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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Vogue 8952 – View B in a linen knit

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I don’t like sewing staples very much. However, I had a bit of linen jersey in my stash and thought it might make a nice top for Fall.

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I used Vogue 8952, and made View B in a size 12.

I made a few very small changes to the pattern:

  • I narrowed the waist/hip flare.
  • I *think* I shortened it a little too. I wanted a simple, long sleeved top rather than a flared (borderline) tunic.
  • I lengthened the sleeves by an inch.
  • I also attached the funnel neck a little differently. I doubled it over, rather than leaving it as a single hemmed piece. I didn’t want quite so much drape around my neck.

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I don’t mind the way this top turned out. It’s not perfect, but it is perfectly wearable. The neckline is more stretched out in my top than what you’d normally see (even though I did stabilise it). I should have adjusted for my broad shoulders/back (as I would normally do if I were sewing a woven fabric). The neck seam should probably sit a little further in towards my neck on each side. However, I knew that the type of knit I was using, and the wide nature of the neckline would be very forgiving to broad shoulders. And it is comfortable to wear so I can deal with it.

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Cold shoulder refashion

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The off the shoulder and cold shoulder trend is still around. I also know for a fact it will still be here when Spring RTW hits the stores sometime in the new year. However, I personally need a break from the style. I’d also like to have warm shoulders during Winter. I’m all about comfort in cold weather. If it isn’t soft and warm, it won’t get a look in, no matter what.

Not everything is worth refashioning, but this particular top was. The fabric is a beautiful pure cotton Italian jersey. It is a smooth, lightweight knit without the addition of any other fibres or elastic, so it washes beautifully and wears well. The fabric deserves to be worn, which is probably why this top has been modified so many times.

It started as an off the shoulder top. But I hate strapless bras so after the first few wears, I made it more wearable by adding shoulder straps to conceal a bra. However, this top does not suit being worn under a jacket or even on it’s own in Winter for that matter.

I had a cotton/viscose cardigan in my closet that was given to me (that I was never going to wear), so I used that to replace the missing shoulder portion of the original top. I sliced the elastic and shoulder straps off my cold shoulder top (in a straight line). I then placed the cold shoulder top over an existing top and used that as a guide to cut the shoulder portion from the cardigan.

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If I’d been working with a plain T instead of a cardigan, I could have simply sewn the top portion on to the cold shoulder top. However, the cardigan needed a little more prep. I overlapped the front, removed the neck ribbing and then reattached it. I also gathered the sleeves to fit the cold sholder sleeves (which were more fitting). This is my favourite feature of the new top – those little puffs above the old sleeves. Why am I feeling puffy sleeves so much lately?!

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I love my new top. I loved the old versions too. If it were Summer all year round, I may have kept them, but I’m going to get so much more wear out of this beautiful fabric now.

IKEA shift dress and flared sleeve tutorial

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I’m not sure if it is a parenting flaw on my behalf, but my three girls consider a trip to Ikea worth bargaining for. They love visiting Smaland, even though it’s always a small miracle if there are ever enough spaces to take them all in. But even if they don’t get in, they’re at an age now that it is really quite enjoyable walking around and finding things together – things that we never knew we needed.

This is not the first time I’ve been fabric shopping at IKEA. A few years ago I made made curtains, bento bags, and a couple of small dresses with IKEA fabric. This time around, I purchased two yards of stiff cotton with the intention of making a midi skirt or a shift dress. It seems that the shift dress won out in the end.

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The pattern I used is based on this floral dress from last year. It’s a very basic, self-drafted shift dress, with flared extensions added to the sleeves.

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There are plenty of patterns you could use to acheive this simple design.

  • Vintage shift dress patterns are a dime a dozen. Ebay and Etsy both have heaps. I’ve just looked!
  • Papercut Patterns Sea-Bell dress is a more fitted style, but quite an expensive option for such a simple dress.
  • Megan Nielsen Dove top is another to consider. It would be easy to extend into a dress, and the sleeves are already done for you.
  • The Tessuti Fabrics Maggie Tunic would work well with the addition of flared sleeves.

The above sewing patterns are options, but if you already have a TNT, darted T-shirt, shift dress, or even a nice sheath, it isn’t difficult to add flared sleeves. All you need to do is measure the circumference of the sleeve you are adding to and decide on the length of flare you want.

First, decide which dress/top pattern you want to use:

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Now it’s time to create the sleeve extension:

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And there you have it. Flared sleeves couldn’t be easier!

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