BHL Alix dress – pattern tested


I recently did a bit of pattern testing for By Hand London. You might have seen a few sneak peeks of their new design on Instagram. I’m happy to say that it is finally available.

The Alix dress is a very flattering, easy-to-wear, slipover dress, with the perfect smidgen of 70’s vibe. I made mine up in a very cool striped and spotted silk crepe de chine.

The particular version you see here was made up according to the test instructions, so there has been at least one small modification to the final version. My dress has under bust pleats which can be a bit pointy. I think the final version gives the option of gathers which will produce a much smoother result.



I should also list the other small fit modifications I made. Like many people, I’m not a standard size, so I graded from a US 8 (bust) to a US 6 (waist and hips). I lengthened the sleeves by 1 inch (long arms). I also found the underarms a bit tight initially, so I let out the underarm seams out by about 1/2 inch in total post construction. This is not a reflection on the design, just simply a post-construction fit for my broad shoulders. I would normally slash and spread either the CB or shoulder seams (design dependent) by about 5/8 inch in total to adjust for my broad back/shoulders. A US 8 (35 inch bust) is the perfect bust/chest fit for me but my shoulders expand above my bust so I need to accomodate for this increase in back width without adding volume to the chest area.




My only other change was to shorten the maxi length version by 4-6 inches, shaping the hem in a slight hi-low fashion. I basically just made myself a midi. Cutting lines for all the dress lengths are included on the maxi length version so it is very easy to cut whatever length you desire.

I love my new dress and I’ll be holding on to this pattern for future versions too. It would make a lovely Winter dress in a lightweight wool. But actually, my brain is already working overtime, thinking how I might possibly be able to modify this pattern to make a sleeveless version next Spring.



Satin pants – Vogue 1347


Some time ago, I was the recipient of several large remnants of lovely vintage fabric. Mostly, it was made up of silks, but there were a few synthetics in there too, including the pale green satin I used for these pants.

This satin (although very beautiful and silk-like) is a pretty tricky colour to pair with most of the skin types in my immediate family. Harper, Annecy and I have very fair skin and blue eyes. I have a very warm undertone to my skin which gives me the illusion of a looking tanned at times, but (for example) I use the palest shade of Lancome foundation available. This particular shade of green is probably one of the worst colours you could ever put on us. Miss Eight, with her coppery hair and green-tinted, blue eyes, could have pulled it off, but even so, I think there are more beautiful colours I could put her in when she gets old enough to wear a heavy satin like this.

It probably would have sat in my stash indefinitely had the thought of satin track pants not occured to me. And pants, being a considerable distance from my face, would not be as likely to drain me of all my human colour.




I used a Chado Ralph Rucci pattern (Vogue 1347) that I’ve used a few times before. I like the fit of the elastic waist pants, and the legs are drafted long and wide (even for me!). I made a few small modifications to the pattern.

  • I changed the waistband construction, by stitching on a separate waistband casing, rather than simply folding down (albeit with some tidy bias facing). This *may* have dropped the waist height by about a half inch. I can’t quite remember. I also made my wasitband extra wide. I stitched a seam 1 cm from the folded edge of the waistband so it would “ruffle” slightly above the encased elastic.
  • I omitted the pockets because I though they might be too visible/bulky under the satin. I regret this decision a bit now! I do love pockets.
  • I added a black panel down the side of the leg. I seamed the back leg portion of the pants to include this panel.
  • I added 1 inch to the length of the legs.

I took a while to decide whether I wanted to line these pants or not. In the end I chose to fully line them in a beige-coloured, acetate lining fabric. The lining will increase their comfort against my skin since acetate is breathable and poly satin is not. It also adds warmth (Winter!), smooths and strengthens the outer fabric.

These are fun pants that I will enjoy wearing during Winter as a change from jeans. I’ve paired them with the satin cami I made recently, because it was still very hot when I was taking photos. I’ll probably be wearing them differently in a few months, perhaps with a button down shirt and blazer, or a sweater and coat. I’m sure I’ll have more photos to share on Instagram soon.





A refashion fest

It is still quite warm here in Kansas City. In fact, today the heat was back in full force. But mostly, this time of year is gorgeous, with less humidity, cooler nights, and pleasant days. I’m still not inspired to get on with my coat-making, but I have been thinking about my Fall wardrobe plans.

I’ve been pulling out the sweaters and going through my wardrobe to look for gaps. One thing I also do between seasons is to assess the clothes I own and identify what I don’t like anymore (and what I can possibly refashion). It’s amazing how much you can do with existing clothes to update an entire wardrobe without purchasing/making a thing.

You’ve already seen the culottes that I narrowed to refresh into a boxier shape that is more current for this year. I also shortened this floor-length velvet dress. I LOVED the glamour of the maxi version and I wore it for the holidays last year, but my life doesn’t call for floor length gowns very often. I tried it as shorter dress but I still didn’t feel the love.

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A little more cutting (and hand-stitching that hem for the third time!) and now it’s become a top that I’m really in love with! I’ll get tons of wear out of it in this version and the portions I cut off the dress can be reworked as a garment for one of my girls.

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Slip dresses have had their moment this Summer, but they’ll also be great for going into Fall. Remember this dress? It was my go-to out-to-dinner dress over Summer, but I’m getting bored of the cold shoulder look (at every turn in my wardrobe anyway!). I cut off the sleeves and rebound the armscye, adding small spaghetti straps to drop the neckline a little. Now I have a slip dress that I can wear alone or layered with a turtleneck and boots.


