Merino cowl dress (for the win)

Don’t you love it when you do an experiment and it isn’t a Pinterest Fail? I impulse-bought some green merino from Levana, with an interesting chevron pattern, to make a cowl neck dress. Not having a cowl pattern, and having already done a significant amount of internet shopping that week, I scoured the web for a free pattern, and found this one.

cowl dress

Happily for size 36 people, but sadly for me, it’s only in one size. I thought, ‘oh well, I’ll just add the extra inches at the centre seam’. In my experience, this sort of blind optimism often leads to disaster, but not this time. It meant that the cowl was deeper than planned, and the back neck was a lot wider than it should be. I added a box pleat at the centre back neckline, and it draped beautifully. Actually this pattern was released a couple of weeks later, also with a draped back, and I felt very on-trend.

cowl dress 3

I find that having an unexpected success like this really motivates me to sew more. Or maybe it’s just the time of year, now the days are getting shorter and there’s more inside time. Either way, there’s more to come…



Cross-stitched bookmark

Lots of catching up to do here, but I really do want this to serve as a journal, so here goes… This was a birthday present to serve as a reminder of a Wellington trip (specifically, a direct seagull-bomb by one of the giant birds in Oriental Bay). I bought the kit at Made on Marion, but it’s also sold online. I’m not much of a cross-stitcher so the back looked shocking. I ironed on some heavy interfacing to hide the mess. It was fun but I think it’s a one-off. I’m too impatient for cross-stitch!

bookmark 2



Denim Butterick 5984

What’s this?! A work dress that isn’t New Look 6968? Yes it’s true.

butterick 5984 6

This is Butterick 5984. The picture on the pattern envelope isn’t my cup of tea, but the line drawing has potential. This is view B, shortened to the view A length (and I’m tall, so if you want an above-knee dress you’ll need to shorten it further).


Some wrinkly, post-brunch photos. Thanks Marta, Kirsten and Kat.

butterick 5984 1

butterick 5984 3

The dress has a lined bodice but I used a stretch denim fabric that was fairly heavy, so I skipped the lining and flat-felled the seams, to go with the denim aesthetic.

inside out

To finish the neckline I used bias tape, and just machine-stitched across the front to finish. The stitching is nearly all hidden by the collar anyway.

inside neck

butterick 5984 5

I found the bodice sizing to be way off (too big), but it’s princess-seamed so reasonably easy to adjust. I might have overfitted it a little, looking at those drag lines across the bust.  The sleeves were also a problem; since the photos I’ve ripped them out and redone them, reducing the height of the sleeve cap to get rid of the puffed sleeve effect.

butterick 5984 4

I also raised the back (by 6cm!) to make it more work-appropriate. If you look at pictures online, this dress has a pretty low back. The front isn’t low-cut at all; I didn’t change it.

butterick 5984 7

The denim has a subtle pattern, and I’m really interested to see how it’s going to wear and fade over time. I loved reading very purple person’s discussion about ageing of jeans.  Sewing this dress gave me blue hands, so obviously the dye’s already trying to escape!

blue hand

  • Pattern: Butterick 5984
  • Fabric: stretch denim from the Fabric Warehouse
  • Alterations: lots. Raised back by 6cm, adjusted bodice fit, lengthened bodice 1cm. Didn’t line it. Changed back vent to a kick pleat.
  • Next time: make bodice size according to high bust measurement; grade out to waist if needed.
  • More versions: here, PatternReview.

Birthday present – Miz Mozelle

I was lucky enough to be able to visit my baby sister for her birthday this year, and I made her a dress for the occasion.


This is the Miz Mozelle from Jamie Christina.

I used a blue textured rayon, and jazzed it up with a bit of Japanese cotton bias binding. The cotton was swiped from fabric the Fashion Critic chose, for me to make into a shirt for him. Luckily we bought plenty so I think he’ll still get his shirt.

I think the rayon suits the blousy top.


