Picnicking with Wallabies

Posted Friday, 10 August, 2018

Hello sewists!

I’ve surprised myself by having another make completed and another blog post before baby! It wasn’t particularly planned, but after the lovely outing we had yesterday I thought, ‘why not?’

You’ll see that there is quite a juxtaposition between the photos taken at home with my flowers and then out picnicking at Simpson’s Gap (a stunning rock formation and literal "gap" in the ranges about 17kms West of Alice Springs, located in the West MacDonnells National Park). This is because while I was dressed for the occassion, in honour of Picnic Day (my favourite Northern Territory public holiday, celebrated annually on the first Monday in August) I had no idea we were going so far...or even if we were going to make it out the door. We were doing this belatedly and I was half expecting that our “picnic” would be a backyard BBQ!

That’s just how the day goes sometimes, isn’t it? Rather than trying to perpetuate some sort of narrative, I decided that I’d just go with my mix of English country flowers and trusty purple wall, alongside the raw beauty that is the Australian Outback.

I hope that there’s something in these disjointed photos to make you smile too.

The Alex Shirt Dress (I’ve sewn the top version) is from My Capsule Wardrobe: City Break e-book by Sew Over It. This is my third time sewing this pattern. My first two dress versions were sewn a couple of years ago and have always been on the larger side. Case in point; I was able to wear both throughout this pregnancy. I kept them around, despite them being too big, for this purpose! They are a smidge snug on me now (at full gestation), and are definitely hard workers wardrobe-wise. 

For my third Alex I decided to go with the top version because I wanted something that would be suitable to wear now, can be dressed up and down, and also appropriate for breastfeeding.  

This top is constructed with a lovely checked cotton from The Fabric Store – bought specifically with this pattern in mind. The fact that I reached for it leading up to Picnic Day is just good timing! 

Sewing Notes:

  • Alex is a straightforward pattern with enough technique required to keep construction interesting, but not too fiddly as I’m a bit short on time.
  • I love the softness of the collar as there is no collar stand or interfacing required. This is a detail common to a lot of vintage blouses and I think it lends the garment a more casual sort of look. Also, for those who may be a bit nervous to tackle collars yet, this is a great option.
  • I omitted the sleeve tabs – the buttons that I selected were too large anyway, but it was really due to personal preference. Redrafting a little sleeve tab would take less than 5 minutes if you wanted one to accommodate a different button size.
  • I sewed both the yoke and the pockets on the bias. This a) negates the need for pattern matching across the checks and b) adds a bit of interest to the finished garment. I chose to cut the inner yoke on the grain as a precaution to avoid any distortion.
  • Fit-wise I chose to wear this version open for the time being. It does close over my bust and my stomach and if I had been this large earlier in my pregnancy I would have definitely sized up to maximise wear. As it stands, there is a LOT of ease in this garment so that really helps with size selection if you find you want something more flowy or your weight/shape is fluctuating for any reason. If you are sewing for maternity, check wearing ease and dip the hem by about 2" at the front. That should retain balance at the hem nice for some time. You can also wear a belt to cinch things in for more of an empire waistline.
  • Finally, there is a little bit of hand sewing involved – which I am usually loathe to do, but I took this as a good opportunity to practise neatening my slipstitching. Whenever I feel tempted to be a bit lazy technique-wise, I like to imagine that I am making something for a client and so will strive for perfection. Does anyone else do something similar? 

After reaching for this Picnic Day top I decided to go a little rockabilly casual with my trusty converses trainers and tights (yes, I know they’re not pants, and I wish that I was sorrier about it than I am). They’ve been getting me around town quite well of late and I knew we’d have a busy day. A red lip covers a multitude of fashion sins anyway – so surely that, plus my cute jam jar brooch, makes it all ok? 

When all the errands were out of the way I put together a picnic lunch/late afternoon meal and we hopped in the car and headed west.

Simpson’s Gap is known to the Arrente Aboriginal people, the traditional custodians of this land, as Rungutjirpa and is a significant spiritual site. Several dreaming trails and stories intersect here, these being; perentie (goanna), eagle and rock wallaby. For a little more information, this website may be a useful starting point.

It’s so beautiful and is the sort of location where if you didn’t know a little of the history, you’d definitely still sense that this is a place of importance.

The rock formations are of such a grand scale that it’s almost as though you’re in a natural cathedral. Instead of stained glass, there is light shifting and casting a glow over everything, intensifying some features and softly blurring others. When you’re quiet and still you can see that there is so much life and movement in the desert. More than I would have known how to see, even a year ago. A lot of it is just knowing how to “be” out here.

With that said, there is the cutest colony of black-footed rock wallabies that lives at Simpson's Gap too! While Luke and I sat in the riverbed we saw three of them pop up and traverse the rockface with their long tails. Their camouflage is incomparable and my hot-tip for wallaby spotting is to wait for your eye to catch the movement, rather than trying to see them first.

This same tip also applies to platypus spotting, but that’s a story for another day.

How about you? Is somewhere like Simpson's Gap on your bucket-list? Where are your top "must-see" destinations? Am I the only one who accepts activewear (namely, tights) as pants nowadays? I must know! Please comment below. 

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