Cut out lace competition dress

I know I should sit on my competition entries like everyone else, but it’s like sitting on a hot potato, especially since I couldn’t wait to get started on this one. It’s finished, photographed, and I’ll be squeezing in as many wears as possible before Fall, so I figured I might as well share it! The inspiration came from THIS dress that I posted on my IG account a few weeks ago.

As soon as I saw the ivory lace, I knew exactly what I wanted to make with it. The only problem was that the rules stated that no trims could be used and that the outer fabric of the garment had to be made entirely of the competition fabric, and in a single colourway only. That was a big problem. The contrasting black trim against the ivory lace was the element that I most liked about my inspiration dress.

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It took me a bit of thinking to come up with a solution, and a LOT of hand-stitching post construction. However, I found a way to keep all my black trim to the underside of the lace fabric and in a manner that I could reverse in the future. With the trim kept to the inside, the contrast is muted through the lace, but still visible as a subtle feature.

This is a post about my competition dress. I will share more pictures one day after I have unpicked all my handiwork to reveal the black trim again.

I designed this dress using a combination of flat pattern-making and draping. I tried very hard to design a bodice that would be low cut (and slightly shaped) in the back, yet with straps that would conceal my favourite bra. I think I did a pretty good job.

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I also tried to position the lace in such a way as to avoid lining the bodice. I wanted the dress to show glimpses of skin through the lace rather than lining. But I also didn’t want the dress to be too revealing. The bodice isn’t lined at all but the ruffle provides a little extra coverage. The skirt has a short lining. I couldn’t quite manage to place the lace of the skirt in such a way that would cover my bottom completely.

The lining I used for the skirt is an ivory/beige coloured acetate. I gathered the lining in my dress rather than pleating it because I wanted to add a bit more bulk through the skirt. And that is the beauty of sewing your own clothes. My hips are narrower than my shoulders and this difference gets a little more pronounced the fitter I get so a gathered lining in the skirt helps me achieve an illusion of filling it out better and having a more hourglass figure. (I blame Pokemon, the Olympics, and active kids for getting me out running and swimming laps everyday this Summer!).

I made the straps using wide, black, foldover elastic (FOE). The gathered sleeves are sandwiched between the fold and then the entire length of the elastic is stitched down to create an enclosed strap. I used a very strong/stable FOE. Too much stretch would have made for weak straps, but a little bit of firm stretch and a lightning stitch creates very comfortable and strong shoulder straps.

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The sharp contrast of black against ivory in the shoulder straps was what my heart desired, but I compromised by using it as a strap lining instead. I created lace tubes to cover those black elastic straps and hand-stitched them in place. I’ll remove those lace tubes at a later date.

I also encased the edges of the lace ruffle in black, self-made, silk binding. I then turned that trim to the underside and hand-stitched it in place. I like that I can still see a glimpse of the black through the lace. To cover the very edges of the black binding (near the neckline and CB zipper), I cut tiny squares of the competition fabric and appliqued them over the visible binding. The result is a dress with outer fabric made completely of the competition lace.

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I’m so pleased with how this dress turned out. I will definitely enjoy wearing it during the last few weeks of Summer. Meanwhile, there’s still plenty of time to enter the competition and if you don’t like ivory lace, there is also red and black to choose from. I have less than a full panel remaining of my ivory lace, but I think I’ve just worked out a way to scrapbust it into another little frock!

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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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Dress Two: #inseasonsilkcomp

I’ve been wanting to make a shirt dress for a long time and this competition gave me the perfect opportunity to do so. I was also lucky that my first dress required a lot less fabric than anticipated. In the end, I had the perfect amount for both dresses, and not a thread to spare.

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I used a vintage pattern (McCall’s 6429) which I’ve used before to make a silk playsuit. This time I followed the pattern almost to the tee. My only change was to adjust for my broad-back with a 5/8th inch wedge to the top CB (and of course adjust the collar to match this change). I also lengthened the bottom hem by about 13 inches.

The dress is of a raglan style with short cuffed sleeves and inseam pockets. The waist is pulled in with a self-fabric belt tie. The centre front is faced and most of the inside seams have been serged. I achieved smooth buttonholes on the silk CDC by using a lightweight fusible interfacing and tearaway Vilene between the facing and the fabric. I find lightweight interfacing on its own not enough to preventing buttonhole puckers in silk, and yet I didn’t want to go heavier with the interfacing as it would weigh down and affect the drape of my silk too much. The tearaway Vilene worked a treat. I imagine tissue paper could have worked too.

