Tag Archives: Etsy

Hello World!

26 Sep

Alphitomancy is back!

Hello everyone! After a month in ‘holiday mode’, Alphitomancy is ready to come back into the light (or at least into the grey-white cloud cover) and rejoin the world.

I’ve moved north-north-north-north-and-to-the-west-a-bit to Reading, England. I’ve been in the UK for almost a month now, travelling around the place to say hello to family, go on honeymoon and set up the flat in Reading. Whew! What a month!

I’ve been to England many times before, but always as a tourist. My first impressions of residing in England are: forms, licenses, and having to say “Oh, I think that’s what we call…” because everything is slightly different. Also, apologising for not understanding a process or system and explaining that I’m Australian. Once those things stopped clouding my vision, I was able to see all the wonderful new things that are in my life now:

  • I’m in berry heaven! Raspberries for £2 a punnet, blackberries, redcurrant tarts… It’s wonderful!
  • Cheese is so much cheaper here than in Australia, and so much stinkier!
  • People are really friendly, and will chat to you about anything.

We went even more north to Scotland for our honeymoon. If you haven’t been, put it on your list and make sure you write ‘Highlands’ next to it. It’s so worth going.

Just get to the fabric already.

Alright. In Beauly, which is west of Inverness in the Highlands, there is a fantastic shop that you absolutely must go into if you’re in the area. It’s called Campbell & Co, and is a family-run business founded in 1858 and run by the current family generation of brothers and sisters all above the age of 60. They are just gorgeous together, and I guarantee you have never seen more elegant ladies in tartan and tweed and wool.

The shop is stacked floor to ceiling with tweed bolts, and they have furniture custom-made to accommodate bolts of fabric,  huge cutting tables and the biggest, sharpest scissors I have ever seen!

Family-run business in Beauly, Scotland. Definitely worth a visit!

Family-run business in Beauly, Scotland. Definitely worth a visit!

Tweed bolts stacked to the ceiling

Tweed bolts stacked to the ceiling

They also make the clothing up for you, if you want.

Alphitomancy is back online

Alphitomancy will be brought back online on Etsy very shortly. New items will be appearing, inspired by my recent travels and my new surroundings! I’m so excited to get back to work.


The Home-Made Bride

8 Aug

In March this year I got engaged! It was very exciting, dizzying and yes, busy. As an avid list enthusiast, I was ready to take on the wedding prep and roll up my sleeves. We decided to get married in July – this year – which gave around four months to plan the whole thing.

And, because I like a challenge, I decided to make my own wedding dress. I will say this: it seemed like a good idea at the time. And now that it’s done, it was a good idea. But the week before the wedding, I did not think that way.

I want to use this post to show what I was doing for the period between March and July 2013 instead of meeting up with friends, enjoying evenings, relaxing at weekends, and creating more items for my Etsy store.

So, here it is. Here is how I became The Home-Made Bride.


This is how my conversations started in March: “I got engaged!”

Everyone wanted to see the ring, which I didn’t have because it was being resized – it was my great-grandmother’s engagement ring. When I couldn’t show them the ring, they asked when the wedding was.

“July”, I said to blank faces. Then they thought it must be July 2014, or 15, or 35.

“No, this July”

What they said as a response shouldn’t really be repeated here. Then I broke the news: “And, I’m making my own dress”

This was too much for people.

I’ve been sewing properly since February 2012. I enrolled in an industrial sewing and garment production course at the Canberra Institute of Technology with a friend, and we learnt industrial methods for making clothes. I left CIT after one semester to focus on domestic sewing techniques with my fabulous sewing mentor – the Needlewitch, aka Bernadette. So, although I did have some quite developed sewing skills, there wasn’t a lot of experience floating around in my head. But, Bernadette believed in me and said she would help me out.

I had purchased Vogue Pattern v1084 last year, and when thinking of a wedding dress, all I could think of was this dress. I just knew it would be my wedding dress.

Here’s how the dress started out: Just a fabric swatch and a list of materials. I ordered them from EM Greenfield, Surry Hills.


Just a swatch and a list

I decided on off-white silk dupion, with off-white silk/satin lining and a navy blue petticoat made of polyester organza on silk/cotton.



