Girt By Sea {Ken Done Smock Top}

Ken Done, what a legend. If you’re Australian, you’ll know him. If you’re not, let me explain – Ken Done is an amazing artist best known for his bright imagery of Australian landmarks. I remember his work was huge when I was a kid in the 80s, my Mum had one of his bags and every second person would have had something featuring his artwork in their house.

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(Image from Time Out Sydney).

A good friend of mine, let’s call her Phoebe (coz that’s her name) has been keeping her eyes peeled for all things Ken Done for me. She’s the best shopper of vintage I know. She found this doona cover for me via a seller on Instagram. Of course I had to snap it up immediately. It’s languished in my sewing room for the last couple of months while I decided what to do with it. I can’t just be cutting into Ken Done willy nilly, you guys.

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As it turns out, I’ve been working on a big collaborative project with some very talented women lately (more about that in a bit), so I’m currently feeling quite a bit of love for Australian designers. I was admiring my Ken Done again and decided that it was going to be an Illawong top. This style of top is something I sew up and stock in the shop and was inspired by a 70s girl’s smock top pattern. It has a yoke (which I usually sew in a contrasting fabric) , bell sleeves and an oversized fit. They are super comfortable and a great top to wear with jeans. I will often wear them when I’m photographing as I can bend and move and not worry about flashing anyone. I generally make them out of lawn or rayon because they need something with drape, regular old quilting cotton is too rigid.

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The old doona cover was so washed and worn that it had softened over time and I knew it would work in this style, I’m pretty sure it’s a poly cotton blend.

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Yep, it works and I love it. I kept the Ken Done signature (?) and made sure I cut it so that it could be seen (it’s on my left shoulder in the pic). The yoke is from the bottom of the fabric which has a bit of a border print.

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So what’s the other project I’ve got going on? It’s Girt Squad and you can follow along on Instagram and Facebook. It was started by the lovely Ellie Whittaker, who has designed some pretty damn cool work for a bunch of us makers to use to create a cohesive and unique collection. If you’re been following me for a while, you’ll know I’ve used a couple of Ellie’s prints in the past. I love those bright Aussie themes.

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We haven’t launched yet, but it won’t be too long now! I’ve created a completely brand new design for Girt Squad and can’t wait to share it. Wait until you see what the other ladies have come up with, it’s pretty amazing. There will be women’s and children’s clothing, accessories and home decor – all available in the one shop. Stay tuned…

 

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That 50s Dress With The Collar {Vintage Anne Adams 2056)

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Another irresistible choice from my rather large box (es) of gifted patterns. Oh how I love these old mail order patterns. Ordered from the newspaper and posted out to you in your size. I have 5 or 6 of these, all with a handwritten address on the front.

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This one was a relatively quick sew, all over in a couple of hours. Like all old patterns, this one assumes you know how to sew so the instructions are vague at best. But it’s not a big deal, it’s quite an easy pattern (no collar stand!) and I changed the skirt to a basic gathered one which makes it even easier. I know from past experience that those narrower skirts aren’t my jam.

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I added interfacing to the collar and facing pieces because that’s just what you do. The instructions didn’t mention it, but I’m not sure if that’s because sewists back then just knew too or it wasn’t a thing. When was interfacing even invented? Before that I’m sure collars etc had something in them (different fabric, maybe?).

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Fabric is Birch Organic Maritime which was purchased locally from East Coast Fabrics.  This is it here if you’re keen for an online source. Funny it’s listed as very light weight because I feel like it’s a bit heavier than other quilting cottons I’ve used.

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Was it a success? Well, not really. There are multiple fit issues and some weird drag lines. Part of it I was blaming on the fabric, but I have used quilting cottons for shirt dresses without a problem in the past, so I don’t know for sure.  The most obvious problem in the bust darts are suuuuper high. Also the bodice is a bit short so it’s sitting higher on my waist than usual. That’s a very strange problem for me as I’m quite short, so I generally have to shorten my bodices. The bodice has tucks too and I think maybe I’m just not used to the shape of them, I prefer darts. I do like the shape of that neckline and collar though. Plus mega angled pockets.

