The work cambie

Hi everyone, I’m back from holiday by now, but probably having a nap.  Unfortunately my third guest blogger fell through, so instead, say hello to the THIRD CAMBIE.  Way better anyway right?

Is it obvious I can’t get enough of the cambie dress?  This is my third version, and it’s the straight neckline corporate version.  There isn’t much left to say, but even after making a few I was amazed at how well this came out.  I LOVE this dress.


The suiting is from Tessuti, and was only $20 per metre, and I think I cut this out of 1.5metres.  It’s impossible to see, but there is a tiny pin stripe on the fabric which makes it not boring.  Or at least as not boring as corporate wear can get.  The lining was black bemsilk, and was $5 per metre.  All up it probably cost about $40, which for a very professional dress, it’s a very reasonable cost.


It’s a straight size ten, with the straps shortened by 2 inches.  The hemline has also been brought up by approximately 2 inches.  I need  one of these like poppykettle though for my hem marking!  At the time of the photo the hem had been serged, but needed catchstitching and pressing up – but I’m on holiday and not at work….so procrastination rules right?  It can wait until the night before I go back….


I modified the neckline like Tasia’s tutorial, and my new favourite technique of prickstitching.  Nothing too new or exciting, it’s definitely time for a new challenge.   This is going to be the last cambie around these parts for awhile.

Future learnings

Gosh, to pay attention to cutting out pattern modifications.  I cut the lining with a sweetheart neckline, then had to recut another bodice after packing everything up.  Very, very irritating.  I need to be putting post-its onto the pattern when modifying to remember to make that change again.

So that’s three days of the week covered off, maybe a Peony for another 2?


The Winter Cambie

For those in the Northern Hemisphere it’s cooling down, so it’s time to do winter versions of our favourite dresses.  While I’m sewing out of season technically, my office at work has some pretty insane AC so it’s always colder in the office in Summer than it is in Winter.  Go figure.

The Winter Cambie is a brown stripe wool, with a black bemsilk lining.  I’m really fussy about what fabric I use, as anything slightly coarse or with too much textures gives me a rash.  To that end the waistband is not the wool, but also cut from the lining to ensure a nice smooth finish.  I did cut the waistband very carefully out of the main fabric so the stripe runs straight.

The pockets were carefully cut to match the grain of the skirt, however unless I stitch the pockets shut they won’t look matched.  We know they are so that’s all that counts.  Pockets are endlessly useful, and why corporate wear designers are of the general opinion that women in the workforce don’t need functional pockets like men is baffling.  POCKET SEXISM ENDS HERE.

Brown wool winter cambie dress pocket detail

The lining has been prickstitched down, which is a “couture” technique that is really fast, adds a lovely finish and is a perfect job for in front of the teev.   Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing has a great section on how to do prickstitching, and I really can’t recommend it enough for stopping the lining from creeping out of the dress and edges your seamline just to the inside of your dress.


The seams were all pinked with only the hems done on my serger and then catch stitched up by hand on the fashion fabric, and just hemmed by machine on the lining.  I’m still not very confident with my serger use, and using slippery fabric sometimes it likes to try and eat them, which is counter to what my intention was.  The threads also look like the tension on the looper threads is much too loose.  If anyone has tried the serger class on Craftsy I’d love to hear your thoughts/review.


I’m happy with the fit, I cut a straight size ten and it’s very comfortable.  I probably could have cut an 8 through the hips, as the wool doesn’t drape very softly through the hips.  Again I had to shorten the straps by nearly two inches, and the only other adjustment I made was the lengthen the pockets.  While on paper the size is ok, the way the pocket is angled means it was perfect for phone falling out.  I added an inch along the bottom (so the pocket was longer, heading towards my knees) to stop that.  Initially I considered making it wider again, but the pocket would then cut across the darts and add too much bulk.


It’s a wool from GJ’s Discount Fabrics on Lygon St in Brunswick.  It was $12, but actually free as I won a gift voucher 😛  Hooray for free fabric right?  The Bemsilk lining is from Spotlight, during one of their sales I just bought 5 metres of it.


I hand-basted in the sleeves for a good fit and catch stitched the hem.  It’s crazy how fast you start improvising and doing ‘complex’ techniques, as until you try it you won’t realise how EASY it is.  The crescent skirt tutorial on how to insert zips is great if you don’t want to use an invisible zipper.  The finish is remarkable, but the tutorial does read complex until you try it, and take your time thinking about which side of the fabric should be where on your finished garment as it applies to your zip.

Future learnings

I need to find my zipper foot and learn how to use my serger.  I keep cheating on BOTH of these by pinking my seams and using other random machine feet for my singer.

