I whipped up a matching top

The thing I love about sewing is that I really can just whip up anything at a moment’s notice. This top took all of ten minutes to make. It’s not perfect. The construction is basic. But I only had a few spare minutes and I desperately wanted to finish this up before I had to pack away my machine.

In hindsight, I really should have spent more time on it. I didn’t expect it to turn out quite so well though!

The striped fabric skirt is something you’ve seen before. I created it by sewing together strips of scrap fabric (in velvet, wool, and ponte). I ended up with a tiny bit spare that I used up in this top. There was not an ounce of wastage.

This is very fun outfit. I love the idea of perfectly matching separates as I think they produce an overall dressier look. However, when mixed and matched with jeans and other tops, these separates also dress down for a great casual feel.

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.

 

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!).

 

 

 

Reversible wool cardi wrap

The great thing about double faced wool is that you can completely hide the seams for a neat finish. After you pull apart both sides of the fabric, you can fold them in on themselves and stitch in place. A concise picture of the process is here. It’s the perfect fabric to create a reversible cardi wrap like this. You can revisit the sewing tutorial here.

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DIY draped cardi wrap

Firstly, I want to send out a big thank-you to everybody who commented on the coat in my last post. I hope you realise how much I love to read them all. I’m afraid to admit that sewing trumps replying on occasion (oh, and it probably trumps kids too at times… is that bad?). However, I’ll always do my best to answer any question thrown my way – anything to encourage and inspire people who sew! 

Now we can talk about this garment. I’m actually not sure what to call it. It’s not really a cardi, or a poncho, or a wrap for that matter. It’s really just a big rectangle with holes, but it does make for such a nice Winter cover up. I’m going to call it a wrap.

The idea for this wrap came from a gorgeous cashmere RTW cardi I tried on recently. It looked amazing on. I twirled in front of the mirror a few times before I realised exactly what it was… a giant rectangle and nothing more. So I held it up to my body, took a few mental measurements, and went home to make it myself.

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I didn’t have any cashmere on hand. A stable wool knit would have worked beautifully but I didn’t have that either. What I did have was a very large length of pure wool cream suiting that I’d picked up from a garage sale for just 50 cents (it was discounted from the original price of 75 cents – bargain!). I could see that the fold lines of the fabric were discoloured with dust and light (with a few tiny holes in those areas as well) so my plan was to wash it quite aggressively when I got it home. I knew the hot wash and dryer would change the texture of the wool, but I was ok with that because a wool suiting, once felted by the washing machine, is still quite lovely and perfect for casual loungewear and kids clothes. As expected, the wool ended up with a very slightly fuzzier texture than before. It’s not actually fuzzy, but it no longer has the sleek, smooth feel of a suiting anymore. A by-product of the aggressive pre-washing also means that the fabric is now machine washable, dryer friendly, and pretty indestructible.

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But, let’s get back to the making of this wrap. The two diagrams below should be all you need to make your own. It’s the easiest sew up ever!

STEP 1: Measure your fabric according to the instructions below.

wrap tutorial

The length of fabric I used was 180 cm, or approximately my height. For the width, I measured from my mid-section (mid-sternum) to the tip of my fingers. My chest width was measured in the front, from shoulder point to shoulder point.

My fabric was a woven, with no give at all, so I used 11 inches for my armscye gaps. In a knit, I’d probably shrink them a little to have them fit closer to the body. If I had bigger pippies, I could have easily increased the width of the armscye.

The centre line is where the seam line needs to be, and where you need to leave holes for the arms. To make a longer wrap (ie. to fall below the hips), you could widen the bottom panel. Keeping the top panel the same would maintain the original front drape.

STEP 2: Sew the two pieces of fabric together, wrong sides facing, and leaving gaps at the two positions you marked as the armscye. (The stitches are represented by the dotted line below.) And that’s pretty much it.

wrap tut 1

The last thing you need to do is finish the raw edges nicely. If you chose a fabric that doesn’t fray (like boiled or felted wool, or some jerseys) you could leave the edges raw and just reinforce the stitches around the armscye. The RTW version I fell in love with had been narrowly hemmed on an overlocker. Because I was dealing with a woven, I double turned all my edges and sewed a narrow hem. It would also be possible to bind the edges for a pretty contrast.

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I’ve been wearing mine loose as well as belted. It’s hard to believe that such a simple rectangle can be transformed into a cool Winter outfit! Let me know if you decide to make one. And if you’re on IG, I’d love it if you tagged me (@lilysageandco).

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Vintage Vogue 2265 // The Coat

Have you ever had a project that turned out exactly as you’d hoped for, perhaps even a little better. This coat was that for me. I felt like it took forever to sew, but that was mainly because I put it on hold over the holidays to prioritise the Christmas sewing that I hadn’t really intended on doing in the first place.

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I used a vintage Vogue pattern and the main modifications I made were to do with fit. I lengthened the bodice, skirt and arms. I also made a SBA and graded the waist and bodice side seams in quite a bit. My shoulders and waist differ by about two standard sizes, which makes buying garments like this near impossible. And then my height and arm length usually throws things off further. But I’m so happy to report that I nailed the fit! It’s probably my first classically cut coat or jacket that fits my shoulders, bust, arms, and waist as it should, and all at the same time.

