in the studio

Bitten by the smocking bug

Lately I've become a bit obsessed with smocking.  If you follow me on Instagram you've probably realised that.

I worked out the Eloise Gathered Top PDF Pattern lends itself rather well to smocking.

Smock top-08

I added about 8 inches to the width of the front pattern piece, so there's lots of fabric to smock.

Last week I visited Amitie, my favourite fabric shop, and picked up a few new fabrics, including one of Anna Maria Horner's woven yarn dyes.

Smock top-01

This probably isn't the sort of fabric I would normally use in dressmaking, but when you add the smocking element, I couldn't resist it.

Smock top-05

There was a bit of trial and error with this top.  I attached the neck binding three times before I was happy with it.

Smock top-03

I have been Pinning lovely images of smocked tops on Pinterest and getting inspired.

Smock top-07

This is a long sleeved raglan top with sleeve ends gathered into a cuff. I think it will be cute over a little denim skirt and tights this winter.

Smock top-06

Adelaide has a fuscia coloured Jacadi cardigan that goes perfectly with it.

Henri in the studio

I had company in the studio this afternoon.  Henri and I passed a lovely couple of hours in the attic with the sun streaming in. He was doing some sketching in a sunny spot.  The perfect Sunday afternoon.

Pineapple blocks

I bought some new dressmaking pins when I was choosing fabrics with Adelaide at Amitie Textiles this week.

I suddenly had the need to make a new pincushion to provide them with a home.

Pineapple block pincushion 2

I quickly drew up a teeny tiny pineapple block on some pattern making paper.  Then I cut tiny scraps of leftover fabrics and spent the next little while enjoying some machine piecing.

Once that was done I still hadn't overcome my need to make pineapple blocks. So I fiddled around with a block template on Illustrator and came up with a simpler one that didn't have as many rounds.

Pineapple blocks 1

I'm not sure where these are headed, but they're quite satisfying to make.  I never knew what foundation paper piecing was until Rita on Red Pepper Quilts enlightened me. She has an excellent tutorial on her blog (for a different pattern) that explains how to piece with foundation paper.

Rita also has an astounding pineapple quilt.  You simply must take a look.

Pineapple blocks 2

If you want to try your hand at your own pineapple blocks, I have uploaded my 7" template.  You can access it in my left side bar.

Summer sewing

Last night I headed up to my studio to make some clothes for Adelaide for summer.  As I was cutting out a top using the Adelaide Sundress pattern, I was suddenly caught with the urge to sew someone else's pattern for a change.

Rose dress 2

This pattern is from France with French instructions.  So I just follow the pictures and make up my own construction plan. 

Rose dress 1

It was cold in our garden this morning so all photos are minus a cute smile.  That just wasn't happening.

Rose dress 3

The sleeves are a little too sticky-outy for my liking.  I think a pom-pom trim or something with a little weight to it could be a useful addition, or a lighter fabric, (or maybe just a wash with fabric softener).

All in all a very sweet pattern.

Join in the fun: see what other seamstresses around the web are sewing this week.

Sew and show

Superfine bias binding as pocket trim

Yesterday was a very productive day in the studio.  I finished four garments. The first is in the previous post, the second one I posted on Instagram, the third was a sample for an upcoming pattern release.

The last one, coming in at around 1am, was a sundress for Adelaide.  I couldn't stare at my pretty pile of fabrics from Amitie any longer, without cutting into them.  This delayed bedtime by several hours.

When I can't find a ribbon in my stash to go with a fabric I rather like the look of superfine bias binding.

Superfine bias binding 2

This binding is made using a clover bias tape maker and this binding comes out at one eighth of an inch wide.  It's too fine to tuck the ends in so I just knot them and snip off any frayed ends.

Superfine bias binding 3

See what other people are sewing here for Show and Tell Tuesday on the Fresh Squeezed Fabrics blog.

Fresh Squeezed


Dressmaking shortcuts

Does anyone else do this?

I always use the selvage of a fabric for any centre back seam in the clothing I sew.

Isabella Flutter Sleeve Top in Flower Sugar

I do this for two reasons.  Firstly, I'd rather look at the selvage of a fabric than an overlocked cut edge. Secondly, it's one less step in the making of a garment so it saves time.

Isabella Flutter Sleeve Top in Flower Sugar centre back seam

Oh, and I guess there's a third bonus reason sometimes, in that you get a record of the fabric used if you happen to cut up the right section of fabric.

What shortcuts do you have?

