An updated drop waist dress in printed linen

I made a bunch of drop waist dresses several years ago. I absolutely loved them. Two are still in very good condition. They just feel a bit outdated to me, so they have been packed away for another time (or for when my girls become teenagers and want to explore all the old clothes I used to make and wear).

I used the old pattern that I drafted for myself years ago. Sorry, there isn’t a pattern for this, but it is far from complicated. I used French darts and a slightly A-line shape to the dress bodice. I like French darts for this style as then blend in nicely with the A-line shape. The bodice has a hi-lo curve to it, and the gathered skirt is a little longer than I’ve used in the past. I also modified the shoulders to create ties instead of fixed seams.

The linen fabric is from The Fabric Store. It’s such a lovely, fresh print. And for those of you who like to wear linen, but have trouble with the delicious crinkles, I’d suggest you try a printed linen like this. It still wrinkles like linen, but the print kind of disguises them.

This will be such a cool and comfy dress to slip on during hot, summer days. I’ll probably wear it most over bathers, on trips to the pool, or outdoor swim meets.

Harper Fly Suit #11002

The (slang) definition of Fly is: very good; excellent; cool; awesome. Also, as any swimmer will know, the stroke of butterfly is commonly referred to as Fly.

Therefore, it made perfect sense to name this suit after the other little swim champ in the family. Miss Eight loves swimming about as much as her ten year old sister. She is also “fly” in every sense of the word. I can see her following the same path as Miss Ten, in terms of the satisfaction she derives from achieving in the sport, and her commitment to succeed. She tries about as hard in practice and racing as I’ve ever seen anyone do. I can also see her trying to identify with a component of swimming that is her own, a niche that she excels in, above and beyond, or simply different to what her big sister can do.

Big sister’s best stroke is freestyle, and she not only has a beautiful, natural stroke, she is also fiercely competitive (as a first born often is). Big sister also does reasonably well at backstroke. She wants to be great at backstroke (probably because of her mama) but I’m not sure it comes as naturally to her as it does to Harper. Harper is very good at backstroke and is strong at freestyle, but lately, she has been doing really well in butterfly, a stroke that has not come very easily to her big sister. While she still has a very long way to go with her fly, she has pretty good timing and position in the water, and a good sense of how to pull her body forward strongly.

She won a few ribbons in fly during the short course season, and now I can see that this has changed her perspective on the stroke. She takes a lot of pride in leading the lane during butterfly sets and it obviously makes her feel good. Miss Eight may or may not become a butterfly specialist in the future. She’s only little. It doesn’t really matter, as long as it is giving her enjoyment now.

I called her Madame Butterfly recently after I saw her doing some particularly great fly in practice. And then we went home to watch some videos of the original Madame Butterfly (Susie O’Neill). She loved this. And I loved seeing my little middle child find someone or something to identify with as her own.

And speaking of sisters. Cate and Bronte Campbell are the other great Australian swim stars we follow closely in this household, for very obvious reasons. It’s a challenge finding a way to compete with and cheer for your sister at the same time. But it’s also a great life lesson that I believe we are (so far) doing well at practicing. It helps to have others to look up to who also fight that same battle. Whilst watching the recent Commonwealth Games, as you can imagine, one of the most common questions I kept getting was, “who is older…?”.

And back to this suit, you can find it in my Etsy shop. The actual suit is not the one you see in the above photo from last Summer, but the smile on Miss Eight’s face is the true representation of the joy I see in this mermaid. I am yet to make Miss Eight her own (recent) version, which will no doubt be in an animal print. The actual Harper Fly Suit can be seen in action here. But I couldn’t very well name the suit after this little six year old mischief. She tolerates swimming, and goes to practice as rarely as she can, because it keeps her water safe, and because she can have a great old belly laugh with anyone she can corrupt in her lane.

