Hack – “hak” – verb
1. cut with rough or heavy blows. “I watched them hack the branches” synonyms: cut, chop, hew, lop, saw; slash


Yeah, this one isn’t an elegant mashup of patterns. It’s more slashing and hewing.

This started its life as another Bonnie. I was sewing my flannel M6696 and I thought that, since I couldn’t wear a long sleeved jumper over those sleeve cuffs, I may as well go ahead and make another Bonnie, with 3/4 sleeves. I wear my first one so much that this seemed like a clear winner. I even had more of the same fabric that I made my first one with!

Or so I thought. Actually it turns out I’d bought two different kinds of fleecy knit, when shopping at the Fabric Store on a trip earlier this year. I’d intended to buy a fleece and a thinner merino knit, but must have picked up the wrong roll. I’d assumed the fleeces were the same. NOPE. The second one was thicker, with less stretch and less recovery.


I didn’t notice this until I got to the sleeves. I’d cut the bodice out of the original knit, using up the last scraps. So when I cut the sleeves and bands out of the new one… it immediately became clear that they weren’t the same fabric, and any garment made from the two of them together would be a disaster.

Instead I cut the whole top again, out of the new fabric. As soon as I tried it on I knew I’d miscalcuated. The lack of stretch meant what was a flattering negative ease in the other fabric was tight and bunchy in this. Add into that trying to get sticky fleece over sticky flannel… well, it wasn’t going to work.


It was too tight to work as an over-things top. So I decided I’d add on the violet skirt, like I had to the moneta bodice before. I don’t seem to have taken any in-progress photos, so you’ll have to use your imagination. First, I cut the bottom band in half and sewed the skirt to that. Unfortunately, because the bonnie top is looser at the waist than the moneta, this resulted in a back that was super baggy and awful looking.


This is the IMPROVED version



I tried taking it in and up various ways and then ended up just hacking the band off and attaching the skirt to the now even shorter bodice.


Even so, I still had to take both the skirt and the bodice in a couple of times, and scoop out the back. Doing this in the middle instead of at the start pulled the fabric out and puckered it. It eventually went back with a good steam, but the end result is a skirt that is about 1″ off at the side seams. I think as a result of this, it pulls to the left as soon as I move, twisting around. And it’s short. At least 1″ shorter than I’m comfortable with.



Not only that, it ends up pulling up at the centre front. I could pretend it’s a trendy hi-lo front, I guess. But the reality is, I think this one might be a big fat lose. I wore it to work last week to see, and I just felt awkward and uncomfortable all day. Objectively it’s not completely terrible, and I could wear it with tights. But unfortunately I think I’m just always going to feel weird when wearing this one.

I wish I’d given up on this one sooner, because I knew early in it was going to fight me and tbh, in the time I spent wrestling with it I could have sewn half another shirtdress. At least it didn’t become another WIP hanging over my head, I suppose. I guess you can’t save ’em all.

I don’t know if anyone noticed some new, more varied locations in my last post about my latest M6696. I was inspired by Heather’s post on Gillian’s Better Pictures Project, about taking photos in public places to get better shots.

Although I would like to learn to use my DSLR a bit better, I try not to be too fussy about my photos, I find it gets in the way of actually blogging which is my priority. But I am generally unhappy with two things – the backdrops and how I always end up doing ‘Ima stab you’ face. So I’m working on them! I took my camera and tripod down to the beach at the end of my street.


This is a five minute walk from my house. How lucky am I to live here?! It does mean a long commute, but it’s worth it.

I was nervous about looking weird in public, and people commenting but it was fine! I did get a few curious looks but no one was weird about it at all, although to be fair there were only a few people there because it’s still COLD. But it’s a fairly community beach – I mean, there was a body boarding class, some surfers, and a bunch of dog walkers. People go there to do things, so I guess I didn’t stick out too much.

As you can see in my last post, I tried a couple of spots. The cliff face is gorgeous but in the end it was just too windy!


Being blown away, or something

I ended up on the steps down the cliff, and just put the camera down on one of the steps. Lovely! Although it would be harder on a warmer day, because it’s usually a fairly high traffic area. I ended up having a great time, though, and I absolutely will be trying it again! I found it easier to make actual facial expressions for some reason. I also found a spot in my front yard where I can take photos, and that will be a good backup, I think.

Dog!! Also stretching side seams, but this isn’t a sewing post.

What worked:

  • Being willing to take a lot of photos and move position a few times.
  • The more photos I got, the more relaxed I got about it. The later photos are much better.
  • Listening to Stop Podcasting Yourself right before I left the house, so I was still laughing about some of the jokes.

Laughing at myself for being excited about a dog. It’s a dog beach, so….

Things to remember next time:

  • Think about where the sun is. I knew I should have gone down earlier, because the sun would have been behind the cliff and it would have been much less glarey. But I couldn’t lever myself out of bed in time. This also is why the front yard is better than the backyard – it means I can have my back to the sun and not squint all the time.
  • Remember the wind. It’s often less windy on the beach than on the top of the cliff, but not today! Figuring out a few different locations will help with this.
  • Take the opportunities when they present themselves – I thought about putting it off till the next morning, to try to get the sun in right place, but decided just to go for it. Good thing too, because the next day was rainy and wet and even windier, and photos would have been impossible.
  • Think about some of the other places I saw today – I was hoping the local school on my street might have a wall I could use, but there doesn’t seem to be anywhere that would work. There were a few on-the-street spots that looked nice but I’m not sure I’m brave enough for that, yet.
  • Don’t take the first batch of photos in the location I like best. As I said, I warmed up as I went along, so the first dozen or so photos are not very good. I’d be better off shooting some practice photos, and then going to my favourite location.
  • Make sure the camera is fully charged. It was close to flat when I left, and I didn’t realise. It makes the remote a bit more patchy, which was frustrating. It meant I had to point it exactly straight on, which limits poses, and it also would just randomly not work, which meant a lot of photos looked like this:


  • Have fun, and it’s ok to be/look stupid! There are some real dumb photos in my batch, but because I had fun doing it I don’t feel embarrassed about them, they just make me laugh. I tend to get in my head about things, but I just reminded myself that I have just as much right to use the beach, and to look silly in public, as anyone else, and that seemed to work!

