A floor length skirt in leopard print

This a wardrobe staple. Everybody needs a floor length, leopard print skirt, right?!

The fabric is a luxe, cotton jacquard from The Fabric Store. I say luxe, because the print is so beautiful. The fabric though, is actually perfect for daywear. It is a lovely, heavyweight cotton blend that is easy to wash and care for. It does fray a little though, so I’d recommend serging the edges before prewashing. Otherwise, it was a dream to work with.

I decided on a skirt, but I think this fabric would also be amazing made up into a blazer or jacket. And if you are looking for something similar but for a more formal occasion, you need to check out this animal print jacquard!

I didn’t use a pattern to make this skirt. It was freestyle sewing all the way. The design is pretty simple. The top edge is turned over in a very deep “hem” which rises above the natural waist to create that high-waisted, “paper-bag” waist look. There is only one seam at the back of the dress, an invisible zipper which extends all the way to the top. It is basically one big rectangle (aside from the slight hi-lo shape at the bottom hem, which I cut away at the end).

I finished the top of the skirt and sewed the zipper in first. Then I pinned it to my body to create the perfect sized pleats at the waist. There are two big pleats at the front and two at the back. It was a very back to front way of sewing a skirt but it worked out perfectly! It fits perfectly with, or without a belt. However, I prefer the look of the skirt with a little skinny belt worn at the waist.

Tessuti Skylines Competition

I had it in my head that I wanted a floaty, ruffly, backless, maxi dress. The challenge was in producing a dress that wasn’t too girly in such a (potentially) twee fabric. The fabric is really, very beautiful though. It’s a linen blend, with a lovely, crinkly texture that becomes more apparent after washing. I’m not one who likes my linen crisp. I love the way linen fabric creases and crinkles.

The design is my own, but I’ll talk you through it a bit. I honestly believe that if you have a couple of different well fitting bodice patterns in your stash, you can make virtually anything from them. This started off as a standard princess-seamed bodice that I had draped to my shape months ago. I modified the design to remove the shoulder seams so I could attach straps instead. I also lowered the back to not much more than an inch above my waist. And I lowered the back waistline to create a slightly hi-low look at the waist seam. I further exagerated the hi-lo effect in the first skirt panel, but kept the last gathered, skirt panel as a very long rectangle.

The bodice is detailed with bias binding that I cut as one inch strips and left the edges raw. I love the slightly frazzled look of well-considered, raw edges in fashion right now. I seamed these into the princess seams, the waist seam, and on either side of the back zipper. As they are cut on the bias, they shouldn’t really fray too much with wear, however I am looking forward to them looking more pronounced and “ruffled” after a few launderings.

To help keep up the weight of the skirt, I added a waist stay to the dress. This is basically a soft petersham ribbon handstitched at points along the waist. I cut up an old bra for the closures. I used the cups from this same bra to add a little shape to the front of the dress. I toyed with inserting the cups properly under the lining before I attached the skirt, but I think they may annoy me down the track, in which case I can still easily remove them.

I can tie the back in a few different ways, but my favourite is the backless version you see in the majority of the photos.

 

I’m very pleased with how this dress turned out. It’s a fancy dress, made from a very down-to-earth fabric. I love the contradiction in this. It’s something that I would feel very comfortable in dressing up to wear to an important occasion.

 

 

I whipped up a matching top

The thing I love about sewing is that I really can just whip up anything at a moment’s notice. This top took all of ten minutes to make. It’s not perfect. The construction is basic. But I only had a few spare minutes and I desperately wanted to finish this up before I had to pack away my machine.

In hindsight, I really should have spent more time on it. I didn’t expect it to turn out quite so well though!

The striped fabric skirt is something you’ve seen before. I created it by sewing together strips of scrap fabric (in velvet, wool, and ponte). I ended up with a tiny bit spare that I used up in this top. There was not an ounce of wastage.

This is very fun outfit. I love the idea of perfectly matching separates as I think they produce an overall dressier look. However, when mixed and matched with jeans and other tops, these separates also dress down for a great casual feel.

Spring stripes

When I purchase fabric, I usually have a project in mind, but I rarely follow sewing patterns without some sort of modification. This means that I’ve had to get pretty good at estimating fabric requirements on my own. I usually come pretty close these days, but sometimes I end up erring on the more generous side (because it gives me a little leeway to change my mind on the design, and because I know that I’ll always find a good use for the scraps if any remain).

This was the case with some lovely hand-dyed velvet, wool crepe, and ponte that I found in my stash. I loved the way the contrasting colours looked together. They all have some stretch, but not enough to do away with darts. The velvet and wool are woven, but the ponte was a knit.

