I have this theory about fashion trends and sewing. Being able to sew amplifies any trend (well, it does in my closet anyway!).
I’ve always been interested in fashion and I’ve always followed trends to one degree or another. But ever since I began sewing, fashion trends have been so much more pronounced as they’ve worked their way into my wardrobe.
In 2012 (pre-blogging photos from the archives), I made peplums. There were more than these, but I can’t find the photos right now.
Next, I made drop waist dresses. There were more here too.
Then I made culottes, which gradually progressed to wide leg and gaucho pants.
Now, I’m working through the off-shoulder/cold-shoulder trend. There have been other trends along the way that also managed to captivate my interest. I seem to make between 3-5 garments that are in line with any trend. In my pre-sewing days, I’d have purchased 1-2 trend-driven pieces and otherwise kept to classic staples.
I’ve been thinking a lot about why sewing enables me to do this. Here are my ideas:
Sometimes it takes more than one go to get a handmade garment right. A wearable muslin first, followed by a better version immediately doubles the number of items. Maybe I would have bought one RTW item in the past, but I would have had the opportunity to try on several first to find which one worked best. You don’t get that opportunity with home sewing.
If the design worked and it fitted well, of course I’ll want to sew it again. And sometimes it’s simply easier to sew repeats than to work through new designs and muslins, particularly if the garment was seasonably appropriate and nice to wear.
Sewing means that I can refashion, recycle, and reuse old fabrics and old clothes. It means that I can also make more trend-driven items without spending more, or expanding my wardrobe. I don’t have to be as sensible with my clothing choices, because I can always refashion back to sensible if need be.
Sometimes (if I really like a style) I might decide to digitize a pattern, which means I have to test the pattern and make it perfect, thereby making multiple versions of the same style.
It usually costs me next to nothing to sew a few extra pieces. This wasn’t always the case though. When I was a beginner, there were so many wadders and ho-hum makes that it cost more to sew than to buy RTW (just check out those peplums!). These days, it’s very economical for me. I spend well on fabric for classic, long term pieces. I save a fortune by making swimsuits and leotards for myself and my girls. And for the trend-driven items that I know will only last a season, I’ll often use thrifted, upcycled, or economically priced fabric that is nice enough to produce a quality garment, but costs a tiny fraction of RTW. For example, the entire fabric cost of all the cold-shoulder makes below was about $18 (the largest portion coming from the $10-15 white linen tablecloth of which I still have a lot remaining). I also know that I’m very capable of cutting up any of those tops and dresses to refashion into something new down the track.
I can make it so I can do it. And I can do it now! Sewing gives me freedom to follow a trend and make something immediately. Unlike RTW shopping where I’d have a vision in my mind but never be able to find exactly what I wanted, sewing enables me to make a garment to match my vision. It also enables the power of now. I can cut up an old sheet on the spot and make something at midnight, before garments hit RTW shops or are even available online. I’m not saying I do this, but I could!
So I think this explains how I end up with so many trend-driven pieces in my closet each year. It may seem like I have a lot of clothes, but I take a lot of care (via refashioning) to make sure that my closet doesn’t expand too much, despite sewing all year round. I’m also lucky to have a lot of girls to sew for. In any case, I think I’m just about ready to move on to my next obsession. I just have to figure out what it will be!
If you follow me on Instagram or Snapchat, you’d know that I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time at the pool this Summer. And trust me, as an ex-swimmer, I do not use the word “inordinate” lightly.
I never intended for my girls to love swimming. I just wanted them to be able to swim. But perhaps my standard for what constitutes proper swimming is slightly higher than the average Joe. And it’s also possible that my passion for the sport has rubbed off a little despite my best intentions. In any case, Miss Eight is obsessed. It’s also been stinking hot in Kansas City, so in addition to the practice and the meets, we’re at one of the local pools most evenings for a dip after dinner. Our bathers are getting a serious workout.
Finding the best swimsuit fabrics has been a big learning experience for me and not one that can be evaluated overnight. Feeling the fabrics and sewing with them is one thing, but it’s not until you immerse them in chlorine, salt, UV light, and sweat twice daily that you really get a good idea of what works the best. In order of preference (the top three tie), here are my honest evaluations.
