In the quest for more sportswear that is also part of my handmade wardrobe, I have branched out to make something perfect for playing one of my favorite games – tennis! This top had been part of a previous project back from 2016, only to be left unfinished when my ideas changed. However, I detest sewing items lurking on the backburner and am a stickler for needing the projects I start to be fully finished. At last I have conquered this little odd dress bodice to make it a top that does the job of a sports bra but with a fashionable, fun, me-made flair!
This is a totally different side of me that is uniquely lacking in my normal glamour to show here on my blog. Thus I am a bit unsure about sharing it yet too happy with what I’ve made to hold it back. I felt it tied in nicely with my previous post of 1940s sporty, bibbed “short-alls” so I am sharing this now versus waiting until it is officially summer. This is not a vintage piece, coming from a Burda Style pattern from 2016, but it does incorporate one of my favorite things – color blocking. All of my favorite tones are here present – rich purple, bright pink, and a royal blue – all in a way that calls to mind a lovely stained glass window. The black piping becomes likened to the “cames” of grooved lead which hold together the panels of color in a glass window. I love the irony of recalling delicate stained glass for an item used for an activity that is quite the opposite – slamming of balls and full body movements. Tennis is not listed as a high impact sport but it is the way I play it!
NOTIONS NEEDED: I had to buy an extra pack of piping to finish this, as well as the back separating zipper, but other than that all I needed was lots of thread, which I always have on hand
TIME TO COMPLETE: The original piped bodice took me about 5 hours back in 2016, but then for the recent fitting and finishing I spent another 4 hours
THE INSIDES: left raw…the stretch in the cotton keeps the fraying of the fabric in check
TOTAL COST: I no longer remember because the fabrics had been on hand from before 2016!
The sizing definitely ran small and quite wonky for the original Burda dress pattern that my top came from. See a full recap on this post here. Such a sizing discrepancy luckily didn’t extend to the skirt portion of the dress, but the top half was another story. Neither did I have any more fabric to recut anything. All the vertical seams together with the fact I added in piping to them set up any fitting adjustments to be a major headache. I definitely had to come back to adjust such an unfinished object when I was fully ready and equipped with a definite purpose and incentive to complete this.
It was a sewing project I truly wrestled with to just barely make it fit enough to be salvageable. Letting out the 5/8 inch seams to 3/8 inch in some places was barely just enough to have this squeeze on my body as well as get the piping back in again. The piping makes the color gradient panels pop with the definition but definitely restrains the stretch of the fabric in between. It restricts the curvy seams significantly yet I loved the overall effect too much to give up on the idea. Now that it is done, I feel that the piping makes sure the fabric doesn’t over-extend its elasticity and also helps this have such a snug fit, which I normally wouldn’t like but found a purpose for this time.
I took advantage of the fact this top has wonderful stretch and is skin tight to wear this as my sports bra. I have only worn loose tee shirts for tennis before and have never been happy with how I move and feel sloppily clammy while wearing them. This top is like a second skin, and keeps my assets securely in place. The top itself stays in place on my body, is fuss-free, and does not get in the way of my movement at all like my loose tee shirts were doing. Plus, the sateen doesn’t show sweat, keeps me cool while wicking any moisture away, and still looks nice. I never knew what to do with it before now since I formerly saw it only as a failure left behind from an unfinished project. Now that this top is not only finished but also useful with a purpose, I am so taken by it. I have something I always needed but never knew I wanted…and I made it myself, which is even better!
In lieu of the side seam zipper I originally planned for when this top was to be part of a dress, I changed to a center back separating sports zipper. A sports zipper is more heavy duty, with chunkier teeth, and the fact it opened up at both ends makes this top very easy to put on. I left the zipper exposed to not only save every little bit of room I could spare but also because it visually gives a black line in the seam similar to the piping in all the other seams. The black back zipper gave me the ideal combo of functionality and aesthetics in one easy step.
Not that I would highly recommend this pattern, but this is the perfect stash busting project. The pattern pieces for this top could probably even fit on some cotton “fat quarters”. When I was originally making this, I happened upon three colors of the same fabric in my stash, all in a stretch cotton shirting, in colors which complimented each other. They just had to be made into a garment together!
