Butterfly Badminton set for Miss Four and a little on turn-of-cloth

Here’s a little deja vu for you. It’s not only a repeat of Miss Six’s Badminton skort and top, but I’ve managed to use up a lot of the remaining scraps from my Butterfly Maxi dress. I was left with several long, thin lengths of the Gorgeous Fabric after making that dress, but they were awkward lengths that weren’t wide enough for any adult stuff. I had just enough width in them to make a teeny, tiny pair of shorts, a gathered skirt and the little top you see.

I made a size 5 skort for my taller than average Miss Four, with exactly the same modifications that I did for Miss Six’s version. I chose to make a size 6 for the top, but I could have easily stuck with a size 5 here too. Sometimes I overestimate the size of my little whippet. This time, I left off the front band and tie.

Unfortunately, the only suitable contrast fabric that I had on hand was some yellow cotton sateen which is much heavier than I would have liked for the yoke. It is a bit structured in feel now, but it will do. Next time I’d also take the time to add that front band. I think it adds a little special something to the top.

As to the virtues of those shorts beneath the skirt. Miss Four was determined to show me proof of their workings with some serious twirls.

Sadly for me though, she has now decided that shorts (even if hidden beneath a skirt) must only be worn with ‘running shoes’, so whenever we see her wearing her lovely butterfly silk ensemble, she is also wearing a big clunky pair of less than pristine, hand-me-down sneakers that are still an inkling too big for her, with her white socks pulled up to mid calf of course. There’s a good visual for you!

Once again, I can only sing praises for Oliver + S patterns. However, I would like to point out a wee little finicky thing to do with understitching and ‘turn-of-cloth’ that you are bound to encounter in this pattern. When I understitch a seam, I lose length on the fabric because it rolls towards the lining when pressing the facing/lining under. Obviously, this is what you want. You don’t want any chance of the lining rolling out to be seen on the outside when you are wearing the garment. I’ve tried to demonstrate this below.

White fabric and yellow lining

White fabric on the left has been cut a little longer than the lining. The seam has been stitched (crookedly…sorry!). You can see the excess white fabric on the left. The lining and fabric line up perfectly on the right.

Both pieces have been understitched identically

And now they have been turned to the right side and pressed. You are looking at the yellow lining. See the tiny bit of white fabric rolling towards the lining on both pieces. This is what you want! But then look at the bottom. I overestimated the turn-of-cloth when adding a little to the white fabric length on the left, but it’s easy to trim it off, and much better than it not reaching the edge at all.

And from the top side. I didn’t adjust for turn-of-cloth with the white fabric on the right. See how the fabric doesn’t meet the lining anymore.


So the amount of fabric length you lose is pretty much related to the thickness of the fabric. A silk CDC will have a very tiny turn-of-cloth and you will hardly lose any length (although there still might be a few mm difference). A thick wool would make a considerable difference. Where you run into problems is in matching up the bottom of the lining with the outer fabric. Suddenly you have a difference in length of between 2mm and 1cm, and this can cause problems. If my pictures don’t do it for you, there is also an excellent article in Threads Magazine that explains turn-of-cloth beautifully.

An easy solution is to simply lengthen the lining pieces slightly, rather than keeping the lining and fabric pieces the same. In this pattern, the lining pieces for the waistband and the yoke are the same as the outer fabric (no surprise really), but the pattern does specify understitching. The first time round, I ended up having to narrow both the waistband and the yoke in order to adjust for this as I was sewing. The pattern still worked fine with the narrower results, but not everybody likes to problem solve on the fly. With this version, I added a few mm to the width of my lining pieces and voila, perfectly matched fabric edges and seam allowances throughout. It’s a much more pleasurable sewing experience when all the edges line up!

Kids and silk: should you go there?

Y’all know how much I love silk, particularly crepe de chine. You know I use my silk scraps to make clothes for my girls, and I’m pretty sure at least a few of you think I’m slightly nuts for doing this, particularly when it’s white silk! But seriously, silk CDC makes the most delicious, little, swishy skirts.

As a part of my ongoing quest to create more silk addictions out there, I’m going to show you some evidence that it is indeed as hard as nails. I’ve said it before, they make parachutes out of this stuff, so surely it can withstand the rigours of preschool play.

 

Remember this skirt I made for Miss Four in February this year. The waistband is a quality viscose jersey and the gathered part of the skirt is silk CDC with a pure white background, both from Tessuti Fabrics. So let me do some calculations for you. Conservatively speaking, this skirt has been worn at least three times a week since the start of this year, and on the days when it isn’t on this child, Mummy Bear (yes I have a bear named after me) wears it. I wash it after each wear (by child, not bear) because my children are grubs. I throw it in with the light colours and use normal clothes wash and fabric softener. Because it is a ‘favourite’ in Miss Four’s wardrobe, I simply do not have the luxury to put it aside so that it can wait to share a wash with my delicates. I don’t usually put it in the dryer, but it has, in emergencies, been dried in this manner too.

