Book review :: The Savvy Seamstress by Nicole Mallalieu

I am really very chuffed to have been asked to review the The Savvy Seamstress by Nicole Mallalieu on the blog today and be a part of the worldwide blog tour for the launch.  I am also very excited to be able to giveaway a copy of the book at the end of this review!

It really was a very happy mail day when I received this book.  I happened to have some child free time so I sat down immediately with a cuppa to enjoy my first look. My initial impression was of delight in the very detailed and clear pictures and illustrations, not to mention the clean layout and great ideas for customisations.

Upon closer look, and bedtime reading (am I the only one that reads sewing books at tucked up in bed?), the detail in this book is phenomenal.  Although, that now doesn't surprise me after getting to know Nicole.

Nicole studied Fashion at Royal Melbourne Insitute of Technology University and has since worked as a designer, pattern maker and product developer in the fashion and accessories industries, in Australia, England and Ireland.  Upon her return to Australia in 2002, Nicole has designed and manufactured You SEW Girl! sewing patterns along with teaching workshops in pattern making, sewing and bag making, both privately and at university level.  And this is actually Nicole's third book, joining You SEW, Girl! and The Better Bag Maker on her book shelf (all published by C&T Publishing).

The premise of this book is that you have a garment pattern that is the finished shape and fit that you want, but you would like to add features such as a collar or zip or pocket.  Who doesn't want to add pockets to everything!? So with that in mind, this book is geared towards advanced beginner and intermediate sewists who have basic sewing skills but want to skill up and customise patterns.  As beginner sewists are my jam, I  can see that this book is very beneficial to up your sewing skills.

Thankfully to give sewists a head start, Nicole begins the book with lots of lovely information on what tools you will need to get started on the pattern alteration journey along with some really helpful and clear information on pattern markings and the anatomy of a pattern piece, plus sewing terminology and tips and tricks.  The bias binding instructions are spot on!

And then we step into the customisations themselves.  The suggested mods are relevant and what I see most sewists wanting to change or add to their patterns - Adding pockets, button plackets, facings to a neckline or waistband, how to sew zippers and shirt yokes correctly, collars and cuffs, and sleeves.

Nicole has a fabulous way of writing instructions, very clear instructions. These instructions are easy to follow and along with the very informative images and illustrations, I think every sewist will get something out of this book no matter what level they are at.  I sometimes prefer to add a facing to a waistline instead of having a waistband, and I myself have learnt a trick or two for making these facings super neat!

My favourite customisations in this book are adding an inseam side pocket, correct insertion of an invisible zip, adding a Peter Pan collar and the zip fly.

Overall, I highly recommend this book for all levels of sewists.  And it's available just in time for a perfect Mothers Day gift, here in Australia via Booktopia!

Or you can win yourself a copy by commenting on this blog post with your most used pattern alteration and by following me on Instagram and signing up to my newsletter. The winner will be drawn randomly on 2 May and be contacted via email, with their book following soon after.  Thank you to C&T Publishing for their kind prize!

Go check out what others had to say about the book:

23 April: C&T Publishing 
24 April: Jennie Barnes @mrsbeckinsale, 
25 April: Annie Mollison @sewthispattern, 
26 April: Leslie Keating @fibresmith
27 April: Meg McCarthy @cookinandcraftin,
28 April: Nichola Prested @handmakersfactory
29 April: Deepika Prakash , @patternreview
30 April: Caz Adams @usefulbox, 
1 May: Anne Whalley @annewhalley, 
2 May: Lara Finlayson @thornberrylara, 
3 May: Nicole Mallalieu 

Wishing Nicole all the best for the launch of the book and congrats on such a wonderful resource!

Happy sewing!

Frocktails 2018

Sydney Frocktails 2018 was another resounding success with lots of sewing talk, great outfits, new friends and lots of awesome prizes and goodies.

The Sydney sewing community came together this year on 17 Feb at the Dove and Olive pub in Surry Hills.  70 of us were there all together! Some of us knew each other and quite a few brave women arrived not knowing a soul.  They left with some great new friends!
Me in my By Hand London Georgia Dress in a poly from The Fabric Store
Amanda, centre, in her fabulous Sew over it dress in a fabric from her recent trip to Hawaii.
Alison in her In the Folds Acton Dress
Catherine in a Vogue pattern

Lisa Mattock, slow stitcher extraordinaire, set up a stitching station to keep any idle hands busy.  Quite a few sat comfortably stitching away for quite some time!

Our welcome cocktail was a classic Bellini and we noshed on some very delicious food!  