The pink is a whole 2-something bolt, still in my stash meant for a future project, while the other two colors were under ¼ yard scraps. I just gleaned a small amount off of the total cut of pink, not enough to dent my greater plans for it. With some recent re-organizing of my fabric bins I happened to come across this pink fabric again, and so I took the opportunity to shave off a tad more to cut bias strips to finish the armhole openings. At the same time, I also happened to find some scraps of black stretch cotton sateen on hand, leftover from a store bought dress I had re-fashioned years back. I then used this to finish off the neck and bottom hem edges. I was left with the feeling my top was very barely cobbled together but also amazed that such little amounts were all I needed. The stash busting redemption of this top has left me further satisfied with it even though the fit of the design is much lacking.
You see on my blog what kind of styles I stitch together for everything else in my life. Now that I’ve finished making this tennis top you see what I wear for sporting exercise fun! Have you made some athletic wear pieces for yourself? What is your favorite sport?
I am proud of how I incorporated the heritage of the Snow White story together with the year of its Disney film, especially when it comes to the fact that this entire dress was cobbled together from my scrap bin. What we first see Snow wearing at the beginning of the Disney film (when she meets her prince while singing into the wishing well) has the title “rags” dress after all. I both interpreted that dress literally and opened up room for storing more scraps – ha! Snow was yet another princess who’s an unloved daughter working as the domestic servant in the house of her stepmother, much like “Cinderella”, and so it makes sense that her garb seemed cobbled together in tattered condition. For my dress, my “rags” are all very nice material to begin with, so it might be scrapped together too, but it is still a very nice and comfy dress! It also happens to happily be one I don’t have to keep perfectly clean and proper in while wearing (I don’t have many of these kind), or clean and proper in my grade of construction, as well, for a strange change of circumstances.
The location for these photos is a testament to the enduring, strong presence of German immigrants in the history of my Mid-Western American hometown. It is a landmark for our city and called the “Bevo Mill”. The Dutch-style mill was built by August Busch Sr. (of Anheuser-Busch fame) in 1917. The story goes that August wanted a halfway point between his brewery near down town and his home in the county. It was later opened to the public as a restaurant. “Bevo” is supposed to be derived from the Bohemian word “pivo,” which means “beer”. During Prohibition (1920-1933), Anheuser-Busch brewed a non-alcoholic beer named that he also named “Bevo. The place has a very Bavarian lodge kind of feel to it which was perfect for pictures! I have many, many great memories of coming to this place since I was old enough to remember for good food and music with special friends and family.
FABRIC: 100% linen – all leftover from my past projects. The skirt was a hacked up one-ish yard remnant from this 30’s skirt, the collar and sleeves came from this 1910’s era suit, and a rich brown soft vintage linen napkin set became the bodice and pocket for the dress. Scraps of silk leftover from this blouse became the second contrast pocket and headband
TIME TO COMPLETE: This dress came together in about 6 hours and was finished on July 21, 2020.
THIS INSIDES: This is a “rags” dress made from scraps…it would be weird to be cleanly finished inside, right?! The seam allowance edges are left raw.
TOTAL COST: This dress cost me nothing! I normally do not count the cost of material when I am using seemingly insignificant scraps, so this covers most of the dress. The vintage table linen set was picked up for 25¢ and the zipper was on hand in my stash already, so I’m counting my dress as an ‘as-good-as-free’ project!
Women’s fashion for the year 1938 marked a widespread Germanic and Bavarian cultural influence that was unmistakable, frequent, and easily recognizable in late 30’s fashion for women. A Germanic folk style had been creeping into women’s stylish street fashions before then because of nationalistic, racialist, and expansionist ideas stemming from both the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy during the First World War and Hitler becoming Chancellor. “The traditional dirndl (a tracht) was also promoted through the Trapp Family Singers, who wore folk fashion during their performance at the Salzburg Festival (1936), and later on their worldwide tours. In addition, the film “Heidi”, with Shirley Temple in the lead role, became a hit in 1937. By that year, the dirndl – and Germanic influenced fashion – was considered a ‘must’ in the wardrobe of every fashionable American woman.” (Quoted info from Wikipedia here.) No doubt the influx of immigrants fleeing pre-WWII invasions and takeovers helped bring a new cultural influence into American style as well. Folk fashion of central Europe had spread way beyond Germany but the fascination in the United States had dissipated by 1942 to be replaced by a craze for all things Polynesian and South American.
