A Genoa Tote with a touch of Sashiko

It’s present time! ¬†A big one this year as my Mum turns 70. ¬†I try to make something special for my parents on these big occasions, especially as I am not in Yorkshire to celebrate with them.

I made this for my Dad’s 70th a couple of years ago, it’s a gilet for the garden and it took me an age. ¬†If you haven’t seen this before, it’s probably because it was one of the first projects I ever blogged about. ¬†Read all about it here.


I needed to pull out the big guns, here. ¬†I had considered a kimono but because Mum is the ‘Queen of Returns’ (at Marks & Sparks) I thought better of it and went for a bag.

I was lucky enough to win a copy of the Genoa Tote pattern in the raffle at Sydney Frocktails back in February.  I was then gifted a set of the hardwear for the bag by the lovely Blogless Anna (Thank you Anna)! I had my pattern sorted, now for the design.

It had to be Sashiko for Mum and I really wanted to work on a design I had never tried before, I wanted impact, so I chose the triple persimmon flower stitch.  I bought my stencilled dotty fabric in navy  and some white Olympus sashiko thread from Bebe Bold and off I went.

I am not even going to begin to explain how to do this, no need, Susan Briscoe’s, The Ultimate Sashiko Sourcebook tells all with helpful illustrations and examples. But lets just say it requires concentrations and patience.


I had ploughed my way through the maze of vertical lines, feeling a little despondent as I couldn’t see how this would ever work.¬† But then the magic happens when you start stitching those horizontal lines… So awesome!



Let’s not be under any illusion here, this piece took me ages. ¬†But worth ever stitch because it is really beautiful and I like it even more for it’s imperfections, the odd wonky stitch adds to the beauty.

Now to apply it to my Genoa Tote.

I chose a heavy indigo denim which I found at Achieve Australia. ¬†I make lots of tote bags from this fabric as it’s really sturdy stuff. ¬†It was also the perfect match for the Sashiko panel. ¬†To make the pattern piece I just added a strip of denim to the top and bottom and cut out the piece as I would any other fabric.

Here it is.

FRONT: This is the smallest size Genoa, using the tan leather handles
BACK: I kept the back Sashiko free and used the indigo denim

For the lining I used some gifted vintage fabric. I suspect it’s Liberty, it certainly has the quality feel of a Liberty fabric but I can’t be sure. ¬†It’s really beautiful though. ¬†I am also super pleased with the internal zip pocket.

Zip: Who Says Sew

This piece of Sashiko is called rice flower stitch, again from Susan Briscoe’s book. ¬†It was a little piece I was sampling for another project. It just happened to be the right size for this pocket, so I added it in here. ¬†I love that little hidden gem.

The Genoa as a pattern is super simple to make and I can see many more in my future.  I just loved adding the leather straps and the studs, it looks so professional.

The great thing about this gift is that it is being hand delivered by my biggest kid. ¬†He’s flown to the UK to visit the family for a few weeks (without us). I think he is the best gift to my Mum could want, but maybe this will come a close second. A very belated Happy Birthday, Mum!





The denim clinic: mending my favourite jeans

I can’t throw these jeans away. ¬†They aren’t particularly ‘cool’ but they are comfy and they fit me and I like them, so they are staying.

The problem with these jeans is that they are very light weight denim and so are wearing out at a very fast pace.  The only solution is to keep fixing.

They started out with a single knee patch, then a second knee patch and now I am onto fixing more knee thinning.




I patching it up, to strengthen the area. ¬†I used some grey and white striped cotton fabric, a scrap I found in my box. ¬†It’s a thin cotton and because I wasn’t at the studio and machine-less, I just used iron-on glue to secure the piece. I left the edges raw. ¬†Just because.



I used the white lines in the stripe to guide the straight lines of sashiko stitching.  I thought I would experiment with the crosses.  I think it paid off.  The white rows were an afterthought, aiming to pull it all together.  You can see there is one row of straight stitching.  Clearly I missed that row, oh well, happy accident!

Can you spot the straight stitch row?
Close up


If you are wanting some visible mending on your favourite jeans,  just drop me a line.  I am happy to help.


