DIY suede wrap skirt // vintage fabric salvage

A few months ago, I stumbled across a vintage coat dress at an estate sale. The suede was in mixed condition, but there was an awful lot of it in the circle skirt design of the skirt. It was only $10 so I figured I would cut it up anyway (but not before I played a little dress-up).

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When I bought it home, the first thing I needed to do was address the old, dusty smell. It wasn’t offensive, just old. I hung it outside while I did a bit of research online. I discovered that it was possible to launder suede. I had nothing to lose.

I washed my coat on the gentlest machine cycle using a wool detergent and a smidgen of fabric softener. And then, because I was impatient, I decided to test out the dryer theory too. I dried the coat on the lowest, delicate cycle (which I use for drying silk). It worked beautifully. I feel like the gentle motion of the dryer eliminated any possible stiffness from the water. The end result was that the good suede on the coat looked, felt, and smelt better than before. The damaged suede didn’t, and in fact, was probably more obvious than before the wash. There were initially a few small (oil splatter?) stains in the suede too. These didn’t come out, probably because the washing process was so gentle. So even though I would still generally prefer to air suede, it’s good to know it can be washed safely on the odd occasion, particularly when hunting second hand goods.

But now I need to talk about the skirt. I salvaged the good suede from the coat dress to use for the outer skirt and since the coat was lined in silk, I used that to line my skirt too. I used the same sewing pattern that you’ve seen me use before (here and here). This time, I shortened the length and extended/straightened the front for full coverage.

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Instead of a waistband, I used a facing and I secured this down with a very wide topstitch, rolling the outer suede in towards the facing as I did so. This ensures that none of the contrast facing can be seen from the outside.

The skirt has some oddly placed seams because I focused on retrieving the best sections of fabric in the coat rather than avoiding the seams. Also, I quite like the asymmetry of surprise seaming here and there.

I opened out, topstitched, and trimmed back all my seams. The existing seams weren’t topstitched but were pressed so flat that I didn’t want to touch them. I also left the side edges and bottom hem unfinished. Suede won’t fray!

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To fasten the skirt, there is a lightweight ribbon tie on the inside (which looks like it needs to be tied a little tighter as I can see a little bit of the inner skirt front hanging down in the photo) and a single large button on the outside. I made a bound buttonhole in the suede. It sounds impressive but it wasn’t difficult at all. Suede is a pretty easy material to work with.

I’ve seen so many little suede minis in the past few months that I’m very happy to finally have my own. Watch out 70’s, here I come!

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Zippered faux leather skinnies

I’m not going to lie. This was a slap dash, poorly thought out project. I just suddenly, desperately needed a pair of leather skinnies with feature zippers and I thought I could whip them together using a bit of cheap, novelty fabric.

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I freestyled an existing trouser pattern into a slimmer design. However, I realised along the way that the fabric (faux stretch leather) needed to be very close fitting in order to minimise the sight of ugly wrinkles and creases. I should have started with a leggings pattern, not a pants pattern. I had to narrow the legs further as I went, by inches at a time. It was never going to bode well.

The irony of the matter is also that this faux stretch leather is only slightly stretchy, and in one direction only. It’s like wearing skinny jeans in non-stretch denim. There’s not a lot of give when I bend and stretch. I’m pretty sure I’m going to rip the crotch seam next time I wear them, but I’ll still happily wear them until I do.

The three feature zippers are non functional. I installed them as per this tutorial, however I covered the backs of mine with a soft fabric, rather than add pocket bags.

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In any case, it was a fun make. I needed a frivolous sew after I spent so many hours on my coat, and these pants suited the purpose well. And besides, everyone needs the occasional wadder to keep things real!

 

DIY // Off the shoulder jersey top

I’m loving the look of off the shoulder tops right now. It’s a little difficult to get on board with this trend during Winter, but it helps to keep the sleeves long and by adding a little leather.

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I modified an existing long sleeve top pattern to make this top. It was a very easy pattern modification as you can see from the diagram below (excuse my dodgy freehand sleeve cap!).

All I did was draw a line across the front and back bodice at the point I wanted my off the shoulder neckline to reach (red dotted line). I cut the pattern pieces off at this line, including the sleeve cap. Finally, I attached a band (the exact size of the top neckline) which I used to encase elastic to hold the top up securely.

off shoulder top

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I’m so pleased with how this top worked out that I’ve already cut out a second, shorter sleeve version. I used a one-way-stretch, pure cotton jersey for this version, which is why my top isn’t as clingy on the arms and body as it could be. A knit fabric with two-way-stretch would work even more beautifully. It all depends on how well the unmodified top pattern fit you in the first place.

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Oliver + S // Faux leather pants

I’m not sure how long I’ve had this pink faux leather in my stash, but it was always destined for Miss Six. She’s such a groovy little chickadee.

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I used the Parachute pants pattern from Oliver + S. I removed the side panel, narrowed the legs a little, and lengthened them to the next size up to better fit my tall girl.

