The HSF ’14: Challenge #21: Re-Do

It’s coming up to that time of year Sew Fortnightliers!  The best HSF Challenge of all: Re-Do, due Sat 15 Nov.

It’s the best, of course, because it’s an excuse to finish up an UFOs that you have created this year, and because it gives you the opportunity to do almost anything.

The brief is simple.  Pick any previous challenge from the HSF 2014 and re-do it (or do it for the first time).  

It could be one that you didn’t finish, one that you wish you’d had more time for, or any time for, or one where you loved the theme so much you want to do it again.

And you could be really crazy, and do what I attempted last year, and re-do all the challenges (albeit nnot with an item per challenges, but with items that filled multiple challenge themes, until I’d re-done every theme).

Or you could be really, really crazy, and attempt to make one single item that qualifies for all the previous challenges!

The possible themes are:

  • #1: Make Do & Mend – due Wed 15 Jan. Let’s start of the year with a clean slate, and with a bit of a tidy up.  Use this challenge as an opportunity to get your historical wardrobe in order by fixing any little bits that have worn out and gone wrong.  Alternatively, you could focus on the historical precedent of making-do by re-making something into a historical garments, whether it be a bodice from a worn-out skirt, a chemise from old sheets, a bosom-friend from an old cardigan, or a new historical hat from an old modern one etc.  Finally, you could just those people who had to make-do by making something for a historical character who would have scrimped and saved and re-made and mended until the fabric entirely fell apart.
  • #2: Innovation - due Sat 1 Feb.  To celebrate the way inventions, introductions and discoveries have impacted fashion, make an item that reflects the newest innovations in your era.  Be sure to share the research you did on your innovation, as well as your finished item.
  • #3: Pink - due Sat 15 Feb.  Make something pink!
  • #4: Under it All – due Sat 1 March.  Make the foundations of your outfit: the things that go under it to provide the right shape and support, and to protect your fancy outer garments from sweat and grime
  • #5: Bodice – Make a bodice – a garment that covers the upper body.  You can either abide by the strictest historical sense (see the blog post for history of bodice terminology) or can explore the idea of bodices in a more general sense.
  • #6: Fairytale – due Tue 1 April: imagine your favourite fairytale set in a specific timeperiod, and make a historical garment inspired by the fairytale.
  • #7: Tops & Toes – due Tue 15 April.  Create an accessory that goes on your head, or on your feet.
  • #8: UFOs & PHDs – due Thur 1 May.  Use this opportunity to finish off something that’s never quite gotten done, or stalled halfway through.  Check out the post from last year for more information on how to interpret this challenge.
  • #9: Black and White – due Thur 15 May.  Draw on the opposite ends of the shade spectrum to create something in black and white, or black or white.
  • #10: Art – due Sun 1 June.  Make your own masterpiece based on a work of art.
  • #11: The Politics of Fashion – due Sun 15 June.  World affairs have both affected, and been affected by, fashions.  Craft something that demonstrates the interactions between dress and political history.
  • #12: Shape & Support – due Tue 1 July.  Make a garment that changes the silhouette of the human form through shaping and support.
  • #13: Under $10 – due Tue 14 July.  Whip up a fabulous item for under $10 (we’ll use US$ as the de-facto standard)
  • #14: Paisley & Plaid – due Fri 1 August.  Plaid is the most universal pattern, found in the textiles of almost all cultures and periods.  Paisley is more unique and recent, but has had a lasting impact on design.  Make something that utilises one or both of these patterns.
  • #15: The Great Outdoors – due Fri 15 August.  Get out into the weather and dirt with an item for outdoor pursuits.
  • #16: Terminology – due Mon 1 September.  Explore the etymology of fashion by make something defined in the Historical Fashion & Textile Encyclopedia (new terminology posts and items will be added throughout the year).
  • #17: Yellow – due Mon 15 September.  Embrace the sunny side with something in any shade of yellow.
  • #18: Poetry in Motion – due Wed 1 October  Find inspiration for a garment in poetry and song.
  • #19: HSF Inspiration – due Wed 15 October.  One of the best things about the HSF is seeing what everyone else creates, and using it to spark your own creativity.  Be inspired by one of the challengers item from HSF ’13 or HSF challenges 1-18 to make your own fabulous item.
  • #20: Alternative Universe – due Sat 1 November.  Create a garment from an alternative universe: fantasy, steampunk, dieselpunk, etc.  Your item can be perfectly historically accurate within our own universe as well.

Felicity the Cat

So what are you going to be re-doing?


Legging it: the Cake Espresso Leggings

One of the questions that people ask me a lot is how much of my own clothes I make.

