Upcycled leather skirt

This was an amazing and challenging project! It’s been two years in progress, and finally I’ve managed to crack on it! The main push for me to finally attempt sewing leather was recent Burda issue, in which this very proper faux leather skirt was featured. And so I figured that it was a sign for me to finally get to this project. I had all sorts of doubts before and during the project which I will share in this post. And now when the skirt is finally finished, I couldn’t be happier with it! And a bit proud, too.

Styled above with my Purple wool jacket and Evergreen jacket

How it started

Everything started a good two years ago. My mom approached me saying she couldn’t quite decide on what to do with my dad’s old leather coat. A good decade ago it was somehow very usual to wear leather coats in autumn. Nowadays this feels like a terribly outdated fashion statement, but well, this was the case back then. My mom had one, my dad had one, my aunts had theirs, even I had one. And it was all genuine leather.

There is a line to be drawn here – I would NEVER purchase genuine leather for my projects – I can very well do without a leather skirt or a coat. In this case, yes, it is a genuine leather skirt, but it is an upcycled dad’s coat, so my mind is calm as I believe I’ve done the right thing. Here’s my dear dad in his coat 11 years ago – that’s about when he used to wear it.

Getting back to the story, I wouldn’t be me, if I passed on a challenge. To my mom’s puzzle about dad’s coat I had an excellent answer – “give it to me, I’ll rip it apart and make something out of it”. It is worthwhile stressing, that at that time I had only made like few dresses and two jumpsuits, and that was the limit of my sewing experience. But lack of actual competence has never stopped me in the tracks to pursue larger endeavors! πŸ™‚

I ripped dad’s coat apart in November, 2020. Pandemics was in full swing – what else I would have been occupied with then, right? It is important to stress, that I actually ripped it, seam by seam. It would have been easier to cut it around seams, but had I done that, I would not have managed to squeeze out this skirt, as it appeared later.

When the coat was ripped to pieces, there was some preparation to be done. First of all, I read somewhere that I’d need a special needle and probably thread to stitch leather, and also adhesive tape to glue pieces together might be handy. So I ended up purchasing all of that, and also threw in a set of clips to secure pattern pieces while stitching, as you can’t use pins on leather. And then I tried to devise a pattern for the skirt.

It started with a basic pencil skirt pattern from one of Burda magazines and then I had to calculate into how many different pieces I’d need to divide the initial pattern in order to be able to make use of relatively small leather pieces that were left after ripping the coat apart. Predictably, it was larger a task than my experience back then would have allowed to complete, and so eventually the pattern making attempt was abandoned. Leather pieces got put away and rested on the top shelf until this summer.

Preparation

When in July I saw the content of the upcoming Burda magazine August issue, this faux leather skirt emerged in front of my eyes. I figured, this has got to be an occasion to finally conclude the project started two years ago. I bought the magazine, right away made paper pattern blocks, and… It became evident that my leather pieces were too small for the initial skirt design. They were simply not wide enough either for the front center piece, or for bottom side pieces. So the design of the skirt had to be redrawn. The front center piece had to be made out of two pieces. If I were to make a side seam on the bottom pieces, there was still not enough leather to accommodate them. So they had to be cut into three sections each (in total 6 bottom sections around the entire skirt instead of 2 wide panels as intended in the initial design). When I realized that I could actually join top side piece with newly created bottom side piece, and I’d have enough of length of leather to cut these two long panels, I decided to do just that and thus break the skirt design a bit. I’m very glad it ended up being possible. If side sections also had seams in the middle, the skirt would have been too trivial and unappealing, in my view.

So when I finished redesigning the skirt, the time came to start cutting all those pieces. There were 14 pieces in total: 2 long side panels, 2 top front, 2 bottom front, the same for the back, and 4 waist facing pieces (front facing has a seam in the middle as I did not have a wide enough piece of leather to cut it as a continuous piece). In addition to all this hard puzzle work, I had to do something else. A number of leather pieces had old interfacing attached. At first I was tempted to ignore it. But when I started cutting out all pattern pieces, it became clear that on some of them interfacing was attached in very weird spots. Eventually I reluctantly decided to remove it, and in some places it took a lot of effort to deal with it.

To ensure the new redrawn pattern was not messed up, I made a cotton toile. It looked and worked fine and no additional adjustments were needed.

