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!

 

Vintage Vogue 2915 // Orange is the new black

I am totally obsessed with orange right now. Instead of filtering by fabric type in my online shopping, I’ve been filtering by colour.

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The fabric I used for this trench is an Italian stretch wool suiting that goes by the colour, “pumpkin”. It couldn’t be more appropriate for Fall. Originally, I had my mind set on sewing a trench coat in a heavy silk satin, but economics had me looking at poly satin instead (which I just couldn’t find the love for, or perhaps it wasn’t the perfect shade of orange). In the end, I was sensible and landed on some wool fabric and I’m very glad I did. Anything other than wool just wouldn’t get any wear here in the Midwest.

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The fabric is a beautifully, weighted wool twill, with a significant amount of stretch in both directions. It’s not a knit, but its lycra content meant that I had to treat it like knit. Stabilising the shoulder seams and neckline was essential. I toyed with lining this coat (as per the original pattern), but I really wanted something casual, that I could throw on and go. And lining deinitely wasn’t necessary with this fabric. The wool is perfectly opaque and the underside is as respectable as the right side. In fact, the wrong side is smoother, which makes it suitable for resting against the skin. Lastly, I pretreated the fabric in the machine and dryer before sewing, so I can wash and dry it easily at home.

I used vintage Vogue 2915 with a few small modifications. I sewed a size 12 but adjusted the shoulder seams for a broader back. In retrospect, I possibly could have gotten away without this fit adjustment because of the fabric’s generous stretch. And in fact, a tighter fit through the shoulders (in a stretchy fabric like this) would have resulted in a more consistently nice shape in the sleeve cap when worn because the sleeve cap would stretch over the shoulders. In some of my photos (above and below), the sleeve seam has slipped off my shoulder and the sleeve cap doesn’t look great (because there is no sleeve head to support it). But in the two photos below that, the shoulder seams sit in the correct postion and the sleeve looks perfect. I guess this is also the thing with an unstructured, cardigan-style coat. Technically, the fit is good though, and at least I know that this pattern will fit me well when I’m ready to use it again and make it up in a stable woven.

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Other changes I made to the pattern:

  • I lengthened the sleeves by 1 inch.
  • I ditched the collar and front yoke flaps as I felt they wouldn’t suit the casual drape of the front.
  • The front coat pieces have been made wider at the centre front (by about 4-5 inches), to create the front drape.
  • I skipped all front fastenings and the belt. The original pattern was double breasted.
  • I ditched the lining.
  • I drafted a wide facing for the neckline. I used a pretty silk CDC for this. Since I knew the facing would be visible at times, I turned it into a feature point. I used the same silk to line the pockets, sleeve bands, and epaulets.

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This was one of those makes that just seemed to grow more involved as I got into it. I set out to whip together a quick trench coat without all the detailing. But once I got started, anything less than a bound buttonhole (amongst other things) just seemed unacceptable. And whilst on the topic of unacceptable, I can’t, for the life of me, remember if I pressed that hem or not… I think Netflix turned my brain to smush while I was blind-stitching it…so it’s back to the ironing board with this trench before I wear it!

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BHL Alix dress – pattern tested

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I recently did a bit of pattern testing for By Hand London. You might have seen a few sneak peeks of their new design on Instagram. I’m happy to say that it is finally available.

The Alix dress is a very flattering, easy-to-wear, slipover dress, with the perfect smidgen of 70’s vibe. I made mine up in a very cool striped and spotted silk crepe de chine.

The particular version you see here was made up according to the test instructions, so there has been at least one small modification to the final version. My dress has under bust pleats which can be a bit pointy. I think the final version gives the option of gathers which will produce a much smoother result.

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I should also list the other small fit modifications I made. Like many people, I’m not a standard size, so I graded from a US 8 (bust) to a US 6 (waist and hips). I lengthened the sleeves by 1 inch (long arms). I also found the underarms a bit tight initially, so I let out the underarm seams out by about 1/2 inch in total post construction. This is not a reflection on the design, just simply a post-construction fit for my broad shoulders. I would normally slash and spread either the CB or shoulder seams (design dependent) by about 5/8 inch in total to adjust for my broad back/shoulders. A US 8 (35 inch bust) is the perfect bust/chest fit for me but my shoulders expand above my bust so I need to accomodate for this increase in back width without adding volume to the chest area.

