As I’m going along and putting the capsule together, I am also road testing by trying different pieces together. The overall look is really only a fiction until it actually works – if it works.
That’s why I allow myself the luxury of making mistakes. I mean, it can be brilliant in your head and on paper but not so good when it’s put together. And let’s face it, the name of the game is putting together a wardrobe that yields a maximum number of looks. So liking it is probably a pretty important part.
So far so good. Noting it is only early days, I am liking it.
Of course, I struggle with black. No surprises there. And I absolutely love the ivory linen so no surprises there either. But what is a surprise is just how beautiful this Nexus blouse is looking. I think the sleeve is just so pretty. I couldn’t stop looking at it 😄. I’ve constructed the rest of the blouse and only need to attach the sleeves and it will be finished – except for the buttonholes that will have to wait until I get home. As organised as I am, I forgot the buttonhole foot. Remember I am on holidays 😊
Anyway, back to the capsule, I am very pleased to say that I am happy with the black linen Pietra pants and matching Ruby top. I think both of these are great staples and I will get plenty of wear out of both. I would have perhaps liked the pants a little shorter but deliberately left them at a length that I like for work.
To say this weekend in Sydney has been hot 🥵 would be a gross injustice to what was actually a heatwave. It was the kind of weather where one struggles to be anywhere near the iron or the sewing machine. Of course I’m a sewing stalwart, not easily frightened by the weather so I gave it a good nudge. But sewing black linen pants was cruel. It took me back to my school days. My mother had told me that the nuns’ habits were made out of breathable fabric – the best quality – all natural fibres – and I remember sitting in the classroom sweltering, wondering how Sister Geraldine’s black habit could possibly be breathing? It might have been the best quality but I can tell you, Sister Geraldine was melting under all those natural fibres, made even worse by the fact that they were black.
So I did a bit of hand sewing but nothing more. Instead I worked on my capsule wardrobe but tracing off and cutting out patterns.
If I hadn’t said it before I will say it now: there may be mistakes along the way but I’m ok with that. There has to be some trial and error. So to be honest, I’m not really sure about the ivory linen and I’ve gone with my gut. I love the look of it because I think it’s elegant but it also has a bit of a lingerie feel about it? I’m not sure.
But it’s definitely a neutral, it will definitely go with black, there was plenty on the Spotlight shelf and it was 40% off 👍. All good reasons. So this is what I’ve cut out so far.
I am going to make the long, gathered sleeve version, with the shirt tail. I think this will be lovely for work and will go well with pants or skirt.
Because the linen is a bit see through I’ve also modified and cut out an Ogden Cami. I figure I can wear that under the the Nexus Blouse (with a few buttons undone) if I need to. It will also go well the black linen Pietra pants that I am still hemming (and even if they were hemmed it’s way too hot to try them on – remember Sister Geraldine.)
Now this one is a bit of a gamble. I have just made the long skirt (midi length) in chocolate linen and I absolutely love it. So I’m going to make the top in the ivory linen but I have reservations about this. Incidentally, not the crop, the other one. I think it could be a bit of a non event but I’ll go with my first instincts.
So that just about sums up my cutting out day except that I left out the fact that I also prepared fabric to make bias binding 😊
Over the weekend I unpacked the last of my boxes. I had saved this one until last because I knew what was in the box and I wanted to give myself all the time I needed to wash these little dresses, and dry them in the sun on a day when there was a breeze. They’d been kept in storage for 20 plus years. They needed some TLC and to see the sun before I hung them up in my new sewing room.
I was looking forward to this exercise. I was also a bit nervous. I wasn’t really sure how they would have fared over that time. You see, I hadn’t gone to any pains to preserve them. They definitely hadn’t been put away in anything near ‘airtight’ so this was down to chance.
But sure enough, they washed and ironed like a dream (linen, after all) and they are in exactly the same condition as they were when I made them, all those years ago. And I was so pleased. These little dresses have a special place in my heart…..and my history. Not because they were my little girls’ dresses. No. These dresses were a collection, a range that I put together to start my own label. This was Charlie Grace.
