A blue cotton top

I’m putting this top to bed. I like it from some angles and not from others. I might still wear it, or I might cut it up and modify it, but I don’t think I want to make another.

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The fabric that I’ve used does it no favours. It’s a denim-look cotton shirting with just enough stretch to keep the bound armscye and neckline permanently wrinkled, despite a good pressing.

Perhaps I could lower the neckline and change the shape of the front armscye, or add darts, but I’m just not loving it either way. And I need to love it if I’m going to spend any more time on it. Sometimes you just have to let things go.

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Long sleeves in linen

I started sewing clothes for myself in 2012. Before that, my sewing was all about kiddie stuff and quilting cotton. It was also the year I discovered that I could sew with ponte knits and linen. I quite simply overdosed that year. Lucky for you guys, this was also before I started blogging.

I’ve always loved linen, but it’s one of those fabrics that I rarely, if ever, saw in the RTW shops I frequented back then. So it was mindblowing to me that I could suddenly make everything in linen. So did I? Yes. I. Did.

I’ve since had a few years without a lot of linen in my wardrobe. There’s been the odd thing, but nothing like it was in 2012. However, I feel the season changing. I am so in love with it right now. It’s like my long lost friend has returned.

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The thing about linen though, is that it is one of the fabrics I am most pickiest about in terms of quality. I loath buying it online. I’ve been disappointed a few times when I’ve opted for the cheaper option. I recently purchased a length of European white linen from Fabric dot com. In the description it was recommended for making dresses, pants, anything. Let’s just say, I’m ditching the idea of using it for a Summer top and might simply hem it for use as a pretty table cloth instead. I think I’m a linen snob.

The linen I used for this top came all the way from Tessuti Fabrics in Sydney, one of the few places I trust implicitly in buying linen from without ordering a swatch first (online shopping is sadly my only way to purchase quality fabric in the Midwest). This linen is truly delicious. I could iron it better, but I really, really love linen crinkles.

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This top is the long sleeve variation of a pattern I’m working on right now. I paired it with my long leather shorts.

If everything goes to plan, I might be ready for testers in a few weeks. It takes time because I want to make sure that even my testers get a good experience.  If you are interested in testing this or anything else in the future, please head over to my Facebook page, Lily Sage & Co. To avoid driving non-tester inclined blog readers batty,  I will only be putting the tester call out there from now on.

Oliver + S Pinwheel dress in Anna Sui

How cute is this little Pinwheel dress by Oliver + S! It’s a new-to-me pattern, so I thought I’d test it with a nightgown-suitable fabric first. The chambray is Anna Sui. It is a lovely, soft, pure cotton in a herringbone pattern. It looks lovely new, but it wrinkles horribly on washing and does not wear very well at all. I learnt this the hard way with my chambray man-shirt, which has sadly already been retired. I do wonder sometimes if some designer end bolts are sold off by the designers because they weren’t very happy with the fabric in the first place.

 
The pattern itself is very simple, but like all Oliver + S patterns, it takes a little longer than expected because of the special details. The bottom of the flounce is bound with yards of self-fabric binding (or contrast). You could always simply serge these edges, but it’s the little touches like the binding that make this dress so special.  
 
 

 

The fit is very good on my just-turned-Miss Five. I expected the dress to be way too short on her (as most unmodified patterns are). I think the length works perfectly this time, although I will probably lengthen her next version, while keeping the width exactly the same.

And before I sign off, I thought I’d also share this little refashion which isn’t really worthy of it’s own post. I made myself a Salme flared mini skirt many months ago. It’s been a really great Winter skirt for me and I’ve worn it a LOT. The beautiful wool twill was starting to look a little rough and woolly for my liking, but it was still perfectly good fabric for a five year old. I simply cut out the waistband and back zipper, and attached an elastic encased waistband. It was such a simple modification, but it has given some lovely fabric a whole new lease of life.





Kwik Sew 3883: GANRYU COMME des GARCON vs Charlie Harper

I’m pretty sure you’ve heard me say this before, but I don’t particularly love sewing men’s shirts. I think it’s the degree of perfection required with those collars and cuffs. It could also be because it’s selfless sewing and the kind of sewing that doesn’t really allow me to experiment much. I’m not allowed to deviate much from a standard pattern. Well, in hubby’s case I do. He’s a fan of classic.