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My only other change was to shorten the maxi length version by 4-6 inches, shaping the hem in a slight hi-low fashion. I basically just made myself a midi. Cutting lines for all the dress lengths are included on the maxi length version so it is very easy to cut whatever length you desire.

I love my new dress and I’ll be holding on to this pattern for future versions too. It would make a lovely Winter dress in a lightweight wool. But actually, my brain is already working overtime, thinking how I might possibly be able to modify this pattern to make a sleeveless version next Spring.

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Pleated silk skirt

So this was a bit of a random make and totally unplanned, but the fabric just grabbed me and demanded to be made into something wearable… and immediately. It arrived in the mail and bypassed my stash completely.

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I actually went shopping for wool coating, but as always, I ended up with fabric in my cart that I never set out to purchase, namely, this glorious silk CDC. The colours just scream Fall, even if the fabric isn’t really the most Fall-appropriate.

What I wanted to sew with it was a floor length, ruffly, slinky skirt. But we all know how much wear that would get in real life. I thought sensible thoughts and turned it into a  gently pleated midi instead. I can wear this skirt with sandals and tanks, or with long boots, tights, and sweaters. It will get heaps of wear.

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I didn’t use a pattern because I’m good with measuring my waist and a skirt like this is simply just two big rectangles. I winged the pleats, but made sure to match them up. When I had the volume I liked, I jiggled the side seams to match up with my waistband.

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The waistband is the only point of interest in this skirt. Because the design was pretty foolproof, I thought I’d try something a little new. I’d read somewhere (no idea where) that you could use elastic to face a pair of pants (for comfort). I didn’t have the right width elastic on hand, but I did have a yard of a performance ribbing fabric, which feels and stretches like woven elastic. The only thing I had to do was measure the length and overlock the edges. Normal elastic used as facing would look a lot neater than my version (as would matching thread!), but as this was an experiment (and on the inside of my skirt), I wasn’t too worried about appearance.

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Contstruction of the waistband with elastic is almost identical to if you were using facing. I still interfaced the waistband fabric. I just avoided creating seams with the elastic. To do this, I overlapped the waistband fabric with the elastic so only the waistband fabric was folded back against itself.

Using elastic as a facing just creates a bit more comfort with the waistband. It stays tight, but has more give when sitting and breathing. I’m definitely going to use this method in future waistbands, and refine it so it looks pretty too.

 

 

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.

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

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

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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.

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  • 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!

 

 

A mini Chloe dress for Miss Eight

My girls have been watching my production of cold-shoulder dresses and tops and begging me to make them the same. This make is literally all scraps, right down to the miscellaneous, handmade, but unmatched silk and rayon bias bindings.

It’s almost an exact replica of my Chloe dress pattern, but in a mini size.

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The fabric is an old poly from Spotlight. It fades a little, and catches occasionally, but it’s lightweight, and otherwise wears pretty well. In fact, it wears incredibly well, because I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Miss Eight wearing her other dress in this fabric at least twice a week since I made it.

This dress was always intended as a wearable muslin, but it has turned into one of those rare occasions where I don’t want to change a single thing about it. And I’m pretty sure Miss Eight feels the same. I’ve been watching her wear it. It looks comfortable and non-restrictive for play. It’s nearly too short for her, but she likes to wear bike pants under dresses anyway, so it still works. On an average height girl, the dress would be more modest.

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Miss Six and Miss Four have put in their orders so I better get to work grading this pattern down for them. It looks like we might all be twinning in a few weeks.

What to do with a destroyed silk shirt…

Aghhhh, I’m so rough on clothes. I wear all my good clothes. There’s no such thing as “too special to wear” in my closet. Once there was, but now there’s not. If I spend the time and energy to make something nice, I’m definitely going to be out there wearing it!

