adult’s clothing

winter Aeolian

The Aeolian tee is not just for summer!

Aeolian tee in wool jersey

I had some dark brown Gorman wool knit from Clear It left over after making a Harper jacket. I wore the jacket quite a bit last winter/spring, and knew that it was a warm fabric. There was just enough left for an Aeolian tee for winter layering.

Aeolian tee in wool jersey

I sewed size Medium, as per usual. The deep hems are secured with a twin needle, as is the neckband.

Aeolian tee in wool jersey

I nearly ruined this with a too-hot iron. There is clearly a synthetic component to the fabric. I thought I realised just in the nick of time, but in these photos can still see some slightly shiny patches. Aargh!

Sea Change Top

I’m going to start this post with a disclaimer:  I pattern tested this top.  Which means that I didn’t pay for the pattern.  I provided the fabric and my time free of charge.  This was all done willingly because I liked the style of the pattern and I also like the designer.  I think that I’m still able to give an unbiased review, but according to research the simple act of being given something does influence you, whether you think it does or not, so take this blog post as you will.  There’s a well researched and thought-provoking series about this and how it applies to sewing blogging over on Zoopolis here, here, here, here and here.  Anyway, I’ll let the photos tell the story!

Test sew - Sea Change top by Lily Sage and Co ini viscose jersey from Tessuti

I love a knit top. I love a loose knit top. And I love a top that can be constructed entirely on the overlocker.  In around an hour.

Test sew - Sea Change top by Lily Sage and Co ini viscose jersey from Tessuti

Debbie of Lily Sage & Co, who designed this top, is very tall and very slim, so I was curious to see how it would work on 158cm plumpish me. I have to say that I think that it works very well! I sewed a straight size Large as per my measurements and made no alterations at all. That’s how I usually do things if I am pattern testing – I think that feedback on the pattern exactly as it stands is important.  From the pattern page:


The Sea Change top is loosely fitted, with wide kimono sleeves. The hem is designed to fall just below the natural waist for a modest, cropped look that will both complement and showcase high waist pants and skirts.  The top length can easily be lengthened through the top. The armbands and bottom hem band can also be altered in length for different looks.

Recommended fabrics
Light to medium weight, drapey fabrics will be the most flattering choices for this top. Options include knit fabrics like jersey, viscose, and rayon. Woven fabrics like silk satin, silk crepe de chine, and habutai will also suit this pattern. Extra fabric may be needed to match plaids, stripes or directional prints.

Test sew - Sea Change top by Lily Sage and Co ini viscose jersey from Tessuti

This is definitely loosely fitted, and I could possibly have made the size Medium, but I think that the Large is absolutely fine. I used one fabric throughout, but the arm and bottom bands can be made in a contrast. The pdf pattern went together well, and the instructions were very thorough.

Test sew - Sea Change top by Lily Sage and Co ini viscose jersey from Tessuti

The fabric is a rayon/lycra jersey remnant from Tessuti. I pre-washed it (as I do most garment fabrics) and I have a very strong suspicion that it is going to fade and pill very quickly. I love the colours and the drape but am quite uncertain about the quality of this fabric. I won’t be happy if it deteriorates after just a couple of wears!

Test sew - Sea Change top by Lily Sage and Co ini viscose jersey from Tessuti

There is a discount code for Lily Sage & Co at the moment. It also applies to the Twirl To Me dress, which I pattern tested as well. I’ll get it up on the blog once I have some better photos.  This is a top pattern that I will definitely use again.  I’ll be interested to try it in a woven.

Test sew - Sea Change top by Lily Sage and Co ini viscose jersey from Tessuti
My husband has named this my “woman on fire” top!  The rest of my outfit is all from warehouse outlets: skirt from Mesop; necklace from Elk; tights from Mesop; shoes from Diana Ferrari.

Tessuti Mandy boat tee

Now first of all – I didn’t actually make this tee!  I was going to, I have the (free) Tessuti Mandy boat tee pattern, but when my friend Karen offered it to me because she thought it would suit me better than her, I wasn’t going to say no.

Tessuti Mandy boat necked tee

This tee has definite similarities to the Grainline Hemlock tee (also a free pattern), but there are some subtle differences. The Mandy has a boat neckline that is turned and stitched, whereas the hemlock has a straightforward round neckline with a band. The Mandy also has tighter sleeves, which balance the large boxy shape of the body. The Hemlock is oversized and boxy through the body as well, but not quite as much as this – and the sleeves are not quite as fitted.  Both patterns are one size only.

