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




Meet my new man Auden…


I do love a good cardie. More comfortable than a jacket, loads of colours to choose from, and best of all, no potential for me to be cold. I hate being cold. While several members of my family were definitely born in tents (or yurts, for the hipper among us?), I’m the one shutting doors & cranking up the heat pump , like the Nana I essentially am…


So when Jen at Jennifer Lauren Handmade put out a call for reviews of her Auden men’s cardigan I was intrigued. Could I drag Mr D away from his beloved sweaters & hoodies, and convert him to the joys of a nice cardie?

Just hangin’ in the garden…as you do

The Auden is designed to be made with a low stretch sweatshirt knit ( as opposed to wool, in which case you’d need to wait about five years for this post …..slowwww knitter!). That, and the retro style, was what caught my eye. Like his wonderful (?) wife, Mr D is wedded to weekend comfort. Suited and booted daily (with a magnificent cuff link collection I must remember to share actually), he loves to relax on downtime in comfort, while not “looking like an old fart”.

Flatulence aside, the relaxed, yet still slim line shape was really appealing. Also the contrast band & elbow patches. In fact when I showed him the pics & said “would you wear this”, his first response? “Yep, I really like the tartan detail at the front”. Ok then Douglas.

Apparently this is a Western , he’s ready to draw…!

The pattern sizing covers S-XXL, I made M , which is a 39 1/4 chest, and a 36 waist. Mr D is 6 ft 3″ so I added 1 ” to the sleeve. Next time I would also add about 2 ” to the torso, as he like his tops a bit longer. For his reason, I did a very short hem on this version, which doesn’t look great!

The pattern came as a PDF, I know a lot of people loath PDFs, but I actually find the cutting & taping quite relaxing. I do it with a glass of wine & something good on the TV. The PDF came together easily, and both views , with and without contrast bands , came as separate pieces, so you only had to cut & tape what is required. After 70 years of sewing , my 82 year old Mum has recently discovered PDF patterns, seriously anyone can do it!

The main fabric is a sweatshirt knit from Centrepoint Fabrics, with a lovely trim of the most delicious Irish Linen from Miss Maude. Who wouldn’t want to wear Dandy linen, seriously?

The raglan sleeves attach to the body of the cardie with a cool curved seam . I used plenty of pins and took my time, it was actually quite simple to do, and I love the retro effect the give.

Tommy posing on the pizza oven…

As you can see the front neckline is gaping slightly, I managed to stretch it out and only realized when I had already done my buttonholes & attached my buttons I was a wee bit off…bit late then!


This is a relatively easy sew. I say that because I didn’t find anything particularly challenging….but I did make a few mistakes. So basically, at a first run, you will still end up with something entirely wearable, and depending on the shape of your model, and your own skill level, possibly pretty darn fabulous. I should have factored in Glenn’s long torso (doh!), and not managed to put my twin needle in a very safe place (i.e lost), so I had to stitch the (too skinny) hem twice .

Next time I would also do the Narrow Arm Adjustment  Jen details on her blog ,the arms just feel a wee bit wide around the cuff area.


Will I be making more cardies for Mr D? Yep, I’ve already cut out a purple version , not my colour choice, but with black denim elbow patches, and a band going around the hem, as per my models request. It’s a lot of fun to make clothing for others, and I enjoy Glenn being involved in the process. If you were thinking about some sewing for a bloke in your life, this would be an excellent place to start!

Open Kimono. Jennifer put a call out for reviews & Mr D really liked the pattern. I received it in exchange for an honest review. Believe me, if the man of the house had complaints you’d be hearing them. Whether you wanted to or not…

Hope you’ve had a lovely weekend!

Kristina xxx




Away with the birds, Lenox…

Pockets of fun!

I know, I’m back on the birds. Its been a topsy turvy few weeks here at Plum Towers, and I’ve had several projects on the go (including a rather fabulous cardi for Mr PK!). He was away at his parents so I had a whole weekend to actually get things finished. Like this beauty for instance.


This isn’t my first shirtdress, but its the first one I’m excited to wear. The Lenox Shirtdress from Cashmerette is a princess seamed beauty, with pockets, and several collar & skirt options that, in my not so humble opinion at least, looks pretty darn fab!

My usual approach to pattern placement…

Now first up let me be clear. This started life as my second muslin (or toile, or “be sensible for once in your life & do a practice run”) The fabric is from Spotlight, found at the bottom of a pile of rayon looking rather worse for wear. It was super cheap on sale plus I had a voucher to use. Its a nice dark navy, which I’ve noticed when it comes to cheaper fabrics, is so much nicer than black, which can look a bit faded.

