Vogue 9186 in a Mini Big Cat print

A short while ago, I made a long, linen dress using V9186. I love it a lot. I especially like the shape of the sleeves and collar. I like it so much that I decided to have a go turning it into a little top.

I had to modify the pattern a bit. The original pattern is asymmetrical in design so the pattern pieces are all cut flat. I simply traced one side of the pattern front and back and used those pieces to cut on the fold. I cut it to a top length and left everything else pretty much the same. The top is slightly flared and there’s plenty of ease so no bust darts were required.

It’s a very simple, cotton top. The fabric is a Mini Big Cat printed cotton from The Fabric Store. It’s a lovely lightweight cotton and easy to work with. I’ve got a little extra left over which I hope to make into a Summer frock for Miss Eight. I’m just hesitant to cut into it quite yet, given Miss Eight’s tendency to grow like a weed. I can’t find my particular print on their site anymore, but I think this option would also make a super cute top.

I like this top with jeans. It’s a simple, fresh look that I love. However, I have bigger plans for the top and you will be updated soon (unless you follow me on IG of course!).

A silver dress for Fall

Everybody needs a silver dress, right? I’m not actually sure what inspired me to sew this dress. It all started with an amazing silver “Tiara” knit that I found online at Pitt Trading. The fabric is so fabulous that the dress design only needed to be simple.

I used the Poppy Dress pattern by By Hand London as a base for this dress design. I widened the neck and lowered it a bit at the back. I know the pattern has long sleeves but I didn’t have those pieces printed out. So I extended the short version myself, to create a nice, long, slim-fitting sleeve. I also increased the back darts to shape the dress more closely to my measurements.

The fabric has a great stripe on the underside of the silver right side. I utilized this stripe by folding up the hem on the bottom and sleeve edge. I hate wasting a good double-sided fabric.

This is such a fun dress. It will be the perfect holiday dress in a couple of months.

V9313 wrap dress in linen

This dress is already one of the favourite things I’ve ever made. I used a Vogue custom fit pattern, which has separate bodice pieces for different cup sizes. I used the A cup version. I cut a size 14 pattern as this corresponded most closely with my chest and waist measurements. Even so, I still made a few adjustments for cutting the fabric.

I added 5/8 inch to the shoulder seams on each side (as a wedge, as per my usual broad shoulders adjustment). I also added an extra half inch to the bodice length. I think I lengthened the sleeves too, but I can’t remember by how much. I also slashed and spread the sleeves by about an inch to widen them, and I cut them on the bias. Finally, I flattened the sleeve cap a little to reduce the ease. I wanted a very smooth armscye fit without much shape since I fit the bodice to sit the armscye right on the edge of my shoulders.

The pattern has great skirt options for this dress. However, I had my heart set on a gathered, midi length skirt. It’s basically just a big rectangle. As I often do, I start out by following the instructions and then get a little side-tracked with doing what I want to do. I began sewing this pattern in the same manner. The bodice is made up as per the instructons, with a fair bit of slip stitching! I lost interest in following the instructions after that so I really can’t comment on them anymore. I added a little hole in my waistband and lengthened the waistband straps so that I could wear the dress like a true wrap dress, with a tie at the back. I think the actual pattern calls for a button to secure the skirt at the front though.

The fabric is linen from The Fabric Store. I love it so much! The main stripes are a beautiful weight that really doesn’t need to be lined. The green micro striped linen is so soft and delicious that I want to make a hundred t-shirts out of it.

 

 

A Kobe Dress in Colette Dinnigan lace

My basement is currently in a bit of disarray. Unfortunately, that is where I usually sew… We’ve just had the concrete floor cut and pulled up to replace the old metal sewer pipes with brand, spanking new plastic ones. Yesterday, the concrete was poured. Today, we have a proper floor, but oh my, the dust!!! Soon, I’ll have to move everything so carpet can be put down. When the carpet is FINALLY down, I suspect I’ll take a bottle of champers to the basement to quietly celebrate in peace with my sewing equipment… for a whole weekend.

