Nessie dress for Stella

Thanks to all who responded to my last blog post – both to those who added to the discussion about fit and flattery and to those who left such flattering comments on my Mabels!  And guess what – in the last two days I have sewn TWO THINGS!  Admittedly, both were cut out weeks months ago, and both were extremely straightforward.  A dress for me, and finally a second pair of school pants for Clare.  They really needed to be sewn, considering that she finishes primary school in December!  In the meantime I can finally share another garment I made ages ago.  Once again my photography of Stella had an ulterior motive – to get photos for the blog, not just to get photos of her having fun drawing chalk pictures with friends!

Nessie top as dress

This is the Nessie Top pattern, lengthened to become a dress. I also added a yoke to the back in order to take advantage of the gorgeous Babushka fabric that Anna had given me. Despite being a knit, the skirt fabric isn’t terribly stretchy.  It does however have a loop pile back, and is nice and snuggly for winter.  The fabric I used for the yokes and sleeves is a cotton/lycra knit from the depths of stash. I bought a LOT of this once upon a time.

Nessie top as dress

Now a confession – I did a terrible job of aligning the yoke seams at the sides. There is about two centimetres misalignment at the side seams. Shoddy. I remember that I was making this in a bit of a hurry and I didn’t actually draft a new back pattern divided into a yoke and lower back – I just held the front yoke pattern piece near the back piece and chopped away accordingly. Learn from my mistakes people!

wet chalk painting

I originally used the tiny remaining scraps from the skirt to bind the neckline, doing a double folded band. It looked really cute – but wouldn’t actually stretch enough to go over Stella’s head. It was rather entertaining while I tried pulling it on and it just wouldn’t budge over her ears, but clearly something else needed to be done. I chopped off the neckband and cut another from the same cotton/lycra knit that the yokes and sleeves were made from, using the 7/8 of the neck measurement rule, joined it into a circle then quarter marked the folded band and the neckline to match them up then seam them together. This worked well.
Nessie top as dress

The length was determined entirely by the amount of fabric that I had available. It still has the gentle high-low hemline of the original top pattern. I think that I sewed this up in size 6, but don’t hold me to that. Construction was all on the overlocker, and hems were all twin-needled. We already had leggings in the drawer from a previous make in the same fabric. What coordination!

Nessie top as dress

more Mabels

It seems that when I have a small amount of stretch fabric left over from something else, I turn it into a Mabel skirt.  I have now made five of them.  The first three are here – and these are the remaining two.  I’ll show you how they look close up, then how I actually wear them. These photos were all taken at the end of the day, so there are a fair few wear creases.

Colette Mabel skirt

This one was sewn at Sewjourn in May. The fabric is a little unusual – it’s a knit, but more like a stretch bengaline in density and stretchability than a double knit. It came from Darn Cheap Fabrics. As you can see, I sewed the version with panels in the front and the kick pleat at the back.

Colette Mabel skirt

All the vertical seams were topstitched. The instructions also tell you to understitch the top of the facing – I have no idea why, as this is a pull-on stretch skirt and as soon as you stretch out the waist to pull it on the understitching pops. It’s a technique that would work well if there were a zip, but not on something that is meant to expand! I think that I made this as a Medium throughout. It’s pretty firm. Some would say it’s too tight, but I like my straight stretch skirts to be slim below the bottom, as I wear them with tops out over them.

Colette Mabel skirt

I didn’t even hem this one properly – instead I used fusible tape to secure the hem. The fabric didn’t like being sewn across the grain, and I was concerned that a stitched hem would look terrible, and a hand-stitched hem….well, I was too lazy to do one. It is lasting well through the wash!

Colette Mabel skirt

This one was made in mid-June. The size of the scraps I had available necessitated a centre front seam. From memory this is a Medium, graded to a Large waistband. Once again all the vertical seams have been top-stitched, and the fabrics were all from Darn Cheap.

Colette Mabel skirt

Gee there are a lot of wrinkles after sitting all day! This time I did a simple stitched hem. These skirts are comfortable to wear due to the nature of the stretch fabrics, and they are very fast to make.

