DIY suede wrap skirt // vintage fabric salvage

A few months ago, I stumbled across a vintage coat dress at an estate sale. The suede was in mixed condition, but there was an awful lot of it in the circle skirt design of the skirt. It was only $10 so I figured I would cut it up anyway (but not before I played a little dress-up).

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When I bought it home, the first thing I needed to do was address the old, dusty smell. It wasn’t offensive, just old. I hung it outside while I did a bit of research online. I discovered that it was possible to launder suede. I had nothing to lose.

I washed my coat on the gentlest machine cycle using a wool detergent and a smidgen of fabric softener. And then, because I was impatient, I decided to test out the dryer theory too. I dried the coat on the lowest, delicate cycle (which I use for drying silk). It worked beautifully. I feel like the gentle motion of the dryer eliminated any possible stiffness from the water. The end result was that the good suede on the coat looked, felt, and smelt better than before. The damaged suede didn’t, and in fact, was probably more obvious than before the wash. There were initially a few small (oil splatter?) stains in the suede too. These didn’t come out, probably because the washing process was so gentle. So even though I would still generally prefer to air suede, it’s good to know it can be washed safely on the odd occasion, particularly when hunting second hand goods.

But now I need to talk about the skirt. I salvaged the good suede from the coat dress to use for the outer skirt and since the coat was lined in silk, I used that to line my skirt too. I used the same sewing pattern that you’ve seen me use before (here and here). This time, I shortened the length and extended/straightened the front for full coverage.

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Instead of a waistband, I used a facing and I secured this down with a very wide topstitch, rolling the outer suede in towards the facing as I did so. This ensures that none of the contrast facing can be seen from the outside.

The skirt has some oddly placed seams because I focused on retrieving the best sections of fabric in the coat rather than avoiding the seams. Also, I quite like the asymmetry of surprise seaming here and there.

I opened out, topstitched, and trimmed back all my seams. The existing seams weren’t topstitched but were pressed so flat that I didn’t want to touch them. I also left the side edges and bottom hem unfinished. Suede won’t fray!

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To fasten the skirt, there is a lightweight ribbon tie on the inside (which looks like it needs to be tied a little tighter as I can see a little bit of the inner skirt front hanging down in the photo) and a single large button on the outside. I made a bound buttonhole in the suede. It sounds impressive but it wasn’t difficult at all. Suede is a pretty easy material to work with.

I’ve seen so many little suede minis in the past few months that I’m very happy to finally have my own. Watch out 70’s, here I come!

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Off the shoulder silk dress and a solution for strapless-bra haters

Can I just say how much I love this dress, perhaps even more so now because I have come up with an alternative to wearing a dastardly strapless bra.

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First, let’s talk about the dress. I feel like these photos don’t do the fabric justice. It’s actually a slightly warmer grey, in a luxurious double crepe silk. It’s a beautiful weight, completely opaque, and perfect for Spring, Summer, or in between. I’ll be using this dress as a transeasonal piece, possibly layering it over jeans and adding a scarf until the weather warms up.

I used my Branson Top pattern as a starting point for the dress pattern. It’s a pattern that fits me well, and it had a front bodice and sleeve shape that gave me a good starting point for the shape of flare I wanted. You could easily use another woven shirt pattern though.

My first step was to remove the CF front placket to turn the front bodice into one piece. Then I extended the lines of the pattern to a dress length. I then simply slashed and spread all three pattern pieces (the front, back, and sleeves). Because the front of the Branson Top pattern is already flared somewhat, I only spread the front by a little. The same applied to the wide Branson sleeves, which I shortened before spreading. I left the back hem a touch longer than the front.

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Now, about the strapless bra situation. There isn’t one (unless I want one of course)! My solution to the bra dilemma was to sew two tubes of matching fabric, press them, and thread them over the straps of an existing bra (I have enough bras in my arsenal that I won’t miss one for the time being). I machine basted the fabric tubes in place and I can remove them at any time or I can leave them on for as long as I want. Perfect!

