Well, Pembroke almost made Christmas…


Still staggered how much screws costs (says new deck owner)

Hello, Miri Kirihimete and almost Happy New Year to you. I’d like to pretend this is me swanning about on my new deck on Christmas Day.

Alas, firstly Christmas Day 2018 was WET here in Auckland. Despite the fancy new pergola our amazing builders worked like demons to get up in time for the 25th, the horizontal precipitation defeated us. Watching my husband & brother in law play Jenga with three sun umbrellas trying to provide additional shelter was pretty entertaining however…


Go West! Or North, in this case…

Secondly I hadn’t actually finished my Christmas Day dress. Or indeed started it (although I did pre-washed my fabric, does that count?) As per usual, my ambition far exceeded my time, skills & motivation.

But come these delicious quiet days between Christmas & New Year, where you have to consult a calendar to figure out what day it is, I figured I could get busy. Half of Auckland has left town, the fridge is full of leftovers & I can can sew my heart out.

Just hangin’ on my deck, as you do. Actually we have no deck furniture so standing is obligatory.

After the success of my Pembroke trial run,  I knew a dress version in the rayon knit I picked up from Spotlight was perfect. Festive, without actually being covered in elf’s & holly (not that I would object to that AT ALL), stretchy (always a bonus when contemplating that 5th mince pie), and quick to sew. Ok, not quick enough for me to get it done in time for Christmas day, but still pretty darn speedy eh?

Tommy being ultra cute off camera

I love this pattern. The scoop neckline is perfect for me (the pattern also comes with a higher jewel neckline that would be great for cooler weather), and the method of binding is wonderfully non tear inducing.  I personally really like the waist ties, being short waisted they pull me in at my slimmest part, so I don’t feel frumpy, but I’ve seen some really cute versions without.

Ties call for fiddling…


Please excuse the slightly wobbly hemming, lordy I hate hemming knits. I hate hemming in general but knits, with a side split? Ekk! So worth it though, with such a simple shape it’s the details that make the difference, even if I do need a glass of Chardonnay each time I use my twin needles.

Well, that would be a booty call I believe…?

Once again I took approx. 5 cm off the sleeves before adding the cuffs, I prefer the length just below my elbows.

All in all, the prefect summer Xmas/Festive frock.

I look like I’m “up to mischief” according to my husband?!

So, my last make for 2018. Its been a busy year, both in the sewing room & out. While I’m pretty happy with progress, there is a lot to learn in 2019. Without turning into a whole “lets lose weight, learn a language & discover yoga” type of conversation, a couple of thoughts:

Learn to use the myriad of special feet I brought when I brought my Janome. No, the button hole foot does not count.

Properly measure and label my fabric stash. All of it, not just the top six pieces…before wandering off to watch Food Network.

Use at least two of the patterns in my stash before buying another one. At least. Or at least one. Or none but only on VERY special occasions. Ditto fabric .

Remember, if I like it, make it. Bugger “flattering”.

Finish the bloody novel!

Other thoughts ?

Favorite make of 2018:  I’ve made lots of things I’m really happy with this year, but I do really love these frocks!

Best TV Show of 2018 (nothing to do with sewing but hey ho , it’s my blog kids): The Casketeers, a NZ show now on Netflix. It’s a reality documentary following a funeral home in South Auckland. I realize probably none of that sounds completely endearing, but trust me, this is TV gold. I have literally cried buckets & laughed my arse off in the space of five minutes. Note the show is in English, with few subtitles.

Fav pic of the year not including me standing like a dork: This is two of my sisters when we were on holiday in Australia at Easter. This is everything really 🙂

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Best book of 2018: Jane Harper’s The Dry kept me absolutely turn the pages  (or flicking the Kindle, as it were). SUCH a great book (as are her two others).

Best cat pic of the year: Yep, this really is my blog kids! Check out Tommy, roaring his way into 2019!


Now, let’s you & I do the same!

Kristina x











Twin Fielders for my hols…kinda


More birds. I just cant seem to help myself can I? After my Lenox I thought I’d cured my avian obsession, but hey ho, here we are again. So lets step back a minute, and I’ll explain…

Bliss 🙂

It was the rib that got me. Merchant & Mills released the most fabulous striped rib, perfect for a Fielder  dress , in such cool colour combos. I do love me some colour. Miss Maude  had all the variations, I couldn’t decide between the brown & the blue to match the Pine linen I’d already realized I absolutely had to have (I’m blaming the Irish in me…also responsible for the fact I sunburn in two minutes & I’m in capable of telling a story in less than ten: )

When my lovely parcel arrived I knew immediately the brown & green were a delicious match, but the blue would actually work perfectly with the birds rayon I picked up on sale at Spotlight. If I love colour, I LOVE a sale!

Well I think it works anyway!


It’s a pretty bold print, and I was worried it could look a bit OTT if I wasn’t careful (not that I mind OTT, but it has to make me feel comfortable or it just doesn’t work) . The simple shape of the Fielder, combined with the casual sporty note the rib brings was too good to resist. I think it works perfectly…and lets be honest, its the closest I’m getting to ‘active wear” hey?

I love this ribbing. You may call me Sportyish Spice. Or Pale Freckled Spice, as is your wont.

