BHL Poppy dress

The much anticipated release of the Poppy dress by By Hand London was today. I’m so glad I can finally share it because it’s become a big favourite in my wardrobe. I actually found #memademay a little difficult this year because I was reaching for my Poppy dress every second day, and yet I couldn’t really share it!

I made my first version in a truly lovely, Liberty of London cotton jersey from The Fabric Store. I wasn’t sure about the floral to begin with (I don’t really wear Liberty!). But now I love it SO much. The fabric is glorious to wear. It launders beautifully and has been wearing well.

The design is a simple, raglan knit dress with a twist. The shoulder pleats are the winning detail for me. They probably aren’t as pronounced in my make, but they give that little bit of extra room through the shoulders which makes this dress so good for me. I’d definitely recommend it for the #sewstrong #sewingstrong ladies out there.

It’s a very quick dress to make. I didn’t hem my dress because jersey doesn’t fray. After several wears, the hem and sleeves now have a really pretty rolled look to them and look about 1/2 inch shorter than in these photos (see today’s Instastory).

I loved my Liberty version of the Poppy dress so much that I made another last week, in a beautiful neutral viscose from Tessuti Fabrics. I love viscose jersey so much but a light coloured solid is probably not the most forgiving fabric to sew. At least you can see the great style lines of this dress better.

Spring stripes

When I purchase fabric, I usually have a project in mind, but I rarely follow sewing patterns without some sort of modification. This means that I’ve had to get pretty good at estimating fabric requirements on my own. I usually come pretty close these days, but sometimes I end up erring on the more generous side (because it gives me a little leeway to change my mind on the design, and because I know that I’ll always find a good use for the scraps if any remain).

This was the case with some lovely hand-dyed velvet, wool crepe, and ponte that I found in my stash. I loved the way the contrasting colours looked together. They all have some stretch, but not enough to do away with darts. The velvet and wool are woven, but the ponte was a knit.

I started by cutting the fabrics into wide strips (seaming some of the velvet strips for extra length where needed). Then I stitched them together to create a striped fabric. I had just enough fabric to make a midi skirt in a slim-fitting style. I designed it by draping (on myself!) and re-stitching those stripe seams around the hips and bottom until they absorbed the darts needed to create the fitted shape.

In retrospect, I should have left the initial (striped fabric) seams unfinished (no overlocking!) until I’d sewn the final garment. I ended up doing a lot of unpicking of those overlocked seams to shape the top of the skirt. I also added gores (of orange wool crepe) to the bottom of the skirt for a bit of extra flare.

There’s a bit of a difference in the amount of stretch in each fabric. So, even though the stripes are the same width, the white ponte stretches more than the velvet, and this is most apparent at the waist. I probably should have made the ponte a little narrower, or the velvet a little wider to adjust for this.

I’m still pretty happy with how it turned out though. It’s a warm and comfortable skirt for Spring. And it just so happens to match perfectly with my refashioned velvet top.

 

Cold shoulder refashion

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The off the shoulder and cold shoulder trend is still around. I also know for a fact it will still be here when Spring RTW hits the stores sometime in the new year. However, I personally need a break from the style. I’d also like to have warm shoulders during Winter. I’m all about comfort in cold weather. If it isn’t soft and warm, it won’t get a look in, no matter what.

Not everything is worth refashioning, but this particular top was. The fabric is a beautiful pure cotton Italian jersey. It is a smooth, lightweight knit without the addition of any other fibres or elastic, so it washes beautifully and wears well. The fabric deserves to be worn, which is probably why this top has been modified so many times.

It started as an off the shoulder top. But I hate strapless bras so after the first few wears, I made it more wearable by adding shoulder straps to conceal a bra. However, this top does not suit being worn under a jacket or even on it’s own in Winter for that matter.

I had a cotton/viscose cardigan in my closet that was given to me (that I was never going to wear), so I used that to replace the missing shoulder portion of the original top. I sliced the elastic and shoulder straps off my cold shoulder top (in a straight line). I then placed the cold shoulder top over an existing top and used that as a guide to cut the shoulder portion from the cardigan.

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If I’d been working with a plain T instead of a cardigan, I could have simply sewn the top portion on to the cold shoulder top. However, the cardigan needed a little more prep. I overlapped the front, removed the neck ribbing and then reattached it. I also gathered the sleeves to fit the cold sholder sleeves (which were more fitting). This is my favourite feature of the new top – those little puffs above the old sleeves. Why am I feeling puffy sleeves so much lately?!

