I made this set using a gorgeous, loose weave, rayon knit. I tried to keep the style extremely simple because the fabric was a little annoying to work with. The raw edges stretched out and unravelled just to look at them. The seams also stretched easily when stitching or overlocking and it took me a while to get the tension right to avoid wavy seam syndrome. I’m not too bothered though. This was always intended to be a comfy, at-home, lounge-around set, and nothing more.
The top is very loosely based on the Simplicity 1366 pattern. It’s been a magically morphing design for me. I think I may have dropped the shoulders and widened the sleeves. I also lengthened the arms, modified the bodice length and neckline, added a (loose) turtleneck, and a waistband. Some of these changes were made for this top, and some have been made in the past. I’ve lost track.
Both the leather pants and the shorts were based on V8909. I made the leather pants about three years ago now. I refashioned them more recently to have wider, and longer trouser-style legs, but they are otherwise, very much a reflection of the original pattern. The shorts are a summation of all the fit-changes I’ve made over the past few years, including a lower waist height, and improved crotch curve and length. I also omitted the faux fly and pockets, and shortened them significantly and added hembands.
I’d like to share with you a pretty typical conversation that ensues each time I break out something new that I’ve made for myself.
Me: What do you think of my new coat? (pre-empting some inevitable design confusion) It’s a drop shoulder design. It’s supposed to be unfitted.
Husband: It’s interesting. I like it. (moving closer to inspect my stitching and style lines better)It’s really good. But it’s a bit big for you. Look at the shoulders.
Me: It’s the design. That’s why they’re called drop shoulders.
Husband: It’s a bit big at the back too. It looks a bit masculine.
Me: Yeeeeeesss (my speech slows and perhaps my eyes begin to roll a little). It’s the design. It’s a boxy, oversize, drop shoulder style of coat.
Husband: You know, it would look great if you cinched in the waist with a really wide belt.
Me: Yes. It. Would.
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve already seen the original coat that caught my eye and that ended up becoming my design inspiration. I also shared a few sketches of my own coat in the early planning stages. I’m pretty useless at drawing, but Fashionary is a great way for me to get my ideas down on paper, so that I can solidify a design in my head, and then have something to refer back to when I’m playing around with the actual pattern pieces.
For this coat, I started with Butterick 6900, but I made a lot of modifications:
Lengthened the shoulder seams and dropped the armscye to achieve the oversized, drop shoulder look, rather than a coat that just looks too big (Husband you know nothing!)
Sharpened the collar to a point
drafted a lining to include the existing facing pieces
shortened View B by 4″
changed the position of the welt pockets and slimmed them down
lengthened the sleeves
added a front and back yoke to accommodate and suit the size of leather I had to work with
added shaped panels to the sleeves in contrast wool and lambskin
top-stitched some contrast lambskin and cowhide to the bottom of the coat
The cowhide I used, as you know, was upcycled from my leather skirt. The grey fabric is a beautiful, medium/heavyweight, double faced wool. One side is grey and the other is a pretty plaid. Both sides are invisibly stitched together very securely. The edge of the swatch in my photo is separated because I actively removed the stitches to pull both fabrics apart.
Even though I didn’t make the most of both sides of this great fabric, I still found it useful in reducing the bulk in my coat. I only used one layer of the wool fabric for the collar underside since the leather was so bulky. I also carefully separated and cut away the grey seam allowance when preparing the facing to attach to the bulky leather at the front of the coat.
I preferred the plain grey for the outer of this particular coat and I only used the plaid for the front facing, but if I had a limitless budget, I would definitely buy more of this great double faced wool and make it up quite simply and unmodified in and unlined coat like Vogue 8930.
In terms of construction, I underlined both the front and back leather yokes with hair canvas. The lining I used for my coat was a sleek Ralph Lauren polka dot silk CDC. I also used a bit of blue lambskin for the contrast panels and pocket welts.
I am so pleased with how this coat turned out. It isn’t perfect. I had a lot of trouble top-stitching through the thickness of the cowhide in many places. However, with a little handstitching and compromise, I don’t think that this is too noticeable. I also haven’t decided on front closures. I quite like the clean, no-closure look. I could have used magnets, but the coat keeps closed well enough on it’s own because of it’s roomy nature. I’m also considering buttonholes, via an embroidery house or by hand. I love my Pfaff, but I think coat buttonholes need a bit of extra special treatment to look professional. I’ve also thought about leather buckle/toggles, but I’m quite happy with the coat as it is right now.