The soft rayon is so comfortable to wear, now I hesitate to even SUGGEST a secret PJ thing, but it’s certainly easy frock to throw on and go. The rib comes as a long strip, I found it too wide & stiff for the neckline as is, so I trimmed about a cm off the side before attaching to the neck, it sits beautifully flat. I left the width on the cuff, which hugs the arm nicely.

I’m so happy my toes nails are done. Sad, but honestly I am.

I think next time I’d take the bust darts back an inch or so (and be a bit more attentive with the iron maybe?!) I didn’t include the pockets for the green version, I thought it would add a bit of width I didn’t really need, the rayon is so drapey the pockets effectively disappear.

Not quite perfect rib seam matching…must grow my hair a bit!

The linen gives more structure than the rayon, a slightly more casual dress, prefect for the weekend . I’d like to imagine sitting somewhere fab in the sun, drinking wine with my pals & being terribly funny …more likely zipping around New World then home to drink wine & watch Midsomer Murders with the cats…either way it works.


Flat neckline, get me eh?!


Mr D & I are off to Fiji for ten days on hols tomorrow, I have both Fielders in my suitcase (along with 400 pairs of shoes & three swim suits I’d rather not wear…) and I’m looking forward to wearing both. Depending on accessories & shoe choice they are actually also suitable for my office wardrobe, versatile much?

I hope you’ve had a great week, I’ve been like a like a headless chook. How is it when I go on holiday the preparation has to start so far in advance? Hairdresser, nails, shrub maintenance (wax, ugg!) , packing an outfit for every possible eventuality (with matching footwear), not to mention snacks, sunscreen, wine…my husband throws bathers, ten boxer shorts  & tees shirts into a suitcase & calls it a day…?

Anyway, Bula!

Kristina x




Linen for the winnin’ Eva


I must say I’m hanging out for my holiday in a few weeks. This time of year always feels quite long to me. Winter is supposedly over, daylight saving has kicked in. I’m slightly panicked about the thought of summer clothes (tights hide a multitude of “no I haven’t shaved my legs since May” shame…) but still a few weeks away from my annual “holy crap its nearly Xmas” melt down . Auckland weather is changeable at best, so dressing becomes a “let’s just take one of everything & we’ll be ok” affair. The back seat of my car currently has two coats, a spare umbrella , two cardies & a pair of sunglasses.  Sometimes a girl just wants reliable, (in so many things…) I’d like a nice constant mid to high 20 degrees, no rain & maybe a cocktail. Or two. Roll on Fiji!

So I’m planning my holiday wardrobe accordingly. When this dress, the Eva from Tessuti patterns popped up on my radar, I knew it was a contender. It’s not actually a new pattern, but Tessuti have extended their pattern sizes so no pesky grading necessary.


The shape is simple yet distinctive. ( a friend & work colleague of mine has a similar dress she calls her First Day of a Trial dress, it makes her feel so good).  Fitted around the bodice but not too fitted.  Wonderful “swish” potential in the skirt, without the actual risk of taking flight in a stiff breeze.  Top stitching details to make it just that bit more special. All good things (thanks Martha)

Full arm movement possible!

I made version A, I actually extended the sleeves by about 3 cm, and did a full bicep adjustment, adding an additional 2 cm to the sleeve for my upper arms. No one likes a tight sleeve!

The neckline, sleeve & hem are finished with bias binding. I was really pleased with the finish on my neckline, the binding is sitting nice & flat (for once, whoop!). Sadly things went rather astray with my sleeve binding, so much so I didn’t have enough fabric left to make more, so I ended up doing a hem instead. I think the bias binding would have given a nicer finish, I’ll know for next time! I’m not entirely happy with my sleeve insertion, I thought I could iron out a couple of tiny tucks…I know, really Kristina?! There is also a wee bit of fabric pooling above my bust, next time I will do a small FBA, Tessuti patterns are graded for a C cup, I’m a DD.

No rear cling, we like that…

The bodice is constructed first, then the center panel, which is attached to it. Lastly the bottom panel is made & hemmed, then attached to the rest of the dress. I loath hemming, so this method pleased me, I knew once I finished sewing the bottom panel seam, I only had finishing & top stitching to go. Purely psychological I know (I still had to do the hem!), but there you go.

Guardedly optimistic my hair is still under control…

Now. a few caveats. I made this dress in a delicious chocolate linen from The Fabric Store, its really lovely to sew & to wear, but it does fray a bit while you are working. There are a lot of relatively long seams in the dress, particularly the bottom piece , which quite frankly felt about two miles long. I LOVED my overlocker on this project even more than usual. There is something deeply satisfying about trimming off all those loose threads & having a nice clean seam. It absolutely could be done with a zig zag stitch, or you could do French seams, just bear in mind it will be quite time consuming, despite the apparently simplicity of the dress.

Approx 473 miles of seams & top stitching 🙂

On that theme, it would also really help if , like me, you enjoy top stitching. It really makes the garment feel expensive & finished, again a simple shape but done with attention to detail. Or it will be once I get new glasses, chocolate brown fabric & thread is something of a challenge at the moment!

Just hangin’ with my pockets as you do

Now the pockets. I do love a nice pocket, although I’ll be honest, very little other than my hands ever actually goes in them. Except for one memorable occasion I left a hair clip in my jeans, which then managed to completely bugger up our washing machine…

The method for the pocket insertion in this pattern is one I haven’t used before, but certainly will be again, its fab! The pocket stays at the front of the frock, and the finish looks really professional, win.


