Mave Skirt

Sewing the Mave Skirt from True Bias is on my 2023 Make Nine Plans. I’ve never been able to sew everything on my Make Nine list but I’m quite hopeful on achieving it this year as I check another make off my list! The Mave Skirt is an elastic waist skirt with lots of options. I’ve sewn the maxi, three-tiered ruffle version. 

With the seasons changing, the maxi skirt is such an easy item to wear when the weather is still so unpredictably hot or cool. I find it to be a good piece in the wardrobe for the autumn or spring months. I used to avoid maxi skirts because I felt it made me look too frumpy, but I think there is a general rule for avoiding that and that is the rule of thirds. Because the skirt is so long, it’s a good idea to wear it with a top that is shorter like a crop top or something that can be tucked in. I feel that this has made it work for my proportions.

The Mave Skirt Pattern is made for woven fabrics. I’ve made a fuller version using broderie anglaise fabric which I fully lined. The instructions for adding the lining are also included in the pattern. This pattern can be sewn in no less that eight versions! Basically, once you have this pattern, there is no need to buy any other elastic skirt pattern. 

I made the size 12 for my measurements of 33-inch waist and 41-inch hips (seated). There is obviously a lot of ease in the fit of the hips, so I mainly used my waist measurements to pick the right size. The construction was easy and very beginner friendly. Sometimes sewing something simple is exactly what you need for a relaxing sew. True Bias patterns always come with comprehensive instruction and illustrations. You never have to puzzle over the instructions.

I should mention that the elasticised waistband was a bit challenging for me. Not the fault of the pattern but my own skill levels. The waistband had to be stitched at regular intervals in four lines to even out the gathers and flatten the waistband. I had traced the lines for these elongated stitches, but I wish I had just used my machines seam guides. I think I would have achieved much straighter lines. It’s probably not anything anyone would notice unless I bother to tell them and it’s a detail I’ll soon forget as I enjoy wearing my lovely maxi skirt.

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

X Em

Marselis Top

The Marselis Top and Dress is a new pattern from The Uncut Project.  I was lucky enough to be selected to test this beautiful pattern. The Marselis can be sewn as a top or a dress. The designers, Anna and Isabel, are from Copenhagen and their design reflects the Scandinavian aesthetic of simple lines with a modern twist. This pattern has a lot of inclusions. The flowy top or dress can be sewn sleeveless, short sleeved or long sleeved. I chose to make the sleeveless top version and I had in mind something that was appropriate for a summer night out.

Sizing ranges from 32 to 74 (European), I was between the 40 and 42 with my bust size of 37 inches so I went with the 40 as the pattern includes a lot of ease in the waist and hips. The top ended at about hip level for me. I thought the sizing was spot on! 

This pattern is made for lightweight to medium woven fabrics. At the beginning of my sewing journey, I madly bought fabric that I thought were pretty but had no idea how or what to sew with. Every time I passed the fabric store, I would go rifling through the bargain bin. It was a thrill at first until I realised, I was guiltily amassing a rather large stack of fabric that I was now responsible for. Time to put a stop to it. I now check my stash before heading to the fabric store. This chiffon felt like the perfect match for the Marselis Top because it’s soft and sheer which would show off the gathers in the pattern.

At this point, I should confess that I have never sewn with Chiffon fabric before. I’ll just share some of what I’ve learnt about Chiffon here in case anyone is wanting to recreate this. Chiffon frays like crazy. When I tried to overlocker it, there was a moment of panic as it started to disintegrate. Luckily, I was testing this on a piece of scrap. So, French seams were the best option for finishing my seams. Another thing I noted about Chiffon is that it gets easily caught in the teeth of the machine. I had to make sure I was leaving a bit of gap at the start of the sew. I could still backstitch but I have read some advice that it’s better to tie off the ends of your stitching by hand.

Putting together the pattern pieces was easy and the instructions were great. It was a bit tricky with my bias binding because I had bought the slightly smaller one inch rather than the one and a half inch that was recommended. It still worked well, and I loved how the ties were formed so neatly out of the bias binding that finished the top of the blouse. I especially love the back of the top where the ties pass through a loop and ties together. 

I remember finishing the pattern test in the same afternoon. It was one of those patterns that are so interesting, you can’t put it down. I really wanted to get to the end to see what it would look like. Needless to say, I’m in love with my new blouse and I ended up wearing it out that night for our Chinese New Year dinner and to see the lion dancers! 

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

X Em

Elmwood Skirt

The Elmwood is the Pattern of the Month for Cashmerette Club*. I’ve always loved the classic look of the 1950s. The pencil skirt was such a staple in that era with the narrow, hip hugging silhouette with the hem just skimming the bottom of the knees. This version also has chic pockets which stay flat when sitting. 

