MN1006: ‘Cara’ – Ruched Maternity Tee Mk I, II & III

After the great success that was the Ruched Maternity Skirt, I figured I’d leveled up and so started on the Megan Neilsen Ruched Maternity Tee. Reviews abound on PR with many gorgeous versions of this top, and many people singing its praises – so I was really motivated to get stuck into it!

But I’ve come to a rather big realisation – I don’t like sewing with knits. Not one bit. Give me the sheerest and most wayward lightweight silk to work with over a lightweight knit, ANYDAY.

Having spent the last few weeks procrastinating, avoiding and then forcing myself to take photos of the outcome from this pattern – I think I’ll tick this off as having been ‘done’ and get straight back to wovens (I’ve already finished my maternity pants for work).

Here is the final outcome – my third version of this top:




Anyway back to the start of the story – my pre-pregbot measurements exactly fit in the range for a Size L across the bust, then back to a Size M at my (now non-existant) waist and hips. As I so successfully sewed the Size M Ruched Maternity Skirt, I traced off the top pattern, grading between the Size L & M from the underarms down.

I worked with a stretch cotton mystery fabric (found at Rathdown Remnants for $2 a meter – easily the least expensive fabric I’ve ever bought) in a minty green marle that I’m a huge fan of. The recovery of it is lousy, but given that this was going to technically be a wearable muslin, I wasn’t too worried.


You’re seeing an adjusted version here – I took in the underarm seams considerably (about 2-3cm in, going from bust to the sleeve hem). Before having done this, I had a considerable amount of excess fabric around my armpits and bust – which had the rather unfortunate effect of making me look rather, well – saggy. It wasn’t a good look.


Afterwards, I made a crop top test version to make a change to the armscye seam across the shoulder – taking it in by 2.5cm (a full inch). This looks a million times better. (I also scooped out some of the neckline to make it more rounded). Basically, it suggests to me that I should have made the size S across the shoulders, not the L.


The ruching is done on the front pattern piece only, ruched to fit up against the back pattern piece. The front hem is curved. Next time I might try straightening that hem, but ruching the back as well to get a closer fit under bump.

I’ve also seen on a lot of RTW maternity tops that the front is self-lined – presumably to assist in containing leakage? I tried this on my second version of this top, which I never actually got around to ruching. It’s in a watermelon polyester – gorgeous colour, horrible fabric. Looks pretty fluoro orange in my photos though!





Unlike my experience with the Ruched Maternity Skirt, the outcome of this top leaves me feeling… keen to put the experience behind me. I think that’s a mix of trying to get used to my new shape (gigantor boobs, puffy everything, additional body fat percentage… far out!!) plus the annoyance of working with flimsy knits.

Next project please!

MN1008: ‘Erin’ – Ruched Maternity Skirt

There was a point where all of a sudden I had nothing that fit. I procrastinated about sewing knits by concentrating on working that Marfy Jacket – which came to a screeching halt when I realised I’d cut, sewn and prepped TWO RIGHT SLEEVES. Time to procrastinate no more.

My first Megan Neilsen Ruched Maternity Skirt was from an off-white ponti knit fabric from The Fabric Store, labelled as a DKNY fabric. It’s lovely – soft, incredibly stretchy (50% by my calculation) with good recovery, and would provide a great base for my intended maternity wardrobe.

Apart from being a little anxious about sewing with knits (you can’t exactly muslin it… where’s the control over how the fabric behaves?!?!), I was wondering how it would fit/look.

As a thicker knit, I had read that the ruching would be less obvious due to the fabric, and that was true (that was fine by me) – but the end result was great:


I knew I was onto a good thing when I sewed that Marfy Safari Blouse!


I cut the Medium, which matched my pre-pregbot body measurements almost spot on. At the time of cutting this out, I was still the exact same hip measurement, but there was an additional 12cm where my waist used to be. Being so unused to knits – I was quite concerned about how the end result would fit. The PR review by Clio & Phineas is one of the more useful in this regard. She used a super super stretchy knit, and it was very close fitting. Being less further along in my pregnancy, and happy to have a well-fitting skirt in a thicker fabric that would at least see me through until it starts to get warm (not to mention I got the fabric at 50% off so I wasn’t too precious about it) – I took the risk of sticking with the Size M instead of sizing up.

