Category Archives: Dresses

Slow Sewing – A Dress for the Autumn

My usual MO for a sewing project is:-

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

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

Well that’s the plan!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEW OVER IT Penny Dress – wearable toile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All was now clear and I progressed with the construction.

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

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

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

            

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

Sew Over It Libby Blouse & Betty Skirt Mash-Up

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  

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

Lemons print and Lemonade

Have you ever had of those projects where it seems that nothing is straightforward? Each two steps forward involve a step backwards so progress is slow and painful? There is a saying “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. So that is what I have been doing but in the form of a dress. 

It all started when I saw a beautiful dress made up in Duck Egg Blue cotton sateen printed with Lemons on the instagram feed of Roisin Muldoon.

The text stated that the fabric had come from Fabrics Galore. I immediately contacted them as I was unable to find the design on their website. Apparently that particular print was out of stock and there was no good news about further supplies. A search on the internet threw up an alternative Lemons design.

Emily Hallman shows a dress in a Navy background with Lemons print which is very similar to the one that I found.

This has large lemons printed on a Navy background. The fabric was listed as Cotton Poplin. I ordered 3 metres of 140 cms wide, knowing that the fabric was coming from abroad, the estimated delivery was for anytime within the next 4-6 weeks. So I settled down for a long wait.

I regularly checked the tracking. Around the time that I was expecting the parcel to arrive, I received a card from the Royal Mail advising that I was due to receive a package but that a £13.16 customs fee was payable. I paid the fee and was expecting the parcel to arrive on Friday. Friday came and went along with Saturday and Monday. I managed to speak to our postman who said that he would investigate as he did recall posting the customs fee notification card through our letterbox.

Wednesday the postman advised that there had been an error in the transcription – the parcel was intended for someone at no 5, not no 8. Their parcel had been delivered as I had ‘so kindly’ paid the fee for them! I contacted the Royal Mail who were most helpful and was assured that since the error was on their part, the £13.16 would be refunded.

OK, so now settle down and wait a bit longer for MY parcel to arrive. The very next day the package was posted through our letterbox!

Great, only when I opened the parcel I discovered that what had been described as Poplin was more or less the same weight as Cotton Lawn. Not exactly what I wanted. No matter – the bodice of the dress would have to be lined and I can do that, although it would add to the sewing construction time (sigh…).

I laundered the fabric and laid out the pattern pieces. I wanted to use my TNT bodice with a full circle skirt. Having laundered the fabric it now measured 2.95 metres x 140 cms wide. No matter how I laid out the pattern it just would not fit. Plan B was to make the TNT bodice with a full gathered skirt. I cut 3 lengths of 29 inches across the width of the fabric.

I made a full copy of the bodice front pattern as I wanted to be sure about the placement of those lemons – no way could they appear anywhere near the apex of my bust!

As it has turned out, there are almost no lemons down the centre front of the bodice. For the most part the centre panel is plain Navy which is good – therefore no accentuation of my apple-shaped tummy!

I could not fit the back bodice onto the remaining fabric and still have a centre back seam. OK, so no centre back zip then, and no pockets either! Fortunately with this bodice that has a scoop neckline, I can put the dress on over my head without the use of a zip, but I would have liked pockets.

As a dark lining would have shaded the lemons, I cut lining for the bodice and sleeves from plain White poly/cotton fabric. I cut front and back neckline facings from the fashion fabric which was applied to the lining pieces so that the neckline would be finished with the fashion fabric. I also cut a bias strip of fashion fabric for attaching to the hemline of the cap sleeve linings.

Now, ready for construction: I usually make up sleeves first and set them aside until needed. I carefully applied the bias strip to the hemline of both sleeve lining pieces only to discover that I had made up two left sleeves, not one right and one left. So ‘quickunpick’ out and start again!

Fortunately marking and sewing the darts in the bodice went well as did stitching the lining to the bodice at the neckline. I made French seams in the three skirt panels so that combined with lining of the bodice this dress would have no raw edges or overlocked seams on view. The insides would look neat and tidy which is something that I always like to aim for.

I set in the prepared cap sleeves using French seams. Not as simple and easy as my usual method but I am pleased with the result.

For the skirt I found an area at the top of the panels that matched well with the centre front waistline of the bodice and used that as my starting point for the gathers. There is a flat area of waistline seam at centre front and then the gathers start near the ends of the body darts. The flat area did take some time ‘finesssing’ the seam which is almost pattern matched.

I can now tell you that 4.2 metres of fine cotton lawn can be gathered up well with two rows of gathering threads. I am very pleased with the result but will not be rushing to repeat the process on any other dresses. I much prefer a gored or circular skirt which reduces the amount of fabric at my waist.

