Category Archives: Dresses

Bold Bajan Dress

When visiting the Caribbean earlier this year, I made a point of buying some colourful Madras Cotton Check fabric when we called into Barbados.

Since my return the fabric has been washed and waiting quietly in a corner for me to make into a dress as a memento of a lovely holiday.

Being somewhat down-hearted about the previous make using some unrepeatable fabric, I thought that lightning would not strike twice so went ahead and cut out another sleeveless shirt dress. This time I changed the collar to that used on the Kitty dress which I find very easy to make up and would hopefully reduce the time it takes to complete the construction.

The check on this fabric is uneven so I tried hard to place the design lines in a complimentary fashion. I think that it has worked and there are no glaring faults. Truthfully, most of the colour placement is a happy accident although I did take care to match the horizontal lines of the check. I am particularly pleased with the way that the collar check lines are in a chevron.

I cut the skirt as 2 panels each 30 inches long and this has made it possible to have a deep hem. The centre back seam is a flat fell seam with the second row of stitching completed by hand. The panels were pleated onto the bodice with inverted pleats lining up with the darts and side seams of the bodice. There is a pocket set on the right-hand-side of the skirt, hidden beneath one of the pleats. The hem was overlocked then turned up just once and hand stitched in place.

I used a very lightweight fusible interfacing in the collar, facing and button/buttonhole plackets. The armholes have been bound with a self-bias binding cut 1¼ inches wide and folded in half. All seams have been overlocked including around the pocket bag. There are 12 buttons down the bodice and skirt which came from my button stash. Buttonholes were worked on the machine and taking a hint from Sian of Kittenish Behaviour, I have used fraycheck ® for the first time.

I am delighted with this dress which I can wear now with a cardigan and tights, then again in the Summer with a light tan! My husband still needs to be won over, his comment when he saw the dress on the mannequin was “Well with those bold colours and check, everyone will see you coming!”

 

 

Anaconda Antithesis print Sleeveless Shirt Dress

Anaconda Antithesis Cotton Lawn by Lady McElroy –   I have previously used this fabric print but in the Sky Blue colourway to make my TNT scoop neck dress.

  

At time of writing that dress has still not been worn as I have had nowhere special to wear it!

However, the fabric is just so lovely that when I saw the Sage Green colourway on sale at Fondant Fabrics, (£5.53 per ½ metre) I had to order some.

Just in case you have not encountered this fabric before, FF have the following as their description.

Cotton lawn is a light weight cotton with a plain weave. It is made using fine combed or carded yarns which are tightly woven, resulting in a silky smooth fabric with a lovely drape.

This is a high quality digitally printed cotton lawn by Lady McElroy featuring flowers, butterflies and snakes on a dark sage green background. Sophisticated yet quirky, this light, silky fabric is perfect for a statement summer dress, skirt or top. 

I ordered 2 metres of the 145 cms wide fabric and having the experience of cutting a sleeveless dress from 2.2 metres of 105 cms wide fabric I thought that this would be sufficient for yet another shirt dress. I was right.

As soon as the fabric arrived, the raw edges were overlocked and it went straight into the washing machine. Air dried in the bathroom and due to the fineness of the fabric, within a few hours it was dry and ready for pressing and cutting out.

As this fabric is so fine I decided to line the bodice with White poly/cotton. As I was lining the bodice there was no need for bias to bind the armhole edges but I was still a little short of fabric and thus the pocket linings are cut in the poly/cotton.

The skirt is made using two panels cut the width of the fabric x 26 inches long. There is a French seam at the centre back to join the panels together. I established the centre point of the panels and slashed to insert the pocket bags. I particularly like this method which also provides a little shaping to the skirt.

Although I did try to be careful with the print placement, you will notice that there is a flower perilously close to the apex of my bust. When worn however, it is a little further away than when on the mannequin.

The bodice lining is hand tacked to the waistline seam and the hem was overlocked before turning up just ½ inch and hand stitched in place. The finished back skirt length is 24½ inches, total back length 41 inches. There are 12 buttons on the front closure which came from my stash.

