Sunshine in a drop waist dress


Let me start by saying that this is just a wearable muslin. It is such a simple little sun frock that completely belies the amount of pattern cutting, slashing, taping and calico testing that went on behind the seams (ha, see what I did there!).

I’m still not happy with this dress though. It fits well and looks ok, but it doesn’t match the vision in my head and I’m not happy with the way some of the pieces fitted together when I was sewing it. I had to do a bit of freestyle pattern shaping when I was sewing and of course by that stage, I’d had enough and failed to adequately record the last changes.

The pattern pieces of the skirt need the most work. I like the hi-lo hem, but I need to shave a bit more off the front and I need to remove a bit more body at the sides. I also need to work on the shape of the bottom bodice/flounce seam.

 
 

I like the look of the back though.

And for a behind the scenes look at my photo shoot. Like always, the little one is my Director of Photos, advising me on how to place my hands. She’s dressed down today, in her big sister’s cast offs that have been getting a second lease of life in the dress up box. There would usually be a few more layers of dresses involved in her outfit. She likes to wear all her favourite clothes at the same time.

 
But back to my dress. I’m not going to call it a compete fail. It’s the kind of easy cotton sun dress that I can see myself wearing a lot over summer. And the colour definitely makes me smile. I’m just completely worn out by puzzling out this pattern. I’ve walked away. I’m yet to even pack away the crumpled, overly taped pieces of tracing paper, or the completed shorter skirt flounce that I decided not to layer over the longer flounce in the end.


I won’t be making this pattern again as it is. Maybe I might have the strength to improve it or modify it in the future though. And having these blog photos to refer back to will certainly make it easier to see the changes that I want to make.

 

Simplicity 1327: Plaid on request

I’ve noticed something about my husband’s wardrobe and it has a lot to do with who he sees each day and where we live. When he first started working with veterinarians and farmers in Australia, I noticed plaid shirts creep into his wardrobe for the first time ever. Rodd and Gunn took over from Hugo Boss and Ermenegildo Zegna as his brand of choice. 

 
 
So it stands to reason that there would also be some wardrobe updates after moving to the Midwest. It began with cowboy boots. Not just ordinary cowboy boots. They had to be the real deal, genuine caiman.
 
 
They go surprisingly well with the Drizabone he’s been wearing for the past 18mths. So why would I be surprised that he would put in an order in for a “western-style” plaid shirt. He was quite specific on this one. Plaid was not enough. It needed to have the Western yokes and pockets too. *Sigh*. I’m really not into sewing costumes or matching plaid.

 

 

I wasn’t planning on rushing into this make, but I somehow managed to stumble across the most amazing brushed cotton, Italian shirting  during a recent trip away, when I was lucky enough to visit Britex Fabrics in San Fransisco, in person. The fabric is beautifully smooth on one side and brushed soft on the underside. I wasn’t very excited about sewing a “Western” shirt until I found this fabric. Fabric makes all the difference.

 
 

The pattern I used was Simplicity 1327. The sizing on this pattern is more general than other shirt patterns, which makes for less precise sizing. I cut this shirt in a size L, which was specified for a 42-44″ chest. My husband is a 42″ (or possibly a smidgen more after Christmas) which made me wary of ending up with an unattractively oversized shirt. To accomodate my laziness in lack of muslin making, I made the shirt up according to the instructions but only basted the side seams together initially. This enabled me to check the fit around the torso. It was a little roomy to begin with so I graded the seam allowance from 5/8″ at the cuff (which was already a good fit) to 1″ at the shirt hem. This brought the side and underarm seams in by just the right amount.

All the yokes, placket, cuffs, and pockets were cut on the bias. Apart from the yokes, which were stitched on the shirt as overlays, I fused interfacing to all of the other bias cut pieces to avoid them stretching out of shape while I worked with them. I used very light interfacing for the pockets and prepared them in the same way as this tutorial. I also used a little bit of Liberty of London as contrast in the collar band. And I came so close to matching up those bias stripes on the cuffs.


Despite my extreme lack of excitement in this project, I quite like the outcome. The bias cut plaid made for lovely contrast details in the shirt and I’m pleased with how the sizing worked out in the end. But more importantly, the shirt looks great with those cowboy boots!

A different kind of maxi skirt

So this skirt is the final chapter of my denim on denim story. My denim shirt is blogged about here. The skirt itself, is a very simple, self-drafted number. I used my pencil skirt block (seen here as a neoprene and faux leather mini) and simply shaped the bottom hemline to be high at the front and low at the back. I then gathered a large rectangle of beautiful
Tessuti linen into a skirt. The effect is a drop waist in a skirt. I love the subtle hi-lo hem, and my love of a good drop waist needs no further explanation.

 

Butterick 6900: A leather blocked, drop shoulder coat

I’d like to share with you a pretty typical conversation that ensues each time I break out something new that I’ve made for myself.

