NOT SQUEE OR TWEE… JUST ME… Sewaholic Alma: View B

Sewaholic Alma - not squee or twee... just me

Sewaholic Alma – not squee or twee… just me

I’ve been in love with this fabric ever since I spied it in the deserted rayon fabric corner of Lincraft.

Sewaholic Alma: sneak peek

Sewaholic Alma fabric – I LOVE these birdies

I kept going back and stroking the roll… and not buying it… I eventually realised that I would always regret not buying it once it disappeared and I couldn’t visit it any more. I could only imagine it as a top – with very few seams or darts – so I purchased a metre to soothe the birdie craving.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to make another Alma and it occurred to me that the birdies might work. I love this Sewaholic pattern, I’m not much into fuss and the simplicity of this design really appeals to me, no buttons, no frills, no tucks just a blouse that sits beautifully. I adore my first Alma (how could I not with all the compliments I get when I wear it!) and the love affair looks set to continue!

1204 Sewaholic Alma Envelope Art

1204 Sewaholic Alma – a beautiful versatile blouse

I decided to make View B which is the Peter Pan collar version. It feels a little ‘sweet’ to me so I decided to add a black contrast collar to take down the ‘twee’ factor a notch.

This pattern is a cinch to sew but I took my time. As it is rayon it is a little more ‘flighty’ than an obedient voile or lawn. I cut it out carefully and did the best I could to line up those slightly wonky wires that the birdies are perched upon.

As with my first Alma, I french seamed the shoulders and non-zip side. I even managed to get the fabric lines to match up at the front and back darts.

Sewaholic Alma - the side zipper

Sewaholic Alma – the side zipper

I also used the trick I learnt when I made the MariaDenmark tshirt & Simplicity 1880 – setting in the sleeve flat. How much easier does that make setting in a sleeve!!!

I wore it to work today – paired with my Maria Denmark Yasmin Yoke skirt. This skirt is very simple to make/fit and even has two little pockets. It’s available as a PDF download, and the pattern itself is just 12 pages! I don’t tend to print out the instructions, I read them on Evernote on my iPhone or iPad as I sew to save paper. There is also the benefit of enlarging bits to read! Maria sent me this skirt when she released the pattern – and it’s just taken me ages to photograph it (sorry Maria!). I whipped up two of these skirts over two nights – and I made this black one from the leftovers from my Sewaholic Thurlows. It’s very easy to fit. You sew the front and back and then pin the sides together and take in as necessary before you sew the side seams.

Sewaholic Alma - work blouse

Sewaholic Alma – as a work blouse. I’ve paired this with Maria Denmark a-line Yasmin Yoke skirt! Photo by my daughter!

I’ve also made the Yasmin Yoke skirt in a burgundy ‘butter suede’ (whatever synthetic concoction that is!). So will need to photograph that too sooner or later! This skirt can be made in two lengths – as usual I favoured the ‘hussy’ length version 🙂

Slight Mishap

Despite being so careful in the making of this Alma, I botched the collar.

Like Sew {MM} when I added the facings to the neckline, I flipped them over to discover that the collar did not meet perfectly in the middle. I decided I could live with it. I even bought buttons to sew in the little gap to make it look deliberate.

Then we had a family trip to Sydney and on the way home I decided I could not live with it after all. I just felt as the collar was such a strong contrast to the rest of the top it was just too ‘obvious’ any attempt to disguise it would just look like a botched job.

Even though I had trimming back the neckline seam allowances, I unpicked about two-thirds of the front neckline. I ran a gathering stitch across the blouse body neckline I had unpicked. I used this to pull the neckline in just a tiny bit, re-basted the collar back onto the blouse, re-attached the facings and hey presto collar perfect! If I make this version of Alma again I will definitely be running that row of gathering stitches around the neckline before attaching the collar and facings.

I should have taken photos of the botched job but I had been sucked into a black hole of sewing pain & dilemma and could not think of anything else but my collar!! Sorry!