What do you think of the winter cambie?  I was caught in the rain in it the other day without a coat, it was warm however it’s probably still a little lightweight for snow, but the last time it snowed in Melbourne was 1951.

The Renfrew that didn’t work

After so many successful Renfrews, I was bitterly disappointed with this one, a mixed ponte.  It possibly was doomed from the start, and I never wanted to admit it.

The fabric was a last minute grab from the Remnants table at Tessuti.  It’s a beautiful ponte, and very much a stable knit.  So stable that it doesn’t stretch and give like I need it to.  The Renfrew pattern is fine for larger busts with grading, but I found this was so stable I needed to have done a FBA so it would sit properly around the armscye.

The purple had a fault running down the grain, which I didn’t notice but until after I greedily cut out my pattern, and the fault ran through both sleeves and the waistband.  What to do?  Mix up the colours of course *slaps head*.   This would have worked better if the neck line was also in black.  But it’s not.  Because I bought just enough black ponte to eek out sleeves and a waistband, and did not have enough for the neckline.

I also lengthened the waist, which works with a more stretchy knit, but this just shows that a swayback adjustment is probably in order.  Especially with the back lengthened to cover le bum.

Now what to do with it?  It’s my most expensive Renfrew made, and I detest it.  So far I’ve come up with two ideas, one being to cut it up and try and salvage the fabric for something for the baby, and the other idea is to try and fix it somehow?  The mixed colours work when I lift my arms like a raglan top.  Maybe if I trim out the excess around the tummy a little it might be ok?

OR….could I trim it at the waist and add a black skirt?  What do you think?

The funky cambie dress

Sewaholic Cambie Here it is, my long awaited first cambie.  This was the pattern that inspired me to start selling Sewaholic patterns in Australia, and it’s taken me this long to find the perfect fabric.  This is styled as my “going to work on friday but not meeting any clients” dress.

All I can say is thank goodness I took a break from sewing the Renfrew pattern to discover the joy of the Cambie.  This was honestly a joy to sew, easy to fit, great finish and it’s comfortable.  This is going to get so much wear that I’ve already cut out another 2.  This one is getting it’s debut this friday for work, and then Cambie and Cocktails.  More on that later 😉

You know what else was a joy?  The sunshine that is overdue for us long-suffering Melbournites.  This is the one part of my backyard that isn’t a swamp from all the winter rain, so the moment there was a sunny day we dashed outside to get some photos.




I made a full muslin expecting to have to adjust the bust area, and had already planned out how I was going to do it, but Rachel at MyMessings had made hers without a FBA…and I was surprised that it worked without one.  Ladies with a small bust – how did you find the fit?  I used a cotton sateen, so I muslined a size 8 aiming for it to be a bit snug, which then gave me a lovely fit with the stretch.  Even so with an interfaced waistband, a pasta lunch might be out of the question.

The only changes I made was to shorten the straps (a good 2 inches) and bringing the waistband up on the front.  Perhaps I should have shortened the bodice to bring the waistband up and not have to shorten the straps – but then it might get a little flashy.  There’s a growing suspicion in these parts that I have a long torso with a high waist.  All previous theories about being an hourglass are being replaced with a pear.


The main fabric is 2 metres of cotton stretch sateen from spotlight – I’m pretty sure it’s part of the reproduction range and was the overwhelming $6 per metre.  Cotton sateen is a great choice for this dress as it gives gently enough, and has a stiff enough drape to hide the pockets.

Lining- the bodice is self lined as I had enough fabric to do so, and the skirt is some shiny slippery lining from spotlight that was in my stash.  The bodice is a little too bulky, but not overwhelmingly so.   The skirt has a narrow hem as a longer skirt feels more balanced for this print.


In terms of construction, again I followed Rachels sage advice and used the Crescent skirt tutorial for inserting the zip, by sewing it to the lining first then sewing it to the main fabric.  I also didn’t use an invisible zipper as 1.  They’re like $5, 2. I don’t have an invisible zipper foot for my singer yet, and 3. they seem to break more than normal zips.  I have grand plans to hand prick-stitch the lining but as yet no action.

Future lessons

The top of my zip isn’t pretty, it hasn’t flipped round the right way properly which I’m disappointed about. The zip actually isn’t set into the fabric far enough, I misplaced my zipper foot somewhere and used a normal foot so really it’s my own stupid fault.  I may go back and fix this as soon as I can find that bloody foot.

Things I wish were different?  Only wish I’d lengthened and deepened the pockets.

