Sewing a (fun) work wardrobe

I recently headed back to the workforce and I’m pretty darn happy about it. Not so happy about the state of my work wardrobe though. After 3 years at home with kids, the closet is full of jeans and sloppy tees. All very well for cleaning and finger painting, but no so professional. Soooo, I’m finding myself in need of some respectable duds. As my work is not corporate, there is some flexibility in said work attire – still no jeans and sloppy tees 😦 – but I’m hoping to create some work outfits that still retain an element of fun, can still be incorporated into non-work life and are appealing to wear.

This is going to be a journey, due to sad state of my current wardrobe. So I’ll hope you’ll join me, leave some feedback, suggest patterns and the like.

staple dress 1

Piece one in my wardrobe’s road to recovery is the much sewn and loved Staple Dress pattern by April Rhodes. I know you’ve seen this dress all over blogland, but there’s always room for one more.

Staple Dress 9Staple Dress 3Staple Dress 8

Yep, ha ha finally got myself a camera remote! 

And so, how does the Staple Dress go in my work wardrobe?

Fun: yes, definitely. I’m loving the dress in Amy Butler voile, the fabric is light, breathable and beautiful to wear 5/5

Cross-functional: yes. I wore this dress out to dinner with heels, so it will fit into both the work and non-work requirements 5/5

Wearability: although I do prefer pants, this dress is pretty darn comfortable 4/5

Does it fit in?: given the sparsity of my work wardrobe, it does fit in. Having said that, the print I chose doesn’t make it a mix and match piece or a wear to work 3 times a week and no-one will notice piece 3/5

Here’s how I styled it for work:

Staple Dress 5Staple Dress 6

Staple dresses all over the internet inspired this make, but here are my picks if you’re after some more Staple Dress inspiration:

Staple Dresses Inspiration

1. Staple Dress is Denim by While She Was Sleeping 2. Polka Dot Staple by Shona Stitches

I’m loving these blue versions – please click over to their blogs for more info and pics.

So tell me, do you have a ‘go to’ pattern you love for work wear? 


A Brynna Dress

In amongst my Willow & Co. sewing bonanza, I did manage to squeeze in a project for me. As much as I’m loving participating in blog tours and pattern tests, sometimes it’s really fun to just sew something because you want to and without deadlines. This is not a pattern I have seen anywhere else in the blogging world. It’s the Brynna Dress from Sew Liberated.

Brynna 1


The dresses that I’ve made for myself previously, the Saltspring, Washi and Date Night Dress are all very summery and I was looking for something a bit more trans-seasonal. The Brynna is just that – with a 3/4 sleeve and a short sleeve option. Meg McElwee, the talent behind Sew Liberated certainly has an excellent reputation as a seamstress and pattern maker. There have been many fantastic versions of her Schoolhouse Tunic pattern around the web. From what I can tell, I think the Brynna dress, along with the Myla Tank and the Aida Top were released late last year. I follow a LOT of sewing blogs, but somehow I missed the release of these patterns and only stumbled on them recently.

Brynna 2

I made this dress from a fairly heavy weight rayon. I love working with rayon – it’s slinky, but not at all difficult to work with. I didn’t do a muslin as I should have and you can see that the bust darts are too low for me, however the non-fitted nature of the bodice means it is not much of an issue.  I also did my usual trick of sizing up one size from my bust measurement and then finding that the bodice was too big. How many times I will do that I can’t say – seems to be a habit of mine…… Anyway, it all worked out in the end and fortunately I don’t ever choose really form fitting styles.


I’m pretty pleased with the end result. I’ve found this dress to be really versatile, I’ve dressed it up for dinner and also dressed it down with leggings and a denim jacket. I really like the collar detail, what do you think?


This pattern is only available in printed form – something I did not realise when I first planned to sew this dress. I originally wanted to make it for Mother’s Day lunch, but assuming I could download it as a PDF, I didn’t leave enough lead time for the pattern to be posted from the US. I’m a PDF pattern devotee – a pattern has to REALLY impress me for me to wait the lead time for postage. Please Meg, consider releasing your patterns in PDF form in addition to printed!!