All in all, I feel really good about my photography adventures! I would like to learn and play with my settings more, but I never seem to have time and brain, and I do find it a bit overwhelming. Hopefully I’ll work up to it soon!


Yeah. Another McCalls 6696. Even I’m looking unimpressed with my lack of adventure. What can I say? I knows what I likes.

Also, I cleaned out my wardrobe of all the things I didn’t like or didn’t wear, and I was left with about four outfits.


This is pretty much everything except tshirts and yoga pants

Since there are five days in a working week, this was making things a tad repetitive. And you’ll recall that I said, when I made my first one, that I was dreaming of a teal version. This isn’t voile, it’s cheapo broadcloth from spotlight. I bought it to line the skirt of my flannel version, and just got an extra three metres for this dress at the same time. It was on sale for $5 a metre, which means that the buttons and thread cost more than the fabric. Can’t argue with that – well, I could if I wanted it’s not the best quality, I suspect it’ll have some colour fading issues eventually, given my experience with similar fabrics, and how it looks when I press it. But I wanted a teal version and I wanted it NOW, and I wanted a weight I could wear now, too – everything else in my stash is quite a bit lighter and would be too cold for this weather.

I will say, it was a really pleasant fabric to sew, though. Presses nicely, behaves itself, the lot. And I know what I’m doing with this dress well enough now that I could take my time with the bits I know matter, like getting the pleats pressed right the first time, and paying attention when sewing the placket, and the gathering at the back.

The only thing really worth noting is that I ‘drafted’ a curved waistband by slashing and spreading the existing band. I took my flannel version apart to deal with the too-small skirt issue and after some mucking around I’ve decided I need the size 20 above the waist and the 22 below. Wearing my anchor version I notice that the waistband pulls at the bottom and not the top, so I thought I’d give the curved band a go on this version, as a tester. It seems to work really well! That, and some press studs either side of the waist button, have all but eliminated the gape I get there. I don;t want to make the band much wider itself, because then the centre back pulls down at the pleat/gather, and is baggy and frumpy.

Slashing and spreading the band until it measures size 20 on top and 22 on bottom.

Slashing and spreading the band until it measures the same as size 20 on top and 22 on bottom – a 2 inch difference overall.

I did the waistband as a half, to cut on the fold, but I need to go back and even out the curve at the centre. I also ‘drafted’ a bigger pocket bag by drawing around my hand, but should have compared it to the existing bag. It IS bigger, but the side seam part doesn’t go down low enough so I can’t get my hands into it. I’m going to go back, cut it in half, and add in a bit of fabric in the middle, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

New pocket bag

New pocket bag

Fit wise, it has a few issues. The sleeves/armscye still aren’t perfect, the front bodice where I adjusted it by trimming some off the centre line is a bit weird, and the dart is too high. As a result of this combination, plus just having a belly so my waist is actually the widest part of my torso, at least on the front, the bodice rides up a bit.

Riding up to above my waist

Which I’m not a super fan of, and you can see the pull lines on the bodice that would argue it’s too tight. But loosening it anywhere leads to bagginess, and I’m even less a fan of that, so this is ok.

From the side and the back, though, it’s exactly how I want it and I’m so pleased.

And I feel very comfortable in it, both physically and because it’s basically exactly how I want to look, always.

I especially love it paired with my Bonnie jumper, which is looking a bit hard used, because I wear it almost every day. I need to make some more.

I also hemmed it a bit longer – I find because the skirt is so wide, it does tend to blow up a bit (see above…), so I hemmed it 4cm in total – 1cm turned under, 3cm turned up, which is less than the instructions say, I forget by how much. I think this is about perfect. It also means it’s long enough to wear my petticoat with it.

Be petticoated

Not going to lie, I am pretty into this look and also how it feels and sounds when I sit down in it, and I wish I were brave enough to wear it to work like this.

With petticoat

You can see here how the bodice is riding up because the dart is in the wrong place:

I think the dart needs to be lower and maybe also a bit shorter. I did think about turning it into a double dart, but I just wanted to sew so I didn’t bother. As I said, I know this fit could be better but it’s an acceptable compromise to me.

Here are some innards:


Turns out I sewed the snaps a bit wonky so I’ll have to fix that – they make the waistband sit a bit off line. The buttons are in the right spot, thought. Buttons picked, once again, by the lovely Veronica at the Button Bar. I feel very lucky to work right across the road from there. Veronica ALWAYS picks the perfect buttons. She’s just magic.


I french seamed the bodice, overlocked the sides of the skirt, and sewed the skirt together with a straight stitch. Luckily, because that will make fixing the pockets easier! The centre side of the skirts were cut right on the selvage so I didn’t need to finish them, and I overlocked the bottom seam of the waistband once I was sure it was working.



I’m finally happy with my workmanship on the gathers, for this one.

I kept an informal count of how long this took, it was about 7 hours cutting to buttons. And the last two hours were buttons, because I was doing it over a couple of evenings when I was SO TIRED and it took me longer than it should have. I am really pleased with this one – with how it fits, how it looks, my workmanship and how I took it from start to finish without any hissy fits at all! A true winner.

Or: Unflattering pictures of my butt and other parts.



I winced a bit at the thought of blogging these, because 1) it’s impossible to get a flattering shot of them, so ~~bodyfeels~~ 2) they are essentially underwear, even though they are covering a lot, and I am not a person who feels natural about putting photos of herself in her underwear onto the internet. But these are essential things that I wear every day, and I want a record of what changes I made, and also, all the same reasons that Nicole blogged her bra.

So! I made some steeplechase bike shorts by Fehr Trade. I wear bike shorts every day I wear skirts or dresses, which is basically every day. I can’t stand chub rub, and it’s nice to be confident to move freely without worrying you’ll flash someone. I was using a pattern adapted from leggings that I had been refining over the years, but they always wore out at the inseam long before they did anywhere else, and also the inseam itself occasionally caused chub rub. I was trying to get my mind around how to make a pattern with no inseam, when the steeplechase leggings/shorts were released. I figured the hard work was done, and much better than I would be able to!

My measurements fell somewhere between L and XL for the hips, and above XL for the waist – waist 99cm, hips 116cm. But I know from experience that my waist is functionally a smaller size than its actual measurements, especially for elastic-waisted things, because of where the width is. I have a belly so that my waist is actually my largest place on the front, but that’s balanced by a big swayback, so for elastic waists or tight fitting yokes, I generally need a size down from my measurements because it sits closer to my sacrum than a measuring tape will.


