Category Archives: Dresses

‘Moira’ hack of Montana/Hannah dresses

Whilst it is evidenced by the fact that I have made 7 versions of the Montana dress by Style Arc, I would like to have something similar but with sleeves. I noted the Demeter dress by Anna Allen was very similar to the style I wanted to achieve but was loathe to purchase yet another pattern with all the pdf construction and fitting time required for a new pattern. ‘Impatience’ is my middle name!

Demeter has several features that I wanted to reproduce so using the line drawing as inspiration, I decided to try and draft something on those lines using a ‘Montana’ and a ‘Hannah’ by By Hand London designs combination.

Drafting the new ‘Moira’ pattern:- Using the Montana Front bodice to establish the neckline, empire waistline and bust dart, I overlaid with the Hannah using the centre front line as the match point. This gave me the amended shoulder line and armscye. I then laid down the Montana Back bodice, again overlaid with the Hannah to obtain the matching shoulder line and back armscye. I used the sleeve from the Hannah, the skirt panels from the Montana with self-drafted hem frill and my own drafted pocket and ties. So this dress is a real ‘Heinz’ pattern.

Using some lightweight calico I quickly made a toile of the bodice to check for fit. Not bad. I needed to make a forward shoulder adjustment and add a little to the side seam for the front bodice but other than that it was fine so I went ahead and cut out the dress. I used this Navy background Viscose, 3m bought at £13.47 from Rainbow Fabrics.

I like this fabric very much although I have to say that cutting out and construction was rather like herding cats! The fabric was very fluid and mobile – it shifted about so had to be controlled with lots of pins.

Other than that, construction was fairly straightforward. After stitching the shoulder seams of both outer and lining, I basted the side seams before re-shaping the neckline to mirror the curve of my new White Gold necklace bought by my LSH for my birthday in July.

I trimmed the seam allowance of the bodice with pinking shears and pressed them open and flat. The neckline was under stitched and the self-fabric ties were inserted into the side seams. The armscyes and Empire waistlines were stitched together within the seam allowances. Once the sleeves had been inserted, the seam allowances were then neatened with the overlocker.

The front and back skirt panels were each cut 40 ins wide and I used my standard side seam pocket bag pattern. The skirt panels were gathered at the top using a stitch length of 5.00. The hem frills were cut 12 ins deep by 3 x the width of the fabric of 60 ins. Again I used the ruffler foot to pleat up the frill using a stitch length of 4.00 and pleats every 6 stitches.

Once the dress had been completed I dressed the mannequin for photographs and noticed a very happy accident. Where the front bodice is joined to the skirt there is a floral motif that has been pattern-matched!

This dress will be a delight to wear with my Baked Pink Western Jacket or Blue Denim Western Jacket.

By coincidence the dress also goes very well with my Pink Ponte Jenna cardigan made back in March at the Purple Stitches Sewing Retreat.

Project #54 completed 18th September 2020

Montana #7 for my sister

When my sister Catherine saw the range of Montana dresses that I had made she asked if I would make one for her for her birthday. No problem, I had the pattern from Style Arc and once I had compared Catherine’s measurements with the size chart I decided to make a 14 and use 5/8th seam allowances.

Catherine had expressed a liking for the Viscose fabric that I recently bought from and so I ordered another 3 metres of ‘Flowers don’t tell, they show’ but this time on the Black background (my dress print has a Navy background). Once the fabric arrived it was washed and sat for a couple of days whilst I finished the Polly dress #4.

I originally planned to spend the last day of August making a Summer Swansong dress for myself. However, as I still had the overlocker threaded up with Black I changed the plan and made up the Montana for Catherine.

There are ties at the sides to help draw in at the Empire waistline. I added my usual concealed side seam pockets. The main skirt panels are gathered onto the waist seam but the frill was ruffled using the pleater set at 6 stitches and length 4.5. All seams are neatened with the overlocker.

I made a full lining for the bodice and used the ‘bagging out’ method. This was not my usual ‘burrito’ method on Montana dresses and I found it particularly awkward. I will revert to my usual method next time.

I am pleased with the way the dress has turned out and hope that Catherine will also be pleased- and that the dress fits OK!

