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T.G.I.F. + More Croquis

20 Jan

Just wanted to pop in to say hi and a humongous thank you for all the encouragement too. Things have been plenty better this week with several interviews. The positions are mostly a step down from what I was doing but with good companies so keep your fingers crossed. Unfortunately, the whole process has kept me off the internet for the most part but here are a couple of things entertaining me this week:

Personalised croquis are popping up all over – I think the Colette Sewing Handbook was a popular present this Christmas! The one above is from one of my favourite new discoveries – Shona Stitches.

And Lauren from Lladybird has a great tutorial for creating a digital version.

Other Mini-versions of your favourite bloggers:


{source} Handmade Mess

  • Handmade Mess has a hilarious pictorial description of the trials of making your own wardrobe.


  • Bernie and I makes great Detail Inspiration posts like the collars one above.

I’m off to the Crafters Ceilidh first thing tomorrow so it’s early to bed with me. I’ll leave you with this gorgeous sunrise at my Aunty’s place north of Auckland and the playlist I’ve been listening to all week. Have a peaceful weekend and if you’re off to Edinburgh too – See You Soon!

Breathe Me from Shannonigans37 on 8tracks.

Personal Post

10 Jan

I almost accidently uploaded my CV instead of an image, which is why I’m taking a wee break.

Hey guys,

The job hunting situation in London has me a little consumed at the moment so I’m going to take a blogging break for a couple of weeks. I appreciate all the support you guys give me and I didn’t want to just drop off the face of the earth. Hopefully I can manage a post here or there and I’ll be checking in on twitter but I need to be head down, bum up right now or there’ll be no money for sewing at all.

xo Alana

T.G.I.F + Foreign Language Blogs

6 Jan

And what a Friday it has been! I’ve spent a lovely day on Goldhawk Road with Handmade Jane, Su-Sews-So-So and Myfabrication and as per usual I forgot to bring a camera. Question: if there are no images of the purchases made, do they really count?

Meanwhile, here’s another question for you:

Do you read sewing blogs in  languages you don’t speak?

It may just be my Fear of Missing Out (FOMO if you will) talking but I feel like there’s a whole lot of sewing action I’m missing out on. Plus, when you use Google Translate to decipher them, it has it’s own entertainment value ( no really, try reading the garment descriptions on

Here are some that I have stumbled across: Lesno Marchewkowej in Polish

Can you believe this is the same coat as the one on the cover of the December Burda Magazine?

pachi-pachi in French.

Madame Palagie in Greek.

And finally, because I am un-employed, I have time to scour the internet just for you*. Here are my favourite things this week.

"Make it work!* (*After you have lost an arbitrary amount of weight.)" - Caption from Lesley @

  • “Criticizing Tim Gunn is like calling Kermit the Frog an asshole: Not only is nobody going to take your side, the odds are good that many people will be actively offended by your sharing this minority opinion.” From My Big Fat Problem with Tim Gunn on xoJane. Keep reading down to the comments because there’s some interesting discussions going on.
  • “There were all sorts of choices, of course. I could buy thongs, hipsters, bikinis, and even something called a cheeky panty. (That last, I can only guess is some sort of insolent, but loveable, undergarment. Perhaps it has Oscar Wilde quotes on the tag?)” From The Case of the Tiny Knickers on A Confederacy of Spinsters.
  • “I was pondering why an old story about a delicate, emotional, drug addled actress from the 50s is so much more romantic than hearing about a supermodel hitting the runway with half a bag of coke littered around her nose. Easy. Photographic evidence. “ From How the Internet Has Taken the Glamour Out of Behaving Badly on Smaggle.
  •  “Resist the urge to over-design: Chevron squiggles and textures and shadowed fonts, oh my!  Once you discover the wonderful world of templates and photo editing it can be a slippery slope down to this.  Resist the urge, my friends!  You are stronger than the gif!” From Making Your Blog Look Like A Million Bucks on Yes and Yes. Guilty as charged, especially while I’m working on the move to my .com address. I need this tattooed on my hand.

*No way near as glamorous as it sounds. 

Victory Patterns Follow-Up

5 Jan

This post proved mighty popular so I thought you might be interested (if you haven’t seen it already!) …

Gorgeous Anna from Paunnet has an interview with Kristiann from Victory Patterns.

Hopes for 2012, Baby!

1 Jan

I know, don’t I look all festive and celebratory?

In actual fact, I’m having a quiet new years more along these lines but I hope whatever you’re doing you are having a lovely time!

