Copying a fashion mag pic!

I know, I can hardly believe I’ve learned enough about how clothes are constructed in these past two years that I can now manage to copy something from a picture. Granted, it’s as simple as pie. But still … facings, closures, darts!

Here’s the magazine picture.imag0418

Notice that there are some lumps up by the front button? I’m wondering if that happened as they arranged the fold to hang a little diagonally. I wanted the diagonal fold, but not the lumps.

I had a small piece of fabric (less than 1 and a half metres, I’d say) that I’ve lain countless pattern pieces on, hoping that they would fit. No go. This time I took the piece, held in crossways around my lower torso, and by golly, it seemed just the right size to take a fold and work as the skirt I wanted.


You can see that in order to get the fold hanging a little bit at a tilt, I dropped the front fold at the waistline a bit. I had to do a little finetuning where I sewed the facing to the skirt, to create a little dip. I aimed for a slight “v” shape. You can still see a white chalk mark that assisted my calculations.

This skirt is a bit of a cheat. I’m not sure whether the original is actually held together with the front button or not. I was figuring out where to place the seam of the tube so it would be hidden in the fold when I suddenly had the bright idea to put the seam at the back. Once that idea came, I realized I could put in a back zip and use the button as a simple design feature. It’s sewed on, through all the layers of fabric. I also sewed a short line of zigzag stitches at the other end of the fold so the whole folded part wouldn’t slide down.

For the back of the skirt I used a wrap skirt I made here as a model. It had four back darts and two side darts. So that’s what I did. Once I had sewn up the darts, I laid the back part of the tube down on some paper, and traced the curve from the CB seam around the side. From there I just continued straight.

The fabric is a really drapey wool blend of some sort. It has subtle stripes woven into it, which you can see if you look really really closely. The colour is hard to capture exactly. It’s actually a grey with a slight greenish tinge to it. It’s going to work with most tops that I’ve made in the last year.


I like to have a maxi skirt to wear around the house as an alternative to loose trousers. That’s my plan for this one. I’ve been kind of unable to drive anywhere because of snow and icy streets for the better part of two weeks, so I resorted to a nearby dollar store for a zipper. It’s a pretty darned cheap zipper. But I figure that’s okay because this will primarily be a “leisure skirt” for home wear.

Finally, for the first time ever, my plans coincided with a competition! I’m always a month behind or a month ahead of the monthly stitch challenges, but this copy of a design original has been made during Linda’s  (“Nice dress, thanks I made it”) Designin’ December contest. I’m not out to win anything, believe me, but just to participate in something for a change.

cut ‘n paste skirts

You know those rectangles of fabric that stores, particularly upholstery stores, have to show the fabrics you can order? They come in a wad, sometimes with holes punched at the top to secure them together, sometimes framed in cardboard? I like to collect those when I can find them. I always figure there must be something I can do with a 4 x 6″ or 8 x 12″ or 16 x 20″ rectangle.

A while ago, I used such a rectangle, along with a short width of doubleknit fabric to make a little skirt. I just sewed the rectangle to the stretch fabric at both sides, and made a casing on the stretch fabric to hold a cord, to which I attached those sports thingees that clamp down on a cord.


Nice fabric, isn’t it? Over time I’ve been wearing it more and more often because the little slip of a thing is really comfortable.

I wanted to make another one with some green stretch fabric and this sample of upholstery fabric.


That turned into a long learning process. The stretch fabric was too fine and stretchy; the upholstery piece was too heavy and unyielding. I tried this and then that and yet another. I ended up with two fabric panels separated by double layers of the knit fabric at the sides. Ta da!



I sewed a couple of darts in the back panel, and inserted elastic into casing in the side panels.


The front panel, replacing the too stiff piece I really wanted to use, is nylon, interlined with something from the scrap stash to give it the right body and stop it from glueing itself to leggings. I have to say I kind of love khaki/pea/moss greens and tend to grab any scrap of it I find anywhere.

I can’t believe I’m wearing mini-skirts.

Notice the green and pink bracelets? They’re felted. Picked ’em up at a yard sale. Ditto the hat. I got the boots second hand in Saskatchewan, which is, like, iconic cowgirl territory. I figure these boots have felt living horse between them.

Now you’ll have to excuse me, I have  business to attend to. Must be somebody needs some kind of sleuthing done on horseback.



