Frocktails 2018

Don’t you hate it when you are really looking forward to an event after you put some much time and energy into preparing for it then on the day you come become sick and don’t enjoy yourself as much…. That was 2018 Frocktails in a nutshell for me. For the first time in a long time I got a migraine which included bad nausea, luckily I was able to take some pain medication which helped but it did dampen my night and I know I didn’t enjoy myself as much as I wanted to.

So I want to say I took lots of gorgeous photos but sadly I only took one bad mirror selfie at the end of the night back in my hotel room. If you look up the #sydneyfrocktails on Instagram you can see all the wonderful photos people took. People made some amazing clothing. It was a night of touching and feeling and lot of “what pattern is that?” How often do you get to sit in a pub and talk pattern numbers and sewing techniques. It was good to catch up with old friends and new.

Once again we were lucky enough to have the chance to win some lucky door prizes. I was fortunate enough to win a prize pack from the Avid Seamstress which contained 2 patterns. Now to be honest before I would say “oh they are pretty but they won’t fit me” Now that I know how to do fitting alterations I can make them fit me! Each person also got a goodie bag (I think adults should always get goodie bags when they go to parties and events) The goodie bags included discount vouchers for different indi pattern companies and fabric and supply stores. I have used one voucher so far and can’t wait to use more.

I am really glad I made my outfit in December when I had the chance. People were still finishing their outfits minutes before they were leaving the house. I had my outfit sitting on a hanger so it was ready to go. I am really pleased with what I made and it was so comfortable. To recap my top was the Lou Box Top by SewDIY, skirt was McCalls 6654 and cape was Burda Young 7313. The fabric used for the both the top and skirt was a modal knit. Now that Frocktails is over and I don’t need to keep my outfit on the hanger I’m going to wear both the top and skirts as separates in daily life. I wanted to make pieces that I could wear after Frocktails and these are perfect, I can wear them together or separate.

I used my bag all weekend and it held up well. If I was to make it again I would make the strap a little shorter. I forgot how much any type of yarn stretches on straps so it sat lower than I would’ve liked.

Now to start mentally planning for Frocktails 2019….






Cashmerette Sewing Retreat – Going Back For Seconds

I really enjoyed the Cashmerette sewing retreat that I went on at the start of the month. I got my sewjo back, it was fun to sew among other people. Jenny and Carrie were great teachers. The mindset clicked “sewing clothing for yourself is actually amazing” I knew there was a second retreat happening and I was thinking of maybe just “dropping in” to the shop on 2nd day on my way past as I was in that in end of town just to say hi to Jenny and Carrie and maybe pick their brains on a few questions I had but 4 days out from the retreat with still a couple of spots left I decided what the heck I will actually go back for seconds and attend the retreat again… Best decision ever!!

From the start I decided I wasn’t going to compare the 2 retreats. In my mind it was just one big experience, I just got to share the experience with a few different people. My first weekend I focused on actually making an item which I still haven’t finished (just the sleeve hems to do) On the second weekend I wanted to focus on the fit of clothing. To be honest I don’t think I have ever struggled with body image. I’m a larger built person, I always have been. From birth I have had mobility issues so over the years my focus has always been on how much pain I was in and whether I could walk as opposed to what I looked like doing it. Saying that I will admit that I don’t like to emphasize my larger bust line and I have always dressed baggy to cover it up because that is what I thought you had to do. Doing the Cashmerette retreats has being a real brain wave moment making me realise it is all about the fit of clothing to your body. Nicely fitting clothing can make you look smaller. Fitted clothing can actually disguise a larger bust line.

At the retreats one of the first things Jenny does is show you how to take your measurements. Your waistline is higher than what you think so I wanted a visual reminder where my waistline is so when I am at home I can remember so after Jenny measured me I marked the area with masking tape and took a photo. It is at the bottom of the tape area so about 3 inches above my belly button.

Once I removed the tape I discovered I actually have more of a permanent reminder inbuilt. I have 2 moles on my skin so I know that is the spot. Another lightbulb moment from talking with Jenny is that I am not the only one with “B” tummy. My stomach is round like a balloon all the way down, at my belly button it goes in then goes back out again like the shape of a “B” A lot of people are this shape.

