dixie diy | ballet dress

i haven’t felt much like writing lately, but i do have a backlog of projects to show off! and it’s only natural to start with the last thing i made and work backwards…

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the knit skater dresses have been über popular around the blogs, and for good reason. in the quest for everyday wearable clothes, few things are more comfy than knit dresses. i decided to go with dixie DIY’s ballet dress. and really, how has this pattern not received more love? i’ll give up $4 to avoid drafting my own, that’s for sure. there is only one sleeve length in this pattern (3/4 length) but you could easily shorten or lengthen as needed. i should say, this was probably one of the fastest .pdf files i have ever put together. i managed to cut and tape while playing a rousing game of candy land with my son. multitasking at it’s finest.

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this is the fabric’s actual color

the pattern size chart is simply a list of finished measurements. i find this particularly helpful with knits since the stretch of your knit can vary so widely. i used a grey poly/lycra ponte. i know, i know… ugh polyester… it just felt so nice i thought i’d give it a shot. plus it was only $4/yd. as far as sizing goes, i decided to grade from an XS up top out to a M at the waist. this worked out great, though i have a little bit of pulling on the sleeve at the underarm. the shoulder seam may need to come out a touch, and perhaps the armhole scooped out in the front a tad. the waist seam hits me right at my waist in the back, but hikes up a little in the front. i think next time i’ll add about 1/2″ to the front bodice length. also, i cut the skirt 1″ longer than my size dictated to compensate for my height. these are all minor adjustments, and i’m perfectly content with how this one fits.

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i had planned to do a neck band finish, but when i tried it on for size i was happy with where the neckline was sitting. i decided to bind the neckline edge by serging a strip of fabric to the right side, then wrapping it to the back and top stitching. i was a rebel and used a regular straight stitch. the stitches pretty much disappear into the fabric giving me a nice neat neckline. then i finished off the sleeve and hem with my twin needle.

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i really love this dress and am already plotting several more. i know it’s been said ad nauseam, but this really is a perfect style so if you haven’t sewn one up yet, what are you waiting for?

—lisa g.

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burdastyle | ballet wrap top

i’ve thought way too much about how to cleanly finish the hem for a wrap top, so i thought i would share my most successful method. my thoughts on this started with my coppelia wrap cardi and my dissatisfaction with the pattern’s instructions. i like the idea of a hem band because often the knits i would choose for this kind of cardigan would be difficult to hem with a twin needle (since i don’t have a coverhem machine in my arsenal). i was determined to find a better way, and was able to have a second (and third) try on ballet wrap tops i made for two of my girls.

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i used burda 12/2011 #143 and made a few pattern changes so i could finish all the edges with bands. i cut 2″ off the sleeve hem (and replaced it with a wide cuff), 1″ off the bottom hem, and simply left the neckline as is on the pattern. the pattern has a wrap around edge binding, so adding the band as i did brings the neckline in a little. however, looking at the picture on burda’s model, the neckline looks pretty wide, and adding a neckband band fixed that.

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so here’s how i do the hem band and ties: take the tie pieces and sew the side and one end, and turn them right side out and press (this burda pattern has you do more of a spaghetti strap thin tie, but i prefer the look of a wider tie). the rest you can see in the following pictures.

i love how easy this is, and so much less fiddly than the coppelia instructions.

as far as this particular pattern goes, i made up the girls standard RTW size (i didn’t measure them for size) and the fit is a little bigger than i would have preferred. however, they should be able to get at least two years of wear with these sweaters. the regulation dance wrap sweaters are $20-25 each, and i made two for under $15, with fabric to spare. this is one of those cases where making it was a huge money saver.

as you can see, the sleeves are ridiculously long. in burda’s defense, Isabella is quite small for her age.

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i don’t have any modeled pics of my other daughter, sylvia, but the fit on her is much better. still large, but not comically so. the girls love their sweaters so much, they’ve hardly taken them off since i made them! they have worn it with dresses, leggings, skirts, jeans, you name it. this turns out to be a much more useful sweater than i would have anticipated.

—lisa g.

papercut patterns | coppelia wrap

a while back i began to think that the coppelia wrap from papercut patterns would be a great addition to my wardrobe, in particular to wear with my skirts and over a couple of my dresses. i obsessed for a few days over having a wrap sweater and, before long, caved and put in my order. even though it was coming from the other side of the world, i was super impressed with how quickly it showed up! the fantastic thing about papercut is that they don’t charge extra for shipping. nothing i hate more than finally splurging on a more expensive pattern, only to get hit with an extra $5 in shipping. so, as others have stated, this makes papercut patterns’ pricing comparable to many other indie companies.