The change I made to these pants is so simple and straight forward that it hardly deserves it’s own post. However, it is interesting to see how such a small change can be so effective in updating a style.
I made this pair of leather jogging pants almost a year ago now. My original post about them is here. They were my first leather project and I was out pretty happy with how they turned out. In fact, they’ve come in handy a lot. I find that leather items fill that blind spot in the wardrobe, somewhere between dressy and casual. Cropped, elastic cuff pants have also been quite fashionable over the past year, but I’m pretty tired of that particular look right now. I’ve also secretly always yearned for these pants to be a little longer. It didn’t take much to fix.
All I did was to carefully cut off the cuffs and add hem panels of about 10″ on both legs. Because there are so many other panels stitched throughout the pants, it doesn’t look out of place. Now they are long enough to wear with high heel booties, or with flat sneakers if I fold the hem up as I’ve done in these photos.
I liked my last version of Simplicity 1366 so much that I made another. This time I wanted a snuggly, casual top to wear to the gym or throw on with jeans. I kept the shape the same as the last time when I made it up in white denim. I just added a wide, slightly stand-up neckband and shortened the sleeves a smidgen.
The fabric is a soft, fleece-lined, semi-stable knit. My leather shorts were blogged about several months ago. They’ve been a surprisingly favourite make for me. Knowing how hot leather is, I wasn’t sure how much I’d actually want to wear them in a sweltering Kansas Summer. They are loose enough to be cool on my legs and they go with so many different styles of tops. They’ve actually filled the blind spot in my wardrobe that sits somewhere between too dressy, and not dressy enough. Elastic waist shorts and a T-shirt for smart casual, yes!
I just can’t stop with this Cynthia Rowley pattern, Simplicity 1366. It is seriously the most perfect blank canvas. My other makes of this pattern are here, here, here, and here.
For this version, I made the following changes:
dropped the shoulder seam by a further inch
added an extra inch to the neckline side of the shoulder seam
dropped the bottom of the armscye by about 1.5″
added a feature zip to a shoulder seam
made some wide bias binding for the neckline, folded it over, stretched it slightly and attached it like I would a knit neck band
lengthened the arms to extra, extra long. I wanted to roll these sleeves up.
lengthened the back bodice piece but kept the front piece short. I added extensions to the bottom of each side seam so I could hem little slits in each side.
Here is the top photographed untucked and with the sleeves left long to help you get a better visual of the modifications I made and how these relate to the top’s actual shape. I won’t be wearing it this way in real life, but I needed the length in those arms to create the bulky, rolled up look you see in the earlier photos. I paired the top with my favourite leather skirt.
I’ve made more than my fair share of kimono style jackets this year (here, here, and here). The style is just so versatile, especially at this time of year when I’m trying to prolong the wear of my Summer gear by layering them upon everything.
Once again I used B5409 and modified it in the same way as earlier versions. My butterfly silk CDC lived an earlier life as a floaty maxi dress. It was lovely. I loved it, but then I moved on, and there was just too much beautiful fabric in that dress to lay dormant in my cupboard.
This time round, I used goose biot feathers to fringe the kimono for a fancy, ‘festival’ look. Google defines fringed kimonos as festival. Who am I to argue with Google. I’ve paired it with my leather shorts and floral bustier for the photos. And if I was headed into Summer, I might have even taken this outfit out for a spin. In real life, we are headed into cooler days, so I want this kimono jacket to wear over my matching, Chanel-inspired dress and pants. I’ll be unpicking those glorious feathers because I don’t think they will fare so well on the school run. But you know me. I’ll use them again for something else.
I’d originally intended to sew this shirt up as an Archer. I even purchased the pattern (the PDF version because that’s all there was TWO weeks ago). The problem is that we don’t have a printer at home. Like a land-line phone, it’s one of those things we haven’t really felt an urgency to purchase since setting up from scratch over here.
Hubby was going to get it printed for me, but then he balked at the 60 pages and promptly left for a week long business trip. Honestly, it wasn’t me! I had my gloriously soft Anna Sui chambray on standby and it was giving me the eye so I was forced to come up with some alternate arrangements.
Introducing Simplicity 5047, a vintage men’s shirt pattern that I picked up for a 25c steal at a recent garage sale. The pattern is for a 36″ chest. My bust measurement is 35″, but without much bust to speak of. I also have quite broad shoulders, so my logic told me that perhaps a small men’s shirt pattern would be more likely to fit, where other’s have failed before.
