Category Archives: neoprene

White lace dress

One great thing about living in the USA is that my birthday is in Summer here! I’m so much more inspired to dress up and head out for the night in the middle of Summer. The end of June always seems so cold and dark in Sydney (relatively speaking).

To be perfectly honest though, I’ll use any excuse to sew a nice dress. Yes, there’s still over a month until my birthday, but several years ago I came up with best birthday strategy ever. For the next month, many sentences will begin with, “It’s my birthday soon, so…”. If I really stretch it, I can milk my birthday for a good eight weeks, which could possibly turn into several dinners out, maybe some new shoes, fabric…and you’ve already seen my “birthday” sunnies if you follow me on Instagram.

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But let’s get back to the birthday dress. It is my own design, albeit a very simple one, and also one you’ve seen before. The skirt is the only real part of the design I changed, moving and adjusting the pleats a bit to create the volume and shape of the skirt. I also moved the zipper to the back and left it exposed (because it is a bit fancy!).

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I’ve been calling the outer fabric lace, for want of a better word. Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn’t. It is actually faux leather embroidered on scuba mesh. Surprisingly though, it is very stable. There isn’t much stretch in that mesh so I was able to turn the fabric on the cross grain to utilise the mesh edging/selvedge as a hem. I decided that the lining needed to be black for contrast and cotton for breathability under the spongy synthetic exterior.

Now, the construction of this dress is where things went a little Pete Tong. My original plan was to partially line the bodice, just like this blue Milly dress. However, after sewing all the seams  (of the outer fabric) and serging them, I realised that the underside of the lace was so hard and scratchy that the dress would be unwearable if it was left even partially unlined. I could have used silk organza blocked into the top part of the lining and sewn it as a full lining, but I didn’t have the right shade of nude on hand and I just wanted to get on with it.

My solution was to first bind the armscye of the outer lace. Then I sewed together the lining in full and attached it to the lace at the neckline. Then a lot of hand-stitching ensued. I slip-stitched the lining to the armscye binding and down the centre back. The dress is actually very close to passing as reversible.

I’m very happy with the fit. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but I think I will always feel an element of surprise and delight when I step into a garment that is perfectly molded to my body. It’s a sensation that I’ve never felt with RTW.

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And while we are speaking of perfect fit… I drove past an estate sale last week and bumped into the impeccable Jill Sander shoes that you see in the photos. They were not only my exact size, but comfortable, possibly unworn, and totally meant for the dress I was sewing. I felt like Cinderella!

Grainline Archer // vintage sheet shirt

So, I loved Miss Seven’s vintage sheet shirt so much that I just had to make my own. Here it is.

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My Grainline Archer has been modified to accommodate my standard broad back/long arm/height requirements. I also added a classic, tailored sleeve placket, and two fish eye darts in the back.

 

 

 

FBA test top

It’s quite obvious that my bust is not so full that it requires any pattern adjustments, but in the interest of testing for the wider population, I thought I’d see what this top could do. It was a very easy adjustment to create more room in the front of this top. Because I don’t *fill* that space, I’m left with bigger gathers. I think I prefer my earlier version better in terms of fit (for me).

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This version was made very simply in a medium weight, quilting cotton. The fabric is pretty, but not really my style. To toughen it up a little, I paired it with my very versatile neoprene and faux leather mini.

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Neoprene and faux leather mini skirt: two ways

 

This simple, high-waisted, pencil skirt is made up in neoprene, with a panel of fleece lined faux leather for the hem band. I added a little square of faux leather to the waistband and turned the back zipper into a design feature. The pattern I used is my own design, but I did a quick online search and you could just as easily modify M3830 to make this for yourself.

 

 

 


This is about as mini as a skirt gets for me. I’m still liking the high waist look but I’m also starting to feel more of an inclination towards dropped waistbands. Perhaps these mixed feelings are why I like this little skirt so much. I’ll most likely wear it with one of my favourite Simplicity 1366 makes as soon as the weather warms. For now, I will be layering it with a turtleneck skivvy and making the most of that high waist style.

 
 
 
 

Cynthia Rowley vs neoprene

The problem with sewing things out of season is that by the time the appropriate season swings around, I’m no longer enamoured with the idea of the thing I sewed. This is the story of my Tokyo jacket. I still love the neoprene but have bigger and better ideas for a winter jacket.