2011 was a bit of a write-off for me personally, the first 6 moths were spent working extremely hard and reaching the decision to leave the company I had spent all my adult working life with. The last 6 months were spent relocating from New Zealand to the other side of the world and reconnecting with family.

For 2012 I don’t have any big plans other than settling into a comfortable routine, starting with a job. I’m rather out of practice with the whole job hunting process so it’s a steep learning curve (not to mention the fact that I hate trying to sell myself) but, in order to make this London thing work, it’s a necessity. My background is in hospitality Training and Development and if I can find a position in a company with a solid positive work culture I’d love to continue doing that but if not I’m happy to find something else. All I want is an engaging job, paying enough to cover rent, bills, and fabric, and most importantly for me – working with and for good people. Hopefully it isn’t a pipe dream.

This is also the year I turn 30, if I’m happy, calm and content at the end of it, it will have been a good one.

Sewing wise I have bigger plans. I feel like I coasted a bit this year and didn’t really go out of the way to learn or progress my skills; this year I’d like to focus on challenging myself more.

  • Move to Last year I purchased my own domain name (how grown-up!) and I want to have moved to the new address by the end of February. The hold up is that I’m determined to teach myself html/css so I can design it myself, which ties in nicely with my belief that the internet can teach me anything. It’s actually really fun and I’m using a series of online tutorials called Don’t Fear the Internet as well as resources from Pugly Pixel.

Don’t Fear HTML from Jessica Hische on Vimeo.

  • Fit a perfect sloper: For Christmas this year, I finally got my hands on Palmer/Pletsch’s Fit for Real People from Mum + Dad. Their Full Busted DVD is one of my favourite resources and this book has a lot of love in the sewing community. The graphic design may be dated but the content is irresistible so much so that I can’t imagine sewing anything else until I make the fitting shell I’ve had in my stash for the last 6 months.

  • Take a pattern drafting course/Buy a mannequin: After drafting a few Sorbetto variations, I’d really like to learn more about pattern-making. Tilly and Suzy have both used courses with the London College of Fashion and that’s all the endorsement I need. So, provided I’m in a position financially, I’d like to do at least one course. Also related and reliant on moolah, is the hope to attain a dress form.

  • Make a pair of jeans + a winter coat: I want to up my skill level by tackling some of the techniques and garments I’ve been putting off for most of the time I’ve been sewing. Namely, fly-front pants, bound button holes, and bagged lining. All of which are used to make two wardrobe essentials – jeans and a winter coat. In the BMV sale, I’ve ordered a McCall’s Palmer/Pletsch jeans pattern and Simplicity 2508.

  • Sew more vintage patterns/Create side project: After making my first dress from a Vintage Pattern a few weeks back, I’m determined to make more use of vintage patterns in 2012. This ties in too, to a little monthly side project I have in the works. It sounds very secret squirrel but it’s not –  I’m just working on the details still so watch this space.
  • Attend V&A talks: Mela has written a couple of great posts on expat guilt on her Sifting Through blog and I can appreciate where she’s coming from. I often feel guilty about not making the most of London and I’m in a city where I don’t really know anyone – making new friends as an adult is challenging, y’all! It makes me miss my friends back home even more. I think the answer is just to say yes to as many opportunities as you can – you never know what will happen. One of those things is to attend more of the museum events that London specialises in. In particular the V&A often has talks by well-known fashion designers so I’d love to catch one of these.

Balenciaga: The Work of a Master - V&A, 19:00, Jan 23 2012

  • Buy better quality fabrics: My secret shame is the amount of polyester in my wardrobe. Being in a big city provides access to better quality materials at a range of prices so I’d like to step up the quality of the fabrics I’m using.
  • Have a go at some “advanced” patterns: I feel like I was more fearless when I first started sewing – I made a boned corset top for my 6th form school ball – and I scoffed at pattern difficulty ratings. Now I worry about making  mistakes and wasting fabric instead of just having a go so I have a couple of designer Vogue patterns heading my way.
  • Utilise more pins from Pinterest: Lastly, something I’m sure anyone on pinterest is guilty of , I’d like to make better use of the inspiration photos pinned to my boards. It’s so easy to put them there and forget about it, but maybe once every 2-3 months a pinterest challenge wouldn’t be a bad thing.

A little Erdem from my pinterest board

Heres to a exciting and rewarding year!

Pattern Purchase Decision-making for Nerds

29 Dec

It’s just too easy to get caught up in the razzle-dazzle excitement of pattern shopping in a sale. So, in an effort to keep myself on track whilst narrowing down my choices in the big 4 sales today I found myself running through the same questions over and over.

Being the nerd that I am, here they are on a flow chart:

Here’s how it works for me.

