Semi-Self-Drafted Dress

Drop Shoulder Dress | ADA SPRAGG | www.adaspragg.comDrop Shoulder Dress | ADA SPRAGG | www.adaspragg.comFiller post! With bonus hand-make! So I thought it might be interesting to share a side project from last year while I’m in the process of shooting some recent springy / summery sews. It’s a rambling tale, one that I haven’t properly dissected until now, but the abbreviated version is that last year, I was randomly approached by a US publishing company with the possibility of creating an open-ended sewing book of sorts. As in, a book of my designs, with sewing patterns in the back. Initially the publisher didn’t realise that all the hand-makes I share on the blog, are sewn from other people’s patterns…which is pretty obvious when you actually read the posts. So it started off as a flippin exciting and viable idea to looking like a very expensive and high risk one from the publishers end, as I would have had to outsource alllll the pattern drafting and grading. Turns out, several quotes later, this service is massively expensive here (and rightly so, there’s a freakin lot of work and skill involved) and multiplied by 8-10 different designs, the publisher came to the conclusion that their allocated budget wouldn’t come close to covering it. This all took place over a several month period in which I worked with a local service to have one design trialled and drafted into actual pattern form, to suss out costs and time involved. Answer: A LOT and A LOT. We left on good terms with the lines open for the future in case of any less costly book ideas (insert cry-laugh face).

Drop Shoulder Dress | ADA SPRAGG | www.adaspragg.comI learned so much. The whole process was equal parts frustrating and interesting. Firstly, I now know I am not remotely interested in the technical aspect of drafting patterns. That is a good thing to realise. The design and concept side of things, yes. The technicalities, no. Happy to outsource drafting and grading forever and always, if in future I wanted to produce sewing patterns, which is looking unlikely. For those who actually do this crazy shit for a living, I am in awe. Mucho respect to our beloved independent pattern companies: Closet Case Files, True Bias, Baste and Gather etc etc etc…all of you!

Drop Shoulder Dress | ADA SPRAGG | www.adaspragg.comDrop Shoulder Dress | ADA SPRAGG | www.adaspragg.comThe creative process is basically one big tussle, ain’t it? Even when it’s just you and you. One of my fav popular musings on it ~ This is Awesome! This is tricky. This is shit. I am shit. This might be okay. This is Awesome! ~ So true. And when you’re trying to get your ideas out of your head and into someone else’s, it’s adds a whole new dimension. Words on their own weren’t enough to convey the idea, sketches didn’t quite reach either and in the end we arrived at an agreement of how this particular dress should sit and fit and move from a combination of talking it out, sketches and fabric swatches. We did four or five muslins, which maybe could have been two or three, had we muslined the dress in a similar fabric to the actual version, something lightly and floaty, rather than stiff calico. As you can imagine, it was kind of hard to gauge how the actual fabric might fall.

Drop Shoulder Dress | ADA SPRAGG | www.adaspragg.comAnd the result? A dress that is actually pretty close to what I was imagining. Which was: a loose fit, high-ish necked bodice with kimono sleeves / dropped shoulder, a front placket, gathered waist, raised slightly higher in front and lower at the back, round knee length-ish hem scooped up at the side, french seamed with bias bound neck and armsicles and waist seam. And a cherry on top. I sewed up this sample size in this silk crepe de chine print from The Fabric Store but I actually think it might work better in a solid, since some of the features get lost. Am I allowed to confess, after all that, that I’m not totally in love with it? Don’t slap me. I’m actually okay with this. Seeing it come to life from an idea was irrevocably the coolest thing ever.

Drop Shoulder Dress | ADA SPRAGG | www.adaspragg.comTo be honest, when it didn’t all go ahead, of course I was disheartened but a little part of me was relieved. The timing was not great. I’m not sure I really had the creative energy to devote to such a massive project last year, with my littlest man still at home. So, I’ve filed this one away in the box of life experiences! And the dress and pattern are just kinda chillin with their homies for now. As always, I love to hear your thoughts…and am curious…would you actually wear this dress? What’s working / not working?


