Hello, Holly Valance {Sew Your Own Ruffle Skirt}

If you’re wondering who the heck Holly Valance is, or if you know who she is and are wondering WTF she has to do with a skirt, allow me to connect the dots for you.

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I was a child of the 80s and had one of those frilly bed skirt things that sat under the mattress and made it really flipping hard to make the bed. Remember those? Tell me you do. I hated that bloody thing. Anyway, it was called a valance (hence the Holly). And now I’ve made one to wear on my body AND I LOVE IT. Look how fun it is!

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I visited the idea for this a while back, but with a wrap skirt and a narrower frill. It was ok, but I didn’t love it. The frill was a bit conservative, the ties felt like they added too much faff and the fit was a bit narrow (which was a fail for side seam pockets), so it wasn’t all that comfortable.

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I got a bit hooked on the idea again when I bought this fabric from Doops Designs. It’s just digital print cotton, about quilting cotton weight so nothing fancy. The print is the stand out though, right? I started browsing RTW for inspo, I knew I wanted something frilly but I didn’t want a wrap skirt this time. Was it possible to have curvy cross over front skirt pieces without the tie bit? Yeah. Although not as common and I couldn’t find a similar sewing pattern (they were all wraps). But I figured, why re-invent the wheel? I have skirt patterns that fit and I have my good old faithful curved waistband that I use a lot.

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I liked the idea of starting the frill up high and more towards the centre front and away from the hip. I also liked the idea of increasing the width, so it was big and bold. There were two stumbling blocks: where to attach the frill at the waistband (on the wrap skirt it would start at the ties) and pockets. Would patch work?

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Patch turned out ok! Please admire my pattern matching. I rarely take the time to do that but I’m glad I did here. I used the skirt pattern from McCalls 8033, which I’d literally just made so had the pieces handy. It gave me a fitted but not too fitted fit though the hip and I just walked my waistband pieces on top to make sure they fit. All I needed to change was add seam allowance on the skirt piece at the centre back for a zip. Easy. Here’s a quick and dirty tutorial if you’d like to do the same:

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If you don’t have a skirt pattern, try one of the circle skirt calculators. Full circle will be very full (duh) and quarter will give a similar look to mine (and use less fabric). Change the front pieces so they curve and cross over each other, I curved the back pieces so they drop down at the back but you can leave it straight if you’d like. Your frill should be about 1.5 – 2 times the length of the curved skirt edges. I hope that makes sense. I did double and my frill was 5.6m. It’s a lot of gathering. Use two or even three rows of gathers and a bit of patience. I divided mine into quarters so it was easier to get the gathers evenly spread across the skirt pieces.

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1. Firstly, stay stitch the top of the front and back skirt pieces. They are curved, so stretch out easily.

2. Next, add your patch pockets to the front of the skirt pieces (if you want them). Keep in mind the ruffle will mostly obscure one of them, so bigger is better.

3. Sew your skirt front and back pieces together at the side seams and finish the raw edges however you like. Finish the raw edges on the centre back (where the zip will be) and then stitch from the BOTTOM UP about 15cms. Leave the rest open for the waistband and zip later.

4. Gather and hem that big old frill. Try not to cry. Figure out which front skirt piece will go on top and which will go underneath. Pin that frill starting about 1.5cms (or whatever your seam allowance is) from the top – you want to just catch the edge of it in the waistband and then continue pinning it around the whole skirt. I didn’t take it all the way to the top of the under skirt piece because I didn’t want the added bulk. This is what it looks like underneath:

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5. Once you’ve sewn the frill on, you can finish the raw edges, taking it all the way along the edge of the under skirt piece, beyond the frill. Then fold that down that bit and stitch in place, like a little hem. You don’t have to, no one will see it, but it keeps everything neat.

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6. Frill is on! Yeah! Then cross your front skirt pieces over and baste along the top so it won’t move when you attach the waistband.

