Seamstress Tag

  1. Who are you? I’m Catherine – a writer who lives in the Hills outside Melbourne. I write for children, young adults and poetry for adults.
  2. When and why did you start sewing?  I started sewing because I wanted to make my own clothes. I was at boarding school and they offered evening sewing classes as an extra curriculum subject. I made a shirtwaister dress and an eight gore cotton velveteen skirt – but I didn’t allow for the nap. I can still remember my disappointment!
  3. What is your favorite/proudest make? My Marcy Tilton cirque dresses. All of them!
  4. What is your most disastrous make?  Too many to list – but one of the funniest was this horrible reversible dress – I think the pattern may still be available. Do. Not. Make. It.
  5. Where is your favorite place to go fabric shopping? We’re lucky to have great fabric shops in Melbourne. My favourite is The Fabric Store, closely followed by Clearout, then Cleggs.
  6. What is your most used pattern? Marcy Tilton’s Cirque Dress pattern – Vogue 9112. I love the way you can ring so many changes to the fabric choices and that you can use a smaller amount of cherished fabric for the bottom bit.
  7. What is your most dreaded sewing task? Buttonholes! I’m always worried they will be: crooked, too big, too small or simply stuff up before the sewing machine has finished them. My Brother refuses to sew them these days – I wonder why?
  8. What is your favorite sewing task? I love the meditative calm of handsewing. In complete contrast I love the zoom zoom of the overlocker…
  9. What is your favorite sewing entertainment ? Watching movies on my laptop. But I’m also going to try some audio books in the future.
  10. Printed or PDF? Printed, definitely. I’m slowly getting my head around PDF, but printed patterns consume less time. However, I totally understand that the PDF patterns are cheaper for indie designers and there are so many great PDF patterns available, I’m learning patience!
  11. What sewing machine do you use? I mainly use my Singer Ultimate Quilter – that would be because Helen, my daughter is using my Brother. I have an Elna Overlocker.
  12. Do you have other hobbies? I knit and spin yarn. I occasionally felt. I like cooking and particularly love baking sour dough. I’m learning French and love going out to hear good music.

The Seamstress Tag

Helen says…

Thanks so much to Hollie from Hollie Sews for putting this together! I’ve loved watching everyone responding on YouTube. Here are my answers…


1) Who are you?

I’m Helen, obviously, and I live in the Hills which is in the very outer Eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. I’m studying history at the moment, undergraduate, and hoping to do post-grad in costume/fashion history. I’m just shy of 24 years-old. I also study French at University.

2) When & why did you start sewing?

I remember being a child, maybe 7-8 years-old, and having my mum teach me how to do blanket stitch on a little felt vest for my teddy-bear. Other than that, I started sewing clothes for myself in 2010. At the start my makes were very dodgy, and I never really learned proper techniques. I then stopped sewing steadily for a few years, basically because things just weren’t working. In the last couple of years I’ve started sewing properly again, and in the last 6 months particularly I have noticed a steep increase in my skills and confidence – basically coinciding with my discovery of Lisa from Sew Over It and the other vlogs on You Tube.
3) What is your favourite or proudest make?

Everything I’ve made in the last two weeks!! I just finished a couple of cotton tops that I LOVE, which will soon be on the blog. Also, a bow tie for my friend Ellie, 2 sleeveless dresses….and just a few days ago, a Mesa dress. The Mesa dress in particular has the NICEST neck band I have ever dreamed of making!

I think that these two weeks really represent a consolidation of skills I have been learning in the past year or so, and also show that I am taking more care, not necessarily more time, with each make.

4) What is your most disastrous make?

There were so many in my early days! One that particularly stands out though, not because it was so horrendous but rather because it was so disappointing, was a t-shirt I made for my sister. It was using the Chickadee raglan sleeve t-shirt pattern free on BurdaStyle, from the user Prudence Rabbit. Which, by the way, is a brilliant pattern if you’re size 8 or can grade patterns! Go get it! So I made the t-shirt from a thin, sheer white knit, with opaque hearts dotted all over it, and then used an old white t-shirt to line the bust area so it wasn’t see-through. Unfortunately the fabric was just too thin for my machine, and it all got eaten up. So then I added a strip of lace to the front (to cover up how messed up the seam was), but that then was hand-stitched on in the most embarrassingly awful way, and was a brighter shade of white than the rest of the top. I still gave it to my sister, and for some lovely, kind, generous, ill-advised reason she accepted it gracefully.

The next time I saw it was when she included it in a bag of clothes she was throwing away, a couple of years later (probably unworn). I actually pulled it out and decided to keep it, and even stubbornly wore it twice before admitting it was awful.

