A distraction from my lack of tangible sewing progress.

Today’s post will be a delightful distraction away from me not having anything currently worthwhile talking about when it comes to sewing.

Lisa, from Notes from a Mad Housewife nominated me for the blog hop that’s currently making its way around the online sewing space – I’m not actually sure where it started exactly but I’m in excellent company – Heather from Handmade by Heather, Leila from Three Dresses Project and soon – Morgan from Crab and Bee. They’re all ladies who have wonderful writing styles and whose sewing I really enjoy admiring!

what am I working on?

Recently I’ve been losing a lot of battles in the land of The Trouser, but I’m gearing up to win the war. In between pondering that, I’ve been working on my hybrid jacket, which is coming along really nicely!

poppykettle on instagram

I’m also just about to start basting together my mum’s jacket, as she’s popping down to Melbourne for my birthday next week so I want to squeeze in a fitting session :)

Otherwise, I’m trying really really hard not to start a fourth project. The only reason I haven’t is because I feel a little bit sewing-output-constipated right now. A lot in the pipeline… and well yeah – you get the analogy. So many things I want to sew!

why do I write?

Because I have to. Otherwise this blog wouldn’t be a blog, but a Tumblr, right? :)

I decided to start a blog when I was at the end of a my first year of sewing lessons, when I knew I wouldn’t be continuing on with that but wanted to maintain a connection to other people that sew. I had only just discovered the online world – Julia from Julia Bobbin had just started a blog and from hearing her talk about it and being inspired by her Tessuti Competition win, I decided maybe it would be something I would try, too. It took me a while to get used to the whole ‘writing’ thing!

Fast Forward a little and the fabulous Rachel from Boo Dog & Me organised a Melbourne meetup. I remember being pretty nervous rocking up to Tessuti where everyone was meeting, and I’m sure I did a lot of incoherent babbling (it’s a nervous thing) and Rachel didn’t even bat an eyelid (so polite!).


Since then I’ve had the opportunity to meet some wonderful sewing enthusiasts overseas, had a few incredibly supportive and beautiful emails from people who read my ramblings, received unexpected fabric/pattern/care packages in the mail and made some wonderful friendships, as well as come into contact with people who I don’t necessarily get to spend much time with, but adore none the less. It’s kinda corny, but I feel that by writing I’m somehow giving a little something back in turn for all that I’ve received. That, and I love hearing from those of you who take the time to comment :) Commenting can be hard work, I know!

how does it differ from others of it’s genre?

my blog you mean? Um, I don’t know. And quite frankly, I don’t really care. This little space has given me so much more that I had ever anticipated – wonderful real life friends and the love of seeing what other people create, so I’m not really interested in getting all competitive about it all. I direct that energy into being the best I can be at doing this, and learning new sewing-related things. Everyone contributes towards the sewing blogosphere in their own way, and I think that’s what makes it so wonderful.


And of course spending time with other sewing enthusiasts!! Myers Briggs classifies me as an introvert, but I’ve not yet been to a sewing meetup or social sewing day when I haven’t come away completely buzzed and on a high because there are just so many bloody fabulous people out there who sew. (Is that what it’s like to be an extrovert all the time? That must be exhausting!). So I’m super, super duper looking forward to the next Frocktails – which is this coming Saturday! I’m predicting that sequinned dresses are going to be all the rage…

how does my writing process work?

You know, back when I got a job with my current employer, it was all the rage to do psychometric testing. I had to do three tests – Maths, Problem Solving and Language. My result announced I sat in the 91st, 93rd and 23rd percentiles respectively. Of course, being an engineering/construction company, they hired me instantly. Ha! I recall having a little giggle with myself that I had at least managed to pick a profession that suited my abilities. No seriously, my geek high school friends and I used this integral expression as a joke that really, we no longer needed English classes:

Integral Expression of Life

Lame-osity aside, my blog writing process reminds me of writing a lab report – I stay focused on the technical process and outcomes. It’s also a really good challenge for me – writing a coherent post that flows. These days I usually start writing a post when I start making a garment – that way I can capture those ‘aha’ moments that I would otherwise forget about by the time I came to writing a post. It also means I remember to get decent WIP pictures, and that my post changes constantly up until the point I take photos, after which I proof read and then hit publish.


