Oliver + S // Pinwheel slip dress in silk

I have quite a mammoth sewing to-do list in the lead up to Christmas. I didn’t plan it that way. In fact, I didn’t plan to do much Christmas sewing at all this year. My only goal was to sew that velvet dress, and of course, the Winter coat (that is slowly coming along).

The Winter coat now has buttonholes and a collar, but the rest of it has been put on hold while I catch up on the selfless sewing that I was trying to avoid. However, I think the Christmas bug has just caught me a little later this year, because I’m looking forward to the quick and fun sewing that is now on my horizon.

It all started with Miss Seven. It’s an annual tradition at her elementary school for all the 2nd grade students to dress up and attend the Nutcracker, by the Kansas City Ballet. It’s quite a special occasion for the little kids each year and even more special because her best friend is a part of the cast (although not performing on that day). The kids look forward to this event for literally a whole year, but I didn’t consider the ‘dress-up’ component until about a week ago when Miss Seven started muttering about the ‘fancy dresses’ the other girls were wearing, and then the email came home from the teacher requesting that the boys wear ‘nice’ jeans or pants.

Miss Seven already had the perfect dressy coat for the occasion. But I decided to sew her a special dress to wear with it. The fabric came from my stash. It is a vibrant Ralph Lauren silk CDC that I previously used to line this coat of mine. I had the perfect amount for the Oliver + S Pinwheel slip and tunic dress pattern.

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I modified the pattern slightly to sew the tunic and slip as one, instead of making separate dresses to layer as the pattern suggests. I also changed added a keyhole to the back as the method of fastening. To do this, I copied the neckline and armscye of the tunic over the slip pattern and then sewed them together at the neckline. This eliminated the need for neck binding or facing. The slip portion also became the lining. In addition, I lengthened the arms.

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I’m pretty chuffed with how this dress turned out. I made it up in a size 8 but was a little worried it would be too big. Miss Seven is taller than average and quite slim through the body and hips (her hips and waist are a size 5), but she seems to have a nice width to her shoulders which probably accounts for how the dress fits. The shoulder fit is great but the dress volumes out beneath that (which is nature of a the dress design anyway). The length is short but acceptable (I normally lengthen patterns for her).

Miss Seven is delighted with her early Christmas present and that makes me happy too. I consulted with her all the way in the making of it, because I feel like she’s old enough now to start developing a more informed opinion on clothes and styles (rather than just a need for all things swishy, ruffled, and pink). Of course, I had to pull the reigns in with regards to her initial selection of suitable fabrics and design (ie not floor length velvet like Mummy), but we talked over the options and she came up with some of her own ideas. In the cool weather, she’ll be wearing this dress with white, fleece lined tights which will look super cute too.

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Butterick 6900: A leather blocked, drop shoulder coat

I’d like to share with you a pretty typical conversation that ensues each time I break out something new that I’ve made for myself.

Me: What do you think of my new coat? (pre-empting some inevitable design confusion) It’s a drop shoulder design. It’s supposed to be unfitted. 

Husband: It’s interesting. I like it. (moving closer to inspect my stitching and style lines better) It’s really good. But it’s a bit big for you. Look at the shoulders.

Me: It’s the design. That’s why they’re called drop shoulders.

Husband: It’s a bit big at the back too. It looks a bit masculine.

Me: Yeeeeeesss (my speech slows and perhaps my eyes begin to roll a little). It’s the design. It’s a boxy, oversize, drop shoulder style of coat.

Husband: You know, it would look great if you cinched in the waist with a really wide belt.

Me: Yes. It. Would.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve already seen the original coat that caught my eye and that ended up becoming my design inspiration. I also shared a few sketches of my own coat in the early planning stages. I’m pretty useless at drawing, but Fashionary is a great way for me to get my ideas down on paper, so that I can solidify a design in my head, and then have something to refer back to when I’m playing around with the actual pattern pieces. 

For this coat, I started with Butterick 6900, but I made a lot of modifications:

  • Lengthened the shoulder seams and dropped the armscye to achieve the oversized, drop shoulder look, rather than a coat that just looks too big (Husband you know nothing!)
  • Sharpened the collar to a point
  • drafted a lining to include the existing facing pieces
  • shortened View B by 4″
  • changed the position of the welt pockets and slimmed them down
  • lengthened the sleeves
  • added a front and back yoke to accommodate and suit the size of leather I had to work with
  • added shaped panels to the sleeves in contrast wool and lambskin
  • top-stitched some contrast lambskin and cowhide to the bottom of the coat 
 

 
 
 

The cowhide I used, as you know, was upcycled from my leather skirt. The grey fabric is a beautiful, medium/heavyweight, double faced wool. One side is grey and the other is a pretty plaid. Both sides are invisibly stitched together very securely. The edge of the swatch in my photo is separated because I actively removed the stitches to pull both fabrics apart.