The thing I like most about this dress? It makes me feel grown up, in the best way. I may be on the cusp of a mid life crisis (sports car pending) , or possibly just having a moment, but I’ve been thinking a lot recently about age, both my own, and those around me. If you follow Instagram you may have seen lovely Judith’s hashtag #sewover50 which she started recently, and has really taken off. Like the Curvy Sewing hashtag  #CSCmakes among others, it creates a point of reference which isn’t necessarily the standard norm. I realize for many people this has been much, or indeed all of their entire existence, invisible on TV, magazines, mainstream media. I grew up in a very working class environment , Dad was a psychiatric nurse, Mum raised five kids & later did some cleaning for a bit of extra money. New Zealand in the 1970’s & 80’s was probably a good place to do that, no one I hung out with thought we missed out on much (except when that one person in your class got to go on a plane to Australia for the hols to visit the rellies, envy!). Certainly the internet has provided both a wonderful vehicle for inspiration, and in other cases a vehicle for comparison (and very much worse), which often has a very unrealistic reality. I can’t Photoshop my white legs or chunky biceps, despite all the will in the world!

Feeling young…and trying to remember if I turned the iron off. 

So while I reconcile the reality of me as a 45 year old woman “built for luxury but perhaps not speed’ (thanks hun!) , and the memory of my young whippersnapper self , which I swear wasn’t that long ago, I want to wear clothes that make me feel like this. With red shoes of course.

Naturally I have yet more linen lined up, check out this wee combo 🙂


I hope you have a fab week, I’ll leave you with Tuppence, explaining to me with just a glance, no amount of sewing fancy frocks is worth making her wait for dinner. Nothing.

Food. Now.

Kristina x







Charlie ditches the Seventies…

Imagine it’s warm (it isn’t), and that lime tree is actually a palm (it isn’t)…

As a child of the 70’s, hearing a pattern released with the word caftan in the title just didn’t send me. Don’t get me wrong, the seventies gave us some wonderful things. Fondue, thankfully enjoying the revival melted cheese deserves. Brown and orange , one of my favorite colour combinations ever…for clothing. Approach with caution for walls & carpet? Margo’s amazing wardrobe in The Good Life (including marvelous caftans of course!)

Image result for margo the good life

Sadly it’s not Margo I think of when I hear caftan. Instead, it’s possibly one of the more unlikely sex symbols to emerge from the decade restraint forgot. Sadly I can still see the cover of Mum’s Demis Roussos album now. Demis, resplendent in a caftan with a woman in a slinky gold dress sprawled on an animal print rug at his feet. Indeed.  To be fair, it was the Seventies, and he had an amazing voice, with some catchy tunes…*


Clearly caftans have moved on, as this nifty number from Closet Case Patterns would attest. I saw lots of nice versions of this when the Charlie caftan pattern was first released. I trying now to wait & see how patterns look on a variety of sewers before jumping in (oh such maturity Kristina!) When I won a free pattern from the lovely Miss Maude Sewing recently, I figured with a trip to Fiji for a warm weather break approaching  I’d take the plunge. Much nicer than the thought of buying bathers anyway…

Such hilarity in my hedge?!

I chose to make the maxi Version C, but with the higher sleeve of the other two.   As you can see I am not in a maxi. I had two choices, call this blog post “Mrs D goes to Fiji in her Curtains” or chop some fabric off & create something rather more wearable! I made a size 18 grading to a size 20 at the hips. This pattern has a lot of ease, I could def have done a straight 18, if not possibly a 16.

Channeling 70’s shampoo commercial, wont lie…

My fabric is a cheapie cotton/linen blend from Spotlight. I thought I might like to make a version in some glorious double gauze I have stashed away, I figured if the fit wasn’t right I wouldn’t be too upset, and would still have something I could throw over my bathers in the Islands. Maximum adulting happening here all week folks!

Not perfect, but better than it was pre darts…with apologies for the milk bottle legs!

Alterations, there were a few. I had a mare trying to turn the ties through to the right side. After literally half an hour poking my fingers with all manner of knitting needles I gave up & left the waist ties out. I found the fabric a bit “billowy” at the back, without a tie to bring it under control. After seeing the same issue on this lovely blog, I shamelessly copied was inspired by, adding two darts at the center back to bring the fabric in & give me some shape, while allowing some nice skim over my hips & butt.

Darts in there somewhere!

I also added 5 cm (approx 2 inches) to the sleeve length, I like a little more coverage in the sun, I can burn in nano seconds (thank my Father with his red hair & Irish skin hey). It was super easy, tutorial here. I also slightly raised the sleeve , to avoid any bra flash, which is also covered .

After hacking off some of the length I was still left with a small split at the hem, I kept it as a cute design feature. I remember my older sisters having dresses with curved hems & splits, they seemed terribly grown up to me.



Well, lets just say that front panel wasn’t my finest hour. If you have a sensitive disposition please don’t zoom in on the top stitching. Or anything about it actually. At least I know what I did wrong (um, reading the instructions for one?) , thankfully my hyper busy fabric at least hides the ineptitude SLIGHTLY…its a worry when your interior looks better than your exterior maybe?

