18″ dolls clothes (AKA American Girl doll sewing)

It only occurred to me the other day, that I should think about putting all this into a blog post. I don’t normally sew doll’s clothes and I probably won’t be doing it again anytime soon, but I’ve recently sewn a big pile of them.

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American Girl dolls are all the rage in our house right now. We currently have two (Target versions), and a third is on it’s way for a Miss nearly-Five’s birthday next month. However, they’re all a bit lacking in the wardrobe department. At the moment, my fabric scraps are being twisted and tied around the poor dolls in a type of rustic fashion design. So it occurred to me that Santa would be on a winning wicket if he delivered a big supply of 18″doll’s clothes at Christmas.

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All these clothes were made using my itty bitty fabric scraps. The scrapbusting was very satisfying, but I had to overcome a very obvious problem with my plan. My girls would very easily recognise the scraps and think that I had made them instead of Santa. I came up with a strategy. A few weeks ago, I received a call from one of Santa’s assistants, asking me to donate some of my fabric scraps. Of course, I didn’t know why. It was a very exciting mystery. My girls took an enormous amount of pleasure in going through my scrap basket and hand-picking scraps to send to Santa, speculating the whole time what he was planning to do with them. We then wrapped up the parcel together, addressed it to Santa, and I ‘posted’ it the next day.

Dolls clothes are very quick and easy to make, but I did have to get over my need to ‘finish’ the seams and raw edges appropriately. That was the toughest bit. The first few outfits I made had all serged seams, and all raw edges were finished and turned under. However, a quick peek at some shop-bought dolls clothes told me that I was being ridiculous. I was spending way to much time on them.

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The patterns I used worked really well and fit the dolls perfectly. I still have more to make yet, including some swimsuits. I plan to sew a couple of items between each of the bigger projects I finish over the next few months. I’ll continue to work through the sewing patterns pictured below.

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A black silk cami

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I was given a few lengths of some lovely crepe backed silk satin recently after my MIL had a big clean out. The fabric is probably quite old, but it is in perfect condition and of a beautiful quality. The smaller remnant was a gorgeous glossy black and I knew that it would make the perfect camisole.

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Crepe back satin is much heavier in weight than charmeuse, with the lovely brilliance of satin on one side, and a dull, pebbly appearance on the underside. Normally, I’d prefer silk charmeuse for a slip or cami, but going into Fall, I knew this beefier silk would work well for layering over shirts, as well as wearing alone.

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The pattern I used was the Camilla Camisole pattern. I made up a straight size 10 but lengthened it by about 1 inch. It is perfect. This is the third Camilla Cami I’ve sewn. I love this pattern. It stands out from the crowd because it is cut on the bias, which gives it an elegant fit that can easily be translated into both formal and day wear.

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I made my first Camilla Cami in a Japanese poly and literally wore it to death a few Summers ago. I’ve recently started wearing my second version a lot more. I like the way it layers over a nice tee. And now, this classic black version is going to end up as another staple of my Fall wardrobe. I keep meaning to lengthen the pattern into a slip dress, but I find these little tops much more versatile, and great for using up small lengths of pretty silk.

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Pleated silk skirt

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So this was a bit of a random make and totally unplanned, but the fabric just grabbed me and demanded to be made into something wearable… and immediately. It arrived in the mail and bypassed my stash completely.

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I actually went shopping for wool coating, but as always, I ended up with fabric in my cart that I never set out to purchase, namely, this glorious silk CDC. The colours just scream Fall, even if the fabric isn’t really the most Fall-appropriate.

What I wanted to sew with it was a floor length, ruffly, slinky skirt. But we all know how much wear that would get in real life. I thought sensible thoughts and turned it into a  gently pleated midi instead. I can wear this skirt with sandals and tanks, or with long boots, tights, and sweaters. It will get heaps of wear.

