The Jac Shirt


I do love Tessuti patterns and have made their Jac shirt several times now. The first time I made it as per pattern and it turned out fine. However, I can never resist fiddling with a pattern, and have since settled on some modifications for further versions.


As you can see in the pic above, I have added some ‘swing’ to the back of the shirt by tilting the back pattern piece away from the fold of the fabric when cutting out. This leaves the top part unchanged so it will still fit the collar and shoulders, but adds volume at the CB hem. You can’t really see that I have lengthened it by 5cm too, but here is my original make for comparison, sewn as per pattern. I am wearing it with harem pants, in case you are wonderin what the funny garment is.


Nothing wrong with this version of the Jac, except I am probably acclimatised to the volume of Lagenlook, so I prefer a bit more swing and length, especially when the shirt is worn open as a light jacket. A bit more length also lets the shirt tails peak out from under my jumpers, which I quite like. One thing I have discovered though, lengthening does not look so good without a simultaneous increase in volume at the hem, as you can see with the version, below, cut from the good parts of another worn out doona cover. I have used only the collar stand for a grandpa style collar variation. It is sort of ok, but not quite, without the swing at the back.

greynumbers jac


The original green version is silk dupioni, which has lost some of its shine and acquired a subtle distressed look after a few years of being worn and washed. Just right for a casual shirt, and I don’t do dry cleaning in any case. All my silks are washed, usually with shampoo as that is formulated for protein fibres, which both human hair and silk are, but in the machine and without fuss. I line dry everything, using my dryer only in emergencies, and to cure my hand-printed projects. All my silks so far have coped very well with this treatment. I don’t cater to primadonna fabrics, except maybe for very special occasion garments like my MOB and MOG dresses, and they get worn only once anyway.

The blue striped fabric is a batik bought in Bali, originally grey and white striped, which had an encounter with the dye pot. Unfortunately I got distracted and forgot to agitate for about an hour, which is a big no-no if you want an even result. So it is a bit blotchy, but thankfully that is not very noticeable due to judicious cutting out. I really like the colour, and with winter around the corner, under jumpers only the collar and tails will be visible in any case.

Regarding the sleeves, I am not a huge fan of traditional sleeve plackets and cuffs. They are useful if you want to roll up your sleeves, but I never do. At least, when wearing the shirts where I have made plackets and cuffs, I don’t remember rolling them up even once. So, being a lazy sewist, I ask myself if the extra time making this is worth it. The Jac has a bracelet length sleeve with a notched hem that can be folded back into a 3/4 length sleeve with a notched cuff. I have lengthened the sleeve to make the full length in shirts I want to wear in winter under jumpers, to avoid potentially scratchy wool around my inner wrists. More about the sewing nitty-gritty on PatternReview.

And here is one more version of the Jac shirt, this time collarless for summer, again in a cotton batik. Like the other versions, it works really well as a light jacket.

print jac 2

print jac 1

print jac 5


The Eva Dress on the Straight and Narrow


grey eva8

I have used the Eva bodice and sleeves for so many of my frankenpattern projects, and yet I don’t believe I have ever shown an Eva dress sewn as the designer intended it to look. Let me fix that today!

red eva fixed


These are the very first Eva dresses I ever made, one sleeveless and the other with short sleeves. The red is a fairly hefty linen, originally a tangerine/peach and later, when it began to look a bit washed out, overdyed to cranberry red. The grey was my wearable muslin, repurposed from an old doona cover my son left behind when he first moved out of home to go overseas and work in Amsterdam. I missed him, but that I cut up his bed linen to wear because of that is a vicious rumour!  🙂

Anyway, the doona cover originally came from the ‘As Is’ bin at IKEA, so using it for the, at that time, still untried Eva pattern was not a huge gamble in financial terms. It is quite a nice light grey cotton jacquard, a little discoloured from wear in certain places, but there was plenty of fabric to cut around those areas. I believe there may even be still enough left for a pair of pants, but that is a project for another day.