I was right! I am so happy with the fit. The shoulders are wide enough. No broad back adjustment was necessary. I wasn’t aiming for a slim fit, but I didn’t want it to be too boxy or roomy through the torso either. It feels just right. I didn’t have to add fish eye darts in the back like I thought I would. The arm length works, but next time I will lengthen them a smidgen. I figured the arms would be longer than usual to cater for long, man arms. As it turns out, my alien arms are a little longer than that of mankind. The only change I made to the pattern was to flick one side of the cuff placket around so that I could have French cuffs instead of regular.
I like the look of chambray paired with my leather circle skirt. But when I was looking at the photos, I realised for the first time that a little peep had been drawing on my leg. Leg is clearly a far more creative medium than paper. I like that she matched my skirt though.
The best thing about this pattern is the collar. In fact, if I’m perfectly honest, it was the collar that swayed me more towards getting started on the vintage pattern instead of waiting for my Archer. But unfortunately it is another one of those all in one collar band and collars. It works well enough, but I just feel that it isn’t the proper way of doing things.The neck width feels great though. I love it done up to the top button. But it also works well undone and paired with my favourite maxi skirt.
I love the fit of this shirt, but there are a few construction details that I will change next time I sew this pattern. There is no proper front button placket. It’s more of a self-facing that is folded inwards, but not stitched down. Next time I will add a proper front placket as well as a collar band for a more professional finish. I will also shave a bit off the sleeve cap. There was a ridiculous amount of unnecessary ease in those sleeve caps.
It’s so nice to sew a shirt that fits well right off the bat. I’ve always had trouble finding RTW shirts that fit, due to my long arms and broad shoulders (comparatively speaking to other females). Perhaps I should have been looking in the menswear section instead!
I have this idea that I need to practice fashion illustration. I have a fabulous set of Fashionary sketch books that have been sitting untouched for at least a month. I see beautiful fabric and I simply can’t control myself. A vivid picture forms in my head and I pounce on that fabric, much like what happens when a vampire sees blood. Now who’s been busy watching too many episodes of True Blood back to back…
So once again, my plans to sketch this dress fell through. However, I did manage to use up the rest of my little bitty leather scraps (from here) and my black ponte (from here), so I’m going to give myself a high five for scrap busting anyway.
The dress is basically a modified version of Vogue 8840 (seen before here, here, and here) with a bit of leather embellishment. I used a metal ruler and a sharp rotary cutter to cut dozens of 6mm strips of leather. I lined up a few strips side by side and basted them on the interfaced ponte with fabric glue, before stitching them down with a single centre seam. I then just kept lining up those strips until I liked the look of the pattern.
I added leather strips to the front of the dress and to a panel at the bottom of the back of the dress. I only added the back panel because I was short of ponte. Yay for that though, because I think that back panel finishes the look!
V8840 is a pattern designed for a top. What I wanted was a slightly unfitted tunic that I could layer with layersupon layers of wool for a Midwestern winter. I’m pretty happy with what I ended up with.
Here are the modifications I made:
lengthened both pattern pieces to turn the top into a tunic
fused interfacing on the inside of the entire front dress pieces and to the back panel. This was needed to stabilise the ponte for stitching on all those leather strips.
shortened the (short) sleeves by a few inches
brought the side seams in by about 2.5″ and adjusted the bust dart to deal with this
ditched the back seam and kept the back piece the same but cut on the fold (cheater broad back adjustment)
It might seem like I’ve been churning out a tonne of clothes in the last few months. I sew a little each night and it’s been good to restock my wardrobe. I arrived in Kansas nearly six months ago with one small suitcase of clothes, culled down to the bare minimum. It was seriously all the clothes I owned. But before you feel sorry for me, there were at least another 2-3 suitcases filled to the brim with fabric and patterns that I chose to bring with me in the place of clothes. It’s been great to have the need to sew anything and everything, rather than just wait to replenish staples.
But amidst my wardrobe restocking, I’ve somehow missed out on some staples, meaning long sleeved cotton tops and T’s, the boring stuff. So I decided to sew one. That’s right, one will do me. I’ll stick to frosting any day. It took me a good two weeks to choose the pattern and decide how to modify it. And then it took me another week to actually sew it. It was like somebody pressed my slow-motion button. I can frenzy up a full outfit in 3-4 days if I’m excited enough. Yes, it cuts into my sleep a little, but to me it’s worth it.
