Oliver + S // Faux leather pants

I’m not sure how long I’ve had this pink faux leather in my stash, but it was always destined for Miss Six. She’s such a groovy little chickadee.

1

4

3

 

I used the Parachute pants pattern from Oliver + S. I removed the side panel, narrowed the legs a little, and lengthened them to the next size up to better fit my tall girl.

The legs are obviously too long on Miss Six right now. I was planning on hemming them, but the faux leather looks cleaner unfinished, so the extra length comes from the hem allowance that was never turned up. We’ll probably leave it as it is for now and just roll the legs up until Miss Six’s legs stretch (which happens regularly anyway!).

5

 

 

Vintage Kwik Sew 1034 // scrapbust sweaters

I hope everybody had a wonderful Christmas! We had a great day, but not a white Christmas in Kansas. However, I believe we are expecting snow any day now, so it could be a special white birthday for Miss Five tomorrow.

Santa was very generous this year. The big guy bought a joint present for all my girls, in the form of a very basic, but well reviewed, Brother XL-2610 sewing machine. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a learning machine for my kids (and I wasn’t about to share my Pfaff), but I did want them to have a machine that would be simple to use and reasonably sturdy. So far the machine is working well and the girls are finding it easy to develop confidence on. And because it’s not my precious machine, I’m happy to let them play on it alone without too much anxiety.

At the moment, we’re still working on threading the machine and sewing straight lines at a precise distance from the fabric edge, but I’m happy to report that Miss Five has proclaimed it the best present from Santa this year.

And while we’re talking about Christmas, I thought I’d share a few little sweaters I made for my girls using an old Kwik Sew pattern in my stash. I modified it slightly to block in a few different fabrics and lengthen the bodice, but otherwise I left it pretty unchanged.

8

6

5

Miss Seven’s sweater was made up in a size 8. It’s pretty roomy on her, but my big girls grow like weeds so I always err on the larger size with them. The bodice length is extremely short in the pattern so I also lengthened it by 2 inches before adding the bottom band. The black portion of the sweater is from a new merino jersey sweater of mine (that was too small). The ivory ruffles and tiger fabric were both small remnants in my scrap basket and specifically chosen by the recipients.

2

3

Miss Five’s sweater is mostly tiger fabric, with a little merino trim. I made this one as a tunic to incorporate the ivory trim better. I also made a standard version of this pattern for her in rainbow French terry. It’s a very simple and practical raglan pattern.

 

Wool jersey luxe lounge pants // V8909

These pants are such a simple design and are so easy to make that they very nearly didn’t warrant a blog post. I’ve use the pattern several times before and have tweaked it slightly along the way to improve the fit. This time round, I lengthened the legs, and only sewed two channels of elastic in the waistband.

1

The only point of interest in these pants is to do with the fabric I used to make them. It is a wool/acrylic blend in a super soft, loose knit jersey. It’s the same fabric I used to make this grey knit dress. It’s not the type of fabric I’d normally associate a pair of trackie pants with, but boy is it delicious to wear.

3

My inspiration came from a pair of RTW cashmere trackie pants. Unfortunately I didn’t have any cashmere on hand (nor was it in my budget) but this wool blend did a pretty good job. The sad news is that my fabric is going to pill like crazy after a few wears. Agh… once again I am cursing my foolishness in purchasing a synthetic blend. It’s such a waste when they look rough so quickly. It won’t matter too much with these pants though. The comfort factor will be present no matter how they look, and that’s pretty much all that matters to me in Winter!

5

 

Let’s talk darts

I’d like to spend a little time talking about darts. We’ve all sewn them at one time or another. They’re not difficult to sew and there are probably many ways to do them. I’m by no means an expert and I can’t promise that I won’t have any dart disasters in the future. I just know what I like and what I don’t. So I’m going to share a few pictures that I’ve come across lately that got me thinking about this topic in the first place. And then I’ll show you a little trick that I keep in mind when I sew darts.

Exhibit 1: This interesting jacket by Noon by Noor. It’s a sneak peak of their upcoming collection that they shared on Instagram. I usually love seeing their designs, but I just can’t look past those darts. Am I missing something here? Maybe they are a design feature? All I can see is that they are oddly positioned for this girl and stretched out like nipples.