Oh, you all know that I have a fondness for Tessuti Fabrics, but it’s not without good reason. I don’t think they’re really known for their swimsuit fabrics, but they do seem to get in a few nice prints each year. I’m pretty sure the owner hand picks their fabrics personally on their annual buying trips, but I’m not really sure where their swimsuit fabrics come from. I’ve used at least five different swimsuit fabrics of theirs (paisley, red cherries, green cherries, floral, rainbow scales) and they’ve outlasted all of the other swimsuit fabrics so far.
I should also note that leotards in our house are not just used for gymnastics. They’re rotated in as swimwear for play (not practice) because they offer a better cover up from the sun (and sometimes we can’t be bothered to get changed!). Yes, the prints have faded, but that happens with all swimsuit fabric exposed to chlorine and UV light. Yes, their fabrics may be a little more pricey than other places (but they’re a great bargain as a remnant) and the fabrics last.
This was my biggest wild card. All I wanted was a tiger print and I would have bought the fabric from anywhere. I couldn’t find what I wanted so I had to make my own. I can’t comment on other Spoonflower fabrics but I really do love their sports lycra. Like Funki Fabrics, the print is placed on white fabric, but the fabric is quite thick as far as swimsuit fabrics go. It may have a tiny bit less stretch that comes with the thickness, but the weight lends itself to a flattering fit, no sagging, or losing shape when wet. And it looks great without lining.
So far, the integrity of all my Spoonflower sports lycra is exactly as it was when it was sewn. This is most apparent when it’s been paired with other fabrics (like the blue of the swimsuit above) that has fared a lot less well. I will definitely buy Spoonflower sports lycra again. It’s not cheap, but the quality is good (which means it lasts longer). And I save on not having to fully line it. I’m very keen to check out some other prints. I feel like this will become my “novelty” swimsuit fabric favourite for my girls.
I’ve only bought a few swimsuit fabrics from here, mostly designer brands. They were also awesome. The fabric faded over the years, but it generally retained it’s original elasticity and is lasting extremely well. And the key word you should note in that sentence was ‘years’. If a swimsuit fabric is lasting years over weeks, then there’s something good going on there.
The quality of the fabric was really high which I suspect is due to the fact that they were designer labels, like Anna & Boy and Zimmerman. I keep meaning to investigate their new online presence. I used to love visiting the Fabric Store when I lived in Sydney but they fell off the radar for me when I moved overseas.
I’ve only sewn with their Limited Edition Solids and swimsuit linings. I love their swimsuit linings. They have good colour choices in the linings and they work beautifully under swimsuit fabrics. The linings are also a pretty awesome price which will keep me going back.
I have a slightly different view of the solids, which is not to say that I won’t use them again. The Solids come in an amazing array of colours, which will tempt me back when I’m after something specific. They are also one of the smoothest and most luxurious swimsuit fabrics I have ever felt. However, even the colours that appear opaque really need to be lined if they are going to get wet. I’ve sewn with a blue, green and a grey. They all feel fabulous dry, but they just look too thin against the body when wet. When fully lined, it is an entirely different matter. I love my Splash Swimsuit, but without the lining I think it would be unwearable for an adult.
I’d be interested to see how their prints work, since I know a print can disguise a fabric’s shortcomings somewhat. I’ll also continue to use their solids for dancewear for my girls, as well as smaller contrast sections in swimwear.
I was given these fabrics for free a while back, but like I said in that earlier post, it’s very difficult to make a proper assessment of swimsuit fabric without actually swimming. I’ll stand by what I said about their variety of prints.
Their printed swimsuit fabrics are probably the lightest weight I’ve dealt with, but only slightly so. They are also white-backed with a digitally printed front. I chose light-coloured prints which really needed to be lined (but this would be expected with any light-coloured print swimsuit fabric).
These fabrics did not last very long compared to my girls’ other swimsuits. They were actually the first swimsuits I had to throw away from having worn out, rather then been passed down to a smaller sister first. I’ll admit that we’re all pretty rough on our swimsuits here. I don’t rinse out the chlorine… ever! But I was still a little disappointed at how quickly these fabrics began to disintegrate.