There is a darker side to the German influence on late 30’s fashion, often called “Tyrolean”, which needs to be addressed. The women’s League of the Nazi party promoted a “renewal” of the traditional Germanic designs, reworking them into a more attractive version of their folk costume which might easily entice women to adopt the styles outside of festivals. The Nazi women’s League added short puff sleeves, a more form revealing bodice, and shorter skirt length…all scarily close to how we know the dirndl of today. To me, Snow White’s “rags” dress seems like a hybrid, bared down version with no lacing or apron. The way its bodice is a different color from the rest of the dress is reminiscent of an old-style tracht over-bodice with a conservative coverage over the chest, high rounded neck, and little collar. Yet, there are the puffed sleeves and the shorter skirt. However, this is enough of my rambling – I will dive into this topic deeper in my next post on the other Germanic fairytale princess…the one with magical hair who was imprisoned in a tower. So stay tuned! Until then, visit my Pinterest page here on dirndls (modern and traditional) for some eye candy.
I suppose the most obvious choice of pattern to make a vintage Snow White outfit would have been Simplicity #8486, a vintage re-issue for the 80th anniversary of the Disney film in 1937, but as I keep saying for my princess series projects, I do not want a costume. Simplicity #8486 is indeed a ‘37 design in its lines when you just look at the technical drawing, but it just seems a bit forced to make it in such a way that is a Snow White outfit. Sure it works, but for my purposes it is too obvious of a character reference sewn like that. I couldn’t see myself wearing these pieces otherwise, so I will come back to that pattern when I have a non-Disney inspired idea for it. (I have made the pattern’s hat, posted here, and highly recommend it!) Now I will explain at the end of this post why I gravitated to Snow’s “rags” dress rather than her princess one, but it was also an easy choice when another 1937 reprint – Simplicity #8248 – was an almost line for line ‘copy’. This shows just how much Disney’s styling of Snow White makes her very much a product of the times. I have been aching to sew Simplicity #8248 ever since it came out, anyway, and I was so happy to finally have a reason to do so!
Before diving into my Snow White dress, I checked out a few reviews on the pattern and immediately saw one constant warning – this pattern runs small and short-waisted. I can now attest that this is 100% true. Heeding the warnings (‘cause it’s better to be safe than sorry), I cut out one whole size bigger than what I needed (according to the given chart) and gave myself an extra inch in the bodice length. It was a good thing I took these precautions – the dress just fits, and couldn’t be any smaller. Any tighter in the bodice and I would have been restricted in reach room or my bust would’ve been smashed. I do wish I had widened the shoulders more because they are too far in towards my neck. However, the puff sleeve tops fill in for this fitting mishap. I did have to take out the seam allowance from the waist down because the hips in the dress were snug enough to wrinkle and ride up on me. I wholeheartedly recommend this dress, though – it is a cute design that lends itself to many differing interpretations. The details are top notch (omg…the angular darted sleeve caps I chose from view B = love). It was easy to sew. It is a classic example of late 30’s fashion. I will be coming back to this and making another dress from this pattern, maybe even color blocking the bodice panels. It’s a winner – I hope you try this dress out for yourself.
That being said, I did slightly change up the pattern, not by altering anything in the design, just by adding in extra seam lines to accommodate the small fabric pieces I was using. The four napkin squares that I had were just barely enough to work – only wide enough to fit half of my body at a time. Luckily the bodice was in two pieces as well because This linen was dense, super soft, and luxurious – understandable as it was intended to be napkins – and in the perfect color for Snow’s bodice. I was determined to make my idea work. The entire front and center bodice is supposed to be cut on the fold, but I had to add a center seam to all the pieces because of linen napkins I was using. Even the collar pieces had to be seamed together as well because the two biggest scraps went towards the sleeves. Since there was a seam down the front anyway, and since a collar that is tight around my neck can feel stifling for me, I added a long 22 inch zipper to make my dress fuss-free and adjustable for my comfort. Of course, the double, overlapping, two-tone pockets are my idea as well, and the cutest way to flaunt something so utilitarian!