7. Assemble your waistband pieces. One side should be interfaced. I always use that as the front of the waistband, but whatever tickles your fancy. Sew the waistband fronts to the waistband backs so you have two separate waistbands. Then sew those together along the top. Pin and sew the front to your skirt (leaving the inside (or facing) of the waist band free). Press the seam up towards the waistband.

8. Sew in the zip with the appropriate foot. I used an invisible zip. Finish sewing that centre back seam.

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9. Finish off the waistband. I flip the waistband over the zip so the wrong sides are facing out and sew another row of stitching next to the zipper stitching. It’s hard to explain and I haven’t got photos, but here is a good little tutorial.

10. Press up the seam allowance on the inside of the waistband, so it covers the waistband/skirt seam. Pin from the outside, making sure you catch the inside and stitch from the outside so everything is nice and enclosed.

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And that’s it! You’re done! Enjoy your Holly Valance!

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PS My tshirt is designed by Rachael Castle and is from the very good Dangerous Females.

 

Kick Out The Pleats {Simplicity 8652 + Megan Nielsen Rowan Hack}

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Hi. It’s me again, sewing things for the job that I might not have very soon. Don’t ask me why I had an overwhelming desire to sew a pencil skirt when:

(a) I don’t think I’ve ever worn one in my life

(b) I struggle with the shape of my lower half

(c) I was convinced it wouldn’t fit me

(d) the whole job vs pandemic thing

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BUT HERE WE ARE FAM. So, this is an excellent pattern (Simplicity 8652). Quite excellent. The little pleated kick pleat is a particularly nice touch. I also like the fact that it’s for wovens because I’ve had a bad experience with a knit pencil skirt pattern a while ago. Apparently I needed one then too. Actually, maybe that was part of the reason I was convinced this one wouldn’t work out. It’s the whole hip to waist ratio thing.

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I used sateen from Spotlight because once again, that forgiving smidge of stretch is quite excellent. Using the finished measurements, I graded between the 18 (waist) and 20 (hips) and also swapped out the straight, rectangle waistband for the curved one from the Peppermint wide legs pants pattern. I’d just made those pants and knew that waistband was a good one. I had to adjust it slightly to fit the skirt pattern (longer front, shorter back pieces – which makes sense because they’re reversed on the pants because the fly is at the front).

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The jumper is another Megan Nielsen Rowan hack, more details in this post. The cable knit is from Spotlight and I love it. It was easy to sew with, has a nice weight and came together quickly. The only thing is I bought it online and didn’t pay much attention to the composition. It does have a bit of poly in it, making it a definite winter item.

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And now I’m ready to get called up for the part of Joan in Mad Men. Excellent.

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Giddy Up, Jingle Bell… {Butterick 6453}

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There isn’t anything ground breaking in this post. No new skills or anything like that. In fact, I’m really only posting it for two reasons – for recording keeping (I often look back over past posts when I can’t remember when I made something or what changes I made) and for vaguely smug reasons.

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This time last year we were madly preparing to head over to Samoa. Christmas was not even a blip on my radar. By the time we got back, Christmas was here and I was in a mad rush to get everything done before December 25th.

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But not this year, this year I am org-to-the-anised. Oh yes. What a smug bitch. This year, this amazing Jocelyn Proust fabric jumped out at me at Spotlight sometime in September and I bought enough to sink a small vessel. Shirts for the boys (the little and the big) plus a dress for me. Did I have very cheesy Christmas photos in mind? Perhaps. I’ve always wanted cool ugly Christmas sweater photos, but you know, it’s the opposite of sweater weather here in December. Unless you mean literally sweating, which is accurate.

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Anyway, I digress. Here is good old B6453 in a cheery Aussie Christmas print from Jocelyn Proust. I don’t have much to say about this pattern, I’ve made it before and I like it a lot. I’m weird about no sleeves sometimes, but the pattern is too sweet to resist. It goes together really nicely and I very much like the way the facing is done. Two things though – it has a shit tonne of ease, so if you don’t want it to fit like a sack you should size down AND the skirt should be much fuller than this but my fabric was only standard quilting width (112cm). I could have added panels for extra fullness but I only bought 2 metres because I’m stingy like that.

