adult's clothing · sewing · teen

McCalls 7626 for Clare

Clare particularly likes the style of clothing from Princess Highway.  We’re fortunate that there’s a clearance outlet not all that far from us selling their clothes and others from related brands (Clear It – who also sell fabric, hooray!) and we are often able to pick up cute pieces there for her.  But when it comes to dresses rather than separates, there’s nothing quite like the fit that I can achieve for her.  Clare is one shop size smaller in tops than in bottoms, and only custom made can accomodate that.

These two Princess Highway dresses give you an idea of the general style and silhouette  that Clare was looking for – a fitted bodice with a square neckline, straps, and an A-line shaped skirt with pockets.  So we hit the pattern books at Spotlight who were having a pattern sale.  We came across a few styles that we liked:

But of course, being Spotlight, not one of them (or the other patterns we were interested in) was in stock.  We eventually found a copy of McCalls 7626 at Lincraft.

McCalls 7626 dress line drawing

We decided that the bodice on this would be perfect.  Clare really liked the fitted waistband and the neckline shape.  The skirt as drafted was much fuller than desired, so I folded out a significant amount of the flare, while keeping the angled pockets.  And the result?

McCalls 7626

Hooray! Just what she was after! The fabric is linen, maybe a cotton blend (thanks to Anna from relocating it from her stash to mine). The bodice is lined in a slightly lighter weight, smoother cotton. Size wise it’s a mash of size 4 and 6. If you’re sewing this dress, use the finished measurements printed on the tissue as your guide for size selection, not the size guide on the pattern envelope. We made quite a few adjustments to bodice fit as we went along, including the usual removal of excess centre back length.

McCalls 7626

I have to say that I am very proud of the centre back zip in this dress! All the seam lines match across the zip perfectly, aided by very judicious marking and pinning. And the print even lines up across the bodice!

McCalls 7626

Clare is a typical teen in that she wants – no, she needs – pockets to put her phone in. These angled pockets are very comfortably placed, and are straightforward to sew. There is topstitching alongside the angled opening which adds details and gives structure.

McCalls 7626

To remove skirt volume I used a vintage A-line skirt pattern from stash as a guide. I made a big slash through the skirt pattern piece from the hemline right up to the waistline then overlapped it until the hem circumference was more suitable, while maintaining the waist circumference. It’s still more flared than A-line, but not excessively so.

McCalls 7626

I really enjoy sewing with linen.  It’s lovely when each seam is pressed and looks crisp.  This fabric didn’t wrinkle as much as some do, and has a little bit of texture.  Sadly, I don’t have any left now!

McCalls 7626

Clare wore this to a function on a super hot day last month and looked both fashionable and comfortable. The armholes are possibly a fraction high at the front – if I make this again I will scoop them out a little further.  I would also remove another centimetre from the bodice length.  Some things are only discovered on wearing.  Otherwise, the fit is great.

McCalls 7626

sewing · teen · tween

The grade six graduation dress

It’s been a big year for our family (although I suspect that I say that every year).  Stella finished primary school last week, and one of the final events of the year was the grade six graduation evening.  Which of course required a special mummy-made dress!

George and Ginger Starstruck dress

Stella chose the George and Ginger Starstruck bodice, with the high-low skirt from the Mix It Up dress.   I was dubious about it at first, but in the fabric and colourway that Stella chose it was just perfect for her!  At twelve years old, it can be difficult to land on styles that are age-appropriate, fit nicely, and fulfill the vision in a tween’s head.  In the end this dress ticked all the boxes.

George and Ginger Starstruck dress

From the pattern website: The Star Struck is an add-on bodice to our best-selling Mix It Up pattern–it works with all of the fabulous skirts in the MIU!  This fitted, push-up bodice features a star-cage style and a flattering waistband.  Leave off the cross straps for a completely different look…or add lace or trim for unique detailing!  No matter how you sew it, it’s a stunner! This pattern DOES include one simple peplum skirt to make it a stand alone design.  But feel free to try it out with all of the skirt options in the Mix It Up–or get creative and add your own skirt! Suggested fabric for this pattern is a stable knit with at least 50% stretch.

