Little gathered top: Part 1

I’ve been playing around with a little top design for my girls. I wanted something that would look cute with shorts and skirts, but wasn’t your typical cotton t-shirt. I also had some lovely little scraps of linen and cotton that I wanted to make use of.

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My first version of this top was for Miss Seven. I used some lovely soft linen. I forgot to include an allowance at the CB for a button placket in my original plans, so I had to make do with a hand-worked loop and button. It works, and I really love the look of the little loops and buttons, but they aren’t quite as sturdy as a placket. This top has to hold up to some serious physical activity.

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I’m very pleased with the fit and I love the shape of the little ruffle sleeves. I also like the high jewel neck. I wasn’t completely sure that Miss Seven would like the neckline but she seems very comfortable in this top and I know it’s getting a lot of wear because I find myself ironing it every other day. I HATE ironing (except when in the process of sewing!), but I make the odd exception with certain items of clothes that really need it. This is unfortunately one of them.

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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.

Miss Seven’s birthday dress and her all time favourite makes

With the exception of the odd t-shirt, and winter coat, I sew pretty much everything else my daughters wear these days. Thankfully, they are all still at the point where they are delighted with anything and everything that Mummy makes, but there are always clear favourites that get worn day after day, literally until they are fraying at the seams. I always find it interesting to see what emerges as the winner, and why.

The big winners over the past six months (based on frequency of wear) are (working clockwise from the top left): her Twirl to Me dress (I can’t help but feel a little chuffed with this choice),  her recent yellow cartwheel shorts (these surprised me!), the Oliver + S Hide and Seek dress (that retained it’s winning status even when I had to convert it into a skirt), a simple self-drafted cotton maxi skirt, an Oliver + S Ice Cream dress, her Rosie Assoulin knock off, a Go To mini Jaywalker maxi, and finally, that Oliver + S Hide and Seek dress as a skirt and Daddy’s old Ralph Lauren sweater refashioned. My personal favourite is the Rosie Assoulin bow dress. I can’t help but watch her all day when she wears that.

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So what got me thinking about her favourite makes? This Ice Cream dress by Oliver + S. I made Miss Seven a new version for her recent birthday. Her earlier version really needs to be retired, and that’s saying something, because quilting cotton is hard-wearing. The dress is such a practical and comfortable design for kids. It covers the shoulders and yet doesn’t restrict play. It’s also a super easy sew and has become her go-to school uniform.

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I used some beautiful charcoal linen and a little remnant of a floral linen/silk blend that I was lucky enough to find on the remnant table at Tessuti Fabrics many, many moons ago. I miss my weekly remnant shopping excursions. I had quite the stash of Tessuti remnants when I arrived in Kansas a year ago, but they are starting to dwindle now.

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White linen pinafore and Vogue 1347: DIY (a sort of tutorial)

So I stumbled across this amazingly simple, yet stunning white top on The Man Repeller the other week. I couldn’t get it out of my head, so I decided to make it! I made the linen pants too, Chado Ralph Rucci V1347, modified for use as pyjamas, post photo shoot. But I’m not here to talk about them, other than to say they are a fabulous, wide leg, elastic waist pant if that’s what you are after. I’ve made them before. They make the best PJ pants ever, especially in linen. Like my last version, I simply skipped the pockets and the lining, and cropped them A LOT.

I’m also not going to talk much about the fabric, other than to say that I won’t be buying this particular linen again. It’s Kaufman Brussels Washer Linen Blend in white from Fabric.com. It’s ok. Their service was great and the description reasonable. But I have to say that I was still quite disappointed when it landed on my doorstep. It is lighter than I expected and blended with rayon (how did I miss that?). Personally, it isn’t really of a quality I would be happy to use for outerwear, but lining it certainly helps. I should also say that I think I’ve been incredibly spoilt for quality with the linens I’ve used in the past, mostly from Tessuti Fabrics and sometimes from The Fabric Store. Linen is a very tricky fabric to purchase, especially unseen, because of the vast differences between one type and the next. You really do need to see it and feel it in person.