Because of the funky (and so smart) way the pattern is drafted, I wasn’t sure how to blend between sizes. I sort of wunged it and traced a bit between the L and XL lines, for this first one. If I’d read the instructions all the way through properly, I would have seen that there’s instructions for sizing up the waist yoke by slashing and spreading. If I’d stopped to think I’d have known to do that without needing to read the instructions, since that was where I needed the most room. But I’m trying to sew even when I’m not 100% at my best, which is resulting in a much higher output in both actual, wearable clothes, and also dumb mistakes. So.


Also, there is a lot of underwear bunching going on at the hips but that’s life.

As you can see, these are too large. They have enough positive ease that they actually chafe a bit – I find that for shorts I need exactly the right amount of negative ease or they are loose at the bottom and rub. I also had some pattern adjusting shenanigans because I initially put these on back-to-front and there was way too much height at front. I still find them quite high in the stomach area, but it helps if I put them on correctly! The leg seam should go at the back, which handily removes any need for a tab or anything to tell front from back.


v. saggy

I also found them too long, I have to be careful they don’t peek out the bottom of skirts, so in future versions I shortened the pattern by 1″.

So after that I cut a straight L


These were much better, but after about a half day of wear they relax enough to have slight positive ease. The back view of these ones are at the top of the post.


So then I cut a straight size M.


I was initially really pleased with this. However, after wearing them a few times, it’s clear they are too small at the waist – the L sit above my belly and sit flat and still – high waisted might not be particularly attractive but for undershorts it’s much better because they sit nice under clothes and it means I don’t have two waistbands in the same spot if I’m wearing a skirt. Whereas the M are too small to stretch all the way around my belly at its widest, and not high enough to go above it. I find myself needing to adjust them every time I go to the bathroom during the day, and sometimes they bunch weirdly beneath clothes. They also are too short, and the hem hits high enough to be in the Chub Zone, which means they chafe a bit. I mean, duh, more negative ease = less length.


Pulling down at the sacrum, too small everywhere across my butt.


You can see the belly issues – that’s sitting at my widest point while the L sit comfortably above it.

Annoyingly, I thought I’d cracked the fit and made three of the M. They’re still wearable, and still better than the ones I had made before from my own pattern. I’ll need to make more anyway, so I think next time I will slash and spread the yoke to be a M at the bottom and an L at the top, and use the M legs, which do fit pretty perfectly, once I add back in that 1″ of length.

I serged them all with grey thread because that’s what was in my machine and who cares. It shows through a bit when they stretch but… they are very unsexy under-wear anyway, not to mention muslins, so it’s not a big deal.


Thread show through

I have to say, these were really fun to make. They are a cool draft, the instructions are great, and I felt smart once I sewed it, even though they actually weren’t hard. I just followed the excellent instructions blindly the first time, and now I know how the origami of them works they don’t seem any harder to make than a regular thing with legs. I also really like the way the instructions have you insert the elastic – mine is very functional and comfortable but not neat, but if you were wearing these as outerwear it would be easy to take just slightly more care than I was bothered about and have the insides look nice.


I made a couple out of scraps of different colours.

I will definitely be making more of these, as soon as I can source some appropriate fabric. It needs to be stretchy but breatheable, which is a hard ask. Spotlight has some ‘performance knit’ which my last batch before this were made from, which was great but it’s $24 a metre or something which I guess is not particularly expensive but it is for spotlight and also for something as boring as this! But given that I’ve failed to find anything else appropriate, I’ll be buying some. At least I know how it behaves – the trouble with sewing something like this is that every fabric is slightly different. For instance, the M shorts that I’ve shown here have slightly less length-ways stretch and so are too short to wear by themselves without chafing, while the M shorts made from the same light blue fabric as the L size are closer to long enough.

At least the long-but-short nature of the pattern pieces means it’s actually better for being parsimonious with your fabric use. I got all of these out of scraps left over from various projects – there was a lot of fabric but in weird shapes, but I managed to get these out of it. I did cut one cross grain by accident, but since this fabric has pretty close to 50% stretch each way, I don’t actually notice it at all.

I really love these shorts, and am so glad I tried this pattern. If it’s something you would wear or use, I definitely recommend it.

Who wore it better?

Who wore it better?

When last we left the garden, it was pretty much a blank canvas. What a delight! I had a long list of plans in my head even before we moved in, but I wanted to sit and see what I could observe before I did anything permanent. Besides, there were plenty of other things to do around the house, so I kept any planting to the pots and bits and pieces.

In January, my sister came home from Ireland, where she’d been living for four years. She stayed with us for about a month, which was as delightful and also as infuriating as you’d expect. It was so so lovely to have her, and it was also lovely when she left. She’s living in Melbourne now, going to Melbourne U, and I definitely wish she was closer, but this is closer than Ireland so I’ll take it!

Anyhow, while she was down she VERY kindly helped me measure up my garden and draw up a plan, and then she made it up for me in Sketchup. With a minimal amount of swearing, for that kind of process.

Here is the to-scale plan of the garden as it was in January, minus the prickle tree and palms because we already knew they were coming down.

Kate's Backyard amended


I would like to point out that I do not actually have a giant ‘google’ sign on my shed. You can download things that other people have made, in Sketchup, and that was one of them. Why not? The man comes with every plan, for scale.

I thought a lot about what I wanted from my garden. I want less lawn (I hate mowing, I’m allergic to it, and the kikuyu is super invasive). I want greenery PACKED in, I don’t mind if it’s often overgrown although I would like the possibility of keeping it under moderate control. ‘Lush’ is the word I’m looking for. I want it to be beautiful and pleasant to sit in, although I don’t need designated seating areas as we already have the verandah, but it would be nice to have little nooks. I want chickens, eventually, and I’d like them to be able to be integrated into the garden system as a useful tool, and to expand their diets. I want a garden that we can eat out of often, but that can also go through ebbs when I’m busy or tired, that doesn’t need constant, everyday care, or even every weekend, since in winter I have very little opportunity to be out there. But I want it to be flexible enough to ramp up in summer when I have more time and energy, and I want the opportunity to expand the productivity of the garden if the chance arises so that means using space efficiently to leave room for future plans.