I’m currently waging a seemingly endless war against dust. But in the midst of my battles, I try to squeeze in a little sewing, even if it is only on Sundays right now. Summer break with the kiddos doesn’t help much. I don’t know why I always think I’ll find more time to sew over Summer. It never really happens.

In any case, last Sunday, I sloped off to our dusty basement (avoiding the big centre line ditch that still hadn’t been filled with concrete at that point. I slipped the drop sheets off my sewing tables and snuck in a little sewing. The outcome was a lovely lace, Kobe Dress. The pattern is one I’ve used before, by Papercut Patterns. The lace is Colette Dinnigan from Pitt Trading. The lace I used is sadly now sold out, but Pitt Trading has loads of other gorgeous laces that would do the job. My Colette lace came in panels. I used three for my version of this dress pattern, but I’m tall and I also lengthened the hem and sleeves quite a lot. I think most people could get away with using two panels to make the dress right out of the packet.

Sewing with lace isn’t that difficult. You just have to take your time. I’m by no means an expert, however, I am super happy with how this dress turned out.

To cut this lace, I knew I wanted to use the lace edge as a hem so I lined that up for the front and back. I used the entire panel length for the dress back pattern piece, and pretty much an entire panel for the front. But remember, I lengthened my dress (not sure how much by as I was most focussed on using the entire panel and lining up the hems). I’m also 5″10.  I used my third panel for the sleeves. Again, I wanted to use the lace edge to avoid hemming, so this used up most of one side of the panel. I have a little leftover lace, but no more useful lace edge left.

I finished the neckline with a narrow hem. I just took my time, basting down one fold, and then stitching slowly over the next fold. Using a walking foot helps with tension. It’s very important not to stretch the neck out as you sew, OR sew with the tension too tight. The rest of the seams in this dress are French seams. I think the fabric deserved that.

I’m wearing my Kobe dress over a black slip that is partly store-bought, and partly modified by me. It’s become one of my most important wardrobe accessories because I’m loving sheer dresses at the moment. I love this dress on it’s own, but the style also works well with a narrow belt. I’m also pleased that I spent the time on finishing it nicely with French seams. It’s a dress that I’ll probably hold on to forever.

Kobe top in sheer silk

I’m a little obsessed with floaty, sheer fabrics right now. And in my world, that literally means all the silks. Liberty of London do an amazing crinkle silk which I’ve used before. I’m thinking about using it next time if I sew this pattern up as a dress. For this version, I used a divine silk georgette from The Fabric Store.

I only made a few small modifications to the pattern. I sewed up a size small which is quite close to my measurements. However, I know I have to adjust for my shoulders these days, even when the bust measurement matches perfectly.

The adjustment that works well for me is this. I draw a diagonal line from the middle of the shoulder seam to the CB of the bottom of the top (or very close to it). I slice along this line and spread the shoulder seam by about 5/8″. It generally keeps the waist the same size but adds width to top most shoulder area, which fits well with the triangular body shape that those of us with strong shoulders and lats have. I repeat with both sides, and the front and back of the top. If the top hangs well below waist level, or I am dealing with a dress, I cut the pattern off at the waist so as not to widen the waist or hip area.

My first attempt at the Kobe top turned out a little shorter in the front than I expected, even with just a narrow hem. I usually lengthen patterns in the bodice by 1/2 inch to account for my 5″10 frame. I didn’t in this case and I’m pleasantly surprised. It’s a little outside my comfort zone, but still like this top a LOT. I don’t mind the sliver of tummy. But I know this top would also pair perfectly with my high waisted jeans.

The back is sitting a little lower in the photos than I expected. I think I wear this top pushed back a little to raise the neckline. I’ve been wearing the top with a little cropped top/soft bra underneath in a complementary shade of apricot in real life to avoid the peek of bra underneath. I think it works.

