V9313 wrap dress in linen

This dress is already one of the favourite things I’ve ever made. I used a Vogue custom fit pattern, which has separate bodice pieces for different cup sizes. I used the A cup version. I cut a size 14 pattern as this corresponded most closely with my chest and waist measurements. Even so, I still made a few adjustments for cutting the fabric.

I added 5/8 inch to the shoulder seams on each side (as a wedge, as per my usual broad shoulders adjustment). I also added an extra half inch to the bodice length. I think I lengthened the sleeves too, but I can’t remember by how much. I also slashed and spread the sleeves by about an inch to widen them, and I cut them on the bias. Finally, I flattened the sleeve cap a little to reduce the ease. I wanted a very smooth armscye fit without much shape since I fit the bodice to sit the armscye right on the edge of my shoulders.

The pattern has great skirt options for this dress. However, I had my heart set on a gathered, midi length skirt. It’s basically just a big rectangle. As I often do, I start out by following the instructions and then get a little side-tracked with doing what I want to do. I began sewing this pattern in the same manner. The bodice is made up as per the instructons, with a fair bit of slip stitching! I lost interest in following the instructions after that so I really can’t comment on them anymore. I added a little hole in my waistband and lengthened the waistband straps so that I could wear the dress like a true wrap dress, with a tie at the back. I think the actual pattern calls for a button to secure the skirt at the front though.

The fabric is linen from The Fabric Store. I love it so much! The main stripes are a beautiful weight that really doesn’t need to be lined. The green micro striped linen is so soft and delicious that I want to make a hundred t-shirts out of it.

 

 

A Kobe Dress in Colette Dinnigan lace

My basement is currently in a bit of disarray. Unfortunately, that is where I usually sew… We’ve just had the concrete floor cut and pulled up to replace the old metal sewer pipes with brand, spanking new plastic ones. Yesterday, the concrete was poured. Today, we have a proper floor, but oh my, the dust!!! Soon, I’ll have to move everything so carpet can be put down. When the carpet is FINALLY down, I suspect I’ll take a bottle of champers to the basement to quietly celebrate in peace with my sewing equipment… for a whole weekend.

I’m currently waging a seemingly endless war against dust. But in the midst of my battles, I try to squeeze in a little sewing, even if it is only on Sundays right now. Summer break with the kiddos doesn’t help much. I don’t know why I always think I’ll find more time to sew over Summer. It never really happens.

In any case, last Sunday, I sloped off to our dusty basement (avoiding the big centre line ditch that still hadn’t been filled with concrete at that point. I slipped the drop sheets off my sewing tables and snuck in a little sewing. The outcome was a lovely lace, Kobe Dress. The pattern is one I’ve used before, by Papercut Patterns. The lace is Colette Dinnigan from Pitt Trading. The lace I used is sadly now sold out, but Pitt Trading has loads of other gorgeous laces that would do the job. My Colette lace came in panels. I used three for my version of this dress pattern, but I’m tall and I also lengthened the hem and sleeves quite a lot. I think most people could get away with using two panels to make the dress right out of the packet.

Sewing with lace isn’t that difficult. You just have to take your time. I’m by no means an expert, however, I am super happy with how this dress turned out.

To cut this lace, I knew I wanted to use the lace edge as a hem so I lined that up for the front and back. I used the entire panel length for the dress back pattern piece, and pretty much an entire panel for the front. But remember, I lengthened my dress (not sure how much by as I was most focussed on using the entire panel and lining up the hems). I’m also 5″10.¬† I used my third panel for the sleeves. Again, I wanted to use the lace edge to avoid hemming, so this used up most of one side of the panel. I have a little leftover lace, but no more useful lace edge left.

I finished the neckline with a narrow hem. I just took my time, basting down one fold, and then stitching slowly over the next fold. Using a walking foot helps with tension. It’s very important not to stretch the neck out as you sew, OR sew with the tension too tight. The rest of the seams in this dress are French seams. I think the fabric deserved that.

I’m wearing my Kobe dress over a black slip that is partly store-bought, and partly modified by me. It’s become one of my most important wardrobe accessories because I’m loving sheer dresses at the moment. I love this dress on it’s own, but the style also works well with a narrow belt. I’m also pleased that I spent the time on finishing it nicely with French seams. It’s a dress that I’ll probably hold on to forever.

