Mend it Monday: Wear, then tear

And today, we are dealing with the other half of the work uniform.

Yes, that swirling mass of orange photos below is three of the Husband’s hi-vis work shirts. Orange at the top, navy at the bottom, separated by reflective strips. Tasteful, eh? You really don’t want to be looking at them after a hard night, or not without sunglasses. They’re made of densely woven pure cotton, designed to resist UVA and B, retard fire and resist sun-rot. Shame they can’t also resist the perpetual wear of the long-distance driver’s seat belt.

This example is by no means the worst. What the sun cannot penetrate, friction can and will.

And now for an entertaining assortment of patches and darns. Due to the vagaries of digital photography, my fluoro orange thread looks yellow. It’s a much better match in real life. It has me puzzled, because the camera can reproduce the shirt colour just fine. Anyway, just so you know, the patches are made from retired shirts, which is why they’re paler. Shirts that colour have to be retired because they are considered no longer hi-vis (and I’m not even going to mention the holes, diesel and grease stains, tears, splits….), which means that the good bits become available as patching material.

Clearly the sun does fade the fabric even if it doesn’t rot. The 3 shirts being mended are none of them older than a couple of years, which is why the shoulder wear is so annoying; they’re in otherwise great condition.

Those mends in the pocket corners are because the pockets are required to contain far more stuff than the design specified. Pen, phone, notebook, paperwork, mask, sunglasses, etc. Men don’t carry handbags/ purses, remember?

Hopefully this is the last of the mending for a bit. You can all breathe a big sigh of relief.


Mend it Monday: no-match patches

Mend it Monday is an initiative begun by The Snail of Happiness.

Mending things, being frugal and saving stuff from landfill is the point. Clothing is cheap these days, mostly for all the wrong reasons. But just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s disposable in the same way as packaging, Just because it has a hole in it doesn’t mean it can’t be saved. Take the Husband’s work pants, for example.

Until quite recently, he’s been reluctant to pay ‘proper’ money for decent quality, because “They just get holes in them”. Gradually, he’s come to appreciate that the better the quality, the fewer the holes that seem to appear as if by magic… So far, none of the good quality ones have required mending. Funny, that.

I’m now mending the last of the medium-quality pants that were the interim measure. But I have a rule. More than three patches on the seat, and they’re not worth saving as garments, because I will have run out of fabric that’s sturdy enough to sew yet another patch onto. As a truck driver, he spends the great majority of his day sitting on that part of his pants, and the pressure and friction is significant!

This pair is on Strike Two.

This pair has one more go, and then it’s the rag bag.

You could say I make a point with these patches by not carefully matching colour and fabric. You’d be right. I see nothing wrong with patching, it’s not something to hide. I use what I have to hand. And if he insists on ripping the seat out of his pants with monotonous regularity, he’s going to take the mending I feel moved to give him!

I save the legs of the pants for patching material, I save the waistband buttons, which also have a tendency to disappear, and occasionally, I’ll be able to save a zipper. I’m looking forward to retiring the last of the cheaper work pants.

It’ll certainly save on the mending!

Floribunda 13: Block #17

Well, hello again. It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

I’ve been furiously making masks; Queensland had a few cases appear suddenly, initially without any idea how. They’re on top of that now, but we’re still required to wear masks in public places, inside and ideally outside too. Everyone who’d put their masks away, got rid of them or had no more stock of disposable ones because of relaxed restrictions was suddenly in a bit of a pickle. I’ve made 10 in the past 3 days, so that’s the family sorted, but I’m keeping the supplies handy.

Now that the rush is over, I’ve had a chance to get on with Floribunda. I’m worried I’ll get lazy about it, let it migrate to the back burner, and then discover that I don’t have enough time to finish it before the Mackay Show admissions date. So I got another green block done. I have a pink block laid out ready to go, maybe tomorrow, or if I’m feeling energetic, perhaps tonight.