I was lucky enough to receive a preview of this pattern as part of a collaboration with Cashmerette Patterns. I always start by making a toile of the pattern. This skirt is fully lined so it was easy to make a toile with lining fabric. Looking at the fitting chart, my waist measurement of 33 inches sits between the size 12 and size 14. My hip measurement of 38 inches sits more towards the size 10. So, I put my measurements into the Cashmerette size calculator which advised me that I could sew a size 12 waist and grade to a size 10 hip. My first toile with the graded hip felt too snug for me which I soon resolved when I re-read the instructions.

When I re-read the instructions, it tells you to measure your hip and waist in sitting. I’ve never considered this before, but I have been using some of the wonderful resources available to Cashmerette Club members regarding fitting. It seemed like a good idea as the skirt is so fitted and there isn’t much ease. I’m glad I remade these measurements in sitting because my hips were now at 40 inches. I found that sewing the straight size 12 was the best fit. So, in the future where there is only a small amount of ease in the fabric, I will continue to use this tip of measuring when sitting as well as the usual standing measurements.

The Elmwood skirt is for woven fabrics. I’ve used a wool/linen blend from Potter and Co. It’s beautifully soft in a grey/brown tone. It feels quite luxurious to wear as it’s fully lined. There’s the usual split in the back of the pencil skirt which makes it easy to move in. I’ve needed something a bit dressier for meetings and this skirt really fills a gap. I’m thinking of making a denim version for casual wear.

The instructions and illustrations are very comprehensive in Cashmerette Patterns. I found it easy to follow. One of the skills I’ve gained in sewing this pattern is learning how to do blind hems on my machine. I have hand sewn blind hems before especially with my kids’ school uniforms. Sewing the blind hem by machine works out easier and is a lot more even than my hand sewing!

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

X Em

*Full Disclaimer: This pattern was sent to me for collaboration with Cashmerette. All opinions expressed are my own.

Carlyle T Shirt

Lately, I’ve been looking to sew more basic core items. I stopped shopping ready-to-wear when I took up sewing. It wasn’t a sudden stop but a natural progression as my sewing skills expanded. This year, part of my sewing plan has been to record my daily outfits in #memadeeveryday. I’m trying to account for what I sew and correlate it with what I wear. I’ve found that I have sewn more items for going out in but not many daily wear items.

The Carlyle T-Shirt from Cashmerette really caught my eye because tees are an essential core item, but the Carlyle tee is an “elevated” basic. It has the square neckline which I like and puffy sleeves. The pattern can also be sewn with straight sleeves, but I really love the puffy sleeved look which is such a trend at the moment. I’ve made the classic body length but there is also a cropped version. This pattern is from the Cashmerette Club* catalogue which is a subscription-based service. 

Cashmerette has very detailed information for sizing which is great as sizing can vary so much with pattern companies. I’m always cautious when I first make an item with a new pattern company. I find that Cashmerette sizing is quite equivalent to my ready-to-wear items. I’ve sewn the Size 10 with Cup C/D without alterations. Knitted fabric does have more flexibility with sizing because of the stretch in the fabric so I will still make a toile if I sew a woven item from them. For this shirt, I haven’t toiled which is a bit risky, but it did save me time and fabric!

I’m a really big fan of a square neckline. This one is finished with a neck band which is so neat, but I had to sew very carefully to match the mitred seams to the corners of the neckline. Luckily, I managed it on the first attempt otherwise the seam ripper would have made a dreaded appearance.

Puffy sleeves were never a feature in my wardrobe before but since taking up sewing they have a definite presence in my closet now. It puts a bit of a feminine twist to the basic tee. It was an option to sew this with long sleeves but it’s quite warm where I live so I prefer three quarter sleeves. I do love the look of the straight sleeves as well so perhaps that will be a future option. 

Knit fabrics have been something I’ve avoided sewing with. I’m not sure what the barrier has been. It might have been the multiple needles that I’ve broken whenever I’ve sewn knit fabrics. Happily, I didn’t break any needles sewing this tee. The pattern has very clear and specific instructions which made the construction go very smoothly. I’m finally over my fear of knit fabrics.

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

X Em

*Full Disclosure: Cashmerette Club Subscription has been gifted to me as part of an upcoming collaboration with Cahmerette however, I have no obligation to post or blog what I make. All opinions are my own.

Normalising remakes

Recently, I did a bit of a review of my makes. I was partially prompted by the urge to spring clean and then I saw the “REFEBULOUS” prompt and took it as a sign! The #refebulous sewing challenge is hosted by @madebyliesl which encourages everyone to review anything that hasn’t worked in the past and to repurpose the fabric or see if the make can be improved so it could be worn.