Refashioning chubby Chinese dress


This is not a post about a coat. You may have noticed that from the title. My next post was supposed to be about a coat, but I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting to finish the coat so that I can blog about it and this morning when I read the remaining instructions I realized that although I’ve sewn up the whole coat, and the whole lining, there are still about half a dozen steps and they’ll take me daaaaaaayyyyyyys to finish. I’ve been dying to write a post. I realize I could write a WIP about the coat, but it’s kind of too far along for that. So I was gloomily pondering how to write a post about a non-existent garment as I took my daily stroll this late afternoon.

I stopped into a second-hand clothing store, not to buy anything, but who knows they might have something that I might like for its fabric, I thought. It was late afternoon and a staff member was vacuuming around my ankles when I saw a pretty nice looking sweater. I’m allowed to buy a sweater, I figure, since it’s still uncertain about whether I’ll tackle any knitting this winter and if I do knit a sweater, it’s a toss up as to whether it’ll be wearable.

So I was looking for the label to find out what it was made of when I saw a “TOPSHOP” label. I wouldn’t know anything about that, except that I’ve seen my British blogging compatriots occasionally mention “going to the High Street and stopping for a look at Topshop”. I’ve never been entirely sure what that sentence means. So my pulse starting racing a bit because it reminded me that I blog internationally (we all do, of course, but doesn’t that sound just so ‘wow’?) and if only I could write a post about something ….

Well. I tried the sweater (jumper to you Brits) on and it felt fabulous but was too big overall, and too short in front. But it felt fabulous. It’s a great wool fabric. A brilliant colour. And it’s from Topshop. So I began to think that maybe it was charmingly oversize, you know, maybe it was the “boyfriend look”? I bought it. For $12 CAD —  about 4 pounds British I should think — I could wear it indoors when the house is chilly.

Then I really wanted to blog about the sweater, but this is a sewing and sometimes knitting and refashioning blog, not a “what I found at the thrift store” blog, so I considered what I could put with it that involved sewing. Then I remembered the  pair of Chinese dresses that I bought a few years ago at a thrift store sidewalk dollar rack. They were both obviously handmade out of fine British woolens, with China silk linings. For a woman about my height but somewhat chubbier. Possibly never worn, smelling a bit mothballish.

I wondered what had led them to their sad fate in a rack of ragged, worn-out, desolate cast-offs. I wondered if the previous owner had had a few fine dresses made in Hong Kong before immigrating to Canada, but once she got here, decided she’d rather purchase a brand new wardrobe from Holt Renfew. I imagined her in flashy high-end labels smoking cigarettes in an ivory holder at the mahjong tables. Or else she died. Relatives, cleaning out her house, boxed them up and brought them to a thrift store. Either way, there’s a story to those dresses and I didn’t want to leave them to the sidewalk trash. It seemed to dishonour whoever they belonged to to leave them there.

I made a sleeveless jacket out of one of them, but the other has been hanging on a closet hook, waiting for inspiration.

IMG_1016 There’s my cat, finding inspiration. I’ve tried to get her into pictures before, but forgot that all I have to do is lay some fabric on the floor, and she climbs right on board. Way to go, Holy Smoke.


Earlier in the summer I slid the dress down my hips and discovered the wider tummy part fit my hips, and the narrower part just below the bust fit my waist. I could cut in just above the side zip, right under the underarms, put in a facing and have a skirt. I put it aside for a winter project, and yesterday, with the new sweater under my arm, I pulled the dress off the hook, laid it down and took the scissors to it.



I haven’t done any of the sewing yet. There’s enough extra at the waist for a few darts, but that, plus making a facing is all I need to do. I still don’t know whether this fabric is black, or blue and black. In my youth I would never have worn the blue of this sweater — I wasn’t really a fan of jewel tones and blue was my least favourite colour. Today I love it. Maybe it’s the greying hair?

I’ve tried on what remains of the dress, by the way, the sleeves and shoulders, and I think that with the addition of a bit of trim, I can wear it as a shrug. Then I’ll have used the entire thing, wasting nothing.

What kind of store is Topshop anyway? We’ve had Marks and Spencer here in Canada, but that’s the only British chain I know.

The Wrap That Couldn’t


I wanted this skirt to be a wrap. I really did. And dam it all, I still do. I just didn’t have enough fabric. I’ve had this piece of gorgeous silk for about a year, having picked it up for a couple of bucks as a roll-end of about a metre, and from time to time I’ve wrapped it around my waist just to admire it and contemplate how perfect it would be as some type of wrap or sarong-like skirt. I bought a wrap pattern that I thought might work, but horrors, there wasn’t nearly enough fabric. I thought the pattern I used for the Olivia Wrap would work, but nope. Finally I decided to use the yoke from the Olivia Wrap pattern, and simply sew the rest of the fabric into a tube, gather the top and attach it to the yoke. Simple, but with gathers that could catch the light. It’s not bad, but I find I’m still wishing I could have made it into a wrap.

