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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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A Grainline Archer and refashioned RTW trousers

This is my second Archer. My first Archer fit reasonably well, but this one fits a lot better. I made a few extra changes to better accommodate my broad shoulders. This consisted of lengthening the shoulder seams by 1/2 inch and spreading the back by 5/8 inch (without changing the neck width). However, next time I think I’ll shorten the shoulder seams back again by about 3-5mm on each side. The armscye sits a little wide in this version.

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I might consider adding fish-eye darts to the back if I decide I want to change it to a more streamlined fit. Right now I’m happy with the relaxed look. This is probably how I’ll wear the shirt in Fall.

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I most likely won’t be wearing it with the collar stand buttoned, but the fact that I can (and still move my arms) is nothing short of a miracle. Well, it would be if we were talking about RTW. Another great thing about sewing for yourself is the fact that you can position the buttons pretty much anywhere you want. I have no idea what the actual pattern recommends. I focus on the third button down and position that in relation to my body. The rest of the buttonholes are measured equally apart from there with this neat tool. The third button down is generally the top button I keep buttoned so I want it to be at a modest height but not too high either.

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My favourite thing about the Archer is the collar. It has such a lovely shape. My least favourite thing about the design is the sleeve placket. A sleeve placket is very easy to change though. I used a very standard sleeve placket pattern piece, pilfered from my husband’s TNT shirt pattern, Simplicity 6138. I used white cotton as a contrast for the sleeve plackets, inside collar stand and yoke facing.

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The grey wool trousers belong to a Herringbone Sydney suit that I’ve owned for ten years. The original shape was a long, boot cut. However, they’ve never quite been long enough on me and the boot cut style is now quite outdated.

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Oh dear, look at the not-so-blind stitching on the left hem. I machine blind-stitched the hems and will have to re-do the left leg. I knew I’d left the tension too high on that leg but was hoping those puckers would iron out.

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The following diagram helps to describe my modifications. I narrowed the side seams and re-hemmed the legs. I tried to keep a deep hem in case I want to lengthen them again in the future. The picture below shows the shape of my modified seamline (red).

pantsMy main concern with these pants was in getting the leg length and width correct, particularly towards the calf and ankle. I wanted them to be narrow and tapered but not too tight around my calf. I’m quite happy with the shape I achieved.

I have another pair of trousers planned, but next time I will sew them from scratch in black cotton sateen. I’m working on the pattern right now. It’s nearly drafted, but I want to mull over the pocket design first. I like to sleep on a design before I cut into the actual fabric. More often than not, I’ll wake up with the idea I couldn’t quite grasp the night before.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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

 

Daisy Chain Top for Miss Three

I made this  Daisy Chain top specifically to go with Miss Three’s fairy shorts. I salvaged my last little bits of fairy fabric and paired it with a little bit of white linen.

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I bound the hem with self made binding in a floral that co-ordinates with the fairy fabric. Unfortunately, it doesn’t match perfectly. I didn’t have any suitable white binding on hand or enough fairy fabric, or any confidence that I would like the look of a top with fairies on it anyway. For the back placket, I made use of what buttons I already had on hand (quite boring but in the perfect subtle shade of pearl blush).

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I’m not usually a fan of novelty fabric (heaven knows why I purchased the fairy cotton in the first place). My plan was to simply get those fairy faces out of my stash. It has, however, turned out to be one of the sweetest things that I’ve made for this child. I catch myself admiring her each and every time she twirls by.

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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.

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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.)

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Shop the Look

Nina Ricci // J Crew // BCBG Max Azaria

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NEW PATTERN // Cartwheel Shorts // custom made in linen

Introducing my newest pattern, the Cartwheel Shorts. These easy, comfy, cartwheel-compatible shorts are suitable for ages 3-10 (approximately). They work well in a variety of woven fabrics, but my favourite versions have been made up in silk CDC and the linen that you see below.

I have ulterior motives in my pattern making. I only make patterns that I love, or that I love seeing on my girls. If I don’t want to see several versions of the same item on my girls every day (or in my own wardrobe), then that pattern isn’t meant to be. I’ll confess that a big motivation behind taking my pattern making to a new level (to include grading) simply comes down to two words: three daughters! I love being able to print out a pattern in three different sizes, and to the exact design that I’d been dreaming of. This shorts pattern is a perfect example. I wanted a dressier looking shorts pattern that would suit my aesthetics, tick their box of approval, and be practical enough for them to play in and wear to school. There were a lot of boxes for me to tick!

The version that you see below was specifically requested by Miss Seven. I drew the line at turquoise linen. Purple was also mentioned in the order, but I neither had purple in my stash, nor was I inclined to compromise my perfectly beautiful Tessuti linen with a purple hem and waistband. I have, however, since changed the buttons that you see below to purple ones.

