Where do we go from here.

I was an adult before I took the time to learn a creative skill.
I was pregnant with my first daughter and had finally splurged on something I’d always wanted- My very own sewing machine!
I joined a social sewing group in my area and was lucky enough to find a lady who was willing to take some time out to get me started. The group was in the middle of creating a small quilt -suitable for a baby play mat -and it seemed to me it was WAY beyond any possibility!
Surprisingly, I went on to make many many quilts. I made them for all the family. Gifts. Charities. Bags. Wall hangings. I had no room to continue. We were also living in the tropics with very little need to rug up!
Following patterns- like recipes- is perfect for my me. It allows me to express myself through colours and styles while not possessing any real artistic attributes. Sewing my own clothes was the next obvious step. I was able to transfer many of my learned skills while opening the door to learning many more! Knits! Zips! Hems!
Unlike so many ready to wear clothes, which- let’s face it- don’t take into account many many different body types and sizes, I can make my clothes FIT me. Flatter me and Comfort me.

Among a HUGE Facebook community of new sewing friends , my world opened to a modern way of handmade fashion- PDF patterns! They smashed all my pre-conceptions of sewing apparel, offering detailed photo tutorials, special fit instructions and buy-at-home-print-at-home technology.

I discovered new, luxurious materials available worldwide. Unique prints, stretch knits, brushed fibres and beautiful viscose blends were not available in local Australian stores like Spotlight and Lincraft.  I wanted to offer these gorgeous textiles- revolutionising handmade in Australia. This prompted me to open my small online shop. Sewing Australia. 

Colour Me!

Lots of people ask me, ‘Do you have it in Black?’.
While I usually try to supply my customers with what they want, I know that black is only the best colour for about 25% of the population.
Black is slimming right? Yes it is. Although so is Navy and Eggplant and Royal Blue.
I had my colour analysis done professionally last year, and I learned so much about what suits me and how my skin changes when I wear different colours. Royal blue makes my skin glow with health while black make me look positively grey and under the weather.
I’m Spring. Spring colours are clear, fresh and bright with yellow undertones.
Hershey chocolate is the darkest brown and I can wear any light brown or beige. Any Peach, Apricot or Salmon. Any yellow based green, lighter then Kelly green and must be careful not to go darker then Light Royal Blue. I can wear any turquoise!
It has totally change the way I dress and has saved me sooooo much money on so any fabrics which I love, but don’t do me any favours.
I love the advice “Wear the colours that suit you and decorate your house in the colours that you like”.
Having said that, its not your skin colour which determines your best seasonal colours, its your skin undertones. These are genetic and don’t change with the sun or diet.
A colour analysis starts with nice bright natural light. you need to determine if your skin tone is warm or cool by comparing it to warm and cool objects. This could be gold and silver, Peach or pink fabric or a yellow based foundation and pink based foundation…
Your skin will kind of blend in with the favourable and may stand out on the other.
Warm relates to Spring and Autumn, while cool can be Summer or Winter.
Taking into consideration hair and eyes will help determine the lighter or darker tones. Spring and summer being lighter and Autumn and Winter are darker… Again you may find blue or brown eyes in any of the seasons!
I’d definitely recommend having a professional stylist analyse you!

So. While I will not stop stocking black options, I really would like to encourage everyone out of their comfort zones to bring out your inner glow with a few colour changes!

Fabric care for best results.- Handmade

Different fabrics require different care to maximise their lifespan and appearance. If you’re ever unsure, I always recommend using the most delicate options.

Why Should we pre-wash?

I recommend pre-washing all your fabrics before cutting and sewing.

While some synthetic blends (like polyester or nylon) are not subject to shrinkage, its always a good idea to freshen them up to remove any dust or chemicals used during production and import. Its also important for removing excess dyes to prevent colour run.

Natural fibres (like cotton, linen and hemp), protein fibres (wool and silk) and semi-synthetics (bamboo, rayon and modal) will shrink so these need pre washing to stop the warping of a finished garment.

Default Methods for all fabric types.

Pre- wash doesn’t need to be a tedious machine cycle taking lots of time and energy. Simply dunking your fabric in some warm water and detergent and hand agitating it, is enough to remove dust, chemicals and observe any colour runs.

If I have multiple fabrics to wash, I save water by filling my basin and starting with my lighter colours. I dunk my whites, then light cool colours (blues and greens) then if no colour has run I continue with the warm colours leaving deep reds and black til last.

