Thursday, January 12, 2012

2011 project review

I really wish I had kept my dress journal because it would have really helped me with this post! I bought the journal, very pretty as you can see, but apart from putting in my current measurements at the beginning of the year, the rest of the pages are empty. My sewing life certainly wasn't empty nor the building up of My Tailor's Apprentice business, but memory is a fickle thing, so I shall try and reflect on the things I remember accomplishing in 2011.

Dressmaking and quilting classes commenced for the new year on Saturdays and Sundays in my studio and on throughout the year. I love teaching vintage and historic sewing techniques and we have great fun during our classes as well.

A very exciting month as the inaugural Roaring Twenties and all that Jazz festival was held in the Blue Mountains for the first time and I put on an Afternoon Tea Dance and 20s fashion display from my Miss Page collection. I was even written up in the Sydney Daily Telegraph prior to the event Hearts broken after war, which meant that my Afternoon Tea Dance was totally booked out and I was able to meet clients of Violet and members of her family of as well. 

I am running the event again this year on Sunday 26th February from 2 - 5 pm at the revamped Paragon Cafe Katoomba which is beautifully art deco, a 1920s period piece, a perfect venue for an Afternoon Tea Dance, with wonderful crooning singers, scrumptious food, dancing and dress-up, of course! Go and book now before all the tickets disappear.

Jazz Age Afternoon Tea Dance 2 - 5 pm at the historic Paragon Cafe in Katoomba.  Dress up for the Jazz Age and join us for an afternoon of 12920s rhythms, song, music, fashion, fun, frolic and a deliciously wicked afternoon tea.  Blue Mountains business woman Lorna McKenzie will again display the Miss Page collection of original vintage outfits from the 1920s to 70s made by Katoomba dress-maker Violet Florence Page. Last year's tea dance was a huge success and fully booked, so make sure you reserve your place early and don't miss out.
Bookings essential phone The Paragon Cafe 02 4782 2928 Cost $50 pp 65 Katoomba Street, Katoomba NSW 2780
My Monday after school sewing classes commenced and my students learnt how to sew by making a skirt and blouse from a pattern of their choosing. I loved these classes, the children loved them as well, much laughing ang lots of successful sewing.

Is the month for the Jane Austen Festival Australia and so I was frantically finalising gowns and mens wear for my partner, who likes to cross dress at historic reenactments. Sadly we only got to spend one evening at the festival as our dog minder LOST our dog and we had to head home to find him. Astro was found, but only after a frustratingly sad four days of letter boxing and searching the local neighbouhood. We are attending the Festival again this year, so we will get the chance to wear these outfits again.

Sam and J-L at the first night of JAFA 2011
My friend at Jasper Hat Designs made me the most beautiful bonnet to wear, she hand stitched the whole thing and as you can see it is a darling bonnet.

Then it was Ironfest in Lithgow and out gallant 95th 'Grasshopper' Regiment put on a great Napoleonic show for the public. Lithgow is freezing so I made myself a Redingcote and Jennie of Sense and Sensibility patterns liked it so much that she links to it from her Tips and Tricks section, which makes me feel quite chuffed :)

I had a wedding ceremony that required an 1880s bustle skirt so I ran one up to wear as the Marriage Celebrant.

Saw my decision to create my own pattern range, starting in the 1940s as this is my favorite clothing era in the 20th century. I selected Australian WWII styles that I loved and started drafting and creating toiles for the 21st century woman. I then found a fabulous flat pattern maker who is working with me to turn them into commercial dress making patterns, and we have formed a great bond. We are teaching each other much, me from the home sewing requirements and him from the fashion industry requirements, which are so totally different!

I knew nothing about commercial pattern making for the home sewer beyond having sewn for many years myself and pattern drafting for myself. Sandro has been brilliantly helpful, as has this fabulous book that I can't recommend highly enough, Kathleen Fasanella's The Entrepreneur's Guide To Sewn Product Manufacturing. Kathleen's bog, Fashion-Incubator, is well worth following if you want to understand the ins and outs of the rag trade. Also, Jennie from Sense and Sensibility patterns has been so helpful and kind in all the 'how-tos' of creating patterns in the 21st century.

Also, my 1940s photo model, Lillian Star, is both a friend and a fellow costume maker who has been incredibly encouraging as my doubts arose throughout the year. My collection will launch mid 2012, so watch this space!

Is Winter Magic, our winter solstice festival in the Blue Mountains. I organised the second Queer Beanie event with my other 'hat' Offbeat Ceremonies ~ Giving you the Alternative, as you can see in the following video we had wonderful entries and we will hold it again in 2012.

Winterfest Medieval Fair in Parramatta put on by the Society for Creative Anachronists to encourage membership and enjoy wearing garb when its cool. Mind you the day was pretty warm! We had a glorious day in our 12th century finery.

The Napoleonic group that I belong to participated in the inaugural Australian Sharpe's March to raise funds for orphan children in the 3rd world. We walked 70kms over three days in full Regency garb and raise nearly $A1000.

I also started to work on my costume for the Australian Costumers Guild ball in August. This is held in Adelaide, half the country away from me, so a big undertaking. I decided to create the Madame Vionnet gown from Janet Arnold's Pattern of Fashion.

The Australian Costumers Guild ball in Adelaide and here's the result of my attempt at the Madame Vionnet gown. I was pleased how it turned out, even more pleased that the pattern actually fitted me with very few adjustments. The gown was totally hand sewn and I enjoyed that challenge as well, I'm not one to not use a sewing machine for the unseen seams! I wore it in the Parade competition, I didn't win, but the competition was extremely good!

In October saw the first Blue Mountains Festival of Walking and I ran two history walks. I also showed participants how to create an 1880 to Edwardian look from their wardrobes. We walked the mountain paths that the Victorian/Edwardian ladies had, in the clothes they wore and had a picnic and a high tea and enjoyed ourselves very much. I made an outrageous bloomers outfit for walking and riding my bicycle as I am a modern woman.

Classes still progress, students successfully completing their projects, wonderful gowns from the Edwardian, Regency, Steampunk and Tudor periods. I also had a costume photoshoot with Deep Hill Media Fine Art at the old Lithgow blast furnace.

Our final costuming event for the year was the SCA's Yule Feast and I worked on an Italian renaissance outfit for J-L, my first attempt at men's Renaissance garb and it worked very well. I used How to Make a Farsetto blog post and it is brilliant, I highly recommend it. Sadly I have no decent pictures, I need to take some more and properly blog the process.

So a huge year really and that's only the bits I remember, I know I made a couple of 1920s outfits, worked hard on creating gowns and patterns for my Tailor's Apprentice range, heaps of dress-up parties and so many other things that have disappeared from my mind.

2012 is looking to be huge, we are traveling to England for the Jane Austen Festival in bath and The Asylum (steampunk) in September. I'm heading to Vietnam to source silks and an ethical dress making workshop. I will launch my website with online classes, patterns and much more. I hope you enjoy coming on the journey with me.

Astro the escape dog

Bendigo for the 200 Years of Wedding gowns

Halloween Regency vampires


  1. Amazing! I wish I were near to take sewing classes taught by you!

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