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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Black overalls for Fall

I may have jumped the gun a little with this make, but I know I will get a LOT of wear out of these overalls in a few months time when the weather eventually cools. My plan is to wear them with crisp, collared shirts, and my plethora of off-the-shoulder tops. But in the meantime, there might be the odd occasion that I could wear them sans layers.

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I didn’t follow a complete pattern for this make. I slightly narrowed the pants from this playsuit, and then just modified this fitted bodice to a new shape. Having already sewn a few playsuits, I had a good idea of the bodice length I needed (which is one of the most important aspects of a playsuit in my opinion. Nobody wants a saggy butt, or to be cut in half!).

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The fabric I used is a very thick, crisp, cotton twill by Theory. It has a little bit of stretch like a cotton sateen and the good side has a soft, washed silk appearance and feel to it which makes the black appear more charcoal in colour. It’s a wonderful fabric that will be lovely and warm for Winter, but way too heavy for any other time of the year. I’ve purchased Theory branded fabric from Mood on several occasions now and the quality of this particular brand has always been exceptional.

Part of the reason why I got started on these overalls was because I stumbled across a buckle kit for sale at Hancocks before they closed down. I didn’t use the no-sew buttons though. I had a couple of deep shank metal buttons in my stash that I liked so much better.

At this point, I’ve only basted the hem in place. I just can’t decide how long or short I want the pants! I’m very tempted to crop them a little bit more for Fall, but with a deep hem that I can lengthen again in the future.

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One shoulder top… times two…

What do you do if you can’t decide if your top should have a sleeve or not? You make both versions of course!

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I originally only had the sleeved version of this little one-shoulder top in mind, but that changed mid-construction. I left the sleeve off the first version, but since I’d already cut the sleeve, I decided to follow through with the sleeved version too.

The fabric is a vintage score from an estate sale. It’s some type of seersucker, but most likely a poly version, which means I’d already delegated it to the “wearable muslin/kid” section of my stash. I love having a few good lengths of stress-free fabrics like this in my stash. It takes the fear out of experimenting with new designs and styles, but still makes a fun, wearable item if I do end up liking it.

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Now, let me talk about the design a little, because it is something you can easily replicate yourself. I used my Branson Top pattern as a base because I love the more fitted back and slightly dropped shoulders of that design. You could use any TNT top version that you already have on hand.

Here are the steps I took in making the modifications:

  1. Removed the CF seam and traced the front and back pieces in full. You won’t be able to cut any pieces on the fold because the pieces are all asymmetrical.
  2. I raised the front hemline to match the back (the front hem dips lower in the Branson top).
  3. I brought the neckline of one shoulder seam in towards the neck by 1.5 inches.
  4. Sliced diagonally across the pattern pieces to create the one-shoulder shape. I shaped this line with a very slight curve in my version but you could keep the line straight. The diagram below shows the back pattern pieces, but I kept the line the same for the front.

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In the sleeveless version, I simply added some elastic in a strip of casing at waist level in the front of the top only (the waist is marked by the back seam above the peplum in the Branson top). The back of my top is fitted so it doesn’t need any elastic. I used pre-made bias tape for the casing.

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I bound the neckline with pre-made bias binding, turned to the inside to function as elastic casing for thin elastic. The neckline only needs a lightweight/thin elastic to pull it in against the body, rather than hold it up.

For my sleeved version, I just shortened the sleeve and added elastic casing.

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These tops were both super easy to make and will be a fun addition to my wardrobe for the last half of Summer.

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Off the shoulder dress and tutorial

Every time I wear this dress (or this one), I always get a few compliments, and yet, it is possibly the simplest dress I’ve ever sewn. It is really nothing more than two rectangles and a bit of elastic casing.

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I hesitate to call it a ‘tutorial’ because it really is so easy. Read the steps below to see why.

STEP 1. Cut two rectangles for the dress body.

 

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STEP 2. Cut two smaller rectangles for the sleeves.

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If you want a fuller volume in the dress and sleeves, simply multiply the width by 2 instead of 1.5, or any other number in between.

To create the elastic casing, you can fold down the top of the dress and sleeves. I got a little bit fancy and added a contrast band as casing.

The sleeves are attached to the dress by matching the top side seam of the dress (at the casing) to the undersleeve seam and sewing through both securely to fix them in place.

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This dress is a style of off the shoulder that I’ve seen in some high end RTW (despite the simplicity of the design!). It shows a little underarm cleavage but the elastic allows a good range of arm movement.

