5-Piece Crazy Stack n’ Whack

As a piece of light relief from dressmaking I decided to complete a small project using the 5-piece stack n’ whack technique. This is NOT to be confused with kaleidoscope stack and whack which is very different.

Starting with 5 fat quarters of complimentary prints I cut 20 x 9″ squares. I then stacked in piles of 5 squares and whacked through with the rotary cutter according to my template. I mixed up the pieces and then stitched them back into blocks. Having squared up the blocks to 8″ I then made a piece of patchwork measuring 4 blocks across by 5 blocks down. The overall measurement is now 30″ across x 37.5″ long. I will add borders to bring the size up to 36″ x 44″ before backing, quilting and finishing with a binding. This is an ideal size to use as a lap quilt.

cg completed quilt top

Simplicity 2245 – Lisette Tunic Dress Mark II

Having recently completed a project using fabric from my stash I could now allow myself to make up the next project using some NEW fabric.

I selected some lovely Soft Green Linen-look cotton purchased from Fabricland, to make the second version of the Simplicity 2245 Lisette pattern which I purchased (at great expense) from an eBayer in Australia. This time I would make the Dress with ¾ sleeves. I decided to use only the plain linen-look fabric with no contrast for the neckline yoke or sleeve bands. Many years ago I made a coat in a similar fabric which I top-stitched in Dark Green and I decided to repeat that finish on this tunic dress. Having held the pattern up against me I thought that it would be long enough, the only adjustments I made were to add a ½ inch to the side seams as I remembered that the tunic top came out a little snug around the hips and to exclude the back opening on the yoke as the dress can be put on “pullover” style. As the fabric has a firm weave and is robust I omitted the interfacing in the small feature rectangle , yoke and sleeve hem bands. Also I overlocked the edge of the yoke facing and top stitched in place from the right side, thus avoiding several layers of turnings where the yoke joins the main body of the dress. I made the bias cuffs for the sleeves which made them just the right length but I should have extended the body of the dress by a couple of inches as it is rather short!

I have some more of the linen-look cotton fabric in a lovely shade of Blue and I plan to make it up into the Merchant & Mills Dress Shirt pattern. But before I do that I need to use some fabric from my stash – the Simplicity 2245 pattern includes a simple top which I shall make to co-ordinate with Spring trousers.

full length        neckline

                       Full length view                                                   Close up neckline yoke

sleeve hem & pocket

sleeve hem & pocket

Merchant & Mills Dress Shirt II

In an effort to reduce the amount of fabric in my stash I promised myself that this year, for each new length of fabric purchased and made up, I would also use a length from my stash Having used new fabric for the Walkaway Dress meant that I needed to plunder the stash for a length to sew into another garment. The lovely linen-look fabric that I purchased in anticipation of using for a Merchant & Mills Dress is waiting patiently in the pile and I decided to make just one more “test” garment before cutting into the linen-look fabric. I chose a length of Terracotta fabric, fibre content unknown, but most likely a polyester/viscose blend, which has a slight rib in the weave. The drape was good and I set to and cut out the dress. Whilst laying out the fabric and checking notions, thread etc, I happened upon a fat quarter of quilting cotton in a batik/marble print – just the right colour to use for a contrast bib. I made a minor adjustment by reducing the depth of the scoop neckline – only by a ¼ inch but it may be enough to help prevent “gaposis”. I also adjusted the angle of the shoulder seam. As the 22 was plenty big enough, this time I have drafted to a size 20. The first step of making up the dress is the bib, this time instead of straight top-stitching on the centre seam, I used a decorative stitch which echoes the randomness of the marble/batik print fabric. The dress went together quickly and well, all seams are overlocked and hems are top-stitched. Having completed the second version of the M&M Dress Shirt I am confident about progressing with the linen-look version. Watch this space……

101_5775   m&m II

Stuart Hillard Challenge

During the process of making the Paris Market bag we needed to cut quarter circles from the outside pocket sections to provide access to the pockets. Stuart’s challenge was to incorporate those quarter circles into another project. Below is my entry.