The skirt comes with 3 variations – knee length, midi length and with an optional ruffle (similar to the By Hand London Charlotte skirt).


I may not have finished the jacket I wanted to wear with this in time for a particular work trip, but my trusty Vogue 8333 certainly was a great backup plan :)

I may not have finished the jacket I wanted to wear with this skirt in time for a particular work trip, but my trusty Vogue 8333 certainly was a great backup plan :)

As for construction, well this is a pretty simple beast. For me to be able to say I cut AND sewed it up over the course of a day (in between life distractions) totally feels like an anomaly.

Elastic? Drama. I bought three types – the only purveyors of such notions I know of are Spotlight and Lincraft, both of whose selections are incredibly lousy. One Lincraft I went to had rubber elastic – this turned out to be the best option and worked really quite well with the heavy ponte knit. (The other heavy-fabric suited elastic I bought didn’t have enough stretch in it). I’ll be going back for many more meters of this. I found it easier to cut the length longer than specified in the instructions, then mark within that the length required – giving you space to hold the elastic taught between the notches on the skirt- you get a more even tension that way. Then just cut off the ends afterwards.


MN1008 4

Heavier duty elastic for thicker fabrics, lightweight elastic for thinner fabrics.

MN1008 3

The high curved front of the skirt to fit over the expanding mid section

MN1008 1

Instead of making casing like the instruction said, I sewed the elastic down to the inside, then turned it down and used a twin needle and wooly nylon to finish it off.

When I put the pattern piece against my body – the Midi length nearly hit my ankle. I nearly shortened it right there and then until I remembered the whole thing about ruching!!!! #babybrain

So I cut the midi length to see where it would sit on me once ruched – about 2/3 down my calf. I played around with lengths, and eventually decided on one that is quite long – below my knees and almost exactly halfway between the knee and midi length on the pattern. In future I’ll probably cut at midi length, then adjust because I suspect fabric type (namely, how well it ruches!) will affect this.

MN1008 2

Hem of the ponte knit skirt on the left, hem of the stretch silk charmuese slip on the right.

I left an inch for the hem, then used a twin needle (with wooly nylon in the bobbin) to finish it off.

Even though this was a substantial ponte – it was still slightly see through. My memory alerted me to the fact that aaaaages ago, I bought a 0.7m length of stretch silk charmuese (from D’Italia). So I made a short slip from the same pattern pieces as well. Bingo!

MN1008 5

Frenched side seams and a miniature hem at the bottom – makes me feel slightly less lousy about the nasty finishing on the ponte version!

Except that this slip will probably only last me for a week – the stretch charmuese only has about 10% stretch, so even though I cut the Large for it, I will most likely outgrow it in a fortnight, if not before. It will still work really well for use under skirts when I’m not pregnant, so not a total loss – but I will need to find an alternative if I want to keep wearing the ponte skirt (which I do).

Verdict? I really like this pattern. It came together in a timeframe I never dreamed possible to finish a garment in (is this why everyone sews with knits??). The only thing that irks my about my handiwork is the lack of nice finishing on the inside, the only thing that irks me about the pattern is that the side seams don’t match at the top. The Medium works well for now in this fabric – lets see how the 50% stretch works out over the duration of this pregnancy, because I can see that I’ll be wearing this A LOT.

A Sunday afternoon sewing win.


Things I’m sewing now I’m a Pregbot*.

Pregnancy is seeing me do things I would never normally do… like sewing with a plan. It’s refreshing to know that my loathing of shopping for clothes is ever so slightly stronger than my inclination to sew whatever I like whenever I like it. Whether or not I actually stick to the plan will be another story!