I really love using Bosisto’s Eucalyptus allergen liquid (or wool wash) because its a very natural mix and gives a lovely fresh scent. This helps me recognise my pre-washed items as well, because, as a fabric collector I have lots of projects underway at all times! I can always sniff test my fabric to save doubling up on a pre-wash!

Next I rinse all fabrics in the same order. Changing water 2-3 times. I always machine spin my fabrics (together if no colour run is observed) on the highest RPM possible. I find removing as much water before drying, is more beneficial than avoiding any creases in the process.  While synthetics will come out almost dry- natural, protein and semi synthetic fibres hold a lot of water and can stretch out under their own weight. I dry on warm or hang over a few lines or dry flat to stop any unnecessary stretching or warping. This care is not necessary for polyester, cotton lycra, or wovens. They will hang quite well…  Definitely do this for wool and stretch rayons.

Of course you can use a washing machine to pre-wash.  Separate fabrics into similar blends and like colours then opt for shortest cycle. Max 40C. (I add on the high spin as an additional cycle if using a delicate or quick wash)

If fabric care is very important to you, always invest in the best washing machine you can afford. I have recently converted to a front loader for less wear and tear and opted for a Miele because of its amazing German engineering and 20yr warranty. It offers many different cycles for different needs and also a very short wash with an option to cancel the cycle mid wash if necessary (unlike some of the earlier style front loaders).

Typically, quality of fabric comes with a price tag so an exceptional machine will increase the lifespan of your high quality items as well as more affordable options. As  a hand-maker I  value longevity very highly and try to move away from a throw away society options.

Washing Finished garments.

Skip ahead from fabric preparation to washing your handmade items.

Turn items inside out. Again, for best results, separate different colours. I do whites, pastels, reds including pink and purples and green and blues go together. Your family might have different needs so you can eyeball it. Don’t mix rough fabrics with your delicates.  Outdoor work clothes go in alone as do towels. Close all velcro and zips and use a wash bag if you need to save time by less separation.

I  use a short cycle as often as possible. If your clothes are not greasy or stained there’s no need to overly treat them. Removing some daily dust or body odour is often all that’s necessary.

Always dissolve detergent before adding clothes. Don’t use bleach, optical whiteners or colour catchers unless absolutely necessary. These don’t work on synthetics anyway and will greatly reduce the life of your natural materials.

Treating stains.

If your item is stained, its always best to treat it individually rather than just chucking it in the wash and crossing your fingers. Washing a stained item will often set the stain, making it sometimes impossible to remove as an after thought.

ALWAYS treat a stain with cold water first if you don’t know what it is. 99% of the time, cold water will not set the stain and 80% of the time it will be the solution..

Soak in cold water and rub the stain lightly with some detergent or laundry soap. This works for grime, wine and blood.

Boiling water for fruit stains, poured directly through the fabric. (orange, tomato, strawberry)

Greasy stains can be treated with eucalyptus oil with rubbing and wash on hottest water safe for fabric.

White natural fibres can be bleached for a small period of time but synthetics will not whiten. Stubborn stains can be spot treated with optical whiteners, again will be more effective on natural fibres.

Other stains my require more specified treatment which I may go into at a later date.

I hope this helps to get the most out of your handmade items!

Maximising Shipping Costs.

We are very lucky in Australia now, to have a growing selection of unique apparel fabrics at our fingertips- but compared to the USofA, boasting more than three hundred and fifty million citizens, there’s no denying that the range available off shore is much more expansive than our young country can offer.

The shipping costs from the US to Australia can be very off putting (especially when the actual fabric cost seems so cheap!). I’m going to run through a few steps to making the most of your shipping costs, which in turn will reduce your cost per yard.

Typically, the more you order, the less the shipping becomes per yard, so its always best to place the largest order you can afford. Most of the US retailers I have ordered from will use their USPS flat rate packages. Depending on your budget, you can maximise shipping costs by filling these!

Flat rate options from USA

  • PFRE – prepaid flat rate envelope. $35.25 USD
  • MFRB- medium flat rate box. $78.95 USD
  • LFRB- large flat rate box 99.75 USD
approximate number
of yards per package.
sml
PFRE 42-31-2
MFRB106-83-4
LFRB201610-12

First of all, its good to become familiar with the bulk of each fabric you are purchasing and approximately how many yards fit in a box. Double Brushed Poly and Rayon Spandex are two of the most popular fabrics which take the least room (s). Poly Rayon Spandex French Terry, Sweater knits and Liverpool are thicker and take up more space making the shipping cost per yard higher(m). Even thicker are Ponte, Scuba, Cotton Lycra French Terry and Velvet (l).