I stitched two quarter circles together twice, to make two half circles which I then quilted in a “fan” shape. I made an oblong shape to fit across the bottom of the two fan shapes which was channel quilted plus a long length with zip fitted to go around the outside edge. I made two generously gathered frills to delineate the shape of the fans and the whole was lined with plain cotton fabric.

I can use the fan-shaped clutch as an evening bag or keep in the bathroom with toiletries ready packed for when I stay away from home.

no 2 sepia

no 2b sepia

no 3 sepia       no 4 sepia

Stuart Hillard Paris Market Bag-making Workshop

Following on from the evening with Stuart, the next day was dedicated to making a version of Stuart’s “Paris Market” Bag.

Prior to the workshop Emma of Franklins, Salisbury had sent out a requirements list and as a big change from my usual soft pastels or bold brights, I purchased a selection of printed cottons from a French General-style range in shades of Taupe and Mushroom. At the time I had thought that the yardages were high but that was before I realised that the finished bag would be a generous size, approximately 19” wide x 18” deep. There would be 4 external pockets plus a large internal zipped pocket. The workshop started at 10am and we worked through until 4pm by which time my bag was almost completed. It was a lovely day, shared with like-minded ladies and I picked up many hints, tips and tricks which I will be able to utilize in my other projects.

Over the weekend I have finished the bag apart from a large covered button which is on order. I am delighted with the bag and feel sure that I will be making some more as gifts. Perhaps I might even make another and visit a market in Paris!

101_5784 sepia

An Evening with Stuart Hillard

On Wednesday 8th April, Franklins of Salisbury hosted “An evening with Stuart Hillard” which I attended. Stuart was a contestant in the first ever series of The Great British Sewing Bee and for two hours in the evening we were regaled in his inimitable and unique style about his experiences with TGBSB, how he became a contestant in the series, what he had been doing prior to his appearance on TV and all about where he is today. Stuart had brought along some copies of his newly published book “SEW Fabulous” which I bought and Stuart kindly signed for me. The evening was in effect an introduction as I was booked to attend a bag-making workshop with Stuart the following day. More of that to follow….

08-04 Caroline & Stuart Hillard

Stuart & Caroline at Franklins, Salisbury

stuart's book

Stuart’s Fabulous book!

Butterick B4790 The “Walkaway” Dress II


Now the dress is completed. The total time taken was 5 hours but this could have been reduced in several ways, not least by taking a few minutes to read the layout instructions at the very beginning of the project!

Comments on construction: The instructions include binding the back sections of the skirt with bias but as it is not seen, it could easily be hemmed in the usual way thus saving four rows of stitching. I did not use a binding foot which meant that each piece of binding had to be stitched twice. The hem on the circular part of the skirt is double folded and involves two rows of stitching. It could more easily and much more quickly be neatened with the overlocker and then machined in place. Bearing in mind that a lot of the bodice edges were on the bias I took great care to ensure that I did not stretch it out of shape when applying the binding. I notice that the back neckline scoop is lower than the front and also because of the weight of all that circular skirt there is a tendency for the dress to pull to the back thereby making the back neckline even lower. The pattern envelope suggests 3 packs of bias binding but I did not use anywhere near as much as this so now have a small stash of black bias binding. Perhaps I will use it together with the half yard of fabric that is also left over from cutting out the pattern.

Comments on fit: I used to have an “Hourglass” figure but I’m afraid the time has run out and I am now more of an “Apple” shape. This being so means that I have had to make an adjustment/”work around” to ensure that I can fasten the dress back and front. To do this I made an extension piece on the front (which comes from the back) left-hand side on which to stitch the buttons for the three button loops.  I balanced up the button loops with a matching set of faux  loops and buttons.   As I could not find just the right buttons, I have used 22mm self-covered buttons which I think are perfect!

close up

On the back (which is an extension of the front) I added two extension pieces to take the button and buttonhole fastening. As I no longer have an hourglass figure it would help the fit of the front if the second body dart was reduced or omitted.  As usual, my bust point is 1” lower than the pattern so the bust dart and body dart points need to be moved accordingly. The armholes gaped at the front and necessitate a dart to reduce the armhole shaping. To counteract the tendency for the back bodice to be pulled down by the weight of the circular skirt, next time I would raise that neckline slightly.

