Fashion trends and sewing

I have this theory about fashion trends and sewing. Being able to sew amplifies any trend (well, it does in my closet anyway!).

I’ve always been interested in fashion and I’ve always followed trends to one degree or another. But ever since I began sewing, fashion trends have been so much more pronounced as they’ve worked their way into my wardrobe.

In 2012 (pre-blogging photos from the archives), I made peplums. There were more than these, but I can’t find the photos right now.

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Next, I made drop waist dresses. There were more here too.

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Then I made culottes, which gradually progressed to wide leg and gaucho pants.

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Now, I’m working through the off-shoulder/cold-shoulder trend. There have been other trends along the way that also managed to captivate my interest. I seem to make between 3-5 garments that are in line with any trend. In my pre-sewing days, I’d have purchased 1-2 trend-driven pieces and otherwise kept to classic staples.

I’ve been thinking a lot about why sewing enables me to do this. Here are my ideas:

  • Sometimes it takes more than one go to get a handmade garment right. A wearable muslin first, followed by a better version immediately doubles the number of items. Maybe I would have bought one RTW item in the past, but I would have had the opportunity to try on several first to find which one worked best. You don’t get that opportunity with home sewing.
  • If the design worked and it fitted well, of course I’ll want to sew it again. And sometimes it’s simply easier to sew repeats than to work through new designs and muslins, particularly if the garment was seasonably appropriate and nice to wear.
  • Sewing means that I can refashion, recycle, and reuse old fabrics and old clothes. It means that I can also make more trend-driven items without spending more, or expanding my wardrobe. I don’t have to be as sensible with my clothing choices, because I can always refashion back to sensible if need be.
  • Sometimes (if I really like a style) I might decide to digitize a pattern, which means I have to test the pattern and make it perfect, thereby making multiple versions of the same style.
  • It usually costs me next to nothing to sew a few extra pieces. This wasn’t always the case though. When I was a beginner, there were so many wadders and ho-hum makes that it cost more to sew than to buy RTW (just check out those peplums!). These days, it’s very economical for me. I spend well on fabric for classic, long term pieces. I save a fortune by making swimsuits and leotards for myself and my girls. And for the trend-driven items that I know will only last a season, I’ll often use thrifted, upcycled, or economically priced fabric that is nice enough to produce a quality garment, but costs a tiny fraction of RTW. For example, the entire fabric cost of all the cold-shoulder makes below was about $18 (the largest portion coming from the $10-15 white linen tablecloth of which I still have a lot remaining). I also know that I’m very capable of cutting up any of those tops and dresses to refashion into something new down the track.

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  • I can make it so I can do it. And I can do it now! Sewing gives me freedom to follow a trend and make something immediately. Unlike RTW shopping where I’d have a vision in my mind but never be able to find exactly what I wanted, sewing enables me to make a garment to match my vision. It also enables the power of now. I can cut up an old sheet on the spot and make something at midnight, before garments hit RTW shops or are even available online. I’m not saying I do this, but I could!

So I think this explains how I end up with so many trend-driven pieces in my closet each year. It may seem like I have a lot of clothes, but I take a lot of care (via refashioning) to make sure that my closet doesn’t expand too much, despite sewing all year round. I’m also lucky to have a lot of girls to sew for. In any case, I think I’m just about ready to move on to my next obsession. I just have to figure out what it will be!

 

 

Vintage Kwik Sew 1034 // scrapbust sweaters

I hope everybody had a wonderful Christmas! We had a great day, but not a white Christmas in Kansas. However, I believe we are expecting snow any day now, so it could be a special white birthday for Miss Five tomorrow.

Santa was very generous this year. The big guy bought a joint present for all my girls, in the form of a very basic, but well reviewed, Brother XL-2610 sewing machine. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a learning machine for my kids (and I wasn’t about to share my Pfaff), but I did want them to have a machine that would be simple to use and reasonably sturdy. So far the machine is working well and the girls are finding it easy to develop confidence on. And because it’s not my precious machine, I’m happy to let them play on it alone without too much anxiety.

At the moment, we’re still working on threading the machine and sewing straight lines at a precise distance from the fabric edge, but I’m happy to report that Miss Five has proclaimed it the best present from Santa this year.

And while we’re talking about Christmas, I thought I’d share a few little sweaters I made for my girls using an old Kwik Sew pattern in my stash. I modified it slightly to block in a few different fabrics and lengthen the bodice, but otherwise I left it pretty unchanged.

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Miss Seven’s sweater was made up in a size 8. It’s pretty roomy on her, but my big girls grow like weeds so I always err on the larger size with them. The bodice length is extremely short in the pattern so I also lengthened it by 2 inches before adding the bottom band. The black portion of the sweater is from a new merino jersey sweater of mine (that was too small). The ivory ruffles and tiger fabric were both small remnants in my scrap basket and specifically chosen by the recipients.

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Miss Five’s sweater is mostly tiger fabric, with a little merino trim. I made this one as a tunic to incorporate the ivory trim better. I also made a standard version of this pattern for her in rainbow French terry. It’s a very simple and practical raglan pattern.

 

A blue cotton top

I’m putting this top to bed. I like it from some angles and not from others. I might still wear it, or I might cut it up and modify it, but I don’t think I want to make another.

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The fabric that I’ve used does it no favours. It’s a denim-look cotton shirting with just enough stretch to keep the bound armscye and neckline permanently wrinkled, despite a good pressing.

