Category Archives: Dresses

‘Marilyn’ – a new hack

I recently purchased 3 metres of this very bold ‘in your face’ Viscose crepe from Rainbow Fabrics, Kilburn. To be honest I am not sure what I was thinking when I ordered the fabric so was a little surprised when I opened the parcel and saw how dramatic the colour and print was. However, the fabric was laundered, has a lovely drape and feels great against the skin.

Having made 6 versions of the Montana dress by Style Arc and 4 of the Myosotis dress, I thought it would be a good idea to combine the two designs, make a new style that I have named ‘Marilyn’ and use the bold Orange viscose for a wearable toile.

Line drawing for Marilyn design

Drafting the pattern: I first copied the bodice front and back of the Myosotis before laying over the Montana so that I could extend the shoulders for the cap sleeves. These days my ‘go to’ method for sleeveless and cap sleeved dresses is to line the bodice so that the armhole can be clean finished. However, this time I drafted an all-in-one facing. You will see that originally I planned to make the skirt with a hem ruffle but then I decided to make the skirt in three tiers.

Cutting out: I was careful with motif placement as I really did not want that large White bloom on the apex of my bust! I cut the back bodice in two with a centre back seam so that I could then cut 6 panels 12 inches deep x width of fabric (WOF) to make a three-tiered skirt.

Construction: The Bodice – My usual MO is to make up the bodice first so that can sit on the mannequin (to be admired!) whilst I stitch the skirt panels, pockets and frills. After a night’s sleep when it came down to it, I decided to ignore the all-in-one facing and instead use self bias binding. I still have the pattern for the facing in the envelope so maybe next time. For the self bias I cut strips 2 inches wide and pressed them wrong sides together before sewing to the right side of the bodice and flipping to the inside. I understitched the bias and seam allowances before top stitching the free edge of the bias binding in place. I was unable to find the exact colour of Orange for the buttons (not really surprising) so reverted to more of the Mother of Pearl ones that I bought in bulk and have now become my favourites.

The skirt: Again, I procrastinated before sitting down and getting on with the skirt. All those lengths of fabric had to be stitched together and have double rows of gathering. Then it was sitting quietly, marking the quarters, matching and gathering evenly for each of the three tiers. Each tier was sewn before attaching the final skirt to the bodice.

Final fitting: The overall length was a little too long (possibly dragged down by the weight of all the fabric in the skirt). I revisited the seams between the second and third tier and re-stitched taking a further ½ inch seam allowance from the original seam and overlocking (once again!). This brought the overall length up by 2 inches which was ‘just right’.

‘Marilyn’ version #1

Conclusion: I am very pleased with how this ‘wearable toile’ has turned out and delighted with the colour and design of the print. I think it is a dramatic dress and may well end up being my ‘birthday’ dress for 2022. I may be ageing but will certainly not be invisible. I am sure I will make the ‘Marilyn’ again in Viscose crepe but next time will either cut as a skirt plus a hem ruffle, or cut the skirt tiers at 11 inches rather than 12 inches so that the length is less ‘maxi’ and more ‘midi’. I have an idea for another ‘hack’ for the Myosotis to remove the collar stand and clean finish a round neckline instead. Watch this space…..

Project #31 completed 23rd June 2022

Revisit an old Favourite

Butterick 5356

Back in the Summer of 1998 I made my first version of Butterick 5356. I remember it particularly well as it was my ‘birthday’ dress. That year my husband and I spent a lovely day exploring ‘The Vyne’, a National Trust house and garden in nearby Sherborne St John, Hampshire.

The fabric used was a polyester crepe de chine purchased from a market trader in Andover. I still have the dress, it still fits, and I wear it every Spring and Summer.

I made a second version of the dress using a Lavender-coloured crinkle cotton. Unfortunately I no longer have that iteration as I gifted the dress to a friend, now sadly passed away.

Every Spring/Summer since 2000 I have wanted to make the dress again, but this time in a natural fibre so that it is more comfortable to wear in the really warm weather. Finally I have done it!