I love, love, love this dress and in a moment of madness have ordered another 3 metres of the fabric (!).

Next time I think that I will make a short sleeve dress with a different collar and possibly a gored/circle skirt. But for now I am working on refining the pattern for Kitty Pin Cushion.

 

Autumn Fields Shirt Dress

Recently I noticed that the Virginia Creeper on our garden fence was changing into its Autumn colours.

  

I love all those great hues of Rust, Terracotta, Orange, Tan, Purple, Burgundy and am pleased that having been ‘colour coded’ I am classed as a ‘Deep Autumn’. These colours are exactly right for my palette. Browsing through my stash of cotton fabrics I came across this length of pre-washed cotton print from the Lewis & Irene stable.

The print is their Autumn Fields range and this particular colourway is Acorns and Leaves on a Burgundy background. I had just 2.4 yards (2.2 metres) of 42 ins wide fabric and as far as I can remember this cost just £5/metre in the sale at New Threads Quilt Shop a couple of years ago. This length was originally purchased with a view to making a long-sleeved blouse. Now that I have ‘nailed’ the sleeveless shirt dress I decided to see if there was sufficient for dress #3.

I was able to cut out the pattern from this minimal amount of fabric but there was not quite enough for the under collar, armhole bias and one side of each pocket bag which are cut from the brown spotted fabric I have purchased ready for the lining of a swing jacket.

Construction was plain sailing and I was fortunate in finding just the right colour and size of buttons. There are 12 on the front bodice and skirt. The skirt length is just 24 inches with a 1 inch hand sewn hem.

The dress fits well and coordinates beautifully with my Burgundy tie- front cardigan.

 

Joni Dress no 5

Following on from the idea put forward by Sian of Kittenish Behaviour, I should make only 5 versions of a single pattern before I move onto something new. This is version 5 of the Joni dress from Tilly and the Buttons ‘Stretch’ book.

Version 1 was a wearable toile, version 2 made up in a Pink floral polyester jersey was just too sweet, version 3 was a hack using the remnant fabric from version 1, version 4 was a cotton jersey that I marked down as a fail (but still counts!) so here is the final version made using some more of that beautiful viscose jersey from an eBay seller, CheapestfabricsUK.

It took just 2 hours from sitting down at the machine with the dress pieces that were cut out over a week ago. What have I been doing in the meantime? Gardening!

As I was now suffering from sewing withdrawal symptoms, an afternoon of sewing was the remedy.

I constructed the dress using my revised method by cutting 2 of the bodice front. I added a neckband to the bodice back before sandwiching between the front bodice and its lining. Unfortunately as this fabric is a little thicker than previous jerseys, the twist is rather bulky (and maybe I should have not sewn the under-twist seam quite so far into the twist?) but I can certainly live with it.

The sleeves were inserted into the flat bodice before the bodice side seams and the underarm sleeve seams were stitched in one pass. A faux cuff that measures 1½ inches was sewn to make the hem of the sleeves. The skirt panels were added before a final fitting.

With jersey fabrics I always have to allow for the various levels of stretch incorporated into the fabric and this particular one is very stretchy. I had already taken this into account when cutting out so no further adjustments were required. I have sewn a single fold up hem, stitched with a long straight stitch on the machine.

I know that this dress suits me much better than version 4 as the colours are darker and the print more bold. It will look good in the coming months worn with opaque tights and possibly boots.

Anaconda & Butterflies ‘BEST’ dress

Back in July I made a dress from the Lemons printed Cotton Lawn that I had bought from an eBay seller in China.

I fell in love with the quality of the fabric so when I came across some more fab-u-lous cotton lawn printed with Anaconda snakes, butterflies and floral bouquets it was no contest – I had to have some to make another dress.

