What to do with a destroyed silk shirt…

Aghhhh, I’m so rough on clothes. I wear all my good clothes. There’s no such thing as “too special to wear” in my closet. Once there was, but now there’s not. If I spend the time and energy to make something nice, I’m definitely going to be out there wearing it!

I wear all kinds of fibres, but in Summer, I’m particularly fond of linen and silk crepe de chine. Both of these are pretty hard-wearing. I machine wash and dry most of my clothes (because that is what one does in our neighbourhood). I try to avoid the dryer with my silks but reality means they always end up in there at some point. I’ve completely given up line-drying my kid’s silk garments and the three pairs of silk PJ pants that I own and wear day in, day out (here and here). Silk can be as tough as nails.

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So I got complacent. Well, I actually just wore my favourite shirt ALL THE TIME. What did I expect? A cotton shirt isn’t immune to the terror of the underarm deodorant stain, so why did I think my wonderful silk shirt would survive such daily wear? It was good while it lasted.

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As you can see below, the discolouration under the arms is beyond horrible. I hated the idea of throwing away all the good work I put into those plackets, and cuffs, and collar… so I decided to cut it away as much as I could (about 0.5 inches below the bottom armscye seam to be precise). I didn’t dare cut away anymore because I knew doing so would bring the armscye down too low. I cut away a bit more at the top shoulder seam so the sleeveless top would have a nice shape. My plan was to wear a nice, sporty bandeau style bra underneath and treat the low armscye as a design feature.

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I salvaged the bias binding from the undamaged portions of the sleeves. There’s still a tiny bit of stain at the bottom of the armscye but most of it was concealed with the binding. Otherwise, any remaining stain is mostly hidden by the natural position of my arm.

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It turned out that the low armscye wasn’t as bad as I expected. The most bra that could be seen in any of my photos was in this one. I can deal with this. Long live my revived silk Archer!

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Authentic 70’s cold shoulder blouse

I’m calling this authentic because the thread and the fabric were both picked up at an estate sale. It’s plausible that the fabric is from the 70’s. It certainly looks the part.

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To be perfectly honest, most of the fabric I find at estate sales is truly awful. There’s lots of old, rough quilting remnants, ugly home deco cottons, and dusty poly knits. The pricing is often absurd too, clearly valued by people who know nothing about fabric and sewing. I walk past a lot of rubbish. However, every now and then I find a gem and a bargain.

This fabric was a part of several bundles that I found at one particular house several months ago. Each bundle was $1-3 and contained 3-5 remnants of varying lengths. I was immediately apparent to me that some of the fabric was of high quality, but sometimes it’s hard to tell the exact fibre content of a fabric without a burn test, particularly with “nicer” synthetics. So I nabbed three of the more appealing bundles and took them home to inspect more closely.

Subsequent burn tests revealed a LOT of silk in that bundle, including this absolute gem. Needless to say, I popped back to the sale later that day and grabbed the remaining decent bundles. I ended up with several long lengths of pretty silks, two really long lengths of Liberty of London (one was a wool blend), and a few nice poly and cotton florals. Some prints are old fashioned, but even so, are still delightful for the right project.

I was able to determine that this particular floral fabric was a synthetic. It doesn’t press. It definitely melts (please don’t ask me about this!)! It’s stiffer than a silk chiffon. It’s not my kind of fabric at all, but I LOVED the 70’s vibe of the print. It was going to make the perfect partner for my suede mini and flares.

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I wasn’t planning to spend much time or effort on a horrid poly like this but I didn’t have a lot of choice. I needed to bind the raw edges somehow. Self-fabric binding would have been beautiful (but an awful job with a fabric that won’t hold a crease). My solution was to use some sheer pink, silk organza that I already had on hand. Obviously, silk organza presses well but I’ve never used it for bias binding before. It’s a very crisp fabric to begin with but after several washes, silk organza turns super soft. It was the perfect compliment to this sheer blouse.

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DIY ponte and lace bodysuit

I find the idea of muslins for stretch knit garments a funny thing to get my head around, especially in the case of swimsuits and bodysuits. Personally, I don’t have any stretch “muslin” fabric lying around, and yet, none of the stretch fabric I own is particularly precious. And then there’s the fact that only a tiny bit is required for the suit anyway. I usually opt to make a wearable muslin in a case like this, even though I may end up making it up again as a real version, in exactly the same fabric!

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This bodysuit is a wearable muslin. It’s a shape and fit that I haven’t made before so I was entirely unsure as to how it would work out. I used a few of my swimsuit patterns as a guide for the body shape and length, and then adjusted the size according to the less stretchy ponte fabric that I was using. The bottom of the bodysuit has a pant shape similar to my Splash Swimsuit.

