Sunshine in a drop waist dress

Let me start by saying that this is just a wearable muslin. It is such a simple little sun frock that completely belies the amount of pattern cutting, slashing, taping and calico testing that went on behind the seams (ha, see what I did there!).

I’m still not happy with this dress though. It fits well and looks ok, but it doesn’t match the vision in my head and I’m not happy with the way some of the pieces fitted together when I was sewing it. I had to do a bit of freestyle pattern shaping when I was sewing and of course by that stage, I’d had enough and failed to adequately record the last changes.

The pattern pieces of the skirt need the most work. I like the hi-lo hem, but I need to shave a bit more off the front and I need to remove a bit more body at the sides. I also need to work on the shape of the bottom bodice/flounce seam.


I like the look of the back though.

And for a behind the scenes look at my photo shoot. Like always, the little one is my Director of Photos, advising me on how to place my hands. She’s dressed down today, in her big sister’s cast offs that have been getting a second lease of life in the dress up box. There would usually be a few more layers of dresses involved in her outfit. She likes to wear all her favourite clothes at the same time.

But back to my dress. I’m not going to call it a compete fail. It’s the kind of easy cotton sun dress that I can see myself wearing a lot over summer. And the colour definitely makes me smile. I’m just completely worn out by puzzling out this pattern. I’ve walked away. I’m yet to even pack away the crumpled, overly taped pieces of tracing paper, or the completed shorter skirt flounce that I decided not to layer over the longer flounce in the end.

I won’t be making this pattern again as it is. Maybe I might have the strength to improve it or modify it in the future though. And having these blog photos to refer back to will certainly make it easier to see the changes that I want to make.


A fitted tunic for my wide leg fancy pants: Rosie Assoulin inspired

This is the top that I had in mind for my wide leg fancy pants. I took my inspiration Rosie Assoulin. I love just about every shape and style she puts her name to.


The fabric I used is a nice crisp cotton sateen by Theory. The pattern is my own. I spent a lot of time, draping, muslinning and pondering the lines of this one. It’s hard to see the details of the top without specifically pointing them out, so I’ve taken a few extra photos to highlight them.


The front of the tunic has a concealed tummy bearing split between the bodice and the skirt. I’ve seen Rosie Assoulin tops with this feature, partially covering the tummy with a large bow.

I wanted some more coverage for Winter though, so I added a kangaroo pocket pouch to layer over the gap, yet still be covered by the bow. I like the layering effect of this. I also like that I still have the option of making a pouch-free version in the future, perhaps in Summer when I’m happy to bare a little bit more skin.

The bodice has slightly dropped shoulders. These look good without a sleeve too, so I’m looking forward to lengthening the skirt and ditching the sleeves to make a pretty frock when the weather warms. If I want, I can tie the bow around the back or side, but I really like the way it looks in the front. All in all, I’m super happy with how this one turned out.

Neoprene and faux leather mini skirt: two ways


This simple, high-waisted, pencil skirt is made up in neoprene, with a panel of fleece lined faux leather for the hem band. I added a little square of faux leather to the waistband and turned the back zipper into a design feature. The pattern I used is my own design, but I did a quick online search and you could just as easily modify M3830 to make this for yourself.




This is about as mini as a skirt gets for me. I’m still liking the high waist look but I’m also starting to feel more of an inclination towards dropped waistbands. Perhaps these mixed feelings are why I like this little skirt so much. I’ll most likely wear it with one of my favourite Simplicity 1366 makes as soon as the weather warms. For now, I will be layering it with a turtleneck skivvy and making the most of that high waist style.


Enigma Splash jacket with silk organza sleeve panels

I’m not quite sure where to start in talking about this jacket, so I’ll start with the fabric. It’s an amazing cotton sateen from Tessuti, with the most glorious satiny finish and really not at all suited for making a structured jacket. This was my first challenge; to successfully modify the fabric’s weight and drape so that it would create the type of jacket that I wanted to make.


Basically, I just interfaced it beyond recognition. The whole jacket was block fused with Pro-Weft supreme medium weight fusible interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply. It’s the same fusible that I used for my Dior knock-off and it gave the fabric a heavier feel but with the same soft drape. I also reshaped the fusible hair canvas that I tore off my Dior coat and reattached it to this jacket. Hair canvas is very precious so I was happy to be able to re-use this, although having already been fused once, it didn’t glue quite as well the second time, but it did work near enough to be passable.  