The wrinkles are because it came straight from my suitcase.

It has an elastic waist so it’s a good choice if you’re likely to be eating birthday cake.

We were.


  • Pattern: Miz Mozelle dress by Jamie Christina
  • Fabric: textured rayon from the Fabric Warehouse, cotton trim from Japan
  • Alterations: made one size bigger in the bodice and sleeves since the pattern is for a knit and I used a woven
  • Next time: don’t bother upsizing for a woven, there’s lots of room
  • More versions: herehere, here, here, PatternReview

Welcome to the family, little Lotus

Let me begin by putting this on the record: I am not a sewing machine collector, nor do I want to be a sewing machine collector. I’ve seen how easily it can happen: you start with a gateway sewing machine like the one I’m about to show you, and before you know it you have a regular habit, you spend all your free time trying to find your next hit, and you have no money. You do have awesome clothes, though.

lotus blog

I found this beautiful little darling on Trademe, which is like Ebay for New Zealanders, but better because the population is so small there’s less competition. Closed, she measures 30 x 24 x 12cm. For those who use imperial units, that’s equivalent to tiny.

lotus open blog

Isn’t she the loveliest thing you’ve ever seen? She weighs just 6kg. That’s less than half the weight of my trusty Bernina, and it means that Bernina never has to travel again.

She’s a marvel of design, with her accessories case tucked under her lid.

accessories lotus

In fact she’s so famous for her design that her cousin’s in the Museum of Modern Art in New York (truly!). This model is the SP, which does a straight stitch, zig-zag and a buttonhole.

controls lotus

foot lotus

My little Lotus doesn’t know it yet, but she’s about to become a well-travelled young lady, as there are several sewing events coming up. I’d hate to damage her, so I decided she needed a nice case to take travelling.

I had just the thing in the stash, a length of heavy Ikea cotton from when I decided to make shoes a few years ago (I never did make shoes). I couldn’t find the right pattern online, so I made it up, and it was actually pretty easy. I’ll put directions below, in case anyone’s interested, but here’s the final product.

front lotus

end lotus

It has a pocket for the cables and pedal:

pocket lotus

And D-rings at each end for a shoulder strap (I used a strap from an old handbag):

d-ring lotus

And a pocket inside for its little manuals:

lining lotus

I’m so pleased with it! I can’t wait to take little Lotus on an outing.

Here’s how I made it, in case you want to make your own version. The measurements below fit a machine measuring 30cm wide, 24cm high and 12cm deep. They can easily be adapted.

I cut out:

  • Two pieces for front and back, adding 2cm ease plus 1cm seam allowance to each (so, 34 x 28cm each) – cut two in lining also.
  • One long piece to wrap around the bottom and about halfway up each side, plus ease and seam allowance (16 x 60cm) – cut one in lining also.
  • Two narrow pieces to go on each side of the top zipper. These extend across the top and halfway down each side, plus ease and seam allowance (9 x 60cm each) – cut two in lining also.
  • One outer pocket piece, the width of the front piece and about two thirds the height (34 x 17cm)
  • Two straps (9 x 46cm, then folded into three lengthways and topstitched)
  • Two pairs of little triangles, for the triangular flaps at each end of the zipper. Mine were about 6cm along the longest side
  • Optional interior pocket in lining fabric, mine was about 20cm square


  • Top zip, 58cm. You’ll want a top zip that extends a good way down each side, otherwise you won’t be able to get the machine in and out. Use a plastic zip, because a metal one will scratch.
  • Front pocket zip, 32cm
  • Old blanket for batting (optional)
  • Two D-rings (optional)
side and bottom construction

The back piece, and the long bottom piece

Cut out all the pieces. If you’re using batting, cut batting pieces that are 1cm smaller than each of the outer pieces, and quilt them on, before assembling.

quilting lotus

Attach the pocket (with front zip) to the front piece. Sew the top zip between the two top pieces. Attach the little triangles at each end of the top zip.

front and top construction

the top pieces (with zip inserted) and front piece (with pocket applied)

You can probably work out the rest: sew the shell together in the way that feels right to you. I sewed the ends of the long top and bottom pieces together, forming a giant loop, and then sewed the front and back pieces in place. Don’t forget to insert the D-rings below the little triangles, if you’re using them. I used a doubled-up piece of green ribbon to attach the D-rings but you could use a piece of heavy fabric, or whatever you have to hand. Once the outer shell is all together, sew on the handles.