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Anyway, it came up tip top and I love it. I also made the shirts for the little guys about 6 weeks or so ago, but they haven’t worn them so there’s no photos just yet.

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And so anyway, while I was washing my Christmas fabric and feeling organised and smug, something pinged in my lizard brain. Oh yes, I had ordered Christmas fabric from Spoonflower last year but had left it too late and it arrived in January. Right. Where was that cute pink Santa fabric?

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AND, in a weird twist of meant-to-be-ness, my friend Jen from Fussy Gus released these women’s tees and I needed one, of course. Because they’re amazing. And it just so happened that the pinks involved were a match made in outfit heaven. So hey, it’s a two Christmas outfits kind of year.

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For the skirt, I literally cut the curved waistband pieces (my standard curved waistband that I use for pretty much everything, just extended at the front for buttons and reduced at the back because there’s no zipper – does that make sense? Tell me if it doesn’t), and then used the rest of the fabric for the skirt. So it ended up midi length and gathered the full width of the fabric. And I love it. Suitably comfortable for Christmas festivities, whatever they might be.

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So one shirt to go for the husband and maybe I will finally get my cheesy Christmas photos this year. Fingers crossed. Husbo will be suitably horrified but generally humors me regardless.

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Wattle It Bee {Megan Nielsen Wattle Skirt}

My titles are getting worse, I know.

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A while back, lovely Megan asked if she could send me one of her new patterns and said she thought I’d like her new Wattle skirt. She thought correctly. It has the same waistband options as her Flint pants, which I also love.

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I made view D, which is a bias cut skirt with tie closure. I used this lovely Art Gallery Bee print and even though it’s quilting cotton, Art Gallery has this magically soft drape about it, which makes it not bad at all for a skirt like this. Although, apparently my ironing skills could use some improvement – no surprise there.

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Like the Flints, the skirt has an opening in the left pocket, which is how you get into it. There is a button and tie to secure it. It all came together very quickly and simply for me, but I have made similar in the past so there was nothing new to learn.

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I did eliminate the centre front seam because I was reluctant to cut through the bees. Next time, I’ll take a dart out of the top of the front and back waistbands, which I should have done from the beginning. Flat rectangle waistbands just don’t work on a short waisted, curvy chick like me. Curved waistbands sit much smoother.

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My top is a bit of a hack of a dress pattern (Sew Over It Ultimate Wrap dress), which I made a few changes to so it works as a top, including changing the sleeves to bell sleeves. This is my second version, it just needs a couple of more changes to get it right. It’s slightly big for me all over, particularly in the shoulders and armscye (more so on my wonky left shoulder). I do love this red and pink striped rib from The Remnant Warehouse though, it’s got retro 70s vibes.

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I do feel slightly Christmas themed in this outfit and I’m excited about starting to get into the spirit of things.

 

Over and Over and Over {sewing a gathered skirt}

webDSC_5950I sew gathered skirts all the time, pretty much always following the same basic steps. If you’re new to sewing, let me tell you a little secret – they are pretty damn easy to make. And you don’t even need a pattern. Not really.

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Gathered skirts are made up of a few parts:

  • The front skirt panel. I make mine the width of my fabric, cut on the fold.
  • Two back panels. As above, but cut down the fold (this is where we add a zip). The best part about gathering is that you can make it fit into your waistband without any maths. WIN.
  • Waistband. Mine is curved and in three pieces (one for the front, two for the back. Again, for the zip). It’s from a vintage pattern and I use it so often because I know it fits me well. You can do one big long strip if you prefer. I like curved waistbands because I have a big difference between my hip and waist. Flat waistbands tend to gape in weird places on me.
  • Pockets if you want them (you want them). You can hide them in the side seams or sew them on as patch pockets.

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Once you have the basic shape down, you can change things up a bit. Like adding buttons down the front and omitting the zip at the back.