One tip I have  if you’re making this dress. As the elastic waistband sits on the lower part of your ribcage, I suggest inserting your elastic, adjusting to the length that you think is comfortable and then securing with a safety pin. Wear the dress for a few hours to check that the elastic is still comfortable BEFORE finishing the elastic ends and finishing the dress side seam. In my experience, the elastic length that felt comfortable when I tried the dress on is actually a little tight on my ribcage after I’ve been wearing the dress for a few hours. It will be a pain in the b*#t to fix.

All in all, I’m happy with how this dress has turned out and I’ll definitely consider making the short sleeved version when the weather warms up. Do you have a favourite Sew Liberated pattern? I’m thinking I’ll get on the Schoolhouse Tunic bandwagon next assuming I can wait for the postage time!

Pattern Tour: Bohemian Babydoll Dress

Bohemian Babydoll 3

If you’re a regular Nearest the Pin reader, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of Elegance & Elephants patterns. I recently tested both the Spring Showers Jacket and the Stellar Vest and Dress patterns. Heidi has been kind enough to invite me to be part of the pattern tour for her newest release – the Bohemian Babydoll dress. Of course I jumped on board – and I was not going to let the fact that we are 3 days into winter here in Australia deter me from sewing up this gorgeous dress pattern!!



The front bodice has a curve along the bottom edge which I love and the hem also has a subtle hi-low shape. Both of these features add some flair to the dress IMO. Another thing to LOVE about this pattern is that there are no closures – the dress is designed to slip over the head. I’m pleased to report that this was easy to do and there was no contorting of the 2 year old required (as there have been with some other closure-less dresses that I have made for her).

For this dress I found a lovely silk-cotton blend at my local fabric warehouse – the design is a deep purple, which I hope comes out in the photos. The pattern has a fully lined bodice, but because my fabric is so light, I lined the skirt as well. I love that this is a fun summer dress, but there’s nothing too frilly going on – this pattern fits to my taste perfectly.


The fit is loose and flowing which I love for a summer dress. The armhole is also quite scooped as you can see – but again, I like this for summer. Heidi’s instructions are always exemplary and this dress pattern will not disappoint. The only question I have is whether there could be an alternative bodice construction method given in addition to Heidi’s method, which is to fold the armhole edges under and topstitch. This method worked ok for me – but I wonder whether a ‘sew inside out and then pull through the shoulder’ method could be used here, to give a cleaner finish? I’ll give it a try next time and report back.



This photo shoot presented a new challenge for me. Making a summer dress on the first day of winter meant inside photos only. I certainly need some more practice which I’ll no doubt get over the next few months. Miss A. will get to wear her new dress in a few weeks as we’re heading off somewhere very warm for a much needed family getaway.

Even though I made a summery version, I think heavier fabrics would also make a great trans-seasonal option that could be layered with tights and long sleeves. Just make sure it’s a fabric that gathers well if you want to use the skirt that comes with the pattern. The scooped arm hole and looser fitting bodice mean there will be no trouble fitting some layers underneath.



Thank you so much Heidi for today’s invitation. Be sure to head over to Elegance and Elephants to see many other fantastic versions of the Bohemian Babydoll. Stay tuned here too for more little girl sewing in the coming weeks.


Willow and Co. Fawn Lily Dress

On safari we went, testing out Miss. A’s new Fawn Lily dress and it’s suitability for ‘glamping’.




The Fawn Lily dress is part of Willow and Co‘s first pattern collection entitled Wanderlust: A Glamping Collection. This pattern was designed by Rebecca of Rock The Stitch and the unusual design of the crossover bodice and the wrap around sleeves really appealed to me.


Searching for some more animals, and searching…






No luck, so we headed to the jungle.


more luck here. What about those Lemurs in the next photo – score!


and what about A’s little friend. Do you recognise her? Yes! It’s Jenya’s daughter (While She Was Sleeping). Jenya and I have become great real life friends since meeting through our mutual love of sewing and blogging. Our daughters have hung out a couple of times now too, and they’re pretty fond of each other.


About the Fawn Lily dress:

In my opinion, this is an intermediate pattern. The instructions are good, but some of the techniques are a little tricky and require sewing precision. The result is great though once you get through the sleeve construction. It’s kind of hard to envisage how the sleeves are going to turn out, but you just have to put your faith in Rebecca and follow those instructions.

