White Esthers and a knit raglan

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

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

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

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

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

Grey knit dress twice over // And a quick how-to

Inspiration usually hits me like a brick. One minute I want for nothing and the next all I can think about is a long sleeve, grey, knit dress.

 

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My first thought was to make it from scratch. I already had a personal pattern for a sleeveless, fitted knit dress. I just drafted sleeves and extended the sleeve arms and the (ever so slightly tapered) bottom hem to the length I wanted.

You could easily modify any closely fitted T-shirt pattern to make a dress like this. I was going to look up some patterns for you, but Creative Chick has already done the research and I see no point in re-inventing the wheel. Check out her very comprehensive summary list of top patterns, with a quick description of each. For a dress like this, you will need a close fitting T and very stretchy jersey. A wide variety of necklines would suit it.

Once you have a T-shirt pattern that fits perfectly, simply extend the arms in a tapered fashion to the length you want. I’m fond of ultra long arms right now so I extended mine beyond the wrist. Use your fitted T-shirt as a guide when extending your pattern pieces. The diagram shows my extended dress outline in red and my measurement guide in green and black. My fabric had a lot of stretch, so I didn’t need to add any darts for shape. I simply narrowed the waist to avoid too many lower back wrinkles. Stable knits will need bust darts and back darts for a fitted look.

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I used a lofty, stretchy, wool/acrylic blend, sweater knit for my first version. I’m sceptical of how long the fabric will last, but right now, I’m totally in love with it. In fact, I liked the dress so much that I immediately made a second.

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My second version is a little more interesting. It’s a truly awesome pure wool ponte knit from Tessuti Fabrics. I’m labelling it truly awesome because it is warm, thick, has great recovery in a stable, ponte-style stretch, has been machine washed more times than I can remember, and just between you and me, I often throw it in the dryer in winter so I can wear it more frequently. It’s possible that the fabric may have faded a bit, but not that I can tell (it’s grey after all), but there is no pilling, no thinning, no stretching, no shrinking, and no other major signs of wear. It cost me a pretty penny but it has been worth every cent.

There’s also a story behind this fabric. In a fit of panic at the idea of landing in Kansas during the infamous polar vortex of two years ago, I purchased several metres of it before I left Australia. I used it to make myself two winter dresses. One was a drop waist Malvarosa and although the loose fitted style had me on the fence, I ended up wearing that (pyjama) dress almost daily for two consecutive winters. I also made myself a fit and flare dress (modified significantly from V8805) and a few other winter items for my girls. The contrast skirt on this second dress didn’t fare as well as the grey ponte knit so I cut it off last year and turned the dress into a simple long sleeve top. I don’t have photos of the top because it was just a wardrobe staple and not blog worthy at all.

When I made the top last year, I removed the (nursing friendly zipper) from the original dress and simply joined the front seam. I also finished the neckline and sleeves with black cotton ribbing. The top was functional, but probably not the most glamorous item in my wardrobe. I didn’t particularly like the neckline. It was just a bit wide for my taste. So for this knit dress, I wanted to see what I could do to fix it. Simply unpicking the original (serged) neckline would have been arduous and wouldn’t have fixed the size and width problem. My solution was to draft a (slightly) stand up collar, that I then attached directly to the existing binding using a small seam allowance. The effect is a contrast line of ribbing between the  collar and dress which I absolutely love.

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This second knit dress was made completely on the fly. The sleeves are possibly a smidgen too long (I got carried away with my length obsession) and there was a lot of (bulky) seaming involved in achieving the length I wanted. Because I was dealing with a more stable knit fabric, I kept the original bust darts and added two fish eye darts to the back for shaping.

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I love how my two versions turned out. Here are a few more RTW examples for your inspiration.

PicMonkey Collage

Love Culture            //            Proenza Schoeler             //           Banjo & Matilda

 

 

The last refashion

This fabric really has been around the block. It started as a dress. Then I turned it into a playsuit. And now I’ve shortened the legs again. Shortening the legs is hardly deserving of the word “refashion”. However, there’s are reason I’m showing you this. It’s amazing how significantly different a garment can look, after such a minor change.

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I didn’t mind the previous versions, but none of them were quite right. I’m so glad I persevered.

Shop the Look

6 Shore Road by Pooja // Aqua // Banana Republic

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Last stop on the Pinwheel Slip dress brigade

Remember this maxi skirt that I made last Summer. It was a part of a two-piece set-acular. I still have the top. The skirt has been really great to me. The fabric is beautiful and I’ve worn it a lot. I haven’t stopped liking it but I’ve have recently replaced it with a maxi skirt that I like so much more. I’m a realist when it comes to knowing what I actually will wear and what I won’t and there’s only room for one winner in my wardrobe. Let’s just call it a leadership spill in the case of the maxi skirts.

