An updated drop waist dress in printed linen

I made a bunch of drop waist dresses several years ago. I absolutely loved them. Two are still in very good condition. They just feel a bit outdated to me, so they have been packed away for another time (or for when my girls become teenagers and want to explore all the old clothes I used to make and wear).

I used the old pattern that I drafted for myself years ago. Sorry, there isn’t a pattern for this, but it is far from complicated. I used French darts and a slightly A-line shape to the dress bodice. I like French darts for this style as then blend in nicely with the A-line shape. The bodice has a hi-lo curve to it, and the gathered skirt is a little longer than I’ve used in the past. I also modified the shoulders to create ties instead of fixed seams.

The linen fabric is from The Fabric Store. It’s such a lovely, fresh print. And for those of you who like to wear linen, but have trouble with the delicious crinkles, I’d suggest you try a printed linen like this. It still wrinkles like linen, but the print kind of disguises them.

This will be such a cool and comfy dress to slip on during hot, summer days. I’ll probably wear it most over bathers, on trips to the pool, or outdoor swim meets.

Harper Fly Suit #11002

The (slang) definition of Fly is: very good; excellent; cool; awesome. Also, as any swimmer will know, the stroke of butterfly is commonly referred to as Fly.

Therefore, it made perfect sense to name this suit after the other little swim champ in the family. Miss Eight loves swimming about as much as her ten year old sister. She is also “fly” in every sense of the word. I can see her following the same path as Miss Ten, in terms of the satisfaction she derives from achieving in the sport, and her commitment to succeed. She tries about as hard in practice and racing as I’ve ever seen anyone do. I can also see her trying to identify with a component of swimming that is her own, a niche that she excels in, above and beyond, or simply different to what her big sister can do.

Big sister’s best stroke is freestyle, and she not only has a beautiful, natural stroke, she is also fiercely competitive (as a first born often is). Big sister also does reasonably well at backstroke. She wants to be great at backstroke (probably because of her mama) but I’m not sure it comes as naturally to her as it does to Harper. Harper is very good at backstroke and is strong at freestyle, but lately, she has been doing really well in butterfly, a stroke that has not come very easily to her big sister. While she still has a very long way to go with her fly, she has pretty good timing and position in the water, and a good sense of how to pull her body forward strongly.

She won a few ribbons in fly during the short course season, and now I can see that this has changed her perspective on the stroke. She takes a lot of pride in leading the lane during butterfly sets and it obviously makes her feel good. Miss Eight may or may not become a butterfly specialist in the future. She’s only little. It doesn’t really matter, as long as it is giving her enjoyment now.

I called her Madame Butterfly recently after I saw her doing some particularly great fly in practice. And then we went home to watch some videos of the original Madame Butterfly (Susie O’Neill). She loved this. And I loved seeing my little middle child find someone or something to identify with as her own.

And speaking of sisters. Cate and Bronte Campbell are the other great Australian swim stars we follow closely in this household, for very obvious reasons. It’s a challenge finding a way to compete with and cheer for your sister at the same time. But it’s also a great life lesson that I believe we are (so far) doing well at practicing. It helps to have others to look up to who also fight that same battle. Whilst watching the recent Commonwealth Games, as you can imagine, one of the most common questions I kept getting was, “who is older…?”.

And back to this suit, you can find it in my Etsy shop. The actual suit is not the one you see in the above photo from last Summer, but the smile on Miss Eight’s face is the true representation of the joy I see in this mermaid. I am yet to make Miss Eight her own (recent) version, which will no doubt be in an animal print. The actual Harper Fly Suit can be seen in action¬†here. But I couldn’t very well name the suit after this little six year old mischief. She tolerates swimming, and goes to practice as rarely as she can, because it keeps her water safe, and because she can have a great old belly laugh with anyone she can corrupt in her lane.

This suit is very similar in fit to the Coco Racer. My girls love this style of suit. It’s what the big (National) girls were wearing all last season, so naturally all the little kids want to wear the same.

 

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There’ll be no prizes for guessing who this swimsuit pattern is named after. She was instrumental in testing the first samples for me…over…and…over…again, during the past 18 months. This design has taken time, but in the end we nailed it. No underarm or neck chaffe, no pulling on the shoulders, no constricting the shoulder blades, no wedgies, no catching water in the bottom or through the neck.

We like it best made fully lined, as the design instructs. However, I have made a “racing” version of the suit by just lining the crotch and omitting the front and back lining. It’s a nice suit that looks good and performs well.

I have several more swimsuit designs in the pipeline, both for kids and adults. I’m also considering putting together some kits since I have a stash of the most beautiful Italian swimsuit fabric on hand (chlorine resist, UP50, recycled). As soon as I finish juggling some of life’s curveballs, I might get on with it! ūüėČ

Vogue 1027: a faux wrap dress

At some point, I must have decided that I needed more Summer neutrals in my closet.¬†What better than a DKNY jersey dress in the most beautiful, weighty viscose. I’ve used several different shades of this viscose jersey over the years. It always sews up really nicely.

