Midweek Stroll: Cabarita Tide Pools

Cabarita Beach Late Afternoon

This beach, Cabarita Beach, is “our” beach.  My husband grew up nearby, we were married here, and we return often.


If you’ve been reading 3 Hour Past for a while, you know I find the summers in Queensland physically challenging.  I get insomnia, migraines, become extremely restless and, well, go crazy.  Like that time I chopped off all my hair two years ago when I was too hot one afternoon and thought I had bugs on me.


This summer, we added regular trips to the beach (soft late afternoon light) to my coping strategies.  For the first time since I jumped the equator, I haven’t had a January meltdown.  This is a big deal, I dread January for 11 months of the year.


As a mindfulness exercise, I take walks with my camera to capture the natural world around me.  I took these a few weeks ago and returned to them today in the middle of a busy work week.


My husband, the native, points out interesting and poisonous creatures.  He’s my guide.


I look close and wonder “why?”  Why so beautiful?  Why green on black?  Why the garlands of barnacles?  Why so soft and so sharp? What breathlessly gorgeous creature might live in this brilliantly carpeted crevice?


Natural beauty is extravagant and complex- unexpected, unselfconscious.


When I stop and really look, everything else fades away.

what is this? Any clues?  I don't know.

a chiton

“Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.”  ~Henry David Thoreau, journal, 5 January 1856

We stood in a rock pool and spotted tiny purple crabs- I caught one on video.  He’s completely unconcerned by the changing water and what pretty purple and white claws! (and quick, we couldn’t catch him)


I hope you enjoyed our stroll along Cabarita Beach!  Where do you go to be in nature?

Today’s Giveaway Winner:

Picture 4

Finished Object: Seersucker Negroni Shirt

A few weeks ago, Stephen asked me to make him some shirts for summer.  I was startled.  I made him a pair of tough and hardy linen work shirts two years ago and he wears them all the time for field work.  They’re still holding up well, and the linen has softened beautifully- no need to replace them!  He also wears light, short-sleeved cotton shirts to his academic/office days but I never thought to try making one of these tropical-business-casual shirts for him.

It’s tricky to sew for another person, and I’ve learned that to avoid wadders or other sewing disasters I should proceed with caution when accepting commissions (I pretty much only accept commissions for people I really, really like.).  First, I asked him to pick his two favorite shirts from the wardrobe.  One was quite dead, a light green plaid from a mid-range-expensive men’s brand.  The other was an extremely smart pinstriped shirt I bought to go with his graduation suit.

The trick is to find out why he likes the shirts, so I can incorporate those elements in the new shirts.  I noted the fabric (plaid, stripe, blue, green) and he agreed he liked those, and very helpfully added that the striped one was his favorite fit.

Aha!  Out came the measuring tape and I noted the finished chest measurement on his “best fit” shirt.  Then I added a few shirts to a Pinterest board and he told me which ones he hated so I removed them, leaving me with the colors and styles that appeal to him.

I’ve been wanting an excuse to sew Colette’s Negroni shirt pattern since it came out, but I didn’t want to press the “sewing-for-the-husband” thing.  Before he could change his mind about summer shirts, I bought the Negroni pattern and went shopping for shirting.

I was attracted to this seersucker immediately. It’s from Spotlight of all places, and is a really great quality.  I like the exaggerated seersucker texture, it’s at the same time easy to sew, easy to launder (no pressing needed!) and very comfortable to wear.  Besides, I’ve seen several “smart casual” shirts in shop windows made from a similar material lately and wanted to try it out.

His finished chest measurement fell between the S and M sizes on the Negroni pattern, so I cut M.  The shirt he likes so well features shallow double tipped darts in the back, so I thought if he wanted me to take it in, I could make darts.

I doubt I can say much about this pattern that hasn’t already been said!  It’s definitely more of a casual shirt than a “fine” shirt, but I like the shape of the pockets, the collar, and the little button loop is a great detail.  Every time I open a Colette pattern I think to myself “What will Sarai show me this time?”  I always, always pick up something new.

This time I learned a “new” way to set in a camp/convertible collar.  I don’t know how many collars I’ve sewn or how many different methods I’ve tested but this was new to me.  Rather than go off on my own, I stitched it the way the instructions dictated.  It wasn’t bad, but also didn’t change the way I’ll sew collars in the future.

terrible indoor lighting…

I really have no complaints about the pattern at all.   The fabric would not tolerate flat-fell seams, so I finished them with my overlocker and then top-stitched through the seam allowance near the seam for durability.  I left off the pocket flaps, it seemed incompatible with the nature of the fabric.  Can you spot my pockets?