The legs are obviously too long on Miss Six right now. I was planning on hemming them, but the faux leather looks cleaner unfinished, so the extra length comes from the hem allowance that was never turned up. We’ll probably leave it as it is for now and just roll the legs up until Miss Six’s legs stretch (which happens regularly anyway!).

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Kate top in silk stripes

This is a new pattern by Tessuti Fabrics, called the Kate top. It might look like a simple boxy top pattern, but it actually has a few unexpected, yet elegant design details. And then, of course, I went and added a few more of my own.

The pattern includes a back placket, hem, and side slits and instructions on how to make the inside of the top as beautiful as the outside. It’s these extra details that make Tessuti patterns great. It’s quite obvious that they are written by those with decades of experience in sewing and patternmaking.

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Since this was a competition, I felt it was important for me to complicate this simple top as much as possible. I used a remnant of silk (perhaps CDC) that I scored off the Tessuti remnant table about two years ago. Silk is a perfect choice for this top, but given the fact that I added a few complicated seams and stripes, it turned out to be a challenging choice.

I added two curved panels in the top section of the front, a waist panel, as well as a creatively shaped panel above the hem. With the bottom panel, I tried to follow the shape of the hem, including the way it sharply turns at the side splits. My intention was to flick the fabric grain on it’s side in order to use the direction of the stripes as a contrast feature in the panels.

I’m not entirely happy with the fit of this top on me, but it is pretty good for a first go, and certainly very wearable. I didn’t muslin it (pure laziness on my behalf) and just guessed at the adjustments I’d need. I started with a size S, widened the back a smidgen, and tapered the sides in towards the hem by about an 1.5inches. I also lengthened the body by an inch. These are all standard modifications I make to any pattern.

I should have reduced the bust dart before I started. The dart seems small enough but I forgot to consider the fact that this top is boxy by design, and probably contains enough ease without the dart for an A/B cup. See how beautifully it fits Lara of Thornberry with her more ample bust. I compensated mid-construction by arcing the side seam in at bust level. This worked quite well at correcting the fit on the fly. Next time, I’ll do a poper SBA, widen the back more, and drop the armscye a smidgen.

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And if you are wondering why I look so miserable in these photos. The frosts have arrived. My garage was the warmest photo option at about 2 degrees Celsius. I’m really surprised you can’t see my goosebumps!

 

 

Review // Blue Suede Shoes

Note: I received these shoes for free from Rhea Footwear in exchange for a review on my blog. I selected the shoes myself, and of course, the opinions here are all my own.

When Rhea Footwear contacted me to review their shoes, I’ll confess that I had no idea who they were. I definitely had to do a bit of research before I agreed to the collaboration. First and foremost, I wanted to make sure that their products were relevant to me (and therefore this blog). I’d consider shoes to be a very valid consideration when styling an outfit.

I selected the Classic Flats in sapphire blue and had a lot of fun pairing them with a few of my handmade outfits. I think they go very well with my husband’s ratty old Thread Theory Henley and my favourite leather blocked leggings (which I recently pegged and cropped for a more skinny pant look). They’d also look fabulous with skinny jeans or a midi skirt.

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There were also some cute booties, flip flops, and men’s shoes on the Rhea Footwear website, but these blue suede shoes were the ones that caught my eye. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much I like them. They’re a little bit dressier than my go-to gold Vans, but equally as comfy. I’ve taken them on a test run to do the school pick up, and by school pick up, I mean a 3mile fast-walk/half-jog alongside a kid on a scooter and another on a bike. The soles feel quite cushioned and the leather wasn’t uncomfortably stiff (as new shoes can be). They feel a little narrower than the sneaker slip-ons I’m used to wearing but not in a bad way. I’m sure the suede will continue to mould to my feet as I keep wearing them.

So what makes Rhea Footwear different? All their shoes are designed to be stylish and functional at the same time. They use a signature anti-slip tread to prevent slipping and sliding when walking on ice and other wet surfaces. I probably wouldn’t have cared much in Sydney, but in Kansas, I LOVE the idea of a non-slip sole, particularly since I’m pretty much like Bambi as soon as the ground freezes. The suede is also treated to be water resistant and remain spot free, which makes sense if you plan to wear them in damp conditions.

It’s been a little dry here lately so I haven’t had a chance to test out the slip factor, but I’m sure I will over the next few months. It will be nice to have a slip on alternative to snow boots when I’m dashing out for a quick errand in Winter.

Meanwhile, here is the last look I put together. I’m wearing a white ponte knit playsuit that I made eons ago, paired with a vintage throw I picked up at an estate sale over Summer. I saw blankets and ponchos being worn a lot in the Southern Hemisphere over Winter so I thought I might give it a try too. What can I say…I’m wearing blue suede shoes and a granny throw. If that isn’t a bit of fun fashion, then what is!

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Leather wrap skirt

Remember the last wrap skirt I made? Well, not long after I made it, I spotted this Tibi skirt on Instagram. And as fortune would have it, I had just the right amount of (Perfection fused) leather leftover in my stash. I’m not exactly sure how this leather is made. It looks convincing but it definitely doesn’t compare to genuine lambskin. It is very affordable and easy to sew. The underside is fabric and the outer is leather. I find it doesn’t press/glue quite as neatly as the real stuff, but it is lightweight, quite fluid, and without flaws, which makes sewing with it very economical.