Construction

What I had missed in preparing to stitch leather was the understanding of what sewing machine foot to use. I simply hadn’t thought of it. Regular foot worked fine on the wrong side, however when I tried to top stitch leather, half of the stitches were skipped. It was clear that this was not gonna work. I turned to my main source of wisdom – Youtube πŸ™‚ And very quickly learnt that either teflon foot or the walking foot should be used for leather. The first foot reviewed in the video was teflon foot, and I was like – “Oh, c’mon! Will I now have to order it and wait even longer?..” But then the video went on to test walking foot, and it was assessed as performing even better than the teflon foot. This raised my spirits, and walking foot it was!

I had to spend quite a bit of time in testing again and again which sewing machine settings would work the best. Eventually I found that optimal combination – there is a list at the end of this post with all the tips and tricks to succeed in sewing leather.

First I joined two upper and lower center front pieces and then connected them horizontally, too. The horizontal front seam is flat fell seam, and my sewing machine was working at the limit of its capabilities to make it, even provided that I had trimmed one side of seam allowance thus reducing bulk. Then side panels were attached. I had a very tough time to make side panels seams as flat fell seams over the bulk of the front horizontal seam. To somehow ensure the feed I increased the presser foot pressure to maximum and helped the machine by pushing the leather firmly. Finally, back panels were made, the opening for the zipper was left, and they were attached to the side panels thus completing the shell of the skirt.

When I tried the WIP on, I was glad to see that it was turning into a fairly nice skirt. The remaining bit of work was to make the lining, install the zipper and waist facings.

Installing the zipper turned into a nightmare. Or should I say, when the zipper was in, top stitching the center back seam turned into a nightmare. In Youtube videos I often see people top stitching next to zipper using a regular foot and closing or opening the zipper while stitching, so that the zipper head would be moved away. I tried to move the zipper head away, but couldn’t do that, regardless of how much I tried. So those two symmetric top stitching seams along the zipper were made in few stages, because I had to stop, move zipper head away and start again.

The worst part was that when I was almost done with this ordeal, the last 4 cm portion of the top stitching seam simply would not happen! I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that I had just stitched few decent portions of the seam, and this last, very short one would simply not work. I tried few times, there were skipped stitches, the seam got ripped again and again. You are not supposed to rip seams in leather, because each needle poke will leave a hole in it. After two unsuccessful attempts I decided to try stitching through parchment paper (that was one of the advices from Youtube). This didn’t work either. By that moment I was fuming. That section of leather was all perforated already and I had no clue how to finish the seam. Eventually I ended up stitching it by hand, mimicking top stitch seam. It was not great a solution, but a sensible one.

Next, time for the lining came. When I removed the needle to replace it with a regular needle for the lining, I saw that the leather needle was covered in some sticky substance. That was probably micro pieces of leather and residue glue from previous interfacing. This might have been the reason why I struggled so much with that last seam. I threw the needle away and later took a new one.

When the lining was done, the last bit was to make a waistline facing. With new leather needle that happened without much incident. Eventually I attached the lining to the leather waistline facing and joined it with the main skirt at the waistline. Understitching the facing was my last struggle with stitching over few layers of leather. I was very glad to breathe a sigh of relief!

You can press leather, but it needs to be done at moderate heat, without steam, through a pressing cloth and using a clapper afterwards. When the waistline was pressed, I was able to try the skirt on. It was looking really well!

At first I was planning to hem my skirt. On the other hand I did not quite like how undefined the hem of the skirt in Burda magazine was looking. So gradually I realized that it might be perfectly ok to leave the hem unfinished. I actually checked out leather skirts on high end stores online trying to understand if any of those skirts were unhemmed. Some were, and so I made up my mind to not hem mine either. This is something that can be easily changed – I could hem the skirt at any time. Finally, the lining was hemmed using rolled hem foot, and with that my first leather skirt was complete!

Summary

I ran a poll on Instagram asking fellow sewists if they had ever sewn a leather garment, and only 15 pct said they had. Honestly, it was much less that I had anticipated. But also understandably so. Sewing leather is intimidating, it does require quite a bit of preparation. But it is absolutely possible and doable! Below is the list of tips and tricks for sewing leather.

