Never Give Up, Never Surrender

Repeating that mantra to myself over and over, it’s getting easier and easier to believe in it each time.

Apologies in advance for some of the grainy images, Robert took these shots just after I got home from work and the sun had almost dipped beyond the horizon. These fleeting moments were gathered just before the last light left Brisbane for the day.

If you live in Brisbane, you’ll know all about the devastating thunderstorm that wreaked havoc throughout my city on Thursday night, devastating everything in its path. I have never seen hailstones so big in my entire life, with cricket-ball sized stones pelting the town into submission. Several friends of mine have damaged cars, flooded apartments, and I’m only just coming to terms with my own losses from the storm.

I’m not gonna talk too much about it, but suffice to say that I’ve been very upset about it since Thursday. Everyone’s talk of “Oh you’re safe, that’s all that matters”, as well-intentioned as they were, was truly not comforting at all, and I got quite distressed every time someone blasted off that trite piece of baloney when I told them how upset I was over my loss. Just let me grieve!

I know grieving over material objects is stupid and pointless and possibly even quite vain of me, especially when other people lost so much more, but I can’t help but feel the pain from my own loss too. There being other people in the world who are worse-off than me does not make my pain and suffering any less valid, and I’ve always believed that and tried to explain this to others who felt guilty over being sad about something.

Anyways, we shall not dwell on that for the rest of this post. I had this photoshoot right after work because I wanted to show off the new skirt I made–Considering it’s the first time I’ve ever sewn from a pattern, I think it turned out pretty great! For those curious, I used a heavily modified version of Vogue 5376, with sloping sides, a back vent and additional belt loops. I grabbed the fabric from the remnants bin for a couple of dollars for practice and decided that even though it’s not colour I wear very often, it’s definitely a very wearable piece! It needs a good iron after sitting down for 8 hours, but I still love it.

I’m still desperately trying to cling onto any cool weather that’s left before it gets unbearably hot, so this is probably the last time this year that you’ll see this awesome flag-printed blouse.

What I wore:

  • Collette Dinnigan Glasses – c/o Specsavers
  • Flag-Printed Blouse – eBay, $11.50 (Available on AliExpress for $10)
  • Tan Belt – ASOS, free with a dress
  • Green Pencil Skirt – DIY, $1.80
  • Country Road Tan Leather Heels – eBay Auction, $6

Total: $19.30 – Which is a stupid total because you can only really buy one of the things I’m wearing here currently. Sorry!

Anywho, that’s all from me this week – Keep the people in Brisbane who have lost their homes and cars in your thoughts, and I’ll get back to you soon with another little DIY before you know it!

DIY Knife-Pleated Skirt

DIY Knife-Pleated Schoolgirl Skirt Tutorial

Hey guys, what up? We’re back with another little “skirts for dummies” tutorial! Hope you’re not sick of them yet. This time around, we’re looking at a slightly different technique to achieve that “schoolgirl chic” look with a knife-pleated (or side-pleated) skirt. I’m using a woven tartan here, but you can use whatever material you prefer for yours, so long as the fabric is thick and sturdy enough to be pressed (so obviously no chiffon, satin, or velvet–you know what I mean).

You will need:

  • Sewing Machine
  • General Sewing Kit–Scissors, needle, seam ripper, tape measure, regular pins and safety pins
  • Something to draw on your fabric with (chalk, pencil, pen, etc)
  • Fabric (we’ll get to how much in a bit)
  • Matching Thread
  • Regular zip (At least 15cm long)


Working Girl

My mother celebrated the news of my recent employment most, between the both of us, and proudly dubs me her “working girl” now–Forgetting the fact that I’ve been running my own freelance business for a while now.. nothing but an office job counts as work, of course.

For those of you who don’t know–yay, I got a job!

Like mother, like daughter, we were both thrown into the charity sector and found it’s a really great environment to thrive in. Now that I’m working for MS Australia as a digital fundraising coordinator, I really see what all the hype is about. It’s nice working in a truly rewarding environment like this one, fuelled by cheery dispositions and a cause to follow. I’ve only been at work for three days but I’m enjoying it immensely–enough work to prevent me from being bored, enough variety in my work so I can learn new things every day, no underlying office politics or gossiping (was it gossip-y of me to make note of that?), and parking right outside the building (which came in super handy yesterday when Brisbane was overrun by a torrential storm–I only got a little bit drenched when I ran to my car). It’s a working girl’s dream come true!

So with the new job and all, that means there’s good news and bad news for this blog.

The bad news is that a 9-5 job means less opportunity for blogging. Although to be frank and fair, my time-management skills with this blog haven’t been the greatest so far anyways.

The good news is that I’ve taken a radical DIY shift and will be posting up more sewing tips and easy tutorials than ever before as I build myself a bespoke wardrobe, including a DIY project coming up very soon! Won’t that be fun?

(Of course the even better news is that I can keep my current photographer, so you’re going to be seeing more of these lovely shots in my upcoming posts.)

Now a bit about my outfit–I bought this Dolina Petites cobalt pencil skirt ages ago from my local Salvation Army superstore for about $6 and it’s one of the better pencil skirts I own. Unfortunately, with the unprecedented weight loss that followed The Break-Up, it’s slightly too loose around my waist–nothing a belt can’t fix though, right?

The rare cobalt-toned occasions also mean that I get to bust out my Lovisa bee ring–you know I’m a sucker for perfectly coordinated outfits. I pronounce myself Mayor of Matchy-Matchy Town and I don’t care!

What I wore:

  • Touch by Alyssa Milano 102 Black Pink Glasses – c/o Clearly
  • Studded White Sleeveless Blouse – Target, c/o Mission Australia
  • Five Crosses Belt – Colette, $6
  • Gold Mesh Lorus Watch – Graduation gift (buy here)
  • Cobalt, Black & Gold Bee Ring – Lovisa, $3.33
  • Dolina Petite’s Woven Cobalt Pencil Skirt – Salvation Army, $6
  • Black Kidskin Leather Heels – Mascotte, $40

Total: $55.33

Anyways, that’s all for today–Thank-you to everyone who wished me luck with my job-hunting prospects (it clearly paid off) and see you soon!

Be A Man

Outfit: Preppy Red Blazer and Navy Shorts

Once upon a time, I used to be a huge tomboy. I acted like a boy, got a pixie cut, had a strange and unusual affinity with gay men, and wore skinny jeans in every colour of the rainbow. While I like to think of myself as quite feminine nowadays, I still adore my mother’s boxy blazers and enjoy a good pant suit every now and again.

Now that I’ve lost a stack of weight (10KG!) over the last couple of months, I find that my mother’s retro clothing no longer fits properly and I’m having to peruse through the smaller vintage sizes on the op shop racks, and that’s exactly where I found this gorgeous blazer. I’ve spoken at length about redheads wearing red and how it’s generally an ill-advised style choice, but I’ve been more drawn to the colour as of late, and who can resist a military-inspired coat with double lapels like this one, anyhow??

Outfit: Preppy Red Blazer and Navy Shorts
Outfit: Preppy Blazer, Navy Shorts and Red Heels

Paired with white and navy, and my trusty UK satchel, I feel like some kind of pattern-clashing fashion patriot. Or maybe I’m just finding any possible way to cling onto the Australian Winter before the heatwaves hit. At least I’ll always have air conditioned comfort in shopping centres, even if I don’t tend to shop in them very much anymore.

Outfit: Preppy Red Blazer and Navy Shorts

This blog might be taking yet another surprise turn, as well–I’m currently looking for full-time work, dressing to the nines, and asserting my skills towards prospective employers. It’s been a while since I looked; I didn’t know if there was a market for freelance designers trying to gain full-time employment and as such I was also probably a little scared to look, but I’ve been very pleasantly surprised with the response I’ve received from businesses! I’ve no doubt I will find a permanent placement before the year is out.

So that means I’m going to have to dress the part (sort of).

Bronze Owl Brooch
Outfit: Preppy Red Blazer and Navy Shorts

How ridiculously cute is that brooch? This is what I wore:

  • Collette Dinnigan Glasses – c/o Specsavers
  • Red and Navy Double Lapel Blazer – Salvos, $7 (I think? I bought it ages ago!)
  • Country Road White and Blue Striped Blouse – St Augustine’s Jumble, $2.70
  • Bronze Owl BroochAliExpress, $4.25 (Now ~$7)
  • Red Patent Belt – Dotti, $3.50
  • Navy Bow Print Shorts – Temt, $25
  • Betts Token Red Patent Heels – The Iconic, $21

Total: $63.45

I would have also listed the UK satchel, as it was an utter bargain buy from AliExpress for only $17, but for the life of me, I cannot find an active listing. This makes me all the more pleased that I snapped it up when I did.

Outfit: Preppy Red Blazer and Navy Shorts

Anyways, wish me luck for my following applications and interviews–I have my fingers crossed that by the time the mulberries disappear from our tree, I will be buried under a mountain of paperwork with no time for a social life and the complications it brings! I leave you today with a picture of Hugo suspiciously eyeing off a mulberry.

Until next time!

Suspicious Swedish Vallhund

Buying Your First Sewing Machine

Janome My Style 24 Sewing Machine

Told you this blog was going to start getting more sew-orientated!

Today we’re going to talk about buying your first sewing machine. The above machine is technically my first–the Janome that I sewed my box-pleated skirt (tutorial here) is my mother’s and while it’s a beast of a machine, the stitch selector gear has long failed so straight stitches are the only type it can muster. For someone who wanted to start getting a little more serious about sewing, that wasn’t going to do at all.

First thing: If you have a small budget, vintage machines are best. There is no way that a $100 beginner’s machine from stores today can best a second-hand, half-priced machine made over 20 years ago. Unless you’re planning to drop some serious money ($500+) on a professional machine, vintage always wins out. Some benefits to buying vintage:

  • Older vintage machines, particularly ones produced before 1980, can take a lot of abuse and are hard to break. For novice sewers, this means you can sew through more layers of fabric with ease, and it will take a fair beating.
  • Parts are easy to find, and often better in quality. The heavier the better, because it means that the sewing machine contains metal parts, as opposed to newer machines, which are often built with plastic parts that are easy to break.
  • Maintenance is simple. There’s no digital components to worry about, either! Generally, if you’re buying a vintage machine, it may require a good servicing if it has been used often in its life, but sometimes you may strike it lucky and all it’ll need is a spray of oil and a good dusting.
  • Vintage machines are cheap! You can find a machine to fit any budget, even if your budget is non-existent. Free machines exist out there, but always keep in mind that the cost of a service is about $100, give or take. It will still be better than a modern beginner’s machine and it will last you decades longer as well.

My ‘new’ machine is a Janome My Style 24, bought very, very cheaply, considering the original price exceeded $500–I was actually quite negligible when buying this one and basically just asked a friend to collect it for me, fingers crossed for the best.

I took it to the Janome Sewing Centre at Everton Park for a new bobbin cover and a couple of other cheap accessories, and the service there blew me away. The employees were so friendly and freakishly knowledgeable about my little machine and thoroughly checked it out for me, even giving the gears a good greasing so that the stitch selector could move more freely. With a big thumbs-up and only a couple of bucks short for the accessories I bought, it looked like my risk paid off!

Even better was the giant Spotlight store just down the road from them, which was incidentally having a 40% off all fabric sale for that weekend. But that’s another story for another day!

Some tips for buying machines new or old (that fall under the category of ‘do as I say, not as I do’):

  • Gumtree is an Aussie’s weapon of choice. Craigslist is more popular for the US market.
  • Use different keywords within your area, search for brands as well as “sewing machine”–Mine was listed as a “Jonome”, and my friend is the one who found it, because I was blindly searching for “Janome” and “Singer” and he was searching for “sewing machine”.
  • Stay away from cheap, entry-level machines made in the last 20 years. They are chock full of plastic parts and gears inside. They will break, and they will break quickly. You’ll grow out of an entry-level machine sooner than later, I promise you! Again, the heavier the better, because it means that there are quality parts inside instead of plastic replacements.
  • When you find a machine or model that you like, research it. Look up the model number on Google and/or ask the seller lots of questions; What is included in the listing, if it comes with a manual, a case, accessories, and so on. Check that it has the functionalities that you need; are you using it for clothesmaking or quilting?
  • Pay on delivery/pickup! When you’re picking it up, request a trial run so you can thoroughly inspect it and check if the stitch selector works, how easily the machine runs, and whether the parts inside are rusted or well-maintained.
  • If you’re a risk-taker, don’t jump to avoid a machine just because it’s missing a few superficial bits and pieces. The machine I bought was missing a bobbin cover, so I asked the seller to reduce the price to cover the cost of buying a new part, and she was more than happy to comply. The truth was that I only paid about $50 for the machine and I would have gladly paid more, especially considering that there were listings in other states for the same machine starting at upward of $300 second-hand! It never hurts to haggle.
  • Take it to a service centre after you pick it up so they can look it over for you. They’ll open up the case, check the parts out, and sometimes even grease it up for free, so it may not even need to be serviced. Generally, you’ll want to get your machine serviced once a year though, so keep that in mind for your budget. That being said, my mother’s machine was only ever serviced once throughout its several years of existence, although on the flip side, the stitch selector gear crapped itself, so I don’t know what that says about how far negligence will get you..

So there you have it, that’s my guide to buying your first sewing machine. Obviously I’m a big advocate for second-hand machines, but these rules apply for both new and old machines. There are many quality, well-priced gems to be found out there, and starting up a your new sewing hobby needn’t be expensive at all. Personally, from the amount of clothing alterations and garments I’ve begun to sew for myself, this machine has already paid for itself twice over and will only continue to get more bang for its buck over the course of its lifetime.