Silk bias cut dress for Summer

When you find the perfect silk, you really just have to make the perfect dress. I actually had another dress in mind for this silk, but when it arrived on my doorstep, I realised that it deserved something a little better.

It’s a silk satin by Trina Turk from The Fabric Store. It has a lovely, subtle texture to the good side, and the fabric is a beautiful weight that doesn’t require lining. It’s the perfect silk for a bias cut dress!

I used a design I copied from a RTW dress a few years ago. However, I lined the front and back bodice and turned it into a halter neck instead.

 

I love this dress A LOT. And I should. It’s the perfect fit. I guess that’s why so many of us sew though, isn’t it. How amazing does it feel to slip on a dress that fits like a glove, custom-made to your unique shape only?

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 They just feel a bit outdated to me, so they have been packed away for another time (or for when my girls become teenagers and want to explore all the old clothes I used to make and wear).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.

Liberty of London suit in yellow

This is my little Chickmunk. Yes, you read correct. We don’t have chipmunks around these parts. We have Chickmunks. No matter how many times I correct the child, it still always comes out as chickmunk. I personally think that she’s a bit of a chickmunk herself.

This bright, summery suit is a new girl’s pattern that I’ve been working on. It’s a copy of the tie-back suit all the big girls wear at swim practice. The fabric is the most delicious Liberty of London swimsuit fabric from The Fabric Store.

It’s been a while now since I’ve sewn up my first Liberty of London suit. I can now attest to the fact that the fabric lasts well with constant use. It feels beautiful and smooth to the hand and it performs nicely in the pool. It definitely outlasts any of the cheaper swimsuit fabric I’ve picked up from Joann or Hancocks over the years. I’ve learnt the hard way that you get what you pay for.

 

Miss Six claimed this suit before it was even finished. It’s actually a size too big for her. She should be wearing a 24. This is size 26. It looks ok when it’s dry, but if you look at the photos, you can see some gathering/wrinkling around the leg and through the waist area. There is also more tie than there should be.

The fit becomes more apparent when in the water. A good fitting suit SHOULD actually stetch a little over the curves of the body. There should be negative ease; a little bit of negative ease in a practice suit, a LOT of negative ease in race suit. The back tie allows a bit of flexibility with fit. You can tighten or loosen the straps as you please. And I know that I see plenty of kids in poorly fitting swimsuits. However, when you are swimming laps, it feels awful wearing a suit that doesn’t fit. I’ve always made sure my girls have suits that fit correctly. I’ve possibly spoilt them…

Anyway, this little chickmunk still gives the suit a big thumbs up!

Tessuti Skylines Competition

I had it in my head that I wanted a floaty, ruffly, backless, maxi dress. The challenge was in producing a dress that wasn’t too girly in such a (potentially) twee fabric. The fabric is really, very beautiful though. It’s a linen blend, with a lovely, crinkly texture that becomes more apparent after washing. I’m not one who likes my linen crisp. I love the way linen fabric creases and crinkles.

The design is my own, but I’ll talk you through it a bit. I honestly believe that if you have a couple of different well fitting bodice patterns in your stash, you can make virtually anything from them. This started off as a standard princess-seamed bodice that I had draped to my shape months ago. I modified the design to remove the shoulder seams so I could attach straps instead. I also lowered the back to not much more than an inch above my waist. And I lowered the back waistline to create a slightly hi-low look at the waist seam. I further exagerated the hi-lo effect in the first skirt panel, but kept the last gathered, skirt panel as a very long rectangle.

The bodice is detailed with bias binding that I cut as one inch strips and left the edges raw. I love the slightly frazzled look of well-considered, raw edges in fashion right now. I seamed these into the princess seams, the waist seam, and on either side of the back zipper. As they are cut on the bias, they shouldn’t really fray too much with wear, however I am looking forward to them looking more pronounced and “ruffled” after a few launderings.

