Last minute Halloween: rainbow skeletons and fairies gone bad

I feel like I should confess something. I don’t like sewing costumes. I’m also not used to celebrating Halloween. But I’m nothing, if not prepared. I snapped up three out-of-season witch costumes on Ebay a few months ago, breathed a sigh of relief and hoped that I was off the hook. I’m a pretty good saleswoman when I want to be. What, you want to be a tiger, not a witch? Well, let’s put the striped top on underneath the witch dress and you can be an extra scary witchy tiger, yeah!

Middle child wasn’t playing this game. The day before Halloween, she decided that it was absolutely imperative that she become a skeleton. I told her that this need could be met, but only if she could make the costume herself. I helped her a bit. First, we drew some bones on white denim fabric scraps.

 

Then Miss Four coloured all the bones in with fabric dye crayons, which I ironed to set the dye. We have rainbow skeletons in the House of Iles.


Miss Four cut those bones out very carefully. It was a great exercise in practicing dexterity with the scissors. I then very hastily, and very roughly, basted those bones onto a pair of tights and a top that she already had in her wardrobe. Some of the stitching was done by machine and some had to be done by hand whilst watching the final season of True Blood. Admittedly, some of the bones are attached a bit wonky, but overall, the costume was a great success. It was worn for 24 hours straight.

 

 

My costume was a little bit more last minute. On the day of Halloween, while the little peeps were having a lunchtime nap, I suddenly had an idea to turn the muslin of my Dior knock-off coat into a Malificent inspired gown and cape. The fabric (if you can call it fabric) was the perfect colour for a fairy gone bad. I purchased the purple textile from Jo-Ann, specifically to muslin a coat. It was $2/yd, the price of cheap calico, but it had a sturdy, structured feel that I felt would give me a better idea of how the coat would drape. It was also 100% polyester, recycled from plastic bottles.

 

 
 
 

I’m nearly finished my real Dior knock-off coat, so you will soon get a better view of the coat beneath the cape. But for this costume, I simply gathered up the remainder of my purple polyester into a cape, and stitched on a big dramatic collar over the top. I cut a separate tie for the waist. None of the seams are finished because the fabric doesn’t fray. It’s like cutting felt. Perhaps I should have tried to iron it though!

 

Denim culottes

No wardrobe can possibly be complete without culottes. So here, my friends, is yet another pair. I’m determined to persuade you!

 
 

This time, I made them up in heavy denim, with pocket details in white denim and contrast panels in dark green corduroy. I picked up the denim for a steal at Jo-Ann. It’s the kind of denim that would make good work-wear. It’s quite heavy, in a blah blue colour that will fade, and with no stretch to speak of. It’s exactly what I was looking for.

 

 

Once again, I used my trusty Esther shorts pattern. The basic shape of this pair of culottes is the same as my last pair, but with a few additional modifications:
  • I put a fly zipper in the front instead of the back invisible zip. I wanted these culottes to have a more jeans feel about them. I toyed with adding a button at the waistband, but I just didn’t like the casual feel of it. I stuck with a hidden hook and bar, and I bound the waistband (my new favourite thing!).  

 I also:

  • shortened the hem by several inches

  • added decorative patch pockets and panels to the sides of my culottes. I was inspired by the detailing in the skirt in this picture. It was posted on Instagram by a friend of mine so I have no idea who designed the skirt, or who is wearing it. Any ideas people?

 
I love the way the silhouette of culottes change depending on which angle you look at them from. I also love that I can walk, run and bend after children without losing my modesty. I think it’s going to be a culottes kind of winter for me. I’m wearing them with my 80’s man-shirt here, but in a few months time I’ll be layering them with fleece lined tights and weatherproof boots. That’s something you can’t do with skinny jeans! Are you sold…yet?
  


Simplicity 1366: oversized hack in white denim with a shoulder seam zipper

I just can’t stop with this Cynthia Rowley pattern, Simplicity 1366. It is seriously the most perfect blank canvas. My other makes of this pattern are here, here, here, and here.

For this version, I made the following changes:

  • dropped the shoulder seam by a further inch
  • added an extra inch to the neckline side of the shoulder seam
  • dropped the bottom of the armscye by about 1.5″
  • added a feature zip to a shoulder seam
  • made some wide bias binding for the neckline, folded it over, stretched it slightly and attached it like I would a knit neck band
  • lengthened the arms to extra, extra long. I wanted to roll these sleeves up.
  • lengthened the back bodice piece but kept the front piece short. I added extensions to the bottom of each side seam so I could hem little slits in each side.


