The Vanishing Lapel


The Vanishing Lapel

Another project ticked of my list.  In a recent edition of Threads Magazine (April/May 2014) I saw a picture of a jacket that had me very intrigued.  The article accompanying the picture was titled ‘The Lapel Vanishes’ and gave quite detailed instructions for creating the pattern.  I pored over the instructions and diagrams for a long time and still couldn’t work out how the garment was constructed.  CHALLENGE!!!

The only way to work this out was to draft the pattern, as per instructions and make a calico toile.  My first attempt, using a basic jacket pattern, was not so good.  The neckline was too low, the angle of the lapel wrong and the vertical front seam was in the wrong spot.

Attempt No. 2 used a basic shirt pattern with a bust dart – much happier this time.  Although the bust dart added an extra ‘line’ at the front, the fit was much better and it was far more comfortable to wear.

Ready for the real thing! My fabric was purchased online from Tessuti’s – a gorgeous Italian 100% wool faille.  The colour was called Wasabi and, although it is quite different from what I saw on screen, I’m still very pleased (after all, it’s green!).

My jacket differs to the Threads version in that I choose to make it single-breasted and added set in pockets with welts.  The sleeves are one piece and 3/4 length.  It’s a boxy style jacket rather than fitted, and very comfortable.  Check out the gorgeous buttons purchased from Designer Fabrics on the Gold Coast AND the bound buttonholes!




Shirt Collars Made Easy

Amongst my clients I have a number of women who are Anglican priests. They find it very difficult to purchase nice clergy shirts that still look feminine so yours truly has become an expert (clergy) shirt maker. Whilst the collar on these shirts is slightly different (a bigger gap at the front to allow for the white insert), the technique for constructing is exactly the same as any other shirt collar. I would like to share the method I now use which eliminates some of the seams to create less bulk.

Collars Made EasyClick the link to open an illustrated set of instructions.

Happy sewing and do let me know if you have any questions.

Collars Made Easy

Dressed in Denim

Loving this dress, just completed last weekend. The fabric was another purchase on my trip to Sydney in March, this time from Remnant Warehouse.  I have yet to visit this shop without coming away with at least one piece of fabric.  This time it was 3 metres of stretch denim in muted shades of navy and brown floral with a striped background.  When I took it to the counter for cutting I got a nice surprise when I saw the other side of the fabric which was striped without the floral print.  Hmmm, she says, this means I have to use both sides.


The pattern is Burda 8864 which I’m pretty sure is no longer in print.  It’s a pattern I have used and modified several times, always with good results as the basic design is very flattering.  The side front panels were cut on the bias to make best use of the plain stripe.  I used the pattern version with the dropped waist seam so I could add a degree of difficulty – matching the diagonal stripes!  This became a bit more of a challenge than anticipated because the stripes were directional and I was working with a limited amount of fabric, having first made a pair of jeans.  After much fiddling and jiggling (the pattern, not me) I got the perfect match.  Check out the side view of the dress in the photos.  The sleeves were my own creation – a cap sleeve with a pleat at the shoulder.

I finished the dress, tried it on for the last time and something seemed to be missing.  The centre front panel was one expanse that was BORING.  To break it up, I added the shaped belt attached with 2 buttons.  Amazing what a difference this made; suddenly the dress looked very interesting.  Oh yes, forgot to mention that I also added a shaped stand-up collar around the back and just past the shoulder seam in the front.  For a bit of variation I dug out a gorgeous detachable collar with lots of blingy hardware.  I can wear the dress with or without, depending on my mood.

Chanel Cardigan

This was my Easter weekend project. The challenge was to make something without having to go to the shops to buy supplies – i.e. USE THE STASH! The fabric is not that old, only purchased a few months ago at Pitt Trading in Sydney. At a quick glance it looks like the classic Chanel jacket. On closer inspection it is a simplified version – the Chanel cardigan.

I used KwikSew pattern 2759 (for I’m sure the 100th time). No variations this time other than to add the pockets. The garment is super easy to make with just 5 pieces in total – 1 x back, 2 x fronts, 2 x sleeves. The front and neck edges were stabilised with fusible edge tape which is one of my favourite products for stabilising all manner of things.  I buy it in 100 metre rolls from Hawes and Freer Ltd. (NZ) who have a wonderful range of tailoring products as well as beautiful fabrics.  Digging through my stash for a suitable facing, I decided on good old cotton bias binding (2.5cm wide).  Pockets are lined with cotton voile and stitched on by hand.  The beauty of working with this fabric is that you don’t have to take great care with your stitching as nothing shows.  All stitching disappears into the highly textured fabric.  To finish it off , black braid trim (also attached by hand) which makes it a ‘Chanel’ cardigan. No buttons, no fastenings – just a simple style made special by the fabric and trim.