The thing I love about maxi skirts is the huge amount of uncut fabric that goes into making them. In my eyes, this basically gives them two lives (if the fabric is up to scratch). This fabric was. It is a stunning voile that is heavier than your standard voile, but much lighter than a quilting weight cotton, and it has a pretty, slightly satiny finish. It still looks brand new, despite numerous washes and wears.

 

I was able to sneak two Oliver + S Pinwheel slip dresses out of it. I’ll call that a win. I cut one in a size 12, which is currently in transit to it’s recipient in Australia. The other was made up in a size 3 for my littlest peep. Well, to be perfectly honest, I’m not exactly sure what size I cut for this little peep. I suspect I made a mistake during some late night tracing because the skirt front didn’t match the bodice and I had to take a little bit out of the sideseams to fix it on the fly. It’s no big deal though. Little peep still loves her new dress. And she’s got this modelling thing down pat. Queue side pose with robot arms. And that FACE!

And now, are you ready for the grand finale of model poses.
 

Just for the camera, here is her best head tilt and phoniest smile. 




Butterick 6900: A leather blocked, drop shoulder coat

I’d like to share with you a pretty typical conversation that ensues each time I break out something new that I’ve made for myself.

Me: What do you think of my new coat? (pre-empting some inevitable design confusion) It’s a drop shoulder design. It’s supposed to be unfitted. 

Husband: It’s interesting. I like it. (moving closer to inspect my stitching and style lines better) It’s really good. But it’s a bit big for you. Look at the shoulders.

Me: It’s the design. That’s why they’re called drop shoulders.

Husband: It’s a bit big at the back too. It looks a bit masculine.

Me: Yeeeeeesss (my speech slows and perhaps my eyes begin to roll a little). It’s the design. It’s a boxy, oversize, drop shoulder style of coat.

Husband: You know, it would look great if you cinched in the waist with a really wide belt.

Me: Yes. It. Would.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve already seen the original coat that caught my eye and that ended up becoming my design inspiration. I also shared a few sketches of my own coat in the early planning stages. I’m pretty useless at drawing, but Fashionary is a great way for me to get my ideas down on paper, so that I can solidify a design in my head, and then have something to refer back to when I’m playing around with the actual pattern pieces. 

For this coat, I started with Butterick 6900, but I made a lot of modifications:

  • Lengthened the shoulder seams and dropped the armscye to achieve the oversized, drop shoulder look, rather than a coat that just looks too big (Husband you know nothing!)
  • Sharpened the collar to a point
  • drafted a lining to include the existing facing pieces
  • shortened View B by 4″
  • changed the position of the welt pockets and slimmed them down
  • lengthened the sleeves
  • added a front and back yoke to accommodate and suit the size of leather I had to work with
  • added shaped panels to the sleeves in contrast wool and lambskin
  • top-stitched some contrast lambskin and cowhide to the bottom of the coat 
 

 
 
 

The cowhide I used, as you know, was upcycled from my leather skirt. The grey fabric is a beautiful, medium/heavyweight, double faced wool. One side is grey and the other is a pretty plaid. Both sides are invisibly stitched together very securely. The edge of the swatch in my photo is separated because I actively removed the stitches to pull both fabrics apart.


Even though I didn’t make the most of both sides of this great fabric, I still found it useful in reducing the bulk in my coat. I only used one layer of the wool fabric for the collar underside since the leather was so bulky. I also carefully separated and cut away the grey seam allowance when preparing the facing to attach to the bulky leather at the front of the coat.

I preferred the plain grey for the outer of this particular coat and I only used the plaid for the front facing, but if I had a limitless budget, I would definitely buy more of this great double faced wool and make it up quite simply and unmodified in and unlined coat like Vogue 8930.

In terms of construction, I underlined both the front and back leather yokes with hair canvas.
The lining I used for my coat was a sleek Ralph Lauren polka dot silk CDC. I also used a bit of blue lambskin for the contrast panels and pocket welts.

I am so pleased with how this coat turned out. It isn’t perfect. I had a lot of trouble top-stitching through the thickness of the cowhide in many places. However, with a little handstitching and compromise, I don’t think that this is too noticeable. I also haven’t decided on front closures. I quite like the clean, no-closure look. I could have used magnets, but the coat keeps closed well enough on it’s own because of it’s roomy nature. I’m also considering buttonholes, via an embroidery house or by hand. I love my Pfaff, but I think coat buttonholes need a bit of extra special treatment to look professional. I’ve also thought about leather buckle/toggles, but I’m quite happy with the coat as it is right now.