Initially, I only fused the hair canvas to the top half of the front and back jacket pieces and because I’d cut it on the bias, it didn’t provide enough structure for what I wanted. I also didn’t like the way the side seams continued to fall inwards towards themselves and the back, towards my body. I really wanted the fabric to stick out. Since I only had scrappy pieces of hair canvas remaining (leftover from my Dior coat), my first fix was to cut triangle wedges and to fuse them directly over the side seams. This worked really well, but then I noticed the back was still falling inwards too much. I cut up more hair canvas and ended up fusing it (in jigsaw like puzzle pieces) over the rest of the exposed Pro-Weft interfacing.

The end result is two complete layers of interfacing on the cotton sateen, one of Pro-Weft fusible and another of hair canvas. I am so pleased with the way it has completely changed the fabric. It’s not the perfect situation, because the hair canvas really should have been block fused in entire pieces rather than pieced, but it still works. The jacket has a beautiful, weighty, coat like feel to it, with the smooth, satiny surface of cotton sateen. And because I’m opting to dry-clean only (as you can imagine with all that interfacing!) the satiny surface of the cotton sateen should remain bright and shiny. 

The inside of this jacket is fully lined in silk jersey, because this was the only remotely suitable lining that I had in my stash. It isn’t a very stretchy silk jersey, but it works really well for the purpose. I think the slight stretch of this jersey has made for a very comfortable and forgiving lining. I would definitely use it again in this manner.


I also used silk organza to add panels to the sleeves for a bit of interest. This meant I had to get a little creative with the construction. There was a bit of handstitching involved. There was more hand-stitching involved with the bound buttonholes. I toyed with using magnets for invisible closures, and I still think this look would have been great for such a bold print. However, I had it in my head that I wanted to sew bound buttonholes, no matter what. So I found myself some lovely, shiny glass buttons to make this work.

The pattern matching took me forever and it certainly isn’t perfect, particularly on the side seams. The fabric was slightly off grain and I just couldn’t get it straight, no matter how much I stretched and ironed it. I gave up in the end and resigned myself to working with it as best I could. This meant cutting pieces that were obviously not quite symmetrical. Although I’m happy to say that the small differences that I was being finicky over aren’t even noticeable in the finished product. The beauty of retrospect (and finished photos) also means that I can now see a way that I could have lined those side seams up better.


Such a boldly printed jacket demands simple separates to offset the glare. My leather blocked leggings have come in handy yet again! I quite like the look of the jacket buttoned up but I especially love it’s shape and volume from the back when it is unbuttoned. This shot also shows a diagonal crease/edge from the hair canvas I pieced over the side seams. I couldn’t do anything to get rid of this, but thankfully it’s not too noticeable all the time. Next time I’ll know to block fuse at the get-go to avoid such an unsightly line.

The gridline drop waist dress


Did you really want to see another drop waist dress? Well to be completely honest, I thought I’d moved on from them myself. I’m really fickle with fashion. I love something intensely for a brief period, but if it remains in my field of vision for too long I get bored and start looking elsewhere for the next sparkly trend. My problem with the drop waist is that they are just so comfortable that I wear them every other day, to the extent that I get sick of the sight of myself. I have drop waist overload. Can you see my point?

And let’s not forget the one that started this whole obsession…

So now I feel like I should show you how I ended up sewing yet another drop waist. Firstly, I spotted this amazing dress on Pinterest, as worn by Olivia Palermo in the picture below. There’s something about those widely spaced gridlines and the unexpected seamlines that make my heart beat a little faster. If I could get my hands on that fabric, there’d be a knock-off in my wardrobe as we speak.

Soon after, Rachel from House of Pinheiro showed off her amazing Parisian dress. This was all the confirmation I needed. The fabric I used was already in my stash and part of it was upcycled from a long, shirt dress that I made some time ago. Reckless past-Debbie didn’t pre-wash the fabric and the shirt dress shrank a little too much for comfort. Needless to say, I’ve learned my lesson on that front.


The pattern I used was Simplicity 1366 again, a Cynthia Rowley pattern. I simply lengthened it and matched the side width with my self-drafted, drop waist pattern. The skirt is part circle and part haphazard wedge. It’s quite obvious that I paid little regard to line matching. I tried to place the skirt seams in a symmetrical fashion and match the side and arm seams where I could, but I had such a small amount of fabric to work with that I just had to place the pieces where I could. I don’t think they look too bad.




