White lace dress

One great thing about living in the USA is that my birthday is in Summer here! I’m so much more inspired to dress up and head out for the night in the middle of Summer. The end of June always seems so cold and dark in Sydney (relatively speaking).

To be perfectly honest though, I’ll use any excuse to sew a nice dress. Yes, there’s still over a month until my birthday, but several years ago I came up with best birthday strategy ever. For the next month, many sentences will begin with, “It’s my birthday soon, so…”. If I really stretch it, I can milk my birthday for a good eight weeks, which could possibly turn into several dinners out, maybe some new shoes, fabric…and you’ve already seen my “birthday” sunnies if you follow me on Instagram.

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But let’s get back to the birthday dress. It is my own design, albeit a very simple one, and also one you’ve seen before. The skirt is the only real part of the design I changed, moving and adjusting the pleats a bit to create the volume and shape of the skirt. I also moved the zipper to the back and left it exposed (because it is a bit fancy!).

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I’ve been calling the outer fabric lace, for want of a better word. Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn’t. It is actually faux leather embroidered on scuba mesh. Surprisingly though, it is very stable. There isn’t much stretch in that mesh so I was able to turn the fabric on the cross grain to utilise the mesh edging/selvedge as a hem. I decided that the lining needed to be black for contrast and cotton for breathability under the spongy synthetic exterior.

Now, the construction of this dress is where things went a little Pete Tong. My original plan was to partially line the bodice, just like this blue Milly dress. However, after sewing all the seams  (of the outer fabric) and serging them, I realised that the underside of the lace was so hard and scratchy that the dress would be unwearable if it was left even partially unlined. I could have used silk organza blocked into the top part of the lining and sewn it as a full lining, but I didn’t have the right shade of nude on hand and I just wanted to get on with it.

My solution was to first bind the armscye of the outer lace. Then I sewed together the lining in full and attached it to the lace at the neckline. Then a lot of hand-stitching ensued. I slip-stitched the lining to the armscye binding and down the centre back. The dress is actually very close to passing as reversible.

I’m very happy with the fit. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but I think I will always feel an element of surprise and delight when I step into a garment that is perfectly molded to my body. It’s a sensation that I’ve never felt with RTW.

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And while we are speaking of perfect fit… I drove past an estate sale last week and bumped into the impeccable Jill Sander shoes that you see in the photos. They were not only my exact size, but comfortable, possibly unworn, and totally meant for the dress I was sewing. I felt like Cinderella!

A very simple top in THE fabric of the month

I’ve had this gorgeous fabric languishing in my stash for nearly two years. I don’t use a lot of floral and I rarely have the occasion to justify sewing with silk charmeuse. Even so, this one stopped me in my tracks and I had to have at least a little bit of it. I went home with a little over 1m. In retrospect, I wish I’d purchased more. It would have been the perfect silk to use for my bias cut dress.

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I was just waiting for the right idea to come along. I should thank from Melanie from Poppykettle and Rachel from Boo Dog and Me for inspiring me with their beautiful Frocktail tops. In particular, I liked the idea of pairing such a delicate floral print with leather.

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The design is a loosely fitted shell top with straight side seams and bust darts for a little shape. I hand-stitched the binding and hem down. I felt like this fabric deserved it.

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I also tried to achieve a length that would suit wearing it out loose or tucked in. I’m very happy with how it worked out, but next time I will raise the armscye by smidgen (about 1/4 inch).

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I love the way this fabric pairs with leather. These shorts were a bit of a rush make compared to the other leather pants I’ve made (here and here), and the leather is more faux than real, but I’ve always recognised them for being the trend-piece that they are. I’m not going to love this style forever, but I have been getting a lot of wear out of them this season. No, I don’t wear them on the school pick up, but when paired with a nice top, I find them to be the perfect blend of smart and casual for outdoor parties and BBQ’s.

 

Shop the Look

(No affiliate links. It’s just fun to compare to RTW. See how much we save by sewing!)

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                      Zara                                              St. John                                              Vince

 

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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Long sleeves in linen

I started sewing clothes for myself in 2012. Before that, my sewing was all about kiddie stuff and quilting cotton. It was also the year I discovered that I could sew with ponte knits and linen. I quite simply overdosed that year. Lucky for you guys, this was also before I started blogging.

I’ve always loved linen, but it’s one of those fabrics that I rarely, if ever, saw in the RTW shops I frequented back then. So it was mindblowing to me that I could suddenly make everything in linen. So did I? Yes. I. Did.

I’ve since had a few years without a lot of linen in my wardrobe. There’s been the odd thing, but nothing like it was in 2012. However, I feel the season changing. I am so in love with it right now. It’s like my long lost friend has returned.

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The thing about linen though, is that it is one of the fabrics I am most pickiest about in terms of quality. I loath buying it online. I’ve been disappointed a few times when I’ve opted for the cheaper option. I recently purchased a length of European white linen from Fabric dot com. In the description it was recommended for making dresses, pants, anything. Let’s just say, I’m ditching the idea of using it for a Summer top and might simply hem it for use as a pretty table cloth instead. I think I’m a linen snob.

The linen I used for this top came all the way from Tessuti Fabrics in Sydney, one of the few places I trust implicitly in buying linen from without ordering a swatch first (online shopping is sadly my only way to purchase quality fabric in the Midwest). This linen is truly delicious. I could iron it better, but I really, really love linen crinkles.

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This top is the long sleeve variation of a pattern I’m working on right now. I paired it with my long leather shorts.

