Win Some, Lose Some

Not everyone of my projects ends up being absolutely awesome, I have to say. Some things are just a little ordinary and maybe I should write about them too, in the interests of passing on what I have learnt.

This tunic started life as a cover-up for plane travel. Australians are cursed with very long flights if we want to go anywhere but New Zealand, and achieving any sort of comfort is not easy in cattle class. The cotton seersucker I used does not crush and is light and breathable. Planes are often hot, especially when the airline wants you to sleep, and the air is invariably extremely dry. Having a cowl around my face to breathe into saves my air passages from becoming dried out and vulnerable to infection, and a light cover over any exposed skin stops the rest of me from turning into a prune.

There was no real pattern, only a very large square, with dropped shoulders to just about my elbows, and sleeves starting from there. As much as I used to love wearing a tent, these days that seems a tent pole too far. But the tunic had also been very useful in previous years as a light cover when the days are warm enough for short sleeves or even sleeveless, but the mornings are still cool. So instead of keeping it only for travel and make something new to better fit my now preferred silhouette, I decided to fiddle with it, taking out volume and making the dropped shoulders less extreme.

I liked the result a lot, that is until I saw these photos. Funny how some things look so much better in the mirror! I don’t mind looking short and round instead of long and lean, but judging from the photos the wide hem across my hips doesn’t do me any favours, at least not when the black underneath highlights it as it does. Maybe it will look better over a light coloured top, must remember that next time I wear it.

The cowl is quite long and I think would look better just collapsing into itself rather than being rolled like in the photo. That just makes the whole top look even more chunky.

On the upside, my new haircut looks rather good, which is a win. I can take the tunic off, but the hair is more permanent, at least until it grows again. After 15 years of a more or less shoulder length bob I took the plunge and went short, sort of by degrees, but the latest iteration is really really short! I must say I love how easy it is to maintain, because I have quite thick hair and when it is long it takes forever to blow dry. With this cut I just blow it about with the hair dryer for a couple of minutes after towelling it off, without even using a brush or trying to shape it, then brush through it and I am ready to go. How good is that!

I was lucky to find a hairdresser who doesn’t object to someone my age still wanting to look as good as I can, and was prepared to put some effort into making it happen. Worth his weight in gold, that man. For anyone in Sydney, allow me to recommend Ambrogio in Crows Nest. I am in no way affiliated, just a happy customer.

This is the photo on Pinterest that inspired my latest look. Doesn’t she look great!

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The Tessuti Iris Dress

I finally got around to buying and making the Iris dress, after my first attempt at it using the Eva as a base and winging it from there. Of course it is the depth of winter now, so linen and sleeveless wasn’t going to cut it. Fortunately I found some Ponte in a suitable colour combination (always a problem!) at a sale, for a winter friendly version.

The actual Iris turned out to be a bit more slimline than my fudged version, and as much as I like the extra volume in a light batik for summer, I do love the more neat and trim version in Ponte. There are other differences too, the lower skirt is wider (I think I had lack of fabric issues with the batik) and the bodice seems a little longer, — not to mention the long sleeves and cowl!

For those who want to know, all the sewing details are on PatternReview.

The StyleArc Maisie Dress

Well, this is a prime example that first impressions can be deceiving. I remember a lot of scoffing online when the pattern first came out, fellow sewists saying how ridiculous it looked. I wasn’t so sure, I thought I could see potential, but the fabric combo of the example put me right off.

I have to confess at this point that I have zero talent when it comes to combining fabrics, especially if this involves prints. I have seen some beautiful examples, created by other people, that I would be thrilled to wear, but my own efforts in that direction have never even made it to the cutting out stage. And so the Maisie was tucked away somewhere in the back of my mind, percolating with the rest of my creative maybe-one-day ideas.

That was until I had bought some Ponte and was looking for a pattern to make this into the type of cocoon dress Rundholz does so well. And as much as I love the Tessuti Eva and Iris, I wanted something new freshen up my small, carefully curated, sure-to-work TNT dress pattern collection.

So I had another look at the Maisie, ignoring the fashion drawing and zooming in on the line drawing. Forget the two colours, I thought, and certainly forget the print and plain combo, the bones are good. Really, really good. The only doubt I had was whether the bodice would be a little long on me, but I decided to cut as per pattern. Lopping a few cm off later is relatively easy, adding on much less so. Looking at the photos, shortening the bodice by 3-4cm is probably worth a try next time.