Kobe top in sheer silk

I’m a little obsessed with floaty, sheer fabrics right now. And in my world, that literally means all the silks. Liberty of London do an amazing crinkle silk which I’ve used before. I’m thinking about using it next time if I sew this pattern up as a dress. For this version, I used a divine silk georgette from The Fabric Store.

I only made a few small modifications to the pattern. I sewed up a size small which is quite close to my measurements. However, I know I have to adjust for my shoulders these days, even when the bust measurement matches perfectly.

The adjustment that works well for me is this. I draw a diagonal line from the middle of the shoulder seam to the CB of the bottom of the top (or very close to it). I slice along this line and spread the shoulder seam by about 5/8″. It generally keeps the waist the same size but adds width to top most shoulder area, which fits well with the triangular body shape that those of us with strong shoulders and lats have. I repeat with both sides, and the front and back of the top. If the top hangs well below waist level, or I am dealing with a dress, I cut the pattern off at the waist so as not to widen the waist or hip area.

My first attempt at the Kobe top turned out a little shorter in the front than I expected, even with just a narrow hem. I usually lengthen patterns in the bodice by 1/2 inch to account for my 5″10 frame. I didn’t in this case and I’m pleasantly surprised. It’s a little outside my comfort zone, but still like this top a LOT. I don’t mind the sliver of tummy. But I know this top would also pair perfectly with my high waisted jeans.

The back is sitting a little lower in the photos than I expected. I think I wear this top pushed back a little to raise the neckline. I’ve been wearing the top with a little cropped top/soft bra underneath in a complementary shade of apricot in real life to avoid the peek of bra underneath. I think it works.

 

 

Silk bias cut dress for Summer

When you find the perfect silk, you really just have to make the perfect dress. I actually had another dress in mind for this silk, but when it arrived on my doorstep, I realised that it deserved something a little better.

It’s a silk satin by Trina Turk from The Fabric Store. It has a lovely, subtle texture to the good side, and the fabric is a beautiful weight that doesn’t require lining. It’s the perfect silk for a bias cut dress!

I used a design I copied from a RTW dress a few years ago. However, I lined the front and back bodice and turned it into a halter neck instead.

 

I love this dress A LOT. And I should. It’s the perfect fit. I guess that’s why so many of us sew though, isn’t it. How amazing does it feel to slip on a dress that fits like a glove, custom-made to your unique shape only?

An updated drop waist dress in printed linen

I made a bunch of drop waist dresses several years ago. I absolutely loved them. Two are still in very good condition. They just feel a bit outdated to me, so they have been packed away for another time (or for when my girls become teenagers and want to explore all the old clothes I used to make and wear).

I used the old pattern that I drafted for myself years ago. Sorry, there isn’t a pattern for this, but it is far from complicated. I used French darts and a slightly A-line shape to the dress bodice. I like French darts for this style as then blend in nicely with the A-line shape. The bodice has a hi-lo curve to it, and the gathered skirt is a little longer than I’ve used in the past. I also modified the shoulders to create ties instead of fixed seams.

The linen fabric is from The Fabric Store. It’s such a lovely, fresh print. And for those of you who like to wear linen, but have trouble with the delicious crinkles, I’d suggest you try a printed linen like this. It still wrinkles like linen, but the print kind of disguises them.

This will be such a cool and comfy dress to slip on during hot, summer days. I’ll probably wear it most over bathers, on trips to the pool, or outdoor swim meets.

Harper Fly Suit #11002

The (slang) definition of Fly is: very good; excellent; cool; awesome. Also, as any swimmer will know, the stroke of butterfly is commonly referred to as Fly.

Therefore, it made perfect sense to name this suit after the other little swim champ in the family. Miss Eight loves swimming about as much as her ten year old sister. She is also “fly” in every sense of the word. I can see her following the same path as Miss Ten, in terms of the satisfaction she derives from achieving in the sport, and her commitment to succeed. She tries about as hard in practice and racing as I’ve ever seen anyone do. I can also see her trying to identify with a component of swimming that is her own, a niche that she excels in, above and beyond, or simply different to what her big sister can do.

