Black overalls for Fall

I may have jumped the gun a little with this make, but I know I will get a LOT of wear out of these overalls in a few months time when the weather eventually cools. My plan is to wear them with crisp, collared shirts, and my plethora of off-the-shoulder tops. But in the meantime, there might be the odd occasion that I could wear them sans layers.

cback8

cback10

I didn’t follow a complete pattern for this make. I slightly narrowed the pants from this playsuit, and then just modified this fitted bodice to a new shape. Having already sewn a few playsuits, I had a good idea of the bodice length I needed (which is one of the most important aspects of a playsuit in my opinion. Nobody wants a saggy butt, or to be cut in half!).

cback7

The fabric I used is a very thick, crisp, cotton twill by Theory. It has a little bit of stretch like a cotton sateen and the good side has a soft, washed silk appearance and feel to it which makes the black appear more charcoal in colour. It’s a wonderful fabric that will be lovely and warm for Winter, but way too heavy for any other time of the year. I’ve purchased Theory branded fabric from Mood on several occasions now and the quality of this particular brand has always been exceptional.

Part of the reason why I got started on these overalls was because I stumbled across a buckle kit for sale at Hancocks before they closed down. I didn’t use the no-sew buttons though. I had a couple of deep shank metal buttons in my stash that I liked so much better.

At this point, I’ve only basted the hem in place. I just can’t decide how long or short I want the pants! I’m very tempted to crop them a little bit more for Fall, but with a deep hem that I can lengthen again in the future.

cback6

cback1

cback5

 

Off the shoulder dress and tutorial

Every time I wear this dress (or this one), I always get a few compliments, and yet, it is possibly the simplest dress I’ve ever sewn. It is really nothing more than two rectangles and a bit of elastic casing.

osh1

 

I hesitate to call it a ‘tutorial’ because it really is so easy. Read the steps below to see why.

STEP 1. Cut two rectangles for the dress body.

 

off shoulder tute

 

STEP 2. Cut two smaller rectangles for the sleeves.

off shoulder tute2

 

If you want a fuller volume in the dress and sleeves, simply multiply the width by 2 instead of 1.5, or any other number in between.

To create the elastic casing, you can fold down the top of the dress and sleeves. I got a little bit fancy and added a contrast band as casing.

The sleeves are attached to the dress by matching the top side seam of the dress (at the casing) to the undersleeve seam and sewing through both securely to fix them in place.

IMG_0635

IMG_0634

This dress is a style of off the shoulder that I’ve seen in some high end RTW (despite the simplicity of the design!). It shows a little underarm cleavage but the elastic allows a good range of arm movement.

osh4

My dress was made using vintage cotton/silk voile, which I lined with a bit of cream silk habutai from my stash. It’s a very lightweight and cool dress that can easily be dressed up with a pair of funky heels. I wore it most recently to an evening function in sweltering KC. It was bliss.

desatos3

desatos5

I also want to mention the shoulder straps that you see in some of the photos as they quite obviously aren’t a part of this tutorial (you can find a bit more information about them here). Several months ago, I made my first off the shoulder dress (to a slightly different design). I wear it as an off the shoulder dress sometimes, but mostly I wear it with the same bra that you see in these photos. The bra is just stock standard in my closet, but I covered the straps in the same fabric as the dress so it looks like it is a part of the dress. I hate strapless bras, so the bra increases the wearability of the dress for me.

desatos1

 

Named Asaka Kimono

To be perfectly fair, I only have myself to blame for the fury that I felt when preparing to sew this pattern. I’m usually more than happy taping together PDF’s but on this occasion I decided to treat myself to the paper copy. I should have read the online product description better, but I didn’t. I read blog reviews that recommended shelling out for the paper copy rather than the PDF, the catch being that those bloggers didn’t sew from the paper copy. They sewed from the PDF. They probably had no idea that the paper pattern is overlapped on one piece of paper (like a Japanese sewing pattern) and has no seam allowances either.

