Thursday, November 25, 2010


Now I don't know what you've been up to of late, but I've been doing lots of walking. I mean, I'm always walking because I don't drive a car, but this time I've taken it a step (heheh!) further and gone bushwalking!

We drove into Wilson's Promontory at dusk, and the place was seriously teeming with wildlife. We saw kangaroos, wallabies, emus and even a dopey looking koala scavenging grasses on the side of the road.

Wilson's Prom 1

After camping that night at Tidal River, we set off the next day to walk to Sealer's Cove. The scenery is magnificent. One minute you are scaling rocky switchbacks, then the next you are walking through bushfire-recovering forest. Before you know it you happen upon a grassy bald known as Windy Saddle, then you plunge into untouched rainforest before heading down to the desolate beach. Phenomenal.

Wilson's Prom 2

That evening we met a charming Italian guy (hi Francesco!) who had hurt his knee, and run out of food and water. We shared out foodstuffs with him, and walked out together in the morning. Not only was he fantastic company, but I've also never seen anybody so enthusiastic about dried apricots. Methinks he was pretty hungry!

Although I'm not a natural camper - I'm not ashamed to say I like my creature comforts - the experience of being in such unspoilt wilderness made any lack of comfort worth it. We're already planning our next expedition, particularly Grumbles who thought she was in heaven. Any recommendations, anybody?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Shirred Dress Tutorial


Summertime, and the living is eeeeeaaasy... actually no - it's already darn hot, so what better time to do a shirred dress tutorial for you all than now, hey? This dress is super simple to whip up. You won't even need a pattern, just a measuring tape and some lovely fabric. So let's get measuring, and get ready to sew!

Things you will need:
Fabric of your choice (I suggest a lightweight cotton, as you don't want anything too heavy for a shirred dress)
Elastic thread
1cm wide elastic
Matching thread

For the record, I used a Liberty Tana Lawn from Tessuti Fabrics that I had hiding away in my stash.

Step 1:
Firstly you need to measure how much fabric you will need. I measured around Grumble's torso, and then multiplied that measurement by two plus seam allowances to get the total width of the dress. The shirred part will stretch over to fit the bust nicely, without feeling too tight.

Here are the standard torso measurements for children, based on Australian Standards:

Children's Measurements
Size        Age                    Height                  Chest
2            2 - 3 years            92cm                   56cm
3            3 - 4 years            100cm                 58cm
4            4 - 5 years            108cm                 60cm
5            5 - 6 years            115cm                 62cm
6            6 - 7 years            120cm                 64cm
7            7 - 8 years            125cm                 66cm
8            8 - 9 years            130 - 140cm        68cm
10          10 - 11 years        140 - 150cm        74 - 80cm
11          11 - 12 years        150 - 160cm        80 - 86cm
12          12 - 13 years        155 - 160cm        86 - 90cm
13          13 - 14 years        160 - 165cm        90 - 95cm
14          14 - 15 years        165 - 170cm        95 - 100cm

Or, if you decide you'd rather make a shirred dress for yourself, here are the standard women's measurements, based on Australian Standards:

Women's Measurements
Size              Bust                     Waist                      Hip
XS               75 - 80cm            56 - 61cm               84 - 88cm
S                  82 - 87cm            61 - 66cm               88 - 93cm
M                 92 - 97cm            71 - 76cm               98 - 103cm
L                  102 - 109cm        81 - 88cm               108 - 115cm
XL               115 - 121cm        94 - 100cm             121 - 127cm

Firstly you'll need to figure out your torso measurement, and then double that, then add seam allowances. For example, Grumbles had a torso measurement of 68cm. Multiplying that by two gives you 136cm. Adding seam allowances of 2cm to each side makes it 140cm. You'll be cutting out a front and a back, so divide that figure by two to get the width of each piece. In this case it is 70cm.

I decided that I wanted the dress to be mid-calf in length, so measured Grumbles once more. The resulting measurement was 65cm, from top of bust line to mid-calf. Adding 5cm for seam and casing allowances gave me a final figure of 70cm.

So my final pattern piece for both front and back was 70cm wide and 70cm long. Once you've figured yours out, cut two of these.

Hooray! The maths part is over. Let's move on to some actual sewing!

Step 2:

Once you have cut out your pattern pieces, overlock or finish all edges.

Step 3:
Sew one side seam together, leaving the other side seam open.

Step 4:

Create the casing for the elastic. On the wrong side turn over the overlocked edge and press, then turn over again to create a 1.3cm wide casing. Press. Stitch the casing close to the edge. Oh, and try not to laugh at my daggy ironing board.

Step 5:

Before you begin to shirr, you'll need to have changed your normal bobbin for one that has been tightly wound with elastic thread. If the elastic thread isn't tightly wound onto the bobbin, then the elasticised effect will not occur. It's easiest to do this by hand, stretching tight the thread as you wind it onto the bobbin.