IMG_0959 Even with this design, I had to use the fabric against the grain rather than with it, because the piece was wider than it was long. But it drapes as nicely as if I’d used it “properly”, so I’m happy with that.

I decided to line this puppy with some wine coloured silk I had left over from my stay in Beijing in 1980.


As you can see, I also left a side slit — that was purely so that I could walk comfortably without having to shorten my stride. I then discovered the problem with lining a skirt that’s fuller than a pencil skirt but has a side slit. The lining just wants to hang out the slit. I had to tack it to the hem for a few inches on either side.

I made an invisible zip for the first time with this skirt. For that, I had to read the instructions, put them away and … meditate, clear my mind, do a few mantras until suddenly, I knew what to do. Ta da.

20150620_004546271_iOS  Unfortunately the zip is not totally invisible when I’m wearing the skirt. I think because it’s a side zip, the yoke pulls open a bit when worn, revealing what’s supposed to be a stealth closer. Poo.

I don’t have anything to wear with this skirt, though, and that’s a problem that I’m finding with a few other “bottoms” that I’ve been making too. Since I took up sewing a few years ago the only tops I’ve made have been baggy, oversize blouses and tunics that I can wear with skinny pants or leggings. Turns out they look awful with full or gathered or baggy bottoms. So now I have to make some more fitted tops. It seems like the more variety in your wardrobe, the more variety you need. Gaa!

Anyway, this skirt is a little more formal that I usually wear, but that’s to be expected with this fabric, I think. It’ll be great for any dressier occasion at any time of year, and will look as good with tall boots as with sandals. It could be in my closet for years. And I’ll probably be a lot more excited with it when I get something to wear on top with it. If anyone would like to point me to a nice fitted top, please do.

Olivia Wrap

IMG_0948 skirta

I’m afraid I’m going to start yet another post about what I did with fabric given to me at my “exit party” last fall. Maybe you’re getting a bit tired of this subject, but I have to say I have never before encountered such examples of the “law of unintended consequences”. It feels like I’m getting smacked in the face with them. I never expected that suggesting people bring a metre of fabric as a gift to my party would result in changing the way I dress. Who’d have thought?? But as I’ve tried to match clothing designs to the fabric, that’s what’s been happening.

The picture on the left is from Simple Modern Sewing, which I’ve made several tops from. The picture on the right is my version of the wrap skirt. Olivia, my former colleague, supplied exactly one metre of fabric, which wasn’t quite enough for this skirt. I had to shorten the skirt, because the full length of front and back panels required about four inches I didn’t have. I got some matching fabric for the yoke at the third fabric store I tried. Given that the fabric is grey with a bluish cast, it wasn’t as easy as I thought to find a match.

This is a really perky skirt! I think my version is a lot different from the original because it’s shorter, and because the fabric is 100% cotton, rather than the linen suggested. I found myself pouting in the mirror, trying the knock-kneed coltish look, tugging at my shirt…


Notice the high heels? Stage wear, people. I would never wear high heels on the street. Or would I? Aargh, these shoes suit this skirt! It makes me feel so young, and perky, and, oh I don’t know, pouty and coltish 🙂

It’s an amazingly comfortable skirt. Wearing it feels like wearing nothing, which is great on the one hand, but on the other a bit disconcerting. Any breeze at all will blow this skirt up around my waist, I fear, and I do live on the wet-coast rainforest, which is windy.

skirt skirt2

It’s a nice design, a fake wrap that’s really a tube. There are two ties, one of them starting inside the yoke and emerging out of a little hole in the side seam, so you can tie it as tight or loose as you like.

I made the medium and the only change I made was to redraw the sides of the yoke, reducing the slant. This resulted in an extra four inches at the “waist” (my actual waist is quite a few inches higher up).


Now this look is totally me. I haven’t worn a skirt this short since I was about 17 (and my skirts then were possibly a full foot shorter), but this is a really comfortable, new look for me. It has occurred to me that the blue-grey fabric (which I love) is maybe too sombre for such a perky design. What do you think? It seems to me more vampish than modest? Does it have a touch of goth? Should I make more? I have a length of dark maroon and grey wool plaid fabric — would that work for a winter skirt? Or should I pick up some lively bright floral fabric to make another summer one?