I still have to ration my sewing time; although the ankle is much improved and I’ve graduated from crutches to a cane, if I have to stand for more than a few minutes, walk too far, or let my leg dangle (as in sitting on a regular chair) the ankle balloons and throbs. So far, it’s good for an hour of sewing (or a seated tai chi class, as I discovered this morning), and then I have to elevate it. Do-able, but dull…

I got my anniversary present fabrics. The gold one is potentially for the back of Floribunda and the grey one is potentially for my most recent F2F blocks, either as backing or as filler blocks. They’re both Jocelyn Proust designs for Spotlight, and by luck they were both 40% off 🙂 The gold background fabric shows zebra finches, and the grey leaf fabric shows rose-crowned fruit doves. I really love her designs, combining simplicity and innocence with sophisticated colour choices and design. As bolt-ends in both cases, I could only get 3m of the gold and 2m of the grey, but I’ll work around that.

I hope you all had a great Easter and are ready for the seasonal change: winter for us and spring for the northern hemisphere. I’m really looking forward to cooler days and nights and fresh, crisp mornings for dog walking.

Once I’m walking again, that is.

A bit of a waste…

Sometimes, a good idea just doesn’t work out.

I was interested in the idea of no-waste clothing, which uses up every last scrap of the stipulated fabric quantity to construct. In October last year, I bought online the how-to pdf of the steps to make a no-waste dress. I had some very pretty light linen fabric, I wanted something comfortable and loose, and I bought the larger of the two size options because the measurements in the description seemed to indicate this was the better choice for my size.

The layout was easy to follow, the measurements were clear, there were only a couple of instructions which were not totally clear, and it didn’t require any major sewing skills. There are several hacks to change the construction and appearance of the dress, all within the no-waste scope.


It’s perfectly awful. I could see it was heading for disaster, but I finished it and put it on. I wandered out to show the Husband. His instantaneous, unconsidered response was %$#@}&, that’s horrible”. Although this was not a response I’m used to from him (normally he manages to find something nice or supportive to say), I could not disagree. It’s monstrously enormous and shapeless. It’s a catastrophic Waste of perfectly nice fabric.

Before we go any further, I’m not going to publish the designer’s name; I don’t want to damage a small business person’s business and reviews of this pattern have been OK (perhaps for the smaller size). If you really want to know, you can contact me, but please don’t do it out of simple curiosity, only if you were thinking of doing something along the same lines yourself and wanted to avoid this particular pitfall. On a taller and even more generously built person, this might look dramatic and swoopy. I’m short, and it makes me look like a stumpy floral outhouse. With wings….

The problem with the pattern is, I think, because it was designed by and for a much smaller person, and the no-waste principle became forced when it was scaled up for larger body types, leading to inappropriate sizing.

I haven’t seen the layout for the smaller size, but I suspect it doesn’t use two full widths of the fabric for the skirt. Following the pattern piece dimensions exactly, I have ended up with a bodice which is 62 – yes, sixty-two, you read that right – inches around. The hem is 110 inches around. The arm scye hits me just above the elbow.

The shoulder seams are 12 inches long, and that’s after I put in three generous tucks on each side because I couldn’t see how it was going to fit a human body otherwise. The skirt joins onto the bodice at a really unflattering place in the bust area; 3 inches longer would have been more becoming and less lumpy.

There are three small scraps left once you have cut the pieces out: two long triangles and one small curved shape, all three left from cutting out the neck opening. In the interests of the no-waste principle, these are to be ‘stuck on’ to the garment without apparent practical function, simply as a decoration. I abandoned the triangles and made a sort of false facing from the curved piece to sew my maker’s label onto. A wasted effort, as it turns out.

I look as if I’m wearing a small tent, or perhaps a collapsed hot air balloon. I agree with the Husband that it looks horrible, so I’m not even happy wearing it for lounging around the house – why make us both miserable? I’m going to give it a bloody good hard look and see if I can take the scissors to it and rescue something wearable from this great big heap of, well, waste. Don’t get me wrong. I still believe in the no-waste principle, but I want something that isn’t just a load of random rectangles sewn together.

I do feel civilisation has moved on past the point of wanting simply to cover the body. These days we like a bit of style too.