  • Regular sewing machine is perfectly capable of sewing leather
  • Leather also has β€œgrain”, similar to fabric – it will stretch more β€œcross grain” than lengthwise, so pattern pieces need to be cut out lengthwise
  • Can’t use pins to secure pieces in place because pins would leave holes in leather, some sort of clips need to be used instead
  • I used the following tension settings: upper thread tension 5 / 9, presser foot pressure 2 / 6
  • It is absolutely necessary to use special knife-edged needle designed to stitch leather, I used size 90 needle
  • Regular sewing machine foot won’t work – walking foot or teflon foot needs to be used instead
  • The stitch length 3 mm or longer
  • Avoid ripping seams at all costs, because each needle poke would leave a hole in leather
  • For flat fell seams one seam allowance (which will go inwards) needs to be trimmed to reduce bulk
  • It is ok to press leather, it needs to be done from wrong side over a pressing cloth, iron on moderate heat without steam, and clapper helps too

For this skirt I used almost everything that was left after ripping my dad’s leather coat. The skirt is made using the pattern #101 from Burda magazine 2022/08 issue. Note, that the original design does not include lining. I cut paper blocks in size 36 and had to redraw them quite a bit to facilitate leather pieces I had. To make this skirt I also needed 25 cm invisible zipper, black viscose lining, and black thread. This skirt cost me next to nothing (few euros, to be specific – for these few notions). It was made in August, 2022.

I truly like my new skirt. It is possible that some time in the future I might end up actually hemming and thus shortening it. But for now I’m going to wear it as it is. Current midi length is perhaps the least flattering on me though, as it makes my legs look shorter. For my height of 163 cm either above-knee or maxi skirts look so much better than midi skirts. However this time I’m tempted to concede and accept this midi skirt – after all, this particular A shaped design is probably the best at midi length.

When it comes to styling, I tried it on as part of various styles: with chunky sweaters, white shirt, jackets, and like very much how it works with all of those styles. It is a very versatile garment indeed. My husband needed a bit of conviction, though πŸ™‚ In his view, leather garments are outdated, and I get where he’s coming from. That’s probably similar to my own sentiment of not choosing leather for ethical and sustainability reasons. However, in this case, I believe I did the right thing by upcycling my dad’s old coat. Am sure I will enjoy wearing something that was my dad’s, and also hope that my dad is going to appreciate the skirt when he sees it!

Let there be peace in the world! πŸ’™πŸ’›

~Giedre~

Upcycled red shorts

With this project I’m introducing a new category to my projects list, and that is Upcycling. Some of my early projects have produced a number of rather awkward garments. Even now, with few years of sewing experience, from time to time I still make weird choices of fabric, or pattern, or both. And this was so much more prevalent in the very beginning of my sewing career, when I was learning all the things about sewing. I have been carrying along a thought for a while now to upcycle few of those early garments that have not turned out all that well, or perhaps they have, but they have not managed to spark joy in me. During spring tidying up exercise I decided that two of my early jumpsuits would be excellent candidates for upcycling. So this time let me share what I did with my Raspberry jumpsuit.

This jumpsuit was my first garment to have a zipper, I was learning on it quite a bit. In the beginning this sturdy vibrant cotton looked like a good fabric choice for this jumpsuit design. But eventually I started disliking both – the sturdiness of the fabric and also the entire design of the jumpsuit. Two things bothered me the most in the jumpsuit. Due to the fabric being quite sturdy, pants were looking like a pair of pipes – not too flattering at all. And the other problem was shoulder line, which was somehow weirdly slopping down, making me look tired all the time. This jumpsuit did not get much wearing, I think I wore it like a couple of times only. And so after washing it I decided to cut it to pieces and make a pair of shorts out of whatever good was in it. And so here we go – a pair of shorts it is!

So what I did first was cut so meticulously sewn jumpsuit into pieces. It was a bit tough emotionally, but I waved that feeling away. I needed the upper part of pants to stay intact, and then I needed to find enough fabric for the waistband. The jumpsuit had a zipper at the back, I intended to keep that zipper there. I cut it much higher up so that it would accommodate new waistband. And of course I needed to invent the waistband itself.

What I ended up doing was borrow waistband pattern pieces from my wide leg pants that I made last autumn. I knew from the very beginning that there would be a problem with sufficient width of fabric for the front waistband. The width of cut off pants was not sufficient. The back was cut in the middle for the zipper. So the only part of the jumpsuit that I was able to squeeze the waistband from was front bodice, specifically, the middle section of it. I ripped chest darts, carefully pressed the piece of fabric and it was just enough of width for one front waistband. The facing of the front waistband has a seam in the middle as I did not have any other continuous piece of fabric to cut it from.

