Sentimental sewing // Vintage leather bag repair

My Father-in-law passed away recently. It was a little unexpected and obviously very sad. We will all miss him a great deal. Living so far away meant that it wasn’t possible for our whole family to make such a huge trip on a moment’s notice. However, my husband was able to return to New Zealand and he was fortunate enough to make it home in time (21 hours of travelling later) to be there with his Dad and to spend time with his Mother and siblings.

My husband is very sentimental, so I suggested that he look through his Dad’s wardrobe and ask his Mum if he could bring home a suit or jacket that I could alter to fit him. I was expecting one nice item (his Dad wore a lot of quality RTW and designer brands). He came home with an extra suitcase brimming with shorts, pants, jackets, shirts, an old leather bag, and a particularly fabulous collection of belts (I’ll post some pictures of those belts on Instagram as soon as a day passes when they aren’t being worn).

The clothes fit near enough that I haven’t needed to do any immediate alterations, although everything is a tiny bit bigger than what my husband would normally wear. With plain T’s, casual shorts, and business shirts, this hasn’t really mattered. He’s been wearing at least one of those items every day and I know it makes him feel closer to his father, especially when I know he still feels so much sadness.

I will definitely need to take a closer look at the suit pants and jackets in the future. They are too nice to make do with a less than perfect fit. The bag, however, required immediate attention. The lining was disintegrating on the touch and leaving everything in it’s path covered with a powdery white residue.

3

My first step was to cut out the lining. I left 1/2″  of lining still attached to the bag. I wasn’t quite sure at that point whether I would want to stitch though the bag leather or re-stitch the lining to the top most portion of the existing lining. In the end, I unpicked it all, and hand-stitched it in exactly the same position as the original lining.

Once the lining had been removed, I was able to copy the pattern pieces. There were four pieces in total; two sides, a bottom, and a pocket bag (it was incredibly simple). I was also able to see what a disgraceful mess of inner construction there was hidden beneath the original lining.

2

1

The fabric I used to line the bag was a mix of cotton shirting and heavy silk twill. Both fabrics were leftover from previous projects (here and here) and I had to do a bit of piecing to come up with the amount of fabric that I needed. I put a silk twill panel in the sides of the bag and used the same silk for the pocket bag. There’s one extra seam in the striped shirting, but my stripe matching game was strong and you can hardly see it.

6

Once I’d finished sewing the lining, I pressed down the top seam allowance and glued the lining to the inner leather (in the same manner as the old lining had been attached). I then hand-stitched the lining to the outer bag. I tried to avoid adding new stitching holes, but it was difficult to see where I was going in the old stitching line. The old seam line was quite stained and creased because of age. In the end, I somehow managed to finish with what resembles a modified prick stitch on the inside and a running stitch on the outside. The outside stitches don’t look out of place, and I really like the vintage feel of the tiny inner stitches.

5

It’s actually really difficult to photograph the lining of a bag. Perhaps I should have turned it inside out but I didn’t think of that at the time.

8

 

A very simple top in THE fabric of the month

I’ve had this gorgeous fabric languishing in my stash for nearly two years. I don’t use a lot of floral and I rarely have the occasion to justify sewing with silk charmeuse. Even so, this one stopped me in my tracks and I had to have at least a little bit of it. I went home with a little over 1m. In retrospect, I wish I’d purchased more. It would have been the perfect silk to use for my bias cut dress.

4

2

6

I was just waiting for the right idea to come along. I should thank from Melanie from Poppykettle and Rachel from Boo Dog and Me for inspiring me with their beautiful Frocktail tops. In particular, I liked the idea of pairing such a delicate floral print with leather.

1

The design is a loosely fitted shell top with straight side seams and bust darts for a little shape. I hand-stitched the binding and hem down. I felt like this fabric deserved it.

7

I also tried to achieve a length that would suit wearing it out loose or tucked in. I’m very happy with how it worked out, but next time I will raise the armscye by smidgen (about 1/4 inch).