 
 
But let’s get back to this top and talk about how it can be made. My brain doesn’t picture pattern pieces well right off the bat. For new-to-me or unusual designs, I need to drape calico onto my dressmaker’s dummy to better understand the shape of the pieces and for my head to figure out how they will come together. Then I take my rough marked calico to the floor or the cutting mat, to modify and make further adjustments from there.
I began creating this top by draping it. I knew the design was going to be simple, but it was even more basic than I could imagine. So basic, in fact, that I was also able to work backwards on the design, to show you how it can be done even easier. Forget about draping! All you need is a basic T-shirt, woven or stable knit (without darts), to use as a template. Grainline’s Scout Tee also comes to mind as a suitable pattern that you could modify. To give you an idea of fit, you can see me wearing the T-shirt I used here.
I’m going to explain the pattern pieces in this post. I’m pretty sure most of you will be able to put the top together with just this. But if you need more instructions, just let me know. I’m planning another top already so I can photograph it through the construction stages next time if I get enough interest.
The top itself consists of three main pattern pieces: the front bodice, the side drapes, and the straps. You can probably already see how you would put it together.
Front bodice: cut 2 on the fold (one piece is the lining)
Sides: Cut 2
Straps: cut 4
So to work out your measurements, start with a basic T-shirt. Lay it nice and flat with the front facing up. You’ll need some tracing paper and long piece of calico.
Lay the tracing paper on top of the T-shirt. You need to trace around half of the front piece. I forgot to photograph this stage, but you can easily see what I did below. Mark the CF, the neckline, the armscye, and the side seam. Also mark the length, as this can be useful in identifying where you want your new top to sit.
I’ve laid my finished pattern piece on top so you can see how I modified my original lines. How you change yours is entirely up to you. I would recommend doing the following:
  • add a seam allowance to your shoulder seam (see how my pattern piece extends over the top)
  • keep the side seam line where it is (don’t add a seam allowance, you are just using it as a guide
  • lift the underarm seam (bottom of the armscye) by 1-2inches, depending on how your original T-shirt fit. Mine was quite loose to begin with.
  • re-draft the neckline and shoulder seams to fit the shape you want. It doesn’t matter how wide or narrow you want those shoulder seams to be either.

 

You can see how the entire pattern piece looks below before you add a side seam. You can also see where my pieces have been basted together.


Use the side seam you marked from your T-shirt (purple dots) as a guide to measure your new seam from. In my finished top, my side seam was cut parallel and 6″ from the original side seam.

Cutting it straight like this means that your new side seam will hang on a diagonal when you are wearing the top. I don’t mind the angular look of this, but I’d prefer my side seam to hang straight up and down, perpendicular to the ground, so I’ve drawn a new side seam for my next version. It will be about 4″ from the original line and run on a diagonal (marked in black).

It’s not essential that you mark your side seam in exactly the same place as me. The nature of the top is that it drapes and the fit is pretty flexible. But as a guide, if you are bigger than me, you may want to increase the distance to your new side seam a little, and if you are smaller, then perhaps narrow that distance a little. Also keep this in mind for when you draw up the side pieces and straps. FYI my bust measure is 35″ and my waist is 27″. I am 5″10 or 178cm tall.

 
The next step is to decide on how long you want the top. Mine was 22″ in length along the side seam including a 1″ hem. This measurement determines how low the top will sit in the front.
The side pieces simply extend straight out from the front bodice. You could just make this a big rectangle. I sloped my top edge up a little so it finished 2″ higher at the far end. My side pieces are about 34″ in length. How long you make this piece will depend on how long you want it to drape down at the back.
Finally, to draft your shoulder straps, just line them up with your bodice shoulder seams to determine the width. They can be as long or as short as you want them to be.

I made mine about 20″ in length. The seam allowance I used in making this top was 5/8″.

I sewed the bottom of my shoulder straps straight onto the top but you could attach yours with buttons. You could also close the back seam up if you want, by overlapping it, or sewing a seam down the middle. I might try doing this next time to make a dress out of the pattern instead.

A different kind of maxi skirt

So this skirt is the final chapter of my denim on denim story. My denim shirt is blogged about here. The skirt itself, is a very simple, self-drafted number. I used my pencil skirt block (seen here as a neoprene and faux leather mini) and simply shaped the bottom hemline to be high at the front and low at the back. I then gathered a large rectangle of beautiful
Tessuti linen into a skirt. The effect is a drop waist in a skirt. I love the subtle hi-lo hem, and my love of a good drop waist needs no further explanation.

