Tessuti Skylines Competition

I had it in my head that I wanted a floaty, ruffly, backless, maxi dress. The challenge was in producing a dress that wasn’t too girly in such a (potentially) twee fabric. The fabric is really, very beautiful though. It’s a linen blend, with a lovely, crinkly texture that becomes more apparent after washing. I’m not one who likes my linen crisp. I love the way linen fabric creases and crinkles.

The design is my own, but I’ll talk you through it a bit. I honestly believe that if you have a couple of different well fitting bodice patterns in your stash, you can make virtually anything from them. This started off as a standard princess-seamed bodice that I had draped to my shape months ago. I modified the design to remove the shoulder seams so I could attach straps instead. I also lowered the back to not much more than an inch above my waist. And I lowered the back waistline to create a slightly hi-low look at the waist seam. I further exagerated the hi-lo effect in the first skirt panel, but kept the last gathered, skirt panel as a very long rectangle.

The bodice is detailed with bias binding that I cut as one inch strips and left the edges raw. I love the slightly frazzled look of well-considered, raw edges in fashion right now. I seamed these into the princess seams, the waist seam, and on either side of the back zipper. As they are cut on the bias, they shouldn’t really fray too much with wear, however I am looking forward to them looking more pronounced and “ruffled” after a few launderings.

To help keep up the weight of the skirt, I added a waist stay to the dress. This is basically a soft petersham ribbon handstitched at points along the waist. I cut up an old bra for the closures. I used the cups from this same bra to add a little shape to the front of the dress. I toyed with inserting the cups properly under the lining before I attached the skirt, but I think they may annoy me down the track, in which case I can still easily remove them.

I can tie the back in a few different ways, but my favourite is the backless version you see in the majority of the photos.

 

I’m very pleased with how this dress turned out. It’s a fancy dress, made from a very down-to-earth fabric. I love the contradiction in this. It’s something that I would feel very comfortable in dressing up to wear to an important occasion.

 

 

Liberty of London silk blouse

This is the type of top that I will live in for the next eight months. It’s super comfy, versatile, and smart enough to wear to work.

The fabric is a sandwashed crepe de chine silk by Liberty of London from The Fabric Store. It has the softest texture and prettiest print. I would sleep in this top if I thought it was appropriate.

The pattern I used is one I’ve used many times before. It’s a vintage pattern, McCalls 6429, originally designed as a raglan style dress. However, I’ve sewn it up as a jumpsuit and a dress. Last year, I refashioned the dress into a top and wore it nearly every day until it died. That’s why I decided to replicate it.

My only modifications (apart from cutting it as a top) was to add an extra 5/8″ to the width of the centre back and collar. I’m not sure this is the perfect “broad shoulder/back” adjustment, but I’d done it this way in the past for this pattern and it fits me well.

A Spring midi in crinkle silk

Spring is for floating around in dresses made of fairy wings, right?! I got a jump start on my favourite season with this dress. It might still be a little cool to wear it right now, but those days aren’t far away.

The fabric I used is Liberty of London silk crinkle chiffon from The Fabric Store. It’s a deliciously sheer silk that requires a bit of patience to sew, but produces a beautiful outcome.

I shouldn’t scare you though. It isn’t really that tricky to sew at all. The key is in keeping to a simple pattern and taking your time. Believe it or not, but the crinkle appearance and print also make it a very forgiving fabric to sew, particularly since it is a fabric that suits a looser fitting design.

I kept the design of this dress incredibly simple. The neckline and armscye are simply narrow hems. No binding. The silk presses beautifully. It’s a pullover style. The design is loosely based on a drop-waist dress pattern I made for myself years ago. I just turned the bodice into a high-low shape and added an extra gathered panel.

I’m wearing a simple black slip underneath. The only one I owned was tunic length, so I added a panel of leftover black lining (from this coat) to achieve the length I desired.

I love this dress! I’m envisioning a whole wardrobe of sheer dresses now. Stop me!

 

An Oslo coat in boiled wool

The Oslo coat is a beautifully drafted and easy-to-sew coat pattern by Tessuti Fabrics. If you’ve never sewn a coat before, this would be a good one to get started on.

I made mine up in a size 12, which was based most closely on my chest measurement. Being borderline, I sized up rather than down with the chest. I ignored the waist and hip measurements since the style of this coat doesn’t really require that they fit.

The fit through the shoulders is fabulous. I added one inch to the sleeves, and eight inches to the coat length. I’m 5″10 to give you some persective on these alterations.

This was an easy pattern to sew. The pattern includes a lining, and separate pieces for iron-on interfacing. There isn’t much hand-stitching required (which is amazing for a coat that turns out looking so nicely tailored).

I love the fabric too. The boiled wool is of a substantial weight. I can’t wait to wrap myself in this blanket of a coat on cold days.

 

 

Swimsuits and Liberty prints

I made quite a few swimsuits over Winter, testing out various styles, fabrics, and tweaking designs. I’ve just been a bit slow about posting them. You may have seen glimpses of them on IG. Here are a few more details.

