Silk skirt and cami // attaching a lining with a vent

This, my friends, is why I sew. I made myself a woven skirt (with not a smidgen of stretch), that fits me like a second skin. It never fails to amaze me how wonderful it feels to pull on an item of clothing that is designed specifically to fit your body, and only your body, like a glove.

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I have never been able to find a RTW pencil skirt in any kind of fabric that fits me properly. My hips are a size smaller than my waist, with the volume behind me rather than at the sides, which always made pants and skirts very painful to shop for. However, I’m pretty sure most women out there can feel my pain. Even women with exactly the same measurements can have vastly different shaped bodies, which is why we take so long trying on all the clothes when we go shopping.

The skirt I made is to a very simple design. It’s fully lined with silk habutai, with an invisible zipper and vent in the back, although the print on the fabric makes both of these features difficult to see. The fabric is a gorgeous remnant of silk twill that I picked up from Britex Fabrics in San Fransisco a few months ago. It’s a lighter style of twill, which is possibly not entirely suited to a fitted skirt, but it is what the heart wanted.

The hem is not as sharp as I’d like, even after interfacing it with some lightweight fusible.  I’m hoping another good press will get the hem and vent sitting smoother. I’m also hoping the lining will help the outer fabric withstand the strain of sitting. (Update: since writing this post, the skirt has been out for two outings and all seams are still perfectly intact thanks to the lining.)

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This was my first time lining a skirt with a vent. I entered into the project prepared. I had a reference book on hand and I pulled out my beautifully constructed Herringbone Sydney suit skirt to study (a 2006 version of this one). I literally stared at both for hours. However, my brain could simply not connect the dots. I had a mental block. In the end I knew I just had to start sewing and hope it would become clear as I progressed. I did eventually have that lightbulb moment when everything made sense, but not before I had already cut the lining in the wrong shape. The diagram below shows you how I cut the lining (same as the outer fabric) vs how I should have cut it (in pink).

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The trick in sewing a lining into a vented skirt is in cutting the skirt lining with a gentle curve so that it can join the vent to the CB zipper seam. The lining is NOT cut in the same shape as the skirt pieces. Showing you how I repaired my mistake gives you a good idea of the difference between a straight CB seam in the lining and how the curve needs to go. Thankfully this mistake is only on the inside of my skirt.

PicMonkey Collage

Here’s another tip I learned in the making of this skirt. There’s no need to sew a dart in the lining. It’s easy to get a professional finish by distributing the volume as pleat instead. I moved my pleat slightly to the side of the dart so I wouldn’t have a double layer of bulk (albeit very thin with silk) in the same spot.

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And there we have it, my first perfectly fitted woven skirt. I made a Camilla Camisole to go with it in some lovely silk CDC from Tessuti Fabrics. The bias cut looks great in this fabric because of the striped pattern.

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Shop the Look

Nina Ricci // J Crew // BCBG Max Azaria

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Cheetah Two-piece Set-actular

A few months ago, Miss Five fell in love with a Cheetah print silk swatch that I’d ordered from Mood Fabrics. It wasn’t in my plans to purchase fabric for my daughter, let alone silk. I prefer to use up all my (albeit lovely and sometimes silk) scraps on the clothes I make for my girls. It’s the way I offset the cost of my wardrobe.

So I purchased two yards of this silk. The shock. But then shortly after, I saw this RTW skirt that retails for $78. The even bigger shock. I pinned it because I like the simple design. Then a few days later I saw that True Bias had put together a tutorial on making an almost identical looking skirt. Score! Check it out here.

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I know I am a little out of touch with RTW prices (Target is my go-to and I really only shop there for emergency kidswear these days) so price of this skirt floored me a little. Or perhaps it enabled me. And this is what it enabled: a cheetah two-piece set-acular. It’s probably a $45 dollar outfit for a kid (outrageous, I know!). But my goodness it’s cute. It’s hard to see the details of the shorts under the top, but they are made to the same pattern as these, with little side pockets and a botton hem band.

And just so you know, cheetahs run very, very fast!

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I will confess that it wasn’t all about Miss Five with these makes. I wanted to test the shorts pattern in a slinky woven. The top is another pattern that I’m working on, but have sewn enough times already to know that it would work beautifully with this fabric.