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The biggest challenge with this dress was the sheer length of the pieces. I’m 5″10 and the dress is floor length on me. There isn’t a separate bodice and skirt. The bodice extends all the way to the bottom hem. That’s a good 60 inches of shifty silk that I had to line up and control for each seam. My cutting mat is pretty big, but not that big!

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I’m so happy with this dress. It’s light and floaty, and it feels beautiful to wear. It’s also a very versatile addition to my wardrobe. I like it long right now, but I could potentially shorten it in the future to become an easier daytime staple. I have no problem wearing silk for school pick ups but I might need to do up an extra button ;-).

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Share the love! #LSCfebruaryfourteen

I probably spend more time on Instagram than this blog. I still value blogging, which I believe is the best way to share detailed or discussion worthy projects. But for instant inspiration, and even quick sewing tips, I do love what Instagram delivers. I follow a lot of sewing bloggers as well as fashion houses, and for me, it is the equivalent of flipping though a personally curated magazine.

So, to celebrate Valentines Day this year, I want to share the love. I’m always looking to discover more inspiring people and I suspect some of you are too. Starting February 1st, and then for the first fourteen days of February, I will be reposting an IG photo a day from a fellow maker/blogger/IG’er  that I’ve liked or found inspiring. I’ll send out a reminder on IG the day before.

I’d love it if others would join me! Just be sure to credit your repost and tag @lilysageandco #LSCfebruaryfourteen so we can all discover what is inspiring you too!

Vintage beaded sequin dress

I definitely prefer to make most of my clothes, particularly garments for special occasions. However, I also love to treasure hunt at estate sales. I always take a peek at the clothes, but it takes something a little bit special to tempt me. I can sometimes be lured by extra large sizes in unique fabrics/textiles (useful for cutting up), and pieces that have refashioning potential. I can also be tempted by sparkles.

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This vintage, beaded, sequined dress is one of my best finds to date. The lining is silk, and the beads are layered over sequined fabric. It’s not a brand that I recognise but I can see that a lot of care and detail has gone into it’s construction. It’s not a perfect fit on me either, but it’s probably as close as I would ever get in RTW, and well disguised by the busy embellishment anyway.

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I post pictures of my best finds on Instagram (like this, this, this, this, this, and this), but this dress deserved it’s very own feature. It was truly a special find.

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Dress: vintage // Choker: made by me (velvet ribbon) // Shoes: Derek Lam

 

 

Let’s talk darts

I’d like to spend a little time talking about darts. We’ve all sewn them at one time or another. They’re not difficult to sew and there are probably many ways to do them. I’m by no means an expert and I can’t promise that I won’t have any dart disasters in the future. I just know what I like and what I don’t. So I’m going to share a few pictures that I’ve come across lately that got me thinking about this topic in the first place. And then I’ll show you a little trick that I keep in mind when I sew darts.

Exhibit 1: This interesting jacket by Noon by Noor. It’s a sneak peak of their upcoming collection that they shared on Instagram. I usually love seeing their designs, but I just can’t look past those darts. Am I missing something here? Maybe they are a design feature? All I can see is that they are oddly positioned for this girl and stretched out like nipples.

On set of our Pre-Fall 2016 shoot #noonbynoor #pf16 #bts #sneakpeek #details

Exhibit 2: Dart-gate. Prada allowed poor Anne Hathaway to wear this dress a few years ago. Those dart lines are so straight. They’re like a big sign pointing to her nipples. Although, when I started sewing, this was how I sewed all my bust darts, because that was what the pattern said to do. I think there’s a better way.

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Exhibit 3: This recent pattern from Seamwork. I’m including this shot because it’s a problem I often face as a smaller busted lady and I particularly dislike the look of darts on an unfitted top. I feel like the whole point of darts is to shape a curve and when there is already excess ease, that shaping is unnecessary and unattractive. This woman is clearly too small and perky for the size of blouse. She could probably do without the darts completely. I’m not going to comment on the odd shape of them. I suspect the fabric may have been quite tricky/slippery to sew with.

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So, here is my quick and very simple tip for sewing darts.
My pet peeve is seeing darts end in a sharp or stretched out point on either a bodice or a bottom (in a skirt/pant). And that generally happens when you sew the dart straight, as indicated by the lines on most sewing patterns. But who has straight angles on their body? I’d hardly call myself curvy, but even I don’t have sharp angles on my body. Women are all about curves; gentle curves, big curves, medium curves, all kinds of curves. So why on earth would you sew straight seams when you’re supposed to be shaping around a curve (eg. bust or bottom).
In the diagram below, I’ve illustrated a skirt dart. The straight line is in black, in the shape you’d see marked on most patterns. The red line is the way I prefer to sew darts, curved around until it blends seamlessly with the fabric (because my bottom is round, not pointy). Obviously, to improve the fit further, you could also shorten/lengthen or shape the dart to reflect your own curves. But if you are just starting out and the bare minimum you do is to curve that seam, you will still have a much better end result. And if you want more information on sewing darts, you should check out this tutorial.
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Top 5 HITS of 2015

Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow is responsible for coming up with the Top Five initiative. I try to take part each year because it is a great way for me to reflect on the things that worked and the things that didn’t. Sometimes there are a few surprises in my hits and misses (ahem…last year’s leather skirt).