I wear all kinds of fibres, but in Summer, I’m particularly fond of linen and silk crepe de chine. Both of these are pretty hard-wearing. I machine wash and dry most of my clothes (because that is what one does in our neighbourhood). I try to avoid the dryer with my silks but reality means they always end up in there at some point. I’ve completely given up line-drying my kid’s silk garments and the three pairs of silk PJ pants that I own and wear day in, day out (here and here). Silk can be as tough as nails.

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So I got complacent. Well, I actually just wore my favourite shirt ALL THE TIME. What did I expect? A cotton shirt isn’t immune to the terror of the underarm deodorant stain, so why did I think my wonderful silk shirt would survive such daily wear? It was good while it lasted.

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As you can see below, the discolouration under the arms is beyond horrible. I hated the idea of throwing away all the good work I put into those plackets, and cuffs, and collar… so I decided to cut it away as much as I could (about 0.5 inches below the bottom armscye seam to be precise). I didn’t dare cut away anymore because I knew doing so would bring the armscye down too low. I cut away a bit more at the top shoulder seam so the sleeveless top would have a nice shape. My plan was to wear a nice, sporty bandeau style bra underneath and treat the low armscye as a design feature.

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I salvaged the bias binding from the undamaged portions of the sleeves. There’s still a tiny bit of stain at the bottom of the armscye but most of it was concealed with the binding. Otherwise, any remaining stain is mostly hidden by the natural position of my arm.

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It turned out that the low armscye wasn’t as bad as I expected. The most bra that could be seen in any of my photos was in this one. I can deal with this. Long live my revived silk Archer!

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Dress Two: #inseasonsilkcomp

I’ve been wanting to make a shirt dress for a long time and this competition gave me the perfect opportunity to do so. I was also lucky that my first dress required a lot less fabric than anticipated. In the end, I had the perfect amount for both dresses, and not a thread to spare.

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I used a vintage pattern (McCall’s 6429) which I’ve used before to make a silk playsuit. This time I followed the pattern almost to the tee. My only change was to adjust for my broad-back with a 5/8th inch wedge to the top CB (and of course adjust the collar to match this change). I also lengthened the bottom hem by about 13 inches.

The dress is of a raglan style with short cuffed sleeves and inseam pockets. The waist is pulled in with a self-fabric belt tie. The centre front is faced and most of the inside seams have been serged. I achieved smooth buttonholes on the silk CDC by using a lightweight fusible interfacing and tearaway Vilene between the facing and the fabric. I find lightweight interfacing on its own not enough to preventing buttonhole puckers in silk, and yet I didn’t want to go heavier with the interfacing as it would weigh down and affect the drape of my silk too much. The tearaway Vilene worked a treat. I imagine tissue paper could have worked too.

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The biggest challenge with this dress was the sheer length of the pieces. I’m 5″10 and the dress is floor length on me. There isn’t a separate bodice and skirt. The bodice extends all the way to the bottom hem. That’s a good 60 inches of shifty silk that I had to line up and control for each seam. My cutting mat is pretty big, but not that big!

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I’m so happy with this dress. It’s light and floaty, and it feels beautiful to wear. It’s also a very versatile addition to my wardrobe. I like it long right now, but I could potentially shorten it in the future to become an easier daytime staple. I have no problem wearing silk for school pick ups but I might need to do up an extra button ;-).

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Oliver + S // Pinwheel slip dress in silk

I have quite a mammoth sewing to-do list in the lead up to Christmas. I didn’t plan it that way. In fact, I didn’t plan to do much Christmas sewing at all this year. My only goal was to sew that velvet dress, and of course, the Winter coat (that is slowly coming along).

The Winter coat now has buttonholes and a collar, but the rest of it has been put on hold while I catch up on the selfless sewing that I was trying to avoid. However, I think the Christmas bug has just caught me a little later this year, because I’m looking forward to the quick and fun sewing that is now on my horizon.

