Megan longline cardi in striped merino jersey

I’ve made the Megan longline cardigan before. It’s a super easy make that is also an extremely practical addition to a transeasonal wardrobe.

For this version, I used a beautiful, striped merino jersey from The Fabric Store. It looks like my stripes might be sold out but there are other options that are equally as beautiful. It’s a lovely weight fabric for layering, or for wearing alone in Fall. I love merino jersey because it is soft and comfy to wear. It’s warm! And very importantly, it launders well.

With a few exceptions (coating fabrics, dry clean only plans), I wash all my fabric hard (on hot) and put them in the dryer (on hot) before sewing with them. I do this to make sure there’s no chance of future shrinkage or change when my finished garments accidentally get thrown in the dryer in the future. I’ll usually still try to gently wash my “nice” finished garments, but I know at some point they’ll all end up in the dryer, accidentally or not. I’ve learnt from experience that life gets in the way of garment care in my house. I’ve also found that if I choose quality fabrics, they are usually tougher than you imagine. I sew day-to-day clothes using plenty of silk, linen, wool, and cotton. I haven’t (nor have my washing helpers) destroyed a single fabric yet!

But back to this great cardi. I made very few modifications. I lengthened it by a few inches (3-4 inches for the hem and 1-2 inches for the sleeves). I also cut the back piece as one, and widened the shoulder seams to accommodate my swimmer shoulders. My binding is a little wider than the pattern suggests. I just went with the width that I thought would look better for this striped pattern.

I know I will get a lot of wear out of this great cardi. Merino knit is probably one of my favourite fabrics to wear in Winter and Fall.

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.

 

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!

Swimsuits and Liberty prints

I made quite a few swimsuits over Winter, testing out various styles, fabrics, and tweaking designs. I’ve just been a bit slow about posting them. You may have seen glimpses of them on IG. Here are a few more details.

This Liberty of London suit is probably one of my favourites. The fabric is from The Fabric Store and it’s beautiful. I actually made it for myself after I saw how my daughter’s version was holding up in the pool. I was initially wary of using such a pale swimsuit fabric (see-through factor) but my worries have been totally unfounded. I lined the suit in black, which I now do for all my suits. The black lining means I can be more free to choose light coloured prints without worrying about modesty when they fade over time.

This design is close to the Blazer Racer (ladies suit) pattern that I’ve been working on, but varies a little in the rise of the leg, and size of the side seams. It’s a pattern that I may have graded in the future too.

The actual sewing pattern that I am working on is the one you see below. It has a high cut leg, cheeky or fuller bottom option, and is brief through the sides. I’ll hope to have it ready in a few weeks.

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

Rebecca Taylor V1387

Surprisingly, after several years of sewing and forty years of dressing myself, I’ve only just come to the conclusion that deep V-necks are not for me. This top helped me a lot in reaching that understanding.

The long sleeved top on the pattern cover was actually the one that caught my eye. However, since I was a little short on fabric, I decided to give the sleeveless version a go.

I made a few small modifications. I shortened the peplum and left the side seams open. I also omitted the under arm gussets. The pattern instructions are incorrect and (despite being warned) I got caught out and had sewn too far along to insert the gussets without a lot of unpicking. To correct the rather low underarms, I brought the side seams in by about an inch at the waist, narrowing to a smaller seam allowance at the underarm. This worked because the design is pretty forgiving. It is a blouson top with a good amount of ease.

Obviously, the top requires a small snap at the CF chest to secure the centre of the faux wrap and prevent gaping (as per pattern cover). I tried it but didn’t like the look. I also didn’t like the look of a low V on me. It may be different if I layer it with a sheer black top or turtleneck but I haven’t tried that yet. The most obvious solution was to wear the top backwards!

I love the loose cowl of the back when worn backwards. I don’t mind the front either. It works for me because I am small busted and the back gathers provide enough room. Whilst I quite like the look of it exactly as it is (I think the “sloppy” look of the poorly fitted armscye works ok when layered), I am tempted to play around with this pattern in the future, and switch the armscyes around properly for a better fit. I might also toy with the font (back) neckline a little so I can wear the top without a layer beneath.