So, after approximately 80 wears and washes (and this is no word of an exaggeration), this is how the beloved skirt is looking.


The knit waistband is looking a bit pilled and faded, but this isn’t a problem. The skirt is otherwise pristine. There are no stains, no discolouring, no tears, rubs, or pulls in the fabric. If I were to iron it, those creases would disappear and we would have perfectly smooth silk. But who irons kidswear? Certainly not me! Seriously, apart from the waistband, this skirt is indestructible. Mum breaths a sigh of relief.

On experimental sewing and getting good results


I don’t know about you, but I learn a lot through taking risks and experimenting with my sewing. Playing around with different styles and fabrics helps me understand how much I can bend the rules, as well as which finishes look the best on different fabrics. But I think I’ve also subconsciously developed a set of strategies to help me get pretty good results most of the time, even when I’m trying to deviate from the norm.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had an absolute wadder. This one is probably as close as it gets for me. But this isn’t because I’m fabulous at sewing. I still have so much to learn. I think it’s more to do with me getting better at understanding what works for me and what doesn’t. Ironically, a large part of this knowledge has come from dozens of disappointing sews and pattern mess ups in the past. I really think that having the courage to jump into challenging projects is the best way to learn, and even more so if they turn into an unwearable mess! So with my past in the past, I had a think about what it is that I do today, to achieve good results.

  • Firstly, I’ve learnt to recognise pattern pieces that will fit my figure. Sometimes I can do this by sight, but mostly, I line them up with a TNT and can then see right away how much length to add or inches to take away. But this also makes me lazy. I rarely do a muslin anymore, but if I did, I could probably still tweak the fit some more.
  • I have a pretty concrete set of 2-6 modifications that I know I have to make to any of the big four’s patterns the minute I take them out of the packet. This has just come from experience.
  • I steer clear of patterns that have a fitted bodice. The fitting issues are just not worth it for me. I have a very basic knowledge of draping and a dress form close to my size. When it comes to close fitting bodices and skirts, I get a much better result by drawing up a design myself and then draping it to get the pattern pieces.
  • I won’t start a project unless I am absolutely, 100% feeling it. I used to sew just because I wanted to try a new technique, or to use up fabric stash, or even just to prepare my wardrobe for the next season with boring staples. I’ve come to realise that I don’t wear as many staples as I used to. If I’m feeling frosting, that’s what I’ll sew, because that’s what I’m going to want to wear.
  • I look objectively at pattern cover pictures and pay attention to what I’m seeing rather than what I want to see. If those sleeves look loose in the photo, they’re going to be loose on me. That gape at the neckline, or the baggy armpits, well if they can’t hide it in the photo, how will I?
  • I’m better at recognising what different fabrics can do. I don’t just stick to cottons, silk and knits anymore. If I see something that excites me, I push myself to have a go. Recently, I’ve had a lot of fun sewing neoprene, rayon, and leather. Getting familiar with different textiles really opens up so many new design possibilities.
  • I’m better at recognising when something is just not working, before it gets to the point of no return. I’m pretty good at sewing on the fly and modifying projects that are heading to the pits. Sometimes a glass of wine helps at this point.

So what started me mulling over all of this in the first place? This top! It’s a wearable muslin complete with French seams, because the fabric demanded none other than the best. It’s also far from perfect, but it did teach me quite a few things.

 
 
 

The fabrics I used were small scraps. You’ve seen the watermelon poly before (I call it faux silk because it’s seriously the most beautiful polyester I’ve ever encountered) here and here. I had a little bit left in my scrap basket. All I needed was a little creativity and I was able to stretch it into a top.

The gorgeous, sheer floral silk organza panel, also from Tessuti, was a devastating mistake I made a few months ago (I blame jet lag!). I cut into my little 1m piece of loveliness only to realise that the project I was going to use it for would be completely unsuitable. I was a little heartbroken but kept all the pieces anyway. It makes me smile to see that they haven’t been wasted. I’m also happy that the pieces I’d cut were perfectly suited to this panel, even to the extent that I could position the flowers over my bellybutton.


