Cheetah Two-piece Set-actular

A few months ago, Miss Five fell in love with a Cheetah print silk swatch that I’d ordered from Mood Fabrics. It wasn’t in my plans to purchase fabric for my daughter, let alone silk. I prefer to use up all my (albeit lovely and sometimes silk) scraps on the clothes I make for my girls. It’s the way I offset the cost of my wardrobe.

So I purchased two yards of this silk. The shock. But then shortly after, I saw this RTW skirt that retails for $78. The even bigger shock. I pinned it because I like the simple design. Then a few days later I saw that True Bias had put together a tutorial on making an almost identical looking skirt. Score! Check it out here.

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I know I am a little out of touch with RTW prices (Target is my go-to and I really only shop there for emergency kidswear these days) so price of this skirt floored me a little. Or perhaps it enabled me. And this is what it enabled: a cheetah two-piece set-acular. It’s probably a $45 dollar outfit for a kid (outrageous, I know!). But my goodness it’s cute. It’s hard to see the details of the shorts under the top, but they are made to the same pattern as these, with little side pockets and a botton hem band.

And just so you know, cheetahs run very, very fast!

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I will confess that it wasn’t all about Miss Five with these makes. I wanted to test the shorts pattern in a slinky woven. The top is another pattern that I’m working on, but have sewn enough times already to know that it would work beautifully with this fabric.

I also took my time deciding what to sew with this silk. It’s a beautiful print, but I wasn’t quite sure a playsuit (as was requested) would get enough wear due to the toileting aspect. I thought a two piece set would be the best value but it could have easily turned into a tacky animal print overdose. I think I hit the target with this one, even if I do say so myself.

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WIP: these little shorts

Sometimes I just can’t help myself from changing something that already works. I made some little shorts a few weeks ago that have been an absolute winner in this house. I love the look of them and my toughest critic (Miss Seven) adores her version even more.

Even though I liked the pattern exactly as it was, I thought the shorts might look cute with cuffs too. Enter fairy shorts, and the amazing, levitating Miss Three (although she’d tell you she was bunny hopping).

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I was a bit rushed with this version. I just stitched the cuff tabs on (which I would have done anyway for a three year old). Following through with hand sewing for the little button embellishments became impossible as soon as the recipient spotted these shorts. What do you think of the camera face?

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As you can see, she’s pretty chuffed with these shorts, especially the pockets. I’m pretty happy with the new design too. The legs are a little narrower and shorter which suit a turned up cuff better. I still like the old version though, but it’s nice to have more than one option in a pattern!

Squiggles on my gaucho pants

This is the BEST fabric ever! It’s a stretch cotton in a nice medium weight, which makes it perfect for shorts, pants (and playsuits of course). Quite simply, those squiggles make me smile. I wish I had enough left for a long A-line skirt now.

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This time, I made some cropped pants of the wide leg variety. They hit high on the waist so I think I can safely call them gaucho pants.

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The white top is an oldie but a goodie. I wore it A LOT last Summer and I predict it will be getting more of the same love this year.

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.

Little shorts

It’s taken a full five years, but I’ve FINALLY had a request for shorts. Both Miss Five and Miss nearly-Seven have come to the joint conclusion that skirts and dresses are not conducive to the most effective cartwheel, handstand, and monkey bar practice. Hallelujah!

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I was quite unprepared for this backflip in clothing preferences, so I thought I’d start with something simple. It didn’t take much effort to come up with this pair of shorts for Miss Five. They are a very simple style, with bottom panels for contrast and an encased elastic waistband. I used the ribbing as the contrast, not for it’s elasticity. Miss Five is all about comfort right now. I compared my design to a pair of her favourite tracky dacks to check on fit, and I think I managed to get it spot on.

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Miss nearly-Seven is a different kettle of fish. Her shorts won’t get a look in if they don’t have pockets. I think she’s also starting to appreciate unique design features like bows and pleats. She’s also noticed that I’ve been working a lot more on designing my own patterns and she quite likes the idea of me making things for her that have never before been made by anyone “in the entire world” (for example, her Twirl to Me dress). I’m constantly amazed at what children notice and how they interpret things.

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Cropped leather pants

I’m going to call these my cropped leather pants. I could just as easily have called them long shorts. I toyed with the idea of gaucho, but they don’t really fit that definition either. Gaucho pants should really be high waisted and with a bit more of a flare in the leg, as would be seen on the Argentinian horsemen from which the term is taken. These pants sit on my hips, which is where I like them right now.


