noa was done that way because it allowed more economical use of fabric when producing on an industrial scale. But I don’t need to worry about that, on the contrary, I need to use up stash!

My muslin fabric was a little short, so I couldn’t cut the longer side flare as long as the real NOA , but otherwise it’s not bad. Only, if you have a close look, my tunic curves outward a lot lower down than the originals. You can tell if you imagine where the belly button or waist is on the models and then on me, and where the outward curve is in relation to that. So I needed to shorten the pattern halfway between the bottom of the armscyes and the widest part of the flare, otherwise the tunic would turn out too long.

Of course I didn’t realise that, genius that I am, until I had cut into the silk for my real, no-longer-a-muslin tunic, sewn up the shoulder and side seams, tried it on, and found that the lower side came down to my ankle!

It actually looked quite elegant and I could have left it, but I wanted a tunic, not a dress. I wear tunics all the time, dresses less so because I often feel too dressed up for everyday wear to the office and for manhandling my grandkids. Besides, I wanted to develop a TNT pattern for further use, and I need tunics, not a gazillion long dresses!

Shortening at the hem is out of the question with this design, so I recut in the shoulder and bust area, taking it down by 15cm. I also used the opportunity to chicken out of the very wide armscyes and sleeves of the V9188, and substituting the ones from a TNT pattern where I know and like the fit. As I have said many times before, with a lot of volume around the hem you need a tighter fit in the shoulders and bust, or a short and stout person like me risks looking huge all over.

Now to the cutting out process itself: V9188 is cut on the bias, so you get a whole pattern piece for front and back, not just half, because you can’t cut on the fold. I ignored the bias cut and separated the two front and back halves to spread them at the hem, to insert more volume there. I want a lot of swing to my tunics, so I almost always add more volume at CF and CB. This is because I am not as slim as the models, and adding width preserves the proportions.

I laid the tunic on the fabric with one side closer to the selvage than the other, seeing one side flare needed to be longer than the other. To paraphrase for clarity, the middle of the tunic was not on the middle fold of the fabric, but off to the side. I then took both flares right to the selvage. From there you need to cut the longer flare back towards the middle on the diagonal, as you can see very clearly in the picture of the grey NOA. If you don’t do this the flare will just hang there vertically, while making it narrower at the hem than the point forces it into collapsing into itself to make nice folds, which I prefer.

The last step was to cut the hem on the diagonal. I shaped this a bit like in the picture of the white tunic, not straight like the grey.

Then, when I had finished cutting, it suddenly hit me: except for the hem, the shape I had cut was pretty identical to the StyleArc Toni designer dress pattern I had just finished working with and blogged about in my previous post!

Sure enough, when I compared the shapes they were really close! So you could use that pattern instead, much cheaper and easier to get hold of if you live outside the US like me, and much more useful for other garments like pointy dresses. You do need to shorten between shoulder and side ‘point’ as shown below. Of course you also need to make one side longer than the other and cut the diagonal hem.

I used a thin lining silk, very slightly crinkled, and overpainted from a harsh neon green to a more sedate dark green with black streaks. I’m not mad about how the paint job turned out as the green is a little darker than intended, but it’s ok for now. When I did the overpainting last spring it seemed dirge-ey and depressing, but it suits the mood of autumn much better.


This is linked to the German blogger party RUMS


Dyeing Undone

Some time ago I blogged about a linen jersey top I dyed, because the original white just never made it out of my wardrobe. It didn’t turn out the way I envisaged, a bit meh, but I still wore the top a lot because it had a relaxed vibe good for weekends and the linen jersey was nice and cool on hot summer days.

But after a while I couldn’t help plotting how I could improve the look. Block printing did not look a promising option, black wouldn’t show up very well and any other colour wouldn’t look much good either. But I had been thinking about whether colour could be removed altogether if one of my dyeing experiments turned out disappointing. Having something like THAT up my sleeve would be such a bonus!

My favourite dye supplier, Batik Oetoro, sells a discharge agent called TUD, which removes Drimarene K and Procion MX dyes. Success is not guaranteed, but I thought the above shirt would be a good candidate for a trial. Following instructions I boiled the linen jersey on the stove in the mixture for the time instructed, and the result was a dirty white, with orange patches where the black had been previously. Not great to wear as is, but perfect for redyeing!

I used a strong turquoise and was quite pleased with the result. The orange patches went to green and blended with the turquoise to a tropical undersea landscape. All it needed now was a block print to complete the picture. I chose this Maori turtle symbol I found on Google, transferred it and carved ot out of Eazycarve.

Here is the result.

Pointy With A Twist

I have made several versions of this dress already, all winter versions using knits, either jersey or ponte.

For the dresses above I used a pattern I found in an Italian pattern magazine years ago, and adapted to fit me better by using a TNT t-shirt for the bodice part. Then I discovered the Toni designer dress by StyleArc and downloaded a copy, so I would not have to fiddle around with cutting from a previous dress overlaid with a t-shirt pattern. I still have to fiddle if I want long sleeves, as the Toni is sleeveless with extended shoulders, but for a summer version I can cut straight from the pattern (- with a couple of modifications of course, as always!).

