Tag Archives: MrsC

FO: pink leopard cape and petticoat

28 Aug

Are you sick of pink leopard yet? Cos I’m not and there’s more to come!

Social rock and roll is a hot and sweaty affair and freedom of arm movement is paramount, so all of my ball dresses are sleeveless. But the ball is also in winter so a wrap or cover-up is essential between vehicle and venue, and even sometimes when you’re daintily evaporating at the tables between songs. In the past I’ve just used a regular old cardi out of my wardrobe. But really, surely with 11m of pink leopard I could do better?

At the time, the WSBN were planning their next sewing challenge and capes were the topic. Mel, Kat, and Juliet debuted their capes, using the free online Peppermint pattern (scroll down the linked page to find the pattern), and Eureka! A cape was just the deal!

I’m going to cut to the chase, for once. I didn’t get it made it time. It was soooo close, but I had to let it go.

But I returned to the project after the ball and finished my pink leopard cape. Check it out!

Practical pink leopard cape. Ok, maybe practical is pushing it!

Practical pink leopard cape. Ok, maybe practical is pushing it!

The Peppermint Cape is super easy to make. My only real issue with it is the sizing. It’s multi-sized, yay! But I could find no information on what people sizes each pattern size was meant to represent. It’s Aussie based so I assumed the sizes were similar to RTW and then assumed that Aussie RTW was similar to NZ RTW so cut the 14. It’s perfectly acceptable but I do wonder if it’s a tad loose around the elbows. But never mind.

As demure as it gets in pink leopard.

As demure as it gets in pink leopard.

I also found it impossible to ease the shoulder caps in without gathers, but that could be my choice of fabric. But I decided I liked the gathers so that was an easy solution anyway.

The one part I agonised over for ages was the closure. I’d seen a nifty RTW trick that had a fake frog closure made from buttons. A button is sewn either side of the opening, and the tails of a loop of ribbon are caught under one button. The loop then slips on and off the other button.

But try as I might, none of the buttons in my stash worked, and none of the ones I bought to try worked either.  What to do?

My solution had a roundabout way of arriving. The neck of the cape is bound with self bias. In order to use the scraps (afterall, I only have another 8 metres so I need to be stingy), I had to piece the binding. One joined, my final length of bias was much longer than needed, so I positioned it on the cape so the join was at the back, leaving the raw excess hanging at the front. I used this to tie the cape in place one day and realised this was my solution! But on closer examination, one end wasn’t quite long enough to use for a neat and tidy bow. Determined to use the ends somehow, I canvassed for opinions and a genius friend (which one I can’t remember) suggested making a Chinese ball out of it! Brilliant! So I hand sewed the raw edges of the bias together to make tie ends, mangled one piece into something approximating a Chinese ball, and turned the other end into a loop. Perfect. Except you can’t see it clearly in the photos. Sorry.

I kind like the silhouette of the wide cape across the elbows, much to my surprise!

I kinda like the silhouette of the wide cape across the elbows, much to my surprise!

I decided to line it with polar fleece to give it some warmth and softness against my Wellington-wind exposed arms, and found the perfect pink fleece at Arthur Toye.

Fuzzy wuzzy hot pink lining!

Fuzzy wuzzy hot pink lining!

Although unintentional, one of the great things about this cape is that it is reversible! For when pink leopard on pink leopard is too much.

Oh yes, much more subtle.

Oh yes, much more toned down.


Almost toned down.

Postively subtle in fact.

And what does one do with leftover scraps of hot pink polar fleece? Put it on the couch for Minerva to sleep on of course!

The other thing that rock and roll needs is petticoats. My collection has increased since I made my first one with MrsC! But this is my only white petticoat and started life as two hand-made petticoats.

Not an apron, but my white sparkly petticoat, layered over a locally made pink one.

Not an apron, but my white sparkly petticoat, layered over a locally made pink one.

I don’t have much to say about the construction that MrsC hasn’t already covered. But I do have some tales, of course! It wouldn’t be me without them!

Almost immediately after making that first black petticoat I decided I needed a white one to wear with my pink and white skirt. And a blue one and a purple one and a pink one. So I went to Fabric Warehouse, found a huge roll of white nylon tricot (which apparently dyes really easily), discovered it was hugely reduced (as in, under $3/m) and bought 36 metres! It puts my 11 metres of pink leopard to shame. And I have yet to make more than this one petticoat out of it! But I did make one, a simple single frilled one using a worn white sheet fine white cotton for the yoke. In the black one we stitched the yoke of the petticoat onto a straight slip in a far more robust knit, and turned the edge of the slip to make a casing. But the yoke in my was one much curvier than the top of the straight slip, and in such a thin fabric my attempt to turn it under to make a casing was… unsuccessful. I also had no white elastic! However, I was making it in anticipation of a dance competition that was, of course, only days away so I gave up, plunged on, and stitched the yoke straight to the elastic in the ugliest way possible.

I also made a second petticoat, with sparkles on it, that I love! This was all serendipity, not planning though. You see, once upon a time there was a TV show called “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding” that followed British Gypsy and Traveller families as they prepared for their daughters’ weddings. In this culture, weddings are hugely competitive and the usually very young brides pour vast effort into making the dresses bigger and crazier than their peers’. Tulle. Butterflies. Sequins. Rhinestones. Hoopskirts. Trains. Even LEDs! A friend threw a “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding” themed party and told her guests to turn up in their craziest, blingiest costume. I sadly couldn’t make it, but afterwards one of my friends approached and this ensued:

“I bought this hideous sparkly white tulle for the My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding party because it was the tackiest thing I could find and it is hideous. I don’t want to keep it and realised I could give it to you.”

“Squeeeeee!!!!! I LOVE it!”

“I knew you would.”

Ladies and gentlemen, it is always good to have a friend of dubious taste to offload your tacky stuff to. I am that friend.

Having got it shortly before the competition I made another petticoat out of this, but I had now run completely out of elastic so I threw a casing on it and added a drawstring! And then I competed in these petticoats, complete with ugly elastic, drawstring and safety-pin.

They went into my good-intentions pile shortly after that, where they languished. But one day my fantastic friend The Sewphist was over at a craft day and had run out of tasks and asked if I had anything she could help with. The petticoats had risen to near the top of the pile, so I fished them out and she fixed them by stitching them both onto a single rectangular intact casing and inserting white elastic!

So now I have a single white petticoat, two layers, soft tricot underneath and sparkly tulle on top, and when I dance the sequins glitter as my skirts twirl. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Unless it is this outtake.

I don't even know what I was trying to do here, except make an idiot of myself?

I don’t even know what I was trying to do here, except make an idiot of myself? But I’m entertained and I thought you might be too!


FO: pink leopard rock and roll dress

31 Jul

It’s been a long time coming, but I’m stoked to be able to share my pink leopard rock and roll dress with you!

Bedroom eyes!

Bedroom eyes! Or psycho eyes. We weren’t sure. Photo courtesy Sarah

Like my skull and roses dress and flame dress before it, this was my annual make-the-most-crazy-dress-I-can for the Feet With Heat Dancer’s Ball (see here and here).

I first found and fell in love with the fabric at Global Fabrics (now The Fabric Store) a few years ago, but managed not to buy any. Then the fabulous MrsC gave me a remnant for my birthday a few months later!