Colette Mabel skirt with Style Arc Harper jacket and Jalie top

The Mabel skirt was reviewed recently over at The Curvy Collective. The comments made for interesting reading, especially in regards to what people consider to be good fit and/or what they consider to be flattering. I’ve also read some comments on terms like flattering and related discourse on what makes for “good fit” or clothes that suit people recently that give me food for thought. My opinion – is it comfortable (doesn’t rub or bind or pull) and do you feel good in it? To me, that is what is most important, not whether it makes you look taller and/or thinner (which is what most people tend to imply by “flattering”). What do you think?

Colette Mabel skirt

Colette Mabel skirt

Perri Pullover for Stella

Finally, I have modelled photos of the Perri Pullover that I made for Stella back in May!  Taking photos of her with just de-braided hair was really part of a sneaky plan to get photos of her outfit…..

Perri Pullover

Most of the details are in the review of Clare’s Perri Pullover. The fabric is from Spotlight, a brushed sweatshirt knit, and the fabric for the bands, inseam pockets and matching leggings came from Darn Cheap Fabrics.

Perri Pullover

It’s hard to remember now (reminder to self: blog about finished garments AS SOON AS they are made because otherwise the details evaporate into the ether) but I think that I cut this out in size 6 length but size 4 width. It has the same slouchy look as Clare’s and mine.

Perri Pullover

As with Clare’s, I left the neckband the same width as the hem and sleeve bands. I like the high-low hem, and the band on the bottom curves it in nicely. But that neckline is definitely wide and a little too Flashdance for Stella’s liking. She was happiest wearing it layered over a long-sleeved, higher-necked tee.

Perri Pullover

This is a cute pattern for the kids – and Clare has worn hers quite a lot – but mine is going to be donated. Just too loose on me, even though I’m currently at my heaviest, and the neckline drives me nuts. I found the Day Tripper top to have similar design lines but a much better fit on me. I’m glad that the kids like theirs!  And the whole family enjoyed the “big hair”.

Perri Pullover

StyleARC Harper jacket

See what happens?  I posted every day for three weeks – so I suppose it’s not surprising that it’s now been over a week since my last blog post!  I must have exhausted my blogging mojo.  Since returning from Thailand life has quickly gone back to normal – well, the current normal of me working full-time while my husband manages the kids and house and looks for a new job.  And consequently, no sewing has taken place.  You’ll have to make do with projects that were completed before we went away.  And let’s hope that my memory serves me well when trying to remember project details!

The StyleARC Harper jacket is very similar to a few of my ready to wear knit cardigan/jackets.  I know that these drape cardigan/jackets are everywhere and will probably begin to look quite dated soon, but they are styles that I reach for often and feel comfortable in.  They also go nicely over my dresses and skinny pants.  The line drawing:

StyleARC describe this jacket as follows: This wonderfully knit jacket is a must for all occasions. Easy to wear and easy to make. Enjoy the complimentary hook & eyes included with the pattern.   So, here’s my version.

Style Arc Harper jacket in wool woven

First things first: I ignored the “knit” part of the pattern description, and made this jacket in a wool woven. This is NOT something that I would generally recommend, but the fabric was thin, soft and drapey, and since the style is quite unstructured I thought that it might work. I think it did.

Style Arc Harper jacket in wool woven

Now, these photos were taken at the end of a long day that involved quite a bit of sitting, so the back looks terribly wrinkled. These wrinkles actually drop out quite quickly. I sewed the jacket in a straight size 12. I did follow the instructions to do a french seam at the centre back neck, which has worked well. The back neck folds over and shows on the outside, so the french seam is better there. Other construction was on the overlocker. I had major dilemmas about how to finish the edges. The pattern suggests leaving them raw, and I just didn’t think that would work on this fabric. The other thing to consider was that the wrong side does show on the front, where the lapels drape and fold when the jacket is worn open. I decided to turn the hem to the inside once and stitch it in place with a narrow twin needle, hoping that the raw edge that would show occasionally would look “rustic” with the zig-zag from the back of the twin needle stitching, and that the rest would just look neat. I think that it has worked nicely enough.

Style Arc Harper jacket - twin needle stitching detail

I turned and twin needled the sleeve hems as well. This jacket is surprisingly warm to wear – due to the wool content, of course – and it is also rather comfortable. I’ll use the pattern again, but in a knit as recommended.