It’s a cold night on the Gold Coast today (yes, we do get ‘cold’ weather) and I am off to the ballet in Brisbane.  I had a strappy little number all picked out which has now gone back into the closet.  Out comes the basic black knit dress, topped with this super cardigan!


Couture Waistband

A waistband on pants or skirt should be firm enough to support the weight of the garment and also to lie flat against the body. It also needs to be flexible for comfort. Interfacing is most commonly used to stabilise waistbands but sometimes leaves you with a ‘cardboard’ band around the waist. Consider this method, using grosgrain ribbon, which is a favourite of mine and one that you will find in most couture garments.

BEFORE you cut out your pattern, decide how wide you want to make the waistband.  In this example I am making it 4cm wide so the waist seam for the garment is increased to this width.


Add to garment waist seam allowance

Next cut your waistband three times the finished width plus 1 cm. Also add an extra 10cm length which you will need to make a mitred corner – more about that later. In this example, my waistband is 4cm wide so I have cut the fabric 13cm wide (3 x 4cm + 1cm = 13cm)

Fold the fabric lengthwise at twice the finished width and press a crease. (Note that this crease will not be along the centre.) Unfold the fabric and pin the grosgrain ribbon on the wrong side, placing one edge along the creased fold as illustrated.

Sew the ribbon in place taking tiny stitches along the fold line. In this illustration I have used a contrasting thread, but you would be aiming to match the thread to your fabric. Because these stitches are exactly on the fold line, they will not be visible when the waistband is finished.



Below is a view of the right side of the waistband. If you look very closely you will see the tiny stitches which are really only visible because of the colour of the thread.


Right side of waistband


Next we are going to mitre the end of the waistband. This reduces the bulk of having a seam right at the edge.

Place the waistband on the garment, right sides together, as if you were ready to sew it in place. Fold the end diagonally at a 45° angle as illustrated. You now have a long edge and a short edge for your waistband. The long edge is the edge that attaches to the garment and the short edge is the one that folds over and will be on the inside of the garment.



Press along the fold line, then open and trim 6mm away from the fold.



Now for the tricky bit. Fold the end, right sides together, at the ribbon edge that has been sewn to the waistband. Match Edge A to Edge B and sew along the creased fold line.



Trim the corner to reduce bulk.

Turn and press. The end result is a waistband that has a fold at the end (instead of the bulk of a seam) and the seam is distributed at a 45°angle, away from the edge of the band.



Now it’s time to attach the waistband to your garment. Align the end of the waistband with the edge of the garment opening. Remember that you will have a 4cm seam allowance.



Your stitching line will be right against the edge of the grosgrain ribbon. Be sure not to catch the ribbon in your stitching.
Hint: It is easier to stitch INTO the very end of the waistband, rather than to start at that end. In this illustration you would stitch from right to left.



Press the seam allowance up towards the waistband. Do NOT trim your seam allowance. The extra layers provide a firmer waistband and prevent a ridge showing through where you trimmed.
Fold under the remaining 1 cm seam allowance and slip stitch this edge in place.


One final word.  The extra wide seam allowance gives additional body to the waistband.  However, consider your fabric. This may not work so well with very heavy fabrics or fabrics with a long nap.  The band may end up being too thick and uncomfortable around the waist.  Consider a different option to a waistband finish or even making your waistband out of a contrasting fabric that is not so heavy.



The Wedding Dress – Part 2

Ta da! Drum roll and fanfare of trumpets. The dress is finished without any more major challenges.  Lots and lots of hand sewing to applique lace to the side fronts and backs as well as the tiny seed beads scattered  between the lace.  Check the side view of the dress – very proud of those beads!  The buttons down the back are decorative below the lace (the dress closes with an invisible zipper) and functional above the zipper closing.  Tiny pieces of shirring elastic were used to create the loops and the easiest way to  button up is with the help of a crochet hook.  The flounce at the bottom has four layers of tulle.  The ‘pouffe’ is created with 8 metres of netting underneath, pleated onto a lining.

The Wedding Dress – Part 1

Whilst I LOVE to sew, I pick and chose my jobs when it comes to wedding dresses.  Too many bridezillas = too much stress.  This one was going to be a quick and easy job.  “It’s a very simple design” says the bride.  “Nothing fancy”, she adds.  We discussed the design and I agreed it was going to be relatively simple, as wedding dresses go.  Then she brought the fabric and lace – ivory coloured silk dupion with a stunning (very expensive) hand-beaded lace to go on top.  The lady in the shop said, with an air of knowing what she was talking about, “Lace is like pasta – you can cut it and join it back together again.  All you will need is twice the required length”.  WRONG!!!

Challenge #1 – Quite true that lace can be cut and joined but you still have to consider the width of the lace, the design of the lace and the design of the dress.  The piece of lace was 40cm wide with a gorgeous scalloped edge on each side.  Perfect if you are sewing for size 4!  Not so good for anything larger than this, and my bride is NOT big.  So, what to do.?
The dress is a princess line design so I was able to place the main piece of lace down the centre front and back, removing the scalloped edges from each side and reserving the motifs for future use.