8

I love the way this fabric pairs with leather. These shorts were a bit of a rush make compared to the other leather pants I’ve made (here and here), and the leather is more faux than real, but I’ve always recognised them for being the trend-piece that they are. I’m not going to love this style forever, but I have been getting a lot of wear out of them this season. No, I don’t wear them on the school pick up, but when paired with a nice top, I find them to be the perfect blend of smart and casual for outdoor parties and BBQ’s.

 

Shop the Look

(No affiliate links. It’s just fun to compare to RTW. See how much we save by sewing!)

floral top

                      Zara                                              St. John                                              Vince

 

Pattern tested // Sew DIY Baseball skirt

I had a reasonably uncluttered week recently, so I put up my hand to do a little pattern testing. You’ve already seen the Tie back boots I tested. This time round, I tested the Sew DIY Baseball skirt.

1

4

5

I’ll confess up front that this is not the kind of skirt I would normally sew for myself. I chose to pattern test this because I wanted to support the designer and because the skirt looked like such a quick and easy make. It is an elastic waist skirt. It IS quick and easy. Now I’m not sure how many beginners follow my blog, but if that is you, this skirt is a winner.

The pattern is clear and concise, as I would expect from Sew DIY. It’s also very professionally put together. I like the curved hem shape. I also like the idea of the other hem options that are described in the pattern.

I used a little leftover silk twill with the intention of making an everyday-version of this pencil skirt. However, when I paired it with the silk cami, it wasn’t really the vision I’d hoped for (see below).

PicMonkey Collage

From a styling perspective, this one initially had me stumped. It’s designed to sit at the natural waist, which isn’t really my style right now, so I dropped it to my hips. As you’d expect, anything with an elastic waist is going to carry a little more bulk than a fitted waistband. However, I suspect some of the volume in my photos is coming from the way the pockets are hanging internally. My skirt was made to the tester version and I think Beth may have improved the pocket design for the final pattern.

In any case, to balance out the silhouette of an elastic waist skirt, I prefer it paired with a top that is similar in volume and that has a little more coverage through the shoulders (like the Lou Box top or the Branson top). To me, a spaghetti strap cami looks a little off kilter in terms of proportion and silhouette.

Please excuse the bare feet and wrinkly linen. I’d been wearing this outfit all day and was in the middle of chasing my little monsters in a game of tag (or tip…or whatever it’s called this week) when I suddenly thought to photograph the skirt again.

2

P.S. It has now been several weeks now since I made this skirt. Paired with my white linen Branson top, this outfit has become one of my favourites this Summer. Cool, loosely fitted linen and silk is an absolute dream in the Midwest heat and humidity. I don’t feel too scruffy either.

McCalls 5870 // A tailored coat for Miss Seven

I had a very specific idea in mind when I started planning for this coat. I wanted to make Miss Seven a nice Winter coat that she could wear out for special occasions. She’s old enough now to have a few special items in her wardrobe and I’m hoping this will also help educate her on how to appreciate, respect, and treat special garments.

4

The outer fabric of the coat is a woven wool blend. It is extremely beautiful in real life. It has a nice, coat-worthy weight, with little threads of gold and tan woven through it. Both sides of the fabric are useable, with the rose and background colours simply reversed on the underside. I thought about incorporating both sides of the fabric into this coat. I also though about keeping this coating fabric entirely for myself.

9

7

8

It’s probably not the best choice of fabric for a child. The weave is not exceptionally tight, but it is still quite stable. I suspect it may get a few snags during it’s lifetime, but the slightly motley mix of threads through the weave is forgiving enough to disguise any repairs that may be required.

The fabric frayed horribly while I was working with it. There was a lot of hand-stitching and basting involved in the tailoring of this coat, which made the unravelling quite an issue. I used a LOT of Fray Check. I ended up painting it around the edges of every pattern piece. It was also essential in making the bound buttonholes.