I had wanted to create a children’s clothing label for as long as I can remember. Always. Forever. And I had dreamt about white linen baby dresses from the first time I ever sewed with linen, in my teens. I loved the indulgence of linen and the way it felt, folded, and breathed. I adored the crispness of the white and was in awe of the statement that this simple and natural fabric could make. I still feel that way that about linen.
And I loved little dresses. I was mesmerised by them. I still am. The more indulgent the better. I am a sucker for quality, detail and embellishment. My preference is for classic understatement but I also love ‘over the top’. the more layers on a tutu, the better. In my mind, the possibilities for little dresses were, and still are, endless
In starting my own label, my mind was crystal clear. I knew what I wanted. White linen and little dresses were the perfect pair. Impractical? Absolutely. I am driven by beauty so I didn’t care.
Finally deciding to give it a go was, for me, probably one of the most energising decisions I had ever made. It was liberating. Empowering. It may not sound like a big deal but believe me, 20 years ago it was. Things were so different.
We didn’t have the access to markets and media that we do today. Copyright restrictions were much tougher and unless you bought in bulk, sourcing materials was difficult and expensive. If you wanted to sell at the markets you had to get a big clumsy machine from the bank, linked to a business account under a registered trade name. Of course you had to do all of this, face to face, with a teller after you had made an appointment. And then there were sew-in labels and swing tags. You had to buy them by the thousands.
So you see, taking this on, was a big deal. At the time I had 2 little ones, aged 4 and 1, and I worked part time.
Most of my fabric came from a place on the northern beaches that used to sell off cuts from fabrics that had been used by designers. They sold the most amazing pieces for practically nothing……..some I’ve still got in my stash. I bought a lot of linen of different weights and textures (pretty much all white but some navy). The one below was a favourite – a light linen with a little stripe woven into it.
Spotlight was competitive for both fabrics and notions and you didn’t need to buy in bulk. I spent many an hour in different Spotlights all over Sydney and was never disappointed. Spotlight had a good range, was never out of stock was always comfortable and easy with a pram. In those days it was pretty disorganised too…….so it wasn’t too stressful when your kids touched the buttons! This was how I came to love Spotlight.
As the owner of a registered business, I also had access to Charles Parsons (textile supplier to manufacturers). I loved the Charles Parsons part of the experience! It was too exciting talking about the qualities of different fabrics (on huge rolls) to the sales assistants and being taken seriously. Again, the requirement to buy in bulk was prohibitive but I didn’t let that stop me. In fact, the basis of my stash today, is quality fabric from Charles Parsons. And as Im writing this I’m thinking that I probably should keep that fact under my hat!
Constructing the garments
I drafted some of the patterns myself but the gorgeous gathered yoke and Peter Pan collar style, that features frequently, was a modified ?Style pattern. Thinking ‘copyright’, I modified that pattern by at least 50% ( this probably wasn’t ever necessary but I played by the rules -a dyed in the wool stickler for the rules, was I).
You can see I included embellishments on all the dresses and that I had a particular penchant for piping, and tucks. Ribbon also featured frequently as did hand embroidery and lace. I also loved a puff sleeve with detail and adored a cuff. I still love every one of these details today……nothing has changed in 20 years (except my reluctance to spend as much time on washing and ironing ….although I probably still would).
Then there was the selling and marketing! Now remember, online shopping wasn’t a thing and social media didn’t exist. So if I wanted sell the dresses I had to market them through a distribution channel. This involved cold calling boutiques that sold children’s clothing or department stores like Myer (could have been Grace Bros in those days?) or David Jones.
I found this very challenging. Selling has never been in my DNA. Notwithstanding , I had actually got an appointment with a buyer at David Jones. Now she gave me the heads up before the interview that if I wanted to deal with David Jones, I would need to be able to guarantee a minimum supply of items, of her choosing. Looking at the range of handmade little dresses, with their hand embroidered embellishments, I knew that promising any sort of minimum was going to be a problem.