The original dress was made to size 22 with a few adjustments – reduce the width of the shoulders and the length of the dress. As I knew that the dress was ‘just right’ in terms of fit, I would be able to cut straight from the pattern.

Ditsy Daisy Sustainable Soft Viscose Challis

Turquoise is a special favourite as I believe the colour particularly suits me, I selected some Ditsy Daisy Sustainable Soft Viscose Challis purchased from Rainbow Fabrics, Kilburn at the end of April 2022 at a cost of £21.57. Thus this length has not been long in my stash and I thought that the print and drape of the fabric would be a great match for the Butterick pattern.

As I am currently watching the latest series of ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’ where each challenge is undertaken with a time limit, I decided to time myself making this project. Total time taken including cutting out and the final hand sewing of the hem was 8 hours. This is longer than expected but can be down to the mobility of the fabric, having to hand sew tailors tacks for all the deep tucks on the bodice, plus a hand sewn hem. However, as I was very keen to get the dress completed quickly, I have neatened seam allowances with the overlocker rather than make French seams which is time-saving.

Order of work was:- Session 1 – Cutting out. Session 2 – Making the self-fabric ties, interfacing the collar and front facing, making the back darts and including the ties at the waist point of the darts. Session 3 – Making sleeves, preparing the back neck facing with a ‘Carousel’ label. Session 4 – Sewing the front bodice tucks, shoulder seam front to back. Prepare Collar and one half of front facing. Session 5 – Second front facing, side seams, set in sleeves, make 12 buttonholes. Session 6 – Add 12 buttons, prepare the hem. Session 7 – hand sew hem in place.

Conclusion: Marking the I front bodice tucks and sewing the collar are both fiddly, especially with this particular type of viscose. I am sure that if (when!) I make the dress again using a crepe it will be less time-consuming. I love the finished dress which I think is particularly slimming and very comfortable to wear. I will definitely be making another.

Butterick 5356
Butterick 5356 Back view

Project #30 completed 15th June 2022

Myosotis #4 – a catalogue of compromises

I decided that I would make just one more version of the Myosotis pattern before changing to a different collection, utilising cotton fabrics and some new patterns.

Myosotis by Deer & Doe

The last of the ‘Spring Greens’ fabric collection is a Viscose Marrocain purchased from Rainbow Fabrics.

Viscose Marrocain ex Rainbow Fabrics

For this final (for the time being) Myosotis I wanted to add ¾ length ‘blouson’ sleeves with elastic casing and frilled cuffs plus a 3-tiered skirt. However, when ironing the fabric I discovered that it was not a 4 metre length – only 3 metres and also some marks that had not been removed by washing. So back to the drawing board….

Cutting out: I was so intent on avoiding the marks on the fabric that unfortunately the motif placement, especially on the bodice front(!) is less than ideal. I discovered that if I cut the back bodice in two with a centre back seam and the sleeves on the cross grain I would be able to cut 3 x width of fabric (WOF) to make a deep frill of 11 inches for the bottom of the main skirt panels. The main skirt panels were cut 40 inches wide x 20 inches deep.

Construction: The Bodice: My usual MO is to make up the bodice first so that can sit on the mannequin (to be admired!) whilst I stitch the skirt panels, pockets and frills. I used my hacked sleeve pattern but this time I have added to the depth of the sleeve cap in the hope that this will compensate for the removal of 1 inch from the shoulder width. The faced hem of the sleeves has been twin needle top stitched in place. The button bands have also been topstitched. With regard to button selection – again a compromise. I found two perfect colour-matched buttons, but sadly only two and I needed five. I chose some mother of pearl buttons that I bought from eBay a long time ago but never got around to using.

The skirt: At least this time I could use the ruffler/pleating foot which is far less time consuming than all those rows of gathering stitches and organising of the gathers. One thing that I did not have to compromise on was the fabric for the pocket bags as I was able to cut my favourite pocket bag 4 times in the fashion fabric.

