Esther shorts and a little refashioning

The Esther shorts pattern is a very old tried ‘n’ true pattern for me. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve sewn them up. I love the high waisted design. My preference is to sew them up in a medium weight, cotton/elastane (2-3%) blend. And given the frequency with which I’ve made them, that is probably all I need to say on the matter.

I’ve also been doing a bit of refashioning around these parts (nothing new, you say!). One of my favourite, casual, silk dresses was getting a little old and starting to look a bit too sheer in the skirt. The logical solution was to chop off the skirt. Now it’s a cute little top!

I didn’t waste the skirt portion though. The pale, neutral colours of the silk have made it a great option for lining a little Summer dress for Miss Eight. More on that one later though!

 

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!

 

What to do with a destroyed silk shirt…

Aghhhh, I’m so rough on clothes. I wear all my good clothes. There’s no such thing as “too special to wear” in my closet. Once there was, but now there’s not. If I spend the time and energy to make something nice, I’m definitely going to be out there wearing it!

I wear all kinds of fibres, but in Summer, I’m particularly fond of linen and silk crepe de chine. Both of these are pretty hard-wearing. I machine wash and dry most of my clothes (because that is what one does in our neighbourhood). I try to avoid the dryer with my silks but reality means they always end up in there at some point. I’ve completely given up line-drying my kid’s silk garments and the three pairs of silk PJ pants that I own and wear day in, day out (here and here). Silk can be as tough as nails.

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So I got complacent. Well, I actually just wore my favourite shirt ALL THE TIME. What did I expect? A cotton shirt isn’t immune to the terror of the underarm deodorant stain, so why did I think my wonderful silk shirt would survive such daily wear? It was good while it lasted.

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As you can see below, the discolouration under the arms is beyond horrible. I hated the idea of throwing away all the good work I put into those plackets, and cuffs, and collar… so I decided to cut it away as much as I could (about 0.5 inches below the bottom armscye seam to be precise). I didn’t dare cut away anymore because I knew doing so would bring the armscye down too low. I cut away a bit more at the top shoulder seam so the sleeveless top would have a nice shape. My plan was to wear a nice, sporty bandeau style bra underneath and treat the low armscye as a design feature.

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I salvaged the bias binding from the undamaged portions of the sleeves. There’s still a tiny bit of stain at the bottom of the armscye but most of it was concealed with the binding. Otherwise, any remaining stain is mostly hidden by the natural position of my arm.

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It turned out that the low armscye wasn’t as bad as I expected. The most bra that could be seen in any of my photos was in this one. I can deal with this. Long live my revived silk Archer!

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Vintage refashion

I found this wonderful pink silk dress at an estate sale recently. It is completely covered in sequins and beads which obviously made it irresistible to a magpie like me.

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The dress was a very good fit exactly at is was, but with the wide, unfitted sleeves and shoulder pads, it was also quite old-fashioned looking. However, I could see that it had potential.

My first job was to remove the shoulder pads. This was as easy as a quick snip, and it let me get a better visual of how the dress would look with simpler sleeves. Losing the shoulder pads helped the look of the dress immensely, however, I still needed to do something about the sleeves.

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I thought about slimming down the sleeves and then re-attaching them, but the armscye was set too low for a slimmer sleeve and the fabric was too delicate to play around with too much. In the end, I simply unpicked the sleeves, brought the side seams in a little (by a tiny wedge under the arm) and then re-finished the sleeveless armscye. To maintain the contrast edge beading and to keep the whole thing neat, I stitched everything by hand.

 

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I thought about shortening the hem of the dress, but I’m going to keep it long. I’ll probably need to wear a slip though. That silk is sheer in the light!

 

Refashioned // wide leg pants into a maxi skirt

When I purchased this vibrant double faced wool crepe way back in 2014, my plan was to make a skirt. But at some point, I got distracted by a desperate need for wide leg pants. I really loved my wide leg pants but they weren’t getting as much wear as they deserved. My issue was mainly with the crotch. The pants were an amazing fit, but the double crepe was so weighty that it pulled the crotch down when I wore them. It annoyed me.

Now the great thing about pants with extreme leg width is that they are incredibly easy to convert to a skirt (assuming you don’t mind a centre front seam). I unpicked the legs and then snipped the tiniest little triangle away from the crotch and inner leg seam. I then just shaped the seams to fit an A-line skirt design. No compromises had to made because there was seriously so much leg fabric to work with. I did the same to the full length silk lining.