Our menu included:

*Sausage roll with Virgin Mary ketchup
* Beetroot and goats cheese arancini  
* Beef mini pie with a mushy pea floater
Salmon tartare with ponzu dressing in a cucumber cup 
Parmesan crumbed artichokes & blue cheese dippy 
* Vege Risotto with sin dried tomato
* Pork Belly and chat potatoes
* Cauliflower salad

As with Melbourne Frocktails, The Ida Clutch by Kylie and the Machine (which is free!), was a hit and there were a total of 12 at our event.  Including some that were made that day in Kylie's workshop!

Jodi in am amazing vintage pattern with impeccable hand stitching!
Lynne always looks amazing!
The ever graceful Nieves in a Lois Dress by Tessuti
Rina in am axing Yellow kimono and an Ogden Cami hack dress
Zena in Lois dress from Tessuti and Alison in a vintage pattern.
I loved Tanya's New Look jumpsuit!
As always we had some serious prizes to give away and I am so grateful and appreciative of these sponsors who were so incredibly generous.

To see more pictures, head over to Instagram here to see all the outfits and behind the scenes.

Thanks to everyone who has contacted me about running a Frocktails in your city, I am just putting together a blog post so I can answer everyone at once!

Looking forward to seeing you next year, put 23rd Feb in your diary now!  Tickets will go on sale in October.

Caz xx

Me Made : New Look 6459 culottes in Denim from Brave Fabrics

Is it possible to fall in love with a pattern and just want to make it over and over?  Yes!  I have fallen head over heels in love with New Look 6459 culottes and at that same time have fallen in love with this Art Gallery Puzzle Sandblast denim from Brave Fabrics.

This fabric was gifted to me by the lovely Erin from Brave Fabrics and as soon as I saw it I knew I wanted to make these culottes.  I have made them previously in a linen and wore them to Frocks, Tales and Tea.   My love affair with this pattern started then. 

I have changed the crotch curve a little to fit me better.  It is still not perfect but I'm happy with it.  And the length is perfect for me at 175cm tall.  And pockets! The pockets are perfection!

But let's chat about this fabric!  Its a lightweight denim, similar to tencel and the drape is really lovely. And sewing it up was a dream! An absolute dream.  I wasn't really sure of the direction of the print on the fabric but I decided that all the points should point up.

And just for some forward planning, here is what they look like after the school run on a humid day!  Sure they are creased, but I wouldn't be running to the iron them before I went out again! They just look worn and comfy in my opinion!

I would love to make more from this fabric actually.  I think it would work beautifully in a In the folds Acton dress, a Named Inari dress (the top I am wearing is an Inari tee) or even a Closet Case Kalle shirt.

Can't wait to see what you make of it!!

Frocks, Tales and Tea :: Jennifer Irwin, costume designer

Oh wow!  We had a wonderful day at Frocks, Tales and Tea with Jennifer Irwin!

Following on from our successful Frocktails event in February, I created this newest event, Frocks, Tales and Tea, as a chance to hear from someone inspirational...and give everyone a chance to wear something different to a cocktail dress.  Any excuse to sew, eh! And what better partner than Sydney Craft Week!
Australian costume designer Jennifer Irwin’s career spans 36 years designing for drama, opera, dance & ballet as well as the largest spectacular events ever staged in Australia.
Photo supplied by Jennifer
To quote her bio....
Jennifer was nominated for Best Costume Design 2016 AACTA Awards for her work on SPEAR the feature film. Jenny designed the costumes for Dirty Dancing, the musical, still playing to packed audiences worldwide after 16 years. Dirty Dancing broke all pre box office records for any show ever staged on London’s West End.
Costume commissions in Australian include 36 ballets Sydney Dance Company, 26 years repertoire for Bangarra Dance Theatre, multiple works for Sydney Theatre Company, The Australian Ballet, Melbourne Theatre Company, Belvoir, Royal New Zealand, Australian Dance Theatre, West Australian Ballet, Queensland Ballet & Opera Australia. Jennifer designed costumes for the Awakening segment of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, co-designed all the costumes for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games Closing Ceremony & the official ceremony commemorating the Federation of Australia 2001.
Jennifer is very carismatic with so much knowledge and just impressed us so much. She is chatty, friendly and very generous with information and regaled us with lots of stories

The costume industry in Australia is very small and most of Jennifer's career has grown through her relationships, most notably with Graeme Murphy and Stephen Page.  Most of her work at the moment is through Sydney Opera and Bangarra Dance Company

Stephen Page of Bangarra and Jennifer (photo supplied by Jennifer)
To highlight the small industry, Jennifer designed the costumes for the Dirty Dancing Musical which has broken many records and she is very open to the fact that this is where most of her income still comes from. And she is proud of all that it has achieved.

Jennifer brought along many costumes from Bangarra Dance Company and we referenced them when we talked about her process.  Generally, she will collaborate with the director and the set designer for how she will design her costumes.  As you can imagine, she has a lot more creative freedom in designing for Bangarra than, for instance, Sydney Opera.

