HATCH Hats and a giveaway

I was recently contacted by HATCH Hats, to see if I’d like to try out some of their hats and possibly feature a giveaway on my blog. So I checked out their products and was pleasantly surprised with what they had to offer.

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I don’t photograph myself in hats very often, but I probably should! It’s who I am in real life. On more than one occasion, I’ve been called The Hat Lady or The Mum in the Hat Family. What can I say? I’m Australian. Sun safety has been drilled into me since I was a child. No hat means no play to kids in Australian schools. Literally. It’s a rule I continue to enforce with my kids here. We wear hats everywhere. And we probably stand out a bit for doing so. But it’s worth it. You don’t need me to tell you that skin cancer is the real deal, but the sun is also your worst enemy when it comes to premature skin ageing.

When it comes to sunhats, I look for a few features. Functionality is important to me. I need a broad brim and I need it to fit securely. I have enough on my plate each day without having to keep one hand on my hat to prevent it from flying away. Hatch Hats are comfortable and they do actually stay put. There is an adjustable band of elastic within the facing that helps fit the hat securely to the head.

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I also love the selection of styles available. I chose the Sophisticate in grey (below) and the broad brimmed Weaver (above). The Sophisticate pairs perfectly with my new silk Chloe and white Esthers. I’ve been wearing this hat to late afternoon swim meets and to all the evening parties that happen in Summer here. The brim on the Sophisticate is narrower, but it still provides some protection from the hot, late afternoon sun and I LOVE the beaded band.

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I’ve been wearing my Weaver nearly every day too. It has a great, broad brim which has made it my daytime go-to. I love that the brim is stiff enough to resist flopping down over my eyes.

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The great people at HATCH Hats want to give away a sunhat each to two lucky people. Follow HATCH Hats on Instagram and like the photo linked to this giveaway. The winner will be selected at random on Friday, June 24th and announced that day via Instagram and Facebook. No purchase necessary. US + Canada only.

 

Disclaimer: I was given these awesome hats for free, in exchange for writing a review and featuring them on my blog. As always, I only accept products if I’m genuinely interested in them. And the opinions expressed are entirely my own.

A mini Chloe dress for Miss Eight

My girls have been watching my production of cold-shoulder dresses and tops and begging me to make them the same. This make is literally all scraps, right down to the miscellaneous, handmade, but unmatched silk and rayon bias bindings.

It’s almost an exact replica of my Chloe dress pattern, but in a mini size.

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The fabric is an old poly from Spotlight. It fades a little, and catches occasionally, but it’s lightweight, and otherwise wears pretty well. In fact, it wears incredibly well, because I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Miss Eight wearing her other dress in this fabric at least twice a week since I made it.

This dress was always intended as a wearable muslin, but it has turned into one of those rare occasions where I don’t want to change a single thing about it. And I’m pretty sure Miss Eight feels the same. I’ve been watching her wear it. It looks comfortable and non-restrictive for play. It’s nearly too short for her, but she likes to wear bike pants under dresses anyway, so it still works. On an average height girl, the dress would be more modest.

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Miss Six and Miss Four have put in their orders so I better get to work grading this pattern down for them. It looks like we might all be twinning in a few weeks.

Yet another cold shoulder dress #lscchloedress

And in my best attempt at boring the beautifully knitted socks off y’all… here is yet another cold shoulder dress. I’d call it my favourite, but I’m still so desperately in love with this one.

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I know very well that this style is trend-driven and it doesn’t suit everybody’s aesthetics. There’s heaps of ease through the body to make this dress so glorious to wear on hot days. The easy fitting, slipover design imparts a sense of freedom to the wearer. If you like your dresses fitted, this one just isn’t for you.

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I made this version of the Chloe dress up in what I think is rayon. I found the fabric at an estate sale a while back. The burn test indicated a natural fibre, but the lovely, drapey hand of the fabric screams rayon to me. The rayon provides the beautiful drape that this dress deserves.

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I’ve made the same pattern up in a crisp linen and a (poly) organza. I really, really like those versions, but I don’t love them quite as much as I do the dresses. In fact, I’m not the only one who loves my dresses. My daughters have been begging for their own mini-versions. I was lucky enough to have a bit of extra sewing time (and scrap fabric) so I whipped together a little scrappy version for Miss Eight. This dress (both the big and mini version) is a super quick sew.

But OMG the mini version is just the cutest! I put a sneak peek on Instagram and I’ll probably get some more photos up there soon. It looks totally gorgeous on Coco so it looks like I’ll be turning this one into a PDF pattern too. I’ve made too many promises. I need to grade the mini-design down to two more different sizes for her sisters now, so I might as well do it properly and add a few bigger sizes as well!

 

White lace dress

One great thing about living in the USA is that my birthday is in Summer here! I’m so much more inspired to dress up and head out for the night in the middle of Summer. The end of June always seems so cold and dark in Sydney (relatively speaking).