Here is the top photographed untucked and with the sleeves left long to help you get a better visual of the modifications I made and how these relate to the top’s actual shape. I won’t be wearing it this way in real life, but I needed the length in those arms to create the bulky, rolled up look you see in the earlier photos. I paired the top with my favourite leather skirt.

 




Winter white or brights?

I know Winter white is a bit of a trend this season, but I think I took the Summer White trend to the max, and quite frankly, I’m a little bit over white right now. In fact, I’ve been lusting after all shades of purple and deep pinks so when I saw my white wool trackie pants hanging in the wardrobe the other day, I knew they were destined for a dye job. I also wanted to update their style a little.

 

Despite being (dry-clean only!) wool suiting, reckless-Debbie had still prewashed the pants fabric prior to sewing. The prewashing changed the texture of the fabric slightly. It also meant that I could happily launder them or dye them, to my heart’s content. My first attempt at dying them didn’t work, but only because cautious-Debbie was trying to be gentle with the fabric by keeping the water cold. The dye just didn’t take. So I let reckless-Debbie back in the house. She threw caution to the wind, bumped up the temperature to scalding, added vinegar with the salt, and the wool dyed beautifully. The fabric did not shrink or change at all.  


I also refashioned the pants a little by:

  • cutting away the silk lining, because this took up the dye too strongly and it was dark beneath the pants
  • unpicking the outside leg seam to widen the legs as much as possible for a more trouser-like look. Wide leg and flared pants are very hot right now.
  • cutting off the elastic cuffs. I sewed in some new cuffs to lengthen the pants a little, but these were dyed in a separate batch (as an afterthought) which accounts for the different shade. I might still shorten the cuffs a little because these pants are meant for flats.  


I’m super happy with these pants. I love the way they look layered with my Nani Iro top. It’s such a snuggly, comfy outfit and it makes me especially happy to know that I can now wear my Nani Iro beyond Summer. I feel like I’ve done my dash with white at the moment. What colours do you have on your sewing table right now?

 

TBT: Japanese pattern book wool cardi coat

Let’s talk about fabric shall we. Now I am definitely not an expert in textiles. Everything I’ve learnt has come from my experience with sewing. When my youngest was just a baby, and I was just learning to sew, we were living in Sydney, and not too far from what is historically known as the garment district. Anybody who has a small baby knows that mums need to get out of the house. Once I moved beyond foraging at Spotlight (the equivalent to Jo-Ann here), my favourite weekly outing with bubs became a trip to Tessuti Fabrics. Every now and then, I threw in a trip to the Fabric Store for good measure, but my regular haunt was Tessuti’s, and not just for the fabric, but also for the great staff, and of course, their most fabulous of fabulous remnants table.

I didn’t always walk away with a purchase, but I would walk up and down those walls of fabric, dreaming, feeling and learning about amazing textiles. I also spent a fair bit of time rummaging through their remnant table to find fabric gems that are were discounted by 40-50%. I picked up LOADS of amazing remnants during my time in Sydney; the softest wool jerseys, silks, printed linen, and lots of ponte knits. I also picked up this heavy-weight, striped, pure wool knit that I turned into a coat for Miss Six. 

 


 
 
 

I made this coat more than 18 months ago, well before I started blogging. I took these pictures a few days ago. Past Debbie didn’t know much about interfacing or turn of cloth so the collar could certainly be improved. But even so, the jacket has withstood the test of time. I used a pattern from one of my Japanese Pattern Books (Neat and lovely girl’s dresses by Yuki Araki). It is such a lovely design and Miss Six simply adores it. It’s probably the absolute favourite thing that I’ve ever made for her. She wears it every day in cool weather. If it weren’t so cute, I’d be sick of the sight of it by now. 

I wash it on a gentle machine cycle, as infrequently as possible, and it still looks and feels as good as new. The fabric wasn’t cheap but it is clearly robust enough to withstand the activities of a school kid. It hasn’t pilled like a poly blend wool. It hasn’t faded, felted, shrunk or stretched out of shape. It’s in such great shape that it will likely be passed down to my middle girl next. At nearly $60 a pop (or should I say metre) the price of this wool fabric will make some people cringe. I was lucky enough to pick it up for about half this, but it would have been worth every penny at full price too.