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Winter mini skirt in thrifted home deco fabric

I found a small remnant of home decorating fabric at an estate sale recently. I fell in love with the texture and the pattern of the fabric, even though I knew it was probably heavily blended with polyester. The embroidery on the fabric imparts a lot of structure and shape to this little A-line mini. And that was my plan all along. I did not want a floppy mini.

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The skirt buttons up at the front. It’s a very simple design, modified from a TNT pencil skirt pattern. Seriously, there’s not much you can’t do once you have a well fitting skirt sloper. If there was anything even remotely complicated about the design I would have braved the snow for better photos. But it’s just a plain pencil shape with a touch of added flare at the bottom.

I usually fit my skirts perfectly at the waist, but add a smidgen of extra ease through the hips, just enough to give the illusion that my hips are slightly wider but not so much that the skirt looks loose (some fabrics allow for this better than others). My shape is more like a triangle than an hourglass, with broad shoulders and narrow hips. Aesthetically, I quite like the look of an hourglass and I find that playing around with the ease through the hips helps achieve the balance I’m after.

This skirt has two darts in the back, but none in the front. At the CF, I extended the pattern piece by about 2inches to fold back as a self-faced placket. The buttons are quite difficult to see in the photos, proof that you should always take your fabric with you when choosing buttons. I think black buttons may have worked better. Perhaps better lighting would make them look better too, but Winter is about survival here, and that includes dreary indoor shots for a few more weeks.

I did my best to match the horizontal flowers as much as possible at the side seams and keep the pattern cohesive with the waistband. I only had a small piece of fabric though, and I ran a little short in the waistband. That’s why you see the black Japanese corduroy piece in the back. It’s a design feature of course!

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I’m very happy with this fun little skirt. I’ll probably always wear it with tights (due to the ultra short length), but it makes a nice change from jeans and oversize knits, especially as we head into Spring.

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Top: Pendleton wool (refashioned) / Skirt: made by me / Shoes: Derek Lam

 

 

DIY draped cardi wrap

Firstly, I want to send out a big thank-you to everybody who commented on the coat in my last post. I hope you realise how much I love to read them all. I’m afraid to admit that sewing trumps replying on occasion (oh, and it probably trumps kids too at times… is that bad?). However, I’ll always do my best to answer any question thrown my way – anything to encourage and inspire people who sew! 

Now we can talk about this garment. I’m actually not sure what to call it. It’s not really a cardi, or a poncho, or a wrap for that matter. It’s really just a big rectangle with holes, but it does make for such a nice Winter cover up. I’m going to call it a wrap.

The idea for this wrap came from a gorgeous cashmere RTW cardi I tried on recently. It looked amazing on. I twirled in front of the mirror a few times before I realised exactly what it was… a giant rectangle and nothing more. So I held it up to my body, took a few mental measurements, and went home to make it myself.

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I didn’t have any cashmere on hand. A stable wool knit would have worked beautifully but I didn’t have that either. What I did have was a very large length of pure wool cream suiting that I’d picked up from a garage sale for just 50 cents (it was discounted from the original price of 75 cents – bargain!). I could see that the fold lines of the fabric were discoloured with dust and light (with a few tiny holes in those areas as well) so my plan was to wash it quite aggressively when I got it home. I knew the hot wash and dryer would change the texture of the wool, but I was ok with that because a wool suiting, once felted by the washing machine, is still quite lovely and perfect for casual loungewear and kids clothes. As expected, the wool ended up with a very slightly fuzzier texture than before. It’s not actually fuzzy, but it no longer has the sleek, smooth feel of a suiting anymore. A by-product of the aggressive pre-washing also means that the fabric is now machine washable, dryer friendly, and pretty indestructible.

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But, let’s get back to the making of this wrap. The two diagrams below should be all you need to make your own. It’s the easiest sew up ever!