I am a visual person so watching is how I learn best. The demonstrations Jenny did throughout the retreats were very beneficial to me.  To see someone perform a technique you have never done before and explain it as they do it sticks in my mind more than just reading it from a book. Sometimes I need to watch a few times before it sinks in or refer back to visual cues as to what it should look like but eventually it stays in my mind.

The project I worked on for the weekend was a Springfield top. It is a fitted woven top. It took me out of my comfort zone. I had never done a woven top, I had never sewn darts in clothing before. Before the first retreat it was a pattern I would have run a mile from as I don’t wear woven tops like that. Seeing a few that people had made I thought I want to try this. The fabric I used was some that I was given at the first retreat, it was perfect as it was all ready to go. Unfortunately you can’t really see it in this photo but when I tried it on the neckline was a bit baggy so Jenny pinned in some darts to try and remove the some of gape.

It turns out I have a hollow chest and that is why my neckline was gaping. Using my pattern piece Jenny gave a demonstration on a quick method of reducing the neckline by pinching out the excess amount and taping it away. I’m going to use this piece as a reference on all my woven tops from now on as it sounds like it might be a common adjustment I might have to do.

I bailed Jenny up a lot and asked lots of questions when she wasn’t in the middle of helping others. I came armed with printouts of size chart for lots of Cashmerette patterns I want to make and went through them with Jenny so when I go to make them I know what to pick. Jenny recommends each time you make an item you measure your body and I will do that when I go to make them but at least now I have a very good idea of what I sizings I will be needing to choose. I know how to read pattern size charts now and what parts to compare in making my overall decision of what size to make and any grading I should do.

Before the first retreat I had ambitions of making a Cedar Dolman top to wear at it but I never got it started however I did cut out the pattern pieces, this was before I knew you could be different sizes in the one pattern piece. Now that I had an idea of what sizes I should make I graded down the original pattern pieces I cut out to the size I actually needed.

Photo courtesy of Cashmerette

I had a fantastic weekend. Once again it was a very supportive bunch of fellow retreaters who attended. We were lending each other fabric and supplies. Helping each other where we could. Fate brought 2 people who were not from Sydney to sit next to each other and discover they live in the same suburb. Kristina even flew all the way from across the ditch (New Zealand) to join us. At both retreats and I’m sure if was the same for those who did the Melbourne retreat it was great to not just get help from Jenny and Carrie but also from the other participants. Sharing small hints and tips that you have tried or heard about, passing on recommendations on where to get supplies. Even sharing your sewing fears made others realise they weren’t alone as we often all have those same irrational thoughts.

It was a long way for Jenny and Carrie to come to Australia from Boston to do the retreats. It was the first time that they have done the retreats outside America. I really hope that Cashmerette decides to do more retreats as I think it is an amazing opportunity that many Cashmerette fans would jump at the chance of doing. The skill set you learn at these retreats you can use in any pattern you make no matter what brand. If get the chance just go you will love it.







Frocktails Bag

I thought my outfit was complete after I had made my top, skirt and cape but something was niggling at me. I had the leftover portion of the fabric left that had the paint markings on it, the fabric looked really useful and I didn’t want to throw it out as it seemed such a waste. My brain got ticking and I got experimenting.

I decided I needed a bag. The fabric was very drapey and lightweight which was great for the skirt and top but not so great for a bag. If I did a traditional bag where I cut pieces from the fabric I was going to have to stabilise it all and line it. In my mind I wasn’t happy with the type of bag I would get from it, plus I couldn’t cut around the paint markings so you would see them. After much pondering I decided to cut up the fabric into strips, sew them together and make my own fabric yarn. I attempted fabric yarn once before and it was a disaster so I was hoping it would work this time.

I cut strips of the yarn around ½ wide using my quilting ruler and rotary cutter. All up it was about 50cm of fabric that I cut. It was interesting to see where the paint markings were on the strips.