But I wasn’t defeated…… not quite. I changed tack. I decided to alter the style slightly and omit some of the embellishments to give me a better chance at finding someone who would be prepared to sew the garments en masse. It worked. I managed to source a woman who lived miles and miles away. She wasn’t very interested but in the end reluctantly agreed to sew me a few samples …..for a pretty penny.
Where did my dream go?
I can still remember that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I picked up the samples, weeks later. My little handmade linen pieces had turned into poorly constructed cheap looking, slightly wonky, manufactured dresses.
They had become something else. Somewhere in the transformation my passion died.
I cancelled my appointment with the buyer at David Jones and put the project on ‘hold’. Severe morning sickness helped me make that decision.
And now, 20 years later, I find my little dresses, as good as new. I still love them just as much, (maybe even more) and I marvel at the beauty and durability of linen….you cannot beat it.
For me, the dresses still incite passion and enthusiasm.
Its been such a long time since I’ve written a blog post. I have quite a few in draft but I can’t seem to finish them. But I really wanted to blog about this dress because I think my learnings are worth sharing.
I chose this pattern because I loved the look of it so much. With hindsight, I think I really loved the colour more than anything. Whatever the reason, I couldn’t stop thinking about it so it was one of those projects that couldn’t wait until the weekend. I started it on a steamy hot work morning at 5am.
Now, Im very new to Japanese patterns and this book was written in Japanese so I felt seriously handicapped from the outset in every respect. I chose the largest size pattern to trace off, on the basis that it probably wouldn’t be too big, and even if it was, it wouldn’t really matter in this style. I wasn’t sure whether or not seam allowance was included in the pattern but I assumed it was not and so added 1cm all all around. Judging by the size of the finished product, I’d say my ‘seam allowance not included’ assumption was correct (or the patterns are sized for the very petite).
I followed the diagrams which were clearly marked in sequence, and once I got into the flow, I found it an incredibly easy and logical make…..with some well thought out detail, like the curve across the top of the skirt front. I thoroughly enjoyed the process and absolutely love the dress (although, not so much on me). I was sorry I hadn’t chosen a more dramatic colour as I think the style called for it. The fabric however, was a dream to work with. It was a crinkle cotton/linen blend from Spotlight.
I also made a pretty big mistake. I forgot to add seam allowance to the neck which meant the neckline was way too wide. That’s why I have worn it with the singlet top underneath.
Overall, I absolutely loved this pattern and found it very enjoyable to construct……even though I couldn’t read it and I can’t wait to make up some of the other pieces in the book.
If you’ve read any of my recent posts you’ll know I’ve become quite taken by botanical dyeing. To say I find the whole process fascinating would be a gross under statement – to me it’s like magic. It doesn’t matter what what plant I use, I get a result…….and the result is always beautiful…..usually breathtakingly so.
This is a gift for a new baby girl. The wraps are all muslin and all dyed with natural dye.
Usually I’m painstaking with my notes and records so I know how I produced a particular shade. But I’m sorry to say, somehow this lot slipped through the cracks. If I dug deep enough I know I could work it out so if you want to know my exact recipe, I’d be happy to let you know. But otherwise, what I can say for certain is that for two of the wraps I have used avocado stones (one with iron added) and for the one second from the right, I used the leaves from a maple tree.
What I can also say for certain is that the results are lovely. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable and relaxing past time.
I hope the wraps help the little one sleep………they would, me. In fact, I am going to make myself a nightie out of linen that has been botanically dyed!
I’ve made lots of Hedys……..so nothing new here and generally not something I would blog about. But this Hedy is different because it is made from Merino!!!!
Its the Merino I’m blogging about.
Merino sheep- image -BaragaMerino
This fabric is a piece I bought from the Fabric Store in Sydney, a couple of years ago. To be completely honest, this is not a colour I like to wear. But I remember that at the time, the price was so low, I just had to buy something…..and this was the most neutral of what little was left………after a massive sale.