We planned a family outing to Cylinder Beach at Lord Stradbroke Island the weekend I made this shirt.  It’s a gorgeous island off the east coast of Australia, easily accessible via a ferry.  We swam, made sandcastles and had a picnic.  This time of year, the breeze smells of salt and jasmine.  It’s dreamy, I love the beaches here and wish I could live nearer the sea.

I hurried to finish the shirt before we left because- photo-op.  Unfortunately, in my haste I made a mistake in the finishing.

Can you spot my mistake?

Oh that’s right… Women’s buttonholes go on the right, men’s go on the left!  I suppose subconsciously I fell in love with the fabric and wanted it for my own.  After his initial surprise, he decided he doesn’t care and wears the shirt anyway.

Next time, the buttons will go on the left.  I also want to try adding a placket.  I have two more such shirts planned for the summer- one of plain tencel, and another of the finest Italian shirting I can lay my hands on.

In keeping with my personal “Value The Sewing” project, I put together the costings/value for this shirt.   This time I didn’t count my sewing time in the “value” because as many have pointed out, I enjoy sewing.  It was pleasant to sit and turn off my brain and let Sarai tell me how to put this together.  Relaxing.

Factoring in my time would put the “value” of the shirt at around $110, on the more expensive end of his shirt-buying budget.  He spends moderately on shirts because nicer shirts use fabric that lasts and looks nice much longer than cheaper shirts.  They are also better made than the cheapest shirts.  I encourage this.  Each shirt costs a little more, but we buy fewer shirts in the long run.

At ~$38, it’s one of my more expensive makes but the quality is comparable to the type of shirt he might buy (improperly gendered buttons notwithstanding).  I counted the entire price of the pattern in the cost; the fabric and notions cost a snivelling ~$15.

I have enough seersucker left over to make Lila a dress, I may use this new pattern from One Girl Circus:

Click for source

How cute is that?  Also- I know mommy/daughter dressing alike is a “thing,” but what about daddy/girlie dressing?  I think it would be sweet, and they don’t mind…

Exhausted on the ferry home at sunset. We spotted a dolphin in Moreton Bay between the island and the mainland.

Do you like seersucker?  Sometimes I find older people think I’m insane for using it for clothing.  The woman who cut this fabric asked me if I was making tablecloths.  Uhm.  No.

How do you approach sewing for another person?  Do you include them in the “thought” work?  Any tips?

Don’t forget- Frosting Fortnight starts on the 18th, head over to Mari’s blog for a cute little button you can add to your sidebar!

More Reading:

Fine Shirtmaking from Off the Cuff Style

Sewing with Seersucker from Coletterie

Free Downloadable Negroni Shirt Pocket Options

Technical Diagrams illustrating “enclosed seams on the shirt yoke” trickery

Finished Object: Megan’s Vendetta

Episode 10, Season 4

I finished my Megan dress for the Mad Men Challenge- the second zipper stayed put!  I’m calling this dress Megan’s Vendetta because she fought me every step of the way, I never knew such a malicious dress.  First I couldn’t find my regular bodice block  so settled for making the bodice from another bodice.    Then, characteristically, I over-complicated the pattern by drafting a separate midriff section.  I don’t want to sound whiny, but I unpicked and unpicked the bodice-to-midriff seam to make it sit smoothly under my bust more times than I can count.  The seam area began to look shabby so I left it alone, but my fingers are still itching to get in there and pull it apart just one more time.

This is what I should have done.  Much simpler, but of course it didn’t occur to me until halfway through construction.  I’d fold the darts out on the pattern pieces to create a shaped band and sew them together.  Then I’d sew two strips to the bottom to make the very nice Megan midriff section.

After all the careful sewing, we’ve had rain almost every day this week which means no outdoor photos.  Eventually, we settled for indoors shots, which we find much trickier than standing around in the yard.  I felt more like I was on the set of Psycho than Mad Men.

That said, I’m still very fond of this dress.  I used a knee-length half-circle skirt, shorter than my usual skirt length but I like it.  The fabric is a very lightweight but firmly woven cotton poplin with a whiff of lycra.  I’m sure the lycra contributed to my midriff seam angst.

