BHL Alix dress revisited

At the end of last year, I was a pattern tester for the Alix dress. You might remember my long sleeved version of this dress.

The original version of this Alix dress had beautiful long sleeves. A silk dress with long sleeves is dreamy, but ocassions to wear it are few and far between. It’s not warm enough for Spring, and yet, by Summer, I really don’t want to wear long sleeves of any description. The natural solution was to chop off those sleeves.

The Alix dress works beautifully as a sleeveless dress. There is just one thing you need to know about doing it. The armscye in the original pattern is designed to be close fitting, because it’s a pattern for a woven, sleeved dress. It needs to higher in a sleeved dress to achieve a fitted look and allow for good arm movement in a woven fabric. However, a high armscye is unnecessary and uncomfortable in a sleeveless dress. Some of the lower armscye needs to be scooped out (lowered) in order to suit a sleeveless design. I shaved about 1/2 inch off the bottom of my armsye. I could have probably taken off a little more.

I simply bound the armscye in two parts. I dealt with the lower armscye first and then re-stitched that to the yoke. Finally, I applied bias binding to the part of the yoke that was left raw. It all folds under and is nicely hidden. I should also mention that as this was a test version of the Alix dress, the bust darts are a little pointy but if gathered (as per the updated pattern), the bust area would look smoother and awesome.

I’ve been dreaming of this version of the Alix dress since I first sewed my tester version. I’m glad I have it in my closet now. I can definitely see myself making more.

 

 

Halston knock-off trousers

I was lucky enough to do a bit of modelling a few months ago and I got to wear a pair of amazing Halston pants. They weren’t even in my correct size (there was a bit of back-clipping involved), but I still fell instantly in love with them. The light, drapey fabric screamed Spring, and I just loved the large overlapping pleat at the front. Needless to say, I examined them very closely and took a lot of photos.

There are a few sewing patterns out there that are reasonably close in style, but nothing that is actually the same. The Ebony pants by Style Arc have a similar feel, but are pull-on, elastic waist pants with a mid-rise. The Halston pants are high waisted, with a regular waistband and back darts, symmetrical pleats next to the front pockets, and a centre front invisible zipper hidden beneath a large front pleat. What may seem like small design differences can make the world of difference to how a final product feels and looks. I felt it would be simpler for me to start with a well fitted pair of trousers and adjust the design from there. It’s not hard to cut and slash a few pleats. That’s all the overlapping pleat is in the front. It’s just a pleat that begins at the CF, at the same position as the zipper.

My pants are far from perfect. This was a wearable muslin (so I’m not too worried about the waistband puckers). I used the most hideous, poly suiting from Joann. I almost wish I’d spent a bit more now since they worked out better than expected. I could stand to add a half inch to the crotch length to bring the pants a little higher to my true waist. I also need to straighten my side seams by adding to the back and taking from the front and vice versa. See how my outer leg seam curves around to the back.

I love the look of pink silk with grey. But in real life, I’m most comfortable pairing these pants with a white shirt and wool boob tube. It’s just a little hard to show off the neat front pleat of the pants in this way though!

 

 

Swimmers swimsuit V1

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that I’m on a mission of sorts. I’m determined to perfect a couple of swimsuit designs, both for myself and my daughters.

Swimming is slowly becoming a big part of our lives, so it makes perfect sense that my sewing table would reflect this. We’re at the pool most days. I’m like a yoyo, driving the kids to the pool in the afternoon, and then back again on my own as often as I can. After nearly a year of talking about it, I’ve finally joined the Masters and I LOVE it. Swimming in a squad is nothing like swimming on your own (I’ve been kidding myself for months). During each session my hypoxic lungs and burning arms body remind me just how out of swim-condition I am, but also, just how good it is for me.

I’m currently working on three styles of swimsuits. One is a kid-style. I don’t like seeing kids in swimsuits that are too skimpy through the bottom and sides (like my suit design in this post!), but I also don’t like the racerback to be too wide. Whilst I would still recommend Jalie 3134 for kid swimsuits (and at this point, I can’t actually think of a better sewing pattern out there for the specific purpose of squad swimming), it just wasn’t the perfect swimsuit pattern for this very picky swim-mum. I’ll still sew Jalie 3134 again, but I’ll probably reserve it for when I have smaller fabric scraps to use up. There’s some great panelling on that pattern.

