Brighton fabric shopping and other travelling stuff

I have the best job. I’m a wine scientist and I get to go to wine conferences all around the world. And usually in very nice places.

Like Brighton, England.

Brighton Pier, from the perspective of a merry-go-round horse

Who knew that English sparkling wine had become so good? Not all the consequences of climate change are bad!

The Pier at night, and the beach early one weekend morning

The conference itself was terrific, and a lot of thought went into the social events too.

We had a welcome reception at the Brighton Pavilion Museum, wine tasting at the Aquarium (suitably lit with rainbow colours, and fortunately the wine was not accompanied by sushi as initially planned… I kid you not), and a very British themed gala dinner in the Hilton Metropole’s ball room (wine options, a quiz show, a charity raffle then a Beatles tribute band).

Lots of fun.

Brighton itself is full of life, and full of lots of interesting shops. I showed remarkable restraint. That restraint was very much aided by me having a very small amount of free time and a very specific shopping list.

Dïtto Fabrics delivered!

What a great shop. Had the best conversation with a fellow sewist and Gill, the owner. Sewing peeps are the best!

I came home with two suitings (one wool, one linen, both reversible) and a boiled wool with an pastel overprinted pattern.


So what’s happening now I’m home? Apart from petting those new fabrics?!

It’s all about IKEA home decorating fabrics at the moment.

IKEA project #1

I’m making as summer weight coat from this upholstery fabric. And I’m very pleased with how the pattern matching is going. That’s a side seam and a horizontal pocket you’re looking at.

I’d love to get this done before I fly out again in a few days time to go to another wine conference . This time it’s Switzerland. I know, I know, it really is a terrible job I have.

IKEA project #2

This project is still at the flat pack stage.

Felicity and I have a Sound of Music performance to attend in August. We have to have dresses made out of curtain fabric. Have to.

Shall I go all dirndl-y or should I treat this more like a toile and try out some new patterns?


Formal dress, all done bar hair and makeup

..and talking about sewing… here’s a sneak peek from the last and final fitting

If she stands up straight those wrinkles on her stomach disappear. Whatever. Fitting is done. No more adjustment necessary!

A fun after party outfit has also been sewn:

A shirt from ‘A very hungry caterpillar’ printed cotton and white shorts with cute scallop details on the pockets

Hopefully, I’ll have photos from the event this weekend to share soon…

Formal dress progress – drafting done

A month has gone since I last posted. I probably don’t need to tell you that the formal dress drafting has been all consuming….

And it’s now almost done. Thank goodness!

The bodice toile is now a flat pattern – yes two of the pieces go to hip height and one doesn’t. I know. Bad pattern maker

I played around with adding bra cups and boning to the bodice toile, but it was a very unsatisfactory experience for all involved. See the last blog post for how Felicity felt about trying on endless bodice toiles with different sew-in bar cups. A strapless bra was a much better solution!

It was time to turn the bodice drafts into dress pattern pieces. I used the skirt part of the original pattern as a guide, elongated it and flared out from the knees on the side and centre back seams. Then added a train.

Cutting out long pieces like this is the real reason we have a dining table that seats 10!

I’m cautious so I just cut out the lining and facing and sewed that up. My live model consented to a fitting. She’s happy about her choice of orange. I was happy with the fit, but the back needed to be more racer back in style. Pattern drafting wasn’t over yet!

If you look closely you’ll see a zigzag stitching line just inside the stay stitching line.

I’m experimenting with clear elastic on the facing to keep the bodice snug up against the body on these bias cut pieces.

A zigzag line just on the inside facing edge front and back won’t show, and it might just help with the overall fit.

Fingers crossed I’ll get most of the dress done soon. D-Day is April 2.

Formal dress drafting…part 1

Felicity *loves* this part of dressmaking

As a side note, who would have known printed scuba was so good for toiles?

When it’s inside out you can draw in the changes so easily with sharpies or textas (and random smiley faces too), plus re-pinning the seams is a cinch!

I think textas might be my new favourite sewing tool.

How the toile is looking so far.

I haven’t yet tried it on the live model. See first photo for reason.

Once I have, and it’s all okay, the next step is to work out how to add internal support. I’m thinking a sort of shelf bra arrangement with cups. Unchartered territory for me. This could all end in tears!

Formal Dress progress with bonus Easter cuteness

It has got to that stage. Of not liking what I am sewing.

