BHL Alix dress revisited

At the end of last year, I was a pattern tester for the Alix dress. You might remember my long sleeved version of this dress.

The original version of this Alix dress had beautiful long sleeves. A silk dress with long sleeves is dreamy, but ocassions to wear it are few and far between. It’s not warm enough for Spring, and yet, by Summer, I really don’t want to wear long sleeves of any description. The natural solution was to chop off those sleeves.

The Alix dress works beautifully as a sleeveless dress. There is just one thing you need to know about doing it. The armscye in the original pattern is designed to be close fitting, because it’s a pattern for a woven, sleeved dress. It needs to higher in a sleeved dress to achieve a fitted look and allow for good arm movement in a woven fabric. However, a high armscye is unnecessary and uncomfortable in a sleeveless dress. Some of the lower armscye needs to be scooped out (lowered) in order to suit a sleeveless design. I shaved about 1/2 inch off the bottom of my armsye. I could have probably taken off a little more.

I simply bound the armscye in two parts. I dealt with the lower armscye first and then re-stitched that to the yoke. Finally, I applied bias binding to the part of the yoke that was left raw. It all folds under and is nicely hidden. I should also mention that as this was a test version of the Alix dress, the bust darts are a little pointy but if gathered (as per the updated pattern), the bust area would look smoother and awesome.

I’ve been dreaming of this version of the Alix dress since I first sewed my tester version. I’m glad I have it in my closet now. I can definitely see myself making more.

 

 

Statement sleeves in blush silk

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This has been my party shirt for the holiday season. I’ve mostly been wearing it with leather trousers, rather than these wool pants. There’s something so lovely and contradictory about pairing leather with silk charmeuse.

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The pattern I used was Vogue 7604. The only changes I made were to lengthen the sleeves and body a little. I made my standard broad back adjustment. I also shortened the neck ties by about 6 inches on each side, because I simply didn’t have enough fabric. That bias cut collar and tie is a serious fabric hog!

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There is a small amount of stretch in my silk (technically it’s called stretch silk charmeuse), which makes it very comfortable to wear. In real life, I’ve been wearing a thin, long sleeve, merino top underneath it, which makes it the warmest and most comfortable party wear ever!

The collar can be worn a few ways. I like it tied at the back best, but it can also be tied at the front, or wrapped around once with a shorter tie at the back. And suprisingly, those sleeves did not get dipped into any gravy. I did have to watch out for the pussy bow though!

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Vogue 8952 – View B in a linen knit

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I don’t like sewing staples very much. However, I had a bit of linen jersey in my stash and thought it might make a nice top for Fall.

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I used Vogue 8952, and made View B in a size 12.

I made a few very small changes to the pattern:

  • I narrowed the waist/hip flare.
  • I *think* I shortened it a little too. I wanted a simple, long sleeved top rather than a flared (borderline) tunic.
  • I lengthened the sleeves by an inch.
  • I also attached the funnel neck a little differently. I doubled it over, rather than leaving it as a single hemmed piece. I didn’t want quite so much drape around my neck.

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I don’t mind the way this top turned out. It’s not perfect, but it is perfectly wearable. The neckline is more stretched out in my top than what you’d normally see (even though I did stabilise it). I should have adjusted for my broad shoulders/back (as I would normally do if I were sewing a woven fabric). The neck seam should probably sit a little further in towards my neck on each side. However, I knew that the type of knit I was using, and the wide nature of the neckline would be very forgiving to broad shoulders. And it is comfortable to wear so I can deal with it.

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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.

Vintage Vogue 2915 // Orange is the new black

I am totally obsessed with orange right now. Instead of filtering by fabric type in my online shopping, I’ve been filtering by colour.

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The fabric I used for this trench is an Italian stretch wool suiting that goes by the colour, “pumpkin”. It couldn’t be more appropriate for Fall. Originally, I had my mind set on sewing a trench coat in a heavy silk satin, but economics had me looking at poly satin instead (which I just couldn’t find the love for, or perhaps it wasn’t the perfect shade of orange). In the end, I was sensible and landed on some wool fabric and I’m very glad I did. Anything other than wool just wouldn’t get any wear here in the Midwest.

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The fabric is a beautifully, weighted wool twill, with a significant amount of stretch in both directions. It’s not a knit, but its lycra content meant that I had to treat it like knit. Stabilising the shoulder seams and neckline was essential. I toyed with lining this coat (as per the original pattern), but I really wanted something casual, that I could throw on and go. And lining deinitely wasn’t necessary with this fabric. The wool is perfectly opaque and the underside is as respectable as the right side. In fact, the wrong side is smoother, which makes it suitable for resting against the skin. Lastly, I pretreated the fabric in the machine and dryer before sewing, so I can wash and dry it easily at home.