Here are some observations I made about my garden:

  • Very windy – we get the strong wind right off the ocean. Wind can be quite strong and quite drying. Anything in line with the shed is ok but after that things will need to be able to support themselves, or will need supports and windbreaks. It would be good to plan for more trees etc to break up the wind, in the future.
  • Because the garden is long along the E-W axis, it gets a LOT of sun in the summer. It especially gets a lot of afternoon sun, even in winter. And even in winter, that afternoon sun is HOT. Plan for sun protection, both temporary and perhaps plan deciduous trees to shade in summer.
  • Don’t bother with anything along that western facing fence, it will cook. Possibly that space can be used later, when there’s more in the garden to shade it.
  • No point planting anything much under the gum tree.
  • The back bed will be annoying to plant in – it’s barkchips over river pebbles, lined along the front with HEAVY rocks. Excavating all that will be good – those resources can be used elsewhere in the garden – but certainly not trivial.
  • The Kikuyu is invading the shed. Honestly. Any garden in the lawn area will need some solid defenses against the grass.
  • The bins already live behind the shed. The compost bin and potting bench is there too. That area gets accessed fairly often but I don’t want anything there that needs keeping an eye on. Beds would ideally be close to the kitchen door, or at least with a direct line between them. Chicken coop too, for scraps and for checking on them and collecting eggs. I also need to keep enough space open for the bins to be taken back and forth.
  • In terms of zones, though, because the yard is long and thin, it’s pretty easy to access all of it. Nothing feels very far away, although there’s still plenty of space. The only bits that are hard or annoying to access is behind the shed, where there’s quite a lot of room but it’s a bit of a dead space, access and attention wise. And also down the side of the house where the water tank is is hard to access.

I’d already decided that I wanted wicking beds. While this does limit the way I use the space in the future – they’re hard to move, although it’s certainly not impossible – and they are a big resource and time investment up front, it solves a few problems. First, it gives me a bit of extra wriggle room in terms of timing of care. Second, it protects a little bit from the wind and the sun, giving plants a bit more reserve than they would have just in the ground. Third, since they’re raised up, we can put them on top of weed barriers and protect against the kikuyu.

I looked for materials in a bunch of places, and found that it was hard to find timber not treated with arsenic and copper. When I could find it it was prohibitively expensive. I didn’t want metal beds because they would get hotter and also we’re close enough to the beach that corrosion is an issue. I ended up finding dovetail timbers and ordering from them. Because of shipping costs, I knew I was going to get three beds at once. I’d originally thought I might just do one and see how I went but since shipping for each extra bed was minimal, I thought it would be better to get multiple. All up, the price of the three beds, plus shipping, was really reasonable (although not cheap) and I LOVE my beds. I’ll talk about them more in a future post when I detail the building of the beds. Suffice it to say, at the planning point I knew I was going to order three beds, 2.4m long x 1.4m wide x 0.6m high. That would give me enough room for 25ish cm of wicking reservoir, and a good amount of soil, but not so much that wicking would be compromised. Again, a lot of planning went into the beds themselves but I’ll leave that for another post.

So I wanted three beds. And I wanted fruit trees, and chickens, and still a good amount of walking and working room around the beds. Here’s what we came up with.

Kate's Backyard FUTURE


The structure under the existing gum tree is to be the chicken coop. It’s easy to access from the kitchen door (the door is roughly in line with that first bed). It will have a dayrun attached, room for maybe 5 chickens to be comfortable even if they never get let out of their coop/run area. But they’ll also have the run down the back bed – I’m not sure you can really see it in this shot but you can see the end of it up against the yukkas (you might need to use your imagination…) There will be some fruit trees in this run. There’ll also be another run down the west facing fence… maybe. I’d like to maybe plant berries or something there, perhaps. Or bananas? It’d get hot enough! Still unformed at this point, we’re also debating a line of water tanks there. I’d like to grow a grapevine or something over the everyday run, to utilise the growing space and provide summer shade. Ideally the rocks lining the back bed will go, to be replaced with a perennial border lining the extra run’s fenceline, but I’m not sure that’s possible because they are very heavy. I might have to work/plant around them.

We’ve also go two trees (probably two nectarines, although it’s up for debate, I want to plant them next winter) and the three beds. On the right, down the east facing fence, we’ve planned for three citrus (now planted). I’m privately plotting for another bed, probably in-ground or slightly built up, between the washing line and the shed, but that’s a longer term plan involving killing off kikuyu,

Speaking of killing things off, by the middle of February we’d had the trees cut down – the prickle tree up the back and the three palm trees, which I was kind of sad about but citrus beats palm tree, every time. And the temperature of the backyard and house went up by a significant amount, I’d say probably almost five whole degrees.

Where the prickle tree isn’t.

The lagunaria had shaded most of the backyard for large parts of the day – everywhere got sun still but it meant it wasn’t all sun, all the time. Thankfully next door has privacy film on their windows – unfortunately it probably made them a bit hotter, too, although I bet it saves them some dollars because they have solar panels on one side of their roof. It definitely upset the pigeons, who used to nest in the tree (I did wait until everyone had fledged before getting it chopped) and now huddle miserably on next door’s solar panels.

You can see by the long shadows that this is afternoon – I probably took this about 7pm, I’d estimate, and look how bright and sun-filled that backyard is. Also note the grass browning off from the heat. I don’t appear to have taken any photos, but I later poisoned a whole swathe, and then laid black builders’ plastic over it to solarise. Lots of it was already dead anyway. It seems to have been pretty effective. Killing off the grass also kicked the temperature up a degree or so. Hopefully that means that with more vegetation in there this summer, it won’t be as brutal? From that point of view I’m pretty keen to get going on the front yard, but it’s not really a priority.

And baking sun over where the palm trees aren’t. And citrus will be one day.

I’ve been meaning for ages to post about my garden at my new house (where we’ve been living for nine months now, not so new!) I love going back and looking at my old garden posts from my old house, and it’s good for me too because I tend to think that I did a lot less, and got a lot less produce etc, than I really did. So it’s nice to have a record. There’s going to be a string of these posts, and they might not interest anyone but me, so be warned!

So, first, a quick trip back to October 2014. Here’s what the backyard looked like in the realestate listing. The photo is taken standing right against the Western fence, furthest from the kitchen door.


