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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IKEA shift dress and flared sleeve tutorial

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I’m not sure if it is a parenting flaw on my behalf, but my three girls consider a trip to Ikea worth bargaining for. They love visiting Smaland, even though it’s always a small miracle if there are ever enough spaces to take them all in. But even if they don’t get in, they’re at an age now that it is really quite enjoyable walking around and finding things together – things that we never knew we needed.

This is not the first time I’ve been fabric shopping at IKEA. A few years ago I made made curtains, bento bags, and a couple of small dresses with IKEA fabric. This time around, I purchased two yards of stiff cotton with the intention of making a midi skirt or a shift dress. It seems that the shift dress won out in the end.

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The pattern I used is based on this floral dress from last year. It’s a very basic, self-drafted shift dress, with flared extensions added to the sleeves.

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There are plenty of patterns you could use to acheive this simple design.

  • Vintage shift dress patterns are a dime a dozen. Ebay and Etsy both have heaps. I’ve just looked!
  • Papercut Patterns Sea-Bell dress is a more fitted style, but quite an expensive option for such a simple dress.
  • Megan Nielsen Dove top is another to consider. It would be easy to extend into a dress, and the sleeves are already done for you.
  • The Tessuti Fabrics Maggie Tunic would work well with the addition of flared sleeves.

The above sewing patterns are options, but if you already have a TNT, darted T-shirt, shift dress, or even a nice sheath, it isn’t difficult to add flared sleeves. All you need to do is measure the circumference of the sleeve you are adding to and decide on the length of flare you want.

First, decide which dress/top pattern you want to use:

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Now it’s time to create the sleeve extension:

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And there you have it. Flared sleeves couldn’t be easier!

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Black trimmed lace dress

I made this dress some time ago and entered it into the Tessuti cut out lace competition. However, I always had bigger plans for it. Here are some updated photos.

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Pretty much all the details are the same as before. I simply unpicked all the extra overlay that I’d handstitched in place over the shoulder straps, and turned the black trim back to the outside. There was a little seam-ripping and re-sewing involved but it was worth it (and easier because I’d made allowances for the changes to begin with).

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Now it’s just a shame that Summer is edging away from us. I’ve probably only got a few weeks of lace left but I will enjoy it while I can.

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Flared sleeve shirt refashion

I’ve always been a bit partial to a statement sleeve. And right now, flared sleeves, bell sleeves, and even gathered sleeves are just about everywhere.

I want to share with you a quick way to update an existing collared shirt, or any shirt for that matter. I started with a a basic white button up. Mine was purchased from Target for a grand total of $22, specifically with this project in mind. I toyed with the idea of sewing myself a shirt from scratch for all of five seconds. But as you should all know by now,  I’m not so in love with sewing basics.

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I started by cutting the cuffs off a basic shirt and with them, about six inches of sleeve. I then measured the circumference of the cut portion of the sleeve and used that as a guide to draft the new cuff.

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I drafted a new cuff (just a big rectangle) that measured 8.5 inches in width and 12 inches in length (including a 5/8″ seam allowance). The cuff width allowed for a three inch overlap, to line it up with the underarm sleeve seam when sewn in place. I then slashed and spread the cuff to turn it into a flared design. See the picture of the new pattern piece (below) to get an idea of the amount of flare. The pattern piece is cut on the fold and two cuffs need to be cut (one for lining, one for outer fabric).

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Because of the size of these new cuffs, I chose not to interface them, which turned out to be the best decision. I also played around with the position of the overlap/slit of the cuff and found it worked best (appearance and practicality) when it was positioned on the underside, with the back overlapping the front. This positioning suits the natural movement of the arm better.

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I’m delighted with my modified white shirt. I’m currently considering which other shirts in my wardrobe might need a similar update.

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Cut out lace dress 2

I never intended to make two dresses with this fabric. I had less than a full panel remaining after finishing my main entry. I toyed with turning the leftover bits of lace into a top for one of my girls, but my sewjo just couldn’t get behind that idea. It seems that I needed another white lace dress in my closet.

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I spent way too much time mulling over the positioning of the lace, perhaps even more so with this one because my options were limited. To achieve symmetry with the scraps I had on hand, the bodice had to be seamed down the CF in addition to the princess seams. I didn’t have much choice with the lace placement for the skirt. I like the way I was able to place the lace in the front and whilst I also like the back, it’s perhaps not as cohesive through the sides as I would like. The dot-lace hem is seamed on.