I started by cutting the fabrics into wide strips (seaming some of the velvet strips for extra length where needed). Then I stitched them together to create a striped fabric. I had just enough fabric to make a midi skirt in a slim-fitting style. I designed it by draping (on myself!) and re-stitching those stripe seams around the hips and bottom until they absorbed the darts needed to create the fitted shape.

In retrospect, I should have left the initial (striped fabric) seams unfinished (no overlocking!) until I’d sewn the final garment. I ended up doing a lot of unpicking of those overlocked seams to shape the top of the skirt. I also added gores (of orange wool crepe) to the bottom of the skirt for a bit of extra flare.

There’s a bit of a difference in the amount of stretch in each fabric. So, even though the stripes are the same width, the white ponte stretches more than the velvet, and this is most apparent at the waist. I probably should have made the ponte a little narrower, or the velvet a little wider to adjust for this.

I’m still pretty happy with how it turned out though. It’s a warm and comfortable skirt for Spring. And it just so happens to match perfectly with my refashioned velvet top.

 

Pleated silk skirt

So this was a bit of a random make and totally unplanned, but the fabric just grabbed me and demanded to be made into something wearable… and immediately. It arrived in the mail and bypassed my stash completely.

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I actually went shopping for wool coating, but as always, I ended up with fabric in my cart that I never set out to purchase, namely, this glorious silk CDC. The colours just scream Fall, even if the fabric isn’t really the most Fall-appropriate.

What I wanted to sew with it was a floor length, ruffly, slinky skirt. But we all know how much wear that would get in real life. I thought sensible thoughts and turned it into a  gently pleated midi instead. I can wear this skirt with sandals and tanks, or with long boots, tights, and sweaters. It will get heaps of wear.

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I didn’t use a pattern because I’m good with measuring my waist and a skirt like this is simply just two big rectangles. I winged the pleats, but made sure to match them up. When I had the volume I liked, I jiggled the side seams to match up with my waistband.

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The waistband is the only point of interest in this skirt. Because the design was pretty foolproof, I thought I’d try something a little new. I’d read somewhere (no idea where) that you could use elastic to face a pair of pants (for comfort). I didn’t have the right width elastic on hand, but I did have a yard of a performance ribbing fabric, which feels and stretches like woven elastic. The only thing I had to do was measure the length and overlock the edges. Normal elastic used as facing would look a lot neater than my version (as would matching thread!), but as this was an experiment (and on the inside of my skirt), I wasn’t too worried about appearance.

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Contstruction of the waistband with elastic is almost identical to if you were using facing. I still interfaced the waistband fabric. I just avoided creating seams with the elastic. To do this, I overlapped the waistband fabric with the elastic so only the waistband fabric was folded back against itself.

Using elastic as a facing just creates a bit more comfort with the waistband. It stays tight, but has more give when sitting and breathing. I’m definitely going to use this method in future waistbands, and refine it so it looks pretty too.

 

 

Cut out lace dress 2

I never intended to make two dresses with this fabric. I had less than a full panel remaining after finishing my main entry. I toyed with turning the leftover bits of lace into a top for one of my girls, but my sewjo just couldn’t get behind that idea. It seems that I needed another white lace dress in my closet.

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I spent way too much time mulling over the positioning of the lace, perhaps even more so with this one because my options were limited. To achieve symmetry with the scraps I had on hand, the bodice had to be seamed down the CF in addition to the princess seams. I didn’t have much choice with the lace placement for the skirt. I like the way I was able to place the lace in the front and whilst I also like the back, it’s perhaps not as cohesive through the sides as I would like. The dot-lace hem is seamed on.

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Design-wise, this dress is very similar to my previous entry. The princess-seamed bodice is almost the same, but with a slightly more scooped out neckline and skinny, self-fabric straps. The skirt portion was modified from one of my TNT pencil skirt patterns. I slashed and spread the pattern slightly into a subtle A-line shape for a more casual fit. I absorbed the back darts through the flare and back waist seam.

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The bodice is unlined, but the skirt is lined. I faced the neckline raw edges with bias binding. The skirt is lined with a beige coloured acetate. I kept the skirt lining as short as possible so as not to be seen through the bottom panel of the hem. I won’t be bending over in this dress!