I toyed with the idea of piping the angled horizontal seams, but simple is much more my style. Topstitching is quite enough as a decorative accent.

The round neck is just right for a blue silk scarf, or one of my blue gemstone necklaces, picking up the tiny blue slubs in the dark grey Ponte.

So here it is, the Maisie in an almost plain fabric, with and without a big infinity scarf and one of my me-made necklaces.

Katherine Tilton Top

I just love the Tilton sisters’ patterns, they are right up my sewing alley. Although this Vogue 8690 by Katherine has been in my stash for a while, it is now OOP and I only just got around to making it. I think it was the V neck that stopped me from making it sooner. I know lots of people like V necks, but I somehow avoid them like the plague. Not sure why, I suppose it’s one of my idiosyncrasies. Being a sewist means I don’t have to put up with anything I don’t like.

Anyway, July and the beginning of August are the coldest time here, doesn’t last long, only around 6 weeks, but it always makes me want to make some quilted tops for warmth. This off-white one is this year’s effort, made with a quilted viscose bought the last time I managed to get to a fabric market in Germany. Keeps me nice and toasty while the temps are down.

The shape of the V8690 is a nice variation on the big Lagenlook top with its side vents. I put a bit of extra volume into the back, and got rid of that pesky V neck. The dead of winter needs a big cowl to keep me warm. ๐Ÿ™‚

I am wearing it with my favourite pencil skirt, a Bengaline tube with only one seam at the back, a yoga foldover top and a coverstitch hem. Can’t get any simpler.

Ikat dress

It’s been a hot summer and even though we are well into March now the heat doesn’t seem to want to let up. The ikat I bought in Bali last time I was there is ideal for these sort of temperatures, apart from being a gorgeous handmade treasure.

There are, however, some design restrictions with this type of fabric, because it is made on a traditional loom and it is therefore only 100cm wide, with a border on both selvages. I opted for the same pattern as for my last ikat dress, a sleeveless empire bodice with a pleated long skirt, because it shows this gorgeous fabric off beautifully and the loose style is so comfortable in the heat.

I have had the pattern I used for the bodice for donkeys years, bought second hand for 50c and it is certain to be no longer available, so I can’t recommend a specific pattern. But any bodice without bust darts and with straight sides would probably do the trick. I have used the bodice of the Eva dress before, straightening the curved bottom edge and making it around 37-40 cm long, including the 4cm flange that hides the top of the pleats. I flipped it partially up in the photo below so you can see.

An undarted bodice generally has enough ease to get on and off without a closure, but if you are more generously endowed you might need bust darts, in which case you might also need to make the back of the bodice in two parts with buttons, or put a zipper in the side seam. The sewing details are on PatternReview.

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The Scarlett Syndrome

Scarlett O’Hara in ‘Gone with the Wind’ is not the only one who can make the most out of a curtain. I have always found home dec fabrics to be a treasure trove of opportunities, especially for interesting jackets, but really for any garment that needs a bit more structure and a heavier gauge. Furnishing silks, cottons and linens all have found their way into my wardrobe over the years and have been very happy there. With fashion fabric becoming scarce, home dec can really expand your options.

This top is a bit of a twist on that theme, not only is it made from curtain fabric, but from curtain fabric that matches my new kitchen. IKEA clearly liked the design so much that they made it into yardage (metrage?) as well as laminate meant for kitchen backsplash panels. You may remember these from my blog post when we were doing our reno.

Well, here is what it looks like as a garment, though a bit more green than blue toned, which is a photographic quirk.

After my tunic mania in the last couple of years I wanted to make something decidedly anti-tunic. Short but still boxy and oversized, and I thought the Tessuti Mandy Boat neck tee pattern, minus the sleeves might fit the bill as a starting point.

The body pattern pieces have a tiny cut on sleeve stub to allow you to set the sleeve in flat, which you can’t see in the line drawing above. I had to widen this quite a bit, as it was narrow on the original even for a stretch knit. A woven doesn’t have the same sort of give in it, plus my upper arms may be a tad larger than the model’s. Around 40cm circumference is about right for me, plus I added fold back cuffs. If you are interested in the nitty-gritty of the sewing, the details are on PatternReview.