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That part about the fabric stretch percentage recommendation is very important – you may remember an earlier blog post of mine where I wrote about salvaging a skirt from a failed dress due to incorrect stretch percentage!  This time we chose a very stretchy performance knit from Spotlight as the main fabric.  It worked beautifully.

George and Ginger Starstruck dress

As designed, the area at the bottom point of the star in the centre of the bodice is left open.  This results in a dress that exposes quite a bit of cleavage – which looks great on all the adults I’ve seen in this dress, but isn’t so suitable for a twelve year old!  And there was no way that she was interested in wearing it that way either.  We filled in the centre point with a simple triangular shaped insert sewn behind it.

George and Ginger Starstruck dress

The bodice is all double layered, including the midriff section. This means that the seams are all enclosed and it’s comfortable to wear. I sewed the contrasting scraps in a viscose/spandex knit that I had somewhere in my stash. I tried the bodice on to get the strap length right before I sewed them in place, but as it turned out they did stretch out a bit during the evening (with lots of vigorous dancing in the disco they had after the graduation dinner). No wardrobe malfunctions, but I’ll need to shorten them a little more. The straps are four layers and are cut against the direction of stretch, so would generally be quite stable, but this fabric has a bit more spandex in it so they had more give.

George and Ginger Starstruck dress

We really like the shape of the back neckline too! The whole dress is in tween size 12 for Stella. I made the high-low skirt four inches longer than the pattern piece, which was really for a peplum. There are no seams in the skirt, and the hem was left raw, which works for this fabric. Much of the construction was on the sewing machine, with the overlocker used just for side seams and for attaching the skirt to the bodice.  The instructions for sewing this bodice are very clear and easy to follow, and there’s also a tutorial on Youtube.

George and Ginger Starstruck dress

Of course, the name Stella means ‘star’ – so the star shape on the bodice really was perfect for Stella! We also discovered at the graduation ceremony that Stella hopes to be an actor or a singer or a dancer one day – so it’s very appropriate in that way too. As it happens, Stella is quite talented in those areas (her singing voice has developed beautifully) so who knows what she will end up doing one day!

George and Ginger Starstruck dress

We’re so proud of our girl – she’s such a unique character, with so much love, empathy and kindness in her. Her smile really does light up a room. Here’s to the end of primary school, and to a wonderful time in secondary school next year!

George and Ginger Starstruck dress

adult's clothing · sewing · teen · tween

Pattern Emporium Harem pants

Some readers may have picked up on my comments about our forthcoming trip to Borneo.  We leave in only five days, hooray!  Borneo has lots of jungle, and lots of jungle has lots of insects.  The girls needed some cool summer pants that would keep both sun and insects off their legs.

Pattern Emporium Harem pants size 6 in rayon

Pattern Emporium Harem pants size 8 in rayon

Pattern Emporium Harem pants size 6 in rayon

I turned to Pattern Emporium again and used their women’s Harem pants pattern. There is also a kid’s version. My girls are small, but their waist/hip ratio means that the women’s patterns work better for them in bottoms than kids’ patterns do. I sewed size 6 for Stella and size 8 for Clare, which pretty much aligned with their measurements.

Pattern Emporium Harem pants

Pattern Emporium Harem pants size 6 in rayon

Pattern Emporium Harem pants size 8 in rayon

Pattern Emporium Harem pants size 6 in rayon

From the Pattern Emporium website:

  • 2 Fits: Slimline & Relaxed
  • Tapered legs for a flattering fit
  • Full elastic waist
  • Elastic ankle finish
  • Easy fit
  • Low waistline
  • Pockets – 3 Easy Pocket Options, 2 Intermediate Pocket Options 
  • 2 Waistline Options – Elastic, Drawstring
  • 3 Leg Finishes – Elastic, Lounge Pant, Tab Front

Pattern Emporium Harem Pants

We decided on style D, with the curved topstitched pockets and elasticised cuffs, in the slimline fit.  I added two inches to the rise of the pants by extending straight up from the crotch and the side seams of the front and back leg pieces, and made the corresponding alterations to the pockets pieces as well.  My girls don’t like to wear their clothes on their hips; they really prefer a high waist with the waistband where they are smallest.  That’s a major change for Clare who spent her primary school years with everything pulled down onto her hips!