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Like my other dress, this dress is also designed to be worn with a very specific bra (the one I wore in the last lace dress post). You can see that the bodice fits a lot better when I wear that bra here (and I will be wearing it in real life). It is mostly unseen behind the straps, but for a cleaner look in some of these photos (since I didn’t have a wardrobe assistant on hand to check for strap visibility), I decided to wear a strapless bra. The fit is just not as good across the bust when I have to resort to a strapless bra. It’s a very good reminder of how undergarments affect the outer fit.

Also, try to ignore the big smear of white paint across my calf… maybe we should start a game called, “Spot the Paint on Her”, in all my blog photos for the next six months….

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Esther SKORTS PDF pattern piece and tutorial

I’ve been asked quite a few times about a tutorial for this little skort. I decided to go one step better. I digitised the actual pattern piece that I created, with all the sizes graded out to suit everyone! It can be downloaded here. It should match up perfectly with the Esther Shorts pattern by Tessuti Fabrics, but there’s no reason you can’t adapt it to your own TNT shorts pattern by adjusting a few minor details.

I really love my white version. It is the second pair I’ve made and it’s seriously one of my best Summer staples ever. The front overlay adds a little formality and cover to a standard pair of shorts. I dress mine up with a blazer and heels. I also wear it out and about with Birkenstocks and a singlet. It’s a style that is very versatile.

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As I mentioned, my version is based 100% off the Esther shorts pattern. I made a straight size 8, but I did shorten the legs by two inches (whilst maintaining the original hem shape). To achieve the same proportions as me, you’ll first need to shorten the legs of the front and back Esther pattern pieces by two inches. If you want to add this overlay to the longer, unchanged length of the Esther shorts pattern, simply lengthen the skort overlay by two inches at the lengthen/shorten line (included on the skort pattern piece).

The steps below will help you put together your skort:

Pattern colour code template right wrong only

1. Cut out your overlay fabric: Outer fabric, right side facing up. Lining, wrong side facing up.

2. Prepare the overlay: right sides facing, pin the overlay fabric to the overlay lining. Stitch a 1/2 inch seam along the two angled bottom edges and the left side edge. Remember, the diagram below shows the skort overlay as you look at it in front of you, so the left side (as you wear it) will appear as the right.

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2. Trim seam allowance and turn the overlay out to the right side. Press. Baste remaining raw edges.

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Now it’s time to put together the rest of the shorts. I’m just going to summarize the order of construction here. If you need more details, refer back to your actual shorts pattern, but keep following this order of construction.

3. Stitch the left leg seams. First, insert zipper in the side seam of the left side, between the front and back leg. Complete the stitching of that seam. Then stitch the inner leg seam of the left leg.

4. Now onto the right side. Sandwich the side seam edge of the overlay between right front and right back leg side seam. Wrong sides of front and back legs facing the right sides of the overlay. Stitch. Finish raw edge.

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5. Fold the overlay piece up so it’s not in the way, and sew the inner leg seam of the front and back leg.

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6. Keep the overlay piece folded in and out of the way. Wrong sides facing, inner seams matching, now sew the crotch. Finish raw edge. Turn the shorts out the correct way. Press.

7. Unfurl the overlay piece and straighten out the waist edge so it lines up with the front waist edge of the shorts. Baste in place.

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Now, simply continue as your original pattern instructs. Attach the waistband and hem your new skorts. I usually serge the raw edge of the hem and then fold it up to the point at which the overlay ends at the side seam.

I hope you enjoy your Esther Skort as much as me!

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White Esthers and a knit raglan

There’s never any fabric waste in my house, especially when it’s something as lovely as this Saratoga knit by O! Jolly!. I only had the tiniest amount left after finishing my Megan longline cardigan, but I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it.

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I used the raglan view of V8952 as a base for the top. I made a few fit modifications, raised the neckline, and added my own neck and hem bands. I used some plain white ponte for the back and sleeves, and seamed together three scraps of Saratoga knit for the front. I love the texture of the spongy knit as a feature and the contrast of cream against white.

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The shorts are an old favourite and TNT for me. I used the Esther shorts pattern and simply added an asymmetrical overlay at the front. I used scraps for this make too. I salvaged some gorgeous, meaty Theory cotton sateen (from this dress) to use for the back of the shorts and for the front overlay. The dress was tired (with a few stains) and needed to be retired. I didn’t have quite enough sateen though, so I used some scrap linen for the shorts front and overlay lining. The linen was too lightweight for the shorts on its own, but perfect for this design where the front is layered.

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I’ll wear these shorts a lot. I made a yellow version a few  years ago which are still on the go, but have been downgraded to gardening/painting gear. It feels good to replace a wardrobe item that was very much loved.

 

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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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