I made a size 3 for my 2.5 year old. The fit is good when the dress is on, but it’s not easy to get on and off her because there are no closures (and because my crossing over bodice pieces may be slightly closer together than they should be). Miss A could really use the width of a size 4 in the bodice to allow some room when taking the dress on and off. Miss A. declared the dress to be ‘bootiful’ and that makes the pattern a winner in my book! Suitable for glamping? Yes, definitely!

In these photos, Jenya’s daughter is wearing a Debbie’s Birthday Dress that Jenya is blogging for Vintage May – be sure to head over to Jenya’s blog to hear about the vintage notions she has incorporated into this sweet dress.



Our safari was shot on location at Melbourne Zoo. Thanks so much Jenya and Little Monkey for such a fantastic day 🙂 If you caught my guest post on Why I Sew, you’ll appreciate how much I have loved the opportunity to meet, in person, another sewing blogging person. The first time we chatted sewing it was a little strange. I spend a lot of time reading blogs and discussing sewing online, but never in person. I can chat to Jenya about Caroline’s new pattern, pattern testing for Caila and the great photography tutorials that Vanessa blogs – and she knows exactly who these people are!! What a revelation!! I love chatting sewing with you Jenya, I think our next adventure needs to involve a fabric store or two….

KCW Day One: Soleil Dress and a Giveaway

Welcome to Kids Clothes Week! It seems I have two non-paying jobs at the moment – that of mum and of pattern tester. But I love it and how could I not – I mean just look at these amazing indie sewing pattern designers producing seriously impressive, innovative yet user friendly patterns. Today’s designer is no exception, she’s a blogger, pattern designer and she is also the brains behind the Pattern Workshop e-course helping others reach their dreams of releasing patterns for sale. I’m talking of course about Lauren Dahl of Selvage Designs.

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to be involved in the testing of Lauren’s debut sewing pattern, the Soleil Dress. Yes I sewed this during testing last week, but Lauren is releasing the pattern today – so here it is! Take a look:

soleil 1


The Soleil Dress is a straightforward knit dress with front pocket detail and a gathered skirt. There are no closures to battle with, the dress slips over the head just as a t-shirt would. You’ll notice that Miss. A loves those pockets, she loves to walk around with her hands inside.




Lauren’s step by step tutorial is impeccable – there are both diagrammatical and written instructions which I like. This is a really straightforward project that a beginner could easily achieve. This dress will definitely become a staple in Miss. A’s wardrobe and as the weather cools down here in Australia, a cardigan and some leggings will extend the wearing season.

The dress also comes with an open back option for added interest and I’m tempted to try this version next. Truth be told, this is the second Soleil dress that I made. The fabric I used (I don’t know exactly what it is but it’s like a cross between a knit and sweatshirt fabric – it’s not fleecy but has the weight of sweatshirt fabric) has a lot of stretch in it so I thought I would reverse the fabric for the bindings. I loved the look of it, but unfortunately I misjudged just how stretchy the fabric is because the dress would not go over her head 😦 Miss A was devastated, so quickly added a placket at the back. Here is version 1:


Cute dress – but not really the done thing to test a pattern and make big design alterations while you are sewing, oops! Hence why she now has two fuchsia knit Soleil dresses. Back to the review:

The good: stylish, fun and quick to sew. Fantastic and thorough instructions that a beginner could easily follow.

The bad: ummm, don’t really have anything to say here. I’m very confident that you will be as impressed as I have been if you sew this pattern.

Will I sew it again? yeh for sure!

Now to the giveaway – Lauren has generously given me one copy of the Soleil Dress pattern to giveaway. Just click on the link below to enter – Good luck!! Or if you can’t wait to see if you’ve won there is a discount code for $2 off until April 11 – just use the code: soleilrelease2


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Pattern Review: Mini Mod Dress

If you, like me, spend too much time admiring the amazing sewing, styling and photography skills of Kelly Crawford over at Sewing In No Mans Land, then there is some good news for us. Kelly is releasing some of her fabulous creations as graded patterns so we can all try to emulate her great style. I recently tested her second graded pattern, the Mini Mod dress and it’s is now available for purchase.