There was a chunk cut out of the almost perfect one yard left that I needed for the dress’ skirt. No problem – I was being forced to do the natural thing to make an accurate rendition of the “rags” dress…patches! It’s not just decorative for looks alone…I really used up the few pieces I had left to barely cover the hole in my skirt material. It couldn’t have been any more perfect, it was laughable – I would never do this to a project otherwise!! This was a fantastic case of serendipity. I left the dress bottom raw, fraying and unhemmed to complement the “rags” look. Even still, I did use decorative, basic embroidery (a chain-stitch and feather stitch) to sew the patch panels down so at least they would look well-done. The patch work goes against my ingrained sewing style but the embroidery made it palatable.
I realized something important here – just because clothing becomes mended doesn’t mean it is ruined or on it’s last life. My husband, my son, and I have been wearing out our clothes, socks, etc. at a far quicker pace than ever before since the start of the pandemic in 2020 and the rate of repairs I have been doing is quite constant. I suppose it’s all the extra time and work we are getting done at home – I don’t really know. Anyway, this Snow White dress is a good example of the visible mending trend I am trying to lean into anyway. I have always been about reusing, refashioning, and recycling what we have on hand for a new purpose here at home. Sure, it would be easier to just pitch or recycle such items and buy new, and in some cases we need to do just that, yet change in the fashion industry has to come from somewhere…so it might as well start with me. I’ve just never tried to incorporate mending so intentionally into something vintage, much less newly made. As I said, it’s weird for me…in a good way.
As much as I love this dress, and as happy as I am wearing it, Snow White’s story is troublesome to me, mostly on account of the many questionable and problematic elements to her tale. One young woman to keep house for seven men she just met? At least the Grimm Brothers’ version makes the Disney interpretation seem so much better than it is on its own. Don’t get me wrong, though. The Disney movie version is fantastic in its own right, particularly as a landmark achievement in animation history, and charming in its presentation. I love how Snow was animated, I enjoy her songs, and relish the humor intertwined in her movie. Even still, as a person, I find Snow White to be one of the hardest Disney princesses to associate myself with or understand…she is too naive and gullible, for my taste. Even the messages of both the Grimm tale and the Disney story is sort of confusing…physical beauty will save you and find you love? Be kind to the point of overly trusting of strangers? I know it was the older “scare” style of teaching lessons. Yet, seriously, folks…how the antiquated fairytales were for children, I’ll never fully understand.
Furthermore, on a practical level, I can completely relate to Snow White’s working song, “Just Whistle While You Work”, which I why it’s my post’s title. I do like a bit of merry, energizing background music while I do chores or sewing (but not fabric cutting…too much to focus on). Believe it or not, I sometimes even like my favorite tunes playing on the side when I do my blog post writing. However, such a setting only applies when my “comfort” music is played, the kind that I know by heart and places me in a great mood! Now if only I can get all the squirrels, rabbits, and birds that we have around our yard to actually help me get things done, as well, I suppose I would be ecstatic enough to whistle about it, too!
One of the most interesting and unexpected observations from a child about my sewing was that I don’t have company labels, care instructions, or check out tags on my handmade clothes. No, I don’t. Yet, this time, I do have a bar code to label me…well, kind of. This top may have a bar code, yet it is not for sale and there will not be another quite like it in the world. I did not go to a store to get what I needed when I came up with the idea for it…I shopped downstairs in my stash. I have no bars holding me back, and no code to dominate what I wear. This top is me silently laughing at fast fashion – I don’t need you, cheap ready-to-wear. I can do better.
This scrap-busting little summer top project blatantly speaks for my lack of conventionality when it comes to what it is that I wear, while my background mural of St. Louis, Missouri speaks for my hometown pride! Together, this outfit is the modern “me”, the side of my life which occasionally does not wear vintage, that is. It is the late 90’s punky-style teen still inside me that still loves to sing loudly to Avril Lavigne while driving around town. Besides, I needed an edgy monotone black-and-white outfit to see the new Disney live-action “Cruella” movie, after all!
TIME TO COMPLETE: This was whipped up in the matter of 2 hours on March 30, 2016.