The shape of the garden is basically a long rectangle, although the back fence is angled so that there’s more length behind the shed than at the other end. Features to point out: verandah and paving – that little extension of paving is where the washing line extends to. Those rocks at the back are heavy heavy moss rocks, surrounding a mulched bed with succulents in it. That tree there is a Lagunaria tree, also known as ‘Cow Itch Tree’ also known round these here parts as ‘that bastard prickle tree’. You can’t really see it but there’s a big gum in the back corner there. I’ll show you some more presently but basically, when we moved in, it was a big expanse of kikuyu grass [shakes fist] and not much else. When we were inspecting the house, S was worried that the garden wouldn’t be big enough for me. In fact, it’s quite large, but with nothing in it it looked relatively small. There’s a front garden too, another, smaller rectangle of grass edged with hardy things, but I’ll stick to the backyard for now.

Here it is again in February, much less groomed and tidy, and also much less oversaturated.

Here’s what you see when you step out of the laundry door

The stakes and shadecloth is a tomato, and the other shadecloth thing with all the junk around it is my potting bench, for seedlings.

Here’s what you see if you look left

More tomatoes, bastard prickle tree, trunk of the gum tree. There are two dwarf fruit trees in pots from the last owners (a peach and a pear), that I really struggled to get enough water to. We got a few teeny fruits but I’m not very invested in keeping them alive, to be honest.

And if you look right

Palm trees, miscellaneous ‘low maintenance’ type tropicalish plants, assorted laundry implements. Also a makeshift fence because the last owners had a large dog. It’s just star pickets and hardware cloth but it was sunk a good half a metre into the ground and was quite tricky to pull up. The tree in the lawn in an ornamental plum. You can also see, in the righthand corner, the pump for the rainwater tank, which is quite handy. Except that the rainwater tank (which is down the side of the house, there’s just room fore the tank and a small path) doesn’t have a first flush system, so it’s full of gumleaves and the water is very murky.

Here’s the view the other way, if you march straight forward and turn around

Laundry door, bbq, assorted outside rubbish. The windows are, l-r, bedroom window (actually out of shot) toilet window, bathroom window, laundry window and door, kitchen windows. Then the little setback bit is what used to be a garage but the last people refurbished it and now it’s where the teen lives.

And if you turn right from there

Same palm trees, different angle. Water tank peeping out from behind the house.

And if you turn left

That blank wall is the back of a barnacle bills and a real estate agent. There are people up the back we never see, and friendly but sometimes rowdy people over the other fence. They really like 90s pop music.

The last owners mulched everything good and proper before selling, for which I am very grateful. I also suspect they roundupped the crap out of everything, which I am less grateful for but it does mean fewer weeds.

The lurking green things against the fence are various ‘hardy’ shrubs but they are not doing very well because that’s West facing and there is a LOT of afternoon sun against that fence. It’s so so hot, and basically everything cooks. In fact you can see that the kikuyu grass  is cooked, in this photo. On the street out front, the gum tree and palm trees got burnt in the heatwave. That’s the kind of sun we’re talking.

Ok here is a view of my potting bench and a little bit behind the shed

The shed is quite generous but it’s also where we dumped everything when we moved, and it’s still not sorted out. There’s the leanto behind the shed, for the bins. Potting bench, compost bin…. christmas tree. You know, the usual :-/

There’s an oblong of space back there, with a flourishing ornamental pear tree, and not much else. It’s very tucked away so not a very useful space.

Here’s what was going on under the shadecloth over the potting bench

This is a self-watering/wicking seed raising tray from diggers. It worked pretty well.

Here’s what was growing in it. I just ate some of these for dinner today. Feel pretty good about that!

However, I ended up putting this tray away and going with this set up

It’s just a plastic tub with holes drilled about an inch from the bottom – we had a bunch of these storing stuff in the shed before the move, so we have heaps left now we’re unpacked, and I didn’t have to buy any. Anyway, holes about an inch up, fill it with sand. The soft drink bottle is sitting inside a yoghurt container with the bottom cut out, so that the lip of the bottle is buried about a half a centimetre into the sand. As the water in the sand evaporates, the bottle empties. It’s self wicking, and with the lid on it’s a little greenhouse, and it worked much better than the bought tray, because it has more water reserves. The lid is too dark for winter, though, the seedlings got leggy. Here is how to build one.

The garden bed along the back is mulched with barkchips over river stones. So to dig down to the soil is quite hard (plus side, no weeds at all). Adding to this, the prickle tree left its prickles all over the bed, so you HAD to wear gloves and even then you got prickles. They are little needles, like running your hand over fibreglass. Just awful. I did plant a few things in the bed but it was just too torturous to dig into to plant much. By the time these photos were taken I’d planted and then pulled out spent zucchinis – we got a reasonable crop. I also planted beans

The ants got all but two of the seeds, one of them burnt in the afternoon sun. This one thrived but I planted them a bit late really. I got three lovely beans from it, which wasn’t really worth the effort. I also planted tomatoes

Which did ok but struggled in the afternoon sun too. I got a small crop from them, again not really worth it but it was nice to be out there in the mornings, watering them and planning the future of the garden. I had more success with pots along the verandah.

Some lettuces which got a bit bitter, and a cherry tomato that looks a bit sad here but perked up after some fertiliser and some more consistent watering.

These pots were all self watering, but I used gravel that was probably too large and they weren’t very efficient. You can see the asian greens have gone to seen and the lettuce looks sad, but we picked and ate those plants steadily for a month or so. Chilli thriving in the background is overwintering pretty nicely at the moment.

More lettuce, and the real stars of the show, the basil and thyme

Going to seed here after two months of hard work.

And that was the garden in February! That’s enough for one post, I’ll save the next batch for later.

You sick of them yet? I’m sure not!

Look how NICELY that collar sits

This one is in a cotton flannel from DK fabrics. I’ve already made a shirt out of this although I never wear it because the buttons I chose have a delicate shank (sounds like a euphamism) and keep popping off. It’s in my teetering ‘to fix’ pile.

Gosh I love this fabric. It’s so soft and lovely and the colour is fantastic. I wanted a straight skirt, longer sleeved version of my own precious shirt dress. I sewed this on the last day of craft camp and I kind of rushed through it. It’s fine but there are some wonky bits and I just wish I’d taken a bit more time. That said, the things I’m not happy with now aren’t due to rushing. They’re due to not listening to the my instincts. It’s hard, though, when your instincts so often lead you astray!

