Black overalls for Fall

I may have jumped the gun a little with this make, but I know I will get a LOT of wear out of these overalls in a few months time when the weather eventually cools. My plan is to wear them with crisp, collared shirts, and my plethora of off-the-shoulder tops. But in the meantime, there might be the odd occasion that I could wear them sans layers.

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I didn’t follow a complete pattern for this make. I slightly narrowed the pants from this playsuit, and then just modified this fitted bodice to a new shape. Having already sewn a few playsuits, I had a good idea of the bodice length I needed (which is one of the most important aspects of a playsuit in my opinion. Nobody wants a saggy butt, or to be cut in half!).

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The fabric I used is a very thick, crisp, cotton twill by Theory. It has a little bit of stretch like a cotton sateen and the good side has a soft, washed silk appearance and feel to it which makes the black appear more charcoal in colour. It’s a wonderful fabric that will be lovely and warm for Winter, but way too heavy for any other time of the year. I’ve purchased Theory branded fabric from Mood on several occasions now and the quality of this particular brand has always been exceptional.

Part of the reason why I got started on these overalls was because I stumbled across a buckle kit for sale at Hancocks before they closed down. I didn’t use the no-sew buttons though. I had a couple of deep shank metal buttons in my stash that I liked so much better.

At this point, I’ve only basted the hem in place. I just can’t decide how long or short I want the pants! I’m very tempted to crop them a little bit more for Fall, but with a deep hem that I can lengthen again in the future.

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Swimsuit fabric round up

If you follow  me on Instagram or Snapchat, you’d know that I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time at the pool this Summer. And trust me, as an ex-swimmer, I do not use the word “inordinate” lightly.

I never intended for my girls to love swimming. I just wanted them to be able to swim. But perhaps my standard for what constitutes proper swimming is slightly higher than the average Joe. And it’s also possible that my passion for the sport has rubbed off a little despite my best intentions. In any case, Miss Eight is obsessed. It’s also been stinking hot in Kansas City, so in addition to the practice and the meets, we’re at one of the local pools most evenings for a dip after dinner. Our bathers are getting a serious workout.

Finding the best swimsuit fabrics has been a big learning experience for me and not one that can be evaluated overnight. Feeling the fabrics and sewing with them is one thing, but it’s not until you immerse them in chlorine, salt, UV light, and sweat twice daily that you really get a good idea of what works the best. In order of preference (the top three tie), here are my honest evaluations.

Tessuti Fabrics:

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Tessuti Fabrics (floral)

Oh, you all know that I have a fondness for Tessuti Fabrics, but it’s not without good reason. I don’t think they’re really known for their swimsuit fabrics, but they do seem to get in a few nice prints each year. I’m pretty sure the owner hand picks their fabrics personally on their annual buying trips, but I’m not really sure where their swimsuit fabrics come from. I’ve used at least five different swimsuit fabrics of theirs (paisley, red cherries, green cherries, floral, rainbow scales) and they’ve outlasted all of the other swimsuit fabrics so far.

I should also note that leotards in our house are not just used for gymnastics. They’re rotated in as swimwear for play (not practice) because they offer a better cover up from the sun (and sometimes we can’t be bothered to get changed!). Yes, the prints have faded, but that happens with all swimsuit fabric exposed to chlorine and UV light. Yes, their fabrics may be a little more pricey than other places (but they’re a great bargain as a remnant) and the fabrics last.

Spoonflower:

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Tiger fabric: Spoonflower / Blue fabric: Hancocks

This was my biggest wild card. All I wanted was a tiger print and I would have bought the fabric from anywhere. I couldn’t find what I wanted so I had to make my own. I can’t comment on other Spoonflower fabrics but I really do love their sports lycra. Like Funki Fabrics, the print is placed on white fabric, but the fabric is quite thick as far as swimsuit fabrics go. It may have a tiny bit less stretch that comes with the thickness, but the weight lends itself to a flattering fit, no sagging, or losing shape when wet. And it looks great without lining.