So my paper copy arrived by mail and I put it aside in great excitement, only to open it up on the night I wanted to get started. If I’d wanted to spend an evening on my hands and knees tracing lines and measuring allowances, I would have drafted the pattern myself or modified an existing pattern that I already owned. I already have a good number of patterns and rarely buy a new one. The whole point of buying a new pattern on this occasion (and a paper copy at that) was to be lazy.

asaka6

It was an easy sew in the end. The pattern is rated average. I’d venture to call it “easy” if you make it in a woven cotton. Silk would up the ante a little. And my Asaka kimono did turn out to be pretty awesome. The fit is spot on. I lengthened the body by one inch but didn’t change the sleeves. I had just enough fabric to make this work. My waist tie has about 16 separate seams because I was a little short on fabric, but I’m not bothered. The collar on it is lovely too.

asaka8

As gorgeous as it is, this robe will be a morning cover up for me, to wear after showers and while sipping my tea. The fabric is a very lightweight cotton which is soft and washable. The sleeve design is fabulous and functional. The front slit means that those long hems won’t be dripping into my tea. It is exactly what I needed in my wardrobe.

asaka7

asaka5

asaka9

I really do love the overall design of this robe. I can see myself using it again in the future to make a silk version for a formal occasion, but with a longer waist tie that can be looped into a bow. And after all the ranting, I’d still recommend it.

asaka11

At the end of the day, I’m glad that I made it. Am I glad that I purchased the paper pattern? No. Would I have bought it knowing what I know today? No. Would I recommend purchasing the PDF version? Yes!

asaka2

 

Fashion trends and sewing

I have this theory about fashion trends and sewing. Being able to sew amplifies any trend (well, it does in my closet anyway!).

I’ve always been interested in fashion and I’ve always followed trends to one degree or another. But ever since I began sewing, fashion trends have been so much more pronounced as they’ve worked their way into my wardrobe.

In 2012 (pre-blogging photos from the archives), I made peplums. There were more than these, but I can’t find the photos right now.

pep

Next, I made drop waist dresses. There were more here too.

dw

Then I made culottes, which gradually progressed to wide leg and gaucho pants.

culotte

Now, I’m working through the off-shoulder/cold-shoulder trend. There have been other trends along the way that also managed to captivate my interest. I seem to make between 3-5 garments that are in line with any trend. In my pre-sewing days, I’d have purchased 1-2 trend-driven pieces and otherwise kept to classic staples.

I’ve been thinking a lot about why sewing enables me to do this. Here are my ideas:

  • Sometimes it takes more than one go to get a handmade garment right. A wearable muslin first, followed by a better version immediately doubles the number of items. Maybe I would have bought one RTW item in the past, but I would have had the opportunity to try on several first to find which one worked best. You don’t get that opportunity with home sewing.
  • If the design worked and it fitted well, of course I’ll want to sew it again. And sometimes it’s simply easier to sew repeats than to work through new designs and muslins, particularly if the garment was seasonably appropriate and nice to wear.
  • Sewing means that I can refashion, recycle, and reuse old fabrics and old clothes. It means that I can also make more trend-driven items without spending more, or expanding my wardrobe. I don’t have to be as sensible with my clothing choices, because I can always refashion back to sensible if need be.
  • Sometimes (if I really like a style) I might decide to digitize a pattern, which means I have to test the pattern and make it perfect, thereby making multiple versions of the same style.
  • It usually costs me next to nothing to sew a few extra pieces. This wasn’t always the case though. When I was a beginner, there were so many wadders and ho-hum makes that it cost more to sew than to buy RTW (just check out those peplums!). These days, it’s very economical for me. I spend well on fabric for classic, long term pieces. I save a fortune by making swimsuits and leotards for myself and my girls. And for the trend-driven items that I know will only last a season, I’ll often use thrifted, upcycled, or economically priced fabric that is nice enough to produce a quality garment, but costs a tiny fraction of RTW. For example, the entire fabric cost of all the cold-shoulder makes below was about $18 (the largest portion coming from the $10-15 white linen tablecloth of which I still have a lot remaining). I also know that I’m very capable of cutting up any of those tops and dresses to refashion into something new down the track.

download

  • I can make it so I can do it. And I can do it now! Sewing gives me freedom to follow a trend and make something immediately. Unlike RTW shopping where I’d have a vision in my mind but never be able to find exactly what I wanted, sewing enables me to make a garment to match my vision. It also enables the power of now. I can cut up an old sheet on the spot and make something at midnight, before garments hit RTW shops or are even available online. I’m not saying I do this, but I could!

