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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Wrap skirt // stashbust

I had a little bit of wool fabric and lining leftover after the making of Miss Seven’s tailored coat. It was precisely the right amount for ladies skirt. Fancy that.

My original plan was to make a simple, straight skirt using my own skirt sloper. However, when I laid out the wool, it was a lot wider than I remembered and it suddenly seemed a shame to limit myself to a pencil skirt when there was clearly more fabric I could work with.

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Starting with a basic pencil shape, I left the back skirt piece unchanged. I then traced the front skirt piece in full, mirroring the pieces as if to avoid cutting on the fold. In the diagram below, the grey shaded pattern is my altered front piece. I extended the waist along the existing pattern line and shortened the hem width a little. I then simply connected these points with a diagonal line.

It was very important to identify and mark the CF point. This was a perfectly fitted skirt pattern and those CF points needed to match up when I wrapped the skirt around.

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I cut my lining pieces to the same pattern as the outside fabric, minus about 1.5 inches in hem length. Although, to be honest, I always reduce my seam allowance a smidgen when I sew the lining to make sure it ends up a tiny fraction looser than the outside fabric (you don’t want to end up with any pulls or tension visible on the outside).

I sewed the hems of the lining and fabric together first and then turned the skirt out and basted all the other sides together. I bound the CF edges with the opposite side of the wool fabric, although the contrast is totally unnoticeable. I then attached the contrast (once again unnoticeable) waistband and fastenings.

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The skirt I made is a true wrap skirt. It is fastened inside with a ribbon bow and secured with a hook and bar on the outside. I added a leather fastener over the hook and bar for aesthetics. The same pattern pieces could easily be used to create a mock wrap skirt. There would need to be an invisible zipper placed at the side or back. I’d also crop the top portion of the (underlayer) front piece so there is little overlap with the top layer and therefore, reduced bulk at the waistband. This would need to be stitched in place which would limit the freedom of movement that you get with a true wrap skirt, but the benefit would be a sleeker, less bulky front. It’s something I might try next time.

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Grey knit dress twice over // And a quick how-to

Inspiration usually hits me like a brick. One minute I want for nothing and the next all I can think about is a long sleeve, grey, knit dress.

 

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My first thought was to make it from scratch. I already had a personal pattern for a sleeveless, fitted knit dress. I just drafted sleeves and extended the sleeve arms and the (ever so slightly tapered) bottom hem to the length I wanted.

You could easily modify any closely fitted T-shirt pattern to make a dress like this. I was going to look up some patterns for you, but Creative Chick has already done the research and I see no point in re-inventing the wheel. Check out her very comprehensive summary list of top patterns, with a quick description of each. For a dress like this, you will need a close fitting T and very stretchy jersey. A wide variety of necklines would suit it.

Once you have a T-shirt pattern that fits perfectly, simply extend the arms in a tapered fashion to the length you want. I’m fond of ultra long arms right now so I extended mine beyond the wrist. Use your fitted T-shirt as a guide when extending your pattern pieces. The diagram shows my extended dress outline in red and my measurement guide in green and black. My fabric had a lot of stretch, so I didn’t need to add any darts for shape. I simply narrowed the waist to avoid too many lower back wrinkles. Stable knits will need bust darts and back darts for a fitted look.

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I used a lofty, stretchy, wool/acrylic blend, sweater knit for my first version. I’m sceptical of how long the fabric will last, but right now, I’m totally in love with it. In fact, I liked the dress so much that I immediately made a second.

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My second version is a little more interesting. It’s a truly awesome pure wool ponte knit from Tessuti Fabrics. I’m labelling it truly awesome because it is warm, thick, has great recovery in a stable, ponte-style stretch, has been machine washed more times than I can remember, and just between you and me, I often throw it in the dryer in winter so I can wear it more frequently. It’s possible that the fabric may have faded a bit, but not that I can tell (it’s grey after all), but there is no pilling, no thinning, no stretching, no shrinking, and no other major signs of wear. It cost me a pretty penny but it has been worth every cent.

There’s also a story behind this fabric. In a fit of panic at the idea of landing in Kansas during the infamous polar vortex of two years ago, I purchased several metres of it before I left Australia. I used it to make myself two winter dresses. One was a drop waist Malvarosa and although the loose fitted style had me on the fence, I ended up wearing that (pyjama) dress almost daily for two consecutive winters. I also made myself a fit and flare dress (modified significantly from V8805) and a few other winter items for my girls. The contrast skirt on this second dress didn’t fare as well as the grey ponte knit so I cut it off last year and turned the dress into a simple long sleeve top. I don’t have photos of the top because it was just a wardrobe staple and not blog worthy at all.