Hand stitch cover on the interior. I should have put it on the outside?

I love the way the neckline sits, the tutorial on the website is great, and I will use it for other necklines going  forward. But it is certainly too low for me, I’m happy to have a bit of cleavage action  but without a singlet this is full bra flash. In one of fashions complete contradictions I will wear it happily in Fiji , because flashing your bathers isn’t the same as flashing your bra. No, I don’t get it either…

I will also make the damn ties!

*I’ll leave you with Demis, while I don’t dig his fashion sense, I do have fond memories of this song…although I have no recollection of mastering those lyrics!

Kristina x






Another round with Lenox


Singin’ in the rain on my grubby deck!

Why yes I have been doing silly poses in my garden this weekend, what have you been up to?

I think I’m giddy with the joy of actually finishing this make. I suspect sewing a shirtdress is rather like decorating a wedding cake or tiling a bathroom. You forget how complicated and time consuming it is until you start another one?

It’s finished!!!!!!!!

This isn’t my first Lenox shirtdress. I’m actually surprised it took me so long to make another , its a lovely pattern. This time around I used a crisp cotton poplin from Spotlight. So much easier to sew than rayon, so stable! But boy did I use some poplin. Disclaimer: complete operator error. I managed to cut the sleeves pieces all the same way (hint, if your cutting multiple pieces on a single layer of fabric, follow the instructions and turn your pattern piece over hey?)

So after quick trip to Spotlight (thankfully only a 10 minute drive), I purchased another meter and away we go. Or not. In the flurry of pattern pieces (there are a lot of pattern pieces, especially as I had traced some off to grade between sizes) I managed to completely miss cutting out my button band. Naturally that needed 1.25 meters of length, not the extra meter I had. Cue another trip to Spotlight. Do they do a frequent flyer card I wonder?

The “don’t make me go back for more fabric” face right there…

This Lenox is version A, with a full collar, and pleats rather than gathers. I thought this would work better with the stiffer poplin. Now I’m pretty loose goose with pattern matching , but did I think about the fact the small “flags” on the print are directional. Um, did I go to the gym today? Of course not.

So naturally when I realized I had cut my button bands with the print facing the wrong way I briefly considered buying yet MORE fabric & re-cutting them. Then I had a Chardonnay & gave myself a talking too. Only my Mother would notice. Hopefully?

Yep, Mum noticed…

I did however re-cut my waistband, I’m think it’s an issue with my grading, but once again I was about 2.5 cm short when I came to attach my waistband. This time I measured before attaching, added that extra inch & re-cut, which I’m glad I did. My seams don’t exactly match my pleats because of the grading, so it that kind of thing will keep you awake at night, check & adjust before you attach the waistband.

I have lost a few kilos since my last Lenox, so I cut a 16 C/D Bust grading to an 18 waist & hips. The waist & hips are spot on, but I think next time I would go for an E/F cup, I have some pulling lines on the bodice which I think are due to a lack of space for the girls up front. I’d also like a little extra room to put another button on the band at the top.


A full sleeve & bicep extension pack for this pattern had been released, I used the full bicep piece for this one (I did a full bicep adjustment myself last time, I’ve managed to misfile/lose that piece so being able to just print off the new sleeve & cut it out was rather handy!)

I wasn’t sure the pleats would be the go for me, sometimes they skim, sometimes they balloon out & give you an arse the size of Australia. I think we prefer skim yes? Of course pockets are always on point.

Skim skim skim…

Now, shirtdress means buttons. Lots & lots of buttons. My Janome does a nifty job of button holes (such a step up from my old Toyota, 4 step manual process!!) but you’ve still got to sew those buttons on. I thought I was terribly clever figuring out a bodge job on my machine to do it , rather than my labored hand stitching. I know, it ridiculous, but like peeling potatoes, there are just some minor tasks I really don’t enjoy. Button sewing is one of those.

I think we can say that’s a fail?

Well button sewing can be hazardous! This is even more ridiculous when you consider I actually have a button foot, I just didn’t know how to use it. Then I went to my sisters for lunch today & found a tutorial for just that in her Threads magazine. I really needed it yesterday, but hey, I’m sure I’ll make more shirt dresses.

I’d like to make one with the long sleeve option, perversely so I can roll the sleeves up. Nothing says “I mean business, let’s crack on & you can also admire my watch/bracelet/handsome forearm while I’m at it” like a rolled up sleeve. I love the contrast between feminine dress & masculine sleeve.

I spend so much time sewing, I have no time to garden…honest.

Its been a slow process but I’m happy with my dress, although sadly given the arctic air con in my office I need to find a wee cardigan to match.

Hope you have had a fabulous week, I’ll leave you with Yorkshire puddings I’m very pleased with (although I showed my Mum & all she could say was “ewwww look at that bloody meat”! Sigh…) Edit: A few people have asked me for the recipe for my Yorkshire puds, so here it is !

In a jug whick together 3 eggs & 300 ml of whole milk with a good pinch of salt & pepper. Leave to rest for approx 30 mins, then whisk in 1 cup (150 grams) of plain flour. The consistancy should be like single cream, if its to thick add a bit more milk. Heat your roasting dish/muffin pan in a good hot 220C/430F oven, with a bit of oil (or better still, beef dripping!)  in each dish. When its really hot, quickly take out of the oven & pour in your batter, it should sizzle when it hits the fat. Put straight back in the oven & cook for approx 30 mins until puffed & golden. DROWN in good gravy!