So after doing my nice-wifely duty of sewing him a proper business shirt for his birthday (that post will come later), I decided to experiment with a casual ,short sleeve shirt. I was inspired by a GANRYU COMME des GARCON shirt that I saw on Pinterest. My plan was to keep the pleats but colour block the bottom instead of the curved pocket details. I chose some Anna Sui chambray for the top and some white linen for the bottom.

GANRYU COMME des GARCONS 2015 Spring/Summer Collection | Hypebeast

The patten I used was Kwik Sew 3883. I’ve sewn this pattern before (here and here). It’s taken me until now to finally admit that it isn’t a great fit. The shirt is just too wide in the torso, and perhaps a little wide on the shoulders too. The seam allowance of 6mm is also impractical. I usually start out sewing the shirt with the wrong seam allowance. But even when I get it right, 6mm is way to fiddly for nice felled seams.


Overall, I don’t mind how this shirt turned out. I wanted to bring the sides in by about an inch to slim down the fit for hubby, but he opted to forgo my alterations and send it to his Dad (who is a little bigger than him) instead. His initial reasoning was that it was a Summer shirt and we were headed into Winter. But I delved a little deeper and the truth came out. The fact of the matter is that the chambray reminds him of his old school uniform and the colour blocking makes him feel like Charlie Sheen in Two and a Half Men. I guess colour blocked shirts are off the cards for hubby in the future then. What do you think? Have I made a Charlie Harper shirt?


Corduroy culottes: another Esther shorts hack

I’m here to convince you that culottes really are the new skirt. And I’m not talking about the cute little flippy variety that could be mistaken for a skirt. I’m talking about the hard-core, wide leg, knee length type, or the sharp, A-line, midi silhouettes that are probably giving some of you unpleasant flashbacks right now. I admit, I get the flashbacks too. My high school sports uniform was a pair of bottle green, knee-length culottes (that memory came flooding back to me when my ‘blue’ corduroy arrived in the mail). But don’t worry, I’m quite determined to sway all you doubters out there, and to do so, I’ve put together not one, not two, but four different looks with the same pair of fabulous winter weight culottes.

For Autumn, I’ve paired them with my Nani Iro top and a pair of open booties. A long pair of tan leather boots would look fabulous right now, but I don’t own any and I spend all my spare cash on fabric instead of shoes. Can anyone else relate? 

The fabric I used in my culottes is utterly divine. It’s a cotton corduroy by Thread, with the most beautiful velvety sheen I’ve ever seen. It’s called ‘blue’ but it is most definitely a bottle green. I knew what I was getting though. It’s nothing like the dull kiddie quality cord that I’ve sewn with in the past. I should have paid more attention.


I do all my fabric cutting and sewing in the evenings in poorer light than I would like, but that’s just the way it has to be. I don’t have time to sew during the day. So I happily cut into my gorgeous fabric, positioning the legs in opposite directions and paying complete disregard for the nap. I merrily sewed away at the project until I tried my culottes on to decide on the hem length. The lightbulb suddenly went on in my head. Nap! Why did I not consider this first? I thought I’d made a total blooper of these pants. One leg was clearly a different shade to the other.

I think the difference in nap looks more pronounced in artificial light, and from my persepective as the wearer, looking down at an acute angle. It is such a silly mistake to make that I still feel like giving myself a slap. Anyway, they are so comfortable and warm that I’m just going to wear them anyway. I think it’s pushing it a bit far to call it a design feature so I’m just going to feign ignorance. What, my legs are different shades of bottle green? No way! It’s a shadow. Go get your eyes checked!

For view two, I opted for a more vintage feel. I’m wearing my Liberty of London Kanerva with them this time.

 


The pattern I used to make these culottes was based on the Esther shorts pattern by Tessuti Fabrics. My modifications were pretty simple. I added a 10cm pleat to the front legs. I also widened and lengthened the legs. I really like how they turned out but next time I will definitely add in-seam pockets.

I also tried my culottes out with my new favourite shirt. I like chambray with cord. Hubby isn’t too sure about this combination. He can’t decide whether I look like Anne of Green Gables, a school mistress, or Brethren. 

 
 
 

And finally, I paired the culottes with my black ponte and leather top for a slightly more edgy look. I like the silhouette of a cropped top over high waist pants. 

 

Here’s a summary of the four looks. Which one do you like best? And more importantly, when are you going to make a pair!
 