Perhaps I could lower the neckline and change the shape of the front armscye, or add darts, but I’m just not loving it either way. And I need to love it if I’m going to spend any more time on it. Sometimes you just have to let things go.

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Long sleeves in linen

I started sewing clothes for myself in 2012. Before that, my sewing was all about kiddie stuff and quilting cotton. It was also the year I discovered that I could sew with ponte knits and linen. I quite simply overdosed that year. Lucky for you guys, this was also before I started blogging.

I’ve always loved linen, but it’s one of those fabrics that I rarely, if ever, saw in the RTW shops I frequented back then. So it was mindblowing to me that I could suddenly make everything in linen. So did I? Yes. I. Did.

I’ve since had a few years without a lot of linen in my wardrobe. There’s been the odd thing, but nothing like it was in 2012. However, I feel the season changing. I am so in love with it right now. It’s like my long lost friend has returned.

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The thing about linen though, is that it is one of the fabrics I am most pickiest about in terms of quality. I loath buying it online. I’ve been disappointed a few times when I’ve opted for the cheaper option. I recently purchased a length of European white linen from Fabric dot com. In the description it was recommended for making dresses, pants, anything. Let’s just say, I’m ditching the idea of using it for a Summer top and might simply hem it for use as a pretty table cloth instead. I think I’m a linen snob.

The linen I used for this top came all the way from Tessuti Fabrics in Sydney, one of the few places I trust implicitly in buying linen from without ordering a swatch first (online shopping is sadly my only way to purchase quality fabric in the Midwest). This linen is truly delicious. I could iron it better, but I really, really love linen crinkles.

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This top is the long sleeve variation of a pattern I’m working on right now. I paired it with my long leather shorts.

If everything goes to plan, I might be ready for testers in a few weeks. It takes time because I want to make sure that even my testers get a good experience.  If you are interested in testing this or anything else in the future, please head over to my Facebook page, Lily Sage & Co. To avoid driving non-tester inclined blog readers batty,  I will only be putting the tester call out there from now on.

I’m back!!!!! And with a Kanerva to show for it.

So for my first sewing project in my new home abroad, I chose to make a Kanerva Peplum Blouse by Named. I’d had my eye on this pattern for a while now, and it felt like the perfect confidence builder for a return to my machine. It’s amazing how strange sewing feels when you use new equipment. I’m also still waiting to purchase my overlocker so I’m finding it a little slower having to consider different seam finishes.

But before I start talking Kanervas, I must first extend a big thank you to Kirsty from Top Notch for this pattern discovery. I saw her bejewelled Kanerva a little while back and was instantly in love. The style struck me as so practical and pretty, but of course, Kirsty’s choice of Liberty print was just gobsmackingly beautiful as well!


I had some Liberty of London in my stash, purchased from Tessuti Fabrics in Sydney a while back. I didn’t love it quite as much as Kirsty’s but it was still very pretty and perfectly suited to a Kanerva. As much as I LOVE Liberty fabrics, I have to admit that I don’t usually think of it as a fabric style that suits me or my personal wardrobe. With it’s delicate florals and pretty vintage feel, it is a fabric that I mostly consider for my girls.


Overall, I am pretty happy with my Kanerva. It is a very simple and satisfying project to make. I compared the bodice pieces of the actual pattern to a perfectly fitting self-drafted shirt block I already owned. I made my Kanerva up in the EU size 40 which very closely matched my measurements. I only needed to make a few adjustments to the original.

  • lengthened the shoulder seams by 1cm to accommodate my broad back and shoulders
  • rotated the sleeve cap forward by 1cm (for my forward rounded shoulders)
  • narrowed the waist by 1cm.
  • lengthened the arms by 3cm  

The fit is better than I expected. (I’m always prepared for the worst when it comes to me and shirts). I find it very comfortable and only a little restrictive, mainly in the arms, but this is really only due to the lack of stretch in my choice of fabric, and the fact that I’m not used to wearing anything without significant stretch. I can just manage to slip the shirt over my head without undoing the buttons, which is fantastic. Although I do need to strike some yoga poses in order to undo the buttons in order to take the top off. The instructions actually suggest that this top is best sewn in a fabric that has some stretch, to allow for ease of dressing. I agree wholeheartedly!

So would I do anything differently next time? I’d probably only change my choice of fabric to have a go at using a knit in this style. Even so, I won’t rule out making another one up in a Liberty, or perhaps even a silk crepe de chine. The discerning viewer might also notice that the peplum flap is missing in my top. This was not intentional, just due to a moment when I was freestyling rather than reading the instructions as I should have been. The top works well with or without this flap but I quite like the look of it as a design feature and would definitely include it next time. I’m thinking I might also have a go at making a cropped Kanerva for summer.

Liberty and linen peplum

Now I fully realise peplum is a little last season, but it is such a flattering style and I had been wanting to make myself a peplum top for a very long time.

I delved into my stash for this project, using the last of my Liberty from Coco’s recent playsuit and a little leftover linen from another project. The linen was from Tessuti Fabrics and is really quite special. It is a coated linen and the grey is actually printed on. It looks and feels amazing.

The design is my own. The top is self-faced, with an invisible zip centre front. It is probably a little looser fitting than it needs to be, but I was aiming for comfort and coolness with our long hot summer on the way.