I’m really pleased with this ‘fix’ as you can’t tell that there is any gathering at all – it is very minor. And it saved the birdies from a fate worth than death… the rag bag!!


Sometimes it’s better to just get up and walk away from the sewing machine when something goes wrong. Leave it for a few days but don’t give up on a problem. Sometimes the solution will pop into your head when you least expect it. Just let it happen don’t let the frustration or disappointment overwhelm you. Remember it’s a hobby not a life/death scenario. 🙂


I’m really happy with this blouse. I feel like I’ve somehow blended ‘twee & squee’ and come up with something that is very ‘me’.

Sewaholic Alma - not squee or twee

Sewaholic Alma – not squee or twee. Picture taken late in the afternoon – light not so good!

Marie of A Sewing Odyssey
Alma Blouse: pattern from Sew Squirrel (no postage charge to Aussie stitchers!!). Fabric: rayon blend from Lincraft. Size 0
Maria Denmark Yasmin Yoke Skirt: Pattern available on Craftsy. Fabric from Lincraft – leftovers from my Sewaholic Thurlows.
Vogue 1247 skirt: Blogged about here.

Made-by-me family

Made-by-me family. Me in Vogue 1247 skirt & Alma blouse. LIttle Miss in her confirmation dress that I made/designed.

Colette Peony – weed or blossom?

Colette Peony - a summer frock

Colette Peony – a summer frock

Colette Peony – I haven’t quite decided whether it’s a weed or a blossom in my pattern stash. Should it stay or should it go? (This dress is also appearing over at Rhinestones and Telephones right now).

Colette Peony was my first indie patterns purchases when I started sewing again. I bought it direct from Colette, waited weeks for it to arrive – in the meantime I made my Frolicking Frock and my beloved Tardis Skirt, which have all been major wardrobe winners. If I had started with this pattern, I might have given up sewing before I even got started again.

I made this as this dress for Sew Colette 2.0 which is hosted by Sarah, Erin and Rochelle. I was not thrilled when Peony was voted as the October project – I was desperately wanting it to be Oolong – I even have the pattern – thank you Sew Squirrel! I didn’t intend to participate but when Sarah was tweeting about needing a guest blogger I thought ‘hey I’ve just made a smokin’ boned, lined and underlined Gertie wiggle dress – how hard can Peony be?‘ hmmmmm, HARD!

Peony is rated as an easy project. It’s not hard to sew together. However, it is difficult to fit. This pattern has clearly been designed for someone with a completely different build than me (and most people it seems) and modifying the pattern can be hard work for some of us. So here is a little story about my battle with the Peony…


If you make this pattern, you absolutely must make at least a bodice muslin. I consider myself a base jumper in the sewing world and rarely muslin anything (a small benefit of being built like a coathanger I guess). I had seen enough of this pattern in blogworld to know that it might be a tough customer – it needed more than courage and a parachute to prevent a crash landing. I think the biggest issue is the position of the waist and bust darts. I re-drew and re-stitched the darts five times on my muslin. I drew lines all over it and eventually created something that kinda sorta fits.


What did I do? After four unsuccessful dart moves, I looked at my made-by-me dresses that do fit well and looked at their bodice darts. My Passport dress and Simplicity 2444 have waist darts however instead of running at a 90 degree angle to the waistline, they start closer to the centre of the waistline and are slightly angled outwards from the waist and towards the side seams. I transferred this dart rotation to my muslin. I simply dropped the waist darts down a little and rotated them outwards a little. I also raised the bust seams a little. Hey presto – a much better fitting bodice.


In my excessive excitement I did not spend enough time fussing over the back. Once I sewed up the dress I found that the back is still too wide. Alas. If you are having this problem I did google this problem and found a very helpful post from Symon Sez referring to Madalynne’s post explaining the relationship between the back and front neckline width. Next time (if there is a next time) I’m going to modify the back piece using this theory.

