Category Archives: Dresses

Mellow Yellow – Auditioning Bodice Patterns

I am planning to make a new dress to wear when attending a family wedding on 2nd July. I have just two weeks to decide on the style, make a wearable muslin/toile and also the dress in the fabric of my choice. My chosen fabric is a border print cotton with a little stretch that has been languishing in my stash for far too long. I have an idea of the style which will have a gathered skirt to showcase the border print but to date have not identified the bodice pattern. As I have several long lengths of cotton print fabric ready laundered in my stash, now is the ideal time to get stitching up a wearable muslin/toile before I cut into the border print. For this version I chose a Bright Yellow background printed with clusters of roses that was purchased from Fabricland some time last year – or maybe even the year before!

To start with I decided to try the princess-seamed bodice that I used for the Yellow roses printed dress (posted back on April 10th) and combine with a 4-gore circular skirt (hack from the Betty dress by Sew Over It). I know that for the border print I will be using a gathered skirt but as I had over 4 yards of the this Yellow background print it would be a shame not to use the circular skirt pattern. As I was uncertain of the finished width of the bodice at the waistline seam, I cut the skirt panels with an additional 2 inches in width to allow for any adjustment that may be required.

I placed the centre bodice pattern centre line on the fold of the fabric thus doing away with the button front, then cut the back bodice with a 1 inch centre back seam so that I could insert a zip. As the short cap sleeves have a curved hem, I cut a lining from plain White poly/cotton.

First I made up the sleeves as they are so simple and straightforward. Then I constructed the bodice. Where the previous version had a button front, this time by cutting the centre panel on the fold it necessitated some adjustment in respect of dart shaping and the side seams. Once I had made up the bodice back and attached the back skirt panels, I used a lap insertion for the zip fastening. I set the zip a couple of inches down from the neckline as I prefer to leave the neckline clear of any interruption. I knew that with the width and scoop of the shaping, I would easily be able to put the bodice on over my head. The zip was required so that the waistline could open up and would go easily over my bust when putting on the dress. I added the front bodice and skirt panels before stitching the entire sides of the skirt and bodice in one seam. The neckline facing has an interfacing of plain white poly/cotton. I set in the sleeves which required a little gathering at the shoulder point as there was too much to be eased into the armscye. I have adjusted the pattern so that next time no gathering should be needed.

Finally the hem of the skirt was overlocked and a narrow hem machined in place.

I have a new dress and completed the auditioning of this style of bodice. Next step is to ‘trial’ my old favourite style bodice that has bust darts and body darts at the front and back. Again I will use the full circle skirt pattern as the fabric I have selected is another length of 4 metres purchased last Summer.

A Tropical Heatwave! – Gretta Sundress Hack no 2

COLETTE PATTERNS ‘GRETTA’ shoulder tie tank top looks lovely hacked into as a Sun Dress. I liked the previous wearable muslin/toile so much that I have made another. Am I tempting fate with two sundresses?

The fabric for this incarnation was 2 metres x 150 cms wide purchased a few weeks ago during a walk down Goldhawk Road. The stretch cotton sateen has a gorgeous tropical floral print and was lovely to work with although it does tend to fray. This was easily remedied with a quick run through the overlocker.

I made a few more adjustments – I like to call them refinements(!) as I found that the bodice was still very roomy. But we are getting there. I cut the skirt into four panels so that the joining seams would be offset against the bodice seams and darts. As I was a little short on fabric for the skirt it has a finished length of just 22 inches with a narrow machined hem. This has turned out just right – so I wonder if in addition to gaining width am I losing height?

Some Like it Hot! – Gretta hack Sun Dress

GRETTA Tie Tank Top

I recently signed up as a member to the SEAMWORK website and as part of the promotion was entitled to 2 free patterns.

SEAMWORK PATTERNS GRETTA (3057) shoulder tie tank top looks lovely as it is, but how much better with a skirt so that it is a Sun Dress? 

According to the marketing pitch the following is what Seamwork have to say about this pattern:-

With a relaxed fit and adjustable shoulder ties, Gretta’s silhouette can be as comfortable as you prefer. Darts provide shaping for the bodice, while a rounded patch pocket adds a bit of charm. The shoulder strap is sewn onto the front and back bodice to help with cutting layouts and fabric waste. A facing finishes the armholes, neckline, and ties, all at the same time, and the low scoop neckline is flattering yet modest.

