The floral fabric challenge

I was lucky enough to be contacted by Rhonda Buss recently (of Rhonda’s Creative Life), to take part in a little sewing challenge. The guidelines were pretty simple. Ten participants were each sent the same panel of fabric to make an item of clothing. Of course I was going to say yes. I love a good challenge.

 

I’m not usually big on florals, so it was quite fun to come up with a style and design that would showcase the fabric, and yet still be true to my own personal sense of style. The fabric itself was a very drapey, textured barkcloth. It has a similar hand to rayon or some woven viscose blends. It was only a small panel, so I ended up using all of it, and in fact, drafted the side triangular panels of this dress specifically to accomodate it’s short length.

In sketching out some of my initial design ideas for this dress, I realised that I was going to have to stabilise the drapey, challenge fabric in order to sucessfully make the kind of dress that I had in mind. This was easy to do though. I fused ProWoven Shirt-Crisp interfacing to my drapey, floral fabric, and voíla, it turned into a lovely crisp textile with a more structured hand, and an almost identical drape to the weighty Theory cotton sateen that I was using for the rest of the dress. It also dealt with the fact that I had to cut the fabric on an obscure bias in order to place the flowers in the position that I wanted.


The design is my own. I used my drop-waist dress pattern and modified it. My main changes were to add the side panels and change the shape of the side seams. I graduated the hemline and added a slightly flared flounce with a silk organza panel in between. I also added inseam pockets because every dress needs pockets. 

All good dresses also need a *twirl* photo. I definitely think twirling shows off the shape of the dress better. I might twirl instead of walk when I wear it.

 
 

Because the main white fabric is such thick cotton, and because of the design, I didn’t want to line the dress. I drafted an all-in-one neckline and armscye facing and understitched for a clean finish. The back is fastened with a hand-worked silk loop and a beautiful glass button. I love glass buttons. I feel like they add a special touch.

I really love how this dress turned out. I’ve been dreaming of a dress design like this for a while now, but had been putting off doing anything about it because it’s just so seasonally inappropriate. I love that this challenge enabled me to make something that I’ve been wanting to create anyway.


It’s been a long post so if you are still with me, awesome! Please don’t forget to head over to Rhonda’s Creative life because there will be voting soon. You will also be able to check out the other fabulous entries there.

 

Oliver + S Carousel dress

While I love to play around with drafting and hacking patterns for myself, I like to switch off completely when I sew stuff for my girls. Kid sewing is my cotton candy. It’s my sewing crack. It’s me sipping a big glass of Chianti Classico in front of the TV.

I love Oliver + S patterns because they are perfect just the way they are. I feel no need to adjust, modify, or add ruffles. I’ve sewn enough of them now to know how the sizing fits my girls. And I haven’t been disappointed yet.

 

The Carousel dress is one of their new patterns. After some futile resistance, I ended up purchasing this pattern in the small size range, somewhat encouraged by the recent sale. I generally only buy their patterns in the size 5-12 packet because that’s undoubtedly the best value for me. My eldest two girls just slip into that size range, but little Miss Three (formerly known as Midget) always misses out. This time I splurged on her and it was worth it.


It’s a festive little dress. I used a small remnant of red floral cord (of unknown origin) and some denim remnants leftover from my recent denim skirt and culottes. The back is fastened with a little handworked loop and a Liberty of London covered button from my stash. I chose the ruffle skirt option, because Miss Two loves her ruffles. Oh, and the dress has pockets. I know I’ve said it before, but every dress needs pockets!




 

Just another twirly skirt

There’s not much to say about this skirt. It’s simply made by layering panels of gathered polyester chiffon to a waistband. The fabric was chosen by one of my girls when we were shopping at Jo-Ann, although I’m still not sure what possessed me to purchase it…perhaps my daughter’s big blue eyes, or maybe it was the $3/yard price tag.

 
 

 
 


I’m pleasantly surprised by how this skirt turned out. I can make my girls the coolest culottes and tops, but the thing that lights up their faces the most is, without fail, the simplest of gathered skirts.  

 

A denim midi skirt

Here’s a little self-drafted number that I’ve been working on for a few weeks now. You might have seen some of my sketches on Instagram as a part of Bimble and Pimble’s #bpsewvember, which by the way, is the best idea ever. I’m really loving everybody’s sewing pictures.