I made this version of the Eva straight out of the packet as far as the pattern is concerned, although of course it was a PDF, so no packet involved. The only changes I made was to forego the bias bound hem at the bottom and the sleeves. A narrow, topstitched hem is very doable despite the curves. Besides extra fabric, bias tape takes time and effort, and I felt I had expended quite enough of that with all the piecing and topstitching required for the skirt sections. I even made the pockets, which I don’t use of course. I never use pockets, unlike a lot of other people who find them indispensable. For me they are only indispensable for forgetting the odd used tissue in, which then causes me hassles in the wash, so I usually leave them off.

I really like the result. The grey jacquard looks quite classy ( — ok, so it is an old doona cover but nobody need ever know!) and it suits the lovely lines of the Eva very well.

grey eva7


grey eva11grey eva10

The dark red Eva is quite a heavy linen and hardly crushes at all since I overdyed it. Score! I should overdye a few more linens to get that effect!

red eva

Details about the sewing process are on Pattern Review.

In Stripes from Head to Toe

striped dress2striped dress

Although I like stripes I haven’t worn them much lately. This dress is an exception and, being a maxi, the stripes are pretty much all over. The black and grey combo has a bit of a Japanese vibe, at least as far as the colours are concerned. Japanese people seem to like a very subdued colour scheme of black, grey and white, with black and white checks being a particular favourite. I once took a JAL flight to Osaka and as I was standing in the boarding queue I noticed that pretty much everyone was wearing black, grey and white, with the exception of one brave rebel who wore a purple dress. No doubt everyone thought her outrageous!

Black and grey are also very much colours for autumn, although summer is hanging on stubbornly here and we are still having temps of over 30 for a few days this week. Today was a bit cooler, so I thought I might make a start digging out the autumn wardrobe. I hear New Zealand is already having snow, so it won’t be long before we will need our woollies here too. It usually takes a week or so for the weather to cross the ditch (the Tasman Sea between NZ and Australia, for those not familiar with the term).

I have used this pattern quite a few times before and have blogged about it here. The basic shape of front and back looks like this, cut on the fold, with the back neck line higher than the front, of course.


I based the above on a t-shirt pattern for the bodice, then did the rest based on a pattern found in a magazine. As I have mentioned in earlier posts, I later found the StyleArc Toni Designer Dress pattern to be much the same basic shape if you ignore the collar detail and centre seams, although it is a bit wider in the bodice. Good for wovens but for knits I prefer to overlay the Toni pattern with t-shirt pattern at the top to make it narrower in the shoulders and bust. I have explained this in detail on Pattern Review here.

When wearing the dress you can tuck in the pointy bits or just leave them to hang on the outside. I prefer to tuck mine in a fair way. The skirt sort of collapses into interesting folds. Sorry it is not very easily visible with the dark colour, which is why you might want to look at the dresses in this earlier post too.

striped dress8

striped dress5striped dress10striped dress9striped dress7striped dress4striped dress3

I have blogged about a sleeveless summer version made with a cotton woven fabric here.

Hello Alabama Chanin!


Anyone who can build a successful business based entirely on hand sewing in this day and age must be a very special type of genius. I take my hat off to you, Ms Chanin!

And I didn’t think anyone could ever inspire me to embellish my clothes, it just isn’t my thing. Beading and machine embroidery have never appealed to me. But this is different, and so here I am, showing off my first appliquéd top in the Alabama Chanin style.


I had been contemplating making an AC garment for a while, but never quite got off the ground with the reverse appliqué. The way I buy fabrics, mostly opportunistically when I spot a bargain, doesn’t lend itself to having two plain pieces of cotton jersey in the right colours to hand at the same time. Buying them online from AC was out of the question with our low dollar and high shipping costs. But as it happens, merino jersey is very available where I live, often at a very good price, and doing a normal appliqué instead of the reverse one allows me to use up scraps and still add some warmth to a winter garment. Double win, I’d say!

The normal, not reverse, type of appliqué also can be done on a finished garment, which is another advantage. As it happens, I had made a navy merino top last winter that was a little uninspiring and also a bit thin for its oversized style. The perfect candidate for a trial, and I had just the right olive coloured wool knit left over for the appliqué shapes from a top I made years ago. Plus some perfect stone coloured linen thread I had bought for knitting but that turned out to be too thin when it arrived. The planets had aligned for my first Alabama Chanin oversized merino jersey top!

