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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A little dress refashioned

What do you do when a pretty little dress gets ripped to shreds? Well, shreds might be a slight exaggeration, and to be completely fair, it probably wasn’t entirely the fault of the child. The dress was getting a bit too snug across the chest, which was probably causing undue stress on the fabric. This child is a champion grower. She’s going to be taller than me.

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She is also, by far, my roughest customer. I can’t tell you how many knees and bums and legs she’s worn through in this past Winter. I’m at the point where I won’t make anything below the waist for her anymore. It’s more sensible to buy cheap RTW leggings and trackie pants during the sales. In the past few weeks, I’ve been converting some of the salvageable ones to shorts for Summer (like the cute pink pair below). Even Miss Three doesn’t cause as much damage as her to clothes as this one does.

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This dress refashion was very simple. I cut off the yoke as high up as I could and simply attached a waistband. The waistband is a scrap of lycra from my recent swimsuit. I gathered the (circle-shaped) skirt to fit the waistband and threaded some elastic through it for a little extra security. The blue was the perfect match for the skirt.

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She looks like such a little lady here!

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The length of this skirt is so grown up. I like the look of it on Miss Five even though I know the length is going to be subjected to all kinds of horrors. No doubt I’ll end up cutting off a torn inch here and a torn inch there, like I do with all her other dresses, until it ends up as a mini. The only thing that seems to withstand this child is silk CDC and quilting cotton.

However, I don’t think sensibility should always get in the way of fashion, especially not with little girls who like length and swish. It’s become an instant hit, which is a relief. I wasn’t quite sure how she would take the idea of me refashioning one of her favourite dresses.

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Wonderland Skirt // made by makers // and a flared version

Before I talk about how I modified my skirt, I’d like to share some of the great Wonderland skirts that have been made so far.

Carly in Stitches //Ernest Flagg // Miss Castelinhos

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Tinker and Stitcher// Anna Gerard // Elle Gee Makes

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And now for my modified version. Remember this scrapbuster? I unpicked the gathered portion of the skirt to see what it would look like with a flounce. I’m in the process of putting together a tutorial on how I did this. It’s not a difficult modification but it does change the look completely.

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WIP: these little shorts

Sometimes I just can’t help myself from changing something that already works. I made some little shorts a few weeks ago that have been an absolute winner in this house. I love the look of them and my toughest critic (Miss Seven) adores her version even more.

Even though I liked the pattern exactly as it was, I thought the shorts might look cute with cuffs too. Enter fairy shorts, and the amazing, levitating Miss Three (although she’d tell you she was bunny hopping).

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I was a bit rushed with this version. I just stitched the cuff tabs on (which I would have done anyway for a three year old). Following through with hand sewing for the little button embellishments became impossible as soon as the recipient spotted these shorts. What do you think of the camera face?

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As you can see, she’s pretty chuffed with these shorts, especially the pockets. I’m pretty happy with the new design too. The legs are a little narrower and shorter which suit a turned up cuff better. I still like the old version though, but it’s nice to have more than one option in a pattern!

Death by dryer: to mini Rigel Bomber

Remember this awesome Rigel Bomber? I made it a long time ago, but it’s had an awful lot of wear since then. The outer cotton fabric is heavy and durable. My mistake was in lining the jacket with a slippery viscose. I don’t regret it though. That viscose remnant I used was totally luxurious and something I noticed every time I slipped that jacket on.

Unfortunately, viscose can be a little more delicate than other fabrics when it comes to laundering. I made sure I prewashed everything first, but it didn’t occur to me to dry the fabrics in the dryer. I rarely used my dryer in Australia. Even in Winter, with three kids, I could efficiently line dry all of my washing. This is starkly different to where I live now, where most people almost exclusively use their dryer. I initially fought this practice, but when your neighbourhood has a no clothesline policy, it’s hard not to succumb to the convenience.

So to cut this rather long story short, my bomber found it’s way into the dryer (I do my laundry on autopilot and sometimes there are casualties). The outer fabric was still perfect, but the viscose lining shrunk significantly. Death by dryer.

