A Me Made Deer & Doe Cardamome dress for Maai Design Blog Tour

I'm really thrilled to be taking part in the Maai Design Blog tour.  Maaike is now stocking a range of See you at Six Fabrics.  And to celebrate, there is a discount code for you at the end of this post..

Here is my contribution to the tour, the Deer & Doe Cardamome dress in The See you at Six Dandelions Blue rayon. I had my eye on this fabric and I'm thankful that I got it in time as it has since sold out!  But never fear, there is plenty more to choose from!

The fabric is beautiful to say the least!  It's very soft, vibrant in colour and has a lovely drape and is a dream to sew with. 

I initially wanted to make either the Tilly & Buttons Marigold jumpsuit or the Sew over It Rosie dress, but I didn't have a lot of time to make this up and didn't want to fiddle with trouser fitting or boning. So I decided on this Cardamome dress which I have been lusting over for a little while. 

Having said that, I wish I had gone with a dress with more of a floaty vibe as the fabric is just so lovely and drapey. 

This pattern was great and the instructions clear.  I have hacked this version up quite a bit by removing the collar and only doing one row of elastic around the waist instead of 4 rows of shirred elastic.  I made a size 38 but I added 4cm to the bodice length and 10cm to the hem length as I often have to do.  And I think those alterations worked well. 

The trickiest part of the make was attaching the yoke as it's topstitched onto the bodice.  That took ALOT of pins! I did use a bit of stay tape around the yoke also which helped a great deal. 

I also made sure that I used a warm-ish iron and pre-washed as there is a 5% shrinkage.  

I am looking forward to wearing more of this easy dress over the summer and I am also planning lots more makes using this fab rayon! 

You can too...here is the 10% discount code you can add to your blogposts: seeyouatsix
This code is valid for the See You At Six collection, and from the 12th of September until the 30th of Sept.

And don't forget to check out all the other fab makes from these lovely sewists and bloggers:

12th of September: Shelley from Bartacks and Singletrack
13th of September: Kate from Sewing With Kate
14th of September: Nicola from Create.nic
15th of September: Anna from Blogless Anna

17th of September: Suz from Sewpony
18th of September: Allison from The Tall Mama
19th of September: Toni from Make It Perfect
20th of September: Suzanne from Dressed in Pretty Little Things
21st of September: Natalie from Sew Outnumbered
22nd of September: Jenya from While She Was Sleeping
23rd of September: Maaike from MaaiDesign

Please excuse my hayfever-ish puffy eyes...it's that time of year! 

Happy sewing! 

The UsefulBox Make, Sew & Gather Weekend Retreat

I am super pleased to announce our very own Make, Sew & Gather Weekend Retreat!  
Take some time out for you with other makers and crafters over the weekend of  28-30 October in Ingleside, near Manly. This special time enables us to gather to learn new skills, broaden our knowledge, meet new like minded friends and above all, treat ourselves by doing something that you love doing!

We all love making and this is a chance to share in the wonderful and nurturing making community.

Learning from some of the best in the business, you will take your sewing, pattern making or knitting to the next level. Or even take the time to learn something new, such Fabric Painitng! And what better way to do that than in the relaxing and peaceful surrounds of our retreat with your tribe!

After the weekend is over guests will feel revitalised, encouraged, proud that you've learnt new things and excited by new friendships!

More details here.

The Weekend at a Glance

Residential guests will arrive by 6pm for a welcome canapé and drink reception, followed by a delicious 2 course meal.  Staying overnight in deluxe twin share rooms.
Our day guests join us for workshops, lovely lunch and more workshops.  You can choose from a full day workshop or 2 x half day workshops. All meals are included for both day and residential guests. Residential guests will stay on for another tasty meal and spending time with new friends followed by a lovely sleep!
Residential guests will pack up their bags after a hearty breakfast ready for the day guests to arrive and start with more workshops.  Again choosing from a full day workshop or 2 x half day workshops.  Our day will wrap up at 430pm with enough time to get you home recharged for the week ahead. All meals are included for both residential and day guests.
We will be escaping to the leafy surrounds of the Sydney Conference and Training Centre in Ingleside near Manly in Sydney. 

The accomodation rooms will be twin share and with their own bathroom. Tea and Coffee making facilities are available in room too for those much needed quite moments.  All rooms look out onto the surrounding bushland and are air conditioned for extra comfort.