 

 

I whipped up a matching top

The thing I love about sewing is that I really can just whip up anything at a moment’s notice. This top took all of ten minutes to make. It’s not perfect. The construction is basic. But I only had a few spare minutes and I desperately wanted to finish this up before I had to pack away my machine.

In hindsight, I really should have spent more time on it. I didn’t expect it to turn out quite so well though!

The striped fabric skirt is something you’ve seen before. I created it by sewing together strips of scrap fabric (in velvet, wool, and ponte). I ended up with a tiny bit spare that I used up in this top. There was not an ounce of wastage.

This is very fun outfit. I love the idea of perfectly matching separates as I think they produce an overall dressier look. However, when mixed and matched with jeans and other tops, these separates also dress down for a great casual feel.

Spring stripes

When I purchase fabric, I usually have a project in mind, but I rarely follow sewing patterns without some sort of modification. This means that I’ve had to get pretty good at estimating fabric requirements on my own. I usually come pretty close these days, but sometimes I end up erring on the more generous side (because it gives me a little leeway to change my mind on the design, and because I know that I’ll always find a good use for the scraps if any remain).

This was the case with some lovely hand-dyed velvet, wool crepe, and ponte that I found in my stash. I loved the way the contrasting colours looked together. They all have some stretch, but not enough to do away with darts. The velvet and wool are woven, but the ponte was a knit.

I started by cutting the fabrics into wide strips (seaming some of the velvet strips for extra length where needed). Then I stitched them together to create a striped fabric. I had just enough fabric to make a midi skirt in a slim-fitting style. I designed it by draping (on myself!) and re-stitching those stripe seams around the hips and bottom until they absorbed the darts needed to create the fitted shape.

In retrospect, I should have left the initial (striped fabric) seams unfinished (no overlocking!) until I’d sewn the final garment. I ended up doing a lot of unpicking of those overlocked seams to shape the top of the skirt. I also added gores (of orange wool crepe) to the bottom of the skirt for a bit of extra flare.

There’s a bit of a difference in the amount of stretch in each fabric. So, even though the stripes are the same width, the white ponte stretches more than the velvet, and this is most apparent at the waist. I probably should have made the ponte a little narrower, or the velvet a little wider to adjust for this.

I’m still pretty happy with how it turned out though. It’s a warm and comfortable skirt for Spring. And it just so happens to match perfectly with my refashioned velvet top.

 

Swimsuit fabric round up

If you follow  me on Instagram or Snapchat, you’d know that I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time at the pool this Summer. And trust me, as an ex-swimmer, I do not use the word “inordinate” lightly.

I never intended for my girls to love swimming. I just wanted them to be able to swim. But perhaps my standard for what constitutes proper swimming is slightly higher than the average Joe. And it’s also possible that my passion for the sport has rubbed off a little despite my best intentions. In any case, Miss Eight is obsessed. It’s also been stinking hot in Kansas City, so in addition to the practice and the meets, we’re at one of the local pools most evenings for a dip after dinner. Our bathers are getting a serious workout.

Finding the best swimsuit fabrics has been a big learning experience for me and not one that can be evaluated overnight. Feeling the fabrics and sewing with them is one thing, but it’s not until you immerse them in chlorine, salt, UV light, and sweat twice daily that you really get a good idea of what works the best. In order of preference (the top three tie), here are my honest evaluations.

Tessuti Fabrics:

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Tessuti Fabrics (floral)

Oh, you all know that I have a fondness for Tessuti Fabrics, but it’s not without good reason. I don’t think they’re really known for their swimsuit fabrics, but they do seem to get in a few nice prints each year. I’m pretty sure the owner hand picks their fabrics personally on their annual buying trips, but I’m not really sure where their swimsuit fabrics come from. I’ve used at least five different swimsuit fabrics of theirs (paisley, red cherries, green cherries, floral, rainbow scales) and they’ve outlasted all of the other swimsuit fabrics so far.