I like this style, too.  It’s comfortable and feminine and while the insets lend it some visual interest and a whiff of vintage flair, it’s not fussy or over the top.  The dress itself is quite comfortable, too.  I want to take a second crack at this dress using a simplified process and shades of blue.  Or greens.  I feel like I’m really, really close to an awesome pattern.

If you haven’t already, check out the Mad Men inspired dresses on Sew Weekly.  Because of my snafu, I missed the deadline to show my dress.  I feel terrible- I keep missing it.  Oh well, there’s always next week, right?

Julia Bobbin is also running a Mad Men dress challenge, and if you haven’t seen her “Easiest Button to Button” dress, I suggest you go take a look.  It’s incredible.

There’s No Such Thing As A Healthy Tan

That’s a common Public Service Announcement tag line here.  I’m sure the people in my life are sick to death of hearing me talk about tanning and skin protection, but it’s important.  Skin cancer is the most preventable form of cancer.

Let me tell you about my English friend’s girlfriend.  They spent four months traveling the world, stopping off in my little corner of the planet for a few days.  I’d never met the girl before.  Lets call her Ivy.  She’s a London hedge fund lawyer and I’m an American provincial.  I picked my friend and Ivy up at the train station, wearing my hemp sun-jacket on a suffocating hot day.  She was so brown I was actually startled, but put it down to her being English.   (A local game: “Spot the Englishman” on the beach.  You look for someone burnt to a crisp, ask them where they’re from and they’ll be English 9 times out of 10.)

(Renée Perle, Jaques Henri Lartigue)

After several days of watching me slather on sunscreen and put on my hat, jacket and sunglasses every time we went out, I think she snapped.   Especially since everyone else slathered on the sunscreen like it was a religious rite and at least wore a hat.   She had made herself the odd man out and probably thought we were all crazy.

We were sitting around my in-laws’ pool after dinner, drinking wine and talking in the velvety tropical night.  She took a big gulp of wine, set her wineglass on the table and aprubtly declared “I think you’re all just being lazy.”

I looked around the table and back to her.  We three (her boyfriend, my husband and I) glowed white in the moonlight; I could only make out her outline and the whites of her eyes.

“Pardon?” her boyfriend asked.  I wondered if this was a common tiff between them.

“Lazy. All of you.  If you’d just try a little harder, you could all have a nice dark tan like me.”  I thought she was trying to be funny, but her words had a sharp edge.

(Come in to Tropic Tans R Us today, and we’ll throw in a free wind-machine and posing lessons with your tan!)

“I-uhm… I like my skin this way.  I get hives if I’m in the sun too much, and anyway the sun here will give you cancer before you’re 30.”

“That’s not true!  It’s good to have a tan, so gorgeous and you just waste all this lovely sunshine covering up.  You don’t have to burn, just tan a little at a time then you won’t burn and won’t get cancer.  It takes so much work to have a tan, you’re just being lazy.”

Her boyfriend tried again.  “Ivy, that’s not true.  Tanning is skin damage, period.”

“No it isn’t!  It’s healthy and beautiful!  You people just don’t know.”   She retreated into her wine glass and went to bed early.  I didn’t say anything to her, I could see she wouldn’t listen to me and I wasn’t about to change my habits, either.   Her words rankled me slightly.   How could she witness the great lengths I go to for sun protection and call me lazy?  Why is artificially darkening your skin thought to be beautiful, anyway?

Let’s go back to Coco Chanel.

In the 20’s, Chanel launched tanning as a 20th century beauty practice, almost single-handedly.  Up to that time, a tan implied you had to work out in the sun, probably hard manual labor.  Upper class citizens (and aspirants) kept their skin carefully shielded from the sun, to avoid an appearance of vulgarity.  Chanel changed that, apparently with one delicious tan:

“The popularity of tanning can be traced to a single moment in 1923. After cruising from Paris to Cannes, designer Coco Chanel stepped off the Duke of Wellington’s yacht with a startling suntan. Chanel had apparently gotten too much sun by accident, but the press and fashion world assumed the immensely influential Frenchwoman was making a fashion statement. ‘I think she may have invented sunbathing,’ Prince Jean-Louis de Faucigny-Lucigne said. ‘At that time, she invented everything.’ Soon, daring women in Europe and America were baring their skin to the sun.”

