All the ruffles

It all started with a Sachin & Babi dress that I fell instantly in love with. At that point, I wasn’t truly intending on making a dress, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how I would do it, if I ever decided to go ahead with it. I actually had the most perfect fabric in my stash already, which is rare, because I keep my stash pretty small. Every now and again, I purchase something on whim. It was how I ended up with several yards of the most beautiful sheer silk in shades of green. It will be a special occasion when I finally use it, and hopefully for my eldest daughter, as it was her hair and skin colouring that inspired me to buy it in the first place!

So, using my special fabric was out of the question. But I still couldn’t stop thinking about it. I started toying with the idea of refashioning another Archer in my wardrobe (my other ruffle refashion was an absolute winner!). But then I realised that I had enough of the vintage sheeting to simply start a dress from scratch.

I’d love to say that I had a pattern for this dress, but I made up a lotof it as I went along. It wouldn’t be hard to replicate though. All you need to know is how to make a flounce. You could use any princess seamed sundress pattern.

I started with a self-drafted, princess seamed dress bodice that I often use as a sloper. However, I’ve been doing a lot of swimming over the past year and I’m finding that a lot of my old memades aren’t fitting me so well anymore. My bust measurement has grown by a whole inch, unfortunately not my actual bust, but rather through my side back (the old latissimus dorsi). I ended up letting out the side seams under the arms but keeping the waist measurement the same. It worked perfectly. I also raised the neckline a little and brought the shoulder seams in towards the neck.

As to the ruffles, they are simply flounces that were measured and inserted into the princess seams. It was a little fiddly but perserverence paid off. I love the black insets on the front and back of the bodice, but I have to confess that these design features were the direct result of freestyling my sewing (forgetting a seam allowance) and having to fix the problems. The same happened with the skirt. I ended up recutting several panels more than once. First, I cut the skirt as one, but it didn’t look right without any flounces.  So, I seamed it down the front and back but followed the grainline for those seams. As soon as I inserted the first flounce I could see that it wasn’t going to work. I recut the skirt pieces with the seams parallel to the side seams. This makes the flounces fall in a nice bell shape with is prettier than straight lines down the front and back.

This dress is very ruffly! It has a lot of volume through the front bodice and the skirt. I’m fully aware that this is a style that wouldn’t work for everybody. It works well for me. I’m small busted, so the front ruffles add interest and size to the top. My body is somewhat triangular in shape, moreso as I get fitter and stronger. I don’t like emphasizing this shape, so having a bit of added body through the skirt creates the illusion of a more hourglass figure. Sewing is great because you can really play around with design to flatter and create illlusions!

And before I sign off on this dress, I just want to mention a couple of hashtags that I’ve started to use on instagram: #sewingstrong #sewstrong

All body types out there have their own sewing challenges. I can immediately think of patterns that are drafted for bigger busts, for pear shapes, and for petites. I’m not saying one is more challenging than the other, but simply that I have a harder time thinking of patterns that are drafted for tall ladies, small busted ladies, or very athletic shaped ladies. If you know of any, let me know! I would particularly love to know what patterns are working for ladies with broader backs, or strong shoulders. I know that I’ve occasionally turned to men’s shirt patterns, and Thread Theory’s Henley is an awesome fit on me. I’ve also been paying more attention to what Sallie sews lately, because I know if a shirt pattern fits her, it will probably work for me too. I’m hoping that this hashtag will be an easy way to pull up ideas for sewing patterns and flattering designs that work well on a strong female body. If you’re someone who struggles with fitting tops and dresses to a broader than average back, or strong shoulders, jump in and tag along.

 

IKEA shift dress and flared sleeve tutorial

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I’m not sure if it is a parenting flaw on my behalf, but my three girls consider a trip to Ikea worth bargaining for. They love visiting Smaland, even though it’s always a small miracle if there are ever enough spaces to take them all in. But even if they don’t get in, they’re at an age now that it is really quite enjoyable walking around and finding things together – things that we never knew we needed.