I also took my time deciding what to sew with this silk. It’s a beautiful print, but I wasn’t quite sure a playsuit (as was requested) would get enough wear due to the toileting aspect. I thought a two piece set would be the best value but it could have easily turned into a tacky animal print overdose. I think I hit the target with this one, even if I do say so myself.

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NEW PATTERN ALERT: The Sea Change top + discount code

I’m so excited to announce a that a new pattern is available in my shop today. It’s the Sea Change top, an easy fitting, kimono style top that is just perfect for high waist jeans and skirts. And in honour of this exciting day, I’m also discounting the pattern (and everything else in my shop, including the Twirl to Me dress pattern) for the next seven days. Use code: SEACHANGE15

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I’ve already been getting a lot of wear out of my versions, and I have a few more planned for Summer.  It’s such an easy and versatile top. Check out the pattern yourself here.

The Sea Change top is tester ready!

This is the kind of easy fitting top that works well in both a knit or a woven. My striped version was made up in a knit, so I thought I’d trial this one in a woven. My fabric of choice is a special length of silk CDC from Tessuti Fabrics. I don’t buy much fabric on whim anymore, but this one just jumped in my shopping cart without any project in mind. I’m glad it did.

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I’m very pleased with the way this top turned out. I love the contrast panels and I especially love the opportunity they provide for mixing fabrics and prints for different looks on the same simple top.

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My blog has been a bit unpredictable over the past week while I’ve been getting it set up properly, so I started my call out for testers on Instagram for this pattern. I’ve had an overwhelming response for some sizes, but I’m still looking for testers in the following sizes: L (14-16) and XXL (20). If you think this might be you and you have the time and energy to trial this very simple top, please let me know. Once again, I have no interest if you blog or shout out to the masses through social media (although if you do, that’s fine by me too). I’m simply interested in your honest feedback.

Sign up form.

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Butterick 6900: A leather blocked, drop shoulder coat

I’d like to share with you a pretty typical conversation that ensues each time I break out something new that I’ve made for myself.

Me: What do you think of my new coat? (pre-empting some inevitable design confusion) It’s a drop shoulder design. It’s supposed to be unfitted. 

Husband: It’s interesting. I like it. (moving closer to inspect my stitching and style lines better) It’s really good. But it’s a bit big for you. Look at the shoulders.

Me: It’s the design. That’s why they’re called drop shoulders.

Husband: It’s a bit big at the back too. It looks a bit masculine.

Me: Yeeeeeesss (my speech slows and perhaps my eyes begin to roll a little). It’s the design. It’s a boxy, oversize, drop shoulder style of coat.

Husband: You know, it would look great if you cinched in the waist with a really wide belt.

Me: Yes. It. Would.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve already seen the original coat that caught my eye and that ended up becoming my design inspiration. I also shared a few sketches of my own coat in the early planning stages. I’m pretty useless at drawing, but Fashionary is a great way for me to get my ideas down on paper, so that I can solidify a design in my head, and then have something to refer back to when I’m playing around with the actual pattern pieces. 

For this coat, I started with Butterick 6900, but I made a lot of modifications:

  • Lengthened the shoulder seams and dropped the armscye to achieve the oversized, drop shoulder look, rather than a coat that just looks too big (Husband you know nothing!)
  • Sharpened the collar to a point
  • drafted a lining to include the existing facing pieces
  • shortened View B by 4″
  • changed the position of the welt pockets and slimmed them down
  • lengthened the sleeves
  • added a front and back yoke to accommodate and suit the size of leather I had to work with
  • added shaped panels to the sleeves in contrast wool and lambskin
  • top-stitched some contrast lambskin and cowhide to the bottom of the coat 
 

 
 
 

The cowhide I used, as you know, was upcycled from my leather skirt. The grey fabric is a beautiful, medium/heavyweight, double faced wool. One side is grey and the other is a pretty plaid. Both sides are invisibly stitched together very securely. The edge of the swatch in my photo is separated because I actively removed the stitches to pull both fabrics apart.


Even though I didn’t make the most of both sides of this great fabric, I still found it useful in reducing the bulk in my coat. I only used one layer of the wool fabric for the collar underside since the leather was so bulky. I also carefully separated and cut away the grey seam allowance when preparing the facing to attach to the bulky leather at the front of the coat.

