Out of Season

This is a summer garment even though where I am it’s now very much winter. Sometimes a length of cloth states so firmly what it wants to be, that one may as well just make it up. The last three times I opened the stash cupboard, this linen said “Ahem, I will be a summer shift dress please. See, I’m a lovely cool open weave in calm, cool colours. Really. You can even use that bodice pattern you are so keen on right now” *. So, I did as it said. I pressed the cloth and cut it out. Laid it aside while I had a lovely house guest. Then made it up over the last couple of days.

Yes, that’s the same bodice as the last few dresses, only this time with no darts and with the side seam angled out to dress cloth width (~112cm). Shirt tail hem. The front has a shaped facing and front slit for visual interest. The back has a deep, lined yoke with a centre seam. This way, the whole thing could be sewn by machine, using the turn-through-the-shoulder method. The neckline and shoulder seam have straight grain tape stabilising them. I’ve used no interfacing otherwise. That back pleat was not intended. I stuffed up when cutting the back yoke and forgot to angle out those short sides so I lost a little width. Oh well, the pleat looks good anyway.

. .

I did put some care into placement of the huge checks. There wasn’t quite enough fabric to allow full matching of the checks front to back. However it did work if I inverted the back skirt piece and matched the white stripe. Neater than no matching at all anyway.


I won’t normally make pretend things on garments. Closures that don’t open, buttons that don’t fasten, pocket type trim without actual pockets. I broke my rule. These buttons are simply sewn on to close the slit and look pretty. It just seemed the thing that would lift what would have otherwise been a more boring garment.


So now this fabric is happy and has stopped yelling at me, I can move on to the next thing.

*no, fabric doesn’t really talk to me. Not out loud anyway. It does seem to be opinionated at times though :-).

Collar Issues

Sometimes it is brought home to me that I’m not as good at this game as I’d like to be.

This poor shirt has been lying part made, crunkled into a ball, since early January. The fabric is vintage Liberty Tana, bought from a shirt making firm closing down their Melbourne city workshop. I had wanted to make a fully classic shirt, including two part collar. I didn’t have such a collar to match my current shirt pattern, so I used one from my previous shirt pattern. I thought I’d checked the seam lengths, but it still ended up a couple of centimetres short. Boo. Once I’d convinced myself I couldn’t make it work, I threw a minor hissy fit, unpinned the failed collar and put the shirt bits aside. For months as it turned out.


Today, I decided that I would at least drape the constructed body/yoke on me to try to see what was going on. Aha. The neckhole is way too big. Why did I not see that before? It doesn’t look too bad in this pic, but that is the cut edge, not where the seam will end up lying.


Given the neck edge was already clipped, I decided to revert to a narrow straight cut collar. Sad. Not what I wanted, but I’ve learned something.


See, too big. Pretty colours though:


I did at least make my first set of proper cuffs for ages, narrowed to better go with the narrow band collar. Also, my theory about making one of the wrist pleats a continuation of the sleeve crease seems to work. Hurrah. I thought that would make neat ironing easier.


Here is the whole thing:


and a sexier, more insouciant pose


FFF 2017 #2

Folk (music) Festival Fashion, second garment for this year.

I’m a fan of Indian block printed cotton, but it’s pretty hard to come by. Especially as yardage. Even in finished garments I don’t see it often locally these days. I’m also fond of circle skirts, as you might have noticed. So when I found some Indian printed cotton bedspreads with circular patterns on sale cheaply, I jumped in and bought one.


It’s lighter weight fabric than I was hoping for, but the colours are lovely. I decided to make a loose dress that would also function as a pinafore/over dress. I started by cutting as large a circle as possible from the cloth. Then cut a bodice from the corners. Because of the limited fabric, it had to have seams front and back. Then I proceeded to make a series of changes and errors, all involving those centre seams! Silly me. I ended up with a bodice that fit, but which had only a tiny seam allowance centre front, which needed something applied to support it. I was struggling for a solution, until I remembered that I had yet to cut out the centre from the skirt circle. Aha! I could use that circle to both decorate and strengthen the bodice front. I had wanted a lower neckline, but given I’d had to cut the bodice short due to limited fabric, and couldn’t make the functionally decorative circle any smaller, the neckline depth was set.


