I whipped up a matching top

The thing I love about sewing is that I really can just whip up anything at a moment’s notice. This top took all of ten minutes to make. It’s not perfect. The construction is basic. But I only had a few spare minutes and I desperately wanted to finish this up before I had to pack away my machine.

In hindsight, I really should have spent more time on it. I didn’t expect it to turn out quite so well though!

The striped fabric skirt is something you’ve seen before. I created it by sewing together strips of scrap fabric (in velvet, wool, and ponte). I ended up with a tiny bit spare that I used up in this top. There was not an ounce of wastage.

This is very fun outfit. I love the idea of perfectly matching separates as I think they produce an overall dressier look. However, when mixed and matched with jeans and other tops, these separates also dress down for a great casual feel.

Plaid oversize top

This is the kind of top I wear a lot in Spring. It’s oversize enough to wear as a sweater but it also looks fine as a top.

I used an old pattern in my stash. I suspect it may have started out as Simplicity 1366 but has been modified within an inch of its life. I know I changed the neckline shape, added a collar (which I can stand up if I like), dropped the shoulders, adjusted the shoulder seam slope, widened the sleeves, and changed the armscye. I also modified the hem and added side slits. In fact, it would be a disservice to you all if I were to still call this Simplicity 1366…

In any case, I’ve made this top twice before, and worn them both to death. One has a shoulder seam zipper like this one and has since been demoted into a painting smock. The other was made in a stable knit fabric and has become my go-to gym sweater. It’s nice to have another version that is respectable enough to wear in public again.

The fabric is an unknown wool blend, thrifted from an estate sale many months ago. It is double-faced and launders beautifully, but it creases a little. Perhaps it contains a bit of cotton?

Vogue 9043 in classic black

This is my first coat of the season. I’m still debating with myself over whether I’ll sew another this year. I know there’s time. I have the fabric. There’s a few months of coat weather ahead of me here. I’m just not entirely sure that I want to build further on my own Winter wardrobe this year, or perhaps wait until next year when I’ll definitely need it more.

Meanwhile, I’m glad to say that this little black coat is going to get a lot of wear. The pattern I used was Little Vogue 9043. I cut View B in a size 8 for my very tall seven year old. The black wool coating and silky vintage lining was all thrifted from estate sales, aquired several months earlier. The buttons were excrutiatingly picked out from Joann’s by the littlest sister, specifically for Miss Seven and this coat. In equal parts, they are the cheapest, and yet most expensive buttons I own, and yet so much selfless thought and true love went into their selection that I just couldn’t say no.

The size 8 fits Miss just-turned-Seven reasonably well right now, but at the rate she’s growing, I’m not convinced she’ll fit into it next year. Of all my girls, she’s probably built the most similar to me; tall and slim, with broad shoulders (great for swimming ;-)). She doesn’t measure up as a size 8 through the chest, but her shoulders are broader above this. I know (from personal fitting experience) that if I sew a pattern to fit her bust/chest measurement, the shoulders won’t fit without adjustment. An easy kid-fix is to simply size up, as I did with this coat. It fits her perfectly across the shoulders, but there is extra room through the chest area, and a lot more ease (than intended by the pattern design) at the waist and hips. There is also extra length in the coat, but that actually works well in our favour. The fit isn’t perfect, but it is perfectly acceptable for a child and a child’s Winter coat at that.

She’ll get a lot of wear out of this coat over the next three months. The wool coating is thick, but it’s probably still only best suited to Spring here. It would be a perfectly suitable coat for Winter in Australia though.

Before I sign off on this one, I should also mention the beautiful lines in the design of the pattern. It’s one of the reasons why I love Vogue patterns and why I was drawn to making this particular one. It’s a little hard to photograph the details in black fabric, but the pockets are integrated beautifully into a princess seamed bodice. The two-piece sleeves are also shaped so that they curve forward.

I love the classic, dressy shape of this coat. It will be a very nice coat to keep and hand down to the last daughter (assuming it survives the wear and tear of this middle child!).

 

 

 

Vintage Vogue 2915 // Orange is the new black

I am totally obsessed with orange right now. Instead of filtering by fabric type in my online shopping, I’ve been filtering by colour.