For those of you who don’t want the hassle of fiddling around adapting a pattern, there are a few offerings around by indie companies, one of them the Bo Top by Seamwork.

I have not tried this pattern and am in no way affiliated with the pattern company, but it looks very similar, with the sleeves a fair bit wider perhaps.

The Mandy pattern is a bit too long to perfectly suit this variation, and I had to make a large second hem to bring it up to high hip level. I think it looks better shorter, but you be the judge comparing the first and second photo below.

The pants I am wearing are Vogue 8712 by Marcy Tilton, my favourite pattern, although I have never blogged about them because slouchy black pants don’t photograph at all well. For a better idea of what they look like than I can produce, here are the pattern photos.

These pants have an Oska-type look and are a great supporting cast for almost everything. I make them using Australian bengaline, which is the best pants fabric ever, doesn’t wrinkle, bag or pill and the stretchiness of the bengaline makes them superbly comfy to wear. The addition of a yoga waistband raises the comfort level to maximum, and also keeps my midriff covered when worn with such a short top.

From Eva to Iris

I might have mentioned before that the Eva dress by Tessuti is one of my all time favourites. I have been sewing it for years and one of the summer versions I made a few years ago needed replacing.

I have seen the Eva made up successfully in prints, but I think it is best suited to plain fabric to show off the top stitched seams. I had some medium weight linen marinating in my stash that fit the bill nicely. It is a light-ish indigo, just a little more purple than a straight dark blue. I pretty much love all shades of purple, especially the more subtle ones. Purple suits redheads almost as much as grey.

So here is the result.

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eva

 

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If you are interested in the sewing details, they are on PatternReview.

On a roll, I decided I wanted another summer dress. It is so hot at the moment and dresses are definitely the coolest option for work wear. Cotton batik is a superb choice for hot weather, cool and not as high maintenance as linen can be, and I had a lovely piece that I bought as a remnant from a roll of sheeting. It was only 85cm, but 2.8m wide, so enough for a dress. I would have been tempted to make another Eva, as the painterly batik was different enough to the plain linen not to be too obvious, and with the flowing colours there was no problem with an awkwardly chopped up print, but unfortunately the Eva is a little fabric hungry and there was no way to cut it efficiently from such a narrow and long piece.

So I had a look for a pattern I could use, and found the Iris dress, which is a variation of the Eva.

iris

The bodice looks the same, but the skirt only has one horizontal seam. A four-piece skirt produces less fabric waste than one with eight, and as I am rather keen on bubble shapes at the moment it was settled.

Unfortunately I had not planned ahead, and had taken my printer to work. I was far too lazy to go in just to print off the pattern. What to do? I thought I could modify the Eva pattern enough to make the Iris, which is probably what Tessuti had done in the first place.

Bad idea! I did get there is the end, but it took me a lot longer than it would have with a proper pattern. For a start I sewed the bottom skirt piece in upside down, not the end of the world but I only discovered this after I had overlocked and top stitched the seams. Both front and back! Unpicking long seams with multiple rows of stitching is only recommended if you like boring hand work and have oodles of time you want to kill. ๐Ÿ™‚

The second problem was that I made the bodice with too much ease. This was ok with the Eva dress, because it is quite long and the proportions are different. Even though the Eva is a bubble, it is not particularly voluminous. The Iris bubble is wider before it goes back in, as the top half of the skirt flares out more because it is longer, at least it is in my version. I would be interested to know if this is the case with the Tessuti pattern as well, so I will be buying it to have a look. Judging by the pictures, my bottom skirt piece is narrower, making the dress shorter. This was due to fabric constraints, but I quite like the shorter look.ย  Unfortunately it all added up to make the silhouette quite square, courtesy of the loose bodice on top of everything else. So more unpicking. I took a total of 7cm out of the bodice width, quite a lot, but it now looks much better. I can still get it on and off without a closure, always good news as far as I am concerned.

I ditched the short sleeves I had been toying with, again because they made the top of the dress look too wide. I think a deep U neckline might have helped make the bodice look less square, but I had already finished it with a self bias and I had well and truly enough of unpicking. The original Iris pattern had a little stand up collar which I rather like, but I have so many necklaces that I feel I need lots of clothes with plain round necklines to get some wear out of all this jewellery.