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I ended up having to adjust the side seams quite a bit before I was happy. I also completely re-designed the back halfway through construction. And that’s why you can see that the lace on the back has been finished with FOE on the top edge, but all the ponte has raw edges. Ponte won’t fray, so it was always my intention to leave the edges raw in this version (the lace was a different matter). I’ll spend more time finishing the shoulder straps and neckline next time round. I may still leave the pants unfinished though because the unfinished edges on the legs give a very smooth finish against the skin and under clothes. You’d be seeing a panty line in my jeans if the edges were finished with elastic.

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I totally love this look of black on black for Summer right now. In my mind, it’s a little bit 90’s,  especially when you also consider the return of chunky, blocked heels (that are so comfy, but oh so reminiscent of dancing through the night to George Michael music videos with his bevy of supermodels). The nineties were the first real era of fashion that I lived through and actively participated in (it doesn’t count if you were too young to buy your own flouro socks and hypercolour T’s in the 80’s!).

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Top: Made by me / Leather skirt: vintage / Jeans: James Jeans / Shoes: Loeffler Randall

 

 

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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A silk button up and DIY distressed jeans

Once upon a time, this shirt pattern was an Archer. I’ve adjusted it quite a bit to fit, as well as switched out the cuff plackets for a more polished look. I also removed the back pleat. In this version, I introduced a covered front placket, lengthened the back hem, and left off the collar.

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The fabric is silk crepe de chine. I was immediately drawn to the colour of it. I love silk CDC. It’s not difficult to sew, but it does take time and patience, especially when you start adding extra design features like cuffs, plackets and collars. I couldn’t use my standard shirt interfacings on a silk shirt like this, which was lightweight and slightly translucent. I needed an interfacing that wouldn’t be too stiff or visible through the fabric. I used beige silk organza (hand-basted in place) to interface the placket, cuffs, and collar band and it worked beautifully.

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The white jeans were thrifted from an estate sale. They were too big around the waist but fit fine on the derriere (my standard issue with RTW jeans). The legs were also a looser, straight leg style, which unless I wanted to dive headfirst into a BH90210 episode, needed to be corrected immediately. I narrowed the waistband and the leg inseams. I also shortened the crotch a smidgen. I didn’t touch the outer leg seam because that would have twisted it around too far towards the front (and I was being lazy by skipping seam-ripping with this seam).

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Lastly, I attacked the knees with a cheese grater. I went conservative on the DIY distressing because I’ve learnt from past experience that dressing quickly (which one always does if they have kids under eight) results in one’s feet being pushed through the distressed sections of jeans. These jeans will no doubt become more distressed as time progresses, which is kind of what I want anyway.

 

 

More luxe loungewear

I made this set using a gorgeous, loose weave, rayon knit. I tried to keep the style extremely simple because the fabric was a little annoying to work with. The raw edges stretched out and unravelled just to look at them. The seams also stretched easily when stitching or overlocking and it took me a while to get the tension right to avoid wavy seam syndrome. I’m not too bothered though. This was always intended to be a comfy, at-home, lounge-around set, and nothing more.

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The top is very loosely based on the Simplicity 1366 pattern. It’s been a magically morphing design for me. I think I may have dropped the shoulders and widened the sleeves. I also lengthened the arms, modified the bodice length and neckline, added a (loose) turtleneck, and a waistband. Some of these changes were made for this top, and some have been made in the past. I’ve lost track.

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Both the leather pants and the shorts were based on V8909. I made the leather pants about three years ago now. I refashioned them more recently to have wider, and longer trouser-style legs, but they are otherwise, very much a reflection of the original pattern. The shorts are a summation of all the fit-changes I’ve made over the past few years, including a lower waist height, and improved crotch curve and length. I also omitted the faux fly and pockets, and shortened them significantly and added hembands.

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Vintage Kwik Sew 1034 // scrapbust sweaters

I hope everybody had a wonderful Christmas! We had a great day, but not a white Christmas in Kansas. However, I believe we are expecting snow any day now, so it could be a special white birthday for Miss Five tomorrow.

Santa was very generous this year. The big guy bought a joint present for all my girls, in the form of a very basic, but well reviewed, Brother XL-2610 sewing machine. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a learning machine for my kids (and I wasn’t about to share my Pfaff), but I did want them to have a machine that would be simple to use and reasonably sturdy. So far the machine is working well and the girls are finding it easy to develop confidence on. And because it’s not my precious machine, I’m happy to let them play on it alone without too much anxiety.

At the moment, we’re still working on threading the machine and sewing straight lines at a precise distance from the fabric edge, but I’m happy to report that Miss Five has proclaimed it the best present from Santa this year.