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The fabric I used for this trench is an Italian stretch wool suiting that goes by the colour, “pumpkin”. It couldn’t be more appropriate for Fall. Originally, I had my mind set on sewing a trench coat in a heavy silk satin, but economics had me looking at poly satin instead (which I just couldn’t find the love for, or perhaps it wasn’t the perfect shade of orange). In the end, I was sensible and landed on some wool fabric and I’m very glad I did. Anything other than wool just wouldn’t get any wear here in the Midwest.

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The fabric is a beautifully, weighted wool twill, with a significant amount of stretch in both directions. It’s not a knit, but its lycra content meant that I had to treat it like knit. Stabilising the shoulder seams and neckline was essential. I toyed with lining this coat (as per the original pattern), but I really wanted something casual, that I could throw on and go. And lining deinitely wasn’t necessary with this fabric. The wool is perfectly opaque and the underside is as respectable as the right side. In fact, the wrong side is smoother, which makes it suitable for resting against the skin. Lastly, I pretreated the fabric in the machine and dryer before sewing, so I can wash and dry it easily at home.

I used vintage Vogue 2915 with a few small modifications. I sewed a size 12 but adjusted the shoulder seams for a broader back. In retrospect, I possibly could have gotten away without this fit adjustment because of the fabric’s generous stretch. And in fact, a tighter fit through the shoulders (in a stretchy fabric like this) would have resulted in a more consistently nice shape in the sleeve cap when worn because the sleeve cap would stretch over the shoulders. In some of my photos (above and below), the sleeve seam has slipped off my shoulder and the sleeve cap doesn’t look great (because there is no sleeve head to support it). But in the two photos below that, the shoulder seams sit in the correct postion and the sleeve looks perfect. I guess this is also the thing with an unstructured, cardigan-style coat. Technically, the fit is good though, and at least I know that this pattern will fit me well when I’m ready to use it again and make it up in a stable woven.

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Other changes I made to the pattern:

  • I lengthened the sleeves by 1 inch.
  • I ditched the collar and front yoke flaps as I felt they wouldn’t suit the casual drape of the front.
  • The front coat pieces have been made wider at the centre front (by about 4-5 inches), to create the front drape.
  • I skipped all front fastenings and the belt. The original pattern was double breasted.
  • I ditched the lining.
  • I drafted a wide facing for the neckline. I used a pretty silk CDC for this. Since I knew the facing would be visible at times, I turned it into a feature point. I used the same silk to line the pockets, sleeve bands, and epaulets.

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This was one of those makes that just seemed to grow more involved as I got into it. I set out to whip together a quick trench coat without all the detailing. But once I got started, anything less than a bound buttonhole (amongst other things) just seemed unacceptable. And whilst on the topic of unacceptable, I can’t, for the life of me, remember if I pressed that hem or not… I think Netflix turned my brain to smush while I was blind-stitching it…so it’s back to the ironing board with this trench before I wear it!

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Reversible wool cardi wrap

The great thing about double faced wool is that you can completely hide the seams for a neat finish. After you pull apart both sides of the fabric, you can fold them in on themselves and stitch in place. A concise picture of the process is here. It’s the perfect fabric to create a reversible cardi wrap like this. You can revisit the sewing tutorial here.

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Refashioned // wide leg pants into a maxi skirt

When I purchased this vibrant double faced wool crepe way back in 2014, my plan was to make a skirt. But at some point, I got distracted by a desperate need for wide leg pants. I really loved my wide leg pants but they weren’t getting as much wear as they deserved. My issue was mainly with the crotch. The pants were an amazing fit, but the double crepe was so weighty that it pulled the crotch down when I wore them. It annoyed me.

Now the great thing about pants with extreme leg width is that they are incredibly easy to convert to a skirt (assuming you don’t mind a centre front seam). I unpicked the legs and then snipped the tiniest little triangle away from the crotch and inner leg seam. I then just shaped the seams to fit an A-line skirt design. No compromises had to made because there was seriously so much leg fabric to work with. I did the same to the full length silk lining.

