Sewing an Aussie Easter Bilby Dress

Most people know the Easter bunny as a magical bunny that delivers chocolate eggs this time of year, but here in Australia, we have a magical marsupial known as the Easter Bilby. A bilby is a desert dwelling marsupial with long bunny-like ears that’s nocturnal, adorable and very much loved by all Aussies. Come Easter time, we hope to be visited by the Easter bilby and have them hopefully leave a choccy or two. As the Easter bilby doesn’t get a lot of attention overseas, I wanted to give it its moment in the sun, well, moonlight because it’s nocturnal. This year for Easter, I want to make a dress to give some love to the Easter bilby and test out a vintage sewing pattern at the same time. Although this years dress may not be as extravagant as last years, I hope you enjoy the creation journey.

Normally I would start with a look at the pattern but as we already know I’m making a dress to highlight the Easter bilby, I wanted to start with the fabric. Originally, I found this fabric towards the end of 2022 in a fabric store in York, a small town two hours out of Perth. The Australian Easter Bilby fabric I found came from The Devonstone Collection Easter Bilby Collection and was designed by Elise Martinson. The collection features this adorable Easter Billy print in a range of coloured backgrounds as well as complementary fabric to match. I had a hard time deciding what colour to choose but ultimately chose blue because they had the 4 meters I needed in stock and they were running out in the green. I am so happy with my choice as this fabric was so soft, well printed and a good thickness.

With our fabric acquired, it’s time to have a look at our vintage sewing pattern. I thought it was time to branch out with my sewing pattern companies and move away from the big 3 (Butterick, McCalls and Simplicity). Back in October/November last year, I found some amazing sewing patterns in Canberra and one of them happened to be Home Journal 9140. As I’m sewing a dress for an Aussie icon, I thought it might be very fitting to sew a dress from an iconic Aussie magazine, the Australian Home Journal. The Australian Home Journal was a monthly magazine similar to todays Better Homes and Garden. Inside, each magazine came with recipes, stories, tips for housekeeping and information on all the latest products, fashion and style. The magazine also came with sewing pattern in each edition which if you can find them, are absolutely gorgeous. Home Journal would also advertise additional sewing patterns which you could order via mail which is where our pattern came from.

Home Journal pattern 9140 features two dresses; the first has short sleeves and a yoked bodice which can be made with contrasting fabric. The skirt is full with a panel of more contrasting fabric which would have been ideal for this project had I gotten some complimentary fabric (hindsight right?). Currently, I am in Canberra again for Easter and I have a very basic sewing machine here which honestly isn’t that great. As I had never used this machine before, I figured a very simple pattern to even know if I could make a dress was the best choice. With this being the case, I decided to choose the second pattern on this envelope; a simple square neck bodice dress with thick shoulder straps and a gathered skirt. It’s not an elaborate pattern or anything as grand as last years dress, but given the circumstances, it’ll be perfect for this years Easter sewing attempt.

Sew, let’s get started. As I’m not at home, things are a little different for this sewing adventure. As I’m not used to carpet, I was really worried about cutting it by accident so I used some old cardboard boxes I found and cut them so they were wide and flat. The logical part of my brain thought that if I use a rotary cutter on the fabric with the cardboard underneath, the carpet would be safe and the fabric would cut. Turns out only the cardboard got cut up and the fabric stayed perfectly in tact; what is this witchcraft? Good thing I had my sewing scissors with me to cut out my pattern. I only need to cut out the front and back bodice pieces as the skirt would be a simple gathered skirt. I quickly noticed that the pattern had no facing pieces so I made my own by cutting out the bodice pieces from the shoulders down but not cutting the entire piece, stopping about a third down and then across in a slight curve. I could have just cut out the pattern pieces with some lining fabric but I didn’t have any with me and I’m trying really hard not to keep a lot of sewing supplied in a house that isn’t technically mine (I feel bad enough leaving a spare sewing machine here as it is). With my pieces all cut, it was time to start sewing.

Please do not buy the Stirling sewing machine from Aldi, it’s absolutely awful and you will not have a good time. As I started sewing, I quickly learnt how clunky, slow and easily jammed this machine would be and for the love of all that is vintage, do not touch the tension as you will just make thread noodles like there’s no tomorrow. It took me a little bit of time to sew some stay stitches and darts into the bodice before I connected the front and back bodice together. It was when I started sewing the facing together that I really started getting frustrated at my machine. Instead of giving up, I thought I’d pop to the shops and grab some sewing machine oil as maybe that would help. Good things Woolies sells sewing machine oil for only a couple of dollars because this magical elixir did the trick, well at least it made an improvement, and I was able to continue sewing.