In addition to taking part in Sewvember, I’ve also been trying to challenge myself a bit more with my sewing. To me, this means planning, drafting and draping more of my own designs, and reading up more on construction and design. I’ve made it my goal to slowly work my way though a pattern-making textbook I own. However, I’m not moving very fast because I keep getting distracted with makes like this instead of learning the fundamentals! But I’m still discovering new tricks and flexing my brain, so I’ll let myself off the hook.

 
This is the midi skirt in denim that I’ve been dreaming about lately. I’m really proud of the way it turned out. The side pockets with the white denim and faux leather detail are small but still functional. I like the way they are shaped down the side of the body. I used a white zipper to match the panels and recycled an old brass belt buckle to make the waistband fastener out of faux leather.
 
 
 
 
 

There are two small box pleats in the front of the skirt and two larger pleats in the back. I wanted a pencil-ish shape to the skirt, but with enough ease and volume to look casual and feel comfortable. The hem is asymmetrical and the addition of the front white panel was last minute. Sometimes I need to visualise how garments are turning out (when they are half made already) to figure out what extra little touches are needed. I block fused the front panel of white denim with some lightweight woven interfacing to give it a bit more body. The white denim isn’t as heavy as the blue denim and I wanted it’s drape to match the rest of the skirt. I’ve been discovering the almost limitless potential of good quality interfacing recently which I’ll probably be talking about more in a coming post.

 

 




Last minute Halloween: rainbow skeletons and fairies gone bad

I feel like I should confess something. I don’t like sewing costumes. I’m also not used to celebrating Halloween. But I’m nothing, if not prepared. I snapped up three out-of-season witch costumes on Ebay a few months ago, breathed a sigh of relief and hoped that I was off the hook. I’m a pretty good saleswoman when I want to be. What, you want to be a tiger, not a witch? Well, let’s put the striped top on underneath the witch dress and you can be an extra scary witchy tiger, yeah!

Middle child wasn’t playing this game. The day before Halloween, she decided that it was absolutely imperative that she become a skeleton. I told her that this need could be met, but only if she could make the costume herself. I helped her a bit. First, we drew some bones on white denim fabric scraps.

 

Then Miss Four coloured all the bones in with fabric dye crayons, which I ironed to set the dye. We have rainbow skeletons in the House of Iles.


Miss Four cut those bones out very carefully. It was a great exercise in practicing dexterity with the scissors. I then very hastily, and very roughly, basted those bones onto a pair of tights and a top that she already had in her wardrobe. Some of the stitching was done by machine and some had to be done by hand whilst watching the final season of True Blood. Admittedly, some of the bones are attached a bit wonky, but overall, the costume was a great success. It was worn for 24 hours straight.

 

 

My costume was a little bit more last minute. On the day of Halloween, while the little peeps were having a lunchtime nap, I suddenly had an idea to turn the muslin of my Dior knock-off coat into a Malificent inspired gown and cape. The fabric (if you can call it fabric) was the perfect colour for a fairy gone bad. I purchased the purple textile from Jo-Ann, specifically to muslin a coat. It was $2/yd, the price of cheap calico, but it had a sturdy, structured feel that I felt would give me a better idea of how the coat would drape. It was also 100% polyester, recycled from plastic bottles.

 

 
 
 

I’m nearly finished my real Dior knock-off coat, so you will soon get a better view of the coat beneath the cape. But for this costume, I simply gathered up the remainder of my purple polyester into a cape, and stitched on a big dramatic collar over the top. I cut a separate tie for the waist. None of the seams are finished because the fabric doesn’t fray. It’s like cutting felt. Perhaps I should have tried to iron it though!

 

Refashioned: butterfly kimono jacket

I’ve made more than my fair share of kimono style jackets this year (here, here, and here). The style is just so versatile, especially at this time of year when I’m trying to prolong the wear of my Summer gear by layering them upon everything.

 
 
 
 
 

Once again I used B5409 and modified it in the same way as earlier versions. My butterfly silk CDC lived an earlier life as a floaty maxi dress. It was lovely. I loved it, but then I moved on, and there was just too much beautiful fabric in that dress to lay dormant in my cupboard.