This is quoted from a dubious website, but I’ve run across the story in several of Chanel’s biographies.

Joan Blondelle, in Beach Pajamas

Tanning began to have other implications- being “hep” and the luxury of time for sunbathing.  A tan stood for youth and health, since young people first adopted tanning, probably through activities like swimming and yachting.  The change didn’t happen over night, but became firmly entrenched in the 40’s and 50’s.

(Magda from There’s Something About Mary)

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, tanning still carries a connotation of health and vitality.  I suggest looking out for people who have tanned every day of their lives for 60 years, compared to those of the same age who have not done much sun-worshipping.  The difference is striking, and that’s just the physical effects of sun damage.

What about spray-tans?  You can’t get cancer from a spray tan….


(Anne Hathaway in Bride Wars)

We’ve all seen this before- that dreaded shade Oompa-Loompa Orange.  I’m sorry, there’s nothing glamorous about this level of artifice.   And what about Orange Palm Syndrome from applying bottled bronzer?  Why bother?  Why can’t we just allow ourselves to be the color we’re meant to be?  Why is it so important to hold on to this destructive fashion practice?  It seems so excessive to me.  Perhaps one day tanned skin (not to be confused with naturally tan-colored skin) will carry the same stigma as a smoker’s cough.   

What do you think?  Is tanning hot and sexy, or a destructive, anachronistic habit?  Do you think pale skin is beautiful, or do you strive for golden brown perfection no matter the cost?  If you are a dedicated tanner, I’m curious to know why?  This could be framed as a debate between natural (pale skin) vs. contrived (tanned skin) beauty.  Do you think so?

Will tanned skin go the way of lead face cream, arsenic makeup and smoking?

Summer Sewing: A Retrospective

It’s still summer here, but not really.  The air changed, gradually, over the past few weeks.  The atmosphere no longer presses the city into the mud flats it sprang from, sweat doesn’t stick to the skin mixed with dust under a still, wet heat which seldom stirs.  Though the sun still shines brightly, it doesn’t bear down mercilessly from 8 in the morning until 6 in the evening.   At night soft, damp, cool air swirls through our opened windows.

Red Hemp-Cotton Skirt, Hemp-Silk Jacket, Cotton Blouse, Hemp Hat; Zemelda Dress

Past summers in this climate meant burned, roughened skin, blocked pores, insomnia, depression and tension headaches for me, coupled with a general feeling of “This ain’t right” around hot Christmas.  I find it physically difficult to reconcile my body to this climate though I hail from the southern United States.

 Opium Poppy

In previous years, my doctor prescribed a therapist for the depression and codeine for my headaches.  My head pounded from the moment I woke up until I could find a way to sleep, even if I took an aspirin.  The drugs created a vast distance between me and reality, and also blocked my digestion which was uncomfortable.  Last winter, I decided to try a new approach to summer.

I planned ahead how best to approach the endless summer though dress and grooming.  Here’s the list I wrote up last winter, and how it worked out for me:

Skin- I use an oats and yogurt mixture as a mask on my face nearly every morning.  I apply after breakfast, do some chores, then shower.  It’s effective; when I miss a few days my skin goes just as crazy as it has in past summers.