Cynthia Rowley vs grid lines

I’m sorry to say that past-Debbie was a bit more reckless with the pre-treatment of her fabric than she is today and my culottes suffered the brunt of this carelessness. They shrank in the wash. But the good news is that they have been refashioned into something that no longer prevents me from breathing.

There’s a good amount of fabric in a pair of culottes. I had just enough to make my new favourite top, another Cynthia Rowley Tee (seen before here and here). And it just so happens that I had a pair of matchy, matchy Esther shorts on stand-by, ready to turn this top into another Two-Piece Set-Acular. However, shorts season is pretty much at an end here, so in reality, I’ll be wearing this top with jeans, which might be a good thing. Is it just me, or did past-Debbie also forget to separate the colours in the wash? The top definitely looks a little more of a buttery white than the shorts.

I only made one extra modification to the top this time. I added a panel of faux leather down the front and back, mainly because a CF and CB seam of those gridlines would have just looked odd, even if I had them perfectly matched.

Yep, pretty happy with this make, but it’s nearly time for me to pack away my Summer gear. I’m going to try really hard to stick to seasonally appropriate makes this year. I’m so fickle with fashion that it just doesn’t make sense to make things, only to refashion it again before I wear it. But then again, that means I get two makes for the price of one! I see that as a win in my world. Some would disagree. 

In any case, I’m planning to live vicariously through the Summer making of my Southern hemisphere counterparts. So tell me, if you are watching the days get longer, what exciting sewing plans do have for Summer? And if you are on my side of the world, is it going to be a project list of coats and knits for Winter, or will you still sneak in the odd summer frock or two?

Leather jogging shorts a la Brooke Shields: McCall’s 8577

Brooke Shields in my wardrobe? She is now! I found her in this circa 1983 McCall’s pattern, complete with an iron on transfer of her signature. I left the signature untouched, but I did have a hack at those nifty running shorts on the front cover.

I made quite a few changes to my version, in part because I was sewing with leather, and in part to adjust for the very 80’s look those short were rocking. I’m talking baggy crotch, Harry high pant reducing adjustments: 

  • adjusted the side seam to remove the binding
  • I took a wedge out of the front crotch
  • straightened and shortened the hem
  • fully lined my version with china silk

Sewing with leather isn’t that difficult. I used a buttery soft Mirrabella lambskin from Tandy Leather. It is light and soft and perfect for making clothes. It’s the same type of leather that I used for my long joggers, trimmed top and armwarmers several months back.


I’m really only a newbie at sewing leather, but I have learnt a few things along the way. I suspect I will also be learning a few more things in the coming weeks when I have a bash at sewing a fitted garment.

  • You can safely fuse interfacing to leather using a low iron heat and a silk press sheet. I didn’t use interfacing on these shorts, but I did on my long jogging pants. The interfacing stops the leather from bagging out in the bum and knees, although lining them should help prevent this too. Interfacing also helps keep seams smooth if you are planning to top stitch them. I topstitched all the seams in my long pants and this worked beautifully because I’d fused interfacing to stabilise every pattern piece.

I realise now that interfacing the whole pants as well as lining them was probably a bit of overkill, but it did make for beautiful stable seams and after several wears now, these pants have not stretched out a bit.

Initially, I tried to topstitch the seams in my shorts, but seams stretched out terribly. Luckily, the style allowed me to trim the wavy side seams off and re-stitch a very narrow seam allowance instead. I much prefer my nice smooth side seams.

So the moral of this story is that leather can stretch. No interfacing equals no topstitching in my books.

  • Measure twice three times, stitch once! Once you stitch, that’s it. The holes are there forever. It is possible to unpick to repair mistakes, but even if you can’t see those former stitch holes, the leather will be weaker and more prone to tearing.
  • I am now the proud owner of a Teflon foot for sewing leather, but I couldn’t wait for it to arrive before I started on these shorts. I’m pretty sure it will make sewing leather easier next time. But in the meantime, it is good to know that it is possible to sew leather well with a normal sewing machine foot. Real leather is a dream to sew compared to faux leather!
  • I use a longer straight stitch (3.5) when I sew leather due to the thickness of the material. I also think the longer stitch may help prevent the leather tearing. 
  • Be prepared to add extra seams to your pattern. Depending on the size of your hide, you may need to piece your pattern together. I had to divide my waistband into two pieces to fit it into the leather.

