Vogue 9043 in classic black

This is my first coat of the season. I’m still debating with myself over whether I’ll sew another this year. I know there’s time. I have the fabric. There’s a few months of coat weather ahead of me here. I’m just not entirely sure that I want to build further on my own Winter wardrobe this year, or perhaps wait until next year when I’ll definitely need it more.

Meanwhile, I’m glad to say that this little black coat is going to get a lot of wear. The pattern I used was Little Vogue 9043. I cut View B in a size 8 for my very tall seven year old. The black wool coating and silky vintage lining was all thrifted from estate sales, aquired several months earlier. The buttons were excrutiatingly picked out from Joann’s by the littlest sister, specifically for Miss Seven and this coat. In equal parts, they are the cheapest, and yet most expensive buttons I own, and yet so much selfless thought and true love went into their selection that I just couldn’t say no.

The size 8 fits Miss just-turned-Seven reasonably well right now, but at the rate she’s growing, I’m not convinced she’ll fit into it next year. Of all my girls, she’s probably built the most similar to me; tall and slim, with broad shoulders (great for swimming ;-)). She doesn’t measure up as a size 8 through the chest, but her shoulders are broader above this. I know (from personal fitting experience) that if I sew a pattern to fit her bust/chest measurement, the shoulders won’t fit without adjustment. An easy kid-fix is to simply size up, as I did with this coat. It fits her perfectly across the shoulders, but there is extra room through the chest area, and a lot more ease (than intended by the pattern design) at the waist and hips. There is also extra length in the coat, but that actually works well in our favour. The fit isn’t perfect, but it is perfectly acceptable for a child and a child’s Winter coat at that.

She’ll get a lot of wear out of this coat over the next three months. The wool coating is thick, but it’s probably still only best suited to Spring here. It would be a perfectly suitable coat for Winter in Australia though.

Before I sign off on this one, I should also mention the beautiful lines in the design of the pattern. It’s one of the reasons why I love Vogue patterns and why I was drawn to making this particular one. It’s a little hard to photograph the details in black fabric, but the pockets are integrated beautifully into a princess seamed bodice. The two-piece sleeves are also shaped so that they curve forward.

I love the classic, dressy shape of this coat. It will be a very nice coat to keep and hand down to the last daughter (assuming it survives the wear and tear of this middle child!).

 

 

 

Vogue 8952 – View B in a linen knit

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I don’t like sewing staples very much. However, I had a bit of linen jersey in my stash and thought it might make a nice top for Fall.

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I used Vogue 8952, and made View B in a size 12.

I made a few very small changes to the pattern:

  • I narrowed the waist/hip flare.
  • I *think* I shortened it a little too. I wanted a simple, long sleeved top rather than a flared (borderline) tunic.
  • I lengthened the sleeves by an inch.
  • I also attached the funnel neck a little differently. I doubled it over, rather than leaving it as a single hemmed piece. I didn’t want quite so much drape around my neck.

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I don’t mind the way this top turned out. It’s not perfect, but it is perfectly wearable. The neckline is more stretched out in my top than what you’d normally see (even though I did stabilise it). I should have adjusted for my broad shoulders/back (as I would normally do if I were sewing a woven fabric). The neck seam should probably sit a little further in towards my neck on each side. However, I knew that the type of knit I was using, and the wide nature of the neckline would be very forgiving to broad shoulders. And it is comfortable to wear so I can deal with it.

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My Image and B-Trendy sewing pattern books

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a small independant pattern group in the Netherlands, Made by Oranges. They asked if they could send me (for free) a few of their magazines in the hope that I might like to share what they’re doing. Well, I’m always keen to find out about new things in the sewing world and I like to support small businesses so I thought it would be a good idea to share!

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Made by Oranges consists of Jet (patternmaker) and Martin (graphics designer). They used to work for a Dutch sewing magazine, but when it ceased production, they decided to set up on their own. They currently produce two magazines. My Image contains 16 sewing patterns for women in sizes 34-52 (XS-3XL) and B-Trendy comes with 20 sewing patterns for girls and boys from 1 to 14 years old. All patterns contain instructions in 5 languages, including English.

