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.

 

 

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.

 

BHL Alix dress – pattern tested

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I recently did a bit of pattern testing for By Hand London. You might have seen a few sneak peeks of their new design on Instagram. I’m happy to say that it is finally available.

The Alix dress is a very flattering, easy-to-wear, slipover dress, with the perfect smidgen of 70’s vibe. I made mine up in a very cool striped and spotted silk crepe de chine.

The particular version you see here was made up according to the test instructions, so there has been at least one small modification to the final version. My dress has under bust pleats which can be a bit pointy. I think the final version gives the option of gathers which will produce a much smoother result.

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I should also list the other small fit modifications I made. Like many people, I’m not a standard size, so I graded from a US 8 (bust) to a US 6 (waist and hips). I lengthened the sleeves by 1 inch (long arms). I also found the underarms a bit tight initially, so I let out the underarm seams out by about 1/2 inch in total post construction. This is not a reflection on the design, just simply a post-construction fit for my broad shoulders. I would normally slash and spread either the CB or shoulder seams (design dependent) by about 5/8 inch in total to adjust for my broad back/shoulders. A US 8 (35 inch bust) is the perfect bust/chest fit for me but my shoulders expand above my bust so I need to accomodate for this increase in back width without adding volume to the chest area.

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My only other change was to shorten the maxi length version by 4-6 inches, shaping the hem in a slight hi-low fashion. I basically just made myself a midi. Cutting lines for all the dress lengths are included on the maxi length version so it is very easy to cut whatever length you desire.

I love my new dress and I’ll be holding on to this pattern for future versions too. It would make a lovely Winter dress in a lightweight wool. But actually, my brain is already working overtime, thinking how I might possibly be able to modify this pattern to make a sleeveless version next Spring.

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One shoulder top… times two…

What do you do if you can’t decide if your top should have a sleeve or not? You make both versions of course!

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I originally only had the sleeved version of this little one-shoulder top in mind, but that changed mid-construction. I left the sleeve off the first version, but since I’d already cut the sleeve, I decided to follow through with the sleeved version too.

The fabric is a vintage score from an estate sale. It’s some type of seersucker, but most likely a poly version, which means I’d already delegated it to the “wearable muslin/kid” section of my stash. I love having a few good lengths of stress-free fabrics like this in my stash. It takes the fear out of experimenting with new designs and styles, but still makes a fun, wearable item if I do end up liking it.

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Now, let me talk about the design a little, because it is something you can easily replicate yourself. I used my Branson Top pattern as a base because I love the more fitted back and slightly dropped shoulders of that design. You could use any TNT top version that you already have on hand.

Here are the steps I took in making the modifications:

  1. Removed the CF seam and traced the front and back pieces in full. You won’t be able to cut any pieces on the fold because the pieces are all asymmetrical.
  2. I raised the front hemline to match the back (the front hem dips lower in the Branson top).
  3. I brought the neckline of one shoulder seam in towards the neck by 1.5 inches.
  4. Sliced diagonally across the pattern pieces to create the one-shoulder shape. I shaped this line with a very slight curve in my version but you could keep the line straight. The diagram below shows the back pattern pieces, but I kept the line the same for the front.

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In the sleeveless version, I simply added some elastic in a strip of casing at waist level in the front of the top only (the waist is marked by the back seam above the peplum in the Branson top). The back of my top is fitted so it doesn’t need any elastic. I used pre-made bias tape for the casing.

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I bound the neckline with pre-made bias binding, turned to the inside to function as elastic casing for thin elastic. The neckline only needs a lightweight/thin elastic to pull it in against the body, rather than hold it up.

For my sleeved version, I just shortened the sleeve and added elastic casing.

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These tops were both super easy to make and will be a fun addition to my wardrobe for the last half of Summer.

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Kate top in silk stripes

This is a new pattern by Tessuti Fabrics, called the Kate top. It might look like a simple boxy top pattern, but it actually has a few unexpected, yet elegant design details. And then, of course, I went and added a few more of my own.

The pattern includes a back placket, hem, and side slits and instructions on how to make the inside of the top as beautiful as the outside. It’s these extra details that make Tessuti patterns great. It’s quite obvious that they are written by those with decades of experience in sewing and patternmaking.