The Refashioners 2016: Jeans

It’s that time of year again, where Portia of Makery¬†opens up The Refashioners 2016 to the community. ¬†I am part of said ‘community’ (as is everyone else BTW) so I am taking part. ¬†This is the brief this year.

The theme is Jeans only:¬†(Not denim jackets, skirts, shirts etc) Because the specific challenge with this is the scarcity of fabric and all the hardware and heavy seaming you‚Äôll need to work around. The majority of your¬†finished project must have come from the source garment (ie your jeans). Other than that anything goes. Use additional fabric and haberdashery to your hearts content, as long as you turn them from something you don‚Äôt wear, into something you do wear‚Ķor use, ¬†ok?!¬†ūüôā

If you don’t know about this challenge then I suggest you hop over and have a read. ¬†To kick start this challenge, Portia enlists a bunch of uber talented sewers to give it ‘there all.’ You will see¬†a wide variety of designs, a cool and eclectic mix, from wiggle dresses and kimonos to tops and jackets. There are some brilliant pieces, but my favourite has to be Joost’s project, err yes, Joost is a man. ¬†Quite a brilliant and talented man at that. ¬†He had me at ‘hello’.

So, to cut up a pair of jeans is a big thing. ¬†From an environmental perspective they are a huge consumer of water (among other things). ¬†Something we must be really mindful of, especially those of us here in Australia. My thinking was, if I can’t wear them then surely someone else can! ¬†So I set out to find ‘unwearable’ jeans.

My first thought was to talk to my mother-in-law, Chris. ¬†She works for a charity shop in the UK. ¬†I asked her if they had a scrap bin of ‘unwearables’. ¬†She told me to come and hunt. Luckily, I was in the UK recently so we met up and searched. ¬†I came away empty handed. ¬†There was nothing in the scrap bin.

So then I checked online, surely there was something in Australia.  Nope, another blank. If I want scrap pieces of jeans I have to spend a fortune on postage from the US. I had no choice, time poor as always,  I bite the bullet and found the most unattractive pair of jeans I could find in my local charity store. I put it down to saving someone from a fashion crime.  It was the best I could do.

I decided to use only 1 pair of jeans and pre-loved pieces.  I was gifted the pre-loved pieces by Emily.  She gave me one jean leg offcut in light blue stonewash with a random square of fabric missing and two denim pockets from a early Rushcutter dress sample.

The final decision of what to make was easy.  Make something that I would wear A LOT.  Jeans are an everyday item.  It had to be very wearable, something that I COULD wear as much as jeans.  So there you have it, one word: SWEATSHIRT.

A sweatshirt is not normally made from heavy woven cotton but I did spy some inspiration on my Pinterest page and my idea came together from there.

The sleeves are always the main issue when refashioning. ¬†You need so much more fabric than you think, so I had to be savvy. ¬†I decided to hack up a previous pattern into bite size pieces.¬†I used the pattern from my previous make, A synthetic dream. ¬†It’s a raglan sleeve dress hacked into a top from Japanese pattern book, Stylish Party Dresses. ¬†It’s a simple pattern which is what I needed. ¬†It’s also slimmer than the inspiration above, I needed to reduce the volume. ¬†If you panel it out, you will be able to make more use of the strange shapes of fabric that you have.

My thinking was to deconstruct the sleeve by adding an underarm piece and a shoulder panel.  Then, add side panels to the front and back. I had seen this fabulous Dries Van Noten dress which had given me the idea.  Obviously my version is way less complex.


The centre panel of the sleeves are made from the original jeans.  You can see I removed the back pocket, I just have the shadow left. I incorporated the side seam with the lovely bar tack. This sits about elbow level. The side panels are from the Rushcutter pockets sliced together.  The sleeves are identical.


I overlocked all the seams, pressed them like crazy and then top stitched them all down.  The piece sits much flatter for it.

My main concern was getting the front/back side panel and the sleeve panels to sit at perfect right angles. ¬†Every seam matched except one. I couldn’t leave it, it just had to be right so I fixed it up and now it matches. ¬†You can see the before and after shots above.

The front and back centre panels are cut by opening up the inner leg seam and flattening it out. ¬†I didn’t insert that centre front seam, that’s the original side seam of the jeans.

