Finished Object: Crinkle Linen Pavlova

Burbank Forest Reserve QLD | Pavlova

I’ve been sick with a sinus infection since last Friday.  Today was the first day I was feeling myself.  Stephen needed to run a work errand this afternoon(Koala Bushland Reserves), so Lila and I tagged along for a nature walk and a photoshoot in the forest.

Crinkle Linen Pavlova | Cake Patterns

This is the Pavlova Wrap Top made in the crinkled linen gauze I showed you a few weeks ago.   It’s a woven fabric, not jersey as per the pattern.  My measurements fall between 35 and 40, so I used a 35.  I hear Cake Patterns is relatively generous with their wearing ease, so I went for the smaller size.

She’s tied at the back because I did not compensate for the woven fabric when I cut the tie.  It does not prefer to stretch around my waist.

Crinkle Linen Pavlova

This is a fresh make, and it’s linen.  Experience tells me the linen will relax over time, so it’s likely that eventually the ties will go round the front.  I don’t mind either way, to be honest.

Pavlova Wrap Top in Crinkle Linen Gauze

wearing my sturdier shoes while climbing down an embankment. The stick is a useful driftwood souvenir from beach combing a few weeks ago.

The 35 is a wee bit (2″) short for my waist length, which I can get away with in a jersey.  I like this top and have worn it several times, but if I make this again in a woven I will lengthen the front.

Pavlova Crinkle Linen | 3 Hours Past

I don’t make many sheer tops, but I like this. I like it enough to make a few nice camis to go underneath. Apologies for the VBS.

I found the fabric surprisingly easy to cut and handle once I decided to ignore the texture.   I just plopped down the pieces and cut.

I used a lace motif as a tag

I used a lace motif as a tag

The handling required a little finesse and fusible webbing, and when I overlocked the raw edges in Step 12 the fabric shrank from the cutting blade.  Where the overlocking didn’t catch the edge, I simply made an old-fashioned double fold hem.

Lila photobomb on the mossy log...

Lila photobomb on the mossy log…

This fabric was an experiment, it’s just so different but I love it and had to play a little.  The Pavlova Wrap Top can be made in a woven, though I’d recommend sticking to very soft or drapey ones.  It needn’t be sheer, but I think a denser or crisper fabric won’t look right.  This particular fabric will become very soft and drapey with wear.

I posted more photos and just the facts over at

Nature Walk

The air is cool and soft, a light rain fell while we were out and it raised the fresh scent of damp trees.


What do you think?  It’s unlike me to wear a sheer top, but I do like it and think I may play with that more later.  After I make some nice camis!  Do you wear sheer fabrics?  What do you wear underneath?

I’ll be scarce around here during the rest of the Sewalong.  (Draped cardi from Pavlova later this week.) We’re up to day 6!  Then, next week, we have the Hummingbird presale!

Aqua Linen Gauze – Macro View

Textured Linen Gauze

A few days ago, I featured this little beauty in the changing banner of loveliness (I’ll find a way to keep doing that, I liked it too).  It’s a bit of aqua open weave linen I prepared for a Pavlova Wrap Top.

Linen Before Washing

I found this linen gauze at The Fabric Store.  I resisted its lure for the better part of a year, unsure what I could possibly make with diaphanous linen.  When it went on sale recently I snapped up a piece to play with.  This is the fabric before I washed it- flat, open, and a bit stiff.  Linen fabric always begins life a bit stiffly, it’s the nature of bast fibers but over time the fibers soften and mature into a truly lovely and nearly indestructible fabric.

Linen After the Wash

I overlocked the raw cut ends together.   The machine didn’t want to handle a single layer and I didn’t feel like arguing.  I shoved this piece of fabric into a load of blues and went about my business. I knew the texture would change, though I couldn’t tell how it might turn out.

Regular rippling

After washing, this beautiful texture came out in the fabric.

The Sea- Byron Bay, Australia

It reminds me of the sea- Byron Bay shown here.


Once washed, I left the length of fabric outside on the clothesline for several days to age the fabric.  Linen fibers are tough– regardless of the weave used.  Leaving the linen outside exposed to the sun and dew speeds up the softening process, it’s now Pavlova-ready.

I can’t wait to cut this up and stitch together a woven Pavlova Wrap Top to show you during the Shipping Season!  It’s on my to-do list this week, lucky it’s a quick-to-sew pattern.