Naturally,  not only did I use wool jersey instead of cotton, and an oversized style that isn’t AC at all, I also altered the technique a fair bit. AC spray paints a negative and positive of her designs on the two fabrics to help her cut out and place the shapes. I have no patience for lots of little bitty bits, and I like my motifs, whether for block printing or appliqué, to be about the size of my hand. The design I had chosen was much less intricate than the one in the AC demo video I saw, and I thought cutting the stencil for spray painting would be just as much work as tracing the shapes out individually. On top of that, fluffing around with spray paint when I have no experience with it would be an unnecessary complication. I am all for simplicity, and to make it even easier I chose just one of the branches from this Alabama Chanin design, to be repeated over and over.


So I cut out a template shape of my chosen leafy branch and traced around it on my fabric scraps, using a sliver of soap because it showed up better than texta on the coarse, spongy, darkish wool. (I find the small guest soaps picked up during hotel stays very useful for marking fabric.)

I placed my shapes on the top freehand, starting around the neck, pinned and then stitched them in place one by one with a simple running stitch. Very therapeutic!

One thing I noticed fairly quickly is that the AC appliqué is not nearly as time consuming as one might think. That my chosen motifs were large naturally helped, but I soon discovered that I could appliqué as many or as few motifs as I wanted and the top would still look as if it was meant to be that way. The first Sunday, with a beginners boundless enthusiasm, I powered through stitching on six motifs around the neckline and one on the upper sleeve, and this actually already looked really nice. I could have stopped there if I wanted and still had a very wearable top. The next evening I stitched on another three of the branches and it looked even better. After I did another five, I actually thought that the top didn’t need any more. It was only because I found the stitching process relaxing and enjoyable that I wanted to continue, and I also thought that the more wool pieces I appliqued onto the top the warmer it would be. Warm is good. It does not get below freezîng in winter where I live, but because it is not very cold nobody bothers to heat anything properly. Sitting in my only nominally heated office for hours on end at a computer can chill a cold frog like me down to the bone!

In the beginning it took me about an hour to trace, cut and stitch a motif to the jumper, but you get a bit faster with practice. There are about 20 motifs currently, so 20 hours, which is not at all bad for a hand stitched project. I could maybe fit another 20 motifs on the top if I cover it completely, so 40 hours in total and another couple of hours for the sewing if it is done by machine, which I think preferable. 42 hours would still be very much less than a knitted jumper, the vast majority hand stitching, which is not like sewing by machine, where you need to concentrate and negotiate relatively tricky operations in rapid succession. You can sit in your comfy chair with some music and a glass of wine and just hand stitch away, with nothing more demanding to do than following the contours of your appliqué shape. 🙂

The original navy top had been sewn using one of my TNT jumper patterns, a wide body with the shoulders dropped halfway to the elbows, the hem curving longer at the back and shorter at the front. Amusingly, the top made with the olive Marc Jacobs knit whose leftovers are used for the appliqué shapes was also made with the same pattern.


The details of the pattern and the sewing process are written up here.

So this is how the top looks right now, although I will probably sew on a few more of the motifs. As i already mentioned, I find hand stitching at night very relaxing and might just continue until I find a knitting or other appliqué project to do instead.


A few more photos on the bod, but headless unfortunately because I placed the camera a bit too low.

AC jumper4AC jumper3AC jumper backAC jumper


15 Months on the 16:8 Diet

This doesn’t have a lot to do with sewing, but I really should write a post about it, just in case it helps somebody else.

After a couple of deaths in the family, not untimely ones but still emotionally difficult, and a lot of subsequent comfort eating, by the end of 2015 my weight had reached epic proportions. While I have never been skinny, most of my life I have been comfortably in the normal weight range. But now I was not only well into overweight range, but getting towards the border with obese. Yikes!

I felt quite helpless, not being able to stop myself from gaining weight and not feeling able to stick to a low calorie diet for the months on end that would be required to lose as much weight as I needed to. Finally my brother gave me a stern talking to and suggested I try the 16:8 diet. I am a big fan of Michael Mosley and had tried the 5:2 diet before, where you fast for 2 days a week and eat normally on the other 5. Success had been modest, that way of eating never really gelled with me.