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I’ll confess that I was most interested in trying out some of the kid’s patterns. There are some really cute and practical staples in the edition I have. I’m not that familiar with other sewing magazines out there, but I am a sucker for Japanese pattern books. I’m definitely inspired to have a go at a few casual coats and Winter dresses for my big girls.

The pattern pieces are overlapped just as you’d find in a Japanese pattern book. There are instructions for each of the patterns in several languages. The instructions are brief, but the patterns look pretty straight forward and easy to follow. I’d suggest that an advanced beginner would have no problem at all.

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Some of the women’s patterns look great too. There is an interesting collection of practical wardrobe builders, with plenty of photographs to inspire you. If you like trying new designs each season, and don’t mind a bit of tracing, then this would be a fun magazine to check out. Here are a few more photos to get an idea of what’s inside.

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Apart from sewing magazines, Made by Oranges also make PDF sewing patterns, and they can even customize a size for you if your size is not available. There are also a few free patterns to try on their site. Until November 1st, you can use the discount code: LILYSAGE  for a 25% discount on all their products.

 

 

Fashion trends and sewing

I have this theory about fashion trends and sewing. Being able to sew amplifies any trend (well, it does in my closet anyway!).

I’ve always been interested in fashion and I’ve always followed trends to one degree or another. But ever since I began sewing, fashion trends have been so much more pronounced as they’ve worked their way into my wardrobe.

In 2012 (pre-blogging photos from the archives), I made peplums. There were more than these, but I can’t find the photos right now.

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Next, I made drop waist dresses. There were more here too.

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Then I made culottes, which gradually progressed to wide leg and gaucho pants.

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Now, I’m working through the off-shoulder/cold-shoulder trend. There have been other trends along the way that also managed to captivate my interest. I seem to make between 3-5 garments that are in line with any trend. In my pre-sewing days, I’d have purchased 1-2 trend-driven pieces and otherwise kept to classic staples.

I’ve been thinking a lot about why sewing enables me to do this. Here are my ideas:

  • Sometimes it takes more than one go to get a handmade garment right. A wearable muslin first, followed by a better version immediately doubles the number of items. Maybe I would have bought one RTW item in the past, but I would have had the opportunity to try on several first to find which one worked best. You don’t get that opportunity with home sewing.
  • If the design worked and it fitted well, of course I’ll want to sew it again. And sometimes it’s simply easier to sew repeats than to work through new designs and muslins, particularly if the garment was seasonably appropriate and nice to wear.
  • Sewing means that I can refashion, recycle, and reuse old fabrics and old clothes. It means that I can also make more trend-driven items without spending more, or expanding my wardrobe. I don’t have to be as sensible with my clothing choices, because I can always refashion back to sensible if need be.
  • Sometimes (if I really like a style) I might decide to digitize a pattern, which means I have to test the pattern and make it perfect, thereby making multiple versions of the same style.
  • It usually costs me next to nothing to sew a few extra pieces. This wasn’t always the case though. When I was a beginner, there were so many wadders and ho-hum makes that it cost more to sew than to buy RTW (just check out those peplums!). These days, it’s very economical for me. I spend well on fabric for classic, long term pieces. I save a fortune by making swimsuits and leotards for myself and my girls. And for the trend-driven items that I know will only last a season, I’ll often use thrifted, upcycled, or economically priced fabric that is nice enough to produce a quality garment, but costs a tiny fraction of RTW. For example, the entire fabric cost of all the cold-shoulder makes below was about $18 (the largest portion coming from the $10-15 white linen tablecloth of which I still have a lot remaining). I also know that I’m very capable of cutting up any of those tops and dresses to refashion into something new down the track.

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  • I can make it so I can do it. And I can do it now! Sewing gives me freedom to follow a trend and make something immediately. Unlike RTW shopping where I’d have a vision in my mind but never be able to find exactly what I wanted, sewing enables me to make a garment to match my vision. It also enables the power of now. I can cut up an old sheet on the spot and make something at midnight, before garments hit RTW shops or are even available online. I’m not saying I do this, but I could!