I’m also quite fond of Vogue patterns. I find they fit me very consistantly. I can make my standard adjustments and sew up the pattern right off the bat, without a muslin. My standard adjustments are 1/4 inch extra width through each shoulder seam, and lengthening a 1/2 inch through the bodice (#sewingtall). I usually also lengthen the hem length.

I didn’t bother with lengthening the skirt because I wasn’t planning on hemming the fabric. I prefer to leave a weighty viscose in a skirt like this with a raw hem. I feel like it looks a lot cleaner than a hem. However, having said that, I did follow the rest of the pattern instructions properly, which involved facings on the sleeves and a hemmed neckline. They worked out beautifully.

The measurements on the pattern envelope correspond very well to my actual size. I believe my dress reflects what I see on the pattern cover. I did make a few observations on the design, mostly relating to my fabric choice.

1. The waistline is supposed to be higher. Mine does technically sit in the right spot, but the weight of the fabric in the circle skirt pulls the dress and stretches the bodice down. Furthermore, I’ve folded the fabric belt half down to cover my elastic seaming below the waistline. I believe the belt is supposed to be folded up completely, again shortening the look of the bodice. It’s a catch-22. I adore the drape of a weighty viscose, but it does make for a heavier dress.

2. The instructions say to create casing for elastic with an extra seam below the bodice seam, using the seam allowances from inside the dress. Looking at the pattern cover, I’m not convinced that they did this step. I don’t like the look of this seam line on the finished dress, so I’ve tried to hide it with the belt. Also, measure your own waist to determine the elastic length required. Their measurements here are completely off. My elastic probably isn’t tight enough to hold the heavy skirt up adequately, but I was wary of too-tight elastic being uncomfortable and creating too much “gathering” through the waist seam.

3. Considering the 4-way stretch of my jersey, I probably could have sized down through the waist and skirt to achieve a more snug fit (which I feel would suit the style of jersey I used). I also wonder what the crossover bodice would look like if I ditched the pleats (I certainly don’t need the space with my bust size!). I’m not unhappy with the way this dress turned out. The bodice fit is good, and the shoulders are comfortable. And the dress even has pockets!

I will definitely sew this pattern again, maybe in a bit more colour next time. Meanwhile, I can see myself wearing this dress quite a bit over the next few months.

 

Simplicity 1366 in black lace

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I made a few mistakes when I was a beginner at sewing. I was sucked in by every pretty quilting cotton, which of course I was never going to use. I also snatched up Liberty of London remnants when I saw them. Why? Liberty looks cute on other bloggers, but have you ever seen me wear Liberty of London?

Another thing I used to do was buy completely inappropriate amounts of fabric for a project. I lived pretty close to my favourite bricks and mortar stores in Sydney, and yet I still harboured a morbid fear of winding up short on a make. Remember this dress? Now, please note the very small amount of lace I used for the back insets. Past-Debbie purchased a good 2.5m of that lace, just to make sure she had enough… The remnants had been in my stash since 2012.

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It was nice to finally put this great fabric to good use. I used Simplicity 1366 with a few modifications.

  • I extended the inside shoulder seams to create a closely fitted neckline. I worked out the gradient of the extended shoulder seam very scientifically. I put on an existing Simplicity 1366 top and eyeballed the shape and length of the new shoulder seam. I think I got it pretty spot on.
  • I also added a high collar. This was super easy, since the lace had perfectly shaped rick rack panels.
  • Because of the high collar, I added three buttons and a keyhole/slit back for back fastenings.
  • I lengthened the sleeves and added jersey cuffs.
  • I lengthened the body a smidgen and added a jersey cuff.

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I love my new top. It’s a great addition to my Fall wardrobe and I love that it works equally well with jeans and trousers.

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My Image and B-Trendy sewing pattern books

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a small independant pattern group in the Netherlands, Made by Oranges. They asked if they could send me (for free) a few of their magazines in the hope that I might like to share what they’re doing. Well, I’m always keen to find out about new things in the sewing world and I like to support small businesses so I thought it would be a good idea to share!

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Made by Oranges consists of Jet (patternmaker) and Martin (graphics designer). They used to work for a Dutch sewing magazine, but when it ceased production, they decided to set up on their own. They currently produce two magazines. My Image contains 16 sewing patterns for women in sizes 34-52 (XS-3XL) and B-Trendy comes with 20 sewing patterns for girls and boys from 1 to 14 years old. All patterns contain instructions in 5 languages, including English.