Pattern Emporium Harem pants size 6 in rayon

Pattern Emporium Harem pants size 8 in rayon

Pattern Emporium Harem pants size 6 in rayon

The fabrics are all rayon prints (all wovens) from Spotlight. Stella came with me to choose them. I am always fascinated by her choices – they’re not always predictable! I made sure that I prewashed all the fabrics before cutting out, as is my usual practice. Rayon shrinks. These were straightforward to sew, especially once I got to the fourth pair! The girls are happy with them, and I think that they will be perfect for the Bornean jungle.

Pattern Emporium Harem pants size 6 in rayon

adult's clothing · sewing · teen

The school formal dress

I know that some of you have been looking forward to this blog post!  Be warned, it’s very photo-heavy. I can’t contain my excitement; I’m going to jump straight to showing you the finished dress on Clare.

Simplicity 8289

Simplicity 8289

Simplicity 8289

Simplicity 8289

Simplicity 8289

The year 11 school formal was a couple of weeks ago, right at the end of the academic year.  We started preparing for it very early in the year – I think it was February! We decided a long time ago that I would sew Clare her dress, rather than trying to buy one that fitted well.  The overall brief from Clare was ‘Disney princess’.  Clare had been collecting inspiration images, and with those in mind, we settled on Simplicity 8289, a Leanne Marshall design.

Sewing for the formal Sewing for the formal

We’d decided that pale blue or pale green would be good colours for Clare. So when Helen took me on my first ever shopping trip to Eliza Fabrics, and showed me the amazing silks that were available, I knew that it was meant to be! I bought up big on pale blue silk satin/twill and silk georgette (almost chiffon in weight), and bought the last of the pale green silk georgette that was in stock. In the end I went back a second time for more of the pale blue – which was fortunate, as I used almost all of the fifteen metres or so in total that I bought!  Because the silk was so reasonably priced, I used it for the lining as well as the dress itself.

Sewing for the formal

Sewing for the formal

We found the embroidered tulle for the bodice overlay at The House of Franke Stuart, a Melbourne institution for formal and wedding fabrics.  It matched the pale green silk georgette beautifully, and our plan was to overlay it on the pale blue to tie together the two colours.  Then it was time to start on the muslins.  Out came an old sheet, and off I went.

Sewing for the formal

Sewing for the formal

Muslin #1 was size 4 graded to size 6 at the waist. As you can see, it’s way too big, and way too long in the back bodice. I scribbled all over it, and recut in a straight size 4 for muslin #2 with some added length at centre front and removed some length at centre back. We also swapped the view B overlay to view A.

Sewing for the formal

Sewing for the formal

You can see that this muslin needed a lot more of the length removed from the upper back pieces.  I folded and pinned those out,  made yet more notes, then decided it was time to cut into the real fabric.  I interfaced the bodice fabric with a good quality fusible interfacing, then cut and sewed.

Sewing for the formal

Sewing for the formal

In the above photos the bodice is unlined and unpressed. Clare decided that she didn’t really fancy the wavy lace edging on the back and would prefer cleaner lines, so I recut the back pieces with the scalloped edging on the ‘armhole’ edges.

Sewing for the formal

Lined and pressed – so much better!

Sewing for the formal

Sewing for the formal

Then it was time to tackle the skirt. The skirt is a full circle skirt in three layers – lining, main skirt, then georgette/chiffon. That’s a whole lot of cutting out in a slippery fabric required. I really should have done a gelatine soak to make the fabric easier to handle before I cut. I was able to use a large dining table at a friend’s house, but it was still pretty challenging. The drapey bits attached to the skirt at the waistline are six sets of rectangles in three different sizes. I roll hemmed the edges on the overlocker. I really do love my Juki overlocker! I had done an overlocker class with Sew Into Overlocking at The Cloth Shop earlier in the year, which gave me the confidence to finish the edges that way.