Colette Peony: back view

Colette Peony: back view



I think with any seasonal dress colour choice is important. I’ve never felt very summery in grey or black. Nor do I feel wintery and cosy in minty greens and vibrant blues (I must admit I am not a fan of the colder months – and we don’t even get a frost where I live).

It’s interesting but I’ve never worn yellow – ever. Thanks Kat for encouraging me to give this hue a try via Twitter – this fabric has been intended for a Cambie but there is always another Cambie somewhere… I confess there may be a little more left in my stash…

My fabric is a butter yellow cotton eyelet. Obviously Peony wasn’t giving me enough grief so I picked a fabric that required lining and underlining.

Lining and Underlining

Using the skills I picked up making the wiggle dress and reading Gertie’s book, I underlined the yellow eyelet with some white broadcloth from the stash. Underlining is quite easy. You do need patience! Rather than paraphrase someone else – why not check out Gertie’s blog and see how she underlined the Colette Crepe bodice. In a nutshell you baste the fabrics together around the edges and baste along the dart lines. This is a very imprecise description. I think pictures work better!

Colette Peony underlining the bodice

Colette Peony underlining the bodice

I guess some people may be wondering why I chose broadcloth to underline, rather than silk organza or cotton batiste? I was planning to omit the sleeves as I wanted a Summer Peony and thought if the bodice had more structure the neckline and armholes would sit better.

The bodice is underlined – so the two fabrics are treated as one. I lined the skirt – so the lining is attached at the waist and then hangs free.

Skirt Length

People complain about the Peony skirt gathers – but I love the skirt. It’s a gentle a-line and I think if you pick a a fabric with some drape, not too much, it hangs beautifully. I can see that a poplin, sateen, quilting cotton etc might not be so flattering. I added a full 2 inches to the skirt length. I think it compliments the wide boat neckline better than the shorter skirt. The extra weight might also help the gathers hang better I suspect.

Colette Peony: lengthening the skirt

Colette Peony: lengthening the skirt

The Sleeves – or not!

In an email discussion with Sarah I planned on writing a post about ‘summerising’ Peony – after seeing Lladybird’s rockin’ gingham summer Peony in February this idea has been sitting in the back of my mind.

I’ve always felt a little left-out of the sewalongs as everyone else always seems to be in a different season to me! So this was to be my southern hemisphere version of the Peony – if you are feeling miserable as the temperature descends on the other side of the world, I’m happy to channel summer over here on my blog for you! Free of charge!

I had planned to create armhole facings and write a post about them. While I was making up this pattern, I decided that as the shoulders are quite narrow that it would be better to use bias binding instead – otherwise the shoulder would become quite bulky with layers of fabric. I did add the neckline facing as the pattern directs but ripped it out. The underlining, shell fabric and facings make the neckline at the shoulders very bulky and unattractive. So I unpicked it and replaced it with binding that I cut from the un-eyeletted (yes of course that’s a word) fabric along the eyelet fabric’s edges.

My shoulders did get a touch sunburnt at the beach when we took photos – so I missed the sleeves! Leaving off the sleeves makes the dress much cooler and better for my climate – which features hot and humid summers! Not good weather for growing Peonies 🙂

I simply stitched bias binding to the outside of the armholes on the right side, turned the binding to the inside, concealing the raw edges and slip stitched it down to the underlining.


I decided to highlight the white underlining/lining that is peek-a-booing through the eyelet by adding a piped white waistband. I’ve never inserted piping before – and had always thought it was waaaay tooooo hard. Not true. Check out Colette’s online tutorial about how to add piping to your projects…

Colette Peony, inserting the waist piping

Colette Peony, inserting the waist piping, it’s so much easier than you think!

Colette Peony: with a piped waistband, back view

Colette Peony: with a piped waistband, back view

The Fit

Verdict – does my dress fit perfectly? No. Do I mind? Actually no. I love it with my belt to cinch in the waist – even if it does hide the lovely piping! I don’t really like close fitting summer frocks, they get sticky and clingy. I put this on this morning, took the kids and dog to the beach, splashed in the water, dug some holes, we took the blog photos – and I’ve worn it all day. It’s a lovely comfortable dress. No it’s not perfect… but neither am I…


I always think about how I am going to wear my project as I sew it. What necklaces, shoes, earrings, hats will work with it. I find this really helps inspire the process and makes finishing it all the more fun.