When we are finally able to visit one another it may be that we each wear our Montana dresses and so will look like twins!

Project #51 completed 31st August 2020.

Polly dress – Fruity #4

As I have been suffering from diverticulitis this week, sewing has mostly been completed in small sessions of time. I had planned to make this Shirtwaister much earlier in the Summer but now with Autumn fast approaching I want to get the dress completed and move onto something else!

The fabric is a 100% cotton printed with ‘fruit’. I am not sure what fruit, but possibly Plums. I bought 4 metres from jjtextiles of Manchester for £21.48 much earlier in the year.

My ‘Polly’ design is the result of wanting something similar to the Penny dress by Sew Over It but with some adaptations. I wanted the yoke, the gathers into the yoke, sleeveless, fully functional button front to an elasticated waist plus 4 panel half-circle skirt with side seam pockets.

Once I had cut out ‘Polly’ there was still a good length remnant that I will probably use for a sleeveless shirt.

There were no complications with the construction – mostly sewn using French seams, including the concealed side seam pockets. The yoke was cut on the bias and the rounded collar and lapels were ‘borrowed’ from the Honeysuckle dress. Top stitching was done with standard Blue thread, stitch length 3.0.

The buttons were from my stash. The double bias binding for the armholes was machined to the right side, flipped to the inside, understitched and then top-stitched in place. For the hem on the skirt, I first overlocked the raw edges before making a narrow double folded hem and top-stitching in place. The bodice/skirt waistline seam has a casing with ¼ inch elastic but most times I believe that I will wear the dress with a belt.

This dress will be an ideal trans-season option when worn with the Old Gold Jenna cropped cardigan that I made back in the Spring before lockdown!

I am hoping to complete one more dress a ‘Summer Swansong’ before I progress to a commission make for my sister and more Autumnal, trans-season projects.

Project #50 completed 29th August 2020

Honeysuckle Dress

Very often I find a great pattern online, although many of the independent designers are now expanding their sizes, but am sometimes disappointed to see the designer has not drafted up to my size . I am fortunate that having drafted my own Basic bodice block from there I can often draft a new design that is similar to the one I have seen online.

The style lines for this dress are based on a Shoulder Princess seamed bodice. I had already drafted this style when I made the Frilled blouse – project #46 completed at the beginning of August.

I shall call the dress ‘Honeysuckle’ as it was inspired by the Honeycomb dress by Cocowawa patterns. My version differs as I have added a small, rounded collar with lapels, there is no back yoke, no sleeves and the skirt is full gathered, midi length.

For the first ‘wearable toile’ I used 3m x 56ins wide of this pretty, silky viscose bought through eBay from jjtextiles, Manchester for a total price of £12.07. I cut all the pattern pieces before the skirt panels which are the full width of the fabric x 30 inches length.

I cut the panels quite long as I wanted to wear this dress both in the Summer with bare legs and sandals then in colder seasons with tights and boots.

As I have previously tested out the Shoulder Princess seaming and collar/lapels combination on the cotton blouse, this dress was a reasonably quick sew.

The viscose fabric behaved very well. There were no problems with excessive fraying of seams which were all overlocked and the buttonholes stitched like a dream on my Brother 4000D machine. I used 5 Burgundy-coloured buttons from my stash and the armholes were bound with a self binding.

The binding was cut 1¾ inches wide, folded in half with wrong sides together and the cut edges basted together. The binding was stitched Right sides together around the armholes before flipping inside and top-stitching in place.

There are my usual concealed side seam pockets and the hem of the skirt was overlocked before a double-folded narrow hem was also machined in place.

I am pleased with how the dress has turned out although due to the ‘busyness’ of the print it is difficult to see the detail of the ties at the waistline. I think that I will be making this style again but perhaps in a less busy print or even a plain colour.

After a brief browse through my wardrobe I found several cardigans and jackets that will co-ordinate. When the weather is very cold I could even wear the dress over a thin polo neck sweater, with thick tights and boots.

