Revivals! This blog, the fashion of my youth, and my sad wardrobe.

I’ve decided it’s time to spark-up the old blogging engines again, and resurrect Handmakemeover. I have an overflowing stash, I was on a stash diet for so long, but recently I may have had a little binge. Or two. Maybe even three. And we won’t count what I’ve picked up from op-shops, because that’s not really fabric shopping…

I'd love to say this was all I'd bought in the last year, but that would be a lie.
I’d love to say this was all I’d bought in the last year, but that would be a lie.

But first I need to do something about the ridiculousness of my current wardrobe. I have a problem. If you follow my business blog, you might have read that one of my objectives for this year is to achieve laundry hamper zero.

At least 3 of the garments on top are actually made by me.
At least 3 of the garments on top are actually made by me.

I nearly got there actually, for a very brief moment, but I have way too many clothes. I need to get rid of A LOT of them. I need help to do this, because I am lily-livered. I’d guesstimate that I have at least one cubic metre of excess clothing. I need a plan to cull. While I’d love to just hire a stylist, right now that’s not really an option I can look at. (My ideal would be to work with a stylist who would look at my stash and say, ooh, you should make this from this, and that would look fabulous as that. Shopping for clothes is just not really my thing.)

Should I:

a) get rid of everything that doesn’t fit with my current buying principles (made-by-me, NZ-made, AU-made (most of my professional wardrobe is from Cue) or bought from an op-shop)

b) get rid of everything that is older than a certain date (but then I’d have to get rid of the awesome tops that I bought when I was in my early 20s, and if fashion predictions are right, the 90s are about to come back in a big way… Also, they’re cute. I like them…)

c) invite a bunch of friends around, pile up everything I own, and get them to go through them and do a Trinny-and-Sussanah-esque critique of it all (and get them to  remove all the “nos” from my house at the end of the session).

One things for certain: I’m going to need some help with this, so your comments will be greatly appreciated!

xx Elisabeth



I’ve been silent for way too long!  That doesn’t mean that I haven’t been making things… more that I haven’t been able to convince my hubster to take great pictures of the things I have made.  Really, I should just use the self-timer more.

So, since I last posted, I’ve made myself a burgandy stretch velvet skirt, an awesome pair of jeans (which I then grew out of, I must do something about that) and most recently a pair of dress pants for work.

For the latter, I started with a Burda pattern (Vol 8/04, adapted from style 105).  For length, I cut to the line for style 104, I didn’t make cuffs, and I didn’t add the front pocket flap either.  The back features faux pocket flaps – I wanted the detail without the fuss.  Because I’m carrying a little extra weight at the moment, I also made some changes to the actual pattern pieces.  The style went up to 42, which was fine for the waist (in fact, I had to remove some material from the back waist), but I have chunkier hips and thighs.  Instead of playing with the outside leg seams, I made the adjustments on the crotch and inner leg seams, effectively scaling them to a 44 from my wider bits.  In the past I’ve done this using the marked pattern lines, and just rejoining them, but as this style didn’t go up quite big enough, in this case I actually had to do the measuring and drafting work myself on those seams.  So I can tick off a new skill!

Do these pants make me look short?
Full length rear view


Here, Kitty Kitty!
And the all important question: Does my butt look good in these?

I think these pants are a success.  I don’t have a pic to prove it, but the fly is very nicely done.

Purple silk top from Veronica Main, shoes from Hannahs, handmade earrings by zippitydoodah.

Kitty model is M from next door.  Hobbes was hiding (and I needed to distract M from stealing his food).

I conquered my confusion

I made myself a new dress for work from freebie houndstooth, and conquered my mental block on sewing bodice linings.

I have long struggled with trying to work out how on earth a fully lined neckline and armholes work.  Wanting to make myself work-suitable dresses meant that I really needed to get over this.

So when one of my colleagues gave me some black and white houndstooth crimpolene(!) that her mother was clearing out of her stash, I decided it was time to face this conceptual block once and for all.  This dress made up like a dream – apart from a few weeks in the middle of making it when I got a bit busy with other stuff…

Houndstooth Dress

I had to alter the pattern (Burda issue 01/04, style 111) somewhat, as it is quite fitted through the skirt, and while my top half might fit a Burda 38 well, the lower half is something more like a 42.  There are no side seams on this dress, rather princess seams front and back, and long underarm darts for shaping.  I didn’t get the adjustment quite right on front panel, so I had to take those darts in a little more.  I’ve still got a little too much fabric across the front waist, but nothing that I can’t cover up with a belt or cardie.

Is it possible to be coy while wearing houndstooth?

The seaming through the back on this style is really nice.  I realised as I was cutting that the darts had slightly different shaping on each side, so I marked them carefully with chalk and basted by hand, matching up the lines before stitching.  I’m sure this helped with the overall fit and finish, especially for the side darts.  You can’t really tell from this image, but the invisible zip is near perfect :-).  I love how they are so much easier to insert and I especially love that you don’t have to handstitch the lining to them in the back.  Because you don’t topstitch like you do with a normal lapped zip opening, you can just flip the lining over so you have the right sides facing, and then stitch the lining into the seam allowance along the teeth of the zip.

