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.

knit dress

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.

PicMonkey Collage

Love Culture            //            Proenza Schoeler             //           Banjo & Matilda

 

 

Jaywalk refashioned

This time last year, I made myself a dress and a maxi skirt in some striped jersey fabric. The dress is no longer with me. I literally wore that dress to death. I still like the skirt in theory, but the length of it was a bit off-putting for everyday wear. It was a simple issue to fix.

This refashion was quick and easy. I chopped the top off the skirt, tapered the side seams in a bit to fit my hips better, and re-attached some elastic to the waist. The top I’m wearing is my Camilla camisole. It’s a simple, bias cut cami that fits beautifully.

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I didn’t waste an inch of fabric in this refashion. The length I chopped off was just long enough to make a simple skirt for Miss Seven. I bought the side seams in by about 1.5 inches and shortened the elastic in the waist. She’s pretty chuffed because it fits the definition of a ‘fitted mini-skirt’ for her, which is something (along with heeled shoes) that I refuse to let a seven year old wear.

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Little shorts

It’s taken a full five years, but I’ve FINALLY had a request for shorts. Both Miss Five and Miss nearly-Seven have come to the joint conclusion that skirts and dresses are not conducive to the most effective cartwheel, handstand, and monkey bar practice. Hallelujah!

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I was quite unprepared for this backflip in clothing preferences, so I thought I’d start with something simple. It didn’t take much effort to come up with this pair of shorts for Miss Five. They are a very simple style, with bottom panels for contrast and an encased elastic waistband. I used the ribbing as the contrast, not for it’s elasticity. Miss Five is all about comfort right now. I compared my design to a pair of her favourite tracky dacks to check on fit, and I think I managed to get it spot on.

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Miss nearly-Seven is a different kettle of fish. Her shorts won’t get a look in if they don’t have pockets. I think she’s also starting to appreciate unique design features like bows and pleats. She’s also noticed that I’ve been working a lot more on designing my own patterns and she quite likes the idea of me making things for her that have never before been made by anyone “in the entire world” (for example, her Twirl to Me dress). I’m constantly amazed at what children notice and how they interpret things.

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Culottes in a playsuit anyone?

This little jumpsuit was refashioned from this dress. As pretty as the dress was, I found I wasn’t wearing it enough. I hate to see such stunning fabric locked away behind closet doors.

 

The pattern is my own design and the jumpsuit very closely follows the drafted pattern. The main difference is my slightly angled bottom panels. In trying to preserve as much of the dress as possible, I didn’t manage to align the hem very well. I also didn’t have much of a choice on pattern placement. It appears that I may have inadvertently positioned a solar system directly over my reproductive organs. Why is it that Bruno Mars and the case of the uterine foliage pops into my brain right now?!  

 

The main fabric is a gloriously drapey, woven viscose. It is a very special fabric. The bottom panels were made using silk jersey scraps I was lucky enough to have lying around. Navy CDC or silk organza were other options I toyed with for the panels.

This playsuit is designed to be unfitted through the waist, with a slightly flared, cropped leg. There is also the option of ditching the bottom panel for a shorter version and using a self-fabric waist tie to cinch in the waist for a more fitted look. I’d really love to see how this pattern plays out in linen, or especially, a heavier weight and more structured cotton sateen.

 

This playsuit ticks a lot of boxes for me in terms of real life wearability. It’s cool for Summer, unrestrictive, and practical for chasing kids around in. So what do you think of playsuits right now? Could you see yourself in something like this?

Strathcona Henley in Italian jersey

I’ve made this top before so I knew it would work perfectly this time too. Last time I used a beautiful soft modal from Tessuti Fabrics. The fit was snug on hubby, but perfectly comfortable too. This time, I graded the pattern up a smidgen. I was too lazy to re-print the pieces so I just guesstimated. It’s still a snug fit. The cotton jersey I used has a little less 2-way stretch than drapey modal.

The fabric I used is a beautiful, pure cotton Italian jersey. The knit is very fine with a sensationally smooth texture. It’s a truly beautiful fabric. So soft, in fact, that the recipient initially took it for a pyjama top. 


Sew DIY Lou Box Top

I’d like to introduce you to my brand new, hot of the press, Lou Box tunic by Sew DIY. I was a pattern tester for this top which meant I was lucky enough to be one of the first to make it. Now, I know very well what I am like when it comes to patterns and sewing. I very rarely stick to patterns and I’m quite useless at following directions, which is why I don’t often put my hand up to test patterns. I think it would be unfair of me to sabotage a new pattern without being able to give proper feedback.

When I saw my first sneeky peek of the Lou Box top I knew I could commit to testing the pattern properly because it looked perfectly perfect exactly as it was. It is such a simple design, chic and elegant, and very easy to sew. Beth has also included a few different hemline and neckline options in the pattern, without you having to go all maverick and invent them yourself.

 

The pattern includes instructions for sewing it with a woven or a knit fabric. I chose to use a beautiful Italian cotton jersey for my tunic. I made the scoop neck version and I’m very happy with the degree of scoop. I used the curved hem pieces and the dip hem as a guide for the back length, and then I simply lengthened my pieces each by 10cm to create a tunic instead of a top. I wanted the longer length to wear with my leather blocked leggings.

