Alabama Chanin on holiday


I have had a bit of a yearning to make the Alabama Chanin bucket hat, and when Gloria from Aube Nouvelle lent me her stencils and sold me some lovely AC organic cotton, I was set!

I made the hat on the plane going to India and had to cut out the upper layer with blunt aeroplane scissors, which is why it looks slightly chewed.


I finished up making the child’s sized hat, and it is still too big. Then again, it’s supposed to look like a bucket – correct?


My stencilling efforts were brilliant on my trial piece and a complete disaster on the real thing. In the end I drew round the stencil with a laundry pen and just stitched it in the same colour. DSC05581

I used some Mettler Metrosene cordonnet thread which is used for sewing buttonholes. I bought about 30 of these in an op shop and they are brilliant, and totally perfect for a bit of AC topstitching.


Some shots of the hat in action. On the beach in Mumbai whilst doing my daily constitutional


Around the pool in Sri Lanka and the back view which looks better!IMG_1827

I also embellished a top. The top is an Alabama Chanin top which I got really cheaply from Aube Nouvelle.


In order to overcome my guilt at buying a RTW top, I embellished it with spirals (from some stashed fabric), which I placed randomly carefully down one side, wrapping round the back. I was pleasantly surprised with my placement, it is just how I wanted it – this never happens the first time!


Some action shots: buried alive in a fabric store in Colombo


visiting a Hindu Temple


Walking round Colombo. This street has always been one of my favourites – I love the decaying colonialism. Colombo used to remind me of the Singapore of my youth, but I haven’t been here for about eight years and I note that there is a massive number of large building projects underway.


Oh yes, and outside the previously mentioned fabric store, with fabric in hand!


Before I finish, I thought you might like some more beach shots in Mumbai. This is, of course, the Arabian Sea and it is early in the morning. IMG_1727

The beach was packed with people, and I loved all the squealing when the waves washed up and everyone got their feet wet. Just like at home!IMG_1728

In the beach shots I am wearing some me-made cropped exercise pants, and a Merchant and Mills t-shirt which was a gift from Meggipeg for looking after her gorgeous dog, Truffles. The blue skirt I am wearing is a self drafted pattern made from stretch denim scraps. The swimsuit is Vogue 7498, a vintage pattern, blogged here. I chose to bring this for its modesty as I know that women don’t expose much flesh in India and Sri Lanka.

1947 Vogue cocktail dress


I’ve had this Vogue pattern for a goodly while and decided to make it to take on holidays with me. As usual the sizing was all wrong for me, so took it to my pattern making class for the alterations.DSC05553

As the title of this post claims – this is a 1947 Vogue pattern (Vogue 5759) and although I love it, those tiny waists are part of the appeal, and I don’t have a tiny waist! The kimono sleeves are supposed to have shoulder pads, which I didn’t bother with, but they may have made my waist appear smaller (on the other hand, I may have just looked like the Hulk).


Several changes were made to this pattern. We moved the zip from the side to the back, did a sway back adjustment, took a bit of length out of the bodice, removed the neck facings, and took a rather strange set of gathers from under the tunic (the gathered fabric in the front).  I did originally toile the pattern with the gathers but I looked like a lopsided milk maid with a pannier on only one side! The neckline was also dropped a fair bit, as it was choking me.


I chose a lovely drapey, swishy, spotted rayon from my stash. I bought this in Spotlight aeons ago, and it must have been cheap because I have quite a bit of it.

Every edge, except the neck edge, has been finished with a hand-rolled hem. I haven’t done this forever; in fact I may never have done it before. I used the excellent Megan Nielsen tutorial, choosing the third, hand sewn, option, and it is rather magical and addictive. Here is a rather feeble attempt at showing off my hand rolling.


The above photo highlights my belt buckle. This was given to me by my mother and is from the 1930s. It is not metal, but some sort of bakelite. It is gorgeous.

The neck edge is finished with bias binding. I did start out with self binding but I felt that the spots showed through, so I unpicked it and put in plain bias from my stash.