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But howwwwwwwwwww? Well, there are a pile of excellent tutorials online, so I won’t make another.

Here’s one from By Hand London.

And this one is for kids but the process is the same. I like to sew my zips in this way.

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I made no effort to pattern match this one, but hey – look at my cool metal zip.

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After you have the basics sorted, you can move onto sewing with really cool fabric, like this Alice McCall embroidered mesh. I lined the whole thing with black cotton lawn, which sounds intimidating, but really all I did was make another skirt. Then they both get gathered into the waistband. Not hard at all.

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This is my latest, she’s pretty right? The fabric makes it next level fancy. I know you probably want to know where everything is from, so I’ll start from the top.

Rad galah fabric by Mount Vic and Me via Spoonflower.

Tulip and bunny fabric by Sarah Jane for Michael Miller (possibly out of print).

The Twits fabric is furnishing fabric found on ebay.

Alice McCall mesh from The Remnant Warehouse.

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Now go on, make some skirts.

 

 

Rainbow {Vintage Simplicity 7189}

I know. Now I’m just showing off.

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You’ll remember good old S7189 from the lipstick skirt I made a while back.

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It’s a bloody gem. I wear it all the time. I love those giant pockets and the way it wraps around the back. Yes, another wrap thingy. That’s two in two days. Buffet breakfast come at me.

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If you haven’t noticed the fabric then you’re obviously not a child of the 80s and we can’t be friends.

Just joking. We can be friends. Please?

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YEAH IT’S RAINBOW BRITE! So cool. It’s a poly cotton I scored on ebay. I’m generally not a poly cotton lover but I’m ok with it when it’s a print that’s hard to come by. It actually drapes really nicely and won’t need ironing, which is a bonus. The pocket and tie facings are in gingham, just for fun and to break up the print a bit. Small black dog growing out of me is an added bonus. He’s a ninja, I didn’t even realise he was there.

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Weeeee! I’m an adult!

Pockets for Days {Vintage Simplicity 7189}

Another vintage Simplicity! WHAT? I know. But hold onto your hats ladies and gents, because you are about to get eleventy billion more vintage makes. Why? Because the kindest lady that I’ve never met got in contact with me recently to ask if I’d like her grandmother’s pattern stash. OMG WOULD I?! She brought four (4) boxes of patterns over for me on Tuesday and I was immersed into some kind of sewing nirvana for a good couple of hours while I went through them all. Amazing. Some kind of good karma thing happening there. Anyway, there’s a lot of vintage Simplicty (and all the usual others, plus some Australian mail order 1950s ish gems too). It’s just too good. I want to sew them all. But I had to start somewhere and this is it.

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Look at those 70s babes with their floofy hair and swagger. How could I resist? (Disclaimer: not my pattern envelope, I stole it from the internet. My pattern was sans envelope but pattern was uncut. My copy is a size 14 (waist 28 inches – lol).

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More info? Ok. Pattern is vintage Simplicity 7189, which you can read about here. Fabric is rad old Robert Kaufman. It’s splendid.

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It’s wrap skirt! Hooray! I love a wrap skirt. And check out those pockets. Are they not the best you’ve ever seen? Actually I have a bit of regret about the pockets. They sort of make me cross eyed because the print is so nuts (even for me). I probably should have done the body in black and maybe just used the print for the top, but never mind.

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I must gloat about my first ever successful intentional pattern match. I was worried about breaking up the print on the centre front seam because they are in such obvious lines and I knew it would bother me if they didn’t line up. But look! I did it! I’m still not really sure how, but I’ll take it.

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Fit stuff: wraps in general are pretty forgiving, size wise. As I mentioned above, this pattern is for a 28″ waist. Mine fluctuates between 31″ and 33″ right now. I graded the pattern up just slightly by adding 1.5cms to the side seams and waistband and it works. There’s still plenty of coverage where the panels overlap in the back. I can pull it tighter or looser depending on how much I have for lunch. Win win, really.