Metallic Midi Dress

DIY Midi Dress | ADA SPRAGG | www.adaspragg.comHi lady loves! I have a fresh-off-the machine dress to share with you today. It was a happy experiment. I wasn’t sure I would be in love with it since it feels like a pretty major deviation from my usual style (whatever that is) but I’ve worn it on two separate occasions already this week so I know what we have is real…

DIY Midi Dress | ADA SPRAGG | www.adaspragg.comDIY Midi Dress | ADA SPRAGG | www.adaspragg.comLast post I mentioned The Reformation as the mother source of all spring / summer sewing inspo. I would like to make all the things but have had a particular dress, similar to this one and this one, on my mind for a while now. I also kind of love this whole colour block / 90’s heels combination that designers like Maryam Nassir Zadeh are playing with. And so I thought, what is fashion without risk? So I give you rusty metallic sack dress with lavender block heels. Work with me here.

DIY Midi Dress | ADA SPRAGG | www.adaspragg.comPattern-wise, this dress is loosely based on a RTW piece, which I do buy every now and then. A healthy hand-made wardrobe can be supplemented with thoughtful RTW. I really believe that. The original dress is a plain-as denim shift with highish neck and a scooped out back and a hem that hits above the knee. It’s nothing fancy, but I’m in it 2 out of 7 days every week. So I did what any stealthy sewist would do and copied the pattern. Also it was ridiculously priced for what it is, but now it’s justified because I can replicate it forever and ever.

DIY Midi Dress | ADA SPRAGG | www.adaspragg.comTo get from that dress to this one, I kept the original neckline and back and extended the side seams straight down and out. I wasn’t originally going to give it a split up the sides but when I tried it on mid-sewing without the split there was too much sackness going on and it needed something extra. Skin, mostly. And I think that is what I’m loving about the style and why it feels so feminine to wear is it’s a little bit shapeless, a little bit demure and then BAM, leg.

DIY Midi Dress | ADA SPRAGG | www.adaspragg.comIMG_7022Now if you wanted to make something similar I realise this is all a bit unhelpful. Fret not. Before I decided to base this dress on a RTW piece, which was more laziness than anything, I was going to start from scratch and modify a pattern to get to the same dress. The Tessuti Kate top would be my first pick; from there you would extend it to dress length and scoop out the back. I feel like it would be a simple modification from any woven A-line tank top or dress pattern, like the Wiksten tank or the Grainline Studio Tiny Pocket Tank. I so desperately would love to share the pattern with you somehow. But I feels that could be bad creative karma.

DIY Midi Dress | ADA SPRAGG | www.adaspragg.comHow did we get this far without talking about the fabric? Synthetic. All the way. No idea what is in it but it pressed well, and holds a crease, as you can see. I found her at The Fabric Store and she lured me in with her slinky rust metallic luxeness. Up close the texture is almost like mini scales, which you can’t see in these pics and I didn’t manage to get a photo of. It was actually raining here so I was grateful to even get a couple of decent shots and not end up with a fro.