This dress is much longer than I would normally wear and I was rather concerned that I might look frumpy, but I think it needs the extra length to add the required elegance for a cocktail dress. I don’t consider this version a cocktail dress. I would wear it for lunch and dinner a deux, but I will make a more dressy version eventually. This dress ticks off another make towards my vintage pledge. I am a bit behind on this challenge, but I have a few plans!DSC05573

These photos were taken in the club lounge of the Marriott Hotel, Mumbai, India, looking out onto the Arabian Sea. I’m a bit behind on the posts as I am now well ensconced in Sri Lanka!

Another pair of wide legged trousers


I loved my original pair of wide-legged trousers so much that I made another pair, this time from quite a crisp cotton drill that I bought in Spotlight last year .DSC05591

These are as lovely to wear as the first pair, but they are quite different. Unlike the first pair, they don’t have much drape, and the fit is much firmer.

I wore them for a trip to the fabric stores in Mumbai. I can’t believe that I didn’t find many stores and it was because we relied on the driver to find them, whereas I normally have a list prepared before I leave home.


What’s interesting in India is that all the assistants are male and you get several accommodating your every whim. I thought you’d like to see a selection of fabric available, it is pretty overwhelming. They pulled out fabric that they thought I’d like which was a bit embarrassing as it’s exactly what I didn’t like! I did find a gorgeous remnant in here.


Another view of the trousers in the hotel lobby which looks out over lakes and the swimming pools. The hotel is pretty swish by Australian standards and bears no resemblance to the hotel I stayed in last time I was in Mumbai in the 1970s.

The back view, not a lot to see here!


Being white, they went with most of my tops. Here I have teamed them with a red silk dupion Akita from Seamwork Magazine. This is the first one I made, the second one I blogged here. I really enjoy wearing these tops, they are loose enough to be cool without being baggy or boxy, and they can be made longer or shorter quite easily.


I notice that many of my photographs include food and fabric, so I thought I’d better find some other ones which may be of more interest. We visited the famous Gateway of India in Mumbai, which was built to honour King GeorgeV and Queen Mary, and was also used by other British dignitaries when they arrived in the city. It is now blocked off and tourists can only walk round it.


OK, had to do the cheesy tourist thing – again!


and a better shot of the Akita top. The building in the background is the Taj Hotel which was attacked a few years ago. I think this, and a few other events have meant that security in India is beyond tight, which was quite comforting.


What I’m wearing: Wide-legged trousers from a customisable pattern block designed by Sarah from Workspace-FADS. She is developing this pattern for sale, so I shall keep you posted when she releases it. In the early photos I am wearing this  Scout T from Grainline Studio, and then the Akita top from Seamwork Magazine made from silk dupion that Mark bought me on one of his trips to Sri Lanka. I am wearing Reiker’s shoes that I bought in Sweden, but they are looking pretty beaten up. The hat is one I made last year. Mark is wearing a shirt I made for Archie, which got passed on, and some trousers which I’ve previously blogged with the same shirt.

Presto Popover hack #2


Following on from my first Presto Popover hack (here), I have made a dress.


I didn’t set out to make this a real dress. I drafted it in my pattern making class with Sarah’s help, and used three different scraps of fabric to make a toile. I then lost my mind and started making all sorts of changes which led me to keep the dress, although I’m not sure how much wear I will get from it, but I took it to India with me on the off chance that it would be useful, and I thought that some of my followers would be interested in the construction. This is the view from our room in Delhi.DSC05459

The process of making this dress is the same as for the aforementioned hacked top, except, instead of drawing a straight line to the hem, we shaped it into my waist. I was a bit worried that it would be too fitted, but it actually feels quite flattering.

The construction went like this:


First I cut the top part out twice, as per the original pattern, shaping it as per the hack, and I cut out the body part of the dress and the sleeves.I had found a small piece of fabric and really wanted to use it to bring the colours of the top and bottom part of the dress together, which is where it moved from being a toile to an actual dress. I began by cutting a strip to put in the join between the top and the bottom. and sewed it in between the seam.


I then decided that the front of the dress was a bit transparent so cut another front out – eliminating the need for the hack, but never mind!


Then I sandwiched the top of the dress and the contrasting band between the two fronts that I now had. This worked well, but the band stuck out. I trimmed the seam and topstitched the band down so that it would lay flat.

