Red on Whitehaven – Self drafted Maxi

Hi everyone and happy Australia Day (or Straya Day as some say 😀) to everyone at home and all you expats around the world! I hope you have all had a great start to the new year! Being a working mum, things have started off very busy for me after a short Christmas and New Year’s break. I didn’t get to anywhere near as much sewing or blogging as I would have liked to last year. I hope this year won’t be a repetition of that… I have become too smart to make any new year’s resolutions for this sewing year, because I know myself and never really keep them. So I’ll just go with the flow and see what happens…

I had this blog post flying around cyber space, almost ready to go and since it’s Australia Day, I thought it would be perfect for our national day, photographed on Australia’s most beautiful and iconic Whitehaven Beach.

We were about to leave on our sailing holiday around the magical Whitsunday Islands and me being me, had to make something special for the holiday. All I knew was that the something had to be red and BIG to stand out on the pure white sand at Whitehaven. So I was looking for inspirational photos of maxi dresses. You really can’t get any bigger than a maxi dress, right? I found this one in red on Pinterest and it was a winner for me.

Unfortunately I had no idea who the designer was and what the front looked like. I was having a total creative blank and had no ideas on how to make the front work with such a low cut back. I had also left it so late, until we only had a few days before leaving on the holiday, that I just decided to do the first thing that came to mind. In retrospect, not a good idea.

I cut the back of the dress to the lowest cut possible without showing too much and thought I needed to compensate the front by cutting it as high as possible without it being in my face!

In order to make the dress as big and flowy as possible, I used the full width of the fabric for the front and back.

First thought was to make the back gathered and the front more fitted. But I had bought a lot of beautiful red cotton voile from The Fabric Store and decided to make a gathered front as well. I wasn’t exactly sure how to cut a wide and deep enough back, so this is the very archaic method I used:

First I machine sewed along the width of the fabric in four rows, very unevenly as you can see… and gathered the fabric as evenly as I could. Then I made a paper template for the back cut out, lay it on the gathered back and used soap to mark the curve on the gathering.

  

I used the bias cut fabric strip I had prepared, pinned it onto the soap marking and then hand sewed the bias strip to keep it in place before sewing it with the machine. After it was machine sewed, I cut away the inside of the back as close as possible to the bias strip, folded the bias cut strip to cover the edges of the low cut back and sewed it in place on the inside of the dress.

  

After the back was done, it was time to get onto the front. All I did was fold over the top of the fabric to fit the bust in, about 30 cm. So the front bodice is made of a double layer of the cotton voile. For the front top edge, I made a tunnel about 5 cm from the very top to fit in a narrow elastic. Then I measured how far down I would need to go to make the second tunnel for the elastic just under the bust line.

I pulled the elastic through both the tunnels to a comfortable fit and then fixed the elastic ends so that they wouldn’t slip away. Then I joined the front and back together, leaving enough of a slit for the arms.

Next up was making the straps using the bias cut strip that I had attached to the back. I simply measured a comfortable fit and hand sewed the narrow strips in place.

The fabric is beautiful and perfect for a summer dress. It’s quite thin but not see through, so there is no need for lining.

After the dress was completely finished, I decided that the back was so wide with it’s low cut that it would be good to have some versatility to it by either wearing it completely open or using a corset effect to tighten it and give it a different look.

For this, I bought some very narrow red ribbon and sewed it on the inside of the back cut out bias strip. I left a gap of about 1 cm every few centimetres to pull the ribbon through in a zig zag. I used the same ribbon for the loops as the ribbon to zig zag through it. If I decide not to wear the ribbon in the back, the loops are well hidden and not visible from the outside.

Finally, it was time to hem. The hem on this dress is extremely wide. Only because I had enough fabric to make it that wide and I love a huge hem. Sometimes it gives the garment a more generous look than a minimal, narrow hem.

This is one garment that I am not entirely happy about. The back is great and a real eye catcher. It’s also nice ventilation on a hot day. But I don’t like the front at all. It was a very rushed job and will have to be redone to something that I like and will end up wearing.

I’m someone who will often make a garment for the sake of making it, but the full intention is to be able to wear the garment and not have it hanging in the wardrobe, taking up space. While I really dislike redoing things I thought were finished – and that is putting it mildly – I will redo this one! Just to have the self satisfaction of having a wearable dress in a beautiful fabric.

Despite this dress being a flop in my books, it really is about the back view and at least that part worked!

 

It will be back to the drawing board to brainstorm some new ideas on how to save this maxi. I already have one idea that I may utilise. When that finally happens, I will blog the revamped dress!

All in all, a lesson learned: don’t make things in a rush and especially not when you have no plan!