Project #49 completed 25th August 2020

Montana #6 – Trans-season

As we near the end of August it is time to start thinking of trans-season dressmaking. Along with my stash of fabrics (just sooo many!) I have bought some new lengths that I think will be perfect for the next couple of months. Dresses that can be worn alone or with a cardigan or jacket, tights and even boots as the weather dictates.

This beautiful viscose fabric was bought from a ‘new to me’ seller, The Navy background is currently sold out but I have also purchased some of the same print on a Black background which is to be a dress for my sister Catherine’s birthday.

You may well recognise that I have used my TNT pattern, the Montana from Style Arc. This time I have lined only the bodice but have added deep pockets, hem frill and self tie belt.

As I was in a hurry to get the dress done so that I could move onto a new self-drafted pattern, I opted to use my overlocker for finishing the seam allowances rather than French seams which have, of late, been my preferred method when using viscose fabrics.

The deep hem frill has again been pleated using my ruffler foot. Settings were pleat every 6 stitches at a stitch length of 4.5 which has produced a great frill suitable for ‘twirling’!

Below some variations to wear with cardigans and jackets ‘plucked’ from my wardrobe!

Project #48 completed 19th August 2020

Montana #5 with Mistakes!

I really enjoy this dress style from Style Arc patterns and version #5 is a repeat of #3 and #4 with the single deep frill at the hem and full lining.

Montana by Style Arc patterns

The fabric used has a Cream background with Purple flowers and paisley print on 100% viscose. I bought on 29th June 2020 from jjtextiles of Manchester for a total of £12.07 for the 3 metres x 142 cms wide.

Cream with Purple Flowers Viscose

Once it arrived the fabric was laundered and during one of the hottest days of the year I started to cut out the dress.

I had cut the main pattern pieces for the skirt, front and back bodice and self-fabric bodice front lining before I set fabric and pattern pieces to one side as it was just too hot to continue.

I would return when it was cooler and cut the self-fabric back bodice lining, ties and pocket bags.

However, I had forgotten that I needed to cut the back bodice from a long strip of fabric and then stitch a centre back seam. Unfortunately I had already used that piece of fabric for the ties and pocket bags before I realised! By now I did not have sufficient to cut the back bodice lining in the printed viscose. What to do? I spent some time considering how to proceed before cutting the back bodice in the cream viscose voile that I have been using for lining my other Montana dresses, plus a back neck ‘facing’ piece and bias strips in the printed viscose. I applied the back neck facing piece and bias strips to the neckline and armholes. In this way on completion the fact that the back bodice was made in a different fabric would not be too obvious.

All this ‘finessing’ has added considerably to the time taken to make the dress.

Having recovered from the ‘faux pas’ I proceeded in the usual way by stitching the darts in the bodice and lining before joining at the shoulder seams. With right sides together I stitched the necklines together using a 5/8ths seam allowance as I wanted the neckline to be a shade wider and deeper than the pattern (usually a ¼ inch seam allowance for this seam) dictates.

I under-stitched all the seam allowances before trimming, turning right side out and giving a good press. I am very pleased with the neckline. Next was to ‘Burrito’ the cap sleeve hems. I love this method. It is quick and simple providing a very good finish whilst avoiding a bias binding finish. Next was to stitch the ties which were basted into the side seams of the outer bodice.

Now that I had the neckline and sleeves sewn, I stitched the side seams of both the outer and lining in one pass taking care not to catch the free end of the ties into the seam. I overlocked these seams as they would be wrong sides together.

The pocket bags were attached and the side seams of the main skirt panels were completed with French seams. Likewise the seams for the deep hem frill. I kept the frill as a long length and gathered using my ruffler foot to gauge the length required to match the width of the main skirt panels. I used the 1-in-6 pleating ratio with a stitch length of 4.5. The frill was attached and the final seam made using a French seam. The hem on the frill was overlocked before turning in and top stitching in place.

Now I worked on the lining for the skirt. I used two widths of the Viscose voile and stitched with French seams. The hem was turned up as a double fold and machined in place before attaching to the waistline of the bodice lining. Rather than gather, this time I made some small pleats which seems to have worked well.