The sad part is that the fabric was very sweet, and I think if I had owned an overlocker and chosen a better fabric for the lining, there wouldn’t have been any problems. She might not have liked it still, but it would have been at least wearable!

5) Where is your favourite place to go fabric shopping?

The Fabric Store on an unlimited budget, for sure.

In my dreams, Sew Over It in person, also on an unlimited budget.

In reality, Spotlight. I could go to Remnant Warehouse which is also affordable, and have had some success recently with buying fabric online through them. It isn’t close to our house at all though, and it’s tricky-ish to get to from Uni so I haven’t gone there yet in person.

I am moving to the UK soon though, and seriously looking forward to fabric shopping there! If you live in Glasgow or Edinburgh, please let me know!

6) What is your most used pattern?

This is a tricky one, because I have a lot of patterns that I have used three times or so, but they aren’t necessarily my most favourite ones. I do tend to try loads and loads of patterns and never really get confident with any, although in the last few weeks that attitude has been changing. A top three would look like:

The Chickadee tee – I’ve made three of these, and I love this pattern. It fits me perfectly and they layer well, there are five pattern pieces but they’re small and easy to put together. I think this will soon be equaled in the knit top stakes by the Erin top from Sew Over It’s So City Break ebook though.

Vintage New Look 6425 – I’ve only made two of these so far but it is such a simple, flattering woven pattern, bangs together easily and I’ve just about worked out all my adjustments on it. If you find this pattern, I do have some recommended hacks, but I will save them until I post about the dresses I have made.

Seamwork Mesa Dress – admittedly I have only sewn two of these, but honestly they are brilliant and so, so easy. Great for layering, great neckline, great instructions. I’ll definitely be making more, hopefully a lot more before I move to the UK and no longer have access to an overlocker 😦
7) Your most dreaded sewing task is…

Buttonholes, zippers, any hand sewing.

There are so many unfinished makes of mine which just need fastening. I have just noticed a free craftsy course on zippers though, which I will be doing hopefully next week. I think if I could do zippers easily that would drastically change my top three patterns. Also if I can work out how to sew a button on using the machine!

Actually, specifically, I hate hate hate and don’t really know how to tie knots/secure the ends of thread in hand sewing. HOW DOES ONE DO THIS NEATLY????

8) And your favourite sewing task?

….side seams? Straight stitching? Over-locking?

Or, designing and planning the makes!!
9) What is your favourite ‘sewing entertainment’?

There are so many TV shows I have watched the full seasons of and now miss! But generally I netflix TV shows, although I also love listening to the Threadcult and Seamwork Radio podcasts. You’ll notice the TV shows below are a mix of detective and costume-rich drama, finished with a lovely combination of both genres…

TV shows:
Downton Abbey
Upstairs Downstairs
The Bletchley Circle
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries – watch this if you’ve never heard of it, funny, Australian, and great vintage costumes

10) Printed or PDF?

I’m going to say PDF at the moment, because they force me to trace the patterns which is better in the long-term, and easier to make adjustments to, and harder to lose because you always have the PDF.

I’ve also gotten very time-efficient at cutting out, sticking together, and tracing PDF patterns and I am planning to do a blog on my tips and tricks for the whole process.
11) What sewing machine do you use?

My mother’s Brother Super Ace II, Singer Confidence Quilter or something-or-rather Overlocker which I can’t quite remember the name off…

I have a more simple Brother which I have been meaning to get fixed all year, but haven’t been bothered to spend the money on (instead I’ve spent it on fabric!)

12) Do you have any other hobbies?

I like to knit simple things, I’m currently making my first jumper. I love beer tasting! Australia is so great for good craft beers. I also love to read, although with Uni I do tend to feel a bit text-fatigued and haven’t managed it as much in the last year. At the moment I’m reading The Old Ways which is a memoir/non-fiction book about walking ancient trails across the world by Robert Macfarlane. I also love walking! Although, again, I don’t do enough of it.

Well, thanks for reading and to everyone who has answered the call of the seamstress tag! I nominate, of course, Catherine!!!