I chose to remake a slip dress that I had sewn in 2020. The lovely rayon fabric was from my local Spotlight Store, and I haven’t seen it restocked since. It’s a beautiful soft fabric which is a favourite to wear in summer. I love the beautiful print of tropical palm leaves set on a white background. 

The slip dress was a bonus inclusion with the Leila Dress from Marsha Style. It can be worn under the Leila Dress, and it could also be sewn as a stand-alone dress. I hadn’t been sewing for very long when I made this, and I don’t remember making a toile for the dress. I think even with a toile, I wouldn’t have known how to alter the dress to my fit. 

Initially, I thought I would still sew a slip dress, but I don’t think the style really suits me anyway. The Hana Tank Dress from Patternscout Studios is something I have worn on repeat, and I was thrilled when there was enough fabric for it. I managed to use 90 percent of the fabric in my remake, and I’ve saved the muslin lining for future use.

It’s great to normalise repurposing or remaking garments that don’t fit or no longer serve a purpose. It’s been a great prompt to keep us mindful with our makes. I’ve also just finished with the “Threads” podcast by Veronica Milsom and was appalled by the statistics of fast fashion. Sewing has been an eye opener in many ways! I’ll be doing regular reassessments of my makes from now on.

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

X Em

Valerie Raglan Dress

The start of 2023 has been great for my motivation to sew. One of my sewing goals this year was to really pick projects that help to develop my skills and to only sew items that I would wear repeatedly. Seems like an obvious goal but when I started sewing, a lot of garments were beyond my skills. I tried the big four patterns but often instructions were a bit illusive to a novice sewist like me. When Forget Me Not Patterns generously offered me a pattern for review, I was a bit worried about this, but the instructions and illustrations are one of the best I’ve ever sewn with.

The Valerie Raglan Dress was the pattern that I chose to review. It’s a dress with a fitted bodice and A-line skirt. The sleeves are raglan sleeves but are tailored with a dart at the shoulder, so it doesn’t have the bulky look of other raglan sleeved dresses or tops. There are so many sleeve options included with the pattern. I chose to sew the short sleeve with a flounce, there is also a long sleeve option with a cuff which I’m planning to sew for winter and there’s also the ¾ sleeve and short sleeve version. Along with all these options are also cup size options which is great for obvious reasons!

Fitting the pattern was a breeze with the comprehensive and logical instructions. In fact, the second page of the patterns gives such good instructions on how to choose which size to sew up. I fitted in the medium bust range, so that is equivalent to a B cup to C cup and my dress sizing was between the 38 and 40 for my measurements of 37 inch high bust, 33 inch waist and 38 inch hips. The pattern alteration tips were fantastic because I toiled bodice graded the size 38 bust to a 40 waist and hip. The other impressive thing about the pattern were the little notes that helped me to pause in my sewing so that I would go and check the fit physically. It’s such a good practise to develop as I didn’t have any sad surprises at the end of my sew.

Sometimes the mention of an invisible zipper sends a sewist screaming into the bush, but I had no problems installing it. I just followed the instructions step by step and before I knew it, I had installed it perfectly! It’s not a technique I’m familiar with but the result was the easiest invisible zipper I’ve ever installed, and this is even without an invisible zipper foot! It’s great to learn more professional techniques in a pattern. This was evident again with the facing attachment. This was attached using the stepped-back method. I watched the video and had a few attempts but unfortunately, I was unsuccessful, so I attached it my way. The great thing is, next time I come back to the pattern, I will try it again and I have the resources to help me.

The fabric I’ve sewn with is a rayon which has beautiful drape and is so good for summer. I’ve sewn a lot with rayon because it’s what I reach for in this heatwave called summer. Sometimes, I’ve read comments about the difficulty of sewing with rayon so I put together a little Instagram reels to share some of the tips that were generously shared with me.

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

X Em

*Full Disclosure: Pattern was gifted for a review but all opinions expressed were my own.

Niya Dress

Sewing the Niya Dress was a great adventure! It was a happy discovery when I won a PDF pattern from J. Desiree Studio Patterns by participating in the Sew Giving 22 Sewing challenge which was hosted by @yagabyrdsews. I chose the Niya dress because it had so many unique features and can also be sewn as a wide pants jumpsuit. 

The bodice is quite loose initially and is attached to the skirt only by the front bodice. The back is open and there are two options. I chose to sew the half closed back but there is also a fuller opening as the other option. The skirt is gathered by elastic in the back and the front is initially sewn flat. While constructing the dress, I had a lot of doubts about if I was sewing it correctly, if the dress would suit me or whether I should construct it differently? I’m glad I stuck to the process and followed it until the end.