To join the back of the top section to the back of the dress I used the “burrito” method, where everything is rolled inside and then the seams are stitched right sides together. This is the technique I use for shirt yokes as it gives  a really neat finish. You pull the dress out through one of the side openings. If you haven’t used this method before, have a go, it is fun.


I added the sleeves and overlocked the seams to reduce some of the bulk.    DSC05199

To tie in the little band across the front I added a wide band at the bottom of the dress, which had the added benefit of making it longer. I once again used the burrito method so that all seams were captured tidily inside so that it looks as neat on the inside as on the outside.


Finally, I added large patch pockets with my last piece of the patterned fabric. I thought I would be bothered that the trim cuts me straight across the middle of my bustline, but for some strange reason, it doesn’t worry me at all. Having said that, I might consider moving the seam up a bit next time.


I did finish up wearing this dress in public. It was cool and really comfortable and although it is quite shaped, it doesn’t hug my – ahem – curves!

The orange and patterned knits are left over from other makes. The yellow is from a large piece of knit that I found in an op-shop and bought with the intention of dyeing. It is high quality, but thin, and I suspect that it came from Knitwit, as I’m sure I’ve seen it there. I still have some left… The sandals are Merrill, but if I wore this dress at home I would wear heels and then I perhaps wouldn’t look quite as frumpy.

Gandhi’s Ashram and some cotton spinning


My followers on Instagram will know that I had a bit of a go at cotton spinning whilst visiting Gandhi’s Ashram in Ahmedabad.

First though, I need to talk a bit about the Ashram. It is quite a large compound, immaculately kept in Gandhi’s honour.


Guest houses are still intact, as is the room where Gandhi spent his days when he was in residence.


There are many, many artefacts around, including letters, beliefs, photos, etc. I quite liked his sandals.


This wouldn’t be an unreasonable style for the One Year One Outfit challenge next year.  I don’t know how comfortable they would be though.

There was a timeline of Gandhi’s life, which was interesting to read, even though I’ve seen the film. His prayers are scattered around and they make fascinating reading.

The Ashram wasn’t on my bucket list, but it should have been. It might not be as famous as some of the other places we visited, but it certainly had a profound impact on us. He really did lead the most simple of lives. Here is his room, where he wrote, rested, meditated, prayed, and spun cotton.


I immediately zeroed in on that spinning wheel. I didn’t know that Gandhi did 4 hours of spinning every day, even when he was in prison. When we went outside there was a woman spinning cotton using a really interesting spinning device.


I watched her for a while, asked permission to take her photo, and then started asking questions – you can see that she’s talking me through it. She then invited me to sit with her. I think she was a little alarmed at the alacrity with which I sat down!

First she explained the process


Then she guided me through it


I had the best fun! She spun the cotton and wove her shawl. I began to get ideas!


Look at the look on her face! I think she was a little bemused as I was so pleased with myself! I have to say that I can’t believe how strong cotton is. I had half a notion to put a couple of plants on our bush block and then I was told that they bring snakes, so rethinking that one! I might plant them in our suburban garden. I will have to see what sort of conditions they need.  In the meantime I am trying to track down a local source of cotton bolls…


I was really interested in the spinning device. I don’t know if you can see but it’s hinged and has a handle. It folds into a little suitcase. I, of course, half jokingly asked her where she got it and she told me that they sold them in the gift shop! The rest of my trip round the Ashram is a bit of a blur as I hurtled my way towards the gift shop. I was disappointed to find miniatures of the traditional spinning wheel set up for tourists, but asked about the portable one that the woman had been using, and they pulled one off a shelf. It cost $17AUD!!! It is really lightweight as it is plywood, and it is identical to the one in the photos above. All I have to do now is implore customs to let me take it into Australia. I’m feeling fairly confident. Of course I also have to learn to use it :-P.

My last photo is of our driver going the wrong way down the street. Truly, my life flashed before my eyes!


In these photos I am wearing my really simple pull on pants, and this Scout t, and no shoes!

