BHL Alix dress revisited

At the end of last year, I was a pattern tester for the Alix dress. You might remember my long sleeved version of this dress.

The original version of this Alix dress had beautiful long sleeves. A silk dress with long sleeves is dreamy, but ocassions to wear it are few and far between. It’s not warm enough for Spring, and yet, by Summer, I really don’t want to wear long sleeves of any description. The natural solution was to chop off those sleeves.

The Alix dress works beautifully as a sleeveless dress. There is just one thing you need to know about doing it. The armscye in the original pattern is designed to be close fitting, because it’s a pattern for a woven, sleeved dress. It needs to higher in a sleeved dress to achieve a fitted look and allow for good arm movement in a woven fabric. However, a high armscye is unnecessary and uncomfortable in a sleeveless dress. Some of the lower armscye needs to be scooped out (lowered) in order to suit a sleeveless design. I shaved about 1/2 inch off the bottom of my armsye. I could have probably taken off a little more.

I simply bound the armscye in two parts. I dealt with the lower armscye first and then re-stitched that to the yoke. Finally, I applied bias binding to the part of the yoke that was left raw. It all folds under and is nicely hidden. I should also mention that as this was a test version of the Alix dress, the bust darts are a little pointy but if gathered (as per the updated pattern), the bust area would look smoother and awesome.

I’ve been dreaming of this version of the Alix dress since I first sewed my tester version. I’m glad I have it in my closet now. I can definitely see myself making more.

 

 

Halston knock-off trousers

I was lucky enough to do a bit of modelling a few months ago and I got to wear a pair of amazing Halston pants. They weren’t even in my correct size (there was a bit of back-clipping involved), but I still fell instantly in love with them. The light, drapey fabric screamed Spring, and I just loved the large overlapping pleat at the front. Needless to say, I examined them very closely and took a lot of photos.

There are a few sewing patterns out there that are reasonably close in style, but nothing that is actually the same. The Ebony pants by Style Arc have a similar feel, but are pull-on, elastic waist pants with a mid-rise. The Halston pants are high waisted, with a regular waistband and back darts, symmetrical pleats next to the front pockets, and a centre front invisible zipper hidden beneath a large front pleat. What may seem like small design differences can make the world of difference to how a final product feels and looks. I felt it would be simpler for me to start with a well fitted pair of trousers and adjust the design from there. It’s not hard to cut and slash a few pleats. That’s all the overlapping pleat is in the front. It’s just a pleat that begins at the CF, at the same position as the zipper.

My pants are far from perfect. This was a wearable muslin (so I’m not too worried about the waistband puckers). I used the most hideous, poly suiting from Joann. I almost wish I’d spent a bit more now since they worked out better than expected. I could stand to add a half inch to the crotch length to bring the pants a little higher to my true waist. I also need to straighten my side seams by adding to the back and taking from the front and vice versa. See how my outer leg seam curves around to the back.

I love the look of pink silk with grey. But in real life, I’m most comfortable pairing these pants with a white shirt and wool boob tube. It’s just a little hard to show off the neat front pleat of the pants in this way though!

 

 

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!

 

Statement sleeves in blush silk

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This has been my party shirt for the holiday season. I’ve mostly been wearing it with leather trousers, rather than these wool pants. There’s something so lovely and contradictory about pairing leather with silk charmeuse.

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The pattern I used was Vogue 7604. The only changes I made were to lengthen the sleeves and body a little. I made my standard broad back adjustment. I also shortened the neck ties by about 6 inches on each side, because I simply didn’t have enough fabric. That bias cut collar and tie is a serious fabric hog!

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There is a small amount of stretch in my silk (technically it’s called stretch silk charmeuse), which makes it very comfortable to wear. In real life, I’ve been wearing a thin, long sleeve, merino top underneath it, which makes it the warmest and most comfortable party wear ever!

The collar can be worn a few ways. I like it tied at the back best, but it can also be tied at the front, or wrapped around once with a shorter tie at the back. And suprisingly, those sleeves did not get dipped into any gravy. I did have to watch out for the pussy bow though!

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Pleated silk skirt

So this was a bit of a random make and totally unplanned, but the fabric just grabbed me and demanded to be made into something wearable… and immediately. It arrived in the mail and bypassed my stash completely.