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I didn’t use a pattern because I’m good with measuring my waist and a skirt like this is simply just two big rectangles. I winged the pleats, but made sure to match them up. When I had the volume I liked, I jiggled the side seams to match up with my waistband.

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The waistband is the only point of interest in this skirt. Because the design was pretty foolproof, I thought I’d try something a little new. I’d read somewhere (no idea where) that you could use elastic to face a pair of pants (for comfort). I didn’t have the right width elastic on hand, but I did have a yard of a performance ribbing fabric, which feels and stretches like woven elastic. The only thing I had to do was measure the length and overlock the edges. Normal elastic used as facing would look a lot neater than my version (as would matching thread!), but as this was an experiment (and on the inside of my skirt), I wasn’t too worried about appearance.

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Contstruction of the waistband with elastic is almost identical to if you were using facing. I still interfaced the waistband fabric. I just avoided creating seams with the elastic. To do this, I overlapped the waistband fabric with the elastic so only the waistband fabric was folded back against itself.

Using elastic as a facing just creates a bit more comfort with the waistband. It stays tight, but has more give when sitting and breathing. I’m definitely going to use this method in future waistbands, and refine it so it looks pretty too.

 

 

DIY obi-style, jersey belt

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I’m not quite sure what to call this “thing” that I sewed. I’ll call it an obi-style belt for want of a better term. The idea came from a friend, who sent me this photo.

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I believe it featured in a Tibi shoot. It wasn’t for sale though and only being used for styling purposes. How frustrating for people who don’t sew!

I could, however, look at the picture and appreciate that it would take me all of 30 seconds to draft (yes, draft… it’s Tibi after all), and then sew with one hand tied behind my back and one eye shut. It really was that simple.

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I used a beautifully soft, lightweight rayon jersey that I sewed into a tube with about 1.5 inches of negative ease. I then turned that tube out to the right side, keeping the lengthways seam to the middle, and stitched the short raw ends together. From the outside, your can just see a single seam down the centre-back.

The belt needs to stretch a little to pull the shirt in, but you don’t want it compressing your internal organs like a Kardashian. You want it to feel comfortable if you plan on wearing it all day! The width of my band is about 15 inches, so that makes it wide enough to be scrunched down as you see in the pictures. The diagram below shows exactly what I did. My seam allowance was 1/2 inch.

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I really love the way it looks paired with a crisp, white shirt. It is the perfect accessory for Fall. In fact, it is so perfect, that I decided to make another right away. A smooth, lightweight, merino jersey would have been perfect but I didn’t have any on hand. I did, however, have a small remnant of a wool/acrylic knit. It’s thicker than I’d like (since nobody really wants extra fabric around the waist), but it works out fine if I scrunch it a little less (and it will be super warm too!).

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I paired it with the same white shirt, and a favourite pair of pants. I made these thick cord culottes a few years ago. I wore them nearly every day during the Winter before last, which was probably why I couldn’t stand the sight of them last year. They were originally shaped more like a skirt. To jazz them up a bit and fall in love with them again, I bought the leg seams in (unfortunately this required a little more effort than planned… ie. moving the side zipper… but it was worth it). Now they have a more boxy, trouser-like shape. I also refreshed the dark colour with a bit of over-dyeing in the washing machine. I love them all over again.

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Let’s talk about swimsuits

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Not all bathers are meant for swimming. And by swimming, I mean actual laps, freestyle at a pace, butterfly, and flip turns. I have no tolerance for togs that bag out, grab air bubbles, or shift over my bust as I swim. I’ve always stuck to Speedos for my training, racing, and now lap-swimming togs, fiercely loyal in fact. But there could be an extra challenger soon. Me.

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I loved my Splash swimsuits, but they weren’t designed for lap swimming. Even so, they worked really well when worn with a rashie over the top half (halter necks just won’t do for real swimming!). This Summer, I’ve been wearing my tiger one-piece mostly. I’ve been playing with the kids, hanging at the pool, and swimming lots of casual laps in it. The fabric has held up beautifully. The design worked well enough, but doing so much swimming also gave me lots of time to analyse the features that needed to be changed.