This Liberty of London suit is probably one of my favourites. The fabric is from The Fabric Store and it’s beautiful. I actually made it for myself after I saw how my daughter’s version was holding up in the pool. I was initially wary of using such a pale swimsuit fabric (see-through factor) but my worries have been totally unfounded. I lined the suit in black, which I now do for all my suits. The black lining means I can be more free to choose light coloured prints without worrying about modesty when they fade over time.

This design is close to the Blazer Racer (ladies suit) pattern that I’ve been working on, but varies a little in the rise of the leg, and size of the side seams. It’s a pattern that I may have graded in the future too.

The actual sewing pattern that I am working on is the one you see below. It has a high cut leg, cheeky or fuller bottom option, and is brief through the sides. I’ll hope to have it ready in a few weeks.

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

Rebecca Taylor V1387

Surprisingly, after several years of sewing and forty years of dressing myself, I’ve only just come to the conclusion that deep V-necks are not for me. This top helped me a lot in reaching that understanding.

The long sleeved top on the pattern cover was actually the one that caught my eye. However, since I was a little short on fabric, I decided to give the sleeveless version a go.

I made a few small modifications. I shortened the peplum and left the side seams open. I also omitted the under arm gussets. The pattern instructions are incorrect and (despite being warned) I got caught out and had sewn too far along to insert the gussets without a lot of unpicking. To correct the rather low underarms, I brought the side seams in by about an inch at the waist, narrowing to a smaller seam allowance at the underarm. This worked because the design is pretty forgiving. It is a blouson top with a good amount of ease.

Obviously, the top requires a small snap at the CF chest to secure the centre of the faux wrap and prevent gaping (as per pattern cover). I tried it but didn’t like the look. I also didn’t like the look of a low V on me. It may be different if I layer it with a sheer black top or turtleneck but I haven’t tried that yet. The most obvious solution was to wear the top backwards!

I love the loose cowl of the back when worn backwards. I don’t mind the front either. It works for me because I am small busted and the back gathers provide enough room. Whilst I quite like the look of it exactly as it is (I think the “sloppy” look of the poorly fitted armscye works ok when layered), I am tempted to play around with this pattern in the future, and switch the armscyes around properly for a better fit. I might also toy with the font (back) neckline a little so I can wear the top without a layer beneath.

So I guess the moral of this story is that if you don’t like a top you make, turn it around and try it backwards before you go and fail it!

Burdastyle paper bag waist pants

This was one of those projects that I made at a completely inappropriate time. I made them about four months ago, just as the Winter weather was starting to kick in. I still haven’t worn them. It’s not because I don’t want to though. Loose linen pants just cannot be equated with a Kansas winter, inside or outside. It’s still far to cold to wear them (-11C today) but I can now see Spring on the horizon, which is possibly why I finally found the inspiration to take some photos. They will make the most delicious Spring pants ever!

Remember the military green shorts I made at the end of Summer? I used the same Burdastyle (111A) pattern for these. I made exactly the same adjustments, but just refined them a little. I shortened the top ruffle by about one inch. It was just a smidgen too high in the shorts. I love the drama of the shorts (and will still wear them) but a too high ruffle flops down a bit by the end of the day. Perhaps a bit of interfacing would help this out though.

Like the shorts, these are also made with beautiful milled linen from the Fabric Store. The shade of pink is so pretty. There’s a lot of pale pinks coming out in Spring RTW right now. Perhaps that’s influencing me a little with colours. I do like a good neutral though.

Honestly, I can’t remember if I lengthened these pants or not. I may have (I usually do with everything), but I do remember cutting off some at the end as well. I think the pattern is designed to be very long in the legs.

On another note, I haven’t really been in a position to sew much over the past six months but I think things are slowly changing. I purchased and printed an Oslo Coat last night. I’m hoping to get it taped up and ready to cut by the weekend. There’s a good three months of coat weather left here, so I I think I’ll sneak it in just in time. For my Australian friends, Spring in Kansas is generally colder than a Sydney Winter, with the odd bit of frost and occasional snow dustings.

After this, I’m planning on making the new dress pattern by Tessuti Fabrics. How lovely is the Claudia dress?! I was smitten the moment I saw this one. I’m hoping to find enough linen scraps in my stash. I have a feeling I may need to get a little creative though. What’s in your sewing queue? Are you still sewing for Winter (or Summer, my friends downunder)?

Coco Racer #11001

There’ll be no prizes for guessing who this swimsuit pattern is named after. She was instrumental in testing the first samples for me…over…and…over…again, during the past 18 months. This design has taken time, but in the end we nailed it. No underarm or neck chaffe, no pulling on the shoulders, no constricting the shoulder blades, no wedgies, no catching water in the bottom or through the neck.

