Toolbox Series: Catherine Alenka

Toolbox Series: Catherine Alenkafeatured

If you’re a regular visitor at Makers Society, you may remember that few weeks back we posted a fun little photoshoot with Catherine. She’s back again this week give us a peak inside her toolbox and showing us what it takes to create all those beautiful dresses! And like our previous toolbox post, Catherine has a day job that is a little different to her online life…

The Job


1. What is your profession?

Currently my dream profession of dressmaking is second to my day job as Team Coordinator at an Australian telco, but with the money I earn there I spend it on supplies for sewing up adorable dresses and outfits, in particular 1960s and 1970s inspired beauties that I show off on my blog, Sewingthe60s. I sometimes also sew things to sell, which I would love to do more often. A lot of the dresses are makes from vintage patterns and some are direct copies of certain well known designer’s dresses like Biba or Mary Quant. I also do some tutorials on modifying your clothes to give them a 60s look and also write about 60s fashion and cultural history. Fashion and history – two of my loves!

2. How did you get into doing what you do?

As kids my mum always sewed. Everything from our church outfits to Hammer pants. So I have always sewn even with little bits of fabric for my dolls, but the serious sewing happened around 8 years ago. I just wanted to make the sorts of clothes I wanted but could never seem to find! I loved all the beautiful mini dresses from the 60s and I knew I would never find them in my size or at a reasonable price in the vintage stores, so I resolved to sewing my dream wardrobe, inspired by movies, models and designers of the 60s. I had always had an online presence on Burdastyle, but moved across to my own blog a year ago.

3. What motivates or inspires you?

1960s movies, books and pictures from the era mainly. I enjoy reading biographies of well-known designers, models and musicians of the 60’s and from there it will influence my next pattern choice. I usually then ‘dedicate’ my project to that person, for example least year I read up on Barbara Hulanicki and Biba, and immediately decided to sew up a black chiffon dress with gold print details in the Biba style (big sleeves, small bodice and waist, A line skirt) and named the dress Barbara!

4. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Hmm, I don’t often have grand hopes for myself, and it might take more than 5 years, but I’d love to quite my office job and blog/sew full time and just sew lots of things to sell on Etsy or at the markets!

5. When you’re not doing your work job, what are some hobbies you enjoy.

I really like to cook yummy meals, as well as classic crafts like knitting and cross stitch. I tired bargello needlework once but didn’t finish it, and I am really fascinated by weaving at the moment but I haven’t found the time to finish my first project yet!

So…what’s in your toolbox?

Essentially we want to know what items, apps and resources do you need/have to work with? They can be something as mundane as pens, as time-wasting as Pinterest or as quirky as a mouldy slice of bread.

The local Op Shops


I love popping in to check out their fabric and pattern stashes. I’ve gotten some really great stuff from those bins. No one ever looks in there as their normally thought of a scraps or curtains, but there is often some huge amount of fabric just waiting! I sometimes also pick up cute vintage clothes or modern clothes that I modify into something better.



Good dressmakers shears or scissors are so very important. Mine are a Brazilian brand Mondial and I’ve had them for 9 years and they’ve never dulled and still easily cut a sharp clear cut. It’s important not to cut anything other than fabric with these shears and I’m sure every seamstress has a story about a family member using theirs for something completely inappropriate! The little blue ribbon I tied on while at TAFE to make sure mine didn’t get lost



Even though most of these books are too big to carry around, I sometimes just use them as a reference when writing a blog post, or looking for ideas on what to sew next. I love the big heavy ones. They always have the best pictures!



Even though some sewers might have amazing looking work, The amount of time spent with this tool in hand results in all that beautiful work. Once you make one mistake you normally don’t do it again. This little guy helps to forgive all errors and also help make slashes for button holes!

Sewing Machine


This is my plastic fantastic machine Dolly! I named her after my nanna Dolores who was a very crafty lady and even taught my dad to sew. When I was little, if I showed any sort of creative skill, my mum would say how creative I was like my nanna. She lived away in Adelaide so I only got to see her about 10 times in my life before she passed away, but she always was so friendly and I like to still think I inherited my knack for picking up crafts from her.



I love my sewing collection! I have 95 vintage and a few new patterns. I mainly focus on 60′s and 70′s patterns (Hence my blog name) and buy a lot of them on Etsy. Sometimes I pick some up from the opp shops or have a pattern swap with fellow sewers. Vintage patterns are great to perfect a look from a certain error without and changes to bust or hemlines.

Head over to Catherine’s blog to see her full collection of 60s dresses and tutorials or follow her on Instagram!

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