Perfect rugby watching supper (don’t worry, there was gravy too!)

And my husband being deeply disloyal to Tommy & Tuppence, fraternizing with George, who my sister is currently dog sitting:)

Animal whisperer x

Have a fab week, apparently Spring is approaching in my neck of the woods, despite the fact the wind is currently rolling straight off the snow!

Kristina x


Pippi is no school girl now…


Winter. It’s the end of July here at Plum Towers & feels like Spring is a looong way off. However seeing the images of those poor people in Greece & California struggling with wild fires it would be rather churlish to complain about a bit (or a lot) of rain. It might make my deck look pretty terrible, but it isn’t going to hurt me or mine.

Instead, I shall embrace some winter dressing! When Jennifer Lauren asked for reviewers for her Pippi Pinafore I was tempted, but torn. Tempted because I’ve made her patterns before, and know her fit for me is spot on , and her instructions are clear & through. Torn because I’m a woman in her *cough cough* early (ish) forties, is a pinafore really the go?  Or will it bring back terrible memories of my high school uniform, a pinafore symphony of green & gold plaid. Australian Olympians can get away with green & gold, spotty gangly 14 year olds not so much…


Also it’s cold right now. While a linen version with a cute Breton style stripe top underneath is very appealing, I’m a soft Aucklander, in my world anything below 10 C is actually freezing.  So I spent a few minutes* on Pintrest & was intrigued. Could I take what I think of as quite a summery look, and make it drizzle & cold appropriate? Im happy to say I took the plunge , spending a pleasant half an hour cutting and taping the PDF together . I know many people loath this task (I actually find it quite relaxing to do with UKTV on & a glass of wine to hand), but I’m happy to say the notches match up & it all comes together very easily.

Eyes on me not the deck thanks!!!

First stop, fabric. I had a lovely wool crepe in my stash, brought yonks ago at Drapers Fabric . Even after making the worlds crappiest pants, I still enough left for a dress, yay! Light enough to sew with a lining, and still wear a jersey underneath, yet with  more weight & warmth than a linen or cotton, perfect. I also though the navy colour would make the dress look a little more grown up & season appropriate. It would work a treat with my  pink Uniqlo jersey.

I like this silhouette

The pattern is reasonably simple, there are quite  few pieces once you have your lining & interfacing  cut out, but the pattern directions are really clear, a competent beginner could make this with time & attention.

I did my best getting all the cat hair off okay…

The pockets are lined, and plenty big enough for cold hands (or car keys & a hanky?). I was concerned the pocket size and placement may not be a great look for me, but they are actually a nice design feature.

Crazy cat lady lives here…

The patterns comes in multiple cup sizes A-D and sizes 6-24. I cut a straight size 20, with no alterations. The skirt part of the dress is really nice, the pleats at the front & darts at the back give a nice skim of tum & butt, without acres of fabric adding bulk. If I want bulk I’ll eat it thanks! I couldn’t find buckles that worked so I used the button option instead on the straps. So much potential for fabric/button combinations. Please don’t look too closely at my buttonholes however…

I do love pretty lining!

The lining keeps everything look pretty on the inside, I use a sweet Japanese Lawn , I love the idea of this somber navy, with such a pop of colour & print inside. The pockets are also lined.


You may notice the lack of buttons on the side of the pocket. My machine absolutely refused to deal with so many layers of fabric, and asserted her authority in no uncertain terms. After the fifth attempt sanity prevailed & my frock is still quite lovely thank you very much. Please also forgive the overlocked hem. I was running out of daylight & my photographer was very firm “I’ll take the pics during halftime”. Well, he is very patient, so I like to be flexible.

Would I make this again? Absolutely. I really want a gorgeous linen version for spring, to wear with a stripey top (of course!) and sneakers. I also intend to make a skirt from this pattern. I’ve struggled to find great skirt patterns, a pencil skirt is too slim for my hips, and as I usually wear flats, can just look frumpy. But I don’t want the loads of fabric around my hips & butt a gathered style can bring. This is a great combination, ease from the darts at the back, interest from the pockets  , a couple of cheeky pleats around my tum for less cling & jobs a goodin!

Thoughts on pinafores? If, like me, you were on the fence , I’d give this pattern a go, you wont have high school flashbacks, I promise!

Have a fab week, I hope where ever you are the temperature, as Goldilocks so famously put it, is just right!

Kristina x

*Has anyone ever spent “a few minutes” on Pintrest? Yeah, right!

** Jen offered this pattern for free in exchange for a fair & honest review, the only kind worth reading obviously




A Shirt Dress (or, Ode to my Unpicker)


I love linen. Like, really love linen. My fantasy house has billowing linen curtains, linen sheets (changed daily by my fantasy help), me wearing linen Pajamas (ironed by my fantasy help naturally…). My fantasy life has me getting off a plane in only very slightly crumpled linen, looking cool & effortless. Anyone who has seen me roll off long haul knows just how fantastical that one is (hint, wear dark colours  take a sense of humor & at least two changes of top…)

So when I came across Merchant & Mills pattern The Shirt Dress I was tempted. Maybe I could nail me some crumpled effortless vibe after all, and it would fit! I was concerned initially as the size range only goes up to (a small!) 18, which is 41, 35, 44. But previous experience making Merchant & Mills patterns, I know they have a lot of ease built in.



