Pattern: Ogden Cami by True Bias. Skirt is my own design.
Introducing my first Fall sewing project. I’ve also been wearing this dress quite a bit already (even though the weather is hardly Fall-like yet here in KC).
The pattern I used is the Lois Dress pattern by Tessuti Fabrics. I made very few changes to the pattern, only altering it a little to fit my shape. My body measurements aren’t that well aligned with Tessuti Patterns sizing. My bust is two sizes larger than my hips and waist, and is mostly due to my back width rather than cup size. Technically, I also should have graded it down a third size for the hips but I try to avoid such a big difference between top and bottom, or err on the side of more ease around my hips. I learnt a long time ago, that trying to fit a body too perfectly can sometimes exaggerate or emphasize body shape, or in particular the imbalances that we all have (imbalances are good and normal by the way!). I don’t particularly like looking like a triangle with broad shoulders and slim hips, so if I’m making a dress, I’ll fit my shoulders more precisely, and allow a bit of extra movement or ease around the hips to give the illusion of a bit more size there.
I made my usual shoulder seam alteration. I add about 5/8″ to the width of these seams on both sides. I also added a front seam (as my fabric was a little narrow) and about two inches to the length of the dress. The bodice V-neck probably sits a little higher on me because of my height. The under bust seam and waist seam also probably sits a little higher and tighter than it is intended (because it sits higher it catches my rib cage and lats a little), but I actually really love the fit at this level. What I will change next time is the side darts, which are ingeniously positioned to incorporate a side zipper. I think I will try lengthening them a little to hit my hips at a more true position for me.
The fabric that I used for this pattern is thrifted Liberty of London. I picked it up at an Estate sale a few years ago. It even came with a sew-on Liberty tag. I think it is a wool blend, possibly lantana. I’m super happy with how this dress turned out. I plan on layering it up in Winter to wear to work. I also can’t wait to sew this pattern again, but in a lovely drapey silk next time!
I know I should sit on my competition entries like everyone else, but it’s like sitting on a hot potato, especially since I couldn’t wait to get started on this one. It’s finished, photographed, and I’ll be squeezing in as many wears as possible before Fall, so I figured I might as well share it! The inspiration came from THIS dress that I posted on my IG account a few weeks ago.
As soon as I saw the ivory lace, I knew exactly what I wanted to make with it. The only problem was that the rules stated that no trims could be used and that the outer fabric of the garment had to be made entirely of the competition fabric, and in a single colourway only. That was a big problem. The contrasting black trim against the ivory lace was the element that I most liked about my inspiration dress.
It took me a bit of thinking to come up with a solution, and a LOT of hand-stitching post construction. However, I found a way to keep all my black trim to the underside of the lace fabric and in a manner that I could reverse in the future. With the trim kept to the inside, the contrast is muted through the lace, but still visible as a subtle feature.
This is a post about my competition dress. I will share more pictures one day after I have unpicked all my handiwork to reveal the black trim again.
I designed this dress using a combination of flat pattern-making and draping. I tried very hard to design a bodice that would be low cut (and slightly shaped) in the back, yet with straps that would conceal my favourite bra. I think I did a pretty good job.
I also tried to position the lace in such a way as to avoid lining the bodice. I wanted the dress to show glimpses of skin through the lace rather than lining. But I also didn’t want the dress to be too revealing. The bodice isn’t lined at all but the ruffle provides a little extra coverage. The skirt has a short lining. I couldn’t quite manage to place the lace of the skirt in such a way that would cover my bottom completely.
The lining I used for the skirt is an ivory/beige coloured acetate. I gathered the lining in my dress rather than pleating it because I wanted to add a bit more bulk through the skirt. And that is the beauty of sewing your own clothes. My hips are narrower than my shoulders and this difference gets a little more pronounced the fitter I get so a gathered lining in the skirt helps me achieve an illusion of filling it out better and having a more hourglass figure. (I blame Pokemon, the Olympics, and active kids for getting me out running and swimming laps everyday this Summer!).
I made the straps using wide, black, foldover elastic (FOE). The gathered sleeves are sandwiched between the fold and then the entire length of the elastic is stitched down to create an enclosed strap. I used a very strong/stable FOE. Too much stretch would have made for weak straps, but a little bit of firm stretch and a lightning stitch creates very comfortable and strong shoulder straps.
The sharp contrast of black against ivory in the shoulder straps was what my heart desired, but I compromised by using it as a strap lining instead. I created lace tubes to cover those black elastic straps and hand-stitched them in place. I’ll remove those lace tubes at a later date.
I also encased the edges of the lace ruffle in black, self-made, silk binding. I then turned that trim to the underside and hand-stitched it in place. I like that I can still see a glimpse of the black through the lace. To cover the very edges of the black binding (near the neckline and CB zipper), I cut tiny squares of the competition fabric and appliqued them over the visible binding. The result is a dress with outer fabric made completely of the competition lace.