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It feels simultaneously too big and too small in different places. So weird.  All in all, not the greatest but I’ve definitely made worse. I generally wear belts with most of my dresses, so that helps. I found a narrower one this morning which works better than the wide one in the images. If I don’t end up wearing it, I’ll save the skirt and add a waistband. If nothing else, Sid enjoyed his walk and the photos look pretty.

High five, buddy.

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That 70s Dress With The Frills {Vintage Simplicity 6396}

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Remember those boxes of vintage patterns I was gifted? This dress has been sitting close to the surface of my MUST MAKE pile ever since they made their way into my home and heart. Isn’t it fun? I love the way it wraps around the bodice. And we all know I do love a good wrap. This one has a zip in the back, so doesn’t have any adjustment for food babies – it’s just a cool design feature. Actually there’s a number of different wrap variations in the 70s patterns I was given, they were getting creative back then. So there will be more. Oh yes.

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I grabbed this leopard print chiffon (? I think) from the bargain table at Spotlight recently for the grand sum of $5/m – specifically with this dress in mind. I couldn’t remember exactly how much was required so bought 4 metres. As it turns out, I was slightly short on the bottom ruffle, but being a toile it’s not a big deal. I know, me making toiles again, who am I? But being such a fabric hungry dress, I didn’t want to waste 4+ metres on something that didn’t fit.

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It looks like the bottom hem is so wonky hanging there, but I swear it’s not.

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Obviously I made view without any changes (besides being one panel short on the bottom ruffle). Because it’s such a sheet fabric, I lined with cotton lawn – but not the full length. So I guess that’s a change too. You construct the dress bodice as you’d imagine, then the collar with frills gets added.

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As you can see, my copy is for a 36″ bust. I do not have a 36″ bust, mine is more like 40 – 41″. Once again, I added 1.5cm to the side seams and hoped for the best. In the end I had to remove that because it was too big, especially around the back. So I could have just made it straight off the pattern without any adjustments. Again proving that vintage patterns have a heap of ease. And this is a dress that really has to be quite fitted, the ties don’t have any tightening effect on the back.

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I did have this one in mind as another option for the wedding we’re off to in November, completely disregarding the fact that I get irrationally annoyed by most things halterneck. Especially when I have a camera hanging off my neck too. Halterneck bras and swimmers are a hard no, but dresses seem to annoy me too. I don’t get the same headaches, but I feel mildly uncomfortable.

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I’d put up with it if I was totally in love with the dress, but the Sew House Seven Tea House dress is still the front runner (and I ordered some amaaaaaazing pink silk for another one today) so this one can be a back a plan if required. It’s still pretty cool. And I can wear it for a few hours if we have something a little bit fancier than normal to go to.

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I’m glad I made it. I love how different it is, yet in a way still quite modern. Vintage patterns are funny like that. Take away the hairstyles, shoes and prints and you’ve got something that can be worn today without screaming “OMG LOOK HOW 70S I AM!’

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I even did as I was told and did some hand stitching. I must admit, it does look a heap better that if I’d machined it.

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I think a lot of the time with these old patterns, I just sew them simply because I want to. And I do truly learn something every time, so it’s worth it.

Thrifted Fabric Weekend {Ohhh Lulu Kate Camisole}

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Hello again. I know, two posts in two days. Who even am I?

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I know I’m generally anti PDF pattern, but I make an exception for Ohhh Lulu because she’s rad and also lingerie pattern pieces tend to be quite small so there’s not a whole lot of cutting and sticking paper together.

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That said, the Kate Camisole (pattern here!) is cut on the bias so the front and back pieces are entire (not place on fold pieces) – does that make sense? So they are a bit bigger and there was some cutting and sticking required. But I survived.

