Category Archives: Dresses

Lemons Ten-a-Penny!

See what I did there? I made a Penny dress by Sew Over It using a Lemons printed fabric!

Penny Dress by Sew Over It

After a couple of abortive attempts making toiles of new bodices I decided to take a break and make up a TNT pattern using this pretty lemons-printed cotton.

Rose & Hubble Spring Lemons on Dark Navy background

I bought 3 metres of fabric from an eBay seller for a total cost of £17.22 back in April this year. It was an impulse buy – probably due to internet cruising whilst in lockdown! The fabric is lovely quality and on arrival was immediately washed and dried in the sunshine.

I have made the Penny dress several times before and have amended the pattern to my specific requirements: I lengthened the bodice before adding an additional inch to the front bodice tapered off to 0 inches at the side seam. I made a sway back adjustment to the back bodice. I cut two sets of the yoke pattern so that the seams are enclosed. I omit the back neck facing and simply turn in the loose edge of the collar and top stitch in place. I use a self binding for the armholes. The skirt is cut in 4 panels as the fabric does not have sufficient width to cut in one piece on the fold. I add side seam pockets and all seams are made with French seams – including the pockets.

I was pleased that this time I was able to make vertical buttonholes in the button band and included some pretty Spotted Lemon buttons that match really well with the fabric’s print.

Having previously made all these minor adjustments means that I can now whip up a dress very quickly and hey presto! A new dress and renewed enthusiasm to try new patterns and styles.

Penny Lemons

Project #36 completed 31st May 2020

Hooray for Hannah #2

I loved the first Hannah so much that I made another!

By Hand London ‘Hannah’ dress

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.

Anais, anais cotton lawn by Lady McElroy

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.

Sleeve hack #1

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.

Frilled neckline

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’.

Floaty sleeve

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.

Completed Hannah version 2

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.

Completed project #34 28th May 2020

Hannah Wrap Dress

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.

BY HAND LONDON Hannah dress

“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.

Blue background Viscose bought from eBay

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.

By Hand London Hannah dress in viscose

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!

project #33 completed 17th May 2020

Batik Montana Hack

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.

Alex Judge Sews

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.

Batik Montana Dress Hack

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.

Project 32 Completed 6th May 2020

Montana by Bicycle!

This dress was inspired by Alex Judge Sews and just happened to coincide with my desire to explore different styles of dresses.

Alex Judge Sews

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.

Montana Midi-length Dress by Style Arc

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.

Montana Midi dress by Style Arc

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.

Pattern matched pocket – perfect!

Completed 5th May 2020

A change of style

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.

Butterick 4332 – from 1996 and now Out of Print
Butterick 6678 – a recent purchase
McCalls 7116 – a free pattern with a magazine
A new designer from my pattern stash
Simplicity 8910 combines empire line with unpressed pleats

Before I could get starting on any of these patterns I was inspired by the ‘Montana’ dress by Style Arc, demonstrated by Alex Judge.

Montana Maxi Dress by Style Arc

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.

Montana in Bicycle print cotton

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).

Vintage pattern #Style 1996

I would like to try woven wrap bodice styles – Butterick 6051,

Butterick 6051 – a recent purchase

Hannah dress by By Hand London, Eve dress by Sew Over It. ‘Utility’ styles – Simple Sew Zoe dress and Merchant & Mills ‘Factory’ dress.

Simple Sew – Zoe dress & top
Ideal candidate for a hack

Raglan sleeved dresses Vogue 8970

Vogue 8970 – has been in my pattern stash for a long time

Dresses with inset waistband – The Amelia dress by Simply Sewing.

Amelia Dress came free with a magazine

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!

Purchased a long time ago when visiting the USA

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!

A bouquet of Roses

I have long been a lover of Roses in all their shapes and forms. We have many different roses in our garden, from miniature patio roses, hybrid teas, floribunda, climbers and ramblers. Each year the first to flower is ‘Canary Bird’ a charming harbinger of Summer in our ‘Courtyard’ garden.

‘Canary Bird’ rose

It will therefore come as no surprise that I love a rose print fabric. These are 100% cotton by Hill-Berg and were bought several years ago from Fabricland, Salisbury branch.

