All posts by caroline

‘Harley’ Shirt Waist Dress #1

This is my take on the Darling Ranges dress by Megan Nielsen which is an easily adaptable modern shirt dress. That pattern features a V-neck, button front, high waistline and ties at the back to allow it to be worn in a fitted or loose style.

The pattern is listed at a cost of £21.99 on the Minerva website. Unfortunately my measurements fall outside those of the pattern so even if I were to splash out and purchase the pattern I would still have to make a number of changes to get the dress to fit me.

I took a comparatively short cut. Using my TNT bodice block I drafted a V-neckline with button front and short sleeves. Depending on my desire at the time of cutting out/making up, the dress could also be made to include a button-through the skirt, bodice with or without waist darts front and/or back, concealed side seam pockets, with or without self fabric tie belt set into side seams. At a later date I can also draft different sleeves: tulip, ¾ length or full length into button cuff.

For this first wearable toile I used some charming Blue background printed cotton poplin featuring abstract flowers, retro leaves and partially hidden cranes that I bought from JJ Textiles of Manchester. I purchased 5 metres for £25.00 inclusive of post & packing. After cutting out the pattern including skirt panels measuring twice the width of the fabric x 30 inches length I still had a generous 2 metres of fabric left. Enough to make a blouse or shirt.

So on with the construction. This is a comparatively easy make but as it was a wearable toile I did have to make some minor fit adjustments; I reduced the length of the back bodice to allow for my sway back. I found the front bodice too fitted and so let out the front waist darts a little. I made the rear neck facing extra deep so that I could add my ‘Carousel’ label but the front facing was kept to 2½ inches wide. I marked up for 5 buttons on the bodice and later added 7 buttons for the skirt. The buttons are placed 2¼ inches apart. I used ½ inch 4-hole faux tortoiseshell buttons from my stash that I originally purchased from Abakhan many years ago. Concealed side seam pockets were added and the skirt panels gathered onto the bodice waistline. The hem of approximately 1 inch was stitched using the blind hemmer on my sewing machine. All seam allowances were overlocked.

Conclusion: The dress is a good fit on the bodice and I like the V-neckline with button front. However, this cotton poplin has a lot of ‘body’ and I would have preferred a 4-gore ½ circle skirt. A gathered skirt would be best if using a viscose or polyester that has better drape qualities.

The only other thing which has annoyed me – and it is totally my own fault, is the fact that I did not pattern match the bodice and thus there are two dominant motifs on the front. I will remember next time!

Project #7 completed 26th January 2021

‘Moonflower’ Moira Dress#8

As mentioned in a previous post, Catherine chose this printed Viscose Challis for her next dress. She asked for the ‘Moira’ style but with no frill at the hem. Her wish is my command!

I cut out the dress from the fabric that came from Rainbow Fabrics, this version takes a lot less fabric as you don’t need 3 x the width of the fabric for the hem frill. I guess the dress takes around 2 metres plus a similar amount of lining. I added the usual side seam pockets and self-fabric tie belt attached at the side seams. This time I set my timer and the entire construction took just under 5 hours. All seams were overlocked rather than French seams and this cuts down the time requirement quite a lot.

The dress has been posted off to North Wales. I hope it fits and that my sister is pleased with her ‘Moonflower’ dress.

Project #6 completed 18th January 2021

Freya Cowl neck Top

I have had the Tilly and the Buttons book “Stretch” in my bookcase for several years now but so far only used one pattern – the ‘Joni’ dress.

Browsing the internet I have seen several versions of ‘Freya’ with the cowl neckline and having some Rust print Ponte in my stash decided that this would be a good pattern to make up and coordinate with my Brown Ponte trousers.

The Ponte is a 97% polyester 3% Spandex mix from Minerva. Although the pattern instructions advise 2 metres, I bought only 1.5 metres at a cost of £6.99/metre as I knew that due to my short arms (!) it would probably be sufficient.