To join the strips I used a zig zag stitch on my sewing machine. I sit it to a width of 5.0m and length of 1.0. This width and length gave it a nice secure join.

My machine can sometimes eat narrow bits of fabric so I cut a length of tear away stabiliser and placed that on my sewing bed. I took each strip and overlapped the ends on the stabilizer and stitched across to join them. I chain pieced them just like you do when machine stitching multiple pieces at once when making quilt blocks. this way was really easy to do and sped up the process of joining them all. I joined the strips in a random order so some had paint markings on them some didn’t.

In the end I had a large length of cut strips which in a way reminded me of paper dolls. I trimmed each piece apart from the chain and removed the stabiliser. This was a little fiddly but a pair of tweezers and a thread catcher container beside me kept the mess under control. Once it was all trimmed up I rolled it into a ball.

To make it up I chained 37 and did double crochet stitches back and forth to form a rectangle piece. I first started with a 6mm hook but I wasn’t happy with it so I switched to a 6.5mm. I just keep going until the piece looked large enough to fold in half. To create the bag shape I folded it in half and did a single crochet stitches up the 2 sides so it formed a pouch. I then hand stitched a zipper in to close the top. My sewing machine would have had a heart attack if I tried doing this on it, it took no it took no time at all to stitch the zip by hand plus less stress. For the strap from scraps leftover when I cutout my clothing pattern pieces I cut strips and joined them in the same way as I did the bag. This time I divided the strips into 3 lengths so I could plait them. Using upholstery thread as it was thicker I hand stitched the strap to the bag. I left a length of fabric at each end for a tassel. The cut strips did shed a bit so I did place this in the dryer after I finished to take off any excess loose fabric.

This bag was complete experiment that worked. I’m really happy that it did. It combined my love of crochet and sewing so it is a very unique piece. I love that I have been able to turn fabric that would have else just been wasted into something that is usable. The paint flecks and the strip joins add interest throughout the bag.



Cashmerette Sydney Sewing Retreat – Feb 18

Cashmerette is an indi sewing pattern company which designs patterns for the more fuller figure. The big 4 pattern companies design their patterns to fit a B cup but Cashmerette patterns are designed to fit cups C – H. Last year the owner Jenny Rushmore announced she was doing a tour of Australia and would be holding a 2 day sewing retreat in Sydney on a weekend at Bobbin & Ink, I decided I needed to be at it. I purchased my ticket than danced around the room singing “I have big boobs I can not lie” I can do skirt making no problem but when it comes to tops I get scared, I don’t know how to deal with a large bust so for all the tops I have ever made I have just added extra to the centre front seam and hoped that would work.

The retreat was very laid back and relaxed. Each person brought along a Cashmerette pattern they were already working on or wanted to try. You didn’t have homework that you needed to complete beforehand. The only thing I did before the class was tape together the PDF pattern I was going to make and prep my fabric (washed and ironed it) The hardest thing about packing for the retreat was remembering what sewing notions would I need to take. I felt like a bag lady with a bag of fabric, plus all my sewing notions in a bag (my denim hearts pouch was perfect for this) plus just a bag with all things I use such as rulers and my glasses. We were able to borrow sewing machines so at least I didn’t have to cart that around too.

I decided I would work on the Washington dress. It was the first Cashmerette pattern that I came across and a pattern that I discussed with Anne Whalley about making at the Know Your Style Workshop I did many moons ago. The pattern combines knits and wovens so it was a chance also to work with a new fabric combination too. One of the first things Jenny did was discuss how to measure yourself and then grade your pattern pieces to fit. I am a complete novice I didn’t know you could make your pattern pieces from different sizes and morph them all together by grading to get them to fit. I never did sewing at school or any form of pattern making so I just didn’t know this. I always thought you just select a size from the pattern which covers all your measurements. It was a lightbulb moment for me to find out you could select one size for your waist, another for you bust and a different size for you hip.