In fact, she sews most of the costumes for Bangarra herself and always tries to make a costume herself for other productions that come with a wardrobe team.

Jennifer also explained about how she is always on the look out for new techniques and how she can use lighting and the set to make her costumes dramatic.  This picture (credit to Bangarra) illustrates that point perfectly.  This skirt was laser cut from lycra and provided the shadow effects beautifully.  Interestingly too, this is probably the most "dangerous" costume Jennifer has ever designed as those holes can catch a finger or a toe which might lead to a dancer hurting themselves and even ending a career.

Terrain from Bangarra Dance Company (Photo supplied by Jennifer, taken by Greg Barrett)
Jennifer's respect of the Indigenous culture and of the dancers themselves is evident in her designs.  For Bangarra performances, the entire backstage area is covered in plastic and huge pots of ochre are laid out.  The dancers, once dressed, smother themselves in ochre and Jennifer is happy to stand back and watch the dancers themselves bring more life to the costume with the application of the traditional ochre.

Photo supplied by Jennifer
Also the costumes must withstand all that dancing night after night and rigours of washing to remove all the ochre!  Jennifer brought along this costume with her and we could see how it was made to take all that was throw at it!

Terrain by Bangarra Dance Company (Photo supplied by Jennifer, taken by Greg Barrett)
I was particularly taken with this costume from the Korean Ballet production of Giselle, even though we didn't see it in the flesh.  I find this costume so breathtaking....but even more so to know that it was made OVERNIGHT!   Jennifer designed and fitted the garment and then it was made, including all those feathers, by the opera's wardrobe department overnight.  Incredible!  I don't think Jennifer could believe it either!

Giselle by Korean Ballet (photo supplied by Jennifer)
Jennifer told us what a rush and joy it was to work for 8 months on the opening and closing ceremonies of the Sydney 2000 Olympic games.  As a Kylie fan girl, I was impressed with Jennifer's corset for her but what I didn't know was that Jennifer hand made Cathy Freeman's iconic suit she wore to light the fire!

Photos supplied by Jennifer
All in all it was a really great event and we all had a lovely time.  We sipped on lovely sparkling wine when we arrived and our afternoon tea was delicious.  We enjoyed a selection of finger sandwiches, scones with jam and cream and lemon tarts with an impressive selection of teas, and coffee, which I needed by the end of it!

Thank you to everyone for coming along.  I enjoyed seeing you all and meeting new sewing friends.

Here are just two of the lovely compliments I was given:

"I think I've thanked you already - but yesterday was great.  The 2 friends i brought had a fab time and are both looking forward to the next event!!" Stephanie told me in an email. 

And...."I really enjoyed the afternoon talk. It was wonderful to listen to someone so free with their creativity.  I find that I am all a bit neat and tidy and matchy matchy at times and should try and be a bit more free form with my ideas! My sewing friend Sylvia had a lovely time also and as expected, you were such a gracious hostess. " said Alison.

And of course, I can't do an event without giving a wonderful goodie bag.  So I wanted to thank the sponsors of the goodie bag:

The Fabric Store
Australian Sewing Guild
Maai Design
Pattern Fantastique
Style Arc
Selvedge Fabrics
Chalk & Notch
Closet Case Patterns
Megan Nielsen
Sew over it
Guthrie & Ghani
Skein Sisters
Helens Closet
Sew Active Fabrics
Cosy Project
Tools by Hollie
Daily Like

And I even made something for the goodie bag!  I came into a stack load of sheer fabrics which I didn't really know what to do with.  Then I realised that they would be PERFECT for reusable fruit and veg bags.  So I got cutting and overlocking and I'm pleased to say they work perfectly.  So I hope everyone is enjoying those...I will do up a tutorial very soon for them!

Thank you to Mr UsefulBox again for all his help and for taking all the lovely photos.  You can see them all on Instagram - you can follow me while you are there!

I actually had quite the loss of sewjo before the event as I didn't know what to make.  I finally settled on some new look wide leg pants, a linen Tessuti Leni top and a freshly made Genoa tote with Ken Done lining.  I will write up a blog post about that soon!

I'm so pleased that everyone had a wonderful time.  I had a wonderful time with you and bringing this event to you.  I am determined to get the Sydney sewing community a bit more happening!!! 

So on that note, stay tuned for Frocktails 2018.  Tickets will go on sale on November 14!  

Looking forward to seeing you at our next event or workshop!

Me Made: Chalk and Notch Fringe Dress

The Chalk and Notch Fringe Dress is just one of those dresses...the one that you see and immediately have to make.

I've been wanting to do more pattern testing lately so I jumped at the chance to test for the ever lovely Gabriele of Chalk and Notch.  So here she is, the newly released Fringe Dress!