I for one would love to know a little bit more about many people, but the two sewing bloggers I’m going to nominate here are Karen, from Fifty Dresses, and Leith from Sew Brunswick. Both sew and blog things that I really enjoy reading about! It’s a matter of writing about your writing process, by answering the questions I’ve got bolded in this post. Of course, this is totally non-obligatory thing :)

And I’ll be back soon with some real sewing stuff, promise!

P1003 & P1004: Hi-tech Fabric

I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but in the last decade of so fabric technology appears to have developed in leaps and bounds. These days there are all kinds of sports-related garments with hi-tech fabrics spruiking various benefits, from the moisture-wicking quick-dry standard gym fare we probably all have, to compression undergarments designed to decrease muscle fatigue and aid in recovery. Or just suck in your gut, like spanx.

Mr poppykettle competing in the Shepparton Half Iron Man, 2012

Mr poppykettle competing in the Shepparton Half Iron Man, 2012

Open any of the cupboards at chez poppykettle and you will find all these things and more – and not just because I enjoy a bit of gut-sucking-in action, but because Mr poppykettle’s hobby is competeing in triathalons and IronMan competitions (he even has a wet-suit that purports to increase buoyancy by up to 40%, thus allowing you to ‘save’ your legs for the ride and run segments). The pictures above and below are him during his first and second 70.3‘s. A little gloating if you don’t mind – he completed last years competition (a 1.9km/1.2mile swim, 90km/56mile bike ride and then a half marathon – 21km/13.1mile run) in 4 hours and 22 minutes – just missing out on a podium finish by coming 4th in his age group, and 41st overall out of nearly 1400 competitors. Proud much? Just a bit! Unfortunately due to a stress fracture injury he’s had to pull out of his events this year, but still.

2011 Half IronMan

2011 Shepparton 70.3/Half IronMan

For me though, fabric technology began back in 1935 with the creation of Nylon. Like most fabric developments since its time, it was originally a military innovation. The thermoplastic polymers that make up nylon give it a ‘silky’ and smooth texture, and Nylon was designed as a replacement for silk which was scarce following the end of WWII. Likewise, viscose rayon, polyester and other synthetic fibres were also designed to mimic their natural counterparts.

Image via allposters.com

Image via allposters.com

Side tracking yet again – Nylon was first used for fishing line and toothbrush bristles – but ask anyone what you associate with Nylon and undoubtably the answer will be stockings! The original stockings made from Nylon were so strong and durable that they could be used to tow a trailer behind a car. In my world, that is just pure awesome. They were obviously a big hit with women as no longer did our fore-sisters have to worry about runs and holes appearing. Of course, this also meant that manufacturer’s weren’t selling as many units, because Nylon stockings lasted so much longer than their predecessors made from silk, wool and cotton. Big Industry sent their engineers back to the drawing board to decrease the life of nylon stockings – and so this product became the second documented instance of the manufacturing phenomenon called ‘planned obsolescence‘ – where products are engineered to fail. (The first was the humble incandescent globe – check out this info on the Pheobus Cartel if you’re up for a bit of conspiracy theory).

So the next time your $14 pair of Levante‘s ladder, tear or rip – you’ll know who to curse. Your friendly neighbourhood engineer.


But marketing of fibres has of course moved on from stockings to sports fabrics that combine the technologies developed in the 20th century, and now it’s the turn of the high end stuff to get the high-tech treatment. ZZegna (the younger, more fashion-forward brother to Ermenegildo Zegna) has been including some pretty cool fibre innovations in his collections, like Microsphere – with which you can wipe off those pesky wine and mustard stains at the swipe of a damp cloth. Giotto New-Gen (an Aussie brand) have applied the slip slop slap mentality to their fabrics, launching Cold Black – a “special finishing technology for textiles which reduces heat build up and provides reliable protection from UV rays”. Presumably this will make wearing your favourite tux on a warm summers evening feel like you’re really just wearing a seersucker suit.