Throughout the weekend Jenny would do demonstrations some were pattern related some were sewing related. She taught us how to do full bust adjustments, sleeve adjustments, how to make collars. Jenny and her assistant Carrie sat with each person and worked with them to help with fitting issues and techniques. There was 9 of us in the group and it was interesting to see the different patterns people were working on. We had jean makers, dress makers, shirt makers. Seeing the garments transform really made you want to make that particular item and moved it from your “maybe I will make that one day ” thoughts to “I am going to make that pattern”

As with all retreats you need to eat. On the Saturday night some of us went out to dinner at a restaurant near the venue. It was nice to sit and relax after a day of learning new things (I didn’t actually do any sewing that day) Jenny showed us some teaser photos of up coming patterns, we all chatted, ate good food. We were teaching Jenny and Carrie some Australian lingo (slang terms) On the Sunday one lady who lived locally decided we need to have “Cake with Cashemerette” so she brought in a delicious cheesecake to share. A couple of years ago someone tried to body shame Jenny after she posted a photo of herself in a swimming costume telling her she would look better if she stopped eating cake, in support of Jenny people started using the hashtag  #CakewithCashmerette showing themselves eating cake as you can eat cake and still be healthy and feel good about your body.

I may have acquired some fabric over the weekend. I was admiring the fabric that one lady had used to make her dress, a dark brown cotton with tiny flowers. Unexpectedly she gave me the leftovers she had! It was at least 2m of fabric. I’m going to make a top out of it I think.

Just down the road from the venue everyone was talking about a fabric shop which had a sale on. I have looked in the shop window before but it has never been opened on a Sunday when I was there so I popped into it on the Saturday. I brought some dusty pink silk. This is officially the most expensive fabric I have ever purchased at $49/m. I am going totally outside my comfort zone with this fabric and colour. I have never sewn with silk or worn it but I hear that it is breathable. The colour isn’t blue. I’m going to make a top and thought it might be different for a change.

On the Saturday I did all my prepping of my pattern pieces and on the Sunday I got sewing. I had my sewjo and even came back early from lunch so I could continue working on my garment. By the end of the day I had my dress up to the hemming stage. I got more accomplished on the retreat than I expected I would.

I have mentioned here a few times that I have lost my sewjo. It came back in December and I got my Frocktails outfit done but then it disappeared again. I never touched a sewing machine in January. I found doing this retreat very beneficial. Jenny taught us a lot on how to accommodate clothing to fit whatever size body you had. My mind is ticking with how to try things now. I’m now not scared to try patterns or styles which I once thought it looks good on size tiny but can it work for me. I have never really got the “buzz” of making your own clothing before but now I have. I enjoyed it before but I now I have a new full respect and admiration of clothing. Since the retreat I have found myself looking at other peoples clothing and deconstructing it in my head thinking of how it was made and how I could do that myself.

Photo courtesy of Cashmerette

I think one of the big things that made the retreat was the other participants. Everyone was so generous with their time and skills. You had people who were just beginners and people who had been sewing for years. One lady was scared to use an overlocker (serger) she has had for years, another lady took her over to one that was set up and demonstrated to her how easy it was to use and then encouraged her to have a go on it. That lady went home excited that she was going to try her overlocker now. Sewing people are wonderful.

Thank you Jenny and Carrie and all the participants for a fantastic weekend.



Prototype Bag No More


Last year I self drafted a nylon tote bag to use instead of plastic shopping bags to carry my takeaways home in. This bag turned out to be a real little gem, I haven’t stopped using it since I made it. It hasn’t all just been takeaways this bag holds a lot and has been used shopping, to craft events, carrying Christmas gifts, hung on the back of a wheelchair. As I mentioned it holds a lot but folds or crushes down to nothing so it isn’t bulky if you have it empty.

Yesterday I decided after so much use it needed a wash. Sadly it never survived my washing machine. I didn’t think to put it in it my protective wash bag. All the seams were enclosed so I didn’t think it would be an issue. 2 of the seams on the base have ripped apart and so has one of the side seams. When I stitched it I used a triple stitch on the base and a regular stitch on the side seams so I don’t think it is a case of one type of seam being stronger than the other. To be honest I don’t know why it shredded. I know fabric can deteriorate over time and I did get this fabric from a swap day so I don’t if that is it. Maybe it is the fabric type itself that doesn’t wash well unprotected. At this point I’m not sure if I will fix it or just live and learn and make other bags from the same pattern using other nylon fabric I have purchased which is a bit thicker.