I preferred the plain grey for the outer of this particular coat and I only used the plaid for the front facing, but if I had a limitless budget, I would definitely buy more of this great double faced wool and make it up quite simply and unmodified in and unlined coat like Vogue 8930.

In terms of construction, I underlined both the front and back leather yokes with hair canvas.
The lining I used for my coat was a sleek Ralph Lauren polka dot silk CDC. I also used a bit of blue lambskin for the contrast panels and pocket welts.

I am so pleased with how this coat turned out. It isn’t perfect. I had a lot of trouble top-stitching through the thickness of the cowhide in many places. However, with a little handstitching and compromise, I don’t think that this is too noticeable. I also haven’t decided on front closures. I quite like the clean, no-closure look. I could have used magnets, but the coat keeps closed well enough on it’s own because of it’s roomy nature. I’m also considering buttonholes, via an embroidery house or by hand. I love my Pfaff, but I think coat buttonholes need a bit of extra special treatment to look professional. I’ve also thought about leather buckle/toggles, but I’m quite happy with the coat as it is right now.

A second scrappy Christmas skirt

This is my last little Christmas gift catch-up post. It’s another scrappy silk skirt, made in exactly the same way as the one in my last post. This is also the last of my beautiful butterfly silk CDC (which you’ve now seen more times than I care to remember).
 

 

And the best thing about this skirt is it’s swish-factor.
 



One scrappy Christmas skirt

I keep most of my little silk scraps because they make such beautiful swishy little skirts. Mostly, the scraps are all off grain, and in awkward shapes and lengths but this doesn’t matter one bit. I just hem the edges, gather the pieces, and then layer them randomly until a skirt is formed. The waistband is just a length of elastic, encased in a fabric waistband.

I made this skirt with leftover Cracked Glass CDC from my Summertime Anna, Chanel-inspired ensemble, and little birdie polyester dress.

 It’s a very swishy skirt!

But now I must take my handbag and go Mummy.

Refashioned: butterfly kimono jacket

I’ve made more than my fair share of kimono style jackets this year (here, here, and here). The style is just so versatile, especially at this time of year when I’m trying to prolong the wear of my Summer gear by layering them upon everything.

 
 
 
 
 

Once again I used B5409 and modified it in the same way as earlier versions. My butterfly silk CDC lived an earlier life as a floaty maxi dress. It was lovely. I loved it, but then I moved on, and there was just too much beautiful fabric in that dress to lay dormant in my cupboard.

 
 

This time round, I used goose biot feathers to fringe the kimono for a fancy, ‘festival’ look.  Google defines fringed kimonos as festival. Who am I to argue with Google. I’ve paired it with my leather shorts and floral bustier for the photos. And if I was headed into Summer, I might have even taken this outfit out for a spin. In real life, we are headed into cooler days, so I want this kimono jacket to wear over my matching, Chanel-inspired dress and pants. I’ll be unpicking those glorious feathers because I don’t think they will fare so well on the school run. But you know me. I’ll use them again for something else.

Butterfly kimono robe


I am desperately in love with kimono jackets at the moment. This is the third one I’ve made. I used B5409 again. My other versions are here and here. I made the same modifications to the pattern as before, but simply added a contrast panel and straight hemline this time.

 
 

 
 

 

The fabric in the body of the kimono is a stunning cotton/silk from Tessuti. I picked it up as a remnant many, many moons ago. Oh how I miss my favourite remnant table in Surry Hills! I used up my last little bit of butterfly silk (seen also here and here) to add a little bit of contrast and weight to the robe. The colours match beautifully.

In my photos, I paired it with my white man-shirt and a very sneaky RTW purchase of high waist flares. I see so many pairs of fabulous jeans out there in blog-land, but I just don’t feel motivated to go down that road myself yet. I won’t say never though. I never thought I’d sew myself underwear either, but I changed my tune on that a few weeks ago. Proof of my knicker sewing is on Instagram and will remain exclusively there until my six year old develops more arty and discrete photography skills

I actually made this kimono robe as a surprise for somebody special. I won’t mention her by name in case she ends up reading this post. I styled the robe as a jacket for outerwear in my photos, but it can also be worn as a featherweight dressing gown, to be slipped over pyjamas on cool Spring mornings (or nights feeding bub). I’ll always remember the pretty pair of pyjama pants my best girlfriend gave me after the birth of my peep number three. I love baby clothes as much as the next mum, but it was so nice to be given something beautiful that was just for me. Besides, the thought of sewing a baby onesie right now makes me want to poke needles in my eyes. But let’s just go with the first reasoning. It makes me sound so much nicer!