If you are coming along with a friend, we can easily arrange for you to be roomies.  If not, we ask for your nocturnal preferences and try to room you with a similar person i.e.:  night owls together and sleepy heads together.

As for relaxation, there is a lovely pool to laze by and plenty of lovely bushland to stroll through. Perfect for a complete get away!

Our weekend is all about making and learning new things within our beautiful making community.  It is about gathering together to learn, share and experience.  We are busily building workshop schedule that will bring guests all that!  
Below is a list of all the workshops that we are developing and super excited about. You may like to focus on the one workshop for the two days, or a different workshop each day, or even 2 workshops on the Saturday and 1 workshop on the Sunday. 
You can choose from the following workshops:

Saturday Morning Workshops

  • *  Colours - how to choose the right colours and silhouettes for you with Kash from The Style Doctor
  • *  Weaving/Macrame

Saturday Afternoon Workshops

  • * Mending and upcycling with Kate from Sewing with Kate
  • *  Fabric Painting with Saffron Craig

Saturday Full day Workshop

  • *  Knitting - Getting past the basics

Sunday Full day Workshop

  • *  Sew your own Lingerie with Susan Goodwin from Measure Twice, Cut Once
  • *  Sew your own Geona Tote bag with Anna from Blogless Anna
  • *  Japanese Sewing Patterns for beginners with Jillan from Sew Unravelled

Saturday & Sunday Full day workshop

  • *  Pattern Block making with Emily from In the Folds

You can see more information on workshops and teachers here.

This is going to be a super fun weekend and I am so excited to be hosting it.  Keep an eye out on our Facebook page, Instagram or sign up to the newsletter for more information on workshops and teachers....along with prize draws!

If you are as excited as us, purchase your ticket now before you miss out!

Ticket types

Sewing Patterns 101: How to buy a sewing pattern

With most of my beginner sewing lessons, I dedicate some time to explaining why we use patterns, what to look for and how to read them.  I feel that lots of beginners are overwhelmed by this process and it puts them off even starting to sew. I don't want that!

So I thought I would start a little series, Sewing Patterns 101,  on all those tricky questions to get you started.  Over the next few posts, I will take you through how to buy patterns, how to read the back of the pattern to know how much fabric to buy etc, how to read the instructions and how to lay out including what the grainline means and how important it is.

First let's take a step back and explain how we get hold of a pattern in the first place.  There are three main ways to buy a pattern. 

1: Big 4 Pattern companies - Vogue, McCall's, Butterick and Simplicity

The more traditional way, is to choose the pattern from a huge book at a fabric store such as Spotlight or Lincraft (or Joann's or John Lewis for our international readers). 

The main pattern companies, or known as The Big 4,  are Vogue, McCall's Patterns, Butterick and Simplicity (which includes New Look and Kwik Sew).  At your local fabric store, there will be large books dedicated to these companies.  They usually produce one book per season and the book is broken up into different garments with dividers such as dresses, separates etc. 

I've been known to spend hours going through these book pouring over the pictures and making sure I was making the right choice as they aren't cheap especially as a Fashion Design Student.  Thankfully the stores provide a chair, although the space given to this in the store is reducing more and more. 

When you have chosen the pattern you would like, you take note of the company along with the number you see in big letters on the page.  In this example in the photo above, the pattern company is Simplicity and the number is in the top left corner, 2178.  I tend to take photos of them on my phone as I can never find a pen when I need one. 

Take this info to the serving counter and the assistant should go find it for you in their massive drawers.  And then you have a perfectly folded neat pattern and enjoy that as they'll never be the same again. 

2: Independent "Indie" Pattern Designers

The second way and my favoured way of buying patterns is from an Indie Pattern designer.  These are the new wave of designers who are making their patterns digitally available for download and you can print at home from a PDF file. 

Most print at home files are A4, or letter, sized and you will need to stick them all together using the matching prompts on the pattern.  This can be tedious and is not my favourite thing to do.  

However, Indie designers now offer the file to be printed at a copy shop onto A0 paper which is the largest size.  This is much for practical for time and is quite affordable being $4 per page at my local Officeworks. 

Once you have all the pieces put together or the A0 sheet, you think trace the pattern onto some tracing paper, or trace'n'toile interfacing.  Or as my Mum used, baking paper (Aldi have the widest in Australia!)