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

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

My next project is going to be something really quick and easy!

p.s. I have now located even better versions of Lemons print on Duck Egg Blue from Spoonflower and I will be able to dictate the substrate. I will probably select their excellent quality cotton sateen.

Joni Dress by Tilly and theButtons – Version 2

I was so pleased with the way that the first ‘wearable toile’ dress turned out that I immediately set about making another version.

For this version I used some Pink floral patterned polyester jersey that I purchased from Fabricland, Salisbury back in April 2018.

As mentioned in the previous post, I was unhappy with the construction method for applying the neck binding and also the fact that the twist pulled up the bodice seam and skirt hemline at centre front.

To resolve these problems I made a Full Bust Adjustment to the bodice by dropping the point of the centre bust bodice seamline by 2 inches. I used the Nancy Zieman method of pin and pivot which means that the length of the seam remained the same whilst still providing that extra room for my bust but without distorting the seamline. Whilst cutting the skirt panels I added about 1 inch to the length – just to provide a little extra coverage for my knees.

For the binding of the neckline I changed the construction method slightly. I cut the binding as per the pattern but this time stitched together at the short ends. I made the seam the centre back point and added notches to mark centre front and quarters between CF and CB. Having completed the twist I then stitched the centre front bodice seam and also above the twist as far as I could. I marked the neckline on the bodice in the same way as the binding before attaching right side to right side. The binding was turned to the inside and stitched with a narrow zig-zag in place.

The final result is good and bad. Good in that the neck binding is a complete finish with no bulky turnings at the front which I had encountered on the first version. Bad in that there is a definite ‘gap’ above the twist and below the neckline binding. I don’t mind it but feel sure there must be an even better way to manage the twist and the neckline. For the next version I plan to make a front bodice lining which I hope will resolve these outstanding issues.

I did write out a crib sheet for the construction method but in the end did not follow it as having made the dress once before I was confident to go straight ahead and sew!

This pattern has a 5/8 th inch seam allowance and as I was confident of the fit I stitched mostly on the overlocker.

I repeated the hem of the short sleeves by turning back and overlocking so that the result looks like a hemband. The hem of the skirt has been left unfinished. This fabric does not fray and I did not want to run the risk of a ‘lumpy bumpy’ hem by stitching with either a narrow zig-zag or a twin needle (plus of course, I wanted to wear the dress a.s.a.p!).

Now that I have ‘nailed’ this dress I want to try a hack into a top at the same time using the lined front bodice method plus the fluted sleeves.

Now where did I put that fine jersey that I think will be ideal for this project?

Joni Dress by Tilly and the Buttons

I purchased my copy of Tilly’s latest book ‘Stretch’ as soon as it was released and have been waiting impatiently for a ‘window’ to be able to stitch the Joni dress.

The Joni is the final garment in the book and is described thus;

This showstopper dress may look complicated but it’s surprisingly simple to make! The fitted bodice has a stunning draped twist at the front, creating a plunging neckline and a shaped empire waist seam. The dress flares out into a flirty half-circle skirt that’s great for twirling, with a gentle dipped hem that lands just above the knee. Choose from three-quarter or elbow length sleeves. Make Joni in cotton or viscose jersey for every day, or a sumptuous stretch velvet or silk jersey for parties.”

For this ‘wearable toile’ I chose a pretty floral print viscose jersey bought from Fabricland (in December 2017) for £4.44 per metre. The dress takes 2.5 metres of 150cms wide fabric.

I traced off the pattern (size 8 in Tilly sizes!), adjusted slightly for my rubenesque figure then set to and quickly made the dress.

The book contains many pages of instructions with photographs but I found them a little confusing as they go off on a tangent to describe the various techniques. I intend to re-visit and type up my own ‘crib’ sheet which will be much more succinct. Additionally I did not find the instructions for the finishing of the area around the twist very clear, I ended up neatening the area and stitching the undersides of the twist together. The neck binding was, I believe, more complicated that it needed to be and I will investigate alternative methods for finishing the neckline.

I attached clear elastic as instructed by basting with a long straight stitch on the sewing machine. When it came to overlocking the pieces together, due to the 5/8ths inch seam allowance, the elastic was cut off. This does not appear to have had a detrimental affect on the dress. In future I may well omit the elastic on the bottom of the bodice and will use my TNT method of fine ribbon to stabilise the shoulders.

The elbow length sleeves hit just into the crease of my elbow which is uncomfortable. I folded back 1 ½ inches before overlocking so that the hem now looks like a sleeve hem band. I like that effect. The hem of the skirt was stitched with twin needles.

I had failed to notice in the description that the pattern is drafted for a dipped hem. On me it looked as though too much fabric had been taken up by my bust. I have re-drafted the bodice front pattern and made an FBA (full bust adjustment) which means that the bodice seam and front hemline will now be parallel to the floor.