I’ve been wanting a simple top like this for a long while, but have stubbornly refused to purchase a pattern that I could so easily draft myself or copy. It’s basically just two pattern pieces stitched together (middle panel aside). I used a favourite RTW top in my possession as a guide. But I realised when finishing the neckline, that the front piece was more than 4″ wider than the back…what?!!! And then I remembered that the top I was copying was designed by the maternity label, Isabella Oliver, so this could have been the reason why. Anyway, the neckline binding isn’t anything to write home about either. I was trying to bind it in a fashion that really only suits a binding that will hold a crease. Have I said before how much I dislike sewing with polyester?! 

But back to the pattern glitch. I’ve fixed the error now so the next top should be perfect. But this version is too roomy in the front for my liking and I’ve had to add two pleats at the neckline to bring it in a bit. This helps the neckline but doesn’t address the fabric surplus. Those pleats really annoy me, but the top is otherwise still very wearable. I’ve paired it with my leather fancy pant tracky dacks

Kimono jacket in gauzy silk

I warned you all that another kimono jacket would be on it’s way soon. It all happened a little quicker than anticipated because I remembered this beautiful silk remnant from Tessuti that I had in my stash. It was such a beautiful length of silk, nearly 2m of it in total. It’s another of those fabrics that photos just cannot do justice. It’s beautifully light and gauzy like chiffon. There are also shiny charmeuse bits through the chiffon that add surface texture, but it is difficult to see this in the photos. The fabric is super sheer, as you can see when I hold it against a window.

  
But enough on this beautiful fabric. I’m guessing you’d like to see what I made with it? Remember my yellow kimono? I used the same pattern, but eliminated the cuffs and facing. I also shortened it to fit the length of fabric I was using.

 

 
 
 

The sheerness of this fabric demands French seams, so I used them throughout. I finished all the edges (including the neckline) with a narrow hem. It’s such a simple pattern but I think it suits the fabric perfectly. Anything more in terms of design would simply be lost on it.

I’m pretty happy with my new kimono. It makes the perfect cover up for a hot summer evening, and it’s already on hot rotation in my wardrobe. I love that it adds a splash of colour to my white jumpsuit.

 

A dress for Indie Month: Cracked Glass Anna

I was waiting for the right opportunity to sew another Anna, so when I saw the criteria for the first week in Indie Month, it was a no brainer. A dress, you say? Just a dress?! Well, hello! I was already raring to go on this one, with the perfect fabric and a tested pattern lined up on my table. I was just waiting for the right incentive (or a tough pill) to go and get cutting.


Some of you may have seen my gorgeous Cracked Glass silk on Instagram already. I fell in love with this fabric the minute I saw it. It’s a beautiful crepe de chine from Tessuti Fabrics in Sydney and I really do need to send out a big thank you to the lovely Colette for sending this amazing treasure my way. I am one exceptionally lucky and ever so thankful gal!

I’m sure you will all recognise this dress as an infamous BHL Anna. But you can probably also see that I’ve made a few changes to it. Given the quality of the fabric I was using, I felt this dress deserved a lining. I fully lined both the bodice and the skirt in China silk from Mood. To do this, I kept the facing pieces and simply lined them up to trace over the remaining bodice pieces that would attach to it.


Other changes I made were:

  • dropped the front neckline by 2cm
  • dropped the armscye. I wanted a looser, drapier look around the armscye. I’d also drafted cuffs to attach to them but I chickened out on this at the end. I was seriously TERRIFIED of ruining this dress! I still have the cuff pieces and can still attach them if I change my mind.
  • lengthened the bodice by 1cm
  • ditched the skirt and drafted a simple gathered skirt instead. Of course, I added big in seam pockets too because every skirt needs pockets!

And that is it. I love the longer, tea length in dresses and skirts right now. And I love the pretty, whimsical feel of this dress. It is magnificent to wear and it meets the strict princess criteria set by my three girls. Hubby is going to have to take me out on a date now so I can wear it!

 
 
 
 

Two little scrappy skirts and a pair of matching bike shorts

So this is it, my very last Australian make…for the time being at least. It’s amazing what you can do with scraps, and silk crepe de chine no less! You might recognise the fabric from my recent Meissa. But I think it also works perfectly as a swirling, twirling, ballerina skirt.

 

I only had awkward lengths of bias cut silk from a previous disaster to work with. The best I could do was gather two very odd skirt pieces and then layer them together. The great thing about making little scrappy pieces like this is that I don’t feel scared of experimenting. I’ve shamefully only been using one or two stitches on my serger. So this was a great opportunity to discover how ridiculously simple it was to make nice, neat, narrow and rolled hems on the serger.

I used my last bit of viscose jersey (from here) to make the waistband, with just enough left over to make a pair of matching bike pants for her handstand sessions.

 
 

And finally, here is a little teaser that I upcycled from a pair of white linen pants. I’m going to smuggle it to Kansas for Miss Five for her birthday. More photos to come.