Pattern Haul/Stash and Exciting News…

Helen says…
Sorry its been so long! I’m only going to show pictures of patterns on this blog entry, rather than fabric as well, because I want to get this up quickly and give you guys something to read before I put my makes up. Catherine will be posting soon too, just as soon as I remember to pass on our password to her again (she is hopeless with remembering passwords)!
So until the end of December, I plan on making one project per week, and working on or finishing an additional project from my pile of unfinished makes. Most of these just need buttons sewn on, or to be hemmed, and there are a few garments I’ve made or bought which need some minor adjustments.
Exciting News!! At the end of December I will be moving, for a whole year, overseas! I’m doing an exchange year with University, probably to Glasgow, or if not Dublin! I’m a little daunted as well though, because I started Uni later than most so I already tend to feel a bit isolated by my age at Melbourne, and I think moving to a new country will be more isolating still. SO, if you are in the area, please please please let me know – I’d love to meet up and do some fabric shopping! I will most definitely also go to London at some stage to see Sew Over It and that street everyone goes on about, so if you’re in the UK and want to meet let me know too.
So, back to the projects/patterns. Almost everything I am planning is (hopefully) something I will be able to wear in Melbourne Spring, and also layer up when I get to Glasgow. This may turn out to be wishful thinking, but if I don’t wear it over Winter in Glasgow hopefully I’ll at least be able to in Spring. The aim then, are interesting but trans-seasonal garments. I’m trying to make quick patterns for the most part, which I can manage to make in the time I have leftover from Uni and work.
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Enter Pattern One: Vintage (looks 70s but actually 90s) New Look 6425
I got this at the op-shop for just over $1. It looks like an easy make, but one with a few features I can add to make a more interesting garment. If I find some lightweight wool, I’d definitely use it to make view B with the buttons up the side, and do those as self-covered buttons. For the moment though, I’m going to make View D with the v-neck, out of two fabrics. Firstly a dark green cotton with cream coloured flowers that I got at The Fabric Store (they do ship to the UK and have a great range), and secondly in a lovely silky tencel in a blue grey with little grey pineapples on, for a summery version. I think both will be able to be worn with tights, and I actually have a dark green long-sleeve dress that will go under the floral one, so both have packing potential. Best of all, View D has no fastenings!
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Pattern Two: Simplicity 1370
This pattern was recommended by the lovely Rosa from Sewn, as something simple, very wearable, and quick to make. I’ve already made a version in black cotton sateen with an exposed zipper for work, and it does go together quickly and easily (although I need to learn how to use a zipper foot properly). I have a hounds tooth stretch bengaline from the Remnant Warehouse to make this in, which is almost a direct copy of a skirt Rosa made! I am also recycling a tablecloth of my mothers, which is a navy linen with white and red birds embroidered on it, quite South American looking. I’ll use some trims to add some details to this one, kind of a shorter version of a Frida Kahlo skirt (and much more fitted). Finally, I have an old pair of white jeans with a blue and black Aztec print on them that are too small for  me now, I think there should be just enough fabric in them to make this skit from.
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Pattern Three: Simplicity 1887
I bought this pattern because I love how the waistband is flat at the front but elasticated at the back – quick to make but a smarter finish. I’m going to make Version A, without the elastic at the ankle, and probably with some volume shaved out at the side seams so they’re a bit less clown-like. Hopefully you can add the tie to this version, because I think that’s a really lovely feature.
This will be out of a khaki tencel from Spotlight. It won’t be something for overseas, just for Spring/Summer in Aus. I have a little cropped bustier-type top with a khaki jungle print that I love, but struggle to wear. I don’t like just wearing it with jeans, because it is so cropped – but until now I also haven’t had any other bottoms it will go with. These will hopefully change that.
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Pattern Four: Vogue 1168
I’ve had this pattern for a few years and have never made anything from it because it looks, well, hard. Classy, not something I could just mess up. I love the shirt, but I think I’d reserve it for a sewing class or some one-on-one tutorials because I’m not comfortable with collars. I am finally planning to make the wide leg/palazzo pants though. I bought a RTW pair last Summer, and found them luxurious and flattering to wear, lovely and cool even in a Melbourne heatwave. They cinch in my waist, hide my larger bum and thighs, and exaggerate my height which is all fab.
I’m going to make them from a dark blue tencel with paler tiny polka dots on it. The fabric will probably be a bit heavy for most of Summer here, but perfect in Spring or at night. I think that there is enough softness and drape to the tencel for it to suit the wide leg. They might just be fine for Glasgow/Dublin as well, although I’m not sure about the rain…
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Pattern Five: Mesa Dress by Seamwork and Closet Case Files Nettie Bodysuit
I’ve put these two together because I’m not sure which pattern I’ll use with which fabric.