 

The leather I used is a type of composition leather called Perfection Fused leather. It is a very thin, uniformly processed layer of cowhide on a rayon backing. It’s a beautiful weight and drape for many garments, although I wouldn’t consider it suitable for coat making. It will never compare to a buttery lambskin or genuine cowhide, but I’m impressed with it nonetheless. 

Perfection fused leather looks convincingly like leather, but without the imperfections, and it comes with a price tag of only $15 per yard. It’s the perfect, low-risk ‘real’ leather to have a go with if you’ve never sewn with leather before. It’s a dream to sew, but you do need to be careful when pressing (or when you are pressing an adjoining fabric like pocket lining). This type of processed leather does not tolerate heat at all. The leather layer is very thin and it comes off easily if you iron it.  

 

For these pants, I used V8909. You’ve seen it many times before. My modifications were as follows:

  • I ditched the yoke
  • shortened the crotch seam
  • added side pockets instead of inseam pockets
  • drafted a separate waistband instead of folding the top over to form the encasement
  • added a single back patch pocket
  • cropped the legs
  • I also widened the legs. Have a look at the modified pattern pieces below. To achieve the wide leg look, I simply redrew both the inner and side seam lines straight, in line with the grainline.

Other patterns you could use to make shorts like this are:

Carolyn Pyjamas (shorts) by Closet Case Files: I’ve only recently finished sewing a pair but the fit of the pants is fabulous, and totally worthy of outside pants. They sit on the hip, fit the bum nicely, include a faux fly (like my leather ones), and have some great shaped side pockets.

The Robbie Pant by Tessuti Fabrics: These pants appear to be higher waisted, but they have some neat side patch pockets that would look fantastic in leather. You could easily make the pants a little shorter.

Cropped pants look great with a lot of different style tops, including my short, white pinafore and my Lou Box tunic top. They would also look great paired with a chunky knit and layered over dark tights and long boots in Winter.

 
 

 
 



Simplicity 1366 in a sweater knit

I liked my last version of Simplicity 1366 so much that I made another. This time I wanted a snuggly, casual top to wear to the gym or throw on with jeans. I kept the shape the same as the last time when I made it up in white denim. I just added a wide, slightly stand-up neckband and shortened the sleeves a smidgen.

 

The fabric is a soft, fleece-lined, semi-stable knit. My leather shorts were blogged about several months ago. They’ve been a surprisingly favourite make for me. Knowing how hot leather is, I wasn’t sure how much I’d actually want to wear them in a sweltering Kansas Summer. They are loose enough to be cool on my legs and they go with so many different styles of tops. They’ve actually filled the blind spot in my wardrobe that sits somewhere between too dressy, and not dressy enough. Elastic waist shorts and a T-shirt for smart casual, yes!

 

 

 

 


Denim culottes

No wardrobe can possibly be complete without culottes. So here, my friends, is yet another pair. I’m determined to persuade you!

 
 

This time, I made them up in heavy denim, with pocket details in white denim and contrast panels in dark green corduroy. I picked up the denim for a steal at Jo-Ann. It’s the kind of denim that would make good work-wear. It’s quite heavy, in a blah blue colour that will fade, and with no stretch to speak of. It’s exactly what I was looking for.

 

 

Once again, I used my trusty Esther shorts pattern. The basic shape of this pair of culottes is the same as my last pair, but with a few additional modifications:
  • I put a fly zipper in the front instead of the back invisible zip. I wanted these culottes to have a more jeans feel about them. I toyed with adding a button at the waistband, but I just didn’t like the casual feel of it. I stuck with a hidden hook and bar, and I bound the waistband (my new favourite thing!).  

 I also:

  • shortened the hem by several inches

  • added decorative patch pockets and panels to the sides of my culottes. I was inspired by the detailing in the skirt in this picture. It was posted on Instagram by a friend of mine so I have no idea who designed the skirt, or who is wearing it. Any ideas people?

 
I love the way the silhouette of culottes change depending on which angle you look at them from. I also love that I can walk, run and bend after children without losing my modesty. I think it’s going to be a culottes kind of winter for me. I’m wearing them with my 80’s man-shirt here, but in a few months time I’ll be layering them with fleece lined tights and weatherproof boots. That’s something you can’t do with skinny jeans! Are you sold…yet?
  


Leather jogging shorts a la Brooke Shields: McCall’s 8577


Brooke Shields in my wardrobe? She is now! I found her in this circa 1983 McCall’s pattern, complete with an iron on transfer of her signature. I left the signature untouched, but I did have a hack at those nifty running shorts on the front cover.