I’m so pleased with how this dress turned out. I will definitely enjoy wearing it during the last few weeks of Summer. Meanwhile, there’s still plenty of time to enter the competition and if you don’t like ivory lace, there is also red and black to choose from. I have less than a full panel remaining of my ivory lace, but I think I’ve just worked out a way to scrapbust it into another little frock!
Aghhhh, I’m so rough on clothes. I wear all my good clothes. There’s no such thing as “too special to wear” in my closet. Once there was, but now there’s not. If I spend the time and energy to make something nice, I’m definitely going to be out there wearing it!
I wear all kinds of fibres, but in Summer, I’m particularly fond of linen and silk crepe de chine. Both of these are pretty hard-wearing. I machine wash and dry most of my clothes (because that is what one does in our neighbourhood). I try to avoid the dryer with my silks but reality means they always end up in there at some point. I’ve completely given up line-drying my kid’s silk garments and the three pairs of silk PJ pants that I own and wear day in, day out (here and here). Silk can be as tough as nails.
So I got complacent. Well, I actually just wore my favourite shirt ALL THE TIME. What did I expect? A cotton shirt isn’t immune to the terror of the underarm deodorant stain, so why did I think my wonderful silk shirt would survive such daily wear? It was good while it lasted.
As you can see below, the discolouration under the arms is beyond horrible. I hated the idea of throwing away all the good work I put into those plackets, and cuffs, and collar… so I decided to cut it away as much as I could (about 0.5 inches below the bottom armscye seam to be precise). I didn’t dare cut away anymore because I knew doing so would bring the armscye down too low. I cut away a bit more at the top shoulder seam so the sleeveless top would have a nice shape. My plan was to wear a nice, sporty bandeau style bra underneath and treat the low armscye as a design feature.
I salvaged the bias binding from the undamaged portions of the sleeves. There’s still a tiny bit of stain at the bottom of the armscye but most of it was concealed with the binding. Otherwise, any remaining stain is mostly hidden by the natural position of my arm.
It turned out that the low armscye wasn’t as bad as I expected. The most bra that could be seen in any of my photos was in this one. I can deal with this. Long live my revived silk Archer!
I’ve been wanting to make a shirt dress for a long time and this competition gave me the perfect opportunity to do so. I was also lucky that my first dress required a lot less fabric than anticipated. In the end, I had the perfect amount for both dresses, and not a thread to spare.
I used a vintage pattern (McCall’s 6429) which I’ve used before to make a silk playsuit. This time I followed the pattern almost to the tee. My only change was to adjust for my broad-back with a 5/8th inch wedge to the top CB (and of course adjust the collar to match this change). I also lengthened the bottom hem by about 13 inches.
The dress is of a raglan style with short cuffed sleeves and inseam pockets. The waist is pulled in with a self-fabric belt tie. The centre front is faced and most of the inside seams have been serged. I achieved smooth buttonholes on the silk CDC by using a lightweight fusible interfacing and tearaway Vilene between the facing and the fabric. I find lightweight interfacing on its own not enough to preventing buttonhole puckers in silk, and yet I didn’t want to go heavier with the interfacing as it would weigh down and affect the drape of my silk too much. The tearaway Vilene worked a treat. I imagine tissue paper could have worked too.
The biggest challenge with this dress was the sheer length of the pieces. I’m 5″10 and the dress is floor length on me. There isn’t a separate bodice and skirt. The bodice extends all the way to the bottom hem. That’s a good 60 inches of shifty silk that I had to line up and control for each seam. My cutting mat is pretty big, but not that big!
I’m so happy with this dress. It’s light and floaty, and it feels beautiful to wear. It’s also a very versatile addition to my wardrobe. I like it long right now, but I could potentially shorten it in the future to become an easier daytime staple. I have no problem wearing silk for school pick ups but I might need to do up an extra button ;-).
I definitely prefer to make most of my clothes, particularly garments for special occasions. However, I also love to treasure hunt at estate sales. I always take a peek at the clothes, but it takes something a little bit special to tempt me. I can sometimes be lured by extra large sizes in unique fabrics/textiles (useful for cutting up), and pieces that have refashioning potential. I can also be tempted by sparkles.
This vintage, beaded, sequined dress is one of my best finds to date. The lining is silk, and the beads are layered over sequined fabric. It’s not a brand that I recognise but I can see that a lot of care and detail has gone into it’s construction. It’s not a perfect fit on me either, but it’s probably as close as I would ever get in RTW, and well disguised by the busy embellishment anyway.
Dress: vintage // Choker: made by me (velvet ribbon) // Shoes: Derek Lam
I’d like to spend a little time talking about darts. We’ve all sewn them at one time or another. They’re not difficult to sew and there are probably many ways to do them. I’m by no means an expert and I can’t promise that I won’t have any dart disasters in the future. I just know what I like and what I don’t. So I’m going to share a few pictures that I’ve come across lately that got me thinking about this topic in the first place. And then I’ll show you a little trick that I keep in mind when I sew darts.