Skip forward a couple of years and I’m planning my ball dress. I decided I want pink leopard and am hunting for a quilting cotton in the perfect shade of hot raspberry when I get a text from MrsC – “Global still has the pink leopard, and it’s HALF PRICE!!!” Although not the shade I had imagined, one does not look a pink leopard gift horse, err, leopard, in the mouth, so I strode in. As luck would have it, I ran straight into MrsC who was also succumbing to the sale (although, not on pink leopard) so she supervised as I took the bolt to the counter.

“4m please” I said. That’s plenty for a rock and roll dress.

MrsC cleared her throat. “She’ll take 10m thanks.”

“10m! Have you lost your mind!” I screeched.

“Trust me. This is like a SIGNATURE print for you. I’ve never forgiven myself for not buying more of that rose printed silk-cotton that I made the dress out of that I wore until it disintegrated. You’ll use it. Or you could sell it if you change your mind later. And it’s such a good price. Trust me…” she wheedled.

I have many mottos but one is never argue with your Wise Woman Advisor. I asked for 10 metres.

The assistant unrolled the fabric. At 4 metres we discovered it was cut. MrsC gave me the gimlet eye so I ask to to take the 10 metres in two pieces. The assistant measured out the remaining piece and there was only 7 metres on the bolt. MrsC now turned her gimlet eye to the assistant and suggested they give me the entire 11 metres – but only charge me for 10, due to the cut.

They obliged. And THAT is why you never argue with your Wise Woman Advisor. You want her on your side.

Dainty shot

Dainty shot. Photo courtesy Sarah

The fabric is cotton spandex blend, but heavy, more of a twill weave than a sateen weave. I settled on Butterick 5033.

Butterick 5033

Butterick 5033, I chose View A

First up, the mock-up. I did my normal trick of finding the finished measurements (for Butterick, printed on the bustline and waistline on the tissue paper) and graded between the sizes that looked the best, completely disregarding the size chart. After a hilarious episode where I attempted to teach Mechanic Man to pin the centre back closed (honestly, the man can strip and rebuild an engine, but explain to him that the pointy bit goes in and comes out parallel to but 1.5 cm away from the edge and he’s completely lost), I got into the bodice. And WOE! Woe is me! The bottom wouldn’t even touch.

My first bodice toile. Oh no!

My first bodice toile. Oh no!

I mournfully looked at the photo that Mechanic Man took for me and started mentally calculating the potential-faffing-about-factor, and resolved there was only one solution.

One does not have a Wise Woman Advisor in the family just for fabric peer pressure. I took my bodice to MrsC.

I’d already resolved the shoulder seams needed to be reduced to 1cm, and did this on arrival. Then I got pinned in (with much more efficiency) and waited for the diagnosis. MrsC, in the magical ways of Wise Woman Advisors throughout the ages, clicked her tongue, produced a ribbon, tied it around my natural waist, cut off the fabric under the ribbon, and pronounced it fixed.

No, seriously. It was a perfect fit. Just Like That. (Wise Woman Advisors – you should get one).

Swishy shot

Swishy shot. Photo courtesy Sarah

It was a piece of cake after that. I lined the bodice with some hot pink stretch cotton poplin I fortuitously bought at the same time I bought the black stretch cotton for the bodice of my flame dress with the startlingly acute realisation that pink would feature in my future (and likely will over and over again). I measured the seamline on my new bodice and the skirt and they were so close I decided not to adjust the skirt, but to make as per the pattern and take in the side seams if needed to meet the bodice. It’s not like the skirt of that volume would suffer.

I did however discover the underarms sagged quite unattractively. So I used MrsC’s taping method and eased it on quite aggressively. Perhaps too aggressively, there are some little puckers when I’m not wearing it, but I’m totally pleased with the effectiveness of this technique.

Armhole before taping, You can see that much of my bra because of the gaping.

Armhole before taping, You can see that much of my bra because of the gaping.

The other side, already taped, and fitting close to the skin

The other side, already taped, and fitting close to the skin

The skirt was a bit of a deliberately brave move for me. It has a centre front seam and three knife pleats either side. Did I really want pleats in the centre front or should I stick with a circle skirt? Did I need the extra bulk right of pleats and all that additional fabric right over my prominent tummy?

That was the thought that did it for me.  As a body positivity enthusiast, but not yet very experienced self-practitioner, I decided to give a silent SCREW YOU to whoever decided that women only look good with tiny waists and wear the skirt because I like it and that is the only opinion on the face of the planet that matters when it comes to what I wear. Plus, you know, I’d never made pleats before.

The pleats were easy, the skirt sewed up really straightforward (although I did get worried at one point as I attempted to maneouver the entire skirt across my sewing table that I was going to get trapped under it and weeks later they’d finally find me buried under 3 tonnes of leopard print) and the dress was done!

More swishing. Big skirts plus petticoats demand it.

More swishing. Big skirts plus petticoats demand it. Photo courtesy Sarah

I had originally decided to do the cutout, for a few reasons. First, it’s on the pattern. Second, I like cut-outs on principle. And third, I need lots and lots of ventilation in a dancing dress. But after putting the bodice together, I was worried about attempting the cutout. What if I hated it? What if I cocked it up? I certainly couldn’t undo it! So I made a sample to test out the method and the look. I wasn’t convinced.

So I took my sample along to the WSBN meet-up at the Home Sewn exhibtion at The Dowse Museum (which I never blogged about but others did). The conclusion was pretty universal. Cut out plus pink leopard might just, well, go in a direction that I didn’t want to go in. So I abandoned that. But one day, I will make this dress (or a variation thereoff) and the cutout WILL happen! (Entertaining side story, as well as passing my sample around, MrsC did an impromptu bodice fitting in the middle of The Dowse, in a room filled with hundreds of people, to the entertainment of the WSBN members watching.)


Twirly! Photo courtesy Sarah

The weekend of the ball I had my regular monthly craft day at my house, and my lovely friend Miss La Belle attended. A couple of days before, at class, a fellow dance student asked if Punk Flatmate and I would be wearing matching outfits again, as they’d loved the matching flame outfits, and almost the same day Collette released their tutorial for a men’s necktie. Miss La Belle was looking for a project to do and volunteered to make the neck tie out of the scraps of my dress, and it came out AMAZING. But her awesomeness doesn’t stop there. Inspired by the pink and chocolate combination, she also made me two pairs of earrings and a necklace in that colour combo! I wore the studs on the night.

Lots of skirt!

Lots of skirt! Photo courtesy Sarah

The day of the ball rolled around, and as I normally do, I booked the skilled Claire of The Vanity Case to do my hair and makeup. Miss La Belle decided not to stop her awesomeness just with a necktie and jewellery and came over on the day to day Punk Flatmate’s hair pink to match and also painted my nails for me. IN PINK LEOPARD. Hell yeah!

Oh yeah. Pink leopard fingernails!

Oh yeah. Pink leopard fingernails!

I think it was one of the best hair and makeup jobs Claire has done yet, and I couldn’t believe it was really me in the mirror when she was done. Unfortunately, she’d had a really slim window to come over before I had to leave for the ball, so I skipped photos at home, thinking I’d use the event photographer to make up for it. She did take this snap on her phone though.