I made quite a few changes to my version, in part because I was sewing with leather, and in part to adjust for the very 80’s look those short were rocking. I’m talking baggy crotch, Harry high pant reducing adjustments: 

  • adjusted the side seam to remove the binding
  • I took a wedge out of the front crotch
  • straightened and shortened the hem
  • fully lined my version with china silk

Sewing with leather isn’t that difficult. I used a buttery soft Mirrabella lambskin from Tandy Leather. It is light and soft and perfect for making clothes. It’s the same type of leather that I used for my long joggers, trimmed top and armwarmers several months back.

 
 
 
 
 

I’m really only a newbie at sewing leather, but I have learnt a few things along the way. I suspect I will also be learning a few more things in the coming weeks when I have a bash at sewing a fitted garment.

  • You can safely fuse interfacing to leather using a low iron heat and a silk press sheet. I didn’t use interfacing on these shorts, but I did on my long jogging pants. The interfacing stops the leather from bagging out in the bum and knees, although lining them should help prevent this too. Interfacing also helps keep seams smooth if you are planning to top stitch them. I topstitched all the seams in my long pants and this worked beautifully because I’d fused interfacing to stabilise every pattern piece.

 
I realise now that interfacing the whole pants as well as lining them was probably a bit of overkill, but it did make for beautiful stable seams and after several wears now, these pants have not stretched out a bit.

Initially, I tried to topstitch the seams in my shorts, but seams stretched out terribly. Luckily, the style allowed me to trim the wavy side seams off and re-stitch a very narrow seam allowance instead. I much prefer my nice smooth side seams.


So the moral of this story is that leather can stretch. No interfacing equals no topstitching in my books.

  • Measure twice three times, stitch once! Once you stitch, that’s it. The holes are there forever. It is possible to unpick to repair mistakes, but even if you can’t see those former stitch holes, the leather will be weaker and more prone to tearing.
  • I am now the proud owner of a Teflon foot for sewing leather, but I couldn’t wait for it to arrive before I started on these shorts. I’m pretty sure it will make sewing leather easier next time. But in the meantime, it is good to know that it is possible to sew leather well with a normal sewing machine foot. Real leather is a dream to sew compared to faux leather!
  • I use a longer straight stitch (3.5) when I sew leather due to the thickness of the material. I also think the longer stitch may help prevent the leather tearing. 
  • Be prepared to add extra seams to your pattern. Depending on the size of your hide, you may need to piece your pattern together. I had to divide my waistband into two pieces to fit it into the leather.

Learning to sew with leather has been incredibly satisfying for me. I love that gives me another material to play around with in the sewing room. I also love that it has allowed me to add some classic pieces to my wardrobe that would have otherwise been well out of my clothing budget. 




Oliver + S Badminton skort and top: perfect for the handstand obsessed

Since starting gymnastics a few months ago, Miss Six has become a little fanatical about doing handstands and cartwheels at all times. And I do mean, at all times. I can be walking towards her, and suddenly it’s her feet I see, and not her face. She walks down the hall and does a handstand. We walk to the shops and she sees a patch of grass on the verge; she’s upside down doing a handstand. I think she’s spending more time on her hands than her feet these days.

Now, a six year old doesn’t have much modesty. This might change when she heads back to school. But right now, she doesn’t care about flashing her undies or perfect little tummy, luckily so, because she refuses to wear anything but skirts and dresses. Even so, it can’t be pleasant to have a dress hanging over your face each time you invert. So I thought I’d make her a skort: shorts covered by a skirt! Perfect!

 

I used the Badminton skort and top pattern by Oliver + S. I made the skort up in a straight size 6 using a cotton voile from Mood. I wasn’t too fussed on the scalloped edge look of the pattern so I just skipped this bit, but doubled the skirt width to add some decent gathers instead. My girls are more interested in swish than detail. I love the way the skirt turned out. It fits Miss Six beautifully and is perfect for handstands. See the cute little shorts underneath.


The top is also lovely. I made it up in a size 7. It is comfortably loose but definitely not too big on her. Miss Six has been admiring my faux silk Camilla camisole since the day it was made. And I wear it frequently. She loves the fabric, which has a very authentic silk charmeuse look and feel to it. It actually matches the cotton voile very well so I used a few little remnants to make the top for her as well. The shape and style of this top is beautiful. The instructions are great too. It is a fiddly little top to make with that skinny curved yoke (and the slippery satin I chose to use), but it is definitely worth the effort. I think it looks lovely and Miss Six has given it a big thumbs up.