I wasn’t going to waste my precious fabric-of-the-year though and decided to have a shot at modifying it into a mini-bomber. It worked pretty well. I was a bit scissor happy on the sleeves, because I had to guess the length while the recipient slept. It seems this child is longer than I think. The sleeves are just long enough. The proportions of the whole jacket are also a little off because I wanted to preserve the ribbing and pockets, and I could have slimmed the sleeves and torso down a little more, but otherwise it’s not too bad.

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So what did I do:

1) I cut off the wrist cuffs and the bottom ribbing

2) I unpicked the centre back neckline and took about 2″ out of the back (and the ribbing) by sewing a CB seam. I added a bigger pleat to the lining but otherwise left it alone.

3) I unpicked the zipper, reattached the lining to the front fabric, and then simply overlapped it to fasten with buttons. Overlapping it at the front also helped balance the fact that I took a chunk out of the CB.

4) I brought the side seams in on the outer fabric by about 1″ (but could taken more out). I made most of the modifications to the outer fabric only. That way, if the viscose decides to shrink more, it won’t matter.

5) Lastly, I reattached all the ribbing, did some buttonholes down the front, and sewed on buttons.

Miss Seven is absolutely in love with this jacket. I think this is because she remembers me wearing my version so much. From my perspective, it’s delightfully weird to see her wearing one of my favourite jackets in a mini-size. But at the end of the day, she was desperately in need of a Spring weight jacket, so I’m glad that this is the one to fill that spot.

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Swimsuit for Mama

Again, this post starts with a disclaimer: I was given some of these fabrics for free by Funki Fabrics in exchange for making something and blogging about it. The fabrics I used from the Fabric Store and the Fabric Fairy were purchased by yours truly.

I honestly can’t remember the last time I wore a bikini or anything other than a hardy old pair of chlorine resistant Speedos. Actually, it was probably about ten years ago, when I was still trying to impress the husband (before he was the husband). I also used to pretend I liked camping and watching rugby back then….bwahaha, entrapment!

In any case, now that I’m all about honesty….um, no that has nothing to do with it. I’m not actually sure why I suddenly decided I needed to make myself some swimmers. Perhaps it was FOMO because I completely restocked the swimwear department of the other Iles girls. Perhaps it was seeing Sophie’s awesome two-piece a little while back. Perhaps it was just that someone gave me free fabric and I thought it would be fun to challenge myself with something a little new. Who knows.

In the end, I made myself TWO pairs. The first pair was more of a muslin to test a design and use up some scraps. The neon fish are from Funki Fabrics and the gorgeous lemons are from the Fabric Store (some Anna and Boy spandex I picked up over a year ago in Sydney).

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The bottoms worked beautifully but the leg elastic could be a smidgen less tight. I modelled their design on a favourite pair of hipster undies I own. It’s remarkably simple to turn a pair of undies into high waist bathers. Just measure your circumference where the undies end and again where you want the high waist to end. Subtract 1.5″ off those measurements (because of negative ease) and draw a diagonal line between them. I added some clear elastic and a waistband to the top of mine. Note: If using clear elastic around the legs, you want it A LOT looser than undie elastic. About 2″ looser worked for me, or pretty much the same as the circumference of your leg. There are two reasons for this: a) clear elastic is firmer and less stretchy than  lingerie elastic and b) aesthetically, you don’t really want the elastic to be cutting deep into your curves.

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The top, for this first version, was a fail. I started with Kwik Sew 3153 and modified it into a top. The fit is too wide, unflattering, and offers no support. It might work better on a busty gal, but not so much on me. Those busy little neon fishies actually disguise a lot of the issues in the photos, but in real life, they are more apparent. I could see that the top was failing early on so I just wacked it together so I could experiment a little with construction, and to see if I would even like the look of a two piece.

My second effort was much better. It’s a one-piece from the front and a bikini from the back; the best of both worlds! Those of you on Instagram may have seen my red ponte muslin in this design. I tweaked the length and fit a bit, and muddled my way through much of the construction. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. It’s fully lined, front and back (which is how I like my bathers). I feel quite secure in it and I like the way the busy floral and gathers in the bodice help to disguise the fact that there’s not much going on under there. I’m not keen on padding in my bathers.  The construction is not quite perfect, but I think if I can find a way to remove the centre front seam, it might help.