THE INSIDES: cleanly bias bound on all edges and facings
TOTAL COST: The satin and rings were leftovers on hand, which I’m counting as free, and the quilting square was bought on sale so many years ago I no longer remember. My total here is probably almost nothing!!!
I was literally just making this idea work. That’s okay, though, because I felt like being inventive for that day and just went along with all the setbacks I faced. For example, I didn’t have a piece of satin wide enough to have a conventional center back seam, much less a pleat, so I figured the rear of the top would have to be open…”but make it a stylistic element” I thought. I added metal rings, found off of my husband’s work table downstairs, to connect the two edges. The fat quarter wasn’t big enough for a whole front piece either, so I added little satin shoulder extensions (drafted off of the pattern) to end up with a complete panel. This way the print is primarily front and center to my top and the satin is visible from more than just a back view. I like my top better for all the changes I was forced into because of my fabric choices. If you have an oopsie appear purposeful, it becomes an artistic pattern adaption!
Crop tops are fun for me to wear anyway, but this one is more so the way you can tie the longer back extensions up or leave them down like tuxedo tails. I am surprised the pattern never showed or even suggested this wearing option! Either way, tying the back tails helps keep this crop top down in place on me. As I found out after its first time being worn, the lightweight fabrics I used are too insubstantial for a loose fitting pullover crop top, like this. It has the tendency to not stay down in place. Luckily the heavy metal rings weigh it down somewhat from behind. Otherwise, I could see this top creeping up on me. Lesson learned – do not make a crop top in the lightest fabrics on the market unless you don’t mind if it flies up to arm level. Luckily, the combo of both the rings in the open back and tying up the back tails helps this project to be wearable in the end.
I can actually wear this over a long sleeved black tee in the winter, so this is more than just a one season piece happily. Inside during the summer, when places have their air conditioning on “deep freeze” setting I like to have my faux leather moto jacket as a fun, modern cover-up. To wear this to see the “Cruella” movie, I actually paired it with an oversized 1930s red beaded necklace, nice red flats, and a black skirt, and the top almost looked dressy! In these pictures I am wearing it with another Burda Style pattern, the pants portion to a designer jumpsuit (posted here). This little crop top has become more versatile than I imagined when I was originally sewing it together. What I make for myself always gets worn to some degree, I make sure of that. Anything that usefully whittles down my scrap pile is good in my book, anyway. Yet, I love surprises where something that seemed fun and useful to plan at the moment ends up a wardrobe favorite.
At this point, I almost need a whole section of my blog highlighting my scrap-busting projects…I have so many! This one was one of those projects that has been slipping under the radar of my blog, being worn frequently but seemingly insignificant enough to post. This summer has been so busy, I feel badly for not posting here as much as I would like, and certainly not frequently enough to keep up with what I am sewing in real time, but it gives me the opportunity to easily share simple little creations like this one. I hope, like me, your sewing creativity is still going just as fervent and fulfilling, and this season is also finding you happy and healthy!
P.S. If you want to discuss the new live-action Disney “Cruella” movie, share what you thought of it, or just find out more of my opinion, leave me a comment and let’s get talking!! I found it really good, and well done, but with reservations over some confusing technicalities that do not match up. I’d be happy to chat about it!
Stop the presses! News flash here! I have now made shoes! Well, technically I have sewn my own house slippers, but they are worn on the feet so that is close enough to make me feel like adding the term “cobbler” to my long list of capabilities. I cannot express how elated I am over this creation and just how incredibly comfy they are to wear. I was very doubtful I could pull such an idea off, but my slippers turned out fantastic. Plus, they were so quick and relatively easy to make…and all I used is scraps leftover from past projects! This post is aptly named after a sweet song by the same name by a favorite singer of mine, Lionel Richie.
A big ‘thank you’ is in order to Quinn (who blogs here at “The Quintessential Clothes Pen”) for her encouragement and support over this idea in the first place. Over in this post of mine about the making of this fuzzy winter jacket by the designer Ungaro, I casually threw out the question of ‘what can be done with the scraps of the waist peplum I did not use’. Happily, Quinn voted for the house slippers idea, and it sounded like she started making some for herself in turn. All I needed was a bit of outside inspiration to spur me on, and just look at the wonderful slippers I finished now! I am always so overwhelmed and supported by my blog’s readers and followers. You are all truly the best!