The bodice is the pattern from the tricksy striped teal dress, only with the vertical darts left out so no fastenings are needed. That way I didn’t have to cut into the circle of the skirt. It’s lined with dark blue linen.

Here it is with the skirt on, all finished.


It’s not the world’s most flattering dress, but it’s comfy and fun and I like it. See the fullness of the skirt.


I’ve put a drawstring in at the base of the bodice, but I may not use it much. I think it looks better loose. Makes me want to twirl and dance.




FFF 2017 #1

That is, Folk (music) Festival Fashion. The first folk music festival I went to, I just wore regular jeans and tshirt type things. When I saw some of the interesting things other people turned up in, I felt like I had missed an opportunity big time. Guess who likes dressing up? So when there is a festival in the offing, I like to make an appropriate new thing or two. This one ticks both the wholemeal and vaguely-other-ethnicity boxes.

As usual, I’m having a “my goodness this fabric is great” moment. Really, I’d buy more of this in lots of colours if I could get it. However, I bought this as a bolt end, also as usual. Sigh. It’s mid weight cotton with a hand loomed sort of look and a relaxed crinkle. Launders and wears beautifully. I haven’t been wearing much brown of late, but this will take me back there a bit at least.

This is a half circle wrap skirt made up of 16 gores. Most are cut as balanced triangles, the end gores are cut with one vertical edge on the straight grain so the end facing/hems will be stable. It even has a pocket.


I’ve broken my usual rule of not doing contrast top stitching in order to add restrained interest, and to lighten the overall dark impression. The implement that makes this achievable neatly? Using my blind hemming foot to guide the top stitching. It works wonderfully well, as long as one can restrain it from running off the guide seam.


Garments with strings are a pain in the laundry. My solution is to make the tie strings detachable as so:


Here is the skirt on, with bonus towel on head:


And here, styled to head into town to an exhibition:


Ticks all the boxes

Long time no post. I hurt my back and I’ve only just managed to set up my computer for standing use.

I decided I wanted a shirt for sun protection while travelling and that none of my existing shirts quite fit the bill. I wanted plain weave, light weight cotton with minimal construction and no trim, so it would dry quickly. A print for preference, to help in not showing dirt and creases. A fabric that dries relatively crease free without ironing would be a bonus. So I made one, in only a few hours. Hurrah. Cut it this morning. Finished without rushing before dinner and with several hours off for a visitor in between.


It’s my current standard shirt pattern in it’s simplest version. Sleeves are just hemmed rather than cuffed. Sleeve hems and button bands are self faced and interfaced, or could be described as simple double fold hems. The collar is interfaced with the same openweave linen I used for the ramie shirt. I’ve cut it a bit shorter than usual so it doesn’t get so sat on and ends up less crushed as a consequence. I’ve also cut the armholes a little deeper (and sleeves wider to match) to minimise sweat transfer (I’ll mostly wear it over a tshirt). With luck I might get a couple days wear out of it between washes? Perhaps. The fabric came from a Clegs boxing day remnant sale. I grabbed it thinking it was Liberty Tana. It’s not, but it’s still very good shirting. Selvage details below. It is beautiful stuff to work with and the tiny scale print is delicate and whimsical. “London Calling” seems to be the name of the print? Makes me smile.


Here’s another close up of the fabric, plus the pretty engraved shell buttons that I felt worked with it.


Horizontal and Vertical

I’ve been wanting a new sleeveless, fitted bodice pattern for ages. Loose garments are easy to make and wear but tend to make us well endowed ladies look even bigger than we are. Patterning fitted things on oneself is annoying, but possible. This is entirely draped from rectangles of cloth. I didn’t want this really closely fitted and certainly not figure altering like some historical styles. So I tried a new technique of patterning only one side, the other held only at the shoulder and under the arm. This allowed me to slip the pattern on and off quickly to make alterations to the pinning. Mark the centres when done and voila. It definitely helps that I’m pretty much symmetrical.


Then I needed to test the pattern. So I cut a white lining to test the fit of the pattern with both sides present. It needed a bit of tweaking, but thankfully only in ways that enabled the lining to be used. Then transfer the changes to the pattern and proceed to choose a fabric for the test garment.