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The pretty floral in the bodice is from Funki Fabrics. I was originally going to use some Funki Fabrics stripes for the contrast too, but I changed my mind in the eleventh hour. And that’s how I discovered The Fabric Fairy. Their seriously amazing blue swimsuit fabric and the my-colour nude lining  came from them. I thought it would be interesting to order some swimsuit lycra off somebody else new-to-me to make a more objective comparison of the different swimsuit fabrics available online.

So I stand by my original observations in my last post on Funki Fabrics. For a great choice on prints, their selection is unparalleled. They also have pretty quick postage, which can sometimes be a deal changer for me. But for solids in swimsuit fabric, I am SO impressed with what the The Fabric Fairy has to offer. The Bermuda blue swimsuit fabric I purchased from them is insanely smooth and it has the most beautiful robust feel to it. It’s also slightly thicker, with fantastic stretch and recovery. It’s probably the most luxurious swimsuit fabric I’ve ever worked with. I suspect I’ll be checking out their other knits and stretch fabrics in the future now.

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Kwik Sew 2422 and 1615: swimsuits for my big girls

I’m going to start this post with a disclaimer: I was given this fabric for free by Funki Fabrics in exchange for making something and blogging about it. How could I say no to free fabric, particularly with swimsuit season upon us.

We all know it’s hard to be completely objective about something if you’ve been given it for free, but I’ve tried my best. For a little more information, it’s also worthwhile checking out Gillian from Crafting a Rainbow’s review here.

I made two little swimsuits with my fabric, and I have a little bit more to go yet. My first make was for Miss Five, using Kwik Sew 2422 (complete with a big raspberry drip of melted icy pole on her leg). She was quite specific about the exact style she wanted (down to the actual pattern and strap design). She also chose her own fabric; digitally printed neon tetras. She wanted to be in camouflage for her swim lessons. Obviously.

My only modification to this pattern (from last time) was to raise the neckline by 1.25 inches. Then I just measured the old neckline curve, compared it to the new, and adjusted the length of neckline elastic by the difference. I should have also narrowed the neckline a little as I raised it. Next time.

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The second pair was for Miss Seven, using Kwik Sew 1615, with the same (added seam) modification I’ve used in the past. I think she looks very chic! I only lined the front of the swimsuit bottoms, but due to the light colours, I realise now that I should have probably lined it all. At the moment, they aren’t see-through when wet, but I will have to wait and see how that goes as the print fades.

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I’m pretty fussy about most fabrics, and swimwear is no exception. I was pleasantly surprised with this haul. The prints on the fabric were spot on and exactly as I expected (I could have ordered swatches but I didn’t bother as I was mainly sewing for kids. Yes, double standards abound in this house.). For me, the enormous variety of printed lycra and foiled dancewear fabric are the best thing about Funki Fabrics. I will say though, that their website is a bit awkward, and it does take a bit of time to navigate.

Quality wise, I think the swimsuit fabric is good. In comparison to a RTW surf rashie I own, the fabric is better. But it’s not the best I’ve ever had. I think this may come from the fact that Funki Fabric is all about variety and fabric design. It appears to me that they have the same white, base fabric that they apply all their prints to. It’s a little bit thinner than some other swimsuit fabric I have in my stash, so if using it for myself, lining will be a must. For my kids though, this fabric is more than adequate on it’s own.

Overall, I’m actually very happy with this product. The fabric has a lovely, smooth hand, good stretch and recovery, and the printing is beautifully done. The lighter print (black hearts on cream) feels a little painted on, but not terribly so, and I suspect this is intended to improve the opacity of such a light colour.

We’ve already taken the new swimsuits for a few test runs (which I was waiting to report back on) and they’ve performed very well.  I can’t confirm that they helped the “big arms” actually make it out of the water, nor did I lose sight of my child amongst all the other neon fish at our local pool, but I am happy to say that there have been no saggy, baggy bottoms or immodest see-through togs.