Dyeing experiment and t-shirts


I may have mentioned that I am participating in the One Outfit One Year challenge, where we participants are going to make a complete outfit from only locally sourced materials. I am a bit of a way down the track, in that I have nearly finished my first item of clothing, but, as I am interested in the whole issue of sustainability and eco friendly sewing, I thought I’d try some new techniques.

First up is dyeing.

I did some reading on the topic and thought I knew what I was doing, but it transpires that I didn’t have a clue!


Apparently eucalyptus leaves will dye without requiring a mordant or fixative. I thought this would be a good place to start. I picked my leaves, threw them in an aluminium pot and boiled them up. Meanwhile I was soaking a pure white piece of knit fabric, and when I had boiled the leaves for just over an hour, I threw in the fabric and turned off the heat. I then stirred, and fretted, and finally took the fabric out, rinsed it and decided that it had just gone a dirty off-white colour. My pot, on the other hand, turned a lovely shade of minty green!


I was a bit despondent and thought I would launder the fabric and see if I could get it back to white and to my astonishment it turned into this very cafe au lait colour, which is really only obvious when placed next to another piece of white fabric.


This isn’t the colour I was looking for, and I’ve since discovered that I should have used fallen leaves, rather than freshly picked leaves, and crushed them a bit. Then brought them to the boil and simmered for an hour and a half. Apparently if the leaves begin to smell unpleasant, then they are overcooked. Experiment #2 will be conducted at Easter!

Meanwhile I had a request from Archie for a couple of sleeveless t-shirts. I made the first one and before I hemmed it I asked him to try it on to check the length, etc, and then couldn’t get him to give it back! He was busy building us an outdoor shower which is why he’s covered in sawdust.


I managed to establish that it was a bit short so added a band to the bottom of the second one. Please note that it is not dirty, this is the first time he’s worn the shirt, but I think it’s picked up some of the colour of the cupboard. I couldn’t get him to go outside for a photo and I wasn’t allowed to get his head in! When I gave him the shirt it was neatly pressed but it’s clearly been tossed in a corner in the interim.

DSC02866 DSC02867

He’s put in an order for more of these, made to the correct length and he only wants grey, so I’m going to have to dye some of the mounds of white knit fabric that I have in my stash.

In a nutshell: First dyeing attempt using Eucalyptus leaves on white knit fabric. Archie’s t-shirt pattern is rubbed off one of his existing t-shirts and both shirts are made in grey cotton knit from Knitwit.

New outfit for Mark


As previously mentioned, Mark needs new work clothes, so I made him a whole outfit over the weekend whilst he was away.


The outfit consists of trousers – Kwik Sew 4045, navy this time as the previous black ones were such a hit, and my old favourite, Kwik Sew 3422 for the shirt, made more times than I can count.


After making the black ones I decided to put welt pockets in the back, and Sue from A colourful canvas linked me to a fabulous tutorial. I haven’t done a welt pocket for about 30 years so decided to do a practice one first. It turned out perfectly and I was good to go. Then Mark told me that he liked the patch pockets as there was no bulk at all, so I began to waver, and then one of my lovely followers, Hélène, told me that she preferred the patch pockets and the deal was done. He has another pair of trousers with patch pockets!


I finished these trousers without Mark trying them on and wonder if I’ve made them a tad long. I measured some of his RTW trousers, so was confident I had it right. I might take a whisker off the bottom.

I once again used bias binding for most of the seams, which gives a very neat finish.


However, there’s a lot going on in some places!


The only thing to be said for the shirt is that the fabric is a magnificent cotton/silk blend which I got for less than $3 at the local church fete. I was confident that I could get a shirt out of the piece of fabric but I had the tiniest scraps left over, which pleases me greatly.


It was gorgeous fabric to sew and Mark tells me that it’s fabulous to wear.

In a nutshell: Trousers are Kwik Sew 4045 made from stretch cotton gaberdine from EM Greenfield, Sydney. Shirt is Kwik Sew 3422 made from cotton/silk blend from local church fete. All notions were from my stash.