It was a smidgen too short through the body. The cross back was positioned too high which meant I could feel it across my shoulder blades as I rotated my arms. Also, whilst I loved the novelty of low cut, full bottom bathers last season, I just wasn’t feeling this trend any more. A higher cut leg was calling, not just for the look, but also for functionality and range of movement. Either that, or a to-the-knee bike short style, but I wasn’t going there.

In fact, all this pondering about swimsuits got me thinking about the evolution of competitive swimsuits and the use of technical fabrics (and non-textiles). I ushered swimming out of my life around 1996. Around that time, we raced in ultra small, skin-tight suits, and occasionally what we called ‘paper suits’. The ‘paper’ lycra was developed in 1988 for the Seoul Olympics and the Australian swim team swam in them at Barcelona. This swimsuit fabric was different to normal lycra. It was extremely thin and felt very crisp and dry to the hand. Even the dark colours were semi-transparent in the light. The fabric was strong, extremely lightweight and we wore them skin-tight and a few sizes too small. They only really lasted for one competition. I was fortunate enough to swim under the guidance of a national coach, who bought back souvenirs that he swapped at international meets. That’s how I got my hands on a paper suit, and the ribbed swimwear I’ll talk about later. By the time I swam at an international meet, in about 1995, the swimsuits were back to being regular lycra and ultra small (for a brief window anyway).

More technical, ribbed fabrics started coming in just as I was signing off, but these were still a woven textile. I had an Aquablade catsuit that was really just a high-necked swimsuit. The fabric was designed in a striped print, created by the addition of water-repellent resin.  It was supposed to increase the speed of water flow over the suit. The picture below is the best I could find (from the Powerhouse Museum of Sydney, Swimsuit collection). I might still have my suit hiding somewhere in a box in Australia.

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The history that follows this is even more fascinating. In 2000, Speedo introduced the Fastskin suit that was said to mimic sharkskin, with ridges and bumps to channel water around the body. They covered most of the body, wrist to neck to ankle. These suits were approved for the 2000 Olympics and 83% of the medals were won wearing them.

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In 2008, Speed then launched the LZR racer swimsuit, which they developed in conjunction with NASA, the Australian Institute of Sport, and an Italian company, Mectex. The patented technology for these suits apparently increases blood flow to the muscles, compresses certain parts of the body, and holds the body in a more hydrodynamic position in the water. Suits were also designed specifically to match the stroke being swum and the different pattern of movement/muscle use in that stroke. The “fabric” consisted of woven elastane-nylon and 50% polyurethane. The seams are ultrasonically welded together, rather than stitched! Other companies followed suit with similar technology, making their suits out of up to 100% polyurethane.

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LZR racer by Speedo 2008

Prior to the Beijing Olympics, FINA endorsed these suits. At Beijing, 23 of 25 world records were smashed, and 94% of races were won wearing them. It was suggested that these suits resulted in times being swum 2-4% faster, which is hugely significant in a fixed environment like a swimming pool. By 2009, 130 world records had been broken by swimmers wearing these non-textile suits. FINA backflipped and the suits are now banned. Yet, those records still stand.

Current policy states that swimsuit fabric must be a textile, which is defined as any open-mesh material like cotton, nylon, lycra, etc. So, no more polyurethane with welded seams! There are also regulations on how much of the body a swimsuit can cover. A good example is what you may have seen all the swimmers wearing recently in Rio (ignore the two-piece!).

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Meanwhile, back in the normal world, I’m just focusing on a very basic design, in a definitive textile of course. No chance of me being banned from any local pools any time soon! Even after all the modifications, my suit is still not perfect, but it is pretty close to meeting all my needs! The length is great. The cross back feels as though it is in a much better position but I’ll have to do some swimming to test that out properly. I love the bottom half of the bathers. The bottom coverage is perfect and I feel like I got the leg cut just right. I like the way the sides come forward a little more than a generic suit, and the back comes up a little higher. Next time, I’ll widen the bust area a smidgen. I might also have a go at lowering the back to a more traditional swimsuit height.

