Category Archives: Dresses

Apples and Pears – where did my waist go?

Inspired by one of the Stitch Sisters wearing this Hazy Floral Double Border printed Ponte Roma in one of their vlogs, I purchased 3m from The Textile Centre at just £3.99/metre.

I planned to use my TNT shift dress block, add long sleeves and a detachable cowl plus my favourite bias hem frill. I pulled the pattern envelope and was dismayed to find that the pattern for the hem frill was missing. There followed an hour’s search through various stashes of patterns in the vain hope that the missing pattern piece had been stored in a.n.other envelope. No luck.

However I did find McCalls pattern M7046* that had not just one but two bias hem frills included. I traced the pattern from view D (single frill) and set about cutting out my ‘Christmas’ dress. It was only much later that I remembered that I could easily have drafted my own bias hem frill using the slash and spread method. I will work on that when I have completed this dress.

Changes to the pattern: I cut the main pieces for the front and back, carefully centred on the border print design. I reduced the length by 8 inches to accommodate the hem frill. The sleeve pattern was for a ¾ length, I simply added another inch and would later cut a cuff to ensure that the sleeves would reach my wrists.

It should be noted that my TNT shift dress block is actually drafted for woven fabric but as I was unsure of sizing and stretch I cut the full size pattern which could then be ‘finessed’ in terms of fit at the side seams. I reduced the neckline curve at the front by approximately 2 inches and would see how that looked at first fitting.

I marked all the darts with tailor tacks. Having tested the stitching on spare fabric I found that horizontal (bust)darts needed to be stitched with a stretch (lightning) stitch and the vertical (body) darts could be stitched with a normal straight stitch. I applied a narrow strip of fusible Vilene ® to the front shoulder pieces and overlocked the shoulder seams.

I basted the side seams together which is when I discovered that I had ‘lost’ my waist. I have transformed from a Pear to an Apple!

I re-basted the side seams before overlocking to the amended size and shaping that involved taking in over 1 inch each side and removing any ‘waistline’ shaping. The front neckline also needed to be dropped by a further 1 inch at centre front before grading back to the original point on the shoulder seam.

Having established the new neckline I used my TNT method to apply a neck binding with which I am very pleased. So, onto the sleeves. As I had already stitched the side seams I could not do a flat sleeve insertion. It did not matter as the sleeves went in like a dream. However,they were very wide and needed to be reduced by over 1 inch at the wrist grading to 0 inches at the underarm point. I cut pieces for the cuffs at 5½ inches deep x 9 inches wide. Adding a cuff is a simple construction technique which does away for the need to twin-needle the hems so gets a ‘tick’ from me.

Now all that was left to stitch was the bias hem frill. I had matched up the border print to centre front and back and applied taking a 5/8ths seam allowance. On 2nd fitting I felt that the dress was a little too long. Rather than cut off the length of the frill at the hem, I re-stitched the joining seam taking a further ½ inch from the length of both the dress and the frill. Much better. As the fabric is a Ponte Roma and does not fray, for the time being I have left the hem of the frill raw (Gasp – sacrilege!).

  

Perfect pattern matching!

The dress is now finished (well more or less). I have to say that I am not in love with it. Not sure exactly why but partly because the fullness of the bias frill is nowhere near the fullness as demonstrated on the pattern envelope. I will definitely have to draft my own FULL circle bias frill for the future. For now I have decided not to proceed with the detachable cowl collar.

There is quite a long length of fabric remaining and providing that there is sufficient yardage, I would rather use it for a tee shirt-style top. Meantime, I think I will leave shift dresses alone for a while, so it’s back to waisted garments, probably with full circular skirts which are most definitely my favourite.

* McCalls 7046 – Having reviewed this pattern I have decided that I will never make it up with all those gathers across the main body so have listed it for sale on eBay.

 

Mayan Border Print Tunic with detached Cowl Collar

This fabric was on sale from the Textile Centre at just £3.49 for a 1.5 metre length remnant plus £2.50 for post and packing to make a grand total of £5.99. I thought that it would ideal to use for a ‘wearable toile’ of a longer length tunic top. The fabric is a heavy polyester/viscose/elastane ponte roma jersey 157 cms wide. I have not used this type of fabric before and was especially pleased that it is so soft and does not feel ‘synthetic’.

