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.

BHL Alix dress – pattern tested

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I recently did a bit of pattern testing for By Hand London. You might have seen a few sneak peeks of their new design on Instagram. I’m happy to say that it is finally available.

The Alix dress is a very flattering, easy-to-wear, slipover dress, with the perfect smidgen of 70’s vibe. I made mine up in a very cool striped and spotted silk crepe de chine.

The particular version you see here was made up according to the test instructions, so there has been at least one small modification to the final version. My dress has under bust pleats which can be a bit pointy. I think the final version gives the option of gathers which will produce a much smoother result.

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I should also list the other small fit modifications I made. Like many people, I’m not a standard size, so I graded from a US 8 (bust) to a US 6 (waist and hips). I lengthened the sleeves by 1 inch (long arms). I also found the underarms a bit tight initially, so I let out the underarm seams out by about 1/2 inch in total post construction. This is not a reflection on the design, just simply a post-construction fit for my broad shoulders. I would normally slash and spread either the CB or shoulder seams (design dependent) by about 5/8 inch in total to adjust for my broad back/shoulders. A US 8 (35 inch bust) is the perfect bust/chest fit for me but my shoulders expand above my bust so I need to accomodate for this increase in back width without adding volume to the chest area.

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My only other change was to shorten the maxi length version by 4-6 inches, shaping the hem in a slight hi-low fashion. I basically just made myself a midi. Cutting lines for all the dress lengths are included on the maxi length version so it is very easy to cut whatever length you desire.

I love my new dress and I’ll be holding on to this pattern for future versions too. It would make a lovely Winter dress in a lightweight wool. But actually, my brain is already working overtime, thinking how I might possibly be able to modify this pattern to make a sleeveless version next Spring.

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One shoulder top… times two…

What do you do if you can’t decide if your top should have a sleeve or not? You make both versions of course!

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I originally only had the sleeved version of this little one-shoulder top in mind, but that changed mid-construction. I left the sleeve off the first version, but since I’d already cut the sleeve, I decided to follow through with the sleeved version too.

The fabric is a vintage score from an estate sale. It’s some type of seersucker, but most likely a poly version, which means I’d already delegated it to the “wearable muslin/kid” section of my stash. I love having a few good lengths of stress-free fabrics like this in my stash. It takes the fear out of experimenting with new designs and styles, but still makes a fun, wearable item if I do end up liking it.

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Now, let me talk about the design a little, because it is something you can easily replicate yourself. I used my Branson Top pattern as a base because I love the more fitted back and slightly dropped shoulders of that design. You could use any TNT top version that you already have on hand.

Here are the steps I took in making the modifications:

  1. Removed the CF seam and traced the front and back pieces in full. You won’t be able to cut any pieces on the fold because the pieces are all asymmetrical.
  2. I raised the front hemline to match the back (the front hem dips lower in the Branson top).
  3. I brought the neckline of one shoulder seam in towards the neck by 1.5 inches.
  4. Sliced diagonally across the pattern pieces to create the one-shoulder shape. I shaped this line with a very slight curve in my version but you could keep the line straight. The diagram below shows the back pattern pieces, but I kept the line the same for the front.

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In the sleeveless version, I simply added some elastic in a strip of casing at waist level in the front of the top only (the waist is marked by the back seam above the peplum in the Branson top). The back of my top is fitted so it doesn’t need any elastic. I used pre-made bias tape for the casing.

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I bound the neckline with pre-made bias binding, turned to the inside to function as elastic casing for thin elastic. The neckline only needs a lightweight/thin elastic to pull it in against the body, rather than hold it up.

For my sleeved version, I just shortened the sleeve and added elastic casing.

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These tops were both super easy to make and will be a fun addition to my wardrobe for the last half of Summer.

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A Mini Chloe production line and pretty new labels

It all started when my daughter’s little friend pulled me aside one day and whispered, “I really, REALLY love Harper’s dress”. And that was just the icky poly tester version I made her. The poor child was suffering though the heat and weight of it that day, but she still refused to take it off.

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Also about this time, the Dutch Label Shop contacted me to see if I’d like to try out some of their labels  . I was given the labels for free. It was such a busy time for me that I very nearly didn’t take them up on their offer, but I’m glad I did.