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I employed traditional tailoring methods to make this coat, helped out by my trusty Singer book on Tailoring. I block fused everything bar the sleeves with a fusible interfacing. This step took the place of the underlining that was called for in the vintage pattern.

I then hand stitched  most of the remaining hair canvas and twill tape down. I also stitched the lining in by hand. I know it’s possible to bag a coat out using the machine, but I’m terribly biased when it comes to hand-stitching linings for coats and jackets, or any other very special project for that matter. I figure that for the time it takes to pad stitch collars and lapels (which I prefer over machine stitching) it’s worth the little extra effort to attach the lining by hand too.

As a side note, I also feel like I need to mention shoulder pads here. They weren’t called for in the pattern, but in any coat, jacket, or blazer they are an absolute necessity. Mine are slim/medium sized ones that don’t add any bulk to my coat. But they do add structure to the shoulders and give the garment a professional finish. Never skip the shoulder pads (and this is coming from somebody with broad shoulders, an asset I always look to disguise rather than exaggerate in clothes).

The outer fabric is a wool coating. The off white portion is finely woven wool with a smooth texture and very subtle shimmer. Black wool tufts are woven through it in a rustic herringbone pattern. It was way more beautiful than I expected when it arrived on my doorstep so I may have ordered a little more to stash away for the future. The black twill weave lining is acetate. It has the most glorious oily black gloss to it in real life but was a horror to cut in the dry, static winter air of our house right now. I had to literally peel it off the cutting mat.

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Because of the texture of the wool coating, I felt that bound buttonholes would be unsuitable. I would have liked to do the buttonholes by hand but my skill level needs to improve a bit on that front first. I tested the fabric with some machine buttonholes and my Pfaff pulled through very nicely. The buttonholes are lost in the busy fabric, so I’m not too worried that they weren’t couture. I covered buttons to use for the front and the sleeve vents. I also positioned small buttons on the front coat facing to stitch through when I attached the outer buttons. I’ve seen this a lot in RTW coats. It makes the inside of the coat look pretty, and it reduces the strain on the coat fabric.

And if you’re wondering where my inspiration came from for this coat, it was none other than Anna Wintour herself. I considered making a belt to go with my coat too, and may still do so oneday. But right now, I’m perfectly happy with it as it is.

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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.

 

Wool jersey luxe lounge pants // V8909

These pants are such a simple design and are so easy to make that they very nearly didn’t warrant a blog post. I’ve use the pattern several times before and have tweaked it slightly along the way to improve the fit. This time round, I lengthened the legs, and only sewed two channels of elastic in the waistband.

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The only point of interest in these pants is to do with the fabric I used to make them. It is a wool/acrylic blend in a super soft, loose knit jersey. It’s the same fabric I used to make this grey knit dress. It’s not the type of fabric I’d normally associate a pair of trackie pants with, but boy is it delicious to wear.

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My inspiration came from a pair of RTW cashmere trackie pants. Unfortunately I didn’t have any cashmere on hand (nor was it in my budget) but this wool blend did a pretty good job. The sad news is that my fabric is going to pill like crazy after a few wears. Agh… once again I am cursing my foolishness in purchasing a synthetic blend. It’s such a waste when they look rough so quickly. It won’t matter too much with these pants though. The comfort factor will be present no matter how they look, and that’s pretty much all that matters to me in Winter!

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Wrap skirt // stashbust

I had a little bit of wool fabric and lining leftover after the making of Miss Seven’s tailored coat. It was precisely the right amount for ladies skirt. Fancy that.

My original plan was to make a simple, straight skirt using my own skirt sloper. However, when I laid out the wool, it was a lot wider than I remembered and it suddenly seemed a shame to limit myself to a pencil skirt when there was clearly more fabric I could work with.

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Starting with a basic pencil shape, I left the back skirt piece unchanged. I then traced the front skirt piece in full, mirroring the pieces as if to avoid cutting on the fold. In the diagram below, the grey shaded pattern is my altered front piece. I extended the waist along the existing pattern line and shortened the hem width a little. I then simply connected these points with a diagonal line.

It was very important to identify and mark the CF point. This was a perfectly fitted skirt pattern and those CF points needed to match up when I wrapped the skirt around.

wrap skirt

I cut my lining pieces to the same pattern as the outside fabric, minus about 1.5 inches in hem length. Although, to be honest, I always reduce my seam allowance a smidgen when I sew the lining to make sure it ends up a tiny fraction looser than the outside fabric (you don’t want to end up with any pulls or tension visible on the outside).

I sewed the hems of the lining and fabric together first and then turned the skirt out and basted all the other sides together. I bound the CF edges with the opposite side of the wool fabric, although the contrast is totally unnoticeable. I then attached the contrast (once again unnoticeable) waistband and fastenings.

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The skirt I made is a true wrap skirt. It is fastened inside with a ribbon bow and secured with a hook and bar on the outside. I added a leather fastener over the hook and bar for aesthetics. The same pattern pieces could easily be used to create a mock wrap skirt. There would need to be an invisible zipper placed at the side or back. I’d also crop the top portion of the (underlayer) front piece so there is little overlap with the top layer and therefore, reduced bulk at the waistband. This would need to be stitched in place which would limit the freedom of movement that you get with a true wrap skirt, but the benefit would be a sleeker, less bulky front. It’s something I might try next time.

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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.

knit dress

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