  • Big Hats, big beautiful hats– This tactic worked well, though I never wore sun hats much before.  I used a 1925 reproduction pattern for both hats.  The one on the left was made of hemp canvas.  The wide brim and silk band worked for me; unfortunately the brim interfacing gave out after two washes and the hat was always a touch too small.  The hat on the right comes from the same pattern, made of organic cotton and the crown fits better.  Unfortunately, the front brim is too skimpy.  I might use the crown from one and the brim from the other, or re-draw a wider brim on the second.  Either way, I feel naked if I go out without a hat now.
Mirabilis Top, Jean Ross Pants
Self-Drafted Wholesome Dress
  • Breezy coverage.  Flowing sleeves, wide leg pants, swirly skirts- After discovering the wonders of a sun jacket, I focused more on sleeveless tops which I comfortably wore beneath my jacket.   The beach pajamas worked better in theory than practice, though I have worn them this summer.  I put in a side zip, they’re inconvenient to wriggle off on a sweaty day.  I plan to make separate bottoms and a top from them.  Jean Ross pants suited me well through scorching hot days- covered legs but still cool.  The Wholesome Dress looks like summertime, it’s very cool to wear.
  • More and more sunscreen– I wore sunscreen every single day and must say I’m not fond of it- thick and greasy.  The stuff I used for my face made me feel like an oil slick, so I was happy to use very little and wear a hat.  Besides, it has to be re-applied with continuous sun exposure.  I found I was more comfortable in long, wide pants and my jacket than in shorts, coated with sunscreen. Thumbs down to sunscreen from me.
 Blueberry Parfait of linen saw much wear this summer, Five-Alarm Jalie saw less action
I finally made some Plus Fours in linen, paired here with “Sideways,” a linen blouse
  • Use of fibres that won’t stink when I glisten.  I want to experiment more with wearing bamboo, lightweight merino jersey, hemp and linen for summer wear- While I didn’t wear merino this summer, I had success wearing linen, hemp, bamboo and cotton.  These natural fibers work well in this climate to keep me cool.   I made an important personal style discovery this summer- I prefer wearing woven blouses to knit tops.
Ruffles Have Ridges Top in bamboo, Jean Ross Pants in organic cotton
Sex Candy” tunic of linen saw very little wear this summer, mostly because I gained some weight and had no summery pieces to match with it.
  •  Light colors / very bright colors that won’t appear washed out in the sunlight- While this may be a summer no-brainer for some, I tended to wear black, white, red and only occasionally blue.  Last year I made an effort to introduce more color into my life, especially for summer.  I think wearing bright, pretty colors can influence mood.
  • Parasol, possibly.  Some Asian ladies here carry around umbrellas, but I would want an actual parasol:  I didn’t try this, mostly because I discovered sun jackets and hats.  Maybe next year. 
  • Perscription sunglasses.  Or perhaps I should start wearing contact lenses more:  Again, another no-brainer but since I started wearing contacts, sunglasses and hats, my summer insomnia and tension headaches nearly disappeared.  I find I get headaches if I go out for extended periods of time without covering up, or if I forget to drink enough water.

On the whole, I found a few “new” ways to dress for a long, hot, damp, bright summer.  I discovered the role whimsy can play in lifting my spirits a little, especially around Christmas:

 Dressed for Husband’s graduation, hat of silk and stripped coque
 Christmas Cheer Hat, worn most of the month of December
Cleopatra and Caesar, we’re not fans of Antony


My Cleopatra dress from New Year’s Eve turned out to be the most perfect summer house dress I could imagine.  It’s flattering, I don’t have to wear anything else with it, and the cotton cheesecloth means it’s airy.  I might make more next summer.

Hats and shades and light unlined jackets changed my approach to summer.  My sun jacket saw almost continual use, as did my three rotating sun-hats.  Jean Ross pants were a great favorite, along with crisp little cotton blouses and easy-to-wear dresses.   In fact, I’m a little sad about washing them and packing them away for a few months.

This summer I had a few bouts of insomnia which responded to low dose melatonin tablets.  I had a little depression around the holidays which is to be expected.  My skin is clear, I have a normal appetite and don’t take drugs to get through every day.  On the whole, it’s been much easier to get by this summer than previous ones.  Perhaps it’s the sun blockage; perhaps it’s easier to cope because I’m finding my own ways to adapt.  I’m not sure, but I have an idea it’s a little of both.  It’s exciting to deal with my summer blues through behavior modification without turning to opiates.

Home Yoghurt Making from the Son of a Cheesemaker

(A guest post by my husband, Stephen.  He started making our yogurt a few weeks ago and though I was skeptical at first, it’s lovely stuff.   Remember, he’s a scientician.  It’s good for your guts and good for your skin, sometimes I apply it as a mask for 5-10 minutes.)


Making yoghurt at home is neither difficult, nor expensive. Here’s how to do it:

You’ll need:
·      Fresh Milk (ordinary kind from the grocery)
·      ‘Starter’ (fresh yoghurt; check the ingredients to make sure it’s live culture)
·      Saucepan
·      Large Pot
·      Jars to set yoghurt in
Optional: Candy thermometer.
Sterilise your jars. Get them on the boil for 10 minutes in your large pot. Leave them in the water until they’re needed.

In the meantime, add milk to the saucepan and heat it slowly to around 85 – 90 °C  (185 F) or until it starts to froth. Stir frequently and keep it there for around 10 minutes. The aim is to scald the milk, not to boil it.