However, it’s also important to note that Funki Fabrics do sell more robust swimwear fabrics, but just not in the prints that we’re used to seeing from them. Unfortunately, their Perform range only comes in black or white.
My experience here is extremely limited and not likely to improve anytime soon since they’re closing their doors. But I’d place their business in the same category as Joann or Spotlight when it comes to fabric. I picked up a shiny blue swimsuit remnant there for just a few dollars. It worked ok unlined (for kids bathers), but a lining would have significantly improved its appearance. This fabric also deteriorated very, very quickly.
I wonder if the age of the fabric plays a part in this. How do you know how old the fabric roll is that you’re buying from? It’s the elastic within the fabric that seems to dissolve/rot away and we all know that elastic is decayed by age, light and heat. I remember going through thousands of pairs of Speedos as a teenager (during my competitive swimming years). I’d generally get two months out of a pair of bathers before I had to wear two pairs together. And every now and again I’d strike out with a pair that would literally begin to deterioriate within a few weeks. Now I wonder if they were just made using an old or bad fabric batch.
So this has been my experience with swimsuit fabrics to date. I’ve been sewing swimsuits and leotards now for about three years. I’ve probably made over two dozen pairs, half of which remained in my ownership (3 girls, every year, Summer + Winter leotards + swimsuit = easy math). Of these, I’ve only thrown away about five (worn out) suits. The first two pairs I biffed were leotards where the metallic fabric (Mood) bit the dust. Next went the first swimsuit I ever made (the Tessuti Fabrics (paisley) which lasted through two children over 2.5 years, including being worn over clothes in Winter when swimming was not an option). The last two pairs I threw away were the Funki Fabrics duo, which sadly only lasted one season. Every other suit has been passed on to the next child or stored away.
Now, I’m not an expert when it comes to swimsuit fabrics. I’ve only shopped at five vendors and I haven’t tried all that they have to offer, but I still wanted to share my experience. I know there must be other places out there and I’m always open to new ideas. If your experience was different or if I should have tried a different product, speak up! I’d love to hear from you as my swimsuit sewing shows no sign of subsiding any time soon. Where do you buy your swimsuit fabrics from?
I was recently contacted by HATCH Hats, to see if I’d like to try out some of their hats and possibly feature a giveaway on my blog. So I checked out their products and was pleasantly surprised with what they had to offer.
I don’t photograph myself in hats very often, but I probably should! It’s who I am in real life. On more than one occasion, I’ve been called The Hat Lady or The Mum in the Hat Family. What can I say? I’m Australian. Sun safety has been drilled into me since I was a child. No hat means no play to kids in Australian schools. Literally. It’s a rule I continue to enforce with my kids here. We wear hats everywhere. And we probably stand out a bit for doing so. But it’s worth it. You don’t need me to tell you that skin cancer is the real deal, but the sun is also your worst enemy when it comes to premature skin ageing.
When it comes to sunhats, I look for a few features. Functionality is important to me. I need a broad brim and I need it to fit securely. I have enough on my plate each day without having to keep one hand on my hat to prevent it from flying away. Hatch Hats are comfortable and they do actually stay put. There is an adjustable band of elastic within the facing that helps fit the hat securely to the head.
I also love the selection of styles available. I chose the Sophisticate in grey (below) and the broad brimmed Weaver (above). The Sophisticate pairs perfectly with my new silk Chloe and white Esthers. I’ve been wearing this hat to late afternoon swim meets and to all the evening parties that happen in Summer here. The brim on the Sophisticate is narrower, but it still provides some protection from the hot, late afternoon sun and I LOVE the beaded band.
I’ve been wearing my Weaver nearly every day too. It has a great, broad brim which has made it my daytime go-to. I love that the brim is stiff enough to resist flopping down over my eyes.
The great people at HATCH Hats want to give away a sunhat each to two lucky people. Follow HATCH Hats on Instagram and like the photo linked to this giveaway. The winner will be selected at random on Friday, June 24th and announced that day via Instagram and Facebook. No purchase necessary. US + Canada only.
Disclaimer: I was given these awesome hats for free, in exchange for writing a review and featuring them on my blog. As always, I only accept products if I’m genuinely interested in them. And the opinions expressed are entirely my own.