I half-heartedly wonder if it might be old fashioned (according to younger generations) to be wearing house slippers. Thus, just in case a definition is needed here, I will provide a brief one. “A house shoe is a general term for any footwear that is intended to be worn indoors, particularly at home, while a slipper is a type of indoor or outdoor footwear that you can easily slip-on your feet. Remember that house shoes can be slippers, but not all slippers can be house shoes.” (Definition from this site.)
I have a few vintage slippers, of the famous Daniel Green brand, which are closer to shoes, for sure, the way they are so fancy, with molded soles and wedge heels. While they are comfortable and luxurious, at the end of the day all I want is to feel barefoot…but with the benefits of a little extra warmth and cushioning. This is one of the many reasons why I personally prefer soft, ballerina-style, enclosed foot house shoes to both slip-ons (with an open back or exposed toes) and modern molded foam bed support slippers. Yet, a good version of a ballerina house slipper is hard to find, never as comfy as I would like, and also quite pricey. Besides, they never last me very long before they wear out to the point that they need to be thrown away. Cue the quest to craft my own. Sewing can be so enjoyable AND useful.
Unlike the fuzzy house shoes commonly referred to as “slippers”, ballet shoes are made of soft leather, canvas, or satin, for dancers to appear weightless and graceful when performing. “These shoes are lightweight and have thin soles to offer maximum flexibility. What’s more, the shoes feature an elastic band that’s meant to secure the shoe tightly to the foot during the entire performance. A proper ballet slipper should also offer a snug fit, like a glove.” (Info from this site.) Often these shoes are in a skin toned color for an invisible appearance. Modern ballerina house slippers, however, are in all sorts of fashion colors and prints and often cheaper materials.
How about a casual “about me” moment related to that topic? I had the hard-toed ballet pointe shoes when I was growing up. They were merely a cheap but neat second-hand purchase that I played around with and casually practiced in at home…nothing too earnest. They are torture devices though (in my opinion) for all the beauty they offer dancers on stage. Nevertheless, I grew to appreciate and admire both the charm of ballet and the hard work of its performers. (Being taken to a Nutcracker performance when I was about 10 years old helped along those feelings, too!)
What I especially loved about ballet was the soft leather dancing slippers after also acquiring a set secondhand at a resale store. I loved wearing them around the house to the point that my mom went to a ballet store and bought me a few more new pairs. The woman at the store quickly ended that obsession by throwing out very judgmental, inquiring, and intrusive questions to both me and my mom…as if her customers could only be professionals and nothing else. Oh well. No doubt this past history of mine is a contributing factor to my preference for ballet style slippers. Now I can make my own and this is the most exciting and inspiring thing to happen in my sewing sphere in a while!
Speaking of something exciting, my slippers had their first time being enjoyed in conjunction with a very special occasion for us. We went for a short (and Covid safe) weekend getaway to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. I brought a special true vintage 1930s era nightgown and matching robe for my evening lounging, and my new slippers paired perfectly with the ice blue color of the peignoir set. The aesthetic of the room was 18th century which went so well with my fancy loungewear, besides being a dream-come-true kind of glamorous setting, the likes of which I have never seen. It was a great backdrop to take some pictures of my sippers. If you would like to see the whole vintage lounge set, go check out these two Instagram posts of mine (here and here). If you would like to see a short video of me in my slippers in action, see this post!
PATTERN: a Burda Style extra project template in the back pages of the December 2014 magazine (cover page at right)
NOTIONS NEEDED: All I needed was thread and wide cord elastic. The front decorative bows are ribbons that were saved from off of the packaging of a present I received. Re-use and recycle, right?!
TIME TO COMPLETE: Each slipper took me 1 ½ hours, so I spent a total of 3 hours to make these on the afternoon of April 7, 2021.
THE INSIDES: raw edges are enclosed within the lining
TOTAL COST: FREE!
So long as I approached this footwear project with the mindset that it is still sewing, just like anything else I make, it was easy to make these house shoes. The Burda Style pattern I had to go on was even more bare bones than their regular patterns so I am floored these turned out so well. There were challenging to make because of all the curves, small spaces, and tiny 3/8 inch seam allowances. However, as I said above they were not hard to make, though, and a very fun, different thing to attempt. It’s so refreshing, besides good for my brain, to change up what I am working on making!