IMG_5249

In retrospect, I think bound buttonholes were not the best choice for this fabric because of the loose weave. Hand-worked buttonholes (a la Claire Schaeffer’s French jackets) would have been the sensible option. But the heart wants what the heart wants. The buttonholes worked out wonderfully in the end, but ended up being much smaller than planned. The size reduction was due to my scaredy-cat conservative cutting, in trying to handle the fraying and loose threads as best I could. This is the reason why the buttons are so small. I had to find smaller ones than I’d originally planned. Larger, self-covered buttons would have suited the style of this coat better.

To keep Miss Seven snuggly warm, I partially underlined the coat with Thinsulate, which reportedly has more warmth for less loft, than wool or even down feathers. Keeping the bulk down in this coat was important because of the close fitting design.

The vintage pattern specifically states that the design is “not suitable for chubby girls”. It’s basically just a slim fitting style with no ease around the tummy area. The sleeves are not set in. They are joined to the back as one piece with a separate undersleeve. This design makes for very pretty style lines, but quite a challenging sew.

IMG_5250

All of this was underlined.  I didn’t underline the undersleeve or the side panels of the coat as I was afraid it might end up making the coat too bulky and adversely affect the end fit. To further reduce the bulk (or loft) of the Thinsulate, I partially quilted it to the lining. I think this makes the inside of the coat look lovely too.

IMG_5247

The design and fit of this vintage pattern is beautiful. It is a style that fits tall, slender girls very well, which means I will probably use this pattern again in the future. However, it was also quite a challenge to sew (not helped by my difficult choice of fabric) and there are a few things I will improve on when making this coat next time.

* My pad stitching of the undercollar was not “aggressive” enough in creating the collar roll. I would like to see the ends roll down a little better. I would also cut the undercollar a little smaller next time.

* My buttonholes should be appropriate for the fabric, or maybe I might just take a break from loose weaves.

* I was careful about thread marking the buttonholes. A great way to do this is to machine baste two parallel lines down the front and mark the buttonhole positions between those lines. However, with my difficulties in making the bound buttonholes (with all the unravelling of threads), my buttonholes ended up smaller. I also made the mistake of positioning my buttonholes on the inside of the basting thread, rather than on top of it. My buttons look too small and off centre in the coat front.

I think I can live with all this though. The coat is adorable. It fits well, but is ever so slightly too big (which is exactly what I was aiming for with my growing girl). I think it is deserving of a trip out to the theatre.

6

 

The bias cut dress // RTW copy

About ten years ago, I purchased a dress on whim from a little boutique in Wells, Somerset (England). I was in my twenties. I didn’t sew. I was fickle with fashion (I still am). I had no idea about fabric back then, apart from the vague understanding that silk was special.

IMG_4923

This is the dress that caught my eye. It wasn’t the type of dress I’d normally wear. It was silk satin (oh the splendour!) and about three times what I’d normally pay for a garment. I remember loitering in that boutique for what seemed like hours, but I eventually walked out the door with it and I’m so glad that I did. As far as semi-formal dresses go (aka wedding guest/corporate dinner attire), this one has had the most wear of anything I’ve ever bought.

I’d been meaning to copy it for a long time now, but I’ve been hesitant because it is bias cut silk. And not recently bias cut either, so whilst it still fits beautifully, it has visibly grown in different places from years spent on the hanger. I wasn’t confident that I would be able to identify the correct shapes of the different pattern pieces.

I also don’t sew a lot of bias cut garments. I adore bias cuts but I still find them a little magical. The pattern shapes are different to regular patterns because the bias stretch needs to be taken into account when drafting. I’m sure there is a formula for this but I’m not experienced with it. There are also different techniques for sewing fabrics on the bias. The unknown is further amplified by the fact that slippery, difficult to manage fabrics are the ones that often make the most beautiful bias cut garments.

My first plan was to look for a bias cut dress pattern that I could use and adapt. I found two wonderful patterns that I may still sew one day. However, because I had quite specific style lines in mind and was wary about sizing and fit, I chose to drape the pattern on my dress mannequin instead. It took me two calico muslins to achieve a fit that I was happy with. This dress is my wearable muslin.