For the pattern I used the Style Arc ‘Amy’ top which due to the design constraints of the print was subsequently ‘hacked’ out of all resemblance to the original. First I re-drew the neckline as I had previously found the cowl to be very skimpy. I would make my own design that would be detached so that if necessary I can slip a turtle neck under the tunic. The new neckline would have a band stitched by my usual method. The length of a previous Amy was too short in front and again, to take advantage of the border print, this time I simply cut the hemline straight across where the print had finished. The sleeves, neckband and cowl collar were all made from the plain Navy fabric. The tunic was stitched entirely on the overlocker with the exception of top stitching the band and twin needle hemming of the sleeves and bodice.

   

Tunic with neck binding                Detachable Cowl Collar

I am very pleased with the final garment which suits now and I will be able to incorporate some back body darts to improve the shaping as I lose weight.

Cobra Corsage print Scuba for McCalls 6754

  

I bought a bare 3 metres of this fabric from Sewisfaction a little while ago intending to make the McCalls 6754

 

(as inspired by Sian of Kittenish Behaviour). I have made up the pattern twice now and have yet to get to grips with the best method for reducing the width of the sleeves. Prevarication and procrastination have been operating in force but yesterday, enough was enough – time to get to it and make the dress!

I found a picture on flicker showing the sleeve pattern with three narrow tucks to reduce the width so decided to try this method.

I laid out the fabric and pattern and was disappointed to see that the fabric was not as wide as I had hoped and there was no way that I could get the dress with long sleeves out of my 3 metres. In fact, even short sleeves would be pushing it.

For the previous iterations of this pattern I have extended the length of the skirt by 4 inches. Again, I could not do that this time, 1¾ inch extension was the absolute most that I could obtain across the folded width of the fabric. The finished length of the skirt was 22 inches which is the shortest I have ever had. Definitely the dress will have to be worn with opaque tights!

Construction went according to my revised order of work and was completed on the overlocker with the exception of top stitching the neckband and hems. Somehow with the changes that I had made to the sleeve pattern had also affected the shaping of the neckline, this is now almost a ‘sweetheart’ shape but in fact I quite like it.

Below is a photograph of the original pattern against the revised pattern. You can see the difference in width.

After constructing the dress I found that the sleeves were STILL too wide. I reduced their width by a total of two inches and graded back to the original stitching line by the time I reached the waistline of the bodice.

The hems on the sleeves and around the skirt were completed with a jersey twin needle and all seams were pressed on the wrong side with the steam iron.

McCalls 6754 in Cobra Corsage Scuba fabric

I am happy with the dress but wish it had been an easier make. I need to do more research on methods for reducing the width of the sleeves, or perhaps just find another raglan sleeve pattern to hack with this bodice and circle skirt.

McCalls 6754 – still room for improvement

How I wish that I had read the reviews for this pattern on the PatternReview website. Then I would have known to make the dress at least one size smaller than dictated by the measurement chart on the envelope. Also one of the reviewers has shown how to reduce the width of the enormous sleeves that appeared yet again in this my second make of McCalls 6754. These factors have been exacerbated by the fact that the fabric is very fine and has a 4-way stretch. I still count myself as an improving beginner when it comes to sewing knits so on this occasion I will let myself off with a stern reminder to check the amount of stretch in a fabric BEFORE rushing in to cut this style of dress.

I fell in love with the print which is an abstract floral in great Autumnal shades. Bought at the Craft 4 Crafters show at Shepton Mallet, at just £5.50 per metre it was a steal!

I made those changes to the pattern that I discussed in the previous post, i.e. adjusted the back bodice for my sway back, dropped the front bodice at the waistline by 2 inches, raised the front neckline by 1 inch, kept the sleeves 3 inches shorter and the skirt 4 inches longer. However, the weight of all that fabric in the skirt has pulled down the neckline so that it is an almost indecent scoop but at least the back bodice waistline seam now sits at my natural waist!

Again the sleeves were baggy and due to amazing stretch of the fabric, the bodice was quite loose-fitting. However, the dress is extremely comfortable to wear and provided I have a scarf to hide my décolletage, a great Autumn garment.

 

Dartmouth Wrap Top Hack into a Dress

Original Dartmouth Wrap Top Design

I have made Cashmerette’s Dartmouth top several times and every time it has been a success. Since the Spring of this year I have been wanting to make a wrap dress and when this fine dark background jersey floral print came to the top of the stash pile I decided to hack my favourite wrap top pattern.

The fabric came from Abakhan in North Wales and cost the grand sum of £6.38 so even if the dress was a disaster then I would not have wasted yards of expensive material.