Beginner sewing plan – everything but the pants

It’s been three months now, so how is my beginner sewing plan going?  I set out to make 9 specific patterns to practise my beginner sewing skills, through a range of patterns and fabrics.


Heidi and Finn hoodie
Heidi and Finn Cowl Dress

Still to go

Stretch top ( I made one but it was rubbish…..)
New Look skirt (In progress)
Jenny skirt (did make a similar style pencil skirt…yet to be blogged)
McCalls Dress

What else have I made?

4 Oliver and S sets of Pyjamas
Oliver and S popover dress
McCalls skirt 
McCalls Blouse muslin

What have I learnt from all this?  The biggest obstacle to my sewing was my not understanding the full capabilities of my sewing machine, and the variation of settings, and remembering to change them all back again when I’m done….  Sewing with Knits was much easier than previous attempts as I learnt how my machine responded to a variety of knits.  By forcing myself to try a range of knits close together, I’ve found that I could quickly troubleshoot when things went askew.

Interestingly, the biggest thing I have learnt is not to rely on the sewing pattern (for most brands) for helping me achieve the best finish of the garment.  Sure, it might be assembled correctly, but really sitting and making decisions about how to do my seam finishes and other details before I started cutting/sewing makes a huge different.  Not waiting until I get to the line “and now finish your seams” to make a decision.  By thinking about the fabric first, and then the pattern instructions I’ve got a clear idea of what seam finishes might look best, whether I need to change anything before cutting out, if I should do extra stay-stitching, I want to line the garment?  Underline, interline, there are just SO many choices.  Should I hand stitch the hem, machine stitch, stitch to the underlining, or maybe even finish the seam with bias binding?  It seems I make so many versions of the same pattern until I’m really happy with the final result.

So really, beginner patterns can become intermediate patterns as there are so many ways you can improve/change them to suit your preferences and skill level.  I think I have a long way to go, and I’m going to keep practising my skills of sewing before I even get to big fitting issues.  No more quick fixes here, these are going to be quality garments!

Now, I realise that there aren’t any pants in the beginner sewing plan.  Obviously the Thurlow pants were not out by then!  I’m sure I might sneak in a pair….But after a cambie, I’m dying for some new pants…

Renfrew V2 – another confirmed case of Renfrew-itis

**disclaimer – I do sell Sewaholic patterns, so I’m not blogging to sell her patterns, but I sell her patterns (and blog about them) because I really love them)**

SewbusyLizzy diagnosed herself with a severe case of Renfrew-itis, and it seems so be striking down sewers around the world.  (I suspect there are a few Melbourne cases with both Thornberry and SewBrunswick both up to large numbers…at last count I thought I saw Renfrew number 6 at SewBrunswick?

This really is my favourite pattern, I’ve worn my pink one as soon as it comes out of the wash, and having undertaken the Seamless pledge (no buying new clothes for a whole year) this is going to be a staple.  At the moment view C the cowl neck is my favourite, as it’s nice and warm in winter.  For real warmth I should make the long sleeve version, but inevitably long sleeves always get pushed up to my elbows anyway so might as well save on some fabric.

Please let me present, Renfrew number 2, the matched stripe stretchy version.

This one was quite difficult to get a decent photo of, as soon as we began taking photos I was attacked by a wild pack of dogs.  Or two overly affectionate Pointers.

We ended up with more photos of me patting the overly enthused dogs.

This pattern was pretty easy to cut out to make the stripes match which was unexpected, as long as you think long and hard about the seams lines, instead of the pattern lines you should be able to match up the stripes with a bit of thinking prior to cutting.


AS this knit was much stretchier than my first Renfrew (an interlock knit),  strangely enough it was loose.  Fancy that.  I lengthened the torso of the pattern by an inch, which wasn’t necessary in this fabric as lacks the recovery to ride up at all.  The lengthening just makes it look loose around the torso.  The other (now obvious) but disappointing thing was the cowl neck which drapes beautifully in a firm knit is droopy in this fabric.  In saying all the above, this renfrew is still completely wearable and gets quite the workout in my wardrobe rotation.


This was a pretty cheap cut, $7 a metre from Darn Cheap fabrics in Heidelberg, and it may pill.  So far it’s gone through the wash a couple of times and it’s still ok, but the large vertical stripes look faintly fluffy.  I won’t be too upset if it has a short life span, as the fit and collar could have been a little better.