My favourite places to buy Indie Patterns are, with suggestions of easy beginner patterns:

3: Pattern books

Pattern books are lovely things to keep and use again and again.  Here are just a few to love.  You might even find some in your local library. 

The most popular in the blogosphere, and for super cute reasons, are Japanese Pattern Books for kids and women.  Here is site to get you started with them - great for beginners. 

Tilly & the Buttons, who featured on the first season of The Great British Sewing Bee, has released a lovely beginner sewing book. The instructions are super clear, the project easy and the photos are super cute.  Buy it here!

I hope this had helped you unlock the mystery of patterns!  They aren't so scary!

I would love to know the what the first pattern you have bought was?

C xxx

My Pinterest boards for you!

I've been pinning for a while now and it's really become my go-to for inspiration and ideas.  I think I have used it to theme each of my son's birthdays along with planned my imaginary fabulous forever house!

Now that I am devoting more time to teaching people to learn to sew than daydreaming, I am having so much fun adding pins that will help you in your sewing education!

Here are a few that you will like!

My most followed board is a treasure trove of fabulous, easy and quick craft or sewing projects

I'm also amassing a wealth of tips and tricks for sewing along with a collection of PDF sewing patterns on this board

 If you are wanting to delve into pattern making or learn to alter your patterns, here is lots of info!

And you'll get a sneak peak into my fashion taste in my Fashion boards, here and here.

Plus if you are attending our Carolyn's PJ's weekend, I've complied so many makes to inspire you!

If you've taken, or thinking about, a beginner class with me where we made a zip pouch, here are heaps and heaps of other types you can make now you have the skills!

Join me on Pinterest and we can no just daydream but make stuff together!

Don't forget to show me on #usefulboxsewinglessons what you've made from this inspiration!!

Happy Pinning!

New Workshops available now!

Hooray!  We have new workshop projects and dates available now!

And the best part is that I am hosting two very special workshops in the Inner West of Sydney in June.

The first is an all day beginners workshop where we will learn to master our machines and take on some simple projects.

And the second is a workshop, I have been eager to do for ages is a Project Weekend where we take on a full garment from start to finish. As we are using the Closet Case Files Carolyn Pyjamas as out project.

Photo from Closet Case Files

These workshops also include lunch, coffees and cupcakes.  Who could ask for more!

Check out the Sewing Lessons tab above to find out more!

If you can't make it to these workshops, sign up to our newsletter here to find out when the next workshop will be hosted!

Hope to see you there!

MeMade: The Rushcutter Dress by In The Folds

I first saw this dress on the Maai Design blog and when I met Maaike, she was wearing it.  I loved it instantly and knew that this would be a dress that I would love to wear. And make!

And boy was I right!!! 

Presenting my make of The Rushcutter from In the Folds!

What drew me to this dress was that fabulous neck detail and the many many options that it gives.  Colour blocking, mixing patterns or simply using the same fabric giving a hint of the detail.  I also love the pocket detail, length of the sleeve and the silhouette of both views.  I knew it was the dress for me!

Once I had made up my mind to buy the pattern and make it up, I started to see lots of people who had made it up.  Sewing with Kate's fab vintage fabric long sleeve version was as suggested, fab!  I loved the contrast in Sew MarieFleur Pink Rushcutter.  And given I am an absolute sucker for polka dots, I loved Beth from SewDIY's take on the pattern.  To see more inspiration, check out the roundup here!

Being the end of summer I, of course, decided to make the sleeveless summer version and I already had this cotton from Spotlight in my stash, seemingly waiting for this dress.  I don't normally wear these colours due to being so pale but low and behold, they suit me!  Bring on more autumn colours!!

This pattern is bought as a digital file and I highly recommend having it printed on A0 simply because there are some complex pattern pieces.  The side neckline is one piece which looks super scary when laid out and cutting.  So trying to piece that together with A4 paper would be tricky.  Life is far too short for that!

The dress is also all french seamed.  However, I forged ahead a little bit at the start and on autopilot I didn't do french seams so I just kept going and used the overlocker for all seams. The next Rushcutter I make I will for sure follow the instructions to the letter and french seam my little heart out.  

On both versions, the neckline is the same with the back button up placket.  Which was a bit daunting while cutting out but super easy to put together.  I actually love how it all came together.  The buttons were in my enormous button jar and I think work well. I have found that I can actually put it on over my head without undoing the buttons!  Hurrah for that!