So far, the integrity of all my Spoonflower sports lycra is exactly as it was when it was sewn. This is most apparent when it’s been paired with other fabrics (like the blue of the swimsuit above) that has fared a lot less well. I will definitely buy Spoonflower sports lycra again. It’s not cheap, but the quality is good (which means it lasts longer). And I save on not having to fully line it. I’m very keen to check out some other prints. I feel like this will become my “novelty” swimsuit fabric favourite for my girls.

The Fabric Store:

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Left: Tessuti Fabrics (paisley) / Right: The Fabric Store

I’ve only bought a few swimsuit fabrics from here, mostly designer brands. They were also awesome. The fabric faded over the years, but it generally retained it’s original elasticity and is lasting extremely well. And the key word you should note in that sentence was ‘years’. If a swimsuit fabric is lasting years over weeks, then there’s something good going on there.

The quality of the fabric was really high which I suspect is due to the fact that they were designer labels, like Anna & Boy and Zimmerman. I keep meaning to investigate their new online presence. I used to love visiting the Fabric Store when I lived in Sydney but they fell off the radar for me when I moved overseas.

The Fabric Fairy:

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I’ve only sewn with their Limited Edition Solids and swimsuit linings. I love their swimsuit linings. They have good colour choices in the linings and they work beautifully under swimsuit fabrics. The linings are also a pretty awesome price which will keep me going back.

I have a slightly different view of the solids, which is not to say that I won’t use them again. The Solids come in an amazing array of colours, which will tempt me back when I’m after something specific. They are also one of the smoothest and most luxurious swimsuit fabrics I have ever felt. However, even the colours that appear opaque really need to be lined if they are going to get wet. I’ve sewn with a blue, green and a grey. They all feel fabulous dry, but they just look too thin against the body when wet. When fully lined, it is an entirely different matter. I love my Splash Swimsuit, but without the lining I think it would be unwearable for an adult.

I’d be interested to see how their prints work, since I know a print can disguise a fabric’s shortcomings somewhat. I’ll also continue to use their solids for dancewear for my girls, as well as smaller contrast sections in swimwear.

Funki Fabrics:

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I was given these fabrics for free a while back, but like I said in that earlier post, it’s very difficult to make a proper assessment of swimsuit fabric without actually swimming. I’ll stand by what I said about their variety of prints.

Their printed swimsuit fabrics are probably the lightest weight I’ve dealt with, but only slightly so. They are also white-backed with a digitally printed front. I chose light-coloured prints which really needed to be lined (but this would be expected with any light-coloured print swimsuit fabric).

These fabrics did not last very long compared to my girls’ other swimsuits. They were actually the first swimsuits I had to throw away from having worn out, rather then been passed down to a smaller sister first. I’ll admit that we’re all pretty rough on our swimsuits here. I don’t rinse out the chlorine… ever! But I was still a little disappointed at how quickly these fabrics began to disintegrate.

However, it’s also important to note that Funki Fabrics do sell more robust swimwear fabrics, but just not in the prints that we’re used to seeing from them. Unfortunately, their Perform range only comes in black or white.

Hancocks:

My experience here is extremely limited and not likely to improve anytime soon since they’re closing their doors. But I’d place their business in the same category as Joann or Spotlight when it comes to fabric. I picked up a shiny blue swimsuit remnant there for just a few dollars. It worked ok unlined (for kids bathers), but a lining would have significantly improved its appearance. This fabric also deteriorated very, very quickly.

I wonder if the age of the fabric plays a part in this. How do you know how old the fabric roll is that you’re buying from? It’s the elastic within the fabric that seems to dissolve/rot away and we all know that elastic is decayed by age, light and heat. I remember going through thousands of pairs of Speedos as a teenager (during my competitive swimming years). I’d generally get two months out of a pair of bathers before I had to wear two pairs together. And every now and again I’d strike out with a pair that would literally begin to deterioriate within a few weeks. Now I wonder if they were just made using an old or bad fabric batch.