Fabric deliciousness

So I know that I am really, REALLY not supposed to be buying any more fabric right now. I know I have a problem when all I am worried about getting to the US is my fabric and pattern stash?! I just weighed my ‘fabric’ suitcase and it was 30kg! I’m not sure how I am going to sneak that one past hubby. Obviously I snaffled the biggest suitcase(s) for myself.

But these little bits, I just couldn’t resist. I will call them my going away treats and aren’t they just the most delicious morsels you have ever seen! Unfortunately, I was only able to purchase a single metre of these delicious silks, but I have visions of how I can do justice with them (as soon as I am happy to finish admiring them of course).

Both are from Tessuti Fabrics. The first is a silk satin and the second is silk organza.

 
I’m pretty much all packed now. But I’m left a little air pocket for one last visit to my favourite fabric haunts ;-). Next stop is a farewell scrappy skirt for Miss Four. And then we hit the runway on March 2nd! Eeeek!

Little pink drop waist in New Look 6016

After months of requests for a pink winter dress, I finally relinquished. I feel I should apologise for yet another drop waist, but at the moment, with all the crazy packing and organising going on for our move, I feel like I need to stick to simple and necessary sewing. Of course drop waist dresses are necessary! How could anyone possibly question this fact?!

 


I dragged out New Look 6016 again to make this dress. It was made with a beautiful pastel viscose which came from Tessuti Fabrics. The skirt was made with a little leftover Lisa Ho cotton/silk from The Fabric Store. This Lisa Ho fabric is amazing, so light and silky, and perhaps a little bit too special for a four year old. In my pre-blogging days, I made a pair of Suzy pants with it, and more recently a pair of boxers for hubby.

As usual, I made several modifications to this pattern. I started with a size four.

  • lengthened the top by 4cm
  • widened the sleeves by about 2cm each side to eliminate the taper, and added cuffs (I didn’t shorten them at all)
  • added a gathered skirt (I always aim for 2 x the width of the hem I’m attaching it to, but as I generally use scraps for these skirts, I use what I have)

This is actually one of my favourite knock ups. The drapey viscose worked out so much better than I anticipated and I much prefer the top with cuffs. I can see myself making a few more of these little dresses in the winter months, mainly for my girl who flatly refuses to wear anything but dresses. As you can see, it is the perfect dress for twirling and practicing magic with your spoon-wand.

 

The mini maxi skirt

Well this fabric has been through quite a bit. You might remember it here, as my first fabric dyeing experiment. I made it into a sundress for myself but was never quite happy with the shape of it. Then I made it into a maxi skirt for myself with a hi-lo hem. The shape was beautiful, but the style a little too boho for my taste. And I couldn’t quite get past the fact that there was a zipper and seam down the centre front (don’t ask!). I never wore it, never planned to, but I just couldn’t part with the beautiful fabric. It wasn’t even worth photographing.

Finally, after gathering dust in my ‘alterations’ pile for some time, I decided to have a last shot at turning this fabric into something better. And at long last, I can count this final effort at repurposing as a success. In fact, it has turned out to be one of the best things I have ever made for Miss Five. I LOVE this little mini maxi skirt. It is super cool and a little bit girly, but not too grown up. And Miss Five absolutely loves it. 

The fabric is silk crepe de chine and I know this is way too luxe for a five year old. But this type of silk is surprisingly hard wearing (hubby pipes up and reminds me that parachutes are made out of silk!). In the past, I had a few little scraps of a pretty floral crepe de chine that I pieced together to make a simple gathered skirt for Miss Four. It was gorgeously swishy, she wore it every second day, and I machine washed it as regularly. The cotton waistband wore out before the silk. Now, I generally don’t choose to sew my children silk gowns, but on the odd occasion that I have little spare bits, seeing them swish in it almost gives me as much pleasure as if I was wearing it myself.

Happy birthday has finally arrived

And it’s a high five for me, who has scored a perfect ten on fit. Yes, birthdays are all about me and seeing my creations finally being worn. If you can remember, I made hubby some Lisa Ho boxers and a gorgeous modal Henley a few months ago. I am ever so proud of myself for refraining from gifting them before today.

My reluctant model permitted me to take a few photos (even though it was barely 6am and he had only just woken up). And yes, he did comment on the gorgeous fabrics. I will definitely be making these for him again. The modal works pretty well in this size for the Henley, but if I use a sturdier or less stretchy fabric, I think I will have to go up a size, particularly in the arm width (yes hubby, to accommodate those massive guns).

 

 
Thanks Nick for the photos. You are a natural! x