When I made the top last year, I removed the (nursing friendly zipper) from the original dress and simply joined the front seam. I also finished the neckline and sleeves with black cotton ribbing. The top was functional, but probably not the most glamorous item in my wardrobe. I didn’t particularly like the neckline. It was just a bit wide for my taste. So for this knit dress, I wanted to see what I could do to fix it. Simply unpicking the original (serged) neckline would have been arduous and wouldn’t have fixed the size and width problem. My solution was to draft a (slightly) stand up collar, that I then attached directly to the existing binding using a small seam allowance. The effect is a contrast line of ribbing between the  collar and dress which I absolutely love.

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This second knit dress was made completely on the fly. The sleeves are possibly a smidgen too long (I got carried away with my length obsession) and there was a lot of (bulky) seaming involved in achieving the length I wanted. Because I was dealing with a more stable knit fabric, I kept the original bust darts and added two fish eye darts to the back for shaping.

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I love how my two versions turned out. Here are a few more RTW examples for your inspiration.

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Love Culture            //            Proenza Schoeler             //           Banjo & Matilda

 

 

Vintage McCall’s 6497 // A shirt for Miss Seven

My original plan was to make Miss Seven a pair of pink cigarette pants to go with her new coat. However, I fell in love with every view on the front of this pattern cover and I thought I’d try out the shirt first.

I used more of my vintage sheet set to make this shirt. The print looks so lovely in a shirt that I’m planning to make myself one now too.

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The pattern went together beautifully. My only complaint was to do with the sleeve cap ease, but I find excessive sleeve cap ease a fairly common feature of old patterns. Next time I’ll shave some height of the sleeve cap so it can be set in a lot easier.

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I made this pattern up in a size 8, which corresponded quite well with Miss Seven and a half’s chest measurement. I expected it to be a little bigger on her than it is though. However, it would stand to reason that she has lovely broad shoulders like her mother. The torso fit is lovely and it looks comfortable. I suspect the pants and skirt in the pattern will swim on her tiny hips so I may have to grade them down first.

And before I sign off on this post, I just want to share a quick peek of the best leotard ever. It’s a birthday present for Miss Five. My beautiful, gentle Miss Seven is modelling it. The tiger poses will come later with the fierce Miss Five. I even added tiger eyes to the back of the suit so she could terrorise people behind her too. The pattern is Jalie 3136, which I’ve now made more times than I can remember.

I made the fabric myself on Spoonflower. I used the sport lycra, which is a nice weight and completely opaque.  In fact, this fabric generated so much interest that I ended up purchasing the license for the photo so the design could be made available to others. It will only be available on Spoonflower for a limited time though.

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McCalls 5870 // A tailored coat for Miss Seven

I had a very specific idea in mind when I started planning for this coat. I wanted to make Miss Seven a nice Winter coat that she could wear out for special occasions. She’s old enough now to have a few special items in her wardrobe and I’m hoping this will also help educate her on how to appreciate, respect, and treat special garments.

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The outer fabric of the coat is a woven wool blend. It is extremely beautiful in real life. It has a nice, coat-worthy weight, with little threads of gold and tan woven through it. Both sides of the fabric are useable, with the rose and background colours simply reversed on the underside. I thought about incorporating both sides of the fabric into this coat. I also though about keeping this coating fabric entirely for myself.

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It’s probably not the best choice of fabric for a child. The weave is not exceptionally tight, but it is still quite stable. I suspect it may get a few snags during it’s lifetime, but the slightly motley mix of threads through the weave is forgiving enough to disguise any repairs that may be required.

The fabric frayed horribly while I was working with it. There was a lot of hand-stitching and basting involved in the tailoring of this coat, which made the unravelling quite an issue. I used a LOT of Fray Check. I ended up painting it around the edges of every pattern piece. It was also essential in making the bound buttonholes.

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In retrospect, I think bound buttonholes were not the best choice for this fabric because of the loose weave. Hand-worked buttonholes (a la Claire Schaeffer’s French jackets) would have been the sensible option. But the heart wants what the heart wants. The buttonholes worked out wonderfully in the end, but ended up being much smaller than planned. The size reduction was due to my scaredy-cat conservative cutting, in trying to handle the fraying and loose threads as best I could. This is the reason why the buttons are so small. I had to find smaller ones than I’d originally planned. Larger, self-covered buttons would have suited the style of this coat better.

To keep Miss Seven snuggly warm, I partially underlined the coat with Thinsulate, which reportedly has more warmth for less loft, than wool or even down feathers. Keeping the bulk down in this coat was important because of the close fitting design.