So it’s been tucked away for a long time, pretty much gathering dust.
Anyway, I needed some more casual gear for ‘casual Friday’s at work. I prefer dresses so I can dress them up or down as the situation dictates. I decided to make the Hedy again (I think this is number 5) and when I was going through my stash, I found a cardigan I had made for my daughter to take back to uni with her (probably the last one she will ever get!), still in the cupboard.
Well low and behold if it wasn’t a perfect match for my Merino.
So that was it!
Now back to the Merino.
I am gobsmacked by this fabric and it wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration to say it is one of the most beautiful fabrics I’ve had the pleasure of handling. No surprises there I guess……it is natural after all. But from washing to ironing to sewing to wearing it was an absolute delight. I thoroughly enjoyed the project and the dress was soft and warm on a bleak Sydney day.
Now I know what all the fuss is about.
I used the wrong side of the fabric because the colour was slightly lighter and a better shade for me. You can see how the wrong side is a little bit coarser….I love that look. Mind you, the threads will pull more easily.
Now I can’t wait to cut into my next piece of beautiful Merino. I am a convert and very grateful to those dear little sheep!
I have been looking at the Washington dress on social media for months and months…….and planning. I knew I wanted it but I wanted it to look a bit different to the original version….I just wasn’t quite sure how different
So I bought the pattern and pored over it……like I always do when I’m excited about a pattern….a bit like a good book. I could see endless possibilities for this dress and I absolutely loved the yoke addition to the skirt.
What I really wanted was a black dress for work that would be comfortable and easy wear and would provide me with options to change the look….mostly with jackets and accessories. What I wanted was an LBD. But I don’t like black near my face. I like white.
Enter the Washington Dress!!
I bought the fabric from Knit Wit. I can’t actually remember what the black fabric is which is a real pity because it is beautiful. It’s a heavy stretch/woven with a textured finish. washed, sewed and ironed like a dream. The top is white scuba.
I modified the skirt pattern by tapering it in from the bottom of the yoke. I wanted a slimmer line skirt to balance my jackets, most of which are cropped.
The jacket below is another great pattern i.e. Marci Tilton V9190
About the pattern
I loved everything about this Cashmerette pattern. It was quick and easy and a great pattern to modify. I am now looking forward to making the Appleton!
The inspiration for this piece came from my fabric tour of London and Shanghai in 2016. If you’re interested in that trip (it was so good!), you can read all about that here
The short version is that inspiration came from everywhere and the seed for this little number was first planted when I stepped into the Cloth House in Soho and was blown away by the raw beauty of the fabrics made of natural fibres. I have always been a fan of the ‘natural fibre ‘ but there was something about the way they were displayed in the Cloth House that took my love to a whole new level.
Just in case you don’t know, the Florence Nightingale Museum celebrates the life and work of the world’s most famous nurse. Many say Florence Nightingale invented nursing. She did in my book.
Image of Florence Nightingale- unknown source
Anyway, why was I inspired by this museum? Well the truth is I’m not really sure. My thought process went along the lines of…….
I wonder if the nurses who served in the Crimean War ever had any time to do craft? I wonder what sort of craft they would have done if they did have time……and if they did, how would they have sourced materials?
You see, I cannot imagine a life without craft because for me, craft is the fuel that keeps me going. And the more difficult life is, the more of that fuel I need. So projecting, I wondered, how could those nurses have kept going the way they did unless they had fuel? I know I couldn’t have so what would I have done?
I searched every image in that museum to find something that I might have used for materials to make things with. And the thing that really jumped out at me was the bandages (not that there was ever an abundance of bandages, as far as I am aware, in any of the wars)……..but what could you do with bandages? Well you could knit them of course!
Now this is in no way meant to be flippant or insensitive. I am in awe of the nurses and the unbelievably selfless contributions they have made to all wars. This was simply about craft and inspiration, in isolation from the reality of war.