Have you ever completely transformed a piece of fabric before sewing?  Purposefully or otherwise?  Do tell!

Today’s winner is:

Picture 10

Finished Object: 40’s Charm Hack and Tee!

It’s finished!  I dropped off the radar completely for a few days, thank you for being so understanding.  I don’t know what I had, but it was awful.  The past couple of days are a blur, I drank soup and vitamin-C smoothies Stephen doled out and caught up on Sherlock Holmes.  Except I was so out of it, I can probably re-watch them and they’ll seem new.  Then I woke up this morning, was alarmed to discover it’s Friday already and felt much more like myself- except for a croaky voice.

At any rate, I put this version of the 40’s Charm Hack together in about an hour and a half this afternoon.  I simplified the design, removing both the lower ruching and the bust ruching to highlight the interesting neckline and the faux-lero seaming.

I used the same wonderfully slubbed linen-cotton jersey as Lacy Blank Canvas and SpinaLace.  I like wearing white, this jersey blend is very soft and easy to work with, and besides it’s what I had lying around the house. And most of my whites are pink now and I miss my white tees.

I’m wearing the hack here with Minerve, a linen-cotton woven skirt cut from a late 30’s/early 40’s French mail-order pattern.  She’s a workhorse skirt.

I also slightly lowered the neckline, as a sharp-eyed commentator pointed out my original neckline was a little higher than the inspiration.  I like it.

I even put my hair up in a reverse victory roll to keep the 40’s vibe going.  I haven’t worn this style much since I cut my hair last year, I forgot how much I love it!

To download the pdf of the hack (with heaps of construction photos!), click the 40’s Charm line drawing above.  Should I make her into a pattern?  I will if there’s interest, I already drafted the sizes to make sure it would work- so that’s half the job done already.

May’s Hack will be much more forthright, I’ve had her on my mind since February and I know she works!  Fingers crossed I don’t have the same drama and can get her out by the end of the month!

As soon as I get over this bullfrog-throat, I plan to make another video or two…

Once again, thank you so so much for your thoughts and kind words when I wasn’t well.  It means a lot to me.

Quick Tips for Handling Linen Fabric

Since yesterday’s post on linen and sustainability sent several commentators to their cupboards to fondle stashed linen fabrics, I thought I’d share a few tips I’ve picked up while working with linen.  This is the way I handle the fabric, and so far has worked out quite well for me.


  • Prewashing- it’s always a good idea to prewash a length of fabric in the same manner you plan to wash the finished garment.
  • It’s usually best to pre-wash linen 3-4 times, drying completely between washes.  I finish the raw edges of the fabric, then toss the length in with like-colored loads.
  • To dry- I prefer to hang the length of fabric on the line, smoothing the wet fabric with my hands and gently aligning the selvedges.  Once it dries, I don’t need to painstakingly press the entire length of fabric.  I give it a quick once over (if that).
  • Otherwise, it’s a good idea to put the fabric in the dryer and take it out while still a little damp for pressing.  It’s easier to press well than crispy fabric that was wadded in the dryer for a few days.


  • Use sharp needles, in a weight that matches the weight of your fabric.  That is, heavy needles for heavy linen and light needles for lightweight linen.  Click here for more tips on choosing needles.
  • Linen presses well, and prefers steam.  Use the highest heat and plenty of steam- a dry iron will scorch the fabric.
  • Linen usually tailors well, but keep it relatively simple.  For example- a single welt pocket (well interfaced) will look better longer than a double welt over time.
  • Take care with “appendages” like pocket flaps.  They will always need ironing to look good unless you take into account the nature of the fabric.   My favorite trick is to sew down appendages.  Or, in the case of a pocket flap, try a button in each corner of the flap.
  • Other design features like pleats, darts, and even seam allowances can be top-stitched down with relative discretion and it makes for easier care later on.


  • Linen is naturally anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-microbial.  The shape and nature of the fibers also repel dirt.
  • That doesn’t mean linen doesn’t get dirty, but a linen garment need not be laundered as often as a cotton tee.  Just hang up the garment (or if you’re like me, drape it over the top of the bureau) after wear.  If you wad it up, you’ll have a big gross wrinkly mess.
  • Use warm, cold or hot for linen.  I like to wash darks on cool settings, and lights on warm.  I use a mild detergent I make myself, and often toss a little vinegar in the rinse cycle which freshens the fabric.
  • Dark colors or reds will fade long before the fabric gives out.  I like to drop a little packet of iDye into my blacks every now and then, and occasionally in my reds.  It’s amazing how a little bit of dye.