To be perfectly honest though, I’ll use any excuse to sew a nice dress. Yes, there’s still over a month until my birthday, but several years ago I came up with best birthday strategy ever. For the next month, many sentences will begin with, “It’s my birthday soon, so…”. If I really stretch it, I can milk my birthday for a good eight weeks, which could possibly turn into several dinners out, maybe some new shoes, fabric…and you’ve already seen my “birthday” sunnies if you follow me on Instagram.

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But let’s get back to the birthday dress. It is my own design, albeit a very simple one, and also one you’ve seen before. The skirt is the only real part of the design I changed, moving and adjusting the pleats a bit to create the volume and shape of the skirt. I also moved the zipper to the back and left it exposed (because it is a bit fancy!).

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I’ve been calling the outer fabric lace, for want of a better word. Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn’t. It is actually faux leather embroidered on scuba mesh. Surprisingly though, it is very stable. There isn’t much stretch in that mesh so I was able to turn the fabric on the cross grain to utilise the mesh edging/selvedge as a hem. I decided that the lining needed to be black for contrast and cotton for breathability under the spongy synthetic exterior.

Now, the construction of this dress is where things went a little Pete Tong. My original plan was to partially line the bodice, just like this blue Milly dress. However, after sewing all the seams  (of the outer fabric) and serging them, I realised that the underside of the lace was so hard and scratchy that the dress would be unwearable if it was left even partially unlined. I could have used silk organza blocked into the top part of the lining and sewn it as a full lining, but I didn’t have the right shade of nude on hand and I just wanted to get on with it.

My solution was to first bind the armscye of the outer lace. Then I sewed together the lining in full and attached it to the lace at the neckline. Then a lot of hand-stitching ensued. I slip-stitched the lining to the armscye binding and down the centre back. The dress is actually very close to passing as reversible.

I’m very happy with the fit. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but I think I will always feel an element of surprise and delight when I step into a garment that is perfectly molded to my body. It’s a sensation that I’ve never felt with RTW.

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And while we are speaking of perfect fit… I drove past an estate sale last week and bumped into the impeccable Jill Sander shoes that you see in the photos. They were not only my exact size, but comfortable, possibly unworn, and totally meant for the dress I was sewing. I felt like Cinderella!

Vintage lace cold shoulder ensemble

You’ve seen me sew up a few cold-shoulder garments this season. I love them! I particularly love this style because it is cool, loose-fitting, and not at all restrictive. It’s become my go-to style this Spring.

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The fabric came from a vintage, linen tablecloth. Beautiful linen tablecloths are at every estate sale here in Kansas City. I’d like to say, “a dime a dozen”, but they are never ever a dime. They are usually priced anywhere from $10 to $150. I loved this one as soon as I saw it, but I wasn’t prepared to buy it at full price. So I crossed my fingers and went back to the sale on the last day and bought it for $40 (50% off). It’s a huge tablecloth (2m by 4m) and the linen is of a beautiful quality, without any stains or tears. It is densely woven, with a fine texture, and quite opaque, but still lightweight enough for garments. In  my opinion, it was a steal.

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I didn’t stop at the top though. I also made myself a pair of matching shorts, inspired by the one and only Sophie (Ada Spragg). I still have a lot of leftover fabric. This is the tablecloth that never stops. And the best bit about it is the very ample lace edging. I love the look of the lace, but I also love the fact that incorporating it in as the hem of a garment makes for a very quick sew (no hemming!!!).

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Authentic 70’s cold shoulder blouse

I’m calling this authentic because the thread and the fabric were both picked up at an estate sale. It’s plausible that the fabric is from the 70’s. It certainly looks the part.

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To be perfectly honest, most of the fabric I find at estate sales is truly awful. There’s lots of old, rough quilting remnants, ugly home deco cottons, and dusty poly knits. The pricing is often absurd too, clearly valued by people who know nothing about fabric and sewing. I walk past a lot of rubbish. However, every now and then I find a gem and a bargain.

This fabric was a part of several bundles that I found at one particular house several months ago. Each bundle was $1-3 and contained 3-5 remnants of varying lengths. I was immediately apparent to me that some of the fabric was of high quality, but sometimes it’s hard to tell the exact fibre content of a fabric without a burn test, particularly with “nicer” synthetics. So I nabbed three of the more appealing bundles and took them home to inspect more closely.

Subsequent burn tests revealed a LOT of silk in that bundle, including this absolute gem. Needless to say, I popped back to the sale later that day and grabbed the remaining decent bundles. I ended up with several long lengths of pretty silks, two really long lengths of Liberty of London (one was a wool blend), and a few nice poly and cotton florals. Some prints are old fashioned, but even so, are still delightful for the right project.