So I guess the moral of this story is that if you don’t like a top you make, turn it around and try it backwards before you go and fail it!

Coco Racer #11001

There’ll be no prizes for guessing who this swimsuit pattern is named after. She was instrumental in testing the first samples for me…over…and…over…again, during the past 18 months. This design has taken time, but in the end we nailed it. No underarm or neck chaffe, no pulling on the shoulders, no constricting the shoulder blades, no wedgies, no catching water in the bottom or through the neck.

We like it best made fully lined, as the design instructs. However, I have made a “racing” version of the suit by just lining the crotch and omitting the front and back lining. It’s a nice suit that looks good and performs well.

I have several more swimsuit designs in the pipeline, both for kids and adults. I’m also considering putting together some kits since I have a stash of the most beautiful Italian swimsuit fabric on hand (chlorine resist, UP50, recycled). As soon as I finish juggling some of life’s curveballs, I might get on with it! ūüėČ

Vogue 1027: a faux wrap dress

At some point, I must have decided that I needed more Summer neutrals in my closet.¬†What better than a DKNY jersey dress in the most beautiful, weighty viscose. I’ve used several different shades of this viscose jersey over the years. It always sews up really nicely.

I’m also quite fond of Vogue patterns. I find they fit me very consistantly. I can make my standard adjustments and sew up the pattern right off the bat, without a muslin. My standard adjustments are 1/4 inch extra width through each shoulder seam, and lengthening a 1/2 inch through the bodice (#sewingtall). I usually also lengthen the hem length.

I didn’t bother with lengthening the skirt because I wasn’t planning on hemming the fabric. I prefer to leave a weighty viscose in a skirt like this with a raw hem. I feel like it looks a lot cleaner than a hem. However, having said that, I did follow the rest of the pattern instructions properly, which involved facings on the sleeves and a hemmed neckline. They worked out beautifully.

The measurements on the pattern envelope correspond very well to my actual size. I believe my dress reflects what I see on the pattern cover. I did make a few observations on the design, mostly relating to my fabric choice.

1. The waistline is supposed to be higher. Mine does technically sit in the right spot, but the weight of the fabric in the circle skirt pulls the dress and stretches the bodice down. Furthermore, I’ve folded the fabric belt half down to cover my elastic seaming below the waistline. I believe the belt is supposed to be folded up completely, again shortening the look of the bodice. It’s a catch-22. I adore the drape of a weighty viscose, but it does make for a heavier dress.

2. The instructions say to create casing for elastic with an extra seam below the bodice seam, using the seam allowances from inside the dress. Looking at the pattern cover, I’m not convinced that they did this step. I don’t like the look of this seam line on the finished dress, so I’ve tried to hide it with the belt. Also, measure your own waist to determine the elastic length required. Their measurements here are completely off. My elastic probably isn’t tight enough to hold the heavy skirt up adequately, but I was wary of too-tight elastic being uncomfortable and creating too much “gathering” through the waist seam.

3. Considering the 4-way stretch of my jersey, I probably could have sized down through the waist and skirt to achieve a more snug fit (which I feel would suit the style of jersey I used). I also wonder what the crossover bodice would look like if I ditched the pleats (I certainly don’t need the space with my bust size!). I’m not unhappy with the way this dress turned out. The bodice fit is good, and the shoulders are comfortable. And the dress even has pockets!

I will definitely sew this pattern again, maybe in a bit more colour next time. Meanwhile, I can see myself wearing this dress quite a bit over the next few months.

 

Esther SKORTS PDF pattern piece and tutorial

I’ve been asked quite a few times about a tutorial for this little skort. I decided to go one step better. I digitised the actual pattern piece that I created, with all the sizes graded out to suit everyone!¬†It can be downloaded here. It should match up perfectly with the¬†Esther Shorts pattern by Tessuti Fabrics, but there’s no reason you can’t adapt it to your own TNT shorts pattern by adjusting a few minor details.