  • It supports my sewing goals for the year (more on that tomorrow)
  • It keeps me focussed on what I need
  • Helps avoid those impulse purchases

And here’s some examples in action:

McCall’s 6519: This one ticked all the boxes and was first in the cart.

McCall’s 6511: This is an example of where I got distracted by the fabric. Realistically, just trying to find that many different types of jersey would drive me nuts so this was a no buy.

McCall’s 6506: I love this dress but realistically I think I’d enjoy the challenge of trying to draft this myself.

Gertie’s Bombshell Dress: Craftsy had the course on sale, I didn’t have a similar pattern, Gertie’s fabric choices were stunning but that wasn’t the main draw. I don’t really have anywhere to wear a bombshell dress, but, I know I’ll learn so much from making the dress and Gertie’s tutorials so I bought it.

How do you decide?

If you’re nerdy like me you can get a pdf of the flow chart here.

2011 Reflections

23 Dec

End to another crazy year and time for some silly reflection!

Here are a few statistics and superlatives.

Whether it’s people looking for fancy dress costumes or the popularity of Simplicity 2692, The Mermaid Dress was the most viewed post for the second year in a row.

The piece I’ve worn to death over the summer has been this Sloppy Striped Sorbetto. With leggings around the house or with skinny jeans and a cardigan something about those black and white stripes just works with everything.

Speaking of Colette Pattern’s Sorbetto… here’s 5 more. Definitely my most used pattern. I loved the opportunity to experiment with pattern alterations off of the basic block.

The post with the most comments was this experiment in drawing a personalised croquis from the Colette Sewing Handbook. I’m really interested in seeing who else has done this exercise – maybe we can start a croquis gallery (maybe anonymous if preferred). It could be linked with different fitting adjustments, e.g. different examples of sway back. Just throwing it out there.

Hmm, I’m not sure which random google algorithm lead the most amount of people here using the term “elbise çizimleri”. Google translate tells me it is Turkish for “dress drawing”, so hoşgeldiniz to any readers from Turkey.  Interestingly also in the top 10 are kıyafet çizimleri (costume drawing), dress drawings, drawings of dresses.

523 people found their way onto this post via wordpress and were bitterly dissapointed to find a post on Burda Magazine’s questionable styling after I accidentally used the term n * k e d lady.

I was absent for the first few months of the year due to travel for work and procrastination over sorting a proper sewing space. However, one good thing that came out of it is this tutorial on how to re-cover an office chair.

In which I talk on video (Pendrell Blouse Part one + two)

Ugghh, no one should ever watch themselves on video.

The most incoming links this year came from the superb Snug Bug. Here’s a big bouquet to say thanks, Patty!

Thank You flowers to Amy from Sewing Through the Motions and Karen from Did You Make That? for the vintage patterns and lucky dip I won in your give-aways this year.

My absolute favourite sewing moments this year have been meeting up with lots of lovely ladies for cocktails, shopping and, of course, stitching. It’s been just awesome.

So there it is 2011, done and dusted. Here’s to a smoother 2012!


First Column (top to bottom): 2 Double-knit Jennys, Brumby-Blue Dress, Sew Grateful Dress, White Lace Tee.

Second Column (top to bottom): Sunshine Blouse (fail), Christmas Macaron, Colour-blocked Blouse.

Third Column (top to bottom): Floral Skirt, Liberty Tee, Minoru Sweater Dress.

Fourth Column (top to bottom): Pendrell, Silk Sorbetto, English Summer Sorbetto.

Last Column (top to bottom): Colette Rooibos, Striped Sorbetto, Ugly Pants.

2010 Round-Up.

Lastly but by far not leastly, thanks to all of you for your support this year!

Honey, I shrank the sewists!

2 Dec

If you follow many sewing blogs, prepare to see miniature versions of bloggers (check out mini-Joanne, mini-Ali, and mini-Marie) popping up all over the place as the Colette Sewing Handbook is shipped worldwide.

One of the many fantastic activities included in the book is creating a personalised croquis for sketching inspiration. I’ve written about my love of ursa major’s curvy croquis before but I couldn’t resist playing with one of my own.

The basic premise is to trace a photo of yourself in tight-fitting clothes. To make it easier I printed the photo and scribbled on the back in pencil before placing another sheet underneath and drawing over the top of the photo. The result is a true to scale version of yourself in all it’s glory.

For me this was a  positive activity but I know body image is a really personal and potentially emotionally-charged area. If I’m being honest, (and I really try to be on this blog) my own feelings about my body change on a daily basis. I was raised in a feminist, body-loving hippy house-hold but I also know what the outside world says about other bodies like mine so whilst I try most of the time to be kind to myself, sometimes those nasty voices get in.