Knitting with rags
So, armed with an idea and plenty of downtime on our fabric tour, I bought size 10mm needles and some cheap white cotton fabric. Before I started the project, I sat in my hotel room in London after dinner one night, glass of wine in hand, and ripped the fabric into strips and then tied them together. I decided I wanted to add some texture to the overall look so I collected all sorts of bits and pieces to add to the mix. The only criteria was the material had to be white….ish.
I love this top but I found making it, hard work. This was because it was heavy, even on a circular needle, and despite the fact it was all garter stitch, it made my hands ache. Because it is cotton, the lack of give also added to the heaviness. That’s why it took so long to finish it. I mean, I loved the look of it and loved watching it grow but it wasn’t a comfortable project. It’s also a little heavy to wear so will definitely be a Spring/Autumn addition to the wardrobe. I deliberately left the knots visible because I wanted to retain that raw look.
Would I make another one?
Absolutely!!! I’ve started all ready. This time I am using muslin, dyed in cherries (yes cherries). And it feels much much lighter and more comfortable on the hands. Fingers crossed.
I have been eyeing off fabrics dyed with avocado skins, for ages. In fact, every time one of those beautiful muted tones comes through my feed, and I see that it’s been dyed with natural dye, I do a double take. I love the colours…….absolutely love the elegance of the muted tones. There’s something so fragile and understated about them. And given that I’m big on the curated wardrobe theme, lately, I’ve been able to see a lot of merit in learning all about the process.
But I’m impatient! So, learning for me was You Tube….short, sharp and visual (I will do the in depth reading over the next few ………….weeks maybe?). Anyway, without really knowing what I was doing, I had a go. I bought 6 unripe avocados, 2 meters of muslin and 2 meters of homespun. I also bought a great big second hand deep fryer from the Salvos.
The process (my untested/slap dash version, that is)
Wash the fabric
Peel the avocados
place the skins in the top of the deep fryer
place the fabric in the bottom of the deep fryer
fill the deep fryer with water and bring to the boil, then simmer for 6 hours
Rinse under cold running water
This was the outcome of the muslin
this looks very pink, almost purple but this is more about the light.
This is closer to the real shade but there are several layers here so not entirely accurate
Once I had completed the muslin, I froze the dye to save it for the home spun which I did a couple of days later. Now the home spun took the dye far easier than the muslin (perhaps the colour was more developed? I’ll have to read about that) so I immersed it for an hour only.
Sewing with muslin and/or homespun
Even though this was an experiment, I wanted to make something with the fabrics because I love the colour (which I would describe in real life as dusty pink meets salmon). Now call me strange but I absolutely love muslin. I think it’s soft and lovely and elegant….not to mention cool. I understand why babies are swaddled in it because I would love to be swaddled in it myself (in fact I think I’m going to make myself some muslin sheets). Of course it has no body and is difficult to manage under the machine and you can see straight through it. But I doubled it and that worked quite well. In fact, it was putty in my hands and it sewed beautifully.
The pattern I used was Burda Style 7521 (A) and I’ve included a picture because I think this one is OOP……….. shame because it’s an easy make / easy wear.
Now, the pants in homespun? Different story. I don’t like homespun one little bit. But it did the job. And the pants turned out well. I used the good old NewLook 6461 which I’ve now used 4 times. You just can go wrong with that pattern.
I think the look borders a bit on the ‘pyjama’ because it is pink (maybe). But then again I love the pink. I’m a bit sorry I didn’t do the pants in muslin too……….or of course a beautiful linen……….but I was trying to see how economical I could be (under $20 for the whole outfit…..INCLUDING avocados that were seconds). The ‘pyjama’ effect could also be a function of the homespun which is really not satisfactory for pants. But I loved the exercise , am excited about the possibilities and can’t wait to learn all about it.
I hope you enjoyed this post…or better still, got a kick out of seeing how good the finished product is, even when it’s made by a mere mortal (amateur).