I really love my white version. It is the second pair I’ve made and it’s seriously one of my best Summer staples ever. The front overlay adds a little formality and cover to a standard pair of shorts. I dress mine up with a blazer and heels. I also wear it out and about with Birkenstocks and a singlet. It’s a style that is very versatile.

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As I mentioned, my version is based 100% off the Esther shorts pattern. I made a straight size 8, but I did shorten the legs by two inches (whilst maintaining the original hem shape). To achieve the same proportions as me, you’ll first need to shorten the legs of the front and back Esther pattern pieces by two inches. If you want to add this overlay to the longer, unchanged length of the Esther shorts pattern, simply lengthen the skort overlay by two inches at the lengthen/shorten line (included on the skort pattern piece).

The steps below will help you put together your skort:

Pattern colour code template right wrong only

1. Cut out your overlay fabric: Outer fabric, right side facing up. Lining, wrong side facing up.

2. Prepare the overlay: right sides facing, pin the overlay fabric to the overlay lining. Stitch a 1/2 inch seam along the two angled bottom edges and the left side edge. Remember, the diagram below shows the skort overlay as you look at it in front of you, so the left side (as you wear it) will appear as the right.

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2. Trim seam allowance and turn the overlay out to the right side. Press. Baste remaining raw edges.

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Now it’s time to put together the rest of the shorts. I’m just going to summarize the order of construction here. If you need more details, refer back to your actual shorts pattern, but keep following this order of construction.

3. Stitch the left leg seams. First, insert zipper in the side seam of the left side, between the front and back leg. Complete the stitching of that seam. Then stitch the inner leg seam of the left leg.

4. Now onto the right side. Sandwich the side seam edge of the overlay between right front and right back leg side seam. Wrong sides of front and back legs facing the right sides of the overlay. Stitch. Finish raw edge.

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5. Fold the overlay piece up so it’s not in the way, and sew the inner leg seam of the front and back leg.

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6. Keep the overlay piece folded in and out of the way. Wrong sides facing, inner seams matching, now sew the crotch. Finish raw edge. Turn the shorts out the correct way. Press.

7. Unfurl the overlay piece and straighten out the waist edge so it lines up with the front waist edge of the shorts. Baste in place.

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Now, simply continue as your original pattern instructs. Attach the waistband and hem your new skorts. I usually serge the raw edge of the hem and then fold it up to the point at which the overlay ends at the side seam.

I hope you enjoy your Esther Skort as much as me!

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Yet another cold shoulder dress #lscchloedress

And in my best attempt at boring the beautifully knitted socks off y’all… here is yet another cold shoulder dress. I’d call it my favourite, but I’m still so desperately in love with this one.

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I know very well that this style is trend-driven and it doesn’t suit everybody’s aesthetics. There’s heaps of ease through the body to make this dress so glorious to wear on hot days. The easy fitting, slipover design imparts a sense of freedom to the wearer. If you like your dresses fitted, this one just isn’t for you.

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I made this version of the Chloe dress up in what I think is rayon. I found the fabric at an estate sale a while back. The burn test indicated a natural fibre, but the lovely, drapey hand of the fabric screams rayon to me. The rayon provides the beautiful drape that this dress deserves.

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I’ve made the same pattern up in a crisp linen and a¬†(poly) organza. I really, really like those versions, but I don’t love them quite as much as I do the dresses. In fact, I’m not the only one who loves my dresses. My daughters have been begging for their own mini-versions. I was lucky enough to have a bit of extra sewing time (and scrap fabric) so I whipped together a little scrappy version for Miss Eight. This dress (both the big and mini version) is a super quick sew.

But OMG the mini version is just the cutest! I put a sneak peek on Instagram and I’ll probably get some more photos up there soon. It looks totally gorgeous on Coco so it looks like I’ll be turning this one into a PDF pattern too. I’ve made too many promises. I need to grade the mini-design down to two more different sizes for her sisters now, so I might as well do it properly and add a few bigger sizes as well!