Hair and makeup by The Vanity Case

Hair and makeup and photo by The Vanity Case

Unfortunately, there was no event photographer! So Punk Flatmate and I asked some friends to take some snaps, but none of them really turned out spectacularly, but I’m still pretty sure you can get the idea that WE LOOKED FREAKING AMAZING HELL YEAH WE DID.

We're looking at two different cameras, whoops! But check out that awesome tie and matching mohawk! Isn't he gorgeous!

We’re looking at two different cameras, whoops! But check out that awesome tie and matching mohawk! Isn’t he gorgeous! Photo courtesy Julian. Or Chris.

But the lack of event photos means no action shots of my skirt and petticoats flying and flashing my hot pink knickers I bought for the occasion. But I can’t leave you without a twirling pic at all can I!

Obligatory mid twirl photo

Obligatory mid twirl photo. Photo courtesy Sarah

Guess what! There are two more items for this ensemble to show off. But given my complete inability to blog in 50 words or less, I’m saving them for the next post!

“The girls” – the women at the heart of my life

4 Jul

I am lucky to be part of a great circle of friends, wonderful, talented creative ladies every one of them. These women are the people I refer to when I tell my Mechanic Man “I’m seeing the girls.” They’re the ones I ask for advice and give advice to, the ones who have helped me out, the ones I help out, and the ones whose company I seek when I am seeking company. We’ve done photo shoots together, picnicked together, taken part in historical costuming events together, road tripped together, and played Sing Star together. I adore each and every one of them and wouldn’t be without them. And as I’ve already mentioned them more than once, and am likely to mention them again, I wanted to devote a bit of space to telling you how I was blessed by them.


MrsC was a gift to me by my old employer. Truly! I was part of a team of three reporting into the wonderful Pennie. At the beginning of 2008 BOTH of my colleagues resigned, just over a month apart, and I spent the next three months singlehandedly performing our function and desperately waiting for back-up. Pennie started recruiting for two new people, one of whom would manage me and the other recruit. But as I was the only person left, Pennie was determined that both the new hires would be people I’d get on well with.

MrsC was one of the final two candidates for the manager role. The other candidate was a little more qualified (which I find hard to believe because how could anyone be better than MrsC at anything!) but Pennie knew that Mrs C was into that “weird sewing stuff” that I did and figured that our personalities would match so the deal was struck. And she was right. Oh so very very right. Lithium and oxygen explosively right. We hit it off instantly. We’d start every day at the office with a catch-up about our sewing and crafting, our lives, our men, our hopes and dreams and frustrations. Occasionally we talked about work, if it didn’t interfere. Our friendship extended waaay past a normal boss-worker one.

MrsC always encouraged me in everything (if by encourage you mean threatening to make my work-place performance review hinge on my sewing performance). She encouraged me to seek out burlesque classes and supported my enthusiasm. (I’m possibly the only office worker to have been bought underwear by her boss not once but THREE times.) She has rescued me from sewing woes and kindly made me not one but two dresses when needed for specific occasions and I wasn’t able to do it! She famously left her job as my manager to open Made on Marion, Wellington’s best craft supplies store. It shows how alike we are that this is also a dream of mine; one I first planned over ten years ago. I’ll get there one day!

MrsC is one of my dearest friends. My mum refers to Mrs C as my Wellington mum, and there’s something in that! She’s creative and talented and passionate. I couldn’t imagine my life without her dry humour, her endless capacity to listen and talk, and well, her just all-round freaking awesomeness.

At the end of 2009, just over a year after I met MrsC, I had the idea to invite her and a couple of other crafters over to take advantage of my newly set-up giant craft room. Mr C thought it was a great idea and the unimaginatively named monthly craft day was born and has been going ever since.

Mrs C and I ready for the Art Nouveaux ball, organised by The Dreamstress

Mrs C and I ready for the Art Nouveaux ball, organised by The Dreamstress of course. MrsC made her dress. Photo courtesy MrC.

The Dreamstress, Mrs C, and Madame Ornata playing dress-ups. Photo courtesy Sarah.

The Dreamstress, MrsC, and Madame Ornata playing dress-ups. MrsC made her purple coat and The Dreamstress made both the other outfits. Photo courtesy Sarah.

The Dreamstress at the opening of Mrs C's shop, telling people about upcoming tap pants classes

The Dreamstress at the opening of MrsC’s shop, telling people about upcoming tap pants classes

The Dreamstress

MrsC, unlike me, has an interest in truly historical costuming. (My fashion interests don’t really start until the 1930s). In 2009 there was a ball and show called The Affair of the Diamond Necklace and attendees were required to dress in era-appropriate clothing and attend an interactive dinner set in the Court of Versailles. Upon Googling this, MrsC discovered The Dreamstress, who was making up a very fancy dress to wear to it. Being the social butterfly she is, Mrs C contacted The Dreamstress and they struck up a fast friendship.

When I had my inaugural monthly craft day, Mrs C asked if she could invite The Dreamstress. The more the merrier I said! And so The Dreamstress entered my life when she turned up at my house that first month and has been a treasured friend ever since. I doubt there’d be as many days of dress-ups and photo shoots if not for The Dreamstress. The Dreamstress is without doubt one of the most amazing seamstresses I know and I’m always amazed at her skill and talent. I consider myself lucky to get to handle and sometimes even wear her work and one of my goals is to be able to afford a custom corset, or three.  And The Dreamstress is of course a wonderful person to know. Witty, kind, and generous, full of wry observations and always up for an adventure, she is fun to be around.

Shell with her bridesmaids; The Dreamstress, The Sewphist and me

Shell with her bridesmaids; The Dreamstress, The Sewphist and me. Photo courtesy Sarah

The Dreamstress, Madame O and Shell, at a photo shoot. Shell was there to do styling and both The Dreamstress and Madame O are wearing things they've made. Photo courtesy Sarah.

The Dreamstress, Madame O and Shell, at a photo shoot. Shell was there to do styling and both The Dreamstress and Madame O are wearing things they’ve made. Photo courtesy Sarah.

The Dreamstress playing dress-ups with Madame O, and Shell helping to style. Photo courtesy Sarah.

The Dreamstress playing dress-ups with Madame O, and Shell helping to style. Photo courtesy Sarah.

Madame Ornata

The story of how I met Madame O is short and sweet. When Mrs C extended the initial invitation to craft day to The Dreamstress, she in turn emailed me asking if she could bring a friend. So Madame Ornata arrived with the The Dreamstress and I loved her on the spot.

Another talented and incredible woman, she does the most exquisite embroidery that will make you whimper with delight, makes amazing historical gowns, and crafts beautiful, delicate jewellery. She’s also a well educated and talented scientist.

She shows up regularly in The Dreamstress’ blog modelling garments. She also has the most enthusiastic, outgoing, buoyant approach to life. Being with her is like being with a box-load of puppies, all wriggly unconstrained enthusiasm that makes you want to laugh and enjoy life just by being in her presence. She’s damn funny to boot and an absolute ham when on camera – oh I wish I could show you some of the photos we have of her – but some are too outrageous for the public! What a glorious woman to be friends with.

Me and Madame Ornata playing stupid dress-ups at the beach, along with Shell and Sarah. Photo courtesy Sarah.

Me and Madame Ornata playing stupid dress-ups at the beach, along with Shell and Sarah. Photo courtesy Sarah.

I don't even know what we were doing. I think this was under the instruction to "emphasise the wind". Madame O got it right.