This fabric has been out of the stash cupboard for weeks, begging to be made up, so despite it being one of the pricier pieces in my stash, I decided to be brave and use it. It’s pure cotton in a lovely teal with a white woven lace like stripe and texture in the background. From “The Fabric Store”, who have such lovely things that I’m sometimes tempted into paying more than usual for my fabric, even at sale time. I shell out for the occasional carefully selected piece.


In my enthusiasm to get a test garment made, I forgot all about clever ways to construct a bodice to avoid hand sewing. I had already sewn shoulder and side seams before I remembered that isn’t the most efficient order of operation. So I ended up doing the neckline by machine, turning that out and facing the armholes with self bias tape. Oh well, it got done. The zipper is a recycled vintage one I had in stash. Cotton tape and metal teeth with a lovely clean action.

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I decided to cut the skirt as a half circle, which inspired me to change the direction of the stripe on the bodice so the front is horizontal and the back vertical to match the skirt stripes. Amuses me at least. I’m very happy with the fit, a good shape on my current shape without being tight. There will be a few more versions of this made up soon methinks. I haven’t yet tried to see if it still works with different underwear. Fingers crossed.

IMG_9675-1 IMG_9672-1


Peacock cushion

I dug this pretty peacock out of a bin of $5 fabric scraps at the Laura Ashley warehouse sale last week.


It came home with me, plus a bunch of velvet fabric samples they were selling at 5 for $1 (and a few other things). I’d previously discovered that their cotton/viscose furnishing velvet feels lovely and lasts well.


The unembroidered sections of the peacock piece were floppy loosely woven cotton, whereas the embroidery was stiff. There was also some wrinkling between embroidered bits that I couldn’t press out. So I backed the whole thing with some mid weight cotton/linen and coursely machine quilted the two together, avoiding stitching over the peacock. This gave the floppy bits more body and camouflaged the wrinkly bits by giving all the unembroidered cloth more texture.


The back is pieced from four of the velvet samples and has shiny shell buttons for a closure. The cushion inner is a cut down feather pillow that once belonged to my grandparents. The dimensions match another pillow that I once made to fit on a folding chair, but has since been recovered a couple of times.


Here is the finished thing from the front. Not bad for $5.80 plus some stash and time.


Ivory Silk Handkerchief Hem Dress

I had two thoughts for a frock to go under the velvet tabard. To show up the sheer velvet pattern, it needed to be pale. One thought involved a piece of ice blue silk satin, but the piece I have is small and the idea was still fuzzy. The other idea was to make a sheer ivory georgette shirt dress with a handkerchief hem. I thought I had a greater quantity of the latter fabric, so I went down that path.

This is one of those projects that has evolved as it went on. I had bought a large length of ivory silk georgette from a lady who used to make wedding dresses, eons ago, when I still lived on the other side of the country, >20 years ago now. However, circle skirts take a lot of fabric and I didn’t have the 10m I thought I had. So, the second layer of skirt needed to be made from a different fabric, for which I chose a length of slightly heavier silk crepe. Poetically, that was also bought in the same city, but more recently. Both being crepe means that hopefully, when washed together, they will pull up a similar amount and I might be able to get away with not pressing the dress? Circle skirts are also heavy due to all that fabric, so I decided to make the bodice lined, which makes the whole thing more robust and opaque than I originally intended. The collar and sleeve designs also had to change. The original ideas worked with the skirt hem, but after I realised that fabric didn’t lend itself to deep double fold hems, and even if it did, they would add even more weight to the skirt… I moved to simple zigzag rolled hems, and replaced the planned structured collar and cuffs with bias cut, single layer ‘not-frills’.


The entire thing is made of silk, including stitching thread. The only exceptions are the vintage shell buttons and any residue of polyester thread that I used to ease the not-frills. It came together more quickly and easily than I thought it would. The fabric is floaty but was actually very well behaved. It did seem to behave better if tension was applied to the fabric while stitching. Rather than stretching the fabric, this prevented the stitching from being too tight. It even took machine made buttonholes like a champion.


The bodice is a shortened version of my recent shirt pattern. This jellyfish view shows the collar well:


The skirt is two large squares with a carefully sized circle cut from the middle of each and with the points offset.