This is not the first time I’ve been fabric shopping at IKEA. A few years ago I made made curtains, bento bags, and a couple of small dresses with IKEA fabric. This time around, I purchased two yards of stiff cotton with the intention of making a midi skirt or a shift dress. It seems that the shift dress won out in the end.

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The pattern I used is based on this floral dress from last year. It’s a very basic, self-drafted shift dress, with flared extensions added to the sleeves.

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There are plenty of patterns you could use to acheive this simple design.

  • Vintage shift dress patterns are a dime a dozen. Ebay and Etsy both have heaps. I’ve just looked!
  • Papercut Patterns Sea-Bell dress is a more fitted style, but quite an expensive option for such a simple dress.
  • Megan Nielsen Dove top is another to consider. It would be easy to extend into a dress, and the sleeves are already done for you.
  • The Tessuti Fabrics Maggie Tunic would work well with the addition of flared sleeves.

The above sewing patterns are options, but if you already have a TNT, darted T-shirt, shift dress, or even a nice sheath, it isn’t difficult to add flared sleeves. All you need to do is measure the circumference of the sleeve you are adding to and decide on the length of flare you want.

First, decide which dress/top pattern you want to use:

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Now it’s time to create the sleeve extension:

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And there you have it. Flared sleeves couldn’t be easier!

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A refashion fest

It is still quite warm here in Kansas City. In fact, today the heat was back in full force. But mostly, this time of year is gorgeous, with less humidity, cooler nights, and pleasant days. I’m still not inspired to get on with my coat-making, but I have been thinking about my Fall wardrobe plans.

I’ve been pulling out the sweaters and going through my wardrobe to look for gaps. One thing I also do between seasons is to assess the clothes I own and identify what I don’t like anymore (and what I can possibly refashion). It’s amazing how much you can do with existing clothes to update an entire wardrobe without purchasing/making a thing.

You’ve already seen the culottes that I narrowed to refresh into a boxier shape that is more current for this year. I also shortened this floor-length velvet dress. I LOVED the glamour of the maxi version and I wore it for the holidays last year, but my life doesn’t call for floor length gowns very often. I tried it as shorter dress but I still didn’t feel the love.

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A little more cutting (and hand-stitching that hem for the third time!) and now it’s become a top that I’m really in love with! I’ll get tons of wear out of it in this version and the portions I cut off the dress can be reworked as a garment for one of my girls.

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Slip dresses have had their moment this Summer, but they’ll also be great for going into Fall. Remember this dress? It was my go-to out-to-dinner dress over Summer, but I’m getting bored of the cold shoulder look (at every turn in my wardrobe anyway!). I cut off the sleeves and rebound the armscye, adding small spaghetti straps to drop the neckline a little. Now I have a slip dress that I can wear alone or layered with a turtleneck and boots.

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I’ve also been playing around with layering. I dug out this old playsuit that I made using a vintage pattern years ago. Layering it makes for such a comfy and seasonally appropriate combo.

Even though I already liked this thrifted vintage dress a lot, it was a tricky one to wear in real life. The weight of the fabric meant it was way too hot for Summer, and yet the style doesn’t really suit colder weather. Converting it to a top has made it much more wearable for me, and the fabric is the perfect weight for Fall.

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I’m also a little in love with dramatic sleeves right now (same as always, right!). But instead of sewing myself a brand new top, I cut the cuffs off an existing shirt and drafted my own big, fancy cuffs to re-attach. This totally elevates the basic white shirt and is going to make my Fall layering just a little bit more… me. There’s a post about this refashion here.

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And while I was at it, I trimmed back and re-bound the armscye of this pretty little top. The fabric is divine but I found the original shape a bit boxy/masculine with the wider shoulder seams. I think it will now work better with more separates. I’ll try to get some photos posted soon.

And finally, I’m also a little tired of the torn denim, bare knee jean, so I took an old vintage skirt and used it to patch up my white denim. These jeans are now so fun and I can’t wait to pair them with a snuggly sweater in the coming months. More photos coming soon on this one too.