To help keep up the weight of the skirt, I added a waist stay to the dress. This is basically a soft petersham ribbon handstitched at points along the waist. I cut up an old bra for the closures. I used the cups from this same bra to add a little shape to the front of the dress. I toyed with inserting the cups properly under the lining before I attached the skirt, but I think they may annoy me down the track, in which case I can still easily remove them.

I can tie the back in a few different ways, but my favourite is the backless version you see in the majority of the photos.

 

I’m very pleased with how this dress turned out. It’s a fancy dress, made from a very down-to-earth fabric. I love the contradiction in this. It’s something that I would feel very comfortable in dressing up to wear to an important occasion.

 

 

A Spring midi in crinkle silk

Spring is for floating around in dresses made of fairy wings, right?! I got a jump start on my favourite season with this dress. It might still be a little cool to wear it right now, but those days aren’t far away.

The fabric I used is Liberty of London silk crinkle chiffon from The Fabric Store. It’s a deliciously sheer silk that requires a bit of patience to sew, but produces a beautiful outcome.

I shouldn’t scare you though. It isn’t really that tricky to sew at all. The key is in keeping to a simple pattern and taking your time. Believe it or not, but the crinkle appearance and print also make it a very forgiving fabric to sew, particularly since it is a fabric that suits a looser fitting design.

I kept the design of this dress incredibly simple. The neckline and armscye are simply narrow hems. No binding. The silk presses beautifully. It’s a pullover style. The design is loosely based on a drop-waist dress pattern I made for myself years ago. I just turned the bodice into a high-low shape and added an extra gathered panel.

I’m wearing a simple black slip underneath. The only one I owned was tunic length, so I added a panel of leftover black lining (from this coat) to achieve the length I desired.

I love this dress! I’m envisioning a whole wardrobe of sheer dresses now. Stop me!

 

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.

All the ruffles

It all started with a Sachin & Babi dress that I fell instantly in love with. At that point, I wasn’t truly intending on making a dress, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how I would do it, if I ever decided to go ahead with it. I actually had the most perfect fabric in my stash already, which is rare, because I keep my stash pretty small. Every now and again, I purchase something on whim. It was how I ended up with several yards of the most beautiful sheer silk in shades of green. It will be a special occasion when I finally use it, and hopefully for my eldest daughter, as it was her hair and skin colouring that inspired me to buy it in the first place!

So, using my special fabric was out of the question. But I still couldn’t stop thinking about it. I started toying with the idea of refashioning another Archer in my wardrobe (my other ruffle refashion was an absolute winner!). But then I realised that I had enough of the vintage sheeting to simply start a dress from scratch.

I’d love to say that I had a pattern for this dress, but I made up a lotof it as I went along. It wouldn’t be hard to replicate though. All you need to know is how to make a flounce. You could use any princess seamed sundress pattern.

I started with a self-drafted, princess seamed dress bodice that I often use as a sloper. However, I’ve been doing a lot of swimming over the past year and I’m finding that a lot of my old memades aren’t fitting me so well anymore. My bust measurement has grown by a whole inch, unfortunately not my actual bust, but rather through my side back (the old latissimus dorsi). I ended up letting out the side seams under the arms but keeping the waist measurement the same. It worked perfectly. I also raised the neckline a little and brought the shoulder seams in towards the neck.

As to the ruffles, they are simply flounces that were measured and inserted into the princess seams. It was a little fiddly but perserverence paid off. I love the black insets on the front and back of the bodice, but I have to confess that these design features were the direct result of freestyling my sewing (forgetting a seam allowance) and having to fix the problems. The same happened with the skirt. I ended up recutting several panels more than once. First, I cut the skirt as one, but it didn’t look right without any flounces.  So, I seamed it down the front and back but followed the grainline for those seams. As soon as I inserted the first flounce I could see that it wasn’t going to work. I recut the skirt pieces with the seams parallel to the side seams. This makes the flounces fall in a nice bell shape with is prettier than straight lines down the front and back.