Learning to sew with leather has been incredibly satisfying for me. I love that gives me another material to play around with in the sewing room. I also love that it has allowed me to add some classic pieces to my wardrobe that would have otherwise been well out of my clothing budget. 

Cropping the basic white pinny

So I’ve been loving my white linen pinafore so much that I thought I’d better sew another. This one is just as simple. I removed the side seam to keep the bodice piece as one, and then simply lobbed a big chunk off the length. I curved the hem slightly to a point so I could cross the ends over. Excuse my rough drawings but they should help you understand how I changed my first version. If you follow me on Instagram, I took a shot of the cropped pattern pieces on the cutting board too.

This top is quite structured and I like it that way. I used a medium-heavyweight cotton sateen from Mood and lined the entire top with the same fabric. It’s actually reversible because I measured the straps from my last top and stitched them into the seams this time. Then I turned it out the right way and slip stitched the last little bit shut. A single snap fastener holds the back in place. Super basic!


I do love my sunflower Esthers, but I’ve just realised that I’ve positioned half of a sunflower perfectly along the centre-back crotch. Maybe that’s why I’m looking so glum here.


More Esthers and some extreme Kanerva hacking


I’m not going to say much about these Esther shorts. I’ve made them before, here and here. A straight size 8 fits me perfectly with absolutely no modifications, apart from taking a little off the length. This time, I used up my leftover culottes fabric. I struggled a little in getting the grid lines on grain, but it’s near enough to keep me happy. 



But let’s talk about this top. It’s made using a crisp white Italian shirting from Mood. And would you believe that this pattern actually started out as a Kanerva! I’ll be honest though. I basically just used the sleeveless bodice front and back pieces as a block, keeping the length and waist darts the same, but changing everything else about it.

  • adjusted the shoulder slope and moved the seams in towards my neck significantly
  • changed the width of the shoulder seams
  • decreased the bust darts a little
  • converted it to a v-neck
  • changed the shape of the front and back armscye
  • added a self-drafted hi-low peplum
  • faced the neckline and armscye in one
  • added a CF seam for the stitching details, and to enable me to face it properly
CF stitching details. This also helps keep the facing sitting flat.

But it’s my facing that you might be most interested in. Facing it all in one creates a beautifully clean finish on both the armscye and the neckline and eliminates the need to line the top or bind it. I always interface my facing and then understitch before turning it out the right way.

Inside out from the front

Inside out from the back

 I’m super happy with this make. The top is easy-to-wear and perfect for slipping on in summer. I love the cool crispness of white cotton. And you already know how much I’m loving my Esthers this season. I can see myself getting some good wear out of this outfit in the coming months. 

Japanese pattern book shorts and another MOOCHi

So, as I was rummaging through my stash looking for red, white, and blue, I happened across a couple of tiny remnants I picked up from Tessuti last year. One was a lovely red cotton sateen and the other, a skerrick of Japanese cotton. Both pieces were too small for anything other than toddler-wear. I always try to label my stash fabric so I know where it was from,  how much I paid, and if possible the length. This way, I can justify (in my own warped world of fabric justification) using certain fabrics for my girls.


The top doesn’t need any explanation. It is simply a cropped version of the MOOCHi zip back version, cut shorter to make a top. I love this style of top on little girls and it seems to have the dress/swish factor that ensures it is actually worn, when other singlet tops are not (in my house anyway!). The MOOCHi pattern is free for anyone who wants it. You can see other versions here, and here.

But what I really wanted to mention about this top is the fabric. Does anyone else out there have trouble discerning right sides from wrong? Sometimes I feel like I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out which fabric side to use! I’m pretty sure I chose the wrong side with this Japanese cotton, but it was the side I liked most. It has white embroidered flowers running through the print, but these are printed over on what I think is the right side, so you can only feel them rather than see them. On the side I chose, the print is less vibrant and has that underside look about it, but the white embroidery can be seen (and doesn’t actually look like wrong side embroidery), so that is the side I chose to use. Anyway, it caused me an evening of musing!

wrong side?

right side?

The shorts were made using another Japanese craft book pattern. It came from the same book as this dress I made for my eldest daughter last year. In fact, the same cotton sateen was used in her waistband and sash so they can match each other now.

It was a super easy pattern and the little peep loves the pockets. I’m pretty happy with her red, white, and blue outfit for our Fourth of July street party. It’s missing the white factor but at least it isn’t an Elsa dress!