There’s never any fabric waste in my house, especially when it’s something as lovely as this Saratoga knit by O! Jolly!. I only had the tiniest amount left after finishing my Megan longline cardigan, but I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it.
I used the raglan view of V8952 as a base for the top. I made a few fit modifications, raised the neckline, and added my own neck and hem bands. I used some plain white ponte for the back and sleeves, and seamed together three scraps of Saratoga knit for the front. I love the texture of the spongy knit as a feature and the contrast of cream against white.
The shorts are an old favourite and TNT for me. I used the Esther shorts pattern and simply added an asymmetrical overlay at the front. I used scraps for this make too. I salvaged some gorgeous, meaty Theory cotton sateen (from this dress) to use for the back of the shorts and for the front overlay. The dress was tired (with a few stains) and needed to be retired. I didn’t have quite enough sateen though, so I used some scrap linen for the shorts front and overlay lining. The linen was too lightweight for the shorts on its own, but perfect for this design where the front is layered.
I’ll wear these shorts a lot. I made a yellow version a few years ago which are still on the go, but have been downgraded to gardening/painting gear. It feels good to replace a wardrobe item that was very much loved.
I made this little dress way back in April for my daughter’s birthday. She specifically requested it. We’d just been through the seasonal wardrobe shuffle which meant that a lot of her dresses were passed onto her younger sister, including this favourite that I made for her last year.
The pattern is the Twirl to Me dress, in the maxi length. The fabric is vintage, found at an estate sale for less than a few dollars. It is a beautiful cotton sateen, but quite an old fashioned print. I was surprised that Coco picked this from my stash, but it ended up suiting the dress very nicely.
I know she’ll get a lot of twirls out of this little party dress. It’s obviously not quite as practical as a simple T and shorts, or the tunic dresses I make for her day to day wear, but it is a dress that makes her feel special when she wears it. And everybody needs something like that in their closet.
My girls have been watching my production of cold-shoulder dresses and tops and begging me to make them the same. This make is literally all scraps, right down to the miscellaneous, handmade, but unmatched silk and rayon bias bindings.
The fabric is an old poly from Spotlight. It fades a little, and catches occasionally, but it’s lightweight, and otherwise wears pretty well. In fact, it wears incredibly well, because I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Miss Eight wearing her other dress in this fabric at least twice a week since I made it.
This dress was always intended as a wearable muslin, but it has turned into one of those rare occasions where I don’t want to change a single thing about it. And I’m pretty sure Miss Eight feels the same. I’ve been watching her wear it. It looks comfortable and non-restrictive for play. It’s nearly too short for her, but she likes to wear bike pants under dresses anyway, so it still works. On an average height girl, the dress would be more modest.
Miss Six and Miss Four have put in their orders so I better get to work grading this pattern down for them. It looks like we might all be twinning in a few weeks.
And in my best attempt at boring the beautifully knitted socks off y’all… here is yet another cold shoulder dress. I’d call it my favourite, but I’m still so desperately in love with this one.
I know very well that this style is trend-driven and it doesn’t suit everybody’s aesthetics. There’s heaps of ease through the body to make this dress so glorious to wear on hot days. The easy fitting, slipover design imparts a sense of freedom to the wearer. If you like your dresses fitted, this one just isn’t for you.
I made this version of the Chloe dress up in what I think is rayon. I found the fabric at an estate sale a while back. The burn test indicated a natural fibre, but the lovely, drapey hand of the fabric screams rayon to me. The rayon provides the beautiful drape that this dress deserves.
I’ve made the same pattern up in a crisp linen and a (poly) organza. I really, really like those versions, but I don’t love them quite as much as I do the dresses. In fact, I’m not the only one who loves my dresses. My daughters have been begging for their own mini-versions. I was lucky enough to have a bit of extra sewing time (and scrap fabric) so I whipped together a little scrappy version for Miss Eight. This dress (both the big and mini version) is a super quick sew.
But OMG the mini version is just the cutest! I put a sneak peek on Instagram and I’ll probably get some more photos up there soon. It looks totally gorgeous on Coco so it looks like I’ll be turning this one into a PDF pattern too. I’ve made too many promises. I need to grade the mini-design down to two more different sizes for her sisters now, so I might as well do it properly and add a few bigger sizes as well!