In terms of the issues, I found the crotch of Jalie 3134 pattern a little too wide and the fit around the bum and lower back less than ideal. If you look at the woman’s back view picture on the pattern cover, you can see the gathering/wrinkles I’m talking about. It’s really no big deal, but I know a better fit is possible. I also don’t like the side seams on this pattern. I feel like you can get a better fit through the lower back/sides with a slanted side/hip seam that is positioned more towards the back of the suit, as opposed to a straight side seam connecting the front and back. A straight side seam also adds bulk to the underarm zone, which can cause pretty horrific chaffing if you don’t nail it during construction. But even then, you really don’t want an underarm seam in bathers if you are doing serious swimming. Again, I’m nitpicking here, but I’ve had a lot of hands-on, personal experience with swimsuits over the years.

The other two designs are just for myself. I’ve photographed the skimpier style for this post. I’m quite pleased with how it turned out but it’s still a little short in the body. I just need to add a little extra length/width to the upper bust area and then I think I can file this pattern away as done. I have another suit design on the cutting table that will provide a bit more coverage through the sides and back, with a back that looks more like the kid version.

Like the Jalie design I discussed earlier, my first two swimsuits (here and here) also had a straight side seam. Why? Because it’s easy to draft. Removing that straight side seam hurt my brain a lot, but it worked. Compare the seams in the photos below. The top (green cherry) suit is Jalie 3134. It has all the fun seaming. The bottom (buzzy bee) suit is my design. My accidental pattern-matching makes the seam a little hard to see in the buzzy bee suit, but you can see it better here.

I tried it out first on Miss nearly-Nine’s suit. Then I used the same principles to create similar designs for me.

I’m getting closer with the kid-suit. I messed up the neckline in this first draft, so I had to cut off the top binding and add pleats just to make it wearable (there’s no way I was going to waste a swimsuit with Summer on the way!). The fit through the back is pretty spot on though.

My next version also worked out really well. It was actually intended for my biggest girl, but we realised that Miss Seven needed it more. And since she’s chomping at the bit to join her big sister in the swim team, we all thought the buzzy bees should belong to her. Miss Seven is almost as tall as her big sister, but just a smidgin narrower through the waist and hips. I wasn’t able to catch her to photograph the swimsuit dry, but it was rigorously tested in the water yesterday. In fact, I was lucky to catch this one for a photo, full stop.

 

 

 

Plaid oversize top

This is the kind of top I wear a lot in Spring. It’s oversize enough to wear as a sweater but it also looks fine as a top.

I used an old pattern in my stash. I suspect it may have started out as Simplicity 1366 but has been modified within an inch of its life. I know I changed the neckline shape, added a collar (which I can stand up if I like), dropped the shoulders, adjusted the shoulder seam slope, widened the sleeves, and changed the armscye. I also modified the hem and added side slits. In fact, it would be a disservice to you all if I were to still call this Simplicity 1366…

In any case, I’ve made this top twice before, and worn them both to death. One has a shoulder seam zipper like this one and has since been demoted into a painting smock. The other was made in a stable knit fabric and has become my go-to gym sweater. It’s nice to have another version that is respectable enough to wear in public again.

The fabric is an unknown wool blend, thrifted from an estate sale many months ago. It is double-faced and launders beautifully, but it creases a little. Perhaps it contains a bit of cotton?

Itsy bitsy Heiress Bikini and rashie

 

Sharon, from Swimstyle Patterns, contacted me a few weeks ago to see if I’d like to try one of her patterns. I was under no obligation to blog about it, but I’m very impressed, so I want to share my experience.

I’d already discovered this Australian indie pattern maker a few months earlier via Instagram so I knew what patterns she had to offer. There were two main reasons why I hadn’t already purchased any patterns off her myself. It was mid-Winter here! Also, I don’t wear bikini’s very often. I’m not opposed to a good bikini. They just don’t suit my lifestyle (which involves real swimming, rather than sunbathing). And on the odd occasion that I might be lazing around a pool, I’m always in hiding from the sun, covered up from head to waist with a long sleeve rash vest, thus rendering a bikini pointless anyway.

There are lots of swimsuit patterns out there, including vintage, indie, and modern. I’ve sewn more than a few of each. However, it’s still hard to find style lines and sophisticated construction techniques that replicate RTW. I work in a high end clothing boutique once a week (and do the odd modelling job for them as you may have guessed from my IG feed!). On Saturdays, I spend my time studying, styling, and fitting designer clothes, mainly on customers (but sometimes on myself too ;-)). One such item I was admiring recently was a very cute bikini by Milly. I especially loved the seamless design and the simple, yet flattering shape of the separates. The Heiress bikini has a very similar seamless design, so I was quite keen to try it out.