I uploaded my own design to be made into a Woven Logo Label and I absolutely love how they turned out. I didn’t expect the lines to be so defined and clear. They really do look great. The service was also excellent. They have a representative on hand to check the designs to make sure they suit the label and they contact you if needed. These labels are a little larger than what I’d normally put on a kid’s dress, but in real life, I’m much more likely to put a nice label on a coat or jacket and these will suit that perfectly. I also rarely sew for anyone outside of my direct family and I don’t make a habit of labeling everything I make. However, there is something very nice about the finishing touch that a label gives the garment.

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But back to my production line of Mini Chloe’s, which include some of those dresses in the picture above. The first off the rack was made in pink fabric  as requested by the little admirer. It’s the only dress I didn’t get around to having modeled (P.S. my models charge me actual money for photo shoots these days!). It’s also not my best work sewing-wise, but the fabric is divine. It’s a vintage cotton or mixed natural fibre, but it feels like washed silk. I was in a big rush to get this dress done to surprise the little girl.

Then, I made her two sisters each a version. I used some Art Gallery voile for the little sister.

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And a beautiful mix of silks for the eldest girl. These ones are a special gift so I took care with the making of them.

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Then, I felt guilty about my middle child only having that horrid (but spritely yellow) polyester version. So I scrounged through all my scraps to discover that I had enough fabric left to whip up a rayon and silk version in her size. This one will be lovely to wear. She already has a matching skirt in this fabric, so she immediately fell in love with the dress.

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But that’s not all. I was sorting through my small remnants of silk and rayon for middle child’s dress, my daughters were taking delight in recalling the clothes I’d sewn with all the different fabrics. They came up with the idea of “friendship dresses” for their closest friends (who also happen to be sisters). The plan was to incorporate fabrics in the friends’ dresses that I’d already used for theirs (so they could match). I had to use a bit of creativity to find enough fabric, but adding panels to the dress design made it easy. The second one will be on Instagram soon.

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I love this little dress pattern and I love my new labels. The dress is so quick and easy to sew that it makes gift-sewing a breeze and the labels add the perfect final touch. I have no doubt that those cold-shoulder sleeves will be out of fashion at some point, but the dress is still a simple, classic shape. I might try sewing it sans-sleeves next summer.

 

Back to School // Oliver + S Ice Cream Dress

This dress was a last minute back to school wardrobe top up for Miss Seven. It’s one of her favourite styles of dress during Summer, and the simplicity of the design also makes it a perfect little school frock.  It is the third one I’ve made for her.

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For this version, I made a size 7, but lengthened the dress by omitting the double hem construction. This resulted in a lengthened bottom band which I machine blind hemmed in place. I think I may have forgotten to switch the iron on when I pressed the bottom band! I do that sometimes and wonder why the iron isn’t working. The crease you see is where I’ve blind stitched the hem. I also omitted the front pockets.

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I used beautiful Italian cotton shirting scraps for the top and bottom panels of the dress. Both fabrics were leftover from sewing her father’s business shirts. The mid section of the dress is from a vintage pillowcase I picked up at an estate sale recently. I love the combination of prints and colours, and I especially love that I was able to use up some very lovely shirting scraps to make it. Now, if only I could get her into a pair of shoes other than those horrid Crocs.

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Gladiator arms

Hiding beneath the bows and dangles of this top is actually a design that I’m perfectly happy with. I love the uneven hem and the interesting back. I like the shape of the neckline and the back yoke buttons.

I’m not so sure about the turbo-boosters. But it was a lot of fun experimenting. And you all know how much I like to experiment. It’s the thing I like most about sewing. There isn’t really anything you can’t do with fabric, even if it doesn’t always work.

My first idea was shoulder bows. I don’t dislike them. But they don’t suit broad shoulders like mine. I think they’d look pretty on a pear shape, for a special date.

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For a bit of fun, I tried some gladiator arms. Now this is a trend I could push… if I was seventeen or Leandra Medine.

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This top is still very wearable for me. In real life, I think I’ll leave my turbo boosters hanging, a little bit like drifting seaweed, I guess. The fabric is beautiful though and can let me get away with almost anything. It’s the same gorgeous striped linen that I used in my Wonderland Skirt.

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I’m going to work a little more on finessing the design and fit of the top underneath. It’s my attempt at coming up with a more wearable version of this white linen tunic and I like it best kept simple. I’m listening though. If you do like the bows and gladiator arms, speak now, or forever hold your peace.