 

McCalls 5870 // A tailored coat for Miss Seven

I had a very specific idea in mind when I started planning for this coat. I wanted to make Miss Seven a¬†nice Winter coat that she could wear out for special occasions. She’s¬†old enough now to have a few special items in her wardrobe and¬†I’m hoping this¬†will also help educate¬†her on how to appreciate, respect, and treat¬†special garments.

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The outer fabric of the coat is a woven wool blend. It is extremely beautiful in real life. It has a nice, coat-worthy weight, with little threads of gold and tan woven through it. Both sides of the fabric are useable, with the rose and background colours simply reversed on the underside. I thought about incorporating both sides of the fabric into this coat. I also though about keeping this coating fabric entirely for myself.

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It’s probably not the best choice of fabric for a child.¬†The weave is not exceptionally tight, but it is still quite stable. I suspect it may get a few snags during it’s lifetime, but the slightly motley mix of threads through the weave is forgiving enough to disguise any repairs that may be required.

The fabric frayed horribly while I was working with it. There was a lot of hand-stitching and basting involved in the tailoring of this coat, which made the unravelling quite an issue. I used a LOT of Fray Check. I ended up painting it around the edges of every pattern piece. It was also essential in making the bound buttonholes.

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In retrospect, I think bound buttonholes were not the best choice¬†for¬†this fabric because of the loose weave. Hand-worked buttonholes (a la Claire Schaeffer’s French jackets) would have been the sensible option. But the heart wants what the heart wants. The buttonholes worked out wonderfully in the end, but¬†ended up being much¬†smaller than planned. The size reduction was due to my scaredy-cat conservative¬†cutting, in trying to handle the fraying and loose threads as best I could.¬†This is the reason why the buttons are so small. I had to find smaller ones than I’d originally planned. Larger, self-covered buttons would have suited the style of this¬†coat better.

To keep Miss Seven snuggly warm, I partially underlined the coat with Thinsulate, which reportedly has more warmth for less loft, than wool or even down feathers. Keeping the bulk down in this coat was important because of the close fitting design.

The vintage pattern specifically states that the design is “not suitable¬†for chubby girls”.¬†It’s basically just¬†a slim fitting style with no ease around the tummy area. The sleeves are not set in.¬†They are joined to the back as one piece with a separate undersleeve.¬†This design makes for very pretty style lines, but quite a challenging sew.

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All of this was underlined.¬† I didn’t underline the undersleeve or the¬†side panels of the¬†coat as I was afraid¬†it might end up making the coat too bulky and adversely affect the end fit.¬†To further reduce the bulk (or loft) of the Thinsulate, I partially quilted it to the lining. I think this makes the inside of the coat look lovely too.

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The design and fit of this vintage pattern is beautiful. It is a style that fits tall, slender girls very well, which means I will probably use this pattern again in the future. However, it was also quite a challenge to sew (not helped by my difficult choice of fabric) and there are a few things I will improve on when making this coat next time.

* My pad stitching of the undercollar was not “aggressive” enough in creating the collar roll. I would like to see¬†the ends roll down a little better.¬†I would also cut the undercollar a little smaller next time.

* My buttonholes should be appropriate for the fabric, or maybe I might just take a break from loose weaves.

* I was careful about thread marking the buttonholes. A great way to do this is to machine baste two parallel lines down the front and mark the buttonhole positions between those lines. However, with my difficulties in making the bound buttonholes (with all the unravelling of threads), my buttonholes ended up smaller. I also made the mistake of positioning my buttonholes on the inside of the basting thread, rather than on top of it. My buttons look too small and off centre in the coat front.

I think I can live with all this though. The coat is adorable. It fits well, but is ever so slightly too big (which is exactly what I was aiming for with my growing girl). I think it is deserving of a trip out to the theatre.

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