But I gave the 16:8 diet a try and I am so glad I did. It consists of eating for only an 8 hour period each day, and fasting for the  remaining 16. The fact that the latter includes your sleeping hours makes it a lot easier than it otherwise would be, and you can choose the 8 hour eating period during the day that suits you best. Some people skip breakfast, others dinner. I am in the unfortunate position that I am a breakfast person, but DH is a dinner devotee. I could skip dinner, but if I did I wouldn’t of course cook any, which means Mr Rivergum would rarely get to eat a vegetable if he had to cook dinner for himself on a daily basis. Not good!

So I compromised by making my eating period start at 10am with a breakfast at work and finish at 6pm, which gives me time to produce and eat dinner. The 10am breakfast is a bit difficult for a breakfast lover like me, but the diet success has made it well worth the effort.

So I started this regime on Jan 9 in 2016 and it worked like absolute magic. The principle of 16:8 is not strictly about caloric restriction, but I found myself eating about 1000-1200 calories a day, just because I found I could. I wasn’t hungry, nor was I tempted to eat rubbish in the least. So I gave up sugar at the same time, because it was ridiculously easy, and was high instead on feeling so incredibly virtuous. For once, my body was on my side and seemed to be urging me on. I lost nearly a kilo per week, previously unheard of when the best I could hope for was a kilo a month.

By Easter that year I had lost 7kg and finally hit the inevitable plateau. So I eased up a bit and ate normally for a few days. That helped and the weight loss continued like magic. By the end of April I was 10kg lighter. Then we went away for a couple of weeks holiday and I suspended my diet in order to enjoy myself. I still ate sensibly though, my stomach had been retrained to expect smaller portions and I was no longer in the habit of chronic overeating. I did not gain much weight, maybe half a kilo or so. When I got home I continued with my diet without too much trouble and had soon lost that again.

Of course the weight loss slowed down eventually, after the initial 10kg loss the honeymoon was over. Another holiday in Austria, the fabulous Cake Central of the Universe, Christmas etc resulted in a kilo or so gained, then subsequently lost again as I returned to my diet. In all I have lost nearly 16kg. My initial target was 10kg, then 12, then 15. As my thighs and hips slimmed, my tummy disappeared and my arms started to look good in sleeveless tops, the changes have kept me motivated to push a little further as each goal was reached. I enjoy my new, slimmer body.

I also find that my current eating regime is something I can stick to indefinitely. I have a set routine adhering to the 16:8 during the week, then have an earlier breakfast and a treat or two on the weekend. During the week, if I have few more salads for dinner and no wine, I lose a little weight. Pasta meals for dinner and a glass of wine or two, and I don’t. Gain a little as I indulge during a holiday. Lose it again as I get back to normal afterwards. Seems good to me.

I am now at around 64kg and aiming for 62. After a 16kg loss that seems very doable. More would be greedy.

But, as we all know, losing weight is one thing and keeping it off quite another. I don’t think I can ever afford to return to the eating I thought of as normal before. One or two treats a day, really? Thankfully my appetite has changed, I am much more aware of when I feel full, or just not hungry. I can look at chocolate all day without feeling tempted, although I have enjoyed eating some this Easter, the first time in months. But it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice that it will be off the menu again until Christmas now.

My big temptation is cakes. I just love them. So I allow myself a treat on the weekend, sometimes two. Apart from that I stay away from sugar, other than whatever is in fruit. I try to stick to food I have prepared myself and don’t eat take away much at all, except for the odd salad and even then I am suspicious of how much sugar they put in the dressing.