I printed off the PDF pattern and cut to a size 18. Using some gifted fabric – a pretty Light Blue floral-printed seersucker, I started to make a ‘wearable muslin’ or toile.

As the original pattern was a loose fit, I added darts from the waist towards the shoulders at both front and back. I also raised the bust dart by 1 “. I found the waistline, added a seam allowance and cut off the pattern front and back at that point. I knew that come the fitting stage I would need to contour the waistline but at least this was a starting point.

I cut the remainder of the gifted fabric in half to make two panels for the gathered skirt. I hemmed at 26” length which turns out to be a little on the long side – next time I will reduce the length. The other thing that I notice is that I should have pattern-matched the centre back seam or cut on the fold (Ooops!).


Unmatched pattern on back                       Front Bodice

With a couple of sessions of stitch, fit, adjust, cut, stitch and fit I have finally completed the dress. There are a few further adjustments needed (e.g. take in more at the side seams) but for now this dress will be fine for those (very rare) days when we have a heat wave!

Raspberry & Lime Paoletta Dress (hack from Paola top)

I love the Raspberry and Lime cotton jersey from New Threads Quilt Shop. I was wearing the tee top in this fabric when I returned to the shop and purchased the final length from the roll that they had in store – 2.25 metres on ‘sale’ at £5.00 per metre. On returning home the fabric was immediately washed and by the end of the afternoon had been dried and pressed ready for cutting out.

I was going to ‘hack’ the Paola polo neck top into a dress Monetta-style. I traced off the bodice and sleeve of the Paola. Traced the waistline and then added 5/8 th inch seam allowance. I also made a sway back adjustment to the back bodice. There would not be sufficient fabric for a long sleeve, the pattern was cut with a 6 inch underarm seam. The skirt was cut from the Monetta pattern with the back skirt cut at the selvedge so would have to have a seam.

Stitching was straightforward and I am particularly pleased with the shaping of the scoop neckline which was done entirely freehand. I gathered the skirt using ½ inch wide clear elastic and a triple zig-zag stitch to secure the elastic to the top edge of the skirt panels. The sleeves are a little longer than I really wanted and so they have a 1½ inch turning which was then top stitched with the twin needle. Thereby is a happy accident. I had not changed the stitch setting when I threaded up the twin needle. Thus the hem stitching on the sleeves is decorative with two rows of the triple zig zag stitch. I repeated this stitch when turning up the hem of the skirt and I think it makes a very nice feature.

I have one more Dartmouth wrap front top cut out and once that is stitched I plan to revert to 100% woven cotton fabrics for a while – at present I am jersey knit fabric’d out!

Butterick 5539 – Measure, cut, sew – repeat at least twice!

It all started with Butterick 5539 – an out of print pattern that is very similar to a dress that I bought from M&S about 20 years ago and which now really needs replacing. I decided to make a ‘wearable’ muslin of the dress using some lovely Makower cotton printed with Yellow roses that has been loitering in my stash for some time.

First I measured myself. Front chest width, upper chest, full bust, waist and hips. Then compared with the pattern size chart and decided that the best ‘fit’ was a size 22. I was very sceptical about this size and it turned out that I was right as the pattern comes up very large.

I cut and sewed the shoulder seams of the bodice, attached the neckline and front facings, then basted the side seams before the first fitting. What a disaster! The shoulders were approximately 1½ inches too wide. There was no shaping over the bust and the entire bodice was way too big. I pinned out some of the fullness with darts from the waistline to just below the apex of my bust and tried again. No, still not right. There was a lot of ‘gaposis’ at the armhole. By pinning out the fullness at the armhole it became apparent that what I needed was a princess seam. So – I hacked the bodice apart and ‘free style’ cut a princess seam line. Not quite as drastic as it sounds as I had already pinned an approximate princess line. A little bit more ‘finessing’ and finally the front bodice fitted really well to the contours of my body. The back could do with some more width removed across the upper back and also in some darts from the waistline up towards the shoulder blades but that can happen next time when I will also extend the length of the bodice so that it comes nearer my natural waist.

the princess seam line

I stitched the side seams and inserted the fully lined cap sleeves. As they had been cut to a size 22 and by now the bodice was nearer to an 18 there was a lot of fabric to be eased into the shoulder cap, but I managed it.