Lladybird created a gorgeous crochet rose brooch for her Gingham Peony. Stitch & Witter paired her’s with a bow belt.

I’ve just paired mine with a belt from a bargan bin ($5 – I love it!), some wooden beads from a hippy shop which cost me a huge $2.50 and a straw hat which was a birthday gift from a friend. Accessories really finish any outfit – made-by-me or otherwise. Think about the people whose dress sense you admire – often it’s those little touches that really make them stand out in a crowd. Think beyond your dress, your can take a simple shape or fabric and make it sing with a well placed or chosen accessory.

This soft yellow it is easy to wear and I feel like a little dish of lemon sorbet! It’s a girly dressy summer dress.

I think yellow may appear in my wardrobe more regularly – thanks Kat!

Colette Peony, a piped wiastband

Colette Peony, a piped wiastband

The Images

There has been some hearty comment in blogland about how we put together our images, Catherine Daze and ::Paunnet::, wearing footwear we usually don’t, make-up and colour editing our images… So for the record, there photographs have just been cropped a little so I’m not so lost in the frame, no colour changes have been made, I’m not made-up, I did wash my hair that morning but I wash my hair every day – so this is me, untouched and barefoot on my beach – untouched.

I don’t tend to take a lot of photos with my mug (Aussie slang for face) in it. Like most people I’m not a huge fan of pictures of myself and… well I’m blogging about the clothes, I’m no oil painting, it’s all about the dress!

Why would you bother with photo editing when you are as handsome as this chap who was busy today giving tourists beach rides! Look at those lashes!

Camel rides on Lighthouse Beach

Camel rides on Lighthouse Beach

I know you love my little neighbours… so when we spotted this chap in a tree across the road one morning last week and we took a picture for you!

Koala, Australia

Koala – how do they sleep on such tiny branches with such bootilicous backsides?????

I had been stuck in a bit of a sewing/life rut for a few weeks- for a whole lot of reasons that don’t deserve precious sewing blogging space. Good news: I’m feeling like I’m getting back on my feet… I’ve got two Maria Denmark skirts to share… some treasures from my Tasmanian trip… a wonderful package from Pretty Grievances… a magazine that I won from The Perfect Nose’s blog. So I’m back 🙂 Thank you for your encouragement and comments…

Pattern: Colette Peony, size 0. Purchased form Colette Patterns (now I purchase all my indie patterns from Sew Squirrel – a much better option if you live in Australia!! Thank you Sarah!!)
Shell fabric: Butter yellow cotton eyelet from Spotlight, reduced form $32/m to $6 on the bargain table!
Bodice underlining: white broadcloth. Skirt lining: White bemsilk.

hmmmm and I really need to fix up that back hem…


Meet the nighttime version of Hazel aka PURPLE HAZE’L. Or as I also fondly call her – Hazel’s Naughty Little Sister…

Hazel's Naughty Little Sister - Purple Haze'l

Colette Hazel’s Naughty Little Sister – Purple Haze’l (or Not Smoke On The Water as ELH declared)

So what do you do when all the pattern companies are releasing lovely summer dresses and winter is descending in the southern hemisphere? You just grunge them up, slap on some boots, a cap and coat – and rock on. Who says you can’t wear pretty sundresses in the middle of winter? Just wear them with attitude!

I decided to tackle Hazel once more and participate in the Colette Sewalong 2.0 organised by Lucky Lucille, Sarah and Erin. I was most jealous about the first Sewalong but the canoe-across-the-oceans speed delivery from Amazon meant I could not join in. So here I am! I’m a bit early for the Hazel sewalong but it’s better early than late! And Macaroon looks to be the next sewalong choice, based on the voting so far, which is not my cup of tea, so I want to start my next project while they tackle that one.