For the top of the main panel I made the gathering using two rows of long machine stitches before attaching to the outer bodice. The seams for the lining skirt to bodice and main skirt to outer bodice were overlocked.

The dress was now complete and when I put onto the mannequin ready for photography I realised that the colours went very well with my recently purchased from J D Williams, Western-style jacket in Baked Pink denim.

Completed project #47 15th August 2020

Penny Dress # 5 – Lily of the Valley printed cotton

In my teens, twenties and early thirties I always had a White-based cotton shirtdress for wearing in the Summer. Of late those dresses have all gone and with so much of this charming fabric available to me I wanted to revive the practice of a White-based Summer shirtdress in my wardrobe.

Lily of the Valley printed cotton

Without a doubt, the Penny dress by Sew Over It is one of my TNT dresses. Whenever I feel in need of an easy make/palate cleanser, I turn to the Penny or my hack of it. I last made a Penny at the end of May (Lemons Ten-a-Penny) and having recently spent time on the new and somewhat more technically testing Siena, I decided to have an easier time with the Penny.

Originally I had over 10 metres by 150cms wide of the Lily of the Valley printed cotton inherited from my friend who passed away in 2010. Even after making the Siena and cutting out Penny, there is still some 5 metres left. I am not sure what else I will make with the fabric but there will definitely be a blouse – maybe a Libby by Sew Over It or my own Blouse hack – with frills!

There is not much to say about my Penny dress. I cut a standard size 20. I always double the fabric for the yoke, ignore the back neck facing, cut the skirt in 3 or 4 panels, stitch using French seams, put concealed pockets in the side seams and finish the armholes with narrow bias binding.

Again, this time the button band was narrow and as I can easily put the dress on over my head I decided to forego buttonholes and stitched the buttons in place through all thicknesses. I used more of the 4-hole green buttons, the same as was used on the Siena dress. I cannot remember where the buttons came from but there are still sufficient left to put on a blouse. The narrow hem was first overlocked and then turned up by ¼ inch before machining in place.

After a few hours here is another Penny hot off the sewing machine.

Penny #5

Project #45 of 2020, completed 31st July.

Siena Sundress by Sew Over It Summer Dreaming

Having restored my confidence a little by sewing the latest Montana dress, now it was the time to try out the Siena Dress from the Summer Dreaming e-book by Sew Over It.

Siena Dress, top or skirt
from Summer Dreaming e-book

“The Siena Dress is the ultimate button-up sundress, with a fitted bodice with sweetheart neckline, shoulder straps, and a floaty gathered skirt. The bodice is shaped with princess seams at the front, and a fun shirred panel at the back – making fitting that little bit easier. Your choice of skinny rouleaux or wider straps can be adjusted to fit with sliders, meaning no slipping off your shoulders. The full skirt features roomy patch pockets, perfect for your sunnies. Siena also comes with the option to make it as a top and a skirt, perfect for pairing with your other Summer Dreaming makes!”

The main feature of the dress is the shirred back panel of the bodice and since I have not used this method since my teens, now would be a good time to revisit the technique.

I cut out the pattern from a length of White cotton printed with Lily of the Valley motifs. I have owned this fabric for at least nine years as it was part of a stash left to me by a dear friend who passed away in 2010. There were originally at least ten metres of this very wide fabric so there was no doubt that I had sufficient for at least two new dresses!

Lily of the Valley printed cotton

To begin, I made a test piece of shirring on a scrap piece but this did not gather at all. Back to the drawing board. I visited several youtube videos including one given by The Stitch Sisters which proved very helpful in learning how to shirr by machine before trying again on my scrap fabric. After a couple of trials I had it sussed and then shirred the entire panel ready for inclusion to the bodice.

Shirred Panel of Lily of the Valley printed cotton

I made the narrow straps and used the brassiere findings of fine clear plastic rings and sliders so that the straps will be adjustable. Once I had a fitting I decided that I needed much wider straps (circa 2 inches) to provide coverage of my bra straps that are wider than usual with lace trimming.

I cut a size 20 at the top of the bodice panels and graded out for my waist. I pieced together the various panels for the bodice and basted together with a long stitch. The first fitting was rather amusing as the shaping over the bust was rather extreme (think early days of Madonna and conical shaping!) but with the 6 seams of the bodice it was relatively simple to adjust the fit.