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I’m so in love with this skirt now. It’s beautifully warm and vibrant enough to lift even the dreariest spirits in Winter. Ironically, the weather turned on the charm for this photo shoot. After spending a couple of weeks in the negatives, we had a two days with tops of 13 degrees Celsius. It’s funny how temperature is relative to what you are used to. I would have considered this one of the coldest days of a Sydney Winter, yet in Kansas, we’re kicking the kids outside to play and gardening in t-shirts for the day!

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Note: If you are thinking about refashioning pants into a skirt, it’s important to note that what I did here will not work unless the pants have extremely wide legs. Most pants or jeans will require extra piecing through the front and back (remember this style of denim skirt from way back). There just isn’t enough fabric in slimmer leg pants for a simple finish in the front.

 


 

Top: Pendleton wool (refashioned) / Skirt: made by me / Bag: vintage Coblentz / Shoes: Derek Lam

 

 

DIY draped cardi wrap

Firstly, I want to send out a big thank-you to everybody who commented on the coat in my last post. I hope you realise how much I love to read them all. I’m afraid to admit that sewing trumps replying on occasion (oh, and it probably trumps kids too at times… is that bad?). However, I’ll always do my best to answer any question thrown my way – anything to encourage and inspire people who sew! 

Now we can talk about this garment. I’m actually not sure what to call it. It’s not really a cardi, or a poncho, or a wrap for that matter. It’s really just a big rectangle with holes, but it does make for such a nice Winter cover up. I’m going to call it a wrap.

The idea for this wrap came from a gorgeous cashmere RTW cardi I tried on recently. It looked amazing on. I twirled in front of the mirror a few times before I realised exactly what it was… a giant rectangle and nothing more. So I held it up to my body, took a few mental measurements, and went home to make it myself.

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I didn’t have any cashmere on hand. A stable wool knit would have worked beautifully but I didn’t have that either. What I did have was a very large length of pure wool cream suiting that I’d picked up from a garage sale for just 50 cents (it was discounted from the original price of 75 cents – bargain!). I could see that the fold lines of the fabric were discoloured with dust and light (with a few tiny holes in those areas as well) so my plan was to wash it quite aggressively when I got it home. I knew the hot wash and dryer would change the texture of the wool, but I was ok with that because a wool suiting, once felted by the washing machine, is still quite lovely and perfect for casual loungewear and kids clothes. As expected, the wool ended up with a very slightly fuzzier texture than before. It’s not actually fuzzy, but it no longer has the sleek, smooth feel of a suiting anymore. A by-product of the aggressive pre-washing also means that the fabric is now machine washable, dryer friendly, and pretty indestructible.

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But, let’s get back to the making of this wrap. The two diagrams below should be all you need to make your own. It’s the easiest sew up ever!

STEP 1: Measure your fabric according to the instructions below.

wrap tutorial

The length of fabric I used was 180 cm, or approximately my height. For the width, I measured from my mid-section (mid-sternum) to the tip of my fingers. My chest width was measured in the front, from shoulder point to shoulder point.

My fabric was a woven, with no give at all, so I used 11 inches for my armscye gaps. In a knit, I’d probably shrink them a little to have them fit closer to the body. If I had bigger pippies, I could have easily increased the width of the armscye.

The centre line is where the seam line needs to be, and where you need to leave holes for the arms. To make a longer wrap (ie. to fall below the hips), you could widen the bottom panel. Keeping the top panel the same would maintain the original front drape.

STEP 2: Sew the two pieces of fabric together, wrong sides facing, and leaving gaps at the two positions you marked as the armscye. (The stitches are represented by the dotted line below.) And that’s pretty much it.

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The last thing you need to do is finish the raw edges nicely. If you chose a fabric that doesn’t fray (like boiled or felted wool, or some jerseys) you could leave the edges raw and just reinforce the stitches around the armscye. The RTW version I fell in love with had been narrowly hemmed on an overlocker. Because I was dealing with a woven, I double turned all my edges and sewed a narrow hem. It would also be possible to bind the edges for a pretty contrast.

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I’ve been wearing mine loose as well as belted. It’s hard to believe that such a simple rectangle can be transformed into a cool Winter outfit! Let me know if you decide to make one. And if you’re on IG, I’d love it if you tagged me (@lilysageandco).