I like the dress and will definitely be making another incorporating the above alterations. My husband also liked the dress. He pointed out that the twist in the bodice and empire waist seam certainly ‘highlight’ my ‘lovely, blossoming bosom!’

Lobster Print Cotton Dress

You may have noticed that I have been rather self-indulgent recently with all my fabric purchases!

To redress the balance slightly, I decided to use  fabric from my stash to make a new dress. This delightful Lobster print cotton has been loitering in the stash for at least a year, probably two. Whilst I was washing some of the latest fabric purchases that are in a Red colourway, I included this 3 metre length so it was now ready to ‘Sew&Go’.

I used my TNT bodice block with scoop neckline, self-lined cap sleeves and added a 2xwidth of fabric gathered skirt.

No problems with construction – all my usual methods and techniques were applied. They included a lapped zip set in the centre back seam approximately 3 inches down from the neckline. There is roughly 2 inches of ease at the waistline and this seems to be the optimum amount. I will make a note of this for when I prepare the Vogue 8577 pattern.

The skirt panels were cut 29 inches long, the finished hem is at 26 inches. There are the usual pocket bags set into the side seams, the top of the pockets are stitched into the waistline.

In my haste to get the dress cut out and sewn, I forgot all about pattern matching. Also unfortunately, somehow along the way the width of the shoulder seam, especially on the front bodice, has been reduced and this has affected how the self-lined sleeves are set. In addition, I need to re-draft the back neckline as that does not sit quite right. I shall still wear the dress but it will never be a favourite. It is possible that at some time in the future I will remove the sleeves and make the dress sleeveless.

Fabric Buying Ban

Oops! What part of a fabric buying ban did I not understand?

Having recently spent my budget on a gift for my husband to celebrate our wedding anniversary, there was supposed to be a fabric buying ban in force until the Festival of Quilts in August.

Somehow I seem to have misunderstood.

I purchased some pretty cottons in Franklins, Salisbury on Monday last week and then this week I visited Fabricland for some more that I simply had to have! 

The Red with White polka dots is to be made up into a shirtdress – pattern tba.

The Blue spotted teapots print is to be my version of a Betty by Sew Over It with short/cap sleeves

The Beige floral will be my TNT bodice with a full gathered skirt (inspired by a dress seen in a shop window in Salisbury).

The Lilac floral has been made into a Teddy Designer Tunic by Style Arc – details already posted.

The Turquoise fern print could possibly be a Vogue 8577.

The Brown background floral will possibly be another Teddy Tunic – getting ready for the Autumn already!

Not shown in the picture is a length of Classic Blue denim that I ‘needed’ to make the Pippi Pinafore Dress by Jennifer Lauren.

All fabrics have now been laundered and are ready to ‘sew&go’ so watch this space for some new garments!

Ruby Wedding Anniversary Dress – 2nd part

After some careful consideration I decided that the short self-lined sleeves would be the best way forward to completing the dress.

With the vagaries of the British Summer weather and because I don’t always want to have to wear a cardigan, short sleeves are ideal for wearing in the UK.

Construction notes:

TNT bodice, used the full 5/8 ths inch seam allowance on the side seams. Raised the waistline by ½ inch at centre front. Self-lined sleeves. Light fusible interfacing used on the neckline facings. Understitching completed using a 3-step zig-zag stitch. Lapped zip in centre back seam, set 3 inches down from neckline. Hand picked final seam of the zip insertion. Extended back neck facing with printed ‘Carousel’ label. Full circle skirt using ‘Betty’ pattern by Sew Over It. Side seam pockets stitched into waist seam to prevent ‘flapping’ about. All seams neatened by overlocking. Machined narrow hem on skirt.

I am particularly pleased with the way that the pattern has matched on the centre back seam although this is purely accidental.

The dress has turned out very well, I am delighted with it and definitely plan to make another in this style. Depending on the occasion, I may even get to wear the dress with my Red can-can petticoat!

Ruby Wedding Anniversary Dress

Over the weekend my husband and I will be celebrating our 40th (RUBY) wedding anniversary. On browsing through some of the photographs from our honeymoon I see that I sometimes wore a Red cotton floral print dress. Inspiration then to make another to wear on the anniversary….

I will use my TNT bodice pattern with the cap self-lined sleeves and centre back zip fastening. I will add the circle skirt from ‘Betty’dress by Sew Over It to make my favourite dress style.

Later the same day…

Construction was very straightforward. After about 3 hours I had an almost-completed dress.

   

Now – a decision to be made. Do I make the dress sleeveless or should I insert the sleeves that are made up and ready for insertion? Hmmm, I will leave the dress on the mannequin overnight and decide in the morning.