DIY Midi Dress | ADA SPRAGG | www.adaspragg.com


Cherry Blossom Co-Ords

DIY Co-ords | ADA SPRAGG | www.adaspragg.comDIY Co-ords | ADA SPRAGG | www.adaspragg.comDIY Co-ords | ADA SPRAGG | www.adaspragg.com The co-ords are back! And I like to think they’ve had a little coming-of-age: less kitsch, more chic. Right now I’m feeling deeply inspired by all things The Reformation: colours, silhouettes, 70’s off the shoulder, 90’s sundresses. And I’m not sure if it’s because fashion seems to be drawing so much influence from previous decades at the moment, but I’m discovering that nearly all of the RTW versions have a matching sewing pattern out there somewhere. If there’s not a new one, there’s a vintage one. I’ve been hungrily pinning fabrics, patterns and inspiration to a summer sewing moodboard (feel free to pilfer). On that note, I think i’ll just keep sewing summer clothes. All year. Because Winter is not coming. Which is equal parts unnerving and convenient. Unnerving because we’re screwed. And convenient because now there’s no more FOMO about being in opposite sewing seasons to everrrryone else. Sometimes it feels that way…all arrone…down here in the southern hemisphere. Happy Spring y’all!
DIY Co-ords | ADA SPRAGG | www.adaspragg.comThe top is another version of vintage Simplicity pattern 9967. If you’re looking for this pattern, keep a close eye on Etsy or Ebay. When I bought this one there were several others available from other sellers. Plus it was cheap too, so I don’t think it’s a particularly rare pattern.  The fabric is a silk crepe de chine from The Fabric Store (they’re online now). Originally I was thinking maybe a kimono but then realised I would get the most mileage out of two co-ordinating separates, which could be worn together as a grown up romper.

IMG_6915IMG_6924I’ve only sewn up two patterns from Pattern Runway, but it’s enough to knows I like them. My first foray was these scalloped shorts, which surprisingly have become one of my most worn hand-made items and have recently been retired due to structural instability (literally, falling apart at the seams). That their heir, version no.3, is already cut out, is telling of how I feel about them. And now a new one! These paperbag waist babies; a Pattern Runway freebie that I am rather smitten with, from the pages of beloved Aussie eco-fashion magazine, Peppermint. It’s so exciting when you discover a pattern with the whole package…beautiful drafting, interesting design features and pretty insides. It really make this whole hand-made wardrobe business a legit and preferable alternative to buying clothes! Why wouldn’t you bother?

DIY Co-ords | ADA SPRAGG | www.adaspragg.comWhat makes a beautiful pattern? Or better still, a sew-again pattern? Good drafting and fit always. They tend to determine whether a hand-made garment becomes a much-loved garment and if it gets worn at all, regularly or demoted. Personally I feel it’s the smaller details that really make a piece sing; a facing here, a french seam there. We all have our favourite pattern companies too, the ones you know you can rely on to leave you satisfied.

DIY Co-ords | ADA SPRAGG | www.adaspragg.comI had good feels about these. Design wise, they are simple but have enough special details to elevate them from shorts to Le Shorts. French seamed pockets; not necessary but a delight! Faced hem bands, scooped ever so slightly up into the side seams. A paperbag waist with drawstring…ok, that’s enough (fans face). And the process! No guesswork. This I like. Everything lined up. This I also like. It was interesting to see the waist section come together…I know by now that the instructions from Pattern Runway patterns are always great. So I just trusted and followed them like a diligent, well behaved sewer.

DIY Co-ords | ADA SPRAGG | www.adaspragg.comI went for self fabric ties with little brass stoppers, which are actually a bit clunky and pelt my thighs when I walk. I do love the effect of using ropey cord for the drawstring, like the pattern version. The shorts really look nice in a solid fabric too, and the design details are more obvious. Oh understitching, you complete me! It’s like a little pause where you get to tune out and zone into something small and detailed. Much the same joy as top-stitching jeans brings. One thing I am never sure of is when you turn your facing and seam away from the main fabric in preparation to understitch, sometimes they get you to jump straight into the understitching without pressing first and other times you press the facing and seam away first. I prefer to press away first as I never feel totally confident that that I will understitch accurately with billowy unpressed fabric. Is there a right way?

DIY Co-ords | ADA SPRAGG | www.adaspragg.com

Construction notes 

  • The pattern asks for 28mm elastic. Couldn’t find this width and received a puzzled look from the lady at Spotlight. 25mm ended up being perfect…not sure if this was a typo.
  • Before stitching the button holes (or punching in eyelets) in the waistband, I was graced with the sewers foresight to interface this area. An especially good idea when sewing silk.
  • Instead of top-stitching the hem facing down, like the pattern asks, I thought I should honour this fabric with an invisible (mostly) hem.
  • Epic sad face: when my serger ate up fabric, going around the curve of the crotch seams. It kept munching into the fabric before I could usher it out of the way!