The vintage pattern specifically states that the design is “not suitable for chubby girls”. It’s basically just a slim fitting style with no ease around the tummy area. The sleeves are not set in. They are joined to the back as one piece with a separate undersleeve. This design makes for very pretty style lines, but quite a challenging sew.

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All of this was underlined.  I didn’t underline the undersleeve or the side panels of the coat as I was afraid it might end up making the coat too bulky and adversely affect the end fit. To further reduce the bulk (or loft) of the Thinsulate, I partially quilted it to the lining. I think this makes the inside of the coat look lovely too.

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The design and fit of this vintage pattern is beautiful. It is a style that fits tall, slender girls very well, which means I will probably use this pattern again in the future. However, it was also quite a challenge to sew (not helped by my difficult choice of fabric) and there are a few things I will improve on when making this coat next time.

* My pad stitching of the undercollar was not “aggressive” enough in creating the collar roll. I would like to see the ends roll down a little better. I would also cut the undercollar a little smaller next time.

* My buttonholes should be appropriate for the fabric, or maybe I might just take a break from loose weaves.

* I was careful about thread marking the buttonholes. A great way to do this is to machine baste two parallel lines down the front and mark the buttonhole positions between those lines. However, with my difficulties in making the bound buttonholes (with all the unravelling of threads), my buttonholes ended up smaller. I also made the mistake of positioning my buttonholes on the inside of the basting thread, rather than on top of it. My buttons look too small and off centre in the coat front.

I think I can live with all this though. The coat is adorable. It fits well, but is ever so slightly too big (which is exactly what I was aiming for with my growing girl). I think it is deserving of a trip out to the theatre.

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The bias cut dress // RTW copy

About ten years ago, I purchased a dress on whim from a little boutique in Wells, Somerset (England). I was in my twenties. I didn’t sew. I was fickle with fashion (I still am). I had no idea about fabric back then, apart from the vague understanding that silk was special.

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This is the dress that caught my eye. It wasn’t the type of dress I’d normally wear. It was silk satin (oh the splendour!) and about three times what I’d normally pay for a garment. I remember loitering in that boutique for what seemed like hours, but I eventually walked out the door with it and I’m so glad that I did. As far as semi-formal dresses go (aka wedding guest/corporate dinner attire), this one has had the most wear of anything I’ve ever bought.

I’d been meaning to copy it for a long time now, but I’ve been hesitant because it is bias cut silk. And not recently bias cut either, so whilst it still fits beautifully, it has visibly grown in different places from years spent on the hanger. I wasn’t confident that I would be able to identify the correct shapes of the different pattern pieces.

I also don’t sew a lot of bias cut garments. I adore bias cuts but I still find them a little magical. The pattern shapes are different to regular patterns because the bias stretch needs to be taken into account when drafting. I’m sure there is a formula for this but I’m not experienced with it. There are also different techniques for sewing fabrics on the bias. The unknown is further amplified by the fact that slippery, difficult to manage fabrics are the ones that often make the most beautiful bias cut garments.

My first plan was to look for a bias cut dress pattern that I could use and adapt. I found two wonderful patterns that I may still sew one day. However, because I had quite specific style lines in mind and was wary about sizing and fit, I chose to drape the pattern on my dress mannequin instead. It took me two calico muslins to achieve a fit that I was happy with. This dress is my wearable muslin.

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The fabric is inexpensive polyester with a reasonably close hand to silk. However, the drape and bias stretch in this is still less than what you’d get with a beautiful silk satin. The hem of my muslin didn’t grow by anything discernible (by my eye) in a whole week. Because the polyester is a little more stable, there’s less “cling” in my muslin than the original. You want cling with a bias cut dress. But, apart from pressing, it was also easier to sew.

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I’m very happy with the fit of my version of this dress. Seeing it side by side with it’s RTW inspiration is a great help in seeing what needs to be changed. The skirt needs to be pegged in at the bottom more. Perhaps the edge of the armscye could be moved medially a smidgen in the front. The back is a bit roomier in my version, but this is a good thing. You can’t see it in the photos, but the back darts on my RTW dress are straining and the stitches have been stretched permanently to twice their size. Otherwise, it’s pretty close. Correcting the skirt will hopefully move it from secretary to screen goddess. I might also try some little sleeves in the future.

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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.

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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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NEW PATTERN // Cartwheel Shorts // custom made in linen

Introducing my newest pattern, the Cartwheel Shorts. These easy, comfy, cartwheel-compatible shorts are suitable for ages 3-10 (approximately). They work well in a variety of woven fabrics, but my favourite versions have been made up in silk CDC and the linen that you see below.