Visit to Gujarat, India and new trousers


Many of you have asked for the posts to keep coming, so who am I to deny you :)

Whilst Mark and his colleague, Krishna, went off to work, I had a private tour of some of the local sights. Our first stop was the world famous Akshardham Temple, which was attacked a few years ago, so no photographs are allowed. However, I cunningly downloaded this one from Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akshardham_(Gandhinagar)) for your viewing pleasure.

temple gujurat

The Temple is built entirely of pink sandstone and is breathtaking. It is full of sculptures and carvings. It is surrounded by 15 acres of manicured gardens – I saw workers pruning the hedges with their fingers. It is a Hindu Temple and 2.5 million pilgrims are on their way to celebrate a festival. We passed many groups walking to the temple (some taking 10 days to get there) and every 5kms are resting stations with free food, drink and medical attention if needed. There are also sleeping stations set up en route. It is an amazing sight. This is a rather blurry shot of  a group on their way.IMG_1466

The Temple even has a theme park area for children.  I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t take photos but security was really tight and I was even asked if my watch was a camera. I have to say that the security is tight everywhere in India, I have been frisked more times than I care to think about, including being checked for cigarettes – I’m really impressed with the no smoking in shopping centres, attractions, universities, etc.

The next stop was the Adalaj Stepwell, which is now an archeological site. The well was built in 1499 by a Muslim king, but is actually described as a Hindu water building, so I’m trying to reconcile those two pieces of information.

The minute I went into the well I heard cries of “Auntie” and young girls rushed over to have their photo taken with me. I hoped that Auntie means the same thing in India as it does to Aboriginal people – revered elder – although I’m not so taken with the term “elder”. Sigh.

Anyway, loads of photos later, my driver took over my iPhone and went absolutely mad taking photos of me, which are what you are about to see.

A small group:


a bigger group – and it just went on!IMG_1493

Anyway on to the sewing part of this post. I am wearing some new wide legged trousers, which I made from a trouser block created by Sarah at Workspace-FADS. She asked me to test the design, which I accepted with alacrity!

IMG_1062This is the pattern. At the top right hand corner is a list of measurements and what to do with them. The pattern is then adjusted to fit your own measurements – there are no actual sizes. A bit of a close up.IMG_1063

We had another long discussion about crotch oddities, in particular mine! This is Sarah helping me with the rise. The nifty roller measurer thingy was a gadget that Sally, one of the other students, alerted us to, and then we all bought them (it’s not really a pattern making class – more a mutual enabling class!).IMG_1067

I just checked and it’s called a curve runner, and is available here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2037667421/curve-runner-a-great-way-to-measure-curves.

Anyway, back to my trousers. These are my first attempt, and I’ve used a beautiful putty coloured tencil that I found on the remnant table at Potter’s a couple of years ago. The drape on this fabric is amazing and I’ve been dying to use it but it’s not a colour I can put near my face. Perfect for wide legged trousers. I’ve decided to show you a bit of the step well along with my trousers, so please be tolerant of the less than perfect images (they were also taken by aforementioned driver!).IMG_1500

The symmetry of this well is astounding. I have my back to multiple “rooms” that seem to disappear into infinity. I wrestled my phone back and took this photo. Apparently the water is really deep.IMG_1506

I’ve been sitting in the car for hours so my trousers are a bit creased, but not too bad considering. IMG_1524

These are the perfect trousers for travelling, they are so comfortable to wear, although the long length is a bit tricky in the public restrooms where water is sloshed about liberally (but otherwise they are really clean).IMG_1527

How about those carvings?

The well was obviously completely open to the elements at one point but now is covered over with mesh.IMG_1537

Last shot of this wonderful place. IMG_1539

Now for some random pics taken on my journey back to meet Mark and Krishna. I love the cattle in India – they are so calm and sometimes will not move for anyone. Here they are hanging out on a roundabout. I could get close enough for a pat (but didn’t).IMG_1560

These are some very woolly goats which were tearing down the middle of the road, loads of them.IMG_1570

Sometimes being a passenger can be very challenging. Lanes don’t mean very much in India – I’m not sure why they bother painting lines on the road, if I can be perfectly frank – and here is a car driving on the wrong side of the road, coming straight at us. Luckily the drivers are all really skilled and there don’t seem to be many accidents. IMG_1577