 

Simplicity 5047: Anna Sui herringbone chambray man-shirt

I’d originally intended to sew this shirt up as an Archer. I even purchased the pattern (the PDF version because that’s all there was TWO weeks ago). The problem is that we don’t have a printer at home. Like a land-line phone, it’s one of those things we haven’t really felt an urgency to purchase since setting up from scratch over here.

Hubby was going to get it printed for me, but then he balked at the 60 pages and promptly left for a week long business trip. Honestly, it wasn’t me! I had my gloriously soft Anna Sui chambray on standby and it was giving me the eye so I was forced to come up with some alternate arrangements.


Introducing Simplicity 5047, a vintage men’s shirt pattern that I picked up for a 25c steal at a recent garage sale. The pattern is for a 36″ chest. My bust measurement is 35″, but without much bust to speak of. I also have quite broad shoulders, so my logic told me that perhaps a small men’s shirt pattern would be more likely to fit, where other’s have failed before.

Anna Sui button up and my leather circle skirt

I was right! I am so happy with the fit. The shoulders are wide enough. No broad back adjustment was necessary. I wasn’t aiming for a slim fit, but I didn’t want it to be too boxy or roomy through the torso either. It feels just right. I didn’t have to add fish eye darts in the back like I thought I would. The arm length works, but next time I will lengthen them a smidgen. I figured the arms would be longer than usual to cater for long, man arms. As it turns out, my alien arms are a little longer than that of mankind. The only change I made to the pattern was to flick one side of the cuff placket around so that I could have French cuffs instead of regular.



 



 
I like the look of chambray paired with my leather circle skirt. But when I was looking at the photos, I realised for the first time that a little peep had been drawing on my leg. Leg is clearly a far more creative medium than paper. I like that she matched my skirt though.
 
  

The best thing about this pattern is the collar. In fact, if I’m perfectly honest, it was the collar that swayed me more towards getting started on the vintage pattern instead of waiting for my Archer. But unfortunately it is another one of those all in one collar band and collars. It works well enough, but I just feel that it isn’t the proper way of doing things.The neck width feels great though. I love it done up to the top button. But it also works well undone and paired with my favourite maxi skirt.

I love the fit of this shirt, but there are a few construction details that I will change next time I sew this pattern. There is no proper front button placket. It’s more of a self-facing that is folded inwards, but not stitched down. Next time I will add a proper front placket as well as a collar band for a more professional finish. I will also shave a bit off the sleeve cap. There was a ridiculous amount of unnecessary ease in those sleeve caps.

It’s so nice to sew a shirt that fits well right off the bat. I’ve always had trouble finding RTW shirts that fit, due to my long arms and broad shoulders (comparatively speaking to other females). Perhaps I should have been looking in the menswear section instead!

 




Hide and Seek dresses for Scraptember

The Hide and Seek dress pattern by Oliver + S is a fabulous dress for scrap-busting. Let’s forget for a second that it is a beautifully designed play dress and look instead at all those fabulous panels that can allow for so much fabric mixing creativity.

I’ve made Hide and Seek dresses for both of my older girls recently (here and here). This time round, I used up the last of my Nani Iro and double-faced wool on the dress for Miss Six. The lining of the back bodice is wool as well, which should keep this little peep warm in Fall. The back skirt is leftover from here and the pretty dotted chambray is a small remnant I picked up from Tessuti Fabrics many, many moons ago.

 

 


 

Miss Four got a more summery version of this dress because her current summer wardrobe is in a pretty sorry state.

 
 
 
 

With our move to Kansas, we’ve had two back to back summers and some of her clothes have been in constant rotation since September 2013! I used an old linen pillowcase for the front and back of her skirt. The pillowcase lace makes for a very pretty back hem. Unbelievably, I picked it up at a garage sale for only $1.50.

 

 

 

 

 

Whoa Anna!!! Not bad for a wearable muslin.

After waiting what seems like an eternity, I have finally found an excuse to sew my first Anna from By Hand London. I purchased this pattern months ago, about the same time that I discovered we would be moving to Kansas. Exciting as this was, it meant that my sewing focus also changed from summer clothes to winter gear and my poor old Anna was put on the back burner.

I very nearly didn’t make this Anna either, since the sheer quantity of fabric required (a mere 4.5m!) basically eliminated nearly all of my stash. That is…except for one very pretty roll of slightly flawed floral chambray. I purchased this amazing $10 roll in a Tessuti sale several months back, envisioning pretty little girl dresses and pants. The only flaw in the fabric is what appears to be a little sun damage on the edges. I tried to cut around this as much as possible, but in the end, I had to use these bits. I also had to cut one panel of the skirt on the crosswise grain. I read somewhere once that RTW clothes sometimes have their pattern pieces placed on all sorts of angles in order to get the best commercial value out of the fabric. Whether it’s true or not, I like to remind myself of this whenever I need to do the same.