Why a muslin? Because with princess seams, skirt gathering, my chunky arms and actually getting a tad sensible in my dotage, it seemed like a good idea. There was a lot that could go wrong., hoping for the best probably wasn’t going to cut it…

Feeling pretty good, wont lie….

I initially cut up a stained linen table cloth and mocked up just the bodice & one sleeve. There is plenty of ease through the hips of this pattern, so I knew the skirt would be fine. In the bust I cut a size 16 , I’ve learnt through experience using other Cashmerette pattern to go with a 16 for my 44′ bust. I’m quite narrow through the shoulders & don’t have a big difference between my high & full bust, so an 18 is just to generous. Oh the beauty of knowing a particular pattern company!

I added approx 1.5 cm to the sleeve using the cut & spread method from the Curvy Sewing Collective tutorial , I’m extremely conscious of a tight sleeve (overstuffed sausage casing always springs to mind…??) and have 16 ” biceps, if your arms are less generous I wouldn’t bother. Also note I didn’t change the size of the sleeve cuff pieces, and they were fine.

I graded from a 16 bust through to a 20 waist & hips. It wasn’t complicated, and I’m so glad I did, the waist feels comfortable without lots of baggy fabric around my bust. Even on my best body positive day baggy & bust are two words I never want to hear in the same sentence hey…

How??? Why???

I’ve no idea what I did cutting out the waistband, but one ended up about 3 cm shorter than the other, which wasn’t ideal. I ended up making the seam allowance on the button band wider to hide it….which in hindsight (oh you clever minx hindsight!) wasn’t that clever, I should have just not been a lazy cow & cut a new waistband.


What did I learn? When using rayon pins, pins , pins & then maybe just a few more pins for good luck. It really did make life easier. Gosh I’m sounding so grown up, two muslin’s, extra pins…?!

Ok, this puppy isn’t perfect. The waistband issue aside, I also seem to be showing way more cleavage than the pattern pics . I’m ok with the girls on show, but I still don’t know what I did to make my neckline so much lower? Also the collar band is a bit floppy, but I suspect that’s my choice of interfacing…I’ve only just learned there is more than one kind.

But , my Mother non-withstanding, who will pick it in a heartbeat, (she has form, she picked sleevegate straight away), can you see the big difference? My shirtdress buttons on the opposite side. I don’t know why men & woman are supposed to button their shirts differently, but after my waistband snafu my button band was a bit narrow, so I thought I’d put the most attractive one in front. Naturally Sod’s Law indicated this would be the incorrect one. I’m a rebel & I’ll possibly never be any good (although Im trying…)

Photobomb! Love that skirt swish…

It’s a bit chilly still in Auckland, despite being nearly summer, so tights were welcome, along with my fav pink suede shoes (Jigsaw, from about 15 years ago…) I love opaque tights & coloured shoes, despite not being at my most elegant walking in heels. Who didn’t watch Sarah Jessica Parker in SATC walking (running??!)  New York City’s uneven pavements & think WTF?  I’d have spent the entire series at physio wearing trainers…


The final accessory? An Erstwilder brooch from my sister, what could be more perfect than a cat with attitude on a sea of birds…???

Will I being making more Lenox dresses? Oh yes, so comfortable to wear, I love the look & now I’ve made one I know what tweaks I need to make going forward. Nice.


Hope you have had a lovely weekend, did you manage to get any sewing done?









It’s all crepes and peaches around here…


Do you have a weekend “thing” in your house? A ritual, a treat, something that reminds you, at least for the day, you’re not workin for the man?

We have two fur babies who insist (i.e tear up the bedroom/beat the crap out of each other) on breakfast around 6.30- 7 am , so sleep-ins at Plum Towers involve an early start. Their follows a war of attrition , more intense even than the nightly fight for the duvet. Ok, who will make the coffee?? Just the coffee mind. The idea of getting myself organised enough to provide “brunch” is just a PJ wearing step too far. So how we ended up talking crepes & peaches really is beyond me.

Mr D: So when are you making the crepes? *looks hopeful*

Me: I’m sorry? *inhales coffee* (hint. I need to ease myself into the morning…)

Mr D: Crepes. You said you were making crepes . With sauce. Like fruit sauce or something.

Me: I have no idea what you are on about but please help yourself to some Weetbix. We have milk.

Mr D: But you said you were making crepes. *looks crestfallen*

Me: About six months ago. I have no recollection of any mention of crepes after this. Now please pour me another coffee &s stop talking.