When all the waistband pieces were cut and interfaced, I installed the main waistband and went ahead to try my shorts on. In the process of doing so I accidentally pulled zipper head out. The zipper at the back was cut in half, so it no longer had those stopping notches at the top. But I managed to somehow forget that, pulled zipper head up swiftly, and next thing I knew, it was out in my hand. Frankly, it was a face palm situation there. I could not manage to put the zipper head back in, and so this meant that I’d need to take the previous zipper apart and install a new one. Just like that I had added totally unnecessary work for myself. Anyhow, it was what it was. I ripped zipper seams, installed a new one and proceeded to install the waistband facing. With the initial waistband, my shorts were sitting very high up on my waist, so I ended up removing a bit of that height, made the waistband a bit more narrow and made sure that shorts fit me well and felt comfortable.

Finally, I had to deal with the hem somehow. I wanted it to be cuffed hem, so I had to calculate a bit to make sure that I liked the length of finished shorts, and the cuffed hem looked well proportioned, too. Eventually I was happy with how the hem was turning out, and with that my old-new garment was finished.

These shorts are made from an old jumpsuit, and there is no pattern for them, really. I calculated all the proportions as I saw fit. To complete this project I needed the following notions: a bit of interfacing for the waistband, 25 cm invisible zipper, and coordinating thread. These shorts did not cost me anything – that’s the joy of upcycling! They were made in July, 2022.

I am really happy how this pair turned out! This fabric works so much better for shorts than it did for long pants. I was also very happy to upcycle the garment, and thus save it from being thrown out. When I came up with an idea to make these shorts, I envisioned styling them with white boxy shirt and black flats – the style below on the left. But when I finished them and started trying them on with other tops, I rediscovered my liberty crop top that I made last year. This top haven’t gotten much wearing as it is really short (I simply did not have more fabric to make it a bit longer). But with these high waisted shorts it works really well (right picture below). And now I like this way of styling my new shorts so much better than my initial styling idea! Which style works better, in your view?

I also have tried them on with my recently made bright floral blouse – the picture at the top of the post. Am not sure if this style isn’t too overwhelming and too colorful, though πŸ™‚ One way or another, my new shorts seem to go really well with many tops I own. And they already now get so much more wearing than the initial jumpsuit did!

With this project my summer collection ends this year. When one is involved in fashion business (self-pun intended 😁 ), one has to live ahead of time! My sewing projects have to be in line with an upcoming season, and what season is ahead of us? That’s COATS season, and that’s something very enjoyable for me! Even though it is a bit sad that summer has flipped to the second half, I am very much looking forward for all the autumn collection makes that I’ll be working on for the upcoming colder season!

Let there be peace in the world! πŸ’™πŸ’›

~Giedre~

Boxy summer top – Simplicity SP104 review

When I was offered to collaborate with Simplicity on their brand new pdf patterns collection, I immediately liked this very nice top and was happy to review the new pdf pattern SP104. As always, thoughts were rushing in my head as I was planning to use this top design for leftover fabric I was eager to finish. And one more reason for my choice of this top was that I was in search for a good top pattern that could later also be used in many different ways. My previous top pattern I tried to hack was cut in too small a size, and after a significant struggle with my Ginkgo top I decided that I needed new top pattern, that would be cut in an appropriate size and could work for many more projects. And I absolutely love how this design worked!

My experience with this pattern started before even getting to the sewing machine. I printed this pdf pattern in A4 format. The print-out was designed in a way that did not require to cut borders of each page, and so paper sheets could just be taped together right after printing them. This saved me quite a bit of time in making paper pattern blocks.

When determining the size that I would be cutting my pattern pieces in, I was contemplating if I should merge few sizes, as I usually do. However, the top looked quite wide in photos, and I decided to stick to single size and ended up cutting pattern pieces in size 10. It was a sound decision. The finished top is wide enough for me, and yet not too wide, which I did not want it to be.

The stitching part started with me making the sleeves. I wanted to deal with those nice pleats as the first step. Even though sleeves look really elaborate, they are very easy to make. I connected the lower pleated parts of sleeves with main sleeve pieces, pressed pleats nicely and only then hemmed them using my 4 mm rolled hem foot. When the hem was finished, it was ironed once again to press the hem nicely in place so that pleats would look neat and tidy.

The first step while working with bodice pieces was to make chest darts and then press them. Then I stitched shoulder seams, interfaced facings and prepared them to get attached to the neckline. I very much liked how back facing was designed to cover the entire opening at the back. In my view that is so much more neat solution than a simple opening made out of back seam.