Final step was adding the neckband, cuffs and waistband. ¬†I used some heavy duty ribbing from Neotrims¬†on Ebay. It was a ribbing I had originally bought to make a jacket many moons ago. ¬†It had been cut, so I had to do a patch-up job to make it fit the sweatshirt. ¬†The ribbing gives it a touch of 70’s¬†‘American High School’, which I am not unhappy about!

So here it is in it’s full glory.

So glad I kept the original jeans side seam, it looks great down the centre front & back.
You can see the panelling quite clearly here.
I think the heavy duty ribbing is a winner!


You can see the shoulder panel here. ¬†It’s a good way of getting this piece cut out of an awkward¬†shape.
I really love the sleeves. ¬†I like the upside down bar tack and the pocket shadowing on the elbow. ¬†I think it’s a great detail.


The colour blocking here is such an unexpected feature
I had to patch up the neckband as I was short on ribbing, it turned out rather well I think.  I top stitched this piece down just at this back section .


Successful refashion?  I think so, yes!

Did it meet my expectations?  Yes, it exceeded them infact.

Will I wear it? HELL YEAH!!

Punk it up!


It’s 40 years since the infamous Sex Pistols gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester. It is often described as one of the most influencial gigs in history. ¬†I love a bit of punk, really, who doesn’t? ¬†Although I was only 2 when this gig happened, the music of the Sex Pistols had an affect on me some years later as a 15 year old looking to rebel. ¬†My rebellion wasn’t too bad, it mainly involved learning all the words to “Never mind the Bollocks” and getting my nose pierced!


I have been listening to some really cool programmes on BBC radio, “New Rose and 40 years of the Damned” and my favourite so far, “Punk, the Pistols and the Provinces.” This made me really laugh, especially as it referenced one of the first gigs the Pistols played in Northallerton, Yorkshire and a Christmas Day gig they played in Huddersfield. Definitely worth a listen.

So while¬†rumours circulate that HRH is honouring the “Year of Punk” (can’t be true?), I thought I would honour it in my own special way with reference to the Queen of Punk herself, Dame Vivienne Westwood.

As winter has just arrived here in Sydney, I needed a jacket, so I made a kimono! ¬†What it lacks in structure, it makes up for in sleeves, fullness and (a hint of) tartan! I love Dame Viv’s¬†use of tartan in everything she designs. ¬†For me it just has to be red. ¬†Look at these glorious pieces.

I decided to copy an existing kimono that I love and that fits. So, no pattern for me, I am such a rebel!  It is a vintage find and it has such beautiful sleeve details.  What I wanted was to achieve a more practical wearable, every day version.


I find denim to be the fabric of choice at the moment.  I found this royal blue denim on sale at Spotlight which is always a thrill.  The tartan lining was gifted to me.  And what a gift it is!  Such beautiful lightweight red cotton tartan.  A big thank you to you, Margi x

It is a fairly simple construction but I made a couple of tweeks. ¬†It has no shoulder seams, so I added them, it made more sense to me as a pattern. ¬†It also had a centre back seam which I didn’t need as it had no shaping. ¬†I managed to draw it up. ¬†I then asked my studio buddy to check it (that’s Emily of In the Folds). ¬†She made a couple of adjustments, but nothing major so I wasn’t far off track.

I was very surprised at how well it¬†came together. ¬†Especially as I had to just ‘best guess’ on construction. I made a last minute decision to add some lined pockets. ¬†A good decision I think. ¬†I inserted them between the¬†side seam and the collar extension (is that what you call it??) ¬†I made the basic denim kimono and then made the tartan lining.

The major struggle for me was inserting the lining.  As the jacket has these sleeve vents, it really confused me.  After a couple of goes and failing miserably, I admitted defeat and asked the guru (Emily ) to help.  Of course she just pinned it all together and it worked!

I found my best punk inspired boots and jeans for this shoot!


There is plenty of volume in these sleeves, I feel like I have shopping bags under my arm pits.



I think the hem could be a little longer. ¬†You can also see the neckline isn’t fitting very tightly.
Hello tartan lining, how I love thee!
You can see the sleeve vents in more detail here, I like the hint of tartan you can see.  I added some bar tacks to keep the lining in place.
Super pleased with the pockets, the placement and the lining.