STEP 1: Measure your fabric according to the instructions below.

wrap tutorial

The length of fabric I used was 180 cm, or approximately my height. For the width, I measured from my mid-section (mid-sternum) to the tip of my fingers. My chest width was measured in the front, from shoulder point to shoulder point.

My fabric was a woven, with no give at all, so I used 11 inches for my armscye gaps. In a knit, I’d probably shrink them a little to have them fit closer to the body. If I had bigger pippies, I could have easily increased the width of the armscye.

The centre line is where the seam line needs to be, and where you need to leave holes for the arms. To make a longer wrap (ie. to fall below the hips), you could widen the bottom panel. Keeping the top panel the same would maintain the original front drape.

STEP 2: Sew the two pieces of fabric together, wrong sides facing, and leaving gaps at the two positions you marked as the armscye. (The stitches are represented by the dotted line below.) And that’s pretty much it.

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The last thing you need to do is finish the raw edges nicely. If you chose a fabric that doesn’t fray (like boiled or felted wool, or some jerseys) you could leave the edges raw and just reinforce the stitches around the armscye. The RTW version I fell in love with had been narrowly hemmed on an overlocker. Because I was dealing with a woven, I double turned all my edges and sewed a narrow hem. It would also be possible to bind the edges for a pretty contrast.

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I’ve been wearing mine loose as well as belted. It’s hard to believe that such a simple rectangle can be transformed into a cool Winter outfit! Let me know if you decide to make one. And if you’re on IG, I’d love it if you tagged me (@lilysageandco).

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The velvet dress // from fabric dyeing to construction

Up until this year, I’ve never really given velvet a second glance. I used to walk past the carefully perched rolls of velvet at Tessuti Fabrics and sigh, and perhaps tentatively stroke them, but I couldn’t really see how such a lush fabric could fit into my wardrobe.

This season is different. I’ve got images of velvet playsuits and blazers stuck in my head. I’d actually like to make all the velvet things but I had to decide on just one. I toyed with the idea of playsuit, but opted for a more classic style of dress instead. I think the simple design of this dress will have more longevity in my wardrobe.

You’ll have to forgive the scrunched up sleeves and trust me when I say the fit is pretty spot on. I could scoop a smidgen more out of the lower back curve, but with normal walking/moving, those wrinkles aren’t actually that noticeable. I really just need an assistant to straighten me up before photos.

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The dress is a faux wrap design with a crossover bodice and wrap skirt. The fabric is a woven, not a knit. It contains some stretch, but not so much that would eliminate the need for darts/gathers or closures. I chose to add gathers to the bodice design and a zipper in the back. I hid the back darts in the back curve of the waist seam. I prick stitched the back zipper in place, adding a tiny glass bead with each stitch. I also made a detachable leather tassal. which I will secure to the zipper pull to aid dressing. I’m just waiting on a little spring clip in the mail.

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With regards to the fabric, I had my heart set on a deep teal, navy, or bottle green velvet. I couldn’t find what I wanted so I decided to dye the fabric myself. I purchased some natural stretch velvet  and the necessary chemicals from Dharma Trading Co. I find their website quite informative and simple to use, particularly when trying to figure out exactly what I need for something I know nothing about.

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I used a Fiber Reactive Procion dye, regular table salt, and soda ash as the fixative. My velvet is a silk/rayon blend. It only stretches on the cross grain and is reasonably light weight (for velvet). It doesn’t require lining, but I’d consider lining it if I was working with a light colour. I’m actually really pleased with the quality of textile and absolutely delighted with the dyeing outcome. It’s important to note that the fabric shrinkage was quite significant after the first wash, but that information was on the website so I was able to order the extra yardage to account for this.