I used vintage Vogue 2915 with a few small modifications. I sewed a size 12 but adjusted the shoulder seams for a broader back. In retrospect, I possibly could have gotten away without this fit adjustment because of the fabric’s generous stretch. And in fact, a tighter fit through the shoulders (in a stretchy fabric like this) would have resulted in a more consistently nice shape in the sleeve cap when worn because the sleeve cap would stretch over the shoulders. In some of my photos (above and below), the sleeve seam has slipped off my shoulder and the sleeve cap doesn’t look great (because there is no sleeve head to support it). But in the two photos below that, the shoulder seams sit in the correct postion and the sleeve looks perfect. I guess this is also the thing with an unstructured, cardigan-style coat. Technically, the fit is good though, and at least I know that this pattern will fit me well when I’m ready to use it again and make it up in a stable woven.

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Other changes I made to the pattern:

  • I lengthened the sleeves by 1 inch.
  • I ditched the collar and front yoke flaps as I felt they wouldn’t suit the casual drape of the front.
  • The front coat pieces have been made wider at the centre front (by about 4-5 inches), to create the front drape.
  • I skipped all front fastenings and the belt. The original pattern was double breasted.
  • I ditched the lining.
  • I drafted a wide facing for the neckline. I used a pretty silk CDC for this. Since I knew the facing would be visible at times, I turned it into a feature point. I used the same silk to line the pockets, sleeve bands, and epaulets.

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This was one of those makes that just seemed to grow more involved as I got into it. I set out to whip together a quick trench coat without all the detailing. But once I got started, anything less than a bound buttonhole (amongst other things) just seemed unacceptable. And whilst on the topic of unacceptable, I can’t, for the life of me, remember if I pressed that hem or not… I think Netflix turned my brain to smush while I was blind-stitching it…so it’s back to the ironing board with this trench before I wear it!

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BHL Alix dress – pattern tested

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I recently did a bit of pattern testing for By Hand London. You might have seen a few sneak peeks of their new design on Instagram. I’m happy to say that it is finally available.

The Alix dress is a very flattering, easy-to-wear, slipover dress, with the perfect smidgen of 70’s vibe. I made mine up in a very cool striped and spotted silk crepe de chine.

The particular version you see here was made up according to the test instructions, so there has been at least one small modification to the final version. My dress has under bust pleats which can be a bit pointy. I think the final version gives the option of gathers which will produce a much smoother result.

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I should also list the other small fit modifications I made. Like many people, I’m not a standard size, so I graded from a US 8 (bust) to a US 6 (waist and hips). I lengthened the sleeves by 1 inch (long arms). I also found the underarms a bit tight initially, so I let out the underarm seams out by about 1/2 inch in total post construction. This is not a reflection on the design, just simply a post-construction fit for my broad shoulders. I would normally slash and spread either the CB or shoulder seams (design dependent) by about 5/8 inch in total to adjust for my broad back/shoulders. A US 8 (35 inch bust) is the perfect bust/chest fit for me but my shoulders expand above my bust so I need to accomodate for this increase in back width without adding volume to the chest area.

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My only other change was to shorten the maxi length version by 4-6 inches, shaping the hem in a slight hi-low fashion. I basically just made myself a midi. Cutting lines for all the dress lengths are included on the maxi length version so it is very easy to cut whatever length you desire.

I love my new dress and I’ll be holding on to this pattern for future versions too. It would make a lovely Winter dress in a lightweight wool. But actually, my brain is already working overtime, thinking how I might possibly be able to modify this pattern to make a sleeveless version next Spring.

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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.

 

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!

What to do with a destroyed silk shirt…

Aghhhh, I’m so rough on clothes. I wear all my good clothes. There’s no such thing as “too special to wear” in my closet. Once there was, but now there’s not. If I spend the time and energy to make something nice, I’m definitely going to be out there wearing it!

I wear all kinds of fibres, but in Summer, I’m particularly fond of linen and silk crepe de chine. Both of these are pretty hard-wearing. I machine wash and dry most of my clothes (because that is what one does in our neighbourhood). I try to avoid the dryer with my silks but reality means they always end up in there at some point. I’ve completely given up line-drying my kid’s silk garments and the three pairs of silk PJ pants that I own and wear day in, day out (here and here). Silk can be as tough as nails.

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So I got complacent. Well, I actually just wore my favourite shirt ALL THE TIME. What did I expect? A cotton shirt isn’t immune to the terror of the underarm deodorant stain, so why did I think my wonderful silk shirt would survive such daily wear? It was good while it lasted.

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As you can see below, the discolouration under the arms is beyond horrible. I hated the idea of throwing away all the good work I put into those plackets, and cuffs, and collar… so I decided to cut it away as much as I could (about 0.5 inches below the bottom armscye seam to be precise). I didn’t dare cut away anymore because I knew doing so would bring the armscye down too low. I cut away a bit more at the top shoulder seam so the sleeveless top would have a nice shape. My plan was to wear a nice, sporty bandeau style bra underneath and treat the low armscye as a design feature.

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I salvaged the bias binding from the undamaged portions of the sleeves. There’s still a tiny bit of stain at the bottom of the armscye but most of it was concealed with the binding. Otherwise, any remaining stain is mostly hidden by the natural position of my arm.

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It turned out that the low armscye wasn’t as bad as I expected. The most bra that could be seen in any of my photos was in this one. I can deal with this. Long live my revived silk Archer!

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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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