Sound Circle Staple Brumby

Megan Nielsen Brumby skirt and April Rhodes Staple dress hack

Took these pictures while visiting home in Sydney…now back in freezing Korea, and dreaming of sunnier times!

This dress is a mix of the April Rhodes Staple Dress and the Megan Nielsen Brumby Skirt. I made it from Nani Iro double gauze (the print name is “Sound Circle”) which I bought from my favourite online fabric store, Miss Matatabi.

I absolutely love the Brumby Skirt (those pockets!), and I’ve been wanting to use it in a dress. Originally, I had planned to use the Papercut Patterns Clover Blouse for the top, but after two muslins I was unhappy with the fit. I think that I was being too fussy, and the main problem was just that with my bust the Clover Blouse requires something drapier. I’m planning to give Clover another go with a rayon and lace soon. I then considered using the Grainline Studio Scout Tee, but I had my heart set on trying out a split sleeve detail (inspired by a RTW top I have and love), and it wouldn’t work with set in sleeves. Kimono sleeves, however, are perfect for this detail, and that’s how I decided to use the Staple Dress for the top.


The armhole is too big… when I hold my arms out, you can look right up it and see my bra!

Honestly, I should have skipped the split sleeves and used the Scout Tee instead, and I’m really kicking myself that I didn’t. The double gauze just isn’t drapey enough and the split sticks out awkwardly when I slouch. I’m keen to try split sleeves again, but I’d only do it in rayon.

I’m not super happy with the fit of the Staple Dress- the neckline and upper chest gape a lot, and just don’t sit nicely. This is a problem which I have with my two previously made Staple Dresses (Sen Ritsu and Mountain View) as well. Given the fit problems, this wasn’t a well thought out pattern choice… I guess I assumed the problem would just magically go away. Imagine my sarcastic shock when it didn’t. Vigorous eye-rolling ensued.

Right or wrong (plenty of wrong), here’s how I did things. I cut the Staple Dress pattern off roughly at the waist, using my traced and altered pattern pieces from previous Staples. I swore profusely when I noticed I’d somehow managed to cut two backs, then calmed down somewhat when I realised it was an easy fix because the only difference between the front and the back was the neckline (no wonder it doesn’t work well on my shape!).


Two backs….ruh roh. They look like different sizes but it’s just the angle.

To make the split sleeve, I removed the seam allowance along the shoulder seams, and bound each shoulder seam separately with exposed self bias tape. I then sewed up the bodice side seams, and bound the neckline and sleeve hems with more exposed self bias tape, with the bound shoulders zigzagged up against each other, so that the neck and hem bindings held them together. I’m now thinking that I probably didn’t remove any seam allowance at the neck to account for the exposed bias finish, and maybe that could be contributing to the gaping neckline? I don’t remember, and unfortunately an unplanned phone sync wiped all my notes.


Neck and Sleeve binding in progress

With the bodice done, I assembled the Brumby Skirt (size XL) according to directions, but cut the back piece on the fold to omit the seam and zipper, and left out the waistband. I closed the side seams, then gathered the skirt directly to the bodice. I used shirring for the gathering– it’s my favourite way to do it, so much easier and quicker than the normal thread pulling method! I just did a line of shirring on either side of the seam allowance,  stretched and pinned the skirt to the bodice, stitched them together, then removed the shirring. This skips the drama of gathering the skirt to the exact right length, and it ensures that the gathers are even.

I was originally planning to elasticize the waistline, but when I tried the dress on, I had second thoughts. The sack shape doesn’t look so great on me, but it feels so free… and it’s a very Japanese silhouette, which seems to go well with the Japanese fabric. I asked for advice on instagram and most people suggested I just leave it loose, so I figured I would follow that advice, and try out this new look, at least for a while.


The pic I used for my little instagram poll

My feelings about this dress are mixed– the neckline gaping, and the way the split sleeves stick out as I move/slouch, really bug me. The lack of waistline definition feels unflattering, and the bodice feels far too wide. It doesn’t sit nicely around the underarms, and I feel like maybe I need to take it in. Yet despite all these complaints, I haven’t done anything about it- partly because I’m not sure exactly what to do, and partly because it just feels so good. Because it’s oversized and unfitted, It’s super comfortable, and I feel like the fabric (which I love) is interesting enough to compensate somewhat for the unattractive shape. I particularly enjoyed wearing it with leggings on the long plane trip to Australia over Christmas. I made this dress nearly two months ago, and although I’m not sure I really like it, it’s actually gotten quite a lot of wear.

I’ll to continue to think about about how I might be able to improve it (Elasticising the waist, re-doing the neckline, taking in the sides, stitching closed the split? Suggestions welcome!), and deliberating whether it would even be worth it. Perhaps it’s good for me to have one sack dress, for those days when a waistline is just too much of a struggle. I actually kind of want to make another loose (but not SO loose!) waistline dress, this time using rayon, and either combining the Scout Tee and Brumby Skirt, or a Southport Dress bodice and a simple gathered rectangle skirt, patch pockets, and waist ties.