So this has been my experience with swimsuit fabrics to date. I’ve been sewing swimsuits and leotards now for about three years. I’ve probably made over two dozen pairs, half of which remained in my ownership (3 girls, every year, Summer + Winter leotards + swimsuit = easy math). Of these, I’ve only thrown away about five (worn out) suits. The first two pairs I biffed were leotards where the metallic fabric (Mood) bit the dust. Next went the first swimsuit I ever made (the Tessuti Fabrics (paisley) which lasted through two children over 2.5 years, including being worn over clothes in Winter when swimming was not an option). The last two pairs I threw away were the Funki Fabrics duo, which sadly only lasted one season. Every other suit has been passed on to the next child or stored away.

Now, I’m not an expert when it comes to swimsuit fabrics. I’ve only shopped at five vendors and I haven’t tried all that they have to offer, but I still wanted to share my experience. I know there must be other places out there and I’m always open to new ideas. If your experience was different or if I should have tried a different product, speak up! I’d love to hear from you as my swimsuit sewing shows no sign of subsiding any time soon. Where do you buy your swimsuit fabrics from?

 

 

 

 

 

DIY ponte and lace bodysuit

I find the idea of muslins for stretch knit garments a funny thing to get my head around, especially in the case of swimsuits and bodysuits. Personally, I don’t have any stretch “muslin” fabric lying around, and yet, none of the stretch fabric I own is particularly precious. And then there’s the fact that only a tiny bit is required for the suit anyway. I usually opt to make a wearable muslin in a case like this, even though I may end up making it up again as a real version, in exactly the same fabric!

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This bodysuit is a wearable muslin. It’s a shape and fit that I haven’t made before so I was entirely unsure as to how it would work out. I used a few of my swimsuit patterns as a guide for the body shape and length, and then adjusted the size according to the less stretchy ponte fabric that I was using. The bottom of the bodysuit has a pant shape similar to my Splash Swimsuit.

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I ended up having to adjust the side seams quite a bit before I was happy. I also completely re-designed the back halfway through construction. And that’s why you can see that the lace on the back has been finished with FOE on the top edge, but all the ponte has raw edges. Ponte won’t fray, so it was always my intention to leave the edges raw in this version (the lace was a different matter). I’ll spend more time finishing the shoulder straps and neckline next time round. I may still leave the pants unfinished though because the unfinished edges on the legs give a very smooth finish against the skin and under clothes. You’d be seeing a panty line in my jeans if the edges were finished with elastic.

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I totally love this look of black on black for Summer right now. In my mind, it’s a little bit 90’s,  especially when you also consider the return of chunky, blocked heels (that are so comfy, but oh so reminiscent of dancing through the night to George Michael music videos with his bevy of supermodels). The nineties were the first real era of fashion that I lived through and actively participated in (it doesn’t count if you were too young to buy your own flouro socks and hypercolour T’s in the 80’s!).

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Top: Made by me / Leather skirt: vintage / Jeans: James Jeans / Shoes: Loeffler Randall

 

 

First of the DIY Spring frocks

It’s been so long since I’ve made a dress like this, with a fitted bodice and a pleated skirt. The design is very similar to one of the first few dresses I ever designed and made from scratch. If I was still living in Australia, I’d probably still own those dresses, but the nature of moving overseas calls for ruthless culling and I’ll freely admit that I have a few small regrets.

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To craft this pattern, I draped both a muslin and the fashion fabric directly onto my mannequin. I find draping gets the best fit for me through the bodice. I did a rough calico for the bodice, but draped the skirt fabric directly on the mannequin. The skirt is a very simple design, just two pleats and some whopping big side pockets.

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Because this was the first fitted (woven) bodice I’ve designed or made for a long time, I chose to use an invisible zipper down the front of the dress. I actually quite like this style of fastening, but I had another sneaky reason for placing the zipper in the front. I didn’t sew a full muslin of the dress so I wasn’t fully confident that the bodice fit wouldn’t need a bit more tweaking. I knew it would fit well enough but I wanted the opportunity to aim for perfection, as well as be able to accurately adjust my pattern pieces for the future. I’m reasonably flexible, but there’s no way I can pin out a CB seam accurately on my own!

As it turned out, the fit was pretty good. I only needed to let the waist out by 0.5cm on each seam and this was easy to do by reducing the seam allowance at that point when inserting the zipper.