It’s not because I don’t like the colours of the fabrics I’m using…

Graphic fashion fabric on the left, neon yellow crepe for the bodice underlayer on the right, and neon lime organza for the underlining at the bottom, complete with orange markings for the waist tucks.

or that the organza underlayer needed to be basted to the top fabric by hand around the tucks and darts..

and the style is fabulous.

I am just a bit over it all.

There is still lots to do. And a deadline to meet.


And the bonus Easter goodness? That’s thanks to my friend Karen, who served these delights at craft night last night

Devilled eggs ….. as chickens.

Cute eh? Perhaps a little bit creepy too.


Happy Easter to those who celebrate


Crop top or Formal dress muslin #1

I hope you’re not sick of reading about my WIPs (works in progress). This time its Felicity’s Formal dress: BurdaStyle 12/2013 #130

Whilst going through my fabric stash for something else, Felicity spied this polyester woven and wanted to know why it couldn’t be used for her Formal dress.

It’s certainly not the jacquard that the pattern calls for, but it does have some body. Perhaps?

I had to trial the alterations I’d made to the bodice of the pattern, so rather than using something stiff from the stash, I choose a softer drapier fabric, just to get a feel for how a non jacquard might work.

[Felicity has a head cold and is having a bad hair day. So her lovely face is not gracing the blog today!]

I think a softer fabric is going to work. After I get the fit right.

That extra fabric pooling between the bust and the shoulder at the armscye needs to go.

I need to move the apex of the dart darts back a bit. I tried rotating the darts up into the neck tucks, but it made the extra fabric pooling between the bust and the shoulder even worse than it is here. A dart will be less obvious in a pattern fabric.

The extra fabric between the shoulder and the bust is not so obvious from the side, but that bust apex needs to shrink

Arrgh, and now I see that the side seam is not vertical…

The back looks ok.

The over bodice will only be closed at the neck on the dress, but a second closure on the crop top makes it more wearable for Felicity (yes, she sees it as a wearable garment! not just a muslin!)

How to get rid of the fabric pooling?

A horizontal tuck above the bust looks like it might work. This is an alteration I often need to do for Felicity.

It does smooth things out. But now I have to both shorten and move the bust dart down!

What do you think? Other alterations needed? Leave the polyester woven in the stash and go look for a jacquard?

Coat muslin, IKEA style

I’ve listened to you and worked hard this weekend on my coat.

I know you are expecting something like Burda’s vision of elegance for this pattern (BurdaStyle 11/2014 #111)

But, I’ve made a muslin and it’s not an elegant coat in any way.

IKEA upholstery fabric. So much more fun to make muslins from than, well, muslin.


The first thing you probably noticed (after the sad blue face on my tummy), was the collar. I’ve got mine on the roll lines marked on the pattern

That’s how the shorter version of this coat (BurdaStyle 11/2014 #110) is intended to be worn

Good to know I have options!


Okay lets look at the fit.

This is a straight size 42, with no changes except to make the sleeves a bit roomier though the upper arm.

It doesn’t look too bad to me, but please let me know what you think.

I can see a couple of things

  • The “waist” seam is sitting on my waist, but the pattern is drafted with this seam 1cm or so above the waist. I considered shortening the bodice (I often need to) but the bust darts are about right (sorry, can’t see them in my photos). I’ll probably leave this like it is.
  • There’s a bit of excess fabric under the bust at the sides.

Apart from the extra fabric under the arms on the side, the back looks good. Yes that is a fabric marking pencil in my hair. From Paris (so there is a tiny bit of elegance after all!)

The side views show that the bottom edge might need to be leveled


My plan is to use this pattern for this fabric.

It’s an Oscar de la Renta double-faced wool, linen and mohair blend, woven houndstooth with metallic threads and a dark brown laminated back. A fabulous gift from Liz of Designer Fabrics Australia, my favourite online fabric shop!

I’m planning to use it like a double faced fabric, with the laminated side on the outside and the tweed showing on the collar and the turnback.

I need to play around a bit with the fabric, but if I can, I’ll use lapped seams for the vertical seams, to show a little bit of the tweed and highlight the style lines.

Do you think I should try to get rid of that fabric pooling under my bust? The IKEA fabric is not quite as thick as the Oscar De La Renta, and a little bit stiffer. Perhaps a bit of extra ease here won’t be too much of an issue? All advice gladly received!

Oh, and I’m very tempted to cut out another collar piece and a front facing in hot pink for the IKEA coat, chop the coat down to hip length and line it. It could make a fun casual topper! What do you think?



Lime balls

Have I told you about my great new cooking book?

One of my Christmas presents was the My Petite Kitchen Cookbook.