Tessuti Mandy boat necked tee

So yes, they are same same – but different. I rather like the Mandy boat neckline, that is turned and twin needle stitched before the shoulder seams are sewn. I did actually do a very small amount of the sewing on this tee – I hemmed it, so maybe I do have some small claim to it being of my own making. The fabric is a beautiful quality cotton/lycra that Karen found somewhere and I’ve used before for a Renfrew top. Isn’t it great when friends share their stash and their sewing?

Tessuti Mandy boat necked tee

By the way, the skirt in these photos is the reverse side of the handbag printed skirt by Ngati Fifi that I mentioned a couple of blog posts ago.

Simplicity 1366

It seems as though most of the sewing blogosphere has already made Simplicity 1366.  I now understand why this has been such a popular pattern.

Simplicity 1366 top in size 12

Simplicity describe this as a “loose fitting short sleeve top”. Well yes, it is. But they don’t say that it is dartless, with elbow length sleeves, and a slightly cropped length. Or that it has dropped shoulders that set in beautifully and seem to sit well on everyone.

Simplicity 1366 top in size 12

Yes, there’s a fair bit of fabric pooling there – I should have shortened the back waist. But otherwise, it fits as an oversized woven top should. I made size 12 without alteration. Remember that I’m only 158cm tall, so this would be slightly cropped on lots of people. I finished the neckline with contrasting bias binding, but no-one can see that when I’m wearing it. So here is photographic proof.

Simplicity 1366 bias binding detail

This is very easy to construct and doesn’t take a great deal of fabric. From what I’ve seen elsewhere it can be made successfully from knits or wovens, and it’s easy enough to alter the sleeve length. Those dropped shoulders are in just the right spot.

Simplicity 1366 top in size 12

I actually made this top so that I would have something to wear with this skirt that I recently – gasp! – bought. I find it so hard to buy things that I feel I could make myself, but this skirt really called to me. I adore the African wax cotton print. And it’s bags! How could I resist! The skirt comes from Ngati Fifi. It’s a wrap skirt with poppers that make it highly adjustable, and it’s reversible! I’ll show you the other side in another blog post soon.

Simplicity 1366 top in size 12The yellow cotton I used for the top was originally in Anna’s stash – it’s lightweight and has a shot appearance.  Although I love mustard, I don’t generally wear yellow – in fact, it’s only been in the last year or two that I’ve come around to giving it a go.  As long as I accessorise with colour and wear lipstick, I think it’s okay.  I’ll definitely be using this pattern again to make some more simple tops that will work with this skirt.

Lekala 5974

Lekala has become an ongoing journey for me.  Although the first garment I made from one of their patterns wasn’t a success (due to my failure to choose an appropriate style) as time goes on and I make more of their patterns and they continue to improve and tweak their software, the better and better things get.  My most recent Lekala garment is #5974, also known as “dress with decorative front“.

Lekala 1584 line drawing

This dress is designed for knits, and I thought that it would make a good winter work dress. When I was in Darn Cheap Fabrics recently I spotted a spotted (hah!) ponte that I thought would be perfect for it and rapidly bought a couple of metres.

Lekala have recently added an extra measurement to the usual main measurements of height, bust, under bust, waist and hip. They call it “full hip” – but what that actually means is belly protuberance. They have a great photo and description of how to take that measurement. Hip measurement is taken around hips and the measurement tape is put to your skin. This is the actual hips circumference. Full hip measurement is measured taking into account belly protuberance and is always more than hip measurement. You can take the full hip measurement while holding something vertically next to your tummy (e.g. a ruler) and measuring at the same level as you would when measuring hips, around the buttocks and hips and than to the ruler, which means you take the measurement tape off your skin and it passes around the ruler in the air. It’s worth checking this on the website so you can see the photos.

Now for me, that is a measurement that takes my fat distribution into account! Most of my circumference is actually located on my front. Generally a circumferential measurement will be split equally across front and back pattern pieces – but no longer! Now there is less on the back pattern piece and more on the front. Hip hip hooray! I also tweaked my measurements by specifying high for waist height and reduced for shoulder width. When you place an order, Lekala also provides you with a little 3-D model of what your body is shaped like, based on the measurements you have provided and the way that they interact with their drafting system assumptions. This is mine.

