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

 

 

A Grainline Archer and refashioned RTW trousers

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

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

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

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

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 However, they’ve never quite been long enough on me and the boot cut style is now quite outdated.

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

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

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

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

 

McCalls 5870 // A tailored coat for Miss Seven

I had a very specific idea in mind when I started planning for this coat. I wanted to make Miss Seven a nice Winter coat that she could wear out for special occasions. She’s old enough now to have a few special items in her wardrobe and I’m hoping this will also help educate her on how to appreciate, respect, and treat special garments.

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The outer fabric of the coat is a woven wool blend. It is extremely beautiful in real life. It has a nice, coat-worthy weight, with little threads of gold and tan woven through it. Both sides of the fabric are useable, with the rose and background colours simply reversed on the underside. I thought about incorporating both sides of the fabric into this coat. I also though about keeping this coating fabric entirely for myself.

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It’s probably not the best choice of fabric for a child. The weave is not exceptionally tight, but it is still quite stable. I suspect it may get a few snags during it’s lifetime, but the slightly motley mix of threads through the weave is forgiving enough to disguise any repairs that may be required.

The fabric frayed horribly while I was working with it. There was a lot of hand-stitching and basting involved in the tailoring of this coat, which made the unravelling quite an issue. I used a LOT of Fray Check. I ended up painting it around the edges of every pattern piece. It was also essential in making the bound buttonholes.

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In retrospect, I think bound buttonholes were not the best choice for this fabric because of the loose weave. Hand-worked buttonholes (a la Claire Schaeffer’s French jackets) would have been the sensible option. But the heart wants what the heart wants. The buttonholes worked out wonderfully in the end, but ended up being much smaller than planned. The size reduction was due to my scaredy-cat conservative cutting, in trying to handle the fraying and loose threads as best I could. This is the reason why the buttons are so small. I had to find smaller ones than I’d originally planned. Larger, self-covered buttons would have suited the style of this coat better.

To keep Miss Seven snuggly warm, I partially underlined the coat with Thinsulate, which reportedly has more warmth for less loft, than wool or even down feathers. Keeping the bulk down in this coat was important because of the close fitting design.

The vintage pattern specifically states that the design is “not suitable for chubby girls”. It’s basically just a slim fitting style with no ease around the tummy area. The sleeves are not set in. They are joined to the back as one piece with a separate undersleeve. This design makes for very pretty style lines, but quite a challenging sew.

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All of this was underlined.  I didn’t underline the undersleeve or the side panels of the coat as I was afraid it might end up making the coat too bulky and adversely affect the end fit. To further reduce the bulk (or loft) of the Thinsulate, I partially quilted it to the lining. I think this makes the inside of the coat look lovely too.

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The design and fit of this vintage pattern is beautiful. It is a style that fits tall, slender girls very well, which means I will probably use this pattern again in the future. However, it was also quite a challenge to sew (not helped by my difficult choice of fabric) and there are a few things I will improve on when making this coat next time.

* My pad stitching of the undercollar was not “aggressive” enough in creating the collar roll. I would like to see the ends roll down a little better. I would also cut the undercollar a little smaller next time.

* My buttonholes should be appropriate for the fabric, or maybe I might just take a break from loose weaves.

* I was careful about thread marking the buttonholes. A great way to do this is to machine baste two parallel lines down the front and mark the buttonhole positions between those lines. However, with my difficulties in making the bound buttonholes (with all the unravelling of threads), my buttonholes ended up smaller. I also made the mistake of positioning my buttonholes on the inside of the basting thread, rather than on top of it. My buttons look too small and off centre in the coat front.

I think I can live with all this though. The coat is adorable. It fits well, but is ever so slightly too big (which is exactly what I was aiming for with my growing girl). I think it is deserving of a trip out to the theatre.

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Tie back boots by Big Little // pattern tested

I pattern tested for Lisa Spearman of Big Little recently. You might have already seen the first sneaky peek of my test version on Instagram. It’s exciting to report that the pattern is now ready to go and it’s available in the Big Little Etsy shop until Sunday with a discount if you use the code: BOOTS.