I love Eleanor’s blog and have been very happy with how her gluten free recipes have turned out (here and here).

I was keen to try some of her other recipes in my “Christmas” book, and New Years Eve was the perfect opportunity for her lemon coconut balls. Not too sweet and refreshingly citrusy. Perfect for a hot summer evening down under. Plus super easy to make.

I repeated the recipe the other weekend with limes. Even better!

I love limes



  • 2 cups (180g) desiccated coconut
  • 1 cup (100g) almond meal
  • 80g butter
  • 1/3 cup (115g) honey
  • grated zest and juice of two limes (or one lemon)
  1. Set aside ½ cup of the coconut and put all the rest of the ingredients in a food processor.
  2. Blend for 1-2 minutes, or until the mixture starts to form a dough.
  3. Use your hands to form small balls.
  4. Roll the balls in the extra coconut (or use prettier, larger coconut flakes instead).
  5. Place in the fridge for at least half an hour to set.

The truffles can be kept at room temperature, but are best kept in the fridge. Makes around 25 truffles.  Will keep for 3-4 days. In theory.


Sewing update:

I’m still auditioning patterns for my lovely landscape print

I weakened. Vogue 9021 has been purchased.

I haven’t yet pulled it out of the envelope to see if it fits on my fabric, but I do like this pattern a lot! Also, red booties as cover art. What’s not to love?

And, I have made a teensy bit of progress on my vision of a lovely winter coat in this delightful laminated tweed

“Progress” = pattern traced and IKEA upholstery fabric cutinto for a muslin of BurdaStyle 11/2014 #111

No actual sewing has yet been done…

The tale of two “muslins”

Are you a muslin (toile) maker? Or do you get straight into the pattern with your fabric and fit as you go (or, like me, hope for the best)?

Felicity’s Big Winter Coat, 2011

I have made muslins in the past, but not very many (like, all of two or three in the last six years…)

This last month, however, I’ve made two muslins, or “wearable muslins”. And not completely intentionally.

Muslin #1.

What is she talking about, you think, looking at this image. Looks like a nice dress, and those diagonal drag lines are probably just from her hand in the pocket. Perhaps a bit tight through the bust? Still, on balance, it looks okay, and the style lines are lovely. Nice fabric too. Looks like a lace overlay.

Yes, yes, yes.

But, wait. You haven’t seen the back.

We have a classic case of bad fabric pooling at the backwaist. This is after trying to fix it too by retrofitting a(nother) sway back (I’d already made that adjustment whilst tracing the pattern off).

This dress pattern is from an Easy Burda Autumn/Winter 2014 BurdaStyle Special: Dress 4e, minus the neck band and faux pocket flaps

The “lace” overlay is a rayon, polyester linen blend, bought from Gay Naffine’s sales some years back.

I underlined it with a self striped stretch cotton and used this same fabric for the plain central sections. I underlined the central section too, with a lighter weight stretch cotton.

The inside view

I know. I should’ve made a muslin first. Now all I’ve got is a nicely sewn wearable muslin using lovely fabrics.


Muslin #2

I didn’t want to make that mistake again, so, for my next dress, I trialed the pattern first in a polyester twill from deep in the stash.

And this one turned out almost completely wearable!

This is Burdastyle 09/2012 #134

No puddling at the back waist on this one, although there is some extra fabric under the arms.

You can see it at the front too: a bit saggy above the waist under my bust, and side on as well.

Apart from this, I’m pleased with the fit.

I might even wear it like it is, with its blue exposed zip (it was close at hand and the right size, and this was just a muslin), obvious machine hem (I needed to check hem length with heels, and this is a muslin after all), and slightly stretched out neckline (no staystitching, see previous comment).

This pattern was muslined for this fabric:

I am very happy with the pattern and still think it would work, but I can’t get Ruth of corecouture‘s, suggestion of Vogue 9021 out of my mind.

Then Gabrielle of UpSewLate recently made a beautiful version.

I might not have enough fabric for those big sleeves though… so still thinking about it. If Spotlight have a $5 Vogue sale anytime soon, you know what I’ll be buying!

Meanwhile, I have another muslin to make.


Formal Dress for Felicity

Felicity’s school has a formal in May for the Year 11 students as well as the Year 12’s. Actually, there is one formal but both years go, so that means a formal for two years. She has relatively low frock expectations for Formal Number One. Phew.

BurdaStyle 12/2013 #130 is her current plan. It’s a German designer pattern, Talbot Runhof, that doesn’t appear to be available as a pdf download.