I’ve photographed this after a day of wear. It’s wrinkly, but I think the wrinkles are instructive about the things that need fixing.

I initially cut a size 22 skirt and button band, as indicated by my twister dress. The joy of a dress with a waistband and pleats/gathering is you can basically make the pieces whatever size you want, without reference to each other. But when I tried on just the bodice, it looked like it was going to be over large, so I trimmed them down. Although it fits, I wish I’d stuck with the larger size. In future I will cut a size 22 button band and skirt. I think, tbh, that I should really be a size 22 all over, the bodice looks over fitted to me when I look at it objectively. Except that I like a close fitting bodice, so I’d rather have slight pull lines than it be baggy. Just my preference. But NOT for the skirt! I think this might need fixing because it’s quite tight in some strategic places.

In fact, when I got to button stage, I ended up going back and unpicking the placket, and sewing it with the smallest seam possible, from the waist down. That left me with a slightly wonky placket, and some dodgy insides, but it fit much better and tbh I think it would have been impossible to sit down in if I hadn’t done this.

Dodgy innards

The one I most worry about is the skirt. Since it’s a straight skirt with no vent, it’s tiiiight when I sit down. Here is what it looks like from my pov

Btw, aren’t these buttons lovely? I don’t even care that they are two-whole buttons and so twist around.  I can’t decide if I think they most remind me of an art deco Olympic torch, or a Sims plumblob. All credit to the delightful Veronica at the button bar in the Adelaide arcade, who always knows the right button for the job.

Anywho, here are the instructive wrinkles it causes at the back

Too tight! The fabric is sort of a medium density weave and I worry about the strain being put on it. It also pulls across my upper butt

Related wrinkles and strain lines – you can see they are most pronounced right in the centre, between the darts

And it’s too tight at the waistband. Here are the damning wrinkles

Look at that strain! All this tells me that yes, I should have cut the larger waistband and skirt. I have these pulling areas in my other versions, but with a gathered skirt it’s less pronounced. In fact, the waist fits fine when I am standing (Before a day of wear there was no pulling at the middle button), but when I sit my stomach expands, not to mention I have bad posture and lean forward which accentuates this. So when I sit, the waistband is quite tight. To some degree, that is just part of how my body is, and how fabric works, and I was always planning on inserting a backwards-button above and below the waistband button, to prevent gaping. (I find this snugger than snaps)

That said, this is just too too tight. I am worried that the fabric/buttons will tear, and it doesn’t look neat, which is basically my primary goal when I dress. So I’m planning to go back and take the back skirt off of the waistband, re-sew the side seams as small as possible, and extend the waistband. I suspect I am too lazy to recut and reattach the waistband, and I’m not sure I have enough fabric, so I may just cut it at the side seams too, and add in an inch or so. Probably that will turn out to be one of those ‘shortcuts’ that takes three times as long as it would to have done it right. I’m also debating sewing some lining fabric (or organza maybe? I’d have to order it online) to the skirt, to make it less wrinkly and sticky. Oh, and, I’m going to unpick the hem and lengthen it about an inch, it’s just a tad shorter than my preference for straight skirts, especially when I sit down!  This will mean attaching an extra length to the placket, which will look dodgy, but can’t be helped.

Wrinkle wrinkle wrinkle. That’s natural fabrics for you. To be fair it HAS just been sitting in a pile waiting to be photographed.

The other thing is the sleeves. I debated whether to just make the shorter sleeves again, but in the end I couldn’t resist those cuffs. Look at them! Delightful. I adjusted the sleeves for my twister/anchor dress by tracing the sleeve cap of another dress sleeve that I know fitted better. It worked but the sleeve twisted a bit and I didn’t want to risk that with the longer sleeves. But I should have, because these are tight in a specific way. Here is my ‘aha/duh’ moment. I have a broad back and narrow shoulders – what this actually means is that I hunch forward. So if you imagine my clothes moving and stretching with me, if I’m standing up straight, all good. Then I go back to my actual posture… the front armscye folds in as my shoulders go forward, and the back armscye stretches out (man, if only fitting were that easy). So OBVIOUSLY I need more room at the back armscye than someone who doesn’t slump. Actually, the M6696 armscye works fine for me, once I took the dart out of the from (DUH because I need less room there, fitting is hard) but the sleeves don’t. The sleevecap is where you get all your movement room from, basically.

I couldn’t fit away that fold at the front armscye, because I need that to be able to move my arms.

The sleevecap in M6696 is almost symmetrical, which is not really how arm movement works, even if you DON’T slump. That’s fine for me in front, but because my shoulder and arm are already starting from a more forward position, I need the back sleeve cap to be fatter, like it was when I traced the other sleeve.

I think what I should have done, is traced the back sleeve cap and not the front. See how the angle of the slope is so much shallower? I’ll show you what it means in the dress. Here is the back when my arms are forward

Also, note to self: expand the area where the gathers are in the upper back. I need the room ALL over my back, not just at the centre.

Obviously one arm is way forward with the remote, but the on on the left in the picture is just sitting about neutrally. But see the drag lines? It’s pulling exactly where the extra room would be, had I traced the shallower curve. I know it’s not the bodice that’s the problem because this is how it sits when my hands are on my hips, artificially creating more upright posture:

You can see there that the back bodice actually overhangs my body. It’s fine. But the sleeve doesn’t really come to meet it, if you see what I mean.

I’m not going to fix that in this dress – I definitely don’t have the fabric to recut, and it’s annoying but bearable. But it’s something to bear in mind in the future, not just for this dress but in general.

The other issue with this sleeve is that it’s either too tight or too short. The cuff hits me at a point that’s too wide for it, and so it either tries to pull the sleeve down, exacerbating the tight sleevecap issue, or it creeps up, making itself wrinkly and sitting funny. When I first put it on it was really tight and uncomfortable. After about an hour it found a place where it could sit ok and felt fine, but I still keep messing with it because the cuff is flipping around and it sits all bunched.

I think you can kind of see what I mean here, with the bunching.

