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!

Zippered faux leather skinnies

I’m not going to lie. This was a slap dash, poorly thought out project. I just suddenly, desperately needed a pair of leather skinnies with feature zippers and I thought I could whip them together using a bit of cheap, novelty fabric.

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I freestyled an existing trouser pattern into a slimmer design. However, I realised along the way that the fabric (faux stretch leather) needed to be very close fitting in order to minimise the sight of ugly wrinkles and creases. I should have started with a leggings pattern, not a pants pattern. I had to narrow the legs further as I went, by inches at a time. It was never going to bode well.

The irony of the matter is also that this faux stretch leather is only slightly stretchy, and in one direction only. It’s like wearing skinny jeans in non-stretch denim. There’s not a lot of give when I bend and stretch. I’m pretty sure I’m going to rip the crotch seam next time I wear them, but I’ll still happily wear them until I do.

The three feature zippers are non functional. I installed them as per this tutorial, however I covered the backs of mine with a soft fabric, rather than add pocket bags.

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In any case, it was a fun make. I needed a frivolous sew after I spent so many hours on my coat, and these pants suited the purpose well. And besides, everyone needs the occasional wadder to keep things real!

 

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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DIY // Off the shoulder jersey top

I’m loving the look of off the shoulder tops right now. It’s a little difficult to get on board with this trend during Winter, but it helps to keep the sleeves long and by adding a little leather.

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I modified an existing long sleeve top pattern to make this top. It was a very easy pattern modification as you can see from the diagram below (excuse my dodgy freehand sleeve cap!).

All I did was draw a line across the front and back bodice at the point I wanted my off the shoulder neckline to reach (red dotted line). I cut the pattern pieces off at this line, including the sleeve cap. Finally, I attached a band (the exact size of the top neckline) which I used to encase elastic to hold the top up securely.

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I’m so pleased with how this top worked out that I’ve already cut out a second, shorter sleeve version. I used a one-way-stretch, pure cotton jersey for this version, which is why my top isn’t as clingy on the arms and body as it could be. A knit fabric with two-way-stretch would work even more beautifully. It all depends on how well the unmodified top pattern fit you in the first place.

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Leather wrap skirt

Remember the last wrap skirt I made? Well, not long after I made it, I spotted this Tibi skirt on Instagram. And as fortune would have it, I had just the right amount of (Perfection fused) leather leftover in my stash. I’m not exactly sure how this leather is made. It looks convincing but it definitely doesn’t compare to genuine lambskin. It is very affordable and easy to sew. The underside is fabric and the outer is leather. I find it doesn’t press/glue quite as neatly as the real stuff, but it is lightweight, quite fluid, and without flaws, which makes sewing with it very economical.

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I used the same basic pattern as my last wrap skirt. It is a very simple modification on a pencil skirt (details here). However, this time I created a facing instead of a waistband and added a strap to wrap around my waist and tie secure at a silver ring. I didn’t line this skirt because the fabric backed leather didn’t require it.

This is a fun skirt. I’ll enjoy wearing it before the weather gets too cold. And later, I might have a go at layering it with jeans or skinny pants.

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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

 

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.

 
 

 
 



Butterick 6900: A leather blocked, drop shoulder coat

I’d like to share with you a pretty typical conversation that ensues each time I break out something new that I’ve made for myself.

Me: What do you think of my new coat? (pre-empting some inevitable design confusion) It’s a drop shoulder design. It’s supposed to be unfitted. 

Husband: It’s interesting. I like it. (moving closer to inspect my stitching and style lines better) It’s really good. But it’s a bit big for you. Look at the shoulders.

Me: It’s the design. That’s why they’re called drop shoulders.

Husband: It’s a bit big at the back too. It looks a bit masculine.

Me: Yeeeeeesss (my speech slows and perhaps my eyes begin to roll a little). It’s the design. It’s a boxy, oversize, drop shoulder style of coat.

Husband: You know, it would look great if you cinched in the waist with a really wide belt.

Me: Yes. It. Would.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve already seen the original coat that caught my eye and that ended up becoming my design inspiration. I also shared a few sketches of my own coat in the early planning stages. I’m pretty useless at drawing, but Fashionary is a great way for me to get my ideas down on paper, so that I can solidify a design in my head, and then have something to refer back to when I’m playing around with the actual pattern pieces. 

For this coat, I started with Butterick 6900, but I made a lot of modifications:

  • Lengthened the shoulder seams and dropped the armscye to achieve the oversized, drop shoulder look, rather than a coat that just looks too big (Husband you know nothing!)
  • Sharpened the collar to a point
  • drafted a lining to include the existing facing pieces
  • shortened View B by 4″
  • changed the position of the welt pockets and slimmed them down
  • lengthened the sleeves
  • added a front and back yoke to accommodate and suit the size of leather I had to work with
  • added shaped panels to the sleeves in contrast wool and lambskin
  • top-stitched some contrast lambskin and cowhide to the bottom of the coat 
 

 
 
 

The cowhide I used, as you know, was upcycled from my leather skirt. The grey fabric is a beautiful, medium/heavyweight, double faced wool. One side is grey and the other is a pretty plaid. Both sides are invisibly stitched together very securely. The edge of the swatch in my photo is separated because I actively removed the stitches to pull both fabrics apart.


Even though I didn’t make the most of both sides of this great fabric, I still found it useful in reducing the bulk in my coat. I only used one layer of the wool fabric for the collar underside since the leather was so bulky. I also carefully separated and cut away the grey seam allowance when preparing the facing to attach to the bulky leather at the front of the coat.

I preferred the plain grey for the outer of this particular coat and I only used the plaid for the front facing, but if I had a limitless budget, I would definitely buy more of this great double faced wool and make it up quite simply and unmodified in and unlined coat like Vogue 8930.

In terms of construction, I underlined both the front and back leather yokes with hair canvas.
The lining I used for my coat was a sleek Ralph Lauren polka dot silk CDC. I also used a bit of blue lambskin for the contrast panels and pocket welts.

I am so pleased with how this coat turned out. It isn’t perfect. I had a lot of trouble top-stitching through the thickness of the cowhide in many places. However, with a little handstitching and compromise, I don’t think that this is too noticeable. I also haven’t decided on front closures. I quite like the clean, no-closure look. I could have used magnets, but the coat keeps closed well enough on it’s own because of it’s roomy nature. I’m also considering buttonholes, via an embroidery house or by hand. I love my Pfaff, but I think coat buttonholes need a bit of extra special treatment to look professional. I’ve also thought about leather buckle/toggles, but I’m quite happy with the coat as it is right now.