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unrestored chairI found this old chair in the same second-hand shop as the wooden chest I wrote about a few months ago. The chair was sitting on the nature strip, propping up the ‘now open’ sign. It was exactly what I’d been on the lookout for in every antique place on the road from Melbourne to Port Fairy.

The paint work was a mess and there was a serious break in one of the front legs, but the chair was otherwise in good condition. How old is it? Just guessing, maybe 1930s, maybe older.
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I recently booked in for a video stroke analysis session with Patricia Baker at Swimwell (www.swimwell.com.au). Pat videoed me from all angles, including underwater, while I was swimming freestyle. And then we sat down and looked at the footage on her laptop and she gave me the bad news.

There’s no easy way to admit this: My freestyle stroke is appalling. Arms and hands crossing in front of my head rather than being out in line with my shoulders. Hands tilting inwards as they enter the water – and entering the water way too far in front of me. Elbows not high enough in the recovery position. Right forearm really flat as I pull through the water. It’s no wonder I’m still getting shoulder and neck pain when I train.

Happily it wasn’t all completely embarrassing. Pat said my leg and hip position in the water was OK. So it’s just my top half that’s crap.
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When we were young Dad decided, out of the blue, to build us a dolls house. I’m not talking about some lame, scaled-down replica you dump your Barbie dolls in or a pokey, crawl-in box suitable only for three-year-olds. No, ours was adult-size – with stumps, wooden framework, glass windows and a corrugated iron roof. Big enough to rent out to a small family.

It’s a significant part of the family history, at least for me and my two younger sisters. The trouble is no one ever took any photos of it. When did Dad build it? What did it look like exactly? When did it eventually get pulled down? Was it standing for 5, 6, 7 … years? Important questions but, frustratingly, no definitive answers.
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[read Part 2]
I’m wrapping up this project in Part 3. I’m over it. Please, no scrolling straight down to the end to see the final product! I’m going to make you read every bit of what I went through.


Reinforcing the front pockets and back yoke

reinforcing the back yoke seamThe fabric is stretchy and this can create problems in areas where you don’t want a garment to stretch. For the front pocket openings and the back yokes I sewed twill tape into the seams.

Inserting the zip

fly-front zip insertedI hadn’t inserted a fly-front zip for a while. It’s not that hard to do but I found a great tutorial by Sandra Betzina to refresh my memory. She suggests you ignore the instructions in the pattern and follow her method. OK, why not?

After some faffing about, and replaying the video a few times, I got the zip in. I liked Sandra’s statement: ‘There are times when you’re a perfectionist and there are times not to be.’ Knowing when you can cut corners and when you need to be neat and accurate comes with experience.
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[read Part 1]
I’m ready to grade the pattern to size 12. The good news is it’s a multi-size pattern (sizes 14-18) and, when I first made this skirt about 10 years ago, I didn’t cut off sizes 16 and 18. So it’s a relatively easy job to work out where to draw the cutting lines for size 12. Even better it’s only the side seams, waist band and back yoke that need adjusting.

There’s nothing high-tech about my method here. I just measure the spacing between the existing sizes and draw new lines proportionally for the smaller size. Professional patternmakers might have something to say about it but it works for me, especially for such a simple skirt. I’ll adjust the pattern further once I’ve made the toile.

Grading the pattern to size 12
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OK, it’s taken a bit longer than expected to get my new post ready. I know my many followers have been eagerly awaiting it, right? Turns out if you’re going to blog about making a skirt you actually have to make the skirt. And deal with the problems that arise while trying to pretend it’s all going smoothly.

Let’s hope we make it to Parts 2 and 3 and the all-important ‘reveal’. But for now, here goes Part 1:


I fancied making a denim skirt with fabric I bought a few weeks ago at a closing-down sale. It’s a mid-weight denim-type material with a bit of elastane in it. And it was really cheap, only $2/metre!

Brown denim fabric

McCalls pattern 3529 - skirtThe main problem has been finding a pattern. You know, looks like a pair of jeans but is actually a skirt (and I definitely don’t mean a skirt that’s been recycled from a pair of jeans). Why do pattern books never have what you want when you want it? I went through all the commercial pattern books. Nothing. So I took a look in my pattern box and found this one (it’s © 2002):

It’ll do. But the size isn’t right and there are no back pockets (and I suspect it’s too high-waisted), which means I’ve got a bit of prep work ahead of me. The plan is:

  • pre-wash/pre-shrink the fabric (tick that job)
  • iron the pattern pieces and grade the whole pattern down a size
  • make a quick toile in calico to see if it fits
  • make the real thing

Part 2 coming up. Hang in there.

The scene at the race starting areaThis year has been a good one for me swimming-wise.
I found a target to aim for: competing in the 43rd annual Waikiki Roughwater Swim on 3 September. Putting in the entry form was the easy bit. Even the training was mostly OK. The hardest part was getting from the hotel to the starting line (oh my god, what was I thinking?
3.8 kilometres!).
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Wooden chest as it was when I bought itIn June last year I came across a fantastic second-hand store in a small town called Tarrington, near Hamilton in Victoria. One of those places crammed with a mess of old stuff you could spend hours sifting through. My best find was a wooden chest, probably dating back to the 1860s or thereabouts.
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It’s time

Over the years I’ve sewn more clothes than I can remember. I’ve been through that phase of making dresses using old 50s and 60s patterns bought in op shops. I’ve made complicated coats using old-school tailoring methods and I’ve whipped up very sloppy outfits in a few hours just so I could wear them that night. I really love putting effort into special projects – the ones where the pattern grabs you or the fabric is gorgeous or what you’re making is just the thing your wardrobe needs right now (I’m thinking that trench coat I finished last week). Sometimes I go for ages sewing nothing at all. At other times it’s back-to-back projects.

When I get bored with sewing I look around for furniture to restore. Unfortunately it’s getting harder to find quality, solid timber pieces in op shops and second-hand stores. And anything people dump on nature strips these days is pretty much Ikea-type junk. But right now I’ve got 3 jobs lined up. So I reckon that’ll keep me happy for a while.

I want this blog to be a place where I document my projects. There’s only a sketchy outline in my head right now of how it should look. I guess I’ll just let it develop naturally as I go. We’ll see …