I love the style of this dress and how it showcases the fabric. I chose a cotton sateen in Liesl Gibson’s Lisette fabric line for Spotlight. After I bought it I was really worried this fabric would look too old for a 2 year old, but I’m happy with the result. Kelly has made some amazing versions of the Mini Mod in beautiful Amy Butler – this dress is the perfect pattern to show off such amazing fabrics.



Little Miss A said her new dress is ‘bootiful’ and you can’t ask for more than that really.

The Details: The dress has a lined bodice and a simple button closure at the back. It comes in a small range of sizes 2T – 5. There are options for pockets, the belt (as seen here) and belt loops. This is a size 3 on my 2.5 year old. Kelly makes it clear that the pattern is sized more for petite girls so I decided a size up would be wise and it was.

The Pros: well it’s so god dammed cute for a start! The fit is great. It’s trans-seasonal – we can add tights and a cardigan and this dress should see her through the rest of the year. The design is so simple and easy to sew and the perfect way to showcase some amazing fabric you’ve been hanging on to.

The Cons: This dress is not complicated but be aware that the instructions are wordy. All the instructions you need are there but it does feel a bit like you are wading through, especially if, like me, you like to glance back and forward at the steps as you go. There is no step for under stitching the lining so I added this to mine as I think it helps the neckline sit nicely.

Will I make this dress again? Absolutely! I’m already dreaming of the endless possibilities……

My local quilting shop just got some Amy Butler rayon in their store. It’s very rare to find it in Australia (in my experience) so now that I’ve felt how amazing it is in person, just watch me try to restrain myself from whipping up some more Mini Mods ($35 dollars a metre – ouch!).

An Out and About Dress and a Giveaway!!

I’m showing off my new love today – the most comfortable and versatile dress I’ve ever owned. It’s Sew Caroline’s debut pattern, the Out and About dress.



The Out and About Dress is a knit pattern, hence why this dress is my new love – it’s so comfy to wear and can be dressed up or down. This dress can be worn with a jacket, leggings and boots for cooler weather, dressed up for a night out or with sandals for summer – will I ever wear anything else? The pattern also comes with maxi length and long sleeve options. Once I saw the fab versions sew up by Abby and Erin I was sold. Tempted to sew your own version? I’ve got a copy to give away so read on.

And seriously – please forgive the photo quality in this post. The camera repair guy has had my camera for about 3 weeks, apparently waiting for a part from China…….this is a loan camera and its not a DSLR, we’ve done our best folks 🙂



Pattern Info

The Good: If you, like me love to support indie pattern designers, you will agree that some pattern designers are certainly better than others. Caroline’s first pattern has seriously impressed me. Her instructions are very clear and well written. I had no trouble whatsoever sewing up this dress. It’s very simple to put together with no closures or fiddly details, attaching the neckband is as difficult as it gets. You could definitely attempt this dress as a first knit pattern.

The Bad: According to the pattern instructions, my measurements put me in a medium – large – large (bust, waist, hips) so I cut my fabric accordingly. It was huge on me 😦 Have you ever attempted to unpick a stretch stitch? Gah – my life is not long enough for that! So, I took width from the sleeves and bodice without pulling the sleeves out and re-cutting the fabric down to a small. The resulting size is fine, but there is excess fabric around the armscye. Now, I’m not suggesting this is a fault of the pattern. I read a really interesting post recently by Heidi of Elegance and Elephants about the effect of knit fabric stretch % on the resulting size of your garment. I’m wondering if this is why my dress was huge? I’m not sure. I used a good quality cotton interlock that is not overly light or stretchy and has good recovery. Regardless of cause, I’ll definitely be sewing a small next time 🙂

Verdict: I love it. Stylish and comfortable. Be aware that the sizing may be influenced by the stretch percentage of your fabric. I recommend basting your bodice and trying for size BEFORE you use your stretch stitch.

The belt inspiration came from this pin.


So to the giveaway – funny story, I bought this pattern last week and half sewed the dress the same day. The next morning I woke up to an email that I had won a copy of the Out and About dress – WHAT!!?! Luckily for you, Caroline graciously agreed to allow me to give the pattern away again.