Finally the bodice fits!

The two front edges of the skirt were interfaced with some fusible Vilene ® and the skirt panels were gathered by running 2 rows of gathering thread around the top. By dividing the panels into quarters I have spread the gathers evenly around the high waist seam line.

Pockets – the pattern includes some large rectangular patch pockets which I thought did not compliment the style of the print which is more rounded – why not make some soft gathered pockets from the scraps of fabric leftover from cutting out? I am particularly pleased with these pockets and will be including the pattern and instructions in my next workshop ‘Pockets-a-Plenty’.

Pocket bag (wrong side)

Pocket Bag and band

Stitching the band to the gathered top of the pocket bag

Completed pocket

The dress was finished with 9 buttonholes and a set of buttons in Green and Yellow which came from my stash. Although the dress now fits fine I am a little disappointed with the result so will probably keep it as a ‘house dress’.

Moneta dress no 2 – Flamingos – Epic FAIL!

Fabric print design – note the upside down flamingo!


With confidence I laid out the pattern pieces for my next Moneta dress. The fabric has a busy print design of Flamingos and Flowers which I initially thought was a one-way design. Only much later did I discover that there is a flamingo beautifully placed at centre front of the bodice – only it is upside down! However, I digress let me go back to the start.

I bought 1.5 metres of this fine viscose ‘tee-shirt weight’ jersey from Fabricland a couple of months ago and it has worked its way to the top of the ‘to do with dark overlocking thread’ pile. With such a good result with the first Moneta perhaps I was a little too casual this time with my cutting out. Having thought that the design was one-way, I carefully cut all the pieces so that the flamingos would be upright. Having only 1.5 metres of fabric meant that I reduced the width of the skirt front and back pieces a little and placed the back bodice and back skirt on the selvedge so they would have to have centre back seams.

I mentioned in the previous post that the overlocker was not functioning properly and it was only after about 1 hour of threading, cleaning and re-threading that I finally managed to get a good stitch tension on this fabric. I stitched the skirt and bodice back seams on the sewing machine with a ‘lightening’ stitch and pressed well. The fabric kept rolling in at the cut edges so was a real nuisance as I tried to match the seams. There is good stretch in the fabric but I must have taken a little too much for the seam of the back bodice as at first fitting the top was tight!

I cut a length of crosswise strip x 3 inches wide for the neck binding and after some ‘finessing’ attached to the neckline. It is OK but not great. I may well remove and try again another day. The sleeve heads seemed to be extra long and necessitated some small gathers at the shoulders to make them fit. This time the gathering of the skirt onto the ¼ inch wide clear elastic went well – I am getting the hang of that method now.

Dress looks fine on ‘Dolores’ but then she doe not breathe!

Final fitting – oh that dress is soooo tight. I shall have to put it aside until I have lost some weight or offer for sale on eBay. What a shame as I really like the print – I do love a novelty design. I may be mature in age but not in spirit and not ready for ‘old lady’ outfits just yet!

Moneta dress 1

I am coming very late to the Moneta party which was very popular on my favourite sewing vlogs recently. I was particularly inspired by Amanda from ISEWALOT who recently posted a challenge to make the dress in one hour. (

According to the Colette Patterns website the Moneta pattern is the new go-to dress pattern. Built for both elegance and comfort, this simple knit dress works in every season and for any occasion. Made with knit fabric, with minimal pressing and just a few pattern pieces, an army of these wardrobe workhorses can be whipped up in a few hours. Moneta is easy to make, and easy to wear. This dress is versatile, layerable, and above all, comfortable. All three styles of Moneta dresses have a gently curved, wide neckline, a fitted bodice, and a shirred skirt with in-seam pockets. Version 1 is a sleeveless dress with a lined bodice and narrow round collar that laps at the centre back. Version 2 has an unlined bodice and short sleeves, while version 3 has an unlined bodice and ¾ length sleeves.

Having checked the measurements chart and line drawings I decided to make version 3. I cut the 2X pattern size but with an elbow-length sleeve. The fabric is a fine tee shirt weight jersey print (probably viscose/elastane) called “By the Pond” from Fabricland at £3.99/metre. Due to width of the fabric I was able to cut the pattern out from just 2 metres length.