In the meantime, however, I’ll keep wearing and enjoying this one!




Mountain Views Southport Crop Top


Hiking in the Royal National Park

New year, same old apologies for negligent blogging…let’s just skip over those, shall we? With 73 days since the last post (and a year and a day since my first!) it’s a good thing I have no ill-conceived ambitions to achieve sewing blogger stardom.

Speaking of the new year, this not particularly recent make ties in with my New Year’s Resolution. I know, I know– as soon as you call something a New Year’s Resolution, you’re basically instantly condemning it to failure. My own track record for resolutions is abysmal. But I’ve been thinking– maybe my resolutions always fail, because they’re always exactly the same. Doesn’t the old saying go that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results?

Every year, for as long as I can remember, my resolution is some variation of that same tired old cliche– lose weight. Lose weight, because then everything will be better. It’s pretty clear that this hasn’t been effective.

So this year, inspired by this wonderful article from Cashmerette, I’m trying a different tack. Clearly, my vain attempts to hate myself thinner haven’t been effective– and anyways, since I’ve started sewing, I’ve found the fervour of my self loathing gradually diminishing. For 2016, my New Year’s Resolution is to (at least try to) stop letting insecurity hold me back.

I’m starting to think that my body isn’t as problematic as how I feel about my body. Social anxiety. Avoiding yoga classes for fear of judgement, and reluctance to run because of all the public jiggling that it entails (I know feeling like I’m too fat for exercise is ridiculously counterproductive, but there it is). Worrying that I’ll be mocked for flirting, and hesitating to wear what I really want to wear. Those are products of my mentality more than of my weight, and they’re not helping me lose weight but they ARE getting in the way of feeling happy. I don’t judge other larger women harshly, so why do I do it to myself?  Enough!

I’ll be honest, I’d still like to lose weight. I can’t pretend that society’s general disapprobation of my body doesn’t bother me at all. More importantly,  I don’t feel as healthy or strong as I have in the past, when I was a bit slimmer. However, I’m thinking that I don’t need to hate myself in the meantime, and that weight loss isn’t the only or even most important goal to fixate on.

Sewing has been such an important part of my improving relationship with my body. Being able to make and wear nice clothes which express who I am, which make me feel good, has been huge for me. I’m no longer  forced to subject myself to the shame-filled search for decent clothes, or the humiliation of sometimes not fitting the largest size in the store. I’m also able to experiment with new looks, and wear things that “girls like me aren’t supposed to wear”. One of those things is the crop top.


By Karloo Pools

I’ve been thinking for a while now that the high waisted skirt and crop top look can be really cute on chubby girls. This post by Cashmerette (yes, total blog crush) further sold me on it. So, I decided to give it a go for myself.

I made this top out of the True Bias Southport Dress pattern, with the same adjustments (including fba and added darts) as my two  Southport dresses. All I did was leave off the skirt and drawstring casing, and narrow hem the raw edge. A super simple make, barely squeezed out of some precious fabric leftover from my Staple Dress. The fabric is Mountain Views double gauze by Nani Iro, quite possibly my favourite fabric ever.

So far, I’ve been wearing this top with my denim Megan Nielsen Brumby Skirt— on its own here in Sydney where I’m visiting for Christmas, or with a navy cardigan, tights and boots back in Korea. I’ll admit, I don’t feel entirely comfortable in it. Although you can’t see any midriff in these pictures, it does flash skin as I move. However, at the same time, it feels cool and breezy and strangely liberating. I plan to keep wearing it, regardless of my fears of what strangers (or even some of my judgier friends) are thinking. It fits in well with my resolution, and each time I wear it, it gets easier.

To anyone reading– are there any styles which “people like you” aren’t “supposed” to wear, but you’re secretly wishing to try? It’s a new year– maybe it’s time to be bold and try them out!


On the boat, my last day in Sydney before heading back to Korea!


Denim Brumby

Megan Nielsen Patters Brumby Skirt

Didn’t notice that my top was twisted and showing a strap on my swimmers… oops!

I find it really hard to get excited about sewing basics. With my love of colorful prints, the idea of sewing a plain denim skirt feels excessively dull. However, my love of colorful prints is a bit problematic for my goal of an entirely me-made wardrobe…I’m definitely not cool enough to pull off the clashing prints look, so I need to occasionally suck it up and sew some basic, versatile separates. That’s exactly what I did here, and it wasn’t nearly as dull as I’d feared. Somehow this plain denim skirt turned out to be really satisfying!