I don’t even know what we were doing. I think this was under the instruction to “emphasise the wind”. Madame O got it right. Photo courtesy Sarah.

I'm not even sure what this was from! The Sewphist wears a dress by the Dreamstress, Madame O made her corset and skirt

I’m not even sure what this was from! The Sewphist wears a dress by the Dreamstress, Madame O made her corset and skirt

The Sewphist

About the same time I started craft day, Mrs C and I decided to throw a craft market at work for Christmas. A colleague of ours, LM introduced us to another friend, who we told all about our market. She in turn introduced us to a friend of hers who makes amazing things, so that she could put her wares in our market.

Simply selling her stuff wasn’t enough, we wanted her as one of ours, so “Come to craft day!” I chirped! So The Sewphist came, she met The Dreamstress and Madame Ornata, and another link in our group was permanently installed.

The Sewphist is multi-talented, not only making incredible giftwares for sale but running Made.It, a great hand made goods shop in town! (Seriously, it’s an amazing store, she curates the most incredible range or handmade pieces.) She also speaks French fluently and has an amazing choral voice. She’s also kind, funny and thoughtful, and is the dear friend who cut out and made up my flame skirt while I tidied up her fabric stash. Yet another special woman I am lucky to be friends with.

The Sewphist, me, and Shell lounging at The Sewphist's birthday party at hers. Photo courtesy Sarah.

The Sewphist, me, and Shell lounging at The Sewphist’s birthday party at hers. Photo courtesy Sarah.

The Sewphist being adorable along with Shell, both in The Dreamstress creations

The Sewphist being adorable along with Shell, both in The Dreamstress creations. Photo courtesy Madame O.

The Dreamstress, The Sewphist and me, as bridesmaids for Shell

The Dreamstress, The Sewphist and me, as bridesmaids for Shell


In June 2010 the above trio of ladies were well established as dear friends. Mrs C and I were flogging off unwanted fabric (yes, it does exist!) at Fabric-a-brac the morning of one of The Dreamstress’ historical shows.

A lovely lady picked up a piece of my fabric and was eyeing it up. I asked her what her plans were for it and she said a historical skirt. Spotting an opportunity, I thrust a pamphlet for the afternoon’s show into her hands. She then bought the fabric as well as a sari from MrsC’s stash to line a coat.

That afternoon she showed up at the show, wearing a gorgeous coat she’d made. I introduced her to MrsC as the person who’d bought the sari that morning and she opened the coat to reveal it was self-made and the lining was another sari. MrsC laughed – she’d sold THAT sari to Sarah at the previous FAB! “Come crafting next week” said I, and she did, and another firm friendship was made, with me and with the others above.

Sarah is a fearless creator, setting her mind on something then figuring out how to do it. She has the brains of a rocket scientist (seriously! She has a Masters in astronomy) and the creativity of an artist. She has a fabulously dry wit and is great fun to hang out with. She is also the photographer of our group, talented and creative, and the mastermind behind my flame dress fancy shoot as well as the credit of most of the photos here. If there is a dress-up to be had, she’ll be holding a camera.

Sarah and Nini, a rare sighting in the wild as Sarah is normally operating the camera, and Nini - the only one with children - doesn't make it to events as often as we'd like! Nini took the Ghosts of the Titanic theme to a whole new level with her zombie outfit. Photo courtesy Madame Ornata

Sarah and Nini, a rare sighting in the wild as Sarah is normally operating the camera, and Nini – the only one with children – doesn’t make it to events as often as we’d like! Nini took the Ghosts of the Titanic theme to a whole new level with her zombie outfit. Photo courtesy Madame Ornata

Sarah and Emily being beautiful Edwardian women at The Dreamstress' Ghosts of the Titanic historical costume ball. Photo courtesy Madame Ornata.

Sarah and Emily being beautiful Edwardian women at The Dreamstress’ Ghosts of the Titanic historical costume ball. Sarah made her gown and Emily models a Dreamstress creation. Photo courtesy Madame Ornata.

Sarah with her camera, showing Madame O a shot, during another dress-up day. Both of them in their own creations. Photo courtesy The Dreamstress

Sarah with her camera, unsurprisingly, showing Madame O a shot, during another dress-up and photo day. Both of them in their own creations – and that was Sarah’s first ever corset! Photo courtesy The Dreamstress


Shell is an American who met The Sewphist online in a craft-related forum. In November 2010 she came to New Zealand for a working holiday. The Sewphist brought her to Sarah’s birthday party pretty much straight from the airport when she arrived, and was instantly adopted by our entire group.She met her now-husband on her second day in the country too, so she didn’t do too badly in two days!

I was lucky enough to have Shell flat with us for about 6 months of her stay, and she was great fun to live with. Our whole group was heart broken when she had to leave New Zealand at the end of her visa, taking her new husband with her, and delighted when the two of them secured a new visa so she could return.

Her NZ wedding was a real family affair, organised in 6 weeks, with MrsC acting as Mother of the Bride; The Dreamstress as dressmaker; The Dreamstress , The Sewphist and me as bridesmaids; Madame Ornata as florist and table decorator; and Sarah as official photographer; and it is of course thoroughly blogged on The Dreamstress’ blog.

Shell is sweet, funny, creative, and basically damn good fun to hang around with.  She has a clever and witty humour and is easy to talk to about anything. And she’s tolerant of us teasing her about her accent and an amazing potter. It was a real privilege to be part of her wedding and I’m so pleased to be her friend.

I was lucky to be one of Shell's bridesmaids, along with The Sewphist and The Dreamstress. Photo courtesy Sarah.

I was lucky to be one of Shell’s bridesmaids, along with The Sewphist and The Dreamstress. The Dreamstress made Shell’s dress and MrsC made mine. Photo courtesy Sarah.

Shell and I backstage doing last minute sewing for The Dreamstress' show Grandeur and Frivolity

Shell and I backstage doing last minute sewing for The Dreamstress’ show Grandeur and Frivolity. Photo courtesy Sarah

Shell and I modelling The Dreamstress corsets for a special corset edition of Dr Sketchy, presented by The Dreamstress

Shell and I modelling The Dreamstress corsets for a special corset edition of Dr Sketchy, presented by The Dreamstress

Shell does spooky well. Madame O does hilarious well. This is what happens when they occur at the same time. Photo courtesy Sarah.

Shell does spooky well. Madame O does hilarious well. This is what happens when they occur at the same time. Photo courtesy Sarah.

Nini of Things Unseen

I met Nini through sewing classes that I attended way back in 2007, and thought she was lovely. When I started craft day in 2009, I asked her to come along and we started to get to know each other better, and I’m so glad we did. Through craft day she eventually met everyone else in the crew too! Nini replaced sewing with jewellery making as her creative outlet, and quickly settled on a steampunk, Victorian, gothic aesthetic. Her work is simply beautiful.Every one of us has some of her beautiful jewellery and although her kids mean she doesn’t get to hang out as often as we’d like, I always enjoy her company when I get it. She is a free spirit, exuberantly generous, creative and kind, with a wonderfully refreshing viewpoint on the world that make conversations with her fascinating.

Nini showing her beautiful creations to Madame Ornata, who (like most of us) owns a collection of Things Unseen jewellery, and hers is definitely the largest!