I’ve also been playing around with layering. I dug out this old playsuit that I made using a vintage pattern years ago. Layering it makes for such a comfy and seasonally appropriate combo.

Even though I already liked this thrifted vintage dress a lot, it was a tricky one to wear in real life. The weight of the fabric meant it was way too hot for Summer, and yet the style doesn’t really suit colder weather. Converting it to a top has made it much more wearable for me, and the fabric is the perfect weight for Fall.


I’m also a little in love with dramatic sleeves right now (same as always, right!). But instead of sewing myself a brand new top, I cut the cuffs off an existing shirt and drafted my own big, fancy cuffs to re-attach. This totally elevates the basic white shirt and is going to make my Fall layering just a little bit more… me. There’s a post about this refashion here.


And while I was at it, I trimmed back and re-bound the armscye of this pretty little top. The fabric is divine but I found the original shape a bit boxy/masculine with the wider shoulder seams. I think it will now work better with more separates. I’ll try to get some photos posted soon.

And finally, I’m also a little tired of the torn denim, bare knee jean, so I took an old vintage skirt and used it to patch up my white denim. These jeans are now so fun and I can’t wait to pair them with a snuggly sweater in the coming months. More photos coming soon on this one too.

It’s actually been a lot of fun finding and reviving hidden treasures in my wardrobe. Does anyone else attack their wardrobe with scissors between seasons?

My Image and B-Trendy sewing pattern books


A few weeks ago I was contacted by a small independant pattern group in the Netherlands, Made by Oranges. They asked if they could send me (for free) a few of their magazines in the hope that I might like to share what they’re doing. Well, I’m always keen to find out about new things in the sewing world and I like to support small businesses so I thought it would be a good idea to share!


Made by Oranges consists of Jet (patternmaker) and Martin (graphics designer). They used to work for a Dutch sewing magazine, but when it ceased production, they decided to set up on their own. They currently produce two magazines. My Image contains 16 sewing patterns for women in sizes 34-52 (XS-3XL) and B-Trendy comes with 20 sewing patterns for girls and boys from 1 to 14 years old. All patterns contain instructions in 5 languages, including English.




I’ll confess that I was most interested in trying out some of the kid’s patterns. There are some really cute and practical staples in the edition I have. I’m not that familiar with other sewing magazines out there, but I am a sucker for Japanese pattern books. I’m definitely inspired to have a go at a few casual coats and Winter dresses for my big girls.

The pattern pieces are overlapped just as you’d find in a Japanese pattern book. There are instructions for each of the patterns in several languages. The instructions are brief, but the patterns look pretty straight forward and easy to follow. I’d suggest that an advanced beginner would have no problem at all.


Some of the women’s patterns look great too. There is an interesting collection of practical wardrobe builders, with plenty of photographs to inspire you. If you like trying new designs each season, and don’t mind a bit of tracing, then this would be a fun magazine to check out. Here are a few more photos to get an idea of what’s inside.




Apart from sewing magazines, Made by Oranges also make PDF sewing patterns, and they can even customize a size for you if your size is not available. There are also a few free patterns to try on their site. Until November 1st, you can use the discount code: LILYSAGE  for a 25% discount on all their products.



Black trimmed lace dress


I made this dress some time ago and entered it into the Tessuti cut out lace competition. However, I always had bigger plans for it. Here are some updated photos.



Pretty much all the details are the same as before. I simply unpicked all the extra overlay that I’d handstitched in place over the shoulder straps, and turned the black trim back to the outside. There was a little seam-ripping and re-sewing involved but it was worth it (and easier because I’d made allowances for the changes to begin with).


Now it’s just a shame that Summer is edging away from us. I’ve probably only got a few weeks of lace left but I will enjoy it while I can.






Flared sleeve shirt refashion


I’ve always been a bit partial to a statement sleeve. And right now, flared sleeves, bell sleeves, and even gathered sleeves are just about everywhere.

I want to share with you a quick way to update an existing collared shirt, or any shirt for that matter. I started with a a basic white button up. Mine was purchased from Target for a grand total of $22, specifically with this project in mind. I toyed with the idea of sewing myself a shirt from scratch for all of five seconds. But as you should all know by now,  I’m not so in love with sewing basics.


I started by cutting the cuffs off a basic shirt and with them, about six inches of sleeve. I then measured the circumference of the cut portion of the sleeve and used that as a guide to draft the new cuff.


I drafted a new cuff (just a big rectangle) that measured 8.5 inches in width and 12 inches in length (including a 5/8″ seam allowance). The cuff width allowed for a three inch overlap, to line it up with the underarm sleeve seam when sewn in place. I then slashed and spread the cuff to turn it into a flared design. See the picture of the new pattern piece (below) to get an idea of the amount of flare. The pattern piece is cut on the fold and two cuffs need to be cut (one for lining, one for outer fabric).


Because of the size of these new cuffs, I chose not to interface them, which turned out to be the best decision. I also played around with the position of the overlap/slit of the cuff and found it worked best (appearance and practicality) when it was positioned on the underside, with the back overlapping the front. This positioning suits the natural movement of the arm better.


I’m delighted with my modified white shirt. I’m currently considering which other shirts in my wardrobe might need a similar update.







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.


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


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.


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.


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.



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.





Pleated silk skirt


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.


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.


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.




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.


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


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.


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.



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!).



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.