Now let the shirring begin! On the right side stitch a foot width away from the casing stitching. As you sew the elastic will cause the shirred part to bunch up behind your machine foot. It's pretty exciting!

Step 6:

Repeat the shirring a foot width away until you have done 10 rows, or until you have shirred for your desired amount. If you are large busted you may want to shirr more than 10, or if you are making it for a very young child you may want to shirr for less than 10 rows. Figure out what you'll be most comfortable with, and go from there.

You will probably need to re-wind your bobbin with more elastic thread every few rows. As you shirr, straighten out the fabric - it helps you keep a straight line.

Step 7:
Once the shirring has been completed, insert the desired length of 1cm wide elastic (measure it around the torso to see what length feels comfortable) into the casing at the top of the dress, tacking it to each end to keep it in place.

Then with right sides facing sew your other side seam together. I like to sew over the shirred part twice, just to reinforce the elastic thread. We don't want any of them wriggling loose now!

Then hem the bottom of the dress.

Step 8:

Measure out how long your shoulder straps will be, then cut a two 3cm strips of fabric this length. Folding the strips in two with right sides together, sew close to the edge of the strap. Trim seam allowances, then inside-out the strips. Attach the shoulder straps to the inside of the back and the front of the dress in your desired position. I find with Grumbles that the straps don't slip off her shoulders so much if I cross them over at the back.

Now pat yourself on the back and do a happy dance - you've completed a shirred dress!


Thursday, November 04, 2010

My favourite black pants

The perfect pair of black pants. It's like the holy grail of fashion, isn't it - that and finding the perfect pair of jeans. Sometimes it can feel like mission impossible. Does such a thing truly exist?

Now, I don't know about you, but it feels like my own personal search for the holy grail has gone on for years. Most of the time it ends up with tears in change rooms and whimpers of "Nagdammit! My bum DOES look big in these!" Or, perversely, you find a pair that might just fit the bill, and then have a look at the price tag, which means that even if the pants come close to perfect, the price you must pay doesn't, so back on the rack they go. And so the search would go on. Every where you looked, black pants would dangle on their hangers catching your eye but there was always something wrong: legs too long, legs too wide, legs to short, waist too high, seat too baggy, fabric too nasty, cut too fugly. You find yourself back at home wearing your old faithful pair that have been washed and worn too many times and is starting to look beyond sad, but what choice do you have? The new perfect pair still eludes you.

If you've been in this situation, and feel like your search will never come to an end then rejoice, dear friends, rejoice! For I, Jorth, have gone boldly into black pant territory where many fear to tread, and have found the perfect pair indeed!

Ok, ok - so the caveat is that you'll have to make them yourself. But trust me - the best part about these pants is that they were a cinch, an absolute cinch to whip up. Hoorah!

Black Pleated Pants

Project Details
Pattern: #105 from Burda Style Magazine 6/2010
Fabric: 1.5m of "Something Black", a luscious cotton/viscose blend from Tessuti Fabrics. This fabric was so lovely to work with.
Notions: 22cm invisible zip, and interfacing for the waist band

Just in case you haven't guessed, I love these pants! They are super comfy to wear, and the weight is perfect for summer. I made mine up in size 36 without the side seam allowances, which means that they sit loosely on my waist, which is exactly how I like my summer pants to be. The fabric has a lovely sheen to it, which instantly makes the pants look quite dressy, particularly with the pleat details. I'm planning another pair for winter, but in a wool blend.

Besides the seam allowances, the only other alteration I made was to straighten and lengthen the leg. The original pattern calls for a curved hem on the pant going along the inside leg seam, but aesthetically that didn't appeal, so I made mine straight instead.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


We're not really into celebrating Halloween here at chez Jorth. In fact, as a holiday it's never really taken off in Australia at all. However, Grumbles has been learning about it at school and has become quite gung-ho about decorating the house.
After she came home and presented me with her umpteenth scribbled pumpkin head ("Look Mum! Isn't it scary? Mum: Um, surrrrre!") I decided to take matters a step further, and enforced a family decorating session on Saturday night. Anything to keep the fambly happy, right?

It was a complete and utter debacle. Galumph, who was in charge of cutting out the face pieces, keep doing them out of the wrong paper. Grumbles decided that pleating paper wasn't really her thing, and kept wandering off to do other things, and I developed a bad case of sticky tape rage.

Due to my sticky tape rage, I actually morphed into a ghoul, berating my poor husband with snitchy comments like "If you don't cut out a black eye instead of a white one, I'll GIVE you a black eye!" We all ended up with a bad case of the Halloween blues, not helped by the fact that the darn decorations wouldn't even stay in place when we tried to hang them up.

I know that you're wondering about the masterpieces we created after all that energy was expended. Let's just say that I'm hanging up my Halloween crafting crown, because they really are pretty crap:
The only thing scary about these is the fact that I insisted on making them in the first place! Bloody Martha Stewart. Never again! I'm sticking to sewing from now on.