I bought 3 metres of the 140 cms wide fabric from the Sew me Something stand at the Festival of Quilts. This was not a ‘cheap’ purchase as the fabric retails at £16 per metre but as it is wide at 140 cms I knew that I would be able to get a full skirt from this length.

I overlocked the raw edges the day after the Festival and laundered the fabric which then sat in my ’roundtoit’ pile until now.

The colours are absolutely right as a key piece of an Autumn capsule wardrobe and more about that in a later blog post.

I wanted to use my TNT bodice with the scoop neckline plus a full gathered skirt. I cut 3 lengths of 29 inches across the width of the fabric. I made a full copy of the bodice front pattern as I wanted to be sure about the placement of those motifs – no way could they appear anywhere near the apex of my bust!

I was able to fit the back bodice onto the fabric using A 1 inch seam allowance for the centre back seam where I inserted a zip. I also had sufficient fabric to make two x side seam pocket bags plus the facings for front, back and sleeve hems.

As the cotton lawn is so fine, I found some perfect Light Blue cotton fabric to use for the bodice and sleeve linings.

Now, ready for construction: as per my usual method, I made up sleeves first and set them aside until needed.

The lining of the sleeves has a wide band of the feature fabric so that if the insides should show at all, you can see more of this fabulous print.

Marking and sewing the darts in the bodice went well as did stitching the lining to the bodice at the neckline. I made French seams in the three skirt panels so that combined with lining of the bodice this dress would look neat and tidy which is something that I always like to aim for.

The zip was set 2½ inches down from the neckline so that there would be no interruption to the line. I used machine stitching for most of the lapped zip insertion but the final line of sewing was completed with some hand prick stitch for a couture finish.

Unfortunately due to lack of fabric I was unable to pattern match the back bodice but I think the final result is acceptable.

The bodice lining was stitched wrong sides together at the neckline and armholes before adding the neckline facings. The back neck facing is extended and sits between my skin and the insides of the zip fastener pull.

The 3 widths of fabric for the skirt were French seamed and by using the centre back seam as a starter point I then marked the fabric in quarters to match up with side seams and darts in the bodice. I marked a point for the insertion of the pocket bags and slashed to make ‘in-seam’ pockets. This method worked well on the previous dress and as it reduces the amount of fabric at my waist is something I will repeat when there is no side seam in a skirt.

Initially I had not planned to repeat the very gathered skirt but as the cotton lawn is so fine it has worked out well and I am pleased with the final result.

After attaching the skirt to the bodice I then pulled the bodice lining down over the seam. I turned up the seam allowance to the inside and hand-stitched in place over the original waist seam.

I set in the prepared cap sleeves but as I was not 100% happy with the French seams used on the Lemonade dress, for this iteration I used the overlocker to neaten the seam. I also set a few small gathers at the sleeve head to counterbalance the width of the full gathered skirt. 

The finale was to hand stitch the hem to give a finished skirt length of 27 inches.

I am delighted with this dress and at present it is being kept as my ‘best’ dress. All I need now is an occasion to wear it.

2nd Sleeveless Shirt Dress – ‘Kirstie’ in Rue de Fleur printed cotton

I was so pleased with the outcome of the first sleeveless shirt dress that I made a couple of weeks ago, that I wanted to repeat the success using some fabric from my stash before the Summer ended.

I found some pretty Blue background floral printed quilting weight cotton that I had purchased back in 2015 from a little shop in Hunstanton when I was visiting relatives in North Norfolk. The fabric is Rue de Fleur for Fine Lines Fabric and once laundered there was 2.95 metres x 107cms wide.

I used the same TNT bodice pattern as for the previous sleeveless shirt dress – now known as a ‘Kirstie’ as the style reminds me of Kirstie Allsop of Location, Location, Location fame (although all of her dresses appear to have sleeves).

    

As I was a little short of fabric, this version has a skirt cut from twice the width of fabric x 29inches long which is gathered into the waistline seam. Oh and it has pockets at each side set into a slash as there are no side seams, only a centre back seam.