ScrapHappy January

Welcome once again to ScrapHappy Day!

It’s the day my friend Gun in Sweden and I host ScrapHappy, a day for showing something made from scraps.

Here’s to a much happier and more hopeful and creative year for all of us. With that in mind, I gave my creative urge a swift boot up the backside, and took out the scrappy table runner I’ve been making forever for a while for Days for Girls to raffle at their fund raiser, together with the quilt (now at the long arm quilter!) and the cushion cover previously shown. I’m just over a third of the way through. Here’s where I’ve got to:

And here’s the next batch, waiting for the black separator hexies and then assembly.

(Sorry about the rather garish background, but I had to find a place where I could get enough light on the subject, and the kitchen floor mat had the best lighting.)

After that there will be a smaller section at the end. To finish the whole thing I think I’ll appliqué it to a rectangular background before sandwiching, quilting and binding. I have a bit of time; this is going in the raffle in mid March, but is needed for photography end of February.

ScrapHappy is open to anyone using up scraps of anything – no new materials. It can be a quilt block, pincushion, bag or hat, socks or a sculpture. Anything made of genuine scraps is eligible. If your scrap collection is out of control and you’d like to turn them into something beautiful or useful instead of leaving them to collect dust in the cupboard, why not join us on the 15th of each month? Either email me at the address on my Contact Me page, or leave a comment below. You can also contact Gun via her blog to join. We welcome new members. You don’t have to worry about making a long term commitment or even join in every month, just let either of us know a day or so in advance if you’re new and you’ll have something to show, so we can add your link. Regular contributors will receive an email reminder three days before the event.

Here are the links for everyone who joins ScrapHappy from time to time (they may not post every time, but their blogs are still worth looking at). If you’ve copied this list from previous posts, please use the one below as it’s the most up to date

Kate (me!)Gun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire,
Jean, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki,
Sue L, Sunny, Kjerstin, Vera, Nanette and Ann

Please note that I will be going through this list shortly, removing the names of anyone who hasn’t posted for a year or more. If you know that’s you but you’d still like to be left on the list because you have something coming up, just email me and I’ll leave you in.

See you next time for more scrappy loveliness.

Another mixed bag

So, a couple different things to show you…

Yesterday, I went out for lunch. It doesn’t happen often these days, but up here in north Queensland we don’t seem to have any Covid-19 cases, so the sewing ladies of Days for Girls met to catch up on Christmas, the holidays and forthcoming events. Precautions were taken and distance maintained, barcodes were scanned, forms filled in and lunch orders were taken and arrived……… eventually.

It did take a long time for the food to arrive. But when it did, it was worth it.

Sourdough toast with a mountain of free range scrambled egg, mud crab and thinly sliced chilli on a bed of baby spinach, topped with sriracha hollandaise. A reverent silence was maintained.

This, plus the Dowager and Aunty Marion inviting themselves over for lunch today (and arriving at 10.30am!) chewed into my planned sewing time rather, but I did get this project finished in time to post about it today. It’s another Jocelyn Proust furnishing fabric, sold as a pair of 20 inch panels to make into a cushion cover. It was in the Spotlight remnant bin because someone had slipped with the cutting out and demolished part of the border. I love the colour scheme, and the birds are such fun!

And finally, the early stages of a future ScrapHappy project (but not tomorrow’s, I fear). I wanted a large bench mat for the kitchen. I currently use a tea towel for setting out the Husband’s work food supplies: Thermos flask of boiling water and two travel mugs of hot coffee, one of hot home-made soup; milk for future tea or coffee; a banana and two apples, sliced soft fruit or grapes; a bit of cheese and some trail mix. But I’d like something a bit more padded to protect the bench from hard edges and boiling water spills, so I’m going to make a large mat, 30 x 16 inches.

I’ll probably also make another, smaller one for assembling the packed supplies so he can put them in his bag quickly and efficiently. Anything to make things run more smoothly at 2.30am… I picked lots of pale and mid-grey scraps to stand out against the dark acacia butcher-block bench top, whilst at the same time being soothing and not to bright for scarcely-open sleepy eyes. Now all I have to do is press and trim them and start sewing.