I almost did not make this dress but I am so glad I didn’t give up (even when that seemed to be the sensible option). It’s not perfect but it’s grungy fun. This is not cake clothing, it’s just very naughty self-saucing winter pudding.

I freaked out at first when I got home and realised it was a one-directional stripe pattern.

My step-by-step approach to dealing with this.

  1. I picked which set of stripes I wanted to feature in the centre of the dress. I picked the set of smaller stripes.
  2. I decided to run the stripes across the bodice front rather than down. I did this because I did not like how the stripes would not mirror each other out from the centre of the bodice. I also ran the narrower stripes at the edge of the side bodice pieces so they angled down towards my waist. I was trying to achieve an hourglass effect. Not sure if this worked…
  3. I decided to cut the front skirt piece in half and then cut all skirt pieces on the bias for a chevron effect. I thought Wow that will look great – I should have thought, crikey that will make life tough. It was all going swell until I cut the back pieces so they matched at the backs but not the sides. DOH! I had enough fabric to cut these pieces out again and then cut the straps from the oopsie back pieces.
  4. I thought the bodice and skirt looked messy together so I cut strips from the wide black stripe to create a visual break between the bodice and skirt. I just measured the bodice bottom and the two joined back panels and added seams allowances. I then joined the black strips and then joined them to the bodice, matching the side seams. I then attached the skirt to the black strip.
  5. The skirt is slightly narrower than the pattern. I had some oopsies getting the side stripes to match up and trimmed some off the edges. I think it works better as more gathering would ruin the chevron effect – after all that hard work I wasn’t going to let that happen!
  6. I ran the stripes up and over my shoulders to lengthen my frame.
  7. I moved the straps in at the back and the front. I also changed the angle they are inserted into the bodice – otherwise they sort of slide off my shoulders.
  8. I decided to run the stripes straight across my back. Yes, I could have chevron’ed them as well but you need to stop somewhere. I’m not a complete sucker for punishment.
  9. Sob. No pockets. Did not want to ruin the side seams – or make them even harder to match!
  10. A much shorter zip – for the same reasons as no pockets. I pull the dress over my head rather than step into it. On the upside my zipper insertion is perfect – first time ever – and right the first time I sewed it in. Hooray!!

Now just a friendly warning, several shots follow where I look rather sickeningly pleased with myself. Yes, it’s revolting but I just could not help myself.

Purple Haze'l - pleased with myself - Colette Hazel pattern with a bas cut skirt

Purple Haze’l – pleased with myself – Colette Hazel pattern with a bias cut skirt

Purple Haze'l - side seams - Colette Hazel pattern with a bias cut skirt

Purple Haze’l – check out those side seams people!!

Colette Hazel - back view - bias cut skirt

Colette Hazel – back view – bias cut skirt. The stripes are a tiny bit skew-iff towards the hem – my cure is to tell people to just stop looking at my butt. Just focus on my lovely invisible zipper – I finally figured out how to get these in neatly.

Colette Hazel - front view - bias cut skirt

Colette Hazel – I chopped off my head to get rid of the smug self-satisfied look for you 🙂

Apart from the Simplicity 1880 sewalong I mentioned last post (and I’m thinking of throwing caution to the wind and making a red one with white piping, crazy girl), I also want to make Cambie in a very pretty rose print. It’s inspired by an Australian vineyard. Long story. I will tell you one day soon. That’s what I love about sewing, every project is a story in itself. No wonder we blog!

I am also dying to make Oolong. And I think the peacock fabric some of you admired in the last post would work beautifully. I’m not as curvy as the Colette model but I think it might work on me. I love flowy bias cut dresses. Sew Squirrel are trying to get it in. If you live in Australia this is THE SITE to get your Sewaholic and Colette Patterns. Postage is free at the moment and the patterns are a great price. I am devoted to them already. This is where I got my Cambie and Renfrew patterns from. Thank you Sew Squirrel!