 
 

This time round, I used goose biot feathers to fringe the kimono for a fancy, ‘festival’ look.  Google defines fringed kimonos as festival. Who am I to argue with Google. I’ve paired it with my leather shorts and floral bustier for the photos. And if I was headed into Summer, I might have even taken this outfit out for a spin. In real life, we are headed into cooler days, so I want this kimono jacket to wear over my matching, Chanel-inspired dress and pants. I’ll be unpicking those glorious feathers because I don’t think they will fare so well on the school run. But you know me. I’ll use them again for something else.

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?
 


Getting started early

I’ve been checking a few items off Santa’s list lately. I know, I know, it’s still stinking hot and we are nearly four months away from the big day, but I’ve got a good reason to start so early. The House of Iles has three birthdays plus Christmas to celebrate in the space of two months. It will also be our first Christmas in our new country, so we have absolutely no Christmas gear whatsoever.

Adding to the excitement of a possible white Christmas, is the fact that we have a proper fireplace. It was also brought to my attention that there were already four little hooks above it. Naturally, Mrs Santa had to set about creating some little Christmas stockings. I chose a small selection of Christmas prints at Jo-Ann and let the girls choose the combinations that they liked best. The rest of the construction was done in secret. They will be packed away now until Christmas Eve. 


I appliqued the first letter of their names on the stockings so there would be no mind changing or arguments down the track. Miss Six will no doubt want to know how Santa knows which stocking is whose. I had just enough fabric to make an extra stocking for Daddy too.

I also put on my sensible shoes and made the girls some flannelette PJ pants for Christmas. This was a seriously easy production line whiz bang bam on the serger. I used M6633 and made up a size 3, 5, and 6. I measured my girl’s waists to customise the elastic length. I know the pants will fit, but they still look quite large to me. I’m not too worried though. They will still be soft and warm. I have to admit that it was quite fun choosing a pretty print specifically to suit each girl’s taste. They are all so very different.

Hands up anyone else who is thinking about getting their Christmas skates on. Surely I’m not the only crazy lady out there!

Two piece setacular in lotsa lotsa floral

You’ve seen these pants before. They are my Esther shorts hack. I love them with my Camilla cami, but I was inspired by Ada Spragg’s Two-Piece Set-Acular to put together another matchy matchy outfit. My first Chanel-inspired Two-Piece Set-Acular is here.

 
 Here, I’ve just noticed a squirrel nest up our tree.
 

 

The bustier is a little self-drafted number and a bit of a first-time experiment for me. I draped the pieces to fit my tiny, tiny bust. This worked great! I used boning for structure, some old foam bra cups with underwire within the lining for a bit of extra bust shape. I also encased rows of elastic in the back to keep the bustier tight enough to be secure. I miscalculated the effect of the back elastic though. I added extra width to the back to compensate for the elastic pulling it in. I should have just left the design as it was, removed a seam and pulled it in that way. As it turns out, the top fits perfectly, but it is not tight enough for me to feel comfortably secure for long durations. Or it could just be that I am not used to wearing strapless tops. I might add a couple of straps to bring me back into my comfort zone.

Dressing gown for Miss Six

So after a little bit of wardrobe shuffling in preparation for Autumn, it became apparent that Miss Six needed a new dressing gown. I must have been particularly kind at the time because I promised to make her one, and that she could even choose the fabric herself. I’d seen a good range of novelty fleece at Jo-ann so we headed there together and came home with turquoise butterflies. It’s not really my cup of tea, but a shade better than the psychadellic tie dye she locked her eyes on first.

 

I used B4322 and made it up in a size 7. My only change was to cut a good 4″ off the arm length. I should also mention that I ignored the construction details as soon as they started to insist upon slipstitching every inside nook and cranny. Seriously! I’m certainly not averse to a bit of handstitching but you won’t catch me handsewing a kid’s dressing gown, especially the entire length of the facing in that long collar! The finished robe is long on Miss Six and quite roomy, but not uncomfortably so. She’s very happy with it and I’m happy knowing that she will be warm and cosy when the weather eventually cools off.