During the week I have a set routine, which I find helpful. I have a home made Bircher Muesli for breakfast, consisting of apple, skim or normal milk, oats and a changing addition of something healthy such as linseed or almond meal or quinoa flakes or some such. 400 calories for breakfast are about right. I have a few tea with skim milk during the day and my lunch consists of a bit of plain salad, plus two slices of healthy seeded bread with hommus and goats cheese or smoked salmon or trout. Twice a week I have freshly made sushi instead because it is available. Dinner is whatever, but home made and in sensible portions. I don’t eat much meat and we have a vegetable garden, which encourages me to eat vegetable based meals. They can be very simple, last winter we ate a lot of spuds with spinach, herbs and a bit of feta. Delicious, cooked up quickly and far superior to any take away available in my neck of the woods. I love a good cheese platter, but have it instead of dinner, not on top of it. A choice of a couple of cheeses with dried and fresh fruit, tomatoes and pickles, with a glass of wine, makes a great Friday night dinner.

Routine during the week really helps me stick to good food, although I am aware that  variety is important too. I am fond of a glass of wine, but try to cut down as much as possible, thinking that if alcohol is not good for kids’ brains, maybe it is not so good for seniors either. Having some hand stitching or knitting to do at night strangely enough helps me to stick to herb tea.

So this is what has worked for me and I am comfortable with the idea of sticking to it indefinitely. But everyone is different and has to find out for themselves what works for them. I think added sugar on a daily basis is problematic and best avoided, particularly when there is a danger of setting up a habit. One biscuit with afternoon tea is not the devil, except when you have afternoon tea every day and there is a temptation of having that biscuit every day too, and then a couple etc etc.

One trick I use when I feel like a little something while I am working, — mostly this happens because I am doing something that I am not enjoying –, is that I keep a vial of rosemary oil on my desk. I rub a few drops on the back of my hands, the smell is not overpowering like perfume but it is a little treat and keeps me away from edible ones. A bit of a weird habit, but whatever floats your boat…

If you have read as far as this you will be on your own weight loss journey or at least contemplating one, so good luck with it and know that it can be done. In my case even without too much pain and with a significant health gain along the way.



Dyed and Reborn

blueblack silk

I am not a great believer in reincarnation, except when it comes to fabric in the dye pot. Many a tired looking garment or unpromising piece of fabric has experienced a chemical rebirth in my kitchen over the years and been all the better for it. This dress is a case in point. The crepe de chine is quite luscious, but started life as a rather insipid black and white print. Insipid because the white was not a really a bright optical white which I think is essential for a black and white combination to look good. And so it languished in my stash until I decided that what it really wanted to be was an electric blue.

However, if you want a happy dyeing experience it is really important to use  good quality dyes. If it is done right, your dyed garments will look good for a long time and not fade or run in the wash.  I use fibre reactive dyes and have written about the details of the process in earlier posts here and here.

I only had 2m of the crepe de chine and it was a border print as well, which did not leave a lot of room to manoeuvre. I fell back on my favourite dress style for border prints, a semi-fitted empire bodice and a pleated skirt. The skirt is a rectangle, pleated to fit the bodice, with a flange to cover the join. A 2m wide skirt is not very twirlable, 3m would have been better, but it had to do. In any case I don’t have a lot of occasions to twirl about in my very ordinary everyday life. 🙂

For the bodice I decided on an ancient pattern piece that has just the right amount of ease to slip into without needing a closure, which I have used many times because that is such a boon. I have no problem with installing zippers, but not needing one does away with having to find one that matches, and the additional ease of the looser bodice makes for great wearing comfort. Inconveniently the old pattern did not come with sleeves, so I needed to hybridise it with the Eva dress armscyes to use the short sleeves from that pattern. Last year I hated short sleeves and this year I can’t get enough of them, go figure.

For a more detailed description of the sewing process, have a look at my write-up on Pattern Review.

So here is the dress. The last photo shows it teamed with a Ponte bolero which is very practical during the change of season and I will blog about it soon.

blueblack silk2blueblack silk4blueblack silk5bolero

My camera is back in action, which means I can take photos again in my favourite spot in front of my (– imprisoned because of the freeloading beasties –) herb patch. With my phone the brightness of the garden behind did not work at all, although as you can see from the last photo, when the sun comes out in the middle of the day the camera does not cope either. But at least at either end of the day, or when it is overcast, I can again take my pictures in this convenient spot where the neighbours can’t see me prancing about in front of the camera, and it is a bit nicer than my bathroom door as a backdrop.

