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.

 

A Twirl to Me dress for Miss Eight

I made this little dress way back in April for my daughter’s birthday. She specifically requested it. We’d just been through the seasonal wardrobe shuffle which meant that a lot of her dresses were passed onto her younger sister, including this favourite that I made for her last year.

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The pattern is the Twirl to Me dress, in the maxi length. The fabric is vintage, found at an estate sale for less than a few dollars. It is a beautiful cotton sateen, but quite an old fashioned print. I was surprised that Coco picked this from my stash, but it ended up suiting the dress very nicely.

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I know she’ll get a lot of twirls out of this little party dress. It’s obviously not quite as practical as a simple T and shorts, or the tunic dresses I make for her day to day wear, but it is a dress that makes her feel special when she wears it. And everybody needs something like that in their closet.

 

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

 

 

A little dress refashioned

What do you do when a pretty little dress gets ripped to shreds? Well, shreds might be a slight exaggeration, and to be completely fair, it probably wasn’t entirely the fault of the child. The dress was getting a bit too snug across the chest, which was probably causing undue stress on the fabric. This child is a champion grower. She’s going to be taller than me.

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She is also, by far, my roughest customer. I can’t tell you how many knees and bums and legs she’s worn through in this past Winter. I’m at the point where I won’t make anything below the waist for her anymore. It’s more sensible to buy cheap RTW leggings and trackie pants during the sales. In the past few weeks, I’ve been converting some of the salvageable ones to shorts for Summer (like the cute pink pair below). Even Miss Three doesn’t cause as much damage as her to clothes as this one does.

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This dress refashion was very simple. I cut off the yoke as high up as I could and simply attached a waistband. The waistband is a scrap of lycra from my recent swimsuit. I gathered the (circle-shaped) skirt to fit the waistband and threaded some elastic through it for a little extra security. The blue was the perfect match for the skirt.

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She looks like such a little lady here!

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The length of this skirt is so grown up. I like the look of it on Miss Five even though I know the length is going to be subjected to all kinds of horrors. No doubt I’ll end up cutting off a torn inch here and a torn inch there, like I do with all her other dresses, until it ends up as a mini. The only thing that seems to withstand this child is silk CDC and quilting cotton.

However, I don’t think sensibility should always get in the way of fashion, especially not with little girls who like length and swish. It’s become an instant hit, which is a relief. I wasn’t quite sure how she would take the idea of me refashioning one of her favourite dresses.

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The Wonderland Skirt: optional steps to fully line the yoke and skirt

This is a little bit of a follow on post. I introduced you to my new pattern a few days ago. Now I want to share my favourite version of those that I made. I also want to share some steps to fully or partially line the skirt.

But firstly, I don’t know about you, but I’m a firm believer that stripes pretty much make everything awesome. And this skirt is a combination of stripes and linen, two of my favourite things right now. You can check out the Wonderland Skirt pattern here:

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I had a very close call during the making of this skirt. I forgot to allow for the fact that white linen can be a little on the sheer side (especially in a closely fitted skirt yoke!), and that I should have lined the yoke from the get go. As it turned out, I had to unpick my waistband to fix this little oversight, but attaching the lining was actually very quick and simple to do and could be done so completely by machine.

Steps to line the yoke:

1) Re cut the front and back yoke pieces in lining fabric (I used silk habutai because it’s beautifully light and slippery)

2) Stitch darts in the back pieces of the lining

3) Stitch the front and back yoke lining together at sides, right sides together (just as you did with the fashion fabric).

4) With right sides facing, and the raw edges *almost* lined up along the centre back seam and zipper, pin back yoke lining to the back yoke on each side of the centre back seam. I like to pin the lining about half a cm from the raw edge to ensure that my lining is not too tight for the skirt (just in case I wasn’t very precise in cutting my slippery lining) – too tight lining will result in pulls and bubbles visible on the outer fabric, but if the lining is ever so slightly larger, nobody can tell from the outside.

5) Stitch from the top of the yoke to the end of the zipper on both sides of the back yoke centre back edge. You might have to undo the zipper to do this more easily.

6) When you reach the bottom of the zipper, pull the lining apart from the back yoke and pin it right sides together with raw edges matching (lining only). Stitch to the bottom of the yoke lining, being careful to keep the seam allowance the same as when you were stitching alongside the zipper (half a cm shorter because we didn’t line up the raw edges perfectly).

7) Turn lining and skirt out to the right side, so that wrong sides are now facing. The lining is attached only at the centre back zipper. Pin the lining to the top and bottom raw edges of the skirt and baste these edges together with long machine stitches.

8) Double check that the outside yoke is sitting flat and smooth (adjust the basting stitches on the top or bottom if needed).

9) And now you are ready to stitch on the waistband and skirt as per the steps in the instructions.

10) If you want to line the skirt too, sandwich the bottom raw edge of the lined yoke between the gathered skirt and skirt lining, right sides together, and raw edges lined up. Stitch. When you turn it to the right side, the inside of the skirt will look as beautiful as the outside.

