Category Archives: Tessuti patterns

Corduroy culottes: another Esther shorts hack

I’m here to convince you that culottes really are the new skirt. And I’m not talking about the cute little flippy variety that could be mistaken for a skirt. I’m talking about the hard-core, wide leg, knee length type, or the sharp, A-line, midi silhouettes that are probably giving some of you unpleasant flashbacks right now. I admit, I get the flashbacks too. My high school sports uniform was a pair of bottle green, knee-length culottes (that memory came flooding back to me when my ‘blue’ corduroy arrived in the mail). But don’t worry, I’m quite determined to sway all you doubters out there, and to do so, I’ve put together not one, not two, but four different looks with the same pair of fabulous winter weight culottes.

For Autumn, I’ve paired them with my Nani Iro top and a pair of open booties. A long pair of tan leather boots would look fabulous right now, but I don’t own any and I spend all my spare cash on fabric instead of shoes. Can anyone else relate? 

The fabric I used in my culottes is utterly divine. It’s a cotton corduroy by Thread, with the most beautiful velvety sheen I’ve ever seen. It’s called ‘blue’ but it is most definitely a bottle green. I knew what I was getting though. It’s nothing like the dull kiddie quality cord that I’ve sewn with in the past. I should have paid more attention.


I do all my fabric cutting and sewing in the evenings in poorer light than I would like, but that’s just the way it has to be. I don’t have time to sew during the day. So I happily cut into my gorgeous fabric, positioning the legs in opposite directions and paying complete disregard for the nap. I merrily sewed away at the project until I tried my culottes on to decide on the hem length. The lightbulb suddenly went on in my head. Nap! Why did I not consider this first? I thought I’d made a total blooper of these pants. One leg was clearly a different shade to the other.

I think the difference in nap looks more pronounced in artificial light, and from my persepective as the wearer, looking down at an acute angle. It is such a silly mistake to make that I still feel like giving myself a slap. Anyway, they are so comfortable and warm that I’m just going to wear them anyway. I think it’s pushing it a bit far to call it a design feature so I’m just going to feign ignorance. What, my legs are different shades of bottle green? No way! It’s a shadow. Go get your eyes checked!

For view two, I opted for a more vintage feel. I’m wearing my Liberty of London Kanerva with them this time.

 


The pattern I used to make these culottes was based on the Esther shorts pattern by Tessuti Fabrics. My modifications were pretty simple. I added a 10cm pleat to the front legs. I also widened and lengthened the legs. I really like how they turned out but next time I will definitely add in-seam pockets.

I also tried my culottes out with my new favourite shirt. I like chambray with cord. Hubby isn’t too sure about this combination. He can’t decide whether I look like Anne of Green Gables, a school mistress, or Brethren. 

 
 
 

And finally, I paired the culottes with my black ponte and leather top for a slightly more edgy look. I like the silhouette of a cropped top over high waist pants. 

 

Here’s a summary of the four looks. Which one do you like best? And more importantly, when are you going to make a pair!
 
 

Cynthia Rowley vs grid lines

I’m sorry to say that past-Debbie was a bit more reckless with the pre-treatment of her fabric than she is today and my culottes suffered the brunt of this carelessness. They shrank in the wash. But the good news is that they have been refashioned into something that no longer prevents me from breathing.

There’s a good amount of fabric in a pair of culottes. I had just enough to make my new favourite top, another Cynthia Rowley Tee (seen before here and here). And it just so happens that I had a pair of matchy, matchy Esther shorts on stand-by, ready to turn this top into another Two-Piece Set-Acular. However, shorts season is pretty much at an end here, so in reality, I’ll be wearing this top with jeans, which might be a good thing. Is it just me, or did past-Debbie also forget to separate the colours in the wash? The top definitely looks a little more of a buttery white than the shorts.

I only made one extra modification to the top this time. I added a panel of faux leather down the front and back, mainly because a CF and CB seam of those gridlines would have just looked odd, even if I had them perfectly matched.

Yep, pretty happy with this make, but it’s nearly time for me to pack away my Summer gear. I’m going to try really hard to stick to seasonally appropriate makes this year. I’m so fickle with fashion that it just doesn’t make sense to make things, only to refashion it again before I wear it. But then again, that means I get two makes for the price of one! I see that as a win in my world. Some would disagree. 

In any case, I’m planning to live vicariously through the Summer making of my Southern hemisphere counterparts. So tell me, if you are watching the days get longer, what exciting sewing plans do have for Summer? And if you are on my side of the world, is it going to be a project list of coats and knits for Winter, or will you still sneak in the odd summer frock or two?


Turning my Esthers into pants

It’s no great surprise to anyone that I love my Esthers. I have four pairs that I pretty much rotate through the days of the week (here, here, here, and here). I love their high waisted, vintage style, and I love that they fit me superbly. It’s such a boon to find, make, or modify a pattern that fits so well. So it makes perfect sense that I would want to turn them into a pair of pants.