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A Bubble Dress

Now that I feel that I have done Lagenlook to death, I am casting around for a new style. Time to experiment a bit! My latest is the StyleArc Eme dress, rather a change for me because, even though it is still oversized, it is much shorter than my usual length. Just below the knee. Gulp.

bubble dress

 

I do like it. I had planned to wear this with leggings, but decided to be brave and just go ahead the way it is. I felt totally comfortable with the shorter length, a bit of a first for me. The only thing that makes me hesitate is that I am rather used to tight-ish fitting bodices and this one is very loose. I cut the size according to the StyleArc size chart, but I still feelย I could go down a size. Or two.

It could be that I need to acclimatise to the change. What do you think? I might wear it for Christmas, it certainly is roomy enough to accommodate an enormous lunch, and see what the fashion police, aka DD has to say. If it is a thumbs down it would be really easy to take in the underarm and side seam a little. Or a lot, depending.

Your candid comments would really be appreciated.

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The sewing nitty-gritty is as usual on PatternReview.

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Several months later
I did take it in and here is what it looks like now. Not sure if it was worth it, but I am still wearing it. The left is before and the right is the after shot. I think maybe I should have taken it in over the hips too, not just the bodice. It’s not too late, there might be a next iteration!

.bubble dressbubble dress

bubble dress

The Hazelwood Top

After wearing pretty much only tunics for quite some time I seem to have developed an interest in short tops. From one extreme to the other, I suppose. Not sure though if the love is being returned, as my rear end is somewhat generous and a short top does nothing to hide that. But I have been looking for a bit of a change and it definitely is that. So when I came across the Tessuti Hazelwood top I thought I would give it a go.

 

The skinny jeans are not my style, being a pronounced pear they definitely don’t do me any favours, as much as I like the look on others. But I thought that my wider, Oska style pants might be quite a good combination.

What possessed me to leave off the cowl I really do not know, it was one of the things that attracted me to the pattern in the first place. Fortunately I block printed some extra fabric to give me the option of adding the cowl later and I think I will. It needs a little more oomph, probably because the tunics I am used to wearing have a lot more of a ‘presence’ visually, almost like a dress, but a short top is just that, a top and pants. That has much less of the appearance of a complete outfit, and adding a jacket is not an really option. almost too hot right now and it is not going to get any colder as we go into summer.

What I do like is the block print though.

For the print I re-used a block I already had, so that was a quick and easy job. Here is the top I made the first time I used this block.

Block-Printed Toni

The StyleArc Toni Designer dress is one of my favourite patterns, although I dispense with the collar and pare it down to its basic silhouette. I have posted about other versions of this dress here, here and here.

This time I wanted to make a long sleeve version, using a lovely cotton jersey that would be a great canvas for a bit of block printing. I used the same motif as for this t-shirt, except for mirroring it into a sort of abstract leaf shape.

I am very happy with the design, although the actual execution leaves a bit to be desired. This is due to the nature of block printing, where every print looks somewhat different and none of them are perfect, most with random bits where the ink didn’t quite cover. This is unlike stencilling which has a more solid application of the ink, but is more difficult to use on large areas such as a nearly maxi dress. Still, the block print seen as a whole doesn’t look too bad and close up the unevenness of the prints has a certain artisan charm. You can tell it hasn’t been done by a machine, at least that’s my story and I intend to stick to it. ๐Ÿ™‚

But looking at the photos, I really ought to slim down the width of the bodice a bit, when I compare it to the dark grey version below, which has a more pleasing overall shape, because it looks quite tight below the bust and only flares out from there.

The two dresses are actually cut identical, but the lighter grey jersey is not as drapey as the darker. Or is it the large print that makes the difference? It has been a truism as long as I can remember that large scale prints are only for the super-skinny, but aesthetically I just like large prints so much better than small ones. It is a trade-off, but fortunately seeking to look as slim as possible is no longer my top priority when designing my clothes. Still, there is scope to slim done the bodice, and I will try it as soon as i can find the time and see if it will do the trick.

To get a winter version of the Toni, I combined it with my TNT t-shirt pattern, the Burda Lydia, for the upper part of the bodice and also used the long sleeves from that pattern. The sewing details are on PatternReview.