Now what does this have to do with making a croquis, you ask? Well it’s a little like stepping on the bathroom scale. If you’re the type of person who sees the number and it sends you into a self-hating hurricane, skip this activity and download one of the many cool croquis available for free online. I chose to give myself a little pep-talk, install definatalie’s ‘No Diet Talk’ blog badge, then dove right in.

And you know what? I actually really love my mini-me. I expected to feel those nasty twinges about my hips but instead I got a series of a-ha moments like, Holy Cow that’s why pants are nearly impossible to find or make.

I’ve found that the longer I sew the more inclined I am to look at myself with a sewist eye rather than a critical one. I don’t feel bad about my hips, I’m much more interested in what adjustments I can make to get garments that fit… it’s like crazy pattern-making sudoku and I love a challenge.

Thoughts that popped into my head:

  • No wonder I have to add like four inches to any crotch length.
  • My pelvis seems to tilt so I think that the front crotch curve will be a very different shape to the back crotch curve.
  • Having a full bust leaves very little waist height.
  • My back length is proportionally short but being 5′ 10 the actual measurement fits most patterns.

I’m not really a pear or an hourglass. I’ve decided that my body-shape will here-forth be called the snowman as it’s like two spheres stacked atop each-other.

So from a fitting perspective it really get’s you thinking about possible alterations you might need.

From a design perspective, it’s quick and easy to see which shapes and silhouettes you like on your body.

Pants are a bit of a mare as anything that sits below my natural waists slips down to that groove between my high and low hip, but I think the bootleg works ok.

One final use… De-coding deceptive vintage pattern illustrations like this one (from Amy’s lovely give-away) on my sewing table at the moment.

A Small Obsession

16 Nov

There is , oh, about a million things I should be doing right now but instead I am obsessing about…

this bag!

Mod Cloth Holding Pattern Makeup Bag (US$23.99) found via Making it Lovely.

And now I’m going to drop subtle hints about christmas presents to my family.

Sew-free Sunday + Walthamstow Market

6 Nov

Hey guys,

I’ve decided to start collecting all the random things I come across when I’m procrastinating instead of sewing in a weekly post. Some are sewing related and some are just random.

Welcome to Sew-free Sunday.

This week:

  • I have three works in progress but I wasn’t feeling inspired by any of them this week so I thought I’d just pop up toWalthamstow Market for a little inspiration.

General malaise + fantastic deals = a whopping shoppers high.

When I eventually came to on the Victoria Line train, I was swamped by 26 metres of fabric and only a hazy recollection of parting with £60. I may have needed a very strong cup of tea and a lie down when I got home.

Don’t get me wrong the deals are unbelievable, it’s just that I forgot for a moment I’m unemployed and as such should be much better behaved.

Please make me feel better and tell me I’m not the only one this happens to.

  • If you’re ever having a bad-body image day, the ladies over at never fail to cheer me up and put things in perspective with their frankness and complete lack of boundaries. Sample writing: “Most shirts give the general appearance that my back mounds are being lovingly cradled by the fabric, like a very low and unsexy pair of back breasts.” (P.s. the lovely Mena from sew weekly sometimes pops up as a contributor, too).
  • Other things that make me happy… Babies! A second cousin came over yesterday and much time was spend baby cuddling. Biological programming or no, holding a baby makes my soul feel good.
  • On body image, this one is for anyone who thinks losing weight will be the answer to happiness (hint: that used to be me). I was looking through some old photos on Mum’s computer and I found this one from 2004.

This is at my smallest adult weight but to my eyes I look awful. I see the blankness and exhaustion around my eyes and the tension in my body and when I see photos from this period I just remember how unhappy I was. The pounds don’t take your problems with them.

Heavier, but happier two years later in Tonga, although to be fair, it’s scientifically impossible to be unhappy whilst drinking a cocktail from a coconut. Laborious research has proven it.

  • Neither can one be unhappy whilst watching jello jiggle.

Get your jelly on – LADY IN RED from Billy Law on Vimeo.

Billy Law made 30 desserts in a cone shaped jello mold in October for Breast Cancer awareness and each was put to the jiggle test.

  • Lastly I’ve been feeling a little homesick, so this slice of kiwi humour (albeit addressing a serious topic) and accents hit just the right spot.

So there you have it. My advice this week: shop mindfully, give yourself a break, drink cocktails from tropical fruit, hold babies, make jello + don’t drive drunk.

xo Alana.