The dyeing process was extremely simple. I used my front loader washing machine, set on the hottest, longest cycle. I read somewhere that a front loader holds about 8 gallons of water so I made my dye calculations based on that (however, I was hardly precise about anything!). Here’s a quick summary of my dyeing process:

  • Pre-wash fabric with Synthrapol
  • Begin long/hot cycle. When water has filled the machine, pause cycle.
  • Dissolve dye powder in water. Dissolve salt in water. Open machine door and pour in dye and salt. Close door and resume cycle.
  • Run cycle for 15-30 min and then pause again (you need about 15min remaining for the soda ash).
  • Soda ash should be dissolved in hot water – add this to the last part of the cycle.
  • Close door. Finish cycle.
  • Start new cycle to wash out leftover dye, using Synthrapol as the detergent.
  • Remove fabric.
  • Clean machine by running a cycle on empty.

In terms of sewing with velvet, this was my first time. I knew to respect the nap, both in cutting direction and pressing, but I also learned a few other things along the way.

Velvet is shifty to sew. I wonder if the slight stretch in this particular velvet made it worse. My Pfaff has a walking foot which helped immensely. My serger hated the velvet. I only attempted one edge with the serger and then decided to pink the remaining raw edges. Hand-basting and lots of pins also helped deal with the shiftiness.

Velvet seams finger press open beautifully because the pile shifts and locks the seam in place (a bit like Velcro). When ironing, I used a thick, doubled up towel, but I’ve heard another upturned piece of velvet works well to press on too. Velvet is a dream to blind stitch as the pile hides the stitches so well. I machine stitched the centre front edges of the skirt before I realised this (so I’m not very happy with the ripple along one side). The neckline, sleeves, and hem were all hand-stitched (the neck with bias binding) and the finish is much nicer.

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Wrap skirt // stashbust

I had a little bit of wool fabric and lining leftover after the making of Miss Seven’s tailored coat. It was precisely the right amount for ladies skirt. Fancy that.

My original plan was to make a simple, straight skirt using my own skirt sloper. However, when I laid out the wool, it was a lot wider than I remembered and it suddenly seemed a shame to limit myself to a pencil skirt when there was clearly more fabric I could work with.

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Starting with a basic pencil shape, I left the back skirt piece unchanged. I then traced the front skirt piece in full, mirroring the pieces as if to avoid cutting on the fold. In the diagram below, the grey shaded pattern is my altered front piece. I extended the waist along the existing pattern line and shortened the hem width a little. I then simply connected these points with a diagonal line.

It was very important to identify and mark the CF point. This was a perfectly fitted skirt pattern and those CF points needed to match up when I wrapped the skirt around.

wrap skirt

I cut my lining pieces to the same pattern as the outside fabric, minus about 1.5 inches in hem length. Although, to be honest, I always reduce my seam allowance a smidgen when I sew the lining to make sure it ends up a tiny fraction looser than the outside fabric (you don’t want to end up with any pulls or tension visible on the outside).

I sewed the hems of the lining and fabric together first and then turned the skirt out and basted all the other sides together. I bound the CF edges with the opposite side of the wool fabric, although the contrast is totally unnoticeable. I then attached the contrast (once again unnoticeable) waistband and fastenings.

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The skirt I made is a true wrap skirt. It is fastened inside with a ribbon bow and secured with a hook and bar on the outside. I added a leather fastener over the hook and bar for aesthetics. The same pattern pieces could easily be used to create a mock wrap skirt. There would need to be an invisible zipper placed at the side or back. I’d also crop the top portion of the (underlayer) front piece so there is little overlap with the top layer and therefore, reduced bulk at the waistband. This would need to be stitched in place which would limit the freedom of movement that you get with a true wrap skirt, but the benefit would be a sleeker, less bulky front. It’s something I might try next time.

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Cropped black trousers

I’m sure there is a pattern out there for pants like these somewhere, but I couldn’t find one for the life of me. There were a few criteria I wanted to meet: hipster rise, side pockets, big front pleats, real fly front, semi-fitted and tapered legs, and back welt pockets. I skipped the back welt pockets on mine because this was just a test run. I also planned to crop them to the length  you see in the photos, but I cut them too long and I quite liked the rolled up look instead.