So I think this explains how I end up with so many trend-driven pieces in my closet each year. It may seem like I have a lot of clothes, but I take a lot of care (via refashioning) to make sure that my closet doesn’t expand too much, despite sewing all year round. I’m also lucky to have a lot of girls to sew for. In any case, I think I’m just about ready to move on to my next obsession. I just have to figure out what it will be!

 

 

White Esthers and a knit raglan

There’s never any fabric waste in my house, especially when it’s something as lovely as this Saratoga knit by O! Jolly!. I only had the tiniest amount left after finishing my Megan longline cardigan, but I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it.

whitetop8

I used the raglan view of V8952 as a base for the top. I made a few fit modifications, raised the neckline, and added my own neck and hem bands. I used some plain white ponte for the back and sleeves, and seamed together three scraps of Saratoga knit for the front. I love the texture of the spongy knit as a feature and the contrast of cream against white.

whitetop5

whitetop4

whitetop7

The shorts are an old favourite and TNT for me. I used the Esther shorts pattern and simply added an asymmetrical overlay at the front. I used scraps for this make too. I salvaged some gorgeous, meaty Theory cotton sateen (from this dress) to use for the back of the shorts and for the front overlay. The dress was tired (with a few stains) and needed to be retired. I didn’t have quite enough sateen though, so I used some scrap linen for the shorts front and overlay lining. The linen was too lightweight for the shorts on its own, but perfect for this design where the front is layered.

whitetop3

I’ll wear these shorts a lot. I made a yellow version a few  years ago which are still on the go, but have been downgraded to gardening/painting gear. It feels good to replace a wardrobe item that was very much loved.

 

A Twirl to Me dress for Miss Eight

I made this little dress way back in April for my daughter’s birthday. She specifically requested it. We’d just been through the seasonal wardrobe shuffle which meant that a lot of her dresses were passed onto her younger sister, including this favourite that I made for her last year.

ttm4

The pattern is the Twirl to Me dress, in the maxi length. The fabric is vintage, found at an estate sale for less than a few dollars. It is a beautiful cotton sateen, but quite an old fashioned print. I was surprised that Coco picked this from my stash, but it ended up suiting the dress very nicely.

ttm1

I know she’ll get a lot of twirls out of this little party dress. It’s obviously not quite as practical as a simple T and shorts, or the tunic dresses I make for her day to day wear, but it is a dress that makes her feel special when she wears it. And everybody needs something like that in their closet.

 

A Megan longline cardi in an O! Jolly! knit

Disclaimer: I was given both the fabric and the PDF sewing pattern free of charge by Olgalyn of O! Jolly! in exchange for sewing it up and sharing my make. All opinions stated in this review are my own.

I’ll be honest with you guys. If someone offers me free fabric to make something, I’m probably always going to say yes, just as I’m probably always going to say yes to a cup of tea or a glass of wine. However, I will confess to being a bit exceptionally excited about discovering O! Jolly! knits. I’m probably going to rave a little about them now (and the Megan longline cardi pattern too, by the way).

whwh5

I want to give you a little background as a reference point for my excitement. Firstly, I do not knit. Nope, not at all. I’ve tried countless times. My most determined effort produced a few beanies two years ago and a disgraceful, but much loved tunic. I do not like knitting. I tried really hard to like it, but I just don’t. I’m a sewer/seamstress/sewist through and through.

I do, however, LOVE knitted garments. I think they are just amazing. If I had the skills and patience, I’d definitely be rocking fancy, knitted sweaters each Winter. Quite possibly, the most loved garment I’ve ever made was made using a sockinette stitched, Italian, pure wool fabric. The irony was not lost on me that the fabric was constructed using the one and only knitting stitch I can do.

And that fabric was expensive, but my daughter wore that cardigan intensively for three Winters and has only just (very reluctantly) passed it on to her younger sister. I used a Japanese pattern and would love to make another for her, but it is not the type of fabric I see very often, especially not online. In fact, when I first browsed the O! Jolly! website, my first thought was of that cardigan with the intention of sewing it in a larger size.

But it is Spring here in Kansas City and we are fast approaching Summer. Wool season is long gone, but the weather is still irregular with hot days interspersed with cool rainy days. I needed a cardigan for myself and I knew the Megan would be perfect for Spring and Fall if I used a cotton knit.