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My dress was made using vintage cotton/silk voile, which I lined with a bit of cream silk habutai from my stash. It’s a very lightweight and cool dress that can easily be dressed up with a pair of funky heels. I wore it most recently to an evening function in sweltering KC. It was bliss.

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I also want to mention the shoulder straps that you see in some of the photos as they quite obviously aren’t a part of this tutorial (you can find a bit more information about them here). Several months ago, I made my first off the shoulder dress (to a slightly different design). I wear it as an off the shoulder dress sometimes, but mostly I wear it with the same bra that you see in these photos. The bra is just stock standard in my closet, but I covered the straps in the same fabric as the dress so it looks like it is a part of the dress. I hate strapless bras, so the bra increases the wearability of the dress for me.

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Named Asaka Kimono

To be perfectly fair, I only have myself to blame for the fury that I felt when preparing to sew this pattern. I’m usually more than happy taping together PDF’s but on this occasion I decided to treat myself to the paper copy. I should have read the online product description better, but I didn’t. I read blog reviews that recommended shelling out for the paper copy rather than the PDF, the catch being that those bloggers didn’t sew from the paper copy. They sewed from the PDF. They probably had no idea that the paper pattern is overlapped on one piece of paper (like a Japanese sewing pattern) and has no seam allowances either.

So my paper copy arrived by mail and I put it aside in great excitement, only to open it up on the night I wanted to get started. If I’d wanted to spend an evening on my hands and knees tracing lines and measuring allowances, I would have drafted the pattern myself or modified an existing pattern that I already owned. I already have a good number of patterns and rarely buy a new one. The whole point of buying a new pattern on this occasion (and a paper copy at that) was to be lazy.

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It was an easy sew in the end. The pattern is rated average. I’d venture to call it “easy” if you make it in a woven cotton. Silk would up the ante a little. And my Asaka kimono did turn out to be pretty awesome. The fit is spot on. I lengthened the body by one inch but didn’t change the sleeves. I had just enough fabric to make this work. My waist tie has about 16 separate seams because I was a little short on fabric, but I’m not bothered. The collar on it is lovely too.

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As gorgeous as it is, this robe will be a morning cover up for me, to wear after showers and while sipping my tea. The fabric is a very lightweight cotton which is soft and washable. The sleeve design is fabulous and functional. The front slit means that those long hems won’t be dripping into my tea. It is exactly what I needed in my wardrobe.

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I really do love the overall design of this robe. I can see myself using it again in the future to make a silk version for a formal occasion, but with a longer waist tie that can be looped into a bow. And after all the ranting, I’d still recommend it.

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At the end of the day, I’m glad that I made it. Am I glad that I purchased the paper pattern? No. Would I have bought it knowing what I know today? No. Would I recommend purchasing the PDF version? Yes!

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A Mini Chloe production line and pretty new labels

It all started when my daughter’s little friend pulled me aside one day and whispered, “I really, REALLY love Harper’s dress”. And that was just the icky poly tester version I made her. The poor child was suffering though the heat and weight of it that day, but she still refused to take it off.

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Also about this time, the Dutch Label Shop contacted me to see if I’d like to try out some of their labels  . I was given the labels for free. It was such a busy time for me that I very nearly didn’t take them up on their offer, but I’m glad I did.

I uploaded my own design to be made into a Woven Logo Label and I absolutely love how they turned out. I didn’t expect the lines to be so defined and clear. They really do look great. The service was also excellent. They have a representative on hand to check the designs to make sure they suit the label and they contact you if needed. These labels are a little larger than what I’d normally put on a kid’s dress, but in real life, I’m much more likely to put a nice label on a coat or jacket and these will suit that perfectly. I also rarely sew for anyone outside of my direct family and I don’t make a habit of labeling everything I make. However, there is something very nice about the finishing touch that a label gives the garment.

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But back to my production line of Mini Chloe’s, which include some of those dresses in the picture above. The first off the rack was made in pink fabric  as requested by the little admirer. It’s the only dress I didn’t get around to having modeled (P.S. my models charge me actual money for photo shoots these days!). It’s also not my best work sewing-wise, but the fabric is divine. It’s a vintage cotton or mixed natural fibre, but it feels like washed silk. I was in a big rush to get this dress done to surprise the little girl.

Then, I made her two sisters each a version. I used some Art Gallery voile for the little sister.

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And a beautiful mix of silks for the eldest girl. These ones are a special gift so I took care with the making of them.