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Simplicity 5047: Anna Sui herringbone chambray man-shirt

I’d originally intended to sew this shirt up as an Archer. I even purchased the pattern (the PDF version because that’s all there was TWO weeks ago). The problem is that we don’t have a printer at home. Like a land-line phone, it’s one of those things we haven’t really felt an urgency to purchase since setting up from scratch over here.

Hubby was going to get it printed for me, but then he balked at the 60 pages and promptly left for a week long business trip. Honestly, it wasn’t me! I had my gloriously soft Anna Sui chambray on standby and it was giving me the eye so I was forced to come up with some alternate arrangements.


Introducing Simplicity 5047, a vintage men’s shirt pattern that I picked up for a 25c steal at a recent garage sale. The pattern is for a 36″ chest. My bust measurement is 35″, but without much bust to speak of. I also have quite broad shoulders, so my logic told me that perhaps a small men’s shirt pattern would be more likely to fit, where other’s have failed before.

Anna Sui button up and my leather circle skirt

I was right! I am so happy with the fit. The shoulders are wide enough. No broad back adjustment was necessary. I wasn’t aiming for a slim fit, but I didn’t want it to be too boxy or roomy through the torso either. It feels just right. I didn’t have to add fish eye darts in the back like I thought I would. The arm length works, but next time I will lengthen them a smidgen. I figured the arms would be longer than usual to cater for long, man arms. As it turns out, my alien arms are a little longer than that of mankind. The only change I made to the pattern was to flick one side of the cuff placket around so that I could have French cuffs instead of regular.



 



 
I like the look of chambray paired with my leather circle skirt. But when I was looking at the photos, I realised for the first time that a little peep had been drawing on my leg. Leg is clearly a far more creative medium than paper. I like that she matched my skirt though.
 
  

The best thing about this pattern is the collar. In fact, if I’m perfectly honest, it was the collar that swayed me more towards getting started on the vintage pattern instead of waiting for my Archer. But unfortunately it is another one of those all in one collar band and collars. It works well enough, but I just feel that it isn’t the proper way of doing things.The neck width feels great though. I love it done up to the top button. But it also works well undone and paired with my favourite maxi skirt.

I love the fit of this shirt, but there are a few construction details that I will change next time I sew this pattern. There is no proper front button placket. It’s more of a self-facing that is folded inwards, but not stitched down. Next time I will add a proper front placket as well as a collar band for a more professional finish. I will also shave a bit off the sleeve cap. There was a ridiculous amount of unnecessary ease in those sleeve caps.

It’s so nice to sew a shirt that fits well right off the bat. I’ve always had trouble finding RTW shirts that fit, due to my long arms and broad shoulders (comparatively speaking to other females). Perhaps I should have been looking in the menswear section instead!

 




Did somebody say Scraptember?

I’ve said it before, my girls aren’t fussy. That’s probably a little bit of a lie. They refuse to wear jeans or long pants, but I think we’ve finally progressed beyond the ‘everything needs to be pink and sparkly’ phase. Queue me jumping for joy!

Like most other seamstresses out there, I’m forever collecting fabric scraps. I don’t actually ever put any fabric in the bin. Useable pieces go in my scrap basket and the rest gets lumped in a pile on the armchair where it quickly discovered by small hands and turned into all kinds of pretend food, dresses for toys, train tracks, bows, blankets, and decorations. There is a downside to this imaginary play though…my sewing mess is distributed throughout the entire house!

I often dig into my scraps to find a little bit of cotton to line bodices and skirts for my little peeps. My girls are still quite small so scraps go a long way. I usually try to colour coordinate and match the scraps when I sew, but sometimes I just go on a bit of a scrap-busting binge and wind up with all kinds of eclectic makes. Quite often, it’s the most miss-matched pieces that get the most love from my girls.

Here’s a little round up of my recent scrappy makes.
 
1. First up is a pair of Go To tights for Miss Six. The little skirt overlay is the perfect compromise. I modified the hem length and shape on my version. She thinks she is wearing a skirt. I think she is wearing practical pants. You’ve seen my Ikat jersey before, here, here, and here.
 

 2. Miss Two wanted what Miss Six had, so I made her a smaller version to the same specifications. Hers is the ultimate scrapbust. It’s hard to see in the photos, but I’ve used wool jersey for the front of the tights (here), white solid knit for the back (here), and of course, that infamous Ikat for the skirt.

 

 3. My girls virtually fell over in awe when I walked out in my last Two-Piece Set-Acular. It was the maxi skirt they couldn’t keep their eyes off. So I put my nice mother hat on and made them all a maxi skirt. I took more care making the matching version for Miss Six. It isn’t dangerously long so she can wear hers to school.

 
But it is still most fabulous for swishing and twirling.