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Cut out lace dress 2

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I never intended to make two dresses with this fabric. I had less than a full panel remaining after finishing my main entry. I toyed with turning the leftover bits of lace into a top for one of my girls, but my sewjo just couldn’t get behind that idea. It seems that I needed another white lace dress in my closet.

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I spent way too much time mulling over the positioning of the lace, perhaps even more so with this one because my options were limited. To achieve symmetry with the scraps I had on hand, the bodice had to be seamed down the CF in addition to the princess seams. I didn’t have much choice with the lace placement for the skirt. I like the way I was able to place the lace in the front and whilst I also like the back, it’s perhaps not as cohesive through the sides as I would like. The dot-lace hem is seamed on.

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Design-wise, this dress is very similar to my previous entry. The princess-seamed bodice is almost the same, but with a slightly more scooped out neckline and skinny, self-fabric straps. The skirt portion was modified from one of my TNT pencil skirt patterns. I slashed and spread the pattern slightly into a subtle A-line shape for a more casual fit. I absorbed the back darts through the flare and back waist seam.

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The bodice is unlined, but the skirt is lined. I faced the neckline raw edges with bias binding. The skirt is lined with a beige coloured acetate. I kept the skirt lining as short as possible so as not to be seen through the bottom panel of the hem. I won’t be bending over in this dress!

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Like my other dress, this dress is also designed to be worn with a very specific bra (the one I wore in the last lace dress post). You can see that the bodice fits a lot better when I wear that bra here (and I will be wearing it in real life). It is mostly unseen behind the straps, but for a cleaner look in some of these photos (since I didn’t have a wardrobe assistant on hand to check for strap visibility), I decided to wear a strapless bra. The fit is just not as good across the bust when I have to resort to a strapless bra. It’s a very good reminder of how undergarments affect the outer fit.

Also, try to ignore the big smear of white paint across my calf… maybe we should start a game called, “Spot the Paint on Her”, in all my blog photos for the next six months….

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Esther SKORTS PDF pattern piece and tutorial

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I’ve been asked quite a few times about a tutorial for this little skort. I decided to go one step better. I digitised the actual pattern piece that I created, with all the sizes graded out to suit everyone! It can be downloaded here. It should match up perfectly with the Esther Shorts pattern by Tessuti Fabrics, but there’s no reason you can’t adapt it to your own TNT shorts pattern by adjusting a few minor details.

I really love my white version. It is the second pair I’ve made and it’s seriously one of my best Summer staples ever. The front overlay adds a little formality and cover to a standard pair of shorts. I dress mine up with a blazer and heels. I also wear it out and about with Birkenstocks and a singlet. It’s a style that is very versatile.

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As I mentioned, my version is based 100% off the Esther shorts pattern. I made a straight size 8, but I did shorten the legs by two inches (whilst maintaining the original hem shape). To achieve the same proportions as me, you’ll first need to shorten the legs of the front and back Esther pattern pieces by two inches. If you want to add this overlay to the longer, unchanged length of the Esther shorts pattern, simply lengthen the skort overlay by two inches at the lengthen/shorten line (included on the skort pattern piece).

The steps below will help you put together your skort:

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1. Cut out your overlay fabric: Outer fabric, right side facing up. Lining, wrong side facing up.

2. Prepare the overlay: right sides facing, pin the overlay fabric to the overlay lining. Stitch a 1/2 inch seam along the two angled bottom edges and the left side edge. Remember, the diagram below shows the skort overlay as you look at it in front of you, so the left side (as you wear it) will appear as the right.

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2. Trim seam allowance and turn the overlay out to the right side. Press. Baste remaining raw edges.