The instructions for making up the dress are comprehensive and I was glad of this as there was a new technique (for me) for gathering up the skirt to fit the waistline seam on the bodice. The technique involves the use of ¼ inch wide clear elastic that is ‘triple zig-zag’ stitched to the top edge of the skirt panels prior to attaching to the bodice. The method worked well and is something that I will use again. I have 8 metres of ¼ inch wide clear elastic so sufficient to make several more gathered skirts.

Amanda did not manage to make her dress in one hour and neither did I. The main reason for this was that this was the first time I had made the dress and one of the things still taking me a long time is to sort out is neckline banding. For the first attempt I measured the length of the neckline, multiplied by 85% and added seam allowance. I attached the band to the neckline which involved a great deal of stretching of the band with the result that the neckline was brought up much too close to my neck and was no longer scooped. I re-cut another band a bit longer this time but still no joy. Third attempt – I cut a much longer piece of banding (2 inches wide x approximately 30 inches long). I folded in half and starting at a shoulder point, gently stretched whilst pinning to the right side of the neckline and matching all the raw edges. When I had completed pinning the circuit of the neckline, I cut the spare fabric, made a join in the banding and attached first with the sewing machine and then with the overlocker.

Having top stitched the sleeve hems and the hem of the skirt I turned my attention once again to the neckline.With right side uppermost and the right hand needle stitching in the ditch, I stitched around the neckline again to ensure that the overlocked turnings would stay on the inside of the neckline (I used this method on the neckline of the Heather dress) and am delighted with the way it has turned out. So, in future I shall not try and second-guess the length of banding required, but simply cut a long length and take it from there.

The completed dress fits well although I find that I did not cut the sleeves quite short enough and maybe next time I will lengthen the bodice. However, as I did not pre-wash the fabric I will not do anything else to the sleeves at present – let’s see how they fair after a wash.

As the fabric has a Black background the dress will be good for wearing now with opaque tights and a cardigan, then later with fine denier tights and later still, on its own. A great investment for an all-season garment.

Heather no. 2 – Jacquard Ponte Roma

Still in jersey mode I decided to have another go at the Heather dress from Sew over It. Last time I used a winter weight jersey from Fabricland that was probably too stretchy. This time I am using a  32% Polyester / 60% Viscose / 8% Elastane Blend, Two tone Rose Jacquard Ponte Roma from the Textile Centre (£4.10/m) which I think is much more appropriate for this style.

The right side of the fabric appears as Navy with a jacquard design of roses in Wine. The reverse (wrong) side appears as solid Wine colour although I could detect an imprint of the Roses design. I originally planned to make the centre front and back panels of the dress in the solid Wine colour with the side panels and sleeves in the Navy but on close inspection decided I did not like the slight ‘cellulite’ effect of the jacquard design on the ‘wrong’ side. The entire dress was constructed in the Navy colourway using mostly the overlocker but with hems stitched with the jersey twin needle.

This fabric was a joy to sew and is much more suitable for the Heather dress. On first fitting I noticed that there was some excess fabric at the side seams under the arms down to the waist level. I re-stitched and have adjusted the pattern. To add a little more definition to the panel seams and pocket top edges on the front of the dress I have hand-picked some top stitching. I think this looks good and may well repeat on the back panel seams. For the first time, I tried the standard ‘band’ finishing at the neckline. It worked well and I then top stitched with the twin needle, having the right hand needle ‘in the ditch’ and the left hand needle approximately 3-4mm away from the seam line.

Having initially extended the sleeve lengths, I subsequently shortened them back to just above the wrist bone – not full length and not ¾ length either. Also having initially lengthened the dress by 2 inches, I have now cut that away to return to the original length. If I make the dress again I must remember to reduce the width of the shoulders as they extend beyond my natural shoulder by approximately 1 inch – something to be remedied when next I am ‘alteration mode’.

Final analysis – The jury is still out as at present I am not convinced this style particularly suits my figure. The dress can be quite complicated to stitch with the pockets set into the front panels so takes a bit longer than other dresses e.g. the ‘Moneta’ by Colette patterns.

Bettina-style Jersey Dress

My new infatuation with Jersey fabric dressmaking continues but I have now had my first “tiff”with sewing this type of fabric!