Disclaimer: I was given both the fabric and the PDF sewing pattern free of charge by Olgalyn of O! Jolly! in exchange for sewing it up and sharing my make. All opinions stated in this review are my own.
I’ll be honest with you guys. If someone offers me free fabric to make something, I’m probably always going to say yes, just as I’m probably always going to say yes to a cup of tea or a glass of wine. However, I will confess to being a bit exceptionally excited about discovering O! Jolly! knits. I’m probably going to rave a little about them now (and the Megan longline cardi pattern too, by the way).
I want to give you a little background as a reference point for my excitement. Firstly, I do not knit. Nope, not at all. I’ve tried countless times. My most determined effort produced a few beanies two years ago and a disgraceful, but much loved tunic. I do not like knitting. I tried really hard to like it, but I just don’t. I’m a sewer/seamstress/sewist through and through.
I do, however, LOVE knitted garments. I think they are just amazing. If I had the skills and patience, I’d definitely be rocking fancy, knitted sweaters each Winter. Quite possibly, the most loved garment I’ve ever made was made using a sockinette stitched, Italian, pure wool fabric. The irony was not lost on me that the fabric was constructed using the one and only knitting stitch I can do.
And that fabric was expensive, but my daughter wore that cardigan intensively for three Winters and has only just (very reluctantly) passed it on to her younger sister. I used a Japanese pattern and would love to make another for her, but it is not the type of fabric I see very often, especially not online. In fact, when I first browsed the O! Jolly! website, my first thought was of that cardigan with the intention of sewing it in a larger size.
But it is Spring here in Kansas City and we are fast approaching Summer. Wool season is long gone, but the weather is still irregular with hot days interspersed with cool rainy days. I needed a cardigan for myself and I knew the Megan would be perfect for Spring and Fall if I used a cotton knit.
I selected the sewing pattern and Olgalyn was very helpful in advising whether the knit I chose would be suitable for the project. In fact, she has a Pinterest board that is devoted to sewing patterns that would suit her knits. I was very close to sewing Jalie 3248 but I’ve had my eye on the Megan for a while now. I’m not sure that my photos showcase the great hem of the Megan. But like all Tessuti patterns, this one is thoughtfully constructed.
There are only three pattern pieces to this cardigan (excluding the binding), so the design is simple, but it is the little things that make it special, like a hem with mitred corners and seamlessly finished edges where the binding and hem meet. I should probably also note that I was excessively careful about not stretching this knit as I sewed it, particularly at the sleeve edge and hem. I used a lightweight fusible web to adhere the hem allowance in place before I stitched it down (with a single, not a twin needle), and then I steamed it heavily with the iron to bring it back to it’s original shape.
Let’s talk about this fabric though. I ended up selecting the Saratoga knit in natural white. This is a beautifully soft cotton that has been ginned, spun, and knit in the USA. It has not been dyed or bleached. In fact, it would make the most gorgeous baby clothes, or even simply, a blanket. Let me tell you, when my yardage arrived, it looked so beautiful uncut that I was tempted to bind the ends and keep it as blanket myself!
The knit was very easy to work with. I prewashed it in warm water and dried it in the dryer. I usually pre-treat my fabrics as aggressively as I dare (just in case they end up in the wrong wash). Even so, I’ll still launder the finished cardigan gently, but I won’t have to worry about any further shrinkage (if my 4-8yr old laundry sorters are off their game).
I can’t tell you how much this fabric shrunk with the pre-wash. But it is a knit and I would expect some shrinkage with any knit, just as I would with many other fabrics I use. In the end, three yards delivered me a very long Megan with not much to spare. I did need to seam the binding a little right near the bottom of the cardigan. If you look closely, you can see slight lumps where those seams have been joined.
I absolutely love my new Megan. It turned out even better than I imagined. I cut a size small and made only a few small changes to the pattern. I added a 5/8 inch wedge to the CB (my standard broad back modification). I also added 2 inches to the sleeve length and body length (because I’m tall and I doubt that anyone drafts for 5″10). I decided to cut the back on the fold instead of sewing the CB seam because I could just fit the pieces on my folded fabric.