 

So thinking about this coat had me thinking about how I evaluate the cost of fabric. I’m going to disregard quilting cottons for a minute, because they are always going to be fabulous value for wear. I’ve also experienced some great longevity out of budget corduroy. But when it comes to knits and wool fabrics, there is something to be said for purchasing quality, natural fibers. Yes, they cost more, but in my experience, they are a lot more comfortable, they look better for longer, and they are often well and truly worth the amount spent. 

I’m still seduced by cheap synthetic blend fabrics on occasion and I probably always will be, but I mostly live to regret it. Sure, I might get a few wears out of the item, but within weeks it’s often terribly pilled or felted, and ready for an early retirement (in our house, this means they get sent to the dress up box, my clothes included). I can’t stand pilled clothes. I did a little stocktake recently and sadly, these dresses are already out of commission.

 
I’m guessing there’s at least $60 worth of fabric in all those dresses combined. If it weren’t for the enjoyment the dress up box brings and the fact that I enjoy sewing, I’d be thinking that this time and money could have been better spent. 

Winter white drop waist dress: AKA Chanel knock off

 

This dress falls squarely into the ‘what was I thinking’ category. It is pure white, dry-clean only, Ralph Lauren wool suiting, made up in a dress for a mother of three. Go on, tell me that isn’t just a little bit crazy. However, in my defence, the fabric was already in my stash, and nothing was ever going to make it more wearable, no matter how long I left it there. I’m going to chalk this purchase up to jet lag.

 
 
 
 


Obviously, it’s another drop waist dress. The pattern is my own. You’ve seen it before on more occasions than you’d care to remember. This time, I switched the zipper to the back, added sleeves and some little front pockets. I drafted a new set of facings and lined the bodice with silk jersey.

 
Yep,  those are darts you see facing inside out. I’m not quite sure how I managed that one. Thankfully I got the back lining right.
 
 
 
My inspiration for this dress came from a picture I found on Pinterest. The link took me to an Asian website, so using my great powers of deduction, I’m going to have a stab at guessing that this is either a Chanel dress or one that is inspired by the great fashion house. It was the only picture of this dress I could find online. Aside from the gathers in the sleeve caps, I fell in love with everything about it.
  
It was one of those rare occasions that I had the pattern (drop waist, hello!), I had the perfect fabric, and I had a pretty keen desire to put some impractical stash to good use. I would rarely copy my source of inspiration outright (she says as she gathers fabric for her Dior coat knock off), but guys, this is Chanel!
 
Should I open up a can of worms here and ask what you guys think about copying designers? My personal feelings are that if you are giving credit where credit is due and not mass producing the items for sale, then it’s no big deal. I’ll always reference my point of inspiration, and since there was no chance of me ever purchasing the item in the first place, I’m hardly affecting anyone’s bottom line. I do still feel like a bit of a cheat though.
 
 
 
 

 


 






Japanese corduroy culottes

My last pair of culottes are getting so much wear right now that I knew another pair wouldn’t go astray. This time I played around with the design a little. I kept the length, not just because I quite like the longer hem trend, but also because it keeps my legs warm in Winter.


Once again, I started with my Esther shorts pattern. I made the same modifications as with my green culottes, but simply skipped the pleats. I also widened the waistband a smidgen, moved the zipper to the back and added side seam pockets.

 
 
 

I also tried something new in the construction of these culottes. Have you noticed that RTW pants never have waistbands like we sew at home? I’ve had these suit pants for about seven years now. Have a look at how beautiful their innards are.

The edge of the inside waistband is bound with pretty binding. It’s so simple to do and it means that you don’t have to bother with folding the edge under and painstakingly pin it to ensure you catch it all perfectly as you stitch blindly from the other side. I actually don’t know why it’s taken me this long to try this technique. It looks better and it’s way easier. I bound the inside of my waistband with Liberty of London and stitched in the ditch from the other side. Next time I will bind the pocket edges too.


There is a lot less fabric in these culottes compared to my last version. This is just because I took out the pleats. This cord is also a lot lighter in weight. I could see this style of pant working well for Summer in either linen or cotton, at this length or just below the knee. If it weren’t Fall here, I’d be making myself a slightly shorter version in denim. In fact, I might still do so…

 

The gridline drop waist dress

 
 
 

Did you really want to see another drop waist dress? Well to be completely honest, I thought I’d moved on from them myself. I’m really fickle with fashion. I love something intensely for a brief period, but if it remains in my field of vision for too long I get bored and start looking elsewhere for the next sparkly trend. My problem with the drop waist is that they are just so comfortable that I wear them every other day, to the extent that I get sick of the sight of myself. I have drop waist overload. Can you see my point?

http://lilysageandco.blogspot.com/2014/01/my-winter-malvarosa.html

And let’s not forget the one that started this whole obsession…

http://lilysageandco.blogspot.com/2013/12/drop-waist-obsession.html


So now I feel like I should show you how I ended up sewing yet another drop waist. Firstly, I spotted this amazing dress on Pinterest, as worn by Olivia Palermo in the picture below. There’s something about those widely spaced gridlines and the unexpected seamlines that make my heart beat a little faster. If I could get my hands on that fabric, there’d be a knock-off in my wardrobe as we speak.