To sew this, I used my normal singer sewing machine with a zig zag stitch medium stitch width and about 1.5 stitch length from memory.  The other adjustments was the use of a ball point needle and adjusting my presserfoot to 0 pressure.  Sewed like a dream!   To match the stripes I cut the corner of the front at the same point as the corner of the back (where the seams would match under the arm).  Really, once the grainline of the pattern pieces were straight, I checked the stripes of all the pieces to make sure the sleeves were sitting on the same ‘part’ of the pattern.  It’s hard to explain, but if you get a cheap stripy material with a changing patttern it’s easier to work it out looking at the fabric and the pattern pieces as you go.

Future lessons

I will use stretchy knits like this for a Renfrew again, but I’ll cut a much smaller size in the sleeves and from the bust down and make the round neck version.  My tip, if you are using a stretchier knit cut at least one size down.

So what makes this a case of Renfrew-itis?

How about the four Renfrews here?  Two are cut out (the purple and the stripes) and the black is laid out for cutting, and the blue earmarked for another!  I might divert it and make something else however, 6 Renfrews might be a little excessive?
I’m cutting all my knits in one go before borrowing my mothers serger, so I’ve been listening to the Stuff you missed in History podcast while laying out all this fabric.  Learning and sewing, it’s a beautiful thing.  My local library lets users borrow audio books straight to your Iphones so I’ve even been listening to some fiction.  Brilliant!

Sewaholic Renfrew

**Total disclaimer, I sell sewaholic patterns on so am completely biased.  On an interesting note this is the pattern that made me start selling sewing patterns online.  I HATE having to order things from overseas and wait, and sometimes trying to source independent patterns in Australia is painful.**

This week I sewed (finally) my first Renfrew, using the cowl neck 3/4 sleeve versions.  And I loved it.  This pattern was fast to construct, so fast that I think I’ll go and buy a few metres of different colour knits and sew up a storm in an afternoon and have a half a new wardrobe.  Or at least 3 Renfrews.  What took the longest amount of time while sewing was deciding how to finish the seams.  Actually what took the longest was unpicking the stupid stitching with a twin needle I did around the arm and then unpicking the arm as I sewed it while tired and stretched the seams.

I followed the Lladybird method of grading between sizes to get a full bust adjustment, but it’s just not enough.  Looking at the front the sleeves are really pulled out of shape and there are folds of fabric running from the sleeve to the bust apex. The bust is a size 12, with the rest of the top a size 10 as being a knit there is enough give for the top to be comfortable, and it fits like a knit RTW.  I’m just sick of the trade off between enough boob room and loose everywhere else or really stretched over my chest and hips to have any fitting around my middle.


The fit aside from the bust is great.  It looks like the fabric pools under the bust as it’s taut only there with the rest of the pattern loose fit.  That little bit of extra space around the hips is welcome, and the waistband helps stop the riding up.  I will lengthen the pattern next time for my long torso, to ensure no back gap between my pants and top.  This pattern is listed as intermediate, however a beginner confident with knit fabric would be able to do a great job.


Sewaholic Renfrew Pattern This is a medium weight interlock from Darn Cheap Fabrics in Heidelberg which was $7 a metre.  According to the pattern you need 2.1 metres (2 1/4 yards) for this version, but I bought 2 metres and had enough leftover to cut out a cowl neck dress for my daughter.    Darn Cheap fabrics does sell online, but if they do fabric samples get them first as the fabric quality tends to be either excellent or poor.  The colour looked wrong when I bought it, but I’m pleased with the end result.  Finally managed to buy fabric in a colour I wear, so it was quite amusing how uninspired the colour felt when buying it.

In trying to learn about the types/varieties of knits, it’s well worth buying (or going to the library) and looking at a fabric reference guide.  I used the Fabrics A to Z to work out what would work rather than tugging on every bit of fabric in the store.


After practising sewing with knits on 4 baby hoodies I’ve found the combination if techniques that work for my sewing machine.  After reading a wide variety of advice on how to sew knits, the general conclusion is use ballpoint needles, a zigzag stitch (or other stretch stitch) and the rest depends on your sewing machine.  My machine also enjoys having the pressure on the presser foot reduced to 0, twin needle stitching and a hot cup of tea while sewing.   There is still a great deal of improvement to be had in my sewing of knits, but my renfrew was finished well.  If you had an overlocker this would be half an hour of sewing.

It’s worth being pleased with the time it took to sew and the final result if your husband doesn’t realise you made it.  WIN.

Future lessons

A stable knit really works well for this pattern.  I know some people love the super stretchy knits but this has enough give to be comfortable and loose and still look nice.  Any more stretch and I would cut a much smaller size as the pattern is soft around your frame with a stable knit.  The next one I sew will have a FBA adjustment like VickiKateMakes rotating out from the arm, just to get the fit better around the arm.  Will I make more of these?  Of course!