Something completely different for ScrapHappy Day tomorrow, though!

And so to bed…

I’m always short of sleep.

It’s an occupational hazard when you’re married to someone who works shifts. So I really value my time in bed, and insist on being comfortable. This includes not only the mattress and linens, the quilt, the patchwork pillowcases, etc, but also what I wear in bed. North Queensland is too hot for robes or dressing gowns, so some form of presentable nightwear is needed, whether it’s worn to sleep in or not.

On a recent fabric hunting and gathering foray I’ve previously mentioned ($75-worth of fabric for $15), I scored two pieces. which I thought would do for nightwear. Individually, at 1m and 1.5m respectively, they were too small, but combined, they worked. One was cotton poplin, a 1m piece and a separate .5m piece. The other was a printed satin, a 1m piece. The great thing was that although they were very different in style and design, the colours blended. I dug out some existing patterns and did some tweaking and cheating.

I stitched the two pieces of poplin together to make one larger piece, and used it to make a pyjama top. I shortened the original pattern and made it sleeveless. There’s a seam across the lower front, but it doesn’t bother me (pyjamas, OK…?). The pintucks give it a bit of interest and distract from the seam. I used bias binding on neck and armholes instead of self-binding to save fabric. It’s a pattern I know and love, having made it three times before, so I know it’s comfortable, and being cotton poplin, it will be cool and breathable.

For the bottom half, I’ve made shorts from the satin. I was able to squeeze them out of the fabric despite the fact that the pattern specified it needed another 30cm or so. I even managed pockets and ties. The only thing I had to ‘fudge’ was turning the small front waistband piece through 90 degrees, which I feel is hard to see once the front tie is done up. Satin for bed-shorts works quite well, as it doesn’t catch and bind on the sheets and ruck up uncomfortably.

Finally, another nice thing about this combination is that it doesn’t scream ‘nightwear’ if I have to answer the door in my pjs! Pity it’s taken me nearly a week of scattered, scatty work to complete. I hope to have my brain back in gear shortly. And in case you’re wondering why I’m not modelling them for you, I’m doing you a big favour there, OK?

Can’t wait to give them a test run…

Quick, easy, comfy, pretty

It’s McCall’s M7969. And I really love it.

A while ago, I scored $70+ worth of fabric for the princely sum of $15, a combination of gift card, sale, loyalty card and remnant bin-diving. Among the fabrics was a very pretty lawn. Aqua background, printed with bunches of roses in pink and coral, light and soft. Enough for a dress. I don’t own many dresses, being more a pretty top and cropped pants type of person, but sometimes, a dress is called for. What I needed next was a pattern. M7969 has featured quite a lot on blogs and IG recently, and I can see why. It’s loose, pulls over your head, drapes nicely (if you use the right kind of fabric) and has gorgeous sleeves. It’s also very forgiving of less than perfect figures, and doesn’t require the wearer to have a waist. Just as well, in my case.

Possibly the least flattering photo of me taken in recent years, but at least you can see the dress…

It’s also surprisingly easy to make, apart from all the gathering. You do need quite a lot of fabric, but not quite as much as they suggest. The pattern calls for 3.8m for the dress length I wanted (View D), but I also wanted the wider View A sleeve so even more was needed, probably nearer 4.2m than the 3.5m I did have.

I’m short, so I could shorten the skirt pattern a bit. I also cut the bias neck binding in several pieces instead of just one, saving a bunch of fabric there. I cut the sleeve bindings on the straight grain instead of bias, and I cut the sleeves on the cross grain (the design on the fabric’s forgiving enough that you don’t notice the roses are sideways!). And I still have some very nice large scraps!