Seams Like Fun

The panel on the right side of this picture is the centre front.  Beaded motifs that cross the seam have been carefully cut out and then lapped across the seam.  Now for the side panels.  I couldn’t leave them just plain but  didn’t have enough lace.  A light bulb moment and off to the shop to buy some plain ivory tulle.  The plan was to cover the side pieces with plain tulle and applique spare lace motifs (remember the bits removed from the side earlier?) to make it look like one continuous piece of lace.  All well and good until I realised that the tulle backing for the lace was not really ivory after all – more a nude colour.  Now I had a centre front that was a darker shade than the side fronts.  Drat – get out the unpicker and come up with Plan B.    Some careful tea-dying of the plain ivory tulle resulted in a near perfect match.  If you look closely at the picture above, the only discernible difference between the two panels is the absence of the scattered tiny seed beads between the motifs on the side panel.  I’ll fix that later.

Challenge #2 – The dress is fitted from bust down to just above the knee.  The bride wants a tulle flounce around the bottom and has brought metres of very fine bridal tulle in – you guessed it! – an ivory colour.  It’s going to be several shades lighter than the rest of the dress.  Back to the kitchen to get out the teabags.  Working with four layers of tulle, the bottom layer is tea-dyed and the top 3 layers remain the original ivory.  Just one darker layer was enough to give the right result.  Check out the match in the picture below.

Seams Like Fun

This dress is still a work in progress.  I’ve already spent many hours hand-appliqueing lace to the side front and back of the dress.  Still not finished, but well on the way.  The flounce is just tacked on for now.  At the next fitting I will check the length and then remove it whilst finishing all the hand sewing on the body of the dress.  I also have four layers of tulle to finish with a narrow rolled hem.  That’s 16 metres of hemming.

Lots of challenges for “just a simple design”.  Stay tuned for Part 2 and pictures of the finished product.  I having a funny feeling that I have not conquered my last challenge just yet.

Desert Colours

Seams Like Fun

One of my favourite projects was for another Australian Sewing Guild Convention Challenge, this time in 2012.  The Challenge theme was a very broad ‘Desert Colours’.  Just about anything was going to work but my very first thought was my husband’s wonderful photography.  Having done a number of outback photographic tours, he had an endless supply of images that fit the criteria.  I started by looking for inspiration in the colours and composition and very quickly decided that I wanted to incorporate some of the photos into the garment. Soooo…..this is what happened.

Seams Like Fun

I chose 3 different photos and printed them onto fabric sheets – you know, the ones you can feed through your inkjet printer.  One photo (the one with the stone building) was split into three sections and the Australian flora was two separate images, also cut into pieces.  I then arranged them on the back of the vest and fused them into place.  Strips of dupion silk are stitched between each panel and finished with a button on the end – got rid of some odd buttons knocking around in my stash!

The fabric for the pants and vest is a gorgeous 100% Australian wool crepe purchased from Tessuti Fabrics.

Mix ‘n’ Match

ImageImageImageWhat to do with all those bits of left over fabric.  When they are too beautiful to part with the only thing to do is assemble them into another garment.  This Marcy Tilton pattern (Vogue 8752), with the interesting shape and many different pieces, was the perfect choice for my favourite bits of silk.  The challenge was deciding how to place the different fabrics for a pleasing effect, working with pieces of varying sizes.

100% Natural with a Kiwi Twist


This dress was created for the Australian Sewing Guild Annual Convention 2013 challenge.  The fabric is a bamboo and soy blend (purchased online from The Bamboo Fabric Store, Brisbane) which was a delight to work with.   The theme for the challenge was ‘100% Natural with a Kiwi Twist’, hence the bamboo blend.  “So why the Kiwi twist?” I hear you ask.  Well, the convention was in Auckland, NZ  – first time the ASG convention has gone overseas.  Soooooo….the twist is the embroidered fern detail.  Now that was a challenge!  I wanted the fern to grow out of the dress and become 3-dimensional.  Not being a machine embroidery guru I thought I might resort to hand embroidery.  DISASTER – looked like a dog’s breakfast!  OK, slight exaggeration but definitely not the look I was aiming for.  After a week or two of mulling it over I had a flash of inspiration.  Why not try embroidering the design on silk organza and then cutting it out and shaping it.  How clever – it actually worked.  Not one to stop when I’m on a roll, I then tackled splitting a fern in half. Look closely – the bottom fern is embroidered directly onto the garment. The next one up has the tip embroidered on the dress with the remainder on silk organza.  Voila! – growing out of the dress.  Each subsequent fern becomes more shaped, thus more 3-D.  I was ever so pleased with the result and so were the judges.


Seams Like Fun

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