To be in the running simply leave a comment telling about the best thing you’ve ever won. I’ll draw the winner randomly on Tuesday 25th – Good Luck!!  UPDATE – GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED

12 Days of Christmas Sew Along

It’s not like me to be early for anything, it’s just part of my nature to do things in my own time. All that changed last week when I read about Suz’s new series the 12 Days of Christmas! Suz of the blog Sewpony together with Laura of Craftstorming are hosting this great series for all of us to showcase the clothes we make for our children to wear at Christmas. The series will officially run from Dec 1-12, but as I said, I’m jumping in early to be part of the sew-along aaaaaand I may have gone a little Christmas crazy – possibly making my daughter look like a cross between a shepherd and a candy cane.



We love Christmas here and that love is especially renewed now we have small people in the house. Their excitement and impatience is infectious. Christmas for us involves nieces and nephews, ice cream plum pudding, backyard cricket and an afternoon swim.

I grew up on a farm and my brother would always catch yabbies (a freshwater crustacean that looks a prawn) from our dam and these would be eaten freshly cooked on Christmas Eve. We no longer have the farm, however seafood often features in our Christmas meals. Given the climate we live in, barbecues of salmon and prawns along with salads are common for us. While we usually eat turkey at Christmas Day lunch, this is really for tradition as it’s often too hot for eating a heavy meal – but we do it anyway.



I stuck to my resolution from my ‘finish what you started’ challenge and used patterns and fabric from my stash (excluding the red and white stripe, but it was on the clearance table so we’ll let that one slide….oooops!). The dress is made from red unbrushed fleecy which can be easily layered with leggings when there is a chill in the evening.

The dress pattern is the Go To Shift Dress from Go To Patterns. It’s a lovely simple pattern which I really enjoyed sewing. It can be made in woven or knit fabric which adds to the versatility. The pattern calls for gathering around the neckline, however, due to the thickness of my fabric, I added a small box pleat instead. Given that the fabric has stretch, I could have sized down, but hey, she may be able to wear this as a tunic for the festivities next year.

Thanks to Suz and Laura for getting me into the Christmas spirit over here! I am really excited to see what all the series guests sew up for their little ones. Will you be sewing along too?

Linked up to the Project Run and Play Holiday Wear Link Party.

Pattern Review: The BumbleBee Dress


Today I’m pretty excited to bring you a review of a recently released pattern. This is the BumbleBee Dress from the very talented SewingMamaRaeAnna and is her first ‘for sale’ pattern. If you’re not familiar with RaeAnna’s work, I suggest you head over to her blog ASAP! She has an awesome Ninja Turtle T-shirt tutorial that is high up on  my must sew list.

When planning how I wanted this dress to look, I decided it was time to indulge my desire to sew with some Nani Iro double gauze. All I can say about that fabric is WOW, the feel of the fabric is beautiful and I think it works perfectly with the design of this dress which can take fabrics with a bit of body to them. We are heading into summer in our part of the world, hence the summery vibe to the dress options that I chose.


Nani Iro Blog 6

Now to the pattern: I must say that I really enjoyed sewing up this sweet little dress. There are two views to this dress pattern (see below), one with sleeves and a bodice ruffle and the sleeveless version with a small neck ruffle and/or a skirt ruffle. Given that I like a simple aesthetic I chose a cross between the two dress views – the sleeveless View B with the bodice ruffle from View A. You can see in these photos that the fit of the size 2T is perfect on my just 2 year old, I did not need to make any fit alterations at all. The bodice is fully lined and this, along with the ruffles give a great opportunity to add some fun contrasting colour to the dress.

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Image courtesy of www.sewingmamaraeanna.blogspot.com

RaeAnna provides a full colour instruction booklet with the pattern. While the dress is not difficult, I think sewers would benefit from having sewn a few dresses before attempting this one as the instructions do assume basic sewing and dress construction knowledge. This pattern is quick to sew, I made this dress up in one evening including a few rest breaks to watch some Supernanny 😉 I am really impressed with the size range of this pattern, it begins at 3 months and goes all the way to (wait for it…..) size 12! I don’t think I’ve really seen many indie girls patterns going beyond size 8. This certainly adds greatly to the value for money this pattern represents. I also love that there is a sleeve option as this is a feature that sets RaeAnna’s pattern apart from many other girl’s dress patterns.