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I love my new top. I loved the old versions too. If it were Summer all year round, I may have kept them, but I’m going to get so much more wear out of this beautiful fabric now.

DIY obi-style, jersey belt

I’m not quite sure what to call this “thing” that I sewed. I’ll call it an obi-style belt for want of a better term. The idea came from a friend, who sent me this photo.

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I believe it featured in a Tibi shoot. It wasn’t for sale though and only being used for styling purposes. How frustrating for people who don’t sew!

I could, however, look at the picture and appreciate that it would take me all of 30 seconds to draft (yes, draft… it’s Tibi after all), and then sew with one hand tied behind my back and one eye shut. It really was that simple.

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I used a beautifully soft, lightweight rayon jersey that I sewed into a tube with about 1.5 inches of negative ease. I then turned that tube out to the right side, keeping the lengthways seam to the middle, and stitched the short raw ends together. From the outside, your can just see a single seam down the centre-back.

The belt needs to stretch a little to pull the shirt in, but you don’t want it compressing your internal organs like a Kardashian. You want it to feel comfortable if you plan on wearing it all day! The width of my band is about 15 inches, so that makes it wide enough to be scrunched down as you see in the pictures. The diagram below shows exactly what I did. My seam allowance was 1/2 inch.

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I really love the way it looks paired with a crisp, white shirt. It is the perfect accessory for Fall. In fact, it is so perfect, that I decided to make another right away. A smooth, lightweight, merino jersey would have been perfect but I didn’t have any on hand. I did, however, have a small remnant of a wool/acrylic knit. It’s thicker than I’d like (since nobody really wants extra fabric around the waist), but it works out fine if I scrunch it a little less (and it will be super warm too!).

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I paired it with the same white shirt, and a favourite pair of pants. I made these thick cord culottes a few years ago. I wore them nearly every day during the Winter before last, which was probably why I couldn’t stand the sight of them last year. They were originally shaped more like a skirt. To jazz them up a bit and fall in love with them again, I bought the leg seams in (unfortunately this required a little more effort than planned… ie. moving the side zipper… but it was worth it). Now they have a more boxy, trouser-like shape. I also refreshed the dark colour with a bit of over-dyeing in the washing machine. I love them all over again.

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White Esthers and a knit raglan

There’s never any fabric waste in my house, especially when it’s something as lovely as this Saratoga knit by O! Jolly!. I only had the tiniest amount left after finishing my Megan longline cardigan, but I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it.

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I used the raglan view of V8952 as a base for the top. I made a few fit modifications, raised the neckline, and added my own neck and hem bands. I used some plain white ponte for the back and sleeves, and seamed together three scraps of Saratoga knit for the front. I love the texture of the spongy knit as a feature and the contrast of cream against white.

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The shorts are an old favourite and TNT for me. I used the Esther shorts pattern and simply added an asymmetrical overlay at the front. I used scraps for this make too. I salvaged some gorgeous, meaty Theory cotton sateen (from this dress) to use for the back of the shorts and for the front overlay. The dress was tired (with a few stains) and needed to be retired. I didn’t have quite enough sateen though, so I used some scrap linen for the shorts front and overlay lining. The linen was too lightweight for the shorts on its own, but perfect for this design where the front is layered.

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I’ll wear these shorts a lot. I made a yellow version a few  years ago which are still on the go, but have been downgraded to gardening/painting gear. It feels good to replace a wardrobe item that was very much loved.

 

More luxe loungewear

I made this set using a gorgeous, loose weave, rayon knit. I tried to keep the style extremely simple because the fabric was a little annoying to work with. The raw edges stretched out and unravelled just to look at them. The seams also stretched easily when stitching or overlocking and it took me a while to get the tension right to avoid wavy seam syndrome. I’m not too bothered though. This was always intended to be a comfy, at-home, lounge-around set, and nothing more.

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The top is very loosely based on the Simplicity 1366 pattern. It’s been a magically morphing design for me. I think I may have dropped the shoulders and widened the sleeves. I also lengthened the arms, modified the bodice length and neckline, added a (loose) turtleneck, and a waistband. Some of these changes were made for this top, and some have been made in the past. I’ve lost track.