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There’s not much to this one, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t make mistakes! Oh no sir! Would have helped if I’d read the instructions properly, but honestly, I’m like a bull at a gate. MUST. SLOW. DOWN. The bias tape is meant to be bias facing, not binding. I used it as binding for the front. Oops. Too lazy to fix it though and it ain’t so bad. Sarah has a super helpful tutorial for this, which can be found here. I recommend watching it before you sew, not after like I did.

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There are a number of variations on this pattern and I chose the lace back, she’s pretty cool right? The lace has a bit of stretch so I made it more stable with elastic (which is an option in the pattern instructions). It’s not scallop lace, but it has all these rad shapes in the fabric so I just cut around one of them and it’s the perfect size, really. I didn’t use sliders on the straps because I found they were a bit short on me. Next time I’ll lengthen them a bit.

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Oh the fabric. It’s another op shop score. Same shop as the hanky panel fabric from yesterday, actually. It’s most definitely polyester but handled a hot iron really well, so I didn’t even have to swear or cry. I have a feeling it’s vintage, but I don’t know for sure. I only had about two metres of it, so it was perfect for this project – which uses a bit more fabric than you’d expect because of the bias cut thing. I’ll definitely be making this one again.

 

Hey Betty {Butterick 6413}

Betty because I was getting Betty Draper vibes after I finished this dress. Probably a more risque Betty, but Betty nonetheless. So I dragged on some red lippy and brought out the big black shades to channel her even further.

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Isn’t it weird how one teeny tiny detail can mean the difference between strutting out of the house in your latest dress with all the confidence in the world or rocking in the corner of your bedroom with uncertainty?

This is one of those dresses! It’s only a keyhole right? But I still can’t decide. So strange for me. I generally make decisions in a heartbeat. Uncertainty isn’t my thing at all.

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Let’s talk about B6413 anyway. I wrote it off when I first saw it because I assumed the top would be a nightmare to fit and the construction would be too much for my brain. Then I saw it pop up on a few clever women on Instagram and I was a bit more tempted. As it turns out, I couldn’t resist grabbing it when Butterick were having their $2.50 sale recently and I really wanted this one. Buying two makes the horrendous postage from the US worthwhile, right? Of course it does! I don’t know if these ones are even available on our shores yet, it seems to take forever for them to get over here.

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So it turns out I was wrong. It’s fine, I can say it. The fit wasn’t a big deal and neither was the construction. And can I say what a relief it is to have a pattern envelope without eleventy billion different pieces and combinations inside? Very nice. Just the one dress without any variations. Of course I had to go ahead and do a gathered skirt because straight skirts aren’t my jam – which meant I only had to trace the bodice pieces, easy!

But this is another no bra dress. Do those sticky fillet thingies from the early 2000s still exist? Maybe they would work? Not sure. A regular bra definitely does not though.

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When I first made it, the booby part (oh yes, I know all the technical sewing terms) was sitting too low. One false move and those wiiiide shoulders were heading south and the whole bodice was going to end up in a puddle around my waist. It all felt very precarious. After mucking about a bit, I decided the best fix was going to be taking a wedge out where the bodice meets the sleeve. Even though that meant unpicking all my hard work. WOE. I did it though. I took 2.5cm out of each one and it’s much better now. More secure. Less likely to end in a wardrobe malfunction. Actually, when I had it all opened back up I was considering working some bra cups into it, but I couldn’t figure out how to secure them without it being seen from the outside. I’m not sure how much of a difference it would have made anyway.

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I haven’t told you about my fabric! I bought it from an op shop but wasn’t sure what it was. It’s very soft, like a lawn or voile. I assumed the squares were for quilting, but the good ladies of Instagram told me that they are handkerchief panels! How clever! Considering I have no use for 4 metres of hankies though, I decided it wouldn’t be a bad choice for this dress. If I hated it or it didn’t fit, no great loss. I still have over a metre of it left. I got a bit creative with my cutting. The fashion police might call the black band around my waist UNFLATTERING, but I think it’s interesting. See that bow tie look? INTENTIONAL. Proud of that effort actually.