After the kind of inane discussion only people who have been married 400 years can have , I figured out me mentioning crepe (fabric) & peachskin (fabric), was somehow mangled by the beauty of both dodgy AND selective hearing into me making crepes in fruit sauce for breakfast. I know.

Photo-bomber wandering off for a snooze after an early start…

So while I wasn’t whipping up a breakfast treat, I was in my sewing room, making a new top & scarf combo.

The crepe? A lovely soft number I brought from Miss Maude a while back. To be honest I’m not sure what I had in mind to make, not least as I don’t tend to wear a lot of black? I had two meters, enough for a top or blouse, but not a dress . So naturally I wanted to make a dress.



After realizing I definitely didn’t have enough for a dress (doh!), I thought a top in the style of the Kate dress would be a good start. While I may not wear many black tops, it would be a handy wardrobe addition, and an excellent toile for the most delicious chestnut crepe I somehow seem to have also purchased…

Those colours!

I haven’t sewn crepe since the great pants disaster , while it doesn’t have the slip factor of my nemesis rayon, it is still quite mobile. I also now know why my mother refuses to sew black (or dark navy) fabric any more. What a pain! Even when I put my “I don’t need glasses” $30 glasses from the pharmacy on, it was still a rather tricky sew , and an absolute no go at night.

Possibly my best self made binding ever. Just sayin’…..

However. I’m actually really pleased with the sew, the binding around the neckline & sleeves is lovely. The shoulders are a bit wide for me, given my 44 bust I need to address the discrepancy between my bust & narrow shoulders, as it feels like the sleeves are falling off and a bit wide on my arms. A narrow shoulder adjustment next time I think.

But the sleeves fit well (no bicep adjustments, epic win right there), I will probably shorten & gather a bit more for the next version, and may even go down a size ( I cut a straight size 20) as Sew Me Something patterns tend to have a lot of ease .

So I’ve made a black top. Already my inner colour/pattern loving self is saying whaaaa??

The solution? An Infinity scarf, in yellow fabric with black flamingos and maybe a pompom fringe per chance? Obviously.

Go West! …or actually East in this case…..

This is a peachskin fabric, also from Miss Maude, that caught my eye. Hello, sunny yellow, hello birds…and peachskin! Actually I had no idea what peachskin was when I brought this but doesn’t it sound lovely?

Well I can tell you it feels even better, soft , with just enough heft for a scarf like this. I realize I’ve managed to wear my scarf upside down in these pics (a theme? At least I haven’t sewn it that way, unlike these sleeves…).

The inspiration came from Simply Sewing , although I must be honest , after sewing in the pom pom trim, the tutorial in the mag lost me somewhat, so I followed this tutorial, which made a bit more sense (I’m a very visual learner).

I like my birds doing headstands ‘kay…

I feel many more infinity (and beyond?!)  scarves in my future, I cant stand wearing clothing that needs adjusting, so a scarf that will stay wrapped & “scarfed” all day is a joy, plus a pop of colour & print is always on my radar.

So what else was happening in my garden today?

Exceedingly helpful Tommy

My kind of gardening actually, its all about the reflection….and nice tools.

Get lost with the camera…!

Temperamental much?

Sunday afternoon for Tuppence…

The cushion Tuppence is snoozing against I made from my husband’s Nana Sadie ‘s commemorative tee towel from the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953. I love this, she kept it with her things & when she passed various precious items were given  to her whanau.

I treasure these kind of connections, and I love how being able to sew means these everyday items get a new life (which I’m sure a woman of her skills and generation would appreciate). I only met her a few times but she was still in her own home at 94, with the same gorgeous Irish accent she took with her as a young woman leaving,  with some of her family,  for the other side of the world, knowing going back wasn’t an option. Can you even imagine what that must have felt like?

Have a lovely week where ever you are

Kristina xxx





Afternoon tea with Mrs D

Howdy neighbor!

In our house Mr Douglas is the one with the sweet tooth, and I mean sweet. If it has sugar, he likes it. If it has more sugar, perhaps with a side of carbs and possibly a fried involvement, he REALLY likes it. As you can imagine , Afternoon Tea is pretty much his favorite meal (after dessert of course).

I’m much more of a savory girl. Afternoon tea generally leaves me wanting. The texture of sandwich bread has always grossed me out, so dinky club sarnies don’t get me excited. I’ve been accused of jumping on the gluten free bandwagon, but given I embrace pastry in all its forms, and ate my last plastic sandwich in Room 7 at primary school (it was corned beef on white, ewwww!) , I think that’s rather unfair. Or was I the only hipster in Manurewa in 1980 and just didn’t realize it?

