I whipped up a matching top

The thing I love about sewing is that I really can just whip up anything at a moment’s notice. This top took all of ten minutes to make. It’s not perfect. The construction is basic. But I only had a few spare minutes and I desperately wanted to finish this up before I had to pack away my machine.

In hindsight, I really should have spent more time on it. I didn’t expect it to turn out quite so well though!

The striped fabric skirt is something you’ve seen before. I created it by sewing together strips of scrap fabric (in velvet, wool, and ponte). I ended up with a tiny bit spare that I used up in this top. There was not an ounce of wastage.

This is very fun outfit. I love the idea of perfectly matching separates as I think they produce an overall dressier look. However, when mixed and matched with jeans and other tops, these separates also dress down for a great casual feel.

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.

 

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.

 

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

 

 

Sew DIY Lou Box Top

I’d like to introduce you to my brand new, hot of the press, Lou Box tunic by Sew DIY. I was a pattern tester for this top which meant I was lucky enough to be one of the first to make it. Now, I know very well what I am like when it comes to patterns and sewing. I very rarely stick to patterns and I’m quite useless at following directions, which is why I don’t often put my hand up to test patterns. I think it would be unfair of me to sabotage a new pattern without being able to give proper feedback.

When I saw my first sneeky peek of the Lou Box top I knew I could commit to testing the pattern properly because it looked perfectly perfect exactly as it was. It is such a simple design, chic and elegant, and very easy to sew. Beth has also included a few different hemline and neckline options in the pattern, without you having to go all maverick and invent them yourself.

 

The pattern includes instructions for sewing it with a woven or a knit fabric. I chose to use a beautiful Italian cotton jersey for my tunic. I made the scoop neck version and I’m very happy with the degree of scoop. I used the curved hem pieces and the dip hem as a guide for the back length, and then I simply lengthened my pieces each by 10cm to create a tunic instead of a top. I wanted the longer length to wear with my leather blocked leggings.

 


I stitched up a size XS/X according to my measurements on the packet. This threw me, because I am a 34.5″ bust with broad shoulders which would usually place me as a size 12 or M in most patterns. I needn’t have worried though. The pattern measurements correlate beautifully and I am really happy with the fit.

I will definitely use this pattern again. It makes a fabulous summer top or tunic. I can see myself sewing up a silk version in a few months time now.

Corduroy culottes: another Esther shorts hack

I’m here to convince you that culottes really are the new skirt. And I’m not talking about the cute little flippy variety that could be mistaken for a skirt. I’m talking about the hard-core, wide leg, knee length type, or the sharp, A-line, midi silhouettes that are probably giving some of you unpleasant flashbacks right now. I admit, I get the flashbacks too. My high school sports uniform was a pair of bottle green, knee-length culottes (that memory came flooding back to me when my ‘blue’ corduroy arrived in the mail). But don’t worry, I’m quite determined to sway all you doubters out there, and to do so, I’ve put together not one, not two, but four different looks with the same pair of fabulous winter weight culottes.

For Autumn, I’ve paired them with my Nani Iro top and a pair of open booties. A long pair of tan leather boots would look fabulous right now, but I don’t own any and I spend all my spare cash on fabric instead of shoes. Can anyone else relate? 

The fabric I used in my culottes is utterly divine. It’s a cotton corduroy by Thread, with the most beautiful velvety sheen I’ve ever seen. It’s called ‘blue’ but it is most definitely a bottle green. I knew what I was getting though. It’s nothing like the dull kiddie quality cord that I’ve sewn with in the past. I should have paid more attention.


I do all my fabric cutting and sewing in the evenings in poorer light than I would like, but that’s just the way it has to be. I don’t have time to sew during the day. So I happily cut into my gorgeous fabric, positioning the legs in opposite directions and paying complete disregard for the nap. I merrily sewed away at the project until I tried my culottes on to decide on the hem length. The lightbulb suddenly went on in my head. Nap! Why did I not consider this first? I thought I’d made a total blooper of these pants. One leg was clearly a different shade to the other.

I think the difference in nap looks more pronounced in artificial light, and from my persepective as the wearer, looking down at an acute angle. It is such a silly mistake to make that I still feel like giving myself a slap. Anyway, they are so comfortable and warm that I’m just going to wear them anyway. I think it’s pushing it a bit far to call it a design feature so I’m just going to feign ignorance. What, my legs are different shades of bottle green? No way! It’s a shadow. Go get your eyes checked!

For view two, I opted for a more vintage feel. I’m wearing my Liberty of London Kanerva with them this time.

 


The pattern I used to make these culottes was based on the Esther shorts pattern by Tessuti Fabrics. My modifications were pretty simple. I added a 10cm pleat to the front legs. I also widened and lengthened the legs. I really like how they turned out but next time I will definitely add in-seam pockets.