The answer is, in summertime, around 90%.  In winter…it gets trickier.

For winter, I make almost all of my own merino tops (and I wear a merino top almost daily), and I make the singlets that go under them, and now I make my own cardigans, and obviously I’ve made capes and jackets and coats, and I make mitts by the dozen.  But as far as bottoms go…I make pants, but I don’t enjoy making jeans (done it: it’s boring and tedious, takes hours and hours, and none of it is fun sewing), and I hate, hate, hate leggings and tights, so I don’t wear dresses.

Really, I can’t tell you how much I loathe leggings and tights.  They pinch at the waist and roll down and sag between your legs or ride up, but most of all, they itch.  Even the most expensive, softest feeling tights and leggings irritate the heck out of my skin (I have really sensitive skin, which doesn’t react well to synthetic fibres and is further aggravated by cold air in winter).  When I do wear tights or leggings I come home, rush into the bedroom and change into anything else.  So mostly, I’ve ignored leggings as a sewing thing, because my association with the garments are so unpleasant.  But I love dresses, and I feel like my winter wardrobe is so boring without them.

So when I found a metre of a merino lycra blend knit that just cried out to be leggings at an op-shop for $1 (I kid you not!  $1!) I decided that I should give making leggings a try : add on $8 for the Cake Espresso leggings, and $5 for printing it, and I’d still be down less than $15 if I hated the leggings.

Making leggings did not start out particularly promising.  Printing the Espresso pattern is incredibly annoying: the first 5 pages are vertical format, and pages 6-29 are horizontal, and you have to print them separately and reformat the printer settings between them, or you end up wasting 24 pieces of paper, like I did the first time I tried (and I still can’t find any mention of this on the pattern or the Cake website).

The pattern does say that you may not have to print all the pages for smaller sizes, but alas, doesn’t tell you which pages you won’t need to print if you are which size, which is hard (if not impossible) to figure out from the PDF.  So I printed them all.  Again.  Wasting another 7 pages which it turns out I didn’t need.

But once I finally figured out the printing and had the patterned taped together, following the directions to achieve a customised fit was easy and brilliant.  The pattern is a series of measured dots, and you fill in the dots based on your measures and connect them.

I was super excited about the pattern at first, as I double and triple checked my length measure, and it still said that my legs were longer than the longest measurement!  This is majorly exciting for a tall person with short legs: finally, my legs match my height!

Sadly though, it turns out I didn’t have long legs:

Making leggings using the Cake Espresso Pattern

I just had toe-reveal tights!  With a seam running under my foot.

So a lot of length got cut off.

There were some other adjustments that I had to make to the pattern (I’ll go into that at the end of the post), but they weren’t that hard to fix.

Finishing the leggings was really easy.  Sew the elastic together.  Overlock the elastic to the legging tops.  Flip over, sew down. Hem leggings.

Making leggings using the Cake Espresso Pattern

Isn’t the fabric gorgeous?  It’s a sort of dark teal, with a beehive pattern – goes with anything, but very neutral.  The outside is the nylon-lycra, and the inside is fuzzy loops of super warm and soft merino.  Yum!

Making leggings using the Cake Espresso Pattern

And the finished leggings?

Making leggings using the Cake Espresso Pattern thedreamstress.comThey work!

To model them I used the camera timer and tried to demonstrate how flexible they are.

The obvious problem with that is that I am very not flexible.  “Look!  I can raise my leg to knee level!” isn’t very impressive.

Making leggings using the Cake Espresso Pattern

Luckily, I found a better modelling gimmick:

Making leggings using the Cake Espresso Pattern thedreamstress.comWhat’s that I see?

Making leggings using the Cake Espresso Pattern thedreamstress.comHello sweetie!  

Making leggings using the Cake Espresso Pattern thedreamstress.comLet’s be model-y together!

 I don’t think Felicity wanted to be model-y with me.  In fact, based on this photo, I’m pretty sure she thought I was certifiably bonkers:

Making leggings using the Cake Espresso Pattern thedreamstress.comSeriously?  What is this?

So she bit me.

Not hard.  Just enough to bring me back down to earth.  ;-)

Making leggings using the Cake Espresso Pattern


I have made some adjustments to the pattern based on my trial run, and subsequent pairs of leggings fit much better.  I’m including notes on my fitting adjustments here, as other sewers might find them helpful.

Here is my pattern.  The red lines are my original pattern, the green is my adjusted pattern:

Making leggings using the Cake Espresso Pattern


The measuring system is brilliant, but it has two big drawbacks: it doesn’t have you measure your calves, or your hips, and doesn’t have a full-bottom adjustment.  You measure the circumference of your waist, thighs, knees and ankles, and the length of your rise, and between some of these points.