So when Jennifer Lauren put out a call for reviewers for her Afternoon Tea blouse & shift dress pattern I was intrigued. Not only did the simple, vintage style appeal, maybe here was my chance to actually embrace afternoon tea?

Yep, cool enough for a cat button, that’s me….

The pattern is a cute blouse/dress with a kimono sleeve, elegant neckline, and two versions of an interesting cross over facing giving, best of all, the potential for awesome button placement. I love buttons! My sister Dette, a crafty minx if ever there was one, sent me a lovely stash of buttons for my birthday, one of which was a cute cat. As a fully certified crazy cat lady I knew this needed to be front & center.

Purrfect! (sorry, couldn’t help myself…)

The pattern is in a PDF version, I found it very easy to put together, particularly as you are told which pages are required depending on which view you are making, so I didn’t need to tape everything together at once.


First up I made View 2, a blouse in a pretty floral cotton poplin. I wasn’t sure if the fabric would have enough drape, but to be honest I don’t tend to wear my blouse tops tucked in, so figured the crispness wouldn’t be an issue. I actually quite like the structure, its simple but has a nice shape which works well given the bold print.

Watching my idiot cat teetering along the fence….

My sewing isn’t perfect, the bulk of the cotton meant it was a little tricky to get the facing sitting perfectly around the shoulder and neckline, (yes, I should have followed the instructions and trimmed the seams a little more carefully!)

But I’m actually really happy with the garment, I made no alterations to the pattern, cutting a straight size 20. It was super quick to put together, the only fiddly bits being sewing on the facing, and button placement. The button is fixed, so no faffing with button holes yay.I was apprehensive the sleeves wouldn’t be long enough & I’d veer into cap sleeve territory. If you can explain to me the appeal of cap sleeves on anything but a twiglet there’s possibly a Nobel prize with your name on it…or at least a glass of Chardonnay. But happily they are not only an acceptable length, they require NO BICEP ADJUSTMENT. Yes, you heard me right kids!

Naturally I couldn’t resist making the dress version. and a visit to Drapers Fabrics sealed the deal. Of course I had company.

Me: I thought I’d check out the new Drapers Fabrics on Khyber Pass on Saturday.

Mr D: Are you seriously buying more fabric??

Me: Of course not, I’m browsing…

Mr D: “side eye”

Me: Ok, yes I might be, I think they have a sale…

Mr D: I’m coming with you , you’re not safe alone in a fabric shop…

Me: Ok…we can go to Little & Friday for doughnuts after.

Mr D: Do you think a doughnut will make me forget how much fabric you are buying?

Me: Yes.

Mr D: I can’t be brought with doughnuts.

Yes dear reader, he can. In fact this is exactly how Saturday transpired. Such is a happy marriage.

So into my lap fell a gorgeous silk linen mix, in my most favorite colours , orange, brown and green. Lovely drape, but the linen gave enough structure to ensure it didn’t feel “nightwearish”.

Once again, a cavalier approach to pattern placement…and lawn care apparently?

For the dress, concerned about tightness around my waist & hips, I graded between sizes from 20 to 22. The size range is 6-24 which equates to 31/24/35 to 49/42/53

I made View 3, which has a box pleat at the back for some shape. There is a sensible amount of ease, I was bang on the measurements for the waist & hips of the 22 and the sizing is spot one, nice & comfortable but not crazy big.

One thing I would note is the cup size. While I’m a 44 bust I don’t have a big difference between my full & high bust, so generally don’t have to do FBA’s. While the sizing was fine for me, I wouldn’t have wanted the bust to be much smaller. For later patterns Jennifer has introduced multiple cup sizes.

Breezy in the garden!

I love this dress, so easy to wear, so easy to put together. The instructions are clear, with good line drawings. The fabric was quite different to sew than the cotton, definitely more slippery , with a bit of bounce from the linen. I found the facing wanted to flip out more than the cotton, and I was a bit nervous with my iron (I learnt the hard way maxi linen temperature doesn’t work for every fabric, despite all that satisfying steam..), so a few extra hand stitches were necessary, but worth the effort for something comfortable to wear, with swish (and pockets!), that isn’t a sack and can be whipped up in an afternoon. Indeed the Afternoon Tea frock!

Open Kimono. Jennifer put a call out for reviews & I liked the pattern. I received it in exchange for an honest review. The only kind I do actually 🙂

Now, whose for tea? And cake. Or cheese?

Kristina xxx