Pretty fabrics

After returning from over two weeks away on holidays yesterday I couldn't resist a quick visit to Amitie Textiles. I hadn't been there in ages.  

I didn't have long because there was no food in the house, the children hadn't had lunch and were all starving and I had no idea about what to serve for dinner.  I knew prioritising fabric over food/starving children wasn't right - but when the sewing bug bites...

New Amitie fabrics

I came home with this little pile of loveliness. We opted for takeaway, and after tucking my babies into bed I headed to the attic.

Striped Skirt detail

Adelaide now has a new skirt for summer.  I have a top planned to go with it, so will show you more detail when the full outfit is complete.

Now it's off to the supermarket for me.

The Townmouse attic studio in our new house

Now that we are a few weeks into the school year I am finding the occasional hour to potter in my attic studio and I am loving it.

Come on in, I'll give you a tour.

To create the attic studio we sacrificed a small room on the first floor (or second floor for American readers) and used that space to install a staircase.  During the renovation the roof came off, the attic was built and the old tiles were put back on the new roof. This is what you see at the top of the stairs:

Studio landing

I love my glass lamp base filled with vintage thread bobbins. The bobbins I sourced on ebay.

Studio entry lamp base

Through the glass doors is my little haven in the treetops.

Studio door

The room is a great size (about 4 metres wide) and this is the view from the doors:

Studio view from the door

This is how the space looked on the day we moved in:

Studio moving in 1

Studio moving in 2

I loved unpacking all my boxes and seeing all my much loved crafty items again.  It was better than Christmas.

Studio Basil the cat

I now have lovely bookshelves to store my quilting and Japanese and French craft books.


Some favourite storage units and pieces of furniture are doing their thing.

Studio fabric stash

Studio threads

This little storage unit was once in my grandmother's garage storing jars of nuts and bolts.  Then it came to us and stored our CD collection (remember those?).  Now it's keeping my stationery items in one place.

Studio stationery storage

My quilt tops hang on this airing rack.  The hope is I will be inspired to finish them if they are sitting out on display rather than forgotten in drawers.  This tactic hasn't worked so far.

Studio quilt storage

I have my own little nook.  When Will pops up to the attic in the evening he sits on the sofa on the right and I sit in my nook in the window and we chat.

Studio my nook

I've made a couple of trips to Ikea in recent weeks.  I now have my overlocker and old domestic machine on this table.  The four machines I use are in a "U" shape which I can access easily from my swivel chair.  The ironing board makes up the fourth side of the area.

Studio view from my sewing machine

I also bought a second fabulous trestle table so that when I roll out wide rolls of fabric they don't spill over the edge of my single table.

All in all I'm as happy as a lark in my new studio.


A little more sewing

Where has this week gone?  I have found far less time to sew than I thought I was going to.  February is always so busy with school information nights and the like.

Yesterday I finished off this little top for Adelaide as part of Kid's Clothes Week.  Not much upcycling of fashion takes place in a house that has too much fabric stashed away:

Keyhole top 1

This is a simple top to sew and I've made it a few times since it first appeared in the range in 2006. In fact I sent a custom made one to Crown Princess Mary of Denmark when Princess Isabella was very young and found images of Isabella wearing it.

It was fun to sew this pattern again.

Keyhole top 2

I am very partial to a flutter sleeve and use this detail a bit in various patterns.  I also enjoy sewing the keyhole detail at the front of the top.  It's a simple way to add interest to an otherwise plain front.  With contrast bindings you can achieve a different look again too.

Keyhole top detail

This was the top as it appeared in the range in 2006

Charlotte in keyhole top

Next I plan to make a pair of Puppet Show Shorts to go with the top.

  Flutter top 1

Kid's Clothes Week Day 1

For the first time I am participating in Kid's Clothes Week. After being an observer of this fun initiative I am excited to be joining in. This time round the timing has worked for me.  A new school year has started and I have finally found some time to hang out in my new attic studio.

To ease back into the sewing groove I've pulled out an old favourite pattern from my range - dating back to 2004.

Ruffle dress pink 1

This is a moderately easy pattern, with a bit of fiddling around with the ruffle collar.

Ruffle dress pink 2

Adelaide was very happy with the fabric choice so I'm confident this one will see the light of day.

Ruffle dress pink 3

This pattern also works well with the sleeve and neckline ruffle in a contrast fabric.  This is how it was originally produced for the Townmouse range:

Scarlett in the Ruffle Dress

This pattern has always been a personal favourite from the Townmouse range.  I like the way it falls from the back too. It's not overly fitted so is practical on a hot day when some protection from the sun is required (not a problem in Melbourne this summer I'm afraid.)