At that stage I had to make up my mind on the type of back closure. Suggested solution was a simple button loop and a button. Honestly, I do not like making button loops, neither I enjoy attaching buttons on πŸ™‚ So instead I figured that long ties could be a lovely detail to embellish the back of this top. So I cut two long 3 cm wide pieces of fabric, folded each of them in half and stitched them lengthwise at 0.7 cm seam allowance. It was a real pain to turn them right side out! πŸ™‚ While struggling with that I almost regretted my initial decision to ditch the button idea. Eventually somehow I managed to turn those ties out, pressed them carefully and attached to the top of the back opening.

Then it was time to attach the neck facing, which went in without any incident. When I understitched the neck facing and turned the neckline right side out, I noticed that with the back closure tied up, it still is not leaning against my neck all that nicely. Maybe there is something with my shoulders, but it is not the first time that I have to conclude that the neckline at the back gapes a bit. When I use this pattern next time, I might want to make narrow shoulder darts at the back (and also adjust back neck facing accordingly) in order to deal with that unwanted gaping.

Next few steps were rather straightforward. Side seams of the top got stitched, sleeves went in. The last bit of work was to get the hem finished. Since I had been unsure about the length that I might want to choose for this top, initially I had cut bodice pattern pieces 4 cm longer than designed. However, after trying the semi-finished top on I concluded that I wanted it to be rather short, so I ended up making a wide 5 cm hem, which looks quite nice, in my view.

Even though this is a collaboration post, I wanted to make sure I provided an honest review. And honestly, I am very happy how this top turned out. If there is anything to be wished for, next time I’d try to deal with slight back neckline gaping, and perhaps sleeves caps may be made a tiny bit more shallow to ensure that the sleeve cap goes into the armhole a bit easier. Otherwise, it is a very nice top design that is easy to make and works really well!

For this top I used 1 meter of leftover fabric, that was left after my summer vacation dress that I made last year. The pattern used here is pdf pattern SP104 by Simplicity patterns, which was gifted to me. It is available for purchase online on Sewdirect site here. This post is sponsored by Simplicity. Please feel free to check out my Disclosures page to understand better what kind of collaboration it is.

I cut the pattern in size 10. Other notions used were: a bit of interfacing for neck facings, a bit of interfacing tape, and coordinating thread. This top did not cost me anything as I was using leftover fabric. It was made in July, 2022.

I love how this top looks styled with either jeans or shorts. In fact, upon finishing it I realized that it should work perfectly for almost any occasion. I can very well see it worn on vacation that are soon to come πŸ™‚ And just as well I could be wearing it to the office styled with more formal pants.

This top is the penultimate summer project this year. I made it just before summer vacation in anticipation of having plenty of opportunities to wear it during vacation πŸ™‚ I have one last summer project to share and then I’ll be back to square one and start new autumn season!

Let there be peace in the world! πŸ’™πŸ’›

~Giedre~

Gloria dress

This time I couldn’t quite think of a better name for my latest project, and so it will be Gloria dress, just as the pattern maker calls it. When I saw this dress design on Instagram, I immediately decided to make it. Now, that I’ve made it, I’m amused by how overdressed I feel while wearing it. But hey, it is a glorious dress, so I’d better learn to feel glorious in it too! πŸ™‚

This one was an impromptu project. I fell in love with this design when I first saw it. The idea of making a dress with an open back has been stuck with me since last summer. I actually had bought quite a few commercial patterns last year in preparation to make one. However, none of those patters convinced me back then. And so this year when I saw this design, I figured – “yeah, the time has come, I need an open back maxi dress now!”

This fabric in pastel abstract print was purchased at a local fabric store. It is Max Mara cotton, very light, almost sheer, just at the limit of still being ok not to be lined. It has satin-like weave to it, and was very pleasant to work with.

Gloria dress design is by French pattern maker Clematisse pattern. I discovered them while checking out one of the jackets designs that I liked very much – it was their Julia jacket that I’ve also purchased and am planning to make one day. They also have few more beautiful open back dresses, if you’re looking for one (I’m in no way affiliated with them, just really like some of the patterns they offer). The flip side in this case was that the instructions were in French. I did not need instructions all that much, but still had to translate few paragraphs where seam allowances and elastic installation were explained.