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I’ll confess that I was most interested in trying out some of the kid’s patterns. There are some really cute and practical staples in the edition I have. I’m not that familiar with other sewing magazines out there, but I am a sucker for Japanese pattern books.¬†I’m definitely inspired to have a go at a few casual coats and Winter dresses for my big girls.

The pattern pieces are overlapped just as you’d find in a Japanese pattern book. There are instructions for each of the patterns in several languages. The instructions are brief, but the patterns look pretty straight forward and easy to follow. I’d suggest that an advanced beginner would have no problem at all.

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Some of the women’s patterns look great too. There is an interesting collection of practical wardrobe builders, with plenty of photographs to inspire you. If you like trying new designs each season, and don’t mind a bit of tracing, then this would be a fun magazine to check out. Here are a few more photos to get an idea of what’s inside.

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Apart from sewing magazines, Made by Oranges also make PDF sewing patterns, and they can even customize a size for you if your size is not available. There are also a few free patterns to try on their site. Until November 1st, you can use the discount code: LILYSAGE  for a 25% discount on all their products.

 

 

Named Asaka Kimono

To be perfectly fair, I only have myself to blame for the fury that I felt when preparing to sew this pattern. I’m usually more than happy taping together PDF’s but on this occasion I decided to treat myself to the paper copy. I should have read the online product description better, but I didn’t. I read blog reviews that recommended shelling out for the paper copy rather than the PDF, the catch being that those bloggers didn’t sew from the paper copy. They sewed from the PDF. They probably had no idea that the paper pattern is overlapped on one piece of paper (like a Japanese sewing pattern) and has no seam allowances either.

So my paper copy arrived by mail and I put it aside in great excitement, only to open it up on the night I wanted to get started. If I’d wanted to spend an evening on my hands and knees tracing lines and measuring allowances, I would have drafted the pattern myself or modified an existing pattern that I already owned. I already have a good number of patterns and rarely buy a new one. The whole point of buying a new pattern on this occasion (and a paper copy at that) was to be lazy.

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It was an easy sew in the end. The pattern is rated average. I’d venture to call it “easy” if you make it in a woven cotton. Silk would up the ante a little. And my Asaka kimono did turn out to be pretty awesome. The fit is spot on. I lengthened the body by one inch but didn’t change the sleeves. I had just enough fabric to make this work. My waist tie has about 16 separate seams because I was a little short on fabric, but I’m not bothered. The collar on it is lovely too.

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As gorgeous as it is, this robe will be a morning cover up for me, to wear after showers and while sipping my tea. The fabric is a very lightweight cotton which is soft and washable. The sleeve design is fabulous and functional. The front slit means that those long hems won’t be dripping into my tea. It is exactly what I needed in my wardrobe.

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I really do love the overall design of this robe. I can see myself using it again in the future to make a silk version for a formal occasion, but with a longer waist tie that can be looped into a bow. And after all the ranting, I’d still recommend it.

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At the end of the day, I’m glad that I made it. Am I glad that I purchased the paper pattern? No. Would I have bought it knowing what I know today? No. Would I recommend purchasing the PDF version? Yes!

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A Mini Chloe production line and pretty new labels

It all started when my daughter’s little friend pulled me aside one day and whispered, “I really, REALLY love Harper’s dress”. And that was just the icky poly tester version I made her. The poor child was suffering though the heat and weight of it that day, but she still refused to take it off.

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Also about this time, the Dutch Label Shop contacted me to see if I’d like to try out some of their labels ¬†. I was given the labels for free. It was such a busy time for me that I very nearly didn’t take them up on their offer, but I’m glad I did.

I uploaded my own design to be made into a Woven Logo Label and¬†I absolutely love how they turned out. I didn’t expect the lines to be so defined and clear. They really do look great. The service was also excellent.¬†They have a representative on hand to check the designs to make sure they suit the label and they contact you if needed. These labels are a little larger than what I’d normally put on a kid’s dress, but in real life, I’m much more likely to put a nice label on a coat or jacket and these will suit that perfectly. I also¬†rarely sew for anyone outside of my direct family and I don’t make a habit of labeling everything I make. However, there is something very nice about the finishing touch that a label gives the garment.

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But back to my production line of Mini Chloe’s, which include some of those dresses in the picture above. The first off the rack was made in¬†pink fabric ¬†as requested by the little admirer. It’s the only dress I didn’t get around to having modeled (P.S. my models charge me actual money for photo shoots these days!). It’s also not my best work sewing-wise, but the fabric is divine. It’s a vintage cotton or mixed natural fibre, but it feels like washed silk. I was in a big rush to get this dress done to surprise the little girl.

Then, I made her two sisters each a version. I used some Art Gallery voile for the little sister.

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And a beautiful mix of silks for the eldest girl. These ones are a special gift so I took care with the making of them.