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Since this was a competition, I felt it was important for me to complicate this simple top as much as possible. I used a remnant of silk (perhaps CDC) that I scored off the Tessuti remnant table about two years ago. Silk is a perfect choice for this top, but given the fact that I added a few complicated seams and stripes, it turned out to be a challenging choice.

I added two curved panels in the top section of the front, a waist panel, as well as a creatively shaped panel above the hem. With the bottom panel, I tried to follow the shape of the hem, including the way it sharply turns at the side splits. My intention was to flick the fabric grain on it’s side in order to use the direction of the stripes as a contrast feature in the panels.

I’m not entirely happy with the fit of this top on me, but it is pretty good for a first go, and certainly very wearable. I didn’t muslin it (pure laziness on my behalf) and just guessed at the adjustments I’d need. I started with a size S, widened the back a smidgen, and tapered the sides in towards the hem by about an 1.5inches. I also lengthened the body by an inch. These are all standard modifications I make to any pattern.

I should have reduced the bust dart before I started. The dart seems small enough but I forgot to consider the fact that this top is boxy by design, and probably contains enough ease without the dart for an A/B cup. See how beautifully it fits Lara of Thornberry with her more ample bust. I compensated mid-construction by arcing the side seam in at bust level. This worked quite well at correcting the fit on the fly. Next time, I’ll do a poper SBA, widen the back more, and drop the armscye a smidgen.

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And if you are wondering why I look so miserable in these photos. The frosts have arrived. My garage was the warmest photo option at about 2 degrees Celsius. I’m really surprised you can’t see my goosebumps!

 

 

Back to School // Oliver + S Ice Cream Dress

This dress was a last minute back to school wardrobe top up for Miss Seven. It’s one of her favourite styles of dress during Summer, and the simplicity of the design also makes it a perfect little school frock.  It is the third one I’ve made for her.

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For this version, I made a size 7, but lengthened the dress by omitting the double hem construction. This resulted in a lengthened bottom band which I machine blind hemmed in place. I think I may have forgotten to switch the iron on when I pressed the bottom band! I do that sometimes and wonder why the iron isn’t working. The crease you see is where I’ve blind stitched the hem. I also omitted the front pockets.

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I used beautiful Italian cotton shirting scraps for the top and bottom panels of the dress. Both fabrics were leftover from sewing her father’s business shirts. The mid section of the dress is from a vintage pillowcase I picked up at an estate sale recently. I love the combination of prints and colours, and I especially love that I was able to use up some very lovely shirting scraps to make it. Now, if only I could get her into a pair of shoes other than those horrid Crocs.

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Gladiator arms

Hiding beneath the bows and dangles of this top is actually a design that I’m perfectly happy with. I love the uneven hem and the interesting back. I like the shape of the neckline and the back yoke buttons.

I’m not so sure about the turbo-boosters. But it was a lot of fun experimenting. And you all know how much I like to experiment. It’s the thing I like most about sewing. There isn’t really anything you can’t do with fabric, even if it doesn’t always work.

My first idea was shoulder bows. I don’t dislike them. But they don’t suit broad shoulders like mine. I think they’d look pretty on a pear shape, for a special date.

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For a bit of fun, I tried some gladiator arms. Now this is a trend I could push… if I was seventeen or Leandra Medine.

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This top is still very wearable for me. In real life, I think I’ll leave my turbo boosters hanging, a little bit like drifting seaweed, I guess. The fabric is beautiful though and can let me get away with almost anything. It’s the same gorgeous striped linen that I used in my Wonderland Skirt.

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I’m going to work a little more on finessing the design and fit of the top underneath. It’s my attempt at coming up with a more wearable version of this white linen tunic and I like it best kept simple. I’m listening though. If you do like the bows and gladiator arms, speak now, or forever hold your peace.

The Wonderland Skirt: optional steps to fully line the yoke and skirt

This is a little bit of a follow on post. I introduced you to my new pattern a few days ago. Now I want to share my favourite version of those that I made. I also want to share some steps to fully or partially line the skirt.