Then sew the lining the same way as the shell, but leave out the zip: instead, fold and press 1cm along the long side of each top piece (you’ll handstitch it to the inside of the zip at the end). Sew the interior pocket to the right side of the lining, if you want one. Put the lining inside the shell, wrong sides together, and handstitch the lining to the inside of the zip. Enjoy!

Bellatrix blazer, weather permitting

Bellatrix blazer

This is my latest entry over at Indie Pattern Month on the Monthly Stitch. I just won a year-long fitting battle with the Bellatrix blazer, from Papercut patterns.

I think it’s gorgeous, but despite three muslins I couldn’t get it to fit. A tantrum and a year later I came back to it, made a fourth muslin, and behold!

Bellatrix blazer

The main fitting changes I made were
1. adding a bit to the side seams, thereby also increasing the sleeve circumference, and
2. making the front side panel squarer, which I guess is a dodgy princess-seam FBA of sorts

Bellatrix blazer

Pocket shots:

Bellatrix blazer

The fabric is a textured cotton from my trip to Japan in April. It’s absolutely lovely but it does crease easily in the non-interfaced bits (sleeves and back mostly). The lining is a lighter cotton.

That’s pretty much it about the blazer. Here are the outtakes from a June photo shoot in Wellington:

(no light)

Bellatrix blazer

(gale force winds!)

Ah well, luckily we’re a hardy bunch. And a bright mustard jacket is just the thing on a chilly grey June day.


  • Pattern: Bellatrix blazer by Papercut patterns
  • Fabric: textured cotton from Japan
  • Alterations: widened sleeve, altered shape of side front to give a bit more room
  • Next time: lengthen sleeve 1cm, add interfacing to top of sleeve and across top of back
  • More versions: here, here, here, here, here, PatternReview

Sewing double, sisters edition – SBCC Mimosa

This is my Indie Pattern Month entry over at The Monthly Stitch. The week 2 challenge is to sew two versions of the same pattern, so I made a blouse for myself and one for my sister.

SBCC Mimosa front joined

It’s a SBCC Mimosa, a pull-over blouse with raglan sleeves and a front tie.

We live in different countries (me in NZ, her in Australia), so we had to get creative with the photos. We had a virtual trip to the park…

Followed by a chat on the corner…

Check out that Wellington hair! It was definitely time to freshen up…

Before a well-earned cup of tea.

Why would 2,325km stand in the way of a good sisterly catch-up?

Now, more details about the pattern:

It’s a lovely one for a voile or light cotton (which I used), and I’m sure it would work well in something drapier too. I made two adjustments: firstly, I changed the sleeve to a two-piece one, with a seam along the shoulder. The original has a dart there, and try as I might I couldn’t get it to sit properly, there was always a bump at the end of the dart. Here’s the seam instead:

Secondly, I shaped the hem up at the sides, so it looks a little nicer untucked.  Some people who have made this have inserted a back facing (there’s already a front one), but I had no trouble using bias tape as directed.

That back neck looks too low, I think it’s because I changed the sleeve. Must fix next time.


  • Pattern: SBCC Mimosa blouse
  • Fabric: Art Gallery fabrics voile (me), Spotlight bargain bin geometric light cotton (her – wish I’d bought more for myself!)
  • Alterations: two-piece sleeve, curved hem
  • Next time: raise back neck
  • More versions: here, here, here, here, here, PatternReview