A change from sewing – this stitching is knitting! I like to wear a cropped cardigan with my sleeveless dresses as this makes them multi-seasonal. Usually I buy competitively priced jersey shrugs from eBay but on this occasion I decided to knit my own. I used King Cole pattern #4125 purchased from an eBay seller and Double Knitting acrylic yarn bought from ‘The Range’.
I chose a Dark Teal-coloured yarn and decided to knit the plain stocking stitch version rather than the textured as I wanted a very simple, straightforward project. I know that my knitted projects usually take a very long time to complete.
On this occasion, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown I have spent several hours a day knitting and thus the project has been completed in record time! Although I will never wear the cardigan buttoned up, I did make buttonholes and attached buttons which are pretty floral printed ones from my button stash.
I am very pleased with the end result. I have some 400 grms of yarn remaining so will combine with another colour to make up the 500grms required to make another #4125 in the future.
I loved the first Hannah so much that I made another!
I used this beautiful cotton lawn by Lady McElroy that was on sale on eBay – a bargain 4 metres for a total cost of £20.06 including the post and packing. Thanks to Rachel of ‘Stitched up!’ for letting me know about the offer.
This time I made a couple of changes: Having worn the Blue viscose version for a day I discovered that I need to make a further adjustment to the neckline to prevent some gaping. This is probably due to stretching out the fabric but I don’t think it would hurt to make this change. Instructions for how to achieve the adjustment were on the By Hand London blog.
As the cotton lawn is so fine but easy to cut and sew, I wanted to try a narrow double frill at the neckline. I measured from just below the centre point on the left bodice front, around the neckline and back down to the waistline on the right front. Using this measurement of 65 inches, I cut a frill piece 1 ½ times the length x 3 ½ inches deep. This would provide a completed frill of just over 1 inch after folding and seam allowances.
The other thing that I wanted to try was a different sleeve. I drafted a new sleeve pattern by pinning and pivoting out from the shoulder point so that the sleeve head would be the same smooth line but with a gathered hem into a narrow band.
Finally, I would use my TNT pocket bag pattern so that the pocket will be attached to the waistline seam to prevent it flapping about!
As this fabric is so fine on a White background, I again decided to line the bodice. As I was making changes to the construction of the dress, to ensure that I did not make any mistakes (i.e. forget to make French seams in the skirt and pockets) I wrote myself an order of construction.
By double checking the order of construction I was able to ensure that I made French seams wherever required. The dress went together fairly quickly bearing in mind the additional work involved for the frilled neckline and the different sleeves. Once again I curved the leading edge of the wrap skirt and this time made a narrow hem, machined in place.
I was delighted with the way the frill looked on the neckline, not so sure about the sleeves. After taking a day to think about it, I removed the band and turned up a narrow hem on the sleeves so now they are just ‘floaty’.
Another day to think about the look and I am still not too pleased. Maybe I will eventually cut off the narrow hem and re-make a band. The next time it will be only 16 inches in length and this means that there will be more gathers into the band. That should improve the look.
I am not sure if ‘Hannah’ is going to be my TNT woven wrap dress, I may have to try ‘Eve’ by Sew Over It. Meantime I think that I might have a break from new patterns and styles so that I can revert to one of my TNT patterns before tackling a Sun Dress with the ‘new to me’ McCalls 7950.
The next style to try is a wrap dress in a woven fabric. The Eve Dress by Sew Over It seems to be very popular but as I already had the Hannah decided to try that for the time being.
“Hannah is the quintessential easy breezy wrap dress that can be as daytime casual or night-time glamour as you want! With a sexy scoop wrap neckline, a gently gathered skirt and three unique sleeve options, you can have all the fun in the world coming up with your own drastically different variations. Best of all, this dress patterns has no zipper or lining so she can be whipped up in a matter of hours!”
As I have never made a By Hand London pattern before I printed out the pdf and cut a size 22 in lightweight calico so that I could make a toile to check the fit. It turned out to be pretty good but I needed to make a few adjustments; I raised the centre point at which the wrap crosses as it was too low for my taste. I lowered the apex of the bust and waist darts by ½ inch. Did a forward shoulder adjustment at the armscye by ½ inch, reduced the shoulder width by ¾ inch and made my usual sway back adjustment. I found that I also needed to take out 1 inch at the centre back neckline.
I marked the changes on the pattern and cut another toile in calico to double check before I cut into my fashion fabric. All now looking good.
Having browsed through my stash and knowing that for View 1 (short sleeved version) in my size I would need 3.4m x 150cm wide fabric, I decided upon some Blue floral print viscose that I bought from an eBay seller back in 2018. Only possible problem was that I had only a 2.8m length after the fabric had been laundered.