Me: What do you think of my new coat? (pre-empting some inevitable design confusion) It’s a drop shoulder design. It’s supposed to be unfitted. 

Husband: It’s interesting. I like it. (moving closer to inspect my stitching and style lines better) It’s really good. But it’s a bit big for you. Look at the shoulders.

Me: It’s the design. That’s why they’re called drop shoulders.

Husband: It’s a bit big at the back too. It looks a bit masculine.

Me: Yeeeeeesss (my speech slows and perhaps my eyes begin to roll a little). It’s the design. It’s a boxy, oversize, drop shoulder style of coat.

Husband: You know, it would look great if you cinched in the waist with a really wide belt.

Me: Yes. It. Would.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve already seen the original coat that caught my eye and that ended up becoming my design inspiration. I also shared a few sketches of my own coat in the early planning stages. I’m pretty useless at drawing, but Fashionary is a great way for me to get my ideas down on paper, so that I can solidify a design in my head, and then have something to refer back to when I’m playing around with the actual pattern pieces. 

For this coat, I started with Butterick 6900, but I made a lot of modifications:

  • Lengthened the shoulder seams and dropped the armscye to achieve the oversized, drop shoulder look, rather than a coat that just looks too big (Husband you know nothing!)
  • Sharpened the collar to a point
  • drafted a lining to include the existing facing pieces
  • shortened View B by 4″
  • changed the position of the welt pockets and slimmed them down
  • lengthened the sleeves
  • added a front and back yoke to accommodate and suit the size of leather I had to work with
  • added shaped panels to the sleeves in contrast wool and lambskin
  • top-stitched some contrast lambskin and cowhide to the bottom of the coat 
 

 
 
 

The cowhide I used, as you know, was upcycled from my leather skirt. The grey fabric is a beautiful, medium/heavyweight, double faced wool. One side is grey and the other is a pretty plaid. Both sides are invisibly stitched together very securely. The edge of the swatch in my photo is separated because I actively removed the stitches to pull both fabrics apart.


Even though I didn’t make the most of both sides of this great fabric, I still found it useful in reducing the bulk in my coat. I only used one layer of the wool fabric for the collar underside since the leather was so bulky. I also carefully separated and cut away the grey seam allowance when preparing the facing to attach to the bulky leather at the front of the coat.

I preferred the plain grey for the outer of this particular coat and I only used the plaid for the front facing, but if I had a limitless budget, I would definitely buy more of this great double faced wool and make it up quite simply and unmodified in and unlined coat like Vogue 8930.

In terms of construction, I underlined both the front and back leather yokes with hair canvas.
The lining I used for my coat was a sleek Ralph Lauren polka dot silk CDC. I also used a bit of blue lambskin for the contrast panels and pocket welts.

I am so pleased with how this coat turned out. It isn’t perfect. I had a lot of trouble top-stitching through the thickness of the cowhide in many places. However, with a little handstitching and compromise, I don’t think that this is too noticeable. I also haven’t decided on front closures. I quite like the clean, no-closure look. I could have used magnets, but the coat keeps closed well enough on it’s own because of it’s roomy nature. I’m also considering buttonholes, via an embroidery house or by hand. I love my Pfaff, but I think coat buttonholes need a bit of extra special treatment to look professional. I’ve also thought about leather buckle/toggles, but I’m quite happy with the coat as it is right now.

McCalls 8082: a denim shirt

So, this shirt is another version of the oversized white man-shirt I made last year. I made it in an attempt to replace my beloved Anna Sui Chambray shirt, that has now been retired, but it opened my eyes to the fact that chambray and denim literally goes with everything.
 

I’ve been loving the look of oversized, drop shoulder shirts this season. I’ve also been craving the look of denim on denim. Since my complete denim on denim outfit is still in the design stages, I had to content with my much loved leather trousers for these photos. 

 
The fabric I used for this shirt is a very soft and lightweight denim. It is blue, but so very dark that it almost looks black. I was hoping for a paler denim colour when I purchased it online, but I’ve grown to love the darker hue.

The pattern I used was McCalls 8082, with just one modification. I took a small step away from the very 80’s look of this pattern by narrowing the top of the sleeves and raising the armscye each by just over an inch. This helps to slim down some of the excess fabric under the arm and through the bust for me.



I love how this shirt turned out. Denim really does go with everything, so you’ll probably also see me pairing it with my maxi skirt when the weather warms.
 
 

 
 


Playing dress ups with my two-piece set-actular


I know you’ve seen my fancy pants before. I blogged about my Rigel bomber hack recently too. And if you follow me on Instagram, I shared these pictures yesterday, so please feel free to tune out now if you already have pink-overload. Some would say that this is the mother of all two-piece set-aculars. Or, according to my husband, I’m tracksuiting it up for you. Because I can.
 