Happy with his new outfit!

Kimono coat from scarves


I was given two scarves to turn into a kimono coat by Gabi from a local store (Heaven Wrapped).  Pinterest is full of similar kimono coats, many of which are being sold for $200 or more.


The money made from the sale of this garment and others to follow will go to the Broomy Memorial Fund to help support men with depression.


The beauty of this kimono is in the design of the print on the scarf, and the fact that it is so quick to make. The only fiddly bit was matching the design on the back, but how rewarding is that mirrored design? The front is similar


This is the perfect thing for resort wear, evening wear over a simple black outfit, lounging around the house, or even lunch with friends – for the bold.


The scarves are 100% linen, overprinted with the design. I had to secure the fringed edges as they frayed very badly, and then sew the centre seams and the “sleeves”. That was it. My sort of sewing!


The design is best shown in flight mode, but it’s still pretty stunning when it’s at rest.DSC02697

In a nutshell: 1970s style kimono coat made from two linen scarves donated by Heaven Wrapped, Claremont. No pattern needed!

Kwik Sew 4045 – trousers for Mark


Just as Mark is thinking of retiring all his clothes have become rather shabby. Rather than going on a giant shopping expedition, which he hates, I decided to replace all his work clothes with hand made things. I started with the trousers…


I bought Kwik Sew 4045 because I’ve made their jeans (Kwik Sew 3504) for the men in the family and I love the fit and the method of construction of the pocket and fly.


I love making these trousers! They are relatively quick, and the instructions are really comprehensive and easy to follow.


I made these with buttoned patch pockets on the back as per the pattern, but his next pair will have welt pockets. Hopefully.


I used Hong Kong binding on all the seams for comfort, and this really whipped through my bias binding stash. I found some 100% cotton bias in there, it must be really old, but it’s so nice and soft compared to polyester bias binding.

In a nutshell: Pattern is Kwik Sew 4045. I omitted the cargo pockets on the side seams, otherwise, they are reasonably business like.

kwik sew 4045

I used stretch cotton drill bought from EM Greenfield in Sydney. I thought I was buying sufficient, but they shortchanged me by 20cm, so I had to “top and tail” the pattern pieces whilst praying that there was no visible nap. I think I got away with it! The fabric is really nice though. It is crisp with just enough give to make them comfortable. The three buttons are from my stash as was the metal zip.

Right, on to the next pair!

First handknit of the year



I bought this lovely alpaca and merino yarn in Sydney at the end of last year, and I have finished it in time for the first autumn rains.

There are two different coloured stripes because I was busy knitting away with the taupe stripes and I realised that I wouldn’t have enough to finish the jumper, so I dug in the stash and found some black of the same wool left over from my black Miette cardigan.

This jumper is knitted in the round, which means that the end of row causes a “jig”in the stripes. I followed the various internet instructions for getting a smooth join, but still had a visible mark where the stripes join. After some thought I decided to cover the joins with buttons.


I had to find some that would sit nice and flat and this is technically the back of the jumper.


Can you see that the buttons don’t seem to be quite straight down my back? This is because the common wisdom on fixing the “jig” suggested moving the centre point on each stripe. I dutifully did this, but of course it didn’t work. I’m pretending that it’s a design feature.


Interestingly, the buttons look much straighter when I turn the jumper round. I like the buttons down the back though…DSC02609

In a nutshell: Wool is alpaca and merino from the Australian Alpaca Barn in Sydney. They also provided the pattern for free. I am going to make this again with locally produced wool for part of my “One Year, One Outfit” challenge. I will be making it slightly smaller and will again cover the joins with buttons. The setting is the bush in Jalbarragup.

Odds and sods


If you are expecting a post about haute couture, look away now. This post is simply reporting a few small activities with which I have been entertaining myself this week.