I’ve been wanting a slim fitting, cigarette style pant for a while now, but I just didn’t have a pattern to match what I wanted. I dread sewing pants, not for the process, but for the inevitable fit issues that need to be muddled through, as with any new pants pattern. And I don’t have a lot of experience dealing with fitting pants. I started by looking online for suitable patterns, and then it occurred to me that I already had a TNT shorts pattern that I might be able to modify.

 
 
 


It’s not that difficult turning a pair of shorts into long pants. I basically just lengthened all the side seams. The trick is in slimming them down and reducing the hip and thigh ease by enough. I was pretty happy with my first muslin, but the pants were still a lot looser than what I wanted for such a bright floral and the cigarette style I was after. So I narrowed the legs further to get what you see here. I could have slimmed them down more, but I was worried about going too tight. I don’t know about you, by I hate too-tight pants more than anything else when it comes to clothes.

And as it turned out, I already had a perfectly matching top in my wardrobe. I’ve paired my new flower pants with my trusty, much loved, and totally indestructible Camilla camisole.


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!




Filling a wardrobe gap with McCalls’s 8082

For those familiar with my blog, it may be hard to believe that I have gaps in my wardrobe, but it is true, I do. With the exception of lingerie (and one sneaky pair of jeans) I never buy RTW clothes anymore, for myself or for my three girls. And trust me, keeping my girls clothed in line with seasonal changes and the odd growth spurt is a full time job on it’s own! I also make most of my husband’s business shirts. 

I try to plan what I’m making to replace items that are getting old or starting to wear out. Obviously, I also try to update these items in line with my current fashion obsessions. The fabrics I use are generally great quality and I’m sure they last a lot longer than RTW, but I am still quite tough on my clothes. They get thrown in the washing machine on all kinds of cycles, put in the dryer, and often soaked to remove small hand prints (among other less savoury stains). They get pulled and tugged by little people, torn where small knees hit the ground, and abraded where one particular small person frequently sits on my hip. Life is too short to keep pretty clothes hidden in wardrobes or to worry about getting them dirty!

I’ve long since moved beyond the point of keeping my ‘special’ clothes for ‘special’ occasions. And let’s face it, when you make your own clothes, everything is at least a little bit special. I do have a few dresses that only come out for a night on the town, but generally, the frosting in my wardrobe cops the brunt of day to day wear.

I have one small wardrobe and I like it this way. I don’t like waste and I don’t like excess. I get good value out of my clothes. I wear them to death or recycle them into other styles or kids clothes when I get bored of them. I do make a lot of clothes, but no more than the average person would purchase from a retail shop. I sometimes think it seems like more because every piece is a bit of a production, whereas in my past life, the dribble of ‘staples’ I purchased (tights, tops, sweaters, t-shirts) were the invisible aspect of my wardrobe. They were bought, wore out, and were replaced by similar if not identical items.

I’m happy to say that I have finally reached a point in my sewing where I can confidently purchase beautiful European and designer fabrics, pretty silks, and the odd bit of Liberty, knowing that I’m not going to ruin it. I don’t have many sewing fails these days (I did a few years ago though!) and if I do, I know I can always turn it into something else. I think this confidence has made me a lot more adventurous with my sewing, and I love that I can clothe my family in fabulous fabrics. 

I have to admit that in the whole scheme of things, I don’t save much money by sewing. If you consider the quality of the individual garments I make, comparable to their RTW counterparts, my savings are huge. But if you are talking about the cost of filling my wardrobe, I don’t. But then again, I still think I’m a little bit better off. I could save a lot more money, but I compensate by purchasing beautiful fabrics that I would otherwise not ever see used in the range of RTW clothing that formed the basis of my past wardrobe.

But all this aside, the wardrobe gap I was filling with this make was that of a simple white shirt. I made myself a man-shirt. I think I last owned such a shirt in the early 90’s (I also owned one in plaid flannel to pair with my 501’s for my ‘grunge’ look back then). I like this one much better!




 

I toyed with the idea of trying out an Archer, but it wasn’t quite the look I was after. I wanted a more oversize, loose fitting shirt. In the end, I hunted down the perfect vintage pattern, McCall’s 8082. And let me tell you, I’m feeling my age when I start calling 1996 a ‘vintage’ year! 
It is a unisex pattern, which bore appeal for me because of the look I was after. This also meant it included sizing for longer man-arms and man-torso. I made the man-length version. It appears that my arms are man-length.

The pattern itself was very straight forward to sew. I’ve sewn several different shirt patterns now as I search for the perfect business shirt for hubby. It claimed to be a 3-hour shirt. Who can sew a business shirt in 3hrs? I can’t. It takes time to fuse interfacing, stitch corners carefully and sew on buttons, or perhaps it just takes me more time because I am busy watching Game of Thrones as I sew…

The only thing I didn’t like about this pattern was the collar and stand. It was a single piece. I enjoyed learning a different, albeit very simple, technique, but I wouldn’t do it this way again. I would make my own separate pieces. I don’t think this is something others would notice, but I do. I just feel that proper shirts should have a collar stand and a collar.