I made the dress in View B with the closed front, cuffed sleeves and a tie from the front darts.  The other options is a buttoned down front with a tab on the sleeves.  The beauty of this pattern is that it can also be made into a blouse which, judging by other testers versions, is going on my to sew list as well.

I made a size 10 but made a couple of adjustments.  As I normally need to do, I added 10cm to the length of the skirt and 2.5cm to the length of the bodice.  But other than that the fit was perfect.  It does however, the waist does feel tight to get on over you head but then fits and feels perfect on your waist. 

I choose to pop the tie back into the front darts as I felt I needed a bit more waist definition but you could just as easily add these to the back darts and wrap the tie around the front of your waist. 

The fabric is from deep in my stash that I have been saving for a dress like this.  It's a cotton voile from the op shop Fabric, Needlecraft and More in Sydney. I'm loving the colours!  And I managed some mighty fine pattern matching through the centre front bodice.  Although, you could easily lay this pattern piece on the fold, removing the seam allowance.  

Oh and did I mention it has pockets!  Who doesn't love a dress with pockets? And in the perfect spot too! 

I highly recommend this dress to advanced beginners as it's easy but takes some construction and pattern laying knowledge.  I am actually thinking of using this in one of my upcoming classes!  

The details
Size: 10
View: B Dress
Adjustments: added 10cm to the length and 2.5cm to the bodice.
Fabric: Cotton Voile
Buy pattern here: Chalk and Notch

You can see more tester versions here. 


Learn to sew with UsefulBox

Me Made : Frocktails dress Vogue #1289

I have to admit, I had trouble deciding what to make for our Frocktails event.  There was simply too much choice!

I initially had my eye on a sequinned, figure hugging number but then thought I would challenge myself with sewing from my stash. 

Combing through the patterns, I shortlisted a couple but after a discussion over a cocktail with Maaike from Maaidesign, we settled upon the Vogue V1289 by Pamela Rolland pattern. 

Now I've used this pattern before...I used it to base my wedding dress off.  So I was familiar with it and confident I could sew it up in time.  Because of course, time was ticking and I was being indecisive. 

However, the indecisive theme kept continuing as I purchased some lovely inky coloured lurex from The Fabric Store and then found this taffeta/silk in my stash!  Again, I consulted friends and we decided on the teal stash buster!  


Now we came to the cutting which let's just say didn't go well!  All the pieces are flat lay and single piece only.  Silly old me got a bit distracted by the block fusing of the bodice pieces and stupidly layed the bodice pieces wrong side up and the skirt piece right side up (yes, the skirt is one piece)....leaving with the pleats not matching at the waistband.  You can see here that the pleats are meant to meet....mine are opposite.  Oh well, I'm hoping none of the those eagle eyed Frocktails ladies noticed!  But I bet some did!

Never mind, onwards and upwards, I didn't have any more fabric to cut new bodice pieces so I just did the best I could.  I think I pull it off ok! Well, I'm hoping so anyway!

The pattern came together really nicely.  I enjoyed how the pleats folded up nicely and made for a flush waistband.  I really enjoyed sewing the strappy side of the bodice.  And I felt that fitted me well. 

As for adjustments, I did toile this so I had a good idea of what I needed to change.  I cut a size 12 from the pattern, reduced the side seams under the arms (as I always need to do with Big4 patterns), I shortened the bodice to make my waist more cinched and I lengthened the hem by 10cm (as I always need to do!).

I think I have made this dress enough times now, but I would reduce the gathers at the shoulders dramatically as that bodice pieces was far too puffy and bulky.  I would also make sure the fabric is the right way up for all pieces!  D'oh! 

I would however, consider using the skirt and the strap side of the bodice again, and make the bodice symmetrical.  I think that would work well.  And possibly use more of a drapey fabric. 

I also made my sister, Liz, a dress.  It's the Salme Olsen dress.  I have made a few of these as sun dresses and they are super quick and satisfying to make up.  This pattern and fabric was in my stash as well! Challenge accepted...twice!

All the details....

Pattern: Vogue #1289 by Pamela Rolland

Size: 12

Adjustments: Added 10cm to length, shortened bodice by 3cm, shortened the strap by about 10cm!, reduced the neckline on the gathered bodice, reduced the side seam at underarm.

Fabric: A silk taffeta in teal.  Was in the stash, not sure where I got it from.

What I would change for next time:  Reduce the gathers at the shoulder seam dramatically, take in the waist a little bit more.

How easy was it to make:  An intermediate level sewer would be about to make this up fairly simply. The adjustments were tricky given the pleats and gathers.

You can also check out all about the Frocktails event here.  If you would like to join us next time, please sign up to the newsletter and stay tuned for more info!

Caz xx