As I mentioned, I did do some small adjustments but they are something that I have to do with nearly all patterns.  I needed to cut away about 2 cm from around the armhole as it felt too small and uncomfortable. I always have to do this, perhaps I have rather large arm sockets! In fact, I probably could have cut down a tiny bit more but any more and I would have cut into that one pattern piece, making it super tricky.   

The other adjustment I made was adding 10cm to the length.  The dress is actually quite short and even though I am not super tall, I felt it was too short for me. So again, I added some more length.  Usual story for me!

This pattern also uses self binging around the neckline and armholes.  Can I just say self binding is FAB! I love it.  I haven't used it much in the past but lately I have been self binding crazy!  Even ad-libing it and adding it to patterns where I haven't used the sleeve and therefore there is no facing. Fun, Fun, Fun! I have been using what I call "The Tessuti Binding Method" from their blog.  Super easy!

The self sash is fun too.  But next time I may need to add belt loops, just for some comfort.  I will also raise up the pockets as they were just a bit too low for me as per the pattern. 

Whenever I wear this dress, I am complimented and really that is all a girl can ask for and makes one want to make more and more!

Can't wait to make the next one in this style and then lots and lots for winter with the longer sleeve and deeper pockets. My sister has put in her order as well. 

I may also add an elasticated waist to one as well using this tutorial from Indie Sew!

After you download this pattern you can also follow Emily's sew along which has loads of tips.  Emily is somewhat of a pattern making genius and has lots of tutorials on her other site Em Makes Patterns.  A treasure trove of info - I was amazed when I found it and intend it to be my go to site for pattern making!!

Have you made a Rushcutter?  Would love to see what you have made!


Maai Design Blog Tour

Today is super exciting for me.  It's my first time participating in a Blog Tour and I couldn't be more happy than to be participating in the lovely, Maaike's of Maai Design, tour.  I met Maaike's originally through our local craft night.  She was making her Carolyn PJ's and I was, well, trying to sew but really just chatting instead!

Maai Design is an awesome online fabric store stocking beautiful Belgian Fabrics, both Woven and Knits.  

And until March 26th, 2016, you can receive 10% off your purchase using the code maaidesign10%.

Maaike invited us to make up whatever we wanted in her fabrics.  I immediately wanted to make another (you'll see that soon) McCalls #6696 Shirtdress.  My new favourite dress!

Even though I had a clear idea of what I wanted to make, it took me ages and ages to decide on this Soft Cactus Indian Fever in Blue.  I was tempted to make it with contrasting fabrics on the yokes and waistband but decided I'll just be bold in one pattern.  I'm so glad I did!

The fabric is also very wide, at 145cm, and therefore much easier to lay out large patterns.  I still have some left over and plan to make something else (watch this space!).  Maaike also sells the fabric in 25cm lots at roughly $4.75 so it's super easy to get what you need. 

You'll notice that my dress is not that similar to the pattern as I did take quite a bit of creative liberty with the pattern.  I don't feel collars suit me at the moment so I did away with that design element along with not needing the sleeves.  But the main change is really the neckline feature of adding the cutaway.  I hoped it would add some more interest thus making it even more unique!

I also added the self fabric tie belt which the pattern does not dictate.  I need something to cinch in my waist and this was the best option. 

I was also very indecisive about the buttons and the ladies that offered their advice at the haberdashery shop probably wondered how I even get through my day.  But I am so happy I went with the blue buttons instead of orange buttons like they suggested! I didn't want the dress to be about the buttons!

Overall I have loved sewing this fabric and it's softening as I wear and wash it.  I feel fabulous and unique in it.  It won't be the last time I use this pattern and it certainly won't be my last purchase from Maai Design! I have my eye on this Rhythm in the Rain fabrics a shirt for my husband! 

Don't forget to visit all the other fabulous bloggers to see what they have made with this gorgeous fabric! I'm so excited to see what we have all made. Sewpony has made THE cutest little dress for her daughter!!! 

March 8th - Suz from Sewpony
March 10th - Kate from Sewing With Kate
March 11th - Allison from The Tall Mama
March 12th - Suzanne from Dressed in Pretty Little Things
March 13th - Toni from Make It Perfect
March 14th - Natalie from Sew Outnumbered
March 15th - Jenya from While She Was Sleeping 
March 16th - Nicola from Create.nic
March 17th - Shelley from Bartacks and Singletrack
March 18th - Maaike from MaaiDesign


What tools do you need to learn to sew? My top 5 beginner tools.