And here are the wrinkles: on the sleeve where it rolls itself up, and also across the cuff where it folds itself in half at an angle, because that way the circumference around my arm is wider

I THINK what I’m going to do is take off the cuff, add an inch of fabric in there, reattach the cuff. The folded up cuff will mostly hide the addition, and even where it doesn’t I think it will look neater than it does now. If I make the longer sleeves again, I would slash and spread the sleeve so that it is longer, but from the top if that makes sense, so that the sleeve narrows more gradually, because I could use an extra bit of room all the way down the sleeve.

I looked and I can only find a few other people who have made the long sleeved version, and they’re all a bit thinner than me. And/or I have extra muscly lower arms? It IS tighter on my right arm…

Oh AND the bust dart is in the wrong place

Too high

I have real trouble sewing this bust dart, for some reason. It’s too high but partly that’s because the waist, being too small, wants to ride up. I won’t be fixing it.

So, here I am once again proving I can’t write a concise post, even for a dress I’ve made before. :P But you know, I had some real lightbulb moments on how to fit my body, and each time I make it I fix something. The collar on this is perfect. So, you know. Win? I will go back and fix these things, but tbh I’ll probably wear it in the meantime, or at least once I’ve fixed the skirt. The issues bug me but even with them it’s a great dress. I need to fix the buttons on my anchor dress but I wear that at least once a week and it bugs me but not enough not to wear it. These two dresses still fit me better than any of the rtw items in my wardrobe.

Oh, and, I lined the pockets with scraps from Miss Caroline’s orsome tunic dress that she made at craft camp, which just happened to match perfectly.

I debated using more of this for the collar stand but then didn’t because I was lazy, and also this way the dress is more neutral, which is good and bad. Yes, a teal dress is some kind of neutral in my world, what about it?

When I made my anchor M6696 I thought a fair bit about the collar. It felt too floppy and wide and tall.

I’m not sure you can really tell here. I have worn this a fair amount in the real world (although with a new rule of not with knee socks, as I feel too juvenile), and here is what the collar does.

IMG_5054 IMG_5055

It sits up and sags out. This is after one day of wear, with a good iron in the morning. Also proving that my resting bitchface isn’t just for regular blog photos. Here’s a bathroom selfie of the whole outfit, with cropped Bonnie which is basically my platonic, ideal outfit, but where I’ve strategically accidentally hidden the collar from view.

IMG_4995I need to make a million more of these so I can wear them every day.

And here is my twister dress, which I managed to also not get any good collar photos of, but where you can see it’s better.

I would say this is one less button done up than the anchor dress, and the collar is sitting in a similar place. Which means that, when done up, it would sit actually at the base of my neck and not about an inch forward as the anchor dress does.

Here is a photo of a boughten shirt I own, and now only wear for interviews because, although it was the most comfortable, well fitting shirt I’d ever owned when I bought it, it is actually a fitting nightmare.


I wish I’d taken one of just the shirt, but since this was an actual before-job selfie (I didn’t get it) I couldn’t bear to. It was too much of a mess. The collar, as you see, is too big and high, even after ten minutes of fussing with it. The armscyes pull. The back yoke pulls. There are strain lines EVERYWHERE. And it fits me about as well as any bought shirt is going to. I notice people wearing similarly fitting shirts all the time.

I’m not quite sure where this is leading. I guess the thoughts I have about this are yes, I was right that the collar was sitting funny, and right about why and what would fix it (HOORAY! That happens so rarely, it’s almost worth a whole post by itself). And also, about RTW standards vs sewing standards of fit, and where that line is between reasonable fitting and over fitting. I basically can’t bring myself to buy tops anymore because the armscyes are all too low, and quite often the sleeves are on the bias or set in wonky and I know it will always pull. I would never have noticed that before getting better at sewing. I just would have noticed that that particular shirt was annoying to wear.

I know a lot of my makes are far from perfect. Some have flaws that are pretty glaring to me, and sometimes make me feel a bit shy about sharing them when there are so many amazing, skilled people out there. Mostly I share them as a record for myself, because I think flawed makes are still makes and I like it when I see other people making things that aren’t perfect. Those can be the most constructive makes, as well as not making me feel as if everyone else has some magic fitting spell that I don’t know, when really everyone has fit issues they need to work out. Some more than others, but everyone has something, or sometimes, when their garments aren’t fitting right.

And another large part of why I share them is to reflect on a make and what I did that was good, and what I could have done better or more precisely. I know I’ve been sewing quite imprecisely lately and I’d like to make an effort to slow down and be more careful, because those are the mistakes that I feel really let a garment down. Like the placket on my twister dress, or the wonky waistband on my latest in-progress M6696. I will still wear them. Some of them won’t be noticed by non-sewists, I think almost no one in the non-sewing world notices drag lines, for example. And if they do, who cares? Sometimes there’s a dragline there because we have growing, changing bodies that need to move, and unless I want to dress like a female superhero, I am always going to have some fitting ‘problem’. So there’s no point getting too het up about it.

Life has wrinkles. And RTW clothes, even high end ones, often have wonky seams and strange fit quirks. We just don’t always notice as much because we didn’t sew the seam ourselves. And yes, I do want to get better at fitting my clothes to my body, that’s a large part of why I sew, plus getting to feel smug about solving a puzzle, like I do about that collar. But I also don’t think I’ve failed just because a particular garment isn’t perfect. Putting on the RTW shirt and remembering how pleased I used to be by the fit was an interesting moment. I don’t think I’d buy it now. It just looks like such a mess to me. And maybe in another era it would have been not fit for public consumption. But I don’t like in the 30s, I live now, where most people wear ill-fitting RTW and it’s normal. So if I still have little dimples in my knit tops above my boobs, that’s fine. I’d rather I didn’t but I’d also rather I never had to wear shoes or stockings ever, but I live in the real world, where I have to, and where my body is a certain shape, and where I don’t really have a conclusion to this post.

Here’s a picture of my cat.


When last we left the solstice dress, it was… not good.

Now it’s…. fine. I guess.

Long story short, I did end up ripping out and moving the darts. But it turns out the problem was not the position of the darts as much as the depth.

Saggy as, bro.

At that point I was pretty done with the dress so I just sewed the zip in with a massive seam allowance, put the bias binding round the neck, turned the hem up and sewed it, and called it a day. At least now I know why it wasn’t fitting, so I am not so despairing about a pattern I had fitted to myself suddenly going rogue.