This suit is very similar in fit to the Coco Racer. My girls love this style of suit. It’s what the big (National) girls were wearing all last season, so naturally all the little kids want to wear the same.

 

Three steps to a Spring dress

When I started making this dress, I had an idea of what I wanted, but I was also pretty sure it would not work out. I was dreaming of a maxi knit dress with thin straps, despite the fact that the cotton knit I was working with was probably a little heavy to accomodate it. Nevertheless, I was determined to give it a try, but not without coming up with a three step back up plan first!

The fabric is a deliciously spongy, cotton knit from O’Jolly knits. I’ve used a similar fabric before to make a Megan Longline Cardigan. I know I could have easily made another beautiful cardigan, but I wanted to try something different. What is life without a challenge or two!

I really love this fabric. It’s a pretty knit, a natural fibre, and a delight to wear in Spring and Fall (or Winter in certain parts of Australia). It also launders really well. The cardigan I made in cream a few seasons ago is still going strong, and I wear it frequently.

To start with, I used the Poppy Dress pattern to make a midi version of the dress. I chickened out of the maxi verison, because I knew in my heart that the fabric wasn’t meant for a maxi. Even so, I still wanted to see what I could do with this fabric. I only overlocked the hem, because I knew it was in for the chop.

The only modification I made to the dress pattern was to remove the sleeve pleats. Such a pretty fabric needs no other details. I especially love the matching ribbing that I was able to use for the neckline and sleeves.

The second version of this dress was produced by chopping off the hem to create a mini. I actually think this version is super cute. If I was 15 years younger, I’d wear it in a heart beat. In fact, I’m pretty sure I had a this exact same dress in 1996. And I know, I know… I could still wear it now if I really wanted to. I just don’t feel like this is my style any more.

Which brings us to my third and final version. I lopped off another chunk of the dress to just below the hip level. To the bottom of this, I added a double layer of beautiful, duck egg linen from The Fabric Store. I think the double layer adds enough interest to balance the texture of the knit up top. I used a single layer of linen for the skirt initially and it just looked a bit plain.

I actually love this third version a LOT and have worn it quite a bit already. I like that it is dressy enough for (my) work, but also easy enough to run errands in with a little pair of sneakers. This is my kind of Spring dress.

 

 

 

Liberty of London suit in yellow

This is my little Chickmunk. Yes, you read correct. We don’t have chipmunks around these parts. We have Chickmunks. No matter how many times I correct the child, it still always comes out as chickmunk. I personally think that she’s a bit of a chickmunk herself.

This bright, summery suit is a new girl’s pattern that I’ve been working on. It’s a copy of the tie-back suit all the big girls wear at swim practice. The fabric is the most delicious Liberty of London swimsuit fabric from The Fabric Store.

It’s been a while now since I’ve sewn up my first Liberty of London suit. I can now attest to the fact that the fabric lasts well with constant use. It feels beautiful and smooth to the hand and it performs nicely in the pool. It definitely outlasts any of the cheaper swimsuit fabric I’ve picked up from Joann or Hancocks over the years. I’ve learnt the hard way that you get what you pay for.

 

Miss Six claimed this suit before it was even finished. It’s actually a size too big for her. She should be wearing a 24. This is size 26. It looks ok when it’s dry, but if you look at the photos, you can see some gathering/wrinkling around the leg and through the waist area. There is also more tie than there should be.

The fit becomes more apparent when in the water. A good fitting suit SHOULD actually stetch a little over the curves of the body. There should be negative ease; a little bit of negative ease in a practice suit, a LOT of negative ease in race suit. The back tie allows a bit of flexibility with fit. You can tighten or loosen the straps as you please. And I know that I see plenty of kids in poorly fitting swimsuits. However, when you are swimming laps, it feels awful wearing a suit that doesn’t fit. I’ve always made sure my girls have suits that fit correctly. I’ve possibly spoilt them…

Anyway, this little chickmunk still gives the suit a big thumbs up!

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!