Butterfly Badminton set for Miss Four and a little on turn-of-cloth

Here’s a little deja vu for you. It’s not only a repeat of Miss Six’s Badminton skort and top, but I’ve managed to use up a lot of the remaining scraps from my Butterfly Maxi dress. I was left with several long, thin lengths of the Gorgeous Fabric after making that dress, but they were awkward lengths that weren’t wide enough for any adult stuff. I had just enough width in them to make a teeny, tiny pair of shorts, a gathered skirt and the little top you see.

I made a size 5 skort for my taller than average Miss Four, with exactly the same modifications that I did for Miss Six’s version. I chose to make a size 6 for the top, but I could have easily stuck with a size 5 here too. Sometimes I overestimate the size of my little whippet. This time, I left off the front band and tie.

Unfortunately, the only suitable contrast fabric that I had on hand was some yellow cotton sateen which is much heavier than I would have liked for the yoke. It is a bit structured in feel now, but it will do. Next time I’d also take the time to add that front band. I think it adds a little special something to the top.

As to the virtues of those shorts beneath the skirt. Miss Four was determined to show me proof of their workings with some serious twirls.

Sadly for me though, she has now decided that shorts (even if hidden beneath a skirt) must only be worn with ‘running shoes’, so whenever we see her wearing her lovely butterfly silk ensemble, she is also wearing a big clunky pair of less than pristine, hand-me-down sneakers that are still an inkling too big for her, with her white socks pulled up to mid calf of course. There’s a good visual for you!

Once again, I can only sing praises for Oliver + S patterns. However, I would like to point out a wee little finicky thing to do with understitching and ‘turn-of-cloth’ that you are bound to encounter in this pattern. When I understitch a seam, I lose length on the fabric because it rolls towards the lining when pressing the facing/lining under. Obviously, this is what you want. You don’t want any chance of the lining rolling out to be seen on the outside when you are wearing the garment. I’ve tried to demonstrate this below.

White fabric and yellow lining

White fabric on the left has been cut a little longer than the lining. The seam has been stitched (crookedly…sorry!). You can see the excess white fabric on the left. The lining and fabric line up perfectly on the right.

Both pieces have been understitched identically

And now they have been turned to the right side and pressed. You are looking at the yellow lining. See the tiny bit of white fabric rolling towards the lining on both pieces. This is what you want! But then look at the bottom. I overestimated the turn-of-cloth when adding a little to the white fabric length on the left, but it’s easy to trim it off, and much better than it not reaching the edge at all.

And from the top side. I didn’t adjust for turn-of-cloth with the white fabric on the right. See how the fabric doesn’t meet the lining anymore.


So the amount of fabric length you lose is pretty much related to the thickness of the fabric. A silk CDC will have a very tiny turn-of-cloth and you will hardly lose any length (although there still might be a few mm difference). A thick wool would make a considerable difference. Where you run into problems is in matching up the bottom of the lining with the outer fabric. Suddenly you have a difference in length of between 2mm and 1cm, and this can cause problems. If my pictures don’t do it for you, there is also an excellent article in Threads Magazine that explains turn-of-cloth beautifully.

An easy solution is to simply lengthen the lining pieces slightly, rather than keeping the lining and fabric pieces the same. In this pattern, the lining pieces for the waistband and the yoke are the same as the outer fabric (no surprise really), but the pattern does specify understitching. The first time round, I ended up having to narrow both the waistband and the yoke in order to adjust for this as I was sewing. The pattern still worked fine with the narrower results, but not everybody likes to problem solve on the fly. With this version, I added a few mm to the width of my lining pieces and voila, perfectly matched fabric edges and seam allowances throughout. It’s a much more pleasurable sewing experience when all the edges line up!