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I’m so in love with this skirt now. It’s beautifully warm and vibrant enough to lift even the dreariest spirits in Winter. Ironically, the weather turned on the charm for this photo shoot. After spending a couple of weeks in the negatives, we had a two days with tops of 13 degrees Celsius. It’s funny how temperature is relative to what you are used to. I would have considered this one of the coldest days of a Sydney Winter, yet in Kansas, we’re kicking the kids outside to play and gardening in t-shirts for the day!

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Note: If you are thinking about refashioning pants into a skirt, it’s important to note that what I did here will not work unless the pants have extremely wide legs. Most pants or jeans will require extra piecing through the front and back (remember this style of denim skirt from way back). There just isn’t enough fabric in slimmer leg pants for a simple finish in the front.

 


 

Top: Pendleton wool (refashioned) / Skirt: made by me / Bag: vintage Coblentz / Shoes: Derek Lam

 

 

Vintage Kwik Sew 1034 // scrapbust sweaters

I hope everybody had a wonderful Christmas! We had a great day, but not a white Christmas in Kansas. However, I believe we are expecting snow any day now, so it could be a special white birthday for Miss Five tomorrow.

Santa was very generous this year. The big guy bought a joint present for all my girls, in the form of a very basic, but well reviewed, Brother XL-2610 sewing machine. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a learning machine for my kids (and I wasn’t about to share my Pfaff), but I did want them to have a machine that would be simple to use and reasonably sturdy. So far the machine is working well and the girls are finding it easy to develop confidence on. And because it’s not my precious machine, I’m happy to let them play on it alone without too much anxiety.

At the moment, we’re still working on threading the machine and sewing straight lines at a precise distance from the fabric edge, but I’m happy to report that Miss Five has proclaimed it the best present from Santa this year.

And while we’re talking about Christmas, I thought I’d share a few little sweaters I made for my girls using an old Kwik Sew pattern in my stash. I modified it slightly to block in a few different fabrics and lengthen the bodice, but otherwise I left it pretty unchanged.

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Miss Seven’s sweater was made up in a size 8. It’s pretty roomy on her, but my big girls grow like weeds so I always err on the larger size with them. The bodice length is extremely short in the pattern so I also lengthened it by 2 inches before adding the bottom band. The black portion of the sweater is from a new merino jersey sweater of mine (that was too small). The ivory ruffles and tiger fabric were both small remnants in my scrap basket and specifically chosen by the recipients.

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Miss Five’s sweater is mostly tiger fabric, with a little merino trim. I made this one as a tunic to incorporate the ivory trim better. I also made a standard version of this pattern for her in rainbow French terry. It’s a very simple and practical raglan pattern.

 

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.

PicMonkey Collage

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.

 

 

The last refashion

This fabric really has been around the block. It started as a dress. Then I turned it into a playsuit. And now I’ve shortened the legs again. Shortening the legs is hardly deserving of the word “refashion”. However, there’s are reason I’m showing you this. It’s amazing how significantly different a garment can look, after such a minor change.

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I didn’t mind the previous versions, but none of them were quite right. I’m so glad I persevered.

Shop the Look

6 Shore Road by Pooja // Aqua // Banana Republic

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A little dress refashioned

What do you do when a pretty little dress gets ripped to shreds? Well, shreds might be a slight exaggeration, and to be completely fair, it probably wasn’t entirely the fault of the child. The dress was getting a bit too snug across the chest, which was probably causing undue stress on the fabric. This child is a champion grower. She’s going to be taller than me.

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She is also, by far, my roughest customer. I can’t tell you how many knees and bums and legs she’s worn through in this past Winter. I’m at the point where I won’t make anything below the waist for her anymore. It’s more sensible to buy cheap RTW leggings and trackie pants during the sales. In the past few weeks, I’ve been converting some of the salvageable ones to shorts for Summer (like the cute pink pair below). Even Miss Three doesn’t cause as much damage as her to clothes as this one does.

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This dress refashion was very simple. I cut off the yoke as high up as I could and simply attached a waistband. The waistband is a scrap of lycra from my recent swimsuit. I gathered the (circle-shaped) skirt to fit the waistband and threaded some elastic through it for a little extra security. The blue was the perfect match for the skirt.

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She looks like such a little lady here!

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The length of this skirt is so grown up. I like the look of it on Miss Five even though I know the length is going to be subjected to all kinds of horrors. No doubt I’ll end up cutting off a torn inch here and a torn inch there, like I do with all her other dresses, until it ends up as a mini. The only thing that seems to withstand this child is silk CDC and quilting cotton.

However, I don’t think sensibility should always get in the way of fashion, especially not with little girls who like length and swish. It’s become an instant hit, which is a relief. I wasn’t quite sure how she would take the idea of me refashioning one of her favourite dresses.

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