It all started with Miss Seven. It’s an annual tradition at her elementary school for all the 2nd grade students to dress up and attend the Nutcracker, by the Kansas City Ballet. It’s quite a special occasion for the little kids each year and even more special because her best friend is a part of the cast (although not performing on that day). The kids look forward to this event for literally a whole year, but I didn’t consider the ‘dress-up’ component until about a week ago when Miss Seven started muttering about the ‘fancy dresses’ the other girls were wearing, and then the email came home from the teacher requesting that the boys wear ‘nice’ jeans or pants.

Miss Seven already had the perfect dressy coat for the occasion. But I decided to sew her a special dress to wear with it. The fabric came from my stash. It is a vibrant Ralph Lauren silk CDC that I previously used to line this coat of mine. I had the perfect amount for the Oliver + S Pinwheel slip and tunic dress pattern.

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I modified the pattern slightly to sew the tunic and slip as one, instead of making separate dresses to layer as the pattern suggests. I also changed added a keyhole to the back as the method of fastening. To do this, I copied the neckline and armscye of the tunic over the slip pattern and then sewed them together at the neckline. This eliminated the need for neck binding or facing. The slip portion also became the lining. In addition, I lengthened the arms.

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I’m pretty chuffed with how this dress turned out. I made it up in a size 8 but was a little worried it would be too big. Miss Seven is taller than average and quite slim through the body and hips (her hips and waist are a size 5), but she seems to have a nice width to her shoulders which probably accounts for how the dress fits. The shoulder fit is great but the dress volumes out beneath that (which is nature of a the dress design anyway). The length is short but acceptable (I normally lengthen patterns for her).

Miss Seven is delighted with her early Christmas present and that makes me happy too. I consulted with her all the way in the making of it, because I feel like she’s old enough now to start developing a more informed opinion on clothes and styles (rather than just a need for all things swishy, ruffled, and pink). Of course, I had to pull the reigns in with regards to her initial selection of suitable fabrics and design (ie not floor length velvet like Mummy), but we talked over the options and she came up with some of her own ideas. In the cool weather, she’ll be wearing this dress with white, fleece lined tights which will look super cute too.

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Pattern tested // Sew DIY Baseball skirt

I had a reasonably uncluttered week recently, so I put up my hand to do a little pattern testing. You’ve already seen the Tie back boots I tested. This time round, I tested the Sew DIY Baseball skirt.

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I’ll confess up front that this is not the kind of skirt I would normally sew for myself. I chose to pattern test this because I wanted to support the designer and because the skirt looked like such a quick and easy make. It is an elastic waist skirt. It IS quick and easy. Now I’m not sure how many beginners follow my blog, but if that is you, this skirt is a winner.

The pattern is clear and concise, as I would expect from Sew DIY. It’s also very professionally put together. I like the curved hem shape. I also like the idea of the other hem options that are described in the pattern.

I used a little leftover silk twill with the intention of making an everyday-version of this pencil skirt. However, when I paired it with the silk cami, it wasn’t really the vision I’d hoped for (see below).

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From a styling perspective, this one initially had me stumped. It’s designed to sit at the natural waist, which isn’t really my style right now, so I dropped it to my hips. As you’d expect, anything with an elastic waist is going to carry a little more bulk than a fitted waistband. However, I suspect some of the volume in my photos is coming from the way the pockets are hanging internally. My skirt was made to the tester version and I think Beth may have improved the pocket design for the final pattern.

In any case, to balance out the silhouette of an elastic waist skirt, I prefer it paired with a top that is similar in volume and that has a little more coverage through the shoulders (like the Lou Box top or the Branson top). To me, a spaghetti strap cami looks a little off kilter in terms of proportion and silhouette.

Please excuse the bare feet and wrinkly linen. I’d been wearing this outfit all day and was in the middle of chasing my little monsters in a game of tag (or tip…or whatever it’s called this week) when I suddenly thought to photograph the skirt again.

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P.S. It has now been several weeks now since I made this skirt. Paired with my white linen Branson top, this outfit has become one of my favourites this Summer. Cool, loosely fitted linen and silk is an absolute dream in the Midwest heat and humidity. I don’t feel too scruffy either.