However, if you are like me and have a full bottom, and relatively thin thighs, the leggings may not have quite enough material to actually go over your bottom, because a rise measure doesn’t really capture all the extra length needed to go over and around a full bottom.

If you do have a full bottom, I’d suggest going up at least two points higher than your rise measure on the pattern, and out a point or two more on the thigh line – if you end up with too much fabric in your leggings, you can always take it out later, but you can’t add it in.

You can see how much higher my adjusted (green) waistline is in back in the photo below, and the slight additions to the crotch seam.  I also found that there was just way too much fabric around my waist, so I tapered the back waistline in, which also really helps with the full-bottom issue, as otherwise there was a lot of gape in my back waist (the perpetual problem of the full-bottomed, swaybacked girl).

Making leggings using the Cake Espresso Pattern
The reason my leggings were so much longer than my legs is because I have such skinny chicken calves – they are almost the same size as my knees and ankles, so the fabric didn’t shorten as it went out and around the calves.  I know from friends who have made the same pattern that the if you have a lot of calves, you have the opposite problem: your leggings end up too short.  I wouldn’t recommend shortening the pattern for your first trial, but if you do have very curvy calves, you may want to add a bit of extra length: it’s better to have to cut a bit off than to have too little.

If you do have skinny calves but thickish ankles, the bottom of the leggings may be too wide – just take them in, and make your pattern narrower at the bottom as I did.

Exactly how the legging pattern fits will also depend a great deal on how much horizontal and vertical stretch your fabric has.  Very roughly, I’d suggest the pattern isn’t going to work well with less than 20% horizontal stretch (stretches from 10cm to at least 12cm), and it definitely needs a fabric with good recovery.

And, of course, as the pattern suggests, it’s always a good idea to do a trial run in what Steph of Cake calls ‘crummy’ fabric, but what I call ‘Not Gonna Cry’ fabric (hey, it can be really nice, but if you aren’t going to be bummed if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t matter what you use it for!).

Some notes on printing to help you make your own pair:

– Print pages 1-5 as vertical PDFs.

– Print pages 6-29 as horizontal PDFs

– If your thigh circumference is less than 27″ you won’t need to print pages 23, 26, & 29 (the page #s as you read the PDF, not the #s that print on the pattern).

– If your thigh circumference is less than 20″, you won’t need to print pages 17, 20, 23, 26, & 29.

Since I made the leggings, I have worn them out and about. I wore them out bowling at a friends birthday party:

Making leggings using the Cake Espresso Pattern
They did not ride up when I bent over, or sag down as I hurled balls down the lane (straight into the ditch) or pinch my stomach when we went to the Green Parrot afterwords and ate an American-sized dinner (…

Making leggings using the Cake Espresso Pattern is me, being super excited that my ball actually hit a pin.  I am a terrible bowler)

And when I came home?  I did NOT take them off right away!  I sat around all evening in my leggings, curled up on the couch working!  For me, that’s a near miracle, and thus, the leggings can be declared an official unmitigated success!

Watch this space for more leggings, and winter dresses!

Rate the Dress: Youthful chic in 1935

Last week I showed you an 18th century inspired 1880s dress, and you liked it, except for the shirring and sleeve trims, but thought it a trifle insipid, so it rated a rather meh 6.9 out of 10.

This week, let’s brighten things up a bit with a 1930s fashion plate, featuring a skirt and trim in deep orange.

This outfit is described as:

Jaquette mi-ajustée en flanelle rayée perpendiculairement, garnie de soie écossaise. Jupe en lainage chiné blanc sur fond orange. Boutons orange. Chemisier en flamisol blanc.

Or in English, roughly (since my ability to speak/read French is confined to knowing all the textile words!)

Girl’s street ensemble: A semi-fitted jacket in vertically striped flannel, trimmed with plaid silk.  Skirt of orange wool, flecked with white.  Orange buttons.  Blouse of white flamisol (a midweight plain weave silk popular in the ’30s, with a twisted crepe weft, and a rough silk warp, giving it an aesthetic that modern fashion writers would describe as ‘luxe casual’).

What do you think?  Elegant and suitably youthful, with the double whammy of ’30s & French chic?  Or is it too matchy-matchy, with every accessory in orange or white?  Do you prefer the orange hat, or the white one?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10.

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Leimomi Oakes is the Dreamstress, a textile historian, seamstress, designer, speaker and museum professional. Leimomi is available for educational and entertaining presentations, textile and fashion advice, special commissions and events. Click to learn more

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