Final analysis: Having made up the pattern once any further constructions should be more time efficient and could reasonably be made in 4 hours. I enjoy the “uniqueness” of the dress (especially the liquorice allsorts print!) and will probably make another in a combination of fabrics, e.g. positive/negative print such as dots or two-tone floral print.

dress 1


Butterick B4790 – The “Walkaway” Dress I


As promised in an earlier post – here is the story of my version of the famous “Walkaway” dress. For this project I checked the time allowed (4 hours) on The Great British Sewing Bee and timed myself to see just how long it takes an “ordinary” seamstress to make this iconic dress. When working to a time limit it helps if you read the instructions first! To begin with I laid out the fabric full width right sides together and pinned the skirt pattern piece before realising that if I laid out the pieces differently I would save a lot of fabric. So…. unpinned the pattern, relaid the fabric and then cut out the skirt pieces separately – as per the pattern’s instruction sheet! Using the suggested pattern layout meant that the dress took a smidgeon over 4.5 metres of fabric, so as I purchased 5 metres of the colourful “Liquorice Allsorts” design I have half a metre left over for another project. Having cut out the pattern and marked all the darts and notches I then set up the sewing machine and overlocker with colour-co-ordinated thread and put a new needle in the sewing machine. Off I went. Stitched the darts front and back and back seam of the skirt which I overlocked to neaten the raw edges by which time I had been working for 1.5 hours. Time for a break……

White Lace Overlay Blouse

The Spring Floral print blouse was the test run for this lovely White Polyester Crepe blouse with lace overlay on the collar and sleeve bands. The White Crepe fabric was from a bolt that I purchased several years ago, which now with having used another 2 metres for this blouse, is down to the last metre and a half that I shall probably use for a short length divided petticoat.

Using the hack from McCalls 6438, the blouse was inspired by the photograph on a knitting pattern. Although not the same, I believe that when combined with the pretty Pink Cardigan that I am currently knitting and a light-coloured linen skirt, will provide a very feminine outfit for the late Spring/early Summer season.

Having already made the Spring Floral print blouse, this version was very easy to put together with no fitting adjustments to be made. However, the Polyester Crepe fabric was not so easy to manage as it persisted in slipping and sliding all over the place! I altered the sleeves slightly from the original version by slashing and spreading the sleeve head to give more gathers at the shoulder. I used a very lightweight fusible interfacing for the collar/front facing and also the sleeve bands all of which are overlaid with the lace. I used the scallop edges of the lace yardage to make the frill around the collar. The very plain buttons are from my stash and once again I have given the blouse a shaped hemline which will provide plenty of length to tuck into a skirt. All seams are overlocked so that the inside is neat and tidy. I look forward to completing the knitting of the cardigan (over halfway there as we speak) and wearing the outfit on a sunny day!

lacy cardi knit pattern  Inspirational Knitting Pattern

blouse 01     My version

Merchant & Mills Dress Shirt

dress_shirt_tissue    Merchant-Mills-The-Dress-Shirt

The Merchant & Mills Dress Shirt design kept popping up on various blogs and Pinterest boards and so I decided to try it. The pattern has been sitting in the pile for a little while. On opening the pattern envelope I was impressed with the quality of the pattern tissue and also the step by step instructions. Before I cut into the lovely linen look fabric bought from Fabricland I decided to run up a test garment using a length of White crinkle Broderie Anglaise cotton fabric. This fabric has been sitting in the stash for at least five years so once it had been laundered it was time that it was stitched up!

I graded the pattern from an 18 to a 22 and cut out the short sleeve version. By following the instructions this dress was made up in a few hours and I am delighted with the result. The length is just right and the Bib front will lend itself to a variety of different finishes, tucks, embroideries etc. The only negative that I found was a little bit of gaposis around the neckline but this I think is due to my square shoulders so next time I shall change the angle of the shoulder seam and I am sure it will be perfect. I look forward to a glorious Summer so that I can wear this dress!

no 1    no 2

As soon as I have completed the crepe blouse with lace overlay collar and the Cerise Liquorise Allsorts Walkaway dress, I cannot wait to stitch another Merchant & Mills dress shirt in linen look cotton.