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Now it’s time to put together the rest of the shorts. I’m just going to summarize the order of construction here. If you need more details, refer back to your actual shorts pattern, but keep following this order of construction.

3. Stitch the left leg seams. First, insert zipper in the side seam of the left side, between the front and back leg. Complete the stitching of that seam. Then stitch the inner leg seam of the left leg.

4. Now onto the right side. Sandwich the side seam edge of the overlay between right front and right back leg side seam. Wrong sides of front and back legs facing the right sides of the overlay. Stitch. Finish raw edge.

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5. Fold the overlay piece up so it’s not in the way, and sew the inner leg seam of the front and back leg.

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6. Keep the overlay piece folded in and out of the way. Wrong sides facing, inner seams matching, now sew the crotch. Finish raw edge. Turn the shorts out the correct way. Press.

7. Unfurl the overlay piece and straighten out the waist edge so it lines up with the front waist edge of the shorts. Baste in place.

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Now, simply continue as your original pattern instructs. Attach the waistband and hem your new skorts. I usually serge the raw edge of the hem and then fold it up to the point at which the overlay ends at the side seam.

I hope you enjoy your Esther Skort as much as me!

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A little Target knock-off for Miss Eight

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Even though I sew a lot of clothes for my daughters, I’m not averse to shopping the Target clearance racks. I often find little gems there that I generally couldn’t make for the price on the tag (and this always takes a bit of pressure off my sewing to-do list).

The other day, I picked up a very simple, loose fitting top for Miss Six that Miss Eight immediately fell in love with also. My eight year old and six year old are very similar in size now and the top easily fit them both. All I had to do was rub off an exact copy for the older child.

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The top is kind of a peasant style, but with little flutter sleeves and a front bodice with shoulder seams that swing around towards the back. The trickiest bit was navigating the angle of the shoulder seam and trying to determine the shape and depth of the armscye because in stretching out the elastic neckline to do so, I was also pulling the top out of shape. I came close to getting it right but I will have to angle the shoulder seam down more next time and raise the armscye. Otherwise, we’re all delighted with how the little top turned out.

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I used my leftover vintage voile (from this dress). It’s very sheer, so she’ll wear a nude cami under the top. On the topic of kid undergarments, I bought her a few of these camisoles the other day (no affiliate link, I just think they are a great product). They are beautifully smooth and fitted, with little adjustable spaghetti straps; an exact, mini version of something I would wear. They are a more elegant option than the traditional singlet for an eight year old and I think this “grown up” appeal is why they may actually get worn. I bought them mainly to be worn as an extra layer during Winter. They’d be easy to sew, but y’all know how much I love sewing staples…

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The shorts are a little version of my Cartwheel Shorts pattern that I made without the front pleats for a little less volume. I used my leftover vintage linen/lace tablecloth (seen also here). I think these shorts look adorable on her. If you follow me on IG, you may have seen the matching pair that I made for Miss Six too. She’s very proud of her artwork!

 

Cut out lace competition dress

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I know I should sit on my competition entries like everyone else, but it’s like sitting on a hot potato, especially since I couldn’t wait to get started on this one. It’s finished, photographed, and I’ll be squeezing in as many wears as possible before Fall, so I figured I might as well share it! The inspiration came from THIS dress that I posted on my IG account a few weeks ago.

As soon as I saw the ivory lace, I knew exactly what I wanted to make with it. The only problem was that the rules stated that no trims could be used and that the outer fabric of the garment had to be made entirely of the competition fabric, and in a single colourway only. That was a big problem. The contrasting black trim against the ivory lace was the element that I most liked about my inspiration dress.

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It took me a bit of thinking to come up with a solution, and a LOT of hand-stitching post construction. However, I found a way to keep all my black trim to the underside of the lace fabric and in a manner that I could reverse in the future. With the trim kept to the inside, the contrast is muted through the lace, but still visible as a subtle feature.