Kwik Sew 1034: Refashioning Daddy’s Ralph Lauren sweater

This great little sweater actually started out as one of Daddy’s big Ralph Lauren sweaters. There wasn’t much wrong with it in the first place, but he kept wearing holes in one of the elbows. I darned it a few times, but on the last occasion, it was either an elbow patch or a complete refashion.

 

 


I used Kwik Sew 1035 to make a sweater out of it for Miss Six. It was an incredibly quick and easy sew because I utilised the existing knit waistband and arm cuffs instead of sewing my own. I cut away the holey parts of the sleeves and added contrast bands of a different wool knit. I was even able to conserve the little Ralph Lauren Polo horse in cutting the front bodice, but only just!

 
 
 
 
The skirt she’s wearing is the bottom half of an Oliver + S Hide and Seek dress that I made a while back. The dress accidentally snuck into a hot wash with towels and the wool portions of the sleeves and bodice shrunk. All I did was to cut off the bodice and add an elastic encased waistband. The change turned it into a simple A-line skirt with fabulous side welt pockets. It’s actually become one of her all time favourite pieces (as you can probably see from the wash fade and wrinkles). I will purposefully make this modification of the pattern again in the future now.

Oliver + S denim culottes for Miss Six

It’s not often I’ll race out and buy a pattern as soon as it’s been released. I’ve only ever done it twice, and both times they’ve been Oliver + S patterns. The minute I saw this pattern I knew I had to have it. Do I need to tell you why?

They’re culottes!

I fell in love at first sight with this pattern, but I also knew that I would have a bit of trouble convincing my skirt wearing six year old that she needed a pair for herself. Part of my sales strategy was to show her my denim pair of culottes and to offer to make her the same. She loved the idea. And I loved the idea that I wasn’t going to have to use pink, or sparkles, or big flowers.


I cut a size six in the pattern but I made a few changes: 

  • I like a sleeker look to culottes so I combined the two front pleats into a single centre pleat. This also gave me more room to add my pocket details.
  • The contrast waistband and pocket was attached externally, so I ditched the inseam pockets. The pocket style is very similar to the ones I made for my denim culottes.
  • I lengthened them by 1″ for my taller than average 6.5 yr old

The denim I used for these culottes is quite heavy. It’s probably a lot heavier than was intended for this pattern, but I quite like the volume it gives the pants, and I know they will  be great to layer with wool tights to keep Miss Six warm in sub-zero temperatures. I made sure the back elastic in the waistband was fixed quite tight to keep the pants up.
 
I really like the waistband design of these culottes. It’s the same as the Oliver + S skort pattern, but this time it also includes instructions to interface the front section, which I think is a smart addition to the pattern. The front of the waistband is kept smooth because the elastic is only threaded along the back, stopping at each side seam. It’s a great design feature but it also means that you need to get the waist sizing close to perfect when selecting the size you cut. If you make the culottes too large in the first place, it’s difficult to pull (the half waist-length) elastic tight enough to keep the pants tight on a little waist. Skirts and pants that fall down while they play are a personal pet peeve of my girls. 


The boxy, drop shouldered top is one of mine that I refashioned specifically for Miss Six. It was originally cropped on me so I didn’t have to alter the length at all. I simply unpicked the side seams to remove the bust darts and re-stitched them narrower to suit her. I also added two pleats to bring the neckline in a bit. The sleeves are long on her, but I think they look great rolled up. She’s pretty happy with her new outfit. I think that smile says it all.



Simplicity 1435 and self-drafted aprons in vintage fabric

I was given a little bundle of vintage fabrics recently, in the hope that I would put them to good use. Coincidentally, my daughter’s preschool teacher asked me that very same day if I would mind sewing a few aprons for their school. I don’t bake cakes, but I do sew, so it was a big yes from me.

Now, I’ll admit that none of the fabrics were of a style or fibre that I would normally buy. But those little aprons turned out great. I winged the design by sewing together a couple of squares and adding gathers here and there. I varied the sizing randomly to allow for all the different sized peeps in Miss Four’s class. There were four aprons made in total, in vintage floral, tiger stripes, poly plaid, and some white linen scraps from my own stash. The tiger stripes were everyone’s favourite.

Miss Two claims to like every fabric that I touch, including the floral jersey in the bundle. It’s a very old style polyester with a slightly shiny surface so I’m not entirely sure how it will wash and wear, or breathe for that matter. Bearing this in mind, I kept her dress pretty simple. I used the same little dress pattern as here. It’s perfect. She’s perfect. In fact, she’s so edible (even when she’s grumpy), that I’m surprised she’s nearly made it to her third birthday.

Most important criteria met. It twirls.

Still grumpy though.