It’s actually been a lot of fun finding and reviving hidden treasures in my wardrobe. Does anyone else attack their wardrobe with scissors between seasons?

Black trimmed lace dress

I made this dress some time ago and entered it into the Tessuti cut out lace competition. However, I always had bigger plans for it. Here are some updated photos.

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Pretty much all the details are the same as before. I simply unpicked all the extra overlay that I’d handstitched in place over the shoulder straps, and turned the black trim back to the outside. There was a little seam-ripping and re-sewing involved but it was worth it (and easier because I’d made allowances for the changes to begin with).

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Now it’s just a shame that Summer is edging away from us. I’ve probably only got a few weeks of lace left but I will enjoy it while I can.

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Cut out lace dress 2

I never intended to make two dresses with this fabric. I had less than a full panel remaining after finishing my main entry. I toyed with turning the leftover bits of lace into a top for one of my girls, but my sewjo just couldn’t get behind that idea. It seems that I needed another white lace dress in my closet.

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I spent way too much time mulling over the positioning of the lace, perhaps even more so with this one because my options were limited. To achieve symmetry with the scraps I had on hand, the bodice had to be seamed down the CF in addition to the princess seams. I didn’t have much choice with the lace placement for the skirt. I like the way I was able to place the lace in the front and whilst I also like the back, it’s perhaps not as cohesive through the sides as I would like. The dot-lace hem is seamed on.

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Design-wise, this dress is very similar to my previous entry. The princess-seamed bodice is almost the same, but with a slightly more scooped out neckline and skinny, self-fabric straps. The skirt portion was modified from one of my TNT pencil skirt patterns. I slashed and spread the pattern slightly into a subtle A-line shape for a more casual fit. I absorbed the back darts through the flare and back waist seam.

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The bodice is unlined, but the skirt is lined. I faced the neckline raw edges with bias binding. The skirt is lined with a beige coloured acetate. I kept the skirt lining as short as possible so as not to be seen through the bottom panel of the hem. I won’t be bending over in this dress!

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Like my other dress, this dress is also designed to be worn with a very specific bra (the one I wore in the last lace dress post). You can see that the bodice fits a lot better when I wear that bra here (and I will be wearing it in real life). It is mostly unseen behind the straps, but for a cleaner look in some of these photos (since I didn’t have a wardrobe assistant on hand to check for strap visibility), I decided to wear a strapless bra. The fit is just not as good across the bust when I have to resort to a strapless bra. It’s a very good reminder of how undergarments affect the outer fit.

Also, try to ignore the big smear of white paint across my calf… maybe we should start a game called, “Spot the Paint on Her”, in all my blog photos for the next six months….

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Esther SKORTS PDF pattern piece and tutorial

I’ve been asked quite a few times about a tutorial for this little skort. I decided to go one step better. I digitised the actual pattern piece that I created, with all the sizes graded out to suit everyone! It can be downloaded here. It should match up perfectly with the Esther Shorts pattern by Tessuti Fabrics, but there’s no reason you can’t adapt it to your own TNT shorts pattern by adjusting a few minor details.

I really love my white version. It is the second pair I’ve made and it’s seriously one of my best Summer staples ever. The front overlay adds a little formality and cover to a standard pair of shorts. I dress mine up with a blazer and heels. I also wear it out and about with Birkenstocks and a singlet. It’s a style that is very versatile.

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As I mentioned, my version is based 100% off the Esther shorts pattern. I made a straight size 8, but I did shorten the legs by two inches (whilst maintaining the original hem shape). To achieve the same proportions as me, you’ll first need to shorten the legs of the front and back Esther pattern pieces by two inches. If you want to add this overlay to the longer, unchanged length of the Esther shorts pattern, simply lengthen the skort overlay by two inches at the lengthen/shorten line (included on the skort pattern piece).

The steps below will help you put together your skort:

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1. Cut out your overlay fabric: Outer fabric, right side facing up. Lining, wrong side facing up.