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I used the same fabric for the lining, which is mildly confusing but I had so much of the fabric that it seemed sensible. I marked the lining so I knew which was which when I was sewing. I added side seam pockets and laughed in the face of slip stitching. Forgive me. This is it inside out, which barely looks any different to right side out.

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Size wise, I’m 41/32/41, which puts me in a Butterick 18 but previous experience tells me that I have to drop to at least a 16 (where finished measurements put me). My last Gertie Butterick was still too big at a 16 though, so I dropped to a 14 on this one. This isn’t the style of top that you want extra space in. It’s borderline at the waist (could be bigger) but there is still a bit of room in the booby part. I’m a D/DD too, so if you’re smaller in the bust you might find it a bit big in that part.

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Ooh and if you’re wondering (I totally was) if there’s visible boob from side on, there is. Ha. Not a lot though and honestly, if someone is going looking for that, then they deserve to cop an eyeful.

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Hooley dooley I can talk a lot. Sorry. I think I’m done now. And actually,  I’m done with the indecision too. I’m ok with this dress after talking about it so much. Bra be damned, I’ve talked myself around.

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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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Party In The Back {Vintage Simplicity 6926}

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You know I love a vintage pattern. Oh yes I do. It’s always a bit of  gamble picking them up at op shops because sometimes they incomplete or torn, but for 50c it’s worth it just to look at the cool illustrations on the envelope. I got so excited when I found this one because (a) it’s not that far off my actual size and (b) I am on such a pinafore kick right now. I think they are called a jumper in the US. And our jumpers you call sweaters. Confused yet?

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I’ve actually been searching high and low to find a reissued version by one of the Big 4 pattern companies. Come on guys, do it for me?

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The owl fabric is by Art Gallery Fabrics, most likely I bought it from Hawthorne Threads, but it was a while back (oooh – click on the link, they still have some!). I love it but was super paranoid about getting owl boobs due to the size of the print. I managed to avoid it though.

webDSC_1059The buttons are fabric covered and another op shop find. I found a bag of mixed ones but didn’t have enough of the white for the front two buttons, so used pink instead. I wish there was ten of the pink ones because I definitely prefer them. The square white ones tip and tilt a lot and sort of remind me of chewing gum. I might end up changing them for something else.

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Pockets!

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I made version two and really didn’t change much at all besides cutting the front piece on the fold so I didn’t have that centre front seam. It would have been a shame to cut up the owls. I finished the hem with grey satin bias binding (which you can see peeking out in the pic above).

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Fit-wise I cheated and added about one centimetre to each side seam after comparing the pattern pieces to my current dresses. Vintage patterns do seem to have a lot of ease. This one is for a 36″ bust and I’m about 40″. There is a slight gape under the arms but I’m very happy with the fit considering the hack job I did.

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It does look slightly apron-y, but I don’t mind it at all. In winter I’ll be able to layer it with long sleeve tops and in summer it will be perfect as is. She will be known as my mullet dress, party in the back!

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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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Killer Bees {Simplicity 8085}

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I sat on the fence about this pattern for ages.

Pros: vintage reissue, cute as heck, very wearable.

Cons: No sleeves, fabric hungry, not a huge fan of the look of binding.

The decision was made after I popped into Spotlight earlier this week, three Simplicity patterns for $12. I had 5. This made it through as the 6th.

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Pattern: Simplicity 8085 from Spotlight (such a horrendous website, can’t even find the pattern on it).

Fabric: Purchased a while back from East Coast Fabrics (another very rubbish website, excellent store, bloody lovely staff).

Pearl buttons and double fold bias tape were op shop finds a while ago.

(Side note: how freaking awesome is double fold bias tape?! I’ve only ever used single before. It’s eleventy billion times easier to get a nice even finish with double fold).

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When I got home, I opened her up to check out the size of those skirt pieces. MASSIVE. I thought with the centre seam they’d be smaller pieces (and I’d cut 4 rather than 2). Nup. Centre front seam yes, side seams no. Oh. Let’s change that then, shall we?