The patterns in Tilly’s book only go up to a size 8 which is 2 sizes smaller than I need. I traced out the pattern and made my grading alterations to give the equivalent of a Tilly-size 10. I also shortened the sleeves by 4 inches, knowing that I could add back to the length with a cuff.

I cut out the pattern from the fabric and there is a generous remnant that I can use for other projects. The cuffs worked well and brought the sleeves to just the right length. The hem of the top was stitched with twin-needles. It took just over an hour to make the top – and what a great result! The colour and style compliment the Brown trousers beautifully and also goes well with my Denim wrap skirt.

I will definitely be making up this pattern again, both as a top or extended into a dress. The only alteration for a top will be to make it slightly bigger at the waist and add at least 2 inches to the length of the body. Otherwise a resounding success!

Project #5 completed 15th January 2021

Moonflower Moira Dress #7

Using the credit voucher that I received from Rainbow Fabrics I purchased 7 metres of this beautiful Viscose Challis that I have named ‘Moonflower’. After laundering the fabric I asked my sister if she would like a dress in this fabric and she jumped at the chance! But first I wanted to make yet another Moira for myself using this slightly heavier weight viscose.

The usual construction method was followed including a full lining in Ivory viscose voile. The challis fabric is a dream to sew with other than the fact that it does tend to fray. I finished all the seams with either a French seam or the overlocker. The dress has the usual side seam pockets and deep hem frill.

The beautiful colours of the print are matched with at least two of my cropped cardigans – the Pale Blue and the Tan.

This dress has turned out well and will be making regular appearances despite the fact that currently I am not going out!

Project #4 completed 14th January 2021.

QAYGO Cushion Cover

Back in mid March 2020 one of the tutorials given was ‘Quilt as you Go’ patchwork. I completed a panel using a variety of Blue-toned scraps of cotton and poly/cotton and some cotton wadding. The finished size was approximately 18 inches.

Since that day oh so long ago the project has been in my ’roundtoit’ pile. One of my ‘resolutions’ was actually to get around to those projects! I have already completed the faux clamshell patchwork panel and I am pleased that I have now finished the second from the pile of cushion panels. There appears to be just one remaining but more of that later.

I used a remnant of polyester cotton sheeting for the reverse of the cushion cover plus a full width Aqua-coloured zip from my stash for the closure. Also in the stash was a new cushion pad that was just the correct size. Half an hour of stitching was all that was needed to complete the project of which I am absolutely delighted. Little things mean a lot!

Project 003 completed 11th January 2021

Jenna Skirt #4

When browsing the internet I have often purchased fabrics from an eBay seller, J J Textiles based in Manchester. Recently I ordered a pretty Blue background floral printed Viscose but when it arrived, unfortunately it was the wrong print.

I contacted the seller and they immediately sent the correct print free of charge. So now I had 8 metres of Teal Blue background floral printed viscose to ‘play’ with. I used some of the above to line the bodice of my ‘Jane’ pinafore dress I also bound all the seam edges with this print. There was still over 3 metres of this design left and I was delighted to be able to get a long sleeved blouse and a Jenna skirt cut from the fabric. Now there is absolutely nothing left!

According to Seamwork magazine separates can add great variety to any wardrobe, and a simple gathered skirt like Jenna effortlessly marries cute style and comfortable fit. Jenna’s elastic-back waistband and in-seam pockets make this skirt as practical as it is stylish.

The ‘Jenna’ skirt is fast becoming my TNT skirt pattern. Another time when I use it with a heavier weight fabric I plan to hack it with buttons down the front but for this lovely drape viscose I have stuck to the standard configuration.

I cut a size 22 for the main skirt panels but a 20 for the waistbands and elastic. The front waistband has 2 sets of fusible interfacing but as the rear waistband has to be gathered with the elastic insertion, this is simply the 2 layers of viscose.

All seams were finished with French seams, including the in-seam pockets. As I was so short of fabric, the pocket bags are made from a patchwork of plain cotton with a band of the viscose on the rear pocket bag just in case it shows when I put my hands in my pockets!