The original bodice pattern was drafted for set-in sleeves so for a sleeveless version I remove the 5/8th inch seam allowance from the armhole before adding a bias binding. I cut the bias binding 1¼ inches wide and fold in half (wrong sides together). I then stitch the raw edges matched to the right side of the armhole using a 1/8th seam allowance. The binding is turned to the inside and top stitched close to the folded edge of the bias binding.

For this version I used 11 x 5/8th inch buttons set 2¼ inches apart, that I had bought from C&H fabrics in Winchester.

All raw edges inside the dress have been overlocked. I folded up 2 inches for the hem which was then stitched in place by hand.

I have purchased yet another jersey tie front shrug to wear with this dress and think that it will be an ideal outfit for transition to the colder months of Autumn.

                                                                    

Joni Dress no 4 – Dandelion Print

As the last project took quite a long time to complete, I wanted to make a quick and easy dress in jersey. I had some lovely Viscose/Spandex stretch jersey by John Kaldor bought from Rosenberg & Son at the Festival of Quilts (4 metres x 150 cms @ £10/metre) that I had ‘earmarked’ as an early Autumn project.

Now that I have adjusted the pattern to my exact requirements, the Joni dress is a ‘quick fix’ and so I cut out the pattern late one evening.

I cut the ¾ length sleeves and in acknowledgement that this would be an Autumn/Winter garment, added 2 inches to the length of the skirt.

The following day I spent a pleasant couple of hours at the overlocker and sewing machine. I constructed the dress using my revised method by cutting 2 of the bodice front. I added a neckband to the bodice back before sandwiching between the front bodice and its lining at the shoulder seams.

The sleeves were inserted into the flat bodice before the bodice side seams and the underarm sleeve seams were stitched in one pass. A faux cuff that measures just ½ inch was sewn to make the hem of the sleeves. The skirt panels were added before a final fitting.

With jersey fabrics I always have to allow for the various levels of stretch incorporated into the fabric and this particular one is very stretchy. I had to take in the side seams from just below the armholes grading back to the original seam just below the full hip. In this way I retained the fullness of the skirt. I have left the hem unfinished as the jersey will not fray and at present I do not have a jersey twin needle available.

Whilst I continue to enjoy sewing with jersey and the Joni style in particular I am counting this project as a fail. I find that the neutral tones of the print do not compliment either my colouring or figure. I have hung the dress in the wardrobe whilst I decide on its fate.

Slow Sewing – A Dress for the Autumn

My usual MO for a sewing project is:-

Day 1 – Overlock raw ends and Launder fabric, Evening 1 – prepare pattern and cut out,

Day 2 – Stitch, Evening 2 or possibly Day 3 -Finish

Well that’s the plan!

After the mammoth fabric haul at the Festival of Quilts that plan went slightly awry. There were 3 loads of washing to be done to complete the preparation of over 20 metres of fabric purchases. I had fallen in love with this particular cotton poplin print (STOF Impressions of Nature by Louis) bought from Lilli Fabrics (3m x 150 cms wide at £7.95/m)

and decided that I would make this as a first project for the coming Autumn season.

Another blogger (can’t remember who) had mentioned about making her Summer/Autumn dresses without sleeves so that when it came to adding a cardigan,shrug or jacket they would be easier to wear. When cutting out the fabric I thought that I would try this approach. I had sufficient fabric to cut large pockets for the side seams and also a pair of cap sleeves – ‘just in case’.

I adapted my TNT bodice block to make a buttoned front closure. I then added a slightly extended revere together with my TNT collar which came originally from Style pattern 1441.

For the skirt, I cut 2 x width of fabric x 27 inches long. I made a centre back seam and turned back 3 inches on each side for the centre front buttons and buttonholes which matched the width of the bodice front facing.

I stitched the darts on bodice front and back. Then the shoulder seams and tacked the side seams before basting in a completed lined cap sleeve to see how it looked.

An easy decision – sleeveless was the way to go forward. I cut bias strips of a scrap of light tan/cream polka dot cotton to finish the armhole edges.