Even though I didn’t make the most of both sides of this great fabric, I still found it useful in reducing the bulk in my coat. I only used one layer of the wool fabric for the collar underside since the leather was so bulky. I also carefully separated and cut away the grey seam allowance when preparing the facing to attach to the bulky leather at the front of the coat.

I preferred the plain grey for the outer of this particular coat and I only used the plaid for the front facing, but if I had a limitless budget, I would definitely buy more of this great double faced wool and make it up quite simply and unmodified in and unlined coat like Vogue 8930.

In terms of construction, I underlined both the front and back leather yokes with hair canvas.
The lining I used for my coat was a sleek Ralph Lauren polka dot silk CDC. I also used a bit of blue lambskin for the contrast panels and pocket welts.

I am so pleased with how this coat turned out. It isn’t perfect. I had a lot of trouble top-stitching through the thickness of the cowhide in many places. However, with a little handstitching and compromise, I don’t think that this is too noticeable. I also haven’t decided on front closures. I quite like the clean, no-closure look. I could have used magnets, but the coat keeps closed well enough on it’s own because of it’s roomy nature. I’m also considering buttonholes, via an embroidery house or by hand. I love my Pfaff, but I think coat buttonholes need a bit of extra special treatment to look professional. I’ve also thought about leather buckle/toggles, but I’m quite happy with the coat as it is right now.

Oliver + S Box Lunchbox Tee

I absolutely love the look of the Lunch Box Tee on the packet cover. It is such a great kiddie interpretation of the drop shoulder, boxy top trend that I’m loving for myself right now. As you can imagine, I was very keen to make it up for one of my girls.


My intention was to make this top for Miss Six, but it may very well be that Miss nearly-Five pinches it for herself. Without the recommended types of knit fabric on hand, I chose to use some small remnants of stretch wool suiting. It’s the same fabric I used for my Chanel drop waist, and later dyed purple for my joggers so I knew very well how it would handle, wash and wear. It has a tiny bit of stretch, but probably no more than 3%. To make my life easy, I did use a ribbed knit for the neckband and the back panel too, since I was short of my purple wool.

 

I made the top up in a size 7 with no modifications other than to fold over the back ribbing instead of hemming it, and to sew a smaller hem than recommended. I only did this to compensate for the fact that I was too lazy to lengthen the pattern pieces for my long limbed girl. The top fits my very tall, nearly-five year old beautifully. I usually find that the sizing on Oliver + S patterns correlate directly with my girls’ ages (with a little room to move), so I wasn’t expecting this to sew up so small. I suspect the main reason it did is because I used a woven instead of a knit. But I think I prefer it this way and I would definitely use a woven again next time. If you plan to do the same, I’d recommend sizing up by 1-2 sizes.

I’d still like to see how it fits Miss Six so it will still be wrapped up and put under the Christmas tree for her. Little sister would love it for herself though, especially with those neat little front pockets. There might be a little bit of wardrobe swapping going on after Christmas.

On another note, I’m hanging out for the release of the mini-Hudson pants by True Bias. A few weeks ago, this little peep suddenly decided that she couldn’t handle wearing tights or leggings, and would only wear looser fitting pants, like the ones above from Target. I get this. Tights can be itchy on dry skin, but it left me pretty unprepared for her sudden wardrobe overhaul. Target came to my rescue on this occasion, but next time I’d prefer to sew them myself. The shape of these pants remind me a lot of Hudson pants. The challenge I always seem to have though, is in finding a nice range of snuggly knits in pure cotton. I despise the pill-ability of poly blends. Any advice out there on where to find such elusive trackie dack fabric?

Winter white or brights?

I know Winter white is a bit of a trend this season, but I think I took the Summer White trend to the max, and quite frankly, I’m a little bit over white right now. In fact, I’ve been lusting after all shades of purple and deep pinks so when I saw my white wool trackie pants hanging in the wardrobe the other day, I knew they were destined for a dye job. I also wanted to update their style a little.