It is sized to don by dropping it over my head sans zipper. I’ve put a pair of small tucks in the front and a tie in the back for shaping.


I’m rather too old for ingenue but I’ve wanted a handkerchief hem garment for something like forever. Sigh, contentment.


Here is the whole thing on. I cut the bodice short, to allow for the weight of the skirt. Or so I thought. Not really short enough as it turned out, but it will do.


and with the tabard. Yes I’m giving my party frock plans away. Oh no! Actually, I haven’t decided yet whether I will wear this ensemble or the white frock alone, or proceed to work on the ice blue satin thought. We will see.


Velvet Tabard


I bought this gorgeous chiffon velvet in NZ in a sale, over 18 months ago. I had forgotten about it until I reorganised my fabric stash a bit and separated out all the velvet. Having found it again I was inspired to use it in my annual party dress manufacture. It announced to me quite firmly that it wanted to be a tabard type garment, sort of a long loose waistcoat. This threw me into a tizz because that made me think 1920s and I got it into my head that meant that the garment for underneath would need to be sleeveless, which I wasn’t happy about. Also, the tabard acts as an overgarment, so adding another coat would likely look and feel strange, though a wrap might still work. Thus I got grumpy and “threw it in a corner” (not literally) for a week or so. Then realised that if I set aside the 20s association, I would be more free in design for the underdress. I also thought that a tabard in this lovely stuff could be a generally useful garment for random formal outfits. I’m a bit lacking in formal clothes so that would be welcome.

So here it is. Who’s silly idea was it to design a garment that needed something like 9 metres of facing*? I was a bit shocked when I realised that, but it’s all done now. I’ve just taken a picture over what I happened to be wearing and it looks ok even over that. I rather think it will look better still over a drapey frock with stockings and heels.


The only seams are at the shoulders. The sides are closed only by ties, which I made from silk string, with discreet bling at the ends. The small beads are made from actual bronze metal. I think the larger ones are gold plated brass.


Sigh, yes it does look suspiciously like a sideless surcoat. Incorrigible.

Now I get to work on the underdress.

Edit: Woot! look what just arrived! My new elegant black labels. Well timed! I haven’t run out of the old ones but felt like some variety. First one sewn to a garment within a few hours of landing in the letterbox.


*Facings are double fold straight tape in black cotton poplin. They worked pretty well and because they match the underside of the velvet turn out to be nearly invisible. Certainly easier to work with poplin on velvet than anything slippery, though it was still a fight to seam the facing to the velvet surface. Handsewing the facings down was much easier, though time consuming.

Ramie voile experiment

A couple of years ago, I found what I thought was linen voile at a very cheap price and bought silly amounts of it. Well, silly amounts given it turned out to be ramie rather than linen.  I’d done nothing with it, partly due to the disappointment, mostly due to my very large stash.

Ramie is rather like linen, but more brittle, has very little stretch and can be scratchy. I read that it is also good at resisting bacteria and mould. So some good, some bad, and some people find it too scratchy to tolerate. I don’t know whether I can wear it or not. The only other experience I have sewing ramie was many years ago and disastrous. The fabric was so brittle it was breaking apart as I worked and that project went in the bin. I was very sad, partly to lose the work and the cost of the fabric, partly because it was a beautiful jaquard weave in shiny black.

So to get a feel for how it behaves, I decided to put a simple shirt together, then get through a few cycles of wear and launder. The main fabric is very fine but with much more body than cotton voile. So fine that I wondered what I would use for interfacing. The plain linen I’ve been using lately seemed too heavy, as did the lightest white iron on in stash. So I decided to try strips of what I  think is a linen gauze, that also hasn’t yet been used. Thankfully, it has worked well (to be reviewed after first wash), which is great and lets me be less concerned that there is no cotton organdy in the stash at the moment.


and the obligatory button shot. I do so love shell buttons, especially when they are shiny, and even opalescent.


Well, it is a simple shirt* except that I had an idea for a bold but stealthy self detail.


Any excuse to put trefoils on things. At least one friend would call this an ermine spot though.


*This is of course my original pattern that I adapted for Mama