Soon after, Rachel from House of Pinheiro showed off her amazing Parisian dress. This was all the confirmation I needed. The fabric I used was already in my stash and part of it was upcycled from a long, shirt dress that I made some time ago. Reckless past-Debbie didn’t pre-wash the fabric and the shirt dress shrank a little too much for comfort. Needless to say, I’ve learned my lesson on that front.


 
 
 
 

The pattern I used was Simplicity 1366 again, a Cynthia Rowley pattern. I simply lengthened it and matched the side width with my self-drafted, drop waist pattern. The skirt is part circle and part haphazard wedge. It’s quite obvious that I paid little regard to line matching. I tried to place the skirt seams in a symmetrical fashion and match the side and arm seams where I could, but I had such a small amount of fabric to work with that I just had to place the pieces where I could. I don’t think they look too bad.

  

 

 
 

Making neatly curved patch pockets with interfacing instead of lining: a tutorial

There are lots of ways you can sew and attach patch pockets to garments. When I sewed this little wool tunic recently, I encountered a small problem when I set about to putting lace, patch pockets on it. I felt the cotton voile lace was a little too delicate to withstand the daily force of small hands, but I didn’t really want to line it, and I definitely didn’t want to lose the pretty upper lace edge.

As always, I failed to take photos when making these pockets, so I’ve recreated the tutorial with some yellow, cotton scraps. Basically, all I did was to interface the pockets instead of lining them. The best way I can describe what I did is with photos.  

1. Cut a piece of interfacing to the same size as the pocket

2. Here they are lined up side by side. The fabric is yellow. The interfacing is white.

3. In this example, I folded over the top of the pocket towards the wrong side and stitched it down. In my lace pockets, I left the pretty edge raw.

4. Measure on the interfacing where you would like it to end on the underside.

5. Cut off the excess interfacing

6. This is where it gets interesting. Pin the interfacing (lining up the bottom raw edges) with the outer side (non-glue side) facing the right side of the fabric.

7. Stitch

8. Trim. Some people notch a curved edge. I find I get a smoother curve if I trim very close instead.

9. Turn the pocket in the right way. The glue side of the interfacing is now facing towards the wrong side of the pocket. Press. This will fuse the pocket fabric to the lining so it will be as one.

10. Look at your perfectly round and strong patch pocket, all ready to be sewn onto your garment. Obviously, yours will look better than mine. I tend to rush things.

11. This is the underside. You’ve turned in all the curved edges without any fiddling and it is perfectly secure and ready to be attached neatly. For an even better result, trim the edges of the interfacing/lining by 1-2mm before you start, and then continue on with all the steps from the beginning, lining all the edges up perfectly as you go. This will make the outer fabric roll inwards towards the underside so that there will be no chance of the lining peeking through at the sides.

Refashioned: butterfly kimono jacket

I’ve made more than my fair share of kimono style jackets this year (here, here, and here). The style is just so versatile, especially at this time of year when I’m trying to prolong the wear of my Summer gear by layering them upon everything.

 
 
 
 
 

Once again I used B5409 and modified it in the same way as earlier versions. My butterfly silk CDC lived an earlier life as a floaty maxi dress. It was lovely. I loved it, but then I moved on, and there was just too much beautiful fabric in that dress to lay dormant in my cupboard.

 
 

This time round, I used goose biot feathers to fringe the kimono for a fancy, ‘festival’ look.  Google defines fringed kimonos as festival. Who am I to argue with Google. I’ve paired it with my leather shorts and floral bustier for the photos. And if I was headed into Summer, I might have even taken this outfit out for a spin. In real life, we are headed into cooler days, so I want this kimono jacket to wear over my matching, Chanel-inspired dress and pants. I’ll be unpicking those glorious feathers because I don’t think they will fare so well on the school run. But you know me. I’ll use them again for something else.