Or this rain jacket from ZZegna‘s Autumn 2013 Menswear collection which sports rubber bonded onto wool garbadine to keep your beau warm and dry:

via style.com

via style.com

Then you’ve got the flip side of fibre technology mixing with recycling – Sax Altman makes chino’s (Repreve) from cotton interwoven with recycled plastic bottle polymer strands; although this would help offset the rising cost of cotton I doubt you’d end up saving much. You’ve also got fashion houses like Martin Margiela perhaps taking the fabric/recycling cross over to the extreme – with this jacket made from recycled polyethylene garbage bags:

Many thanks to the article bty David Waters in the Qantas magazine for bringing these designs and fabulous fibres to my attention. But really, there hasn’t been to the best of my knowledge any new commercially significant developments in fabric since nylon, lycra and maybe kevlar. Actually, one day I’d really like to sew something out of kevlar. A wicked-ass biker jacket would be totally appropos made from kevlar! What we’re seeing here in sports gear and rubber rain jackets isn’t actually new, it’s just taking already existing technologies and combining them together to get the next evolution. Kinda like mixing chocolate, caramel and salt (all equally delicious in their own right) to get the mouthwatering creation of salted chocolate caramel. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts?

via mushitza

via mushitza

…. Sorry, I got distracted thinking about salted chocolate caramel for a minute there.

But I’m here today to talk about sports fabrics. Because these innovations have trickled their way down into our fabric stores and even though I don’t spend upwards of 25 hours a week training like my beau, I’m not a complete couch potato either (well… maybe sometimes) – I’m in the market to make some gym clothes – I’m sure I can’t be the only one suffering with ill-fitting sports gear?

I’ve got my eyes on New Zealand’s Papercut Patterns: the Ooh La Leggings and the Undercover Hood.


I’ve been looking high and low (not really, just googling from the comfort of my couch) for some high tech fabric I can get my hands on to make the leggings with, ending up with some 80% Nylon 20% Lycra black and turquoise fabric that looks and feels identical to the fabric my current Nike gym pants are made from, and some pink, grey and black striped unknown fabric with good recovery from a mystery bolt at Trimmings and Remnants.


And some gorgeous textured blue merino wool/lycra blend from New Zealand Merino and Fabrics for the hoodie:

wool lycra blend fabric

Because hey, you can fiddle with fibre as much as you like but as far as I’m concerned, wool will always be the ultimate in high performance – and you don’t need a lab to create it. It’s renewable too! Keeps you cool in summer, warm in winter, sheds water to a degree (even if you do end up smelling like a wet dog) and most importantly to me – is breathable.

Turn of Cloth and a WIP


Its been a little quiet on the sewing front here recently… but that’s soon to change. I’ve been working away at turning the disaster that was McCalls 4993 into something I’d actually like to wear, and in the process had the chance to try a few new sewing things!

I’ve read about the impact of turn of cloth many times, but I’ve only come across a pattern that actually accounts for it once (Vogue 8333, which has a separate upper and lower collar piece). When I sewed up my first Marfy pattern – F2465 – I was sort of expecting to see the facing pattern pieces be slightly smaller than the outside pattern pieces, having read much about their superior drafting.

F2465 Marfy Top 22
Seam line on the fold of Marfy 2645

This was not the case, and whilst I suppose it could be considered a personal preference on whether or not the seam lines sit along the fold, or are sneakily hidden underneath, I’d prefer them to be hidden from view.

So with my current Work-In-Progress, I’ve ‘drafted’ (sheesh, that makes it sound like something really difficult!) a facing pattern piece for the dress strap, which is slightly smaller than the actual strap pattern piece – by 4mm. That 4mm then got added back onto the strap piece that will be on show, so it will still end up being roughly the same size. I say roughly because my fabric is thin and drapey – the thicker your fabric, the more allowance for turn of cloth is required.