On set of our Pre-Fall 2016 shoot #noonbynoor #pf16 #bts #sneakpeek #details

Exhibit 2: Dart-gate. Prada allowed poor Anne Hathaway to wear this dress a few years ago. Those dart lines are so straight. They’re like a big sign pointing to her nipples. Although, when I started sewing, this was how I sewed all my bust darts, because that was what the pattern said to do. I think there’s a better way.

dart

Exhibit 3: This recent pattern from Seamwork. I’m including this shot because it’s a problem I often face as a smaller busted lady and I particularly dislike the look of darts on an unfitted top. I feel like the whole point of darts is to shape a curve and when there is already excess ease, that shaping is unnecessary and unattractive. This woman is clearly too small and perky for the size of blouse. She could probably do without the darts completely. I’m not going to comment on the odd shape of them. I suspect the fabric may have been quite tricky/slippery to sew with.

dat

So, here is my quick and very simple tip for sewing darts.
My pet peeve is seeing darts end in a sharp or stretched out point on either a bodice or a bottom (in a skirt/pant). And that generally happens when you sew the dart straight, as indicated by the lines on most sewing patterns. But who has straight angles on their body? I’d hardly call myself curvy, but even I don’t have sharp angles on my body. Women are all about curves; gentle curves, big curves, medium curves, all kinds of curves. So why on earth would you sew straight seams when you’re supposed to be shaping around a curve (eg. bust or bottom).
In the diagram below, I’ve illustrated a skirt dart. The straight line is in black, in the shape you’d see marked on most patterns. The red line is the way I prefer to sew darts, curved around until it blends seamlessly with the fabric (because my bottom is round, not pointy). Obviously, to improve the fit further, you could also shorten/lengthen or shape the dart to reflect your own curves. But if you are just starting out and the bare minimum you do is to curve that seam, you will still have a much better end result. And if you want more information on sewing darts, you should check out this tutorial.
1212121

 

Top 5 HITS of 2015

Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow is responsible for coming up with the Top Five initiative. I try to take part each year because it is a great way for me to reflect on the things that worked and the things that didn’t. Sometimes there are a few surprises in my hits and misses (ahem…last year’s leather skirt).

top 5

Each year, I’ve noticed how my sewing evolves in relation to my skill level. I used to sew a lot of staples like knit T’s, dresses, and leggings, but this doesn’t bring me as much joy anymore. Having said that though, I’m having a blast sewing up a bunch of slightly quirky sweaters, trackies, and togs for the Christmas stockings right now. But in general, I’ve been steering away from the quick makes and spending more time on projects that require more involvement, and teach me things along the way. My hits are largely reflective of this focus.

1. My PDF sewing patterns

Sewing is both a hobby and an art for me. I’m not content to just make clothes. I want to be constantly learning and challenging myself. That was where the idea of digitising patterns entered the picture. It started at a time when I’d somehow sewn all the clothes my family needed so learning to digitise patterns became a great way for me to expand my knowledge in patternmaking and grading. I especially wanted to get a proper handle on accurate grading because with three girls and myself under the one roof, I was anticipating times in the future when a design for one of us would require grading another three ways!

I spent several months over the Summer completely immersed in patternmaking and grading theory. As a result, I managed to produce seven quality PDF sewing patterns that I’m extremely proud of.

PicMonkey Collage

The clothes that I made from those patterns were hits too (which was why I went about digitising them in the first place). For me, it was the summer of Branson and Sea Change tops, Wonderland skirts, and Splash Swimsuits. For my girls, Cartwheel shorts and Daisy Chain tops became their daily school uniform and the Twirl-to-Me dress was reserved for weekends and parties. It was the complete capsule wardrobe for us all! I don’t have any immediate plans to make more sewing patterns. If I see a gap in the pattern market and fall in love with another unique design that translates into a wearable item, I may feel inspired to develop it further. Only time will tell.

2. Leather blocked Winter coat

untitled

I made this coat last Winter, but oh how I love it so! It’s my go-to coat at the moment and feels a lot like wearing a big cozy blanket. As we head towards the deep freeze, it is understandably my favourite make for the year.