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I actually went shopping for wool coating, but as always, I ended up with fabric in my cart that I never set out to purchase, namely, this glorious silk CDC. The colours just scream Fall, even if the fabric isn’t really the most Fall-appropriate.

What I wanted to sew with it was a floor length, ruffly, slinky skirt. But we all know how much wear that would get in real life. I thought sensible thoughts and turned it into a  gently pleated midi instead. I can wear this skirt with sandals and tanks, or with long boots, tights, and sweaters. It will get heaps of wear.

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I didn’t use a pattern because I’m good with measuring my waist and a skirt like this is simply just two big rectangles. I winged the pleats, but made sure to match them up. When I had the volume I liked, I jiggled the side seams to match up with my waistband.

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The waistband is the only point of interest in this skirt. Because the design was pretty foolproof, I thought I’d try something a little new. I’d read somewhere (no idea where) that you could use elastic to face a pair of pants (for comfort). I didn’t have the right width elastic on hand, but I did have a yard of a performance ribbing fabric, which feels and stretches like woven elastic. The only thing I had to do was measure the length and overlock the edges. Normal elastic used as facing would look a lot neater than my version (as would matching thread!), but as this was an experiment (and on the inside of my skirt), I wasn’t too worried about appearance.

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Contstruction of the waistband with elastic is almost identical to if you were using facing. I still interfaced the waistband fabric. I just avoided creating seams with the elastic. To do this, I overlapped the waistband fabric with the elastic so only the waistband fabric was folded back against itself.

Using elastic as a facing just creates a bit more comfort with the waistband. It stays tight, but has more give when sitting and breathing. I’m definitely going to use this method in future waistbands, and refine it so it looks pretty too.

 

 

Off the shoulder dress and tutorial

Every time I wear this dress (or this one), I always get a few compliments, and yet, it is possibly the simplest dress I’ve ever sewn. It is really nothing more than two rectangles and a bit of elastic casing.

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I hesitate to call it a ‘tutorial’ because it really is so easy. Read the steps below to see why.

STEP 1. Cut two rectangles for the dress body.

 

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STEP 2. Cut two smaller rectangles for the sleeves.

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If you want a fuller volume in the dress and sleeves, simply multiply the width by 2 instead of 1.5, or any other number in between.

To create the elastic casing, you can fold down the top of the dress and sleeves. I got a little bit fancy and added a contrast band as casing.

The sleeves are attached to the dress by matching the top side seam of the dress (at the casing) to the undersleeve seam and sewing through both securely to fix them in place.

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This dress is a style of off the shoulder that I’ve seen in some high end RTW (despite the simplicity of the design!). It shows a little underarm cleavage but the elastic allows a good range of arm movement.

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My dress was made using vintage cotton/silk voile, which I lined with a bit of cream silk habutai from my stash. It’s a very lightweight and cool dress that can easily be dressed up with a pair of funky heels. I wore it most recently to an evening function in sweltering KC. It was bliss.

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I also want to mention the shoulder straps that you see in some of the photos as they quite obviously aren’t a part of this tutorial (you can find a bit more information about them here). Several months ago, I made my first off the shoulder dress (to a slightly different design). I wear it as an off the shoulder dress sometimes, but mostly I wear it with the same bra that you see in these photos. The bra is just stock standard in my closet, but I covered the straps in the same fabric as the dress so it looks like it is a part of the dress. I hate strapless bras, so the bra increases the wearability of the dress for me.

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A silk scarf

So I made a scarf, but now what do I do with it? I don’t usually wear scarfs, but I’m quite enamoured with the sweet nautical print of this little silk remnant.

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The fabric came from an estate sale, in one of the fabric bundles I’ve talked about before.

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There’s not much else to talk about when it comes to scarfs. I stitched a hand rolled hem. It’s my hands down, favourite type of hand-stitching. There’s something magical about the way the stitches disappear as you pull the thread to reveal a perfect, invisible hem. I shared a brief video on Snapchat (username: lilysageandco) when I was making the scarf. There’s already a million and one tutorials on hand-rolled hems out there so I won’t be re-inventing the wheel here. I found this one very clear (but save a few minutes of your life and fast-forward to the 3 minute mark before you start watching).