It is not a simple dress to make. The main challenge is really the waist, where the waistband is partly attached to the bodice – it is done only at the front, as at the back there is no bodice to be attached to anything πŸ™‚

I started by making the bodice. In my view it was important that it would be lined. There were two reasons for this decision. First, open back dress means no regular bra underneath the dress. So whatever solution I might be choosing for that situation, I wanted to have at least two layers of fabric at the front of the bodice. Second, the neckline and ties at the back needed to be finished somehow. The pattern suggests to just make a rolled hem seam there, but I never deem this as a neat solution. Whenever I deal with ties, I usually end up installing the lining, and thus nicely finishing the ties as well as armholes. Of course this solution means additional work. For the lining of the front bodice I used simple white cotton batiste, and for the back pieces with ties I had to use the main fabric – of course, as when the ties are tied up, both sides of them would be visible.

Since it was the first time I was working with the pattern of this particular pattern maker, I did not trust the sizing in the very beginning. As per provided body measurements I chose to cut pattern pieces in size 36 for the upper body and merged to size 38 at the waist. But just to be in control of the sizing, at first I pinned the main seams, tried the work-in-progress on and made necessary adjustments. All in all the conclusion is that even though my regular clothes size is 36, this dress in size 36 was too large for me. Instead of designated 1 cm seam allowances, I ended up making 2 cm seam allowances for shoulder seams (thus also raising the neckline up a bit) and 1.5 cm seam allowances for side seams all along. I was determined to make sure that the bodice would not be gaping when tied at the back, hence my meticulous efforts to fit the size perfectly.

For small flounce sleeves I made a narrow rolled hem, which was tricky to complete actually, as the curve of those pattern pieces was at the limit of what my rolled hem foot could accommodate. I had to stop a number of times to adjust fabric feed, and still there are few places, where the hem is not ideal (visible in the left photo below). But hey, during all those years I’ve learnt to be less harsh to myself and not to chase each an every minuscule detail πŸ™‚

At first I thought that it might be possible to make all bodice seams as inside seams, but it wouldn’t have worked for side seams. The main reason was that at the back the armhole seam and the bottom seam of the tie were closing the raw side edge, when I connected the main fabric with lining. Alternative solution was to make sides as French seams, and that was what I did.

Next I went on to make the skirt. It was easier and quicker. I had to draft pockets myself, as they were not part of the original design. But we’ve established a long time ago that every dress MUST have pockets, so I absolutely had to install pockets into this one, too! πŸ™‚ After making a narrow rolled hem on the skirt ruffle, the time to install the waistband came. This part of the process was the most peculiar really.

Part of the problem was that the waistband had to be cut as one continuous piece, i.e. there are no separate pieces for front and back. Whereas back skirt is meant to have elastic inserted into the waistband, so it is quite a bit wider than the front skirt waist width. Provided that I was messing around with seam allowances all along, I had little reference as to how long my waistband should be. I measured and measured, but eventually just started attaching it. After few trials and errors, I managed to make it right. When the outer waistband was attached to the bodice at the front and to the entire skirt, I had to install the inner waistband. To finish it, the bottom seam of the waistband was stitched in the ditch. In order to do that neatly first of all I tacked it in place. Two small openings were left open at each side for the elastic to get inserted into the back portion of the waistband. Finally, when the elastic was in and those small openings closed, my dress was complete!

For this dress I needed 2.7 m of this abstract floral cotton by Max Mara that I bought at my local fabric store. I also used a small piece of white cotton batiste for the bodice front lining. The pattern here is Gloria dress by Clematisse pattern. I cut the pattern in size 36 mostly, but with all the adjustments I think it is now made in size 34. Other notions used here were: a bit of interfacing tape for the neckline and ties seams, a bit of interfacing for the waistband, 1.5 cm wide elastic piece for the back waistband, and coordinating thread. This dress cost me 52 Eur, it was made in July 2022.

I loved making and wearing an open back dress very much. I planned to make one more dress with open back and puff sleeves out of bright pink cotton fabric, but unfortunately ran out of time. With vacation time approaching and many other activities planned, I knew that I would not be able to touch my sewing machine for some 4 weeks. And so, on that long weekend I was determined to prepare for vacation by making two dresses. But this one took much longer to make than I had anticipated, so the other open back dress will need to get moved to next summer, I’m afraid. Meanwhile, I still had enough time to complete two simple projects, and I’ll be sharing them a bit later.