3. Grey knit dresses

I liked the idea of a snuggly wool dress so much that I made two. One was refashioned from an old top and drop waist dress. The other was made from scratch. I wear them both a lot.

 

4. Miss Seven’s tailored coat / My first wrap skirt

I’m sneaking two makes in here as hits for 2015 (because I used the same fabric). I can do that can’t I?

t

And of course I had some scraps leftover to make this:

wrap

I took my time making both the tailored coat and the skirt. I can see things about them that I will do better next time, but I’m sill very proud of both. I don’t often look twice at the clothes my family wears because they mostly wear clothes made by me. However, that coat has me stopping and smiling to myself every time I see it.

5. Rigel bomber

I made this bomber jacket way back in January with the leftover scraps from my Dior coat and wide leg pants (all of which were major hits, but the latter two were made in 2014). I’ve been wearing the bomber a great deal lately. It dresses up a simple sweater and black leather pants perfectly, and being soft and lightweight, I can easily layer it with my leather blocked coat on super frosty days.

1 2 5

Honourable mention // All things tiger print

This year I purchased the license to an awesome tiger photo and printed myself some fabric using Spoonflower. To say my middle child is partial to animal prints would be an understatement. My plan was to make her some tiger gear through the year as a special surprise, but I was soon swamped by other requests, including a cycling jersey for the husband and the leotard you see below. I’ve also just made some Christmas sweaters for my girls using up the leftover sports pique (here , here, and here). And there’s a pair of bathers currently on the cutting table for Miss Seven.

tig

I had a truly fabulous sewing year and I’m looking forward to continuing on my learning curve in 2016. I hope you guys will join me! x

 

 

 

 

Oliver + S // Pinwheel slip dress in silk

I have quite a mammoth sewing to-do list in the lead up to Christmas. I didn’t plan it that way. In fact, I didn’t plan to do much Christmas sewing at all this year. My only goal was to sew that velvet dress, and of course, the Winter coat (that is slowly coming along).

The Winter coat now has buttonholes and a collar, but the rest of it has been put on hold while I catch up on the selfless sewing that I was trying to avoid. However, I think the Christmas bug has just caught me a little later this year, because I’m looking forward to the quick and fun sewing that is now on my horizon.

It all started with Miss Seven. It’s an annual tradition at her elementary school for all the 2nd grade students to dress up and attend the Nutcracker, by the Kansas City Ballet. It’s quite a special occasion for the little kids each year and even more special because her best friend is a part of the cast (although not performing on that day). The kids look forward to this event for literally a whole year, but I didn’t consider the ‘dress-up’ component until about a week ago when Miss Seven started muttering about the ‘fancy dresses’ the other girls were wearing, and then the email came home from the teacher requesting that the boys wear ‘nice’ jeans or pants.

Miss Seven already had the perfect dressy coat for the occasion. But I decided to sew her a special dress to wear with it. The fabric came from my stash. It is a vibrant Ralph Lauren silk CDC that I previously used to line this coat of mine. I had the perfect amount for the Oliver + S Pinwheel slip and tunic dress pattern.

3

4

I modified the pattern slightly to sew the tunic and slip as one, instead of making separate dresses to layer as the pattern suggests. I also changed added a keyhole to the back as the method of fastening. To do this, I copied the neckline and armscye of the tunic over the slip pattern and then sewed them together at the neckline. This eliminated the need for neck binding or facing. The slip portion also became the lining. In addition, I lengthened the arms.

5

I’m pretty chuffed with how this dress turned out. I made it up in a size 8 but was a little worried it would be too big. Miss Seven is taller than average and quite slim through the body and hips (her hips and waist are a size 5), but she seems to have a nice width to her shoulders which probably accounts for how the dress fits. The shoulder fit is great but the dress volumes out beneath that (which is nature of a the dress design anyway). The length is short but acceptable (I normally lengthen patterns for her).

Miss Seven is delighted with her early Christmas present and that makes me happy too. I consulted with her all the way in the making of it, because I feel like she’s old enough now to start developing a more informed opinion on clothes and styles (rather than just a need for all things swishy, ruffled, and pink). Of course, I had to pull the reigns in with regards to her initial selection of suitable fabrics and design (ie not floor length velvet like Mummy), but we talked over the options and she came up with some of her own ideas. In the cool weather, she’ll be wearing this dress with white, fleece lined tights which will look super cute too.