I placed the pattern pieces roughly and decided to ‘go for it’. Cutting out this fine lightweight fabric was like ‘herding cats!’. I cut the back bodice in two with a centre back seam. Bearing in mind the error with pocket bags on my previous Montana make, I cut all 4 pocket bags as per the pattern, in the fashion fabric. Having decided to make the wrap with ties that go around the body through a buttonhole in the right bodice side seam and tie at the back I cut 2 lengths of 36 inches x 4 inches wide to make the ties.
As I said, this fabric is lovely in the way that it drapes but it seemed very fragile. I felt that it needed some more substance to the bodice, especially bearing in mind the weight of the closely gathered skirt. I unpicked my second toile and used the lightweight calico to underline the bodice back and fronts. The fabric still retains its drape and there does not appear to be any change to the colour but now the bodice has a deal more structure to it.
To underline the bodice pieces I pressed the pieces wrong sides together, carefully pinned around the out edge and then basted with a ¼ inch seam. I stitched just inside the lines for the darts before continuing with the construction using the underlined pieces as one layer of fabric.
The pattern instructions call for the sleeves to be inserted on the flat, but I prefer to insert in the round. I neatened the sleeve seam with 3-thread over locking before turning up 1 inch and machine top-stitching in place. I was reminded about ‘crimping’ the sleeve head (curlyseams vlog on youtube) to make insertion into the armscye easier and this certainly worked well on the toile so was repeated with the fashion fabric.
I made up the ties and basted them to the front bodice pieces. I stitched the pockets to the side seams before remembering that I had planned to use French seams – bother! The viscose gathered up easily with the two rows of gathering stitches and taking my time I attached the skirt pieces to the bodice.
I ran the over locker along that seam to neaten and also around all the skirt edges, fronts and hem. Whilst doing this I made the ‘leading edge’ of the front skirt pieces rounded at the hem edge as I intended to apply bias binding to the whole of the dress – from centre back of the neck, along the front bodice, down the edge of the skirt, along the hem of the skirt, up around the second bodice front and back to the centre back of the neck edge. I would need a serious amount of binding and ‘shopped my stash’ for some complimentary fabric to use. I settled on some of the remnant poly/cotton that I had used for Butterick 6554, the previous foray into woven wrap dress style. That dress has now been donated as the fit was seriously off!
I made yards and yards of bias binding 2 inches wide which I then basted wrong sides together to make a double thickness. I stitched to the right side of the dress using a ¼ inch seam before turning to the inside. I edge stitched before trimming all the seam allowances. Hand stitching in place on the wrong side of the dress was completed whilst watching a couple of episodes of Car Share. I had to stop occasionally as I laughed so much at the antics of Peter Kay. Finally I made a buttonhole in the right-hand side through which to pass the tie to make the bow at the back.
Despite having been dressmaking for many years the last time that I used viscose was back in the 70’s when I made a culotte dress in Bright Orange (sorry can’t find the photograph!). Sewing with viscose presents some challenges but I am sure that I will buy some more for my stash. Meantime, I am absolutely delighted with how this Hannah dress has turned out and plan to make another starting with cutting out some pretty floral print cotton lawn tomorrow!
I was so pleased with the bicycle printed Montana dress that I immediately explored my fabric stash and came across this bright Teal batik-style printed cotton bought last year from Franklins, Salisbury branch.
I cut the bodice and lining the same as before but this time decided to try the 3-tier skirt hack as demonstrated by AlexJudge in her vlog AlexJudgeSews.
I cut the first tier using the skirt pattern but cut at 11 inches deep (including ½ inch seal allowances top and bottom). For the second tier I cut the width of the fabric twice x 12 inches deep. The third tier is 3 widths of fabric x 14 inches deep which includes a hem allowance.
I constructed the bodice and lining the same as the previous make although I did take a wider seam allowance on the neckline which has the effect of lowering the scoop very slightly.
I then then moved on to make ‘in seam’ pockets. As I dislike pockets that flap about inside, I extended the pattern so that it could be stitched into the waist seam. I made one side of the pocket bags in lining and the other in fashion fabric but here is where I made a mistake – oops! When attaching the first tier to the bodice, I applied the back skirt to the front bodice and the front skirt to the back bodice. Thus the pockets although facing to the front, the fabrics are the wrong way around. If one pulls at the side seam, the lining fabric is visible and the fashion fabric which is backing onto the front of the skirt is hidden. 🙁
I attached the second tier to the third tier, hemmed the third tier and then attached to the bottom of the first tier. There is a lot of fabric in the skirt! All that remained was to hand stitch the bodice lining along the inside waist seam.
Despite the mishap with pockets placement, I am particularly pleased with this dress as the colours are my favourite. Now to move onto a different style, the Hannah dress by By Hand London which is a wrap bodice dress in woven fabric.
This dress was inspired by Alex Judge Sews and just happened to coincide with my desire to explore different styles of dresses.
Although Alex had made her dress in a viscose fabric with a tiered skirt, I could not find anything similar in my stash. However I did find this pretty, fine cotton print that I purchased last year in the sale at New Threads Quilt Shop, Weyhill Fairground.