I made box pleats in the skirt and as luck would have it those pleats lined up beautifully with the side seams and darts of the bodice. As there were no side seams to the skirt panels, I cut an opening in line with the bodice side seams to insert the pocket bags before concealing them under the box pleats. A very neat solution.

Now – buttons. I have an extensive stash of buttons that are stored according to colour and size but however hard I looked I could not find just the right ones. I completed the construction of the dress and took a scrap of the fabric to C&H fabrics in Winchester where I found two styles of buttons that would be ideal for the project. Decisions, decisions – I bought 16 of each style! Well, buttons are relatively inexpensive, you cannot have too many buttons and of course they don’t eat anything – just sit in the button box awaiting the right project! I made 10 buttonholes and attached the buttons so I still have 6 of that particular set in my stash.

The hem of the skirt is machined in place as are the facings. The collar and front edges of the button placket are also top-stitched.

The construction took quite a bit longer than my usual projects but I am delighted with this dress which will co-ordinate well with a variety of my cardigans and shrugs.

It should see me through the coming cooler months. With a long-sleeved cardigan, opaque tights and boots I believe that I will be able to wear the dress right through the Winter and into Spring 2019.

We still have a few days of August left and I will be sewing just a few more garments in lighter fabrics and prints in the hope that I will be able to wear them in an ‘Indian Summer’ in September and October.

SEW OVER IT Penny Dress – wearable toile

I have long been a fan of Sew Over It patterns and have several in my stash. During the meet up SEW SOUTHAMPTON a couple of weeks ago, I saw several of the ladies wearing this dress and so I decided that I would make up this style.

On my return home I printed off the pdf and the instructions. I checked my fabric stash and originally thought I would use the cotton print that I purchased in Fabricland, Southampton branch.

However, no matter how I laid out the pattern pieces, they would not fit.

I checked the yardage requirements and following a browse on the internet ordered some beautiful Blue background floral print viscose from Fabrikate. I ordered 3 metres of the 150 cms wide fabric at £4.95 per metre, post and packing free. The fabric arrived very swiftly and is absolutely beautiful.

Too good infact to use for the very first ‘trial’ make of the Penny dress.

I re-visited the internet and purchased 3 metres of 150 cms wide stretch viscose JERSEY from ‘cheapest-materials-uk’ on eBay. Cost £4.95 per metre, free post and packing.

As soon as the fabrics were received, they were laundered and were now ready to sew and go.

According to Sew Over It, the Penny Dress is a simple, easy-to-sew and utterly gorgeous shirt dress. Stylish, wearable and flattering for so many shapes, Penny is a summer wardrobe must-have.

Penny features a sleeveless button-up bodice, flat collar, pretty gathered shoulder panel, easy-fit elasticated waist and on-trend midi-length skirt. The flattering dropped shoulder offers a nod to the 1950s whilst her simplicity will keep you looking contemporary and cool.

Though shirt dresses can often be fiddly, Penny makes for a refreshingly simple sew. With no darts, zips or collar stands to contend with it is a simple project, perfect for sunny summer days.

I checked my measurements against those of the pattern and decided that the only changes to be made were to extend the length of the bodice by 2 inches, add a little to the waistline of the skirt and also cut the skirt at the size 16 length (I could not accommodate a longer length skirt on the fabric!)

The pattern piece for the skirt is very large and cut on the fold – for a moment I was not sure if it had to be cut once or twice but having referred to the layout was assured that it needed to be cut only once on the fold. I had intended to add a small amount to the seam of the skirt to allow for my ‘larger than average’ waistline but unfortunately I forgot!

Construction was fairly plain sailing until I got to the part where the facing is under stitched and then folded so that it forms the button placket. Again I referred to the pattern information and discovered that there was a ‘sewalong’ for this section of the dress.

https://sewoverit.co.uk/how-to-sew-the-penny-dress-button-placket/

All was now clear and I progressed with the construction.