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The fabric is a medium-heavy weight embroidered cotton. It has the most amazing texture and structure due to the black embroidery and it suits the design of the pleated skirt perfectly. You can see how the skirt holds it’s shape. I tried to be clever and freestyle a back cutout into the pattern once I’d already commenced sewing the bodice. However, I didn’t like the way the edges sat so I inserted some silk organza between the fabric and the lining. I probably could have used elastic along the cutout edges to bring them in towards the body instead of the organza. I’ll remember that next time.

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Overall, I’m very happy with the fit and feel of this dress. It’s a simple, elegant design that I’ll get a lot of wear out of. I’m also happy to have a TNT fitted, princess-seamed bodice pattern in my arsenal. It’s been something I’ve been meaning to make for over a year now.

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Sentimental sewing // Vintage leather bag repair

My Father-in-law passed away recently. It was a little unexpected and obviously very sad. We will all miss him a great deal. Living so far away meant that it wasn’t possible for our whole family to make such a huge trip on a moment’s notice. However, my husband was able to return to New Zealand and he was fortunate enough to make it home in time (21 hours of travelling later) to be there with his Dad and to spend time with his Mother and siblings.

My husband is very sentimental, so I suggested that he look through his Dad’s wardrobe and ask his Mum if he could bring home a suit or jacket that I could alter to fit him. I was expecting one nice item (his Dad wore a lot of quality RTW and designer brands). He came home with an extra suitcase brimming with shorts, pants, jackets, shirts, an old leather bag, and a particularly fabulous collection of belts (I’ll post some pictures of those belts on Instagram as soon as a day passes when they aren’t being worn).

The clothes fit near enough that I haven’t needed to do any immediate alterations, although everything is a tiny bit bigger than what my husband would normally wear. With plain T’s, casual shorts, and business shirts, this hasn’t really mattered. He’s been wearing at least one of those items every day and I know it makes him feel closer to his father, especially when I know he still feels so much sadness.

I will definitely need to take a closer look at the suit pants and jackets in the future. They are too nice to make do with a less than perfect fit. The bag, however, required immediate attention. The lining was disintegrating on the touch and leaving everything in it’s path covered with a powdery white residue.

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My first step was to cut out the lining. I left 1/2″  of lining still attached to the bag. I wasn’t quite sure at that point whether I would want to stitch though the bag leather or re-stitch the lining to the top most portion of the existing lining. In the end, I unpicked it all, and hand-stitched it in exactly the same position as the original lining.

Once the lining had been removed, I was able to copy the pattern pieces. There were four pieces in total; two sides, a bottom, and a pocket bag (it was incredibly simple). I was also able to see what a disgraceful mess of inner construction there was hidden beneath the original lining.

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The fabric I used to line the bag was a mix of cotton shirting and heavy silk twill. Both fabrics were leftover from previous projects (here and here) and I had to do a bit of piecing to come up with the amount of fabric that I needed. I put a silk twill panel in the sides of the bag and used the same silk for the pocket bag. There’s one extra seam in the striped shirting, but my stripe matching game was strong and you can hardly see it.

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Once I’d finished sewing the lining, I pressed down the top seam allowance and glued the lining to the inner leather (in the same manner as the old lining had been attached). I then hand-stitched the lining to the outer bag. I tried to avoid adding new stitching holes, but it was difficult to see where I was going in the old stitching line. The old seam line was quite stained and creased because of age. In the end, I somehow managed to finish with what resembles a modified prick stitch on the inside and a running stitch on the outside. The outside stitches don’t look out of place, and I really like the vintage feel of the tiny inner stitches.

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It’s actually really difficult to photograph the lining of a bag. Perhaps I should have turned it inside out but I didn’t think of that at the time.

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McCalls 5870 // A tailored coat for Miss Seven

I had a very specific idea in mind when I started planning for this coat. I wanted to make Miss Seven a nice Winter coat that she could wear out for special occasions. She’s old enough now to have a few special items in her wardrobe and I’m hoping this will also help educate her on how to appreciate, respect, and treat special garments.

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The outer fabric of the coat is a woven wool blend. It is extremely beautiful in real life. It has a nice, coat-worthy weight, with little threads of gold and tan woven through it. Both sides of the fabric are useable, with the rose and background colours simply reversed on the underside. I thought about incorporating both sides of the fabric into this coat. I also though about keeping this coating fabric entirely for myself.