After you have done some browsing and decided what you want to order, its always a good idea to to contact the shop and let them know you are an international customer and want to maximise your shipping costs. Check if its ok to leave a note at the checkout requesting them to contact you before sending (contact), to make sure all the space is filled with fabric. (As a flat rate box you don’t want to pay to ship air). Some shops will even agree to hold your package for a period of time so you can space your expenditure out over a few weeks(hold). Others will automatically combine multiple orders if the first haven’t shipped yet(combine). Better yet! Its nice to get a shipping refund after combining a few orders! (refund). Some checkouts are set up to calculate a couple of different shipping options based on weight and / or flatrate. (options)

My Favourite US Fabric Shops

  • So Sew English Fabrics. (contact, hold, combine, refund)
  • Jumping June Textiles (contact, hold, combine, refund, pre-order)
  • Raspberry Creek Fabrics. (contact, hold, combine, refund, options)
  • Knitpop. (contact, combine, refund ,options)
  • Surge. (contact, hold, combine, refund)
  • Mily Mae. (contact, hold combine, refund)

There are many more! Although if you are minimising shipping its good to stick to the same ones so you don’t have to fill a dozen boxes. :0

So how much money are we looking at?

To work out how much your total outlay will be you need to find the cost in USD per yard of fabric($), multiplied by the amount of yardage(Y) to a box, plus price of box(B). Multiplied by exchange rate(X). (Aus about 1.4 today. ) You will have an equation with looks like this….
{($Y=B)X} = Total cost in AUD (T)
T/Y= Cost per yard in AUD

Bearing in mind there are small fees charged by paypal or credit card conversion which is a bit more than the average exchange rate.

If we average the different fabrics at $9USD

Small box with 1-4 yards is 24.93- 58.35AUD per yard Total cost being 58.35-$99.72AUD

Medium box $23.61-$49.35AUD per yard for 10 or 3 yards respectively. Total cost approx $236/148Aud).

Large box $19.50 -$26AUD per yard for 20 or 10 yards respectively. Total cost approx $390/$265. AUD.

Any fabric can be calculated with my equation by inserting the actual USD price. How many you can fit in and current exchange rate, (allowing for a bit more).

It’s easy to balk at the shipping costs but it’s good to be aware especially if budgeting. 

First, if you cant find it in Australia, contact the international shop.

Fill a box!

Hold if possible or share with friends😍

I hope this helps.

* this is my opinion and all estimates.

Free Patterns to get you started on your sewing adventure!