Style Arc Harper jacket in wool woven

By the way, the wool was a remnant from Rathdowne Fabrics. It’s an unusual shade of mustardy green that coordinates very well with lots of my clothes.  This was the last garment I sewed before our holiday, which means that I haven’t sewn anything for a month now!  Surprisingly the withdrawal isn’t too bad – I’m enjoying getting adequate sleep and reading some books instead.

Thailand day nineteen (Sunday) to Australia day twenty (Monday)

Well, that’s it!  We’re home, back in chilly Melbourne.  At least the sun was shining today when we landed, quite unlike last night when we took off from Bangkok!  Our last day in Khao Lak was really a packing up and saying goodbye day.  The kids had a last swim and Dan collected his tailor-made shirts.  We tried to have a last drink at Peter Bar but unfortunately were defeated by the high tide, so settled with a drink at the hotel instead.

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Our transfer to Phuket airport was at 1.30pm. It takes a little over an hour to get there from Khao Lak, and as always the drive there provided us with plenty to see through the minivan windows. We were taking a domestic flight up to Suvarnabhumi International Airport (the main airport in Bangkok). There was quite a gap between the arrival of our domestic flight and the departure time of the international one. However, this wasn’t an issue – Suvarnabhumi is MASSIVE! By the time we got off one aircraft, walked a massive distance to baggage claim to get our luggage, then found our way to the International departures area we were able to check our bags in.

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The airport is very well signed, and all staff that we interacted with were extremely helpful. We quickly went through immigration and found ourself in a huge shopping complex. All the luxury brands were there, as well as other shops hoping to tempt you with last minute duty free shopping opportunities. There were also some fun things along the way – statues, fancy video screens – and by the time we had a light dinner it was time to make our way to the departure lounge.

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The plane was late boarding and taking off – there had been thunder and lightning for some hours. Eventually we were in the air at around 11.00pm Thailand time, and attempting to sleep. Our flight landed in Melbourne shortly after 11.00am Melbourne time after a relatively uneventful night. Dan and I didn’t get much sleep – the air conditioning on the plane was freezing, and on a budget airline no blankets are provided – but the girls seemed to snooze for most of the night.

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Immigration and customs at Melbourne was straightforward too, as was the taxi ride home. We were struck by how tidy and ordered the streets and traffic are here – it’s surprising how quickly you become used to the busyness and disorder and relative mess of Thailand. There were good things awaiting us at home – my latest copy of Threads magazine, Dan’s 50th birthday present from the girls, a warm shower and favourite toys.

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The rest of the day has passed in a jetlagged haze, unpacking, doing some basic shopping and putting the washing machine through its paces. It’s hard to believe that this time yesterday we were still in Thailand. As Clare said before she popped up to bed tonight “I don’t think that I was home-sick while we were away, but I am a little bit Thailand-sick now that we are back”. Yes, we all miss it. What an incredible family holiday. There are lots of other things that I’d like to share about our time away and thoughts that I have about travelling overseas with a family and will hopefully get to that in another blog post soon. In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed that the planets will align for us and in 2016 we will be able to visit Chiang Mai, Cambodia and Laos! Thanks so much for travelling along with us. Your interest and encouragement has been wonderful.

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Thailand day eighteen – Saturday in Khao Lak

Yesterday (Saturday) was our last full day in Thailand.  So we made it a lazy one.  A slow, late breakfast, followed by a DVD in the room (Monsters University) while I did some admin then read some more.  It poured again for a short while in the morning.

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But just as quickly as the rain arrives, it vanishes again. And as always, it didn’t stop the kids from swimming. Lunch was at the hotel, I read yet more of my book, Clare played on her iPod, and Stella played with a new friend after a little bit of cross-balcony chat.