I hope that helps!  I’m always on the lookout for tips, so if I left something out, please tell me about it.

Wondering where to get linen? Click here to check out linen fabrics from a large range of online retailers.

Next- I think I’ll make a binding foot video to show how I hold my hands and manipulate the fabric.  Perhaps.  An ode to my binding foot– How do I love thee, tiny piece of metal?  To the length and breadth and depth of my soul….

Flax, Linen And Sustainability

Strawberry Alarm Clock Trousers- my latest linen project

I like linen.  I really, really like linen.  It’s cool, it’s soft, easy to wash and yes it wrinkles until it’s worn in but I prefer to think of it as genteel rumpling.  It’s a small price to pay for the comfort of wearing linen fabric.  (Pressing?  Why bother, unless I’m dressing for a professional setting?  I see bare chests, bare feet and all kinds of underwear every time I leave my house so I figure my rumples are just fine.)

flax field in bloom

Linen comes from the flax plant, which is one of the oldest crops grown by mankind.  The process of growing flax and turning it into fabric hasn’t changed much in the past several thousand years.  I want to take a quick look at three facets of sustainability- farming, production into fabric, and durability.  Linen has a rich history and social lore, not to mention laundering and sewing quirks but for today I’m focusing only on linen and sustainability.


In general, the flax plant grows best in cool, damp conditions and does well on relatively poor soil.  Worldwide, flax is grown on 12 million acres of farmland.  Russia cultivates the majority of flax, though flax production is gaining in popularity in Asia.

Obviously, farming practices vary greatly from country to country but by and large flax doesn’t need much.  Rust, wilt and fugus used to plague flax crops until disease and fungus resistant strains of flax were developed.  Pests are usually interested in flax, even without pesticides.  Flax requires a small fraction of the water a similar field of cotton would require, and uses very little (if any) fertilizer.

In fact, I discovered this little fact in my wanderings:

“Flax thrives on poor soil…in fact, it reacts to overdoses of fertilizer by producing fibers of reduced quality.”

For farming practices, I give flax a B/B+.  Not too shabby.

Production: Harvesting, Retting, Breaking and Scutching

Click to visit Joybilee Farm, where fiber artists grow their own medium. Neat!

Traditionally, the flax plants were hand-pulled from the field when mature.  Flax is a bast fiber, meaning the threads or fibers used to make fabric run the entire length of the stem.  Pulling ensures the longest possible threads, or staples.  Longer staples mean a stronger, higher-quality fabric.

Some farms mow the flax plants which leaves stubble.  That’s how they do it in South Carolina, but harvesting practices vary wildly.  Pulling machines have mostly replaced hand-pulling when the plant is not mown.

Retting in a Welsh field, c. 1914

Once the plants are pulled, the flax stems must be “retted.”  Again, the process varies somewhat but basically the stems lie on the ground for days or weeks and the tough outer stems rot away.   From what I can find, this is the same process used today to free the linen fibers, though some production methods involve steaming the stems rather than rotting them. 

Once that’s done, we can break, scutch and comb!  That’s when the slimy, softened stems are beaten to release the soft linen fibers.  That’s it.  No complicated chemistry, no chemical mediums.  Just pound it and comb out the fibers.  The modern process is the same, though it’s performed by large machines rather than a human arm.  I found a delightful series of Youtube videos on the process made by a living historian that illustrate the process well.  Rad.

For lack of chemicals used in processing and because every part of the plant is used industrially, I give linen an A for production sustainability.

Durability: Linen Lasts and Lasts

Durability is an important consideration for anyone interested in textile sustainability.  It’s simple- if you make a garment that lasts and lasts, you will need to replace it less often, which reduces consumption.

Linen is the strongest vegetable fiber, 2-3 times stronger than cotton.  I sew with linen find my linen clothes last and last and last through continual washing and wearing.   In four years of sewing with linen, I have yet to retire a linen garment.  For millennium, it was the everyday workhorse fabric from prince to peasant- for a reason.   Linen works hard.