Exhibit 1: This interesting jacket by Noon by Noor. It’s a sneak peak of their upcoming collection that they shared on Instagram. I usually love seeing their designs, but I just can’t look past those darts. Am I missing something here? Maybe they are a design feature? All I can see is that they are oddly positioned for this girl and stretched out like nipples.
Exhibit 2: Dart-gate. Prada allowed poor Anne Hathaway to wear this dress a few years ago. Those dart lines are so straight. They’re like a big sign pointing to her nipples. Although, when I started sewing, this was how I sewed all my bust darts, because that was what the pattern said to do. I think there’s a better way.
Exhibit 3: This recent pattern from Seamwork. I’m including this shot because it’s a problem I often face as a smaller busted lady and I particularly dislike the look of darts on an unfitted top. I feel like the whole point of darts is to shape a curve and when there is already excess ease, that shaping is unnecessary and unattractive. This woman is clearly too small and perky for the size of blouse. She could probably do without the darts completely. I’m not going to comment on the odd shape of them. I suspect the fabric may have been quite tricky/slippery to sew with.
Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow is responsible for coming up with the Top Five initiative. I try to take part each year because it is a great way for me to reflect on the things that worked and the things that didn’t. Sometimes there are a few surprises in my hits and misses (ahem…last year’s leather skirt).
Each year, I’ve noticed how my sewing evolves in relation to my skill level. I used to sew a lot of staples like knit T’s, dresses, and leggings, but this doesn’t bring me as much joy anymore. Having said that though, I’m having a blast sewing up a bunch of slightly quirky sweaters, trackies, and togs for the Christmas stockings right now. But in general, I’ve been steering away from the quick makes and spending more time on projects that require more involvement, and teach me things along the way. My hits are largely reflective of this focus.
1. My PDF sewing patterns
Sewing is both a hobby and an art for me. I’m not content to just make clothes. I want to be constantly learning and challenging myself. That was where the idea of digitising patterns entered the picture. It started at a time when I’d somehow sewn all the clothes my family needed so learning to digitise patterns became a great way for me to expand my knowledge in patternmaking and grading. I especially wanted to get a proper handle on accurate grading because with three girls and myself under the one roof, I was anticipating times in the future when a design for one of us would require grading another three ways!
I spent several months over the Summer completely immersed in patternmaking and grading theory. As a result, I managed to produce seven quality PDF sewing patterns that I’m extremely proud of.
The clothes that I made from those patterns were hits too (which was why I went about digitising them in the first place). For me, it was the summer of Branson and Sea Change tops, Wonderland skirts, and Splash Swimsuits. For my girls, Cartwheel shorts and Daisy Chain tops became their daily school uniform and the Twirl-to-Me dress was reserved for weekends and parties. It was the complete capsule wardrobe for us all! I don’t have any immediate plans to make more sewing patterns. If I see a gap in the pattern market and fall in love with another unique design that translates into a wearable item, I may feel inspired to develop it further. Only time will tell.
I made this coat last Winter, but oh how I love it so! It’s my go-to coat at the moment and feels a lot like wearing a big cozy blanket. As we head towards the deep freeze, it is understandably my favourite make for the year.
3. Grey knit dresses
I liked the idea of a snuggly wool dress so much that I made two. One was refashioned from an old top and drop waist dress. The other was made from scratch. I wear them both a lot.
I’m sneaking two makes in here as hits for 2015 (because I used the same fabric). I can do that can’t I?
And of course I had some scraps leftover to make this:
I took my time making both the tailored coat and the skirt. I can see things about them that I will do better next time, but I’m sill very proud of both. I don’t often look twice at the clothes my family wears because they mostly wear clothes made by me. However, that coat has me stopping and smiling to myself every time I see it.
I made this bomber jacket way back in January with the leftover scraps from my Dior coat and wide leg pants (all of which were major hits, but the latter two were made in 2014). I’ve been wearing the bomber a great deal lately. It dresses up a simple sweater and black leather pants perfectly, and being soft and lightweight, I can easily layer it with my leather blocked coat on super frosty days.
Honourable mention // All things tiger print
This year I purchased the license to an awesome tiger photo and printed myself some fabric using Spoonflower. To say my middle child is partial to animal prints would be an understatement. My plan was to make her some tiger gear through the year as a special surprise, but I was soon swamped by other requests, including a cycling jersey for the husband and the leotard you see below. I’ve also just made some Christmas sweaters for my girls using up the leftover sports pique (here , here, and here). And there’s a pair of bathers currently on the cutting table for Miss Seven.
I had a truly fabulous sewing year and I’m looking forward to continuing on my learning curve in 2016. I hope you guys will join me! x