A very French jacket

I’m writing this post as I recover from attending another brilliant intensive couture workshop run by Susan Khalje, as she takes her couture workshops around Australia again this year.


When Susan first came to Australia I booked into the couture workshop in Sydney and then attended the guipure lace skirt workshop in Brisbane because I thought this was a one-off event. Seizing the moment and making the most of Susan’s couture sewing knowledge is what made me love sewing all over again.

If you ask my colleagues and friends, I’ve never stopped sewing but a few years ago I felt a bit ‘meh’ about sewing. If I’m not sewing, I think about sewing and talk to all of you, about sewing.

Back to my story…

The thought of hand sewing always made me think that I was sewing below par. I really did. Machine sewing was what I thought was the penultimate in sewing. Would you believe I am now a convert to thread tracing seam lines.  Who would have thought!

In the very first course I went to, I was so nervous and I found my anxiety hampered my ability to listen and learn. But you know, in this year’s workshop, I was chilled about being there. Not blase mind you but happy to be there and knowing that what I didn’t know, would soon be a new learning for me. I learnt something new and built on what I already know every day.

I’m recovering and reflecting after powering through the classic French jacket class and having a lovely time with my class mates. We all worked hard during the class and I sewed every night for at least 2 hours a night and sometimes I got up early in the morning to fit in another hour of hand sewing. I did make mistakes along the way and I had to chuckle and then to keep working through these ‘hiccups’.

All week I’ve been eyeing the fabrics that Linton Tweed has on their website with thoughts of a few more classic French jackets this year.

Just to prove a point, here are my guipure lace pieces to date: 1 Guipure lace skirt  2 Guipure emerald and blue dress , 3 the strapless guipure dress, and 4 Rambling rose guipure dress

The second year Susan Khalje came to Australia, I made a Vivienne Westwood suit. The jacket had a faux vest and Susan worked through the whole process with me to a brilliant final suit. I made the skirt when I got home. I worked on the floor to get the pleats on the skirt to sit the way I wanted them to.

This year, I’m working on the most French garment in my entire wardrobe as you’ll spy in my Instagram account.

I’ll head back to catching up on everyone that I’ve missed speaking to this week and then get my classic French jacket finished. So much hand sewing to do … and loving it.

Thanks again to Susan Khalje to coming back to Australia and running her couture workshops.

Backstreet bargains NZ

Last year when we visited NZ, I had this retailer earmarked for a visit. I didn’t get to the store until our December visit.

Backstreet Bargain fabrics near The Base at Hamilton was an absolute scream – in a great way. The store is in a light industrial area, which is always intriguing. I always think that there will be some unusual finds when you have to go through racks. In my case I have to use a ladder to see what most people can glance at.

Their staff are so fun. Honestly if I was a local, this would be my go-to store for all sorts of sewing.

They have knits and wovens for casual clothes, winter performance clothing, warm coats, affordable evening wear, and prints with indigenous designs.

I kinda went nuts with my purchases.


Tropical leaves

When the print is so fabulous, using a simple design like New Look 6013 is my ‘go-to’ for this print from Minerva crafts.


New Look 6013 has simple darts at the front and the back with raglan sleeves. I’ve made this pattern before and added a full bust adjustment for when I get bigger in the Winter. My weight changes a lot but I still prefer to wear somewhat fitted dresses.


This crepe (John Kaldor Layered Leaves Print Crepe Dress Fabric – Lime and Black) feels lovely. It drapes well and washes easily. I chose this lime and black colourway because of the black background but there’s enough white in the print to still make it a Summer style.


You’ll find that the softness and drapey properties of this fabric makes it easy to line and hem. I still love to use John Kaldor fabrics when I can because they’re such classic prints.

I did go a bit ‘couture’ with this version. What I mean by ‘couture’ is I interlined the dress bodice and finished the hem hand sewing the hem to the interlining. Crepe is very accommodating to any shape and any level of sewing expertise you have. When you first start sewing crepe is easy to mould into shape and you get a good result with very little stress.


This dress is going to get a lot of wear because of its colourway, print and fabric structure so I chose to use a cotton poplin for the dress bodices.


In the Summer we have a lot of humidity in Sydney. Right now our weather is very Singapore like. This lasts for at least 2 months here so I specifically chose this fabrics and the interlining to make sure this dress helps me deal with our searing Summer conditions.


Couture Finish:

So I’ve raved about couture techniques so why not show you what I mean.


The Bodice: When I line any garment I need wiggle room but I also want a great finish. Wiggle room means the garment fits well but doesn’t constrict my movements. This crazy photo shows I’m hamming it up while waiting for the train. Yes there’s no one on the platform so I could show you how this dress fits but has the room to be a bit crazy in a very measured way.

On the inside, I’ve interlined this crepe and still used the facing pieces for a clean finish.


By sewing just the bust darts on the interlining, the side seams of the front bodice still matches the side seams of the back bodice. You don’t need to be a mathematician to figure this out and thankfully while maths isn’t my strong point, you should always measure twice, cut once.

Having more than one tape measure and measure slides keeps your sewing accurate. Having an unpicker to save the day is a good thing too.


The Hem: The interlining poplin is study and it is about the same weight as the crepe fabric. Keeping the interlining lighter than the fashion fabric is your goal, so your final garment isn’t heavier than you’d expect. All bets are off when it’s an evening gown. Evening gowns are another story.


The interlining is cut at the hem length and I’ve left this fabric unfinished. Hang on I’ll tell you why.

The fashion fabric is then folded up onto the interlining and then hand sewn onto the interlining. So…there’s no need to hem/finish the interlining fabric. See. It’s all good.


The sleeves: I decided not to interline the sleeves. I probably should interline the sleeves if the fabric had less drape. On this dress the sleeves are look soft and that’s what I wanted on this version of New Look 6013.

Thank you Minerva Crafts for stocking John Kaldor fabrics.



A kiwi fabric visit

We spent 2 weeks in NZ (North Island) and I was able to visit a few fabric retailers along the way. That’s what I love about travelling.

My first fabric stop was at Greytown, on the road to Carterton. Most people visit this area to wine tour around Martinborough. I don’t blame them. It’s a great winery day.

miss maudeOk back to the fabric stop in Greytown – Miss Maude Fabric and Sewing store

Greytown is very refined, pretty and has many great stores with local produce. I could go on and on about this lovely town.

I’ve been following Miss Maude Fabric Store Instagram account for ages. Their fabrics are beautiful and well selected. So well selected that the day I visited the store, an online shopper beat me to a beautiful green cotton fabric, so I managed to buy the remnant.

Online shopping really is the way to go sometimes. Their online prices are by 1/4 metre. Their online sales are great and they have good shipping deals for Kiwis and Aussies. They ship globally.

What was impressive was their pattern stocks. They sell both printed patterns and pdf patterns. Locals have the advantage of the classes they hold. There was a Kelly Anorak on show made by a local 16 year old. The anorak was reversible! Isn’t that just so clever.

miss maude fabrics

I bought 2 fabrics and have washed them ready to make into something…one day. I’ll be keeping Miss Maude’s Fabric Store on my insta feed. Thanks Emma and your lovely team.

More kiwi fabric stories to come…