 

Oliver + S denim culottes for Miss Six

It’s not often I’ll race out and buy a pattern as soon as it’s been released. I’ve only ever done it twice, and both times they’ve been Oliver + S patterns. The minute I saw this pattern I knew I had to have it. Do I need to tell you why?

They’re culottes!

I fell in love at first sight with this pattern, but I also knew that I would have a bit of trouble convincing my skirt wearing six year old that she needed a pair for herself. Part of my sales strategy was to show her my denim pair of culottes and to offer to make her the same. She loved the idea. And I loved the idea that I wasn’t going to have to use pink, or sparkles, or big flowers.


I cut a size six in the pattern but I made a few changes: 

  • I like a sleeker look to culottes so I combined the two front pleats into a single centre pleat. This also gave me more room to add my pocket details.
  • The contrast waistband and pocket was attached externally, so I ditched the inseam pockets. The pocket style is very similar to the ones I made for my denim culottes.
  • I lengthened them by 1″ for my taller than average 6.5 yr old

The denim I used for these culottes is quite heavy. It’s probably a lot heavier than was intended for this pattern, but I quite like the volume it gives the pants, and I know they will  be great to layer with wool tights to keep Miss Six warm in sub-zero temperatures. I made sure the back elastic in the waistband was fixed quite tight to keep the pants up.
 
I really like the waistband design of these culottes. It’s the same as the Oliver + S skort pattern, but this time it also includes instructions to interface the front section, which I think is a smart addition to the pattern. The front of the waistband is kept smooth because the elastic is only threaded along the back, stopping at each side seam. It’s a great design feature but it also means that you need to get the waist sizing close to perfect when selecting the size you cut. If you make the culottes too large in the first place, it’s difficult to pull (the half waist-length) elastic tight enough to keep the pants tight on a little waist. Skirts and pants that fall down while they play are a personal pet peeve of my girls. 


The boxy, drop shouldered top is one of mine that I refashioned specifically for Miss Six. It was originally cropped on me so I didn’t have to alter the length at all. I simply unpicked the side seams to remove the bust darts and re-stitched them narrower to suit her. I also added two pleats to bring the neckline in a bit. The sleeves are long on her, but I think they look great rolled up. She’s pretty happy with her new outfit. I think that smile says it all.



Kwik Sew 3883: GANRYU COMME des GARCON vs Charlie Harper

I’m pretty sure you’ve heard me say this before, but I don’t particularly love sewing men’s shirts. I think it’s the degree of perfection required with those collars and cuffs. It could also be because it’s selfless sewing and the kind of sewing that doesn’t really allow me to experiment much. I’m not allowed to deviate much from a standard pattern. Well, in hubby’s case I do. He’s a fan of classic.

So after doing my nice-wifely duty of sewing him a proper business shirt for his birthday (that post will come later), I decided to experiment with a casual ,short sleeve shirt. I was inspired by a GANRYU COMME des GARCON shirt that I saw on Pinterest. My plan was to keep the pleats but colour block the bottom instead of the curved pocket details. I chose some Anna Sui chambray for the top and some white linen for the bottom.

GANRYU COMME des GARCONS 2015 Spring/Summer Collection | Hypebeast

The patten I used was Kwik Sew 3883. I’ve sewn this pattern before (here and here). It’s taken me until now to finally admit that it isn’t a great fit. The shirt is just too wide in the torso, and perhaps a little wide on the shoulders too. The seam allowance of 6mm is also impractical. I usually start out sewing the shirt with the wrong seam allowance. But even when I get it right, 6mm is way to fiddly for nice felled seams.


Overall, I don’t mind how this shirt turned out. I wanted to bring the sides in by about an inch to slim down the fit for hubby, but he opted to forgo my alterations and send it to his Dad (who is a little bigger than him) instead. His initial reasoning was that it was a Summer shirt and we were headed into Winter. But I delved a little deeper and the truth came out. The fact of the matter is that the chambray reminds him of his old school uniform and the colour blocking makes him feel like Charlie Sheen in Two and a Half Men. I guess colour blocked shirts are off the cards for hubby in the future then. What do you think? Have I made a Charlie Harper shirt?