Big sister’s best stroke is freestyle, and she not only has a beautiful, natural stroke, she is also fiercely competitive (as a first born often is). Big sister also does reasonably well at backstroke. She wants to be great at backstroke (probably because of her mama) but I’m not sure it comes as naturally to her as it does to Harper. Harper is very good at backstroke and is strong at freestyle, but lately, she has been doing really well in butterfly, a stroke that has not come very easily to her big sister. While she still has a very long way to go with her fly, she has pretty good timing and position in the water, and a good sense of how to pull her body forward strongly.

She won a few ribbons in fly during the short course season, and now I can see that this has changed her perspective on the stroke. She takes a lot of pride in leading the lane during butterfly sets and it obviously makes her feel good. Miss Eight may or may not become a butterfly specialist in the future. She’s only little. It doesn’t really matter, as long as it is giving her enjoyment now.

I called her Madame Butterfly recently after I saw her doing some particularly great fly in practice. And then we went home to watch some videos of the original Madame Butterfly (Susie O’Neill). She loved this. And I loved seeing my little middle child find someone or something to identify with as her own.

And speaking of sisters. Cate and Bronte Campbell are the other great Australian swim stars we follow closely in this household, for very obvious reasons. It’s a challenge finding a way to compete with and cheer for your sister at the same time. But it’s also a great life lesson that I believe we are (so far) doing well at practicing. It helps to have others to look up to who also fight that same battle. Whilst watching the recent Commonwealth Games, as you can imagine, one of the most common questions I kept getting was, “who is older…?”.

And back to this suit, you can find it in my Etsy shop. The actual suit is not the one you see in the above photo from last Summer, but the smile on Miss Eight’s face is the true representation of the joy I see in this mermaid. I am yet to make Miss Eight her own (recent) version, which will no doubt be in an animal print. The actual Harper Fly Suit can be seen in action¬†here. But I couldn’t very well name the suit after this little six year old mischief. She tolerates swimming, and goes to practice as rarely as she can, because it keeps her water safe, and because she can have a great old belly laugh with anyone she can corrupt in her lane.

This suit is very similar in fit to the Coco Racer. My girls love this style of suit. It’s what the big (National) girls were wearing all last season, so naturally all the little kids want to wear the same.

 

Three steps to a Spring dress

When I started making this dress, I had an idea of what I wanted, but I was also pretty sure it would not work out. I was dreaming of a maxi knit dress with thin straps, despite the fact that the cotton knit I was working with was probably a little heavy to accomodate it. Nevertheless, I was determined to give it a try, but not without coming up with a three step back up plan first!

The fabric is a deliciously spongy, cotton knit from O’Jolly knits. I’ve used a similar fabric before to make a Megan Longline Cardigan. I know I could have easily made another beautiful cardigan, but I wanted to try something different. What is life without a challenge or two!

I really love this fabric. It’s a pretty knit, a natural fibre, and a delight to wear in Spring and Fall (or Winter in certain parts of Australia). It also launders really well. The cardigan I made in cream a few seasons ago is still going strong, and I wear it frequently.

To start with, I used the Poppy Dress pattern to make a midi version of the dress. I chickened out of the maxi verison, because I knew in my heart that the fabric wasn’t meant for a maxi. Even so, I still wanted to see what I could do with this fabric. I only overlocked the hem, because I knew it was in for the chop.

The only modification I made to the dress pattern was to remove the sleeve pleats. Such a pretty fabric needs no other details. I especially love the matching ribbing that I was able to use for the neckline and sleeves.

The second version of this dress was produced by chopping off the hem to create a mini. I actually think this version is super cute. If I was 15 years younger, I’d wear it in a heart beat. In fact, I’m pretty sure I had a this exact same dress in 1996. And I know, I know… I could still wear it now if I really wanted to. I just don’t feel like this is my style any more.

Which brings us to my third and final version. I lopped off another chunk of the dress to just below the hip level. To the bottom of this, I added a double layer of beautiful, duck egg linen from The Fabric Store. I think the double layer adds enough interest to balance the texture of the knit up top. I used a single layer of linen for the skirt initially and it just looked a bit plain.

I actually love this third version a LOT and have worn it quite a bit already. I like that it is dressy enough for (my) work, but also easy enough to run errands in with a little pair of sneakers. This is my kind of Spring dress.

 

 

 

Liberty of London suit in yellow

This is my little Chickmunk. Yes, you read correct. We don’t have chipmunks around these parts. We have Chickmunks. No matter how many times I correct the child, it still always comes out as chickmunk. I personally think that she’s a bit of a chickmunk herself.