I appreciate that this style is not everyone’s beef. But if you love the concept of a high waist and mid thigh length you will love the result. Personally I think I would like an extra inch in length…



IndieSew Spring Collection | Birkin Flares

ADA SPRAGG | Not Your Nanna's Sewing | Birkin FlaresADA SPRAGG | Not Your Nanna's Sewing | Birkin FlaresHullo! Today is the final stop on the Indiesew Spring Collection Tour and I am here representing #teambirkinflares! That’s right. Made some jeans (dusts knuckles on shoulder). And I fully credit Lauren and her jeans drafting prowess with the fact that these may be the best fitting pair of pants I’ve ever owned. The idea that I made them, is too ridiculous. It’s a dream. I’ve been coveting a pair of the high-waisted Birkin’s for myself after seeing everyone else’s (see Kelly’s and Oona’s and Sara’s and…) and it can only be described as divine timing that Indiesew’s Spring Collection Tour came when it did.  I already had the pattern in my stash but without a deadline I’m sure I would have simultaneously avoided and pined for them all season. Sewing pants is traditionally, not my thing and jeans…JEANS are were THE PINNACLE! I mean, who makes their own jeans? Really.

ADA SPRAGG | Not Your Nanna's Sewing | Birkin FlaresIf you’re curious or tempted to sew jeans, it is really worth having a go. Actually, I don’t think this can be considered having a ‘go’; with Lauren’s impeccable and beginner friendly instructions, it’s impossible to come out the other side with anything but a pair of beautifully finished, store-bought-looking jeans. For me the biggest concern was fit. I so wanted to believe it was possible to make a pair of jeans with perfect-fit. It seemed like an absurd undertaking to sew a pair of jeans that could end up with a less than satisfactory fit. Still, it was a possibility. I had to TRUST.

ADA SPRAGG | Not Your Nanna's Sewing | Birkin FlaresSpecifically I was worried about sizing. Anyone who’s ever bought a pair of jeans that were a ‘great’ fit in store only to have them bag-out after a few wears, knows, it’s a grief that runs deep. This happened to me again and again until I figured out that a pair of jeans needs to be borderline too tight in the change-room, to be a perfect fit once they relax. This is a terrible idea if the jeans have no stretch. However, I was feeling confident that the denim I was using for my Birkin’s, the dreamy, US-milled, 11.5 ounce, Cone Mills denim (currently sold out but others available), was going to follow the rules. I measured a 28 across both waist and hips which is my normal RTW jeans size. But before cutting, I did some considerable Birkin Flare sizing research (stalking your blogs) to gauge whether to size down or not. A problem I often run into with pants is that being a little taller I need the ‘seat depth’ of the larger size but the hip width of a smaller size. So, I figured it was safer to go the 28 and take the sides in; an adjustment I was confident I could deal with.

ADA SPRAGG | Not Your Nanna's Sewing | Birkin FlaresADA SPRAGG | Not Your Nanna's Sewing | Birkin FlaresThis is where the ingenious instructions made it even easier to get the fit right. By having you baste the side seams together, once all the main parts, back yoke, fly, front pockets, are complete, there’s no ‘I think they will still fit like this after I put the fly in’. It’s a guarantee! Instead of a 5/8″ seam I basted my side seams together with a 7/8″ seam. I’m guessing that taking this much off actually put them at the equivalent of a 27 which, combined with the seat depth of the 28, was just right. But having taken so much out of the sides, looking at the above photo I feel I could have moved the pockets closer to the centre back seam. When it came to attaching the waistband, I re-marked it with the size 27 markings and basted it first to make sure I could eat lunch. I can. I know ‘perfect’ is a dirty word that we sewists don’t flash around willy nilly but when the fit is wriggle-in, jump up and down, get-into-dem-jeans-dance p.e.r.f.e.c.t, you’re allowed to scream it from the mountain tops!