Sewing for the formal

You can see in the above photo just how much the bias dropped in the silk fabrics. It was really rather astounding. I left the skirt hanging for about a month to allow the bias to continue to drop before I hemmed it. And boy, the hemming! That was quite an experience in and of itself! Once again I thanked my lucky stars for the lovely rolled hem produced on the Juki. We started by having Clare stand on the table and slowly rotating as I measured and marked the finished length on the lining, then repeated the process for the main skirt, then again for the chiffon/georgette overlay. The roll hem gave a lettuce edge finish on these fabrics, which Clare loved!

Sewing for the formal

We’d bought Clare’s shoes on eBay – I have a favourite seller who sells sample sizes at extremely reasonable prices. Clare and I are both sample size, and these sandals provided height with stability. By all reports, they were comfortable and stayed on Clare’s feet all evening (unlike many of the girls who left at the end of the event with their shoes in their hands). So that was it – the dress was finished, about three weeks prior to the event. But of course, I am a sewer – doesn’t there need to be something left to the last minute? How about a matching clutch?

Sewing for the formal

So on the day of the formal, I produced an Ida Clutch. It’s the first time that I’ve sewn this pattern (it won’t be the last) and it’s far from perfect in this fabric, but it did the job. And of course, I had fun with the lining.  It fitted the brief perfectly!

Sewing for the formal

Sewing for the formal

So, accessories were all gathered together, and it was time to get ready! Clare did her own hair and makeup; she’d had her nails done at a salon the day before. Her earrings, necklace and bracelet were mine, her ring was her great-grandmother’s, and we bought her sparkly headband.

Simplicity 8289

Simplicity 8289

Simplicity 8289

Simplicity 8289

Simplicity 8289

Simplicity 8289

Simplicity 8289

Oh, the swish and the swirl of that skirt! I had been a bit worried that I should have left it a fraction longer, but this length turned out to be perfect from a practical level. Dresses that graze the floor look wonderful in red carpet photos, but it’s really so much better if you can walk, run and dance in your dress! Clare then met up with her gang at a friend’s house to take more photos, then walk to the formal together. It was so much fun walking down the high street with them to the venue and watching everyone’s reactions!

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2019-11-28 18.29.15 (2)

2019-11-28 18.50.48-2

2019-12-02 10.54.08

I’ll hand over to Clare to give her verdict on the dress and on the evening. ‘Because we had tried on  the dress along the way I had a fair idea of how it was going to look.  But once I was all dressed up I felt like a fairy princess.  There was lots of skirt, so I did plenty of swishing.  The dress stayed comfortable without any adjusting during the night. We had a blast – hung out with friends, took photos, did some dancing’.

Simplicity 8289

Simplicity 8289

Simplicity 8289

This was my favourite project of the year.  I was incredibly pleased with the finished dress – it looked just as we’d both hoped, fitted her beautifully, and also fitted her personality.  In terms of sewing statistics, there’s more than fifteen metres of fabric involved, possibly around $200 to $250 in total, and maybe forty to fifty hours of time.  The amount of love involved – immeasurable.  And the best bit?  I get to do all this again for Stella in five year’s time!

sewing · teen · tween

George and Ginger With Love dress

I’m rather pleased that I discovered George and Ginger patterns.  I haven’t sewn any for myself yet, but I love that the sizes start at tween.  It makes them so useful when sewing for my daughters!

George and Ginger With Love dress

This dress was an impulse sew. I think that I had the pattern bought, printed, taped, cut out and sewn up in less than two hours from when I came across it. It’s the With Love Dress. Very simple and straightforward, easy to wear garment.

George and Ginger With Love dress

From the pattern website: With Love is a dolman style dress with a flattering elastic waistband.  Perfect for spring and summer, it is a quick sew with stunning results!  Dress and maxi length options, along with side vents on the maxi version. Suggest fabric for this dress is a 2-way lightweight jersey or rayon spandex knit for better drape.  However, any knit fabric, including cotton lycra or sweater knit, with at least 50% stretch will work.