I have only one issue with the instructions. The raglan sleeves need gathering at the sleeve head, but they don’t tell you what the gathered measurement should be. You have to actually measure between the seam marker dots on the binding pattern piece to work out that the sleeve head needs to gather down to 7 inches on the larger size pattern, but they don’t tell you that. It’s the same measurement on all sizes, so I can’t see a problem with telling you a finished size. It seems a strange omission, especially as you have to gather and then stay stitch the entire neckline opening before you apply the binding, so you can’t fix it afterwards if you haven’t gathered it quite the right amount. Oh, and there are no instructions about when to finish the seam edges. Sometimes it matters whether you overlock/serge first or afterwards.

I like this pattern on me. It’s not for everyone – the bodice has no shaping, for example – but I find it very comfortable, and while the neckline is fairly low it’s not too revealing. If I find after a few wears that it gapes too much, I shall just put a small button and loop to hold it closed. For taller people, the variants with sleeve or hemline flounces would also look lovely in something soft and drapey.

I think this may become a bit of a favourite, to be made again.

Festive phone fun

I love it when Christmas gifts suggest themselves.

We don’t normally give Christmas presents. For nearly 20 years, I’ve been making charity donations instead, and when we married, the Husband joined in. I’ve got several family members doing the same thing. It certainly makes gift-giving a lot easier, but there are always people who need or expect – or deserve – something extra.

The Dowager is one of those people. No matter how often I’ve asked her not to give us gifts, she persists. So of course, we need to reciprocate. Mostly, it’s pretty hard; at nearly 80, she has all the material possessions she actually needs. However, an opportunity presented itself (sorry about the pun), and I seized it.

She has recently bought herself a new smartphone. Apart from the hours of fun we had teaching her how to use it, customise the settings, hook it up to her car, internet and tablet, we tried to persuade her to get a case for it in case of droppage.

She declined, saying by the time she’d located the case at the bottom of her purse and got it open, most callers had rung off.

So I had a slight brainwave, and showed her my sunglasses case. Brightly coloured, so easily located. No catch or fastening, so the phone would slide in – and out – easily.

Her face lit up. It was the solution. I’d make her one for Christmas. She wanted a bright colour, but not blue or black, please. Red or green, cheerful and easy to find in the deep, dark depth of her Tardis-purse.

I’ve made several of these over the years, but some have been more customised.

I’ve made this one exactly like my own sunnies case, but I’ve added a carabiner on a loop, so she can attach it to the handle of her purse and haul it out quickly if she hears the phone ring.

I thought the red and white prints and green binding were seasonally appropriate, and she loves them.


Sorted, for another year.

Not so Secret Santa

The whole point was that it should be anonymous.

I’m talking about the Secret Santa gift exchange at my Days for Girls sewing group. We were given a $10 budget to buy a gift for someone else. These things mostly materialise as chocolates, mugs, hand cream, notebooks and pens or home made cookies in pretty storage jars, all the stuff you buy when you don’t know who your giftee is going to be. So I thought I’d do something different, something a little more individual. I made a set of 3 heat pads/place mats.

One was dinner plate size, one was snack size and one was mug size. On one side I used a really pretty print of colourful teapots on a black background. On the other side I used an equally pretty print of squares featuring sewing tools and references, also on a black background. I found a piece of leftover floral binding which was exactly the right size. It was quick, and fun, and unique.

I hadn’t given any thought to the fact that I am the only quilter in the group. So when my giftee opened her parcel, she took one look, and said “thank you, Kate, they’re lovely”. I sat with my mouth open, while everyone else fell about laughing*. Luckily, she gave me an opportunity to take photos of them before she stowed them in her bag. I’d totally forgotten to do it before I wrapped them in festive paper!

So, product success, (secret) producer fail… We all adjourned to a local café bar for our Christmas break-up lunch. This was our last session for the year, and we don’t recommence until the end of January due to school holidays and summer travel plans. So it was great for all 25 of us to get together – now that we’re allowed to once again, hurray – catch up and talk and laugh over a great meal overlooking the sea. I’ll miss the Saturday morning stitching sessions, but they’ll be back, in the New Year.

I wonder if it’ll also be a new world…

*In case you’re wondering, I added the label after she’d opened the parcel…