I made the first toile out of cream poplin. The first two steps were horrendous! These were the first tears of many for this project. But, I did what many do when confronted with a crisis – I got my mum. We just stood and looked at the pattern instructions until we figured it out. The problem was that it’s a kimono sleeve with a side front panel – three sides to join, one a right angle. Difficult. Now I’m a pro at them, but at that time it was a nightmare join to make.


Paper panel pieces

The major problem was the underarm reinforcement. I had to just keep sewing that same part over and over again to get it right. I’m not sure that it really did that much to the actual dress, but I’m glad I did it anyway.

The underarm reinforcement

The underarm reinforcement

Once the first two steps were out of the way, the rest was surprisingly simple. I drew all over the toile to help with fitting. Bernadette had offered me some fittings with her as an engagement present – the most valuable present in the whole world.


Toile markings

The toile sort of fitted – a miracle for me because of my narrow shoulders and waist – but I hated the neckline on me. Bernadette fixed that by making the neck into a boat neck – much more flattering on me – and doing some adjustments to the waist. So far, I had a weird, cream, see-through poplin dress with writing all over it. Not very weddingy.


I made the adjustments, but ran out of cream poplin and could only get yellow. So I had a two-toned, weird, see-through poplin dress with writing all over it. Less and less weddingy all the time.

I kept working on the dress, doing and re-doing tricky seams and joins and learning different techniques ahead of the actual dress. I was itching to get into the real material, but also terrified. But, just because something is terrifying doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.


Crumpled up two-toned second toile

The next fitting went well. The dress fitted perfectly. I was ready to start making the real dress. I didn’t feel ready, but it was time.


The material had to be laundered and pressed, and pressed, and pressed. I had 9m of silk dupion, 6.5 of silk satin and I won’t even get into the organza yet. I starched the silk satin with Crisp (not enough Crisp, as it turned out) to stop it moving around during cutting, but it had no effect so I ended up with lumpy lining pieces. More tears.


Here is me cutting ever-so-carefully.

The silk went better. It was like cutting paper. It was so gorgeous and luxurious and wonderful to work with. But it frayed! Just looking at it frayed it. But it all got cut out, and I started sewing. I did more and more each day and tried to just keep ploughing through it.

Soon, I started to have things that looked a bit weddingy all over the place.


The right front panel, with HK finish on side front edge

I bound some of the edges for a Hong Kong finish on the side front panels with bridal ivory binding from Addicted to Fabric in Phillip, ACT. Fabulous shop. For the long seams, I did a French seam – my favourite seam. The pure silk thread I used for the dress was from Canberra Sewing, also in Phillip – the shop my domestic classes were held in. Buy local where possible!

It’s not a very glamorous way to see a wedding dress, but this is the reality of making clothing.


Not very glamorous

I ran into a fairly major problem with the lining. Bernadette had suggested I do a flat lining, meaning that I cut the pattern pieces out on silk and then again on silk satin, tack the two together and make as one garment, rather than inserting a lining into the already made dress. The problem was that the silk satin had moved during cutting and after and so didn’t fit the outer pieces. Many, many tears. I had made a big error by hanging the pieces before they were all bound and sewn together, which stretched them as the skirt panels were cut on the bias. I think I gained about 10cm in length, which robbed the side edges because of the stretching.

At this point I didn’t know if I was even going to be able to keep going with it. I really didn’t know what to do. It was a real low point in the whole project. I had wasted all that time, all that money, and all that lovely fabric. But, Bernadette answered my ‘Dress SOS’ email with a calm ‘Come and see me, we’ll figure it out’.

We ended up having to use a quilt basting glue spray to spray the materials together on the skirt, and then cut about an inch off the sides of the skirt panels. It was such a wide skirt that it didn’t matter, and maybe even improved it on my small frame. It was a very tense few days though.

It was successful, but meant washing the dress a few times to get the glue out.

It all came together, and soon I was able to put the dress on, and yes, it did look a bit weddingy. Not all that much, but better than the toiles by a long way!


The last few stages were fairly painstaking – hemming, binding the neck, and doing the zip.


Hemming part 1

Part of me is still glad I don’t have to hem and handstitch it ever again.