And it turns out I had nothing to be worried about with the neck and arm edges.  I followed the directions in the Burda magazine for pushing and pulling, and got a really neat finish, even without using a wooden spoon!

I think I nailed the neckline and arm edges!

I finally finished something!

In which Elisabeth reveals her new jeans!

So, amongst my pile of stash, I found a pair of jeans that were 85% finished.  I started them 3 (maybe 4???) years ago.  I drafted the pattern from scratch, refering to my copy of Winifred Aldrich’s Metric Pattern Cutting, and taking styling details from my husband’s favourite pair of jeans (which I have replicated very successfully twice now).

This pair of jeans has been a series of trials.

  • I ran into problems trying to use topstitching thread, and it kept jamming up my machine.  I’ve now learnt the answer to that one – you buy topstitching needles, because they have a bigger eye.
  • Eventually my much loved Elna Supamatic gave up the ghost, and refused to sew any more, leading me to purchase my lovely Janome 6500P, which they promised me would handle denim just fine…
  • I got the waistband on, and went to sew the button hole, on my then brand new machine.  Disasters!  I just couldn’t get it to sew right (I needed to learn how to use the machine properly), the button hole kept on coming out much to short and I had to unpick it more than once…  and once I did finally manage to get it to the right length, I put the seam ripper through the end of the buttonhole, thereby ruining the waistband.  At which point I gave up.

Fast forward 3 (maybe 4) years, and I decided that I was going to tackle these jeans and get them finished once and for all.  I spent a couple of hours digging through my stash to try and find left-over material to make the new waistband.  Eventually I found the remnant.  All 45×12 cm of it!  So I had to get inventive.  I cut one back waistband from the original waistband, the other from the remnant, and managed to scrounge the extra from the hems.  I’m ever so glad I gave myself extra length way back then.  I finished the waistband last night, including the buttonhole (I know how to use my machine these days), and today I hemmed them.


My new jeans

They look pretty good, don’t they?  Errr, well, um, they do in that picture 🙂

Things that could be better:

Waistband detail

I should have dropped the rear waist by a cm or two, and made a curved waistband.  I did think about curving the waistband yesterday, but being so strapped for fabric I thought it would be ok.  As it is, the waist does fit me better than most commercial jeans I have ever bought.

Front view

There’s a bit much fabric in the rear thighs, making me seem unnecessarily broad (I have heavy thighs, there’s no denying it, but the cut accentuates it, more so in real life than in this picture).  Oh well, at least my hair is looking good.

And now, for the ever important question: Do these jeans make my butt look good?

Rear view. Hmmmm.

Well I guess that’s a no.

On the plus side, they are pretty comfortable, and with winter coming up they will be good for gardening.  I have learnt that I do need to lower the back of the waist for a better fit, and not to over compensate for my thighs when drafting patterns.  Making a toile would probably have been a good idea as well.

Also, in the intervening years, I have totally worn though the most comfortable and flattering pair of jeans I have ever owned, and they are now sitting down in the studio ready for me to rip apart to take a pattern from – no more guess work from me for a while!

I added to my stash (whoops)

I bought fabric for a new dress! Oops 🙂

Last Sunday was the final day of the Global Fabrics sale, so I headed along to claim my 50% off fabric.  I’d seen some lovely wool crêpe at the start of the sale, when it was only 40% off, and I was really hoping there would be some left.  Unfortunately no (although they did tell me there was some more coming, at full price).  I found some another wool/polyester mix though, and it might turn out even better for the pattern I have in mind (I believe having synthetic in the mix helps pleats hold their shape.  Can anyone confirm?).

This is the pattern I have in mind:

Black woollen dress from Burda
Burda magazine, 2/2005, p85

It’s from one of my many Burda magazines – I collected almost every issue for about four years.  I think the only issue I don’t have from during that period was because the container fell off the ship, so none ever made it to NZ.

I’m not sure how soon I’ll get to actually make this.  March is turning into March Market Madness month for me, so I’m concentrating on making stuff to sell for the next few weeks.  After that, I’m planning on really getting into my wardrobe revamp!

Feedback time!

I’d really appreciate your comments on:

  • Is it true that synthetic content helps with pleats?
  • Will this look good on pear-shaped me?
  • Anything else you think appropriate 🙂

The last thing I made

Showing off the last dress I made.

Whoops, February is slipping away on me, and I still haven’t made anything new.  I have to take the machines in for servicing this week, so it might be a little bit until I have something really new, but in the meantime, I thought I’d show you that last thing that I did make myself.  I whipped this dress up for my parent’s 50th anniversary.  It’s made an appearance several times this summer, as it’s light and easy to wear.  And flattering, which is always a good thing.

Light summer dress

The pattern is from Burda Magazine 6/2005, style 112.  I didn’t add the pockets or frills though – not quite me :-).  I also added a lining, as the fabric is a very light cotton.  It’s cut on the bias, and I think if I make it again (quite likely) I’ll skip the zip, as it’s easy enough for me to slip on and off over my head.

What’s coming next?

As suggested by Cindy, I definitely need to get on to making myself a new handbag.  I also found an almost finished pair of jeans that I put aside about 3 years ago, after a booboo on the waistband.  Stay tuned!