This bright, summery suit is a new girl’s pattern that I’ve been working on. It’s a copy of the tie-back suit all the big girls wear at swim practice. The fabric is the most delicious Liberty of London swimsuit fabric from The Fabric Store.

It’s been a while now since I’ve sewn up my first Liberty of London suit. I can now attest to the fact that the fabric lasts well with constant use. It feels beautiful and smooth to the hand and it performs nicely in the pool. It definitely outlasts any of the cheaper swimsuit fabric I’ve picked up from Joann or Hancocks over the years. I’ve learnt the hard way that you get what you pay for.

 

Miss Six claimed this suit before it was even finished. It’s actually a size too big for her. She should be wearing a 24. This is size 26. It looks ok when it’s dry, but if you look at the photos, you can see some gathering/wrinkling around the leg and through the waist area. There is also more tie than there should be.

The fit becomes more apparent when in the water. A good fitting suit SHOULD actually stetch a little over the curves of the body. There should be negative ease; a little bit of negative ease in a practice suit, a LOT of negative ease in race suit. The back tie allows a bit of flexibility with fit. You can tighten or loosen the straps as you please. And I know that I see plenty of kids in poorly fitting swimsuits. However, when you are swimming laps, it feels awful wearing a suit that doesn’t fit. I’ve always made sure my girls have suits that fit correctly. I’ve possibly spoilt them…

Anyway, this little chickmunk still gives the suit a big thumbs up!

Tessuti Skylines Competition

I had it in my head that I wanted a floaty, ruffly, backless, maxi dress. The challenge was in producing a dress that wasn’t too girly in such a (potentially) twee fabric. The fabric is really, very beautiful though. It’s a linen blend, with a lovely, crinkly texture that becomes more apparent after washing. I’m not one who likes my linen crisp. I love the way linen fabric creases and crinkles.

The design is my own, but I’ll talk you through it a bit. I honestly believe that if you have a couple of different well fitting bodice patterns in your stash, you can make virtually anything from them. This started off as a standard princess-seamed bodice that I had draped to my shape months ago. I modified the design to remove the shoulder seams so I could attach straps instead. I also lowered the back to not much more than an inch above my waist. And I lowered the back waistline to create a slightly hi-low look at the waist seam. I further exagerated the hi-lo effect in the first skirt panel, but kept the last gathered, skirt panel as a very long rectangle.

The bodice is detailed with bias binding that I cut as one inch strips and left the edges raw. I love the slightly frazzled look of well-considered, raw edges in fashion right now. I seamed these into the princess seams, the waist seam, and on either side of the back zipper. As they are cut on the bias, they shouldn’t really fray too much with wear, however I am looking forward to them looking more pronounced and “ruffled” after a few launderings.

To help keep up the weight of the skirt, I added a waist stay to the dress. This is basically a soft petersham ribbon handstitched at points along the waist. I cut up an old bra for the closures. I used the cups from this same bra to add a little shape to the front of the dress. I toyed with inserting the cups properly under the lining before I attached the skirt, but I think they may annoy me down the track, in which case I can still easily remove them.

I can tie the back in a few different ways, but my favourite is the backless version you see in the majority of the photos.

 

I’m very pleased with how this dress turned out. It’s a fancy dress, made from a very down-to-earth fabric. I love the contradiction in this. It’s something that I would feel very comfortable in dressing up to wear to an important occasion.

 

 

Liberty of London silk blouse

This is the type of top that I will live in for the next eight months. It’s super comfy, versatile, and smart enough to wear to work.

The fabric is a sandwashed crepe de chine silk by Liberty of London from The Fabric Store. It has the softest texture and prettiest print. I would sleep in this top if I thought it was appropriate.

The pattern I used is one I’ve used many times before. It’s a vintage pattern, McCalls 6429, originally designed as a raglan style dress. However, I’ve sewn it up as a jumpsuit and a dress. Last year, I refashioned the dress into a top and wore it nearly every day until it died. That’s why I decided to replicate it.

My only modifications (apart from cutting it as a top) was to add an extra 5/8″ to the width of the centre back and collar. I’m not sure this is the perfect “broad shoulder/back” adjustment, but I’d done it this way in the past for this pattern and it fits me well.