Nini showing her beautiful creations to Madame Ornata, who (like most of us) owns a collection of Things Unseen jewellery, although hers is definitely the largest! Photo courtesy Sarah

Also from the Titanic ball, zombie Nini and Madame O

Also from the Ghosts of the Titanic ball, zombie Nini and Madame O


I met Emily through MrsC. MrsC had earmarked us to meet as she thought we’d get along. One day in 2010 MrsC realised Emily and I were both going to the same burlesque event and thought “Aha! You can now meet!” Equipped with MrsC’s info, and a memory of a LinkedIn photo, I traipsed up to a beautiful redhead during the intermission and asked “are you Emily?” And she was.And we talked and got along but didn’t really get a chance to arrange to catch up again.

It turned out she also knew The Dreamstress, and shortly we met again at one of The Dreamstress’ afternoon teas. I invited her along to craft day, and, as per usual, she met and bonded with the group. Emily has a sharp mind, and is wonderful to talk with. She has a great dry wit, a fabulously entertaining and insightful blog, and a sharp fashion sense. She’s also the only one in this group who shares my love of burlesque and modern pin-up and leopard print so we see each other through that social circle too. She’s a talented MC and always fantastic to watch on stage, working her magic on the crowd. Again, what a delight to have her in my life.

I'm wathcing Emily play the theremin she had set up for her retro/steampunk/burlesque/dinosaur party

I’m watching Emily play the theremin she had set up for her retro/steampunk/burlesque/dinosaur party

An arty shot of Emily being radiant and me being startled by the camera at The Dreamstress' Ghosts of the Titanic historic costume ball

An arty shot of Emily being radiant and me being startled by the camera at The Dreamstress’ Ghosts of the Titanic historic costume ball. Photo courtesy Madame O

Emily and The Sewphist stop by to visit Mrs C and he shop before it opens

Emily and The Sewphist stop by to visit MrsC and her shop before it opens. Photo courtesy Sarah.


These women are all without fail incredible people. They’re all so diverse, but not one of them I’d be without. They bring so much to life. We’ve done photo shoots and costume parties and Sing Star and organised a wedding together.

The Dreamstress (and her visiting sister), Shell, Emily, and Sarah at Emily's awesome retro/steampunk/burlesque/dinosaur themed birthday party. Photo courtesy Madame Ornata.

The Dreamstress (and her visiting sister), Shell, Emily, and Sarah at Emily’s awesome retro/steampunk/burlesque/dinosaur themed birthday party. Yes, most awesome theme ever. No idea where I was when this was taken though! Photo courtesy Madame Ornata.

Afternoon tea after a photoshoot modelling corsets for The Dreamstress. Left to right, The Sewphist, Madame O, Emily, and me. Photo courtesy The Dreamstress.

Afternoon tea after a photoshoot modelling corsets for The Dreamstress in Emily’s amazingly decorated home. Left to right, The Sewphist, Madame O, Emily, and me. Photo courtesy The Dreamstress.

It brings me so much pleasure to have their friendship and I think myself very lucky every time I get to hang out with one of them. And I’m looking forward to hanging out with all of them real soon!

One of the few photos of most of us! Taken Shell's wedding. Left to right: Mrs C, The Sewphist, me, Shell, The Dreamstress, Sarah, and Madame Ornata. I think Emily took the photo. Nini couldn't make it to the wedding but she made Shell's necklace and earrings.

One of the few photos of most of us – although still not all! Taken at Shell’s wedding. Left to right: Mrs C, The Sewphist, me, Shell, The Dreamstress, Sarah, and Madame Ornata. Emily took the photo! Nini couldn’t make it to the wedding but she made Shell’s necklace and earrings.

My wonderful friends, I love you all!

FO: the world’s oldest finished UFO* (or, the technostretch top)

26 Jun

*I have no actual proof of this. There has been no rigorous scientific testing (or indeed, any testing of any kind, scientific, rigorous, or other). But I’d like to posit that this ranks pretty highly.

Because I finished it in 2014.

And I started it in 2002. Give or take a year. I figure I can be vague on the details when it is more than a decade old.

Once again, lots of bedroom eyes because argh-the-sun-it-burns-it-burns!!!

Once again, lots of bedroom eyes because argh-the-sun-it-burns-it-burns!!!

This top was part of the transition from Making-Mum-Sew-For-Me to What-Do-You-Mean-I-Have-To-Do-It-Myself??? that occurred around the turn of the century, when my mum finally cottoned on to my devious undertakings. As such, I still hadn’t figured out a bunch of the finer details, such as the fact that the size on the envelope bears no relation to either (a) the size in your RTW or (b) the measurements the envelope suggests go with that size. I cut it, sewed it, discovered it was far too small, and shelved it pending a solution.

I also made this before my natural-fibre-snobbery had taken hold, and the fabric is a highly synthetic, very stretchy woven with a metallic sheen and a slightly plastic touch. The Arthur Toye of last decade sold it as Technostretch. My then-favourite RTW shop sold lots of pencil skirts and fitted tops and jackets in this stuff, and I was enamoured by it, so I coveted all the colours when I found it in Arthur Toye and finally bought this dark blue, shot with black.

When I moved to Wellington in 2003, this came too, and continued to languish in the corner while I fumbled around teaching myself things. Finally, in about 2005, I started going to weekly sewing group, which was amazing! It was a small group, and was not quite a sewing class. Each person made their own projects in their own way, but the teacher would provide advice, guidance, bail you out off difficulty, and provide some specialist tools. I decided to exploit her knowledge and asked her to help me fix this top. I dug it out and we had a look at it.

I used Vogue 7234 because I loved the panelling and princess seam details. The panelled nature of the top was my saving grace. I picked it all apart, and reconstructed it using 0.5cm seam allowances, and miraculously it fit! The suuuuper stretchiness was my other saving grace (are you allowed two? I’m having tw0). It’s a very forgiving fabric and this helps get the fit just right, without mock-up or adjustments (other than seam allowance). So between the changes it fit and I was stoked!

But… something still wasn’t right. The underarms gaped. So we shortened the straps slightly. They still gaped. We shortened. They gaped. Shortened. By now there was no more left to shorten  and it still gaped, so I abandoned it to my sewing cupboard, thinking I’d figure it out one day.

Stolen from the internet so I don't have to photo it, and uploaded to distract from a lack of photos

Stolen from the internet so I don’t have to photo it, and uploaded to distract from a lack of photos

I was privileged to meet MrsC and co-adopt each other in 2008. At some stage over the next year or two it occurred to me to ask Maryanne for her ideas on the technostretch top. Like the guru she is, she told me how to fix it! The top is faced with narrow binding and this had stretched a bit.  So I laboriously unpicked the binding and used her magical tape technique to stabilise the underarms. Tadah! It was now sitting great!

This highlighted to me the benefit of having lots of sewing mentors; and the difference experience makes. My teacher was a very experienced RTW machinist and taught at a fashion institute. She told stories of how when she started she had to sew 40 collars, 40 cuffs, 40 plackets, etc etc, and get them all perfect before she was allowed to start assembling garments. But as a RTW machinist, she’d never really had to worry about fit. MrsC on the other hand had garnered her experience from, amongst other things, theatre and custom bridal, where every garment is made to fit someone. She has all the tricks to making one garment conform to its matching body.

Once again heaps of thanks to Sarah for taking all my photos!

Once again heaps of thanks to Sarah for taking all my photos!