It is quite possibly the most poorly executed thing I’ve ever sewn.

I solved the baggy bodice problem by going and buying some more sparkly fabric, and wearing it as a belt.

Which worked fine, to a point.

And you know what? It sure was sparkley. And solstice dinner, it was great. We decorated the house with fairy lights and candles, and there was excellent food and even better company, and now I am going to put this dress away in a bag or possibly throw it in the bin. The end.

I made a mashup!

This one is another unlined Moneta bodice, this time with the pencil skirt from Violet. I’m calling it ‘Violeta’ because the alternative is just ‘Monet’ which is less exciting and also I do not want to be thought of as a ‘full on Monet’. If you think so, keep it to yourself. Also because every time my suggestable brain hears ‘Violeta’ it starts singing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody‘ because apparently it sounds enough like ‘silhouette-a’ and I’m all about that.

I sewed this project a couple weekends ago, trying to jolt myself out of a sewing slump. I’ve still got some lingering craft camp makes to finish off – the Twister dress was one of them, and there’s another M6696 that has some more work to go. And… well, anyway. I was not feeling it. I thought that maybe if I sewed something new, and quick, I’d feel less cranky about my ‘to fix’ pile, which is quite teetering at this point. (It usually lives where I am standing on these photos and I almost did myself an injury moving it out of the way.)

I wear the last Moneta I made at least once a week, twice if I can get away with it. It’s so easy to wear and, since it’s a merino knit, it’s so so nice and warm. Which is good because it’s bloody freezing here right now. I know all you from cold climes will be staring at me in disbelief when I tell you that at an average high of 14°C – which makes it usually about 7°C when I’m walking to and from the train, I am losing my mind with the cold. That’s ok. I’ll forgive you losing your mind over 25°C in summer, because I know it’s all about what you’re acclimatised to. And I am NOT acclimatised to this. At. All. So my primary wardrobe priorities right now are:

  • WARM
  • able to wear a thermal under it
  • able to wear a jumper over it
  • able to easily wear it with tights or knee socks
  • WARM.

And my last moneta fit the bill nicely. But I didn’t fancy another Aline skirt, so I thought I’d swap in the Violet pencil skirt.

The fabric is some thick merino/nylon blend from The Fabric Store in Melbourne, I forget what content exactly. I can tell you that it is thick like a ponte, has good recovery but also will pucker if put under too much strain (I had to cut around some peg-induced puckers) and smells like wet dog when washed. I used the same altered neckline as last time, and I remembered to lengthen the bodice.


Because the bodice has a LOT of negative ease, and I was getting to where I go out again, when I lengthened it I also angled it out. I then compared the pattern to the skirt pattern, and cut out the size that was closest to the bodice size, size 22, not thinking too much about it. I did still have to ease the smaller skirt in to the larger bodice.

That gave me quite a baggy skirt. It actually doesn’t look terrible here, not great but not awful, but it felt… ehhhhhn. Like, the bodice is making me feel like a pinup model, and the skirt is making me feel like a baggy elephant. And while I have a lot of respect for elephants, they are not style icons.

Bodice: AWWW YEAH Skirt: feh

You can see that the bodice has enough negative ease for wrinkles to pull out, but the skirt, despite being folded nicely before wearing, is a wrinkled mess, the side seams are puckered, and the gentle outward curve for the hips is sitting like saddlebags. The back was worse.



It’s not helped by the clear elastic I put on the waistband. The fabric is quite heavy so I thought I should but it may have been a mistake – it made the seam even more puckered than it would be otherwise, besides sitting a bit weird in the seam and needing adjusting when I first put it on so it doesn’t stick to me.

At least 2″ of ease each side.

I did wear it to work once and it wasn’t awful but I wasn’t feeling like a million bucks. I felt more like, specifically, this elephant (you will not convince me that elephant is in distress. That elephant has promised he will walk rather than go in the pusher, and now he wants a treat, and that’s what’s happening there. I’m particularly into the sibling elephant in that video).

So ANYWAY the next weekend I sat down and nipped in the skirt, quite a bit. I re-adjusted my traced skirt pattern, taking it down from a 22 at the waist to somewhere between an 18 and a 16, as per my measurements for the pattern.


Two new seamlines, and my hand for scale… until I realised it’s on a lined cutting mat. SMRT.

Here is the intial adjusting, to about a size 18

Still some ease. I asked S and he said ‘yes make it tighter’ which is what he ALWAYS says. But I did anyway.

MUCH better.

Yes. Good. I also took a wedge out for the back seam, and it still pools a bit but it’s MUCH better. I don’t look like I have a huge weird fabric scar on my butt, and that can only be a good thing. I should remember to go back and adjust my pattern pieces…

There are the sideseams, complete with a little pucker where I took it in, which I might eventually hand sew down but I also might not. I’d initially put self-drafted pockets in but of course they had to come out with the taking it in so drastically. Also, although I do love pockets, and this knit is thick enough to support them, it’s also drapey enough that they messed with the line of the skirt. I also took the sleeves up since they were sitting literally on my elbow.

It was all sewed with lightning stitch except for I forgot to change the setting when I sewed the new skirt seam so that’s a straight stitch. I’ll just fix it if it pops. The hems are twin needled and I also twin needle topstitched the neckline, which was maybe a mistake because it’s bubbly, but I think perhaps that’s just how this fabric do.

You’re welcome again.

Actually you can see an annoying thing in this photo. Stare, if you will, at my boobs, and you will see faint lines running through the fabric. About 1m of the fabric I bought had these horizontal runs, and I managed to cut the bodice pieces out of it – after having to recut because I had a peg-ripple where a nipple would be. So this is LESS of a bad look than that, at least. And it’s not so bad that I am going to fix it but man, I wish I’d noticed it before sewing.

DSC_0214Here you can see the elastic at the waistband, the unfinished seams (I never bother, for knits), and the LINES.


And here you can see my cat modelling it for me. As you can see, he loves it almost as much as I do, which is a lot.

Flickr Photos

Ottobre 'Japanese flowers'

Ottobre 'Japanese flowers'

Ottobre 'Japanese flowers'

Ottobre 'Japanese flowers'

Ottobre 'Japanese flowers'

More Photos

That Was The Blog That Was: Archives

October 2015
« Sep    

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 51 other followers