Small scale Roses print by Hill-Berg

I was inspired by a shirt worn by Sue Perkins in an episode of QI and bought a coordinating print of similar roses but in a larger scale.

Original project ‘Sue Perkins’ shirt

The main bodice of the shirt was made using the large scale print with the sleeves, collar, cuffs and pockets made in the smaller scale. I took a lot of time and care to make this shirt which has plenty of double top-stitching. Although the shirt is now quite old, it washes and wears really well and best of all, still fits!

2nd project – Gertie dress

The second project using yet more of the smaller scale print was a ‘wearable’ toile of a Gertie pattern. Unfortunately this dress was only ever worn once. Although I thought that I would like the neckline and tulip sleeves – they just did not work for me and the dress has since sat at the back of the wardrobe. Finally, as there was a lot of fabric in the skirt and I had located the remaining remnant, I decided to unpick the dress and use the fabric for another project.

The fabrics were laundered and laid out on the cutting board. I had 3 widths from the skirt, cut at 30 inches long, plus the bodice pieces unpicked and 2 other remnant pieces of approximately 2 yards total.

I decided to make another ‘Kitty’ dress with a shawl collar, similar to the Caribbean Madras check that I made in November 2018.

Bajan Madras Check ‘Kitty’ dress

I thought that as the print is so busy, the shape of the collar needed to be highlighted in some way. I found some pretty Pink and Silver ric-rac trim in my stash and thought it would ‘do nicely’. I was unable to make the dress button through to the skirt as I could not find sufficient matching buttons in my stash.

Ric-rac trim on the collar

Once cut out, the construction did not take long although because we are enjoying lovely weather the ‘Spring clean’ of the garden took priority. The dress was sewn in several sessions over the week and has therefore taken about 10 days to complete. To bind the armholes, I cut bias fabric 1¾ inches wide and folded in half wrong sides together. I stitched to the right side taking a ¼ inch seam before turning the binding to the inside and top stitching in place.

Roses ‘Kitty’ Dress

Conclusion: Project 29 of 2020. I love the print of this dress and the style is very comfortable. Being sleeveless I will be able to wear when the weather is warmer but also with a cropped cardigan in the cooler evenings. I have found that the collar sits quite high at the back and will therefore make an adjustment ready for the next time that I make the pattern. Although I still have some of this print fabric left, I will now change over threads to make a Navy NHS scrubs set and give the roses a rest!

Completed: 27th April 2020

Coral Pink Shirtwaist Dress

Back again to my original TNT bodice pattern for a sleeveless shirtwaist dress. I have had this pretty Lisa Comfort Cotton Lawn – Elderflower Press in Coral colourway in my stash for a long time.

Lisa Comfort Cotton Lawn – Elderflower Press Coral

The fabric was washed on receipt and since then been stored awaiting inspiration. As I am currently sewing ‘pink’ projects now was the time to retrieve the fabric and get it made up.

The fabric is particularly fine and needs an underlining/lining for the bodice to avoid transparency to my undergarments! I checked how I had achieved this on the Anaconda Antithesis dress made in November 2018 and decided to repeat the technique.

Sage background Anaconda Antithesis Shirt dress from November 2018

I cut a bodice lining in plain White polyester cotton but will not be lining the skirt. The fabric is very wide and with the amount of gathers combined with a waist slip there should be no problem.

Having a lining in the bodice fulfils two functions – it makes the fabric opaque and also enables me to have clean finish armholes, no bias binding to make!

The collar is always a feature that requires precision and is not to be rushed. As usual I took my time and tried to be as accurate as possible but I was not happy with the way that the left hand side of the collar was sitting. I unpicked and tried again but still no joy, this side is not as even as the right hand side. With a good press I found that it was just about OK but I will never be happy with this aspect of the collar.

Only when I came to take photographs did I realise that although I had managed to place a motif on the facing on one side, the other side did not match! I note for the future – check motif placement.

Motif placement on collar and facing

Moving on to the skirt. I cut two widths of the fabric x 30 inches length and joined to make a centre back seam. Allowing for 3 inches of facing for the button placket I then placed markers for where the side seams of the bodice should align. I set in my standard ‘side seam’ pockets using the White polyester cotton for the pocket piece that sits next to the front of the skirt to avoid any ‘show through’ of the print. This worked well. The finished length of the skirt is 28 inches and falls below my knees. It appears that as I age, I am also shrinking as 29 inches used to be just below my knees!