4. Miss Four’s skirt was made using the most beautiful pink textured poly remnant from Tessuti Fabrics. Miss Six chose it for her birthday more than 18 months ago but I couldn’t quite bear to cut it up. She didn’t care though. Miss Six isn’t really into pink. Miss Four is though. She’s paired it with her big sister’s Badminton top


Miss Two’s skirt is pure scrap and an ugly little thing, but she doesn’t care. It trails on the floor and swishes which is all she cares about. I purchased the cotton voile on sale a while ago. I’ve since discovered that it’s probably a poly blend, having seen how much and how quickly it has pilled in the other little clothes I’ve made using it (here and here). I didn’t want to waste it, but I wanted to be rid of it. The ruffles are left over from my kimono. I must have pieced together a dozen little lengths to make that ruffle.

Here’s a bit of insight into what goes on behind the camera. The photo shoot basically consisted of Miss Four doing her poses while Miss Two inched closer and closer, before finally pouncing. The smiling assassin.

Last stop on the Two-Piece Set-Acular

And here it is, my last stop on the Two-Piece Set-Acular train.
 


It’s not that I don’t want to make any more, but I just don’t need any more two pieces. I’ve made a few this season already.

But what’s one more between friends?

 

This glorious maxi skirt was only intended as a separate. My plan was to wear it tran-seasonally, paired with my oversized wool jersey top and possibly some tights underneath.

The skirt is a simple, self-drafted number. It’s hard to make a mistake with something so simple, but I did forget to put in pockets. Side pockets would have made this skirt perfect. Of course, being floor length, my girls swooned at the sight of it. Miss Four put in her order for an identical copy. I had just enough left over to do this.

The little mischief is wearing her hand-me-down Liberty playsuit in these photos. She was perfectly mirroring all my poses behind the tripod so I said she could jump in and join me for the last few. Her one goal in life right now is to be inside the TV.

 

The top is a design you’ve seen before. It’s made up to the same pattern as my white version (here). I just skipped the peplum. I really love this little top. It’s so cool and comfortable, and just the right cropped length for me to feel comfortably covered. I can see myself wearing it a lot with jeans.

Tormented by jersey

So, this dress actually worked out pretty well in the end, but those who follow me on Instagram will understand the torment that I’m talking about. Let’s start with the fabric. It is the most beautiful, vibrant printed jersey from Mood. But it is also very heavy, something I really should have taken into account when planning this make. I’m still very much in love with the fabric, but I just think I chose the wrong style of dress for it’s weight.

 

I started out with intentions of making a near identical replica of my tie dye dress, but with long sleeves for the Fall. Those who see me everyday are probably sick of the sight of my tie dye dress, but it is seriously so comfortable and swishy that I am helpless to resist it’s sherbetty goodness each time I open my wardrobe. It’s made from a similar feeling jersey, but much lighter in weight.

So I began making my new dress by cutting the sleeves, but straight ones suddenly felt too boring. I decided to play around with a flared, graduated elbow length shape instead. But when I attached them, they looked a bit hippy for me. So I cut those ones off and shortened them to what you see now, but not before experimenting with a bit of silk chiffon blocking. This actually looked great, but my silk scraps were too small and my arms would have needed amputation if I wore them for more than an hour. Truth be told, I think I was just having a finicky, impossible-to-please-me kind of day.

 

So, in the end, I settled on the short sleeves and finally decided to attach the floor length gathered skirt. It was pretty, but it was boring…to me anyway…why am I so fickle! I was looking at a very lovely bowl of creamy ice cream, but I was craving some kind of Heston Blumenthal frozen foam, which seriously wasn’t going to happen with a piece of jersey. In any case, I didn’t have to struggle too hard on my decision to unpick the skirt, because the  fabric was too heavy for the bodice anyway. 

So off came the gathered skirt and out came Alice (my dressmakers dummy). I draped that skirt within an inch of it’s life, until I had the assymetrical look you see now. I still think that there’s a bit too much weight on one side of the skirt so I may shorten it a little more, and hack at the innards a bit. But it is wearable, and I really love the asymmetrical drape that I ended up with. I’d also really love to know how I did it in the end…

Tie dye jersey maxi dress: AKA the pyjama dress

Okay, so this isn’t strictly sleepwear, and I’d be lying if I said it was the most comfortable dress I owned. But it is seriously the second most comfortable dress I own. This is my most comfortable dress. But this tie dye maxi, I could actually sleep in it if I wanted to. It is made from the softest rayon jersey from MOOD. It is lightweight and beautifully drapey, but not at all see-through. It cost under $4 per yard, so I purchased several!

The design is a hack of my self-drafted Jaywalk dress. I just cropped the bodice to waist level and added a gathered skirt. I used clear elastic as a stay for the waist. This is a great trick for pulling the waist in on a fitted knit dress.


I’ve been getting A LOT of wear out of this dress. To be perfectly honest, I expected to get sick of tripping up stairs and end up chopping off the length with five wears. But it is such a light and comfortable dress to wear that I am even enjoying the length. And the colour is just delicious. It’s called sherbert. I want to eat it!

So this time round, it was Miss Two who scored on the scraps front. She was pretty excited about this dress because it is nearly identical to mine. We inevitably end up leaving the house in matching clothes now, because whenever I wear mine, she changes into hers. She is super cute though. Believe it or not, that happy smile hides a hideous gastro-bug that hit her like a truck only a few hours later. The smiles before the storm…