With the thickness of the jersey fabric combined with layers of interfacing I decided to forego buttonholes. I top-stitched through all the layers of the button placket from the point level with the apex of my bust. I hand stitched the buttons in place – purely for show as the dress easily goes on pullover style!

When it came to the point where the skirt is attached to the bodice, I discovered that there was insufficient width at the waistline of the skirt to match up correctly with the bodice. Ho hum, how to proceed?

What I did was some gentle gathering of the bodice to fit the skirt. On completion I found that there was no need for an elastic insertion. The bodice has a slight ‘blouson’ effect and the skirt is fitted at the waist and over my hips before flaring out into the full circle. However, I have marked up the pattern to ensure that when I make up the woven viscose, there will be sufficient to have an elasticated waistline.As the fabric is jersey and does not fray, for the time being I have left the hem unstitched. I will see how it fairs and if necessary will turn up a very narrow hem and edge stitch in place.

            

Making the dress in a jersey fabric has worked out fine. There is a lovely drape to this fabric and the dress is really comfortable to wear.

Sew Over It Libby Blouse & Betty Skirt Mash-Up

Last weekend during the SEW SOUTHAMPTON meet up I purchased just one length of fabric from Fabricland, Southampton branch. The fabric is a 100% cotton print in a floral design. The colours are much more muted than my usual choice.

At the time I was not sure exactly which dress I would make so have spent a few days cogitating.

Decision: I would try a new (for me) Sew Over It pattern, the Penny Dress.

However, when I started to lay out the pattern on my fabric, it simply would not fit. So, Plan B:- the Libby blouse and mash it to the TNT Betty circle skirt to make a shirtwaister dress.

 

The reasons for choosing the Libby blouse were the extended shoulder and sleeve cuff (similar to the Teddy Designer Tunic by Style Arc) and also the fact that there was a reduce-sized collar stand which I wanted to try.

Guided by the finished garment measurements I cut a size 20 for the Libby blouse bodice. To get the correct bodice length, I measured my centre back and then added an inch to allow for seam allowance and ease. For the Betty skirt, I placed the pattern pieces at the selvedge so there would be centre front and centre back seams to the skirt. I added approximately 2 inches to the side seam allowances to ensure that the skirt panels would be sufficiently large enough to allow for the seams. I also cut large pocket bags to incorporate into the side seams of the skirt. I love pockets!

The fabric was laundered last weekend so was now ready to cut and sew.

I prepared the skirt pockets and stitched the panels. The seams were pressed open and flat, finished with the overlocker. The skirt was then left to hang whilst I continued with the bodice.

The yoke was plain sailing but then it came to the collar. I tried to follow the instructions as close as possible. Unfortunately, these include colour photographs of a printed fabric and despite reading the instructions several times and taking care with transferring all the markings, I did not find collar and stand construction at all easy. For the next iteration I will do some research online to see if I can find a more easy-to-follow method of construction for this particular style of collar. The end result is fine, it just took an inordinate length of time and finessing to get it just right.

The finished sleeve cuffs look good. They have been interfaced with light fusible interfacing and thoroughly pressed into place. I also stitched through all the layers of the cuffs at the underarm seam to ensure that they stay in place.

A search through my button stash came up with 4 really well-matched buttons. Once the buttonholes and buttons had been applied all I had to do was stitch the bodice to the skirt and finish the hem.

Despite checking the measurements of the bodice hem against the waistline of the skirt, I found that I needed to gather the bodice slightly. This has resulted in a slightly ‘blouson’ look. I am happy with this look despite the fact that it was not planned.

I hope to make this style again but in a more vibrant print. I will also extend the centre front bodice to allow for C/D cup bust.

  

I will be wearing the dress with the Tan woven leather belt as shown in the photographs. In the final analysis the dress has a definite 40’s vibe. I am not complaining but fear it may look a bit ‘mumsy’ on me so I am not sure how long it will have a place in my wardrobe.