I have ulterior motives in my pattern making. I only make patterns that I love, or that I love seeing on my girls. If I don’t want to see several versions of the same item on my girls every day (or in my own wardrobe), then that pattern isn’t meant to be. I’ll confess that a big motivation behind taking my pattern making to a new level (to include grading) simply comes down to two words: three daughters! I love being able to print out a pattern in three different sizes, and to the exact design that I’d been dreaming of. This shorts pattern is a perfect example. I wanted a dressier looking shorts pattern that would suit my aesthetics, tick their box of approval, and be practical enough for them to play in and wear to school. There were a lot of boxes for me to tick!

The version that you see below was specifically requested by Miss Seven. I drew the line at turquoise linen. Purple was also mentioned in the order, but I neither had purple in my stash, nor was I inclined to compromise my perfectly beautiful Tessuti linen with a purple hem and waistband. I have, however, since changed the buttons that you see below to purple ones.

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I made these shorts up in  View B, which is the same (very slightly tweaked) design as Miss Seven’s recent Cartwheel shorts. An example of View A is Miss Three’s recent fairy shorts, which are shorter, with a cuff.

Miss Seven is wearing an Oliver + S Badminton Top with her new linen shorts.

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A blue cotton top

I’m putting this top to bed. I like it from some angles and not from others. I might still wear it, or I might cut it up and modify it, but I don’t think I want to make another.

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The fabric that I’ve used does it no favours. It’s a denim-look cotton shirting with just enough stretch to keep the bound armscye and neckline permanently wrinkled, despite a good pressing.

Perhaps I could lower the neckline and change the shape of the front armscye, or add darts, but I’m just not loving it either way. And I need to love it if I’m going to spend any more time on it. Sometimes you just have to let things go.

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Tutorial // adding a flounce to the Wonderland Skirt

And here it is. Apparently I’m not the only one who’s had the idea of turning the gathered section of the Wonderland skirt into a flounce. I’m going to show you how to do it. It’s a very simple modification once you know what to expect.

1. Fit and sew the yoke (in it’s entirety). The design of the yoke is very, very subtly A-line. It’s possible to peg it in a little, but be sure to record those changes on your pattern pieces first, so you can draft your flounce correctly.

2. Once you have the yoke fitting as you’d like, you are ready to draft the flounce. On the bottom of the back and front yoke pieces, draw in the 5/8 inch (16mm) seam allowances (I’ve used red in the diagram) for the bottom and the centre back (CB) of the back yoke. There’s no need to worry about the centre front (CF) on the front yoke because it was cut on the fold (without a seam allowance).

3. On a large piece of paper, trace the bottom seam allowance (in red) of the yoke. This will become the top seam line of the flounce. It makes sense that you’d want the top of your flounce to be exactly the same length as the bottom of the yoke because you will want your seams to match up when you sew them. Wonderland flounce2-01

Pay attention to the CB and CF seam allowance. In the original pattern, the Front Yoke is cut on the fold. The Back Yoke is cut as two pieces. If you want to cut the back skirt on the fold too, you will need to subtract 5/8 inch (16mm) from the red line you draw. This might depend on how wide your fabric is.

4. Line the ruler up with the bottom of the yoke and use it as a guide to smoothly extend the side seams and CB/CF seams of your flounce. Imagine you are just making the yoke longer. Decide how long you want the flounce to be and extend the side seam and the CB/CF seams all by the same amounts. My flounce is about 14 inches long (but this might still come to below the knee on some).

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4. Draw in the bottom of the flounce. Try to mimic the curve at the top of the flounce and measure along the way so that the entire flounce is the same length. It’s also a good time to draw in the top seam allowance (then join it up with the side seams – I haven’t joined mine up in the diagram). Also make some markings on the pattern pieces (they are a bit oddly shaped so do this before you forget).

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If you attached the pieces you have just drawn, you would have a straight (ever so slightly A-line) extension of the yoke. However, we want a flounce, so now we need to add some flare. You can add as much or as little flare as you like. I’m going to show you what I did.

5. Use a ruler to draw two straight lines, vertically down the flounce pieces, to make a division of three. Space them an even distance apart, but you don’t need to measure.

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6. Now you are going to slash and spread those lines to create a flounce. Cut along the black lines from the bottom to the top, BUT stop just before you cut through the top. The top will be your pivot point.

Place some paper underneath your pieces and spread them by as much as you want. I spread each slash by about 1.5 inches (16mm). You could spread them by more than this or add an extra slash to make your flounce more dramatic. Tape the spread pattern pieces onto the paper. Because of the curved shape of the yoke, the front and back flounces will look quite different.

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7. Draw in smooth curves for the top and bottom of your flounce pieces.

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Congratulations! You now have flounce pattern pieces that will perfectly fit the yoke of your skirt.

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