The elastic insertion was still fiddly but it does give a comfortable and stylish finish to the skirt. Next time I will have a think and see if there is an easier way to complete this part of the construction.

The hem was finished with a narrow double turn top-stitched in place.

The skirt will be a great addition to my wardrobe for every Season. It can be worn with the coordinating blouse, a plain tee shirt or plain blouse (when made!) or sweater.

#02 2021 completed 10th January 2021

‘Carmen’ Long sleeved Blouse

When browsing the internet I have often purchased fabrics from an eBay seller, J J Textiles based in Manchester. Recently I ordered a pretty Blue background floral printed Viscose but when it arrived, unfortunately it was the wrong print. I contacted the seller and they immediately sent the correct print free of charge. So now I had 8 metres of Blue background floral printed viscose to ‘play’ with. This is the original (incorrect) print. I used some to line the bodice of my ‘Jane’ pinafore dress. I also bound all the seam edges with this print. There was still over 3 metres left and I was delighted to be able to get a long sleeved blouse and Jenna skirt cut from the fabric. Now there is absolutely nothing left!

I used my TNT pattern which I drafted myself using my standard bodice block as a starting point. Over the years of various sizes and weights, I have often had to alter the pattern to my shape at the time. So far I have made at least 3 version of this iteration of the pattern. I am calling this one ‘Carmen’ the same name that was allocated to the fabric print on the eBay listing.

The blouse has a standard collar with no collar stand. There are bust darts for shaping and a shaped hemline. The sleeves have slight gathers at the shoulders and are generously gathered into a button cuff.

There are 5 buttons at the front and a single button on each cuff. All seams were French seamed and the hem is my usual, narrow double turned and top-stitched in place. The buttons came from my bottomless stash of buttons!

So there is not a lot more to say other than I love this particular version. The fabric is soft and drapes beautifully. The collar and sleeves fit perfectly under the ‘Jane’ pinafore dress. Once I have completed the ‘Jenna’ skirt I will have another variation to wear this delightful fabric.

Project 001 of 2021 completed 8th January

‘Jane’ Pinafore Dress

I love Jane Austen novels, have read all of the novels and seen all the film adaptations of her books. The costumes from the films (excluding those from the Hollywood version staring Laurence Olivier) inspired me to make a Pinafore Dress based (loosely) on the style of that period.

I purchased a copy of the Romantic Era Dress Pattern from but unfortunately have not been able to print off the pattern to scale. I am not particularly ‘au fait’ with Adobe so need a friend to help sort out the problem.

Meantime I tried the Hughes dress pattern by the Friday Pattern Company. I successfully printed the pattern and prepared size 1X at the bust grading to 2X at the waist and hips. I cut a calico toile of the bodice and tried it for fit. Haha! Not a good look. It is a very long time since the apex of my bust was that high and there was a lot of excess fabric over my upper chest. To alter to fit would take a lot of time and energy that I was not prepared (at the moment) to expend.

Third try – I took my basic TNT bodice pattern and hacked it! I removed darts and added Princess panels to front and back. I also extended the front bodice shoulder over onto the back bodice and made a diagonal seam line similar to those in the line drawings of the Romantic Era pattern. I made my second calico toile. Success – a reasonably good fit.

Now I could proceed with the project using some Navy needlecord from my stash that I have had for many years. I would use some pretty floral printed viscose that came from JJTextiles (an incorrect print that was later corrected with the print I had ordered) for the lining of the bodice and binding of the seam allowances.

I first made up the bodice lining to double check the fit. Still all OK so on with cutting the Navy needlecord. Taking particular care to ensure that the nap ran down the fabric on every pattern piece I stitched the bodice before attached the lining. I particularly like the way that the nap runs in opposite directions at the diagonal shoulder seam.

There is under-stitching around the armholes and neckline and front closure which would be completed with some ½ inch 4-hole buttons from my stash.