9

10

1

4

The fabric is inexpensive polyester with a reasonably close hand to silk. However, the drape and bias stretch in this is still less than what you’d get with a beautiful silk satin. The hem of my muslin didn’t grow by anything discernible (by my eye) in a whole week. Because the polyester is a little more stable, there’s less “cling” in my muslin than the original. You want cling with a bias cut dress. But, apart from pressing, it was also easier to sew.

PicMonkey Collage1

PicMonkey Collage3

I’m very happy with the fit of my version of this dress. Seeing it side by side with it’s RTW inspiration is a great help in seeing what needs to be changed. The skirt needs to be pegged in at the bottom more. Perhaps the edge of the armscye could be moved medially a smidgen in the front. The back is a bit roomier in my version, but this is a good thing. You can’t see it in the photos, but the back darts on my RTW dress are straining and the stitches have been stretched permanently to twice their size. Otherwise, it’s pretty close. Correcting the skirt will hopefully move it from secretary to screen goddess. I might also try some little sleeves in the future.

6

 

 

Silk skirt and cami // attaching a lining with a vent

This, my friends, is why I sew. I made myself a woven skirt (with not a smidgen of stretch), that fits me like a second skin. It never fails to amaze me how wonderful it feels to pull on an item of clothing that is designed specifically to fit your body, and only your body, like a glove.

10

I have never been able to find a RTW pencil skirt in any kind of fabric that fits me properly. My hips are a size smaller than my waist, with the volume behind me rather than at the sides, which always made pants and skirts very painful to shop for. However, I’m pretty sure most women out there can feel my pain. Even women with exactly the same measurements can have vastly different shaped bodies, which is why we take so long trying on all the clothes when we go shopping.

The skirt I made is to a very simple design. It’s fully lined with silk habutai, with an invisible zipper and vent in the back, although the print on the fabric makes both of these features difficult to see. The fabric is a gorgeous remnant of silk twill that I picked up from Britex Fabrics in San Fransisco a few months ago. It’s a lighter style of twill, which is possibly not entirely suited to a fitted skirt, but it is what the heart wanted.

The hem is not as sharp as I’d like, even after interfacing it with some lightweight fusible.  I’m hoping another good press will get the hem and vent sitting smoother. I’m also hoping the lining will help the outer fabric withstand the strain of sitting. (Update: since writing this post, the skirt has been out for two outings and all seams are still perfectly intact thanks to the lining.)

2

1

This was my first time lining a skirt with a vent. I entered into the project prepared. I had a reference book on hand and I pulled out my beautifully constructed Herringbone Sydney suit skirt to study (a 2006 version of this one). I literally stared at both for hours. However, my brain could simply not connect the dots. I had a mental block. In the end I knew I just had to start sewing and hope it would become clear as I progressed. I did eventually have that lightbulb moment when everything made sense, but not before I had already cut the lining in the wrong shape. The diagram below shows you how I cut the lining (same as the outer fabric) vs how I should have cut it (in pink).

skirt lining-02

The trick in sewing a lining into a vented skirt is in cutting the skirt lining with a gentle curve so that it can join the vent to the CB zipper seam. The lining is NOT cut in the same shape as the skirt pieces. Showing you how I repaired my mistake gives you a good idea of the difference between a straight CB seam in the lining and how the curve needs to go. Thankfully this mistake is only on the inside of my skirt.

PicMonkey Collage

Here’s another tip I learned in the making of this skirt. There’s no need to sew a dart in the lining. It’s easy to get a professional finish by distributing the volume as pleat instead. I moved my pleat slightly to the side of the dart so I wouldn’t have a double layer of bulk (albeit very thin with silk) in the same spot.

2

And there we have it, my first perfectly fitted woven skirt. I made a Camilla Camisole to go with it in some lovely silk CDC from Tessuti Fabrics. The bias cut looks great in this fabric because of the striped pattern.

4

 

Shop the Look

Nina Ricci // J Crew // BCBG Max Azaria

1

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.

Coco+skirt_indigo+linen

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!

9

7

8

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.