So I think this explains how I end up with so many trend-driven pieces in my closet each year. It may seem like I have a lot of clothes, but I take a lot of care (via refashioning) to make sure that my closet doesn’t expand too much, despite sewing all year round. I’m also lucky to have a lot of girls to sew for. In any case, I think I’m just about ready to move on to my next obsession. I just have to figure out what it will be!

 

 

Swimsuit fabric round up

If you follow  me on Instagram or Snapchat, you’d know that I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time at the pool this Summer. And trust me, as an ex-swimmer, I do not use the word “inordinate” lightly.

I never intended for my girls to love swimming. I just wanted them to be able to swim. But perhaps my standard for what constitutes proper swimming is slightly higher than the average Joe. And it’s also possible that my passion for the sport has rubbed off a little despite my best intentions. In any case, Miss Eight is obsessed. It’s also been stinking hot in Kansas City, so in addition to the practice and the meets, we’re at one of the local pools most evenings for a dip after dinner. Our bathers are getting a serious workout.

Finding the best swimsuit fabrics has been a big learning experience for me and not one that can be evaluated overnight. Feeling the fabrics and sewing with them is one thing, but it’s not until you immerse them in chlorine, salt, UV light, and sweat twice daily that you really get a good idea of what works the best. In order of preference (the top three tie), here are my honest evaluations.

Tessuti Fabrics:

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Tessuti Fabrics (floral)

Oh, you all know that I have a fondness for Tessuti Fabrics, but it’s not without good reason. I don’t think they’re really known for their swimsuit fabrics, but they do seem to get in a few nice prints each year. I’m pretty sure the owner hand picks their fabrics personally on their annual buying trips, but I’m not really sure where their swimsuit fabrics come from. I’ve used at least five different swimsuit fabrics of theirs (paisley, red cherries, green cherries, floral, rainbow scales) and they’ve outlasted all of the other swimsuit fabrics so far.

I should also note that leotards in our house are not just used for gymnastics. They’re rotated in as swimwear for play (not practice) because they offer a better cover up from the sun (and sometimes we can’t be bothered to get changed!). Yes, the prints have faded, but that happens with all swimsuit fabric exposed to chlorine and UV light. Yes, their fabrics may be a little more pricey than other places (but they’re a great bargain as a remnant) and the fabrics last.

Spoonflower:

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Tiger fabric: Spoonflower / Blue fabric: Hancocks

This was my biggest wild card. All I wanted was a tiger print and I would have bought the fabric from anywhere. I couldn’t find what I wanted so I had to make my own. I can’t comment on other Spoonflower fabrics but I really do love their sports lycra. Like Funki Fabrics, the print is placed on white fabric, but the fabric is quite thick as far as swimsuit fabrics go. It may have a tiny bit less stretch that comes with the thickness, but the weight lends itself to a flattering fit, no sagging, or losing shape when wet. And it looks great without lining.

So far, the integrity of all my Spoonflower sports lycra is exactly as it was when it was sewn. This is most apparent when it’s been paired with other fabrics (like the blue of the swimsuit above) that has fared a lot less well. I will definitely buy Spoonflower sports lycra again. It’s not cheap, but the quality is good (which means it lasts longer). And I save on not having to fully line it. I’m very keen to check out some other prints. I feel like this will become my “novelty” swimsuit fabric favourite for my girls.

The Fabric Store:

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Left: Tessuti Fabrics (paisley) / Right: The Fabric Store

I’ve only bought a few swimsuit fabrics from here, mostly designer brands. They were also awesome. The fabric faded over the years, but it generally retained it’s original elasticity and is lasting extremely well. And the key word you should note in that sentence was ‘years’. If a swimsuit fabric is lasting years over weeks, then there’s something good going on there.

The quality of the fabric was really high which I suspect is due to the fact that they were designer labels, like Anna & Boy and Zimmerman. I keep meaning to investigate their new online presence. I used to love visiting the Fabric Store when I lived in Sydney but they fell off the radar for me when I moved overseas.