Now onto the skirt. To begin with I cut 2 widths of fabric by 34 inches long and planned on making pleats with concealed side seam pockets set underneath the pleats. However, I could not get the pleating just how I wanted it so reverted to gathers. The leading edges and side seam edges of the front skirts were bound with the 1¼ inch binding made from the floral viscose before the pocket pieces were attached. The front pocket pieces are also in the floral viscose but the back pocket pieces are in the Navy needlecord. The reason for this is two-fold. Firstly I did not have sufficient fabric to cut all pocket pieces from needlecord and secondly, by using viscose for the pocket lining I could reduce the bulk a little.

The side and centre back seams of the back skirt panels are bound in the floral viscose. I found that I had sufficient binding to run it around the outer edges of the pocket bags – just to complete the look!

I was most fortunate to find exactly the right sort of buttons in my stash – and plenty of them. There are a total of 13 buttons down the front of the pinafore plus a spare that is stitched to the inside. Buttonholes went like a dream until the very last one on the bodice. A couple of false starts and then they were all complete. Would you believe it, I had cut open all of the buttonholes except that last ‘rebellious’ one when the stitch ripper slipped and I cut through the end! A quick fix with zig-zag stitch and some “fraycheck”, I think it is OK now but not the best-looking buttonhole ever.

Now it was just the hem that remained. I bound the hem and turned up 2½ inches and decided to mitre the corner where the hem joins the front facings. It is a long time since I did this so took a little thinking before I got it right. A lovely finishing touch. The hem and facings were stitched in place using the blind hem feature on my machine.

The pinafore has just a nod to the styling of the Regency era and I am delighted with it.

Now I want to make a blouse from Ivory dobby viscose similar to the one in the line drawing and photograph from patterns to wear with the pinafore. First I must make up the long sleeved blouse and Jenna skirt that I have already cut out from the very last inch of the floral viscose fabric.

project #80 completed 27th December 2020

Sewing Socks!

Many, many years ago I knitted my one and only pair of handmade socks. I used a fine yarn and a set of 4 needles. The pair took a very long time to make! Using a FREE PDF pattern from Ellie & Mac made my first pair of fabric socks in less than 1/2 an hour! The socks are a great way to use scraps and perfect for giving! The pattern includes sizes for kids and adults.  

My first trial pair were made using a scrap of cotton jersey left over from a nightdress commission and had minimum stretch. Although the pattern actually calls for a 50% stretch, these still fit although a little over-stretched across the instep. (Completed 20th December 2020)

For the second pair I used some leftover cotton/spandex jersey bought from New Threads from which I had made KWIK SEW 3915 Top for a friend’s Christmas Gift. This pair are good but I think in future I will increase the length of the cuffing as otherwise I may get an indentation on my ankle.

The next pair were made from a remnant of Viscose Jersey bought from a shop in the Goldhawk Road and made into a Moneta dress. This is the most ‘stretchy’ of the fabrics I have used so far but also has a slightly synthetic feel so still not absolutely 10 out of 10.

For now I am leaving the socks behind whilst I get on with the ‘Jane’ pinafore dress that has been waiting in the wings for ages!

Projects: #77,78,79 finally completed 21st December 2020

Clamshell Patchwork Cushion Cover

Back in early March 2020 I gave a talk to the local Patchwork & Quilting group – Sprat & Winkle Quilters named after a local branch railway line. The subject was about Applique, Die cutting patchwork and Embroidery. I had many examples of work that I have completed over the years and at the end of the talk I gave everyone the chance to use my two die cutting machines. One of the dies used on the ‘Big SHot’ was ‘Drunkards Path’ which is a two-part die consisting of a 1/4 circle and an ‘arc’ which when sewn together with a 1/4 inch seam allowance will produce a block. The blocks can then be arranged in a variety of ways and I showed the faux clamshell arrangement.

Nine months later I have finally got around to quilting the sample and made up into a large 22 inch cushion. I am particularly pleased with the ‘echo’ quilting which was completed using a standard foot on my Brother 4000D machine. I simply used the edge of the foot as a guide to make quilting lines a generous 1/4 inch apart. The cushion now has pride of place on our Tan leather armchair.

Project # 76 completed 19th December 2020