I really like this style. We have sleeves (as you may know, I’m still in discussion with my biceps about the state of themselves), a decent length, and an easy, but not tent like fit. Perfect for work, or the weekend. The bib front is an interesting style point which feels a bit old fashioned to me. In my universe that’s a good thing hey. The top stitching finishes everything off nicely

Freezing, take the darn photo!

Its cold here in Auckland. By that I man to a soft Aucklander like moi, its COLD. 4 C here overnight. Naturally to any readers in places that get ACTUALLY cold (Canada in winter anyone? Anyone living in the Deep South here in NZ , currently a balmy -2…) you’ve possibly misplaced an eyeball rolling in the back of your head, but please bear with. Like many Kiwis I grew up in a woefully heated house (one fire for a five bed one level bungalow), where complaining of being cold got you a quick “put another jersey on” and one of Mums evening routines in winter was filling five hot water bottles ! I crave warmth, so linen isn’t an immediate choice for winter dressing.


But introduce merino cardigan and long boots and we may be talking? I’m a little obsessed with this Uniglo mustard cardigan. This colour is everything, if I have it in my wardrobe, chances are mustard will go with it. Polarizing yes (one friend commented “its the colour of poo basically” , but I love it! Mustard & Navy? Oh yes please…

The linen is from The Fabric Store, it’s crisp, the colour is rich, everything linen should be. Isn’t navy blue & brown just the best combination?


The pattern is great quality, printed on heavy paper, with a clear instruction sheet. The only quibble I would have with M&M patterns is their styling. On the one hand I love the ” industrial 40’s workman” vibe, but I do wish they details on the clothing were easier to actually see. And why do the models always look so miserable?

Now, the details. A nifty pattern than came together effortless, with nary a swear word or wine consumed?

It came together perfectly….yeah right!

Hell no! I fell like this dress was sponsored by my unpicker (seam ripper to NH friends), it was certainly the most used tool in the whole operation. Everything was going seamlessly (like what I did there?), until it came to the yoke. Not only did the wheels fall off at that point, they caught a flight & moved continents. I sewed & unpicked that thing FIVE times. In fact I unpicked the yoke so many times it disintegrated, thankfully I had enough surplus fabric to cut two new ones. Honestly.

The worst thing is I’m still not 100% sure what I did wrong or how I fixed it. Which is a fat lot of good if you’ve come here for useful sewing info like how to sew the yoke on the Shirt Dress pattern. For that I apologize. It isn’t the first time I’ve struggled with a yoke, and as you can see it’s far from perfect, but we got there in the end…

Booty call…or “look at the state of that fence” call?

I can tell you I added 2.5 cm to to the sleeve, to accommodate my generous biceps. Other that that, I made no alterations to the pattern (as I said, the sizing is generous!). After unpicking the yoke numerous times, I then thought I’d add to the fun by sewing my sleeves on without changing the stitch selection from a long gathering stitch. Well my did those sleeves have some lovely gathers (puckers!) in them. After Mr D had grudgingly dragged himself away from the football for 3 minutes (I curse you FIFA!) to take some pics in the gloom (in Scotland it would be gloaming, that time between day & night, isn’t that the best word?)I realized how bad those sleeves were. A calming Chardonnay later, I took both sleeves out & re sewed them, but my photographer refused to play ball…

Despite my unpicker shenanigans, I love this pattern. So easy to wear, I have several colours of this pegged with boots & a cardi for winter. In summer I’m looking fwd to the longer sleeve version turned up, with sandals & a pretty necklace for casual but cute dining…or walking off planes looking fancy. As you do.

In between blog posts, whats been occurring at Plum Towers? Sorting fabric with my trusty “helper” Tuppence.


Making cakes. This is for my Mother in Law Florence, really pretty, I’m happy to say she loved it. Which given she’s my MIL is a good thing yes?


Chocolate drip cake for a friend to take to a 50th birthday…notice not actual “50” on the cake. Yes.



It’s been lovely to get back into the sewing room, here’s to a lot more fun stitching. Maybe with a tad less unpicking….



The Jacket that became a dress…


Do you like my jacket? It’s looks more like a dress you say? Well, yes, there is that…

So I actually set out to make a jacket. A Burda 6489 to be precise. I’ve been seeing cute floral bomber jackets all over the place recently, what could be better than to make my own and know it would actually fit. A grand idea in theory anyway…

*I’ll get to the good stuff, but if you don’t want to see sewing carnage, please scroll down now…


The pattern, zips and fabric, a rayon, came from Spotlight, brought on sale. The ribbing is from Miss Maude, even though it was a bit pricier I’ve used it before & really like how comfy it is, and it had good recovery, wash after wash. So I could have a super cute well fitting jacket for under $60? Yes please!

Um….no, I don’t know what I did either.

Or not, as the case may be. Things were going fine for the first half of the sew. Actually I lie, I tried to put the front zip in for the first front pocket, only to discover I’d made the gap for the zip just a bit too big. Trying to cover this might have been easier in a more stable fabric, but in slippery rayon it just snowballed into a puckered mess. Goodbye front pockets (I wouldn’t use them anyway so figured it wasn’t such a big deal.)