Myosotis #4

Conclusion: I think that this version is my 2nd favourite. It has turned out a little longer than I anticipated but that’s OK, it will look even better when worn with my wedge heeled espadrilles. The sleeves are still not quite right, I will have to go back to the drawing board the next time I make a Myosotis dress. I still hanker after a long sleeved version so will revisit later in the year.

Project #25 completed 24th April 2022

Deer & Doe Myosotis #3

Deer & Doe Myosotis Pattern

I was still very pleased with the Myosotis by Deer and Doe and having Charcoal Grey thread in the overlocker prompted me to review my stash of Viscose challis fabrics. I retrieved the Tropical Floral Viscose Challis on a Navy background that I purchased for £3.56/m from Rainbow Fabrics in August 2021 to make #3 of the Myosotis pattern.

Tropical Floral Viscose Challis on Navy background

I had approximately 4 metres x 150cms wide fabric which meant that I could have a very full skirt made with 3 tiers of gathered frills provided I made the bodice sleeveless or with only short sleeves. I thought that this print would be ideally suited as a Summer dress or if sleeveless, could be worn in the Autumn/Winter over a fine jersey top. However, I decided on short sleeves as I already have at least two Navy pinafore dresses to wear in the colder months.

This time I would use my TNT short sleeve with the puffed cap and combine with the full 3-tiered skirt. It would be fabulous for ‘twirling’!

I started the construction by making up the sleeves and then the bodice. The sleeves did not come out quite right as I had not added depth to the sleeve head to account for the fact that I had narrowed the shoulders by 1 inch. This meant that the sleeves are pulled up at the centre of the hemline. However, the fact that the hemline is now visually a diagonal angle helps to reduce the width at my bustline. Apart from this little hiccup the remainder of the bodice was fine. I used 5 plain Blue buttons from my stash.

Preparing the skirt: I cut 6 tiers 60 inches wide (WOF) x 11 inches deep and stitched them together into a long strip. I then cut into the lengths for each tier:- 75 inches – tier 1, 113 inches – tier 2 and finally 180 inches for tier 3.

Once again I cut my favourite pocket bag 4 times. As I was running short of fabric these are made in a patchwork of the fashion fabric combined with remnant from the previous dress. I set the pocket bags aside to insert into the top tier once all tiers had been stitched together. The reason for this is that the pocket bag would extend below the seam joining the top tier to the middle tier and I did not want to chance getting the bag stitched into that seam!

Each tier was seamed into a loop, quartered and then two rows of gathering stitches at the top of each one. Normally I would use the ruffler/pleater foot but this time I wanted to have greater control of the gathers so it was back to the old method – two rows of gathering stitches and some time spent pulling up and setting nicely! The 2nd tier was attached to the bottom of the 1st tier and the 3rd (bottom) tier was attached to the middle tier. The hem of the bottom tier was overlocked and then double turned into a narrow hem and top-stitched into place. Now I could insert the pockets.

Now that I had both the skirt and the bodice completed it was very simple to gather the top edge of the skirt and join to the bodice. The waist seam was then overlocked and the dress finished!

Myosotis #3 in Tropical Floral print Viscose Challis

Conclusion: I think that this version is very flattering on my figure. The slightly fitted bodice makes me look slimmer than I am and the full skirt balances my bust. I love the drape, feel and print of this fabric which compliments my colouring so can foresee that the dress will get a lot of wear.

Project #24 completed 20th April 2022

Deer & Doe Myosotis #2 – Hacked

I was so delighted with the wearable toile first version of this pattern that I immediately checked my stash for another length of viscose to make my second version.

Myosotis Dress

This fabric purchased in August 2021 and was listed as Sage Green Watercolour viscose challis on the Rainbow Fabrics website at a cost of £3.56/metre. I thought that it would be ideal to make dresses for both my sister and me. I would start with a dress for me!

Viscose Challis fabric from stash

I needed to make a few simple adjustments to the bodice pattern:

Lower the side bust darts by ½ inch, Make a 1 inch sway back adjustment, Add 1 inch to the length at centre front of the bodice, grading back to 0 at the side seams.