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Then, I felt guilty about my middle child only having that horrid (but spritely yellow) polyester version. So I scrounged through all my scraps to discover that I had enough fabric left to whip up a rayon and silk version in her size. This one will be lovely to wear. She already has a matching skirt in this fabric, so she immediately fell in love with the dress.

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But that’s not all. I was sorting through my small remnants of silk and rayon for middle child’s dress, my daughters were taking delight in recalling the clothes I’d sewn with all the different fabrics. They came up with the idea of “friendship dresses” for their closest friends (who also happen to be sisters). The plan was to incorporate fabrics in the friends’ dresses that I’d already used for theirs (so they could match). I had to use a bit of creativity to find enough fabric, but adding panels to the dress design made it easy. The second one will be on Instagram soon.

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I love this little dress pattern and I love my new labels. The dress is so quick and easy to sew that it makes gift-sewing a breeze and the labels add the perfect final touch. I have no doubt that those cold-shoulder sleeves will be out of fashion at some point, but the dress is still a simple, classic shape. I might try sewing it sans-sleeves next summer.

 

Authentic 70’s cold shoulder blouse

I’m calling this authentic because the thread and the fabric were both picked up at an estate sale. It’s plausible that the fabric is from the 70’s. It certainly looks the part.

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To be perfectly honest, most of the fabric I find at estate sales is truly awful. There’s lots of old, rough quilting remnants, ugly home deco cottons, and dusty poly knits. The pricing is often absurd too, clearly valued by people who know nothing about fabric and sewing. I walk past a lot of rubbish. However, every now and then I find a gem and a bargain.

This fabric was a part of several bundles that I found at one particular house several months ago. Each bundle was $1-3 and contained 3-5 remnants of varying lengths. I was immediately apparent to me that some of the fabric was of high quality, but sometimes it’s hard to tell the exact fibre content of a fabric without a burn test, particularly with “nicer” synthetics. So I nabbed three of the more appealing bundles and took them home to inspect more closely.

Subsequent burn tests revealed a LOT of silk in that bundle, including this absolute gem. Needless to say, I popped back to the sale later that day and grabbed the remaining decent bundles. I ended up with several long lengths of pretty silks, two really long lengths of Liberty of London (one was a wool blend), and a few nice poly and cotton florals. Some prints are old fashioned, but even so, are still delightful for the right project.

I was able to determine that this particular floral fabric was a synthetic. It doesn’t press. It definitely melts (please don’t ask me about this!)! It’s stiffer than a silk chiffon. It’s not my kind of fabric at all, but I LOVED the 70’s vibe of the print. It was going to make the perfect partner for my suede mini and flares.

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I wasn’t planning to spend much time or effort on a horrid poly like this but I didn’t have a lot of choice. I needed to bind the raw edges somehow. Self-fabric binding would have been beautiful (but an awful job with a fabric that won’t hold a crease). My solution was to use some sheer pink, silk organza that I already had on hand. Obviously, silk organza presses well but I’ve never used it for bias binding before. It’s a very crisp fabric to begin with but after several washes, silk organza turns super soft. It was the perfect compliment to this sheer blouse.

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Dress Two: #inseasonsilkcomp

I’ve been wanting to make a shirt dress for a long time and this competition gave me the perfect opportunity to do so. I was also lucky that my first dress required a lot less fabric than anticipated. In the end, I had the perfect amount for both dresses, and not a thread to spare.

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I used a¬†vintage pattern (McCall’s 6429) which I’ve used before to make a silk playsuit. This time I followed the pattern almost to the tee. My only change was to adjust for my broad-back¬†with a 5/8th inch wedge to the top CB (and of course adjust the collar to match this change). I also lengthened the bottom hem by about 13 inches.

The dress is of a raglan style with short cuffed sleeves and inseam pockets. The waist is pulled in with a self-fabric belt tie. The centre front is faced and most of the inside seams have been serged. I achieved smooth buttonholes on the silk CDC by using a lightweight fusible interfacing and tearaway Vilene between the facing and the fabric. I find lightweight interfacing on its own not enough to¬†preventing buttonhole puckers in silk, and yet I didn’t want to go heavier with the interfacing as it would weigh down and affect the drape of my silk too much. The tearaway Vilene worked a treat. I imagine tissue paper could have worked too.

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The biggest challenge with this dress was the sheer length of the pieces. I’m 5″10 and the dress is floor length on me. There isn’t a separate bodice and skirt. The bodice extends all the way to the bottom hem. That’s a good 60 inches of shifty silk that I had to line up and control for each seam. My cutting mat is pretty big, but not that big!

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I’m so happy with this dress. It’s light and floaty, and it feels beautiful to wear. It’s also a very versatile addition to my wardrobe. I like it long right now, but I could potentially shorten it in the future to become an easier daytime staple. I have no problem wearing silk for school pick ups but I might need to do up an extra button ;-).

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