Having refined the fit I copied those adjustments onto new pattern pieces for the centre front panels and side front panels before cutting a second bodice to use as lining. I made the wide straps and tacked them into place before attaching the bodice lining as per the pattern instructions.

The pattern instructions suggest that you prepare the skirt panels before making up the bodice but as I was not making a toile, I wanted to check out the bodice first rather than prepare a skirt that was not used.

Having completed the bodice I now made up the skirt. I cut all the skirt panels to a size 26 as I had plenty of fabric and wanted to ensure a full skirt. I joined the skirt panels with French seams and made the two patch pockets. They were placed as indicated by the markings on the pattern. Once completed I felt that the pockets could do with being raised by 1 – 1.5 inches so have marked the pattern accordingly.

There is a 2 inch wide piece of interfacing on each leading edge of the front skirt panels to support the buttonholes and buttons. Gathering stitches are run the entire length of the waistline. Matching up the notches was straightforward and I particularly liked the suggestion to use a narrow zig-zag stitch when attaching the back skirt panel to the shirred section. Prior to reading the instructions I had wondered how this part of the waistline seam would be achieved.

I finished the waistline seam and skirt hem with overlocking. The facings are turned back and stitched in place over the waistline seam. The 2 cms hem was turned up and machine top stitched in place.

For the buttons and buttonholes I decided to ignore the pattern markings for only 4 buttons. Instead I placed 6 buttons on the bodice (to avoid any gaping) with 6 on the skirt. The bodice buttons are placed 1 and 7/8ths inches apart whilst those on the skirt are 2 inches apart. I had only many of this particular button in my stash and will be using some more on the next project.

Siena dress in Lily of the Valley printed cotton

Although not suggested in the instructions, I top stitched 1/8th inch from the edge around the entire bodice edges and along the front edges of the skirt panels. As I had used a stable cotton fabric this dress was an easy though not quick sew. Now that I have refined the fit, the next iterations should not take quite so long. I plan to make another but next time in a dark background print or possibly a plain cotton, I will see what I have in my stash!

Project #44 completed 21st July 2020

Ah! Lady in Red Montana Dress #4

I think that the Montana Dress by Style Arc must be counted as one of my favourite TNT patterns. After the disaster that was the un-birthday dress I wanted to make a dress where I was sure of a positive outcome and this certainly fit the bill.

Montana by Style Arc

The sewing machine was still threaded with a Deep Cerise Pink thread and I really wanted a new Red Dress so I chose this beautiful Red Paisley printed viscose that I bought recently from The Fabric Room. I purchased 3 metres at a base price of £10.80 before the addition of Post, packaging and VAT.


I decided to repeat the previous iteration of the skirt with a deep frill at the hem. This time I also added a self-tie belt at the side seams so that I could draw in the dress and ‘improve’ the silhouette.

I used my standard gathering technique for attaching the main skirt panels to the raised waistline seam of the bodice. However, for the deep frill at the hem, I used the Brother Ruffler (pleating) foot. This foot looks complicated as there are many parts to the ‘contraption’.

Brother Ruffler 7mm Foot

The foot will make a small pleat every single, six or twelve stitches and secure them. You can also feed a separate layer of fabric through the foot at the same time and thus attach a pleated trim to a flat fabric in one pass through the foot. For my frill I used the six stitch spacing and it was a dream to have all those little pleats accurately made – and so quick!

‘Turn it All’ tube turner

For the ties I cut two lengths of fabric 4 inches wide. I made a narrow seam with right sides together and stitched closed at one end. I used the ‘Turn it All’ tube turner to turn the ties right side out – in a flash! I love this piece of sewing kit. I set the ties into the fashion fabric side seams and stay stitched the ends inside to the front seam allowance to ensure that they automatically turned to the back of the dress.

Back ties

I used my self-drafted pocket pattern to make concealed side seam pockets that are tacked to the waist seam to prevent them flapping about inside the skirt. To ensure that I did not repeat the error of having the pockets facing the wrong way and showing a contrast fabric, this time I cut all pocket pieces from the fashion fabric.