The downside of solving the underarm gape was that I realised the strap shortening meant the underarm binding now sat right up in my pits, slowly rubbing and driving me crazy. ARGH! Luckily one of the things I was taught a long time ago is never to throw out your scraps until a garment is completed (and I tend to hold onto them even longer than that). I had no scraps long enough to cut new straps BUT I did have one actual strap I’d made and left scorch marks on when pressing! I’d also recently  bought some rectangular rings** for bag making wit mum, and I realised that that was the solution! But the rings were at Mum’s in Auckland, and she didn’t know where they were. And I forgot to dig them out when I was next at her place. And forgot the time after that. And forgot and forgot etc etc yadah yadah yadah.

Finally, she found them and posted them to me! Yay! Of course, I then lost them for at least six months. And then sat on the project awaiting motivation for another, oh I don’t know, year, or two, or three.

And then about March I finally dragged the top out, unpicked the two straps at the front, sliced off the scorched part of my surplus strap, sliced the remnant in half and inserted the halves. Then I figured out where the rings go, cut off the surplus, stitched them in place, and WHOLLY FREAKING MOLY I FINISHED IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Of course, I then realised that the scorched strap was ever so slightly wider than the new two. And the straps are fractionally too long now. And it doesn’t quiiiiite have enough room for my ass so it rides up a bit at the back.

Butt induced wrinkles

Butt induced wrinkles

Don’t care. DON’T CARE. It is done and I love it. Now I just need summer to get here so I can wear it on days that aren’t freak weather anomalies! (Who am i kidding. It’s Wellington – I’ll need freak weather anomalies during summer too!)

**I am aware that by their very nature rectangular rings can’t be rings. But I don’t know what else to call them!

I'm still feeling guilty about the lack of photos, so here is Minerva being adorable. This is the chair in my sewing room she likes to sleep in while I work.

I’m still feeling guilty about the lack of photos, so here is Minerva being adorable. This is the chair in my sewing room she likes to sleep in while I work.


Burlesque – yet another love of mine

22 Feb

A couple of years ago, motivated by my interest in corsets and glamour and girliness and my curiosity about dancing, and encouraged by the irrepressible MrsC and her desire to vicariously live out her own frilly knicker desires, I signed up to a burlesque class run by the fabulous Busty La Belle.

Miss La Belle

Miss La Belle’s House of Burlesque

I instantly had the biggest girl crush on Busty La Belle (now mostly known as Miss La Belle due to Facebook’s refusal to allow her to have Busty as a name). She was playful and funny and confident and her eyes sparkled and she was only not smiling when she was laughing and she laughs a lot, an infectious laugh that makes the world better. I instantly decided I wanted to be just like her when I grew up.

I enjoyed her classes so much. Her 6-week level 1 class, which focuses mainly on posing and strutting and looking confident, with some glove removal and a little bit of extra in the last week for those who want, was So Much Fun I did it three times in a row. Then she released a level 2 class, which included stocking and robe peels, small props like fans and boas, and bra peels. I did that and loved it too. Then she hosted a tassel twirling class, and yep, much to my own shock, I did that too! Then we were asked if we wanted to perform on stage and I said no. About half of my class went of to take the stage in Miss La Belle’s first graduation show, Frolic Lounge, and one or two have since gone on to be local starlets.

I didn’t perform because I didn’t start burlesque out of an unfulfilled desire for fame and stage time, but a desire to play with pretty things, but also to do something different and challenge myself.

And I did all of those things, and loved it. I discovered a whole new approach to body positivity that I could rave about for hours (and might in its own post one day when I’m feeling particularly in the mood for a feminist rant on society and beauty), thoroughly improved my relationship with my own body image, and improved my somewhat lacklustre social confidence. I discovered an entire community of lovely women and made a couple of great friends. I discovered these things called vintage and pin-up and rockabilly and realised they were the words to capture things that I already loved but didn’t know about. I took on my lifelong terror of photos by booking in for a pin-up photo shoot. I discovered a new love of burlesque and go to as many shows as I can afford, and enjoy them immensely.

One of my favourite shots from my fear-busting photo shoot

One of my favourite shots from my fear-busting photo shoot

Busty La Belle remains my favourite performer because she is beautiful and confident and witty and captivating. I was very very lucky that over time the woman behind Miss La Belle became a very special, very dear friend. She truly is a remarkable woman and being around her still makes me want to be her when I grow up. As I can’t be her when I grow up (grumble), I’m thinking about how I can learn from the things I love about her and apply that to myself. She makes me want to be a better person. She makes me want to be playful and open minded and confident and strong and happy and do it in red lipstick and curls. I’m not sure I’ll ever attain her stellar levels of confidence (of her mastery of faking it, whichever) but she gives me something to aspire to.

Miss La Belle, naturally beautiful and glamourous

Miss La Belle, naturally beautiful and glamourous

This year, I decided to relive the glory one more time and am repeating level 1 and level 2 simultaneously. And it is still So Much Fun! I still feel like a graceless duckling standing in adoration of Miss La Belle’s swanlike glory, but every time I go there I laugh, non stop, for an hour, listening to her hilarity and watching her amazingly expressive face run the gamut of every type of happiness, cheekiness, sauciness, and delight known to humankind. And who knows. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll decide to perform on stage, just once, just for the hell of it. Once you’ve taken your clothes off in public, surely other life challenge’s get easier!

If I do, you can be sure all the costuming details will go here! It’s amazing what you can make with a cheap bra, a glue gun, and a metric crap tonne of sequinned trim.

And in the meantime… I need a burlesque name! I’m open to suggestions!

Finished object: the flame dress (or, things MrsC tells me to do)

12 Nov

I was going to write about some regular projects first, but at MrsC’s request I’m sharing my most recent make, my flame dress. I’m worried I’m peaking early, but what MrsC wants, MrsC gets. So here is this year’s dress for the Feet With Heat ball.

Posing at the ball. Photo courtesy Julian Thomson.

After last year’s skull and roses dress, I wanted this year’s dress to be suitably subversive and in your face. Subtlety is so over rated – for me at least. Despite my pledge to sew from stash, I decided that I had Nothing To Wear and hit up my old trusty eQuilter. I started my search by looking for Alexander Henry designs. It wasn’t long before I found a fabric covered in hot rod flames, fell instantly in love with it, and knew this was it.

Showing off the skirt before I left for the ball, and getting a good eyeful of the hot rod flames. Unfortunately the photo is lousy. This is what happens when it suddenly occurs to you to get a photo so you give your boyfriend your phone just before you walk out the door and don’t pay any attention to where you are standing. The things blogging is making me learn!

Next was picking a pattern. MrsC demanded suggested I try Sewaholic’s Cambie, thinking that its pear-shaped block and the way the sleeves attach to the back might help with my fitting issues. Despite a dislike of gathers, I duly ordered it (along with Minoru), thinking I could always do flat sleeves, and waited for everything to arrive.

The dress in action out on the dance floor

I had already decided that the super busy print would work well with a contrast black bodice with flames flickering up from the skirt, so while I waited I bought a black cotton sateen with a hint of spandex ( I may accidentally have bought much more than I needed for this dress, just in case, and also some in white and some in pink, because you know, I could.) I also used the wait to start making my bodice toile out of an old sheet. Not one to let circumstances, like no longer working together, get in my way, I hauled my completed bodice into to MrsC’s shop so she could, in her role as my fitting minion mentor, pin and draw my alterations on. Not quite the same the ladies’ loo at our old work but still effective.