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It was an utterly out of season make for me (38 degrees Celcius days are the norm for us right now) but I still jumped at the chance to be a tester for these. All I could think of was my stash of glorious little wool and cashmere scraps that are too small to do anything useful with, but far too good to throw away. These little slippers make the perfect scrapbust for those particular fabrics.

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My test version was made using Italian wool coating (used here) and pink wool double crepe (seen here, and here, and here). I used denim for the soles and lined them with cashmere (remnants from my Dior coat) for the inner sole and beautiful Italian brushed cotton shirting (leftover from here). I felted all my wool and cashmere in the washing machine and dryer first. Lisa advises on how to do this but it is pretty common sense. Just think hot, hot, hot, until the fabric fibres are so tight and thick that the fabric won’t stretch anymore.

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I had to hide these boots from Miss Three. She was trying to wear them everywhere and I was feeling hot just looking at her. I’ll definitely be making these boots for Miss Five and Miss Seven next. In fact, I think they would make the perfect (and seasonally appropriate) Christmas stocking fillers for those of us in the Northern hemisphere.

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Sea Change round up

It’s high time I shared some of the fabulous Sea Change tops from my testers, and from others that I’ve spotted in blogland. I’ve been getting a lot of wear out of my own versions, but these maker versions keep me wanting more. You can check out the pattern here:

Blogless Anna’s  striped merino jersey (you heard right..merino jersey in stripes!!!) is perfectly layered for Winter.

The Somnolent Dacshund made not one, but THREE of them, and they are all amazing.

Hannah Jane Fellows did some beautiful work with her stripes. Very chic.

Miss Castelinhos made two versions, including one in the colour of my dreams right now.

Yosami Blog got into so great stripes too.

I loved Handmade by Carolyn’s first velvet version, but her second one in silk with contrast bands just makes me swoon.

Sew Busy Lizzy makes everything look great and her version is no exception. Her and Carolyn always make me pine for the seaside!

Lara’s “Woman on Fire” version is put together in a beautifully co-ordinated outfit.

Grosgrain Green’s version is super sleek for day and/or night.

I hope you enjoyed seeing these as much as me! And if you do post a picture on Instagram, be sure to tag me @lilysageandco or #seachangetop so I can have a sneaky peek at your Sea Change top too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A very special Oliver + S School Photo dress

Since Christmas, Miss Six has been wearing her corduroy School Photo dress every other day. She layers it with tights and a long sleeve top to wear to school. It has become her absolute favourite dress. But even better than this is the fact that I also love the look of it. It’s a very smart looking little dress. It’s also clearly very comfortable and warm, given that it is fully lined. 

Now, I don’t often sew clothes for people outside of my immediate family, but the idea of sewing this particular dress for my niece just seemed like the most perfect idea. My niece was born only a week apart from my Miss six, so I was confident with the sizing, as well as the style. It has been such a winner of a dress with my daughter that I hope it will be loved as much by her cousin. 

 
 
For my niece’s version, I used up my last little bits of leftover wool and cashmere scraps. I barely had enough to make this dress, and in fact, I still had to make a few concessions to stretch it far enough. The dress hem is only 1cm. I had to substitute a decent hem to get enough length in the cashmere panel. I also would have liked slightly longer ruffles on the sleeves. But these are only small things in the whole scheme of things.
 
 
 
My only modification to the pattern was in turning the sleeve panels into ruffles. I cut these on the bias which seems to make them curve around and under and hold a beautiful bell shape. This is very much what I wanted them to do, so I think I’m going to store up this idea of sleeve ruffles on the bias for next time.
 

 

I took my time making this dress. The hem was blind stitched by hand and the zipper was hand-stitched to the silk lining scraps, as was deserving of the beautiful fabric I was using. I’m also pretty pleased with my precision seam matching. I shared my newfound trick on how to achieve this on my Instagram account.  


All in all, the dress turned out beautifully. I’m super excited about sending it off to her cousin in Australia. It will arrive a few months before her birthday, but that’s how I roll with presents. My best gifts always miss the target date! And besides, I want her to be able to wear it while it will still fit perfectly, and on the odd chance that Melbourne gets a Wintery day or two before the end of Summer.