2. Prepare the overlay: right sides facing, pin the overlay fabric to the overlay lining. Stitch a 1/2 inch seam along the two angled bottom edges and the left side edge. Remember, the diagram below shows the skort overlay as you look at it in front of you, so the left side (as you wear it) will appear as the right.

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2. Trim seam allowance and turn the overlay out to the right side. Press. Baste remaining raw edges.

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Now it’s time to put together the rest of the shorts. I’m just going to summarize the order of construction here. If you need more details, refer back to your actual shorts pattern, but keep following this order of construction.

3. Stitch the left leg seams. First, insert zipper in the side seam of the left side, between the front and back leg. Complete the stitching of that seam. Then stitch the inner leg seam of the left leg.

4. Now onto the right side. Sandwich the side seam edge of the overlay between right front and right back leg side seam. Wrong sides of front and back legs facing the right sides of the overlay. Stitch. Finish raw edge.

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5. Fold the overlay piece up so it’s not in the way, and sew the inner leg seam of the front and back leg.

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6. Keep the overlay piece folded in and out of the way. Wrong sides facing, inner seams matching, now sew the crotch. Finish raw edge. Turn the shorts out the correct way. Press.

7. Unfurl the overlay piece and straighten out the waist edge so it lines up with the front waist edge of the shorts. Baste in place.

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Now, simply continue as your original pattern instructs. Attach the waistband and hem your new skorts. I usually serge the raw edge of the hem and then fold it up to the point at which the overlay ends at the side seam.

I hope you enjoy your Esther Skort as much as me!

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A little Target knock-off for Miss Eight

Even though I sew a lot of clothes for my daughters, I’m not averse to shopping the Target clearance racks. I often find little gems there that I generally couldn’t make for the price on the tag (and this always takes a bit of pressure off my sewing to-do list).

The other day, I picked up a very simple, loose fitting top for Miss Six that Miss Eight immediately fell in love with also. My eight year old and six year old are very similar in size now and the top easily fit them both. All I had to do was rub off an exact copy for the older child.

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The top is kind of a peasant style, but with little flutter sleeves and a front bodice with shoulder seams that swing around towards the back. The trickiest bit was navigating the angle of the shoulder seam and trying to determine the shape and depth of the armscye because in stretching out the elastic neckline to do so, I was also pulling the top out of shape. I came close to getting it right but I will have to angle the shoulder seam down more next time and raise the armscye. Otherwise, we’re all delighted with how the little top turned out.

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I used my leftover vintage voile (from this dress). It’s very sheer, so she’ll wear a nude cami under the top. On the topic of kid undergarments, I bought her a few of these camisoles the other day (no affiliate link, I just think they are a great product). They are beautifully smooth and fitted, with little adjustable spaghetti straps; an exact, mini version of something I would wear. They are a more elegant option than the traditional singlet for an eight year old and I think this “grown up” appeal is why they may actually get worn. I bought them mainly to be worn as an extra layer during Winter. They’d be easy to sew, but y’all know how much I love sewing staples…

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The shorts are a little version of my Cartwheel Shorts pattern that I made without the front pleats for a little less volume. I used my leftover vintage linen/lace tablecloth (seen also here). I think these shorts look adorable on her. If you follow me on IG, you may have seen the matching pair that I made for Miss Six too. She’s very proud of her artwork!

 

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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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.

 

A Megan longline cardi in an O! Jolly! knit

Disclaimer: I was given both the fabric and the PDF sewing pattern free of charge by Olgalyn of O! Jolly! in exchange for sewing it up and sharing my make. All opinions stated in this review are my own.

I’ll be honest with you guys. If someone offers me free fabric to make something, I’m probably always going to say yes, just as I’m probably always going to say yes to a cup of tea or a glass of wine. However, I will confess to being a bit exceptionally excited about discovering O! Jolly! knits. I’m probably going to rave a little about them now (and the Megan longline cardi pattern too, by the way).

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I want to give you a little background as a reference point for my excitement. Firstly, I do not knit. Nope, not at all. I’ve tried countless times. My most determined effort produced a few beanies two years ago and a disgraceful, but much loved tunic. I do not like knitting. I tried really hard to like it, but I just don’t. I’m a sewer/seamstress/sewist through and through.