Place the saucepan in a cold water bath in the sink to cool it down to around 40° (roughly body temp).

Once the milk is lukewarm add your starter. You’ll need about a heaped tablespoon per litre. Stir thoroughly so no lumps remain.

Pour the mixture into the sterile jars, put the lids on and place them in a luke-warm water bath in the sink. The water should be around 40°.

Let them incubate for 6-12 hours. Top up the water bath every now and then with warm water. Longer incubation means thicker and sharper flavoured yoghurt.
Place the jars in the fridge and you’ll have fresh homemade yoghurt in the morning.
Things to try:
·      Delicious Magical Breakfast Cream
·      Creamy yoghurt can be achieved by adding skim milk powder to the milk.
·      Try it as a substitute for sour cream or mayonnaise.
·      Before refrigerating, you can make labneh by pouring on to muslin and hanging it overnight. Use it like you would cream cheese.
·      Stir in honey and vanilla or your favourite fruit.
·      Great with curries, for flavour and as an oral fire extinguisher.

Thank you, Stephen, both for making my breakfast yogurt for me and writing such a lovely clear tutorial!

Finished Object: An Attempt at a Knock-Off

This is the second draft, I felt I would like the finished object enough to risk using good fabric- precious bamboo jersey.  It’s a new fabric, despite the fabric freeze.  We began carrying this at work recently and I need to know how to handle it well.  That’s my story, anyway. 

Remember the recent failed knit top draft and my resulting apathy?  I found a design I’d genuinely like to replicate from Anthropologie:

My first attempt at this looked like a pleated sort of boat neck.  I thought I needed to make it drapier:

Too little drapery.

Slash and spread.

I think it looks a little like something I might find at Target.  Wearable, and pretty close to what I wanted, but it needs more drapery.  I’m not precisely sure how to accomplish this.

I rotated out the vertical dart and rotated the horizontal dart to the lowered shoulder.  I made a cowl and pleated it into the shoulders.  Should I cut and spread along the cowl lines through the pleats, but make deeper pleats?  I’d love to hear any ideas, I’ll probably play with the third draft later this week.

Tulip sleeves.  I put them in backwards and didn’t notice until I’d serged the seams.  So now they’re backwards.

For the next version- a lighter weight bamboo-organic cotton blend in pale aqua, tight long sleeves.

A Quick Hello

I’m interested by all the remarks made on the 1950’s Glamour post, thank you for sharing your stories and thoughts.  My motherly aunt exchanged a few emails with me on the subject over the weekend.  I’d like to share them with you all once she green-lights it.  We used to stay up late, sometimes til dawn, pondering such unanswerable questions.  I’m pleased we still do, via e-mail and Skype.  Her thoughts counter-balance my own and I find her particularly insightful. 

In other sewing news, I found myself so delighted by this dress (View 2) that I drafted and sewed her this weekend.  Ok, I only drafted the bodice and borrowed the full pleated bias skirt from Simplicity 4556.  I cut it on the straight for the Birds Dress due to fabric constraints, but swore one day I’d be extravagant.  She needs a hem.  I’m busy with work and friends from overseas at the moment (!), but I want to wear her Monday so I’ll hem by then.

I realized some time ago I have more crinolines than skirts to wear over them, which seems a trifle ridiculous.  I publicly swore not to buy more new fabric until June and I don’t own any lengths of fabric suited to “Fabric-Greedy 1950’s DayWear,” so I took a page out of Peter’s book:

It’s a duvet cover, high thread count, looked fresh, twice washed after I brought it home.  I figure it’s about 5m of fabric, plenty for my disgustingly wasteful New Look day wear and the perfect weight.  Total cost: $2.  I look for fabric to use for exactly this type of frock every time I enter an op-shop and so far this is the only piece I found.  Maybe I’m too picky.

I’m thrilled to finally play with pleats on a plaid to create new lines, I wanted to for a while but couldn’t find the right fabric/pattern marriage.  I like the bamboo trellis, and that shade of green brings out my eyes.

Finished Object: Burda Blouse (Shocking Ants Extra)

My second whack at Burda 04-2010-105, in cotton-silk radiance.  I used radiance for my other ruffled Burda blouse and discovered it sews beautifully, washes in the machine, and drapes well for ruffles.