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Each year, I’ve noticed how my sewing evolves in relation to my skill level. I used to sew a lot of staples like knit T’s, dresses, and leggings, but this doesn’t bring me as much joy anymore. Having said that though, I’m having a blast sewing up a bunch of slightly quirky sweaters, trackies, and togs for the Christmas stockings right now. But in general, I’ve been steering away from the quick makes and spending more time on projects that require more involvement, and teach me things along the way. My hits are largely reflective of this focus.

1. My PDF sewing patterns

Sewing is both a hobby and an art for me. I’m not content to just make clothes. I want to be constantly learning and challenging myself. That was where the idea of digitising patterns entered the picture. It started at a time when I’d somehow sewn all the clothes my family needed so learning to digitise patterns became a great way for me to expand my knowledge in patternmaking and grading. I especially wanted to get a proper handle on accurate grading because with three girls and myself under the one roof, I was anticipating times in the future when a design for one of us would require grading another three ways!

I spent several months over the Summer completely immersed in patternmaking and grading theory. As a result, I managed to produce seven quality PDF sewing patterns that I’m extremely proud of.

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The clothes that I made from those patterns were hits too (which was why I went about digitising them in the first place). For me, it was the summer of Branson and Sea Change tops, Wonderland skirts, and Splash Swimsuits. For my girls, Cartwheel shorts and Daisy Chain tops became their daily school uniform and the Twirl-to-Me dress was reserved for weekends and parties. It was the complete capsule wardrobe for us all! I don’t have any immediate plans to make more sewing patterns. If I see a gap in the pattern market and fall in love with another unique design that translates into a wearable item, I may feel inspired to develop it further. Only time will tell.

2. Leather blocked Winter coat

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I made this coat last Winter, but oh how I love it so! It’s my go-to coat at the moment and feels a lot like wearing a big cozy blanket. As we head towards the deep freeze, it is understandably my favourite make for the year.

3. Grey knit dresses

I liked the idea of a snuggly wool dress so much that I made two. One was refashioned from an old top and drop waist dress. The other was made from scratch. I wear them both a lot.

 

4. Miss Seven’s tailored coat / My first wrap skirt

I’m sneaking two makes in here as hits for 2015 (because I used the same fabric). I can do that can’t I?

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And of course I had some scraps leftover to make this:

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I took my time making both the tailored coat and the skirt. I can see things about them that I will do better next time, but I’m sill very proud of both. I don’t often look twice at the clothes my family wears because they mostly wear clothes made by me. However, that coat has me stopping and smiling to myself every time I see it.

5. Rigel bomber

I made this bomber jacket way back in January with the leftover scraps from my Dior coat and wide leg pants (all of which were major hits, but the latter two were made in 2014). I’ve been wearing the bomber a great deal lately. It dresses up a simple sweater and black leather pants perfectly, and being soft and lightweight, I can easily layer it with my leather blocked coat on super frosty days.

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Honourable mention // All things tiger print

This year I purchased the license to an awesome tiger photo and printed myself some fabric using Spoonflower. To say my middle child is partial to animal prints would be an understatement. My plan was to make her some tiger gear through the year as a special surprise, but I was soon swamped by other requests, including a cycling jersey for the husband and the leotard you see below. I’ve also just made some Christmas sweaters for my girls using up the leftover sports pique (here , here, and here). And there’s a pair of bathers currently on the cutting table for Miss Seven.

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I had a truly fabulous sewing year and I’m looking forward to continuing on my learning curve in 2016. I hope you guys will join me! x

 

 

 

 

#100buttonholeschallenge

Happy Thanksgiving everybody! I’m going to spend it eating pavlova (because that’s what Australians do) and hopefully sneaking in a bit of sewing. I might even get started on a little challenge that I’ve set for myself.

I’m putting it out there right now, mostly to say it out loud, and partly, to see if there are any other crazies out there who would like to embark on this skill-up journey with me. If you’ve read the title of this blog, it sounds rather ominous, but actually, I think it will be quite achievable. I just need to commit.