Once I attached the facing to the main bodice of the dress, I clipped and trimmed the seam allowance and flipped the dress nightside out before giving it a really good iron. From there, I sewed down the side seams and the bodice got a final iron before being put aside. Looking back now, I could have brought in the bodice a little at the sides but I’m in the process of putting on some weight after being sick for a while so I’ll get back to this dress and it’s fitting once I’m a healthy weight again. The bodice didn’t take me long to put together. It would have come together faster without the sewing machine issues but regardless, this is a very simple bodice that is very beginner friendly. I do worry that this pattern may be too simple for my project but given my current circumstance, it’s the best I could do and I hope next years will be a little more elaborate.

It was time to move onto the skirt which was to be a simple rectangle skirt made up of three panels. I wanted to use the skirt pieces the pattern provided but my fabric wasn’t wide enough and I didn’t want the bilbies to be sideways. I cut three panels the width of the fabric and 27 inches in length and then sewed the sides together to create one long rectangle. It was here that I realised I had no dental floss (at least not the string kind) so it was back to the shops for me. Once I was back, I sewed a zig zag stitch with the dental floss sandwiched in the middle along the top edge of the skirt rectangle. Once sewn, I pushed the fabric along the floss to gather it down to the length of my bodices waist. I used my sewing clips to clip the skirt to the bodice before sewing it down. As I don’t have my overlocker with me, I used my pinking shears to finish the edges and stop it fraying before starting the last few steps I needed to complete my dress. I began my finishing the back seam and adding a zip. I didn’t have an invisible zipper foot so I opted for a normal dress zip which turned out fine. The last bit of sewing I needed to do was to hem my skirt and my dress was ready for its final iron.

For Christmas last year, my partner ordered me some custom printed fabric labels and visiting him now, I was finally able to see them. I absolutely love them and think they’re so cute. I peeled off the backing which revealed a glue side that’s only sticky when heat is added. When I was happy with the placement, I used my iron to attach the label to my inner facing and I finally had a dress with my very own label. These labels seem really well made, durable and I think the design my partner chose was very cute. The best part is, the labels aren’t itchy when worn against the skin which is a big plus.

Miss MonMon sews an Aussie Easter Bilby dress using a Home Journal 9140 vintage pattern.
Miss MonMon sews an Aussie Easter Bilby dress using a Home Journal 9140 vintage pattern.
Miss MonMon sews an Aussie Easter Bilby dress using a Home Journal 9140 vintage pattern.

This was a very simple pattern to sew but I’m glad I didn’t have the pressure of something very elaborate given I was sewing on a janky machine in a very limited space with only a handful of supplies. Home Journal 9140 was a great pattern and I want to try and make the more elaborate A design once I’m home and with more time on my side. Regardless, I am really happy with how this dress turned out. It was simple but the fabric got its moment to shine which is all I wanted for the Easter bilby.

As I am trying to get my weight back to something a little more healthy, I do want to bring the dress in a little at the sides as it’s a tiny bit too big but it’s nothing major. This dress would be cute with a cardigan and of course an easter themed brooch but as I have nothing like that with me, unfortunately styling will have to wait for a later date. For now, I’m going to enjoy my simple Easter dress, for a very small and quiet Easter in Canberra. I wanted to shoot this dress somewhere iconically Canberra, so these photos were taken outside parliament which is basically the central point of Canberra; makes sense seeing as it’s the Capitol of Australia.

Miss MonMon sews an Aussie Easter Bilby dress using a Home Journal 9140 vintage pattern.
Miss MonMon sews an Aussie Easter Bilby dress using a Home Journal 9140 vintage pattern.
Miss MonMon sews an Aussie Easter Bilby dress using a Home Journal 9140 vintage pattern.

Whether you celebrate the season or not, I want to wish you all a very happy, healthy and safe Easter long weekend. No matter what your plans are, I hope you enjoy your long weekend and find some time for self care even if it’s just eating a chocolate bilby. I am sorry to say that I wasn’t able to make my vintage Easter lamb cake this year as I am travelling but feel free to check out attempts from previous years, especially this one if you need a laugh. I am hoping to make a lamb cake a later date this year but my schedule is very intense for the next few months. I do still have posts (almost) all ready to go for the next few weeks so I will keep you all informed with any changes.

Happy Easter everyone!


Note: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions and thoughts expressed are solely my own and not influenced in any way. There are no affiliate links and I do not benefit from any link clicks or purchases made.


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