I cut a size 10 for the bikini, which corresponds very closely to my measurements. The top portion is drafted for a B-cup. I’m an A-cup on a good day, but I wanted to trial the pattern first before I attempted any modifications.

The fabric I used is not your traditional swimsuit fabric. It’s actually a double layer of swimsuit fabric, bonded together. This makes it extra thick (a little scuba-like), extra flattering, but with a little less stretch. I think it makes the bikini top extra supportive, but perhaps the reduced stretch also makes the bottoms a little skimpier.

The bottoms are actually a perfect fit (albeit in a very cheeky style!). The seamless design makes for such a pretty finish. The top would be perfectly suited to a B-cup. I think (given the stretch of swimsuit fabric and style of cut) it would probably look great on a C-cup too. It’s a little “empty” on me and since I don’t need or want padding in my swimsuits, I’ll probably give it away.

I’m keeping the bottoms though. I have another top underway that I’ll pair with the rashie below (also by Swimstyle Patterns). Ideally, I would have made this up in the long sleeve version (sun safety all the way here!) but I just didn’t have quite enough fabric. I sized down in this pattern, and then adjusted the side seams further as I made it. Swimsuit fabric is stretchy and I like my rash vests to fit like a second skin. That way, you almost forget you are wearing one. I could probably still bring the seams in a smidgen around the waist and arms. I’m amazed at how many loose-fitting, oversized skinsuits and rash vests I see people wearing in real life, especially poor kids. They must feel so unpleasant and heavy when wet!

The other great thing about this bikini pattern, is that there is a free pattern hack for anyone wanting a bit of extra butt coverage. There are also more strap options for the top. I chose the halter version, but there is also an adjustable strap version, and a really neat cross back hack available.

 

Spring stripes

When I purchase fabric, I usually have a project in mind, but I rarely follow sewing patterns without some sort of modification. This means that I’ve had to get pretty good at estimating fabric requirements on my own. I usually come pretty close these days, but sometimes I end up erring on the more generous side (because it gives me a little leeway to change my mind on the design, and because I know that I’ll always find a good use for the scraps if any remain).

This was the case with some lovely hand-dyed velvet, wool crepe, and ponte that I found in my stash. I loved the way the contrasting colours looked together. They all have some stretch, but not enough to do away with darts. The velvet and wool are woven, but the ponte was a knit.

I started by cutting the fabrics into wide strips (seaming some of the velvet strips for extra length where needed). Then I stitched them together to create a striped fabric. I had just enough fabric to make a midi skirt in a slim-fitting style. I designed it by draping (on myself!) and re-stitching those stripe seams around the hips and bottom until they absorbed the darts needed to create the fitted shape.

In retrospect, I should have left the initial (striped fabric) seams unfinished (no overlocking!) until I’d sewn the final garment. I ended up doing a lot of unpicking of those overlocked seams to shape the top of the skirt. I also added gores (of orange wool crepe) to the bottom of the skirt for a bit of extra flare.

There’s a bit of a difference in the amount of stretch in each fabric. So, even though the stripes are the same width, the white ponte stretches more than the velvet, and this is most apparent at the waist. I probably should have made the ponte a little narrower, or the velvet a little wider to adjust for this.

I’m still pretty happy with how it turned out though. It’s a warm and comfortable skirt for Spring. And it just so happens to match perfectly with my refashioned velvet top.

 

Esther shorts and a little refashioning

The Esther shorts pattern is a very old tried ‘n’ true pattern for me. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve sewn them up. I love the high waisted design. My preference is to sew them up in a medium weight, cotton/elastane (2-3%) blend. And given the frequency with which I’ve made them, that is probably all I need to say on the matter.

I’ve also been doing a bit of refashioning around these parts (nothing new, you say!). One of my favourite, casual, silk dresses was getting a little old and starting to look a bit too sheer in the skirt. The logical solution was to chop off the skirt. Now it’s a cute little top!

I didn’t waste the skirt portion though. The pale, neutral colours of the silk have made it a great option for lining a little Summer dress for Miss Eight. More on that one later though!

 

Vogue 9043 in classic black

This is my first coat of the season. I’m still debating with myself over whether I’ll sew another this year. I know there’s time. I have the fabric. There’s a few months of coat weather ahead of me here. I’m just not entirely sure that I want to build further on my own Winter wardrobe this year, or perhaps wait until next year when I’ll definitely need it more.