Cashmerette have the following to say about the pattern:- Dreaming of a pattern that is casual and chic? Look no further than the Dartmouth Top! This cross-over jersey top comes with two variations—a classic fixed wrap or modern ruched front—and features three sleeve lengths and a gape-free banded neckline. Whether made in a cosy sweater knit or slinky silk jersey, the Dartmouth is the perfect partner for your favourite pair of jeans!

I can certainly vouch for the gape-free banded neckline which is one of my favourite features of the top. I usually make the classic fixed wrap style and this is the style that I used for the hack. I folded the bodice front and backs just below where I calculated the waistline to be and cut across. As I was a little tight on fabric I then cut two widths of the fabric at 24 inches long to make a gathered skirt. Whatever was left, I used to make the sleeves as long as the fabric would allow.

My Dartmouth Wrap Front Dress

Construction was, as usual, straightforward. Stitch the shoulders, add the neck banding, insert the sleeves, sew side seams from the waistline up and along the underarm seam. I stitched the side seams of the skirt panels (no pockets this time) and then ran 2 rows of gathering stitches at the top. The fine jersey was easy to gather to fit the waistline of the bodice. This seam and all other seams were stitched with the overlocker. Now all that remained was the hem on the sleeves and around the skirt. Once again I used the technique of a long basting stitch at the fold line of the hem before using a narrow twin needle to finish. Apart from the cutting out, the dress took just 2½ hours to sew. It is extremely comfortable to wear and fits well although it could do with being a little shorter on the back bodice, a note for next time.

As the fabric has been in the stash pile for nearly a year does this count as stash-busting?

New Blue Dress – McCalls K6754

I am a subscriber to the vlogs produced by Sian of Kittenish Behaviour. Sometime ago Sian raved about this pattern which I purchased on her recommendation. The pattern has been sitting in my stash awaiting fabric inspiration and today that inspiration arrived.

  

McCalls K6754                                                       Line drawing

The 3 metres of pretty Dusky Blue printed Ponte was purchased from the Textile Centre back in the Spring. Having checked the measurements on the pattern envelope I dived straight in and cut View D in a size XXL. I extended the skirt length by 4 inches and reduced the sleeves by 3 inches. It turned out that the skirt length was just right but the sleeves were now ¾ length – but that’s OK. When I make the dress again, I will simply let down the tuck if I want long sleeves.

I took very little notice of the layout and instructions other than to set the bodice panels on the bias grain. Only later did I realise that this was for if you were making a garment with stripes- in my case it was not necessary! There is a background of sketchy lines in the print and it has worked out well on this occasion.

As overlocked seams are very difficult to unpick, I decided to stitch on my sewing machine using the ‘lightning’ stitch at stitch length 3. I set up so that all the seams would be at the standard 1.5cms and constructed the dress according to the instructions. At first fitting I was concerned that the neckline was coming out quite low, the sleeves were wide and the front waistline was approximately 2 inches too high (I had not done a full bust adjustment!). There are a couple of occasions where I did my own thing. I do not like necklines where you turn the fabric to the wrong side and then stitch down. I much prefer a neckband. I cut a 2 inch wide strip from the width of the fabric and used my TNT method to apply. This brought the neckline up to a more comfortable level but next time I will trace the pattern and raise it by 1 inch.

Close up of Bodice showing Neck band & bias cut of background lines

The front bodice will also need to be adjusted although at present the weight of the skirt is helping to keep it nearer to my natural waist. The back waistline is about 1 inch too low as I had made no adjustment for my sway back! This will be corrected when I trace off the pattern.

For the hems on the sleeves and the (very) full skirt I used a new procedure as demonstrated recently on The Sewing Quarter. Using a long basting stitch I sewed a guideline for where the fabric should be turned. This took away the need for masses of pins as the fabric naturally turns on the stitching line. I set the twin needle and by checking the location of the raw edge by feeling with my finger, I was able to stitch from the right side so that the edge was enclosed in the zig-zag stitches on the reverse.

At final fitting I was still a little unhappy about the bagginess of the upper sleeves. I therefore unpicked the underarm seam and re-stitched, taking in a total of 1 ¼ inches from the upper bodice seam and upper part of the sleeve seam, grading to nothing about 2 inches from the sleeve hem.