I also tried my culottes out with my new favourite shirt. I like chambray with cord. Hubby isn’t too sure about this combination. He can’t decide whether I look like Anne of Green Gables, a school mistress, or Brethren. 

 
 
 

And finally, I paired the culottes with my black ponte and leather top for a slightly more edgy look. I like the silhouette of a cropped top over high waist pants. 

 

Here’s a summary of the four looks. Which one do you like best? And more importantly, when are you going to make a pair!
 
 

New Look 0906 in sheer silk

Firstly, I just want to say thank you for all the lovely comments you guys make. I LOVE reading them and always answer every single one….although I often later realise that I’ve only answered some of them in my own head. So please forgive me if I don’t always reply. But I can assure you that we always have a great chat in my brain.

I also love that I can ask  you guys for advice on Instagram, particularly when I start second guessing myself. I’m talking specifically about these buttons. The overwhelming vote was for the pretty little gold-rimmed, black ones. I actually agree with this. Those buttons rock and would have looked fabulous on this top, but in the end I decided that I didn’t want my buttons to pop or show up at all. I wanted them to be invisible, with just the placket stripe showing against the sheer. I rebelled this time and chose the dark navy option. But I did take your advice the next time, on hubby’s shirt placket. Thanks guys! 

So I made the decision to refashion this dress I made earlier. I’m in love the end result, but in doing so, I was left with a reasonably sized portion of silk from the skirt. It just so happened that Lori from Girls in the Garden had also recently posted about a top she made in voile. It was like she had been reading my mind. Seeing her post saved me an awful lot of time trawling Ebay and other pattern websites to find what I was seeing in my head!

 
 

I used New Look 0906. I mixed and matched their options to come up with the simplest possible version. My version consists of a graduated hem, no pockets, no pleats, and a collar band. I did  like the pleat option, but my fabric just didn’t stretch that far.

The fabric I used for my top is a very beautiful silk chiffon. As far as silks go, it isn’t very slippery, but it is flimsy and prone to morphing off grain with even the slightest puff of breath. I used a medium weight fusible knit interfacing for the collar band and plackets. At the time, I would have preferred a lighter weight interfacing, but I only had one black option on hand. White interfacing would have shown through.

  
 
 
 
 

 
 

I realised I was a little short of fabric halfway through cutting out my pieces. I was about to throw my hands up in despair when I looked around and noticed my silk organza press cloth hanging off the ironing board.


If you don’t know this already, silk organza is the most fabulous press cloth. I used to have a white one, but black works just as well. It is completely sheer so I can see exactly what I am pressing or fusing underneath. It doesn’t scald or burn ever. It lasts forever, even if you are lazy and can’t be bothered to finish the edges. It’s also perfect for the odd back yoke lining if you are slightly short of fabric for another project. So yes, I used my press cloth to line the yoke in this top. It worked perfectly, actually better than perfect, because if I’d used self fabric, I would have had overlapping dots.

Knowing that this top is completely sheer, I will normally be wearing a black tank underneath it. For the photos, I just wore a black bra. I feel a little bit rock star wearing it in this way with my leather blocked leggings. It’s probably the closest I’ve come to baring my tummy skin in seven years and I don’t feel overexposed at all. I’m perfectly photoshopped with chiffon. 

Leather trimmed tunic

I have this idea that I need to practice fashion illustration. I have a fabulous set of Fashionary sketch books that have been sitting untouched for at least a month. I see beautiful fabric and I simply can’t control myself. A vivid picture forms in my head and I pounce on that fabric, much like what happens when a vampire sees blood. Now who’s been busy watching too many episodes of True Blood back to back…

So once again, my plans to sketch this dress fell through. However, I did manage to use up the rest of my little bitty leather scraps (from here) and my black ponte (from here), so I’m going to give myself a high five for scrap busting anyway.

The dress is basically a modified version of Vogue 8840 (seen before herehere, and here) with a bit of leather embellishment. I used a metal ruler and a sharp rotary cutter to cut dozens of 6mm strips of leather. I lined up a few strips side by side and basted them on the interfaced ponte with fabric glue, before stitching them down with a single centre seam. I then just kept lining up those strips until I liked the look of the pattern. 

 
I added leather strips to the front of the dress and to a panel at the bottom of the back of the dress. I only added the back panel because I was short of ponte. Yay for that though, because I think that back panel finishes the look!
 


V8840 is a pattern designed for a top. What I wanted was a slightly unfitted tunic that I could layer with layers upon layers of wool for a Midwestern winter. I’m pretty happy with what I ended up with.