Me Made Jewellery

There are many ways of making your own jewellery, and many styles, but as it happens I just love ethnic looking silver and semi-precious stone jewellery and this is ridiculously easy to make yourself. I usually buy the stones on my visits to China, but lately I have discovered that I can also buy them on Aliexpress, together with the ‘silver’ beads and findings I need.



The results are very inexpensive but can make quite an impact. The silver components are only silver plated, if that, but when I make myself a necklace I am more after a pretty accessory than a precious metal investment.

What I love most about the process of making jewellery is that every decision is one hundred percent reversible. How often have you made up a garment and then regretted your pattern choice, or the choice of fabric f? There is no way back once you have started to cut out!

With jewellery making you can just cut the wire if you don’t like the end result and start again. Nothing is wasted except the crimp beads and covers and even the wire can be reused, for a shorter necklace if it was long or patched if it was a choker.

Crimp beads and covers? These might be very foreign terms for the novice, but they are what holds a necklace together and really the only bits that are at all technical. A crimp bead or tube is a tiny, soft, easily squashable metal tube that joins the ends of the wire securely to the clasp. You loop the wire through the eye of the clasp, feed it back through the crimp tube and crimp the tube to hold everything in place. Crimp bead covers are put over the crimp beads to hide this utilitarian part and stop it from being scratchy and uncomfortable on the skin. Stringing the beads is dead simple, toddlers do it for entertainment, and only the crimping is something requiring a little skill and practice. With the right tools it is not hard, and even if it goes awry you can simply cut the wire and start again.

What makes the crimping process easy is this tool I bought online. It has one notch that squashes the crimp bead into a sort of V shape (E) that makes it hold the wire securely, then another notch (F) that folds this V shape again into itself to leave a small round metal bead easily covered by the crimp bead cover.

Here is a video explaining the process. I am not at all affiliated with the organisation in this video, and there are many more videos on YouTube to help you learn. Once you know the right terms like crimp tubes/beads, beading wire, clasps etc it is easy to search and find a wealth of information to teach you and shops offering supplies.

I have a few pairs of pliers I use for jewellery making, bought inexpensively at Aldi or any other place that sells tools. I use the yellow for cutting the wire to size, the red helps me pull the wire through tight once it has been looped through the clasp and crimp bead, and I use the black to squeeze the crimp bead covers closed over the crimp beads.




The wire I use is tiger tail beading wire and I like magnetic clasps, at least for chokers that need to be opened and closed every time you put them on. Traditional clasps are a real fiddle. For longer necklaces it doesn’t matter, as you can just pull them over your head. If you live in the US there are many online shops to buy your supplies from, but in Australia there is much less choice and everything is expensive. I have been buying my supplies directly from China via Aliexpress and so far my experience with them has been good.

Here are some of my latest makes. I only wear necklaces, but the same process can be applied to bracelets just as well. If you wear earrings, there is a wealth of information online on how to make those too.

Black onyx and silver leaves

Blue jasper

Long jade and Tibetan silver necklace that can be knotted

Lava stone and ornate silver spacers

Blue onyx and filigree silver beads

Silver turtles

The DK Experiment

Last year I saw this Donna Karan knit tunic online and loved the look.


So, as sewists do, I thought I would have a go at making my own. The original looks like a very fine cashmere knit, but for a first try I decided I would use a hitherto unloved viscose jersey sulking in my stash to develop a pattern. If that worked out I would seriously contemplate risking, if not a cashmere (‘coz I ain’t got none), then one of my good merinos.

Donna Karan’s creations can be tricky to copy, but this pattern looked easy enough, at least to someone who has hacked her TNT t-shirt a gazillion times for all sorts of weird creations. This time I would use it again, for the fitted side of this tunic. Easy peasy. for the loose side I just kept the shoulder seam going to about 3/4 sleeve level, if the arm is raised sideways in line with the shoulder. I then cut a perpendicular vertical line as the side seam right down to the lowest point, and from there an only very slightly sloping diagonal hem front and back, upward to meet the other side seam.