With Love dress line art

I chose to sew the tween 14 top, graded to women’s 0 through the waist and hips.  We’re happy with the resulting fit, although it actually looks quite good on Stella too!  Stella is basically the same shape and proportions as Clare, just one size smaller, so it’s roomier on her, but not so much that it’s too big. Clare wasn’t especially thrilled that it also fitted and looked nice on her four and half years younger sister….

George and Ginger With Love dress

As you’d imagine there isn’t much to this dress.  Same pattern piece for the front/back skirt and same pattern piece for the front/back bodice, the front neckline cut deeper than the back.  The neckline is finished wth a binding rather than a band, which is a neckline finish that I am becoming more and more drawn to.  The waistline casing is formed by stitching the bodice and skirt together, running another line of stitching an inch further in, then pressing that up and topstitching it to the bodice while leaving an opening for elastic insertion.  It’s drafted so that the waistline is fitted, without there being excess blousinesses.

George and Ginger With Love dress

The fabric was an op shop find, but I have been reliably informed that it is a rayon/spandex knit originally from Spotlight. Such a cute border print! Clare feels that this dress is a nice casual summer wardrobe addition. I suspect that I’ll sew another at some stage.

sewing · teen · tween

Mix It Up Dress

Sometimes it is really difficult to sew for others.  Getting the sizing right, getting the combination of fabric and pattern right, getting the fit right, and attempting to ensure that the finished product matches with the vision in the other person’s head.  Sewing for Stella is no exception.  She really does know what she likes, and is quite particular about how she wants things to fit.  So I try to involve her in the sewing process as much as possible.

George and Ginger Mix It Up dress in Spotlight performance knit

Stella chose the fabric and the pattern for this dress, and chose which elements of the pattern she wanted. It’s the Mix It Up dress by George and Ginger, and I was drawn to it for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it starts with tween sizes. Hooray! It’s not easy to find patterns that work for Stella – she’s really shot up in height over the last year and is changing shape, but she’s still very slight and has narrow shoulders. We’ve had the frustration of trying to find clothes that fit to her specifications in the shops (although Pavement has proven to be successful, if anyone is looking to buy tween/teen clothes) so it really is handy that I sew. The other reason we liked the Mix It Up pattern is because it allows you to do exactly that – mix it up!

George and Ginger Mix It Up dress in Spotlight performance knit

From the pattern website: The Mix It Up Dress is an all-in-one design that’s perfect for mixing and matching your favorite styles!  Five front bodice, five back bodices, six sleeve lengths (including sleeveless) and five skirt versions–all interchangeable and ready to be customized just for you! PATTERN OPTIONS:

  • Front Bodice – yoke, horseshoe, leaf, keyhole and asymmetric
  • Back Bodice – yoke, square, diamond, keyhole and full closure
  • Sleeves – sleeveless, cap, short, elbow, 3/4 and long
  • Skirts – full circle (peplum, mini, dress), half circle (peplum, mini, dress), handkerchief (peplum, mini, dress), hi-lo tunic (short and long) AND fitted skirt to add to peplum, hi-lo or stand alone

imagejpg_740x

Stella liked the look of the Leaf front bodice and Keyhole back bodice, with short sleeves and a Hi-Lo skirt.  I started off by sewing a muslin in a lightweight stretch scuba type of fabric that was in my stash and had been rejected for other projects.  Size wise I used Tween 12, the smallest size.

Mix It Up muslin

Mix It Up muslin

I was so glad that I’d done the muslin! I’ll start with the obvious issue – that hi-lo skirt isn’t a full length skirt – it’s for a tunic or to be used as a peplum in conjunction with a straight skirt! Clearly I failed to read that part of the pattern information properly. So this muslin is way too short as drafted. The second issue was the waist seam – it’s way too high. Stella’s circumferential measurements are much smaller than the corresponding size for her height. The armhole depth was okay, so I figured that if I added an inch and a half to the bottom of the bodice pieces that would get the waist seam into a better position.