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i had a hard time selecting a fabric, but finally found a cotton/rayon/spandex interlock in a nice weight and in that perfect shade of red. i mentally checked off several things in my closet that would match (like my zinnia!), and in the cart it went (purchased locally from fabric basement, $7-ish/yd i believe).

i had pretty high hopes for this pattern, especially after seeing Lladybird’s numerous variations (this one is my fav!). however, my initial reaction to this sweater was one of disappointment. now, i had seen all the other reviews and complaints of this running large and, well, those reviews are certainly to be believed. it’s been a while since i actually sewed this, but i know i went down a full size to start with, and i took off another inch or so at the underarm. i puzzled over this pattern for a while, trying to figure out why it was so large and funnily shaped around the bust/underarm/side area. it seems as though this is drafted more like a dolman top with raglan sleeves. the pic below shows that all the weird pulling goes away with my arm at a 90 deg angle. so, instead of continuing to trim down the side seam little by little, i think perhaps the sleeve/body seams need to be taken in as well. if i alter this one (or make up future versions) i’ll need to do some comparisons to other raglan sleeved patterns.

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p.s. the sleeves are super long! yay for my monkey arms, but maybe not so much for someone shorter…

the slouchy fit seems intentional. however, i just don’t have the bust to fill out any part of the top, so it feels a bit frumpy and unflattering. that said: i’ve worn this quite a bit and only have minimal interest in altering the fit.

other than strange fit issues, i have a few nitpicks with the construction, specifically in regard to how the hem band is attached. you are supposed to sew one side of the band to the right side of the hem, then fold the inner SA of the hem band and stitch all the way around to catch the underside. now, i don’t know about you, but that just sounds like it would be a hot mess on the inside. it can be challenging enough to catch woven fabrics that way, but a knit? i don’t think so! plus, the hem is one of the few areas that needs to retain stretch, so doing this on my straight stitch seemed like a bad idea. i decided to cut the tie part of the hem band off and attach it separately. i’m not super happy with how that came out, and weeks later a much better way of doing the whole hem band and ties dawned on me. i’ll show you what i’m talking about later because i made wrap tops for my two ballet-dancing girls and took a few pics.

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all in all i have mixed feelings about this pattern. on the one hand the fit is odd and the construction isn’t awesome… but then again, it’s all highly fixable for future makes. the only reason i don’t want to jump ship and try a different pattern is because of the raglan sleeve. i LOVE raglan sleeves. they eliminate all my shoulder adjustments and who doesn’t love to “set in” a sleeve by sewing two nearly straight lines? winning!

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okay, that’s all for now. i have so many projects to share, and so little time to do it, blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada… same song and dance as everyone this time of year. hopefully i can get caught up before 2014 rolls in! hey, don’t laugh. it could happen…

—lisa g.

hemlock tee

i knew i wanted to try out grainline’s hemlock tee the minute i saw it. it looked super comfy and lounge-y and quick to make up. i picked up some lightweight striped knit and knew it would be a perfect match. i made a couple changes to the pattern, first i scooped out the neckline by 2″. i may have overdone it, in the future i’ll probably add an inch back in. i cut my neck binding on the bias because i think that looks best when you have striped fabric. if you cut the binding as usual, any wiggly sewing is really obvious (because of the stripes). you can cut the binding on the grain, but i always feel the stripes look too jarringly angular; the bias stripe feels more subtle.

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the other change i made was to cut the front piece 2″ shorter than the back, giving me a split hemline. i’ve been wanting to try this out, and i think it worked well here. to do this, i hemmed the front and back separately then serged the sides, leaving the last 2″ before the shorter hemline open. i pressed back a small hem, then took a 1/2″ wide strip of fabric and sewed it along the inside edges. if you look at any polo shirt in your closet, you’ll see what i mean.