I do, however, LOVE knitted garments. I think they are just amazing. If I had the skills and patience, I’d definitely be rocking fancy, knitted sweaters each Winter. Quite possibly, the most loved garment I’ve ever made was made using a sockinette stitched, Italian, pure wool fabric. The irony was not lost on me that the fabric was constructed using the one and only knitting stitch I can do.

And that fabric was expensive, but my daughter wore that cardigan intensively for three Winters and has only just (very reluctantly) passed it on to her younger sister. I used a Japanese pattern and would love to make another for her, but it is not the type of fabric I see very often, especially not online. In fact, when I first browsed the O! Jolly! website, my first thought was of that cardigan with the intention of sewing it in a larger size.

But it is Spring here in Kansas City and we are fast approaching Summer. Wool season is long gone, but the weather is still irregular with hot days interspersed with cool rainy days. I needed a cardigan for myself and I knew the Megan would be perfect for Spring and Fall if I used a cotton knit.

I selected the sewing pattern and Olgalyn was very helpful in advising whether the knit I chose would be suitable for the project. In fact, she has a Pinterest board that is devoted to sewing patterns that would suit her knits. I was very close to sewing Jalie 3248 but I’ve had my eye on the Megan for a while now. I’m not sure that my photos showcase the great hem of the Megan. But like all Tessuti patterns, this one is thoughtfully constructed.

There are only three pattern pieces to this cardigan (excluding the binding), so the design is simple, but it is the little things that make it special, like a hem with mitred corners and seamlessly finished edges where the binding and hem meet. I should probably also note that I was excessively careful about not stretching this knit as I sewed it, particularly at the sleeve edge and hem. I used a lightweight fusible web to adhere the hem allowance in place before I stitched it down (with a single, not a twin needle), and then I steamed it heavily with the iron to bring it back to it’s original shape.

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Let’s talk about this fabric though. I ended up selecting the Saratoga knit in natural white. This is a beautifully soft cotton that has been ginned, spun, and knit in the USA. It has not been dyed or bleached. In fact, it would make the most gorgeous baby clothes, or even simply, a blanket. Let me tell you, when my yardage arrived, it looked so beautiful uncut that I was tempted to bind the ends and keep it as blanket myself!

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The knit was very easy to work with. I prewashed it in warm water and dried it in the dryer. I usually pre-treat my fabrics as aggressively as I dare (just in case they end up in the wrong wash). Even so, I’ll still launder the finished cardigan gently, but I won’t have to worry about any further shrinkage (if my 4-8yr old laundry sorters are off their game).

I can’t tell you how much this fabric shrunk with the pre-wash. But it is a knit and I would expect some shrinkage with any knit, just as I would with many other fabrics I use. In the end, three yards delivered me a very long Megan with not much to spare. I did need to seam the binding a little right near the bottom of the cardigan. If you look closely, you can see slight lumps where those seams have been joined.

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I absolutely love my new Megan. It turned out even better than I imagined. I cut a size small and made only a few small changes to the pattern. I added a 5/8 inch wedge to the CB (my standard broad back modification). I also added 2 inches to the sleeve length and body length (because I’m tall and I doubt that anyone drafts for 5″10). I decided to cut the back on the fold instead of sewing the CB seam because I could just fit the pieces on my folded fabric.

 The Megan was perfect for this fabric. It showcases the texture of the Saratoga knit beautifully. I actually planned on using the reverse side of it for the binding (but I forgot!).

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I’m going to get a lot of wear out of this new cardigan, during the next few weeks but more likely during Fall now. It is warm and snuggly without being overbearing. The fabric lends a nice weight to the design so it hangs beautifully (but I’m also very glad I reinforced the shoulder seams with clear elastic like the pattern instructions recommended).

At the end of the day, I cannot recommend O! Jolly! knits highly enough. I know I was lucky enough to receive this yardage for free, but I’m planning to return as a paying customer at the end of the year. The possibilities are endless!