I had enough fabric to cut another two front pieces (My Mum always asks why I buy so much extra fabric for each pattern I make, uh hello, here’s why!), so onward and upward.


Things really started to go pear shaped when I added the knit collar, cuffs and ribbed hem. For starters the sleeves. I may being on the slightly larger end of the size continuum, but that does not mean I have freakishly long arms. I had to take a good SEVEN cm off the sleeve, and reattach my cuffs to get something, while still long, meant I could still use my hands.

The knit collar looked fine until I added the lining. That lining. I had enough fabric to double as a parachute in the body  of the jacket, but when attached to the collar, it became a pulled up puckered mess.

I was unpicking the collar for the second time when poor Mr D asked what I was doing. “I’m *%!!**&!? relaxing ok!!!”….He ventured back inside an hour later dripping in sweat………apparently even with a stinking cold, heading outside to trim the hedge is preferable to being around your wife when she is relaxing. Indeed.

That $$!*&&%??! collar….

To be honest, I’d lost my mojo by the time I got to the ribbed hem. I didn’t really understand the instructions showing how it was attached to the lining, which was so voluminous it came down past the bottom?

I hate giving up on a project, especially one I’ve spent THREE weekends on, (until a new pair of glasses, sewing black fabric at night is like sewing with my eyes closed…) but Catholic or no I’m not one for self flagellation…

However I’m also not one for waste. To quote the inimitable Nigella Lawson  “I may be extravagant, but I’m not wasteful” . I’m happy to buy the goodies, but the thought of ditching all that fabric was really annoying, especially the ribbing, which cost more than the fabric! I also liked the way the fabric & ribbing looked together.

I’ve previously made a Merchant & Mills Fielder dress, which has a knit collar & sleeves, and had the idea I could recover both the cuffs & hem, and enough fabric from the lining & outer backs (which was cut on the fold so in one piece) to make sleeves. I’d just need enough for the front and back of the dress. A quick trip to Spotlight got me the last 2 meters (still on sale, whoop!) and I was good to go.

Ok, not what I intended, but eminently wearable hey?

I’m pretty pleased with this, besides feeling all WI* reusing my disaster, the fabric makes it a little more dressy than the washed linen version, so I could wear to work. I also adjusted the neckline to be slightly higher, I thought the first version looked a bit wide on my deeply unfashionable narrow sloping  shoulders.


While I’m disappointed I don’t have a cool jacket to wear, I’m happy I do at least have a new dress, rather than yet another entry to my wadder collection. I can add a nice scarf, and when it gets cooler, my long black leather boots & a cute leather jacket will be just the ticket. And no, for the sake of my marriage I wont be trying to make a leather jacket anytime soon (although….one day grasshopper, one day)

I hope you’ve had a lovely week, and if you were attempting a jacket , it was far more fabulous than mine!

Kristina xxx

  • Ok, let’s be honest, as if anyone in the WI would make such a Horlicks of a sewing project in the first place, but still…:)


This fabric is not easy to photograph I’m told!


On the Fringe & lovin’ it…


Hello & Happy 2018!

I hope if/how ever you celebrate the new year you enjoyed it immensely. My rock ‘n roll evening consisted of cooking a delicious roast beef dinner for my husband and sisters,  then falling asleep on the couch watching Lord of the Rings (in fairness I suspect it was the directors cut, it seemed to go on for HOURS!).There is an unsubstantiated report I may have been snoring at midnight. I’ve since spent some quiet time reading, hanging out with the whanau & trying to think of new ways to serve the vast ham which is taking up half my fridge.

All of which has brought my sewing mojo back, hooray! December was a busy one, with a trip to Australia for a beautiful wedding , where I got to wear the Ngaio dress I made last month.



Work was crazy busy, and as we were hosting Christmas day lunch , I did at least attempt to make my garden look slightly less tragic . Apparently hanging baskets filled with long dead flowers are not especially festive. Somehow every weekend in December was full and it was 2018 already!

I’ve resisted the urge to make wildly optimistic resolutions, it would seem I’m not terribly good at giving things up (sugar, salt, fat, wine, fun…), instead I’ve decided to add things in. My first was a hashtag I came across on Instagram, #2018makenine, a list of nine patterns I’m planning on making in 2018. I chose patterns I already have, but haven’t sewn yet ( while being quietly shocked at just how many I had to choose from…)


First on my list, the Fringe dress by Chalk & Notch , but a MAXI version. I know, get me eh! I’ve never actually worn a maxi, let alone sewn one, but my other 2018 “add in” is being a bit more adventurous with my styling. And lets be honest, with legs as pale as mine, a maxi is also practically a “snow blindness prevention” public service.

Helpfully, Gabriela has a tutorial for altering the pattern to a maxi one her blog, it was actually really easy. I added 45 cm to the skirt which was about 3 cm too long for my height of 5 ft 6 or 166 cm.

Just a peek of ankle…

This is the first Chalk & Notch pattern I’ve made and I’m really impressed. The instructions are clear and thorough, with excellent illustrations. This is a relatively complicated pattern, with waist darts & ties, buttonholes, plenty of top-stitching & my nemesis, a curved hem. But it actually felt quite straightforward because of such comprehensive instructions.