I’d love to hear from those of you that have been faced with curating a pregnancy wardrobe before – self-sewn or not – what worked? What didn’t? As I’m due in early-ish 2016, I’ll be dealing with a cold and windy Spring as it slooowly morphs into a Melbourne summer. Maybe we won’t even actually get that far? Come on, weather deities!

So, I started by pulling together patterns that make me smile.

I feel a close affinity to Megan and her patterns, which is probably because we’re both West Australians. Ok, so she actually lives there and I merely claim that title by birthright, but still. She’s clearly the most go to pattern line for maternity clothing – I bought the survival pack and plan to sew up three of the four patterns it included – the Ruched Maternity Skirt (Erin), the Ruched Maternity Tee (Cara) and the Wrapped Maternity Top (Alissa). The pack had a leggings pattern too (Virginia) but I’m not really a leggings girl. Yet. Be prepared to get sick of me parading about in baby-con dress-hacks, tops and skirts, basically.

MN Maternity Survival Kit

Initially I was hesitant to add pants into the mix. But… I bought this from the online Burdastyle – two others have made them up and they look both comfortable and practical, whilst still not appearing overly ugly. I’d heard rumours around the place that maternity jeans are notorious for slipping down – I’ve since bought a pair and can confirm that this is true, you just don’t get the same huggable fit. The pair I got have a similar stretch band over the mid-section to anchor them in place, so I’m hoping these will be just as comfortable as my RTW preggo jeans are. I’m also really grateful to past-Melanie for taking all that time to get my pants block up and functional. I won’t mention the fact that she was clearly too traumatised from that experience to then actually go and sew some pants. Poor past Melanie.

Burda Maternity Pants

Yeah, I wish my legs were this long!!! I’ll be chopping half of that length off, haha!

An oldie, but a goodie – and still available on the mccalls site here. I have a wearable muslin thrown together from probably over two years ago that I found whilst cleaning out some boxes in my sewing room. Being already 90% complete, it will become an early 2nd trimester top that will ideally then morph into a post-partum/breastfeeding top, because the cowl is fabulously stretchy. Winning.


STYLE ARC Harper Jacket
I’m delving into the world of unstructured garments here – totally uncharted territory for me. I originally had in mind the Nina Cardigan, with Harper being a runner up contender. I consulted with Lara – undoubtedly queen of the unstructured Style Arc pattern – her preference was Harper so that was that. The hope is that this knit outer layer will provide some warmth and match the majority of my co-ordinating maternity wardrobe during the early spring, and then be a staple post-partum also. I want it specifically in a pale grey (preferably marle) merino wool knit, but haven’t been able to find the exact right shade just yet.

Harper Jacket

I’ve developed a penchant for French sewing blogs in the last 9 months, and early this year stumbled across this pattern brand, which caters specifically for maternity. Whilst Megan Neilson covers all things stretch fabric in Maternity pattern land, 2nd District covers wovens for maternity. Now, I’ll admit I’m more team bodycon baby-con than team loose-and-flowy-maternity, but that’s because I’ve always felt really frumpy in shapeless clothing. But, I LOVE coats and jackets, so the fact that this pattern company has these triggered my clicking the buy button.

I’m suspicious of the drafting based on the photos I’m seeing though… and will most likely be altering sleeves and shoulders based on outerwear patterns I’ve already made and like (*cough* Marfy *cough*).

The 7H Manteau – looks like a really cosy winter coat:

Manteau 7H

And the 11H Veste – perfect as a blazer and I think would really lift a comfy knit outfit into ‘smart’ territory. It also looks like it would be pretty simple and quick to sew, making it even more ridiculously attractive. It’s terribly ill-fitting on the model around the shoulders, though.

Veste 11H

I also rather like the 10H Tunic too… but these patterns and postage are expensive ($46 aud at the time for the both of them), and not knowing anything about them or their drafting I’m already taking a risk. Not sure I’ll even get around to sewing the coat, but ah well.

ahahahahaha…… yeah, nah.


One word – Pinterest. Except I’d completely stopped using it ever since they brought about the ‘Picked for You’ pins, which clogged up my carefully curated feed with crap I cared nothing for. Until Urbandon posted about an html hack he found that allows you to hide the promoted pins. It does make your feed look a little bare, but this I can handle!