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Vintage Vogue 2265 // The Coat

Have you ever had a project that turned out exactly as you’d hoped for, perhaps even a little better. This coat was that for me. I felt like it took forever to sew, but that was mainly because I put it on hold over the holidays to prioritise the Christmas sewing that I hadn’t really intended on doing in the first place.

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I used a vintage Vogue pattern and the main modifications I made were to do with fit. I lengthened the bodice, skirt and arms. I also made a SBA and graded the waist and bodice side seams in quite a bit. My shoulders and waist differ by about two standard sizes, which makes buying garments like this near impossible. And then my height and arm length usually throws things off further. But I’m so happy to report that I nailed the fit! It’s probably my first classically cut coat or jacket that fits my shoulders, bust, arms, and waist as it should, and all at the same time.

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I employed traditional tailoring methods to make this coat, helped out by my trusty Singer book on Tailoring. I block fused everything bar the sleeves with a fusible interfacing. This step took the place of the underlining that was called for in the vintage pattern.

I then hand stitched  most of the remaining hair canvas and twill tape down. I also stitched the lining in by hand. I know it’s possible to bag a coat out using the machine, but I’m terribly biased when it comes to hand-stitching linings for coats and jackets, or any other very special project for that matter. I figure that for the time it takes to pad stitch collars and lapels (which I prefer over machine stitching) it’s worth the little extra effort to attach the lining by hand too.

As a side note, I also feel like I need to mention shoulder pads here. They weren’t called for in the pattern, but in any coat, jacket, or blazer they are an absolute necessity. Mine are slim/medium sized ones that don’t add any bulk to my coat. But they do add structure to the shoulders and give the garment a professional finish. Never skip the shoulder pads (and this is coming from somebody with broad shoulders, an asset I always look to disguise rather than exaggerate in clothes).

The outer fabric is a wool coating. The off white portion is finely woven wool with a smooth texture and very subtle shimmer. Black wool tufts are woven through it in a rustic herringbone pattern. It was way more beautiful than I expected when it arrived on my doorstep so I may have ordered a little more to stash away for the future. The black twill weave lining is acetate. It has the most glorious oily black gloss to it in real life but was a horror to cut in the dry, static winter air of our house right now. I had to literally peel it off the cutting mat.

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Because of the texture of the wool coating, I felt that bound buttonholes would be unsuitable. I would have liked to do the buttonholes by hand but my skill level needs to improve a bit on that front first. I tested the fabric with some machine buttonholes and my Pfaff pulled through very nicely. The buttonholes are lost in the busy fabric, so I’m not too worried that they weren’t couture. I covered buttons to use for the front and the sleeve vents. I also positioned small buttons on the front coat facing to stitch through when I attached the outer buttons. I’ve seen this a lot in RTW coats. It makes the inside of the coat look pretty, and it reduces the strain on the coat fabric.

And if you’re wondering where my inspiration came from for this coat, it was none other than Anna Wintour herself. I considered making a belt to go with my coat too, and may still do so oneday. But right now, I’m perfectly happy with it as it is.

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Vintage Kwik Sew 1034 // scrapbust sweaters

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wool jersey luxe lounge pants // V8909

These pants are such a simple design and are so easy to make that they very nearly didn’t warrant a blog post. I’ve use the pattern several times before and have tweaked it slightly along the way to improve the fit. This time round, I lengthened the legs, and only sewed two channels of elastic in the waistband.

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The only point of interest in these pants is to do with the fabric I used to make them. It is a wool/acrylic blend in a super soft, loose knit jersey. It’s the same fabric I used to make this grey knit dress. It’s not the type of fabric I’d normally associate a pair of trackie pants with, but boy is it delicious to wear.

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My inspiration came from a pair of RTW cashmere trackie pants. Unfortunately I didn’t have any cashmere on hand (nor was it in my budget) but this wool blend did a pretty good job. The sad news is that my fabric is going to pill like crazy after a few wears. Agh… once again I am cursing my foolishness in purchasing a synthetic blend. It’s such a waste when they look rough so quickly. It won’t matter too much with these pants though. The comfort factor will be present no matter how they look, and that’s pretty much all that matters to me in Winter!

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