Swimsuit for Mama

Again, this post starts with a disclaimer: I was given some of these fabrics for free by Funki Fabrics in exchange for making something and blogging about it. The fabrics I used from the Fabric Store and the Fabric Fairy were purchased by yours truly.

I honestly can’t remember the last time I wore a bikini or anything other than a hardy old pair of chlorine resistant Speedos. Actually, it was probably about ten years ago, when I was still trying to impress the husband (before he was the husband). I also used to pretend I liked camping and watching rugby back then….bwahaha, entrapment!

In any case, now that I’m all about honesty….um, no that has nothing to do with it. I’m not actually sure why I suddenly decided I needed to make myself some swimmers. Perhaps it was FOMO because I completely restocked the swimwear department of the other Iles girls. Perhaps it was seeing Sophie’s awesome two-piece a little while back. Perhaps it was just that someone gave me free fabric and I thought it would be fun to challenge myself with something a little new. Who knows.

In the end, I made myself TWO pairs. The first pair was more of a muslin to test a design and use up some scraps. The neon fish are from Funki Fabrics and the gorgeous lemons are from the Fabric Store (some Anna and Boy spandex I picked up over a year ago in Sydney).

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The bottoms worked beautifully but the leg elastic could be a smidgen less tight. I modelled their design on a favourite pair of hipster undies I own. It’s remarkably simple to turn a pair of undies into high waist bathers. Just measure your circumference where the undies end and again where you want the high waist to end. Subtract 1.5″ off those measurements (because of negative ease) and draw a diagonal line between them. I added some clear elastic and a waistband to the top of mine. Note: If using clear elastic around the legs, you want it A LOT looser than undie elastic. About 2″ looser worked for me, or pretty much the same as the circumference of your leg. There are two reasons for this: a) clear elastic is firmer and less stretchy than  lingerie elastic and b) aesthetically, you don’t really want the elastic to be cutting deep into your curves.

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The top, for this first version, was a fail. I started with Kwik Sew 3153 and modified it into a top. The fit is too wide, unflattering, and offers no support. It might work better on a busty gal, but not so much on me. Those busy little neon fishies actually disguise a lot of the issues in the photos, but in real life, they are more apparent. I could see that the top was failing early on so I just wacked it together so I could experiment a little with construction, and to see if I would even like the look of a two piece.

My second effort was much better. It’s a one-piece from the front and a bikini from the back; the best of both worlds! Those of you on Instagram may have seen my red ponte muslin in this design. I tweaked the length and fit a bit, and muddled my way through much of the construction. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. It’s fully lined, front and back (which is how I like my bathers). I feel quite secure in it and I like the way the busy floral and gathers in the bodice help to disguise the fact that there’s not much going on under there. I’m not keen on padding in my bathers.  The construction is not quite perfect, but I think if I can find a way to remove the centre front seam, it might help.

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The pretty floral in the bodice is from Funki Fabrics. I was originally going to use some Funki Fabrics stripes for the contrast too, but I changed my mind in the eleventh hour. And that’s how I discovered The Fabric Fairy. Their seriously amazing blue swimsuit fabric and the my-colour nude lining  came from them. I thought it would be interesting to order some swimsuit lycra off somebody else new-to-me to make a more objective comparison of the different swimsuit fabrics available online.

So I stand by my original observations in my last post on Funki Fabrics. For a great choice on prints, their selection is unparalleled. They also have pretty quick postage, which can sometimes be a deal changer for me. But for solids in swimsuit fabric, I am SO impressed with what the The Fabric Fairy has to offer. The Bermuda blue swimsuit fabric I purchased from them is insanely smooth and it has the most beautiful robust feel to it. It’s also slightly thicker, with fantastic stretch and recovery. It’s probably the most luxurious swimsuit fabric I’ve ever worked with. I suspect I’ll be checking out their other knits and stretch fabrics in the future now.

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Kwik Sew 2422 and 1615: swimsuits for my big girls

I’m going to start this post with a disclaimer: I was given this fabric for free by Funki Fabrics in exchange for making something and blogging about it. How could I say no to free fabric, particularly with swimsuit season upon us.

We all know it’s hard to be completely objective about something if you’ve been given it for free, but I’ve tried my best. For a little more information, it’s also worthwhile checking out Gillian from Crafting a Rainbow’s review here.