If anything, this is a very posh dress, I reckon. When we took these photos in the park on Sunday morning, I felt quite a bit uncomfortable as everyone else was wearing shorts, simple T-shirts, while I was there in all the glory of open back maxi dress and designer shoes! πŸ™‚ I figured then that regular wedges could probably help to dress it down a bit. On the other hand, should I work so hard to dress it down? πŸ˜€ Or should I just be all dressed up on any day I wish instead!

Let there be peace in the world! πŸ’™πŸ’›

~Giedre~

Cobalt blue lace dress

Whilst working on this dress, I had two epiphanies of sorts. One was clear realization of how much richer certain languages are in comparison to others when it comes to describing something in many different words. In this case I was thinking about colors and how in English there are words to describe colors that do not have any direct translation to my native language. For example, cobalt, crimson, or taupe. In my language these would be translated as bright blue, dark red, and brownish gray. I was thinking about this as this time around my project was clearly cobalt, and I kept on thinking of it in English πŸ™‚

Another epiphany started to haunt me midway into the project when I realized that I do not always make very clever fabric choices. I’ve bought enough of eccentric and hardly adaptable fabrics over the years, and still do not seem to recognize on time that I’m about to make another mistake. Like, how on Earth I’ve ended up with this fabric in my hands? Or what will I do with either of these?

The reason I kept on thinking about this whilst making this particular dress was that I’d apparently chosen two medium weight fabrics and they were turning into a heavy and sturdy dress. For summer. During the heatwave of 30 C+. Yeah, at times my decisions are not overly sound. Regardless, here is my cobalt blue lace dress. I carried the idea to use up this lace for more than a year. And yet it is not my favorite dress. Let’s see how I can get to love it again!

I tend to have a story or two on how I appear at the doorstep of one or another strange project. There is a story this time, too. So I bought this textured cotton blend lace last spring during my last fabric haul at The Fabric Store online. (I have stopped shopping at this store because it is based in New Zealand, and even though I like their fabrics, it is so unsustainable to get pieces of fabric flown over half of the globe!). Frankly, I would never have bought it, if a) it was not on sale, b) it wasn’t for this glorious cobalt color. I had just recently purchased these neon cobalt shoes, and a sudden idea sparked inside my head to match this fabric with the same color shoes and make for an awesome look. The deal was sealed, fabric arrived in few days, and… it sat in my stash for more than a year.

First of all, I did not know what to make out of it. Second, it was clear that the garment would need to get underlined, and so I needed to find another fabric in exactly the same color to underline the lace fabric with. This spring I slowly became determined to make an end to this soap opera, especially that fabric piece was thick and was taking too much space in my fabric stash. πŸ™‚ Eventually I managed to find an underlining fabric in one of my local fabric stores. Little did I think that the fabric I’ve just found was really too heavy for its intended purpose. I only concentrated on color and thought of nothing else then. Well, weight problem started resurfacing when I started constructing the dress.

As for what pattern to use for this dress, I had many thoughts. Obviously! I thought of an A line loose fit dress, then a shirt dress, and even a blazer. But eventually I zeroed in on a fitted dress with an A line skirt, perhaps puff sleeves and a fancy belt. Puffy/fancy details ended up being scrapped eventually as it would have been over the top too much. And I was left with this sleek dress and simple silhouette.

After my recent tweed dress project I had slowly come to the conclusion that I would need to develop my own basic pattern blocks. I have used several commercial dress patterns for simple line dresses multiple times, and none of them worked perfectly for me. I’d have to make many adjustments, and the main area where I’d have a lot of issues would be waist. So instead of continuing with those adjustments each time, I dedicated a bit of time to draw my own bodice and skirt blocks by combining several commercial patterns into one. And of course with this project I was eager to test my new, finally self-drafted pattern!

First I cut pattern pieces out of underlining fabric, as it was so much more stable. Then using these pattern pieces, I cut the lace fabric. At first I only cut bodice and skirt pieces, and pockets as well. Sleeves were left for later as I was unsure what kind of sleeves I’d end up making. The work started by underlining the main fabric, i.e. putting it on the underlining fabric and stitching these two together within seam allowance.

From then on I worked with these sandwiched pieces just as it was one fabric. Darts were made on front and back bodice pieces, they were joined together at shoulders and sides. Then I went on to make a skirt. At first I had planned a gathered skirt, but since the realization has already started to sink in that this would be a very thick dress, I changed my mind and decided to go ahead with pleated skirt. It was perhaps the only starkly sound decision throughout this project! But my initial skirt block was designed to be gathered, so I had to calculate quite a bit in order to make balanced and nice pleats. I like very much how this part turned out!