Meanwhile, I’m glad to say that this little black coat is going to get a lot of wear. The pattern I used was Little Vogue 9043. I cut View B in a size 8 for my very tall seven year old. The black wool coating and silky vintage lining was all thrifted from estate sales, aquired several months earlier. The buttons were excrutiatingly picked out from Joann’s by the littlest sister, specifically for Miss Seven and this coat. In equal parts, they are the cheapest, and yet most expensive buttons I own, and yet so much selfless thought and true love went into their selection that I just couldn’t say no.

The size 8 fits Miss just-turned-Seven reasonably well right now, but at the rate she’s growing, I’m not convinced she’ll fit into it next year. Of all my girls, she’s probably built the most similar to me; tall and slim, with broad shoulders (great for swimming ;-)). She doesn’t measure up as a size 8 through the chest, but her shoulders are broader above this. I know (from personal fitting experience) that if I sew a pattern to fit her bust/chest measurement, the shoulders won’t fit without adjustment. An easy kid-fix is to simply size up, as I did with this coat. It fits her perfectly across the shoulders, but there is extra room through the chest area, and a lot more ease (than intended by the pattern design) at the waist and hips. There is also extra length in the coat, but that actually works well in our favour. The fit isn’t perfect, but it is perfectly acceptable for a child and a child’s Winter coat at that.

She’ll get a lot of wear out of this coat over the next three months. The wool coating is thick, but it’s probably still only best suited to Spring here. It would be a perfectly suitable coat for Winter in Australia though.

Before I sign off on this one, I should also mention the beautiful lines in the design of the pattern. It’s one of the reasons why I love Vogue patterns and why I was drawn to making this particular one. It’s a little hard to photograph the details in black fabric, but the pockets are integrated beautifully into a princess seamed bodice. The two-piece sleeves are also shaped so that they curve forward.

I love the classic, dressy shape of this coat. It will be a very nice coat to keep and hand down to the last daughter (assuming it survives the wear and tear of this middle child!).

 

 

 

Statement sleeves in blush silk

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This has been my party shirt for the holiday season. I’ve mostly been wearing it with leather trousers, rather than these wool pants. There’s something so lovely and contradictory about pairing leather with silk charmeuse.

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The pattern I used was Vogue 7604. The only changes I made were to lengthen the sleeves and body a little. I made my standard broad back adjustment. I also shortened the neck ties by about 6 inches on each side, because I simply didn’t have enough fabric. That bias cut collar and tie is a serious fabric hog!

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There is a small amount of stretch in my silk (technically it’s called stretch silk charmeuse), which makes it very comfortable to wear. In real life, I’ve been wearing a thin, long sleeve, merino top underneath it, which makes it the warmest and most comfortable party wear ever!

The collar can be worn a few ways. I like it tied at the back best, but it can also be tied at the front, or wrapped around once with a shorter tie at the back. And suprisingly, those sleeves did not get dipped into any gravy. I did have to watch out for the pussy bow though!

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A Summer dress

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Apparently you guys like pretty dresses, well those of you who follow me on IG do. My top posts of 2016 are pretty much all the dresses. I hadn’t even blogged about this one and it still made the cut.

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I made this one using a large remnant of vintage linen, thrifted from an estate sale. The textured windowpane fabric was from a small length purchased on whim from Tessuti Fabrics some time ago. I think the blue pairs perfectly with it.

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The pattern is modification on a self-drafted princess bodice that fits me perfectly. You’ve seen me use different versions of this bodice all Summer (here, here, here, and here). The skirt is just gathered (with pockets of course!). I was after a cool, easy-to-wear, Summer dress.

I was worried about the straps being too stiff, but I’m glad for their sturdiness now. And they don’t feel too stiff when I wear the dress. They actually feel comfortable and secure. I hate flimsy straps that feel like they may stretch out or tear. Instead of creating tubes and pressing flat (as I’d normally do for a strap of this width), I used wider lengths of linen, folded the raw edges in and then in on themselves again, and then topstitched both edges. It means that there are four layers of linen in each strap, perfectly suited to holding up the weight of a midi-length, gathered skirt.

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I’m a big fan of the midi length dress. It’s an easy length for tall ladies to wear. I know I’m going to get a lot of wear out of this, maybe even sooner rather than later!

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