We don’t have any fabric yet. It seems there is nothing suitable in my very large stash!

I will need to add a FBA to the bodice and the bodice overlay. I guess I will rotate the horizontal side dart I add into the neck tucks and the vertical dart into the side seam for the overlay. Any advice will be gratefully received!

It will also be interesting to see how this style works when it’s on a body that needs a FBA. Yay for muslining!

Yes, I have learnt my lesson.


Jungle January update

I am pretty certain I am not going to make up my Jungle January swap in January. But you need at least an update in January, right?

I have the pleasure of Lara of Thornberry as my swap partner. You know, *that* Lara who sews fifteen garments and blogs about them in the time I take to even think about what I *might* sew. She is amazing. I can’t even use the “but I work full time” excuse with her. She does that too! And has school age children. Definitely wonder woman.

These are the delights she sent me.

Imagine my squeals (there could have been a few *roars* *braying* and *trumpeting* too) when this parcel arrived on Saturday. Not just delightful linen fabric in zebra print but trims, notions, a belt and a collar too! I am very lucky.

And, even more wonderful, the linen was prewashed. I had an hour spare (it was the Australia Day weekend and was jam packed with non sewing activities) so I cut Vogue 8805 out that very afternoon. Fastest fabric in and pattern sorted ever! Perhaps some of Lara’s magic came with the parcel?

I’ve cut all but the bottom band in the zebra print. I’ve used a white linen in my stash for the bottom band, just to break up the zebra stripes a bit.

Now the pieces sit next to my sewing machine, silently whinnying at me in reproach.


Help! I need panel print ideas

What to sew? Jungle January is on and I should be zig-zagging with a zebra.

Or making a toile so that I can turn that glorious designer laminated tweed into a coat.

But this digital border print is messing with my mind. It really needs to be sewn!

This lovely fabric is from EmmaOneSock. Linda describes it as a “new technology polyester woven that mimics the qualities of silk, and this one is very much like a silk charmeuse. It’s a drapey dress weight, elegant, opaque, and a beautiful quality alternative to silk! The print is a beautiful tree grove scene with sunset colors: periwinkle blue, grassy green, indigo, french roast, rosy pink, etc. with a silvery pale gray background”. Each panel is 73 cm (.8 yards) long. The panels are printed across the fabric which is 150 cm (60 inches) wide. I have 2 panels. So plenty for a summer dress.


I could go with a very simple trapeze dress like this :

BurdaStyle 04/2013 #109.

Tessuti have done something similar with one of their delightful panel prints



Or this more glamorous Matthew Williamson designer pattern


Burdastyle 09/2012 #134








I like this dress too but I may not have enough fabric, so it might end up sleeveless. And I do love those sleeves.





BurdaStyle 03/2014 #120





This baby doll dress is very cute, but perhaps works because of its rich black yoke and delicate lace.

BurdaStyle 10/2014 #124





So, I’m leaning towards the Matthew Williamson dress.


What do you think? What other patterns would work for this fabric?

An early Christmas present

Liz from Designer Fabrics Australia has gifted me with this wonderful fabric. How lucky am I?!

I love that it came in a Mood Bag too.

It’s an Oscar de la Renta double-faced wool, linen and mohair blend, woven houndstooth with metallic threads and a dark brown laminated back.

Liz said that this was a runway fabric. I spent a pleasant hour or so on finding it.

Oscar de la Renta Fall 2007 RTW collection

According to Nicole Phelps on “From beginning to end, and day to night, the collection sparkled. A houndstooth sheath glinted with crystal embroidery; a cardigan (of which there were many covetable varieties) came trimmed with chains and stones; and tweed coats were laminated so that they resembled crinkly patent leather.

Edited to add: I found another coat in this fabric in the same collection:


Oscar’s creations look like they might be unlined and with raw edges or lapped seams.

I like both these looks, but I’m not convinced I could hide that much of the beautiful houndstooth on the inside.

Even though it is almost summer here and I have a simple cotton shift dress on the go, I’m dreaming of a winter cape, or a long winter coat.

BurdaStyle 11/2014 #111



Perhaps with the laminated side on that gorgeous collar, or the other way round? This style might be a bit too lady-like for a lot of laminated tweed. Or perhaps that’s just what it needs to make it less sweet.


BurdaStyle 08/2012 #101




With laminated side on the collar and lapels?


BurdaStyle 10/2013 #103

Several options here: blocking, or just the front button band as the contrast



BurdaStyle 09/2010 #120.