I used Vogue 8952 for this top. I’ve used the pattern before, here and here. I made the raglan style this time, but modified it a little:
the sizing is roomy so I sewed down a size but widened the back by 5/8″ (my normal broad back adjustment)
I widened the sleeves
narrowed the waist
Increased the hem allowance but kept it straight and simple. I’m most likely to wear this top tucked in.
I’m pretty happy with the fit and the shape of this top. It is exactly what I was after and I know I will get a lot of wear out of it. So was it worthwhile sewing this ‘staple’? It was actually. I was able to refine the shape of a simple top to exactly what I wanted. The fabric also makes a difference for me. As boring as it may seem, this basic cotton knit from Tessuti Fabrics is actually a really beautiful fabric. It’s quite stable, but still stretchy, with a lovely firm weight and feel. It is pure cotton, not poly, so I also know it will last well without pilling.
And now that we’ve gotten the boring old staple out of the way, what do you think of my new skirt?! It’s a pretty simple, self-drafted circle skirt, fully lined in silk habutai from Mood. The leather is a Minelli cowhide from Tandy. It is a fair bit heavier than what I’ve used before and probably more suited to a jacket. I much prefer lambskin, but I compromised on weight to get this colour. I love the colour. It is exactly what I was dreaming of.
The weight of the cowhide made sewing a bit difficult at times, and I know I could have finished the back waistband better where it fastens. I ended up putting a button on the inside, attached with a leather loop. I couldn’t stitch through the leather neatly enough so I sewed some interfaced fabric on the inside and attached the button to this. It’s worked out ok in the end. I’m going to call that outside stitching a design feature, and cross my fingers that the button holds up to the weight of the skirt.
Brooke Shields in my wardrobe? She is now! I found her in this circa 1983 McCall’s pattern, complete with an iron on transfer of her signature. I left the signature untouched, but I did have a hack at those nifty running shorts on the front cover.
I made quite a few changes to my version, in part because I was sewing with leather, and in part to adjust for the very 80’s look those short were rocking. I’m talking baggy crotch, Harry high pant reducing adjustments:
adjusted the side seam to remove the binding
I took a wedge out of the front crotch
straightened and shortened the hem
fully lined my version with china silk
Sewing with leather isn’t that difficult. I used a buttery soft Mirrabella lambskin from Tandy Leather. It is light and soft and perfect for making clothes. It’s the same type of leather that I used for my long joggers, trimmed top and armwarmers several months back.
I’m really only a newbie at sewing leather, but I have learnt a few things along the way. I suspect I will also be learning a few more things in the coming weeks when I have a bash at sewing a fitted garment.
You can safely fuse interfacing to leather using a low iron heat and a silk press sheet. I didn’t use interfacing on these shorts, but I did on my long jogging pants. The interfacing stops the leather from bagging out in the bum and knees, although lining them should help prevent this too. Interfacing also helps keep seams smooth if you are planning to top stitch them. I topstitched all the seams in my long pants and this worked beautifully because I’d fused interfacing to stabilise every pattern piece.
I realise now that interfacing the whole pants as well as lining them was probably a bit of overkill, but it did make for beautiful stable seams and after several wears now, these pants have not stretched out a bit.
Initially, I tried to topstitch the seams in my shorts, but seams stretched out terribly. Luckily, the style allowed me to trim the wavy side seams off and re-stitch a very narrow seam allowance instead. I much prefer my nice smooth side seams.
So the moral of this story is that leather can stretch. No interfacing equals no topstitching in my books.
Measure twice three times, stitch once! Once you stitch, that’s it. The holes are there forever. It is possible to unpick to repair mistakes, but even if you can’t see those former stitch holes, the leather will be weaker and more prone to tearing.
I am now the proud owner of a Teflon foot for sewing leather, but I couldn’t wait for it to arrive before I started on these shorts. I’m pretty sure it will make sewing leather easier next time. But in the meantime, it is good to know that it is possible to sew leather well with a normal sewing machine foot. Real leather is a dream to sew compared to faux leather!
I use a longer straight stitch (3.5) when I sew leather due to the thickness of the material. I also think the longer stitch may help prevent the leather tearing.
Be prepared to add extra seams to your pattern. Depending on the size of your hide, you may need to piece your pattern together. I had to divide my waistband into two pieces to fit it into the leather.
Learning to sew with leather has been incredibly satisfying for me. I love that gives me another material to play around with in the sewing room. I also love that it has allowed me to add some classic pieces to my wardrobe that would have otherwise been well out of my clothing budget.