It really started to come together when I realised that the front bodice had a channel which I had accidentally sewed up. I used the seam ripper to reopen this to create a channel so that the ties could be fed through it. Both ties are then fed through the channel in the front skirt piece where the elastic for the side and back waistband are located. Once the ties are in, this creates tension in the front bodice which draws in the loose fabric in the front and prevents exposure from the side. The engineering was so interesting in this make as I couldn’t quite picture how it could come together without the traditional side seams. 

Looking at the other Niya Dresses by other sewists, I can see that everyone managed to thread their ties through the channels however, I had a lot of trouble. It might have been that the rayon crepe I used did get a bit bulky once sewn. Instead, I halved the width of the ties and made them quite narrow which I really liked the look of. The pattern has the option of making shoulder channels for more ties, but it was already gathered in the front shoulder bodice. I loved the look as it was without the ties, so I left them off my dress.

The sizing of the Niya Dress is very flexible. I made the medium with a mini skirt option. With the open back, it would look beautiful as a jumpsuit or a ball dress with maxi skirt. I needed a summery beach dress so the mini dress version was the perfect version for me.

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

X Em

Hana Tank Top

I was looking to purchase a basic tank top pattern in the Black Friday sales last year when it occurred to me that I already had the perfect pattern with the Hana Tank Top! I had sewn up the dress version previously but remembered that Patternscout Patterns are always such good value for the options that they offer. Sure enough, after digging out the pattern, the Hana can be also sewn up as a v-neck tank top pattern. There are so many options as it can be a cropped length, tie waist or as I’ve chosen, a curved high-low hem.

The bonus of sewing a familiar pattern is that I’ve already invested time and effort in sticking the PDF pattern together and I’ve already worked out the sizing. Now, saying that, I sewed up the size 12 for my size of 37-inch bust and 33-inch waist which was a good fit but for some reason the armscye is slightly tight under my arms. When I sew this pattern again, I’ll be sure to correct this by widening at the underarm area. The only reason I can think of for this to have occurred is that I may have installed the bias binding a bit too tightly in the tank top as this was certainly not an issue when I made the dress version.

The fabric I used was leftover linen from the Megan Nielsen Pattern Shop when there was still a physical shop to visit. Unfortunately, it has since closed which is a pity since there aren’t a wide variety of fabric and haberdashery shops around town. One of my sewing goals this year is to use up majority of my scrap fabric and leftover fabrics. I had about 1.5m of this lovely linen which was the perfect amount for the Hana tank top.

With each sew, I feel that I make a little progress either building the skill of sewing or working out a better way to construct a garment. In this sew, it was the curved hem that I made progress with. I’ve always felt that my curved hems were messy, and I didn’t like the way it would curl up with a folded finish. I could never iron the curves evenly or get close enough to the edge to make it even. Someone on Instagram shared how they made a facing to finish off their curved hem, so I decided to try it out and I’m pleased to say that this worked out perfectly! Definitely the way to go with a curved hem. Now it sits flat and even.

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

X Em

Orchidee Blouse

Making a toile

This is my first attempt at a Deer and Doe Pattern. The Orchidee pattern can be sewn as a dress or a blouse. I’ve chosen to start with the blouse. It has beautiful puffy sleeves with a short peplum cinched in at the waist and the most intriguing component for me, the button loops or sometimes referred to as bridal loops as they are commonly seen on bridal gowns. It’s also fully lined which adds to the quality of the make.

When I started sewing, I would often read the warning in a pattern to toile, or I’ve also heard it being referred to as a muslin. Basically, it’s always a good idea to sew the pattern or part of it with cheaper, or in my case, remnant fabric. It was a struggle at first to understand how to make an effective toile, so I thought I’d document my process in this blog post. There are some good articles of how to fit things properly, but this is my personal process. When I was learning, I found it hard to follow more professional tutorials so I hope this more basic process will be helpful to someone just starting out.

Talking about fit, that’s where I started. Looking at the sizing chart, I sat between size 42 with a 37-inch bust and size 46 with a 33-inch waist. It was also important to check the finished garment measurements as this informed me that there isn’t much ease in the fit meaning that it should sit quite snug or fitted to the body. From here, I printed the size 42, 44 and 46 so that I could grade between the sizes. I would start with the size 42 bust and grade to the size 46 waist.

Now, I know that some people like to print every size out and then trace but I really love the option of just printing my sizes and then modifying the pattern and cutting into the paper. I usually buy my patterns as a PDF version for this very reason because even if I cut into the pattern and my size changes next time, I can still print and repeat the process. 