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It’s probably not the best choice of fabric for a child. The weave is not exceptionally tight, but it is still quite stable. I suspect it may get a few snags during it’s lifetime, but the slightly motley mix of threads through the weave is forgiving enough to disguise any repairs that may be required.

The fabric frayed horribly while I was working with it. There was a lot of hand-stitching and basting involved in the tailoring of this coat, which made the unravelling quite an issue. I used a LOT of Fray Check. I ended up painting it around the edges of every pattern piece. It was also essential in making the bound buttonholes.

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In retrospect, I think bound buttonholes were not the best choice for this fabric because of the loose weave. Hand-worked buttonholes (a la Claire Schaeffer’s French jackets) would have been the sensible option. But the heart wants what the heart wants. The buttonholes worked out wonderfully in the end, but ended up being much smaller than planned. The size reduction was due to my scaredy-cat conservative cutting, in trying to handle the fraying and loose threads as best I could. This is the reason why the buttons are so small. I had to find smaller ones than I’d originally planned. Larger, self-covered buttons would have suited the style of this coat better.

To keep Miss Seven snuggly warm, I partially underlined the coat with Thinsulate, which reportedly has more warmth for less loft, than wool or even down feathers. Keeping the bulk down in this coat was important because of the close fitting design.

The vintage pattern specifically states that the design is “not suitable for chubby girls”. It’s basically just a slim fitting style with no ease around the tummy area. The sleeves are not set in. They are joined to the back as one piece with a separate undersleeve. This design makes for very pretty style lines, but quite a challenging sew.

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All of this was underlined.  I didn’t underline the undersleeve or the side panels of the coat as I was afraid it might end up making the coat too bulky and adversely affect the end fit. To further reduce the bulk (or loft) of the Thinsulate, I partially quilted it to the lining. I think this makes the inside of the coat look lovely too.

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The design and fit of this vintage pattern is beautiful. It is a style that fits tall, slender girls very well, which means I will probably use this pattern again in the future. However, it was also quite a challenge to sew (not helped by my difficult choice of fabric) and there are a few things I will improve on when making this coat next time.

* My pad stitching of the undercollar was not “aggressive” enough in creating the collar roll. I would like to see the ends roll down a little better. I would also cut the undercollar a little smaller next time.

* My buttonholes should be appropriate for the fabric, or maybe I might just take a break from loose weaves.

* I was careful about thread marking the buttonholes. A great way to do this is to machine baste two parallel lines down the front and mark the buttonhole positions between those lines. However, with my difficulties in making the bound buttonholes (with all the unravelling of threads), my buttonholes ended up smaller. I also made the mistake of positioning my buttonholes on the inside of the basting thread, rather than on top of it. My buttons look too small and off centre in the coat front.

I think I can live with all this though. The coat is adorable. It fits well, but is ever so slightly too big (which is exactly what I was aiming for with my growing girl). I think it is deserving of a trip out to the theatre.

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Embroidered organza shift with sleeves

I decided to make a birthday dress for myself this year.  The fabric was purchased for me as a birthday present last year when my husband was on a business trip to NY. He chose it himself which impresses me to no end. At a glance, it’s gorgeous. In real life, it’s a fabric I wouldn’t  have checked out myself. I would have taken one look at the label and put it back on the shelf. And I would have missed out on a lot of fun.

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My friends, this delicious embroidered organza is pure, flammable polyester. I suspected as much, but was hoping for a miracle. A burn test outed this beauty. The fibres melted rather than burned. Further confirmation was delivered by an IG buddy who recognised the fabric and remembered its content.

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Silk organza would have made this dress an enduring beauty. Polyester organza means this fabric does not breathe. It is stiff, scratchy, and uncomfortably hot. I can deal with the comfort issues by moving the dress into my Winter wardrobe. I think it would look good with a black slip and black tights. The contrast under the sheer organza would be fun.