We had to significantly deepen the darts, raise the waist seam at the back a good inch or more, and redraw the side seam as on me it was wildly angled. I have yet to figure out if I needed to raise the back waist seam because I have a short upper back compared to my front, or if I’m just full busted enough to make the front of the bodice rise up in comparison. Things to think about in future. For now I just do as MrsC tells me.

Another action shot, showing a bit of thigh this time! I branched out this ball and wore a full circle petticoat with high waisted knickers and no slip, which is what competitive dancers wear, but I did feel a bit odd showing so much leg! And knickers! Photo courtesy Julian Thomas.

I made another bodice toile and again trotted into the shop for review. I’d always intended on replacing Cambie’s gathered skirt with a full circle skirt, but after seeing version 2 of the bodice, MrsC suggested I ditch the waistband as well and put the skirt straight on the bodice. I of course did exactly this.

With MrsC’s approval of the bodice, I set about making it out the black sateen. The Cambie bodice is a great construction method and comes together really quickly. I even kept the gathers! Again at MrsC’s suggestion I used cotton tape to strengthen the sweetheart neckline. I actually ended up constructing part of the bodice in her shop during a social gathering MrsC hosted there. Nothing like wandering around a shop after hours getting people to pin you in and out of your clothes while eating cupcakes and gossiping! Of course, the danger of this is that I also left with several metres of artificial horsehair braid and a promise to put it in my hem. That woman has the gift of the barrow.

And another shot from the floor. I love the way the flames are so vibrant when they move. Photo courtesy Julian Thomas.

The skirt was actually cut out by a friend of mine, The Sewphist. Ism renowned for my carefully organised stash, and The Sewphist had offered to sew for me if I organised for her. Knowing the weekend I’d put aside for my skirt sewing was the last chance I had to help her out for a while, I suggested we trade that weekend. Because of the directional print combined with the narrow craft cotton width, each half circle has been pieced, with a small section on each corner added on. The Sewphist did a great job of matching prints as best she could with the meterage I had available (something I hadn’t taken into account when ordering) and she finished cutting with only 10cm of fabric remaining. Perfect.

After she made up and attached the skirt, I took the dress home and put in the invisible zip. Normally I’m very proud of my invisible zips but I will admit that the zip in this is NOT my best work. I didn’t pay enough attention at the time or I would have seen that I hadn’t stitched close enough to the teeth, but luckily the black on black is disguising anyway. Still, every time I see the zip I get annoyed at myself.

Sick of action shots yet? This is the last one. I’m finally getting good at maintaining eye contact with my dance partner, but J here is particularly fun to make eyes at. As you can tell from this photo! Photo courtesy Julian Thomas.

The Friday night before the ball, after the skirt had been hanging all week, my good friend Sarah came over to help me appliqué flames to myself. I decided it was better to position them with the dress on so I stood and gave artistic criticism while she shoved her hands in my bodice to best position flames over my boobs. She also positioned my flames on my back as well.

My punk flatmate, who also dances, was also called in for artistic opinion, which somehow transformed into an eleventh hour idea to dress him up to match. Sarah cut a couple of extra appliques and tacked them onto his shirt while I vliesofix-ed and hand stitched it all in place.

Me and my flatmate at the dance, showing off our matching outfits.

And a shot of the matching appliques on our backs.

And a close-up of our matching hair! I rubbed the red colouring into just the tips of Punk Flatmate’s bleached hair and it gave it a vibrant orange warmth that perfectly matched my orange and yellow flowers.

The Saturday was much like last year’s Saturday – getting my hair done in victory rolls (by a professional – I still suck) and hemming my skirt. Where it differed was using the horsehair for the first time, and helping my flatmate bleach out his green hair stripe and then dye the tips of it red so that it matched the flame outfits. He’s totally awesome and we looked… hot… together. Sorry, couldn’t resist!

A 1am self portrait of my hair and feather eyelashes before I dismantled it for bed.

The night was totally awesome and I had a great time dancing up a storm! The dress has since been worn to a Grease Sing-a-long at The Embassy, the cinema that is about to host the world premiere of The Hobbit. While there my studio-mates and I danced before the movie as ambient entertainment, and we taught the hand jive at intermission. I wanted to wear it to a burlesque ball the following night but couldn’t get it dry in time.

Punk Flatmate and I playing for the cameras.

Most people’s favourite photo of the night. I had to ask the photographer what we were doing as I couldn’t place it. He reminded me… that I’d asked Punk Flatmate to shorten my bra strap as it kept sliding off while I danced!

And my favourite photo of the night, Punk Flatmate and I posing together.

I love wearing this dress but it does leave me with two dilemmas. First, how often does an opportunity to wear a flame embellished dress come along? I don’t want to let this languish. And second, how on earth do I choose a fabric next year that could top this!!! Ideas welcome!

Finished object: the skull and roses dress

11 Oct

My skull and roses dress makes me happy. It brings together three of my favourite loves – 1950s style dresses, rock and roll dancing, and a little bit of subversion! And it is associated with so many happy memories!

Miss La Belle and I both got dolled up in 1950s style for the ball – except Miss La Belle set and styled her own hair and I got mine done! None of the photos show very well the victory rolls I had though, disappointingly

I started learning rock and roll dancing in June 2011 with Feet with Heat, and in September was the annual ball and show. Ooh how I wanted a fancy dress to wear! I wanted to turn up to that party looking as hot as I possibly could.

So I did what all women in such situations do – I agonised over decisions with my dear friend, MrsC of The Hectic Eclectic. We settled quickly on a great pattern, and then MrsC enabled my print addiction introduced me to eQuilter, a fabulous site for craft cottons in amazing prints. After emailing options to each other, I eventually ended up surfing the site with her on her couch before buying four different subversive and funky prints to choose from when they arrived. (For what it’s worth, I have never had any problems making beautifully handling dresses from craft cottons.)

While I anxiously waited for my fabric to arrive, I made a mock-up of the bodice. MrsC, being both a dear friend and my colleague (before she quit to open a craft haven) pinned me into it in the ladies’ room at the office. I went through three versions of the bodice before I was happy. At the time we were under the opinion that I am quite broad across the back so MrsC suggested cutting the back one size larger than the front. But I ended up having the make the back significantly narrower and move the strap placement a lot further towards centre back, as well as deepening the front darts to increase the fit under the bust. Thank goodness for mock-ups! (We’re now contemplating the opinion that I am regular through the back but broad through the shoulders. I have to figure out properly how this impacts my fitting.)

Fuzzy, grainy, low-light picture of me and the dress in action at the ball. The polka dots on the edge are Miss La Belle also getting some dance floor time.

Finally the fabric arrived from its long and arduous trip across the globe. On the Monday before the Saturday night ball. EEEEK! There was no way to get it made. For a start, I’m not a very competent sewer (yet) so tend to take my time. Secondly, I had several nights of classes that week to make sure I was as dance-fit as possible for my first night out social dancing. I didn’t want to give up the dance classes to make a dress to wear to the event that the dance classes were for! So I settled on my back-up plan, a regular dress out of my wardrobe.