The ‘under strap’ pattern piece sitting on top of the ‘over strap’

It makes it a wee bit more challenging to iron before turning out (yep, I’m still a pressinatrix), but by such a marginal amount I can’t even believe I’ve just written a whole sentence about it.

If you’d like more info on determining how much to allow for different types of fabric, then there’s a really good Threads article on this topic here. Otherwise, I’ll leave you to go about your business :)

Epic Stash Enrichment Outing

fabric haul

I hadn’t bought fabric since the start of October last year, people. And like all diets of the strictest kind, you’re likely to break your rules at some point and binge on the very thing you sought to restrict.

That breaking point for me was on Saturday just gone past – with 11 of my favourite sewing enthusiasts, Social Sewing went on the road! We had visitors from multiple states – Suzy (SuzyBeeSews) from South Australia, Amanda (Bimble and Pimble) from the ACT and Kirsty (RocketSews) from Tasmania. There’s already evidence floating around that the Sydney Sewing Girls had their own massive fabric binge on the very same day – good minds eh! Our day started early, and we covered 8 shops and trekked all over Melbourne stopping for lunch somewhere in the middle and then topping it off with dinner at Rockwell & Sons (the restaurant co-owned by Belle’s (Bella’s Collectanea) husband. I skipped out on that though as I had a hot-date with my beau.

Thankfully I had plenty of advance notice this fabric shopping expedition of most epic proportions, so by extension I had ample chance to strengthen my fabric-grabbing reflexes. I think I did myself proud. The other ladies did too – Lara (Thornberry) walked out of one fabric shop with a whopping FOUR BAGS of fabric! And check out the boot of 1 of the three cars it took to get us all around town here.

Shall we look what came home with me?

Some floral/lace printed knit (not pictured) and minty green marle knit from the remnant bin at Rathdowne Remnants, destined to be a Papercut Undercover Hood for winter this year:

Mint Marle knit from Rathdown Remnants

Some super-sturdy and strong silk twill in a pinky red (I thought it was some really soft cotton twill when I picked it up!) from The Fabric Store (50% off, whooo!) which will hopefully become some Patrones shorts before the end of summer (thanks to the Curious Kiwi for posting about this issue so I could ‘discover’ this pattern!):

Silk Twill from The Fabric Store

Also from The Fabric Store, some oyster coloured silk satin for lining, plus some delicious baby blue silk/cotton voile bought specifically to underline the eyelet fabric on the right (bought previously) to become a Mad Men/potential SewcieTea dress:

Oyster Silk Satin and Duck Egg silk cotton voile from The Fabric Store

LIBERTY! We all love liberty. This is a bit unusual in that it’s a little warm, fuzzy and certainly not lightweight – it’s almost flannelette like. I lurve the colours and I scored some bright red silk habutai to line it with – no pattern ideas as yet, but definitely a autumnal dress (both from The Cloth Shop):

Liberty Love and Red Habutai from The Cloth Shop

And finally fabric-wise – my ultimate score for the day – some painted and embroidered silk dupion, also from The Cloth Shop. A long time friend is getting married at the end of the year, so I’m thinking of whipping this up for that. The print is giant, so it will need to be a fairly simple dress pattern to let the fabric shine. A big circle skirt and a crinoline are floating around in my imagination…

Embroidered Silk Dupion The Cloth Shop

I also had a rather exciting moment, because I finally found a shop that sells petersham ribbon – The Button Shop. And it’s within walking distance from my house – gah! I’ve been looking everywhere online and found nothing (Ribbons Galore used to sell them but have stopped stocking it) – of course, it was right under my nose to begin with. So I bought quite a bit of that, plus some simple and small mother of pearl buttons to be put on a button up shirt (there’s also some lace trim from the Alannah Hill Outlet in Brunswick in there):

petersham ribbon The Button Shop

Everyone’s been asking me… so how many meters does that add to your stash, Mel? Well, unfortunately for me the number don’t lie. Looks like I’m back on that fabric diet (until New York and Baltimore in September) if I’m EVER going to get down to 50m:

Stash total prior to Saturday = 79.8m 
New additions to stash = 18.7m
Current stash total = 98.5m

Le sigh. Anyway, here’s a sneak peak of what’s currently being sewn up!

sneak peak

2013: The year of practical sewing to be

I hereby pledge that 2013 will be the year of practical sewing. 