The Megan was perfect for this fabric. It showcases the texture of the Saratoga knit beautifully. I actually planned on using the reverse side of it for the binding (but I forgot!).
I’m going to get a lot of wear out of this new cardigan, during the next few weeks but more likely during Fall now. It is warm and snuggly without being overbearing. The fabric lends a nice weight to the design so it hangs beautifully (but I’m also very glad I reinforced the shoulder seams with clear elastic like the pattern instructions recommended).
At the end of the day, I cannot recommend O! Jolly! knits highly enough. I know I was lucky enough to receive this yardage for free, but I’m planning to return as a paying customer at the end of the year. The possibilities are endless!
One great thing about living in the USA is that my birthday is in Summer here! I’m so much more inspired to dress up and head out for the night in the middle of Summer. The end of June always seems so cold and dark in Sydney (relatively speaking).
To be perfectly honest though, I’ll use any excuse to sew a nice dress. Yes, there’s still over a month until my birthday, but several years ago I came up with best birthday strategy ever. For the next month, many sentences will begin with, “It’s my birthday soon, so…”. If I really stretch it, I can milk my birthday for a good eight weeks, which could possibly turn into several dinners out, maybe some new shoes, fabric…and you’ve already seen my “birthday” sunnies if you follow me on Instagram.
But let’s get back to the birthday dress. It is my own design, albeit a very simple one, and also one you’ve seen before. The skirt is the only real part of the design I changed, moving and adjusting the pleats a bit to create the volume and shape of the skirt. I also moved the zipper to the back and left it exposed (because it is a bit fancy!).
I’ve been calling the outer fabric lace, for want of a better word. Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn’t. It is actually faux leather embroidered on scuba mesh. Surprisingly though, it is very stable. There isn’t much stretch in that mesh so I was able to turn the fabric on the cross grain to utilise the mesh edging/selvedge as a hem. I decided that the lining needed to be black for contrast and cotton for breathability under the spongy synthetic exterior.
Now, the construction of this dress is where things went a little Pete Tong. My original plan was to partially line the bodice, just like this blue Milly dress. However, after sewing all the seams (of the outer fabric) and serging them, I realised that the underside of the lace was so hard and scratchy that the dress would be unwearable if it was left even partially unlined. I could have used silk organza blocked into the top part of the lining and sewn it as a full lining, but I didn’t have the right shade of nude on hand and I just wanted to get on with it.
My solution was to first bind the armscye of the outer lace. Then I sewed together the lining in full and attached it to the lace at the neckline. Then a lot of hand-stitching ensued. I slip-stitched the lining to the armscye binding and down the centre back. The dress is actually very close to passing as reversible.
I’m very happy with the fit. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but I think I will always feel an element of surprise and delight when I step into a garment that is perfectly molded to my body. It’s a sensation that I’ve never felt with RTW.
And while we are speaking of perfect fit… I drove past an estate sale last week and bumped into the impeccable Jill Sander shoes that you see in the photos. They were not only my exact size, but comfortable, possibly unworn, and totally meant for the dress I was sewing. I felt like Cinderella!
So I made a scarf, but now what do I do with it? I don’t usually wear scarfs, but I’m quite enamoured with the sweet nautical print of this little silk remnant.
The fabric came from an estate sale, in one of the fabric bundles I’ve talked about before.
There’s not much else to talk about when it comes to scarfs. I stitched a hand rolled hem. It’s my hands down, favourite type of hand-stitching. There’s something magical about the way the stitches disappear as you pull the thread to reveal a perfect, invisible hem. I shared a brief video on Snapchat (username: lilysageandco) when I was making the scarf. There’s already a million and one tutorials on hand-rolled hems out there so I won’t be re-inventing the wheel here. I found this one very clear (but save a few minutes of your life and fast-forward to the 3 minute mark before you start watching).
I paired my new scarf with a bit of white on white for the photos. I get a surprising amount of wear out of my bamboo jersey, off the shoulder top. The white jeans are Citizens of Humanity (thrifted and modified from a boot-cut style) and diy distressed with a cheesegrater and razor.