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The skirt is full, but not a circle. Maybe a half circle? Definitely not as fabric hungry as the McCalls wrap circle skirt (good option if you’re keen on this style).

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What else? Oh if you’re wondering about the wrap mechanics, you just leave a small gap in the waistband on one side so you can pull the tie through. It’s a pretty quick sew because there’s no buttons or zip to worry about.

I see more of these in my future!

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Palm Springs {Butterick 6285 + Circle Skirt}

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I like variety. I like change. It’s the reason I change my hair colour all the time, I’ll experiment with a new recipe every week and sew from new patterns quite often.

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Basically I have no loyalty (unless you count coffee and my hairdresser, because I’ll never stray from them).

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I also have no loyalty to a particular era of fashion. I will jump through those decades backwards and forwards all week. Sometimes it’s 70s tops and skinny jeans, sometimes it’s a perfect 60s swing coat and sometimes it’s a boxy 80s dress and Dr Martens. Some days I’m firmly planted in 2017 in leggings and a band t shirt. The silhouettes of the 50s are home to me though. That’s the era my favourite dress pattern in the world comes from – the one that started my business. And I do love me a circle skirt. That shit is timeless.

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I don’t even have a proper pattern for this one. It’s the skirt pieces from one of my dress patterns and a waistband from another. I add pockets and a petti and I’m good to go. I know you want to know the details, but they aren’t all that helpful this time around!

Circle skirt: cobbled together from a couple of different patterns, side seam pockets added.

Top: Butterick 6285 (it’s a knit wrap top and I made it a while back. It pre dates the blog actually).

Skirt fabric: From a tiny local shop that mostly does alterations and sells upholstery fabric. This lucky score is sateen and 150cm wide, making it ideal for big circle skirt pieces.

Petti: Hell Bunny.

Shoes: Swedish Funkis.

Pin: Colette Patterns.

Sunnies: Le Specs.

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Circle skirts are a great project for beginner sewists because they go together pretty quickly and easily. You’ll need to learn how to insert a zip, but after that you’re basically invincible. I added buttons to this version, but you can take the zip all the way through the waistband instead.

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I have two hot tips though:

  • Let that sucker hang, unhemmed for 24 hours. Because the skirt is cut on the bias, it can stretch over time. Hang and then trim if you need to.
  • The hem is never ending and a bastard because you’re trying to tuck a wider piece of fabric into a narrower one. You’ll get puckers and may even cry. I either overlock the raw edge and fold it over twice to create a super narrow hem or I use bias binding. I don’t pin for either method.

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Today I swished into the bank and around the local grocery shop like this. Tomorrow I’ll be slouching around in jeans and a jumper no doubt. But how good is it that we have the choice?

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A Piping Good Time {Sewaholic Alma Blouse}

A month or so ago, I sewed up two pairs of Closet Case Files Carolyn PJs. The first a flannelette pair without piping and the second a quilting cotton pair with piping. I was putting off the piping version because (like all things new to me) I was nervous and whiney and a bit lazy about it. Turns out that it was actually pretty simple and piping makes shit look rad. It’s true. Gives it a bit of something.

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Fast forward to yesterday when I was ummming and uhhhhing over the best way to use my delightful Liberty fabric. Yes, Liberty. Fancy as heck. Actually when it first arrived I wasn’t sure what the big deal was, but after a wash and a press it is so lovely and soft and really nice to sew with. I was contemplating yet another Sudley, but decided in the end that it would be really nice as a Sewaholic Alma and I hadn’t made one in a while. But what would I wear with it, besides jeans? All my skirts are prints. Wardrobe gap! Decided to make what I’d been putting off for a while (because, plain black and maths – yawwwwwn), a box pleated skirt in black sateen. Oh yes.

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Details here:

Sewaholic Alma Blouse from Sew Squirrel

Liberty Lawn from The Remnant Warehouse

Black Sateen from East Coast Fabrics

Piping on rolls was an op shop score.