If everything goes to plan, I might be ready for testers in a few weeks. It takes time because I want to make sure that even my testers get a good experience.  If you are interested in testing this or anything else in the future, please head over to my Facebook page, Lily Sage & Co. To avoid driving non-tester inclined blog readers batty,  I will only be putting the tester call out there from now on.

FBA test top

It’s quite obvious that my bust is not so full that it requires any pattern adjustments, but in the interest of testing for the wider population, I thought I’d see what this top could do. It was a very easy adjustment to create more room in the front of this top. Because I don’t *fill* that space, I’m left with bigger gathers. I think I prefer my earlier version better in terms of fit (for me).

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This version was made very simply in a medium weight, quilting cotton. The fabric is pretty, but not really my style. To toughen it up a little, I paired it with my very versatile neoprene and faux leather mini.

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Cropped leather pants

I’m going to call these my cropped leather pants. I could just as easily have called them long shorts. I toyed with the idea of gaucho, but they don’t really fit that definition either. Gaucho pants should really be high waisted and with a bit more of a flare in the leg, as would be seen on the Argentinian horsemen from which the term is taken. These pants sit on my hips, which is where I like them right now.


 

The leather I used is a type of composition leather called Perfection Fused leather. It is a very thin, uniformly processed layer of cowhide on a rayon backing. It’s a beautiful weight and drape for many garments, although I wouldn’t consider it suitable for coat making. It will never compare to a buttery lambskin or genuine cowhide, but I’m impressed with it nonetheless. 

Perfection fused leather looks convincingly like leather, but without the imperfections, and it comes with a price tag of only $15 per yard. It’s the perfect, low-risk ‘real’ leather to have a go with if you’ve never sewn with leather before. It’s a dream to sew, but you do need to be careful when pressing (or when you are pressing an adjoining fabric like pocket lining). This type of processed leather does not tolerate heat at all. The leather layer is very thin and it comes off easily if you iron it.  

 

For these pants, I used V8909. You’ve seen it many times before. My modifications were as follows:

  • I ditched the yoke
  • shortened the crotch seam
  • added side pockets instead of inseam pockets
  • drafted a separate waistband instead of folding the top over to form the encasement
  • added a single back patch pocket
  • cropped the legs
  • I also widened the legs. Have a look at the modified pattern pieces below. To achieve the wide leg look, I simply redrew both the inner and side seam lines straight, in line with the grainline.

Other patterns you could use to make shorts like this are:

Carolyn Pyjamas (shorts) by Closet Case Files: I’ve only recently finished sewing a pair but the fit of the pants is fabulous, and totally worthy of outside pants. They sit on the hip, fit the bum nicely, include a faux fly (like my leather ones), and have some great shaped side pockets.

The Robbie Pant by Tessuti Fabrics: These pants appear to be higher waisted, but they have some neat side patch pockets that would look fantastic in leather. You could easily make the pants a little shorter.

Cropped pants look great with a lot of different style tops, including my short, white pinafore and my Lou Box tunic top. They would also look great paired with a chunky knit and layered over dark tights and long boots in Winter.

 
 

 
 



Neoprene and faux leather mini skirt: two ways

 

This simple, high-waisted, pencil skirt is made up in neoprene, with a panel of fleece lined faux leather for the hem band. I added a little square of faux leather to the waistband and turned the back zipper into a design feature. The pattern I used is my own design, but I did a quick online search and you could just as easily modify M3830 to make this for yourself.

 

 

 


This is about as mini as a skirt gets for me. I’m still liking the high waist look but I’m also starting to feel more of an inclination towards dropped waistbands. Perhaps these mixed feelings are why I like this little skirt so much. I’ll most likely wear it with one of my favourite Simplicity 1366 makes as soon as the weather warms. For now, I will be layering it with a turtleneck skivvy and making the most of that high waist style.

 
 
 
 

Cynthia Rowley vs grid lines

I’m sorry to say that past-Debbie was a bit more reckless with the pre-treatment of her fabric than she is today and my culottes suffered the brunt of this carelessness. They shrank in the wash. But the good news is that they have been refashioned into something that no longer prevents me from breathing.

There’s a good amount of fabric in a pair of culottes. I had just enough to make my new favourite top, another Cynthia Rowley Tee (seen before here and here). And it just so happens that I had a pair of matchy, matchy Esther shorts on stand-by, ready to turn this top into another Two-Piece Set-Acular. However, shorts season is pretty much at an end here, so in reality, I’ll be wearing this top with jeans, which might be a good thing. Is it just me, or did past-Debbie also forget to separate the colours in the wash? The top definitely looks a little more of a buttery white than the shorts.

I only made one extra modification to the top this time. I added a panel of faux leather down the front and back, mainly because a CF and CB seam of those gridlines would have just looked odd, even if I had them perfectly matched.

Yep, pretty happy with this make, but it’s nearly time for me to pack away my Summer gear. I’m going to try really hard to stick to seasonally appropriate makes this year. I’m so fickle with fashion that it just doesn’t make sense to make things, only to refashion it again before I wear it. But then again, that means I get two makes for the price of one! I see that as a win in my world. Some would disagree. 

In any case, I’m planning to live vicariously through the Summer making of my Southern hemisphere counterparts. So tell me, if you are watching the days get longer, what exciting sewing plans do have for Summer? And if you are on my side of the world, is it going to be a project list of coats and knits for Winter, or will you still sneak in the odd summer frock or two?