 

Despite being (dry-clean only!) wool suiting, reckless-Debbie had still prewashed the pants fabric prior to sewing. The prewashing changed the texture of the fabric slightly. It also meant that I could happily launder them or dye them, to my heart’s content. My first attempt at dying them didn’t work, but only because cautious-Debbie was trying to be gentle with the fabric by keeping the water cold. The dye just didn’t take. So I let reckless-Debbie back in the house. She threw caution to the wind, bumped up the temperature to scalding, added vinegar with the salt, and the wool dyed beautifully. The fabric did not shrink or change at all.  


I also refashioned the pants a little by:

  • cutting away the silk lining, because this took up the dye too strongly and it was dark beneath the pants
  • unpicking the outside leg seam to widen the legs as much as possible for a more trouser-like look. Wide leg and flared pants are very hot right now.
  • cutting off the elastic cuffs. I sewed in some new cuffs to lengthen the pants a little, but these were dyed in a separate batch (as an afterthought) which accounts for the different shade. I might still shorten the cuffs a little because these pants are meant for flats.  


I’m super happy with these pants. I love the way they look layered with my Nani Iro top. It’s such a snuggly, comfy outfit and it makes me especially happy to know that I can now wear my Nani Iro beyond Summer. I feel like I’ve done my dash with white at the moment. What colours do you have on your sewing table right now?

 

Winter white drop waist dress: AKA Chanel knock off

 

This dress falls squarely into the ‘what was I thinking’ category. It is pure white, dry-clean only, Ralph Lauren wool suiting, made up in a dress for a mother of three. Go on, tell me that isn’t just a little bit crazy. However, in my defence, the fabric was already in my stash, and nothing was ever going to make it more wearable, no matter how long I left it there. I’m going to chalk this purchase up to jet lag.

 
 
 
 


Obviously, it’s another drop waist dress. The pattern is my own. You’ve seen it before on more occasions than you’d care to remember. This time, I switched the zipper to the back, added sleeves and some little front pockets. I drafted a new set of facings and lined the bodice with silk jersey.

 
Yep,  those are darts you see facing inside out. I’m not quite sure how I managed that one. Thankfully I got the back lining right.
 
 
 
My inspiration for this dress came from a picture I found on Pinterest. The link took me to an Asian website, so using my great powers of deduction, I’m going to have a stab at guessing that this is either a Chanel dress or one that is inspired by the great fashion house. It was the only picture of this dress I could find online. Aside from the gathers in the sleeve caps, I fell in love with everything about it.
  
It was one of those rare occasions that I had the pattern (drop waist, hello!), I had the perfect fabric, and I had a pretty keen desire to put some impractical stash to good use. I would rarely copy my source of inspiration outright (she says as she gathers fabric for her Dior coat knock off), but guys, this is Chanel!
 
Should I open up a can of worms here and ask what you guys think about copying designers? My personal feelings are that if you are giving credit where credit is due and not mass producing the items for sale, then it’s no big deal. I’ll always reference my point of inspiration, and since there was no chance of me ever purchasing the item in the first place, I’m hardly affecting anyone’s bottom line. I do still feel like a bit of a cheat though.
 
 
 
 

 


 






Vintage floral

We are having a great lazy start to the weekend here. For a pleasant change, all I can hear are little voices excitedly pretending to be fairies, teachers, campers and whatever else their little minds are thinking up on the spur of the moment. I can never keep up with the rules of their games. But at least there is a lot of love in the air today.


My girls are lucky enough to live in a quiet street, with some great neighbourhood kids to play with. They have a lovely time scooting up and down the pathway in front of our house, and generally spend their days running amok. 


Today Miss 5 was out racing around in her new top. A lovely little number made using some cute vintage cotton. Miss 3 is wearing her little Ralphy dress (made with a Tessuti fabric) with some gorgeous green vintage buttons we handpicked together from All Buttons in Newtown.


This is the pattern I used for Coco (View 2), but I scaled it down a bit to fit my size 5 girl.


I’d started out making it for my seven year old neighbour but when it looked like being way too small, I ditched this plan, slimmed the side seams a little and shortened it a smidge for my daughter. But the best thing about it has to be my zipper insertion. I am rarely excited by the way my zips turn out, but I think perhaps I may finally be getting better at them. God knows I’ve inserted enough into all my dresses and tops over the last two years for the sake of my little Midgie.




Seeing triple

This is what happens when I get dressed BEFORE my girls in the morning. Thankfully, we were mostly inside the house today, braving the hottest October day in history!


Seeing triple in some simple Ralph Lauren floral cotton. I made my dress about a year ago but only used up the little leftover bits recently. I had a bit of trouble keeping the lions still for a photo shoot.