Sewing was easy and quick, and it turned out to be a reasonable copy of the DK tunic. More details are on PatternReview.

But I have to say that I had not worn the tunic much since I first made it. I thought initially that it was the fabric, which was not nearly as luxe as the DK version, but then another realisation struck me. I did not like the large sleeve opening on the loose side only halfway down the arm.

DK tunic 2

A bit drafty and I didn’t like the look much either. In my version the sleeve was just a little bit shorter, to the elbow like in the grey version above, and the sticking point seemed to be that I  had a bare arm to contend with in a garment that was not meant for warmer weather. And while I definitely like the quirky look of garments with just one sleeve, I always wonder when you would want to wear something like that: when it is hot enough for the bare arm to be comfortable and sweat at the other arm, or when it is cold and freeze on one side? Of course if you are young enough you will go for the cool one-sleeve look and to hell with the thermal discomfort, but I am past that stage. I would have to find a coordinating top to go under the tunic. Not a problem if you always have one on hand, but I don’t.

However, when I contemplated giving my trial tunic the heave-ho and chalking it up to experience, a thought struck me that I could easily add a sleeve to solve the hot-cold problem. Just a narrow tube attached to the opening, going to the wrist like the other sleeve.

The idea marinated for a while in my brain, until I finally got around to doing it and it worked! Suddenly a previously so-so garment had improved dramatically and had become something I wanted to wear!

So while refashioning previously made garments and fixing their faults does nothing for my overflowing stash, it is quite good for my sewing confidence. I still have a small problem in that the fabric on the loose side drapes a bit under the arm, which the Donna Karan tunic doesn’t. The dotted fabric is hopeless at showing this in the photos and instead I am getting a strange horizontal dividing line, below which the fabric looks darker than above. Complete artefact of the photo, grrr. I am wearing a black tank underneath, so nothing can be showing through.

I would like to fix the extra fabric below the arm which you can see a little bit if you have a close look at photos 1 and 3 below, before I cut into my merino. All suggestions as to how I might alter the pattern to achieve this are very welcome.

In the meantime I will be happy to wear my viscose version as we are heading into autumn. It is just the right weight until it gets seriously cold, and time for the merino to take over.





Bespoke Yoga


My half hour on the exercise bike every day isn’t helping me to be as supple as I could be, and my balance could be better too, so I thought I better kick it up a notch and do some yoga as well as the cardio. A good friend of mine is a regular at one of the local gyms, and I can tag along as a guest without having to actually join. So far I am only doing one yoga session a week, but you never know. I am enjoying it and can envision a couple of sessions per week once I am no longer so busy at work.

Of course I need a yoga outfit, to at least look the part, even if I am not very good at it yet. And, being a sewist, I would rather drop some cash at the fabric shop than at Lululemon et al. Bound to be cheaper ($119 for a basic pair of leggings — really?), apart from being far more satisfying. 🙂

I quite liked the way my recent swimsuit turned out, with the stripe along the side in a contrasting colour, so I thought I would take that idea a bit further and make leggings with a wider stripe and a tank top to match. Same idea but different colours and two-piece instead of one. Turning up to my yoga class in a one piece suit might be a bit radical, haha.

According to my online sewing pals, some of whom are into fitness bigtime, the fabric of choice for active wear is Supplex. It is a bit pricey, but one of my local fabric stores had a small range at a discount. A few colours only, but they had navy which is a pretty good colour for me and I liked the jacaranda blue too for the contrast colour.

My swimsuit had a 10cm colour-block side panel, and I decided to widen this to 20cm for the leggings, making a wide stripe all along the length of the leg. Because a leg narrows towards the ankle and the side panel doesn’t, the seam between the two colours is slightly on the diagonal, which I think has a slimming effect. On the yoga top, the stripe starts at the same width as on the leggings, but narrows progressively as it goes upwards, from the original 20cm down to 10cm where it meets the armscye. That was a decision based on the amount of fabric I had, but it is ok. Looking at the pics I could have widened the panel towards the top instead of narrowing it and taken the seam towards the centre to meet the neckline. Something to think about for the next yoga top perhaps.

The pattern for the leggings is out of the February 2011 Burda Style.