Once again the bodice was lined with plain ivory viscose voile (also purchased from The Fabric Room). I added a skirt lining that was attached to the bodice lining. The lining was only stitched to the fashion fabric at the neckline and armholes. The hem of the skirt lining was finished with some pretty lace from my stash and a row of wavy line decorative stitching.

Lace trim and decorative stitching to the hem of the lining

I am really pleased with the outcome of this dress. It fits well with the addition of the self ties and is so comfortable – secret pyjamas – whilst looking very stylish. This is most definitely a hit and counts as my ‘birthday dress’

Lady in Red Montana #4

Project #43 completed 11th July 2020

Unbirthday Dress- Vogue 8577 hack

Yet another year and so now it is time to make a new dress. I would use the Vogue 8577 that I have made in the past, both in its original form and also ‘hacked’

Vogue 8577

As the last time I made the dress was “pre-lockdown weight gain” I re-drafted the bodice and added some extra to the side seams for ‘ease’.

Having made up a toile in calico I reduced the amount of gathers into the front yoke and relocated the fullness into the waist dart. I had previously raised the centre front neckline and I kept this on the new bodice pattern as I feel more comfortable with that neckline. The bodice would be self-lined with the printed viscose and I planned to add pockets in the skirt. I decided to copy the design of pockets from Simplicity 8910. I would make a decision regarding a lining for the skirt as the construction progressed.

This year’s dress would be made in a bold abstract floral print viscose bought from The Textile Centre. I bought 4 metres at £5.99/metre so total cost of £26.76 excluding p&p.

Bold Abstract Viscose from The Textile Centre

The Textile Centre described the fabric as – “It has a stunning floral print in a fire inspired colourway. This 100% spun viscose is a lightweight spun viscose dress fabric which is heavier and more opaque than our usual spun viscose. Viscose/Rayon is a semi man made fibre, so is prone to shrinkage, wash before cutting on a cool 30° temp. “

So with my plans all set, I began by cutting out the two sets of bodice pieces, front bodices, yokes and back bodices. I found that I could not use the skirt lining pattern pieces from Vogue 8577 so instead reverted to my TNT of the Penny by Sew Over It skirt pattern, cut into 4 panels which would also help in setting side seam pockets.

This fabric was very slippery and was a real pain to try and control whilst cutting out. In the end what I had to do was to spray starch each cut out piece then replace the pattern and re-cut to size.

I stated to sew the bodice together and at fitting discovered that the top was miles too big. I need not have enlarged the pattern at all. I enlarged the darts and took in both bodice and lining at the side seams. Now it was a little better but nowhere near what I had planned.

Onto the skirt which bearing in mind the bias seams, I should have constructed first to allow time for the bias to drop. Whatever – onwards! I added the pockets as per the ones used in the previous Simplicity 8910, forgetting that these are drafted to be set into a dress that has a raised empire line seam – thus the pockets sat far too low. At this time I discovered that I had French seamed the centre front of the skirt so that the dress could no longer be button through from bodice to skirt.

Having allowed a couple of days for the bias to drop I found that the side seams had dropped a good 2 inches. As the hemline itself was beautifully level I overlocked and turned up a narrow hem having decided to adjust the level at the waistline. I machine basted a new waistline and trimmed away the excess. This had the added advantage of raising those set-too-low-down pockets!

I attached the amended skirt to the waistline only to discover that the waistline of the bodice had also dropped and was now a good 1 inch below my natural waist. I re-stitched the skirt to the bodice by taking a wider seam allowance and then overlocked the seam to neaten. . The skirt was now a relatively short length of just 26 inches – well above my desired length.

Viscose hack of Vogue 8577

By now we are well past my birthday and you may have guessed that I am thoroughly disenchanted with the dress. Even as I write this post, the bias of the skirt is continuing to drop. It fits only where it touches and will probably be donated very soon to a charity shop. Meantime, as a last resort I plan to make an obi-style commerbund/belt which will, I hope, cover up the waistline and turn a ‘disaster’ into a feature!

Project #42 completed 5thJuly 2020