An added bonus is that RaeAnna offers a free pattern in her shop for ‘Sweet and Simple Bloomers’ which are the perfect addition to this dress for a toddler. I couldn’t resist adding a pair to make this an even cuter ensemble!

Nani Iro Blog 2

You’ll notice that I didn’t add the leg elastic to the bloomers – this is because I am hoping that this little one will be toilet training soon and won’t be in need of bloomers too much longer!?! I thought if I made them as shorts, she could also wear them with a little white t-shirt and look very Wimbledon or something!

I sewed both the dress and the bloomers out of 1 meter of ‘Melody Sketch’ Nani Iro fabric and 30cms of contrasting quilting cotton. I sourced my fabric from my local quilting shop A Little Different, I just love the opportunity to get first hand advice on matching fabrics that you can only get in a bricks and mortar store. Their online store is still in development and this particular print does not seem to be generally available, however, MissMatatabi has a huge range of beautiful Nani Iro fabrics if you’re feeling inspired.

Nani Iro Blog 5

Nani Iro Blog 4

Can I just add that the bubble wand was a strike of genius in getting a stroppy toddler to co-operate (thanks to my good friend Sue-Anne for these), that was until I realised that the dress was sopping with bubble mixture. Hey ho, so is the price for happy toddler pics! Please let me know of any other photo-enabling tactics that you have had success with, I’m going to need a few more tricks with Kids Clothes Week coming up next week!

Linking up with ‘I sew Monday‘ at Go To Patterns .

Disclosure: RaeAnna sent me this pattern for free but my opinions are my own.

My perfect dress – the Sewaholic Saltspring

Wow, this dress seems to have taken me forever. I have been dreaming and scheming for the last two months since this pattern was released and so many lovely versions of this dress have been popping up. I was taking this project pretty seriously, so I took my first visit to Tessuti fabrics in Melbourne – no discount fabric store for my beloved imaginary Saltspring! Of course, Tessuti did not disappoint and I came home with the fabric for not one but two Saltsprings – sooooo much beautiful fabric, impossible to stop at one! I took my inspiration from Kim’s version here, Beccy’s version here and of course Abbey’s 3 versions, one of which is here.

saltspring 1 saltspring 4

I love the swooshiness (is this a word??) of the voile, it screams summer to me. Of course I’m just a bit excited that summer is slowly but surely making it’s way to our part of the world and soon it will be warm enough to wear such light fabrics. I named this my perfect dress because I love maxis and this one has the perfect combination of dressiness and practicality (i’m a mum of small children after all)! The ‘perfect’ component of this dress is the lovely pattern – not my sewing!!

saltspring 3

Some details: the cotton/silk voile is called ‘Light Refreshments’, but it appears that Tessuti no longer have it in their online store. Due to the weight of the fabric, I lined both the bodice and the skirt in an off-white rayon. The pattern instructions cover lining the bodice, however, if you check out the Sew-Along on the Sewaholic website and there is a post on lining the skirt. The Sew Along is invaluable and is packed with photos and detailed instructions on each step of the dress’ construction. I sewed a size 10 as per my measurements and I added my usual 10cms or so to the length of the skirt (I’m 5’10”). I decided to leave the pockets off because my fabric is so light, however, I do love pockets so I’m not sure that that was the right decision!?!

I took the advice of Amy at Sew Well when she noted that she could easily get her dress on and off without the zipper. I chose to leave the zipper out and can easily get my dress on and off without it. I can also get the dress on and off without untying the straps, so if you are of the small bust persuasion like me and were thinking of making your straps as one piece instead of having ties then you can do that and still leave the zipper off.

If you want to leave the zipper off, you can cut your back bodice and skirt pieces on the fold, instead of as two pieces. If you do this, be sure to hang the pattern piece over the fold to the equivalent of the seam allowance which you don’t need (see the photo below).


One more photo of swooshiness – ahhhh this dress makes me very happy 🙂 Be sure to check back for version 2 coming soon!

saltspring 2