Me according to Lekala

I have to say that it is remarkably like me! I was actually quite stunned by the similarity – and very impressed with their software. The diagram really does show how my fat is distributed, and how little waist definition I have. And the proof was in the pudding, so to speak, once I sewed up the dress. It fits me very, very well. I’ll deluge you with photos so that you can see for yourself.

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Now remember, this pattern was drafted to my measurements, but I made absolutely no other fitting adjustments or alterations during sewing. There is a little excess in the back waist length, leading to some folds and pooling through the back waist area, but that is about all that needs changing. And in a pattern like this one, that has a centre back seam, it shouldn’t be too hard to fix that in the future. Construction was all on the overlocker, with the machine used mainly for twin needle stitching and for securing the pleats at the shoulder seam.

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I did endeavour to match the print across the pieces, but you can see that it was off in a few places. Note to self – try harder and go slower next time. Rushing leads to a reduction in quality! These photos were all taken at the end of a long work day, and the dress performed beautifully. The fit just FELT right. Nothing pulled, twisted or tugged in any way. Of course that was partly a function of the fabric type, but a lot of it was due to the fit. Can I give a huge thank you to Lekala for adding the “how big is your belly” measurement to their standard list. It has definitely been a plus for my sewing. I now have a simple straight woven skirt cut out with these same measurements to try out (it’s one of Lekala’s free patterns so well worth using to see what their fit is like for you) in addition to a woven princess seamed sheath style dress – something I usually shy away from because of fitting issues. Looking forward to sewing both of them up and seeing how they fit!

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In my opinion it really is worth giving Lekala – and/or Bootstrap Fashion, who use the same software and have a lot of identical patterns – a try. They are very reasonably priced, especially if you buy their patterns in multiples. There are a myriad of styles, many that I would describe as “Eastern European” which is not surprising since Lekala is a Russian company, and loads of basics in addition to special occasion garments and lots of office wear. They also have men’s and children’s patterns. You do need to measure yourself, and be honest with those measurements, and experiment a little bit to tweak which adjustments you need. This can easily be done by using their free patterns until you get a better handle on what the adjustments mean and on the amount of ease that is included. I have started getting some of the patterns on AO sheets and having them printed at a copy shop rather than getting them on A4 and printing and taping at home, depending on how large a pattern it is. Don’t anticipate that they will be a miracle that instantly fixes all of your fitting, but at least with Lekala you are starting with a base that is much closer to your shape than patterns from other companies. That said, I have recently received some fantastic patterns from Hot Patterns and from Style Arc….

Style Arc Toni Designer Dress

This is one of those styles that I knew I wanted to make the moment I saw it.  Style Arc released the pattern for the Toni Designer Dress last month, and it wasn’t long before I had a copy.  And then it wasn’t long before I was cutting it out.  And then sewing it up!

Style Arc Toni Designer dress in Thai cotton double gauze

I sewed this in Thai cotton double gauze, part of my Chiang Mai haul. This fabric is absolutely NOT the recommended fabric for this dress. It really should be made in silk, crepe, rayon, or a soft drapey knit if you want to maximise the effect of the side drapes as per the pattern illustration and original design.

Nevertheless, the dress still works well in my fabric of choice.  It just makes the side drapes much more architectural and triangular in appearance.  This dress isn’t actually all that hard to sew.  I think that perhaps Style Arc have overrated it a bit with a “challenging” rating.  You do need to be careful to get the collar points meeting nicely at the centre front seam, but otherwise it is a rather straightforward garment to sew.  Even easier if you leave out the side pockets like I did!

Style Arc Toni Designer dress in Thai cotton double gauze

I did have to pay attention to line up the squares, both when I was cutting out and when I was sewing. The unpicker was required more than once!

Style Arc Toni designer dress in Thai cotton double gauze

(The above photo was taken at night in artificial light – the fabric colour is more accurate in the other outdoor photos).  The collar can be worn up or folded back.  The rest of my family liked it down. I like it best up.

Style Arc Toni Designer dress in Thai cotton double gauze

There is a centre back seam that contributes to the shaping of the dress. The sleeves are cut on and are just turned to the inside and narrow hemmed. The dress hem is a narrow machine stitched hem as well. Simple.