If anyone has any ideas of what may have caused this or ways I can prevent future nylon bags from tearing apart in the wash I would love to hear your thoughts.


Frocktails Cape

The last piece of clothing I stitched for my Frocktails outfit is my cape

I used Burda 7313 in view D. I purchased this pattern back in 2016 after seeing some gorgeous ones made by Anne Whalley. I have never gotten around to making this pattern until this project even though I’m sure I have more than suitable fabric in my stash.

The fabric I used I picked up at a Sydney Spoolette sway day last year. It was a spur of the moment pick up. I had absolutely no idea what I would make with it. The fabric is a thin stretchy polyester with velveteen dots. Lets face it the only reason I picked it up is because it is blue. It is a gorgeous fabric just not what I normally wear. When I was cleaning up my stash last year I decided it needed to be the Burda cape and that is how my Frocktails outfit started to grow.

This cape is extremely simple to make up. It is cut in one piece and you only need to hem it and its done. This must make it the worlds most easiest pattern! I like the length of this at the back, it has full coverage. You could easily lengthen or shorten the back or the fronts if you wanted but for me it is a nice fit. It does comes in multiple sizes I think I made the largest size as I mostly do.

To hem it I should have pulled out my cover stitch machine and tried that but I confess to just loading up the regular sewing machine with a twin needle and stitching it that way. I wanted this to continue to be a quick project. I did hand tack all the hems before I stitched them then pulled out the thread as it went under the presser foot. You don’t realise but there is a lot of hem when you do it this way so even though it is only 5 hems they are long hems.

I love it when I can bring fabrics and occasions together. I got this fabric at a Spoolette event, I’m wearing it to another Spoolette event. I normally wear jackets to keep my shoulders covered in air-conditioned rooms so this cape will be a nice change to wear to Frocktails instead. Even though it is lightweight it will give me ample coverage. When I purchased the fabric for my top I didn’t realise how closely it matched the spots on this fabric. These two fabrics were meant to come together as they are a perfect match. Once again I could wear this cape with other pieces so I can get wear out of it for more than just one event. This is a great simple pattern for your stash and I will be making it again.


Frocktails Skirt

When I purchased the fabric for my Lou Box Top for Frocktails I didn’t think about things properly having only the top in mind that maybe a matching skirt in the fabric would look good so I should get sufficient fabric to for that. I can’t even remember how many metres of the fabric I brought. I knew there was a little bit extra as the fabric was the start of the roll and there was paint markings on both sides of the fabric which was real shame and seemed a waste of good fabric. When I was laying out the pattern pieces for my top I realised I would have enough for a matching skirt.

I used McCalls M6654 in view C again which is same pattern I used for my Snowflake skirt. I wanted a simple pull on skirt and this was pattern really is a classic style.

So I did have a small mishap. I attached my waistband to the wrong side of my skirt. Now I know there is a fashion where having the seams on the outside is a thing. If this was a more contemporary style skirt than I would have considered leaving it but given that I was wanting this to be a classic skirt I had to unpick it and restitch it on the correct side.

As I stitched this on the overlocker (serger) a small consequence of my waistband mishap was that after stitching it on the 2nd time with another lot of fabric been trimmed off in the seam allowance the waistband channel wasn’t as wide as it normally is. Threading elastic through was a little more challenging on this one but I got it done. I don’t use the elastic guide measurement in the pattern I just hold the elastic around my waist and cut the amount from that. Initially I had too much elastic in this skirt. I managed to push it all in the channel but it didn’t sit flat so the next day I undid the join of the elastic taking a few inches out and the fit was much better.

This fabric is lush and I am really glad I was able to squeeze a skirt out of it too. I have made a matching outfit for the first time ever. What I love most about this fabric and the styles I have chosen is that it doesn’t only need to be worn together. I can wear each piece on its own with other items in my wardrobe. I’ll get more wear out it this way. If I make something I want to be able to wear it a lot.