I mean- the linen wrappings of mummies survive to the modern day.  I don’t expect my Strawberry Alarm Clock pants to last for 3000 years, but it does inspire confidence in the fiber.

For durability (not to mention comfort), linen ranks high with me.  Based on my own personal experience with linen’s durability, I rank it an A-/B+.

In my book, linen is second only to hemp for sustainability goodness.

All in all, whether linen carries an “organic” tag or not, it ranks pretty high in terms of sustainability.  In fact, commercially grown linen seems so close to organic that I’m not sure adding the tag “organic” to linen means much except a hike in the pricing.

It also has gorgeous drape, takes dye easily and develops a soft luster over time.  It’s easy to sew, feels delicious next to the skin, and lasts for years and years.  What’s not to love?

Click here to check out a huge range of linen from most online fabric retailers in one place.  I didn’t realize that amazon does that, but it’s way simpler than trotting around all over the internet.

To fill in the details on flax and linen production, follow the links.  You can also check out these other sources:

Agricultural Marketing Resource Center– A very long list of very detailed aspects of flax and linen production.

Nordic Initiative, Clean and Ethical– With information on a variety of other fibers.

New York Fashion Center

Thomas Jefferson Agricultural Institute- Detailed overview of flax as a crop.

Finished Object: SpinalAce Tee

Lace inserted, wash, dried, and worn most of the weekend- SpinalAce Top.  I’ve been working with cut-on flutter sleeves this month, playing with both the shape of the drape and “volume.”  The Lacewing Tee is this month’s hack of the BCT and has longer, fuller sleeves.

Despite the dozens of fancy lace insertion ideas swimming around my brain, I couldn’t forget this image and gave in to it.  That meant I had to let go of the steep v-shape I used on Lacewing.  I’m sure it would work just fine to do it on the V, but I wanted a top very close to this shape.

I was pleased to wear one of my big ol' Texas belt buckles when we took photos... Haven't worn it for a while, but it's a favorite. I might try wearing it more..

I had to mark the lines for the lace insertion very carefully, but I think it was worth it because I’m pleased with the end result.  I can wear a top like this with most of my other clothes.  On the blouse illustration, the lace appears to wrap all the way around the top, but I had another idea-

My spine!  It’s made of lace…!  In order to incorporate the wide insertion lace in my top, I ran a line of it down the back.

Side note: A commentator asked if I would need a camisole beneath this top.  I don’t think so, because the insertions are so narrow I’m not showing off my underwear.  I hate seeing others’ underwear in pubic, so I keep an eye out for showing my own.  It would depend on the fabric and the lace and the individual wearer’s preferences.

Once I finished the insertions, the rest of the top went together very quickly- almost instant gratification.

I’m wearing a velcro hair bump thing like Lilli at Frocks and Frou Frou.  I love her hair!  It’s shocking how easily these slip in and stay put.  I like big hair but I don’t like to tease it, so it’s perfect to add a little shape to my hair.  I used a few hairpins to secure some loose ends, tied a grosgrain ribbon around it and I was ready to go.  I’m experimenting with other styles…

Trying to be "tough" but achieving "goofy."

I wanted to leave the edges of the sleeves raw so it would ripple and roll with age, but again the fabric had other ideas.  It looked sad and neglected, so I overlocked the edge and pressed it under for a narrow hem.  The fabric is thin, but substantial enough that it appreciates a tiny hem.  I’m hoping this top will soften deliciously as it ages, as linen wovens do.

Lace insertion is loooovely- not just for christening gowns, tea towels and lingerie.   This is a utility garment, mommy clothes, casual wear but soft and lacy rather than severe or schlubby.   At least, that’s where I’m aiming.

From the BCT I made from scraps...

If you’d like to play with some of this same cotton-linen (1.5m fabric, 1.5m each wide and narrow insertion) or the lace fabric I used for Lacewing, take a look at the “40’s Charm or Cheongsam” Giveaway.  I’m entering names in a spreadsheet for each “point,” then two names will be chosen at random.  The name with the most points gets first dibs.