Unfortunately, my birthday is in the middle of a sweltering Kansas Summer (we’re talking tropical Top End weather to my Aussie friends out there). I could have forgone the sleeves, but the sleeves are an important feature of the dress for me (these were actually the 3rd sleeves I trialled for this dress).

The fabric also does not press or hold a crease. To work around this fact, I kept the design as simple as possible. It’s a sheath with bust darts, French seams throughout, a hand-stitched bound neck, and sleeves. I toyed with the idea of back darts or a CB seam for shaping but after some online research into sheath dress shapes on designer runways, I decided to keep mine without. I’m wearing a white slip underneath it for modesty.

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I wasn’t keen on hemming the dress and sleeves because the embroidery makes the organza quite bulky and of course it doesn’t press. My solution was to cut the dress and sleeves on the cross-grain so I could incorporate the beautiful selvedge into the design. After putting the dress together, however, I decided that didn’t like the pretty frayed edges after all. I ended up cutting them off but keeping a portion of the un-embroidered selvedge. I also felt that the original flared sleeves were a bit much for the loud fabric so I cut different, more streamlined sleeves instead.

It was a lot of fun making this dress. I loved problem-solving the fabric issues. I will wear it, but probably not during Summer. It might become my Christmas or New Years dress instead.

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Seeing double: Simplicity 1435

Simplicity 1435 is my go-to kid pattern for easy knit dresses. I’ve made it a few times already for my littlest peep. This time I really stretched myself and whipped one up for Miss Five too. The fabric I used is a very drapey viscose knit. The fabric is quite heavy so it does drag the dresses down a little at the waist, but I’m fond of a drop waist anyway, and I just love those stripes.

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These two girls are little peas in a pod. I spoke not a word during this photo shoot. It’s quite hilarious to watch them getting flowers for props and posing together.

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Every time I make a dress using this pattern, it always becomes a firm favourite with Miss Three and I know why. Fuss free knit dresses are so comfortable. She can dress and undress easily as there are no fastenings and the layered skirt provides just the right amount of swish-factor.

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Simplicity 1435 is a very simple pattern, a super quick make, and very practical for everyday wear. There’s nothing perfect about these versions. I whipped them up so quickly that the stripes aren’t precisely matched, but I know they will be worn to shreds. I just wish the little one would decide to like this dress too (which I think is utterly adorable), which hangs forlornly and completely ignored in her cupboard.

 

Little gathered top: Part 2

This little dress/tunic is the perfect example of why I shouldn’t sew when I’m tired. But thankfully I have a very easy to please middle child. For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to call it a dress, even though it wasn’t intended as such, and it is quite clearly too short to be one.

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I sewed it up in a size 6, which is a smidgen too big for Miss Five, but close enough for me not to bother with grading it. My plan was to recycle the circle overskirt that was originally intended for this dress.

This started out as a good plan, but to cut a long story short, I quite simply stitched the skirt on back to front, and then serged the seam before checking. The end result was an ultra short, but ultra swishy dress. Miss Five LOVES it. Thankfully, she also has some little shorts to wear underneath it.

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Part 3 of this adventure will no doubt be along sometime in the future because I’m still very much in love with Miss Seven’s little linen version.

Two little Jalie 3136 leotards

These leotards are such a quick and easy make. I love the opportunity to use contrast fabric, and I’m very happy with the overall fit on my tall, slim girls. I’ve made a few pairs already (here and here) so I knew what to expect. For Miss Seven, I stuck with a size 6, the same as last time. They fit her very well through the torso. The leg elastic is borderline too tight, but I think she’ll be ok with it. That’s the only thing I’d say about this pattern, is check the fit of the leg elastic before sewing it on.

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Miss Three LOVES gymnastics, more than anything else in this world right now. Three year olds really don’t need gymnastics leotards but I couldn’t resist making her one, just so I could watch her impossible cuteness in it. She wakes up everyday, puts on her leotard, and asks if its her ‘nastics day.

Her suit was made up in a size 3 and it’s a perfect fit all over. She is on the 50th centile from head to toe, the true “baby” of this family. Despite, LOVING this suit, and actually being a very happy child all day, she decided to practice her grumpy, angry person poses for the photos. I did my best, but there really isn’t any point negotiating with a three year old.

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