A Lou Box Top in white linen and jersey

In what may become one of my most worn Summer staples, I have made myself a Lou Box Top. It’s such a quick and easy sew.

I used white linen for the front of the top and lovely, cotton jersey for the back and neck binding. Both fabrics are from The Fabric Store. The linen is lightweight. I love the weight of this linen for a blouse. It’s not really sheer at all, but it does have a lightness about it. It would probably need a lining if I was making a skirt or dress. The cotton jersey is a pure cotton, and so soft. I really like the way the two different fibres and textiles pair together; cotton, linen, knit and woven.

I made a minor change to the pattern, simply lowering the armscye about 1.5 inches. Next time, I may add a little more to the shoulde seams at the neckline. It feels borderline too wide and I think I can still get away with making the top as a pullover if I shrink the neck a little. I have one other idea that I plan to try out on my next batch of delicious linen. Oh, did I not tell you, this is going to be my Summer of Linen…

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

BHL Poppy dress

The much anticipated release of the Poppy dress by By Hand London was today. I’m so glad I can finally share it because it’s become a big favourite in my wardrobe. I actually found #memademay a little difficult this year because I was reaching for my Poppy dress every second day, and yet I couldn’t really share it!

I made my first version in a truly lovely, Liberty of London cotton jersey from The Fabric Store. I wasn’t sure about the floral to begin with (I don’t really wear Liberty!). But now I love it SO much. The fabric is glorious to wear. It launders beautifully and has been wearing well.

The design is a simple, raglan knit dress with a twist. The shoulder pleats are the winning detail for me. They probably aren’t as pronounced in my make, but they give that little bit of extra room through the shoulders which makes this dress so good for me. I’d definitely recommend it for the #sewstrong #sewingstrong ladies out there.

It’s a very quick dress to make. I didn’t hem my dress because jersey doesn’t fray. After several wears, the hem and sleeves now have a really pretty rolled look to them and look about 1/2 inch shorter than in these photos (see today’s Instastory).

I loved my Liberty version of the Poppy dress so much that I made another last week, in a beautiful neutral viscose from Tessuti Fabrics. I love viscose jersey so much but a light coloured solid is probably not the most forgiving fabric to sew. At least you can see the great style lines of this dress better.

Refashioned into a LBD

A few years ago, I was playing around with a top design that had slightly dropped shoulders and statement sleeves. One of my early versions of this top was more of a tunic, and I had a little fun with it by adding a front cut out and big bow. This top was eventually refined into a more (daily) wearable Branson Top.

I always intendeded to make a short sleeved, dress version of the top but never got around to it. I guess this refashion is the next best thing!

All the ruffles

It all started with a Sachin & Babi dress that I fell instantly in love with. At that point, I wasn’t truly intending on making a dress, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how I would do it, if I ever decided to go ahead with it. I actually had the most perfect fabric in my stash already, which is rare, because I keep my stash pretty small. Every now and again, I purchase something on whim. It was how I ended up with several yards of the most beautiful sheer silk in shades of green. It will be a special occasion when I finally use it, and hopefully for my eldest daughter, as it was her hair and skin colouring that inspired me to buy it in the first place!

So, using my special fabric was out of the question. But I still couldn’t stop thinking about it. I started toying with the idea of refashioning another Archer in my wardrobe (my other ruffle refashion was an absolute winner!). But then I realised that I had enough of the vintage sheeting to simply start a dress from scratch.

I’d love to say that I had a pattern for this dress, but I made up a lotof it as I went along. It wouldn’t be hard to replicate though. All you need to know is how to make a flounce. You could use any princess seamed sundress pattern.

I started with a self-drafted, princess seamed dress bodice that I often use as a sloper. However, I’ve been doing a lot of swimming over the past year and I’m finding that a lot of my old memades aren’t fitting me so well anymore. My bust measurement has grown by a whole inch, unfortunately not my actual bust, but rather through my side back (the old latissimus dorsi). I ended up letting out the side seams under the arms but keeping the waist measurement the same. It worked perfectly. I also raised the neckline a little and brought the shoulder seams in towards the neck.