I was able to determine that this particular floral fabric was a synthetic. It doesn’t press. It definitely melts (please don’t ask me about this!)! It’s stiffer than a silk chiffon. It’s not my kind of fabric at all, but I LOVED the 70’s vibe of the print. It was going to make the perfect partner for my suede mini and flares.

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I wasn’t planning to spend much time or effort on a horrid poly like this but I didn’t have a lot of choice. I needed to bind the raw edges somehow. Self-fabric binding would have been beautiful (but an awful job with a fabric that won’t hold a crease). My solution was to use some sheer pink, silk organza that I already had on hand. Obviously, silk organza presses well but I’ve never used it for bias binding before. It’s a very crisp fabric to begin with but after several washes, silk organza turns super soft. It was the perfect compliment to this sheer blouse.

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Linen romper

So this wasn’t a complete fail, but I really don’t love it. I tried so hard to make it work, but still, all I’m feeling is meh…

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It’s not a complete loss though. The linen was salvaged from old makes and small remnants that I had lying around. It was incredibly satisfying to clear my scrap pile of all the lovely linens (which are too beautiful to throw away, but too small to make anything worthwhile with). If you look closely, the front and back of the shorts are actually two different blues… this make was scrapbusting at it’s finest!

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The colour-blocking was determined by the scraps I had on hand. The shorts are based on the Carolyn Pyjama pattern. I lengthened the crotch rise (front and back) by 1.5 inches in order to raise the waistline and make them suitable for a romper design.

The top half was designed by me. It’s very basic. I chickened out of the front-tie design I originally had planned. I liked the look better but the deep, deep neckline would have rendered it for beach-wear only. As it is, I may not love this make, but it will still be a practical wardrobe addition for Summer.

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Cold-shoulder dress

This dress was not on the top of my sewing queue but somehow I managed to drop everything else as soon as I spotted this Tibi ensemble. It was love at first sight sight. The fabric is to die for, but I also loved the laid-back, cut-out design of the shoulder and the loose-fitted, fluid nature of the outfit. To me, it screamed, “hot, steamy, Summer”, which is exactly what we get to expect in Kansas City.

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I used a gorgeous fluid (cotton-like) viscose that I purchased recently on whim (I’m a sucker for filling my trolley to get free shipping!). I had no idea what I wanted to use it for at the time, but it was absolutely perfect for this dress.

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The design is my own, but it was a very simple one. If you have a basic shift dress pattern that fits you well the modifications are easy. I simply slashed the length of a TNT shift dress pattern to spread it into a slightly more A-line shape (rather than a boxy shift). And then I lined up the pattern pieces to create cut-outs over the shoulder seam. I used the same principal described in my off-the-shoulder top.

This dress worked out even better than I imagined. It’s like slipping into cool cotton sheets on a hot day, which is probably going to make it my favourite dress to wear in a few months time.

 

 

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

 

 

First of the DIY Spring frocks

It’s been so long since I’ve made a dress like this, with a fitted bodice and a pleated skirt. The design is very similar to one of the first few dresses I ever designed and made from scratch. If I was still living in Australia, I’d probably still own those dresses, but the nature of moving overseas calls for ruthless culling and I’ll freely admit that I have a few small regrets.

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To craft this pattern, I draped both a muslin and the fashion fabric directly onto my mannequin. I find draping gets the best fit for me through the bodice. I did a rough calico for the bodice, but draped the skirt fabric directly on the mannequin. The skirt is a very simple design, just two pleats and some whopping big side pockets.

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Because this was the first fitted (woven) bodice I’ve designed or made for a long time, I chose to use an invisible zipper down the front of the dress. I actually quite like this style of fastening, but I had another sneaky reason for placing the zipper in the front. I didn’t sew a full muslin of the dress so I wasn’t fully confident that the bodice fit wouldn’t need a bit more tweaking. I knew it would fit well enough but I wanted the opportunity to aim for perfection, as well as be able to accurately adjust my pattern pieces for the future. I’m reasonably flexible, but there’s no way I can pin out a CB seam accurately on my own!

As it turned out, the fit was pretty good. I only needed to let the waist out by 0.5cm on each seam and this was easy to do by reducing the seam allowance at that point when inserting the zipper.

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The fabric is a medium-heavy weight embroidered cotton. It has the most amazing texture and structure due to the black embroidery and it suits the design of the pleated skirt perfectly. You can see how the skirt holds it’s shape. I tried to be clever and freestyle a back cutout into the pattern once I’d already commenced sewing the bodice. However, I didn’t like the way the edges sat so I inserted some silk organza between the fabric and the lining. I probably could have used elastic along the cutout edges to bring them in towards the body instead of the organza. I’ll remember that next time.

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Overall, I’m very happy with the fit and feel of this dress. It’s a simple, elegant design that I’ll get a lot of wear out of. I’m also happy to have a TNT fitted, princess-seamed bodice pattern in my arsenal. It’s been something I’ve been meaning to make for over a year now.

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