Our final stop of the day was a shopping mall (had the driver heard about me?) and I bought a tiny piece of fabric ($4 + change) which is actually a shawl. It’s local traditional cotton, but the best thing about it is the way it’s wrapped up. I bought that turquoise and pink one just to the left of centre. They opened it out so I could see it and then I watched them roll it up again – fascinating. I’d like to do this to my entire stash!IMG_1578

My final photo of the day is one that my Instagram followers would have seen. After Ahmedabad we flew to Mumbai where we were booked in to one of the nicest hotels I’ve ever been in (photos in another post, I think). I had a personal tour of the buffet, it’s that big, and I was abandoned at the dessert station. Decisions, decisions!


In this photo I am wearing my Jungle January jumpsuit, and in the earlier photos I teamed the wide legged trousers with this Scout t-shirt.

One last comment about Gujarat. It is a dry state and they are quite strict about this. Mark had to get a permit to bring in a bottle of wine. The local people love it, especially the women as domestic violence and assaults on women have almost disappeared. The number of road accidents has also drastically reduced. The current Prime Minister was the Premier of Gujarat and he brought in the ruling. He is really transforming India, and the people seem to be full of admiration of him. It’s nice to see.

Buying fabric in Amritsar, Punjab


This is a pretty short post because whilst Amritsar is full of fabric I only went to one shop.  I had to go alone as Mark was working all day, and I had to pass the time somehow, right? I finished up going to a shop that was recommended by the hotel, and this was probably my first mistake. There are hundreds of fabric stalls in the bazaars, and the shop I went to is in the Hall Bazaar near the Gandhi Gate. It is called Katra jail Singh and their fabric is stunning, but pricey.

But first, I had to take my shoes off and then sit on a white covered foam pad. The floor of the whole shop is covered in this. IMG_1437

Notice that the seller got a cushion for his back? I didn’t. Two assistants then start bringing fabric off the shelves and before long I was literally up to my chest in fabric. Here is a photo about half way through the process whilst I was still enjoying myself!IMG_1438

I can see the seller’s hand already entreating me to buy. Fabric is sold by the piece not the yard, and each piece tends to be 2.5 to 3 yards long and 44″ wide.

My second mistake was finding six pieces of fabric that I quite liked and then reducing to three. I should not have owned up to the six. I should have shortlisted three and chosen one because I would have avoided the whole “if you buy all six, we will give you this special price” malarky and I might have got the special price for the three pieces instead of glum and sulky looks. Talk about pressure. I was their first customer of the day (at  2.30 in the afternoon), I would never get this quality fabric as cheap again, etc, etc. Anyway, my mind hovered over my stash at home so I stuck to my guns. I bought two pieces of silk and one piece of cotton, keeping in mind that I want to hit the fabric shops in Mumbai when I will be looked after Mark’s colleague’s mother, whilst Mark and Krishna (the colleague) go to work. Seems fair to me. I also will feel more comfortable having a woman with me who knows the language and who can protect me a bit. I also will not have to face the domestic baggage allowance of 15kg (upgraded to 18kg) as we will be on the last leg in India.

I can’t take photos of the fabric I bought as Mark has squirrelled it away in his suitcase and is now working, so I can’t ask him for it. Later!

The Hall Bazaar is very close to the Golden Temple and Gandhi’s Gate. I won’t go into the politics of this spot, but if you’ve ever seen the film “Gandhi”, you may recognise it.IMG_1441

Driving through Amritsar (and indeed anywhere in India) is a source of constant entertainment. I cannot describe the noise and the sheer mass of humanity and industry. It’s been 40 years since my last trip to India and quite a bit has changed. The new Prime Minister seems to be transforming the place and there seems to be an atmosphere of hope, progress and prosperity, although there is still a lot of poverty as well.

My last photo is just a random one, but it appealed to me. Bananas are cheap here and I was stunned with this horse-drawn load. Animals are still used extensively as beasts of burden but they seem to be well cared for. IMG_1454

In this post I am wearing my new yellow jeans (using the bespoke pattern) and a Scout tee. Both are really comfortable travel wear. The t-shirt is light enough to wash and dry easily when travelling so I can get a few wears from it.

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