I whipped up a matching top

The thing I love about sewing is that I really can just whip up anything at a moment’s notice. This top took all of ten minutes to make. It’s not perfect. The construction is basic. But I only had a few spare minutes and I desperately wanted to finish this up before I had to pack away my machine.

In hindsight, I really should have spent more time on it. I didn’t expect it to turn out quite so well though!

The striped fabric skirt is something you’ve seen before. I created it by sewing together strips of scrap fabric (in velvet, wool, and ponte). I ended up with a tiny bit spare that I used up in this top. There was not an ounce of wastage.

This is very fun outfit. I love the idea of perfectly matching separates as I think they produce an overall dressier look. However, when mixed and matched with jeans and other tops, these separates also dress down for a great casual feel.

Spring stripes

When I purchase fabric, I usually have a project in mind, but I rarely follow sewing patterns without some sort of modification. This means that I’ve had to get pretty good at estimating fabric requirements on my own. I usually come pretty close these days, but sometimes I end up erring on the more generous side (because it gives me a little leeway to change my mind on the design, and because I know that I’ll always find a good use for the scraps if any remain).

This was the case with some lovely hand-dyed velvet, wool crepe, and ponte that I found in my stash. I loved the way the contrasting colours looked together. They all have some stretch, but not enough to do away with darts. The velvet and wool are woven, but the ponte was a knit.

I started by cutting the fabrics into wide strips (seaming some of the velvet strips for extra length where needed). Then I stitched them together to create a striped fabric. I had just enough fabric to make a midi skirt in a slim-fitting style. I designed it by draping (on myself!) and re-stitching those stripe seams around the hips and bottom until they absorbed the darts needed to create the fitted shape.

In retrospect, I should have left the initial (striped fabric) seams unfinished (no overlocking!) until I’d sewn the final garment. I ended up doing a lot of unpicking of those overlocked seams to shape the top of the skirt. I also added gores (of orange wool crepe) to the bottom of the skirt for a bit of extra flare.

There’s a bit of a difference in the amount of stretch in each fabric. So, even though the stripes are the same width, the white ponte stretches more than the velvet, and this is most apparent at the waist. I probably should have made the ponte a little narrower, or the velvet a little wider to adjust for this.

I’m still pretty happy with how it turned out though. It’s a warm and comfortable skirt for Spring. And it just so happens to match perfectly with my refashioned velvet top.

 

White Esthers and a knit raglan

There’s never any fabric waste in my house, especially when it’s something as lovely as this Saratoga knit by O! Jolly!. I only had the tiniest amount left after finishing my Megan longline cardigan, but I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it.

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I used the raglan view of V8952 as a base for the top. I made a few fit modifications, raised the neckline, and added my own neck and hem bands. I used some plain white ponte for the back and sleeves, and seamed together three scraps of Saratoga knit for the front. I love the texture of the spongy knit as a feature and the contrast of cream against white.

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The shorts are an old favourite and TNT for me. I used the Esther shorts pattern and simply added an asymmetrical overlay at the front. I used scraps for this make too. I salvaged some gorgeous, meaty Theory cotton sateen (from this dress) to use for the back of the shorts and for the front overlay. The dress was tired (with a few stains) and needed to be retired. I didn’t have quite enough sateen though, so I used some scrap linen for the shorts front and overlay lining. The linen was too lightweight for the shorts on its own, but perfect for this design where the front is layered.

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I’ll wear these shorts a lot. I made a yellow version a few  years ago which are still on the go, but have been downgraded to gardening/painting gear. It feels good to replace a wardrobe item that was very much loved.

 

DIY ponte and lace bodysuit

I find the idea of muslins for stretch knit garments a funny thing to get my head around, especially in the case of swimsuits and bodysuits. Personally, I don’t have any stretch “muslin” fabric lying around, and yet, none of the stretch fabric I own is particularly precious. And then there’s the fact that only a tiny bit is required for the suit anyway. I usually opt to make a wearable muslin in a case like this, even though I may end up making it up again as a real version, in exactly the same fabric!