For the hack version of the dress I added a double thickness gathered self-fabric frill to the sleeve caps. I measured the distance between the back double notches to the front single notch then added half as much again to that length. The frills were folded in half lengthwise, wrong sides together and tapered at each end before gathering and tacking to the sleeve heads.

For the hack of the skirt I cut two panels 40 inches wide x 21 inches length and then 3 x width of fabric (WOF) for the frills each 12 inches For the hack of the skirt I cut two panels 40 inches wide x 21 inches length and then 3 x width of fabric (WOF) for the frills each 12 inches deep.

I set the skirt panels and frill lengths to one side whilst I concentrated on completing the bodice.

I found just 5 pretty Light Sage Green buttons for the front placket which I think are perfect on this print.

Front bodice close up

I completed the sleeves and tacked them into place. It was then I noticed that the weight of the sleeve head frills were pulling the shoulders out beyond my shoulder point. As I had previously noted that the shoulders were a little wide on my frame, I removed the sleeves and cut away 1 inch at the shoulder point, grading to 0 at the front and back notches. Then I re-set the sleeves and they are much better though still a little wide!

Sleeves with Sleeve Cap Frill

Once again I cut my favourite pocket bag 4 times in the fashion fabric before setting them into the side seams of the top panels of the skirt. I joined the 3 pieces for the frill into a long strip and used my Ruffler/Pleater foot to ‘gather’ up the top edge. I added the frill to the bottom edge of the top panels by starting at the centre back and allowing some ‘free’ frill to be joined when I got around the skirt panels. I then overlocked the bottom edge of the frill and turned up a narrow double folded hem. Now that I had the skirt completed it was very simple to gather the top edge and join to the bodice. The waist seam was then overlocked and the dress was finished!

Myosotis #2

Conclusion: The weight of the sleeve head frills is too much for the light viscose fabric so I won’t be repeating that hack. I am particularly pleased with how the collar fits on the bodice and I am sure that I will use this part of the pattern again. The drape of the fabric is perfect for the amount of gathers in the skirt and the frills are lovely giving plenty of ‘swish’! Another great dress.

Project #23 completed 12th April 2022

Deer & Doe Myosotis Dress – Wearable Toile

Hot on the heels of the disastrous version of New Look K6574 I decided to try yet another ‘new to me’ dress pattern. I have had the pdf of the Myosotis dress by Deer and Doe for some time so am rather late to the party for this very popular pattern.

Myosotis by Deer and Doe patterns

The pattern is for an Oversize shirtdress with inseam pockets. Version A has sleeve ruffles and a tiered skirt, version B has plain sleeves and a gathered skirt. The pattern includes a full size pattern and instructions.

Checking my fabric stash I selected a woven Viscose that is not a particular favourite, could be sewn with Black thread and would not be disastrous if the result was yet another ‘fail’.

Woven Viscose from my stash

To begin, I checked the garment measurements and found that I just fit into the range. I made no adjustments to the pattern and cut a straight size 52 bodice with the straight short sleeves.

Once I had stitched the bodice and confirmed that it fit (!) I made the 5 buttonholes and attached 5 Orange spotted buttons from my stash.

At fitting stage I noticed that the front bodice was quite a bit higher than the back so have adjusted the pattern for future makes. I added 1 inch to the centre front bodice grading to 0 at the side seam. For the back bodice I made a 1 inch sway back adjustment.

Now I moved on to the remainder of the dress.

Ignoring the skirt pattern (I had not printed so that I could save paper and ink) I cut two skirt panels 40 inches wide x 32 inches length, plus 4 pocket bags from my TNT pattern and still had a good length of fabric as remnant to list for sale on eBay. I gathered the skirt panels and attached to the bodice. I turned up the hem by inches and hand stitched in place.

Wow – what a great result for a first try of the pattern.

Myosotis version #1

Typical, having used an unfavourite fabric print – the dress is very wearable and I will definitely be making another.

Project#22 completed 7th April 2022

A new style – New Look K6574

When I was planning my projects for the year of 2022 I wanted to include some new styles and make up some of the many, many pdf patterns that I have in my stash.