George and Ginger Mix It Up dress in Spotlight performance knit Stella chose the fabric – it’s a very stretchy fabric from Spotlight, I have a vague recollection that it was labelled as a performance knit or similar. It’s a lighter weight fabric than my initial muslin, which made it very easy to do the keyhole and back ties, as well as getting a nice result on the ‘leaf’ front bodice. The bodice of this dress is fully lined, and easily constructed. George and Ginger Mix It Up dress in Spotlight performance knit

I added four inches all around to the length of the hi-low skirt. Why didn’t you just use the pattern pieces for the full circle skirt, I hear you ask? Two reasons – I’d already printed and taped the hi-lo piece, and I wanted to cut the skirt completely on the fold and have it seamless. I also moved the ‘hole’ template about an inch toward the skirt back to alter the degree of high compared to low so that it was slightly less dramatic. The skirt was hemmed with a simple straight stitch. It could do with another press.

George and Ginger Mix It Up dress in Spotlight performance knit

She’s happy, and that’s what it’s all about! There’s every chance that this pattern will be used again – Clare has been eyeing it off too and suggesting combinations. Although the sizing starts at Tween 12, it goes up to Women’s size 26. Take a look at the pattern page or join the Facebook group to see some of the combinations that others have sewn.  George and Ginger also have a YouTube channel with sewalongs etc.  Excellent pattern support for those who prefer it.

adult's clothing · sewing · teen

Pattern Emporium Sashay Shorts

Clare really likes short, full skirts for summer – but they usually need to be worn with bike shorts underneath in case of inadvertant gusts of wind.  The solution?  An equally full pair of shorts. Enter the Pattern Emporium Sashay Flared Shorts.

Pattern Emporium Sashay Shorts

This is a really simple shorts/skirt solution for knit fabrics. Each leg is only one pattern piece; there are no side seams. Sew inner legs, sew crotch, sew on waistband. You don’t get much simpler than that! Unless you decide to add pockets (I didn’t).

Pattern Emporium Sashay Shorts

The fabric was an impulse buy I bought online because the print was SO pretty. It’s a fairly slippery, slightly shiny poly spandex and is quite lightweight. It was a bit shifty to cut and sew, but Clare assures me that it’s really good to wear.

Pattern Emporium Sashay Shorts

As you can see, I didn’t even hem it! The fabric just wanted to be left free. It’s very swishy. From the Pattern Emporium website: The Sashay Shorts are your next Summer staple, with a little bit of sass & a whole lot of comfort. The Sashay Shorts is a stretch knit flared short pattern. It comes in a variety of lengths, flares & finishes.  They are perfect for daywear & even beachwear. You won’t be able to help but to give a little swish as you sashay everywhere in your new shorts!

These come in three levels of flare, three lengths, have two pocket options, and six waistband options.  That’s a lot!  Clare’s shorts are the full option in the short length, with a covered elastic waistband. The full option is 3/4 of a circle – plenty of flare!

sashay-swing-shorts-knit-swim-sewing-pattern-emporium-1_480x480

Pattern Emporium Sashay Shorts

As it happens, this was the second pair of Sashay Shorts that I sewed. The first pair was for me, to be worn as pyjama bottoms with a freebie organic cotton tee that Best’n’Less had given me. I had a striped knit in stash that coordinated perfectly!

Pattern Emporium Sashay shorts

Mine are the slimline level of flare, longer length, with the wider yoga band. And yes, I couldn’t help myself – I did do some stripe matching! My pair of shorts is hemmed, unlike Clare’s. I just overlocked around the leg openings then turned a 5/8″ hem and stitched it down by machine. I didn’t include any elastic in the yoga waistband and it’s been staying in place just fine.

Pattern Emporium Sashay shorts

In fact, I’m wearing this pyjama set right now! I suspect that I’ll return to this pattern, probably more for the girls than for me. I rarely wear shorts – when the weather is hot I prefer to wear dresses, as I find them cooler. But they’re a go-to for my daughters.

Pattern Emporium Sashay Shorts