If I had known the wide variety of free patterns available when I first started using PDF, I would have been amazed! I will stick to just a couple from each designer which I rate highly, although there are often more available if you look further.
  • I’ll begin where it all started for me! PATTERNS FOR PIRATES! The Peglegs Leggings pattern is a great starting point. Easy to make and wear. Now even easier to obtain by creating an account with patterns for pirates and adding to cart, you can checkout without any codes. The Facebook group is also a good support network which P4P encourages you to join. The free Peglegs pattern(http://www.patternsforpirates.com/peglegs-update/) has just been re-released with an updated version (more fit options), free add-on pack (Contour Waistband! Gusset! Colour blocking! Side panel pocket and waistband pocket!!) ALSO a free maternity Add-on. I also love the free pencil skirt from P4P for a simple wardrobe staple.
  • While we are talking leggings, The best fit I have found for my girls is a freebie from LOVE NOTIONS! The Leggin’s fit so well around the waist and hips and don’t fall down like others I have tried. You can add this to your cart and check out on the website (https://www.lovenotions.com/shop?swoof=1&product_cat=freepatterns) to get this for free, but before you do, I recommend that you join the LOVE NOTIONS PATTERN SUPPORT Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/lovenotionspatternsupport/) and get the code for the free Laundry Day Tee! I have only tried this recently and I love it. Their pinned post also contains lots of links for tutorials how to change it to suit your style. I was unsure about it at first but I find it quite flattering on me. (someone mentioned to me that a trick is to make sure its fitted at the bust!)
  • Next HALLA patterns are incredibly generous with their free patterns, featuring more than ten!! I don’t know where to start so join the facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/967242096651172/permalink/1483081941733849/)and find ALL the codes in the pinned post! (Stardust tank, Agnes top and dress, Elora convertible dress, Slim Dolman, just to name a few).
  • GEORGE AND GINGER also has quite an elaborate collection of free patterns. I find GG quite funky and different and usually have a touch of fancy! One I think is great is a plain sleeve pattern which fits a majority of the armscye in the GG range. If you join the George and Ginger Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1486285618343038/), there is a link to a dropbox where you can directly download lots of free patterns including the ‘lovesick’ knit bra, poncho and cardigan, a sexy little pair of skippers and tshirt for bed (I you set) and an open back tee (thankful tee).
  • If you like something classy, REBECCA PAGE is all that! I personally haven’t sewn the free patterns (yet), but I have a few of the girls and ladies and they are all style! The free patterns look amazing! Two sets of matching party dresses and more! You can find the code for these in the comments section of the pinned post on Rebecca Page PDF Pattern Group. (formerly Mummykins and Me)(https://www.facebook.com/groups/mummykinsandme/)
  • I just tested a new FREE t-shirt pattern from GREENSTYLE CREATIONS. I love it! It’s a lovely relaxed fit with scoop or V-neck options! I lengthened mine by a couple of inches but it was already past my hips so good for most body types I’d imagine. To get this you need to join the Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/521003517969832/) and find the code in the pinned post.
  • Another one for the kiddies BRINDLLE AND TWIG has a couple of patterns from preemie up to 5/6T. The Hooded Raglan Sweatshirt and the Ringer Tee. You can get these straight from the website (https://brindilletwig.com/collections/free) by creating an account and checking out. For inspiration or help with the B+T patterns you can also join the Brindille and Twig Sew and Tell FB group. (https://www.facebook.com/groups/Brindilleandtwig/)
  • Yesterday I was wearing my wide leg Plain Pants from DUCK BUTT DESIGNS. I think they look just like the Portlanders, which everyone is raving about at the moment! (I haven’t made them yet mind you!). They are constructed with only 2 pieces like leggings, plus bands. I have also made the tapered version for my mum and she loves them! If you want to find the pattern for free, visit Duck Butt Designs Sew and Chat Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/DBDsewandchat/) for the codes. Adult and children’s versions. They are drafted with a very tall inseam, but there is a lengthen shorten line included.
  • While I’m thinking comfy pants! 5OO4 has a free pattern for Pyjama pants!! They are designed for Men and Ladies with knit or woven fabric!!! I love the POCKETS! You can get these directly from the website (https://5outof4.com/product/pajama-pants/) by creating an account and adding to your cart with free checkout. If you join the Facebook Group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/5outof4PatternsGroup/?fref=nf) you can get sewing support and a code for another popular free pattern! (Ninja leggings, used to be my favourite but I don’t think I can beat the P4P update with the add-ons… They have the waistband pocket and gusset!)
  • It has been a while since I posted and I’m going to share a couple of blogs with you sharing free patterns. I HAVE NOT TESTED ALL THESE like I have my special list above but I have found so many newbies here (including mens!) so I had to share with you all. Robynne and the bobbin shared this list. Organised by Type of pattern and listed in designer alphabetical order! Enjoy! https://robynneandthebobbin.wordpress.com/free-patterns/
  • Another blog from Do It Better Yourself Club https://doitbetteryourself.club/best-free-womens-pdf-sewing-patterns/ None of these affiliate links are mine but I found the list useful! Get sewing! No excuses! With free patterns and upcycled clothing/blankets anyone can do it!

Pro-active

I’ve been waiting a while to set up some kind of email list where I can directly reach my customers with promotions and news events.

I love receiving emails from places I enjoy shopping at. I’m really looking forward to taking photos of all my new stock and inspiration sews.

I’m moving this week. To another town 4 hrs away. I’m excited to have access to support networks, like daycare and take away food options! LOL I’m looking forward to being able to focus on me. My fitness. My business. My social life. Definitely my family but until I have some space, I cant enjoy them as much.

My new email list is a kind of symbol for me. I can focus on something. Express myself. Take steps toward a dream and create without interruption.

For all you Aussies who want to stay on top of the new materials and prints I import regularly, sign up for my list here.

https://sewingaustralia.us17.list-manage.com/subscribe…

Its not just sewing to me. Its a lifestyle.

 

Hoarding

I never thought of myself as a hoarder. I’m pretty good at getting rid of things I don’t use or need. Collecting on the other hand, I suffer from.

Right now my family and I are moving house. I truly get to see my diabolical stash as I pack and lift kilos, upon kilos of fabric. I started with a few different fabrics…. I always sewed up my least favourite so as not to ‘waste’ the good stuff.. This resulted in a heap of clothes which were also not my favourite. I didn’t want to cut into anything which I couldn’t replace. When I did cut something, I made sure I would re-order so I would still ‘have’ some. Then my collection grew.. I had to have every new solid colour- you know- just in case. Then all the colours on all the bases! Cotton Lycra. French Terry. Double Brushed Poly. Rayon Spandex.. Oh NO. Heathered colours! I stopped there. I lost some of my sentimentality, but my collection still grew.