McCalls K6754  in Blue Ponte Roma

I am happy with the dress and will definitely be making it again. Next time I will remove the centre back and centre front seams on the bodice, cut on the straight grain, adjust the lengths as required, slim down the sleeves and keep the additional length on the skirt. Depending on fabric availability I may have to use a different skirt pattern as a full circle is very fabric hungry. I think I may have sufficient of the Sunset Roses Ponte in my stash to make version 2 or perhaps the Grey snakeskin print that I bought at the NEC in March. Watch this space!

Plans for October 2017

Despite going ‘off plan’ with several projects in September I did manage to complete some of the items on my list.

The Pink floral print jersey ‘Elmira’ ballet wrap cardigan was completed and with the remnant of fabric I made a co-ordinating tee shirt. The Dark print viscose jersey for Kwiksew 3915 for a friend was also completed and again another tee shirt for me from the remnant of fabric. I did not get to the Cobra corsage lawn dress but I have today washed the plain Black lawn that I will use for a lining so maybe that project will finally make it to completion. The other dress using a Lewis & Irene cotton print, ‘Our friends in the garden’, was started in September but was not completed until earlier this week. But still with tights and a cardigan it should get some airings until the really cold weather sets in.

Whilst I have made several samples for the classes to be taught in the Autumn and Winter terms, there are still a few outstanding plus the workbooks to be prepared. The final outstanding item from September is the Sewing print linen-look seat covering. That should not take too long as is basically a shape with elasticated hem so hopefully that will also make it to completion in October.

Now, let’s think about sewing plans for the coming month, the list looks like this:-

  1. Cover for sewing room chair in sewing theme linen-look
  2. Samples for classes – Coat hanger peg bag, Scissors Case, Dresden Plate Blocks (2) and Zip top Window Project Bags.
  3. Cobra and Corsage print cotton lawn dress. Style as yet undecided.
  4. Cobra and Corsage print luxury scuba top with asymmetrical hem & cowl collar. Fabric just arrived from Sewisfaction. Absolutely yummy!

    5. Paisley print jersey trapeze tunic with cowl collar. Fabric just arrived from         eBay. Fine weight with a good drape.

  5. Coat with waterfall collar.                                                                                                                                         This is probably too much considering that we are already 7 days into the month but still it is good to have targets!

‘Kitty’ Dress in Lewis & Irene printed cotton

As a break from making samples for the classes, I wanted to finish a dress that was originally included in my plans for August and September.

I have had the great fabric, ‘My friends in the Garden’ by Lewis & Irene, in my stash for a long, long time. I did get to cut out a ‘Kitty’ dress with gathered skirt but with one thing and another, have not got around to construction, until now. Even though the print is possibly a bit ‘summery’, due to the dark background colour and the fact that the cotton is a little heavier than the usual quilting cotton, this dress will be ideal as a trans-season option, worn with tights and a cardigan.

The ‘Kitty’ dress is a hack from my basic bodice plus the collar and facings from the Bolero jackets that I made back in June. The previous ‘Kitty’ was a button through shirt-dress as I wanted to use some great coordinating buttons, but this time I have made the bodice only as button-up. The buttons are re-cycled from a pair of my husband’s pyjamas.

As the pattern is very busy I needed to accentuate the outline of the collar which I have done by adding some Bright Pink piping. To make the setting of the piping easier, I have rounded off the corners of the collar. The facings have been machined on place to avoid any chance of them popping out.

The sleeves are the usual short length but due to the thickness of the fabric I did not self-line them. Instead I made some self bias binding which has been machine stitched in place.

The skirt is made from two full-width panels and has pockets set into the side seams. I used my TNT pocket bag pattern which means the bags are stitched into the waistline seam and are thus prevented from ‘flapping about’. The 2 inch hem has been hand sewn.

I notice from my wardrobe that I am a little short of trans-seasonal dresses, especially in Autumnal shades so will include plans for another cotton print ‘Kitty’ to be made this month.

Nautical Striped ‘Neenah’ Dress Hack

 

 

I bought 2 metres of this Navy & White striped ponte roma from Minerva Crafts sometime ago. It had been washed and was waiting (patiently!) in the ‘Roundtuit’ pile. As Summer is fast coming to an end and I was going to change the thread colour on my overlocker I wanted to get this fabric made up so that it did not end up in the stash waiting for next year!