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I made these shorts up in  View B, which is the same (very slightly tweaked) design as Miss Seven’s recent Cartwheel shorts. An example of View A is Miss Three’s recent fairy shorts, which are shorter, with a cuff.

Miss Seven is wearing an Oliver + S Badminton Top with her new linen shorts.

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Branson Top // made by makers

Des Idees par Milliers// Deb at Stitch it Now // Stitched up by Samantha

I want to share a bunch of gorgeous Branson Tops with you. The pictures I’ve featured are of the unaltered pattern, but I know there are a few dress versions being made as I write. I’ve seen a gorgeous dress version on Instagram by Stitched up by Sam (I can’t find a way to link to her IG picture but I will share it on my account soon). And check out this super chic hack by Reyna Lay. She even includes a tutorial on how to do it!

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Reyna Lay Designs // Lou and Jo // Vintage Dreamer

 

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@poppiesgrowinva //Lagouagouache //Em Makes Patterns

 

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English Girl at Home // Dressed in Pretty Little Things // @homesewnstuff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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!

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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.

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Tutorial // adding a flounce to the Wonderland Skirt

And here it is. Apparently I’m not the only one who’s had the idea of turning the gathered section of the Wonderland skirt into a flounce. I’m going to show you how to do it. It’s a very simple modification once you know what to expect.

1. Fit and sew the yoke (in it’s entirety). The design of the yoke is very, very subtly A-line. It’s possible to peg it in a little, but be sure to record those changes on your pattern pieces first, so you can draft your flounce correctly.

2. Once you have the yoke fitting as you’d like, you are ready to draft the flounce. On the bottom of the back and front yoke pieces, draw in the 5/8 inch (16mm) seam allowances (I’ve used red in the diagram) for the bottom and the centre back (CB) of the back yoke. There’s no need to worry about the centre front (CF) on the front yoke because it was cut on the fold (without a seam allowance).

3. On a large piece of paper, trace the bottom seam allowance (in red) of the yoke. This will become the top seam line of the flounce. It makes sense that you’d want the top of your flounce to be exactly the same length as the bottom of the yoke because you will want your seams to match up when you sew them. Wonderland flounce2-01

Pay attention to the CB and CF seam allowance. In the original pattern, the Front Yoke is cut on the fold. The Back Yoke is cut as two pieces. If you want to cut the back skirt on the fold too, you will need to subtract 5/8 inch (16mm) from the red line you draw. This might depend on how wide your fabric is.

4. Line the ruler up with the bottom of the yoke and use it as a guide to smoothly extend the side seams and CB/CF seams of your flounce. Imagine you are just making the yoke longer. Decide how long you want the flounce to be and extend the side seam and the CB/CF seams all by the same amounts. My flounce is about 14 inches long (but this might still come to below the knee on some).

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4. Draw in the bottom of the flounce. Try to mimic the curve at the top of the flounce and measure along the way so that the entire flounce is the same length. It’s also a good time to draw in the top seam allowance (then join it up with the side seams – I haven’t joined mine up in the diagram). Also make some markings on the pattern pieces (they are a bit oddly shaped so do this before you forget).

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If you attached the pieces you have just drawn, you would have a straight (ever so slightly A-line) extension of the yoke. However, we want a flounce, so now we need to add some flare. You can add as much or as little flare as you like. I’m going to show you what I did.

5. Use a ruler to draw two straight lines, vertically down the flounce pieces, to make a division of three. Space them an even distance apart, but you don’t need to measure.

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6. Now you are going to slash and spread those lines to create a flounce. Cut along the black lines from the bottom to the top, BUT stop just before you cut through the top. The top will be your pivot point.

Place some paper underneath your pieces and spread them by as much as you want. I spread each slash by about 1.5 inches (16mm). You could spread them by more than this or add an extra slash to make your flounce more dramatic. Tape the spread pattern pieces onto the paper. Because of the curved shape of the yoke, the front and back flounces will look quite different.

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7. Draw in smooth curves for the top and bottom of your flounce pieces.

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Congratulations! You now have flounce pattern pieces that will perfectly fit the yoke of your skirt.

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Wonderland Skirt // made by makers // and a flared version

Before I talk about how I modified my skirt, I’d like to share some of the great Wonderland skirts that have been made so far.

Carly in Stitches //Ernest Flagg // Miss Castelinhos

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Tinker and Stitcher// Anna Gerard // Elle Gee Makes

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And now for my modified version. Remember this scrapbuster? I unpicked the gathered portion of the skirt to see what it would look like with a flounce. I’m in the process of putting together a tutorial on how I did this. It’s not a difficult modification but it does change the look completely.

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