We like it best made fully lined, as the design instructs. However, I have made a “racing” version of the suit by just lining the crotch and omitting the front and back lining. It’s a nice suit that looks good and performs well.

I have several more swimsuit designs in the pipeline, both for kids and adults. I’m also considering putting together some kits since I have a stash of the most beautiful Italian swimsuit fabric on hand (chlorine resist, UP50, recycled). As soon as I finish juggling some of life’s curveballs, I might get on with it! 😉

Liberty of London SWIMSUITS

Did you know Liberty of London makes swimsuit fabric? I sure didn’t! But I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to sew some up recently, courtesty of The Fabric Store. The special occasion is because they are now stocking it in their online store. Given the amount of swimsuits I’ve been sewing lately, I’m super excited to have another source of beautiful swimsuit fabrics at my online fingertips.

It’s no secret that swimming has become a family affair for us. All three of my daughters enjoy the sport, and my two eldest girls currently identify as mermaids. In fact, it’s because of them that I found myself back in the water. Over the past year, I’ve been gradually increasing my swim volume and boosting my fitness with as much cross training as possible (within the time constraints of adulthood!). At some point along the way, I agreed to join the Missouri Valley team at the US Masters Swimming Summer Nationals. The key relay organiser obviously saw more potential in me than the confidence I had in myself at the time.

Anyway, to cut a long story short (so I can get back to raving about Liberty of London swimsuit fabric!), I recently got back from competing in Minneapolis. It was amazing!!! The nerves, the pain, the competition. I don’t quite know where it came from, but I raced like I’d never left the sport, and came home with golds in the 50m, 100m, and 200m backstroke, as well as three additional relay golds. My times were a lot slower than what I was doing 20 years ago (as expected!), but I was extremely happy with myself, and I can see a lot of room for improvement yet (before old age does me in!). I’ve posted a couple of photos and a race video on IG for anyone interested.

Meanwhile, my girls and I have all had a nice, little break from the pool, and we are all about to jump back in for the new season. There’ll be plenty more bathers sewn over the coming year, but I actually have bigger plans afoot than outfitting the family. At the moment, I’m busy perfecting a couple of sample blocks (both for myself (size 34) and my girls (size 26)). I’m investigating having them professionally graded. It’s anyone’s guess what will happen after that, but at the very least, it will be nice for me to have more than a single size to sew for my three girls!

I’ve already sewn up two suits from my Liberty of London fabric, and I have a few more raring to go on the cutting table. I’m not quite on top of my photos, but there are plenty of sneak peeks on my IG accounts.

This particular suit was sewn up for Miss Seven in Mistral/B. Miss Nine is wearing it in the photos for a sample size study because she fits the measurements more closely (and she’s much less fidgetty!). She’s on the upper end of the size range for this suit. It fits her perfectly and it would be great for racing, but she could stand to go up a size for practice.

It looks like a pretty simple suit, but it’s taken me about ten versions to get to this point. There is more to a practice suit than meets the eye, and it’s no different for a kid than an adult. You need to consider the height of the neckline, whether it will slip down with swimming, pressure of the straps on the shoulders, no scratchy elastic edges on the back, a secure fit through the chest and hips (that FEELS secure to the swimmer too), a bottom that doesn’t balloon with water each time you flip-turn, non-restictive leg openings, and of course the elimination of seams that rub under the arms and at the neck with repeated arm motion. I think we got it covered with this suit… finally! I don’t tell this girl which suits to wear for practice, but I can see that she prefers my design now over her multitude of others.

But back to the fabric. It really is very lovely. It’s a quality, mid-weight swimsuit fabric, with great stretch recovery and a beautiful smooth feel to the hand. I know I should expect nothing less from Liberty of London. The fabric composition is 72% Polymide, 28% Elastane, so I’m guessing it will perform well in the pool, and last even better if lined. I fully line all my suits because the lining significantly prolongs the life of the suit. It creates a barrier between a hot, sweaty body to slow down the degradation of the lycra. It also protects modesty as the chlorine and sun fades the fabric over time.

Stay tuned for more as I finish sewing up the rest of my swimsuit fabric stash. And in the meantime, I encourage you to check out the new range of Liberty of London swimsuit fabrics on offer in The Fabric Store’s online shop.

 

 

 

I whipped up a matching top

The thing I love about sewing is that I really can just whip up anything at a moment’s notice. This top took all of ten minutes to make. It’s not perfect. The construction is basic. But I only had a few spare minutes and I desperately wanted to finish this up before I had to pack away my machine.

In hindsight, I really should have spent more time on it. I didn’t expect it to turn out quite so well though!

The striped fabric skirt is something you’ve seen before. I created it by sewing together strips of scrap fabric (in velvet, wool, and ponte). I ended up with a tiny bit spare that I used up in this top. There was not an ounce of wastage.

This is very fun outfit. I love the idea of perfectly matching separates as I think they produce an overall dressier look. However, when mixed and matched with jeans and other tops, these separates also dress down for a great casual feel.