This dress is very ruffly! It has a lot of volume through the front bodice and the skirt. I’m fully aware that this is a style that wouldn’t work for everybody. It works well for me. I’m small busted, so the front ruffles add interest and size to the top. My body is somewhat triangular in shape, moreso as I get fitter and stronger. I don’t like emphasizing this shape, so having a bit of added body through the skirt creates the illusion of a more hourglass figure. Sewing is great because you can really play around with design to flatter and create illlusions!

And before I sign off on this dress, I just want to mention a couple of hashtags that I’ve started to use on instagram: #sewingstrong #sewstrong

All body types out there have their own sewing challenges. I can immediately think of patterns that are drafted for bigger busts, for pear shapes, and for petites. I’m not saying one is more challenging than the other, but simply that I have a harder time thinking of patterns that are drafted for tall ladies, small busted ladies, or very athletic shaped ladies. If you know of any, let me know! I would particularly love to know what patterns are working for ladies with broader backs, or strong shoulders. I know that I’ve occasionally turned to men’s shirt patterns, and Thread Theory’s Henley is an awesome fit on me. I’ve also been paying more attention to what Sallie sews lately, because I know if a shirt pattern fits her, it will probably work for me too. I’m hoping that this hashtag will be an easy way to pull up ideas for sewing patterns and flattering designs that work well on a strong female body. If you’re someone who struggles with fitting tops and dresses to a broader than average back, or strong shoulders, jump in and tag along.

 

Halston knock-off trousers

I was lucky enough to do a bit of modelling a few months ago and I got to wear a pair of amazing Halston pants. They weren’t even in my correct size (there was a bit of back-clipping involved), but I still fell instantly in love with them. The light, drapey fabric screamed Spring, and I just loved the large overlapping pleat at the front. Needless to say, I examined them very closely and took a lot of photos.

There are a few sewing patterns out there that are reasonably close in style, but nothing that is actually the same. The Ebony pants by Style Arc have a similar feel, but are pull-on, elastic waist pants with a mid-rise. The Halston pants are high waisted, with a regular waistband and back darts, symmetrical pleats next to the front pockets, and a centre front invisible zipper hidden beneath a large front pleat. What may seem like small design differences can make the world of difference to how a final product feels and looks. I felt it would be simpler for me to start with a well fitted pair of trousers and adjust the design from there. It’s not hard to cut and slash a few pleats. That’s all the overlapping pleat is in the front. It’s just a pleat that begins at the CF, at the same position as the zipper.

My pants are far from perfect. This was a wearable muslin (so I’m not too worried about the waistband puckers). I used the most hideous, poly suiting from Joann. I almost wish I’d spent a bit more now since they worked out better than expected. I could stand to add a half inch to the crotch length to bring the pants a little higher to my true waist. I also need to straighten my side seams by adding to the back and taking from the front and vice versa. See how my outer leg seam curves around to the back.

I love the look of pink silk with grey. But in real life, I’m most comfortable pairing these pants with a white shirt and wool boob tube. It’s just a little hard to show off the neat front pleat of the pants in this way though!

 

 

Swimmers swimsuit V1

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that I’m on a mission of sorts. I’m determined to perfect a couple of swimsuit designs, both for myself and my daughters.

Swimming is slowly becoming a big part of our lives, so it makes perfect sense that my sewing table would reflect this. We’re at the pool most days. I’m like a yoyo, driving the kids to the pool in the afternoon, and then back again on my own as often as I can. After nearly a year of talking about it, I’ve finally joined the Masters and I LOVE it. Swimming in a squad is nothing like swimming on your own (I’ve been kidding myself for months). During each session my hypoxic lungs and burning arms body remind me just how out of swim-condition I am, but also, just how good it is for me.

I’m currently working on three styles of swimsuits. One is a kid-style. I don’t like seeing kids in swimsuits that are too skimpy through the bottom and sides (like my suit design in this post!), but I also don’t like the racerback to be too wide. Whilst I would still recommend Jalie 3134 for kid swimsuits (and at this point, I can’t actually think of a better sewing pattern out there for the specific purpose of squad swimming), it just wasn’t the perfect swimsuit pattern for this very picky swim-mum. I’ll still sew Jalie 3134 again, but I’ll probably reserve it for when I have smaller fabric scraps to use up. There’s some great panelling on that pattern.