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I paired my new scarf with a bit of white on white for the photos. I get a surprising amount of wear out of my bamboo jersey, off the shoulder top. The white jeans are Citizens of Humanity (thrifted and modified from a boot-cut style) and diy distressed with a cheesegrater and razor.

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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Dress Two: #inseasonsilkcomp

I’ve been wanting to make a shirt dress for a long time and this competition gave me the perfect opportunity to do so. I was also lucky that my first dress required a lot less fabric than anticipated. In the end, I had the perfect amount for both dresses, and not a thread to spare.

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I used a vintage pattern (McCall’s 6429) which I’ve used before to make a silk playsuit. This time I followed the pattern almost to the tee. My only change was to adjust for my broad-back with a 5/8th inch wedge to the top CB (and of course adjust the collar to match this change). I also lengthened the bottom hem by about 13 inches.

The dress is of a raglan style with short cuffed sleeves and inseam pockets. The waist is pulled in with a self-fabric belt tie. The centre front is faced and most of the inside seams have been serged. I achieved smooth buttonholes on the silk CDC by using a lightweight fusible interfacing and tearaway Vilene between the facing and the fabric. I find lightweight interfacing on its own not enough to preventing buttonhole puckers in silk, and yet I didn’t want to go heavier with the interfacing as it would weigh down and affect the drape of my silk too much. The tearaway Vilene worked a treat. I imagine tissue paper could have worked too.

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The biggest challenge with this dress was the sheer length of the pieces. I’m 5″10 and the dress is floor length on me. There isn’t a separate bodice and skirt. The bodice extends all the way to the bottom hem. That’s a good 60 inches of shifty silk that I had to line up and control for each seam. My cutting mat is pretty big, but not that big!

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I’m so happy with this dress. It’s light and floaty, and it feels beautiful to wear. It’s also a very versatile addition to my wardrobe. I like it long right now, but I could potentially shorten it in the future to become an easier daytime staple. I have no problem wearing silk for school pick ups but I might need to do up an extra button ;-).

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Bias cut dress – #inseasonsilkcomp

This is one of my entries into Tessuti Fabric’s latest sewing competition. It wasn’t my Plan A, which is why I now have the opportunity to make two garments instead of one. Plan A called for a LOT of fabric, but after nearly two weeks of literally dragging myself through every sketch and stitch of the design process, I still wasn’t feeling it.

And then suddenly, like blow to the head, Plan B occurred to me. It’s amazing how sewing can turn from feeling like an absolute chore to the best thing in the world. And when things go well, I find that they also go fast! I stay up too late. Netflix and Nurse Jackie are my companions… oh hello there Oonaballoona! (That must be a sign I should keep sewing and not sleeping!).

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So to cut long story short, Plan B went ahead like a dream. I began with a pattern I’d started last year. I’d already spent a great deal of time draping this pattern from scratch, fitting muslins, and even making a wearable dress. I wore the wearable muslin frequently at the end of Summer and I knew that there were things about the pattern that still needed working out, mainly the fit around the armscye, neckline, and the shape of the skirt hem. I also had a few small modifications in mind.

I initially turned the bodice into a kimono sleeve top with shoulder cut-outs. I loved the idea, but the cut-outs looked like they would work better with a set in sleeve. So I went back and drafted some little (shoulder-less) sleeves to attach instead. And I gave them a little point at the hem.

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I used self bias binding in the making of this dress. The neckline, armscye, and top of the sleeve are all bound. I narrowly hemmed the sleeves and bottom hem. Although I do love a French seam in silk crepe de chine, I chose to serge the inside side seams instead. The skirt is cut on the bias and a bias cut seam needs to be free to stretch as it hangs to get a smooth result over the hips.

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I love the way the little sleeves worked out. I also love the curve of the seaming in the back of this dress. I polished up my last version to get the back darts in the bodice perfectly lined up with the back darts of the skirt. It’s hard to see these details in the busy fabric, but they all contribute to the nice fit of the dress. A line drawing helps (so does Fashionary, since my sketching is very, very basic at best).

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There’s still heaps of time to enter the In Season Silk Competition. I always get started early because I never know what life will throw at me (with three little girls). The fabric I used is sold out, but I think the other print is still available. It’s a really lovely silk crepe de chine (at a really great price too!). The best bit for me is seeing what everybody decides to make.