Learning to sew can be daunting when we realise how many tools we need to make sewing easier.  On the other hand, it can be quite fun to "tool up" and get all the trappings right at the beginning.

But what are the basics? What can you get away with when just starting to sew?

I mean besides a sewing machine, What tools do you need to learn to sew?

I'm asked this at every single workshop or lesson that I do. Everyone is keen to get it right at the beginning.

Here are my top 5 tools needed to learn to sew (besides a sewing machine, obvs!):


Scissors are at the top of the list. With the obvious reason of that we need to cut the fabric into a certain shape in order to sew it.  Sewing is all about cutting something in 2D and making it into 3D, and to do that we need good sharp scissors.

You can definitely go out and buy very very good fabric scissors like these from Gingher.  But I really suggest that you buy the best that you can afford.  And that might be these Birch Serra Sharp Scissors from Spotlight for around $60.  Or indeed some simple, albeit fine, Triumph Titanium Scissors also from Spotlight for $10!

Fabric Scissors are coveted by sewers and we have quite a "thing" about keeping them as THE GOOD SCISSORS!  We will become obsessed with only allowing them to cut fabric and not, ever, cut fabric.  I have been known to dive onto flatmates who are about to use the good scissors!  Isn't that right David???

But in all fairness, there is lots of truth in that.  If we want our scissors to cut a nice clean line in our fabric, thou shalt not cut anything other than fabric with the good scissors!

Tape measure & Rulers

My father would have a conniption that I just used Rulers instead of Rule to describe something to measure with.  But anyway, that's another story!

Tape measures are vital to sewing.  You use them to of course measure the size of the person you are making the garment for to determine which size in the pattern to cut and make up.  You use them to line up the grainline on the pattern to match the grainline in the fabric.  You use them to measure any alternations.  You use them to mark hems and seam allowances.  You get the idea, you use them lots.  Super important to have.

Rules (not Rulers, like the Queen, to quote my Dad), do all the same things as a tape measure, obviously.  However, these tricky see through rules can also help you line up right angles etc and are VERY useful for pattern making once you get up to that.  Or even take up quilting, quilters have all the cool haberdashery!

Fabric marker

These Pilot Frixon markers are all the rage in the sewing world at the moment.  And they are pretty darn cool.  Write on paper and you can erase with the tip.  Or indeed mark up your fabric and to erase it, just iron over it.  Pop it in the freezer to get the marking back again.  Super cool.  Pretty cheap and can be bought at newsagents or Big W-esque shops.


There are a lot of sewers lately who are not using pins and instead use weights to lay down and cut a pattern.  Or even using magic tape to effectively "pin" seams when sewing.

I am steadfastly a pinner! (I also love Pinterest too!) I just can't seem to break the habit of pinning.  And frankly, I don't think I need to.

Certainly, as a beginner it's best to start as you mean to go on.  But I do recommend you use pins.  Cheap glass head pins are the easiest to start with and then you can work your way to fancy pins like my favourite, Clover Flower Headed Pins.

Choose glass headed pins as they won't melt if you catch them under the iron.

Quick unpick

Usually a quick unpick, or seam ripper, will come with your machine.  It's a small handheld gadget that has two spikes with a blade in the middle.  This will become invaluable to you as we all make mistakes, especially when learning.  Plus we use them to open up buttonholes.  Best to keep them super sharp and clean.  These tools to come either really cheap or expensive, sharp and fancy.  I just use my basic one!

You'll also notice in the pic that I have snuck in a screwdriver as well.  Thee usually come with your machine but I find that they are always a bit flimsy or small.  I use this .5cm flat head screwdriver for everything from changing the bulb in the machine to pushing out square corners!!!

Bonus tip! Thread!

This is a bit of an obvious tip too.  But I wanted to mention that thread is super important to the success of your garment! You'll need to use the appropriate thread for your fabric.  I wouldn't use heavyweight thread on a silk blouse for instance or a cheap thin thread to make jeans!  No way Jose!

Speaking of cheap thread, this is up to you and what you can afford.  But please try to buy the best quality you can afford.  I love Gutermann thread - it's mid priced, strong and has great colours.  Just remember that the cheaper the thread, the more it will break and you'll be rethreading often! 

So there you have it.  Which tools do you already have?  And which do you find that you can't live without?

Use #usefulboxblog on Instagram to show us your #favouritesewingtools!