I selected the sewing pattern and Olgalyn was very helpful in advising whether the knit I chose would be suitable for the project. In fact, she has a Pinterest board that is devoted to sewing patterns that would suit her knits. I was very close to sewing Jalie 3248 but I’ve had my eye on the Megan for a while now. I’m not sure that my photos showcase the great hem of the Megan. But like all Tessuti patterns, this one is thoughtfully constructed.

There are only three pattern pieces to this cardigan (excluding the binding), so the design is simple, but it is the little things that make it special, like a hem with mitred corners and seamlessly finished edges where the binding and hem meet. I should probably also note that I was excessively careful about not stretching this knit as I sewed it, particularly at the sleeve edge and hem. I used a lightweight fusible web to adhere the hem allowance in place before I stitched it down (with a single, not a twin needle), and then I steamed it heavily with the iron to bring it back to it’s original shape.

whwh9

whwh8

Let’s talk about this fabric though. I ended up selecting the Saratoga knit in natural white. This is a beautifully soft cotton that has been ginned, spun, and knit in the USA. It has not been dyed or bleached. In fact, it would make the most gorgeous baby clothes, or even simply, a blanket. Let me tell you, when my yardage arrived, it looked so beautiful uncut that I was tempted to bind the ends and keep it as blanket myself!

whwh7

The knit was very easy to work with. I prewashed it in warm water and dried it in the dryer. I usually pre-treat my fabrics as aggressively as I dare (just in case they end up in the wrong wash). Even so, I’ll still launder the finished cardigan gently, but I won’t have to worry about any further shrinkage (if my 4-8yr old laundry sorters are off their game).

I can’t tell you how much this fabric shrunk with the pre-wash. But it is a knit and I would expect some shrinkage with any knit, just as I would with many other fabrics I use. In the end, three yards delivered me a very long Megan with not much to spare. I did need to seam the binding a little right near the bottom of the cardigan. If you look closely, you can see slight lumps where those seams have been joined.

whwh2

I absolutely love my new Megan. It turned out even better than I imagined. I cut a size small and made only a few small changes to the pattern. I added a 5/8 inch wedge to the CB (my standard broad back modification). I also added 2 inches to the sleeve length and body length (because I’m tall and I doubt that anyone drafts for 5″10). I decided to cut the back on the fold instead of sewing the CB seam because I could just fit the pieces on my folded fabric.

 The Megan was perfect for this fabric. It showcases the texture of the Saratoga knit beautifully. I actually planned on using the reverse side of it for the binding (but I forgot!).

whwh6

whwh3

I’m going to get a lot of wear out of this new cardigan, during the next few weeks but more likely during Fall now. It is warm and snuggly without being overbearing. The fabric lends a nice weight to the design so it hangs beautifully (but I’m also very glad I reinforced the shoulder seams with clear elastic like the pattern instructions recommended).

At the end of the day, I cannot recommend O! Jolly! knits highly enough. I know I was lucky enough to receive this yardage for free, but I’m planning to return as a paying customer at the end of the year. The possibilities are endless!

White lace dress

One great thing about living in the USA is that my birthday is in Summer here! I’m so much more inspired to dress up and head out for the night in the middle of Summer. The end of June always seems so cold and dark in Sydney (relatively speaking).

To be perfectly honest though, I’ll use any excuse to sew a nice dress. Yes, there’s still over a month until my birthday, but several years ago I came up with best birthday strategy ever. For the next month, many sentences will begin with, “It’s my birthday soon, so…”. If I really stretch it, I can milk my birthday for a good eight weeks, which could possibly turn into several dinners out, maybe some new shoes, fabric…and you’ve already seen my “birthday” sunnies if you follow me on Instagram.

whitelace2

whitelace5

But let’s get back to the birthday dress. It is my own design, albeit a very simple one, and also one you’ve seen before. The skirt is the only real part of the design I changed, moving and adjusting the pleats a bit to create the volume and shape of the skirt. I also moved the zipper to the back and left it exposed (because it is a bit fancy!).

whitelace10

whitelace11

I’ve been calling the outer fabric lace, for want of a better word. Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn’t. It is actually faux leather embroidered on scuba mesh. Surprisingly though, it is very stable. There isn’t much stretch in that mesh so I was able to turn the fabric on the cross grain to utilise the mesh edging/selvedge as a hem. I decided that the lining needed to be black for contrast and cotton for breathability under the spongy synthetic exterior.