Here are the modifications I made: 

  • lengthened both pattern pieces to turn the top into a tunic
  • fused interfacing on the inside of the entire front dress pieces and to the back panel. This was needed to stabilise the ponte for stitching on all those leather strips.
  • shortened the (short) sleeves by a few inches
  • brought the side seams in by about 2.5″ and adjusted the bust dart to deal with this
  • ditched the back seam and kept the back piece the same but cut on the fold (cheater broad back adjustment)
  • widened and lowered the neckline a smidgen
  • added a front zipper
 
 

 

 

 

 


Leather and double faced wool, for ‘winter is coming’

I saw this amazing double faced wool when it first showed up at Tessuti Fabrics, probably at the end of last year. It is pale blue on one side and charcoal on the other, and the perfect weight for making a snuggly winter jacket. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in the market for winter gear back then, so I had to walk away empty handed. But a few months ago I was lucky enough to recieve a gift card from my Mum (best gift ever!) and I spent it happily on this beautiful wool.

 


 

I made the coat using a Japanese pattern that I’ve used before (in my pre-blogging days). I purchased it, and all the other Japanese pattern books I own, from a very reliable Ebay seller, Pomadour24. I cut a size L and made several modifications. In the photos below, I’ve placed the original pattern pieces on top of my re-drafted pieces to better explain my changes.

  • I widened the sleeves a LOT. To do this, I slashed through the centre and created a wedge. I also shortened the sleeves so I could add cuffs, yet still achieve a shorter length.
Sleeves
  • I added cuffs with leather inserts. The leather I used in this coat was leftover from my leather shorts and leggings. Because I was working with scraps, I had to be creative with how I used it. The total length of my cuffs (including the leather insert) is 3.375″. The cuffs are folded over before attaching, minus a 5/8″ seam allowance.
Cuffs
  • The coat is a raglan cut. I lengthened the front piece by 28″ on the side seam and by about 16″ on the front. I should have extended the facing a little longer at the edge since this folds over. I need to adjust the pattern for this next time.
Front piece with self-facing

  • I lengthened the back by 32″. The photos show how I changed the hem shape.
Back piece
  • I sharpened the corners of the collar. This is a very subtle change to the original pattern but it actually impacts the look quite significantly. Notice the very comprehensive details I write on my own pattern pieces (I jest!). I really need to work on this!
Collar
  • I ditched the original pockets. They were actually quite useless in the first version. They looked good but they were placed too high on the side seams, making it awkward and fiddly to use them in real life. I drafted my own welt pockets and stuck them on the diagonal, using leftover leather as a contrast. I also ditched the buttons and used some little leather fasteners instead.
 
I’m pretty sure I’m going to love this jacket. It is super comfortable. It’s not too heavy and it looks fab with my leather blocked leggings. I can also pair my leather armbands (blogged here) with it if I don’t fancy wearing a long sleeved top on cold days.
 


Upcycling: Leather blocked ponte leggings

These leather blocked leggings actually started out as a leather skirt. I purchased the skirt on Ebay for $13. I found a skirt in the largest size I could find, the longer the better. Luckily, leather midi and maxi skirts seem to be in very low demand on Ebay, with most going for a steal, if they even sell at all.

The quality of leather of the skirt was nothing like the gorgeously soft and glossy lambskin that I’ve used before, but it was perfectly fine for this project. The skirt was listed as ‘new’, but the leather actually looked as though it had been washed. I’ll give it a bit of TLC with leather cream and I’m sure it will come up better. 

For the making of these pants, I kept all the seams of the skirt intact, but I did cut off the hem and buttons so that I could lay it flat as a single layer on my cutting mat. You can see some of these seams on my legging panels. I think the random seams add to the interest factor.

 

 
 

I used a beautiful black ponte knit for the back of the leggings as well as for the front knees. Breaking up the leather on the front of the leggings was necessary due to the amount of leather I had on hand. But placing the ponte at the knees also meant that these pants do not restrict my leg movement at all. They are super comfy!

The pattern I used was Vogue 8859, a Marcy Tilton pant. I’ve used this pattern before in my pre-blogging days. I’m completely useless at making notes on pattern pieces (although I am trying to work on this). One thing that I love about blogging is that I have pictures and pattern modifications documented in a way that I can easily go back and look up again. Anyway, I remembered these pants fitting really well the last time, except for being a little too high in the waist. These are the only photos I have of my last version.

Isn’t this the most fabulous ponte knit ever! I think the print was called Dragonfly Fantasia.


In my first version, I ended up hacking off the waistband after I’d sewn it, before restitching the elastic back on, a little lower down. This was a messy modification, but perhaps even messier, was my 2012-self attempt at recording this change by simply putting the hacked off portion back in the pattern packet!

So to summarise my modifications in this pattern:

  • removed 1.5″ of length through the crotch
  • removed the yoke
  • narrowed the waist through the back crotch seam by 1.5″
  • drew up a waistband to stitch to the top. I inserted my elastic through the waistband instead of directly to the pant as specified in the instructions.
  • skipped the pocket
  • added 1″ in leg length

This was an incredibly simple make. I think the panels of leather have turned a very basic, everyday pant into something a little more special. I know I will get heaps of wear out of them during winter. I also quite like the look of them dressed up with my trusty ‘white’ make from back in May.