The fabric is a modal from Atelier Brunette , purchased from Miss Maude & squirreled away for the right pattern. It’s really soft & silky, which probably did make my life slightly more difficult for sewing, but so lovely to wear, especially as a maxi.

As comfy as going out in your nighty (in the best possible way!)

The buttons are pretty vintage numbers, courtesy of my very own button magpie, my sister Dette. I made view A, which actually also has buttons on the sleeves, but I decided I liked the sleeve length without them. The sleeves are not set in, so were quite quick to sew, and they fit with no bicep adjustment required, yay!

I made the ties to sit around the back (they can be either front or back)

I wore this to a lovely summer wedding, and felt really comfortable all day. Dancing was a breeze, thanks to the side splits (I only took mine up to my knee but if you’re more daring they could be J Lo style thigh length!


I’m planning my next fringe dress , just below the knee & perfect for work with sandals & a pretty cardigan.

I’ll leave you this week with one of my exhausted sewing assistants, clearly I work him to hard…

Tommy tuckered out…

Kristina x





Off to a wedding with Ngaio

Get me to the church on time…

Weddings. Besides the obvious, love, lifetime commitment, joining two people together blah blah blah….what’s it really all about Alfie? Well, the dress of course. Firstly the bride’s, if there is one day you can go all out its your wedding day right?

My first real wedding frock memory, I suspect like many of my vintage, was Princess Diana, getting out of her glass carriage (talk about travelling in style…) in that massive frock with the 700 foot train. My Mum sews, and literally the first thing she said was “why didn’t they iron it??”

So young, so slim, so tanned …and she looks alright too?

My own dress was rather more simple. I adored Caroline Bessette’s look when she married JFK Junior, so simple but stunning. As I married in a registry office in London, turning up in a glass carriage in a dress needing 25 m of fabric seemed just a tad excessive. Instead I rocked up in a Ford Focus wearing the perfect silk sheath dress & jacket I’d found in my lunch hour from work, in a non bridal shop, so at about 10% the price of an actual wedding dress. I’ve never found it so easy to dress for a wedding since. Friends, I had peaked.

Since then there have been many low points. The silver 5 inch heels I wore to a wedding I didn’t realize was being held on a soft uneven grass lawn, with no seating. The swelling in my feet took several days to subside. The tight spanx that left me essentially unable to sit & eat….but I could still drink, and it was a VERY hot day. You can imagine how well that turned out…

Hi neighbor…why yes, I did make this myself.

So when an invite to a wedding in December , in the Hunter Valley popped into my calendar I decided to take action . I knew it would be warm, and I knew I wanted to wear a dress. I remembered how much I loved the style of my Ngaio blouse, and how I had thought at the time what a pretty vintage style tea dress it would make. Would I be up to hacking a pattern? Dare I?

Well, apparently yes! I have really enjoyed making this dress. I’m ridiculously pleased with myself actually. First I found some rayon on sale at Spotlight. I honestly wasn’t sure about the colour but it had the right drape for the fabric I had in mind for the dress, and there was plenty available ( I always buy extra for my inevitable mistakes…) I put a call out to the Scroop Patterns Facebook group to see if anyone had done it before, and Leimomi kindly responded, advising me to lengthen the bodice panels, adding as much width as required for the kind of skirt I wanted. I knew I wanted a gentle tea dress style, with just enough fabric for a bit of swoosh.

I just love the swoosh, can you tell?

Having made the pattern already certainly helped. I felt confident in my size choice, and simply traced off the relevant pattern pieces (only two, the back & lower bodice) onto some Swedish Tracing paper, then extended them out to the approximate length I wanted. Sounds too simple right? Well, it isn’t actually that complicated (even for me which is saying something!). I measured around my widest part (hips/butt) so I knew my dress had to be wide enough to skim over with some ease. For the nice swish I wanted I knew I would need to make an A line shape, without going crazy wide.

Swedish tracing paper is quite robust thankfully!

It works surprisingly well. I followed the pattern and after trying on the dress once I had sewn up the side seams realized the darts at the back, while lovely on the blouse, were too low for me on the dress, essentially pulling the fabric in right above my butt, the last place I needed it. So I simply unpicked them and raised them up 8 cm. I have a sway back so it pulled the fabric in nicely, while leaving plenty to skim over my booty…

Nice back darts…and something exciting across the road apparently.

I lengthened the sleeves to the elbow, I’d really like to make a version with a more kimono sleeve style, I just need to figure out how!

The ladies are pleased…

I love the neckline, so pretty, and actually really easy to do. Follow the pattern carefully, stopping your seams as instructed (can you tell I didn’t the first time I made this pattern?), then the gathering is done by hand, which I found really simple, despite not being a very accomplished hand sewer. I think the effect is wonderful.

The one thing I would change? Pattern matching, or rather the lack of. My BFF is a Virgo & tells me the haphazard pattern (non!) matching down that centre front gives her a migraine.  Next time I will make an effort, promise…….

Hmmm, yes, pattern matching would have been a plan…


So something that was only meant as a muslin I MIGHT be able to wear , has turned into a pretty dress I’m thrilled with. I call that a good weekends work. I hope your weekend has been as fun/productive/relaxing!


Kristina xxx