I have changed my tactics a little now. I’m happy to cut into the ‘good stuff’ and I don’t have to have EVERY new colour or print. I can also distinguish between fabric I like and colours that I can wear and suit me. I make a point not to procrastinate over garment choices. I decide. I cut. I sew.

There is always another beautiful fabric around the corner!

Style vs Fashion

Ahhh. So this is a bit of a sore spot for me.

As a teen, I always tried to follow the latest fashions and ended up with a mish-mash of clothes which I could not wear together. I thought because of a price tag it must be ‘stylish’ but I inevitably always ended up looking like a bag of shit! 😉 For years I couldn’t piece together a single capsule wardrobe and my tastes were all over the place, influenced by media, family, friends and Hollywood.

Little did I realise, that was the easiest time of my life to dress in ready to wear clothing. I was a size 8. No lumps and fit into anything I wanted.

After hitting my 30’s I finally started getting authentic with myself and my style- I’m not talking clothes. I mean love, interests and lifestyle! After many soul searching years, I can feel confident wearing a simple white t-shirt instead of seeking outside sources to define me.

Of course now that I have found some personal style and after growing three babies in my  tummy, I’m ready to hit the streets in the trendiest, stylish, quality clothes from the most classy stores and …. WHA…. I still look like a bag of shit. I’m uncomfortable. Pieces of fabric are sticking in me. Sections of my body are being squeezed up and over places they should never be seen! I will just add that I’m fairly comfortable with my body as it is, although I acknowledge that I need to focus more on my health and fitness- Ready to wear clothes are a real downer for my mediocre body image. (This is a little top I made for myself recently… See no visible, uncomfortable lumps and bumps 😉 )

Little did I know when I followed a long awaited dream and started sewing clothes for myself that I could conquer so many things in my life!

Confidence. Pride. Contentment. Excitement. Calmness. I’m going to share all about it with you in time to come.

The seed.

One of the best pieces of advice that was drilled into me  in regards to sewing projects, was from an elderly lady who I looked after in an aged care facility. Mrs Kelly, in her 90’s, had the same accent and quick wit as my dad so I clicked with her straight away.

Everyday while I was there to assist with daily routines, we’d  re-play the same conversations. Inedible potatoes, obnoxious staff and irritating hosts on the morning show.

Everyday I’d inevitably admire one of Mrs Kelly’s many blouses. “I made it” she would announce. “I used to come home from work- I was an office clerk- and one day I would cut out my paper pattern. The next day I would pin my pattern to the material. The next day I would cut out my material. The next day I would sew it together. Then I’d hem it.”

So 15 years later when I finally followed one of my dreams and bought a sewing machine, I had this feisty (though lovely) lady’s story in the back of my mind. I don’t need a large block of time. I can do a little when I can.

Just start!

Catherine.

A little about me and my sewing.

I wrote this last year when I started a co-op to import fabrics which are typically unavailable in Australia.

“Hi Everyone I’m Catherine.
I have always wanted to make my own clothes and did a little bit of sewing in High School. (20 yr reunion this year!!) I’m not particularly artistic or crafty but I like to follow recipes, instructions and patterns.
I took some quilting lessons 5 yrs ago and really enjoyed making quilts!
I have dabbled with clothes patterns (mainly wovens) but until I experienced PDF patterns I never really enjoyed it. I stumbled on Patterns for Pirates last year while looking for some little girl’s dress to sew. ( I have 3 girls 4yrs and under). I found the tutorials so easy and love how I can print whatever sizes I like as many times as I need! Also grading sizes to fit me has been magical.
From there I discovered knits! Where have you been all my life!
I was, up until now, a complete natural fibres snob and always loved cotton linen wool leather and silks. NOW I’m learning to understand drape and actually enjoying different fashions and fabrics for the first time in a loooong time.”
Since then, I have sourced many unique fabrics overseas and started a little online shop, stocking double brushed poly (DBP), Rayon Spandex, Liverpool, Athletic Brushed poly, French Terry, Sweater knits and much more!
I have made dozens of outfits for myself and my family and I’m becoming very comfortable with my abilities to produce a quality garment.
I look forward to sharing my Sewing Australia journey with you!
Catherine.