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.

Playing dress ups with my two-piece set-actular


I know you’ve seen my fancy pants before. I blogged about my Rigel bomber hack recently too. And if you follow me on Instagram, I shared these pictures yesterday, so please feel free to tune out now if you already have pink-overload. Some would say that this is the mother of all two-piece set-aculars. Or, according to my husband, I’m tracksuiting it up for you. Because I can.
 


 
 

 

My husband and I are celebrating our anniversary in a few weeks and I’m thinking this outfit might be perfect for that occasion. I keep warning him that one day, I am going to be that old lady with purple hair, red lipstick and rhinestones on her walking cane. My gift to you dear husband, is the perfect glimpse into your future….bwahaha!  

 

 


A Rigel bomber jacket for January, slightly modified of course!

When I heard Ginger was planning Rigel bomber jacket January, I vaguely considered the idea, but pretty much dismissed it. I did have a quick look through my stash to see if I could inspire myself, but the idea of another bomber just didn’t excite me. This is possibly because I already have a particularly fabulous one that I wear year round.

But then I laid my eyes on a pile of gorgeous cashmere and fuschia double faced crepe wool scraps left over from my recent Dior jacket and wide leg fancy pants. Combined, I had the perfect amount for a bomber, but more importantly, a seed of inspiration had planted itself in my brain.  

I’ve made a Rigel bomber before, so I was confident with it’s construction and how it would fit me. It’s a great pattern. I love the shape, the fit, the cute welt pockets and the original neckline. I do believe it needs a lining though, but this is easy enough to do. I was lazy and just re-cut the pattern pieces in some leftover Caroline Herrera silk twill. If I was feeling more energetic, I would have drafted the lining to incorporate the existing self-fabric facing. The latter would have looked more professional, but both ways work.



This time round, I wanted to move slightly away from the traditional bomber shape. My changes to the original pattern weren’t huge, but they have had a major effect on both the look and the silhouette of the jacket.

So what did I do:

  • I raised the neckline and drafted an overlapping mandarin style collar. I used a leather buckle to fasten the collar, but most likely it will be left undone when I wear it.

  • I also widened the sleeves by A LOT, shortened them, and added sleeve cuffs. I slashed and pieced the original sleeves, using my blue wool coat as a guide because that was the kimono-like shape I was after.
  • I added a contrast panel to the back piece and matching cuffs for the sleeves.
  • I ditched the idea of using ribbing because a colour match with my amazingly vibrant wool or cashmere contrast would have been near impossible. Instead, I lengthened the hem pattern piece and used more contrast fabric. The contrast is cashmere so without the stretch, it has given my bomber a boxier look. I like this. 

I’m pretty happy with this make. I know I will get heaps of wear out of it, because I know how much I already wear my other Rigel bomber. This one will be warmer though, and the colours make it a little more special.



A fitted tunic for my wide leg fancy pants: Rosie Assoulin inspired

This is the top that I had in mind for my wide leg fancy pants. I took my inspiration Rosie Assoulin. I love just about every shape and style she puts her name to.

 

The fabric I used is a nice crisp cotton sateen by Theory. The pattern is my own. I spent a lot of time, draping, muslinning and pondering the lines of this one. It’s hard to see the details of the top without specifically pointing them out, so I’ve taken a few extra photos to highlight them.

 


The front of the tunic has a concealed tummy bearing split between the bodice and the skirt. I’ve seen Rosie Assoulin tops with this feature, partially covering the tummy with a large bow.

I wanted some more coverage for Winter though, so I added a kangaroo pocket pouch to layer over the gap, yet still be covered by the bow. I like the layering effect of this. I also like that I still have the option of making a pouch-free version in the future, perhaps in Summer when I’m happy to bare a little bit more skin.


The bodice has slightly dropped shoulders. These look good without a sleeve too, so I’m looking forward to lengthening the skirt and ditching the sleeves to make a pretty frock when the weather warms. If I want, I can tie the bow around the back or side, but I really like the way it looks in the front. All in all, I’m super happy with how this one turned out.