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.

 

 

A Spring midi in crinkle silk

Spring is for floating around in dresses made of fairy wings, right?! I got a jump start on my favourite season with this dress. It might still be a little cool to wear it right now, but those days aren’t far away.

The fabric I used is Liberty of London silk crinkle chiffon from The Fabric Store. It’s a deliciously sheer silk that requires a bit of patience to sew, but produces a beautiful outcome.

I shouldn’t scare you though. It isn’t really that tricky to sew at all. The key is in keeping to a simple pattern and taking your time. Believe it or not, but the crinkle appearance and print also make it a very forgiving fabric to sew, particularly since it is a fabric that suits a looser fitting design.

I kept the design of this dress incredibly simple. The neckline and armscye are simply narrow hems. No binding. The silk presses beautifully. It’s a pullover style. The design is loosely based on a drop-waist dress pattern I made for myself years ago. I just turned the bodice into a high-low shape and added an extra gathered panel.

I’m wearing a simple black slip underneath. The only one I owned was tunic length, so I added a panel of leftover black lining (from this coat) to achieve the length I desired.

I love this dress! I’m envisioning a whole wardrobe of sheer dresses now. Stop me!

 

The velvet dress // from fabric dyeing to construction

Up until this year, I’ve never really given velvet a second glance. I used to walk past the carefully perched rolls of velvet at Tessuti Fabrics and sigh, and perhaps tentatively stroke them, but I couldn’t really see how such a lush fabric could fit into my wardrobe.

This season is different. I’ve got images of velvet playsuits and blazers stuck in my head. I’d actually like to make all the velvet things but I had to decide on just one. I toyed with the idea of playsuit, but opted for a more classic style of dress instead. I think the simple design of this dress will have more longevity in my wardrobe.

You’ll have to forgive the scrunched up sleeves and trust me when I say the fit is pretty spot on. I could scoop a smidgen more out of the lower back curve, but with normal walking/moving, those wrinkles aren’t actually that noticeable. I really just need an assistant to straighten me up before photos.

9

6

The dress is a faux wrap design with a crossover bodice and wrap skirt. The fabric is a woven, not a knit. It contains some stretch, but not so much that would eliminate the need for darts/gathers or closures. I chose to add gathers to the bodice design and a zipper in the back. I hid the back darts in the back curve of the waist seam. I prick stitched the back zipper in place, adding a tiny glass bead with each stitch. I also made a detachable leather tassal. which I will secure to the zipper pull to aid dressing. I’m just waiting on a little spring clip in the mail.

1

With regards to the fabric, I had my heart set on a deep teal, navy, or bottle green velvet. I couldn’t find what I wanted so I decided to dye the fabric myself. I purchased some natural stretch velvet  and the necessary chemicals from Dharma Trading Co. I find their website quite informative and simple to use, particularly when trying to figure out exactly what I need for something I know nothing about.

12

I used a Fiber Reactive Procion dye, regular table salt, and soda ash as the fixative. My velvet is a silk/rayon blend. It only stretches on the cross grain and is reasonably light weight (for velvet). It doesn’t require lining, but I’d consider lining it if I was working with a light colour. I’m actually really pleased with the quality of textile and absolutely delighted with the dyeing outcome. It’s important to note that the fabric shrinkage was quite significant after the first wash, but that information was on the website so I was able to order the extra yardage to account for this.

The dyeing process was extremely simple. I used my front loader washing machine, set on the hottest, longest cycle. I read somewhere that a front loader holds about 8 gallons of water so I made my dye calculations based on that (however, I was hardly precise about anything!). Here’s a quick summary of my dyeing process:

  • Pre-wash fabric with Synthrapol
  • Begin long/hot cycle. When water has filled the machine, pause cycle.
  • Dissolve dye powder in water. Dissolve salt in water. Open machine door and pour in dye and salt. Close door and resume cycle.
  • Run cycle for 15-30 min and then pause again (you need about 15min remaining for the soda ash).
  • Soda ash should be dissolved in hot water – add this to the last part of the cycle.
  • Close door. Finish cycle.
  • Start new cycle to wash out leftover dye, using Synthrapol as the detergent.
  • Remove fabric.
  • Clean machine by running a cycle on empty.

In terms of sewing with velvet, this was my first time. I knew to respect the nap, both in cutting direction and pressing, but I also learned a few other things along the way.