2

The velvet dress // from fabric dyeing to construction

Up until this year, I’ve never really given velvet a second glance. I used to walk past the carefully perched rolls of velvet at Tessuti Fabrics and sigh, and perhaps tentatively stroke them, but I couldn’t really see how such a lush fabric could fit into my wardrobe.

This season is different. I’ve got images of velvet playsuits and blazers stuck in my head. I’d actually like to make all the velvet things but I had to decide on just one. I toyed with the idea of playsuit, but opted for a more classic style of dress instead. I think the simple design of this dress will have more longevity in my wardrobe.

You’ll have to forgive the scrunched up sleeves and trust me when I say the fit is pretty spot on. I could scoop a smidgen more out of the lower back curve, but with normal walking/moving, those wrinkles aren’t actually that noticeable. I really just need an assistant to straighten me up before photos.

9

6

The dress is a faux wrap design with a crossover bodice and wrap skirt. The fabric is a woven, not a knit. It contains some stretch, but not so much that would eliminate the need for darts/gathers or closures. I chose to add gathers to the bodice design and a zipper in the back. I hid the back darts in the back curve of the waist seam. I prick stitched the back zipper in place, adding a tiny glass bead with each stitch. I also made a detachable leather tassal. which I will secure to the zipper pull to aid dressing. I’m just waiting on a little spring clip in the mail.

1

With regards to the fabric, I had my heart set on a deep teal, navy, or bottle green velvet. I couldn’t find what I wanted so I decided to dye the fabric myself. I purchased some natural stretch velvet  and the necessary chemicals from Dharma Trading Co. I find their website quite informative and simple to use, particularly when trying to figure out exactly what I need for something I know nothing about.

12

I used a Fiber Reactive Procion dye, regular table salt, and soda ash as the fixative. My velvet is a silk/rayon blend. It only stretches on the cross grain and is reasonably light weight (for velvet). It doesn’t require lining, but I’d consider lining it if I was working with a light colour. I’m actually really pleased with the quality of textile and absolutely delighted with the dyeing outcome. It’s important to note that the fabric shrinkage was quite significant after the first wash, but that information was on the website so I was able to order the extra yardage to account for this.

The dyeing process was extremely simple. I used my front loader washing machine, set on the hottest, longest cycle. I read somewhere that a front loader holds about 8 gallons of water so I made my dye calculations based on that (however, I was hardly precise about anything!). Here’s a quick summary of my dyeing process:

  • Pre-wash fabric with Synthrapol
  • Begin long/hot cycle. When water has filled the machine, pause cycle.
  • Dissolve dye powder in water. Dissolve salt in water. Open machine door and pour in dye and salt. Close door and resume cycle.
  • Run cycle for 15-30 min and then pause again (you need about 15min remaining for the soda ash).
  • Soda ash should be dissolved in hot water – add this to the last part of the cycle.
  • Close door. Finish cycle.
  • Start new cycle to wash out leftover dye, using Synthrapol as the detergent.
  • Remove fabric.
  • Clean machine by running a cycle on empty.

In terms of sewing with velvet, this was my first time. I knew to respect the nap, both in cutting direction and pressing, but I also learned a few other things along the way.

Velvet is shifty to sew. I wonder if the slight stretch in this particular velvet made it worse. My Pfaff has a walking foot which helped immensely. My serger hated the velvet. I only attempted one edge with the serger and then decided to pink the remaining raw edges. Hand-basting and lots of pins also helped deal with the shiftiness.

Velvet seams finger press open beautifully because the pile shifts and locks the seam in place (a bit like Velcro). When ironing, I used a thick, doubled up towel, but I’ve heard another upturned piece of velvet works well to press on too. Velvet is a dream to blind stitch as the pile hides the stitches so well. I machine stitched the centre front edges of the skirt before I realised this (so I’m not very happy with the ripple along one side). The neckline, sleeves, and hem were all hand-stitched (the neck with bias binding) and the finish is much nicer.

4