Viscose Marocain

Since the beginning of the year I have been working on the theme of Green, later extending to ‘Golden Daffodils and Spring Greens’. When I saw this NEW LOOK pattern, especially view A, I realised that I had a very similar printed Viscose Marocain that I had bought from Rainbow Fabrics, Kilburn. That decided me – I needed to make up this new style!

As the pattern has a limited size range up to US-18 I knew that although the fit across the shoulders would be fine, I would need to expand for my ‘fuller’ figure.

I made a toile using lightweight plain White polyester cotton and proceeded to make a Full Bust adjustment. I also decided to ignore the front slit at the bodice and neckline yoke, I would simply stitch the opening closed, cut the yoke piece placed on the fold at the centre front and rely solely on the centre back zip to be able to put the dress on and off. Although the toile was made with the short puffed sleeves of view C, I was not sure at that stage whether I would have short or long sleeves on the final dress. I had sufficient fabric for either version.

Even after making the toile in polyester cotton, I still ‘chickened out’ of using my matching Viscose Marocain fabric and decided to make a ‘wearable muslin’ using some of the Dark Green Palm print viscose (also from Rainbow Fabrics).

Dark Green Palm Leaves print Viscose for ‘wearable muslin’

Having already made one toile I powered ahead with this ‘wearable muslin’. As I would normally French Seam this weight of viscose fabric, for speed all seams were overlocked with Black thread. I did not like the way the instructions told you to finish the hem band on the short sleeves. I did it my way so that all the raw edges were enclosed. I found the neckline yoke particularly fiddly and was glad that at least one layer was interfaced for stability.

First fitting I found that I could put the dress on over my head without the opening for the zip or the slit on the centre front of the bodice. I had to laugh! Firstly the sleeves were so full that I looked like an American footballer. The blouson of the gathers under the bust were way to full and the fabric drooped down almost to my waist. I had to remove over 3 inches from the centre front of the bodice grading back to 0 at the side seams. It could still do with another ½ inch being removed from the fullness! Because the skirt is panelled and shaped to ‘skim’ over the midriff, in my case, it was more fitted. I had to let out the side seams to give me a little more room to breathe!

K6574 in Green Palm Leaves Viscose

Conclusion: Although I will keep the dress (as a reminder!) I am not sure that I will ever wear it. I have listed the original pattern on eBay as I know that I will never, ever make this particular pattern again! Now the search is on for an alternative pattern to use with the Viscose Marocain.

Project #21 completed 3rd April 2022

Springtime Moira dress #11

Now that we are past the Spring Equinox I have been checking out my ‘Spring’ wardrobe. I want to continue with the Golden Daffodils and Spring Green theme and so hooked out the last of this Yellow Palm leaf print viscose that I bought from Rainbow Fabrics, Kilburn.

For a while I prevaricated over which style to make but finally decided on yet another ‘Moira’ dress. This style is easy to make, even with a lining, and is so very comfortable to wear. The added bonus is that it will coordinate well with my latest Sorrento jacket.

All the usual construction except that this time I added my TNT favourite short sleeve with the gathered sleeve head. The facings of the sleeve hem are supported with lightweight interfacing and after the under-stitching, were hand stitched in place to prevent them flopping down.

All seams of the dress and lining were overlocked to prevent fraying and prolong the life of the dress. The narrow hem was overlocked and then turned twice before top stitching in place.

I do love this pattern but now that I have made 11 versions, perhaps I should move on and try a different pattern. We will have to wait and see.

Project #18 completed Tuesday 22nd March 2022

‘Janice’ Dress #2

I was so pleased with the first Janice dress that I made just before the end of 2021 that I wanted to make another but with a few changes.

Continuing with my ‘green theme’ I chose some pretty floral viscose that I purchased from Rainbow Fabrics.