And while we’re talking about Christmas, I thought I’d share a few little sweaters I made for my girls using an old Kwik Sew pattern in my stash. I modified it slightly to block in a few different fabrics and lengthen the bodice, but otherwise I left it pretty unchanged.

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Miss Seven’s sweater was made up in a size 8. It’s pretty roomy on her, but my big girls grow like weeds so I always err on the larger size with them. The bodice length is extremely short in the pattern so I also lengthened it by 2 inches before adding the bottom band. The black portion of the sweater is from a new merino jersey sweater of mine (that was too small). The ivory ruffles and tiger fabric were both small remnants in my scrap basket and specifically chosen by the recipients.

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Miss Five’s sweater is mostly tiger fabric, with a little merino trim. I made this one as a tunic to incorporate the ivory trim better. I also made a standard version of this pattern for her in rainbow French terry. It’s a very simple and practical raglan pattern.

 

Kate top in silk stripes

This is a new pattern by Tessuti Fabrics, called the Kate top. It might look like a simple boxy top pattern, but it actually has a few unexpected, yet elegant design details. And then, of course, I went and added a few more of my own.

The pattern includes a back placket, hem, and side slits and instructions on how to make the inside of the top as beautiful as the outside. It’s these extra details that make Tessuti patterns great. It’s quite obvious that they are written by those with decades of experience in sewing and patternmaking.

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Since this was a competition, I felt it was important for me to complicate this simple top as much as possible. I used a remnant of silk (perhaps CDC) that I scored off the Tessuti remnant table about two years ago. Silk is a perfect choice for this top, but given the fact that I added a few complicated seams and stripes, it turned out to be a challenging choice.

I added two curved panels in the top section of the front, a waist panel, as well as a creatively shaped panel above the hem. With the bottom panel, I tried to follow the shape of the hem, including the way it sharply turns at the side splits. My intention was to flick the fabric grain on it’s side in order to use the direction of the stripes as a contrast feature in the panels.

I’m not entirely happy with the fit of this top on me, but it is pretty good for a first go, and certainly very wearable. I didn’t muslin it (pure laziness on my behalf) and just guessed at the adjustments I’d need. I started with a size S, widened the back a smidgen, and tapered the sides in towards the hem by about an 1.5inches. I also lengthened the body by an inch. These are all standard modifications I make to any pattern.

I should have reduced the bust dart before I started. The dart seems small enough but I forgot to consider the fact that this top is boxy by design, and probably contains enough ease without the dart for an A/B cup. See how beautifully it fits Lara of Thornberry with her more ample bust. I compensated mid-construction by arcing the side seam in at bust level. This worked quite well at correcting the fit on the fly. Next time, I’ll do a poper SBA, widen the back more, and drop the armscye a smidgen.

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And if you are wondering why I look so miserable in these photos. The frosts have arrived. My garage was the warmest photo option at about 2 degrees Celsius. I’m really surprised you can’t see my goosebumps!

 

 

Grainline Archer // vintage sheet shirt

So, I loved Miss Seven’s vintage sheet shirt so much that I just had to make my own. Here it is.

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My Grainline Archer has been modified to accommodate my standard broad back/long arm/height requirements. I also added a classic, tailored sleeve placket, and two fish eye darts in the back.

 

 

 

Vintage McCall’s 6497 // A shirt for Miss Seven

My original plan was to make Miss Seven a pair of pink cigarette pants to go with her new coat. However, I fell in love with every view on the front of this pattern cover and I thought I’d try out the shirt first.

I used more of my vintage sheet set to make this shirt. The print looks so lovely in a shirt that I’m planning to make myself one now too.

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The pattern went together beautifully. My only complaint was to do with the sleeve cap ease, but I find excessive sleeve cap ease a fairly common feature of old patterns. Next time I’ll shave some height of the sleeve cap so it can be set in a lot easier.

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I made this pattern up in a size 8, which corresponded quite well with Miss Seven and a half’s chest measurement. I expected it to be a little bigger on her than it is though. However, it would stand to reason that she has lovely broad shoulders like her mother. The torso fit is lovely and it looks comfortable. I suspect the pants and skirt in the pattern will swim on her tiny hips so I may have to grade them down first.

And before I sign off on this post, I just want to share a quick peek of the best leotard ever. It’s a birthday present for Miss Five. My beautiful, gentle Miss Seven is modelling it. The tiger poses will come later with the fierce Miss Five. I even added tiger eyes to the back of the suit so she could terrorise people behind her too. The pattern is Jalie 3136, which I’ve now made more times than I can remember.

I made the fabric myself on Spoonflower. I used the sport lycra, which is a nice weight and completely opaque.  In fact, this fabric generated so much interest that I ended up purchasing the license for the photo so the design could be made available to others. It will only be available on Spoonflower for a limited time though.

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