I really wanted a grungy shoot and I think with the roadcone I fashioned into a tripod and the garage door in it’s full ‘rundown’ glory, I think it works.

There are a couple of issues with this make. ¬†Firstly I think it could do with being about 5cm longer on the hem. ¬†Also, I should have tapered the collar seam at the back so it fits a little flatter. ¬†Other than that I am super pleased with it. ¬†So pleased infact that I have worn it every day and I am yet to finish it. I still need to sew the hole in the lining and tack the lining in to the seam allowance in certain spots. ¬†Question is, will I ever do this? ¬†It would be more punk to say, “NO, F*** IT!” ¬†But of course I won’t, there is nothing to rebel against these days!







The Rushcutter hack

I have been hacking again. Not in the clever, nerdy or illegal way, just in a small way with some fabric and an awesome pattern.

I have been wanting to make the Rushcutter dress pattern into a top for a while, ever since I made my first Rushcutter dress.

My first Rushcutter made from pre-loved fabric

It lends itself well to a top, it’s quite voluminous so perfect¬†for hiding¬†those wobbly bits (my stomach not my boobs!).


I had a lovely lightweight denim from Joys Fabric Warehouse. I bought it with my Frocktails Raffle ticket win (hooray)! It’s a great fabric with a lovely drape. I knew it was going to be good when I washed it and no white lines appeared, you know how it sometimes can with denim.

I also wanted to use the last scraps of my gorgeous vintage floral drill.  I had patched my jeans and made a skirt with it and all I needed was a little bit.



I used View A of the Rushcutter, it’s my preferred version. ¬†I do like the sleeveless version but there is something rather wonderful about these sleeves. ¬†I just can’t resist them.

Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 7.31.33 pmThere was very little to do in order to hack this dress.  Obviously reduce the length.  I went for a hip length which means no need to deal with pockets.

I also had to change the back panel. ¬†I didn’t need a full invisible zip so I closed the back panel seams on my pattern piece and cut it on the fold. This gave me the¬†option of whether to add a short invisible zip or¬†a button closure. ¬†I chose the button closure, mainly because I didn’t have the right size zip to hand and also I really liked the pop of the emerald green button. ¬†Either would have worked but I like this option. ¬†And that was the only change.

I love the emerald green button here!

Here it is in it’s full glory! ¬†I really love¬†the floral panel. ¬†I know, it’s impossible for me to make anything plain. ¬†Must try harder…

I am wearing this with my Esther Shorts (Tessuti Fabric pattern), maybe a matching pair is in order!
I like the volume in this top, but it does mean you have to wear something slimmer on the bottom half to balance it.



Of course, I couldn’t resist some sky blue bias binding throughout (don’t look too closely!)

I know I am going to wear this to death. ¬†It’s such a great fabric and I really like this shape. More of these to come I think.





Christmas present sewing = RSI

DONE!!  Yes, I am done.  Finally finished all my Christmas sewing.  It was an epic event and certainly a challenge. Grab a cuppa, I will try to be brief!


I made this Marilla Walker top for Mum. The pattern is from her latest Roberts Collection.  I chose a beautiful ottoman fabric in a watermelon print from Spotlight. It has a lovely drape and it worked really well with this pattern.

I wasn’t entirely faithful to Marilla’s pattern, I didn’t include the interesting back detail. ¬†You can really only see the back detail with a plain or lightly patterned fabric so I skipped this part. I love the v-neck and the kimono sleeves and I will definitely be making this one for me too. ¬†The big question is, will she like it? ¬†(Note: My Mum is the kind of person who takes navy slacks back to M&S about 12 times before she is happy with them).



Cost: Fabric $16 (sale item) + Free pattern (I pattern tested for Marilla and I was kindly rewarded with a printed copy!)

Total = $16


I made him an apron.  A bit of a cop out?  Maybe? yes!  I was going to give him the gilet but I loved it so much I give it him for his 70th birthday instead. After that epic sew, I am sure he will forgive me for this!

I used some left over ticking from a previous make and a heavy denim from Lincraft.  He enjoys a spot of baking so I know this will be useful.