To give you a little background to this challenge, I’ve been in the process of making myself a winter coat. Those of you who follow me on Instagram may have seen my progess. I’m using a gorgeous tufty wool coating and traditional tailoring methods which is a learning experience in itself. I’ve made a few coats before (here, here, and here). I’ve always been delighted with the way they turned out and each was an improvement on the next, but I’ve still got a long way to go. I feel like I’m finally starting to get my head around the construction and reasoning behind the inner structure with this coat, but there’s one area of coatmaking that has always been a stumbling block for me. Buttonholes!

Now, bound buttonholes are delightful, and not actually that difficult to do. But not every fabric is suitable for bound buttonholes (I found that out with my last coat). Machine buttonholes are not the end of the world, but I’m not overly excited with the keyhole option on my machine. I’ve considered hand-worked buttonholes on more than one occasion, however my efforts have been so disappointing that the option was quickly ruled out. I really hate the feeling of being restricted in my choice of design because of a skill I’m lacking, particularly something that simply requires practice.

I want to equip myself with the ability to produce a beautiful buttonhole when and if I want. Can you imagine the sewing possibilities… blazers, pants, and coats of course. The key to this magic skill is of course practice. I’ve heard it said that it takes 100 buttonholes until you become proficient at a technique. This may be a bit extreme, but it is exactly what I intend to do.

I’m giving myself a year and a month. That gives me a week to organise the correct supplies for hand-worked buttonholes, and a starting date in December. At the moment, I spend a quite a few hours each week “watching” kids at various sports. If I put away my phone and practiced buttonholes instead, it would be a much better use of my hands and time. If I only get two done a week, I’ll be on track to completing this project.

For the most part, I’ll be documenting my buttonholes on Instagram ( #100buttonholeschallenge ). You might also see an update or two on this blog, and possibly a tutorial or sewing tips in the future. I’m certainly hoping I can do better than this blurry 2012 attempt.

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So if you want to join me on this finger numbing journey, to share your triumphs, disasters, fabric experiences, tricks and tips, please remember to use the hashtag:  #100buttonholeschallenge

A few thoughts on RTW and a vintage faux-fur score

I don’t buy a lot of RTW. Most of my wardrobe is handmade, as is a large percentage of my daughters’. However, I’ve drawn a few lines in the sand as to what I see value in making and what I don’t.

I generally won’t make knit tops and leggings for my girls, unless of course I already have the fabric in my stash (most likely a remnant from something else I’ve made – nothing goes to waste here). These items are just so easy to buy for next to nothing (ethics aside) and they get trashed by my kids anyway. I’d much rather spend my time sewing more interesting garments.

For me, the same applies to jeans and faux fur. I view jeans as a technical make, but not due to the sewing (I agree with all the pattern makers out there – don’t be scared of sewing jeans if you are so inclined). It’s the hardware and denim fabric that I don’t have the time or inclination to hunt down myself. And the same goes for faux fur. The location I reside prohibits me from visiting a well-stocked bricks and mortar store where I can pat and caress all the fabrics. It gets wearisome and costly relying on swatches for everything, and this definitely impacts my choice of textiles.

But back to the outfit of the day. I present you with one of the very few complete RTW outfits in my closet. The jeans are DL1961 and I love them for a few reasons. The colour is great and the fit is superb. I love the leg length (I’m 5″10 so the legs are long). The denim is pretty amazing too. It’s lusciously soft and stretchy. The composition is 64% tencil/modal, 34% polyester, and 2% lycra. Nope, not cotton, but they do look like it! Now perhaps if I could get my hands on some of this fabric for a decent price, I’d reconsider my stance on sewing jeans.

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The vintage coat is mouton fur, which is sheepskin that has been processed to resemble smooth, glossy beaver fur. This is an old coat (circa 1950?) with a gorgeous cropped style. I love the shape of it and the fit is perfection. The front fastens with a hook and eye. I need to re-stitch the eye in place, but otherwise the coat is in excellent condition.

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I’m not going to delve too deeply into the ethics of purchasing or wearing fur. There are justifiably strong feelings on the matter. I love the look and feel of real fur but it doesn’t sit easy with me. Lamb/sheep/goat/cow products are a different matter. I don’t eat a lot of meat (for health and sustainability reasons) but I’m still partial to the occasional steak or lamb chop and I definitely won’t turn my nose up at slow roast goat or a platter of cheese. Therefore, it would be quite hypocritical of me to shun the hides of these animals. With that in mind, I can assure you that I will be giving this old coat the love and care that it deserves.