I recently (and contra to my resolution of NOT to buy fabric!) purchased 3 metres at a cost of £5.25 per metre of winter-weight jersey called “Sunset Roses”, a bold floral print from Fabricland. The fabric is great, a nice weight and so soft. It has a good drape and so I decided to try the “Bettina” that I usually make in cotton or poplin, in a jersey fabric.

I did a couple of rows of test stitching but only on single layer of fabric and was dismayed when it came to stitching the darts that there were so many skipped stitches. I changed to yet another brand new jersey needle and re-threaded the machine. Still no joy. In desperation I stitched the bodice darts with the overlocker. No problem. I inserted a length of stabilising ribbon and stitched the shoulder seams. I then stitched the side seams and had my first fitting. Due to the stretch of the jersey, I took in the side seams by ½ inch before inserting the bracelet-length sleeves. Bearing in mind that I have not yet mastered neck binding and bands I cut out a back and front neckline facing using scraps of the jersey fabric. As it was only a single layer, I stay stitched around the neckline and checked my second fit. I tried to stitch the two layers of fabric and lo and behold – great stitching with no missed stitches.

Scoop neckline with facing and single row of top stitching

Fired up that the problem was now resolved I sewed the panels of the skirt (1 + ½ widths of fabric cut 26 inches long), quartered and stitched 2 rows of gathering to pull up and fit to the waist of the bodice. Although I tacked the skirt to the bodice when it came to machine stitching, the bodice stretched out so now it looked like “Tents R Us!” I had to cut the skirt off the bodice, thereby losing about ½ inch in length from both bodice and skirt and the next time, added some stay tape (made from the selvedge of some spare lining fabric that I had to hand) to the bottom of the bodice to prevent it from stretching out. When I re-attached the skirt to the bodice, this time I arranged the fullness as unpressed pleats. The bodice is no longer stretched out and the fullness was better distributed.


Front View                                       Back View

Now with a slightly raised waistline and unpressed pleats in the skirt the dress is much more fitted and at last, wearable. Although it does not appear so in the photographs, the front and back hems of the skirt are perfectly level.

I had some fabric left over and went on to make a short sleeved tee top more of which is detailed in a separate post.

A fine jersey romance

One of my plans for 2017 is to become more competent when sewing jersey and to this end I have already made a couple of straightforward tee-style tops. I am an avid fan of “Sew Over It” and have recently joined the PDF club. For my free and discounted patterns I chose “Nancy” and “Heather”.

The Heather dress is specifically designed for knit fabrics and looked to be fairly easy – armed with 2 metres of 150 cms wide Ditsy floral print jersey in Navy and Grey purchased from Fabricland at £4.59 per metre I set about making the dress.

I graded up the pattern at the side seams to accommodate my generous curves. Having read several reviews of the pattern I also increased the width of the sleeves by ½ inch at each side. Within an hour I had cut out the fabric and started stitching it together. I was able to store the partially completed dress on my new dressmaking dummy.

Following the construction information was easy and as I had previously made a woven fabric dress with similar arrangement of pockets in a princess seam, encountered no problems with stitching the pockets. However, the neck banding was much more problematic. Firstly I measured the circumference of the neckline at the seam line and it appeared to be much smaller than the length of the pattern piece. I therefore adopted the formula as detailed in this you tube video.

However the band was then too small. I tried again using a slightly longer band and this time it was too big! At this point I abandoned the idea of a neck banding. I overlocked the neckline and then turned to the inside on the line of staystitching. I tacked the turning, pressed well and top-stitched in place with the twin needle. The hems on the sleeves were also finished in this manner.

Final comments:

The dress at the neckline, shoulders and bust area in this fabric (which is extremely stretchy) are great.

Unfortunately the weight of the pockets tends to drag at the side seams over the hip area and also I think that I need to take in the side seams from the waist to hem at there appears to be too much fabric and no shaping. Again this is probably due to the high stretch qualities of the fabric. It will no doubt be better in a more stable knit. Due to the busyness of the print the details of the seaming is lost. It will be better in a plain or less busy print. Originally I had added 2 inches to the length but at the final fitting I reduced this by 1 inch, turned up 1 inch and then stitched with a wide twin needle. I like the dress and will be making another but this time in a more stable fabric with not so much stretch. I will also be drafting the front panels to exclude the pockets which although are a lovely addition do tend to add “weight” in an area where it is not needed!