Hours and hours at the ironing board, hand sewing the hem up

Hours and hours at the ironing board, hand sewing the hem up


So, it’s mid-July, and around a week before the wedding. Most of the dress is in hand, and it’s time to think about other things like finishing touches. These ‘touches’ include finishing the petticoat, which I had been working on for many weeks. Every evening after work, I would sit and seam bind organza ruffles – I used 28m of seam binding. I thought it would go on forever, and I think I did slip into a ‘ruffle-coma’ at one point.

Here is a bit of a montage:

Seam binding on the ruffle edge

Seam binding on the ruffle edge

Just keep sewing

Just keep sewing

The first layer of ruffles

The first layer of ruffles


After all the hours, weeks, months, and all the tears, failures and successes, I finally made it. My mum sewed the button at the back neckline just before Thursday 18 July turned into Friday 19 July – the wedding was Saturday 20 July.

What I had dreaded for four months was that I would look like ‘the home-made bride’, stumbling around in a lumpy, ill-fitting mess. What I ended up with was a beautiful dress that fit me perfectly, was flattering to my body shape and made me feel great. I also had a tremendous sense of accomplishment. I learnt a lot about sewing, discipline, deadlines, techniques, and more importantly, some life lessons. One thing I will remember forever is what I learnt about the importance of setting challenges for yourself, and also the difference between failure and success. I learnt that for a lot of the way through any process, it feels like failure for 99% of the time. It’s that 1% at the end, when you realise it’s worked, that you can look back and see the path you took and feel good about it. But most of the time you’re doing something, it feels like you’re just ambling about without much chance of getting anywhere.

And, I’m proud to say, my biggest fear came true. I was the ‘home-made bride’, but instead of it being embarrassing, it was liberating and wonderful! I’m proud to be ‘The Home-Made Bride’.

If you want to be a home-made bride too, I say: do it! You’ll be hard-pressed to find something more rewarding to work on. But, if you are going to do something like make your own wedding dress, remember your family and friends are there to support you and encourage you. And, trust your instinct that when you have a weird yellow and cream see-through toile with writing all over it, you can end up with something completely weddingy!

The Home-Made Bride and the Groom

The Home-Made Bride and the Groom

Bride and Groom and Groom's parents

Bride and Groom and Groom’s parents

With the coat that I made for the wedding - it was freezing

With the coat that I made for the wedding – it was freezing

Windy, cold day!

Windy, cold day!

Autumn leaves

17 Apr

Autumn leaves

Gorgeous red autumn leaves at their most vibrant. We are, at the moment, in that one week when the leaves are at their most beautiful before they turn brown and fall to the ground.

This time is great for short scarves and cowls, and for changing the wardrobe over to the warmer items (and finding your coats again).

There are a couple of items in my Etsy shop which are perfect for this time of year. One is the hand-knitted chocolate brown cowl with wooden buttons – the wool is naturally that colour – and the other is the zig-zag coconut wood button ring. Check them out at http://www.etsy.com/shop/alphitomancy

Hand-knitted naturally coloured chocolate brown cowl

Hand-knitted naturally coloured chocolate brown cowl

Coconut wood button ring with zig-zag pattern - gorgeous for autumn!

Coconut wood button ring with zig-zag pattern – gorgeous for autumn!

Coconut-wood button rings

27 Mar

Alphitomancy took a ‘business’ trip to Sydney recently and stopped by the fabulous Buttons Buttons Buttons shop at The Rocks. While there, we fell in love with these coconut-wood buttons and went a bit mad buying them.

Each button is slightly different, because of the nature of the material. There are some lines, different colours on the back and creases which gives each one a unique character.

They are the most gorgeous buttons ever, and I couldn’t resist! I’ve been making them into rings and wearing them with simple monochrome dresses to work. I’m selling them for $11-16AUD on my Etsy site.




26 Mar




a means of divination using special cakes that are said to have a pleasant taste only for persons with a clear conscience.

[French alphitomantie, from Greek alphitomantis a diviner who used barley meal, from Greek alphiton barley meal]Image

‘alphitomancy’ is the best word I know, and not just because it has something to do with cake. It is a link to a past which is filled with absurd, odd, unexpected things.


Am I an alphitomancer? No. Although sometimes my cakes don’t work out, so I might use that as an excuse and predict a terrible future for someone.


I started the shop because I like fiddling around with buttons and craft supplies, and they are mounting up around the place.