I made two little swimsuits with my fabric, and I have a little bit more to go yet. My first make was for Miss Five, using Kwik Sew 2422 (complete with a big raspberry drip of melted icy pole on her leg). She was quite specific about the exact style she wanted (down to the actual pattern and strap design). She also chose her own fabric; digitally printed neon tetras. She wanted to be in camouflage for her swim lessons. Obviously.

My only modification to this pattern (from last time) was to raise the neckline by 1.25 inches. Then I just measured the old neckline curve, compared it to the new, and adjusted the length of neckline elastic by the difference. I should have also narrowed the neckline a little as I raised it. Next time.

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The second pair was for Miss Seven, using Kwik Sew 1615, with the same (added seam) modification I’ve used in the past. I think she looks very chic! I only lined the front of the swimsuit bottoms, but due to the light colours, I realise now that I should have probably lined it all. At the moment, they aren’t see-through when wet, but I will have to wait and see how that goes as the print fades.

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I’m pretty fussy about most fabrics, and swimwear is no exception. I was pleasantly surprised with this haul. The prints on the fabric were spot on and exactly as I expected (I could have ordered swatches but I didn’t bother as I was mainly sewing for kids. Yes, double standards abound in this house.). For me, the enormous variety of printed lycra and foiled dancewear fabric are the best thing about Funki Fabrics. I will say though, that their website is a bit awkward, and it does take a bit of time to navigate.

Quality wise, I think the swimsuit fabric is good. In comparison to a RTW surf rashie I own, the fabric is better. But it’s not the best I’ve ever had. I think this may come from the fact that Funki Fabric is all about variety and fabric design. It appears to me that they have the same white, base fabric that they apply all their prints to. It’s a little bit thinner than some other swimsuit fabric I have in my stash, so if using it for myself, lining will be a must. For my kids though, this fabric is more than adequate on it’s own.

Overall, I’m actually very happy with this product. The fabric has a lovely, smooth hand, good stretch and recovery, and the printing is beautifully done. The lighter print (black hearts on cream) feels a little painted on, but not terribly so, and I suspect this is intended to improve the opacity of such a light colour.

We’ve already taken the new swimsuits for a few test runs (which I was waiting to report back on) and they’ve performed very well.  I can’t confirm that they helped the “big arms” actually make it out of the water, nor did I lose sight of my child amongst all the other neon fish at our local pool, but I am happy to say that there have been no saggy, baggy bottoms or immodest see-through togs.

Seeing double: Simplicity 1435

Simplicity 1435 is my go-to kid pattern for easy knit dresses. I’ve made it a few times already for my littlest peep. This time I really stretched myself and whipped one up for Miss Five too. The fabric I used is a very drapey viscose knit. The fabric is quite heavy so it does drag the dresses down a little at the waist, but I’m fond of a drop waist anyway, and I just love those stripes.

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These two girls are little peas in a pod. I spoke not a word during this photo shoot. It’s quite hilarious to watch them getting flowers for props and posing together.

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Every time I make a dress using this pattern, it always becomes a firm favourite with Miss Three and I know why. Fuss free knit dresses are so comfortable. She can dress and undress easily as there are no fastenings and the layered skirt provides just the right amount of swish-factor.

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Simplicity 1435 is a very simple pattern, a super quick make, and very practical for everyday wear. There’s nothing perfect about these versions. I whipped them up so quickly that the stripes aren’t precisely matched, but I know they will be worn to shreds. I just wish the little one would decide to like this dress too (which I think is utterly adorable), which hangs forlornly and completely ignored in her cupboard.

 

Stripes ahoy

I’m still quite smitten with high waisted skirts and pants. The thing is, I’m not always loving the look of a tucked in shirt. And if you don’t tuck your shirt in, then what’s the point anyway?

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My solution is this top. It’s oversized and yet slightly cropped. The hem falls low enough to keep my tummy concealed, but high enough to hint at a high waisted pant beneath.

This is just my first version of a new pattern, but I’m pretty happy with it so far. I’ve tweaked a few things, ready for my next attempt, but I certainly haven’t lessened the width of those lovely wide sleeves.

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This top was made up in a very drapey, slightly weighty viscose. I’m looking forward to trying this pattern out again in silk next time.

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