Should I sense a desire to deviate from the straight and narrow I shall turn to Pinterest to scratch my itch until I am once again sated of the need to sew pretty things with limited useful wearing opportunities. 

Resistance against non-every-day fabrics like luscious floating silks and delicate laces will not be futile.

Should my resolve begin to waiver, I will look to the mantlepiece to gaze upon likenesses of the doyennes of practical sewing – Suzy from SuzyBeeSews, Shams from Communing with Fabric and Dixie from DixieDIY, shrouded as they may be through the gentle waft of incense. Reminded I will be of my practical sewing pledge.

Got the picture? This is what will be on my 2013 radar:

The jacket from my Vogue suit is to date my most worn self-made item. The skirt is popular for work-wear too, and so another is in the wings waiting for its time to shine. The siren song of this pleated waist Marfy blazer/dress combo sitting patiently in my pattern stash is getting harder and harder to resist:

2013 also will be the year of the work shirt. Buttons, plackets, collars and cuffs. Oh yes! This ties in nicely to my personal pledge to complete at least one of the five Craftsy courses I own – I’ve yet to do a single blasted one, and I’m still tempted to buy more!

I’m mostly inspired by my favourite shirt maker – Cubec. A hole-in-the-wall outfitter selling all things suit and shirt related – hella glamorous. Mr poppykettle and I both have some of their stuff – it’s not cheap, but it’s made in Melbourne and the fabrics are out-of-this-world awesome (The shirt I’m wearing in these pictures with my Vogue Suit is from them). Goodnuff reason for me.

Cubec Shirt, via the Cubec Facebook Page

Haveth StephC‘s pants block, will perfecteth pants. My attempts to date have been woefully short of the mark – this garment type will be licked whether it likes it or not.

I love shorts. Short ones. I have two planned for this summer, one of which is already well under way. Yay!

If it’s made of something that stretches and can be worn with jeans on the weekend, then all the better. 

Yes – I will be turning my sights to Mr poppykettle. Where once lay suspicion and a dubious attitude on his behalf now sits acceptance and dare I say it – even enthusiasm. We’ll see how long that lasts, shall we?

Either there will be plenty of tailoring action come winter time, or maybe some men’s jeans action instead. Some inspiration via my For Him Pinterest board:

I would never have thought dresses would make it to this list… But this summer I’ve been converted. The last 6 months of sewing have shown me just how fabulous, easy and low-fuss dresses can be, and I’m finding myself reaching for the dresses in my wardrobe before my jeans. That’s totally like blasphemy to the old me.

Ok, here’s the fine print….
And I’m giving myself space to make one non-everyday dress. Only because a lamington crayfish painted on silk organza will soon be arriving in my postbox… and there’s an occasion to wear just such a dress up and coming!

via Sewing Cake‘s Etsy Shop

The most important to me – I want to use each garment I sew to hone my skills and improve upon the last thing I made – whether that be fit or technique. I’ll be doing two of Susan Khalje’s couture sewing school courses in September/October this year and I’m desperately looking forward to making a Chanel-style Jacket. I’ve yet to decide on the second couture project…

Oh yes. We’ve done the tally – I have 82.6m of fabric. For the metrically challenged – that’s exactly 90 yards. Nine times out of ten I buy fabric with a particular project in mind – so there are a lot of unborn ideas sitting in my cupboard waiting to materialise. I’m going to do everything in my power to use what I have and get that down to 50m by 2013 end.

How about some more fine print? The disclaimer on that is I’m not including fabric I buy whilst overseas. You know, once in a lifetime opportunity and what not.

What’s on your radar?