In terms of the issues, I found the crotch of Jalie 3134 pattern a little too wide and the fit around the bum and lower back less than ideal. If you look at the woman’s back view picture on the pattern cover, you can see the gathering/wrinkles I’m talking about. It’s really no big deal, but I know a better fit is possible. I also don’t like the side seams on this pattern. I feel like you can get a better fit through the lower back/sides with a slanted side/hip seam that is positioned more towards the back of the suit, as opposed to a straight side seam connecting the front and back. A straight side seam also adds bulk to the underarm zone, which can cause pretty horrific chaffing if you don’t nail it during construction. But even then, you really don’t want an underarm seam in bathers if you are doing serious swimming. Again, I’m nitpicking here, but I’ve had a lot of hands-on, personal experience with swimsuits over the years.

The other two designs are just for myself. I’ve photographed the skimpier style for this post. I’m quite pleased with how it turned out but it’s still a little short in the body. I just need to add a little extra length/width to the upper bust area and then I think I can file this pattern away as done. I have another suit design on the cutting table that will provide a bit more coverage through the sides and back, with a back that looks more like the kid version.

Like the Jalie design I discussed earlier, my first two swimsuits (here and here) also had a straight side seam. Why? Because it’s easy to draft. Removing that straight side seam hurt my brain a lot, but it worked. Compare the seams in the photos below. The top (green cherry) suit is Jalie 3134. It has all the fun seaming. The bottom (buzzy bee) suit is my design. My accidental pattern-matching makes the seam a little hard to see in the buzzy bee suit, but you can see it better here.

I tried it out first on Miss nearly-Nine’s suit. Then I used the same principles to create similar designs for me.

I’m getting closer with the kid-suit. I messed up the neckline in this first draft, so I had to cut off the top binding and add pleats just to make it wearable (there’s no way I was going to waste a swimsuit with Summer on the way!). The fit through the back is pretty spot on though.

My next version also worked out really well. It was actually intended for my biggest girl, but we realised that Miss Seven needed it more. And since she’s chomping at the bit to join her big sister in the swim team, we all thought the buzzy bees should belong to her. Miss Seven is almost as tall as her big sister, but just a smidgin narrower through the waist and hips. I wasn’t able to catch her to photograph the swimsuit dry, but it was rigorously tested in the water yesterday. In fact, I was lucky to catch this one for a photo, full stop.

 

 

 

A Summer dress

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Apparently you guys like pretty dresses, well those of you who follow me on IG do. My top posts of 2016 are pretty much all the dresses. I hadn’t even blogged about this one and it still made the cut.

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I made this one using a large remnant of vintage linen, thrifted from an estate sale. The textured windowpane fabric was from a small length purchased on whim from Tessuti Fabrics some time ago. I think the blue pairs perfectly with it.

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The pattern is modification on a self-drafted princess bodice that fits me perfectly. You’ve seen me use different versions of this bodice all Summer (here, here, here, and here). The skirt is just gathered (with pockets of course!). I was after a cool, easy-to-wear, Summer dress.

I was worried about the straps being too stiff, but I’m glad for their sturdiness now. And they don’t feel too stiff when I wear the dress. They actually feel comfortable and secure. I hate flimsy straps that feel like they may stretch out or tear. Instead of creating tubes and pressing flat (as I’d normally do for a strap of this width), I used wider lengths of linen, folded the raw edges in and then in on themselves again, and then topstitched both edges. It means that there are four layers of linen in each strap, perfectly suited to holding up the weight of a midi-length, gathered skirt.

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I’m a big fan of the midi length dress. It’s an easy length for tall ladies to wear. I know I’m going to get a lot of wear out of this, maybe even sooner rather than later!

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