The Fabric Fairy:

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I’ve only sewn with their Limited Edition Solids and swimsuit linings. I love their swimsuit linings. They have good colour choices in the linings and they work beautifully under swimsuit fabrics. The linings are also a pretty awesome price which will keep me going back.

I have a slightly different view of the solids, which is not to say that I won’t use them again. The Solids come in an amazing array of colours, which will tempt me back when I’m after something specific. They are also one of the smoothest and most luxurious swimsuit fabrics I have ever felt. However, even the colours that appear opaque really need to be lined if they are going to get wet. I’ve sewn with a blue, green and a grey. They all feel fabulous dry, but they just look too thin against the body when wet. When fully lined, it is an entirely different matter. I love my Splash Swimsuit, but without the lining I think it would be unwearable for an adult.

I’d be interested to see how their prints work, since I know a print can disguise a fabric’s shortcomings somewhat. I’ll also continue to use their solids for dancewear for my girls, as well as smaller contrast sections in swimwear.

Funki Fabrics:

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I was given these fabrics for free a while back, but like I said in that earlier post, it’s very difficult to make a proper assessment of swimsuit fabric without actually swimming. I’ll stand by what I said about their variety of prints.

Their printed swimsuit fabrics are probably the lightest weight I’ve dealt with, but only slightly so. They are also white-backed with a digitally printed front. I chose light-coloured prints which really needed to be lined (but this would be expected with any light-coloured print swimsuit fabric).

These fabrics did not last very long compared to my girls’ other swimsuits. They were actually the first swimsuits I had to throw away from having worn out, rather then been passed down to a smaller sister first. I’ll admit that we’re all pretty rough on our swimsuits here. I don’t rinse out the chlorine… ever! But I was still a little disappointed at how quickly these fabrics began to disintegrate.

However, it’s also important to note that Funki Fabrics do sell more robust swimwear fabrics, but just not in the prints that we’re used to seeing from them. Unfortunately, their Perform range only comes in black or white.

Hancocks:

My experience here is extremely limited and not likely to improve anytime soon since they’re closing their doors. But I’d place their business in the same category as Joann or Spotlight when it comes to fabric. I picked up a shiny blue swimsuit remnant there for just a few dollars. It worked ok unlined (for kids bathers), but a lining would have significantly improved its appearance. This fabric also deteriorated very, very quickly.

I wonder if the age of the fabric plays a part in this. How do you know how old the fabric roll is that you’re buying from? It’s the elastic within the fabric that seems to dissolve/rot away and we all know that elastic is decayed by age, light and heat. I remember going through thousands of pairs of Speedos as a teenager (during my competitive swimming years). I’d generally get two months out of a pair of bathers before I had to wear two pairs together. And every now and again I’d strike out with a pair that would literally begin to deterioriate within a few weeks. Now I wonder if they were just made using an old or bad fabric batch.


So this has been my experience with swimsuit fabrics to date. I’ve been sewing swimsuits and leotards now for about three years. I’ve probably made over two dozen pairs, half of which remained in my ownership (3 girls, every year, Summer + Winter leotards + swimsuit = easy math). Of these, I’ve only thrown away about five (worn out) suits. The first two pairs I biffed were leotards where the metallic fabric (Mood) bit the dust. Next went the first swimsuit I ever made (the Tessuti Fabrics (paisley) which lasted through two children over 2.5 years, including being worn over clothes in Winter when swimming was not an option). The last two pairs I threw away were the Funki Fabrics duo, which sadly only lasted one season. Every other suit has been passed on to the next child or stored away.

Now, I’m not an expert when it comes to swimsuit fabrics. I’ve only shopped at five vendors and I haven’t tried all that they have to offer, but I still wanted to share my experience. I know there must be other places out there and I’m always open to new ideas. If your experience was different or if I should have tried a different product, speak up! I’d love to hear from you as my swimsuit sewing shows no sign of subsiding any time soon. Where do you buy your swimsuit fabrics from?