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Both the leather pants and the shorts were based on V8909. I made the leather pants about three years ago now. I refashioned them more recently to have wider, and longer trouser-style legs, but they are otherwise, very much a reflection of the original pattern. The shorts are a summation of all the fit-changes I’ve made over the past few years, including a lower waist height, and improved crotch curve and length. I also omitted the faux fly and pockets, and shortened them significantly and added hembands.

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Vintage Kwik Sew 1034 // scrapbust sweaters

I hope everybody had a wonderful Christmas! We had a great day, but not a white Christmas in Kansas. However, I believe we are expecting snow any day now, so it could be a special white birthday for Miss Five tomorrow.

Santa was very generous this year. The big guy bought a joint present for all my girls, in the form of a very basic, but well reviewed, Brother XL-2610 sewing machine. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a learning machine for my kids (and I wasn’t about to share my Pfaff), but I did want them to have a machine that would be simple to use and reasonably sturdy. So far the machine is working well and the girls are finding it easy to develop confidence on. And because it’s not my precious machine, I’m happy to let them play on it alone without too much anxiety.

At the moment, we’re still working on threading the machine and sewing straight lines at a precise distance from the fabric edge, but I’m happy to report that Miss Five has proclaimed it the best present from Santa this year.

And while we’re talking about Christmas, I thought I’d share a few little sweaters I made for my girls using an old Kwik Sew pattern in my stash. I modified it slightly to block in a few different fabrics and lengthen the bodice, but otherwise I left it pretty unchanged.

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Miss Seven’s sweater was made up in a size 8. It’s pretty roomy on her, but my big girls grow like weeds so I always err on the larger size with them. The bodice length is extremely short in the pattern so I also lengthened it by 2 inches before adding the bottom band. The black portion of the sweater is from a new merino jersey sweater of mine (that was too small). The ivory ruffles and tiger fabric were both small remnants in my scrap basket and specifically chosen by the recipients.

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Miss Five’s sweater is mostly tiger fabric, with a little merino trim. I made this one as a tunic to incorporate the ivory trim better. I also made a standard version of this pattern for her in rainbow French terry. It’s a very simple and practical raglan pattern.

 

Wool jersey luxe lounge pants // V8909

These pants are such a simple design and are so easy to make that they very nearly didn’t warrant a blog post. I’ve use the pattern several times before and have tweaked it slightly along the way to improve the fit. This time round, I lengthened the legs, and only sewed two channels of elastic in the waistband.

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The only point of interest in these pants is to do with the fabric I used to make them. It is a wool/acrylic blend in a super soft, loose knit jersey. It’s the same fabric I used to make this grey knit dress. It’s not the type of fabric I’d normally associate a pair of trackie pants with, but boy is it delicious to wear.

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My inspiration came from a pair of RTW cashmere trackie pants. Unfortunately I didn’t have any cashmere on hand (nor was it in my budget) but this wool blend did a pretty good job. The sad news is that my fabric is going to pill like crazy after a few wears. Agh… once again I am cursing my foolishness in purchasing a synthetic blend. It’s such a waste when they look rough so quickly. It won’t matter too much with these pants though. The comfort factor will be present no matter how they look, and that’s pretty much all that matters to me in Winter!

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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.

PicMonkey Collage

Love Culture            //            Proenza Schoeler             //           Banjo & Matilda

 

 

Simplicity 1435 // A quickie Summer dress for Miss Three

I’ve made this pattern more times than I care to remember. It’s a very simple style that is both comfortable and practical. It whips together very quickly and always becomes a favourite.

I made the sleeveless version this time. I bound the neck and armscye in my own way, with my own self-made binding, but only because I didn’t bother to look at the pattern cover to see that the pattern also included this view, and therefore would have included binding in the pattern pieces had I chosen to look.

 

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So, it seems that my little one hasn’t changed a great deal since I first made this pattern up for her. We’re still on a size 3. I’m sure she has grown a little bit taller, but she doesn’t sprout up at the ferocity of her bigger sisters. She truly is my little one.

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The fabric I used for this dress is French terry, which is thicker and less fluid than what I’ve used before. I would have thought that this would have made for a closer fit, but it seems not. In general, I find that the sleeved versions of this dress are a lot more forgiving (and flattering) with fit.

This version (sans sleeves) is clearly comfy, but the wider fit through the shoulder seams (as required to fit the sleeves) isn’t the most flattering design. I’ll keep making it though. My favourite part of the dress is the complete lack of closures, which facilitates independent dressing, and lets me enjoy my morning cup of tea in peace.

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