But I have EXCELLENT taste in friends! MrsC, upon seeing my dilemma, did the most awesomest thing in the whole world. She offered to make the dress for me! She took the fabric home on Monday night, along with my carefully re-drafted pattern, and came back in the following day with a bodice. We had to make some additional tweaks to the darts, but the overall placement and height was right so that was not a big deal. Finally, on Friday, a mostly-complete dress came to work. All I had to do was put in the invisible zip into the side seam (MrsC not being a fan of them) , finish the shoulder seams and the contrast band with a bit of slip stitching, tack the bodice lining down, and hem the sucker. So I got to work on Friday night and worked solidly through Saturday. At 2pm I was pressing the last of it, just in time to race into town for my vintage hair-up appointment. (I have yet to master the art of victory rolls or other snazzy looks!)

I made it to the hair appointment just on time, got back home with just enough time to meet up with the lovely Miss La Belle and slap on my makeup and false eyelashes, pull on my petticoat (another MrsC wonder), and arrive at the ball fashionably late – just in time for dinner to be served.

Cropped from another terrible photo of the dozen of us still going at 1am when the venue tossed us out. It’s a terrible photo but look! I have a cleavage!

The dress performed amazingly well that night, fitting me perfectly and comfortably and most importantly swirling wonderfully! I love that it gave me a subtle improvement in my normally lacklustre cleavage! And I especially love that several people had to do a double take when they realised that there were cute wee skulls and crossbones peeking out from behind the roses. Hehe.

From the retro cheesecake pin-up shoot, used courtesy Toya of Digitalpix

Unfortunately I have very few photos from the ball, and as you can tell, none of them are very good! But there are plenty of it in action at my first rock and roll competition. But I was lucky enough to be invited by another dear friend, Sadie von Scrumptious of Ever So Scrumptious to participate in a retro-kitchen-cheesecake-pin-up photo session early this year, along with the amazing Miss La Belle and the fabulous Winnie Chester, with pictures taken by the extraordinary Toya of Digitalpix. As explained, I have a history of avoiding cameras, so I decided last year to take that on by getting as many pictures taken of me as I can, and learning to like them. I’m succeeding in getting more photos of me taken, but only slowly progressing towards liking them. A natural model I am not! But it was wonderful fun and I am so grateful to this fabulous collection of women to have them in my life and to get to participate in this day and have these pictures to commemorate.

Cheeky! It’s amazing what mischief one gets up to with Miss La Belle’s encouraging voice in the background! Image used courtesy Digitalpix

Vital statistics…

Vogue 2902

Pattern: Vogue 2902
Fabric: Alesander Henry craft cotton from eQuilter – bought especially for this project and used straight away, shock horror!
Notions: invisible zip
Made: September 2011
Techniques used: inserting an invisible zip into a side seam
Time to complete: for me, not much. Thanks MrsC! Even so, there’d be a few hours in the mock-ups and the hem. So much hem.
What I learned: I have awesome friends. I still don’t know how my back and shoulders affect fit. The internet is great when it comes to things like putting an invisible zip into a side seam. How to put an invisible zip into a side seam.
Wearable? It was my go to dress for rock and roll events, until this year’s ball and this year’s dress. I haven’t figured out how to wear it socially/casually without feeling a bit weird. I intend to fix this.
Likeability: Love it. Love it.
Unsolicited comments: frequently. And I won best dressed at a dancing competition in it too!

Finished object: pink polka dot circle skirt

20 Mar

My first completed project post! I’ve been held up on posting by a lack of pictures of me posing prettily-ish in any of my finished works. But I’ve decided to plunge ahead with this post with only action shots and see how it goes. If I get around to getting some appropriate posed photos, I’ll add them in!

Pink polka dot skirt

Me and the pink polka dot skirt on the dance floor

McCalls 5811Pattern: McCalls 5811
Year: about 2010
Fabric: cotton sateen with a small percentage of spandex, in stash for about 6 months
Notions: zip, trouser hook
Made: Finished March 2011, started not much earlier (a fast make for a change!)
Techniques used: lapped zip, slip-stitching waistband
Time to complete: A couple of hours maybe?
What I learned: doing something for a second time makes it easier. I can do lapped zips afterall – and YouTube is your zip techniques friend.
Wearable? Worn as often as I can get away with it! But it’s not on high rotation as I have a theory that really identifiable garments shouldn’t be worn out all the time – otherwise people will think I don’t have any other clothes!
Likeability: I love it! 10/10
Unsolicited comments: “You look like Minnie Mouse.” Hmm, not sure about that one. But I get lots of other lovely comments, and my favourite was “you look like happiness.” Aww

This is my second circle skirt. My first circle skirt has dropped (despite being hung) and needs to be re-levelled and hemmed so I’ll post about that skirt (and more about actually making a circle skirt) when it is re-finished. Grr.

Circle skirts are already easy to make and being my second, this one came together in a cinch for a nice change. The heavier weight cotton was easy to work with and the project seemed to fly by. I did my first lapped zip in years (my last few zips have all been invisible zips) and even that turned out perfectly fine with no hassles, thanks to a quick refresh with the help of Google and YouTube. All in all it was a pleasant sewing experience!

I love circle skirts! As well as being easy to make, they are so much fun to wear, and (at least I think so) very flattering. And I love dancing in them! I do rock and roll dancing (at beginner level) and there are lots of twirls and spins, and circles skirts are the finishing touch needed for such frivolity. Of course, such spinning and twirling shows one’s knickers quite a lot, so before I debuted this skirt, MrsC at the Hectic Eclectic helped me make a ruffled, super froofy petticoat with built in slip, and did a great tutorial on it here.

The dance studio I go to for rock and roll (Feet with Heat) had their Christmas party and medal presentation in December 2010. I went with my dear friend Miss La Belle, wore my polka dot skirt and had a blast!

Me and Miss La Belle

Miss La Belle and I get a photo on the way into the party. My knees are bent as I am a lot taller than Miss La Belle (due only to my stomping heels) and the photographer needed our heads at the same height!)

Me, and the skirt, in action.

Pink polka dot skirt in action

Just starting or finishing a spin, with the skirt at almost full altitude.

Not the most graceful set of photos but they do show the skirt in full flight!

Pink polka dot skirt in action 2

More spinning!

The top is from a clothing swap, but I love it with its great flutter sleeves so may take a pattern off it one day.

Pink polka dot skirt in action 3

It's all about the spins!

Earlier in that day, I did something amazing, at least for me. I did a dance exam. Yep, I sat the beginners level dance exam for rock and roll. This is amazing if you knew my reputation (poor) for having any level of coordination, combined with my abject terror of any form of exam. For rock and roll the beginners exam is called a bronze medal test and if you pass, you get an actual medal. It isn’t quite as scary (and therefore cool) as it sounds though. The exam consists of one minute slow dancing and one minute fast dancing, with my teacher as my partner. But I shook like a leaf before, during, and after. I have to admit I didn’t wear my circle skirt for the exam – I didn’t want the examiner to think that I thought I was all that and mark me harsher for it, so I wore my birdie bridesmaid’s dress, still to be posted.

Not only that, but in between my medal test and the party, I did something else amazing, at least for the camera-shy me. A retro kitchen pin-up shoot, in my skulls and roses dress! I’ll post pictures from that when I do my skulls and roses dress post.

All in all a great day featuring a great skirt. Roll on more of my new wardrobe!

All photos courtesy of Julian Thomson