I was fortunate that when I checked my button stash I found 12 buttons in exactly the right size and shade. The buttonholes stitched beautifully on my Brother 4000D machine. Finally I hand stitched the bodice lining to the waist seam and also hand stitched the hem which is 2½ inches deep.

Lisa Comfort Coral Pink Lawn Shirt dress

Conclusion Project 28 of 2020: As the collar was so problematical and motif placement is not perfect this dress gets only 8/10. I have to say that I am a little disappointed with the quality of the fabric. When it arrived it had a beautiful soft smooth finish but after the initial wash that finish has disappeared. The fabric is also very, very fine therefore not suited to an unlined dress and will always have to be worn with a slip.

Completed 14th April 2020

‘Polly’ dress #3

It is now over two weeks since I returned from the fabulous Sewcial Retreat organised by Viv of Purple Stitches and held in an Oxford hotel. Now that the restrictions of self-isolation are keeping me at home it is about time that I updated my blog with details of the other projects sewn.

Most of the Saturday at the Retreat was spent making this pretty Shirtwaister dress using my TNT pattern and fabric from my stash. This was a pretty pink floral on Grey background 100% cotton that I had bought sometime last year from Fabricland, Salisbury branch.

In preparation of the Sewcial I had already cut out the fabric pattern pieces and applied a woven fusible interfacing where required to the collar and front facings. Once at the Retreat and having already stitched two cropped cardigans I re-threaded the sewing machine (the overlocker was being serviced) with Grey thread and set to with my favourite dress pattern.

There were no complications with the construction – mostly sewn using French seams, including the concealed side seam pockets. The top collar was cut on the bias and I was particularly pleased with the motif placement of posies of roses. I made a double folded very narrow hem on the 4-panel skirt and hand stitched the double bias binding on the wrong side of the armholes.

Polly dress #3 in Floral print cotton from Fabriccland.
Back view of Polly #3

This dress is one of my favourites in this style and is now complemented by the Pink Jenna cropped cardigan that was made last week.

Dress completed 14th March 2020

Wrap Dress with Ruffles

Sometime ago Sian of Kittenish Behaviour filmed a ‘sewalong’ for this dress. I was inspired and purchased the pattern. However, the pattern sat in my stash for a long time before I finally got around to making a ‘wearable toile’ of the design.

Butterick B6554

For the fabric I used a new Superking sized cotton/polyester duvet cover bought during a sale at Dunelm, Salisbury branch last year. I made view B with the additional bodice ruffle as featured in View C.

As shown by Sian, I cut the ruffles in two layers and thus avoided having to make narrow rolled hems and also where the ‘wrong’ side showed, it was the same fabric as the ‘right’ side. There was insufficient fabric to make the ruffles in the same print as the main dress but I felt the use of the reverse of the duvet cover would be a good compromise.

I checked the pattern measurements and sizing and cut the largest size – 22. I decided to ignore the centre seam of the butterfly sleeves and taped the front and back pattern pieces together (overlapped by the seam allowance). I also reduced the sleeve length by 1½ inches. I added concealed side seam pockets to my usual pattern and although I was a little unsure about the lengths of the bodice and skirt, left them according to the original pattern.

As my overlocker was still threaded with dark thread, I stitched all the seams with French seams. I also used Sian’s method of finishing the edges of the skirt with self bias binding. Thus, the dress is beautiful both inside and out. Unfortunately it does not fit very well!

Butterick B6554 using a Superking Duvet Cover

The crossover of the wrap bodice is very low so I will have to wear a camisole/vest underneath and the wrap on the skirt is almost indecent so I will need to wear an underskirt of some description (probably my vintage cotton with eyelet frilled hem). Having to wear additional underwear rather defeats the object of a light and floaty summer dress!

Butterick B6554 Wrap Dress with Ruffles

I love the design of this dress and will certainly make again but next time I think I will draft from my own using my TNT bodice and skirt blocks to ensure that I have sufficient wrap on the top and skirt. I will certainly be adding circular ruffles to this and other dressmaking projects in the future as I just love them!

Completed 8th March 2020.