Generously modelled by idiot husband!

Cost: Denim fabric $8 (sale item) + leftover ticking $1 + pattern from a Great British Sewing Bee book (gifted to me!)

Total = $9


I bought an amazing kimono back in July, while visiting Byron Bay.


It is a second hand piece, not vintage I might add, which made me feel a little better about pulling it apart.  I removed a front panel on each side and a fair amount from the length as I wanted this to be a jacket as opposed to a dressing gown.

The whole kimono is hand stitched, it’s a beautiful piece of work. I couldn’t bring myself to put it on the machine so I hand stitched the alterations. ¬†It was a fairly straightforward refashion once I got my head around all the different layers.

This one was hard to hand over.

I love this – such a beautiful piece!

Cost: kimono $30, used a good chunk of it so say, $20, no pattern or extra’s required.

Total = $20


Yep, another apron! I used the heavy denim from Lincraft and some crazy moustache fabric for the binding and pocket, found at the local charity shop.

I was a little unsure if he would like¬†the moustache fabric but my 10 year old assured me, “Uncle Rich likes funny things!” ¬†So, there you have it!



Cost: Denim fabric $8 (sale item) + moustache fabric $4 (charity shop find) + pattern, free as before

Total = $12


This was suggested by Jillian from Sew Unravelled who made the ladies in her family the most beautiful Furoshiki bags one Christmas.  Thank you Jillian!

I used the remaining pieces of my sisters¬†kimono as it’s such beautiful fabric. I will write a blog post about both of these projects soon.

Let’s hope she likes it! ¬†If she’s not keen, she can always use it as a peg bag!


Cost: $10 (the remaining portion of the Kimono) + free pattern, using an online tutorial

Total = $10

FOR MY NIECE (4 years old)

I think she got the lions share this Christmas, they are blackmail presents as I want her to like me.  I made her two Henry Dresses, both appeared on the Henry Dress blog tour.  She also scored my Henry skirt hack which I love (I wrote a tutorial about how to do this one!)

p.s don’t forget I am¬†offering a¬†Henry Dress pattern¬†to one of my lucky reader. See my Henry skirt tutorial for details.

Lobster love
Sunshine & Lollypops
Henry Skirt hack

Cost: the lobster dress fabric $4 + Sunshine & lollypops dress fabric $20 + Henry Skirt fabric $1. (All patterns were free as I pattern tested this, the skirt is a hack from the Henry dress pattern.)

Total = $25

FOR MY NIECE (9 months old)

One of the favourite makes this year was the Compagnie M, Charles Dungarees I made from a salmon pink linen shirt.  It appeared on the Makery website as part of the Refashioners 2015 which pleased me no end! Completely impractical for an English winter, hopefully they are too big and will be just right by June!



Cost: Pink linen shirt $15 + Nani Iro offcuts $3 + buttons $1 (charity shop find) + pattern $10

Total = $29

FOR MY Niece (7 Years OLD)

I know, I know, another Henry Dress but I just love this pattern and it was a request so, who am I to say no? ¬†It’s a great make, I wrote a blog post about this one and I am really happy with its retro feel.


Cost: Fabric $4 (charity shop find) + free pattern

Total = $4


A little crafty project.  I was asked for a cloud cushion, so here is my interpretation!  A happy little piece with some blanket stitching made from a very cuddly grey jersey.


Cost: Grey jersey $1 (charity shop find) + extra scrap pieces + stuffing $4 + self drafted pattern

Total = $5

I promised in my earlier post that I would do a breakdown of the time I spent. I did start jotting down the time but then I gave up, anyone knows (non-sewers and sewers) that this is hours and hours of work.  I am no saint, there have been moments when I have wanted to just abandon it all and make something for myself! But really, I have not begrudged this time although I do think I have taken selfless sewing to a whole new level!

Financially, this has been an interesting journey. Christmas is such a crippler for us, especially as our kids summer holiday happens over this period. I have incurred about $130 and made 11 presents for my 9 family members, I am pretty proud of that!

Would I do it again? I am not sure, I suppose I will have to see the response from the family.  But I think maybe not to this extent, it has been an enormous undertaking and I really am not joking about the RSI.

Someone pass me a sherry…