There was a lot of this fabric so although I originally intended to make the dress with short sleeves there was ample to be able to cut out long sleeves with deep cuffs and still have enough fabric for a short sleeve blouse. I also had sufficient fabric to make the bodice front facing in the fashion fabric whilst the remainder of the bodice lining was cut from plain White viscose voile that I keep in my stash. This time I would make the bodice button through to the waist seam only before gathering the skirt into that. I would add a deep frill at the hem and also a narrower frill around the neckline.

Construction: The dress was fairly straightforward to sew apart from the fact that yet again I have chosen a very mobile fabric. I love the feel of this viscose to wear as it is warm to the touch and drapes beautifully but the making of the dress is challenging as it slips and slides away from you all the time. Many, many pins and some spray starch were used to ensure that the fabric stayed where it was put! The narrow frill around the neckline was cut 48 inches long x 3¼ inches wide before folding in half, gathering and basting to the front facings.

The long sleeves have a continuous lap placket opening and there was sufficient depth to the cuff (finished 3¼ inches) to add two buttons to each. I searched through my button stash – regretfully I could not find 9 buttons (I need 5 for the bodice plus 4 for the cuffs) all the same that suited this printed viscose fabric. I found 8 and added to them 2 of the same size and shape but a different shade.

I decided that I would put one of each on each cuff so at least they would match in their miss-matching. Then I looked again at another ‘stash’ of buttons and found two more options! Finally I chose the no. 3 buttons which were originally bought last year to go onto the Gold denim pinafore dress.

There are concealed side seam pockets in the main panels of the skirt which were cut 22 inches long together with the hem frills (cut 12 inches long) were stitched with French seams where there was no selvedge. The gathering/pleating of the frill was completed using the ‘ruffler’ foot on my Brother 550SE machine. The hem on the frill was double folded by ¼ inch and machined in place. I was in a quandary as to how to finish the waist seam, in the end I used some pretty green satin bias binding to enclose all the raw edges.

Conclusion: Partly due to the design with frills and full bodice lining and partly due to the fabric, this dress has taken a long time to make. However, I do like it but not as much as I thought I would. I am pleased with the narrow frill around the neckline and I love the long gathered sleeves into deep double buttoned cuffs and will definitely be making those again on my next long sleeved project.

I shall give myself a little break from dressmaking for a day or two and then return re-charged and ready to tackle a blouse using the remainder of this pretty print fabric.

Project #7 completed 30th January 2022

‘Jane’ Pinafore #4

I wanted to make a pinafore dress that would coordinate with the two Green Palm Leaves viscose blouses that I have recently completed. I had this Forest Green Polyester Drill in my stash that I bought for £13.00 in 2021 from A Fabrics of Derby with the idea of making some trousers. When the fabric arrived I decided that it was not suitable for the trousers so has been awaiting a different project. I decided that another version of my self-drafted ‘Jane’ pinafore dress would be ideal.

I like to line the bodice of these pinafores and whilst I could have used some of the palm leaves viscose I decided to use a different novelty printed cotton poplin of sheep! I bought just one metre from Hot Pink Haberdashery at a cost of £5.99 per metre of 108 cms wide fabric. The bodice and pocket linings took just 76 cms of the print so I have a nice size remnant to add that pop of novelty print in another project.

As this is now the fourth time making up this pattern I completed the construction in record time.

As the Green drill fabric is very plain I wanted to highlight the seams. I top stitched the Princess seams, around the armholes , the neckline and front edges of the bodice. I used two strands of Light Green standard weight cotton in a top-stitch needle with a stitch length of 3.5mm. I used yet more of the coconut shell buttons and the only hand stitching was to tack down the bodice lining to the inside waist seam and the hem of the skirt. All buttons and buttonholes were completed on my Brother 550SE machine. That’s my type of project!

I am delighted with how this pinafore dress has turned out and as planned it goes very well with the two blouses in Green Palm leaf viscose.

My Juki overlocker is currently at Franklins in Salisbury having a long overdue service. The next few projects will be completed with no overlocking – French seams or Hong Kong finishes will be the order of the day. I may even finish off some patchwork and quilting projects that have been loitering in the cupboard!

Project #3 completed 9th January 2022