Below is what the pattern pieces look like:

My summer versions both use woven fabrics, both crinkle linen, although the green seems to be a linen mixture rather than pure linen and is quite stable despite the slight crinkle. The black is softer, more stretchy and crinkly, and also quite sheer.

Serendipity took a hand in the creation when sewing up the green dress below. I happened to try it on for fit with the seams below the side pointy tip still open. When I looked in the mirror I liked what I saw, and the result are two Toni dresses with open lower side seams. I also put a cuff on the extended shoulders to make a short sleeve.

For the second summer version I decided I wanted bracelet length sleeves, wide enough to roll up, and so I overlaid the body of the Toni once again with the armscyes from another pattern, this time suitable for wovens, and used the matching sleeves.

I think this dress turned out a little long, as the crinkle linen seems to have expanded. Next time I have black thread in my machine I might just chop a bit off the bottom and re-hem.


And all ready to go out with scarf and bag.



The Poppy Shirt

I am enjoying wearing my Poppy shirts, made using this Tina Givens pattern.

The Poppy is not your average shirt, but really a tunic, with no collar or cuffs, no buttons and cut on sleeves. In other words, quick and easy to make, ideal for lazy sewists like me. I can have a new one ready in less time than it would take me to go to the shops and buy something. To say nothing of the price.

I have made two versions of the Poppy so far, but only the one below with the front split as high as intended by the pattern. This version is best worn with another tunic underneath.

I used a sheeting cotton which drapes quite well and is easy to wear as it doesn’t wrinkle much. Not an outfit for high summer because of the 3/4 sleeves and several layers, but good for in between seasons.

The second version below has a modified split that doesn’t come up nearly as high and can be worn over just my usual cotton tank top. The fabric is cotton sateen, a little thicker than the sheeting. I added a stand up collar this time.

An ikat fabric or something ethnic would look good with this pattern, but I’m not sure if I would like the Poppy in a plain fabric. I think it would have to be something really special to look good, something understatedly expensive. I don’t have anything to hand right now that would fit this bill, but I will make this pattern up a couple more times when I find fabric right for it, either patterned or plain, because I really like wearing these shirts.

BTW, both fabrics I used for my existing versions were over-dyed. The grey started life as an insipid light blue. I bought it online and was very disappointed when it arrived, as what I thought was a jacquard turned out to be only a cheap and nasty print. My fault for assuming! It looks much nicer after a bath in Drimarene K black (Procion would have been fine too).

The green was bought in person, so to speak, during a period in my sewing life where only black and white would do. Once the infatuation passed I was left with a lot of B/W fabric I no longer fancied. Fortunately, courtesy of a mix of blue, black and yellow Drimarene K, the white was easily over-dyed and I am much happier with the green. 🙂


Three Weeks Without a Stitch

I sew a lot, and the only way three weeks without it is possible is when I am travelling. We had a lovely holiday in Austria in autumn (their autumn, our spring), and here are a few photos to share.


Hallstatt, one of the oldest continuous settlements in Europe, dating from the Stone Age.

Famous Austrian cakes, yum! Low calorie of course ( — ha, so NOT).

Stroll through Graz revealing hidden gems.

Riegersburg Castle with amazing views.

Sojourn in the mountains.

A day trip to Udine in Italy.

Wine festival on the Hungarian border.

Beautiful old house and barn.

On our way to  Munich airport, to fly home, a fabulous baroque palace, Schloss Schleissheim.

The Michele Oka Doner Dress

On occasion I have heard some of my women friends say that they  wished they could just wear a uniform, to make daily dressing and getting out the door easier. Something flattering and easy care, that they know will look good and of which they have a never ending (and preferably perfectly ironed) supply. I personally could live in silk harem pants and loose tunics, although I wear all sorts of other things too.

But I heard of an artist, a sculptor, who literally wears the same dress, in different colours and fabrics, all the time. Apparently she once bought the original dress in a shop and liked it so much that she kept getting it copied from then on. Her name is Michele Oka Doner. Here is an article about here and her work.

She looks pretty good, doesn’t she? I love her work too, you should google it and have a look. While I don’t think I would have the discipline to stick to one perfect dress for years and years, I wouldn’t mind just one copy of her dress for myself.

As luck would have it, I had just the right pattern in my stash. I found it years ago in an Italian magazine and have used it several times, but the mag is probably in pattern mag heaven by now.  If you want to get your hands on something similar, the StyleArc Toni Designer dress below is very close.

The tutorial on how to shorten it shows the pattern pieces:

To make the Michelle Oka Doner dress you need to take out the centre front seam and make a simple round neck instead of the collar. You also need to add the arm scyes and sleeves from a pattern that fits you well in that area. Here are a couple of my own previous versions.

For the cowl I made a trapeze shape, self lined, about the width of my shoulders at the bottom and considerably narrower towards the top. The fabric is an off white ponte. It will show the dirt like crazy, but winter white is so dressy and a good colour for me too. I wore the dress for a big zero birthday party and felt very chic.   🙂

After I published this post Harriet Snow commented that the Tina Givens Iris pattern is also very close, or a ‘dead ringer’ as they say in Australia. This gives anyone wanting to make it another option. The sleeves are cut on in this version, which by necessity makes the bodice looser at the top. I prefer a closer fit in this area, but the Tina Givens version is undeniably closer to the original.


And a look at the pattern pieces: