handmade green pencil skirt aldi wool top wittner tan maryjane heels

What a year so far! I’m sort of on the road to recovery after a very long and very boring hiatus from sewing.

I wish I could say that there was a good reason that I stopped sewing for all those months, but they’re all the lame, trite excuses of a seasoned procrastinator. Truth is, I had a bit of a sewing block, and watching Netflix in bed with my bebs until the wee hours of the morning seemed way more appealing than dragging out the ol’ sewing machine so I could sit for a few hours in the freezing cold, cramped sewing room. Now that the weather is heating up, so is my sewing machine! The fact that I now have a giant sewing desk in my room somewhat helps too. I have a million vintage patterns, it’s time to get started on them.

Last night, I sewed on the sleeves on my WIP McCall’s 2329 project, which was exciting. AND it now buttons up at the back. Just need to whip up that skirt and I’ll have another me-made dress for the blog! I’m trying to phase my wardrobe into more handmade items, but gosh the lure of AliExpress and eBay is mighty tempting. Especially since AliExpress is having another mega-sale tonight. There goes all my money, oh well.

handmade green pencil skirt aldi wool top wittner tan maryjane heels

You’ve already seen this skirt but I wanted to show it off again, because my new resolution is to make lots of these. They’re comfortable, work-appropriate, versatile, and made-for-me-sized, so no gappy waists and saggy hips. Albeit the hips are slightly tight on this one (or has my butt gotten bigger? Again?). Nevermind, the next one will be better.

How good are these heels? I bought them from a jumble sale because they were barely-worn Wittner heels and my size to boot (ha, not my best shoe-related pun) but they were a kind of weird pale yellow brown sort of colour. A bit of tan shoe polish and some time later, hey presto! Perfect shoes to coordinate with my favorite tan belt.

handmade green pencil skirt aldi wool top

What I’m wearing:

  • Bronze Amber Elephant Necklace – Mum’s, vintage
  • Navy wool top – Aldi (gift from mum but I think it was $25?)
  • Tan Belt – ASOS, free with a dress
  • Green Pencil Skirt – DIY, $1.80
  • Wittner “Jordy” Tan Cutout MaryJane Heels – Jumble Sale, $8

handmade green pencil skirt aldi wool top wittner tan maryjane heels

Pattern Envelope Template

pattern envelope template a4

When you operate as a highly frugal seamstress, you naturally begin to develop a variety of tricks and penny-pinching measures for saving money and cutting corners when sewing.

As part of a new series on my blog called Spartan Sewing, I’d like to share some of these tips with you!

Having a lust for 1950’s fashion means that it’s often difficult to stay on-budget. With select vintage sewing patterns reaching $200 in price (value is debatable…), what’s a Spartan Seamstress to do? One way that I cut corners in this area are buying incomplete patterns (missing inane little things like facings or rectangle pattern pieces for skirts that I can easily draft myself, or whatever), patterns with obliterated envelopes, or even patterns with missing envelopes (like most vintage mail-order patterns come nowadays)! But then I have this little misshapen plastic bag in my drawer with random pattern pieces inside and is a complete nuisance to organize.

It hit me like a bazooka: I’m an anal-retentive graphic designer, I really shouldn’t be having these kind of issues!!

I decided to try my hand at creating my own pattern housings from A4 pieces of paper, but I was frustrated and disappointed with the amount of envelope templates from A4 sheets available on the web, which is why I decided to create my own and make them available to you today as a free PSD (Photoshop) download! This is what it looks like:


But wait, there’s more! (I feel like a dodgy salesperson)

I have also included fully scalable vector logos within the file of some of the most popular sewing pattern brands, free for you to resize and position on the pattern however you’d like (whether you want it at the top or running down the side, or on the back too, but smaller, etc etc). The brands are:

  • Simplicity
  • Butterick
  • McCall’s
  • Vogue
  • Advance
  • Marian Martin
  • Anne Adams

All the text is editable, so you can just substitute the numbers to match your pattern, delete and re-position wherever you want. The font I’ve used is Century Gothic which happens to be the best font in the world and if you don’t have it, you ought to get it.

Steps to making your own pattern envelope:

  1. Source high-quality images of your pattern online. Go and Google that shit. Here is the Etsy listing for one I recently used, Advance 7027. Etsy has the ability to save large, high-quality images from sellers so sourcing them from there is a good idea if you can. Just click on the “zoom” link under the bottom right of the images and check how large they are. Smaller than the one I linked? Look elsewhere.
  2. Bring the image of the front cover into Photoshop and cut out the illustrations on the front using the polygon select tool (don’t even think about using the Magic Wand..). To soften the edges to be less angular, go to Select -> Modify -> Feather… (SHIFT+F6) and pick a low number, like 1 or 0.5. Now CTRL+X and CTRL+V onto the front section of your template. You can adjust the curves (CTRL+M) and colours if you need to.
  3. For the pattern details at the back of the envelope, roughly select around just the text area and paste it into the back section your template. Scale to fit (try not to scale up too much or it’ll be blurry). You will want to desaturate this image (since it will undoubtedly be an aged yellow colour) and adjust the curves until the background is pure white. (Tip: On the curves graph, see how there’s a diagonal line? Grab the end at the top right and move it left until the background disappears. If the text is too light, click in the centre of the line and drag down a bit until it’s readable).
  4. This is a bit of a no-brainer, but change the text on the front section to reflect the details of your own pattern.
  5. Print. Absolutely no auto-scaling allowed. The only thing that should be getting cut off by your printer is parts of the cutting guidelines, but it doesn’t take a genius to draw them back on if you really require them.

To download, click on the link below:


Thinking of sharing my file somewhere? Showing off your new covers on your site? Feel free to do so, but please credit! If you’ve found my file useful, please share using the social media icons below, and if you’re so inclined, I’d much appreciate a “Like” on Carbon Chic’s Facebook Page :)

Don’t have Photoshop? Have a pattern with a different logo? Just feel lazy and you don’t want to go to the effort? If high-quality images of the pattern exist out there somewhere (from your own scans or on the web), I will make a neat little envelope for you (that you can print yourself) for $5 (USD), just ask.

Raspberry Beret

Brrr, it’s cold in here!

Do you ever get that feeling where you’re just bemoaning the current season and then the next season hits you like a tonne of bricks and you’re suddenly bussing to work under 700 layers of clothing and the large, heavy woolen coats you’ve been wearing in your heavily air-conditioned environment suddenly make sense to people around you?

On the bright side, when I walk into the communal kitchen wearing ugg boots (I swear this is the only time I wear them, I swear!) and an oversized pink wool-blend tweed coat I picked up from a clothing jumble for $5 (woohoo!), people now sympathise with me (“Yes, quite cold outside, isn’t it?”) instead of giving me looks normally reserved for mentally deranged homeless people (all those side-eyes, I tell you what).

And now I have an excuse to dip back into my glorious coat collection!

This may also be the Winter of funky tights. Possibly. I haven’t decided whether these bright pink tights make me feel fabulous or ridiculous, but I’m somewhere in that zone.

How brilliantly do they match this jacket, though? When Kmart was selling a bunch of colour-blocked tights for 20c a pack, I couldn’t resist buying a pair in all three colours, and then I proceeded to shove them into a corner of my cupboard, never to be seen again until a year later, and here they are. My legs won’t be cold today, no sir.

What I wore:

  • Alex Perry Glasses – c/o Specsavers
  • Cream Angora Beret with Black Sequin Bow – Temt, $10
  • White Flocked Polka Dot Blouse – Target, $10
  • Girls’ Black Ponti Dress – Target, $15
  • Black and White Bow Belt – Mascotte, $6
  • Gold Mesh Lorus Watch – Graduation gift (similar here)
  • Pink Woolen Jacket w Leather Trim – Igedo, $15 (Although the last purchase I’ll ever make from them after how rudely they treated me when I tried to return a faulty item)
  • Opaque Magenta Tights – Kmart, 20c
  • Jo Mercer “Hooch” Mary Jane Heels – The Iconic, $60

Total: $116.20


Young Girl

It has been a while since I wore something from AliExpress. Or even blogged about it! Don’t get me wrong, I still love the place and truly believe it should be every girl’s first port of call for clothes if you like places like Dangerfield or Princess Polly (whom we all know import their stuff straight from Chinese factory floors anyway), my focus has just shifted dramatically to hand-sewn items.

I’m forever torn on the direction of this blog–All stylish sewing, all frugal fashion, or a mix of both?

And what about the cooking segments I promised??


Couple all this with the fact that a recent coupling has been distracting the heck out of me, it means I have left this blog quite abandoned, as though it were one of my lesser-favourite stepchildren. (What’s this coupling business, you ask? All will be revealed soon, and this is when we cue the cheesy saxophone solo.)

All that aside, this is one of my favourite outfits this Summer and simultaneously my mother’s most hated. I would wear socks with MaryJane heels all day, e’ry day if I could but dressing like an adult schoolgirl is something that really does turn a lot of heads, and not always for the best reasons. But I keep my head held high and prance around in my sock/heels combination like a show pony regardless. The weather is much too hot to care about what other people think about the clothes you’re wearing.

This outfit also seemed like the perfect opportunity to whip out this awesome bag I was recently gifted. It’s structured, it’s a satchel, it’s full of pockets, and it has gold detailing on it–this is basically my entire criteria list for the perfect bag. I will wear it with everything.

What I wore:

  • Alex Perry Glasses – c/o Specsavers
  • Gold Bee BroochAliExpress, $2 (On sale!)
  • Blue Gingham Pleated Dress – AliExpress, $14 (On sale! Also available in pink)
  • Black and White Bow Belt – Mascotte, $6
  • Gold and Cream Satchel – Gift from Tim
  • White Cotton Ankle Socks – Old
  • Jo Mercer “Hooch” Mary Jane Heels – The Iconic, $60

Total: $82

Anyways, just want to let you know that if you don’t hear from me again in a while, there’s a good reason. Life has been a whirlwind of events as of late, and I’m still trying to follow my yellow brick road down to Emerald City. (This seemed an appropriate metaphor given the nature of this outfit–now all I need is a pair of sparkly red heels.)

Straight Lines

I tried to think of some kind of poem about my new skirt that rhymed with the ever-so-popular song of 2013 Blurred Lines, but then I decided that I was a raging feminist who wasn’t going to support that nonsense thank-you-very-much, so that’s why you’re going to have to settle for a post rife with various different squeals about how much I love my new skirt. If you could imagine the following in different pitches all the way through, that would add to the drama I think, so thanks in advance.

Ta-dah! I was flipping through some dresses that I had pinned to my vintage inspiration board on Pinterest and came across a gorgeous little number by Lana Lobell. The popular candy swirl dresses that people sew for children had always caught my eye every time I saw another one, but I hate how piece-y and home-made most of them look (seriously, those bizarre fabric choices) and I’m not a fan of circle skirts in general, so I had to think of another plan of attack.

This skirt is self-drafted, and it took quite a while to create the pattern myself. So many angles. So much trigonometry. I tell everyone how much I hate math but then when I self-draft my own things, I invariably end up doing a lot of math. However, my pattern didn’t even come to fruition because the fruitcake at the store I bought this fabric from (that was a nice way of putting it, actually, I was rightly bitching about her all day as my photographer will attest) sold me 106cm wide fabric instead of the 110cm she claimed it was. All the spools of fabric were listed in inches and instead of using a calculator like a smart person, I just asked a staff member. Good job, Demi.

Anyways, that threw all my calculations out and I had to slash open the skirt for a zip. This skirt was a nightmare, but so worth it. I wanted to make a dress like this but wasn’t sure how it would work so I’m glad I made this test run. It’s not 100% perfect, because of all the various different techniques I tried to avoid slashing into the skirt (elastic waistbands look terrible on me, I’ve decided), but it’s good enough to wear to the shops, so I’m generally happy with it.

Gotta have that self-covered button.

Anyone interested in the pattern/tutorial for when I make the dress? I’m planning on sewing a full candy striper dress soon using this pattern! (We’ll see how that one goes, and this time I’m not asking the staff at the fabric store anything.)