ADA SPRAGG | Not Your Nanna's Sewing | Birkin FlaresOne thing I really enjoy about the sewing process is making design decisions. Which colour buttons? Contrast hem? I love putting thought into this stuff! But it can be kind of paralysing. That’s when we pass responsibility over to Instagram. I was actually looking forward to sewing a “basic” for once because I thought it meant time-out from decision making. I mean, jeans are jeans. There’s just a button and some top-stitching, right? Err, no. It went more like this…silver or copper button? Rivets or no rivets? Neutral or gold top-stitching? Plain or embellished pockets? Wait, what sort of pockets, welts? It was popping a cork on a red I didn’t even know I had! I knew I wanted a dark blue denim and preferred neutral / invisible top stitching, like this pair. I went with plain pockets from the size below with a (conspiracy) theory that smaller pockets make your ass look smaller. I chose a muted brass button over copper because I didn’t want it to be a stand-out feature. I deepened the hem to 2.5″ because I thought it looked, um, rad. That’s what the kids were saying in the 70’s right? And I decided no rivets because they detracted from the minimalist, dress jean vibe I was going for.

ADA SPRAGG | Not Your Nanna's Sewing | Birkin FlaresADA SPRAGG | Not Your Nanna's Sewing | Birkin FlaresUsually an up-coming fly section is enough to induce mild fight or flight. But the instructions for inserting the fly here were uh-mazing. And yes you were all right, top stitching IS fun, even without an edge-stitch foot. Having the Baste + Gather Facebook group available is invaluable, especially when you panic over why your zip is 3″ longer than in the pictures (you shorten it later). There were only two sections in the entire thing I couldn’t figure out. One, was how to remove the extra teeth from the zipper using the pliers. I tried. My burly dad tried. In the end I just grabbed a quick-unpick and sliced off the extra teeth, solved! The other was transferring the fly top stitching guide lines to the fabric. I’m still not sure what method everyone else was using but I couldn’t see how I would get the chalk pen to go through my easy-trace onto the jeans below. So I traced over the lines in chalk pen, flipped it off and then rubbed off the markings onto the jean and went back over it. Genius! Or maybe we were supposed to do that.

ADA SPRAGG | Not Your Nanna's Sewing | Birkin FlaresThere were so many tips and tricks I learned along the way. Things I would never think of doing. Having now sewn the Birkins, these are a few that really made a difference to the sewing process and my enjoyment levels:

  • Hammering the back of the belt loops flat before sewing made them really easy to sew to the jeans with bar tacks.
  • Using a couple of layers of folded denim to level out the foot when sewing the belt loops to the jeans.
  • If you don’t have fray-check you can carefully melt the ends of the belt loops with, um, fire.
  • If your machine doesn’t love sewing the button hole with top-stitch thread, you can feed two spools of normal thread into the needle instead – this worked a treat on both the button hole and all the bar tacks for the belt loops.
  • Double sided tape is a great alternative for sticking the back pockets in place, pre-sewing.

ADA SPRAGG | Not Your Nanna's Sewing | Birkin FlaresGet your copy of the pattern here.


Culottes Tropicana + O.T.S Top

IMG_6256Aloha! Happy New Year! I could begin with waxing on about where I’ve been and why I’ve been a naughty blogger but that’s boring. You know by now my blogging strategy is ‘sporadic with occasional flashes of brilliance’. But good news! I’ve been absent from the blogosphere because I’ve been trying this new thing where I go out and live a life worth blogging about, instead of sewing a wardrobe for the life I wish I was living. Closing the gap, closing the gap. Around the start of my little blog-cation, I felt I needed to step back from the screen and organise things, namely, my life. I picked up some part time work, enrolled back in University but most excitingly, started salsa dancing again. Oh, but I didn’t stop sewing…fifteen! There are FIFTEEN un-blogged hand-makes from last year. Which makes me a big fat tease for posting photos of them all on Instagram throughout the year. Sigh. Ok. 2016. Fresh start…is anyone still out there…echo echo!