Check out the lovely length of those man-arms! I paired my new man-shirt with my favourite pair of Esther shorts.

 

More Esthers and some extreme Kanerva hacking

 

I’m not going to say much about these Esther shorts. I’ve made them before, here and here. A straight size 8 fits me perfectly with absolutely no modifications, apart from taking a little off the length. This time, I used up my leftover culottes fabric. I struggled a little in getting the grid lines on grain, but it’s near enough to keep me happy. 

 
 

 

But let’s talk about this top. It’s made using a crisp white Italian shirting from Mood. And would you believe that this pattern actually started out as a Kanerva! I’ll be honest though. I basically just used the sleeveless bodice front and back pieces as a block, keeping the length and waist darts the same, but changing everything else about it.

  • adjusted the shoulder slope and moved the seams in towards my neck significantly
  • changed the width of the shoulder seams
  • decreased the bust darts a little
  • converted it to a v-neck
  • changed the shape of the front and back armscye
  • added a self-drafted hi-low peplum
  • faced the neckline and armscye in one
  • added a CF seam for the stitching details, and to enable me to face it properly
CF stitching details. This also helps keep the facing sitting flat.

But it’s my facing that you might be most interested in. Facing it all in one creates a beautifully clean finish on both the armscye and the neckline and eliminates the need to line the top or bind it. I always interface my facing and then understitch before turning it out the right way.

Inside out from the front

Inside out from the back

 I’m super happy with this make. The top is easy-to-wear and perfect for slipping on in summer. I love the cool crispness of white cotton. And you already know how much I’m loving my Esthers this season. I can see myself getting some good wear out of this outfit in the coming months. 



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!

 
 
 

Vogue 8909: Ralph Lauren fancy pant trackie dacks

So I purchased this lovely Ralph Lauren wool suiting from MOOD, stuck it in the machine for a pre-wash and eeek….it lost it’s pristine, smooth finish. I was devastated! I ironed it and ironed it, and it improved quite a bit, but not to the extent that I would like. What on earth was I thinking?!

Luckily, the fabric wasn’t completely ruined, and I’m that hopeful it might still come up better after a dryclean. I did notice as I was sewing it, that with hotter pressing it improved more, but I’m always so scared of scorching fabrics (given my history!), particularly this white wool, that has a tiny bit of elastane in it.

Because of the slight stretch this wool has, I though it would be perfect for a pair of fancy pant trackie dacks. I might have stolen a little inspiration ok shamelessly copied them from Nikki of Beaute jádore. I used Vogue 8909, the same pattern I used for my leather jogging pants last year. I was originally going to make a Tokyo jacket with this wool, but I switched to neoprene for the Tokyo jacket instead. I haven’t blogged about the Tokyo jacket yet but there are some photos on my Instagram. Likewise, I must point out that I am NOT blogging about the Camilla cami you see in the photo. Well, not in this post anyway. I’ve specifically made it for an outfit I’ve planned for week 4 of Indie Month so I will be holding off to blog about it then.

 
 

V8909 is a tried and true pattern for me now. I like the fit. They are comfortable pants. The only thing I need to adjust is the length. These jogging pants are designed to be slightly cropped, which makes them more like pedal pushers on me. I’m not exactly sure how much I lengthened these by in total since I altered an already altered (leather pants) pattern, but I suspect I may have added about 4.5″ to the longer version. I also partially lined them in china silk.


Unfortunately, the wool is a little less opaque than I thought, and I can see the outline of the lining underneath them. I should have made my lining longer, but I think I can get over this.

 
 
So once again, I’ve opted for an out-of-season make. But I do think these pants are pretty versatile, especially if we have any more cool Spring days. Does anyone else suffer from such an affliction, perhaps making strapless frocks in the dead of Winter or sewing coats in a heatwave?

Matching up another pair of Esthers

When I hear the name Esther, I always think of Madonna and how she chose this as her Kabbalah name (probably more than 10 years ago now!). I just thought I’d throw that useless fact in before I started talking about the shorts.

These are actually my second pair of Esther shorts, a rather new Tessuti pattern. I haven’t blogged about my first pair yet since they were planned for the last week of Indie Month. Being my second pair, these ones are also my best. I made a straight size 8 and just took a few inches off the length.

 
 

 

I’m not usually a fan of shorts. I haven’t worn them for years, and yet over the past six months, I’ve made a pair of Rite of Spring, some culottes, and now two pairs of Esthers! Times are a changing!

I love these shorts. They are flattering, comfortable and so easy to make. Cotton sateen works beautifully for the design. I like the slight stretch for the fit and comfort it provides. The fabric I used was a new Tessuti fabric. I’m pretty sure it’s still available, and in another colourway too. 

The top was self drafted by draping on my new Alice. I’m not entirely happy with this top. It will do for now, but I can do better. I think the ease needs a bit of tweaking in spots.