So, before cutting into the fabric, I usually try to figure out what I’m most unsure about with the fit of the garment I’m making. In the case of the Orchidee blouse, I needed to know from my toile, whether the waist would fit, where the neckline ended and where the under bust seam sat. This then really clarified the process for me as I don’t tend to follow the instructions in order. I used to just use cheaper fabric and sew up exactly as instructed by the pattern but in my opinion, that wastes time, effort, and material as even cheap fabric costs (if not monetarily, then environmentally).

The first part I tested was the waistband as this must cinch the waist in. I cut the size 46 and sewed up and found that it fit well. Having confirmed that the waist is a good fit, I now went back to the pattern pieces and graded from the size 42 to the 46 at the side seams of the bodice. 

The next part was to test the length of the bodice. I had measured from my shoulder to waist but unfortunately, most patterns do not include this measurement. Instead, I cut at the lengthen/shorten line on the bodice pattern piece to add some paper measuring about two inches extra. I then measured the paper with the original length and the added length and found that the original length was fine. The idea of adding the length to the pattern piece is that you can play around with where your bodice piece is with some real measurements. In the Orchidee blouse, it’s imperative that the bodice piece ends just under the bust. 

The neckline was another question mark for me. I’m more comfortable with a modest neckline. I could see with the toile, that it sat an inch too low for me, so it was simple to trace the original neckline onto a blank piece of paper then keeping the top of the neckline in position, I just brought it out by and inch and joined the lines. I then made sure I added the same length to the button loops.

In the end, my toile consisted of the two front bodice pieces, the waistband pieces, and the back bodice piece. From there I sewed the lining which allowed me to check the fit again. It was then an easy process to sew the outer shell of the blouse. 

The button loop did terrify me at first, but the instructions were great, and the tutorial included photographs, so it was easy to follow. I always like to research the many different methodologies. What worked best for me was to hand tack the cord first then sew with the machine which gave me more accuracy. I found that the double-sided tape suggested was okay, but the cord would bump and that movement lead to unevenness in the loops. 

The final dilemma was the peplum length. I initially thought the peplum looked too small, so I decided to double the length of the peplum however, once I finished and wore it, I knew I had made a mistake. It just sat very awkwardly, and I humbly admit that the designers are right and there’s a good reason to trust the original design elements! Out came the seam ripper and it was fixed easily.

All in all, I really enjoyed this sew. It had so many puzzles for my brain, and I enjoyed all the new elements that were tackled in the sew.

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

x Em

Aura Dress

Frocktails 2022

October zoomed by in a blur. There’s been a lot of making but very little time for documenting. So, it’s nice to be sitting with my cup of tea to write about the Aura Dress which I made for Perth Frocktails! What is Frocktails? In very simplistic terms, it’s a social gathering of people that love to sew and is hosted by the Australian Sewing Guild. Everyone dresses in their beautiful handmade frocks or outfits. I was awed by the creativity and talent around me. Some people were dressed in completely bespoke items down to self-made shoes and bags. 

Initially stepping into a big crowd without knowing anyone else apart from my daughter was a bit daunting and put me out of my comfort zone but as quick as the thought passed through my mind, I found myself chatting to so many others that I was soon at ease and having so much fun! I was curious about where everyone’s beautiful fabrics came from and how they started their sewing journey. It was also fun to have my daughter along as everyone was so lovely to her. We had a great night and hopefully this will mean a few more sewing meet ups in the future!

Now onto my Aura Dress which was a lucky win from Papercut Pattern’s monthly sewing challenge. I had entered my Nova Coat for the challenge and was so happy to learn that I had won a free pattern. I knew I wanted to sew the Aura Dress which is a wrap dress with beautiful puffy sleeves and the skirt has the silhouette of a pencil skirt. 

I had three meters of turmeric coloured linen in my stash which was perfect for the dress. I sewed the size 4 and because I had started the sew so late, I did not have a chance to toile the dress. Luckily it fitted but I had to wear a slip on the night as the temperature is still dropping at night (remember, I grew up in the tropics). If I were to make this dress again, I would adjust the skirt size to a 5 to fit my 33-inch waist size better. It was very funny and slightly distressing when I sat down in my dress and realised the split in the front rose very high which was also another reason for the slip and the strategically place handbag whenever I sat down on the night!

Perth Frocktails was a blast, and it was good to be part of a real world event in a time where online life has proliferated. I still enjoy and appreciate my online sewing community but now I’m hoping to be able to show someone in the same room what I’m making and say, “Is it supposed to be like that?”.

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

X Em