 
 

 

My husband and I are celebrating our anniversary in a few weeks and I’m thinking this outfit might be perfect for that occasion. I keep warning him that one day, I am going to be that old lady with purple hair, red lipstick and rhinestones on her walking cane. My gift to you dear husband, is the perfect glimpse into your future….bwahaha!  

 

 


Oliver + S Pinwheel dress in Anna Sui

How cute is this little Pinwheel dress by Oliver + S! It’s a new-to-me pattern, so I thought I’d test it with a nightgown-suitable fabric first. The chambray is Anna Sui. It is a lovely, soft, pure cotton in a herringbone pattern. It looks lovely new, but it wrinkles horribly on washing and does not wear very well at all. I learnt this the hard way with my chambray man-shirt, which has sadly already been retired. I do wonder sometimes if some designer end bolts are sold off by the designers because they weren’t very happy with the fabric in the first place.

 
The pattern itself is very simple, but like all Oliver + S patterns, it takes a little longer than expected because of the special details. The bottom of the flounce is bound with yards of self-fabric binding (or contrast). You could always simply serge these edges, but it’s the little touches like the binding that make this dress so special.  
 
 

 

The fit is very good on my just-turned-Miss Five. I expected the dress to be way too short on her (as most unmodified patterns are). I think the length works perfectly this time, although I will probably lengthen her next version, while keeping the width exactly the same.

And before I sign off, I thought I’d also share this little refashion which isn’t really worthy of it’s own post. I made myself a Salme flared mini skirt many months ago. It’s been a really great Winter skirt for me and I’ve worn it a LOT. The beautiful wool twill was starting to look a little rough and woolly for my liking, but it was still perfectly good fabric for a five year old. I simply cut out the waistband and back zipper, and attached an elastic encased waistband. It was such a simple modification, but it has given some lovely fabric a whole new lease of life.





A second scrappy Christmas skirt

This is my last little Christmas gift catch-up post. It’s another scrappy silk skirt, made in exactly the same way as the one in my last post. This is also the last of my beautiful butterfly silk CDC (which you’ve now seen more times than I care to remember).
 

 

And the best thing about this skirt is it’s swish-factor.
 



One scrappy Christmas skirt

I keep most of my little silk scraps because they make such beautiful swishy little skirts. Mostly, the scraps are all off grain, and in awkward shapes and lengths but this doesn’t matter one bit. I just hem the edges, gather the pieces, and then layer them randomly until a skirt is formed. The waistband is just a length of elastic, encased in a fabric waistband.

I made this skirt with leftover Cracked Glass CDC from my Summertime Anna, Chanel-inspired ensemble, and little birdie polyester dress.

 It’s a very swishy skirt!

But now I must take my handbag and go Mummy.

A Rigel bomber jacket for January, slightly modified of course!

When I heard Ginger was planning Rigel bomber jacket January, I vaguely considered the idea, but pretty much dismissed it. I did have a quick look through my stash to see if I could inspire myself, but the idea of another bomber just didn’t excite me. This is possibly because I already have a particularly fabulous one that I wear year round.

But then I laid my eyes on a pile of gorgeous cashmere and fuschia double faced crepe wool scraps left over from my recent Dior jacket and wide leg fancy pants. Combined, I had the perfect amount for a bomber, but more importantly, a seed of inspiration had planted itself in my brain.  

I’ve made a Rigel bomber before, so I was confident with it’s construction and how it would fit me. It’s a great pattern. I love the shape, the fit, the cute welt pockets and the original neckline. I do believe it needs a lining though, but this is easy enough to do. I was lazy and just re-cut the pattern pieces in some leftover Caroline Herrera silk twill. If I was feeling more energetic, I would have drafted the lining to incorporate the existing self-fabric facing. The latter would have looked more professional, but both ways work.



This time round, I wanted to move slightly away from the traditional bomber shape. My changes to the original pattern weren’t huge, but they have had a major effect on both the look and the silhouette of the jacket.

So what did I do:

  • I raised the neckline and drafted an overlapping mandarin style collar. I used a leather buckle to fasten the collar, but most likely it will be left undone when I wear it.

  • I also widened the sleeves by A LOT, shortened them, and added sleeve cuffs. I slashed and pieced the original sleeves, using my blue wool coat as a guide because that was the kimono-like shape I was after.
  • I added a contrast panel to the back piece and matching cuffs for the sleeves.
  • I ditched the idea of using ribbing because a colour match with my amazingly vibrant wool or cashmere contrast would have been near impossible. Instead, I lengthened the hem pattern piece and used more contrast fabric. The contrast is cashmere so without the stretch, it has given my bomber a boxier look. I like this. 

I’m pretty happy with this make. I know I will get heaps of wear out of it, because I know how much I already wear my other Rigel bomber. This one will be warmer though, and the colours make it a little more special.