Ruffle dress pink 4

Can't wait for some more sewing time tomorrow.  I have a little top cut out and ready to go.

Sewing withdrawals

It's desperate times around here.  I packed up my entire sewing room back in August to get our house ready for the September auction. I knew I'd be too busy to sew before we moved house so all my fabrics and other sewing possessions got put into storage across town until we move house later this month.

But I'm seriously missing my fabrics.  I'm pining for them.  I don't even have needle and thread to sew on a missing button or take up a hem.

Liberty Aquas 1

My favourite children's shop in Melbourne is Jacadi.  They make beautiful, sweet children's wear that I adore.  I particularly love their cardigans.  Each season I visit the store to stock up on these very handy garments for Adelaide.  The beauty of a cardigan is that it fits for more than one season - unlike a jumper - and can still be worn even when on the small side.  Adelaide has a better knitwear collection than I do.

I justify these expensive cardigans by rounding out her wardrobe with homemade coordinates to go with them.

Liberty Pinks

I've been topping up my Liberty stash of late and can't wait to be reunited with my industrial sewing machine (the removalists are going to have fun getting that beast up two flights of stairs).  As soon as my sewing room is set up I will be madly cutting into these pretty Liberty lawns to make dresses, skirts and tops for Adelaide.

Liberty Purple

On the To Do list is this top pattern, at least one top and dress from this pattern, definitely one of these favourite dresses and maybe some Oliver + S Puppetshow Shorts.

I'm going to be a busy seamstress between now and Christmas.

The sewing room that was

This year I have been way too busy for any lovely down-time in my sewing room.  And it's just as well, as it now looks like this.

Dining room

There's not a thread, a scrap of fabric or a sewing machine in sight.  Our house is currently on the market and, taking the real estate agent's advice, I have transformed my little haven at home into a dining room.

I personally think a potential buyer would get more excited over a crafty den than a dining room that rarely gets used, but hey, we crafters are in the minority aren't we.  Not everyone gets excited about piles of fabric and spools of thread.

Sewing room

It's hard to recognise the space.  And of course real estate agents use those fish eye lenses that make rooms look so vast. You can just make out the fireplace behind my card patterns above.

Our house auctions next weekend.  Fingers crossed it sells on the day as I can't maintain this state of cleanliness indefinitely.

On other news our renovation is rocketing along and we will be in for Christmas.  Famous last words I know.....

Patchwork ironing board cover

Don't you love Pinterest!  This image:

Courthouse steps 1

Plus this image:

Courthouse steps 2

Plus this image:

Board cover inspiration

Inspired a litle quilting. (These images and their sources can be found on my Pinterest board here.)

I have one of these old wooden ironing boards.  I found it in a quirky thrift shop in Flinders Lane.  I walked through the city with it tucked under my arm like a surfer in search of a wave.

Patchwork ironing board cover 8

This is not really a practical or usable ironing board, particularly if you use a steam function.  

Patchwork ironing board cover 4

This is a Denyse Schmidt fabric bundle - I'm not sure which range.  I like the pop of red.

Patchwork ironing board cover 1

I bound it in a plain red and then ran a running stitch around the binding which I pulled in to get it to hug the board.  It was a relatively quick project to make.

Patchwork ironing board cover 6

This will be more of a decorative piece in the studio in our new house.

Speaking of which, renovations are in full swing.  As is invariably the case, the scope and timing of the renovation has blown out enormously.  We will be lucky to be in by Christmas. The house is a mere shell; with walls, floors, ceilings, the roof and plaster missing.

The simple suggestion to line the roof and put in a few dormer windows to create an attic studio has turned into a major element of the project.  Our architect does not do things by halves.  We now have a beautiful space taking shape on the roof, complete with French doors opening to a small north facing terrace and a lovely deep window seat overlooking the back yard.  The views from up there are fantastic - looking out over the neighbours roof and the treetops. From the street you would never know it was there.

Attic studio 1

This photo was taken a few weeks ago.  The opening on the left will be where the French doors go.  The opening on the right is the dormer window overlooking the back yard.  A pair of windows flanks the French doors.

Attic studio 2

This is the space looking back the other way, with Adelaide standing at the top of the stairs.  Through the openings you can see the roof tiles on the front part of the house.  There will be some fabulous roof storage in that section.  You can never have too much storage.

Patchwork ironing board cover 5

In the meantime, this little craft project is casually waiting around in my current sewing studio (and getting in the way really).