I have 3 or 4 knits sitting at home waiting to be sewn into it, I’m just a little terrified of using a twin needle and all the other fiddling things to be done with knits. We do have an overlocker so that will make it easier, and I really should just take the plunge.
The Fabrics: First off I have two $3 a meter knits I bought on sale at Spotlight. One has a white background with a sort-of abstracted large neon floral print, outlined in black. The other is a floral again, but in much deeper colours (and is a little harder to describe).  Both have a bit of a sixties feel to them. I have three meters of the first and two of the second so I could potentially make both from each fabric.
I also have a dark blue sweater knit with a gold chevron, I’m hoping to make this in a long sleeve Nettie with a high back and scoop neckline. And finally I have a black knit with silver swirly designs which I’d also like to make the long sleeve version from for Winter/nights out.
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Pattern Six: Simplicity 1284
I love sixties fashion! The boxy shapes of this pattern look as though they’ll be easy to make. I’m going to try View D, or possibly View E, maybe with long sleeves, out of a bright but dark chevron wool I bought yonks ago at The Fabric Store. I may end up needing to use contrast sleeves, I think I only have a meter of fabric.
I do need to find some lining for this which is slowing me down – although so is being terrified of messing up the beautiful wool. I think once something has been in your stash for over a year, though, you should just put aside your fear – you’re not going to wear it if its sitting in a box un-sewn, either.
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Pattern Seven: Simplicity 2365
This is kind of cheating because I have already made one version of this top, a sleeveless view B. And I love it. It was actually quick to sew up and the pin tucks were effective but easy. However, I’m going to hack this pattern to make it suit my style a bit more. I’m hoping to adjust the neckline so it doesn’t have a collar, and the neck itself is more open – maybe a v-neck or maybe just a lower round neck. It’s hard to tell in the line drawing but that top darker bit on the center front is a split. I’m also going to make a cropped version, with the pin tucks extending to the hem – this will probably look weird on its own, but tucked into jeans or a high-waist skirt I think it will be slimming. Also both for the version I’ve made and those I plan to make, I’ve omitted the sleeves. I tend to wear sleeveless tops and dresses with long-sleeves underneath in Winter, also with this made out of cotton it leaves it light enough for Summer in Melbourne.
 I have a light cotton with a beautiful vintage-y kind of odd floral pattern, and also a black rayon to make this with. I am thinking of making the black rayon with sleeves with half-circle flounces at the elbows, if I have enough fabric.
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Pattern Eight: Simplicity 8131
I do like to support indie pattern makers as much as possible, so I should have bought Sew Over It’s pussy bow blouse (which I have been looking at for yonks). This one was going for cheap online though, and I don’t have much money so I just went for it. It will probably have less-good instructions and fit and I’ll end up regretting it…oh well.
I have two rayons I bought a few weeks ago for a pattern hack attempt, but I think at least one of them will end up being a trial of View B or D. I can’t decide whether I want the wide or narrow tie…I think wide?
I’m sure I have lots of suitable flowy fabrics in my stash, but the other one that comes to mind is a silk or chiffon (or something) I bought around 5 years ago from The Fabric Store. It was going to be a maxi skirt, but I had an argument with Catherine about how to construct it and I think that soured the idea for me (I know, ridiculous). Anyway, I’m glad now. It has quite a big digital print on it, with some unicorns and a full moon, in a lilac/silver/pale blue delicate colour scheme. I’m hoping to have enough for View A, although I might alter the sleeves to just be straight, not bell sleeves (those are bell sleeves, right?)
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Last But not Least: Triple Triangle Dress from No Patterns Needed by Rosie from DIY courture.
Catherine bought this book and when it arrived a few weeks ago I fell head over heels for this version of the triple triangle dress. I love the African Wax print, I love the length, I just think it looks so elegant and interesting. Almost straight away I thought of this scuba we both bought a while ago, which has a cream background and this burnt orange/khaki kind-of striped pattern. It reminds me of pipes under the ocean which have a whole lot of different coral growing on them, in maybe an artsy video game?
I got on Instagram and commented on one of Rosie’s posts, asking if it would be possible to make this dress from scuba instead of the woven its designed for. She said it definitely would, and put me on to Melissa from Fehrtrade who was planning/has now made one from scuba. They were both so lovely and quick to respond, so thank-you guys! I can’t wait to make this one, and if I see any African wax print I’m going to make a version with that straight away as well!
Inspired by House of Pinheiro’s recent Instagram challenge, I’m going to tackle a stash buster in the next few months as well. My wonderful friend Ellie is a musician, and I’ve noticed her wearing bow ties on stage recently. I have quite a lot of scrap fabric in pieces big enough, so I’m going to use this Liberty pattern and tutorial to make some for her (and hopefully I’ll get to see her play in them).
OK! That was a lot! If you’ve managed to read until the end, thank-you so very much for enduring my rambling! And a few questions for you – what should I expect in Glasgow, weather and fashion wise? Have you made or been looking at any of the above patterns? How did you go, or what will you be making them in?
Happy sewing! Helen, x.