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Design-wise, this dress is very similar to my previous entry. The princess-seamed bodice is almost the same, but with a slightly more scooped out neckline and skinny, self-fabric straps. The skirt portion was modified from one of my TNT pencil skirt patterns. I slashed and spread the pattern slightly into a subtle A-line shape for a more casual fit. I absorbed the back darts through the flare and back waist seam.

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The bodice is unlined, but the skirt is lined. I faced the neckline raw edges with bias binding. The skirt is lined with a beige coloured acetate. I kept the skirt lining as short as possible so as not to be seen through the bottom panel of the hem. I won’t be bending over in this dress!

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Like my other dress, this dress is also designed to be worn with a very specific bra (the one I wore in the last lace dress post). You can see that the bodice fits a lot better when I wear that bra here (and I will be wearing it in real life). It is mostly unseen behind the straps, but for a cleaner look in some of these photos (since I didn’t have a wardrobe assistant on hand to check for strap visibility), I decided to wear a strapless bra. The fit is just not as good across the bust when I have to resort to a strapless bra. It’s a very good reminder of how undergarments affect the outer fit.

Also, try to ignore the big smear of white paint across my calf… maybe we should start a game called, “Spot the Paint on Her”, in all my blog photos for the next six months….

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Cut out lace competition dress

I know I should sit on my competition entries like everyone else, but it’s like sitting on a hot potato, especially since I couldn’t wait to get started on this one. It’s finished, photographed, and I’ll be squeezing in as many wears as possible before Fall, so I figured I might as well share it! The inspiration came from THIS dress that I posted on my IG account a few weeks ago.

As soon as I saw the ivory lace, I knew exactly what I wanted to make with it. The only problem was that the rules stated that no trims could be used and that the outer fabric of the garment had to be made entirely of the competition fabric, and in a single colourway only. That was a big problem. The contrasting black trim against the ivory lace was the element that I most liked about my inspiration dress.

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It took me a bit of thinking to come up with a solution, and a LOT of hand-stitching post construction. However, I found a way to keep all my black trim to the underside of the lace fabric and in a manner that I could reverse in the future. With the trim kept to the inside, the contrast is muted through the lace, but still visible as a subtle feature.

This is a post about my competition dress. I will share more pictures one day after I have unpicked all my handiwork to reveal the black trim again.

I designed this dress using a combination of flat pattern-making and draping. I tried very hard to design a bodice that would be low cut (and slightly shaped) in the back, yet with straps that would conceal my favourite bra. I think I did a pretty good job.

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I also tried to position the lace in such a way as to avoid lining the bodice. I wanted the dress to show glimpses of skin through the lace rather than lining. But I also didn’t want the dress to be too revealing. The bodice isn’t lined at all but the ruffle provides a little extra coverage. The skirt has a short lining. I couldn’t quite manage to place the lace of the skirt in such a way that would cover my bottom completely.

The lining I used for the skirt is an ivory/beige coloured acetate. I gathered the lining in my dress rather than pleating it because I wanted to add a bit more bulk through the skirt. And that is the beauty of sewing your own clothes. My hips are narrower than my shoulders and this difference gets a little more pronounced the fitter I get so a gathered lining in the skirt helps me achieve an illusion of filling it out better and having a more hourglass figure. (I blame Pokemon, the Olympics, and active kids for getting me out running and swimming laps everyday this Summer!).

I made the straps using wide, black, foldover elastic (FOE). The gathered sleeves are sandwiched between the fold and then the entire length of the elastic is stitched down to create an enclosed strap. I used a very strong/stable FOE. Too much stretch would have made for weak straps, but a little bit of firm stretch and a lightning stitch creates very comfortable and strong shoulder straps.

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The sharp contrast of black against ivory in the shoulder straps was what my heart desired, but I compromised by using it as a strap lining instead. I created lace tubes to cover those black elastic straps and hand-stitched them in place. I’ll remove those lace tubes at a later date.

I also encased the edges of the lace ruffle in black, self-made, silk binding. I then turned that trim to the underside and hand-stitched it in place. I like that I can still see a glimpse of the black through the lace. To cover the very edges of the black binding (near the neckline and CB zipper), I cut tiny squares of the competition fabric and appliqued them over the visible binding. The result is a dress with outer fabric made completely of the competition lace.

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I’m so pleased with how this dress turned out. I will definitely enjoy wearing it during the last few weeks of Summer. Meanwhile, there’s still plenty of time to enter the competition and if you don’t like ivory lace, there is also red and black to choose from. I have less than a full panel remaining of my ivory lace, but I think I’ve just worked out a way to scrapbust it into another little frock!

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