On the back page of the Burda magazine, you start with just two small pattern pieces for the slippers, both only about 3 inches long, next to a few short paragraphs of construction details. The same page also has a sleep mask pattern and a quilted travel jewelry organizer to make! All of the patterns on page need to be photocopied and custom sized up to be usable. I aimed at the length of the sole being just a quarter inch bigger than the actual size of my foot (9 inches) since I wanted a snug, ballerina shoe style fit. Thus, I had to enlarge the pattern pieces 305% and add on the 3/8 inch seam allowances, as directed, before I cut the pattern out.
There are four different kinds of material I used because I wanted to only use scraps and also to keep the slippers comfortable. The soles are triple layered with a brown faux suede bottom (a tip from Quinn) and a fleece inner foot bed, all sandwiched with a cotton, padded, quilted panel in between. This way the soles are lightly padded with the quilting, soft on my feet with the fleece, and not slippery to walk in with the suede-like exterior. The outside of the slippers’ uppers are more of the blue fleece, lined in a lightweight poly interlock to absorb moisture and keep my feet from overheating in just fleece alone.
I did slightly adapt the pattern to add some improvements. Firstly, it doesn’t necessarily call for an upper foot lining, but it was a not only a choice for comfort but also a convenient way to end up with clean inners to my slippers. Furthermore, the instructions do not call for the padding that I added into the soles, but it elevates these slippers from being merely homemade and makes them so much cushier. Then, I also hid the raw edges by stitching all of the shoe pieces together onto sole before finishing off the upper elastic edge. Stitching 5 bulky layers together along a very curvy seam in a 3/8 inch seam allowance was something I took my time on so the slippers’ construction was right from the very beginning. There are literally 3 seams to stitch on each slipper, yet if ever I needed to get a seam correct and be precise with stitching, this was the time for that.
Stitching the casing was even trickier than sewing the sole. I was somehow able to mostly machine stitch the seam, luckily. I finished the raw edge of both the interlock and the fleece together with a double row of tight zig-zag stitching that imitates a serger (overlocker) finish. Then, the edge was tuned under 3/8 inch and stitched down with a small gap so the elastic cording could be run through the casing along the upper foot bed edge. It is interesting that the elastic has to be so very much shorter of a length than the actual casing around the foot. The slippers should curl in on themselves when they are off of one’s foot or else they will not stay on. Avoid having the knot of tied elastic end in the casing at the back of your heel for a smooth fit.
I slightly obsessed over trying to have the elastic tightness of both slippers to be equal. I think I came so close to perfection, I’m happy. You know, most store bought ballerina slippers all have one shoe which fits tighter than the other and I have always hated that with a passion. I know how hard it is to make RTW to suit everyone’s individual sizing – but that hadn’t fully sunk into my head how much more challenging that is when it comes to our feet. Most people have a body that is not symmetric on both sides. On top of that, many people also have health issues or results of an injury which can render one foot to be different from the other. A bad ankle of mine, leftover from a severe sprain, makes my one foot swell up at times. Cutting two elastic strips the same length made for unequally fitting slippers for me. I can understand the gripes I have had with RTW ballerina slippers much better now. Nevertheless, that problem still is annoying and uncomfortable, I will admit, so I am happy to have avoided it for my own handmade slippers.
For the last step, I took a fabric marker to designate the left from the right…because let’s face it. More often than not my brain doesn’t need one more thing to figure out at the end of a day. I wanted my slippers to be effortlessly enjoyed, besides being something fantastic to present on my blog, as well! Next time I make shoes, I’ll have to try an amazing 1940s pattern for some summer sandals that you make by braiding scraps – much like a rag rug! (See the pattern here.)
The first time trying something new is always the hardest. With my first pair of shoes successfully done, I can feel a bit more confident branching out. Now, I am rather interested in some kits I have seen online, for assembling your own espadrilles or sneakers. Anyone got any suggestions for more shoes to make? This is fun! Just think of the possibilities to end up with shoes that perfectly match your outfit this way…