I failed previously, the combination of ruffles and silk chiffon proved lethal, of course it was special fabric I could never replace.  (Just today I had a salvage brain wave for that blouse, so you may see it soon.)  I’m not one to be beaten by a ruffle.  After my recent burda blouse success I felt up to tackling 105.

The Bitch Goddess wouldn’t allow me to use my first ruffle attempts which I finished with a double-fold narrow hem.  The center front of the ruffle pieces curve sharply, my hems looked decidedly angular.   When she’s right, she’s right, so I won’t banish the Bitch completely.  I unpicked, pressed, and applied self-bias with my binding foot.  I thought satin binding would show off both sides of the fabric, so used satin for the arm binding and the collar as well.

Objectively, I think it’s a well-made blouse and pretty.  For personal wear, I’m not so sure.  For one, it plunges precipitously.  Secondly, I know better than to pile ruffles on my bosom.  Finally, this turned out far more twiddly than strictly necessary or anticipated.


  • Typical Burda Instructions.   This deserves a higher difficulty rating based on the oblique instructions and finishing difficulties.
  • I omitted the side zipper.  It’s size 38 with a 3/4″ FBA- I left the extra space below the FBA and I think that allows me to wriggle into the blouse.

Why not model it?  It’s for my work wardrobe.  I’ll model the pieces together and post a composite.  Soon.  Next week perhaps.

I wonder if any other sewists purposefully make “mistakes.”  While planning, cutting and sewing, I did not for one minute forget that I avoid bulky bustlines for a reason- yet I couldn’t resist.  Do you transgress your own rules purposefully, knowing it might end unsatisfactorily but hoping for the best?  How does that work out?

Now the shocker:

Over the past two weeks I noticed more animals than usual invading my house, apparently in search of a dry place to live.  This afternoon I walked into my room and an ant invasion straight from a B-grade movie greeted me.  They swarmed through the window, across the wall, over the floor to my just-emptied laundry hamper.  I picked it up and discovered they built a nursery.  In less than two hours.   It hasn’t rained for several days, I can’t figure it out.

Husband seems to genuinely enjoy mass-murder at times like these.

Reflections on Water

Shortly after I moved to Brisbane in June 2007 a little package appeared in our mailbox.  It contained a polite letter explaining the civic need to conserve water in the midst of a severe drought and a 4-minute shower timer.  Fresh off the boat from the USA, I was aghast that 1) The Government could dictate shower lengths; 2) they sent out hundreds of thousands of egg timers; 3) my housemates laughed and stuck it in the shower.

Recreational showering never held much joy for me, but 4 minutes?  Honestly?  To my surprise, I discovered I could thoroughly clean myself in the set time.  The habit of 4-minute showers stuck with me long after we lost the timer.

The news at the time reported the capacity level of Wivenhoe Dam (primary reservoir for Brisbane) every night, and we listened with great interest.  When the rains came, we triumphed, “Did you hear? Wivenhoe hit 56% capacity last night!”

Now Wivenhoe sits at 187% capacity, which means without controlled releases, the dam could burst.  Remember me excusing stringy hair because of the rain?  It’s been raining for six weeks.  Soft, steady rain, not like the crashing summer storms of my childhood in hurricane alley.  I didn’t expect flooding to come of such lovely kind rain.   We took pictures for our holiday dresses the other day at a sunken garden near the river.  I’m sure the flood swallowed it.

(See the white posts?  They mark the wall that drops down to the river normally.)

 The controlled releases contributed to the flooding in central Brisbane- all that water had to go somewhere.  I’m high and dry, if a trifle mildewed, and I ponder the difference between the days of 4-minute showers and the present state of “water water everywhere.”

Queensland’s vegetables, our fruit, the sugarcane and cotton crops, the cattle all decimated.  My own happy tomatoes in the backyard rotted with fruit still on the vines.  My husband reports grocery shelves stripped bare.   Fruit and vegetable prices are set to increase 100%, and we hear constant warnings of flood-borne disease.  Hello, Dengue

The best news?  Monsoonal rain forecast for the next several months.

I count my blessings and when the water starts to go away, I’ll grab a mop and see what I can do to help out.  Expect follow-ups.

In an unrelated topic, here’s what I wore today:

 I like the pieces together, my version of “vintage.”  Most of it is hemp.