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These pants are a very wearable muslin in inexpensive cotton sateen. I just wanted a pair of pants that would fit me so I used my trusty TNT crotch curve and drafted around that. The fit is quite good, but there’s something a little funny going on in the front. I suspect it’s because I spent so long stuffing around with the front fly and my zipper extends too low into the crotch curve. It could also be something to do with the pleats. Shortening the zipper should at least partially solve this for next time.

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I also need to widen the pocket bags and shorten the pockets quite a bit. They are impractically narrow and too deep at the sides. I really like the rise though, and the waistband width. With hipster pants, you need a curved waistband rather than a straight one. I’ve always had the problem of significant back gaping in the waistband of RTW hipster pants/jeans and I think this comes from the waistband being straight, or too straight for my figure. It was a nice feeling to get a good fit in this spot.

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Swimsuit making // my kind of bikini

This bikini is just a modified version of the one-piece swimsuit pattern that I’ve been working on recently. You may have already seen several versions of the pants (here, here, here, and here). There have been many more. If you are Australian, you are familiar with Bonds underwear. I can’t get my fix over here so I had to make my own. The design of the pants is based on a much loved style that I’ve been wearing for years. I began making underwear for myself in a similar (but hipster) style last year and I’ve been tweaking them a little with each make. I don’t have it in me to share my knickers on the internet, but somehow I can prance around in a bikini…go figure.

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The bikini top took me a few goes to get right. That’s what happens when you look for a complicated solution to a simple problem. Thankfully it worked out in the end. This is my perfect style of bikini. The top isn’t too skimpy. It’s fully lined, and yet it still has that carefree element that I love in a bikini top.

High waist swimsuit bottoms might be on trend right now, but I also love the extra coverage. I feel happiest with the waistband finishing a little above my belly-button. Since having babies, I feel a bit nude with too much of my belly exposed. If I had more courage, I’d wear skimpy bottoms and show the world my baby-made tiger stripes. I should. And maybe I will when I’m sick of the high waist trend. The world should know that bodies are never the same after babies, and it’s ok, and that they are still very beautiful.

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I’m not going to keep this bikini. I already have more swimsuits than I can possibly wear. This one is getting packaged up with a few other things for my sister-in-law when my parents head home after their much anticipated visit. My brother is involved with the surf life-saving community in Queensland and his family has a much more beach-going, pool-loving lifestyle than what I lead. I had him do some detective size-sleuthing and I think they should fit well, and be put to good use.

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If you are interested in testing this pattern for me (in either the one-piece or bikini version), please head over to follow my Facebook page. I still have a little bit of work to do here, but will hopefully post the sign up form for testers this week.

It’s a Twirl-athon

I just want to share some of the gorgeous Twirl to Me dresses that some of my amazing testers made. There have been others too, missed only because of my ineptness with technology, but I might get on top of that in a future post. Warning: cuteness overload coming up. The links of the makers are under the photos, and you can check out the pattern here.

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House of Lane

 

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Little Betty Sews

 

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Knitters Delight

 

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Mealy and I

 

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Jo Sews

 

Cartwheel shorts

I love having little girls to sew for, and lately I’ve been having a lot of fun creating new styles for their Summer wardrobes. I’m especially excited to be sewing shorts for them in the first time in FOREVER!

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Now I know there are already some great kiddie shorts patterns out there, but I kinda like to do things my own way. I get a big thrill out of making something completely new. I also had quite a few specifications from Miss Seven that simply had to be met, namely pockets, pleats, and cartwheel worthiness.

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These little shorts were also a pretty good scrap bust. You’ve seen the yellow sateen before (here and here) and the printed sateen trim has been around the block too. I don’t know what I’m going to do with all my scraps when these girls get bigger.