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i didn’t even bother turning in the raw edge of the binding strip… but it’s held up just fine

this is a fun and easy top to sew and is perfect for lounging. sure, it is entirely shapeless, but that’s kind of the beauty of it. actually, i wouldn’t mind lengthening it for more of a tunic or even a dress for belting. the only thing i’m not super happy about is the sleeves. they’re awfully wide at the hem, so i may narrow them or cut them down and add a cuff instead. as they are, they don’t stay up when i push them away and it kind of annoys me how they flap around. anywho, that’s just a minor detail and easily fixed. overall, it’s a great FREE pattern and i’m absolutely loving it!

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happy lounging 🙂

—lisa g.

lounge wear

lately, i’ve been lamenting the fact that i don’t have enough lounge-y clothes. fact is, as soon as dinner is over and the dishes done, i sprint for my comfy clothes! problem is, i don’t really have that many to pick from. i have some yoga pants that i’ve worn for ages and really need at least one other pair to switch off with, and any leggings i have are too thin to wear without bootay coverage. the problem with RTW yoga pants is that they are expensive, always too short, and made of horrid synthetics. and RTW leggings… well, too thin and hahaha as if they can make it over my bum!

i haven’t done the yoga pants yet (though i really want to try this maria denmark pattern), but i finally did make leggings. i ordered the most dreamy black modal/rayon/amazingness knit fabric from girlcharlee.com. and holy moses, i wish i could pass a little swatch to each and every one of you this stuff is amazingly awesome! it’s super stretchy, matte, thick, and feels amazing! did i mention amazing? i used mccalls 6173 and went down a size from the recommended, and added 1″ to the back rise, grading to nothing toward the sides. from mid-thigh down, they were huge. granted, my fabric had far more stretchiness than called for, but i had to remove inches in width. i left the bum area alone (no need for the fabric there to be stretched to max capacity) then kept tapering in and tapering in… and finally i arrived at what you see here. i am pleased that this pattern sits high enough to cover both my rear and my mushy mommy bits (most leggings give me severe muffin top).

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photo quality is pretty meh, i know. it’s been cloudy and rainy and i gave up waiting for it all to clear out… classic new england weather!

i’m not really in the “leggings as pants” camp, but these cover and, since they’re black, hide the lumps and bumps pretty magically. i’m really looking forward to making some longer tees (hemlock i’m looking at you!) and tunic length shirts to pair with them. and dude. leggings are flipping FAST to make. one pass up each leg, join the legs, then for the waistband i serged 1″ elastic to the inside top SA, then flipped it down and zig zagged it in place along the lower edge of the elastic. had i not needed to go back and fiddle with the leg width, these would have been cut and finished within the hour.

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oh hey, i also made my top! this is a sweatshirt-type knit, maybe a french terry? i really don’t know. it doesn’t have much stretch, so i took my dolman top from cation designs and added a total of 4″ in width, 1″ in length, and lowered the front neckline by 1″. my original pattern printed off-scale, so i can’t necessarily give you specifics, but you get the idea—i was aiming for a sweatshirt type top. i kept the hem band smaller to hug my hips, and did a narrow neckline binding. i made this one a few weeks ago and i’ve pretty much lived in it ever since!

after i cut this top out i started to doubt whether or not a short sleeve sweatshirt was going to be very useful, but it seems to be just the right weight for chilly evenings. plus, i’m constantly pushing up long sleeves, so this turns out to be extremely useful.

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wow guys, i’m totally hooked on loungewear! hopefully i can make more of it, especially as fall comes around. with my current lack of interest in buying RTW, these are great pieces and near-instant gratification because they are so darned fast to sew!

—lisa g.

anthro knock-off tee

for some reason, we all love to knock off anthropologie garments. i don’t know why… maybe it’s because of their use of kitschy fabrics on high-ish end clothing or just their unique style. for me it’s because every time i browse i inevitably shout: “hey, i could make that! and for a quarter the price!! and not use polyester!!!” i’m quite a spectacle sometimes. i checked out their blouse selection recently because i have some silk chiffon fabric i’m just not sure what to do with and needed some inspiration. i ended up finding none, but did come across this super cute top and immediately knew what fabrics i wanted to use to make my own. the anthro top is a woven, but it reminded me of some knits at girlcharlee and next thing i knew i was adding fabrics to my cart and well you know the rest.