It probably helps that the pattern itself isn’t all that plain. It’s version 1 of the Brumby Skirt by Megan Nielsen Patterns. It’s a gathered skirt with large curved hip pockets, a wide waistband, and top stitching. I particularly love the pockets. I think they make the skirt interesting despite the ultra-boring fabric, a mid-weight medium-colored mystery denim from Dongdaemun Market in Seoul. I can’t wait to make another Brumby, I’m thinking I’ll use a Liberty Lawn that I’ve been hoarding for a while.

denim Megan Nielsen Brumby Skirt

Top AND skirt are twisted… sigh. One day I’ll get this whole photo-taking thing right!

Size-wise, I had to make some adjustments… Which brings me to my only gripe about Megan Nielsen Patterns. My waist is currently about 35 inches. This puts me at the second biggest size for By Hand London and Grainline Studio, and between the third and second biggest (standard) sizes for Colette. For Sewaholic, I’m the biggest of their old sizes, but they’re releasing their new patterns with two sizes which are bigger than that. I am well aware that I am at the upper end of the size chart for most indie patterns… But For Megan Nielsen Patterns, I don’t even fit on the chart! Their biggest size, XL, is for a 34″ waist. I don’t know why their size range is more limited than some other major indie brands, but I think it’s a shame. These are beautifully designed, beautifully packaged, and great quality patterns. Given that so many sew-ers are on the plump side (dissatisfaction with RTW patterns is what drives a lot of us to sew in the first place!), I imagine there are a lot of ladies out there who would love to use these patterns, given the chance!

Denim Megan Nielsen Brumby Skirt

Feeling good about my new skirt, in my classroom at school. Forgive the rumpled hem, I’d been sitting on it all day!

Very fortunately for me, my waist is only a little bigger than the XL measurement, and my hips are actually a little smaller. This means that it was no problem getting the Brumby skirt to work for me. As it’s a gathered skirt, all I had to do was sew the waistband with a smaller side seam allowance. By using a 1/4 inch seam allowance here rather than 5/8, I got that extra inch I needed. I also sewed the skirt side seams with a 1/2 inch allowance, although that wasn’t really necessary. I own a copy of the Tania Culottes pattern, and I’m really looking forward to making them. I’m expecting that I’ll be able to get around the size issue in the same way.

Construction went smoothly, for the most part. I used the new Megan Nielsen Patterns App, and it was so handy! I don’t think I even looked at the printed instructions. As there are three different variations, the app made it super quick to locate the information I needed.

The only hitches came with the invisible zipper. On the app, for Step 6 for the zipper, it shows the wrong side of the fabric where it should show the right side– that messed with my head! I looked it up online and figured it out. I ended up top stitching the zipper down, rather than do it according to the instructions, because it was easier and faster.

The other problem with the zipper is that it ended up being way too low! I think I gathered too close to the seam, and so my measurements were off. But also, it says to mark out a 10″ box for the zipper… But with a 9″ zipper and a 5/8″ seam allowance on the waistband, doesn’t that leave it 3/8″ too short? It’s not a problem I’ve seen others mention, so I guess there must be something I’m not understanding, but I can’t figure it out.

So for whatever reasons, my zipper came up way too short. Because inserting it involved a cut, I couldn’t just rip it out and sew it higher. What to do? Well, I remembered seeing someone making a tab to cover this same problem. Unfortunately I can’t remember where I saw it, or whether it was also a Brumby skirt. It seemed like a good idea, so I did the same. It’s stitched down on one side of the zipper, and on the other it attaches with sew-in snaps. I’m just going to pretend it’s not there to cover a stuff up, and call it a design feature. Saved!

Improvised solution to my problematic zipper insertion

It was my first time doing contrast topstitching. I used a caramel colored topstitching thread, it’s like the classic denim topstitching color. I feel like it gives the skirt a really finished look… As long as you don’t look too closely at my wonky stitches! My seam ripper definitely got some action there.

For hemming, I turned it up 1.5″ instead of 2.5″, and this ended up being the perfect length for me. I’m only a bit under 5’3, so if you’re much taller, it might be a little short if you follow the directions (depending on your inclinations!). Personally, I’m certainly not one to avoid showing a bit of skin, but I wanted it to be something I’m comfortable wearing to work. I’m an elementary school ESL teacher, and I definitely don’t want to be giving the kiddies a flash of my undies whenever I bend over a desk!

I rather frantically finished this skirt just in time to take it on a trip. Literally completed 25 minutes before I had to run out the door, and I hadn’t packed yet. It was a scramble, but worth it. My friend and I went to a Korean island called Ulleungdo. It’s a pain to get to, but absolutely gorgeous, and we had a lovely time. I enjoyed wearing my new skirt there, It’s always nice having something new to wear on vacation!

Hiking on Ulleungdo , and island in the East Sea of South Korea

One of the ports on Ulleungdo. The main business here is squid, those are all squid boats. At night, you can see their lights out at sea.