I was able to cut around the faux leather neckline of the original jacket to preserve most of the neoprene. I had the perfect amount left to use for my Simplicity 1366 top. I’ve sewn this top before in Nani Iro. I’m a little bit besotted with this Cynthia Rowley pattern right now. It’s so simple but so perfectly shaped. I love those extended shoulder seams.

I’m smiling extra brightly so you don’t notice that I didn’t ‘hang’ my circle skirt before I hemmed it. Duh!
 
 
 
 

For the back of the top, I used a little bit of leftover printed corduroy (seen earlier here). I used the same corduroy for the sleeve caps. The only other change I made to the pattern was in using ribbed jersey to finish the neckline, sleeves and bottom hem.

I really love how this top turned out. The structured look of neoprene fits this pattern so well. I paired it with my much loved wool circle skirt for the photos, but I know I can also layer it for winter and wear it with jeans.

Miss Two just did her All the Single Ladies routine. I always have an audience.

Sunflowers and ruffles for Fall

I’m going to put my hand up and say that this dress was not intended for my smallest peep. Not in the beginning anyway. I knew I was treading a fine line to make the pattern (and small fabric remnants) fit Miss Four, but she was the one with her eye on the sunflowers and I was determined to give it a go, not just for her but for the sake of Oonapalooza.

The good news is, the dress does fit Miss Four, but it’s a very tight squeeze, and most definitely, it will not fit her come Fall when the weather will be more suitable for wearing neoprene and polyester. We decided to wrap it up for Miss Two’s birthday in November. Miss Four was more than happy to pose for photos and give it a trial swish. She wanted to keep it for herself but was (surprisingly) able to see reason when she realised she couldn’t bend over to do up her shoes.

 

 


As usual, when I’m sewing something for myself, there is at least one (if not three) little requests that get put to the seamstress. Miss Two usually just wants the same as me. The bigger girls are a lot more specific with their requests. Miss Four seems to think that I have the power to change the colours and shapes of prints on fabric. But for a change, she was quite enamoured with the sunflowers exactly as they were. It’s a shame it doesn’t fit her because it really is her kind of dress. There’s always next time.

The dress pattern itself is self drafted. I’ve made it before here and another time before this. I should have tweaked the bodice lines a little before I sewed this one. I keep forgetting that I bound the armscye in the original version, instead of fully lining it as I did with this one. I just need to add a little extra to the seam allowances in the armscye. And I really need to start taking better notes when I sew things!

Sunflowers for Oonapalooza

At first I wasn’t quite sure what made me think of using this Tessuti remnant for another pair of Esthers. But I realise now that I was catching Palooza vibes, shot at me from afar by the great Oona of Kalkatroona. And I’m very glad I had my radar out, because just look at those shiny, polyester sunflowers. They might not make the coolest shorts for summer, but they most certainly make me smile!

 

I’m not going to say much about these shorts, because let’s face it, you’ve already heard enough. This is my fourth pair of Esthers. I’m smitten with the fit. I’ve worn my first pair to an early grave and the other two are alternated daily. I’m positioning this new pair for winter, most likely paired with a pair of black tights and a neoprene top, and I’m dreaming of making a leather pair next. I would have loved to match those flowers better, but with the small length of fabric I had, pattern matching was simply not an option.

 

So let’s talk about the neoprene top then. It’s simply a rehash of V8840. You’ve seen it before here and here. I did make a few changes to the pattern:

  • skimmed a few inches off the neckline and introduced a deep front V
  • ditched the back closure and the back seam
  • added a few parallel stitching lines along the CF as a design feature
  • cropped the length to my natural waist
  • drafted a graduated pleated peplum

Now some might say this outfit should have stopped with the shorts, and normally, it most likely would have. The shorts are fabulous on their own. I could have paired them with a simple black top. Leather would have been nice. But no, I just couldn’t stop. I had to fish out my sunburst neoprene, add faux leather sleeves, and big dramatic ruffles. Yes, this top is a little over the top, especially paired with shiny sunflowers. I blame Oona.

 

I will say though, that I think it perfectly matches my shorts. It will also be a great layer in dressing for my first Kansas winter, particularly when paired with some more sedate looking jeans. And you know what, if I get lost in the snow, I will always be found. So perhaps I’ve gotten the voices confused. I’ve been confusing the wicked Oona with a most safety-conscious version of herself. For the sake of Oonapalooza, I amped up the camp in this photo shoot. Miss Six was most amused!