IMG_6234ADA SPRAGG | DIY Culottes + Off The Shoulder TopEven though my excitement about seasonal sewing is becoming increasingly more rooted in fantasy than reality (with our eternal summers and my inability to co-ordinate winter sewing), I love the idea of creating a seasonal wardrobe. Actually, it’s also possible I just like making mood boards. This summer wardrobe is deeply inspired by The Reformation, with plenty of bare shoulders, natural fibres, soft hues…and lashings of culottes! I went searching for an vintage off-the-shoulder top in the supplies section of Etsy and came across Simplicity 9967, which couldn’t be more perfect. The fabric is a cotton eyelet by Lover, from The Fabric Store. Time-wise, the top took less than an hour, so naturally I made another one the next day, in a silk print. And I’ll probably make another, maybe plain black. So quick! So good looking! Sewisfaction level 10/10.

IMG_6231The details of how the idea of palm leaf culottes came to be, are hazy. I first spotted this fabric on Erin’s tote bag. Then I spied it in skirt form here. And then suddenly everywhere I looked there was palm print, foliage and tropicana oh my. So I went searching for THE palm leaf print. Which turned up here. It’s called Tommy Bahama ‘swaying palms’, listed as ‘indoor / outdoor’ fabric which should have been my cue to leave it for tote bags and cushion covers and probably not apparel. Code for: stiff A.F. I figured I’d just wash it into submission, which helped, though it’s still a little starchy and mildly exfoliating.
IMG_6104IMG_6244The culottes pattern is Butterick 6178, view D, no pleats. After seeing a whole succession of great fitting pairs come out of Tessuti, I thought maybe they would be The Perfect Culotte Pattern. Totes right! Side pockets, back zipper (invisible), good length and a pretty bang-on fit (size 12) with no modifications. I could do with slightly more length through the seat, but I’m not quite sure whether that’s a simple adjustment of adding a bit more length to the pants at the top, just below the waistband or something more complex through the crotch. Definitely will make these again, in a solid, bottom weight fabric with a slight stretch.
IMG_6063Can we talk for about shoes for a moment. Specifically, shoes and sewing. Admittedly, I don’t own too many pairs, being more of an investment-shoe-buyer. But occasionally I fall in love, like I did with these Shakuhachi flatforms I picked up in Bali, last year. I fell sideways off them the next day, broke one of the straps and then had that strap nailed back on. That’s love. Curiously, as a sewer, shoes have a different relevance than they used to. Now when I find a good pair, they inspire a whole flurry of sewing.  I quite like the idea of building from the ground up and creating fashion around an evocative pair of shoes. And if all my hopes and dreams for an amazing summer could be morphed into shoe-form, this is them! You can expect to see these in 9 out of 10 blogged outfits until autumn arrives, or I fall to my death; whichever comes first. Do shoes ever inspire your hand-makes?

IMG_6347IMG_6354 Binding! Why? Because sewing is penance. And I’ve been very very bad. Sometimes I do wonder if I’m becoming a seam finishing snob. Zig-zagging has its place, yes, over-locking is respectable, of course, but binding…is so damn prettaaaayyy! Never mind that I’m 99% sure those bound centre seams are the reason these pants deliver a spectacular front wedgie when driving.

IMG_5990Gah! The one thing I didn’t think about and wish I had is pattern placement. No faux-ginas here but I don’t love the print being so matchy-matchy at the front. I should have cut the two front pieces out separately instead of having the fabric doubled over where I couldn’t see I was cutting out two identical front pant legs. It’s not a huge deal, I don’t think it’s something you would really think about about unless you’re a sewist.

© Ada Spragg. Design by The Darling Tree. Developed by Brandi Bernoskie.

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