Here’s a shot of a muslin of something I’m working on but isn’t ready to blog yet but I’m super excited so I can’t resist showing you all:

What’s that you say, Sybil? But Edith told me I could borrow it

Next post: A little neckline drafting…

Working With (And Against) Linen

It’s summertime here, so I’m sewing with linen.   I could see most of my clothes becoming linen.  Not so much an alchemical transformation of cotton to linen- just continually sewing with it, it’s my favorite fiber.  A good quality linen is literally cool to the touch when you lay your palm on it.  That’s a quick way of sensing the difference between linen and cotton in the fabric store.

I enjoy reading “basic” guides to anything to do with sewing.  This week, I found an excellent article on linen at Threads online.  The article covers its care and properties, how to sew with it, and techniques peculiar to linen.  Almost immediately, the article pointed out one of linen’s loveliest characteristics: “…old, soft linens wrinkle less obviously than new, crisp ones…”

This is true.  Remember my Blueberry Parfait?  I scarcely took her off last summer. She is perfect for “mommy in public on obscenely hot days” activities.  I wear a loose sun jacket, as well.

I wore this dress two days running during my staycation.  This is the end of the second day.  I ran errands, lounged, drafted, sewed, went for walks and all but slept in this dress.  Aside from a seam on the shoulder that needs mending, the dress is in better condition than when I made it 15 months ago.  Linen ages beautifully.

Pockets from the Oliver + S Ice Cream Social Dress

Here’s four pockets from my most recent linen excursion.  When I make a garment from linen, I tend to fuss and obsess more than usual because I know I’ll wear it for years.  I made the piped pockets first and tried to talk myself into accepting them.  I just couldn’t, they’re icky and too heavy.  The second set will do nicely.

Lesson: Armoweft = Not awesome interfacing behind linen patch pockets.  It’s too drapey and heavy.  I needed crisp and light, but sometimes I can’t know for sure until I try.  The second set were interfaced with a lightweight fusible cotton woven, and I didn’t get fancy with offset grainlines and piping.  I must remember to Keep It Simple.

Do you sew with linen?  Would you like to?  Do you ever completely write off a part of a garment?  What do you do with the rejected pieces?

Finished Object: Plus Fours

Edit: The photos for the original post weren’t that great, and the post was pretty weak.  I love these Plus Fours and wear them All.  The.  Time.  I picked out my favorite shots of the plus fours from the past year to share here.

These were the first pants I made after learning to draft custom blocks, and I haven’t had fitting issues since.

For the Plus-Fours, I cut the facing pieces from scrap haircloth sans seam allowances, hoping it would work nicely for a long time.   It feels lovely to wear, just the right level of support.  I bias-bound the bottom edge of the facing using a decorative stitch because I felt too lazy to make my straight stitch catch the binding neatly.  (Hindsight note- Haircloth is ok, but I don’t love the way it washes.  Makes sense, really.  I use a medium weight woven fusible for waist facings these days.)

See how the bottom back fullness tends to twist?  When I gathered the lower edge, I divided the cuff in half and placed the inseam at the halfway mark.  A vague thought ran through my mind that I should work out the proportions more artfully, but I dismissed it. 

Just as I pictured- flowing and cool, but fitted.  Not like these:

Soon will come the time when I make for myself a few waistcoats, maybe a sweater vest or two…

Thoughts on the S-Shape (With Burda Skirt)

I like deadlines.  They make me feel alive- tracing, cutting, ripping, stitching, pressing in a mad frenzy.   Manic energy fuels much of my creativity.

I made Burda 04-2010-125 this morning, sans bow.  She went together like a pleasant waking dream- the opiate of skirt sewing.  Linen-cotton blend fabric printed with European/American animals by a Japanese designer, sewn by an American in Australia from a German pattern.  Ah globalization, so seldom do I notice thee.

Fresh off the machine.  Meh.  The pattern at the side seams was never fated to match, I refuse to make myself nuts about it.  I *should* use a larger size for the back and a smaller for the front to balance the seam line properly.  First problem: just a little frumpy, despite the squirrels and pleated frill.

My first foray into the vintage sewing blogosphere began with a desperate google search: “How to fit a pencil skirt like Joan Holloway.”  I made several pencil skirts from patterns of the era, with frump-tastic results.

It’s fine, but rather straight.  Finding little information on the subject, and with other pressing projects, I forgot about it until today.  I found a delicious page describing a “wiggle” skirt in great detail and the penny dropped.  “…the width of the hem of the dress is narrower than the hips.”