Simplicity 1435 and self-drafted aprons in vintage fabric

I was given a little bundle of vintage fabrics recently, in the hope that I would put them to good use. Coincidentally, my daughter’s preschool teacher asked me that very same day if I would mind sewing a few aprons for their school. I don’t bake cakes, but I do sew, so it was a big yes from me.

Now, I’ll admit that none of the fabrics were of a style or fibre that I would normally buy. But those little aprons turned out great. I winged the design by sewing together a couple of squares and adding gathers here and there. I varied the sizing randomly to allow for all the different sized peeps in Miss Four’s class. There were four aprons made in total, in vintage floral, tiger stripes, poly plaid, and some white linen scraps from my own stash. The tiger stripes were everyone’s favourite.

Miss Two claims to like every fabric that I touch, including the floral jersey in the bundle. It’s a very old style polyester with a slightly shiny surface so I’m not entirely sure how it will wash and wear, or breathe for that matter. Bearing this in mind, I kept her dress pretty simple. I used the same little dress pattern as here. It’s perfect. She’s perfect. In fact, she’s so edible (even when she’s grumpy), that I’m surprised she’s nearly made it to her third birthday.

Most important criteria met. It twirls.

Still grumpy though.

Simplicity 4192: AKA my happy pants


I took a bit of a gamble the other week and ordered some cotton voile online from Hawthorne Threads. I’ve never ordered from them before and I was half expecting to open up my parcel of beautiful prints, only to be disappointed with the quality of cotton they’d been printed on. This is by no means a slight against Hawthorne Threads. It’s just me recognising the fact that shopping online for fabrics can be risky if you aren’t familiar with the vendors.

Well, I can’t even begin to describe how delighted I was when I opened up my little parcel of pretty. The quilting weight cottons were as exactly as expected, but with a nice feel to them. The Art Gallery voile blew me away. It is the most beautifully light and silky cotton, not too dissimilar in feel to a tana lawn. This little bundle has certainly warmed me to Art Gallery Fabrics.

I made these pants to wear with my white linen, cross back tunic. I figured my wardrobe was in need of a little colour. I purchased the pattern before I found the fabric. It was Miss Oona of the one and only Palooza that pointed me in the direction of Simplicity 4192.  I saw her pretty voile version and quite simply had to have them for myself. I’m still hunting for some matching Kalkatronian bling, but in the meantime, just look at all that lovely overlapping leg fabric. I love the way they flare in the wind and when I walk.
 
 
 
 

 

Simplicity 4192 is one of those rare patterns that you really can’t go wrong with. The style is a wrap pant, so the fit is pretty much guaranteed to be perfect. They tie at the front and the back and are very simple to sew. They suit pretty much any lightweight woven fabric. I used a cotton voile, but I could see them working well in a silk CDC too.  


I sewed a straight size 12 and made no modifications to the pattern at all. The pattern suggests they are designed as full length pants to be worn 1″ below the waist. That would be your natural waist they are talking about, so for most people, the pants would rise to just about belly button level or slightly above. I was after a slightly cropped length with a moderate rise so being tall of both body (and crotch) the pants worked out perfectly for me. A shorter lass may have ended up with the waist around her armpits.

In any case, I love my new pants and I will definitely be classifying this pattern as a keeper.











  

Vogue 8805: linen and lace

I’m not quite sure where this dress came from. I actually pulled out the remnants of white linen and cotton lace (both from Tessuti) to make a dress for one of my daughters. Well, that obviously didn’t happen!

I love linen. I love the crinkles and the way it shimmies and ripples as it moves. It is the coolest, most comfortable fabric in summer. Usually, I can’t get enough of it, but the year before last I overdosed. I do that sometimes. I have a sneaky feeling that I am about to overdose on white this summer…

I’ve used this pattern several times already (here , here and here). This time I played around with the sleeves a little. I also widened the neckline, ditched the back closure, lengthened the middle panel and curved the hem a little. It’s a simple, yet comfortable and cool summer dress. I love it. Miss Four says I look like an angel in it. I can live with that!