Not so many good options to show both sides, but I do love this pattern.




BurdaStyle 08/2011 #112

Unlined, with the laminated side inside






BurdaStyle 10/2011 #101





Unlined, so the laminated side would show in the hood or the other way around. There are blocking options here too: laminated inner panel and houndstooth wings.


Please help me out here

  • Coat or cape?
  • Which pattern?
  • Mostly laminated on the outside or mostly tweed?
  • Can I get away without lining this?
  • And how lucky am I?

Writing Secrets Blog Hop

Have you, like me, been enjoying the blog hop about blog writing that’s been going around? Imagine my delight when Catherine of Cyberdaze asked me to be part of it!

So, here goes.


What am I working on now?

This dress for my daughter is the current WIP

BurdaStyle 03/2013 #110.

I’m using a gorgeous textured Japanese cotton.


How does my work differ from others in the genre?

It really doesn’t. There are lots of sewing blogs like mine, and most of them are more interesting. Some have recipes too, and post about travel and fabric purchases, just like mine does. Lots of sewing blogs have lots of technical detail too, just like mine. Nothing to see here, just another sewing blot.

One very minor point of difference is content. I make and blog about a lot of BurdaStyle Magazine patterns. A lot. Almost everything I sew is a BurdaStyle pattern. My first blog post was about a BurdaStyle pattern.

What a cute little girl she was in 2010! Burda Style 02-2008-114

How amazed I was with the first comment I got on this trench coat blog. How did they find that post so quickly? What an amazing world the sewing blog world was! I still feel like this.

More grown up in 2013. BurdaStyle 08-2012-113

Lots of BurdaStyle isn’t a deliberate point of difference to make me stand out of the sewing blog crowd.

It’s just the way it is.

BurdaStyle 08-2009-124 and 12-2012-117

I like lots of things about BurdaStyle Magazine patterns.

BurdaStyle 04-2010-125

I like the fit, the edgier European styles, the fact I get lots and lots of patterns every month for a moderate price.

BurdaStyle 03-2009-107 

I also don’t mind the bit about the issues being the wrong season for Australia. This gives me time to see the patterns made up by others before I dive in.

The jacket is Burda World Of Fashion 12-2005-113 (sometimes it takes me more than one season to get around to sewing up the patterns!)

Why do I write what I do.

I started* this blog a year or so after I discovered the wonderful world of online sewists. I wanted to be part of this fabulous community!

Since then, I’ve also found my blog to be like a very useful journal. I like having my makes documented for my own future reference. Even the images of my fabric purchases are a useful reference for me when I’m not home and am thinking about sewing

My first online fabric purchase!

I find it amazing that other people like to read the stuff I write. And comment. And I love the community that we have as sewing bloggers. It’s awesome that even one thing I share might be helpful to someone else, because I have been helped so much by others.

* I didn’t really start this blog, He Who Cooks did. It used to be a cooking blog called Beurreblanc before I started posting. He graciously changed the name to He Cooks…She Sews.

For a while posting was a joint thing, but his contribution slowly petered out. Now it is me who writes the baking posts. He Who Cooks might have found the attention the sewing posts were getting a bit discouraging ..



How does my writing process work?

Most of the time, blog posts are about finished projects, so nothing happens until I have photos of the final garment styled on my daughter or myself.

Then I write the blog post. Usually after Sunday lunch or late at night. Blogging feels a bit like stolen time. Anyone with children, elderly parents and a demanding full time job will know what I mean!

It’s usually stream of consciousness stuff with a section of technical details at the end, for my future reference. I do a bit of editing to try and improve readability (but not much, as you already know because you read this blog!).

I enjoy putting together blog posts and I love being part of the online sewing community. I don’t want to spoil it by making myself worry too much about perfect writing. You, my wonderful blogging friends are delightfully forgiving of the poor quality of my expression.


Thanks for reading. I’m passing the baton on to Gail of My Fabrication, Allison of Allison.C Sewing Gallery and Ruth of CoreCouture.

I have enjoyed these three blogs for a long time. They are inspiring, stylish, talented and thought provoking. I’d love to know more about how they do it!

The dilemma has been solved

My cluttered sewing nook is now graced with this work in progress.

Yikes, it that a rose on Eliza the dressmaking dummy’s breast?

In my eagerness to get the all the bits I liked onto a fairly narrow panel it looks like I have managed to centre a rose almost perfectly over a nipple… Let’s hope the viewer’s eye is drawn away by the diagonal swathe of pink!