Originally I had planned to make a ‘Coco’ by Tilly and the Buttons but could not find my copy of the pattern, and as usual, having decided I wanted to make up the dress, could not wait to search through the various stashes of dressmaking patterns that are located around the house (and in store in the garage!). I have a subscription to Seamwork and noticed that there was a plain-style shift dress, the NEENAH. I could adapt the design to a scoop neckline, I printed off the pdf so I could get stitching (almost) immediately.

Here is what Seamwork say about the Neenah dress:-

From weather to clothing to lifestyle, fall is all about transitions. Finding a garment to transition you through fall and winter, day and night, can be tricky. Neenah will do all that and more. It is a classic turtle neck dress, appropriate for both the office and nightlife. And because Neenah is a knit dress, it is both classy and comfortable.

Use a solid-coloured, merino wool knit to create a sleek look, or try a fun print for a dress with more flare. If you shorten the hem of Neenah to tunic length, it pairs well with a variety of skirts. Neenah is a staple garment that will expand your winter wardrobe.

During the colder seasons of the year I often wear a turtleneck (I call them Polo neck), if the Neenah worked well in this iteration it would be ideal for making in its original style for Autumn and Winter.

I drafted the scoop neckline freehand and laid out the copies of the pattern pieces. According to the body and garment measurements I should cut a 3X and this is what I did. The only changes to the pattern were to cut 4 inches off the length of the dress so that it should hit just below my knees – at the narrowest point of my calves and shorten the sleeves to 3/4 length. However, at first fitting I found the dress was much too big and had to take in at the side seams by a total of 4 inches. There was not much I could do about the chest width and shoulders (I hate having to alter half-made garments) but the dress is still wearable and I have adjusted the pattern ready for next time.

I used my usual method for the neck band and a standard twin needle for stitching the hems on the sleeves and dress. In the illustration of the pattern the dress looks to be a lot closer fitting and to achieve this I will have to add some body darts for shaping at the back. The fullness of the dress may be due to the stretch and weight of the fabric or just the fact that the dress is over-sized for me (does not happen very often!).

The dress can look casual worn on its own or be ‘dressed up’ with a co-ordinating blazer from Joe Brown that I purchased last year.

Now it is time to change the thread on the overlocker and get on with darker-background patterned fabrics ready for Autumn and Winter.

 

‘Mandy’ Daisy print Denim Dress

In my wardrobe I have a dress that was bought from M&S many years (approximately 20+)ago. One day I suffered a mishap with some bleach which unfortunately caught the skirt of the dress and has disfigured it so much that it can only be worn indoors as a ‘housework’ dress. I have regularly searched on auction sites to see if I could find a replacement but to no avail. Using the basic design of the dress as inspiration, I have made a replacement using some daisy-printed lightweight denim from my stash. I had already laundered the fabric and was good to go.

Using my basic bodice block (similar to the Kitty shirtwaister dress) I drafted a scoop neckline and matching front neck facing. The dress would be button-through the bodice and the skirt. There would be short capped sleeves for which I would use my TNT sleeve pattern – that you have seen many times before.

The fabric was approximately 2.5 metres in length x 150 cms wide as I believe I originally intended to make a wraparound skirt. I would have to be careful with the layout of pattern pieces to ensure that I had sufficient to make the skirt in the length I desired.

Cutting out: I had only sufficient fabric for the 29 inch length of skirt inclusive of hem and due to the weight of the fabric (and lack of yardage) was unable to cut the sleeves with a self-fabric lining. Also there was not enough fabric to make ‘in-seam’ pockets. I did have some cotton lawn in a Pale Blue with White polka dots so decided to use this for a single patch pocket lining and make some bias binding for the sleeve hems.

Construction: Was fairly plain sailing. I made up the patch pocket but in the end as I had only one decided against it as this would make the skirt appear ‘clumsy’.

Decisions: What buttons to use?

       

Tortoiseshell Buttons                    or         Lemon Yellow?

This conundrum occupied me for an evening as apart from the hem of the skirt buttonholes and buttons were the final details to be completed. I tried tortoiseshell and also a contrast in Yellow. Finally by raiding a jar of Blue buttons I settled on some co-ordinating Blue buttons that measure only 1 cm diameter and therefore to do not ‘shout’ at you and as there are 15 buttons this is a good thing to!

Once the buttonholes and buttons had been applied the hem was turned up and hand stitched.

Final Analysis:

The neckline is possibly a little too scooped for my liking but still wearable. I have adjusted for the next make – there will certainly be one. I am pleased with the make and now the original M&S dress can be ‘retired’. I may recycle the buttons from that dress along with the fabric for another project.