Buttercup Esther shorts, Camilla camisole, and neoprene Tokyo jacket

It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me, that I am a huge fan of Tessuti Fabrics. It was this shop that got me hooked on beautiful fabrics in the first place. In 2012, I’d been sewing for about 18 months (just bibs, bags, and baby clothes, all in quilting weight cotton) when I spotted an advertisement for the annual Tessuti Awards. I’m still not sure what made me think I could do it, but making the decision to enter was a turning point in my sewing and in my belief in the fact that I could take my abilities (limited as they were) anywhere I wanted. The dress I made that year was ok. It looked pretty decent from afar but the construction was a disgrace, especially on the inside. It was the first time that I’d made ‘adult’ clothes in ‘adult’ fabrics (read silk!) and yet, I jumped head first into drafting a dress from scratch. But needless to say, from that moment on I was gone, hook line and sinker.


But fabrics aside, Tessuti patterns are something different entirely. I don’t buy a lot of patterns because usually I have an idea of what I want to make and then end up using a simple design that I can modify to suit what I want, or I end up drafting/draping the design myself (in my own muddly self-taught way!).

Tessuti patterns are timeless and beautifully designed. I always learn some clever construction technique when I sew them. And I’m not sure if this is common knowledge, but I believe some of the designs are from a lovely Sydney designer who used to own a few very popular boutiques before retiring.

I’ve sewn Tessuti’s Suzy pants before (pre-blogging days), their Chloe pants, and now, I’ve just discovered the Camilla camisole, Esther shorts, and Tokyo jacket. I’ve been living in the shorts this summer, and have just finished my third pair.

 

I’m not usually a shorts kind of gal, but this season I can’t seem to get enough of them, particularly the high waisted variety, including culottes and skorts. These Esther shorts were made using a size 10 waist but I graded them down to an 8 in the hips. I ended up nipping the front and back crotch seams in a little to narrow the waist a bit more (a little end point adjustment). The fit on these Esthers isn’t perfect but mostly because I should have just sewn a straight size 8. I actually made this pair first before my print version (a very wearable muslin if you must). Having sewn a couple of Tessuti patterns before, I’m pretty confident with the way their designs fit me around the waist and bum. I’ve since sewn another two pairs of perfectly fitting size 8’s without any modifications. The second pair is blogged here.

 

I made one other simple modification to these shorts. I added a front overlay for a more abstract, skortish look and I shortened the hem by a few inches. The gorgeous buttercup yellow, cotton sateen is from MOOD fabrics. I’m totally obsessed with yellow right now!

 

This is the perfect example of me buying a length of fabric for my girls and then using it for myself. Believe it of not, this watermelon splash of delish from Tessuti Fabrics is actually pure polyester. But it is seriously the most deceptive, drapey, charmeuse-like polyester I have ever encountered. It wasn’t the fabric I was going to use for my Camilla. I actually had the little silk satin beauty below in mind, but I wasn’t even going to risk breathing on it until I’d done a muslin first.


I cut a straight size 10 in this pattern and only added 2cm to the length. It is all cut on the bias so the pieces look very wide as you cut them, but then they lengthen as they hang out. I always worry about simple pieces like this because the design really has to be spot on or they can look terrible, particularly when you opt to make it on the bias, with no other frills or distracting patterns to hide behind.

I was very impressed with the cut of this top. It fits beautifully and feels lovely to wear. I will be making this one again.

 

I’d been thinking about this jacket for a while now, and was going to sew it irrespective of Indie Month. I love the relaxed look of it in drapey fabrics and yet, I’m also quite enamoured with the way it looks in more structured materials. Two versions of this particular jacket that really stood out for me were Sallie’s in her hand painted silk, and Kirsty’s version, in the fabric of the year.

I know there are a few other kimono style jackets out there right now, but with kimono sleeves being so simple to draft yourself, I look for something a bit special if I’m going to purchase such a pattern. The stand out points of this jacket are the clever construction of it with those pockets, sleeve cuffs and collar. No hand stitching, but a wee bit of stitching in the ditch, and this jacket is as pretty on the inside as it is on the outside.

My first plan was to sew this jacket in some lovely ivory wool suiting from MOOD, and trim it with my silk satin beauty. But somewhere along the line, I was seduced by this amazing sport lux neoprene from Tessuti. Oonaballoona may have played a part in my neoprene switch. I think her BHL blazer is the goods! In any case, at this point, I also decided to throw all my sensibilities out the window and use faux leather as the contrast.