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Then, I felt guilty about my middle child only having that horrid (but spritely yellow) polyester version. So I scrounged through all my scraps to discover that I had enough fabric left to whip up a rayon and silk version in her size. This one will be lovely to wear. She already has a matching skirt in this fabric, so she immediately fell in love with the dress.

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But that’s not all. I was sorting through my small remnants of silk and rayon for middle child’s dress, my daughters were taking delight in recalling the clothes I’d sewn with all the different fabrics. They came up with the idea of “friendship dresses” for their closest friends (who also happen to be sisters). The plan was to incorporate fabrics in the friends’ dresses that I’d already used for theirs (so they could match). I had to use a bit of creativity to find enough fabric, but adding panels to the dress design made it easy. The second one will be on Instagram soon.

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I love this little dress pattern and I love my new labels. The dress is so quick and easy to sew that it makes gift-sewing a breeze and the labels add the perfect final touch. I have no doubt that those cold-shoulder sleeves will be out of fashion at some point, but the dress is still a simple, classic shape. I might try sewing it sans-sleeves next summer.

 

Fashion trends and sewing

I have this theory about fashion trends and sewing. Being able to sew amplifies any trend (well, it does in my closet anyway!).

I’ve always been interested in fashion and I’ve always followed trends to one degree or another. But ever since I began sewing, fashion trends have been so much more pronounced as they’ve worked their way into my wardrobe.

In 2012 (pre-blogging photos from the archives), I made peplums. There were more than these, but I can’t find the photos right now.

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Next, I made drop waist dresses. There were more here too.

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Then I made culottes, which gradually progressed to wide leg and gaucho pants.

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Now, I’m working through the off-shoulder/cold-shoulder trend. There have been other trends along the way that also managed to captivate my interest. I seem to make between 3-5 garments that are in line with any trend. In my pre-sewing days, I’d have purchased 1-2 trend-driven pieces and otherwise kept to classic staples.

I’ve been thinking a lot about why sewing enables me to do this. Here are my ideas:

  • Sometimes it takes more than one go to get a handmade garment right. A wearable muslin first, followed by a better version immediately doubles the number of items. Maybe I would have bought one RTW item in the past, but I would have had the opportunity to try on several first to find which one worked best. You don’t get that opportunity with home sewing.
  • If the design worked and it fitted well, of course I’ll want to sew it again. And sometimes it’s simply easier to sew repeats than to work through new designs and muslins, particularly if the garment was seasonably appropriate and nice to wear.
  • Sewing means that I can refashion, recycle, and reuse old fabrics and old clothes. It means that I can also make more trend-driven items without spending more, or expanding my wardrobe. I don’t have to be as sensible with my clothing choices, because I can always refashion back to sensible if need be.
  • Sometimes (if I really like a style) I might decide to digitize a pattern, which means I have to test the pattern and make it perfect, thereby making multiple versions of the same style.
  • It usually costs me next to nothing to sew a few extra pieces. This wasn’t always the case though. When I was a beginner, there were so many wadders and ho-hum makes that it cost more to sew than to buy RTW (just check out those peplums!). These days, it’s very economical for me. I spend well on fabric for classic, long term pieces. I save a fortune by making swimsuits and leotards for myself and my girls. And for the trend-driven items that I know will only last a season, I’ll often use thrifted, upcycled, or economically priced fabric that is nice enough to produce a quality garment, but costs a tiny fraction of RTW. For example, the entire fabric cost of all the cold-shoulder makes below was about $18 (the largest portion coming from the $10-15 white linen tablecloth of which I still have a lot remaining). I also know that I’m very capable of cutting up any of those tops and dresses to refashion into something new down the track.

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  • I can make it so I can do it. And I can do it now! Sewing gives me freedom to follow a trend and make something immediately. Unlike RTW shopping where I’d have a vision in my mind but never be able to find exactly what I wanted, sewing enables me to make a garment to match my vision. It also enables the power of now. I can cut up an old sheet on the spot and make something at midnight, before garments hit RTW shops or are even available online. I’m not saying I do this, but I could!

So I think this explains how I end up with so many trend-driven pieces in my closet each year. It may seem like I have a lot of clothes, but I take a lot of care (via refashioning) to make sure that my closet doesn’t expand too much, despite sewing all year round. I’m also lucky to have a lot of girls to sew for. In any case, I think I’m just about ready to move on to my next obsession. I just have to figure out what it will be!