Next, pockets got installed, skirt side seams finished, and I was ready to attach the skirt to the bodice. When that was done, it was possible to try the garment on for the first time. Everything looked ok at that stage. I continued by installing the zipper. And then suddenly things stopped looking ok, as my dress was clearly too wide for me around the waist. Apparently, by making my own pattern blocks I overcompensated for my previous problems with waist circumference and now had an opposite problem. Luckily, it was enough to reinstall the zipper and take in a bit more at the waist while setting it in again. For next times, I fixed my back bodice block by widening back waist darts. Hopefully, when I use this block next time, it will work perfectly! Would be nice for once! πŸ™‚

When the zipper was finally in, I was able to install neck facing. And then another problem became evident. The neckline at the back was gaping a little bit. Clearly, the very top of the dress at the back was a bit too loose. I could have remediated that by removing the facing, ripping upper portion of zipper installation seams and taking in a bit more by reinstalling the zipper. However, at that stage I was so tired of all these revelations about this dress that I simply couldn’t muster energy to do that. So yeah, there is this one visible defect of the dress, that back neckline is not laying as nicely on the neck as I’d like it to.

Two last stages in this project were to somehow hem the dress and to deal with sleeves. Retrospectively I probably should have left the dress sleeveless. But that was the decision that should have been made earlier in the process. Whereas for the hem, there was this one interesting nuance. Skirt pieces were sewn together underlined. Seeing what I was about to do in stitching those side seams, I had hemmed the underlining pieces using 4 mm rolled hem foot upfront. But I left those longer main fabric pieces unfinished until the very end. So I had few options: a) leave them as they were, unfinished, b) make a narrow hem (rolled or overlocked), c) finish the hem using bias tape made out of the underlining fabric. Unable to decide, I ran a poll on Instagram asking for advice how to finish the hem. The third option with bias tape got the majority of votes, option b was second only by a small margin. Since my TLC for this dress was running low, I ditched the third option, which would have been the most time consuming, and decided on a narrow rolled hem. To make my life easier with it, first I stitched a straight seam 1.5 cm off the raw edge. I used that seam as a guide while ironing the hem, and then turned the raw edge in thus creating a narrow rolled hem. How it worked – in pictures below.

Finally I had to deal with sleeves. My husband was adamant that puff sleeves idea is a very wrong one, and I slowly started realizing that too. So simple short sleeves that would be. I made the same hem for sleeves as for the skirt, and installed them without much difficulty. And with that my cobalt trouble was finally over. I truly hope I’ll learn to love it again!

For this dress I used 1.75 m of textured cotton lace (80 % cotton, 20% nylon) and 1.75 m of medium weight cotton underlining fabric. Lace fabric was purchased from The Fabric Store online, underlining fabric – from my local fabric store. The pattern is self-drafted, my first one! I used the following commercial patterns to make my own pattern blocks: M8032 for the bodice, V9075 for the skirt and M7994 for sleeves. Other notions used were: invisible zipper and coordinating thread. This dress cost me 50 Eur. It was made in July, 2022.

If not for joy, this dress was quite a bit about learning. It was my first underlined garment, I had a chance to practice how underlining works. I did not enjoy working with lace fabric all that much, though. And the biggest regret I have is choosing too thick underlining fabric. If there is any silver lining here, this makes for a relatively warm dress. I was working on it during one of the most severe heat waves, with temperatures going quite a bit above 30 C, and I was literally cursing – why on Earth was I making this warm and thick dress when I should be working on light open back dresses! Not too clever indeed. But today temperatures dropped, it started raining. And for the day like this, when it is not more than 20 C this dress will work really well. Still, I’m calling this a salvage project, as there was this only chance for this lace to be used up, I ploughed through the project with quite a bit of difficulty and now I truly hope that I’ll get to enjoy this dress regardless of few flaws!

This might very well be the last summer dress I’ve made this year to be worn to the office. In my view it is a very decent dress, bright and appealing. Those cobalt heels should get put to good use, by the way they are to be blamed for me getting on this roller coaster in the first place, and I should enjoy my new cobalt outfit! And now – let’s make few proper summer vacation worthy dresses, shall we! β˜€οΈ

Let there be peace in the world! πŸ’™πŸ’›

~Giedre~

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