I should also note that leotards in our house are not just used for gymnastics. They’re rotated in as swimwear for play (not practice) because they offer a better cover up from the sun (and sometimes we can’t be bothered to get changed!). Yes, the prints have faded, but that happens with all swimsuit fabric exposed to chlorine and UV light. Yes, their fabrics may be a little more pricey than other places (but they’re a great bargain as a remnant) and the fabrics last.

Spoonflower:

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Tiger fabric: Spoonflower / Blue fabric: Hancocks

This was my biggest wild card. All I wanted was a tiger print and I would have bought the fabric from anywhere. I couldn’t find what I wanted so I had to make my own. I can’t comment on other Spoonflower fabrics but I really do love their sports lycra. Like Funki Fabrics, the print is placed on white fabric, but the fabric is quite thick as far as swimsuit fabrics go. It may have a tiny bit less stretch that comes with the thickness, but the weight lends itself to a flattering fit, no sagging, or losing shape when wet. And it looks great without lining.

So far, the integrity of all my Spoonflower sports lycra is exactly as it was when it was sewn. This is most apparent when it’s been paired with other fabrics (like the blue of the swimsuit above) that has fared a lot less well. I will definitely buy Spoonflower sports lycra again. It’s not cheap, but the quality is good (which means it lasts longer). And I save on not having to fully line it. I’m very keen to check out some other prints. I feel like this will become my “novelty” swimsuit fabric favourite for my girls.

The Fabric Store:

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Left: Tessuti Fabrics (paisley) / Right: The Fabric Store

I’ve only bought a few swimsuit fabrics from here, mostly designer brands. They were also awesome. The fabric faded over the years, but it generally retained it’s original elasticity and is lasting extremely well. And the key word you should note in that sentence was ‘years’. If a swimsuit fabric is lasting years over weeks, then there’s something good going on there.

The quality of the fabric was really high which I suspect is due to the fact that they were designer labels, like Anna & Boy and Zimmerman. I keep meaning to investigate their new online presence. I used to love visiting the Fabric Store when I lived in Sydney but they fell off the radar for me when I moved overseas.

The Fabric Fairy:

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I’ve only sewn with their Limited Edition Solids and swimsuit linings. I love their swimsuit linings. They have good colour choices in the linings and they work beautifully under swimsuit fabrics. The linings are also a pretty awesome price which will keep me going back.

I have a slightly different view of the solids, which is not to say that I won’t use them again. The Solids come in an amazing array of colours, which will tempt me back when I’m after something specific. They are also one of the smoothest and most luxurious swimsuit fabrics I have ever felt. However, even the colours that appear opaque really need to be lined if they are going to get wet. I’ve sewn with a blue, green and a grey. They all feel fabulous dry, but they just look too thin against the body when wet. When fully lined, it is an entirely different matter. I love my Splash Swimsuit, but without the lining I think it would be unwearable for an adult.

I’d be interested to see how their prints work, since I know a print can disguise a fabric’s shortcomings somewhat. I’ll also continue to use their solids for dancewear for my girls, as well as smaller contrast sections in swimwear.

Funki Fabrics:

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I was given these fabrics for free a while back, but like I said in that earlier post, it’s very difficult to make a proper assessment of swimsuit fabric without actually swimming. I’ll stand by what I said about their variety of prints.

Their printed swimsuit fabrics are probably the lightest weight I’ve dealt with, but only slightly so. They are also white-backed with a digitally printed front. I chose light-coloured prints which really needed to be lined (but this would be expected with any light-coloured print swimsuit fabric).

These fabrics did not last very long compared to my girls’ other swimsuits. They were actually the first swimsuits I had to throw away from having worn out, rather then been passed down to a smaller sister first. I’ll admit that we’re all pretty rough on our swimsuits here. I don’t rinse out the chlorine… ever! But I was still a little disappointed at how quickly these fabrics began to disintegrate.