A particularly bare section of my feed after enabling the HTML hack:


Now I’m right back into pinning pregnancy style ideas. It’s been the main source of my ideas for pulling together the colours and styles I want to be wearing over the next 6 or so months. Which naturally leads us to…

Upon investigation, my stash returned 5 pieces of knit fabric, three of which co-ordinate quite well together (a total of 6 actually, but the last one is a beloved Missoni knit and I’m not sure I’m ready to sacrifice it for Maternity sewing. I change my mind like the weather in Melbourne though, so who knows what will happen).

I’ve since bought two new ones online – and been gifted two others.

Also, a first at chez poppykettle – buying matching fabric together with the intent to sew a capsule wardrobe for work. I scored these at the 50% off sale The Fabric Store had a few weeks back – four garments for $80! and I’m starting to see how sewing for pregnancy is super cost effective.

The Fabric Store purchases

Top to bottom – a merino knit for a Vogue top I plan to adjust for maternity, a wool/poly blend for the Burda maternity pants, some cream DKNY knit – which you’ll soon see made up as a Megan Neilsen Ruched maternity skirt, and a cotton/lurex blend for the 11H Veste.

My hope is that by sticking to the same patterns and not being so anal-retentive about finishes (except where it counts) that I’ll be able to get all of this done (famous last words?). With that in mind, I have safely stored my bolt of organza away (won’t be needing that) and will be sticking a post-it note on my Janome reminding me to switch to lightning stitch instead of its default straight stitch. I’ve already started and finished on the DKNY knit so progress is great to date.

Now – I need to hear your stories and experiences about pulling together a pregnancy wardrobe!!

*Pregbot(n) – a personal joke that I find particularly humorous and which originated from my disgust of the (both Australian and American) far political right taking action to erode the basic human rights of women who also happen to be pregnant, in many instances reducing their status from human beings to mere incubators of foetuses. Not cool, dudes.

V1247: Romance Is Born… & Frocktails!

My goodness, the weather has been completely against me ever getting photos of this new wardrobe addition. But with Frocktails on Saturday – I really had no excuse. I was going to wear this dastardly silk top out for the first time, dammit!

I’m not usually one for floaty, formless garments, but this Rachel Comey one has been on the radar for a loooong time. There are just too many amazing versions out there on the interwebs not to be sucked in. What better time to try a completely new-to-me garment style than the here and now?


Actually, I lie. I decided to try my hand at a shapeless, flowy garment because I’m currently halfway through being pregnant, and it seemed like an appropriate time to try a new form… Obviously when I made it there wasn’t anything sticking out, but I had rather intended to be able to wear it once the warmer weather decided to show up!


Pretty unimpressive for a 20 week bump, really. My jeans are held together with a hair tie but.

I bought this pattern a loooong time ago… well before I realised from PR reviews that you really do need to size down at least 2 sizes. I understand that it’s supposed to be a baggy top, but really? There is good baggy and then there is bag baggy. I am usually a Vogue 14-ish, so ideally needed the 10. I had to cut the 12 though due to the size range on the pattern I had.

After I made a muslin – in which I made a fair few changes – giving shape to the straight centre back seam, taking in the side seams to mirror the waist curve I had at the time, and lengthened the hem slightly – I was really quite pleased with the result. I was definitely tempted to overhaul it to make it more form fitting, but I managed to resist. I’m not sure if it’s because of the interesting seaming, or because it still looks like it holds some shape, but I have a real affinity for this top – even though I’m moderately ambivalent about how it looks on me.

I do love that it’s the perfect opportunity to bust out the lightweight silks, which I am so easily tempted into buying but never really have a ‘practical’ outlet for.

I deliberated for a loooong time over whether or not to use the fabric that you see here. I had originally bought it with a dress in mind (I even have a matching chiffon) and breaking from that mindset was hard. Definitely the right decision though, as this top will get infinitely more worn and appreciated than had I sewed a dress for a formal occasion.