As to the ruffles, they are simply flounces that were measured and inserted into the princess seams. It was a little fiddly but perserverence paid off. I love the black insets on the front and back of the bodice, but I have to confess that these design features were the direct result of freestyling my sewing (forgetting a seam allowance) and having to fix the problems. The same happened with the skirt. I ended up recutting several panels more than once. First, I cut the skirt as one, but it didn’t look right without any flounces.  So, I seamed it down the front and back but followed the grainline for those seams. As soon as I inserted the first flounce I could see that it wasn’t going to work. I recut the skirt pieces with the seams parallel to the side seams. This makes the flounces fall in a nice bell shape with is prettier than straight lines down the front and back.

This dress is very ruffly! It has a lot of volume through the front bodice and the skirt. I’m fully aware that this is a style that wouldn’t work for everybody. It works well for me. I’m small busted, so the front ruffles add interest and size to the top. My body is somewhat triangular in shape, moreso as I get fitter and stronger. I don’t like emphasizing this shape, so having a bit of added body through the skirt creates the illusion of a more hourglass figure. Sewing is great because you can really play around with design to flatter and create illlusions!

And before I sign off on this dress, I just want to mention a couple of hashtags that I’ve started to use on instagram: #sewingstrong #sewstrong

All body types out there have their own sewing challenges. I can immediately think of patterns that are drafted for bigger busts, for pear shapes, and for petites. I’m not saying one is more challenging than the other, but simply that I have a harder time thinking of patterns that are drafted for tall ladies, small busted ladies, or very athletic shaped ladies. If you know of any, let me know! I would particularly love to know what patterns are working for ladies with broader backs, or strong shoulders. I know that I’ve occasionally turned to men’s shirt patterns, and Thread Theory’s Henley is an awesome fit on me. I’ve also been paying more attention to what Sallie sews lately, because I know if a shirt pattern fits her, it will probably work for me too. I’m hoping that this hashtag will be an easy way to pull up ideas for sewing patterns and flattering designs that work well on a strong female body. If you’re someone who struggles with fitting tops and dresses to a broader than average back, or strong shoulders, jump in and tag along.

 

Grainline Archer refashioned

Unless my memory fails me, this was the second Grainline Archer I ever made. I think I ended up getting the fit right on my third try. I still wore the original version of this shirt, but it’s become way too tight across my shoulders since my return to the pool.

It was time to put this shirt to better use. I was lucky enough to have a decent sized remnant of the original fabric in my stash which meant I could go to town with my flounces. As beautiful as they are, flounces are very big fabric hogs!

I wish I took photos of my refashion during the process. I didn’t. However, I’ve drawn a few diagrams to help. It wasn’t a complicated refashion. I started by cutting off the sleeves of the shirt. Then I pencilled my intended seam on the remainder of the shirt. The diagram below shows the new seam I created. The front seam is red (on the front shirt pieces) and the back seam is green (imagine it on the back shirt pieces). Both are connected at the shoulder seam. I wanted the diagonal seam to be wider at the shoulder yoke seams and more medially placed towards the shirt hem. I brought the seam closest to the CF in the front of the shirt. The scariest bit was cutting along this seam and keeping both sides exactly even! After cutting, I then had three shirt pieces that I needed to stitch back together, taking into account the new seam allowances that would be eating into my shirt size!

For the flounce, I simply measured the entire length of the new seam and used that as a reference for the curved edge of a flounce. A flounce pattern piece is basically a big circle. I made mine a bit wider at the centre point (the area covering the shoulders). I also added an extra four inches (approx.) to the length of my flounce as I knew I wanted to add a couple of pleats over the shoulder region. The diagram below is an approximate representation of my flounce piece. Imagine it trued and smooth in real life!

I faced the flounce with self-bias-binding before I sandwiched it between the pieces of shirt. And once the flounce was attached and the shirt was in one piece again, I tried it on. I used 1cm seam allowances with my new seam so I knew that I lost exactly 8cm in shirt girth by inserting the flounce (2cm on each front and back seam). To compensate this, I decided to add contrast white panels down the sides of the shirt. This alteration in turn, would eat up another 2cm on each side of the shirt. So, I measured 8cm wide panel pieces to attach to the sides. The panel width is 6cm (incl. 2cm of seam allowances). These side panels returned the shirt to the same shirt-fit as before. I then bound the armscye and hemmed the bottom a little straighter and shorter than before.

I’m not joking when I say that this is my new favourite skirt. I’ve already worn it a lot. It pairs beautifully with skirts for an elegant evening look. But I also love it with jeans when I’m aiming for polished casual.

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?

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!

 

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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