However, it’s also important to note that Funki Fabrics do sell more robust swimwear fabrics, but just not in the prints that we’re used to seeing from them. Unfortunately, their Perform range only comes in black or white.

Hancocks:

My experience here is extremely limited and not likely to improve anytime soon since they’re closing their doors. But I’d place their business in the same category as Joann or Spotlight when it comes to fabric. I picked up a shiny blue swimsuit remnant there for just a few dollars. It worked ok unlined (for kids bathers), but a lining would have significantly improved its appearance. This fabric also deteriorated very, very quickly.

I wonder if the age of the fabric plays a part in this. How do you know how old the fabric roll is that you’re buying from? It’s the elastic within the fabric that seems to dissolve/rot away and we all know that elastic is decayed by age, light and heat. I remember going through thousands of pairs of Speedos as a teenager (during my competitive swimming years). I’d generally get two months out of a pair of bathers before I had to wear two pairs together. And every now and again I’d strike out with a pair that would literally begin to deterioriate within a few weeks. Now I wonder if they were just made using an old or bad fabric batch.


So this has been my experience with swimsuit fabrics to date. I’ve been sewing swimsuits and leotards now for about three years. I’ve probably made over two dozen pairs, half of which remained in my ownership (3 girls, every year, Summer + Winter leotards + swimsuit = easy math). Of these, I’ve only thrown away about five (worn out) suits. The first two pairs I biffed were leotards where the metallic fabric (Mood) bit the dust. Next went the first swimsuit I ever made (the Tessuti Fabrics (paisley) which lasted through two children over 2.5 years, including being worn over clothes in Winter when swimming was not an option). The last two pairs I threw away were the Funki Fabrics duo, which sadly only lasted one season. Every other suit has been passed on to the next child or stored away.

Now, I’m not an expert when it comes to swimsuit fabrics. I’ve only shopped at five vendors and I haven’t tried all that they have to offer, but I still wanted to share my experience. I know there must be other places out there and I’m always open to new ideas. If your experience was different or if I should have tried a different product, speak up! I’d love to hear from you as my swimsuit sewing shows no sign of subsiding any time soon. Where do you buy your swimsuit fabrics from?

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Kwik Sew 1034 // scrapbust sweaters

I hope everybody had a wonderful Christmas! We had a great day, but not a white Christmas in Kansas. However, I believe we are expecting snow any day now, so it could be a special white birthday for Miss Five tomorrow.

Santa was very generous this year. The big guy bought a joint present for all my girls, in the form of a very basic, but well reviewed, Brother XL-2610 sewing machine. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a learning machine for my kids (and I wasn’t about to share my Pfaff), but I did want them to have a machine that would be simple to use and reasonably sturdy. So far the machine is working well and the girls are finding it easy to develop confidence on. And because it’s not my precious machine, I’m happy to let them play on it alone without too much anxiety.

At the moment, we’re still working on threading the machine and sewing straight lines at a precise distance from the fabric edge, but I’m happy to report that Miss Five has proclaimed it the best present from Santa this year.

And while we’re talking about Christmas, I thought I’d share a few little sweaters I made for my girls using an old Kwik Sew pattern in my stash. I modified it slightly to block in a few different fabrics and lengthen the bodice, but otherwise I left it pretty unchanged.

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Miss Seven’s sweater was made up in a size 8. It’s pretty roomy on her, but my big girls grow like weeds so I always err on the larger size with them. The bodice length is extremely short in the pattern so I also lengthened it by 2 inches before adding the bottom band. The black portion of the sweater is from a new merino jersey sweater of mine (that was too small). The ivory ruffles and tiger fabric were both small remnants in my scrap basket and specifically chosen by the recipients.

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Miss Five’s sweater is mostly tiger fabric, with a little merino trim. I made this one as a tunic to incorporate the ivory trim better. I also made a standard version of this pattern for her in rainbow French terry. It’s a very simple and practical raglan pattern.

 

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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