I cut the jacket in a size M, but graded the bottom hem down to an S. I also eliminated the slight curve of the back seam to cut on the fold instead, and added a 1cm wedge to adjust for my broad back. I was after a straighter (more cocoon) look. The rest of the jacket was sewn as per the instructions. I did find the sewing a little difficult at times because of the bulkiness of the materials I was sewing with. The pattern recommends a lightweight fabric like crepe de chine!

I do NOT like sewing with faux leather. It grips and warps as you sew (even with a walking foot) and pin marks (or mistake stitches) show up forever! On the plus side though, it doesn’t fray at all, so to reduce bulk, I just trimmed the inside collar seam instead of folding it over. And I just stitched the cuffs straight on, rather than constructing them to fold over.

 Geez woman, have you heard of an iron?!!! Try to ignore the back crease!

 
 
 

Neoprene and wool whiteout

 

Before I start waxing lyrical about neoprene, I should point out that the top you see in the photos is the from the same pattern that I used here. Even the long hem is the same. I just tucked it in, but I’m sure you will see it untucked in some future blog post. The only modification is the addition of those cuffs on the sleeves. The difference in drape is due to the fabric, a beautiful lightweight wool jersey remnant from Tessuti Fabrics.  

But now it’s time to talk neoprene. I had a little piece of it left over after making my Tokyo jacket (yet to be blogged!) and there was no way I was going to let it go to waste. Neoprene is such a fun fabric to sew with. I purchased mine from Tessuti Fabrics in Sydney and it is the most beautiful shade of creamy white. It has a firm, slightly foamy hand (like wetsuit fabric!) but is not crisp. It’s also quite lightweight. I love the way neoprene has such a perfectly smooth and full bodied feel to it.

Neoprene lends itself to sewing garments that are structured or more static on the body. It doesn’t drape well, but is great for making fitted clothes or items that have a bit of body to them. It’s also a pretty good winter fabric because it blocks the wind and insulates well. The problems I faced when sewing with neoprene were mainly to do with the added bulk in the seams and facings. There is also the fact that it is difficult to press and doesn’t seem to hold a decent crease.

I decided to make a pencil skirt with the last of my neoprene. As it was, I barely had enough to do this. In fact, I had to split the waistband in two, which meant I ended up with a seam centre front…eek! I should have thought of this earlier and split the waistband into three pieces instead. To salvage it, I sewed some crystal beads along the CF seam and I’m calling it a design feature!


I drafted the skirt pattern myself. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for a while now. Seriously, every lady should have a basic pencil skirt block in their pattern haul, but I did not. As simple as it was, it still took me a couple of muslins to deal with the fit issues. I was quite careful about not making it too tight below the hips. Even though I love the drama of a very narrow and streamlined pencil skirt, I just find them so impractical. I always end up tearing them or not wearing them at all.  

 
 

I love the back zip feature of this skirt. I actually wanted to insert a zip just like Christy from Little Betty Sews, in the recent denim skirt she made. But for some reason, I just couldn’t come up with the correct technical name for it and in my (three!) online purchases, ended up with reversible, double sided and some other completely unsuitable zipper. In frustration, I took to one I had with pliers, only to create what you see here, which is exactly the same as another unsuitable option that I already had in my stash! I’m such a caboose. I should have just re-read Christy’s post because she even provided the link to her most perfect zipper! And there you have it, the term I needed to be googling was ‘two way separating jacket zipper’!

The other issue I had with this skirt was the bottom hem. Neoprene doesn’t seem to fray much, if at all, but I wanted to finish the hem properly. The unfinished hem was also rolling up towards the good side so I was hoping that by hemming it, I could flatten out this roll. The first time I hemmed it, I didn’t interface it, so the roll became even more pronounced. The next time, I applied a fusible interfacing strip along the inside of the hem to prevent it stretching out as I stitched. Neoprene doesn’t have much stretch (just mechanical) but it is an unusual fabric to sew with and it wasn’t behaving over the curve of that hem.

 

The back hem worked out ok the first time without the interfacing because the length of hem was short (split by the zipper). I realise now, it would look better had I interfaced it as well. The front hem was a disaster the first time, and passable, but not perfect with the interfacing. It didn’t look any good with a serged edge either (I tried that out before the twin needle). You can best see that naughty little hem flipping me the bird out in the photos where I am side facing. I think it would have worked better if I had finished the front curved hem with facing instead of folding it up as a narrow hem. Next time!

And will there be a next time with neoprene? Absolutely! I’m a little bit smitten with this textile. Has anyone else out there sewn with neoprene, and what do you think of it?