Of course.  How silly of me.

I tweaked in the side seams above the frill, et viola.  Spankability.  Did girls like Joan buy or make their skirts, then tweak in the side seams below the hip?  None of my “wiggle” skirt patterns have this shaping built in to the pattern.

Check out her sexy little pot:

Soft, not fat, and so pretty.

While pondering why I still felt “meh” after the tweaking, I realized the skirt wants a waistband.  The clean edge at my waist cuts me in half and draws an unflattering line where I should have no line.  “Hourglass” figures are often defined as having a set bust to waist to hip ratio, often determined as 10″ difference between waist and the apexes.

I have the measurements, but I’m not shaped like that.

The shape is often held up as some sort of ideal.  I’m not sure why, because it’s hard to dress an hourglass.  Tops don’t fit without alteration, and watch the ribcage area or you add several pounds of extra weight (see the blouse above).  Don’t get me started about below the waist- “sway back” puddling and wrinkles, bunching fabric, it’s a nightmare.   While working with jacket patterns, I noticed that the 4044 jacket (which fits my lower back well) CB seam was excessively curved outward below the waist, with nearly straight side seams.

 Classic “Gibson Girl” Type S-Shape

Oh, I thought, that’s an S-shape.  The S-shape is a variation of the hourglass, meaning most of the excess baggage carries directly at the front and at the back with straight(ish) sides.  I’ve been sewing my own clothes, fitting them, and making style decisions for years and never realized that about my body.  Understanding this helps with alterations, and with working on proportion.  No wonder nipping in the side seams at the waist never worked for me.  Sheesh.  Now I know to nip in below the bust and above the backside.  

Before I take proper pictures, I’ll rip out the top seam and attach a pretty shaped waistband.  (Probably rip off the lace, too, but I need to figure out some trim to break up the print.)  That’ll fix her.  I’m sewing like a mad thing this week, I don’t want to spend time taking photos until I finish everything.

Thoughts?  How should I break up that print?  How did I sew so long without realizing those simple things?

Finished Object: Minerve Skirt

Minerva – The goddess whom Hellenizing Romans from the second century BC onwards equated with the Greek goddess Athena. She was the virgin goddess of poetry, medicine, wisdom, commerce, weaving, crafts, magic, and the inventor of music.

This is the shortened skirt from an early 40’s French pattern.  It looks like the last before the war got serious, rather late 30’s.  At any rate, this is of black linen lined with that obnoxiously dyed green voile.   I used the last of some daisy lace I had lying around to trim the lining.  I suspect that nice heavy lace not only looks pretty, but also weighs the hem.   The lace seems to help the hem sit properly and keeps the lining from catching on the exterior. (I’m also secretly delighted about the thematic pleasantry created by daisies growing out of green.)

I went to town on the lining, as per usual.  This gives a better view of the seaming which is a sort of “econo-bias” cut.  The skirt front falls in the same way a bias cut skirt would, though only the bottom section is actually cut on the bias.  I managed to cut the whole skirt from 1.6m of fabric.

Decorative stitching on the lining front seams.  The front seams needed to be lapped, but I learned to do that properly on the Cat Pine coat.

I used a contour waistband from another pattern, and decided to close the top of the waistband with buttons and loops.  The loops are from a tiny bias cut rouleau tie and I’m thrilled with how neatly they turned out.

Inside waistband, nice and neat, with lining folded over the invisible zipper.

The skirt back has no darts, none at all, and it manages to fit the small of my back pretty well.  Better in fact than many darted skirts I own.  This will make a nice solid addition to my basics, I can wear it to work and with almost every top I have.  I like how the front of the skirt gently swirls out when I walk.

I have the rest of the pattern, the instructions are in French and it has a scary front placket as well as a bishop collar and looped trimming.  I’m almost “ready” to make it.  Ages ago I discovered almost the same print as the one that features on the artist’s version of this dress.  Then I found matching looped trim.  Everything points to me making this dress, especially the nearly perfect fit on this skirt.  Soon.

One more piece left to make!  Technically, I have enough pieces already but the Easter Island skirt doesn’t mesh with the other pieces.  At all.  I think that is one of those unfortunate skirts that can only be worn with one color- black.  Talk about being painted into a corner…