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I used the same basic pattern as my last wrap skirt. It is a very simple modification on a pencil skirt (details here). However, this time I created a facing instead of a waistband and added a strap to wrap around my waist and tie secure at a silver ring. I didn’t line this skirt because the fabric backed leather didn’t require it.

This is a fun skirt. I’ll enjoy wearing it before the weather gets too cold. And later, I might have a go at layering it with jeans or skinny pants.

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Sentimental sewing // Vintage leather bag repair

My Father-in-law passed away recently. It was a little unexpected and obviously very sad. We will all miss him a great deal. Living so far away meant that it wasn’t possible for our whole family to make such a huge trip on a moment’s notice. However, my husband was able to return to New Zealand and he was fortunate enough to make it home in time (21 hours of travelling later) to be there with his Dad and to spend time with his Mother and siblings.

My husband is very sentimental, so I suggested that he look through his Dad’s wardrobe and ask his Mum if he could bring home a suit or jacket that I could alter to fit him. I was expecting one nice item (his Dad wore a lot of quality RTW and designer brands). He came home with an extra suitcase brimming with shorts, pants, jackets, shirts, an old leather bag, and a particularly fabulous collection of belts (I’ll post some pictures of those belts on Instagram as soon as a day passes when they aren’t being worn).

The clothes fit near enough that I haven’t needed to do any immediate alterations, although everything is a tiny bit bigger than what my husband would normally wear. With plain T’s, casual shorts, and business shirts, this hasn’t really mattered. He’s been wearing at least one of those items every day and I know it makes him feel closer to his father, especially when I know he still feels so much sadness.

I will definitely need to take a closer look at the suit pants and jackets in the future. They are too nice to make do with a less than perfect fit. The bag, however, required immediate attention. The lining was disintegrating on the touch and leaving everything in it’s path covered with a powdery white residue.

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My first step was to cut out the lining. I left 1/2″  of lining still attached to the bag. I wasn’t quite sure at that point whether I would want to stitch though the bag leather or re-stitch the lining to the top most portion of the existing lining. In the end, I unpicked it all, and hand-stitched it in exactly the same position as the original lining.

Once the lining had been removed, I was able to copy the pattern pieces. There were four pieces in total; two sides, a bottom, and a pocket bag (it was incredibly simple). I was also able to see what a disgraceful mess of inner construction there was hidden beneath the original lining.

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The fabric I used to line the bag was a mix of cotton shirting and heavy silk twill. Both fabrics were leftover from previous projects (here and here) and I had to do a bit of piecing to come up with the amount of fabric that I needed. I put a silk twill panel in the sides of the bag and used the same silk for the pocket bag. There’s one extra seam in the striped shirting, but my stripe matching game was strong and you can hardly see it.

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Once I’d finished sewing the lining, I pressed down the top seam allowance and glued the lining to the inner leather (in the same manner as the old lining had been attached). I then hand-stitched the lining to the outer bag. I tried to avoid adding new stitching holes, but it was difficult to see where I was going in the old stitching line. The old seam line was quite stained and creased because of age. In the end, I somehow managed to finish with what resembles a modified prick stitch on the inside and a running stitch on the outside. The outside stitches don’t look out of place, and I really like the vintage feel of the tiny inner stitches.

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It’s actually really difficult to photograph the lining of a bag. Perhaps I should have turned it inside out but I didn’t think of that at the time.

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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.

 

A very simple top in THE fabric of the month

I’ve had this gorgeous fabric languishing in my stash for nearly two years. I don’t use a lot of floral and I rarely have the occasion to justify sewing with silk charmeuse. Even so, this one stopped me in my tracks and I had to have at least a little bit of it. I went home with a little over 1m. In retrospect, I wish I’d purchased more. It would have been the perfect silk to use for my bias cut dress.

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I was just waiting for the right idea to come along. I should thank from Melanie from Poppykettle and Rachel from Boo Dog and Me for inspiring me with their beautiful Frocktail tops. In particular, I liked the idea of pairing such a delicate floral print with leather.

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The design is a loosely fitted shell top with straight side seams and bust darts for a little shape. I hand-stitched the binding and hem down. I felt like this fabric deserved it.

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I also tried to achieve a length that would suit wearing it out loose or tucked in. I’m very happy with how it worked out, but next time I will raise the armscye by smidgen (about 1/4 inch).

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I love the way this fabric pairs with leather. These shorts were a bit of a rush make compared to the other leather pants I’ve made (here and here), and the leather is more faux than real, but I’ve always recognised them for being the trend-piece that they are. I’m not going to love this style forever, but I have been getting a lot of wear out of them this season. No, I don’t wear them on the school pick up, but when paired with a nice top, I find them to be the perfect blend of smart and casual for outdoor parties and BBQ’s.

 

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floral top

                      Zara                                              St. John                                              Vince