Magical Whitehaven Inlet with it’s pure white silica shifting sands

 

 

Scenes of Whitehaven Beach

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STYLING: hat – Myer (no name brand), sunglasses – Chloe, ring – Apart Fashion, red lips float – funboy

LOCATION: Whitehaven Beach, Queensland, Australia

Tropical Bliss

 

When I think of the tropics as a holiday destination, I automatically think of floating maxi dresses. So when we were packing for our two week trip to Queensland last month, this self-drafted maxi found its way into my suitcase. I made it a while ago, but still love the print on it and love to wear it on a warm sunny day.

Every time we go somewhere nice, I try to use the opportunity and pack something I have made so that I can have it photographed in a nice location and also wear it during my holiday.

The fabric from this dress came from Spotlight. It’s a cotton sateen with a bold green and brown flower print on it. When I first saw it, I knew it would become a maxi dress with a bit of a 70s look to it. I only bought about 1.5 metres of the fabric without any specific pattern in mind. The dress turned out the way it did because I ran out of fabric to make it almost any other way!

This was going to be a high-waisted maxi from the start. I first made the skirt using the complete width of the fabric, pretty much down to the ground. I pleated it in even pleats that folded in towards the centre front where there was an inverted centre pleat and the same at the back.

Then I got a bit stuck with trying to make the bodice because there wasn’t much fabric left. I cut the waistband and front halterneck part as a sort of scarf that just gathered around the neck. But still wasn’t sure about how to do the back part of the bodice.

I decided to cover up the back as much as I could with what I had left of the fabric. I found that when I had joined the front to the back, the front part of the halterneck was sagging somewhat in the cleavage area, because I had made it slightly too long. So I tried the dress on and was contemplating on how to fix the problem in front of the mirror. I was pulling the part around the back of my neck down with my hand and suddenly had an idea!

I would just loop a small strip of fabric down the centre back to pull down the excess fabric that was too loose and give the bodice a good pull and at the same time a perfect fit. I thought that was a pretty good invention to solve the problem! Well, it worked and the front part of the bodice sits and fits perfectly.

I only lined the bodice front and back of the dress and didn’t bother with the skirt or the halterneck part. It doesn’t appear to be see-through, even in stronger light, so it was a relatively quick sew. I inserted an invisible zip on the left side to keep the back in one piece and that was about it.

Originally, I thought to sew a few green and brown sequins and tiny beads in the centre of each flower pattern but abandoned this idea when I realised they could possibly cause staining during washing. In the end I decided to keep the dress more simple without the glitz. Sometimes more is more but in this case it was less is more :-)!

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a completely self-drafted dress, I am really happy with the outcome. I think maxi dresses are something that most seamstresses can make without a pattern. Of course that requires a lot of fittings to get the right fit. But I know that I try my self-made garments on many, many times in front of the mirror and tweak here and there even when I use a pattern, until the fit is perfect for my body shape.

Apart from wearing this maxi for collecting sea shells and corals at the beach (!), I’ve worn it to family gatherings, events and a Christmas get-together with friends. I hope to wear it more often this summer.

I think it can be both more casual and relaxed or dressier with the right accessories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The day we took these photos, we spent the day at Horseshoe Bay in Queensland picnicking, swimming, walking and just enjoying the magical view from under the shade of one of the trees on the beach. We also found some beautiful washed-up sea shells and coral. What a beautiful little gem of a beach!

LOCATION: Horseshoe Bay, Queensland, Australia

OUTFIT: sunglasses – Margot by Tom Ford, ring – Apart Fashion

PHOTOGRAPHY: meggi-design

Heidi in the Mountains – Vintage Simplicity 7431

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Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo here comes my Heidi dress! This dress is appropriately named Heidi because we photographed it in the beautiful, mountainous region of Bavaria, Germany, while on our holiday.

I found this stunning 70’s pattern while browsing through Etsy and couldn’t wait for it to arrive! It took about 5 weeks to reach me from Canada and the seller and I thought it had gone missing in the post. But when it did finally get here, I went hunting for the perfect fabric. The things that really grabbed me when I first saw this pattern were the colour white, the long dress, the big collar, the halterneck and the big pockets – a lot of 70s elements that I just adore! I love the cover dress in white, so white it had to be!

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White Waffle Pique FabricI was after a fabric with some texture to make it more interesting, preferably a natural fibre. Tessuti in Melbourne came to the rescue with it’s white waffle pique fabric in 100% cotton. I got some for the dress and realised that I had looked at the pattern for the short version of the dress and not the long one! So after playing around with the pattern pieces in every possible position, I managed to just, just squeeze out the maxi dress! After I was finished making it, I ordered some more of this gorgeous fabric for a top because of the beautiful quality. Lucky I did, because soon after it was sold out!

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The skirt has a front panel, two side panels and the back panel is split in two to accommodate the zip. So there are no side seams as in most typical dresses/skirts.