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In the late afternoon we headed up to the road to the Saturday market, first stopping to visit the Boat 813 Tsunami memorial. This area of coast was one of the hardest hit during the 2004 Tsunami, with casualties in Thailand registered as 8212 deaths, 2817 missing, 8457 injured and 7000 people displaced.  Absolutely horrific.  The police boat 813 was washed 2 kilometres inland to where it can be found today.  The memorial is still being established but even in this simple form it is a poignant reminder of the people whose lives were lost and of the phenomenal and unpredictable power of nature.  Our resort has tsunami evacuation signs around it to direct us to relative safety should anything similar happen.  I found the memorial and the makeshift memorials on trees around the beach to be incredibly moving and sad.

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It was rather incongruous to then simply cross the road to the market.  This market is held three times a week, and is a cross between a local market with food stalls down the centre – both cooked food and fresh ingredients – and tourist clothing and knick-knack stalls down the sides.  All fruit, vegetables and meats are on display, often without any obvious form of refrigeration.  Clearly things are bought super fresh then cooked pretty much immediately.

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Then it was back into a taxi to the resort for our final sleep in Thailand.  Sunday is packing and transit day.  My next blog post summing up our holiday will be written back home in Australia.  I’m ready to leave the resort, and Clare in particular is looking forward to seeing her friends again, but we’re still sad to be finishing up what has been a wonderful holiday.  More later!

Thailand day seventeen – Friday in Khao Lak

I’ve been getting up at around 6.00am most mornings.  It hasn’t been hard to do, because we’re usually in bed very early and I’ve definitely been getting at least eight hours sleep!  I tend to creep quietly out to the balcony, where I can sit and catch up with Instagram, Facebook and my blog feed for an hour before the rest of the family is up.  I love listening to the waves crashing while the light grows stronger and occasionally little storm flurries pass through.  Stella usually isn’t all that far behind me, and creeps out for a cuddle before returning inside to watch Hi-5 or whatever other english speaking television she can find.

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Breakfast was rather late.  We didn’t get to the pool until after 10.00am.  I went into the village briefly to visit the ATM and stock up on some snacks, while Dan and the girls went back into the pool.  Then I had the opportunity to sit and read some more.  Luxury!

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We headed around the beach again to Peter Bar for lunch.  The tide was a fair way out, and there were little hermit crabs scuttling.  So cute!

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I almost feel that I am becoming accustomed to the heat and humidity.  When you are near the beach and there is a breeze, or when there are fans available, it’s lovely to be outdoors.  The air conditioning definitely has its place too, but outdoors with air movement and the occasional dip into water is probably my preference.  I can’t say much for my appearance in a hot climate though.  My face is slathered in sunscreen all the time, so is always a bit shiny, and although I rarely wear makeup other than lipstick anyway I’m not even wearing lipstick most days.  My hair is a feathery mess, and I’m not wearing jewellery other than rings and earrings because necklaces and bracelets feel too hot against my skin.

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After lunch the girls and I headed back to the resort while Dan stayed to finish his drink and chat a little more to the staff.  One  young man was originally from Burma (Myanmar).  He told Dan that in Burma about 90% of the population were very poor, whereas in Thailand only 10% fitted into that category.  He was clearly very proud of his Burmese heritage and the country that he had left, showing Dan a YouTube clip of the giant Buddha statue, but also expressed how happy he was to be in Thailand where he was able to provide his young family with a better life.

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With the tide still out as the girls and I headed back we came across fish washed up on the beach and this clump of coral.  Stella said that she knew it was dead coral, because it was white and white coral was dead coral – the Octonauts had told her so.  See, kids learn things from cartoons after all…

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There was more blue sky on Friday than we had seen for a little while.  Dan spotted a kingfisher in the trees when he wandered back to the resort.  He also discovered that if you chase the little skittering sand crabs for long enough they will eventually get exhausted and just stop and face you with claws held high, poised and ready for any attack.

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We had massages booked for 3pm, one hour each, after which we returned to our room and rested.  I read more of my book, the kids watched more television, and Dan read the paper.  I eventually took advantage of the massive bathtub and lay back in the bubbles and read.  It’s SO long since I’ve done that – especially late in the afternoon!  We had dinner booked at the Talay restaurant (with one of our deal vouchers), which is the silver service restaurant at the hotel.  We were able to order from the kids menu for the girls, while Dan enjoyed lobster bisque then more seafood, and I had a delicious steak.  And Clare discovered that she really likes mango creme brulee.

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