6

 

 

 

 

Sea Change round up

It’s high time I shared some of the fabulous Sea Change tops from my testers, and from others that I’ve spotted in blogland. I’ve been getting a lot of wear out of my own versions, but these maker versions keep me wanting more. You can check out the pattern here:

Blogless Anna’s  striped merino jersey (you heard right..merino jersey in stripes!!!) is perfectly layered for Winter.

The Somnolent Dacshund made not one, but THREE of them, and they are all amazing.

Hannah Jane Fellows did some beautiful work with her stripes. Very chic.

Miss Castelinhos made two versions, including one in the colour of my dreams right now.

Yosami Blog got into so great stripes too.

I loved Handmade by Carolyn’s first velvet version, but her second one in silk with contrast bands just makes me swoon.

Sew Busy Lizzy makes everything look great and her version is no exception. Her and Carolyn always make me pine for the seaside!

Lara’s “Woman on Fire” version is put together in a beautifully co-ordinated outfit.

Grosgrain Green’s version is super sleek for day and/or night.

I hope you enjoyed seeing these as much as me! And if you do post a picture on Instagram, be sure to tag me @lilysageandco or #seachangetop so I can have a sneaky peek at your Sea Change top too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miss Seven’s birthday dress and her all time favourite makes

With the exception of the odd t-shirt, and winter coat, I sew pretty much everything else my daughters wear these days. Thankfully, they are all still at the point where they are delighted with anything and everything that Mummy makes, but there are always clear favourites that get worn day after day, literally until they are fraying at the seams. I always find it interesting to see what emerges as the winner, and why.

The big winners over the past six months (based on frequency of wear) are (working clockwise from the top left): her Twirl to Me dress (I can’t help but feel a little chuffed with this choice),  her recent yellow cartwheel shorts (these surprised me!), the Oliver + S Hide and Seek dress (that retained it’s winning status even when I had to convert it into a skirt), a simple self-drafted cotton maxi skirt, an Oliver + S Ice Cream dress, her Rosie Assoulin knock off, a Go To mini Jaywalker maxi, and finally, that Oliver + S Hide and Seek dress as a skirt and Daddy’s old Ralph Lauren sweater refashioned. My personal favourite is the Rosie Assoulin bow dress. I can’t help but watch her all day when she wears that.

8

So what got me thinking about her favourite makes? This Ice Cream dress by Oliver + S. I made Miss Seven a new version for her recent birthday. Her earlier version really needs to be retired, and that’s saying something, because quilting cotton is hard-wearing. The dress is such a practical and comfortable design for kids. It covers the shoulders and yet doesn’t restrict play. It’s also a super easy sew and has become her go-to school uniform.

1

I used some beautiful charcoal linen and a little remnant of a floral linen/silk blend that I was lucky enough to find on the remnant table at Tessuti Fabrics many, many moons ago. I miss my weekly remnant shopping excursions. I had quite the stash of Tessuti remnants when I arrived in Kansas a year ago, but they are starting to dwindle now.

3

2

The Sea Change top is tester ready!

This is the kind of easy fitting top that works well in both a knit or a woven. My striped version was made up in a knit, so I thought I’d trial this one in a woven. My fabric of choice is a special length of silk CDC from Tessuti Fabrics. I don’t buy much fabric on whim anymore, but this one just jumped in my shopping cart without any project in mind. I’m glad it did.

IMG_3566

IMG_3535

I’m very pleased with the way this top turned out. I love the contrast panels and I especially love the opportunity they provide for mixing fabrics and prints for different looks on the same simple top.

IMG_3558

IMG_3541

My blog has been a bit unpredictable over the past week while I’ve been getting it set up properly, so I started my call out for testers on Instagram for this pattern. I’ve had an overwhelming response for some sizes, but I’m still looking for testers in the following sizes: L (14-16) and XXL (20). If you think this might be you and you have the time and energy to trial this very simple top, please let me know. Once again, I have no interest if you blog or shout out to the masses through social media (although if you do, that’s fine by me too). I’m simply interested in your honest feedback.

Sign up form.

IMG_3536