It’s a silk charmeuse with the kind of soft, painterly pattern that I never fail to fall hard for.



Whilst I sewed the muslin in the ‘normal’ way (1.5cm seam allowances) – I just don’t think you can get the best result when sewing with silk in this fashion. Especially on those bias seams. Especially not on my base level Janome, which loves nothing more than making a dog’s breakfast out of lightweight silks. So for the real thing I did ‘my normal’ of what I guess is often called couture methods – seam lines marked and no specific seam allowance. It’s also underlined in white silk crepe de chine, which carried the seam line and pattern markings, but which also has the dual function of ensuring this top is utterly opaque. You’d never know if I was wearing a fluoro bra underneath this puppy. And as I love brightly coloured underthings, this works well for me.

The crepe de chine underlining does probably make it slightly less flowy that many other makes I see on PR and Burdastyle (especially the chiffon ones!), but I don’t mind it as it is. If anything, I feel a bit more ‘secure’ in it!



Otherwise, I mostly followed the instructions for this pattern – they’re really quite adequate. Except I handstitched the neckline facing down to the crepe de chine underneath (another genius reason for underlining – avoiding topstitching on tricky fabrics!).

Also – I sewed this top together in 2.5 days straight (I did all the cutting and thread basting prep work before hand – you know I’m uber slow, right?) at a 4 day sewing getaway with a bunch of fabulous sewists I go to social sewing with. Turns out my patience for french seams and slow sewing has a very finite limit, which is clearly visible here:


Usually I sew in spurts and chunks – 15min and a seam here and there. But locked away at a ‘quilting retreat‘ with no life interruptions for four days straight tested my fancy seam-finished resolve. With access to overlocker, I caved.


In other sewing news, I finished my second French Jacket (for mum) in late July which has been sent off to Queensland. Plus I’m nearing completion of that Marfy Jacket I showed you the muslin of – and I’m loving it to bits. Then I’m really going to have to get stuck into some maternity sewing!

I’ll leave you with some (sadly, rather over-exposed) photos from Frocktails – so much self-sewn fabulousness! 51 ladies from Australia’s east coast AND New Zealand joined in the fun – we had a private function space at Collins Quarter and a signature cocktail which was named the ‘Seam Ripper’ (Gin based, of course. I was devastated to not be able to partake!). It was an amazing night and I’m already looking forward to the next one!










IMG_8437 IMG_8438 IMG_8441 IMG_8442 IMG_8449

Hello, Strangers!

“Hi, my name is Melanie, and it’s been 6 months since I last posted”.

Yep, and about 5 of that have had zero chances to sew. But – our unlivable house is now moderately livable. Sort of. Still a lot of work to do! But the last month has had some productive sewing in it, culminating in a seasonally inappropriate top that is very different to my usual style. I do really love it though. Photos just as soon as I find my missing camera battery charger, and brave the cold! (Some sunshine might be nice too, but I wouldn’t want to be too demanding or anything…)


Just a little seam matching perfection…


I’ve also been working on the French Jacket for my mum. I originally thought having it done for her birthday in early May would has been SO achievable. But that didn’t quite work out, so the new delivery date has been set for early August. Better get my skates on…

Because I’ve also started sewing a new jacket (for me). Marfy 3022!

F3022 SS 2014-15 Jacket

The muslin for it is getting me very excited. Even with no adjustments I really love the proportions. Having been out of sewing practise for so long, and also because this pattern had a rather tricky looking dart/pocket configuration – I went to a lot more effort than I normally would in a muslin.




But that’s all come to a screaming halt, because my usual size 46 is a little on the snug side. After many months of intensive renovating, with a non-functional kitchen and limited time – a continuous succession of bad dietary choices (and an underactive thyroid!) have left me about 6kg’s heavier than at the beginning of the year. So I’m deciding whether to buy the Size 48, or make it as the 46 as by the time I finish it, it will be Spring and I should be back to normal by then. Decisions…

Regardless, it’s so lovely to be back and sewing!!