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i also recently came across the super awesome and FREE scoop neck tee pattern by skirt as top and knew it would all be a perfect match. i love that it is fitted through the bust and swingy at the hips. i used to be terribly self-conscious of swingy tops, and avoided them at all costs. why? probably because i spent nearly six consecutive years of my life pregnant or freshly post, and well once you have four kids people just assume you’re going to have at least six or ten more and are suspicious at any wearing of swingy tops. but, now that i’m more than four years removed from all that it’s time to let the swingy tops back into my life.

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the pattern comes in one size, small/medium (for reference i usually wear a 4-6 in RTW tops) and has a deep scoop neck and kimono-style short sleeve. i wanted a regular sleeve so i took a size 8 tracing of my renfrew and used that as a guide to make regular armholes and short sleeves. i also raised the scoop neck by 1″ and cut my binding narrower than called for. for the back, i cut the pattern across the back to make separate yoke and lower back pieces. i added 1″ at CB on the fold (so 2″ total) to make a pleat when joined with the yoke.

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i’ve always wanted to experiment with print mixing, and i really love how these two work together; fun but not too cray-cray. the striped knit i used turned out to be one of those impossible to work with rayon blends. every single time i use this type of knit i just want to tear my hair out! this neck binding is far from perfect (i was trying to get only the grey part to show) but since it was actually my third attempt at binding this neckline (the first time i used a different method and it looked truly awful, the second was way too wide and looked dumb) i couldn’t be bothered to care anymore if it was in fact perfect. the bird portion is also a rayon blend, but of the far more stable and super easy to work with variety. in truth, i assumed the bird print would be significantly smaller than it turned out to be. i was relying on what i saw last year when everybody and their grandmother was using this bird print. and, well, i didn’t stop to check details like that when i suddenly had to have the fabrics right now! it caught me off guard when i ripped open my package, but i quite like the large scale now that the shirt is made up!

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while this design worked great with the knit scoop neck tee pattern, it would be superb as a variation of the scout tee in a woven (kelli of true bias made something similar recently—gorgeous!). in fact, it would be a great way to use up those odd bits of leftover fabric. i totally love this tee, and i’m super inspired to do more color/print blocking to make my basics just a little more fun!

—lisa g.

a couple tees

some may find sewing tee shirts is terribly boring, but i happen to love them. and it’s my blog, so there! here are two more. i had quite a bit of green knit fabric left over from one of my renfrews and since green is my boy’s favorite color, i promised i would make him a tee shirt. i put it off for quite a while because i didn’t know what to do for a boy’s tee. it’s not like i can just throw a ruffle on it and call it a day. i finally got the idea to make a silhouette-type applique of a truck. i found some scraps in one of my many boxes/bags of leftovers and set to work.

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i added some knit fusible to the back of the applique, pinned it on the tee, then zig zagged it in place. i used my walking foot to keep it all from stretching. i left the edge raw so it would get a little texture as it gets washed and worn. i didn’t use an existing pattern (there are a few good ones out there here, here, and here) instead i traced off a tee he had in his closet. call me cheap, but we just plunked down $900 on car repairs so… uh… the fabric budget (and basically anything that is non-edible) has been chucked for a couple weeks. boo.

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he is super pleased with his new tee! i have a few more boy-friendly colored scraps (and maybe even a few re-fashionable tee shirts…) so hopefully i can pump out a few more for spring.

now on to me… for MONTHS i have looked longingly at the chevron knits at girl charlee. but every time i was ordering, either they were out of the ones i wanted, or i just couldn’t think of how i could incorporate it into a top suitable for an adult. an entire chevron… anything… just seemed like too much. enter the brilliant idea to pair it with a solid! pretty sure this was my sewing sister’s idea (as in she’s my sister and she also sews…). it’s really hard to pair up knits without feeling them, so i studied the weight/content/stretch factor and said a little prayer. fortunately what i picked paired perfectly!

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the grey on white chevron was my favorite because it’s more subtle than the brighter options. i don’t have a raglan sleeve pattern per se, so i took the hot cocoa tee by dixie, slashed and overlapped until it was the same size as my renfrew. worked like a charm!

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i made the sleeves some random length (finished with a band), made the hem curved like a baseball tee, and added a tiny pocket. love it! the chevron knit is a tiny bit see-through, so i don’t think it would work for a dress unless it were lined, but it is super soft and (duh) CHEVRON! which is awesome. every time i wear it my husband starts asking for his own tee shirts. “just like yours. but probably not with that patterned fabric stuff. just plain.” we shall see, husband. we. shall. see.

—lisa g.