The bodice with it’s curvy pattern pieces is fully interfaced with the waffle pique and the pockets are cut on the bias, which is why you need so much fabric! I underlined the skirt part of the dress and the pockets in a white cotton voile, to give it a bit more shape and structure. This took more time and the skirt could have done without it because the fabric isn’t too thin, but I couldn’t help myself! I tend to underline almost everything these days! I somehow always want to get the runway look in my clothes. The designers seem to present their collections with their garments looking like they sway with the body and have a kind of soft “stiffness”, if you know what I mean. I read somewhere that some designers don’t always line their garments, but most do underline them.

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The sewing itself is pretty straight forward. There is quite a bit of top stitching to do and I was debating on whether I should do it or not due to the texture in the waffle pique fabric, but thought “what the heck” and went ahead with it. I do think it looks better with top stitching as it defines the bodice more than without it.

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I used a special top stitching thread in white that needed to be tested out first, as the tension on my machine was just not doing it for me. In the end, the top stitching is not flawless but I can live with it. I underlined the big 70s pockets (love big pockets!) as well and they too are topstitched around the edges and the top.

It was nice to see the bodice come together bit by bit and after I had done the top stitching on it, I felt it was a small work of art! It has a good shape, form and fit.

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The dress has a self-belt that I made but didn’t put on for the photos. I am not sure I will ever wear it just because I think it covers too much of the nice “V” shape in the front waist where there also happens to be a lot of top stitching. Not sure what the designers were thinking there when they designed it…

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I bought this pattern in size 10, which is a perfect fit for me without any alterations, except for the length, as I am not the tallest person at only 161cm! I admit I am pretty lazy when it comes to making too many changes and am lucky that most patterns fit me well enough not to have to alter too much about them.

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There is already some denim fabric in my stash waiting to be made up in the knee-length version of this dress at some point during this coming summer (hopefully). It will be more wearable than a long white dress  (I know, I know…) but I couldn’t resist when I saw the pattern photo. I have a real weakness for white clothing! I don’t always make clothes for practical reasons. A lot of the time I will make something with a real passion and fervor just because I love the look of it and the challenge of making it myself with my own spin on it here and there.

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I REALLY wanted to put in an invisible zip in the back of the dress, but that was near to impossible because of the thickness of the fabric with all the top stitching. I personally prefer the zip to be as invisible as possible but had to give in to a standard dress zip this time. I’m not entirely happy with the look of it, but it will have to do… :-(. The halterneck closes via two buttons at the nape of the neck.

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This is definitely a garden party style dress. Just have to wait for the garden party season to start! Melbourne weather is pretty up and down this spring…

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Fairytale Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria

 

Beautiful Bavaria!

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STYLING: sunglasses: Carlina square by Chloe, necklace: Magnolia silver jewellery, bracelet: Witchery, ring: Apart Fashion

LOCATION: Bad Hindelang, Bavaria, Germany

The Amalfi Dress

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The idea for the Amalfi dress originated from the pictures of these Vera Wang dresses that I saw advertised in a fashion magazine. I particularly like the navy one.

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Navy is my personal substitute for black and I adore maxi dresses so the colour and style were both perfect. I do like the shape of the cut out in the navy dress, but my dress had to be wearable!

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There was this beautiful navy cotton voile in my stash with a matt satin look on the right side that I wanted to use for this dress. It is very light but not see-through and that allowed me to leave out any lining. The aim was to keep the dress as light and airy as possible for sightseeing on our travels in the summer heat.

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When I get an idea for a garment from a picture I have seen somewhere, I usually go on a hunt amongst my patterns to see which part of which pattern I can use to make the garment. I usually have a similar pattern to what I want to make and just adjust the rest. That was the same procedure for this make. I used McCall’s 7418 for the bodice of the dress and just made up the skirt as I went along. The skirt part is made using one width of the fabric for each piece of the front and the back. So the middle section has more gathering than the bottom, because I wanted it to be a-line in shape. I just gathered and then sewed the skirt parts together after deciding on the finished width I was after. But I am thinking of redoing it and sewing the gathered seams together with elastic because they are quite fragile and could tear if the gathering got stretched.

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To be honest, I don’t even know where I got this pattern from. I’ve had it for ages and never used it. I think I got it from a friend and was going to resell it on Ebay but now it was put to good use and I may use it again! I used version C down to the hip and did the rest pretty much free-style by trying on, fixing, trying on, fixing – you get the idea…. I only altered the pattern by making the back a little higher so that I could wear a strapless bra underneath without anything showing.

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The bodice has an invisible zip sewn in on the left side. I was going to try and make it zipless, but due to the shaping in the bodice, I couldn’t squeeze into the dress without a zip somewhere.