Style Arc Toni Designer dress in Thai cotton double gauze

Style Arc describe this pattern as follows: The simplicity of this pattern is the key to this designer dress. The wide side drape falls softly into the narrow hemline. You will love the flattering collar that sits high on the neck and continues into the front “V” insert panel. This is such a comfortable, easy dress to wear with a designer look.
If you would like to shorten this dress, please see this tutorial – Shortening Designer Toni Dress“.

Now, I did follow the tutorial and I did shorten the dress. I sewed size 12, but took a total of four inches from the length by folding two inches out at each of the shorten/lengthen lines. I am 158cm tall. That was the only alteration I made.

Style Arc Toni Designer dress in Thai cotton double gauze

This is incredibly soft fabric. It took me some time to decide which side to use as the “right” side, as the square colour way is reversed on the other. I also tossed up using both sides of the fabric in different parts of the dress, but eventually decided to keep things simple and in one colourway.  I am definitely going to make this dress again.  The fabric – a rusty orange crepe knit – has already been chosen!

Style Arc Toni Designer dress in Thai cotton double gauze

Tessuti Gabby dress

Tessuti released the Gabby dress pattern some years ago – I think it was one of their first, actually, published back in June 2012 (thanks google for helping me to find that bit out).  I bought a copy when an updated version was released recently with a contrast band around the bottom.  The new version has a print at copy shop option as well as a print at home on A4 paper option.  You can probably guess which I did!

Tessuti Gabby dress in rayon from Darn Cheap Fabrics

My sewing mojo vanished last week, but watching a couple of episodes of The Great British Sewing Bee on youtube appeared to be the way to get it going again. This dress was cut out and sewn up in somewhere between two and three hours on Sunday evening. I am a little surprised that I hadn’t been interested in making this pattern sooner!

Tessuti Gabby dress in rayon from Darn Cheap Fabrics

As is often the case, much of the success of this dress comes from the fabric. It’s a rayon from Darn Cheap Fabrics, bought a month or two ago (not from the $2 table I’m afraid – and this print appears to have sold out very quickly). There are loads of great colours in it. When you look at it close up it almost looks as though the colours are imitating a woven print. My husband thinks that it looks like television static. Either way, it feels very silky to the skin and enables the significant flare of the dress to drape down nicely, giving a soft and slimmer silhouette. The contrast band around the bottom also helps in that regard. It’s a viscose/rayon as well, but an ever so slightly heavier weight.

Tessuti Gabby dress in rayon from Darn Cheap Fabrics

It was pretty windy when these photos were taken, and it can be hard to see the true shape of the dress. There is a little more flare in the from than in the back. As I usually find with Tessuti patterns, the neckline sits smoothly against the body. I have a feeling that they might draft for the more “mature” body shape in some ways – my high rounded back isn’t a problem in most of their designs!

Tessuti Gabby dress in rayon from Darn Cheap Fabrics

This time I cut the dress out in size Small through the neckline and armholes, grading out to size Medium from the bottom of the armhole down. I did the same with the sleeve, cutting size Small around the top of the sleeve but Medium in width and at the hemline. This is something that I’ve actually been doing for years and years with my sewing, but I don’t do it every single time. It can really depend on the pattern and the cut. I think it might be a usual thing for me to do with Tessuti’s patterns from now on though.

Tessuti Gabby dress in rayon from Darn Cheap Fabrics

So, to the length. I made this exactly as per the pattern length for size Medium. It’s right on my knees – at the back it hits exactly in the bend. I am 158cm tall, and this is a great length for work. The pattern suggests that you lengthen or shorten at the hemline. Just remember that this will affect the total amount of flare and the hemline width of the finished garment. It is quite possible to shorten or lengthen at a different point in the garment, maybe halfway between the bustline and the hemline, if you don’t want to affect the total hem circumference. You’ll get slightly different results from either method. If I wanted to shorten this, I’d probably take a fold out of the pattern higher up so that I keep the fullness of the hem. It just depends on your personal preference and desired proportions.

Tessuti Gabby dress in rayon from Darn Cheap Fabrics

So overall I think that this is another terrific basic pattern from Tessuti. You could make it sleeveless if you wished, or lengthen the sleeves, add a ruffle to the bottom, make it in a mixture of prints, make it in different wovens (although I’d prefer to stick to those with drape), make it in a knit; there are loads of options and a great deal of potential!  If you google the “Tessuti Gabby Dress” you will find a huge number of lovely versions.  Of course there is absolutely no waist definition in a style like this – which suits me down to the ground!