The leggings don’t have a seam at the outside of the leg, so to do the colour-blocking, I cut the pattern along the arrow indicating the grain line, which looked to be roughly in the middle of the pattern piece. Then I subtracted the 20cm for the contrast stripe, 10cm from each side. I also cut a parallel line 14cm down from the waist to make a yoke.


The top is based on my TNT t-shirt pattern, Burda 3197. I have had this pattern since forever and it is probably obsolete by now, but I think the Lydia t-shirt at is very similar, if not the same. I have lost count of the number of t-shirts I have made from 3197 and I have hacked it over and over for all manner of things. For this top I just used the front and back pieces and narrowed the shoulders to make a tank style top. Normally active wear tops have a racer back, but I don’t like to show my bra straps for the whole world to see, so I kept the high back of the t-shirt as is. Not very yoga, as those tops often have an open back, but too bad. At least I won’t have to worry if I am wearing the right bra to go with the open back that day and I can scoop the back neckline out a bit more if I get too hot. Yay for being able to sew and make stuff exactly the way I want!


For more details on the sewing process, go to my write-up on PatternReview .




Fabric Printing with Sticky Tape


I picked up three cut length of linen jersey at a European fabric market some years ago and now all of them have been printed and sewn up into tops. So there, take that, stash!

While I was very happy with the first two tops which were done with my usual technique of block printing with a rubber stamp, I was itching to try somethin new. To be specific, I very much liked this Marimekko print and thought I could create something like it by taping off a crisscross pattern with masking tape and inking the fabric left exposed.


Of course the fabric I had on hand was brown, so it wouldn’t look the same, but brown was just the right colour for autumn which is around the corner. I rather like a combination of black and brown and thought I would look pretty good. So after cutting out the pieces for the top, — details about the pattern here –, I tried what I had in mind on a leftover scrap.


Too much brown, I thought, the taped off sections were too wide. So I tried to cut the masking tape in half lengthways, which was a job and a half because if it doesn’t stick to the scissors it will stick to itself. Half way through the job I gave up and finished with narrower sticky tape, taping off a sort of windowpane pattern. Instead of using a stamp to transfer the fabric paint I inked the squares of fabric left exposed directly with a foam roller.


It was much harder going than I expected, because the jersey was quite thick and getting the squares to be a nice opaque black wasn’t easy. I had to go over each square several times, working the paint into the fabric. It took a lot of fabric paint, making me appreciate how economical block printing is. Using a screen or an airbrush may have been more effective, but some of the attraction of the masking tape technique was that it looked quick and simple. I certainly wasn’t going for having to tackle a whole new technique!

But I persevered and this is what the front looked like when the inking was all done and before the sticky tape was removed.


It took me a whole week to be brave enough to pull of the tape, because I was nervous that some of the paint could have leaked under the tape, which would have ruined the look. But surprise, the lines were clean, and I rather like the way this top has turned out, even though it is quite different from the Marimekko. The pattern is much more regular, the small irregularities I thought I added don’t have much of an impact, making it look more tame and conventional. But on the whole it’s not too bad. It won’t be a favourite, and I now regret not using one of the other patterns I contemplated, but if I had, I would probably regret not trying the Marimekko knock-off. You can’t win, and the fact that decisions are irreversible in this business is part of the thrill. Live a little dangerously, I say, and besides, there is always more fabric!




I might still have a go at a black and white version the Marimekko, seeing I have learnt a couple of things with this project and always dislike the thought that knowledge, once acquired, won’t be put to good use.

First of all it is hard to do the irregular pattern with straight lengths of tape. You need to cut the masking tape into squares, which are much easier to place wonkily, and ink the lines between them, not the other way around. The fabric needs to be thin, silk would be best but it is expensive for an experiment, and it is also not very white. I think it is important for the white to be very bright and the black very solidly black for this design to work. A thin cotton would probably be ok, thin enough to ink easily. As it happens I have 10m (!) of cotton used for batik, but unprocessed and still very white, in my stash. Hmm, that would be just the right weight… and I do have an airbrush tucked away I haven’t used yet…

It may take me a while, but watch this space!