First up, I’ve been experimenting with embellishing my Japanese bags. I’m hosting a sewalong for these bags in November and I want to play with some variations. I found a device called an “easy pleater” among my mother’s things and thought I’d give it a go. The “not quite so easy pleater” is what it should be called, but I mastered it eventually.


The pleats require starching prior to pressing, so I ventured into the supermarket (a once a year event for me), to look for starch. To my dismay, starch can only be bought in a pressurised can. I decided to make my own. Piece of cake – just use cornflour and water, mix it together and put it in a spray bottle. The bags finished up looking like this


I’m also experimenting with fine silks and brocades. This is my first effort. After evening up all the edges I sewed it together with gold thread, which looked fabulous, but it wasn’t strong enough, so the next version will be interfaced first to stop it tearing apart.


Archie asked me to make him some exercise shirts. These are basically t-shirts without sleeves, and with the edges left raw. I rubbed off one of his existing t-shirts and finished up with a credible first effort. This is a simple design, but there is a surprising amount of fitting to be done. I have more of these planned for the coming week.


My last experiment was with a hair wrap. Hair wraps are fabulous for drying wet hair. I don’t have enough hair for a towel – they always finish up falling off my head and I feel as though my neck is being tested for strength. Hair wraps are made from microfibre towelling and are a very simple turban shape. I found a microfibre towel in an op shop, and, given that it looked new, I thought it would be just the ticket.


The hair wrap is this shape. It has a piece of elastic at one end and a button at the other.


My head goes in the big end and the rest gets twisted round and secured with the elastic and button.


Long hair would go into the long bit and get twisted round with it. These hair wraps are pretty cheap online, but it’s so much better to make your own. I was going to make a couple more but Archie spotted the towel and spirited it off to add to his gym towel stash. Whatever, it’s no longer in my stash, so I’m happy!

In a nutshell: I’m wearing my 1950s blouse and the Ultimate trousers. Head wrap is made from a microfibre towel, and the bags and t-shirt were stashbusted from scraps.

Salvaged Burda lace blouse



This blouse had been malingering in my cupboard as a UFO. It’s the lace shirt 116 from Burda Style 3/2013.

Burda lace top

I love many of the clothes in this particular issue, but the minute I saw this top I knew I had to make it. Coincidentally, some lovely heavy cotton lace that I had been coveting in Spotlight went on sale, and I was in business.

Please note the “heavy” cotton lace. I did not really factor in that this is a drop shoulder pattern made from what looks to be fairly drapey lace. When I put my top together I couldn’t actually put my arms down at my sides, the fabric was so stiff.

The head of the sleeve was almost flat, which made changing the pattern a little difficult as it wasn’t really wide enough further down the sleeve to accommodate the width of the new sleeve.


I searched my pattern stash for a pattern that I could use for the armscye and sleeve head and came upon Vogue 1366, which has been lurking there for quite a few months, unused.

Simplicity 1366

It still has a slight drop shoulder, but it’s not as drastic and the sleeve and armscye do have a proper shape. All I did was cut a new armscye using this pattern, and then cut the top of the sleeve to match. This was all a bit dodgy as my fabric was now the wrong shape, but the bottom line? It worked, after a fashion, and I could now get my arms down by my sides.


It’s still a bit too hot to be wearing this blouse, but I can see that it will be perfect for autumn.


I have enough lace left over to make a skirt, but I couldn’t possibly wear them together – it would be far too “mother of the bride”. I am considering my options on this. I thought I might line the skirt with some cinnamon coloured lining, or purple, or… something. I also need to find coordinating clothes.


I didn’t take photos of the inside of this top, but I did Hong Kong binding seam finishes, using some coordinating bias binding from my stash. It took a satisfying amount of bias binding. As I write this I am about three hours away from the top, so you will have to take my word for this, but the inside is very neat.


In a nutshell: Blouse is 116 from Burda Style 3/2013, made from heavy cotton lace from Spotlight and rescued from my fabric cupboard. The skirt is Champagne from Capital Chic patterns.

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