 

This little Anna is actually only a wearable muslin, but what a fabulous muslin it turned out to be. I LOVE the bodice shape with the bust pleats. I think it is quite flattering to a small busted lady like myself, but at the same time, I can see how this same bodice would also fit someone who is better endowed.


Overall, I’m very happy with the way the dress fits. It clearly needs a good press (as usual photos were a bit rushed). Unlike others who have stitched up this Anna before me, I didn’t have a problem with back gape. But this is most likely because I have a rather broad back. I purposefully didn’t make the broad-back-adjustment that I would usually make to all my close fitted tops. It fits me across the back nicely, so I can see why more petite ladies would need to take a little wedge out to improve the fit for them.
 

 

I made this dress in a size 10/UK 12 with no major adjustments. I did grade the hips down a size to have the skirt match my measurements better. I could have graded it down even further but I don’t mind a more relaxed fit for the everyday. And because it was only intended as a muslin, I also took a few shortcuts by topstitching seams instead of blind/hand stitching, which accounts for the ugly ripples along the front slit. By the time I got to the hem, I’d stopped reading the instructions, I am not sure what size hem they recommend. Mine was turned up about 1.5″. I’m 178cm tall and wearing heels, so you can see that the length of this dress is very generous.

I am really happy with how my Anna turned out and I can totally understand the hype surrounding this pattern. It is just such a cleverly simple and flattering design that really would suit so many different body types. I am beyond pleased with the result and will definitely be sewing this one again!

 
 
 

Heart jersey love and a colour palette study

So this is yet another post about New Look 6016. I will be completely knit-weared out by the time we hit the runway. Although I do have to say that this is one of my favourite makes in this pattern. The fabric is just divine and the fit is great, even if I am not entirely sure it is the best colour for Miss Five (she of the newly gappy smile).

The fabric is a gorgeous remnant of heart jersey that I picked up at Tessuti Fabrics. I can’t quite remember what it is exactly. It feels a lot like viscose to me but I could be wrong. In any case, it is a drapey, delicious feeling fabric that is clearly great for dancing.


My modifications to the pattern:

  • graded up to a size 5
  • added 2cm to the length
  • lengthened sleeves by 1cm. I probably could have gone longer.
  • added a gathered skirt which I finished with a narrow hem on my serger

Having read a post by Busy Lizzie in Brizzy the other day, it got me thinking about colour palettes and what I should be dressing my daughters and myself in. She pointed me in the direction of Thewallinna and Other Creatures. I was interested to find that I fit pretty squarely into the Spring palette. It makes sense that I’ve never been able to walk past blues, turquoises and watermelon reds on the remnant table. Which is fine for me (and my two youngest daughters of the same fair skin and blue eyes). But out of habit, I think I am subconsciously choosing this palette for everyone in my family.

Spring

When Miss Five (and hubby too), based on her slightly coppery hair and warm complexion, belongs with an Autumn palette. There is a little bit of crossover but there are differences, even in the similar looking colours.
 

Autumn
Which leads me to her second outfit of the day. The colours don’t fit her palette perfectly but they are much closer than her first outfit was and I think they showcase her skin and hair a little better for this reason. The photos were taken in the same spot, on the same day, and within five minutes of each other. Don’t you just love using your own children as guinea pigs?!
 
I’m going to start paying more attention to the colours I am using for this little girl. She has such striking colouring and sparkling green eyes, but I’ve always wondered why they showed up in some photos and not in others.
 
The pants were designed by me, using some of my pretty $10 chambray roll from Tessuti Fabrics. They are simple but comfy.
 

 


  
 

Little Midgie Christmas pants

These were a very last minute Christmas gift that I whipped together the night before. They were made using the remnants from my leather pyjama pants. The chambray fabric is pretty boring but ever so soft and comfortable. She had just torn her very last pair of long summer pants, which were just so practical (as well as protective for those little knees which keep hitting the pavement). I used a pattern from one of my Japanese pattern books that I had sewn before. But instead of using elasticised cuffs, I shortened them and added ruffles.

 


Her Christmas shoes are at least a size too big but she insisted on wearing them and who am I to argue with a two year old. She especially loves the pockets in her new pants.