Velvet is shifty to sew. I wonder if the slight stretch in this particular velvet made it worse. My Pfaff has a walking foot which helped immensely. My serger hated the velvet. I only attempted one edge with the serger and then decided to pink the remaining raw edges. Hand-basting and lots of pins also helped deal with the shiftiness.

Velvet seams finger press open beautifully because the pile shifts and locks the seam in place (a bit like Velcro). When ironing, I used a thick, doubled up towel, but I’ve heard another upturned piece of velvet works well to press on too. Velvet is a dream to blind stitch as the pile hides the stitches so well. I machine stitched the centre front edges of the skirt before I realised this (so I’m not very happy with the ripple along one side). The neckline, sleeves, and hem were all hand-stitched (the neck with bias binding) and the finish is much nicer.

4

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

8

 

7

6

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.

knit dress

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.

12

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.

16

 

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.

14

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

 

 

The Wonderland Skirt: optional steps to fully line the yoke and skirt

This is a little bit of a follow on post. I introduced you to my new pattern a few days ago. Now I want to share my favourite version of those that I made. I also want to share some steps to fully or partially line the skirt.

But firstly, I don’t know about you, but I’m a firm believer that stripes pretty much make everything awesome. And this skirt is a combination of stripes and linen, two of my favourite things right now. You can check out the Wonderland Skirt pattern here:

6

1

2

I had a very close call during the making of this skirt. I forgot to allow for the fact that white linen can be a little on the sheer side (especially in a closely fitted skirt yoke!), and that I should have lined the yoke from the get go. As it turned out, I had to unpick my waistband to fix this little oversight, but attaching the lining was actually very quick and simple to do and could be done so completely by machine.

Steps to line the yoke:

1) Re cut the front and back yoke pieces in lining fabric (I used silk habutai because it’s beautifully light and slippery)

2) Stitch darts in the back pieces of the lining

3) Stitch the front and back yoke lining together at sides, right sides together (just as you did with the fashion fabric).

4) With right sides facing, and the raw edges *almost* lined up along the centre back seam and zipper, pin back yoke lining to the back yoke on each side of the centre back seam. I like to pin the lining about half a cm from the raw edge to ensure that my lining is not too tight for the skirt (just in case I wasn’t very precise in cutting my slippery lining) – too tight lining will result in pulls and bubbles visible on the outer fabric, but if the lining is ever so slightly larger, nobody can tell from the outside.

5) Stitch from the top of the yoke to the end of the zipper on both sides of the back yoke centre back edge. You might have to undo the zipper to do this more easily.

6) When you reach the bottom of the zipper, pull the lining apart from the back yoke and pin it right sides together with raw edges matching (lining only). Stitch to the bottom of the yoke lining, being careful to keep the seam allowance the same as when you were stitching alongside the zipper (half a cm shorter because we didn’t line up the raw edges perfectly).

7) Turn lining and skirt out to the right side, so that wrong sides are now facing. The lining is attached only at the centre back zipper. Pin the lining to the top and bottom raw edges of the skirt and baste these edges together with long machine stitches.

8) Double check that the outside yoke is sitting flat and smooth (adjust the basting stitches on the top or bottom if needed).

9) And now you are ready to stitch on the waistband and skirt as per the steps in the instructions.

10) If you want to line the skirt too, sandwich the bottom raw edge of the lined yoke between the gathered skirt and skirt lining, right sides together, and raw edges lined up. Stitch. When you turn it to the right side, the inside of the skirt will look as beautiful as the outside.

5

Little gathered top: Part 1

I’ve been playing around with a little top design for my girls. I wanted something that would look cute with shorts and skirts, but wasn’t your typical cotton t-shirt. I also had some lovely little scraps of linen and cotton that I wanted to make use of.

IMG_3909

My first version of this top was for Miss Seven. I used some lovely soft linen. I forgot to include an allowance at the CB for a button placket in my original plans, so I had to make do with a hand-worked loop and button. It works, and I really love the look of the little loops and buttons, but they aren’t quite as sturdy as a placket. This top has to hold up to some serious physical activity.

IMG_3896

I’m very pleased with the fit and I love the shape of the little ruffle sleeves. I also like the high jewel neck. I wasn’t completely sure that Miss Seven would like the neckline but she seems very comfortable in this top and I know it’s getting a lot of wear because I find myself ironing it every other day. I HATE ironing (except when in the process of sewing!), but I make the odd exception with certain items of clothes that really need it. This is unfortunately one of them.

IMG_3893