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The top of the bodice is interfaced front and back but otherwise the dress is unlined and beautifully light to wear. It does crease a bit being 100% cotton, but I wasn’t going to drag an iron around in my suitcase! I found that packing wisely helped to keep creasing to a minimum and if I took the clothes that creased easily out of my suitcase and hung them up as soon as we got to where we were staying, I could get some of the wrinkling out. I have also heard that hanging clothes in a steamy bathroom helps to “iron” them out somewhat. Haven’t tried that yet.

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The pattern has quite a few variations for the straps and back. But I decided a simple cross would go well with what I had in mind. I was going to make simple straps but then decided that plaited ones would look more interesting. So I cut strips of dacron a little shorter than the fabric straps to fill them with. The idea was to pull the dacron through the tunnel of each strap, but that didn’t work. In the end, I placed the dacron in the middle of each strip of fabric and hand-sewed the strap in the most invisible stitch I could manage by wrapping it in the fabric strip. Yes, this was very time-consuming but well worth it and I was able to plait the strap strips with the hand-sewn side on the inside.

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I wore this dress on a few occassions and was very happy with the way it turned out. It’s just as light and airy as I imagined it to be. Cotton voile is perfect for summer wear.

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I’m thinking about the same dress in a short version somewhere down the track. But my wish list is ever growing and who knows when I will get around to that….

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STYLING: shoes – midas, gold chocker – David Lawrence, sunglasses – Carlina square by Chloe, watch – Gucci, bracelet – gift, gold rings – Lovisa.

LOCATION: Amalfi, Italy

 

 

Long Country Road

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A sunny floral maxi dress to start wrapping up the warm weather season before the cold starts to set in and I get stuck into making winter gear….After having a much too long break from blogging due to a new job and life in general, I decided to use our very short camping trip location over the Easter break (only one night – can’t get shorter than that!) to photograph this daffodil print satin maxi dress.

When I saw this fabric at Lincraft ages ago, it was love at first sight! I love maxi dresses with a mega print of some sort on them (not easy to find) and this was definitely destined for a maxi. The fabric has a beautiful flow to it and is beautifully slippery but not too shiny. I love that the print is only in the middle and there is white on both sides.

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Not sure of exactly which style of maxi I would make, I bought quite a few metres of the fabric and then went back and bought a bit more for an airy loose top! So you may see that coming up in a future blog, when I get around to it….you know how it is – sew much fabric, sew little time…!

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This is another one of my famous no-pattern makes. I just measured the length I would need for the dress plus a little more just in case and used the complete width of the fabric. When I realised that it would be too see-through without lining, I used some cotton voile in white to line the whole dress. So it’s not see-through but also still very light and has heaps of room for movement.

Michael Kors had some summer dresses in the past that used a thicker chain or necklace as a closure for around the neck and I had always wanted to make one, so I thought that would be just perfect for this dress. I found a very affordable, somewhat thicker gold chain at Lovisa that I thought and hoped would hold the dress up! It was going to either be gathered or pleated around the neck part and after trying both out, I decided to pleat it because it would lie flat and not be too bulky with the two layers of fabric. I folded over the pleating after securing it with lots of big hand stitching and made a tunnel to pull the chain through. Then I machine sewed the tunnel and pulled the hand stitching out.

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The front of the dress is exactly the same as the back and the sides are just sewn together with enough of a slit left and right for the arms to move freely and still wear an unseen strapless bra. The hem is very small and just machine sewn.

Once again, I love that this dress has no zip and just slips on over my head by opening the necklace and fixing it again to close. Too easy!

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I love to wear this dress with heels because I am not very tall, but it also looks great with elegant flat sandals or even bare feet!

There was one strip of fabric left over and I use it as either a head piece or belt. I hand stitched the hem by rolling the edges and just barely catching the fabric to make it as invisible as possible. Using the fabric strip as a belt makes the dress more versatile and gives it a completely different shape and look. I think a nude colour leather belt or a gold chain belt would also work well.

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Depending on how this maxi is worn, it really has a 70s vibe to it, especially with the head scarf!

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Someone forgot to water this tree…

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Finishing off the dress, I had to try it on a few times with flats and heels to decide on the length, as I wanted to leave both options open. It should be a little longer to wear with heels, but then I would be stepping on it in flats…sometimes you just can’t win…I probably don’t wear this gorgeous dress enough, but who does, when you have so much to choose from as a fanatical sewer and fashion lover with a too small, tightly packed wardrobe?

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Styling:  hat: no name brand from Myer, amber and silver bracelet: bought from little boutique in Gdansk, Poland, amber and silver ring: custom made in Poland, sunglasses: Margot by Tom Ford, shoes: Apart Fashion (German Fashion label), gold chain in dress: Lovisa