 


I stitched up a size XS/X according to my measurements on the packet. This threw me, because I am a 34.5″ bust with broad shoulders which would usually place me as a size 12 or M in most patterns. I needn’t have worried though. The pattern measurements correlate beautifully and I am really happy with the fit.

I will definitely use this pattern again. It makes a fabulous summer top or tunic. I can see myself sewing up a silk version in a few months time now.

Refashioned leather pants

The change I made to these pants is so simple and straight forward that it hardly deserves it’s own post. However, it is interesting to see how such a small change can be so effective in updating a style. 


I made this pair of leather jogging pants almost a year ago now. My original post about them is here. They were my first leather project and I was out pretty happy with how they turned out. In fact, they’ve come in handy a lot. I find that leather items fill that blind spot in the wardrobe, somewhere between dressy and casual. Cropped, elastic cuff pants have also been quite fashionable over the past year, but I’m pretty tired of that particular look right now. I’ve also secretly always yearned for these pants to be a little longer. It didn’t take much to fix.


All I did was to carefully cut off the cuffs and add hem panels of about 10″ on both legs. Because there are so many other panels stitched throughout the pants, it doesn’t look out of place. Now they are long enough to wear with high heel booties, or with flat sneakers if I fold the hem up as I’ve done in these photos.

Transeasonal Simplicity 1435 and a Swoon cardi

For the past few months (apart from multiple, transient costume changes each day) Miss Two has really only been wearing two dresses (here and here). Apparently they are both suitable for nightwear as well as daywear. Who am I to argue with a two year old? Day in, day out, night in, night out, we see her in the same clothes. I think it has a lot to do with comfort and a little to do with the fact that they are dresses she can slip on herself (and therefore slip off for her costume changes).
 
Hubby and I held a meeting. I was going to make those dresses disappear. Miss Two and I went shopping at Jo-Ann. She found some very pretty (polyester, ugh!) jersey and I found Simplicity 1435. I feel like I don’t sew Simplicity patterns very often so I was going to treat this as a wearable muslin. I’ve rarely been super impressed with the fit of kid’s clothes from the big pattern companies. But this could be because my older two girls are a lot longer and narrower than average.
 
Gnome killer

Miss Two (AKA Midget) is completely average in size (not temperament!). She is smack bang on the 50th centile for everything, despite being dwarfed by her giant sisters. Not surprisingly, this little dress pattern fits her perfectly. The only change I made was to lengthen the sleeves for Autumn and shave a bit of the sleeve cap. I also left the hem unfinished. I love the unfitted, drop waist look and it is clearly very comfortable. The dress has thankfully become her new favourite and the other pilled and shredded dresses have disappeared unnoticed.
 
Yes, she just murdered the gnome

I also made her a Swoon cardi to go with her new dress. A little while back, Lara from Thornberry blogged about a very pretty matchy make for her daughter. I loved the look of her Swoon cardi so I made sure I had enough fabric to make Miss Two one too.
 
I had my doubts when I was putting this pattern together. I was so tempted to redraw a few pieces to somehow turn the shawl collar into a self-facing edge but it all started to hurt my brain too much. I was having trouble seeing how it would come together in the end. But I ploughed on and did a quick hash job of serging the edges in non-matching thread because I truly didn’t think this cardi would turn out as well as it did.
 
Gnome found his way upright again, but not for long.

Got him

So now I’m going to step on his head, because that’s what you do to gnomes.
Miss Two put the cardi on straight away and has barely taken it off since. I even caught her wearing it scrunched up underneath a long sleeved top this morning. The fit is beautiful. The shape is pretty and the lightweight fabric worked very well for it. I will definitely give this pattern another go but with better fabric next time, and nicely hemmed edges too.
 
Sorry gnome. Let’s be friends again?
 


Refashioned Ikat dress

A very short while back, I turned some Ikat jersey into a Chanel-inspired dress. It worked out okay, but I didn’t love it, and pretty much knew from the outset that I would be changing it into something different. I already had my idea. 

This refashioning was very simple. I simply cut the original skirt portion off. It currently hangs intact, complete with the elastic waistband, on a hook in my sewing room. I’m constantly tempted to put it on and twirl around the house but I have better plans for that piece as well.

The top portion of the dress was reattached to my last little bit of Ikat jersey. I had just enough fabric left for a fitted skirt. To lengthen the skirt a smidgen and to finish the edges, I added a band of white, silk/modal jersey. I also straightened up the ends of the sleeves little and attached a similar band to them.

I much prefer my refashioned dress. I think it’s going to get loads of wear now.


Ikat vs Chanel

The pants in this ensemble are yet another crack at my TNT pants pattern, Vogue 8909. You’ve seen other versions before (here, here, and here). This time, I made them using silk jersey. They are so comfortable it’s criminal and I suspect they will be getting a lot more wear than simply with this dress.
 

 

 

The rest of the dress was inspired by my current Chanel infatuation. You’ve seen the Ikat jersey print before and I’m quite sure that you will be seeing it again. I still have a few kid size remnants left in my stash. The silk chiffon from Tessuti is gathered into a skirt that overlaps at the side to flare and swish as I walk.

 
 

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this outfit. It was actually my first attempt at a Chanel-inspired ensemble (my second attempt in Cracked Glass silk CDC was a winner!). The pants are definitely here to stay. But it’s quite possible that you will be seeing the dress come back as something entirely different down the track.