Now, the construction of this dress is where things went a little Pete Tong. My original plan was to partially line the bodice, just like this blue Milly dress. However, after sewing all the seams  (of the outer fabric) and serging them, I realised that the underside of the lace was so hard and scratchy that the dress would be unwearable if it was left even partially unlined. I could have used silk organza blocked into the top part of the lining and sewn it as a full lining, but I didn’t have the right shade of nude on hand and I just wanted to get on with it.

My solution was to first bind the armscye of the outer lace. Then I sewed together the lining in full and attached it to the lace at the neckline. Then a lot of hand-stitching ensued. I slip-stitched the lining to the armscye binding and down the centre back. The dress is actually very close to passing as reversible.

I’m very happy with the fit. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but I think I will always feel an element of surprise and delight when I step into a garment that is perfectly molded to my body. It’s a sensation that I’ve never felt with RTW.

whitelace3

whitelace4

And while we are speaking of perfect fit… I drove past an estate sale last week and bumped into the impeccable Jill Sander shoes that you see in the photos. They were not only my exact size, but comfortable, possibly unworn, and totally meant for the dress I was sewing. I felt like Cinderella!

First of the DIY Spring frocks

It’s been so long since I’ve made a dress like this, with a fitted bodice and a pleated skirt. The design is very similar to one of the first few dresses I ever designed and made from scratch. If I was still living in Australia, I’d probably still own those dresses, but the nature of moving overseas calls for ruthless culling and I’ll freely admit that I have a few small regrets.

5

To craft this pattern, I draped both a muslin and the fashion fabric directly onto my mannequin. I find draping gets the best fit for me through the bodice. I did a rough calico for the bodice, but draped the skirt fabric directly on the mannequin. The skirt is a very simple design, just two pleats and some whopping big side pockets.

9

Because this was the first fitted (woven) bodice I’ve designed or made for a long time, I chose to use an invisible zipper down the front of the dress. I actually quite like this style of fastening, but I had another sneaky reason for placing the zipper in the front. I didn’t sew a full muslin of the dress so I wasn’t fully confident that the bodice fit wouldn’t need a bit more tweaking. I knew it would fit well enough but I wanted the opportunity to aim for perfection, as well as be able to accurately adjust my pattern pieces for the future. I’m reasonably flexible, but there’s no way I can pin out a CB seam accurately on my own!

As it turned out, the fit was pretty good. I only needed to let the waist out by 0.5cm on each seam and this was easy to do by reducing the seam allowance at that point when inserting the zipper.

7

12

3

The fabric is a medium-heavy weight embroidered cotton. It has the most amazing texture and structure due to the black embroidery and it suits the design of the pleated skirt perfectly. You can see how the skirt holds it’s shape. I tried to be clever and freestyle a back cutout into the pattern once I’d already commenced sewing the bodice. However, I didn’t like the way the edges sat so I inserted some silk organza between the fabric and the lining. I probably could have used elastic along the cutout edges to bring them in towards the body instead of the organza. I’ll remember that next time.

8

Overall, I’m very happy with the fit and feel of this dress. It’s a simple, elegant design that I’ll get a lot of wear out of. I’m also happy to have a TNT fitted, princess-seamed bodice pattern in my arsenal. It’s been something I’ve been meaning to make for over a year now.

1

 

DIY // Off the shoulder jersey top

I’m loving the look of off the shoulder tops right now. It’s a little difficult to get on board with this trend during Winter, but it helps to keep the sleeves long and by adding a little leather.

5

10

6

I modified an existing long sleeve top pattern to make this top. It was a very easy pattern modification as you can see from the diagram below (excuse my dodgy freehand sleeve cap!).

All I did was draw a line across the front and back bodice at the point I wanted my off the shoulder neckline to reach (red dotted line). I cut the pattern pieces off at this line, including the sleeve cap. Finally, I attached a band (the exact size of the top neckline) which I used to encase elastic to hold the top up securely.

off shoulder top

3

1

I’m so pleased with how this top worked out that I’ve already cut out a second, shorter sleeve version. I used a one-way-stretch, pure cotton jersey for this version, which is why my top isn’t as clingy on the arms and body as it could be. A knit fabric with two-way-stretch would work even more beautifully. It all depends on how well the unmodified top pattern fit you in the first place.

8