 

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(Disclaimer: this is my quick and dirty method. It’s probably technically wrong, but I don’t care because it worked).

First I traced off my front and back bodice pieces, then pinned the darts in place (as they would be sewn). I lined up the bodice pieces with the skirt pieces, overlapping the bodice pieces at the side seams. I then marked where the bodice side seam was on the skirt (you can see by my marking that this involved a bit of fiddling around, you have to curve those flat bodice pieces around to match the skirt). Then I marked the seam allowance either side and traced out my new front and back skirt pieces. It made them much easier to fit on the fabric and I was able to eliminate the centre front skirt seam by placing it on the fold instead. Hooray!

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Side seams mean side seam pockets! Didn’t iron them. Forgive me. When I googled other makes of this dress, I didn’t like the look of the patch pockets (sorry guys). You can also see the horsehair braid I added to the hem for a bit of a kick.

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Pearl buttons instead of snaps because pearl buttons. And they match the bee’s wings.

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Sleeves! I added sleeves. Literally the sleeves from the Emery Dress with zero changes. Probably shouldn’t work, but they do. Isn’t sewing magic?

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Let’s talk about the fit. I obviously made the short version because I already have a fair few dresses in the longer length and I wanted to be stingy with the fabric. I made the size 16, but cut the length at the size 22. The horsehair braid means the hem is pretty narrow, much like it would be if you use binding, which I was contemplating doing, but didn’t have enough.

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I feel like the fit is pretty decent, especially without a FBA, but it does gape a bit in the back if I don’t do the waist ties up as tight as they can go. And even then, after wearing for a while, they sort of loosen a bit and I can feel the breeze down my back. If I pull it up at the shoulder seams, everything seems to fit a bit better, so that’s something to consider for my next one. I could take some length off the lower back pieces, but I’d have to re draw the wrap part higher because it is very close to the back band of my bra right now. Maybe a little snap there would help, but it won’t help with the gaping. Still very wearable though but I can see it becoming more of a beach dress for summer.

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Still not convinced about that binding. I think next time I might fold it to the inside. Or use matching. But who can be bothered making all that binding? Not me. I’m not that dedicated.

I’ve been really mean and kept the image of the back until the very end. Because it’s that part that’s the rock star of this dress, right? Here she is!

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Skull x Floral Goodness {Vintage Simplicity 5445 Dress}

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You might remember Simplicity 5445 from such sews as Banana Dress… and that’s about it really. I wasn’t sold on that version because I wasn’t feeling the love for the skirt. I think I’m just too used to really full skirts. Plus vintage patterns sort of exaggerate that tiny waist/big skirt ratio, don’t they? So what’s a girl to do? Change it, of course. Because that’s half the beauty of sewing.

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Just before Christmas, those awesome ladies at Cotton and Steel messaged me to ask if I’d like some fabric. I know. I was shocked too. It was the best. They sent me around 3 yards of this floral quilting weight cotton. Now, florals aren’t usually my jam, but I do make exceptions. This one is an exception. The colours are awesome and I like the style of those cute little flowers. Plus it’s called ‘Tuesday Night Ladies Bowling League 1972’. Not even kidding. Best fabric name ever. The little skulls are from their Boo range and I already had them in my stash. I am a big C&S fan.

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You didn’t think I’d make a dress without pockets, did you?

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So. Changes. I cut out the bodice as normal and cut out my regular gathered skirt panels, which are basically big rectangles the width of the fabric. Mind blowing, I know. I added the pocket pieces to the skirt pieces, sewed up  one side seam and left the other open, then gathered as normal. I constructed the bodice as per the pattern instructions, but left the right side seam open. I then attached the bodice to the skirt and added an invisible zip in that right side seam. Now I can get in and out of it very easily.

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The buttons are those self covered, clicky clacky metal ones. I’ve never used them before but they were super easy and I love them. I picked them up at an op shop.

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Welcome to my wardrobe, new friend!

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