This is a post about my competition dress. I will share more pictures one day after I have unpicked all my handiwork to reveal the black trim again.

I designed this dress using a combination of flat pattern-making and draping. I tried very hard to design a bodice that would be low cut (and slightly shaped) in the back, yet with straps that would conceal my favourite bra. I think I did a pretty good job.

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I also tried to position the lace in such a way as to avoid lining the bodice. I wanted the dress to show glimpses of skin through the lace rather than lining. But I also didn’t want the dress to be too revealing. The bodice isn’t lined at all but the ruffle provides a little extra coverage. The skirt has a short lining. I couldn’t quite manage to place the lace of the skirt in such a way that would cover my bottom completely.

The lining I used for the skirt is an ivory/beige coloured acetate. I gathered the lining in my dress rather than pleating it because I wanted to add a bit more bulk through the skirt. And that is the beauty of sewing your own clothes. My hips are narrower than my shoulders and this difference gets a little more pronounced the fitter I get so a gathered lining in the skirt helps me achieve an illusion of filling it out better and having a more hourglass figure. (I blame Pokemon, the Olympics, and active kids for getting me out running and swimming laps everyday this Summer!).

I made the straps using wide, black, foldover elastic (FOE). The gathered sleeves are sandwiched between the fold and then the entire length of the elastic is stitched down to create an enclosed strap. I used a very strong/stable FOE. Too much stretch would have made for weak straps, but a little bit of firm stretch and a lightning stitch creates very comfortable and strong shoulder straps.

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The sharp contrast of black against ivory in the shoulder straps was what my heart desired, but I compromised by using it as a strap lining instead. I created lace tubes to cover those black elastic straps and hand-stitched them in place. I’ll remove those lace tubes at a later date.

I also encased the edges of the lace ruffle in black, self-made, silk binding. I then turned that trim to the underside and hand-stitched it in place. I like that I can still see a glimpse of the black through the lace. To cover the very edges of the black binding (near the neckline and CB zipper), I cut tiny squares of the competition fabric and appliqued them over the visible binding. The result is a dress with outer fabric made completely of the competition lace.

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I’m so pleased with how this dress turned out. I will definitely enjoy wearing it during the last few weeks of Summer. Meanwhile, there’s still plenty of time to enter the competition and if you don’t like ivory lace, there is also red and black to choose from. I have less than a full panel remaining of my ivory lace, but I think I’ve just worked out a way to scrapbust it into another little frock!

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Black overalls for Fall

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I may have jumped the gun a little with this make, but I know I will get a LOT of wear out of these overalls in a few months time when the weather eventually cools. My plan is to wear them with crisp, collared shirts, and my plethora of off-the-shoulder tops. But in the meantime, there might be the odd occasion that I could wear them sans layers.

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I didn’t follow a complete pattern for this make. I slightly narrowed the pants from this playsuit, and then just modified this fitted bodice to a new shape. Having already sewn a few playsuits, I had a good idea of the bodice length I needed (which is one of the most important aspects of a playsuit in my opinion. Nobody wants a saggy butt, or to be cut in half!).

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The fabric I used is a very thick, crisp, cotton twill by Theory. It has a little bit of stretch like a cotton sateen and the good side has a soft, washed silk appearance and feel to it which makes the black appear more charcoal in colour. It’s a wonderful fabric that will be lovely and warm for Winter, but way too heavy for any other time of the year. I’ve purchased Theory branded fabric from Mood on several occasions now and the quality of this particular brand has always been exceptional.

Part of the reason why I got started on these overalls was because I stumbled across a buckle kit for sale at Hancocks before they closed down. I didn’t use the no-sew buttons though. I had a couple of deep shank metal buttons in my stash that I liked so much better.

At this point, I’ve only basted the hem in place. I just can’t decide how long or short I want the pants! I’m very tempted to crop them a little bit more for Fall, but with a deep hem that I can lengthen again in the future.

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