The skirt was really basic – I just played with pleat width until I could fit the skirt panels into the waistband (15cms x 3). There’s a side zip and a side seam pocket on one side. I made it a couple of inches longer than normal so I can wear it when I’m working. I added piping to the top and bottom of the waistband. web-3185After a tip from one of my FB sewing buddies, I enclosed the raw edge of the waistband facing in satin bias binding instead of folding it under. Not the neatest finish, but a nifty way of getting rid of bulk and not having to worry about catching both sides of the waistband when stitching from one side.

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I’ve made a few Almas, they go together as per the pattern except for a couple of changes – I add an inch or so to the hem as I tend to wear them with jeans and like the extra length and I also omit the zipper because I don’t need it. This time of course, I added the piping and I’m freaking proud of that collar. All the practice is paying off. Oh and the sleeves on this baby are different too, I stole them from a dress pattern. I love that little pleat.

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Hot tips:

A zipper foot works brilliantly for piping.

Pull a bit of cord out of the piping so you can keep it out of your seam allowances. Your sewing machine will thank me.

Pinkers are really great for trimming the seam allowances of the collar to get it turning really nicely.

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All done. I was going to add a little cuff underneath the piping on the sleeves, but I wasn’t sure if it would make it look too much like PJs. Not sure without either, really. I might go back and add it.

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Ok so maybe together they’re a bit matchy, but I love both anyway. And they’re super comfy!

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My favourite things.

I thought a nice, sensible way to start my blog would be to list some of my favourite patterns and designers as I’ve trialed many over the years. Let’s just say I can be picky. I have very three very specific prerequisites and I rarely stray from them. I like my upper arms covered, I like my thighs covered and I like pockets. The latter being the most important, obviously. I must stop right here and add the disclaimer that I don’t believe in ‘fashion rules’, I loathe the word ‘flattering’ and I will fight to the death against anyone that tries to convince anyone else that they need to cover up certain parts of themselves. Basically, you wear whatever the hell you want and no one can tell you otherwise. So while I have no issues with whatever anyone else decides to cover or uncover, I am more comfy with sleeves and knee length skirts. With that said, here are my favourite patterns.

  1. Emery Dress by Christine Haynes.I have made so many of these. So many. Sometimes I make them with a fuller gathered skirt, sometimes with a circle skirt, sometimes with the slightly gathered A line version straight from the pattern. You can see below I’ve also made a more scooped neck, maxi version and also a bit of a heart cut out back version. It’s a dress that goes together in the most lovely, simple way and it is suitable for those of us with a curvier shape. Boobs and hips, if you will.

2. Sudley Blouse by Megan Nielsen.

Oh Sudley, how I love thee. A relative new comer to my stash, she became a firm favourite right away. And to be honest, I bought Sudley for the blouse version – but on a whim decided to go with the dress first. I’m yet to make the blouse *cough*. This is my ideal beach dress – no zip, no buttons – just a straight over the head, easy peasey, comfortable as heck dress. A nice change to the structured ones I usually wear. Perfect for a slightly dusty feeling Sunday too. Did I mention it’s reversible? REVERSIBLE. It’s another that goes together really nicely and pretty quickly because there are no darts or closures. The trickiest bit is that lovely bias facing, but there’s an excellent tutorial for that here.

 

3. Simple Gathered Skirt

Ok, so this is kind of cheating because it’s not really a pattern, but it’s something I make all the time and is super easy. I have a curved waistband from a vintage pattern that I know fits me well and I use it for pretty much every skirt I make – I just gather skirt panels the width of the fabric I’m using. That’s it. One on the fold for the front, two panels for the back and a zip up the back. So easy. Gathering is great like that because you can just make it fit. I line up the centre front of the skirt to the centre front of the interfaced waistband and add pockets. Sometimes I maxi them, sometimes I add buttons down the front instead of the zipper – but they’re all basically the same.

 

I have way more to share, but those are definitely the three that I’ve sewn the most.