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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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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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