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This bodysuit is a wearable muslin. It’s a shape and fit that I haven’t made before so I was entirely unsure as to how it would work out. I used a few of my swimsuit patterns as a guide for the body shape and length, and then adjusted the size according to the less stretchy ponte fabric that I was using. The bottom of the bodysuit has a pant shape similar to my Splash Swimsuit.

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I ended up having to adjust the side seams quite a bit before I was happy. I also completely re-designed the back halfway through construction. And that’s why you can see that the lace on the back has been finished with FOE on the top edge, but all the ponte has raw edges. Ponte won’t fray, so it was always my intention to leave the edges raw in this version (the lace was a different matter). I’ll spend more time finishing the shoulder straps and neckline next time round. I may still leave the pants unfinished though because the unfinished edges on the legs give a very smooth finish against the skin and under clothes. You’d be seeing a panty line in my jeans if the edges were finished with elastic.

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I totally love this look of black on black for Summer right now. In my mind, it’s a little bit 90’s,  especially when you also consider the return of chunky, blocked heels (that are so comfy, but oh so reminiscent of dancing through the night to George Michael music videos with his bevy of supermodels). The nineties were the first real era of fashion that I lived through and actively participated in (it doesn’t count if you were too young to buy your own flouro socks and hypercolour T’s in the 80’s!).

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Top: Made by me / Leather skirt: vintage / Jeans: James Jeans / Shoes: Loeffler Randall

 

 

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.

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Love Culture            //            Proenza Schoeler             //           Banjo & Matilda

 

 

Refashioned // leather trimmed tunic

The thing about unfitted dresses (like the ones below) is that they need to be short or they can verge on looking frumpy. In my opinion, the black tunic dress that I used for this refashion went slightly over the length threshold. It’s only a very small difference, but it has a big impact. Compare the difference in look with these two very similar dresses.

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There were a few other things about the black dress that I didn’t like. The base ponte fabric, whilst interfaced, didn’t have the structure to give this style a nice shape. It drapes too much. I should have either made it fitting (as would suit a ponte knit) or choose a more structured, woven fabric and flared it out. Like the length, the fit is half-way there but neither fitted or boxy. The sleeves and front zipper don’t do this dress any favours either, but I remember why I made it as I did. I was using up a limited scrap supply at the time which meant I couldn’t cut the fabric as one piece and proper sleeves weren’t an option.

I did actually wear this dress a LOT during Winter. I’m not as fussy about clothes when it comes to dressing warm (hello minus 15 degrees Celsius!) and this seemed to be the fall-back dress I would pull out anytime we had a dinner or event to go to. It was comfortable, warm, and I usually wore it layered with tights and my Dior knock-off coat. However, in the light of Summer, I was able to make a more objective critique of the garment. And the critique led me to this:

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I love problem solving ways to make things work and I definitely enjoyed the process of making this jacket. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that anything about it is couture. I just bound and topstitched the leather and I have yet to hammer those seams flat. The waist tie is an unfinished strip of leather. I really wasn’t sure that this would work out at all. It still leaves a lot to be desired, but it is much better than I anticipated, and a good reference point for drafting a similar piece in the future (and one that might closer resemble my inspiration).

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The steps in this refashion were pretty simple. I started with my tunic and cut off the hem to the length of jacket I wanted. I preserved that hem (including the back embellishment) by dividing it in half and turning those halves into the sleeves.

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I then just unpicked the bound neckline to change the shape of it a little, attached the front leather panels, and bound or turned the raw edges under.

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I can see myself getting a lot of wear out of this in Autumn, but most likely with jeans. I seem to be without jeans at the moment or I would have worn them in the photos. Jeans are one of my few RTW concessions. I just can’t summon the desire to make myself a pair, despite admiring the amazing handiwork of others out there.