But firstly, I don’t know about you, but I’m a firm believer that stripes pretty much make everything awesome. And this skirt is a combination of stripes and linen, two of my favourite things right now. You can check out the Wonderland Skirt pattern here:

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I had a very close call during the making of this skirt. I forgot to allow for the fact that white linen can be a little on the sheer side (especially in a closely fitted skirt yoke!), and that I should have lined the yoke from the get go. As it turned out, I had to unpick my waistband to fix this little oversight, but attaching the lining was actually very quick and simple to do and could be done so completely by machine.

Steps to line the yoke:

1) Re cut the front and back yoke pieces in lining fabric (I used silk habutai because it’s beautifully light and slippery)

2) Stitch darts in the back pieces of the lining

3) Stitch the front and back yoke lining together at sides, right sides together (just as you did with the fashion fabric).

4) With right sides facing, and the raw edges *almost* lined up along the centre back seam and zipper, pin back yoke lining to the back yoke on each side of the centre back seam. I like to pin the lining about half a cm from the raw edge to ensure that my lining is not too tight for the skirt (just in case I wasn’t very precise in cutting my slippery lining) – too tight lining will result in pulls and bubbles visible on the outer fabric, but if the lining is ever so slightly larger, nobody can tell from the outside.

5) Stitch from the top of the yoke to the end of the zipper on both sides of the back yoke centre back edge. You might have to undo the zipper to do this more easily.

6) When you reach the bottom of the zipper, pull the lining apart from the back yoke and pin it right sides together with raw edges matching (lining only). Stitch to the bottom of the yoke lining, being careful to keep the seam allowance the same as when you were stitching alongside the zipper (half a cm shorter because we didn’t line up the raw edges perfectly).

7) Turn lining and skirt out to the right side, so that wrong sides are now facing. The lining is attached only at the centre back zipper. Pin the lining to the top and bottom raw edges of the skirt and baste these edges together with long machine stitches.

8) Double check that the outside yoke is sitting flat and smooth (adjust the basting stitches on the top or bottom if needed).

9) And now you are ready to stitch on the waistband and skirt as per the steps in the instructions.

10) If you want to line the skirt too, sandwich the bottom raw edge of the lined yoke between the gathered skirt and skirt lining, right sides together, and raw edges lined up. Stitch. When you turn it to the right side, the inside of the skirt will look as beautiful as the outside.

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Seeing double: Simplicity 1435

Simplicity 1435 is my go-to kid pattern for easy knit dresses. I’ve made it a few times already for my littlest peep. This time I really stretched myself and whipped one up for Miss Five too. The fabric I used is a very drapey viscose knit. The fabric is quite heavy so it does drag the dresses down a little at the waist, but I’m fond of a drop waist anyway, and I just love those stripes.

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These two girls are little peas in a pod. I spoke not a word during this photo shoot. It’s quite hilarious to watch them getting flowers for props and posing together.

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Every time I make a dress using this pattern, it always becomes a firm favourite with Miss Three and I know why. Fuss free knit dresses are so comfortable. She can dress and undress easily as there are no fastenings and the layered skirt provides just the right amount of swish-factor.

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Simplicity 1435 is a very simple pattern, a super quick make, and very practical for everyday wear. There’s nothing perfect about these versions. I whipped them up so quickly that the stripes aren’t precisely matched, but I know they will be worn to shreds. I just wish the little one would decide to like this dress too (which I think is utterly adorable), which hangs forlornly and completely ignored in her cupboard.

 

Stripes ahoy

I’m still quite smitten with high waisted skirts and pants. The thing is, I’m not always loving the look of a tucked in shirt. And if you don’t tuck your shirt in, then what’s the point anyway?

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My solution is this top. It’s oversized and yet slightly cropped. The hem falls low enough to keep my tummy concealed, but high enough to hint at a high waisted pant beneath.

This is just my first version of a new pattern, but I’m pretty happy with it so far. I’ve tweaked a few things, ready for my next attempt, but I certainly haven’t lessened the width of those lovely wide sleeves.

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This top was made up in a very drapey, slightly weighty viscose. I’m looking forward to trying this pattern out again in silk next time.

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