I had already decided to try raised waistlines ‘Empire’ line and the Montana by Style Arc falls into this style. This is a very simply-styled dress and is described as a Midi length high waisted pull on dress with an extended shoulder line.
I cut a size 22 and made a ‘fitting toile’ in lightweight calico. The first thing that I noticed was that the back which should have been level to the front, was much longer. Part of this is due to my sway back and the other reason was that I needed to make a Full Bust Adjustment (FBA). At this stage I also noticed that the shoulder line was slightly different to my natural shoulder line and needed to be lifted by approximately 1cm at the neckline.
I altered the pattern and made a new front bodice toile to check the fit. Now all seemed fine except that the bust dart was too long and a little too high. I unpicked the dart and re-stitched, another fit check and now it was all good. I copied the amended pattern onto fresh paper.
Now I cut out the Bicycle print cotton. For the bodice lining I used White poly/cotton purchased in bulk from Fabricland, Salisbury prior to the closure of that branch.
I first stitched the shoulder seams of both the fashion fabric and the lining. Then using the ¼ inch seam allowance quoted by Style Arc I stitched the two right sides together around the neckline. I trimmed using my pinking shears before understitching 1/8 th inch away from the seam. I pressed well before turning my attention to the armhole seams. Using the ‘burrito’ method I sewed first one and then the other. I trimmed and understitched the seams before sewing the side seams of both the fashion fabric and lining in one go. On the lining bodice only I stay-stitched 1 cm from the waistline edge – this would provide a guide for turning to the inside when finishing the bodice.
I dislike side seam pockets that flap about inside the garment and so ignored the ones printed with this pattern.
I stitched the side seams of the skirt with French seams, before running 2 rows of gathering stitches along the bodice waistline edge. By matching the quarter marks of the skirt to quarter marks on the bodice I ensured an even distribution of the gathers. Once the skirt had been attached to the bodice all that remained was to machine a double fold hem and hand stitch the bodice lining along the inside waist seam.
Much later ….. I made two patch pockets and attached to the front of the skirt. I was able to pattern match one of the pockets but the second one is a little off.
Recently, I have been thinking about making dresses in styles that are outside my usual comfort zone. I have looked through some cuttings and patterns that I have saved over the years and have the following thoughts.
For dresses and blouses in woven fabrics – currently I use a TNT bodice pattern combined with different collar, sleeve and skirt options. There is a seam at the waistline to which I attach a variety of skirts. The basic bodice has bust and waist darts at the front and waist darts at the back. On one occasion I moved the darts into princess seams starting at the armscye on the front of the bodice which I really liked. I recently drafted a new bodice with a yoke by transferring the bust dart fullness into gathers at the shoulder/yoke.
I have made the style with and without sleeves, with plain revere style collars (no collar stand), shawl collars, pussy bow tie collars and scoop or v-neckline with no collar. The latter style has also been made as a pinafore dress. Sleeves have been short, capped, lined or unlined. With or without a gathered sleeve head, long or short gathered or pleated into a cuff. These bodice styles have been also made as blouses, some with the addition of epaulettes.
Skirts added to these bodices have been gathered or box pleated with or without buttons down the front or flat fronted. I have used the circle skirt patterns from the Betty dress by Sew Over It, Vogue 8577 and several other ‘big 4’ patterns. Most of my dresses have side seam pockets.
Although I have made several faux wrap dresses in knit fabrics, to date I have made only one using woven fabric and unfortunately that was an unmitigated disaster.
Over the next month or so I will be experimenting with new styles. To begin with I am trying dresses with a raised waistline – an ’empire’ line. I hooked out several patterns from my stash:- Butterick 4332, Butterick 6678, McCalls 7116, Serendipity Studio 119 ‘Madeleine’, Simplicity 8875 and Simplicity 8910.
Before I could get starting on any of these patterns I was inspired by the ‘Montana’ dress by Style Arc, demonstrated by Alex Judge.
I purchased the pattern and having made a toile to check the fit have made this, my bicycle dress. I am very pleased with this dress and will post a separate description of ‘the journey’ into the making of the project.
I will continue with trying some of my stash patterns with ’empire line’ bodices and will then be trying a drop waist style (vintage pattern Style #1996).
I would like to try woven wrap bodice styles – Butterick 6051,
Hannah dress by By Hand London, Eve dress by Sew Over It. ‘Utility’ styles – Simple Sew Zoe dress and Merchant & Mills ‘Factory’ dress.
Raglan sleeved dresses Vogue 8970
Dresses with inset waistband – The Amelia dress by Simply Sewing.
Finally the Buckle Jumper dress by Paisley Pincushion. This last pattern is one that I purchased in the USA and has long been in my stash. Hopefully this year I will get it made up!
So many different patterns – and that is just the patterns for woven fabrics. It is a good thing that I have such a large stash of material acquired over the last 20+ years that will keep me busy during our extended lockdown!